Guest blogging this week for Glenn is Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she teaches constitutional law and the jurisdiction of courts.  Her regular blog can be found at Althouse.blogspot.com.

June 15, 2005 | 9:33 AM ET

I didn't follow the Michael Jackson trial very much, and I rarely wrote about it on my blog. I haven't really wanted to talk about it.  It's seemed that most people have felt the same way.  A few days ago, I did speculate about why the trial had failed to grab the public interest the way the O.J. Simpson trial did:

In the O.J. case, two persons were brutally murdered and the question was whether he did it. In the Jackson case, the question is whether a crime occurred at all, but if it did, there's no other person out there who might have done it. If it happened, Jackson did it. In the O.J. case, the reality of the dead bodies was an undeniable fact, foisted upon us. In the Jackson case, to be drawn in, we must engage with the question whether a crime occurred, and we can still turn away and think: I just don't know. It would be terrible if it were true, but I hope it's not.

So, like many other people, I turned away. But, yesterday, when I saw a news alert in my e-mail and knew the verdict was about to be announced, I put the TV on and kept it on while the talking heads filled the long stretch of time with speculation about the verdict, descriptions of the car we were watching drive to the courthouse, and predictions of what life would be like for Jackson if he were to be found guilty.  Needing to drive to an appointment, I kept listening to the news on the radio.  I reached my destination and stayed in the car in the parking lot until I heard the verdict on all counts.  I really cared, and yet, even stopping and consciously trying to think about it, I didn't know whether I wanted to hear guilty or not guilty.  Strange!  Normally, when you care, you have a preference.

I didn't watch much of the news analysis that evening.  I switched off Nancy Grace not long after she declared, "Not guilty by reason of celebrity!"  The one aspect of the post-verdict coverage that interested me was the jurors' press conference.  The fact is that they were there through all of the months of testimony, and we weren't.  They listened to the witnesses and studied their demeanor.

And in the end they found reasonable doubt.  Watching the jurors, I felt deep respect for the good sense and competence of ordinary people faced with a solemn task.  I feel no inclination to say I think they were wrong.

As for Michael Jackson, I hope the man finds his way -- in his life and in his art .

Guest blogging this week for Glenn is Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she teaches constitutional law and the jurisdiction of courts.  Her regular blog can be found at Althouse.blogspot.com.

June 13, 2005 | 4:22 PM ET

Let’s (not) talk about Bill

Yesterday’s New York Times Book Review featured a front-page review, written by Alan Ehrenhalt, of a book by John F. Harris titled "The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House."  And today's Drudge Report is searing our eyeballs with a sleazy quotation attributed to Bill Clinton in another new book, Edward Klein's "The Truth About Hillary."  According to Klein's unnamed source, back in 1979, when Chelsea Clinton was conceived, Clinton said "I'm going back to my cottage to rape my wife."

We really can't stop talking about Bill Clinton, can we?

Ehrenhalt writes of the seemingly irrational hatred felt for Clinton:

If, as Harris believes, Clinton was in the most important ways a competent president -- and certainly not a combative or ideological one -- then the conundrum of Clinton-hatred remains essentially unsolved.  Harris does try to explain it.  He suggests -- as others have -- that Clinton, not entirely through his own doing, suffered as the embodiment of a generation and a set of values that much of the country had never understood or been willing to accept.  He was the tangible symbol of the Baby Boom, its conceits, its self-absorption, its lack of discipline and failures of responsibility.  He was a child of the 1960's preaching to millions of people who had never come to terms with the 1960's and didn't want to be reminded of them.

Talking about Bill Clinton, then, is talking about ourselves and our place in this culture.  The Boomers have loomed so large for so long, and thoughts about Bill Clinton stand in for thoughts about the America the Boomers created.  It's easier to analyze and blame and gossip about one man than to think about the more complex Boomer-made culture he represents for us.  And it's especially compelling to think about Bill, because to think about Bill is to think about sex.  It's easier to think about Clinton's sex life than to puzzle through our own complicated thoughts about sexuality after the "sexual revolution" wrought by the Boomers.

Now Drudge dishes up another spicy nugget of pseudo-information about Sex/Boomer/America/Bill.  Have we finally had too much?  A look at the bloggers collected at Memeorandum makes me think that we have.

June 7, 2005 | 3:10 PM ET

Not with a bang, but with a whimper

Throughout the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was repeatedly challenged to release his full military record, but inexplicably failed to do so.

I say "inexplicably" because Kerry has now released his records -- not to the general public, as demanded, but to the Boston Globe -- and the results so far seem underwhleming:

The lack of any substantive new material about Kerry's military career in the documents raises the question of why Kerry refused for so long to waive privacy restrictions. An earlier release of the full record might have helped his campaign because it contains a number of reports lauding his service. Indeed, one of the first actions of the group that came to be known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was to call on Kerry to sign a privacy waiver and release all of his military and medical records.

But Kerry refused, even though it turned out that the records included commendations from some of the same veterans who were criticizing him.

So why didn't he release them earlier, given that this issue was extremely damaging to his campaign, and could have been easily addressed then -- when it would have made a difference -- instead of now, when no one cares except political obsessives and snarky bloggers?

Good question, but the best explanation would be that Kerry just isn't that bright, as his academic records, released at the same time, reveal him as a "lackluster student" whose grades were, in fact, somewhat worse than President Bush's.  This has produced a few I-told-you-so posts from people in the blogosphere who publicly doubted Kerry's smarts back during the campaign.

The other possibility, of course, is that they just didn't want to see Kerry's college picture made public.  Which, on reflection, may have actually been a pretty smart move . . . .

June 6, 2005 | 10:11 PM ET

The same old big-government song
Why it's hard for me to care about filibusters

We've heard a lot over the past several weeks about filibusters, Supreme Court nominations, and the like.  But today's Supreme Court decision in the case of Gonzales v. Raich helps to explain why I don't care as much about these issues as I probably should.

The question was whether Congress -- as part of its constitutional power to regulate commerce "among the several states" -- could regulate homegrown marijuana, grown in compliance with the laws of the state in which it was grown and consumed, even though that marijuana was never sold, and thus never became "commerce."

A majority of the Supreme Court said yes -- you can read an excellent summary, with links to the various opinions, here.  In short, the commerce power, which the Framers saw as limited, is now looking pretty darn unlimited.  This isn't exactly new, as it's pretty much been the law since the 1930s, but the Supreme Court seemed to be moving back toward the traditional view that Congress's commerce powers were limited.  Not much sign of that here.  As Justice Thomas wrote:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana.  If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

That seems right to me.  So what does this have to do with filibusters?

Well, some might blame this opinion on liberal judges who just want to make the federal government bigger and more powerful.  The problem with that argument is that among the majority was prominent conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.  (As one of my colleagues said, Scalia's fondness for government power seems to have trumped his belief in federalism.) 

And I have to say that I'm so far unconvinced that President Bush is interested in making the government smaller.  He hasn't shown that in his domestic budgeting, and I don't see much sign that his Supreme Court appointments will be of the small-government variety, either.  In fact, as I noted in a law review article on the commerce power a while back, one often-touted possible Bush pick, 5th Circuit judge Emilio Garza, doesn't seem to take the notion of limits on the commerce power very seriously at all.

So pardon me if I sit this one out.  I'd rather see a Supreme Court that took the Constitution seriously, but if it's going to be the same old big-government song no matter who's calling the tune, then I've got better things to do than fret over filibusters.

June 3, 2005 | 10:55 AM ET

Whither (or wither) Europe?

Poor Europe.  Not long ago, people like Jeremy Rifkin were touting it as the Next Big Thing.  Now the Euro is falling, and everyone is pointing out problems.

Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks observes:

The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are.  Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.

Over the last few decades, American liberals have lauded the German model or the Swedish model or the European model.  But these models are not flexible enough for the modern world. They encourage people to cling fiercely to entitlements their nation cannot afford.  And far from breeding a confident, progressive outlook, they breed a reactionary fear of the future that comes in left- and right-wing varieties - a defensiveness, a tendency to lash out ferociously at anybody who proposes fundamental reform or at any group, like immigrants, that alters the fabric of life.

This is the chief problem with the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program.

That does seem to fit the facts.  What's more, it seems that representations concerning the success of the European model -- and in particular the Nordic welfare-state model -- are dubious:

All this was illuminated last year in a study by a Swedish research organization, Timbro, which compared the gross domestic products of the 15 European Union members (before the 2004 expansion) with those of the 50 American states and the District of Columbia. (Norway, not being a member of the union, was not included.) After adjusting the figures for the different purchasing powers of the dollar and euro, the only European country whose economic output per person was greater than the United States average was the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg, which ranked third, just behind Delaware and slightly ahead of Connecticut.

The next European country on the list was Ireland, down at 41st place out of 66; Sweden was 14th from the bottom (after Alabama), followed by Oklahoma, and then Britain, France, Finland, Germany and Italy. The bottom three spots on the list went to Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Alternatively, the study found, if the E.U. was treated as a single American state, it would rank fifth from the bottom, topping only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi. In short, while Scandinavians are constantly told how much better they have it than Americans, Timbro's statistics suggest otherwise. So did a paper by a Swedish economics writer, Johan Norberg.

And yet things may be worse still, as Swedish politics have been roiled by charges that the government is cooking the books on unemployment figures, counting many who are unemployed as "disabled" instead, so as to keep the generic unemployment number low.

At any rate, it's hard to dispute this point:  "European nations penalize work and subsidize non-work, and, no surprise, they have gotten a lot of the latter and far too little of the former.  By contrast, the U.S. model--allegedly cruel and "laissez-faire"--has done much better both by economic growth and worker opportunity."

I think it's way too early to write Europe off.  Britain looked like a basket case in the 1970s, and recovered dramatically in the Thatcher years.  Democracies have a way of reinventing themselves when the pressure is on, and Europe is beginning to notice that the pressure is on.  What's more, the economies of Eastern Europe are far more entrepreneurial, and the voters more suspicious of government promises, than those of Old Europe.

Who knows:  In 20 years, European leaders may be suggesting that the United States needs to adopt a more free-market, capitalistic approach.  If they do, they'll probably be right!

UPDATE:  When I wrote the above, I hadn't yet read this column by Tom Friedman from today's paper, in which Friedman writes:

The fact that a top German politician has resorted to attacking capitalism to win votes tells you just how explosive the next decade in Western Europe could be, as some of these aging, inflexible economies - which have grown used to six-week vacations and unemployment insurance that is almost as good as having a job - become more intimately integrated with Eastern Europe, India and China in a flattening world.
...
Yes, this is a bad time for France and friends to lose their appetite for hard work - just when India, China and Poland are rediscovering theirs.

And although Americans are doing better than Europe, we should be paying attention.  I wrote last year with some observations inspired by the National Spelling Bee.  Those seem just as valid this year.

June 2, 2005 | 1:32 PM ET

What's at stake in Europe?

Now the Dutch have said no to the European Constitution -- and they've said it overwelmingly.  It seems that people are angry:

Some are calling it a divorce; others, a disenchantment. Whatever you call it, the French "non" on Sunday and the Dutch "nee" on Wednesday have clearly left the European Union's proposed constitution a dead letter for now, frustrating the efforts of Europe's leaders to move to the next stage of integration.
...
"I think there's a revolt against the establishment that leaves governments from Great Britain to France to Germany to Italy singularly weak," said Charles Kupchan, an associate professor of international relations at Georgetown University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and that spells trouble for Europe and it spells trouble for an America that will be looking to Europe for help on many different fronts."

Actually, I think America has pretty much given up on that.  But the anger is real.  As Max Boot writes, the insularity and self-dealing of the European political classes are catching up with them:

So why are the guardians of the new Europe so hated? Words such as arrogance and elitism come to mind. Although the EU has its own parliament, there is a well-founded fear throughout the continent that decisions are being made by unelected mandarins. The populations of the 25 EU member states may not agree on what should be done. What unites them is a desire to determine their own destinies, which is impossible as long as Brussels is calling the shots.

Nothing symbolizes the disconnect between the people and their rulers more than the European Union constitution, a 300-page monstrosity drafted by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and heartily endorsed by current French President Jacques Chirac. This was supposed to be another step toward creation of a European state with its own president and foreign minister. For Gaullists like Giscard and Chirac, it was also part of a cherished ambition to build a great power in competition with les Anglo-Saxons. The skepticism of Poles and Britons to this project was well-known, but ultimately it was undone by the yawning indifference of the French themselves.

The lives of ordinary French people are not dominated by dreams of lost glory; they simply want a decent job and public services that work. It was telling that only professionals and senior executives — i.e., France's top occupational rung — voted for the constitution last week. Everyone else opted for "non."

Europe has faced real problems -- a bloated public sector, inadequate provision for defense, rigid rules that produce high unemployment, and an ongoing demographic collapse that will make all of those problems worse -- and its leadership has avoided those problems, or addressed them only through indirection.  By doing so, it's lost the confidence of the people, even though the people, in some degree, are engaging in the same sort of denial themselves.
Thus, although the European political class deserves the smacking-around, and it's certainly fun to see the likes of Jacques Chirac humiliated, there's more at stake here.  As Stephen Green notes:

Look: Europe has got to integrate, even though a Single Europe goes against a century of American policy (and more than two centuries of British). Left to their own devices, European nations get into all sorts of mischief, like starting world wars, cleansing their ethnics, or colonizing entire subcontinents. Left alone, modern European states are too prone to protectionism and welfare statism to compete to global markets. Left alone, there's not a Continental nation with markets or muscle enough to matter on the world stage.
...
Problem is, the European Union – at least as currently constructed – isn't the answer. While the EU is far too weak to produce a Hitler (or even a Mussolini), it's also too strong, too suffocating to give Europe's economy the dynamism required to compete in the 21st Century.

Instead of a NAFTA-like free-trade zone, the Eurozone is a managed economy. And as everyone knows – even those people loathe to admit it – a managed economy can manage only to just scrape by.
...
With or without a new Constitution, right now the EU looks increasingly unhealthy – politically, economically, and culturally. If this road looks familiar, it is. We went through much the same during the years before the Second World War.

Green doesn't think we're headed for another war, and I hope he's right.  But Europe has been the world's primary troublespot for centuries, so when things go badly in Europe, it's a bad sign for the rest of us.

I hope that these votes will spur European politicians -- and, more importantly, voters -- to rethink their situation.  But there's a good chance that things will get worse before they get better.

June 1, 2005 | 1:34 AM ET

David gets a new sling

I had a column in today's Wall Street Journal on the growth of do-it-yourself media (link here) and then appeared on CNBC's Kudlow & Company program to talk about it.  But although I think that citizens' media is a hugely important development, it should be seen as just part of a much bigger phenomenon, the growth of do-it-yourself everything.

Technology is empowering ordinary people to do things that once required massive capital investments and big facilities.  People record music on their home computers, and it's often excellent stuff.  (I record techno under the name Mobius Dick; you can hear some of it here, though the proper assessment is probably "not bad -- for a law professor.")  People are making videos -- and even their own political ads -- on their home computers using inexpensive cameras and software.  And, as Virginia Postrel notes, people are even moving into home-based manufacturing that goes way beyond having a wood shop in their basement.

The characteristics of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries favored big organizations.  Technology in the 21st century is returning power to the little guy.  In all sorts of areas, the Goliaths of yesteryear are facing an army of Davids.  That's going to make this century look very different from the one just past.

Video: The rise of citizens' media

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