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Made Damn Sure That St. McCain Washed His Hands and Sealed Their Fate

[ 0 ] September 22, 2006 |


A bit earlier this evening, in the comments section at TPMCafe, I said that from what I could tell the torture compromise is that we agreed not to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, only to continue violating them. The Post now has its editorial out. And they appear to have to come to something like the same conclusion. (Can’t wait to hear the Dean’s verdict.) The senate won’t formally reinterpret the Geneva Convention or explicitly sanction the president’s torture policies. But they’ll allow him to keep using them.

That’s the compromise.

The Senate, in this dance, becomes the United States ‘rendering’ prisoners to the executive for illicit torture much as the US renders folks to Syria and Egypt when we really want them to get the treatment.

Right. The compromise is apparently to not explicitly sanction torture, but to carefully ensure that there’s no way to stop the president from doing it with the full knowledge that he’ll keep doing it. Which is about the most cowardly and lawless way out possible. This kabuki legitimizes the actions of President-Brags-About-Torture more than just ignoring it. (But, as one of our commenters notes, torture works when third-rate actors perform it on the TeeVee, so what’s the problem?)

The Fraud Caucus Returns, Torturously

[ 0 ] September 22, 2006 |

Highly unsurprisingly, St. McCain sells out:

Here’s the language. It’s not subtle at all, and it only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators have capitualted entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret “the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions” “for the United States,” except that the bill itself would define certain “grave breaches” of Common Article 3 to be war crimes. [UPDATE: I hear word that Senator McCain thinks the definition of "grave breaches" covers the "alternative" CIA techniques. I hope he can make that interpretation stick somehow, but on quickly reading the language, it still seems to me as if it's carefully crafted to exclude the CIA techniques. See, most importantly, the limiting language defining "serious physical pain or suffering," which is carefully drafted to exclude the CIA techniques such as Cold Cell and Long Time Standing. Also, some Senators apparently are taking comfort in the fact that the Administration's interpretation would have to be made, and defended, publicly. That's a small consolation, I suppose; but I'm confident the creative folks in my former shop at OLC -- you know, those who concluded that waterboarding is not torture -- will come up with something. After all, the Administration is already on record as saying that the CIA "program" can continue under this bill, so the die apparently is cast. And the courts would be precluded from reviewing it.]

And then, for good measure — and this is perhaps the worst part of the bill, for purposes going far beyond the questions of torture and interrogation — section 7 would preclude courts altogether from ever interpreting the Geneva Conventions — any part of them — by providing that “no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories.” [UPDATE: I've heard some people argue that this language would retain the power of courts to construe Geneva in a criminal proceeding. That remains to be seen (the language is not clear). But even if that's so, it's not at all obvious how or why the question of the meaning and application of Common Article 3 would ever be one that a court would have occasion to resolve in a criminal proceeding.]

If I’m right, and if this is enacted, the only hope would be the prospect of the Supreme Court holding that both the habeas cut-off, and the “no person may invoke Geneva” provision, are unconstitutional.

As Brad notes, that’s John McCain: “Bloviate and do nothing.” Only the stakes are even higher than usual this time. Publius explains in handy chart form. See also the Talking Dog and Digby.

And Sandy Levinson asks a good question.

The Difference Between a Writer and a Partisan Operative

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

The latter wouldn’t make a post like this, because he would have to know that it would be willfully misconstrued by partisan hacks. Needless to say, Instapundit started the bandwagon rolling, and other bloggers such as Treason in Defense of Slavery Yankee (even if the criticism of Matt supposedly apologizing for anti-Semites had any substantive merit, I might suggest that those whose websites aren’t decorated with Confederate flags cast the first stone) have followed suit. They may wish to scroll to the end to see Yglesias’ use of the phrase “third world goon,” which would make it obvious to any non-idiot that the point of the post was to criticize Bush’s allegedly ill-fitting and stodgy suits.

Now, I wouldn’t make this post even as a partisan operative, because 1)I don’t give a shit how political leaders (or, for that matter, people who meet the President) dress, and 2)I remember that a media obsession with such meaningless trivia is a primary reason why Bush is in the White House in the first place. But the point of his post was obviously not to express political support for Ahmadinejad. (I’d also note that Bush’s foolish war, so strongly supported by Reynolds and TIDOSY, has done rather more for crackpot Iranian theocrats than blogposts about his dress could ever hope to accomplish.)

Speaking of Confederate Apologists

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

It seems that the hand-picked successor of Washington Times editor Wes Pruden is a bit too much of a racist crackpot–for the family of Rev. Moon. The whole article is a must-read, but a tasty excerpt about the editor of a major conservative newspaper:

In 1993 Pruden gave an interview to the now-defunct neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, which routinely published proslavery apologias and attacks on Abraham Lincoln. Pruden boasted, “Every year I make sure that we have a story in the paper about any observance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday…. And the fact that it falls around Martin Luther King’s birthday.”


In his 1993 Southern Partisan interview, Pruden proudly recounted Coombs’s speech that year at the Capitol hailing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. “I read the speech and it was quite good,” Pruden told the Partisan. “I was originally asked to speak, but I was going to be out of town and Fran filled in for me. He was telling me what a thrilling thing it was to stand there and sing ‘Dixie’ in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol. I would have liked to have been there just for that.”

While Coombs sympathized with Pruden’s Lost Cause nostalgia, his politics were even harsher. “The thing about Wes is, he has other vices,” said a Times senior staffer. “He loves a good meal, loves to have his ego stroked, he loves women, the social scene. As for bashing blacks and Hispanics, he shares Fran’s views, but he has other preoccupations. Fran is the really hard-core ideological white supremacist.”

I mean, “States’ rights!” And, of course, let us not for get their Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy “Emmet Till Had It Coming” McClain.

…Dave, of course, has more.

Sven Nykvist, 1922-2006

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A crucially important film artist, Sven Nykvist was not only the cinematographer for most of Bergman’s greatest films. He also shot Woody Allen’s greatest film, worked with other major directors like Polanski and Malle, and even in flawed pictures like The Unbearable Lightness of Being the images are remarkable. One depressing thing is that with Bergman’s premature retirement, that last part of his career was largely devoted to films not remotely worthy of his talents; asking him to light Mixed Nuts or With Honors is like asking Degas to paint a billboard advertising Home Improvement. But he was still able to leave a remarkable body of work behind. RIP.

Is That Mote Larger Than This Beam? Views Differ.

[ 0 ] September 21, 2006 |

I give Brendan Nyhan fair-n’-balanced credit for this; he prints Tomasky’s justification for pushing him out of the Prospect, which he doesn’t directly rebut because he can’t: “there were a few posts in succession that struck us as either inaccurate or an effort to draw equivalences where none existed. The Prospect has always opposed a ‘pox on both houses’ posture, and that’s what we came to believe you were doing.”

Right–that’s the problem with Nyhan. I, at least, have no problem in principle with being tough on liberals who say things that are false or genuinely odious, but that for the most part isn’t what Nyhan is doing. His post about Ann Coulter was silly–oh, questioning the towering intellect and rationality of that great fair-minded scholar, get me the smelling salts. But even more definitive was this nonsense. First of all, you’ll note that Sean Penn didn’t actually call Bush Hitler or anything; the point is simply wrong. But much, much worse is the comparison he draws between major political figures, op-ed columnists in national newspapers, and high-rated primetime political talk show hosts with an actor. Even if his characterization of Penn’s views was fair, the comparison is a false equivalency straight out of the Karl Rove playbook. This routine is tried and true. OK, maybe the United States Senate is full of crackpots who advocate the execution of abortion providers, are virulent racists, give phony long-distance diagnoses claiming that a woman with a liquified cerebral cortex is conscious and communicative, etc. etc.–well, that’s counterbalanced because some obscure academic who thinks that the Democratic Party is a CryptoZionoChristofascist conspiracy can be cast as “The Face of the Left” by Tailgunner Glenn Reynolds and his ilk. This blurring the lines between politicians and cultural figures without any real power is crucial for conservatives who are trying to conceal their radicalism from the median voter, and as long as a useful idiot wants to play along by making illogical comparisons between incommensurate figures, he shouldn’t be working for a major progressive magazine.

What’s The Matter With Larry

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

As noted previously in this space, there has been a very successful campaign to distort the firestorm over Larry Summers, the gist of which is that even suggesting that there might be innate differences between women and men cannot be done in public (which, of course, is why Steve Pinker recently lost his gig at Harvard and is now teaching a 5/5 at Tupelo Community College.) In the comments at Whiskey Fire, Echidne offers the most succinct summary I’ve seen of the actual problem with Summers’ comments:

What was upsetting about [his] statement was not that he proposed innate differences among other explanations, even though this is what I read on wingnut blogs. It was that he proposed innate differences using language and examples of a thirteen-year old who just thought about it for the first time evah! And that he did this in front of an audience which consisted of people specialized in studying the question. It’s like pissing on someone.

And add to that the fact that he asserted that innate differences were the [second: see update] most important factor despite this lack of knowledge, and…

…as noted in comments, he actually said that innate differences were the second most important, although still ahead of discrimination: “There are three broad hypotheses about the sources of the very substantial disparities that this conference’s papers document and have been documented before with respect to the presence of women in high-end scientific professions. One is what I would call the-I’ll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described.” I note, however, as I did about Supreme Court clerks that his “high powered job” hypothesis is just sexism in a different form; why does having children limit the hours of women but not men? (It’s also worth asking why men have also dominated academic departments in which, if Summers is correct, women must have as much or more innate ability.) On Echidne’s point, make sure to scroll down for the “daddy truck baby truck” stuff.

Georgia Vote Suppression Still Illegal

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

Another loss for the Poor Voter Disenfranchisement Act. The most instructive information is this:

Perdue and other proponents of the law said it is needed to curtail fraud. They cited an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article that said 5,000 dead people were listed as having voted in the eight elections preceding 2000.

But the fraud happened primarily in absentee balloting, Barnes said. Under the new law, absentee voters are not required to show identification.

“This is the most sinister scheme I’ve ever seen,” Barnes said, “and it’s going on nationwide.”

But, of course, people who cast absentee ballots–which are far more vulnerable to fraud–are disproportionately Republican, so that kind of fraud is acceptable. You may remember the same routine from Florida in 2000. The Florida Courts interpreted the state’s “intent of the voter” standard generously whether it was people at the voting booth or military absentee ballots, while Republicans argued that technically illegal military ballots should be allowed and vote counts that might catch ballots that were erroneously not counted not permitted–and the Florida Courts were roundly assailed as political hacks. At any rate, it’s already harder to vote in the United States than in most if not all liberal democracies, and given that the evidence that this reduces fraud (let alone enough to justify the far lower rates of participation inevitably created by these rules) is as far as I can tell non-existent, rules that make it harder should be looked at extremely skeptically, and rejected out of hand when they’re as transparently outcome-oriented as the Georgia law.

Filibustering for Torture

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

In the proud tradition of so many of his Southern predecessors in the august halls of the United States Senate who proudly used parliamentary procedure to stand up for gross immorality, Republican Majority Leader Bill “Sweat Causes AIDS” Frist has announced that torture and arbitrary executive authority are issues are principles worth using all tools at his proposal to protect. What Hilzoy says:

Wow. After all sorts of unspeakable bills have passed the Senate under his leadership, here is where Bill Frist is finally going draw the line: he will not allow limitations on the administration’s ability to torture people, or to violate treaties our country has solemnly sworn to abide by. Making it illegal for CIA officials to keep people standing for 40 hours, or to hold them in rooms cooled down to 50 degrees while dousing them with water, or to deprive them of sleep, even when a pretty impressive array of intelligence officials say that these techniques don’t work, and an even more impressive group of retired generals say allowing them would put our soldiers at risk: that’s just too much for him to swallow.

And all this from the self-proclaimed defenders of Moral Values™. It’s enough to make an ethicist scream.

It Will Be Hard For Me To Give An "F" Again

[ 0 ] September 20, 2006 |

A White Bear introduces us to the writing-related program activities of the early 20th Century novelist and poet Amanda McKittrick Ros, who indeed is plausibly described as the best worst writer ever. This tribute to a dearly departed lawyer is indeed quite remarkable:

Beneath me here in stinking clumps
Lies Lawyer Largebones, all in lumps;
A rotten mass of clockholed clay,
Which grown more honeycombed each day.
See how the rats have scratched his face?
Now so unlike the human race;
I very much regret I can’t
Assist them in their eager ‘bent.’

But, if anything, I prefer “On Visiting Westminster Abbey.” Sounds like it might be a touch less morbid if even more florid, right?

Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with ‘blue’
Undergoes the same as you.

Now that’s bad writing to savor; it makes the awful prose stylists of the blogosphere harder to truly appreciate.

Because How Would They Know You Don’t Want To Be Raped Otherwise?

[ 0 ] September 19, 2006 |

Shorter Verbatim Harvey C. Mansfield: “To resist rape a woman needs more than martial arts and more than the police; she needs a certain ladylike modesty enabling her to take offense at unwanted encroachment.”

All heeders of the self-appointed defender of academic rigor‘s sage advice, however, will be happy to know that his emphasis on ladylike modesty has a defender among the self (and only self)-described “feminist” professoriate! Whether it’s useful to give such a name to ideological outlook that resembles Straussianism more than anything anybody else understands as “feminism,” I leave to the reader.

The Other Edge of the Anti-Privacy Knife

[ 0 ] September 18, 2006 |

The Happy Feminist (who certainly wouldn’t be happy if she knew that women were walking around…with breasts! If feminism stands for anything, it’s that wearing an Ann Taylor top is equivalent to an offer of a blow job, and anyone who believes otherwise is clearly some sellout…) discusses this story about about parents who tried to force their daughter to obtain an abortion. (Personal to James Joyner: see, that’s kidnapping.) On a related note, it’s worth pointing that if critiques of Roe that start from the basis that there’s no such thing as a implied right to privacy or security of the person implicit in the Constitution are correct, the state can force women to obtain abortions as well as preventing them from obtaining abortions. Indeed, a crucial foundation of Roe was a case that held that the involuntary sterilization of pretty thieves was unconstitutional. (This also reminds me of perhaps my favorite example of abortion bans being about regulating sexuality rather than fetal life: Pat Robertson’s defense of forced abortions in China. See, if abortion is about coercing women, that’s fine!)

And a question for sensible pro-choice centrists: since you’re always claiming that parental notification and consent laws are not about preventing classes of young women from obtaining abortions but about giving parents input and information like they would allegedly have for any medical procedure, I’m sure you’ll agree that a law that required parental notification or consent if a young woman decided to carry a pregnancy to term is equally desirable? After all, given that this is considerably more dangerous to a woman’s health than obtaining an abortion, the justification for such a bill would be if anything more compelling…

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