Archive for October, 2005

31 Oct 2005

Let the erring sisters go in peace, but make them take New Jersey!

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In the post-1960s, Vermont, renowned in earlier times for laconic Yankee individualists, became a favored refuge for counter-cultural escapees from more densely populated states located to its south. Today, Vermont is more commonly identified with Ben & Jerry than Calvin Coolidge, and native Vermonters, derisively referred to as “chucks” (as in woodchuck), are regularly outvoted by recent immigrants, spoken of pejoratively in Vermont as “flatlanders.” The once most paradigmatically Republican state in the Union is currently represented in Congress by an Independent self-acknowledged socialist. Carried away by animosity toward the current administration in Washington, a portion of the Vermont flatlander population is talking secession.

‘Vermont still provides a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized mass production, mass consumption, narcissistic lifestyle which pervades most of the United States,” said Thomas Naylor, a former Duke University economics professor who retired to Vermont and has written a book called ”The Vermont Manifesto — The Second Vermont Republic.”

”Vermont is smaller, more rural, more democratic, less violent, less commercial, more egalitarian, and more independent than most states,” Naylor said. ”It offers itself as a kinder, gentler metaphor for a nation obsessed with money, power, size, speed, greed, and fear of terrorism.”

31 Oct 2005

The pending SCOTUS confirmation fight

This time the president gave us what we hoped for. Our adversaries are skillful and determined, and we are unquestionably going to face a full scale, no-holds-barred effort to block Samuel Alito’s nomination. The fate of this particular nominee will be strongly influenced by his performance before the Judiciary Committee, but a filibuster attempt seems virtually inevitable. In recent years, conservatives have soundly trounced liberals in the domestic marketplace of ideas, but we still lack the political leadership in Congress capable of engaging the Kennedys and Schumers and their staffs on equal terms. Are GOP votes lined up and locked in for the “nuclear option” to be invoked? Is Senator John McCain under control on this one? Have we planned for the next step, in case Judge Alito’s confirmation is successfully blocked? It has seemed obvious, since the time of President Reagan, that the answer to unreasonable leftwing opposition to well-qualified judicial nominees is simply to make it clear to all concerned that the president has a list, and that on that list there is a nominee B more conservative, more unpalatable to the left, than nominee A, and that after nominee B, there is a still more conservative nominee C, and so on.

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy remarks on the appearance of ethnic Catholics like Judge Alito as Republican nominees as indicative of the watershed changes in American politics in recent years in which the children of working class Catholic immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe have moved up and out of the working class, and up and out of former ties to the democrat party.

He writes:

I think that the demographic fact of the make-up of the conservative Justices (Thomas, Scalia, and Alito) is a remarkable statement on the nature of modern conservatism… I don’t know Alito, but I feel like my background growing up is similar enough to his that I will hazard a few speculations on what this says about the nature of modern conservativism. For those like myself (and I hazard to guess Scalia, Alito, and Thomas) conservatism is attractive because it now seems to be the party of meritocracy where one is judged on your character and ability, and not on your connections or demographics. As the doors of schools such as Princeton and Yale Law School (in Alito’s case), and the professions themselves have been thrown open to Italians, Poles, Irish, etc., individuals such as Scalia and Alito have had the opportunity to prove themselves.

Among other things, I think this cultural upbringing reflects itself in a skepticism about racial preferences in college admissions and hiring. It is difficult to say, from what I can tell, that Sam Alito’s ascent to the Supreme Court came about through some sort of unfair advantage, money, or family connections. In the legal arena, I think this cultural temperament may reflect itself in a anti-elitist streak rebelling against the arrogance of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary and a humility in the face of the common-sense of citizens as reflected through democratically-elected legislatures.

Professor Zywicki got lots of flack (from derisive liberals who will not abide references to meritocratic advancement) in comments on his posting, and evidently decided that his use of the term “ethnic Catholic” could be taken as a euphemism for someone Italian, or produced some other kind of offense to politically correct sensibilities, and removed a portion of his remarks. Pity! I’d like to have seen the unedited version.

This nomination was marred by absolutely outrageous behavior at the White House Press briefing by CBS Chief Correspondent John Roberts. Roberts subsequently proffered a patently insincere disclaimer of obscene intent and a bogus apology. If this administration were operating properly, the White House Press Secretary would have responded to a hostile interrogative couched in terms of obscene allusion by immediately calling security, and having Marine guards escort that reporter from the premises, while recessing the proceedings long enough to order his secretary to fire off a facsimile notifying that reporter’s employer of the permanent loss of the credentials admitting him to White House briefings.

30 Oct 2005

Common Sense in Saturday’s Washington Post

No More Special Counsels

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

“It is clear that, at least by sometime in January 2004 — and probably much earlier — Fitzgerald knew this law had not been violated. Plame was not a “covert” agent but a bureaucrat working at CIA headquarters. Instead of closing shop, however, Fitzgerald sought an expansion of his mandate and has now charged offenses that grew entirely out of the investigation itself. In other words, there was no crime when the investigation started, only, allegedly, after it finished. Unfortunately, for special counsels, as under the code of the samurai, once the sword is drawn it must taste blood.”

30 Oct 2005

Lanny Davis, Adult (?)

Roger L. Simon links a NY Times column of yesterday from former Clinton counsel Lanny Davis decrying the politics of scandal and expressing the Utopian hope (Lanny Davis is a hopeless liberal) that “voters [will] say, ‘A pox on both your houses,’ reject the scandal culture and gotcha politics of both parties and seek new politics of common cause, collegiality and the public interest. ”

I’m afraid I doubt personally that any wave of voter revulsion, combining a major dose of communitarianism, as Lanny hopes, will end prosecutorial politics. My prediction is that the GOP is soon going to demonstrate to democrats the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. The democrat party is the party of urban political machines, the party of clubhouse pols, and the party of –speaking frankly– populist demagogues. How many important and prominent democrats have legal and ethical vulnerabilities? Could there possibly be any financial issues worth looking into, just for instance, in the background of a Senate Minority Leader who was formerly a Nevada State Gaming Commissioner? Or in that of a House Minority Leader closely tied to the spectacularly free-wheeling one party regime of San Francisco, a city still run with all the rectitude associated with its 19th century Wild West boomtown traditions, and descendant of the Baltimore city machine?

What Republicans have to do to protect major Republican leaders from the continuation of career assassination via opportunistic charges and prosecutions on the flimsiest of grounds is to follow the advice provided by Sean Connery’s Jim Malone to Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables (1987):

Connery: lf you open the ball on these people, you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they won’t give up the fight until one of you is dead.

Costner: l want to get Capone. l don’t know how.

Connery: Here’s how you get Capone: he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now, do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

30 Oct 2005

Goodbye Earle

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito wittily quotes the title of a Dixie Chicks’ abusive men Country Western song in the title of her Sunday column observing that “Ronnie Earle, the district attorney from Travis County in Texas, finally has made his strongest case for removing a political operative from office — himself. “

29 Oct 2005

Fitzgerald resembles Queeg

Fitzgerald’s rambling and strangely lacking-in-substance press conference performance of yesterday reminded Congressman Billybob of Humphrey Bogart’s star turn in his last film as Phillip Francis Queeg, the Captain of the USS Caine in The Caine Mutiny (1954).

29 Oct 2005

The Libby Indictment

As in the case of Martha Stewart’s alleged insider trading, we encounter in yesterday’s indictment of I. Lewis Libby the bizarre spectacle of a case in which the prosecutor chooses to bring charges alleging that the defendant lied to him and obstructed justice, that he is guilty of having interfered with his investigation, precisely because he is unable to prove that any other crime was ever actually committed in the first place.

It seems plainly wrong to me that it is possible in a free country to throw someone into jail simply by contradicting that person’s testimony in a matter which cannot be established to have involved any actual violation of law or real injury at all. The entire substance of such a proceeding amounts to a cruel and empty ritual inspired by an exaggerated, downright servile, reverence for the State. It is the literal prostration of Justice to Authority. One sees in an instant the veil of modernity and civilization slip aside, and one beholds the spectacle of supposedly intelligent modern men suddenly transformed into pagan priests presiding over a barbarous ritual immolation, an archaic and vicious ceremony venting irrational emotions, and one conducted with mindless indifference to the facts of the situation or the rights of the individual.

Investors Business Daily rightly calls it a witch hunt.

29 Oct 2005

Hello world!

Blog commenced, 29 October 2005. The author is just beginning to learn to use the software and build the site.

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