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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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Thursday, 6 October 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

The Fire Below: Looking Behind the News

Thursday, October 6th brought turmoil of course:

The Big Speech

Midmorning the president gave his long-awaited speech in which he was going to explain everything about the war in Iraq - Bush turns up rhetoric in the antiterror fight (International Herald Tribune / NY Times) - but everyone got to write their own headline:

- Bush lashes out at 'Islamo-fascism' (Daily Times, Pakistan)
- Bush begs for support to fight 'evil radicals' waging war on ... (Times Online, UK)
- A Mess of George Bush's Own Making (The Nation)
- Bush: Militants Seek to Establish Empire (Guardian Unlimited, UK)
- Bush rejects Iraq critics, sees more sacrifice (Washington Post)

… and this assessment - Say What? - Bush's speech was a sad, demoralizing spectacle (Fred Kaplan at SLATE.COM).

Take your pick. The speech seemed to be a halftime pep talk, a "we can win this thing" exhortation - but the coach didn't diagram any new plays or suggest different coverage patterns on defense, and he certainly didn't change the lineup at all. He didn't mention the score. He may not know the score. In fact, Kaplan tells us that military analyst William Arkin reports in his Washington Post blog, "Early Warning," that just last month the Defense Department issued an RFP to outside contractors to devise "a system of metrics to accurately assess US progress in the War on Terrorism, identify critical issues hindering progress, and develop and track action plans to resolve the issues identified." Yes, this far along it's odd that just now they're issuing a "request for proposal" for someone to come up with some kind of idea on how to keep score in this game.

You can say, "We're winning this thing - just hang on and try harder," but you just have to trust the coach on that. They're going to get some bids on a scoreboard and game clock and install it later? That seems to be the case. Oh well.

The central point of this address was that we can't give up now or swarthy madmen will take over the world and kill us all.

Bush: "We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory." (One thinks of Tim Allen playing Jason Nesmith, who plays Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, in the 1999 film Galaxy Quest - an underrated and deeply ironic spoof on much of our culture - spouting the line "Never Give Up, Never Surrender!" - each time with more and more disconnect from any kind of reality. There it's comic.)

The speech got buried in other news. Just as well.

We're All Going to Die!

Late afternoon? The mayor of New York was on television telling everyone there were specific plans by someone or other to bomb the city subways and he was flooding the stations with cops and for the next few days please report anything suspicious, but ride the subways anyway as they were safe, really. (Bloomberg Cites 'Specific Threat' to NY Subways) He said the FBI had shared with city officials a "specific threat" to the New York subway system, and asked the public to be vigilant. No one could verify the source of the treat, and no one could corroborate the threat - but it was specific. Watch those suspicious briefcases and baby carriages.

Perhaps he could have done the jump in security without all the fanfare, and caught the bad guys off guard. Ah well. It's always good to scare people and let the bad guys know what you're up to. Sacred folks vote Republican. And of course the bad guys will now know to wait until things cool down. Like they have a timetable?

The Noose Tightens

Also late in the afternoon? That prosecutor investigating who in the White House had the bright idea of revealing the name of an undercover CIA agent to get back at her husband for embarrassing the president when he exposed a bit of fibbing about Saddam trying to build nuclear weapons, Patrick Fitzgerald, "invited" Karl Rove back to chat with the grand jury, although the New York Times uses a different verb - Rove Summoned to Testify Again in CIA Leak Investigation.

Something is up. Before accepting the "invitation," this Fitzgerald fellow sent some correspondence to Rove's legal team making clear that "there was no guarantee he wouldn't be indicted at a later point."

So? Note this from Lawrence O'Donnell, the idea Fitzgerald is trying to get a few witnesses to "flip" and become prosecution witnesses. He's going after bigger fish?
Prosecutors prefer pre-indictment plea-bargaining to post-indictment because they have more to offer you, like not being indicted at all or downgrading your status to unindicted co-conspirator. And pre-indictment plea-bargaining can greatly enrich the indictments that the prosecutor then obtains. If, for example, Fitzgerald has a weak case against, say, Scooter Libby, imagine how much Rove's cooperation might strengthen that case.

If no one RSVPs to Fitzgerald's invitations, look for indictments as early as next week. If anyone does sit down with Fitzgerald, he will probably have to move to extend the grand jury, which now has only thirteen working days left in its term.

Prediction: at least three high level Bush Administration personnel indicted and possibly one or more very high level unindicted co-conspirators.
Well, maybe. There are thousands of people speculating in the press and on the web, and on radio and television. No one knows. The testimony is Friday morning and that will be sealed. Criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt says this, but no one knows. She's best here, explaining everything you want to know about how grand juries work and what a "target letter" is - with samples and everything.

But as mentioned earlier, the news stories are about transitory events. There are issues that lie underneath. And even if my staff columnist detests the idea those be explored, here goes.

In Wednesdays with the Church Lady, about the nomination of Harriet Miers to the open Supreme Court seat, the idea was you see the opposing forces lining up - shall well have "a dispassionate rejection of the politicization of the law," or shall we embrace complete politicization of the law, to save America from the fags and sluts and the ungodly and all that?

This is pretty basic stuff having to do with, really, people's tolerance for others not accepting "the accepted" and looking at issues with an open mind - or really, an issue with whether having an "open mind" was of any intrinsic value at all, or it is just best to accept God's will. Which sort of person do you want sitting on the bench?

This is a conflict as old as the myth of "the fall" being caused by eating the fruit of "the Tree of Knowledge." (Yes, some say that is not "a myth" but literally happened.) The original sin though, was thinking itself. Bad stuff.

That played out in an odd way this week. The fight on the right, about Harriet going to the court, pitted the evangelicals against the "intellectuals." It was almost a faith versus reason drama, harking back to the Enlightenment. We're still arguing? Seems so, as in this:

Gods vs. Geeks
GOP evangelicals fight intellectuals over Harriet Miers.
John Dickerson - Posted Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005, at 4:49 PM PT - SLATE.COM

The conflict:
The debate within the Republican Party over Harriet Miers has quickly devolved into a simple question: Is the nominee qualified because of her religious faith, or unqualified by her lack of intellectual heft? On the one side, James Dobson, Miers' fellow parishioners at Valley View Christian Church, and President Bush speak for her heart. On the other, George Will and William Kristol and others who swooned for John Roberts decry her unimpressive legal mind.

In this battle, the White House has clearly sided with the churchgoing masses against the Republican Party's own whiny Beltway intellectuals. The Bushies have always mistrusted their own bow-tied secularists, but the rift has never before been so public. "This is classic elitism," says a senior administration official of the GOP opposition to the Miers nomination.
A classic faith versus reason problem. And Dickerson says there always been this split on the right - "an uncomfortable mix between, on the one hand, right-wing intellectuals, including the neoconservatives whose backing for the Iraq invasion has been so important, and, on the other, the evangelicals who turned out in such numbers to vote for a man who boasted that he was one of them."

But Dickerson reminds us that when Bush was a candidate in 1999, and asked who his favorite philosopher was, said "Christ, because he changed my heart. ... When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the Savior, it changes your heart and changes your life."

The Republican bow-tied secularists let that slide. Bad move. Now they know what it means. Harriet may no next to nothing of constitutional law, and never was a judge, but she has that faith.

And now these secular intellectuals are making trouble? Also a bad move -
... there's nothing that will make Bush fight harder for his nominee than an attack by the intellectuals - even if they are from his own party. Those who put others down as second-rate minds with weak credentials get relegated to that class of snobs he first learned to hate at Yale, when he walked through their Vietnam protests in his leather bomber jacket. Those who lack skill in what Will called "constitutional reasoning" are already pressing the president's anti-intellectual buttons. Bush loves the idea, say aides, that Miers strikes a blow for real-world simplicity.
Intellectuals, snobs, thinkers. Who needs them? The man in charge sees calling someone "simple minded" as a compliment.

And he sends his attack dog to take care of the problem, as in this from Tim Grieve, Thursday, October 6th -
Appearing on CNN today, White House advisor and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie tried to explain what he meant when he suggested yesterday that critics of the Harriet Miers nomination are elitists and sexists. But even for a master of spin like Gillespie, the triple reverse is tough move to execute.

Step one: Gillespie insists that, when he complained of a "whiff of elitism" in criticism of the Miers nomination, he wasn't referring to the concerns of "conservative allies" - despite the fact that conservatives ranging from George Will to Ann Coulter have, in fact, argued that Miers isn't qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

Step two: Gillespie says that people who question Miers' qualifications for a seat on the court seem to believe that Supreme Court justices have to have attended "Harvard Law School or practiced law in Boston or New York." Add Yale and Washington to that list, and there's probably some truth to the charge: Some of us do have this crazy notion that a Supreme Court nominee should have a record of extraordinary academic achievement or at least a demonstrated history of grappling with the questions of federal and constitutional law that come before the court. Even George W. Bush, shares that view - or at least he used to. It was the president, after all, who not so long ago was said to be "particularly impressed" with John G. Roberts' "impeccable credentials" from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and the fact that he'd argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court.

Step three: Gillespie claims that, when he said there was a "whiff of sexism" about the early opposition to Miers' nomination, he didn't mean that people doubted Miers' abilities because she's a woman. No, what he meant was, people don't understand what the president's "staff secretary" does. "I saw an analysis that said, well, it's - it's - the president shouldn't elevate his former staff secretary to the Supreme Court, as though the staff secretary of the president of the United States is someone who goes and gets coffee," Gillespie explains. "The staff secretary of the president of the United States is someone who is responsible for the flow of information to the president as he makes decisions on the critical issues facing our country today. It is a critically important position. And I - I - I got the impression from reading these there was a sense that - that, because there was a woman in the staff secretary's job, it is - that - that, somehow, that meant she was responsible for getting coffee. And it was demeaning. I thought - I felt that was - there was some - that smacked of sexism to me. That's a different argument than - than - than the discussion I had with the conservative - our conservative allies yesterday."
Amusing. But what was that conversation? And Ann Coulter is unhappy with this?

Ann Coulter really is unhappy with this, as she says here - "Being on the Supreme Court isn't like winning a 'Best Employee of the Month' award. It's a real job."

I eagerly await the announcement of President Bush's real nominee to the Supreme Court. If the president meant Harriet Miers seriously, I have to assume Bush wants to go back to Crawford and let Dick Cheney run the country.

Unfortunately for Bush, he could nominate his Scottish terrier Barney, and some conservatives would rush to defend him, claiming to be in possession of secret information convincing them that the pooch is a true conservative and listing Barney's many virtues - loyalty, courage, never jumps on the furniture ...
Snobbish elitism:
Harriet Miers went to Southern Methodist University Law School, which is not ranked at all by the serious law school reports and ranked No. 52 by US News and World Report. Her greatest legal accomplishment is being the first woman commissioner of the Texas Lottery.

I know conservatives have been trained to hate people who went to elite universities, and generally that's a good rule of thumb. But not when it comes to the Supreme Court.
However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn't qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on "The West Wing," let alone to be a real one. Both Republicans and Democrats should be alarmed that Bush seems to believe his power to appoint judges is absolute. This is what "advice and consent" means.
You might click on the link and read all of it. The middle is brutal.

On the left, Duncan "Atrios" Black here -
Lots of discussion in wingnuttia about whether or not it's "elitist" to oppose Miers. These discussions seem to confuse different kinds of elitism. There's one kind of elitism which dares to suggest that smart qualified people should get the kinds of jobs that require smart qualified people. This seems to be perfectly reasonable.

The other type of elitism is the one which focuses on pedigrees and certificates. One must come from the right family and go to the right school. No less than Ann Coulter has been down on Brownie Miers for her lack of appropriate law school pedigree. This kind of elitism is incredibly rampant among the, you know, elites of all political persuasions - whether liberal academics or faux heartland populist conservatives - and goes way beyond the normal kind of network cronyism that elite institutions can help foster.

Having gone to a humble state school for my undergraduate degree and then to an Ivy League school for graduate school, I was continually surprised by the degree of snob elitism I confronted. I won't deny that going to a top school provides some signal of your abilities, but one certainly doesn't have to have gone to an Ivy League school or one of the "honorary Ivies" to be a smart, educated, qualified, capable person. And, having taught plenty of undergraduates at an Ivy League institution I can say that a degree from one is no guarantee of supergenius abilities either.

Even more so, I was shocked at how much having a graduate degree from an Ivy versus a non-Ivy seemed to impress even people who should know better. Especially at the advanced degree level the quality of any individual department within an institution is often entirely almost entirely uncorrelated with that institution's broader reputation as an undergraduate institution. Not all graduate departments in Ivy League schools are any good, let alone among the best.
And at the highest-traffic left side blog, Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Kos), adds this -
People like Ann Coulter have bashed Miers on her academic credentials - her JD from the decidedly non-Ivy Southern Methodist University law school.

Like Duncan, I attended a "humble state school" for my undergraduate studies. And while I didn't go to an Ivy League law school, Boston University School of Law is a top-20 law school in the nation. Same concept. And a big "whoop de doo" to that shit.

Concerns about Miers' academic credentials should have nothing to do with the school she attended. I attended a better law school, but I have no doubt Miers has a better understanding of the law than I do (I skipped many a class for more interesting fare - like working as a legislative aide to a Massachusetts state senator and organizing in Latino communities). There is more to legal understanding than the school's name on your JD diploma.

I'd be more interested in whether she excelled as a student. Where did she fit in terms of class rank? Did she serve on law review? What kind of extracurricular activities did she engage in? Or was she an average "C" student and party animal in the mold of the target of her affections, Bush Jr.?

That, to me, is the salient academic question. Not anything to do with the school she attended. Because while Miers is without a doubt politically brilliant - breaking the law firm glass ceiling and weaseling inside the Bush inner circle are proof of that - the Supreme Court requires a somewhat different skill set. That is, the ability to critically ponder complex legal issues and concepts.
Interesting. The big political story of the week has, beneath it, the whole issue of the mind. Is using it, cultivating it, challenging it, cramming it full of complex ideas at a top university - is all of that a thing, or does that destroy your faith and make you somehow a bad person who has turned his or her back on God, not submitting to His will?

Funny, the same question is being asked in the Dover trial, arguing the inadequacies of evolution and geology in science - arguing science itself, that stuff of the mind, is inadequate and dangerously subversive.

Something is in the air. The end of the Enlightenment? Well, it had a good run since the eighteenth century.

But it's over. In these pages, way back on June 29, 2003, that was noted here in a discussion of this: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ..." And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

No one noticed? The Brits finally did. "President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals."

One of the many web comments here, Thursday, October 06, 2005 -
Imaginary Friends

Seriously, if you substituted the phrase "my next door neighbor's cat" for the word "God," in the following, the guy would be declared batshit and locked away:

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ..." And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

The link to the complete article is here.

I mean, at some point things move from hyperbole to reality. My life and future, my wife's life and future, my daughter's life and future, lie in the hands of a unintelligent dry drunk (who is possibly drinking again) who has an inbred sense of feudal entitlement and the temperament of a petulant four year old AND who thinks a mythological bearded white man in the sky talks to him? Holy fucking fuck.
Indeed. No one noticed before? It takes this odd nomination to bring this all to the surface?

One really ought to think about the what's "under" the transitory news stories. Faith (and trust) versus reason (and inquiry), the apple that tasted so good and got us kicked out of Eden, Galileo and the Catholic Church, Voltaire mocking religion and being denounced, Darwin and Huxley all the way to the Scopes trial, to Dover in Pennsylvania this month, to the president listening to supernatural voices, to the defense of know-little want-to-know-less nominees for the Supreme Court. This all had not been resolved, and may never be resolved. It's just one long argument, over and over.



BA - Denison University, Granville, Ohio - a place with famous alumni like Senator Richard Lugar of Illinois, Michael Eisner who ran Disney for decades, the actor Hal Holbrook who was so good as Mark Twain, John Davidson (don't ask), and Steve Carell, star of a recent movie about a forty-year-old virgin and "The Daily Show." This is a mixed bag.

MA and PhD work - Duke University, Durham, North Carolina - "The Harvard of the South." Whatever.

Posted by Alan at 22:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005 22:12 PDT home

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Topic: The Law

Two Days Out: Wednesdays with the Church Lady

By midweek, Wednesday, October 5, you'd think things would have settled down about the nomination of Harriet Miers for the open seat on the Supreme Court. Conservatives would have realized what Karl Rove does to people who don't do the pope thing with President Bush - you know, agree on infallibility as a given. In two days they should have come around. But they didn't, and that ate up all the space in the news and commentary.

There was enough other news.

The Shiite dominated parliament in Iraq changed the rules for the upcoming referendum on the new constitution, cleverly assuring there was no way it would not be approved, then, after the Kurds and Sunnis cried foul, and even the UN weighed in saying that would kind of, sort of, make the whole thing a farce, they said that the old rules would do just fine. That's all explained in the Associated Press story here. Busted! Ramadan started Monday night and things should have settled down over there, but that's a Shiite thing and we got this: Ramadan bomber kills 26 at Shi'ite mosque in Iraq - and that was at a funeral thing for someone killed in an earlier bombing.

But things are going well, as the president said in his radio address just a few days earlier, that Saturday morning thing - Iraqi security forces had "more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country." Cool. But there was that Tuesday press conference, four days later where we got slightly different numbers, with "there are over 80 army battalions fighting alongside coalition troops… There are over 30 Iraqi battalions in the lead." Let's see, a full battalion is about six hundred folks. Twelve thousand disappeared? He's not good at math? Whatever. And after he met with the Generals the next day - Pace and Petraeus - we got this - "I was also pleased to hear there are 3,000 Iraqi forces [taking part in an offensive in western Iraq]. Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations." What's going on here?

The week before, two other Generals - Abizaid and Casey - had told Congress that there was actually one Iraqi battalion able to take on the insurgents on its own, as an autonomous force. Yeah, they admitted they had said there were three, but it was just one. Sorry about that.

But you have to trust the president. There's been good progress. He says so, and just pulls numbers out of his ass and smiles. He knows no one will check. The press doesn't do that sort of thing. So we have 139,000 or 149,000 troop there? You see both. So far 1,942 of our people have been killed, and ten in the first five days of October. We're spending a little under six billion a month on the effort. But who is counting?

Other news? The Tom DeLay indictments and the story around it just get stranger, as the Associated Press reports:
Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.

When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.

The complicated transactions are drawing scrutiny in legal and political circles after a grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of violating Texas law with a scheme to launder illegal corporate donations to state candidates.

The government's former chief election enforcement lawyer said the Blunt and DeLay transactions are similar to the Texas case and raise questions that should be investigated regarding whether donors were deceived or the true destination of their money was concealed.
Yes, when Tom DeLay had to step down because he had been indicted, the house Republicans named Roy Blunt majority leader to take his place. Geez.

What else? There's Larry Franklin - Pentagon Analyst Pleads Guilty in Spy Case - and it seems he passed a whole lot of classified information to Israel, the Likud Party, and to pro-Israel lobbying groups here. He admitted it. Ah well, at least they caught the spy in Dick Cheney's office - Espionage Case Breaches the White House - the FBI and CIA calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history, a Marine from New Jersey who had worked for years stealing anything top secret that might help overthrow the government in the Philippines. Yep, things are tough over there. You could look it up, but no one does, as there is more than enough bad news to go around.

Really, there is. See Hard-hit New Orleans will lay off 3,000 workers (no residents now, no businesses now, so no tax base and thus no money) or CIA Chief Refuses to Seek Discipline for 9/11 Officials (everyone makes mistakes and that's old history) or Lindsay Lohan in Car Crash (the paparazzi were chasing her just down the street from here and she ran her new, big black Mercedes convertible head-on into a van, but she's fine) or Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes Expecting Baby (some people shouldn't reproduce).

Good news? There's this:
The Republican-controlled Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects, delivering a rare wartime rebuke to President Bush.

Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.
This is a rider to a spending bill on the war, sponsored by John McCain, who knows a bit about abuse of prisoners, from personal experience. But it won't survive in the House. Bush has his guys there, and the White House has said Bush advisers would recommend the president veto the entire bill over the legislation. He gets to do what he wants. But he has never vetoed anything, so one never knows.

Underlying all this is the Fitzgerald investigation of who in the White House had the bright idea of revealing the name of an undercover CIA agent to get back at her husband for embarrassing the president when he exposed a bit of fibbing about Saddam trying to build nuclear weapons. Late Wednesday, October 5, see US officials brace for decisions in CIA leak case, and set that against this bit of gossip:
I just talked to a source who told me that Karl Rove has been missing from a number of recent White House presidential events - events that he has ALWAYS attended in the past. For example, Rove was absent from yesterday's presidential press conference to promote Harriet Miers. These are the kind of events Rove ALWAYS attends, I'm told, yet of late he's been MIA each and every time.

My source tells me that the scuttlebutt around town is that the White House knows something bad is coming, in terms of Karl getting indicted, and they're already trying to distance him from the president.
Well, the man has kidney stones - so this may mean nothing.

Besides, all anyone is talking about is Harriet, making the rounds in the senate doing some chitchat with the folks before the confirmation hearings. The two major newspapers of record, the New York Times and Washington Post, the morning of Wednesday, October 5, front page how she's now "the church lady."

The Times tells us that when she was a partner in a Dallas law firm, she "felt a void in her life." After long conversations with a colleague and with her sort of boyfriend, Nathan Hecht, she decided to accept Jesus as her savior and be born again. She was baptized right away - and she became a Republican just about the same time. Of course. The Post tells it differently - this conversion came when she listened to a speech by a surgeon. Afterwards that, she told Hecht, "I'm convinced that life begins at conception." Hecht, now a Texas Supreme Court justice, said to the Times that she's still pro-life, but "You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide the Constitution requires Roe." That's not helpful. The Post also tells us the folks at her evangelical church like her enthusiasm for all that born again stuff, but she can't sing a lick - "Let's just say she makes a joyful noise unto the Lord."

Don't know what she'd do on the bench, and she can't sing. But she was "born again" (something didn't take the first time?) - so now what?

The president said she'll be just fine, Tuesday, in that press conference. One: "I know her character, I know her strength, I know her talent, and I know she's going to be a fine judge." Two: "It's one thing to say a person can read the law - and that's important ... But what also matters is the intangibles. To me a person's strength of character counts a lot. And as a result of my friendship with Harriet, I know her strength of character."

He mentioned "character" at least eight times. One thinks of what he said about Vladimir Putin in June 2001 - "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country?"

That worked out, didn't it? (Some folks don't think it did.)

Well, that how the man makes decisions.

But not to worry, James Dobson of Focus on the Family says Harriet Miers will make a great Supreme Court justice. He's been telling all his radio listeners, who want abortion banned and gays to go away and America to be solely Christian, that there's something else going on. Don't worry. She's with "us." But he won't say how he knows this. As he told the New York Times here, he's been to the White House and talked with Rove and the gang, and "some of what I know I am not at liberty to talk about."

Colorado Senator Ken Salazar is oddly upset with that. He says if Dobson knows some secret about Miers, he should share it everyone, particularly the senate who has to advise and consent on this nomination, or perhaps reject it - especially if Dobson heard some super-dooper secrets straight from the White House. "It seems to me, all of the [information] the White House knows about Harriet Miers should be made available to the Senate and the American people. If they're making information available to Dr. Dobson - whom I respect and disagree with from time to time - I believe that information should be shared equally with a U.S. senator."

Ha, ha. You don't get to know! You'll find out everything once you confirm her.

But wait! There's more! Dobson, on his Wednesday, October 5th radio show, has a change of heart and says he's waiting for "a sign from God" as to whether he should endorse the woman. Apparently he just realized Karl Rove isn't God. -
He said "There is so much in the balance [with this nominee], there is no way to put it into words." Because of that, Dobson is begging the Lord: "If this is not the person you want on that Supreme Court, all you have to do is tell me so, and do it through any means you want to."

He finally then discussed why he is supporting Miers, saying "I can't reveal it all, because I do know things that I'm privy to that I can't describe, because of confidentiality." He then states that Miers "is a deeply committed Christian" and that people who know her have all told him that "she will not be a disappointment."

"I believe in trusting this president and this time because of the stand that he has taken and the way he has implemented it consistently for four and a half years. When you put that with all the other information that I have been able to gather - and you'll have to trust me on this one - when you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, why I have said why I believe that Harriet Miers will be a good justice."

He then states, "if I have made a mistake here ... the blood of those babies that will die will be on my hands, to some degree. And that's why is has weighed so heavily on me."
Poor guy! All these things he knows that he probably shouldn't know! All those dead almost-babies if he didn't fully understand all the super secret stuff Rove and the fellows told him about this woman!

Yeah, it's almost comical.

What's not comical was the seminal column in the Washington Post midweek from George Will, "the" conservative to a lot of people, even if his prose style is turgid and condescending and oh so "intellectual." The man is not happy.

That means he's operating from this thesis: The president "has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution."
It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's "argument" for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.
George Will is cold. The leading Republican voice just called his president, who he has supported, lacking in the will or, even worse, the ability to make judgments of any consequence. He said the man just doesn't think.

On the other end of the conservative spectrum, the last person you'd call intellectual at all, the reactionary Phyllis Schlaffly, with a livelier prose style, is just blunt: "Bush is building his own empire without regard for the conservative movement or the party."

The man who was senate majority leader before he said those odd things about how he agreed with Strom Thurmond about "nigras," Trent Lott, on MSNBC is also unhappy - Miers is "clearly" not the most qualified person for the job, and there are "a lot more people - men, women and minorities - that are more qualified, in my opinion, by their experience than she is." On the far, far right, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback added something about how the president's promises about Miers' "heart" aren't enough to assure him that she's "sufficiently conservative" on social issues.

Brownback and Dobson, of course, want a "reliable vote." So do Phyllis Schlaffly and much of the right. They would support the confirmation of Harriet Miers if they got assurances, and maybe Dobson has, that no matter what the evidence and arguments presented before her in session, she will vote against abortion rights and gay rights and all the rest. They want nothing to do with someone who considers the merits of any given case.

So, is she the one? No one knows.

There's a lot of agony on the right here.

Over at the National Review, editor-at-large of the National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg, has this to say:
Conservatives, I thought, were supposed to believe ideas have consequences, that American institutions - chief among them the Supreme Court and the Constitution - have specific and organic roles to play in the culture which depend on intellectual honesty, opposition to cant, and a dispassionate rejection of the politicization of the law. The reliable vote argument - absent other rationales - runs counter to all of these. This becomes obvious when you imagine a Democratic President appointing a confidante with few obvious credentials for the Supreme Court. A president Kerry could hardly convince any of us that his pick should be confirmed because she's a reliable vote.
Wow. He said that? He wants someone who listens and thinks and considers the evidence and the statutes and the precedents and the constitution and THEN decides what's right? He is on the other side of the right, as is George Will.

You see the opposing forces here - shall well have "a dispassionate rejection of the politicization of the law," or shall we embrace complete politicization of the law, to save America from the fags and sluts and the ungodly?

The Democrats can sit back and watch the debate. But maybe they should join in.


Footnote on Jonah Goldberg:

What he says above is fine, but does one forgive him for this?

Posted by Alan at 21:23 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005 21:45 PDT home

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Strike of the Week

Last weekend, in his regular "Our Man in Paris" column for Just Above Sunset, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, covered a very odd labor dispute in France. See Sailing Off with a Whole Ship, and the Question of Corsica - and yes, the disgruntled workers took the ship, and the authorities took it back, and Corsica is a dangerous place, even with native-son Napoleon long gone from the scene.

At the end of the column there was a link to a news item that there was to be a nationwide strike in France, Tuesday, October 4, to demand public sector pay-rises and to protest new labor laws.

There was, and Ric was on the scene with a brief note and exclusive photos that evening.

Here's the full story:
PARIS - Wednesday, October 5 - As usual, the exact results of yesterday's national protest against the government of France are unclear. As usual there is an argument about the numbers of protestors. The CGT union 'provisionally' estimated that 1,147,290 demonstrators marched in 150 towns and cities. Only 470,000 was the guess of the national police.

The demonstrations were organized by all of the unions in France. Their members were protesting against the government's economic and employment policies, and against falling or stagnant purchasing power. Yesterday's action followed a change of government leadership and was a virtual re-play of a similar day of mobilization earlier this year on March 10.

As usual the parade in Paris began at the Place de la République. A half hour after its beginning the leaders were within sight of Bastille, filling the wide boulevard, followed by hundreds of thousands rather than tens of thousands claimed by police counters.

Not quite as usual, marchers carrying banners and protest signs included many private sector employees rather than just public workers. French employees of British Air were taking part in their first protest. As an all-union affair, it appeared as if all were represented, including leftist political personalities and civil rights associations.

A BVA poll published on Tuesday indicated that 72 percent of the French thought the day's protest justified, with 25 percent opposed. The same poll found that 62 percent did not view the government's economic policies with favor, a figure actually up seven points over a similar opinion poll conducted when Jean-Pierre Raffarin was prime minister.

The same poll also revealed that confidence in the economy and with the unemployment situation is low, with 75 percent of the French being doubtful about both.

Yesterday's labor action included many transport strikes in Paris and other towns and cities. Passengers, in interviews for TV-news, applauded the effect of 'minimum service.' This is a measure whereby the SNCF and the RATP 'guarantee' enough service so that commuters can come and go.

From a Parisian viewpoint, service was about the same as on any other 'total' strike day - roughly 50 percent. As a result some Métro lines in Paris were operating a near-normal timetable, but other lines were spotty. Outside of Paris bus service disappeared completely in some areas.

In one way yesterday's labor actions may have been a semi-failure. Announced long in advance, during a time when employment and working conditions deteriorated, just matching last March's score for demonstrations and strikes might not have sent a forceful enough message.

Afterwards Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said, 'I hear the message that the French are sending us. The whole government hears the message.'

The general secretary of the powerful CFDT union group, Fran?ois Chérèque, reminded all that this was the fourth all-union demonstration this year, adding, 'which shows that nobody is listening.'

At today's cabinet meeting to discuss the political situation, minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy found it necessary to excuse himself because of a headache. UMP members who support Dominique de Villepin said they could not imagine the political significance of it.

On the left side of the chamber Socialists wondered if Monsieur Sarkozy desired to quit the government in order to campaign for president.

Meanwhile there continue to be slightly less than two million unemployed in France while more are being laid off daily. The budget is overly creative, the estimate for growth is overly rosy, and the affair of who will own how much of the SNCM ferry service between the Côte d'Azur and Corsica is still in suspension.
The photos:

Photo One: The Leaders

Photo Two: The Parade

Photos Three and Four: Flares and Smoke

Photo Five: International Participation - British Air

Photo Six: International Participation - Local 9423 of the Communications Workers of America ("The Union for the Information Age"), from way out here in California - from San Jose, actually. Read their resolution again the war in Iraq here.

Photo Seven: Those with no papers being harassed -

Photos and Text, Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 14:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Photos

Topanga Canyon - Its Own Place

This may be the heart and soul of Los Angeles, in an odd way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - from Hollywood, drive west on Sunset to the sea, then north at the very edge of the ocean on Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and turn right on Topanga Canyon Road. Drive far up into the mountains on a twisting road with sharp drops into nasty, deep gorges if you're is not careful. Then the community of Topanga, about six thousand residents, and home to those who play by their own rules - once the blacklisted in Hollywood, then counterculture types (Neil Young, Jim Morrison), now a mixture of folks who won't ever give up the hippie thing, the rich, the famous and the eccentric. Topanga - an old Shoshonean word that can also be used in reference to the sky or heaven. A sense of the place in a new photo album here - thirty-eight shots for your amusement. Selected shots will appear in Just Above Sunset this coming Sunday, in much higher resolution.

A teaser - a flying stucco pig near the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum -

Posted by Alan at 13:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005 13:27 PDT home

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Topic: Breaking News

France Stops, America Helps

Last weekend, in his regular "Our Man in Paris" column for Just Above Sunset, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, covered a very odd labor dispute in France. See Sailing Off with a Whole Ship, and the Question of Corsica - and yes, the disgruntled workers took the ship, and the authorities took it back, and Corsica is a dangerous place, even with native-son Napoleon long gone from the scene.

At the end of the column there was a link to a news item that there was to be a nationwide strike in France, Tuesday, October 4, to demand public sector pay-rises and to protest new labor laws.

There was, and Ric was on the scene with a brief note and these exclusive photos -
As of 18:30, today's anti-government demonstration parade is still marching through Paris to the Place de la Nation. I caught up with it before it reached Bastille, after its launch from République.

Radio news is saying Paris is seriously scrambled - east Paris at least - and is mentioning 'hundreds of thousands.' Other strikes were held today throughout France, with a big turnout mentioned for Marseille.

Will get the 'score' from tonight's TV-news. If they have one.
Photo One: The Leaders

Photo Two: The Parade

Photos Three and Four: Flares and Smoke

Photo Five: International Participation - British Air

Photo Six: International Participation - Local 9423 of the Communications Workers of America ("The Union for the Information Age"), from way out here in California - from San Jose, actually. Read their resolution again the war in Iraq here.

Photo Seven: Those with no papers being harassed -

Posted by Alan at 16:59 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005 17:15 PDT home

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