Friday, February 24, 2006

Feeling impeachy

Bonnie Erbe joins the ranks of those in the "Time to impeach Bush" camp. She talks about the Zogby poll in which 52% of Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush "if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval", which he did - which means the only reason there isn't an outright national majority for impeachment right now is that some people haven't been paying attention. Although, Erbe lists lots of other reasons she views as more compelling than the warrantless domestic spying.

However, the warrantless domestic spying program is the definitive issue on which Bush must concede defeat or face impeachment. Why? Because, without any way to pussyfoot around it, he threw all his savings into the ante and said he had authority for the warrantless domestic spying program because the Johnyoostitution of the United States says the president is unbounded by any statute, judicial decree, or guarantee of the Bill of Rights. In other words, Bush has staked a claim on the power of a tyrant - on an abandonment of American government and the rule of law.

Domestic wiretapping without a warrant is mild compared to some of Bush's other offenses that Erbe lists, such as bleeding the nation's finances and manipulating intelligence on Iraq. Not only mild but it has been legal in the past, before FISA. But that's not the issue - the issue is that if Bush succeeds in establishing the power he claims, we will have no recourse to stop such offenses, mild or otherwise, except for this or any future President's own good nature.

Who really wants to find out where that leads?

John Dean gets it.

UPDATE - Lewis Lapham drives home a few comments on impeachment, in his own flourishy, polemical way. (The link is an excerpt, in case you haven't read your hard copy of this month's Harper's yet.)

Smoking doobies in Dubai

Karl Rove announced Bush's backing off from the DP World deal - sometimes it's hard to remember there's anyone there who remembers the concept of responding to public sentiment.

It's fairly ridiculous, and once again hypocritical of America on free trade, to suggest Dubai Ports wouldn't do just as well as the British firm it's buying at running lots of our port operations. The Emirates have in fact been a reliable ally of the U.S. Since when does a terrorist being from there imply guilt for the country as a whole? We still do business with Timothy McVeigh's home country.

It's also unfair to blame Bush for rhetoric turning around on him - he has gone out of his way several times to make the point that we are at war with terrorists, not with Arabs or Muslims. It is not Bush but the Coulters and Malkins and Mike Savage we have to blame for stoking genuine, outright bigotry in this country.

But I can't help but delight at the uproar (or even feel shotgunfreude), just to see the Republican stranglehold across the branches of government continue to break apart. It's almost as if the GOP Congress were just looking for excuses at this point to drive wedges between themselves and the White House. The steaming feculence of the unilateral executive power grab, and its malodorous fumes of detainee abuse and mass illegal spying on ordinary Americans, are not something anyone running for office in the next century is going to want to stay standing near.

Wieseltier's going down!

As a former book review editor, I can only wonder where The New York Times came up with Sam Tanenhaus, its book review editor, the guy who mistakes reviewers incapable of anything more than ranting slurs for those who offer actual, thoughtful criticism - as I mentioned in this earlier post. Several other bloggers have caught onto Leon Wieseltier's review of Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett - including Lindsay Beyerstein and coturnix at Majikthise, the Mad Scientist at The Daily Trascript (of RNA), and Brian Leiter at Leiter Reports.

The Mad Scientist hits it on the head:

Wieseltier attacks Dennett's reasoning by reasoning that reason can't be used to study religion. What the bloody hell??? In other words, please don't ask rational questions.

That sums it up pretty well: it's really a choice not of what to believe, but how to believe: to rely on emotional or spiritual feelings to decide what is true, or to accept as truth only that which is supported by objective observation and rational analysis. To pursue a reasoned critique of Dennett would only be giving in to Dennett's commitment to reason - whereas Wieseltier's preference for emotionally discerned "truth" leads him to believe the only criticism needed is a huffing, puffing appeal to emotion.

Turning to Dennett's book, without having read it yet (soon...), it would be ridiculous with all we know at this point, not to investigate the potential evolutionary origins of the widespread human impulses to religious belief and the collection of behaviors that make up religion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

...and A.Q. Khan appointed Secretary of Homeland Security

Following up on the sale of major American ports to Dubai, the White House announced today that Abdul Qadeer Khan has been appointed to replace Michael Chertoff as Secretary of Homeland Security. Bush learned of the appointment from Scott McClellan after the press conference, but after a thorough investigation, concluded ten minutes later that he was confident in Khan's appointment. Bush warned the Senate against interfering with a fair up-or-down vote for Khan. He then issued a signing statement saying that a "no" vote would be void due to unconstitutionally interfering with his unilateral executive powers, although he was interested to hear any suggestions the Senate might pass, in its Article 1 capacity to make all Suggestions which shall be acceptable to the President for carrying into Execution the powers of government.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another top Navy lawyer to the rescue of the American soul

Alberto J. Mora is a hero who stood up for American values - by persistently opposing the Pentagon's un-American new policy of treating detainees as untermenschen.

Former top Navy lawyer John Hutson has also been a tireless opponent of detainee abuse.

More power to them.

"Money quote", as Andrew Sullivan loves so much to say - this is Admiral Mora to the chief lawyer of the DoD: "Even if one wanted to authorize the U.S. military to conduct coercive interrogations, as was the case in Guantánamo, how could one do so without profoundly altering its core values and character?"

Here's more on Mora:

The New Yorker article

Marty Lederman's comments

Best of all, read Alberto Mora's memorandum, a tour de force of insistence on legal and moral principle.

Sunset on the five-finger premium

Wolfowitz is once again taking bold action to lift up the poor and oppressed - as he gets results in the World Bank's rising war on corruption.

"A shot was fired" trumps "mistakes were made" in the passive voice hall of fame

A stronger indicator that Cheney delayed with the news for so long because... he was still hoping it could be kept secret? Mary Matalin: First Cheney Statement for Press Did Not Admit He Was Shooter.

Clear Skies = vaporized mercury lends a beautiful tint...

Mark Kleiman at The Reality-Based Community has a terrific post on Entries from the Republican-English Dictionary, ranging from depressingly obvious (healthy forest/ n./* No tree left behind...) to depressingly hilarious (*voter fraud/ n./* A significant minority turnout... *staying the course interj./ Slang/.* Continuing to perform the same actions and expecting different results. (See: insanity.))

Heeere's the Truthiness...®

The Trademark Blog argues that Stephen Colbert should file a trademark application on "truthiness" as a source identifier of his persona, in the same way that Johnny Carson successfully argued for rights to "Here's Johnny" under his right of publicity (Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., 698 F.2d 831 (6th Cir, 1983)).

However, the short post doesn't go into several substantive differences that might be crucial in distinguishing between the two fact patterns. For one thing, "truthiness" is a single word, rather than a phrase. Also, "Here's Johnny" contained an actual reference to Carson's name, lending weight to its status as a source identifier. "Truthiness" is also found in the Oxford English Dictionary with references to the early Nineteenth century, and the Macmillan English Dictionary's website recently featured "truthiness" as its word of the week (read all about the latest developments on "truthiness").

And, as the court emphasized, Johnny Carson had been associated with "Here's Johnny" for decades prior to the competitor's use; and the toilet maker even stipulated at trial that the public associated the phrase "Here's Johnny" with Johnny Carson, and that the toilet maker had chosen the term because of that association. (What ever happened to zealous representation...)

Colbert undoubtedly revived the word and gave it a new definition, but it's still an established word in the English language. That's not definitive, since it had definitely lapsed from common usage, and even in the first place was rare or dialectal, says the OED; there's a strong argument that the word "truthiness" had been abandoned from the public domain and was available to be appropriated as private intellectual property. The argument is even stronger if you argue for truthiness to be proprietary only as applied to Colbert's product or service, of an ironic news commentary program, in the same way that the word "fun" is proprietary to Carnival Cruise Lines as applied to advertisements for cruise ship services ("The Fun Ships®" etc. ...)

On the other hand, "truthiness" has already been carried away by multiple published sources in non-Colbert related discussions
(again, see here...), so Colbert's claim on the word under trademark or publicity right is attenuating rapidly - if he's going to claim it, he'd better do it soon - although it developing other associations would not be dispositive, as the court emphasized relative to Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch.

On yet the other hand, Colbert has acted quite vigorously to defend his association with the word... after the AP ran a story about "truthiness" being selected as the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society without mentioning Colbert (not in the version of the story that syndicated nationally anyway), Colbert took time on each episode of his show the entire following week to lambast the AP for omitting reference to him - and got both the AP and the individual reporter each to run another story about Colbert's indignation and insistence that "truthiness" be associated with his show as its source. Outstanding tactics for preserving his claim!

But, one further issue: Colbert's entire campaign of indignation at being omitted from association with truthiness, including his comments as quoted in the later AP story, were all done in character, as the Stephen Colbert the blustery right-wing blowhard pundit TV show host character - which is entirely separate and quite different in practice from Stephen Colbert the person and actor (who is left-leaning, far friendlier, and far more easy-going). While it makes perfect sense for Colbert the character to go after a trademark right in "truthiness" like an attack dog, it's less certain Colbert the person would.

So, if he goes after a trademark right to the word "truthiness", it might be the first time a trademark is sought not just for a fictional character, but by a fictional character.

How might he exercise a legally valid trademark right in "truthiness"? I imagine, not to go after The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, or The Oprah Winfrey Show using it (with attribution to him, as they have) to further his commentary, with serious application to real-world issues. But, he might use it, hopefully, to keep it from being twisted around in the service of precisely what he intended to excoriate with it - as tries to do, co-opting both truthiness and 1984 (!) to recycle banal condemnations of... political correctness.

That is at least, if not far more, damaging to Colbert's interests, as a port-a-potty with a "Here's Johnny" logo was to Carson's; it presents the real likelihood that persons unfamiliar with the Colbert Report will stumble on their first exposure to "truthiness" in the work of a Washington "Times" columnist and assume this right-wing usage accurately represents the views of the Colbert Report, therefore discouraging the potential interest of Colbert's potential audience. This is fundamentally different from the usage by the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, which have accurately represented "truthiness" and its identification with the Colbert Report, as intending to criticize the Harriet Miers nomination and the invasion of Iraq in particular, and incompetence, deceptiveness, and anti-intellectualism in general.

Ultimately though, this is the most crucial distinction between "truthiness" and "Here's Johnny": "Here's Johnny" was misappropriated for purely commercial use; "truthiness" has mainly been used in discussion of political and social issues. Therefore, the public has a compelling interest in continuing to use the word "truthiness" under statutory fair use - let alone the First Amendment, which can be avoided. To exclude the public from free use of "truthiness" in the way it's been used would be to hinder the public's interest in free discussion of compelling issues, of the Millsian free market of ideas, that is essential for a democracy.

On the other hand, "truthiness" T-shirts have popped up, and was registered the very day Colbert first introduced the word; and the Colbert Report already had a website, and Colbert-themed T-shirts for sale on the website, before the show premiered. The T-shirts didn't use the word "truthiness", but they revolved around a similar theme: one said "The Colbert Report: Truth with a Capital "C"", while the other said "Keep your "facts"; I've got Colbert". A video segment of the monologue in which "truthiness" was introduced was one of the first videos posted on the website. Therefore, where others have only a commercial interest in selling T-shirts or providing website services, they would be competing directly with the Colbert Report in an area of potentially purely commercial interest and without a substantive fair use defense (depending on how the competing T-shirts and website are done), and Colbert should be able to exclude them from using "truthiness" according to his right of publicity.

Colbert's best way to protect that right would be to hurry and file a trademark application. This would give him an advantage over Johnny Carson, who, the court noted, never registered "Here's Johnny" as a trademark.

NOTICE: This blog is intended as generalized commentary, not as legal advice. If you require legal advice, seek out the counsel of an attorney qualified in your jurisdiction.

Kang Chol-hwan: Korean for Winston Smith

From Kinshasa On The Potomac, Cheerleaders: The Hidden Threat To The Dear Leader... about a report that North Korean cheerleaders are in a prison camp for the alleged crime of leaking information about conditions in South Korea after performing there.

Like Hitchens has said, Kim Il Song was creating the nearest thing to 1984 about the same time Orwell was writing it.

If only we'd let MacArthur finish the job like he wanted. The North Korean state is a daily crime against humanity. When will we topple it already?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"Never again", again...

Bush has concluded that peace talks will not halt the violence that has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million homeless in Darfur and that a more muscular military response is required...

About time. President Bush's plan is heroic, albeit belatedly; I hope he sees it through. Hell, I'd love to go myself.

No matter what else has happened, it's hard to imagine many other presidents or presidential candidates - probably McCain, possibly Lieberman - showing Bush's courage and persistence in fighting on behalf of humanity, not just of Americans.

If only he hadn't allowed the aftermath in Iraq to be so poorly mismanaged... and been willing to abandon fundamental American values and deny human dignity altogether for anyone labeled a "witch"... no, a "Communist"... no, an "enemy of the Revolution"... no, oh yeah, an "enemy combatant", that's the label in vogue now. Such sinister euphamisms necessarily have high turnover rates, if poltical language is to maintain its purpose of making murder sound respectable.

Speaking of which, according to ever more evidence, Guantanamo is starting to make Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan look like shining models of civil liberties and democratic due process. Some of these guys have been held for four years without trial, subject to gross inhumanity, based on this "irrefutable proof" that they were associated with al Qaeda: the fact they were wearing a Casio watch?!?! This is beyond sickening. How will we ever restore justice to these people and their families? And how long will it take before the world once again looks to America to stand for truth, liberty, and justice for all?

I'm all for bringing terrorists to justice, whether by trying them in court and locking them up for life, or by killing them on the battlefield. But the evidence from Gitmo and Abu Ghraib shows American efforts have turned from justice to masochism; and the indicators are suggesting we have no process for distinguishing terrorists from a large number, perhaps a majority, of innocent people. That must end.

Next comes jalapeño oxygenate

El Wapo reports on the rise of ethanol. The critics of ethanol are sounding pretty dumb these days. If we added an accurate national security and foreign trade balance externality fee to gasoline, methanol would become cheaper overnight. Direct the fees toward a national security and foreign trade balance externality credit on methanol sales, and it would be no contest. And by the time economies of scale in dual or triple use motor engines have matched those of gasoline-only engines, we would be set for life. Also pair it with hybrids, and make permanent the income tax credit on original purchase of a hybrid, and add one for dual/triple-use.

For the most cogent summary of the coming methanol/ethanol revolution, read here.

In case I'd felt tempted to subscribe to The New Republic

Here is a terrific example of a flourishy, flailing critique, devoid of persuasiveness or meaningful analysis: the review by Leon Wieseltier of 'Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon' by Daniel C. Dennett, in the New York Times.

Wieseltier, apparently entrusted as the literature editor for The New Republic, opens by flopping down the old red herring that rational, rather than faith-based, epistemology, is just another faith: "Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day... For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. 'Breaking the Spell' is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions."

Why do religious believers think the ultimate put-down for scientific epistemology is to allege that it is just another faith? Are they themselves arguing that a belief system would be shown to be worthless if it is based on faith?

But repeating a claim over and over doesn't lend any actual meaning to empty words. What makes the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions a superstition? How is a superstition defined, and how does the worldview of science compare with that definition? When will any of these faith-based epistemologists actually try to lay out a reasoned argument for why the scientific method should be just another faith?

But I guess expecting a reasoned argument is precisely to expect them to switch sides. Who needs a reasoned argument when you can just make a proclamation with lots of expressions of earnest conviction? Who can argue with the truthiness they feel about the validity of faith over science as a means to understand the world?

Try this on: a superstition is a belief prompted by an inner feeling that can't be confirmed by objective observation of the results of external, real-world phenomena. The scientific worldview is precisely that which rejects such beliefs that define superstition. The belief that science is somehow actually a superstition, rather than the diametric opposite of the mental state that fosters superstitions, is itself prompted by an inner feeling that can't be confirmed by objective observation of the results of external, real-world phenomena. You lose; science wins.

Looking deeper, what would make an otherwise (presumably) educated person, who probably accepts the scientific explanations for how his computer and his statins work, rather than endowing CPU's and hypolipidemic agents with disembodied spirits, insist on outrage when scientific epistemology is not restrained from examining human thoughts and behavior and beliefs? Perhaps a persistent discomfort with accepting that we ourselves are defined by the physical structures of our bodies and brains, without requiring a mystical quickening spirit, or that our persistent motivations to find belief in a supreme being, despite the absence of any evidence for spirit selves or gods, and the presence of overwhelming evidence that it is in our nature to hold to beliefs in those concepts. The epistemology of faith, forever malleable by definition of being unrestrained by external evidence, allows one to hold on to the comforts of spiritual beliefs. And so the mode of deciding what is true is selected to allow for the truths axiomatically insisted upon.

I reject the very concept of belief. The word "belief" is just a euphamism for internal emotions mistaken for evidence of the state of the external world.

I cringe every time I see one of those "People of Faith for Kerry/Edwards" bumper stickers (which are still around). How about "People of Skepticism for Kerry/Edwards"?

(Though, god forbid Kerry the Incoherent should be nominated again.)

[UPDATE] - Brian Leiter has picked up on this too, with a more detailed demolition of Mr. Wieseltier's work, in an excellent post entitled "Why review a book of philosophy when you can sneer at it?"

[UPDATE AGAIN] - Majikthise has also listed a number of other interesting responses to Wieseltier.

And if anyone hasn't yet read Majikthise's revelatory paper on normative naturalized epistemology, DO IT NOW for reason's sake. It is the natural sciences - especially physics - that have taught us not only the truth about the world around us, but that has also taught us how to discern actual truth - no mean feat for the wayward-tending imagination of the human mind.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Feingold-Obama '08

Russ said what 532 other members of Congress should be united in saying right now:

"The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA’s domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and I think even some Democrats.

"The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Don't mess with a Texas sheriff at a barbecue

Now it emerges that the local sheriff responded to news of the shooting... by chowing down at a barbecue, and rustlin' up some time later in his schedule to take a first look into a man being shot.

Il se penche vers le secret

"Penchant for secrecy" has become a tiresome cliché, thanks to Cheney. Are there any other penchants in current usage? Here it comes again: Bush 'Very Satisfied' With Cheney's Explanation - does anyone not find that says more about Bush than it does about Cheney's explanation?

Cheney and his spokesmen Bush and McClellan have all reached new heights in obfuscatory answers to straightforward questions, as this article bizarrely shows. We know Armstrong hasn't been able to keep her story straight, and we have heard conflicting stories now on the role of alcohol, and how close it was to dusk. Is it just me, or is there a palpable air of more inconvenient details waiting to reveal themselves? Because I'm palpating that air right now.

Freeing the world from the tyranny of peace

Orcinus has a thought-provoking series on "The Rise of Pseudo Fascism".

He points out that Coulterism is more than just an anti-intellectual and amoral greasetrap, but a shade of fascism on the rise.

On the other hand, he reads a tea leaf of fascist glorification of war, out of a bumper sticker that reads, "War Has Never Solved Anything, Except for Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism".

Whatever "fascism" means.

I guess you have to have accepted as an axiom that war in itself is the greatest possible evil, to avoid the fact that the bumper sticker has a point.

There are worse alternatives to going into a war in which victory and peace are possible outcomes - such as the never-ending state of war as a way of life imposed by a government on its own people, as has often been the case with Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism. Or as Iraq was under Saddam or Afghanistan under the Taliban; or as North Korea, Sudan, and Burma remain today. So many times more people have been brutalized and murdered by the quieter, unending, war as a way of life of Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism than in the loud, winnable wars to end those evils (at least the first three).

I'm repulsed by the Bush administration for so badly mangling the liberation of Iraq, and creating a widespread compulsion against facing down brutal dictators in the future. But I'm perhaps more repulsed by the insidious herd instinct of many on the Left, having apparently defined themselves not by principle but by reactively embracing the diametric opposite of Bush in all things, and boxed themselves into a false dichotomy, in which they glorify stability and undemocratic oppression, and the right of reigning thugs to remain ensconced in power, rather than admit of the concept of liberation.

Is there any more fundamental definition of leftism than acknowledging that we owe a responsibility to assist our fellow human beings? And doesn't that inherently transcend borders? When did the Left divorce itself from internationalism and shack up with provincialism?

I'm not defending Team Bush - they've done a shitty job and needlessly multiplied the casualties and the costs of Iraq. Instead, imagine we had done it the right way, with over twice as many troops, bodies and vehicles sufficiently armored, an absolute commitment to treating detainees with respect and dignity, an all-out cultural and language training and outreach, and a rapid and large enough force and on-the-ground intelligence to seal the borders, root out Zarqawi and his fellow thugs, quickly establish and maintain basic internal security, an all-out effort to quickly restore basic infrastructure, and spending reconstruction money primarily on the many sophisticated Iraqi businesses that could have accomplished most of the task, meanwhile pumping jobs and cash into jump-starting the economy, rather than cycling that cash back to the States in overblown Halliburton contracts (and rampant corruption). Maybe how it would have been done under a President McCain, with Powell and Shinseki, and a non-neutered State Department. The domestic terror campaign would have been stemmed at the root, casualties would have been a tiny fraction of what they have been - and certainly less than under an ongoing Saddam regime, and almost all the troops would have been back by now, with far fewer man-hours of troop time spent in Iraq - and some of them freed up to stop the genocide in Darfur.

No shotgunfreude for Harry

Aside from all else, I can't help but feel bad for Harry Whittington. The ridiculous line about him being moved back to intensive care purely for privacy is a great indicator that we really have no idea how badly he's doing now. If he feels so great he's doing billable legal work in bed, how come no one outside of the (apparently beholden) hospital staff has seen him? While everyone cackles and speculates about Cheney, this poor guy is 78, has "less than 150 or 200" shotgun pellets embedded in his body, permanently, including one in his heart and one in his liver, and has had a "mild cardiac event" because of it. He's got to be hurting. Hopefully he really is recovering as well as they say.

The definitive legal evaluation of the warrantless domestic spying

In case you've somehow missed them til now: the first letter to Congress and second letter to Congress from Harold Hongju Koh, Ronald Dworkin, Richard Epstein, David Cole, Martin Lederman, and nine other top legal minds, taking apart the Bush team's flaccid arguments for the warrantless domestic spying program.

Funny how both Harold Koh and John Yoo describe their background in Korea as a prompting for their views on the law... to what diametrically opposite conclusions - our own law-professor-recapitulation of the divide between North and South Korea, one embracing democracy and human dignity, the other, exalting the state into godlike power over its subjects.

Legal ethics as another window on the Bush regime

"Justice Department Reviews Role of Its Lawyers in Spying"

"Justice Dept. Role in Eavesdropping Decision Under Review"

It's been pretty clear since the Torture Memo was uncovered that some government lawyers are overdue for a profound review by a professional responsibility committee - starting at the time with Jay S. Bybee, since it was his Hancock on the letter - and John Yoo when he was revealed as the author. Quite simply, the interpretation of the law propounded in that memo is so twisted, in a way so abominably offensive to the statutes it interpreted (and the Constitution), that it constitutes compelling prima facie evidence of a betrayal of its authors' ethical duty, as employees of the DOJ, to their client, the United States of America. Al Gonzales would have to be included in that ring too now - among all else, he explicitly referred to Bush as "the client" before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Too bad for the American people. And too bad for the same committee when they blessed Bybee's appointment to the Ninth Circuit while his signature on that excrement was still wrapped in shadow.

But no administration would be able to weed a DOJ entirely free of lawyers with some identifiable measure of respect for their ethical duties, at least not thus far. Enter H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility. How did the Bush team manage to leave a Clinton appointee in such a position all this time? I guess it makes sense it wouldn't have been a Bush appointee to take this step - although credit has to be given to the appointment of Jim Comey.

Jarrett is apparently launching an ethics review of the DOJ lawyers with respect to the NSA program. One might ask what has taken him so long, to which the answer just might be that no one was much interested in letting him in on it, until the New York Times.

They can keep trying their ludicrous arguments that it's "legal" for the president to act in disregard of the legislature, the courts, and the Bill of Rights, and if you're not in favor of fascism, you're in favor of terror. Congress has been all too ambivalent about asserting its own role. But a professional ethics review of the attorney general and a sitting federal appellate judge would be a great way to get the straight story on the table and accelerate the inevitable shedding of denial about the unlawfulness and threat to democracy of the "unitary executive" canard.

And while the professional responsibility investigations are going on, it's also high time that BYU, Yale, and Harvard Law Schools retroactively flunk Bybee, Yoo and Gonzales from their first year con law classes and revoke their law degrees.

The revolt of the conservatives marches on

No Checks, Many Imbalances by George Will.

Back in my formative years of voting straight-ticket GOP, I valued what I took as the central pillar of conservativism: that the two main roles of government are to defend our country and stay out of our business.

It still shocks my old sensitivities to see Republican loyalists bent to defending an all-pervasive, unlimited government - precisely what we as Republicans wanted to avoid, last I checked.

As the institutional GOP has solidified its hold on Washington in practice, it has sacrificed its long-term ideological solvency, by so drastically narrowing and walking away with the spectrum of ideas acceptable to the institutional GOP, that few people will be left not feeling alienated by the time they're done. Teddy Roosevelt would be swift-boated as a soft-on-security eco-radical leftist if he came back today.

[Edit] - George Will's piece is brilliantly put together, until the last paragraph. I don't see what nothing more than a retroactive statutory blessing would accomplish, after the Bush team has already denied the authority of Congress to affect its actions one way or another, besides to set a precedent for a show Congress that exists only to rubberstamp what the imperial presidency has already done behind closed doors. There must be a definitive reassertion of Congress's Article 1 powers, that doesn't stop until an effective submission to that role by the presidency.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Straight shooters needed

Of course, El Wapo still can't resist piling on the puns:

"Brit Hume, Cheney's Choice For a Straight Shooter"

Overcome by Shotgunfreude

Is it wrong to react to Dick Cheney's current predicament with a little shotgun-incident-related-schadenfreude - or Shotgunfreude?

It's just so poetically, mythically perfect - Sophocles would not have been able to top this.

The truth has a way of making itself known. Thanks to Cheney's (pansy-ass Italian) shotgun, the sort of grander truths usually produced only in the distillation of literature breeze in the faces of all the goppers in denial about this administration, with a forceful simplicity that cannot else but shake a few more of them loose, and drop them back on the rational-thought side of the great national divide.

I had been honestly worried for quite a while, uncertain whether American democracy really has a Seldonesque destiny of impervious potential for betterment, or whether it was a fad on the fade. Cheney's mis-quail has restored my faith in the culture of democracy having passed a point of no return. Maybe the Open Society really is too powerfully open ever to close again - if someone with such a will and such means to govern above the constraints of Constitutional accountability can be forced to answer for himself to his fellow American people in some fashion.

And I've been telling myself for so long, the last thing I need is such a perfect time-hooverer like a blog. Which is still painfully true. Oh well.

[UPDATE] - Jonathan Alter captures the sense of shotgunfreude in The Imperial (Vice) Presidency: "The shooting could hardly be a better metaphor for Cheney. It neatly packages his faulty judgment, insularity and arrogance in a story that is not cataclysmic on its own terms but will prove hard to forget."

I came up with a wording to define shotgunfreude: "delight experienced at the unraveling of antidemocratic forces." As in, the errant shotgun blast that might have triggered the next barrage of revelations on the White House's secret machinations - revelations that will help end its anti-Constitutional push to exalt itself above the legislature, the judiciary, and the Bill of Rights.