Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The latest conservative star in the N.Y. Times firmament

Heeeeeerrrrreeeee's Ross Douthat!:
At the very least, a Cheney-Obama contest would have clarified conservatism’s present political predicament....
Perhaps. Let's see:
...In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs. And John McCain’s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise.
<*Shhhhhh!*> [sotto voce] Don't anyone tell them!...


Some more Douthat:
“Real conservatism,” in this narrative, means a particular strain of right-wingery: a conservatism of supply-side economics and stress positions, uninterested in social policy and dismissive of libertarian qualms about the national-security state. And Dick Cheney happens to be its diamond-hard distillation. The former vice-president kept his distance from the Bush administration’s attempts at domestic reform, and he had little time for the idealistic, religiously infused side of his boss’s policy agenda. He was for tax cuts at home and pre-emptive warfare overseas; anything else he seemed to disdain as sentimentalism.
OIC. Maybe what Douthat means by "conservative" is "RW authoritarian". In that case, maybe Ctheney's just the ticket....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Putting the horse before the cart

The "Dean" of Beltway Journalism, David Broder, explains:
But having vowed to end the practices [of torture], Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.
Yes, indeed. Searches for scapegoats should always be proactive. How else to stop them before they can embarrass you? And if we're to stop such insidious attacks, we'll need the proper tool... -- ummm, <*Litella-esque*> nevermind.

More nonsense:
Suppose the investigators decide that the country does not want to see the former president and vice president in the dock. Then underlings pay the price while big shots go free. But at some point, if he is at all a man of honor, George W. Bush would feel bound to say: That was my policy. I was the president. If you want to indict anyone for it, indict me.

Is that where we want to go? I don't think so. Obama can prevent it by sticking to his guns.
Why deny Dubya the opportunity and "prevent" it??? Let's let Dubya show that he is a "man of honor". Let's let him step up and tell the world that he thought he did the right thing. And then let the jury decide.

What's truly embarrassing is that Broder is given a prominent forum in which to spew such nonsense. May I suggest eggs and rotten vegetables the next time he gives a public speech.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why does this need to be said?

Glenn Greenwald, in today's excellent (and devastating) post, makes this unremarkable statement:
People like John McCain argue that only "banana republics" prosecute former political leaders, but the reality is exactly the opposite.
Indeed. Why doesn't the so-called "liberal media" point this out? It is only in a country where the rule of law doesn't hold that "former political leaders" are given a pass ... by dint of being "former political leaders". There, politics is a consideration as to whether someone is "guilty". In a sane and legal state, politicians are treated the same as anyone else ... and if they committed crimes, they are punished.

Granted, a "banana republic" may also prosecute some former political leaders even if no crime was committed ... for political reasons as well (once again, because "politics is a consideration as to whether someone is 'guilty'"), but their failings there are hardly any expiation of the sins of unaccountability for those that escape prosecution because of political considerations. McCain's statement assumes implicitly that no "political leaders" ever commit crimes (except perhaps in "banana republics", but there he assumes that such leaders do get prosecuted). This assumption in not warranted.


Entirely in accord with Glenn's point, we have this from Michael Dorf:
Criminal charging decisions are indeed partly a matter of reading the applicable laws. But prosecutors, including the Attorney General, also have discretion, and it is hard to imagine that political considerations would not play some role in the determination whether to seek indictments arising out of the detainee abuse.
Yes, indeed, we have to look at this in "context". And who can deny the political implications? And why shouldn't they be considered?!?!? To deny that is to deny reality itself....

Later, Dorf says this:
There is, in addition, a principled basis for not prosecuting the architects of the Bush detainee abuse program: In the long run, to do so could be bad for our democracy.

In non-democratic regimes and fragile democracies, politics is an extremely high-stakes affair because those who win power often use that power to confiscate the property of, imprison, or even kill those who formerly held power. This is why transitions from one government to the next are so fraught outside of stable democracies.

Thus, one of the great, but often unnoticed, virtues of democracy is that it lowers the stakes of politics. Electoral losers know that they will be permitted to enter private life, or regroup and fight another political battle; conversely, winners know that they could lose the next election. Because electoral defeat is a setback but not a personal disaster, politicians across a broad swath of the ideological spectrum stay involved in the system, rather than literally attacking each other.

Prosecution of political opponents threatens to raise the stakes of politics and thus to undercut this important feature of democracy. Lengthy trials of Bush Administration officials for authorizing torture would inevitably be perceived as partisan, and would likely lead to a further cycle of recriminations....
"[R]ecriminations"?!?!? How so? Isn't this assuming that the prosecutions are baseless? If so, make that case first!!!

This is confooo-gabble of the highest order. "Banana republics" and "fragile democracies" suffer from the defect that purely political prosecutions are possible there, and tear at the fabric of their nascent (or non-existent) "democracy", thus, for them, a ban on political prosecution might be justified. But we have a strong democracy. We are thus able to withstand prosecution of political figures. But we shouldn't prosecute political figures because if we do, we risk looking like the "banana republics" that shouldn't be prosecuting political figures, and thus risk becoming such a "banana republic".

He continues:
... One need not think that the U.S. would actually slip into dictatorship to worry about these effects....
And if we're not at risk, what's the problem? That the Rethuglicans might get back in power and do a Lewinskygate "Starr Chamber" again? Hate to break the news, Michael, but they'll do that anyway....
... In this sense, if President Obama or Attorney General Holder makes the political judgment that there is no angle to be found in prosecutions, that decision could also be fairly characterized as a matter of principle.
Just those words need to be considered in their sublime essence.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Extra! Extra! Pot calls the china cup black!

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall is amased:
I must be mistaken. But I think Foxies Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are on TV whipping each other up into a sudsy lather over NBC's alleged lack of news credibility because of its corporate ownership by GE.
Two words: "Rupert Murdoch".

Josh still hasn't come to terms with the depths of the Rethuglican psychosis. The pathology is sufficient for an entire volume of the APA's Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Clarence Thomas opens up....

Cthulhu save us!

From the N.Y. Times:
“Sometimes, when I get a little down,” Justice Thomas said wearily, he goes online. “I look up wonderful speeches, like speeches by Douglas MacArthur, to hear him give without a note that speech at West Point — ‘duty, honor, country.’ How can you not hear those words and not feel strongly about what we have?”
OK, so now everyone's in the military, eh?....
He continued: “Or how can you not reminisce about a childhood where you began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance as little kids lined up in the schoolyard and then marched in two by two with a flag and a crucifix in each classroom?”
Gotta love that authoritarian bent.
A favorite movie can be a comfort, too.

“I have on many occasions or a number of occasions when things were becoming particularly routine gone down to my basement to watch ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” he said. “I can’t tell you why that particular movie, except we have it and it’s about something important in our lives — World War II.”
Yeah, nothing like Hollywood to portray a fictionalized account of WWII bravery and sacrifice. Yanks your heartstrings that Thomas couldn't fight in Vietnam.... Oh well, better luck next time, Clarence....
The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.

‘Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”

“I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances,” he said. “Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”
Indeed. It is no doubt the gummint's duty to make sure we all do what we're told to do. That's it's job, nicht wahr?
He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”
And welfare queens are owed Cadillacs. Or so goes the fairy-tale....
Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.

“I have to admit,” he said, “that I’m one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how that dishes were magically cleaned.”
Simple things for simple minds. Thomas missed his calling as a bus boy, I guess.
He was asked how his religious faith influenced his work on the court.

“I think that it really gives content to the oath that you took,” Justice Thomas said. “You say, ‘so help me God.’ ”
Except the Constitution says:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
“There are some cases that will drive you to your knees,” he added. “In those moments you ask for strength and wisdom to have the right answer and the courage to stand up for it. Beyond that, it would be illegitimate, I think, and a violation of my oath to incorporate my religious beliefs into the decision-making process.”
Well, except requiring the Pledge of Allegiance with "under God" in it ... and various other sundries....
The questions from students were read to Justice Thomas, and the first one seemed to throw him off. “Since the Civil War, what has changed the way Americans view the Constitution the most and why?” an unidentified student asked.

Justice Thomas gave a rambling response, touching on the Fourteenth Amendment, the rights of freed slaves, the application of parts of the Bill of Rights to the states and Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that endorsed the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
"[R]ambling". Kind of like not knowing the rationale in the biggest case of the previous term, BSA v. Dale (a case he had signed on to the majority opinion on).
I’m sure there are other things that have happened,” he said, wrapping up his answer. “So I would have to say just off the top of my head the Fourteenth Amendment. And I bet you someone’s going to hear that and say, well, no, it’s the dormant commerce clause or something.”

That was a curious aside. Few Americans could name the the dormant commerce clause, and it has no obvious connection to how popular views of the Constitution changed after the Civil War. “This job is easy for people who’ve never done it,” Justice Thomas said later. “What I have found in this job is they know more about it than I do, especially if they have the title, law professor.”
Yes, they do. If you find it hard, Clarence, resign!!!!!