Monday, July 3, 2006

The Times We Endure

If the New York Times had been around in 1775:

Thanks to Powerline.

Boos For Kennedy

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy fails to win the affection of Wendy Long at National Review Online:

The important end-of-term decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, including Hamdan and the Texas redistricting case, point to one regrettable conclusion: this Court is still a liberal, activist Court that issues decisions based on politics, personal preference, ideology, perceived international or humanitarian ideals - in short, on anything and everything except what should be its sole consideration: the law.

At the epicenter of this problem is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who manages to make the entire Court look like a totally political body. His concurring opinions of breathtaking lawlessness and irrationality, siding with the liberal activist wing of the Court, somehow taint the whole institution. No wonder the current erroneous tendency among press and public to evaluate judicial nominees in political terms.

Justice Kennedy has long been this way - Casey, Lawrence, the list goes on and on - but in the past he shared this "swing vote" pedestal with Sandra Day O'Connor, who at least wrote narrowing (if similarly unintelligible) concurrences a good deal of the time. With O'Connor gone, Kennedy appears even more unhinged from law and reality, and the broad "swing vote" brush with which he paints is covering over more and more of the Constitution.

The replacement of Justice O'Connor with Justice Alito has made a solid block of four whose stock-in-trade is the law: its text, its principles, and its history. But instead of four - the Chief Justice, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito - there could have been today a majority of six such Justices, if only well-intentioned former Republican Presidents, and their legal advisers, had inisisted on judicial nominees with a demonstrated public record of adherence to the law and fidelity to judicial restraint and the principles of the Constitution.

[Last Thursday's] decision in Hamdan calls to mind President Abraham Lincoln's response when he was accused of violating the Constitution's grant of executive power by suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. The essence of Lincoln's response was later articulated in another context by Justice Robert Jackson, who wrote that the Constitution cannot become a "suicide pact." How ironic that Justice Kennedy, in his Hamdan concurrence, cited Justice Jackson on the extent of executive power. How tragic that his analytical ability does not match Justice Jackson's.

The hopeful sign is that Americans are now focused on the need for proven constitutionalist Justices, as they were not when Justice Kennedy and Justice Souter were nominated by Republican presidents. They know that the success of self-government is at stake, as President Lincoln said in his first inaugural address:

"If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

For my part, I understand the disaffection for Kennedy, but he at least sometimes votes the right way. Far more corrosive to the constitution, in my opinion, are Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer who consistently refuse to be bound by much of anything other than their own personal feelings on cases that come before them. The sooner one or more of these Justices retires the better it will be for the country.

For more criticism and discussion of the probable untoward consequences of the Court's Hamdan decision read Mark Steyn's column.

Re: The Perky Economy

Byron offers a critique of the post Perky Economy which we've put up on our Feedback Page and to which I respond here. By's words are in indented blocks:

As we've discussed here, and in much greater detail in personal correspondance or over coffee at our local diner, you seem to be on this growing kick to impugn the motives of those with whom you disagree. It just isn't like you, and I'm thinking you need a vacation.

There's an important distinction to be made between impugning motives personally and impugning them generally. I'm uncomfortable imputing ignoble motives to specific individuals, but I have less trouble expressing skepticism, as I did in Perky Economy, about the motives of unspecified people. For example, It's one thing to assert that there are some politicians who seem to be so motivated by political success that they place partisanship above the best interests of the country. It's something else to specifically accuse Senator X of doing so. The latter claim should be backed by much more evidence than is necessary to justify the former. I have no doubt that there are some who oppose the administration's policies in Iraq because they want us, for various reasons, to lose the war. I would be very reluctant, however, to attribute that motive to a specific individual, despite my suspicions, unless I had solid grounds for doing so.

I would like a vacation, though.

For instance: regarding the chugging economy, you suggest that there are those who seem to "prefer to see it bogged down in the mire of recession..."

It would be fully fair to say, as you did about Krugman, in the end of your piece, that he will see the negative side of this. Yes, you are right, there are those that tend to not see the positive side (esp when the party with whom they disagree is in power, a phenom that I'd say is common from both sides of the isle.)

However, you then imply they like it that way; they desire an economy that is sad for folks, where the poor are poorer and the underinsured are even more desperate, when their consumer dollar doesn't stretch as far. What real basis do you have for this increasingly commonplace hunch of yours, that the left is so nasty that they are happy when things are hurtful?... That they seem to enjoy the bad news is just saying more than you should, I think, and is impugning the motives of others in ways that is not becoming of you.

Of course I think it is reasonable to maintain that there are individuals, some of them prominent, who give every appearance of wishing to see the administration fail, not just in terms of its foreign policy but also domestically. It's not that they want to see people suffer so much as that they don't want voters, and future historians, to be able to credit this administration for a successful economy. They appear willing to sacrifice the welfare of some if a failed economy discredits Republicans/ conservatives and works to the benefit of the Democrats/ liberals.

Try to name, for example, a left-wing commentator, editorialist, or politician who has actually commended the Bush administration for bringing us out of recession. There are very few. The general silence suggests that many on the left are just not particularly happy with signs of economic success engineered by this administration. They realize that good news for America is bad news for Democrats seeking election on the basis of Republican failures and incompetence.

To suggest that this isn't so requires an entirely unwarranted confidence in the goodness of human nature. It's a little surprising that Byron, who has a strong view of the evils of the human heart, would think that none of the president's enemies would be willing to see some people undergo trials and tribulations if Republicans got punished for it at the polls.

By the way; I don't know what the latest statistics are about soup kitchens, homeless shelters, uninsured sick folks seeking care at free clinics. My recollection from those who serve such populations is that the need is increasing, the food banks are buzzing with those seeking help, and the indication that the ecomony is strong, when viewed from the perspective of the poor, is, well, dubious.

Byron overlooks an important fact. These people are not going to be helped no matter how strong the economy is because many, if not most, of them are not just unemployed but unemployable. If they were employable they'd be working at the jobs that are attracting millions of illegals across the border every year. From the perspective of the underclass poor the economic health of the nation is almost irrelevant, except isofar as a good economy means more charitable giving and government largesse. Even in a roaring economy at full employment, an ideal that we are approximating, the underclass would still be lining up at soup kitchens and free medical clinics. That there is a large underclass of people in need is no argument against the claim that the economy is doing well.

There are hearings in mid-July about these various things at the Farm Show arena here in Central PA where the government hopes to get better insight about the needs of the poor as they reconsider the upcoming redrafting of the Farm Bill (which is the legislation that includes nutrition programs.) I am thinking of going with a notebook, hearing first hand the testimonies of those around here who will surely tell of stories of domestic poverty and hunger right here in the heartland. I hope you don't suggest that these saints, who will surely cry out to any who will hear, that their people are hurting, will be happy about it.

This is a cheap shot. Nothing I said in Perky Economy or anything else I've put on Viewpoint gives anyone any reason to think that I would make such a statement about people who toil among the poor.