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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 15 March 2004

Topic: Bush

And eight days after International Women's Day?
Some crazy woman doubts our president has his heart in the right place!
Not nice at all...

This is an example of how listing events in order can make you think subversive thoughts. It's an old trick.

See Bush's feminine side: The president's record on women's rights sits ill with his pose as saviour of the hijab-wearing masses
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday March 16, 2004

Here's the indictment -

George and Laura Bush invited a number of their closest Afghan and Iraqi women friends to a reception at the White House the other day. In his remarks, Mr Bush was nostalgic about his first meeting with the guest of honour: Raja Habib Khuzai, one of three women on the US-appointed Iraqi governing council. Apparently she turned up for her audience at the Oval Office weeping tears of joy, declaring: "My liberator."

It is a fairly safe guess that would not be a typical female reaction to meeting Mr Bush. On the very first day of his presidency, he imposed a ban on US foreign aid to any agency offering abortion advice. A year later, the US government withheld more than $30m for a United Nations population control programme because it espoused "reproductive rights". It also opposed UN measures to help girls and women raped during times of war in case that assistance included advice about the morning-after pill or abortion. Programmes for Aids victims have been advised not to mention the word "condom".

At home, the White House closed its office for women's outreach, the labour department's network of women's offices and other agencies monitoring gender discrimination at the workplace. Last September, Mr Bush proposed diverting $2bn in welfare funds to programmes promoting marriage. Two months later, he presided over the most significant retreat on abortion rights in 30 years by signing into law a ban on late terminations.

But with an election next November, that record is inconvenient. Mr Bush would much rather be remembered in his new role as the global saviour of downtrodden women, the liberator of Ms Khuzai and so many other hapless, hijab-wearing millions.

To that end, Mr Bush enlisted his normally retiring wife, Laura, to make an opening speech. He also announced the appointment of both his sister, Dorothy, and a daughter of the vice-president, Dick Cheney, to a UN commission on the status of women.

The centrepiece of Bush's argument was that America went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan not to fight al-Qaida or to hunt out and destroy a dictator's weapons of mass destruction, but to improve their sorry lot in life.
Well he did.

You might click on the link and read the whole thing. It's enough to make anyone but Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell angry.

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Law

But wait! There's more. Soon congress will have the power to reverse the decisions of the Supreme Court. Cool.

In the magazine yesterday, buried at the end of the item on Mel Gibson and George Bush, I mentioned there is a new 'Constitution Restoration Act' before congress.

This is a new bill submitted in both houses to limit the jurisdiction the Supreme Court and federal district courts over cases involving any federal, state, or local government official who "publicly acknowledges God as the source of law, liberty, or government." If passed, you cannot stop that official from saying God's will trumps the law and the constitution.

Sounds like theocracy is on the way.

Judge Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, introduced the bill at a press conference in Washington last month. You remember he was removed from office because he refused to take down a Ten Commandments display he placed in the state courthouse building.


Robert Aderholt (R-AL) introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives in February - the "Constitution Restoration Act," or H.R. 3799. There are seven co-sponsors to the bill, and it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for review. The co-sponsors of the House version of the bill are Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Robert Cramer (R-AL), Terry Everett (R-AL), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Mike Rogers (R-AL).

Richard Shelby (R-AL) introduced the same "Constitution Restoration Act" into the Senate in February as S. 2082. There are five co-sponsors to the Senate version of the bill, and it is under consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill are Wayne Allard (R-CO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Zell Miller (D-GA).

These guys all say this bill say it was designed to counter "the radical judicial activism that has taken place in recent years to remove any reference to God in American society." They say too many legal decisions are an effort to secularize government and remove moral standards in the law.

And we cannot have that, can we?

But wait! There's more. There's a second bill that actually proposes that congress should be allowed to reverse the decisions of the Supreme Court.

You could look it up. Here's the relevant text:


March 9, 2004

Mr. Lewis of Kentucky (for himself, Mr. DeMint, Mr. Everett, Mr. Pombo, Mr. Coble, Mr. Collins, Mr. Goode, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Franks of Arizona, Mr. Hefley, Mr. Doolittle, and Mr. Kingston) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


To allow Congress to reverse the judgments of the United States Supreme Court.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004.


The Congress may, if two thirds of each House agree, reverse a judgment of the United States Supreme Court?

(1) if that judgment is handed down after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(2) to the extent that judgment concerns the constitutionality of an Act of Congress.


The procedure for reversing a judgment under section 2 shall be, as near as may be and consistent with the authority of each House of Congress to adopt its own rules of proceeding, the same as that used for considering whether or not to override a veto of legislation by the President.


This Act is enacted pursuant to the power of Congress under article III, section 2, of the Constitution of the United States.
Two of my regular readers are lawyers, and took the usual courses in Constitutional Law.

Can they do this? I'd guess so.

The congress shall have the power to make null and void what the judicial branch decides? Why not give the president that power? Co-equal branches of government in a balance of powers? How silly.

Legal opinions are welcome here.

Posted by Alan at 19:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: World View

Spain Pulls Out of the Coalition of Grudgingly Willing - A Second Round of Scrutiny from the Other Side of the Pond

Spain? Obviously a nation of pragmatists or, looking at it the other way, a nation of cowards who don't see the nobility of our war on all evil and full of folks with an unreasonable hatred of the heroic George Bush... that is, in Spain the craven appeasers of terrorism have won.

Take your choice.

First up we have Matthew Yglesias - a Writing Fellow at The American Prospect magazine in Washington, DC. In addition, his work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Center for American Progress, and Tech Central Station. Yglesias is a 2003 graduate of Harvard where he majored in philosophy, was Editor in Chief of The Harvard Independent and wrote an honors thesis on the implications of John Rawls' political liberalism for public education. And he has a blog.

Here he suggests the bombing and surprising election in Spain is good for the conservatives here in the United States - it sets up a model:

The right would like to set up the following argument: If there are no attacks between now and the election, then Bush has defended us from terror and deserves re-election; if there is an attack between now and the election, then voting for Kerry would be appeasement. Spain is just the dry-run.
So young. So cynical.

And then he adds this:

On The Other Hand

If -- as much of the right keeps telling me -- yesterday's election in Spain really is a victory for al-Qaeda in the war on terror, and George W. Bush is leading the global war on terror, does it follow that Bush is mismanaging our side and leading to our defeat?
This fellow is fond of snarky logic. Harvard corrupts people, doesn't it?

Then there is Christopher Hitchens. He weighs in today.

See To Die in Madrid: The nutty logic that says Spain provoked Islamist terrorism
Christopher Hitchens, SLATE.COM, Posted Monday, March 15, 2004, at 12:28 PM PT

I must admit this whole item was so heavily sarcastic even I could make little of what he was getting at. And I LIKE sarcasm. Most of it seems to be an argument that no matter what anyone nation does - support Bush or repudiate him or just shrug - the bad guys will kill anyone anywhere. And that is just the way it is. Spain can stay in Iraq or go home. Same for the UK or Australia or Japan or Fiji. Even we can stay or go home. It doesn't matter one whit.

So what should we do?

Hitchens ends with this:

I find I can't quite decide what to recommend in the American case. I thought it was a good idea to remove troops from Saudi Arabia in any event (after all, we had removed the chief regional invader). But, even with the troops mainly departed, bombs continue to detonate in Saudi streets. We are, it seems, so far gone in sin and decadence that no repentance or penitence can be adequate. Perhaps, for the moment, it's enough punishment, and enough shame, just to know that what occurred in Madrid last week is all our fault. Now, let that sink in.
Hitchens suggests a problem that admits of no possible solution. I guess he was having a bad day.

Josh Marshall on the other hand does a more useful analysis. Here's some of it.

Let's fall back for a moment and think about what this whole fight is about. Al Qaida (and militant Islam generally) sees itself as the inheritor of a world-historical religious movement which, according to their view of cosmology and eschatology, is supposed to be at the vanguard of history. In the orthodox Muslim view of history, the `lands of Islam' expand but they never recede. The Islamic world should be the most powerful, the most advanced by various measures, probably the wealthiest. Viewed from that perspective almost everything about the contemporary world is turned upside down, almost a blasphemy in itself. The US, from their perspective both a secular and a Christian power, is the dominant power even in the heartlands of Islam. Add to this that our secularism is another level of blasphemy. From the perspective of revanchist, militant Islam, almost everything about today's world is nearly the opposite of what they believe their religion says it should be. (Thus, they're somewhat aggravated.)

So the whole point of this endeavor is to sweep us out of the heartlands of Islam, put Islam back on the march on its frontiers and purify the religion itself within the Abode of Islam, as they call it.

From that point the whole program becomes more muddled and inchoate, but whether they want to reestablish the caliphate within the existing lands of Islam or take over the whole world or whatever doesn't really matter for our present purposes.

The key point is that it's not hard to see how invading and occupying part of the heartland of Islam is going to rile them up a bit since it brings into sharper relief their whole worldview of a cataclysmic struggle between the West and Islam. (In itself that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. But even if we supposed there would be positive effects, we'd have to realize that there would be at least short-term negative ones as well.) Whether they use our presence there cynically (as yet another rallying cry to bring followers to their side) or whether it just confirms them in their view of the reality of the situation is also not all that relevant for our present purposes.

We know for instance that over the last several years al Qaida has spoken more and more about Palestine --- an issue with which it didn't originally seem to have that much interest. And they started to do the same with Iraq just as the US increasingly turned its attention to the country. But again, that doesn't really prove anything more than al Qaida's opportunism or their addled worldview, take your pick.

Many of us are familiar with early- and mid-20th century Communists or modern-day LaRouchies who will glom onto almost any movement or issue under the sun in order to use it as a vehicle to advance their own interests and enhance their own power. I don't think there's that much difference in this case.

In just such fashion, in the middle decades of the 20th century, Communists sought to infiltrate the American Civil Rights movement --- repeatedly and, by and large, remarkably unsuccessfully. The analogy is imperfect certainly. But the parallels are telling. The point wasn't that the Civil Rights movement was Communist, but that Communists were trying to use the movement for its own purposes. Attacking the Civil Rights movement as part of attacking Communism wouldn't have damaged Communism but rather strengthened it since doing so would have tended to push those committed to Civil Rights into the Communists' arms. Indeed, this was precisely the idea.

Of course, there were those who had their own reasons for attacking both the Communists and the Civil Rights Movement. For them, this equation the Communists were trying to create between Communism and Civil Rights wasn't a distraction but rather a convenience. And those folks most definitely have their modern-day equivalents among us now as well, though we can focus on that point at a later time.

In any case, just because al Qaida has adopted the Iraq cause as their own doesn't mean we've damaged al Qaida by taking down the Baathist regime --- especially by doing it so incompetently. Just as likely --- in fact far more likely --- is that we've just handed them a useful recruiting tool while distracting ourselves from pursuing more effective means of extirpating them.
In short? Just what Hitchens said, without the sarcasm. The war was a dumb idea and didn't help with terrorism at all.

So it doesn't matter if Spain pulls out of the Coalition of Grudgingly Willing. They're not more safe. They're not less safe. This is an al Qaida effort beyond all that. It really doesn't matter.

Hey, if they want to toss out the fellow who kissed Bush's butt in spite of most everyone saying that was really dumb, well, more power too them. As if it matters...

Posted by Alan at 19:28 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Bush

Language Notes

By way of Slate online today. A new "Bushism."

Anyone know what this means?

"God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear."
- Los Angeles, Calif., March 3, 2004

Quite puzzling, isn't it?

Posted by Alan at 09:39 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 14 March 2004

Topic: World View

The Bombing and then the Vote in Spain Explained: The Two Opposing Views of What It All Means

What to make of the vote in Spain, two days after the bombing that killed two hundred commuters? What to make of the folks tossing out the government that was with us in the Iraq war - in spite of the fact ninety percent of the population in Spain bitterly opposed that decision? It seems the voters are enthusiastic about installing a government more independent and less compliant with anything George Bush says. Perhaps they felt their former leaders simply made them a target for no good reason.

If you hadn't noticed, there are two schools of thought on this. Over at the Financial Times (UK) they run a wire item from Reuters.

See Authorities have no clear response for Madrid
Peter Graff, Reuters - March 14 2004 16:53

LONDON (Reuters) - If it was Islamist militants who struck out of the blue in Madrid last week, then it will dash hopes that Western security forces had blunted the threat from al Qaeda since September 11 and all Europe is at risk.

Despite billions of dollars spent tracking Islamic radicals over the past 30 months, despite destroying their Afghan bases and putting thousands of agents on the streets, Western spies heard not a trace of "chatter" from Muslim militants before the bombers killed 200 rail commuters, security analysts said.

While responsibility remained unclear on Sunday for the worst ever guerrilla attack on a European city, a claim from a purported al Qaeda ally and the arrests of three Arabs caused Spain to play down early accusations against Basque separatists.

The broader implication, experts say, is that security is still worse -- perhaps far worse -- than policymakers feared, even in countries like Spain with experience of dealing robustly with political violence and which were well aware their support for U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq had made them targets.

Well, the implication here is that these folks didn't like the price they just paid for that decision to go to war in Iraq beside the United States, and further, the whole war in Iraq seems to have had the net result of making the world far more dangerous. And the war was supposed to have the opposite effect.

This in turn would point to more and more future elections around the world coming to be an exercise in punishing those who stood with Bush and his (our) idea that removing pesky, irritating governments was the best way to fix the problem with terrorists - and with "evil" in general.

Yeah, well, but on the other hand the conservative voice of Glenn Reynolds summarizes the view from the supporters of Bush, the Republican right.

See TERRORISTS HAVE SUCCEEDED IN TOPPLING THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT where he links to many, many people seeing the vote as a victory for the Islamic Fanatical Devils.

Jeff Jarvis observes: " In any case, it's a damned shame that terrorists can have an impact on the election and can help bring in the side they apparently wanted."

Eric Olsen has more thoughts on what is, I'm afraid, a bad day for the forces of civilization.

UPDATE: Roger Simon:

I walk out on my deck, looking across the Hollywood Hills at Runyon Canyon, but my mind is in Madrid, at its splendid Puerta del Sol where I have spent so many wonderful days and where sadly fascists have walked before and for too long. But this time they are not under the flag of Generalissimo Franco. This time, ironically, they rally behind the words of a man, Osama bin Laden, whom El Caudillo would have reviled. But of course the cry of both men is the same: Viva la muerte!

Indeed. Meanwhile Mark Aveyard notes a contradiction: "Remember being told by the left that Saddam's regime and Al Queda had no relationship, that they actually hated each other? Now they're saying that Al Queda attacked Spain because the US ousted Saddam!"

And Eric Kolchinsky emails: "Al Queda (or any other terror organization) will rightly perceive that they can influence elections through violence. This vote has greatly increased the probability of a pre-election attack -- here and in Europe." Yes. And it's reduced the likelihood of addressing this problem without major bloodshed. The Spanish electorate has made what seems to me to be a very shortsighted and cowardly decision, and the world may suffer as a result.

So the short-sighted cowards of Spain - the majority of voters - are destroying civilization by thinking only of their safety and thus "letting the terrorists win."

If you click on the Reynolds item he has links to all his sources and many, many more. Everyone on the right is appalled that majority of voters in Spain could be so cowardly, gutless, weak, craven and pusillanimous as to decide that siding with Bush and the United States was not in their self-interest, and in the interest of the greater good. I guess the idea that these Spanish folks just don't get it. They don't understand the evil of fanatical Islam.

They don't? I think the year was 711 when Muslim forces invaded and in seven years finally conquered the whole Iberian Peninsula. Their rule didn't end until 1492 when Granada was conquered. El Cid and all that. Glenn, they know. The center of Muslim rule was southern Spain -- Andalusia. They know. The French know too. If Charles Martel hadn't stopped the Islamic army at what is now Lyon the Rh?ne valley in 739 France would be even more Muslim than it is now. They know too.

So Glenn, maybe this is about Bush more than it is about Al Queda. The Spanish, it seems, don't want to stand with a madman who stirs up all this stuff one more time.

Ah, but what to I know?

And a bit of disclosure... One of my five surviving nephews is getting engaged to a lovely woman who grew up in New Jersey. I like her. But she's Muslim, and he's converting. On the 9th of next month I'm off to Orange County for a ceremony of some sort celebrating this. One would have to assume that Ashcroft and his guys will be watching the whole family from now on.

But I'm used to it. In the mid-seventies I was best man at my friend Phil's wedding. He married the daughter of the head of personnel at the United Nations. The father of the bride was... Chinese! There we were at this nice outdoor ceremony at the family's summer place in the green Hudson Valley, not far from West Point. And the government guys were across the road in their Ford sedans with telephoto lenses, taking pictures of us all. Oh well.

Hey, it's all part of being an American.

Posted by Alan at 23:06 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 14 March 2004 23:13 PST home

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