Thursday, April 30, 2009

Frum on the Conservative "Deficit Hawk Republicans'" Double Standards

"I’ve never heard anyone derided as a “Republican in Name Only” for opposing the closing of redundant military bases, or for supporting Medicaid reimbursement formulas that favor the South and the West at the expense of the Northeast and California, or for favoring lavish FEMA reconstruction projects after hurricanes and tornadoes. Why not apply equal latitude to other regional concerns?" - David Frum noting the double standard self-declared budget hawks impose on their dwindling northeastern Republican counterparts.

Evangelical Conservative Says Republicans Must Get Serious on the Environment Environment

U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) says wind turbines will slow the wind down, causing higher temperatures but David Jenkins, an evangelical conservative no less doesn't think too much of his argument and says so at NewMajority.com. Suffice it to say, neither do I.

"Chu, a scientist who has won a Nobel Prize in physics, patiently explained that tectonic plates have moved around throughout earth history. Later, the GOP liveblog called Chu’s answer “perplexing.” What’s perplexing is why the blog writers find one of the basics of geology to be so difficult to grasp." - David Jenkins

Apparently, the Republicans don't know much about math either, which may explain why they didn't do too well balancing the budget when they were in power (tax cuts and increasing in spending don't lead to balanced budgets).

"Senator Jim DeMint told Arlen Specter last week he would be supporting Pat Toomey, Specter’s challenger in the Pennsylvania Republican primary. DeMint (R-SC) also said: “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.” This is stupid on so many levels. Besides the obvious uselessness of 30 principled senators for anything (they can’t even block an international treaty or a constitutional amendment), there’s a real damage here. DeMint has effectively told Maine’s Republican senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe that he does not want them in his caucus, and that may have consequences." - Andrew Pavelyev at NewMajority.com

Obama's Press Conference

is now posted on The New York Times' website.

On Torture:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You've said in the past that waterboarding in your opinion is torture. And torture is a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. Do you believe that the previous administration sanctioned torture?

MR. OBAMA: "What I've said -- and I will repeat -- is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.

I am absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do -- not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways -- in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "we don't torture," when the -- the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And -- and -- and the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people.

It corrodes the character of a country.

And -- and so I strongly believe that the steps that we've taken to prevent these kind of enhanced interrogation techniques will make us stronger over the long term, and make us safer over the long term, because it will put us in a -- in a position where we can still get information. In some cases, it may be harder. But part of what makes us, I think, still a beacon to the world is that we are willing to hold true to our ideals, even when it's hard, not just when it's easy.

At the same time, it takes away a critical recruitment tool that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used to try to demonize the United States and justify the killing of civilians. And it makes us -- it puts us in a much stronger position to work with our allies in the kind of international coordinated intelligence activity that can shut down these networks.



So this is a decision that I am very comfortable with, and I think the American people over time will recognize that it is better for us to stick to who we are, even when we're taking on a unscrupulous enemy."


Initial Reaction: Note the highlighted passages. Obama, it can be argued, is downplaying the significance of what happened. Yes, he is saying that the United States may have tortured those which it declared to be "enemy war combatants" but he refers to that analysis as "his opinion" and the "opinion" of others who have examined this issue when as a matter of fact this question as to whether torture was committed concerns laws violated and not policies disputed.

Note to what he said about the efficacy of torture. He would not emphatically reject the vice president's contention that its use might save lives. Conservatives will hound him on this topic tomorrow.

More here:

QUESTION: "Thank you, sir. Let me follow up, if I may, on Jake's question. Did you read the documents recently referred to by former Vice President Cheney and others, saying that the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques not only protected the nation but saved lives? And if part of the United States were under imminent threat, could you envision yourself ever authorizing the use of those enhanced interrogation techniques?"

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "I -- I have read the documents.

Now, they haven't been officially declassified and released. And so I don't want to go into the details of them.

But here's what I can tell you, that the public reports and the public justifications, for these techniques, which is that we got information, from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques, doesn't answer the core question which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn't answer the broader question, are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?

So when I made the decision to release these memos and when I made the decision to bar these practices, this was based on consultation with my entire national security team and based on my understanding that ultimately I will be judged, as commander in chief, on how safe I'm keeping the American people.

That's the responsibility I wake up with. And it's the responsibility I go to sleep with. And so I will do whatever is required to keep the American people safe.

But I am absolutely convinced that the best way I can do that is to make sure that we are not taking shortcuts that undermine who we are.

And -- and there have been no circumstances during the course of this first hundred days in which I have seen information that would make me second-guess the decision that I've made. Okay?"


My Initial Reaction: I can agree with the president's analysis in its entirety (and I do) yet here he politically undermined his argument here. On this occasion, President Barack Obama was specifically asked to comment on the memos former Vice President Richard Cheney wants declassified and yet again, the president does not emphatically deny the former vice president's contention that the CIA successfully extracted some information from an enemy war combatant utilizing techniques President Barack Obama officially banned.

Unfortunately, I don't think the public in general is as high-minded as our president. I think they won't object to the use of torture if CIA can extract such information successfully, and to suggest, as the president does, that it doesn't answer the question of whether this information can be extracted via more legitimate methods is besides the point. It wants the CIA to extract that information as quickly as it can, so that the United States can respond before the terrorists strike. Since we as a whole expect the government to save our lives from the next strike, they would consider its status as a "short cut" as an asset, not a weakness.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Durbin: Banks Own Congress

and what is the president going to do about it? Is he going to use his political capital to put these robber barons on Wall Street to shame or will he, like the gutless Democrats and Republicans in Congress, look the other way?

Crude & Hateful Comments

over at The New York Post's web site.
Very nasty, very anti-gay, very descriptive, and very juvenile.

Specter Update

Representative Joe Sestak told MSNBC host Ed Schultz that Senator Arlen Specter's party switch won't make a difference in whether he himself will run for the seat as a Democrat.

Chris Matthews let the senator have it when asked of his opinion on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown." He told his fellow MSNBC tv host that voters in Pennsylvania may not like the switch since it suggested that Senator Specter is a political opportunist whose bottom line is to protect is own political career.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter's Switch

Today Pennsylvania's senior senator, Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), said he is leaving the Republican Party, and run in 2010 as a Democrat. Mr. Specter was considered one of the moderate-to-liberal members of the Republican Party. On the social issues, Pennsylvania's senior senator has aligned himself with the libertarians and the liberals, thereby winning himself the votes of Philadelphia's culturally liberal suburbs without offending Pennsylvania's conservative Republican base too much.

The culturally liberal voters of Philadelphia's suburbs liked his votes to uphold abortion rights, extend basic job protections to gay and bisexual workers (ENDA), and grant illegal immigrants amnesty by offering them a "pathway to citizenship." The Republicans' culturally conservative voters, while not pleased with his voting record on the cultural issues, found an ally on gun rights and hate crime legislation (though he once supported it). Liberals and libertarians found some support when he voted to protect the habeas corpus rights of "enemy war combatants" and his critical stand against Bush's warrantless surveillance program.

Mr. Specter's economic record wasn't reliably conservative or liberal. He voted for the Bush tax cuts. He voted for He voted for card-check (though he now says he will vote against it, and most recently for President Barack Obama's stimulus package but against Obama's budget. Obama however, might have an ally on health care. He voted to extend SCHIP protections to legal immigrants, and, earlier, to override his predecessor's veto of the 2008 medicare bill.

Pennsylvania's senior senator has a mixed record on free trade as well. He voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement but for similar agreements with Peru, and Oman. In all likelihood his defection won't help the Democrats reach a filibuster-proof majority. The Democratic Party's margins are increasing because the Republican's base is weakening. The Democratic Party's base still needs to win over the votes of moderate "conservaDems" like Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) to break filibusters.

In his press statement, Specter attributed his switch to the heated opposition he faced from Republicans displeased with his vote for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package. Last month, however, Pennsylvania's senior senator said he would run as a Republican. He nevertheless faced stiff opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In his last primary race, he edged Pat Toomey by a 1,7% of the Republican's primary voters. Recent polls showed Toomey winning the rematch.

Mr. Specter knew the writing on the wall. The Republicans that would have voted for him switched sides to vote in last year's Democratic primary. Pennsylvania's senior senator did not believe he could get them to switch sides to vote for him in the Republican Party. The moderate wing which he belonged to was dwindling. Senator Jim Jeffords (R-Vermont) retired after first, leaving the Republican Party and caucusing with the Democrats. Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-Rhode Island) survived an expensive primary challenge only to be ousted by Senator (then Attorney General) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island). Congressmen Rob Simmons (R-Connecticut), Chris Shays (R-Connecticut), and much earlier Connie Morella (R-Maryland) lost their seats ion the House side.

Senator Specter obviously switched to save his political career. He did not want the conservatives to oust him from his senate seat even though he was criticized for moving Bush's judicial nominees through the system quickly.

He did, however, represent the increasingly marginalized moderate wing of a party that is dwindling in size day by day. Its minority problem (the failure to win over Arabs, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, gay Americans and religious-minority Americans) has become an American problem. In the last presidential election, the party's anti-intellectual strain was at its peak. Senator John McCain appointed the know-nothing governor from Alaska, Sarah Palin, to serve as his vice presidential running mate. It portrayed itself as the party of "real Americans" while dissing "community activists," and the voters in the urban areas. It ran on the same-old small-government, anti-tax agenda while failing to address the economic issues facing Americans who feared they may lose their jobs and homes at any moment.

Congressional Republicans defined their party as "the party of no," by voting against Obama's economic stimulus package while offering no new ideas. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) used his Republican response to Obama's address to Congress to oppose of all things, volcano research. Republican governors who are thinking of running for president initially turned down economic aid awarded through the stimulus package. One opposed unemployment benefits. Another wanted to use the money to balance the state's budget.

The Republicans really have to get their act together. Do they really want to oppose the funding of basic government services (like, say, railroad construction), and if so why would they want power in Washington?

Monday, April 27, 2009

FOX's Priorities

For some reason, I don't believe the powers-that-be at FOX like President Barack Obama. Yes, if you are reading the story, the FOX News Channel and the FOX Business Network (redundant right?) will be carrying it but that only works for those who have cable.

Nuanced Thinking on Abortion

Hurray! Steve Waldman gets it!


"The basic hunch that what's growing in the womb becomes more human as days roll by comports with what we know, or think we know, about human development. An embryo is a clump of undifferentiated cells. At week six, the heart is no bigger than a poppy seed but has begun beating. At 12 weeks, the fetus is just 2.5 inches long, but can wiggle toes and fingers; the brain is developing. At week 20, the fetus is exercising its lungs. At 22 weeks, some babies could survive if delivered prematurely. And any time in the third trimester, they're practicing breathing, listening and reacting to stimuli, doing many things a post-birth baby does but doing it indoors instead of out.

This belief that life within the womb is on a continuum is not explicitly reflected in the political debates about abortion. We debate whether we should have parental notification--not when we should have it. We question politicians on whether they'd provide government funding for abortion, not ever asking whether subsidies should be provided for early abortions but not late. ...

... Instead, an abortion policy matching the values implicit in the polls would focus less on rights or numbers and more on timing. Success would be measured on the basis of moving abortions earlier in the gestational cycle--even if that conceivably means more overall abortions. It would be not about whether, how or how many, but when. Not "safe, legal and rare" as Bill Clinton once said, but "safe, legal and early."
from Steven Waldman from BeliefNet.

Now, if only our political discourse could follow this line of reasoning.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Voting Conumdrum

What do you do when you are are totally with the base on one of these issues and totally against them on the other?
"But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more -- the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps -- or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance."
- David Broder in The Washington Post

or perhaps it is about justice. You know, that expectation that laws are to be followed and the guilty punished for committing crimes that all but ruin their victims' lives.

"One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?"

Absolutely. An egregious crime may have been committed in our name. There can be no debate about the efficacy of torture since it is against the law to torture. The only question that can be asked is if there is enough evidence to bring the issue before a court of law.

Obama, Pakistan, Iraq, and a need to Shift Priorities

When President Barack Obama was running for the position he now holds, some journalists questioned why he wouldn't admit that he was wrong when he opposed the United States troop surge which his campaign opponent, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) backed.

General David Petreaus crafted the troop surge when it seemed like Iraq was on the verge of falling apart. Reports of sectarian violence were found in the newspapers on a daily basis. It was unveiled after the voters ousted the Republican majority from Capitol Hill in 2006, promising to bring the war in Iraq to an end and after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked to resign. The public at that point no longer believed in the prior administration's claims that we were winning the war in Iraq.

Petreaus offered a comprehensive strategy. It included an escalation in troop levels and negotiations with some of their former enemies in the Sunni insurgency. Tribal leaders were promised American aid and a chance to have their troops incorporated within Iraq's armed force infrastructure if they aligned themselves with the central government in Baghdad.

Many tribal leaders took the deal and the de-escalation in violence was attributed to the troop surge and the associated negotiations with the Sunni Awakening, as the realigned Sunnis would later be called.

Senator John McCain backed the surge but President Barack Obama did not. He didn't think it could work. He believed we were engaging doubling down on a flawed strategy at the very moment Iraq was about to collapse.

I wasn't as skeptical or as optimistic as the either of the candidates had suggested they were when this issue was debated in Congress. A troop surge, I noted, might buy Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in Parliament some time to negotiate with the warring factions. In effect, the troops could uphold a ceasefire but they could not, by themselves, force a peace on warring factions that have no intention of negotiating with each other.

Any chance of winning the war in Iraq would require not only a doubling down in troops but also a doubling down in diplomacy. At the time, I thought we should use our leverage to force Maliki to sign onto a federalist power-sharing agreement so that Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish factions would have a reason to make peace. If he were to object we could always arm the Sunnis to help shift the balance of power and let the warring factions duke it out amongst themselves.

There was a decrease in violence so the troops did their part of the job heroically and effectively. The journalists were pleased and attributed this success to the troop surge which McCain backed. For his part, Obama avoided any questions concerning a potential mea culpa while members of his party either (a) credited to the apparent success to the negotiations with the Sunnis or (b) downplayed the degree of success by suggesting that nothing would come of this in the long term unless there was a permanent political solution.

Obama, who ran on the promise to withdraw U.S. "combat troops" within a 16-month period of time, ultimately changed his mind and now speaks for an 18-month withdrawal plan that leaves a good 30,000 - 50,000 residual force in Iraq until 2011.
He justified his "withdrawal" plan (or his appearance of one) on the grounds that yes, McCain was right because the troop surge worked, that Iraq's stability seems to be in tact.

That perception however, seems to be fading. Within the span of two weeks we have been bombarded with news reports concerning an escalation in violence and now there is a news report which suggests that the window of opportunity on future negotiations between the Maliki administration and the Sunni Awakening appears to be fading, as is the attempt to reintegrate some lower-level Baathists into Iraqi society as recommended by the Iraq Study Group.

The situation in Iraq isn't the only one which Obama must concern himself with, however. Pakistan may be on the verge of collapse. The Taliban, the group that provided Al Qaeda with the training camps it used to hatch their successful plot to bring down the World Trade Center, when they controlled Afghanistan, has now moved its forces within 60 miles of that country's capitol. We may be on the verge of keeping (or trying to keep) one country (Afghanistan) from providing them training camps while losing another (Pakistan). Worse, we don't know if the nuclear weapons in this country's possession would be secured were it to fall.

The administration may have to choose where we shall focus our efforts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised the Iraqis we would hold true to our commitments but our priorities lie with the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We never, in hindsight, had an interest in removing Saddam Hussein from power and there really hasn't been a chance that Al Qaeda would gain a foothold in that country in either case. Pakistan is a nuclear power that may very well fall into the hands of those who supported those who attacked us on 9-11.

President Barack Obama might want to rethink his decision to keep our troops in Iraq. They may be able to preserve the peace as long as they are there but at what cost? Obama must ask those who would have us stay whether we can afford to divert our resources to this endeavor and wait for Iraq's political factions to make a deal or whether he should move them to Afghanistan and Pakistan to save that region from the Taliban.

Wall Street Values

Gordon Gekko comes to mind. Really. The powers that be on Wall Street are concerned about the "talented stars" who ran everyone's 401K plans into the ground and not at all about the people who lost their pensions. Why don't they use their profits to reimburse some of those who now have to return to work? or at least use it to unfreeze credit like they were supposed to? Because they are greedy and the fact that they are getting bailed out by the taxpayers while doing this is maddening.

No pay cuts. No more bail out money. I don't know why the Obama administration is handling these guys with kid gloves. I would expect this treatment from the Bush administration. Obama promised change and yet here he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Torture Clue

"It's basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you're doing it wrong." CIA Counter Terrorist Center Chief Counsel Jonathan Fredman as quoted in the October 2, 2002 GTMO minutes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tortured Consensus

What follows comes from this story


Research Deficit:


"In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate."
from The New York Times

Administration and civil service employees not doing their research. Hmmm. It's plausible. We were told that the late Saddam Hussein was building up his non-existent weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq and were proven wrong.

They didn't even know of the plan's effectiveness? Why didn't they check the veracity of the program? Didn't they want to know if the program they were seeking to implement would work?


The Idiot Defense:


"Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used."

I don't think, therefore I know not.

Please tell me, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that you didn't tell the news reporter anything remotely close to what is described above. How could you not know that the CIA would use whatever methods they can if they were deemed legal? Denial. Denial. Denial.

A--anine Rules Impede Advice and Consent:

"Vicki Divoll, general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 and a former C.I.A. lawyer, would have been a logical choice to advise senators on the legal status of the interrogation methods. But because of the restricted briefings, Ms. Divoll learned about them only years later from news media accounts."

Why doesn't this surprise me.

The Senate Armed Forces Report is also on The New York Times' web site.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today's Foreign Policy Reading List on Pakistan and Afghanistan

from The Atlantic, a story about Pakistan and its dealings with the Baluchs that live within its borders. To me this article makes the case for enlightened imperialism or federalism. Governments which oppress minorities in their countries eventually lose them (see how Russian nationalism led to the war in Chechenya or how excessively-exclusive Serbian nationalism led to the loss of Kosovo and Montenegro).

Countries with diverse ethnic or religious groups must provide its minorities a means to rise to the top or to share in the country's spoils if they want to undercut or head off the call for nationalistic, self-determination movements.

China won't keep Tibet, ts Muslim-populated neighbor to the north (or regain Taiwan for that matter) by strangling them. It would keep them by co-opting their messages. The Dalai Lama has no quarrel with those who would keep Tibet in China but his successors at any future negotiating table would.

The Pakistanis could benefit from this message. Note the message coming from some of those interviewed in this story. Some look back fondly to the age of an Omani sultan. You heard me right. Another foreigner ruling them. Hardly the inspiration of a nationalistic movement. Could not the Baluchis live with the Pakistanis as their overlords? Sure. If the Pakistanis would give them some space.

Also in The Atlantic, a look at some old reports on Afghanistan.

Not that I'm sponsoring the magazine or anything but this story about the Pakistani military's tight control over the economy is also very interesting. What struck me though, as an American was the repercussions that followed after the United States suspended Pakistan's involvement in International Military Education and Training program:


"Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan, Musharraf’s press secretary until March 2007, spent six months in infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1983. He explained to me how the American training shaped the mentality of thousands of young officers of his generation. “It helps you to establish a better relationship and more understanding [of the U.S. perspective],” he said. “It broadens your outlook.” At a recent gathering of regional commanders in Kabul, Shaukat Sultan formed an immediate bond with an American brigadier he had last seen during his Fort Benning days. “It gave us a connection,” said Shaukat Sultan. “[Now] I can pick up the phone and call him directly.”

Shaukat Sultan was among the last of a breed, however. In 1987, toward the end of the mujahideen campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Congress threatened to impose sanctions if Pakistan continued to develop nuclear weapons. Three years later, the sanctions went into effect, and the United States suspended the IMET program. For the next 11 years, until 9/11, Pakistani officers had little or no contact with the U.S. military (IMET resumed in late 2001). “We lost a generation,” the Western military liaison officer told me. That generation now overwhelmingly makes up the ranks of brigadier, colonel, and major—and includes some generals—in Pakistan’s military.

By the early 1990s, as the Cold War was ending and the United States was disengaging from Central and South Asia, Pakistan’s army had taken on a more Islamist character. Back in 1979, Zia ul-Haq—in an attempt to stir up zeal for the campaign in support of Afghanistan’s mujahideen—had enacted a raft of Islamist ordinances, or hudood, posting an imam to every unit, encouraging prayer in the barracks, and installing a religious-affairs directorate at general headquarters. Banners outside army recruiting centers reportedly urged Pakistanis to enlist for the sake of Allah and jihad."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Parody Storm

Here are some of the best:

interracial marriage


the double standard argument here.

Colbert's iss really good too.

the idiot argument
.

the anti-Republican governor version.

plain sarcastic

but my favorite.

A Brief Question on Secession

Now that Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) left the door open on Texas' secession from the union I wonder if we could accuse him of being unpatriotic. Is he one of the "real Americans" Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) was referring to during the 2008 presidential election campaign? Now that I'm thinking about it, does Governor Perry have a flag pinned to his business suit?

Republicans Have a Chance: The Populist Opening

"But in that same poll, 58 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the administration's plans to provide financial aid to the banks. In other words: Maybe this is necessary, but we don't like it. Among self-described independent voters, 68 percent disapproved of how the administration was bailing out the banks.

I dwell on this one question buried deep inside one poll because I think it contains a quiet warning -- the same message that could be discerned amid the random noise of the Howard Beale shoutfests. When the economy begins to rebound, Wall Street will come back first -- already, we're seeing some big banks, still bloated with taxpayer funds, reporting healthy profits. After recovery begins, unemployment will almost certainly continue to rise for months until it hits its peak. The mad-as-hell faction may thrive and multiply.

A growing sense of us vs. them, of the little guy vs. the big guy, is out there waiting to be exploited by anyone clever enough to fashion a sophisticated populist critique of the Obama administration's policies. I know it seems crazy to use words like "clever" and "sophisticated" in connection with today's Republican Party, but stranger things have happened."
columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post


"I think Democrats need to be careful not to turn their backs on what could become a dangerous conflagration: a grassroots populist backlash fueled by the perception -- one based on a lot of reality -- that the Obama economic team is treating Wall Street with kid gloves, and acting as if the interests of the big banks are aligned with the public interest, even though again and again we are presented with evidence of how much they diverge." - Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post


"I‘ve got some issues with the middle class and the wage earners who I think are getting a raw deal in this economic recovery.

Now, look, you know I‘m a fan of the president. He says we‘re in this together. I got all that.

But Mr. President, please listen tonight. There is a double standard between what‘s going on, on Wall Street, and what‘s happening on Main Street, and it‘s all about the money"
Ed Schultz on his new show, "The Ed Show" which airs every weekday at 6:00 PM ET.

To date they largely haven't taken it. They turned against TARP, which is very unpopular but they also hammered away at the aid to the automakers, depriving them of a chance at winning the union worker to their side. Nevertheless, labor turnout might go down, costing Obama several Congressional seats if he is perceived as helping Wall Street while leaving Detroit to fend for itself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Torture Rationalized

Well, the torture memos have been posted on The New York Times' web site.


So what acts of torture (excuse me, "enhanced interrogation techniques" did CIA officials ask the Justice Department to use?

1. the "attention grasp" - grasping the prisoner with both hands - one on each side of the collar. I guess this makes the prisoner think he might be choked to death.

2. "walling" - shove the prisoner back-first into a make-through wall with enhanced sound so that it seems like he or she is being shoved into a real wall. Whiplash is prevented through the use of s towel or rolled head.

3. "face hold" - immobilize face with hands. An act of physical intimidation - basically the means to convince a prisoner that he or she will be tortured or beaten if he or she does not cooperate.

4. "facial slap" - see the movie "Rendition" but really, no need to explain this.

5. "cramped confinements" - leave the prisoner in s tightly closed space for a period lasting no more than 2 hours or 18 hours (depending upon the size of the space).

6. "wall standing" - prisoner leans into wall (from 4 to 5 feet away) and supports his or her otherwise motionless body with his or her fingers. intended.

8. "Sleep deprivation" - obvious but the period described can last 11 days. There is an understanding that this could lead to "abnormal reactions" or "psychological problems" so doctors will be present. The availability of medical personnel proves acknowledgment of torture.

9. Insect - drop a harmless insect (though the prisoner is told it is the insect he or she fears the most) into the box with the prisoner

10. Waterboarding - I'll just take from the memo:

"In this procedure the , the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is usually four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done the cloth is lowered until it covers the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, airflow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual's blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide causes stimulates increased efforts to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of "suffocation and incipient panic."



It should be noted at the outset that these techniques were to be employed in an "increased pressure phrase," in "some sort of escalating fashion." Implicit in this description is the acknowledgment that the CIA was not dealing with a "ticking bomb" scenario used to justify these techniques.

Oddly enough, the employment of these "enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah are justified by noting how he is familiar with and probably trained on coping with these techniques.

Some of these techniques may fall within the legal parameters of permissible conduct and others do not. Some are borderline but the Justice Department provides no clear guideline for differentiating between acts which cause "discomfort" and acts that cause severe, acute, and enduring pain.

The CIA officials requesting a legal opinion are told that the "stress position" and "walling" techniques" employed might cause "muscle fatigue" and maybe even "pain" but not of the intensity sufficient to amount to 'severe physical pain or suffering." To qualify as "severe physical pain or suffering," it must be "difficult for the individual to endure" and be as intense as that "accompanying serious physical injury." The "muscle fatigue," for all we know, mibht be "difficult to endure." The sensation of drowning a prisoner may feel as his or her air flow is slightly restricted and water is poured over his or her face could be "difficult to endure."

Nowhere, however, in former U.S.Attorney Jay S. Bybee's opinion, however, are these phrases "difficult to endure" or"accompanying serious physical injury" are not defined so it would be hard for any CIA official to credibly suggest that its techniques are legally permissible and the the authors of these memos would find it difficult to explain their reasoning.

The burden for proving mental abuse which the Justice Department authors rely on is inexplicably high, for they say any and all of the four "predicates," (intentional infliction or threat of infliction of severe pain, intentional infliction or threat of infliction of death, the administration of or threat of administering mind-altering substances or the threat that any of the said acts will be inflicted upon someone else) each which separately would be sufficient to classify an technique as an act of torture, must be invoked before the employment of that act would be forbidden.

Bybee use tortured logic to uphold the "attention grasp" and facial hold. They say both techniques can be utilized since any "threat of severe physical pain or suffering" would have to be inferred as long as such threats were not explicitly stated. That threat will, could easily, however, be inferred, when an act akin to choking the person is utilized. The use of waterboarding clearly presents a case where there is an imminent threat of death. It however, inexplicably survives the Judicial Department's scrutiny since there is no known threat of prolonged mental harm.

Ultimately, anything which the CIA employed would survive scrutiny if the intent nullification rule is employed. According to the Justice Department employees' reasoning, the intent to harm a person must be proven before any technique can be considered an act of torture.






Monday, April 13, 2009

Bush Officials to Be Indicted (in Spain Anyway)

Unfortunately, nothing will come of this. The Obama administration probably won't heed any calls to have the former Attorney General, his underlings, or anyone else within the Bush administration show up in court. Still, it's nice to see someone take an interest in what happened at Guantanamo Bay. Someone has to answer for the alleged war crimes perpetrated at the office.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pirates Foiled

Just when I thought the French were going to outshine us. We were going to let these losers from Somalia dictate the terms and let this ragtime army of bandits stare down the most powerful navy in the world while the French commandos rescued most of their hostages with relative ease.

Those Norwegians paid the ransom demanded of them. What wimps.

Now if only we could dump the bodies of the deceased pirates on the Somali shores to send their comrades and competitors a message. Take our men hostages and you will face our wrath.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"His body of work has not come."

"His body of work has not come." Right.

Graduating from Columbia University and then, magnum cum laude from Harvard, editing the Harvard Law Review, writing two books, teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School and running a highly successful presidential campaign against the establishment candidate isn't enough to win an honorary, let alone, real degree from the University of Arizona. Whose the idiot who signed off on this statement?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Why you Might Be a Member of the "Far Left"

if you appear on MSNBC and not FOX News. Yes. Colin Powell has taken a "sharp turn to the left." And why? see above. Phew. Glad I know where Powell stands. He couldn't possibly expect any tough questions concerning torture, domestic spying, the war in Iraq, or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" from Rachel Maddow.

Pirate Question Avoided

"Guys, we're talking about housing right now." - President Barack Obama, refusing to answer a question about the pirate/hostage standoff.

I thought the president said he could "walk and chew gum at the same time."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

One Conservative Say Franken Should Probably Get his Seat

"I think it's time for him to give up this fight."

Rames Ponnuru at The National Review

Need to scroll down - 3:05 PM

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Vermont

Today, the first state to offer its gay and lesbian residents civil unions has become the first to legalize gay and lesbian marriages through the legislative process. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and California legalized their gay and lesbian marriages through the court process. California's pro-gay marriage ruling was overturned by a constitutional amendments but efforts to overturn pro-gay rulings in Connecticut and Massachusetts ultimately failed.

Many gay marriage who oppose the union between one man and one man or one woman and one woman hide their anti-gay animus by objecting along procedural grounds. They accuse gay marriage proponents of circumventing the democratic process by pleading their case before some unelected justices. These decisions, many of them argue, should be made by their state legislators or by the public at large.

Ramesh Ponnuru a conservative who writes for The National Review, posted a threat on The Washington Post's discussion board denying the Iowa Supreme Court ruling's legitimacy but his argument doesn't apply where in Vermont, the democratically-elected legislature voted for gay marriage.

Those of us who support gay marriage were, shall we say, waiting to see how they would react now that Vermont's gay activists used the very method conservatives call for. Rod Dreher, though by no means supportive, at least acknowledged the vote's legitimacy. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriages, questioned the democratic validity of the legislative process altogether. He of course was neither challenged to nor offered willingly, a reason why some acts should be decided through the legislative process and while others should rest with the populace at large.

FRC President Tony Perkins went ballistic (yawn). He too apparently doesn't believe in our republican form of government (whereby legislators are elected to make decisions).

Monday, April 06, 2009

Palin Soap Opera and the Media

Levi Johnston really struck a nerve when he went on the "Tyra Show" and told the whole world that he believes that Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), Senator John McCain's (R-Arizona) former vice presidential running mate knew that he and Bristol Palin were sexually intimate.

The reporters on MSNBC would have us believe she is defending her daughter's honor when in fact it is her own honor that is being questioned. If in fact she did know (and to be fair to Palin, Johnston's wording suggests he is merely speculating), then she is hypocrite for espousing "traditional family values" while letting Levi and Bristol off the hook.

And why are MSNBC anchors goading Palin to speak out against Iowa's gay marriage ruling? If, as they argue, she is defending her daughter's honor, wouldn't that be more important than, say courting the morally bankrupt religious right?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Loop Holes for the Rich

This is really depressing. Who does Prsident Barack Obama and his team work for? The hard-wokring middle class taxpayer or the rich fat cats on Wall Street who brought this nation to financial ruin?

Friday, April 03, 2009

SC Govenor (Finally) Makes Right Decision on Stimulus

It took Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) to realize the obvious and accept the money. Personally I think he should have fought tooth and nail so that the remaining states could vie for more funding.

I guess he will say, in his defense, that he should be rewarded with the Republican nomination since he was the last to cave in.

Taking Questions from Europe

"In recent years we've allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there's something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." - President Barack H. Obama


But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad.


The president is really off to a good start. Today he held a town hall question & answer session with Europeans. That's right, he promoting America's good will by appealing to the public, not just state actors.

How refreshing.

Obama: Tough on CEOs at White House

President Barack Obama has been taking some flack from MSNBC because he was tougher on the auto companies than he was with the Wall Street financial firms that wrecked our economy. The Huffington Post now reports that Obama talked tough to the Wall Street CEO's at The White House.

I certainly hope this is true and not merely damage control spin.

In depressing news, however, it appears as if a regulation designed to forbid companies which receive TARP money from handing out merit-less-based "retention bonuses" was dropped from the senate bill.

Morning Joe: Bush's Gaffes Recalled

Bipartisan recollection too, on "Morning Joe."

Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal brought up the tooth paste quote and liberal columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post brought up the back rub.

Unilateral Disbanding = Unliateral Political Disarmament

This state's gay rights organization may think they are done fighting the culture war now that gay marriage is the law of the land, but the religious right doesn't think it is done.
"Bigotry, in all forms, requires a shocking arrogance, a belief that other communities deepest desires revolve around your destruction. It is the ultimate narcissism, a way of thinking that can only see others, through a paranoid fear of what one might lose. The fears are almost always irrational. To go back to Chuck D, perhaps he was too cold when he said, "Man, I don't want your sister." But there was deep truth in it, the idea was, "Fool, this ain't about you and your fucked-up sexual hangups." In much the same vein when I read people complaining that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, I think, "Fool, these gay motherfuckers ain't thinking about your marriage. This ain't about you and your hang-ups." Ta-Nehisi Coates, joining the now 7-8 blog entry debate between Andrew Sullivan, Damon Linker and David Link on the pro-gay side and Rod Dreher on the anti-gay side.

Key Passages: :

Damon Linker started the debate with this article which can be used to not only discredit a "traditionalist's" opposition to homosexuality but also his or her adherence to religious doctrines:


"Rod has shown in his work as a journalist writing about the sex-abuse scandal in (and its cover-up by) the Catholic Church that he's perfectly willing to aggressively challenge religious authorities when he believes them to be acting immorally. Good for him. It shows that he's modern -- that is, he chooses which authorities to obey based on his own subjective judgment. So when Rod obeys the authority of orthodox (in his case, Eastern Orthodox) Christian teaching on homosexuality, he does so because he chooses to obey -- because he makes the subjective judgment that that teaching is true, is right, is worthy of being obeyed.

But why? Does Rod have any non-question-begging answer to this question? An answer that doesn't just amount to saying, "because the church says so"? That would be the answer of someone who really lives and thinks in (pre-modern) obedience to church authority. But we've already determined that this doesn't apply to Rod. So what's the answer? Why are the orthodox churches right to condemn homosexuality? Or in Rod's own words, what, precisely, does he "know to be true" about homosexuality? And, perhaps more importantly, how does he know it?


Right, and the powers that be in Roman Catholic Church in particular, by accepting the literal truth of some but not all Biblical passages, shows they are pulling their rules from their a--es.

Rod Dreher then responds here:

"Why does it surprise Damon that a traditional Christian, especially one with children, would be concerned about the role the collapse of traditional sexual morality plays in the direction of our culture? We live in a highly eroticized culture, in which the gift of human sexuality is debased as a way to merchandise products, and the false promise of sexual "liberation" serves as an affront to human dignity. I know this. I've lived it. People who don't grasp the power of sex to wreck lives and disassemble a tolerable social order simply aren't paying attention. You want to see what happens when the only rule guiding people's sexual behavior is their own desire? Check out inner-city America. You don't have to be a religious conservative, or any kind of conservative at all, to observe that a permissive sexual ethic is terrible for society, especially for the poor, and for girls." Not that any of what he said here has anything to do with gay marriage.

He continues:

"If homosexuality is legitimized -- as distinct from being tolerated, which I generally support -- then it represents the culmination of the sexual revolution, the goal of which was to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth. It is to lock in, and, on a legal front, to codify, a purely contractual, nihilistic view of human sexuality. I believe this would be a profound distortion of what it means to be fully human. And I fully expect to lose this argument in the main, because even most conservatives today don't fully grasp how the logic of what we've already conceded as a result of being modern leads to this end."


Andrew Sullivan obviously sided with Linker without injecting himself into the debate (at first).


Next thing you know, Rod Dreher says Linker and Sullivan argue in bad faith by treating his traditional Christian viewpoint as an illness.

which led Damon Linker to respond by reiterating/regurgitating his main point:

"Among many other things, Christian scripture and tradition affirm the legitimacy of slavery, claim that the Jews are cursed for killing Jesus, and assert that one must give away all of one's belongings and even learn to hate one's own family before following Christ. These are just a few of the matters on which contemporary Christians, including orthodox Christians like Rod, feel quite comfortable breaking with, or explaining away, scripture and tradition. And it's a good thing, too, because it shows that they're willing to think for themselves about important moral issues and to use their minds to separate out what is enduringly true in scripture and tradition from the unexamined prejudices that shape and distort everything touched by human hands, very much including received religious norms, practices, and beliefs. The issue, then, is to determine why so many contemporary Christians have decided that the teaching on homosexuality -- but not the teachings on slavery, Jews, and the most stringent requirements of becoming a disciple of Christ -- deserves to be preserved."


before refuting Dreher's nihilism slippery slope "argument."

Andrew Sullivan, I guess troubled by Linker's dismissal of his "nothing added to the debate" endorsement, then offers a far stronger refutation of the nihilism argument here:

"Constructing legal and civil relationships within which to express our love and sexuality is not, in my view, "nihilist". Nor is the civil equality of gay people somehow a means "to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth." It is to take human love, body and soul, to be the central, meaningful human experience - a fundamentally Christian project. And it is to accept, as Christians have in so many other areas, that the modern world needs to be organized along principles that all citizens can accept, which means something more than a recourse to one group's religious texts, or, indeed, the arguments about them within those religious groupings.

Moreover, far from nihilistically renouncing nature, the marriage movement aims at reclaiming the mantle of nature for homosexuals alongside our heterosexual peers and siblings and parents. We know now that same-gender attraction, bonding and sex is ubiquitous in nature, and almost certainly has some evolutionary explanation. We know too, experientially, that the love cherished by many gay couples is real and beautiful and deeply human. It is not merely "contractual" or "nihilist". It is organic, natural and completing. It is humanizing and it is civilizing. History is full of such relationships, and they stand proudly alongside their heterosexual peers. The reduction of these shared lives and loves to abstract sexual acts is itself a form of bigotry. It is an attempt to reduce the full and complex human being to one aspect of his or her humanness. It is, in my view, anti-Christian to speak of gays the way this Pope does. The Christian calling is not to guard ferociously the ramparts of the 1950s out of fear but to listen to the experiences of gay people - what the Second Vatican Council calls the sensus fidelium - and try to integrate their humanity into the structures from which they have been so cruelly excluded, with such horrible human consequences, for so long."


Unbeknown (or ignored) by them, David Link offers two responses here. In the first, he says he could understand why Dreher doesn't like his anti-gay views portrayed as a mental illness and then adequately refutes Dreher's ridiculous assertion as to why "victory" on this issue is as important to Christians as it is gays). In the second, he chastizes Dreher for his refusal to address the questions Andrew Sullivan and Damon Linker posed to him.

Excerpt from the Ruling: The Procreation Argument

Here the Court makes sense:

"The County also proposes that
government endorsement of traditional civil marriage will result in more
procreation. It points out that procreation is important to the continuation
of the human race, and opposite-sex couples accomplish this objective
because procreation occurs naturally within this group. In contrast, the
County points out, same-sex couples can procreate only through assisted
reproductive techniques, and some same-sex couples may choose not to
procreate. While heterosexual marriage does lead to procreation, the
argument by the County fails to address the real issue in our required
analysis of the objective: whether exclusion of gay and lesbian individuals
from the institution of civil marriage will result in more procreation? If
procreation is the true objective, then the proffered classification must work
to achieve that objective.

Conceptually, the promotion of procreation as an objective of marriage
is compatible with the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the definition of
marriage. Gay and lesbian persons are capable of procreation. Thus, the
sole conceivable avenue by which exclusion of gay and lesbian people from
civil marriage could promote more procreation is if the unavailability of civil
marriage for same-sex partners caused homosexual individuals to “become”
heterosexual in order to procreate within the present traditional institution
of civil marriage
."

duh.

and of course, the reverse is also true, not that the court says so:

"A fourth suggested
rationale supporting the marriage statute is “promoting stability in opposite
sex relationships.” While the institution of civil marriage likely encourages
stability in opposite-sex relationships, we must evaluate whether excluding
gay and lesbian people from civil marriage encourages stability in oppositesex
relationships. The County offers no reasons that it does, and we can
find none. The stability of opposite-sex relationships is an important
governmental interest, but the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage
is not substantially related to that objective."


A law permitting gay marriage will not convince heterosexuals to break up their marriages to marry a member of the opposite sex.

Excerpt from the Ruling: Reasoning We Can Do Without

For political reasons, this passage is unsettling for we know that the enemy will use this to justify opposition to ENDA (which would protect workers from same-sex orientation-based discrimination in the workplace and housing, the Matthew Shepherd Act (which would impose harsher penalties for bias crimes), DOMA reversal and the Uniting American Families Act (which would allow gay Americans the right to sponsor their non-American partners for citizenship and thus entitle them to the same immigration rights their straight counterparts take for granted):


"Not surprisingly, none of the same-sex marriage decisions from other
state courts around the nation have found a person’s sexual orientation to
be indicative of the person’s general ability to contribute to society.

More importantly, the Iowa legislature has recently declared as
the public policy of this state that sexual orientation is not relevant to a
person’s ability to contribute to a number of societal institutions other than
civil marriage. See Iowa Code § 216.6 (employment); id. § 216.7 (public
accommodations); id. § 216.8 (housing); id. § 216.9 (education); id. § 216.10
(credit practices).19 Significantly, we do not construe Iowa Code chapter 216
to allow marriage between persons of the same sex, a construction expressly
forbidden in the Iowa Code.

See id. § 216.18A (“[Chapter 216] shall not be e.g., In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 442; Kerrigan, 957 A.2d at 434–36;
Dean v. District of Columbia, 653 A.2d 307, 345 (D.C. 1995); Conaway, 932
A.2d at 609. More importantly, the Iowa legislature has recently declared as
the public policy of this state that sexual orientation is not relevant to a
person’s ability to contribute to a number of societal institutions other than
civil marriage. See Iowa Code § 216.6 (employment); id. § 216.7 (public
accommodations); id. § 216.8 (housing); id. § 216.9 (education); id. § 216.10
(credit practices).19 Significantly, we do not construe Iowa Code chapter 216
to allow marriage between persons of the same sex, a construction expressly
forbidden in the Iowa Code."


Also the Court's reasoning here is dubious since it is highly selective (the Court is affirming the legislature's reasoning here but not with respect to marriage) and suggestive in importance (as if this recognition from the state is required for the Court to reach its own ruling on marriage discrimination).

Excerpt from The Ruling: Why Notion That Gays Can Marry Argument (if only Opposite Sex Partners) is not Credible

"It is true the marriage statute does not expressly prohibit gay and
lesbian persons from marrying; it does, however, require that if they marry,
it must be to someone of the opposite sex. Viewed in the complete context of
marriage, including intimacy, civil marriage with a person of the opposite sex
is as unappealing to a gay or lesbian person as civil marriage with a person
of the same sex is to a heterosexual. Thus, the right of a gay or lesbian
person under the marriage statute to enter into a civil marriage only with a
person of the opposite sex is no right at all
. Under such a law, gay or
lesbian individuals cannot simultaneously fulfill their deeply felt need for a
committed personal relationship, as influenced by their sexual orientation,
and gain the civil status and attendant benefits granted by the statute."


Duh.

Iowa Supreme Court Says Yes to Gay Marriage

Wow. I am surprised. Usually when a higher court is going to hear a case its members are thinking about overturning the verdict held by a lower court. My thoughts are, as usual, mixed. Progress on gay rights is always welcomed on this blog but I do wonder about the backlash. This decision was, after all, made through the judicial process and not by the public at large and as we have seen in California, such progress can be easily overturned and since this decision was made in the heartland and not in a coastal liberal state like California, we can expect the opposition to push for a constitutional amendment which bans not only gay marriages but also civil unions, domestic partnerships, the Court's employment of "heightened scrutiny" (which is what the Court used here) when considering sexual orientation-based discrimination and who knows, maybe even employment nondiscrimination laws at the state and local level. The nuclear option will be employed.

Amendment backers have two ways (see Article X) to change Iowa's Constitution. For starters, they could ask their state representatives to let the public vote amend the state's constitution. Before such an amendment can go to the people it would have to pass by a simple majority vote in both houses twice - once by the legislative majority in power and the second by the new legislative majority that is voted into power after the general elections held in November.

Governor Chet Culver's political statement leaves a lot to be desired. It was sufficiently vague enough to suggest he could let the matter rest or pressure members of his own party to back such an amendment, depending upon the public's reaction. Governor Culver is a Democrat but he will probably run for a second term in a state not known for a strong gay rights record.

In the alternative, they could appeal to the public and have them vote for a constitutional convention in 2010 (every ten years this option is offered). If a simple majority of Iowa voters vote for the constitutional amendment, the state assembly will "provide for the election of delegates" who would in turn vote for or against any proposed amendment. If they vote for any proposed amendment they would submit them to the public at large.

I of course believe we should have the same right to marry our straight counterparts take for granted. Almost everyone, gay or straight, hopes they will find that right person they will spend the rest of their lives with. To use the state's law to demean those of us whose sexual nature leads us to seek that kind of relationship with a member of the opposite sex is particularly cruel.

Reasonable people can and do of course, disagree, and that makes the Court's decision even more remarkable given that there were no dissents. This is a first. Gay unions do not lead to procreation; straight relationships do so a state's decision to value the latter over the former is to some limited extent, understandable but science has a way of promoting that task without the state interference.

Most men want to marry a woman and most women want to marry a man and when they do engage in sexual intercourse they will, in all likelihood, give birth. States need not encourage people to engage in activities they will in all likelihood engage in anyway, nor should states penalize those whose sexual orientation makes such procreative living arrangement expectations nearly impossible to live up to.

Prudence though, might have led the court's justices to rule as New Jersey's Supreme Court justices did, and let the legislature decide whether they will recognize civil marriages or, in the alternative, civil unions.

A summary of the court's opinion can be found here (warning - this is a PDF file)
and the full opinion here (again, PDF File).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New York Congressional Race

Governor David Patterson's (D-New York) decision to give former U.S. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand Hillary Clinton's vacated senate seat will go down in history as one of the dumbest political stunts in history. He removed from the House a Congresswoman whose vote on the (economic issues) was reliable (or at least reliable enough given the political circumstances) and gave the Republicans a fighting chance in a district that typically leaned their way.

Now, it looks like we might be in for another court battle which will probably commence (officially) after the absentee ballots are counted. Perhaps I should start a new poll? Which race will be settled first? the Norm Coleman/Al Franken Senate race or the Scott Murphy/Jim Tedisco House race?

"Tough Love" for Detroit: Both Sides

represented at The Washington Post

Richard Cohen says no to a bail out and yes to Obama's decision:

"This is where bankruptcy comes in. It slows things down. It's a mechanism. It's a process. It takes things step by step. It has been designed for situations such as the one the auto manufacturers face. It puts things into court and out of the political arena, where both the United Auto Workers and the Big Three can play the lobbying game. Bankruptcy can save the industry."


The rest of his argument isn't very convincing. Yes, politics shapes what can and can't be done but it isn't an intellectually gratifying argument that he is offering and the difference in standards imposed between auto company and banks is jarring.


Eugene Robinson
more or less disagrees:

"The president is telling Detroit to shape up or die while at the same time politely asking Wall Street, whose recklessness and greed caused this economic crisis, if it would be so kind as to accept another heaping helping of taxpayer funds."


I largely agree with this argument but it should be noted that this isn't an argument for a bail out as much as it is an argument for (a) all ball outs or (b) for no bail outs or (c) imposing strict standards on bail outs for those who take them - not an argument for giving the auto companies a bail out.

One thing they both agree on - Wagoner's exit - but who can argue with that?

Politics at Justice Department

Holder's decision to get involved may expose President Obama's Justice Department to some of the same concerns raised by Democrats during George W. Bush's presidency.

Democrats claimed then that political considerations infused decisions on subjects including environmental regulations and national security policy. In particular, Bush's OLC drew criticism when lawyers allegedly shaped their analysis on harsh interrogation tactics and warrantless eavesdropping to fit the views of superiors in the White House.
excerpt from The Washington Post


You think? The more things change, the more they stay the same. The politicization of the Justice Department continues. If at first the boss doesn't like the legal reasoning offered by his staff, have said staff rewrite the legal opinion so it conforms with own.

Why not just assign the staff to come up with a legal opinion but mandate consideration of, in writing, the counterargument?