Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Certiorari Sam!

Saturday, October 29, 2005
"The point of 'Othello,' among other points, is that it is impossible to know another human being," says actor Patrick Page.

Avery Brooks as Othello,
Patrick Page as Iago

"I am not what I am." -- Iago

"My lord is not my lord." -- Desdemona

"She that so young, could give out such a seeming..." -- Iago

"Men should be what they seem." -- Othello and Iago

"Fathers, from hence trust not your daughter's minds
By what you see them act." -- Brabantio

"This cannot be
By no assay of reason: 'tis a pageant
To keep us in false gaze." -- 1st Senator

Eve wrote:
I was worried at first: None of the moments that define Iago, for me, were underlined. ("Are your doors locked?") There seemed an over-credulous emphasis on Iago's various undermotivations--his thwarted ambition, his fear that Othello had cuckolded him. There were some fun bits--Othello comes across as much more of a salesman or politician than usual, his playing on Desdemona's emotions (girls love hurt/comfort narratives!) nicely paralleled with Iago's machinations--but I worried that we would get an Iago reduced to comprehensibility. Fortunately, as the play rolled on, the sociopathy began to show: a barely-human, racking laugh; an affectlessness that only snapped into appropriate emotion when someone was watching. Any Iago has to keep the character's ending in mind: that ferocious denial of intelligibility, "Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:/From this time forth I never will speak word." Patrick Page earned that line, and slammed it home.
Ang Greg wrote:
I had to remind myself that Desdemona wasn't doing all this stuff, because the actor who played him was so convincing. During the intermission I was thinking "how am I supposed to clap when that guy goes on stage for his curtain call?! He's a slanderer and a bigot and a..oh.."
As an opera man, I can tell you that curtain calls serve not only to permit applause, but also to break tension. The Met even keeps to the tradition of having them after every act, and good job too. There are scenes in opera of such tension that we need to applaud the singers -- and break the tension by seeing them out of character -- before we can even go on with the rest of the opera. Who could imagine Tosca and Scarpia not taking a bow together after Act II of TOSCA? Or Violetta and Alfredo after the scene at Flora's ball in TRAVIATA? Or Simone, Paolo, Gabriele, and Amelia after the Council Chamber Scene in SIMON BOCCANEGRA? Or Amneris after the Judgment Scene in AIDA? Or all six principals after Act II of WALKURE?

Well, I can say that I have never seen a production in the spoken theater at which curtain calls were as emotionally necessary as this Othello. And they were executed in evident awareness of this need. The dirge-music continued throughout them. As usual, the secondary characters bowed in groups, the principals bowed individually, and then the entire company bowed. But then we departed from custom. First, the secondaries and some of the principals departed, and Othello, Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia took a group bow. (Colleen Delany and Lise Bruneau totally rocked in these parts, btw.)

Next, the ladies departed into the wings. Left along together, Othello and Iago bowed deeply to each other, and only then turned back and bowed again to the audience. Then they departed, not into the wings, but through doors on opposite sides of the rear wall of the set.

It was an ingenious and appropriate cap to a very memorable evening of tragedy.

N.B. In the above-linked W.Post story, director Michael Kahn notes that he directed an Othello at Stratford, CT, in 1980, but wasn't satisfied with it. I saw that production too. It starred James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer. Plummer spent that summer at Stratford doing Iago and Henry V. Some people have way too much fun! -- and in fact, too much fun was arguably what was wrong with his Iago. He was getting too much enjoyment out of his life as a treacherous, murderous manipulator. "Iago is profoundly miserable," objected a friend at the time. I'm not sure I agree with that; rather, I think this time out, Kahn, with Page, got it right: Iago is incapable of either joy or misery.

Two new blogs:

Why Fret? Catholicism, guitars, politics, culture, software, etc.

Never Yet Melted (file under Conservative Blogs)

Friday, October 28, 2005


...that my son Greg, hereinbefore known as Caccia di Gregorio, is now blogging!

(Actually I've had a link to his blog for some time, but he's only recently decided that the public may know I'm his dad.)

White House used Souter crony to help with Bush crony

I'm not going out of my way to find further material for recriminations about the Miers debacle, but this cannot be passed over in silence. John Fund writes:
Similar pressure has been applied in New Hampshire, site of the nation's first presidential primary in 2008. Newsweek has reported that "when George W. Bush's political team wanted to send ambitious Republican senators a firm message about Harriet Miers (crude summary: 'Lay off her if you ever want our help')," they chose loyal Bush ally and former state attorney general Tom Rath to deliver it. Plans were even launched to confront Virginia's Sen. George Allen, a likely 2008 candidate for president, and demand he sign a pro-Miers pledge. Luckily, the local Bush forces were warned off such a move at the last minute.

Mr. Rath didn't return my calls, and local sources say he is laying low now that reporters have uncovered his key role in pushing the nomination of David Souter in 1990. "It was Rath and [then-Sen. Warren] Rudman who convinced [then White House chief of staff] John Sununu to back Souter," recalls Gordon Humphrey, a former U.S. senator from the Granite State who at the time supported Judge Souter as a member of the Judiciary Committee. The profound disappointment conservatives experienced when Justice Souter, another stealth nominee, veered left is a major reason for the resistance to Harriet Miers.

New nominee: Sam I am?

Apparently it's looking real good for Judge Samuel Alito, U.S. Ct. of Apps., 3rd Cir. This is good news. When Planned Parenthood v. Casey reached the 3rd Circuit, Alito was the only panel member to vote to uphold all the abortion restriction in the statute, including the one (spousal notification) that was disallowed by the panel and later by the Supremes.

Luttig, Owen, and Williams are still in play too. Of all of these, perhaps the best would be Luttig, but I'll pop the cork just the same if it's Alito.

Thursday, October 27, 2005
OK, sorry about the "witch" thing. Her withdrawal, whether truly self-driven or not ("Think it over. I'll delay the press release until noon." -- Francis Urquhart), was dignified, and could not have been easy. Brava to her.

So, who then? Confirm Them mentions as currently "in play":

Alice Batchelder, U.S. Ct. of Apps., 6th Cir.
Diane Sykes, U.S. Ct. of Apps., 7th Cir.
Karen Williams, U.S. Ct. of Apps., 4th Cir.
Michael McConnell, U.S. Ct. of Apps., 10th Cir., former U.Chi. law prof
Maura Corrigan, Michigan S.Ct.

This list suggests a definite improvement. Still, though, where are Edith Jones (U.S. Ct. of Apps., 5th Cir.), Emilio Garza (same), and Janice Rogers Brown (U.S. Ct. of Apps., D.C. Cir.)?

Ding, dong, the witch is dead! First time I've ever done the Dilbert Victory Jig with a colleague. Fun.

I think I was right about the confidentiality of her White House memos being a face-saving issue. Bush was quite right to withold these. Problem is, with a nominee whose record varies between nugatory and damning, what else could you release? It's both a substantive issue and a good cover story.

More to follow

I've figured out how my New York Mets can win the World Series next year -- not just win, but sweep: announce that their full name all along has been Mets Sox.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Drop whatever you're doing and go see the Shakespeare Theatre's production of Othello (and hurry, b/c it doesn't have much longer to run). More review-remarks later, I hope. Here's to get you started. Avery Brooks, the next generations's James Earl Jones, triumphs in the title role that has baffled knighted Englishmen. His Iago is Patrick Page, last season's Macbeth and a sign that classical acting is alive in America.

The Washington Post reports today:
In a 1993 speech to a Dallas women's group, Miers talked about abortion, the separation of church and state, and how the issues play out in the legal system. "The underlying theme in most of these cases is the insistence of more self-determination," she said. "And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes sense."
Does it, dear. What else did you have to say for yourself on that occasion, three years after telling a Dallas pro-life group that you favored a pro-life constitutional amendment?
"The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's [sic] right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion," Miers said.

Those seeking to resolve such disputes would do well to remember that "we gave up" a long time ago on "legislating religion or morality," she said. And "when science cannot determine the facts and decisions vary based upon religious belief, then government should not act."

So what's the basic message here?
"My basic message here is that when you hear the courts blamed for activism or intrusion where they do not belong, stop and examine what the elected leadership has done to solve the problem at issue," she said.
We will, dear, we will.

Monday, October 24, 2005
Rosa Parks, RIP: Her defiance on the bus was an act of courage -- but before we carry out the secular canonization, it must be noted that she later became a member of Planned Parenthood's Board of Advocates. (Which reminds me, why was there a picture of Thurgood Marshall on the wall of my parish's elementary school during Black History Month last winter? Yes, he was a great anti-segregation litigator, but once on the Court he became a consistent vote for imposing, preserving, and extending Roe v. Wade. Come on, do we really think abortion is itself a grave civil rights violation, or do we not?)

A page about the Catholic Church of the Chaldeans. These are Iraq's native Catholics, and Pope Benedict is, of course, concerned about their future.
At the time of the preparation of this page, the liberation of Iraq is drawing to a close. No information is available about the fate of the Iraqi Christians during the last days of the Baath regime. It must be admitted in all candor that Christians were not persecuted by the Baathist regime, however, they were subjected to random acts of violence from the Muslim majority. Whatever comes out of the war, the fate of the Christian communities in Iraq may be in doubt. The Christian Churches in the Middle East have endured fourteen centuries of Islamic domination, at times harsh and at others less so....

RedState says: RedState is able to report this morning that, very quietly, certain third parties have begun going back through the list of potential judicial nominees at the behest of the White House.....

Meanwhile: Bush says he won't release documents on Miers' White House work. Perhaps this issue will provide the exit line.

World Series: Houston, you have a problem!

I wanted the Cardinals to win this time, but the Astros got into the Series instead, so we're White Sox fans this week! I dislike the Astros because:

* They're an expansion team that isn't the Mets.
* They have Roger Clemens.
* They started the plague of astroturf, which infected most of the league for a while.
* They took the advice of girlie-men and changed their name from the original "Colt 45s."
* They suck.

Have I overlooked anything?

CBS News:
Conservative groups like the Third Branch Conference, Eagle Forum, and Center for Military Readiness are now organizing efforts to force Miers' withdrawal, including starting a Web site....
The story also discusses how Bush is refusing to hand over Miers's White House papers because to do so would interfere with a president's ability to receive candid advice from his counsel -- which is a good argument both for not handing over the papers and for never appointing a White House Counsel to the Supreme Court.

More on the new web campaign here.
EDITED TO ADD: This too.

Sunday, October 23, 2005
* ABC News: Schumer says Miers lacks votes for confirmation

* Knight-Ridder papers: Miers family received 'excessive' sum in land case

* Springfield (Ill.) Journal-Register: Longtime conservative author and political activist Phyllis Schlafly, speaking to a local group Friday night, criticized President Bush's latest choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, saying not enough is known about Harriet Miers' legal philosophy.

* It's The Opinions, Stupid (Or: Why I'm Off The Fence And Opposing Miers)

Saturday, October 22, 2005
A forlorn but dogged minority: Scottish Conservatives!


Insiders see hint of Miers pullout

By Ralph Z. Hallow and Charles Hurt
October 22, 2005

The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.
"White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.
The White House denied making such calls.
"Absolutely not true," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.
But the conservative political consultant said that he had received such a query from Sara Taylor, director of the Office of White House Political Affairs.
Miss Taylor denied making any such calls.
A second Republican, who is the leader of a conservative interest group and has ties to the White House, confirmed that calls are being made to a select group of conservative activists who are not employed by the government.
"The political people in the White House are very worried about how she will do in the hearings," the second conservative leader said. "I think they have finally awakened."
"Absolutely false," Miss Taylor said. "Some of these conspiracy theories have risen to a new level."
The more junior members of the WH political staff will probably be tasked with denying these rumors for three days after she's pulled out.

Conversation chez Cacciaguida: assessing the reading public's interest

CACCIAGUIDA: I can't believe no one commented on this.

ELINOR: There's no predicting what people will comment on. Well, most of the time. On this, you want to be out in front.

Friday, October 21, 2005
It's been over 24 hours since I've bashed Harriet Miers, so...

* John Fund writes:
Lawrence Littwin, a former executive director of the Lottery Commission, is eager to testify should the Senate subpoena him. Mr. Littwin claims that in 1997 Ms. Miers fired him after five months on the job because she was protecting GTECH, the controversial Rhode Island firm managing the lottery. GTECH had been mired in controversy for years, and in 1996 David Smith, its national sales director, was convicted in New Jersey in a kickback scheme involving a lobbyist.

Mr. Littwin has alleged that aides to then-Gov. Bush were worried that should GTECH lose its lottery contract, its top lobbyist, Mr. Barnes, would discuss efforts he claimed to have made to push a young George W. Bush to the top of the coveted waiting list for a pilot's slot in the Texas Air National Guard. (Mr. Barnes went public with those claims last year in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes.") Lottery Commission officials, including Ms. Miers, never detailed the reasons for the Littwin firing. Last week, when the Houston Chronicle asked about it, the White House replied, "Harriet Miers has never commented and will not now on what was a personnel matter."

I strongly supported George Bush's reelection, and I don't regret that even now, so I hope you'll appreciate my mixed feelings in posting this. But then I didn't ask Bush to insult the Court, the nation, and his base the way he has.

* Wall St. Journal editorial (may require free registration):
Although skeptical from the start, we've restrained our criticism of the Harriet Miers nomination because we've long believed that Presidents of either party deserve substantial deference on their Supreme Court picks. Yet it now seems clear--even well before her Senate hearings--that this selection has become a political blunder of the first order.
* Prof. William Stuntz, Harvard Law, in The New Republic:
Miers seems to have very few ideas and no particular skill at expressing them. Until now, that hasn't been disqualifying when it comes to Supreme Court nominations. After Miers, it will be. No future president will want to run the gauntlet the Bush administration is running right now.
* I'm keeping Hugh Hewitt on the blogroll, for now, because he has a book of free passes stemming from the yeoman service he did in the Terri Schiavo fight. But I'm adding StopMiersNow, alongside the ever-hilarious "Harriet Miers's Blog!!!" (where I've taken to dropping the occasional bon mot in the comment boxes).

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Miers = Umbridge? Some editors are starting to refer to the nominee as "HEM."

Miers' answers "insufficient" -- And so "Har" becomes the first nominee in the history of Judiciary Committee questionnaires who had to be asked to do it over. "Problems," says the Washington Post, "like Miers' failing to mention on her Senate questionnaire that her Texas law license had been temporarily suspended -- and her being criticized by the committee's two top senators for incomplete answers on a questionnaire -- keep popping up."

My advice: this time, no happy faces over the "i"'s. In fact, probably better to type -- you know, like filing a motion down at the Dallas courthouse, remember that?

Elitism? Kiss my bulldog. Here's some Richard Brookhiser on that subject:
Conservative defenders of the Miers pick attribute such violent and visceral reactions to snobbery: Our wise President is being second-guessed by a bunch of Beltway elitists and Ivy Leaguers who disdain the horny-handed daughter of toil nurtured at Southern Methodist University. But this charge is boob bait. Many leaders come from nowhere before rising to the top. Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College; Richard Nixon went to Whittier College; Abraham Lincoln went to no college. Ms. Miers had as many advantages as these men, or more. She only has fewer achievements....

This [Bush's choice] is an elitism far more restrictive than anything Ms. Miers’ critics are charged with. Beltway/Ivy League elitism embraces anyone who works in the federal government, or who graduated from one of seven old colleges. The President’s elitism embraces anyone who works down the hall. He looked out over what Tom Wolfe calls “this wild bizarre unpredictable hog-stomping Baroque country of ours” and whom did he see? The woman sitting next to him.

Judge Bork on Harriet Miers. Completely right, except for the last paragraph:
It is said that at La Scala an exhausted tenor, after responding to repeated cries of "Encore," said he could not go on. A man rose in the audience to say, "You'll keep singing until you get it right." That man should be our model.
Actually, that happened at Parma, not La Scala. The story is told in this book.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Do they know how perfect this is? Imelda Staunton, who played the abortionist-"heroine" in Vera Drake, has landed the role of the insufferable Dolores Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix! (Hat-tip: Mugglenet)

Fourth Rail now has a flash presentation of the Al-Anbar campaign, complete with appropriate music. Go here and click on the map, now!

Miers mischief: Har Har Har, so to speak! First a blog, now an Amazon "customer review"!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, and slated to be PM as soon as, ahem, Tony hands over as promised, doesn't hold with the EU and doesn't speak fur'n.

Ever have a day like this?

The Miers nomination illustrates one of the great adages of conservative politics: Pragmatism Doesn't Work.

As far as I'm concerned, Specter should subpoena every last participant in that conference call, and question them for three days each. Drag the hearings out until February. That is, unless Miers's ignorance of constitutional law, as demonstrated at the hearings, is such that Specter mercifully calls a recess so that Jesus can tell her to withdraw.

If the nominee had a serious jurisprudential record, calling witnesses to try and gumshoe out her views would be unconscionably dilatory. Since she doesn't, it is appropriate, and arguably necessary.

The message has to get sent that stealth nominations are just as politically costly as red-hot-paper-trail nominations; maybe more so, since you (the President) have to fight them without many of your erstwhile allies, and you risk fragmenting the coalition that brought your party to power.

Monday, October 17, 2005
We've heard from Jonathan Lee again, this time by e-mail, and I'd like to pass on to you, as a corrective to my "Following Emperor Conrad" post of October 12, JL's observation:
The grenades my gun fires are not rocket-propelled. RPG's are almost exclusively a terrorist weapon.
Since I "can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin," such corrections are always welcome.

Friday, October 14, 2005
Queen et al. fete Thatcher on her 8th birthday. And a nice editorial here.

An AEI analyst writes:
[K]ey conservative Judiciary Committee members have not indicated a preference, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in particular. If they were to join Brownback and Coburn to oppose her in committee, Miers is doomed.

Feddie, of Southern Appeal and Confirm Them, jestingly says to one of his colleagues on the latter blog:
You do know that Catholics are an extremely important demographic within the Republican Party, don’t you? And if we feel slighted . . . Well, let’s just say that you don’t want to mess with the Opus Dei contingent of the Federalist Society.
Yer darnnnn tootin'!

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Latest Supreme Court nomination headline: "White House stands by Miers."

She's toast.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Following Emperor Conrad: Operation River Gate; Jonathan Lee phones home

Many thanks to those who have asked for more news of Jonathan Lee and of the campaign in Iraq's Al-Anbar province (motto: Babylon the Great is fallen and it can't get up).

JL is based at the Haditha Dam, about ten miles north of Haditha; he conducts river patrols as a crew-member aboard a small unit riverine craft (SURC). He is the aft-gunman, and mans a gun that fires rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). [But see correction, Oct. 17, here.] You don't want to mess with him (MWH).

We heard from JL last Sunday, and he's fine. I told him we're following reports on Operation River Gate, which is taking place just south of where he is. He said a few Marines from his camp went down to Haditha to take part in that; they have all returned safely. Any signs of insurgents out on the river, perhaps fleeing after we threw them out of Haditha and blew up its bridges? "Just a few kids. They dispersed when we sent up a flare."

(JL pronounces the town name "Ha-DEETH-a." I had been saying "HAD-i-tha," but I guess JL is closer to the local tongue. )

Bill Roggio reports, on his indispensable blog The Fourth Rail:
At this point in time, Operation River Gate mainly consists of targeted raids and searches for insurgent infrastructure such as weapons factories and ammunition dump. There have been twenty six caches of weapons uncovered since River Gate began. The latest find in the town of Anah (near Rawah) was enormous, and the discovery lead to further finds nearby.
And where is Haditha and its dam? Just south of an eastward loop that the Euphrates makes about midway between the Syrian border and Ramadi. See this Fourth Rail post, especially the map.

As I've mentioned, the dam is about ten miles north of the town, which places it outside the rectangle that Bill has drawn to show the combat zone of Operation River Gate. Unless I'm much mistaken, the blue square just north of that rectangle represents JL's camp, and the black bar across the river represents the dam itself. So JL is near, but not in, the combat zone. Of course, "Every Marine a rifleman" -- so it could become JL's duty to help raid a town at any point. But the Corps has invested eight months in training him to do his job aboard the SURC, and that's probably the job he'll keep doing.

Here is a satellite photo showing rather clearly the dam and the town.

River Gate is one of several recent operations in the Euphrates Valley, presumably designed to wrest the valley towns from insurgent control ahead of the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. Blackanthem reports here:
The operation's goal is to deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate in the Western Euphrates River Valley cities and to free the local citizens from the insurgents' campaign of murder and intimidation targeting innocent women, children and men, officials said.
The jihadists have been cleared out of these towns before, but they've always come back. What's supposed to make the difference this time is that the Marines are accompanied by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), who will remain behind. Thus, order will be maintained by people who look like the townsfolk and speak their language.

Don't underestimate the ISF. While much has been made over here about the paucity of Iraqi units that are both at battallion strength and able to function independently, these figures ignore the fact that plenty of Iraqi units are quite capable of holding towns with a little Coalition support. Bill explains further.

The Haditha Dam
(Army Corps of Engineers photo)

Monday, October 10, 2005
You scored as Albus Dumbledore. Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.

Albus Dumbledore


Remus Lupin


Severus Snape


Hermione Granger


Draco Malfoy


Ron Weasley


Harry Potter


Sirius Black


Ginny Weasley


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with

Not sure why I'm more Draco than Ron or Harry, but I'll sure stick with those top four!

Sunday, October 09, 2005
On the bright side...

Wallace and Gromit -- The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is delightful, from the opening montage of family photos showing puppy-Gromit with short ears and Wallace with 70s hair, and then Gromit's graduation photo from "Dogwarts," through horror cliches and the inevitable Ben-Hur send-up as Gromit and a rottweiler get into a chase in toy WWI planes, all the way to the end when the Were-Rabbit disappears Vader-style and Wallace is revived with a whiff of "Stinking Bishop" cheese.

And speaking of stinking bishop, I want in on the library of that loudmouthed vicar (voiced by Nicholas "Mr. Rumbold" Smith), including the book on monsters by "Claude Savagely."

Goblet of Fire downpayment: Ralph Fiennes, Voldemort in GoF, here voices nasty hunter Victor Quartermaine.

EDITED TO ADD: Gathering Goat Eggs takes it all much too seriously, imo. As to the "pansy spray," I agree there was a missed opportunity: I expected it to have a much more noticeable effect on the hapless Victor.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Supreme Court Nominee Helped Set Up Lecture Series That Brought Leading Feminists to Southern Methodist U.

Just great. And then this, from a Legal Times article by Tony Mauro:
Miers also could be a captive of her law clerks, [legal historian and Roe cheerleader David] Garrow says, to a greater degree than other justices. "A federally inexperienced justice might have to rely more extensively on clerks who have had the benefit of circuit court clerkships." Law clerks now routinely write justices' rough first drafts.

But Garrow's fears are probably overstated, says [Souter biographer Tinsley] Yarbrough, a professor at East Carolina University. "If she senses that her colleagues or her clerks are doing that, she will probably push back."
Yes she will. And that's what is most likely to cause her to drift left: a sensed need to assert her independence by resisting her clerks, most of whom will probably be conservative. It's a common pattern with Justices with well-earned feelings of inadequacy, such as Blackmun and Kennedy.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Our Lady of the Rosary,
Victor of Lepanto

My 1943 Missal being handy, I can tell you that the headnote for today's feast reads:
After the capture of Constantinople by Mohammed II in 1453, Christendom was seriously menaced by the Turkish power. The decisive Christian victory in the naval battle of Lepanto, Oct. 7, 1571, which saved the world from this danger, was regarded as an answer to the Rosary. Today's feast recalls Lepanto and other similar benefits, and reminds us of the power of the Rosary in public and private need.

Miers politics: James Dobson's claim to support Miers based on "confidential information" may become a story in itself, as this leftwing blogpost suggests. And the irony is, the wink-winks aren't really helping with most conservatives. Paul Weyrich, quoted in the L.A. Times in response to Dobson:
"He gave us the line 'Well, I've been told things that I can't share with you,' " Weyrich said. "That drives people up a wall."
And Senator Sam Brownback, R-KS, whose credibility as a pro-life leader increases daily along with his presidential ambition? From the same L.A. Times story:
Brownback, after three days of lobbying by White House aides to persuade leaders among evangelical conservatives to support Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers, emerged from an hourlong meeting with her Thursday and said he was prepared to vote against her.

Bishop Robert Vasa, of Baker, OR, on "safe environment programs" for children (emphasis added):
The next topic is one that I bring up only with great reluctance for I do not want to give any appearance whatsoever of being soft on my desire to assure the complete safety and protection of children. The Charter for the Protection of Children has been interpreted to include mandatory “safe-environment training” for all children of or connected with the Church. In the diocese, we have indicated that such training must be made available to all children under our supervision in our Catholic schools but have not taken on the nearly impossible task of assuming responsibility for every child in the diocese.

As a result of this discrepancy between a new interpretation of the charter and our diocesan policy, the annual charter audit will undoubtedly find the Diocese of Baker, and me as bishop, “Not in Compliance” and will issue a “Required Action,” which I am prepared, at this point, to ignore. I say this not because I resist efforts to protect children, but rather precisely the opposite. There are a series of questions that I believe need to be answered before I could mandate such a diocesan-wide program of “safe-environment training.”

A few such questions follow: Are such programs effective? Do such programs impose an unduly burdensome responsibility on very young children to protect themselves rather than insisting that parents take such training and take on the primary responsibility for protecting their children? Where do these programs come from? Is it true that Planned Parenthood has a hand or at least huge influence on many of them? Is it true that other groups, actively promoting early sexual activity for children, promote these programs in association with their own perverse agendas? Do such programs involve, even tangentially, the sexualization of children, which is precisely a part of the societal evil we are striving to combat? Does such a program invade the Church-guaranteed-right of parents over the education of their children in sexual matters? Do I have the right to mandate such programs and demand that parents sign a document proving that they choose to exercise their right not to have their child involved? Do such programs introduce children to sex-related issues at age-inappropriate times? Would such programs generate a fruitful spiritual harvest? Would unsatisfactory answers to any of the questions above give sufficient reason to resist such programs?
Bishop Vasa may face flak both from the usual suspects charging him with being "soft on child abuse," and from "brother" bishops whose own willingness to go with the flow is put to shame by his good example.

Here is where you can write letters to the editor of Bishop Vasa's diocesan paper. You can write to Bishop Vasa at chancellor at dioceseofbaker dot org, or at P.O. Box 5999, Bend, OR, 97708.

Thursday, October 06, 2005
Following Emperor Conrad: Good morning, Haditha!

Miers politics: Sen. Thune gets it

MSNBC reports:
Emerging from the Republican senators’ weekly policy meeting Wednesday afternoon, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. told reporters that grassroots conservatives were asking why Bush would “show the white flag when having a fight would really energize and motivate our supporters? And especially if you look at the politics of 2006, I think our folks were really ready for a fight. I think a Left v. Right fight is something that helps us. I think an internecine Right v. Less Right fight is something that doesn’t help us.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Following Emperor Conrad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Oct. 4 - U.S. Marines on Tuesday launched their biggest offensive this year against al Qaeda guerrillas in western Iraq, the military saying 2,500 troops attacked militants around Haditha.

Two months after the last push against Islamist fighters ended with al Qaeda still in control, to the dismay of locals alarmed by its Taliban-style rule over civilians, Operation River Gate aims to stop the group operating in Haditha and two nearby towns, Haqlaniya and Barwana, a military statement said.

Well if any Al Qaeda guerrillas try to escape from Haditha by river, they won't get very far, that's all I've got to say!

EDITED TO ADD excerpts from this AP story dated Oct. 4:
Dozens of helicopters streamed toward the Euphrates towns in a phalanx, seen by an Associated Press reporter. Rockets fired by choppers flashed in the pre-dawn darkness, followed by explosions and arches of tracer fire.
"It is a sight to be seen...."
In Haditha, mosque loudspeakers urged residents to confront the Americans, but Marines said they encountered little resistance.

"Some of them may have gotten away. But those that are here, we'll get them," said Capt. Shannon Neller, of New York, commander of Lima Company in 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

Synod on the Eucharist gets under way (under weigh? Isn't it a nautical term originally?), with some Latin chant, with Cardinal Scola as "reporter," i.e. official summarizer of deliberations, and Cardinal Arinze as co-president. At least someone knows how to staff a court.

American Prospect: Sen. Reid told liberal bloggers he urged Bush to pick Miers. Funny, I recall voting for Pres. Bush to select Justices, not Sen. Reid.

Harriet Miers's "blog." I assume it's a spoof, but then, I thought that about the possibility of her being appointed to the Court.

Monday, October 03, 2005
What do I think about the Miers nomination? Basically, this and this. But I hope this is right.

Sunday, October 02, 2005
Eve is having a contest, and there's still time to enter. The idea is to write "something bizarre and amusing" about one or more of the recent eccentric search terms that have led people to her blog. (Now what, I say what, would make Eve turn up in eccentric searches?)

One of the searches was "songs about constitutional rights," so here's my entry:

THE GRISWOLD SONG (tune: Clementine)

At a clinic down on Whitney
In fall of '64
Sat a Yalie seeking jailie
So's to make some brand-new law.

Contraception, contraception,
O my darlin' private right,
I'll defend you and extend you
To the unborn, come what might.

Mrs. Griswo' was a dizbo
But a dedicated hack.
She was useful, got a toothful,
Justice Douglas led the pack.


Any numba of penumbra
Emanate from legal text --
We professors are great guessers
Once we start protecting sex.


Following Emperor Conrad (a periodic update on Crusaders we know and love)
QAIM, Iraq Oct 2, 2005 — Hundreds of U.S. troops combed through a village near the Syrian border Sunday, breaking into houses and fighting sporadic gun battles with gunmen on the second day of a new offensive against al-Qaida insurgents. At least eight militants were killed, the military said.
Well, that's eight who won't get any further down-river and come within the sights of Jonathan Lee's RPG launcher. Enjoy the raisins, punks.

For updates and comments, check The Fourth Rail.

Meanwhile we've heard again from JL. He's done two river patrols so far, both uneventful. He and his buddies live in a house near the Haditha Dam, though four months into their seven-month tour they'll have to move into quarters inside the Dam (not sure why: one hopes it's so that newly-trained Iraqi forces can use the house). The Euphrates is narrower than one imagines: narrower than New York City's East River, JL says. And much more apt to cool the air around it: the Haditha Dam is famously cooler than surrounding areas, and JL has found the weather most clement so far.

Besides JL, your prayers are also entreated for Francis, a blogospheric acquaintance and Australian soldier who will soon be in Iraq.

EDITED TO ADD: 28 more. How's Gimli doing?