Sunday, December 31, 2006
Attention all Federalist Society members and friends: On January 27th, at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the Federalist Society will be sponsoring a salute to former Attorney General Edwin Meese III. It will feature Gen. Meese himself, Ted Olson, Ken Cribb, Judge Lois Haight Herrington, Doug Kmiec, Dan Lowenstein, Judge Stephen Markman, Mike Rappaport, William Bradford Reynolds and Michael Uhlmann. And me.
The title of the program is "The Legacy of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Edwin Meese III." It is an all-day affair that will feature two panel discussions, an interview with Gen. Meese, a tour of the Reagan Library, a luncheon address by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and a cocktail reception. It promises to be one of the Federalist Society's premiere events of the year.
For many years Federalist Society members--both students and lawyers--in western states have wanted to have a major Federalist Society event in the West, since it's so hard for us to get to the East for the Lawyers' Conference or the Student Conference. Well, this is it. It's a chance for both lawyers and students to connect with each other and to honor this important Reagan Era figure (and learn something about him and his accomplishments).
If this goes well, the Federalist Society would like to hold a annual major event at the Reagan Library. I hope to see you there.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
This is a family life update, so those of you who find this sort of thing boring can skip it. I am just back yesterday with my family unit from New Canaan, Connecticut, which I am happy to report in the war against Christmas, is still well behind friendly lines. No, it is not the same as it was in 1981, when I first visited there, and met my lovely wife Jeanne, whom after a whirlwind romance, I married five years later. Then it really was John Cheever's Bullet Park, or a nicer version thereof. Now the old line WASPs have given way to hedge fund heros and people in "media." Nothing stays the same, but at least some things change more slowly than others. We attended the annual Christmas caroling on God's Acre. The crowd was large enough, but seemed a little subdued. Maybe it was the lack of snow, or thoughts of war. By request, the band interrupted the almost sacrosanct order of carols to sing "God Bless America," which I had never seen before in 25 years off and on of attending this event. I told Jeanne it had been a long time since I had attended a gathering in which I was so confident of not seeing a pierced navel.
As usual, the food was to die for. My lovely wife and sister-in-law are both terribly accomplished cooks, aided and abetted by my father in law, who approaches the grill with a fanatical zeal and skill. The Christmas goose, acquired from some famous poultry purveyor in Norwalk whose name I forget, was succulent, served along with an entire filet mignon larger itself than some people. This was served along with a multitude of stuffings, sauces, and then deserts it is somewhat overwhelming to contemplate, even in retrospect. Of course, I made a complete pig of myself, but not as much as my skinny eldest boy. There is something genuinely alarming about how much a 15 year old boy can eat. I approached the scale with genuine dread upon my return, only to find I had lost 1 pound. I am aware, however, of an uncomfortable redistribution of mass I am resolved to do something about. This will take some doing, as with my involvement with the Polytechnic of Milan and various persons Italian, the new rage in my household is Italian cooking, which gives my lovely wife plenty to work with. In fact, there is no such thing as Italian cooking, but rather kitchen stylings from Sicily, Lombardy, Tuscany, and on and on, until it takes two strong men to shift you from your chair.
I suppose many people find Christmas a bittersweet sort of holiday, as I did this year. It is my first without my dad, who was always a benign if in the last few years silent presence. My older brother spent Christmas in Boise, so was able to clean up his grave and put a poinsettia on it. We reminisced over the phone about the Christmas eve my dad spent putting together a hellishly complex pedal powered roadster for my little brother, who was then a toddler and is now a fully grown federal judge. We had more fun with that thing, including attempting to customize it with a hammer. This Christmas eve, I took 3 year old Mark on a little walk outside. Bossy and curious as ever, he led me around the acreage, kicking leaves and searching for ice fringed mud puddles. "What's that called?!" he demanded, regarding every rock, stick and tree. Everything has to have a name, and he needs to know it, right now. So what is the name for that feeling, that nothing could be more beautiful, and yet more sad, than these times we have with our kids and our parents? You want to slow it down, but you can't. You realize 10 years is nothing, and 50 not much more. Your little brother is not so little, you're not so little yourself, the kid who pounded on the pedal car with you died years ago, your baby is a teenager, your three year old is in a hurry, and New Canaan is busy becoming a New England version of Brentwood. Most of it is good, of course; that's what life is. If it were frozen, it would be dead. The snow falls gently down on all of us, as Joyce said in his Christmas story.
There's no snow in San Diego, just sunshine today, and that's fine with me. I'm on my way to Sears to buy a new dishwasher, which is something I can understand. Very best holiday of your choice to you all out there. Love 'em while you can.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Judge Richard Posner defends the ban on trans fat in New York City. I hope to criticize his position in the future. In his response to comments, Posner makes this interesting point:
I agree with Becker that many young people who are clogging their arteries by eating restaurant meals rich in trans fats will be saved by better cholesterol drugs that we can expect in the future. However, those drugs will doubtless be paid for in large measure by taxpayers through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. This means that the cost of trans fats will be shifted, in part at least, from those who consume them to those who do not--a classic externality, which justifies public intervention (depending on its cost and efficacy) even to Millian liberals such as myself.
While Posner may (or may not) be correct as an economic matter about the choices of young people, notice the logic of this position. One intervention -- government provided health insurance -- now justifies another intervention -- banning trans fats -- because the first intervention does not allow people to face the full costs of their decisions. Of course, when the first intervention was proposed, no one suggested that this would lead to additional interventions and infringements on liberty. Yet, it does provide an economic argument for doing so.
This is one strong reason why interventions should be so hard to justify: they have indirect and unintended effects which are problematic and infringe liberty. In many ways, a system of freedom and responsibilities works as a systematic whole: one cannot easily depart from it in piecemeal ways without causing additional problems.
The Duke "rape" case is not only an example of prosecutorial misconduct and demagoguery, as Mike notes: it has also been facilitated, to put it gently, by the poisonous "race-gender-class" leftism that prevails among the Duke faculty and administration, as it does on so many campuses. K.C. Johnson, who more than anyone else has fought the good fight against injustice in the case, puts it this way - in a piece posted yesterday at Inside Higher Ed:
Academic debates can sometimes seem trivial, and it’s easy to understand the overwhelming temptation that some Duke professors felt last April to do the politically correct thing and denounce the lacrosse players.
This particular behavior, however, had significant consequences. Less than four weeks after the Group of 88 issued their statement, Nifong [the prosecutor] captured a hotly contested Democratic primary by a mere 883 votes. Given the political and legal fluidity in Durham last spring, it’s hard to imagine Nifong prevailing had 88 Duke professors publicly demanded that he respect their students’ due process rights rather than thanking the protesters who had branded the players guilty.
The behavior we’ve seen from Duke’s faculty — the frantic rush to judgment coupled with a refusal to reconsider — was all too predictable. The Group of 88’s statement was fully consistent with basic ideas about race, class, and gender prevalent on most elite campuses today. Reconsidering their actions of last spring would have forced the Group of 88, and sympathetic colleagues, to reconsider some of the intellectual assumptions upon which the statement was based.
Duke’s admissions home page promises prospective parents that “teaching is personal,” as the institution’s professors “teach and mentor undergraduates, not only in the classroom.” Students who don’t conform to the race/class/gender worldview, however, seem to receive a different kind of “personal” attention.
I’d like to think that most academics entered the profession eager to work with students; and that most professors would never prioritize advancing their own ideological agenda over protecting their students. Yet I see little reason to believe that [it would have been different] had this incident occurred at another major university. And that makes Duke’s failing a failure of the academy as a whole.
Read the whole thing.
The problem, of course, is not only at "elite" or "major" universities. Lesser colleges and universities are as bad and worse. You find the same ideological monopoly or virtual monopoly, the same bullying style, the same political religion. There would be faculty and administration cheerleaders for a travesty like the Duke prosecution, I'm sorry to say, at plenty of schools. On all too many campuses around the country, "it could (easily) happen here".
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Glenn Reynolds puts the point clearly:
"ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, I've suggested that the United States should not be trying to serve as an "honest broker" for a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the grounds that the Palestinians are our enemies, and thus we can't and shouldn't be neutral about them."
Given the Palestinian happiness over 9/11 and their support for Saddam (at least during the first war), this is hardly a surprise. Yet, most people don't think of it this way, even people who see the Palestinians for what they are.
Of course, Jim Baker seems to know that the Palestinians are our enemies. He favors giving things to all of our enemies: Syria, Iran and the Palestinians. The other strong supporters of the Palestinians in the US -- the Left -- also seem to know this. They typically support our enemies.
Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson recount the absurdity and outrageousness of the Duke Rape prosecution. It is really quite shocking and many people should be very ashamed. To this day, one sees defenders of the prosecution.
Taylor and Johnson write:
It has been clear for many months that the rape claim is almost surely a lie. But not until the DA's dramatic dismissal last Friday of the rape (but not the sexual assault and kidnapping) charges did Mr. Nifong enablers such as the New York Times and Duke President Richard Brodhead begin distancing themselves from his oppression of three innocent young men. How can we be confident that the charges are false? Let us count the ways.
And then they detail the main problems with the case.
One cannot really ponder this case without thinking about Tom Wolfe's books The Bonfire of the Vanities and I am Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe's two books on the lies that so often drive identity politics and the absurdities of both academic politics and out of control prosecutors tell you all you really need to know about this case. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Greg Mankiw describes an economic policy to help poor workers:
1. A wage subsidy for unskilled workers, paid for by
2. A tax on employers who hire unskilled workers.
Now, if you think like an economist, you might wonder about the logic of part 2 of this proposal. You might say, "A tax on the hiring of unskilled workers would discourage their employment, offsetting some of the benefits they would get from the wage subsidy. It would be better to finance the wage subsidy with a more general tax, rather than with a tax targeted specifically on employers of unskilled workers."
Of course, that economic policy? The minimum wage.
In my view, there is much to be said for expanding troop levels in Iraq, but only if it is done as part of a wider policy. Simply expanding troops without taking other actions will be problematic. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration shows no signs that it understands this. In the past, I might have cut them some slack -- I might have assumed that they knew things like this and that their failure to make statements to that effect did not mean that they were ignorant of them. But no more. Throughout the last three years, the Bush Administration has regulararly made bad calls, and each time I assumed that they had some reason for the action. It turns out, they did not appear to have good reasons -- for not attacking terrorists in Fallujah immediately, for not killing Sadr, or for not protecting the borders.
Here are some interesting thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson about what actions to take along with expanding troop levels. I am not sure about all of them, but many seem sensible and one wonders why they haven't been adopted already.
If we add another 30,000 or so troops to Iraq, in a final effort to win the war, then we must change (widen) the rules of engagement. Only that way can America ensure that it simply does not create more targets for the insurgents, add a larger logistical trail, and ensure more Iraqi dependency on our soldiers.
Those rules include:
Putting Iran and Syria on notice that we will bomb terrorists flocking across their borders.
Give an ultimatum to militia heads, especially Moqtadar Sadr, to disband or face annihilation from the United States.
Expand the rules of engagement in all matters dealing with IEDs, with a shoot on sight rule concerning anyone found implanting or aiding such efforts.
Enlarge the planned Iraqi security forces to near 400,000, and embed far more Americans in those units.
So spell out the mission, the new rules of engagement, and then, and only then, surge—if need be— more troops.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Here is this year's Service of Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. And here is the full text, in an elegant service booklet from King's. This carol service is one of the most attractive Christmas events in England.
There is nothing like it in the canonical Christian liturgy, of course. "Nine Lessons and Carols" was invented in Cambridge in the 1920s, in the aftershock of the First World War. It is a British phenomenon as much as a Christian one. But these services now are held in Anglican churches everywhere in what had been the Empire. I have been to many in England over the years, as well as in outposts of former empire - once in a whitewashed Anglican chapel on Eleuthera, in the out islands of the Bahamas. They all follow the King's, Cambridge, pattern more or less to the letter.
Here endeth today's dose of nostalgia for the British Empire. But listen to the music: it's quite lovely.