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Wednesday, July 30, 2003  
Gary Hart is pissed.
Democracy by Combat

If it seems to you that American politics is sinking to a new low in conflict and nastiness, you would be right. Evidence abounds. This week the Republican majority of the House Ways and Means committee changed the substance of the pension “reform” legislation at the last minute and Democrats objected to yet another incident of majority arrogance by retiring from the committee room to determine their strategy. One member told another to “shut up” and was in turn called a “fruitcake” and challenged to duke it out. The chairman called the Capital police to drive the Democrats from their meeting room.

In California, Republicans are spending $25 to $50 million to recall the duly elected Governor of California only months after he won reelection by a convincing margin. In a number of States Republican-dominated legislatures, controlled by the White House, are redistricting Congressional districts established two years ago after the last national census, all in order to increase Republican majorities in Congress.

Even post-McCain-Feingold, campaign finance “reform” is a national joke. The President admits he will spend a quarter of a billion dollars to get reelected. When the bills are paid, after the election of course, expect the tab to be nearer half a billion. And a good 75% of that money will be spent caricaturing the Democratic party and its candidates. Every argument for making politics unappealing and every reason for not voting are promoted for the very simple reason that low voter turnouts favor Republicans. THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO VOTE!

Were all this to happen in Argentina or Nigeria or Indonesia we would say “they’re just not ready for democracy.” But all this is happening in the world’s greatest democracy. All this is happening, and increasing, in the United States of America.

Does this make you proud of your country? Does this cause you to encourage your children to pay attention to politics? Does this give you confidence to preach the American example when you travel abroad? Or does this make you–as it does me–furious?

The U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, which I co-chaired, found that the declining caliber and quality of public servants, including elected officials, threatened national security. Not good government. NATIONAL SECURITY! We cannot permit this new style of cut-throat, devil-take-the-hindmost, savage, power-mad, we-know-the-truth-and-to-hell-with-everyone else dominate the public arena in this nation. For if we do, if we don’t speak out and object on every occasion and offer a nobler ideal, we will get the kind of government we deserve.

But it will not be the kind of government I will recognize and it will not be democratic.

Amen! A minor cavil - Hart should have said a little more about the Stark-Thomas dustup at Ways & Means last week, because (a) what the Republicans did was much worse than Hart describes, and (b) he should have indicated that the "fruitcake" line was hurled by a Democrat (Stark).


Cheap shot. Compare and contrast:
Contradicting accounts of lawmakers who have read the classified pages, Bush said [releasing the redacted 28 pages from the Congressional 9/11 report] "would help the enemy" and "would reveal sources and methods that will make it harder for us to win the war on terror." [ . . . ] Bush announced his decision in a Rose Garden appearance two hours before meeting with Saud. Bush said he had "no qualms at all" about rebuffing the request "because there's an ongoing investigation into the 9/11 attacks and we don't want to compromise that investigation."
- Washington Post, 7/30

Washington - The identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband started the Iraq uranium intelligence controversy has been publicly revealed by a conservative Washington columnist citing "two senior administration officials." Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday yesterday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity - at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak.
- Newsday, 7/22

We report, you decide.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003  
A couple of days old, but interesting. From Daily Kos, a rundown of the recent findings of Larry Sabato, a favorite talking head on Fox News and various other chat shows, and certainly nobody's biased lefty, regarding the likely outcome of the '04 elections:

Larry Sabato, the most quotable of political scientists in the country, has put up hypothetical matchups between Bush and Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman. Sabato has not included Dean, as he considers him to be too much of a longshot for the nomination.

The verdict? According to Sabato (who is CW incarnate), every one of those Dems except for Kerry would defeat Bush. (And given Sabato's thoughts on the electability of New England progressives, it's clear Sabato would also doom Dean to failure.)

Read the post. Or better yet, look at Sabato's actual projections. Sabato's methodology (give each Democrat all the solid blue states and leaners, plus their home state) is certainly debatable, and Sabato admits he was trying to find victory scenarios for each, but he was surprised by what he found in that he really didn't have to try that hard. Regardless of what you think, even a quick glance at the map will demonstrate two things quite clearly: (a) as long as the Democrats have a hammerlock on California and New York, they will always be at least viable in the presidential election, and (b) as the Dems do have that hammerlock (and aren't going to lose it anytime soon, no matter who ends up as governor of California), whoever wins Florida and Pennsylvania will be the next President, period.


Professional snob George Will takes a few shots at the EU constitution, declaring it "botched," among other things, and sniffing at what he calls the Europeans' "failure to grasp what a proper constitution does and does not do." The column is a classic deployment of Will's trademarked prim derision: for example, Will opines that "the sentiment that 'preventive action should be taken' to protect the environment is unexceptionable, but what in the name of James Madison is it doing in a constitution?"

Thankfully, however, Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber studies the E.U. Constitution for a living, and he endeavors to puncture Will's unctious blather. Farrell points out that much of Will's horror over the multiple rights and entitlements listed within the document arise from the fact that (a) Will cannot imagine any type of Constitution other than one built on the American model (which Will doesn't fully grasp either); and (b) that individual EU members can (and probably will, and already are signaling their intention to) render explicitly non-justiciable many of the provisions which Will claims enshrine entitlements and unenforceable mandates within a fixed Constitutional structure.

Finally, Will betrays a more general skepticism about the European Union’s constitution, which seems to me to be the product of ignorance.

Europe’s nations speak of “pooling” their sovereignty, but the great question remains: How can those nations’ self-government — the setting of social policy by representative parliaments — be compatible with a European Union armed with this constitution? The answer is: It can’t be.

Wrong. The answer is: they’re already doing it. The proposed European Convention doesn’t do much more than fiddle with the existing system, adding a competence here, subtracting one there, and setting out the different responsibilities of the member states and European level authorities more clearly. It does push the integration process along a bit, but it’s not the kind of radical change that Will thinks it is. If it’s working now, there’s no reason to think that it will strangle national-level democracy in the future There are big questions about how the EU is likely to cope with Central and Eastern European countries when they finally join the club - but these are problems that the EU would face in any event. Simply put, the proposed constitution, important as it is in some respects, isn’t the threat to national sovereignty that Will thinks it is, and it can’t be. It’s simply not that big a deal.

I’ve no objection whatsoever to well-informed Euroskeptics; there’s a lot about the EU that I don’t particularly like myself. I don’t even mind too much that many right wing Americans dislike the EU on general principle. But for God’s sake, can’t they at least try to find out a little more about the EU and its member states before they trash them? It would add some credibility to their criticisms.

Right? Wrong? I dunno. I will admit that I am often unable to see past or through Will's smugness and condescension, and tend to prejudge his arguments a bit. In fact, Farrell is kind of saying that Will has pointed out a valid risk - that "maximalist" E.U. judges will start construing the hell out of every sub-provision of the lengthy document - but that he doesn't give Europeans any credit for discerning the problem and dealing with it. I suppose that is Farrell's true point - that a dilettante like Will earns no points for dipping his toe into a debate that has already progressed well beyond his rudimentary observations, and for Will to use his neophyte's understanding to bash Europe and Europeans, and pat America's constitution on the back (and, inevitably, himself as well, as an explicator of that great, and indubitably "proper" document) makes him kind of a prick. But we knew that.


Good point, Mr. Yglesias:
Paul Wolfowitz tries to mount a defense of the Bush administration's conduct:

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, defending the Bush administration's justification of the Iraq war, said today that intelligence on terrorism is by its nature "murky," and that the United States may have little choice in the future but to "act on the basis of murky intelligence" if terror attacks are to be prevented.

The thing is: He's totally right. Intelligence is always going to be somewhat murky, and the executive branch of government is going to need to do its best to take action based on whatever intelligence it can get. But that is precisely why it's so important not to have an executive branch that's taking perfectly good intelligence — "Mr. President, we checked out that Niger thing and it turned out not to be true" — and throwing it away. When it comes to these sorts of things, the people have no choice but to basically trust the judgment of their president, and that means we need a president whose judgment we can trust. People who, when faced with facts they don't like, will make up new, "technically accurate" facts are not the people we need in a time of murky intelligence.



Friday, July 25, 2003  
Fucking outrageous. From Tapped:
WHO YOU CALLIN' ANTI-CATHOLIC? Some of you may have missed the recent, extraordinary spectacle of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Methodist, explaining to the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, four of whom are Catholic, that they were anti-Catholic for opposing the nomination of William Pryor to a federal appeals court. Here are the highlights from Nina Totenberg's excellent report on NPR (you can listen to it here):

Pryor's nomination has been controversial from the get-go. He has called the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision an abomination resulting in the, quote, "slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children." He's supported laws making consenting homosexual conduct a crime, and he supported the erection of a giant monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building. But today Pandora's box opened wide at the Senate Judiciary Committee, with all but one Republican member in attendance, in effect accusing Democrats of opposing the nominee because he's Catholic.

The seed of the controversy was planted in June at the confirmation hearing when committee chairman Orrin Hatch, over the Democrats' objections [emphasis added], asked the nominee his religion. 'Roman Catholic' was the answer. Then this week an ad ran in newspapers in Maine and Rhode Island picturing a giant courthouse door with a sign on it that reads: Catholics need not apply. Below the picture is text that reads: Some in the US Senate are attacking Bill Pryor for having deeply held Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge. The ad was paid for by the Committee for Justice, an organization for which President Bush's father and nephew have raised money.

The charge in the ad sent a jolt of fury through the committee's Democrats, especially its four Catholics, starting with the ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): This smear is a lie. It depends upon the silence of others to survive.

TOTENBERG: But Pryor's mentor, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, wasn't buying.

Senator JEFF SESSIONS (Republican, Alabama): The ranking member protests that he is not anti-Catholic and he's offended that anyone suggested that he is. Well, let me tell you, the doctrine that abortion is not justified for rape and incest is Catholic doctrine. It is a position of the pope and it's a position of the Catholic Church in unity. So are we saying that if you believe in that principle, you can't be a federal judge? Is that what we're saying? And are we not saying then good Catholics need not apply?

Senator RICHARD DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): This is disgusting.

I know, I know, outrage is cheap these days, and if I take any more umbrage I'm going to have to clean out my garage to make room for the overflow, but, goddamn it, this kind of cheap political posturing is just BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT. Via CalPundit.


Thursday, July 24, 2003  
More fun with libertarians. As I have written before on this site, I recognize the appeal of libertarian beliefs to people on all points on the political spectrum. Granite-hard rightists can get with the individualistic "leave me the fuck alone" antigovernment streak, while communalists/anarchists can get behind the notion that the groups that hold power within human society can reach a higher perfection if allowed to self-organize, rather than respond to, or be imposed by the diktats of a central authority. However, the social Darwinism underlying the philosophy makes it untenable as an approach, in my view. It's unclear at what point the libertarian revolution can begin; our society is so stratified that certain groups already hold partially or entirely unearned competitive advantages that would be greatly exacerbated by a loosening of the strictures that currently bind us.

Anyway, Daniel Davies has an interesting post on (sort of) this topic at Crooked Timber:
You can't con an honest man
Since it’s “contrarian” silly ideas week on CT this week, here’s another one for fans of Tyler Cowen’s telemarketing argument (see below). It’s something that’s bugged me for a while. Various versions of the libertarian creed seemed to be based on allowing people to do anything they like as long as it doesn’t involve “force or fraud”. My question is; why have they got such a downer on fraud?

The prohibition on force is easy to understand. Force is nasty; it harms people directly and interferes with their liberty. But defrauding someone is just offering them an opportunity to harm themselves. Rather like selling them heroin, or persuading them to opt out of a defined benefit pension scheme, two activities that most of us would support people’s right to do, even though we might disapprove of the consequences. If we’re going to establish a strong principle of caveat emptor, as most libertarians seem to think that we should, why should we have a prohibition on that form of free speech known as “lying”? If someone wants to be fooled by a smooth-talking charmer, or decides rationally that they can’t be bothered verifying the accuracy of claims made to them, why should the govenrment step in and paternalistically demand that they be insulated from the consequences of their actions?

I can’t think of any Nozickian or other libertarian grounds on which one should be able to object to someone earning their living as a confidence trickster; it’s a non-productive activity, certainly, and it degrades the general institution of trust, but these are social objections, not available to a consistent libertarian. None of us ever signed a contract saying we wouldn’t lie to each other, so we needn’t feel bound by any social objections. So I suggest that “or fraud” be dropped from the slogans of the Libertarian Party, and we leave it to the free market to weed out the dishonest timeshare promoters, merchants of patent medicines, Nigerian advance fee scam artists etc.

I agree with the point that Davies is driving at here. Basically, as I understand it, the limitation on fraud in libertarian circles is tied to the belief that fraud renders markets inefficient, and so is a compelling interest high enough to justify the involvement of a higher (i.e. central) authority. I see two main problems with that argument. First, markets often stumble forward though riddled with fraud (see the international drug market, used cars, etc.); they function, but they are unstable, and there is no redress for the losers. Sounds like a pretty libertarian outcome to me. Second, if this type of intervention is justified solely by the need to create stability in a market, why not any of the other stability-producing regulations that libertarians are so loath to consider? There's no doubt that the regulated energy economy was a hell of a lot more stable than the deregulated markets envisioned by many libertarians; but somehow that type of regulation is the crushing hand of the opressive state, whereas laws against straight-up commercial fraud are necessary corrections of an unobtrusive referee.

Perhaps the key is intent; perhaps just as only an individual can be truly free, only an individual can be truly guilty. But the con man who runs the "change for a twenty" con on the movie theater cashier is seeking profit just like Enron. I don't know, but it's an interesting post, with some good comments, as well.


Wednesday, July 23, 2003  
Yay, they're dead! Consider this my "I am, in fact, happy that we are succeeding in wiping out the vestiges of a truly horrible regime, and do not, in fact, hope for bad things to befall our troops, or hope for the return of Saddam to power just because I am critical of the President and think that we rushed clumsily into this war like a sixteen-year-old sweating and fumbling with his girlfriend's bra in the backseat of his parents' Honda Odyssey" post. As Norbizness points out, such a post is fairly obligatory, given the climate.

But who are we kidding? These people were fucking monsters. There is something particularly disturbing in the second-to-last paragraph of the linked story that should make just about anyone rejoice in the death of these men.

So, good news? Absolutely. Hope they get Saddam next and string him up by his toes from a lamppost like Mussolini. Apparently, military officials are considering releasing pictures of the bodies. This is a good idea, considering the deep hold these two had on the popular mind. But I heard on NPR that the bodies are being flown out of Iraq on a military aircraft this morning. Why the hell are they doing that? The US forces should turn the bodies over to the interim governing council. Hell, they should drop them off at the Baghdad city morgue. That way, some actual civilian Iraqis can testify to the fact of their death. Perhaps such a witness might overhear someone at the next table at the tea shop saying "They are not dead! It is American propaganda and lies!" Perhaps they will lean over, and say "No, you're wrong. They are dead as hell. I saw them." But flying them out of the country on a military plane under tight security? Why? They're dead. We can't get anything out of them at Gitmo.

Niger uranium? Still unfolding. Sorry, fellas.

UPDATE: The bodies are still at the airport, apparently. "US Officials" have said that they are being taken out of Iraq, but won't say where. This is really stupid. Also, this marks the first time I have agreed with anything written here, as far as I can remember.


Monday, July 21, 2003  
Dwight Meredith at PLA invites the reader to play "Let's Make a Budget." Meredith has spent the time dredging the OMB's Mid-Session Review so you won't have to:
To play, you start with $1,797,000,000,000. That is OMB’s estimate of FY 2004 receipts of the Federal Government from individual income taxes ($786.6 billion), social insurance and retirement receipts ($748.6 billion), corporate income taxes ($144.1 billion), excise taxes ($70 billion), estate and gift taxes ($22 billion), custom duties ($22 billion) and miscellaneous receipts ($34.1 billion). Those figures have been reduced by $30 billion for something called “revenue uncertainty.”

Almost $1.8 trillion dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is. It is in the neighborhood of 16% of GDP. Still, fair warning, the money will go fast.

Okay, now let’s spend some money.

Meredith goes on to deduct from this seemingly inexhaustible total each of the spending packages to which the current budget is committed. I don't want to ruin the surprise ending, but...there isn't enough money, not by a long shot. On the one hand, this is kind of a fish-in-a-barrel situation, (duh, we have a deficit, we knew that), but it also is a revealing illustration of the inherent dangers in the conservative "starve the beast" argument. Read the post, and tell me - what would you cut? What can be cut? Oh, and before you answer, remember - now is not the time to fuck around with anything too radical regarding social security or medicare/medicaid - the time for that was three years ago, when the budget had enough funds sloshing around to forgive a lot of mistakes. Now, if reforms don't work pretty seamlessly, and these programs start to hemorrhage money (faster), every dollar goes right to the debt.

Coincidentally, there is a place where you can try out this kind of budget wargaming for yourself - if that type of wonkery appeals to you, head on over to Nathan Newman's "National Budget Simulator," a remarkably clever little application that allows you to set your own priorities over spending categories, repeal or expand the tax cuts, and click to see how your pet theories stack up. There is a short and a long version, and the long one is a pretty exhaustive roster of budget choices. Who knows, the math behind the whole thing could be riddled with biased lefty assumptions, and I didn't see an "include supply side dynamic scoring" click box, but what the hell. Oh, and he's got a blog, too, natch.


Thursday, July 17, 2003  
Ping pong in the Matrix. This is just flat-out low-tech genius.

And, what, exactly, are we to make of this statement by Bush on Monday?
The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.

Guh? Wha? I think everyone remembers pretty clearly where Mr. Blix's inspectors were right before the war, and who it was who ordered them out, but, then, I would have said the same thing about the nationality of the 9/11 hijackers. I tremble at the thought of the results of a survey question asking Americans: "Did Saddam Hussein allow weapons inspectors into Iraq in 2002 or early 2003 prior to the beginning of the war?" Who knows, maybe only a small sliver, a tiny percentage would answer "no." But I wouldn't bet on it. The memory hole seems to have grown wide and voracious, of late.

But this is just speculation. Perhaps this lie was so transparent (Kofi Annan was sitting next to him, for god's sake!) that tomorrow spokeshomunculus Scott McClellan will say that the President was "speaking broadly about ten years of history" or that he simply misspoke. If this was simply a misstatement, it is Reaganesque in its breathtaking wrongness (Reagan was the prince of what one writer called "dark fogs of gibberish" e.g."The poverty rate has begun to decline, but it is still going up."). In any case, the statement indiscates either (a) a real disconnection from the actual chain of events that led us where we are today or (b) an intentional revision of history, and the trotting out of a new justification for the war ("Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors in."). Either way, the choice of words and choice of forum was strange and kind of creepy, I think.

Ah, hell with it. Go read Josh Marshall. He's got lots of good stuff today, better than this woolgathering, including this entry, reproduced here in full:

"I think the thing that discouraged me about Vice President [Gore] was uttering those famous words, 'no controlling legal authority.' I felt like that there needed to be a better sense of responsibility of what was going on in the White House. I believe that--I believe they've moved that sign, 'The buck stops here,' from the Oval Office desk to 'The buck stops here' on the Lincoln Bedroom, and that's not good for the country."

George W. Bush
October 3rd, 2000

"President Bush on Friday put responsibility squarely on the CIA for his erroneous claim that Iraq tried to acquire nuclear material from Africa, prompting the director of intelligence to publicly accept full blame for the miscue."

Associated Press
July 11th, 2003



Wednesday, July 16, 2003  
Calpundit notes with some disdain that Kay Daly at NRO has proposed to supplant Thomas Jefferson on the two-dollar bill with Ronald Reagan. While I agree with Mr. Drum's general dudgeon, I would note that this is not the first time this type of proposal has surfaced; in early 2001, flush with the possibilities presented by the Republican sweep, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project pushed a proposal to put Reagan on the TEN dollar bill. The logic was that Hamilton was never president, and was thus ripe for the picking:

The project chose the 10-dollar bill because of its common use in the currency, and the fact that Congress wouldn't have to bump off another president to put Reagan on.

"Granted Hamilton was a founding father and he helped to write the Constitution, certainly not insignificant, but we think the impact that Reagan had, particularly in the late part of the 20th Century, is great," says Cowan.

Helping to write the Constitution is "not insignificant." Okay. I'll make a note of that.


Wednesday, July 09, 2003  
I've been quiet for a while, so here's some more amen blogging, until I have more time.

Most importantly, everyone should be reading Josh Marshall's continuing work on the Niger uranium story. He has continued to do a great job distilling the coverage, presenting the current state of the facts, posting transcripts of Fleischerian obfuscation, and debunking the spin. Pandagon has also been hitting this story, albeit from a less journalistic, more pissed-off perspective.

For my part, my perspective hasn't changed much since I posted about Marshall's initial work on this story a couple of weeks ago. We could find 100 tons of sarin gas tomorrow, it doesn't change the need to find out whether or not the administration spun the nuclear evidence to trick, yes, to trick the country into believing Hussein was a bigger threat than he was. Now the WH is disparaging the influence of former Niger ambassador Wilson, and dismissing his report (which discredited the nuclear "evidence") as just a mid-level CIA white paper that never made it to the VP's office, or higher.

First of all, that contradicts some on-the record statements by former CIA analysts. Secondly, how in the world does the veracity of a report about Saddam Hussein seeking nuclear weapons become a second-tier, no-big-deal topic to be tossed on the pile with the latest estimates of lemur-scat tonnage from Madagascar? It's just not credible, and the fact is that if this information was in the WH's hands when they wrote the State of the Union speech, it's a fucking scandal. I'm with Marshall here:
[I]t does seem like the White House knew it would be nice to have some other support for their claims about Iraqi uranium purchases and that there were some reasons for concern about their own 'evidence.' Their own actions seems to show they suspected something was wrong.

So I don't think dumping on [former ambassador] Wilson, which seems to be the White House's preferred strategy now, is going to cut it. But in each of these cases, let's find out. If Wilson and Thielmann are fibbing let's expose them. And if their superiors are playing fast and loose with the truth, let's find that out too. Let the chips fall where they may.

Calpundit also has been strong recently; examples are his recent post about justice department "minders" monitoring interviews conducted by the 9/11 investigators, his own takes on the uranium story, and a helpful pointer to this .completely insane Russian comic pitting indestructible zen-master Josef Stalin against the treacherous sorceror Adolf Hitler. "My marshal's baton is the personification of unbending will power for victory of the multinational Soviet people!" Er, amen!, I guess.

A gaggle of smart, internationalist lefty academics, including Kieran Healy, Chris Bertram, Brian Weatherson, and Henry and Maria Farrell have put together a kind of sociology/philosophy-based group weblog called "Crooked Timber," somewhat in the spirit of the law-centric, conservative Volokh Conspiracy. A recent sample, from Chris Bertram:
One big question . . . is that of rights (especially to property). Are these just the creatures of the state and positive law, or are their rights (including to property) which exist independently of the state and which the state ought to respect? Leftist arguments against such original property rights are often based on the fact that property is a complex matter and that without a full legal specification of the so-called ‘incidents’ of property, claims to ownership are going to be hopelessly indeterminate. Property rights are then said to depend, in some sense, on the state. But I’m unpersuaded by that line of attack. For we can surely point to many instances where people confer and recognise rights extra-legally, where it is clear that the state has moral (rather than simply pragmatic) reason to be constrained by those rights.

Amen! Well, sort of. My own feeling is that all sentient creatures respect some rights in each other out of an urge for golden-rule self preservation, e.g. breathing. Other rights are somewhat more abstruse and need state elaboration and sanction, e.g. who can or can't operate a motor vehicle, or how will society's resources be marshalled to bear the cost of building roads upon which to drive. The existence of both types of rights, in my opinion, tends to vindicate the arguments of the left somewhat more than the libertarian arguments Bertram is addressing; just because some rights are self-evident and do not require government involvement does not mean that those rights cannot be made universal by the activities of government. A self-evident right to live will be broadly respected, but not by everyone. A governmental edict criminalizing murder, or theft, or any other crime of damage, will create a limiting factor for those who are not limited by the actions of their consciences. This is a simplistic response to a much more complex point, so it's probably better to just read the post. In any case, it's a fascinating weblog.

Lastly, David Neiwert's extensive series of posts on "Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism" is one of the best things I've seen on any weblog, and he's added a lot of new material and edited it into a cohesive whole, which is available as an 87-page .pdf from his site. If you do go get it (and you should), you should also stop by his page and hit the "donate" button - he's only asking for 5 bucks per copy. Oh, and buy his book, too - a fascinating study of the "patriot" movement in the pacific northwest, containing lots of first-person interviews with true believers. Oh, and this post is just fucking brutal:
Of course, so far Bush's GOP cohorts and his apologists in the media have bent over backwards to find ways of saying that Bush didn't exactly lie -- he just exaggerated, or told a sort of white lie that had a beneficent purpose as well as a grand result. See, for instance, Fred Kaplan's Slate piece, Was Bush Lying About WMD?:

Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the other Pentagon officials who made these claims so fiercely probably weren't lying. Clearly, they had formed their conclusions first, then went scrounging for the evidence. Clearly, they stretched the evidence they found right up to, and in some cases beyond, the logical limits. However, it's a fair bet that they genuinely believed that Saddam had these weapons.

This, of course, utterly ignores the possibility (not to mention the likelihood) that these officials, including Bush himself, were willing in fact to make knowingly false assertions (that is, to lie) in support of their predetermined conclusions. One of the foremost of these was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assertion in September 2002 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction:

"We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons," Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18. "His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons -- including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas."

Later, on March 30, 2003, Rumsfeld told ABC's "This Week" program: "We know where they are."

Claiming to know something when, in fact, you do not know it (even if you believe it dearly) is a
lie -- regardless of how you spin it afterward.
Amen! There's lots more, read the whole thing.



Friday, July 04, 2003  
Everyone probably has this already, but in case you don't, here is the link to the national "do not call" anti-telemarketing registry. Truly an example of something the government can do that the free market simply can't.


Tuesday, July 01, 2003  
Ugh. I generally don't do a lot of trolling over at the conservative sites, but sometimes you just have to dip your toe in . . . only to have it slide right into a pile of Bush-fanboy gushing like this, from Jay Nordlinger, Managing Editor of the National Review:

I collect Bush talk, as you know (along with Rumsfeld talk and some other choice verbal specimens). I'm sure I was not alone in enjoying what Bush said when asked about a terrorist "ceasefire" in the Middle East: "I'll believe it when I see it." Blunt, honest, easily comprehensible, Trumanesque: That's Bush talk. I love the eloquent speeches, written by those marvelous speechwriters. But I love just plain, unadorned, from-the-gut W. talk, too.

Gosh, isn't he dreamy? I wonder what kind of ice cream he likes. Maybe I could send him some. No, but it would melt, that's just silly . . . Oh, I'm all in a tizzy!

Via Pandagon. Thanks, I guess.


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