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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Items: RIP Molly Ivins ... again, her Shrub informed us what the deal was before the election. Seems, see Ghost Plane, the Germans are now targeting those CIA agents that illegally seized protected persons from Europe. (Corrected.) Cf. And, besides underlining a Gitmo issue, this discusses the general horrors of solitary confinement.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In the News ...

And Also: Don't usually see AP movie reviews, but this one is prime, with this comment singling out a scene prime for a future You Tube clip: "The only moment that feels vaguely real in the entire movie comes when Moore is asked to describe what an orgasm is like. She does so quite accurately and convincingly and without making you want to cringe. It's the one time in the film that no one is faking it." Mandy Moore has her moments, doesn't she?

Some quickie thoughts respecting issues currently in the news ...

Just because the Supreme Court decides something does not mean things are over. Thus, allowing affirmative action in some cases for state universities led to efforts for a state constitutional ban on such preferences. Michael Dorf examines the issue in a thought provoking essay entitled: "Universities Adjust to State Affirmative Action Bans: Are the New Programs Legal? Are They a Good Idea?" This includes the legitimacy and value to the alternatives, the motivations behind the options made, and so forth. For instance, is "equality" sacrificed for "merit," and if it is, to what end? And, yes, the quotes are supplied advisedly, given the debatable nature of the terms and how they are carried out in practice. More here.

Bush is dubiously compared to past leaders as much as the current conflict is compared to much more scary ones in our history. Glenn Greenwald has a particularly biting rejoinder, again citing actual history to underline the point, showing us what real leaders do -- let's call this the "Churchill Edition." Meanwhile, the NYT cites a new move by the administration to submit administrative agencies to more political control from the White House. As noted here, there is some justice to this policy, but the problem simply is that we really have no reason to trust his judgement. Thus, it's a bad sign. And, Kevin Drum properly sneers at TMQ's continual defense of our apparently environmentally friendly President.

Relatedly, we look next on the enablers. BTC News discusses John Dickinson's different recollections respecting a key moment in Ari F.'s testimony in the Libby trial. How amusing. How confusing ... hey, maybe Libby did forget! Ha ha. Yeah right. Maybe, Johnny boy here can remind how he and his fellow press enablers helped to promote the lie filled smear job of Joseph Wilson, smeared because he dared to criticize the Bushies for selling the war like a used car salesman might sell a clunker. And, then, there is the whole Plame mess ... But, JD sorts focus on "the process" or whatnot, denying the message they are sending, while the core facts are ignored. See also, the (latest) Broder example.

Oh, and John Dean also brought up a lesser reported tidbit from the recent Gonzo appearance in front of Congress related to why we cannot trust these people, and those who do (including members of his party) are played as suckers. This includes John McCain, a big enabler, who recently obtained the support from two more -- the gentle ladies from Maine. As comments suggest, maybe they had little to choose from (you know, since they are not Judases to the party ala Joey L.), but why announce it now? Seems dumb.

Anyway, Barbaro has died. It is remarkable how much effort was taken to try to save that horse, one who had an injury that would usually have merited a quick bullet in the head. To be blunt about it. Seriously, much might be said about selective kindness (rightly so, up to a point), but such acts do underline how society does care about (certain) animals. Again, up to a point, something to be happy about. You know, like if another Colt (or more than one) fell ...

Hey Yogi!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Book Notes

And Also: The "important but never done" theme showed up recently when I was looking at notary procedures. The notary is supposed to orally give an oath/affirmation (without it, there is probably no perjury, since you never "sworn" to anything) or acknowledgement (did you do this willingly?). Few seem to do so. But, this really ruins at least half the point of these things ... they aren't just to determine the person is who they say they are.

A few final thoughts on the Love My Rifle book ...
  • Yes, it seems, you can be a vegetarian while serving in a war zone

  • After being upset about how long it took, why exactly did she not even mention her promotion ceremony? (A picture is supplied, after all.)

  • She mentions various people, by name, in a bad light. Did this, you know, like cause any problems?

  • Who exactly is Michael Staub, who you wrote the book "with" (small print on cover page)? Why not mention a little bit about the guy, except for a brief mention? [See this interesting reference. Wrote?]

  • I like your bite ... it's a bit bitchy, not in that way (see book), but funny/impressive too.

  • The early picture of you in your fatigues, "outside the barracks," is pretty cute.

  • Lots of respect ... Arabic! Spanish is too tough for me.

  • Meanwhile, recent book store stop-bys led to views of some other books. For instance, a new book (Supreme Conflict) on the Supreme Court looks promising, including things as up to date as Harriet Miers. Likewise, it suggests that Thomas warrants more respect as a strong judicial actor, not some Scalia suck-up. I respect this -- my problem was his overall lack of judicial experience (and/or young age) plus the Anita Hill controversy. This reflects my problem with Scalia -- it is not his judicial philosophy, per se, though I disagree with it. Overall, what bothers me is his inability -- given his complaints at times rather hypocritically -- to act judicially. He acts like a bully and puts forth bluster over argument, or rather, too much of the former.

    Thomas has a somewhat similar problem -- putting forth quite controversial conservative think tank like reasoning as if it was so bloody obvious. Failure to take part in oral arguments rankle as much as his "legal lynching" bit -- using the race card while otherwise so self-righteously being against it. But, his legal reasoning per se, if perhaps simplistic at times, is not really my ultimate problem with the guy. It is not why he rubs me the wrong way. Again, this is what annoys me about the approach by Sandy Levinson -- referenced already here -- that focuses on Bush's incompetence. Fine enough, but that is not really why you dislike the guy, right? You think what he is doing is illegitimate. The asshole part is just adding insult to injury. If a competent person authorized torture, you would be upset too, right?*

    Kermit Roosevelt has a book out on the myth of judicial activism. A glance makes it appear to be general liberal theory (mention on Balkanization), including favoring an equal protection security for the right to choose an abortion. (Privacy is fine, guys, you just have to do it right.) Rather dismissive take on Kelo -- what's all the fuss, etc. Respects Lochner as a somewhat behind on its times, but not horrible decision for them ruling. Underlines the problems with Dred Scott is not because it upheld slavery per se.

    And, notes the valid application of "substantive due process" reflects Samuel Chase's argument in 1798 that certain legislative acts are mere "acts" (nice point there) because the nature of our government only supplies it a limited legitimate sphere to make "law." IOW, SDP is in effect a charge that a certain law is not valid, which even procedurally means that "due process" is not met. Handles something deemed patently ridiculous calmly and succinctly.

    I appreciated as well as his overall tone -- various things might be a problem doctrinally, but this doesn't make it "illegitimate." etc. It is tedious, if not surprising, the level of rancor out there. The fact SDP can easily be justified suggests the "uh, you have nothing" nature of some of that sort of thing. This is worse than just being wrong. It flows into being an asshole. I know that the liberal reasoning set forth in the book can be deemed very wrong-headed, making it a harder trudge for some. But, this is again different from suggesting something is inane ... that is where you go into Scalia sarcasm territory, leading to dismissive self-righteous material that ironically (if expectantly) tends to be question begging and/or downright wrong itself.

    The new book on Beatrix Potter -- see recent movie -- also looks nice. That is, it has great cover art and such. A glance also suggests it might be interesting too. But, that "look" alone will probably get some sales. Nice pictures, appropriate given the subject, as well. [I might buy it ... I reserved two other books for future library pick-up, though not the KR book ... though I see I could have.]


    * Frank Rich made a comment in his Sunday column that sorta rubbed me the wrong way too. He suggested in effect that John Edwards was going on one knee to apologize for his vote in 10/02, which FR didn't think people like HR necessarily needed to do. It's what they do from now on. Was that some sort of slam on Edwards? Why? Sure, later events showed such a vote was not quite as asinine as many people thought at the time (you know, yours truly), but I think it's a good approach.

    Slate mentioned yesterday in the Today's Papers feature that HC noted that with the "judgement" of the time, her vote stood up. This sorta pissed me off. I'll take the mea culpa ... heck, I just might not vote for anyone who voted in the affirmative in the primary. But, if I did, a simple "I made a mistake" trumps the idea that someone could not use the same "judgement" as the second in command of the Senate right now, Dick Durbin, used. You know, vote against the damn thing!

    Sunday, January 28, 2007

    Weekend Notes

    And Also: Bush isn't my "commander-in-chief," and even if that was true, that doesn't including f-ing with the independency of the federal judiciary. Oh, and is Canada saying we can't be trusted not to torture? See here.

    Reading: I'm reading Kayla Williams' memoir. Good book, more blunt and 'R' rated (starts out with a discussion on the difference of being a bitch and a slut) than her appearance on the Iraq War Inquest Panel. Perhaps, the tamer locale and extra year or so of time affected her approach, at least to some point. From the NPR interview summary:
    Kayla Williams is a former U.S. Army soldier who served in the Middle East as an Arabic interpreter. She recounts her decision to enlist and her experiences during the Iraq war in a new memoir, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army. Williams was a sergeant in a military intelligence company of the 101st Airborne Division.

    Movie: Saw a movie with an interesting perspective, namely from the video footage of a guy secretly filming a sexy young woman ... Alone with Her. Tom Hanks' son plays the creepy guy pretty well, but the true star is his target, who is quite natural in the role. Ana Claudia Talancón is best known for her Mexican telenovela work, though she also was in Fast Food Nation. Nice on the eyes. Her friend is pretty good too, the one who now has a TBS series. Movie might be imperfect, it is after all basically an independent film, but worth a look.

    Dinner: Nice theater. Beforehand, I also went to a tasty (and reasonably priced ... nice combo) Indian place ... vegetarian friendly but good for all you animal killers too. Ghandi Cafe.

    Friday, January 26, 2007

    "Jargon-Ridden Charges?"

    And Also: On the Mets front, the manager obtained a well deserved three year contract, Cliff Floyd (OF-1B?) went to the Cubs, and the team obtained another back-end starter possibility in Aaron Sele. Should have enough in the pile to patch together those games when the likely injuries etc. ome.

    Articles like this by Sandy Levison are a bit annoying. SL with his Balkanization crew simply despise President Bush. This is shown in part by personal cries from the heart that shown quite baldly how little they think of the man and his crew. They are resorting to citing the number of days left in his presidency, though refuse to just put a damn counter on the blog. SL's latest campaign is to underline how horrible it is that we do not have some sort of "no confidence" option in this country ala parliamentary practice. One proposal was to allow this if 2/3 of Congress so decides, perhaps the decision setting forth a sort of recall election to give the public a chance to override the call.

    We are just stuck with an incompetent, dangerously so, maroon (comments at times cited) for x amount of time until 1/20/09. Upon challenge, someone like Marty Lederman will note that Congress has significant powers, including to put limits on his commander-in-chief authority in various ways. This, however, is downplayed ... partially because of the possibility of a veto, even though the supermajority that would be required for that removal surely would be harder to obtain that overriding a veto on specific matters. IOW, the chance for real restraints -- an uphill battle but constitutionally possible now -- ironically are somewhat downplayed. And, another "if only we had a way to get rid of an incompetent president" woe is us cry is raised.

    It is pointless imho to add a parliamentary override feature like this if the Congress is not willing to faithfully practice the power they already have. I don't think such a "no confidence" vote should be submitted just because a majority vote is met (is this what SL deep down wants?). But, it might work. All the same, there are alternatives, if the will was there. A will that is required for the other way to work as well. This includes impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors as well as treason and bribery. Again, Elizabeth Holtzman submits the option is open:
    His impeachable offenses include using lies and deceptions to drive the country into war in Iraq, deliberately and repeatedly violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on wiretapping in the United States, and facilitating the mistreatment of US detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996. [The lastest on Arar.]

    People against impeachment like SL surely doesn't disagree that some or all of these charges are in place. The fact that Bush is incompetent doesn't change this fact. Yes, it is true that there are political and time restraint problems. But, SL goes further. He raises the claim that somehow it is hard to make a strong credible case. For instance, sometimes presidents lie ... should FDR be impeached for fudging Lend Lease? Why in the hell are you giving aid and comfort to the enemy? The two cases are not comparable! Bush and company lied (by any fair definition, their b.s. rose to that level at times, see John Dean) about the very triggers. Did FDR lie about invasion of Pearl Harbor and Germany declaring war on us? Uh no.

    Other counts can be supplied, including to the Vice President and lesser officials, such as the Attorney General. For instance, Balkanization had many posts on how the administration clearly -- and disgustingly -- violated limitations on torture and cruel/inhumane treatment of detainees. This was a breach of the law. It was (and probably still is, since some acts are probably ongoing right now) a high crime and misdemeanors, which is not even necessarily a clear violation of statutory law. Politically, the American people might not be at the point to fully demand Congress to impeach and remove the President. This is a different matter from there not being any "there" there.

    Are we not helping the President -- see all those late night t.v. jokes -- by damning him as some incompetent boob (see also Reagan, who was left off the hook for Iran Contra, since hey, he probably didn't even know what was going on)? He is worse -- he is a common criminal. He is intentionally as well as (criminally) negligently breaking his oath and the laws of this nation. How we realistically can handle this is one thing, but please, please, at least don't challenge his very liability! The alternative, honestly, is stereotypical weenie liberal whining about how horrible things are ... but darn if we are left with just that, whining and gnashing of our teeth about how terrible, just terrible, he is.

    Sure. He is also a criminal. Not all criminals are brought to justice, but don't make it out like it is libel to call a spade, a spade! Not so says SL:
    It is not enough that the President be a criminal; he must be a criminal of a certain gravity. If there is anything the country needs less at this point than a self-defeating political strategy, it is the further domination of public debate by lawyers trading jargon-ridden charges and countercharges about the criminal liability of the President.

    Yeah. You know like torture. Just jargon. Only smart people like you can understand. [BTW, again, it is very arguable even the "criminal" part is right. The impeached, especially before the current era, could very well have done various things not clearly addressed by statutory law. Surely, various articles of impeachment covered such "non-criminal" areas. The "certain gravity" is fair, if somewhat implied.] Such gibberish.


    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    And Also

    It was mentioned on Conan (a repeat) last night that Stephen Colbert teaches Sunday school. I know someone who goes to an adult form, and she too underlines that we should not have a stereotypical view of such things. Both, btw, are from South Carolina. Meanwhile, good article on Norah Jones in the NYT last Sunday ... here's a song that was mentioned, inspired by an old boyfriend. Hits home re recent events.

    Stephanie Miller, a popular liberal leaning radio host, was simulcast in NYC yesterday, apparently (so noted Atrios, a fan and previous normal guest on the night show) because the local Air America affiliate was annoyed that Sam Seder criticized Armstrong Williams. As referenced in the past, 1600AM here stuck with the conservative leaning morning show when Air America moved for 1190AM, adding to the annoyance of the weaker signal (nights, I simply cannot listen to the station ... my computer also makes listening on the web a bit annoying). [She was okay enough but had an annoying "morning drive" type feel that felt a bit fake. Some people enjoy her though as some commentary on the message boards suggest.]

    If true, that was really petty -- but AA itself did petty things like a last minute firing (to be honest about it) of Mike Malloy, after promising he would eventually return. I think MM was a bit over the top, but that was a crude way to get rid of him. Hopefully, talk that Mark Maron will return with the new ownership (the company -- which many note is badly managed -- underwent bankruptcy) is true. The station really needs the offbeat flavor he brings to the table. As I noted in the past, the line-up these days is honestly a bit boring. Al Franken's safe (and sometimes too precious) progressivism that serves as the keystone underlines the point. Seder was back today, but I didn't catch the beginning of the show.

    Finally, again, I don't really agree with the stance here that somehow the Canada experience respecting securing abortion rights by court action worked "with similar legal materials" as ours. How exactly is a 1980s (the time lag already notable) ruling based on a "fundamental justice" (substantive due process is a logical implication, but it is just that, an implication) provision of the Canadian Constitution that was recently amended (showing democratic support more debatable in this country) particularly to give the courts more power to secure fundamental liberties really working from the same basic ground as Roe v. Wade? This includes material focusing on women equality and independence, a strand that in our country was just developing in the Supreme Court of the U.S.

    I know the person raising the point in effect deals with this sort of thing for a living, it being a part of his expertise as a scholar and educator. Who am I to disagree? But, it is -- sorry -- simply misleading. The ruling and opinions is informative -- though the way they are constructed makes it a bit hard to read -- but (as Mark Tushnet suggests in Jack Balkin's book on the case) we need to focus on the time and place of both rulings. They are different -- underlining that though foreign law can be informative, Scalia is not totally wrong in being wary about its use ... or misuse.

    Sadly, though his comments often are quite on point, there remains some "talking past each other" qualities that are fairly typical on there in the blogs. Still, a nod to Glenn Greenwald -- in an entry cited in today's NY Daily News (nice little "blog excerpts" feature recently added to editorial page) no less -- bending over backward to determine how much of an ass Joe Lieberman was in his most recent "please don't criticize the President ... just give him one more shot" campaign.

    Props as well to BTC News ... inviting critical feedback, but not to the level of the person being criticized. Such fairness -- while still having a nice edge -- deserves respect.

    Media Effects: A Case Study

    Living in ignorance, or in denial, about the past is the first step on the pathway to tyranny.

    -- David W. Moore [in response to Ari F's "get over it" line]

    Of course, to many of us, Gore is unique. Because we don't think he really lost in 2000. The whole Bush presidency was conceived in the original political sin of the stolen 2000 election. And hasn't it turned out well? But that's another story.

    -- TPM

    One of the more interesting books on the 2000 elections has an inflammatory title but a different twist on things -- How to Steal an Election by David W. Moore. Moore is a pollster, one who had an insider view -- being at the side of one of the network election teams since he was researching a book on polling -- on the (wrong-minded) call by FOX that Bush won Florida.

    Bush's cousin was on the election team and the call was right after "Jebbie says we go it!" John Ellis dubiously was talking to his cousins throughout Election Day, a clear conflict of interest. The call was not backed up by the data -- the networks already called the state prematurely (for Gore) earlier and were warned that there was a margin of error, which the returns then did not surpass. FOX's call was followed by two other networks, one against the opinion of the resident polling experts, but not by AP or the very voting service [VNS] often blamed. Circumstantial evidence suggests that a "bandwagon" effect was a major factor -- underlined by the fact that experts at a majority of the networks/companies at issue were against an announcement. And, shortly afterwards, the doubtful nature of the data only increased.*

    The book suggests it is a "historical fact" that the election was stolen, just like LBJ stole an election to begin his path to the presidency, and various other elections were stolen in our history. It covers some of the familiar ground, including the wrongful (non-felon) disenfranchisement issue. But, notes that the press had an important role here. If they did not call the election wrongly, it would be very well likely that Gore would not have been seen as a "sore loser" -- as they should have done, the reports would have been that it was "too close to call," and he would not have conceded prematurely. And, even after they did make that right call, the press meme often continued to be just that -- Gore actually lost and is a sore loser. Press commentary often went that way. It necessarily influenced strategy on both sides.

    And, Moore notes that various legal experts suggest that this also affected court rulings, including the one or two essential votes on the Supreme Court. (One might add that more reporting on the true confusion in voting procedures in Florida might have clued O'Connor in that it wasn't so obvious how to vote, as she sarcastically implied during oral argument.) This is but an extreme example of a common instance -- public opinion, including that expressed in the media, influences judges. Judges are human. They are influenced by more than the bare record, even if it might be seen as inappropriate to do so. This is both good and bad. Sometimes such "social facts" are really necessary to determine the correct outcome. Other times, they might skewer the results.

    It will happen. Just something to keep an eye on, while suggesting the responsibilities of various forces that might have such influence. This includes those that might have a constitutional right to do things badly, but a responsibility to do them right.


    * Jack Shafer, of Slate, came into the picture as well. He did not think too much of the criticism of Ellis' announcement, since other networks made the same call. This is misleading. Apparently, his tendency toward misleading snarkiness was present back then too.

    As noted, one set of "seers" (his term) didn't want to make the call (ABC), but the higher-ups overruled them. NBC people were talking to a VNS rep who warned them that a margin of error still existed, FOX called it, and suddenly NBC did too. CBS followed, again shortly after the head guy there told Moore that the data was iffy. AP and VNS did not join in, turning out to be right in their caution.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007


    And Also: Talking about voting: "Election staff convicted in recount rig" (Ohio) Toss in phone jamming, some justice has come from complaints. Also, after the last election, maybe this will symbolize a trend. The usual "late to the game" stuff, but it's nice all the same.

    The Academy Awards are pretty early this year -- February 25 (happy b'day sis!) -- so the nominees were released yesterday. Overall, pretty good choices overall, not too many surprises. Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) better win something -- actually, it should have been nominated for Best Picture (it was given a Best Foreign nod).

    There are various "great enough to be nominated" picks, though one should note they generally are well-deserved: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children -- didn't see, but this former Bad News Bears actor's performance was well praised), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, the girl), Eddie Murphy (didn't hear much noise about his performance), and Penélope Cruz (if Helen Mirren wasn't there, she might be said to be favored). Oh, and Gore's documentary actually received two nominations -- one for best song! This is good news -- there was a tradition where perhaps the best documentary was somehow not nominated, surely not given the win. Still, why wasn't Word Play?

    Some picks seem like pretty good sure bets. Babel and Letters from Iwo Jima probably will get one major win a piece (best picture/director, debatable which gets which; the latter more likely to get two, if that happens). Peter O'Toole (who already received, after being hesitant, a life time achievement award) seems pretty favored for Best Actor, while Helen Mirren gets the Best Actress nod (yes, Streep was nominated again ... deservedly, probably). Alan Arkin might also have the sentimental nod for Best Supporting though some might actually think Haley deserves it more performance-wise (I don't want to see Haley's movie, but AA had a loveable, but not GREAT performance). Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) has that "young star" flavor that usually is the test for Supporting Actress.*

    Writing is a bit trickier, though it is a bit confusing that Borat received an adapted screenplay nod. And, Click and Pirates of Caribbean just might get one of those "not that good movies, but nice technicals" awards, the latter probably deserving at least one -- it does look good.


    * Two actresses from Babel are nominated, surely a killer for any long shot win, leaving Cate Blanchett (not for Babel, but probably not for something that will trump the lively new face or the cute factor of AB).

    Patriot: SOTU Edition

    Does not Sen. Webb underline the difference between patriotism and the alternative? This is a former Reagan Secretary of Navy, responding to a rather lackluster (admittedly, I only heard outtakes on Al Franken, but boy did he sound listless) State of the Union, which (given the man) we couldn't take seriously. [It always pissed me off when people talked about some "great" speech Bush had as if he wrote it or something -- actions speak louder than words.] After a nod to his state, he expressed basic principles that a majority of the nation clearly shares, and surely should share. Besides things like the contrast between the well-off and regular worker (putting in perspective improvements in the economy that favor certain groups). And, h/t TPM, this statement:
    Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues — those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death — we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm‘s way

    The fact his son is "in country" only added force. Best policy: watch the spoof version (with an amusing "Democratic Response" with sparring Hillary and Barack comments) and Webb's response. Save you the time. I also watched the rest of the Iraq veteran's testimony ... and reserved Kayla William's book. KW, though she only mentioned it in passing, has a husband who had a head injury -- the telltale injury of this war. When people like she says veterans have to demand their benefits, including those injured in action, well that is more striking than any B.S. our President says.

    And, more worth our time, for sure.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    How Would A Patriot Act

    And Also: The opening statements from the Libby trial suggests that Cheney (and probably et. al.) clearly committed impeachable offenses. I know it won't happen, but that is rather damning. The fact many will take a "yeah, so what" stance on the matter is rather distressing.

    True patriotism is measured by the extent to which one believes in, and is willing to fight for and defend [not just in the military sense], the defining values and core principles of one's country.

    -- Glenn Greenwald, How Would A Patriot Act: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok (p. 74)

    Since I am a loyal reader of his blog as well as others that address similar subject matter, Glenn Greenwald's book seemed a bit redundant. After all, there is a virtual cottage industry of books of this nature, so much that we can now divide them up any number of ways, including by political ideology. Furthermore, the blog supplies more up to date (and in depth) discussions on the material, events after c. April 2006 also only making things clearer. Finally, you have the benefit of often informative blog comments.

    OTOH, it is short (more of an booklet, really, at under 130pg) and cheap (about $10) way to get a flavor of the issues. I bring up the price -- though the library had it -- since it was put out by Working Assets, "a wireless, phone, credit card and publishing company that, through its services, generates donations to progressive causes." Jennifer Nix, a young publisher, is the one who brought the idea to Greenwald, convincing him to write the book. A book, again encouraged by Nix's insights, that achieved great success via online sales -- a way around traditional (and perhaps more conservative, in various senses of the word) publishing firms. Conservatives, often funded by the usual big money suspects, use this technique as well. Clearly, there is a way to do it without funding from selective millionaires.

    There are obvious various subjects for which there are many books, so it is useful to look at particular ways that the authors cover the material. As well as the authors themselves. Glenn Greenwald promotes himself as being a mostly apolitical (he didn't vote in 2000*) lawyer, who thought things were and would continue to go pretty well, and thought so even after Bush became President. Sticking by him after 9/11 (a resident of NYC, it hit him with special force), GG was dubious about the Iraq War, but warily stood by him ... until too much evidence came out that this was impossible shortly thereafter. Thus, it was particularly notable -- as is the case for various conservative opponents who in various cases find GG on point -- that GG turned into such a forceful opponent.

    First, I have to say that until to Bush Administration, I too basically saw things as okay -- not ideal, but basically acceptable, especially since there was a healthy balance in government at large. But, though I'm not saying he's exaggerating, this seems to be bending over backward in support of the guy. I have a few "where were you when JFK was shot" moments in my adult life. One amounts to a triad. I know where I was when I thought Gore won the presidency.** Where I was when it was "too close to call." And, when the Supremes stopped the count. (The announcement of the ruling isn't so clear in my mind.) From then, Bush was in effect dead to me. And, no, nothing much that he did afterwards really impressed me. The NYC mayor -- who had did various things that concerned me -- did.

    Bush didn't. I didn't suddenly support him because "he was the only President we got" -- how pathetic. I was not just "dubious" about the war. So, GG took me a bit aback by those sentiments. Also, GG didn't put in something that sort of changes the "everything went swimmingly" theme, things that set off a few alarm bells before mid-2003. For instance, the President originally didn't tie the authorization of force to the 9/11 attacks -- Congress, the Senate being controlled by Democrats (remember why?) might have been a factor here. Other warning bells about the heavy-handed royalist sentiments of the Bushies can be added. So, the book actually wasn't totally strong enough.

    The book was as much a brief against "the President run Amok" as a sort of instruction booklet on patriotism. OTOH, you can see it as a warning sign, a sign of what not to do. For instance, attacks on the media and members of Congress (including so-called moderates, yes, even Chuck Hagel) not willing to do even token oversight underlines the problem. Also, an important chapter discusses how true patriots -- see the original bunch -- did not let their fears (exaggerated fear at that ... this is not the Civil War, that's in Iraq) overwhelm their patriotism, using it as an excuse to give the executive royalist powers. This includes one of those rarely cited Federalist Papers (surely some were used here!), No. 8.
    To be more safe, they, at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

    The net message of those papers is that freedom is also necessary for safety ... the loss of liberty, after all, led to the Revolutionary War in the first place, right? A true patriot ... though it might not seem so immediately ... is aided by the fact that patriotism is not only the path to happiness, it is ultimately probably the safest way as well.

    Finally, a comment is made that we in effect have a government that we deserve. Do we? Many do not have power in this country, or enough power to really justify that statement. On some level, yes, we can do things (which will combine to form "public opinion" in some sense like that "hidden hand" of Adam Smith) to affect national policy. Consider how public opinion affects equality -- racial, sexual, etc. Al Gore, as noted recently on GG's blog, suggests the advancement of online blogs etc. has already affected how the public obtain information. This perhaps is the best way to approach that question, and we can demand a lot more from our fellow citizens in that department.

    But, I am wary about being THAT cynical about us "deserving" this fate. Maybe, if we don't learn from ongoing problems -- and the 2006 elections suggests many did -- at some point it will have more validity.


    * GG seems to be libertarian, wary about the lengths that the modern Congress goes in carrying out its powers, especially respecting "interstate commerce" and the drug war. He also, though one wouldn't know it except for some passing comments related to attacks on him personally, has a long time male companion (that sounds "gay," doesn't it?) ... one doubts, that is, that he found Bush ideologically a great guy, even if he did not vote for Gore etc.

    ** It is fitting therefore that I also picked up How To Steal An Election by David W. Moore, a pollster view of how things were f-ed up in 2000. (2004 was not stolen per this account, again, this is my view.) Also pretty short and easy reading, a discussion of "an historical observation," not a "partisan charge." It is thus particularly forceful.

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Soldier Input etc.

    Today (and tomorrow) on Free Speech TV (available on various cable/satellite systems) there was a panel sponsored last fall by the American Friends (Quakers, I assume) entitled "Inquest Iraq: Veteran Witness Testimony" during which "Iraq war veterans discuss impact of invasion and occupation on soldiers and Iraqi people."

    I caught a few minutes and there was two men and one woman, who supplied a fairly low key but informative perspective and responded (the segment I saw) to some questions. For instance, when asked by private contractors, they had a mixed response, noting the importance of private translators and mechanic personnel, but being wary about Blackwater type armed guards type of deals.

    I wonder, not keeping track of such things, how much such people are relied on in congressional investigations. You always see generals and the likes of Condi Rice giving testimony, but how much testimony is supplied by such personnel? Not just in offices and the like, but broadcast on C-SPAN.* Maybe, they do it sometimes. Doesn't seem to be discussed too much, though.

    Talking about discussing, apparently those at the CRS -- a very useful nonpartisan group that puts out various informative reports -- are talking to the press a bit too much for some people. As noted in a story here:
    The Director of the Congressional Research Service last week issued a revised agency policy on "Interacting with the Media" that warns CRS analysts about the "very real risks" associated with news media contacts and imposes new restrictions on speaking to the press.

    "CRS staff must report within 24 hours all on-the-record interactions with any media to their supervisor, including the name of the reporter, media affiliation, date, time, and detailed notes on the matters discussed or to be discussed," the new policy states.

    The concern is that the growing media use of this resource could lead to an appearance of bias. But, such use is ultimately a good thing, if one that might require a bit of finesse in some instances to avoid misunderstandings. A heavy hand, especially if it turns off the personnel (as in some cases it does) can be counterproductive. And, what is this deal about CRS reports not being easily accessible except often by indirect means?

    Meanwhile, the NYT ironically is using the state secrets doctrine -- which overall limits their ability to get material -- to defend themselves from a libel suit. If they could not obtain exculpatory information:
    It would be manifestly unjust and improper to require the Times to defend against the claims being advanced by Steven Hatfill without affording it access to critical information concerning his own activities that could serve to defeat those claims.

    Secrecy tends to lead to various problems, huh?


    * For instance, C-SPAN had a great piece on those injured in combat, including Tammi Duckworth, who ran (unsuccessfully) for Congress in '06, including their physical therapy and some interviews.

    Like the Red Sox ...

    And Also: See here for various links to abortion posts ... in honor of 1/22/73.

    The Colts finally made it to the big dance in style -- down by 18 late Second Half, they came back (after the Pats kept on breaking ties) and went up by 4, giving the Pats nearly no time to respond. And, stopped them when they tried. [A TD did the trick, so no end of the game kicker magic this time.]

    Good game, but not emotionally satisfying for me personally, since I really don't like either team. Still, the best team won, and the game was basically all that was advertised, even if it looked like the Colts were dead in the water. With Manning slip-ups to prove it. But, something finally went their way, they eventually made it 21-6, and kept on going from there. Unlike the Saints, whose comeback stalled.

    Oh well. Again, go Bears! Don't worry about that bye week -- you will see Peyton Manning in some commercial ("they aren't booing, they are saying mooo-vers") before then. Guy is almost as ubiquitous as Geico commercials.

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Half A Good Game

    And Also: "Malpractice Makes Perfect: How the GOP milks a bogus doctors' insurance crisis" by Stephanie Mencimer is a good taste of the flavor of her book, Blocking the Courthouse Door. Her tasty sounding blog also covers its subject: "how the Republican Party and its corporate allies are taking away your rights to sue," and gain justice given the lack of a satisfactory safety net or things like universal medical insurance. A brief, surely, but one backed up with enough examples and reasoning to stick.

    The NYT had an interesting article today discussion on the value of going for two at the end of regulation, if the alternative is a tie and OT. Considering that the two point conversion (did it really only enter professional football in the mid-1990s?!) hovers around a 50/50 call on average (it used to be lower), especially for some teams, it might just be a reasonable option -- a team with a mediocre defense, for instance, might not want to risk losing that coin toss.

    Talking about the two point play, I sometimes think it useful to give up two, if the alternative is punting deep out of your own end zone. This quite often results in three or more points, while two points is not too bad, especially if you stop them after the "free kick." This seemed to be shown when the Saints were called for intentional grounding from their own end zone, by rule a safety, and stopped Chicago after the kick. An end of the half quickie drive plus a long pass play (plus good defense) turned a messy turnover filled 16-0 deficit into a 16-14 game of it by mid-third.

    The safety only made it 18-14, meaning even giving up a field goal would give the Saints a shot to tie it with a score. Things looked good, especially with Rex having a history of being inconsistent and a Bears turnover possible. And, though they looked wicked early, perhaps embarrassed by all those Seattle points (until the final three stands -- obviously when it counted and where three would have done them in), the Saints seemed to be back on track. Seemed. The Bears had a quick strike. And, one more turnover did the Saints in. They had to deal with a defense that was lethal in that department, but the Saints just turned over the ball too much to have a shot. The Fourth Quarter after it was 32-14 was largely garbage time. Yummy.

    The better team won, but it promised to be better than that. I noted that I leaned toward the Pats, though this was before I read about their unsportmanslike antics at the end of the game (shutting it off after the failed field goal). Likewise, honestly, I'm sick of them. Though it wouldn't give me too much pleasure, I guess I favor the Colts, perhaps via the Pats' old kicker. OTOH, a blowout would help the Saints share the misery, if again, not too satisfying. Ah well. One has to root for the Bears ... and really, should they be counted out as some kind of token opponent against the far from unbeatable Colts (Peyton would be new to the big dance, right?) or imperfect, if doing such things in their sleep, Pats?

    I think not. Anyway, I blame this on Seattle. You had three chances, guys! Sheesh. Anyway, the NYT also had a cover story on the likely depopulation of New Orleans. The flood a sort of natural cleansing of what is deemed by some as excess population. Clearly, they are thriving elsewhere, right?

    Roe Approaches 35

    Monday is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Since the matter of abortion touches upon a variety of issues, it is not too surprising that I had a long fascination with the subject. Item: I wrote a report on the case in high school. The 'net has just allowed me one more locale to write about it, now with the benefits of clarity (my handwriting sucks) and spell check. See, for instance, this discussion on the right to privacy. And, it is best to focus on the true breadth of the issue. To wit:
    The benevolence, charity, capacity and industry which exerted in private life, would make a family, a parish or a town happy, employed upon a large scale, in support of the great principles of virtue and freedom of political regulations might secure whole nations and generations from misery, want and contempt.

    -- John Adams

    For various reasons, including promotion of education, religion, and republican values (e.g., the whole concept of "republican motherhood"), protecting the privacy of family life has always been a fundamental liberty in our nation. Therefore, one aspect of the right of choice is privacy over family affairs, including when to start or add to the number of children in one's family.

    The religious component of this choice is clear as referenced by the number of Catholic sacraments that deal with family life as well as the number of religious rules and obligations with a family flavor to them. But, apparently, the state should be allowed to pick and choose among competing views on the subject. Also, we are supposed to believe that ABORTION is a freestanding entity, not part of an interwoven number of matters that is at stake here.

    As to the religious freedom matter, one also need not stop at Roe. One can harken back to Madison:
    In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights; it consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.

    To use a religious reference, even Mary chose when the Angel Gabriel came to her. It was not given as a fait accompli. Choice is fundamental to the Christian faith actually. One more aspect of "privacy" rights.

    Ah, but abortion is different. Destruction of human life etc. Even if we take this issue as a constitutional demand -- and traditionally prenatal life was not considered human persons, surely not in a whole sense (or sense necessary to trump fully formed humans) -- bans tend to be counterproductive. And, constitutional rights sometimes leads to harms. Liberty is not cost-free. Think of the burden of proof rule -- some guilty people escape, right?

    In my view, the importance of Roe is not its uniqueness, but how it fits into a broader story. That might be the best way to honor its memory.

    Friday, January 19, 2007


    And Also: Steve Irwin's wife and young daughter were on Dave recently. The daughter looks like her mom and sounds (accent/hyper) like her dad.

    Item: Andi [Andrea Parhamovich] worked for the International Republican Institute in Iraq before joining the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is "to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and to promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government" in all parts of the world. NDI advises local politicians and activists on the mechanics of democratic practices and institutions. Its chair is Madeleine Albright.

    Andi and three security guards were killed in Baghdad when their convoy was ambushed and attacked in a mostly Sunni neighborhood. She had just completed a workshop on democracy for local Sunni political activists. You can read the terrible details here.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Some Signs of Success

    [T]he best policy for Congressional Democrats and those who oppose the President's high-handedness is not to give in to the Administration's exaggerated and aggressive views about its own power, but rather to repeatedly call the President to account whenever he overreaches. The only way to deal with a bully, it seems, is to stand up to him.

    -- Prof. Jack Balkin

    The Constitution might be the "law of the land," but the courts are surely not the only place where its tenets are ultimately upheld. Some things are -- surely in practice -- "political questions," that are largely left to the political branches, state and federal. This includes those that rightly (or practicably) are brought to the courts. For instance, abortion rights -- the best path would be to handle them by legislative means. But, leaving it solely to them would deny a full enjoyment of fundamental rights. The courts are a rather blunt instrument and generally take too long to actually prevent various wrongs, though declaratory judgments and such help matters in various cases.

    This is surely the case involving "the war on terror," though they both provide important restraints:

  • FISA law. The details are still a bit hazy, but the President relented, and is now willing (in some form) to submit eavesdropping of American citizens to a secret court that practically always grants such requests. This seemed a no-brainer given the Fourth Amendment (and First when the press and associations are involved) so requires such things. Furthermore, in face of past abuses that are timely given many involved the civil rights movement, Congress itself passed a law setting up the FISA system. The law in question gives things a separation of powers flavor (the President follows the law ... this is why this agreement is not something to be too excited about -- it should be the default).

    And, probably is too generous. This was not enough, of course, since the "war on terror" apparently makes statutory and constitutional law defunct. For instance, apparently, it would be problematic to actual accept more powers pursuant to a proposed amendment to the law. When proposed by a member of the Republican controlled Congress, this was rejected. Better to do it without such power and not let anyone know. This is where various constitutional institutions came into play. The media focused on the story, including blogs.* The courts got involved via various means. Congress did as well, it turning out to be politically unsavory to actually give the President such power.

    Oh, and the Democrats won control back in November. And, suddenly the President found a way to follow the law. Or, make a decent show of it. Thus, yes, this should not be the end of it. Congress, including the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy and the House Intel Committee, S. Reyes, still should have an oversight role. The lawsuits are most probably moot, especially since the President could always decide tomorrow to not follow the law, and chances are the "solution" they set up has some unsavory aspects to them. This underlines why advocacy and media coverage is still important, to fill in the details, and keep the pressure on. The fact they are lying assholes only underline this point.

  • Disposable prosecutors. A lesser reported story, especially taking the matter as a whole, is the quite remarkable number of U.S. prosecutors that Bush is replacing, some with quite fine reputations. It used to be the rule that such a quick turnaround was not legal without the Senate confirming the replacements. Temporary fill-ins were allowable, but that's it. This is but one of many little ways that the Senate's advise and consent power, a crucial constitutional check on executive power, has traditionally been put in action. But, again but part of a broader theme, this was deemed old news after 9/11. Or, rather, when Republicans were being investigated for criminal charges. Nothing to see here!

    This time it was via a late addition to the renewal Patriot Act, slipped in with the help of holier than thou Arlen Specter. And, we see the importance of an open and carefully handled legislative process, especially when dealing with proposed regulations that are particularly significant in some fashion. This includes the problem of little poison pills like these that tend to be sneaked into such omnibus type legislation, only worsened by not having proper time to look over the details. Especially if you aren't a member of the majority party. And/or not having enough legislators (or staff people) doing this in the time supplied. But, hey, it's the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act" ... so obviously the move was above board.

  • Iraq. I wrote yesterday about the fact that a simple nonbinding resolution is in no fashion satisfactory as a response to the new Bush policy (or continuation of the old aka failure). All the same, politically, it is important. It is significant if Congress as a whole officially holds what they have every obligation to announce, given their role as representatives of the population at large that so agrees: the President's path is a failure and bad for the nation. The fact that this will be somewhat bipartisan, since at least a few Republicans agree, only underlines the fact. The cover Lieberman gives them underlines the point in a way that should make this crystal clear: politics includes symbols as well.

    But, again, it is not enough. And, Congress will have a chance when the next supplemental funding request comes into play in a few weeks. This hands the Democratic Congress a clear opportunity to set limits. And, the limits really must not simply be for the future -- the "six months" of Thomas Friedman. It can and must include things that come into play right away. Finally, again, the courts served an essential role in this area as well. Various opinions underlined war and/or armed conflict does not hand the President a blank check. This includes both statutory and constitutional limitations, only reinforcing the potential for congressional action here.

    A republic with three branches, checking and balancing each other. Simple civics. Not so simple in action.


    * Thus, a NYT article on the Torture Czar coming in from the the Senate today noted: "The testy exchanges indicated the depths of the controversy the surveillance program has stirred since it was disclosed by The New York Times in late 2005, some four years after the administration authorized it in response to the Sept. 11 attacks."

  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Do Something Real (Smartly Too)

    And Also: I'm sick of these Geico commercials -- some are cute, but there are at least four sets of them (aside from the gecko, we have the caveman, celebrity spokesperson, and "cutting out the middleman"), and it is like ENOUGH already.

    Actually doing something REAL against Bush's War is deemed "sending the wrong message," even among many Democrats. Thus, many "serious sorts" (including Sen. Levin, who deserves some respect, respect the term doesn't really usually offer) oppose cutting funding of "the surge" in lieu of some nonbinding resolution. Though even this is deemed almost akin to parliamentary governance to some morons* that apparently do not quite understand what the term means, what exactly is this supposed to prove? Oooh, how scary! Not going to listen to the Baker Report or top generals, but a resolution is going to mean something? Treaties apparently don't mean too much to these people, especially if there isn't some clear statutory teeth to them. So called "law of the land." The ultimate evidence something is seriously wrong -- the Colbert Report supported it is a biting "the word" ("symbolic") segment.

    [Jon Stewart had a good bit last night as well on the opposition by Bushies of suggestions that we need a back-up "plan." Likewise, in face of various taunts of "well, do you have something better," it was noted (in that amusing "uh ..." JS voice) ... well, yes, we do. The Baker Report and the Levin-Reid alternative was given as two suggestions. Apparently, they don't count, or something. Of course, these sorts want us to trust the executive with war related matters, so why should we need to help them supply credible solutions? Like they don't want help, do they? Of course not ... it's just b.s. ... but sometimes it is just so much more patently obvious b.s.]

    What do the actual soldiers think? Well, some are submitting an "appeal for redress" that states that the President and Congress are the ones "sending the wrong message" by continuing the current policy. As noted, top generals think so too, they think we are f-ing things up. Some from the beginning thought that. It might, therefore, be deemed not somehow akin to treason (following voting laws that might infringe on counting some late or mishandled military ballots was treated as treason by some sorts in 2000, except when it helped Republicans) to not authorize or fund the bloody thing, right? Likewise, though it is hard to judge such things, this disagreement (especially respecting "the surge") has widespread presence in the military at large. So, don't use soldiers to cover your asses.

    This whole thing underlines that without actually doing anything concrete, not just talking and "concern," resolutions or similar verbiage that can be spun various ways (think of it as the "Kerry policy"), Congress is not doing its job. Congress is the institution that is supposed to represent the people at large (in states and individually) with an importance that is underlined by its placement first in the Constitution, given a list of powers (and various implied ones) to carry out said role. In my last "and also," I cited a thread in which the ability to control the imperial executive was discussed. As noted, oversight and hortatory remarks are not enough. Surely, such things are something, and have some role, especially (real) oversight. Edwards might be safely in the private sector, but he is right. The buck stops with you.

    Meanwhile, a top executive official in charge of detainee affairs apparently thinks it is a good idea to put economic pressure on law firms that defend detainees. This sort of thing was so egregious that both liberal and conservative blogs voiced concern as did a solicitor general from the Reagan Administration. One legal sort that is troubled with the current situation didn't take it too serious in a practical sense, as a real economic threat, though at least one person involved seems to be worried. The best way to look at it is as both part of a broader threat to advocacy that is deemed scary to conservatives as well as sending a horrible message to the country as large. The executive is partially a bully pulpit -- it stands for something. One hopes something that we would not be embarrassed about on a continuous basis.

    Oh well. BTW, Stimson apologized under the pressure from various sides, after the Torture Czar/Bush's personal lawyer et. al. refused to admitted his remarks were shared by other members of the administration. Likewise, his original remarks basically assumed guilt, the detainees being defended obviously part of the movement that caused the 2001 attacks and so forth.


    * Yeah, I know, this sounds snarky, which means I'm just talking to the choir. But as I note here, how exactly are we supposed to take obviously wrong arguments seriously? There is some room for disagreement, but sometimes it is simply patently wrong to say something. Both aspects are shown here, including the idea that we should give dubious and clearly dangerous executive power claims a large benefit of the doubt. Horribly wrong but perhaps arguable; defending some claims as credible, not to be taken seriously.

    In a related vein, can we try not to give the other side an easy target? Dahlia Lithwick makes out like obviously Padilla is just unlucky, thus turning off people who very well might be concerned with what is going on but hate over the top rhetoric, allowing various sorts to ignore the meat of her points.

    The problem here is that Padilla is being treated as a nonperson without rights, surely not the rights of a citizen innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Honestly, I think he did something, but that is not the bloody point. It surely is not patently obvious that he is just some poor schlub. I know by now that how you say something matters, even if you are on the side of the angels. This is life.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    America's Joan of Arc

    And Also: The last entry notwithstanding, problems should not blind one to good points -- such is the nature of human interaction. Thus, this thread provides some interesting thoughts on current executive power conflicts, including the importance of congressional action (proactive, not just reactive) in obtaining a proper balance.

    It is an established truth that where the press is free, the people are free, and that, where freedom of the press is not known, the people are the slaves of depotism.

    -- Anna E.D., letter to the Liberator in response to a Kentucky teacher being tarred and feathered for publishing an antislavery letter; she was thirteen and this was her first known public statement

    Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was a well known orator during and in the decade after the Civil War, promoting radical causes in her own outspoken/independent minded way. As noted in J. Matthew Gallman's fairly interesting book, America's Joan of Arc (for her fiery pro-Union stance during the Civil War), she started as just a teenager, her public career shooting up remarkably quickly -- assisted by such luminaries as William Lloyd Garrison. This path was not too surprising given her Quaker background (which traditionally accepted women having a public role, speaking the truth) as well as the death of her father (a member of the local antislavery society) when she was only two.

    [This led to an interesting dynamic, one surely not unique up to the present, where the women of the family were the dominant actors, though the two sisters had three brothers. The older sister ran the household, especially as the mother became elderly, and for years, the youngest was the primary breadwinner. Once Anna's success dropped off, the family dynamic grew more complicated, aggravated by the fact that she was at heart a loner ... though one with various (though generally short lived) friendships. As suggested below, this led to complications as she grew older.]

    Anna became a model for many other women active in public life in the era, though her successful career (including financially) went in decline in the mid-1870s, and she is little known today. This provides a somewhat problematic job for the author of her life -- the last third of the book, therefore, is rather tedious and honestly pathetic. She fails at acting. Her health goes in decline, partially because she was depressed that her previous success has ended. After her mom dies at an old age, her sister even has her committed ... not without some cause, it seems, even if she was probably not truly insane. As these events go on, she and her sister is left to in effect begging for money from old friends, or those previously ridiculed such as Benjamin Butler, a failed suitor and former Civil War general.

    And, eventually, she settles into fairly comfortable obscurity, living with a former servant of the rest private rest home Dickinson stayed in after being committed. This after getting some assistance -- showing the circles she ran in -- from William Seward's (Lincoln's Secretary of State) doctor son. The last decades of her life suggests some of the interesting themes found in the book. Some suggested that her (married) benefactor was her lover. And, quotes from various quite emotional letters from women fans written to her over the years clearly have a sexual quality to them. Talk of kisses, deep passionate emotions, and so forth. Anna herself never married and no romantic exploits with men are clear from the record, though the book suggests it is possible.

    The author doesn't quite dwell on this sort of thing and it seems partially to be a reflection of the times when the sexes often had separate lives. Other themes covered -- the lyceum movement, political norms of the era, the split in the equal rights movement, and the nature of celebrity (including the widespread use of photography, including calling cards). The equal rights split was underlined by the Fourteenth (with the first explicit use of "male" in the Constitution) and Fifteenth Amendments, the latter especially galling to some because of the efforts of many women in antislavery cause. Dickinson accepted this path, not even voting when the 19th Amendment was passed in her old age.*

    It ended on a tedious note, but overall, the book was an interesting short (bit over two hundred pages with a few pictures among the text) account of a little known figure and the milieu in which she lived. In this, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was of interest in her own right (at least until the 1880s, when she became a tad pathetic ... though itself a reflection of other forces as well), but as a reflection of broader forces than herself. Thus, we have the makings of a worthwhile subject.


    * Ironically, a 2001 plaque in her memory misstated the facts, suggesting the 15th Amendment dealt with sex as well. The plaque, sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, also misstated the number of years she spent in her final residence plus suggested Lincoln himself (who she found too moderate) asked her to speak at the Capitol in 1864 (many top public figures, including members of Congress and the Vice President, remarkably did ask the twenty-one-year-old to speak there in honor of the Union cause). A bit skillful really that three sentences had three errors of varying importance.

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Argument Pet Peeves

    And Also: John Edwards spoke at the church where Martin Luther King Jr. (happy birthday!) gave his remarks against the war in Vietnam as well in the promotion of social justice to promote his own related concerns. I admit that this sort of thing appeals to me. (Is he the man to promote it as President? Another question. Admitting he was wrong helped. But, darn he was wrong!) Peace and justice. Darn people for supporting such things. Dirty hippies!

    Among the usual feedback typical to message boards and such, there tends to be general themes and trends. And, as is my wont, general things that are personal pet peeves. Recent events (partially on Slate and its "fray," but not limited to there) bring to mind three in particular:

  • "They just whine and moan": The allegation that all liberals or Bush opponents do is whine, without providing much substantive content, and especially no realistic solutions. They just "hate Bush" and can't answer a simple question like "well, what are you going to do about it?" (The fact this sounds like a five-year-old underlines the annoyance factor)

    Two responses. One, I'm not sure what one expects from people -- on a medium often used to respond and give quick remarks, yes, many emotionally express their disgust, anger, and depression at the state of the things. Two, yes, they do. For instance, someone complained that Dahlia Lithwick (and perhaps others) in effect spent five years just complaining about the President's abuse of executive power without doing more. This is false. It also is amusing when her co-conspirator (Emily Bazelon), so to speak, just wrote an article spelling out what Congress can do. Anyway, my technique often is to underline what I think is the constitutional or just thing to do. Saying they broke the rules in the process doesn't take away the presence of the "alternative" -- you know, THE RULES WE LIVE BY.

    [This is not to say that the opposition doesn't "put up" enough ... but this is not quite the same as saying as various aspects of it doesn't do it at all. See next problem.]

  • Simplistic hyperbole. Thus, a response to an obviously sympathetic discussion of Justice Brennan's case notes noted the problems with "hero worship," but then exaggerated the problem by saying all he did was extend judicial power, and his fans are blinded by the light. Or, that all he did was to "make" law how he thought it "ought" to go, as if conservatives did not in some similar fashion actively promote a constitutional vision, using what they thought the law ought to be. IOW, what they thought the law (the Constitution, statutory law, etc.) already is.

    Many are often wrong and very well might let their personal views cloud their judgment. I think Brennan tried to use the courts too much. But, this middle of the path debate -- short articles and such can feed it, if we realize the articles can only do so much, by nature somewhat simplistic and not dealing with all the complexities of an issue (and, yes, influenced by the ideology of the writer, since Slate etc. are not just neutral media resources) -- is different than continually saying how "stupid" such and such account is, or how such and such person or ideology is patently idiotic.

  • Confusion of terms. Certain terms are especially abused, leading to heated words that turn out to be based on confusion. Thus, we hear that some court is "antidemocratic" since they do not let legislatures decide a certain question the way they see fit. [One person even noted this was not "liberal," as if it is not "liberal" to uphold individual rights. Yes, John Locke, if the courts uphold rights the people themselves agreed to in constitutional documents (or that are simply found "in nature"), but not in simple legislation, they are not being "liberal."] I had some person who appears to have studied classical political philosophy much more than I use this line.*

    Two problems there. First, we live in a republic. You know, listen to the Pledge all those schoolchildren cite ... it comes before the "under God" business. It is "for which it stands." This seems to confuse people -- a republic is not a simple democracy. If it was, Bush would likely not be President right now, since he did not win the popular vote in 2000. And, yes, republics have courts that secure certain rights and rules of the game. This in some fashion, yes, makes them "undemocratic."

    Second, "democracy" is usually understood to mean the type of democracy we have. Inequality is not necessarily "undemocratic," if one uses a word to mean simple majority rule. Relatedly, especially with this definition in mind (which does confuse things somewhat), democracy is promoted by an independent judiciary in various respects. The First Amendment promotes democracy. etc. See, Democracy and Distrust by John Hart Ely Jr.

    Sure, democracy is an important aspect of a republic, so a proper balance must be put in place. And, criticism of accepted wisdom can be used here to underline the point. This goes to the second category. But, it is in effect cheating to skip this step. And, it surely leads to talking past each other, and each side firmly thinking the other are idiots. This is bad news. This is reality.

    Andy Rooney "doncha hate" off.


    * "Judicial activism" is another abused word that often is used to mean "active in a way I don't like."

  • Divisional Round -- Some Downers

    And Also: Brian Lamb was interviewing Melody Barnes (VP of policy) of the Center of American Progress on his Q&A C-SPAN program tonight. Fairly interesting, but hit the spot by asking her (black woman) if she experienced any racism (she gave a couple examples, somewhat surprising him), and how one knows someone who cries racism is wrong. Substantive questions, which she answered nicely.

    Not that good of a football weekend, from my end. There was an upset and close games. Unfortunately, the upset was the Colts -- don't like them. The much maligned defense won another game, the key play being a turnover near their own goal line. Former clutch kicker Adam V. kicked five field goals to the Ravens two ... that touchdown could have changed the game. Not a big Ravens fan -- they did beat the Giants last time they went to the Super Bowl, but again, don't like the Colts. Anyway, Manning is in all those television commercials -- no need to be in a game too. Stay home and watch the game with his brother and dad.

    In better news, The Saints won a close one. Yay. Unfortunately, Seattle had three, count them three, shots after the two minute warning to get a winning field goal (there was OT, they won the toss, the QB didn't say he would win this time ... he lost, again), but failed. Not a big Seattle fan per se, but I want the Saints to go to the Super Bowl and that would have helped ... but, if you have three shots and fail ... well, you deserve to lose. The Bears won with a 49yd field goal that had the distance to go further.

    SD, whose defense was good except when it coughed up the ball right after intercepting it (predictable result -- touchdown, two point conversion, game tied ... game winning NE field goal timing to be determined). Toss in a muffed punt / turnover for points, you have the game. Oh, and a failed end of the game 54yd shot. San Diego was favored, so technically, New England "upset" them. This is a dubious point, however, since the coach always seems to lead teams that somehow choke, the QB was young and a big green, and it was not really too surprising the NE won. Seemed like a well oiled machine -- yawn, I know, but a bit comforting, in a fashion.

    Thus, the AFC Championship match-up leaves a lot to be desired, though "fair is fair" would dictate rooting for the Colts (finally having a deciding game at home). After all, PM is due for one good game, right? but, who wants to be fair? Have NE win again -- though I guess having their old kicker beat them would be a bit amusing -- and have a North v. South match-up against the Saints. A reader hear surely is rooting for Da Bears, which won't be horrible or anything, but you have to go by the script, right?

    Well, anyway, Rex had the clutch pass (Chicago had two shots after the two minute warning to Seattle's three, though the third was rushed, so say 2.5). Colts defense shines, Rex is good enough to win. Ravens lose. NE does win. Naysayers have a sort of a bad weekend ... sorta a shame, really.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    A good bet?

    Among my eclectic interests is history. Thus, recent discussions over at Balkanization that have a historical bent is of some interest. They also touch my "uh ..." buttons, even though if they are written by people above my credential grade. This not haven stopped me before (and not quite as arrogant as this person), I offer some thoughts. First, Sandy Levinson:
    I think main justification for Lincoln's decision to join in going to war--it takes two to tango, after all--is along "humanitarian intervention" grounds emphasizing the necessity of eliminating chattel slavery, but this justification, as I've also argued earlier, calls into question the weakness of the ensuing "reconstruction" that utterly failed to achieve genuine "regime change" and permanently harmed American politics by giving the South even more political power in the long run than it had had prior to the War.

    The justification originally given was union. This was a sound reason to go to war. Our country was established, "a more perfect union," for various purposes. See, the Preamble of the Constitution. And, it was that -- a union -- not a band of states that could easily break apart, form illegal confederations (Art. I, sec. 10), and declare themselves independent when a national election doesn't go their way. This would put the union at grave risk, make it weak and open to fracture and invasion. Furthermore, the country was set up as a republican government.

    Even slavery was factored in here, as shown by various provisions that dealt with the issue (in a way that allowed the institution to die out), imperfectly or not. And, slavery was to be dealt with that way as well. Did not slavery die out in Britain, a free nation? So here. The territorial issue was for years dealt by legislative action. Ditto fugitive slaves. Yes, by the 1850s, the nation as a whole was starting to firmly go against the institution. As Don Fehrenbacher's The Slaveholding Republic noted national policy was (by choice, not constitutional demand) pro-slavery up to that point, but could switch if Republicans gain political control.

    But, even here, not only did the South have to accept all that republican government already gave them in the antebellum years, but the alternative was quite dubious. The Constitution in various ways still "served their interests," in the words of this somewhat convoluted post. I do think they took a "bet" of sorts in 1787 to follow the rules. But, yes, the Declaration of Independence voiced a revolutionary theme that justified rebellion if the rules were carried out in such a way that their liberty was severely threatened. That is, if "tyranny" was in place, according to the spirit of the land. A stream of abuses and so forth would underline the point. The Revolutionary War, in this view, was no "preventive" war.

    [Update: The referenced post is part of a debate, the reply here. Brad's first post on the matter is particularly on the money. MG provides a thought experiment that doesn't work.]

    The South had reason to believe that the balance of the government was going against them. More specifically, some forces in the South. After all, and again the confused post doesn't really underline the point, many Southern Founders realized (or even hoped) that slavery might eventually die out. They wanted it done the right way though, hopefully peacefully, and without a threat to basic republican governmental principles. So, yes, the war was connected to slavery. The South wanted to "solve" the problem outside of the rules. And, without much to stand on -- was slavery directly threatened where it existed? Just how dubious was the idea that Congress could regulate slavery in the territories (and would slavery really thrive there anyway)?

    Finally, what was the likelihood if rebellion took place? War was quite possible. And, the net result quite likely -- see the French Revolution / Haiti -- would be a direct threat to slavery itself. Is this a reason to threaten "a more perfect union," reject a fair election, and so forth? After all, even after the Civil War, the South retained much control over their "domestic relations," plus the balance of national/state power -- even when the Fourteenth Amendment seemed to suggest otherwise -- remained much the same in many ways into the 20th Century. As the DOI notes, independence is a last resort. Equity did not seem to warrant it in 1861. Many in the South even agreed, though a majority most likely did support secession. [The final four only after the battle of Fort Sumter.]

    Was the North right to go to war to fight the rebellion? I think it useful to point out that many did not think it would go on for so long. Likewise, many -- including top generals like McClellan -- supported limited war aims. Fighting armies, and not to the death, not civilians. This helped the Confederacy given that it made the great imbalance of resources and arms less dangerous for the rebels. The alternative was shown with the "total war" sentiments of Sherman and Grant. Also, it bears noting that the hard fighting often came from the rebels. For instance, after Grant and company fought to regain key western forts (a "limited war" end), the rebels tried to gain the advantage at Shiloh. Lee was the one who invaded Northern territory twice, taking advantage the first time around especially from M's timidity and limited war aims.

    As I noted earlier, the Copperheads had something of a point. The carnage and so forth of the war became rather hard to take. But, it had a "snowball" effect to it, really -- sending troops to try to regain forts or battle volunteer soldiers on the other side in the early battles had widespread support for a reason. So, I don't think "chattel slavery" per se was needed as a war aim to make things just, surely not at first. And, even later, it was clearly intimately connected to a broader theme.

    As to the first post, this reply hit the spot for me for a somewhat different reason. See here as well.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    Lieberman and His Pals

    And Also: A pretty darn good WWII flick ... pro-Russian to boot. Pretty strong female character as well. Meanwhile, neo-cons are not likely to meet my approval, but this sort of spin job (Bush's stem cell policy is somehow worthy of our thanks) does need to be answered. And, unfortunately, my local tabloid requires me to pass his vitriol a few times a week.

    El Surgator grasped upon the Lieberman lifeline ... a key player in a "bipartisan working group" on Capitol Hill that he said will "help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror." Bipartisan? I thought Joey had his own little party like kids who created fantasy kingdoms ala Pan's Labyrinth. No, BTC News informs me, pointing the way. And, the first story notes he is now officially known as an "independent Democrat." AKA Bush loyalist:
    But the decision by Lieberman, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to back away from the committee's Katrina probe is already dismaying public-interest groups and others who hoped the Democratic victory in November would lead to more aggressive investigations of one of the White House's most spectacular foul-ups.

    Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration's handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush.

    Ah, what an asshole. Meanwhile, Joey's bestest bud is considering invading Iran and Syria. Various problems. Doesn't seem to have the statutory authority to do this, something "nondenial denials" from his lackeys admit, though they seem to also argue that it is not required. This is the sort of thing that gives the people over at Balkanization fits. Fair enough, though this continual focus on the "Constitution" as if it somehow compels us (and the federal government) to allow him to keep going is a bit much.

    Anyway, a possibly rational Republican [andpresidentialal hopeful made the Cambodia comparison I referenced while Rice came to testify. A Slate piece noted:
    Some of the reasons for escalation are strikingly similar: supply routes, material support, insurgency sanctuaries. It's a tempting comparison. But it is also misleading, as the president recognized in his speech when he declared, "We will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region." Cambodia never tried to acquire nuclear weapons, nor did it pursue regional dominance.

    Sure enough. If anything, it is worse. Go Saints! Others might be praying to theirs.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    "Bush Sends GIs to his Private Fantasyland"

    And Also: A bit amazing, really, to see someone play a cello that was made when Washington was president. And, not for usual classic music prices. Just a taste, but appreciated. Never say that I'm not one for the arts. More here.

    I know what one might say -- hey, what about that speech? You mean "same b.s., different day?" Darn ... missed it. Shopping. I did ask someone last night about it. ["Did you listen to asshole?" Blunt, but honest, right? Some find such a tone a bit much, but they are kidding themselves. Reminds me of this idiot who always wanted to be "independent," which meant she had to take Bush seriously. Independent does not mean stupid.] She noted she saw bits and pieces, but couldn't really handle the guy without getting emotionally upset. I can relate. I simply cannot listen to the guy -- his voice is like loud car horns and nails on the blackboard, but worse given those things are inanimate objects.

    Simply don't respect the man at all. It's rather depressing when you remember who he is and the power/responsibility he brings. But, there is a simple charm to such clarity. I am someone who loves to speak about the "complexity" of things, but the nature of the animal is that this would mean that everything could not be totally complex. Ironically, this would mean something was not -- a simple complexity rule would exist. Thus, I am pretty absolutist about certain things, like freedom of thought and basic fairness. And, my lack of respect for the asshole who "leads" us.

    We really need to do something to stop this guy. Firmly. If not, the alternative leaves a lot to be desired. I'm not with Lawrence O'Donnell and his "the Dems are making a horrible mistake by actually showing being elected can lead to immediate domestic policy results" argument, one based on the sentiment that apparently (1) this will give them nothing to do for the rest of the next two years (half of which will be focused on the 2008 elections, another quarter on oversight/execution of the agenda) and (2) Bush is dominating the news (a possibility that always exists, plus when else will the media focus on Congress, if not when it first comes into power?). But, yes, Iraq must be faced as well ... firmly.*

    The means are there, if the will is. H/t to Juan Cole for the title. Unfortunately, the speech seems to suggest not just the same b.s., but more fodder for those who fear the administration plans to attack Iran and/or Syria in some fashion.

    Queue Cambodia comparisons.


    * LOD is one of Al Franken's regular guests, was a producer on the West Wing, and worked for the Congress back in the 1990s. He also has a bit too much DLC in him, not too gung ho about Lamont, and then firmly saying obviously Lieberman would drop out if/when he lost the primary.

    Lieberman btw is again being used as covered for Bush, part of a "bipartisan" (sic) effort to deal with Iraq. Meanwhile, a "bipartisan" opposition movement is growing. LOD also doesn't want the Democrats to firmly take part in the Iraq business, leaving it in Bush's hands. This again is b.s. -- they have a responsibility here. Bad things are not "meant" to be or anything, but you have to do something with them. This includes abuse of executive power.