Notes From Babel

Archive for November 2008

Bush Through the Obama Prism – Victor Davis Hanson – The Corner on National Review Online

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Victor Davis Hanson has this interesting article at NRO. In particular:

Second, we will come, through the Obama prism, to see that Bush’s sins were largely the absence of rhetorical skills, unfortunate shoot ’em braggadocio in 2003-4, the federal response to Katrina, and a certain administration haughtiness about the problems in Iraq between 2002-6, but not most of his policies that included prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind, AIDs relief in Africa, the removal of two odious regimes, and consensual governments in their places, a framework at home to stop 9/11-type terrorism, and good working partnerships with key allies abroad such as Britain, Germany, France, Italy, India, et al, and a pragmatism in handling rivals like Russia and China.

Hanson also mentions that objections towards Bush’s heavy-handed approach in the “war on terror,” which I myself share to some degree, may at the least be overstated in light of the recent Mumbai seige.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 30, 2008 at 8:09 am

Posted in Politics

Mad Max and the Meltdown – WSJ.com

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Dan Henninger suggests that the declines in American moral and economic values are linked. Although it’s a near impossible thing to prove, I tend to agree.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 29, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Obama’s "Change" May Not Apply to Foreign Policy — Which May Be a Bit of a Relief

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Stephen Bainbridge has this post, remarking that Obama’s likely appointments in his national security team may point to a foreign policy similar to Bush I. Bainbridge points to the flaws with the 41st president’s foreign policy, but I would be relieved to know that we are not tossing the entire rulebook under the bus.

Truth be told, I have been a little anxious, but mostly nervous, to see just what would happen with Obama’s professed policy of openness with leaders of nations with which we have a troubled relationship. If it turns out that Obama actually does not regard the entire conservative rulebook in foreign affairs as rubbish, then that might just flip my anxiety/nervous ratio the other way round.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 29, 2008 at 12:28 am

Posted in Politics

Would Plural Marriage Be On the Heels of Gay Marriage?

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A popular and, to my thinking, convincing argument against unmooring the definition of marriage from the traditional/historical “one man, one woman” construct is that, once so unmoored, there would be no stopping point. That is, if the alternative view, that “love is love,” is taken seriously, then there would be no reason that the numerical restriction should any longer be taken seriously, and plural marriages would be on the table.

I came across this article in which a Mormon mucky-muck agrees, and suggests that a win for gay marriage would result in new lawsuits bringing polygamy and embarrassing Mormon doctrine and history into the limelight. In particular:

Should any state succeed in allowing homosexual, same-sex marriages to become law, it is almost certain that polygamy will rush in on its heels. Should same-sex marriages become legal, there will be no moral high ground for the court to take. I can assure you that it will not be long before petitions come before our lawmakers demanding similar recognition for plural marriages.

It is important to note that, if we eventually recognize gay marriage, it must be done through the political process, not the courts. Through the political process, we can simply declare that the sensibilities and culture of the people dictate that marriage include…whathaveyou. If we opt for a shortcut through the courts, we will be forced to follow that wormhole through to its logical conclusion. In other words, the court-route would require the court to declare, by fiat, a principle by which marriage would be defined. If that principle is something amorphous like “a committed and loving relationship,” as the pro-gay marriage folks would have it, then there is absolutely no reason why such a principle would not extend to any such relationship, regardless of number. Being thus tethered to principle, rather than to the sensibility of the people, there would be no stopping point, and plural marriage must also be recognized as a matter of judicial and logical consistency.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

Professor Balkin’s Abortion Compromise

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Jack Balkin suggests that a “durable compromise over abortion” would look something like this:

if you wanted to imagine how the U.S. would come to a durable compromise over abortion, it would probably look something like this new approach: Pro-life advocates continue to believe that abortion is immoral but agree that the criminal law is not the best way to solve the problem of protecting unborn life. Pro-choice advocates in turn agree to new social services and support for poor women that make it easier for them to choose to have children. (This is something that many pro-choice advocates will agree to because many of them also support expanded social welfare programs.) The result is a coalition of social justice pro-life advocates with traditional pro-choice liberals.

The problem with such a view, however, is that it presupposes, wrongly, that pro-life advocates have adopted the muddle-headed definitions that the pro-choice advocates have put forth, such as “future potential person,” “point of viability,” etc. Instead, pro-life advocates see no non-arbitrary line other than the moment of conception at which to assign personhood, and thus abortion is, quite simply, the unjustified killing of a human person, i.e., murder. To merely suggest that pro-lifers may continue to believe that the act is immoral, while removing the possibility of criminal sanction for an act that they quite rightly believe to be murder, is merely to toss them an irreverent biscuit.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 27, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Abortion, Morality

Who Cares About the Constitution? Not Laura Von Harten

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Here’s another example of relativism transcending personal moral choices all the way to undermining federal statutes and even our Constitution. Laura Von Harten, a Beaufort, South Carolina county council member, objected to rezoning a parcel occupied by a Catholic church because official Catholic policies are an “affront to my dignity and all of womankind.” Ms Von Harten, you are perfectly free to express those views in an op-ed, or in a blog, or into a stiff wind. But once you allow your purely personal views to prevail in a direct contest against the Constitution and federal statutes (e.g., the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA), you wield your power as a tyrant, not as an official elected to uphold the rule of law.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 27, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Who Cares About the Constitution?

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Not Pittsburgh city council member Tonya Payne. Upon the passage of a controversial, and probably unconstitutional, gun ban, Ms. Payne remarked:

“Who really cares about it being unconstitutional?” said Councilwoman Tonya Payne, a supporter. “This is what’s right to do, and if this means that we have to go out and have a court battle, then that’s fine …

We care about laws being constitutional, Ms. Payne, for the same reason we don’t simply sweep all laws aside and solve our problems in the most expedient way we can imagine. We care about the rule of law not because it is the best way of combating crime–certainly we could achieve this more effectively by vesting unfettered discretion in a crime czar. No, we care about it because it guarantees the only way of life that has any objective basis for regarding crime as morally evil, and may thus undertake to root it out. When we leave the rule of law behind, we are no different from gangsters.

Unfortunately, Ms. Payne’s attitude will soon be shared by the very top level of our government.

Written by Tim Kowal

November 27, 2008 at 2:06 am