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Archive for February, 2007

Sure It’s Illegal *Now,* But…

[ 14 ] February 21, 2007 |

Glenn Reynolds uses some somewhat prose-like stylings (“beclowned“?) to defend his crackpot assassination scheme. Alas, he doen’t explicitly defend his farcical claim that the U.S and Iran have been at war since 1979, although his analogies and tu quoques implicitly depend on such an assumption. I did enjoy this part:

Nor would such action be illegal. Assassination is forbidden by executive order. Nothing prevents the president from rescinding that order, or amending it.

Heh. Indeed. Similarly, kidnapping someone and taking them across state lines isn’t really illegal, since nothing could prevent Congress from repealing the law if they wanted to!

Anyway, what’s more striking and important is that whether or not such a plan would be legal, Reynolds has yet to offer any substantive argument for why it would work. Could anyone be dumb enough to think that the American assassination of Iranian clerics, scientists and/or political leaders would help liberal forces in Iran? That killing a couple scientists would make Iran less determined to acquire nuclear weapons? That these kinds of covert ops are remotely viable? The whole thing is nuttier than a Planters factory, and Reynolds can’t even be bothered to begin an argument on the merits. This should be irrelevant to his job, of course, but that anybody takes anything he writes about foreign policy seriously is remarkable.


Worst American Birthdays

[ 0 ] February 21, 2007 |

(This is going to be somewhat of a Loomisian gesture, but as part of my weird obsession with the worst that history has to offer, I’m going to start an occasional series recognizing the worst Americans, living and dead, on their dates of birth.)

On 20 February 1927, humanity was punished with the birth of Roy Cohn — a helpless, squealing neonate who would grow up to be a lawyer and one of the most loathsome public figures of the second half of the 20th century. As a 24-year-old prosecutor, Cohn secured the convictions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, alleged Soviet spies who would later die for their crimes in the electric chair. Cohn was so proud of the Rosenberg case that he bragged throughout his life that because of his friendship with Irving Kaufman, he had been able to persuade the judge to pass a sentence of death. Springing from one disgusting spectacle to another, Cohn next served as chief counsel in the Senate “internal security” hearings led by Joesph McCarthy. There, Cohn hounded accused communists and took special delight in exposing the closeted lives of young gay men whose names were brought before the committee. When one of the committee’s playthings comitted suicide, Cohn reportedly celebrated with a bottle of champagne. He always maintained that Tailgunner Joe was the “greatest man I ever worked for.”

Quite justifiably, Cohn hated himself, though never for the right reasons. He might have found fault with his ruthless, unethical career — regretting, for example, his long record of witness tampering. He might have had second thoughts about ruining the career of Sen. Thomas Eagleton, who briefly stood as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 1972 until Cohn exposed his medical history of depression, for which Eagleton had once received electroshock therapy. He might have been haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, as Tony Kushner imagined he might be in Angels in America. Instead, Roy Cohn secretly loathed his homosexuality and took great (though unsuccessful) pains to disguise his gay identity from the rest of the world. A ferocious opponent of equal rights, he once argued that only heterosexuals should be permitted to teach in public schools.

Roy Cohn died of AIDS in 1986 — weeks after being disbarred but years after he should have been — insisting to the bitter end that he was suffering from mere liver cancer. Pathetic to the last, Cohn went to his grave in a necktie emblazoned with the name of Ronald Reagan, whom he adored. Although Ronald and Nancy Reagan sent private letters to Cohn throughout his two year battle with the disease, they were conspicuously absent from his funeral.

Boumediene v. Bush

[ 0 ] February 21, 2007 |

The more important holding issuing from the federal court system today, of course, was the 2-1 ruling by the D.C. circuit rejecting the habeas petitions of prisoners being held without charges at Gitmo. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet; the TD, Hilzoy, and Marty Lederman have commentary. Lederman suggests that it will be a close case at the Supreme Court: his prediction is that the Court (which essentially comes down to Kennedy in this case) will reject claims that Gitmo isn’t sovereign U.S. territory, but whether habeas has been stripped and whether review by the D.C. Circuit is adequate will be touch-and-go. I can’t say I have much faith in Kennedy, but you never know.

Scheduling, Trades, And Other Observations Of Interest To At Least 1% of the LGM Readership

[ 0 ] February 20, 2007 |

Since Brad has requested more hockey blogging, having just watched the Flames play their third consecutive game against the Avalanche seems a good time to mention how much I hate the schedule and wish that they had changed it this year. Aside from Crosby only appearing every three years in non-conference cities etc., the NHL seems to have the strange idea that rivalries are created by quantity, which I think is quite wrongheaded. The sheer number of games against divisional rivals makes each one less, not more, compelling.

Another interesting thing is that although Brad is a Canucks fan he didn’t like the Luogno trade. As someone who hates the Canucks, I wish he was right but think he’s crazy. The only goaltenders I would definitely rather have are Brodeur and Kiprusoff; you never know until he gets a playoff run, but I think he’s truly an elite goaltender, and to get him for lower-tier goaltender and the rapidly decaying corpse of Todd Bertuzzi is an incredible trade. (I’m also grateful to the Panthers for generously donating Kristian Huselius to our cause; what a pathetic operation they’re running down there.) The Canucks are a much different team that they were 3 years ago, and one I think is much better suited to winning in the playoffs: ace goaltender, strong and underrated defense, smart forwards. If Naslund snaps out of it, they would really scare me in the playoffs. The Flames, meanwhile, now have their best team on paper since they were the league’s pre-eminent franchise under Bush I, but the actual performance of the team has been pretty spotty. (The team defense, in particular, is a lot shakier under Playfair.) They should be a top contender, but with Nashville having added Forsberg…I’m not sure.

Speaking of trades, the even more important one was Pronger. As my hockey correspondents know, Game 7 or no Game 7 I thought Edmonton was an obvious ringer before the season; losing a defenseman of that calibre is a huge, huge loss, and their run obscured the fact that they barely made it last year with Pronger–I think you can send the flowers. And while it’s not entirely Lowe’s fault–you can rarely get close to full value when a star demands a trade, and while Lupul was being oversold nobody could have foreseen how awful he’d be–it still seems to me that when you trade a great player 1)within the conference, and 2)to the team that has the other candidate for best defenseman in the league, you really need to do better than that.

I also have to say (although the World’s Most Dangerous Professor will be outraged) that I’d like to see the Isles make the playoffs for Nolan, whose blacklisting was a disgrace. It’s an interesting struggle between an exceptional coach and an organization that thinks it’s a good idea to promote your backup golatender to GM. I doubt they’ll make it, but if they could sneak in ahead of the *(^% Leafs it would be pretty sweet.

Phillip Morris v. Williams

[ 2 ] February 20, 2007 |

The decision in the Phillip Morris case came down today, with the Court vacating the award of damages in a 5-4 decision. I’m extremely skeptical of this whole project of finding limits to punitive damages in the due process clause, although today’s case adds a new twist. The Court overruled the Oregon courts not because the damage award was excessive but because the award was based in part on injuries suffered by individuals who were not party to the suit. This strikes me as, if anything, even more problematic than the previous cases (and this is also where Stevens, who supported the previous cases, gets off the bus.) There’s no compelling logical reason why when dealing with punitive (as opposed to compensatory) damages the scope of the consequences of injurious actions can’t be taken into account, and I didn’t find Breyer’s opinion terribly illuminating (although I was amused by his claim that “to permit punishment for injuring a nonparty victim would add a near standardless dimension to the punitive damages equation.” If the lack of standards is a problem, I would suggest we start by overruling cases that limit punitive damages based on what shocks Breyer’s conscience or on the number of fingers on Anthony Kennedy’s hands.) According to Jay Fienman, however, ruling on these grounds makes the consequences of the opinion unclear.

The other important aspect to this case is that–as I predicted–Alito and Roberts broke with Scalia and Thomas and voted to throw out the damages. Ann Althouse–of course!–implies that this is evidence of Alito’s fabled centrism, but this gets things exactly wrong. Precisely because they’re sometimes constrained by larger theoretical concerns, Thomas and Scalia will sometimes won’t go along with the tendency of conservative justices to favor business interests, whereas Roberts and Alito will have no such restraints. Today’s cases are evidence that Roberts and Alito are likely to cast more reliably conservative votes than Scalia and Thomas, not the reverse. If Alito’s adoption of this broad due process claim was (as it is for Souter, Breyer, and Kennedy) accompanied by a belief that the due process clause provides substantial protections to reproductive freedom as well as the ability of corporations not to pay more damages than the Court thinks appropriate when they harm people, it would be evidence of “centrism,” but it’s abundantly clear that this isn’t the case. Alito will, from the perspective of people with liberal constitutional values, be worse than Scalia.

Memo to Goldberg and Reynolds

[ 0 ] February 20, 2007 |

Just a quick note to Doughbob Loadpants and Rubble Boy:

The possibility that Al Gore recommended — fourteen years ago — the rendition of a single terrorist to the United States does not in fact make him a hypocrite for opposing the Bush administration’s objectively ghastly policy of relying on pariah states like Syria to brutalize innocent people like Maher Arar. Without defending Gore’s alleged views in 1993, I would submit that there is at the very least a gaping moral difference — to say nothing of the potential legal ones — between (a) endorsing the “snatching” of a suspect abroad for return to a country that had, at the time, something resembling credible legal processes for dealing with such detainees; and (b) the actual delivery of suspects in unknowable numbers to countries that don’t even care to maintain the pretense of due process. Moreover, all this has occurred under the wings of an administration that has redefined and bragged about its right to torture people without scrutiny or reproach; that has developed a parallel universe of international norms that coincides quite nicely with the parallel universe in which genuinely despotic regimes have usually operated; and fabricates both fact and law to suit its narrow needs, all while pretending that the nation is somehow engaged in the Greatest Existential Struggle in human history.

Among other things, this means that court jesters like Glenn Reynolds — last seen fighting wars that don’t in fact exist — and Jonah Goldberg — last seen somewhat seriously hoping that Democrats come along and fuck the goose in 2008 — are perhaps to be forgiven for discerning no meaningful difference between Uzbek justice and the variety dispensed by their own government.

We’re Still Winning!!!!!!

[ 0 ] February 20, 2007 |

Kaus again cites Pajamas Media’s Baghdad editor in defense of the idea that the Surge is working. Mohammed, you may recall, suggested that the five day absence of attacks demonstrated that the Surge was working. Then there was another big attack. Now he’s hearing the sounds of fighting in the streets. Does this cause him to shift his estimate? Of course not; the big attack on Sunday and the firefights prove, in fact, that the Surge is working:

Although soldiers and policemen are filling the streets, the terrorists are too coward to face the troops and choose to massacre unarmed civilians instead. What are they trying to prove with these cowardly acts? They can’t defeat the troops, so they attack civilians to discredit the security plan. But I don’t think such attacks can change the course of events on the long term; the Baghdad plan is a strategic effort that will go on for months, and time doesn’t seem to be on the terrorists’ side right now.

Today there was fighting in the neighborhoods around us and there were several attacks in other parts of Baghdad. It looks like some militants consider that sitting back and waiting is not an option and so they are trying to break the siege.

You see, while sparse attacks demonstrate the efficacy of the Surge, plentiful attacks also demonstrate the efficacy of the Surge. Why, it’s almost as if there’s no way to convince Mohammed (and Mickey, and Glenn) that the Surge isn’t working! It’s unfalsifiable! Isn’t that great! Isn’t optimism just, like, so awesome, or something?!!?

We Have Always Been At War With…

[ 0 ] February 20, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Glenn Reynolds: “He hurts his credibility up front by saying that Iran is not at war with us — when, in fact, it has been since 1979.”

As Blue Texan asks, when does Reynolds start agitating for some Reagan administration officials–some his Pajamas Media colleagues–to be tried for high treason for selling weapons to a country we are at war with?

Anyway, as BT says make sure to check out Paul Campos’s decimation of Reynolds’s dishonest advocacy of war crimes.

…I should say, lest I be seen as endorsing everything in Campos’s column, that I also agree with Glenn Greenwald about this:

I would strongly oppose any efforts to have Reynolds academically sanctioned or punished in any way for the views he has expressed, as toxic and destructive as I find both those views and him. And the idea that there could be any criminal liability arising from such comments is absurd, and itself somewhat toxic.

Academic freedom does apply equally to tenured radicals left and right, and certainly Reynolds’s employment should never be at issue because of something he writes on his blog.

…UPDATE: Terry had this three years ago. (via AL, who has more.)

…Mona has more on the academic freedom issue.

Washington: The First Decider

[ 0 ] February 20, 2007 |

I find George W. Bush’s tendency to butcher presidential history one of his most irritating traits. Praising George Washington’s unbreakable will, ability to stand up to multiple challenges, and belief that freedoms ought not to be enjoyed by Americans alone, President Bush stopped just short of asserting that President Washington would have supported the Iraq War, although he did suggest that the Iraq War and the Revolutionary War were of essentially the same character. Bush also tried to turn Washington into Harry Truman, saying:

My attitude is, if they’re still analyzing No. 1, 43 ought not to worry about it and just do what he thinks is right, and make the tough choices necessary.

Quite. Goerge Washington did what he thought was right, made the tough choices necessary, and was rewarded by enormous popularity and the adoration of the American people. What President Bush, apparently on a deep personal level, still fails to understand is that it’s not enough simply to decide; one must make some effort to ensure that those decisions are correct and well reasoned. This is why George Washington was among the greatest Presidents of the United States and George W. Bush among the very worst.

President Bush and his supporters might also learn something from President Washington’s Farewell Address, a speech that makes a cogent defense of a modest foreign policy. Washington certainly believed that people other than Americans deserved freedom, but he just as certainly thought that America should lead by example, rather than through direct interference in the politics of foreign nations. His words:

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation….

Cross-posted to Tapped.

Would you hire this foul-mouthed man as a blogger?

[ 0 ] February 19, 2007 |

The horror!

But at least he didn’t announce that he was going to fill bin Laden with his “hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit.”

. . . and for those who wonder if Bush’s language wasn’t a little more blue than Sharon conveyed, here’s a reminder from Jonathan Schwartz Schwarz [ack! sorry!] of the metaphoric richness that helps The Articulator in Chief get through the day.

"Amoral Propensity"

[ 0 ] February 19, 2007 |

Victor Davis Hanson is working on a novel. I’m sure it will be . . . uh . . . not good.

Meantime, Hanson among others has twisted his toga into a bundle over the allegation that Austrian sniper rifles sold to Iran have ended up killing Americans in Iraq. Hanson, employing his patented technique of argument by analogy, asks

If Austrian sniper rifles really were recently sold to Iran, brought into Iraq, and used to kill Americans, what would Europeans think if American sniper weaponry were sold, under our government’s auspices, to those supplying the Basque separatists to kill Spaniards? Why no outcry from the Euro-left about the continent’s amoral propensity to sell the Iranian thugocracy about anything it wants?

This should hardly require mentioning, but Hanson’s profound moral sensibilities are notably unburdened by the well-worn fact that 20 of the 25 top recipients of US military assistance are — by the US State Department’s own criteria — either undemocratic or have extensive records of human rights abuses. Though Hanson presents an erect posture on the question of Austrian sniper rifles, I doubt we’ll ever hear much from him on the “amoral propensity” of his own country to supply arms and other forms of military assistance to two-thirds of the countries mired in active conflicts. But I suppose Angolan, Uzbek or Nepalese lives just don’t measure up to Hanson’s standards; so long as Europeans aren’t being killed, who cares?

John McCain’s Consistent Opposition to Reproductive Freedom

[ 0 ] February 19, 2007 |

Given the news that John McCain has forcefully denounced Roe v. Wade, the understandable liberal reaction is to point out the inconsistency of this legendary Straight Talker (TM). And I agree, in general, that the media myths about McCain’s increasingly risible claims to independence need debunking. Given the unpopularity of his position, though, when it comes to forced pregnancy it should be pointed out that his record is in fact fundamentally consistent: he’s for it. He has a 0% NARAL rating. He’s never met a federal abortion regulation he doesn’t like. He voted for Robert Bork, which would have meant Roe being overturned 15 years ago. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion. It’s true that he has said that he wouldn’t want his daughter forced by the state to carry a pregnancy to term, but basically all American social conservatism comes with an implicit self-exemption for rich white people, and John McCain’s daughter won’t have a problem obtaining a safe abortion if Roe is overturned.

So while McCain made some egregious panders about abortion when running in a primary in which his major opponent already had the social conservative vote locked up, McCain is in fact a consistent supporter of criminalized abortion.

[Cross-posted at TAPPED.]

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