Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quote of the day

Theme: Imagery
“I’m a mild-mannered guy,” Michael Mattison, a partner in a software venture development firm, said as he stabbed a piece of halibut in the sunlit dining room of a local bistro. “But we can no longer be subdued.”

It's not all about us

Danny Schechter provides a incisive commentary on the shallow nature of much of the anti-war sentiment in this country.


OK, class. No talking. Pencils up. All eyes on the exam. Here's the first multiple-choice question.

The Iraq War is Bad Because:

a. It is illegal, immoral, and criminal
b. It has ended up killing and maiming millions of Iraqis we promised to free
c. It has devastated a country and ignited world opinion against the United States and caused thousands of US casualties
d. It has debased our media and turned much of it into a propaganda organ
e. It was badly managed and poorly executed

If you survey world opinion, there would be a consensus on selecting A-D as a response. If you polled most Democratic politicians and mainstream journalists, you would find overwhelming support only for E "the we screwed it up" thesis as the correct answer.

What was once hailed as a heroic mission is now being dismissed as a fiasco, error and "mistake," and to some former war boosters, even a "noble mistake."

In fact, that's the view that seems to be framing what debate there has been on the war. It is still AAU All About Us. In this view, all that matters is our policy objectives but rarely our economic or geo-political agenda. Iraq as a nation, as a culture, and a people barely exists.

Read the whole thing.

And in much the same vein, Brian Leiter has the final word on the unprincipled but rather pompously titled "manifesto" We Answer to the Name of Liberals being circulated by Bruce Ackerman and the reliably insipid Todd Gitlin.

Why I Am Not a Liberal... (Leiter)

...at least if this embarrassing moral waffling counts as liberalism. I am sorry that people I rather like, and some of whom I know would have written a far better statement, signed on to this feeble statement of "principles" [sic] by Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin. How they got past the first substantive paragraph, I really do not know:

We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to horrific, unjustifiable violence was amply demonstrated by the September 11 attacks as well as the massacres in Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Great Britain, and elsewhere. Rather than making us safer, the Iraq war has endangered the common security of Americans and our allies.

So this is liberalism: to oppose criminal wars of aggression against defenseless nations when they aren't in America's interests?

That's a principle?

How else, after all, to interpret Ackerman's and Gitlin's opposition to the war on the grounds that it is "unwise" and "destructive of America's moral standing" as anything other than saying it isn't in America's interests? (And must liberals really be committed to silliness about America having "moral standing"? Can't liberals be realistic enough to observe that America has pursued the strategic interests of ruling elites like every other nation in human history, with the more-or-less predictable consequences for peoples and countries that fell afoul of those interests?).
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pynchon Watch

A new Pynchon novel out Nov. 21st.

Snoopy Guernica

Click on picture to enlarge
Snoopy Guernica by Ron English on display at the Pop Art Gallery.

The Simpsons upcoming Halloween episode parodying the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, titled The Day the Earth was Stupid (slated to air Nov. 5, two days before the election) reminded me of the cartoon characters' earlier statement about war.

The future ain't what it used to be

Things Magazine has a great post on NASA-commissioned space colony art from the 70s. They comment:
I suppose at some point in the last 30 years these might have seemed remotely feasible, but today the emotions they stir are not of tomorrow's new frontiers, but of past engineering glories, nostalgia for unfettered enthusiasm and self-belief.
Jon Langford's Sputnik 57 explores a similar theme. If you haven't listened to it yet, you should.

On a related topic, the Republicans are apparently terribly disappointed that science fiction is no longer what they thought it was.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Frequent use of signing statements

Bush signings called effort to expand power

Report sees broad strategy

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's frequent use of signing statements to assert that he has the power to disobey newly enacted laws is ``an integral part" of his ``comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power" at the expense of the legislative branch, according to a report by the non partisan Congressional Research Service.

In a 27-page report written for lawmakers, the research service said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional.

The ``broad and persistent nature of the claims of executive authority forwarded by President Bush appear designed to inure Congress, as well as others, to the belief that the president in fact possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude," the report said.

Under most interpretations of the Constitution, the report said, some of the legal assertions in Bush's signing statements are dubious. For example, it said, the administration has suggested repeatedly that the president has exclusive authority over foreign affairs and has an absolute right to withhold information from Congress. Such assertions are ``generally unsupported by established legal principles," the report said.

Despite such criticism, the administration has continued to issue signing statements for new laws. Last week, for example, Bush signed the 2007 military budget bill, but then issued a statement challenging 16 of its provisions.

The bill bars the Pentagon from using any intelligence that was collected illegally, including information about Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government surveillance.

In Bush's signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of ``the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Bush also challenged three sections that require the Pentagon to notify Congress before diverting funds to new purposes, including top-secret activities or programs. Congress had already decided against funding. Bush said he was not bound to obey such statutes if he decided, as commander in chief, that withholding such information from Congress was necessary to protect security secrets.

Like all Congressional Research Service reports, the report, dated Sept. 20 and titled ``Presidential Signing Statements: Constitutional and Institutional Implications," was written for members of Congress and was not made available to the public. The Federation of American Scientists has posted a copy on its website.

The report marked the latest installment in a recent debate over the Bush administration's use of signing statements.

A signing statement is issued by the president as he signs a bill into law. It describes his interpretation of the bill, and it sometimes declares that one or more of the laws created by the bill are unconstitutional and thus need not be enforced or obeyed as written.

Signing statements date to the 19th century but were rare until the 1980s. The Bush-Cheney administration has taken the practice to unprecedented levels.

Bush has used signing statements to challenge more than 800 laws that place limits or requirements on the executive branch, saying they intrude on his constitutional powers. By contrast, all previous presidents challenged a combined total of about 600 laws.

This year, The Boston Globe published a detailed accounting of the laws Bush has claimed he has the power to disobey, including a torture ban and oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act. The report prompted widespread concerns, but critics have not been able to agree on precisely the nature of the problem.

For example, the American Bar Association concluded that the issue was the mechanism itself.

The American Bar Association called signing statements ``contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers." It said presidents cannot sign bills and then declare parts of them unconstitutional because a president has only two choices -- to sign a bill and enforce it as written, or to veto it and give Congress a chance to override the veto.

This year Arlen Specter , a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on signing statements during which he accused the administration of unconstitutionally trying to ``cherry-pick" bills, keeping only the parts it likes.

At that hearing in June, Michelle Boardman , an administration lawyer, defended the legality of signing statements. She said statements are necessary because Congress often bundles many different laws into a single bill, making it impractical to veto the entire package because some parts are flawed.

``Signing statements serve a legitimate and important function, and are not an abuse of power," Boardman testified.