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Category: Current Events

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Preparing for a Bird Flu Pandemic

pandemic3.jpgBird flu has now captured the attention of the news. While I’m generally not one to become overly concerned with armaggedon scenarios, a flu pandemic strikes me as a particularly realistic and frightening possibility. Pandemics occur periodically, and the experts all seem to be extremely concerned.

I believe that it is important to view this as a national security issue. National security has become almost synonymous with the protection against terrorism, and we assess the success and failure of government officials in keeping us secure primarily with terrorism in mind. But national security should also be understood as the ability to prevent and respond to natural disasters and outbreaks of disease. The destruction terrorists might cause is often small when compared to what nature can do. According to Newsweek:

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Originalists Take Over The Nation

Many progressives are opposed to the Harriet Miers nomination. Thus, it was no surprise to see an article in The Nation suggesting that she be quizzed about her beliefs, and that she be pressed not to extend the rights of corporations. What was surprising was the fact that the article, by Morton Mintz, relied on the bizarre adoption of a originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Mintz’s argument — which was mostly a plain-vanilla critique of corporate rights — contains (and relies on) this gem:

Who was the “person” whose basic rights the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the people who approved it, sought to protect? (The person was, of course, the newly freed slave. The history of the amendment, adopted in 1868–soon after the end of the Civil War–proves this.)

From there, Mintz argues that this original understanding shows that corporations should not be give Fourteenth Amendment protection.

Yes, that’s right. Mintz is suggesting that the Fourteenth Amendment should be construed according to how it was viewed in 1868. This is the interpretive methodology known as originalism — a school of thought more likely to be associated with the National Review than The Nation.

If the amendment is read in an originalist way, Mintz is right that it would probably not cover corporations. The original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment was that it was to help slaves; that’s more or less where the original understanding ends.

Of course, such a reading creates a blinding assortment of new problems for progressives. For example, the fact that the 1868 understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t cover women. Or Hispanics. Or gays. Or anyone else except for newly freed slaves. And yes, it didn’t cover corporations. So Mr. Mintz is right, in a sense. Originalism is certainly one way to restrict the rights of corporations — and everyone else.

Originalist arguments, similar to that Mintz employs in his article, are nothing new. A nearly identical argument — that the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to protect freed slaves, no one else, and that no further rights should be drawn from it — was made by Robert Bork in The Tempting of America. Advocates like Bork, taking the originalist methodology to its logical conclusion, have argued that originalism invalidates a whole host of civil rights and liberties.

Is The Nation really willing to endorse originalism in order to score a few points against corporations and Harriet Miers?

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Miers: Is Karl Rove Chuckling?

rove.jpgFor all the talk about Harriet Miers, very little has yet been unearthed about her. Everybody seems unhappy. Many conservatives are extremely upset about the nomination. Liberals are underwhelmed but many seem to hold out hope for a Souter. There may be a lot of uncertainty about Miers, but there is some degree of certainty about how this White House operates.

The reactions about Miers certainly couldn’t have come as a surprise to the White House. I’m trying to imagine Karl Rove’s strategy. There must be, after all, some kind of strategy, unless Rove was taking a lunch break when Bush made the nomination. Could it just be cronyism? Or perhaps there’s something more. Here’s a nominee who has about as short a paper trail as a nominee can have, yet who is very well known to President Bush and others in the Administration.

After spending years cultivating the far Right, would the Administration suddenly abandon them? Or just make a really big blunder? I don’t see it. In the last presidential election, it became clear that Rove was not to be underestimated. I don’t totally understand what the Administration is doing here, but there must be a strategy to it. It’s hard for me to believe that this appointment was just a thoughtless bout of cronyism.

And regarding Supreme Court justices, David Bernstein of the VC has dubbed his new baby girl “a future Supreme Court Justice.” If the Harriet Miers nomination doesn’t work out, I think that Bernstein’s daughter would definitely be on the short list. After all, she has no paper trail and would serve on the Supreme Court for a very long time, which seem to be the leading qualifications to be on the Court these days.

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Mormons Pick Nominees, Part II

I’m starting to see a strange pattern here. First it was Ginsburg. LDS Senator Orrin Hatch has publicly taken credit for Clinton’s decision to nominate both Ginsburg and Breyer, writing of a discussion with the former president:

Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. President Clinton indicated he had heard Breyer’s name but had not thought about Judge Ginsberg.

I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.

And with Orrin Hatch’s advice and consent, first Ginsburg and then Breyer were confirmed. (There are conflicting views as to what this means).

Now, LDS Senator Harry Reid claims to be the inspiration behind the Miers nomination:

At the meeting we had with the president last week, we were in the office he has there; I was there, Frist was there, Leahy was there, and Specter was there, plus Andy Card and the vice president. I said, “The vice president got here in a very unusual way. He was chosen by you to find a candidate to be your vice president. You liked the person in charge of finding a candidate better than the people he chose.” I said, “I think that rather than rather than looking at the people your lawyer’s recommending, pick her.”

As a church member myself, I’m pleasantly surprised by the trend. Three of the last four nominees were initially suggested by co-religionists? Not bad, not bad at all. Perhaps we’re not electable as presidents, but it looks like we’re doing alright being the power behind the throne.

I would post on this issue further, but I’ve got to run and go refine my short list. Just in case the President calls to ask me about nominees.

(Cross posted at Times and Seasons).