In an article about China assuming its place at the table of great powers comes this passage:
In the past several weeks China Central Television has broadcast a 12-part series describing the reasons nine nations rose to become great powers. The series was based on research by a team of elite Chinese historians, who also briefed the ruling Politburo about their findings.
I haven’t the faintest about the academic credentials of the historians they’ve tracked down for this, but I would certainly be interested in knowing more. For every relatively inoffensive and policy irrelevant historian like Dave or Erik Loomis, there’s an “historian” like VD Hanson or Bernard Lewis. I’ve argued that one of the reasons that the rhetoric of “will” and resolve is so worthless is that Iran, China, and Russia all have their own Bill Kristols; I would suspect that China also has its share of VD Hansons.
On a related question, has anyone read Ben Barber’s Truth of Power? I would suspect that several books could be written concentrating just on the differences between the conversations of Richard Rorty and Bill Clinton on the one hand and Bernard Lewis and George Bush on the other.
But let me say this in defense of Althouse. She is at least conceding that the shameful treatment of Padilla is worth discussing. And her defense of the sadism is about as plausible as it will ever get. She sees there is an important principle here – something we once knew as habeas corpus. Here you have a U.S. citizen detained on American soil, kept without charges for 3 and a half years, accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack (an accusation never substantiated in any way), tortured until he may be mentally incapable of standing trial … and the conservative blogosphere is completely, utterly silent. Habeas corpus disappears not with a bang, and not even with a whimper, but with deathly quiet. Well, we know what American conservatism now stands for. You can see the visual above.
IndeedOuchDisturbingBecauseIt’sTrue, with two caveats: 1)I’m not sure that coming up with quarter-assed justifications of torture is better than ignoring it (Althouse, as she always does, is using these quibbles to evade the fundamental issues, just like liberal hawks and Iraq) and 2)in fairness, the conservative blogosphere does have at least a couple of proud Schmittians, including a major member of the “Republican Daily Kos.”
Huh. Reading Greenwald and Drum makes me wonder whether the smart political move for the Democrats isn’t to wholly embrace the ISG report, count on the assumption that the Bush administration (and McCain) will reject the recommendations, then in 2008 use the “even the conservative James Baker…” trope. As Atrios has argued correctly and repeatedly, Bush just ain’t leaving Iraq. Republicans have become enormously talented at using the rhetoric of bipartisanship without making ANY of the concessions associated with a bipartisan effort, and the argument that the Republicans had failed to execute some of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Report seemed to find some purchase in 2006.
In a Congressional Quarterly piece flagged by Ygelsias, we’re reminded that racism’s conceptual grammar is quite mobile:
If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”
“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.
“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?
“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.
Lott is an idiot, and so might be excused for forgetting that his own august legislative body authorized a fabulous, illegal war that has needlessly condemned hundred of thousands of people to an early grave. Indeed, a communal civil war is a great deal more comprehensible than what Lott and his peers have allowed to happen over the past five years.
Stein’s larger point — which he’s made before, is that many congressional leaders and law enforcement agents haven’t the foggiest understanding of the basic social and theological elements of Islam, against whose militants we are presumed to be waging an existential war. To be fair, I recently had a conversation with a world history professor — employed at a somewhat reputable university I prefer not to mention by name or location — who insisted that the Saudi monarchy was Shi’a. Awkwardness ensued. I mean, for shit’s sake — this is basic knowledge about a region about which Americans are supposed to be deeply interested. If it were only Americans who suffered the consequences of our ignorance, I’d be tempted to argue that we get what we deserve.
From yesterday’s press conference with the Poodle:
Q Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. You said that the increase in attacks is unsettling. That won’t convince many people that you’re still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq, and question your sincerity about changing course.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s bad in Iraq. Does that help? (Laughter.)
Yup. What a card.
BAGHDAD — Police said they found 18 bodies dumped in different areas of Baghdad, all with gunshot wounds and many with signs of torture, an Interior Ministry official said.
BAGHDAD — Four people were killed and eight wounded in a mortar attack on the religiously mixed Naharwan neighbourhood in southeastern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said.
BAGHDAD — One person was killed and three wounded when gunmen attacked a crowd in the religiously mixed area of Amil in southwestern Baghdad, police said.
TAL AFAR — A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in the town of Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, killed three civilians and wounded 15 people, police said.
ISHAQI — The U.S. military said ground forces with air support killed 18 men and two women in the Thar Thar area of Salahaddin province, all suspected al Qaeda militants. But Iraqi officials, including police, said they found the bodies of 17 civilians. Journalists were shown the bodies of five children.
I have a post at TAPPED about Jeffrey Rosen’s touting of John Roberts’s would-be “centrist” justification for upholding “partial-birth” abortion legislation that should clearly struck down based on the current law. A couple more points that I couldn’t fit in to a post that was already too long.
The article contains, first of all, a classic example of TNR pox-on-both-housesism:
Breyer is not the only justice who runs the risk of betraying his principles. If Justice Clarence Thomas decides to uphold the partial-birth abortion ban, abandoning his usual skepticism of federal regulations, he, too, would look opportunistic. By the same token, conservative defenders of the ban, such as former Attorney General Edwin Meese, are urging the Court to construe Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce very broadly, even though they take the opposite position in cases involving civil rights and environmental regulations; liberal groups are similarly hypocritical.
Needless to say, Rosen declines to name any of the “liberal groups” urging that the Supreme Court strike the law on Commerce Clause grounds. Perhaps there are some examples, although I’m not aware of any, but such arguments certainly didn’t play more than a trivial role in litigation seeking to overturn the statute. Or maybe he’s referring to Breyer’s unwillingness to defer to congressional fact-finding, but while Breyer can certainly be hacktacular I hardly think it’s inconsistent to refuse to defer to Congressional assertions that 2+2=74. Moreover, I’m not sure how Rosen can attack Breyer on this count. The Rosen/Roberts position–that rather than accept congressional findings of fact and the policy choices Congress deliberately made, the Supreme Court should just go ahead and read a very narrow health exemption into the statute based on its own reading of the data–is considerably more unprincipled and incoherent. If the findings of “fact” adduced by Congress cannot justify the legislation, then Breyer’s remedy–to strike the statute and let Congress craft an appropriate health exemption if it so chooses–is the obviously correct one.
The other odd thing about this article is its strange brew of moth-eaten 50s-era vulgar pluralism and crude normative legal realism. As many of you know, The New Republic has generally been (literally) a citadel of the Frankurter-Bickel variant of “legal process” theory, and Rosen used to invoke this school constantly. To put it crudely, legal process had two crucial components. The first part is its claim that what makes courts distinctive is that they have to identify legal principles, apply them in subsequent cases, and give a plausible account of what they’re doing. Rosen seems to have entirely abandoned this prong of the theory (unless he can invoke it to oppose Roe itself.) Indeed, what’s most remarkable about Rosen is the extent to which he’s stopped worrying and learned to love the jurisprudence of Sandra Day O’Connor. His argument in this article–in which he urges the court to adopt his preferred policy outcome without even the pretense that it represents a plausible reading of the Constitution or the Court’s precedents–is the kind of preening, transparently unprincipled difference-splitting that gives “minimalism” a bad name.
The part of legal process theory that he does remained attached to is the idea that the courts can manage (if not end) social conflicts and produce stability by deciding difficult issues the right way and saying the right things about them. (Who knew that Rosen’s only objection to Casey‘s justly-mocked call for “the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution” was that the Court didn’t allow quite enough poor women to be denied abortions and women be burdened with health risks for no reason to hit the sweet spot.) As Digby so brilliantly pointed out today, the idea that anti-choicers will be satisfied with a few bones thrown in their direction is sheer fantasy. The court’s decision in this case will not affect the extent to which the abortion issue is controversial–the only thing at stake is the reproductive freedom of the most vulnerable women in society. To sacrifice the latter in the hope that a pony farm will grown on ice cream castles in the air is as silly as Felix Frankfurter thinking he could convince Southerners to accept desegreagtion if he were permitted to craft judicial opinions in just the right way.
Thank Jeebus that I don’t think she can actually win the Democratic primary. (I hope somebody’s taking a lot of pictures of today’s Joementum.)
Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926-2006. She was so John Bolton before John Bolton was even John Bolton.
UPDATE: Yes, this is a bit flip, but there’s a point. During the 1980s, I only knew Jeane Kirkpatrick as Bill the Cat’s girlfriend; I didn’t really understand the jokes until later. Another way of putting it is to say that for many of us, Bloom County represented an important element of our political education. On the question of whether we should wait to dissect the legacy of recently passed individuals, I’ll confess that I don’t see the reasoning. Those who believe that Jeane Kirkpatrick exerted a positive effect on American foreign policy will (understandably and justly) write well of her in the wake of her passing. It’s unclear to me why those who would criticize her impact have to wait a week, or a month, or three months to make their contribution. I suppose that I also might feel differently if she had died at the age of forty or sixty; I simply don’t understand death after eight full decades to be a tragic event.
Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, the use of litigation has caused gay rights to be an incredibly divisive issue that will tear Canadian politics apart for generations. Or not:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declared the contentious issue of same-sex marriage to be permanently closed.
After a Conservative motion calling on the government to restore the traditional definition of marriage was defeated yesterday by a resounding 175 to 123, Mr. Harper said he will not bring the matter back before Parliament.
“I don’t see reopening this question in the future,” he told reporters who asked whether same-sex marriage would return to the table if the Conservatives won a majority government.
Nor does he intend to introduce a “defence of religions” act to allow public officials, such as justices of the peace, to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
But had litigation never been brought, I’m sure the legislation would have lost by an even greater margin. Or something.
In other Canadian news, I’ve forgotten to mention the pleasing upset victory of Stephane Dion in the Liberal leadership race; not only was he probably the best candidate on the merits (particularly since on civil liberties Ignatieff makes Alberto Gonzales sound like Nadine Strossen), but it gives hope to academics everywhere.
In an interview with Reuters, Ignacio Ochoa, director of the Nahual Foundation, said, “Gibson replays, in glorious big budget Technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserved, in fact, needed, rescue.” Lucio Yaxon, described by Reuters as a 23-year-old Mayan human rights activist, added, “Basically, the director is saying the Mayans are savages.”
If there’s a single theme to Mel Gibson’s work as actor and director, it’s that we’re ALL savages. Gibson clearly believes that any culture at any time in virtually any circumstance can produce murderous brutality, coincidentally giving him an opportunity to make a movie about a beset upon hero getting tortured, beaten, drawn and quartered, crucified, etc. I suppose it’s possible that Gibson would hold the opinion that European colonialism could “rescue” the Maya from brutality (never good to credit Mel with too much intellectual consistency), but I’d be pretty surprised if he actually believed that. I’ve also never been moved by the notion that pre-Colombian America was a space free of war, slavery, torture, state sponsored coercion, etc.
I don’t doubt that Apocalypto is historically inaccurate in many ways, and I have no plans to see it, but the themes fit seamlessly into Gibson’s body of work.