Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

Bush Abandons Push for Miers Nomination.

Bush, after weeks of insisting he did not want Miers to withdraw, blamed the Senate for her demise.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House _ disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," the president said shortly before leaving for Florida to assess hurricane damage.

This is exactly what Krauthammer predicted would happen, interestingly enough. (Rf. Saving Face by Charles Krauthammer).

Finally, light at the end of this tunnel. A way out: irreconcilable differences over documents.

For a nominee who, unlike John Roberts, has practically no previous record on constitutional issues, such documentation is essential for the Senate to judge her thinking and legal acumen. But there is no way that any president would release this kind of information -- ``policy documents'' and ``legal analysis'' -- from such a close confidante. It would forever undermine the ability of any president to get unguarded advice.

Which creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege.

Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers' putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Bishop Speaks Out . . .

. . . against his fellow bishops:

The Charter for the Protection of Children has been interpreted to include mandatory “safe-environment training” for all children of or connected with the Church. In the diocese, we have indicated that such training must be made available to all children under our supervision in our Catholic schools but have not taken on the nearly impossible task of assuming responsibility for every [Catholic] child in the diocese.

As a result of this discrepancy between a new interpretation of the charter and our diocesan policy, the annual charter audit will undoubtedly find the Diocese of Baker, and me as bishop, “Not in Compliance” and will issue a “Required Action,” which I am prepared, at this point, to ignore. I say this not because I resist efforts to protect children, but rather precisely the opposite. There are a series of questions that I believe need to be answered before I could mandate such a diocesan-wide program of “safe-environment training.”

A few such questions follow: Are such programs effective? Do such programs impose an unduly burdensome responsibility on very young children to protect themselves rather than insisting that parents take such training and take on the primary responsibility for protecting their children? Where do these programs come from? Is it true that Planned Parenthood has a hand or at least huge influence on many of them? Is it true that other groups, actively promoting early sexual activity for children, promote these programs in association with their own perverse agendas? Do such programs involve, even tangentially, the sexualization of children, which is precisely a part of the societal evil we are striving to combat? Does such a program invade the Church-guaranteed-right of parents over the education of their children in sexual matters? Do I have the right to mandate such programs and demand that parents sign a document proving that they choose to exercise their right not to have their child involved? Do such programs introduce children to sex-related issues at age-inappropriate times? Would such programs generate a fruitful spiritual harvest? Would unsatisfactory answers to any of the questions above give sufficient reason to resist such programs?

There are many concerned parents who have indicated to me that the answers to all of these questions are unsatisfactory. If this is true, do these multiple problematic answers provide sufficient reason to resist the charter interpretation? At very least, even the possible unsatisfactory answers to any of the questions above leaves me unwilling and possibly even unable to expose the children of the diocese to harm under the guise of trying to protect them from harm. I pray that, in this, I am neither wrong-headed nor wrong.

Funny how the Bishop's Conference didn't think of these questions. Where does their treasure lie?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Controversial Act

More brilliance from David Warren, speaking of the rumor that Pope Benedict intends to beatify Henry Cardinal Newman:

He is still invoked as a “Father of Vatican II”, though it is hard to imagine that Newman would wish to own much that came out of that particular revolution. He was, signally, a man of ideas, of universal truths. Such that, wherever today in the English-speaking world Catholicism is being practised with fidelity to its teachings, Newman’s presence is honoured and enjoyed. And where it is being practised as a mere ethnicity -- Catholics like our [Canadian] prime minister, or our premier, who think they are Catholic because their parents were, but themselves disregard all Catholic teaching -- Newman is either absent, or felt as an embarrassing or quaint old family portrait on the wall.

It follows that Newman’s beatification would be a controversial act. I suspect previous Popes did not think of it, for they were unwilling to face the wrath of Anglican and other ecumenists. But I also suspect Pope Benedict has the courage to do it -- and thereby move decisively beyond an era in which Catholics have been in the habit of apologizing for themselves. Newman was himself a man who did not hesitate to seek converts; who did not rank the need for diplomacy above the need for Christ. Though a true modern in his language, he was not “modern” in a key sense of that word -- for we often use it unconsciously as a synonym for “pusillanimous”.

. . .

In my view, “mainstream” Protestantism, and the matching “mainstream” Catholicism are dead forces in the English-speaking world. They have degenerated into what I dismissed as “ethnic” above; they are the defunct tribal standards of the white middle class (or lower, in the case of many tribal Catholics). Traditional Catholicism, and the Evangelical movement, are the living forces. The latter is much larger, but I think Evangelicals are moving in a consistently Catholic direction over time. Such that Newman is now often respectfully read, in Evangelical circles.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Launching a New Verb

David Warren weighs in with another brilliant piece.

I have decided to launch a verb, “to verdonk”. It is needed for a new, and soon to be growing political phenomenon. I would define “verdonking” as a bold though hopeless attempt to square a sociological circle. The verdonker wants to be tough, and is prepared to be tough, in defence of what she believes to be motherhood and apple pie. She is going to defend her society, legally, from a challenge to its underpinnings. But those underpinnings are not, ultimately, legal.

His referent is "Rita Verdonk, 'Minister of Integration' in the Netherlands", whose wit he thus recounts:

Mrs Verdonk, who had already introduced various measures, some subtle some not, to curb Muslim immigration, announced to the Dutch Parliament that the right/libertarian governing coalition was looking for ways to ban the burkha, and other distinctive forms of Muslim apparel, wherever possible.

With a candour that would shock almost any Canadian, she admitted that it wouldn’t be easy, given previous Dutch “human rights” legislation. But she was confident she could find public health and safety grounds . . .

In addition to the immigration legislation, she was already known for her remark: “The time for cosy tea-drinking with Muslim groups is over.” And for several others, to the effect that, given a Muslim propensity to offer critiques of Dutch society, the non-Muslim Dutch should feel equally free to critique Islamic manners and morals.

. . .

Leading representatives of the Muslim community had demanded a meeting with the minister, plus apologies and what have you. But at the meeting, they refused to shake the lady’s hand. (This Muslim habit is not, incidentally, meant to show disrespect for women; it is meant as a gallantry, against taking the liberty of touching them.)

So Mrs Verdonk (using the Western formulary) tells them she has nothing to discuss with men who won’t shake her hand, and walks away.

That is wit well employed, as is Warren's.

The Big Question Answered?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In 1989, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was asked to fill out a questionnaire for the Texans United for Life Political Action Committee. Here is the survey and Miers' responses:

. . .


1. If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature?

Miers' answer: Yes

2. If the Supreme Court returns to the States the right to restrict abortion, would you actively support legislation that would reinstate our 1973 abortion law that prohibited all abortions except those necessary to prevent the death of the mother?

Miers' answer: Yes

3. Will you oppose the use of public monies for abortion except where necessary to prevent the death of the mother?

Miers' answer: Yes

4. Will you oppose the use of City funds or facilities by any persons, groups, clinics or organizations to promote, encourage or provide referrals for abortions?

Miers' answer: Yes

5. Will you vote against the appointment of pro-abortion persons to City Boards or Committees that deal with health issues? (To the extent Pro-Life views are relevant.)

Miers' answer: Yes

N.B. this does not give us her views on the constitutionality of abortion, even at the time, though it strongly suggests what they were. Also there is a question of the time that has intervened, not to mention the influence of being a SC nominee and/or justice. This will certainly make the confirmation hearings interesting!

P.S. Publius has more and better on this: here and here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What Will Kofi Say?

Philippines using UN funds to promote Natural Family Planning
Manila, Oct. 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Fides news agency is reporting that the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has announced to the UN General Assembly that her government will use the money it receives from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to promote natural family planning methods.

The decision, which Arroyo previously announced during a meeting on inter-religious dialogue, contrasts with the great majority of other countries, which use the UNFPA funds to promote contraception and abortion.

How about that? Using the Population Fund to promote . . . population! Instead of depopulation . . . Watch for the official reprimand.

Missouri's Roe

Justice Thomas blocks abortion order
By Robert Patrick

After a frenzied day of appeals, Missouri officials won a last-minute stay Friday night from the U.S. Supreme Court that blocked a federal judge's order that would have required corrections officials to take an inmate to a St. Louis abortion clinic today.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Religious Test

Ross Douthat calls our attention to a potential parallel (sad if true) between Bush and his critics:

Evangelical Christians get a lot of bad press in bien pensant circles - whether it's the infamous Washington Post story a decade or so back that called them "poor, uneducated, and easily led," or more recently, folks like Thomas Frank implying that they're, well, poor, uneducated, and easily led. The Harriet Miers nomination represents an interesting test case of this theory, since here we have a conservative President, beloved by evangelicals, behaving as if his co-religionists are simpletons, or at least political naifs.

. . . the Miers nomination offers a useful chance for evangelicals to prove that they are not, in fact, just easily-manipulated stooges of a cynical GOP establishment. And so far, it seems, your Christian-on-the-street is passing the test with flying colors - a recent AP-Ipsos poll found that evangelical support for Miers is about half as strong as what Roberts enjoyed at a similar point after his nomination.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for most of America's evangelical leadership. While nearly every prominent conservative has at least expressed a scintilla of doubt about the wisdom of the Miers nomination, folks like Rick Warren, James Dobson, Richard Land, Chuck Colson - and, of course, Hugh Hewitt - all seem to have swallowed the White House's weird identity-politics argument hook, line and sinker.

James Taranto notes the same thing, but cites some counter-examples:

"Jimmy Carter was an evangelical Christian from Georgia, and what did that do for us?" asks conservative lawyer Mark Smith in the Washington Times. And while some "religious right" leaders, such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson, have lined up behind the nomination, others remain skeptical:

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council: "We are the last people on earth to object to the news that she is a committed Christian; the Good News is, above all, great news for her. And we reiterate, this fact about her is neither grounds for objection nor a fit object for examination by the Senate. By the same token, this fact is not grounds for certifying her to us or to the public. It's not just that religious conviction is an unreliable indicator of a judicial philosophy (though it clearly is), it's that inferences drawn from an individual's religious affiliation have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee."

Stephen Crampton, American Family Association: "Merely being an evangelical Christian does not automatically qualify one for any position. Specific knowledge and skills are required for almost any job, and sitting on the highest court in the land is not just any job. Dr. Dobson's endorsement, while admittedly weighty, was predicated upon the private assurances of Ms. Miers' friends and colleagues, and her church affiliation. While these may be important factors, they do not provide assurance that she possesses the necessary skills and knowledge for the job, and they do not settle for most of us the question of her judicial philosophy."

Mark Sutherland, National Policy Center (link in PDF): "The President has made it a key selling point that she is a 'born-again Christian.' This is wonderful, and speaks highly of her as a person. But this fact does not give us any insight into her judicial philosophy, her constitutional interpretation, or how she would perform as a judge. While I could worship with her, study the Bible with her, and spend eternity with her, it does not mean I want her sitting on SCOTUS."

Some have also noted the hypocrasy of objecting to the "religious test" when liberals question a nominee's faith, then appealing to religion to sooth the anxieties of conservatives. I'm not so worried about that -- were religion a fair measure of judicial behavior it would have to be taken into account, rules or no rules to the contrary. The thing is nowadays you can never tell how or to what degree a candidate adheres to her professed faith, or how she will translate it into the tangled web of Supreme Court precedents.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I am slow to catch on to things. Some of you have known this for a while, but I have to register my excitement: Phil is back! And he is in top form. As proof, see here and here and here, not to mention here. Enjoy!

An Honest Day's Pay

Any of our readers who find themselves in the vicinity of Las Vegas and in need of paid employment might drop in on a temp agency called Labor Express. They have some openings in unskilled outdoor work at six dollars an hour. The work is quite grueling: You have to walk up and down toting heavy signs in noonday temperatures of over a hundred degrees. Still, if you need the money, you might give it a try. But who is the unscrupulous employer taking advantage of minimum-wage labor like this? Why, it’s the United Food and Commercial Workers labor union. They need people to man picket lines at a neighborhood Wal-Mart store. For six dollars an hour. Holding up signs. In the noonday heat. This particular Wal-Mart store has a pay scale starting at $6.75 an hour, and the place is air-conditioned. So if do you take that picketing job, you might want to break from work for a few minutes to dodge inside the store and fill out a job application . . .

From the October 10 issue of National Review

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Interesting Letter

What's Al Qaeda thinking about these days? David Warren discusses an intercepted letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of their bright boys. The plan goes something like this:

First, through both direct terror attacks and the exploitation of international anti-Americanism -- two aspects of a single jihad -- get U.S. forces out of Iraq. That is the immediate priority.

Second, when Americans and allies go, leaving the Iraqi government in disarray, let the Mujahedin physically establish the caliphate over as much Iraqi territory as they can seize, ruling on the Afghan Taliban model. Most importantly, leave no quarter for any kind of "secular" government to function in the intervening spaces.

Third, extend the jihad through the region, particularly in the direction of Egypt, via the Levant -- Assad's Syria, the ayatollahs' Iran, and Saudi Arabia becoming targets only in a later consolidation of power, and being allies of convenience meanwhile. Nor should Israel be a primary target, until her turn comes.

That happens in the glorious fourth stage -- as far ahead as the Mujahedin can foresee -- in which the caliphate having erected itself as a Muslim superpower, Israel disappears in nuclear cinders. They await further instructions from Allah after that.

Contingency and Design

I've raised some theological questions about evolution here before.

A major part of the answer I was seeking has to do with the relation between continguency and Providence. A fine article by Stephen Barr just appeared in First Things on this topic (October issue, not yet available online). A spinoff from that is available here. Very much worth looking at.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Being Spoiled

An interesting feature of the Eucharistic synod going on in Rome right now is the broadcasting of testemonies from prelates around the world. Here's an article that contains some fascinating examples, such as the following:

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of India has attributed to the Eucharist, celebrated with great participation, “one of the best success stories of the Catholic Church's mission. In just 130 years, [my] archdiocese of Ranchi has given birth to 12 dioceses, and produced 23 bishops, hundreds of priests, and thousands of religious.”

The Eucharist, he explained, has an extraordinarily liberating effect:

“Our Christian tribals today have full confidence that Jesus' saving death and resurrection has stripped the sovereignties and ruling forces of the universe and destroyed their power (Col 2:14-15). In this faith experience of our people, the Eucharist has brought about a paradigm shift from their former blood-sacrifices with which they tried to placate so called evil spirits, and reoriented them to the new and eternal covenant established in Jesus Christ.”

And also this:

Bishop Lucian Muresan, president of the Romanian bishops’ conference, stunned and moved his hearers with an account of a Eucharist of martyrs:

“In our country, Romania, the communists tried to give man material bread alone, and wanted to chase ‘the bread of God’ from society and from the heart of the human person. Now, we realize that, outlawing our Greek Catholic Church, they were very afraid of the God present in the Eucharist.

“The priests we imprisoned for the only reason that they were Catholic so that they could not celebrate or speak about God. Even the lay persons who participated in the Holy Masses clandestinely celebrated suffered the same [fate]. In the famous period of ‘re-education’ and ‘brainwashing’ in the Romanian prisons, to compromise priests, to ridicule the Eucharist and to destroy human dignity, the persecutors made them celebrate with excrements, but never managed to take away their faith.

“Instead how many Masses have there been, clandestinely celebrated in a spoon rather than the chalice and with wine made from grapes found in the street; how many rosaries made by a thread with pieces of bread; how many humiliations, when during winters at minus 30 degrees they were undressed for body searches; how many days spent in the famous ‘black room,’ as the punishment for having been found in prayer? No one will ever know, ever. These modern martyrs of the 20th century offered all their suffering to the Lord for dignity and human freedom.

“Today, we live the freedom of the sons of God truly hungry for the eucharistic bread. I confirm this affirmation with the participation in the divine liturgy of 80% of our faithful; with vocations to the priestly and religious life that are not lacking; with so many people of great intellect who are so close to the Church.”

What light does this shed on the problems of AmeriChurch? Perhaps it boils down to being spoiled.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Precedent v. US Constitution

From an e-mail conversation:

C. C. Eaton:

I was chatting with a fellow on the Internet, and we spoke briefly about Hillary's vote on Roberts and why she voted the way she did. In her statement she indicated her reasons why she would not vote for Roberts; I want to quote a portion of the statement for you here:

In one memo, for example, Judge Roberts argued that Congress has the power to deny the Supreme Court the right to hear appeals from lower courts of constitutional claims involving flag burning, abortion, and other matters. He wrote that the United States would be far better off with fifty different interpretations on the right to choose than with what he called the "judicial excesses embodied in Roe v. Wade." The idea that the Supreme Court could be denied the right to rule on constitutional claims had been so long decided that even the most conservative of Judge Roberts's Justice Department colleagues strongly disagreed with him.

This is a particularly interesting issue, since it would seem that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court would pertain to the non-discretionary cases that are identified in Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution>.

This idea of the Congress being able deny the Supreme Court its jurisdiction in discretionary cases is therefore the issue, and it would seem that Hillary does not have it right in her assessment, at least factually, and we also get a sense of what she's really bothered by here. At any rate, this brief gloss has opened up some thoughts about the possibility of enacting legislation to serve just this end, that is, the restoration of "politics" or the "fifty different interpretations" at the expense of Supreme Court power.


It's interesting the way she 'refutes' the claim, which is based on a simple reading of the Constitution as you point out. "The idea that the Supreme Court could be denied the right to rule on constitutional claims had been so long decided . . .". Her framework is common law -- judges make law (or in the classical view find it) when trying cases, and must respect the precedents set by others while finding wiggle room to add their own slant to things. On this view, the inaction of Congress on this matter for 200+ years, and the unchallenged assertion of the Court of power over any issue it wants to adjudicate, eradicate the actual text of the Constitution. In his book Justice Scalia argues that it is illegitimate to apply common law practices (following and adapting precedent) to constitutional interpretation, since the Constitution was written to be a kind of supreme statutory check on the powers of government, including needless to say the courts. Prior practice and opinions can be illuminating to the judge but they cannot be binding. If Roberts is seriously disposed to buck precedent on the basis of the text of the Constitution (which he seemed to deny in the hearings) that would be something to celebrate. As you imply, Congress could and should also push the point by seeking to employ its atrophied powers at long last.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bill Bennett

He seems magnetized when it comes to trouble of this sort, but sticking up for morality will do that to you in an age of decadence.

For those who have not heard the comments in question, see here. (CNN had a recording of the original, but they seem to have taken it off the web.) Those condemning him have every reason to do so, since his statement points to their complicity in a sort of partial genocide. As James Taranto says,

whereas Bennett rejects the idea of reducing crime by aborting black babies, Levitt and Donohue [in the book he was discussing on the air] argue that that is exactly what has happened over the past three decades, as a result of liberal policies. If they are right, there is, to say the least, a fundamental tension between blacks and pro-abortion feminists, two of the core components of the Democratic coalition. No wonder Bennett's comments have caused such discomfort on the left.

So why do we see this as a sign of political correctness's decline? Well, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we kept hearing from our liberal friends that what this country needs is an honest discussion of race. Of course, liberals who call for a discussion of race never actually want it to be honest. Rather, they want to engage in the old familiar ritual in which blacks air their grievances, white liberals trumpet their moral superiority, the rest of us shut up and listen, and dissenters are shamed and silenced . . .

Our sense, however, is that this old ritual no longer has the same power it once did, and that as a result, liberals actually are getting the honest discussion about race that they have long demanded. If so, their worst fears are coming true.

Let's hope so. When one reflects on Bennett's remarks, their implications for liberal social policy, and the knee-jerk response by our totalitarian-leftist super-class, one cannot help relishing the abortion of the latter's shadow of moral authority.

"How ridiculous! How asinine! How insane can one be?", asked Rush, a former Black Panther.

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