Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Strangest Place

For racism, the last place I'd think to look would be PRI/BBC's The World. I'll get links up here to the specific stories in a couple days, but one was on aid from foreign countries for US and Hurricane Katrina. I guess in this case, "racist" isn't the right word, but rather perhaps Eurocentric or extremely BIASED towards junk propaganda, but in any case: talking about 3rd world countries donating money and resources back TO the US (since they are usually aid receivers), the host mentioned poor countries like Bangladesh giving some money to the US out of good will, and solidarity, and other feelings of bonhomie. But for countries we're politically unhappy with, in this case, Venezuela and Cuba, they said there may have been ulterior motives involved. Some expert they brought in gave offensive conjecture about Fidel Castro and his Foreign Secretary chomping on their cigars and laughing at the US because of the diplomatic conundrum Castro's offer of 1500 doctors put the Bush Admin in. (In case you're inclined to agree: Cuba's health system is so good, the hardly-communist World Bank has sent reps there to study how they dealt with AIDS, and the even-less-communist US itself sends, or at least sent until Bush II Term 2, medical school students to Cuba to observe their system frequently. In fact, crazy-craze John Bolton's allegations of bio-weapons in Cuba have almost universally been debunked, observing that international observers to a person say that what he claimed were weapons were indeed simply the advanced pharmaceutical facilities they said it was.) (Nota bene: Further, we turned down the doctors, presumably for political reasons, since Cuban doctors have been sent abroad many times and are, as I implied, well respected internationally for their prowess.) (Links to come, in spades.) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, against whom Crazy-Craze Pat Robertson recently issued a fatwa, offered to send oil (which I think we eventually accepted), and The World reported that he would simply love to curry favor from the US. (Not that this is not true, but it is insulting when pretending that this realpolitik somehow differs from Bangladesh or other countries' -- that is, as if those others gave from the heart and not out of desire for goodwill FROM the US into the future, whereas Chavez is just a lowlife giver hoping something in return.) Since our government has repeatedly charged him with being anti-democratic, when he's been democratically elected 3 TIMES (once a pleibiscite at our insistence eventually declared clean by international observers including ex-Prez Jimmy Carter's group) and after we lukewarmly SUPPORTED a coup against him that was clearly illegal and unconstitutional and what's more, undesired by most of the population i.e. the POOR PEOPLE.

The second example of The World's craziness was yesterday's story of mad defrauding of Iraq by some of its former pols, specifically, some $800 million from the Defense Ministry (if I remember correctly). The host asked if this was a unique case, or just like general "graft in the 3rd World." IN THE 3RD WORLD?!!????? aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh. Beyond the fact that graft and greed aplenty occurs in the 1st World, they wondered at the size of this debacle, with NARY A MENTION OF THE LARGEST DEFRAUDINGS OF ALL TIME, WHICH WERE EXPOSED A SCANT FEW YEARS AGO -- they were in the private sector, but with publicly traded companies -- as much a violation of the people's rights as any government that was INSTALLED BY US undemocratically. (The Iraqi defrauding took place during L. Paul Bremer's late and unlamented Interim Coalition Authority and the Iraqis they appointed to lead the country -- no mention of it occurring on our watch, though!) To add heinous insult to subtle injury, the reporter said that much of the money ended up being defrauded through no-bid contracts. But surely, says the host, no-bid contracts have some pedigree as legitimate, after all, they were extensively used by the Coalition Authority to award contracts to Halliburton and others. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH. This same Halliburton that has been widely reported to HAVE SWINDLED THE US GOVERNMENT, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AND OUR TROOPS IN THE FIELD??!!!!???? This host must be: a) an incredibly biased ideologue (medialogue?) staying on message, b) really really dumb, and/or really, really uniformed, or c) tryiing to be weakly ironic by pointing out another case where fraud is KNOWN to have happened (and it seems to me likely it was on a similar scale) and hoping his guest would point it out so that his ass-covering "neutral" self wouldn't have to. It sounded to me, however, most like A or B. Ahh.

Just cuz the short memory of the American people has slipped past the numerous reports of Halliburton's malfeasance, DOESN'T MEAN IT NEVER HAPPENED. Ah P.S. Ahhhhhhhh.

Speaking of ideologues, I know that I've thought that David Brooks has lost his mind, but wow... Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson reportedly (reportedly since I can't find the primary source) said of the President's speech: "[Bush's] line that 'racism causes poverty,' and that federal spending is the solution to that" is "not conservative" and "to hear a purportedly conservative President say that is unreal." Racism of course is not the cause of modern poverty, at least, not in its blatant form, but rather in institutional racism, which some don't seem to believe, or which Tucker Carlson (and, sadly his liberal guests) don't appear to have heard of. Chuck D, Rachel Maddow (two Unfiltered alumni!) both were unable to answer his questions about how a predominately black city, with a black mayor and predominately black first responding force, and a governor elected with a lot of black votes, could possibly be racist. (Apparently he's never read Norm Stamper*.)


I hate it when people who agree with me, and, effectively, represent my views on the national media just don't seem well-informed on how things actually work (or at least are believed to actually work by us reality-based lefties).

*From a story about Norm Stamper, former Seattle Police chief:
"His voice gained credence on the San Diego force as a series of enlightened chiefs came to power that, with Stamper's help, made the department nationally famous. One, Bill Kolender, called for an investigation of racism in a troubled graveyard patrol squad. He assigned Stamper, then a captain, to the task. The year was 1976. What he found, as described in Breaking Rank, was shocking. Thirty out of 31 officers admitted to using racial epithets and demeaning terms. The use of the N-word was just the start. Officers said they radioed "no human involved" for a situation involving blacks, or used the code for an injured animal. One cop refused to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a black woman. Another sang, "Mammy's little baby loves shortnin', shortnin',"to a suspect in the back seat of his patrol car. The only black officer on the squad fell into a weeping jag when he admitted that he went along with it all."
From the The Seattle Weekly; see also Mr. Stamper on CSPAN's booknotes.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Quick Bits: More Roberts and More

The aforementioned (previous post) article by Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine, Humble Fie outlines how Judge Roberts, essentially, "sees almost no role for courts as remedial institutions. Judges should limit themselves to interpreting the law, parsing statutes, and nothing more. Anything else, he feels, is overreaching." This may sound staid and solid, but think about how often the courts ARE used remedially: to correct non-enforcement of environmental regulations, to promote and enforce civil rights (desegregation, Roe v. Wade, job discrimination, housing discrimination), to (hopefully) enforce limits on corporations who are legally people but seem to be held to lower standards (like the freedom of speech to lie), to enforce fair process for those illegally detained (i.e. the still largely-uncharged Guantanamo Bay prisoners, who despite supposedly being "bad people" contains many civilians and a number of children, none of whom have had evidence presented to back up their presumed badness) -- no roll for the courts? Some argue that the actions of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Topeka may have had a laudable result, but perhaps irresponsibly freed Congress from addressing race (presumably for a better result). This Congressional Supremacy of our elected officials is one of the more bizarre ideas that have come up in conservative discourse, in my opinion. This is because the judges are unelected and making decisions that effect us. But they're meant to be unelected, such that they are not affected by public swings of opinion but rather serve as an independent guarantor of our rights. And they can be impeached, by our elected officials, meaning if we have so much control over them that apparently they are a more perfect embodiment of our democratic desires than judges, if and when we want judges our our elected officials should get them out. A conservative (I'm guessing) argues here about too-expansive judicial powers, but concludes feebly that Congress simply have "no understanding of the proper use of impeachment." But I thought Congress was so responsive to citizen demands! The conservative also makes a silly argument about Congress being better than the judiciary on race relations, giving very real examples of Supreme Court fuck-ups -- but they were fuck-ups of course that I think on the whole represented the general feeling of the people in the US to some extent (i.e. the various rulings sustaining slavery by the court) and s/he ignores completely Congress' long-time fucking about with rights (the long, long process to finally get a civil rights bill passed during the flagrant CR violations of Jim Crow, much less John Quincy Adams fighting the gag rule against talking about slavery, or the simple fact that Northern Republicans proposed eliminating slavery in the Constitution, but instead were banned from eliminating slave trade for 20 years, and then of course it took about a century with trying to avoid Congress rarely the radical step abolitionists wanted before Independence. Meanwhile, in 1772, British courts ruled slaves escaped to Britain could not be deported back to the country where they were slaves against their will, and implied more generally that a slave had rights and personhood.

Anyway, that is to say, courts: not all bad. Roberts: pretty bad. Congress: not all good.

Roberts: Don't Be Fooled By the Lack of Substantive Information

Or, that is, lack of substantive information getting through the press.

Here's the J-take from a letter I've sent to my Senators:
I am writing as a constituent of yours to implore you to reject the nomination of John Roberts as Supreme Court Chief Justice, using a filibuster if necessary, based on not only disturbing, and outside-of-the-mainstream conservative views, but also on ethical grounds.

What troubles me the most about the Roberts nomination is his behavior in the Hamdan case. As he was deliberating this case in the D.C. Court of Appeals, he was also secretly meeting with one of the defendants in the case to interview for a job. That defendant, of course, was President Bush, and the job in question is that of Supreme Court justice -- a job offer that requires your consent to be final. And his ruling in Hamdan supported a far too expansive view of executive power, a view in my case that is unconstitutional and frankly, frightening, a view allowing un-American detentions and even severe human rights abuses.

If confirmed as chief justice, John Roberts would be the most powerful judge in America for decades to come. If he can't clearly understand and apply the ethical guidelines that mandate he recuse himself from a case concerning a potential future employer, how can we ever trust him as a fair and impartial arbiter of the nation's laws? This is beyond duck-hunting with the Vice President. Judge Roberts has already demonstrated that he will put his own interests -- and those of the Bush Administration -- above the impartial ethics required of someone in his position. Political expediency vs. impartial ethics
and rulings is a recurrent theme in the Supreme Court -- and he has made his stance on that clear.

I'm also deeply troubled by what I know about Mr. Roberts so far -- including his viewpoint on a "so-called right to privacy," his dissembling with regards to Federalist society membership, and apparent inclinations to strike down national environmental laws based on a narrow interpretation of the commerce clause.

As one can see here (link:, or from Slate magazine's Dahlia Lithwick here (link: Judge Roberts seems to think that
civil rights, by and large, are not an appropriate area for the judiciary to intervene, when often it has been the last resort, or the only resort, for those overlooked in our society. From the Christian Science Monitor (link: he:

Believe[s] the Constitution empowers Congress to strip the US Supreme Court of jurisdiction in controversial areas such as desegregation, school prayer, and abortion. (Though he also wrote that any congressional effort to do so would be
"bad policy.") Nevertheless, such a broad view of Congress' power is startling in these days of a Republican-controlled Congress, willing to pass legislation to attempt to cut off the courts' repeated findings for _one_ person (Terri Schiavo) and with primarily the Court standing between the President and his claims of near absolute executive wartime powers.

? Was a strong advocate for presidential power, ranging from the commander in chief's ability to wage war without interference from Congress, to the president's authority to make recess appointments in in the face of congressional opposition.

? Consistently adopted narrow interpretations of civil rights and voting rights.

? Generally favored law enforcement over the rights of criminal defendants.

? Believed silent prayer in public schools did not necessarily violate the First Amendment's establishment clause.

Therefore, I ask that you oppose the nomination of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court. I ask that you communicate your views on this matter to me as soon as possible.


This was adapted from a form letter from "Working for Change" -- or, I guess, technically ActForChange, a MoveOn-like group that allows one, like MoveOn and TrueMajority, to quickly send off letters to your Congresspeople, and encourages coordinated phone-calling drives to our Congresspersons when a necessarily urgent cause arises. (And for those of you who occassionally claim that none of this does anything, I'm told that they assume every caller represents X other people -- with numbers varying from 20 to 100 or so -- because others inevitably will feel the same but will not have called. I can't say this is true for sure, but it makes sense as a formula to keep tabs on your constituents as a rough estmation.)

Today in Slate, there are several new articles deserving of attention (for a change! Slate's been going downhill in my opinion for a couple years now), such as The Real World: Why Judicial Philosophies Matter by two professors of law (Goluboff and Schragger, if you were wondering). Their question: "The central debates of the nominations process mirror those concerning the government's response to Katrina: How much responsibility does the government, and in particular, the federal government, have in ensuring the safety and security of the inhabitants of this country?" They then analyze what they call "The Constitution in Exile" view, a prototypical conservative view. Highlights:

The answer to their question: "To conservative jurists who take a parsimonious view of federal power, the answer to that question is: not much. Their philosophy of limited government, states' rights, and local control belittles the place of the federal government in our system. To the conservative jurist, the federal government is inevitably something to be feared; they assume that centralized power only leads to a loss of liberty."

"The Constitution in Exile sees government as the enemy of individual rights. It insists that the preservation of such rights requires that government refrain from amassing power. And the individual rights it deems paramount are those of property and contract—" -- The rights of property and contract are not ones that J views as "natural" rights, or even the most paramount of human rights, if you recall. (In contrast to the views of Libertarians and Exilers.)

"The modern constitutional vision remembers that the purpose of the Constitution is to provide for the general welfare. The general welfare in turn requires the government to affirmatively ensure the safety and security of the person, to maintain the minimal material conditions necessary to sustain one's civil and political life."

"The outrage Americans on both sides of the political spectrum have expressed toward the sluggish federal response to Katrina suggests just how divorced the Constitution in Exile, and those who reify it, is from the expectations of the great majority of the population. Those left stranded in New Orleans felt acutely the absence, the national government's abdication of responsibility..."

"Were the Constitution in Exile to return to its allegedly rightful home in the Supreme Court, the national government would likely be prevented from taking on responsibility for any future Katrinas. After such a horrific display of what happens when the nation faces a disaster of national proportions and the national government falls short, it is clear that Judge Roberts, and Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement, should be asked if they endorse such a vision."

They go on to list a set of questions that Judge Roberts should be asked. I'll stretch Fair Use a little bit more to implore you to pass these along to your Senators, as well:
"Judge Roberts should be asked whether he believes in a Constitution that permits and even demands that national resources be brought to bear to protect the safety and security of the person.
He should be asked whether he believes that FEMA, or the Department of Homeland Security, for that matter, are constitutional.
He should be asked whether the notion of civil rights includes the right to a minimally competent federal presence in the lives of the people, and an affirmative duty on the part of government to ensure basic necessities.
And he should be asked whether the Constitution should be read as a document that has as one of its aims the promotion of the general welfare—as the Constitution's preamble states."

Go read the whole article, but first, write and/or call your Senators.