Demographics & Economics
Congressional Budget Office
The Federal Budget
U.S. Census Quickfacts
CIA World Factbook
State Healthcare Facts
UN HDR stats
US Bureau of Economic Analysis
US Bureau of Labor Statistics
US CDC health stats
US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics
US DOJ crime stats
ADA (liberal) Voting Records
ACU (conservative) Voting Records
Census Voter Turnout
Congressional Research Service
NOW list of voting scorecards
Project VoteSmart list of voting scorecards
Roll call votes--House
Roll call votes--Senate
WaPo Votes Database
Brookings Institute Iraq Index
Project on Defense Alternatives War Report
Nat'l Defense Univ Iraq
Nat'l Defense Univ Afghanistan
MERLIN, Nat'l Defense Univ Library Network
Nat'l Memorial Inst for Prevention of Terrorism
West Point's Combating Terrorism Center
Blue Mass Group
Horse Race Blog
Just One Minute
Talking Points Memo
The Next Right
The Moderate Voice
Moderate / centrist
Liberal War Journal
The Buck Stops Here
The Glittering Eye
The Iconic Midwest
The Walrus Said
Archbp Dolan: Gospel in the Digital Age
Bp Chris Coyne: Let Us Walk Together
Simon Dodd: Motu Proprio
Fr Zuhlsdorf: WDTPRS
Fr Longenecker: Standing On My Head
Elizabeth Scalia: The Anchoress
Mirror of Justice
ADDED: I really should add a bit of context to this. Lou Dobbs' default position appears to be high dudgeon and demagoguery--and I think his baseless attack on The Secret World of Arrietty is exactly that, baseless, among other things. As far as The Lorax goes, as far the film having a environmentalist message, and the movie targeting children, he's not wrong. Not having a deep-seated opposition to environmentalism, this doesn't really bother me, but for certain self-appointed culture warriors, this is a big deal. Oh, well.
Besides, he shouldn't worry too much--they're kinda doing a half-assed job, anyway...
I saw that online earlier, quoted as a German proverb. I like G.K. Chesterton's comment on change and progress:
As enunciated today, 'progress' is simply a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative. We meet every ideal of religion, patriotism, beauty, or brute pleasure with the alternative ideal of progress—that is to say, we meet every proposal of getting something that we know about with an alternative proposal of getting a great deal more of nobody knows what. Progress, properly understood, has … a most dignified and legitimate meaning. But as used in opposition to precise moral ideals, it is ludicrous. So far from it being the truth that the ideal of progress is to be set against that of ethical or religious finality, the reverse is the truth. Nobody has any business to use the word 'progress' unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say that nobody can be progressive without being infallible—at any rate, without believing in some infallibility. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word 'progress' than we.
In the Catholic twelfth century, in the philosophic eighteenth century, the direction may have been a good or a bad one, men may have differed more or less about how far they went, and in what direction, but about the direction they did in the main agree, and consequently they had the genuine sensation of progress. But it is precisely about the direction that we disagree. Whether the future excellence lies in more law or less law, in more liberty or less liberty; whether property will be finally concentrated or finally cut up; whether sexual passion will reach its sanest in an almost virgin intellectualism or in a full animal freedom; whether we should love everybody with Tolstoy, or spare nobody with Nietzsche;—these are the things about which we are actually fighting most. It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this 'progressive' age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what is progress are the most 'progressive' people in it. The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress, might be trusted perhaps to progress. The particular individuals who talk about progress would certainly fly to the four winds of heaven when the pistol-shot started the race. I do not, therefore, say that the word 'progress' is unmeaning; I say it is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine, and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who hold that doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word, but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us. It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be used by rigid believers and in the ages of faith.
(Heretics, Ch. 2, 1905.) By definition, aimless change isn't progress, because progress is always going somewhere; where and why ought to be threshold questions at each step. And while progress doesn't necessarily mean change within tradition—one may change destinations in midair—it is best when it is. In this sense, I suppose one could say that I'm not for progress at all, but rather, to the extent they are distinct in this sense, growth, which is to say that I prefer gradual organic development in continuity with tradition rather than "progress," the latter being most often a forced march toward artificial goals conjured up by men who fancy themselves clear-sighted and clever.
We haven't had one for a while, so let's. What's happening?
For musical accompaniment, check out a new band I've been enjoying this week, Metropol.
Kagan shouldn't recuse herself (neither should Justice Thomas, by the way) and there's really no need to explain it. The prevailing understanding of recusal is needlessly histrionic; generally-speaking, I think that judges should recuse themselves when, and not unless, they have a direct personal stake in the outcome (stocks, etc.) or a personal involvement with a private litigant (the defendant is a family member; the plaintiff killed their dog). The idea that judges should recuse themselves because they might have preexisting opinions about the legal issues in the case at bar is, in a word, fatuous. Writing for the court in Minnesota GOP v. White, Justice Scalia correctly said that
it is virtually impossible to find a judge who does not have preconceptions about the law. As then-Justice Rehnquist observed of our own Court: "Since most Justices come to this bench no earlier than their middle years, it would be unusual if they had not by that time formulated at least some tentative notions that would influence them in their interpretation of the sweeping clauses of the Constitution and their interaction with one another. It would be not merely unusual, but extraordinary, if they had not at least given opinions as to constitutional issues in their previous legal careers." Indeed, even if it were possible to select judges who did not have preconceived views on legal issues, it would hardly be desirable to do so. "Proof that a Justice’s mind at the time he joined the Court was a complete tabula rasa in the area of constitutional adjudication would be evidence of lack of qualification, not lack of bias."
(Citations deleted.) If anyone believes that there is a single member of the court who doesn't have reasonably well-formed ideas about the Constitutional issues at issue in these cases, and at least tentative views about the application of those principles to these cases, they're living on another planet. And so what? Nobody in their right mind believes that Justices Scalia and Ginsburg must recuse from the next abortion case down the pike simply because they have strong moral views on abortion and settled legal views on the constitutionality of abortion, so what basis is there for demanding that Kagan recuse for potentially having views that are certainly no more settled and more than likely considerably less so?
The only conceivable basis is to argue that Kagan does have a direct stake insofar as she helped create the defense that she is now called to adjudicate. (For precisely that reason, Kagan has recused in a number of cases.) But did she? An email expressing excitement that the bill might pass is hardly a smoking gun, and I see little reason to believe that we're likely to find one. Here's why: The Senate consented to Justice Kagan's appointment on August 5th, 2010; the district court ruling striking down PaPACA, Florida v. DHHS, was argued in December 2010 and handed down in January 2011; the 11th circuit affirmed in August 2011. How could Kagan participate in briefing, arguing, or strategizing in litigation that took place months after she joined the court? It is conceivable that in the spring of 2010, Kagan might have participated in general strategy meetings about potential issues that might be raised in potential litigation, but that just brings us back to the general legal views trap. I see little reason to believe that she participated in the earliest stages of the earliest actual litigation filed, and by the time that one would expect the SG's office to be involved in those cases, Kagan had joined the bench.
The calls for Kagan to recuse have nothing to do with judicial integrity, any more than do the left's recurrent calls for Scalia and Thomas to recuse from various cases. (I recall one article in which a professor seriously argued that five justices should have recused in Bush v. Gore, and what do you know, they just happened to be the five who voted for what the professor thought was the wrong result! Fancy that!) This is about stacking the deck. The left wants Thomas out to eliminate a vote against Obamacare and the right wants Kagan out to eliminate a vote for it. The court should decline the invitation to dignify such naked partisanship by responding any more than it already has.
It's hard to overstate just how completely the folks running Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure have managed to screw a charity that does such important work.
Earlier this week, Komen alienated a huge swath of pro-choicers by announcing that it would cut off funding for abortion industry mothership Planned Parenthood. Now, I'll go out on a limb here and say that those people are gone. They aren't coming back. Komen has, in their view, betrayed their trust and they will henceforth give money directly to Planned Parenthood; they will not be mollified by some kind of humiliating climbdown by Komen.
But the math was pretty clear to me: If you're trying to do work in an area that doesn't divide people, it makes no sense to hook up with an intensely divisive organization that instantly alienates about half your audience without commensurate benefit. Unsurprisingly, and mirroring the outrage on that side, there was something approaching delight elsewhere. Komen does important work, and their association with PP has long precluded support support from Catholics and other pro-lifers; what support there was came by-and-large from those who just didn't know about the association. In the wake of the news, just as outraged pro-choicers were announcing their intention to take their money and walk away from Komen, Komen's donations went through the roof.
So things stood this morning. Around lunchtime, however, Komen made a humiliating and foolish volte-face, announcing that they will keep supporting PP after all.
It's quite incredible that a group that does such important work could be run by such a bunch of boneheads. In the space of a week, they've alienated everyone. As I've said, getting in bed with an intensely divisive organization like PP only hurts the cause for which Komen works, and yet they've just antagonized people on both sides of that divide. The folks who sided with PP are gone, and quite sensibly won't return because Komen has lost their trust; now Komen has lost the trust of the people who were elated by the move, and we won't return either. Earlier in the week, Komen set itself up to thrive; today it's jumped off a cliff.
And it doesn't end there. Here's a comment that someone left on the Central Indiana Komen facebook page, one that ideally captures the other problem: "This is so wrong. I did not know [Komen] gave to Planned Parent hood and now that i do they will not get a dime from me and I am sure their are millions who did not know this." So, great job, Komen: You've not only lost the pro-choice folks, but in doing so, you've also managed to advertise that you support PP, further constricting your pro-life support base.
So apparently incompetent has been Komen's performance that one almost wonders if this is a deliberate attempt to fly the plane into a cliff—but there are surely easier ways to wind up a charity. (The people who hired Komen's managers should look up "fiduciary duty" and call their lawyers.) You can't please all the people all the time, but it's a foolish strategy indeed to alienate everyone at once. There's no way back from this; Komen is dead.
Yeah. As always, I give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt with regards to intent, but I've increasingly come to feel that the Administration stepped wrong with this provision, and has created quite the mess, on moral, policy and political grounds. I'll say again--it's not just bad politics, it's morally troubling.
ADDED: I've been thinking this over a great deal, and I really should clarify a few things. I do not feel that the Obama administration has some deep desire to crush religious liberty, or dismantle Catholic hospitals and charities. I understand that it is a tough call in dealing with providing access to contraception-keep in mind that this measure does not force people to buy contraceptives. I agree with others that this probably was a genuine policy judgment, and the Administration misjudged the politics. The thing is, I still find the prospect of forcing religious organizations to pay for things that violate their consciences morally problematic, and I hope the year grace period will be used to straighten this out, as I don't see how this stands as is.
The case of which Perry v. Perez—decided this morning—most reminds me is Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood. Although they deal with different issues, the common thread is a particular kind of judicial minimalism. In the context of an abortion law, Ayotte cautioned courts to strike down only those parts that were problematic, leaving as much as possible of the legislature's work intact; in the context of a redistricting challenge, Perry cautions district courts that if they must draw new districts, they should take as much guidance as possible from the legislature's plans; both expect courts to walk softly and tailor carefully, "limit[ing] the solution to the problem" as Ayotte puts it.
Perry is very short and worth reading, but I'll excerpt what strikes me as the key part:
To avoid being compelled to make such otherwise standardless decisions, a district court should take guidance from the State’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. That plan reflects the State’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth. This Court has observed before that “faced with the necessity of drawing district lines by judicial order, a court, as a general rule, should be guided by the legislative policies underlying” a state plan—even one that was itself unenforceable—“to the extent those policies do not lead to violations of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.” …
Section 5 prevents a state plan from being implemented if it has not been precleared. But that does not mean that the plan is of no account or that the policy judgments it reflects can be disregarded by a district court drawing an interim plan. On the contrary, the state plan serves as a starting point for the district court. It provides important guidance that helps ensure that the district court appropriately confines itself to drawing interim maps that comply with the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, without displacing legitimate state policy judgments with the court’s own preferences.
A district court making such use of a State’s plan must, of course, take care not to incorporate into the interim plan any legal defects in the state plan.
I am no way a Romney fan, and can be pretty much counted on to support President Obama's reelection this fall, but I feel the need to agree with others that the attack on Romney for this is unfair, and a losing strategy. Even in the clip, the context is clear that Romney was making a point about appreciating the ability to fire bad employees, in the interest of efficiency. Do I agree with Romney's overall economic policy argument? No, but this sort of gotcha just seems unfair, and misses the real targets, I think. Not to mention, for the likes of Newt Gingrich to attack Romney in this vein reeks of pure hypocrisy and desperation--you can attack Romney for firing people at Bain Capital, and you can promote Lean Six Sigma principles for the federal government, but you can't do both.
The following was sent as a letter to the editor for our local paper. This is a footnoted, annotated version, since I can digress here without a word limit.
Last week, President Obama claimed the power to make recess appointments even though the Senate is not in recess.1 He can do this, he argues, because he has determined that the Senate's session is a sham—that it's effectively in recess even though it's formally in session. While there’s a long-running debate over how long the Senate must be out before the President’s recess appointment power kicks in, no one has ever doubted that the clock must have begun ticking at some point with the beginning of a recess, so this is something new.
The fundamental question is: Who gets to decide when the Senate is in recess?2 While the obvious answer would be that Congress does, President Obama says that he will decide. We should consider the implications for checks and balances.
The Constitution's ordinary appointment process reflects two judgments: That the Presidency is the best place to lodge the appointment power, yet this authority must be constrained, as Hamilton explains in Federalist 76. Thus, in this ordinary process, a President cannot unilaterally make appointments over the objections of the Senate. Balance checks power.
The Constitution also supplies an extraordinary appointment process,3 which (to oversimplify slightly) allows the President to make "temporary" appointments while the Senate is recessed.4 But this authority, too, is hedged. Congress can forestall recess appointments simply by not recessing, by remaining in session.5 Thus, even in this extraordinary process, we might say that a President cannot make truly unilateral appointments over the objections of the Senate. Balance again checks power.
By contrast, the power asserted by the President last week is balanced against nothing; it is checked by nothing.
Some Democrats have cheered the President for "showing some spine," but they have not thought through the implications of the radical principle underlying his appointments. The President’s fundamental assertion is not that the Senate session is a sham; that's derivative. His fundamental (if tacit) assertion that he gets to make that call. It is that the President has unilateral authority to say when his appointment power is unilateral rather than being checked by any other Constitutional actor. That theory should raise your eyebrows; if the President can determine that Congress is not in session today, nothing intrinsic to the theory prevents him from determining that Congress is not in session at any other time.6 Would the Democrats who have cheered for these appointments out of immediate political convenience feel happy waking up in a few years to the news that, overnight, President [insert whatever name scares you most] determined that the Senate was in recess and handed out recess appointments for every vacancy in the administration?
Perhaps that hypothetical sounds absurd. It is—or should be. But the authority claimed by the President opens the door to that result, and when a principle leads to absurd results, we should look at it with skepticism. When it also suggests that a system designed to check every power with balance nevertheless affords unilateral authority, we should look even more closely.7
Candidly: Is your life likely to be materially affected if the Senate's check on Presidential appointments withers? No.8 But anyone who cares about our Constitution (and certainly anyone whose blood pressure rose when executive power was mentioned during the Bush administration) should be alarmed, because this is a radical assertion of power, one that is at war with the Constitution's system of checks and balances and likely to be abused.
I say this as a die-hard, full-throated Ravens fan, who expects the Ravens go all the way. Now, full disclosure: A Steelers loss is always a good thing to watch, and if the Tebow magic continues into New England next week, the Ravens get a AFC Championship home game. The thing is, I'm a Tebow fan. I really am. Full of potential, and a genuinely decent human being.
Noting the shift in the definition of rape, Patterico says:
I have seen statistics that show more men are raped in this country every year than women, and while I am unsure of their accuracy, the fact is that rape of men is common — in prison. Long-time readers of the site know that I do not consider prison rape funny. Not only is it not part of the prescribed punishment, but the victims are likely to be weaker and less violent people — meaning that even if you did subscribe to a vigilante justice ethic, you’d still be letting the most violent get their jollies at the expense of the least violent.
I agree; more about that in this post from 2007.
N.b.! The following is not a complete post. It contains the opening parts of the first draft of a post that I was writing in January 2009; it never came close to being finished, and the moment for it passed. It's languished for years in the drafts pile. What's more, I do not now either endorse or repudiate the argument that I was seeking to make, which you can see in outline (the more skeletal parts never made it off the blotter, so there's some holes and the end is completely missing).
So why publish now, almost three years later, and why in this state? Well, a lot of research went into it, and I think there's some valuable material in here that pertains generally to impeachment. Over the last couple of years, I've strip-mined this draft for its research time and again when impeachment issues have come up. For that reason, and since impeachment may become a hot topic again in the coming weeks, I thought that I'd share it "as is."
The limits of the impeachment power
"a hundred-ton gun which needs complex machinery to bring into position, an enormous charge to fire it, and a large mark to aim at." - Lord Bryce, on impeachment.1
Via Prof. Jacobson, I see that Bruce Ackerman is arguing that Judge Bybee should be impeached because of advice he gave while serving at OLC prior to his nomination to the bench. If the Senate had known about that advice, Ackerman charges, it would never have confirmed his appointment to the Ninth Circuit, and impeachment is warranted because it would “focus on a very particular problem: Jay Bybee may serve for decades on one of the highest courts in the land. Is his continued service consistent with his role in the systematic perpetration of war crimes?”
That may be a good question, but I want to suggest it was a passenger on a ship that has vanished over the horizon, one that cannot now be called back through impeachment. Assuming that Bybee could be impeached for his conduct at OLC, and assuming that Congress can impeach an officer even after their resignation (historically a hotly contested point), Bybee could be impeached and barred from future appointments, but could not be be removed from his present office on the basis of impeachment qua an OLC officer or impeached qua a judge for his conduct at OLC. Text, history, and practice are all strongly suggestive of this conclusion.
In evaluating the validity of such an appointment, we begin with a familiar principle: The President's recess appointment power extends only to "vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate,"1 which encompasses only vacancies that happen to arise during the recess of the Senate, not all those which may exist. See SF: The limits of the recess appointment power (April 26, 2010). Thus, the threshold inquiry when evaluating a recess appointment's validity is to determine the date on which the vacancy arose and whether the Senate was in recess at the time.
The office to which the President seeks to appoint Cordray came into being at the same time as the bureau that it directs, July 21, 2010,2 and no nominee has ever been confirmed to the directorship. Thus the vacancy can only have arisen on July 21, 2010, and the Senate was in session on that day.3 For that reason, the office is not susceptible to a recess appointment.
It isn't yet clear when the President wants to make this move, but the timing of the announcement suggests that he intends to make it today. That would make the appointment doubly invalid, because even under the broader interpretation that allows Presidents to make appointments to vacancies that merely exist during a Senate recess, the Senate must actually be in recess, and the Senate is not in recess today. It last convened yesterday, and presently stands adjourned—not recessed—until Friday morning. Thus, even if the vacancy the President aspires to fill was eligible for a recess appointment as a general matter, there is not presently a recess in which he may act.
For the foregoing reasons, a recess appointment of Richard Cordray would be ultra vires.
This isn't supported by any rule of usage, it's just personal aesthetic taste, but I suggest that the recent trend by anti-latin types towards forcing round latin loanwords into awkwardly square English pluralizations—rather than simply using the latin pluralization—produces ugly words. This is especially true of formerly second declension neuter nouns. It's media, quanta, stadia, memoranda, addenda, aquaria, etc., not mediums, quantums, stadiums, memorandums, addendums, aquariums, etc. It is referenda not referendums, fora not forums, gymnasia not gymnasiums, maxima and minima not maximums and minimums, dicta not dictums... Although I confess that I balk at the thought of listing the alba in my CD collection!
* The accepted approach until recent decades, and still the accepted approach with appropriations from languages like french: "SolicitorS-general"!
I have customarily done an end-of-year roundup of my posts, but with the reduced posting (see this) I had expected to have a tough time scraping one together this year. But there's still been a reasonable number of posts, and some—more than last year, it turns out—are worth a second glance, I think:
March: The stages of an idea | Emptying the holy water fonts | In defense of President Obama's (eventual) military action in Libya | Walmart and Title VII | Religious tolerance and state interests | Neutral principles and criticisms of Justices Marshall and Thomas | The limits of the Wisconsin contempt power
July: The Church in Ireland
December: The trade
Here and at FB I tend to post music that I'm listening to; some of this year's gems (new to me, that is—either in the sense of a band/composer I didn't know, or a new performance of an old friend): Adele, Art of Noise, Franz Biebl, Black Mountain, Nikolaus Bruhns, Marian Call, Richard Cheese, Gary Clark Jr., Sebastien Cloutier, Golden Earing, Equalibrum, Lara Fabian, Sarah Fimm, David Gilmour and Rick Wright, Ellie Goulding, Edvard Grieg, Greg Howe, Hurricane Love, Miranda Lambert, Orlando di Lasso, Jess Lewis, M83, Michael Manring, Bruno Mars, Mazzy Star, Glen Morrison, Nightwish, Giovanni Palestrina, Liz Phair, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Stevie Nicks, Sun Kil Moon especially Heron Blue and Carry Me Ohio, T-Square, Tower of Power, and Hans Zimmer. If you're looking for something to listen to, you could do much worse than starting here.
Well, 2012 beckons. Don't panic:
A happy new year and a blessed 2012 to all our readers!
To some folks' consternation, the "ban" on incandescent lightbulbs goes into effect in a few hours. Imagine a government policy which discourages and thereby disrupts the supply of a particular commodity: Is the policy analogous to a ban?
As I understand it, the "incandescent lightbulb ban" obliges manufacturers of lightbulbs (of any kind) to meet certain prerequisites ("efficiency"). Because it wouldn't be economical for manufacturers to produce compliant incandescent bulbs, the manufacturers in practice simply shut down production and make compliant bulbs of other kinds. The "ban" is thus mediated by private entrepeneurial choice: The regulation doesn't ban incandescent bulbs, it just creates a regulatory framework in which the product becomes unavailable in the marketplace.
Now imagine that a state government imposes a regulation that medical facilities wishing to offer abortion must meet certain prerequisites ("health and safety," informed consent," etc.), and it would not be economical* for clinics to comply. The "ban" is thus mediated by private entrepeneurial choice: The regulation doesn't ban abortion, it just creates a regulatory framework in which the service becomes unavailable in the marketplace. Has the state banned abortion?
* Absent market distortions not present in the lightbulb debate—fanatical pro-abortion ideology could lead some outfits like PP to operate at a loss in some states.
Season's greetings to all readers!
and when the "Lie of the Year," isn't a lie at all, it's only PolitiFact's reputation that dies.
In case you weren't following this, PolitiFact has heaped upon itself disgrace, after picking the claim that the Ryan Plan would "end Medicare as we know it," as the Lie of the Year. The choice was met with criticism from both ends of the political spectrum--criticism which editor Bill Adair chose to effectively ignore, and meet with insipid, smug, pretentious nonsense:
This is life in our echo chamber nation. We protect ourselves from opinions we don't like and seek reinforcement from like-minded allies.
The paradox of the Internet age is that never before have we had access to more ideas and different thoughts. And yet, many of us retreat into comfy parlors where everyone agrees and the other side is always wrong. Each side can manufacture its truths and get the chorus to sing along.
No, Mr. Adair, the problem is not the partisan echo-chamber (the partisan echo-chamber is a problem, but not here), or the fact that Ryan tried to have his supporters rig the poll, or the fact that the poll was meaningless, or that people were offended. The problem is that the lie that was chosen, wasn't a lie. The so-called Path to Prosperity would in fact change Medicare as we know it. Maybe you think that's a good thing, but that is what Ryan's plan would do.
The fact that three other fact checkers got it wrong, doesn't make it right. Truth is truth. In PolitiFact's attempt to be nonpartisan, they have not only committed an act of rank partisanship, but wounded their credibility as a serious outfit--maybe mortally so.