Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Crawling Out of the Cave

I just finished my bar exam exactly 35 minutes ago!!!

I am looking forward to returning to regular blogging, just as soon as I catch up on what has been happening in the world.

Good to be back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bar Exam Hell

I will not be blogging much over the next two weeks or so as the bar exam approaches. For all the blawgers out there who have experienced this delicious little torture, wish me luck. For everyone else, I could use your good wishes as well.

Just so long as I am not in the minority who fails, all will be well in the world on July 28.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Radio Commentary a Political Donation

A case in Washington state is on the receiving end of a blogging blitz. In the ruling, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wickham ruled that two on-air radio personalities had made in-kind contributions to an anti-gas tax initiative because their vocal opposition to a gas-tax taking effect. The ruling is stunning because of hte potentially chilling effect not only on talk radio but also on editorial pages across the country. The news story notes that an appeal is likely, I would think that an appeal is certain.

The story is well covered among blogs. See Michelle Malkin, Skeptic's Eye, Bob Bauer. There are others I am sure. My interest is different from these writers, namely the justification for the ruling. In particular, Bob Bauer points to the regulatory abandonment by the Federal Communications Commission as a cause for this ruling, at least that is one cause.

But The ruling by Judge Wickham raises another question. Over the course of campaign finance jurisprudence, the only acceptable compelling governmental interest that serves to support campaign finance regulation has been the "corrpution or appearance of corruption" standard. There have been some collateral cases with other justifications, but usually the corruption has been the underlying reasoning.

One of the reasons for concern among campaign finance reformers about blogs is the potential for inherent anonymity possible. One of the juditifications behind the media exemption is that consumers of media have the ability to discriminate for themselves the motivations behind any editorial comment. The situation with the Washington radio case is closer to the latter than the former. The political views of the hosts are clearly known and one presumes, people have the right to change the channel. Some commentators have rightly pointed out that the comments by these radio hosts are not unlike a newspaper endorsement in the editorial page.

But by making the ruling, Judge Wickham seems to indicate that there should be a new standard for campaign finance regulation, but since I can't find the ruling I don't know what it is. I fail to see how the radio hosts have corrupted the initiative process or even have the potential to corrupt the process. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the FEC and state campaign finance agencies can regulate the political activity of anonymous bloggers under the standard of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption, how then do named media sources and commentators fit into the rhubric of regulated entities?

There are times when Justice Thomas can be amazingly prescient. In his dissent in McConnell v. FEC, he wrote, that campaign-finance law was leading toward "outright regulation of the press." Judge Wickham has made just that step in a frighteningly Orwellian manner.

Stuck in a Beltway Traffic Jam

What Makes a School Principal

The Washington Post is reporting today on a program by which the DC school system fills principal vacancies by hiring form a program called New Leaders for New Schools. The story does a good job presenting both sides of the argument. Essentially what the program provides is a one year training program designed to equip graduates with skills necessary for effective principals. From their website: (emphsis added)

Mission:New Leaders fosters high academic achievement for every child by attracting, preparing, and supporting the next generation of outstanding leaders for our nation's urban public schools.

Core Beliefs:
1. Every child can achieve the highest levels of academic excellence. At New Leaders for New Schools, we mean every child in every circumstance.
2. Adults are responsible for ensuring that all children excel academically. We as adults can and must do more to unlock the potential of each and every student.
3. Delivering high quality public education to all children is critical to a just society that affords every child the full range of opportunities in life.
4. Great schools are led by great principals. These principals coach and inspire teachers to reach and teach every child and collaborate with their parents, families, and communities to make schools work.
5. With access to outstanding public schools, all children will develop the competence, critical thinking, social and civil skills to reach their highest potential in the classroom and in life.

Truly successful principals understand that when a child fails in school, the root cause of the problem is not the child, but rather the adults in that child's life. If it takes a principal to make regular housecalls to parents to get them to understand what is at stake, then that is what a great principal does.

The selection criteria covers a broad range of skills, including management, teaching, team building, communications, and committment to education of students AND themselves. Although teaching certification is not required, it is highly recommended and they require actual classroom experience to qualify for the program. The program appears to be highly professionalized, with a residency requirement (not unlike residency for doctors) where the gradtuate is paired with an experience principal and commits to serving a minimum of three years in the district that hires them upon completion.

The program focuses on leadership skills in the area of instructional, operational and tranformational leadership, practical skills and reflective exercises. What is interesting about the program is the emphasis placed on transfromational leadership. With the need to change the way things are done in a school that has consistently failed in its mission requires a unique set of leadership qualities not found in most leadership courses.

Of course, as one would expect in Washington, DC, there are those who oppose the idea of actually training principals.

The New Leaders program is not without critics. Announcements of the hirings have sparked some debates on who best qualifies as a principal -- the candidate with the most experience in the system or the one with the most determination to shake up the system.

Those especially disparaging of the recruiting effort are veteran school administrators, some of whom refer to those in the program as "microwave" leaders because they are groomed for their new posts so quickly.

Bernard C. Lucas Sr., president of the Council of School Officers, which represents D.C. public school principals, said he recently filed a grievance against the school system, alleging that several assistant principals were discouraged from applying for principals' jobs. Given that the assistant principals were qualified, according to the grievance, the school system's action was "capricious and age discriminatory."

I am of the mind set that qualified principals are not simply a product of time in service. You shouldn't get a promotion merely because you have been there the longest. Anytime a bold step is taken to increase the accountibility of principals or to look for new ideas, there is a group that will always throw up roadblocks. But these principals are trained to look for ways around it.

Community leaders also have gotten a little upset.

"Just because a person goes through this [program] doesn't mean they are qualified to lead a school at this point in their career," said the Rev. Anthony J. Motley, president of a nonprofit education program in Southeast. "What are we doing to our students when we select people without a proven track record?"

Of course, the principal Rev. Motley speaks of is the third principal in three years at one of the largest high schools in DC. Apparently the previous two, products of the old system, did not make any impact. Why then is there a fear of trying something new? Perhaps radical change is best in some situtations.

Whether the principals trained through the New Leaders New Schools program are better than principals trained through traditional programs remains to be seen. But anytime a challenge is made to seniority rights system of promotion, I think we are in a better place. The traditional method of principal training often involves taking senior teachers, perhaps those who are truly excellent at teaching and move them into administration. However, being a great teacher does not make a great principal. Many teaching colleges and education programs do not cover leadership skills, budgeting or other management skills necessary for successful principals.

In a city that is rife with traditional mindset thinking about education, the fact that something new is being tried is a blessing in itself.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

DC Area Schools Struggling to Find Teachers

The Washington Post takes a none-too-subtle jab at NCLB today by saying that the annual scramble to find teachers for local schools system lies more at the feet of the law, rather than the simple over-arching need to find highly qualified teachers.

A little-noticed provision of the federal No Child Left Behind law is raising the stakes this recruiting season for school officials seeking credentialed teachers. By the end of the coming school year, the law requires "highly qualified" teachers in all core academic classes.
Highly qualified teachers is of course always a difficult search because, as with any profession in demand, there is a finite number of such individuals. However, at least in my recollection, this is the fifth or sixth year the last minute search for teachers has occurred in the DC area. In other words, the story is not new. Sure, perhaps the NCLB provision adds a new spin, but in this field, the number of persons highly qualified will always be less than the positions needing to be filled.

This statistical fact therefore, begs the question. If next year all core curriculum classess must be taught by "highly qualified" teachers, what will happen next year?

The Iron Triangle of Public Schools

Charter schools, voucher programs and other school choice options routinely receive criticism for their “abandonment” of public schools in favor of some alternative model of “consumer driven” education (with consumer driven always said with a sneer). Of course this is true, but the current crop of school leaders and Democrats need a lesson in market research from which they will learn how to improve the public school system.

In the American economy, we are flooded with options for consumer products and services. One can go to any grocery store and see ten different mustards, dozens of flavors of ice cream from ten different manufacturers. We have options for cellular phone service, internet service and a vast array of professional services. Yet when people think of education, they have historically had but one choice—public education. Why?

The answer lies in the iron triangle of tradition, apathy, and fear. The iron triangle plagues public schools and causes reactionary fear leading to a paralysis of thinking, the thought that if we just throw more money at the problem, or reduce class sizes or do something else, we can save public schools. But the thinking never leaves the triangle, never steps outside to determine if the movement toward school choices can provide a guide for making public schools better.

In corporate America, when a company is faced with competition so sharp as to endanger the company’s market share, one of two events occur. Either the company hunkers down and accepts their tiny and dwindling market share, or the company looks long at hard at itself, retools, re-brands and re-emerges as a stronger, more viable company than before. In order for the second course of action to occur, senior management must look inward and accept a simple fact—they don’t know it all and they must change their thinking or they will all fail.

The iron triangles first leg, tradition is easy to see. We have always provided education to most children via a top-down model of public education. But why? In a society as consumer driven as ours, why have we failed to account for the consumer in education, the child and their parents. The reason is tradition—the state has always assumed it knew better than parents. My fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi, has a saying, “Merely because a practice is prevalent, may be the poorest reason for continuing it.” Tradition has to make way for consumer driven policies, something schools, by tradition, have ignored.

Apathy takes a little more digging to find. True, many educators truly believe, deep in their hearts and souls that they are doing right by the kids. Some are, but many aren’t and the troubling factor remains, too many don’t care enough to change their mind set. Make no mistake, change can be frightening, but the mere thought of change has paralyzed too many education policy makers that they simply don’t care.

Finally, fear, above everything else, drives the current resistance to school choice programs. The fear that another model of education, one that is consumer driven, with choices suitable for all children and their parents scares the daylights out of educators, who are used to near monopolistic control.

But by working beyond the tradition, apathy and fear, modern education administrators may find out why school choice programs are growing in popularity. By examining why parents clamor for choice schools can take a good long look at what about their business model needs to be re-tooled and re-branded. By stepping outside the triangle, public schools can be made better and then compete on the same level as the options they fear—even reasserting their market dominance. After all, if you have satisfied customers, they keep coming back.

Cross-posted at WatchBlog

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Al Queda Desparate?

In a number of instances, I have argued that if take an action that implicitly admits defeat, you have indeed lost a key battle. With the killing of an Egyption diplomat to Iraq, Al Queda has implicitly admitted defeat in teh battle to prevent the creation of a democratic Iraq.

Al Queda alledgedly killed Egyptian ambassador Ehad Sherif for serving as an ambassador to Iraq. In the video statement, the killers said Sherif was being killed for being "the ambassador of the apostates, the ambassador of Egypt." Such a statement implies that Al Queda recognizes the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of Iraq. The Iraqi people should take a perverse pride in that recognition, because it does two things. One it grants them legitimacy in teh eyes of their enemy, legitimacy they did not have under Saddam Hussein.

Second, it automatically confers onto Al Queda the status of criminals. No longer are they freedom fighters or even jihadists, but common criminals and murderers in the eyes of Iraqi law.

This is a great statement as well: (emphsis added).

In Cairo, the Egyptian government issued a statement expressing "deepest sorrow for the loss of one its finest sons and a martyr of her diplomatic service . . . who lost his life at the hand of terrorism that trades in the name of Islam but which knows no nation nor faith." Sherif's killing would "not thwart Egypt from its unwavering policy of supporting Iraq and its people," the statement said.

I hope that other Muslim nations will start to denounce the efforts of Al Queda in a similar fashion. Now that the hostility of Al Queda extends to Muslim and Arabs, not just Jews and Christians, how long do they think they can sustain their efforts? I wonder what will happen to world opinion now?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Immigration Blog--Check it Out

Michelle Malkin has created an immigration blog that is in its early stages. Given the real problems we are facing in immigration policy, more people need to spend sometime discussing this issue.

Check out the site.

The Immigration Blog

A Little Overexaggerated Perhaps

While the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is important and certainly should be taken seriously, I don't think it rises to the level of "Holy War" as Newsweek proclaims.

The Holy War Begins - Newsweek Politics -

The Carnival of the Clueless

Is now up over at Right Wing NutHouse. Some amusing reading to be had.

Carnival of Education is Open

Check it out over at the Education Wonks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Inconsequential Effects of Closing a School

In Miami, Superintendant Rudy Crew is proposing to close a couple of poor performing schools, including one school that has received four consecutive F's. The closure is meeting with some resistance among the school board and teh community, but one of the dumbest reasons to keep the school open is reported on in this story.

It seems that some people are concerned that the closure of the school would affect the school's athletic legacy. Of course, academic legacy is not an issue for football coach Corey Bell, who said, "It will be a big blow to the student-athletes that have worked so hard to establish themselves. Some of them are among the elite in the state of Florida and nationwide." Apparently, his student athletes, assuming they are a cross section of the school's population (a dangerous assumption but one that must be made), are not making the grade and the school is failing them.

Furthermore, an Edison closure could affect athletes' chances of securing college scholarships, both for the Edison players and players pushed aside by the potential transfers.

''Not only is it unfair to my kids, but what about the kids from those rival schools?'' Bell said. ``Those kids have worked hard in their program. Now all of a sudden, you're taking my kid and take him over there. Now they're in a whole new role. It's unfair to both parties. . . . It could cause a lot of chaos.''

The problem with Bell's contention is that his athletes are so superior that colleges will overlook their poor academic preparation--which is of course what will happen. Of course, I find it difficult to believe that a player of any sport at a different school being considered for an athletic scholarship would suddenly not be in the running simply because another player came into the picture. Perhaps Coach Bell should spend his time worrying more about the education his student-athletes are receiving. He is quite clearly a role model for his players and the community, he should be screaming at the top of his lungs to change the way education is being delivered. But, I suspect, Mr. Bell has aspirations beyond Miami Edison and closing his program which has been successful might provide a convenient excuse to look elsewhere.

I know that a school's athletic prowess is a strong source of pride for the school, its students, the administration and the community. But it seems to me that Mr. Bell and those who are opposing the closure have forgotten the purpose of the high school--to educate the kids that attend the school. If the school board even considers the effect on athletics, both at Edison and other schools in teh area, then the Board should be replaced immediately with a panel who places the focus squarely on education. Sports are an "extra-curricular" activity and should not be considered in any respect. The fact that this article is a follow-up appeared the day after the initial report that a closing was possible shows the priorities of hte community. If the priority is on what will happen in sports, it is clear that Superintendant Crew has a mighty obstacle before him to provide a quality education for the students on his watch.

Stuck in a OTB Traffic Jam

Carnival of the Capitalists Is Up

Check it out, especially the post on the power of Wal-Mart.

She Wants to be Speaker of the House???

Okay, this press briefing by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is just filled with silliness and a clear lack of understanding of how the govnerment works and the point of legislation she worked on. Here are some of the juicier tidbits:

When asked about campaign finance reform legislation moving through Congress:

The point of the most recent campaign finance reform was to separate Members of Congress from raising huge amounts of money. ...The problem was the connection between raising millions of soft dollars from individual special interest donors by policymakers in Washington, D.C.

In 2003 Nancy Pelosi's leadership PACs (PAC to the Future and Team Majority) settled a case for violations of the campaign finance law. But BCRA, the original Shays-Meehan bill did not "separate Members of Congress from raising huge amounts of money" but rather limited the kinds of money they could raise. In fact, Members of Congress continue to raise huge sums of money.

On Social Security:
Q: Ms. Pelosi, do House Democrats or Senate Democrats plan to offer their own Social Security proposal, and if so, what might it say? And if not, why not?
Ms. Pelosi: Are we going to offer our own Social Security proposal? ...We have been, I think, very effective in saying our plan is to save Social Security, to stop privatization, to stop the raid on Social Security, and to strengthen solvency. That is our plan.

The question was whether there is going to be a Democratic Social Security plan. This answer tells me "No--we can't even answer a question straight, why would be put together a plan."

On the Kelo decision and legislation to withhold federal funds from states and localities for use in eminent domain purchases:

Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.
So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.

Now aside from the inability to make a distintion between separation of powers between the Judicial and Legislative branches and the separation of church and state, this particular answer is full of stupidity.

First, the power of the purse (over federal funds) lies with Congress and Congress alone. Congress may make any stipulation on the use of funds it gives to states and local governments, including prohibiting funds for the use of eminent domain purchases. The Supreme Court has held the exercise of this power to be constitutional time and time again. It is not a separation of powers issue for Congress to exercise its power of the purse to prevent actions legal under a Supreme Court decision to be used by the states. The legislation does not prevent eminent domain purchases by state and local governments permitted under Kelo, only prevents using federal funds. You would think that that the Senior Democrat in the House of Representatives would understand the power of the purse--but apparently not.

Next, the Courts rely upon the legislative and in particular the executive branch to enforce their decisions. The Courts have no independent enforcement power. Again, the Minority leaders should know this.

Here is a fun little exchange that again, points to a clear lack of understanding of the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches of government, a misunderstanding that the leader of House Democrats should not have:

It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.
Q Do you think it is appropriate for municipalities to be able to use eminent domain to take land for economic development?
Ms. Pelosi. The Supreme Court has decided, knowing the particulars of this case, that that was appropriate, and so I would support that.

Um, not to point out the obvious, but the Supreme Court is not God, nor is it even an oracle for God. (Wow talk about the problems of separation of church and state if the Supreme Court were an oracle for God). The court is not infallible (see the history of Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scot decision for more details). Often a decision of the Supreme Court becomse a starting point for political debate (see Roe v. Wade or Bakke decisions). Kelo is simply the latest in a long line of cases that have sparked a prolonged and meaningful debate about govermental powers.

Now, if Congress wanted to change the law and decision of hte Supreme Court they could, by passing legislation. The Fifth Amendment already protects against uncompensated takings, the Congress could simply define better what constitutes a proper taking. A simple majority in both Houses and a signature by the President would do that. A constitutional amendment is not necessary.

Nancy Pelosi aspires to be Speaker (assuming she could get enough Democrats elected to the House--a marginal proposition at best). The speaker is just two hearbeats away from the White House and some one with such a fundamental misunderstanding of how our government works should be no where near the White House, let alone be someone who could be in a position to occupy the White House. It is amazing how uneducated a senior member of the House of Representatives can be about basic constitutional concepts. Scary to say the least.

U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Transcript of Today's Pelosi Press Conference"

Do We Expect Judicial Activisim?

The political screeching about judicial activism, soon to become a daily occurrence as the the nomination to replace Justice O'Connor accelerates, may be of our own making. In this post from the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki quotes a potential nominee, Judge Edith Jones regarding the judicial confirmation process. One interesting part of her comments is this:

For much of the twentieth century, mandarins of the law viewed the courts as agents of social change and the law as contingent, evolutionary, and ultimately subservient to political expediency. Federal judges long ago caught on to this heightened view of their power, and it was inevitable that state judges would do the same. (emphasis added).

Many of the right's issues with judges is they believe the courts are making policy--leftist policy. Much of the left's issues with judges rests on teh belief that conservative judges don't care about those wronged by the law. In truth both sides of the political spectrum have invited judges to make law from the bench.

Democrats have, since the after the New Deal, routinely turned to the courts to vindicate "rights" they could not get the political branches to create. By turning to the courts the left has asked judges to make law in their favor. The problem the left then experiences occures when the courts either fail to take up the case on a procedural matter or decide that the right asserted by leftist plaintiffs does not exist either in the constitution or in a statute. By relying on the courts to find rights, the left abandoned any effort to change the law in the political process, which leads to other problems outside the scope of this post.

Republicans find fault with judges who look for and/or find rights in legislation that was passed or in some interpretation of the Constitution. The problem for the right rests not on reliance on judges but on the belief that judges will understand what is written on the page. Conservatives want judges to enforce the law as written. But, poorly written law, in the form of vague legislation or poorly written regulation, leaves much to the discretion of hte court to assign a definition to words on the page. Thus, when a case comes to the court where the court must decide which definition or interpretation to give to a word or phrase, the right calls any decision against their beliefs to be legislating from teh bench--but the court MUST make a decision because our system of justice requires a winner in each case.

Either by omission or commission, both sides of the political spectrum have come to expect judicial activism, but only call it judicial activism when the decision goes the wrong way. Judges can only work with cases and laws presented to them. When a Democratic senator calls a judge an extremist, or when a Republican senator does the same, both would do well to look into the mirror and ask themselves, who is the root cause of our problem? The judge? or Me?

Returning to Judge Jones comments, courts can be agents of social change (witness Brown v. Board), but the capacity for courts to be agents of social change is very small and reactive at best. but by coming to expect judicial activism (what ever definition you attach to it) you run the risk of decisions contrary to your own intent. Both sides of the political spectrum would do well to examine their own motivations in the battle over judicial confirmations.

Stuck in an OTB Traffic Jam

Sunday, July 03, 2005

What Is The Functional Difference

Last week, in an ironic sense of timing, the Federal Election Commission held a two day hearing on the future of blogging, the Internet and the regulation of campaign practices by bloggers on the Internet. I say ironic, because less than a week from the celebration of our Nation's birth, the FEC is considering the prohibition of a right we hold dear, that to speak our minds, in the electronic medium in the most protected of speech arenas--political speech.

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, I urge to to visit this site, put up by Mike Krempasky.

The efforts of the FEC in this arena are troubling on a fundamental level. In essence, assuming the regulations offered by the FEC are implemented, the fact that bloggers and other internet activists post any information about a candidate for federal office, the writer could be forced to register and report that activity to the FEC. In short, if I say, Vote for Candidate X for president, these regulations COULD force me to register as a political committee.

The troubling part is that the FEC will be regulating speech based on the form of the speech, not the content (which would clearly be unconstitutional), nor on the speaker (also clearly unconstitutional). The FEC's distinction would be on the method of transmission of the political message.

Several commentators in this field have compared the modern blogger to the pamphleteers of hte past, the Tom Paines, James Madisons, Alexander Hamiltons and John Jay's of the colonial period. At the core, these commentators are not incorrect, but a more modern equivalent can be found--the guy in the park.

Assume for a moment a man puts on a t-shirt emblazoned with Frist for President or Hilary for President and walks into the neighborhood public park at noon on a Saturday. In a polite manner, using only his voice he beings to extoll the virtures of his chosen candidate. At the conclusion of each paragraph of virtues, he urges anyone within earshot to vote for his candidate. While most people might find this gentlemen to be a worst a nuisance, his actions are clearly constitutional and more importantly not regulated. Now, the man may be prohibited from using a loud speaker with out obtaining a permit or prohibited from making his speech at 2:00 am in the morning, but barring these permitted time, place, and manner restrictions, his actions are constitutionally protected.

What the FEC is considering at this time would make those same actions, if posted on teh man's blog, potentially a corrupting influence on the election process and thus in need of regulation. Note carefully, that the man is not paid by his candidates election committee. He may use some of the same words and slogans as his candidate, which could cause him to come into contact witht he coordinated expenditure rule and force him to register as a committee.

So the question is, what is the functaional difference between a man in the park on a Saturday afternoon and a man sitting at his keyboard at 3:00 am because he has insomnia? In terms of message--nothing. In terms of intent--nothing. The only difference is that the man at his keyboard is using the electronic soapbox and that is what the FEC may be regulating.

I have simplified my argument a great deal, as many who will read this will no doubt tell me. But at the core of the discussion between the public and the FEC on this proposed regulation is how much we are going to allow the government to regulate activity that is fundamental to our functioning democracy--the speaking of political views in a public forum. And so the question to the FEC is what is the functional difference between a man speaking his political thoughts in public and a man posting his political thoughts online?

Allison Hayward on FEC, Kelo and Negative Liberty

What is the connection between the Kelo property rights decision and the potential regulation of bloggers by the Federal Election Commission? Well Allison Hayward of the Skeptic's Eye tells us in the article linked to below.

I so rarely rave about other writers and bloggers, I usually let the fact that I link to their work speak for themselves, but this is a truly brilliant piece, bringing together a vital strand of thought, that as well allow government to intrude more and more into our lives through regulation and enforcement, we sacrifice the kinds of liberties we have always taken for granted, specifically, the liberty to be secure in our own homes and in our own minds.

Among my favorite passages:

The negative liberty secured by the takings clause and the Constitution's respect for private property kept the government out of private land deals. Eroding that protection increases the pressure to seek influence from decision-makers, and for those who cross the line, corruption. The inevitable scandal then provides an impetus for yet more regulations. The process is a one-way ratchet. (emphasis added).

The fact is that once a regulation is put in place, it is very, very difficult to change. Similarly, once the Supreme Court has made a decision, it is very hard for the Court to change its mind. The Court does change its collective mind, albeit very, very slowly.

So a great big thank you to Allison for pointing this one out. I hope you go and check out her blog--it is a good one.

Allison Hayward on FEC on National Review Online

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cafritz Pans Broader Plan For Vouchers

A proposal in the U.S. Senate (Congress oversees the functioning of Washington, DC) would expand the voucher program in operation in the city to allow students to choose to go to school outside the city, namely in schools within three miles of the district. Predicatbly, the Board of Education president opposes the plan. Here is one comment, which says a lot:

"We feel strongly they shouldn't send our kids outside the city," said Cafritz, who had long opposed private-school vouchers but supported the voucher bill passed by Congress last year. "To send kids outside with public money pushes the envelope to a point beyond what this program was supposed to be."

Reading between the lines we can see that once again, the educrats have lost sight of their ultimate consumer--kids. The fact of the matter is that despite throwing millions of dollars and reform proposals into the DC school system, the system has not improved the education of its children. The fact that a Senator has proposed expanding school choice is offensive to some people. But if you focus on providing kids an education, you find that this solution offers more choices to find a better education.

Any kid who decides to go to a suburban school would have to get their on their own, often meaning a commute of some distance. Therefore, the education provided by teh suburban school must be worth the effort. If the DC schools provided that kind of education, then kids wouldn't need to go outside the city.

The school board president then throws some anti-catholic school bigotry out as reasoning.

"The Catholic schools in [Prince George's County] and around the Beltway -- they need population," she added. "This is part of a larger scheme to rescue that system."

You know what, the Catholic schools don't need "population." Every Catholic school in teh region--to my knowledge, usually is full up with students. Could the schools benefit from a few DC kids attending a suburban Maryland school, perhaps. But one needs to remember that no matter what, the Catholic church has the funds to support the schools.

So what is the real reason: space.

DC Schools are over crowded and

Officials at the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit group that administers the program, said that as many as 80 students who have been offered vouchers for this fall might not be able to use them because of a shortage of high school slots.

How can a city who cries about letting kids go to a school of their choice not find space for 80 kids? Teh answer, the private schools these voucher kids want to attend are full, because the DC schools are in such disrepair. Again, I go back to my premise, if hte DC public schools provided a high-quality education there would be no need for a voucher program and consequently no need for students to attend suburban schools.

Offer poeple a choice between high, equal quality schools, almost everyone will chose the school closest to their home. It makes getting the kids to school easier. But when there is not choice between high-quality alternatives, people will choose the best alternative--each time, every time they can.

Cafritz Pans Broader Plan For Vouchers

Goodbye Justice O'Connor--Hello Senate Circus

With the news of Justice O'Connor's retirement from the Supreme Court will come the speculation of who will President Bush nominate to her seat. While there have been pundits galore opining on the subject, I want to post something a little different and little further down the road--the confirmation battle.

I think there are two things that will happen. First, you can guarantee a media spectacle--so much of one, I am surprised anyone would willingly go through with it. Second, you are going to see more outside spending on this nomination that you would see in a Senate seat battle--I am not sure of the impact that will have on the country.

See, until the nomination battle of Judge Robert Bork, most Supreme Court nominees were tested on competence, i.e. did this nominee possess the necessary legal training, epxerience and aptitude to be Supreme Court Justicts. Even intensely ideological nominees, like Antonin Scalia were confirmed with no dissenting votes. Now, any judge coming to the Judiciary Committee runs the risk of being Borked and/or filibustered.

But here is where Democrats are going to have to be very careful. Let's assume for a moment that Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down this summer as well. A reliably conservative vote, President Bush would be in pretty safe territory to nominate a conservative replacement without much more than a pro-forma battle. If President Bush promotes form withing, the likely candidates being either Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas, President Bush can still nominate a reliably conservative jurist.

However, O'Connor is a swing vote, always has been. Replacing her with a conservative constructionist or even an originalist is sure to draw the ire of Democrats and liberals. But here is where Bush can win. I think he should nominate a conservative in the Rehnquist mold to replace O'Connor for a couple of reasons.

First, it is the President's constitutional perogative to nominate Justices. He may consider any criteria he considers relevant, presumably including ideology. Of course, the President is likely to nominate those who share similar outlooks, but that does not guarantee anything. Just ask the ghost of Dwight Eisenhower how he felt, after the fact, about nominating Earl Warren. Democrats need to think about that. O'Connor was considered pretty conservative when she was nominated, yet turned out to be much more middle of the road than President Reagan may have expected. That is the risk of a lifetime appointment--that Justice's opinions and outlooks may slowly shift over time. Democrats should just accept that as fact.

Second, President Bush can nominate a Rehnquist like conservative and succeed because the Democrats cannot afford to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. While there is nothing magical about nine justices, America has come to expect nine Supremes. If the Democrats filibuster, they will be seen as blocking the good order and operation of hte Court, despite the fact that the Supreme Court can operate just as well with 8 Justices. Americans of both parties will never forget the filibuster of a nominee. If a nominee is voted down--that is the price of our Republic and the public can accept that as part of our government. But to deny a vote will be seen as obstructionist for no good reason.

This second factor cuts in the favor of President Bush and he should exercise it. The fact that nominations to the Court have become so political needs to be highlighted. Both parties are guilty of this and the President should force the issue. He should nominate someone with strong legal credentials, who shares his outlook on the law, if not on all the issues and dare the Senate to make a spectacle of it.