Thursday, April 28, 2005

Weld' Without Direction?

"Just in terms of him flip-flopping around from place to place and job to job, Weld doesn't give me a real sense of focus," said Andrew J. Spano, the Westchester County executive, who spoke yesterday on behalf of Mr. Spitzer." - from the New York Times

Is that all? Senator Hillary Clinton moved from place to place and many people from job to job. So what? Would the county executive have said the same thing about former Senator Bob Kerrey? - legislator, unsuccessful presidential candidate now making his career in education. Until recently he himself allowed for speculation about a run for the governorship.

Let's just wait and see if he can offer the Republicans a positive altnerative to Eliott Spitzer.

Abortion and Parental Consent Laws

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 270-157 to ban anyone from knowingly transferring a minor across state boundaries to avoid laws requiring parental consent for an abortion. The president issued a statement supporting the House's decision and urging the senate to pass it and help him "build a culture of life in America." Majority Leader Bill Frist said he or another senator will bring up the senate version for a vote this summer.

"Pro-choice" advocates have little to gain by opposing this bill. While they may win higher turnout from their truly committed base, they risk offending the majority of Americans, be they "pro-choice" or "pro-life." The "pro-life" supporters obviously will reward those who consistenly vote for restrictions on abortion, but many who otherwise support abortion rights won't have any objections as well.

Most would side with the mother or father who wants to guide their children sex life in what they view to be the more fulfilling and safer path and will find the the opponents' efforts to weaken this legislation mind-boggling and troubling. They will question why the child's privacy with respect to abortion trumps that of any other medical procedure in which they act as their legally recognized guardians and view opposition to this consent requirement as an intrusion upon their family life. Democrats in swing states should think twice before voting against this bill.

Little in enforcement is provided for it and unfortunately, little can be done. The bill provides for an undetermined fine and/or a 1-year maximum prison sentence. Doctors are required to submit proof of the child's right to have an abortion by providing evidence of parental consent or that the girl qualifies for one of the reasonable and necessary exemptions listed in the bill. The would-be mother could not be legally punished and anyone who helps in transporting her could assert as an "affimative defense," their belief that the out-of-state abortion is legal provided they have facts suggesting that is the case. However, unless police were to inquire into the number of abortions performed in the hospital, and unless a parent was so enraged that he or she willingly testifed against a family member of friend helping the minor obtain an out-of-state abortion, I don't think many doctors or those transporting the child to the clinic would be caught.

The senate should nevertheless vote in the bill's favor. It does not mandate parental consent in every state, nor does it violate the constitutional right to an abortion created in Roe v. Wade and affirmed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. The minors are allowed to petition a court judge for an exemption should they fear their parents' wrath.

While the bill does little in its enforcement provisions, the law does provide an iimportant statement of support for parents who do wish to know about the serious medical procedures that may affect their children for years to come and bolsters support for state efforts to help parents raise their children.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Filibuster Update

The Weekly Standard has a report on the tenRepublican senators who might break party ranks and join Democrats in opposing the "nuclear option" proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Senator John McCain announced his oppositionto filibuster changes on "Hardball" a few weeks ago and a spokes person for Senator Lincoln Chafee said his senator adamantly opposes any change in the rules. This story from one of Maine's daily newspapers notes that its two Republican senators are leaning against it (Snowe more so than Collins). Senator Arlen Specter, who has sharply criticized Democrats for blocking up and down votes on the nominations, and even Senators Chuck Hagel and John Warner may oppose it as well.

I think the vote count is still too close to call. Senators John McCain and Lincoln Chafee no doubt are going to join with the Democrats and vote against it, and Senators Olympia Snowe and to a lesser extent, Senator Susan Collins, are leaning against the filibuster rule change as well. Score four for the Democrats. John Warner generally votes with the Republicans but according to the report he is not ready to jump on board. Senator Chuck Hagel has some doubts as well, but I suspect he will ultimately side with the administration and Senate leadership if he decides to vote against the Bolten nomination (the presidential prospect does not want to defy the leadership too much). Lisa Murkowski has an issue with timing. She doesn't want to see a delay in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so Frist can probably buy her support in his endeavor.
Score another one for the Republicans.

Senator Arlen Specter has pointedly criticized the Democrats for stalling Republican Circuit Court nominations but recent comments may cast some doubt on his willingness to join with his fellow Republicans in supporting the change in filibustering rules. Pennsylvani's senior senator may fear a revolt within the judicial committee should he fail to vote for the change.

Majority Whip Mitch McConnell says he has the votes for the change in filibustering techniques. That may be true but as the heated rhetoric dies down the conservatives will lose their momentum and grant liberals with the liberties they consistently fought for.

Trigger Happy

Florida Jeb Bush just signed into law a bill that allows for the use of deadly force even when they could have avoided harm by fleeing their suspected attackers. Florida permitted deadly force but only as as a last resort until Governor Bush signed onto the relaxation in restricitions.

While I support the National Rifle Organization in opposing most gun law restrictions, particulartly those that require a national registry and some right to carry laws, this new legislation in Florida goes too far.

This blogger does not seek to deny one his or her right to self-defense. Should a person driving through walking through an unfamiliar and almost empty run-down neighborhood in the middle of the night come across a group of strangers who approach him or her, the threat of force might be justified. With no one to run to and little deterring a would-be attacker, it would not be unreasonable for the threatened individual to get his or her gun ready just in case force is needed. Nor would I object to a law that relaxes restrictions on the use of force when someone breaks into one's private home since the homeowner might not be able to tell whether the intruder has a weapon or not.

Such activities in day light are generally unwarranted in heavily travelled and populated public areas in daylight. The threatened individual could open fire and miss his or her intended target and kill an innocent bystander when the confrontation could have been avoided by hiding in a building filled with people who could call the police or otherwise help. He or she could mistake the squeegie man walking toward his or her car to wash the windows for one who walks towards the car for illegitimate purposes. The threatened individual may fire on someone he or she mistakenly believes to be following him or her. The potential for error could not have been greater now with the distinctions between aggression and defense blurred.

This law should be revealed soon. Florida already provided for those who had no recourse but to fight for their self-defense without providing for the formation of the "shoot them first, answer questions later" culture.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Former Massachussetts Governor William F. Weld became the second high-profile former out-of-state politician to consider a run for in New York's next gubernatorial race within the last week. Former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey briefly entertained the idea last week before opting out but New York lacks some high profile candidates aside from Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Elliot Spitzer (a presumed favorite for the Democratic nomination) and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani (who unfortunately took himself out of the running at least for now, officially because he's too busy with his business practice to make the run).

Senator Clinton probably won't run if the governor enters the race again but should he remove himself from the race this would serve as a good stepping stone for her. Republicans who run against her in the presidential election will point to her lack of executive experience and her failure to win passage of her the very liberal (they would say, "socialist") bill.

One need not have a high-profile to succeed as Governor George Pataki aptly demonstrated when he unseated Governor Mario Cuomo when he was only a small town mayor at the time. The public, yearning for a change in governing style, warmed to his call for a change in how Albany was run, tax cuts, law and order, and reduced governental regulations. Albany has not changed and the enthusiasm has by now dampened.

Should Pataki run for yet another term he faces a tough opponent in Eliott Spitzer and he could win. The governor had enough time to reform New York but as time moved on he became one with the establishment.

Former Governor William Weld offers a viable altnerative for the Republicans. Like Pataki, Mr. Weld is the social moderate Republicans need in order to win in a state like New York. He supports abortion rights, and gay rights but like most Republicans he will promise tax cuts. He lost a competitive senate race to incumbent Senator John Kerry.

I am not affiliated with either party, but it would be nice if the moderate Republicans can win some high profile elections so that they could challenge the religious conservatives that are seeking control over the party. Imagine it. Governor William Weld vs. Governor Ralph Reed (face it, he'll win in Georgia unless the Democrats go Dixiecrat).

The Christian Filibuster

Senator Frist may have avoided any divisive language when he spoke to religious conservatives participating in the "Justice Sunday" telecast but in refusing to back out of this commitment the senate majority leader he legitimized a tactic that will only undermine the people's confidence in the judicial branch and the constitution it is sworn to protect.

The main participants in the event say those who support preserving the filibuster are doing so because they are prejudiced against "people of faith" but that is not true. Those who urge their senators to block the president's judicial nominees do so because they fear a power grab from those who would reinterpret the constitution in a way that legitimizes their plans to impose their religious beliefs on those who disagree with them.

One need only look at the statement issued by Focus on Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson in which he cited many instances in which his moral vision was not upheld - the right to die, the right to engage in non-marital sexual relationships within the privacy of one's home, the right to view pornographic material, and freedom from mandatory prayer.

No one is denying Mr. Dobston his reigious beliefs. He, as does everybody else who adheres to similar beliefs, has every right to write up for themselves a living will that specifically requires doctors to provide him life-sustaining treatments until he dies. Mr. Dobson was not forced to engage in the very homosexual acts he deplores nor is he forced to review pornographic material. No one is denying him the right to pray and, given his known participation in yesterday's telecast, no one has denied him the right to protest or use his faith to guide him in his political endeavors just as no student is denied the right to pray. Students make the sign of the cross before taking their tests everyday without admonishment. They may say grace before meals with impunity, meet after class as a part of a bible-study group, pray outside at the flagpoles before class and distribute fliers informing their students of the after-school religious club.

But those same rights he enjoys are available to others as well, and those rulings which guarantee those freedoms obviously deprive him and those with similar beliefs of the ability to impose their strict religious standards on those who would choose differently. The ban on teacher-led prayer protects the non-conforming student from being required to attend what in exercise is a religious service, as do similar bans at graduation ceremonies and important sporting events. The same court rulings that permit the formation of student-led religious clubs also allow for the formtaion of gay-straight alliances. He may have every right to avoid pornographic material or homosexual activity but others may choose a different course.

His supporters should be forewarned. The very changes they seek can be used against them. Should they prevail, and school prayer is returned to the local boards of education, their students in public schools may be forced to hear a passage from the Koran should they be unfortunate enough to live in a Muslim-dominated neighborhood and should they prevail and the right to refuse medical treatment is overturned in favor of states' rights, those who may want to live on a respirator might be without recourse should a state decide in favor of hospitals which seek to remove such life-sustaining equipment.

I believe the religious conservatives are seriously undermining this country's most fumdamental means of adhering to its most fundamental principles. In a nation governed by laws and not men, a government bound to a written document like our constitution, those charged with its enforcement must conduct themselves must be respected and in turn must conduct themselves in a manner worthy of respect. The justices do their part when they write sound opinions and overturn only the most egregious of offenses when such a ruling will be controversial. Those who appoint them must do their part by appointing relatively moderate justices or in reaching a compromise on the process to be used before appointments are made.

On this matter. those on both sides of the political aisle of all political orientations have largely failed. When President Clinton was in power the Republicans tied many of his nominees up and now the Democrats are returning the favor by denying President George W. Bush many of his court of appeals nominees.
The battle over the nominations is not new, but the religious conseratives brought it down to a new low with the religious telecast sponsored by Tony Perkin's Family Research Council. The battle between the originalists and living constitutionalists has now been overshadowed and perhaps even supplanted by a religious power grab, pitting traditioanlist Christian conservatives against those of other faiths. The dispute over constitutional words replaced by the dispute over words attributed to a god.

All eyes are on the senate and the president. Can the institutionalists from both sides save us from this constitutional abyss created by our president and the extremists on both sides and forge a workable compromise? I sincerely hope so.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Sex Offender's Misplaced Sense of Entitlement

Could you believe this? A man who was found guilty of molesting several girls at his church and at his home now feels he is entitled to attend his daughter's graduation at Schaumberg High School. The school in the past had allowed him to attend such events but the victim's mother and a friend saw him tuning pianos and requested his removal.

Timothy P. Bowling, now 53, had no reason to expect the courtesy school administrative officials extended to him until recently. He violated the trust of parents who entrusted their children at a sleepover at his home and at his church and the parent of one of those victims had every right to be concerned when she saw him tuning a piano at the school. At minimum, school officials should have required police supervision whenever he had work to do at the school.

Mr. Bowling's may wish to do no more harm and he may genuinely have no other wish but to attend his daughter's graduation. School officials could and should grant him that request to attend and celebrate that important milestone in his daughter's life but the courts should dismiss his complaints. School officials have every right to exercise caution when exposing the children in its care to convicted sexual offenders. Mr. Bowling should spare them of that decision and teach his daughter a valuable lesson by forsaking this mistaken sense of entitlement, and drop the lawsuit.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Talk Show Preview

Here's a preview of five of tomorrow's shows but I'll have to check back with "Late Edition" and "Face The Nation" later.

1. "This Week" on ABC: Arizona's Senator John Kyle (R) and Delaware's Senator Joe Biden (D) on John Bolton's nomination to be our representative to the United Nations, judicial nominee battles, and the filibuster. Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute and Charles E. Curran of the Elizabeth Scurlock University at Southern Methodist University on Pope Benedict XVI. (Just a note: Michale Novak obviously will say something good about the new pope from the conservative perspective and Curran, being one of those on the "list" I linked to earlier, will take an opposing view).

2. "Meet The Press" on NBC: The next pope and what it will mean for the Catholic Church in the United States. Guests include U.S. Opus Dei Vicar Reverend Thomas Bohlin, Contributing Editor of The Weekly Standard Joseph Bottum, historial Thomas Cahill, Washington Post E.J. Dionne, Ave Maria University Provost Rev. Joseph Fessio, Newsweek Managing Editor on Meacham, and Sister Mary Aquin O'Neill of Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women.

3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on CNBC: Bolton's nomination, the 2008 presidential election face-off (already?) and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Guests include gay classical liberal columnist and web blogger Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic, and Time Magazine, Michele Norris of NPR, and Howard Fineman of Newsweek.

4. "60 Minutes Sunday" on CBS: Going abroad for elective surgeries, the people who make water tunnels, and the Earth Conservation Corps' mission to save a very polluted river and the crime-infested D.C. neighborhood it runs through.

5. "Fox News Sunday" on Fox: South Carolina's Senator Lindsey Graham (R) and Illinois' Senator Richard Durbin (D) on the partisan rhetoric concerning judges and John Bolton. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins will speak about why he believes filibustering of Bush's judicial nominees is an attack upon "people of faith." The regular pundits talk about the president's second-term agenda and whether it is in trouble.

Sigorile on Finkelstein

"The contradiction of his working for the very people who fought actively against giving such rights to gay people seemed to be lost on him entirely, confirming that we’re dealing with a damaged, selfish cretin – and one who has become dangerous to the rest of us who are gay." - Michelangelo Signorile on Arthur Finkelstein

He joins ex-President Bill Clinton in calling Mr. Finkelstein a self-loather but that label doesn't apply. How can a "selfish cretin" be considered a self-loather? Hypocrite? Yes. "Selfish cretin?" Perhaps, but not self-loather. And I my comments regarding the straight political machiavellian former president stand.

"The entire room was fixated on them."

"Soon, anger swelled up inside me: This man was the embodiment of all that had oppressed me, all the horrors I had suffered as a child. It was because of his bigotry that my family, my church -- everyone around me -- had alienated me, and it was because of his bigotry that I was called "faggot" in school. Because of his bigotry I was treated like garbage. He was responsible for the hell I'd endured. He and his kind were the people who forced me to live in shame, in the closet. I became livid." - from Michelangelo Signorile's web site, which he reposted from his book
Queer in America: Sex, the Media and the Closets of Power which was published in 1993.

Read the whole thing. The writing is inspiring and cinematic. There he was, standing in the lion's den watching as his people willfully enter the home of the very enemies who forced a living hell on them. And then the witness who knew not how he would respond becomes one of them. Wow. It just makes we want to have been there.

Dan Asmussen

The Bad Reporter pokes a little fun at Governor Arnold Schwartzennegger (R) and the papal elections.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The List

The liberal National Catholic Reporter compiled a list of those who were disciplined for their dissent from Catholic doctrine in case you are curious.

And this is what its editorial board have to say about it.

"Often on television broadcasts in recent weeks one conservative cleric or another would tell us that all has been settled, in essence that it almost didn't matter who is chosen pope because the Catholic church cannot change its thinking on doctrine or scripture.

The notion is incorrect and dangerous. It suggests that the Catholic community is a collection of robots and that somehow questions about doctrine or new insights into scripture are dangerous to faith. If that were the case we might all be stuck somewhere back in time believing that women are imperfectly formed men, that the sun revolves around the earth, that it is seriously sinful to take interest for money loaned and that scripture supports the keeping of slaves."

Quite true but that is weak point in all religions and why I find them all religion pointless. Religions are formed on the basis of a claim that must be held true even when there is nothing to suggest it to be true and because there is nothing to bind it save blind faith it cannot tolerate dissent.

Food for Thought

Jonah Goldberg's op-ed can be read from start to finish here, on the National Review's website.

"Since my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is in storage, let me explain by paraphrasing Hannibal Lecter’s famous dialogue with Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Imagine Lecter isn’t a superhuman cannibalistic serial killer and that, instead of being a doe-eyed feminist naif in the FBI, Ms. Starling is a doe-eyed feminist naif at the Children’s Television Workshop.

Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this creature you seek?

Starling: He entertains children….

Lecter: “No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What need does he serve by entertaining children?

Starling: Social acceptance? Personal frustration?

Lecter: No: He craves. That’s his nature. And what does he crave? Make an effort to answer.

Starling: Food?

Lecter: No! He is not a “food monster!” He is a cookie monster!"

Connecticut Moves Forward

Connecticut became the second state of the union ot offer civil unions when its governor, Republican M. Jodi Rell, signed into law a bill that provides gay couples the same rights afforded to married couples but explicitly defines marriage as a heterosexual institution. One gay legislator said the legislator passed what the public realistically can back at this moment and he is right. At this moment gay marriage rights would be overturned by the public at large in every state. One need only look at the voting trend in every state that held referendums on the subject.

Conservatives religious groups apparently will remind its voting supporters of those who supported this bill and those who don't in an effort to punish them at the polls and replace them with those who would overturn the law. Those who voted for it will probably try to sidestep the issue and remind their voters of those things which are more popular.

In the meantime, more Connecticut gays should come out and shift the focus from the de-facto "marriage" argument their conservative opponents will make to the real life problems gays have to overcome. Highlight the personal and remind the skeptics of the many rights that they themselves take for granted are not assured for them (gays).

Memorable Passages on Benedict XVI

I have been quite disappointed in my light blogging this week but that was unavoidable since I felt quite sick and weak, yesterday in particular. Nevertheless I have been cathing up on my reading and have found some things of relevance to write about.

Below are some of the more memorable passages from MSNBC (hey, at least they provide the transcripts) this week relating to Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI:

1. The "Heteronormative Quote" of the Week:

MATTHEWS: "But this issue is so close to reality here. It is not doctrinal. It is just the way we live.

Young boys in a—it‘s not a sex-crazed society, but it‘s a sexual society we live in—don‘t want to give up girls. They don‘t want to give up marriage. They can‘t imagine a life of virginity. They just don‘t do it. I‘m just stating facts."

March 19 edition of Hardball.

Yes but there are some boys who would never want a girl but would never give up boys.

2. The Smart Comback Quote of the Week:(from the same transcripts)

MORONEY: And I think it even goes beyond that, though, Chris.

I think it‘s—remember when Cardinal Ratzinger said, before they walked into the conclave—there certainly was truth in advertising with him.


MORONEY: He let them know right at the beginning where he stood on things.


MORONEY: And he said, there is this tyranny of relativism.


MORONEY: That, in this country, where—and in this world today, there‘s this idea that we can negotiate any truth into oblivion. But there...

MATTHEWS: You mean like annulment?

Umm, tell me about it and I found the monsignor's response so political. Note how he sidesteps the issue and says something that can be interpreted in different ways:

MORONEY: "Well, I think that the church needs to look clearly at what the core truths and the core beliefs are and preach them unambiguously, while, at the same time, being as loving and as compassionate and as merciful as Christ is."

Did he go to Clinton University for Language-speak?

3. Pat Buchanan's Truth on "Scarborough Country" That Same Night:

BUCHANAN: "Look, Joe, when you say disagreed, Cardinal Ratzinger is responsible for maintaining the truth of doctrine and dogma by which men reach eternal life.

Andrew Sullivan is an open homosexual. He has been living in that relationship, and he wonders why the church doesn‘t change its doctrine and dogma to accommodate him. It cannot. That is the truth Christ taught. Now, what Cardinal Ratzinger is today is the vicar of Christ on earth. Now, Christ wasn‘t terribly popular to the world he came into. He was crucified by that world.

And today‘s world, especially this hedonistic society we live in, materialistic, it wants the church to accommodate to it. And the Holy Father‘s job is not to do that. It is to speak truth to secular power. And that is what he is doing. That is what he has done. There could not have been a better choice. Folks who disagree with doctrine and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, there‘s lots of empty pews over in the Episcopal Church. They can head over there."

a. What truth? Pat Buchanan makes it appear as if the truth is so obvious that it can't be debated? What proof does he offer that in fact the Church he belongs to is in fact, the guardian of "the truth" revealed?

b. Jesus of Nazareth never said anything about homosexuality (let me re-phrase it, nothing that we know of suggests that he condemend it) His followers condemned it as did religious leaders who came before him. Leviticus certainly includes an explicit condemnation but no quotes in the Bible attribute him to any such condemnation. Catholic leaders can't really cite these quotes when they concede that (1) biblical passages are open to interpretation and (2)bibilical passages were merely written by those inspired by their god.

c. Not to be nitpicky but the Jesus of the Gospels was fairly popular with most people and his popularity and teachings scared the religious men of power. Jesus' fortune went down when his fate was linked to that of anti-Roman separatist and Jewish nationalist hero Barrabas.

4. Pat Buchana's really Memorable Quotes on that same "Scarborough Country" Edition:

1. "Folks who disagree with doctrine and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, there‘s lots of empty pews over in the Episcopal Church. They can head over there."

A pretty good dig.

2. "Now, listen, the flock has got a good German shepherd, Joe."

5. Women in the Priesthood from same "Scarborough Country" edition:

a. "Hold on...I'm getting to that...Here me out" Christopher West on What Men Can Do But Fathers Cannot:

Oh forget it. Here me out. Here's the transcript:

"and women are right, in the 20th century, finally, collectively, to stand up and to say, I can be a doctor; I can be a lawyer; I can be a politician; I can be an astronaut. But here‘s the point, Joe. Priesthood is not a career choice. I shouldn‘t feel threatened as a man to say, I could be a schoolteacher or a nurse or any of the positions that have traditionally been the role of the woman.

SCARBOROUGH: Where is that biblically based?

WEST: OK. Hold on. Hold on.

I am getting to it. There is a difference that matters. What is at least one thing, Joe, that a woman can do that a man can‘t do?

SCARBOROUGH: Have a child.

WEST: Have a child. I can‘t get pregnant. I could petition the Vatican for pregnant men. Let‘s start a campaign, men for pregnant men. It‘s impossible, and the church would say, it is impossible for a man to be pregnant.

Joe, what is one thing that a man can do that a woman can‘t do?

SCARBOROUGH: I can name quite a few. The question is, what is the biblical basis in this, Christopher?

WEST: There‘s relevance. Hear me out. Hear me out.


SCARBOROUGH: We don‘t have all night for me to answer your questions.


WEST: Let me cut to the chase.


SCARBOROUGH: I want to know, when did Christ say a woman cannot be a pastor; a woman cannot be a priest?

WEST: A woman can not be a father. And priesthood is not a career choice. It is spiritual fatherhood. And in order to be capable of being a father in the spirit, you must be capable of being a father."

After all of that? What's his point? Does single fatherhood beat single motherhood?

Father Jim Marin responds, sort of:

SCARBOROUGH: Jim, you‘re sighing. You are a father. What about—respond to that.

MARTIN: I think the most salient want response to that is that there are many women who feel called to priesthood, period. There are also women deaconesses in the New Testament.


WEST: Father, I could feel called to motherhood, but I can‘t be a mother. I‘m a man. There‘s a difference that matters.


WEST: And it‘s that difference that truly brings life to the world.

MARTIN: Well, I think that‘s true.

I think that, once again, there are women who I know, good, devout, holy Catholic women, who feel called to the priesthood. St. Therese Lisieux, one of the doctors of the church, wrote in her diary, “I feel called to be a priest.” So, I the question is certainly off the table now. It‘s not going to be on the table with Pope Benedict, and that‘s the decision of the church.

But I think you cannot deny the fact that some women feel called to the priesthood.

And how does that refute what "here me out" West had to say? Pathetic. Of course, with such stupid men as these I can't help but wonder if in fact the Catholic Church has it in reverse - that in fact men should be barred from the priesthood and women should be recruited for it.

DORIS DONNELLY, PROFESSOR, JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY: "Well, first of all, in answer to the question that you first raised, there‘s no biblical evidence that suggests that women cannot be priests.

And, secondly, if we use the last supper as the place where Jesus assembles the apostles, we have only, then, men receiving the Eucharist. Where in the scriptures does it say that women are able to receive the Eucharist? Somebody felt authorized to allow women to receive the Eucharist. So, when the pope wrote his apostolic letter that said—the reason apostolic letter—and I am talking about Pope John Paul II—suggesting that women cannot be priests because he has no authorization to allow them to be priests and because they are not men, somebody along the line allowed women, who were not at the last supper, to receive communion."

Right on Sista. A church which claims the right to scribble over the very writings it holds as self-evident truth cannot then claim its inability to do so on another occasion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ah, a School That Gets It

I've spent so much time criticizing left-wing and right-wing political correctness that it only seems fitting that some words of approval and commendation should be given when a school actually does something right.

The Homewood-Flossmoor High School will allow people on both sides of the gay rights debate where T-shirts that reflect their beliefs. The administration is not only treating both sides equally (and consequently avoiding viewpoint discrimination); it's allowing the students to express their opinion one way or the other.

Good for them. Making the First Amendment seem real to them? Wouldn't have it any other way.

A Good Point

The transcripts are not published yet but one of Rick Scarborough's guests made a good argument refuting one argument used to justify a male-only priesthood (and I'm not talking about the liberal priest who offered nothing of relevance to refute the doctrinaire Pat Buchanan).

Mr. Scarborough's guest, whose name now alludes me, said her church would have to ban women from receiving communion since women were not invited to join Jesus in the Last Supper (one reason used to deny women this vocation originates in the fact that Jesus did not invite any women to join him as apostles).

Some words of Comfort: Ratzinger's Limits

1. Recall this most recently posted quote from Colm Toibin in Sunday's magazine section of The New York Times that I posted earlier this week.

"What has happened among Catholics in developed and overdeveloped societies is that they have chosen the parts of the faith that matter to them and rejected the others. They have followed Jesus and the Catholic hierarchy on the primacy of love: they take care to love their spouses and partners, their children, their families, their neighbors as they love God. They worship with this as their primary motive.

They may also, with no bad conscience, use artificial contraception, vote for abortion rights candidates in elections, fall in love a second time and, should they be gay, refuse to deny their sexuality. They do not see these matters as central to their spirituality. Thus the church remains central to them; it is not just a place for baptisms, weddings and funerals. They will listen to it when it preaches about love, but not when it dictates on matters that they believe to be marginal to the message of Jesus."

We can pay attention to what he says or ignore him, accept his words as "truth" or reject them as nonsense, obey Catholic teachings, stay in the Catholic church and disobey, or leave. Ultimately we are the shapers of our own destiny and nothing Cardinal Ratzinger says can take that away from us.

More on Ratzinger

There is of course, very little for people of my persuasion to look forward to with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger elected as the late pope's successor. The newly-appointed pope staunchly denounced the "tyranny of relativism," secularism, agnosticism and atheism alive in Europe and the west in general. He authored this letter denouncing homosexuality, calling for the repeal of all gay rights legislation whenever possible. The newly-appointed pope also upheld strict rules barring women from the priesthood and attributed to them passive, leaderless characteristics. The cardinal enforced church doctrines, ordered the republication of some priests' theology texts because the included doctrines inconsistent with the Catholic faith, and strongly supported his predecessor's call for tighter control over Catholic universities. For the most part they have failed in that last endeavor and were forced to support the creation of new universities more to their liking. The new pope opposed Turkey's entrance into the European Union because he fears it will diminish what still remains of Europe's Christian past.

Religious conservatives will relish their victory, however predictable it was. Yesterday was their day to celebrate and, should Cardinal Ratzinger (and now Pope Benedict XVI) follow along the path suggested in the speech he delivered earlier this week, several years to come.

In the meantime, those of us who find his views deplorable will have to find solace in his old age and the fact that many pick and choose what Catholic "teachings" they will uphold as their own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More on Ratzinger

Of course, we knew that with at least 50 cardinals behind him, there would be a conservative pope. Note the words he chose in his homily given just two days ago.

Here's the worst of it.

"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13,1)."

No doubt orthodox in his views, and if he was not going to be elected pope he was going to deny someone with a more liberal attitude that role. Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the pope's closest confidents and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, authored some of the most recent documents opposing feminist theory and homosexuality. Few within the conclave wanted to send a message that could be interpreted as a repudiation of his predecessor, so Ratzinger's close ties with the pope helped him win the pontificate. The new electoral rules enacted under his predecessor also helped for they weakened any chance of a stalemate or compromise candidate by allowing for a simple majority vote should if the candidates failed to obtain the necessary 2/3 vote in a given period of time.

Cardinal Ratzinger it is

Cardinal Ratzinger takes the name Pope Benedict XVI.

The church's war on the Enlightenment, women, gays, and humanity in general will continue.

New Pope

The 115 cardinals who will choose the late pope's successor will now enter their second day of deliberations after any papal candidates failed to acquire the 2/3 majority necessary for immediate confirmation. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is said to have the support of 50 cardinals, an insufficient amount obtain the papacy within the next few days but enough to deliver his constituency to someone else.

No one should therefore doubt, the political message as delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger in opening homily. Liberal Catholics who believe in gay rights, contraception, or opening the priesthood up to females and married men will have to wait. In exhorting his fellow bishops to hold true to the Church's orthodox teachings, Cardinal Ratzinger, the cardinal made clear his intention to use his kingmaking potential to back a conservative bishop.

This should come of no surprise. A liberal Dutch candidate is no longer talked about and a second, Italian who made no committment with respect to female and married priests commands does not command the respect of an equal number of cardinals.

Several potential candidates, particularly those from Latin America and one from Africa, strongly oppose globalization and push for third world debt relief and social justice. Reform will, unfortunately, have to wait.

Limits to Papal Influence

"What has happened among Catholics in developed and overdeveloped societies is that they have chosen the parts of the faith that matter to them and rejected the others. They have followed Jesus and the Catholic hierarchy on the primacy of love: they take care to love their spouses and partners, their children, their families, their neighbors as they love God. They worship with this as their primary motive.

They may also, with no bad conscience, use artificial contraception, vote for abortion rights candidates in elections, fall in love a second time and, should they be gay, refuse to deny their sexuality. They do not see these matters as central to their spirituality. Thus the church remains central to them; it is not just a place for baptisms, weddings and funerals. They will listen to it when it preaches about love, but not when it dictates on matters that they believe to be marginal to the message of Jesus."
- COLM TOIBIN in The New York Times Magazine this Sunday.

Chris Matthews alluded to this in his extensive coverage two weeks ago when he spoke of the may times he'd look around at church and see the smaller one-to-two child families. The late pope's media savvy and moral capital could not be easily dismissed from those who opposed him but there certainly was no presumption in moral infallibility. Conservatives broke with him on war, capital punishment, and welfare while liberals broke with him on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, a married and female priesthood.

His successor, whoever he may be, will have to deal with that fact. Catholics, like their Protestant cousins, are no longer unied around the same moral code or their obligation to their god and prophets.

"Judicial Activism" from the Right

Jeffrey Rosen wrote a thought-provoking article on "The Constitution in Exile" movement and its quest to write into the constitution, economic rights in a manner not unlike that which civil rights liberals did when it convinced the Courts to recognize privacy and equal protection as rights. The article, found in Sunday's The New York Times Magazine, is long but an easy-read.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Some Troubling Accusations on Bolton

The full article is here. Comments should follow early tomorrow.

Sharon's Announcement

Prime Ministera Ariel Sharon said he will postpone the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and add 50 houses to an existing Israeli settlements. In taking this unilateralist approach, Mr. Sharon is proving to be once again a poor partner in peace negotiations.

Our government has muted some of its criticism in order to support Mr. Sharon while he withdraws troops from Palestinian territory. Mr. Sharon is now delaying that withdrawal by three weeks and expanding on settlements that would theoretically be debated over during future negotiations. Palestinians will rightly view this as a land grab and one-sided Israeli attempt to define its borders with the future Palestinian state.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he will seek "clarification" from the Israelis and reiterated the view espoused by our president - that Israelis "should not" engage in settlement expansion. This criticism is welcomed but it would have made a better impression within the Israeli and Arab communities if it had come from our secretary of state or the president himself.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Dan Asmussen

John Bolton and the Democratic Party's timidity make it to Bad Reporter this weekend.

The Talk Shows

1. "Meet The Press" on NBC: Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachussetts and Republican Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri on Tom Delay's ethical problems and his call to reign in the judiciary.

2. "Fox News Sunday" on Fox News: Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer and Republican Congressman Roy Blunt on the legality/illegality of Tom Delay's financing and how both parties may be using this to avoid a debate on judicial appointments and social security. Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware on John Bolton's nomination to be our U.N. representative and the battle over judicial nominations.

3. "Late Edition" on CNN: Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California on Iraq's new government. Former Vatican diplomat John Peter Pham, CNN Vatican analysist John Allen, Chester Gillis of Georgetown University and Father David O'Connell of Catholic University on papal predictions. Dr. Henry Kissinger and Zbigiew Brzezinski interviewed as well.

4. "This Week" on ABC: Republican Senator Trent Lott and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer on Tom Delay's ethics troubles. Maria Shriver interviewed. Students at Georgetown and Catholic University talk about the next pope.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS: Republican Congressman David Dreier of California, Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, and legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg of The Chicago Tribune on Tom Delay's ethics problems and the filibuster.

6. "60 Minutes Sunday" on CBS: Parents who allow teenagers to drink in their homes, novels with crooks similar to those written about in Carl Hiassen's Miami Herald columns, and personal flying machines.

7. "The Chris Matthews Show": Judicial nominations, Tom Delay, papal elections, and Iraq. Guests include:

Norah O'Donnell -- NBC News
Michael Duffy -- Time Magazine
Elisabeth Bumiller -- New York Times
David Brooks -- New York Times

Senator John McCain and The Filibuster

Chris Matthews interviewed Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona on "Hardball" earlier this week. The full transcripts to the show can be found here but he said some things which I find worthy of mention.

First, the senator told Chris Matthews that he will indeed vote against a filibuster rule change now proposed by his conservative colleagues including the majority leader, Bill Frist and noted that, while his party stands to benefit from that rule change now that they are in power, they will lose out whenever the Democrats regain power. The rule change would benefit whoever is in the majority at given moment and unless Republicans could find a principled Democrat or two from the other side of the table, they would be at a loss when they eventually lose their current majority status in the senate.

Of greater significance is his decision to offer his support for a proposal Democrats now offer as a political strategy. The senator now backs those who believe that our president should privately ask senators from the states these judges come from, as well as members on the judiciary committee, if they can accept the nominee before subutmitting his or her name before the committee in public. If the nominee meets their acceptance, then everyone would vote to send it to the floor and if not, the president would submit somebody else. Senators from the opposition will have to bite their tongue and vote for nominees who do not view their judical philosophy and the president would compromise as to the general disposition of that ideological orientation but this joint exercise in humility would spare us some of the most partisan and divisive battles over the very people who are appointed to safeguard those constitutional principles that we rely on for our freedom.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tax Venting

Well, today is April 15, the day of spit, in which we are all supposed to have our tax information (and checks should we owe anything) postmarked for the IRS and our state government. One would at least expect the IRS to as a courtesy, to save us the 37 cents we pay for postage and 1 envelope to give them what the government itself will squander on pork to someone who had offered winning senators and congressmen (or women) substantial campaign contributions. Perhaps we'll get taxed for the stamps we use to pay them in the future. Oh wait. Were we already taxed on them?

I guess they could not afford it, but the more I think about it they could merely by increasing the amount we "owe" them even though our contribution is not calculated according to the level of services rendered. Nor do I quite get why we would have to pay state income taxes and then pay the state for items I buy at private businesses like Walmart, Old Navy, Stop and Shop, or any other place I may choose to shop at. Go figure.

I cannot help but note that in yesterday's Asbury Park Press, I read of a mayor in Central New Jersey who just plead guilty to bribery charges associated with the approval of some large residential developments and that, if he could be so easily corruptible, others higher up (say, the feds) could be as well. And then there is the town which sold a lot of its public land for $1.

One would at the minimum expect our government we have no choice but to pay from our own hard-earned money to look after our own interests but of course that is not the case.

Nor can I get rid of that disgust that we are forced to pay property taxes on land that the government can theoretically force us to sell at something they consider to be "fair market value" in order to convert that land into something that better suits the needs of one political donor who contributed to a politician's own election campaign, or that we pay to have the government of what we can smoke or snort within the privacy of our own homes. If not for the courts, we would of course be paying for its advice on what sexual positions we can engage in and with whom we should find that sexually stimulating for that matter and which god we should acknowledge as our lord and savior but if we knew that there'd be no to owe any allegiance to the government to begin with.

I guess I still have a right to buy and own a gun but that might change in a decade or so given the trends. We do pay for border security and that is of course necessary when terrorists are out to kill us but apparently such border security is tight around the airports and not nearly enough around the borders with Mexico and Canda, which of course raises the question of whether it is not whether illegal alients enter the country but where they enter the country.

And then of course the prospect that our hard-earned money is going to pay fo rhte health care and child support of Iraqi, Bosnian, Kosovar, and Palestinian children while many within our own country starve and are left out in the streets; the money that is presumably going to pay for the retiring baby boomers' social security (as well as our own) but instead goes to build some $175,000,000 bridgein Alaska to service a town of 7,000 people and other ridiculously high projects like the comparison between a gay Indian'ss (as opposed to any gay's or any Indians') sexual habits or for that matter a comparison between Asian prostitutes and those of the prostitute population in general. (These latter two made their way onto last year's "O'Reilly Factor."
Ah yes, our tax dollars at work. Right now I'm in the mood for some tea. Are you?

"Wrong Question"

Courtesy the New York Post Would not have caught this if not for The National Review's Corner.

Umm. Scalia? You did say this was something a legislature should deliberate on and not a private right.

Bill Frist's New Judicial Tactics

Much has been said about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's consideration of the said "nuclear option," a plan to change senate rules to end the filibuster of judicial nominations. In an effort to push the president's judicial nominations to the floor for not only a vote, but also for approval, however, the Republican senate majority leader and presidential prospect will now join religious conservatives of the Christian persusasion in a televised broadcast in a Baptist Church on April 24, 2005.

According to the Family Research Council press release, he will join other prominent Christian conservatives like Dr. James Dobson of Focus on Family, Chuck Colson, and Dr. Mohler, and Tony Perkins.

This group accuses the would-be filibustering senators, as well as others who oppose this president's judicial nominees, for suppsedly opposing judges because they are "people of faith and moral conviction."

Nothing is said of any conservative Jews or Muslims partaking in this broadcast but one can assume they were not invited given this group's focus on the "Christian heritage" judges are said to deny us.

Their accusations are without merit of course. The "people of faith" have every right to worship within their local parishes, to go door to door proselytizing, to pray in school, or gather in public places for prayer. The Supreme Court they dismiss for anti-Christian judicial activism ruled in favor of school vouchers, holiday displays with some religious content, and equal access for religious groups on public grounds. The courts have only forbidden coerced religious practices or those which give the state's imprimatur of approval.

I do not want to rehash this argument further since this blogger has already commented on religious freedom and the difference between freely chosen religious activities and those which are either encouraged, suppressed, or coerced. For now, this blogger will focus on the latest tactis of concern.

Senator Frist apparently has decided that it would better serve his political interests, and that of those he aligned himself with, to emphasize the nominees' Christianity to get these judges approved and not something more universal like majority rule or ecumenical religiousity.

As I have already mentioned above, no conservative Jews, Muslims, or representatives from the Far Eastern religions have been invited to participate. The press release linked to above refers to Christians alone as "people of faith and morals." The declared grievances mentioned in the opening paragraph specifically apply to Christians (and perhaps Jews). Jews and Christians ackwnoledge the Ten Commandments but those of other faiths generally do not. The school prayers that were recited in school prayers were almost always those used by Christians. Prayers that would appeal to the Jewish, Muslim or Far Eastern faiths were rarely used since those of non-Christian faiths were in the minority.

The grievances which they bring forth have of course been ruled on in a manner that is not to their liking in several instances but judges are not appointed to validate religious favoritism or uphold the predominant religious trends within society but rather to protect the religious rights of people of all faiths (and none). The freedom from religious establishment is just as good and needed for the Jew as it is for the Christian and the right to free exercise just as important for the Jehova's Witness or the Wiccan as it is for the Southern Baptist or Roman Catholic.

To suggest, as Senator Bill Frist and those sponsoring this television broadcast do, that our judges are supposed to validate governmentally-approved religious bias at the expense of another and openly assert an anti-Christian bias coming from those who oppose only further tarnishes the already over-politicized judicial nominating process and calls to question their obligation to guard the constitutional rights of those of all faiths.

Mr. Frist should at the very least reconsider his choice of tactics for the good of the judicial branch and for the good of the country.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Connecticut and Oregon and What it Should Mean for Gays

Today Oregon's highest state court upheld a constitutional ruling invalidating gay marriages in one of the state's counties on the grounds that marriage is a state issue. A constitutional amendment bars gays from marrying but Governor Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, said he push for civil unions legislation granting those of that nature rights similar to those of married couples.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut House of Representatives has passed its version of a gay civil unions law which grants gay couples almost all of the same rights granted to marriage but explicitly denies them the name. The senate passed a similar version that ommitted the reference to heterosexual marriage earlier but it is suggested that it will still pass the House version next week. Governor M. Jodi, a Republican, Rell promised to sign the version approved by the House. Advocates on both sides are disappointed. A Catholic spokesperson said the new bill still undermines heterosexual marriage and a gay spokesperson said it will in some ways reinforce their second-class status. Courts ordered marriage in Massachusetts and civil unions in Vermont. The angi-gay movement lost some key legislators in Massachusetts but another route for passing a far-reaching amendment barring any recognition of gay unions remains open. Domestic partnership legislation passed in California and New Jersey though gay marriages are prohibited in the former by Proposition 22. Virginia recently passed legislation allowing companies that operate within its jurisdiction the ability to offer its employees partnership benefits. I was surprised that no one challenged as unconstitutional that former prohibition given its obvious encroachment on private business practices.

Given the 11-state sweep (of which Oregon was one of them) barring gay marriages, it makes sense for gays to take what they can get now and settle for civil unions in both states. Marriage amendments that passed in most states included language that specifically prohibits civil unions and domestic partnerships and may very well deny recognition of any private contracts drawn between two people otherwise prohibited from those levels of recognition. Universities that once offered such benefits may have to ignore them now to remain in compliance with state law. People who might otherwise support the gay rights cause ultimately still choose discrimination should that be their only option to preserving marriage's heterosexual definition.

In Connecticut, a law granting them almost all of the rights heterosexuals take for granted is within reach. They can use this opportunity to get what they can now or they can overreach and squander their hard-earned gains for the people they claim to represent. The Catholic Church and the religious conservatives will fight this no matter what. Let them. The debate will turn from that hot-button word called "marriage" to one about the most basic privileges every heterosexual takes for granted. Gay rights supporters could refute everything about this being about marriage by explictly referring to the explicit prohibition on gay marriages and return the topic to the basic needs, obligations, and privileges every heterosexual takes for granted. Connecticut's gays can and probably should, for rhetorical reasons, continue to criticize the amendment to the bill but ultimately they should do nothing to block it.

Clinton on the "Self-Loathing" Gay Republican Consultant

Perhaps I should find it amusing that George W. Bush's predecessor, William Jefferson Clinton, would suggest that an out-gay Republican who just married his male partner of some years is a self-loather for working with the Republican Party and starting a fundraising campaign to oust Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Somehow I don't find that amusing, not when he signed into law the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" while engaging in "sexual relationship." Ahem. Excuse me, "inappropriate relationship" with slut-in-chief Monica Lewinsky (the last heard of). I don't find it amusing since he suggested that Democrats appeal to "people of faith" and tone down on gay rights legislation to regain some homophobes who would otherwise vote Democratic.

Come to think of it, this is downright insulting. He uses the generally gay-bashing predisposition of the Republican party to attack a gay person who doesn't even agree with that party on gay issues even though he (Clinton) himself has been at best a lukewarm supporter of gay rights movement and at worst, a lukewarm backer of some anti-gay legislation.

Maybe it's me but it just seems as if the gay Arthur J. Finkelstein, the one who just married his partner, would have a greater appreciation of what the term "self-loathing" means than would a straight pol who dismisses as insignificant the gay person's concerns when defending them becomes politically inexpedient.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Libertarian's Dilemma

"The alternative to freedom is power," wrote Mr. Neier, who was born in Nazi Germany. "If I could be certain that I could wipe out Nazism and all comparable threats to my safety by the exercise of power, perhaps I would be tempted to choose that course. But we Jews have little power. As a Jew, therefore, concerned with my own survival and the survival of the Jews -- the two being inextricably linked -- I want restraints placed on power." excerpt from a Washington Times article on religion (the headline shows its author's conservative bias of course).

The libertarians of course know that of course and have opposed regulations proposed by whoever is in power be they from the right or the left side of the aisle and have not forsaken their battles for liberty even when it requires efforts to protect those whom they do not like.

However much I may support their quest for liberty, I believe their is one defect in their logic. The libertarians' focus is primarily aimed against the government but in a free society like ours where it is limited other organizations, and institutions may fill in the gap.

Just recently on John Stossel's "Give Me A Break" skit on 20/20, for instance, I heard of an employer who fired his employees from his health fitness company because they refused to quit smoking (not only at work, but at home) as he ordered. One might question of course, the reasoning behind joining a health fitness club if that person were not physically fit and if of course an employer would have every right to fire a fat slob to send a message to his or her customers that one cannot be physically fit and fat but that was not the case here. Smokers could apppear physically fit without customers knowing about their drug habits provided that they washed their clothes to get the smell of cigarette smoke out of them.

The employer in that report said he was merely helping his employers seek a better lifesyle. That's nice but they were adults who could make their own decisions,and live with the consequences of their actions. They were not smoking in the office or nearyby where customers would have seen it but kept their habit or addiction in the privacy of their home.

The employer was not their parents or their spiritual guide so they had no claim to their employees'private lives. Like a true libertarian, John Stossel sided with the employer by distinguishing between governmental regulations and employers' regulations.

And of course their are the churches and those who adhere to their religious beliefs. Can a parent rightfully deprive their sickly son or daughter of much needed medication because it goes against their religious beliefs? Can that parent deprive throw their son or daughter (of juvenile age) out of the house because of his or her homosexual nature? And can a family member deprive a relative of the right to die even if there is a living will that insists upon that death?

Libertarians must answer these questions, for if the individual's freedom is supposed to be protected, if the individual's freedom is central to his or her own human dignity as they (and I believe), then how could the actions taken by the corporate monopoly, the church, one's own relatives, or employer really be any different?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sharon-Bush Press Conference

"Building true security for Israelis and Palestinians demands an immediate, strong and sustained effort to combat terrorism in all its forms.

I told the prime minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations.

Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorized outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank."
- President George W. Bush

"Regarding the unauthorized outposts, I wish to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law. As such, I will fulfill my commitment to you, Mr. President, to remove unauthorized outposts and settlements. Israel will also meet all its obligations under the road map.

As I said also in Aqaba, we accept the principle that no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of bilateral negotiations between us and the Palestinians.

The position of Israel is that in any final status agreement the major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria will be part of the state of Israel."
- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

President George Bush a a little too vague in his demand for a pull-out froms settlements as one can see from Ariel Sharon's reply but during the questioning phase of the press conference the president clearly opposed any new expansion of settlements and that was a good.

Mr. Sharon also wants to pin any further political developments in the road map on Palestinian efforts to combat terrorism. Few would argue with that position but he cannot on the one hand expect Palestinian compliance while Israelis build new, or add onto old Israeli settlements. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists on keeping major Israeli population settlements, so any new expansion would be rightly perceived by the Palestinians as a part of an Israeli land grab program.

Note the following segment from the Q & A:

"Q: Prime Minister, considering recent Palestinian mortar fire at Jewish settlements and what Israel sees as a lack of cooperation on Gaza, is Israel considering taking military action against militants if President Abbas doesn't act?

And, Mr. President, do you see a lack of progress by Abbas? Do you expect more before you meet with him at the White House?

BUSH: Want me to go first or you want to go first?


BUSH: Want me to go first? Fine.

This is a very complicated, difficult part of the world. And I believe President Abbas wants there to be a state that will live in peace with Israel. Remember, we met with him in Aqaba, Jordan, and he had a very strong statement. I tend to take people for their word, just like I trust the prime minister and his word. He's a man of his word.

And President Abbas is, I'm told, in touch with the prime minister. That's positive. I appreciate the fact that they've taken some action on security. We want to continue to work with them on consolidating security forces. That's why we sent a general to the region to work with the Palestinians.

I hope that he, the president, responds to the prime minister's offer to coordinate the withdrawal from Gaza.

To me, that's where the attention of the world ought to be, on Gaza. This is the opportunity for the world to help the Palestinians stand up a peaceful society and a hopeful society.

The prime minister has said, I'm withdrawing. He said that, I want to coordinate the withdrawal with the Palestinians.

But he's going to withdraw coordination or no coordination. And I believe it's incumbent upon the world, which is desirous of peace, to then step up and say to the Palestinians, We want to help you.

I think President Abbas wants that help. I know he needs that help. He needs the help to not only help coordinate security forces and train security forces, but the help necessary to put the infrastructure in place so a peaceful democracy can grow and that there can be an economy which provides hope for the Palestinian people.

And so this is an opportunity that I intend to focus my government's attention on. And we will work with our friends and allies around the world to keep their attention focused on succeeding in helping Gaza become peaceful and self-governing, part of, eventually, a Palestinian state.

SHARON: Thank you.

The Palestinian chairman, Abu Mazen, started by taking some steps against terror.

By now, those steps that we can see, as you mentioned in your questions, that the terror still continues. And therefore, I believe that in order to move forward, in order to be able later to move to the road map, the Palestinians must take more steps, because it should be completely quiet.

The situation in order to move forward must be full cessation of terror, hostilities and incitement.

So some initial steps were taken. More steps should be taken.

And I hope that Abu Mazen wants peace. And the only things I expect now that he will take the right steps in order to bring the situation that might enable us to move forward to the next step."

The president rightly puts the focus on the Gaza withdrawal. President Mahmoud Abbas will be strongly tested not only on his commitment to and capability of upholding his part of the negotiating peace process. If the Palestinians refuse to cooperate, the Israelis would have no incentive to plan further withdrawals and if Mr. Abbas tries to but is ultimately unsuccessful in coordinating these efforts and maintaining the peace than future negotiations will ultimately have to focus on efforts to help him establish the coercive instructure necessary for maintaining order.

However, Mr. Sharon encourages further terrorism by insisting on its complete absence before further negotiations take place. He gives them the power to render the moderates who do seek a peaceful solution insignificant and prolongs the war the fanaticals have always wanted. While he should, and must for his people, insist on the Palestinians' full cooperation in brining terrorists and would-be terrorists to justice, he cannot expect any government, let alone one whose infrastructure and sophistication is incomplete, to reign in every terrorist before a strike.

The Confused Sexual and Family Order

"What social conservatives have to grapple with is that openly gay people are not going away. The coming generations will have even greater cohorts, as fear and shame recede. Where do these people fit in? How can they be integrated into family life? How do we acknowledge their citizenship? And their humanity? The pro-gay-marriage forces have an argument: we want full integration into civil institutions, the same rules, the same principles of responsibility. No excuses. The anti-gay-marriage forces have ... what exactly? They are against civil unions, against domestic partnerships, against military service, against any form of recognition. They want to create a shadow class of people operating somehow in a cultural and social limbo. That strategy may have worked as long as gay people cooperated - by staying in the closet, keeping their heads down, playing the euphemism game. But the cooperation is over, as last week once again demonstrated. The old conservative politics of homosexuality has disintegrated; so the social right turns to even older, more virulent and prohibitionist methods. They won't work either." - Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan's comments can not be so easily dismissed. The conservative "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach allowed gay people a limited outlet of freedom to do what they needed to do but required them to remain silent. So long as gays kept their understood word to shut up, the social order maintained by the social conservatives remained unchallenged. Gays would do what they did but the rest could move on and pretend that they didn't exist and that heterosexual marriage was for everybody. The compromise depended upon a lie that is slowsly being unmasked as the lie that it is. The gay person who comes out forces the listener to somwhow confront this fact.

Of course it should be noted that this lie will more effectively be revealed in the local neighborhood than in a court room.

A Liberal Who Understands the Limits On Judicial Branch

I in no way mean to dismiss the Court's in some ways as irrelevant or unimportant since the judges inforce basic principles in fairness and impose procedural (as well as substantive) limits on the governmental power. Their legitimacy is, however, moral in nature. While the legislative and executive branches have the purse/wallet and the military, courts have pieces of paper with words on them.

If the people do not believe the opinions reached by the judge or justice is fair or correct people will reject them as illegitimate elitists. The push for constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage are no doubt strongly pushed by those who believe judges will dismiss heterosexist assumptions on marriage as irrational prejudice. By far and large they have been successful because the voting public would not believe gay marriage to be legitimate no matter how strong the judge's argument. If the publicly approved discrimination is unconstitutional, they'll write it in as constitutionally legitimate exercise in governmental power.

One liberal who believes in the court's noble "activist" past and present understands this important limit on the court's power. Mr. Burt Neuborne (his comments are linked to below) says these court hearings should at the very least be followed by a public grass roots campaigned geared to proving the legitimacy of its ruling.

"Don't get me wrong. Judicial addictions are not always negative. Over the past fifty years, progressives, in close partnership with the courts, have helped to reinvent this nation, moving from the deeply racist and homophobic 1950s characterized by widespread misogyny, frequent eruptions of police violence, ongoing acts of religious intolerance and recurring spasms of political repression to a contemporary America that, while far from perfect, is at least a place where toleration--racial, political, religious, gender and sexual--has become a mainstream value.

But, important as courts have been, judicial fiat, standing alone, did not change American culture. Time and again, progressives reinforced the moral prophecy of the courts with intense political activity designed to persuade the majority that the Supreme Court's pronouncements were not just law, they were also law that is just. For example, Brown v. Board of Education's call for racial justice in 1954 was followed by Dr. King's grassroots appeal to the moral conscience of the nation, calling on us to renounce a legacy of racism. Significantly, Brown succeeded in changing the culture, but only as far as Dr. King succeeded in persuading the nation."
- Burt Neuborne of The Nation

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Preview of The Sunday Talk Shows

1. Late Edition on CNN: Wolf Blitzer interviews incoming Iraqi president (and Kurdish nationalist) Jalal Talibani on Iraq and the insurrection. Also, appearances by Senators Joseph Biden (D) and Richard Lugar (R), Father Andrew Greeley of the University of Chicago, Father David O'Connell of Catholic University, Father Donald Harrington of St. John's University and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

2. Fox News Sunday on Fox News: Incoming Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jaafari will speak to Chris Wallace about Iraq and whether it can stand on its own. Senators John Cornyn (R) and Charles Schumer on judicial nominations and holding judges accountable after the Terri Schiavo feud. Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bil Kristol and Juan Williams in the roundtable.

3. Meet The Press on MSNBC: Senators John Rockefeller (D) and Pat Roberts (R) on the WMD report and former Senator Bob Dole (R) on his memoir "One Soldier's Story."

4. Face The Nation on CBS: Michael Duffy of Time Magazine and Senators John McCain (R) and Harry Reid (D) on social security, Iraq, and the upcoming battle over the judicial nominations.

5. This Week on ABC: Senators Chris Dodd (D) and Rick Santorum (R) on the future of the Roman Catholic Church, social security, and upcoming fight over the judge nominations. New York Attorney General (and perhaps future gubernatorial candidate) Elliot Spitzer on his investigation into an insurance scandal.

6. The Chris Matthews Show on CNBC: David Gregory of NBC News, Gavin Hewitt of BBC, and Chris Jansing of MSNBC on papal selections, the use of faith for political power, and the Royal Wedding.

7. 60 Minutes Sunday: Anthony Casso, a former mob boss, says he paid two police officers to commit murder but the two, who have been charged, deny it. Plus, a congressman says our Homeland Security money is used to restock the police and fire departments and not towards the defense against terrorists. Finally, Jane Fonda. (wait, wasn't this last week?)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Some Comments on Senator Cornyn's Remarks

The highlighted remarks in the first speech were stupid, opened him up to ridicule, and did not add to his argument. Nothing from the record (and he adds nothing mind you) suggests that those involved in these shootings know anything or have an opinion on judicial activism. Certainly the latest, well publicized report in which a defendant accused of raping his ex-girlfriend shot his way out of a courthouse and killing those in his path did so in order to escape from a pre-trial hearing. For some reason I think abstract principles like separation of powers or judicial activism were the lsat thing he was thinking about at the time.

This is not to say that his comments stand alone. He certainly prefaced his original remarks with a major qualification to his remarks with a direct repudiation of violence and some words of respect for the judicial branch.

Nor should the comments that follow be dismissed because of the offending comments. The senator from Texas makes a reasonable argument, though one I don't agree with, concerning the role of the judiciary and to do so he focuses one of the Supreme Court's more recent judgements on the death penalty - that involving the execution of those who were minors when they committed their heinous crimes.

If you may recall, this blogger himself had some problems with the reasoning used to declare the execution of minors unconstitutional and have commented extensively on the reasoning used. I found the use of international norms and the "evolving standards of decency" and he does a fairly good job refuting those arguments here.

However, there is a third argument which I found stronger but my disagreement with him on this matter is not of importance in this matter. I'm more concerned here with the way he describes it:

"Secondly, the Court said: We will also look to our own decisions, our own judgment over the propriety of this law. In other words, they are going to decide because they can, because basically their decisions are not appealable, and there is nowhere else to go if they decide this law is unconstitutional. The American people, the people of Missouri, the people who support, under limited circumstances, under appropriate checks and balances, the death penalty for people who commit heinous crimes under the age of 18 are simply out of luck; this is the end of the line."

The excerpt was already posted in my previous post but I thought it wise to re-post it so you see what I'm talking about.

The senator mischaracterizes the court's argument as some sort of justification for an already-predetermined ruling but that is not quite true. Justices must compromise to win over the majority necessary for a verdict so principles may be compromised every now and then but it is done within the constraints of judicial precedents and reasoning. Rulings may be overturned but the courts have to justify those changes. Moreover, the Court did not, in its ruling, depend upon its mere judgement but rather a judgement made in the context of the constitutional principle at stake - whether or not it is cruel and unusual to execute a minor - and then it used a set of criteria that distinguished between the moral culpability of a 17-year-old and that of someone older. We can disagree upon the line of demarcation or the criteria used to mark that line without suggesting, as the senator does, that it made this decision in a vacuum, particularly when that accusation is untrue as in this case.

The same can be said of the court's ruling on gay sodomy and the execution of criminals who are mentally retarded. In both cases the court relied upon a substantive argument, international norms, and "evolving standards." The latter two are almost always suspect so my objections to the rulings in both of those cases holds there as well. (Personally I think the Court should have cited previous sexual privacy rulings and say that was enough to overrule Bowers and then cite that ruling as an example of raw prejudice that had nothing to distinguish the acts left unprotected there from those protected in prior cases).

But I have now gone off topic, for these cases are merely used as examples to make his broader point (and one I'm conflicted on but tend to reject) that one should point the courts are somehow stepping into areas that were specifically given to the legislative branch. The Constitution no doubt left the Congress as the first branch to set policy. It initiates legislation which the president can either sign or reject, and then, should it choose to do so, may override a veto. The more effective presidents of course send legislation in the form of proposals today and get someone to write a bill to be passed into law but the primary lawgiver is still Congress.

It nevertheless is forbidden from passing anything that is unconstitutional. Laws that intrude upon the local governments will not go unquestioned by the courts, nor could it pass laws laws that arbitrarily discriminate against a group of people, or ban those rights established in the Constitution of the United States. The meaning behind these prohibitions stated in the Bill of Rights are vague at best and open to interpretation. If these amendments are to limit Congress' powers in any way, their meaning cannot as a matter of constitutional law be determined by that branch of government. The courts must by themselves take up the challenges to these laws and overturn those that violate basic constitutional precepts.

I do not suggest a total abandonment in discretion. Obviously, any law or exeucitve decision that violates those rights that are explicitly granted in the Constitution should be overturned by the Courts with no question, and since our founders gravely mistrusted governmental powers these rights should be interpreted in a way that increases the prohibitions on governmental regulations.

The Courts should exercise greater care when it "creates" (I should say "finds") a non-enumerated right such as the right to privacy. These rights generally refer to actions once left to government discretion due to some preconceived notions on life or morality but ultimately are inconsistent with the very essence of liberty, freedom, and limited government (since they mistruted its more powerful version).
In its brief for the gay sex couple charged with violating Texas' sodomy law, a law the Court ultimately struck down in June of 2003, the libertarian Institute of Justice said the question was not what rights the people were explicitly granted but rather what powers the governments were explicitly given.

The conservative would say these issues were left to the states, but I somehow doubt that our Founders like Thomas Jefferson would protect us from nationally-enforced slavery only to have us trapped in state-enforced slavery.

So, when someone asserts a non-enumerated rights the courts should first question whether that person is seeking a right from government intrusion into privacy of his or her home or if that person asserts the right to do something that which strongly implicates the public at large. Government actions involving private individual actions would require stronger judicial scrutiny than those actions that strongly implicate the public at large. Hence, regulations that bar smoking (or the use of any drug for that matter)in the public would receive more judicial deference than regulations that bar smoking (or the use of any drug) within one's own home and regulations that bar public displays of affectation or sex in public would be given more deference then similar activities conducted in private.

The courts have exercised considerable discretion in discrimination cases. The justices only decided to consider racial discrimination (and sex discrimination slightly less) suspect after a series of cases involving such claims while applying a more deferential standard to other forms of legislative-based class distinctions. Even so it will not turn a blind eye when in fact the government could not provide a rational basis for its discriminatory actions.

In Cleburne v. Cleburne the Court found no reason to justify the differential treatment between the permits needed for the construction of homes for the mentally retarded and homes for the others. In Romer v. Evans it found no reason for an amendment that permitted unequal treatment between gays and their straight counterparts across the board and in her concurring opinion in Lawrence v. Texas Justice Sandra Day O'Connor found no rational basis upon which to distinguish gay sodomy straight sodomy.

The Court remarkably restrained itself in these rulings however, paying careful attention to the procedures to guarantee equal treatment in the exercise of these regulations. Suffice it to say, the court did not repudiate the City of Cleburne's desire to demand certain permits or Colorado's ability to treat gays differently from straights in some manners; they merely denied these political entities the ability to set up laws with the sole purpose of rendering a group of people unequal before the law.

Had Justice O'Connor won a more narrow opinion to overturn Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law, the state legislature would've started a debate on the merits of laws regulating the types of permissible sexual conduct of all of its residents, and not just those who are of the disfavored sexual proclivity.

Any more explanations and I'd be digressing from my main point which is that even when no constitutional right is involved, the court's do have a fundamental duty to maintain its republican form of government and our confidence in the equal treatment of those under the law. The legislatures can make laws but the Courts act as the referree that questions the proper bounds of governmental actions both procedurally and substantially. When a procedural right is violated (like equal treatment) the courts must strike the law down and let the legislative branch offer an alternative which does not implicate that constitutional prohibition. When a substantive liberty right is implicated it must question the government's very power to pass and enforce the law in the first place.

Senator John Cornyn's Remarks

Earlier this week Senator John Cornyn (R) of Texas was criticized for some comments he made on the senate floor concerning a purported relationship between violence against judges and "judicial activism."

The full speech, as posted on the senator's web site is provided below in italics. I highlighted the controversial words for all to see.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Texas.

Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I wanted to talk a little bit about our courts, and specifically our Federal courts, and even more specifically the United States Supreme Court.

Before I start, let me just say I have the greatest respect for our judiciary, the men and women who wear black robes -- whether it is on a municipal court or a county court or a district court like I served on in San Antonio, Bexar County, TX, for 6 years, or those who work on appellate courts, whether State or Federal, like I did on the Texas Supreme Court for 7 years.

For 13 years of my professional life, I have worn a black robe, judging cases, first presiding over the jury trials, and coming to have a great deal of respect not just for those judges but for men and women who serve on juries and decide hard cases,

cases which, perhaps, they would prefer not have to sit in judgment of, some involving even the death penalty.

I don't want anyone to misunderstood what I am going to say as being a blanket criticism of either the judiciary or the U.S. Supreme Court, in particular. From my own experience, judges, although they have important jobs to do, are no different than you and me. What I mean is they are mere mortals, subject to the same flashes of mediocrity, sometimes making mistakes, and sometimes displaying flights of brilliance. These are not, as some people have suggested, high priests able to discern great truths that you and I are unable to figure out. They are generally very intelligent, with outstanding educational pedigrees, but none of us have agreed that judges, particularly Federal judges, can be or should be a law unto themselves.

Federal judges are appointed subject to advice and consent provisions of the Constitution for a lifetime. They do not run for election. They do not have to raise money as do other politicians. I know those who do envy them that. But the idea is they are supposed to use that independence in order to be impartial umpires of the law -- it is called balls and strikes -- and they should use that independence that has been given to them in order to resist politics, in order to resist those who would suggest that in order to be popular you must subscribe to a particular way of thinking or a particular social or political or ideological agenda.

Given that framework that the Founding Fathers agreed was so important and that I know we all agree is important today to preserve that independence so as to preserve that judicial function, it causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. No one, including those judges, including the judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, should be surprised if one of us stands up and objects.

I make clear I object to some of the decisionmaking process that is occurring at the U.S. Supreme Court today and now. I believe insofar as the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people, it has led to increasing divisiveness and bitterness of our confirmation fights that is a very current problem this body faces today. It has generated a lack of respect for judges generally. Why should people respect a judge for making a policy decision born out of an ideological conviction any more than they would respect or deny themselves the opportunity to disagree if that decision were made by an elected representative? Of course the difference is they can throw the rascal out and we are sometimes perceived as the rascal if they do not like the decisions made, but they cannot vote against a judge, because judges are not elected. They serve for a lifetime on the Federal bench.

I believe the increasing politicization of the judicial decisionmaking process at the highest levels of our judiciary has bred a lack of respect for some of the people who wear the robe. That is a national tragedy.

Finally, I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country -- certainly nothing new; we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that has been on the news. I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence, certainly without any justification, but that is a concern I have that I wanted to share.

We all are students of history in this Senate, we all have been elected to other bodies and other offices, and we are all familiar with the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution itself. We are familiar with the Federalist Papers that were written in an effort to get the Constitution ratified in New York State. Alexander Hamilton, apropos of what I want to talk about, authored a series of essays in the Federalist Papers that opine that the judicial branch would be what he called the "least dangerous" branch of government. He pointed out that the judiciary lacked the power of the executive branch, the White House, for example, in the Federal Government and the political passions of the legislature. In other words, the Congress. Its sole purpose -- that is, the Federal judiciary's sole purpose -- was to objectively interpret and apply the laws of the land and in such a role its job would be limited.

Let me explain perhaps in a little greater detail why I stand up here and take my colleagues' time to criticize some of the decisionmaking process being made by some Federal courts in some cases. This is not a blanket condemnation. I hope I have made it clear that I respect the men and women who wear the robe, but having been a judge myself I can state that part of the job of a judge is to criticize the reasoning and the justification for a particular judgment. I certainly did that daily as a state supreme court justice. And I might add that people felt free to criticize my decisions, my reasoning and justification for the judgments I would render. That is part of the give and take that goes into this. I make clear my respect generally for the Federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

I am troubled when I read decisions such as Roper v. Simmons. This is a recent decision from March 1, 2005. Let me state what that case was about. This was a case involving Christopher Simmons. Christopher Simmons was seven months shy of his 18th birthday when he murdered Shirley Crook. This is a murder that he planned to commit. He told his coconspirators before committing the crime, this 17-year-old who was 7 months shy of his 18th birthday, he encouraged his friends to join him, assuring them that they could "get away with it," because they were minors. Christopher Simmons and his cohorts broke into the home of an innocent woman, bound her with duct tape and electrical wire, and then threw her off a bridge, alive and conscious, resulting in her subsequent death.

Those facts led a jury in Missouri, using the law in Missouri that the people of Missouri had chosen for themselves through their elected representatives, to convict him of capital murder and to sentence him to death.

Well, this 17-year-old boy, or young man I guess is what I would call him, Christopher Simmons, challenged that jury verdict and that conviction all the way through the State courts of Missouri and all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And the United States Supreme Court, on March 1, 2005, held that Christopher Simmons or any other person in the United States of America who is under the age of 18 who commits such a heinous and premeditated and calculated murder, cannot be given the death penalty because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

In so holding, the U.S. Supreme Court said: We are no longer going to leave this in the hands of jurors. We do not trust jurors. We are no longer going to leave this up to the elected representatives of the people of the respective States, even though 20 States, including Missouri, have the possibility at least of the death penalty being assessed in the most aggravated types of cases, involving the most heinous crimes, against someone who is not yet 18.

This is how the Court decided to do that. First, it might be of interest to my colleagues that 15 years earlier the same U.S. Supreme Court, sitting in Washington, across the street from this Capitol where we are standing here today, held just the opposite. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that under appropriate circumstances, given the proper safeguards, in the worst cases involving the most depraved and premeditated conduct, a jury could constitutionally convict someone of capital murder and sentence them to the death penalty. But, 15 years later, on March 1, they said what was constitutional the day before was no longer constitutional, wiping 20 States' laws off the books and reversing this death penalty conviction for Christopher Simmons.

What I want to focus on now is the reasoning that Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, used to reach that conclusion.

First, Justice Kennedy adopted a test for determining whether this death penalty conviction was constitutional. The test -- this ought to give you some indication of the problems we have with the Supreme Court as a policymaker with no fixed standards or objective standards by which to determine its decisions to make its judgments. The Court embraced a test that it had adopted earlier referring to the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Let me repeat that. The test they used was the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

I would think any person of reasonable intelligence, listening to what I am saying, would say: What was that? How do you determine those "evolving standards"? And if they are one way on one day, how do they evolve to be something different the next day? And what is a "maturing society"? How do we determine whether society has matured or not? I think people would be justified in asking: Isn't that fancy window dressing for a preordained conclusion? I will let them decide.

Well, it does not get much better because then the Court, in order to determine whether the facts met that standard, such as that this death penalty could not stand, or these laws in 20 States cannot stand, looked to what they called an "emerging consensus." Well, any student of high school civics knows we have a Federal system, and the national Government does not dictate to the State governments all aspects of criminal law. In fact, most criminal law is decided in State courts in the first place. But, nevertheless, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-to-4 decision, looked for an "emerging consensus," and in the process wiped 20 States' laws off the books. I will not go into the details of how they found a consensus, but suffice it to say it ought to be that in a nation comprised of 50 separate sovereign State governments, where 20 States disagree with the Court on its decision that wipes those 20 States' courts laws off the books, it can hardly be called a consensus, if language is to have any meaning.

Secondly, the Court said: We will also look to our own decisions, our own judgment over the propriety of this law. In other words, they are going to decide because they can, because basically their decisions are not appealable, and there is nowhere else to go if they decide this law is unconstitutional. The American people, the people of Missouri, the people who support, under limited circumstances, under appropriate checks and balances, the death penalty for people who commit heinous crimes under the age of 18 are simply out of luck; this is the end of the line.

Well, finally -- and this is the part I want to conclude on and speak on for a few minutes -- the Court demonstrated a disconcerting tendency to rely on the laws of foreign governments and even treaties in the application and enforcement of U.S. law. This is a trend that did not start with the Roper case, but I did want to mention it in that connection.

But if the U.S. Supreme Court is not going to look to the laws of the United States, including the fundamental law of the United States which is the Constitution, but interpreting what is and is not constitutional under the U.S. Constitution by looking at what foreign governments and foreign laws have to say about that same issue, I fear that bit by bit and case by case the American people are slowly losing control over the meaning of our laws and the Constitution itself. If this trend continues, foreign governments may have a say in what our laws and our Constitution mean and what our policies in America should be.

Let me digress a second to say this is as current as the daily news. As a matter of fact, I saw in the New York Times on April 2 an article concerning Justice Ginsburg, a member of that five-member majority in the Roper case. The headline is: "Justice Ginsburg Backs Value of Foreign Law." Reading from this story, written by Anne Kornblut, it says:

In her speech, Justice Ginsburg criticized the resolutions in Congress and the spirit in which they were written.

She is referring to a resolution I have filed, and I sent out a "dear colleague" today expressing concerns about this issue. But she said:

Although I doubt the resolutions will pass this Congress --

I don't know where she gets her information. I think there is a lot of positive sentiment in favor of what the resolution says, and I will talk about that in a minute.

Although I doubt the resolutions will pass this Congress, it is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support.

I am a little surprised that a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice would engage in a debate about a current matter, which has yet to be decided by the Senate, which is a resolution expressing concern about the use of foreign laws and treaties to interpret what the U.S. Constitution should mean. I am a little surprised by it.

In a series of cases over the past few years our courts have begun to tell us that our criminal laws and our criminal policies are informed not just by our Constitution and by the policy preferences and legislative enactments of the American people through their elected representatives, but also by the rulings of foreign courts. I understand it is hard to believe, and most people listening to what I am saying are asking themselves: Could this be true? Is it possible? I know it is hard to believe, but in a series of recent cases, including the Roper case, the U.S. Supreme Court has actually rejected its own prior decisions in part because a foreign government or court has expressed disagreement with the conclusion they had reached.

Until recently the U.S. Supreme Court had long held that under appropriate safeguards and procedures, the death penalty may be imposed by the States regardless of the IQ of the perpetrator. The Court had traditionally left this issue untouched as a matter for the American people and each of their States to decide, as the Court said in a case called Penry V. Lynaugh in 1989. Yet because some foreign governments had frowned upon that ruling, the U.S. has now seen fit to take that issue away from the American people entirely. In 2002, in a case called Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth of Virginia could no longer apply its criminal justice system and its death penalty to an individual who had been duly convicted of abduction, armed robbery, and capital murder because of the testimony that the defendant was mildly mentally retarded. The reason given for this reversal of the Court's position that it had taken in 1989 to 2002? In part it was because the Court was concerned about "the world community" and the views of the European Union.

Take another example. The U.S. Supreme Court had long held that the American people in each of the States have the discretion to decide what kinds of conduct that have long been considered immoral under longstanding legal traditions should or should not remain illegal. In Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, the Court held that it is up to the American people to decide whether criminal laws against sodomy should be continued or abandoned. Yet once again because foreign governments have frowned upon that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court saw fit in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, to hold that no State's criminal justice system or its criminal justice laws could be written in a way to reflect the moral convictions and judgments of their people.

The reason given for this reversal from 1986 to 2002? This time the Court explained that it was concerned about the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

I have already mentioned the case of Roper v. Simmons. But most recently, on March 28, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that will consider whether foreign nationals duly convicted of the most heinous crimes will nevertheless be entitled to a new trial for reasons that those individuals did not even bother to bring up during their trial. As in the previous examples, the Supreme Court has already answered this issue but decided to revisit it once again. In 1998, in Breard v. Green, the Court made clear that criminal defendants, like all parties in lawsuits, may not sit on their rights and must bring them up at the time the case is going on or be prohibited from raising those issues later on, perhaps even years later. That is a basic principle of our legal system. In this case, the Court has decided to revisit whether an accused who happens to be a foreign national, subject to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, should be treated differently from any other litigant in our civil litigation systems and in State and Federal courts or in the Federal system reviewing State criminal justice provisions.

Even this basic principle of American law may soon be reversed. Many legal experts predict that in the upcoming case of Medellin v. Dretke, the Court may overturn itself again for no other reason than that the International Court of Justice happens to disagree with our longstanding laws and legal principles. This particular case involves the State of Texas. I have filed an amicus brief, a friend of the court brief, in that decision, asking the Court to allow the people of Texas to determine their own criminal laws and policies consistent with the U.S. States Constitution and not subject to the veto of the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights or the decision of some international court.

There is a serious risk, however, that the Court will ignore Texas law, will ignore U.S. law, will reverse itself, and decide in effect that the decisions of the U.S.

Supreme Court can be overruled by the International Court of Justice.

I won't dwell on this any longer, but suffice it to say there are other examples and other decisions where we see Supreme Court Justices citing legal opinions from foreign courts across the globe as part of the justification for their decisions interpreting the U.S. Constitution. These decisions, these legal opinions from foreign courts range from countries such as India, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, and the list goes on and on.

I am concerned about this trend. Step by step, with each case where this occurs, the American people may be losing their ability to determine what their laws should be, losing control in part due to the opinions of foreign courts and foreign governments. If this happens to criminal law, it can also spread to other areas of our Government and our sovereignty. How about our economic policy, foreign policy? How about our decisions about our own security?

Most Americans would be disturbed if we gave foreign governments the power to tell us what our Constitution means. Our Founding Fathers fought the Revolutionary War precisely to stop foreign governments -- in this case, Great Britain -- from telling us what our laws should be or what the rules should be by which we would be governed. In fact, ending foreign control over American law was one of the very reasons given for our War of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence itself specifically complains that the American Revolution was justified in part because King George "has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws."

After a long and bloody revolution, we earned the right at last to be free of such foreign control. Rather, it was we the people of the United States who then ordained and established a Constitution of the United States and our predecessors, our forefathers, specifically included a mechanism by which we the people of the United States could change it by amendment, if necessary.

Of course, every judge who serves on a Federal court swears to an oath to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me...under the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God."

As you can tell, I am concerned about this trend. I am concerned that this trend may reflect a growing distrust amongst legal elites -- not only a distrust of our constitutional democracy, but a distrust of the American people and America itself.

As every high school civics student knows, the job of a judge is pretty straightforward. Judges are supposed to follow the law, not rewrite it. Judges are supposed to enforce and apply political decisions that are made in Congress and that are signed into law by the President of the United States. Judges are not supposed to make those decisions or substitute their own judgments or those political judgments hashed out in the legislative process in this body and this Capitol. The job of a judge is to read and obey the words contained in our laws and in our judicial precedents -- not the laws and precedents of foreign governments, which have no authority over our Nation or the American people.

I am concerned that some judges who simply don't like our laws -- and they don't like the decisions made by Americans through their elected representatives here about what those laws should be -- are using this as another way to justify their decision to overreach. So it appears they would rather rewrite the law from the bench. What is especially disconcerting is that some judges today may be departing so far from American law, from American principles, and from American traditions that the only way they can justify their rulings is to cite the law of foreign countries, foreign governments, and foreign cultures, because there is nothing left for them to cite for support in this country.

Citing foreign law in order to overrule U.S. policy offends our democracy because foreign lawmaking is obviously in no way accountable to the American people. Here again -- and I started out by saying I am not condemning all Federal judges; I have great respect for the Federal judiciary -- I am not condemning international law. Obviously, there is a way by which international law can apply to the United States, and that is through the treaty process, which is, of course, subject to ratification by the U.S. Congress.

There is an important role for international law to play in our system, but it is a role that belongs to the American people through the political branches -- the Congress and the President -- to decide what that role should be and indeed what that law should be; it is not a role given to our courts. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives the Congress, not the courts, the authority to enact laws punishing "Offenses against the Law of Nations," and article II of the Constitution gives the President the power to ratify treaties, subject to the advice and consent and the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. Yet our courts appear to be, in some instances, overruling U.S. law by citing foreign law decisions in which the U.S. Congress had no role and citing treaties that the President and the U.S. Senate have refused to approve.

To those who might say there is nothing wrong with simply trying to bring U.S. laws into consistency with other nations, I say this: This is not a good faith attempt to bring U.S. law into global harmony. I fear that, in some instances, it is simply an effort to further a political or ideological agenda, because the record suggests that this sudden interest in foreign law is more ideological than legal; it seems selective, not principled.

U.S. courts are following foreign law, it seems, inconsistently -- only when needed to achieve a particular outcome that a judge or justice happens to desire but that is flatly inconsistent with U.S. law and precedent. Many countries, for example, have no exclusionary rule to suppress evidence that is otherwise useful and necessary in a criminal case. Yet our courts have not abandoned the exclusionary rule in the United States, relying upon the greater wisdom and insight of foreign courts and foreign nations. I might add that very few countries provide abortion on demand. Yet our courts have not abandoned our Nation's constitutional jurisprudence on that subject. Four Justices of the Supreme Court believe that school choice programs that benefit poor urban communities are unconstitutional if parochial schools are eligible, even though other countries directly fund religious schools.

Even more disconcerting than the distrust of our constitutional democracy is the distrust of America itself. I would hope that no American -- and certainly no judge -- would ever believe that the citizens of foreign countries are always right and that America is always wrong. Yet I worry that some judges become more and more interested in impressing their peers in foreign judiciaries and foreign governments and less interested in simply following the U.S. Constitution and American laws. At least one U.S. Supreme Court Justice mentioned publicly -- and Justice Ginsburg's comments were reported on April 2 in the New York Times. A Justice has stated that following foreign rulings rather than U.S. rulings "may create that all important good impression," and therefore, "over time, we will rely increasingly...on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues."

Well, let me conclude by saying I find this attitude and these expressions of support for foreign laws and treaties that we have not ratified disturbing, particularly when they are used to interpret what the U.S. Constitution means. The brave men and women of our Armed Forces are putting their lives on the line in order to champion freedom and democracy, not just for the American people but for people all around the world. America today is the world's leading champion of freedom and democracy. I raise this issue, and I have filed a resolution for the consideration of my colleagues on this issue. I speak about it today at some length because I believe this is an important matter for the American people to know about and to have a chance to speak out on.

I believe the American people -- certainly the people in Texas -- do not want their courts to make political decisions. They want their courts to follow and apply the law as written. I believe the American people do not want their courts to follow the precedents of foreign courts. They want their courts to follow U.S. laws and U.S. precedents. The American people do not want their laws controlled by foreign governments. They want their laws controlled by the American Government, which serves the American people. The American people do not want to see American law and American policy outsourced to foreign governments and foreign courts.

So I have introduced a resolution to give this body the opportunity to state for the record that this trend in our courts is wrong and that American law should never be reversed or rejected simply because a foreign government or a foreign court may disagree with it. This resolution is nearly identical to one that has been introduced by my colleague in the House, Congressman Tom Feeney. I applaud his leadership and efforts in this area, and I hope both the House and Senate will come together and follow the footsteps of our Founding Fathers, to once again defend our rights as Americans to dictate the policies of our Government -- informed but never dictated by the preferences of any foreign government or tribunal.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


One day later, Senator John Cornyn issued this statement designed to clarify remarks he believe were taken out of context. Again, I highlighted the statement of regret:

"The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.

Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity for Senator Durbin and me to speak for a few minutes.

The purpose for my rising is to follow up on some remarks I made yesterday, Monday, on the floor of the Senate. The full transcript of those remarks, which has to do with judges and recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court is available, of course, in the Congressional Record, but it is also available on my official Web site for anybody who would care to read it.

As a former judge myself for 13 years, who has a number of close personal friends who still serve on the bench today, I am outraged by recent acts of courthouse violence. I certainly hope no one will construe my remarks on Monday otherwise. Considered in context, I don't think a reasonable listener or reader could.

As I said on Monday, there is no possible justification for courthouse violence. Indeed, I met with a Federal judge, a friend of mine in Texas, this past week, to make sure we are doing everything we can to help protect our judges and courthouse personnel from further acts of violence. And like my colleague from Illinois, I personally know judges and their families who have been victims of violence, and have grieved with those families. But I want to make one thing clear. I am not aware of any evidence whatsoever linking recent acts of courthouse violence to the various controversial rulings that have captured the Nation's attention in recent years.

My point was, and is, simply this: We should all be concerned that the judiciary is losing respect that it needs to serve the interests of the American people well. We should all want judges who interpret the law fairly -- not impose their own personal views on the Nation. We should all want to fix our broken judicial confirmation process. And we should all be disturbed by overheated rhetoric about the judiciary from both sides of the aisle. I regret that my remarks have been taken out of context to create a wrong impression about my position, and possibly be construed to contribute to the problem rather than to a solution. Our judiciary must not be politicized. Rhetoric about the judiciary and about judicial nominees must be toned down. Our broken judicial confirmation process must be fixed once and for all.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I yield the floor."