Dynamist Blog

Search vs. Surveillance

On my recent visit to London, I was struck by the difference between U.S. security procedures and British ones. In London, you are videotaped--and told you are being videotaped--everywhere. But you can walk into a crowded train station or an art museum filled with tourists and priceless treasures without showing anyone the contents of your bag. Even airport security is much more casual than the ritualistic shoe stripping and computer segregation of U.S. airports. I'm not convinced that either surveillance or routine search does much to prevent terrorist attacks. But, while less avoidable (at least in theory), the British way is certainly less intrusive. I'd rather be watched than searched.

Beating Back the Peter Principle

I landed back in the USA from London to find CNN reporting that Harriet Miers has withdrawn. The Democrats' congressional leadership, no doubt to be joined by a few conservative interest groups, is spinning this as a victory for the "radical right." But the truth is obvious: It's simply a victory for high hiring standards. The corollary to the "Ginsburg principle" is that a Supreme Court nominee had better be as recognizably qualified as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Americans for Better Justice

As regular readers know, I've written an extraordinary amount about Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Early on, my primary purpose was reportorial--to use my locational advantage to provide information and context for people outside of Dallas. But the more I learned, the more appalled I became.

For whatever reason, the president has picked a woman who not only has no constitutional or judicial experience but even in her business practice has demonstrated no interest in the law as anything other than a source of billable hours. At 60 years old, she appears never to have had a substantive conversation about law or policy with any friend. She comes from a closed and cronyish legal and business culture and appears to have gotten ahead through a combination of networking, nose-to-the-grindstone diligence, and willingness to do her law firm's management, rather than legal, work.

Her selection is an insult to women, to evangelical Christians, and to corporate lawyers. Is this really the best these groups have to offer to U.S. Supreme Court?

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.

At the invitation of David Frum, I have joined the advisory board of Americans for Better Justice, a group of people who have supported President Bush but who do not support this nomination. ABJ's website has more information about the organization, which will be running TV ads asking the president to withdraw the nomination, and what citizens can do to let the Senate and president know that America deserves better.

My previous posts on the Miers nomination, in reverse chronological order, are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Bernanke at the Fed

Bush is expected to announce shortly that he will name Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan--a very difficult job, but one for whom Bernanke, who is best known as an advocate of "inflation targeting," seems to me the best choice. Here's a column I wrote on a speech he gave in 2003, with a link to the text.

UPDATE: There's lots more on Marginal Revolution.

The Parisian Stake in Farm Subsidies

Why are the French blowing up world trade talks with their refusal to cut agricultural subsidies? This International Herald Tribune article suggests that the answer is mostly cultural: the French affection for "the 'terroir,' the mythical landscape of farms and the men and women who tend to them."

Perhaps, but the terroir does more than support its own myth. It makes Paris Paris--the metropolis in a rural country. Already under the influence of Eugen Weber's fiesty France: Fin de Siècle, which draws a stark contrast between city and countryside at that time, I flew into Paris for the first time last week. Where was the city? I wondered. The pilot said was were just 15 minutes from landing, but we were over the boondocks. Even the Greenville-Spartanburg airport, which lies between those two South Carolina cities, isn't in such rural territory. Something weird--or at least weird to an American--is clearly going on.

The Horror of Thank You Notes

I am officially a Bad Person because thank you notes give me writer's block. I never even finished the ones for my wedding presents. My horror of thank you notes is particulaly odd since I'm by nature a grateful person. The problem is that thank you notes, no matter how sincerely intended, always sound completely phony. Now I see there's a positive in this character flaw: With the occasional exception, I haven't left the paper trail that's embarrassing Harriet Miers. Slate's Julia Turner explains the tyrannies of the genre.

Mitch Daniels on TFAIE

Thanks to the numerous readers who sent me links to this article, in which Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels cites The Future and Its Enemies. While researching the book, I read a remarkable speech Daniels made to a pharmaceutical industry group back when he was at Eli Lilly. I don't have a copy handy, but the tone was quite dynamist and the message, that the industry would have to adjust to changing consumer demands, was not one the audience would have wanted to hear. I wasn't able to wedge a citation into the book, but I think it's safe to put Daniels in the dynamist camp.

Cleaning the Carpet

Sarah Lacy of Business Week has written a delightful account of the design process beyind P&G's new CarpetFlick--the Swiffer's soft-surface sibling. (Photos here.)

As one reader comments: " I NEVER thought I'd be so entranced with an article about a quick-clean product. I own one of these great little contraptions and I have to admit it was fascinating to learn its story, from concept to development. The P&G and Ideo duo is a creative force to be reckoned with."

Earthquake Relief

If there's been a big blog response to the terrible earthquake in South Asia, I've missed it. But as this Seattle Times story reports ex-pat groups in the U.S. have been organizing relief drives. Mercy Corps is also working in the area.

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