October 12, 2006 - October 5, 2006
Thursday, October 06, 2005
It's time to get it on.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
Do you remember when we set up
the cage match between Ann Coulter and Keith Olbermann to settle the
question of who was the craziest mass media personality ever to
graduate from Cornell University? You don't? Well, that's because we
never posted the entry. We withheld it for fairness reasons. Either it
made Keith Olbermann look like too much of a smacked ass, or it may
been construed as insulting to Cornell. One of those two. We can't
remember which. But we always liked the graphic of Ann Coulter dressed
to kill in the ring, waiting for an opponent to annihilate. We thought
of it again yesterday when Chain Gang sent us an audio clip of Ann on
some talk radio show. She's mad about the Harriet Miers thing. Really
really mad. She suggested that conservatives who want to do something
could organize a committee to impeach George Bush. You can listen to
her argument by clicking on the audio button above..
That -- and a bunch of other screamings and shoutings from the
right-hand side of the fence -- got us to wondering about what it is
exactly the conservatives want. Yes, we know they want a judicial
nominee who went to Harvard with all the justices they hate so much,
but there's more to it than that. They want a fight. They want some
Republican to stand up to the Harvard idiots in the U.S. Senate and
explain to them why their self-satisfied liberalism is killing the
country. They want it so much they don't care if the Republican
senators from Maine and Rhode Island jump to the other side of the
aisle in protest. They don't even care if their heroic nominee fails to
be confimed by the Senate. They'd much rather have blood.
Well, we have an idea that might help. A tag-team match between the
conservatives and the liberals. Put it on TV. Hire that announcer who
bellows the names so annoyingly. Get it on in the Octagon of the UFC
. Like so:
If you're with us so far, here are the
teams we propose. For the liberals, Teddy Kennedy (Harvard), Chuck
Schumer (Harvard), and Joe Biden (Univeristy of Delaware)
For the conservatives, Ann Coulter (Cornell), Michelle Malkin
(Oberlin), and Peggy Noonan (Fairleigh Dickinson).
We were going to go with Laura Ingraham (Dartmouth) in the number three
slot, but then Ms. Noonan published this amazing paragraph
(T)he Miers pick was another
administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players,
their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the
huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The
quarterback looked foolish.
The quarterback always looks foolish when he blows the pickoff attempt
and all the runners advance a base. Good call by Ms. Noonan. It's
obvious she's as much a master of sports metaphors as she is of, uh,
you know. So we'll keep Laura in reserve in case one of our combatants
gets accidentally sat on by Teddy.
Of course, the liberals may be too gutless to accept the challenge,
because who wouldn't be scared to enter the ring against such
formidable opposition? It won't be a pretty sight. Hair pulling,
metaphors flying hither and yon, and a hail of epithets that would
crush the average senatorial SUV. But that's life in the Big Leagues,
where it's far more important to ridicule the enemy than to actually
One word of warning, though. Teddy is obviously in training for a nasty
brawl. Here's a spy photo we snapped just the other day:
Very important not to get sat on by this man. Laura better be ready to
come in off the bench and swing the big lumber for a touchdown. If you
know what we mean.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
A Prissy Snit
. My my my. Get a
load of George
on the Miers nomination:
Senators beginning what ought to be a
protracted and exacting scrutiny of Harriet Miers should be guided by
three rules. First, it is not important that she be confirmed. Second,
it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption --
perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting -- should be that
her nomination is not a defensible
exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial
deference is due.
It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading
lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents
commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's
``argument'' for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for
He has neither the inclination nor the
ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing
approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such
abilities in the course of their prepresidential careers, and this president, particularly, is not
disposed to such reflections.
Furthermore, there is no reason to
believe that Miers' nomination resulted from the president's careful
consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such
people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence
of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers'
name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on
What a jackass. Honestly. Let's be clear what is being proposed here:
that in order to preserve the Constitution, we must dispense with the
Constitution and employ confirmation rules dreamed up by a twit in a
snit. Who are we to consult for the purpose of identifying 100 people
who are capable of making "sophisticated judgments about competing
approaches to construing the Constitution"? Let's take a wild guess.
Would it be George Will? But he doesn't answer that question exactly.
There's much too much showing off to do. For example:
(C)onstitutional reasoning is a talent
-- a skill acquired, as intellectual skills are, by years of practice
sustained by intense interest. It is not usually acquired in the normal
course of even a fine lawyer's career. The burden is on Miers to
demonstrate such talents, and on senators to compel such a
demonstration or reject the nomination.
We told you yesterday
this whole thing was about snobbery. The tirade
quoted above demonstrates that and something else; the snobbery is
being amplified by pure dudgeon about a number of conservative beefs,
including Will's pet peeve:
(T)he president has forfeited his right
to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture
occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy
conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law expanding government
regulation of the timing, quantity and content of political speech. The
day before the 2000 Iowa caucuses he was asked -- to insure a
considered response from him, he had been told in advance he would be
asked -- whether McCain-Feingold's core purposes are unconstitutional.
He unhesitatingly said, ``I agree.'' Asked if he thought presidents
have a duty, pursuant to their oath to defend the Constitution, to make
an independent judgment about the constitutionality of bills and to
veto those he thinks unconstitutional, he briskly said, ``I do.''
Let's go Mr. Will one better and actually think about the argument he
is trying to assemble here. First of all, interpreting the Constitution
is a talent -- unless it's a skill (Which is it, George? Those aren't
synonyms in my dictionary) -- that can only be acquired by highly
trained specialists who represent only a subset of all attorneys. It
can't be done by amateurs, and no amateur should even try. Oka-a-a-y.
George Bush isn't an attorney of any kind. Under what article of the
new George Will Constitution would the President have the right to
pass judgment on the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold? Oh. Of
course. Under the article (or its penumbra) which legitimizes all
executive actions congruent with the intellectual or emotional whims of
the Founding Father, George Will. But instead, the President deferred
the matter of McCain-Feingold's constitutionality to the U.S. Supreme
Court -- i.e., highly trained specialists in interpreting the
Constitution -- who proceeded to declare it (drum roll, please!)
Well, by Mr. Will's own argument with respect to the Miers
nomination -- remember what he started ranting about in the first place
-- this outcome means that the President (if he thought McCain-Feingold
was unconstitutional) was wrong, and the great intellectuals of the
court were right. So what is George Will's beef? That he disagrees with
the highly trained specialists of the court. Hmmmm.
Will was born in Champaign, Ill., and
was educated at Trinity College in Hartford, and Oxford and Princeton
universities. Prior to entering journalism, Will taught political
philosophy at Michigan State University and the University of Toronto...
This is a quote from Will's Washington
Very nice education. Very impressive. One slight problem, though. No
sign of a law degree or "years of practice sustained by intense
interest" in constitutional reasoning.
There's plenty of room to criticize George Bush for failing to veto
McCain-Feingold, but it's no more than pompous rhetoric to declare that
the President has "forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of
the Constitution." Particularly in light of the Supreme Court's
decision to uphold it AND the astonishing conclusion reached by George
Will that the Senate somehow merits the trust he no longer feels
for the President. His hopes for the senate are lofty indeed:
It is important that Miers not be
confirmed unless, in her 61st year, she suddenly and unexpectedly is
found to have hitherto undisclosed interests and talents pertinent to
the court's role. Otherwise the sound principle of substantial
deference to a president's choice of judicial nominees will dissolve
into a rationalization for senatorial abdication of the duty to hold presidents to some
standards of seriousness that will prevent them from reducing the
Supreme Court to a private plaything useful for fulfilling whims
on behalf of friends.
Standards of seriousness. Right. Are we allowed to ask who it is that
passed McCain-Feingold into law? Who? Oh. The Congress, including
approximately the same senate that is now miraculously endowed with the
"sophisticated judgment" to detect either the talent or the skill
George Will requires, whenever he decides which it is. The approximate
same senate that gave 97 votes to Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, who never met a
clause of the Constitution she wouldn't be happier rewriting than
From this point on, Will's tantrum degenerates into a charge of
victimhood the nominee seems to have spent a lifetime eschewing. We can
safely ignore all that part of the denouement. But what are we left
with? A columnist with no law degree has more authority to select
supreme court nominees than a non-lawyer president who has disappointed
the columnist's political expectations.
Time to correct a few misimpressions. Supreme Court judges are not the
democratic equivalent of Vestal Virgins. They don't follow a special
diet, breathe special air, and they don't live in sacred temples. Nor
for that matter do they have to be lawyers, any more than the
Constitution's authors had to be. Benjamin Franklin had some pretty
impressive reasoning skills, but no law degree.
The Constitution does not say that if the President isn't intellectual
enough to suit the educational snobs of his generation that he must
find 100 smarter people to make his supreme court selections for him.
(We'd dearly love to have witnessed the outcome of the duel that would
followed George Will's attempt to give this particular lecture to
Andrew Jackson. Oh well.)
The inflated demands in this piece remind us of another blowhard's
famous canard (Carl Sagan, Cornell, no law degree)
that "extraordinary claims
require extraordinary proof." As a matter of fact, they don't. They
require exactly the same kind of proof needed for ordinary claims.
Presidents have selected supreme court justices for all kinds of
reasons, including politics, friendship, and legitimate credentials.
The founders knew this would happen. That's why they gave the senate a role
in advice and consent. Not because the senators would turn out to be
better or smarter than the President, but because government
appointments take place in the arena of politics and open political
proceedings tend to be more noisy and less corrupt than closed
political proceedings, except when it's the other way around. That's
one of the many many flawed compromises our form of government asks us
Those who don't accept such compromises are free to propose their own
rules, as George Will has done. God bless his First Amendment right to
speak down to the rest of us. Perhaps we should follow his lead. Here
are three rules we think will improve the confirmation process for
1. Don't ever take seriously any sermon delivered by an adult
male who is wearing a bowtie.
2. Don't ever forget that lawyers are great at causing trouble and
rarely competent at fixing it..
3. Regardless of what happens in the Miers hearings, we will -- most of
us -- continue living our lives as if the terrible outcome of the
confirmation process had never occurred.
Now get some rest. Relax. Do something that makes you feel good and
happy today. Here endeth the lesson.
UPDATE: Now here's an idea we can all get behind.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Bush nominates "pit
He knows what he's doing... unless
mis-overestimating him this time.
BREAKING THE CHAIN
lot of conservatives are sounding pretty upset about the nomination of
Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Bill
of the Weekly Standard is "disappointed, depressed and
demoralized." Rush Limbaugh says, "It's hard to resist the pull to be
angry and depressed over this." Former Bush speechwriter David
I worked with Harriet Miers. She's a
lovely person: intelligent,
honest, capable, loyal, discreet, dedicated ... I could pile on the
praise all morning. But there is no reason at all to believe either
that she is a legal conservative or--and more importantly--that she has
the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly
bend the American legal system toward the left.
We don't have all the inside information these folks do, but sometimes
the outside view brings a different and softer light to bear on events
that occur in the dazzling glare of the media mob. So we'll offer one
or two quick observations. Whoever Harriet Miers is, she isn't
David Souter. Bush has known
her well for a long time, which means that even if she's a stealth
candidate in the eyes of the conservative power establishment, she
isn't in the eyes of the man who nominated her. The question rapidly
boils down to what appraisal we make not of Harriet Miers, but George
Bush. Is it really conceivable that despite all his promises and
assertions, he's a secret moderate about Roe v. Wade, public atheism,
and judges micro-engineering our national culture from the bench? We
But we also suspect something else that the conservative braintrust may
be too smart -- or too snobbish or (gasp) sexist -- to perceive. Time
and again, George W. Bush has proven that he is smarter than his
critics and his mortal enemies can bring themselves to believe. Why do
they have so much trouble recognizing his intelligence? Because he is
not an intellectual. Definitely, positively, absolutely NOT. The
meaning of this distinction frequently eludes even those who generally
support the President. Take David Frum, for instance. He is terribly
worried about the insidious pressures Washington exerts on supreme
There have just been too many instances
of seeming conservatives being sent to the high Court, only to succumb
to the prevailing vapors up there: O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter. Given
that record, it is simply reckless for any conservative president to
take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity of the highest intellectual and personal excellence.
The pressures on a Supreme Court justice to shift leftward are intense.
There is the negative pressure of the vicious, hostile press that legal
conservatives must endure. And there are the sweet little
inducements--the flattery, the invitations to conferences in Austria and Italy,
the lectureships at Yale and Harvard--that
come to judges who soften and crumble. Harriet Miers is a taut,
nervous, anxious personality. It is hard for me to imagine that she can
endure the anger and abuse--or resist the blandishments--that
transformed, say, Anthony Kennedy into the judge he is today.
Frum is so caught up in the turmoil of DC social politics that he can't
see the contradiction in his own argument. Consider the academic
backgrounds of the justices who have previously failed to resist the
vapors," the "conferences in Austria and Italy," and the "lectureships
at Yale and Harvard."
Anthony Kennedy, Stanford, London
School of Economics, Harvard Law.
Sandra Day O'Connor, Stanford, Stanford Law.
David Souter, Harvard, Oxford, Harvard Law.
On the one hand conservatives are extremely vocal about decrying the
pernicious influence of the country's most prestigious universities on
the intellectual elite. They're inclined to use the names of certain
institutions almost as swear words: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley,
and the University of Chicago. But when it comes time to nominate a
supreme court justice, who do they regard as ideally qualified?
Graduates of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of
Chicago. Huh? (Remember, one definition of 'stupid' is repeatedly
doing the same things and expecting a different result.) It's hard not
to think that what depresses them the most
about Harriet Miers are the initials "SMU." That's right. Harriet Miers
got her law degree at Southern Methodist University in Texas. How
awful. How gauche. How disappointing
Especially if you're an intellectual who got your degree from Harvard,
Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, or the University of Chicago.
Now for a fascinating conjecture. What if George Bush has looked hard,
through his non-intellectual eyes, at the repeated seduction of
presumed conservatives and come to the common-sense conclusion that the
people who are most likely to be swayed by the "blandishments" of
European conferences and the social approval of Harvard and Yale are
the hyper-intellectual academics trained by Harvard, Stanford, Oxford
et al in the first place. And maybe he's smarter -- via his experience
with his cagey common-sense wife and shrewd
housewife-cum-communications director Karen Hughes -- than to be fooled
into thinking that a soft-spoken lady with good manners can't be tough
enough to withstand the social enticements of the left.
On the face of it, Frum's characterization is ridiculous. Harriet Miers
didn't become head of a law firm in Texas, president of the Texas Bar
Association, and Chief White House Counsel by being soft and compliant.
The opposite case seems far more likely, that's she's hardheaded,
practical, resilient, and rock-solid in her knowledge of who she is and
what she believes. And she probably ain't no indecisive, pussyfooting
intellectual neither. Would she rather take tea at Oxford or whip up
some potato salad for the Sunday box supper at her church? If, as we
suspect, it's the latter, she seems a pretty good bet to bring some
real word savvy and sagacity to an institution that's sorely in need of
Don't forget that George W. Bush has gotten degrees from Harvard and
Yale. Maybe he's finally acting on what he learned in those places
That's our ignorant opinion anyway. The authority we'd most like to
hear from is Barney. What does he
He hasn't commented yet, but we're
damn sure he's smarter than Frum.
Here's a fine essay on the Miers nomination by Thomas
. Don't skim it. Read it. Also see Villainous
, who seems more scrupulously objective than her nom de
guerre would indicate.
Monday, October 03, 2005
. This is cute
Nearly 100,000 California 12th graders
— or about 20% of this year's senior class — have failed the state's
graduation exam, potentially jeopardizing their chances of earning
diplomas, according to the most definitive report on the mandatory
test, released Friday.
Students in the class of 2006, the first group to face the graduation
requirement, must pass both the English and math sections of the test
The exit exam — which has come
under criticism by some educators, legislators and civil rights
advocates — is geared to an eighth-grade
level in math and to ninth- and 10th-grade levels in English.
But the report by the Virginia-based Human Resources Research
Organization showed that tens of thousands of students, particularly
those in special education and others who speak English as a second
language, may fail the test by the end of their senior year despite
remedial classes, after-school tutoring and other academic help.
Teachers, according to the report, said that many students arrive
unprepared and unmotivated for their high school courses and that their
grades often reflect poor attendance and low parental involvement.
The group reviewed the test results as part of a report ordered by the
Legislature when it instituted the exit exam several years ago.
Among its findings: 63% of African
Americans and 68% of Latinos in the class of 2006 have passed both parts of the exam.
By comparison, 89% of Asians and 90% of whites have passed. The report
recommended that the state keep the exam but consider several
alternatives for students who can't pass.
"Clearly, we need to have some options
for these students," said Lauress L. Wise, the firm's president,
in a telephone interview with reporters.
The state, for example, could allow
seniors to submit portfolios of work that demonstrate mastery of
English and math, the report's authors suggested.
Options? Portfolios? Uh, we're working on it. Bring your portfolio of
masterful Englishizing and Mathologizing to the drive-thru window at
your nearest McDonald's, and the government will... what? Shoot your
dumb ass right in the face? (Extra credit for figuring out from that
sentence where the bullet will hit and whether or not it will be fatal.)
We'd like to offer another option: Get a saw. Start at the
Oregon-California border and -- very carefully -- separate the Golden
State from the North American continent. Kick it out to sea with your
enormous Nike sneakers. Start over with a new west coast.
No wonder everyone in Hollywood
is a moron.