Thursday, October 23, 2003
Marginal MarginaliaRumsfeld's gaffe is earning him a lot of new liberal friends around the block, mostly because his hesitations seem so at odds with the bravado broadcasted from the White House on all frequencies around the clock. It's reassuring to note that top senior administration officials don't plan war strategy in "bring 'em on" sessions huddled around an X-Box.
Note, though, that this intimate aside and the undercurrent of dialogue it denotes does not indicate any thought given to liberal/Democratic considerations. His key point, really:
Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?And if you think about how Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration have approached foreign policy in the Middle East, this can be read as one gloomy portent. If "shock and awe" wasn't a bold move, I shudder to think about what's really going on in Rumsfeld's head.
'Cause "bold move" probably doesn't include fruity international alliances.
posted by kriston at 12:46 PM........
More Substantive Than a Know-Nothing...America needs a new political party. It should be called Thomas Friedman, and if you're Thomas Friedman, you're in:
I've often pointed out the good we have done in Iraq and unabashedly hoped for more. No regrets. But some recent trends leave me worried. Unfortunately, there are few Democrats to press my worries on the administration. Most Democrats either opposed the war (a perfectly legitimate position) or supported it and are now trying to disown it. That means the only serious opposition can come from Republicans, so they'd better get focused — because there is nothing about the Bush team's performance in Iraq up to now that justifies a free pass.So Democrats should not let Bush off the hook... but if we supported the war based on false claims of threat... er... Republicans should oppose Bush...?
The Thomas Friedman Party: A foreign policy platform that will turn out correct no matter what happens!
posted by kriston at 12:24 PM........
En garde, American legal system!Some of the smartest legal and political weblog writers/lawyers/law students in the business have joined forces to create the Justice League of America, featuring, among others, Unlearned Hand and (ultimate Trivial Pursuit threat) PG. Law blogs are no Gawker sometimes, but I particularly find these two webloggers to be eminently readable.
...Damnit, I wish I weren't kidding about that name. The JLA is an excellent legal weblog name, but it's not theirs, because they're actually called En Banc. Since U-Hand notified me about the new blog by email—addressed to "colleague", which was well-received by my ego—they'll get the link despite the French-y name.
It's easy—tickle my fancy, get what you want.
posted by kriston at 9:57 AM........
Judicial ReviewThis morning on NPR I caught snippets of some nastiness involving California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and her nomination to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the famous Supreme Court Justice breeding pen. Something or another about a showdown with Sen. Diane Feinstein in Brown's confirmation hearings. Justice Brown doesn't sound like a Justice Pryor or Pickering to me, though I haven't read up on her; from what I have seen, in her dissenting abortion opinions (she's activistically pro-life/anti-choice) she has called her colleagues "philosopher kings" (which is marvelous), and the American Bar Association giver her their most tepid rating: half voting "qualified," the other half "not qualified." (That's not marvelous. Miguel Estrada managed an unanimous "well qualified," and he didn't make the cut.) And for a black, female judge, her record on issues related to either minorities or women—not to mention the remarkably vocal and proactive opposition she finds from groups representing minorities or women—puts her to the right of Scalia and Thomas.
November's Texas Monthly features an unambitious but nonetheless square judicial profile of Priscilla Owen (registration required), the Texas Supreme Court Justice whose appointment to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has also stalled at the hands of suspicious Democrats. With good reason, too—there isn't a single liberal on the Texas SC and Owen still manages to mark herself as a radical activist:
Before her opinion in the HECI case, the responsibility was on the [oil] producer to protect the landowner. After her opinion, it's on the landowner to protect himself. The burden she placed on landowners and royalty owners was so unrealistic, and so far removed from previous Texas law, that the HECI case was the subject of an annual oil-and-gas seminar sponsored by the University of Texas law school in 2001. A Houston lawyer named Paul Simpson wrote a bluntly critical analysis of the case that began, "The Texas Supreme Court's 1999 opinion in HECI v. Neel was not supported by the record in that case, departed from established oil and gas law, and deviates from the mainstream of law in other major producing states." Like [Owen's dissenting Republican colleague] Justice Jefferson, Simpson hardly qualifies as a liberal. He was at the time the treasurer of the Harris County Republican party.So I started my day by wondering why the Bush team picks these ladies. These judges, out of the cornfields of conservative justices to be found in this nation, represent a couple of the dozen or so worst choices you could pick, all of which Bush has picked. The problem isn't that Bush is assigning justices with conservative bents to federal benches—though I would expect the Democrats in the Senate to keep careful watch over any appointment the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, to guard against the barest sign of a judicial activist streak. The problem is not the conservative bent but the judicial temperament: Bush is appointing the foulest conservative justices in the country. I hope the Senate refuses to confirm a single one of these charlatans.
Have we yet figured out what it is that Bush is trying to do? He'll never get a Pryor or an Owen onto a federal bench, and he must know that. Maybe these are dummy nominations—colossal wastes of legislative time but grand grist for the blowhard mill. Or Bush is that out of touch that he thinks that he can strong-arm these nominations through the process; or he can't conceive of a viable opposition at all. Maybe it's feeding the base, maybe it's all of these: I personally suspect that abortion is the single crucible that "movement" conservatives consider in judicial appointments, and the further you stand against abortion rights, the farther you'll climb in this Republican administration.
Who knows—but isn't it nuts?
The other commonality among the prospective Bush appointees is youth: With the exception of Pickering and probably a couple of others I'm not thinking of, they're all definitely young for federal court appointments.
posted by kriston at 9:17 AM........
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Riotous!Rumsfeld, maybe you missed the earlier memo, but I believe that Bush said he wanted the media needs to hear the abundant good news coming out of Iraq:
The memo, dated October 16, asks a handful of top military and civilian Department of Defense officials to consider several questions about the progress of the war. It says U.S. forces are having "mixed results" in the battle against al Qaeda, and that U.S. forces "lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror."At least someone is questioning the flypaper theory. What's really disappointing about this story is that it sounds as if there is a current of dialogue under the administration's surface, one to which the American people are not privy. It also sounds like that, if one leaked memo is a good sample, that the dialogue is realistic in a way that the Bush administration doesn't want to admit—which makes the media blackouts, on everything from casualties in Iraq to ceremonies for returning troops, even more appalling.
Finally, what in the world is this supposed to mean?
"[Rumsfeld]'s the kind of guy that likes to sort of plant a flag down the road and then kind of, without knowing how we're going to get there, get people working generally in that direction," [Rumsfeld spokesman Larry DiRita] said. "And if it needs to be altered, then that group of sort of intellectual capital will help him alter it and that's where it is."Sounds like a "long, hard slog" to me.
So, why can't Bush just say that? That it's a long, hard slog, and we're going to have to spend lots of money and put even more troops there, and that's right I told the UN to screw off, so we're not getting money or troops from... oh.
posted by kriston at 3:54 PM........
Moonies Report, You DecideThe Washington Times reports that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a secret nuclear pact, which sounds like bad business to me. Having just written that, I ought to clarify: As far as I'm concerned, "The Washington Times reports" carries all the authority of "Some drunk guy outside my building says." Just want to clear my name if it's later revealed that the actual story is that the WT arranged a mass wedding between the citizens of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Link courtesy of some drunk guy outside my building, also known as Tacitus.
I'm sure Pak and Saud'll have lots of beautiful, allied, not-terrorist children about which the Bush administration will not be divulging details.
posted by kriston at 12:52 PM........
RIP - Elliott SmithRemember Elliott Smith? Yeah, apparently he killed himself—by stabbing himself in the heart with a knife. That's a fucking way to go.
MORE: Go see Pitchfork.
posted by kriston at 12:16 PM........
Baseball by the $It's expensive to suck: Take a look at baseball's opening-day roster salaries, especially for top-billing New York (total payroll $149,710,995; average salary $5,346,821) and not-quite-tops Florida (tot. $48,368,298; avg. $1,727,439). If not Evil, at least Empire.
Link courtesy of, er, Breakfast Tacos.
Down here in the small print I'll acknowledge that the no. 2 spending team is the Mets, a stat that some might interpret as throwing a wrench into the championship-buying accusation.
posted by kriston at 9:41 AM........
G.p Commands YouSee Lost in Translation immediately. See it yesterday. Best movie I've seen since Rushmore, which not so coincidentally also stars Bill Murray. This time around, it's Bill Murray, a hot chick, and Japan—which is a fucked up and awesome place from the look of it.
While you're out, pick up the soundtrack (Phoenix, Squarepusher, Air, My Bloody Valentine, Bill Murray, etc.).
For the first time, I feel an urge to go to Japan.
posted by kriston at 8:17 AM........
A Numberless RecoveryWhile I'm picking on Sullivan, I ought to note how idiotic of him to say that "there seems to be a genuine Gephardt boomlet." Boomlet? A splash consisting of one twit's WaPo story, a clear GOP disinformation tactic, equals a boomlet? Isn't it kind of indicative that he can't say "boom"? I mean, I'm glad that Gephardt has tied down Michigan, a state that only a true Democratic ass like Gray Davis could lose, and I know he thinks it's his turn in all, but do we have to humor him?
UPDATE: Nick Confessore of TAPPED puts some thought into the GOP's Gephardt push.
Closing Sully's page now.
posted by kriston at 8:02 AM........
Sontag vs JesusI'm about as sick as everyone else is (I imagine) of people constantly talking about Christ and Allah. Who is the stronger god, who did God want to be president, how does God deliver touchdowns for both teams, etc. Still, I'm far more tired of the liberal-anti-Christian meme. Andrew Sullivan's not afraid to beat this horse to death. He quotes favored liberal pariah, Susan Sontag:
[W]hen, during George Bush's run for president in 2000, a journalist was inspired to ask the candidate to name his "favourite philosopher", the well-received answer - one that would make a candidate for high office from any centrist party in any European country a laughing stock - was "Jesus Christ". But, of course, Bush didn't mean, and was not understood to mean, that, if elected, his administration would feel bound to any of the precepts or social programmes actually expounded by Jesus.And then proceeds to hyperventilate:
Notice the assumption of the idiocy of America not to laugh out loud at a politician's invocation of Jesus. Notice also the idea that Jesus actually expounded on various "social programmes." So instead of the Sermon on the Mount, we have the Sermon on Medicare. Or Social Security. Or the Clean Air Act. How ignorant can Sontag be of Christianity to make such crude and stupid claims?I doubt that anyone else has ever accused Susan Sontag with being abjectly uninformed, but actually, Sontag did make a mistake. Bush wasn't asked who his favorite philosopher was—to which question Jesus would be an appropriate answer, if not necessarily the most urbane. Bush was asked who his favorite political philosopher was, and at that point, the anticipation of the answer was far funnier than the answer itself. Rawls? Nozick? Nope, it was ol' Jesus. Though I'll acknowledge Sullivan's point—where the Lord and Savior comes down on steel tariffs is quite unclear from the Gospels—the president sees some political content in the message of Christ.
Admittedly, it hasn't made a dent in his policy.
posted by kriston at 7:47 AM........
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
A Partial BanThe Senate passed a ban today on dilation and extraction (D&X) abortions, known more commonly (and misleadingly, but that's a whole 'nother axe to grind) as partial-birth abortions:
"I see what this is about ... this is about politics," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., an opponent of the legislation. "I never dreamed I'd be down here with senators who think they know more than doctors."The fact is, if we're talking strictly about a D&X ban, we're not really talking about a brutality done to either side of the argument. According to my Googling, D&X procedures accounted for 650 of the 1.37 million abortions performed in 1996—for whatever Google or statistics are worth, it's not many. With all the horrible images that "partial-birth" opponents summon in their arguments, you might think that D&X procedures are commonplace—they're not. You'd also think that Republicans under Frist might summon better language for the procedure they target if they really wanted to get a ban that would survive the courts, considering the Supreme Court's 2000 ruling against a similarly broad Nebraska ban. Neither doctor nor lawyer am I, but the vague language of the Senate ban suggests to me that they're trying to cast another broad net, in order to target other (or all) abortion procedures de facto. And that is, in fact, the brutality of the bill, where pro-choice advocates are concerned—the pro-life/anti-choice/jerk camp is quite calculating with its language, because there are plenty of nutty judges out desperate for the opportunity to play loosey-goosey with judicial interpretation. (Pryor's out-of-his-mind excited, you can be sure.)
Better check up tomorrow with U-Hand, Team Volokh, and the rest, but I'm betting this is a three-up, three-down sort of inning as far as the abortion debate in America is concerned.
Not that it doesn't make me shiver just a little to think of the overwhelming popularity that saw this bill through. Hang in there, SC Justices, hang in there.
posted by kriston at 6:56 PM........
Nothing To See HereMore cheerful news for US soldiers:
Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.To Bush's credit, this blackout mandate was a military-wide policy created during the last stretch of the Clinton administration, which wasn't at war at the time, which leads me to believe that the policy came into effect for non-political reasons. The Pentagon claims, for instance, that "the policy covering the entire military followed a victory over a civil liberties court challenge to the restrictions at Dover and relieves all bases of the difficult logistics of assembling family members and deciding which troops should get which types of ceremonies." Fine, reasonable—except that the explanation finds stark contradiction with precedent:
Ceremonies for arriving coffins, not routine during the Vietnam War, became increasingly common and elaborate later. After U.S. soldiers fell in Beirut, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans, Kenya, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the military often invited in cameras for elaborate ceremonies for the returning remains, at Andrews Air Force Base, Dover, Ramstein and elsewhere -- sometimes with the president attending.Every administration from Carter's to, well, W's (during the Afghanistan campaign) has been willing to endure the severe contortions and logistical crises involved in honorable ceremonies, until now. War casualties as political liabilities—who supports our troops?
Bush isn't going to have much of a patriotism drum to beat by November '04.
posted by kriston at 6:03 PM........