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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Right Man for the Job

It seems, to judge from the argument, that the wisdom which we desire and upon which we profess to have set our hearts will be attainable only when we are dead and not in our lifetime.
Socrates (469–399 B.C.)

It took seventeen minutes for the Democrats to attack the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by President Bush. Judge is the child of an immigrant and a public school teacher with an impressive biography and judicial history (HERE) but the dogs of war slipped out reflexively, baying their loudest and crying 'havoc' with enthusiasm tempered with chagrin at the Judge's credentials.

Sen. Charles Schumer made the especially preposterous suggestion that Judge Alito would “roll back the achievements of Rosa Parks”, but in the words of Hugh Hewitt, “That can only be understood as Schumer's belief that Judge Alito could find segregationist policies acceptable under the constitution. While it is undeniable that the nomination of Robert Byrd would have raised such a question, it is preposterous and indeed base to even hint at such a thing about a distinguished judge and public servant.”

On Oct. 29, Thomas Sowell wrote in his column, “Democrats understand that they were elected to do what those who elected them wanted. But Republicans seem to think they were elected to make deals with Democrats and gain media applause for doing so”. (For those who enjoy Mr. Sowell’s columns and would like to see the ones the Cape Cod Times won’t print, Porcupine provides a link on his sidebar to TownHall.com where you can read them all). The media has already begun its reporting on the knee-jerk opposition to Judge Alito, a.k.a. ‘’, but immediately follows the report on the well-qualified jurist with the words, “And now more on the war in Iraq…” as they recognize that this is a losing proposition for them. This time, the White House has a nominee who can speak for himself as eloquently as Chief Justice Roberts, and the media will be hard pressed to say that a conservative president ought not nominate a person who reflects his judicial preferences.

There will be no widespread opposition among conservatives to this nomination. A poll already underway (stop in and vote HERE), examines the state-by state response and shows over 90% support for this nomination, versus a 70% opposition of the nomination of Harriet Miers. Judge Alito had a unanimous confirmation by the Senate in 1990, and his well reasoned writings on abortion and other liberal hot-button issues were commended for their clarity and substance. Of course, elements in the Senate would not confirm Louis Brandeis, King Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar, or John Marshall if nominated by President Bush, but as I said earlier, we have three years to fight for this nomination. It will prevail, and we will have a stronger, more originalist, and more intelligent Supreme Court when it does.

Porcupine has a new tenant for the week on his blog, "In the Middle of America", written by another young Alabama conservative and former Marine. Be sure to click on the white 'Rent My Blog' box on the upper right. The other links are worthy of consideration, too, especially that of Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has joined us with a blog of his own!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And Live To Fight Another Day...

Discretion is the better part of valor, and Caution is preferable to rash bravery.
Falstaff in King Henry the Fourth, Part One, by William Shakespeare.

"The president has an opportunity now to unite the country. In appointing the next nominee, he must listen to all Americans, not just the far right," said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

As often happens, Sen. Kennedy has it wrong.

The bona fide far right was fighting for Miers – witness
Hugh Hewitt and other partisan conservative commentators. In reality, this nomination was scotched by the more moderate Republicans, and the true conservatives who felt that deliberately appointing a person for a political purpose was wrong (see POST).

During this brou-ha-ha, Hewitt posted a series of questions to fellow conservatives about the nomination. Here are the questions, along with Porcupine’s emailed answers to Mr. Hewitt (and Porcupine's point of view was widely echoed – on the TTLB
Miers page, of the blogs weighing in, 70.2% were Opposed, 15.3% were Neutral, and only 14.5% were Supporting)

"Mr. Hewitt - As you requested, I sent you my post on Miers; I would like now to answer your questions as well.

Does George W. Bush deserve any loyalty from his party? From pundits identified with his party? If so, how much and why not more? Mr. Bush absolutely deserves loyalty and thanks from GOP commentators - this is not the same as blind obedience over a matter of principle.

Do Harriett Miers' many accomplishments count for nothing? Indeed not - but are they scholarly? Why the hesitation to nominate a person with a forthright paper trail, and say - this is what we believe.

Does Harriett Miers strike the commentator as a dedicated public servant? Not especially - but that may be displayed during her hearings. ( Later Note: She may well be an outstanding public servant, but there is no way to judge from the outside - which in itself indicates she is doing a good job.)

Why not wait for the hearings to at least begin? Because by then, either her selection or the President's embarrassment will be inevitable. Expressing concern over her lack of judicial writings and experience is not premature.

How important is it that Roe v. Wade/Casey be reversed? Not especially. I would like to see it reversed, and the matter returned to the states where it belongs, but it is not of paramount importance to me. Future rulings on privacy - not related to abortion - concern me much more.

Which five precedents does the commentator think are in most pressing need of reversal? A reexamination of Miranda; a repeal of Kelo; a reexamination of Roe; a clarification of church/state rulings, which seem contradictory; an examination of the free speech restriction on bloggers inherent in McCain-Finegold. (Was this a test?) (Later Note: Mr. Hewitt had strongly implied that many opponents to the Miers nomination were uninformed as to the working of the Court; perhaps he thought we couldn't name five other precedents.)

Does the commentator agree with George Will's assertion of Justice Lewis Powell as the "embodiment of mainstream conservative jurisprudence?" Not especially.

Is a neo-Borking underway which will discredit the conservative cause's defense of its future nominees against similar, future attacks from the left? We would not have this problem if a better - perhaps, say more obviously - qualified candidate had been put forth. The only discredit to the conservative cause is the implication that it is more concerned with piety than intelligence.

What are the political consequences of a defeat of Miers at the hands of a GOP controlled Senate? I am sorry, but the Court is more important than any individual political agenda, and indeed, we need to remember that we want the Court to be above it. We want originalists and interpreters, not unelected legislators, on that bench."

So - there's a snapshot of the debate on the right hand side of the aisle. Sen. Kennedy was not included in our thoughts.

"Let's move on," said Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi. "In a month, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?"

Well, Senator, the same people who remember Lani Guinier, President Clinton's partisan nominee to the bench who also withdrew. Porcupine is certain that the next nominee will be both a distinguished conservative and a jurist with a strong written record. Porcupine’s personal choice would be Justice Janice Brown.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who had recommended Miers to the President, said "They want a nominee with a proven record of supporting their skewed goals."

Exactly, Senator. And we have three years to fight for it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Printer's Devils

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.
Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980), Understanding Media (1964)

Many of us feel uneasy about the purchase of the Barnstable Patriot by the omnivore chain, Ottaway News. As a fellow inky wretch, I liked the ‘over the shop’ ambience of the Patriot’s second floor newsroom, reminiscent of The Front Page, as opposed to the Cape Cod Times’ newsroom which resembles a medium security prison with some work furlough available to reporters. Indeed, Porcupine enjoyed bumping into the intrepid Ed Maroney, out and about, with an actual and skeptical knowledge of Cape Cod, its history, and its issues, rather than a newly minted journalism degree and a map with bright crayon pictures from the Chamber of Commerce to try to find a story, so typical of the young and under experienced Times reporters.

Orleans’ paper,
Cape Cod Voice, felt the same loss, as evidenced by their story here. Of course, as one of the very few remaining Cape papers out of the clutches of big MSM, Seth Rolbein and Dan Hamilton are perhaps trembling like a ripe virgin when the fleet docks for shore leave. (Porcupine would like to apologize here for choking a cynical laugh when informed that there would be a new newspaper started some 7 years ago – while their point of view is abysmal, their content, editing and graphics have been top-notch, and they have achieved a deserved success with their enterprise).

Impressed with their story on the demise of a fellow paper, Porcupine sent the Voice this letter:

I read your obituary of the Barnstable Patriot, and agree with your conclusions. Its reporting staff, excellent though it may be, will be hard pressed to maintain its newsroom and editorial Independence as part of the Ottaway chain. It's like expecting Dunkin' Donuts to buy Flemings [note: a local Orleans coffee house and watering hole], but not have any change in the ambiance and product - gradually, individuality will be marginalized and 'economies of scale' will 'force' greater homogenization. The weeklies are right to tremble as the lion roars.

However, the future of the independent voice does not lie in the world of the actual paper; rather, it lies in the world of the virtual one.

Cape Cod Today, the Cape's virtual paper, already has a stable of 20 bloggers, and other reporters, which are regularly scooping the actual papers and writing the stories which they are not willing to touch. Indeed, two sessions of the Barnstable Town Council have been devoted to the Blogosphere and its dissemination of information.

We no longer need to buy ink by the barrel when we can buy distribution by the byte. A free and uncensored voice will not vanish from Cape Cod; it will merely morph into a new and challenging form.

In reply, Porcupine received a request for a real name and address. When I admitted I was actually called William Cobbett, and wrote under the name of Porcupine – a common practice among authors – and identified myself as an Orleans resident, I received this reply from the Voice:

Thanks for the reply. We do not publish letters under assumed or "blogger" names or handles, so if you can supply your real name we would be delighted to publish your letter. Thanks, -dan

Mr. Rolbein, Mr. Hamilton – you look like gentlemen polishing the chrome on a DeSoto, wondering why Blogfather Walter Brooks is cackling as he speeds by in his hybrid - quite a coup in the point of view department for an old Wobblie and newspaper man. The point of my letter is that media is changing; that there are 1.9 million blogs being tracked by Technocrati, and that the way that information and opinion is disseminated has changed irrevocably.

I will miss the smell of ink on my hands when the last of the papers is gone.

Final Note: I hope you will take time to visit The Conservative Progress - Rantings of a Progressive Conservative over on my sidebar. It is written by a conservative Alabama college student, and in tone reminds me of my friend, Louisiana Libertarian, written by another Gulf Coast college student. The 'Rent My Blog' program is a way to give exposure to worthwhile blogs, and I hope you will check it out.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Attorney's Privilege

If a Law were made that if any man were found drunken he should be punished by the judges according to the merit of his offense, this is a just law, because it is warranted by a rule.
Gov. John Winthrop (1644)

The Cape Cod Times reports that a Brewster man facing his third drunk driving charge after smashing his 1989 Ford F350 dump truck into an Orleans ambulance in March will face a judge at a pre-trial hearing on December 9. You may remember this incident, as the man had his 10 year old daughter in the truck with him at the time. But when he goes to trial, his two prior convictions for drunk driving will be difficult to present to the jury, thanks to our Legislature. The ability to present court transcripts as evidence was one of the provisions gutted from the drunken driving bill called Melanie’s Law, which Gov. had filed after the death of Melanie Powell earlier this year.

It is interesting that making the introductions of prior convictions more difficult is what the six legislators on the Conference Committee chose to strike. For instance, they left in a provision that allows for a breathalyzer to be attached to a car’s ignition, which had been attacked as violating civil liberties (Porcupine is not certain where the right to drive drunk is enshrined as a civil liberty, but the most unusual things are referred to as quasi-constitutional rights these days). Of course, the breathalyzer can only be required if a prior conviction can be established. And in the changed bill, in order to introduce evidence of prior convictions, the prosecutor must produce a witness or have the arresting officer testify – if they are not available, a conviction cannot be introduced, making it more difficult to effectively prosecute repeat offenders.

Is it surprising that five of the six legislators on the Conference Committee are defense attorneys who represent drunk drivers in court? This is a bi-partisan problem, as two of the House Conference members – Rep. O’Flaherty (D) and Rep. Webster (R) – are all practicing attorneys. Sen. Creedon (D) says there is no problem with the weakened bill, and obtained a ‘not guiltily’ verdict for a DUI client while the Conference negotiations were going on.

Gov. Romney said that he hoped the Legislature would reconsider and strengthen the law, but there is little chance that will happen in this Session. Even as 40 Members and staffers were jetting off to Spain (?), the Legislature has already slipped far behind in legislation passed. A few years ago, The Legislature changed from a one year to a two year Session. Since then, like kids studying for a test, they have pushed all the legislation into the second year of the Session. For instance, in 2001 there were 220 Session laws passed and in 2002 there were 514. The pattern repeated itself in the next two year session – 2003 had 172 and 2004 had 508. Where do we stand in 2005? The Legislature plans to adjourn for the year in mid-November, and so far there have been 113 passed – substantially fewer than the other first year Sessions. Only about a dozen of the bills passed were not either pertaining to a specific town or a sick leave bank, so the actual substantive legislation is even less. At least they took up and passed Chapter 25 of the Act of 2005, which will allow Indians to enter the City of Boston.

What message does all of this send? Over 1/3 of auto crash deaths are related to alcohol, placing Massachusetts eighth in the nation. The day after passage of the bill, a 19 year old college student was in a crash which killed a friend. The Legislature drifts along, refusing to act, secure in the knowledge that the public won’t hold this against them next year when elections come. Hey, they voted for the bill! It’s not their fault that it was gutted – and who can remember who did that, anyway? Public amnesia, the idea that while the Legislature is a corrupt place, their own Legislator is a fine person, will come to their rescue once again.

At least Michael Gomes of Brewster will have an easier time at his trial this December. I hope is daughter isn’t riding with him.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Extry, Extry, Read All About It...

Gossip is charming! History is merely gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

The Porcupine came across a couple of delicious rumors during his rambles, and wanted to share them here.

Hot GOP rumor is that Cheney will resign, perhaps just before the 2006 midterms, and Condi Rice will be elevated to the Vice Presidency in preparation for her 2008 run. It's not stretch to say that Cheney could resign for reasons of health, and that departure would take the entire Libby-Plame scandal with it.

That would make Rice the first woman, and African-American, Vice President - a powerful icon of diversity. It would also give her the chance to do what she would need to in order to be a succesful Presidentail candidate - work in domestic policy, to add to her powerful foreign affairs portfolio.

One person commented that if the Democrats had done this for 2000 - had Clinton resign a la Nixon, and put Gore into the Presidency, Gore probably would have won.

I will be certain to pass along any other juicy tidbits I hear - but remember, even as money is the mother's milk of politics, gossip is the daily bread.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895)

Your local daily is urging the preservation and care of a Cape Cod behemoth. It is not Senator Kennedy.

Rather, they are concerned about the passing of the remaining 300 right whales. This is a three part story with snappy graphics and pull-out posters for science classes, and will doubtless be featured on the Times web site until it garners them a prize (a link provided here). What caught Porcupine’s attention was a line in an editorial supporting the story they had chosen to devote three days to:

One thing is clear. The government alone cannot save the right whale; industry, nonprofit environmental groups, and individuals must all help save this species.

The imperative tone is interesting. We hear similar exhortations about piping plovers, various insects, and other flora and fauna. Every prospect pleases, and only Man is vile, causing the loss of habitat, food, and context for these varied creatures. Yet species have gone extinct for millions of years . Europe was once covered with woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, enormous bears – all falling into extinction long before Homo sapiens walked the earth. In fact, most animals that ever lived are extinct. Why, then, is something that might be regarded as normal evolutionary dropping off presented as something to be fought?

Every year, we read of the Kemp-Ridley turtles, stunned with cold and too foolish to swim south in a timely fashion. Every year, at great expense, we ferry them south in planes to winter in warmer waters, only to repeat the process the next year. Why are we meddling like this? Isn’t this exactly the kind of intrusive behaviour that we condemn in our species? Why is it proper to save the turtle, but wrong to disturb a plover egg? Aren’t both a human intrusion? Porcupine will not even go into the various viruses and diseases which have been systematically eradicated, at unknown consequence to our ecosystem. We view some animals as special, and others as pests with little thought as to what their overall place in Nature might be.

Porcupine admits that he comes from a time when Man was regarded as a Steward for the Lord, with unquestioned dominance over creation. Yet, I was not unsympathetic to the proposition that we needed to preserve our environment, and my book, Rural Rides, is widely considered to be one of the original writings of environmental sensibility. Still, I would never have considered a meadow or spinney as anything other than something for people to enjoy, not a cause to be embraced – hang the expense! – by changing laws and regulations. Is any thought given to cost versus benefit? Are ultimate consequences of changing practices thought out, or are we inviting another coyote crisis by protecting creatures with no natural predators? (Porcupine would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that hunting season for coyotes begins on Nov. 1st and lasts until Feb. 28th – remember, the Lord helps those who help themselves).

We saved the eagle; we can save the right whale, writes the Times. What is not so certain is if we should.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Cool Web of Language

NOW, as words affect, not by any original power, but by representation, it might be supposed, that their influence over the passions should be but light; yet it is quite otherwise; for we find by experience, that eloquence and poetry are as capable, nay indeed much more capable, of making deep and lively impressions than any other arts, and even than nature itself in very many cases.
Edmund Burke (1729–1797). On the Sublime and Beautiful.

There is something more important than sound conservative government.

There is even something dearer and more important to the Porcupine than politics.

It is language. Words. Our currency of ideas, our coinage of debate, our capital of inspiration.

So Porcupine is singularly honored to have been invited to be a guest contributor to Waking Ambrose.

Waking Ambrose is the brainchild of Doug Pascover, and is a site dedicated to the satire and punditry (every pun intended) of the presumably late Ambrose Bierce, who walked into the desert sands and was never seen again. Bierce was a newspaper writer who is most famous for his compilation of sardonic definitions, ‘The Devil's Dictionary’.

Mr. Pascover asked Porcupine to define ‘Supply Side’, and I was happy to comply. I hope you will visit the link above and read my small contribution. I also hope that you will peruse the links to the Devil’s Dictionary and rejuvenate yourself with wordplay.

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. Our earliest consciousness knew how important the invention of language was to our species. Our greatest stories, from the Tower of Babel to Rapunzel, center around communication and the power of the word – written, spoken and now transmitted. Words are power and have power – to help, to destroy, to hurt, to heal. Take some time to read the Waking Ambrose site, and rediscover the savour of words, and the enjoyment of them. Go to Poetry.com, and rediscover the panoply of parlance and patois, the torrent of talk and tongue. Allow words to refresh and replenish you, and remember why it is that you read in the first place.

Then we can argue about politics!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Judgment Must Take Deep Account

JUDGES ought to remember that their office is 'jus dicere', and not 'jus dare'; to interpret law, and not to make law, or give law.
Francis Bacon. (1561–1626)

Have your ever said or done something, turned to the crowd with a smile, and looked around with a sinking stomach realizing the mood was cold as ice?

It happened to President Bush in the Rose Garden today, as he sought to reassure his conservative base that his Supreme Court choice was a person of properly conservative opinions, who would rule in accordance with what they wanted on issues of concern to them. When he announced Harriet as his Supreme nominee to replace retiring Madame Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, his enthusiasm and belief were evident. He knows this woman, has faith in her abilities, and wants her to influence the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction. That is the problem. That is too small a reason, too low a bar. Her lack of a paper trail will avoid a possible filibuster and possible exercise of the ‘nuclear option’, but what is needed for the Court is the finest mind, not the finest friend.

Much of the pro and con bickering about Bush has centered on his agenda for his second term, and whether or not you approve of the war in Iraq. These are budget and policy decisions which will affect the country only as long as Bush remains President. In 2008, no matter which party wins, there will be a clean slate for both foreign and domestic affairs, and another cycle of American history will begin.

But the Court is different. Unlike the Senate, House and Executive, the Court is meant to be an overarching institution to provide continuity and guidance as Congress and the Executive legislate, propose and budget, swinging right and left with the mood of the electorate. Chief Justice John Roberts spoke eloquently at his confirmation hearings about the necessity for the Court to be an impartial arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution, not a political (and therefore temporary) force. The permanence of the Court is what gives it purpose and impact, and why it needs to remain above transitory political ideas.

That is why the reaction against Harriett Miers is stronger from Republicans – and true conservatives – than it is from Democrats. By and large, Democrats have had little problem with legislating through court decision, taking in their stride angry cries about ‘activist judges’. Porcupine has always been puzzled that they have so little faith in their own agenda that they think it needs to be decided by fiat instead of legislated and voted upon. Conservatives – not right-leaning social engineers, but those who espouse conservative principles – understand that nominating a person because you think that in twenty years, they will still carry out your political agenda is wrong. One of the most disgraceful displays in recent times was the Schiavo matter. The law was clear, and indeed, the courts ruled in accordance with that law. Sincere zealots with an agenda were furious, but they were as wrong as those who want to ban mention of intelligent design from schools. That is the political, not the legal.

A new word has come to the fore in discussing the philosophy of justices. What used to be referred to as ‘strict constructionist’ is now called ‘’. Originalist describes those who want legal decisions on the conduct of society to be grounded in legislation, precedent, and constitutional law. To be originalist is to be equally against a court decision in favor of removing religion from public institutions as you would be against decreeing that parents have no right to be informed if their minor child has an abortion. These are matters of belief, driven by politics and social engineering. Too often, ‘privacy’ is used as a code word for ‘abortion, when in reality it is far more important than that. The legal issues of this coming century will center around identity, intrusion and the right to be let alone by an ever more micromanaging government. This applies as much to political correctness mandates as much as it does the PATRIOT Act – you can’t have the government intervene in private lives only for a cause you happen to approve of. They either do, or do not, have that power, and it will be the Roberts Court that will decide privacy issues in the same way the Warren Court decided civil rights.

Conservatives are divided. The social conservatives want the Supreme Court to reverse what they perceive to be legislation from the bench during the Sixties, and impose decisions in line with their opinions. They trust the President as one of them, and are trying to buoy one another up. Philosophical conservatives want a scholar, a person whose intellectual talents have been proven on the bench or as a law professor. Harriet Miers appears to be a talented and hardworking lawyer, indeed a very intelligent one. But nothing in her legal career indicates she has the philosophical and judicial temperament to rise above the topical to the legal.

Ever since the Senate defeat of the eminently qualified Robert Bork, the nomination process has become ever more politicized. That was the reason for the chill in the Rose Garden today as true conservatives reacted to the political agenda implicit in this nomination. Indeed, someday the shoe will be on the other foot. Let’s save politics for Cabinet appointments, and tell the Senate to let the President choose the finest, and not the most expedient, mind.

TTLB Tag: I oppose the Miers nomination.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Warning! Objects in the mirror may be different.....

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14.

I am posting a link to a photo essay HERE which appeared on Instapundit. Hat tip there. Be sure to explore the links to other phots as well - my personal favorite are the 'Queers for Palestine' protesters, or perhaps the 'Down with Literacy!' segment.
I cannot improve upon its warning to be careful of what we see, hear and beleive, and special credit goes to Mr. Zombie for taking the time to develop this cautionary tale.

After the failure of reporting in New Orleans after Katrina, and the routine manipulation of news, it appears that we ALL must become amateur sleuths, which will further entench cynicism and bias.

Porcupine would also like to share his own interesting photo from the Patriot Plaza Stop & Shop market in Dennis:

Apparently, the store could not decide if the autobiography of former President Bill belonged under 'Sci-Fi & Fantasy' or under ' Thrillers & Espionage' - so they stocked it in both! Porcupine leans towards the former, himself.

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