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

7/16/2005

10 questions

A number of legal scholars have written a letter (PDF) to Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy, the Chair and the ranking member, respectively, of the judiciary committee, that includes a list of ten questions they would like the committee to ask of any Supreme Court nominee:
In order to approach constitutional questions as consistently as possible, jurists often adopt a particular "canon of construction," i.e., a method of interpreting the Constitution. Some are "textualists" or "strict constructionists" who limit themselves to applying the black and white text of the Constitution. Some are "originalists" who rely on the writings of the Framers and the laws in place at the time the Constitution was written to inform the meaning of the text when it is unclear. Still others employ "structural reasoning," which requires an analysis of how different parts of the Constitution and the governmental branches relate to one another.

1. Do you believe in employing a canon of construction? If so, is there a particular canon to which you subscribe?


Many constitutional principles that Americans now take for granted-such as freedom of association and one person, one vote-are not expressly written in the Constitution and were never considered by the Framers bu were articulated by the Supreme Court in landmark decisions.

2. Do you believe it is appropriate for the Supreme Court to recognize constitutional principles that were not expressly written in the Constitution or explicitly recognized by the Framers?


The Constitution provides that the government may not deprive a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Due Process Clause has been interpreted to include "procedural" elements, such as the right to be given notice and a hearing before the government may take certain actions, and "substantive" elements that provide constitutional protection for fundamental rights, such as the right to marry and the right to contract.

3. What rights, if any, do you believe are protected by substantive due process?


The Supreme Court has declared that the Constitution contains a right to privacy.

4. Do you believe there is a constitutionally protected right to privacy, and, if so, under what circumstances does it apply?


The Supreme Court has established a framework for determining when certain classes of people are protected by the Equal Protection Clause. For instance, when the government makes classifications based upon characteristics such as race and sex, those classifications are subject to heightened scrutiny and more likely to be found unconstitutional. Classifications based on economic distinctions, on the other hand, have been subjected to only limited judicial scrutiny.

5. Do you agree with the tiers of review currently employed under Equal Protection jurisprudence and the way they have been applied? Explain.


The Constitution provides that Congress has power to pass laws only for certain purposes. Over the last 50 years, Congress has routinely invoked its power under two constitutional provisionsthe Commerce Clause and section 5 of the 14th Amendment-to ensure that employers, schools, and neighborhoods would not discriminate against people because of their race, sex, age, religion, or disability. Recent decisions of the Court, however, have limited the breadth of these powers.

6. What in your view are the limits on the scope of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause and section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment?


The text of the Eleventh Amendment provides only that a state may not be sued in federal court by individuals who do not reside in that state. The Supreme Court has broadened this to say that a state cannot be sued by its own citizens under federal law in federal court, state court, or before a federal agency without the state's consent.

7. What do you believe is the appropriate scope of state sovereign immunity and the Eleventh Amendment?


The phrase "judicial activism" has often been used to critique the approach of judges on both ends of the ideological spectrum.

8. Define "judicial activism" and describe your views on it.


The attacks of September 11 have prompted a constitutional debate over the limits of government power and the scope of presidential authority in a time of national crisis.

9. Do you believe there are judicially enforceable limits to the President's power as Commander-in-Chief in times of national crisis? If so, what are those limits?


10. In Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of evacuating Japanese-American citizens on the West Coast from their homes during World War II. What lessons do you believe the Court should draw from Korematsu and the World War II experience?

7/15/2005

Kelo update

From Nathan Newman:
Here's an irony: after all the constitutional furor in the Kelo fight, it looks likely that the land being taken by eminent domain will be used for a national museum dedicated to the Coast Guard.

That this is a surprise just illustrates the point that none of the land in question was ever being taken from homeowners to be given to any specific private company, but for a broad-ranging government redevelopment corporation, which in this case includes a number of government entities.

Journalistic privilege

Earlier, I disagreed with Salon and others who say that Judith Miller's first amendment rights have been violated. Today, Battlepanda links to John at Dymaxion World, who makes this point nicely:
...while journalists have been yelling about how we non-journalists "don't get it" that a principle is at stake here, journalists don't seem to get that a very serious crime was comitted in the Plame case. Moreover, it was comitted using the legal protections which journalists are afforded.

Some have compared the Plame/Miller affair to the Skokie case, where Illinois Nazis had their right to assemble defended by the ACLU and the Supreme Court ...

I think the Skokie analogy is wrong. Rather, a better example would be the Amadou Diallo shooting in New York. Police, like journalists, are afforded certain legal protections to do their jobs, because society recognizes that their jobs serve a greater purpose - cops are allowed to use lethal force in certain situations, reporters are allowed to keep sources anonymous. But what do we do when those legal protections have obviously been misused?

If you think the proper response to the Diallo shooting (or any example of police misconduct) is to let the police responsible go without any investigation, or to allow the police to interfere and refuse to cooperate with an investigation, then I can see why you might think Miller deserves to go free. She almost certainly has information pertaining to this crime, and is refusing to cooperate. Like journalists are doing today, police have regularly warned that any prosecution of their crimes will lead to their jobs being poorly done - i.e. less law enforcement. Those threats have been hollow. Honest journalism will continue.

It's also worth noting that, like the Diallo case, people have almost certainly died because of Robert Novak's actions. This was a gross misuse of a reporter's privilege, as bad as any police shooting. I can honestly see why some journalists are worried - this affair will change the way reporting is done in the US, and I hope for the better. If it leads to journalists being less giddy about getting anonymous leaks used to smear political opponents, I won't shed a single tear.
And Angelica adds a really good point:
In addition, I would just like to add that a blind insistence that journalist/source priviledge be completely above the law is a sure way to lose that priviledge in the long run. It would not take many more Plamegates for the public to turn hostile towards the entire practise of anonymous sources, and rightly so, if the culprit goes unpunished.

In other news, Boner from Growing Pains decries use of double entendre on television

Ben Jones, one of the stars of the television show 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' is advocating a boycott of the new movie:
A former star of the “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show is urging fans to skip the forthcoming movie version, calling it “a sleazy insult.”

Ben Jones, a former Georgia congressman who played the wisecracking mechanic Cooter on the popular series from 1979 to 1985, said profanity and sexual content in the film make a mockery of the family friendly show.

“Basically, they trashed our show,” said Jones, who read a script of the Warner Bros. movie, scheduled for release next month. “It’s one thing to do whatever movie they want to do, but to take a classic family show and do that is like taking ‘I Love Lucy’ and making her a crackhead or something.”

On Wednesday, Jones wrote an open letter to fans on his Web site, urging them to stay away from the movie, which stars Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson.
That's right - someone who played a character named 'Cooter' is complaining about 'profanity and sexual content'.

Lying or stupid?

This is getting really annoying. Joseph Wilson said the following words to Wolf Blitzer: "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." Stupid fucking Republicans think this means he has admitted that Novak didn't blow her cover, when actually it means the exact opposite.

Ron Brynaert lists some of the media figures and bloggers making fools of themselves in this regard, including Power Line, Wizbang, and Instapundit, and wants to know if they are "lying or stupid." Good question. I suspect it's a combination of both - some of them are lying about it, and others just have the reading comprehension skills of a retarded orangutan.

Wingnut music sucks

For some reason, some wingnut anti-choice organization called 'Rock for Life' has decided to make a list of musicians who are against abortion, as well as a list of those who are pro-choice. (HT: Feministe.)

Out of a long list of anti-choice artists, I have heard of only three: MC Hammer, one of the guys from 2 Live Crew, and MxPx. The rest sound like Christian rock bands because they have funny-sounding names like 'Blood of the Martyr', 'Ezekiel's Eye', and 'Seventh Day Slumber.'

The list of wingnut bands does not stack up well to the list of bands on our side. We have REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sleater-Kinney, Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, Bright Eyes, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and Pavement, among many, many others. In fact, chances are your favorite band is on the list (or should be, anyway).

Clearly, lefties makes better music than conservatives. Actually, they make better art in general than conservatives. This is because your typical right-winger has no soul. (The typical right-winger also has no brain, but that's a different issue.)

Numbers game

These are George Bush's approve/disapprove numbers from a new AP-Ipsos poll:
Overall: 42/56

Economy: 42/56

Domestic issues (health care, education, etc.): 42/56

Foreign policy/war on terrorism: 51/48

Iraq: 40/59

Social Security: 35/61
What's interesting to me about these numbers is that yet again, Bush's approval ratings are utterly wretched, both overall and on specific issues - except for the "war on terrorism." I don't know this for sure, but I don't think Bush has ever dipped below 50% on this issue, even as his support in every other area sinks - even with regard to Iraq!

I can only conclude that the "Bush is good at fighting terrorism" myth that's been pounded into everyone's head by the "liberal" media has now reached the status of a necessary truth, or at least a fundamental law of nature. Even though people are able to understand the disaster that the Bush administration has become, they somehow can't bring themselves to apply this knowledge when someone asks them about Bush's "war on terror." It is as if saying they disapprove of Bush's foreign policy is akin to saying that a triangle has four sides.

Prosecution machine

Billmon on Patrick Fitzgerald, who's leading the investigation into the Plame leak:
I just got off the phone with a friend of mine, a veteran investigative reporter, who in turn said he recently talked to one of his old editors, who covered Patrick Fitzgerald when he was an assistant U.S. attorney going after mob guys in New York. So my friend asked him what he thought of the guy.

This is from my friend's memory, but given that he's got 20+ years in the business, and I've known him longer than that, I trust his quotes:

"Fitzgerald is a prosecution machine," the old editor said. "When he wants somebody, he goes after them with whatever he's got. If he can't make the case he started with, he'll figure out what you did do and hit you with that. He's relentless, and he doesn't give a flying fuck about the press or the First Amendment. He'd throw us all in jail if it would help him make his case."
As Judy Miller has found out.

7/14/2005

Robots in disguise

Fucking sweet:
'Transformers' to Be Made Into Film

NEW YORK (AP) -- Some big names in show business are getting behind some big "robots in disguise."

"Transformers," the popular cartoon and toy franchise, is being transformed into a live-action film by director Michael Bay, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and executive producer Steven Spielberg.

The movie is set for a July 4, 2007, release. No casting decisions have yet been announced.

"Transformers," which debuted in 1984, featured battling "robots in disguise" with names such as Optimus Prime, Megatron and Override. They could convert into vehicles such as tanks, fire trucks, jet fighters and helicopters.
(HT=Oliver Willis.)

Or not

Earlier, I wondered if perhaps Rick Santorum has "jumped the shark," as the kids say, with even the right wing after his idiotic comments blaming the city of Boston for the Catholic Church's child sexual abuse scandal brought ridicule upon him from some conservatives.

But now NRO's KJ Lopez and Power Line's Paul Mirengoff have come out in favor of Rick's theory.

Idiots.

Good questions

From What Do I Know via Battlepanda:
Now that we know the London bombers came from Leeds, I guess we should root out terrorism at its ugly heart and bomb Leeds back to the stone age.

It worked in Afghanistan, didn't it? Then we should go invade Scotland.
And from NRO's John Derbyshire (!) via Outside the Tent:
I shall probably get disinvited from the next White House tea dance just for asking the following question, but I’m going to ask it anyway.

Given that the four London suicide bombers were all raised — in at least one case, born and raised — in Britain, the quintessential liberal democracy; and given that the entire premise of current U.S. policy is that we can end suicide bombing and other terrorism by bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East; shouldn’t we be re-thinking our policy?

Performance art

From the LA Times via Arts Journal:
The 'shot' heard 'round UCLA

Student Joseph Deutch says he was testing perceptions when he played Russian roulette as performance art.

UCLA graduate student Joseph Deutch wanted to test whether, in this seen-it-all age, an audience still could have an indelibly shocking experience and be left wondering whether what it had witnessed was make-believe or real. So he decided to play Russian roulette as performance art.

On the evening of Nov. 29, 2004, Deutch stood before his classmates in a suit, instead of his usual T-shirt and jeans. He knew that what he would do next could have consequences for his grade from instructor Ron Athey, himself known for body-cutting performance art so extreme that he became part of the 1990s "culture wars."

Deutch, now 26, also knew that gunplay could upset fellow students and get him in trouble with campus authorities. But in his first comments on the incident, he says he never dreamed, as he got up to perform in UCLA's graduate art annex in Culver City, that his phantom gunshot would ricochet and cause the departure of two UCLA professors, roiling the campus for several months.

After long careers at UCLA, Chris Burden, a famous pioneer of disturbing and sometimes self-injuring performance art, and Nancy Rubins, an artist known internationally for gigantic sculptures, retired suddenly less than a month after Deutch's performance (which no faculty member but Athey saw). They later explained that the university's failure to suspend the first-year master's degree candidate immediately was the last straw — on top of their displeasure over budget cuts and other administrative issues. What Deutch had done, they said at the time through their art dealer, was a kind of "domestic terrorism" that made onlookers fear for their lives ...

Click here to continue reading 'Performance art.'

'Performance art' continued:
The following account of Deutch's performance and its aftermath comes from interviews with him and his lawyer, Howard R. Price, as well as documents from the investigation and Student Conduct Committee hearing that ended in Deutch being cleared of violating campus rules against gun possession, inflicting or threatening violence and disrupting education. Campus officials confirmed that the process ended with Deutch still enrolled, but they refused to comment further.

Standing in front of the class, Deutch pulled out a real-looking gun he had carved from wood. To make it seem genuine, Price said, Deutch had bought a .357 Magnum to use as a model — then returned it to the gun dealer. He inserted what appeared to be a bullet, spun the cylinder and put the barrel against his head.

Deutch pulled the trigger, producing a click. Then he dashed into an adjoining hall. His lawyer said that he had pre-positioned "a big firecracker" in a can there and that he set it off, producing a bang. Then Deutch returned to the room, where normally a discussion and critique would have followed. Instead, "it was pandemonium," Deutch said in a telephone interview. "The idea of a class structure or any critical thinking was blown out of the water."

"My jaw dropped; I wasn't sure whether it was real or simulated," Athey said Thursday. Deutch was gone from the classroom less than a minute, Athey said. When he returned to a room divided among anger, shock and concern, a long discussion followed, "more group therapy than about his piece." After that, Athey drove Deutch around Culver City for about an hour, because "I just wanted to make sure" the student was not suicidal.

Deutch said he was careful during the performance to point the gun only at himself, avoiding any move that could seem menacing toward others.

Only one student, said attorney Price, was upset enough to complain to university authorities, and that student wound up not testifying in two daylong hearings that took place in February and April. The investigation by university police centered largely on whether Deutch had used a real gun — with suspicions heightened by his purchase of the real weapon before the performance.

In January, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Deutch for misdemeanor weapon charges.

But the university proceeded against him, based on possible violations of its student conduct code. When the investigation became public, neither faculty nor art department students were willing to discuss Deutch's performance or the professors' abrupt retirement.

"I figured [in advance] that I would have to explain the nature of the piece" to administrators, investigators and perhaps a campus disciplinary tribunal, said Deutch, who hails from St. Louis, graduated from Webster University there and pronounces his name "deech."

"The thing I hadn't counted on was Chris and Nancy freaking out to the extent they did."

Deutch said that he did not know Rubins and that he'd had only one substantial conversation with Burden, who oversaw instruction in new genres, the branch of the art department that includes performance art. Burden stopped doing performance art by the 1980s, having made a lasting mark with trailblazing work such as his 1971 piece "Shoot," in which an assistant, standing 15 feet away in a Santa Ana gallery, shot him in the upper arm with a .22-caliber rifle.

In 1972, Phyllis Lutjeans, a friend who hosted a cable TV show, invited Burden on the program. Without warning — in a performance he dubbed "TV Hijack" — he held her at knifepoint for several minutes.

"When Chris put the knife at my throat, I was absolutely terrified," Lutjeans recalled for The Times 20 years later. "I thought, 'This guy's psychotic.' "

Deutch said that although he was familiar with the history of performance art and Burden's place in it, his untitled Russian roulette piece was not intended as a response or allusion to the professor's early work.

A panel of three faculty members heard the case. They issued their report in May, concluding by a 2-1 vote that Deutch did not use a real weapon in his performance. They voted unanimously against the two other charges — that the performance had posed a threat and was disruptive to education.

According to the panel's report, Deutch had given conflicting accounts to university authorities about what kind of gun replica he used, heightening suspicions that it actually was real. Deutch said in an interview that he wanted to obscure the truth, because maintaining a sense of mystery was part of his artistic intent. But ultimately, he said, "if I was to remain a student, [campus authorities] needed to know what happened." He wouldn't comment further on the weapon during the interview, saying he didn't want to dispel the uncertainty that his piece sought to achieve.

The weapon he turned in, according to the panel report, was a wooden gun that had broken into pieces, raising further questions about his honesty.

Deutch got out of hot water with a feat of craftsmanship: He carved another real-looking revolver out of wood, complete with rotating cylinder. It "undermines critical elements of the University's case," the panel wrote.

In the end, Deutch said, his performance did no harm to others, while Burden and Rubins' midyear retirements left students in the lurch: The two professors, who are married, were both advising graduate students on their theses, and both were scheduled to teach during the second half of the academic year.

"They had a lot of obligations to different students, and they saw this as an opportunity to shirk those obligations," Deutch said. "The intelligent thing would have been to let the university do what it was going to do, and after the fact disagree with the ruling."

He added, "Somebody who took someone hostage in an interview calling me a terrorist is kind of funny."

Burden and Rubins declined to be interviewed for this story. In a Jan. 28 letter to The Times, Burden said that Deutch violated boundaries by surprising an audience with a gun and doing it on university turf where "there are rules of speech and decorum." He emphasized that in his own "Shoot" piece, the audience had been forewarned.

"By not taking immediate and decisive action against the student who brought a gun to campus, and who intimidated his fellow students by playing Russian roulette in their presence, the University has created a hostile and violent work environment," Burden wrote. "I am not willing to work in such an environment, nor do I wish to be associated with an institution that condones such behavior."

Deutch said he remains enthusiastic about his studies at UCLA: "I have absolutely no complaints. I never felt like I was being persecuted."

As an educational exercise, he said, the performance that could have gotten him kicked out of school gave him "a lot to think about in terms of my responsibility to the viewer. How much am I really allowed to affect you? How much of an experience can you have? I'm not interested in just shocking people."

On the advice of university deans, Deutch skipped the last meeting of Athey's performance art class. Even so, he said, he got an A-minus for the course.

The dumbest analogy I've ever seen

From Environmental Republican:
How come the moonbats are flipping out about Karl Rove outing a CIA agent who by credible accounts was known throughout the D.C. establishment to be a CIA agent but defended John Kerry and John Edwards when they "outed" Dick Cheney's gay daughter (even though it was known she was gay by those who followed politics)?
Hmm.

By the way, Power Line is not a "credible" account.

Marx is not the greatest philosopher

Longtime friend of this blog and all-around good guy Socialist Swine reports that the BBC has announced the results of its 'Greatest Philosophers' poll. The top 10:

1. Karl Marx
2. David Hume
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein
4. Friedrich Nietzsche
5. Plato
6. Immanuel Kant
7. St. Thomas Aquinas
8. Socrates
9. Aristotle
10. Karl Popper

The Swine critiques the list, taking issue with Marx, Plato (??), and Socrates. He also names his own top 10, as well as his 'bottom 10' - i.e., "people that I'm surprised are read by anyone and whom I think people mistakenly describe as philosophers." This is a fun game, so I'm going to steal his idea and list my own favorite and least favorite philosophers.

My top 10 philosophers of all time:

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Reading Wittgenstein will change the way you read every other philosopher. It will also save you a lot of work, as you will realize that the majority of philosophers make the same mistakes over and over again.

2. Immanuel Kant. He's Kant. You could spend a lifetime trying to get straight on what he was saying - and many people do. And it's worth it.

3. Plato. He's Plato. "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." - Alfred North Whitehead.

4. Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche got so much right it's scary. Reading Nietzsche can shed light on almost any contemporary philosophical issue. And he said it all with style!

5. David Hume. Hume seems oddly contemporary even two and a half centuries later.

6. John Stuart Mill. Has more or less set the agenda for moral philosophy. Plus, managed to have a nervous breakdown without anyone noticing.

7. Baruch Spinoza. Nietzsche's 'precursor'; understood there was no God apart from Nature - and vice versa.

8. Plotinus. Western philosophy's first real mystic. Said cool stuff like: "We ourselves possess beauty when we are true to our own being; our ugliness is in going over to another order; our self-knowledge, that is to say, is our beauty; in self-ignorance we are ugly."

9. Arthur Schopenhauer. One miserable SOB. Hated Hegel. Said stuff like: "We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness."

10. Bertrand Russell. Set the agenda for analytic philosophy; it is quite possible that without Russell, there would be no Wittgenstein. Is regarded by some as an advocate of materialism, but is more accurately described as a neutral monist - perhaps even a panexperientialist. Also, he and his wife were swingers.

Honorable mention: Rene Descartes, George Berkeley, Soren Kierkegaard, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Alfred North Whitehead.


Now, my 10 least favorite philosophers of all time, in descending order of suckiness:

1. Patricia Churchland. Not so much a philosopher as a wannabe-scientist. Makes terrible arguments. Clearly thinks very highly of herself.

2. Saul Kripke. Actually an extremely bright guy, but he is responsible for the current obsession with semantics, an obsession that seems to have permeated almost every branch of philosophy. Also, is rumored to be a perv.

3. Martin Heidegger. I haven't actually read Heidegger, but he was a Nazi, and being a Nazi means you suck.

4. Hilary Putnam. Shares part of the blame with Kripke for the preoccupation with semantics.

5. WVO Quine. Said that atoms are on an ontological par with Homer's gods. Also just rubs me the wrong way.

6. Ayn Rand. "Fuck all y'all" is not a philosophy. Hated Kant and Native Americans. Had to write her views in novel form. Said shit like: "I am. Therefore I Think."

7. Ferdinand de Saussure. Just because.

8. Jacques Lacan. Makes no fucking sense. His followers will admit this, too. They suck.

9. Paul Churchland. More of a philosopher than his wife, and his arguments aren't quite as bad. But at the end of the day, he's wrong about almost everything, and his program is basically the same as Patty's.

10. Jean-Paul Sartre. Haven't really read Sartre, but that eye really creeps me the fuck out.

Homicidal tendencies

Anyone who watches Fox News regularly knows that the network uses the idiotic term "homicide bombing" instead of "suicide bombing" - at the request of Ari Fleischer. As in, "A homicide bomber struck today in Iraq... ." This is supposed to downplay the bomber's death and emphasize the loss of innocent life, but it has the unfortunate side effect of not making any fucking sense. No other major news outlet (with the exception of the New York Post?) has adopted this terminology, for good reason: the whole point of the term 'suicide bomber' is not to place importance upon the loss of the bomber's life but rather to distinguish between bombings in which the perpetrator purposely kills himself with the bomb and bombings in which the perpetrator doesn't do that. Yet Fox continues to embarrass itself. Now, even James Taranto of Opinion Journal (HT: Max Blumenthal) is making fun of them:
We often criticize left-wing media outlets like the BBC and Reuters over, among other things, their refusal to call terror by its name. But it's worth emphasizing that by far the worst offender in terms of abusing the language via politically correct terminology is Fox News. Here's a report from yesterday on the London bombings:
New evidence suggests four bombers blew themselves up on the London transportation system last week, killing at least 52 in what could be the first homicide attacks in Western Europe, officials said Tuesday. . . .

Two militant Islamic groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks on three subway trains and on a bus. Police had previously indicated there was no evidence of homicide bombings, suggesting instead that timers were used.

Although police stopped short of calling them homicide attacks, Clarke said "strong forensic and other evidence" suggests one of the suspects was killed in a subway bombing and property belonging to the three others was found at the location of the other blasts. . . .

Jeremy Shapiro, director of research at the center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said Europeans had been involved in homicide attacks in the Mideast, but he knew of no successful homicide bombings in Western Europe previously.
Gosh, what about the murder of Theo Van Gogh? Wasn't that a homicide? What about the 200 or so people murdered in Madrid last year? And how could the police have said there was "no evidence of homicide bombings"? What about the scores of blown-up bodies on the trains and the bus? Did the police figure all those people dropped dead of heart attacks seconds before the non-"homicide" bomb went off?

The answer is that Fox, and only Fox, has redefined homicide to mean "the act of killing oneself"--what the rest of the English-speaking world calls suicide. So Fox would say, for instance, "Hitler committed homicide by shooting himself in his bunker." But what about what Hitler did to his victims? The Fox brain trust will have to get to work on a name for that.
"Fox brain trust"?

The darkest place in the universe

I don't think I've brought it up in this forum before, but the way that animals are treated by the meat industry is absolutely horrific, and one of the most important issues of our time. You don't have to be a believer in 'animal rights' or a supporter of PETA to recognize the extraordinary cruelty of the way most animals raised for food are treated. The problem isn't so much the fact that animals are killed for food; it's the fact that they are forced to live lives of torture. Being slaughtered is a merciful end to the suffering.

Two facts give me some reason for hope, though. One is that there is some indication that concern for animals can cross party lines. George Will's column in Newsweek is about Matthew Scully, a former Bush speechwriter who wrote a book called Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, arguing that ending cruelty to animals is a moral imperative for all of us, even - or perhaps especially - for Christians who look to the Bible for moral guidance. He also wrote a recent article for American Conservative entitled "Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism—for Animals." And recently Rick Santorum garnered praise from the Humane Society and PETA for co-sponsoring a bill with Dick Durbin aimed at cracking down on puppy mills. Of course, this may be due to Santorum's predilection for canine-love, but still.

Seriously, though, if you're not familiar with what goes on in factory farms, you can read about it here. A sample:
GAIL EISNITZ HAS STRUGGLED for the last fifteen years to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), the forty-five-year-old federal law requiring humane handling of animals killed in federally inspected slaughterhouses.

...Eisnitz was working as an investigator for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in 1989 when she received a tip from a USDA slaughterhouse inspector about conditions in a Florida cattle plant. The man said he had personal knowledge that the plant was skinning cattle while they were still alive ... Eisnitz traveled to Florida, where she frequented bars that swelled with slaughter workers at the end of each shift. She listened to their stories about what was going on inside the plant. What she learned propelled her on a long, lonely journey through the American slaughterhouse, which she describes as "the darkest place in the universe."

...

She learned about cattle slaughter plants where cattle were hoisted upside down, the lower part of their legs snipped off, their thighs and bellies cut open, and their skin stripped from their legs up to their necks, all while the animals were still conscious. She investigated pig slaughter plants where inadequately stunned and fully alert animals were dragged through tanks of scalding water, kicking and struggling until they drowned. From coast to coast she recorded accounts of animals being trampled, dragged, and shocked with electric prods placed in their mouths. At plant after plant workers told her that this sort of treatment was business as usual in the slaughter industry.

...Eisnitz organized a Washington, D.C., news conference, during which one former and one current USDA inspector told reporters they had frequently witnessed plant workers dismembering still-conscious animals in order to keep fast production lines moving.

...Chicken slaughterhouses currently shackle birds while they are conscious and then drag their heads and upper bodies through an electrified water trough called a stunner. Because of concerns for carcass quality, the voltage is often intentionally set too low to stun, and the birds are simply immobilized enough to keep them from thrashing about as their necks are cut. Some birds are still alive when they are plunged into scalding tanks for defeathering ... chickens qualify as "the most abused animals on the face of the planet."
Liberal or conservative, there's no denying that such cruelty is simply unacceptable. It's good to see that this issue is starting to get a little recognition from members of both parties.

Another reason I see for hope comes from the possibility that we might be able to grow meat without using animals! This article, via The News Blog, describes the latest developments on this front:
Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab

Experiments for NASA space missions have shown that small amounts of edible meat can be created in a lab. But the technology that could grow chicken nuggets without the chicken, on a large scale, may not be just a science fiction fantasy.

In a paper in the June 29 issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro – lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.

There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat,” says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. “For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat.

“Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn’t need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat.”

...cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes,” says Matheny. The paper even suggests that meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter.

The benefits could be enormous,” Matheny says. “The demand for meat is increasing world wide -- China’s meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years.

With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world’s annual meat supply. And you could do it in a way that’s better for the environment and human health. In the long term, this is a very feasible idea.”

Matheny saw so many advantages in the idea that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest (http://www.new-harvest.org), to advance the technology.
Who knew there was a journal called 'Tissue Engineering'?

There would no doubt be considerable opposition to this technology, if and when it develops to a point where traditional meat could be mostly replaced. Some people won't like the 'Frankenstein' aspect of it, but the thing is that the meat industry is beginning to experiment with genetically modifying animals themselves.

Regardless of such concerns, the amount of suffering that factory farms add to the world is so enormous that if we could basically eliminate it in a blink of an eye by replacing animals with 'cultured meat', we would be morally required to do so on any reasonable calculation. A world where people could eat meat without animals having to endure the torture of factory farms would be a better world. Again, ending this unnecessary suffering, especially if it can be done at a minimal cost to human beings, is a goal that should transcend traditional political divisions.

Stop the presses

A conservative blogger, Slublog, agrees with Ted Kennedy about Rick Santorum and his "blame child rape on Boston" thesis:
So liberals and Boston are to blame for the church's sexual abuse scandals. Right.

The sexual abuse is not a result of 'cultural liberalism' or acceptance of 'alternative lifestyles' and Santorum sounds silly making such an argument. It's a result of the decisions made by sick individuals to abuse children and betray the trust of those they were charged to serve.

I've never been all that impressed with Senator Santorum. This column illustrates why. The high regard some conservatives hold for Santorum confounds me. Sure, the guy is a conservative, but given his habit of saying really stupid things, he makes a terrible poster boy for conservatives.
Of course, Slublog can't mention Ted Kennedy without making a reference to Mary Jo Kopechne, or else he would lose his conservative credentials.

Anyway, I don't think any of us will have to worry too much about ol' man-on-dog Santorum come 2007.


UPDATE: Another voice from the right echos Slublog's sentiment. Has Santorum 'jumped the shark' with the right wing?

7/13/2005

Some chilling words

From Norbizness:
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, expressed concern about reports today that the Bush Administration has actively sought the advice of radical right leader Jerry Falwell on whom to nominate for vacancy on the Supreme Court, stripping the White House of any credibility in searching for a consensus candidate who can unify the country.

St. Judy?

Salon recently featured an article exhorting "anyone who truly supports freedom of speech" to "rally behind jailed, controversial New York Times reporter Judy Miller" and chiding those who refuse to out of lingering resentment against Ms. Miller over her faulty pre-war WMD reporting. You can read it here, but you'll have to watch an ad, and I warn you: the ad prominently features Tucker Carlson's big obnoxious face. So here are some excerpts, emphasis added:
...it was reasonable to expect at least some anti-Miller letters in the wake of Manjoo's and freelance reporter Michael Scherer's Salon stories about the Miller case. Like virtually everyone else in every branch of the media, Manjoo and Scherer reported Miller's impending and then actual imprisonment as a dark day for press freedom.

...But it's safe to say that everyone here was surprised by the consistently enraged tone of the letters -- furious might be a better word ... Of the dozens of letters we have received on this issue over the last few weeks, no more than a half-dozen have supported the general tenor of Manjoo and Scherer's reporting, or indeed have seen the Miller case as in any way a matter of fundamental freedoms.

"What a steaming load of treacle and crap," the Washington reader wrote about the latter story, describing it as "laying on the sentimental details with a trowel" in an attempt to evoke reader sympathy for Miller as she was led off to jail. "I've had my objections to Salon articles before but this is unquestionably the worst piece you've ever run on any subject."

... many members of the public -- especially liberals who ought to be staunch defenders of the Bill of Rights -- seem unable or unwilling to grasp the idea that a matter of fundamental principle might be at stake, even in the murky and seemingly bottomless waters of the Miller-Plame-Rove affair. Compelling a reporter to reveal his or her sources to the police turns that reporter into a police agent, and that's not acceptable, even in unsavory circumstances like these.

...Even if you believe that Judith Miller is nothing more than "a shill for the Bush administration" (a Florida reader) or "a co-conspirator in a government coverup" (a Missouri reader), she's still entitled to the same constitutional protections as Greg Palast and Amy Goodman ... The First Amendment covers all members of the press, without regard to truthfulness, integrity or their perceived similarity to sub-reptilian life forms.

...After our second boatload of anti-Miller letters, Mark Hughes Cobb of Alabama responded in disbelief: "Absolutely amazing. Salon letter-writers who disdain freedom of the press. Perhaps a little reading of the Bill of Rights (certainly not a re-reading in any of these cases) would be helpful. The free press belongs to everyone; not just the New York Times, not Time, and not even to Salon and the blogosphere. If an out-of-control special prosecutor decides to come after your comments next, I'll be sure and write in with scathing remarks on your unfitness to wield freedom."

A student journalist from San Francisco, Daniel Jimenez, was more sad than angry, but his questions capture why even those in the media who believe Judith Miller did immeasurable damage to our profession don't think she belongs in jail. "Do we really want to add the United States to the list of nations whose governments use their power to punish political opponents, including perceived enemies in the media?" he asked.
I'm not sure I buy all this. It's not initially clear what this has to do with the First Amendment. The argument, I take it, is that the First Amendments prohibition on laws "abridging" the freedom of the press precludes the state from compelling journalists to testify before grand juries if doing so would require them to reveal previously secret sources, the idea being that if this practice were widespread, these secret sources would dry up - to avoid landing themselves in trouble - and the press would not be able to operate properly without them.

This is highly debatable. First of all, as it stands now, the state can compel journalists to reveal sources (or jail them if they don't), and there still seems to be an abundance of people willing to provide information.

Second, the First Amendment claim is shaky at best. The relevant Supreme Court decision is Branzburg v. Hayes in 1972, in which the Court determined that one's status as a journalist doesn't grant one a special privilege to decline to testify in such situations, a right not shared by members of the general public. The point of compelling testimony is to prosecute wrongdoers, and in certain situations individuals are required to assist in this process. Why should journalists be any different? From the Branzburg decision (written by Chief Justice White):
Accepting the fact, however, that an undetermined number of informants not themselves implicated in crime will nevertheless, for whatever reason, refuse to talk to newsmen if they fear identification by a reporter in an official investigation, we cannot accept the argument that the public interest in possible future news about crime from undisclosed, unverified sources must take precedence over the public interest in pursuing and prosecuting those crimes reported to the press by informants and in thus deterring the commission of such crimes in the future.
Finally, when the letter writer quoted above says that the failure to recognize Judy Miller's First Amendment right to conceal her sources will result in governments that "use their power to punish political opponents," he's ignoring the fact that this abuse of power is expressly prohibited in the Branzburg ruling. The fact is that reporters' interest in protecting their sources is protected by the First Amendment, but only up to a point, i.e. not absolutely, which is hardly surprising. From Branzburg:
as we have earlier indicated, news gathering is not without its First Amendment protections, and grand jury investigations if instituted or conducted other than in good faith, would pose wholly different issues for resolution under the First Amendment. Official harassment of the press undertaken not for purposes of law enforcement but to disrupt a reporter's relationship with his news sources would have no justification. Grand juries are subject to judicial control and subpoenas to motions to quash. We do not expect courts will forget that grand juries must operate within the limits of the First Amendment as well as the Fifth.
And Justice Powell, concurring:
I add this brief statement to emphasize what seems to me to be the limited nature of the Court's holding. The Court does not hold that newsmen, subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, are without constitutional rights with respect to the gathering of news or in safeguarding their sources. Certainly, we do not hold, as suggested in MR. JUSTICE STEWART'S dissenting opinion, that state and federal authorities are free to "annex" the news media as "an investigative arm of government." The solicitude repeatedly shown by this Court for First Amendment freedoms should be sufficient assurance against any such effort, even if one seriously believed that the media - properly free and untrammeled in the fullest sense of these terms - were not able to protect themselves.

As indicated in the concluding portion of the opinion, the Court states that no harassment of newsmen will be tolerated. If a newsman believes that the grand jury investigation is not being conducted in good faith he is not without remedy. Indeed, if the newsman is called upon to give information bearing only a remote and tenuous relationship to the subject of the investigation, or if he has some other reason to believe that his testimony implicates confidential source relationships without a legitimate need of law enforcement, he will have access to the court on a motion to quash and an appropriate protective order may be entered. The asserted claim to privilege should be judged on its facts by the striking of a proper balance between freedom of the press and the obligation of all citizens to give relevant testimony with respect to criminal conduct. The balance of these vital constitutional and societal interests on a case-by-case basis accords with the tried and traditional way of adjudicating such questions.

In short, the courts will be available to newsmen under circumstances where legitimate First Amendment interests require protection.

*****

Some will insist that the failure to grant people like Judith Miller First Amendment protection will lead to the downfall of the press, but one has to wonder how much further they really have to fall. I, for one, would gladly trade the use of anonymous sources in toto for a press more willing to critically examine and question what they are told, for journalists more willing to speak truth to power.

Cover story

Former CIA man Larry Johnson makes some important points about the Plame leak:
The misinformation being spread in the media about the Plame affair is alarming and damaging to the longterm security interests of the United States. Republicans' talking points are trying to savage Joe Wilson and, by implication, his wife, Valerie Plame as liars. That is the truly big lie.

For starters, Valerie Plame was an undercover operations officer until outed in the press by Robert Novak. Novak's column was not an isolated attack. It was in fact part of a coordinated, orchestrated smear that we now know includes at least Karl Rove.

Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official cover. That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.

A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.

The lies by people like Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, and P. J. O'Rourke insist that Valerie was nothing, just a desk jockey. Yet, until Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world. When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her.
This last point is particularly important. When it became known that Plame was an undercover agent, it also became known that Plame's 'employer', Brewster Jennings & Associates, was actually a front company for the CIA. This means that the cover of any other agent who used Brewster Jennings as a cover - Plame wasn't the only one - was potentially compromised upon the outing of Plame.

So whether or not Plame was just a 'desk jockey' is not all that relevant; her covert status was not isolated, but rather part of a larger web of covers that have now been jeopardized.

Illegitimate son?

From Smirking Chimp via Daou:
Many things are uncertain in George W. Bush's second term including the Iraq war, investigations of fraudulent pre-war intelligence, questions on Karl Rove outing a CIA agent, the shaky economy and horribly diminished U.S. reputation and credibility in the world.

But there's one thing that should not be doubted: George W. Bush will always carry a stain of illegitimacy and, as much as I dislike feeling so alienated from our national leadership, he most assuredly will never be my president.

Conservatives like to chalk this up to sour grapes and consider us people who cannot be graceful in defeat. But that's a childish and oversimplified way of dismissing the actions by which Bush became president. I was not a happy young Democrat when Ronald Reagan won the 1980 and 1984 elections ... But I could live with those losses because, no matter how unpalatable, they were indeed losses ... I've never met a Democrat who believes that Reagan and W's father didn't actually win those elections.

On the other hand, it's needle-in-a-haystack work finding a Democrat who believes George W. Bush truly won the 2000 election and a good number of people believe that he lost in 2004 as well.

...Ultimately, I told the few Republicans I could actually speak to after the 2000 election that, in the quiet of night, when they can't sleep, they know one truth: If the Florida presidential election had been declared null and void and every voter who cast a ballot on election day could vote again -- and valid voters who were disenfranchised were allowed to vote – George W. Bush would never have become president. If the true intent of every Florida voter could have been magically divined, we would live in a much better America today.

We know it and they know it.

And, no matter how you view Ohio's disputed 2004 results, Dubya received the gift of a lifetime on September 11, has milked that tragic day ad nauseam and rode the fake patriotism further engendered by his war with Iraq to a wartime-president win in the last election.

Couple that, with the 2000 election theft, and he is arguably the least legitimate president to ever hold office.

NASA sucks

Another fuck-up today, and now the shuttle launch might get delayed until Sept.

Someone I know aptly compared the space shuttle to Archie and Jughead's jalopy.


UPDATE: NASA is holding a press briefing on the shuttle launch that wasn't. This is a quote from the NASA official speaking:
All I can say is 'shucks'.
Well then.

I know, I'm just being mean to NASA for no good reason; I don't know why. I just thought that was funny, though.


UPDATE 2: Now they're saying they might launch Saturday.

Talking points memo?

From Raw Story:
RAW STORY has obtained an exclusive copy of Republican talking points on Bush adviser Karl Rove's leaking the name of a CIA agent to a reporter, circulated by the Republican National Committee to "D.C. Talkers" in Washington.

The document, emblazoned with the words "Special Edition" and dated Tuesday, seeks to discredit claims put forth by Ambassador Joseph Wilson...
See the memo here. (HT: SGO.)

Leakers = traitors

So says the preznit.
"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."
- President George H.W. Bush, 4/26/99

7/12/2005

Art blogging: Picabia

In my humble opinion, Francis Picabia is an artist that doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. As one of the 'Founding Fathers' of Dada, he started the periodical 391 and contributed much of the art that appeared in its pages, usually his so-called 'mechanical drawings'. Here is one of his 391 covers from 1917.
His most famous painting was 'Parade Amoureuse', also from 1917.




He also was involved with the Surrealist movement later on, and his painting tended towards more figurative works. This one is from 1931, and is entitled 'Adam and Eve'.




Another called 'Ridens' from 1929.




Finally, here are some quotes from Picabia (from Brainy Quote):
Let us never forget that the greatest man is never more than an animal disguised as a god.

My ass contemplates those who talk behind my back.

The essence of a man is found in his faults.

The world is divided into two categories: failures and unknowns.

Karl Rove should get a medal

So says professional assmonkey John Gibson.

Video here.

Populism works

Sirota:
In These Times takes an in-depth look at how what's going on in Montana proves Democrats don't have to pretend to be Republicans in order to win - and that goes for Democrats even in the reddest of red states. Writer Matt Singer of Left in the West ... takes us on a tour of the 2004 campaign here, and outlines the lessons that Democrats everywhere can learn from the race. While Schweitzer, to be sure, is a dynamic candidate, he won the race on more than just his personal skills - he also had an important populist streak that helped him connect with voters that Democrats' faux "centrism" has alienated for far too long.

Framing populism

Angelica at Battlepanda outlines a strategy for 'selling' populism to the electorate, in part riffing off my earlier post. A particularly apt suggestion of hers:
...Liberal bloggers well know that Red states suck up more federal dollars than Blue states. But they don't think of their farm subsidy checks as handouts, unlike unempolyment benefits, say. Homeowners enjoy tax breaks on their morgages, a tremendous loss of tax dollars. Unfortunately, they don't conceptualize the assistance they get as in the same light as a welfare check. Lets remind them that the government is trying to help all American families that needs help, and that it is unjust to enjoy one form of government assistance while begrudging more desperate families of what could be a financial lifeline.

Another perspective

D.J. says his blogging philosophy differs from Brian Leiter's:
Call it a delusion of grandeur, but my hope for this blog and the arguments I make here is that somewhere, someone will walk into a bar armed with one of my arguments and use it to convince not some right-winger, but a moderate of weak convictions who overhears their debate.
The rest.

Good advice

Says Jesse Taylor at Pandagon:
1.) Never start a land war in Asia.

2.) Never listen to a conservative pro-life group when they tell you that abortion won't be outlawed as fast as humanly possible if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Thank you, come again

John Podhoretz:
But Plame's undercover status at the time was and is a little questionable in any case. How undercover could she have been when her name was published at the time as part of Joseph Wilson's own biography online?
Atrios:
Very slowly for the very stupid people among us:

Valerie Plame's name was not secret. The fact that she was married to Wilson was not secret. The fact that she worked for the CIA was.

An innocent man executed?

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Prosecutors investigating whether Missouri man was wrongly put to death

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Prosecutors are investigating whether a man executed for a 1980 murder was innocent, after the victim's family and others recently raised questions about the case.

Larry Griffin, 40, was convicted in a 1980 drive-by shooting that killed Quintin Moss but maintained his innocence.

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said the file was reopened after she was approached recently by several people with doubts about the case, including Saul Green, a Detroit attorney who is the lawyer for Moss' family.

..."They shared with me some information they had received from other people which raised concerns enough in my mind where we reopened the file," said Joyce, who was not circuit attorney at the time Griffin was tried or executed.

"What I have heard recently is very troubling and leads me to believe an innocent man was executed for this murder," U.S. Rep. William "Lacy" Clay said at a news conference Tuesday.

According to the report put together by Gross during a year-long investigation, the new evidence suggested that:

--The first police officer at the scene of the 1980 shooting, Michael Ruggeri, now says that the story told by the supposed eyewitness was false, even though Ruggeri's own testimony at trial supported what the witness said.

--A second victim of the shooting, Wallace Conners, has said he was never contacted by the defense or the prosecution. Conners, now 52, was shot in the buttocks. He said the supposed eyewitness was not present at the shooting. Conners said he saw the shooter. He knew Griffin, and Griffin was not the shooter, he said.

"I tell all you all, Larry Griffin did not commit this crime," Conners told reporters. "Larry Griffin definitely wasn't in the car."

Two homicide prosecutors are now investigating, though Joyce declined to say how long that investigation would take. She said she was particularly moved that the victim's family now showed concern that the wrong man was convicted and executed.
We all knew this would happen eventually.

Grand mal

John Holbo of Crooked Timber has an interesting take on the relation between the right and left sides of the blogosphere:
The left and right hemiblogospheres are presently linked – if at all – by a corpus callosum of profound mutual contempt. Countless linky axons of aggravation transmit negative affect side to side.

Suicidal tendencies

A number of bloggers, including Juan Cole and Kevin Drum, are talking about Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor who has been studying the phenomenon of suicide terrorism. Basically, Pape's findings indicate that, contra the GOP portrait of crazed religious zealots thirsty for infidel blood, most suicide bombers act based on quite tangible political goals, and that suicide terrorism is a more or less direct response to the presence of US troops in the Middle East, a response that ceases when this provocation is removed.

Drum links to this interview with Pape in The American Conservative:
Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004.

...This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think...

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland ... every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bush’s policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we don’t have to fight them here.

RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.

...

TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

...

TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?

RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime.

...

That doesn’t mean that the existing suicide terrorists will not want to keep going. I am not saying that Osama bin Laden would turn over a new leaf and suddenly vote for George Bush. There will be a tiny number of people who are still committed to the cause, but the real issue is not whether Osama bin Laden exists. It is whether anybody listens to him. That is what needs to come to an end for Americans to be safe from suicide terrorism.

...

TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?

RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.
Note that last question again. Pape is saying that the chances of a WMD attack on the US rise as the occupation continues. That is, the presence of US forces in Iraq is making it more likely that Americans will be the victim of a catastrophic terrorist attack.

Of course, some have been saying this for years, but whatever it takes to get people to listen to reason is fine by me.

What I'm about to say is completely speculative; I have absolutely no evidence for it. But I have a strange feeling that the London bombings might have quietly marked a sea change in the approach to the issue of terrorism in the political arena and the media. For some reason, after London, it seemed more 'okay' for even mainstream, corporate media figures to question the wisdom of Bush's 'war on terror'. Like it's finally dawning on everybody that just because the Bush administration says something is true doesn't mean it is. That it's perfectly legitimate, and not treasonous, to ask whether the foreign policy of Bush and Blair is making things worse with regard to terrorism, is making citizens of the US and the UK less safe. That maybe Bush isn't infallible after all.

We'll see, I guess. I'm probably wrong; there's really no rational reason to believe this. It's possible, but it's also possible that we'll just keep going on as before, and Zell Miller, Jr. will be giving a speech at the 2028 Republican convention warning us that if Chelsea Clinton is elected president, she'll immediately institute an all-spitball national defense and the forced Koran lessons will begin before the end of her first term.

But somehow, in a way I can't explain or prove, it just feels like people are, just maybe, starting to come to their senses. We can only hope.

Y'all don't know what it's like...

...being male, middle-class, and white. Or in some cases, male, filthy rich, and white.

7/11/2005

Populism is not just for the poor

A new 'meme' (sorry) is picking up steam in the blogosphere (sorry again) - the idea being that the appeal of economic populism is limited because most people aren't poor. Battlepanda quotes Steve Rose:
Liberals have relied on its identification with the “little guy” to be a unifying force based on a common self-interest. The data that are presented in this article would suggest that the number of people that directly benefit from activist state welfare policies is less than one quarter of the population.
And Bradford Plumer:
On the other hand, a more enduring progressive electoral majority definitely seems like it would be harder to forge on economic populism alone, barring a return of the Great Depression.
Battlepanda adds:
...the truth is the bulk of Americans are simply too well-off to benefit from the economic programs that Democrats are pushing for ... In order to forge a sturdy coalition for progressive economic policies, Democrats would have to rely not on the individual self interests of voters, but a moral sense that helping the poor is the right thing to do.

...It goes without saying that I still think that single-payer health care, a stronger social safety net etc. etc. are better policies. But I think it's clear that it is futile to pretend they always have short-term economic benefits for most Americans.
The data?
Only about 11% of Americans qualify for safety net programs (aside from retirement programs).

Another 12% have incomes just above the cutoff for safety net programs.

The number of good jobs has increased a lot in the past 50 years. Today, only 34% of male workers and 10% percent of female workers are part of the traditional "industrial proletariat."
I think, though, that everybody's missing something very important: economic populism is not just about the poorest of the poor; conveying a populist message is not synonymous with promoting 'safety net' programs. Populism, properly construed, is about defending the interest of the poor and the middle class.

Many members of the middle class aren't as well off as these statistics would indicate. It is true that most people don't rely on the 'safety net', but it's also true that many middle class families are forced to rely on two incomes, and consumer debt is exploding - increasing at something like twice the rate that wages are; the average household credit card debt is about $8000 (compared to about $3000 in 1990) - as are personal bankruptcies. And for many, job security is a fairy tale; total disaster is one layoff away. An acquaintance of mine was recently traveling in the midwest, and stopped at a rest station to wash up and shave. Another man was doing the same thing in an adjacent sink, and gave my friend a knowing looking, saying "So you got laid off too, huh?" The rapidity with which one can go from a relatively stable, middle-class existence to being homeless is sobering; those who "work hard and play by the rules," to use Bill Clinton's famous phrase, should not have to worry about this happening to them.

Genuine populism speaks to these people, in addition to the desperately poor; far from being of limited appeal, this kind of approach would have the broadest appeal imaginable. The not-rich outnumber the rich by quite a large margin.

Everything physical is really non-physical?

Kevin Drum quotes Deepak Chopra, who writes at Huffington Post:
When we say, "a physical basis for consciousness" we are forgetting that everything physical is at the most fundamental quantum mechanical level really non-physical.
People, people, people! How many times do I have to say it?! If you're going to make the claim that consciousness isn't physical - or the converse, that consciousness is physical - you have got to define what you mean by 'physical'!! There's no widely accepted definition of this term, and if you don't stipulate what you mean by it, you'll end up talking nonsense.

Privacy and the Supreme Court

Amanda makes an incredibly important point:
Anytime a conservative makes the argument that privacy rights are not in the Constitution, I highly recommend perking your ears up because he's attacking more than the right to have an abortion--he's attacking your right to obtain contraception.

...opposition to the right to privacy means that one opposes the underpinnings of Griswold v. Connecticut, the decision that ensures your right to obtain contraception.
Amanda also notes that Scalia and Thomas - whom Bush has identified as his models for future Supreme Court nominations - are generally hostile to the idea of a right to privacy. Thomas said in his Lawrence v. Texas dissent:
My duty ... is to decide cases agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States. ... I can find neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a general right of privacy, or as the Court terms it today, the liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.
What's kind of weird about this is that when Justice Thomas's confirmation hearings were held, he seemed to be quite able to find the right of privacy in the Constitution. The following are all quotes of his from the hearings:
"My view is that there is a right to privacy in the Fourteenth Amendment."

"I think I have indicated here today and yesterday that there is a privacy interest in the Constitution, the liberty component of the due process clause..."

"I, with respect to the privacy interests, would continue to say that the liberty component of the due process clause is the repository of that interest."

"Senator, as I noted yesterday, and I think we all feel strongly in this country about the -- our privacy. I do. I believe the Constitution protects the right to privacy."

"I believe the approach that Justice Harlan took in Poe v. Ullman and again reaffirmed in Griswold in determining the -- or assessing the right of privacy was an appropriate way to go."

"... my bottom line was that I felt that there was a right to privacy in the Constitution and that the marital right to privacy, of course, is at the core of that and that the marital right to privacy, in my view, and in certainly the view of the Court, is that it is a fundamental right."

"... the Court has found such a right of privacy to exist in Eisenstadt v. Baird and I do not have a quarrel with that decision."

"I think I have indicated here today and yesterday that there is a privacy interest in the Constitution, the liberty component of the due process clause, and that marital privacy is a fundamental right. And marital privacy then would be -- can only be impinged on or only be regulated if there is a compelling state interest. That is the analysis that was used in Roe v. Wade..."

"...with respect to the compelling interest test in the application of that to fundamental rights, fundamental privacy rights, I've said that I have no problem with that. "

"I have said that I had no quarrel with the application of the compelling interest test to the area of privacy cases when privacy is a fundamental right."
Incidentally, Thomas's views about the importance of the 'original intent' of the framers has 'evolved' as well. Here's what he had to say at his hearing:
"It is a constitutional right -- liberty. And once it's in the Constitution, we adjudicate it, we interpret it, understanding what our founders believed, but adjudicate it looking at our history and our tradition, not just what their beliefs were when they drafted the document."

"And in our constitutional tradition, the concept of liberty -- liberty is a concept that has been flexible. It's one that has been adjudicated over time, looking at history, tradition, of course starting with what the Founding Fathers thought of the concept of liberty, but not ending there."

"The world didn't stop with the framers. The concept of liberty wasn't self-defining at that point and that's why I think it's important, as I have indicated, that you then look at the rest of the history and tradition of our country."

"It's not frozen in time. Our notions of what liberty means evolves with the country. It moves with our history and our tradition."
Also, if you do care about 'original intent' - and there's really no reason you should - this article argues that the framers did intend for a right to privacy to be included in the Constitution, but that they simply didn't refer to it as 'privacy', for one simple reason:
..."privacy" in 1776 was a code word for toilet functions. A person would say, "I need a moment of privacy" as a way of excusing themselves to go use the "privy" or outhouse. The chamberpots around the house, into which people relieved themselves during the evening and which were emptied in the morning, were referred to as "the privates," a phrase also used to describe genitals.

The intelligentsia

... has a bit of a problem with balance.

Specter's choice for Chief Justice

From NYT via Next Left:
Specter Suggests a Chief Justice: O'Connor

WASHINGTON, July 10 - Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, suggested on Sunday that President Bush could name Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring from the Supreme Court, to the position of chief justice if it opens up.

"I think it would be very tempting if the president said to Justice O'Connor, 'You could help the country now,' " Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and a pivotal player in any confirmation hearings, said in an interview on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "She has received so much adulation that a confirmation proceeding would be more like a coronation, and she might be willing to stay on for a year or so."

Although Mr. Specter's seeming endorsement of the idea was highly speculative - Justice O'Connor, 75, has announced her retirement, while Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, has not stepped down - it was the clearest of his several recent signals that he plans to steer his own course as he oversees hearings on a replacement for Justice O'Connor, independent of the president and of his party's conservative base.

...Speaking on the same program, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, readily assented. "I think it would be a very doable thing," he responded to the idea of enticing Justice O'Connor out of retirement to become the new chief.
No surprise that Specter is quite possibly the most hated senator on the right, even more so than Ted Kennedy, perhaps.

Strategery

Auguste has the low-down on the Malkins' master plan.

Soldier blogger arrested

Leonard Clark, a soldier who had been posting blog entries critical of the Bush administration and who had been threatened with court martial, has been arrested.

Unfortunately, when you join the military, you basically turn over your free-speech rights.

Henry Rollins is not a conservative

Apparently, a rumor was going around that former Black Flag front man Henry Rollins was a conservative Republican! Jane Hamsher (HT: Atrios) e-mailed Hank to get the scoop, and here was his response:
Jane. I don't know if I could be called a conservative seeing how I will get up extra early to tell anyone in front of me THAT BUSH IS A COWARD AND A LIAR AND THOSE WHO VOTED FOR HIM ARE PART OF A VERY BAD PROBLEM. THAT THE FOX NEWS CHANNEL IS A BUNCH OF SISSIES WHO CAN'T TAKE A PUNCH....If Bush's idiotic television monitors are making reference to my 70 second appearance on Fox News talking about the USO, I did that because the USO asked me to and since I do a lot of work on their behalf because I support our troops, I did.
Phew.

No exceptions

A lot of people, especially politicians, who call themselves 'pro-life' believe that abortion should be illegal, "except in cases of rape and incest." But very little thought is put into how such a policy - an abortion ban that made an exception for rape - would be put into practice. How would we determine which pregnancies were the result of rape, and which weren't?

As it turns out, there's no acceptable way to do this. The "no abortions except in cases of rape and incest" position is bogus, an attempt to soft-pedal the real goal of the anti-choice movement: the criminalization of all abortion.

7/10/2005

Blogging with a hammer

A couple of weeks ago, Brian Leiter outlined his approach to blogging, which basically amounts to the perfectly sensible refusal to treat irrationality as rationality, an approach I wholeheartedly agree with. This of course produced howls of protest from various denizens of wingnuttia, many of whom (delusionally) fancy themselves intellectuals. J.M. Bergman thinks Leiter's post is tantamount to Leiter declaring himself "the greatest philosopher in history" and proceeds to make a particularly ridiculous 'argument' against Leiter:
Kerr, I think, gives Leiter a fairly respectful hearing, but nevertheless concludes that he is oversimplifying things and underestimating both the intelligence and the political flexibility of most of the blogosphere. The very fact that Leiter himself uses David Horowitz -- a man whom virtually everybody, even on the right, regards as afflicted with tunnel-vision -- as his primary foil would seem to support Kerr's view. Horotwitz is practically a pre-packaged straw man for the left; refuting his arguments, even revealing him as a buffoon, no more proves Leiter correct than similar refutations of Michael Moore decisively prove his opponents correct.
This is an argument I hear a lot from the right; whenever someone points out what a jackass Horowitz (or Robertson, or Limbaugh, or Coulter, etc.) is, we are told that this is unfair, because that person doesn't really represent conservatives, and that "even on the right" he or she is not taken seriously. The problem is that this is the protest no matter who we are criticizing; apparently, every prominent right-winger is just a clown whom even conservatives don't listen to. My question: if Horowitz, Robertson, et al. are all "pre-packaged strawmen," what right-winger should we take seriously? George Will? Tucker Carlson? William F. Buckley? Bill Bennett? Dinesh D'Souza? Peggy Noonan? Bill Safire? Grover Norquist? Because guess what - the shit that comes out of the mouths of these fucktards is every bit as inane as the nonsense spewed by the supposed "strawmen".

Bergman continues:
... the latter portion of his argument descends into almost jaw-dropping arrogance, as he asserts that there is no possibility for debate on such questions as "Was the U.S. justified in invading Iraq?" and "Is there a Social Security crisis?" Not that there are stronger and weaker arguments, but, again, that there is no possibility for "honest and intelligent" disagreement. The answers are determined, and, of course, Prof. Leiter knows them.
I don't want to put words in Leiter's mouth, but what Bergman doesn't seem to get is that the point isn't so much that these 'easy' questions don't deserve debate - it's that they've already been debated, and Bergman's side has lost. It's stupid to keep debating whether or not the Iraq invasion was justified for the same reason it's stupid to keep arguing about whether or not Nixon and Kissinger were war criminals - we already know the answer. Even if we acknowledge that Leiter's 'easy' questions deserve debate, that doesn't mean they deserve endless debate, after the answer has already been determined. The fact that some people refuse to recognize the obvious doesn't change this.
The absurdity of Leiter's view here seems well-captured by his first "easy question," on whether the United States was justified in the invasion of Iraq ... The question is whether the invasion was justified, i.e., performed in accordance with the demands of justice. Leiter says that it unequivocably was not, which I can only assume means that he has resolved the question of the meaning of the just. Since I somewhat doubt that a professor at the University of Texas is wiser and more knowledgeable than Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche, and all the other luminaries of Western thought whom Leiter purports to study, I am skeptical of the claim that he has solved the underlying question of political philosophy which eluded all of his predecessors.

But hey, maybe I'm just being obtuse. Prof. Leiter, tell the world, what is the just?
Bergman's argument here is obviously bogus; he thinks that the question of whether or not X is justified cannot be resolved since we haven't yet determined the very nature of 'justice'. This fallacy comes with a pedigree - it's essentially the same claim made by Socrates in the Euthyphro - but it is nonetheless a fallacy, and philosophers have long since rejected the notion that such 'Socratic questions' must be answered before we can address any concrete matters.

Steve Burton at Right Reason posts a generally incoherent attack on Leiter, pulling the clever trick of using a slight variation on Leiter's own words.
Professor Leiter writes on his blog as follows:

"When it comes to politics...reasons and evidence appear to play almost no role in changing anyone's views...it is quite rare to persuade anyone by a careful, reasoned argument--indeed, so rare, that I don't see it as worth the effort to try to do so on a blog."

But where is the argument of the piece?

Here is evidence that would seem, prima facie, to have bearing on these claims:

(1) Statistics on how often people change their political beliefs; (2) documentation of the role of reasons and evidence in such changes when they occur; (3) statistics on the exposure of people with strong political convictions to reasons and evidence contrary to their views; and (4) documentation of the effects of such exposure, or lack thereof.

Incredibly, no real evidence on these points is mentioned by the author.
Burton, apparently, needs evidence that most people are not persuaded by rational argument with regard to their political views. Nice guy that I am, I will proivde him with such evidence:

2004 Presidential Election Results
Candidate Votes %
George W. Bush 60,934,251 50.9%
John F. Kerry 57,765,291 48.2%

And that's a 119 million sample size, too.

Oh, and then Burton baselessly and sleazily accuses Leiter of being a "fag-basher." Classy.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory Sanity is not statistical.