Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Here is an excellent in-the-weeds discussion of the filibuster, between Matt Grossman and Sarah Binder, for the Niskanen Center. The two political scientists get into the current politics in the senate surrounding filibuster reform. It’s pretty fascinating, and a good companion to Adam Jentleson’s work (see links below). Here’s an excerpt from Grossman and Binder’s transcript: Matt Grossmann: So one thing that reformers often say is that these folks in the middle would have all the power under a 50 vote Senate, so why aren’t they in favor of moving it there? Molly Reynolds, who we’ve had on the podcast … Continue reading Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

The Stupidity of the Johnson & Johnson Pause

Update: Although not definitive, this study would seem to supply some evidence for my claim. The pause on J&J shots because of an astronomically low risk rate is, I think, remarkably stupid. The chances of getting hit by lightning or winning the lottery are higher than the chance of a blood clot. Medicine always carries risks. The risks are typically much higher than 6 in one million. Although the American public might overrate such risks (they actually think the next ticket is the one that wins them the lottery), the “scientists” at the CDC should know better. Apparently, the people … Continue reading The Stupidity of the Johnson & Johnson Pause

Commemorating 9/14

President Biden has chosen an apt date, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, to complete the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Congress should do its part by commemorating another anniversary—September 14, 2001, the date on which the AUMF for the inchoate “war on terror” was passed—by withdrawing that authority. The loose and hasty AUMF, which legislators like Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia have challenged—with signals of interest from the White House—has been used to justify military operations far removed from 9/11, al Qaeda, or Afghanistan. It has become a blanket authority for any operation nominally connected with terrorism. Repealing the AUMF—and … Continue reading Commemorating 9/14

Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

Adam Jentleson has an essay at The Atlantic on the problems of minority rule and the filibuster. The filibuster is often justified as fostering deliberation, requiring the building of broad and complex majorities that cross the partisan divide. It might be particularly defensible when it comes to the appointment of judges—requiring 60 senators to approve of such lifetime appointments. But that’s no longer the case. In point of fact, as Jentleson shows, the filibuster really serves to empower a minority veto on routine lawmaking. It owes far more to the thinking of John Calhoun than James Madison:  “In his Disquisition on Government, Calhoun complained … Continue reading Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

Expanding the Court

UPDATE: I stand by the concerns about adjusting the size of the Court, but I suspect I was hasty in criticizing the six-month deadline. The membership of the Commission is excellent, and I wish it well. I’m leaving the post in place below. President Biden has announced a 180-day commission that will study reforms of the Supreme Court, including expanding its membership and limiting justices’ terms. There may be good reasons for some of these. The roadblock that conservative justices present to progressive priorities right now is not among them. Consequently, the most revealing and disturbing aspect of the Biden … Continue reading Expanding the Court

“woke capitalism”

Is there anything more galling than conservatives deploying the phrase “woke capitalism”? When social democrats use the phrase as a term of derision, at least they are being consistent, since they were skeptics about unregulated capitalism from the get-go. But to hear conservatives, who have for decades lauded radical laissez-faire and fear-mongered about taxes, regulation, and campaign finance limits, suddenly do an about-face on capitalism the moment that the markets start to steer in substantive directions they find uncomfortable, is quite remarkable. To be sure, not all conservatives are against regulation (especially when it comes to their own areas of moral … Continue reading “woke capitalism”

Thoughts on Voting

I have an essay at Law and Liberty today discussing the multiple controversies surrounding voting reforms proposed by both sides. I argue that voting reforms should not make voting harder for some groups than for others, nor should they create gratuitous obstacles for anyone. But those reforms should preserve voting as a fundamentally civic and therefore public act, at least in normal circumstances. That is not to question the secret ballot. It is to say that the civic hustle and bustle of voting can help induce contemplation of the common good in a way that simply putting a stamp on … Continue reading Thoughts on Voting

Noblesse Oblige, the Class Divide, and Race

This divide isn’t soluble by simply lambasting the losers as uncivilized racists. Nor, on the other side, is it soluble by calling the winners “rodents” and “zombies,” as Glenn Ellmers did in his recent piece in The American Mind. I’m honestly not sure what the answer is except that I know, as my daughter would say, those aren’t it. I also know that it has to begin by us all admitting what is more and more obvious: there’s a deep class divide in America in which access from one side to the other is nearly insurmountable. Continue reading Noblesse Oblige, the Class Divide, and Race

Profound Weakness

I respectfully disagree with my thoughtful colleague, Greg Weiner, who just posted praise and elaboration for a recent piece by Matt Bai on the purported dilemma that faced Dr. Deborah Birx when she led the pandemic response for President Trump. She is described as wrestling with the problem of working for an incompetent and self-centered president while trying to advance public health and the common good. Her failure to tell the truth to the American people and to resign when sidelined by the president are depicted as a lack of prudence. That is undoubtedly true, but also so tame and … Continue reading Profound Weakness

To Mitigate or to Resign?

Matt Bai has an excellent column at The Washington Post on the dilemma Dr. Deborah Birx faced during the Trump Administration, especially in the early days of the pandemic: Unvarnished truth would have made her unable to mitigate the worst impulses of the president and his yes-men, while her participation gave a scientific veneer to policies she now says may have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The dilemma is genuinely difficult, and casual condemnation of Birx is a bit too easy. But I think Bai (who treats the dilemma seriously) ultimately has it right: Birx should have resigned. The … Continue reading To Mitigate or to Resign?