Saturday, April 10, 2010

Narrowed Down

NRO asked various contributors for their take on who Obama will nominate to fill John Paul Stevens' court seat. Ted Frank, of the Center for Class Action Fairness, makes what I can only imagine to be a faux-serious case for Frank Easterbrook:
One striking thing about the Obama administration is the extent to which it has modeled itself after the television series The West Wing — right down to picking silly fights with talk-show hosts.

Obama could do it again. The fictional President Bartlet, faced with the political problem of two Supreme Court vacancies, picks someone Republicans would like in addition to his conventionally liberal choice. Having already nominated a conventional liberal in Justice Sotomayor, Obama could demonstrate his bipartisan chops by nominating the greatest living jurist — his fellow Chicagoan, Reagan appointee Judge Frank Easterbrook.

Judge Easterbrook is 61, older than any Supreme Court nominee since 1972, and, in his 25 years on the bench, he has become famous for such principled stands as upholding the constitutionality of a Chicago ban on spray paint even as he ridiculed it as a ludicrous law. If Obama forces swing-state Democrats in the Senate to vote for the confirmation of a judicial activist out of the popular mainstream, he’ll make the 2010 midterms even more painful for his party than they’re already expected to be. On the other hand, Obama can recapture independents for an increasingly marginalized Democratic party by proving that he values merit more than politics (including identity politics) in the nomination process. Think how relieved Senators Specter, Reid, Lincoln, and Bennet would be.

Aside from getting the West Wing plot wrong (Bartlet nominated a liberal and conservative because the two justices leaving the Court were a liberal and a conservative. That hardly applies when the anchor of the Supreme Court's left flank is the one retiring), I can only say come on. Even if we narrow the field to conservative 7th Circuit judges affiliated with the University of Chicago who are already living legends, Obama still would nominate Richard Posner over Frank Easterbrook (no slight intended on the latter -- Posner's just more iconoclastic).

Mom's Worst Nightmare

Louis Armstrong, "What a Wonderful World", is my mom's favorite song. So mom -- this one's for you:

Debater's Forum

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) continues his rightward push to best position himself for a 2012 run (am I the only one genuinely curious if he could carry his home state against Obama?). Unfortunately, he's not very good at it -- basically admitting his lawsuit against health care reform is motivated by politics:
VAN SUSTEREN: It doesn’t sort of escape me that the people who have filed are all Republicans, with the sole exception of the attorney general in Louisiana is a Democrat. I think he’s probably the only — is he the only Democrat who has joined this?

PAWLENTY: As far as I know. You know, of course, there’s probably some political overtones to it, but I think it’s also, frankly, Greta, philosophical. We have a group of people like me who view the federal government should have a limited role. There’s a bunch of people who have a different view. And that’s what the courts are for, to hash out these differences. So let’s get it on.

Wait: back that thing up. Courts are there "to hash out differences" regarding philosophical conceptions of the role of government? That's funny, because I could have sworn that's what legislatures were for. Apparently, the "it" Pawlenty wants to get on is some good ol' fashioned judicial activism.

Revealed Secrets

So the trip was a surprise birthday party for my dad. My mom took him to NYC to go to Peter Luger's in Brooklyn (he's always wanted to go). That wasn't the surprise. The surprise was that my brother and I flew out to meet them. Specifically, in the hotel lobby, where I fell into step beside my dad and managed to stay there for a good 45 seconds before he realized I was there. The double-take was excellent.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Last Lion

Justice John Paul Stevens has just announced the end of his 30+ year tenure on the Supreme Court. I know how much he loved this job, and so how hard this decision must have been for him. But I salute his career, and hope he has an enjoyable retirement.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Secret Doings Afoot

I'm going on a trip tomorrow. But I can't tell you where, because part of the trip involves surprising someone, who may (or may not) read this post. For all you know, it's you!

But probably not. The person who is being surprised will find out Friday. The rest of you will be let in on the secret later that night (or maybe Saturday).

In the meantime, here is the best thing ever.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Grumpasaurus Roundup

I was feeling grumpy all day today, but I started to snap out of it tonight.

* * *

A Wisconsin prosecutor is threatening legal actions against teachers who follow a recently passed state law providing for comprehensive sex education. "Safe sex" apparently constitutes "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" (Via).

A Qatari diplomat was brought into custody after an incident on an airplane. Early reports indicated he might have tried to set off a shoe bomb, but now it sounds as if the situation was sparked by a misunderstanding about smoking on airplanes. Massive international crisis averted, minor diplomatic incident likely still ahead.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has apologized for leaving out mention of slavery from his Confederate History Month proclamation, and added a paragraph stating "that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights."

However, at least one prominent Black Virginia Democrat is not accepting the apology, citing a pattern of similar behavior from Governor McDonnell. On the other side, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a characteristically gracious, and insightful, post.

Assholes abound in the case of the small Southern town which went to extreme lengths to avoid having a lesbian student sully their prom (faux-lesbianism for the titillation of male students was, if prom photos are to believed, quite permitted).

The free speech analysis may be on target, but I think it's beyond clear that having inflammatory anti-Muslim messages posted on American military bases is precisely the sort of thing that poses a genuine threat to the security and well-being of the nation.

Pro-Israel Students Attacked with a Machete

Two students at Carleton University (no relation to my alma mater) have reportedly been the victim of an attack, with the perpetrators targeting them because of the pro-Israel views. One of the students was an Israeli, the other was well-known on-campus for his pro-Israel views:
Nick Bergamini, 22, says he believes he and his roommate Mark Klibanov were targeted for their political and religious beliefs when they were confronted by a group of men outside a Gatineau bar early Monday morning.

"We were just walking, minding our business and they said ‘Zionists' and they went after us because of our political beliefs and his religion," Bergamini told CTV Ottawa on Tuesday.

During the confrontation, Bergamini was punched in the back of the head. As the pair walked along Promenade du Portage towards Ottawa, they were harassed by the same group again. This time the men were allegedly armed with a machete.

"The guy opened up the window and said, ‘I'm the one who hit you, you effing Jew,'" Bergamini recalled. "They got out and kind of charged at my roommate, backed off and I heard ‘open the trunk,' so I looked right at the trunk to see what was coming out and I saw a big machete."

The pair ran and managed to escape unharmed.

Other reports say that attackers threw the machete at the pair, transitioning this from assault to attempted murder. The Canadian Jewish community, for its part, sees this sort of attack as being directly correlated with increased demonization of Israel in certain academic communities:
Len Rudner, director of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said being a Jew or Zionist in Canada should not prompt such an attack.

"Maybe we should consider the impact that words can have in accelerating the argument to the point where people feel that this kind of behaviour is acceptable," Rudner said.

"If you permit a constant invective and demonization of the Jewish state and people who support the Jewish state, some people will feel that this gives them the permission or responsibility to carry out this kind of attack."

Canadian police are investigating the incident.

It's Real Life

Nice of folks to check up on David after his dentist appointment.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Damsels in Distress

Somebody page Mark Olson! This women in the sex industry clearly needs to be saved from her life of slavery and exploitation!

Mushrooms Are Pretty

President Obama has issued a revision of when the US will use nuclear weaponry:
Mr. Obama’s strategy is a sharp shift from those of his predecessors and seeks to revamp the nation’s nuclear posture for a new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater threats than traditional powers like Russia and China.

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war. For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.

Those threats, Mr. Obama argued, could be deterred with “a series of graded options,” a combination of old and new conventional weapons. “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” he said in the interview in the Oval Office.

For the past half-century, much of the world lived under the shadow of a nuclear threat -- the idea that we were a button-press away from global annihilation. The goal of many was to try and put the nuclear genie back in the bottle -- to forestall what to many seemed like an inevitable trek to self-imposed extinction. Basically, this new policy restricts (to the extent that a positivist statement of policy by an actor empowered to reverse that decision literally whenever he so choices can be a "restriction") the use of our nuclear arsenal to either (a) cases of nuclear attack or (b) states not a part of the NPT.

But apparently, a substantial chunk of the population prefers a world where it is entirely unknown whether and when the US will unleash apocalyptic waves of destruction. The person who sent this to me said it made it wonder if Obama should be tried for "treason". Roger Simon inquires "Does he hate us? Does he hate this country?"

Meanwhile, actual military policy expert Robert Farley notes that we are perfectly capable of projecting conventional deterrence through our massive conventional arms advantage. The threat to bring nukes to a chemical or biological weapons fight was never credible in the first place, both because of the difference in scale of destruction and because we can sufficiently deter through conventional means. Finally, as Whiskey Fire points out, the whole problem with the new form of threats we face (from terrorist organizations and other NGOs) is that we're skeptical of whether conventional deterrence postures work against them at all, dissipating the defensive force of nuclear weaponry.

Treason History Month!

After an 8 year hiatus, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has re-established April as Confederate History Month. Now, I don't have an intrinsic objection to recalling Virginia's historical foray into treason in defense of slavery -- it is important to remember the sins of our past. But that hardly seems to be the tenor of this proclamation. Indeed, it doesn't mention slavery at all.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Scratch One Maverick

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) informs us that, contrary to popular perception, he's never been an independent voice for anything:
Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me. "I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities." Yet here was Palin, urging her fans four times in 15 minutes to send McCain the Maverick back to Washington.

I'll leave to others as to whether McCain has served the interests of Arizona, but I whole-heartedly agree that what others called maverickism, I call "principle-less support of whatever position is most politically expedient or ego-enhancing at the present moment" -- the abandonment of the decades-long "maverick" label because it was hurting him in a GOP primary being only the most recent example.

So at least we're on the same page there.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Islamic Jihad Agrees To Stop Rocket Attacks?

A spokesperson for the terrorist group Islamic Jihad has announced that the group has "stopped the rocket fire into Israel for internal Palestinian purposes - first and foremost to help end the siege on the Gaza Strip". This is newsworthy because unlike Hamas, which has periodically agreed to such cease-fires after discovering that running a territory comes with political pressures incompatible with blowing people up all the time, Islamic Jihad has persistently cast itself as the more radical alternative to Hamas (and has far fewer political constituencies it must be accountable towards).

Of course, it is possible that they're lying. And it's also possible that the slack will be picked up by new, yet more radical al-Qaeda-linked groups that have been spotted in Gaza. But for now, good news! Does it mean that Israel will lift the boycott on the territory (i.e., is it working or has it worked)?