Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I guess American style democracy has taken root in Iraq...

Lookls like they might have cheated. It's too soon to tell, but I recall that Hussein won by a similar landslide.

Let freedom reign...

Monday, October 10, 2005

A book you must read-

First, let me welcome readers of Samantha Burns. For those who don't know, she's a Canadian libertarian who supprts the war and hates PETA, only one of which I agree with her on. If nothing else, it might help my pitiful Technorati numbers.

So I'm reading a book about the election of 1800, and it is called, fittingly enough, Adams vs. Jefferson. One of the things that strikes me is the way in which America keeps revisiting the basic issue that has never been fully resolved- are we an elitist society, or an egalitarian society?

In the 1790s, the issue played out as one of democracy vs. republicanism- what level of direct involvement for the people? To a Federalist, the commoners were uneducated and passionate. To a Republican (i.e. Jeffersonian), the Federalists were bent on installing themselves in a quasi-monarchy to rule over their (perceived) inferiors.

It's come up time and again in different forms- industrialists vs. labor, "eggheads" vs. practical thinkers. Underlying all this is a tone of "they think they know what's best for us/themselves." What never changes is that there will always be some form of populism, and some form of elitism. We are in the midst of one such phase right now- what Pat Buchanan called the culture wars. In New York and Los Angeles, rich, educated elites are trying to alter radically the way we live! Or conversely, those people in Kansas and Oklahoma are fighting the future, trying to impose a backward, mythological worldview on us!

It's a false dichotomy, of course, because both sides are right. Each side does want to impose its worldview on the other, because each side thinks it's right. That's why we stand for election, that's why seek to govern- because each candidate, in his/her heart of hearts, thinks that his/her way is the correct way.

What gets really interesting in this particularly bizarre political climate, is that Bush stands with the populists, despite his status as scion of a major political family. Even though Jefferson would have denounced him as an undeserving, aristocratic, puppet of the wealthy and connected, the American people generally associate him as one of their own. In the 2004 election, a pollster asked people to name the consumer brands they associated with the candidates. Kerry was associated by both his supporters and detractors with Starbucks, Heineken, and BMW- upscale, hip brands (or snobby, self-important brands if you didn't like him). Bush, on the other hand, was assoicated with Dunkin' Donuts, Bud Light, and Ford- brands with solid, Average Joe qualities.

Which gets me back to the central question- do we want an Average Joe, or the best and brighest? We go back and forth between the two, and the goalposts are always moving. When Thomas Frank asked What's The Matter With Kansas? he really missed the point- Kansas has always been a populist state. What constitutes populism changes- once it was free land and labor movements, now it's being pro-gun and anti-abortion.

It will be something else fifty years from now, but it will still be with us.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Pot... Kettle... Hey! You're both black!

Mr. DeLay, the former House Republican majority leader who is a friend of Mr. Abramoff, relinquished his post last week after he was indicted in Texas in connection with political fund-raising. He has described the charges as the fruit of an investigation unleashed by an unscrupulous, publicity-happy prosecutor.

Unsrupulous? Publicity happy? Sounds like Tom DeLay to me. The only real difference between DeLay and a common criminal is that most common criminals aren't taken seriously when they deny the charges against them.

More on Miers

Let me begin with an apology- it was unfair for me to diss SMU law like that. Not fair, and I do regret it. It was written out of frustration and bewilderment at a nomination that is very undeserved, though not for her alma mater. Moving on...

Salon ran a big piece today, pointing out that Harriet Miers comes to the Court with significant experience representing corporate interests. Although she has had vitually no exposure to the issues that social conservatives care about most deeply, she has an established track record representing big business, particularly defending against consumer class actions. Her specialty- defeating class certification. Since the Republicans have generally sided with big business and and against consumers this could explain everything.

Salon notes "Bush's Miers pick... points to an intriguing tension within the Republican Party, between its ideology-driven right-wing base and its constituency of conservative business leaders, who are eager to develop stem-cell technology, and hire and promote talented employees, whether they be gay, lesbian or straight. Some observers say the Miers nomination follows a pattern Bush established back when he was governor of Texas, picking judges that reward corporate-friendly supporters and special interests."

This is not too different from what I said in my first post here. "Fiscal Conservatives- socially liberal, anti-wasteful spending, and well-educated- are on the way out. The Republicans are increasingly the party of hand-wringing moralists and evangelical Christians. The [White Working Class] fits very well into the newRepublican paradigm. Fiscal Conservatives do not, and they are ripe for the picking."

The gnawing right-wing dissatisfaction with Harriet Miers' ascension shows that what the nutball wing of the GOP wants more than anything else is to get their way on their terms. It is not enough that Miers belongs to a right-of-Falwell church, or that she will predicatbly vote their way- they wanted someone who was openly and avowedly a religious conservative, someone who cut their teeth defending Operation Rescue for all their trespassing citations, someone who will not only allow prayer in school, but will also allow it to be involuntary.

What they wanted was a showdown on judicial philosophy. What they got was a yes-person. It's the Steve Spurrier school of thought- don't just win, when you can win by 50 and embarass the other side.

This is another example of the GOP managing to frame the debate in such a way that the left gets put on the defensive. It is now a given to most people that Republican judges "strictly construe" the Constitution, while Democratic judges "legislate from the bench." What most conservatives don't realize is that many of the rights they take for granted- like the right to raise one's children as they see fit, or to marry the person of your choice- were judicially recognized. Legislatures are often wrong, no matter how popular their decisions might be.

Of course, conservatives just as frequently "legislate from the bench," just on different issues- how else can one explain 10th or 11th Amendment jurisprudence. The difference, of course, is that those amendments deal with things in a more or less procedural way- it's not that you aren't entitled to relief, Mr. Plaintiff, it's just that you can't come by it this way. The Court has expanded those Amendments far beyond their textual or logical limits. But since babies don't die as a result, no one cares.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harriet Who?

I couldn't really object to John Roberts. He's an experienced intellectual, comfortable with complex Constitutional issues, and qualified out the wazoo. At the end of the day, Roberts was an accomplished lawyer and a knowledgeable judge, if a little scant on published opinions.

Harriet Miers is none of those. She is a political hack and a longtime friend of George's. A product not of Harvard or Yale (which in itself is not a problem- I have thought for some time that the Court was a little too Ivy League centric), but of Southern Methodist- apparently the second best law school in Texas (actually- both SMU and Baylor are tied for number 52 nationally). SMU is considered a little left of center by Texas standards- which makes it predictably right of common sense for the rest of the country.

Like they say in Texas, dance with the one what brung ya. So he gave us a nominee with no published scholarship, no judicial experience, and apparently no exposure to Constitutional, criminal, or civil rights law. We can expect, however, that she will toe the line- like everyone else who was promoted from within. This was one of my reasons for not opposing Roberts- he wasn't a Bush man.

The President passed over many more qualified people to promote from within, which his is usual modus operandi. Not even conservatives are pleased by this nomination- many conservatives wanted a credentialed conservative intellectual (as if!). What we got is someone who will be predictably, reliably radical.

From Harold Meyerson-

But the conservative intellectuals have misread their president and misread their country. Four and a half years into the presidency of George W. Bush, how could they still entertain the idea that the president takes merit, much less intellectual seriousness, seriously? The one in-house White House intellectual, John DiIulio, ran screaming from the premises after a few months on the job. Bush has long since banished all those, such as Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who accurately predicted the price of taking over Iraq. Yet Donald Rumsfeld -- with Bush, the author of the Iraqi disaster -- remains, as do scores of lesser lights whose sole virtue has been a dogged loyalty to Bush and his blunders. Loyalty and familiarity count for more with this president than brilliance (or even competence) and conviction.

The need for an intellectual nominee is apparent when one considers that the real goal of the right is to restrict many of our basic rights. Most Americans now consider reproductive freedom and privacy to be fundamental rights. Simply overturning Roe with the same shoddy reasoning that Justice Blackmun employed to write the opinion leaves the newly right leaning Court open the same attacks that the right has used- it's a political opinion, placing personal views above the law. As Justice Scalia terms it, it would be "results oriented jurisprudence."

Of course, the President has said over and over that he wants results. Fear not, Mr. Presaident, your actions have had results.