June 29, 2006

Poor Markos

On his midday post today, he says: “If I could issue dictats without you guys flipping me the bird in response. …” Kossacks, where’s the love?

George W. Bush: War criminal (but not, certainly, ex post facto)

“The Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law”

So says a majority of the Supreme Court Thursday, in the Salim Ahmed Hamdan case, in ruling that President Bush’s military tribunals are illegal, not only because they were not specifically authorized by Congress, but much more importantly, they are in violation of Geneva Convention international treaty obligations.

Indeed, Marty Lederman says this leaves the war crimes issue wide open, at least if Bush and staff try to continue to conduct any sort of military commission/tribunal, even if authorized by Congress, that puts our treatment of Hamdan or other al-Qaeda operatives in violation of Common Article 3 of Geneva. (Note: The Court did NOT say that al-Qaeda operatives, who are not fighting in an “international conflict,” are covered by ALL Geneva protections.

See this SCOTUSblog post for further insight on the Geneva Convention Common Article 3 and its immense importance to the Court’s ruling.

Would Bush try to get the U.S. to “deratify” Geneva? He would have to be even more deaf-eared to international ideals, and more morally obtuse, than anybody but the most rabid Bush-haters have claimed up to this point. That’s not to absolutely rule such an idea out, with a Senate that fell just one vote short of Constitutionally criminalizing flag burning.

For good measure, the Court also said that Congress never authorized military commissions of the type BushCo planned to use and therefore he did not have legal authority.

SCOTUSblog looks more at this angle.
The Court’s conclusion, (Justice Stephen) Breyer said, “ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a ‘blank check.’

To follow up on that, Olin Kerr, who clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who partially/mostly concurred in the majority, further discusses what this means for the (re)assertion of Congressional authority in war powers issues vis-à-vis the president.

From another SCOTUSblog post, we get this quote from Kennedy:
“This is not a case, then, where the Executive can assert some unilateral authority to fill a void left by congressional inaction. It is a case where Congress, in the proper exercise of its powers as an independent branch of government, and as part of along tradition of legislative involvement in matters of military justice, has considered the subject of military tribunals and set limits on the President’s authority. Where a statute provides the conditions for the exercise of governmental power, its requirements are the result of a deliberative and reflective process engaging both of the political branches. Respect for laws derived from the customary operation of the Executive and Legislative Branches gives some assurance of stability in time of crisis.”

Of course, Andrew Jackson said about Chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling that he did not have the power to relocate the Cherokee Indians: “(He) has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.” Kennedy, Souter, Stevens, Breyer and Ginsburg are shouting into a power vacuum unless Congress — yes, even a GOP-controlled Congress — actually steps forward to exercise a claim to authority.

Read Jack Balkin for more on the Court’s chain of reasoning.

June 27, 2006

Flag-burning amendment fails by one vote in Senate

No thanks to Minority Leader Harry Reid voting for it

Oops, good thing I’m no longer on Daily Kos; I might be banned!

Reid was one of 14 Democrats to vote “yes” to Constitutionally outlawing and criminalizing flag-burning. Let me see, that’s 30 percent of Senate Democrats. And again, voting for your local Senate Democrat, to turn the arguments of people like Kos on their heads, is voting for Harry Reid to be Majority Leader.

TNR/Kos dustup continues merrily apace

Has TNR’s Lee Siegel gone too far with his “fascist” smackdown of Kos?

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo — I was going to call him more moderate than Kos, but since Kos is about winning elections and his power thereof rather than ideals, I really can’t say that — thinks Siegel has gone way too far.

To which, I replied via e-mail:
The tenor there HAS gotten more quasi-fascistic, if you will.

Look at how many people got BANNED from the site for pointing out that a majority of Democratic Senators voted FOR Hayden to run the CIA, including Majority Leader Reid.

Look at the others, including myself, who got BANNED for commenting on the “self-outing,” NOT the NRO “outing,” of Armando.

Before getting banned, I regularly got flamed whenever I mentioned the actuality, or even the idea, of voting Green.

Sorry, Josh, but PB is wrong. Kos and his website are NOT “a kind of democratization of political discourse.” It appears PB is not a total Kool-Aid drinker, to be sure; but, his skeptical antennae still aren't high enough; I’ll suggest that maybe neither are yours.

Earlier, with a simple “yep,” Meanwhile Josh signed off on at most a mild slap on Kos’ wrist primarily for Siegel’s comments, but also, I infer, for Zengerle’s. (I may have inferred incorrectly, as Josh has not touched Zengerle’s comments yet; if/when he does, I will follow up myself. As I do below; see end of post.)

So, I followed up my first e-mail with a second e-mail specifically about the four principals involved with/in TNR’s sniping: Siegel, Zengerle, Kos and Armstrong:
Siegel overstates his case somewhat, or hyperbolizes it, but Zengerle's particulars about Armstrong sound spot-on.

No, Kos doesn’t want money; he wants Jerome's candidates steered his way so he can “consult” without “consulting.”

Markos' coin, if you will, is fame and power. Assuming the e-mail about his offer of help to Sweden's Social Democrats is true, we have an obvious example of that.

That, in turn, makes the question of whether Kos is on an ego trip about any of this. That, in its own turn, makes some major parts of his past relevant for discussion, such as calling the Salvadorean rebel left “Maoist” or giving divergent reasons for why he joined the Army.

Josh then e-mailed back, and said there’s nothing to infer about his ideas on Zengerle from his comments on Siegel. Fair enough.

He then said there’s no linkage between the two. I disagree. Both, in different ways, have raised the “fascist” idea, though Zengerle never actually uses that word or anything derivative from it.

And, both bloggers were attacked not just by Kossacks, but by Kos-connected (or should that be Kos-konnected) blogs in the same way, even though the substance of their arguments is different.

So, Josh, I reiterate what I said to you in my first e-mail on this subject: I suggest you raise your skeptical antennae higher.

Libraries 1, Patriot Act 0

A group of Connecticut libraries have outlasted the FBI, as the feds have withdrawn their attempt to conduct a warrantless search of a computer.

Unfortunately, the librarians were under a gag under at the time Congress renewed the Patriot Act.

AC, lack of sleep could be making people fat; I agree

A new multi-authored research study claims just that. The idea is that without the body burning extra energy to regulate its internal thermostat, AC lets one burn fewer calories. And by making people feel cool in summer, it makes them want to eat more, especially more high-fat, high-calorie “heavy” food.

Lack of sleep has been previously connected to weight gain, because of how it disrupts various circadian rhythms.

Now, can one live without air conditioning? Sure. I live in Dallas, and for the past several years up to 2005 went light on its use. Last year, I finally did totally without it. And I live in an apartment that only has windows on one side, so I can’t get cross-ventilation.

There are tricks. In the heat of the day, even on weekends, “borrowing” some office AC time, or library AC time, helps. But that’s secondary to other ideas.

First is eating light — lots of liquids, fruits and salads, light on fatty and fried foods — means one doesn’t feel so “loggy” in outdoors heat. That, then, lets one get outdoors more comfortably, and therefore, theoretically, more often. You get outdoors more often — and actually walking around outdoors, not just going to your car — and you get more acclimated. You might actually do some exercise outdoors, lose a few pounds, and get more acclimated yet.

Find a park and stay outdoors a couple of hours under the shade of a large tree and read a good book. Eventually, you won’t miss TV, computer, video games, or whatever was distracting your life inside.

At home, box fans, and ceiling fans if you’ve got them, and you can get by. (I would NOT want to live as did pre-electricity Texas inhabitants, let alone peasants of India who may today have intermittent electricity at best.) Trust me, it’s doable. And, if it’s doable in Dallas, it’s certainly doable in Detroit.

Surgeon-General calls for workplace smoking ban

Surgeon-General Richard Carmona says there is no way to protect workers from secondhand smoke.
The scientific evidence is now indisputable: second-hand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults

And, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Levitt is right behind him.
Despite the great progress that has been made, involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke remains a serious public health hazard that can be prevented by making homes, workplaces, and public places completely smoke-free.

As I said in a column a year ago May, Philip Morris killed my dad. We absolutely should prevent it from shortening the lifespan of people who don’t have a choice. And we certainly can’t trust Philip Morris to do that.

Carmona agreed, in his report.
The industry has funded or carried out research that has been judged to be biased, supported scientists to generate letters to editors that criticized research publications, attempted to undermine the findings of key studies, assisted in establishing a scientific society with a journal, and attempted to sustain controversy even as the scientific community reached consensus.

Amen.

June 26, 2006

Drum points out Democratic leaders’ union apathy; liberal bloggers reflect same symptom

Today, Kevin Drum wonders why there’s a disconnect between the ordinary “working stiff” and today’s Democratic Party leadership. In a word, his answer is: “unions,” in comparing today to the past.

In more than a word, he said, in describing the conversation at a bloggers’ party he hosted:
Everyone at the table seemed to agree that the Democratic Party was out of touch with the working class in America, broadly defined. Why? Because Dem leaders are a bunch of college-educated elites who make a lot of money and don’t really identify with the problems of people who make $30,000 a year.

OK, fine. Let’s suppose that's true. But the Democratic Party in the 30s and 40s was mostly headed by Harvard-educated rich guys, and they seemed to do pretty well on working class issues. FDR wasn't exactly a prole, after all. So what's the difference?

The most common response was: unions. Back in the 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s), unions were big and powerful and had a seat at the table. Democratic politicians listened to them, and the upper ranks of the party had plenty of people who grew up in union households. Basically, unions kept it real for everyone else.

Today, public sector unions are still powerful, but private sector unions are a shell of their former selves. Result: labor concerns are marginalized, and there's no one to really force party leaders to pay attention to working class issues.

So here's my question: Assuming there’s some truth to this, is the answer (a) we need to work to rebuild the size and power of private sector unions in America so that the working class has a powerful champion? Or (b) is this a hopeless task given the realities of the modern economy? Should we instead figure out some completely different way of forcing the party to pay more attention to working class/middle class economic issues?

But, it would appear that Democratic/ “liberal” bloggers reflect the same apathy, if not animosity, toward unions as did people such as their big hero, William Jefferson Clinton. Drum goes on tonote:
I don’t think anybody liked my question, because the conversation sort of meandered on to other topics at that point. Anybody have any bright ideas?

To his post, I e-mailed:

Let's remember many Boomer Dem politicians WILLFULLY kneecapped unions. I’m talking Bill Clinton, Dick “Traitor” Gephardt, etc. It’s called NAFTA. It's called WTO. It's called no labor rights clauses, etc.

Kevin, you’re lucky you didn't get stoned to death.

None of this surprises me. Most bloggers, liberal or conservative, are technogeek types from better-than-average income childhoods.

Congressional Democrats about to fall behind public opinion on Iraq

With supporters of a time-definite withdrawal deadline from Iraq trailing opponents by only a 51-47 margin, and that having changed 8 percentage points since December, and with Gen. George Casey on record as recommending a significant drawdown (though not full withdrawal), how can Democrats still refuse to have any Iraq policy?

So, will the IRS come knocking at Godfather Jerome’s door next?

If liberal blogging “godfather” cum blog-fronting shakedown artist Democratic consultant Jerome Armstrong got paid for some online stock touting,as the SEC alleges, my question is: Did Jerome report this on his income tax statements? Or not?

June 25, 2006

Psst: Hey you, Jerome Armstrong — I know a good lawyer

His name is Armando, and with all of his corporate clients, he can probably hook you up with some insider trading to boot. So don’t worry about that nasty old SEC.

Noowww we’re talking, baybee!

“We work hard, we play hard”

Somebody PLEASE shoot me if I ever apply for a job with that hackneyed phrase in the job description.