Friday, July 06, 2007

Words Fail Me

The great problem it seems to me here in the US is that you can get away with saying anything and no one will call you on your shit. Particularly, for example, Dubya, who can make all sorts of pronouncements (that get yelled at by the NY and LAT and that's about it), and people buy it.

But this one takes the cake. Universal health care leads to terrorism? Huh?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

War Breeds Only War

This passage, from one of my favourite books, meant something years ago, and means something now:

As there was no compulsion towards a conflict which, in despite of the apparent bitterness of the parties, took so long to engage and needed so much assiduous blowing to fan the flame, so no right was vindicated by its ragged end. The war solved no problem. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its causes, devious in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict. The overwhelming majority . . . . wanted no war; powerless and voiceless, there was no need to even persuade them that they did. The decision was made without thought of them. Yet of those who, one by one, let themselves be drawn into the conflict, few were irresponsible and nearly all were genuinely anxious for an ultimate and better peace. Almost all . . . were actuated by fear rather than by lust of conquest or passion of faith.

They wanted peace and they fought for thirty years to be sure of it. They did not learn then, and have not since, that war breeds only war.

C. V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War, London, 1938.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

We're screwed

So anyone paying attention to the recent spate of US Supreme Court rulings might be a little dismayed over the results. For example, Brown has been largely surplanted, likewise McCain-Fingold eviscerated, taxpayer standing on separation grounds is gone, there was that meanspirited decision on the guy who missed a filing date because a judge gave him the wrong date, etc etc etc. Andrew Cohen has a nice summary.

And now, we're faced with probably 30 or so years of conservative hegemony on the court. There is no mandatory retirement for Justices. And look at the age of the conservatives:




So the three most conservative members (Roberts, Alito, Thomas) have easily 20 years left in them, if not more. Scalia has a good 10 or 15, likewise Kennedy.

Stephens will be the next to go.

Assume Stephens goes next while we have a democratic president. Another liberal gets appointed. But the conservatives are going to be there for a long, long time. And god fobid Stephens croaks before Bush gets turfed out.

Since I became aware of the world, there have been exactly two changes to the Court: Alito and Roberts. The previous change was Breyer and Ginsburg in 93 and 94--almost 15 years ago!

Contrast this with the Supreme Court of Canada. In the last few years, it's totally changed, with Abela, Fish, Charron, Dechamps, LeBel and Rothstein being appointed in the last few years (and remember that Arbour left the Court.) This because the Court has a mandatory retirement of 75, and is also less ideological and thus there's less need to hang on.

But it's a sad state of affairs now with the US court, where all that now matters is getting Kennedy on side. Things aren't decided on merit, they're decided on ideology, and now the composition of the court means more than the merits of the case.

And nothing is going to change, any time in the future.