Friday, November 04, 2005

Republicans Popular in Latin America

Caracas 1958

Argentina 2005

10,000 protest against Bush

10,000 protest against Bush
Friday November 4, 2005

Women belonging to the human rights group Mothers of Plaza de Mayo wave Cuban and Venezuelan flags before a rally against the visit of the US president, George Bush in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

Around 10,000 protesters chanted "Get out Bush!" today on the streets of the Argentinean resort which is hosting the Summit of the Americas.

Celebrities including the Argentinean soccer legend Diego Maradona are among the demonstrators who have gathered at the resort of Mar Del Plata, where the two-day summit starts later today.

The US president, George Bush, arrived late last night at the resort, 250 miles south of Buenos Aires. He faces a fight to press forward his administration's free trade proposals at the 34-nation summit.

The end of the world as we know it....

And I don't feel fine!

Dr. Magoo and Schmidlap have raised very important points concerning the long-term prospects for the country. I have wrestled with variations of this issue before, as I have noted that if this technology had been available 20 years ago, I would not have been moved to write every day about my seething contempt for the White House. Oh, it was there, as the Keystone Kops of the Reagan administration took us to war in Grenada to protect the world's strategic supply of nutmeg, and equated Nicaraguan death squads with our founding fathers, but most days I just didn't think about it.

What is different?

Well, for one thing, Reagan's follies, and their attendant scandals, didn't threaten the severe and permanent domestic and international harm that the disaster in Iraq presents. We also had congressional government by consensus, where bi-partisanship deserved more than lip service, and a Democratic party that was not cowed into subservience.

We also had not seen the "Limbaugh-ification" of America yet, where one is vilified and de-humanized for disagreeing with the administration and called a traitor for questioning their judgment on matters of national security.

But perhaps the biggest difference may be found in one simple word: legitimacy. Defined in the dictionary as "lawfulness by virtue of being authorized or in accordance with law, or undisputed credibility," the notion of legitimacy in our system has been a necessary component of sovereignty ("supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign".)

We have been assaulted, however, with two consecutive presidential elections in which we have no confidence in the outcome. What Reagan and Bush Sr. cast upon us was our fault, in a constitutional sense. Like it or not, no one could argue whether they were lawfully elected to the presidency. Today, though, it gnaws at us that this nightmare may not be of our making. A usurper sits in the Oval Office, is leading us down a disastrous path, has poll numbers comparable to serial killers and for more than three years, we can't do a damn thing about it.

One week from tomorrow.....

On November 12, in Greencastle, Indiana, we will see the 112th edition of one of college football's greatest rivalries, as Wabash College and DePauw University compete for possession of the Monon Bell. The all-time series is tied 51-51-9 after DePauw's 14-7 win in Crawfordsville last year.

Go Tigers!

From Federalist #4 (John Jay)

My last paper assigned several reasons why the safety of the people would be best secured by union against the danger it may be exposed to by just causes of war given to other nations; and those reasons show that such causes would not only be more rarely given, but would also be more easily accommodated, by a national government than either by the state governments or the proposed little confederacies.

But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes of war.

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

A quick word from Mr. Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Forecasting the future

A response to Schmidlap's "Like Prozac, only totally different" series about the state of America (not the band, although I have an ever-growing fondness for some of their work).

I know I tend to be somewhat of a cockeyed optimist. I mean, I have to be to be a Cubs fan, but it's more than that. Despite my scientific training, I don't always like the real world. It can be depressing, and the depths of stupidity that the human brain can sink to never fail to amaze me. So I live in a joint world - the one that exists, that we touch and see every day, and the one I envision, the one that great people create in my mind with their actions and dreams. The real world is one where I spend a disproportionately large amount of time obsessing over a baseball team that will never win, ever, and the vision world is one where I plan what I'll do after they win the World Series. The real world is one where I work for a university that isn't sure that physics is a valuable part of a useful education, and the vision world is one where we're planning what star system we're settling next with our fusion drive powered personal rockets. The two worlds come into conflict from time to time, often leading to me yelling at 1:30 in the morning about something or another, but it's okay. For the most part, I've made my peace with the dichotomy.
Optimism is an excuse to behave optimally. - Ray Bradbury

Before he went completely brain dead, Ray Bradbury used to write some great stuff. In a book of essays I ran across the above quote, and it resonated with me. Whatever I want to achieve in my life, it will be easier if I assume that it can be done, if I look at the future as something in which good things can occur.

That sounds a little too faith-based for me sometimes, that I look at the future that way just because I believe it can be better. That always tends to throw me some, so I need some evidence. Sometimes I run across it with my students. As dumb as some of them can be at times, there are moments that scare me with brilliance. I like to say that "There is no mistake so stupid that no student will make it, and there is no insight so brilliant that no student will find it." But it's a lot more than that.

Schmidlap isn't writing about the future in general, he's writing about America. What is our future? Yes, it's bleak in many ways. Every time I turn around, there are examples of corruption and greed and ignorance and willful stupidity and hatred and bigotry and wrongs for which there are no words. But that's not all I see. In the real world, we have a government run by people who, if we had a reality show on Fox "Who wants to be the President", and deliberately chose the worst people, would win hands down every time. However, in the real world we also have the Constitution, which is as wonderful a document as has ever been turned out by political minds.

In my vision world, the two come together. And it has happened before - at critical times in America's history, people have come along who rose above the crap to make the country better. None of us would be here if George Washington didn't have the leadership, charisma, and skill to be the pole star for a fragile and fractured country. Or if Abraham Lincoln hadn't been willing to disregard condemnation and choose the hard fight. Or if FDR didn't recognize government's ability to be an agent of good for the people, and use the power of the country to make people's lives better.

I know without a doubt that there are such people out there today. Given 300 million people, even people subsumed by the public school system and Fox"News", there are geniuses. There are leaders. There are people who we look to when we want to see how the world can be better. Unfortunately, the political system is one where such people are marginalized, disregarded, and ignored in favor of inoffensive pablum.


The question for next time is "In such a system, can a great leader really rise to the top and galvanize the country?" I argue that the answer is yes, but that person has to have a specific special set of characteristics.

More to come.

Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!

There is a ton of traffic, so the site is often busy, but you can find Brownie's Katrina email here.

Italian lawmaker: U.S. told of WMD forgeries

Italian lawmaker: U.S. told of WMD forgeries

Senator says Bush administration was warned Iraq documents were fake

ROME - Italian secret services warned the United States months before it invaded Iraq that a dossier about a purported Saddam Hussein effort to buy uranium in Africa was fake, a lawmaker said Thursday after a briefing by the nation's intelligence chief.

"At about the same time as the State of the Union address, they (Italy's SISMI secret services) said that the dossier doesn't correspond to the truth," Sen. Massimo Brutti told journalists after the parliamentary commission was briefed. Brutti said the warning was given in January 2003, but he did not know whether it was made before or after President Bush's speech.

The United States and Britain used the claim that Saddam was seeking to buy uranium in Niger to bolster their case for the war. The intelligence supporting the claim later was deemed unreliable.
Italian lawmakers questioned Premier Silvio Berlusconi's top aide and an intelligence chief Thursday about allegations that Italy knowingly gave the United States and Britain forged documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa.

Berlusconi, in an interview with the conservative daily newspaper Libero published Thursday, said Italy had not passed any documents on the Niger affair to the United States. He added that La Repubblica's allegations were dangerous for Italy because "if they were believed, we would be considered the instigator" of the Iraq war.

The Niger claim also is at the center of a CIA leak scandal that has shaken the Bush administration, leading to last week's indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby. Libby was charged with lying to investigators about leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson.
Wilson accused the administration of covering up his inquiry into whether Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger after he found the claim had no substance.

Dumb Democrats

Specifically Daniel Inouye (HI), Daniel Akaka (HI), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Jon "Not former Bulls center Dave" Corzine (NJ).

So the Senate has a big budget bill they're working on, and the GOP is trying to sneak through a section about drilling in ANWR. They can't get it through normally, because the Democrats have been filibustering it, but the budget isn't subject to filibuster. Now, drilling in ANWR won't have any useful effect on the economy, your wallet, or national security, not to mention the environment and the future of energy usage - the best estimates I've seen have oil costs dropping by 5% sometime aroun 2025. If that happened today, gas in Chicago wouldn't be $3, it would be $2.85, at least for a few minutes. Whoo.

Anyway, Maria Cantwell (WA) proposed an amendment to kill that provision in the budget, which failed 51-48. Two things to note about that - 1) 51+48 does not equal 100, because Corzine isn't there - he's off campaigning, and 2) Landrieu, Akaka, and Inouye voted against the amendment. So, despite getting 7 republicans to cross lines and vote with their brains (namely Lincoln Chaffee, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, John McCain, Gordon Smith, and Olympia Snowe), we lose again. Thanks guys.

The wisdom of Junior High students

From a thank you letter I got today from a junior high student who visited our observatory:

"I also learned about how the sun can kill you if you look at it through a telescope without the filter. It can kill you because the one part of the eye is connected to your brain, so the rays from the sun are so powerful it can explode."

My W Theory

Many people have commented on the president's bizarre behavior lately, suggesting that he is drinking again, doing cocaine or taking anti-depressants. Nora Ephron even suggested he is depressed because of his lack of exercise.

My theory is much more simple. The president actually died when he "choked on the pretzel," yet is not dead. The incomprehensible speech, the blotchy face and the awkward gait point to the inescapable conclusion that we have the first zombie president. While other presidents spent long nights pouring over policy briefings, this one roams the night to feed on the flesh of the living.

Just a theory.

DiFi's off the bus.....good for her!!

Dianne Feinstein, a member of the intelligence committee, said yesterday: "Had I known then what I know now, I never would have have cast that vote, not in a thousand years."

Interesting piece from Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a thoughtful moderate voice on the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, a group that tends to stand to the right of Otto von Bismarck. I commend today's column to you, but wanted to highlight one section:

In 1992, asked why the United States was content to evict Iraq from Kuwait while leaving Saddam Hussein in power, [Dick] Cheney replied: "Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place. You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq." He asked, "How many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is, not very damn many."

Hmmm...........2000+ and counting, and unfortunately, counting very quickly.


An editorial cartoon from Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Godspeed, Rosa

I wasn't born when Rosa Parks took a stand by staying seated. I grew up in Illinois, and did not experience institutionalized Jim Crow racism. Oh, it was there, all right, it just wasn't printed on signs. Everyone knew in the mid-1960's that the racial makeup of the movie audience at the local theater was different on the main floor than it was in the balcony. I knew those things, and I was a 10-year old kid. I cannot even imagine what every day must have been like in a world that said everywhere and every way, including under the law, that your humanity was defined by race. She was truly a PERSON of remarkable courage.

Godspeed, Rosa.

Stunt: Something done to attract attention or publicity.

Bill Frist called the Democratic action in the Senate a "stunt." The dictionary defines a "stunt" as "something done to attract attention or publicity." He should know:


No, shut them all down! Hurry!

Hunter, on the Daily Kos, has a great article up about why Harry Reid (and Dick Durbin) shutting the doors on the Senate was an excellent political move.
So how big a news day is it, when Trent Lott slicing up the wounded Karl Rove like a Thanksgiving turkey barely gets sixty-some-odd comments, at last count? Pretty big, all the way around.

In a move worthy of a Wild West gunfight, Minority Leader Harry Reid changed the political landscape on a dime, and cleaved the Republican talking point brigades into shards and splinters. This move was political brilliance on more fronts than I can count.

First, obviously, it forced the Senate to agree to finally investigate the massaged and/or bogus Iraq War intelligence, after stonewalling the investigation for over two years.

Second, it shows the American people that the Democrats are serious about the Republicans' ongoing dismissal of critical national security matters, even if Republicans like Frist and Roberts have proven over the last two years they aren't trustworthy or responsible about pursuing them. And that Democrats are also dead serious about the Iraq War, and investigating any frauds or manipulations used to send us into the quagmire.

It absolutely nails the Republicans to the wall on Plamegate. President Bush, the Senate, and now the entire nation knows that senior administration official Scooter Libby, chief of staff to the Vice President, was the first administration official to leak the name of a covert CIA agent to the press, in retaliation for her husband's political stance. And we now know that Rove was the second, and that the two had some conversations as to Plame's status and what they were telling reporters about it.

And yet Bush didn't fire either one of them. He allowed Libby to resign after being indicted for obstructing the further investigation into the White House leaks. And Rove remains by his side today, while the investigation continues.

Today, by demanding a response to Senate obstruction efforts, Reid squarely brought the national discourse back to the ongoing now-criminal obstruction efforts in the White House -- a criminal obstruction that had in the last days been made into a talking point praised by Republicans as a Republican victory over the investigation. And it masterfully highlights the fundamental dishonesty of a Republican Senate with no intentions of getting to the bottom of either of them. Frist squealed like a stuck pig at even the mere thought of having to discuss either matter.

It completely disrupted and short-circuited the nasty, Swift Boat hackery of the Republicans attempting to defend the far-right Judge Sam Alito. The Republican spin machine isn't the only group capable of setting the parameters of the national debate.

Perhaps most importantly, it fires a huge warning shot into the Republican efforts to break Senate rules to disallow filibusters. Remember, Reid did similar parliamentary moves during the last discussion of Senate-busting "nuclear" rule changes by Republicans. So this is just a little punch to say "You want to mess with the rules? We can make your legislative lives into an unworkable living hell, if you're not willing to play by the rules. Think about whether you want to fire those shots."

That is, in fact, why it was called the Nuclear Option by the original Republicans to propose it... because the Senate revolves around the basic comity of allowing the majority party to set the debate. But that's not because of the rules -- it's because of the gentlemen's agreement of the minority party. If the Senate goes nuclear, bye-bye gentlemen's agreement. Bye-bye to the ability of the Republicans to set the terms of legislation.

And finally, it made Bill Frist look like an utter amateur. Whining like a stuck pig, Frist made it perfectly clear that he isn't nearly the political tactician his lockstep demands for party loyalty require him to be. Today, Reid made Frist look like a complete fool -- actually, Frist mainly did it all by himself. This further weakens him and his own hold on his party.

Frist actually said, today: "Never have I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution."

Oh my. Lookie who started the gunfight, and now wants a timeout? Better start wearing a hockey mask, Frist, because I think Reid just made it perfectly clear that this isn't the only face-slap you're going to get.

Let's hear it for Reid. Simply masterful, as a parliamentarian and as a leader.

Update [2005-11-1 19:58:25 by Hunter]: Oh, it also strikes me that this is also a perfectly executed response to Bush nominating Alito yesterday with zero Democratic input. You don't warn us what you're going to do? Then we won't warn you either. Surprise! A lot hinges on at least a begrudgingly tolerated comity between the minority and majority party. If that goes, then the Republican agenda gets driven into a procedural ditch for the indefinite future.

Bird Flu Czar Named

Bush Names Coyote To Be Bird Flu Czar

(AP) President Bush has appointed Wile E. Coyote to head up the administration's Bird Flu Response Team. According to a White House spokesman, Mr. Coyote's track record of competence and success in dealing with birds is exactly what you would expect from the Bush administration.

Mr. Coyote is currently executive vice president of Acme Company, a subsidiary of Halliburton, Inc.

Where Angels Fear to Tread

I chided Pete the other day for tuning into Sean Hannity, but I suppose we all do stupid things, partly in an effort to try to understand what the thinking is on the political right. We do have to live in the same country as them (at least until they all move to South Carolina and secede), and if some portion of them can be brought back into the reality-based community, things would be better for all of us. So, from time to time, I also delve into their world, usually by going through the Daou Report on, and checking out a few of the right-wing blogs. I think I'm hoping that someday I'll come across something indicating that they know what's going on, that reason and rationality are somehow breaking through their thick skulls, but, alas, not yet.

Today the biggest topics are (shockingly enough) the nomination of Alito, Harry Reid's shutting of the doors on the Senate, and Scooter's Follies.

Here's what I've run across this morning, and I think this is a fairly representative summary of a large percentage of what I've read: "All of this righteous indignation by the Moonbats about the Libby indictment spells big trouble for them. While they focus on inside the beltway minutia, the average American is completely tuned out, despite the best attempts by the MSM. This indictment is simply not important to Joe Six Pack. In the real world gas prices have dropped back down, Thanksgiving is coming up and people are thinking about Christmas shopping. Consumer confidence and consumer spending are up. In the real world, their President has just nominated a sterling judge with impecable credentials to protect the constitutional rights of Americans against activist judges legislating from the bench. In the real world their President has just presented a plan to protect the American people from the threat of a Bird Flu Pandemic. In the meantime, the donks in Congress threatening a filibuster and are trying to protect their trial lawyer friends at the expense of the safety of the American public. So keep it up moonbats, you look loonier and loonier every day."

I won't reply directly to that wingnut, since he won't listen anyway (I read the rest of the thread. It hurt a lot.) However, there are number of things this person is confused about. Here's five.

1) The average American doesn't care about Valerie Plame, sure. A comment I saw once said, very wisely I think, "The administration says the American people want tax cuts. Well, duh. The American people also want drive-through nickel beer night. The American people want to lose weight by eating ice cream. The American people love the Home Shopping Network because it's commercial-free." But they do care when their president lies to them and people die. The SCLM (so-called liberal media) has not made the effort to expose the lies clearly, but with Scooter's trial, etc, they'll have no choice. Then people will care.

2) Gas prices are down - so low I can hardly see them. Here in Champaign, they're at a miniscule $2.19, although last weekend up in the city they were still near $3. After Exxon and Shell made record profits by gouging us with gas prices the last few months (as if they had no control over how much they hurt consumers), I'll be damned if I think $2.19 a gallon is somehow good. That's like saying "Well, it hurt a lot when you were jabbing 2 red-hot pokers up my nose, but now that there's only one, it's not so bad."

3) Consumer confidence is up? HA! That's a flat-out lie. "The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had plummeted in September, declined again in October. The Index now stands at 85.0 (1985=100), down from 87.5 in September. The Present Situation Index declined to 108.2 from 110.4. The Expectations Index decreased to 69.5 from 72.3 last month." In case that's too tough to read, here's a picture.

4) In other places here, Pete and I have both commented on the role of the judiciary. I'll just reduce my remarks here to: impeccable has 2 c's.

5) I haven't paid much attention to Chimpy's Bird-Flu "Plan" yet, but as soon as he comes up with a way to actually protect anyone from terrorists, which he's supposedly been working on for 4+ years, I'll start listening. In the meantime, go read this from this week's Onion.

So, as you travel 'round this great big world, remember that somewhere around 40% of adult Americans are willing to say that Chimpy McFlightsuit has done a good job as President. Also remember that, as of today, it's illegal to hit them with your car.

A response to Peter

I think the Senate has every right to study a nominee's ideology, at least with respect to this issue:
I believe that the Constituion, specifically the Bill of Rights, is an enumeration of specific rights that the state does not have, and, in essence, a statement that the guiding principle of American governance is not "majority rules", but "defense of the individual". The state, nor any of its agencies, cannot infringe on my rights to do a whole long list of things, regardless of the popularity or offensiveness of my viewpoint.

However, because the other two branches of government are populated with people who have their positions due to popularity contests (elections), their continuing power partially depends on succumbing to the will of the majority, regardless of how that affects individuals. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the judiciary to defend the rights of individuals, as spelled out in the constitution, or the document becomes meaningless. So, if a nominee's ideology is that governmental rights trump individual rights, or that our laws should be based on what's popular (say, Christian theology), or that their ideology unduly influences their ability to carry out the duties of their job (like, say, a pharmacist who refuses to fill prescriptions), then, while their academic and professional training may appear adequate, they are not suitable for that job.

Meanwhile, back in Frostbite Falls....

From University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole

Talabani Opposes Military Action against Syria, Admits Helplessness

Some 20 Iraqis were killed or wounded in guerrilla violence on Tuesday. In one incident, a 13 year old boy carried out a suicide bombing that killed the head of the emergency police in Kirkuk.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday before the United Nations: "I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country . . . "But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."

So let's get this straight. The president of Iraq elected six months after the US "turned over sovereignty" on June 28, 2004 is saying before the United Nations that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld decide whether his country can be used as a base to attack other countries, and he is unable to influence such decisions-- even though he categorically rejects any such action.

For all those "Bush's Iraq" boosters who laud the "democratic" elections of January 30 and the recent constitutional referendum, this clear admission that Iraq remains under American military occupation, and that its government is helpless before American decisions about the fate of Iraq, is a rather strong refutation. After all, no country is a "democracy" where the military calls the shots, overruling the civilian president-- how much less so if it is a foreign military! Talabani is saying that Iraq is more like Burma, Pakistan or the Sudan than it is like democracies such as India or Brazil.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari asked the UN to extend the mandate for coalition troops in Iraq for up to another year. But the Iraqi government wants the UN to review the resolution 8 months from now, and at any time that the Iraqi government requests a review. Jaafari also wants to reserve the right of the Iraqi government to ask foreign troops to leave before the end of 2006 if it so decides. That is, the Iraqi government wants US troops for the time being, it just doesn't want to be stuck with them. It is not a very gracious invitation; but then, see above.

Al-Hayat: The Iraqi Islamic Party [Sunni] complained Tuesday about the practice of the new Iraqi security forces, of taking women hostage in order to put pressure on their husbands that are suspected of being part of the guerrilla movement. The communique said that Iraqi security forces on Sunday evening invaded a home in the area of Latifiyah in search of its owner. "When they did not find hi, the group attempted to kidnap one of the women of the household. When she resisted, they fired at her and wounded her in the foot." The IIP called on the government to stop such practices. There have been several incidents where US or Iraq troops have taken women hostage as a way of pressuring their male relatives, producing local protests-- some of which have been effective.

The rate of death for civilian contractors in Iraq is increasing, with 428 civilian contractors killed and another 3,963 wounded as of Monday.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Scootershank Redemption

The Scootershank Redemption

FLOYD: Takin' bets today, Red?

RED: Smokes or coin, bettor's choice.

FLOYD: Smokes. Put me down for two.

RED: Alright, who's your horse?

FLOYD: That little one there, holding the picture of Dick Cheney.

RED: That guy? Scooter? Never happen.

(cut to the admitting area)

WARDEN NORTON: This is Private Lyndie England, she's captain of the guard. I'm Mr. Norton, the warden. Any questions?

SCOOTER: When do we eat?


(cut to cell block)

RED: The first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. Somebody always breaks down crying. Happens every time. The only question is, who's it gonna be?

VOICES: Fishee, fishee, fisheeee... You takin' this down, new fish? Gonna be a quiz later. Keep it down. The screws'll hear...Fishee fishee fisheeee...Hey

RED: The boys always go fishin' with first-timers, like Scooter... and they don't quit till they reel someone in.

HEYWOOD: Hey Scootie! Talk to me, boy. I know you're there. I can hear you breathin'. Now don't you listen to these nitwits, you hear me?



VOICES: Fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish... fresh fish...


On originalism

I would like to address the latest conservative word de jour, "originalism," with regard to the federal judiciary, and another phrase often tossed in for emphasis is the notion of "legislation from the bench."

Several points need to be made here. First of all, the framers were quite familiar with the notion of "judge-made law" or "legislation from the bench." The English system of law is based in the common law, or law derived from precedential decisions by judges. Unlike countries with civil law systems, which are based on codifications and historically derived from Roman law, case law was the primary source of law in common law countries. If one was unfortunate enough to venture into law school, virtually your entire first-year curriculum of substantive classes (with all due respect to civil procedure) would involve reading cases, as the law of contracts, real property, personal property, torts and even much of the criminal law was "legislated from the bench."

The distinction has been blurred recently, as much customary common law has been codified and legislative and administrative bodies have moved into areas not covered under common law, but the framers were certainly familiar with the notion that judges made as well as interpreted the law. Of course, this is merely illustrative rather than dispositive, because courts approach common law issues differently than they do questions of constitutional or statutory construction. While courts are guided by canons of construction when interpreting statutes, it is important to note that these canons have emerged over time based on the judicial experience of jurists versed in a common law tradition.

How also do we divine the "original" intent? After all, the document does not guide us in that regard. If the framers wanted us to rely on their specific views of particular provisions, why were the records of the constitutional convention sealed away for more than two generations? Today, courts look to the "legislative history" of debates and reports in construing statutes. The deliberations of the framers were secreted away and federal law developed without the use of their discussions as a point of reference for half a century.

In addition, whose views of "original intent" should be controlling? We can talk of the "framers," but this is no monolith. We have a tremendous divergence of thought both within the Philadelphia convention and in the ratification conventions throughout the various states. For example, Oliver Elsworth of Connecticut, one of the "Committee of Five" that prepared the first draft of the constitution and a future chief justice, wrote that the document "defines the extent of the powers of the general government. If the general legislature should at any time overleap their limits, the judicial department is a constitutional check. If the United States go beyond their powers, if they make a law which the Constitution does not authorize, it is void; and the judicial power, the national judges, who, to secure their impartiality, are to be made independent, will declare it to be void. On the other hand, if the states go beyond their limits, if they make a law which is a usurpation upon the general government, the law is void; and upright, independent judges will declare it to be so."

And of course, we also have the sage advice of Alexander Hamilton, who wrote in Federalist Paper #22 that "Laws are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation. The treaties of the United States, to have any force at all, must be considered as part of the law of the land. Their true import, as far as respects individuals, must, like all other laws, be ascertained by judicial determinations."

So, it seems to me that one must be very careful when considering the cant of originalism. Rather than viewing the constitution through a fixed lens of the framers' intent, the result of looking backwards is often the ever-changing view through a kaleidoscope. Originalism in so many ways then becomes a convenient disguise for legitimizing "our" view of constitutional theory rather than protecting and promoting "theirs."


Well, I was right in theory, that Harriet was a smokescreen, and had half of the short list (Luttig from the 4th Circuit).

The question becomes, what is the proper role of the Senate on this one?

The man may well be qualified (he certainly passes my "went to a better law school than I did" test, and has more than a decade on the federal appellate bench). Ideology is another issue, however. How far should the Senate, and Senate Democrats in particular, go to question a nominee's legal philosophy? What is the proper role of the Senate with regard to the advise and consent function?

Your comments are encouraged.

Alito - so far right he makes the right look left

Here's a bit of "inside" information. One of the professors here stopped by this morning to tell me that his nephew is a law clerk for Alito. Apparently, this nephew is about as far right as you get, having expressed clearly that he'd like to turn America into a Christian theocracy, etc. According to him, he went to work for Alito because he was the one (in this person's view) to help guide the country in that direction.

For what that's all worth.

A quick note for Team Thinker

Blogger has had some display problems, so your humble and obedient servant has had to modify some graphics, etc. to get the page to show up correctly. While Big Brother may well be watching, it was me!

From W's favorite philosopher

Recent events reminded me of this verse.

Luke 18

Now a certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” The man replied, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Forwarding address for I. Lewis Libby

For you Civil War buffs out there

For some reason, I was reminded of this place this morning!

Libby Prison

Happy Halloween!

I don't believe in ghosts, but I just like this picture. This is from the Whaley House in San Diego, supposedly on of America's most haunted. I took this with a digital camera, and while it is in all likelihood a weird flash reflection, I just think it's cool!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A picture puzzle

Can you figure this one out, boys and girls?



in a

A New Film Starring Scooter Libby!

Crime doesn't pay, Scooter!

Getting the Negative in the Right Place

William Safire is a regular contributor to the "On Language" column of the New York Times Magazine. If anyone is aware of the finer points of language, he certainly is. And that's what makes his comments on today's Meet the Press so unusual.

Let me say that another way -- in light of his political perspective, that's what makes his comments on today's Meet the Press so predictable.

According to the Meet the Press transcript for 10/30/2005, Safire said:

. . . This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law. . . . And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken. . . . the most important thing is the whole basis of the political charge that came out of the CIA, . . . everybody is walking around thinking, "Well, you see? There was a conspiracy to undermine or uncover an agent." Well, there wasn't. It was not. And he [Fitzgerald] said it very clearly. (emphasis added)

But the special counsel did not find that no law had been broken, and he did not say (clearly or otherwise) that there was no conspiracy to undermine or uncover an agent.

To see this point, read the following two sentences:
1. Fitzgerald determined that there was no violation of law.
2. Fitzgerald did not determine whether there was a violation of law.

The first sentence expresses a definite finding; the second does not.

The first says "we know that nothing illegal was done"; the second says "we can't say one way or the other."

The first (if Fitzgerald had said it) would have decisively cleared Mr. Libby of that particular crime; the second would not.

But within a legal system that presumes innocence until one is proved guilty in a court of law, one statement is as good as the other from Mr. Libby's perspective.

It all depends on where the negative is placed in the sentence.

The difference between those sentences is important, and I expect that Mr. Safire (the so-called language maven) knows that difference. Shame on him for hoping that the rest of us don't.

And one more Fitzmas note

Pat spent $700,000 on his investigation, as compared to Ken Starr's bloated $40 million.

Reflections on Fitzmas

Patrick Fitzgerald did exactly what I expected him to do.

He brought an indictment that he can prove and will keep looking until he gets to the bottom of this. He is a remarkable man.

I have heard some remarkable spin coming from the right on this case, spin that reaches the heights of absurdity. First of all, can we dispose of the "he didn't indict on the underlying crime" issue? For one thing, he still may. The main point is, though, that the crimes charged are quite serious. Fitzgerald was hired to INVESTIGATE potential criminality.

That investigation may have come to nothing, not because there was no wrongful conduct but because the statutes involved are rather technical in nature and are composed of several elements that can be difficult to prove. Mr. Fitzgerald was entitled under the law to complete a fair and thorough examination of the facts, however, and Scooter Libby, among others, intentionally interfered with that investigation into very serious matters of national security. That interference is criminal. Period. The fact that the criminality would not have occurred "but for" an investigation is irrelevant. The investigation did not cause criminal conduct, Scooter Libby did.

I also did something that I generally regret--I turned on Sean Hannity for a moment. I know, I know, I shouldn't, but I shouldn't look at wrecks on the tollway either, and I do. He was trying to minimize this by ripping Fitzgerald. Bad move, as Elliott Ness could have learned from this guy. Hannity was criticizing Fitzgerald's conduct in the investigation of former Illinois governor george Ryan. In that case, Fitz got the already-convicted right-hand man, Scott Fawell, to open up by enticing him with an offer of a reduced sentence for his fiancee.

Three things, Sean.

1. This is the oldest prosecutorial tactic in the world;
2. Fawell is a sleaze who deserves no sympathy and
3. His fiancee is a criminal too, not an exploited innocent.

Merry Fitzmas!

A decade of...what?

Take a look at this link to video of W's debate in his run for the Texas state house.

He was of course still a moron and grossly unqualified for that office. The W of 10 years ago is not the completely dysfunctional can't even speak a coherent sentence drooling caricature that he is today, though.

So my question is, who is sitting in the Oval Office?

Cokie McCrackpipe?
Drinky McTwelvepack?
Dementia McSchizo?

or all of the above?

Also, check out the eyes and the blotchy skin:

If Fox News had been around

from Daily Kos

The Mark Silva Comedy Tour

We have previously met Mark Silva, national writer from the Chicago Tribune. This shameless hack told us back in September that that the president took "swift and personal responsibility" in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

This morning he tops that one, with a statement so ridiculous that it doesn't even come close to passing the giggle test. Mark cracks us up here with comedy club-quality material, as he says
"the mere loss of Libby, a close confidant to Cheney and Bush and an architect of administration foreign policy, is a blow for a White House that has prided itself on adherence to high ethical standards."

Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Silva! He'll be here all week at The Laugh Factory, formerly known as the Chicago Tribune, two shows a night. Tip your servers, drive home safely and good night!