Twenty-four years ago February, I lined up with other second graders to receive my first penance. Three priests offered the sacrament. Most of my classmates formed a large queue in the pew adjacent to Father O'Sullivan's confessional. Something about him creeped me out, and youthful intuition motivated me to receive the sacrament from Father Williamson, an elderly priest evidently not as popular among seven-year-olds. Friday, the Vatican defrocked Eugene O'Sullivan, the priest my classmates flocked to confess their sins to.
At my parish, Father O'Sullivan had been in charge of altar boys. He was the closest in age to the school children, so his position would have made sense had he not been accused of molesting several boys nearly two decades earlier. We were ignorant of these charges, and it was normal for the austere reverend to walk the halls of my school and show up at basketball games at the local Catholic youth center. In 1984, two years after my first penance, a Boston area court sentenced Father O'Sullivan to probation for molesting a fellow parishioner. The Church, so we believed, sentenced O'Sullivan to a rehabilitation center out West. Before the news broke, my male classmates became eligible to serve as altar boys, but, to the despair of many of the young admirers of Father O'Sullivan, he was replaced. Would the new director of altar boys continue the tradition of bringing us to the amusement park? While I too pondered such important questions, I welcomed this development, but only quietly. Father O'Sullivan's physical appearance struck me as something out of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I was a Catholic, and this guy looked like he just stepped off the Mayflower.
Perhaps Father O'Sullivan really did receive treatment thousands of miles from Boston, but he soon found himself in several parishes in New Jersey. Art imitates life, as a subtheme of the Oscar-nominated film Mystic River mirrored the collaboration between the criminal justice system and the clergy that helped O'Sullivan elude real punishment for his crimes. And for most, the Church's punishment meted out this weekend, coming as it does more than forty-one years after the first abuse allegations against O'Sullivan surfaced, arrives a bit late.
O'Sullivan's conviction was the first of many for Boston-area priests. But he wasn't the only priest at my church who found himself embroiled in the abuse scandal. Another priest, who resembled a fat old woman and spent his spare time knitting, found a home at my parish. Shortly thereafter, abuse allegations surfaced (from a stint at another parish) and he agreed to leave the priesthood. This, too, was kept quiet. I learned of it just recently. One molester might be chalked up to one man's demons. Additional molesters, the law of averages suggests, indicate a problem that rises beyond the personal level to the institutional level.
For a faith that stresses salvation, redemption, and the universality of sin, permanently excommunicating the malefactors would never do. But why keep them in positions of responsibility? Why allow them in the presence of children? Why not defrock them (but not spiritually exile them) when their crimes became apparent?
First penance took on greater, if unrealized until a quarter-century later, significance for most of my classmates. For me, added significance came when I got half the school day off and "Space Invaders" as a present for reaching the age of responsibility. For others, added significance came when they comprehended that at seven-years old they spent time alone in a box face to face with a child molester. This is enough to shake your faith. For some, this was enough to shake their faith.
Like Ricky Williams and Demi Moore, open-thread Friday is back. You can't kill open-thread Friday. It has more lives than Michael Myers. Open-thread Friday is more talented than Carol Channing, and funnier than Charles Nelson Reilly. Open-thread Friday is smarter than Dr. Zaius and the Time Lords combined. Open-thread Friday can bench more than Dino Bravo, and is better looking than Hasselhoff. If open-thread Friday played guitar, open-thread Friday would make Jimi Hendrix look like Rick Springfield. Open-thread Friday is taller than Solomon Grundy standing on Apache Chief's shoulders. Open-thread Friday is a better friend than Butters. It's open-thread Friday. Say anything you want. I just did.
Party conservatives see John Roberts as a "safe" pick. He's sure to be confirmed. Movement conservatives see John Roberts as an "unsafe" pick. He's not certain to rule based on the Constitution, or his whim, or past decisions, or shifting public opinion--we just don't know. Party conservatives are primarily concerned with President Bush's nominee cruising through Senate confirmation, his judicial philosophy is secondary. Movement conservatives are primarily concerned with President Bush's nominee ruling in a manner consistent with the text of the Constitution, getting through a Senate confirmation battle unscarred is secondary.
The House of Representatives passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement by the slightest of margins this morning, 217 yeas to 215 nays. Just 15 Democrats broke ranks to support the agreement, and 25 Republicans rebelled against the president and House leadership to oppose the measure. CAFTA aims to lower tafiffs between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.
Roger Clemens is earning his $18 million. David Ortiz is earning his $5.3 million. Chris Carpenter is earning his $2 million. Oriole Brian Roberts is most definitely earning every penny of his $390,000 salary. But the productivity of many ballplayers doesn't match their paychecks. Jeff Merron of ESPN.com has released a top-ten list of baseball's "most overpaid players." Among those on the ignominious list are Bernie Williams ($12.4 million), Phil Nevin ($9.5 million), and Sammy Sosa ($17.9 million). No Darren Dreifort? Where's Carlos Beltran? Mike Lowell? Anyone? Anyone?
Homosexuals can't repeal biology, but they can pretend that it doesn't exist. This is at work in Massachusetts, where homosexuals seek to alter birth certificates to indicate "Parent A" and "Parent B." Parents, a mother and a father, create children. Any variable--an "A" and a "B"--won't do. Preferably, mothers and fathers raise the children too. To intentionally deprive a child of a mother or a father is evil. To erase a child's biological heritage--even if half of that equation is a deadbeat--is similarly evil.
Despite advancements in chemistry, neither two men nor two women can procreate together. Governor Mitt Romney has outraged homosexual activists by standing by the traditional birth certificate. It lists a "mother" and a "father," and if both homosexual partners wish to be listed on the document Romney suggests that they scratch out the offending label and write in "second parent." The governor finds something Orwellian in the new, demanded language. "My view is that that's wrong on paper and it's wrong on fact," notes Governor Romney. "Every child deserves to have a mother and a father, and a birth certificate should reflect mothers and fathers."
Less than one-tenth of one percent of Massachusetts babies were born to married, same-sex couples in 2004. That's right, 61 of roughly 80,000. Gay activists literally want 99.9 percent to accomodate .1 percent. Might society be better off if the abnormal were to accomodate the normal every so often?
George Santayana said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Conservatives disinterested in the principles held by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts would be wise to heed Santayana's counsel.
Dwight Eisenhower apointee William Brennan found the death penalty, the continuous use of which by American juries predates the Founding, in violation of the Eighth Amendment in Furman v. Georgia. The ruling effectively outlawed the punishment for several years, allowing Charles Manson and other killers to escape the sentences given them. Richard Nixon appointee Harry Blackmun found a right to an abortion in the Constitution, authoring the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Gerald Ford appointee John Paul Stevens found in Kelo v. New London that although you don't have a right to your own property, giant corporations--particularly ones able to provide greater tax revenue to local governments--do. Ronald Reagan appointee Anthony Kennedy found in the Constitution a right to sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas, which just 17 years prior had escaped the notice of the Court. George H.W. Bush appointee David Souter found in McCreary County v. ACLU that a county's placement of the Ten Commandments in its courthouse violates the First Amendment's language that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Notice a pattern here? Republican appointees have authored some of the worst decisions of the last half century, trampling over federalism, self-government, and the words of the Constitution. Doesn't prudence require a great deal more curiousity about the judicial outlook of John Roberts than currently demonstrated by the Right? In the eyes of conservatives, Earl Warren, Potter Stewart, William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter--more than half of the appointments to the High Court by Republicans since 1950--have been disappointments. Noting the track record of the "trust our leader" approach, isn't it time for conservatives to replace their unrewarded faith in blank-slate judicial nominees with a healthy skepticism?
Is the war on terror more like the Peloponnesian War, the Crusades, the Crimean War, and World War II, or is it more like the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on obesity, and other political marketing schemes? In other words, is it an actual war or just a slogan? A disturbing article in the International Herald Tribune suggests it's more the latter than the former, with Bush Administration officials discarding the phrase "war on terror" now that it has fallen out of fashion. Orange is the new pink.
If the requirements for a particular academic position include a narrowly-defined political outlook and exclude anyone with a Y chromosome, it might be a good idea to rethink the whole idea of that academic field. The University of Washington has named David Allen to run its women's studies program. This will make Allen the only male running a Ph.D.-granting department in women's studies in the United States. Though Allen's biology is deficient, his views are right for the job. Allen counsels other males to "have a positive commitment toward feminism." One of Allen's colleagues admits to harboring "mixed views" of the appointment, and although Allen himself overcame his own misgivings about a male running a women's studies department, doesn't his language seem to imply that he would object to a non-feminist running what he characterizes as "a faculty of feminist scholars"?
Sandra Day O'Connor is departing the Supreme Court with a whimper--and a whine. The high court's first female member told an audience in Spokane, "the present climate is such that I worry about the future of the federal judiciary... In our country today, we're seeing efforts to prevent an independent judiciary." No, what we're seeing are masses of people waking up to the Supreme Court's realized ambition of becoming a second national legislature. These same masses never elected O'Connor, or her eight colleagues, so they're vocalizing their displeasure. Members of Congress have noticed.
Andrew Cohen of CBS News, believing that no unkind word should be spoken against one branch of government and that congressional oversight of the courts is indecent, sees O'Connor's hysteria and raises her one. He writes: "Justice O'Connor has spoken. She speaks for hundreds, perhaps thousands of other judges around the country. She speaks for a system of government where one branch cannot bully another. She speaks for a balance of power that is needed more in a time of war than in a time of peace. She speaks for Hamilton and Madison and Washington. She speaks as a Republican, a former legislator, and the first woman ever to sit on the High Court. She speaks for history and to history. She speaks to her successor and to his successor, and the only question now is whether our Congressional leaders can stop howling at the moon long enough so they can hear her." Keep howling.
Earlier this month I gave notice to my employer, the Leadership Institute, that I would be leaving at the end of July. Friday is my last day as director of the Institute's Campus Leadership Program. As I did in 2003, I will be taking the next year off to write, speak, and concentrate on other projects. The book that I've been working on officially for five months, and unofficially for over a year, will attract most of my attention. But the absence of a normal work schedule will likely mean good things for the blog too. I don't anticipate generating much more daily content than I already do (I am an author before I am a blogger), but I do intend to blog sporadically throughout the day rather than the heretofore customary posts after midnight and sometime the following morning. Before these improvements come to FlynnFiles, I will spend August traveling. My vacation brings me to London, Prague, Wroclaw, Krakow, and Boston. All of this does not necessarily mean that I will be taking a vacation from FlynnFiles, but it does mean that blogging may be light for a few weeks in August. Come September, FlynnFiles will be better than ever. In addition to quitting my job and scheduling the Europe trip, I recently came to an agreement with Crown Forum on the book that I have been researching. Look for it to hit store shelves in late 2007. Until the release of this book, enjoy the blog, read Intellectual Morons and Why the Left Hates America if you haven't, and maybe (but just maybe) I will have a more fun and less weighty book out in the meantime.
My usual reaction to hearing repeated plays of Nickleback or Ashlee Simpson on my local but piped in corporate radio station is: Am I in a North Korean concentration camp? Now I understand why radio stations incessantly play horrible music. Music companies pay radio stations to play songs. That's fraud, passing off advertising as regular programming. In most instances, I'd prefer advertisements to the songs that do get played. It turns out that looks only go so far; Sony bribed station directors and disc jockeys to play JLo, Britney, Jessica Simpson, and other superstars of the slutpop genre. Even anti-corporate phonies Good Charlotte and Audioslave are embroiled in the scandal.
Sony agreed to pay a fine of $10 million to the state of New York. What about the DJs? Alan Freed--the man credited with popularizing the phrase "rock n roll"--got fired and died a broken man after investigations revealed his involvement in payola. This time the briber got fined but not the bribed. As penance, perhaps offending DJs should sit in jail and reflect on their crimes while listening to a loop of Tom Petty's Last DJ, Wilco's The Late Greats, Rush's Spirit of the Radio, and AC/DC's It's a Long Way To the Top. No, that would be too kind. Less rehabilitative but better punishment would be non-stop blasting of the garbage they got paid to impose on the rest of us.
Forty years ago today, Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival. Legend has it that the folk traditionalists, aghast at Dylan's plugged-in apostasy, booed the folkie-turned-rocker off the stage. Conventional wisdom has it that Dylan's forays into the rock world influenced The Beatles. Listen to "Norwegian Wood" or "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and it's not hard to understand why observers come to that conclusion. But like the mythology surrounding Dylan's July 25, 1965 performance, there's a little more to the story than "Dylan influences Beatles"--such as, Beatles influence Dylan. Bob Dylan misplaced his acoustic guitar and adopted rock for several reasons. The four most important ones being John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The folk world's loss was the rest of the world's gain.
"President Bush's minions are telling their most conservative supporters that federal appeals court judge John Roberts is a slam-dunk certainty to extend government control of reproductive decisions into two major areas after he is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice," liberal Thomas Oliphant began his weekend column. "I suspect that in large part they are making it all up. The country's antichoice minority has a track record of gullibility extending back to the days of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. How else can one explain the anomaly that in every conservative government for the last generation, including the chance to nominate six justices, three conservative presidents have chosen to chip at reproductive choice's margins rather than take it on frontally. In the meantime, abortion rights have been exercised in this country without interruption."
Liberals laugh at the gullibility of conservatives. Conservatives imagine it's not there. Gullible people, after all, are often gullible in trusting the absence of their own gullibility. After Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and other disappointing Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, one would think that conservatives would have been, well, a bit more conservative in their response to the nomination of John Roberts. Conservatives were anything but ("Pop the champagne corks," "I'm ready to have the man's baby!"). Like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, conservatives keep coming back as if they're going to kick that ball through the uprights. Save Ann Coulter's controversial reservations about the Roberts nomination, and my posts questioning if the confetti, baloon drops, and erupting champagne bottles were a bit premature, the enthusiasm for Roberts among conservative scribes seemed unanimous. But if you listen intently enough, you'll start to hear some grumbling.
Charles Krauthammer calls Roberts "a tabula rasa." "If he has a judicial philosophy," he writes, "we don't know it." The pro-choice but anti-Roe Krauthammer conjects that Roberts would likely uphold Roe v. Wade. Pat Buchanan notes "unease" on the Right about the "stealth" nominee. "For there is simply no record of his having ever, in 30 years in the law, rolled up his sleeves and plunged into any social or ideological brawl over issues like affirmative action or religious rights," Buchanan points out. "There was more risk in choosing Roberts than in picking some others...notably J. Michael Luttig, a federal appellate judge of roughly the same age but with many more years of service than Roberts," writes Terry Eastland, publisher of the Weekly Standard. "Luttig would have come with less risk simply because, tested for so much longer, his record is more emphatically that of someone who practices the approach to judging Bush says he wants in his Supreme Court nominees." Eastland even invokes the slight possibility of John Roberts becoming a second David Souter.
Perhaps you wouldn't bet on Roberts upholding Roe. And perhaps you would bet on Roberts to not be the next David Souter. But isn't the fact that serious writers are discussing these as serious possibilities bothersome enough?
The Tour de France would be better named the Tour de Lance. France stands for socialism, egalitarianism, mediocrity. In the Tour de France, anyone who finishes ahead of the pack must have cheated. It's a race to the middle of the pack. Lance stands for competition, elitism, greatness. In the Tour de Lance, anyone who finishes ahead of the pack must have been better. It's a race to the finish line. Socialists don't get sports because they can't get behind a winner.
On Friday, I spoke with a Harvard classmate of John Roberts, two friends/acquaintances of John Roberts, and several conservative leaders--one actively examining the background of the Supreme Court nominee--about the legal philosophy, character, and personality of George W. Bush's pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. The discussions were reassuring.
Those who know Roberts described him as "apolitical," of "high character," a "scholar of the law," and a first-rate legal mind. He would approach cases from a legal perspective detached from politics, in which he shows little public interest. One associate even tagged Roberts as an "originalist," meaning that the would-be Supreme Court justice would read the Constitution as it reads, rather than as succeeding generations of judges have read it. If the Senate confirms Roberts, two agreed, he would immediately become the scholar of the court. All agreed that Roberts would not be a Scalia or a Thomas. Two people who knew Roberts likened him to William Rehnquist, the justice he once clerked for. A conservative leader actively looking into Roberts' law articles, decisions, speeches, and other public declarations, placed the nominee's outlook somewhere between Kennedy/O'Connor and Rehnquist. By standing against forced busing, and offering a literal reading of Article 3, Section 1 granting Congress establishment and disestablishment power over lower courts, Roberts impressed this conservative leader. He described him as a "pragmatic" and "cautious conservative," avoiding controversy to further career ambition.
And the judge's ambition, all agreed, probably exceeds becoming a mere Supreme Court justice. Ultimately, he would like to replace his former boss as the chief justice. Those who knew Roberts described him as quiet, reserved, even shy. "If Roberts were in this room, you would not notice him." Blending into the background in social settings, Roberts stands out by way of intellect and kindness. His personality is apparently the furthest thing from overpowering. Roberts' Harvard classmate told me that he even shared a major with Roberts and doesn't recall ever meeting him or hearing his name at Harvard. Roberts' classmates certainly know his name now. Whether he likes it or not, the lifetime wallflower is now the belle of the ball--at least for the remainder of the summer.
"Now we have a Republican-controlled Congress and White House," Texas Congressman Ron Paul observed this week, "and foreign spending soars. It was not that long ago when conservatives looked at such cavalier handling of US tax dollars with consternation. Now it seems that they are in a race with the Left to see who can spend more."
Specifically, Dr. Paul objects to the foreign relations authorization bill, which spends more than $20 billion on various projects, some of dubious necessity. Paul points out that the bill spends more than $4 billion on United Nations activities and other international organizations; funds an "Active Response Corps," a team of Americans who would descend upon nations undergoing a "democratic transition" in order to "stabilize" them; spends millions on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which, in Congressman Paul's words, "is at the forefront of the manipulation and meddling in the internal affairs of other sovereign states, and has repeatedly dishonored itself through politically-biased monitoring of foreign elections. The OSCE does not deserve a penny from the American taxpayer, but this bill will make sure that the lavishly paid bureaucrats that staff the organization will be able to maintain their standard of living--at our expense."
While Congressman Paul failed to reduce the $735 million in U.S. taxdollars to be transferred to Colombia, he succeeded in preventing Export-Import Bank loans going to China to build nuclear power plants. One man can only do so much. America needs two, three, many Ron Pauls.
The Keystone Terrorists struck London Thursday, injuring no one but themselves. For every 9/11 or Madrid where Westerners marvel at the diabolical ingenuity of the terrorists, there are many examples of bumbling terrorists whose incompetence suggests that they might have trouble executing a stinkbomb attack upon the Saturday matinee. When al Qaeda attempted to blow up the USS Sullivans in the Gulf of Aden, they failed because their overloaded, explosive-laden boat sank before reaching its target. The 9/11 Commission Report detailed hucksters swindling bin Laden in the Sudan for $1.5 million: "Al Qaeda apparently purchased the [weapons-grade uranium] cylander, then discovered it to be bogus." Similarly, terrorist stupidity led to the capture of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. The 9/11 Commission Report noted how "Mohammed Salameh, who had rented the truck [used in the bombing] and reported it stolen, kept calling the rental office to get back his $400 deposit." Mr. Salameh's greed and impetuousness helped unravel the whole conspiracy. If only we were so fortunate that all our enemies were so stupid.
George Bush told me McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform was unconstitutional. In George We Trusted. George Bush told me that "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building." In George We Trusted. George Bush told me that "Unrestrained government spending is a dangerous road to deficits," urging "a different path." In George We Trusted. George Bush told me he would take "a more market-driven approach" to farm policy. In George We Trusted. George Bush told me that "local people should control local schools." In George We Trusted. George Bush told me that he had "no doubt" that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. In George We Trusted. George Bush told me that he would model his Supreme Court nominees on Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. In George We Trust?
An Islamist fanatic blamed the West for the London bombings. The mayor of that city agrees with him. Considering this alternative, it's a good thing for New York that they had the leadership of Rudy Giuliani after the stateside terrorist attacks. But it's a better thing for Ken Livingstone that he's the mayor of London after 7/7 and not the mayor of New York after 9/11. Let's face it: the Gramercy Riffs, the Baseball Furies, the Turnbull ACs, and a dozen other fictional New York street gangs, including, even, the Orphans, would make quick work of this fool.
Anjem Choudary, an Islamic leader in Britain, refuses to condemn the London bombings. "The British government wants to show that they are on the side of justice and of truth, whereas in reality the real terrorists are the British regime, and even the British police, who have tried to divide the Muslim community into moderates and extremists, whereas this classification doesn't exist in Islam," Choudary remarked on state-run radio. Ken Livingstone, the socialist mayor of London, holds: "You've just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of a Western need for oil. We've propped up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones that we didnít consider sympathetic." He continued: "I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s...the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians to drive them out of Afghanistan.... They didnít give any thought to the fact that once heíd done that, he might turn on his creators." Yeah, sure Ken. Ronald Reagan did it. Keep reading Lyndon LaRouche tracts, why don't you? Screwball.
UPDATE: Four more blasts rocked London today. We can soon expect Ken Livingstone to put out an All Points Bulletin for Ollie North, the ghost of former CIA director William Casey, and Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz. I can hear Red Ken's radio dispatch now: "Ignore those Pakistani men with oversized backpacks! American right-wingers are the real culprits here! Get them! Track them down!"
Did Ann Coulter read FlynnFiles before penning this controversial column? "The Supreme Court shouldn't be a game of Russian roulette," Coulter concludes, arguing that a strong Republican majority in the Senate should have resulted in a pick whose record inspired more confidence for conservatives. With little to go on, conservatives were left to weakly point out that John Roberts' wife once served as a vice president for Feminists for Life. That's encouraging, but if a political figure's spouse dictates his position on abortion what are we to make of Laura Bush's husband?
For pointing out the uncertainty of the Roberts selection, Coulter was dubbed "the Terrell Owens of the Right Wing Team" by one blogger. But if conservatives have no idea what plays John Roberts will be calling, why should Coulter take one for the team? Like Republican appointees David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Harry Blackmun before him, John Roberts may not even play for our team. Before charging Coulter with disloyalty, shouldn't we have a better idea of the loyalties of John Roberts?
For Coulter, John Roberts is a human "Rorschach blot." If so, he's a Rorschach test that has revealed some interesting quirks among conservative supporters of George W. Bush. "Pop the champagne corks, conservatives," Poweline's John Hinderaker reacted. "Roberts is a fantastic choice, a brilliant and bulletproof conservative." Hinderaker's colleague, Paul Mirengoff, confessed: "I'm over the moon." Right Thinking Girl proclaimed, "I'm ready to have the man's baby!" BulldogPundit declared, "This is a huge victory for we conservatives." "BRAVO...an inspired choice," believes Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy.
On what basis this joy? John Roberts' record as a judge is thin. He's been careful to stay mum on controversial issues. Thus, Roberts is mostly a blank slate upon which conservatives have projected their hopes and desires and liberals their nightmares and worst-case-scenarios. John Roberts may become a hero in the eyes of conservatives, but there's next to nothing in his short paper trail that would indicate so. John Roberts may become a disaster in the eyes of conservatives, but there's next to nothing in his short paper trail that would indicate so. What's the point of Bush taking such a risk when he holds all the cards?
Senator Charles Schumer wants to know where Supreme Court nominee John Roberts stands on Roe v. Wade. So do I. The problem is that if Roberts says what everyone already knows--that the Constitution doesn't forbid states from outlawing abortion--Schumer and every other liberal will do just about anything (including filibuster) to stop him from sitting on the high bench. On the other hand, if Roberts says the Constitution made abortion a right that the federal government can't take away--no different from freedom of speech or freedom of religion--then his benefactors become his malefactors (at least some of them do). The best thing for him to do is shut his mouth. So he does and will.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to answer questions on Roe v. Wade and other controversial legal topics, Democrat Senators didn't object. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, many Senate Democrats have a different perspective on the prudence of judicial nominees remaining silent on matters likely to come before the court. Might it be wise for Republicans to rethink this tactical muteness too? Demanding that nominees bloviate on cases past and future before political interrogators may prove too tacky. But it is reasonable to desire a nominee with a paper trail to give us an indication of where he stands on federalism, property rights, judicial activism, civil liberties, and other important questions of judicial philosophy. Sorry Judge Roberts, you may turn out to be a great Supreme Court justice, but I don't know that from your two years as a judge. The time for a stealthy nominee is not when the opposition party holds just 44 Senate seats.
If the robed ghosts of Supreme Court Justices Robert Bork, Clement Haynesworth, and Harold Carswell counsel silence, the reality of John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter calls conservatives to demand more information.
Think our legal system is messed up? An Islamic judicial board in northern India ordered a woman to marry her rapist. The trouble is--apart from the obvious fact that he is her rapist--the woman is already married....to the rapist's son. Thus, the board ordered her to divorce her husband. "The fact that the woman was 'used' by her husband's blood relative makes her [unclean] for her husband and there is no way she can be allowed to live with him," the Islamic kooks ruled. "She had a physical relationship with her father-in-law, and it nullifies her marriage," contends Mohammad Masood Madani, a cleric at the theological school that issued the fatwa.
President Bush announced his nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court of the United States this evening. Roberts worked for William French Smith in the Reagan administration, clerked for Justice William Rehnquist, and argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court. Roberts is 50, and has an impressive resume. There are better choices for conservatives than Roberts, but there are also worse ones. One needn't possess Sherlock Holmes' skills at deduction to speculate why Edith Clement's name got leaked earlier today ("Thank God it's not that female David Souter.").
Republicans have tried the blank slate route before. That's the Supreme Court pick whose opinions are unknown--perhaps even to himself. What did it get the GOP? David Souter, for one. President Bush has twice been elected president, and his party controls 55 Senate seats. If he really is a social conservative--let's face it, this is all about Roe v. Wade--why should he operate from a position of weakness and nominate a consensus candidate? While Roberts is neither the consensus candidate nor 2005's David Souter, his views on Roe v. Wade, at least, are unknown. Is a crapshoot the best conservatives can do? On the other hand, the Democrats refused to confirm him when George H.W. Bush nominated him to the bench, and took two years to confirm him when George W. Bush nominated him to the DC Court of Appeals. Perhaps the Democrats know something that we don't. Time will tell.
Within hours of the assassination of a drafter of the Iraqi Constitution, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced that a version of the constitution would be made public within the next month. But a working draft of the Iraqi Constitution (PDF) has already been released by Iraqi media. Parts of the document appear as though it were written by the mob awaiting their welfare checks.
"The basis of the national economy is social justice," Article 18 reads. "The state shall bear the responsibility for growth, developing production and services, building a solid infrastructure for the economy of the country, and providing services." "Iraqi citizens have the right to enjoy security and free health care," the document proclaims. "The state shall guarantee the realization of the social guarantee necessary for citizens in case of old age, disease, inability to work, or if they are homeless, orphans, widowed, or unemployed. It shall provide them social insurance services and health care and protect them from the talons of ignorance, fear, and want, providing them with housing, and special programs to train them and care for them." "Work is a right for every Iraqi citizen and a duty for him," the draft constitution explains. "The state and the governments of the regions shall strive to provide work opportunities for every able-bodied citizen."
Whereas the American Constitution and Bill of Rights outline limitations on state power, the would-be Iraqi Constitution outlines the vast powers of the state. In contrast to the First Amendment's prohibitions on congressional interference in speech, Iraq's Article 6 states: "There is no censorship on newspapers, printing, publishing, advertising, or media except by law." (Does not the final clause render its antecedent meaningless?) In contrast to the Second Amendment's acknowledgement of the right to keep and bear arms, Article 22 declares: "Citizens may not own, bear, buy, or sell weapons, except by a permit issued in accordance with law."
Elsewhere, the draft constitution's vagueness provides cover for future governmental mischief. "The Iraqi people are one people, unified by belief and the unity of the homeland and culture," Article 5 notes. "Anything that exposes this unity to danger is forbidden." Article 13 states: "Public and private freedoms are protected provided they do not conflict with moral values and public decency."
The Iraqi Constitution should not be a carbon copy of the American Constitution. Iraqis have a different history, a different religion, a different language, and a different culture than Americans. It makes sense that they also have a different constitution. But a recognition that difference doesn't mean disaster shouldn't blind us to differences that do mean disaster.
It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. These prehistoric beasts scare everyone (except Manny). But there's another animal that kills 200,000 times more people every year. That creature would be the mosquito, which tops LiveScience.com's list of deadliest animals. Some animals which scare me but did not make the list include hippopotamuses, capibaras, and pirhanas.
The divide between what we do fear most and what we should fear most is great. Sharks kill about ten people every year. Mosquitoes, by acting as the malarial transmission agent, kill about two million. Yet, it's sharks that spawn bestselling books, their own week on cable television, and a series of movies. Similarly, we fear DDT more than mosquitoes. DDT has never killed a person. But like sharks, there are some sensational stories regarding DDT that will scare the eyeballs out of you. So, we ban a chemical agent that once saved millions of lives and tolerate a pest that takes millions of lives. Had only the Discovery Channel launched Mosquito Week or Peter Benchley penned a terrifying novel about malaria, our fears would more neatly conform to actual dangers.
As George W. Bush settles on a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, an usettling question arises: Is the problem not so much the political outlook of the judges, but the powers that all judges--Left and Right--have assumed? "The power to strike down laws isnít mentioned, or even hinted at, in the Constitution," writes Joe Sobran. "The Courtís few powers are set forth in a couple of paragraphs. Judicial review isnít among them."
Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution reads: "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State; (See Note 10)--between Citizens of different States, --between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects."
If the Constitution contains no specific charge for the Supreme Court to veto state laws or to review laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, why should we be surprised when they use this usurped power to invent sections of the Constitution that aren't there (the right to privacy) and overlook other sections of the Constitution that are there (the right to keep and bear arms)?
Is freedom the antidote to terrorism? President Bush hangs his foreign policy on an affirmative answer to this question, calling the removal of non-democratic regimes "the urgent requirement of our nation's security." Natan Sharansky wrote a whole book based on this premise. "In an age of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism," the Israeli politician writes, "the dangers of ignoring the absence of democracy in any part of the world have increased dramatically." If only it were so easy to erase the ugly reality of terrorism with an abstraction.
The four suspected London terrorists who sacrificed their lives so that others might die did not grow up under tyranny. One was born in a country so free that its citizens smoke marijuana openly, while the other three were longtime residents of West Yorkshire--not heretofore spoken of in the same breath as Islamabad or Mecca. Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh's murderer is a Dutch citizen, raised in a nation that is perhaps the furthest thing on earth to the mullahcracies and strongman states that pollute the Middle East. Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, would-be shoebomber Richard Reid, and the Weather Underground partook in acts of terrorism despite hailing from free countries. Even the 9/11 hijackers tasted freedom and found it not to their liking.
Ask a proponent of the freedom-as-inoculation-against-terrorism theory what the two freest nations in the Middle East are. Then ask what two Middle Eastern nations are most beset by terrorism. That these different questions should yield the same answers should be enough to raise new questions about the theory's relevance.
More than a year ago, I told Bernard Hopkins that he "might be wise to call it quits before taking on the dangerous [Jermain] Taylor." Apparently the Executioner doesn't read FlynnFiles. Tonight, the 40-year-old Hopkins lost in a split decision to the youthful Taylor, 115-113 (Taylor), 115-113 (Taylor), 116-112 (Hopkins). Unfortunately, since my cable company now bans PPV fights for non-digital cable subscribers (and since I refuse to give in to their blackmail scheme), I didn't see the fight on television. Next Saturday night, HBO rebroadcasts the fight. Hopkins was the most dominant middleweight since Marvin Hagler, so there's no shame in his game--especially at 40. Congratulations to the pride of Arkansas, Jermain Hopkins, the new middleweight champion.
Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Rogers Hornsby never had 3,000 hits. Friday night, Rafael Palmeiro did what they couldn't. Yet Skip Bayless from ESPN.com says Palmeiro isn't a Hall of Famer. Say what?
There are nearly 200 players in the baseball Hall of Fame. Just 21 of them had 3,000 hits. Every player who has made the 3,000-hit club is either in the Hall, had a slight gambling problem, or like Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, and Wade Boggs, will be making a trip to Cooperstown soon. Why exlude Palmeiro? Raffy won three Gold Gloves, has hit 566 home runs, and has spent no time on the disabled list in 19 seasons. The aggravating circumstances include Palmeiro never playing in New York, never participating in a World Series, and never grabbing headlines by making a fool of himself.
There's something about the player whose career flashes white-hot and then goes on his way--Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Jackson. Baseball writers love these players. "What ifs" get filled in (always positively), and a pitcher with 165 wins suddenly gets mixed in a discussion with Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Could our infatuation with the phenom cloud our view of the workmanlike, the consistent, and the durable? Rafael Palmeiro is all of those things. He's also a Hall of Famer.
Civilized people don't celebrate Bastille Day. They mourn it. Two-hundred and sixteen years ago, a mob stormed a Paris prison "liberating a mere seven prisoners (including two lunatics, four forgers and an aristocratic delinquent who had been committed with de Sade)," informs Simon Schama, author of Citizens (buy it here). The jail-break of four criminals, two crazies, and a pervert was the immediate effect. Bastille Day's short-term effects included the murder of the King and Queen, the destruction of the Catholic Church in France, the Terror, revolution as end and not means, and twenty-three years of revolutionary wars to spread "liberty." In the long term, the French Revolution served as the dress rehearsal for the 20th Century.
"Liberty is a bitch who likes to be bedded on a mattress of cadavers," Desmoulins reported. "French Republicans," Robespierre pled, "it is for you to purify the earth that has been soiled and to recall to the earth Justice which has been banished from it." "Let us be terrible so that the people will not have to be," argued Danton. "There must be blood to cement the revolution," Madame Roland declared. Indeed, the "cadavers" and "blood" would include their own. The revolutionists planted skull and bones throughout France, but liberty did not grow.
Not all Frenchmen celebrated this bloodfest. Abbe Bernier, in the Grand Council's "Address to the French," charged: "Patriots, our enemies, you accuse us of overturning our patrie by rebellion but it is you, who, subverting all the principles of the religious and political order, were the first to proclaim that insurrection is the most sacred of duties. You have introduced atheism in the place of religion, anarchy in the place of laws, men who are tyrants in the place of the King who was our father. You reproach us with religious fanaticism, you whose pretensions to liberty have led to the most extreme penalties." "Citizens," Pierre Vergniaud courageously implored the Convention in 1793, "let us profit from the lessons of experience. We can overturn empires by victories but we can only make revolutions for other peoples by the spectacle of our own happiness. We want to upset thrones. Let us prove that we know how to be happy with a Republic." "Liberty, equality, and fraternity," Chamfort recognized, evolved into "Be my brother or I'll kill you."
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that the conclusions of nearly one-third of purportedly "scientific" studies on medicine don't hold up over time. (No word yet if this scientific study will prove correct.) "Contradicted and potentially exaggerated findings are not uncommon in the most visible and most influential original clinical research," explained study author Dr. John Ioannidis. Ioannidis based his research on studies in the pages of JAMA, The Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine, three prominent medical journals.
Science isn't. Science contradicts other science. Events prove science wrong. Science serves agendas. Scientists confuse their own prejudices for science. Today's cutting-edge medicine is tomorrow's quack remedy. Who's to blame for the endless blackeyes for science? Scientists, of course, who are constantly proving other scientists wrong.
The same people who would mock faith in religion demonstrate blind faith in science. The former is by definition a matter of faith and the latter is by definition a matter of proof. One needn't be a scientist to understand that faith is more at home in matters of faith than in matters of science.
"The general public should not panic," the study's author noted. "We all need to start thinking more critically." Indeed. A good place to start is to cease treating science as a religion. Veneration of science tends to inhibit critical thinking.
The NHL is back, which has inspired me to poll FlynnFiles readers on one of the eternal questions: which is the best hockey game? I'm not talking on-ice game, but a game game. Hockey may struggle with television contracts and mainstream appeal, but in launching games based on the real game it is unmatched. Here are the contenders for the best hockey game: 1. Knock Hockey, played on a large, boxed-in surface with plastic sticks, a wooden puck, and diamond shape obstacles preventing direct shots from the opposition; 2. Air Hockey, a fast-moving table game where opponents propel a plastic puck at frightening speeds toward the net, which is actually lateral fissure that bears no resemblance to an actual hockey net; 3. USA v. Russia, the bubble-top, arcade-style game with the "boo" button and national anthem; 4. the classic, EA Sports, Sega Genesis NHL Hockey of the early '90s, featuring one-timers, fights, and blood! FlynnFiles readers: which of the fantastic four is most fantastic: Knock Hockey, USA vs. Russia, Air Hockey, or '90s-era Sega Hockey. Cast your important vote in the comments section below.
Goons are foiling 'em up. Goalies are painting their masks. Toothless men with mullets are getting ready to go back to work. From St. John's to Vancouver, 33 million people have been lifted out of a 301-day depression. The National Hockey League is back after a lockout destroyed the 2004-2005 season. The new agreement between the owners and players is expected to cut all player salaries by 24 percent, create a salary ceiling and a salary floor for each team, and institute revenue sharing. The agreement does not include a proviso ordering the return of the Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers, California Seals, Cleveland Barons, Colorado Rockies, or Montreal Maroons.
The lockout is just one aspect of the league's woes. The NHL lost its ESPN/ABC television contract, and consider that California, Arizona, and Florida now boast as many teams as all of hockey-crazy Canada. Outside of distinct regions (the Northeast, the upper-Midwest), hockey has never caught on in the United States. Reasons given include too much fighting, too little fighting, too much expansion, too many foreign players, too little offense, too hard to follow on television, and too high thermometers that don't allow mass youth participation in the sport. Why is hockey the weak sister of the four major professional sports leagues? While baseball, football, and basketball could survive the cessation of play for a year, can all thirty of the NHL's teams survive the lockout? Do you care that professional hockey has returned?
They don't make Watergates like they used to. The facts presented thus far in the Karl Rove-Valerie Plame leak controversy make the case seem, as Senator Orrin Hatch puts it, "a tempest in a teapot." Seem because outside of the grand jury, we possess more questions than answers. But a few things are clear.
First: Karl Rove is a little too slick for his own good. Last year he told CNN, "I didn't know [Valerie Plame's] name. I didn't leak her name." This is technically true. It's also Clintonian. Rove may not have broken the law, but he failed the weasel test.
Second: Joe Wilson's motivations are secondary to the veracity of his findings. Joe Wilson warned the White House against relying on a document purporting that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking uranium from Niger's government. Nevertheless, Bush announced in his 2003 State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The White House retracted this, admitting that the statement was based on forged documents. Iraq had no nuclear bombs, was not even close to having a nuclear bomb, and the mushroom-cloud fantasies of Bush camp-followers aside, had no means of delivering such a device upon Manhattan or the Capital.
Third: If Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent, she was very undercover about being undercover. Her name appeared on her husband's bio (perhaps the grand jury should go after him too), and she toiled not in the deserts of some far off Muhammadanistan, but at a desk in Virginia. Might she have refrained from injecting her husband into a politically-charged intelligence controversy if she truly valued her anonymity?
"I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion," murderer Mohammed Bouyeri told a Dutch court. Bouyeri, a Muslim born in the Netherlands, killed filmmaker Theo Van Gogh because Van Gogh had criticized Islam. "I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same," admitted Bouyeri.
Does immigration inculcate Western values or does it threaten Western values? Probably a little bit of both. In the Netherlands, second-generation Dutch, such as Bouyeri, can live in a nation within a nation. The same goes for Muslims in Britain (2 million Muslims), France (5 million Muslims), and Germany (3.2 million Muslims). That internal Islamic nation can stand for everything that the surrounding society stands against. Certainly the Islamic fanatic Bouyeri didn't absorb religious intolerance and sectarian violence from Dutch society? But the Netherlands, by its open-borders policy of national suicide, is learning more about religious intolerance and sectarian violence from non-traditional Dutchmen like Bouyeri.
"Many Democrats who used to scoff at conservative fears about activist judges are now joining their barricades when it comes to eminent domain," John Fund writes in OpinionJournal.com. The Kelo decision, handed down by the court's liberal wing, empowers governments to transfer property from its owners to its coveters. Since the city of New London reasoned (in the court's words) that transferring working-class people's property to wealthy developers would "provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue," the court rationalized the government-sanctioned theft.
Since the targets of such expropriation tend to stand on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, those representing such constituences, including most of the Congressional Black Caucus, are fighting mad. Fund quotes Wilhelmina Leigh of the DC-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies: "[Kelo] means you have to hope and trust in the goodness of other human beings that if you buy real estate that you will be allowed to keep it." Kelo abolishes the right to private property, which theoretically makes property "rights" in the U.S. no more stable than....
...in Zimbabwe, which, based on the same logic that guided Kelo, has been expropriating the land of white farmers for several years. The farmers' land, it is argued, would better serve the community if it were split among the populace. The property of New Londoners, it is argued, would better serve the community if it were absorbed by a corporation. While there is an economic role reversal in those targeted, the guiding justification is the same: private property coveted by private citizens can be taken when politicians perceive reward (be it economic or electoral).
And now Zimbabwe targets shantytowns--urban blight, Africa-style--for destruction. Replacing open-air markets and humble domiciles with new structures, Robert Mugabe's government holds, will improve the lives of its citizens. The citizens living in the condemned dwellings don't agree. Michael Davies, chairman of a residential association of three million Zimbabweans, explains that Zimbabwe is "basically in a war situation where the police don't respect due process." Thus, many residents don't even get to make their case before a judge. And the residents who do get their day in court? "The police just ignore court orders," Davies continued. "We have criminals in charge of the state, and criminals don't respect the law. If you order them off your property, you are asking for a truncheon across the head."
Thank goodness I don't live in Zimbabwe, at least not yet.
Despite liberal insistance in calling Sandra Day O'Connor a "mainstream" or "moderate" conservative, just 17 percent of Americans polled believe the outgoing Supeme Court justice a conservative--slightly more than the percent that view her as a liberal.
Time magazine depicts the retiring O'Connor as the court's moderate. The weekly sees Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist as "staunch conservatives," Justice Kennedy as a "moderate conservative," and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens as "moderate liberals." According to Time, there are no "staunch liberals" on the court--just a bunch of moderates of various leanings and three "staunch conservatives." Yet all of Time's "moderates" have imposed a uniformity of laws upon the states regarding abortion and sodomy. Time's so-called staunch conservatives merely seek to let states decide such questions. Certainly that's more moderate than forcing a liberal one-size-fits-all solution on the states, or another alternative--forcing all states to ban abortion and criminalize sodomy.
Vis-a-vis Time magazine, the Supreme Court may be conservative. Vis-a-vis the American people, it's well to the left on abortion, homosexuality, property rights, the death penalty, school prayer, affirmative action, and diverse other issues. Even if George W. Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor is a moderate like O'Connor, or a liberal like Souter, journalists at Time and elsewhere will reflexively label the high-court candidate "conservative," probably even prefacing this term with the derisive modifiers "extreme" and "right-wing." Because the American people don't recoil at the term "conservative," no matter what words preface it, as they do at "liberal," the media smear effort will be limited in its impact upon the mainstream public. Its impact upon conservatives, who will rush to the defense of the "conservative" nominee (no matter how liberal or moderate), will be far more damaging.
"Liberal," "conservative," "moderate," and other labels denoting political outlook are subjective. They often tell us more about the labeler than the labelee.
February's comments will soon be closed forever. Here's your last chance to speak your piece. In the shortest month, the New England Patriots established themselves as an NFL dynasty, public transportation bothered me, and President Bush proved that the era of big government isn't over. Following the jubilation of January's elections in Iraq came February's hangover: Iraqis voted for Shiite extremists with ties to Iran. Faux-Indian Ward Churchill made headlines. Thankfully, his fifteen minutes are gone--for now.
Other than Dick Cheney's use of "big time," it's hard to come up with a better reaction to the press in recent years than Chief Justice William Rehnquist's rejoinder to an inquiring journalist: "That's for me to know and you to find out." The best lines get used over and over again because they are the best lines.
It's open-thread Friday. All who have something to say, say it loud and proud in the comments section below.
I pass by the British Embassy in Washington, DC to and from work. In the wake of the London terrorist attacks that wounded more than 700, several camera crews taped in front of the Massachusetts Avenue complex as I drove by this morning. This afternoon, three young women approached the embassy's closed gates with bouquets of flowers. Covering the entrance were flowers and notes of support, with one posterboard stating: "We Stand With You." It's good that the British know who stands with them. It's more important that they know who doesn't. In the coming days, ghoulish individuals who relish civilian deaths in nations they have grievances with will emerge from the dark places they inhabit. Some of these people will be Londoners.
First Live 8, then the G8, then the Olympics announcement, and now a terrorist attack. Great Britain has been the center of the news universe the last few days. Unfortunately, this latest news is bad news. Islamic terrorists have claimed credit for four bombings in London that have killed more than 40 people. Despite no scarcity of Western military targets in their own backyard, the terrorists chose to kill civilians in London. Is not today's operation a tacit admission of both cowardice and weakness?
He calls missing teenager Natalee Holloway a "rich bitch," declaring: "I hope her mother stumbles upon Natalee's rotting corpse" in Aruba. He tags a woman "a race traitor" for seeing a "colored" man, calling it "poetic justice" when the man attacked the woman. Regarding Hurricane Dennis, he laments: "unfortunately at this time, it is not expected to grow to hurricane force" to devastate another "redneck state." He refers to soldiers as "Army pukes" who are "pathetic losers," and celebrates when they die. Elsewhere, he waxes: "Priests typically molest little boys." He writes that "cops are the most evil, vile creatures out there in my estimation." He is Michael Crook, a despicable scribbler who insists he's not joking. In an earlier time, Crook might have relied on spraypaint as his means of communication. In 2005, he uses a weblog.
Such speech typically inspires a multitude of reactions. At one end, demands are made upon the government to silence the offender. At the other end, praise is heaped upon the Michael Crooks of the world (and the Larry Flynts and Howard Sterns) for guaranteeing rights for the rest of us by constantly poking at the boundaries of governmental tolerance. Another reaction is more sensible: the understanding that freedom is an amoral state that allows people to act morally or immorally. Freedom is a means, not an end. Freedom is a necessary precondition to virtue--and thus quite positive--but not virtue itself. Conservatives recognize this. Libertarians don't.
Now that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has retired, attention seems transfixed on possible replacements. But what about other possible retirements? There are plausible scenarios in which four other justices join O'Connor in retirement during Bush's final term. With the same nine justices sitting atop the highest bench for the last eleven years, aren't we due for more than one departure?
The average retirement age for a Supreme Court justice during the 20th century was 71. Ford apointee John Paul Stevens is 85. Blogger Radley Balko shared the speculation of a court insider that David Souter, 65, misses New Hampshire and always planned to retire at 65. William Rehnquist, the longest serving justice, has cancer. At 80, he seems ready to leave the court soon--or is that just liberal wishful thinking? Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a cancer survivor. Although she has served on the court for just twelve years, she is 72. The American Spectator's Prowler notes that Supreme Court clerks report that Ginsburg's health is not good, and retirement could be sooner rather than later.
Stephen Breyer (66), Anthony Kennedy (68), and Antonin Scalia (69) make up the youth wing of the Supremes, and at 57 Justice Clarence Thomas is the only baby-boomer on the high court. Barring Divine intervention, it's unlikely that these tenderfoots will be leaving anytime too soon.
We know people from TV, which means we don't know them at all.
We remember Admiral James Stockdale as Ross Perot's stumbling runningmate. But nineteen years prior to his unforgettable performance in the 1992 vice-presidential debate, Stockdale returned to America after enduring seven and a half years of beatings, torture, and solitary confinement (four years) as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. When his captors sought to parade him in a propaganda effort, Stockdale slashed himself with a razor to thwart their efforts. Later he slashed his wrists, telling the Communists he preferred death to submission. None of this was on TV, so no one remembers it. Instead, we remember the Medal of Honor recipient as not being as polished as Al Gore and Dan Quayle.
We remember Luther Vandross as a fat guy, who lost weight, put it back on again, and sang songs on Oprah. Without TV, we'd remember him as the talent that he was. Had he arrived a few years later, after video killed the radio star, we might not remember him at all. Short of winning American Idol, fat people (even really, really talented ones) don't get record contracts much anymore. But Britney Spears does. That's television.
We remember Hank Stram from NFL films, swearing, wearing his too obvious toupee, seemingly aware of the cameras and performing accordingly. But Hank Stram wasn't a clown. He just played one on TV. Stram was the winningest coach in the short but glorious history of the American Football League, and won more games at the professional level in the 1960s than all football coaches but Vince Lombardi. He coached the Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl Four. But, like Art Donovan, we remember Stram as an over-the-top personality on that earliest of reality-TV programs, NFL Films.
We remember Shelby Foote as the commentator on the PBS Civil War documentary who appeared to have joined the broadcast from the age he commented upon. But Foote--novelist, historian, Southerner--spent most of his life off-camera, writing a three-volume, 1.2 million word history of the Civil War. Thousands knew Foote as a writer, but 40 million were introduced to him as a talking head via Ken Burns's documentary.
It's not what we forget, but what we can't remember--what we can't remember because we never saw it in the first place. What we do see often lacks context and perspective. That the camera doesn't lie is itself a lie. The lives of the recently departed prove this.
Live 8 didn't raise any money for starving or diseased Africans. It did raise quite a bit of cash for already wealthy entertainers. According to HMV, UK sales of greatest hits packages increased 1343 percent for Pink Floyd, 863 percent for The Who, and 500 percent for Annie Lennox. Just for appearing, performers received $12,000 "goodie bags"--an amount larger than the per capita GDP of every African nation--that included Bertolucci watches and Hugo Boss duffel bags.
Live 8 was not a charitable event, but a racket designed to persuade G8 governments to force taxpayers to make contributions to African governments. While liberals generally have no problem with such coercion, some do have a problem with Live 8. "Good God, this is a moral crime," writes left-wing writer Eric Alterman. "All that money available just for the asking--all those lives that could be saved by people who wonít miss the money--and these guys won't even bother to ask? They wonít even allow charities to canvass the audience. Turns out the concert is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING but moral vanity, and the exploitation of starving, sick Africans, by pampered, rich as**oles and their self-interested corporate sponsors rather than their potential salvation. This is really unspeakably shameful."
At 27, Takeru Kobayashi is at the top of his game. His game happens to be eating hot dogs really fast. Yesterday, Kobayashi ate 49 hot dogs in 12 minutes in Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. This fell short of his personal best of 53 1/2 hot dogs, but beat second place--which set an American record--by 12 hot dogs. In other words, Kobayashi is about 33 percent better than second best. For five straight years, Kobayashi has left Coney Island with the Mustard Yellow Belt, the most prestigious prize in competitive eating. This is a championship feat that Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Jerry Rice, and Wayne Gretzky never attained in their respective sports. Kobayashi is king.
What better way (other than drinking to excess and lighting off illegal fireworks) to celebrate the birthday of the United States of America than to read up on American history? Check out my reviews of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, Paul Johnson's A History of the American People, and Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen's A Patriot's History of the United States.
I'm enjoying the music of Live 8, but not the evil cause behind it. The difference between Live 8 and Live Aid is the difference between force and freedom, between the the stick-up man and the Salvation Army Santa Claus. If Bono, Dave Matthews, and Paul McCartney wish to siphon off a portion of their lucrative earnings to give to African governments, then they should go ahead and do so. I'm not stopping you. Please don't stop me from using my money to the way I see fit. Live Aid was charity. Live 8 is a racket.
Republican Richard Nixon appointed William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court. But he also appointed Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell. Republican Gerald Ford appointed one of the more left-wing justices in recent years, John Paul Stevens. Republican Ronald Reagan appointed three Supreme Court justices. Just one, Antonin Scalia, is a conservative. Republican George H.W. Bush appointed two Supreme Court justices: liberal David Souter and conservative Clarence Thomas.
With Democrats controlling the White House less than one-third of the time since 1968, it's easy to understand how George W. Bush inherited a Supreme Court with seven of nine Republicans sitting on it. Why did he also inherit a court that leans way left?
George W. Bush has an opportunity to correct the mistakes of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr. Will he?
Movie of the Week Week winds up tonight on TV Land with the best TV movie of all time: Helter Skelter. "I'm the devil. The devil always shaves his head." "You maaaaaade me." "This is a miscarriage of justice." These and other courtroom outbursts by Charles Manson and his followers make for classic television. Don't miss this opportunity to check out a fictional portrayal of these spooky murderers on TV Land, unless you have a life and have some type of 4th of July event to go to.
Sandra Day O'Connor, a long-time swing-vote on the Supreme Court, announced her retirement today. Her departure, the Arizonan noted, is "effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor." Does not this careful language preclude George W. Bush from making a recess appointment should his adversaries block O'Connor's successor?
F.A. Hayek writes, "Thus I confess that I always have to smile when books on evolution, even ones written by great scientists, end, as they often do, with exhortations which, while conceding that everything has hithero developed by a process of spontaneous order, call on human reason--now that things have become so complex--to seize the reins and control future development." (p. 22) Hayek's argument throughout The Fatal Conceit is that cultural, political, and economic institutions were not created by any council of wise men, but rather developed organically. "Civilisation is not only a product of evolution--it is a process; by establishing a framework of general rules and individual freedom it allows itself to continue to evolve. This evolution cannot be guided by and often will not produce what men demand." (p. 74)
Like Hayek, the typical intellectual accursed with the fatal conceit seldom believes in God. Their faith in their schemes, however, seems unshakable. Is the desire to create the world anew through social-engineering schemes related to atheism? In other words, does the intellectual seek not just to depose God, but to replace Him?