The Roberts Confirmation

Congratulations to John Roberts for his approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee to have his nomination as Chief Justice of the United States sent to the full Senate for what looks like a certain confirmation. And congratulations to the Democratic senators on the committee who voted for him (Feingold, Kohl, Leahy) for faithfully performing their constitutional duty rather than obstructing a highly-qualified candidate for partisan reasons.

I think that those Democrats who voted against Roberts (Biden, Durbin, Feinstein, Kennedy, Schumer) and those who have announced their intention to vote against him (Boxer, Corzine, Kerry, Lautenberg, Reid) have sent a clear signal to President Bush with respect to his next nominee. And that message, it seems to me is:

Mr. President, you can safely ignore anything we have to say about the next nominee. Our votes have been captured by left-wing interest groups. We couldn’t even vote for someone as incredibly qualified as John Roberts to replace a conservative like Rehnquist. There is no way in hell that any nominee acceptable to you will pass ideological muster for us as a replacement for O’Connor. So, please pay no attention to our expressed concerns. We are irrelevant. Go ahead and pick someone you’d most like to see on the Court, and don’t worry about a potential compromise with senators like us.

Katrina Response

I realize that just about everybody sees the response to Katrina as a confirmation of the prejudices that they already had, but I find it hard to disagree with David Boaz in this article.

Before and after Hurricane Katrina, businesses and charities responded effectively. Government failed at even its most basic task of protecting lives and property from criminals. When massive and bloated governments at all levels disappoint, the solution is not to give them more money. Rather, the solution lies in a government limited in scope and ambition, and focused on its essential functions.

And here are some Cato recommendations to offset the first $62 billion spent. Any guesses on how much of this, or any wasteful spending, will actually be cut?


No, Bush is “generously” committing hundreds of billions more of other people’s money. I’m sure he thinks it’s a small price to pay for some job approval points.

And, now NASA is going to spend $100 billion (at least) to go back to the moon. Great!

The federal government is out of control. The national debt is now nearly $8 trillion, and yet they keep piling on more. Most Republicans exhibit no more fiscal restraint than Democrats (which is to say: none).

The only positive development I’ve seen from this administration is the Roberts nomination. Hopefully, that will go through smoothly and the next one will be as inspired and successful.

And then, if Stevens and Ginsburg could retire soon…

Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Everything Has Changed?

Mark Steyn is not impressed:

The comparison with Sept. 11 isn’t exact, but it’s fair to this extent: Katrina was the biggest disaster on American soil since that day provoked the total overhaul of the system and the devotion of billions of dollars and the finest minds in the nation to the prioritizing of homeland security. It was, thus, the first major test of the post-9/11 structures. Happy with the results?

One thing that became clear two or three months after “the day that everything changed” is that nothing changed — that huge swathes of the political culture in America remain committed to a bargain that stiffs the people at every level, a system of lavish funding of pseudo-action. You could have done as the anti-war left wanted and re-allocated every dollar spent in Iraq to Louisiana. Or you could have done as some of the rest of us want and re-allocated every buck spent on, say, subsidizing Ted Turner’s and Sam Donaldson’s play-farming activities. But, in either case, I’ll bet Louisiana’s kleptocrat public service would have pocketed the dough and carried on as usual — and, come the big day, the state would still have flopped out, and New Orleans’ foul-mouthed mayor would still be ranting about why it was all everybody else’s fault.

Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America’s enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?

The Anti-Reagan

Check out Jonathan Rauch’s review of senator Rick Santorum’s new book.

People like Santorum make libertarians like me very uncomfortable aligning with Republicans about anything. Santorum has contempt for the “libertarianish right” and “this whole idea of personal autonomy”. He would impose all sorts of new big-government schemes to promote the traditional family over pesky individual choices like, well, just about anything he doesn’t judge to be virtuous.

If this isn’t where the Republican Party is headed, where are the loud Republican voices denouncing it?

Good Company

In addition to the generous outpouring of individual donations to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, it’s great to see acknowledgement of the many generous private companies who have also been contributing.

People often view private companies as cold machines and forget that they are really just people who have organized to cooperatively create wealth. These people hold the same values as others, and often have particular skills and resources that can help address commonly perceived problems extremely well.

Governments also have particular skills and resources and sometimes we need these to be involved in issues like security and rule-setting to allow us to cooperate effectively. But, often, the best solutions come from people outside of governments; and the best thing that governments can do for us is to maintain the peace, provide some information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable, and stay out of other people’s way.

(Hat Tip: The Agitator)

Rehnquist Has Died

I just heard on the news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has died.

Now President Bush will appoint another justice either to Chief Justice, or to an Associate Justice and elevate a current Associate Justice to Chief Justice (probably the latter). I suspect that Bush, having just gone through the process of choosing Roberts as an appointment, knows who the prime candidates for this slot are.

It probably won’t affect the balance on the Court to replace a conservative like Rehnquist with another conservative. Certainly not as much as replacing O’Connor will.

I’m not sure how this will affect the Roberts confirmation hearings that are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, though. Also, from what I’ve heard, Roberts would probably make a better Chief Justice, temperamentally, than Scalia or Thomas who are seen as more divisive.

And, is there any chance of having a full court of nine justices in October?

We’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy thinks not only that Roberts should be the Chief Justice nominee, but that he will be.

Government Failure

The hurricane Katrina crisis is still on-going, but one thing is already crystal clear to me.

The government, at all levels, has failed spectacularly.

From civil engineering, to disaster planning, to communicating with citizens, to preparing resources before the crisis, to deploying resources after the storm, to evacuating victims, to maintaining law and order…the governmental agencies responsible for these things have proven themselves grossly incompetent.

I know that there are many great people working for these agencies who are deeply committed to their missions. But, it’s the nature of these organizations to function in ways that fail to accomplish that mission effectively. There are perverse incentives, and rigid structures that prevent an effective, agile, response to dynamic problems.

One thing about this that I find particularly infuriating is that most people will stare straight at this colossal failure and be unable to propose anything other than more of the same: Higher funding for more planning and better resources, etc. Many people are simply unable to imagine that the proper response to big problems is anything other than more government. They forget all past and present failures and assume that with enough resources, well intentioned bureaucrats will be able to do what they have never demonstrated the ability to do.

Here are a few words from Don Boudreaux:

I understand that the devastation spread by Katrina makes even the most ordinary daily tasks difficult or even impossible to do. There may be good, if regrettable, reasons for why FEMA is taking so long to get water and food to the refugees, and for why there’s too little police presence in the Convention Center. Maybe. But damn it, isn’t it time people reject as a cruel hoax the notion that government possesses superhuman powers and is motivated by angelic intentions? That it can do things that non-political institutions cannot do?

Who can still believe that, when the chips are down and there’s no one left to count on, people can count on their government for basic help?

Katrina, in addition to stripping my hometown of life, unmasked the pretenses of government as savior.

UPDATE: Apparently, not only did the government fail to deliver needed relief to New Orleans, but they prevented the Red Cross from doing it as well.


Why Does Dahlia Lithwick Hate John Roberts So Much?

Lithwick has a new Slate article subtitled “Why does John Roberts hate courts so much?” which concludes, based on the left-wing Alliance For Justice’s report on Roberts, that his judicial restraint philosophy amounts to preventing the courts from administering justice.

I’m no expert on the subject, but Roberts’ positions seem reasonable, or at least defensible, to me.

Lithwick says:

Judicial restraint isn’t an end in itself. The end in itself should be doing justice, and sometimes that means listening to the whiny masses, one case at a time.

I wonder why Lithwick doesn’t think the “whiny masses” should affect the law (and, thus, achieve justice) via voting for representatitives as our system intends, rather than having some judges’ idea of “doing justice” imposed on them.

Given Lithwick’s earlier tone-deaf, humor-impaired article about Roberts and women, I have to wonder if it’s the content of his positions, or just the fact that he’s a conservative that Lithwick really objects to.