Subscribe via RSS Feed

Hacktacular!

[ 26 ] March 17, 2008 |

Kristol smears Obama. It’s almost as if hiring a unscrupulous propagandist famous for thoughtful analysis of why the editors of your paper belong in prison for revealing illegal government behavior has its downside!

Share with Sociable

A Chubby for Chalabi

[ 0 ] March 17, 2008 |

Just so you know, Richard Perle really wishes we’d turned Iraq over to the Iraqi National Congress — which is to say the people who loaded the Bush administration’s trencher with all the bullshit they could gobble with a gigantic wooden spoon.

Having noted that, I’m not even sure that Perle’s offering is the worst in this lame NYT anthology of five-year reflections on the war. Danielle Pletka, for example, suggests that she’d have thought twice about the war if she’d realized the Iraqi people would suck so much at being free.

Share with Sociable

The Chamber Of Commerce Court

[ 8 ] March 17, 2008 |

Jeffrey Rosen’s article about the pro-business court — the Chamber of Commerce’s “litigation center filed briefs in 15 cases and its side won in 13 of them” — is very much worth reading. It’s worth being reminded, again, that although court watchers tend to divide the Court into symmetrical groups of “liberals” and “conservatives” there’s no Marshall or Douglas or Brennan on the current Court, as evidenced by the Chamber’s enthusiastic support of Ginsburg and (especially) Breyer. It’s instructive that the Court’s two Democratic appointees are no more liberal than its two Rockefeller Republicans.

I do think some parts of the general assessment of the Court that starts this analysis should be qualified:

What should we make of the Supreme Court’s transformation? Throughout its history, the court has tended to issue opinions, in areas from free speech to gender equality, that reflect or consolidate a social consensus. With their pro-business jurisprudence, the justices may be capturing an emerging spirit of agreement among liberal and conservative elites about the value of free markets. Among the professional classes, many Democrats and Republicans, whatever their other disagreements, have come to share a relatively laissez-faire, technocratic vision of the economy and are suspicious of excessive regulation and reflexive efforts to vilify big business. Judges, lawyers and law professors (such as myself) drilled in cost-benefit analysis over the past three decades, are no exception. It should come as little surprise that John Roberts and Stephen Breyer, both of whom studied the economic analysis of law at Harvard, have similar instincts in business cases.

This elite consensus, however, is not necessarily shared by the country as a whole. If anything, America may be entering something of a populist moment. If you combine the groups of Americans in a recent Pew survey who lean toward some strain of economic populism — from disaffected and conservative Democrats to traditional liberals to social and big-government conservatives — at least two-thirds of all voters arguably feel sympathy for government intervention in the economy.

Seeing the Supreme Court as an adjunct of a social consensus is a more accurate reductionism than seeing the Court as a valiant defender of powerless minorities, but it’s a little problematic. The Court, because of the appointment process and its own inherent institutional weaknesses (especially its reliance on other political actors to enforce its commands), is unlikely to stray outside a broad range of political acceptability for long. But on many important issues, a social consensus doesn’t exist, and as long as the Court has some support among powerful elites it has more range of action than the idea that the Court follows the opinion polls might imply. In the long run, this is likely to mean a Court that’s more libertarian than the median voter. And while talk about restoring a “Constitution in Exile” is overblown, just as the late Rehnquist Court was more socially liberal than the Republican-controlled Congress so is the current Court likely to make it more difficult for Democratic Congresses and presidents to enact desirable regulations and (especially) to enforce existing ones, even if these laws are broadly popular. Indeed, as the article demonstrates the Republican-dominated Court heps Republicans in Congress greatly, as it makes it harder to do thing like enforce civil rights legislation without forcing conservative legislators to modify the legislation and take the hit.

Share with Sociable

Unknowability

[ 0 ] March 17, 2008 |

I have no idea if the public babe-in-the-woods routine of Jim McGreevy’s wife was, in fact, false. But the story does remind me that I’m always a little puzzled by confident assertions (I don’t mean to single out that particular post, just using it as an illustration) about how families will be affected by someone’s bad actions or what the bad actor’s wife should do about it. None of us, unless they knew them, has any idea what Silda Wall knew or what she should do or whether it would be best for their daughters if she took them back to North Carolina. She seems to be an extremely smart person and I trust her to make her own judgments. The idea that people think they can know about the relationships of total strangers is bizarre.

And this has always been a locus of unfair commentary about Hillary Clinton. She’s been frequently attacked — mostly by people who are indifferent or hostile towards feminism — as a betrayer of feminism for staying with her husband. And, of course, had she left she would have been roundly attacked by many of these people as selfish, cold, unforgiving, etc. etc. had she left. You can never win, especially if you’re a woman. Which is why minding one’s own goddamned business about how consenting adults conduct their own relationships is generally a sound principle.

Share with Sociable

Ducks and Cats Make the Tourney!

[ 6 ] March 17, 2008 |

I foresee a glorious Oregon victory over the Memphis “Paper” Tigers, although I won’t necessarily bet that way in my tourney entry.

LGM Tournament Challenge

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Share with Sociable

My Lai

[ 17 ] March 16, 2008 |

Today’s the 40th anniversary of the slaughter at My Lai. Less than a week after the episode was first reported in November 1969 — more than 18 months after the incident itself — the South Vietnamese Defense Ministry released an explanatory statement that described the encounter as an operation intended to destroy “an important Communist force” in Quang Ngai province.

When soldiers of the Task Force Barker engaged into the target they met strong resistance from the enemy. This hamlet was organized by the Communists into a good combat hamlet with good communication and an underground system. The population of the hamlet was forced by the Communists to stay in their places.

The encounter resulted in 125 enemy killed and also there were around 20 civilians killed during the fighting because of the artillery.

Therefore, reports of newspapers and of the foreign press in the past days which said that there were 567 civilians killed were totally untrue.

A few weeks later on December 8, Richard Nixon discussed My Lai for the first time, describing it during a news conference as an unfortunate but “isolated” case. He then reminded the country that the United States had built “over 250,000 churches, pagodas, and temples for the people of Vietnam.” The correct total, as it turned out, was 268.

No American president since Nixon has spoken of the incident in public.

Here’s a clip from Four Hours in My Lai a documentary produced for Yorkshire Television in 1989.

The rest of the documentary can be found here.

Share with Sociable

Brighter than Creation’s Dark

[ 1 ] March 16, 2008 |

Going to see the Drive By Truckers tonight in Newport, so probably best that I relate my thoughts on Brighter than Creation’s Dark today, rather than later…

I didn’t love BTCD on the first few listens, and even now I’m pretty sure that I prefer both Dirty South and Decoration Day. Still, the album has grown on me. Cooley has a larger presence than on previous albums, which tended to work out well; 3 Dimes Down, Self Destructive Zones, Bob, and especially Perfect Timing are all outstanding tunes. For Hood’s part, I think that Righteous Path is one of his very best tunes; Hood excels at understanding and relating a certain perspective on politics (even though he has some distance from it), and Righteous Path is probably better than even Puttin’ People on the Moon on that score. That Man I Shot is also pretty good, even if a bit didactic. Before listening to You and Your Crystal Meth I would have doubted that Hood could write a bad song about meth, but there you have it. The Opening Act grew on me over time. The new innovation is three songs by Shonna Tucker, none of which are particularly terrible or particularly good. I’ll be curious to see how she does live.

Inevitably, I have to wonder what might have been; what if Isbell had been able to make peace with the rest of the band for at least one more album? Take the best three or four songs from Sirens of the Ditch, add them to Brighter than Creation’s Dark, and cut the whole thing down to about 14 songs or so, and you have one hell of a great album. Of course, we live in an age where such a project is indeed possible on a personal basis; here’s one possibility:

Sirens of Creation’s Dark
The Righteous Path
Brand New Kind of Actress
3 Dimes Down
Down in a Hole
Shotgun Wedding
Perfect Timing
The Magician
That Man I Shot
Self-Destructive Zones
Grown
Bob
Opening Act
Goode’s Field Road

Share with Sociable

Sucker Bet?

[ 0 ] March 16, 2008 |

Huh; I wonder if putting down $2 (against $100) on Gore winning the nomination would be justified…

Share with Sociable

Kormoran Found

[ 7 ] March 16, 2008 |

That was quick; it appears that the merchant raider Kormoran, responsible for the destruction of HMAS Sydney, has been found.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, along with Australian Defence Force heads, announced the discovery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra today. He said the search body called Finding Sydney made the discovery yesterday, about 150km west of Shark Bay.

“We are one step closer as a nation to hopefully finding Sydney,” Mr Rudd said. “This is an important part in solving a 65-year-old puzzle.”

Australia’s greatest maritime mystery claimed the lives of the Sydney’s 645 crew.

The effort to find Kormoran began in earnest about two weeks ago. With Kormoran’s wreck confirmed, it seems likely that Sydney will shortly be found as well.

HT to reader AL.

UPDATE: Sydney appears to be found.

Share with Sociable

Paternalistic Hypocrisy in Alabama

[ 9 ] March 15, 2008 |

The NY Times ran an article today chronicling a spate of prosecutions in Alabama of women who carry a child to term despite a drug addiction. Greg Gambril, a local Alabama prosecutor, is bored without any murders in his sleepy town, so he has decided to prosecute women for bearing children. The women are being singled out because they are unable to kick addictions (usually to meth) during their pregnancies. The law under which they are prosecuted was passed to protect kids from meth in the home. The law makes no mention of fetuses.

In most other states, women have challenged their convictions and prevailed — courts are not any more comfortable sending drug-addicted women who should be nursing their babies not shuffling in handcuffs off to prison when treatment would be a much better (and less expensive) option. But in this Alabama county, no woman has even gone to trial. Women are pleading out and getting sentenced to a year in jail — sometimes, having been dragged away in handcuffs the day after giving birth.

What gets me: the women are being prosecuted under the pretenses of…drumroll please…protecting their fetuses, and the women themselves (sound familiar? Of, say, South Dakota circa the summer of 2006?).

Here’s what Gambril has to say:

“When drugs are introduced in the womb, the child-to-be is endangered,” Mr. Gambril said. “It is what I call a continuing crime.” He added that the purpose of the statute was to guarantee that the child has “a safe environment, a drug-free environment.”

And:

“Our ultimate goal is to protect mothers and children,” Mr. Gambril said.

Right. So a woman is an “environment” and he is “protecting” her and her child by throwing her in jail, sending a kid into the care of a grandparent, friend, or the foster system, and ensuring that a new mother cannot be present for the first months or years of the child’s life. Oh, and making that decision for the mother because she is too…female?…to make it for herself.

The thing is, that these prosecutions are nothing new. There have been hundreds of them over the last 30 years, as NAPW is documenting. What gets me is that the Times so rarely writes about them. I guess it takes white women and meth in place of black women and crack for an injustice to be recognized.

Share with Sociable

WWI Vets

[ 0 ] March 15, 2008 |

Heading off to that Great Trench War in the Sky:

The last living man known to have served in the French army during the “war to end all wars” — he was an Italian teenager who joined the Foreign Legion at the outset, and became a French citizen in the 1930’s — died this week at the age of 110. And the man believed to be Germany’s last surviving veteran — no official records are kept there — died in January at 107 (five years after his wife of 75 years, who lived to be 102).

That leaves just about 20 remaining veterans of the war scattered around the world, one-third of whom saw no fighting in it — down from about 27 at the beginning of the year. Not surprisingly, given their triple-digit ages, even fewer are still able to show the flag in public.

Here’s the Wikipedia list of surviving veterans from the Great War. And here’s some interesting material on Frank Buckles, the war’s last surviving American veteran. I watched some of the video and listened to a few audio interview clips, and I have to say the guy looks and sounds pretty good for being 107.

Apparently one of the surviving members of the Vietnam-era Texas Air National Guard met with Buckles the other day. No word on whether the president expressed any envy for Buckles’ service in such a romantic conflict.

Share with Sociable

In The Bag

[ 0 ] March 15, 2008 |

John McCain riding in a first-class car on the Alcela is, to an AP reporter either unfamiliar with train travel in the northeast corridor or lying about it, an example of him being “a man of the people.” The reporter was at McCain’s recent BBQ, what a coinky-dink.

This is definitely a bad variable in the general for the Democrats; the capacity of much of the press to embarrass itself about John McCain is pretty much boundless.

Share with Sociable