Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Voting for the opposition is treason

I really can't take it. In what other reasonable democracy would people tolerate the President saying that to vote for the opposition is tantamount to voting for "The Enemy"?

This is the sort of thing we expect from Banana Republics, where people are arrested for voting against the government, where election results are always 99.9% in favour of the incumbent, where the opposition is hounded and demonized.

But here--casting a ballot is the ultimate patriotic exercise, and saying that you can only vote for one party in order to show your patriotism--well, that strikes me as the ultimate unpatriotic statement.

And remember, this is from the man who arrogated to himself the right to decide if you're an enemy combattant, saying "trust me" that he won't use it on you. But how far a logical leap is it from "voting for Democrats helps the terrorist" to "anyone who helps the terrorists is an enemy combattant" to "I can throw dissenters in jail?"

Bush said "Trust me" on Torture. He said "Trust me" on WMD. He said "Trust me" on the conduct of the war.

I think he's lost the right to ask for trust.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is there no depth

. . . to which the Right won't sink.

Some of you may have read my post on Michael J. Fox's recent ad. Well, apparently Rush Limbaugh thinks he's acting.

This is an ad where Fox is clearly showing the signs of Parkinsons--And Limbaugh thinks it's "shameless" because he's either "acting" or "forgot to take his medication."

Wrong, asshole. The symptoms of Parkinsons include stiffness--thus the shaking is caused by TAKING the medication, not skipping it. Get a clue on symptoms, jerk, before you go making assinine comments.

And for him to suggest that Fox is just acting--well, I won't comment. It's such an idiotic statement that it speaks for itself.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Andrew Sullivan and Reality

Over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, he's making some rosy-eyed ahistorical arguments. In response to a reader who pointed out that never in history has invading a country led to democracy, or led to the countries around it embracing democracy, he makes this vapid, simplistic point:

So question one: When in recorded history have human beings reacted to the sudden toppling of their systems of governance the way Iraqis are supposed to react after we topple Saddam, by peacefully creating an entirely different system of governance? Answer: Japan and Germany after the Second World War. Question Two: When in recorded history has a change of government in one nation
led to a peaceful and spontaneous change of governments in neighboring nations?
Answer: the collapse of the Soviet Union was followed by an astonishing transformation in many neighboring countries.

I'm calling bullshit on that one (actually, I did, but of course, to right-wingers, the actual truth should never get in the way of a good explanation for something, and so he didn't post it on his blog.) My letter to him is below. But one thing--when I finished grad school (in history), I didn't really buy the "those who don't learn from history's mistakes are doomed to repeat it." And now that I'm older and wiser, I believe that 100%. If people who made policy would just run things by historians before they try them, the might find that their facile analysis doesn't stand up to reality. Anyway, my letter:

Dear Andrew,

Your suggestion that Germany and Japan are examples of people "peacefully creating an entirely different system of governance" is, unfortunately, simplistic.

Start with Germany: The Germans didn't create an entierly different system--they returned to an old one, though a different model. Remember that Germany had had democratic government in the past, in the form of the Weimar Republic. Even before that, arguably since the revolution of 1848, Germany had had some form of party-based government (albeit with strong army and Kaiser influence). Thus, the Germans weren't being given something with which they were unfamiliar. Further, German reconstruction was highly tempered by the experience of the war--long fought, massive shortages of food, and a gradual realization (particularly with the revelation of the Holocaust) that they had to change. Add to that the enormous external threat of soviet communism and the realization they had to pull together. Finally, it is worth noting that Germany was ethnically homogenous and that Protestants and Catholics stopped killing each other over religion sometime in the 1600s.

Likewise Japan. It's harder to suggest that they had as much experience as the Germans with democratic government, but it was not something with which they were entierly unfamiliar. Add to that what was replaced--Japan was ethnically and religiously homogenous, and they maintained the stabilizing figure of the Emperor.

In short, neither of these two states has any similarity to the situation in Iraq--a country with no civil society built up, no experience with democracy, and three ethnic/religious groups far more wedded to their ethnic/religious identity than their national identity. It is too simplistic to suggest anything more than a passing similarity to the situation of Germany and Japan in 1945.

Similarly with the Soviet Union. Sure, after the Soviet Union's collapse, Eastern Europe opened up, but bear in mind that a large part of that collapse was a result of the opening of the East German border to West Germany and the massive outflow of people to the West. The East realized it had to open up in order to avoid collapse and the full-scale hemmoraging of people to the West. Further, once the Soviet Union collapsed, all of the authoritarian regimes lost their principal economic and military backer, so of course they collapsed as well. Those states were satelites of the USSR, not equals allied with it of their own choice.

That isn't the case with Iraq--it is simply not the case that every state around Iraq is or was dependent on Iraq for any sort of economic support, nor are or were they client states in the way that the Eastern bloc was.


[Dean P]

Pat Tillman's Brother

I'm sure everyone remembers Pat Tillman, the NFLer who went off to war, was killed and held up as a hero by the Bushies, until it came out that he was killed by friendly fire? His brother has written a pretty powerful essay. Some choice quotes:

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.
Somehow torture is tolerated.
Somehow lying is tolerated.
Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.
Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.
Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.
Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.
Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Stem Cells

This post from the Huffington Post is so . . . shocking . . . that I reproduce it in its entierty. Everything below is from the post.

I can't tell you how much this ad with Michael J Fox upsets me. I had the chance to meet him during the Kerry Campaign, and he is such a good person and to see him so much worse, barely twenty four months later breaks my heart.

It just is truly awful.

And then I checked out the reaction to this ad and see plenty of right wing nut cases chortling that we ought to send him back to Canada because he was born there? Here's a comment someone actually posted on YouTube.

"This dude is a Canadian. Why is he in the US talking to Congress, faking being American? Because we need to fix him up, all our resources are to go to him, because he has a problem. Go to Canada, they have socialized medicine, maybe they can help you. Oh, that's why you are here. I get it now."

Please, allow me to be the first to say: Fuck you.

I just can't take this anymore.

They destroy veterans to win elections so they can play toy soldiers and kill our children.

They smear and attack and lie.

And here's a man, a father to young children, a good person - and we're not doing everything humanly possible to help him? Everything humanly possible is the only moral and ethical choice here. The only one.

Wonder where we would be if the millions we spend every hour in Iraq were spent on stem cell research?

Wonder if Jesus would think maybe we should re-allocate some funds? And reconsider our opposition to saving lives? What do you think?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The essence of tyranny

This article from Andrew Cohen in the Washington Post breaks my heart. It really does. Speaking of the new torture law--that astonishing assault on centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence, on everything that makes us different from the uncivilized world--he writes:

Enormous and unchecked new power now has been given to a White House whose officials at first called Zacarias Moussaoui the "20th hijacker" but were wrong; who at first called Jose Padilla the "dirty bomber" but were wrong; who at first called Yaser Hamdi such a threat to national security that he could not even be allowed to talk to his attorney -- until they decided to set him free. Freedom from judicial review now has been given to the same administration officials who allowed Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen whom we now know that they knew was not a terrorist, to be transferred to Syria for torture. Vague or narrow definitions of torture now have been given to the executive branch operatives who are responsible for Abu Ghraib. New powers have been given to the people who brought us the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, the one that some legal experts say violates both federal law and the Constitution.
The rule of law is everything. It is the most important, the most fundamental thing in our society. The rule of law means that the law applies to everyone--to the government as much as to citizens. The rule of law means that the person implimenting the law (the executive) does not get to say what a law means.

Legal blogger Jack Balkin writes (as reported in the Post):

The President has created a new regime in which he is a law unto himself on issues of prisoner interrogations. He decides whether he has violated the laws, and he decides whether to prosecute the people he in turn urges to break the law. And all the while he insists that everything he does is perfectly legal, because, the way the law is designed, there is no one with authority to disagree.

It is a travesty of law under the forms of law. It is the accumulation of executive, judicial, and legislative powers in a single branch and under a single individual.

It is the very essence of tyranny.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush has a secret plan

Apparently Bush has a secret plan to win the war. The astonishing this is that people believe him, all evidence to the contrary.

Historical note: While Germany was in ruins and Allied and Soviet armies at the gates of Berlin, Germans believed that Hitler had a secret plan to win the war. And the Germans, all evidence to the contrary, believed him.

US torture corps

Awesome. Especially the "most of 'em don't speak english anyway."

The clear message to the rest of the world

I have to say I completely agree with Dan Froomkin's assessment of the new torture law. It's a dark, dark day for our democracy, and for our freedoms. Keep in mind, the terrorists haven't changed our way of life, or our freedoms. We have. Read on:

President Bush this morning proudly signed into law a bill that critics consider one of the most un-American in the nation's long history.

The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture.

Here's what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: "The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our

But that may not be the "clear message" the new law sends most people.

Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules. The law would apparently subject terror suspects to some of the same sorts of brutal interrogation tactics that have historically been prosecuted as war crimes when committed against Americans.

Here's the clear message to the voters: This Congress is willing to rubberstamp pretty much any White House initiative it sees as being in its short-term political interests. (And I don't just mean the Republicans; 12 Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill as well.)

Here's the clear message to the Supreme Court: Review me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Coolest toy EVER!

These are the coolest things EVER.

Even probable terrorists have rights--in some countries.

This is a welcome ruling. Basically, the Federal Court of Canada said that even for someone who might be a terrorist, his fundamental right not to be tortured was paramount, and if the Government wanted to deport him, it had to deport him somewhere where he wouldn't be tortured.

Thank god we've not subscribed to the alternate view that others embrace.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Broken Constitution

Great article in the LA Times.

His point is that the Constitution is totally dysfunctional for a variety of reasons:

1. The electoral college, which leads candidates to write off big states and pander to little ones or swing states.

2. There is no means of removing a President unless he's criminal.

3. Lame Duck presidents stay in power.

4. Supreme Court Justices stay forever.

And I want to add another: The electoral districting. It's astonshing to me that with the Dems so far ahead in every metric and on every issue, they might not win, because only a few districts are actually competitive thanks to gerrymandering. In no other rational system does that happen--where a massively unpopular party actually retains power.

Sure, ridings can be gerrymandered a little in Canada--push a line a bit further west to get more rich people, etc--but if you look at one of our electoral maps, the lines are straight. Or more straight than the crazy shapes of districts here.

That is an impediment to change and democracy. When incumbents get to pick the voters, rather than voters picking their representative, democracy dies.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thoughts on the debate

Today was the Liberal leadership debate at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto.

I liked the format, three candidates on stage, responding to a question in turn, then open debate for 5 minutes. All candidates responded with about two sentences of french, then switched to english. Lip service, essentially, and a bit insulting. The short format also tended towards very superficial treatment of the topics.

A few interesting exchanges. Brison and Kennedy savaged Volpe on the topic of same-sex marriage. Brison, Dryden and Dion couldn't find anything to disagree on with respect to the gun registry. Dion's english really is a liability, I hate to admit it.

The best exchange came when Rae, Ignatieff and Martha Hall-Findlay debated Canada's role in the world. Who came off the best in describing their vision? I think Martha did. She laid out a vision of leadership in Afghanistan that was forceful and realistic.

Rae and Iggy tussled early and took up the whole debate with their fight. Ignatieff accused Rae of inconsistency in his views on the Afghan mission. Rae shot back that he should talk, having changed his mind on the Middle East three times in the past week. Iggy took the hurt approach, mentioned their friendship of 40 years. Rae started to apologize, when Martha tried to end the fight, ultimately yelling 'Gentlemen!' before they stopped. She said that while this made great television, they were all Liberals and this argument had nothing to do with the issue.

If applause was any measure, Findlay won hands down.

What is a Martha Hall Findlay supporter called? Marthite? Marthanista? MHFer?

Whoever wins the leadership, they MUST bring her on side. She is an asset to this party.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Delusions of Grandeur

I'm sorry, but what relevance does this stunt have to do with the leadership campaign? Iggy, you're not the leader of your party, the Opposition, or of Canada's government yet, yet and yet, (foot-in-lower-esophagus-at-this-point notwithstanding).

Stick to winning over Liberals in the short term.

I wonder who he expects will greet him at the airport?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"We're engaging the enemy more."

I really can't take it. Does Bush have NO SHAME?

Today in his press conference, he said that the reason why Iraq is getting more and more violent is that "We're engaging the enemy more."


The astonishing thing is not that this nonsense comes out of Bush's mouth, but that people buy it. It's a bit of a damning indictment not of Bush but of . . .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The last flickering flame

was almost blown out today. The California Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's striking down the ban on gay marriage, saying it was for the Legislature to decide.

Um. The Legislature DID decide--it passed a gay marriage bill, which the Governator struck down, saying it was for the COURTS to decide.

What is it?

Are our civil rights just a little football to pass around? More importantly, the Court of Appeal is basically saying marriage goes to those who can muster the vote for it. Civil rights subject to majority rule.

If I hear one more goddamn opponent say that liberal activist judges are imposing gay marriage on people against their will, I'm going to fucking puke. The number of states where the courts have found there to be a right to gay marriage: exactly 1. The number of states where the courts have decided there is no such right? Off the top of my head, California, Nebraska, Washington, New York, some other southern state. The number of states where court's CANNOT decide that gay marriage is an okay thing? All the ones that have amended their constitution to lock us out.

Screw that. I thought we had a fucking chance here in California. That the state that's a little different, a little kinder, a little more just might actually see the light. Might look to say, Canada, or the Netherlands, or Spain, or the UK, or Massachusettes, and see that the entire world isn't going to come crashing down on all of us. Maybe say, hey, denying an entire class of people a basic right isn't something we do here in California, even if the nutjobs that are screwing up the rest of the country do.

When taking responsibility meant something

So Denny Hastert is going to "take responsibility" for Foley's bad behaviour.

Good for him

But there's one little thing: He's not stepping down. As the Post reports:

A House GOP official said that Hastert, fighting to save his job, will take responsibility for the unfolding scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., but will insist that he will stay on as leader of House Republicans at a news conference scheduled later in Batavia, Ill.

So, let's see--he stands up, mouths a few words, and presto! All fixed!

In a real government, people resonsible for things quit or are fired (except, of course, in Republican world, no one gets fired for doing something wrong. They get awarded Medals of Freedom).

It's such posturing--it's the meaningless acceptance of blame with zero consequences. Well done Republicans.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Defence of Religion Bill

Is completely wrongheaded.

The problem is that the Tories aren't targeting churches, etc., with their bill (well, they are a bit). They make a big stink about churches and stuff, but the Supreme Court and the law itself are crystal clear on that issue. The Catholic church is not going to face a (viable) Challenge that it won't marry Adam and Steve.

Their bigger concern is justices of the peace or civil marriage commissioners. Quite a few provinces (I think Sask. and Man.) have told their civil officials that they will be fired if they refuse to perform the marriage. Ontario, I believe, did a compromise, that an official can refuse provided that the official finds a replacement.

The provinces that require it have it right, and that's what stresses the Tories.

The problem is, of course, that people acting on the behest of the state are acting for the state and only the state. Performing a civil marriage is ministerial: provided that the couple are qualified (adult, not related, filled out the paperwork), they qualify to be married. Period. There is simply no discretion on the state's part. The person performing the act is acting as the state and that person's personal beliefs have nothing to do with it.

What happens if we go down this slope? Then, any person who is charged on acting on the part of the state can get around all the equality guarantees of the Charter, can get around the separation of religion and state, simply by saying it is against their religious beliefs to do anything. Theoretically, police officers are meant to apply the law universally. What if a Christian or Jewish police officer sees a Canadian law that prohibits something that (in their belief) their religion allows? Do they turn a blind eye? Every single governmental department then becomes a minefield: You get one official whose beliefs allow for one thing, and another whose beliefs allow for another.

I don't see how this can stand up in Court. Think of the downsides. Sure, in Toronto, there is probably someone who can stand in for the official. But what about in a small town, where there is likely only one person who is permitted by the state to perform a civil marriage? Is a same-sex couple there without recourse, if the official refuses?

And what would we say if you substituted "same-sex" for "inter-racial" or "different faith"? Are we going to protect the rights of civil marriage commissioners to refuse to marry divorced Catholics? Or blacks and whites? Or Jews and Muslims?

The civil marriage act is about civil marriage, and the religious views of ANY of the parties--the officiant and the couple--is completely irrelevant.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

OH come on

Now, I'm not a big Scalia fan. Not at all.

But the furor his comment today is generating is starting to generate is a little beyond me.

It's an immigration case. The government was arguing that the petitioner would be abiding his terms of release (i.e. parole) even when he was out of the country. One of these conditions was to not drink. Said Scalia:
Nobody thinks your client is abstaining from tequila down in Mexico because he's on supervised release in the United States.

Daliah Lithwick, whom I love, is a little upset by this.

But come on. It's not a Macaca moment. Allen was deliberately a jerk and mocked the guy for not being from the "real" america (he was indian).

I mean, if Scalia had said "beer in Canada" or "wine in Italy" or "beer in Germany" or "bubble and squeak in England," would anyone care?

Should Scalia have had to say "abstaining from alchol?"

And is suggesting that someone in Mexico is consuming a drink native to Mexico a racist suggestion?

This just seems like hypersensitivity to me.

The threat the terrorists pose isn't that big . . .

. . . that we need to have torture and secret prisons.

Sure, there is danger from terrorists. But the danger is NOT that they are going to bring down Western society. The danger is NOT that they are going to "take away our freedoms." They don't want that.

More importantly, they can't do that. What we face is the risk of isolated incidents. Bombings. Hijackings.

Is that so grave a threat that we have to change who we are? Our socieyt is being destroyed not by the terrorists, but by our own leaders.

From 1939 to 1945, the greatest threat to civilization and freedom that ever existed fought a war against the West and Russia.

The Nazis had soldiers in their millions, tanks, bombers, rockets. The Nazis were determined to invade other countries (and did so). For years, tens of millions were enslaved by them.

The Nazis had the real potential to snuff out Western democratic civilization. Not just damage its infrastructure, but erase it completely. They almost did. Until Pearl Harbour, the torch of freedom was carried by Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Only two other democracies existed: the USA and Sweden.

And yet we did not ignore the Geneva conventions.

We did not torture German soldiers.

We did not have secret camps. We did not authorize the President to decide who was an "enemy combattant" who could be sent to a secret prison indefinitely.

We did not suspend Habeas Corpus.

During the Cold War--facing an enemy that could turn our cities to rubble, that could have sent armies in their millions into Europe and potentially into North America--we kept our freedoms. We kept our civil rights.

We kept our decency.

Today, we pretend that the threat of terrorist attacks is greater than the Nazi menace. Than the Soviet menace.

It is not. The great threat we face today is that we give up everthing that makes the West great under the guise of making ourselves safer.