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Fortress Britain

Much rumness afoot in and around the Palace of Westminster these days. Gordon Brown, the mean, one-eyed Scotsman who took over from the Teflon-coated, happy-clapping Blair as Prime Minister has been lurching from one crisis to another, ever since failing to call an election* upon his succession to the top job. Widely disliked by the electorate, and not burdened with the charm or wit of his predecessor, Brown has spent his time in office making himself and his party more and more unpopular, and the recent local elections delivered the Labour Party what could only be described as a ‘kicking.’

Brown’s latest triumph, if such a term could be used, has been the passage of a Counter-Terrorism bill through the House of Commons, although by a mere nine votes, obtained from the Northern Irish DUP party, allegedly thanks to a number of promises (you can call them bribes) regarding financial aid for the province.

Quite a few Labour MPs revolted and voted with the opposition, appalled by some of the authoritarian measures in the bill, notably one that gives the government the right to detain a suspect for 42 days without before having to charge them. Brown, and his odious acolyte Tony McNulty (Home Office minister and the man responsible for shepherding the bill) have claimed that the police and security services have requested these powers in order to deal with terrorist emergencies. Oddly, the head of the Security Service (MI5) actually came out and stated just the opposite, and it’s hard to see a good reason why this power is even needed, since previous legislation grants the police these powers in the event of such an emergency.

Thankfully for the UK, our unelected chamber, the House of Lords, will tear the bill to shreds once it’s submitted to them, at which point it will return to the House of Commons and the process will start again.

The passage of the bill has even seen the shadow Home Secretary, Conservative MP David Davis resign his seat in protest. For a rather right-wing politician to make such a move ought to underline just how egregious most people consider this legislation.
Should Brown manage to get a revised bill through the House of Lords, odds are that the European Court of Human Rights will strike it down, and all in all it’s hard to see why Brown is willing to squander the tiny remaining bit of political capitol over this. But, it’s a funny old world.

*For those unfamiliar with the UK and its electoral schedule, the sitting government chooses when it wants to go to the polls any time up until 5 years from the last election, usually allowing them to pick the time that would be most advantageous to their chances.

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And Another Thing

[ 0 ] June 12, 2008 |

It’s hard to find a rational basis for this spastic response to Rob’s uncontroversial observation that Evangelical Protestant affection for Israel is not incompatible with — indeed, often rests adjacent to — coded language about domestic American politics that reeks of barely-laundered anti-Semitism. Premillennial dispensationalist theology — of the sort John Hagee administers to his flock — famously values Jews only to the degree that they’re willing to return to the Holy Land, fulfilling Biblical prophecy and paving the way for the second coming. Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes reading about the history of Christian Zionism understands this (see here and here for starters), just as they would also understand that Christian Zionists have frequently retained a stable of classical, hostile stereotypes of secular American Jews, whom they regard as theologically unhelpful and (in what amounts to the same thing) politically dangerous. These attitudes spring from the same historical place — also occupied by right wing populists — that depicted Jews at various points as “communists,” “capitalist money-changers,” or (yes) “intellectuals.” Terms like these are part of the basic conceptual grammar of anti-Jewish racism, and it doesn’t “smear” or “hamstring” anyone by pointing out that they survive even among people who believe themselves to be philo-Semites.

Silly me, though, I hadn’t realized that Agnewian phrases like “latte-sipping elitist intellectuals” had become such valuable additions to “the Left Populist” rhetorical canon. But since I am — like Rob — a disgusting avatar of privilege — my pointy-headedness is unsurprising.

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What He Said

[ 0 ] June 12, 2008 |

Souter, concurring in Boumediene:

It is in fact the very lapse of four years from the time Rasul put everyone on notice that habeas process was available to Guantanamo prisoners, and the lapse of six years since some of these prisoners were captured and incarcerated, that stand at odds with the repeated suggestions of the dissenters that these cases should be seen as a judicial victory in a contest for power between the Court and the political branches. The several answers to the charge of triumphalism might start with a basic fact of Anglo-American constitutional history: that the power, first of the Crown and now of the Executive Branch of the United States, is necessarily limited by habeas corpus jurisdiction to enquire into the legality of executive detention. And one could explain that in this Court’s exercise of responsibility to preserve habeas corpus something much more significant is involved than pulling and hauling between the judicial and political branches. Instead, though, it is enough to repeat that some of these petitioners have spent six years behind bars. After six years of sustained executive detentions in Guantanamo, subject to habeas jurisdiction but without any actual habeas scrutiny,today’s decision is no judicial victory, but an act of perseverance in trying to make habeas review, and the obligation of the courts to provide it, mean something of value both to prisoners and to the Nation.

To think that permitting access to basic habeas rights to prisoners who have been arbitrarily detained by the American government in American-controlled territory for six years is some kind of massive judicial power grab is silly. More later.

UPDATE from bean: Marty Lederman has initial reactions to the decision.

UPDATE the second (SL): Matt beat me to my hobbyhorse, but I note initially that reasonable, moderate, thinking person’s conservatives Alito and Roberts not only dissented (the latter writing) but joined Scalia’s dissent — which begins with a some paragraphs of talk-radio demagoguery about how because of the Court Islamofascists will be come to kill your children — in full. Again, it seems worth noting that there is effectively no substantive difference between Bush’s appointments and Scalia and Thomas.

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Shockingly, Good News from SCOTUS

The Supreme Court today held 5-4 that Guantanamo detainees have a right to habeas corpus and that the procedures that Congress put into place with the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) in 2005 are not an adequate substitute for habeas.

More to come post-BarBri (or from other LGMers).

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Well Heeled Professor Takes Short Break from Sipping Mojitos on the Beach…

[ 227 ] June 12, 2008 |

Jesus, Retardo is one dumb motherfuckerone misguided dude. If he had bothered to ask, I would have told him that I made my way to Florida and Israel on business, rather than pleasure, that I have rather first-hand experience with white working class poverty, and that my yearly salary does not, as of yet, match my student loan debt. The worst part is that I got to ruminate over this while wasting most of the money I had set aside for the trip on replacing the clothing that Delta Airlines has apparently lost with ridiculously overpriced Israeli equivalents. But then, I suppose this is to be expected from someone who believes that “latte sipping elitist intellectuals” is an actual class of people rather than a boogeyman invented by the Republican Party…

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Future Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 7 ] June 12, 2008 |

[Nixon would] top just short of calling the President a liar on Vietnam, then add that he would not be speaking of the war during Johnson’s “sensitive negotiations with Hanoi” before extending his sympathy to the President for all the “well-intentioned but mistaken Democrats who have taken the soft line, the appeasement line.” For we could only lose in Vietnam “if President Johnson fails to take a strong line that will preserve the peace by refusing to reward the aggressors.”

It’s a line of reasoning exactly as convincing now as it was then!

Bonus Nixon’s Piano edition:

In his press conference the next day, some Eastern establishment reporter asked Nixon if he found it embarrassing to share a party with “ol’ States’ Right’s Strom.” Nixon responded, “Strom is no racist. Strom is a man of courage and integrity.”

Both quotes from Rick Perlstein’s masterpiece Nixonland, available at the local independent and/or soulless corporate bookstore near you.

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That didn’t take long

The Obama monkey doll is out.



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[ 23 ] June 11, 2008 |

Via SN!, here’s John Miller at The Corner, showing once again that wingnuts are the most incurious people on the planet.

Lennonism [John J. Miller]

K Lo: I’m with you on “Imagine” — love the piano, hate the lyrics. A band called A Perfect Circle has a great cover version. The music is bleak and the vocals are subdued. It’s a much-needed deconstruction of the song. It’s like the anti-“Imagine.” I’m not sure the musicians intended it that way, but that’s the result, by my lights. Definitely worth a 99-cent download.

So much for conservatives being philosophically opposed to deconstruction. But seriously. How could someone listen to a cover of “Imagine” — from 2004, no less — and not inquire into the intention behind it? For that matter, if you’re capable of downloading a song from iTunes, you’d presumably be able to find the video as well.

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History for Mouthbreathers

[ 0 ] June 11, 2008 |

Speaking of conservative histories, I’d be remiss in not mentioning A Patriot’s History of the United States, a jaw-droppingly terrible book that would only appeal to readers who aren’t literate enough to comprehend Paul Johnson’s vastly superior History of the American People.

How bad is it? Here’s the last paragraph of the review I wrote recently for The History Teacher (.pdf available here):

Worse, in their chapters on recent U.S. history, the authors make claims that are not even remotely endorsed by the footnoted sources. In excoriating the Great Society, for instance, Schweikart and Allen observe that one “malignant result of AFDC’s no-father policy was that it left inner-city black boys with no male role models” (689). In support of this Gingrichian pronouncement, the authors cite a single 1989 study from Social Forces — an article that makes no mention of AFDC, inner-city black youth, or role models and, indeed, has almost nothing to do with the argument to which it is attached. In the same paragraph, we read further that after the 1960s, “gang leaders from Portland to Syracuse, from Kansas City to Palmdale, inducted thousands of impressionable young males into drug running, gun battles, and often death” (689). For this dramatic observation, the authors rely on two broad studies of family structure and drug use, published eight years apart in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Among the phrases that do not appear in either study: “Gang leaders,” “Portland,” “Syracuse,” “Kansas City,” “Palmdale,” “impressionable young males,” “drug running,” “gun battles,” and “death.” With little effort, this reviewer has identified nearly a dozen such cases in which the authors have tortured their sources to score points against social programs they oppose, political philosophies to which they object, or historical actors whom they do not like. Evidently, the virtues endorsed by A Patriot’s History do not apply to the authors themselves. As “intelligent design” simulates the language and structure of evolutionary biology, A Patriot’s History simulates the language and structure of historical writing. Discerning readers will not be fooled.

Any number of metaphors would have worked there at the end, I suppose. I might have described it as “the historical analogue to the Office of Special Plans,” or “A Million Little Pieces of conservative historiography,” or “a book that promises to do for conservative history what Piltdown Man did for paleoanthropology.” But that would have been mean.

The authors, mysteriously, have chosen not to highlight my review on the book’s website. But hey, when you receive endorsements from FrontPage Magazine and some guy with a blog, your ascent through the right wing shadow academy is complete!

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[ 14 ] June 11, 2008 |

Good for Junior.

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When the Narrative Becomes Fact, Print the Narrative

[ 0 ] June 11, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Camille Paglia: “I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at the ecstatic media lockstep praising Hillary’s so-called concession speech last weekend. This is the same herd of sheep who bleated to Bush’s beat and brought us the Iraq fiasco. I first heard the speech on the radio as I was driving back to Philadelphia from a family event in upstate New York. I was shocked and appalled at Hillary’s inflammatory demagoguery, which was obviously intended to keep her candidacy alive through the August convention and beyond. The echo in the museum’s marble entry hall gave the event an eerily retro quality, as if it were a 1930s fascist rally. Hillary’s turgid, preachy rhythms were condescending and manipulative, and her climaxes were ear-splittingly strident. It was pure Evita, a cult of personality masquerading as populism. When I later saw the speech on TV, I was disgusted by how Hillary undercut her insultingly brief endorsement of Obama with a flat expression and cold, dead eyes. The only thing that got her blood racing was the blatantly stoked hysteria of her screeching worshipers.”

I don’t know what you can even say to this; I guess it’s what happens when you evaluate the speech you elaborately developed in your misogynist brain rather than the one actually given by Clinton.

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The Case Against Webb

[ 27 ] June 11, 2008 |

I remain convinced. See also Drum.

Let me also add: Sebelius ’08! On the question of Joe Biden, I could see a case — if he hadn’t been in favor of the war. As it stands, I think it would be crazy to pick someone almost exclusively for foreign policy message who inevitably blurs the popular message of the Democratic candidate.

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