“Democrats want to terrify people by claiming Bush’s judicial nominees are nutcase extremists hell-bent on shredding the Constitution – as opposed to liberals’ preferred method of simply rewriting it on a daily basis – but they’re terrified that someone might ask them what they mean by “extremist.” So let’s ask!” —Ann Coulter
Monthly Archive for April, 2005
Why should civil unions be restricted to only gay couples? The purpose of civil unions is to give gay couples legal recognition (i.e. hospital visitation privileges and insurance rights) based on their circumstances, not their sexual orientation. Since that is the case, than the same legal recognitions should be given to all relationships that are in the same circumstances, regardless of sexual relationship.
Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, writes:
In other words, domestic partnerships, if states elect to have them, should be nondiscriminatory and inclusive. They should be available to people based on needs, not on sex. The law certainly should not discriminate in favor of those unmarried people who are in sexual relationships over those with the same needs who, though committed to caring for each other, are not sexual partners. Widowed sisters living together and looking after each other, or an unmarried adult son taking care of his elderly father, may have the need for domestic partner benefits such as hospital visitation privileges and insurance rights.
A constitutionally sound domestic partnership law would not discriminate against such people by excluding them from eligibility simply because their relationships are not sexual–just as a nondiscriminatory and inclusive law would not undermine marriage by treating unmarried sexual partners as if they were married.
In other words, we should allow the same civil union to, for example, two (or more) friends, regardless of sexual intimacy and genders, who wanted to provide mutually for one another and who may also have the need for domestic partner benefits, such as hospital visitation privileges and insurance rights.
“Practically every big-name liberal senator you can think of derided the filibuster a decade ago but now sees the error of his or her ways and will go to amusing lengths to try to convince you that the change of heart is explained by something deeper than the mere difference between being in the majority and being in the minority…[J]udicial candidates nominated by a president deserve an up-or-down vote in the Senate… But the Senate shouldn’t stop with filibusters over judges. It should strive to nuke the filibuster for all legislative purposes…The filibuster, a parliamentary tactic allowing 41 senators to block a vote by extending debate on a measure indefinitely, is indeed venerable — it can be traced back two centuries. But it is merely the product of the Senate’s own rule-making, altered over time; the measure was not part of the founding fathers’ checks and balances to prevent a tyranny of the majority. The Senate’s structure itself was part of that calculus…. It’s no accident that most filibusters have hindered progressive crusades in Washington, be it on civil rights or campaign finance reform. California’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of those recent converts to the filibuster, embarrassed herself by hailing Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as her inspiration at a pro-filibuster rally. At least Byrd is being consistent in his support — he filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act” — Los Angeles Times editorial pages.
So goes the title of Thomas Sowell’s new book. It is published this week by Encounter Books, and is already pre-ordered by yours truly. 🙂 Sowell, in promotion for his new book, recently was on the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal.
For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population–whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever–have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race–that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.
Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts. As one small example, a study published last year indicated that most of the black alumni of Harvard were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.
If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water’s edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born offspring probably do not even have a foreign accent?
What then could explain such large disparities in demographic “representation” among these three groups of blacks? Perhaps they have different patterns of behavior and different cultures and values behind their behavior.
He goes on to give some historical facts and writes:
Slavery also cannot explain the difference between American blacks and West Indian blacks living in the United States because the ancestors of both were enslaved. When race, racism, and slavery all fail the empirical test, what is left?
Culture is left.
The culture of the people who were called “rednecks” and “crackers” before they ever got on the boats to cross the Atlantic was a culture that produced far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as far higher levels of violence and sexual promiscuity. That culture had its own way of talking, not only in the pronunciation of particular words but also in a loud, dramatic style of oratory with vivid imagery, repetitive phrases and repetitive cadences.
Although that style originated on the other side of the Atlantic in centuries past, it became for generations the style of both religious oratory and political oratory among Southern whites and among Southern blacks–not only in the South but in the Northern ghettos in which Southern blacks settled. It was a style used by Southern white politicians in the era of Jim Crow and later by black civil rights leaders fighting Jim Crow. Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was a classic example of that style.
While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did. Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture.
Nevertheless the process took a long time. As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Again, neither race nor racism can explain that–and neither can slavery.
The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today’s ghettos is regarded by many as the only “authentic” black culture–and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.
The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.
Update: Thomas Sowell has more.
“An elite university is like a kibbutz hooked up to an ATM. It is the closest thing we may ever find to a socialist enterprise that endures. The key element of the kibbutz–that the workers collectively decide on the activities of the entity–is hardwired into the university via faculty governance. (The departure from the ideal–that some workers are “more equal” than others–is also evident, in that it is faculty, not employee, governance.) The notion that this is a sensible way to organize one’s professional life is bound to resonate more with people who have a soft spot for socialist, utopian ideals. In my opinion, that you find more liberals than conservatives in the modern elite university is largely (though not exclusively) a reflection of liberals rather than conservatives feeling at home in such an environment”. —Andrew Samwick, Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, giving his reasons why there are more liberals than conservatives in academia
This question isn’t asked enough. Here is my take on workers’ unions.
Leaving the economic jargon aside for the moment, my dad (and uncle) happens to work for one of the biggest unions in the country. He is a mechanic that works off the port of Long Beach, California, and has been in the union for more than twenty years. He and my uncle are the hardest workers I know, and they both happen to dislike the unions. My dad ran into problems with the union when upper management recognized all his hard work and wanted to offer him the opportunity for more training. The training would increase his pay by a significant amount – a matter of great importance for someone who is the sole provider to a family of five. The problem was that the union wouldn’t allow it. They said that if the company was going to do that for him, then they would first have to do it for everybody else who has more seniority than my dad. So after a few months of arguing, my dad decided to leave the union. This was a very big thing back then because everybody was part of the union. But my dad struck a deal with the company where he would only work off site, not on the port, thereby not technically violating union rules (union rules stipulate that every non-manager worker on the port be a union member). Since my dad had so many years with the company and was really liked by all of the workers, this caused a huge ripple throughout the union.
To make a long story short, the company ended up paying for my dad’s training and he was able to get the promotion he wanted. But a few years later, he lost the lower half of his leg in an accident at one of the junk yards he was working at. After the settlement (which, my dad says, was bigger than it would have been had he still been in the union), he went back to work, but was not able to work off the port anymore since the driving would be too hard on him. He had to rejoin the union in order to comply with union rules, but he still stands firm that if you are a hard worker, you don’t need the union to protect you.
My dad is in his mid-fifties, a minority, continues to have a difficult time speaking English and works in a somewhat dangerous work environment, all factors that should increase his need for a union. Yet he still tells me that it is primarily lazy people that benefit from unions and that the hard workers are given less opportunity to grow because seniority rules protect those who have been there longer. In short, you don’t really need a union to protect you if you are a hard worker because the company has an incentive to keep you and please you.
Now, I’m not saying that unions don’t come in handy sometimes, there certainly are instances where unions stand up for the little guy. But I would be willing to bet that most of those cases could have been handled by other means. For example, if your complaint is about basic safety environments, those can be handled through legislation. If your complaint is about child labor, that too could be handled by legislation. In other words, the true benefit of the union is becoming less and less prominent, while the negatives are still very much there. Some of those very real negatives are things like how unions reduce the competitive edge of companies to compete with others (just look at the Wal-Mart versus Ralphs debates). They also force companies to artificially raise prices on goods (an act that primarily hurts poor people), they increase unemployment (another act that hurts the poor), they push down wages in other fields (yet again, bad for the poor), they create incentives for companies to go overseas, and increase the barriers for new businesses to come in and compete (which limits competition thereby helping keep prices of goods high, again, primarily hurting the poor), all in all, it becomes less and less economically prudent to have unions.
That is not to say that unions have absolutely no purpose at all. I would find my support for unions rising in areas that serve an inherently dangerous work environment for workers. Unions are notorious for raising the cost of labor so much that it pushes companies to invest in machinery to do the same thing. For example, my dad was telling me that a few job openings (I think it was around 500) had opened up for longshoremen, and my dad says that they received more than 500,000 applications. Why so many? The reason is simple, the unions have forced the companies to pay these longshoremen so much over the market price that they were essentially creating a surplus of people who wanted the job (It’s interesting that liberals are often the champions of income equality, but when it comes to unions they turn a blind eye – union wages benefit the few select people that work in unions at the expense of the overwhelming amount of people that don’t – a perfect case of severe income inequality). When you push wages above their market levels, you give companies extra incentives to find other ways to accomplish the same thing (think of the coal mining industry and its decline). In areas where it is inherently life threatening to work, this is a good thing. Therefore, unions serve a good purpose in getting us closer to that than would be the case had unions not been involved.
I’d like to end with just a little bit of economic talk. The great economist of the twentieth century, Milton Friedman, explained it this way in his book on economics, Capitalism And Freedom,
“If unions raise wage rates in a particular occupation or industry, they necessarily make the amount of employment available in that occupation or industry less than it otherwise would be — just as any higher price cuts down the amount purchased. The effect is an increased number of persons seeking other jobs, which forces down wages in other occupations. Since unions have generally been strongest among groups that would have been high-paid anyway, their effect has been to make high-paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers. Unions have therefore not only harmed the public at large and workers as a whole by distorting the use of labor; they have also made the incomes of the working class more unequal by reducing the opportunities available to the most disadvantaged workers”. — Milton Friedman in “Capitalism And Freedom“
“I like to think of myself as a compassionate, caring-sharing type of person, but my use of purple pens has nothing to do with useless mamby-pampyisms about feel-good pedagogy.” –John Palmer, economics professor at The University of Western Ontario, writing in his blog
Margaret Talbot, writing in the New American Foundation, gives a (long) great overview of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, my favorite Supreme Court Justice.
…he revels in intellectual combat. Every year, he hires at least one liberal clerk, to give him somebody to spar with. Sister Helen Prejean, the anti-death-penalty crusader, recalls in her recent book, “The Death of Innocents,” that she once approached Scalia in the New Orleans airport to say that she was planning to attack his views in print. “I’ll be coming right back at you,” he said, jabbing his fist in the air.
…He began by explaining that, as a jurist, he is an “originalist”-or, as he put it, in his habitual tone of pugnacious beleaguerment, one of “a small hearty minority who believe in a philosophy called originalism.” This cohort was so small, he said, that you could “fire a cannon loaded with grapeshot in the faculty of any major law school”-an experiment that Scalia might enjoy trying-“and not hit an originalist.”
Originalists, he went on, feel that judges should adhere to the precise words of the Constitution, and believe that the meaning of those words was locked into place at the time they were written. Scalia likes to say that a Constitution is about “rigidifying things,” whereas elections introduce flexibility into the system.
…Scalia said, “People ask me, ‘When did you first become an originalist?,’ like they’re saying, ‘When did you first start eating human flesh?’ ” But originalism used to be orthodoxy, he said. Only in recent times, he added, have judges become enamored of an approach based on-“Oh, how I hate the phrase!”-a “living Constitution.” Scalia uttered these last words with exaggerated disdain, as if he were holding up some particularly noxious leftovers extracted from the back of the fridge.
…You think there’s a right to suicide? Do it the way the people of Oregon did it and pass a law! Don’t come to the Supreme Court!”; “In 1791, the death penalty was a punishment for a felony. It was the only punishment for a felony! It was the definition of a felony! . . . It was legal for two hundred years and nobody thought it was unconstitutional!”
Scalia has a narrow view of what judges ought to be trusted to do; since he fervently insists on these limitations, the effect is one of bellicose humility. “If the Constitution is an empty bottle into which we pour whatever values-the evolving standards of decency of a maturing society-why in the world would you let it be filled by judges? I don’t know what the standards of decency are out there. I’m afraid to inquire!” Scalia got a big laugh. “Why you would want to leave these enormously important social questions to nine lawyers with no constraints, I cannot fathom.”
Scalia tends to lampoon his enemies. A ” ‘living-Constitution’ judge,” he explained, is a “happy fellow who comes home at night to his wife and says, ‘The Constitution means exactly what I think it ought to mean!’ ” By contrast, Scalia said, he was sometimes forced by the rigors of originalist methodology to make decisions that lead to consequences he finds repugnant. He noted that in 1989 he voted to strike down the conviction of a man who had burned the American flag, on the ground that the First Amendment protected such symbolic acts. “Scalia did not like to vote that way,” he said, slipping into the third person, as he often does during comic riffs. “He does not like sandal-wearing bearded weirdos who go around burning flags. He is a very conservative fellow.” Although originalists are not supposed to care about the outcome, an originalist’s wife, evidently, might sometimes consider this a crock. Scalia went on, “I came down to breakfast the next morning, and my wife-she’s a very conservative woman-she was scrambling eggs and humming ‘It’s a Grand Old Flag.’ That’s a true story. I don’t need that! A living-Constitution judge never has to suffer that way.”
She also gives some interesting personal information about Scalia:
Scalia was born in 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey, and was reared, first in Trenton and then in Elmhurst, Queens, in a household that was Catholic, patriotic, and intellectual. Scalia’s father, Eugene Scalia, immigrated from Sicily as a teen-ager. He earned a Ph.D. at Columbia and became a literary translator and a professor of Romance languages at Brooklyn College. Scalia’s mother, Catherine Panaro Scalia, the daughter of Italian immigrants, was an elementary-school teacher. Antonin was their only child.
Last May, at a speech before the National Italian American Federation, in Boston, Justice Scalia said, “My father was a much more scholarly and intellectual person than I am. He always had a book in front of his face.” Professor Scalia was a stickler for grammar who reminded his son “to use the subjunctive” when he wrote his opinions for the United States Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit. (Both of Scalia’s parents died about six months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court, in 1986.) “Even on his deathbed, he was still reciting ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,’ ” Eugene Scalia’s sister-in-law told the Washington Post. In his Boston speech, Scalia recalled his father teaching him that “all Americans would love their country more if they had lived abroad for a while.”
Despite his own devotion to scholarship, Eugene Scalia told his son that neither education nor intellect was the most important thing in life. “Brains are like muscles-you can hire them by the hour,” he would say. “The only thing that’s not for sale is character.” During his speech to the Italian American Federation, Scalia, who has nine children, said that one thing he “regretted about his own success” was that his children hadn’t had the experience of “having relatives who were not great minds.” He recalled a Sicilian-born uncle who had pressed clothes for a living; he was “a decent, lovely man, the salt of the earth,” who taught him that “you don’t have to be successful, you don’t have to have a lot of money to be good.” In speeches, Scalia urges fellow-Catholics to “have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity,” as he told a meeting of the Knights of Columbus in January. That meeting was at a Holiday Inn in Baton Rouge (an unusual venue for a Justice). “Be fools for Christ,” he told the crowd. “Have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.” Scalia considers himself an interloper in the sophisticated world-a blunt-spoken, rules-are-rules jurist and traditional Catholic in a secular world made wobbly by moral relativism.
…Scalia attends St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls, Virginia, one of the few Catholic churches in the Washington area where, contrary to Vatican II reforms, a Latin Mass is held on Sunday. He has four daughters and five sons, including Eugene, the Solicitor of Labor in the Bush Administration; Matthew, who served as an infantry captain in Iraq; and Paul, a priest with the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, whom the newsletter Priests for Life recently described as “young, fervent, energetic, brilliant, and orthodox.” Father Paul Scalia has counselled, in response to a questioner on a Web site for Catholic mothers, that it would never “be acceptable to attend the wedding of a Catholic attempting to marry outside the Church.” He has written for pro-life publications and has condemned “contemporary” liturgical music that aspires to relevance. Justice Scalia recently joked with a visitor, “One priest in the family makes up for two lawyers.”
Update: Right Reason has more.
Update: More on Scalia.
“Liberal Democrats, who now extol the filibuster to protect minorities, were in the forefront advocating strict majority rule through most of my nearly 48 years as a reporter covering Congress. As recently as 2000, architects of the filibuster strategy to block President Bush’s judicial nominees — with Democrat Bill Clinton still in the White House — were demanding straight up-or-down votes on judges”. — Robert Novak
David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, writes:
Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.
When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that’s always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn’t have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.
Instead, Blackmun and his concurring colleagues invented a right to abortion, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.
Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.
Unable to lobby for their pro-life or pro-choice views in normal ways, abortion activists focused their attention on judicial nominations. Dozens of groups on the right and left have been created to destroy nominees who might oppose their side of the fight. But abortion is never the explicit subject of these confirmation battles. Instead, the groups try to find some other pretext to destroy their foes.
Each nomination battle is more vicious than the last as the methodologies of personal destruction are perfected. You get a tit-for-tat escalation as each side points to the other’s outrages to justify its own methods.
At first the Senate Judiciary Committee was chiefly infected by this way of doing business, but now the entire body – in fact, the entire capital – has caught the abortion fight fever.
Every few years another civilizing custom is breached. Over the past four years Democrats have resorted to the filibuster again and again to prevent votes on judicial nominees they oppose. Up until now, minorities have generally not used the filibuster to defeat nominees that have majority support. They have allowed nominees to have an up or down vote. But this tradition has been washed away.
The full article can be read here.
Aside from sheltering universities from failure and increasing the overall cost of education, subsidies have another negative side effect.
A new paper claims:
This paper uses a game-theoretic model to analyze the disincentive effects of low-tuition policies on student effort. The model of parent and student responses to tuition subsidies is then calibrated using information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the High School and Beyond Sophomore Cohort: 1980-92. I find that although subsidizing tuition increases enrollment rates, it reduces student effort. This follows from the fact that a high-subsidy, low-tuition policy causes an increase in the percentage of less able and less highly motivated college graduates. Additionally—and potentially more important—all students, even the more highly motivated ones, respond to lower tuition levels by decreasing their effort levels. This study adds to the literature on the enrollment effects of low-tuition policies by demonstrating how high-subsidy, low-tuition policies have both disincentive effects on students’ study time and adverse effects on human capital accumulation.
More can be found here.
HatTip: Division of Labor.
“Academic life is infected with it: people who want to believe they are far more consequential than they really are. So you get Ph.D.s who like to call themselves Doctor. Professors who pretend to be revolutionaries because sitting around writing and giving lectures that students sleep through seems so pointless. Intellectual non-entities who become professors by bureaucratic hustling and then come to actually believe they are serious academics. Serious academics who spent their lives getting praise, and end up with a sense of entitlement even bigger than their egos”. —Bill Sjostrom, giving us his views on academia
My good friend Tavares Forby, also known as BlackPundit, was sent to India for work related activities. He has decided to update his website with information about his trip, along with photos. I encourage you to take a look, some of the pictures are really interesting.
“With his [Pope John Paul II] 1991 encyclical on democratic freedom and economics, Centesimus Annus, he issued what is by any objective measure the most pro-Western–pro-American, for that matter–document ever to come from Rome. And then, with the denunciations of the “culture of death” in the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, he issued Rome’s most anti-Western and anti-American document. It looks like an impossible combination, until we remember that between them came the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor–“The Splendor of Truth,” joined with Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae as the three-part message that formed the central theological achievement of his pontificate. The unity of truth–the only sustainable ground for a healthy society–is what lets us grasp both the rightness of democracy and the murderousness of abortion”. —Joseph Bottum, writing in the Weekly Standard
“In the end, the path out of the Cold War was neither Henry Kissinger’s hard realpolitik nor Jimmy Carter’s soft détente. It was instead John Paul II’s insistence that communism could not survive among a people who had heard–and learned to speak–the truth about human beings’ freedom, dignity, and absolute moral worth.
Think of the number of regimes based on lies that gave way without violent revolution during his pontificate. The flowering of democracy was unprecedented, and he seemed always to be present as it bloomed. There was Brazil, where the ruling colonels allowed the free elections that replaced them. There was the Philippines, where Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos fled from marchers in the street. There were Nicaragua, and Chile, and Paraguay, and Mexico. And looming over them all was the impending disintegration of the Soviet empire in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Latvia–on and on, people after people who learned from the pope a new possibility for history, born from an ability to hear and speak the truth about the regimes under which they lived”. —Joseph Bottum, writing in the Weekly Standard