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Archive for October, 2007


[ 31 ] October 26, 2007 |

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to anything as much as I look forward to this series:

It is one thing for you to brush off an inhabitant of, say, the history departments at Yale or the University of Wisconsin as knowing nothing of the military or military history. It is quite another to attempt the same with an Army Airborne Ranger who also happens to be an academic historian and who thinks that your personal signal work is a pile of poorly constructed, deliberately misleading, intellectually dishonest feces.

Next Week: Cannae


National Greasy Foods Day

[ 4 ] October 25, 2007 |

No, really.

Mostly because teaching days freak the shit out of me, the only thing I’ve eaten so far today is about a cup of quark.

I do not, however, have to humiliate myself in front of students tomorrow, so I will be doing my part to make up for lost time when I hit the bars in about an hour to watch the Red Sox-Rockies game.

Smells Like Cat Urine

[ 11 ] October 25, 2007 |

Further evidence that a Giuliani presidency would be like Nixon on crystal meth:

Ms. Gustitus said: “[Mukasey] said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it’s been defined in the media, it shouldn’t be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that’s the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn’t be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I’ve learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don’t always describe it accurately.”

It should go without saying, that Giuliani is a gruesome authoritarian by nature, but this exchange is especially revealing. Mukasey-like, he denounces the use of torture while pretending not to have sufficient information to judge whether waterboarding meets the definition of torture. This is nonsense, of course. Along with the rack, there is no more notorious method of torture than waterboarding; there is no special technique (disguised by the liberal media, as Giuliani would contend) that would make waterboarding acceptable under international law or bring it into conformity with any standard of morality. As Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick pointed out the other day

[e]verybody knows what [waterboarding] involves, and even if you live in an igloo without wireless, you can tell it’s illegal. The argument that you can’t call it torture until you’ve been “read into” the torture program is just a lawyer’s trick that justifies keeping bad conduct secret to end-run the laws.

Later in his response, Giuliani repeats the Bush administration’s false belief that “terrorists” — so labeled at the president’s discretion — are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and he invokes the illogical “ticking time bomb” scenario to further lard his vision of an executive power unrestrained by law.

Most interesting, though, is Giuliani’s brief and jocular defense of sleep deprivation, which — along with the kinder, gentler methods of simulated drowning that the liberal media refuses to tell us about — apparently doesn’t count as torture either. “I mean, on that theory,” Giuliani surmises, “I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.”

Well, here’s Menachem Begin famously describing the “silly” time he spent with Soviet intelligence officials, who detained and tortured him during World War II:

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them – if they signed – uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.

It’s always refreshing to hear candidates for public office admit that the US should not even bother to improve upon the record of the old Soviet Union.

Rudy Giuliani — Putting the ‘G’ in KGB.

Judicial Ethics Run Amok

I’m in the depths (of hell) studying now for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which all aspiring lawyers must take before being admitted to the bar. So I’m not yet an expert on legal and judicial ethics, but I’m pretty sure that this violates about 38 rules of judicial conduct.

During a domestic violence trial in Maryland last week, a police officer testified that she witnessed a man hit his girlfriend in the face three times at a gas station . The officer had the man arrested. But, according to Paul Harris, the judge assigned to the case, one can’t assume that a woman who was hit didn’t consent to the attack. “Sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up,” Harris told the courtroom — then acquitted the man.
Judge Harris went onto explain that it had to be clear that the defendant’s actions were not consented to by the victim, and asked, “How do you determine that without the victim?” (Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, posed this question to a Sun reporter: “What would we do in a murder case?”).

Between this case and last year’s ruling — also in Maryland — that consensual sex can’t become rape (consent is irrevocable), the legal system (again, at least in Maryland), seems to be becoming less and less hospitable to women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. And that’s saying a lot, because where the law started wasn’t any great shakes either.

Spot the Missing Variable!

[ 10 ] October 25, 2007 |

Roger Cohen complains that “Germany, Spain and Italy” are being insufficiently “flexible” about the use of military force. And it would probably be desirable for these countries to send more troops to Afghanistan, although to claim that this makes them “pacifist” is silly. The huge hole in the argument here, though, is that Cohen doesn’t seem to spend much time wondering why these countries aren’t enthusiastic about providing resources to an American-led invasion at this point. Have Italy and Spain always been this reluctant about deploying troops? Might there have been, say, some events of very recent vintage that made them more reluctant? Hmm, I’m trying to think…

This is another classic example of liberal hawk narcissism, the idea that we could somehow fight a dream war in Iraq rather than the one being fought by George Bush. At any rate, hawks can’t have it both ways. They can’t applaud Bush for ignoring European opinion and blundering into an American-dominated military operation in Iraq, despite the lack of either a serious security threat or a viable reconstruction plan, and then complain about how the countries Bush systematically alienated won’t help the United States out of other jams. Cohen, as always, lets his pet war of the hook and pretends that this “pacifism” — in two cases attributed to countries whose pacifism oddly didn’t prevent their previous governments from going into Iraq, which is one reason why they’re the previous governments — just sort of emerged in a vacuum. In the real world, of course, squandering goodwill towards the United States is another reason why Iraq was a very stupid idea.

A Long Way to Go

[ 0 ] October 25, 2007 |

Mr. Trend has a great post about poverty, violence, and abortion in Brazil.

Worth the Read

La Lubu, guest posting at Feministe, has a moving and eye opening post up about her difficulties with health insurance and unemployment after her “micropreemie” daughter was born.

Lest there be any doubt that the health insurance system in this country is irretrievably broken.

Go read it.

World Serious

[ 43 ] October 25, 2007 |

A good roundup from Nate Silver. The Red Sox are not only the best team in baseball but are, on paper, as well-designed for the playoffs as can be. On the other hand, the Rockies are a better team than their regular season record suggests. One concern for Boston would be that I’m not sure that their rotation 2-4 is as good as the numbers suggests; Schilling had nothing even in his Game 6 win, and Dice-K seems out of gas. Should be a competitive series overall, although you have to pick Boston in 6. If Beckett loses, though, all bets are off. Like most neutral observers I’ll be cheering for the Rockies but obviously it’s a low-risk low-reward series for me.

Did they just call John Williams the most accomplished composer of our times?

…see also Charlie Pierce on the great Washington Heights virtuoso.

…I was hoping the Jeff Francis would restore the honor of Canadian pitchers after the unpleasantness in the other dugout, but I guess not…

…What am I talking about? Brilliant clutch pitching from Cy Young Gagne.

…Responding to McCarver’s bizarre claim that these were not “your grandfather’s Rockies,” a commenter notes that “My father’s Rockies was a hockey team coached by Don Cherry.” Wasn’t that Hardy Astrom pitching in the eighth for the Yankees Red Sox tonight? I suppose it would be pushing it to note that I once went to a hockey school where one of the coaches was the guy who recorded the only shutout in the (hockey) Rockies’ history…

Great Moments in Presidential Foresight

[ 14 ] October 24, 2007 |

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men Gang aft agley:

Your recent requests for aid to assist in the formidable project of the movement of several hundred thousand loyal Vietnamese citizens away from areas which are passing under a de facto rule and political ideology which they abhor, are being fulfilled. I am glad that the United States is able to assist in this humanitarian effort . . . .

The purpose of this offer is to assist the Government of Viet-Nam in developing and maintaining a strong, viable state, capable of resisting attempted subversion or aggression through military means. The Government of the United States expects that this aid will be met by performance on the part of the Government of Viet-Nam in undertaking needed reforms. It hopes that such aid, combined with your own continuing efforts, will contribute effectively toward an independent VietNam endowed with a strong government. Such a government would, I hope, be so responsive to the nationalist aspirations of its people, so enlightened in purpose and effective in performance, that it will be respected both at home and abroad and discourage any who might wish to impose a foreign ideology on your free people.

Letter from Dwight David Eisenhower to Ngo Dinh Diem
dated 1 October 1954
delivered 24 October 1954
released 25 October 1954

Back to That Debate.

Whatever you think about the debate over the availability of the birth control pill in a Maine middle school, the Onion’s done you one better.



[ 9 ] October 24, 2007 |

Obama will vote to filibuster any immunization of corporations who abetted illegal government behavior by violating the privacy of their customers. Excellent news, and credit Dodd for forcing his hand as well. Obviously, if Clinton won’t follow suit no progressive should give even a second thought to supporting her in the primary.

On the Language of the Antis

Amanda’s got a solid post up today at RH Reality Check in which she dissects the anti-abortion/forced pregnancy brigade and its rhetoric.

Consequences: Punishment. Aware of the unpopularity of the straightforward argument that sex is wrong and those who indulge deserve punishment, anti-choicers use the euphemism “consequences.” Sex does indeed have consequences, both positive (good moods, closer relationships) and negative (unplanned pregnancy, STDs), but anti-choicers usually only use the word to refer to the negative, and usually only to those consequences that are avoidable, but that anti-choicers wish to make harder to avoid. When an anti-choicer petulantly says, “Sex has consequences,” he usually means, “People are getting away with having sex and we should artificially introduce more risks in order to scare people off of it.”

Amanda’s right to lift the oh-so-sheer sheet of euphemism to reveal the dirty underbelly of their smart talk. But what she doesn’t address — and what I think is important — is why their rhetoric is so powerful and ours is, well, not. They won the war of words. Think about it: most Americans still use “pro-life” to describe the forced pregnancy movement and still label people who support reproductive justice as pro-abortion (as in, we love a procedure that can include invasive surgery! Woo hoo!). While it’s good to decode their language, it only gets us so far. What’s next – -and perhaps even more important — is figuring out how to get away from that language, not only in our happy progressive blog world, but more broadly. So long as we are not understood to be “pro-life” — despite the fact that we are actually the only ones in this debate who actually are supportive of life — we won’t be able to make any gains.

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