About Me

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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Historical Collapse Complete

And, they had to play 8.2 innings too. Wasted year. Go Cubs!

Update: NY did best Philly ... in football. And, now San Diego becomes the second team to blow it after thinking they had the playoffs in the bag. To add insult to injury, it is unclear if player touched the bag for the winning run ... the end of a blown save in extras, the rally started by an ex-Met, after another gave up the two runs to give SD the shot to win. A third helped to extend the game for SD ... Heath Bell, ending his season with some Ks.

Editor and College President Against the First Amendment

And Also: Eastern Promises is a powerful film (earns its 'R' rating) with very good performances by the leads. Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts should be in competition for awards. Ultimately, the film honors our own humanity, even the least among us.

More on recent free speech controversies. Apparently, the President of Bard College doesn't think inviting controversial national leaders to give a talk at one's university has anything but entertainment value:
"This was not an academic exercise," he said, referring to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech. "This was show business."

Unclear about that ... given the wild over the top comments against him, including by the college's own President (maybe out of fear) during the introduction. One might even think hearing from foreign leaders would be inherently useful. But, hey, he's a demon, right?

There is also the MoveOn ad, which the public editor of the NYT criticized both on the grounds of the paper's ad rate policy (the paper said it made an error) and because it violated its policy on accepting ads with personal attacks. "We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature." And, the public editor then went on to analyze the situation:
By the end of last week the ad appeared to have backfired on both MoveOn.org and fellow opponents of the war in Iraq — and on The Times. It gave the Bush administration and its allies an opportunity to change the subject from questions about an unpopular war to defense of a respected general with nine rows of ribbons on his chest, including a Bronze Star with a V for valor. And it gave fresh ammunition to a cottage industry that loves to bash The Times as a bastion of the "liberal media."

And, to suggest what is/should be the NYT policy:
a strong personal revulsion toward the name-calling and personal attacks that now pass for political dialogue, obscuring rather than illuminating important policy issues.

First, it does annoy when people have to repeatedly (and this includes various judges in free speech opinions) underline how they don't like the speech, but hey, the First Amendment works that way. [Or, some other reason, like Congress shouldn't be wasting its time doing this etc.] A blatant case was the Justice Kennedy's concurrence in the first flag burning case. Or, as the link above suggests, the college president who introduced the Iranian president.

So, I'm not a big one really to analyze the MoveOn ad, making sure to tell you that "hey, I didn't really like the ad but," in part since it shouldn't matter. But, I guess, it does, so people have to protect themselves. Second, it is unclear how horrible the ad was, including pragmatically. It might be that being so worried about it (including the continual need to assure people it is bad) helps the Republicans by keeping what otherwise would not be in public view that deeply.

After all, not everyone eats up this stuff as much as some of us. There is an insider bias there. Next, people have noted that MoveOn has had a nice increase in donations of late ... Atrios wondered at one point if perhaps more people can criticize him. Next, some libs in Congress have told people in the know that they need to be pushed. If they are for ending the occupation, this allows them to criticize something. It moves the line so to speak if this, not them is the issue. This is often the case for advocacy groups who are so "bad" and "controversial."

Finally, there is the ad itself. I linked it. Someone noted that other than the "name calling," that others have said basically the same thing. Its website backs up the allegations. I read a Balkinization criticism of the ad recently that started with a comment that a veteran of Iraq (!) raised the issue to him at some point long before the ad. In one of the comment streams, a veteran mentioned a deep respect for the military, but was quite willing to not deify them. The vet did think the general politicized the war to the deep detriment of the troops, violating his oath.

But, we don't hear much about these people ... ala Rush only "phony" soldiers strongly criticize the war, including in personal terms.* What is this horrible name calling instance? One word? The public editor underlined the problem here -- but, the general is dedicated with a row of ribbons!!!! How DARE someone suggest (with facts to support it) that he "betrayed" us. BTW, John Kerry was vilified for suggesting his own -- because of policy out of their immediate control -- did bad things. IOW, he could say "us." The "us" here is said by a civilian. The betrayal of one's own, that is, is simply not there.

If MoveOn is right (the professor at Balkanization suggested the general deluded himself ... if delusion leads to a parent causing a child to be hungry, does it not mean betrayal? with this civilian leadership, if the military leadership is willing to delude themselves, they deserve our ire), betrayal can be shown. Sorry for expected a bit more honor from my leaders, civilian and military. Put that aside. Think the ad was pragmatically bad? Fine enough. Don't give me this rows of ribbon shit. Respected general. King and country. Powell served our country, until that day in the UN. Does his service save his dishonor?

BTW, the people didn't change their sentiments on the occupation, even after the general with all those ribbons tried to promote the company line with spun facts. This, not MoveOn, is the ultimate story. The rest is detail.


* Glen Greenwald thinks Democrats need to support a censure resolution against Rush's comments. I find this takes us down a bad path, one that I simply don't think will end nicely. Oh, and the whole tit for tat shit sickens me. It helps that I think it is pragmatically a bad idea. My nausea at such tactics generally factors that in too. See his post yesterday and comments thereto.

[As to the title of this post, we ultimately need to be concerned with the spirit of our freedoms. GG was sure to remind that a resolution is not a governmental act officially abridging speech. It just dishonors it by selectively targeting criticism. Dare one say betrays it? No, that would be too neat, perhaps.]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Congrats Cubs! Let's go Nats! (sigh)

The Yanks bounced up to end crazy. The Cubs bounced back and hung around after some iffy play (swept by Marlins?) ... the Brewers falling (Phillies handled Braves better) helped as well. Lou for NL manager of year? Mets showed life today ... too little, too late without help. Nats got five of six from Mets ... two of six (one last series) from Phillies is not too much to ask for. In theory.

Update: Nats win on a Phillies choke! All tied with one (for now) game to go. Oh vey. Dontrelle Willis v. Tom Glavine.

Human Rights and Limited Powers

And Also: Someone cited a joke about the difference between a Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium hot dog ... one can be eaten in October. Looked like it would be put in storage after last year. Well ... Yesterday's game took forever to finish, even after the scoring stopped (mid-game). Symbolized the extended collapse that will last at least until today. Again, if it happens, it took a lot of effort, even with the Phillies upswing. Losing seven straight vs Phillies and five of six vs the Nats, etc. Amazing Mets, indeed ... amazingly bad. Group effort, even if all the parts weren't bad at once in any one game.

[I link to Balkinization below. There are several interesting topics over there this week, including on such diverse topics as Blackwater, Justice Kennedy's jurisprudence and the McCulloch decision/connections to modern times. BTW, John Yoo in the 1990s thought McCulloch was a "tragedy" since it gave Congress too much power. He also thought Clinton had too much as well ... we later found out that the "war" was started during his presidency, so maybe Yoo thinks differently about him now.]

Spencer Ackerman's skill and clout is shown here via an official reply to his reporting on a intel gathering controversy. Since after awhile one loses track of what is going on here -- seriously, it is easier (in a way) sometimes when there are so many things wrong with what is going on when the specifics are pretty complicated -- I truly appreciate such things. I also appreciate the comments, since they tend to clarify and emphasize certain points. Take the reply by "Mary," who underlines a point that too many appear to elide over:
Absolutely there should be process that applies to what communications the Executive Branch is snarfing up and what is done or not done with that information. The Constitution never says the Executive Branch has unfettered ability to engage in foreign to foreign searches and seizures. Absolutely the Exec Branch should have legal constraints on what is being done with foreign intercepts.

They carve outs for foreign surveillance have been for national security types of surveillance. There has never been blanket authority in the Executive to engage in non-national security, slap and tickle surveillance of foreigners. And there is certainly no reason for the NSA apparatus to be used for foreign surveillance that isn't involving national security interests.

So yeah - before someone, for example, engages in intercepts of foreign corporate information and uses that to make profits or provide unfair competition, and before there is non-supervised, warrantless trawling for non-security purposes - yes, there should be process that applies.

So here is seems not so much that your source is arguing that technology has changed and FISA needs to be changed to address the changing technology - - but rather that the analysis of Executive Branch power should be expanded to include engaging in foreign surveillance of all foreigners, not agents of foreign powers (not al-Qaeda calling) and for all reasons or no reason, on any whim - all of which will be subject to any use anyone chooses to make of it with no constraints, checks or balances.

Duh. Yeah. There should be process preventing that.

Currently, there are various things that threaten the civil liberties of American citizens in the fight against (h/t BTC News) the War on Terra (TM). Baseline problem. But, the greatest problem -- in terms of numbers -- is the threat to the freedoms of non-citizens. Thus, David Cole has written a lot about a sort of "international" Constitution, one in which "persons" are protected -- see, the Due Process Clause.

I am reading Sen. Dodd's book* (mostly his father's letters from Nuremburg -- which he spells N├╝rnberg, the German way -- with some prefatory remarks) and there is a simple assumption made that Germans ... who murdered millions ... warrant some due process of law. Some, see Sen. Taft in Profiles in Courage ... even were quite upset that they did not get enough. [My rough belief is that international law at the time warranted at least some of the prosecutions as did pragmatic reasons ... given the alternative, reasonably speaking, I think the best shot of justice was furthered by the process.] Ditto, in some situations, did a few of the justices [dissent], including the one for whom John Paul Stevens (WWII vet) clerked.

WWII brought home the fact that we need a system of human rights, a basic acceptance that people everywhere deserve and in some fashion have basic rights of humanity. As with our own Declaration of Independence, such basics are only honored in a mixed fashion. My reading of accounts and comments respecting treatment of those held since 2001 in the War on Terra (TM) sadly suggests the fact. There appears to a basic confusion -- even among those who should know better -- that there is some class of people who simply do not have rights, except as a matter of executive and legislative discretion. The fact that some might not have the rights of POWs simply does not mean the others lack rights.

See, Hamdan. See, basic rights of humanity and "persons." And, per Mary, the basic dangers of unlimited discretion on governmental power. Should we allow the government -- or per some accounts, contractors funded by them -- enslave people outside U.S. territory? The question sadly appears not to be simply rhetorical. There are different levels of protections -- citizenship means something, etc., but there are also baseline protections, and baseline pragmatic reasons for them to boot. The focus on "spying on Americans" etc. should not erase the fact that there is more to it than that. The "us against the world" mentality (I am still seeing digs at the French ... some people don't grow up) is both dangerous and reprehensible. As is the idea that trust our government with total power ... yes, even when it is inflicted against non-citizens ... is a safe bet.

Or, apropos to a recent debate where Dems were asked their favorite biblical passage -- Art. VI be damned, apparently a suitable question -- one of mine would be Paul's line that we are all one in Christ, slave and free etc. The "in Christ" bit is limiting, but the principle holds -- on some level, we are connected, and a sacred community that warrants honor and respect. The Christian path, surely the Protestant one that guided many in this country through the years, is one of choosing one's faith. Well, we chose to be part of a nation that honors the rights of "persons" and the limitations of the government at all. So, we chose the responsibility.

One would not think so at times.


* Sen. Dodd is someone I might seriously think of supporting in other circumstances, especially given his theme of civil liberties and excesses of executive power. But, other than the fact he has no shot, we need someone more of an outsider and more outwardly passionately connecting to the voters. I reckon his insider status led him to make a few questionable moves in the Senate as well, but that is not really my ultimate concern here.

As to the book, it's an interesting insider account -- what a possibility -- but does get tedious after awhile. It's a series of letters to his wife ... constant refrain is that he really really loves and misses her, and he needs more letters from her (she had five young kids to care for at the time and some of the letters were delayed). Some complaints about how the others on the case are doing a shoddy job.

Not really a deep discussion of the case itself, but overall, recommended to at least skim. The various references to "Christopher" and "Chris" -- the senator was a toddler at the time -- does come off as pretty cute.

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

Stupid self-mutilation will not be salved too much by trying to show hypocrisy by supporting another resolution against Rush. This is not your job. In the long run, anti-war sorts (or those behind any sort of controversial speech) liable to be tarred by this sort of thing are more likely to be libs anyway.

BTW, Glen Greenwald has some good stuff this week, with special focus on two key HC supporters. You know, the next Dem candidate for President. No need to vote in your caucus/primary. She voted for the let's help the push for war with Iran resolution too. Doesn't want war, surely, just enables it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Limp Limp Limp

Ah enablers. Phillies lost, so the Mets -- another pathetic outing (this time both starting and relief pitching was bad) that made the Nats' bats look like the Yanks -- drop their magic number to 4. Two ahead, five to play, including three against the Marlins ... who even the Mets beat three of four last weekend. Hard to blow that, though they probably will make it tough. Why stop now? Either way, Randolph will want antacids, not champagne, next weekend.

Update: Mets are trying real hard. Elimination watch begins.

Commonly Accepted Insanity

And Also: Promising first episode for the new season of House. Good to see Kay Lenz still gets work. Rules of Engagement was pretty much the same -- for me, a comforting thing to watch at 9:30.

I was told about some person who used twisted logic involving checking to see if her phone was broken. I'm used to said person's "logic," and was not too surprised or anything about it. My immediate thought was that people use similar logic on other more important things. In the scheme of things, the two really are not as separate as they might at first appear. Life tends to be connected somehow. The trivial and the important are not always the same thing logic-wise, but often they are. You use the same burden of proof to convict the pot smoker and murderer, even if the equation is different in various ways. And, you can get false positives in both cases ... again, taking into consideration the differences.

[As an aside, what one of the Republican presidential candidates are credible? Romney probably is the best, though crazy things pop up now and again to suggest otherwise, and the betting man would say he is the safe choice. The Daily Show had a tieless Mike Huckabee (I thought that was the Obama look) bit where he dreams about there being duck hunting in heaven. Right. Various sorts pipe in about how no hope Ron Paul sounds good ... being against the war/occupation and all, but elide over the fact he is prolife. This being imho insane on a public policy level leads to problems in my mind.]

We are being led by people who -- for one reason or the other -- use logic that I find akin to creation science without the intelligence design dodge. Sadly, one has to admit that over 1/3 of the population believes in some form of creation science. Lots of hating of the First Amendment. Can't have people talk at colleges (the Iranian president did supply constant fodder for the right wing editors of my local paper. Can't have people (including those confirmed by the Senate) talk to Congress. Can't use mean words (even if ... uh he did twist facts and ... uh ... "betray" us) in advocacy ads (advocacy groups must be nice) without being "reprehensible." (To be cute) Can't have Dems have a filibuster to stop bad policy or force Republicans to have an actual one to stop good.

The insanity continues even when the sane ones have facts and experience on their side. Sen. Webb's proposal, for instance. See also, since I started the book based on his father's letters to his mom during the Nuremberg trial, Sen. Dodd ... he has made controlling executive power and protecting civil liberties the theme of his run for the presidency ... a run about as successful as Mike Gravel's. Sen. Dodd's father was a top prosecutor at Nuremburg. He was proud of his role in promoting the rule of law while prosecuting war criminals. He did not think them mutually exclusive. Millions were murdered. But, we cannot have simple fairness when thousands were.

Only wild-eyed libbies think that. Not those who truly know what evil is. Or, have a direct connection to it. You know like Webb and military policy. What does he know? Like, what does Justice Stevens know about balancing liberty and order in wartime ... so he served in WWII, so he clerked when key cases involving war crimes and civil liberties came down afterwards. Sure, he's politically actually somewhat conservative (President Ford did nominate him ... also, he in the 1970s noted what was mentioned in the NYT article ... that is, his wariness of the minimum wage). In fact, Stevens argues he is conservative -- honoring precedent, not taking big steps and so forth. There is conservative and there is radical.*

The article btw had this suggestion from two progressive legal minds on what the next justice should be like:
First, in an age when the conservative justices are determined to cut off access to the courts in cases from civil rights to terrorism, the next liberal justice would interpret the Constitution to provide “access to the courts to enforce the rule of law” and would “understand that even the most powerful president is not a king.” Second, the justice would “interpret the Constitution in light of the entire history of the nation, and not just in light of the Constitution’s drafting history.” Third, the justice would “interpret the Constitution to create conditions of equal liberty to participate in the life of the nation” — in areas ranging from abortion and sex equality to affirmative action and campaign finance reform. Finally, instead of reading the Constitution in a cramped, legalistic fashion, the justice would “interpret the Constitution to create a partnership between courts and the popular branches,” encouraging Congress and the American people to debate and define constitutional values.
Sounds like a good launching pad.


* The author of The Nine is getting a lot of attention and air time, including over at Talking Points Memo and reviews various places. Pretentious sounding title/subtitle ... have not read a good book on the post-1991 [Turning Right ended around Casey] Supreme Court really, though the bios of Blackmun (based on his papers) and O'Connor were pretty good. Recommended -- ironically, the author of the O'Connor bio is now working on one for Scalia. I'm not really gung ho about doing that when he is still on the Court (O'Connor was due to retire in 2005), but sounds promising.

In answer to a question on Rachel Maddow, Toobin suggested none of the recent bunch probably would have been elected, except perhaps O'Connor. I disagree, if we are talking about the time they were nominated. Stevens was well known as a special prosecutor, had moderate vibes and was pleasing enough generally. Ginsburg looked like a nice Jewish girl and Scalia could have chimed in -- they are friendly. Roberts was a pall bearer for Rehnquist -- come on! Souter also is someone who many would probably trust as a judge.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Interesting Family Planning Decision

And Also: The new fall season is about to arrive, but the summer brought many shows to cable networks, including many worthwhile new series. WGN -- the Chicago superstation that I get via Dish Network -- now is showing old episodes of the Canadian show Corner Gas, a whimsical comedy involving the happenings of a small town. Good article about Justice Stevens in tomorrow's NYT Magazine ... the paper btw did away (except for some real old stuff) its pay for special content policy.

Interesting case. A sixteen year old has sex and goes to a public health clinic to get a pregnancy test, but is told they aren't being given that day. She returns shortly afterwards to get a morning after pill ... which suggests she had sex more than once. The pills only work within seventy-two hours or so of sexual intercourse, and I was not aware that you could tell you were pregnant so quickly. The girl later noted that she thinks use of the pill to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg -- which might occur in some cases -- is abortion. This seems to me a stretch, but if you are soooo concerned, I suggest you don't have repeated intercourse! Obviously, she is okay with contraceptives generally.

Anyway, she was given the pills after a short counselling session, but had a negative reaction that led to vomiting and "sub-conjunctive hemorrhaging in her eye" from said vomiting ... who knew? Anyway, this eventually led to a federal lawsuit. She and her parents claimed she was pressured, her parents wanted to be informed and claimed a constitution right to be involved (right to raise children) and interfered with her Free Exercise rights. But, the Supremes have noted teens have the right to access of contraceptives and abortion services -- the power of the state to require some parental involvement is not akin to an obligation to so supply. Second, the teen voluntarily acted here, there was no coercion. And, thus, the state did not violate her religious beliefs, which she did not make clear at the time at any rate.

An issue of definition factored in respecting the third point. The teen (depending on her birthday, she still is one ... or 20 ... who wants these facts on public record?) thinks abortion includes preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. She was told that the pills would prevent "pregnancy." She apparently took this to mean fertilization. But, this is a leap. Conception itself is often seen as a process that ends with implantation. This is one reason why the morning after pill (and regular birth control pills, which can act the same way) are still called "contraceptives" and not "abortifacients."

One of the judges (usefully, the matter was dealt in a footnote ... no separate opinion for a minor point) thought that it was possible in some cases for the state to infringe of free exercise via coercion or deception. But, this does not arise when regularly used terminology is at stake, even if certain people might object. The various shades of understanding, especially when such relevant beliefs are not even raised (a forgivable thing, especially for a sixteen year old, but the state is not a mind reader), are almost infinite ... too broad for the state to be required to take them all into consideration, though a reasonable attempt is good policy.

The lack of coercion and the absence of an obligation to assist the parents are at the core of the ruling. But, it also noted there was also an affirmative right of minors to make decisions here on their own. Thus, parents do not have absolute power over their children, as shown by the "best interests of the child" check of the state. This includes medical decisions in various cases. The state has the power to teach sexual education even if parents rather them not (parents need not send their kids to public school); it also has the power (and obligation imho) to supply family planning services to needy teenagers.

The case suggests the care that needs to be taken, but just as all drugs and procedures might negatively affect a small subset, that just comes with the program.

Quick Thought

Talk about HC as benefiting from the nostalgia for the Clinton years. Like Rachel Maddow [RM, like me, rather have the fight of Edwards these days then the "let's all be nice" of Obama], when I think of them, I do think peace and tranquility. But, I'm not really nostalgic for Hillary Clinton. [Too much of this to trust HC.] BTW, Rudy looked like a doofus with that NRA speech and the whole call from Judy bit. 9/11 changed everything. Now he supports your right to have poorly regulated heavy artillery. America's mayor, everyone!

Friday, September 21, 2007

MoveOn, Nothing To See Here

And Also: The Senate, via the filibuster route, rejected a move to give D.C. a voting House member, the proposal supported by Sen. Hatch (R) in part because Utah would get another representative as part of the bargain. I actually think that was the right decision, no matter why the Rs voted that way. The Constitution gives states members of Congress, not territories and federal districts/enclaves. Non-voting, yes. The Northwest Territory had one of those back in the beginning. The 23A alone suggests a voting member is different.

General Petraeus or General Betray Us?

General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was "tangible progress" in Iraq and that "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward." ...

- MoveOn Ad

[Update: See also here and here. See also, btw, his remarks before the 2004 elections providing a rosy-eyed view. But, to say he "betrayed" us is reprehensible, I say! Luckily, the people aren't buying the hype. They don't want endless war and occupation ... don't trust P. to carry it out. And, many will say so bluntly. PC-whining aside.]

This link provides added back-up to the allegations made. A search will also provide evidence that overall the people do not trust Petraeus ... in effect, they accept the theme of the ad. But, some are concerned with the name calling. After all, back in the day, people didn't name call or have ads that disrespected our military and leaders! Grant, for instance, wasn't called a "butcher" or whatnot! Thomas Paine also was never blunt ... to speak of someone mentioned recently; nor, those of that era.

I'm being sarcastic, of course. Not only do we have people (see last link) who simply despise Bush write hand wringing entries, the U.S. Senate ... in which the Webb Amendment supportive of the troops failed to "pass" because of a filibuster (it got a majority ... btw articles not only do not use the 'f' word, but also fail to mention among the claims that it is too complicated or would actually hurt the troops that Webb was a top military man plus has a son directly affected ... sorta seems relevant) ... passed this piece of ----:
To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

72-25. Obama didn't vote, though he did vote for [failed] an alternative by Sen. Boxer critical of all ads that disrespect military sorts. What the heck are they proposing these things anyway? Why are they SELECTIVELY passing resolutions critical of criticism? We really have a bunch who simply do not ... a few days after Constitution Day ... know the meaning of the document and ideals they swore to uphold.

Our leaders, who can't manage to actually seriously debate legislation since it might delay their vacations, Democrats included, spit on the First Amendment today. Toss it with habeas and due process of law. See also, Glenn Greenwald's recent piece on their serious consideration of retroactive immunity of telecommunication companies ... the rule of law be damned. GG noted the absurdity.

Of course, we can also note that the resolution furthered the President's attempt to use P. as a beard and cover, a bigger threat to his honor and integrity than some ad, even though the Dems know full well he does not deserve "full" support ... which would imply totally going along with what he proposed we do! I don't think he supports the Democratic proposals to end the occupation with timetables etc. Also, what is this "Multi-National Force" b.s? TPM ridiculed the "36 nation" or whatever b.s. that included the likes of one person from Iceland.

BTW, I'm with Josh Marshall on the leader of Iran wanting to go to Ground Zero:
A president with some dignity and sense of the greatness of his country would say, good he should go there. Maybe he'll learn something about us and our loss.

Go as a normal tourist. That's the best way, probably, anyhow. And, talking heads and Dems in Congress? Get your heads out of your ass.


* I saw a bit of the remarks from the two chosen to look into properly caring for our injured service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bob Dole looks well.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Please

And Also: Julie Hilden has a good essay on how attacks on violent video games ignores that the First Amendment does not consider us Pavlovian, but "thinkers" ... the alternative is sorta like banning Barbie for clear and present danger of anorexia. Given her novel 3 has both sexual and violent content, this issue hits close to home as well. See also, a take on the "on second thought, nah" deanship offer to Erwin Chemerinsky, which bloggists across the spectrum found distasteful ... and sorta stupid too. [Update: Smarter]

A couple examples to suggest my thoughts/complaints respecting Democrats and how they play their mixed hand.

Yesterday, both NY football teams were outmatched, banged up, and playing good teams (Ravens more so than Packers, but the NY Giants are more troubled, so it balances out). The Jets could have tied the game, with a back-up QB starting his first game and against a great defense (behind 20-3 to boot), except for a couple failed catches in the last minute or so. Meanwhile, not only did the Giants D play pathetic again, the Giants Offense played sloppy. The latter was the real problem ... losing points because of illegal ball spikes is not an example of lacking talent, it is not having maturity. Not playing well with what you have.

[Since I'm tired of the ridiculous upswing of the Yanks, the AL race now a joke of sorts with the Tigers barely in it [close enough, but hard to believe the Yanks will blow 2.5 games], yesterday was a bad sports day. I appreciated the Jets game though, especially since I missed the early part when the Jets did very little.]

Likewise, consider the conservative path on abortion. Push comes to shove, the reasonable sort might argue that their path is counterproductive, if the concern is actually to reduce abortions. A sane family planning policy would do this ... they care not about that, wanting instead to stay loyal to their values. In this fashion, their souls are safe, so to speak. Did they focus on the lack of "five votes" on the Supreme Court, and thus apologizing about Roe not being overturned? No, that would be bad politics, and defeatist. The complained about judicial activism, highlighted the conservative bona fides of their picks, and so forth.

A football metaphor can also explain what not to do ... overdo playing the prevent defense and/or playing it overly safe on offense. It actually turned out to be a sound play not to go on it close to the goal line on Fourth Down, leading to a 20-6 score. But, other times -- TMQ over at ESPN hates this -- such low risk does not make sense. You can get complacent with the former policy, comfy with your lead and all. The net result can be playing a good hand badly. Suggesting the neverending metaphors, yes, you have the poker one as well.

Many fear this will occur in the attorney general area. Appropriately, on Constitution Day (unsurprisingly, from the guy who has one always in his pocket, Sen. Byrd), the changing of the guard occurred. It turns out that Bush isn't going to put the well admired vanilla looking solicitor general in as acting AG, but another controversial ideological sort who the Dems don't want as a federal judge. The Dems might not want this guy in that long.

In particular, the guy nominated for the permanent position ... shocking enough ... appears like a credible choice who isn't a lapdog. Chucky Schumer actually likes the guy. Sure, the preliminary comments suggest he is pretty conservative, likes Rudy for President and possibly will have "beard" qualities (good facade, questionable on the change front ... recently wrote an editorial supportive of broad executive power). Of course, as a member of his Cabinet, the guy has to be loyal. There are different degrees, sure enough, which is why Gonzo was particularly bad.

But, let's realistic here ... the chance of a real prize is akin to getting that cheap watch shown on the screen of those quarter machines. (OD-ing on metaphor today). Likewise, as with the occupation, the Dems have a lot of cards on their side. No straight flush (I'm annoying myself now), sure, but more than a pair. Thus, the hints that a credible pick will enough, not full disclosure respecting various investigations, promises to honor subpoenas or ongoing investigations and so forth is stupid. It's being satisfied with a lot less than one can hope for, the path of losers.

Getting rid of a lousy AG and making known the politicization of justice (or worse) that perverts evenhanded rule of law is a real victory. As with the student aid bill and other matters, it does matter who is in control of Congress. But, the lame duck time of the presidency will likely lead to some success for the other party anyway. This situation supplies an opening for a whole lot more. Honor what has been accomplished, remember the corruptness of the Republican Party as constituted, but don't settle.

Like Oliver Twist, ask for more. And, add some vegan margarine or jelly to that gruel. Adds flavor.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I refer you to the Salon movie section for additional comment, but Romance and Cigarettes (off the wall working class musical) and The Nines (Twilight Zone like story with some clear connections to reality [see, e.g., Melissa McCarthy, who has worked with the writer and director, and is great here]) are very good, off the beaten path films. Well acted and good at creating their worlds. And, remember, koalas are "8s" ... they control the weather, you see.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We Still Are Taking Bushies Seriously ... Why?

Bush's Occupation [Rachel Maddow calls it a war ... dubious RM] is b.s., but hey, nothing we can do to stop it until 2009. Such is the accepted wisdom, the difference is some are just a bit sadder and resigned to the fact. Oh, btw, no need to impeach Bush ... putting aside all the rest, he's powerless you see. [Expletive deleted.] So, let's just talk some, at times pretending to be ready to doing something (e.g., subpoenas), but not really (when ignored, do nothing, etc.). Pathetic. The fact that I have to read editorial comment in my newspaper ... I really should just skip to the Pearls to Swine comics ... about how we should give the asshole in chief some time, to "trust" him etc. is tres sad. The NY Daily News op-ed department has truly gone to the dogs. Other parts pretty good though.

In the 1990s, I overall felt content about things, though realized various problems. These days, the utter poisonous nature of even the "good guys" is utterly depressing at times. Take impeachment. Pragmatically, I can accept that it is problematic. But, taken too far it is a poisonous matter. Hey, says one, it's better this way. Republicans are suffering. etc. It's all partisan, after all, huh? After all, Bush is powerless, and letting people off the hook (I study history ... this "leave him to history" business doesn't really work for me) is okay, since the next batch will be better. Did I say that I don't want ... DON'T WANT ... Clinton to be the nominees? But, says progressive talk show host Thom Hartman, it in effect doesn't matter who the nominee is. This is b.s. Thom. It does matter. The fact they are better than the crappy field of Republicans doesn't change that.

It appears Obama/Edwards split the anti-Clinton vote in various polls. Blogs have noted the AP have provided a misleading take on Obama's apparent defeatist take on change of Bush's policy. The honest person notes said policy is enabled by Democrats, though politically, it is deemed bad pool to say as much. This includes among bloggers and such ... denying it or focusing on the worse offenders do not make it less so. Anyway, a problem here is not controlling the message properly. Thus, Dems say the "surge is sorta working kinda" but ... you are hiding the lede there. It's stupid. And, you cannot just blame the media for not joining the politicians' framing, being careful to highlight and put front and center what the Dems themselves are supposed to. Is this really just "journalistic malpractice?"

[I use "just" advisedly. But, the same blogs who speak of such things also becry the Dems not framing things right, being defeatist, not doing enough, etc. Simply put, enabling the criticized media frame. Given we are supposed to know nuance, the presence of both problems shouldn't be TOO confusing, but sometimes it seems it is for some people.]

The broader remarks, wah wah MSM wah wah, simply do not take Obama off the hook. We still have this core: "it doesn't look like were going to get that many votes, but I think it's important for everybody here to put pressure on Republican congressmen and Senators." As with his "cutting funds for the troops line," the frame here is 67 votes. He doesn't think we are going to get it, but hey, put pressure on them. Sure. I will speak my piece, sounding quite rational [and verbose] and all, but deep down will sadly feel that it's just a valid effort. I won't focus on what MUST be done. Or, that Congress needs to affirmatively give the President funds and other things to allow things to go on. He wants to be "honest" ... front and center. Defeatist. Hopeful though. Audaciously so, right? Snark.

Oh, what the President is doing is totally wrong. Sure. Nice words. But, whatcha going do about it? Make symbolic votes like the May funding negative, done after there was a majority? Take Sen. Dodd, who we dealt with in the past after a nice sounding Glenn Greenwald interview. His dad was involved at Nuremberg [Dodd's promoting a book growing out of letters of his experiences ... having read a book with a first person view of things of N., that does sound promising] ... Dodd's a big believer in civil liberties and limits on presidential power. The stripping of habeas corpus was outrageous. You know, if he had his druthers and all ... It's like when Rachel Maddow asked him about Lieberman today. Friend of his, sadly wrong on one issue. Guy is a major enabler of the Republican Party and President. Unfortunate, you know?

Simply can't take the guy seriously. Another Arlen Specter sort ... speaks a good game, but doesn't really risk anything when it is put up or shut up time. If you can't do anything, which I deny but apparently is the conventional wisdom (making presidential season more tired so very early as it is ... doesn't help that there is basically nothing locally to care about), at least have some consistent strum und drang, right? Instead, there appears to be a desire to be reasonable about it all, hoping that Republicans will slowly see the sanity of changing the course.

This has already took over six months of precious time, which translates into hundreds of Americans dead (is it possible that two of them are among the seven of the famous NYC editorial? is probability not fair now?), thousands injured mentally and physically, and loads of Iraqis dead ... including people recently praised by the the asshole? To what effect? The temptation to truly look like losers?

We now have media sources ... they should be ridiculed across the board ... with ledes that Bush will bring some home ... IOW, those scheduled to be home anyway, leading to a likely result that more will be there than were before the Surge (moronic name). We still are supposed to take him seriously. The insanity continues.

[I was re-reading a little book about veganism by Victoria Moran, suggesting that it is not about eating certain things, but about an overall "compassionate ethic." I'm not there yet, but this is true for any number of movements ... who is really a pure Christian, etc.? Anyway, it does suggest the depth that is needed here. An overall change of heart and mind, an everlasting pursuit. The long haul. Just seems we are too often digging a hole with a spoon, that's all. Oh well.]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hitchens on Paine

And Also: A pair of essays touched upon those who noted that Vick's behavior raises the issue of mass production of animals. One saw a connection, the other (a conservative) noted that traditional opposition to cruelty to domestic animals and other reasons not directly related to harm to animals per se (dangers of illegal gambling, etc.) can be raised. But, mass production of animals causes various harms other than directly to the animals as well (to the environment, let's say ... and often harming the property of others in the process). So, really the argument from developing tradition is the only one with bite, and the other essay is right to suggest tradition is due to change on the point.

As referenced the last month or whatever, there are various collections out there -- on book and book on audio -- that provide a quickie analysis of great works and movements/ideologies. Persons too. Thus, I have read various in the series of books where people like John Dean (Warren Harding) join with historians to provide small bios of our presidents. Different publishers and such put these out. They clearly provide a mixed bag (I found P.J. O'Rourke's take on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations a bit boring), but also supply a quick means to have a flavor of all that classic education you did not quite have.

And, you just might go deeper into the pool in the process ... Christopher Hitchens' take on Thomas Paine makes me want to read more of his writings. I had to read Common Sense for class way back when, and probably read excerpts of some of his other writings. [Likewise, I read Tocqueville, though I remember very little -- rather typical there -- and saw another one of those books today ... if a bit longer this time -- on him. It also calls to mind an old C-SPAN series where they followed Tocqueville's route.] Paine is a character and his writings suggest a fellow traveller, if one whose flights of reason and passion was a bit haphazard at times.

His near death in France during the revolution he enthused about suggests as much. Paine changed his opinions about things ... Hitchens noted that he grew to see the importance of the independent judiciary in France, earlier focusing on the executive and legislative branches (the judicial character of the House of Lords ... and states like Connecticut ... at the time suggests the blending that went on, not just in the sense that the judicial was early on often deemed an executive duty -- "the king's justice" and all that). A moment of courage in his life was his passionate argument that King Louis XVI should not be executed ... or at least, deserved a fair trial. One thinks of Saddam Hussein.

That helped push the French authorities to arrest him, leading him to work on editing The Age of Reason in his prison cell. Hitchens, in one of various remarks that suggest why even those who think him an asshole on Iraq admit he's a good writer, notes that he started that work by candlelight (risking arrest ... and apparently not having a Bible available ... France in its Church of Reason mode), edited it in his death cell (a mixed up saved his life), and finished it (now with a Bible on hand) in a room provided by future President, James Monroe.

[Update: I linked to Paine's writings below and Wikipedia has some good background, the usual salt taken etc. He himself notes this lack of a Bible when writing the first half of The Age of Reason. I also found an old book I have of excerpts of "great thinkers," and among those highlighted is Burke's reflections on the French Revolution, the thing that pissed Paine off so much.

As with Paine, his writing is worth reading as much for the logic as the journey. See, e.g., Burke's use of "prejudices," suggested by the editors to mean "social myths." A telling word choice, I think, conservatives at times compelled to believe what rational thought would deem folly. Why? The alternative is in effect dangerous. Such ignorance is bliss logic is hard to deal with at times (the "reality community" sorts can feel self-satisfied, but what does it get them, really?), but does explain a lot.]

Hitchens also noted Paine's claim in this book to be guided only by reason was belied by his earlier appeals to the Bible, a useful book when your audience are not rationalists supportive of deism like himself but those who might have just one book -- said Bible -- in their home. Paine did gleefully attack the Bible as history in The Age of Reason, including actually reading the Isaiah 7 prophecy cited as proof of Jesus' virgin birth ... crossreferencing it to II Chronicles to suggest he was wrong in his immediate prophecy as to a Jewish king to boot!* Such things led him to be suspicious of organized religion, suggesting for him, his mind was his church.

The whole exercise might be deemed overkill after awhile, and overshooting his mark at times, except that some still take these things very seriously ... and not in a metaphorical sense. BTW, as Hitchens notes, what is this business about doing things so prophecy would be fulfilled? Isn't that sorta forcing the issue a bit? As Hitchens also notes, Paine -- who foresaw things social welfare legislation and UN-like organizations -- did not take these things to their possible logical conclusions. He was of his time in certain ways (women rights was not an issue for him). So, he basically just accepted life after death ... it's logically possible, right, and is a nice thing to conceive. Homer definitely nodded there.

[Update: It's useful to doublecheck. In his "creed," Paine "hoped" for an afterlife. This he deemed reasonable, which it is as a possibility, but not something he can "believe" exists since that can only be determine by experience. Not experiencing death, or seeing signs of life after death, an afterlife could only be something hoped for.]

Likewise, his deism was based on a sort of argument from design that Kant -- of his generation, though apparently Paine was not familiar with his work -- and others showed even then was a dubious enterprise. This reminds one of the whole natural law vs. natural rights deal ... Paine and Jefferson (who also had fantasies of Utopian Anglo-Saxons before the Normans corrupted everything) wanted to show that reason dictates that there was a deistic god out there that helped support their passion for rights and equality ... and freedom of the mind. John Adams, who surely believed in God too, had something over them really with his more cynical feelings on human nature and government. "Rights" are surely in some core way inventions to deal with our needs and at time rank desires. Inventions can be cool ... don't worry.

[One editorial comment pointed out that Paine bases belief in God on "the universal display of himself in the works of the creation and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and disposition to do good ones." The latter reflects Jefferson's understanding of the basic goodness of humans. See also, Paine's remarks here.**]

But, we all have our moments, surely idealists. Overall, Paine had a lot good to say, and his writings still stand up nicely in many ways. And, his passion, active rational mind and sharp tongue only add flavor to the whole enterprise. Given classic material of this sort is often hard to take after awhile, this is well appreciated as well. The best seller success of Common Sense suggests it was then as well.


* Paine also is not so keen about this "love thy enemy" stuff. Revenge is dangerous and all, "enemy" often too vague and arbitrary, but the basic concept seemed to him more appropriate to the spaniel. His blunt and wicked tone is also shown in his discussions of the "Holy Ghost," and its connection with the pigeon (dove ... see Jesus' baptism, etc.).

A Few Words On Hitchens' P.O.V.

Though I found the book pleasant reading, it was a bit thin at times ... it is hard to compress so much in under 150 pages and small ones at that. And, apparently, we should take some of the history/analysis with more than a grain of salt as well though there was some criticism of that take. I don't know enough to properly judge all the details, but brief summary works should be taken with some salt all the same.

And, to the degree the book supplies basic history and Paine's (and Burke's) own words for us to judge, it is rather safe as well as a useful effort overall. Still, even a less critical review suggests some slant, shown most directly by Hitchens dedicating the book to the "first elected president of the Republic of Iraq; sworn foe of fascism and theocracy; leader of a national revolution and a people’s army."

But, this is not atypical. A discerning reader understands such things, but judges the work as useful all the same. This is how one should read the papers, for instance, especially given media criticism has ended a credible attempt to take a Pollyanna alternative view. So, overall, I do recommend the book, even if we should recognize Hitchens is an amateur historian with a dog in the fight.


** "Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the Creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible WHOLE is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what GOD is? Search not written or printed books, but the Scripture called the 'Creation.'"

As Hitchens notes, Darwin was born the year Paine died, and brought with him another vision of "creation." Given the want and horrors of the day, "mercy" also seems a bit much. Many ... in England and elsewhere ... had such abundance withheld. Anyway, it is interesting how an argument (first cause etc.) which seems mechanical morphs into an personal one with "mercy" and all that. He had some of that faith mixed in with reason, sure enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A 9/11 Thought

As a NYC resident who also works in mid-town Manhattan, 9/11 affected me as much as anyone else, particularly other than those whose family were hurt/died. The latter includes a front runner in the AG sweepstakes, Ted Olson. Does his wife's death mean that he isn't a right wing hack who doesn't deserve the job? No. I guess "everything" didn't change. I knew that then ... I finished the day out ... and I know it now. Some don't ... they are among the collateral damage. Things changed, things staid the same. This should be a key lesson. Oh, the "pit" is still there. WTF is with that?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Inventing Human Rights

And Also: General P. is full of b.s. (see also Glenn Greenwald) ... but, hey, those who actually make policy actually take him seriously. So, apparently, we have to as well. Meanwhile, NY football started badly ... the NY Giants' pathetic defense sadly only part of the problem. But, the Mets are cruising ... that Philly meltdown was good news in hindsight. Sure, I knew it all the time.

I am an avid reader, and also find some interest in television and film, the former not just as a lazy exercise. Though not really a big fiction reader, I do consume enough real life narrative fare that overall I have read my fair share of narrative over the years. And, when I do, I visualize what is going on in my head. At times, it seems rather real, tangible. It is almost forgotten that these are often not real people, or if they are, I really have no reason to feel attached to them. But, I do. There is a certain connection there, involuntary in a way. It is a special thing. It is comparable to how I feel when reading nonfictional accounts of human stories. I relate with the "characters." Likewise, I try to get into the head of the "characters" who put forth different points of view. Related?

Inventing Human Rights: A History by Lynn Hunt touches upon this reality ... among other things, Hunt suggests that epistolary novels (in the form of letters) of the 18th Century was an important part in the development of such rights. Human rights generally had there qualities -- natural (inherent in human beings), equal (same for all) and universal (applicable everywhere). To have bite, they must also be accepted by political society, not just some ideal "state of nature" or religious concept. And, novels provides a means to do this -- it created a sort of "empathy" ("sympathy" or "sensibility" to those at the time) for others. Classics were favored as a means to learn morality, including fictional ones. The "modern" novel provided a more direct and shall we say up to date (the characters were often familiar ones) emotional experience.

At its core, the Constitution protects "persons." We take that word for granted, but "persons" originated from the masks worn in Greek plays. The masks were a sort of "persona" taken on by those who wore them. And, "human rights" requires that too -- to have such rights, society has to accept a sort of artificial self, an "other" in which even when thinking about ourselves we can in a fashion look at from afar. In effect, we have to formulate a sort of "character" that has a separate existence and rights. This also allows us to honor rights of those outside of our own intimate circle. We can understand things in abstract. And, feel an intimate connection as well.

Human rights after all ultimately come from within. The French philosopher Diderot noted this "interior feeling," Adam Smith spoke of "reason, principle, conscience, the inhabitant of the breast, the man within, the great judge and arbiter of our conduct." Why after all are certain truths "self-evident?" The conceit was that we as humans can use our reason to determine the law, but the early confusion of "natural law" and "natural right" (the French term could be translated either way) suggested the is/ought problem here. One influential natural law philosopher noted: "In order for a law to regulate human actions, it must absolutely accord with the nature and constitution of man and it must relate in the end to his happiness, which is what reason necessarily makes him seek out."

Jean Jacques Burlamaqui's use of "must" is in some fashion a legal fiction unless it is understood to mean what must be followed to provide our happiness. The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) spoke of the dangers of forgetting human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was written by those who knew all too well said danger. Thus, the existence of such rights were assumed via "whereas" clauses, statements of what is already "resolved" and accepted. The existence was accepted to be necessary already, not created by the declaration [the word btw suggests sovereignty, originally kings and such "declared" things] itself.

But, this does not belie the premise. The fact such "law" is inexact and in some fashion vague and arbitrary does not either. "We hold these truths to be self-evident" was good enough in 1776, and it still holds true today. There are various things that grow from reason, or rather experience, and in a fashion, all law is but commentary. And, this is often an internal thing ... the Scottish philosophers that influenced our Jeffersons spoke of an internal moral sense, a conscience. Some here, including many Federalists, were wary about that, Jefferson was more optimistic. But, all accepted it in some fashion. If not, written law can be somewhat meaningless. Haiti aside, and that only by armed conflict, the French Revolution did not do away with slavery in the French colonies.

The book also discusses the move against torture, a widely accepted matter in England and France, in the latter up to the 1780s ... though Voltaire and others had by then pointed to how it was a grave violation of human rights for decades by that point. Torture was problematic on various grounds. For one, the use of the accused/convicted person (it was used both before and after conviction, in part to try to find collaborators ... apropos to Dershowitz, there also was in effect a "torture warrant") in this fashion made him/her a means, not an individual in their own right. Second, there was a growing respect of the privacy of the person and the sanctity of the body (the growth of the personal portrait was an example of the trend). The use of torture against certain dissident religious groups also brought freedom of religion to the table.

And, the secrecy also was deemed problematic, surely open to abuse. But one connection to the modern age. Overall, good book, with some interesting connections made. A suggestion that history and law is a complex thing. A reason why I like reading about them.

[BTW, Christopher Hitchens might be a jerk in some respects, but his book on Thomas Paine, part of a series that provides quick takes on various like characters, is a good read ... at least, so far.]

Saturday, September 08, 2007

College Cost Reduction and Access Act

And Also: Army 101 by David Axe is a quick take on ROTC training at USC (South Carolina) and one of various interesting points includes the lesson that leadership sometimes means knowing what you have. One leadership slip-up involved not realizing the team was not familiar with a certain maneuver, and thus could not follow what the leader deemed a pretty straightforward issue. No whining about how "they" are the problem. The buck stops at the top. A lesson I repeatedly, and not just at 1600 Penn., see forgotten.

The boost in financial aid to college students was one of half a dozen domestic priorities Democrats set when they took control of Congress this year. Two others -- an increase in the minimum wage, and mandatory air and sea cargo inspections -- have become law, and a third, ethics reform, is awaiting Bush's signature.

- AP

As the news cycle is saturated with stuff about Sen. Craig, presidential politics, General P. b.s. and the latest white woman in trouble (celebrities included), Congress passed important student aid bill. [Slate notes that the LAT did make it front page news, while the NYT and WP did not.] Though the 292 to 97 House vote shows many did not stand up to be counted, the bill has strong bipartisan support, so much that the President will go back on his earlier veto threat.

[The article in the NYT speaks of an earlier version, so he might have some cover. The bit about the move to "auction off the right to offer federally backed educational loans to parents state by state, instead of setting the rate from Washington" does sound pretty conservative friendly, no?]

Such support might not be there if the bill was not firmly put out there. See also, the passage of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Still, there were some not too surprising cries of "socialism" ... yes, education is a public responsibility, people. Then again, that socialist Jefferson supported it, so one sees their point. An interesting provision is forgiving of loans for those who join certain public sector professions, shades of the GI Bill, a law various Democrats specifically referenced. Thus:
The final bill, hammered out this week in a House-Senate conference committee, alters many of the ground rules for financing higher education, offering forgiveness on student loans to graduates who work for 10 years or more in public service professions like teaching, firefighting and the police, and limiting monthly payments on federally backed loans to 15 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income.

The law also reduces interest rates on student loans and helps minority colleges [is this constitutional any more?]. The LAT story starts by saying that Congress "approved the largest overhaul of education funding in more than 60 years." The article also cites various statistics on the growing rise of college tuition prices. A primary funding mechanism is removal of subsidies to student loan companies, which some fear will lead to reduction of incentives, but others note give to much (ahem) credit to the good will of private industry. This law would directly benefit the student and the auction provision suggests that there still will be adequate supply of loans.

Again, the end of a subsidy -- corporate welfare -- should be appreciated. The "socialism" of forgiving loans per going into the public sector (a matter that can be expanded ... the military is not the only means to serve one's community) is not that ... it is an incentive program that provides funds for services rendered. The public servant is paid by the public anyway. And, the public needs a well educated populace, as Brown v. Bd. of Ed. reminded us:
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We have a ways to go. As one activist cited in the LAT piece noted, this can be a step in the right direction. And, it doesn't even have an overly cute name. That too is appreciated.

Gender Stuff and Edwards too

And Also: In the give credit where credit is due department, Rudy reminds Glenn Beck that "illegal" immigrants aren't committing "crimes" ... they are in fact processed and deported, not put in jail ... though immigration holding areas can be far from lovely places.

Horror without suspense is like sex without love: you can appreciate the technicalities, but ultimately there’s no reason to care.

-- Last Sentence of a review of the slasher film Hatcher

A telling comment in an ultimately throw-away review of a movie few will hear about and fewer will see. Such is the value of such things, or can be, though some reviewers (often the second stringers) don't have enough fun with them. Good reviews often go beyond the source material ... some in the NY Review of Books spend around half of the space barely mentioning the actual book itself. Anyway, yes, that line was written by a woman. Still, quite a few women "care" about sex without love, since even marriage does not always guarantee that. And, if casual sex is not supposed to be about "caring," well, that does explain a lot of the emotional (and physical) problems that often arise.

A slamdown on a claim by Fred Thompson that no state legislature accepted same sex marriage, just the courts, links to an article that speaks of an attempt in 2005 -- vetoed by Gov. Arnold on the reasonable claim that a "defense of marriage" state constitutional provision barred the move -- to pass "the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act." Interesting framing -- some do think/believe that "religious freedom" includes same sex marriage ceremonies and official secular sanction of them. The article referenced that court action in California made it a leader in the area of interracial marriage. And, a concurring opinion there too referenced how marriage can be a freedom of religion issue.

It should also be noted many people on the Right on not really gung ho about civil unions either. And, a couple state legislatures did pass them, including California and Connecticut. Again, it amuses me that some now suggest "marriage" is the problem ... we are "fine" with other rights of same sex couples. The Sen. Craig mess suggests otherwise. BTW, suggestions by those such as Mitt Romney that we need some constitutional amendment to protect us from states who want to allow it explains why it is soooo easy me for me not to take Republican candidates seriously.

Meanwhile, talking about a woman's P.O.V. ...
Julie wrote on September 7, 2007 8:42 PM:
Yummm, keen brains, good looks, no-nonsense guts and good taste in how to pick a woman. What's not to like?

Good speech too ... the rhetorical devices alone ("instead of," "we," appeals to the future, etc.) stand out. As does a comparison of the pictures on the covers of the hard and soft cover versions of Elizabeth Edwards' bio ... the latter is more troubling. BTW, on a recent Rachel Maddow (Air America) appearance, she reiterated her controversial point that the the first black and woman presidential candidate might be a good story, but it doesn't justify making JE an also ran story.

As is often the case, her blunt speech can rub some the wrong way, but it has some bite. Last time ... didn't seem that long ago ... we were told Kerry was the winnable (not that he would win ...) candidate. But, in fact, some polls etc. suggest Edwards has the best shot in the general, and along with Obama, turns on much of the base (see a quickie straw poll on Thom Hartmann yesterday) as well.

But, apparently, he is an also ran ... self-fulling prophecy?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Civil War ... American Style

In the bargain bin at Borders, I picked up a book about a person who loses his memory, and uses old books, records and so forth to try to regain some sort of memory.

He notes that fascist media stories from the WWII era turn out to be quite useful at telling the truth as a relative discovered. You just have to read in between the lines ... the Italians are brave one place, but "won" other places ... well, that means they lost that other place. And, the BBC apparently confirmed it for his uncle or whomever. This is a useful technique generally, including when you are reading a source that leans a certain way, or has incomplete information. See also, lawyers who cannot lie in court, but can re-arrange the truth in creative ways. This sort of thing helps me out since I'm not a big fan of reading sources that I totally disagree with.

Talking about past wars, I think the Civil War Era provides a useful history lesson. Take the Reconstruction. Many do not have fond memories of the rather small numbers of Union troops that staid on after the Civil War, often in later years sticking pretty close to their bases. We passed a law, weakened of late, specifically barring the use of the military in domestic affairs to guard against this sort of thing ... the thing that calls to mind the reason we have a Second and Third Amendment, in particular to the latter. But, we do not find it problematic ... well, not enough so ... when we send a lot more troops -- much more lethal ones at that ... into domestic areas in foreign countries. KKK attacks or not, we didn't keep the troops down South. And, said removal is not really the reason why blacks had it so hard afterwards.

Then, there is the general deal. Our liar in chief insists that he trusts the generals, sending General Petraeus out to promote "the Surge" (sound stupid, doesn't it?), various sorts telling us we should wait to September for months now to give him a chance to give his report. Such b.s., since we know what he will say, and basically knew it from the beginning. The spin of the "benchmarks" is only the most blatant example of the exercise. Simply put, there is a single forest problem here -- you can focus on the small, and show success, while missing the forest of failure.

[Let's compromise! As Elizabeth Edwards said on Rachel Maddow today, you can always refuse funding until the other side compromises. Oh, then that they will say you don't want to fund the troops. Darn Republican talking points ... oh wait, didn't Obama bring that up? Of course, her husband voted the wrong way 10/02. Still, things like that make me uneasy.]

This forest includes policy. It is the civilian side really, which is how things work here. But, who says we care about how things should work in our system? Anyway, Civil War generals had policy too. We didn't trust the war to McClellan, though. And, the historian James McPherson in a recent essay collection noted that Lee's official report almost made Gettysburg look like a victory for the rebels ... spin, you know.

Guarantee we will have a lot of armchair warriors showing how we could have done a better job in this conflict too. Heck, Bush is already out there saying we should have ended Vietnam differently. Ah, must be interesting to have no shame.


Whoopi noted what a book I'm reading about the ROTC at USC did as well ... illegal dog fighting is prevelant in the area Vick grew up. This fact should be dealt with more, since it is not just about him. But, obviously, it doesn't justify things. It just explains them some -- the importance of the latter is sometimes confused with the former.

BTW, saw a NYT piece on how the Dems are willing to "compromise" on Iraq. WTF? When did they truly stand up? Why don't the side that was WRONG "compromise?" Finally, Seattle really fell apart ... especially since they only needed to win two out of twelve to stay one back from the Yanks. They couldn't do it.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Happy Labor Day -- where are all the labor movies on television?

I added a few new books to the panel. I also finished listening to Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean. I'm sometimes a bit iffy on trying to psychoanalyze politics, but he makes some good points. Useful context ... one of many Republicans (Dean is now a registered Independent) concerned. In fact, the idea for the book arose from talks with Goldwater ... as the title suggests.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday NYT Items

And Also: I see that Slate has fixed a problem per fray posts, and now people can see if someone responded to their posts without having to go to each specific thread. Good job. The rankings of posts by fraysters is hit/miss given those who rank them sometimes do not have the best of tastes.

Linda Greenhouse has an article today about next term's Detainee Cases, which by coincidence I read after reading a bit of the amici brief of Israeli military experts. A brief that notes both the perilous state of Israel over the years as well as its ability to provide basic access to the courts for alleged terrorists. The closing of the article on a repeat offender that pops up here more than once is particularly telling:
Perhaps the most striking of all the briefs is the one filed by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania. The withdrawal of habeas corpus, he tells the justices, “is anathema to fundamental liberty interests,” and the combatant status review tribunal process is so deeply flawed that it “demands robust habeas review.”

Mr. Specter was chairman of the Judiciary Committee when the Military Commissions Act was passed. He was, in fact, one of the 65 senators who voted for it.

Thus, Specter ultimately calls out himself and his party along with the Democratic enablers. On that something, there is an annoying review on an annoying sounding book on how f-ed up the Democrats, in particular new activists, are these days. I am no big defender of party elites as a whole, but the suggestion they have no ideas and just bash Bush (FDR and others btw got in power largely by suggesting the other person is horrible) etc. is stupid.

I am annoyed because I know there is something worth fighting for here. Something to support. I also know that many activists, including in the blogosphere, often are full with ideas. They dislike Bush both because he and his enablers are horrible to the country and because they promote ideas foreign to our own. (I'm a blogger, so can use that pronoun.) One critical review of the book, which apparently has some good reporting bits, points to a problem with the overall theme:
But the basic tenets of progressivism -- fairness and equality; human dignity and the ability to earn a living and support a family, no matter if it is gay or straight, married or not; corporate responsibility and an end to the rampant political corruption and corporate cronyism that so dominates the Republican party; affordable healthcare for all; green economic development; cutting back a bloated military budget and investing in infrastructure and education, and real security without fear-mongering -- none of these ideas are new. And if a candidate ran on them aggressively, and had the necessary resources, he or she would be on the road to getting elected.

True enough. Take Clinton. The core of his success is his personality and his political skill. Add the respect he gets from even those on the left that find him not progressive enough -- respect that comes from promoting basic progressive policies the FDR generation could understand -- you get an idea of why he is so popular. OTOH, his establishment brand has problems. As the review notes, "Bai doesn't get that this aim to democratize the political process is itself a vital and worthy idea." Enough on this 'no idea' and 'just Bush bashing' garbage.

The story of the cycle, however, is obviously Sen. (for now) Craig. I have checked some liberal leaning blog posts on this situation, see e.g. here per Bill Richardson's dubious input, and it is a bit depressing. Some, like Talking Points Memo, are wary of the whole thing ... including the "crime" involved. The Nation had a good piece that was basically sad as well.

Still, many comments are rather over the top, not just on his hypocrisy. Check some of the comments here as well. There is this implication he was found guilty of "public sex" or something. He was not. If this sort of vague "disorderly conduct," including code among some willing participants, is writ large, and it is in various cases, injustice will arise. I listened to the tape, played on Rachel Maddow, that supposedly "proves" his guilt or something. I think it ultimately suggests the limits of those who deem such tapes alone a way to stop the evils of secret interrogations.

The guy is a hypocrite, but what he is charged with here is not worthy of the disgust people on the left are supplying ... and I'm not talking disgust over his hypocrisy, a common trend in politics anyway. Lying to yourself is also a pretty common thing. This does not justify it, especially when it leads to negative public policy, but the scorn is a bit over the top. You join the Republicans, embarrassing the party factors into the job requirement, so that too should factor into the talk about his resignation. Given the party's problems, said embarrassment very well might arise for dubious reasons.

I myself think the voters should get a chance to decide in 2008 whether or not to keep him office. What he did was not so "terrible" to merit early retirement to spend more time with his family. Except, I guess, for his party as a whole. Oh well. It did change the subject, while his resignation suggest the party as a whole is not to blame (so is the spin), so they should not be too upset.

See, in comparison, the far from good news in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another Pro-Same Sex Ruling

And Also: A trip to the supermarket brought forth a nice polyglot flavor of local population. I passed a woman covered in all black, head to toe, when I entered. The presence of various Eastern European products underlines the point as did seeing representatives of Hispanics, Indians, blacks, Eastern Europeans (seemed to be), and yours truly (non-ethnic looking white). The baby held in one of those carriers, by a Hispanic looking guy, was a nice touch too. See also, a trip on the subway.

Glen Greenwald, who was on C-SPAN (rebroadcast) today promoting his book, has a column on the hypocrisy of conservatives respecting the Iowa ruling on same sex marriage. [Earlier, he referenced a good background piece on how advocacy groups were screwed on the FISA amendments.] You know, "traditional marriage" is okay, unless we are talking second or third marriages, or marrying people about the age of your daughter. BTW, how outrageous is it that Sen. Craig is deemed "unforgivable" to the degree the people's choice to elect him should be overridden -- out on the rails so to speak -- for a disorderly conduct charge?

The Iowa ruling is important, sure, and reminds of how it was on the forefront in the post-Civil War Era on racial matters as well (e.g., bans of segregation on public accommodations). Still, the ruling can very well be overruled. It is less likely a ruling from the beginning of last month from the 10th Circuit (arising in Oklahoma) will be ... it would require an en banc ruling or acceptance by the part-timers on the Supreme Court.

First, credit where credit is due. I was looking into the Full Faith and Credit Clause (is the provision respecting "general laws" a means to stop DOMA?*), and a Wikipedia article on the subject popped up. And, this ruling was cited in an update. From the ruling itself, which was unanimous:
Lucy Doel and Jennifer Doel live with their adopted child E in Oklahoma. E was born in Oklahoma. Lucy Doel adopted E in California in January 2002. Jennifer Doel adopted E in California six months later in a second parent adoption, a process used by step-parents to adopt the biological child of a spouse without terminating the parental rights of that spouse. OSDH issued E a supplemental birth certificate naming only Lucy Doel as her mother. The Doels have requested a revised birth certificate from OSDH that would acknowledge Jennifer Doel as E's parent, but OSDH denied the request.

This arose from a state rule, added after the attorney general held the alternative was illegal under current law, that supplied birth certificates in such adoption cases, except when same sex couples are involved. No go. Yes, there is a "public policy" exception that pops up when dealing with marriages, but this arose from an adoption judgment. And, the rule for them tends to be stricter. It cited a Supreme Court rule on point: "no roving 'public policy exception' to the full faith and credit due judgments." Furthermore:
If Oklahoma had no statute providing for the issuance of supplementary birth certificates for adopted children, the Doels could not invoke the Full Faith and Credit Clause in asking Oklahoma for a new birth certificate. ... The Doels merely ask Oklahoma to apply its own law to “enforce” their adoption order in an “even-handed” manner.

This ruling underlines that equality involves any number of provisions in a myriad of situations. Protection of the familial rights of same sex couples highlights the point. This is not just about marriage, but the many incidents thereof. Thus, "they were told by both an ambulance crew and emergency room personnel that only 'the mother' could accompany E and thus initially faced a barrier to being with their child in a medical emergency." BTW, this general area warrants a closing thought from a Kentucky ruling striking down an anti-sodomy law, hearkening back to pro-privacy rulings of the 19th Century in the process:
The Commonwealth, on the other hand, presented no witnesses and offers no scientific evidence or social science data. Succinctly stated, its position is that the majority, speaking through the General Assembly, has the right to criminalize sexual activity it deems immoral, without regard to whether the activity is conducted in private between consenting adults and is not, in and of itself, harmful to the participants or to others; that, if not in all instances, at least where there is a Biblical and historical tradition supporting it, there are no limitations in the Kentucky Constitution on the power of the General Assembly to criminalize sexual activity these elected representatives deem immoral.

-- Commonwealth v. Wasson

The case referenced the security given to private ownership and use of alcohol in particular. More evidence that, yes Virginia, Griswold v. Connecticut was not somehow a creation akin to Athena popping out of the head of Zeus.


* Probably. Julie L.B. Johnson, "Comment, The Meaning of 'General Laws': The Extent of Congress's Power Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act," 145 U. PA. L. REV. 1611 (1997) (questioning both DOMA's constitutionality and the power of Congress to limit the application of full faith and credit generally).