B After The Fact

Monday, January 30, 2006

Uncommon Woman ... and Others

The only comparable sense of loss I can express about the news of Wendy Wasserstein's passing , is the way I felt upon hearing of George Harrison's passing. These revolutionary artsts were just a step ahead of me, and now they have each died, basically of natural causes.

I thought that Wendy Wasserstein asked all the right questions about what it meant to be an educated woman in a world that does not seem to value them properly. For a man like me, she asked all the right questions, and usually asked them fairly, about how the men who want to love and support (and be supported by) these women need to behave on shifting sands.

The New York Times article rightly pointed out the direct connection from Heidi Holland to Carrie Bradshaw, but where Wendy Wasserstain (and her surrogage Heidi) understood everyone too well, Darren Star (and his surrogate Carrie) barely understood four people.

As a theatre artist, Wendy Wasserstein reminded us that the first obligation of a playwright to her characters is to give them some humanity and some compassion.

****

Two words I do not expect to hear during the State of the Union address

Valerie Plame

****

As I write this, Senators Kennedy and Kerry are trying to start a filibuster on the Alito nomination. I assume they'll fail, but they are right to try.

I don't think, as I argued before, that Alito is "unqualified" as that term is commonly understood or "outside of the mainstream" of the half the country or so that supports the Republican Party.

However,the notion that a President is entitled to have his appointees given deference is quaint. Just like the Geneva Convention.

According to the Constitution the Senate's role is to "advise and consent" It does not define what that means. Where I come from, you don't give lifetime jobs to people who disagree with you on practically every issue that might make a difference in your life. This is, for all intents and purposes, the only shot you are going to have at Alito until sometime in the 2040s. If you don't like his views, if you don't like his choice in ties -- "advise and consent" means -- vote "no".

According to this New York Times article from last week:

"Recalling the overwhelming and bipartisan majorities that approved President Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, several Republican senators said their party had evaluated the qualifications of nominees on less ideological terms. They said the Democratic opposition to Judge Alito could alter the judicial confirmation process for years to come."

Do these Republican Senators think I'm an idiot?

Justice Ginsburg was confirmed in August 1993, Justice Breyer was confirmed in August 1994, Newt Gingrich and his Contract of America boys won their election in November 1994. The only subsequent business of any note that Bill Clinton had in front of the Judiciary Committee after that was his impeachment hearings.

Do you think, that if Bill Clinton had another Supreme Court justice nominated after November 1994, that a single Republican would have voted for him?

I cannot see any Democrat rationale for voting for Justice Alito. I don't know why a Democrat would vote against a filibuster

If you are a Democratic Senator from a State like Nebraska and you are afraid that you will lose your re-election campaign because you fail to vote for Justice Alito, or even to vote against a filibuster, just pack up your bags and go home. You'll never get re-elected anyway. You'll just be tagged as an unprincipled wuss who will do anything to keep his kickback ladened job. Given the choice between a DINO and a Real Republican, don't you think the voters are going to choose a Real Republican?

Vote with your party, and stand by what, if anything, you believe in. Or switch parties. Now's the time --- when we can't do anything whether there are 45 Democrats or 43 Democrats.

****

Many had extended comments on my recent posts
Alito's Originalism Is Not The Same As Bork's and on the Palestinian elections . I responded in the comments section, sometimes at length. I added additional comments today. I'm not so good at Haloscanning though. Typos abound, and there is the stray sentence that I may have moderated if there was some editing. Oh well.


As always, I appreciate everyone who takes a look at what goes on here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Old Canards In New Technologies

One New Republic piece is entitled Silver Lining . It's money quote:

"Finally, and contrary to another widely accepted myth, there is no fundamental difference between the ultimate goals of Hamas and Fatah vis-a-vis Israel: Neither accepts the Jewish state's right to exist and both are committed to its eventual destruction. The only difference between the two groups lies in their preferred strategies for the attainment of this goal. Whereas Hamas concentrates exclusively on "armed struggle," as its murderous terror campaign is conveniently euphemized, the PLO has adopted since the early 1990s a more subtle strategy, combining intricate political and diplomatic maneuvering with sustained terror attacks (mainly under the auspices of Tanzim, Fatah's military arm)"

Pat Robertson said that Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's response to Sharon giving up lands in Israel to the Palestinians. Andrew Sullivan responded by saying, in essence -- "What else is a man in Pat Robertson's position supposed to say? What is his whole religious doctrine about if not the unification of Israel in anticipation of the day when He returns?"

Andrew Sullivan wasn't agreeing with Pat Robertson's conclusion (nor am I), just stating that, unlike most of Pat's foreign policy pronouncements (c.f. the assassination of South American politicians), Robertson's statements on Sharon was the conventional result of a mainstream religious thought. (I can't find Sullivan's exact post -- he takes them down rather quickly.)

I don't know whether you should negotiate with terrorists or not. My understanding is that the meals at these negotiating sessions (if you can get out of the conference room) are quite tasty, and you normally don't have to pay for them yourself.

However, if the very act of negotiating is seen as conferring legitimacy on the group's baseline grievance, then how can you negotiate with someone whose baseline grievance is that they are forced to live on a planet where some of the people are still Jewish? And where some other people tolerate it?

I don't know how a view as mainstream in so-much of the world as the complete destruction of the Jewish people can possibly be seen as a terrorist position, anyway.

What were they thinking when they danced in the streets when the World Trade Center fell?

What was the high British military official thinking, when he blamed all the problems of the modern world, on that "shitty little country?" What was Tony Blair saying in 2003 when he told Parliament that we have to stand together with the United States in the Middle East because Great Britain needed a seat at the table when negotiating the real issue -- the Israeli/ Palestinian problem? And that's Great Britain. I can take these things coming out of Great Britain because I understand the context in which these statements are made. Trying to read what comes out of the rest of Europe burns my eyes.

According to millions of people -- some of whom are no longer with us because they blew themselves up reinforcing the point -- the only reason that Jews exist, the only reason Israel exists, is because the United States gives a haven to Jews to live -- and laugh. And laugh and sing. The United States has also, in the past 60 years especially, made it far more difficult for other countries to put Jews in "their proper place."

It must be particularly galling to some that the Europeans were able to successfully "solve their Jewish Question" by in essence, exporting the "problem" -- the remnant of the Jews who were not exteminated by the Nazis -- to the Middle East and to a lesser extent, the United States.

To these people, if you bomb the World Trade Center, if you do what you can to increase the United States' cost of doing business with Jews, if you put enough pressure to bear on those who believe in freedom for "minorities", then it is possible that at some not too distant point, the United States will give up the game.

I'm in favor of those who want the United States to continue, basically in its current form.

That is why I maintain the increasingly lonely position that you have to fight the people abroad who want to challenge our safety, and the way of life that encourges freedom -- and you also have to fight the people here who think that the only way to be more safe is to cut back on such "luxury" items as the slow moving rule of law.

Eventually, maybe even by Monday, Hamas will reach the same conclusion that Fatah and the PLO did. You can talk the talk without walking the walk. You can say you are for a "two-state" solution in the Middle East for a long time before anyone forces you to admit that the two states you are in favor of is a Palestinian state, and a Palestinian state right next to it.

How could it be otherwise? How could the Arab World really make a deal to live with the Jews in peace after all this time? How do you face your people? How do you face your ancestors?

How could Israel really make a deal to accept Arab rule over Israel? Over Jerusalem? What would you say to your ancestors? What would you say to the writer of Psalm 137? What would you say to Pat Robertson?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Is Alito's Originalism Different From Bork's?

Two strong responses from my Sunday post on what I thought was the difference between the judicial philosophies of Alito and Bork .

To be far blunter than I have been so far, I said that Bork's "originalism" was based on his disdain for the Civil Rights movement, which was unforgivable and automatically disqualifying. I then said that Alito's "originalism" was based on his disdain for the New Deal, which I thought was unfortunate, but not sinful.

(Alito is not a "Scalito" -- Alito is an "Alitist")

I cross-posted to Daily Kos . Armando was kind enough to read my post, and strongly objected to it, saying (if I made it through all the pronouns properly) that (a) Alito succeeded in the Reagan Administration because Alito was exactly like Bork, and (b) that Bush would so nominate a racist to be a Justice of the SCOTUS.

Then A Red Mind In A Blue State called my analysis "intriguing, but misguided." He then made the formal State's Rights argument. Actually, he was kind enough to respond twice -- once in the comments section to my Sunday post, and once on his own site.

I responded to his States Rights argument (state's rights is for losers, etc.) in the comments to my own Sunday posting.

However, if I can get the Red Mind to agree with Armando, a Mind so Blue that there is no color in nature that matches him, then it makes me wonder ..

Could "B" be wrong?

Is Alito like Bork?

If so, why did Mrs. Alito run out of the Judiciary Hearing in tears?

If so, how can Alito possibly be qualified to be, well to be anything that is funded with taxpayer money?

Could "B" be wrong?

Maybe.

As my father always said "If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, then maybe you don't understand the situation."

Maybe not.

As Red Mind's mother always said "If everyone is mad at me, then I must be doing something right."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Some Very Available -- But Rarely Discussed -- Facts About Vice Presidential Power

Fourteen U. S. Vice Presidents became President.

Five were elected in their own right;

J. Adams
Jefferson
Van Buren
Nixon
Bush 41

Four inherited the office through the natural death of the incumbent;

Tyler
Fillmore
Coolidge
Truman

four by assassination; and

A. Johnson
Arthur
T. Roosevelt
L.B. Johnson

one by resignation.

Ford

Source: United States Senate website

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Alito's Originalism is Not The Same As Bork's

"Samuel Alito largely followed Roberts's script, but at key points he was much more specific. Asked about his general approach, he said,

"I think we should look to the text of the Constitution, and we should look to the meaning that someone would have taken from the text of the Constitution at the time of its adoption."

"He also said that "it is the job of a judge, the job of a Supreme Court justice, to interpret the Constitution, not distort the Constitution, not add to the Constitution or subtract from the Constitution."

SAMUEL ALITO during his confirmation hearings, as reported by Professor Cass Sunstein's article How Bork Got The Last Laugh (New Republic -- maybe subscription only)

*****
There is a difference between the "originalism" espoused by Bork, and the brand espoused by conservatives today, including Alito.

Both brands of originalism seem rooted in the notion that the "Constitution of the Framers," the document of 1789, counts more than what the Supreme Court, or any other judge has to say about it.

Bork used his "originalist" position to attempt to negate the Constitutional effects of the Civil War, most notably the 14th and 15th Amendments. An expanded 14th Amendment was being used in the 60s, 70s and the 80s in conjunction with an expanded reading of the Commerce Clause to attempt to irradicate egregious racial injustice.

Whatever Bork’s personal opinions on racial equality and civil rights were or are (and seeing him on television all these years, I don’t believe they have changed a bit), Bork felt that “originalism” mandated that the government have only the most limited role in promoting racial equality. Whatever Bork felt, it was clear that many of his supporters believed that the wrong side won the Civil War. In this view, an “originalist” Constitution that ignored the results of the Civil War would be better for all concerned.

This noxious view, and the man who stepped forward to support it, was rightly rejected.

Does Alito support that noxious view, that the original Constitution should bear more weight than the Amendments? I don’t think so. Nothing in Alito’s career bears it out. However, it would have been nice if in the middle of blowing so hard, one of the Senators would have taken the time out to ask him.

Alito’s originalism is different. His originalism stems from his belief, which I agree is historically correct, that government in the 18th century was far more invasive about people’s personal liberties, and far less concerned about how people conduct their business activities. Since the New Deal, the government has been more concerned with business relations, and since the early sixties, the government has been increasingly less concerned with how people conduct their personal lives. Many people believe that this has been a change for the better. Many people, Alito seems to be one them, clearly do not.

Alito’s “originalist” view would make it easier for the government to regulate private matters like contraception and abortion and homosexual rights, and harder for the government to regulate public matters such as safety – either via guns in the schoolyard (which Alito seems to favor) or OSHA regulations (which I would bet that Alito opposes)

The attempts to tie Bork’s noxious originalism to Alito’s different originalism failed, in my opinion, because Senator Kennedy overreached when he tried to show that Alito’s personal behavior at Princton was racist. It never has been. I know people hate it when I say anything nice about the President, but the man who appointed Colin Powell and Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzalez, the man married to Laura Bush, is not appointing racists -- open or closet -- to the Supreme Court.

The better, although less sexy, link would have been to deal with the voting rights cases, and the lukewarm reception Alito gave to the issue of “one-person” “one-vote”. Obviously, the Framers never intended there to be “one person –one vote.” The entire generation of the Founders took it for granted that voting was a privilege. Usually based on property, sometimes on money. But they, and many generations after, tolerated voting restrictions based on religion, race and sex.

Even though voting qualifications were basically a matter of state law, the Framers of the Constitutions give a lot of clues to their thinking on "one-man, one-vote" in the Constitution. If the Framers cared about one-person, one-vote, they would never have put in a 3/5 clause in the original Constitution. If they cared about one-person, one-vote, they would never have permitted a Senate with unequal representation. Although there are other rationales for these constitutional provisions, the “original intent” behind the composition of the Senate, and the 3/5 clause, and the composition of the Electoral College, and the aversion to “one-person; one-vote” was to provide slaveholders with extra representation in the government.

It is no sin to say that the Constitution reflected both the best hope for freedom and the best hope for racist slavery.

However,

to discuss originalism as if it were about freedom, only, and not about slavery,

to discuss originalism without discussing how many provisions in the Constitution today are the product of slavery,

to discuss originalism without getting assurances from Judge Alito that the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments are entitled to the same respect he obviously holds for Article II Presidential Powers,

is to concede too much to the concept of “originalism.” It also masks what the real problem with originalism is.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that Alito’s originalism is the same as Bork’s.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Kris Benson for Jorge Julio and John Maine

ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Will Grover Norquist be "Swift-Boated" Next?

ALTERNATE TITLE --- MAYBE AL GORE IS NOT SUCH AN ORIGINAL THINKER AFTER ALL

Leading Conservatives Call for Extensive Hearings on NSA Surveillance; Checks on Invasive Federal Powers Essential

A group called, Patriots To Restore Checks And Balances , previously unknown to me (as most things are),

"called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."

"Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law"

"I believe that our executive branch cannot continue to operate without the checks of the other branches. However, I stand behind the President in encouraging Congress to operate cautiously during the hearings so that sensitive government intelligence is not given to our enemies." -- Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO, Free Congress Foundation

"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

Thanks Andrew Sullivan (although you don't need a plug from me!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Don't Value Life Too Highly or Freedom Too Lightly

In a comment to my posting yesterday, A Red Mind In A Blue State took exception to my quoting Al Gore so approvingly at such length. He said, and you can read his comments on yesterday's post below to see if I am paraphrasing fairly (i) that Al Gore lost the election, and a good thing too, and now he shouldn't be talking too much and (ii) what are you supposed to do when confronted with terrorists -- send them flowery notes politely asking them to disclose their future plans to us?

In order to make the statement that Red Mind and Rudy Guiliani and so many others have made that they thank their lucky stars that Al Gore wasn't President on 9/11, you have to assume that Gore would have ignored-- like Bush and Cheney did -- all the intelligence that was already on the President's desk by 9/10. I don't know where anyone can get off making that sort of an assumption.

Nevertheless, I agree that Al Gore is a wuss who committed an unspeakable sin. He would be President now if he showed the slightest interest in the job in 2000. But being President was not enough for Al Gore. He had to be President and maintain his high moral standards. Gore's refusal to embrace Bill Clinton before Election Day and his refusal to fight for what was rightfully his after Election Day (whatever the ultimate result would have been) showed that he was NOT willing to make any hard choices for freedom in this country.

Al Gore's acquiescence in the Election of 2000 was a betrayal of everyone who voted for him. Now he is shreiking like Cassandra to pay penance.

Doesn't mean that Gore has been wrong about any of the things he has been saying over the past few years.

No one in an official government position has said that domestic surveillance has been limited to communications regarding terrorism. That is just an assumption that talking heads are making -- both on the left and the right -- both in the MSM and on the blogosphere -- for no good reason at all.

I agree that you have to play hardball with hardball players. You have to get your information however and wherever you can --- wiretap, torture, putting bodies on ice. You may have to disregard habeas corpus, which is a concept from a dead language anyway, and you may have to throw American citizens in a bottomless pit for an indeterminate length of time.

But just because certain types of surveillance and certain types of interrogation techniques may be necessary -- and just because you have to do it anyway --- doesn't make them legal. All wartime Presidents take an expanded view of their powers. None of them, except Bush, had the disrespect for the rule of law to pretend that these acts would be legal for the rest of our lives.

The time from September 11 to now -- over 4 years -- is longer than the time it took to fight the entire Civil War, all of World War I, all of the American involvement in World War II.

Unlike those wars, this war hasn't even begun yet.

This situation in Iraq is merely a prologue. It isn't even the War itself. We still need to deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and most likely North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia before we can say this war is over. Then of course there are the aspects of the war that cannot be foreseen.

There is no such thing as an "emergency" that lasts that long.

There needs to be a distinction between what needs to be done and what is legal, otherwise when the "emergency" is over -- beyond our lifetimes -- there is no roadmap home to "normal" times. And if the point of the "emergency" is not to get us back to the normal times -- the normal rule of law, then what is the point?

If it is only safety -- or if safety is such a high priority that we are willing to go wherever safety takes us -- then you value life too highly and freedom too lightly.

John McCain made the argument far better than I am now when he hung tough on the torture statute. I refer you to some of the things he said then.

If you take the approach that President Bush is taking -- the approach that the new Supreme Court will surely endorse -- that (i) the law in an "emergency" is whatever the President says it is and (ii) that enemy combattants are whoever the President says they are --then there is not much difference between the rule of law and monarchy.

Given the PATRIOT Act (and I know that politicians all across the political spectrum are complicit in the PATRIOT Act) and given the Prsident's interpretation of things like (a) FISA and (b) the enabling act allowing him to go after Sadman Insane's weapons of mass destruction and (c) the McCain anti- torture amendment -- I would say that the President has enormous plenary powers to maintain an "emergency" indefinitely. Which Al Gore has noted (in other speeches) may have been the point in the first place.

This next thing is going to sound sarcastic, but it is not -- It has been gracious and restrained of President Bush to make such limited use of the powers that he claims to have in this "emergency" situation.

I am sure that if I were President-- or if Cheney or Bill or Hilary or Condi or Obama were President --- none of us would bother with all this velvet glove stuff.

The iron fist on Americans we disagree with would be much harder.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Al Gore speaks on Martin Luther King Day

Al Gore Speaks On Martin Luther King Day

"The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

"This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

"The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA)

***

"During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

"But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

"At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

"A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men."

***

"It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

***

"I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

***

"(B)oth Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hall of Fame Wrap-Up

My fellow ex-Massapequans A Red Mind In A Blue State and
Bruce Fan In The Desert recently pitched in with Hall of Fame postings.

I could not resist.

I think that Bruce Sutter belongs in the Hall of Fame. Most importantly, he has that great first name. Second, he revolutionized the game in his own way by reintroducing the split finger into baseball.

In putting this comment together, I realized that one of the things that is probably hurting Gossage is that he was the Yankees closer after Sparky Lyle and before Dave Righetti. While Gossage was obviously the best of the three, his arrival did not solve a great problem and his departure did not create a great need (I know, the same thing can be said about the shift from DiMaggio to Mantle, but it’s a thought.)

Mostly though, outside of New York, I think it is Sutter and not Gossage who gets the credit for being the first “modern” closer. Now that Sutter is in, I can only hope that Gossage will get the call in 2 years.

If you put in that whole family of pitchers who got to 250 wins by winning 15 games a year forever, you still have a very short list --- the same four pitchers we’ve been talking about for 10 years now – Tommy John, Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat and Jack Morris. That’s the whole list, and I think they all deserve to be in. John, Kaat and Morris all played major roles on pennant-winning teams.

A lot of sportswriters complain that the Hall of Fame should not consist of “compilers” – people like Blyleven. However, Blyleven won 15 games in 10 different seasons. I don’t think people understand how rare it is to win 15 games a season, year after year like that. He started 25 games the year he was 19, and he started 24 games the year he was 41. I think if you try to make the argument that “if you let Bert Blyleven in, you have to let ____ in, too,” you’ll come up empty.

Thurman Munson was a hero to anyone living in New York in the 70s. He was the big brother you wish you had, the type of person you hoped you’d be if you were lucky enough to find yourself in a major league uniform. The sort of tough presence you had to have to negotiate New York City in the 70s. I have no ability to objectively measure Thurman Munson’s career. There would be no dishonor to have Thurman Munson in the Hall of Fame.

Andre Dawson played on the late 80s Cubs with Ryne Sandberg, who is in the Hall of Fame and Greg Maddux who is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Before that, Dawson played on the early 80s Expos with Gary Carter, who is in the Hall of Fame, and Tim Raines who ought to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but won’t be. Neither of those teams did squat. How many Hall of Famers are you going to have from teams that don't do squat?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Alito Confirmation Hearings

It is ridiculous to engage Mr. Alito (and it was equally ridiculous to engage Chief Justice Roberts) in a game of "gotcha". Senate hearings are not court proceedings. They are not governed by the rules of evidence. There is no "beyond a reasonable doubt" "clear and convincing evidence""preponderance of the evidence" or even an "if it doesn't fit ..." standard. Senators are allowed to draw conclusion, make statements, and cast votes on wild assumptions and narrow prejudices.

If Judge Alito is vague on his answers regarding "unitary executive power" (whatever that means) or abortion, then the Senator is allowed to assume that Judge Alito's reasoning is in accordance with the President's. After all, why else would the President nominate him? As a matter of fact, given the right-wing's track record of appointing justices who approve of Roe v Wade, it is really the Republicans who ought to be asking Alito the hard questions.

I think my main man (my former Congressman and now my Senator) Charles Schumer is doing a really bad job trying to meet a standard, that he invented, as to whether Alito is "outside the judicial mainstream." Alito worked in the Reagan White House, and has been a Federal Judge in Pennsylvania for 15 years. It doesn't get more mainstream than Judge Alito.

Schumer's job, as a Democrat, is not to prove that Alito is "out of the maintstream".

Schumer's job is to show the country that a "mainstream" Republican judge, any mainstream Republican judge, has an agenda that will lead the country in a horrible direction.
--- No abortion (any nonsense comments regarding "abortion will go back to the states" will be deleted) and no death with dignity will effectively limit opportunities for one half of the population

--- The overturning of the New Deal effectively limiting opportunities for the other half.

--- The Imperial Presidency, gratefully providing employment opportunities in the military for those of us who cannot find jobs

--- The Patriot Act, providing those of us who are hungry with meals (in jail), when we slowly learn that being a Democrat is considered by this President to be the same as being an enemy combattant. (In case any of us escape from the next 2 years alive, I'm looking forward to seeing Rush and the amazing Mr. O'R Factor supporting the Patriot Act on Hilary's behalf.)

I think Joe Biden had the right impulse, although he did a bad job executing it. There is no need to ask Alito any questions. Alito has been at it for about 25 years, as a lawyer and a judge. He's as interesting as a 2 by 4 with a clear varnish. If you don't know the answer to any question you might want to ask Alito, then you haven't done your reading.

A Senator can spend his 30 minutes of time, as Biden did, doing the "advise" part of "advise and consent." Just remember that the only thing less interesting than Sam Alito's life story is Joe Biden's life story.

Next time, the Democrats can make it easier on themselves by voting against having the nominee show up to the hearing at all. Then, with the unusual opportunity of being able to talk to the country when it's actually paying attention, Democrats can have an organized round of presentations -- each Senator focussing on a different issue --- and make the country aware of the Kingdom of Bush that the Roberts/ Alito court will be enabling.

Then, after the Democrats have presented their case, and the Republicans have voted Alito in anyway, the Democrats can go into Congressional election mode (yeah -- these are important issues -- a 9-month election period is not too long) and see what the country thinks of the Democratic viewpoint.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Terri Schiavo --- Story of the Year

I wrote 15 posts this year that dealt with Terri Schiavo in some way, mostly in March or April. A few I am proudest of are Here, Here, Here, and Here.

In sitting down to re-read them now, I see that I said a lot of the same things over and over again in different variations, as I tried to clarify what I thought.

But in the year-end reviews I read, no one spoke about the issue much at all.

However, I think that the issues raised in Terri's case will prove themselves important, over and over again, in the coming years.

I guess I collapse it all down to these points:

What is our primary human relationship? Are we someone's parent, someone's child or someone's spouse? If we are someone's child first and we forever someone's child first, what does that mean about the nature of marriage, and what does that mean about the nature of maturity?


On the legal issues:

Conservatives said that Terri had no living will stating what she wanted. I continue to disagree. Even though Terri Schiavo had no living will, she did have a legal document. It was called her marriage license. The law, both before, during and after the crisis, all those judges who saw the law, and would not create law out of whole cloth to suit a current witch hunt, were quite clear that the marriage license gives the spouse the decision making in these matters. It isn't absolute, but it does come first.

Either the marriage license means something, or it doesn't. When it came time to decide, a good section of the country seemed to say that someone's marriage did not matter so much after all. A good section of the country seemed to think that 40-year old-plus women preferred to be under the control and domination of their parents forever. That is a very loose view of marriage to be washing over the Bible Belt.

Maybe I'm being unfair. I'm a lawyer, and I know that some people will use any argument to get to their bottom line, and the bottom line for these people was to keep this woman alive.

And I thought, and I continue to think, that the conclusion is wrong as a matter of love, and, although many of my blog entries contained arguments on this issue between me and co-religionists who disagreed, I think it is also an improper conclusion as a matter of faith.

If we keep people alive at all costs, we wind up sacrificing the living to the altar of the dead and dying. We force people to take actions beyond the marriage vows. I don't believe that is what God wants for us.

It is reasonable to think that a person in love with another person, a woman in love with a man, would not want that man to spend the rest of his life deprived of company, spending the rest of his life caring for her, not as an equal, but as a hospital patient, while she could do nothing for him, while her level of sensation, while her level of acknowledgement, her ability to give back, was very limited.

It is reasonable to think that if the issue was put to her that way, she might think that there was something more important than squeezing one more day of life out of the situation for the benefit of your parents or your local Congressman.

But in order to make these assumptions, you have to admit that she is someone’s wife, and that being someone’s wife can matter more than being someone else’s daughter.

It is also reasonable that the law can, and does, make this assumption as well.

Even if some of what was said about Michael Schiavo was true (Tom DeLay said it was true, so who am I to say otherwise), Terri Schiavo did make a choice –-- she chose him ---another imperfect human being --- and that has to matter for quite a lot.

Because if your choice of spouse doesn’t matter for anything, then you wind up with --- well you wind up with the circus that the Schiavo matter became.

I considered that disregard for the requisites of imperfect love and behavior in human marriage the most important story in my year. It was all the people who tried to take an adult story about a marriage and turn it into a television story about parents and children (always the better television). It was all those people seeing themselves as children before they saw themselves as husbands and wives. It was all those people longing to be children more than spouses.

It was the basic assumption that life at any cost is more important than love and family. It was the assumption that God demands that you make your longevity a priority -- more important than love and marriage and family --- that rocked my whole sense of what I was dealing with in this new Millenium.

While the specifics of Terri Schiavo seem to have faded away, I see this longing to be led, in any direction at all, as long as decisions are made for us, to be increasing everywhere. People are shrinking from the responsibility of freedom and maturity. It may well be that in mixed situations of government and faith, where obedience to God also requires people to make decisions, we are refusing to make those decisions. I do it myself.

To tie this issue back to everything else, to the war I support and the President, this Man Who Will Be King, who I despise, we will be at war for the rest of our lives , (although we can of course end the war any time we care to declare ourselves the losers). If we are fighting a war for freedom, but refuse to be free ourselves, what does it matter? If we say we are fighting a war for faith, who gets to determine which God we are fighting for?

2005 In Review -- President Bush

I am so busy doing other writing that I have had no time to do a year in review for 2005. There are only two things I want to say regarding the year that just passed, and the year to follow. One thing concerns, of course, Terri Schiavo, which if not the person of the year for everyone else, was a complete kick in the teeth for me. I'll get to her whenever next time is.

The first is a reprint of the article I wrote on Election Day 2004 -- I entitled it
The Man Who Would Be King

Re-reading it now, is sounds a little high-horsey, but I stand by it. I think it accurately foresaw certain things that are occuring in the present post-Katrina, pre-Alito world.

A Happy Prosperous and HEALTHY New Year to you and yours. -- B

*****

The Man Who Would Be King


It should be clear to you by now that I am more pro-war than almost all Democrats. The failure of the Bush Administration to explain its war aims disturbs me a great deal.


The failure to find WMDs does not disturb me at all. Those of us who supported the war, but not the stated rationale behind it, had an obligation to explain ourselves more publicly, to force the Bush Administration to state publicly whether it agreed with our goals, and more importantly to engage the American people in a discussion of these goals. If the American people were opposed, after a fair hearing, that opposition should have been factored in.


Our goal -- democracy in the Middle East, or at least a system in the Middle East where democracy will not be disturbed elsewhere --- will take at least 90 years or more to achieve. It took 45 years to fight and win the Cold War, and that was among people who shared our religious traditions, and saw democracy and freedom in the same way we did. Many of the Europeans had experienced some degree of freedom, and were merely trying to get back what they lost.


So as a loose rule of thumb, I am saying that it will take at least twice as long for democracy to root and hold in the Middle East, where the traditions are different, where there is absolutely no experience with any sort of freedom. That 90-year estimate is based on the notion that the United States maintain a presence in the Middle East that entire time. Those of us who believe this to be true did not state this agenda openly. We were hoping that the truth would become apparent along the way. Perhaps they might still. We have only been in the Middle East for a few weeks, especially when compared to the 90-year committment we are going to need to make.


Perhaps I am all alone out here in my analysis, but I doubt it. Anyway, the failure to state this goal openly, to see if it would respond to a thorough scrubbing, will make it almost impossible to accomplish our goal. Now the goal is being attacked by the left because the President is a conservative. Once the President is a liberal, it will be attacked from the right as a breach of American isolationism. People are saying that already, but after a liberal President is elected, those voices will be encouraged. The failure to accomplish the goal in the Middle East, once we set out on the path in Iraq, will come back to kill us.


I am terribly afraid of what John Kerry might mean to the security of Israel, and by extension to Jews everywhere. I am sensitive to the opinions of people like Charles Krauthammer and William Safire. They warn that if Kerry seeks a world consensus to solving the situation in Iraq, then the consensus solution will be to destroy Israel. Given the dynamics of the situation, the destruction of Israel will mean the destruction of a great many, if not most, Jews worldwide.


However, 80% of the Jews will continue to vote Democratic. In the end, the response to people like William Safire and Charles Krauthammer must be: If you feel that strongly about Israel, you should go and live there. If you believe that you have more influence over the future of Israel by staying in the United States and attempting to increase the influence of Jews and pro-Jewish thinking in the United States, that is more than wrong thinking. That is a death wish.


Those of us who choose to remain in America must do what we can, as Americans, to fill America's mission of more freedom. If you must tie the American mission to "what's good for Israel", you must come to the conclusion that more freedom is better for everyone, and since Israel is part of everyone (despite Europe's best efforts), more freedom is better for Israel. If the only way for more freedom in the United States is to liberate the Middle East, then the 90-year war is a good idea. If it will not lead to more freedom in the United States, it is a bad idea.


An important part of freedom is honest and open discussion of what America needs to do next. Contrary to what John Kerry says, that is not a discussion that Europeans are qualified to have. Contrary to what Orrin Hatch says, that is not a discussion that Arnold Schwarznegger or some soon to be determined Arab Prince should someday be qualified to lead. That is a conversation that only Americans are qualified to have and only Americans are qualified to lead.


If the Old World was not a sewer, most of our ancestors would not have made such a treacherous trip over here in the first place. I'm certainly not going to escape from hell, and then call the Devil up for advice.


That is not to say that America is perfect, that is not to say that America has fulfilled its promise by a long shot. That is only to say that America, over time, and not every single day, is by far the best of an incredibly motley crew.


I have no use for those who worry that America lost some moral authority in the eyes of Europeans. You could stink up the world every day for a zillion years, kill everyone you see, and not catch up to the history of European depravity.


I have no use for those who worry that too much free speech by a United States Senator running for the President of the United States gives aid and comfort to our enemies in the Middle East. I do not conduct my business, I do not tailor my freedom, for the approval of life forms who only respect a kick in the teeth.


I have said this since the day he announced his candidacy. Bush is not a Republican, and Bush is not a Democrat. Bush is a Bush.


Just as those of us who believe in the 90-year war for freedom in the Middle East were unclear about our motives for war, Bush was unclear about his. Since Bush never cleared up the confusion, we are allowed to draw our own conclusions.


Republicans have made up rationalizations for the war, and for the prison scandal, and for the disappearance of the weapons, and for every other action that this Administration has taken during the War on Terror, and for many domestic actions as well (the cost of the Medicaid proposal being just the most obvious).


The facts are controlled by the Bush Administration, and it is clearer and clearer that the facts are being suppressed. Since there are no facts, Republican rationalizations cannot possibly conform with the facts, and any overlap of Republican rationalization and the truth is the merest coincidence.


This was true of Bush 41 as well, by the way, and all this sudden Bush 41 nostalgia amongst Conservative Democrats forgets that point. Bush 41 thought that an honest explanation of his policies was beneath him. In 1992, he sent surrogates out not just to do the dirty work of trashing his opponent, but also the honest work of explaining the ruler to the masses. All of the things that Bush 41 tried to accomplish came to pass, but 41 did not get credit for them, and he did not deserve credit for them.


In a democracy, it is not enough to be right. You also have to lead the people. Governing in a democracy without revealing your true motivies did not work for 41, and whatever the result of the election today, it will not work for 43 either. Ultimately, and not very far away, even those supporting 43 are going to need to know the facts, not simply so they can bash Democrats, but so they can live their own lives.


Incidentally, despite recent jabber, including from this blog site, faith must also be based on facts, based on truth. Misapprehension of God and your place in God's order, which can be short-handed into the buzzwords a "lack of humility," can lead to actions that are not consistent with what God wants from us on Earth. If you don't have the facts, you don't know where you are. If you don't know where you are, it is hard to know how to pray. Excessive faith is just like excessive anything else.


We are drowning in words, and parched for facts, much less truth. It is impossible to determine what Bush's true intentions were, are, or will be. In such times as these, Democrats should be entitled to make things up too. Al Gore says, and I have come to believe, that Bush's entire reason for the Iraq War was to put a smokescreen in front of a domestic power grab. Since no one who may know the true facts -- Bush, Cheney, can't be more than 6 others -- will say what the true facts are, who among the Republicans has the moral standing, has the facts at their disposal, to say that Al Gore is wrong?


If no one knows the facts about the prison scandals or the missing munitions, who has the power to call John Kerry a liar? It is not enough for the President to say that no one else knows what they are talking about because only the President knows what's going on. What little we know from the 9/11 Commission tells us that the President didn't know what was going on either.


We say we are free, but we are constantly deprived of the facts and truth that are needed to maintain freedom. If we are constantly being told that the liquid in our face is rain, we will eventually believe nothing. People who believe nothing, who have lost their ability to compare different things being told to them, will believe anything that offers a change, will believe anything that strikes them as attractive. The more attractive sounding promise is always the one that makes you less free in the end. Freedom is nothing but hard work.


People who promise less have fewer points on their "to do" list, fewer points of contention amongst themselves. It is easier for them to stick together. That is why those in favor of less freedom always will have the upper hand on those in favor of more freedom. It is always more attractive to promise people less hard work. Demolition, destruction, hatred, killing, leaving the construction to be done by someone else, is always the least work of all.


Whatever I think of this or that Bush policy, whatever I think of this or that Kerry policy, who cares. It doesn't matter much, because the issue about Bush (any Bush --take your pick) transcends war and peace and tax cuts and abortion and gay rights and stem cells and federalism and the status of race and gender and God in America.


There is an election for the President of the United States. You cannot vote for a man who would be king. A man who would be king does not need the vote of the people.