Saturday, May 28, 2005

Positive Measures

Earlier, I discussed reports of discrimination and religious intolerance by Evangelicals at the Air Force Academy. Now, John Cole, who has been following this story closely, brings us some excellent news:
The Air Force has told its top commands worldwide to make sure officers don't use their positions to advance religious beliefs, following criticism of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy.

An Air Force task force spent several days at the academy two weeks ago looking into allegations that Jews and others were harassed by evangelical Christians. A new values statement was sent to all major commands on Tuesday.

I, too, am pleased to see the Academy taking these allegations seriously. However, Mr. Cole points out that we must remain vigilant against the inevitable cries of Christian victimization:
At any rate, this is a promising sign, and the military recognizes what the problem was, even if some refuse to deal with reality and instead choose to play the ever popular persecuted Christian card. Unfortunately, to some, politics and political advantage are the only thing that matters, so I expect the usual suspects will continue to try to spin this as somehow anti-Christian. That is one of their main fundraising techniques, and they have almost achieved permanent victim status in the minds of their base.

It is insulting that the Christian Right believes that religious intolerance is so central to their beliefs that they claim it is discrimination to try and prohibit. This should outrage any moral Christian who recognizes that he or she can stay strong with his/her faith without harassing those who believe differently.

That notwithstanding, props to the USAFA for doing the right thing, and with relatively little pressure on them to boot.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What is Brian Leiter Thinking?

This is simply awful:
As we have remarked previously, civility is the greatest gift one can bestow on the creationist conmen, the right-wing liars, and the religious bigots--not to mention the hordes of ignorant blowhards in the blogosphere. To treat their positions with civility is to already legitimate them. The consequence of doing so is now available for all the world to see: the intellectually and morally depraved state of public culture in America today.

Civility in no way, shape, or form "legitimizes" its "target," so to speak. They simply aren't related concepts. When I sit quietly through a lecture I disagree with, I am not signaling my agreement or endorsement with the speaker. Rather, I am voluntarily agreeing to abide by certain norms which make discourse possible.

The Zmag article that spawned Leiter's endorsement of shouting matches is a perfect example of awful argumentation. Has the author never heard of a non-sequitur?
I would argue that there is an "excess of civility" today in North America....

-Why is it unheard of for someone to call a politician or corporate CEO a liar? Why do we instead hear terms such as "they are not telling the whole story", "he needs to come clean" or "he is misrepresenting the facts"?

-Why are we not flooded with images in our mainstream media of Iraqi and Afghani children killed by coalition troops, or for that matter dead or injured U.S. soldiers?

-Why have so many been turned off by the confrontational work of the rather dishevelled-looking Michael Moore? Has he not been seen lately making his rounds on late night television clean-shaven in a suit and tie?

-Why does an increasing cynicism of the U.S. intervention in Iraq not translate into wholesale changes in staff or policy?

Why are all these grouped under the heading of civility? With the exception of the first example, none of the issues excerpted by Leiter (and there are a few more) have anything to do with civility. They instead are related to what topics are considered fair game for debate--an area which does intersect, but still a very distinct topic. I don't think the reason that we don't look at Michael Moore is because its deemed impolite, I think its because he is an awful writer. Cynicism in Iraq? That is not a "civility" issue either. There might be a decent point in here--that more issues should be vigorously debated by the American polity. But if that's what is being asserted, then it was badly mistagged.

I'll grant that there is a place in politics for hyperbole, sarcasm, and other forms of communication in that genre. Hey, I've even been known to engage in them myself. But to indict the entire concept of civility strikes me as wildly off-base. Indeed, one of the criticisms the left (often correctly) makes of the rabid right is that they simply are shouting, with no effort at reasoned argumentation or respect for those with opposing viewpoints. This is one case where we should not come to a consensus with them.

One of the things I learned as a debater is that it is possible to have heated, passionate disagreements with people--yet remain respectful. Is there an outward limit? Yes, we don't need to respectfully engage Hitler. But the line has to be drawn very carefully--it shouldn't be used on a lark or for anyone who disagrees with us. Political discourse cannot simply become a shouting match, and Professor Leiter is wrong for suggesting that we chuck civility out the window.

Out of the Mainstream

Obsidian Wings, Outside the Beltway, and The Volokh Conspiracy point us to a recent ruling by the Marion County Superior Court:
An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

All three bloggers blast the ruling, correctly. But is there any principled way to differentiate this outragous ruling, and a, in my mind anyway, eerily similar one handed down a short while ago by 4th Circuit judge (and potential Supreme Court nominee) J. Harvie Wilkinson III? I don't think there is. And if this ruling is, as Outside the Beltway puts it, "just some nutty judge making an idiotic ruling," then can we group Judge Wilkinson in the same category?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out if, indeed, Bush nominates him.

Mirror, Mirror on The Wall

Who's the most moral of them all?

There has been chatter on the blogosphere about Amnesty's latest Human Rights report, posts that tie in nicely with my recent thoughts on the subject.

We start our journey over at Obsidian Wings, who links to a comment (the top one) in this Belmont Club post, which says the following:
It's odd, isn't it, how moral relativism works. A country like say, North Korea or Iran takes dissenters and throws them into the gulag and that's government policy. In the US when someone mistreats a prisoner there is an investigation and the individual wrong-doers face criminal sanctions... that's our government policy. And yet, somehow the two are equal. As bad as moral relativism is, though, it's the fact that those who indulge themselves in this sort of thinking aren't even aware there's a problem.

My own opinion is that most people are talking about a strawman when they refer to most forms of "moral relativism." That's neither here nor there at the moment, though (you can go here if you really want my in-depth analysis of "moral relativism" or, in my case, Perspectivism). But Obsidian Wings and I have essentially the same answer to this sort of critique. As he puts it:
All the shouting about "how dare they" criticize us strikes me as willfully blind to the way that, by proclaiming our moral superiority, we are asking to be held to a higher standard. It seems to me that Amnesty's point was that as the world's remaining superpower, the US bears a bigger responsibility than North Korea or Iran to set an example. So any critique that doesn't account for how the President declared himself qualified to preach to the rest of the world about such matters in his last Inaugural address, leaves a bit of a gap in how one is meant to interpret responsibility and credibility. I mean, it's human nature for problems to arise, but when so many problems are arising (G-bay, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, extradition, false arrests in the US, etc.) AND the president is still declaring we'll lead the way toward the end of tyranny, then I think AI and others have a right to suggest, because we're holding ourselves up as an example of a higher standard, that we're failing in equal measure to those holding themselves to a lower standard.

Or as I do:
To be clear, Amnesty is definitively NOT saying the US is the worst human rights violator in the world. That would be delusional, what with North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Belarus, etc etc to choose from. But none of those countries are seen as examples by the rest of the global community. For better or for worse, the US is a beacon. Other countries look to us to understand what freedom and democracy means. That is a privilege that the US has earned over years of being the world's most consistent shining light for humanity. But it comes with a heavy responsibility, to conduct ourselves within the most scrupulous ethical guidelines, to not take the easy way out, to try an elevate the status of moral behavior around the world rather than depressing it and/or trying to get away with the absolute bare minimum. When the world sees America the Free locking up persons in isolated detention camps with no trials, no attorneys, and no rights, is it any wonder that they go back and do the same?

OK, I'll lapse into relativism, but just for a second. It strikes me as all together plausible that who the actor is has some bearing on the morality of a given action. When a prominent sports star goes out and says "I use drugs, and you should too!" that's qualitatively different than some junkie on the street doing it. Why? Because he has influence. Nobody really objects to this sort of distinction, and those who do at least recognize that the taxonomy is real, even if they don't think it should be. Similarly, the US is the role model when it comes to human rights. Nobody looks at North Korea and then tries to justify their own abuses by saying Pyongyang does it too. But saying the US does it? That's a pretty powerful endorsement, when the field is freedom and liberty. And that's why the American rights abuses are far more dangerous to international stability that those of other countries. Fair? Maybe not. But it represents a social reality that has to be dealt with.

However, there is a flip side to that argument: the US still cannot be the sole (or even, I'd assert, primary) target of our moral indignation. For while the social reality that American rights abuses matter MORE (in the grand scheme of things) has to be dealt with, it is equally true that this social reality is not something America controls (or at the very least, it isn't one we want to rectify by NOT being the world's example for what it means to be protect human rights). On a pragmatic level, its important to hold the line on the United States because we know what the realistic implications of slippage are. However, on an ideological level, we still have a very real obligation to criticize, and sharply, the real monsters in our midst. And it is in that light that we need to take this Oxblog post very seriously:
The purpose of Khan's speech was to introduce and summarize AI's annual report on human rights. Before getting into what Khan did say, it is far important to observe what she didn't say, namely anything about North Korea, let alone Cuba or Syria. This sort of calculated ignorance constitutes nothing less than a betrayal of the millions and millions who suffer at the hands of the world's most reactionary dictatorships.
Of course, there is a chapter on Syria in AI's annual report. The same is true of Cuba and North Korea. But when the head of the organization singles out the US and UK for criticism, she lets the Cubans, Syrians and North Koreans know that they are not her biggest concern. It's exactly the same as when Bush singles out Egypt for criticism but lets Pakistan and Saudi Arabia slide.

Criticizing the US for Human Rights violations is important because it forces us to practice what we preach. Solely criticizing the US (or being hyperbolic) about it is counterproductive because it gives cover and moral legitimacy to the truly evil nations that exist--North Korea, Syria, Sudan, etc.. And when the Left gleefully seizes upon such statements as proof of how evil the US really is, it effectively dooms those most in need of aid and rescue.

As usual, the answer lies in the balance. Criticize the US for not setting an example, but still blast the Sudanese for creating a world where examples still need to be set. Either one, alone, represents a fatal blindspot in our moral judgment. Put both together, and there may yet be hope for progress.

UPDATE: Okay, I'll bite. How does this traffic jam really work?

Also, they may wish to be informed that the page they tell you to go to for "more information" appears not to exist. Is this some Nietzschean drama being performed on unwitting newbies, without our knowledge?

First Blood

Oh, baby, this feels good to read.
Ethics questions swirling around U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay mounted Thursday when a Texas judge ruled that a committee formed by the powerful Republican had violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 in mostly corporate donations.

State District Judge Joe Hart in Austin made the ruling in a lawsuit filed by five Democratic candidates defeated in 2002 by Republicans who received money from Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee founded by DeLay to help Republicans capture the Texas Legislature.

The Daily DeLay has more here and here. DeLay wasn't himself a defendant, and this is only one case. But it represents perhaps the most overt bruise on DeLay's ethical character he's sustained to date.

The blogosphere seems awfully quiet about this. Kos has a blurb, of course. But that's about it. I know most people aren't as rabid about this issue as I am, but still, nothing? Not even from the anti-corruption center? I may have to break my long silence over at Centerfield and put something up myself.

Dream a Dream

Such a wonderful idea. Mandate redistricting occur only once every 10 years, and have it be done by a non-partisan panel. Making these sorts of uniform standards would neatly eliminate the ethical imperative/political suicide dilemma Democrats currently face. Of course, it will never see light of day in the GOP congress.

Kevin Drum with the link.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Setting a Good Example

I am going to make a confession. I knew of absolutely nobody in the Army. My hometown of Bethesda, Maryland is very wealthy and very liberal--not exactly prime Armed Forces recruitment territory. I wouldn't say we're anti-troop or anything like that, but serving in the Armed Forces just isn't something we do. Folks graduate from High School, and go to college. In most cases, they don't need the money that the Armed Forces provides, or anything like that, so there is nothing "pushing" them into the military. People who have a desire for selfless service are far more likely to join the Peace Corps or something.

I have a friend from High School. She lives in a giant house in a very nice part of town. She's playing Varsity soccer at a D-1 school in the Northeast. A few days ago, I check her AIM profile and what does it say? She's joined the Army Reserves, and she'll be going to boot camp in a week. She was away, but I sent her an IM asking if it was true, and if so, how impressed I was.

We chatted today, and I asked the usual questions: What motivated her to join (her dad was in the Army, and she always looked up to him), if she was enlisting or doing ROTC (the former, but she might go to Officer Corps after she graduates), whether she'll be sent to Iraq (not likely, only if they want reservist MP units in two years). I told her again how impressed I was. She said thanks, and told me that everyone she knew was only talking about how she was going to die, and how worried they are. Which I am too, to be honest. But I'm proud as well.

A girl from well-off surroundings, in a extremely liberal part of the country (though she herself is conservative), thriving in college, who decides that she wants to make the sacrifice to serve her country. With Army recruitment way down, stories like this are all the rarer--and all the more worthy of our thanks. And while she'll kill me for writing this post, I honestly am inspired. She has far more character and courage than I do.

DK, I salute you.

Bad Moods

I only just recently stumbled across Balloon Juice, and it is already rapidly becoming one of my favorite blogs. At the moment, though, Mr. Cole appears to be in a rather nasty mood. From the bitingly sarcastic (about the indictment of the runaway Georgia bride, "SHE MUST BE TAUGHT A LESSON") to the annoyance at hypocrisy ("if there was no seemingly irresistible urge to bash the media senseless...the title on the post on every right-wing website would be: 'Fifteen Islamofascists Gunned Down in Rabid Anti-American Riot'"), to the fury at crushed principles ("We changed the rules of the game, and then acted all shocked when the Democrats (who are in no way without sin) got pissed."), he is writing some scathing, but incredible, posts.

Go forth, and read, young ones.

Setting a Bad Example

Amnesty International rips into America's human rights example, saying "When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity."

There is a grain of truth to this. We've seen all too often nations with abysmal human rights records quickly discovering that if they say "war on terror," we'll excuse virtually any atrocity. The Chinese have done it in their Western Provinces, the Russians have done in Chechnya, and let's not even talk about our deal with the Uzbekistan government (Obsidian Wings has the line there). The point is, we are rapidly reaching a point where law is irrelevant. I think much of International Law is crap, to be honest. Any system of legal guidelines which says that stopping a genocide in Kosovo was illegal can frankly go to hell, in my opinion. But we can't just chuck out the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, and our own constitution, and expect other nations and groups to listen to us when we (half-heartedly) tell them to respect the "rule of law." It doesn't work.

To be clear, Amnesty is definitively NOT saying the US is the worst human rights violator in the world. That would be delusional, what with North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Belarus, etc etc to choose from. But none of those countries are seen as examples by the rest of the global community. For better or for worse, the US is a beacon. Other countries look to us to understand what freedom and democracy means. That is a privilege that the US has earned over years of being the world's most consistent shining light for humanity. But it comes with a heavy responsibility, to conduct ourselves within the most scrupulous ethical guidelines, to not take the easy way out, to try an elevate the status of moral behavior around the world rather than depressing it and/or trying to get away with the absolute bare minimum. When the world sees America the Free locking up persons in isolated detention camps with no trials, no attorneys, and no rights, is it any wonder that they go back and do the same?

The Next Step

Alright, so I've now written twice on the filibuster controversy, all without the aid of The Volokh Conspiracy. I'm a big blogger boy now! But I should not have rushed them, for though late to the party they've made some excellent posts on how this deal could play out during the inevitable Supreme Court Justice battle.

Orin Kerr links to the latest Debate Club discussion, which is on whether or a Supreme Court justice should be expected to be approved 100-0. The idea, under this paradigm, is to nominate someone "approved by conservatives, lauded by moderates, and acceptable to liberals." Unfortunately, according to Kerr anyway, the participants have so far named only persons who either would be rejected by conservatives, or are already dead. The name Kerr mentions is Judge John Roberts of the DC Circuit (more on him in a moment). Obviously, the idea appeals to me, for unlike Powerline I like consensus and dislike taking every political disagreement as an opportunity to launch a political nuclear war. Whether or not it is feasible is another matter--I can unfortunately see a bloc of Democrats voting against virtually any nominee Bush makes, just for the sake of fighting it (Lindgren makes this point below). I also can see Bush nominating a controversial nominee just to provoke a fight. So while the idea is great in theory, it is not going to see daylight anytime soon. But that won't stop me from blogging bitterly when either the Democrats filibuster Arlen Specter, or Bush renominates Robert Bork.

Jim Lindgren then posts (and then again!). In the first post, he writes:
But -- before THE DEAL -- I thought that anyone that Bush could appoint would be filibustered, no matter how moderate. He or she could be a decent, reserved, open-minded, unprejudiced, intelligent conservative such as Judge Michael McConnell. Or he could even be a judge who was pro-affirmative action and (in his opinions, at least) pro-abortion such as Alberto Gonzales. Indeed, a high staffer with one of the major public interest groups that the Democrats rely on to evaluate judicial candidates told me to expect an attempt to filibuster Gonzales if he is appointed to the Court, even though she admitted that Gonzales was more liberal than anyone else that Bush could conceivably appoint. In other words, I expected that if Bush appointed someone closer to the political center than Clinton's nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that nominee would nonetheless be filibustered as an extremist. (By the way, McConnell in particular would seem to be an almost ideal candidate for Chief Justice, with a calm, responsible, principled manner that should smooth over ideological differences on the Court. According to those who know John Roberts, he would be another.)

And in post number two, he discusses the objections of certain liberal advocacy groups to Judge Roberts.

This brings me to something I've wanted to say for a long time. I've read Judge McConnell's works, and have been incredibly impressed. The man is frankly brilliant. I support the Democrats on the filibuster option, and am willing to say it should have been used on nominees like Judge Rogers. If the Democrats decide to filibuster a McConnell nomination, I will be outraged, and guarantee you will hear about it on this blog.

As for Judge Roberts, I'm less sure simply because I know less about him. I wrote in this earlier post that I had received endorsements of Judge Roberts from people I respect greatly. Kerr (again) and JNV also give votes of confidence. On the other hand, a very large portion of the groups Lindgren lists as opposing Roberts have "Jewish" in their names, which makes me cautious on his Church/State jurisprudence. Basically, with him I'd say fine if he's replacing Rehnquist, but I'd be far more skeptical if he replaces a moderate or liberal.

On the other end of things, there is this position taken by the National Review (linked and endorsed by Southern Appeal):
Under what possible circumstances could the Democrats stop Pryor from being elevated to CJ without breaking the deal? Here is the logic: Only "extraordinary circumstances" warrant stopping candidates; Pryor (and Brown and Owen and all the others placed on the C of Appeals by GWB) have not been stopped; Therefore, these nominations are not "extraordinary."

Pryor for CJ!!

Where the VC is among the "let's try and agree" sect, this is the "let's pick a fight" squad. I don't agree that filibustering Pryor for a Supreme Court seat would be breaking the deal (if someone wants to challenge me on it, I'll explain why, but it's late and I need sleep). But more importantly, I think it is precisely the wrong sentiment--Supreme Court nominations should not be an excuse to spit in the opposing party's face. The fact is there are conservative prospects that would be acceptable to folks like me--why not use them, rather than deliberately going out and trying to spark a new front of partisan warfare?

Basically, it comes down to this for me. I'm willing to endorse a sensible conservative nominee to the Supreme Court. That's right, I said "sensible" not "moderate." In exchange, I expect President Bush to put the unity of the country ahead of the whims of the rabid right and nominate one.

We Can Rebuild It

My blog is back! I was so worried. And in honor of the occasion, I have decided to change the blog's motto. The old slogan was dull, not at all catchy, and in English. This is intolerable. Instead, I have decided to adapt an old saying that I used as a tagline back when I was doing debate forums in middle school.

Respecio Per Virtutus Solus

It's in Latin, of course, because Latin makes anything sound cooler. But the English translation is "Respect for Excellence Only." I'm not willing to defer to something just because it's the way things always have been. If you want my respect, you better earn it by excelling. I'd ask nothing more for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Peace In Our Time, Part II

Keeping up with the liberal reaction to the filibuster deal, it perhaps isn't quite as rosy as I suspected. Earl Warren of Boalt Talk calls it "defeat from the jaws of victory." PrawfsBlawg is happy enough to see moderates win out, but certainly doesn't call it a victory for liberals. But perhaps most surprising of all is that The New Republic is crying foul, saying the Democrats got nailed. T.A. Frank writes:
Once again, the Republicans have shown their skillfulness when it comes to resetting parameters. Until recently, the perception had been that Bush had consistently filled the courts with extreme conservatives, with only a handful of truly batty nominees failing to meet the standards of Democrats. Now, facing the threat of the "nuclear option," Democrats have backed down on these as well. Thanks to the "finest traditions of the Senate" (Robert Byrd's words yesterday), there's a new agreement under which, presumably, only the certifiably insane can possibly be blocked--or, to put it as the senators did, nominees can "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." That way, if Bush's pick for a judgeship finally goes too far even for Republicans--if he nominates, say, an Irish setter who, during confirmation hearings, runs up and bites Orrin Hatch in the leg, then Democrats will be allowed to play the bad guys and employ their filibuster. Otherwise, they'd better hold off, since, if they don't, Republicans might have to take the filibuster away for real.

He also thinks that Senator Frist's apparent misery in his floor speech was not over his impending doom with the Christian Coalition, but rather because it would look unseemly to cackle with delight over his victory. So TNR is angry because Democrats didn't fight hard enough, and Kos is defending a compromise with Republicans on an issue they've deemed to be of critical significance. Are pigs flying yet?

Speaking of surprising, this post from Powerline really threw me.
An excerpt from the statement on last night's "compromise" by Ralph Neas, head of the far-left People for the American Way:
The explicit language of the agreement reached tonight by a group of senators rejects the nuclear option, preserves the filibuster and ensures that both political parties will have a say in who is appointed to our highest courts. The agreement embodies the very principle of consultation and consensus that the filibuster encourages. This is good news for the American people. Saving the Senate's constitutional advice and consent role, and the checks and balances that protect judicial independence, is especially important with multiple vacancies expected on the Supreme Court.

Except for the part about it being good for the American people, I think he is exactly right.

So, wait. If the only part you disagree with is that you think it wasn't good for the American people, then you agree that the compromise "embodies the very principle of consultation and consensus" and that "saving the Senate's constitutional advice and consent role, and the checks and balances that protect judicial independence, is especially important" in the coming days.

Powerline Blog: Opposing consultation, consensus, and checks and balances since 2005.

While we're on the subject, Powerline and Crooks and Liars got some time on TV discussing the filibuster. You can see the video clip here.

In any event, I stand by my previous assertion: I think in the long run, Democrats are going to see this as a victory. At the very least, I'm expecting a much bigger fall-out on the right side of the aisle. I have yet to see an equivalent of this piece over at Southern Appeal, or this one.

And finally, where is The Volokh Conspiracy in all of this? They've yet to write a single post on the compromise.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Peace in Our Time

So this is the great compromise saving us from the nuclear option. I guess I'm glad that we're skipping that particular showdown (though my support for the filibuster is far from unambiguous), but overall, color me unimpressed. You can read the text if you'd like, but here's the gist of it:
Under the deal, judicial nominees would only be filibustered "under extraordinary circumstances," McCain said.

McCain said the group of 14 pledged to vote for cloture -- an end to debate -- for three judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.

He said the group made no commitment to vote for or against cloture on two nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad.

The first thing that struck me was that the nominees I recognized off hand were the three getting a vote, Brown, Pryor, and Owen. That surprised me, I assumed at least one would stay off the list. That is definitely a victory for the GOP.

Beyond that small consolation, though, the right is livid. Professor Bainbridge is reasonably content, but he seems to be one of the only ones. Dobson is, predictably, outraged:
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust" (link: Crooks and Liars and Kos)

It's interesting to note that Dobson appears to be standing behind Frist even after the defeat. Kos, by contrast, thinks Frist is finished after this. We'll see if Dobson maintains his loyalty to his lackey after the cameras go away, or if, like Palpatine and Count Dooku, he will allow his other servants to slice off the head of his failed protege (how's that for geek commentary?).

Powerline is apoplectic, of course. Galley Slaves maintains a sober tone, but it thinks that "extraordinary circumstances" will become a loophole one can drive a truck through. Southern Appeal "mourns" and claims the senate "has just effectively ratified the overthrow, through scandalous means of smear jobs and lies about nominees, the clear constitutional understanding that guided it for 214 years." Scared Monkeys' headline has rapidly made its way across the blogosphere: "Compromise Reached! Republicans Screwed!" I could go on, but you get the idea.

It was always all or nothing for the far right. So it's no surprise they are irate with any sort of compromise.

Third, what of the Democrats? The Moderate Voice has his usual stellar roundup. In the process, he links to Ron Forrnier, who says:
This is certain: Special interest groups on both sides demanded there be no compromise, and now both Frist and Reid will be ducking for cover.

Conservatives want changes on the federal bench after helping Republicans gain control of Congress and the White House. Liberals consider this a test of the party leadership's mettle.

Maybe, but I doubt it. While the Right is getting hammered, the vibe I'm getting from the left is that they consider this to be a victory. Maybe not the KO they were hoping for by defeating the nuclear option in a vote, but still a win on points. Wandering around The Daily Kos, always a good barometer of what the far left is thinking, I hear few firebrand claims of betrayal (though Russ Feingold certainly seems to be in that camp). Talking Points Memo isn't too confident on the text of the deal holding together, but he also seems to be okay with it, on the theory that Democrats came out stronger simply because they managed to fight to a draw--thus stopping the Republican steamroller for the first time in recent memory. Legal Fiction is echoing Kos: not perfect, but still a win. I think the prevailing feeling on the left will be positive. Reid comes out of this looking very, very good. Frankly, he outmaneuvered Frist badly: Frist was backed into a corner, could not accept any sort of compromise, and got burned.

But the biggest bombshell of the day might be this little tidbit extracted from Kevin Drum's comments:
Lindsey Graham claims that of the three who will get votes (Brown, Owen, and Pryor), one will end up getting defeated on a bipartisan basis. A secret codicil? Hmmm.....

Assuming that happens (big assumption), I revise my earlier assessment: Frist is cooked. I already can tell you how the spin war will break: Republicans will say its proof that the Senate can reject out-of-the-mainstream candidates without resorting the filibuster; Democrats will say that it proves that the judges really were extreme and thus justifies their fight. The reason Democrats will win is that Republicans can't get too heartedly behind their own position: their entire PR campaign has been saying that these people are exactly the type of reasonable judges that need to be confirmed. Dobson and Company will not be pleased to watch one of these people go down in flames--and will be even less pleased to hear Republicans claiming that, yes, whoever it was really WAS too extreme for the bench.

How this plays out politically will be very interesting. If Democrats win seats in 2006 (which looks very possible), this small victory will become huge.

So. There we have it. A compromise, if we can keep it.

I Am SO There

I've never really been interested in working for the CIA, but I have to admit, this is a hell of a pitch.

Side anecdote: A friend of mine really does have the life ambition of working for the CIA. I, as regular readers of this blog know, want to become a law professor specializing in constitutional law (with maybe some moonlight practice on the side). Our ongoing joke is that if I ever sue her, that would mean both our dreams have come true.

Orin Kerr, as so often is the case, gets the tip off credit

The Giants Among Us

Lawerence Lessig is a legend in the field of internet law. He also, while attending the American Boychoir school, was a sexual abuse victim. Today, he is fighting back, helping one of his fellow students sue the school, bringing accountability to crimes that were hidden for decades. The story of abuse, psychological destruction, desolation, denial, and suppression is powerful, moving, and truly tragic. It should be read by all who want to see what happens when evil occurs behind closed doors.

That Lessig could go through this and still become the man he has become displays the type of moral fiber and courage that is rare to see in this day and age. Unfortunately, it seems trite to give a patriotic statement of "support," as if this is some sort of litigatory game Lessig is trying to win. Yet, I do not know what else to say, or what else I can do. So, I wish him all the luck in the world in his case. May his example serve as a beacon to all the others who have been victimized by similar atrocities.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Next, on Jerry Springer...

My relationship was broken when my girlfriend became a post-structuralist!

One of the funniest things I have ever seen. If you like philosophy, you will love this.

Helpful Advice

So the Moderate Voice tells me to visit Balloon Juice, described as "a well-known conservative blogger [who] is one of the most independent-thinking bloggers on the Internet." I sought out Balloon Juice (aka, John Cole) once before, when Andrew Sullivan linked to him, but I recall the server kept crashing. I don't know if I ever managed to get to it. But today I visited, and I was very impressed with what I saw. He is definitely going on my blogroll.

There is quite a bit of good stuff on the site. Most impressive was this post lambasting conservative apologist Hugh Hewitt for advocating "de facto censorship" of the media "to bully an already submissive and all-too-inconsequential and incurious media establishment to simply gloss over anything bad that might happen on our watch." I concur with Mr. Cole that demanding full accountability for torture that might have happened on our watch (in addition to any other conduct unbecoming the United States) should be revealed and investigated, and its not anti-American or anti-Military to say so.
If some had their way, the NY Times and the rest of the media would not be reporting any of this, and, VOILA!, problem solved. The military could cover up the incidents, and therefore, much like the proverbial tree in the woods, nothing has happened. In the weird world-view of the post-modernist right-wing apologista that Hugh represents, if a story is unreported, it didn't happen.

Except it did, and the communities we are ostensibly trying to help know it did, and it breeds legitimate resentment, contempt, and hatred for the United States to bolster the already existing irrational hatred of the US. If Hugh gets his way, the 'Newsweek riots,' as he pithily labels them, will give way to a much deadlier and much more wide-spread and, I might point out, LEGITIMATE groundswell of violence that will have long term implications in the region and on American military and diplomatic power for years to come.

Similarly, this allegedly 'pro-military' stance, which amounts to nothing more than demanding a media cover-up, sullies the name of every single soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine, and I can not figure out why some think this is a good thing. Rather than publicly prosecute and punish those who have done wrong, they would rather keep the bad apples with the good until the entire barrel appears bad.

The Iraq mission, and the war on terror, is important. So important, in fact, that I actually want to see it succeed. Part of doing that means not engaging in reckless acts which enflame anti-American sentiment around the world and serve as big, shining, recruitment posters for Osama bin Laden.

Balloon Juice's post is long, but worth reading. If you want a smaller sample of his intellect, I recommend this piece on torture.

And for an example where Cole points out something that pisses me off about Democrats, see here. Good God, Mr. Earle! I'm depending on you to throw DeLay in prison, and this is what you do? Infuriating (not to mention moronic).