Although I was mildly surprised that Tony Blair admitted on BBC 2 that he smacked his older children, that statement was hardly, to me, the most interesting part of the program. The most interesting thing to me about the conversation was that it happened at all.
In the United States, we are not conditioned to think of Presidents as people who speak off the cuff. George W. Bush may simply be incapable of doing so in a mixed audience; I don’t know. Bill Clinton certainly could have handled a difficult studio audience, but no one would ever ask him to do so. The night before last, while flipping between my six channels at Wiston Park, I came across a discussion program featuring Tony Blair, a tough audience of casually dressed Britons, and a fairly aggressive host. Blair was answering questions about legislation that allowed the eviction of “problem families” from certain homes. The questions from the audience were clearly unscripted, and Blairwas forced to answer questions about the program on the fly, including very detailed aspects of execution. The questions were not all friendly, with some of the audience members clearly blaming Blair for details of the program that he could not possibly have been in control of.
The question here isn’t whether Blair is smarter than Bush, although he probably is. I suspect that even Bush could handle SOME hostile questions, given that he has been in politics for a number of years and must have faced such situations. The questions is why Americans tend to expect so much less from their executives in terms of public discourse than Britons seem to expect from theirs. I’m inclined to think that the important difference may lie with the British monarchy; the monarch is a figure of national acclaim who, whether we like him/her or not, ought not to be forced to answer certain kinds of questions in particular contexts. In the American context, there is no such divide. The actual executive and the symbolic executive are the same. Putting the symbolic executive in a potentially embarassing situation with a group of common folk is simply not to be done.
This suggests to me an idea that I hadn’t really thought through before, which is that the monarchy really does serve an important purpose in a democracy. There certainly would be some value, in our current political context, to being able to separate a symbolic figure of leadership and patriotism from an actual figure of leadership. Undermining the argument that opposition to the current government equals opposition to the state is certainly a valuable project.
The Liberals, in the midst of what looks like a dismal bellyflop into the upcoming election, came out with an attempted debate bombshell: eliminate Canada’s “notwithstanding clause,” which permits provincial and federal governments to override certain judicial interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Cathie from Canada likes the move, both as a political strategy and on the merits. I have defended the notwithstanding clause before, and have also expressed doubts about judicial supremacy, so rather than rehashing that I’ll turn the argument over to Liberalism Without Cynicism:
Which is well and good except for the small problem that judicial supremacy is an American institution, not a Canadian one. The Canadian system is based on Parlimentary supremacy, not on “checks and balances” between the legislature, executive and courts. Martin’s proposed constitutional amendment would make Canada more American, not less. And both liberals and conservatives in the US have at various points feared and complained about the abuse of power by the appointed federal courts and especially the Supreme Court… imposing decisions on social issues that are too progressive or “elitist” for the population, or, on the other end of the spectrum, curtailing the power of Congress to legislate and regulate across state lines. The basic problem is that the courts don’t just “enforce” Charter/Constitutional rights. They also interpret them. Anyone who follows US politics at all knows that this is what it boils down to: judges and the legal theory they rely on is as polarized into liberal and conservative schools as are the political parties themselves.
I agree from a normative perspective. However, as a matter of political strategy, I would have thought Cathie was right; the use of Section 33 isn’t popular (and indeed, the debate is almost moot because there is a near-convention that it should not be used to override judicial determinations of rights.) Despite this, however, it certainly doesn’t seem to have been effectual; the Liberals are in free-fall. A Conservative minority would be constrained enough not to be disastrous, but a Conservative majority would be very bad. I hope it’s the former, but the latter is a lot more possible than it looked even two weeks ago.
They make a solid case for a $700 billion to $1,000 billion direct cost plus some fairly uncertain macro consequences. Of course, on the one hand this seems like an odd way to think about a question of war and peace.
But on the other hand, the very high direct costs are something that has to be kept in mind when considering the humanitarian benefits of the war. This is a staggerly large sum of money that could have been directed at much more useful causes if people really felt that a $1 trillion humanitarian initiative was something they wanted to get behind.
Why does a cost-benefit analysis seem like an odd way to think about a question of war and peace? Every decision about whether or not to engage in a war (either offensive or defensive, really, but particularly in the case of wars of intervention), is about purchasing some probability of some good at some probability of some expense. The good may be peace, security, democracy, whatever, and the expense will include blood and treasure. Evaluating whether the expenditure of blood and treasure is worth the achievement of the good in question seems to me to be a perfectly natural, and appropriate way of deciding to engage in a war.
I’m not trying to pick on Matt, because his is not the first implication I’ve seen that the decision on whether to go to war shouldn’t follow a rational decision-making calculus (whether it actually is historically descriptive or no), and he comes to the correct answer. Nevertheless, I’m curious why people find this formulation even mildly troubling.
(This really is a remarkably good parody. It’s hard, because Althouse is so self-paradoic in any case, but it even gets her passive-aggressive comments persona exactly right.)
…Ted Barlow, on the other hand, demolishes Althouse’s hapless partisan hackwork the old-fashioned way:
I think that leaking Plame’s identity was an outrage. Bush’s supporters in the blogosphere and conservative media did not. Most of them have expressed little but bemused contempt for what they call “Nadagate” or the “Plame kerfuffle”.
If Ann had a problem with that, she had two years to raise her voice. Instead, her limited commentary on that “dreary woman in the news” was either contemptuous (“The Plame Rove Affair is One of the Biggest Wastes of Time of My Lifetime”) or ostentatiously bored (“Do you mind if I continue not paying any attention to news stories with the word “Plame” in them?”). She called the Plame leak a “tiny scandalette”. As recently as last week, she incorrectly asserted “Plame seems to have had a desk job where nothing about her identity mattered, and her identity seems to have been generally known anyway.” Finally, after Scooter Libby was actually under indictment, she goes so far as to say that Libby should stand trial for the crimes for which he was indicted.
Even though the Plame leak damaged national security (what happened to the other CIA agents who were “employed” by the same CIA front company that provided a cover job for Plame?), she treated it as a boring non-story for two years. She says now, “I wasn’t saying I didn’t care about that leak. Not there or anywhere else!” Sorry, but she did. After calling the Plame investigation “one of the biggest wastes of time in my lifetime”, it’s really not appropriate to be outraged by my characterization.
On the other hand, she won’t stoop to make an actual argument that the NSA leak damaged national security. But she’s boiling mad about it, on the principle that any leak that could compromise national security is deadly serious.
And she wants to be patted on the back for her consistency?
But the stories that might reflect badly on the Bush adminsitration are so complicated!
One thing about the exposure of James Frey’s “searing” drug-addiction memoir as a fraud: it’s produced some great writing. James Wolcott, for example:
I’m just automatically suspicious of every tale of woe that’s peddled as a tale of redemption. The whole concept of redemption seems fishy to me, another form of sentimentality. How many people do you know have found redemption? What does “redemption” really mean? It’s got a lofty religious sound, but the vast majority of people improve or worsen in varying degrees over time, and even those who radically turn their lives around or pull themselves out of the abyss still have to go on doing the mundane things we all do, often suffering relapses or channeling their sobriety and sadder-but-wiser maturity into passive-aggressive preening of their own moral goodness. Most change for better or worse is undramatic, incremental, seldom revealed in a blinding flash or expressed in a climactic moment of heroic resolve.
Indeed–this kind of writing is sort of “Nice Guy”ism for obvious assholes. Henry notes other literary counterparts. And anyone who has read the riotously funny The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature knows that he’s a master of parodying all varieties of tough-guy poseur writing, and his reaction doesn’t disappoint (and he already had Frey nailed.) [Via Feministe.]
- There really is something remarkable about Alito using the all-purpose GOP “you hate the troops!” card in order to justify his membership in an explicitly racist and sexist organization that had nothing to do with military issues (and which, oddly, except for his highly detailed and tightly woven recollection of his reasons for joining he has no memory of joining, although he felt it important enough to boast about on a 1985 job application.) Clever bastards, you have to admit.
- The Talking Dog has excellent, very instructive interviews with the attorneys for Jose Padilla and Guantanamo Bay detainee Murat Kurnaz. Just read.
- Amanda on Jonah Goldberg’s Terror in the fact of Feminism. Roy presents his Goucher College Days in dramatic form.
- Wanker of the Day: John “Little Bobo” Tierney.
- Since I know some of our readers have found her excellent blog since she did a guest-posting gig for us, iocaste of Fantasy Life has had to move her blog: it can now be found at http://www.livejournal.com/users/iocaste212/. (She has a good post up about the Steel Seizure cases, which have been discussed a great deal in the current debate about Presidential powers, sometimes in highly bowdlerized form by conservative hacks.) You can still find our fellow pinch-hitters Erik and Matt in their familiar locations.
Jill at Feministe notes an interesting Townhall discussion of Alito’s invocation of Griswold at the hearings, which sees in Alito’s argument about the shifting rationales for the right to privacy a signal that Griswold does not mean Roe. Jill is right that this is important, and for people unfamiliar with the history it’s worth discussing what Alito is talking about.
As many of you know, Griswold–which struck down a Connecticut law banning the use of contraception–had a majority opinion by William O. Douglas, which located a right to privacy as an outgrowth of the structural logic of the Bill of Rights, which was overwhelmingly concerned with provides zones of individual protection against overweening state authority. The conservative justice John Marshall Harlan, while equally convinced that the statute was egregiously unconstitutional, located the individual’s protection in a substantive reading of the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. Roe v. Wade‘s notoriously brief legal analysis, while citing Griswold, held that the Texas statute was “violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” implying that it was applying Harlan’s, not Douglas’s, reasoning.
Robert Bork and many other conservatives have argued that Roe is wrong because Griswold was wrong. This presents the obvious problems that 1)Griswold was an easy case correctly decided, and 2)overturning it would be exceptionally unpopular, even more so than overturning Roe. Nobody who advocated it could get appointed to the Court, and rightly so. Which brings us to Plan B.
Before Griswold was a case called Poe v. Ullman, in which both Harlan and Douglas–in dissent–would write stronger opinions on behalf of the unconstitutionality of the contraception ban than they would later in Griswold. Harlan’s dissent was largely drafted by a young clerk named Charles Fried. As Reagan’s solicitor general, Fried argued in front of the Supreme Court that the Court could “pull the thread” of Roe without undoing the other privacy cases, based on the substantive due process logic. While Douglas’s emphasis on individual autonomy was more obviously related to the right at stake in Roe, Fried argued that Harlan’s S.D.P. right was located in the security of people in their homes, and as such did not apply to the abortion cases. Under Fried’s logic (which is quite plausible on its own terms), one can overrule Roe without overturning Griswold, or Eisenstadt (extending Griswold to unmarried heterosexual couples)or perhaps even Lawrence (extending the right to privacy to same-sex couples.)
And, of course, Alito and Fried worked together in the Reagan White House; Alito helped shape the Reagan administration’s anti-Roe strategy and was well aware of this argument. So it’s clear what’s going on here: Alito is signaling that his acceptance of Griswold doesn’t mean that he accepts Roe. People in the media who argue otherwise are being played for suckers, just as Alito and his supporters want.
So I made my first visit to Madison Square Garden tonight, and although the outcome was worse for my rooting interests than my trip to the Meadowlands earlier this year, it was a more enjoyable game overall. I had a pretty decent (although not as good) a seat, and the electricity of the packed 18,000+ house made it just an entirely different experience. You could tell right from the beginning, with fans 15 rows deep standing up to watch the warmups, and throughout the game “Go Rangers Go” and “Calgary Sucks” chants broke out with no prompting. The fans here were as intense and knowledgeable as any; the only comparable experience for a regular season game of the arenas I’ve been to is the old Montreal forum.
The game was good, if disappointing, with the Flames blowing a 2-0 lead. The turning point of the game was easy to spot; early in the second, while they were shorthanded Amonte made a sweet feed in front to a wide-open Iginla, who was robbed by Lundqvist. The Rangers scored on the next rush, and from then on they took over the game; the Flames did start to control the play again after the Rangers scored the go-ahead goal in the 3rd, but couldn’t tie it. The Rangers are a good team; I don’t think their good first half is a fluke. Renney is a huge improvement over the past-his-prime Sather as a coach; the Rangers made a lot of good adjustments after the first period, putting more pressure on the points and making long passes to inhibit the Calgary forecheck. And Jagr is playing like it’s 1994 again. And, certainly, the quality of the game has improved; people seeing their first game in a while were talking on the way out about how good the game was, and they’ll be back.
So, despite the loss, a good time. I certainly wish I could go more often…
I saw Norah O’Donnell this morning claiming that Alito’s support of the “right to privacy” is somehow meaningful. As Nancy Keenan correctly notes:
Under the first round of questions from Senator Specter, Samuel Alito did not refute his record of opposition to Roe v. Wade. He did not state whether he believes that the right to privacy includes a woman’s right to choose. He did acknowledge that his 1985 statement, which said he believes legally that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion, was accurate. At this early stage in the hearings, Alito is stealing a page from Clarence Thomas’ playbook. Thomas said the constitution included a right to privacy, then he voted to overturn Roe v. Wade one year later. Thus far, Alito has failed to give the American public any assurances that he would protect a woman’s right to choose.
Alito’s retrospective support for Griswold, of course, means absolutely nothing. It is highly unlikely that he will have to evaluate the constitutionality of a statute that bans the use of contraception by married couples. What matters is whether is applies to abortion, and it is almost certain that he believes that it doesn’t. (On the other hand, it’s hilarious to see conservatives who think that the “right to privacy” is completely illegitimate defend Alito because he supports it.)
…I explain this in a little more detail here.
The Others freaks me the hell out, even after the fourth or fifth viewing. Part of this has to do with the creepy little girl theme, perfected in Kubrick’s The Shining. The English gothic, with the mist and the grey and the big house and so forth, however, also plays a part. You can imagine my consternation, then, when I showed up a Wiston House, hopelessly sleep deprived and easily frightened. Wiston House, home of the Wilton Park conferences, is an old English manor.
There has been a manor at this location since before the Conquest. The House that stands today was built in the 16th century, although the original structure was much larger and differed in other important respects. The foundations of the church next to the house date back to Norman times, although the building is considerably newer. The graveyard dates back almost to the Conquest. This is a view of the manor and the church from the east. The drive up to the manor was a good deal creepier on the day I arrived, because a low mist hung over the entire area. The fields around the manor are crowded with sheep.
The manor house was altered considerably during the 19th century. Since that time, it has played host to, most notably, the Canadian Army during World War II, which used Wiston House as its headquarters during the D-Day invasion. Wiston House is now home to various conferences and similar events. I imagine that this tree must look less freaky in the summer; it has apparently been hit by lightning half a dozen times, but continues to grow and to bloom in the spring. The tree dominates the driveway up to the manor. I’m staying in a cottage off to the left of the main house and behind the church.
The hills surrounding Wiston House include Chanctonbury Ring, which is a grove of trees planted around a 7th century BC hilltop fortress. The Romans built a temple n the fort around 300 AD, although apparently very little remains. During free time tomorrow, I plan to walk up an investigate. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll drift down to the village of Steyning, which was apparently a happening place in the 11th century.