Thursday, October 27, 2005

Up next ...

Harriet Miers should not have been subjected to this. But she showed class and dignity (and a good deal more sense than her boss) by withdrawing. Now, the Bush administration has to show it learned from the debacle. While the president reportedly loves to surprise people, being overly clever here by picking another stealth nominee (or a White House insider who's a cipher to the outside world) would neither mollify his supporters -- nor promote an independent judiciary, which will have an impact on Americans long past 2009.

It's just plain sad to see Chuck Schumer and other Democrats blame the Miers withdrawal on the vast right wing conspiracy, or to see Dianne Feinstein (who's sadly becoming more of a party hack as the years drift by) play the sexism card. Miers had few champions, because she clearly was not qualified for the job. It's not her fault; she specialized in the administrative side of law, not the theoretical. Still, it's gonna be fun to watch the Democrats and their special-interest puppet masters squirm if Bush selects a successor for Sandra Day O'Connor that draws unity from conservatives and libertarians.

The silver lining

At Instapundit and The Corner and The Volokh Conspiracy, the mood seems more relief than celebration. And that's a healthy sign -- especially with the NR crowd. It's an indication that speaking expansively, "the right" is perfectly happy complementing the GOP or the Bush administration but not becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of either. The Porkbusters campaign (which has been temporarily stymied but refuses to evaporate) is another example of a movement that's putting principle ahead of personality.

By contrast, Democrats and the left, which are both bereft of ideas and an agenda, and are pinning their hopes on the Clintons. Talk about your cult of personality.

Don't get me wrong. W and his brain trust might be tempted to forge a political dynasty -- word that the White House was compiling what amounted to an enemies list that comprised the public opponents of the Miers pick is certainly not encouraging. But the free-market or conservative movement is much larger than one person or one administration -- and is clearly more grounded in ideas than in the short-term lust for power. Peggy Noonan may be gloomy. But I'm willing to have a sunnier outlook ... if Bush uses this setback as an opportunity to rebuild credibility with his principled supporters -- to dance with who brung him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Read all about it

In this Reason Online piece, former Tar Heel Jesse Walker notes the migration of zines to public library stacks -- and plugs this humble blog, which began as a zine several millennia ago.

The brief history is here. Deregulator was my second stab at publishing. The first, titled The Free Citizen, was a spiffier, tabloid-style rag produced by a handful of libertarians (including me) in the Research Triangle Park circa 1985. We laid it out on a Mac Plus -- which cost several grand back in those days, and featured a whopping 128k of RAM. Since the OS chewed up 99k of the RAM, you had to save everything to a floppy.

We spat Microsoft Word copy from a laser printer, used paste-up sheets and photocopies and rubber glue; desktop publishing software was not available to mere mortals in those days. Production costs were microscopic; the newsprint to run 10,000 copies of a 16-page tab ran less than 100 bucks, I think. The plates and ink probably cost more than the paper. And since the variable costs were so low, we hoped to sell enough ads to local businesses so that we might actually make this a commercial operation. Didn't happen. Plus, we lived in different cities and had real jobs, making it tough to coordinate a schedule. If I remember correctly, only two issues of The Free Citizen resulted. But I got the bug, and Deregulator soon emerged (with plenty of help from the folks who made The Free Citizen possible). It was published on an Atari 520(!!!), which cost something like $1,500 rather than 5 large. An able assist from font designer Ralph Selsor and a switch to bond paper, Kinko's copying and delivery by USPS (along with a modest subscription fee) kept that publication around for a dozen issues or so.

Jesse's article brought back some fond memories. And in comparing zines with blogs, he's surely right about this:

But the Web will never completely displace the printed zine. An active website is supposed to be updated constantly; if you don't post to your blog for a month, it looks abandoned. A zine can appear only once or twice a year and still feel fresh. It's a series of completed projects, not a perpetually open-ended enterprise -- a different medium with different strengths, even as it draws on the same do-it-yourself spirit. As long as paper, staples, and Kinko's survive, it will too.

Better Justice

My friend and former boss Virginia Postrel formally joins a handful of prominent Bush backers and urges the president to pull the Miers appointment. The group, Americans for Better Justice, is asking people to e-mail and call senators to up the pressure on Bush. It has also produced an ad, set to run on Fox News starting Wednesday, to get out its message. Virginia explains her reasons for enlisting in this diverse group here. Money quote:

Unlike some social conservatives, my concerns are not results-oriented. As a matter of policy, I am perfectly happy to have abortion legal, with some restrictions, and actively support gay marriage. If there were any evidence (other than my friend Hugh Hewitt's imaginings) that Harriet Miers shared Richard Epstein's views on affirmative action, I'd give her a pass on that. (Now there' a line of questioning for the Judiciary Committee: Would you agree with Richard Epstein on affirmative action? Does she even know who he is or what he says?)

But the Supreme Court is not a legislature, in which the standard for a justice is whether he or she will "vote right." Supreme Court decisions set precedents beyond the case at hand, and they do that through the arguments they make--the very sort of logic and rhetoric Miers shows absolutely no interest in or competence for. Being the president's friend and lawyer, like being of the right sex and religion, does not by itself meet the requirements of the job.

This is a huge deal, considering that the board of advisors includes not only Virginia, but also Linda Chavez, Bush's first choice as secretary of labor, and David Frum, a speechwriter in the administration's early days -- the man who crafted the phrase "axis of evil." It should be difficult for even this insular administration to brush aside such a principled and public appeal from some people who were this tight with this president.