Friday, July 29, 2005

Lady Madonna, Liberals at Your Feet ...

This can best be described as a cartoon-rant. It's Friday, and I'm in a rather snarky mood so this cartoon by Mr. Fish kind of hit the spot. The round-the-clock-Clinton-hating conservatives would probably enjoy this cartoon too -- that is, if they were capable of laughing. (I have my doubts.)

Can Frist Survive Pissing Off the Religious Right?

We'll eventually learn the answer to that question because, according to the Associated Press:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday threw his support behind House-passed legislation to expand federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, breaking with President Bush and religious conservatives in a move that could impact his prospects for seeking the White House in 2008.

"It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Frist, R-Tenn., said on the floor of the Senate.

Frist's announcement immediately dented his support among Christian conservatives but won lavish praise from former first lady Nancy Reagan, who said it "has the potential to alleviate so much suffering."
And hell hath no fury like the Religious Right scorned. As the AP reports:
The Christian Defense Coalition lambasted Frist's change of position. "Sen. Frist should not expect support and endorsement from the pro-life community if he votes for embryonic research funding," it said.

"Senator Frist cannot have it both ways. He cannot be pro-life and pro-embryonic stem cell funding," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the group. "Nor can he turn around and expect widespread endorsement from the pro-life community if he should decide to run for president in 2008."

Santorum Is Clear ... Well, Kind of Clear, I Mean....

On Wednesday night, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylssippi) was interviewed on MSNBC's "Hardball" and discussed his new book. Excerpts from the interview by host Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Well, the great thing about you, Senator, is that you are clear. You are a conservative …
Exactly how clear is Santorum about what he believes? When Matthews asked the senator about Hillary Clinton:
MATTHEWS: Is she a big-government socialist?

SANTORUM: Look at her voting record. The answer to that is pretty clear. And she has got a lot of ...

MATTHEWS: Well, what is your answer?

SANTORUM: The answer is yes …
Well, sort of.
SANTORUM: ... I mean, she’s ....

(Crosstalk between Matthews and Santorum)

MATTHEWS: She‘s a big-government socialist?

SANTORUM: Well, socialist may be a little hard. But she‘s...

(More crosstalk)

MATTHEWS: Well, it was my word. Is it yours?

SANTORUM: I would not use the term socialist. I would ….

(More crosstalk)

MATTHEWS: OK, what would you call her, big government ...?

SANTORUM: She is a liberal.
Yessiree, Santorum’s definitely clear. It just takes him five minutes to be clear.

The Evilest City on Earth

Just a brief note from the Air France departure lounge before resuming radio silence. This bloody French keyboard (the "q" is where the "a" should be, for instance) will drive me nuts before long in any case.

After a week in Paris with the wife and kids, I can report that it is even worse than we thought. I already knew that Paris was the home of the evildoer Jacques Chirac. But I didn't know that it was also the first major European city to elect an openly gay mayor (he was stabbed and hospitalized three years ago, but the attacker was an immigrant, so I don't think Parisians should get full credit for that). Also, not one Parisian I met apologized for being in the Axis of Weasels, and I think they were secretly laughing at my American accent. Oh, sure, they seemed happy when Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France again last weekend, but I think that's just an act.

The clinching proof is the computer I'm using. Not only are they so arrogant as to have a different keyboard--what, QWERTY's not good enough for them?--but Air France has put a Macintosh in the lounge. If there's anything more un-American than a Mac, I can't think of it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

MoveOn: Move Off the Rove Ads


I don't know how long MoveOn.org plans to continue its TV ad buy, which urges President Bush to fire Karl Rove. But I saw the ad again last night, and it strikes me as a waste of money.

I despise Rove as much as the next (progressive) person. He may well have violated federal law. Dems and their allies should certainly continue to criticize Rove's behavior and urge the press to dig deeper into this. But is this truly worth the expense of a $125,000 TV ad campaign?

I don't think so. After all, we're not talking about a U.S. senator, a judge or another position for which there might be some possibility of replacing Rove with someone we would actually like. Even if we assume the best case scenario -- i.e., Rove resigns or is pushed out by Bush -- the outcome would not change the political dynamics all that much.

Bush could hire someone to replace Rove on the White House staff who might prove to be every bit as repugnant as Rove, maybe even more so. (Yes, I know that's hard to fathom.)

Additionally, bear in mind that Bush could (and likely would) continue to check in with Rove and seek his counsel even after Rove is off the White House payroll. There's no law that forbids this, and there's no law that requires a president to report with whom he is consulting on political affairs.

Since its founding, MoveOn.org has helped to shape political dialogue in some positive ways. But in politics, as in business, it's worth considering the "opportunity cost" factor -- deciding to spend X amount of money for Purpose A necessarily means that X isn't available for Purpose B.

This $125,000 could have been spent more wisely.

Top 'o the Mornin' to Peace

Lift a pint of 'o yer favorite lager and cheer the news. The New York Times reports:
The Irish Republican Army today declared an end to its campaign of violence against Britain that claimed more than 3,500 lives over 36 years in an effort to unify Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic.

... "This may be the day on which, finally, after all these false dawns and dashed hopes, peace replaced war, politics replaces terror on the island of Ireland," Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a televised statement in London.

The statement by the IRA said that its leadership had "formally ordered an end to the armed campaign," as the organization calls its military activities, which are described by supporters as armed struggle and by adversaries as terrorism.

The shift followed growing revulsion among its Catholic supporters, both here and in the United States, at the I.R.A.'s involvement in organized crime and, since Sept. 11, at global terrorism.

"Our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland. We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country," the statement said, apparently referring to the advances of its Sinn Fein political arm in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

"All I.R.A. units have been ordered to dump arms," said the (recorded) statement ... by a former I.R.A. prisoner, Seanna Walsh. The statement also pledged "to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use" -- a reference to the I.R.A.'s reputedly vast hidden stockpiles of weapons.

The I.R.A. also invited two independent clerics, one Catholic, one Protestant, to "testify" to disarmament.
If that reference to beer bothered anyone who felt it played to ethnic stereotypes, please be reassured that I am well aware that the Irish have nothing over the British when it comes to guzzling beer.

Republicans At Work

I don't really have anything to add to this
The House narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement this morning, delivering a hard-fought victory to President Bush while underscoring the nation's deep divisions over trade.

The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval.

[edit]

To win, the White House and GOP congressional leaders had to overcome resistance from dozens of Republican members who were also loath to vote for the accord because of issues ranging from the perceived threat to the U.S. sugar industry to more general worries about the impact of global trade on U.S. jobs.

[edit]

The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.

Beckel's Willingness to Cave

In this column, USA Today shares a conversation about the separation of church and state between Cal Thomas, the syndicated columnist and former Falwell lieutenant, and Democratic operative Bob Beckel. But I'm annoyed that USA Today handed Beckel the role of supposedly representing my side of this debate.

At various points, Beckel's comments are very much at odds with my thinking and probably at odds with millions of other Americans who believe in church-state separation. At one point, Beckel informs Thomas:
"... there is a middle ground. Religious conservatives want to get prayer back as a formal part of the public school day. If that was the extent of religion in schools, and addressed your 'free exercise of religion' point, let's discuss it."
Beckel may be open to allowing religious prayers to become "a formal part" of the public school day, but I am not. At another point, there is this exchange:
Thomas: "OK, OK, I know a lot of you liberals view public expressions of faith the way Dracula felt about a cross, but can't we agree that Christians, especially, shouldn't expect government to do their work and government shouldn't discriminate against people who have faith in a kingdom not of this world?"

Beckel: "Cal, I wish I would see more public expressions of faith ..."
Why? Whatever one's religious beliefs happen to be, it seems to me that the integrity of those beliefs is often trivialized and sullied when they are turned into public expressions. Public expressions of faith are often a tool for grandstanding by politicians and others.

In their minds, many of the pro-life and conservative activists who rushed down to Florida earlier this year to protest and "pray" for Terri Schiavo were making a public expression of their faith. Did they have that right? Absolutely. And they still do. Was their public expression a self-indulgent charade? In the case of many of them, I think the answer is yes.

Andy Card Praises Public Service*

* - when the public service provider is George W. Bush. In yesterday's Washington Post, Christopher Lee wrote:
Uncle Sam wants you -- well, not all of you.

Andrew H. Card Jr. had some candid advice for 2,000 Washington interns who gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building on Monday evening to hear him speak at an event intended to recruit talented people into the federal civil service. Some of you should go corporate, the White House chief of staff told them.

"There are many programs for young people to have employment opportunities, but the greatest employment opportunities in our society come through the private sector," said Card, a former vice president of General Motors Corp. ... "And so I don't think that everyone who is looking for a job should expect or even want a job with the federal government or one of our agencies. In fact, our economy would not do very well if people just worked for the government."
Very true, which may explain why "everyone who is looking for a job" is not seeking employment with the federal government. Since Card had to know that his audience was well aware of this fact, his remark is exposed as little more than a backhanded slap at the public sector.

In fairness, I should add that Lee reported that these remarks by Card were preceded by others in which Card did have something nice to say about public service -- at least when it's provided by a certain someone:
[Card] had just given a 30-minute speech on the value of public service, most of which focused on his great admiration for President Bush and his performance in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Card was speaking at an annual event that is hosted by the Partnership for Public Service. The Partnership is a nonprofit group whose mission is to make the federal government "an employer of choice for talented, dedicated Americans." Lee reported that Partnership President Max Stier had this reaction to Card's remarks:
"Taken in isolation you would say, 'Well, why would he say that?' " Stier said, adding that the comment has to be taken in a broader context. "He's saying that the private sector is the largest component of our economy and, therefore, most jobs are going to be there."
Yes, it was so important for Card to point out the obvious -- especially at an event designed to recruit young people for government jobs. (Back in the 1980s and '90s, how many Silicon Valley job recruiters felt it necessary to tell college students, "... Of course, I hasten to point out that the tech sector is only one of many sectors in the U.S. economy, and most of the jobs are going to be in those other sectors.")

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Stier would offer this lame reaction. In Washington, that's how the game is played -- it's all about maintaining "access" and being "a player" (terms that they rarely define). So when the people in power practically spit in your eye, you respond by smiling, nodding appropriately and declaring yourself pleased.

You will never catch me asking myself or anyone (to paraphrase Stier): "Why would Andrew Card say that?" I know why he would say that, and so does Stier. Because the ideology that he and his Bushies embrace is largely about disparaging and demonizing government.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Witness

The lastest post from the Coalition for Darfur is available here.

It focuses on the lack of media coverage the genocide is receiving and floats the idea of embedding journalists with the AU mission currently serving in Darfur.

That is Odd

Manuel Miranda's newest column begins and concludes thusly
Three years ago Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) stood on the floor of the Senate and said: "Mr. President, I take the opportunity today to right a wrong. Over the past two years, members of the Federalist Society have been much maligned by some of my Democrat colleagues, no doubt because they see political advantage in doing so. The Federalist Society has even been presented as an 'evil cabal' of conservative lawyers. Its members have been subjected to questions that remind one of the McCarthy hearings of the early 1950s. Detractors have painted a picture which is surreal, twisted and untrue."

[edit]

Rather than assist the left in creating a conservative bogeyman, here is a user-friendly defense of the Federalist Society: Again, the words are Orrin Hatch's. The Federalist Society stands for three propositions, he said: "that government's essential purpose is the preservation of freedom; that our Constitution embraces and requires separation of governmental powers; and that judges should interpret the law, not write it. For the vast majority of Americans, these are not controversial issues."

As Orrin Hatch concluded in his speech three years ago: The Federalist Society is "not quite the vast right-wing conspiracy hobgoblin some [Democrats] would have the American people believe." And it's nothing that a Republican White House should appear to repudiate.
It is a bit odd that Miranda would so approvingly cite Hatch, considering that he believes Hatch betrayed him by refusing to defend him when Memogate broke
I do admit that reading Democrats' documents on an unprotected server to help defend the president's embattled nominees was political hardball, and I have learned that one shouldn't play hardball with a limp-wristed team captain.
Since then, Miranda has repeatedly savaged Hatch, at one point even challenging him to a public debate.

Yet just one year later, here we have Miranda glowingly quoting Hatch. What gives?

Well, now that I think about it, what was Miranda doing "three years ago?"

According to the Pickle Report
Mr. Miranda joined the staff of the Judiciary Committee in December 2001.

[edit]

In January 2003, Mr. Miranda left the Judiciary Committee and took a position in the office of Majority Leader Frist.
Hmmm ... I wonder who was the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee at that time?

Why, it was Orrin Hatch.

What a coincidence! Miranda just happened to be working for Hatch on the issue of judicial nominations at the exact same time that Hatch delivered his "Federalist Society - Setting the Record Straight" speech on July 26, 2002 - the very same speech Miranda is now quoting.

You don't suppose that Miranda had anything to do with the drafting of Hatch's Federalist Society remarks do you?

Do you think that Miranda might be, while approvingly quoting Hatch (a man he clearly despises,) actually quoting a speech that he wrote for Hatch?

Nah, probably not. After all, a man who admits to accessing and reading thousands of internal Democratic memos and then defends his actions by claiming that his "parents never taught me not to read other people's mail" would never do something so dishonest. Would he?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bullshit

Following up on Frederick's post, I came across this from Editor and Publisher
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, drew the ire of some newspaper editors, who said, in interviews with E&P, that they are doing the best they can with what they have.

Limited resources, as well as a war in Iraq, terrorist coverage, and, some admit, a lack of understanding or interest by readers in the Sudanese region's problems, are all part of the reason that the Darfur story is not top of budget.

[edit]

Most editors who spoke with E&P agreed that the Darfur story should get more attention due to its seriousness. But, each reminded Kristoff of the realities at today's daily papers. Budget cuts, other worldwide stories like Irag and terrorism, and limited reader interest, require a broad approach, they said.

"If we don't cover the Michael Jacksons, that will be our demise," said John Yearwood, world editor of The Miami Herald. "That is what the public wants. But, we ought to make the commitment to also give Darfur or Rwanda attention if we can."
What the public wants and what warrants coverage are two completely different things.

In Iraq, Water Looks More Like Tequila

Today on his blog Hullabaloo, Digby writes:
So, people in Baghdad have worms in their drinking water and no electricity during the worst heat of the day. If someone wants to know why they hate us, that's a good place to start.
And the Knight Ridder news article that Digby links to includes this quote from an Iraqi man:
"We thank God that the air we breathe is not in the hands of the government. Otherwise they would have cut it off for a few hours each day."
Yes, it sure sounds like the Iraqis are just lovin' their 21st century democracy.

Oh, and by the way, the words that made up that last quote actually came from the mouth of a living Iraqi person: 39-year-old Nadeem Haki, who is a shop owner in an eastern suburb of Baghdad. I make this point only to distinguish this quote from certain quotes that have proven quite popular with the U.S. military -- quotes from non-existent Iraqi men.

Introducing John and Jane Roberts

Free Market, Free Schmarket

Republicans are forever extolling the virtues of the free market, which is why I enjoyed reading this column by the New York Times' John Tierney:

[Dell] LeFevre, who is 65, has no affection for the hikers who want his cows out of the red-rock canyons and mesas in southern Utah, where his family has been ranching for five generations.

He has considered environmentalism a dangerous religion since the day in 1991 when he and his father-in-law found two dozen cows shot to death, perhaps by someone determined to reclaim a scenic stretch of the Escalante River canyon.

... But [Mr. LeFevre] is not bitter when he talks about the deal he made with an environmentalist named Bill Hedden, the executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust. Mr. Hedden's group doesn't use lobbyists or lawsuits (or guns) to drive out ranchers. These environmentalists get land the old-fashioned way. They buy it.

To reclaim the Escalante River canyon, Mr. Hedden bought the permits that entitle Mr. LeFevre's cows to graze on the federal land near the river. He figures it was a good deal for the environment because native shrubs and grasses are reappearing, now that cows aren't eating and trampling the vegetation.

Mr. LeFevre likes the deal because it enabled him to buy grazing permits for higher ground that's easier for him and his cows to reach than the canyon.

And Republicans should like it too, right? I mean this is all about two parties voluntarily entering into a win-win kind of transaction -- it's the highly venerated "free market" at work.

But, no. Utah politicians (the vast majority of whom are Republicans) and the Bush administration are fighting the permit purchases. Tierney explains:
Even though Mr. LeFevre and other ranchers along the Escalante willingly sold their grazing permits, local and state politicians are fighting to put cows back on those lands. They say their communities and the ranching way of life will be destroyed if grazing lands are allowed to revert to nature, and they've found sympathetic ears in the Bush administration.

The Interior Department has decided that environmentalists can no longer simply buy grazing permits and retire them. Under its reading of the law -- not wholly shared by predecessors in the Clinton administration -- land currently being used by ranchers has already been determined to be "chiefly valuable for grazing" and can be opened to herds at any time if the B.L.M.'s "land use planning process" deems it necessary.

But why should a federal bureaucrat decide what's "chiefly valuable" about a piece of land? Mr. Hedden and Mr. LeFevre have discovered a "land use planning process" of their own: see who will pay the most for it. If an environmentalist offers enough to induce a rancher to sell, that's the best indication the land is more valuable for hiking than for grazing.

A Good Reason for Media-Bashing

In today's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof takes his fellow media professionals out to the woodshed, and rightly so. He writes:
Some of us in the news media have been hounding President Bush for his shameful passivity in the face of genocide in Darfur. More than two years have passed since the beginning of what Mr. Bush acknowledges is the first genocide of the 21st century, yet Mr. Bush barely manages to get the word "Darfur" out of his mouth.

Still, it seems hypocritical of me to rage about Mr. Bush's negligence, when my own beloved institution -- the American media -- has been at least as passive as Mr. Bush.

Condi Rice finally showed up in Darfur a few days ago, and she went out of her way to talk to rape victims and spotlight the sexual violence used to terrorize civilians. Most American television networks and cable programs haven't done that much.

... This is a column I don't want to write -- we in the media business have so many critics already that I hardly need to pipe in as well. But after more than a year of seething frustration, I feel I have to.

... if we journalists are to demand a legal privilege to protect our sources, we need to show that we serve the public good - which means covering genocide as seriously as we cover, say, Tom Cruise .... Serious newspapers have done the best job of covering Darfur, and I take my hat off to Emily Wax of The Washington Post and to several colleagues at The Times for their reporting. Time magazine gets credit for putting Darfur on its cover -- but the newsweeklies should be embarrassed that better magazine coverage of Darfur has often been in Christianity Today.

The real failure has been television's. According to monitoring by the Tyndall Report, ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year -- and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings. NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes -- about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks.

Incredibly, more than two years into the genocide, NBC, aside from covering official trips, has still not bothered to send one of its own correspondents into Darfur for independent reporting.

"Generally speaking, it's been a total vacuum," said John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, speaking of television coverage. "I blame policy makers for not making better policy, but it sure would be easier if we had more media coverage."

When I've asked television correspondents about this lapse, they've noted that visas to Sudan are difficult to get and that reporting in Darfur is expensive and dangerous.

True, but TV crews could at least interview Darfur refugees in nearby Chad. After all, Diane Sawyer traveled to Africa this year -- to interview Brad Pitt, underscoring the point that the networks are willing to devote resources to cover the African stories that they consider more important than genocide.

... The BBC has shown that outstanding television coverage of Darfur is possible. And, incredibly, mtvU (the MTV channel aimed at universities) has covered Darfur more seriously than any network or cable station. When MTV dispatches a crew to cover genocide and NBC doesn't, then we in journalism need to hang our heads.

So while we have every right to criticize Mr. Bush for his passivity, I hope that he criticizes us back. We've behaved as disgracefully as he has.

Quid Pro Quo?

Boyden Gray created an organization at the behest of Trent Lott for the sole purpose of pushing for the confirmation of Bush's judicial nominees
Mr. Lott told veteran Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers Republicans needed a group to go "toe to toe with Ralph Neas," according to a person familiar with the situation. The two agreed on Mr. Gray, who, as White House counsel, had bested Mr. Neas during the emotional fight over the Thomas Supreme Court nomination in 1991.

After hearing from Mr. Rogers, Mr. Gray says, in July 2003 he formed the Committee for Justice, a three-person operation that so far has concentrated on shoring up Republican support for Bush nominees. The committee sometimes coordinates with another group on which Mr. Gray serves as co-chairman, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which usually lobbies on economic issues. The latter group had a 2002 budget of $8 million, but has since spun off part of its operations. The nomination work is only part-time duty for Mr. Gray, who doesn't take a salary from the committee. He is a Washington lawyer and lobbyist for clients such as Citigroup Inc.
Two years later, after raising million of dollars for the effort and helping Bush achieve a 90+% confirmation rate, Gray has been rewarded with an ambassadorship
The President intends to nominate C. Boyden Gray, of the District of Columbia, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the Rank and Status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Mr. Gray is currently a Partner with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Washington, D.C. He previously served as White House Counsel. Prior to that, Mr. Gray served as Legal Counsel to the Vice President. Earlier in his career, he clerked for the Honorable Earl Warren, Chief Justice, United States Supreme Court. Mr. Gray received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hmmm, for some reason they left out Gray's role as head of the Committee for Justice in his bio. I guess that it's not all that important.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Who Wants to Move to New Jersey?

Um, not me
Ashtrays have been disappearing in cars like fins on Cadillacs, and so could smoking while driving in New Jersey, under a measure introduced in the Legislature.

[edit]

Those cigars, pipes and cigarettes would become no-nos for drivers. Offenders would be stung with a fine of up to $250, under the measure, whose sponsor said it's designed more to improve highway safety than protect health.

[edit]

Assemblyman John McKeon, a tobacco opponent whose father died of emphysema, sponsored the legislation. He cites a AAA-sponsored study on driver distractions in which the automobile association found that of 32,000 accidents linked to distraction, 1 percent were related to smoking.

The measure, co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorretta Weinberg, a fellow Democrat, was introduced last month just before lawmakers' summer break.
If idiotic Democrats continue to submit idiotic bills like this, I just might have to become a Republican.

I wonder if this bill would prevent me from smoking in John McKeon's car? Because that is what I am gonna do after I steal it (but before I drive it into the river.)

This Bush Pledge Is Not "Quite Clear"

I just posted excerpts of a letter written by Hoover Institution fellow Larry Diamond. Diamond is engaging in a debate over the Iraqi quagmire with Dan Senor, who was a senior adviser to Paul Bremer.

Diamond closed by asking Senor:
What are we in Iraq for: to build democracy — which requires not only freedom but order, and thus a dramatic reduction of this violence — or to secure the long-term projection of American military power from Iraqi soil, which most Iraqis will not accept?
Now, excerpts of Senor's response:
Larry,

We agree that it's important to counter any misperception that the United States has desires for a permanent or even long-term military presence in Iraq.

Indeed, President Bush was quite clear on this in his June 28 address to the nation: "I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. ... We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer."
It's silly for Senor to call that "quite clear" when it is nothing of the kind. The context for Bush's "not a day longer" remark is the thousands of troops who are actively policing the cities and streets of Iraq.

Such a statement by Bush does not dismiss the possibility that the Pentagon might use military bases in Iraq to establish a long-term presence in the country.

Then, Senor mischaracterizes Diamond's support for a "time frame" for U.S. troop withdrawal. In doing so, Senor engages in some hyperbolic analysis:
... I do not believe that if we made even more declarations about troop presence the violence would suddenly slow down.
No one's suggesting that a time frame causes the violence to "suddenly slow down." But, by taking one of the insurgency's best recruiting arguments off the table — evil America wants to create a permanent base in our homeland — it might begin to lessen the violence, and over time that might be just enough for a sense of order to prevail.

Besides, does Senor have any better proposal -- that is, other than the bold and glorious "stay the course" rhetoric?

"Jane, You Ignorant Slut ..."

Well, not quite. CBS's "Point-Counterpoint" is long gone -- as well as the comedic references to it. But on Slate.com, the Hoover Institution's Larry Diamond and Dan Senor, who was a senior adviser to Paul Bremer in Iraq, are engaged in an ongoing literary chess game -- writing, proposing, retorting, responding and conjecturing about the quagmire that is Iraq.

In his most recent post, Diamond made some compelling arguments, and his final question is definitely a zinger:
... we can't succeed in Iraq unless we sharply reduce this violence, and we can't do that unless we understand who is waging it and why.

It is a common (if not deliberate) misperception to portray the violent resistance in Iraq as all of one piece—or as largely foreign. The overwhelming majority of the roughly 10,000 detainees are Iraqi, not foreign. So are the vast majority of the insurgents who are planting roadside bombs, killing American troops ...

... For at least a year and a half now, representatives of a number of the Sunni-based insurgent groups have been signaling through intermediaries a desire to talk to the United States and a potential readiness to end the violent struggle through negotiation. While some talks have occurred, these have mainly been at a low (local, tactical) level.

The Bush administration has been halfheartedly probing possibilities and adjusting its posture but has not yet seized the initiative.

... The indigenous Iraqi resistance is not demanding immediate American withdrawal. But they want a schedule by which they can look over the horizon and see, even if three or five years hence, a time when Iraq will be free of foreign troops.

We do not need to commit to a fixed timetable in order to articulate some time frame by which we expect to be gone .... This then shifts the burden to the insurgents and their supporters to rein in the violence if they really want American troops gone. But it also puts the burden on us to renounce the pursuit of long-term military bases in Iraq.

Dan, why has the administration repeatedly skirted this issue of long-term bases? Will you address it in closing this dialogue?

What are we in Iraq for: to build democracy — which requires not only freedom but order, and thus a dramatic reduction of this violence — or to secure the long-term projection of American military power from Iraqi soil, which most Iraqis will not accept?

Right Engages the Public ... Left Goes to Court

Again and again, this seems to accurately sum up the strategy embraced by groups traditionally identified on the right and left sides of the ideological spectrum. And, writing as someone who generally falls a la gauche, it really worries me.

On Saturday, I received a fundraising solicitation in the mail from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), a group that does a commendable job fighting efforts by the Religious Right to shatter church-state separation. This mailing, like similar ones from other interest groups, contained a reprinted news article -- one that appeared in the New York Times on June 29.

The article was headlined, "Conservatives Seek Voters' Support for (Ten) Commandments." The article includes a ridiculously misleading analogy -- this quote by conservative Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.):
"Those people who want to express their religious beliefs on public property should enjoy the same rights that we provide to those protesting the war in Iraq."
Uh, congressman, religious people in America enjoy far more rights than anti-war protesters. I don't recall in recent years hearing of mass arrests of religious marchers akin to what happened in August '04 to anti-war protesters in New York City. But I digress.

In the Times article, AU President Barry Lynn refers to recent Supreme Court rulings as he declares that "our hand was strengthened significantly" by the high court rulings. Maybe so, maybe not. But focusing on the immediate legal impact of those rulings misses the big picture.

Although Lynn said AU would hold off of filing additional lawsuits, the Times reported that AU "had four pending suits to remove other displays of the Commandments." Although I support these kinds of lawsuits, I'm concerned that our side is too one-dimensional. We need to develop a grassroots, outreach effort that engages the public, building a coalition of churches and other groups that understands and supports the principle of church-state separation.

Unfortunately, nothing in AU's mailing suggests that they are developing such a grassroots, educational effort.

The Religious Right is rolling out a grassroots strategy that is likely to coincide with the 2006 elections -- a strategy in which they take their message directly to the America people. AU and allied groups need to take their message beyond the courtroom to the public square.

The U.S. Military Gets Caught Fabricating Quotes

CNN reported Sunday:

The U.S. military on Sunday said it was looking into how virtually identical quotations ended up in two of its news releases about different insurgent attacks.

Following a car bombing in Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military issued a statement with a quotation attributed to an unidentified Iraqi that was virtually identical to a quote reacting to an attack on July 13.

... Following are the two quotes as provided by the U.S. military in news releases:

Sunday's news release said: " 'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified."

The July 13 news release said: " 'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. 'They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.' "

But here's my favorite part of the article:

After questioning by news media, the military released the statement without the quotation.

Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, spokesman for the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said use of the quote was an "administrative error." He said the military was looking into the matter.

Something tells me that the only "error" committed by someone in the U.S. military was this -- instead of making up a new quote, a military press officer tried to pass off the same fictitious quote from the same fictitious Iraqi man.

You can bet that the military's investigation into how virtually identical quotes showed up in different press releases will be conducted with all of the fervor that Inspector Renault displayed in the film "Casablanca."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Does Greenspan Deserve Such Brown-Nosing?

Few things are more annoying than watching members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee talk themselves silly as they sing the praises of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Watching a replay of last Wednesday's hearing on C-Span (I live a bohemian life, don't I?), I just heard Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) heap praise on Greenspan for providing a "living seminar" on economics for young members of Congress like himself.

But particularly pathetic were the remarks by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) who took his brown-nosing to such a level that he felt compelled to identify Greenspan as a "handsome" man. Yo, Congressman Pearce: hands off -- Greenspan already has a spouse.

Has Greenspan earned such lavish praise? That's not a rhetorical question -- I'm open to arguments that some of the 1990's economic expansion flowed from Fed interest rate policies. Still, this is Greenspan, the former Ayn Rand devotee who has remained steadfast in his support for the Bush tax cuts even as he acknowledged in March that "we were all wrong" in predicting future federal budget surpluses.

Of course, it's one thing to have supported these tax cuts, but it's another to pretend (as Greenspan has on occasion) that these tax breaks wouldn't have consequences for the federal budget. In 2004, for example, Greenspan told Congress, "I am for lower taxes and lower spending and lower deficits." Kind of like being for less toothbrushing and fewer cavities.

Sure, Greenspan says Congress should take swift action to reduce the deficit, but if you believe the Bush tax cuts should remain in place -- as he does -- such rules simply mean making massive cuts in spending. Such cuts would severely harm the health and education of millions of Americans.

This mean-spirited remedy is not a hero's prescription. And it sure as hell is not an "economic seminar" that should guide Congress' actions.

Whatever

I am growing really tired of this
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, visiting a Rwandan genocide memorial on Saturday, expressed regret for his "personal failure" to prevent the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 people.

On a brief visit to look at HIV/AIDS projects in the central African country, Clinton laid a wreath at a museum commemorating victims of the 100-day massacre by extremists from the Hutu majority which took place during his presidency.

"I express regret for my personal failure," he said before touring the museum, which features graphic images of people being decapitated and bodies twitching on the road.
If you want to know why I don't buy it, read this and this.

On top of that, if Clinton really did regret his lack of action in Rwanda, then he would be vocal about the need to address the current situation in Darfur. But, of course, he has been entirely silent on the matter.

Friday, July 22, 2005

How Are Things Going in the Congo?

Pretty well
Rwandan rebels on the run from U.N. peacekeepers shot or stabbed to death 13 civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a provincial governor said on Friday.

"Thirteen civilians were executed last night in a group of villages in the territory of Mwenga," Didace Kaningini, interim governor of South Kivu province, told Reuters by telephone from the local capital Bukavu.

"It was the FDLR (Rwandan rebels) that did this as they were retreating from U.N. military operations ... Survivors said armed men came into the village and started shooting. The population fled but some were stabbed and others were shot."

[edit]

Last week some 39 people were burned alive in an attack blamed on the Rwandan rebels which some locals said was carried out as a punishment for supporting U.N. peacekeepers.
Thanks for asking.

What if You Held a Hearing and Nobody Showed Up?

I guess one of the perks of being in the minority means that you don't have to bother with petty things like questioning former members of the Bush White House when they are tapped to become the State Department’s top public relations official.

Irony Alert: It's About the Lying

The Rove case might not be about the leak itself, it might be about the lying...under oath. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case.

Lewis “Scooter'’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.

These discrepancies may be important because one issue Fitzgerald is investigating is whether Libby, Rove, or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a CIA agent.

Later Alligator

I'm off to the blissful and beautiful Chautauqua Institute for a week, an annual family vacation retreat. I'll check in periodically but for the most part won't be around much. It's sort of a test to see just how truly addicitive blogging truly is...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Troops' Departure from Iraq: No Time Soon

As the New York Times noted in this article on Thursday, "The Bush administration has said U.S. forces cannot leave Iraq until American-trained Iraqi security forces are capable of protecting their own country ..."

Well, in that case, our military personnel are likely to be over there for a long time. The Times reports:
Only half of Iraq's police battalions are capable of carrying out operations against insurgents, while two-thirds of army battalions and the rest of the police are no more than "partially capable," according to a U.S. military assessment made public on Thursday.

"Only a small number of Iraqi Security Forces are taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves," according to an unclassified assessment provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace ...

Pace's assessment was provided to reporters the same day the Pentagon gave lawmakers, more than a week late, a 23-page congressionally mandated report on the status of Iraq on political, economic and security fronts.

... Pace, poised to become the top U.S. military officer this fall, told lawmakers only about a third of Iraqi army battalions were capable of planning, executing and sustaining operations against insurgents with the support of U.S.-led foreign forces.

Abstract Bush Jokes

I just thought these were funny
Q: How many telemarketers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Wouldn't a more relevant question be "How many pounds of cocaine has Bush snorted?"

- - - -

A doctor, a lawyer, and an accountant all die and go to heaven on the same day. When they get to the Pearly Gates, they are greeted by St. Peter. St. Peter says, "Scott McClellan is a lying sack of shit and I'd tell him so myself if he weren't going straight to hell when he dies."

- - - -

Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino?

A: I'm not sure, but if the answer is "A cure for Parkinson's disease," then Bush will try to stop scientists from breeding them. Because he likes it when people get Parkinson's.

- - - -

This guy walks into a bar carrying a small poodle in one hand and a bowling ball in the other. The guy says, "I'd like a glass of milk for me and a whiskey for my poodle." The bartender says, "Yeah? Well, I'd like an impartial and independent judiciary, but try telling that to Bush, Frist, and the rest of the GOP!"

- - - -

Did you hear that Bill Clinton hired a new intern? It turns out that his old intern had to go home and spend time with her family after her brother was killed in Iraq.

- - - -

Knock-knock.


Who's there?


Under the Patriot Act, we don't have to tell you that

"I Came Here to Remind the World About Darfur"

From CHF International
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited one of CHF International's community centers for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sudan's troubled western Darfur province.

She said, "I came here to remind the world about Darfur."
To remind the world about what? How the Bush administration called it a genocide and then did nothing? How the administration is establishing close ties with the genocidal regime in Khartoum in the name of fighting terrorism? How the administration killed the Darfur Accountability Act? How the administration is more worried about establishing a transitional government than in preventing the deaths of some 400,000 people?

The administration's record has been shameful - thanks for reminding us.

Lying Douchebag Profiled in New Republic

Michael Crowley profiles Manuel Miranda
Here was a broad-faced and slightly pudgy 45-year-old in wrinkled slacks and an untucked shirt urging his listeners that "folks at the very top of the [Republican National Committee] need to hear from us," while his neighbor waited to hear from him about lawn care. But Miranda's almost comical circumstances belie their serious origins. He works out of his home because he was fired last year from a senior Senate job amid allegations of theft and treachery that are now the subject of a federal investigation. Though hailed as a hero by the far right and reviled as a venal crook by Democrats, until recently, Manuel Miranda seemed destined to become a forgotten footnote of Washington political history. But the latest round of the judicial wars--and particularly the upcoming showdown over the Supreme Court--have offered this media-savvy ideological warrior a chance to rehabilitate his reputation and to perform that sublime American feat of turning disgrace into fame.

Oh shit

Just in case you haven't heard yet, up to 4 explosions went off in London's commuter system this morning.

Oh Canada!

With so much going on I nearly forgot to commemorate reason #143 Canada is looking more an more appealing all the time-- yesterday it became the 4th country on earth to legalize same-sex marriage.

Not Only Are They Perverts - But They Are Dangerous Drivers as Well!

For your reading pleasure
Gays Twice as Apt to Drive Under the Influence says Family Research Institute

To: National Desk

Contact: Paul Cameron, Ph.D. Chairman, Family Research Institute, 303-681-3113, pdcameron@juno.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co., July 21 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Have you ever wondered why so many gays and lesbians are involved in auto accidents? Perhaps its because they are twice as apt to drive under the influence. 25% of homosexuals as compared to 14% of straights said that they drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol last year. Gays were more apt to drive impaired than straight men - 32% to 19%, and lesbians than straight women - 17% to 8%.

"Driving is a serious responsibility," said Dr. Paul Cameron, Chairman of the Colorado-based Family Research Institute, who just published the report in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Reports. "Everybody on the road, not just the driver, is endangered by this self-centered and caviler behavior. This is further evidence that gays' devil-may-care attitude toward sex spills into other areas as well. As Shakespeare's Pericles warned, one sin 'another doth provoke.' In light of the many social harms of homosexuality, many documented in our analysis of this Centers for Disease Control study, the coming U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Lawrence v Texas, which gave constitutional protection to homosexual conduct. "

Men were twice as apt to drive under the influence as women. But blacks were less apt than whites to do so - only 7% did so in the past year. Black men were less apt than white men (11% v. 19%) and black women less apt than white women (3% v. 8%).

"This blows a hole in the 'we endanger others because society doesn't fully accept us' argument," said Dr. Cameron who headed the three man team that published the study. "Disturbed people endanger others. This indifference to the wellbeing of others isn't due to discrimination. Blacks have been discriminated against for hundreds of years, and they behaved more responsibly than whites in this area."

"This is one of the many findings that clue the public as to why the U. S. Centers for Disease Control has not broadcast the sex information from its 1996 study," said Dr. Cameron. If blacks, shunned by some segments of society, are less apt to drive under the influence, you can't sensibly excuse homosexuals on the grounds that they drink because they feel alienated. Homosexuality, drunken driving - both are dangerous choices for the actor and the society in which he performs."

Smoking Gun?

Could this be the reason why the special prosecutor's interest in the Plame case hasn't faded?
A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.

The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.
...
Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, has testified that he learned Plame's name from Novak a few days before telling another reporter she worked at the CIA and played a role in her husband's mission, according to a lawyer familiar with Rove's account. Rove has also testified that the first time he saw the State Department memo was when "people in the special prosecutor's office" showed it to him, said Robert Luskin, his attorney.

"He had not seen it or heard about it before that time," Luskin said.

Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa, including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others. Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have been identified as people who discussed Wilson's wife with Cooper. Prosecutors are trying to determine the origin of their knowledge of Plame, including whether it was from the INR memo or from conversations with reporters.
...
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the memo made it clear that information about Wilson's wife was sensitive and should not be shared. Yesterday, sources provided greater detail on the memo to The Post.

The material in the memo about Wilson's wife was based on notes taken by an INR analyst who attended a Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA where Wilson's intelligence-gathering trip to Niger was discussed.

The memo was drafted June 10, 2003, for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who asked to be brought up to date on INR's opposition to the White House view that Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa.

The description of Wilson's wife and her role in the Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA was considered "a footnote" in a background paragraph in the memo, according to an official who was aware of the process.

It records that the INR analyst at the meeting opposed Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.
Is it just me or does this memo cast doubt on the idea that Rove "heard" that Wilson's wife was CIA from some mystery journalist he can't remember? Especially considering that it appears that Powell knew, possibly Bush, Bartlett and Ari too, so it does seem a little dubious that Rove was left out of the loop. Frankly the existence of this memo strongly suggests that someone connected to the White House leaked it to more than one person in the press.

Tot Ziens

Tot ziens is Dutch for au revoir. I'll be on vacation in Paris for a week, then in Boston on other business for a few days--all part of my "Libertine Cities that Hate Family Values" tour. I may not have Internet access for much or all of the next two weeks. So I've poured out two weeks' worth of verbiage in my posts today, after which you won't have Arnold to kick around any more.

Defending the Right to Choose

No, I'm not talking about abortion. I'm talking about the president's right to choose whom to nominate to the Supreme Court.

I don't subscribe to the view that I'm sure has been trotted out by conservatives on U.S. television--and that would be trotted out by liberals if it were President Kerry making the nomination--that the Senate's advise and consent role is essentially limited to the candidate's technical competence and lack of previous ethical lapses. There is a role for ideology, and for making sure that the Court doesn't go way off the deep end.

But it is the president's right to decide whose name to submit to the Senate, and you must realistically expect that the president's view of who would make a good justice will usually be affected by how compatible the nominee's jurisprudential beliefs are with the president's. Democratic legitimacy, too, suggests that the voters should have the ability, via their selection of a president, to affect who gets nominated to the Court.

Which leads me to this conclusion: I don't know a whole bunch about John Roberts, and it's legitimate for the Senate to investigate thoroughly before making a decision. But on the basis of what I personally know now, Roberts should be confirmed by a large margin. He's not who I would have picked, he's not who Schumer would have picked, and he's not who Kerry would have picked; but if I were a senator, I'd vote to confirm him if nothing turns up during the hearings, and I think Schumer and Kerry should do the same.

Here's another way to state it: I do not think Democrats have the right to insist on a nominee who is in some way "better" than Roberts. Who could they propose as an alternative, on the basis that Dubya cannot choose anyone more "conservative" than that person? I think Republicans were correct to realize that they couldn't demand anyone "better" than Breyer or Ginsburg, even though their base was longing to take revenge on someone for what happened to Robert Bork. And--with the critical caveat that this is based on what I know now and that there should be a deliberate process in the Senate rather than a rubber-stamping--I think the Democrats would be correct to realize that they can't insist that Bush appoint someone "better" than Roberts.

This is what I believe in principle. Whether it makes good politics is another question. I think it might, partly because it establishes a precedent for the next time a Democrat gets to make the pick, and partly because it makes it more credible if Democrats seriously oppose a truly objectionable second Bush Supreme Court nominee in the remainder of his term.

Maybe I'm wrong about the political strategy; but I think I'm right about the principle.

The First Justice Roberts

If I am correct, confirmation of John Roberts would mark the fifth time two Supreme Court justices have shared the same surname. Two of the previous four pairs consist of notable figures in the Court's history, one was pretty nondescript (though long-serving), and the other had one of the greats paired with one of the footnotes.

As for the Roberts pair? Justice Owen Roberts was far from the best of his time--he was on the Court with, among others, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Charles Evans Hughes, Louis Brandeis, and Robert Jackson (damn, they had good judges in those days)--but he played a decisive role in perhaps the greatest crisis in the Court's history.

But first, the other four pairs.

Chief Justice John Marshall and Justice Thurgood Marshall. John Marshall would be on almost anyone's list of the greatest justices the Court has ever known, and I suspect that he would be the majority choice among constitutional scholars as the greatest chief justice. Even today, we lawyers know so many of his memorable phrases by heart. If you go to the Supreme Court building, you will find a large statue of John Marshall on the ground floor, and you will see many of those great phrases set into the wall. He personally wrote the decisions in the cases that definitively interpreted the basic constitutional framework governing the role of the different branches of government and the relationship between the states and the federal government. In terms of historical importance, they don't get any bigger than John Marshall. Thurgood Marshall was also of tremendous historical importance, though the question whether he was a "great" justice is not the matter of consensus it is with John Marshall. He was of course the first African-American justice, and he served on the Court for a quarter of a century, during a tumultuous period that included the Court's expansion of protection for criminal defendants, the Nixon tapes case, Roe v. Wade and most of the controversial cases on contraception leading up to it, the Bakke affirmative action case, and more. Of course, the Court was also grappling with school desegregation over that period, and Marshall deserves much of the credit for that--not so much as a justice, but as an outstanding and dogged advocate before the Court for several decades, with his victory in Brown v. Board of Education as the high point. It will be tough for any pair of namesakes to top the Marshalls.

Justice John Marshall Harlan and Justice John Marshall Harlan. A grandfather and his grandson whose names recalled the great chief justice. In a way, both had a connection to Thurgood Marshall as well. The second Justice Harlan served on the Court with T. Marshall; and his grandfather, the first Justice Harlan, is most well-known for his caustic and brilliant dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that said (simplifying) that segregation was constitutional--a dissent that was vindicated 60 years later when Brown v. Board of Education effectively (again simplifying) overruled Plessy. Though the Plessy dissent is his most famous opinion, Justice Harlan wrote many eloquent dissents in the post-Reconstruction period, notably in the Civil Rights Cases, as the Court's majority dismantled civil rights legislation and refused to use the new Equal Protection Clause to protect freed slaves from brutality and discrimination. His grandson was not as spectacular, but he was an excellent justice. At a time of considerable innovation and activism on the Court, he was the voice of moderation and restraint, dissenting from (for example) the contraception decisions. When he was on the Court, he was seen as a conservative, though on today's Court he'd be at most a swing voter and might even be regarded as on the "liberal" side of the Court's spectrum. His stock has risen since his death, as both conservatives and liberals have come to view his attempts to keep the judiciary out of politics as a valuable counterbalance to the Warren Court majority.

Chief Justice Edward Douglass White and Justice Byron White. Not nearly as illustrious as the previous two pairs. Edward Douglass White was a Confederate veteran and had been a staunch states'-rights, pro-business member of the U.S. Senate immediately before his appointment to the Court, but on the Court, he was a kind of mini-Harlan. During the infamous Lochner era, when the Court was striking down all kinds of state and federal regulation of business on constitutional grounds, White was with the dissenters; like the first Justice Harlan, he was eventually vindicated by history when the cases of his era were overruled, although the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction now. Bryon "Whizzer" White (he hated the nickname, which came from his days as an All-America football player) was a Kennedy appointee who became one of the Court's conservatives, especially on social issues and criminal justice, though he was not with them on the "federalism" (states' rights) agenda. He was not highly regarded, being a sort of O'Connor (their time on the Court overlapped) who seemed not to have a well-developed jurisprudence involving any part of his anatomy other than his gut.

Justice Howell E. Jackson and Justice Robert H. Jackson. Howell E. Jackson, another Confederate veteran, contracted tuberculosis soon after joining the Court and died before making much of a mark on the institution. Robert H. Jackson, on the other hand, was one of the great justices, though he wasn't on the Court for terribly long either. Like some of the other justices previously mentioned, Jackson took the right stand when it wasn't popular, dissenting in Korematsu, one of the Japanese internment cases, during World War II. After the war, he took a leave from the Court to serve as the Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. I've previously rhapsodized about his beautiful craftsmanship as an author of judicial opinions.

Justice Owen Roberts and Justice (?) John Roberts. Where will this pair fit into history? The first Justice Roberts was no John Marshall, nor even a John Marshall Harlan. But he was important. President Hoover appointed him, and he must have been kicking himself seven years later during FDR's court-packing crisis, as Roberts made "the switch in time that saved the Nine"--and saved the New Deal. From a fascinating first-person account of the events--if you think today's judicial nomination politics are bitter, and that the split of the two blocs in Bush v. Gore was extraordinary, you really should read the whole thing:

Hostility between the two blocs was inevitable and open; they even held intra-bloc "skull practice" regularly. The four conservative Justices rode in the same automobile to and from the Supreme Court building for oral arguments and for the Saturday conferences of all nine Justices at which the Justices decided the cases (in those days the Justices' offices were in their homes).

To compete with these regular get-togethers of the conservatives, the liberals began to meet at Brandeis's home on Friday evenings to plan their strategies for the Saturday conferences....

The balance of power, of course, lay with the other two Justices, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Associate Justice Owen Roberts....

Justice Roberts quickly became a fellow-traveler of the conservative four, with the Chief Justice swinging back and forth sufficiently to earn the sobriquet: "the man on the flying trapeze." The Court, in the hectic years of 1935 and 1936, invalidated Roosevelt's National Recovery Act, his Agricultural Adjustment Act, Railroad Retirement Act, Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, as well as other New Deal legislation and administrative actions. These decisions, plus the Court's ruling at the end of the 1935-36 Term invalidating the New York minimum wage law, not only killed the laws already considered but threatened those enacted but untested such as the Wagner Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act, the Holding Company Act and bills on the drawing board, including a federal wage-hour-child-labor law.

Something had to be done if the New Deal was to be saved and expanded. Talk was in the air about constitutional amendments, including expanding the Commerce Clause of the Constitution; prohibiting less than two thirds of the Court from invalidating federal or state legislation; permitting a majority of the two houses of Congress to reenact a law invalidated by the Court without further Court review of the law; and making laws passed by two thirds of each House unreviewable.

Roosevelt's landslide reelection in 1936 settled the matter. He would act on the Court, but the constitutional amendment route was too slow for him. Shortly after the election, he referred publicly to Congress's power to enlarge the Court and gave out hints that the time for action on the Supreme Court front was not far off. Nevertheless, Justice Cardozo seemed considerably shaken when, in early February 1937, just three months after the election, he came into the little room in his apartment where I worked to give me the news of the Court-packing plan that President Roosevelt had just submitted to Congress. He said Roosevelt wanted to add a Justice for every one who did not retire after the age of 70, up to a maximum of six. Cardozo at once spoke of his opposition to the Court-packing plan, saying rather plaintively, "No judge could do otherwise." But, at least to me, there was no sign that his devotion to Roosevelt lessened one bit....

Roosevelt began preaching the need "to save the Constitution from the Court and the Court from itself" and stressing the importance of the New Deal legislative program and the importance of having it now. Roosevelt began gaining ground....

In any case, big goings-on occurred down at the Court. Shortly after Roosevelt announced his Court-packing plan, Roberts publicly switched to the liberal side on the validity of state minimum wage laws, providing a 5-4 majority for the constitutionality of such a law from the State of Washington. Many thought that the switch came as a result of FDR's proposal, but this hardly could have been the case. Roberts had cast his vote for the Washington law in conference before Roosevelt made his proposal. If Roberts were affected by any extraneous influence, it must have been the landslide 1936 election. While humorist Finley Peter Dunne's popular creation, Mr. Dooley, put the proposition most inelegantly when he stated "th' Supreme Court follows th' iliction returns," Roberts could well have been affected by the realization that F.D.R was speaking for the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of Americans.

Whatever the reason for Roberts' switch in the minimum wage law case, another switch soon occurred of such magnitude in so important a case that its only possible explanation was the Court-packing plan. In 1936, the Court had ruled by a 6-3 vote in Carter v. Carter Coal Co. that Congress's power over interstate commerce was not broad enough to support federal regulation of labor conditions in the mines. In February 1937, just days after Roosevelt made his proposal for restructuring the Court, advocates argued the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 before the Court. At the ensuing conference of the Justices, the vote was 5-4 to uphold the law, both Hughes and Roberts switching from their positions in Carter Coal. When Cardozo reported on the conference action during our ride home from the courthouse, he was elated by the switches. But about all that this kindly gentleman could bring himself to say in criticism was that he "considered it quite an achievement to make the shift without even a mention of the burial of a recent case." He did smile some time later when I told him the gag going around about "a switch in time saves Nine," but he never said anything like that himself.

When the decision upholding the Labor Act came down in April 1937, the anti-New Deal conservative bloc knew that the jig was up. "Every consideration brought forward to uphold the Act before us," McReynolds literally shouted as he read from his dissenting opinion, "was applicable to support the Acts held unconstitutional in causes decided within two years." Shortly after the decision, in early May, there was a knock on Justice Cardozo's apartment door: there was Justice Van Devanter asking to see Justice Cardozo. Minutes later, Cardozo brought me the news that Van Devanter was retiring. The judicial struggle against the New Deal was over.

Like Justice Owen Roberts, John Roberts is an anti-regulatory, states-rights kind of guy. Who knows if history will put him in a position to change American constitutional law with a timely change of mind? I should note that I don't think John Roberts wants to go all the way back to the Carter Coal days--unlike judges like Clarence Thomas and Janice Rogers Brown, not to mention a handful of loonies whom Bush might plausibly have nominated. But he does want to cut back Congress's regulatory power and continue the conservative bloc's effort to put some teeth back into Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

The first and second Justices Roberts will not displace the Marshalls as the most important pair of Supreme Court namesakes. But John Roberts is young, and Owen Roberts has given him a platform from which the pair should easily surpass the Whites, and potentially (though not likely) challenge the Jacksons and the Harlans.

On Target

I usually like Mark Fiore's stuff, but this time he's really nailed it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Most Connected Man In Washington

You have to hand it to Erick of Red State - he single-handedly turned that blog into a must-read for those waiting for a Supreme Court, vacancy based on the rumors he spread; rumors apparently sourced to various high-level contacts in the administration leading to bold declarations such as
William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, has retired. A White House statement is forthcoming. Should caveat this: A very good source says this.
Now Erick obviously has much better contacts than I do, but I have to admit that I am a bit surprised by the fact that he seems to know not only everything the White House is doing, but the Democrats' inner plans as well
I've heard that the Dems were going to throw a bone or two to the base to keep them happy, but otherwise will let the nominee through the Senate.

Democrat activists are starting to chime in as are some Democrat Senate aides. One emails that "this means war." Another says that the Dems will throw everything they can at Roberts in the committee, with Schumer taking the lead, and ultimately let him get to the floor for a vote.
So there you go - Erick is your one stop shopping for everything going on in DC. Man, is that guy connected or what?

Anyway, I have a question about this
One postscript on this crazy day: lefty groups jumped out of the gate today attacking Edith Brown Clements as a right wing extremist. Now they are jumping out after John Roberts. The President can legitimately show, based on today, that the Democrat interest groups really would attack whoever he nominated and, according to Gallup and other private polling, the American people already think that.
Lefty groups tried to tar Clements as an extremist? Really? When did that happen? I must not have been paying attention because I don't recall seeing anyone say anything at all about Clement, especially since by early afternoon everyone learned that she would not be the nominee.

But if Erick says "lefty groups jumped out of the gate today attacking" her, it must be true. After all, he is the most connected man in Washington.

Come On!

From OpinionJournal
Editor's note: Manuel Miranda joins OpinionJournal's roster of columnists today to report on the coming Supreme Court nomination. His column will appear on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays for now and more frequently once confirmation hearings begin or as news requires. Readers of OpinionJournal will remember Manny from last year's Memogate scandal. He's a former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and, before that, senior counsel to Orrin Hatch when the Senator was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He is founder and chairman of the Third Branch Conference, an ad hoc coalition set up to educate leaders of grassroots conservative organizations on judicial issues and coordinate action strategy. It has received funding from a private philanthropist and applied for a grant from a pro-life educational foundation. Manny is also a visiting research fellow in legal policy at the Heritage Foundation.
You have got to be f***ing kidding me.

Faker?

Looks like our dear friend Ann Coulter might be in trouble for plagarism.

Couldn't happen to a nicer woman.

Changing the Rules-- Again

Just under the radar, the DoD now says that if you're 42 years or younger, straight or suffiently straight-acting, you should be able to join any branch of the military! I suppose they could argue that they're simply trying not being ageist.
The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.
Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves. By practice, the accepted age for recruits is 27 for the Air Force, 28 for the Marine Corps and 34 for the Navy and Army, although the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve sometimes take people up to age 39 in some specialties.

The Pentagon’s request to raise the maximum recruit age to 42 is part of what defense officials are calling a package of “urgent wartime support initiatives” sent to Congress Monday night prior to a Tuesday hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.
...
Most of the initiatives in the package were previously requested by the Bush administration as part of the 2006 defense budget, which is pending before Congress. They include raising the maximum re-enlistment bonus to $90,000; maximum hardship duty pay to $750 a month; special pay and incentive bonuses for nuclear qualified officers to $30,000; assignment incentive pay to $3,000; and increasing accession and affiliation bonuses for reservists.
Damn! $90k re-enlistment bonuses!? Think that'll tick off any of the people who re-enlisted and got a much smaller check?

Karl Rove! Karl Rove! Karl Rove!

The conventional wisdom says that Dubya wanted to announce his Supreme Court nominee in order to throw the spotlight off of Intimigate, and in particular off of his buddy Turdblossom.

This blog can't be accused of having ignored that little scandal in recent days. Yet so far today, three posts out of three have been about John Roberts.

Guess we walked right into the trap.

[Note: This post is not meant to be serious. Honestly, people.]

S.S.A.D.D.

Salon has been running a semi-interesting series on ex-gay ministries. Today's entry is on an ex-lesbian minister from the DC area who has a unique, pretty off-the-wall perspective. I can't even begin to unpack all that she says.
On her Web site, [The Rev. J. Grace] Harley describes herself as "the manifestation of Christ Jesus' truth on homosexuality (2 Corinthians 4:2) which describes same sex attraction disorder (S.S.A.D.D)." She hosts a local cable TV show, "God's Will and Grace," in Washington, and meetings for Homosexuals Anonymous and Overcomers Ministries, two programs that help gays and lesbians get straight with God.
...
The good reverend tells us the best way to overcome our own homosexuality is to imagine Jesus as a gay man. "The love and the passion that you feel for another of the same sex, try to see Jesus and try to give him that same passion and love and desire," she says. "He can handle it. He takes it, and he will rework it and give you the deepest, greatest love affair." She whispers: "Jesus is a man. What if he were a gay man and he desired you, and he wanted your body totally for himself? Whoa! What if?"
...
Jesus appeared to Harley at a church service, she says, sparking her healing process. She credits her relationship with God as the bedrock of her recovery. But the end of the world is coming, she says, when we must face God. "These are end times and it is up to us to get it together," Grace tells us, heating up like a Baptist preacher. "We are going to stand one-on-one naked before God. How is he going to judge us for the actions of our bodies, which is his dwelling place? Every time we go down into the filth, we take Jesus with us!"

Harley cools down. Politically correct people do not understand that gay people "taint" others around them, she says, and so gays should be barred from the Boy Scouts of America. "Birds of a feather flock together," Harley tells us. "It's not in the Bible, but it's true. You can't have a homosexual buddy and think you are going to be buddy-buddy and nothing [will get] off on you. You will become tainted and corrupted. Why do you think they have commercials on television? If you watch any commercial on television long enough, you are going to buy the product even if you don't like it. It is just in you, and that is what the spirit of homosexuality is about -- it's just in you."
Think of Jesus as gay? Imagine Jesus hitting on you to "cure" your homosexuality? Doing filthy things makes Jesus filthy too? The spirit of homosexuality is in you? Plus being around gay people is like watching commercials that make you buy stuff you don't wan't/need? Um, she certainly has some not-so-orthodox ways of looking at Jesus. She sure has conviced me that I need to consider taking Jesus on as my own personal lover.

Outside, Reverse Strategy

Apparently one of the ways Democrats and the progressive community could cast doubt on Roberts is to repeat the fact that John Roberts Jr. attended Harvard for 6* consecutive years as much as possible-- it makes right-wingers suspicious. I wonder if that means that Rick Santorum thinks Roberts isn't qualified?

The other way to make the Right lose confidence in Roberts is if all the progressive groups who have been yearning for this fight don't act like a bunch of whiny, alarmist little bitches. If they could all somehow collectively shrug and say "That Roberts guy? Feh, he's not so bad." Then the Right would be like "Hey, why aren't they all freaking out over this guy? If they think he's alright then something is wrong! It is against God's will for us to agree with all those pinko-commie-faggot-babykillers on anything!"

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the liklihood of anyone being able to pull that off is nil.


* Roberts finished his B.A. in 3 years, summa cum laude. Yowzers. At least we know he's booksmart.

Tequila Justice?

Last night I got together with some fellow political junkies to prepare for and watch Bush's SCOTUS nominee annoucement at a local watering hole. We spent a few hours discussing all of the judges on the short list as well as tossing out names of out-of-right-field nominees. It's a given that we weren't going to approve of the nominee, so someone came up with two nomination categories-- there were the "Tequila Justices" whose nomination would require several shots and the "Beer Justices" that would only require another round or two of beer. Tequila was reserved for wingnuts like Janice Rogers Brown or J. Michael Luttig or Priscilla Owen. Rightly or wrongly, Roberts was placed in the "Beer Justices" category.

At first we had trouble getting the bar to change the channel on one of their 7,659 televisions. We nearly had to resort to sneaking into the "Friends of Roy Blunt" (R-MO) private party in the back room of the bar. However, an hour before the offical annoucement a little bird (in the form of a BlackBerry) told us that it was going to be Roberts. So the annoucement itself was entirely anti-climatic.

I do think it's interesting that Bush's choice is not a particularly ballsy one, Roberts is certainly no Robert Bork. Roberts is a sold conservative who is also fairly polished, allegedly he is widely respected and will likely pass without too bruising of a fight. I argued last night that as a group we pay inordinate attention to social and civil rights issues, but that Bush will likely nominate someone to make the business world happy and not just play to his theocratic base. Last night Roberts seemed like that kind of nominee. Although it gives me pause that people like Jay Sekulow of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice are already calling John Roberts Jr. an "exceptional" choice.

Here's to hoping that Roberts really is only a "Beer Justice" and not a stealth "Tequila Justice."

John Roberts and David Tatel

A few random observations on Judge John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court.
  • Whatever else is said about him in coming weeks, you will not hear any knowledgeable person question his ability or intelligence. He is one of the outstanding appellate advocates of his generation.
  • He is not a fire-breather, and he is ready for prime time. Bork was a disaster on television at his hearings. Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit would be a disaster on television. Roberts will be smooth, respectful, and not too pompous.
  • His record regarding the social hot-button issues--abortion, church/state relationship, etc.--is quite sparse. He was a Deputy Solicitor General in the first Bush administration, which means that he argued many touchy issues on behalf of the government. But I would hesitate to ascribe to him personally the things that were written in the government's briefs in the cases he argued, or even the things that he said himself in oral argument. He was a lawyer acting for a client, arguing what the administration's policy was whether or not he agreed with it. He was not the Solicitor General, and he was not a policy-maker. If the administration chose in Rust v. Sullivan to argue that Roe should be overruled, that was a decision made above his pay grade.
  • If Roberts is confirmed, four of the nine Justices--and three of the last four appointed--will have come from the D.C. Circuit (the others being Scalia, Thomas, and Ginsburg). That circuit also had two other failed nominees in the 1980s (Douglas Ginsburg and Robert Bork). I used to clerk there, and I generally think highly of the judges on that court, both liberal and conservative (with exactly two exceptions). But, historically, the D.C. Circuit was not a feeder of judges to the Supreme Court--it had a few, including two Chief Justices, but not a disproportionate number. The increased use of the D.C. Circuit as a farm team for the Supreme Court reflects, I think, the increased importance of administrative law cases and other cases that involve the inner workings of the federal government. The only nominee of the last four (including Roberts) who did not come from the D.C. Circuit was Breyer, and he had been a professor of administrative law and one of the country's leading scholars on the subject.
  • One of the hottest issues regarding the operation of the federal government has been the extent to which the courts should limit the federal government's regulatory powers. And that is where I think liberals need to be worried about Roberts: would he vote to strike down federal laws, particularly those involving the environment, the regulation of corporate power, and civil rights? His dissent in the Rancho Viejo case a couple of years ago will become a focal point of efforts to stop the nomination, if liberal groups choose to make such an effort. In that case, he argued, or at least implied, that the Endangered Species Act was unconstitutional to the extent that it protected species whose habitat does not cross state boundaries. Although the religious right seems reasonably happy with Roberts, I think the big winner of the intra-GOP struggle over the nominee is the party's corporate/business wing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be pleased with this nomination. Expect Justice Roberts (if he does become Justice Roberts) to tend to take the anti-regulatory view most of the time--which means using judicial power to strike down laws passed by Congress and regulations adopted by federal agencies.
  • The view of federal authority taken by Roberts differs notably from that taken by his colleague Judge David Tatel, who also happens to be his former partner at the corporate law firm of Hogan & Hartson, and who also happens to be very smart and a very good judge. Personally, if I could exchange Tatel for Kennedy and Roberts for O'Connor, I'd be pretty happy with the resulting Supreme Court.
  • But that's not going to happen. Let's imagine Bush gets to replace Rehnquist and Stevens before his term runs out. If he finds Roberts clones for both slots--50-ish pro-business lawyers who believe in flexing the judiciary's muscles--Congress will be in a straightjacket for decades when it comes to regulating corporate power. And that's the real threat I'm worried about. After the 2006 midterms, given historical patterns and current opinion polls, Bush may have a very tough time getting an overt social conservative through the Senate. But pro-corporate judges won't have much trouble.
 
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