In this issue:
Red-meat conservatives have their Supreme Court nominee in Samuel Alito. Now, can they get him to the court? Do they even care?
President George Bush's pick of Alito seems almost petulant, simultaneously daring Democrats to do their worst and challenging his own conservative base to step up and help do the heavy lifting of getting Alito confirmed. Both sides are already pointing toward the coming "war" and "battle" over Alito without word one from the nominee, although Alito does have quite the paper trail. The conservative-white male-Catholic mantra is being chanted on the Left as some sort of sui generis indictment of Alito, but that will not be enough to sink the nomination of a guy who has spent 15 years as a judge.
As media coverage reaches the saturation point on this process, the American public will have to see something about Alito that seems scary or odd or unfair (in the sense that you would not want to come before him in court, not just in terms of interest group identity politics) to balk at his confirmation to the Court. Alito has a reputation for being soft-spoken and polite, and he will need those qualities to be in evidence as this process unfolds.
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The other big story of the week neatly dovetails with the Alito nomination on the vitally important personnel-is-policy front, a reality one must never lose sight of in D.C. Scooter Libby was (and is) a die hard war hawk, a man utterly convinced that removing Saddam Hussein from power would be good for America. And what do you know, America up and invades Iraq and kicks Saddam out of power. Libby was so convinced of the correctness of his worldview that when a flaky former ambassador connected to the CIA threw sand in the White House's war machine, Libby moved to drum up a little bad press on an administration critic. This is pretty much standard operating procedure in Washington.
So that gives us a standard D.C. intra-government pissing match between the CIA and White House, which the CIA then takes to the Justice Department with a demand for an investigation. OK, a little bit like running to the principal, but still fair by political standards. The investigation starts, then Libby does the inexplicable-he lies to investigators. Repeatedly. Big elaborate, reckless lies. Why?
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald can say all he wants that it is not his job to answer that question-and in a narrow sense he is right, as the charges against Libby do not need an answer-but the larger investigative picture sure does. Either Libby did not know the law when he testified, figured he didn't owe the truth to an investigator put up by the CIA, or something else as yet unknown motivated him.
OK, we're just about back to the pre-AT&T break-up phase as far old-style phone service is concerned. SBC merging with AT&T and Verizon with MCI knits back together the old local-long distance lines loop that regulators once thought was so vital to keep apart. In truth, the important distinction has been for years-and certainly will be going forward-that between regulated and unregulated.
The regulators will try to make sure the duopoly "competes," one against the other, but it is hard to see how one could offer radically different terms, options, and prices from the other, as both are stitched tight into the common-carrier regulatory straitjacket. They might nibble a little at one another, meanwhile cable and "pure" voice over IP plays, such as Vonage and Skype, could offer real alternatives in pricing and services, tearing huge chunks in Step-Ma Bell's customer base.
That is why the next logical step for the duopoly will be to try to get the FCC and the state regulators to crack down on these freer competitors while consumers are still too confused to notice what is going on.
Quote of the Week
"So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean, we can't be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean, this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions" -Bill O'Reilly, discussing a Florida school district's holiday plans.
Quote of the Week, All Hallow's Eve edition
"Families go and begin to disguise their children as witches. That is contrary to our ways" -President Hugo Chavez urging Venezuelan parents not to celebrate Halloween, calling it a "gringa" custom emblematic of North American cultural hegemony.
Girls Got Game?
The Women's Game Conference shines a light on the question of why 88.5 percent of video game coders are male. Possible answer: only 11.5 percent of that demographic have girlfriends.
St. Peter Principle
A website linked to al-Qaida issued a death threat to Egyptian actor Omar Sharif after he played St. Peter in a made-for-Italian TV movie.
Whatever Became of the Gubernator?
California's reformer-in-chief looked a lot better in the previews. Matt Welch
What's So Eminent About Public Domain?
The copyright lobby makes a dubious case for IP protection. Tim Lee
The Political Dot-Com Boom
On the Web, business finds a new way of doing politics. Jonathan Rauch
And much more!
Reason in Vegas!
Come to Las Vegas November 4-6
Join Drew Carey, Christopher Hitchens, author Joel Kotkin, Reason Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, Reason Co-founder Robert Poole, and many other speakers for a weekend of fun and ideas in Las Vegas. Reason's Dynamic Cities Conference and Reason After Dark will feature Director John Stagliano's award-winning Fashionistas dance show, the spectacular Penn & Teller, panel discussions on topics ranging from eminent domain abuse to the government's war on pleasure, and much more.
For more information and registration details, please visit here.
An Evening with Milton and Rose Friedman
Please join the The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation in celebrating 50 Years of an Idea. This 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner on December 5, 2005 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, California will honor Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, who first proposed the school voucher idea in 1955.
The Friedmans will participate in a Q&A session, answering questions submitted by the audience. The Friedman's will be joined by several honored guests, who will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information on the dinner and how to attend, visit here.
Get liberated with Ronald Bailey's brave new book for a brave new world!
In his new book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, Reason's Ronald Bailey examines the scientific and ethical controversies surrounding everything from stem cell research to therapeutic cloning to longer life spans to genetically modified food.
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