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July 29, 2005

NY Times says only conservative justices should be appointed to the US Supreme Court

Well, okay, at least they said it in 1916:
The Supreme Court, by its very nature, must be a conservative body; it is the conservator of our institutions, it protects the people against the errors of their legislative servants, it is the defender of the Constitution itself. To place upon the Supreme Bench judges who hold a different view of the function of the court, to supplant conservatism by radicalism, would be to undo the work of John Marshall and strip the Constitution of its defenses. It would introduce endless confusion where order has reigned, it would tend to give force and effect to any whim or passion of the hour, to crown with success any transitory agitation engaged in by a part of the people, overriding the matured judgment of all the people as expressed in their fundamental law.

—NYT, 1916, opposing the appointment of Louis Brandeis to the court
Ironically, Brandeis was the kind of judge that the NYT swoons over today.

Congress assembles the goody bags for the folks back home

Back in May I noted President Bush's threat to exercise his first-ever veto if Congress submitted a highway bill that exceeded $284 billion.

According to the Wall Street Journal, wily House Speaker Dennis Hastert has pretty much guaranteed that their version of the bill will escape the veto, because: (1) the president is unlikely to quibble over the $2.6 billion by which the House bill exceeds Bush's target; and (2) Hastert scheduled the highway bill vote to be taken just after the CAFTA vote (Bush apparently did a lot of wheeling and dealing to get that passed).

It's always bothered me when presidents insist on spending targets instead of presenting principles that should guide the spending. On the other hand, I suppose that if Bush did, for example, insist that all spending in the highway bill go to actual highway construction and maintenance, GOP members of Congress would be put in the awkward position of openly defying him—since from their point of view they can't not load bills like this with pork.

Environmental correctness will be the death of them

This week's problem with space shuttle Discovery—insulating foam flaking off— is the same problem that contributed to the demise of Columbia two years ago. Why, after a quarter-century of shuttle use, are we just now having problems with this?

In truth, the Columbia disaster was six years in the making, and this week's Discovery problems were pretty much inevitable. In 1997, bowing to environmentalist nags, NASA replaced the shuttles' Freon-based insulating foam with a more eco-friendly foam. The problem with the newer foam is that it is less impact resistant (Steven Milloy notes that problems with damaged tiles increased significantly once the new foam was introduced) and is more prone to brittleness (which explains the flaking).

Even though NASA was specifically exempted from the CFC phaseout in 2001, they continued to use the less-effective foam. Not even the Columbia disaster persuaded them to switch back. Now we have a grounded shuttle fleet as NASA pretends, in the grand tradition of O.J. Simpson, to search for The Real Culprit.

July 28, 2005

Political correctness and wishful thinking will be the death of them

Patrick Sookhdeo writes in The Spectator (free registration required) that for whatever reason—political correctness, wishful thinking, ignorance—not even the events of July 7 (and the ineffective followup attempt) have awakened the United Kingdom to the fact that Muslims there are aggressively pursuing the Islamification of that country, and that anything goes in the pursuit of that end. Sookhdeo describes the progress:
Muslims who migrated to the UK came initially for economic reasons, seeking employment. But over the last 50 years their communities have evolved away from assimilation with the British majority towards the creation of separate and distinct entities, mimicking the communalism of the British Raj. As a Pakistani friend of mine who lives in London said recently, ‘The British gave us all we ever asked for; why should we complain?’ British Muslims now have Sharia in areas of finance and mortgages; halal food in schools, hospitals and prisons; faith schools funded by the state; prayer rooms in every police station in London; and much more. This process has been assisted by the British government through its philosophy of multiculturalism, which has allowed some Muslims to consolidate and create a parallel society in the UK.

The Muslim community now inhabits principally the urban centres of England as well as some parts of Scotland and Wales. It forms a spine running down the centre of England from Bradford to London, with ribs extending east and west. It is said that within 10 to 15 years most British cities in these areas will have Muslim-majority populations, and will be under local Islamic political control, with the Muslim community living under Sharia.
History conclusively demonstrates that whenever Muslims gain political power in a country, the Islamification accelerates, and all incompatible institutions—government structure, legal system, religion, etc.— in that country eventually disappear or are forcibly changed.

Instead of standing up to this threat, government officials seem desperate to avoid giving offense:
Some in Britain cannot conceive that a suicide bomber could be a hero of Islam. Since 7/7 many have made statements to attempt to explain what seems to them a contradiction in terms. Since the violence cannot be denied, their only course is to argue that the connection with Islam is invalid. The deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, said that ‘Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together.’ His boss, the Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, asserted that there is nothing wrong with being a fundamentalist Muslim.
Contrast the above with the assertions of the UK's Muslim community itself:
On 8 July the London-based Muslim Weekly unblushingly published a lengthy opinion article by Abid Ullah Jan entitled ‘Islam, Faith and Power’. The gist of the article is that Muslims should strive to gain political and military power over non-Muslims, that warfare is obligatory for all Muslims, and that the Islamic state, Islam and Sharia (Islamic law) should be established throughout the world. All is supported with quotations from the Koran. It concludes with a veiled threat to Britain. The bombings the previous day were a perfect illustration of what Jan was advocating, and the editor evidently felt no need to withdraw the article or to apologise for it. His newspaper is widely read and distributed across the UK.
In my opinion, such blindness (willful or not) on the part of government officials and other opinion leaders virtually guarantees that Muslim culture will dominate the UK within our lifetime.

NOTE: The larger context of Sookhdeo's article is a dismantling of the notion continually advanced by Muslim apologists that Islam is a "religion of peace". According to him, that description adequately described the religion for only the first dozen or so years of its existence. Since then it has been, whenever possible, a religion of war.

July 27, 2005

Ain't no lazy days of summer here

My real-world alter-ego is crazy busy at work this week, so blogging must be sacrificed for a day or two more.

July 25, 2005

One way to enrage your neighborhood PETA-phile

Eat a hot dog! Preferably with chili (no beans).

PETA has nothing against the consumption of hot dogs in particular, but they have everything against the consumption of animal products in general. They'll take any chance they can to turn us off to animal-based foods. In the case of hot dogs, they just do their best to gross us out about what the things contain.

PETA also says we should avoid hot dogs because participating animals were almost certainly treated cruelly on their way to the slaughterhouse. To this, Tom Purcell (linked above) replies:
We do need to do better in the way we treat farm animals. We should treat all G-d's creatures with honor and respect. We should allow them to live their lives in relative comfort and dignity. Then we should eat them.

July 22, 2005

Risk aversion leading to "a nation of wimps"

From OpinionJournal:
SEESAW TORTS: Fearful of lawsuits, authorities everywhere have been stripping playgrounds of dangerous things like teeter-totters, swings and even sandboxes. Now elementary schools in Broward Country, Fla., have playground signs that read: "No running." One mother interviewed for the July 18 South Florida Sun-Sentinel fretted about her children and others being bored at playgrounds where the only unregulated activity seems to be grubbing in the dirt. But Joe Frost, who heads the University of Texas' Play and Playgrounds Research Project, looks at the problem differently. "Play is one of children's chief vehicles for development," the Sun-Sentinel quoted him saying, and "right now it looks like we're developing a nation of wimps."

July 20, 2005

James Doohan, RIP

Like the Blitz, except...

John Roberts, eh?

Time to blog a prediction that the president will nominate this guy, then backdate the blog post to early July.

I need to take a little time to get to know the guy, but here are two observations off the bat:
  1. Initial reactions across the board look pretty promising. On the right, people who were afraid we'd get another O'Connor (wishy-washy) or Souter (liberal in conservative's clothing) appear to be pleasantly surprised. On the left, we have the ironically-named People for the American Way saying that Roberts' appointment could lead to a "constitutional catastrophe". Excellent.
  2. President Bush confounds conventional wisdom again by choosing the candidate he thinks is best for the job, regardless of political correctness considerations. Good for him.

July 19, 2005

The virtue of prudence in quotation

The following quotation was included in a message posted to an e-mail list that I run:
A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.

– Thomas Jefferson
This is a familiar quotation, and one with which I am in full agreement.

However, I had heard it attributed before to former president Gerald Ford. I decided to Google the phrase "government big enough to give you", and concluded that, with minor variances in the wording, everyone said it at some point.

Not really, but I did find a lot of disagreement on who said it. My brief survey found it attributed to Jefferson, Davy Crockett (who served a couple of terms in the U.S. Congress before going adventuring in Texas), Barry Goldwater and Gerald Ford. By far, the most attributions were to Goldwater and Ford.

I think it's significant to note that not a single one of the attributions I surveyed included a source for the quote. So who should get the credit?

Based on my brief survey, I'm convinced that Ford actually did say it, precisely because it's unlikely that anyone would mistakenly attribute it to a president who was no friend of limited government (but who could pretend to be so in a speech).

I suspect that Goldwater had the original idea, Ford picked up on it in a speech without attributing it, and various others have projected the sentiment onto Jefferson (and Crockett). It's certainly consistent with Jefferson's (not to mention Crockett's) political philosophy, but I'll remain skeptical about attributing the quote to him until I see an actual source.

I think I'll close out this post by taking a famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson completely out of context:
I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.

Edith v. Edith -- Enigma v. Sure Thing

LifeSiteNews, like most others in the conservative base, is coming up empty trying to figure out the judicial philosophy of possible USSC nominee Edith Clement:
Topping the list of potential female candidates, most agree, are the two Ediths - Edith Jones and Edith Clement. Both are perceived as top contenders for the position, although Clement had been presented as the favourite by mainstream new sources. Conservatives, however, agree that Jones would certainly be the better candidate of the two.

"Edith Jones has the sharper definition as a conservative, tagged as pro-life in her perspective," Hadley Arkes, a professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College, wrote last week for National Review Online. By all accounts Jones perfectly fits the constructionist, conservative mold which Bush has consistently pointed to as his model for choosing Supreme Court justices. Indeed, during a speech at Harvard in 2003 Jones expressed her strong desire for a return to the founding principles of the United States, saying that "unalienable rights were given by God to all our fellow citizens. Having lost sight of the moral and religious foundations of the rule of law, we are vulnerable to the destruction of our freedom, our equality before the law and our self-respect."

But the outspoken, indisputable nature of her 'right-wing', conservative philosophy is likely to draw fire from Democratic senators, making for a difficult battle to gain the senate's confirmation. For that reason many are pointing towards Edith Clement, who in many respects remains an ideological mystery, as the candidate that will likely be given a more peaceable reception by the senate. When Clement was appointed by Bush to the US Court of Appeals she was confirmed by the senate with a 99-0 vote.

Little is known or readily available about Clement's judicial philosophy. "She has not dealt, in her opinions, with the hot-button issues of abortion and gay rights; and she has stirred no controversies in her writings or in her speeches off the bench", remarked Arkes. However, that hasn't stopped the strongly pro-abortion, pro-gay 'marriage' group, People For the American Way (PFAW), from putting Clement on a list of judges that confirm their "worst fears." The reasons for their opposition to Clement, however, are decidedly unclear, proving just how ambiguous a candidate she is.

Indeed, conservatives seem to have their own reason to fear Clement; in the past Clement has expressed her belief that the Court has ruled on abortion, and that the Court's previous decision should stand.

An absolutely ingenius Kelo-inspired update to Monopoly


Robert Byrd's unconstitutional constitutional mandate

WaPo, July 19:
It's not often that first-graders, CIA agents, agriculture inspectors and airport security workers from coast to coast all receive a lesson on the same topic -- and on the same day -- but that is what's in store this September.

The subject is the U.S. Constitution, thanks to a new law fathered by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who is worried that so many people don't know the first thing about the country's governing document that he decided to try to make sure they do.

Tucked into a massive appropriations bill approved without fanfare late last year by Congress is the requirement that every one of the estimated 1.8 million federal employees in the executive branch receive "educational and training" materials about the charter on Constitution Day, a holiday celebrating the Sept. 17, 1787, signing that is so obscure that it, unlike Arbor Day, is left off many calendars.

That's not all: The law requires every school that receives federal funds -- including universities -- to show students a program on the Constitution, though it does not specify a particular one. The demand has proved unpopular with educators, who say that they don't like the federal government telling them what to teach and that it doesn't make the best educational sense to teach something as important as the Constitution out of context.
Maybe... just maybe... at the end of the day they will understand the Constitution well enough to realize that the federal government has no constitutional authority to compel anyone who is not an employee of the federal government to expend time and resources on an activity like this. Dream on, mister.

On top of this being an unconstitutional mandate, the law pretty much leaves it up to each institution to decide what they want to say about the Constitution on this day of observance. Raise your hand if you think that most institutions will make an effort to educate its people about how the Constitution was understood at the time of its writing.

[Brief pause as reader stops laughing]

I wonder what Sen. Byrd would think about setting aside a day to compel everyone to read selections from The Federalist Papers and the Antifederalist Papers...

Probably wouldn't think too much of it. The WaPo article says that Byrd "prides himself on being the Senate's unofficial constitutional scholar," so I expect he sees himself as the only Constitution commentator we'll ever need.

NOTE: Despite the cynicism that permeates what I wrote above, I must say that I appreciate Byrd's stated rationale for the mandate—namely, the sorry condition of civic education in the U.S. However, his solution (apart from the fact that it's unconstitutional) addresses the problem in a typical statist symbolism-over-substance way.

This Supreme Court nomination brought to you by the letter "E"?

Rumors are flying that the president will announce his nomination for O'Connor's replacement today. A lot of the tea-leaf readers are consistently coming up with three names as top contenders for the nomination: Emilio Garza, Edith Jones, and Edith Clement. Their first names all begin with the letter "E". What could it mean?

The mainstream media buzz appears to favor Edith Clement, possibly because she is not seen as a threat to that most sacred of liberal sacred cows:
Known as a conservative and a strict constructionist in legal circles, Clement also has eased fears among abortion-rights advocates. She has stated that the Supreme Court "has clearly held that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution includes the right to have an abortion" and that "the law is settled in that regard."
IMO, this means she's not a "strict constructionist", regardless of how she's known in legal circles.

UPDATE: The president will announce his nominee at 9:00 eastern time tonight. He's asked the networks to cover the announcement.

July 18, 2005

Cornelius Fudge, meet Neville Chamberlain

My interest in purchasing a product (movie, book, game, whatever) tends to be inversely proportional to the hype surrounding the product's release*. Partly for this reason, I have yet to buy a single one of the Harry Potter books, even though the storyline seems pretty interesting (judging from the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which I received as a gift).

I may be ready to break down and buy some of the Potter books after reading this essay by Jonathan Last. Last argues that Book 5 in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is a radical departure from the "Hardy Boys" mystery style of the earlier books—instead, it is clearly a historical allegory of 1930s England, with headmaster Albus Dumbledore as Churchill, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge as Chamberlain, and Voldemort as Hitler. The book is unapologetic in its condemnation of the appeasement of evil.

Three cheers to J.K. Rowling for sneaking our kids an education they likely won't get in school!

* The only recent exception being the Lord of the Rings movies—but maybe this isn't really an exception after all, since my interest in LOTR long preceded the current movies and their hype. Ditto for the upcoming Narnia movie, which I am definitely planning to see in the theater, hype or no hype.

July 13, 2005

EU implosion, update #5: The wolves are returning to Germany

Newsweek International, July 4 issue:
Wolves returning to the heart of Europe? A hundred years ago, a burgeoning, land-hungry population killed off the last of Germany's wolves. Today, it's the local humans whose numbers are under threat. Wolf-country villages like Boxberg and Weisswasser are emptying out, thanks to the region's ultralow birthrate and continued rural flight. Nearby Hoyerswerda is Germany's fastest-shrinking town, losing 25,000 of its 70,000 residents in the last 15 years.

Such numbers are a harbinger of the future. Home to 22 of the world's 25 lowest-birthrate countries, Europe will lose 41 million people by 2030 even with continued immigration, according to the latest U.N. Population Division report. The biggest decline will hit rural Europe. As Italians, Spaniards, Germans and others produce barely half the children needed to maintain the status quo—and rural flight continues to suck people into Europe's suburbs and cities—the countryside will lose close to a third of its population, say both the United Nations and the EU. "It's a triple time bomb," says University of Lisbon demographer Nuno da Costa. "Too few children, too many old people and too many of the remaining young people still leaving the village."

Chuck Colson also comments on the "birth dearth" in Europe (as well as Japan):
Now, wolves in Berlin sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s a science fact. What’s incredible is the response of the average European or East Asian. They literally shrug their shoulders; they can’t imagine changing their lifestyle to accommodate having two or more children instead of one or none. They believe against all evidence in a technological or political solution to this problem.

But, as columnist Mark Steyn writes, “there’s simply no precedent for managed decline in societies as advanced as Europe’s”—or Japan, for that matter. Throughout history, societies in demographic decline, usually as a result of disease, have faced two unattractive options: a decline in their standard of living or the replacement of their native population with a more fertile immigrant one.

Europe has, essentially by default, chosen the latter. But as last week’s bombings in London illustrate, turning millions of Islamic immigrants into “Europeans,” however you define the term, is a dubious proposition. And in Japan, where racial purity is a primary cultural value, the population faces eventual extinction.

All "EU implosion update" posts

The new eugenics, or: The DUTY to abort

George Neumayr writes in the American Spectator about the normalization of eugenic abortion—that is, abortion because genetic screening of the preborn baby has identified a present or potential future abnormality. Here is an excerpt from his chilling essay (emphasis added):
The combination of doctors seeking to avoid lawsuits and parents seeking burden-free children means that once prenatal screening identifies a problem in a child the temptation to eugenic abortion becomes unstoppable. In an atmosphere of expected eugenics, even queasy, vaguely pro-life parents gravitate towards aborting a disabled child. These parents get pressure from doctors who, without even bothering to ask, automatically provide abortion options to them once the prenatal screening has diagnosed a disability (one parent, in a 1999 study, complained of a doctor showing her a video depicting the rigors of raising an afflicted child as a way of convincing her to choose abortion), and they feel pressure from society at large which having accepted eugenic abortion looks askance at parents with disabled children.

The right to abort a disabled child, in other words, is approaching the status of a duty to abort a disabled child. Parents who abort their disabled children won't be asked to justify their decision. Rather, it is the parents with disabled children who must justify themselves to a society that tacitly asks: Why did you bring into the world a child you knew was disabled or might become disabled?
Neumayr also notes the growing phenomenon of designer kids:
Not content to wait to see if a child is fit for life, doctors are exploring the more proactive eugenics of germline genetic engineering (which tries to create desirable traits in an embryo) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which is used to select the most desirable embryos after extensive genetic testing has been done before they are implanted in mothers' wombs.

"The next stage is to actually start tinkering genetically with these embryos to create advantages such as height," says Kimbrell. PGD is a "gateway technology" that will advance the new eugenics to the point "where children are literally selected and eventually designed according to a parent's desires and fears," he says.
Can the world envisioned in Gattaca be too far away?

UPDATE: An American Spectator reader brings up a good point:
But there is another player in this whole mix. When the predictive technologies become certain, what is to prevent an insurance company from stepping in and dictating whether they will pay for a full term baby? If they know that based on genetic paring of the parents that a full term delivery will be double the cost would they pay it? I predict they will not. Then what?
I agree that we are likely to see this from the insurance companies. I think it is even more likely to happen should we be insane enough to adopt a single-payer healthcare system.

July 12, 2005

Forsooth, thou art a doo-doo head

Today's offering from the Thought For The Day listserv* was this gem from the Shakespearean Insulter:
Do you set down your name in the scroll of youth,
that are written down old with all the characters of age?
Have you not a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek,
a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly?
Is not your voice broken, your wind short,
your chin double, your wit single,
and every part about you blasted with antiquity?
And will you yet call yourself young?

-From: Henry IV, part 2

* To subscribe, send the message "subscribe tftd-l" (without the quotes, and without any signature block in the message) to listserv@listserv.tamu.edu.

July 11, 2005

Abortion drugs added to WHO's "Essential Medicines" list

From CNSNews (excerpt):
The United Nation's World Health Organization has added mifepristone and misoprostol, the drug combination that produces a chemical abortion, to its list of "essential medicines," thereby making them more readily available around the world.

The two drugs appear in the latest version of the WHO's essential medicines list. The list of medicines deemed to "satisfy the priority health care needs of the population" is updated every two years.

In recent months groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have been lobbying hard for the decision to go ahead, after reports last April said the Bush administration was trying to block to move.

The British Medical Journal quotes Hans Hogerzeil, secretary of the WHO's essential medicines committee, as saying the inclusion of mifepristone and misoprostol on the list "is a real addition to the therapeutic alternatives for women who have to undergo abortion, especially in developing countries where surgical facilities are less easily available."
It's unclear how "developing countries where surgical facilities are less easily available" will handle the hemorrhaging that can result from use of these drugs.

July 9, 2005

OT: Rain, finally

Our part of Texas has been woefully lacking in rain over the past three-plus months. Thursday we got some relief in the form of what some Texans call a "gully washer" or a "frog strangler". At our house we got about 2 inches of rain, which is almost half the entire amount we got during the months of April through June. This photo, taken during the storm by one of our local paper's photographers, shows the west entrance of the main part of the Texas A&M University campus.

July 8, 2005

A possible bright side to the USSC eminent domain ruling

Hey, wait.... Idea incoming.... Something about "eminent domain"....

NYC receives no tax revenue from that property, and the US govt (i.e. the taxpayers) is losing money like crazy there.

Perhaps Donald Trump could drop some hints about a better "public use" for the property.

July 6, 2005

"If there is going to be a fight..."

Todd Zywicki of Volokh Conspiracy:
[I]f there is going to be a fight (which there undoubtedly will be), they may as well at least make it someone worth fighting for.

Zywicki and Larry Ribstein are endorsing Reagan appointee Edith Jones as a constitutionally sound replacement for O'Connor. I had not heard of her before today, but what I've seen of her record looks pretty good.

Jones may indeed be "someone worth fighting for", as Zywicki says.

PBS' secret weapon (Why their funding got restored)

Paul Weyrich warns that the wives of Republican congressmen are undermining the conservative goal of defunding PBS.
Congressional appropriators cut a modest $100 million from the PBS budget. Guess what? The money was restored through an amendment approved by a majority of the House of Representatives.

Sure, almost all of the Democrats voted to restore the money. Why shouldn't they? To the extent that the programming on PBS radio and television stations is political, and it almost always is, the politics is far to the left.

But how does that explain a majority of Republicans voting to restore PBS funding? Or to paraphrase Lenin, Republicans will pay for the programming with which they are being hanged.

I happened upon one of the most able Members of the House of Representatives soon after the PBS vote took place. He was upset about the outcome as well. Why, I asked, would this happen at a time when Congress actually had cut other budgets and actually had passed almost all appropriations bills with less funding than last year?

His answer was simple -- the wives. He said PBS has been smart enough to recruit the wives of Republican congressmen to assist the local PBS stations.


The fact is that most congressional wives, even those married to very conservative Republicans, are to the left of their elected spouses. Normally that wouldn't mean much unless a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment was to be seriously considered.

When it comes to federal funding for PBS, congressional wives swing into action and their husbands sheepishly comply. Members of Congress know that restoring that money is absolutely unnecessary to keep PBS programming on the air.

They also know if they cut all federal funding for PBS it would have no real effect on public broadcasting. But then they wouldn't be on the couch; they would be on the back porch, perhaps in the dog house. That is why congressional appropriators felt that $100 million was the biggest cut they could sustain.
Weyrich suggests that the wife of a male congressional candidate should be vetted as thoroughly as the candidate himself. No matter how solid the candidate is, if his wife doesn't pass the test, conservative voters should think twice before voting for him.

EU implosion, update #4

WaPo's Robert Samuelson describes in a June 15 article how the term "Old Europe" is developing a more ominous meaning:
The End of Europe

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. Since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union, we've heard countless theories as to why: the unreality of trying to forge 25 E.U. countries into a United States of Europe; fear of ceding excessive power to Brussels, the E.U. capital; and an irrational backlash against globalization. Whatever their truth, these theories miss a larger reality: Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

Ever since 1498, after Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and opened trade to the Far East, Europe has shaped global history, for good and ill. It settled North and South America, invented modern science, led the Industrial Revolution, oversaw the slave trade, created huge colonial empires, and unleashed the world's two most destructive wars. This pivotal Europe is now vanishing -- and not merely because it's overshadowed by Asia and the United States.

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third.

No one knows how well modern economies will perform with so many elderly people, heavily dependent on government benefits (read: higher taxes). But Europe's economy is already faltering. In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent.

Wherever they look, Western Europeans feel their way of life threatened. One solution to low birthrates is higher immigration. But many Europeans don't like the immigrants they have -- often Muslim from North Africa -- and don't want more. One way to revive economic growth would be to reduce social benefits, taxes and regulations. But that would imperil Europe's "social model," which supposedly blends capitalism's efficiency and socialism's compassion.
Read on. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion— you're fully aware of the impending doom for the train passengers, but all you can do is look on in helpless fascination.

Right Mind takes a look at how the US is doing in comparison.

All "EU implosion update" posts

Robert Bork: Moderate/liberal/conservative labels are misleading when speaking of judges

July 1 interview of Robert Bork by CNN's Daryn Kagan. It's good to see that Bork remains unapologetic about his Originalist (I think I'll start using this term instead of the more abstract "strict constructionist") views, and that he minces no words about O'Connor's legacy. It doesn't take much effort to understand why the Left didn't want him anywhere near the USSC.
Interesting person to talk to on the phone right now. Robert Bork on the phone, somebody who got almost to the Supreme Court. The judge nominated in 1987, a nomination that did not work out in the way that Judge Bork, I think, you would have liked.

Your comments today on Sandra Day O'Connor and her legacy on the court, please.

JUDGE ROBERT BORK, FMR. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Well, she's a very nice person, but she is -- as a justice, she has been -- they call her the swing vote. That's true. But that means that she didn't have any reaffirmed judicial philosophy.

However, on the crucial cultural question, she has lined up with the liberal side on abortion, on affirmative action, homosexual normalization and so forth.

KAGAN: Excuse me. Judge Bork, do you think it's fair to say she didn't have an judicial philosophy? Perhaps that she didn't have the same judicial philosophy that you share. But she probably -- she possibly had a more moderate philosophy and was expressing that as a swing vote on the high court.

BORK: I think that referring to a moderate philosophy and a conservative philosophy and so forth is quite wrong. The question is, those judges who depart from the actual Constitution, and those who try to stick to the actual Constitution.

She departed from it frequently. So that I wouldn't call that moderate. I would call it unfortunate. But she is -- she is -- as a result, she often determined the outcome by swinging from one side to the other.

KAGAN: OK. Instead of looking back on Judge O'Connor, let's look forward.

Whatever nominee, whoever is picked, whoever President Bush picks, they use your nomination process as an example of what they don't want to happen. A lot of people -- a lot of conservatives do wish that you had been confirmed and serving on the high court. Instead, it's been Justice Kennedy, who has been more moderate than a lot of people think.

BORK: I wish you would stop using the word "moderate." But go ahead.

KAGAN: Well, no. What would you use? How would you compare what Justice Kennedy has done instead of perhaps what you have done if you had been on the court.

BORK: I would call it activist.

KAGAN: OK. So you would like to see -- actually, you bring up a good point. This is a time in U.S. history that's not just talking about who is going to be the next person on the U.S. Supreme Court, but when the whole topic of what the judicial system and how it operates in this country is up for debate.

BORK: That's right, because it's really a cultural fight now. The Supreme Court has made itself into a political and a cultural institution rather than a legal institution, so that both sides see it in political terms.

KAGAN: President Bush's comment that he made just a few minutes ago, he said in whomever he picks he does expect and hope it will be somebody who honors the Constitution. I think that's something that you would like to hear. He also says that he and his staff will be talking with senators, trying to pick somebody who hopefully they will be able to get through confirmed.

What do you think about that?

BORK: Well, it depends on which senator he talks to and what he's -- and why he's talking to them. If he thinks that he ought to -- he ought to tailor his nomination to the desires of people who want activist judges, then I think that's a very bad idea.

The Constitution says that he -- the president shall nominate and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint. So that the advice and consent function of the Senate applies to the confirmation and appointment, not to the nomination.

KAGAN: I would like to ask you a personal question, Justice Bork. As what you went through back in 1987, what kind of advice would you give to whomever is nominated as it goes forward?

BORK: I don't think I can give any very good advice. After all, as I once put it, it's like asking Custer how to deal with the Indians. I didn't do it very well.

But I -- you know, they're going to -- they're going to insist upon answers to questions, "How will you vote on this? How will you vote on that?" Which I think is a very unfortunate practice, but that's what they are doing now in the Senate.

KAGAN: So would you tell a nominee not to answer those questions?

BORK: Either to find a way not to answer it on the grounds that they shouldn't be answered, or to give straightforward answers, which will mean that he will line up a lot of opposition.

KAGAN: And one final question. Is it worth it to go through the process in order to have that honor of serving on the high court?

BORK: Well, yes, it's worth it to go through the process. It's unfortunate that the process is as corrupt as it is. But it's worth it. And if you lose, it's a character-building experience.

KAGAN: Well, you have...

BORK: It's like a losing football team.

KAGAN: You had the opportunity and the experience. Judge Bork, thank you for calling in today.


KAGAN: And thank you for your insight on experience that not a lot of people in the United States have had.

Judge Robert Bork nominated back in 1987, was not confirmed. Justice Anthony Kennedy got that space as a second nomination.

(Credit: Right Mind)

July 2, 2005

In a way, it doesn't matter who W nominates

Click the images to view full-size.

Scott Ott (see original for additional links):
Kennedy Slams Unnamed Supreme Court Nominee

(2005-07-02) -- Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA, today criticized President George Bush's as-yet-unnamed replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as a "brutal, Bible-thumping, right-wing ideologue who hates minorities, women and cocker spaniels."

"He or she is clearly outside the mainstream of American values," said Sen. Kennedy. "President Bush has again ignored the Senate's 'advice and consent' role, forcing Democrats to filibuster this outrageous nominee."

The Massachusetts Senator said his aides have already discovered "reams of memos" showing that the man or woman Mr. Bush will appoint has "a history of abusing subordinates, dodging military service, hiring undocumented workers, spanking his or her children and rolling back the clock on human rights to the days when the Pharaohs ruled Egypt with an iron fist."

The Senator's office issued a news release to the media documenting the allegations against the potential high court judge, with a convenient blank line allowing reporters to fill in the nominee's name as soon as that information is leaked.

July 1, 2005

The juiciest target for eminent-domain land seizures?

This hadn't occurred to me before, but imagine a town where the government is hostile to Christianity (or any religion that enjoys exemption from property taxes). What's to prevent them from deciding that, in the name of economic development, a church's land should be seized and turned over to a shopping center developer? I'm not aware of any provision of the law or of the Supreme Court's Kelo reasoning that would prevent such a seizure.

But hostility to religion is not necessary to such a scenario. It's no secret that many cities resent the fact that churches take up so much prime city-center real estate. Wouldn't it be great (in the eyes of city officials) if these properties instead were owned by persons or corporations who would benefit the "public good" by paying taxes on said properties?

Yogita Patel explores this issue in Christianity Today.

Let the games begin!

O'Connor Retires From Supreme Court

So... Will W be "forced" (for political reasons) to nominate a woman in her place? Regardless, who do y'all (a little Texas lingo, there) think would be a good replacement?

It goes without saying (but I'm gonna say it anyway) that I think any nominee should be a strict constructionist. A Scalia would be good; a Thomas would be even better.

UPDATE: TechCentralStation's Pejman Yousefzadeh agrees that Clarence Thomas is a great standard by which to measure nominees.

UPDATE: Janice Rogers Brown might be a decent choice as well, although I'm not sure where she stands regarding judicial precedents, which in my opinion is where Scalia falls short.