Friday, May 20, 2005

Ideological Taxonomy

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has an interesting test that will pigeon-hole your ideological predilections for you. As with all such tests, some of the questions are irritating because neither of the options given accurately describe one's position, but even so, the overall results seem pretty accurate. Once the test is completed a link takes you to a page which describes the typical person in your political niche, of which there are about seven or eight.

Viewpoint, it turns out, falls into the "Enterpriser" category.

Use it and They Lose it

Republicans have called for cloture on the debate over the nomination of Priscilla Owen. A cloture petition requires the approval of 60 of 100 senators, to end debate on Owen's nomination. Under Senate rules that petition must rest two days while the Senate is in session and will thus come up for a vote on Tuesday.

If five Democrats do not join with the Senate's 55 Republicans to give the GOP the 60 votes they need to proceed to an up-or-down vote for Owen, Senator Frist will probably carry through with his threat to change the rule and ban the use of judicial filibusters in the Senate. That vote, known alternately as the nuclear or constitutional option, is likely to occur on Tuesday.

Frist will need 50 senators to vote for the rule change in order for it to carry. He'd win a tie since Vice-president Cheney would vote as president of the Senate to break the deadlock. Assuming he has the votes, and it's highly doubtful he would move to vote on a rule change if he didn't, Bush's nominees will be confirmed, beginning with Owens on Tuesday.

Ironically, the only way the Democrats can stop the ban on the filibuster is to give Frist his 60 votes for cloture on Tuesday. If they do, then the vote to change the rule will not come up until at least the next nominee is considered. In other words, the Dems are in the position of being able to save their chief weapon of judicial obstructionism only by choosing not to use it.

Cheap Ethics

A recent Zogby poll of 18 to 24 year olds finds that:

Young Americans entering the workforce overwhelmingly value honesty and integrity, with 92% saying they believe that doing the right thing is more important than getting ahead in their careers-but there is also a strong undercurrent of competing values, placing loyalty to friends, love and getting ahead personally above honesty in business dealings.

In addition to the 34% who say that doing the right thing can be too costly, another three-in-ten (31%) say ethics are important as long as they do not compromise personal goals.

In other words, doing the right thing is important for a significant fraction of this age group only so long as it doesn't get in the way of their ambitions. Lying is wrong, for example, except when it's necessary to advance oneself or to keep out of trouble. Such devotion to integrity is not very encouraging.

Ethicist Michael Josephson reminds us that, 'Ethics is having the character and the courage to do the right thing even when it costs more than we want to pay.' If we want to build long-term trusting relationships, each of us should strive to make a stronger commitment to practice the kinds of ethical values many of our grandparents have lived by - honesty, integrity, loyalty, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship."

The difference is that our grandparents believed that Josephson's virtues were objectively right, that they were grounded in something beyond ourselves. For many today virtue is entirely subjective and grounded in nothing more than our own feelings. Given that view, there really is no reason to embrace the virtues when they run counter to our own wants and desires.

There's much more on the survey at the link.


Ed Whelan at NRO poses the following scenario:

Imagine, if you will, that a Democrat President nominated a judge whose constitutional and policy views were, by any measure, on the extreme left fringes of American society.

Let's assume, for example, that this nominee had expressed strong sympathy for the position that there is a constitutional right to prostitution as well as a constitutional right to polygamy.

Let's say, further, that he had attacked the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts as organizations that perpetuate stereotyped sex roles and that he had proposed abolishing Mother's Day and Father's Day and replacing them with a single androgynous Parent's Day.

And, to get really absurd, let's add that he had called for an end to single-sex prisons on the theory that if male prisoners are going to return to a community in which men and women function as equal partners, prison is just the place for them to get prepared to deal with women.

Let's further posit that this nominee had opined that a manifest imbalance in the racial composition of an employer's work force justified court-ordered quotas even in the absence of any intentional discrimination on the part of the employer. But then, lo and behold, to make this nominee even more of a parody of an out-of-touch leftist, let's say it was discovered that while operating his own office for over a decade in a city that was majority-black, this nominee had never had a single black person among his more than 50 hires.

Imagine, in sum, a nominee whose record is indisputably extreme and who could be expected to use his judicial role to impose those views on mainstream America. Surely such a person would never be nominated to an appellate court. Surely no Senate Democrat would support someone with such extreme views. And surely Senate Republicans, rather than deferring to the nominating power of the Democrat President, would pull out all stops-filibuster and everything-to stop such a nominee.

Well, not quite. The hypothetical nominee I have just described is, in every particular except his sex, Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the time she was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993.

President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg on June 22, 1993. A mere six weeks later, on August 3, 1993, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a 96-3 vote.

(The source for the information in the second through fourth paragraphs is "Report of Columbia Law School Equal Rights Advocacy Project: The Legal Status of Women under Federal Law," co-authored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Brenda Feigen Fasteau in September 1974. The information in the fifth paragraph can be found in the transcript of Ginsburg's confirmation hearing.)

Democrats don't see jurists like Ginsburg as "extreme", of course, because they agree with her. An extremist, in their lexicon, is anyone more conservative than they are, which is probably 80% or more of the nation and probably every man who as ever served as president of this country.

Purging Religion From Public Life

Here are four posts from Tongue-Tied which show just how unwilling some people are to honor and celebrate the diversity which makes us a great nation, at least when the diversity takes the form of Christian displays and themes:

Florida Today is reporting that the family of one graduating high school senior in that state wants its child's graduation moved from a local chapel to a more secular venue.

The parents of a Palm Bay High School student, with the help of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, are threatening to sue unless the school district covers up all religious symbols at Calvary Chapel in West Melbourne for the ceremony. Barring that, they say they want the ceremony moved.

"Nobody wants this graduation to be disrupted," said Alex Luchenitser, senior litigation counsel for AUSCS. "We just want this to take place in a way that all students feel comfortable, no matter what religion they believe in."

School officials say moving the ceremony would disrupt three more public school graduations scheduled at the church, and have said they will not change their plans.

How many Christian students, do you suppose, would feel uncomfortable were the graduation ceremony held in a Synagogue? Why is it that the only people who seem to be tolerant of other peoples' expressions of faith are Christians? Just asking.


A weekly newspaper in Richmond, Va. has come across what it calls a "blooming violation" of the clause requiring separation of and state - a bed of azalea bushes in the shape of a cross on public property.

Style Weekly says the display in Bryan Park dates back more than half a century, but a local gadfly says the 12-by-20 foot show of spring color is long past its prime.

"You can understand in the sensibilities of the time 40 or 50 years ago," says Mike Sarahan, a former attorney with the city of Richmond. "But in the sensibilities of our time, in a multicultural and interfaith society, we should be more attuned" to the meaning such symbols evoke, he says.

Yes, and since the cross is often referred to as a tree in Christian hymns and writings, in light of our present sensibilities and our multicultural and interfaith society (whatever that means), we should demand that every tree in our public parks be removed forthwith.


Malcontents in Arkansas are pressuring the University of Arkansas to bar a Christian group from using Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville for one of their meetings because they don't like what the group stands for, according to the Northwest Arkansas Times.

Various groups in the area say the Promise Keepers, an group of predominantly evangelical Christian men dedicated to preserving morality and family values, are intolerant and shouldn't be allowed to use campus facilities.

Melanie Dietzel, president of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, insists that she is for freedom of speech and faith but "not when it's something designed to hurt other people ... (the Promise Keepers') rhetoric is certainly hurtful to people and I don't think that's something the university should encourage."

Evidently, swearing fidelity to, and respect for, one's spouse is hurtful rhetoric, but one wonders who is being hurt by it. The only people we can think of would be the women these men would otherwise be philandering with.


Officials in Washington State are trying to determine whether a Bible verse can be considered offensive after a nimrod complained about one such verse on a vanity license plate, according to KOMO-TV.

Jane Milhans of Tacoma has had a plate reading "John 3-16" for some 21 years without a complaint, but a woman recently called the state to say it was an illegal endorsement of religion by the state.

The woman's complaint read in part: "I was offended that I have to be 'prayed over' by a license plate... What happened to keeping church and state separate?"

Milhans will now have to defend her plate in front of a review committee, which will decide next month whether she can keep it.

UPDATE: The state has decided that Milhans can keep her plate.

That's a relief. It would be an additional relief to read that the woman who filed the complaint is receiving the psychiatric care she obviously requires.