Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Donations

If any of you are interested in making donations to help the hurricane victims, there are many, many resources. Instapundit has compiled a comprehensive list for you to select from.

I really don't have much to add about the hurricane that hasn't been said elsewhere, but holy shit.


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Food and Diety Administration

for shame!

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/politics/AP-Morning-After-Pill.html?hp&ex=1125547200&en=ac7fff1fa8316aec&ei=5094&partner=homepage

ps. I will figure the hyperlink thingy out next week.


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What it is all about

The weekly Coalition post.

Last weekend, the blog Blue Girl, Red State wrote a post about a regular blog commenter who went by the name "Shameless Hussy."

Blue Girl reports that "Shameless Hussy" went to Darfur in June as a humanitarian volunteer and was traumatized by what she saw
What she dealt with daily goes beyond the pale...beyond the nightmares of most people; Children with all four limbs hacked off right above the knee or below the elbow. Twelve year olds who died in childbirth after being gang-raped by the Janjaweed. Women who gave birth to rape-babies who were then cast out by their families for shaming the family name, leaving only one avenue of survival for themselves and their children after the camps: Prostitution.

What is f**ing her up is the desperation, and the fact that she worked herself to death for over a month, and she still didn't really save anyone. Now that she's gone, it's like she was never there. Even the ones she helped keep alive, she didn't save. You try dealing with that reality.

And women are the preponderance of victims. Men do not leave the villages to go to the countryside to gather firewood and other necessary items of sustenance. Women venture out, even though every time they leave their villages, they are at horrific risk of being beaten and raped and disfigured. The reason they go instead of the
men? The women are only attacked, the men are killed.
This post receive a fair amount of attention within the blogosphere (as far as posts about Darfur go) mainly due to the fact that Kevin Drum linked to it. And while getting bloggers to pay attention to Darfur, if only for a minute, is a minor miracle, it is worth asking why it takes a post about traumatized aid workers to generate any interest in genocide.

This situation in Darfur has existed for over two years and, if people were interested, they could find accounts of death, disease, rape and torture occurring there on an almost daily basis. 400,000 people have died and nearly 3 million have been displaced and yet nobody - not politicans, not the media, not bloggers - really seem to care.

To anyone who has been paying attention, the atrocities witnessed by "Shameless Hussy" are, sadly, well-known. If her story generates concern for the people of Darfur, then for that we should be thankful. And if people who were moved by it are really interested in Darfur, then they should start reading the analyses produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Eric Reeves and the International Crisis Group, supporting organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Save Darfur and STAND, reading blogs like Passion of the Present, Sudan Watch, the Coalition for Darfur, and Sleepless in Sudan and demanding that their elected leaders do something about it.

Our thanks goes out to "Shameless Hussy" and all those who sacrifice to help those in need. But we must keep in mind that Darfur is not about them - it is about this



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Food for thought...

While I'm sure those right of center may take issue with some of this, Francis Fukuyama's Op-ed in today's NYT take a thought-provokding and retrospective look at America's response to 9/11 and where we are today...

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/opinion/31fukuyama.html


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Monday, August 29, 2005

What is conservatism? Being the First Part of American Conservatism

What is conservatism?  If we look at a dictionary – a dictionary of the social sciences, to be precise, they offer this:

As a political philosophy, conservatism is usually credited to the English social theorist and politician Edmund Burke, who developed a strong critique of abstract social theories, the perfectibility of man, and radical social engineering in response to the French Revolution.  Modern usage, however, refers to a wide range of political tendencies and positions that have little connection to Burke’s principles, although his work continues to inform an important tradition of conservative thought.  Perhaps the key point of divergence is Burke’s rejection of nostalgia for the past and, consequently, of conservative utopianism rooted in forms of tradition.  Instead Burke took a progressive view of society as the product of accumulated customs and practices, which connect institutions, laws, and behavior in an organic whole.  This slow, mostly undirected process, Burke argued, was the product of collected wisdom far greater than that of individual social thinkers.  – Dictionary of the Social Sciences, edited by Craig Calhoun, (New York: Oxford University Press: 2002)

And so it begins with Burke.  Actually, in a larger sense it begins with the French Revolution.  After all, the now traditional delineation of the right-left political spectrum dates to the post-revolutionary period as members of the Assembly sat from left-to-right, from the most radical of revolutionaries to the most ardent of reactionaries.  

But it may go back even further, about another decade, to the American Revolution.  While Burke penned his masterpiece against the French Revolution, it is noteworthy that Burke largely sympathized with the Americans (if he did not exactly fully support them.  After all, he was a British patriot).  

In many ways the two revolutions represent competing philosophies.  The American brand was a “conservative” revolution in that the revolutionaries did not throw off the existing social order, but instead fought for their independence from rule by the crown.  The French brand, on the other hand, was very much a social revolution based on the abstract ideals of the Enlightenment and, to an even larger degree, those of Jean Jacques Rousseau.  

Burke was no mere reactionary.  In fact he was a member of the Whig party, and in some respects very much was a liberal in the classical sense.  What Burke disliked about the French Revolution was its embrace of abstract principles.  “But I cannot stand forward and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it strands stripped of every relation, in all nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction.”* (7) And thus the French revolutionaries’ talk of liberty was not to be praised blindly for liberty, though a noble goal, is not always to be praised.  “Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty?  Am I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer who has broke prison upon the recovery of his natural rights?” (7)  Unchained liberty was no virtue if it was not grounded.  

Again, Burke was no mere reactionary.  He celebrated change, for a “state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.  Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve.” (19)  But while change is inevitable, change for the sake of change, and change without respect for tradition is folly.  A respect for the accumulated wisdom of the ages is a necessary ingredient for the state.  For “by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete.” (30)

Individual reason is not enough, and in the same vein a society that disregards its roots is a society with no historical memory.  “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.” (76)  Moreover, “by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society, hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin instead of a habitation – and teaching these successors as little to respect their contrivances as they had themselves respected the institutions of their forefathers.  By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken.  No one generation could link with the other.  Men would become little better than flies of a summer. (83; emphasis mine)

He rejects the Rousseauean – and Jeffersonian – notion that each generation is independent of the other.  He describes history as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.  Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society . . .” (85)

But veneration of tradition was not merely rooted in the desire to defend the past.  Burke had in mind the idea of a moral imagination.  History is made of symbols – symbols that are in turn transmuted to the people of the current age that gives them a sense of who they are.  And Burke fears that the French revolutionaries embraced an ideal that damaged this essential moral imagination.  “All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off.  All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding ratifies as necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.” (67)  There is so much more to quote on this subject, but one more will suffice.  When we have rejected the symbols of the past, we are left with a cold-hearted, mechanistic philosophy.  “Nothing is left which engages the affections on the part of the commonwealth.  On the principles of this mechanistic philosophy, our institutions can never be embodied, if I may use the expression, in persons, so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration, or attachment.” (68)  Those who wish to replace these public affections can replace them with nothing.

This is not the whole of Burkean philosophy.   He disdains attempts to “level,” for they always fail to equalize.  (43)  There is a natural aristocracy that is most fit to lead (though this is by no means a hereditary aristocracy).  There are simply those who have talents that should be recognized and appreciated. All societies at all times have these individuals, and attempts to make all equal will be ultimately unsuccessful because you are perverting the natural order.
And such is a nutshell explication of Burkean classical conservatism.  I have written much longer than I had hoped for a blog post, but at the same time I have not nearly done justice to the full thrust of Burke’s philosophy.  And it is a philosophy more than an ideology, an important distinction to remember later.

And how conservative is this conservatism?  In many ways, less so than the word conservative would have you believe.  But more on that in days to come.

*- all references to Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, edited by J.G.A. Pocock (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987).  Burke of course was writing in 1790.


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Wow, it really is good for you

This just might be greatest news story ever. (toungue-in-cheek, I'm not pulling a Chris Martin)
Coffee is likely to contribute far more antioxidants to the British diet than fruit and vegetables.

The evidence comes from the United States where scientists measured the antioxidant content of more than 100 different food items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and beverages. The information was combined with US Department of Agriculture data on the contribution of each item to the average American's diet.

Coffee - caffeinated and decaffeinated - emerged as easily the biggest source of antioxidants, taking account of the amount per serving and level of consumption. Black tea came second, followed by bananas.

"Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source - nothing else comes close," said study leader Professor Joe Vinson, from Scranton University in Pennsylvania. He was presenting his findings at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Washington DC.
There is also a link between coffee consumption and reduced risks of prostate and colon cancer, as well as Parkinson's Disease.


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Discourse

Check out this surprisingly informed interview/discussion between writer Christopher Hitchens and John Stewart regarding terrorism, Iraq, etc. Hitchens strongly supports our lasting efforts in Iraq, whereas Stewart questions their continued efficacy and justification. In light of swelling misdirection over Iraq and the "war on terror", be it by the media or the politicians (of either side), this discussion should be demonstrative in many respects of the ones that we have with one another as citizens and the level of forthrightedness and honesty we should seek from our elected officials.

http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/videos/celebrity_interviews/index.jhtml


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Sunday, August 28, 2005

What color is the sky in your world?

I just finished watching the Chinese movie "Hero." It's a wonderful film in the mode of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though it's hardly one of a piece with it. There is an over-arching political message that is somewhat disturbing in its celebration of totalitarian/Communism, but then again they did have to get the movie past the censors. I was a little curious about reaction towards the movie and did a google search looking for some commentary. There was quite a bit of negative reaction to the political message, but most people felt the same way I did about the movie - great cinema, let's overlook the politics.

But there was one amusing review that I couldn't help sharing. Scroll down to number six. Truly we are standing in the midst of brilliance here.
Let me tell you why some Americans hate this film. You see, this is a Chinese film. That's right, a film made in that not-a-democracy China. What's worse, it's a communist country, and an Asian one at that Now most Americans can't read Chinese, can't speak Chinese, know diddly squat about China, and haven't been to China (or anywhere outside of their counties, for that matter). But they will knock anything Chinese They simply hate China for reasons they don't even understand.
For a second I thought I was reading De Tocqueville, for surely this writer understands the American polity in ways that few of the less learned can ever dream of. And the next sentence clinches the writer's place alongside Louis Hartz, Gordon Wood, and Bernard Bailyn in understanding America:
I have lived in the US for 14 years, and I can tell you this: more than 80% of Americans are an uninformed, propaganda-driven herd.
And how do we know this? Don't you remember the poll conducted a few years back by ABC News, the main question being "Are you an uniformed, propaganda-driven moron?" I believe the writer mis-represented the poll results as only 74.7% answered in the affirmative, but you also have to consider the margin of error.

Anyway, it's not as though he doesn't have a point. After all, a glance at these set of photos affirms the fact that least some Americans truly appreciate the art of propaganda.

So let's get back to the movie review, or, as I will now call it, Democracy in America 2
Regardless of the origin of the film, I submit that sacrifice for the greater good is a noble cause in any culture. Yet you see many Americans (and Brits, Aussies) doggedly obsess over the fact that the film is made in a communist country and the message is a communist one. Load of crap.
Ooooh, speak truth to power baby.
It's only an excuse. Deep down, they hate the film because of their blind hatred for China and disdain for all things Asian.
Seems reasonable enough a claim to me. After all, look at the way we treat poor Tiger Woods, and the way we boycott Chinese restaurants, and our obstinate refusal to buy Japanese electronics.
Take, for example, Braveheart, a historically based fiction well-received in the US which extols the heroism of William Wallace. Supposedly Willie fights and dies for Freedom. But does he die for his freedom to go shop at WalMart anytime he desires No.
Is that supposed to be one sentence or two? Punctuation is our friend. But I do so love the subtle dig here. I am a big fan of Braveheart, but not because of the brillaint directing, or the dyamic battle scenes, or the acting. No. For these ten years I appreciated what I thought was a celebration of American capitalism as symbolized by the mighty superstore known as Walmart. But today my world has come tumbling down like a house of cards for only now do I realize the error of my ways. Don't you see, Braveheart has nothing to do with Walmart. If I had only known.
Willie is a "hero" because his cause is (supposedly) freedom for Scotland. (Of course, his fight doesn't really start until his woman is slain, and he gets into big big trouble with the Brits.) In any case, the theme is sacrifice for the greater good. Americans foam in the mouth praising this film.
Well, you know we crazy Americans, always going around foaming "in" the mouth. I guess it's just because we can't handle the thought of anyone fucking with our Walmart. And now have come to the realization that Mel Gibson's eipc is not in fact a defense of the institution we foam "in" the mouth to protect. Can you blame us?
But if sacrifice for the greater good is communist ideology, isn't it evil
Look, I have to come clean here. I really have no sarcastic quip for this one. And why not? I just plain don't understand a single word of that sentence. Once again, punctuation and grammar are our friends.

Hero is not completely historically accurate, but which Hollywood flick is Hero is simply a story well told, and told with astounding visual beauty.
You know what's so absolutely hysterical about this guy calling 80% of Americans unifmormed and essentially saying we're all idiots? This sentence. Here's a general word of advice - if you're going to call other people stupid and bask in the glow of your own mental superiority, it might help to, oh, I don't know, have some grasp of the English language. I can understand the difficulties with mastering a foreign language, but if I were to attempt to write something in French, I'd have a general idea about where to put the periods.
It's great entertainment, and in that respect it's nearly perfect.
Well, at least he got something right.

Well, now that my imagery of Braveheart has been shattered forever I think it's time to watch Gladiator again. I just need to watch a movie right now that celebrates freedom - the freedom to own an SUV. That's what the movie's about, right?


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Thursday, August 25, 2005

I can't believe they get paid for this

One of my favorite new blogs is a little ditty called Fire Joe Morgan.  Simple and to the point I say.  Their favorite target is pompous ESPN commentator Joe Morgan.  But they frequently ridicule many dumb baseball analysts, especially dunces like John Kruk who think that the Cy Young award should go to the guy who has the most wins, regardless of other statistics.  Sorry Roger, you may be having the best season a pitcher has had in four decades, but your team’s failure to provide offensive support disqualifies you from consideration.  Heck, using this moronic criteria, Mark Mulder is more deserving of a Cy Young thanks to the fact that he has an actual offense behind him.

Mercifully Kruk was absent from Baseball Tonight, but in his stead was someone who was possibly even dumber.  Shocking I know, but in discussing the Mets this newbie (whose name escapes me at the moment, but these clueless commentators all sort of blend together) pondered about the Mets’ rotation.  “There’s Pedro, and then who?”I know you’re new, and there are 30 teams to keep track of, and as such it might be difficult to know all the players on all the teams.  Sure, this is the job that I am sure you overpaid for, but I’m willing to cut you some slack.  Then again, it might behoove you to do a little bit of research on the team that has the fourth best team ERA in major league baseball.

It’s impressive that at least you know Pedro Martinez.  And while someone who has absolutely no clue about the sport might be inclined to think that Met staff  - once again fourth in the league – might be weak after its ace, you might pleasantly surprised to learn that, well, we’ll just take a closer look.

Let me introduce you first to Kris Benson.  You may have heard of him – he was a number one draft pick and has a hot wife.  He’s 9-5 in 21 starts with an ERA of 3.89.  Not bad for your number two.

Then there’s some dude named Tom Glavine.  Probable Hall of Famer having an incredible resurgence.  He’s only 10-10 on the year with an ERA over four, but over the last month his ERA has been closer to 3 and he’s pitching as well as he’s ever had as a New York Met.

Of course Victor Zambrano leaves something to be desired, but actually, as much as Met fans maligned the Scott Kazmir trade, he’s not done all that badly.

Oh, and before I forget, there is the Mets’ fifth starter.  Some dude names Jae Seo.  Eh, not much to brag about.  7 starts, 6 wins, and an ERA of 1.3, and he’s under 1 since being re-called.

Oh, and then there’s steady Steve Trachsel coming off of the DL tomorrow.  You might have heard of him, he’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league.  Not spectacular, but then again a lot better than you what you might find with most of your sixth starters.

Hopefully that answers the question of Pedro, and then who?  Perhaps the next time you appear on national television you might actually know what you are talking about.

But then again, you are an ESPN analyst, and why should you be the only one who does?

Oh, and the Mets just swept the Diamondbacks four straight.  And they managed to win three of those games with pitchers not named Pedro.  Not sure how they did it.  Lucky I guess.



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I curse you

I dare you to play this timewaster game just once. Come on. Just click on the link. You won't become addicted. I promise.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Genocide and Statistics

The weekly post from the Coalition for Darfur.

Last week, International Studies Quarterly published a study by Matthew Krain, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of Wooster, examining "the effectiveness of military action on the severity of ongoing instances of genocide and polititcide."

According to the press release
The study reveals that only overt military interventions that explicitly challenge the perpetrator appear to be effective in reducing the severity of the brutal policies. Military support for targets, or in opposition to the perpetrators, alters the almost complete vulnerability of unarmed civilian targets. And these interventions that directly target the perpetrators were not, on the whole, found to make matters worse for those being attacked ... He finds that even military intervention against the perpetrator by a single country or international organization has a measurable effect
in the "typical" case.

When a single international actor challenges the aggressor, the probability that the killings will escalate drops while the probability that the killings will decrease jumps. Each additional intervention by another international actor raises the chance of saving lives.
In the introduction to the study, Krain notes
Policy makers faced with situations like those in Rwanda or Bosnia, Kosovo or Darfur, are forced to rely on past experience with interventions in other types of internal conflicts, often with disastrous results. This study is a step toward a better understanding of the effectiveness of potential responses by the
international community to genocides and politicides.
Krain goes on to examine various intervention methods of dealing with on-going genocides and politicides (the "impartial intervention model," the "witness model," the "bystander model," etc...) and notes that not one of them is capable of reducing the severity of such situations.

After conducting a statistical analysis of the various models, Krain concludes
Policy maker concerns that intervention on the behalf of target populations will escalate the killing appear to be unfounded.

The only overt military interventions that appear to be effective in reducing the severity of genocides or politicides are those that explicitly challenge the perpetrator
He then discusses his finding as they relate to Darfur, writing
Intervention against the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed within the first year of the genocide would likely have had a measurable effect on the severity [2003] of state-sponsored mass murder in the following year.
Kraine does not claim that military intervention is the "only" option. In fact, he notes that "policy makers have a range of options available to them in the face of an ongoing genocide or politicide" and that his study "only examines one of those options."

Keeping that in mind, it is hard to argue with Kraine's basic conclusion
If actors wish to slow or stop the killing in an ongoing instance of state-sponsored mass murder, they are more likely to be effective if they oppose the perpetrators of the brutal policy.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

God must've been pissed...

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/08/23/belgian.nun.reut/index.html


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New York's Floundering GOP

In recent days, the news cycle has been dominated by the revelation that aides and others close to New York Governor George E. Pataki (R[INO]), including the governor's wife, Libby Pataki, had been caught on audiotape making inappropriate -- and revealing -- comments about subjects ranging from public relations to patronage. Needless to say, it has been an extremely embarrassing stretch for the Pataki administration, which has, in almost Clintonesque fashion, decided to claim that the recordings were illegal rather than address the substance of the tapes head-on.

Some might say that this unfolding saga is a sad (and possibly final) chapter in Pataki's otherwise successful three terms as governor. I would wholeheartedly disagree, since I really don't think George Pataki was a successful governor, or has done anything praiseworthy in his eleven years at the helm of the greatest state in the Union. As a New York conservative (a sadly dwindling breed, if ever there was one), I find Pataki's greatest failing to be that he swept into office on the conservative tide of 1994, took the oath of office in January 1995, and dedicated the remainder of his time in office to staying in office at whatever cost. Indeed, he became the very thing against which he railed in that first campaign, and New York has suffered for it.

In his tragic wake, Pataki has left the following (known) damage: (a) an out-of-control state legislature that spends grotesque amounts of money that the state does not have; (b) much higher taxes than when he became governor (which is quite a feat, considering that he deposed Mario Cuomo); (c) a massive bureaucracy saddled by its own weight and fueled by patronage; (d) total surrender to the pro-illegal immigration lobby and teachers' unions; (e) a decimated New York Republican Party, which was left decimated by a governor disinterested in the onerous but necessary task of grass-roots party-building; and (f) a state that is rapidly approaching a fiscal crisis that will measure approximately a 7.2 on the Gray Davis scale, leveling the state's credit rating and destroying the financial strength and earning power of literally millions of New Yorkers. (Too bad we don't have a recall.)

In short, Pataki has been an utter disaster, on all levels, and his prompt disappearance from the public eye would be welcome. The quicker he leaves, the sooner New York can make the dramatic improvements it needs to make. Eliot Spitzer might even be an improvement. Only time will tell.


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Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Quiet Milestone

Most of us were probably too busy to notice, but in the last few days, the cast and crew here at The Political Spectrum did something noteworthy: we posted our 500th post.

Frightening. I can't believe we have lasted this long. Congratulations to Mouldfan, Paul, Repeal22, Unconfirmable (where have you been? you've been quiet for a while), and our latest addition, W. And a sincere thank you to those of you -- some of whom we know, some of whom we don't -- who have made our modern-day version of the Federalist Papers possible.

May we be here for another 500.


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Friday, August 19, 2005

Extra! Extra! Roberts is evil misogynist. Read all about it.

I am generally a little more circumspect in decrying media bias than my colleague Gipper Clone. I do believe that there is a general bias in the mainstream media, but my main beef with the media is that they, to put it politely, stink. I just about never watch any cable news because I would like to think I am above being spoonfed the news stories that the media proprietors think interesting. I really am not all that interested in some missing Alabama girl. And don't even get me started on the local news. There isn't enough alcohol on Earth in order for me to get through the typical nightly newscast. Print media is little better. The Wall Street Journal is excellent, and the New York Sun, from what little I have seen of it, is not so bad. The Washington Post is usually pretty solid. And that's about it. Usually I resort to blogs and overseas news outlets if I want substantive information.

And about the Washington Post. As I said, it's generally a reasonably balanced and informative paper. But every now and then they run a story that reveals a bit of a leftist tilt. This was made all the more apparent in today's edition with a front-page strory blaring this headline: Roberts Resisted Women's Rights.

Did John Roberts advocate repeal of the 19th amendment? Nope, doesn't seem like it. Did he call for women to be shackled barefoot in the kitchen? Um, let's see . . . no, apparently not.

What then of the allegation that Roberts "resisted" women's rights? Another batch of memos released yesterday revealed that while in the Reagan White House Roberts, and settle yourself now, objected to the Equal Rights amendment and
said that a controversial legal theory then in vogue -- of directing employers to pay women the same as men for jobs of "comparable worth" -- was "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist."
Woah, Nellie. You mean to tell me Roberts wasn't blown away by a Marxist economic theory (comparative worth) that would have mandated that bureaucrats determine how much a job is worth and then restructure the wage system accordingly? The loon. So he doesn't think it's constitutional to have a system whereby a judge determines that a truck driver and a laundry worker are "worth" the same and should be paid the same? Outrageous!

And as for the Equal Rights Amendment, Ed Whelan knocks it out of the park thusly:
The article asserts that “Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form” of the ERA. The documents that I have seen show, rather, that Roberts pointed out to others in the White House that “[m]any of the President’s objections to the ERA are based not on the particular language of the [then-pending] proposal but rather the vehicle of a Constitutional amendment.” These same objections—that the ERA would “override the prerogatives of the States and vest the federal judiciary with broader powers” and that it is “not necessary to secure equal rights” (since ordinary legislative action was available for any steps deemed appropriate)—would apply to any other version of the ERA. In short, Roberts was explaining the clear implications of established Reagan administration policy
The other allegation against Roberts, according to the article, is that he questioned "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good." Right then and there alarm bells should be ringing because there's got to be more context to the quote, and indeed there was. Later in the article said context is revealed:
His remark on whether homemakers should become lawyers came in 1985 in reply to a suggestion from Linda Chavez, then the White House's director of public liaison. Chavez had proposed entering her deputy, Linda Arey, in a contest sponsored by the Clairol shampoo company to honor women who had changed their lives after age 30. Arey had been a schoolteacher who decided to change careers and went to law school.

In a July 31, 1985, memo, Roberts noted that, as an assistant dean at the University of Richmond law school before she joined the Reagan administration, Arey had "encouraged many former homemakers to enter law school and become lawyers." Roberts said in his memo that he saw no legal objection to her taking part in the Clairol contest. Then he added a personal aside: "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."
So he was making a lawyers joke. Perhaps it was a bad one, but obviously it was a sarcastic jibe at the influx of people into the legal profession. So it seems the objection to Roberts then is that he has a sense of humor. Perish the thought!

Hey, is that a pole sticking out of your ass? You might want to take that out.


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Drafting a Constitution, Could the US do it Now?

This opinion piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor asks one of the best questions I’ve seen in quite sometime with respect to Iraq. As Paul previously mentioned the Iraqi constitution has been delayed for at least a week or so, which while disappointing in one sense, is neither a major setback, nor a surprise given the difficulty and national/international importance of their task. In fact, after a bit of deliberation, I think it is probably for the best that they delayed as opposed to rushing forward, even if the changes that result are only minor. Moreover, more delays may be likely and they should be encouraged as long as the process continues show progress.

But those aren’t the questions of the CSM piece. Rather the author turns the question inward by asking if we the United States of America, gold standard for constitutional republicanism could accomplish the same task today if we were forced to. The author concludes that such a task would be impossible in today’s political climate, in short he finds that:

First, we'd argue over whether current amendments should stick around; over
whether there should be new language articulating a right of privacy. Someone
would float a provision protecting the flag from the scourge of desecration.
Another would propose limiting the right to bear arms, so Uzis don't flood the
cafés. Someone would maintain it's critical for us to define when life begins,
so we can protect the unborn from abortion. And so on. You can make your own
list from today's headlines.

While I don’t disagree with the list of problems that new constitution drafters would have to deal with, I think it suffers from the same fundamental flaw that plagues most current discussions of our Constitution. Namely, it puts all of the emphasis on the wrong part of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, rather than where I personally think it should be which is on Articles I -VI.

This is not to say that the issues relating to the Bill of Rights are not important, or that they would be easy to address if we were drafting a new Constitution today, but only that I think the general public tends to put far, far to much emphasis on the “individual rights” portion of our Constitution as opposed to its far more important function, which is establishing the rules, procedures, and principles that allow our institutions of government to function.

Allow me to take a slight detour here for a minute to make this point clear. Take the recent nomination of Judge Roberts for the Supreme Court. Much of the early debate, as we all know, was focused on abortion, and the current debates seem to be about abortion, civil/women’s rights, the role of religion in government, and the release of documents from his time with the Solicitor General’s office. I don’t think that the majority of Americans understand that in the scheme of what the Supreme Court does these issues are trivial at best. I’m not saying that they aren’t critical to American jurisprudence and that they are not important, I’m saying they aren’t as important as everyone thinks. Look at abortion, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 there have been 31 Supreme Court terms. Taking the average number of decided cases per term as 80 (which is actually a very conservative number as in the 70’s and early 80’s the number was actually much closer to 90-100 decisions per term, it is only recently, i.e., within the last 10 or so years that the number of decisions per term has dropped significantly) that makes approximately 2,480 opinions. Of those there have been how many other abortion cases? I can name the following 8: Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc., Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bellotti v. Baird, Planned Parenthood Association of Kansas City, Missouri Inc. v. Ashcroft, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Stenberg v. Carhart, and I am sure that there are several others that I am missing, but even if I’m missing as many as 16 cases, they still would only make up about 1% of the Court’s docket over the last 31 years (probably less than 1% given my rather conservative estimate of the annual number of decided cases). So what has the other 99% of cases been about? I submit that the overwhelming majority of the remaining 99% have been cases concerning things like statutory construction, state law disputes, criminal law/death penalty cases, and other federal power/administrative law decisions.

Back to my main point; take a look at Articles I-VI and how many controversial decisions would have to be made if we were drafting a Constitution today. Let’s start with the merits of proportional representation? I think this would cause disputes among representatives from many different regions. The west and southwest, most definitely in favor, the northeast and plain states on the other hand are likely to be less supportive of the notion. Try Bicameralism? There are decent arguments that this is more of hindrance to efficient government than a benefit, for example the Minnesota debate over this issue about 4 or so years ago now, when Jesse “The Body” Ventura was governor. (Nebraska by the way is the only state with a unicameral legislature.) Whether to have a part-time v. full-time legislature? Certainly this is a debatable proposition. What about this one, that I’m sure will get Paul and GC’s attention, the delegation doctrine, which is largely responsible for the federal administrative state? I think there may be support for reigning in Congress’s ability to create independent agencies and growing the size of the federal government. I think you see where I’m going and I haven’t even made it out of Article I yet. I also want to point out Article VI, which contains the Supremacy Clause and is the major source of the preemption doctrine, which, as many of you know, gives the federal government the power to override state decisions in favor of a national, federal solution. This is another part of the Constitution that I am sure would be rethought today if we were given the option.

All this is by way of saying that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge the Iraqis based on their ability to draft Constitutions. Our own, with all of its compromises, laudable provisions, and faults, took, I believe, about 4 months of closed-door meetings to write and 3+ years before it was finally ratified by 9 of the 13 colonies. Remember, the Bill of Rights wasn’t added until 1791, thus, it wasn’t even a part of the original document. We should remember that the main purpose of the Constitution is to provide a framework for governing, it doesn’t provide, or even purport to provide, all the answers to our political problems, and nor should it. Our Constitution is a blueprint, not a final draft, which leaves plenty for our elected representatives to decide. It’s not the only type of Constitution out there (see many of the State constitutions currently in place which are far more detailed than the federal version) but it has served us well for the past 2+ centuries, we can only hope that Iraq does a fraction as well, for if it does that will be a resounding success. I sincerely doubt that, even with our best and brightest and with the best of intentions, we could improve upon ours without considerable struggle, strife, and obstacles.


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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gaza

The gut-wrenching scenes of Jewish settlers being forcefully removed form their homes are just about the only thing that is attracting any attention these days besides Mother Sheehan.  Fortunately it appears that withdrawal has not been accompanied by the sort of violence that many feared would take place.  

I am somewhat agnostic on the question of whether the pullout is a good idea.  Certainly the major risk is that it will signal to the terrorists that they have won this battle, encouraging them even more to ratchet up the violence.  On the other hand, demographic factors make continued security perilous, drawing resources away from the Israeli military when they should be applied elsewhere.  This is also Sharon’s hope that Israel can claim the moral high ground.  At any rate, the editors at National Review Online present a reasonable account of the situation.

It seems understandable to try and garner the moral high ground and offer concessions, but that would be a more successful ploy were Israel dealing with a rational opponent.  That the Palestinians are so rational is a dubious proposition at best.  What’s more, I must seriously question the idea that the pullout from Gaza will be able to convince the rest of the world that the state of Israel means well.  Quite frankly, at this point it seems the rest of the world is intent on equivocating between the two sides.  No matter how many Palestinian “martyrs” kill themselves and innocent Jewish (and non-Jewish) bystanders, and no matter the fact that Israel provides more rights to Muslim individuals than any of the other Middle-Eastern states, elites throughout the world are unwilling to note any difference between the two sides.

This was made all the more apparent by the decision of Presbyterian Church (USA) to pressure companies that do business with the evil Zionists, err, the state of Israel.  

James Lileks tackles this decision and scores another victory for common sense.

But they're not anti-Semites. Heavens, nay. Don't you dare question their philosemitism! No, they looked at the entire world, including countries that lop off your skull if you convert to Presbyterianism, and what did they choose as the object of their ire? A country the size of a potato chip hanging on the edge of a region noted for despotism and barbarity. By some peculiar coincidence, it happens to be full of Jews.

The right and the left seem to take turns deciding who's going to be anti-Semitic. But for some time now, the hard left in the West has led the charge against the Jews -- or, as the sleight-of-hand term has it, the Zionists.

These adolescent spirits love nothing more than a revolution, a story of a scrappy underdog rising up against a colonizing power, and the Palestinians, with their romantically masked fighters and thrilling weapon-brandishing, fit the bill. Plus, there's something so deliciously naughty and transgressive about calling Jews the new Nazis.

It doesn't matter that one side is a liberal democracy that grants rights to women and non-Jews while the other has thugs and assassins for rulers and sends its kids to summer camps where they learn the joys of good ol' fashioned Jew-killing.

There’s more where that came from.

When pressed on this matter people will often try to make the case that they’re not anti-Semitic, rather they’re simply being critical of Israel.  Well, when’s one critical faculties makes that person unable to distinguish between a democratic society and tyrannical terrorists, then it is very difficult to value the criticism offered by such individuals and groups.  And it also makes me doubt whether Israel can achieve any sort of meaningful concessions or even garner good publicity when so much of the world is so very ready to believe that they are evil incarnate.  


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Plagued by Technicalities

Here’s the latest Coalition post.

Last week, David Loyn of the BBC wrote about the crisis in Niger and asked "How many dying babies make a famine?"
Famine is a troublesome word with a very specific meaning to the professional aid community.

It is usually taken to define a situation in which a high proportion of the general population are vulnerable to death by hunger-related disease.

This describes a much more intense situation than the loose way that famine is generally understood - and the pictures of starving babies in Niger certainly look like "famine" to the outside world.

In technical terms Niger's President Mamadou Tandja may be right to say that this is not a famine.
The debate over "famine" is much the same as the debate over "genocide" in Darfur
"For those who are dying from acute malnutrition and related diseases, the debate about whether there have been enough deaths to justify the famine label, and the extent to which this exceeds the normal hungry season mortality rate is not helpful.

"Avoiding the famine label has often been convenient for those seeking to justify slow or failed responses."
Last September, the US declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur, but three months later, the report (PDF file) of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur concluded that it was not, though it also stipulated
The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region.
International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide.
But the press responded, not with headlines reading "Massive Crimes Against Humanity in Darfur," but rather with headlines such as "U.N. report: Darfur not genocide."

But the point was essentially moot, as one thing quickly became clear: overwhelming evidence of massive crimes against humanity could not get the world to act, nor could a genocide declaration. In fact, it seems that nothing could prod the global community to act to address the situation in Darfur, be it genocide, quasi-genocide, or "merely" crimes against humanity.

As Loyn reports of Niger, warnings of an impending food crisis have been raised since November, but nobody paid attention until it was too late
They did not respond to the requests on paper as they did to pictures of dying babies.
The reverse is now occurring regarding Darfur. It has become, in the words of Eric Reeves, a "genocide by attrition," and the world has stopped paying attention.

Last month, the UN reported that violence in Darfur had diminished over the past year, mainly because militia have run out of targets after destroying hundreds of villages.

As Reeves has written, the genocide in Darfur is now
[M]ore a matter of engineered disease and malnutrition than violent killing. In other words, disease and malnutrition proceeding directly from the consequences of violent attacks on villages, deliberate displacement, and systematic destruction of the means of agricultural production among the targeted non-Arab or African tribal groups became the major killers.
It is entirely possible that Darfur will not begin to receive sustained coverage again until this "genocide by attrition" has taken the lives of tens of thousands more and footage of dying babies in Darfur begins to show up on the nightly news.

And then, in lieu of actually addressing that problem, we can have a debate about whether or not this new situation meets the technical definition of "famine."


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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Iraq's Constitutional Convention

There has been some consternation on the delay in getting a brand spanking new Constitution approved in Iraq.  This concern is understandable, but probably unnecessary.  In fact, I’m almost a little happy that they haven’t rushed headlong into the process merely to get something, anything out there over the objections of a large minority of those involved.

Clearly we should be concerned if the delay mounts into months, but that is rather unlikely.  It seems that they will be able to negotiate an agreement in the coming week, and they will have a constitution that mandates a fair degree of federalism and also will divvy up the oil revenues so that it is more evenly distributed.  Politically, this makes sense for the country.

Getting back to the delay, we need a little perspective.  Our very own framers locked themselves up in Philadelphia for four months, and having just finished reading the Convention debates once again, it’s remarkable that they agreed to anything at all.  I simply lost count of how many times they discussed the mode of electing the President, and how many times they changed their mind.  And once the final copy was ready to be sent to the states, several delegates had turned against it, particularly Luther Martin, who would be one of the leading figures among the anti-Federalists.

Of course that’s not to say that the framing of the American constitution and the Iraqi constitution are the same thing, but it would be foolish to expect it to go smoothly or quickly.  Luckily some of the more onerous features – such as the enshrinement of Sharia law – have not been incorporated (it will be a guiding principle, not the guiding principle).

I’m not sure what to expect, though I’m sure it will not be a replica of our own constitution.  (There we go getting into cultural differences again).  I’m not really sure what we should want out of an Iraqi constitution.  But at any rate, I am not terribly concerned that it’s taking a bit longer to achieve an accord.  I take it as a sign that the majority understands it cannot and should not ignore the wishes of the Sunni minority.  

Compromise – there’s a concept that might make the Middle East a more hospitable place in the long run.


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Losing Sympathy, and Fast

I had originally had a whole post that was to tear into Cindy Sheehan, the mother who had the misfortune of losing her son in Iraq in 2004. No human being should fault her for her grief -- she did, after all, lose a son, something I would not wish upon my worst enemy. And people sometimes express their grief in strange ways. Ms. Sheehan is certainly one of those people, and she deserves well wishes and heartfelt prayers.

That having been said, I think the true shame lies in the way the anti-Bush, anti-War on Terror mainstream media have transformed this poor grieving mother into a disposable political prop. She went from being a sympathetic figure -- who, by the way, already met with President Bush in the wake of her son's death (again, you wouldn't know that by listening to or watching the MSM coverage of this Crawford circus; even the left half of Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, felt compelled to point this out last week while subbing in for Tim Russert on Meet the Press) -- to being a mouthpiece for Howard Dean and his rapidly plummeting brain cell count. If you doubt that she now has Democrat handlers, I encourage you to check out Ms. Sheehan's latest comments about Palestine and the Internal Revenue Service and tell me that those are the sincere expressions of a grieving mom rather than talking points handed to her at the beginning of each press day.

The rest of the family no doubt shares Ms. Sheehan's grief, but has nevertheless managed to mourn in a way that does not seem quite so self-centered or egomaniacal. Most of her family has publicly disavowed her tactics, while her husband has filed for divorce. Maybe this poor soul will see the extent to which she has been manipulated by the DNC before she loses everything.


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How long til' "Miss Baghdad" opens on Broadway?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081300853.html


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Is There An "American Culture"

Per Repeal’s request, I’ll take my question and try to formulate a coherent post. No promises, as I may tend to ramble a bit.

The starting point for this debate is always; what is “culture?” Similar the Supreme Court, I’ll start with some dictionary definitions first:


  1. According to Webster’s on-line, culture is: the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education; expert care and training; enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training; acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills; the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man's capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations; the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group or; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a company or corporation.

  2. Dictionary.com provides the following definitions: The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought; these patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population; these patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression; the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization; intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it; development of the intellect through training or education; enlightenment resulting from such training or education; or a high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.

While these definitions are interesting and certainly accurate, I’m not sure they entirely reflect where I was going with the American culture in the context of a debate over “multiculturalism.” To put the question more succinctly, it seems to me that what one really wants to know is what makes one American? What are the traits, beliefs, habits, interests, or other general characteristics that one would list if one were forced to describe our nation to someone who has never heard of it before?

It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics, and to be sure a lot of the answers depend on things like location. Are we talking about the Northeast, the Midwest, the Plains, the South, the Southeast, the West, the Southwest, the Northwest, or an area outside the continental United States (Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, etc)? The answer to this question might have a large impact on the answer that would be given, as clearly people in NY are culturally distinct from people in CA who are all distinct from people in TN, AL, or TX. Are we to consider socio-economic factors (ala, repeal’s points from the comments)? It is arguably true that poorer people have different responses to cultural questions than the affluent, which have different responses than the “middle-class” (however it is defined) American might have. Do we consider race, religion, ethnicity, or other factors? America is, as is often quoted, a “nation of immigrants” who can trace ancestors from almost all around the globe. Being American is to be a part of the great melting pot, which has been combining persons of all races, religions, backgrounds and above all “cultures” since the discovery of the "new world." All these details begs a question; is it true that because we are an “amalgam” of different cultures, does that mean that there is no American culture?

I think the answer to this question is no, and I’m going to guess that Paul and GC will agree with this sentiment. There are things that are uniquely “American,” which separate us from the cultures of our ancestors. While we may include and cherish those historical roots, we have evolved and developed as a nation to the point where we are now one people, who can define a unique cultural identity, which then can arguably be used to render judgments about the cultures of other countries. So enough dancing around the question; what are those uniquely American things?

Well, I think the first place to start is with our conception of freedom and self-determination. The “American Dream,” if you will, is uniquely American. Regardless of its truth, and there is still a tremendous amount of truth there, the belief that even the poorest, worst off, of our citizens can one day rise up and be CEO of a corporation, a Member of Congress, a lawyer, doctor, CPA or other similarly important and financially well-off position, is something that is arguably not paralleled anywhere else in the world, even in the so-called other western democracies. You are what you make of yourself and the opportunities are limitless, that is a cornerstone of Americanism. Other things might include, our federalist, limited form of national government. The manner in which we hold elections, especially Presidential elections (i.e., the Electoral College). One might argue that our University system, with its sheer size, strength and dominance over the world higher education market, is uniquely American. The fact that per capita more people go to college here is something that is truly a part of that American Dream that is so quintessentially American.

I could go on, but I am sure that others will have things to add as there is a lot of art, music, writing, thought, and scientific achievement that factors in to this debate and deserves to be mentioned.  However, I don’t want to forget the flip-side of the coin. There are negatives or arguable negatives to our culture as well. Some might argue that our percentage of incarcerated persons, which far outnumbers even the most totalitarian of regimes, is something that is a part of American culture. The continued use and support for the death penalty, another American attribute. Our abysmal treatment of the Indians and our embracing of slavery is also American, though perhaps not as bad as other nation’s treatment of indigenous peoples, and we, in fairness, weren’t the only slave nation.

In sum, the question of American culture is far from an easy one, there are lots of variables, as well as I am sure numerous things that I didn’t think of or mention (hint, I’m depending on the other members of the blog to fill them in as their contributions will be interesting and intelligent as usual). Moreover, none of this even begins to address the issue of cross-cultural comparisons, which as I have advocated is the heart of the “multicultural” debate, at least on the philosophical level. This is a fruitful topic and I hope to see lots of comments, suggestions, and arguments, as I’m not convinced that there are any definitive answers.

UPDATE: This post was my first with the new Blogger plug-in for Microsoft Word, which is available here. It worked rather well and might be an improvement over using Blogger directly, or even the cut-and-paste approach, which I know is quite popular.    


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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Moral Superiority

Thomas Sowell: Immigration taboos:

"Citizen-of-the-world types are resistant to the idea of tightening our borders, and especially resistant to the idea of making a distinction between people from different countries. But the real problem is not their self-righteous fetishes but the fact that they have intimidated so many other people into silence."

Where did the idea of moral equivalency come from? I suspect that it stems from the guilt we feel as being lucky enough to have been born in America. For some reason, rather than actually do something to bring aid to the various sufferings around the world, there is a tendency to apologize for the rituals, practices, and common usages that are the very root cause of the suffering: unchecked corruption, subjugation of women, racism, genocide. And strangely, we equivocate and say that we have no right to judge our behaviours and values as superior to those of other coutries, tribes, etc..

BS! The moral superiority of the USA and its people is off of the charts compared with every other nation state on the planet. Sure we have problems but we fix them, and when we try to fix those broken systems elsewhere, we are the great hegemon. Do I want a McDonald's on every street in the world? No. Do I respect and enjoy other cultures and people? Of course. Do I think that their opinion of me and my country matters one little bit? Not a chance in hell.

Our men and women have sacrificed their lives in the millions to save and protect the oppressed of the world. We are able to do this because of our capitalist system which creates the wealth; we are willing to sacrifice for others because we are quite simply morally superior. When the Germans asked, the french shipped their Jews straight to the crematories, as did just about every other continental European country. Sick, sick, sick. We're not talking about 500 years ago, we're talking about people who are in their 80's, still alive today. I tolerate no criticism from these people or their progeny. My policy would be that the USA start caring what Murderous Russia, Genocidal germany, and the pathetically endearing (albeit self-preservatively genocidal in their own right) french think in about 100 years. That should be enough generations to disinfect their gene pool from their evil proclivities.

Until then, we will continue to aid and comfort the suffering and play cop on the mean streets of the world stage.


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Monday, August 15, 2005

World's greatest mystery solved

A puzzle that has confounded the greatest minds has finally been solved:

Why does uncooked spaghetti snap into more than two pieces when bent?


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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mall Madness

Interesting article courtesy of Garfield Ridge in the Weekly Standard on the Mall. Basically between heightened security due to terrorism, the unabated development of new memorials and museums, and the rather mundane nature of the exhibits currently on display at most museums, the Mall is not in such hot shape.
Everyone seemed to agree the moratorium was long overdue, but it came with an unavoidable catch: Congress can override the ban whenever it wants. The moratorium is a bit like the intermittent hunger strike once undertaken by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who would periodically put the strike on hold so he could get a bite to eat.

In fact, the bill imposing the moratorium contained the first exemption to itself. It authorized construction of a massive subterranean visitors center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Since the moratorium was passed, the World War II Memorial has been built, two concession stands and Tourmobile turnarounds are under construction near the Lincoln Memorial, plans proceed for two similar buildings at the Washington Monument, the National Museum of the American Indian filled up the mall's southeast corner, designs have been approved for a four-acre Martin Luther King memorial and a memorial honoring black Revolutionary War soldiers, and several Republican congressmen have declared their intention to reserve space on the mall for a monument to Ronald Reagan--which, they stipulate, must be at least as big as the 7.5-acre FDR memorial, and not one hectare less. President Bush has insisted that room be found on the mall for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and at least one public committee ponders a Latino museum, too. According to a report by the National Capital Planning Commission, one of the regulatory bodies overseeing the mall, if present trends continue--always a safe bet in Washington--fifty new memorials will be added to the mall by the middle of this century.
Read the whole thing.


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Another United Nations Failure

Last week, Iran openly defied a recent United Nations directive and unsealed its uranium processing facility at Isfahan, notwithstanding the fact that the nation had signed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty late last year. Some generally stupid people (including Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]) found this shocking, but those of us who have been paying attention with regularity know that this is just the latest phase in an ongoing ruse against the West, and is part and parcel of a repeated pattern of conduct in Tehran's steady march toward an Islamic bomb. While this particular move reflects the brazen devil-may-care attitude of Iran's new leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it nevertheless comports with what Iran has been doing for years -- well before President Bush's "axis of evil" reference in his 2002 State of the Union address.

I really don't feel as if I need to belabor the fact that the U.N. is a failed organization, because it is and we all know it. It has somehow survived under the inane illusion that lives are made better by lots and lots of talking. (Ask the lovely folks being slaughtered in Darfur if the endless stream of Security Council meetings has helped their plight.) It has become a joke that is no longer funny.

I would, however, point out that the U.N.'s latest failure is far too serious to take lightly. Bluntly stated, it would appear that, whether through intentional foot-dragging (after all, a Muslim is in charge of the IAEA -- somehow, that seemed like a great idea to someone at one time) or breaktaking incompetence, the IAEA is alowing perhaps the most dangerous supporter of global terrorism to leap closer to the most devastating weapon known to humanity. I shudder to think what would happen if (or should I say "when"?) they succeed.

I know Bush is serious about all options being on the table with respect to Iran. I just hope we act before it is too late.

P.S. Can we please, please stop calling the IAEA the U.N.'s atomic "watchdog"? The U.N. has proven itself quite unable to watch itself, much less the corrupt goings-on of Islamic governments hell-bent on obtaining nuclear weaponry.


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Friday, August 12, 2005

Did It Matter?

This week's Coalition post.

Over a year ago, I wrote the post below urging the Bush administration to declare the situation in Darfur a "genocide." Since then, an estimated 400,000 people have died, Doctors Without Borders is warning that millions of lives "hang in the balance," and the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning of "chronic instability."

One year later, we have to ask if the "genocide" declaration made any difference at all.
Say The Word

On January 11, 1994, Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, the UN Force Commander for the United Nation's Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) sent an ominous fax to UN headquarters in New York. A high level informant within the ruling party informed UNAMIR that he had been training the Interahamwe militia and had been
[O]rdered to register all Tutsi in Kigali. He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to
1000 Tutsis.
Dallaire informed New York that he intended to act on the information and seize various illegal arms caches before they could be distributed to the Interahamwe. The UN prohibited him from doing so. And as Dallaire's executive assistant Brent Beardsley explained
We lost the initiative. We lost this fantastic opportunity, an absolutely incredible opportunity to maybe get this thing off the rails, take this train of genocide and knock it off its rails, get the initiative; maybe rally the moderates and be able to prevent what they obviously wanted to do, what [the informant] told us they wanted to do, which was exterminate Tutsis.
The 1994 slaughter of one million Rwandans was not some spontaneous outpouring of uncoordinated evil. Rather, it was an orchestrated, well-planned and systematic campaign to kill every Tutsi in the country.

It did not come out of the blue, but the various warning signs were routinely ignored and the US and the international community intentionally refused to legally recognize that genocide was taking place. As a result, during a horrific 100 days in 1994, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.

Ten years later, a similar crisis is again unfolding in Africa. Only today, hundreds of thousands of people are threatened with destruction, not via neighbors with machetes or screwdrivers, but rather by famine and disease.

The government of Sudan is currently engaged in a genocidal campaign against black Muslim farmers and villagers in the western section of the country. In Darfur, Arab militias backed by government bombs and troops are systematically wiping out thousands of villages and their inhabitants. Hundreds of thousands have fled into neighboring Chad, while millions more have been internally displaced.

The regime in Khartoum has vehemently resisted Western pressure to reign in the militias and grant access to humanitarian NGO's seeking to alleviate the suffering of some 2 million people who have been forced from the homes.

Just as in Rwanda, the crisis in Darfur did not come out of nowhere. Activists have been warning about the potential humanitarian catastrophe for months, but to no avail. While the looming crisis was more or less ignored as the international community focused its efforts and attention on the peace agreement between Khartoum and rebels in the South, the
situation in Darfur deteriorated to the point where U.S. Agency for International Development chief Andrew Natsios warned
We estimate right now if we get relief in, we'll lose a third of a million people, and if we don't, the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people.
In other words, if NGOs could gain immediate access to those in need, the best case scenario was that "only" 300,000 people were going to die. And that was three weeks ago - and they didn't get access.

Though the Bush administration claims that the crisis in Darfur is a "matter of highest priority" for the United States, they have been unable to get the UN to take a strong and vocal stand on the issue. Everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that someone else ought to take the lead.

The US and everyone else points the finger at the UN and the UN points the finger right back at them.

As it stands now, hundreds of million of dollars have been allocated for relief efforts, but the supplies are not reaching those in need as the government of Sudan has failed to control the Arab militias and continues to throw up procedural roadblocks in order to prevent access.

For months, the international community has been hoping that it could pressure Khartoum into stopping its genocidal campaign and for months they have resisted. All the while, the situation grows more and more dire. The lives of hundreds of thousands are at risk and every day the rainy season grows nearer. And once the rains begin, even if the humanitarian organizations do manage to get access, tens of thousands will be beyond their reach.

It is widely accepted that Darfur is the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It didn't get that way over night.

Physicians for Human Rights has warned that "a genocidal process is unfolding in Darfur." The United States Holocaust Memorial's Committee on Conscience has issued a "genocide warning." The U.S. war-crimes ambassador, Pierre-Richard Prosper, has testified that "indicators of genocide" exist in Darfur.

How many "indicators of genocide" do there need to be before the genocide is officially recognized and the international community fulfills its legal responsibilities?

Let it not be said that, for want of the courage to utter this one word, hundreds of thousands died in vain.


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Thursday, August 11, 2005

America's worst ex-president caught in a lie

George Will takes Jimmy Carter to the woodshed for his allegation that Will was responsible for stealing Carter’s debate briefing book and handing it over to Reagan’s team. Will vehemently denies the charge, calls Carter a liar, and then basically mocks him for complaining about the brief since it was useless to both the Carter and Reagan campaigns.
The role of ex-president requires a grace and restraint notably absent from Carter. See, for example, his criticism of the United States when he is abroad, as in England two weeks ago. Having made such disappointing history as president, Carter as ex-president should at least refrain from disseminating a historical falsehood.

So strong, however, is the human impulse to believe comforting myths that Carter probably will continue to promulgate the fiction that I gave Reagan the utterly unimportant briefing book, thereby catalyzing the 1980 landslide. But to be fair: As a candidate, Carter promised only that as president he would never tell a lie, thereby leaving himself a loophole for his post-presidential career as a fabulist.
It’s amazing that Carter has the gumption to blame the brief theft as the principal cause of his defeat. Umm, no Jim. It has a lot more to do with double digit inflation, double digit unemployment, a completely inadequate foreign policy, the general feeling that America was falling behind and losing the cold war, and your generally smug and egotistical attitude which a large part of your own party’s leadership found repellant. You know, when members of your party can’t even stand you, it might be a sign of some greater failing.

Jimmy Carter is a sad and pathetic old man. What’s even more pathetic is that he builds a few houses and people suddenly are willing to forgive his enormous failings as a president. He can build houses until the day he dies and it wouldn’t make up for the fact that he is one of the five worst presidents in American history and arguably – heck, not even arguably, he IS the worst ex-President in American history. Perhaps he believes it is a noble thing to coddle tyrants like Fidel Castro and bash his country from across the seas, but frankly he’s such a hack that he makes Bill Clinton look like George Washington in terms of character and ability.

The man has an ego the size of Texas. Asked to give a eulogy and he’ll spend a paragraph praising himself. Perhaps that’s why he can’t seem to bare the thought that the reason he lost the 1980 election was not because he lost a debate, but because the majority of the American populace had the same correct appraisal of his presidency – a miserable failure.


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Mick Jagger: Foreign Policy expert

I grew up listening to the Stones. As the youngest brother in a family of five, I was exposed to classic rock at an early age and became a big fan of the Stones. I used to pester my brother all the time, saying "Play I Can't Get No, play I Can't Get No" day and night. They're still one of my favorite music groups, and think they far outshine their English brethren the Beatles.

But I listen to the Stones for great music, not political commentary. But it looks like Sir Mick has a new album entitiled "Neocon" which features a Bush-bashing title track.

Whatever.

At this point pop icons and their political harangues are wonderful sources of amusement. But I absolutely love the Telgraph's take on the matter:
At last someone with real authority has said it: America's senior policy makers are risibly out of touch. They have no idea how the younger generation lives. Cushioned from the stark realities of life by their vast wealth and insuperable self-esteem, they travel the world in private jets, staying in luxury hotels and socialising only with flatterers and hangers-on.

Thank goodness we have rock stars such as Sir Mick to administer a much-needed "reality check".


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Reason: The NRA vs. the Constitution: How a misguided defense of gun rights undermines a free society

I'll take the latter.: "The most commonly heard complaint about the National Rifle Association is that it's run by extremists who are militantly opposed to all forms of gun control and do not represent the views of the average gun owner. The second most common complaint is that the NRA is a namby-pamby, inside-the-Beltway lobby that readily compromises principle for political advantage."

The only good thing the NRA has done of late is provide those great NRA stickers that you can put on you front and rear doors for added protection. They are much more effective than the ADT and Brinks Security signs people put in their front yard.


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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NARAL Falsely Accuses Supreme Court Nominee Roberts

When you've to lie to advance your cause, shouldn't one question the validity of the cause?

Nether side of the aisle has any moral high ground on lying to promote an agenda however, I'd argue that the Democrat allies engage in this type of behaviour more so than the righties. My lowly opinion.


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Monday, August 08, 2005

A Tale of Two Blogs

One of the best liberal blogs around is Legal Fiction. Frankly I haven't kept up with it since Publius declared he was going to stop blogging for a while . . . and then came back before much time had passed. I honestly didn't know he had returned to blogging, and just lost sight of the blog once the habit of reading it had been broken (which is why bloglines is such a great tool. It's a one-stop shop for all of your blogging needs).

Anyway, Adam White at Southern Appeal brought Publius back to my attention with this post last night on one of Publius' posts which seemed to draw a moral equivalency between Muslim terrorists and the allied forces in Iraq. Adam rightfully called him out in and seemed to have the better of the arguments in the comments section, though perhaps he went a bit overboard in comparing Publius to Ward Churchill.

Publius has been an outspoken an ardent opponent of the war in the Iraq, but his objections cannot be as easily dismissed as those of extremists on the left. Unfortunately I think that Publius occasionally leaves the plane of rationality, as he did last night. But just when I'm about to lose hope in humanity, Publius comes right back with this thought provoking and insightful post about the Confederate flag. He doesn't defend the flag, but encourages his liberal readers to understand the southern point of view, a message this conservative opponent of the flag (who has utilized the "confederate swatstika" reference in the past) took to heart. It's the sort of post that reminds me that as many times as I'd like to hurl a rock through my computer when reading Publius, I admire him for his unique and well-thought out perspective. I think I'll have to make Legal Fiction a regular part of my reading habits again.

It also brought to mind a (somewhat) related point. Living in DC almost makes one forget that there's a world beyond politics. It's not to say that people outside the District cannot get passionate about politics, but when one lives and works "inside the beltway" there is simply no escaping political talk. Sometimes it can get quite oppressive, and there have been several times in the past year or so where I have almost given up on politics completely because I felt so burned out on the topic. After years of thinking and writing about politics in both a professional and academic setting, it gets numbing. What's more it becomes such a focus that you almost can't think of anything else, and frankly you lose perspective. It doesn't help in terms of invective, and that shows in some of the tenser exchanges that one witnesses on this blog and others.

It's not easy to contain one's emotion, and often times I do not. The blogosphere is a great tool to express one's ideas and to share them with others. But this great tool comes with the cost of too easy an access to pontification. We can all have reasonable debate and discussion, but more often than not it deteriorates into petty name calling and irrationality. I'm as guilty as anyone of engaging in such behavior despite my wish to remain as objective as possible. It's easy to slip from snark to boorishness.

All that's a drawn out way of saying that I hope that, if nothing else, I can use the blogosphere as a forum for quality discussion rather than baseless foaming at the mouth. It's incredibly valuable to gain another perspective, especially when that perspective is worth reading, and Publius' perspective is almost always worth the time.


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Perils of Legal Reporting

I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh with this, but every once and a while minor inaccuracies really make my blood boil. This is the case with a front page article in today’s Washington Post. The long and the short of the article focuses around a shift in Pentagon policy with respect to the use of the military and its level of involvement in homeland security related issues. This a tricky topic for several reasons, but mostly because of an obscure statute whose current language dates back to the Reconstruction Era, known as the Posse Comitatus Act. All of this is discussed in the article, but I want to focus on a couple of paragraphs in particular, according to the article:

[c]ivil liberties groups have warned that the military's expanded
involvement in homeland defense could bump up against the Posse Comitatus Act of
1878, which restricts the use of troops in domestic law enforcement. But
Pentagon authorities have told Congress they see no need to change the
law.

According to military lawyers here, the dispatch of ground troops would most likely be justified on the basis of the president's authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to serve as commander in chief and protect the nation. The Posse Comitatus Act exempts actions authorized by the Constitution. (emphasis added)

While technically correct on its face, these sentences leave a lot of out of what is a highly contentious, very uncertain area of the law. Specifically, it leaves out all of the ambiguity as it relates to the division of power between the President, pursuant to his implied Article II powers, and Congress pursuant to its Article I war making authority. More importantly, however, the article misrepresents what the Posse Comitatus Act actually says. Here is the full text of the statute, which appears at 18 U.S.C. § 1385:


Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the
Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air
Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under
this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (emphasis added)

Now I know this is going to seem silly to some, but my fellow lawyers ought to at least acknowledge the problem (of course I’ve bold-faced it for emphasis). The Post article leaves out the word expressly, which arguably changes the meaning of the entire statute, and calls into question the assertion by the military lawyers that Article II implied powers are sufficient to avoid application of the Posse Comitatus Act. In other words, the statute authorizes the use of the military as posse comitatus only when the Constitution expressly provides for it, which the Constitution arguably never does. Thus, it is an open question as to whether implied powers are sufficient. Article II gives the President authority over the armed forces as Commander-in-Chief, however, it never specifies how far that authority is to extend. In fact, short of a few landmark cases, Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer, and Dames and More v. Reagan, which arguably have curtailed executive powers in many respects, we don’t have a very good sense of exactly what powers, if any, are implied by the language of Article II.

That being said, the word expressly, might create a problem for the Posse Comitatus Act itself. It may be possible to argue that the statute violates the concept of separation of powers by restricting the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief and giving Congress more control over military matters than the framers intended. Various versions of the Posse Comitatus Act have existed since 1794 (3d Congress) and never to my knowledge has their been a challenge on these grounds. We do, however, live in different times and under a different threat so anything is possible. Furthermore it is unclear what, if any, authority could be derrived from the Authorization for the Use of Force, passed by Congress and cited by the President for just about every action even remotely connected (no matter how logically attentuated the connection may be, i.e., the ability to detain American Citizens indefintally without access of lawyers or being charged with a crime) with the "war on terror."

My beef is that the reporting leaves the impression that the issue is resolved, when in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are reasonable, plausible arguments on both sides and the court’s have yet to weigh in with respect to this particular debate. I understand what the reporters were trying to do, but in my opinion, they are misleading people into thinking that the President has far more authority than in fact he may have. Congress clearly could amend the Posse Comitatus Act, and maybe the situation is such that as a matter of policy that is a good idea, but until such a decision is made, it seems that, based on a plain reading of the statute and the Constitution, that the President lacks the ability to use the military (specifically the Army and Air Force, another fault of the statue is that it makes no mention of the other branches of the military) in the capacity indicated by the article.

I’m open to arguments as to why the President should have more authority in this area. Again I’m not saying he doesn’t have the necessary authority under Article II, all I’m saying is right now it is far from clear that he does. Of course, I’m not a huge fan of implied executive powers, but then again, that could simply be due to the fact that I don’t trust this executive. Nevertheless, I’m pretty confident in my ability to cast aside my partisan blinders and state that at best the legal authority is uncertain and at worst it’s non-existent. Like I said, we can debate the merits of the policy if people want, but legally, there are more unanswered questions than answered ones.



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Friday, August 05, 2005

Roberts in the Romer case

There has been a mild flurry of commentary in the past couple of days on John Roberts' pro bono work to assist gay rights groups in the Romer v. Evans case. Honestly I do not have much to say about Roberts' involvement and would leave it to my attorney co-bloggers to comment on the specifics of such work. Also, I am somewhere in the middle on the specific case in question. This post addresses the concerns some in the conservative community have about the manner in which the case was overturned.

Listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday, he seemed to be particularly upset with the decision because it had invalidated a state constitutional amendment ratified by the Colorado electorate. I have heard similar types of complaints when referrenda in California and Arizona were overturned by the Courts. There is a feeling by certain segments of the right that ballot inititiatives and referrenda are somehow sancrosanct, as though they deserve a special layer of protection from judicial interference.

This stance strikes me as manifestly wrong. Plebiscitary ballot initiatives are no more sacred than any ordinary act of legislature. An unconstitutional ballot initiative deserves to be struck down as much as an unconstitutional piece of legislation passed by the people's representatives. There is no special gloss on popular appeals that make them any less prone to unconstitutional decision making.

If New York were to hold a referrenda lowering the minimum age for a person to represent the state in the Senate, I doubt very many if any would be upset if that were overturned. Of course that is a clear-cut example. Perhaps a better one would be a state-wide inititiative to allow private companies to take land for a non-private use. Clearly that would violate the Constitution . . . oh, wait. Nevermind.

Of course the question then turns on whether or not the Colorado inititiative was indeed unconsitutional, and again, that is an issue for another day. Honestly it was not a case I paid particularly close attention to in my con law class. I of course respect states' rights, but not when a state decision clearly violates the federal constitution. But whether it was the legislature of the state or the voters of a state doing the violating should not matter. The Constitution does not allow the people to violate its laws any more than their elected representatives - unless they choose to amend it. Then that's another story.


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An idiotic proposal meets an idiotic response

Representative Henry Boniia (R-Tex) has proposed that 16th Street, NW in DC be renamed Ronald Reagan Blvd. Ugh.

Look, like any young conservative I adore Ronald Reagan and do believe that he is among the greatest presidents in American history. But this is just silly. Just about everything else in the city has been renamed for him, rendering this just an unnecessary bit of overkill. Besides, I don't even think the Gipper himself would have approved.

Thankfully Chair of the House Government Reform Tom Davis (R-Va) has already stated he would place this proposal in the "appropriate file," which is probably located somewhere underdneath Congressman Davis' desk, and which the cleaning crew sorts every night.

Not content with being on the right side of the issue, Mayor Anthony Williams had to get his own ridiculous two cents in.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) objected, saying that renaming the historic north-south route that leads to the White House would mar the elegant street plan laid out by French engineer Pierre L'Enfant in 1791 -- and cost the city $1 million to alter maps and signs.

"It's been a long time since I've heard of a plan that made so little sense," Williams said. "Changing the unique and beautifully mapped street system in Washington would mean undoing . . . a design that has inspired millions of people from around the world."
For surely if we rename 16th Street, then M. L'Enfant's (and that's pronounced Lahn-fant, not Luh-fant, Mr. Metro conductor - just like Judiciary is NOT pronounced joo-dish-ooh-ary) grand design will call tumbling down like a house of cards.

And a design that has inspired millions? First of all, this wouldn't change the actual design layout. The basic grid pattern would remain unchanged. We'd still all have to sit in traffic behind some diplomat making a left-hand turn from 16th.

Second, can Anthony Williams please introduce me to any one of the so-called millions who has been "inspired" by a freaking grid design. I'd like to shake that person's hand . . . and then use my other to hit him square upside the head.

But only after I do the same to Henry Bonilla.


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