gyman who actually bears arms againstrnthe foe.rnA reviewer in National Review complainedrnthat Gibson’s character “does notrnfight for principle or country—at leastrnnot at first—but for vengeance. The relevantrnpolitical institution is not South Carolina,rnbut the family. This seems like arnpretty serious cop-out for a film calledrn’The Patriot.'”rnBut maybe that’s a point that few peoplerntoday (especially at National Review)rncan understand—that patriofism beginsrnwith the family and works its way up; thatrnnobody really fights for abstractions likern”democracy” or “human rights” orrn”equality,” but to protect hearth andrnhome; and that when hearth and homernare trampled and torched, you take revenge.rnA people steeped in those principlesrnprobably doesn’t need much else, and itrnwon’t have many enemies who can conquerrnit. If Americans have forgottenrnthose principles, they can go see The Patriotrnand remember what their forebearsrnreally fought for.rn—Samuel FrancisrnVLADIMIR P U T I N ‘ S war on the Russianrnoligarchs may have begun with thernarrest of media magnate Vladimir Gusinskyrnin June, or so many Western observersrnhoped. Although Gusinsky wasrnlater released (after pledging to remain inrnRussia during the course of an embezzlementrninvestigation against him), few in orrnout of Russia doubt that the Kremlinrnmeans business. After briefly bemoaningrnthreats to “freedom of speech,” many analystsrnin Europe and America have begunrnto view Putin as a Russian Pinochetrnwho will sit on the oligarchs and ramrnthrough much-needed market reforms.rnSuch wishful thinking is a source ofrnamusement to those of us who spend ourrntime watching the machinations thatrnhave driven Russia to the brink of collapse.rnIn fact, Gusinsky has been the targetrnof the “family”—the cabal of insidersrnwho ran Russia under Boris Yeltsin—forrnsome time. Yeltsin, however, had an oddrnway of pulling Gusinsky’s fat out of thernfire whenever his nemesis, Boris A. Berezovsky,rnhad drawn a bead on Gusinsky.rnYeltsin preferred a certain balancernamong the oligarchs, preserving his rolernas arbiter in a den of thieves.rnBut Yeltsin is retired now, and thern”family” did not arrange for VladimirrnPutin to be elected president merely tornpreserve the status quo. They’re aimingrnat a conclusion that Yeltsin would neverrnhave permitted: Gusinsky must berncrushed, preferably by seizing his property.rnThis would open the door to thern”review of privatization” that Putinrnpromised would not take place if he werernelected.rnIt seems that the prosecutor’s officernwas shocked to find that Gusinsky hadrnprivatized certain state assets using insiderrninformation. Moreover, his MediarnMost company, which contiols the powerfulrnNTV network, made a critical errorrnin accumulating huge debts, setting thernstage for the “family’s” takeover of Gusinsky’srnassets. Meanwhile, “outsider” oligarchsrnwho publicl}’ defended Gusinskyrnmay be in trouble themselves: In mid-rnJune, Russian prosecutors opened a caserninvolving the illegal privatization of onernof Russia’s biggest and most lucrative enterprises,rnmetallurgy giant Norilsk Nikel,rnowned bv longtime Berezovsky foernVladimir Potanin. And Moscow MayorrnYuri Luzhkov has also been questionedrnin an investigation of the city tax office.rnBerezovsky has always pushed the politicalrnenvelope, creating chaotic situationsrnthat inevitably redounded to his favor.rnIt appears that he and his friendsrnnow desire all the oligarchs’ marbles —rnand this was the ultimate aim of “OperationrnPutin.” Whether those oligarchsrnoutside the Kremlin circle can forge anrneffective counterattack, and whetherrnPutin can break free of the “family’s”rnhold on him, remains to be seen. Whateverrnhappens, Russia’s oligarchy, in onernform or another, is here to stay.rn— Denis PetrovrnT H E SUPREME COURTS closelyrnwatched October 1999 term came to anrnend on June 28, and its themes finally becamernclear: inconsistency, incoherence,rnand arbitrariness. On that last day, thernCourt released important decisions onrnabortion, aid to religious schools, andrnhomosexual rights, and refused to intervenernin the Elian Gonzalez case. ThernSupreme Court’s decision in the Elianrnmatter was at least understandable, becausernthere was no legal issue in the casernthat really demanded the Court’s resolution.rn(The law was clear enough; it wasrnthe facts of the Elian mess that caused allrnthe dispute.) But in all the other cases, Irnwas hard-pressed to figure out what wasrngoing on.rnEor several years now, the most reliablernguide to Supreme Court decisionmakingrnhas been Sandra Day O’Connor’srnposition on an issue. She is indisputablyrnthe swing justice, and the bestrnword that I can think of to characterizernher jurisprudence is “capricious.” Shernwas against allowing student-led prayersrnbefore Texas high-school football games,rnbut she was in favor of supplying computers,rnpurchased with federal ftmds, to privaternreligious schools. She oted to rejectrna prohibition on partial-birth abortion,rnbut indicated she would be willing to upholdrnsuch a law if it included an exceptionrnfor cases in which the “health” of thernmother called for the procedure. Shernjoined in the Court’s decision that thernFirst Amendment was not violated bvrnbanning anti-abortion speech withinrneight feet of women seeking to have anrnabortion, but she approved of the Court’srndecision that the Boy Scouts had a FirstrnAmendment right to prohibit gay scoutsrnand scoutmasters.rnOver the years, I have tried to discern arnfirm basis for Justice O’Connor’s constitiitionalrnjurisprudence, but I have finallyrnconcluded that she still operates as if shernwere a state legislator. She decides whatrnpolicy she favors, and then imposes it.rnThe problem, of course, is that this isrnwhat legislators do; but judges are notrnsupposed to be legislators.rnLuckily, for those few of us who stillrnbelieve in the rule of law—and the mostrnsimple definition of the rule of law is thatrn”legislators legislate, and judges judge” —rnthere are at least two, and perhaps asrnmany as three or four current SupremernCourt justices who share our faith. Thisrnterm, Justices Scalia and Thomas prettyrnreliably refused to participate in thernCourt’s more egregious usurpations ofrnthe legislative role, as did Justice Rehnquistrn(although I think he was wrong torngo along with the majority in the antiabortionrnfree speech case). And even JusticernKennedy, whose participation in thernmajorit)’ in the Texas school prayer decisionrncannot be excused, did the rightrnthing in the religious-school funding casernand seems to have reversed his position inrnthe 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Caseyrndecision by siding with the dissenters inrnthe partial-birth abortion case.rnThat’s all to the good, but the emergingrnfour-person conservative bloc cannotrndecide cases without Justice O’Connor,rnas Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg,rnand Breyer have fairly consistentiy comerndown on the side of extending federalrnpower and abortion rights, rigidly separat-rn8/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn