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The Law Enforcement Model

[ 0 ] April 30, 2009 |

This is a kind of interesting clip about the British approach to fighting terrorism. We recently had a speaker at Patterson knowledgeable of British intelligence organizations, and he made more or less the same argument as Reza; the United Kingdom faces a substantial domestic terror threat, but has managed it effectively through law enforcement techniques. I think it’s incontestably true that a law enforcement framing of terrorism makes more sense and works better than a war frame. It’s not the entire answer; any objection I might have to UAV strikes against terrorist targets centers on the practical, rather than legal, difficulties. It’s worth noting, however, that British internal security services have much wider powers of surveillance than their American counterparts. This is more or less the case on the Continent as well, as many European states have longer histories of dealing with domestic terror than the United States. I say this not to suggest that they are models for emulation, but rather to point out that European citizens are far more tolerant of the national security state than Americans, and that this matters for the ability of European intelligence services to focus on a law enforcement model.


Is New Hampshire #5?

[ 0 ] April 29, 2009 |

It’s up to John Lynch now.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 13 to 11 in favor of the bill, but only after a last-minute amendment strengthened language granting legal protections for religious groups and organizations that do not want to perform or otherwise help carry out same-sex marriages.

The House, which approved the marriage bill by a seven-vote margin last month, will now vote on the Senate’s amended version. Supporters and opponents both predicted that version would pass the House, which is more liberal and was more enthusiastic about same-sex marriage from the start. The bill probably cannot gain enough support in either house for an override, so its fate almost certainly rests with Gov. John Lynch.

It is unclear whether Gov. Lynch, a Democrat, will veto the law or whether the new language will persuade him to endorse it. Mr. Lynch has consistently opposed same-sex marroiage but has never said whether he would veto the bill or let it be enacted without his signature.

He did not reveal his intentions after the vote but reiterated his belief that the state’s two-year-old civil-union law provides sufficient rights and protections to gay couples.

“To achieve further real progress,” he said in a statement, “the federal government would need to take action to recognize New Hampshire civil unions.”

On the one hand, the wrong venue/method tactic of delaying marriage equality is annoying and tiresome. But it’s heartening that we live in a climate where direct adovcacy of marriage discrimination is increasingly beyond the pale. (See also: the hysterical claims of censorship of ministers that were a major part of Prop-8 advocacy, the much-mocked NOM video, etc etc).

Speaking of NOM, they’re here to remind us that judicial legislative policy-making is elitist, countermajoritarian, and anti-democratic.

Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which was established to fight same-sex marriage around the country, said the group would intensively lobby Mr. Lynch to veto it. “This vote is in no way representative of what folks in New Hampshire want,” Mr. Brown said, adding that the Senate leadership had used “arm-twisting” to change the votes of a few crucial Democrats. “If the governor is going to stand by his words and his stated position, he will veto this bill.”

Bachmann’s dreams take wing

[ 0 ] April 29, 2009 |

The best reaction I’ve seen to Michele Bachman’s undilutedly stupid musings on the “Hoot-Smalley” tariff:

I hope she makes history lessons a regular part of her work in the House. I want to hear about how the Second World War II began when the Japanese bombed our base at Pearl Bailey in the Hawaiian Tropic, and how women like Rosa Parks the Riveter went to work building bombers like the Enola Heterosexual Marriage.

As for me, I’m curious to learn how I could have lived in Minnesota for nine years without knowing that a well-regarded former Twins shortstop could have played such an important role in prolonging the Great Depression.

Reining In the Arbitrary Executive

[ 0 ] April 29, 2009 |

See Greenwald and Daphne Evitar on a potentially important decision from a Ninth Circuit panel repudiating at least one element of the expansive “state secrets” privilege claimed by the Bush and Obama administrations. In this case, the Bush admininstration put forward the position that this incredibly broad privelege could apply to a civil suit involving a third party, and (disgracefully) the Obama administration continued with this assertion. While the ruling does not deny that the privelege exists in certain narrow circumstances, it rejected the broader claims put forward by Bush and Obama:

Today, in a 26-page ruling (.pdf), the appellate court resoundingly rejected the Bush/Obama position, holding that the “state secrets” privilege — except in extremely rare circumstances not applicable here — does not entitle the Government to demand dismissal of an entire lawsuit based on the assertion that the “subject matter” of the lawsuit is a state secret. Instead, the privilege only allows the Government to make specific claims of secrecy with regard to specific documents and other facts — exactly how the privilege was virtually always used before the Bush and Obama DOJs sought to expand it into a vast weapon of immunity from all lawsuits challenging the legality of any executive branch program relating to national security.

We’ll have to see if this is heard en banc or by the Surpeme Court, but hopefully the suit against Jeppesen Dataplan for abetting an extraordinary rendition that led to torture will be allowed to proceed.

All diseases must be named to maximize national stigma

[ 0 ] April 29, 2009 |

Oh, Jesus:

The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed “Mexican” influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and “we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.

I hadn’t realized the kosher proscriptions against pigs extended to evoking them by name to describe an illness for which they are in fact the carriers. Moreover, I would think that calling it “swine flu” would tend to reinforce the whole pigs-as-filthy-beast thing. Indeed, since many people continue to have a medieval understanding of disease, I’d not be surprised to learn that sales of pork products had taken a hit this week, or that plushophiles were jerking off less frequently to old Miss Piggy videos. If I were part of a community that had disparaged a particular species of animal for thousands of years, this is probably exactly the sort of taboo reinforcement for which I’d have waited a lifetime. But since I haven’t been driven insane by my religious beliefs, who cares what I think?

Today In People Who Should Probably Avoid Invoking Norma Desmond

[ 0 ] April 29, 2009 |


Court Upholds FCC’s Draconian Speech Restrictions

[ 2 ] April 28, 2009 |

The Supreme Court today held — in a 5-4 decisions along predictable ideological lines — that an FCC regulatory change that made broadcasters legally liable for broadcasting even fleeting, isolated swear words was legal. It was an administrative law, not a First Amendment case, as the Court declined to address the free speech issue. (Both Thomas in concurrence and Ginsburg in dissent raised the strong suggestion that the FCC’s actions were constitutionally dubious.) Rather, the Court simply held that the FCC’s regulatory change was not “arbitrary and capricious” and was hence within the agency’s regulatory authority. Breyer, writing the chief dissent, was not persuaded, arguing that while the agency’s reasoning might have sufficed in the first instance it was insufficient to justify a change in policy, as it essentially represented a different weighing of policy preferences rather than a relevant change of facts.

Scalia’s opinion for the Court also contains one of those passages that have given Scalia a somewhat overinflated reputation for his prose stylings. Today’s, even more than most, is reads like a marginally more literate Glenn Beck transcript:

We doubt, to begin with, that small-town broadcasters run a heightened risk of liability for indecent utterances. In programming that they originate, their down-home local guests probably employ vulgarity less than big-city folks; and small-town stations generally cannot afford or cannot attract foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.

Leaving aside that this faux know-nothing silliness is part of a not-very-compelling response to a serious point (about the effects of liability on small broadcasters) raised by Breyer, I’m curious about where Scalia acquired his deep knowledge of effete small-town folk and the fact that they don’t use the ordinary curse words that they use in Hollywood. His upbringing in Queens? Living in other small rural outposts like Boston, Chicago, and Washington? At any rate, when he criticizes the indecency of “foul-mouthed glitteratae”, I assume this is the kind of thing he has in mind:

Hopefully no naive small-towners will be exposed to such a shocking gesture!

Maybe it really will be the Al Franken decade

[ 0 ] April 28, 2009 |

Hard left now filibuster-proof.

…[update by Rob] in an article filed last night, Alexander Bolton argued that Specter was moving right and cutting into Toomey’s base. FAIL!

Quick Hits in Lieu of Real Blogging

[ 0 ] April 28, 2009 |

From around the internets:

That Term "Moral Relativism", I Do Not Think…

[ 0 ] April 28, 2009 |

Michael Gerson asserts that his belief torture is OK as long as Americans do it isn’t “moral relativism.” This man seems deeply confused, although I think it’s more along the line of having a gig which depends on him pretending not to understand things. (Perhaps he also believes that applying his alleged anti-torture principles to the Republicans who used to sign his paychecks would be “Kantian nihilism.”)

I remember with some amusement when Gerson was considered some kind of great moral sage because he drizzled some spurious language of charity and moderation over bog-standard reactionary policy preferences. The Villagers being The Villagers, he probably still is. Pathetic.

Another Year, Another Disaster

[ 0 ] April 28, 2009 |

I got home from Welfare Bankster Field and fired up the Flames in TiVo, only to discover that they decided to switch the game from the pay channel to the obscure cable channel. This was a good thing. All I can say is that 1)it’s good for the league for an exciting team from Chicago to advance, 2)they have a much better chance of knocking out the Canucks that the Flames with all their good defensemen hurt, and 3)at least I’m not a Sharks fan.

Since I’m running out of excuses to post on the subject, I’ll also say that this is interesting. I can of course understand why the Leafs don’t want a second team in the metro area — raking in monopoly profits is easier than building a relevant team. But why the league seems to support them — throwing away gobs of money in the process — is a mystery.


[ 0 ] April 28, 2009 |


There are perhaps only two groups of people who view knowledge as a flaw, and ignorance as an asset: Seventh-graders, and the Washington press corps.