Nicholas Confessore

Nicholas Confessore is a reporter for The New York Times. Previously he was an American Prospect senior correspondent and an editor of The Washington Monthly.

Recent Articles

Rwanda, Kosovo, and the Limits of Justice

In late March, as NATO bombs rained across Kosovo, Justice Louise Arbour of the Hague-based International Crim inal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) faxed a letter to Slobodan Milosevic and 12 other senior Yugoslav officials. "Sir," the letter read. "It is my intention to investigate all serious violations of international humanitarian law that merit prosecution in the international forum, particularly those involving attacks on the civilian population." Arbour encouraged each man to do everything in his power to "prevent the commission of further crimes" and to "punish any of your subordinates who commit serious violations of international humanitarian law in Kosovo. Three days later, Serbian troops completed the "ethnic cleansing" of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo; forced another 13,000 Kosovars across the border into Albania; and ventured into Macedonia to take three American servicemen hostage. During the next week, Serbian military and police forces intensified their...

The Judicial Vigilantes

It was an altogether scholarly collection of professors, lawyers, policy analysts, journalists, and concerned citizens—among them such prominent conservative legal scholars as Robert Nagel, Steven Calabresi, Christopher Wolfe and Hadley Arkes—that gathered at Washington's Sheraton City Center Hotel last October to discuss the matter of "judicial imperialism." But at the conference dinner, as attendees cracked Clinton jokes over filet mignon and merlot, they were treated to a speech from the singularly unscholarly Tom DeLay—former exterminator, bombastic representative from Texas, and by most accounts the most powerful man in the House. "The sanctity of the Constitution is under assault from many different directions," began DeLay in halting, twangy stump mode. "The branch of government charged with maintaining the sanctity of the Constitution no longer feels bound by the constraints of that same Constitution. The courts today recognize no limits on their authority...

Commission Impossible

A ll successful commissions are the same; all unsuccessful commissions are unsuccessful in their own way. This is how the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security marked its singular sort of failure: A few days after being summoned to the White House for a chat with George W. Bush, co-chair Robert Parsons announced that the commission would not be putting out a single, robust plan to reform Social Security--"the kind of plan the president can sell to the Congress," as Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey promised last May. Instead, the commission would be putting out a "set of recommendations, each of which raises different policy issues"--which is, politically speaking, the kind of plan the president can ignore. But Bush won't be alone. Back in June, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced plans to raise $20 million from business groups to launch a grass-roots campaign to promote privatization. The campaign has yet to materialize. "I haven't seen a single sign of that...

Feeding Time:

These days, a Democratic president who proposes $8 billion in new federal spending on after-school programs, drug treatment, prisoner rehabilitation, and welfare-to-work initiatives is likely to be laughed out of Washington. After all, there are only two kinds of politicians who propose that kind of thing anymore: loony, unreconstructed, quasi-socialist left-liberals -- and Republicans. So no one thought it remarkable when, last week, George W. Bush proposed just such new spending under the aegis of a brand new federal bureaucracy, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In fact, the new office is being pitched as a chance to transcend a traditional partisan debate: the one between liberal secularists who like the idea of spending more on social services but fear federally-supported proselytizing, and social conservatives who like the idea of providing social services but fear federal imperialism. I n Bush's formulation, the rationale...

Prisoner Proliferation

When most of us think of convicts at work, we picture them banging out license plates or digging ditches. Those images, however, are now far too limited to encompass the great range of jobs that America's prison workforce is performing. If you book a flight on TWA, you'll likely be talking to a prisoner at a California correctional facility that the airline uses for its reservations service. Microsoft has used Washington State prisoners to pack and ship Windows software. AT&T has used prisoners for telemarketing; Honda, for manufacturing parts; and even Toys "R" Us, for cleaning and stocking shelves for the next day's customers. During the past 20 years, more than 30 states have enacted laws permitting the use of convict labor by private enterprise. While at present only about 80,000 U.S. inmates are engaged in commercial activity, the rapid growth in America's prison population and the attendant costs of incarceration suggest there will be strong pressures to put more prisoners...

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