Monday, August 29, 2005

C'est moi, dammit!

Your blogstress was much amused to find yet another reference to her American Prospect piece on John Roberts, this time by the eminent scholar George Weigel on a Web site called Tidings. Weigel writes:

Shortly after Judge Roberts' nomination, President Bush was accused of "playing the Catholic card" in an opinion piece widely circulated in the blogosphere. "Playing the Catholic card" is, to be frank, either a vulgar appeal to ancient prejudices or code-language for "someone who can't be trusted to take Planned Parenthood's position on abortion."

Well, Mr. Weigel, if you're going to bandy about accusations of vulgarity, it is only fair to credit the blogstress with her craft.

Another curiosity of Weigel's piece, written in the form of "An open letter to Patrick Leahy" (the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee), is his apparent lifting of central argument from a press statement issued by the far less eloquent William Donohue of the Catholic League, the first to tar your favorite bad Catholic girl as an anti-Catholic bigot. Here's Donohue:

"Now let's apply this logic to President Clinton's selection of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer for the Supreme Court. Did he do so because he liked 'Playing the Jewish card'? And did he do so because he wanted his critics to be seen as anti-Semites?

And Weigel:

Consider what would have happened if, after nominating Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court, President Clinton had been accused of "playing the Jewish card"? Suppose the Associated Press had run a news story in these terms: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jew, once wrote an ACLU legal brief on the constitutional status of Roe v. Wade"? There would have been outrage, and it would have been wholly justified.

Your blogstress notes that gentlemanly Mr. Weigel sits on the Catholic League's board of advisors. Could it be that is he who supplies the words that spew forth from the mouth of the most intemperate Mr. Donohue?

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On the cutting table

While your blogstress was dallying in her summer doldrums, all manner of remarkable developments have occurred without her sage comment. Truth be told, your Webwench seems to be suffering some form of outrage fatigue. Happenings which, under any other administration but Bush II, would have elicited great hue and cry, are met with a wimper by your cybertrix, who has been known to mutter, "Well, that's just what they do."

How else to explain the failure of your net-tête to note, last week, the reported firing of a career employee of the Justice Department for daring to challenge the demands of higher-ups to downplay a study that revealed aggressive police tactics used against black and latino drivers? Here, the New York Times' Eric Licthblau reports:

The demotion of the official, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, whom President Bush named in 2001 to lead the Bureau of Justice Statistics, caps more than three years of simmering tensions over charges of political interference at the agency. And it has stirred anger and tumult among many Justice Department statisticians, who say their independence in analyzing important law enforcement data has been compromised.

Today, Times reporter Erik Eckholm tells of the plight of an Army contracting official who dared to question a no-bid deal for Vice President Cheney's former employer:

A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.

Kindly pass the scissors and straight pins. Your écrivaine knows a pattern when she sees one.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Arbiters of the Faith

Your blogstress is, admittedly, a few days late bringing the latest antics of her co-religionists on the right to her readers' attention. From your Webwench's dear friend, St. Jacques du Fenway, we learn of an attack by right-wing Catholics on faculty at Catholic Colleges who appear not to be toeing the line. On Wednesday, Ralph Ranalli and Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe wrote:

A conservative Catholic group billing itself as a "movement to rescue Catholic higher education" has called for the ouster of three Boston College professors who it says supported removing the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose parents fought to keep her alive.

A spokesman for Boston College, Jack Dunn, issued a statement criticizing the group, saying, ''The publicity-seeking rhetoric and unfounded accusations of the Cardinal Newman Society are a disservice to Catholic colleges and universities and the church that they proudly serve."

From Connecticut, your écrivaine's closest advisor, Force of Nature, tells of a similar attack on faculty at Fairfield University, also a Jesuit institution.

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From your blogstress' new friend, Caesarshead, comes this:

Subj: Revelation: Put it on a bumper sticker

Jesus is a Liberal

Actually, La Tête du Caesar has a point. Jesus counted women among his disciples, never said a word against homosexuality and intervened against the death penalty (stoning of the adulteress)--not to mention all of that stuff about the poor.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Dems need to launch
a new constitutional amendment

Just up on The American Prospect Online is your blogstress' latest take on last weekend's right-wing hatefest, Justice Sunday II.

Here, your cybertrix calls on Democrats to craft a bill for a constitutional amendment that would create an explicit right to privacy. How fun it would be to watch righties vote "no" on what the American people think is a God-given right.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Justice Sunday II

NASHVILLE, TENN.—-The discipline was dazzling--everybody on the same page. The usual rhetoric was deployed--the railing against "activist judges," waxings on the "originial intent" of the Constitution’s framers; abortion defined as baby-killing; the horror of "homosexual sodomy." It was a typical assemblage of speakers for a right-wing confab: 10 men, 2 women, all but one of them white. As usual, a couple of right-wing Catholics made common cause with right-wing Protestant evangelicals. Yet, for all that, this second incarnation of the Family Research Council’s second "Justice Sunday" simulcast fell a bit flat.

Perhaps it was the lack of zealous enthusiasm for the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, most probably due to the revelation that, while in private practice, Judge Roberts did pro bono work on behalf of gay rights activists who ultimately prevailed in overturning an anti-gay Colorado statute passed through referendum, a pet project of James Dobson, eminence of the Focus on the Family media empire. In fact, though Dobson, appearing in the sanctuary of Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church via videotape, called upon the assembled to support the Roberts nomination, his description of the nominee indicated only tentative support.

"It looks like Judge Roberts is a strict constructionist," Dobson said. "For now, at least, he looks good."

(In truth, Roberts’ work suggests a consistent lack of philosophy--constructionist or otherwise--in favor of a sort of elitist pragmatism.)

Without a hint of irony, Dobson apologized for not attending the gathering in person, as expected, explaining the he and his wife were away on a brief trip--to France. Minutes later, he accused the Supreme Court of falling under the influence of European leftists, and described the High Court as an oligarchy.

Strict construction
Last night’s "Justice Sunday II: God Save the United States and This Honorable Court" was a follow-up to the infamous simulcast gathering in April at which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist made a splash, when, after having failed to make a federal case out of the plight of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman whose husband wished to remove her feeding tube against her parents’ wishes, he addressed the crowd that had gathered to, in the words of its own subtitle, stop "the filibuster against people of faith." Like the first Justice Sunday, this one was held in a megachurch whose sanctuary more resembles a television studio than a traditional house of worship; indeed, throughout the program, a television camera on a crane swung around center stage, and then out to the audience, all for the benefit of the dozens of churches nationwide whose congregants gathered to watch the event as a closed television broadcast.

Before the broadcast commenced, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an offshoot of the Dobson empire, instructed the congregants on their appearance before the cameras. TV viewers, he said, were going to "gauge how this is going based on you.” So they were told to clap often and respond enthusiastically to the speakers. "When they say a joke," Perkins added, "even if it’s not funny, laugh--especially if it’s me."

With Bill Frist having recently flip-flopped on support for embryonic stem-cell research, the majority leader was not invited for round two, leaving man of faith Tom DeLay, House majority whip, with the responsibility of representing the apparently beleaguered legislative branch. Speaker after speaker asserted that the judiciary has consistently usurped the power of the legislative branch, which is entrusted with the making of law. Several even questioned the very constitutionality of judicial review--the power of the Supreme Court to review laws passed by Congress and state legislatures to determine if they pass constitutional muster.

Tom DeLay made what may count as his most sedate public appearance, calling, in measured tones, for an end to all that legislating from the bench. (No mention of putting contracts out on judges.) He spoke of a judiciary grown all-powerful, and called for a return to what he called "balance," which presumably means having all three branches of government dominated by a single party. "Without balances," he said, "there can be no checks." And we all know how much checks mean to Mr. DeLay.

A rant of resentment
While most of the speakers seemed tightly scripted, William Donohue of the Catholic League issued his customary, stream-of-consciousness rant of resentment against all who take issue with him, adding fire to the evening’s overarching theme: the persecution of God’s people by the godless Court which is, in turn, supported by a mighty, godless left-wing political powerhouse.

Warning liberals of the change that awaits them at the hands of God-fearing folk, Donohue snidely suggested that his side provide liberals with counselors to help them through the great change. "We respect the fact that they don’t believe in anything," he said. Because that lack of belief precludes the use of priests or rabbis, he went on, "we’re going to send them grief counselors" to "hold their hands."

One of only two speakers who uttered the name of John Roberts, Donohue singled out for special criticism several individuals who had dared to wonder aloud about the potential implications of Roberts’ strongly held conservative Catholic beliefs. Of Mario Cuomo, who discussed just that on a recent edition of "Meet the Press," Donohue said, "And he’s one of mine! He’s a Catholic." Christopher Hitchens, who penned a controversial piece on Roberts for Slate, was described as "that atheist anti-Catholic bigot." Then, inexplicably, Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio came under fire for having simply noted that Roberts is a conservative Catholic with adopted children and a wife who served as an officer of a "pro-life" organization.

Truth be told, your blogstress felt a bit jilted to have been left off the list, having been, along with The American Prospect, the subject of a three-week press release and op-ed campaign by Donohue for having dared to mention, on The American Prospect Web site, that any questions put to Roberts about his views on abortion were likely to be met with cries of "anti-Catholicism" from the right. Three weeks of engagement and rebuttal—-you’d think the guy could have at least blown your Webwench a kiss.

In a torrent of New York-accented words, Donohue accused liberals of being "so sweet" that they allowed Christian right-wingers to "ride in the back of the bus" while the liberals did the driving. It was time, he said, for evangelicals to "take command of the wheel."

Beyond his poisonous invective, though, Donohue floated a proposition with the potential for real damage: "a constitutional amendment that says unless a decision of the Supreme Court is unanimous, you cannot overturn legislated law."

He received a standing ovation. Breathe deep the gathering gloom.

An empty frame
Thoughout the evening, the repetition of thematic words became a drumbeat, most notably the coupling of the word "sodomy" with "homosexual," and the use of the words "supremacist" and "supremacy" to describe the High Court.

After the program ended, your cybertrix asked Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum to comment on the emergence of the word "supremacist" in the context of the Court. She smiled and reached inside her bag, pulling out a copy of her latest book. The jacket features a photograph of the Supreme Court building, with these words emblazoned across the cover: The Supremacists.

"Probably I’m the one who did it," she said, "with my book. I think that word is completely descriptive; it’s a much better word than 'activist' [in describing the court]. These people really do think they’re supreme over everybody else."

When asked what she thought about the newfound love of issue framing shown by liberals, she replied, "But they haven’t a message to sell."

Constitution, anyone?

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Saturday, August 06, 2005


On Beliefnet today, you will find your blogstress's rejoinder to the nasty bit of business published on that otherwise laudable site by William Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

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The enigma

If the Roberts nomination finds itself in the teeniest bit of trouble, it's the righties and not the Democrats who pose the threat.

The news earlier this week, as reported by Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, that Judge Roberts, then a private attorney, performed pro bono work for gay rights activists who challenged--and won before the Supreme Court--the statute championed by James Dobson that would have sanctioned all manner of discrimination against non-heterosexuals, has caused a bit of discomfort on the right.

At the Web site of the Agape Press, Bill Fancher interviews Paul Weyrich, who expresses his dismay:

The revelation that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts was instrumental in a homosexual rights ruling has stunned his supporters. The Romer v. Evans decision, which overturned a Colorado initiative that denied special rights to homosexuals, is considered among the most egregious examples of judicial activism ever. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, who says he is "troubled" by the revelation of Roberts' involvement in that case, recalls that the ruling was "a terrible one because it said that the people of Colorado would have had to be prejudiced against homosexuals in order to vote for that proposition -- [and] I think that is an outrage."

At World Net Daily, Art Moore reports that others on the right--notably, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice--are sticking by their man. But in the West Wing, presidential aides are apparently a bit frenzied:

The White House also has been on the phone, immediately telephoning prominent leaders to reassure them after the Los Angeles Times story yesterday said Roberts helped represent "gay rights" activists as part of his law firm's pro bono work.

Of concern to all comers should be Roberts' failure to note, per Serrano's report, this particular bit of volunteer work on the papers he submitted to the Senate:

Roberts did not mention his work on the case in his 67-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, released Tuesday. The committee asked for "specific instances" in which he had performed pro bono work, how he had fulfilled those responsibilities, and the amount of time he had devoted to them.

As for your blogstress, she is perplexed. Now she doesn't know what to think about this guy. But she sure is glad he landed on the side of the angels on this one.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Now, everybody's in the act

Having cast her customary spell of glamour over all her endeavors, your blogstress now finds herself in much excellent company--including that of writers much better-paid than she--in the conduct of alleged anti-Catholic bigotry.

Christopher Hitchens has kicked up quite a bit of dust on Slate with a harangue about the John Roberts nomination and the Church of Rome, a piece that encompasses an amusing aside about the Vatican's rescue of Cardinal Bernard Law, the discraced former archbishop of Boston. (A similar rescue was made for Father Paul Marcinkus of Chicago, who was wanted for financial shenanigans in that toddlin' town, so, at the pope's invitation, he secreted himself away in some catacomb off St. Peter's Square.)

A very sane young man, James Joyner of Outside the Beltway, has taken up Hitchens' larger argument, engaging in a go-round with Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review.

Click here to read Joyner

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Monday, August 01, 2005


Oh, how it pains your blogstress to contemplate the Specter of traffic being driven from her erudite site to something called RedState, however, she finds herself driven to taking the high road on a bit of low culture executed rather brilliantly by State author Mark Kilmer, in his review of the Sunday talk shows:

Arlen Specter might have violated his leash law, made when the Senate GOP agreed to let him be Judiciary chairman in January despite strong objections, that he would support the President's nominees. With Judge John Roberts, Specter says that he will make up his mind when the process is complete.

Those of you who remember Specter taking a licking from the values crowd back in January will know what Kilmer is talking about. Specter committed the infamous crime of predicting that an anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee would be unlikely to make it out of committee. We'll see about that, hmm?

To read more about Specter's lonely choice in the GOP, click here.

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The piece that
just won't die

Used to toiling in obscurity, your blogstress is amazed at the continued attention her July 20th piece for The American Prospect Online has continued to attract. Who knew that pointing out the shrewdness of the president's men in their choice of a Supreme Court nominee could be so controversial?

Yesterday's Boston Herald carries this piece, blessedly judgment-neutral.

The Sunday Boston Globe offered this op-ed column from Cathy Young of Reason magazine.

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