Ah yes, the Senate election season has begun. Even though our senior senator says he has not committed to running for re-election, the level of new spam email messages from his organization tells me he is. And likewise, the news of today tells me that not only does the GOP think he is running, but they also are going to reapply themselves to making more of WV red. Yes indeedy, on the Fourth of July, the POTUS himself will be visiting small town USA, having an event right outside my office.
Were I feeling more pithy after my return from nearly two months of perigrinations and blogging hiatus, I might summon the energy to draw parallels to the efforts (dollar support and presidential visits ) of the GOP during the last election. I might also have the spunk to speculate on the inevitable nastiness coming from the election. Perhaps I would even guess about whether those at Bloodless Coup would be permitted to obtain a "ticket [that] is required to attend the event" given that we are two Ds and a very dissatisfied R. But no, alas, not today. Today, as the summer malaise of hot temperatures and emotional exhaustion clutches at my brain, sucking all the pithiness away as I sit in my un-air-conditioned house, what comes to me is:
Shit. If the weather's unbearable, I'm not even going to be able to go into my office and surf the web in a/c without a freaking ticket.
If I was going to bet on who would next be named to the US Supreme Court, I wouldn’t put money on 10th Circuit Judge Michael McConnell. While he’s extremely bright, affable, and a nominee who could split liberals and please Christians (and hence someone whose nomination could be a big political win for the president) he appears to also be principled and take the law seriously – and given who runs the White House at the moment that likely makes him too unpredictable to choose. Plus apparently he’s criticized Bush v. Gore and I’ll be very surprised if President Bush is willing to select anyone who’s publicly done that.
But even if McConnell isn’t likely to be named to the SCOTUS by the current occupant of the White House, he remains influential, and his writings are among the most significant today in shaping the relationship between religion and the government. I was reminded of this, and the potentially breathtaking changes that could occur in Establishment Clause jurisprudence if more judges follow his work, when reading “James Madison’s Principle of Religious Liberty” by Vincent Philip Munoz (in the February 2003 issue of the American Political Science Review). Munoz focuses on Madison, and especially on “Memorial and Remonstance”, in making the point that several justices (including Souter, Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia – O’Connor is the one exception he notes) read Madison incorrectly, or at least incompletely, and therefore are misinterpreting the founding documents when it comes to questions tied to religion. His view is closely tied to that of McConnell, and he compelling cites McConnell in framing his presentation of Madison’s views. The key point is that Munoz says Madison meant for a principle of “noncognizance” to guide the state in these matters, not “strict separation”. Basically, the argument is founded on the idea that religion is beyond the social contract, and therefore the state can’t legitimately deal with it.
If this view was more widely held (and given the influence of people like McConnell it is likely to be more widely held in the future) this could lead to big changes in the law on both Establishment Clause issues and Free Exercise issues. As to the former, the state must be religion blind. Religion can’t be a governmental classification. This could open up whole new avenues for religious organizations to pursue. Religious individuals and groups couldn’t be excluded from generally available benefits. In terms of things like what the president apparently wants his “faith-based” initiatives to look like, it would open the door to throwing giant buckets full of cash at limousine evangelicals. Many of the religiously funded school cases, for example Aguilar v. Felton and Mitchell v. Helms, were wrongly decided under this framework. As to Free Exercise Clause cases, this view would mean several of them were wrongly decided as well. If the government can’t consider religion, then it can’t create religious exemptions for, say Amish parents opposed to school attendance regulations (Wisconsin v. Yoder).
Of course many key rulings would stand. There can still be no school-written prayers that students are forced to recite, or exemptions to marriage laws for bigamists. But it’s interesting to see more and more scholarship on these issues moving in this direction. And given the increase in its standing, and the pressure put on by interest groups that could benefit from this type of reading of the Establishment Clause, it will be interesting to watch this develop. The president might have his own personal reasons for not wanting to put certain people who hold to these views on the SCOTUS. But given what’s at stake, and the nature of national politics and Court nomination battles today, there are plenty of reasons to think that the government’s understanding of the Establishment Clause might move in this direction over time.
Since today is the last day of the current Supreme Court term, I expect to write a number of posts tied to that today. So I will begin by noting this profile of Justice Kennedy in today's New York Times. It's a rather telling piece in that it gets at the shallowness of many of the complaints against him - reactionaries and right-wingers don't like the substantive results of some of his opinions. This illustrates the usual problem with taking the complaints that these people have about "culture war" cases seriously - the type of people who most rabidly dislike AMK don't care a bit about the law or legal reasoning or the meaning of the constitution, they just want their own preferences to be the law of the land, and don't care what they have to do to get that. Which isn't to say AMK can't be criticized. But it seems more appropriate to seriously consider the legal reasoning of a jurist when evaluating their behavior in office, not the specific outcome in a handful of cases.
A few other things strike me about this profile. First, the author gives scant attention to the many cases in which Justice Kennedy take positions that conservatives would cheer (and there are many of those since in several areas I'd say he's to the right of O'Connor and in some he's to the right of Rehnquist). Secondly, Jeffrey Rosen's complaint about Kennedy supporting judicial supremacy is strange. There's some truth in it of course, but he's far from the only justice who acts that way (look at Rehnquist, O'Connor and Thomas). And finally, the descent of Robert Bork has alternated between the sad and the pathetic, and it's too bad to see him fall into yet more simple sloganeering here. At one time it was very clear why the right thought of him as a great legal mind, but in the wake of his confirmation battle his work and arguments have gotten steadily (and considerably) less sharp.
UPDATE: What I found banal, peculiar and rather sloppy Chris Geidner found horrifying, slanted and close to mendacious. He's right, and he's insightful - so go read what he says about this article.
OK, the fact that this post is by Juan Cole means that everyone who's remotely sympathetic to the president won't take it seriously - but Cole raises some fair points, whether or not the Go Bush Go! chorus chooses to recognize it.
Though actually some of the most insightful things in this post come after his comparison of campaign styles in the US and Iran. It's important to note that while the new president could easily whip-up some anti-American nationalism given our actions in the region, Iran's elections weren't all about us. It's pretty reasonable to think that many of the voters there saw this guy as someone who relates to their values, talks to them in ways they understand, and wants to wipeout widespread corruption. Of course those are all traits that contributed to Ayatollah Khomenei's immense popularity too, and it's because of such connections to "the people" that Islamist political actors often win elections in the Middle East and a key reason why Islamists are among the region's foremost advocates of democracy.
One does wonder though - do results like those in Iran make any Americans more concerned about the president's enthusiastic endorsement of elections as the cure to the world's ills? And if so, what are the implications of that? Not just in terms of Iraq - but in terms of the kinds of foreign policies the US is likely to pursue in 10 or 20 years?
This is not the best of times to be an American student studying abroad. And remember that Australia is among our closest allies on Iraq and other issues. In other countries the anti-US abuse is worse.
UPDATE: Yup, both of them do indeed have some delicious (if, obviously, predictable) dish on this.
Yesterday Arthur Silber wrote on the suicide of a young Iowan over on The Light of Reason. It's just one death. Undoubtedly others like it have occurred. But it's important to be aware of these events as we weigh the price of Bush's war in Iraq. It goes far beyond those killed and maimed there, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent. And, personally, it reminds me yet again of the staggeringly immoral lie that the president is commiting when he refers to himself as "pro-life".
Via Volokh: [T]he flag-protection effort ought to be scotched for the simple reason that America doesn't get rattled by some stupid little punk with a Che Guevara T-shirt and a Zippo ...
Of course this oldie from Republican Jesus remains a goodie.
Looking for a way to procrastinate this afternoon? Why don't you go vote for the net's favorite musical?
Btw, I've got to say that I admire the skill with which this voting system was put together. The result is likely to create a more accurate result than simply only being able to cast a single vote. Oh, and if you are wondering, I voted for Sunday in the Park With George - though at the current stage in the voting my ballot is going to something Bernadette Peters starred in much more recently.
One thing that's abundantly clear in many of the works that closely examine the president's behavior in his first term (for example. Woodward's Bush at War) is that the president seems to be very insecure. Surrounded by veterans of the DC establishment and actual warriors he's often come across as practically desperate to show that he's really in charge. His constant belittling of experts (you know, people who actually know a thing or two about what they are talking about) is one example of this behavior. His need to cut down people who he thinks are smarter than him is another. Sadly, as Brendan Nyhan notes, even though President Bush is by now a veteran of the Washington scene, he still feels the need to engage in this childish (and potentially destructive) behavior.
Atrios pithily notes: "For the record, my motives aren't to get more troops killed. If those were my motives I'd ship them off to a war on false pretenses without sufficient equipment them safe."
Garance Franke-Ruta notes: "The continuing freedom of Osama bin Laden is a national humiliation. But it is one that remains within our power to rectify. This nation's strength has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout our history. A nation that defeated fascism in Europe can surely catch one cave-dwelling man hidden among the mountains of South Asia. And until such time as we do, Karl Rove should stop making divisive remarks designed to undermine the national unity so necessary to winning the war on terrorism.
But if you want a link-rich response to the latest appalling statements to come from these cowardly liars go read this at The Left Coaster. Really. Do. I strongly recommend it. It's an important post. The notion that the far right is somehow protecting American society through their outrageous and dangerous behavior (and I'm not just talking Gitmo-type behavior, though that's harmful) is flat-out ridiculous. Their failures should be noted. And people like Rove should be held accountable for them. In a just world he'd have to atone for much more than his most recent slanders.
SCOTUSBlog has this handy graphic showing who was and who wasn't in the majority in the six decisions handed down this morning by the US Supreme Court (the remaining seven decisions from this term will be handed down on Monday). As you can see, Justice Kennedy was the only justice to vote with the majority on every case. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg were only not in the majority once. Justice Stevens' "lost" more cases than any other justice - he was only in the majority 50% of the time. The graphic nicely illustrates that while in some areas there is indeed a 5/4 split on the Court, who's part of the 5 and who's part of the 4 varies by topic, and of course on many areas of the law, there is much agreement than disagreement among the justices.
This past Sunday NYT Magazine had an interesting (front page) article about the people who are in the anti-gay marriage movement. Not the leaders, but the footsoldiers - the people who hold local meetings, stand out and get signatures for petition drives and organize towns or counties. The article makes the case that the movement isn't really about preventing gay people from marrying, but is actually (gasp!) about a large segment of our population being blantantly homophobic and, well, unchristian. Some quotes:
But for the anti-gay-marriage activists, homosexuality is something to be fought, not tolerated or respected. I found no one among the people on the ground who are leading the anti-gay-marriage cause who said in essence: ''I have nothing against homosexuality. I just don't believe gays should be allowed to marry.'' Rather, their passion comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: it seeks to spread itself.
''The gay activists are trying to redefine what marriage has been basically since the beginning of time and on every continent,'' she [Laura Clark, a local anti-gay marriage activist in Maryland] said. ''My concern is for the children -- for the future.''
That's right: gays have been trying for millenia to change marriage. It's a fairly well organized effort: meetings every second Thursday, small dues, a secret handshake and a decoder ring. Oh, and the knowledge that you've joined an organization that is as old as recorded history, but is still secret and still unsuccessful. Don't forget the punch and cookies!
Meredith Fuller, who is 37 and works as a comptroller for her church, said that it was in talking with Laura that she came to realize the dimensions of the issue. ''I used to feel that as a Christian my job was to deal with political issues from a prayerful standpoint,'' she said. ''Now I think this is the defining issue of my generation, and I want to take a stand.''
Yes, with war in Iraq, global Islamic terrorism, global warming, a moribund US manufacturing base, Social Security, Medicare and two consecutive Presidents that arguably did more to damage the US Constitution than Nixon ever did, the defining issue is gay marriage. That's real insight.
I found what Racer [Laura Clark's Pastor] had to say on the subject of homosexuality a clear and direct summation of the views of the others Laura had invited over that night and of the other anti-gay-marriage activists with whom I spoke. ''The Hebrew words for male and female are actually the words for the male and female genital parts,'' he told me. ''The male is the piercer; the female is the pierced. That is the way God designed it. It's unfortunate that homosexuals have taken the moniker 'gay,' because their lifestyle and its consequences are anything but. Look what has happened in the decades since the sexual revolution and acceptance of the gay lifestyle as normal. Viruses have mutated. S.T.D.'s have spread. It shows that when we try to change the natural course of things, what comes out of that is not joy or gayness.''
That's right, I forgot. The millenial old get-gays-married-secret-organization did have some success at destroying the social fabric of this country back in the 1960s and 1970s by convincing at least some people that homosexuals are, well, people and have rights too. Does that make the organization 1 for 2 or 0 for 2? (Destroying social fabric, except when it's old courdoroy, being generally a bad thing.)
The others in Laura Clark's living room, sitting with paper plates balanced on their laps, nodded and added supporting sentiments. Explaining how homosexuality resembles an insidious disease, Racer said, ''If you have a same-gendered union, you have no natural, biological way to propagate your philosophy.'' So, he explained, it seeks to spread itself by other means, including popular culture. Bryan Simonaire added: ''We have to recognize that they have a strategy to propagate their lifestyle. Think back 10 or 20 years ago, when you had the first openly homosexual person on TV. It was shocking to a lot of people. Now it's the norm on television, so you don't have the shock factor. Then they had two men with a passionate kiss on TV. That's the road they're heading down. They have a strategy.''
Seriously: think about the mindset here. Homosexuality is like a virus, using other life forms to propagate itself, since two gay people of any sex can't reproduce (well, except for all that technology that allows them to). If you understand that these people see homosexuality like AIDS - a deadly virus, one that they associate clearly with AIDS itself (read the article) - then it does make sense logically: viruses need other life to propagate. The gay "virus" takes over someone, then uses that person to form part of a movement (millenial old, still secret, no successes at marriage yet, but punch and cookies) that influences the mass culture to be more accepting of people with the "virus", so more people get taken in, which spreads the "virus", which is what viruses are genetically programed to do. These people are not fighting to keep marriage "traditional", but are part of a larger fight to save civilization from a malevolent virus that seeks to destroy "normal" civilization in order to propagate itself. Nutty, but logical. By the way, in this next passage the Pastor decends into outright insanity:
Her pastor, however, opened up in answer to the same question and told me that his early encounters with homosexuality had actually influenced his approach to the ministry. When he was 14, he said, his father worked as a route salesman for The Baltimore Sun, and he sometimes went with him on predawn deliveries. ''In West Baltimore, I saw transvestites for the first time,'' he said. ''It creeped me out. I had been taught in Bible school that there is an extended level of depravity, and this was it.'' Later, Racer was working for a greenhouse and got to know a lot of florists. ''You'd be amazed how many people in the floral industry are homosexuals,'' he said. ''And that's where I became curious. How do you put it together, that they've chosen to do something that I have such an aversion to, yet I'm finding I can see them as real people?"
Yup: transvestitism just means you're gay. Also, flowers make you gay. Is this part of the secret master plan? Take over the floral industry, then paralyze the country when...I dunno, how does this work?
To see marriage as in any way a secular or legal union of two individuals is to miss utterly the point and conviction of the Christian forces lined up against gay marriage. As Dobson [Head of "Focus on the Family", and a big-deal wacko] states in his book: ''To put it succinctly, the institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.'' Every activist on the ground I spoke with said something similar. ''Marriage was defined thousands of years ago and has served us well,'' said Rebecca Denning, a retired secretary in southern Maryland who volunteers alongside Evalena Gray. ''I think marriage is about procreation and families. And I think we're getting into something that we don't truly understand what the ramifications will be.''
See, marriage is the keystone to everything. I mean everything: governments, social organizations and civil society. Without those, we literally don't have anything: food, oil, electricity, water, everything (this is probably actually true). If you really believe that marriage is the foundation for everything else (like, say, Constitutions), then this might be the fundamental battle of out time. But that's a hell of an assumption (that isn't backed up by any scholarly or reasonable research that I know about). Finally, we get this bit of wackiness:
Once the definition of marriage is altered, in this view, you will have this group of people declaring they want to marry that group; middle-aged men will exchange vows with children or with Doberman pinschers. As the landscape of fear fills in, the picture comes into view. It is Hieronymus Bosch's ''Garden of Earthly Delights,'' a phantasmagoria of sin and a complete breakdown of the social order. As Bryan Simonaire, Laura Clark's friend, put it: ''Once you start this, you could have a 45-year-old man wanting to marry a 9-year-old boy. That could be O.K. in 20 years. That's what you get with relative moral truth. Whereas with absolute moral truth, what was O.K. 50 years ago will still be O.K. 20 years from now.''
Yes, another veiled reference to Senator Rick Santorum's famous "man-on-dog love" speech. That's right: the homosexual movement are just pawns for those with real power: the vast, silent hordes that want to make love to their family pets. Remeber, these people really believe this.
I also especially like the part about "absolute moral truth", and how it never changes. Oh really? Slavery? Martin Luther? Extending voting to women? Racism? These things were known with "absolute moral certainty" at one point or another. Should we change back, now?
My only caveat to this is the same with all stories that involve interviews with small numbers of people: do these attitudes really represent the views of the people behind the anti-gay marriage movement, or did the author meet with a skewed sample (or did the author pick these people to make a point, and intentionally bias the article). We have no way of knowing. The author argues that these people represented the average position of all the people he talked with, but we have no way of verifying that.
Still, these people vote. And they are, clearly, insane. Several hundred years of Liberal (Locke, Rousseau, Madison, etc.) thought have clearly not penetrated very far into these people's attitudes. How do you reach them? Is it worth the effort?
Gov. Perry of Texas, hero of all those propriety-lovin' gay-hatin' right-wing activists in Texas, who waited until he thought an interview was over, then hurled an expletive at an interviewer, and then called later to apologize. If you're really so tough, be a tough guy on the air to the reporter's face, and surely don't apologize when you get caught being surly.
And of course Sen. Dick Durbin, who had nothing to apologize for. Was he exaggerating a bit? Sure. But that's how politicians often make points, and he didn't say anything inaccurate. But apparently Durbin let all of the press about his remarks go to his head and came to think that he was the story - not the torture and killings carried out in the name of this administration. And it's those actions, not the words spoken by a member of the minority party in the Senate, that are the story. Those are the acts that truly put the lives of Americans at risk. This week I'm a bit embarrassed that Durbin is a fellow Hoya.
Though at least Durbin doesn't come across as being somewhere between uninformed and being a complete idiot. If you read down through the story on Durbin's comments you'll see that Mayor Daley wins that prize.
And a last thought on this aimed at the Bush administration - if you don't want people comparing your government to notorious torturers and fascists, stop acting in ways that make the comparisons possible. But of course perhaps this is all part of their cunning plan. Distract people with this stuff so they won't notice skyrocketing deficits, corporate giveaways, and the health care crisis in this country.
Shrill, hypocritical spineless wimps.
Sean Sirrine gets at part of why I often wish Alex Kozinski would be the next conservative nominee to the US Supreme Court. He's not only brilliant, he's straightforward and funny. Sadly though, those last two traits alone are probably enough to ensure that he gets passed over.
The Christian Science Monitor has this article which makes some predictions about what will happen now that the final round of elections in Lebanon has come to an end. They persist in viewing politics there in pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian terms, though they themselves note that more and more, especially now that Syrian troops are gone, politics there is returning to the same old sectarian divisions that have dominated the country's politics for decades. Hopefully those don't get too violent (what led to Syria being invited into the country in the first place, of course), but there does seem to be an upswing in political violence this month now that two prominent anti-Syrian voices have been permanently silenced by car bombs in the last three weeks. The most recent, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, was killed in Beirut today.
I found the first ten minutes or so of this psychological thriller starring Christian Bale to be very difficult to watch. Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role and he looks ... well, emaciated. But that choice unquestionably adds something to this film, and it fits with the mysterious tone that is well-developed throughout by the writing, visuals, music, etc. And Bale's performance is quite good. This is a movie I think Hitchcock would have really liked, though it also has a Lynchian moment or two. I wouldn't say I deeply enjoyed it. But for what it is, it's very well done. Oh, and for you Jennifer Jason Leigh fans out there, she's in it as well.
There is more than a little bit of truth in this piece by Michael Tomasky. It's surely the case that comments made by the likes of Howard Dean and Dick Durbin (people who lack the power to set the national agenda or have much of an impact on state policy) increasingly dominate "news" coverage since the Republicans who actually control DC have little to show for themselves but a string of failures, inaction, and unpopular acts (see the Schiavo affair) - and many of their actions (or inactions, for example, the recent anti-lynching resolution) are the last thing they want to have to talk about on television. But when Tomasky writes "the evidence of those failures is growing too preponderant for even cable television to ignore, and the demands for apologies too blatantly hypocritical", he steps into dreamyland of fluffy little bunnies and rainbows that would be fit for the hapyy dancing elf seen at the begining of the film version of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I wish things weren't this way. But if we know anything about DC during the Bush administration it's that there is an endless amount of lying and hypocrisy that can and will be tolerated or ignored. And when the "news" anchors have had their fill of politely nodding at that, there's always some missing blonde to turn the country's attention to, or some network show to advertise. I wish I was being too pessimistic. But I'm afraid Tomasky's confusing the way things should be with the way they will be.
The Last Valley, by Martin Windrow, was named by the Economist as one of the best books of 2004. It is primarily a discussion of the military defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, but like any good historian Windrow sets the stage by giving background on Vietnam, it's colonial legacy, the Viet Minh, and the French military.
I won't detail the story here. Suffice it to say, the French didn't understand the nature of the insurgency - either politically or militarily. The immediate reasons for the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu were military: they put a base that could only be supplied by air in a valley and then didn't hold the high ground surrounding the air strip, so the Viet Minh could and did bring in artillery and anti-aircraft guns (which the French intelligence had some evidence they had) that made it impossible to resupply the base. Additionally, even if the French could have kept the airbase open, Windrow presents evidence that the French Air Corps wasn't equipped sufficiently with cargo planes (to supply the base long term), attack aircraft (to serve as artillery for the base, since the French didn't bring in artillery guns), or pilots (to fly either of the first two) to sustain the battle over the six or so months it took. From a political perspective, the French nation wasn't behind this war (either the public or any of the parties that shared power from 1950 to 1954), and once the French suffered this very public defeat, they quickly abandoned the colony.
I see little parallel between the French actions in 1954 and the US today in Iraq. Hence, this book helps little in understanding the current conflict. It's a different story when we talk about the US actions in Vietnam (as I have argued in other book reviews).
Windrow's book is decent (not superb) military history, but only that. In his defense, that is all he sets out to do. The book lacks a more pronouced political analysis - one that would make the military decisions significantly more understandable. In addition, there is scanty information about the Vietnamese decision-making, tactics, and post-battle actions. This is likely not Windrow's fault, as the government of Vietnam has not been forthcoming with unbiased acconts.
The bottom line is that this is a military history, and not much else. I'm not sure why the Economist was so impressed. Not Recommended, unless you like that sort of topic.
Being a strict a supporter of the right to free speech I respect this guy's right to political activism, but as I've probably noted before, I can't think of many speech acts more morally repugnant than picketing a funeral, and telling the families and friends of the deceased that their loved one is roasting hell. But I guess I just have different beliefs about both propriety and Christianity than those held by Rev. Phelps and his supporters. In my mind - he's one nasty and mean-spirited asshole. Look here for his latest revolting behavior. He recently interrupted his busy schedule of protesting at the funerals of gay people to protest at the funeral of a soldier. Oh, and be sure to check out the signs. Talk about an America hater. Ugh.
Abu Aardvark discusses Secretary Rice's recent comments on democratization in Egypt and Jordan here. While he's largely pleased about what she said in Egypt, he's concerned that she's letting Jordan off too lightly. Steven R. Weisman has an article on her comments focusing on Egypt in today's New York Times. His last few paragraphs point out that while she's talking the democracy talk, Ms. Mendacity isn't abandoning the Realpolitik practices that have guided US-Egyptian relations for decades.
"We weren't the ones who wanted to keep the meeting secret," one European diplomat said. "It was the American side that didn't want him there."
Remind me why on Earth Bush and Cheney want to give this guy a top job when he was a miserable failure in the last one he held? Oh, right, it's because they never hold miserable failures accountable for their mistakes. Who needs competence when you can have loyalty (even if it is loyalty to a set of beliefs that impair the ability of the country to secure its defense)?
"Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury."
Before taking several swipes at House of Representatives Armed Services Chair Duncan Hunter, Larry Johnson succinctly relates why events like this one reported in the Los Angeles Times matter.
"The point of the outrage over abuses at Guantanamo is that we are a country based on morals and principles that require us to conduct ourselves in an honorable, proper fashion. If we lower ourselves to use the tactics and methods of terrorists we become the very thing we are fighting against. We cannot be content to argue that it only happened to a few. One act of deliberate abuse is one too many."
The Cunning Realist has a good (if distressing) post on our (apparent) inaction in the face of the latest disturbing move by the Saudi government.
Since I liked Manual Labor so much I decided that I would read another Busch novel - a quite different Busch novel. Historical dramas aren't usually what I reach for when I want to be alone with a good book, but this one was a great diversion, and is really rather intriguing. It's set in New York City in the 1870's and is centered around the life of a former sharpshooter in the Civil War (who had his face shot off in that conflict) who has moved on to become a businessman of a sort. The way that the authors weaves together tales from the war with tales of the dark, commercial world that sprung from it is very effective. Beyond its broad themes, it also vividly illustrates a place and time, and draws some intereting charater portraits, including that of the inspector in the title - Herman Melville.
No one came close to getting 50% in the 7 candidate race for president, so there will be a run-off between the top two finishers on Friday June 24. It will be the first run-off of its kind in Iran. The Interior Ministry has reported that close to 29 million people voted, which would be a nationwide turnout of 62%. It appears that those in the runoff are a "centrist" and a "hard-liner". The boycott urged by many student and reformist groups, plus the government's decision to allow multiple "reformists" on the ballot likely, likely played a role in diluting the vote totals for the reformist candidates. Though it is also possible that the returns are the result of a rigged election - that claim is being made by the thrid place candidate.
I second Lorelei's shout-out to Rep. John Spratt (D-SC). If we are going to spend over $400 billion on defense, it seems a no-brainer to spend another $84 million on securing potentially-loose nukes. C'mon Mr. President, if you truly believe that terrorists with nuclear weapons are the greatest threat the country faces (what you told the American people last year), get behind this proposal.
No, sadly, I'm not making this up. Somebody in the White House has guts and a pretty bold, though highly questionable, sense of humor.
Given my brother's interest in the No Child Left Behind Act, I'm posting this link to an article in The Washington Post on a Catholic school in the District. When reading it you may note that there is something of a disconnect between the policies of NCLB and vouchers for religious schools - the religious schools don't have to publish their test scores. In fact according to an administrator "wider dissemination would lead to superficial comparisons between schools". Uh-huh. I thought it was essential to ensure "accountability" and to makes sure no child is left behind. I'm sure there are some government-funded public schools that would like to avoid publishing their scores too. For those of you who like these tests, should there be a common standard on this?
Millions of women and men are going to the polls today to vote for that country's new president. While we have many substantive problems with that country's policy preferences, and while we (and the vast majority of Iranians) wish they had a more representative form of government, there's no getting around the fact that it is already vastly more democratic than, to take just three examples of regimes that President Bush strongly supports, the governments of Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State from 2001-2005 called Iran a democracy, and if by that you mean a place with regular, competitive elections and divided government, it surely is one. There is much to be done of course in creating a more responsive government there. And the US should make supportive statements toward that end. But there is already a strong domestic will to change that country from within, and hopefully the president won't do anything to undermine that.
If we are serious about promoting transparent and responsive governments in the Middle East, having al-Jazeera on the air is a good thing. They routinely criticize tyrants and bring atrocities to light. Why on Earth should we be opposed to that? Will most Americans like all of what they broadcast? No. But since when is shutting down speech and communication a good thing if we supposedly value open tolerant societies and governments with limited powers?
Jonathan notes a fascinating piece of news from Israel. As a result of the recruitment drives that have been held in the run-up to the leadership election scheduled for the 28th of this month, Arabs now make up 22% of the Labor Party. Arabs will, therefore, play a major role in the election - something that most predict is bad news for former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
It's surprising that neither Baltar nor Armand has jumped on this wagon yet, but in the brief moment that I am connected to a computer on what has become a longer than planned summer hiatus, I will shoot off a quickie post.
The comments of Alberto Gonzales about former prisoners at Guantanamo has my knickers all twisty:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the holding of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba on Wednesday, saying some of those who had been released had returned to fight against the United States.
Gonzales said he thought about a dozen people released from Guantanamo had later been killed or captured ''on the battlefield'' fighting against the United States.
Why are my knickers twisty over this? Cannot even I, the persistent critic of all things Bush-related, see that keepin' terrorists outta' circulation is good for 'Merica's security? Hmmm, well, read the second paragraph closely. See, if we know what happened to these guys after we released them, then that means we were following them, and if we were following them, then we probably expected them to get up to more terrorist hijinks, and if we expected them to get up to terrorist hijinks when we released them, then we probably had predicted it before we released them. With me yet? Follow the released small fry to see if they lead you back to a big fish. It is duplicitous to suggest that we have released these people in good will only to be betrayed by their return to terrorism. We knew this would happen, and no doubt the intelligence network wanted them to run home to reinvolve themselves in the struggle in the hopes they could deliver a path to important figures.
It's days like today that we are reminded just how good a blog Eschaton can be. CNN turning into Girls Gone Wild, a serious note about the coming petroleum crisis, Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander's grotesque, self-serving lies, shockingly shoddy "journalism" at the New York Times (and I'm not just talking about today's Friedman column) ... it's a scary world out there, and Eschaton is covering it with bite and panache.
This move at an Orange County Catholic school is just appalling. I could state the obvious and point out that it's a pretty decent argument against sending government money to religious schools (under the guise of vouchers or not). But without even going that far - think of the poor kids involved in this. I really don't think it's the gay parents who are the sickos here.
He's for Attorney General of New York, and in such a splintered primary field it seems very possible. He's ahead in the latest poll. Personally, I am less (far less) than pleased to see that. There are a number of qualified candidates in this race and his behavior in his last race for statewide office was an ugly combination of offensive and pathetic.
Nick Kristof makes a proposal to President Bush that I think a lot of Americans would support: "Mr. Bush, how about asking Mr. Musharraf to focus on finding Osama, instead of kidnapping rape victims who speak out?"
But of course if there's anything that's consistent about how much Bush loves freedom it's his gross inconsistency on the matter. And finding Osama is probably the last thing our dear ally in Islamabad wants to do. So I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for our president to make that phone call.
Chris Geidner has determined that they are Shelby, Cochran, Lott, Alexander, Hutchison and Cornyn. Will this have any effect on KBH's campaign against Rick Perry in Texas? Will this take Cornyn off the list of prospective Supreme Court candidates (if he was ever on it)? Time will tell. And I've got to say that I am very disappointed in Lamar Alexander (sadly, I'm not remotely surprised by Cornyn, Lott or Shelby being on this list). I hope he comes up with a good reason for not supporting this. Doesn't he remember the victims?
UPDATE: Actually there were more than 6 senators. Keep checking Geidner's post for updates if you are interested in this story.
Taylor makes some good points in this column (for instance it is probably worth noting that Justices Stevens and O'Connor clearly voted against their own personal policy preferences in this case), but I'm linking to it because I couldn't agree more with his final words: "as a matter of common decency, Congress and the administration are wrong. They should stop carrying their drug-war obsession to the point of denying the most effective source of relief to people who live in excruciating pain." Amen to that.
I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a feature story on Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the only Republican in West Virginia's congressional delegation, and possibly the GOPer who will challenge Sen. Robert Byrd in next year's election. Part of the story involved how the Congresswoman spent her day, whom she met with, etc. One of the groups she met with was a group of students who attend Wood County Christian School. Capito doesn't represent that area - these students (and/or their teachers and administrators) wanted to meet with her instead of the Congressman who does represent their area of the state because she is a Republican and he is not.
I think it's important to keep little stories like this in mind as we consider the degree to which public money should go to religious schools. Put another way Atrios is right to criticize Kevin for being a bit naive. Schools like this have an agenda that's quite different from that found in public schools.
First House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) shows himself to be an arrogant ass (again) through his juvenile administration and cancelation of a hearing on the USA Patriot Act. Then comes news of a most peculiar financial transaction involving Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California. Now I presume the press on these event will be nonexistent (at least outside San Diego). But it's interesting how often Tom DeLay's minions manage to meet liberals' expectations of the ugly excesses of their behavior.
...Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
I think this story merits much more attention than it has gotten in the US press thus far. It says a lot about both how and why the US fights the war it's currently fighting in Iraq. And it says something about why we left Afghanistan and the prioritization of Bin Laden as early as we did. And it should come as no shock to anyone who's been concious for the last 4 years it provides yet more support for the fact that the Bush administration invaded (after purposefully skewing intelligence) in a cavalier manner, woefully underprepared for the challenges they would force the Americans and the British to face.
I'm continiously floored by the lengths this administrations goes to in order to avoid confronting reality. The Ron Suskind article in the NYT article from before the election had now infamous quote from an administration official that denigrates the "reality based community" for depending on facts and logic:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
That quote really can't be cited often enough in order to understand what this administration is up to. Now we get the latest piece of news: the Bush adminstration official responsible for policy on environmental issues is a former Oil executive who has now been caught modifying scientific reports issued by the White House in order to reduce the certainty by which science knows that global warming is harming the planet. In other words, the adminstration makes its own reality by ignoring and changing the legitimate science to make global warming seem less certain, then gets to claim publicly that nothing needs to be done because the science is not certain.
This is how policy is made under this administration.
As I have said before, I am perfectly willing to engage in arguments about ideology and the "right" way to accomplish whatever political goals either party has. But everyone has to accept the science that reports whether your policies actually achieve what you say or not. A is A, no matter what else you want it to be.
As I have discussed before (and binky has brought up as well), the Army is having a recruiting nightmare. As the Washington Post notes, the Army missed its recruiting goals (by 25% in April) for the fourth straight month. The Army must recruit 40,000 people in the next four months (and they only got 5100 in April) in order to make their (already reduced) goals for this fiscal year.
The reason the Army is having these problems is clear: Iraq. (To some degree a better job market is hurting as well, but this is not really significant.) We cannot sustain our nation-building in Iraq as it stands and continue to maintain an Army capable of deterring much more serious threats (North Korea or Iran). This is a serious problem, and no one seems to be addressing it.
This piece in The Hill discusses the strengths Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would have as a presidential candidate. I don't know if he could win the party's nomination (that depends, among other things, on who opts to run and who does not), but I think he's one of the two or three strongest possible standard bearers the GOP could have in 2008.
Your president has resigned and the head of your Supreme Court has taken over in a caretaker capacity - what do you do?
"Demonstrators in La Paz have been celebrating by setting off thunderous charges of dynamite."
"I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live."
The Republican Governor of Texas actually said this publicly about gay VETERANS COMING HOME FROM IRAQ.
I'm so appalled I can't even begin to process a response.
This post by John at AMERICAblog is rather strange. It notes that Family Research Council chief Tony Perkins paid David Duke over $80,000 for a mailing list back when Perkins was running for the US Senate in Louisiana. I think pointing out that a leader in the Christian right movement (or any other type of political leader) gave such a startling sum of money to the notorious Duke is entirely appropriate. If that doesn't show someone's real values what does? But the thing is - this isn't news. The FRC chose this guy to lead it long after this happened (which says plenty about their own lack of values of course).
Is Perkins a hypocrite? Sure. Is he a scumbag. Depends on your definition, but lots of people would say yes. Should he be regularly confronted about this? Probably. Is this news? No.
If this post shows anything it's how lazy and/or deferential a lot of DC reporters are. They should make him defend his actions and bring this up regularly when he tries to be the world's enforcer of morality.
But while this shows Perkins to be an ugly cretin I doubt this story will have any legs. After all, another candidate who paid Duke for his mailing list actually was elected governor of Louisiana.
Mark Kleiman wonders how New York will ever survive - "Now it's doomed to be nothing but the financial and cultural capital of the world. And all that land will have to be used for housing or open space or commercial development or something else much less vital than a stadium to be used eight times a year."
It's funny because it's true (yay!).
If there are any of you out there who still haven't gotten your fill of reading about Raich and its implications I recommend this piece by Michael Dorf. It lays out the various arguments and the historical context in a very succinct and informative manner.
Another Wolf Blitzer show? I think I need a handful of sedatives. But at least they are speeding along the exit of Bill Hemmer, so all's not entirely appalling at the Atlanta network - just their afternoons and Paula Zahn.
Of course one guy would appear to be getting a sweet job out of the changes at the network. New executive producers are being hired for Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper, and (in the ever fun and vibrant wording of Lisa de Moraes) David Doss "will wrangle" Cooper. I can think of several people who'd like to be charged with doing that.
$674 million is nice and all, but it's obviously a complete and rather sick joke if the idea is to actually solve anything in the long term. I'm quite impressed by Blair's actions on issues like this, and have been for some time - this is not a new priority for his government, though the scale of his proposal and the level of attention and press he and Gordon Brown are giving it has increased recently.
Today's the day this justice of the Supreme Court of California will likely be elevated to fill a seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. I have mixed feelings about this, and if I were a senator this vote would be a tough call. While in some ways her views seem more extreme than other controversial Bush appealate court nominee I can think of (apart from William Pryor), I'm not especially strongly opposed to her nomination. It strikes me as more important to block the Pryor and Myers nominations (and it would have been great to block Jay Bybee - but what's done is done).
SCOTUSBlog's new Supreme Court nomination blog has many links related to her.
I finally got around to watching Kinsey last night. It's good. Technically it's really very good (in terms of the cinematography, score, costumes, art design, etc.), though Kinsey himself is so egotistical and a bit tiresome that I'd probably only give it 3 stars on a 4 star scale. Some biopics just suffer from being centered around someone who bothers you a bit - and that limited my enjoyment of this. But it's a beautifully made film.
In terms of the acting though (which is generally good or very good) one actor really stood out - Peter Sarsgaard. I mean he's been excellent before of course (Shattered Glass, Boys Don't Cry, Garden State) so another great performance isn't that big of a surprise really. It's just a wonderful thing to see. He's a brilliant actor (can't wait to see Jarhead!). And in terms of a less flashy role, I thought Oliver Platt did a very fine job playing the unversity president.
Now that the proposed West Side Jets stadium appears dead, I think it's time for New Yorkers and Americans to acknowledge something. Whether or not the stadium was approved, New York was not going to get the 2012 Olympics. It was a great selling point for the stadium, sure. And yes, Mayor Bloomberg would have loved to have seen his daughter compete at games staged in New York. But Paris has been a heavy favorite to host the 2012 games for years, it was the favorite before the stadium vote, and it's still the favorite after the stadium vote.
Orin Kerr has the first lengthy review I've seen of today's decision in Raich (the medical marijuana/federalism case). The vote was 6-3 to reverse the 9th Circuit and uphold the federal government's power to regulate marijuana - and in the process to apparently nullify the right of states to pass their own "medical marijuana" laws (as 10 have done). So the Republicans (with the support of plenty of less than compassionate Democrats) in DC will be able to continue to enforce laws that hurt suffering Americans in pain, and trample on what many conservatives see as the doctrine of federalism.
Upholding these federal government powers were the 4 justices (Stevens, Souter, Breyer and Ginsburg) who've consistently opposed Chief Justice Rehnquist's attempts to strength federalism in decisions like Lopez and Morrison, plus Justices Scalia and Kennedy. Dissenting were Rehnquist, O'Connor and Thomas. For details on the opinions issued in this case (by Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas) read Kerr's post.
Jack Balkin is also worth reading on this, particularly regarding the opinion written by Scalia.
UPDATE: SCOTUSBlog did a phenomenal job of blogging this case yesterday with a host of insightful people posting on it. If you are interested in this case, or the Court's federalism jurisprudence, or the role of individual justices on the Court I strongly recommend you give their June 6 posts a look.
The Swiss have approved civil partnerships for gays and lesbians. In and of itself that's still a pretty unusually occurrence on this planet. But what's particularly remarkable is that they approved this in a national referendum, and that the proposal's victory wasn't even close - it won approval with 58% of the vote. BoiFromTroy has more details.
I don't. True, I've never been to Kansas. But are those things still roaming the country out there? I ask because since I noticed that Gov. Owens of Colorado had just picked his state's quarter, I went to the Mint website to see which state quarters were going to be released next. Oregon (that quarter features Crater Lake) will be next, followed by Kansas. And Kansas features both a buffalo and a (much smaller, as it should be I suppose) sunflower. Apparently the buffalo is the state animal of Kansas.
So if President Bush is responsible for the supposed big wave of democracy sweeping the Middle East (not really there of course - but I guess I'm in too much of a "reality based" mindset), does that mean he's also responsible for members of Hizbollah getting elected to Parliament in Lebanon or Palestinian President Abbas indefinitely postponing elections (because he's afraid he'll lose control if they go forward).
I don't mean to be too snarky here, but we need to pay attention to these events and not simply say - "Syria's out of Lebanon and close to 10% of the Sunnis in Iraq made it to the polls in January so things are great!". Movement toward democracy in the region hasn't been as strong as it's often portrayed here. And what movement there has been is in important cases quiet shallow and may produce results we don't like at all. It's nice if people can take part in their government. But for decades the degree to which that's been the case in the region has waxed and waned. And there are many places in which representative elections would produce winners who won't see eye to eye with the US on much of anything.
From Kevin Drum's Political Animal I give you this little chart (for more detail see this). I knew that the Bush administration had taken most of the bite out of the tax bills paid by the country's mega-millionaires, but I didn't realize it had gone this far. People making over $10 million a year pay less in taxes (as a % of their income) than people making $100,00-200,000. Kevin's right - this is a superb issue for the Democrats. If they don't prioritize this and find effective ways to bash Bush and his cronies with these numbers for the next 3 years they will be ineffective fools. Of course given that they haven't managed to successfully make this case yet, I'm afraid that's what's going to happen. But hopefully someone at the DNC or people working for Harry Reid, Bill Richardson, Evan Bayh, Mark Warner, etc. will hit this repeatedly. It's the kind of thing that both merits serious attention as a matter of national policy, and could be a huge political winner.
Why in the hell does any newspaper print anything written by Peggy Noonan? She can turn a phrase, sure. But the woman seems close to insane. It was bad enough when she was just offensive - writing columns on, for example, how happy she felt after alerting the police to the fact that there were dark-skinned men with cameras on Fifth Ave. in the wake of 9/11. But this is positively unhinged. Richard Nixon is the Great Satan to liberals? Chuck Colson (who even she notes was up to no good) was a hero of Watergate? Mark Felt is to blame for Pol Pot and pulling out of Vietnam? As much as I bash many of the columnists of the New York Times (and with good reason) the Wall Street Journal 's columnists and editorial writers make them appear to be beacons of wisdom and insight.
One other thought on this column - not that I should expect anything like clarity from this loon, but where exactly is Gerald Ford in her chronology? If she's going to say that some American was the cause of Pol Pot (not that I'm saything that's reasonable) it would seem like blaming the US president would make more sense that blaming an FBI official who was trying to bring administration officials to justice for breaking American laws. But anything resembling logic is clearly beyond Noonan's powers.
The latest hot, new "thingy" on the politics-geek blogs is talking about this list of Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century, put out by Human Events Online (a right-wing group). Beyond the whole do-left-wing-groups-ban-more-books-than-right meme (beaten to death at Obsidian Wings), the list of books themselves is very interesting:
1. Communist Manifesto
2. Mein Kampf
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
4. The Kinsey Report
5. Democracy and Education (by John Dewey)
6. Das Kapital
7. The Feminine Mystique (by Betty Friedan)
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy (by August Comte)
9. Beyond Good and Evil (by Nietzsche)
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (by Keynes)
It is an interesting list. The article does not describe the criteria for a book to be "harmful", so we're left guessing. The first three books seem almost reasonable: those books helped create ideologies that (by objective standards) led to the deaths of millions of people in many countries around the world. Of course, by that standard, the US Constitution (or the Federalist papers) would be equally guilty: we're just counting bodies and the countries that killed them. The next seven, however, are much more eclectic. Kinsey, Friedan and Dewey (which, honestly, I've only vaguely heard of) are presumably "harmful" because they created ideologies that are not considered helpful or positive by today's cultural conservatives. On the other hand, the sum total of deaths attributable to Kinsey, Friedan and Dewey has to be less than the deaths attributable to the PNAC (the right-wing think tank that argued in print for forcing democracy into the Mid East at the point of a US gun).
Books that didn't make the top ten included Mill (On Liberty is harmful?), Freud, Darwin, Margaret Mead (?), Ralph Nader (how was "Unsafe at any Speed" in any way harmful?), and Rachel Carson.
What are we supposed to do with this? Advocate for banning them? Shun the books, but don't ban them? Ridicule people for reading them? What is the purpose here?
As I'm sure we've all seen by this point, "Deep Throat" was in fact the #2 guy at the FBI. This is interesting, but Deep Throat is really just academic to politics at this point. This hasn't stopped various ex-Nixon adminstration people from bitching about what a bad person he is. I don't have web cites, but both Colson and Liddy (and I think I caught Buchanan, as well) have been cited complianing about the lack of honor and integrity of this paragon of the FBI in going outside the official channels to leak information to the Washington Post.
I'll grant that enough dirt has been thrown up at this point to make Deep Throat's actions perhaps less than pure as the driven snow (specifically, he had been passed up to become #1 at the FBI, after Hoover left, and his actions might reflect someone upset at this personal and professional slight, not the altruistic actions of a patriotic individual), but that's not what I'm annoyed at. Deep Throat's motives we can debate; that doesn't change that Nixon participated (and planned) an action that was illegal, then used his office to try to cover up this fact.
In other words, no one - absolutely no one - can defend Nixon. I don't like the present Bush. I freely admit that, and am prepared to back up my statements with arguments. But Bush, at least, hasn't (to my knowledge) actually committed illegal acts and used his office to avoid punishment for them. He has made awful policy choices, but they aren't illlegal. Nixon, on the other hand, made decent policy choices, but did illegal things. There really isn't a comparison, and any of the ex-Nixon people who are complaining about Deep Throat should be bitch-slapped like the assholes they are. Deep Throat may have had less-than-perfect motives for his actions (or, they may have been perfectly patriotic and democratic), but the result of his actions removed a criminal from the Oval Office. One can simply not complain about that.
It's actions like this that make me continue to wonder what the modern Republican Party actually believes as an ideology.