Monday, May 10, 2010

The Multiple Choice Section

Fate hinges on the choices we make.

This week different choices in the news are on my mind.

  •  On the world stage, the European Union decided to put together a bail-out package for Greece, which is broke. The package takes the form of billions in cheap loans both from Greece's partners in the "euro zone" and from our own Federal Reserve. The goal is to stop the collapse of the Greek economy before it triggers similar collapses in Spain, Portugal and Italy. That could jeopardize the tentative recovery from the Great Recession and throw the world into a double-dip recession. That's a choice the rest of Europe didn't want to make, but apparently has to make, much like our bank bail-outs two years ago.

  • President Barack Obama chose Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, to take the seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan is generally seen as the safe choice. She's already been confirmed by the Senate for the Solicitor General's job and even garnered a handful of Republican votes. She's liberal, but not so liberal that the Republicans will try to filibuster her nomination. She's never been a judge before, so she doesn't have a history of opinions for opponents to sort through looking for an issue. As dean of Harvard Law School she did try to ban military recruiting at the school in protest of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays serving. That's likely to be the biggest objection raised against her, but it was raised during her previous confirmation hearings to little effect. In fact, if the Republican blogosphere is any indication, the fact that Kagan has never served as a judge is itself going to be the major argument against her. It's a poor argument. More than half of the nation's previous Supreme Court justices had not served on the bench before being nominated for the high court. We just haven't done it that way in awhile. The last nominees who had not previously been judges were Richmond lawyer Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist, who had also served as Solicitor General, both nominated in 1971 by Richard Nixon. If Kagan is confirmed, it would be the first time three women have served simultaneously on the court. It might also mark the first time that the court was without a Protestant. Kagan is Jewish. She would join two other Jewish members and six Catholics on the court.

  • Speaking of Jews and the Nixon Administration ......Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is taking some heat over his choice of Fred Malek to head his commission on restructuring government. That's because one of Malek's previous experiences in restructuring government was an effort to reduce the number of Jews in the federal government at the request of President Nixon. Malek was responsible for putting together a list of the Jews in the Labor Department, which Nixon was convinced was riddled with "disloyal" Jewish employees. Turns out there were 13. Malek resigned as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee when the story was first reported in 1988. Let's see, since taking charge five months ago, Virginia Republicans have offended gay and lesbian people with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's unsolicited opinion that state colleges couldn't protect them from employment discrimination, African Americans with McDonnell's proclamation of April as Confederate History Month and now Jewish Virginians. Who's next?
  • McDonnell made another important choice this week. He petitioned the federal government for authority to put tolls on Interstate 95 at the North Carolina border. McDonnell, as he promised during his campaign, chose to toll that border rather than the more traveled borders between Maryland and the District of Columbia. That's to avoid piling tolls on Northern Virginia, where a large number of the state's voters reside. He also chose not to toll the state's borders with West Virginia or Tennessee. In fact, the state already has authority to toll Insterstate 81, which crosses both the Tennessee and West Virginia borders. McDonnell is asking to exchange that authority for tolling authority on I-95. The tolls would be $1 to $2 per axle, meaning they could run up to $12 for trucks hauling freight to or from North Carolina and points north and south of Virginia. While the toll money would be used to improve Virginia roads, a McDonnell campaign promise, it's not clear how they'd affect another of the governor's promises, to create jobs in the state. It's also unclear if a state with a large tourism industry, $17 billion, should be tolling people on their way to those tourism destinations. Let's hope travelers and truckers don't choose to bypass Virginia to avoid the tolls.

  • Williamsburg voters chose College of William & Mary senior Scott Foster and Planning Commission Chairman Doug Pons to serve the next four years on City Council. That should make an interesting combination. While letters to the editor and Last Words to the Gazette indicate that many of the city's year-round residents are whining about the Foster victory, the students did a great job of identifying and mobilizing their votes. They out-worked and out-organized the opposition, and they deserved the huge win that Foster's more than 1,500 votes represented. If residents hope to retain a majority on the council two years from now, they should heed the last words of the labor organizer Joe Hill, "Don't mourn, organize."
Bookmark and Share