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He Just Sounds Tired…

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

The “Fighting Words” description doesn’t seem to fit Hitch’s column today; he seems like nothing so much as a tired, beaten man, vainly grasping for relevance as he pushes out a few more paragraphs. I suppose he gets some mild credit for being the last man on earth capable of writing the following without irony:

George Bush at his worst is preferable to Gerhard Schröder or Jacques Chirac—politicians who put their own countries in pawn to Putin and the Chinese and the Saudis.

Right; because this administration is notable primarily for standing up to the Saudis and Chinese on…. well, I’m not sure, but maybe it makes sense in Hitch’s world. On the 2008 election:

Sen. Obama cannot possibly believe, and doesn’t even act as if he believes, that he can be elected president of the United States next year.

It’s as if he’s having a conversation with himself without realizing he’s by himself; he nods along to what he fancies are clever observations, reinforcing in his own mind the idea that he has something useful to contribute. In the end (and this is really the worst thing that can happen to a self-described contrarian) he’s not so much wrong as just not making any sense. There’s not enough substance to generate disagreement; all he produces is the kind of mild fascination/pity we reserve for the guy muttering to himself at the bar.

I remind you that Gore was once a stern advocate of the removal of Saddam Hussein, and that in office he might well not be the coward or apologist that the MoveOn.org crowd is still hoping to nominate.

Right…. The idea that Al Gore would have invaded Iraq (despite Gore’s early and often opposition to the war) requires extraordinary intellectual contortions, but remains beloved of both raving liberal hawks and raving Naderites. Since Hitch is, in some sense, a member of both groups, it’s not surprising that he holds to it. Even here, though, it doesn’t really seem like he believes it. He kind of hopes that Gore might have invaded Iraq, but he can’t summon the enthusiasm to animate that idea with any rhetorical force.

Really, there’s nothing more sad than a contrarian who evokes more pathos than anger.

The Hidden Rightward Shift

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

Jeff Rosen has a very good piece on John Paul Stevens in the Times Magazine. The central point is that Stevens isn’t so much a liberal as someone who plays one on the Rehnquist and Burger Courts:

Stevens, however, is an improbable liberal icon. “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” he told me during a recent interview in his chambers, laughing and shaking his head. “I think as part of my general politics, I’m pretty darn conservative.” Stevens said that his views haven’t changed since 1975, when as a moderate Republican he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court. Stevens’s judicial hero is Potter Stewart, the Republican centrist, whom Stevens has said he admires more than all of the other justices with whom he has served. He considers himself a “judicial conservative,” he said, and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues. “Including myself,” he said, “every judge who’s been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell” — nominated by Richard Nixon in 1971 — “has been more conservative than his or her predecessor. Except maybe Justice Ginsburg. That’s bound to have an effect on the court.”

It is a measure of how not only how much the Court has changed but how much the Republican Party has changed that Rockefeller Republicans now seem like liberals on the Supreme Court. There’s no Brennan, Marshall or Douglas on the modern Court. There have been some liberal advances, but that have been mostly modest expansions of existing doctrines agreeable to moderate northern Republicans: overturning a widely derided 5-4 decision that the swing vote repudiated almost immediately to strike down laws that were sporadically and arbitrarily enforced, and striking down a couple unusual applications of the death penalty that represent a small fraction of the total number of cases. And as Souter demonstrated, a Harlan-like incrementalist is obviously going to look more liberal after the Warren Court than when on the Warren Court.

The other thing to mention here is that the Burger and (especially) Rehnquist Court shifted doctrine to the right in subtle ways that makes it seem as if it changed less than it did. It’s true that the Court has generally avoided overturning major Warren Court landmarks — but it has often substantially alerted their content. The Court, of course, has never considered overturning Brown, but it has defined it to require only formalistic non-segregation as opposed to actual substantive desegregation (and has also made it very difficult for school districts to voluntarily desegregate.) Miranda has never been overturned, but any number of exceptions to it have been carved out. Casey is remembered primarily for re-affirming Roe, but also allowed the states (and the federal government) substantially more leeway to regulate abortion. And so on. Especially when dealing with the Roberts Court, it’s important to look at the substantive outcomes of the cases, not at how they characterize the precedents.

Ray of Light

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

Those of us discouraged by Clinton’s imminent victories in the Democratic primary got some great news: George Bush has predicted that 1)Clinton will win the nomination, and 2)the GOP will win the election. Given his track record, I’d buy up Obama presidential contracts in the election markets right now!

Missouri Double Header

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

A double dose of Missouri news today.

First the good: The state’s intermediate court has held that the state’s fetal homicide law, which allows criminal charges against third parties who harm a pregnant woman and her fetus, cannot be applied to the pregnant woman herself. Janet Wade tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine while she was pregnant. She was charged with felony child endangerment in the first degree. The trial court threw out the case, and the appeals court has now done the same, holding that the state’s law, which explicitly exempts women from prosecution based on harm (or the fear of harm) to their fetuses, cannot be applied to women like Ms. Wade. The state will not appeal to the MO supreme court, though the legislature could amend the law to remove that exception (as other states have done).

And now the maybe good, maybe bad: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will this week consider whether a state prison violates an incarcerated woman’s constitutional rights by denying her transportation and leave to obtain an abortion. The state’s decision not to transport women was held unconstitutional in the district court. About seven percent of incarcerated women are pregnant at the time they are sentenced.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see (probably a long time given how long the appellate courts take to hand down decisions) whether Missouri will be two-for-two.

If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

Well, this is a bummer.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 25

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

I consider, therefore, the prime mission of the ideal American commonwealth to be the perfection of the Aryan genius for political civilization, upon the basis of a predominantly Teutonic nationality[.] If such, in truth, be the transcendent mission of the American commonwealth, . . . what folly, on the part of the ignorant, what wickedness, on the part of the intelligent, are involved in the attempts, on the one side to sectionalize the nation, or on the other, to pollute it with non-Aryan elements. Both have tried, and both, thanks to an all-wise Providence, have failed; for both were sins against American civilization, and both were sins of the highest order.

— John Burgess, “The Ideal of the American Commonwealth”
Political Science Quarterly (1895)

Lou Dobbs turns 62 today.

The life of Lou Dobbs is a familiar rags-to-shithead fable. After growing up in small towns in Texas and Idaho, Dobbs managed to earn admission and a full scholarship to Harvard. During his sophomore year, he found himself “mesmerized” during a debate between Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman at MIT, and — inspired by the evangelical, free-market warbles of the latter — he soon chose a major in economics. By the mid-1970s, a series of meanders led Dobbs to journalism, and he eventually found himself with a job at CNN. Having toiled away the next two decades as a sycophantic financial correspondent, Dobbs — like all fake populists — eventually found glory by persuading himself that the republic faced coequal perils. In an era of Bush capitalism, Dobbs saw the nation’s vitality sapped by venal, corporate aristocrats and their government abettors; at the same time, his viscera trembled as he watched a subproletarian army of gardeners, dishwashers and day laborers spill forth from Mexico and all points south.

These days, the ample jowls of Lou Dobbs can be seen every night of the week, undulating like two sacks of warm, curdled cheese as he charts the alien menace infiltrating our southern border. Dobbs, who once described the Minutemen as a “terrific group of concerned, caring Americans,” decided over two years ago to turn his show into a karaoke machine for nativist misinformation and vigilantism; since then, he has addressed the subject of immigration with an angry, masturbatory zeal, warning his viewers of the economic rot, cultural disarray and biological pestilence that will presumably result from the endless, unthwarted flow of “illegals” to the United States. To lend “perspective” on these issues, Dobbs routinely offers air time to race-baiting trogs like Glenn Spencer of the American Patrol, Chris Simcox of the Minutemen, and Barbara Coe of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. In one of Dobbs’ finer moments of racist demagoguery, he actually ran a map sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that promotes the baseless rumor that Chicanos wish to recapture “Aztlan,” the Mexican territory lost to the US in 1848. To be sure, adherents to such beliefs are not difficult to find — and even less so now that Fightin’ Lou has offered their ressentiment a higher amplitude and an undeserved aura of legitimacy.

Nice work, Lou.

Don’t See Why You Don’t Stay a Little Longer…

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

Palate cleanser, as they say:

Leviathan

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

Alex at Yorkshire Ranter has a fantastic post on the MRAP. A taste:

Essentially, they are six-wheeled buses surrounded by huge amounts of armour protection of various kinds, intended to be safer for the occupants than the Humvees and trucks they have so far been using. But the enemy is already countering them, by the simple and cheap means of building bigger bombs, or organising attacks with multiple bombs. Given the insane quantities of money it has cost to field what are basically armoured buses, this is not the road to success.

Of course, if you’re a tom in Iraq, you’d rather travel in one of these than in a Humvee. But what mission are they meant to conduct? Building really heavily armoured patrol vehicles implies that you’re going to be driving around in small groups of vehicles full of soldiers a lot, in an environment where you’re under constant IED threat. They’re not suited to use on an active battlefield, and they’re so big they aren’t very airportable. Every artefact is an ideology made manifest; this one manifests the idea that it’s possible to fight this kind of war without contact with your environment. What are the soldiers in the back doing? They can’t see much out of the vehicle; they can’t hear what goes on outside for engine noise; probably no-one in the vehicle would understand what the people are saying anyway.

And we’ve decided to accept this state of affairs, and build a mobile wall to keep it out.

In re Acuna

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

I’ve been remiss in not writing about the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Acuna last week, in which the court held that a doctor “has no legal duty” to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she is “killing an existing human being.” One would think this would be a no brainer. The case was a clear attempt by the antis to get a test case on its way up to the Supreme Court (which it still may be — Acuna has “instructed” her attorney to file a cert petition). And I think it’s a joke to say that such a statement could ever be necessary to informed consent. Talk about condescending to women. Anyway, Lynn Paltrow puts it in perspective for us in a NYT Letter:

The New Jersey Supreme Court correctly ruled in the Acuna decision that doctors should not be forced to tell a woman considering an abortion that she is “killing an existing human being.”

The case itself, which stems from strategic anti-choice efforts to create the illusion that women seeking abortions are not adequately informed, distracts attention from those situations where this really is the case.

For example, women who go to term are not informed that 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage or stillbirth.. They don’t usually know their providers’ C-section rate (among providers this number routinely exceeds evidence-based medical recommendations). Or that many hospitals prohibit vaginal births after C-sections, denying women the opportunity to have a trial of labor and avoid unnecessary surgery.

Indeed, there is little evidence that women seeking abortions are under-informed, but a lot to indicate that women going to term could be better served.

A Bit Of Calm

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

I think I 80% agree with the Editors in re: Belichick. My disagreement is that (unlike, say, Barry Bonds) Belichick actually cheated, repeatedly breaking a clear rule he was repeatedly told not to break, and hence he’s in no position to complain about nay punishment. On the other hand, some of the hysteria is a bit much. In terms of winning or losing, videotaping the public signals of a coach form the sidelines rather than the stands is trivial. Call me crazy, but I think the Partiots’s success rests more on such factors as “having excellent players well-coached” and “not being dumb enough to fire Marty Schottenheimer to hire Norv “6-10″ Turner.” (I suspect like the other teams that have fired Schottenheimer, the Chargers are about to find out that losing several wins certainly solves your “being upset in the playoffs” problem…)

Reconciliation as the Path to Peace

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

So yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. During the afternoon break between the morning prayer service and Neilah, the concluding service, I attended a panel discussion (also at the synagogue). Led by Phyllis Rodriguez, whose son was killed on September 11th and who has since become active in the Forgiveness Project, and including Robi Damelin and Ali (whose last name I don’t remember — I was fasting, people) of the Parents’ Circle – Families Forum, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization that promotes and works toward reconciliation between those who have lost loved ones in the conflict, and that works toward peace.

In all the bloviating (guilty) about Israel and the Palestinian territories, about policy decisions, and about who has done what right and what wrong, the actual, personal, on-the-ground experiences and ramifications can tend to get a little lost. Yesterday, on the day on which Jews ask for forgiveness from those they have wronged (not to mention from God), Robi, Phyllis, and Ali helped us understand that forgiveness can be world-changing.

Robi’s son was killed by a Palestinian sniper when he was in the Israeli military. Ali’s brother was killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. Ali said that at that moment the pain he felt at living behind a barbed-wire fence and having to pass a checkpoint every day turned into hate. And understandably. But now, through his work with the Parents Circle, he goes into schools with Robi and works with kids of Israeli and Palestinian students to teach nonviolence and the power of forgiveness. I’m not doing Ali or Robi — or Phyllis — justice. They all spoke so movingly about their loss and about the moment when they each chose between hate and reconciliation.

There’s no great point here, no in-depth analysis, no pithy line with which I’ll end this post. Phyllis Rodriguez said yesterday that she doesn’t think we are stuck with the human instinct to anger and violence, though the media may make us think that’s the only way. That instinct is there, but it has a twin — the desire for reconciliation, for taking a tragedy and doing something good for the world. Robi, Ali and Phyllis have chosen the latter; Phyllis advocates against the death penalty and the war in Iraq, and Ali and Robi work toward a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine. Desmond Tutu wrote in a 2004 letter to the Parents Circle that vulnerability is a prerequisite to peace. Maybe that’s part of our problem as a country — we’ve got this pathology that says we can never be vulnerable. But it also means we’re a long way from peace.

That’s Genius, Glenn

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

Shorter Instapundit: I’m guessing that Iranians are almost as stupid as my regular readers.

UPDATE: Yes, Glenn; I understand that it was an attempt at a joke.

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