Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

7/09/2005

The shrill war cries of flaccid failures

Digby absolutely eviscerates the 101st Fighting Keyboarders:
They're like a bunch of coke addicts trying desperately to re-capture that first great high that made them feel omnipotent. ("May the Lion come roaring back!")

9/11 was a very dramatic act of terrorism, a made for TV spectacle that horrifed and riveted the world for days. Many of these people threw themselves into the fantasy that this "war on terrorism" was the gravest threat the world has ever known (MAD be damned) and that they were somehow at the center of this conflict, destined to be heroes of the age ...

I suspect that among those who have not had to fight a war there are always a few who regret not being able to prove themselves on the battlefield. War does seem hardwired into the human experience; the battle cry is a pretty primal thing. So, I can understand the excitement of the twenty somethings like Pat Tilman who joined up after 9/11, driven by a strong desire to test his mettle and physical courage. (Hell, that was the reason Oliver Stone joined up in Vietnam, Kerry too --- it has little to do with politics.) Young men being excited about war is nothing new --- and having their illusions shattered by the reality of it is nothing new either. The literature of the ages can attest to this.

That is not what we are dealing with here, however. We are dealing with a group of right wing glory seekers who chose long ago to eschew putting themselves on the line in favor of tough talk and empty posturing --- the Vietnam chickenhawks and their recently hatched offspring of the new Global War On Terrorism. These are men (mostly) driven by the desire to prove their manhood but who refuse to actually test their physical courage. Neither are they able to prove their virility as they are held hostage by prudish theocrats and their own shortcomings. So they adopt the pose of warrior but never actually place themselves under fire ...

...This is why we hear the shrill war cries of inchoate bloodlust from these quarters every time the terrorists strike. It's a primal scream of inner confusion and self-loathing. These are people whose highest aspirations and deepest longings are wrapped up in their masculinity, and yet they are flaccid failures.

...Playing laptop Pattons at full volume, supporting the president and the entire power structure of the government is their only way of proving to themselves that they are warriors. They are damaged by their own contradictory past and as a result they cannot see their way through the haze of emotional turmoil to seek out and find real solutions to the problem of terrorism. They lash out with trash talk and threats and constant references to their own resolve because they are afraid. They've always been afraid.
I can't say it any better than that. I'll just tack on this quote from Christopher Hitchens:
Watching the towers fall in New York, with civilians incinerated on the planes and in the buildings, I felt something that I couldn’t analyze at first and didn’t fully grasp ... until the day itself was nearly over. I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that this was a feeling of exhilaration. Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.

Oliver Stone

James Wolcott quotes ass goblin Jeff Jarvis dissing Oliver Stone:
"Conspiracy nutjob, has-been, and bad filmmaker Oliver Stone is making the first movie about 9/11."
Wolcott then explains that, a few clunkers aside, Oliver Stone is an enormously talented filmmaker.

Recruitment is up!

Recruitment of terrorists, that is, as Plutonium Page notes. She also links to this article in the Guardian by Tariq Ali:
One of the arguments deployed by Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, when he appealed to Tony Blair not to support the war in Iraq was prescient: "An assault on Iraq will inflame world opinion and jeopardise security and peace everywhere. London, as one of the major world cities, has a great deal to lose from war and a lot to gain from peace, international cooperation and global stability."

Most Londoners (as the rest of the country) were opposed to the Iraq war. Tragically, they have suffered the blow and paid the price for the re-election of Blair and a continuation of the war.

Ever since 9/11, I have been arguing that the "war against terror" is immoral and counterproductive. It sanctions the use of state terror - bombing raids, torture, countless civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq - against Islamo-anarchists whose numbers are small, but whose reach is deadly. The solution then, as now, is political, not military. The British ruling elite understood this perfectly well in the case of Ireland. Security measures, anti-terror laws rushed through parliament, identity cards, a curtailment of civil liberties, will not solve the problem. If anything, they will push young Muslims in the direction of mindless violence.

The real solution lies in immediately ending the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Just because these three wars are reported sporadically and mean little to the everyday lives of most Europeans does not mean the anger and bitterness they arouse in the Muslim world and its diaspora is insignificant. As long as western politicians wage their wars and their colleagues in the Muslim world watch in silence, young people will be attracted to the groups who carry out random acts of revenge.

At the beginning of the G8, Blair suggested that "poverty was the cause of terrorism". It is not so. The principal cause of this violence is the violence being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world. And unless this is recognised, the horrors will continue.

Hands off!

Hollywood is violating the Republican Party's patent on 9/11 nostalgia.

Welcome to Stepford

That Katie Holmes is either seriously deluded or seriously brainwashed:
"I've found the man of my dreams," says the 26-year-old actress ... "From the moment I met him," she continues, "it just felt like I'd known him forever. I was blown away. He's the most incredible man. He's so generous and kind, and he helps so many people, and, um, he makes me laugh like I've never laughed, and he's a great friend.…"

...Do you ever wonder whether this is just a honeymoon phase?

"Tom and I will always be in our honeymoon phase."

...

Anyone who has seen photos from the couple's June tour of European capitals in support of their summer movies will recognize the tall, cold-eyed Jessica Rodriguez, a third wheel at all of Holmes's recent public appearances. Rodriguez, 29, was described to me as Holmes's "Scientologist chaperone," and it was clear that she would be on hand during our interview despite my protests. Polite and restrained but alert to troublesome questions, Rodriguez chimes in only to offer an amen following one of Holmes's rhapsodies. ("You adore him," Rodriguez says after the actress explains that she can't keep her hands off Cruise.) But she rises from her chair when Holmes is asked how she feels about the widespread disbelief in her new union.

"The truth is, we don't read that stuff because it's just rude," Rodriguez says—referring to rumors that Cruise made a financial arrangement with Holmes (after auditioning a field of other young starlets, including Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba and Kate Bosworth).

...

Cruise may not be imposing his will on Holmes's career, but, with Rodriguez's help, he appears to have made a strong bid for her soul. After the interview, when I ask Rodriguez how long she's worked with Holmes—reports call her a longtime employee of the Church of Scientology—she waves her hand and says, "Oh, no, we're just best friends.… Well, Katie has a lot of friends." And how long have you been friends? "Oh, a while," Rodriguez answers. "I don't know."

It turns out the two women were introduced only six weeks earlier—right around the time when Holmes met Cruise. ... Rodriguez comes from a family of wealthy Bay area Scientologists; she attended a boarding school in Oregon linked to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, then went to work for the church, reportedly attaining membership in the Sea Org—Scientology's elite religious order, whose members commit to the church for one billion years—in 1998. No one close to Holmes will venture to say exactly what Rodriguez's role in the actress's life is these days.

...

No pressure from Cruise, she swears: "That's really ludicrous because, I mean, you have to know Tom. He is the most loving, generous man who… first of all, he wants to help people. He doesn't put pressure on people. He is the kindest, smartest, most adoring man. It's a pleasure and a privilege to be with him."

As if that weren't already perfectly clear, just then a security guard lumbers into the dressing room and presents Holmes with a giant silver box tied in a thick purple ribbon. A small crowd gathers to watch her gleefully tear open the package and pluck out a Chanel diamond necklace—a gift, naturally, from Cruise. "He's my man! He's my man!" she screams, then jumps up on her chair to do an impression of her fiancé's now-famous sofa shtick from Oprah.

People begin to cheer. "This is your moment!" cries the manicurist.

"I can do splits too," Holmes says, jumping down and splaying herself across the floor. On that note, I suggest, we should probably get the photo shoot started.

"On that note," she replies, "I love him."
My god, the crash and burn on this one is going to be something spectacular.

...A billion years?

7/08/2005

Question

Why do conservatives, without fail, bristle whenever anyone compares Iraq to Vietnam, yet they don't hesitate to compare the threat of Islamic terrorism to that of Nazi Germany?

Stop cowering

Sirota has some words for Democratic leaders:
Now, here's a dose of truth for the insulated Democratic establishment in Washington - an establishment that continues to lose elections, yet, incredibly, refuses to change: if you continue to pathetically cower in the face of all of this; if you continue to ignore the courageous lawmakers in your ranks who know the party needs to stand up; if you continue to defend the Iraq War in light of public opposition to it, in light of proof that the Bush administration lied about it and in light of proof it made America less safe; and if you continue to have positively no courage of any convictions and positively no ability to give voice to the concerns of the majority of Americans, then you will unfortunately continue losing elections far into the future.

Wingnuttery

If John Hawkins and Michelle Malkin can find random blog comments and hold them up as representative of all liberals, then I can post this wingnutty remark from Ultima Thule as an example of right-wing 'thought':
There is still too much talk even by our president, which seeks to portray this war as a struggle against a few disaffected fanatics who do not reflect worldwide Islam. Until we recognize that it is precisely Islam that we are at war with, we will fall short of the strong actions necessary to ensure victory. England itself is guilty in that it has provided a safe haven for radical Islamists who plot and preach terror in the belief that they would be protected by giving these groups leeway. We cannot continue to fight the war on terror overseas while ignoring the domestic front -- and that involves more than Homeland Security and defensive measures -- it will have to involve cleaning out the mosques in this country which regularly preach jihad ever Friday.

Iraq & terrorism

Lindsay Beyerstein points out what shouldn't have to be pointed out:
Let's get a few things straight: The war in Iraq never had anything to do with fighting international terrorism ... The invasion and occupation haven't made a single person safer, they have not deterred a single terrorist attack. On the contrary, they are provoking these attacks in Iraq and abroad.
This is such an important point, I'm going to repeat it: the invasion and occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with preventing terrorism. Despite the conventional wisdom, the Bush administration has never demonstrated that it cares one lick about preventing terrorism.

Right-wing necrophilia

They just can't help themselves.

Just a reminder

Of the mind-set of the other side:
While Terrorists Plotted Murder...

...what were our Democrats up to? Well, James Taranto over at Best of the Web Today is kind enough to remind us:
After all, what were American politicians doing while the terrorists were planning this morning's attack? The House, led by self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, was voting to prevent terror investigators from looking at library records. Rep. Charles Rangel was likening the liberation of Iraq to the Holocaust. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, was urging the administration to treat al Qaeda terrorists as civilians and comparing American servicemen to Nazis.
We are engaged in a war - and, dammit, it is downright unpatriotic to be undermining the war effort under the false-flag of political dissent. Political dissent involves dissenting from the President's health care proposals...but while our best and bravest are fighting the enemy abroad, dissent can never mean parroting enemy propaganda...and all too often that is just what our Democratic leaders are doing.

As I said about two years ago, it is time to decide which side of the river you are on. We have an enemy who wishes to destroy all of us - everyone from Michael Moore to Donald Rumsfeld. We have plenty of things we can argue over - but in fighting the enemy, there is no argument...it is kill or be killed.
What an asshole.

Numbers game

Andrew Sullivan approvingly quotes The Economist:
As The Economist went to press, the toll in the four London bombs was not clear, but the estimate of at least 33 deaths was thankfully far smaller than in Madrid. By the terrible calculus of terrorism, the attacks should thus be counted as a failure - sign of weakness, not strength.
Rising Hegemon (via Scriptoids) responds:
Where is the "magic" line between failure and success, is it 100? Do you have to have 100 dead to be a tragic terrorist strike, as opposed to the jolly victory of only 33 corpses? The death toll is up to 53 now and will undoubtedly climb. Are we supposed to cheer or clap louder or something as long as the toll ends at 99?
I'll just add that this ain't the first time Sullivan has reduced tragedy to a numbers game.

7/07/2005

WHAT?

Another rumor: Stevens stepping down tomorrow as well.

No, this simply can't be true. It just can't be.

Stop complaining please

Mark Noonan is whining because Democrats might put up a fight over the Supreme Court:

Elections have consequences - the consequence of the last election is that the Democratic Party as a whole, and its leftwing branch in particular, has an exceptionally limited role in choosing nominees from the executive branch. Trust me, lefties, I didn't like it in the least when the leftist extremist Ginsburg was nominated for the Supreme Court...but I was of the Party, at that time, which had lost the last election; we were in the minority in Congress and we didn't hold the White House. The American people had spoken and, for good or ill, the destiny of our nation was largely in the hands of liberal Democrats.

The left really needs to grow up and start acting like responsible citizens in a representative Republic. You don't always get what you want - heck, you should be happy if, in the hammer and anvil of politics, you get even a third of what you want. You lost. Get used to it - get busy re-crafting your message and try again in 2006 and 2008. If you do this, then you might get to have a fun time watching the right in a funk as a liberal Democrat appoints liberal Democrats as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, however, the results of the last election put conservative Republicans in charge of such things...and we're going to get our way in the matter.


OK - then what the fuck are you complaining about? If Democrats have no say in the matter, why are you so concerned with what they're saying?

And surely you can't blame them for trying to make their role in the nomination process as large as they can, as long as they 'play by the rules'. Why shouldn't Democrats demand a say in it? If, like you say, the president doesn't have to let them, then who cares? Can you blame them for trying? You do understand that in politics, each side tries to have as much of a say as possible in what goes on - right?

Republicans seem to be unable to break the habit of complaining about the other party trying to stop them from enacting their agenda, which doesn't co-exist well with their desire to gloat over the results of the last election. Your side is in complete control, as you never tire of pointing out, so seriously: what the fuck are you complaining about?

Oh please God no

I just heard from Ryan that the word on the street is that Rehnquist is set to retire tomorrow. See Raw Story for details.

Politics is not a parlor game

A Kossack echos Drum's sentiment:

...it just looks unseemly and petty to jump on a hideous terrorist incident like this and start posting about how Bush will spin it and how it reflects on Bush's or Blair's political fortunes. Over 40 innocent citizens are dead, people! Have some respect! Who gives a flying fuck about the political repercussions?

"Who gives a flying fuck about the political repercussions"?!!? I do, and so should you.

The unstated assumption behind comments like this seems to be that 'politics' is something trivial compared to matters of life and death. Well, politics might be a game for some people, but for me and many others, politics is a matter of life and death. The reason this shit is important isn't just because we want our side to 'win'. We aren't fighting about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination, for instance, just for shits and grins, but because people's lives hang in the balance.

This isn't a fucking hobby. 'Politics' is, for most of us, simply the practice of critically analyzing the most important issues of our time. Asking us to put aside politics for the day is tantamount to calling for a moratorium on rational thought.

Which, of course, is precisely what the Right would like, and precisely what they got in the aftermath of 9/11.

What?

On Fox News, Lawrence Eagleburger just suggested that the US bomb Syria in response to the London bombings.

No truce

PoliPundit's reaction to the London bombings:

If the people who perpetrated today’s bombings are caught, what would the great defenders of “civil rights,” such Senator Dick Durbin (D-Gitmo), recommend that we do with them? In Durbin’s eyes, detaining them at Guantanamo Bay would clearly be out of the question…


No, I don't recommend calling a truce with these people.

Wishful thinking

The ever-conciliatory Kevin Drum has a wish:

If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?

His readers answer:

No.

*****

Spoken like a true Lieberman alcolyte.

*****

And I wish I rode to work on a snow-white unicorn.

*****

Or, to put it another way, if you are bothered by political blogs politicizing the day's major world events, do not read political blogs today.

It's what they do. I suppose the astrology blogs are all framing it in terms of astrology. And the guy who has a blog about feeding ducks pointed out that watching the bombings on the news delayed his duck-feeding by 5 minutes today.

*****

When did Bush/Cheney ever hesitate to use events to score political points?

...It would be noble, humane and compassionate if we were to set aside our political fights to show respect and condolences to the victims of the London murders. But while we do that, the Republicans are figuring out how to use the event to screw the rest of us.

*****

The right is going to try to use this to turn around public opinion on Iraq. The liberal media asked McCain(Why McCain?) how Americans should view this attack and his talking points were that they should view it as a justification for the war in Iraq. Remember that you don't win battles with today's GOP or get respect by playing softball. It's hardball all the time.

*****

Sort of like a Christmas bombing halt?

This might make some sense if these were normal times--liberal politics, with both sides striving for consensus. But this is no parlor game. Watching our manners while they're stoking the Wurlitzer?--you've misjudged the nature of the opposition.

*****

If I hear a Democrat suggest one more time that we disarm before they do--like that has EVER worked with this bunch--I'll go mad.

...When in the last decade has an olive branch from the Democrats ever done anything other than make us look stupid and weak? ... If we disarm, we will simply confirm--to them and to anyone else watching--that we are wimpy, push-overs, that we don't take the fight against what the Republicans are doing seriously.

*****

Being silent about the politics of this tragedy is a tragedy unto itself. If the flawed policies of a particular administration are seen by some - as they are - to be at fault for a persistent loss of life that, if seen by some - as it is - to be avoidable, then it is incumbent upon those who feel this way to remind the world at opportunities like this - since it is at these times that pepole are best reminded of the painful, real-life consequences of flawed policy - to speak up.

*****

Our "usual arguments" What is this with you; a job? Haven't you figured out that there is more at stake here than winning an argument. Save your sensitivity for the living who are every day less free for the likes of George W. Bush.

*****

For the love of fuck, haven't we been put on notice about 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times already that the Right will never, ever concede one inch, on anything, and that they will NEVER stop trying to score political points whenever possible? Why bother anymore trying to "reach out" to them, "put our differences aside," or "all be Americans"? They aren't going to do it, not for one second.

So how can we?

*****

Sorry Kevin, but the fact is the other side doesn't call truces on days like today. They know how to combine looking stoic and apolitical with massive political point scoring.

Believe me I relate to your impulse, but that's an impulse that has been kicking our ass for years.

*****

Did you spend the day in silent reflection after every major terrorist bombing in Baghdad? Or don't they count?

From my viewpoint, this is just mosre innocent people dying as a result of terrorists and stupid leaders. I think I'll just continue to be pissed, as usual.

*****

I remember those days after 9/11. I put aside my anger at the 2000 election. Put it away. Bush was my President, my country had been attacked. 99% of the Democrats in Congress told Bush he'd get whatever he needed. I loved my country, still do, and we all looked outward towards an obvious and common enemy.

And what after that? Patriots in Congress were smeared as traitors in a midterm election. Bush and Rove cynically used the high poll ratings to push through tax cuts and other corporate giveaways. Legitimate questions were pushed aside as unpatriotic.

And then there was this diversion of almost the entire effort to Iraq, using deception and manipulation and intimidation.

And you know what? I felt personally betrayed. Personally. I had been willing to come together and I got slammed down and sneered at for it. I still hear myself called a traitor on the radio and television and on the internet.

So no, I'm not inclined to refrain from pointing out where all these policies, that have distracted from our real war on terror, have weakened us and taken our eye off the real enemies. Who have struck again and may have grown stronger.

How many of the cretins who set off the bombs in London became terrorists because of our war in/on Iraq? Or escaped from Afghanistan because we didn't have enough people on the ground?

No.....I can't turn the other cheek this time. We owe it to people whose deaths could have been prevented.

*****

The most powerful people in society are the ones that define reality.

So letting the pro-war crowd define reality will lead to war.

*****

Kevin -

Absolutely....but only if you agree to put it away every day that there is a civilian tragedy in Iraq or Afghanistan....or for that matter...Bali...or Saudi....or Palestine....or Chechnya....or Columbia...or East Timor...or Sundan... need I go on?

The point is that such human tragedy is all around us...much of it the result of U.S. actions. Do we only feel such sympathy when the tragedy happens to a "properly western/anglo-american" country?

*****

It would be the civilized thing to do, to refrain from political argument for a day out of respect for the dead.

The problem is, the Enemy isn't going to give us that day. They're not interested in civilized discourse any more, unless they've already seized a decisive advantage.

This isn't a debate any more, it's a war, and we've got our backs to a cliff, it seems like. If we stop pushing away from the cliff in the hopes that the Enemy will allow us to pause in respect, we'll get thrown right over the edge.

*****

I have a wish too -- some wishes, actually. I wish Kevin Drum wasn't a sellout. I wish he didn't pander. I wish he didn't aspire to elitism. I wish he would take a day to reflect on whose interests he serves.


... for the record, I don't think Kevin Drum is a sellout. I do think, though, that it would be unwise for us to follow his advice here.

Lessons

Kos says that the London bombings demonstrate the flaw in the so-called 'flypaper' strategy:

Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" -- it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home. Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.

...There are consequences to the mess in Iraq. And today, we're seeing one of them. Unfortunately, it won't be the last.

Mike the Mad Biologist makes a similar point:
Last night, I was talking to someone who said, "When people say that Bush is doing a good job against terrorism, I want to hear specifically what he's actually done. What has he done other than give speeches?"

The London bombings make one realize just how morally degenerate the attitude of "fighting them over there, so they're not over here" really is. And if you think I'm being inappropriate by bringing up politics and policy, just wait until the Republicans sink their teeth into this. Turd Blossom will do anything at this point...
Is it inappropriate to bring up 'politics'? Maybe, but it also might be necessary. We are still suffering from the reluctance of Democrats (and the media) to ask hard questions in the wake of 9/11, thus allowing the Right to 'frame' the event - and the response to it - for all time. Basically, Dems foolishly assumed that their goodwill would be matched from the other side of the aisle, that the GOP wouldn't politicize 9/11 if they didn't. Wrong.

Of course, the impact of the London bombings won't be as severe as that of the attack on the WTC. So we don't need to go crazy worrying about the political fallout. But unfortunately, the Right has created an atmosphere where we cannot simply put politics aside.


UPDATE: See what I mean?

Rumor mongering

Joshua Frank via Max Blumenthal:
Occasionally I get emails from Washington folks who work on the Hill claiming to possess juicy insider digs on our public servants and their corporate paymasters. I usually delete said emails, as I don't want to be responsible for propagating dirty rumors or false information that can't be corroborated. I'd rather let Judith Miller and the New York Times do that. Nonetheless, in the past 24 hours I have been contacted by three separate Congressional Democrats in Washington, and a Justice Department official, first by email and later phone, who all say the same thing: Karl Rove is about to be indicted.
Just a rumor; no idea if it's true or false.

7/06/2005

This is somewhat heartening

At least one Democratic senator gets it:
Democrats are prepared to filibuster to block any anti-abortion nominee proposed to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Tuesday.

"The filibuster is on the table. It's been on the table for 200 years," Boxer said when asked what methods could be used to block a Supreme Court candidate who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, the three-decade old decision legalizing abortion.

...Boxer called a threat to legalized abortion an "extraordinary circumstance."

"It means a minimum of 5,000 women a year will die. So all options are on the table," she said.

..."We cannot go back to the dark days. Roe must remain the law of the land."

Guest blogging

The Liberal Avenger will be away from his blog for a while, defending the Republic on a top-secret mission somewhere. While he's gone, he's asked me, along with other, more talented bloggers, to fill in for him. I am truly honored to be doing this - LA's site is definitely among the cream of the liberal blogosphere crop - and will try my best not to make a mess of the place.

I will, however, continue to post here every day; I don't even anticipate much of a drop-off in frequency. But do join the fun over there, too.

Original intent

In the wake of O'Connor's retirement announcement, much of the commentary regarding the Court has uncritically accepted the 'original intent' of the Constitution's framers as its basis. This comes, of course, mostly from the Right, and 'original intent' is being invoked not only with regard to who would make a proper nominee but also with regard to the Senate nomination process itself.

So this is a good time to remember that there's no reason to accept originalism. Brian Leiter has a nice explanation of its lack of theoretical justification.

UPDATE: A more elaborate critique of originalism can be found here (PDF). Caveat: I haven't read most of the article (it's 125 pages long), so I can't endorse it; it's just something I ran across.

The plan for the Court

Mark Noonan says:

we work for a day when the Supreme Court refuses to take a case and issues an opinion that the legislature is the proper forum for disposition of thorny political issues

For one thing, the Supreme Court refuses cases all the time. And the last time they deferred to state legislatures - the Kelo v. New London case - you wingnuts couldn't stop whining about it.


UPDATE: Kossack Hunter notes that the conservative justices are the least likely to defer to the legislature. The New York Times looks at the percentage of cases in which each of the nine justices voted to invalidate Congressional legislation, and the breakdown is this:

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O'Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

Ewww

Philosophy, etc. asks:

Suppose that a person wants one of his perfectly well-functioning limbs to be amputated, for no (other, instrumental) reason. He just has an intrinsic, inexplicable desire to be rid of it. Should surgeons accede to the request?

Um, is this an actual issue? I mean, are there people who actually want to do this?

Apparently.

Dr Levy, of the University of Melbourne's Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, said some patients suffered so severely from the rare condition -known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) - they tried to remove the limb themselves.

"There's cases of people using chainsaws or shotguns and there's been deaths, not surprisingly," Dr Levy said in an interview.

Oh my god. Just ... I don't even know what to say.

Do your homework

Lawyers, Guns, and Money picks up on this disturbingly ignorant passage from the New York Times concerning potential O'Connor replacement Michael Luttig:

Judge Luttig (pronounced LOO-tig) is renowned for being sought out by Virginia officials when they wanted a sympathetic judge to issue an emergency order blocking a lower court ruling that invalidated the state's ban on what it called partial-birth abortion. He granted the order in 1998 and then wrote a full opinion upholding the law.

But when the Supreme Court rejected his analysis and the case came his way again, he acknowledged his obligation to reverse course.

"Our responsibility is to faithfully follow its opinions," he wrote, adding that the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion deserved a special respect from lower court judges.

That approach could be interpreted as similar to Justice O'Connor's in declining to overturn precedents that have been upheld by the Supreme Court over the years.


Of course, a lower court judge's willingness to abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court has absolutely nothing to do with a Supreme Court Justice's willingness to abide by Court precedent. The lower court judge has no choice in the matter; he must yield to the dictates of the higher court.

Pretty basic stuff.

It's about abortion, all right

Josh at The Lion and The Donkey reminds us that Roe v. Wade isn't the only Supreme Court decision that might be in jeopardy because of the O'Connor retirement. In the Stenberg v. Carhart case, only five justices - including O'Connor - held that a Nebraska law prohibiting D&X abortions was unconstitutional because it failed to exempt situations where a woman's health was at stake. As Josh says, it's hard to imagine a Bush nominee who wouldn't vote with the conservative bloc on a similar case, so it's probably open season on late-term abortion, even if Roe were to survive.

Nonetheless, there will still be those who insist that "it's not about abortion."

7/05/2005

Heart of darkness

The enlightened souls at Barking Moonbat Early Warning System are sick of Africa mooching off the rest of us:

I have had it with Africa. Ever since the natives threw out their colonial “masters” the entire neighborhood has gone to the dogs. Poverty is rampant as former tribal warlords build little empires and exterminate their rivals with genocide that is unparalleled in world history. Entire countries full of people are being displaced by these petty tyrants who hire gangs of thugs to roam the countryside raping, murdering and destroying everything in their path.

AIDS is running rampant on the continent and millions are dying every year because of unprotected sex, tribal taboos, superstitions and the local government’s complete lack of concern. The people who don’t fall prey to AIDS are dying of deadly viruses like Ebola that are spreading due to lack of any kind of hygiene or sanitation. Again, local governments don’t seem to care.

...How far should the West go before we have to just throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause? They say if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. What do you do if the idiots refuse to learn how to fish and fight among themselves over the fish you’re giving them? In my personal opinion, sooner or later you have to cut your losses and give up. Let them revert all the way back to savagery instead of temporarily holding them halfway between barbarism and civilization. If you don’t, they’ll just keep begging for more handouts while they drain the world’s resources in a vain attempt to help them ....

Dirty stinking liberals

Mike the Mad Biologist talks about how progress is made:

For all those left-of-center who think the political pendulum will swing back on its own, I think you're mistaken. Liberalism is not a force of nature. Men and women defend it, and men and women can abandon it. Now, more than ever, we need to defend it.

Read the rest.

Deal breaker

I'm sure that the University of Chicago deserves its reputation as a top-flight university. But as a matter of principle, I would never go to a school whose application required me to "write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard."

Just sayin'.

Relativism

Liberals/leftists/progressives often get accused of 'moral relativism' by the knuckle-dragging set. For the most part, this charge is baseless (no surprise there); however, I think some on the left too often unwittingly reinforce this perception.

For example, Kos has written a couple of posts comparing the Religious Right to the Islamic fundamentalists that right-wingers profess to hate so much. He concludes by saying:

The reasons we hate the American Taliban are the same reasons we hate fundamentalists of all stripes -- they seek to impose their own moral code on the rest of society, and do so with the zeal and moral absolutism possible only from those who believe they are doing "God's work".

I, too, am disdainful of both Christian and Islamic fundamentalists. But there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to impose one's moral code on others; nor is there anything wrong with doing so zealously or with absolute conviction; nor does such zealousness and conviction require a theological foundation. Indeed, imposing our moral code on others is precisely what progressives want to do. It is the motivation behind things like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Universality has been a fundamental feature of moral reasoning for centuries, and was codified perhaps most convincingly by Kant, who correctly argued that any moral imperative necessarily commands universally (categorically). Non-universal norms are not moral norms.

Of course, it is not always okay to impose one's moral code on others. For instance: I might believe that everyone has a moral duty to take care of their health, but that doesn't mean I should try to pass a law against smoking or eating Twinkies. But there are other areas where the presence and nature of a moral principle clearly dictates that one be willing to 'impose' upon others by codifying the principle into law - for instance, Jim Crow laws were morally abominable, and decent people did not hesitate to enforce their moral code upon segregated communities.

The reason that fundamentalism is reprehensible is not that it tries to impose its moral code on the rest of the society; it is reprehensible because the moral code itself is reprehensible. The 'moral' principles of Osama bin Laden - and of James Dobson - are irrational, misogynistic, backwards, and cruel, and so we rightfully resist their attempts to impose them on the rest of us - not because of the fact that they are trying to impose them, but because the principles themselves are evil and idiotic.

The exclusive 'or'

A group of psychologists say that their research indicates that there is no such thing as male bisexuality. From New York Times:

...a new study casts doubt on whether true bisexuality exists, at least in men.

The study, by a team of psychologists in Chicago and Toronto, lends support to those who have long been skeptical that bisexuality is a distinct and stable sexual orientation.

People who claim bisexuality, according to these critics, are usually homosexual, but are ambivalent about their homosexuality or simply closeted. "You're either gay, straight or lying," as some gay men have put it.

In the new study, a team of psychologists directly measured genital arousal patterns in response to images of men and women. The psychologists found that men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other, usually by other men.

The study is the largest of several small reports suggesting that the estimated 1.7 percent of men who identify themselves as bisexual show physical attraction patterns that differ substantially from their professed desires.

...

By the 1990's, Newsweek had featured bisexuality on its cover, bisexuals had formed advocacy groups and television series like "Sex and the City" had begun exploring bisexual themes.

Yet researchers were unable to produce direct evidence of bisexual arousal patterns in men, said Dr. J. Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and the new study's senior author.

A 1979 study of 30 men found that those who identified themselves as bisexuals were indistinguishable from homosexuals on measures of arousal. Studies of gay and bisexual men in the 1990's showed that the two groups reported similar numbers of male sexual partners and risky sexual encounters. And a 1994 survey by The Advocate, the gay-oriented newsmagazine, found that, before identifying themselves as gay, 40 percent of gay men had described themselves as bisexual.

...

About 1.5 percent of American women identify themselves bisexual. And bisexuality appears easier to demonstrate in the female sex. A study published last November by the same team of Canadian and American researchers, for example, found that most women who said they were bisexual showed arousal to men and to women.

Although only a small number of women identify themselves as bisexual, Dr. Bailey said, bisexual arousal may for them in fact be the norm.

Damn liberal media

According to an anchor on MSNBC, there are patriots, and then there are Bush protestors.

NASA you bastards

From BBC News:
Astrologer sues Nasa over probe

A Russian astrologer is suing Nasa for crashing a probe into a comet, claiming it has distorted her horoscope.

Marina Bai is seeking $300m (£170m) in damages, saying the probe's impact on Comet Tempel 1 violated her "life and spiritual values".

She had tried to have a Moscow court prevent the experiment from taking place but her action was rejected.

Nasa smashed the washing machine-sized "impactor" into the comet at a distance of 133m km from Earth on Monday.

"It is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit and associated ephemera will change after the explosion, which interferes with my practice of astrology and deforms my horoscope," Ms Bai told the Izvestia daily newspaper.

Totally obvious.

Kelo revisited

I've been looking at a lot of Supreme Court cases lately because of the O'Connor retirement, so I had a chance to take a closer look at the Kelo v. New London decision. After doing so, I'm actually having a hard time figuring out what all the fuss is about.

Background can be found here; the decision itself is here. Basically, the issue was whether it was constitutionally kosher for a local government to seize private property from one party and transfer it to another for the sake of economic revitalization. The Court decided 5-4 that this use of eminent domain was not a violation of the property owners' constitutional rights.

The property owners, and the dissenting justices, argued that this use of eminent domain was prohibited by the Fifth Amendment, the relevant portion of which reads:

nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Their argument was that this clause places two restrictions on eminent domain: 1. that the taking of property must be for public use and 2. that the owners of the property must be justly compensated. O'Connor and Thomas, in their written dissents, argued that taking property from party A and giving it to party B simply because the use to which it would be put by B would provide more revenue for the state was not a legitimate instance of 'public use', and that therefore the city of New London's invocation of eminent domain did not meet condition #1 - the property was not being taken for 'public use'.

Stevens, writing for the majority, disagreed:

...this is not a case in which the City is planning to open the condemned land--at least not in its entirety--to use by the general public. Nor will the private lessees of the land in any sense be required to operate like common carriers, making their services available to all comers. But although such a projected use would be sufficient to satisfy the public use requirement, this "Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public." ... when this Court began applying the Fifth Amendment to the States at the close of the 19th century, it embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as "public purpose." ... Thus, in a case upholding a mining company's use of an aerial bucket line to transport ore over property it did not own, Justice Holmes' opinion for the Court stressed "the inadequacy of use by the general public as a universal test." ... We have repeatedly and consistently rejected that narrow test ever since.

The disposition of this case therefore turns on the question whether the City's development plan serves a "public purpose." Without exception, our cases have defined that concept broadly, reflecting our longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field.

...Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment.

...petitioners urge us to adopt a new bright-line rule that economic development does not qualify as a public use. Putting aside the unpersuasive suggestion that the City's plan will provide only purely economic benefits, neither precedent nor logic supports petitioners' proposal. Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government. There is, moreover, no principled way of distinguishing economic development from the other public purposes that we have recognized ... Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose.

Of course, such reasoning is unacceptable to the 'original intent' crowd. Thus Thomas, dissenting, argues (emphasis added):

Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that "the law of the land ... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property." ... The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for "public necessity," but instead for "public use." ... Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause ...

...Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government's eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause's original meaning, and I would reconsider them.

...the Public Use Clause is most naturally read to authorize takings for public use only if the government or the public actually uses the taken property.

...Our current Public Use Clause jurisprudence, as the Court notes, has rejected this natural reading of the Clause. The Court adopted its modern reading blindly, with little discussion of the Clause's history and original meaning...

Thomas probably thinks he is saying something profound when he claims that the "public use" condition is only satisfied if the public "actually uses" the property, but of course this is simply tautological. Why New London's development plan doesn't count as "actual use" is never satisfactorily explained. Of course, if we assume that (a) Thomas's theoretically shabby originalist philosophy is correct and (b) Thomas can read the minds of the framers, then Thomas might have a point. But if that were the case we wouldn't need a Supreme Court at all; we could just ask Clarence.

So even restricting ourselves to the arguments already advanced, the case against Kelo is basically nonexistent. But here's the thing - even if the conservatives are right, and economic development doesn't count as 'public use', it is still not the case that New London acted in violation of the Fifth Amendment!

O'Connor writes:

we have read the Fifth Amendment's language to impose two distinct conditions on the exercise of eminent domain: "the taking must be for a 'public use' and 'just compensation' must be paid to the owner."

But look at the relevant clause once again:

nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I defy you to find "two distinct conditions" that this clause "imposes" upon the taking of private property by the state. (One might argue that the exercise of eminent domain necessarily or analytically involves 'public use', but in that case the clause cannot be said to "impose" this condition on eminent domain.) The only rational interpretation of this clause is that it imposes one condition upon the taking of private property for public use - not that it imposes two conditions on all takings of private property by the state. The equivalent proposition would be "when the state takes private property for public use, it must provide just compensation." The clause is by no means equivalent to the proposition "the state may only take property if it is for public use, and when it does, it must provide just compensation."

Conservatives can't really believe that the state is only permitted to take property if it is put to the public use. If that were the case, then it would be unconstitutional to seize the property of convicted drug dealers, for instance. To read the Fifth Amendment as placing a blanket restriction upon all takings, requiring that the property must always be put to the 'public use' interpreted in the narrow sense that Thomas prefers, simply defies reason. That's just not what the Fifth Amendment says.

Much of the reaction to Kelo from the blogosphere seems to forget that the issue was not whether allowing the state to transfer property between private parties for the sake of increased revenue is a wise policy - there's nothing stopping any state legislature from prohibiting all such actions. The question was whether the type of takings in the case violated the property owners' Fifth Amendment rights - whether such transfers of property are prohibited by the Constitution. Clearly they are not.

7/04/2005

Does being on the Supreme Court make you liberal?

DHinMI (via Daou) says there's a reason why conservatives keep being disappointed by Supreme Court Justices:

Long before Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement, one of the rallying issues for the cultural right wing was to do whatever possible to ensure that George W. Bush pick a “reliable” conservative who would strike down the decisions supported by apostate conservative Republican appointees like Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, David Souter and O’Connor herself. The rightwing is obsessed by the idea that Republican Presidents have muffed their Supreme Court appointments by picking people who weren’t really conservative, but who “concealed” their true beliefs until, safely ensconced on the Supreme Court for life, they wage war on mom, apple pie, unborn children and “sexual relations as God intended.”

There’s a problem with the theory, however ... in general, the problem (from the perspective of cultural conservatives) isn’t that the picks of Republican Presidents haven’t been conservatives. The problem that faces conservatives is that being on the Supreme Court makes almost everyone more liberal.

It is odd that most of the Justices picked by Republicans aren't nearly as far to the right as the GOP itself. This could be because they became more liberal during their tenure on the Court. But it is probably also a function of the continuing rightward shift of both parties over the last few decades. What looked like a conservative in 1975 looks a lot like a liberal now.

Cracking down on dissent

Liberal Avenger reports that a soldier has been threatened with a Court Martial for criticizing Bush on the internet.

Booman Tribute has more details:
For those of you who have read the diaries I've posted her about Leonard Clark, a soldier in the Arizona National Guard stationed in Iraq, or have read his emails posted at his blog this is a Very Bad Day. Leonard has been called in to his Commander's office and threatened with court martial unless he stops posting his thoughts and opinions about the war in Iraq and President Bush. In addition he is being forced to take down his comments on his blog at the "request of his ranking officer." In short, on Independence Day, he is being censored, and his rights taken away.

America's birth certificate

That's what Aussie Girl calls the Declaration of Independence. Armando calls it a "magnificent document." Some of the other Kossacks aren't so sure. A commenter says:

I don't think the so-called "Declaration of Independence" was a magnificent document at all. I think it`s a great piece of hypocritical nonsense, penned by some rich guys who wanted to be the ones doing the oppression, rather than simply profit on the edges.

Hypocrites, because they didn't mean ONE SINGLE DAMN WORD OF THE "FREEDOM" or "EQUALITY" stuff. Not ONE WORD of it did they mean. Not ONE THING CHANGED after this. Not one. Rich white guys running the show from London turned into rich white guys running the show from Philadelphia (later New York and even later Washington D.C.). Wow. Woohoo. The entire course of the human race has been shaken to its very foundation.

Forgive me if I don't buy into the pre-programmed nationalistic chauvinism that's been drummed into me in one form or another every single day of my entire life. I know I`m supposed to. I've been taught since before I can remember to worship those rich white guys, and worship the various documents they wrote. I just can't do it any more. Reading their writings and studying history has made me into a severe cynic and bitter man. I just don`t find any of the adoration to be justified after everything I've learned.

Hey, hold on, at least George Washington personally got shot at, I'll give him that.

These weren't saints, people. The "Declaration of Independence" wasn't so spectacular. It was a piece of hate mail to a rich King who was competing with them for dominant position on the ladder of Rich White Males. And really, laugh if you want, hate me if you want (and I'm sure most people born in the USA will) but if you boil it down, isn't that exactly what it was?


And a few bring up this rather problematic passage from the Declaration:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Rebuttal

Chomsky responds to Bush's cheerleading and comments on the Downing Street Memo.

Happy birthday America!


And because this is your special day ... you guessed it -

We're taking you to Chuck E. Cheese's!

George W. Bush is a terrorist's best friend

Mike the Mad Biologist quotes the Jerusalem Post:

Two French journalists who were held hostage in Iraq told a British documentary program that their captors believed George W. Bush's re-election as US president would help radicalize Iraqis...

The cell leader trained with terror leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told them the insurgents supported a Bush presidency because they believed it meant that "there will be confrontation, occupation and radicalization of the Iraqi people," Malbrunot said.

Good advice

Jill at Feministe says:

Don’t have sex with conservatives. Don’t even consider exchanging body fluids with anti-choicers.

7/03/2005

Stop it. Just stop it.

Why are supposed 'progressives' and 'liberals' helping the GOP spread their lies? This is really starting to piss me off.

Matt Ygelsias:

DO THE MATH. Before anyone else talks about how Sandra Day O'Connor's "replacement will likely oveturn not just Roe but Griswold, et al." I would encourage everyone to actually count the votes on the relevant case, Casey v. Planned Parenthood. You'll see that Anthony Kennedy voted with the pro-choice majority there. O'Connor could be replaced by Tony Perkins himself and the core of abortion rights would still be in place...

...it really, really, really, really doesn't make sense for Democrats to decide to put this issue front and center. Much better cases where O'Connor was the swing vote include Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation v. EPA, which is about whether the EPA can step in when state environmental agencies don't do their jobs; Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, about HMOs that screw over their clients; or Tennessee v. Lane about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And lying liar Asheesh Siddique, who blogs for Princeton Progressive Review, spews similar nonsense here:

...the abortion-rights folks are undermining what the real issue here is- the possibility that we'll get an anti-regulatory nominee. The single-minded emphasis on Roe, Roe, Roe- even though Roe is really not the big issue at stake here- is providing an excuse for the right to distract from the real economic jurisprudential issues at stake here.

and here:

...appointing Focus on the Family's James Dobson to the Court would have a negligible effect on abortion rights.

and here:

NARAL just keeps peddling the myth that Roe is fundamentally in jeopardy now. Wrong, wrong, wrong, as Matt noted, and I have been trying to explain. The core of abortion rights is safe because Casey isn't in any danger. Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens will uphold the right to privacy. Bush can appoint James Dobson to the Court and it won't make any difference.

The regulatory state is at stake here, not abortion in itself, and we can't let those we'd normally ally with distort this fundamental fact.

and here:

This Is The Reason Why We're Going to Lose

It's the predominance of this type of thinking that is precisely why we're going to fight the new nominee ineffectively. Roe literally is not an issue here ... Anthony Kennedy voted with the four liberals in Casey to uphold choice. Without O'Connor, we still have four liberals: Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, and Souter. Plus Kennedy, that's a pro-Roe majority.

NARAL and NOW are going to go crazy talking about abortion, abortion, abortion. What they don't realize is that the worst thing that could happen is a pro-choice nominee who is a strict adherent to the Constitution-in-Exile anti-regulatory philosophy which threatens the legal foundation of all environmental protection, consumer protection, and, indeed, the welfare state itself.

This is so fucking stupid, for so many reasons. First of all, Siddique and Ygelsias's entire argument rests on a single unproven assumption - that Kennedy can be counted on to uphold Roe. They are foolishly (or disingenuously) basing this assumption on the fact that Kennedy voted with the majority in Casey. I've already explained why this doesn't follow.

Plus, even if it were the case that Kennedy was reliably pro-Roe, making the current tally 6-3 in favor, it by no means follows from this that Roe "is not an issue here," to repeat Siddique's deceitful claim. The Court has nine members; every vote counts. Do Ygelsias and Siddique think that this is the last change we're going to see on the Court? Do they think that another anti-Roe judge can't be appointed after this one? If they're right about the 6-3 count, that means the anti-choicers need two more justices on their side. But guess what - they have to get them one at a time. Replacing O'Connor gets them halfway to overturning Roe.

This is like a football coach who, with his team up 14-0, lets the other team score a touchdown, because hey, we're winning by two touchdowns! Letting them score just once won't cost us the victory! - Yeah, but the one after that will, you stupid asshole. Just because you're up by more than one doesn't mean you can start giving away points.

Plus, could Siddique and Yglesias be any less politically astute? The only chance we would stand to defeat an unacceptable Bush nominee is if there is enough public pressure on enough Senators to vote against Bush's choice. Now, tell me which seems more likely to generate such pressure: abortion rights, or the Americans with Disabilities Act? A woman's fundamental autonomy, or environmental protection? You've got to be out of your fucking mind to think that a debate about a nominee's "anti-regulatory philosophy" will whip up the outrage necessary to prevent his or her confirmation by the Senate.

This nomination is about Roe; it is about abortion. Republicans, assisted by useful idiots on the other side of the aisle, will try to mislead the public into thinking otherwise. They cannot be allowed to succeed.

Better late than never

Mike the Mad Biologist thinks that the mainstream/corporate media might be beginning to turn on Bush.

Playing politics with women's lives

From Lefter, Warmer:

With the O'Connor resignation, a story that was being written about a lot from January to April of this year, has just come back up. The Guardian today references the January article by Benjamin Wittes in Atlantic Monthly, which argues that Roe v. Wade is bad law, and suggests that for many "liberals," Roe v. Wade, perhaps the classic case that argues for how essential privacy is to the very definition of the liberal state, is now considered a liability.

I wasn't familiar with the article by Wittes, and when I read it, I wasn't pleased with what I found. Wittes writes:

The Democratic Party's commitment to preserving Roe v. Wade has been deeply unhealthy for abortion rights, for liberalism more generally, and ultimately for American democracy ...

...if Roe ever does die, I won't attend its funeral. Nor would I lift a finger to prevent a conservative president from nominating justices who might bury it once and for all.

...By removing the issue from the policy arena, the Supreme Court has prevented abortion-rights supporters from winning a debate in which public opinion favors them. Since its inception Roe has had a deep legitimacy problem, stemming from its weakness as a legal opinion. Conservatives who fulminate that the Court made up the right to abortion, which appears explicitly nowhere in the Constitution, are being simplistic—but they're not entirely wrong. ... the right to abortion remains constitutionally shaky; abortion policy is a question that the Constitution—even broadly construed—cannot convincingly be read to resolve.

...In short, Roe puts liberals in the position of defending a lousy opinion that disenfranchised millions of conservatives on an issue about which they care deeply while freeing those conservatives from any obligation to articulate a responsible policy that might command majority support.

Wittes claims to be pro-choice, but it's hard not to suspect that he views reproductive rights as being of minor importance compared to party politics. This suspicion is encouraged by the fact that Wittes has a hard-on for the enormous electoral/political advantage that he predicts the overturning of Roe would produce for the Democrats:

The day the Court overturns Roe, abortion will suddenly become a voting issue for millions of pro-choice voters who care about it but know today that the right is protected not by congressional politics but by the courts. At the same time, thousands of conservative politicians will face a dreadful choice: backtrack from the anti-abortion ground they have staked out and risk infuriating their pro-life base; or deliver on their promise to eliminate the right to abortion, and risk the wrath of a moderate, pro-choice majority. In the short term some states might pass highly restrictive abortion laws, or even outright bans—but the backlash could be devastating for conservatism. Liberals should be salivating at their electoral prospects in a post-Roe world.

So basically, ditching Roe would be a great strategic move for Democrats. Keep this in mind the next time Kos tells you to compromise on abortion rights for the sake of the Democratic Party.

Like all party hacks, Wittes eventually shows his true colors, and his complete and appalling failure to understand why abortion rights matter:

In the absence of Roe abortion rights would probably be protected by the laws of most states relatively quickly. Sure, certain state legislatures will impose restrictions that would be impermissible under the Supreme Court's current doctrine; some women might have to travel to another state to get abortions. ... In short, overturning Roe would lead to greater regional variability in the right to abortion, but this would be a worthwhile price for pro-choice voters to pay in exchange for greater democratic legitimacy for that right and, therefore, greater acceptance of and permanence for it.

So hey, ladies, if your state outlaws abortion, just travel to the nearest state where abortion is legal! I'm sure your fundamentalist parents and/or abusive husband will understand, and you can always put the travel expenses on your American Express card. So you see, there's really no problem! Unless the GOP-controlled congress decides to pass a federal ban on abortion, of course. But what are the chances of that?

Wittes asks himself a rhetorical question:

Hang on a second. This is a constitutional right at stake. You don't argue that blacks should place their civil rights at the mercy of the majority. Why should women? Isn't fighting for fundamental rights a matter of principle?

His answer?

Indeed it would be, if the right to abortion—like minority civil and voting rights—were unambiguously protected by the Constitution. But let's be frank: it isn't. The right to abortion remains a highly debatable proposition, both jurisprudentially and morally. The mere fact that liberals have to devote so much political energy to pretending that the right exists beyond democratic debate proves that it doesn't.

This is a terrible argument for a liberal to be making - it reeks of 'strict constructionism' - and the fact that Wittes says the right to an abortion is morally 'debatable' demonstrates that he is no pro-choicer.

Liberals should not be fooled by such sophistry. The Roe decision, insofar as it recognizes that the right to abort a pregnancy falls under the general right to liberty/privacy guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, is a solid one. The Fourteenth Amendment states:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ...

Justice Blackmun, in his Roe v. Wade opinion, writes:

...personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," ... are included in this guarantee of personal privacy.

It's hard to imagine a right more 'fundamental' or essential to the concept of liberty than the right to control what goes inside one's own body. If that right isn't covered by the due process clause of Fourteenth Amendment, what is?

Blackmun acknowledges that even such fundamental rights are not necessarily absolute. However, "regulation limiting these rights may be justified only by a 'compelling state interest' ". In Roe, the Court correctly found that there is no state interest 'compelling' enough to justify the infringement upon women's privacy rights that result from prohibitions on (pre-viability) abortion.

Now, don't get me wrong: Roe isn't perfect. But to the extent that it is flawed, it is flawed in favor of the anti-choice movement. Blackmun's opinion repeatedly states that the state has an interest in protecting 'potential life', an interest which becomes compelling at the point of viability. But he gives no argument for this claim, and it certainly is not self-evident that such an interest exists. This recognition of the supposed state interest in protecting potential life was later invoked by Kennedy in Planned Parenthood v. Casey to justify various restrictions on abortion.

Ideally, we'd have a Supreme Court that unambiguously affirmed a woman's right to choose for herself whether to procreate - the right, as the Court decided in Eisenstadt v. Baird, "of the individual ... to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child." That, or a constitutional amendment explicitly recognizing abortion rights.

But for now, Roe is the best guarantee of reproductive freedom that we have. It is absolutely vital that it remain in effect. Senate Democrats had better not be planning on sacrificing Roe for the sake of electoral advantage, as Wittes recommends. If it turns out that they are, then the Democratic Party will have proven itself, once and for all, to be completely devoid of principle, and an unwelcome place for those who care about justice and morality more than party politics.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory Sanity is not statistical.