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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, 28 June 2004

Topic: The Law

SCOTUS - In league with the terrorists?

My conservative friends will bemoan all this, and say today's decisions from the Supreme Court just show that the nation is disintegrating as we are now told by activists judges not to trust the president. Maybe so.

But the Supreme Court today ruled that those foreign folks we've held at Guant?namo Bay in Cuba for almost two and a half years now - without charges, with no access to anyone - can challenge their detention. It seems the idea presented by the attorneys for the administration, that neither our laws nor any international laws or treaties applied here, was not a winner. Perhaps the photographs from the Baghdad prison played a part in all this - but perhaps not.

The issue came down to the administration saying that in time of war, even if there is no formal declaration of such, the president, as commander-in-chief, can, because it is his job to protect us all, claim some folks to be "enemy combatants" that fall completely outside the law. And we can do anything we want to them. We have to. They may know things. They could be dangerous. Due process is a luxury. They are terrorists and not aligned to any particular government, so they cannot be prisoners of war. Are they criminals? No. Perhaps not yet, But they could be folks who would do really bad things if we let them.

And if those detained happened to be US citizens - apprehended here or on some foreign battlefield? The administration claimed that made no difference. You had to allow the president this option - holding them forever with no charges, no questions asked - or we all could die. This was just common sense.

The Supreme Court wasn't buying it.

The Associated Press story reviewing all this is here - and Reuters covers it here.
Four of the nine justices concluded that constitutional due process rights demand that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant must be given "a meaningful opportunity" to contest case for his detention before a neutral party. Two more justices agreed that the detention of American citizen Yaser Hamdi was unauthorized and that the terror suspect should have a real chance to offer evidence he is not an enemy combatant.
Oh? Why? Don't they trust the president?

No. Reuters quotes from Justice O'Connor's opinion:
... the court has "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
No blank check, huh?

I imagine Dick Cheney has a few choice words for Sandy now, not just for the senior senator from Vermont.

As for non-citizens, this was covered in Rasul v. Bush opinion today - and that's here (in PDF format).

There you'll find -
United States courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.

(a) The District Court has jurisdiction to hear petitioners' habeas challenges under 28 U. S. C. ?2241, which authorizes district courts, "within their respective jurisdictions," to entertain habeas applications by persons claiming to be held "in custody in violation of the . . . laws . . . of the United States," ??2241(a), (3). Such jurisdiction extends to aliens held in a territory over which the United States exercises plenary and exclusive jurisdiction, but not "ultimate sovereignty."
Geez, keeping these guys in Cuba and saying our laws didn't apply there - as it wasn't really part of the United States? No dice.

What to make of all this? It seems the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has something to say. Like this:
For over two years, the Bush Administration have tried to have it their way, not the Constitutional way. These decisions are a stern rebuke. The Executive Branch may not be the sole arbiter of who is detained and for how long. Detainees must have access to counsel and the courts.
Yeah, yeah.

The court also decided two Miranda cases today. Bottom line? - "The Court holds that physical fruits of a Miranda violation don't get suppressed but that purposeful Miranda violations vitiate a subsequent confession."


Justices Warn Police on Coercion Tactic
June 28, 12:47 PM (ET) - Gina Holland for the Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday warned police away from using a strategy intended to extract confessions from criminal suspects before telling them of their right to remain silent.

The court, on a 5-4 vote, said that intentionally questioning a suspect twice - the first time without reading the Miranda warning - is usually improper.

But the court left open the possibility that some confessions obtained after double interviews would be acceptable, providing police could prove the interrogation wasn't intended to undermine the Miranda warning.
Once more. Huh?

Well, I do have a friend who has argued, and does still argue, in front of the Supreme Court. Perhaps she can clear this up.

All in all, today's "enemy combatant" decisions are a blow to those who say don't sweat the details and just trust Bush and his crew, or is that just trust Cheney and his crew - which happens to sometimes include Bush? Whatever. They will say the court is now endangering our lives - and making us play nice with those who just want to kill us all. And something should be done. The line will be, as it has been for some time, that liberals always want to play fair and that's too dangerous these days.

So I won't listen to talk radio for the next few days.

Much of the background above was found through links and comments at this site. Check it out. Real lawyers might find it silly. The rest of us often need a little more explanation.

Posted by Alan at 20:23 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 27 June 2004

Topic: Photos

New stuff...

Volume 2, Number 25 (Sunday, June 27, 2004) of Just Above Sunset is now on line.

In you will find a new photo essay covering a recent village festival in the south of France - sheep, goats, cute kids, a band, folks in proven?al costumes. Peter Mayle... eat your heart out! (And a page of local Hollywood photos too).

Everything said everywhere about Michael Moore's new film, along with discussion of the various lawsuits, with comments from friends of Just Above Sunset from around the world - and an exclusive review from Bob Patterson! (Four items.) The Patterson review has NOT appeared in this web log.

New today - also not on the web log - much from The News Guy and details of what modern journalism is all about. (Two items.)

Current events? Not only new comments on Dick Cheney saying a dirty word, but new today and also not on the web log, Reagan's son comes out of the closet (sort of) - and much more.

The "World's Laziest Journalist" (Bob) explains what it is with cops and doughnuts - and he has an idea for the next thing in reality shows.

And there's more, including quotes to make your head spin!

Here are the direct links....

Current Events

Trends: Something is up. Or maybe not. Or maybe so. (Cheney misbehaves?)

Basics: They hate us? That proves we're right of course.

Semantic Theory: Deconstructionist Semantics Used to Explain When a Lie is Not a Lie

Follow-Up: On the other hand... The insightful, levelheaded News Guy clarifies matters.

Couldn't be so: ... and the madness continues.

Sidebar: The Children of Conservatives

The Michael Moore film...

Reviews 1: Less in no longer Moore, and never was

Reviews 2: Is there such a thing as a legitimate abuse of power?

An Alternative: If Michael Moore had any self-control... The film he didn't make.

Review: Bob Patterson Reviews Michael Moore's New Film...

The Press

Press Notes: The news media wakes up and starts doing its job?

Journalism 101: What journalism is and what it is not. A dialog.


WLJ Weekly: The World's Laziest Journalist - Return of the guillotine?

Odds and Ends: The French. Cats. Madness.

Psychology: On Having a Positive Attitude - The argument that happy people are quite

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... from Maugham and Freud


Photography: As seen by others... Vive La Vraie France!

Local Photography: Southern California for those elsewhere at the moment -

"Southern California, especially, has come to symbolize good weather and bad habits, and Los Angeles seems to be a city without a civilization, one whose principle industry is an unimaginative nervousness."
- Anatole Broyard in the New York Times, April 29, 1981

Posted by Alan at 19:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 27 June 2004 19:36 PDT home

Saturday, 26 June 2004

Topic: Photos

No entries today...

I am off to San Diego for the day - actually to Carlsbad, just a bit to the north - as Tiffany, my nephew's daughter, turns seven. And her mother turns... well, we won't say. There's a double birthday party. Actually all three nephews, their wives, the four associated kids and my sister will be there. And a dog or two, and my sister's two cats.

So no politics today.

Late tomorrow, Pacific Time, the new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent publication of this web log, will go online. Probably around six or seven in the evening.

A preview?

Imagine yourself in a village in France, say one south of Avignon and a bit north of Les Baux. It's late May and there seems to be a festival. This is rural France, not a big city like Paris or Lyon or Marseille. You expect sheep of course. Here they are.

This is a religious festival - something to do with the Pentecost. So while contemplating this photo do recall Handel's oratorio "The Messiah" - and hum a few bars of "Are We Like Sheep?" Or don't.

Copyright 2004 - SD Chicago
Photo used with permission
Reproduction or redistribution forbidden without the written consent of the copyright holder

Posted by Alan at 07:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 25 June 2004

Topic: World View

Discussing what is real and what is not. Contrasting rhetoric. Differing levels of discourse.

In a week when the polls shifted and now, for the first time, more than half of Americans (fifty-four percent) do not think this war was worth the costs incurred, it's time for some thinking.

The cost was in lives (over eight hundred and fifty and counting, with perhaps eleven thousand grievously wounded), in billions of dollars, in the good will of much of world that was once on our side, and in the loss of much of our credibility (we did get some things wrong even if we meant well and still maintain these things - WMD and links to al-Qaeda -might have been so).

We have come to tolerate, if not embrace, the idea that some of us can be tagged and locked up without charges forever, for the greater good, on one man's word. We have abused, if not tortured and murdered, those who might, or might not, have information - to protect ourselves, in spite of international laws to which we have agreed. Many think this is necessary. And now (late afternoon, June 25) UN human rights investigators have demanded access to prisoners held by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guant?namo Bay to check that international standards were being upheld. Don't they trust us?

No. They don't.

Are we the good guys? Of course.

Don't we stand for decency and the rule of law and fair play and all the rest? Of course.

What's the problem then?

Here are some voices.

Duke and Princeton: Robert O. Keohane is a professor of political science at Duke University. Anne-Marie Slaughter is dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and author of "A New World Order."

Bush's mistaken view of U.S. democracy
Robert O. Keohane and Anne-Marie Slaughter, The International Herald Tribune - Tuesday, June 22, 2004
... If the struggle against terrorism were to be carried out consistently with the institutional theory embedded in the U.S. Constitution, America's leaders would be well aware of the potential for abuse - even by decent patriots. They would have ensured not only that the Constitution was upheld at home, but that the more limited protections embodied in international law would have been conscientiously applied to people living under American occupation, or otherwise within U.S. control.

Behind the debate about the conduct of the war in Iraq, and the occupation, is a larger divide - between those Americans who believe that their unique virtues should permit them to act above the law, and those who believe that people in authority, necessarily imperfect, must be constrained by institutions and by law. Those who understand and believe in the theory of the American Constitution should reject the Bush administration's political theory of personal good and evil. We must continue to insist that the United States is a "government of laws and not of men."
Is that then the divide?


Dennis Prager is a prominent Jewish political commentator, widely ready on the right. He writes, mainly, on what is moral. He sees it another way.
There are many ways to philosophically divide Americans. Liberal-conservative and religious-secular are two obvious ways. But there is another, no less significant, division: Those who are ashamed of America for being hated and those who wear this hatred as a badge of honor.

... Either America is evil and hatred of it is merited, or America is a decent country and the haters are evil. The correct explanation is so obvious that only one who already hates America or who is simply morally confused would choose the first.
Reduce it to its absolutes - either our country here is totally evil, or we're not, and thus we must be totally good. Choose one or the other.

Decided yet? Of course.

We're right. You're wrong. Nayh, nayh!

And do we even have a grasp of the situation?

I suggested to my friend Ric Erickson at MetropoleParis in the items he contributed to Just Above Sunset he was wrong. His May Day and D-Day items (here and here) must have been reporting Paris protests that didn't actually happen, or didn't represent the real truth about public opinion. And that Bush visit to the UK last year? We were lied to. By CNN and everyone else. The British people all supported this war and had no problem with Tony. They agree with Bush there. Always have. Germany has always been behind us on the Iraq business. Always. France disagreed on some matters, but they always voted with us. Don't you remember?

You see, Bush stopped off in Ireland on his was to that NATO summit in Istanbul - and he cleared this all up. They asked him a question. He answered. Clear enough.

Bush Says Europe Supports U.S. on Iraq
Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press Writer - Thursday, June 24, 2004 9:00 PM PDST (Friday in Europe)
... Bush was asked whether he was satisfied with the level of political, economic and military support coming from European nations in Iraq.

"First of all, most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq. Really what you're talking about is France, isn't it? And they didn't agree with my decision. They did vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. ... We just had a difference of opinion about whether, when you say something, you mean it."
If he says it, well, it must be true. And once again one is reminded of that famous line from Graucho Marx - "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes."

Bush is not delusional. He has proudly says he does not read the newspapers. He listens to what his staff tells him, because they are closer to actual events.

This just shows you cannot trust the media? You trust your leaders? Bush says most everyone WAS behind him and implies you can either trust him, or....

Ric shot back - "This is the leader of the funky Western World? I am wondering if this guy could be trusted to run a lemonade stand."

The next reaction was from my friend Joseph, also in France.
Dennis Prager.... Well at the risk of sounding anti-Semitic, that used to be a quite Jewish point of view, that is to say that the hatred of the world is proof of one's righteousness and god's favor. Presumably Muslims feel the same way... the other way to look at it is "perhaps if everyone hates me, it's because I'm doing something to deserve it." Perhaps it would be healthy to at least consider it.

The real problem, as I've said before, is that the moment we talk about countries as if they are groups of like-minded people who share common interests, we are in fantasyland. America is full of righteous people. It is also full of child-molesters.

And so Bush isn't totally disingenuous when he claims that Europe was with us. He's talking about Tony and Gerhardt, and even Jacques... because Bush doesn't read the papers, he doesn't often have a long heart-to-heart with the guy on the street, or rue or strasse or any other damn thing.

America is a good county. But some of its citizens, corporations and politicians have done evil things abroad. Is that such a contradiction? To deny this fundamental truth smacks of "My father- drunk or sober!"
Of course it does,

Well, Dennis Prager may not be worth discussing. We get the idea. Yes, slowly realizing that almost everyone hates you can lead to that "noble martyr" crap. An easy trap. Or it can lead to thoughtful self-evaluation. But no one likes being uncomfortable - and the latter can be uncomfortable. Why bother? Other than trying to stay connected to reality.

Which way your react - proud and defensive or doubtful and introspective - is probably a function of your personal psychological make-up - having to do with your childhood and the culture in which you were raised, and probably with congenital and heredity factors, or maybe even your diet. Who knows? One might argue that if you react to discovering you are widely hated, and always now distrusted, with scornful pride, and this hatred and distrust only proves, conclusively, that you are right and good - well, one could argue that's a form of psychotic behavior, or at the very least a developmental disorder. There's a disconnect somewhere.

But this not particularly Jewish. Bill O'Reilly is a practicing Catholic - although for all the practice he hasn't gotten it right yet. Franken mocks Bill. Various lefties say awful things about him - and he revels in it.

As for Bush and what he knows about the world, I should look up the articles from his trip to the Asian summit last year where various people explained to him there might be demonstrations and things could get hot. He was startled. He actually had not heard of any demonstrations there, or of the previous ones in Europe protesting his war and his policies. He was also completely unaware of any public opinion polls, anywhere, showing the overwhelming public opposition to any of that. Well, there were more than a few. No one had told him. Similarly, a few months ago I came across an item where someone explained to him how Chalabi had been convicted of bank fraud in Jordan and had been sentenced, in absentia, to twenty-two years in prison and could not set foot in Jordan, Syria or Switzerland ever again. They said Bush was pissed off and demanded why no one told him.
True? Who knows?

But it seems likely. He likes to keep his focus on his own agenda.

This of course involves ignoring specific, pesky things for your greater idealistic purposes - and that can be dangerous.

Putting it more bluntly, Bob Harris says this - "Understanding the bad guys is how you defeat them. Pretending you do, then attacking an entirely different enemy, while making up shit to justify it, is how you get your ass kicked."

Are we making things up?

Here's a more measured view from Leon Wieseltier:
I continue to support the war. But I have come to despise some of the people who are directing it. History, and we have been punished with a good deal of it on their watch, has not enlarged them. They are rigid and sectarian and righteous. Mentally, they do not live in the wide world. They do not see that the leadership of the most powerful country on earth demands a certain cosmopolitanism of mind. Main Street is all they wish to know. They think that French is funny. The more I observe Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, the more I discover the deep and unwitting similarities between unilateralism and isolationism. Like the isolationist, the unilateralist believes that the United States is alone in the world, and that there is honor in its aloneness. Like the isolationist, the unilateralist regards international alliances expediently, cynically. (When he finds himself frantically relying upon foreign countries and international institutions to assist him in difficult circumstances, like George W. Bush in postwar Iraq, he thinks no second thoughts about the blandishments of "foreign entanglements." He merely exploits the entanglements.) Like the isolationist, the unilateralist thinks that we can provide for ourselves everything that we need, everything that is precious.

It is no wonder that this administration has presided over a new flourishing of anti-Americanism. It accepts anti-Americanism as a compliment. It holds that all anti-Americanism is like all other anti-Americanism, and is in no way to be imputed to American behavior. In this way, the Bush administration has transformed anti-Americanism into one of the most urgent, and least addressed, problems facing American foreign policy.

... The rule of Saddam Hussein was uncommonly brutal. Its destruction represents a triumph of the idealistic strain in American foreign policy. Americans may be proud of having rid the world of such a horror. But the Bush administration's mistakes, many of them the consequences of its various theologies, have somewhat disgraced idealism, and this, too, is a disservice to America.

The course of the war in Iraq may persuade many Americans to revert to America's inward-looking habits. And the Bush administration is singularly ill-suited to teach those Americans about the glories of internationalism. Though the president and the vice president are acting with force internationally, they are not exactly internationalists. They are not national greatness conservatives, they are national smallness conservatives. But who are the national greatness liberals?
They're hiding, Leon. They're hiding.

That position is too dangerous. Adopt it and people will think you are unpatriotic.

And one should, obviously, not trade too many emails with Ric and Joseph in France.

Posted by Alan at 19:28 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 25 June 2004 19:48 PDT home

Thursday, 24 June 2004

Topic: Science

On Having a Positive Attitude - The argument that happy people are quite dangerous...

Last Sunday, June 20, in the New York Times, Jim Holt's THE WAY WE LIVE NOW column was titled "Against Happiness." (You will find that here.)

Holt did a riff on some findings reported in last month's issue of Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Society. The findings are available only to members of the society, and since I am not a member, and you are probably not a member, we have to take Holt's words for what was found.

And what was found?

Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too.

As Holt summarizes -
... researchers found that angry people are more likely to make negative evaluations when judging members of other social groups. That, perhaps, will not come as a great surprise. But the same seems to be true of happy people, the researchers noted. The happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments -- like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because he's a member of a minority group. Why? Nobody's sure. One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.
Or as Theodore Roethke, the famous poet from Saginaw, Michigan once said - "When I'm happy I can't think."

What's the problem?

The news that a little evil lurks inside happiness is disquieting. After all, we live in a nation whose founding document holds the pursuit of happiness to be a God-given right. True to that principle, the United States consistently ranks near the top in international surveys of happiness. ... Of course, happiness has always had its skeptics. Thinkers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have criticized it as a shallow and selfish goal. But the discovery that happiness is linked to prejudice suggests a different kind of case against it. Does happiness, whether desirable or not in itself, lead to undesirable consequences? In other words, could it be bad for you, and for society?
Perhaps so.

Yes, some have worried that happy people tend to be apathetic and easily manipulated by political leaders -- contented cows, so to speak. Holt cites Huxley's ''Brave New World'' where the working classes are kept in docile submission by a diet of drugs that render them universally happy. But Holt argues that in the real world there is little evidence that happiness creates complacent citizens; in fact, studies show that happy people are more likely than alienated people to get politically involved, not less.


There is much here too on personal happiness, as self-delusion.

But the odd observation is that awful things can happen when people are feeling really good.


See Euphoria led to the Holocaust
Neal Ascherson, The Observer (UK), Sunday May 23, 2004

This is a review of a curious book -

The Origins of the Final Solution
by Christopher Browning
Heinemann ?25, pp. 644

It seems Christopher Browning argues here that the Holocaust began as the Nazis swept across Russia - rather than, as is usually said, as a response to their later defeat at Moscow. Things were going well (at the time) - the world was the oyster so to speak. They were happy. Their self-esteem was really high. They felt empowered and joyous. Why not get rid of the pesky Jews once and for all? What could be wrong with that?

It was a victorious, happy time. There was, then, little motivation for analytical thought.

What about now?

Things aren't going well for us in Iraq. There is much gnashing of teeth and anguish in the land, and bitter dispute.

God help us, God help the world, and God help the Iraqis if things were going really well and we were fat dumb and happy. That way lies madness.

Posted by Alan at 19:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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