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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Respect for Religions

The Wall Street Journal's free site has an excellent article from Ali La-Ahmed. Here's a sample.
"Hypocrisy Most Holy
Muslims should show some respect to others' religions.
Friday, May 20, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
With the revelation that a copy of the Quran may have been desecrated by U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Muslims and their governments--including that of Saudi Arabia--reacted angrily. This anger would have been understandable if the U.S. government's adopted policy was to desecrate our Quran. But even before the Newsweek report was discredited, that was never part of the allegations.

As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities. American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately."
Read the rest.

American Royalty

We all know Saudi Arabia is ruled by its "Royal Family," but it's happening here, too. No, we don't mean "The Bush Dynasty" or "The Kennedys" or even "The Clintons." Members of the American Royal Family wear black robes and hand down their laws in courtrooms. They serve for life without the risk of an election. Their word is law, at least unless contradicted by another, higher royal. Realistically, there is no other check on their power. This is where years of judicial activism are leading us, but we're not quite there yet.

Glen at Nashville Truth links to a WaPo article quoting Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) as denouncing Priscilla Owen as a "judicial activist." Glen asks:
"When did the Democrats start to support judges who believe in an originalist interpretation of legislation? The idea of these Democratic Senators opposing Priscilla Owen because she is a judicial activist is a little comical, considering their whole judicial philosophy is one of judicial activism. I guess that these liberals have seen the light and have converted to the belief that a judge should not legislate from the bench, but merely enforce a law as it is written, regardless of how they may feel about that law personally. "
We, like Glen, have our doubts about this sudden change of heart. Sen. Leahy can only get concerned about "judicial activism" by redefining the term. To him the prospect of reversal of past activism is the real problem, and that's what he means by "activism." For true believers like Leahy past legislation from the bench is as sacrosanct as the constitution itself. It's not respect for judicial precedent per se that is the issue; it's the desirability of the outcome. Overturning existing law is justified, in Sen. Leahy's view, for a "good cause."

But is that true? Is that the kind of country we are supposed to have? The kind we want to have? Walter E. Williams has some key insights:
"Here's my question to you: Should we be governed by good ideas? You say, 'Williams, what do you mean?' Here's an example: I regularly bike for fun, cardiovascular fitness and, hopefully, for a longer, healthier life. In my opinion, that's a good idea. That being the case, would you deem it proper for Congress to enact legislation requiring Americans to bike regularly or perform some other cardiovascular fitness exercise? What if Congress didn't act on this good idea? Would you deem it proper and acceptable if five out of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, in the name of 'evolving standards' and promoting the general welfare, decreed that we all participate in some fitness exercise? [...]
Suppose biking advocates saw no hope in getting Congress to enact legislation mandating regular biking and saw the U.S. Supreme Court as a means to accomplish their ends. Tell me your preference. Would you prefer the justices to rule along the lines they did in the recent Roper v. Simmons case, finding the execution of teenagers unconstitutional because, as Justice Anthony Kennedy speaking for the 5-4 majority said, 'It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty'? Modified to fit my biking example, Justice Kennedy might say, 'We acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion that regular biking is a good idea.'

Or, would you prefer the justices to say, 'We're guided by the U.S. Constitution, and we find no constitutional authority to rule that Americans must regularly bike, despite your nonsense argument about the 'promoting the general welfare' clause; get out of our court'?

Whether 'evolving standards,' the 'weight of international opinion' and good ideas should determine court decisions underlies much of the ongoing conflict over President Bush's federal court appointees. A federal court appointee who'd say his decisions are guided by the letter and spirit of our Constitution would be tagged by Democrat senators and a few Republican senators, such as Arlen Specter, as an extremist. They'd prefer justices who share former Chief Justice Charles E. Hughes' vision that, 'We live under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.' Translated, that means we don't live under the Constitution; we live under tyrannical judges."
This is what's at stake in the battle over judicial nominees. Any selection of a particular judicial outcome based on what's desired rather than what the law says is a step on the road to ruin for the Republic. We've already gone way too far down that road.

Go here for the rest of Walter Williams' excellent article.

High Noon for Judicial Nominees

At last we seem to be reaching the showdown on the "DC-12," the appellate court nominees denied a confirmation vote by filibuster. Normally, here in The Great American Desert, we escape a lot of the national, political ads. Nebraska is not just a Red State, but a Big Red State, so neither side normally feels like spending any money trying to persuade voters here.

In this case both Nebraska Senators, Hagel and Nelson, are potential swing votes and under a lot of heat. Consequently, we're seen the full complement of ads with a herd of rampaging, rogue elephants tearing down Washington, Jimmy Stewart as Mister Smith filibustering (apparently for the right to filibuster), and Bill Frist playing the role of the Emperor in a Star Wars theme ("Revenge of the Frist"). Frankly, BurgerKing did a better job with the Star Wars tie-ins. There's even an Algore speech available where he claims the Republicans are pure evil:
"They seek nothing less than absolute power. Their grand design is an all-powerful executive using a weakened legislature to fashion a compliant judiciary in its own image. They envision a total breakdown of the separation of powers. And in its place they want to establish a system in which power is unified in the service of a narrow ideology serving a narrow set of interests."
Apparently Gore missed the last few elections wherein these Republicans and their "digital brownshirts," as he said, actually won the presidency and a solid majority in both houses of Congress. Along with electoral victories goes the power to appoint judges and the power to confirm them. Calling a group of qualified, mainstream judges "extreme" doesn't make it so, and minority parties don't get a veto over presidential appointments.

It's a measure of how desperate the fringe Left is and how bare the cupboard is that Al Gore has been pressed into service for this. Next they'll be wheeling out some senile old Byrd, oh wait, they already did. We caught a little of that on CSPAN2, before dozing off.

A fight to the death over a non-existent "right" to filibuster judicial nominees seems a peculiar choice. The Left must see that they can't win this, not the least because the Republican's can't let them win and everyone knows it.

There's talk of the Democrats today being like the Republicans when Gingrich led them back to power. That overlooks the real strength of the Republican resurgence of that period: the Contract With America. There were ideas, a plan, and coherence behind Gingrich and his crew. Today the Left is bereft of ideas, or at least ideas they can openly promote.

Evidently, today's Democrats don't expect to control the Congress or the White House again anytime soon. We'd say they're right on that score.

Friday, May 20, 2005

You Know You're from The Great American Desert When...

You Know You're From Nebraska When...
"Vacation" means going to Omaha for the weekend.
You use your life savings to go to the Nebraska-Colorado game.
You know the Woodmen Tower is not made of wood.
You know you cannot tube "upstream."
You know what the "sea of red & white" is.
You wake up when it's dark, and go to bed when it's still light.
You can tell it's really a farmer working late in his field, and not a UFO.
You know the difference between field corn and sweet corn when they are still on the stalk.
You pick up all the free stuff at the State Fair.
You can eat an ear of corn with no utensils in less than 20 seconds.
You fly your American flag at halfmast when the Cornhuskers lose a football game.
You know how to pronounce Beatrice, Norfolk and Kearney.
You think Highway 6 is more scenic that I-80, which you think is the best thing to come out of Iowa.
You don't understand why other states even bother to try raising beef.
You believe that the worst steak in Nebraska is still better than any other steak, anywhere.
You believe that vegetarians should be banned in Nebraska.
You don't have to be told what Aksarben is or that it's Nebraska spelled backward.
You take pride in knowing that on Saturdays, Memorial stadium is the third largest city in the state.
Kitty Clover potato chips and Robert's Milk were are the best part of a meal.
You know that the statue on the dome of the state capital is actually sowing seed - not bowling.
You know what a Runza is.
You call lunch "dinner" and dinner "supper."
You think it's normal to get a side of spaghetti at a steakhouse.
You avoid Omaha because you're afraid of getting mugged.
You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Nebraska.

Team America Conservatives

Team America
Today we got our DVD of the funniest movie of last year: "Team America World Police." It's not for everyone: full of foul language and "puppet sex," but the satirical skewering of the Hollywood moonbat brigade had us in stitches. Plus, one of the Team is a former Nebraska quarterback. Sure Parker and Stone take some shots at the right, although GWB escapes largely unscathed, but it's nothing like what they do for Michael Moore and dozens of other Hollywood celebrity fools too numerous to list.

We went with the R-rated DVD, which is the rating of the version that played in theaters. There's also an "uncut/unrated" version, essentially the original version that would have drawn an NC-17 rating. We can imagine what might have been trimmed to reach R. No need to go there.

UPDATE 5/21: Nehring at Nehring The Edge (what a great name for a blog) has a different take on the movie. He was put off so much by the vulgarity that the satire could not redeem the film. I agree it would have been a better movie with less vulgarity, but I still give it "Thumbs up." (Ebert hates it, by the way)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wiles Note to Escultura Clearly a Hoax

Alecks Pabico at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has confirmed that the note purported to be from Dr. Andrew Wiles is a hoax. The original message was not an email, but a note in a guestbook on Dr. Edgar Escultura's website. Clearly that could have been left by anyone. Pabico has contacted Wiles by email, and Wiles denies having any knowledge of the original message or of Dr. Escultura's website.

This is an interesting tidbit from PCIJ:
My sense is that Dr. Escultura and the Manila Times (and ABS-CBN Interactive which was the only other news site that carried the report) had been had here. And the writer of the report — Rony Diaz, the Times former publisher and now its CEO — and the Times editors could have spared readers this non-news, to put it mildly, had they only done their homework.
The author of the Times report is also the CEO and former publisher. I guess we know now why his boss didn't make him check the facts before publishing.

See our four previous posts on this topic starting from this one. Be sure to check out the external link in that post to the story of mathematicians going wild in the streets.

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Riots and Muslims - Low Expectations

The now-retracted Newsweek report, Al Jazeera tells us, sparked "Massive anti-U.S. protests across the Muslim world." Protests are one thing, but riots, as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are quite another. Certainly, Newspeak deserves the blame it has gotten for aggravating conditions that were already dangerous.

Let's not forget, though, that the chief blame for the riots belongs with those who did the rioting. Dennis Prager wonders why that's just accepted.
Dennis Prager: Newsweek and the rioters: "And now a word about the rioters. They have desecrated their religion and their holy text far more than the alleged flushers of Koranic pages.

Did any Buddhists riot and murder when the Taliban Muslims blew up the irreplaceable giant Buddhist statues in Afghanistan?

Did any Christians riot and murder when an 'artist' produced 'Piss Christ' -- a crucifix immersed in a jar of the 'artist's' urine? When all Christian services and even the wearing of a cross were banned in Saudi Arabia? When Christians are murdered while at prayer in churches by Muslims in Pakistan?

Have any Jews rioted in all the years since it was revealed that Jordanian Muslims used Jewish tombstones in Old Jerusalem as latrines? Or after Palestinians destroyed Joseph's Tomb in 2000 and set fire to the rebuilt tomb in 2003?

It is quite remarkable that many Muslims believe that an American interrogator flushing pages of the Koran is worthy of rioting, but all the torture, slaughter, terror and mass murder done by Muslims in the name of the Koran are unworthy of even a peaceful protest.

Nevertheless, one will have to search extensively for any editorials condemning these primitives in the Western press, let alone in the Muslim press. This is because moral expectations of Muslims are lower than those of other religious groups. Behavior that would be held in contempt if engaged in by Christians or Jews is not only not condemned, it is frequently 'understood' when done by Muslims."
The same elite opinion-makers that claimed that Muslims can't be expected to govern themselves democratically think Muslims should be expected to resort to violence when insulted. Eventually, Muslims will learn to expect better of themselves.

Manila Times - Escultura, Wiles, and Fermat

Here's another update in the saga of Dr. Edgar Escultura, Dr. Andrew Wiles, and Fermat's Last Theorem (FLT). The Manila Times published a story asserting that Dr. Escultura had "proved that Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem is false." This was a peculiar report, as we noted at the time and in a follow up a few days later. The only evidence presented for the claim that Wiles had "admitted" his error was an unverified letter, supposedly from Wiles, that was laced with sarcasm.

Mr. Roy Choco, of Manila, also smelled a rat, and he wrote a letter to the editor, which questioned the Times on the veracity of the story. To their credit, The Manila Times published it, and we reviewed the letter and the paper's response. They seemed to delight in pointing out some grammar issues with the letter rather than addressing the important points raised by Mr. Choco. It is clear they made no attempt to check the facts of the story with anyone other than Dr. Escultura.

Mr. Choco has now written The Times a second letter and also posted it on his blog: Random Thoughts. He addresses the paper's response and again takes them to task for not verifying the letter or the claim of refuting Wiles' proof. We will see if The Times will print the second letter, but our guess (and Mr. Choco's) is they are eager to put this behind them. It is clear the original story is incorrect.

In the original article, The Manila Times Internet Edition - "UP Math prof proves Princeton man wrong," they say:
"He [Dr. Escultura] took the position that the failure to resolve the problem for over 360 years reveals the inadequacy and defects of foundations, number theory and the real number system. He undertook a thorough critique-rectification of these fields and found, among others, that the real number system in basic algebra, the foundation of mathematics, is defective. Specifically, two of its axioms (the trichotomy and completeness axioms, for those who took basic algebra in high school and college) are false."
Axioms are by definition simple principles that are accepted without proof and used to prove other propositions. As such an axiom (or two of them) cannot be proven to be false. A set of axioms may be found to be in conflict with each other, in which case they are said to be "inconsistent," not "false."

The axiom of trichotomy is that for any two real numbers, "a" and "b," one and only one of the following is true: a = b; a > b; or a
"Escultura went on to overhaul the real number system and reconstructed it without these false axioms using only three simple axioms instead of 12. The result is a new real number system that is free from defects and contradictions, finite and enriched with new numbers that have important applications for physics.

Using the new real number system Escultura constructed many counterexamples to FLT showing that it is false."
Again, there may be some value in an alternative number system, but a proof under the standard system of axioms simply cannot be "refuted" by changing to a different system. It's perfectly possible for FLT to be true in one system and false in another. Furthermore, the whole basis of FLT is "positive integers greater than 2" not the real numbers (which include fractions, decimal numbers, and irrationals). Counter examples to FLT based on non-integers are not relevant.

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Update 5/19: Roy has posted what he believes is a letter from the UP math department to the Manila Times. It's unsigned and not published on the Times site yet, but it's written well by someone with a good math background. It also includes this link to the not be be missed story (mentioned in the original Manila Times article) of mathematicians going wild in the streets of Chicago after Wiles' proof was announced.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Poverty and Unwed Mothers

The problems of the American underclass are primarily cultural. Children of poor, unmarried women, whatever their race, are not likely to acquire the behaviors and thinking that lead to success. They are much more likely to get a poor education, have children of their own at a young age (and probably out of wedlock), and have a difficult time escaping the trap of poverty and welfare. Some progress has been made in getting unwed mothers off welfare and into the workforce, but in the inner city subculture out-of-wedlock birth rates remain staggeringly high.

Kay Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal has an interesting review of the book, "Promises I Can Keep" by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas. Edin and Kefalas are sociology professors in the Philadelphia area, and they have spent 5 years interviewing poor women in the area of all races. They have some surprising insights that run counter to the conventional wisdom:
OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: "That wisdom had it that unmarried poor women got pregnant either because they were unable to get hold of birth control or ignorant of its use or because they viewed a welfare check as a substitute for an in-house father. Not so, find Ms. Edin and Ms. Kefalas: Young women, even those pregnant as young as 14, simply want to have babies. True, many wish that they had waited. But by and large these young women speak in hidebound terms about the 'joys of motherhood,' as do their young boyfriends, who often whisper "I want to have a baby by you" as part of courtship. Far more than their middle-class counterparts, low-income women are likely to see abortion as wrong and childlessness as a tragedy. It's not a fabulous career or sexual and romantic adventure that endows life with purpose; it's having a baby.

According to the authors, motherhood promises an enduring human connection in a world where trusting relationships are rare, and it gives women a social role whose value is only heightened by their difficult circumstances. In the minds of female ghetto dwellers, 'the choice to have a child despite the obstacles that lie ahead is a compelling demonstration of a young woman's maturity and high moral stature.' Many say that the birth of their child persuaded them to give up drugs or to stop 'running the streets.'
Clearly, although having a baby as a single mother at a young age is clearly a bad choice, it is a choice. It's also not completely irrational for someone stuck in that subculture. While those in the middle class and above clearly recognize the value of connecting childbearing and chlidrearing with marriage, that connection is too often lost in the underclass. The overall deterioration of the institution of marriage in modern society has pushed poor women in the wrong direction. (This has nothing to do with gays. Heterosexuals are doing a fine job of screwing up marriage, thank you.)
"Unlike the old guard of researchers, Ms. Edin and Ms. Kefalas believe that marriage is key to improving the life chances of the inner-city poor. Still, they have not entirely escaped the old trap of over-identifying with their subjects. Poor women aspire toward marriage just as much as middle-class women do, they claim; it's just that poor women value children so highly that they are unwilling to wait for a chimerical Mr. Right.

This is a vain, though commonplace, attempt to soften the ghetto's destructive decoupling of marriage and childrearing. In opinion polls, the authors observe, higher-income women share their poorer sisters' attitudes toward premarital sex, cohabitation and even out-of-wedlock childbearing. But the truth is that the vast majority of middle-class women--and the same can be said for poor immigrants--arrive at maternity wards with husbands in tow. They know that an orderly domestic life is the stage set for upwardly mobile children and the cue to America to keep its promise."
Read the rest.

The Arab World is Now Bush Country

Fouad Ajami has an inspiring article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Arab World is becoming "Bush Country." Ajami has just been on a journey through the region, speaking to people, reading the news, and listening. Change has come, and it's not lost on the people who live there, that George W. Bush has put this in motion.

Unfortunately, the link is subscription only at this point. However, they may add it to the free site this weekend. Here's a sample for now. After 9/11: - Bush Country: "The children of Islam, and of the Arabs in particular, had taken to the road, and to terror. There were many liberal, secular Arabs now clamoring for American intervention. The claims of sovereignty were no longer adequate; a malignant political culture had to be 'rehabilitated and placed in receivership,' a wise Jordanian observer conceded. Mr. Bush may not be given to excessive philosophical sophistication, but his break with 'the soft bigotry of low expectations' in the Arab-Islamic world has found eager converts among Muslims and Arabs keen to repair their world, to wean it from a culture of scapegoating and self-pity. Pick up the Arabic papers today: They are curiously, and suddenly, readable. They describe the objective world; they give voice to recognition that the world has bypassed the Arabs. The doors have been thrown wide open, and the truth of that world laid bare. Grant Mr. Bush his due: The revolutionary message he brought forth was the simple belief that there was no Arab and Muslim 'exceptionalism' to the appeal of liberty. For a people mired in historical pessimism, the message of this outsider was a powerful antidote to the culture of tyranny. Hitherto, no one had bothered to tell the Palestinians that they can't have terror and statehood at the same time, that the patronage of the world is contingent on a renunciation of old ways. This was the condition Mr. Bush attached to his support for the Palestinians. It is too early to tell whether the new restraint in the Palestinian world will hold. But it was proper that Mr. Bush put Arafat beyond the pale.

It was Iraq of course that gave impetus to this new Arab history. And it is in Iraq that the nobility of this American quest comes into focus. This was my fourth trip to Iraq since the fall of the despotism, and my most hopeful yet. I traveled to Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil and Suleimaniyah. A close colleague -- Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations -- and I were there to lecture and to 'show the flag.' We met with parliamentarians and journalists, provincial legislators, clerics and secularists alike, Sunni and Shia Arabs and Kurds. One memory I shall treasure: a visit to the National Assembly. From afar, there are reports of the 'acrimony' of Iraq, of the long interlude between Iraq's elections, on Jan. 30, and the formation of a cabinet. But that day, in the assembly, these concerns seemed like a quibble with history. There was the spectacle of democracy: men and women doing democracy's work, women cloaked in Islamic attire right alongside more emancipated women, the technocrats and the tribal sheikhs, and the infectious awareness among these people of the precious tradition bequeathed them after a terrible history. One of the principal leaders of the Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq, Sheikh Hamam Hammoudi, an elegant, thoughtful cleric in his early 50s, brushed aside the talk of a Shia theocracy. This Shia man, who knew a smattering of English, offered his own assurance that the example and the power of Iran shall be kept at bay: 'My English is better than my Farsi, even though I spent 20 years in Iran.' He was proud of his Iraqi identity, proud of being 'an Arab.' He was sure that the Najaf school of Shia jurisprudence would offer its own alternative to the world view of Qom, across the border. He wanted no theocratic state in Iraq: Islam, he said, would be 'a source' of legislation, but the content of politics would be largely secular. The model, he added, with a touch of irony, would be closer to the American mix of religion and politics than to the uncompromising secularism of France.

The insurgents were busy with their bombs and their plots of mayhem: Georgian troops guarded the National Assembly and controlled access to it. But a people were taking to a new political way. A woman garbed in black, a daughter of a distinguished clerical Shia family, made the rounds among her fellow legislators. Religious scruples decreed that she could not shake the hand of a male stranger. But she was proud and wily, a free woman in a newly emancipated polity. She let me know how much she knew about the ways and the literature of the West. American power may have turned on its erstwhile ally, Ahmed Chalabi. But his appearance in the assembly's gallery drew to him parliamentarians of every stripe. He, too, had about him the excitement of this new politics."
There's lots more great stuff like this, so, if you don't have the subscription, watch for it this weekend on the free site.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Just a Smear Before I Go

The operator of the virulently anti-military blog, Forsake the Troops, was reported killed, following a beating by "two men thought to be members of the military." His family was pulling the plug on the blog and heading for seclusion. As it turns out, reports of his death are greatly exaggerated.

Apparently he had some other reason for shutting down the site, and just decided to take one last, libelous, fabricated, cheap shot at those risking their lives for his freedom to be a pinhead.

Before the Newspeak Affair There Was...

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette reviews the past MSM foibles that are the prelude to the Great Quran Desecration That Wasn't. In January, 2004, CNN (and others, I believe?) published accusations that US troops ripped up a Quran and desecrated a mosque in Iraq. Fortunately there was a video of the raid that debunked the charges and showed a mosque full of machine guns and bomb-making supplies. Also:
In April 2004 the LA Times declared a journalistic jihad, defending the display of graphic images of murdered contractors in Fallujah and forthrightly announcing their intention to display any and all such images they could: 'While showing the images could erode support for the war, not showing them could have an opposite effect.' claimed the Times. [...]

'May, 2004: Mary Mapes, a producer for CBS' 60 Minutes, was handed abuse photos by the family of an accused torturer. Seymour Hersh, writer for The New Yorker magazine, (who coincidentally knew the same soldier's attorney from the My Lai trial) also received copies from an undisclosed source. Hersh and Mapes resulting stories are still considered the definitive version of events at Abu Ghraib by those who aren't concerned with facts. No more egregious example of misleading spin will ever be found. (Hopefully)"
See this Greyhawk post for the real story of Abu Ghraib.

Then a Boston City Councilor, Chuck Turner, held a press conference where he showed pictures purportedly of "US soldiers raping Iraqi women." The Boston Globe played it up big, but it was soon found that the pictures were staged photos, downloaded from a porn site.

Once the phony "facts" are out there, the truth has a hard time replacing them.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Grizzly Protest Warrior

The Philadelphia chapter of Protest Warrior had an event today, and Grizzly Mama was on the scene.

Wildcard in Judicial Nomination Showdown?

With a showdown looming this week on a vote for the appellate court nominees, last week's appellate court reversal of ban on same sex marriage in Nebraska just might tip the scales in favor of bringing the nominees to a vote. The controversial ruling has definitely turned up the heat on Senators Hagel and Nelson on the judicial confirmation issue.

Nebraska Senator Hagel (R) has been wavering on the tough action needed to break the minority's attempt to veto judicial nominees. He has sent a statement to the Lincoln Journal Star expressing hope the ruling will be overturned.

Nebraska Senator Nelson (D) has been trying to work out a compromise with both sides. How he would vote on a cloture motion and/or the constitutional option remains unclear. Confirm Them reports the ranks of the swing voters include Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Perhaps this case will prove decisive in the Senate confirmation battle.

Free the Judicial Hostages

The first step on the road back to a responsible judiciary is to confirm appellate judges who will uphold the rule of law. These judges will do that, which is exactly why Tom Daschle and his successors are so afraid of holding a vote on them.

Time for the Republican Senators to start acting like a majority party and govern. Here are the appellate nominees who have been denied a vote and the number of days for each since his/her initial nomination.

NomineeNominatedRenominatedDays in Limbo
Susan Bieke Neilson11/8/012/14/051283
Judge Terrence William Boyle5/9/012/14/051466
Richard Allen Griffin6/26/022/14/051053
Thomas B. Griffith5/10/042/14/05369
William Haynes9/29/032/14/05593
Brett Kavanaugh7/25/032/14/05 659
David W. McKeague11/08/01
2/14/05 1283
William G. Myers III5/15/03
Justice Priscilla Owen5/9/011/7/03, 2/14/05 1466
William H. Pryor, Jr.4/09/032/14/05766
Janice Rogers Brown7/25/032/14/05 659
Henry Saad11/8/012/14/05 1283

Original nomination dates from Independent Judiciary: The Nominees, except where linked elsewhere.
Days since nomination were calculated as of 5/15/05 with Microsoft Excel's "yearfrac" function and multiplied by 365.

Court Reversal of Ban on Same Sex Marriage in Nebraska

Unless you've been in a cave for the last week, you have probably already read the national headlines about the court decision on Nebraska's ban on same sex marriage. Here is a background article about the case from the Lincoln Journal Star.

The basic facts are:
  • In 2000 the voters of Nebraska voted 70% to 30% to enact a state constitutional amendment that forbids the state and local governments from recognizing any marriage or civil union between same sex couples.
  • Five Nebraska same-sex couples, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, Citizens for Equal Protection, and Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the amendment.
  • They argued that the amendment goes far beyond a ban on marriage and restricts rights of gays in other ways.
  • Last Thursday US District Judge Joseph Bataillon, a Clinton appointee, found the state amendment violated the federal constitution, amounting to "punishment" of gays.
  • This decision will be appealed by the State of Nebraska to the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Whichever side loses there will surely appeal to the US Supreme Court.
More newspaper articles on the case can be found here:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "Sides disagree on gay-marriage law's future."
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "Ruling re-ignites contentious debate."
The Columbus Telegram: "State's gay marriage amendment taken down."
Omaha World Herald: "U.S. Judge Rejects Neb. Gay-Marriage Ban."
Omaha World Herald: "Same-sex ruling no surprise to some." (registration required)
Omaha World Herald: "Gays welcome judge's action as marriage ban's fans regroup." (registration required)
Omaha World Herald: "First, a deep breath." (editorial, registration required)
(The World Herald links will break in 3 weeks.)

On his blog, Ryne McClaren has an excellent post on Judge Bataillon's decision. Ryne also provides this link to a thorough, legal analysis of the decision by law professor, Eugene Volokh. The Volokh analysis is well worth reading, and not too heavy on the legalese. Briefly, he believes the ruling is "quite mistaken and will be reversed on appeal."

My opinions in the matter are very much like Ryne's. I was opposed to the amendment, and I voted against it. However, I think the court decision is another outrageous judicial overreach. I support allowing gays to form civil unions or even marry, provided such arrangements are enacted through the normal lawmaking processes. This is an essential part of the rule of law. I cannot support courts substituting the judge's personal opinions willy-nilly for the will of the majority.

Courts are not supposed to be writing or rewriting laws to fit their own views of what is Good. American liberalism has completely abandoned this essential principle in the name of expediency. Unable to get popular support for enacting "Good Things" into law, liberals turn to the courts more and more to meet their goals. To today's liberals the ends justify the means, and if the "will of the people" happens to contradict the "progressive" agenda, the courts should impose "virtue" on those ignorant yahoos.

Rampant judicial activism, such as we have had on the Left for over 20 years now, is extremely corrosive to our political system. It is no coincidence that the judicial confirmation process has become highly politicized and unbelievably nasty (c.f. Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork). This is why Senate Democrats are taking the unprecedented (and unconstitutional) step of filibustering the nominations of appellate judges. This is why it is essential to confirm these judges and others who will restore the constitutional balance that existed and return the courts to their proper role.

It would be nice to think that the Republican Senators understand the importance of the stakes here. Judicial activism is the only chance liberals have left for enacting their unpopular agenda. They will not give it up without a fight, and they fight dirty. They cast moves to restore 200 years of Senate tradition, supported by the Constitution, as a "nuclear option" to squash sacred minority rights. They smear any judge who might stop or reverse their use of the courts to write new law, as "out of the mainstream" or "reactionary" or "extremist." Senator Reid has publicly referred to things he hasn't even read in a nominee's confidential FBI file. He has claimed Justice Thomas' opinions are "poorly written" without citing evidence or example.

Senator Hagel has been disappointingly squishy in defending the president's appointment powers and opposing Democratic "scorched earth" tactics. Senator Frist has been slow and overly cautious. Senator Specter has been..., well, typical Specter. Some of these nominees have been waiting for confirmation for over 4 years now. Do your jobs, gentlemen.

Whatever joy opponents of the amendment gain from the decision, it is likely to be short-lived. For proponents of gay marriage, such victories through judicial activism will ultimately prove to be Pyrrhic. The amendment would never have been on the ballot in the first place, let alone passed, without the threat of judicial fiat legalizing gay marriage.

This verdict is certain to galvanize the forces pushing for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Such a ban would be bad for the country, but unless and until the Republicans in the Senate show the guts to rein in runaway judges, more and more people will see constitutional changes as the only way to do so.