Politics: September 2005 Archives

Washington Politicians Suck

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Here in Washington, we have the latest primary in the country. It's in September, giving the counties very little time to get the general election ballots out to absentee voters.

Last year a lot of problems arose with this. Lots of accounts of people not getting ballots in time. And so with all the other problems with ballots, this was at the top of everyone's agenda to fix.

Except for, of course, the elected legislators -- of both parties -- who like a late primary, because it gives them more of an opportunity to get reelected, since there's a shorter period for them to be attacked.

So it didn't get done. Instead the Democrats decided to expand the number of mail-in votes in the state -- almost all the counties now have ONLY vote-by-mail -- thus making it even more crucial that they have an early primary. But they don't. They couldn't get it done (from what I heard, the Republicans refused to allow it, because the Democrats refused to require identification at the polls, which the Dmeocrats were trying to get rid of anyway ... it's a huge mess).

So fast forward to today. In King County, the primary had three candidates for the nonpartisan office of King County sheriff. In such a case, the top two candidates go to the general election. The second and third place candidates are separated by 68 votes, .026 percent.

So now King County must by law do a recount, before they can send out any ballots. So ballots will not go in the mail to overseas military personnel, or anyone else, for at least another week, and the election is in one month, which means it is almost a sure thing that some people will be denied the right to vote simply because the County couldn't get the ballots out in time.

This is not really an indictment of King County. Yes, they should not have as much mail-in voting as they do; if they had less, they could have finished the initial counting earlier, so they could have started the recount earlier. But the real problem is the lack of time between the primary and general election, which the legislators in Olympia refuse to fix. slashdot.org

Mary Mapes

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Mary Mapes has a book coming out. In a published excerpt she basically lies through her teeth (or demonstrates abject ignorance).

I've highlighted here many of the most egregious statements. Enjoy.

Dan Rather and I had aired the first-ever interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes on his role in helping Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard. Getting Barnes to say yes had taken five years and I thought his interview was a home run.

Except, no, Barnes did not say he helped Bush get into the TANG. This is simply a lie. What Barnes said is that he spoke to someone on Bush's behalf, but that he does not know whether it actually helped. CBS reported this, she and Rather keep saying it, but it is a lie.

The Killian memos, as they came to be called, turned on its head the version of George W. Bush's Guard career that the White House had presented. These new memos made Bush look like a slacker, not an ace pilot.

And, of course, they were actually forgeries.

Furthermore, the content the essential truth of the story contained in the memos, had been corroborated by Killian's commander general Bobby Hodges in a phone conversation two days before the story aired.

And had been dismissed by others who were there.

We had a senior document analyst named Marcel Matley fly to New York to look at all the documents we had, the official documents that had been previously released by the White House as well as the "new" ones. After examining them for hours, blowing up signatures and comparing curves, strokes, and dots, he gave his best opinion on their authenticity. Since the documents were copies, not originals, he could not offer the 100 percent assurance that came by testing the ink or the paper.

This is a lie. Matley -- according to his own words -- only looked at the signatures, not the documents themselves. He said nothing at all about the documents themselves.

But he said he saw nothing in the typeface or format to indicate the memos had been doctored or not produced at the time they were alleged to have been.

He said he could not speak to those things, because they were of such poor quality.

I felt that I was in the clear, that I had done my job, and that the story met the high standards demanded by 60 Minutes.

And that is one good reason to fire you: because you did not do your job, and it did not meet any reasonable standards. A lack of evidence against the documents due to poor quality does not equate to a thumbs up. It means you need to do more work to actually authenticate them, which Matley refused to do for you.

All that changed about 11:00 a.m., when I first started hearing rumbles from some producers at CBS News that a handful of far right Web sites were saying that the documents had been forged.

I was incredulous. That couldn't be possible.

Um, you were actually told before the story aired that the documents were not authentic. And now you are incredulous at being told what you were already told?

And yes, of course the web sites are on the far right, because web sites on the far left won't be interested in this story, and there aren't that many web sites in the middle. But that the Washington Post picked up the story the next day is a pretty good clue that it was not just partisans who thought there was a big problem here.

Even on the morning the story aired, when we showed the president's people the memos, the White House hadn't attempted to deny the truth of the documents. In fact, the president's spokesman, Dan Bartlett, had claimed that the documents supported their version of events: that then-lieutenant Bush had asked for permission to leave the unit.

This is not authentication. It could merely mean the forger had some knowledge of actual events. And this is another good reason to fire you: you don't understand this.

Within a few minutes, I was online visiting Web sites I had never heard of before: Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, Power Line. They were hard-core, politically angry, hyperconservative sites loaded with vitriol about Dan Rather and CBS. Our work was being compared to that of Jayson Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter who had fabricated and plagiarized stories.

Yes, and appropriately so.

All these Web sites had extensive write-ups on the documents: on typeface, font style, and peripheral spacing, material that seemed to spring up overnight. It was phenomenal. It had taken our analysts hours of careful work to make comparisons. It seemed that these analysts or commentators---or whatever they were---were coming up with long treatises in minutes. They were all linking to one another, creating an echo chamber of outraged agreement.

Yes, because they are fast and bright. And it is "proportional spacing," not "peripheral spacing."

I was told that the first posting claiming the documents were fakes had gone up on Free Republic before our broadcast was even off the air! How had the Web site even gotten copies of the documents? We hadn't put them online until later.

Um, you showed them on TV. It's called "watching." I didn't see the story, but if I had, I very well might have thought the same thing as that poster, and paused my TiVo to get a better look. I've actually before posted criticisms of such things live while a TV show was still running. It's not uncommon.

That first entry, posted by a longtime Republican political activist lawyer who used the name "Buckhead," set the tone for what was to come.

Actually no. Buckhead posted almost four hours AFTER the broadcast began. TankerKC posted during the broadcast. Hint: not everyone lives in the Eastern time zone.

There was no analysis of what the documents actually said, no work done to look at the content, no comparison with the official record, no phone calls made to check the facts of the story, nothing beyond a cursory and politically motivated examination of the typeface. That was all they had to attack, but that was enough.

Yes, it was enough: to anyone who had experience with typesetting, and modern word processors, the similarity of this to modern Word, and the dissimilarity to the overwhelming majority of equipment available at the time, was so jarring that it stood out like a sore thumb.

And in case you still don't know: if we can't trust your evidence, of course we won't pay attention to the content. That is not only normal for news consumers to do, it is their obligation.

There is nothing more frightening for a reporter than the possibility of being wrong, seriously wrong.

Then why did you ignore the warning signs before going to air with it?

That is the reason that we checked and rechecked, argued about wording, took care to be certain that the video that accompanied the words didn't create a new and unintended nuance.

And yet here you are lying about what Barnes told you. Huh.

Being right, being sure, was everything. And right now, on the Internet, it appeared everything was falling apart.

Because you are not very good at what you do which is why you don't do it anymore.

The little girl in me wanted to crouch and hide behind the door and cry my eyes out.

Yes, that is what my daughter does when she does something wrong. It is part of growing up.

I talked to our document analyst Marcel Matley, now back in San Francisco, who said he had seen some of the comments and dismissed them out of hand. "They aren't even looking at the quality of copies I did," Matley said. He disdained the anonymity of the postings, saying that any real analysts would use their name and credentials.

Typical elitism. In fact, you don't need credentials to be skeptical of these documents, and to note some of the serious problems they posed for credibility.

And he pointed out something that would be a huge problem for us in the days ahead: that in the process of downloading, scanning, faxing, and photocopying, some computers, copiers, and faxes changed spacing and subtly altered fonts. He thought that this basic misunderstanding of how documents changed through electronic transmittal was behind the unfounded certainty and ferocity of the attack on the documents.

First, you can't have it both ways. Either the documents are too garbled to be authenticated -- Matley's original claim that CBS misrepresented in its initial report -- or they are not. If they are, then Matley is just saying "they may be forgeries, I don't know, but you can't tell from these copies" (which is false). If they are not too garbled, and he is vouching for their autneticity (which he was not), then everyone else can have a crack at it too.

Second, it was not a misunderstanding. People knew it, but Matley doesn't understand how this works. When you take a model airplane and drop it on a hard floor, is it more or less likely to look like an actual airplane?

Obviously, it will look less like one. So why are we to believe that the faxing/copying process made the "original" memos look MORE like a Word document, instead of less like one? This interpretation is backward: far from accounting for why the memos resemble Word documents, the faxing/copying process accounts for the dissimilarities.

In retrospect, Matley was right and our story never recovered from this basic misunderstanding. Faxing changes a document in so many ways, large and small, that analyzing a memo that had been faxed---in some cases not once, but twice---was virtually impossible.

Not really. Not when it is so far off from the available equipment at the time, and so close to common Word documents now.

I knew what we were seeing was not a simple mistake made because of technical differences in the way the documents looked. This was something else, something new and fundamentally frightening. I had never seen this kind of response to any story.

That's because most stories aren't so offensively poor as this one was.

As I watched the postings pile up and saw the words quickly become more hateful, it dawned on me that I was present at the birth of a political jihad, a movement conceived in radical conservative back rooms, given life in cyberspace, and growing by the minute.
"Don't shoot your parents and ask for mercy because you are an orphan." You're the one who screwed up.

It fed on political anger and the deep-seated belief that CBS News was a longtime liberal stronghold out to get the president.

Even if that is true, so what? The story is still a bad one.

To these people, there was no such thing as unbiased mainstream reporting
"Why do people think all foxes eat hens?," asked the fox, spitting out another thigh bone.

All the producers and researchers who'd worked on our story were hunched over computers, reading everything they could find. It was not good. We marveled at the just-plain-wrong assertions about superscript or proportional spacing and the overwhelming certainty the bloggers brought to their analysis.

In truth, some of the statements were wrong. It is not true that there were no superscripts, and it is not true that there was no proportional spacing. It is true that these features were relatively rare, and that no one has to this day produced a machine that was available at the time that might have been used, and that could have produced these memos.

I could see that conservative Web sites were linking to a dossier on Barnes compiled by Republican operatives. It was a devastatingly one-sided account of Barnes's past financial troubles and long-ago political scrapes, along with ancient accusations about Barnes when he had been a Democratic leader in Texas politics.

Funny how when you don't give both sides -- largely ignoring Barnes' past, and completely ignoring the known partisanship of Bill Burkett, the guy you got the memos from in the first place -- other people fill in the blanks for you.

And considering you kept lying about what Barnes actually said ...

I'm not condoning some of the attacks on Barnes. But Mapes has no right here to complain about it.

Dan came over after the CBS Evening News and we talked about the need to do a story rebutting the attacks the following night.

Um ... maybe instead you could have actually researched the claims, instead of rebutting them? You know, like an "unbiased" reporter would?

I was incredulous that the mainstream press -- a group I'd been a part of for nearly twenty-five years and thought I knew -- was falling for the blogs' critiques.

That's because they are smart, and you are stupid. Sorry, but it has to be said. They were forgeries. The evidence was compelling. The rest of the mainstream press knew it, and that you didn't speaks volumes about ... you.

We vowed to work ourselves into a frenzy doing a great report on the Evening News the next night ... and we did. We put on a strong and reasoned defense.

No, you didn't. You did nothing at all to speak to the bulk of the claims. You attacked the weakest claims of a few people, and didn't address the strongest claims, and instead made ad hominem attacks against the claimants.

It was abundantly obvious that you were running scared and playing defense instead of actually reporting. A good reporter here would have said, "there have been some strong questions raised, and we are investigating them."

The people who had begun the attack on us were not interested in reason, other than the reason behind the whole assault---politics.

See, that's exactly what I mean. You lost all perspective.

Dan ended the report by asking that the president answer the longtime questions about his service in the National Guard. No one listened.

That's because you raised no questions. You said things that had been answered before, provided a man who said he did something that may or may not have actually had any effect, and put up some documents that -- at best, according to your own expert -- could not be verified.

You don't get a free pass to make stuff up just because you are 60 Minutes. That's what you don't understand. Yes, maybe a lot of this was political, or personal. But so was what you did. So was what Burkett did. And none of that detracts from the fact that these were forgeries, and that you did not do your job. slashdot.org

DeLay Conspiracy

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I don't know much about the specific charges against DeLay, though the case looks to me a bit flimsy -- even many left-wing and moderate commentators, like Dan Abrams (who is himself a lawyer), are saying so -- as from what I've seen, it looks no laws were even broken.

But I really have only two points to make. First, he is not (yet) guilty. He is only indicted. And it is irresponsible for people like Nancy Pelosi say this is "evidence" of corruption in the Republican Party, and the Democrats have done much of the same things, so even if it is evidence of corruption in the GOP, that isn't exactly an argument in favor of the Democrats.

I won't attack Ronnie Earl. I don't know much about him. But that people are attacking him is why I am in favor of changing the House ethics rules: the rules encourage frivolous indictments for partisan purposes, and it also diminshes good indictments because of suspicions of partisanship. It's a bad rule. Heck, I would be a lot more likely to care about this indictment if that rule didn't exist: it necessarily makes me more skeptical.

I am no fan of Tom DeLay. I don't hate him either. I am not sticking up for him at all, I am sticking up for a sense of justice and fair play: don't assume he is guilty, and change the system to take some of the partisanship and gamesmanship out. slashdot.org

ID Quiz

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Two questions:
  1. Is it possible for science to prove that man exists by pure chance, without any external intelligent force?
  2. If yes, has science proved it already?
Update: Feel free to also answer whether science can even provide any evidence of the claim, regardless of whether it can be ultimately proved. Although, the answer for that is also "no." slashdot.org

Communist Rally in Washington DC

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I'm watching C-SPAN right now. The title of the program is "A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Anti-War Protest." But really, it's a communist anti-capitalism, anti-America, anti-Israel, rally. And it's awesome.

It's a misnomer to call it an anti-war protest. It's an anti-Iraq-war protest. And an anti-Afganistan-war protest. And an anti-war-on-poor-black-people-in-New-Orleans (??) rally. But as many, if not most of them, support Palestinian aggression, Fidel Castro, and -- many of them -- even the communist regimes of China, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union, it can't be said they are for peace, and against war.

And don't think I am exaggerating about calling them communists. A.N.S.W.E.R.'s leaders are from the Worker's World Party, speakers greeted the crowd as "Comrades," and signs in the crowd featured red stars, upraised fists, and statements about capitalism being a disease (and, of course, revolution being the cure).

Yes, not all of the people there are communists, of course. Some are simply against this war, or all, wars. But the rally is communist, even if not everyone there is a communist, because the rally's organizers and speakers are just as much against capitalism as they are against the war.

You learn a lot from watching stuff like this. You learn that people like Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Ramsey Clark associate closely with communists who would overturn the Constitution they swore to uphold (how in the world is McKinney still in office?). You learn that George Galloway thinks Israel is raping Jerusalem (oh wait; we learned that the other day).

You learn that workers should be "free" (because apparently, in the U.S., workers are in prison). You learn that it is a crime that the U.S. government is not giving away new lives to the evacuees of New Orleans, but that it is also a crime if they offer those evacuees the opportunity to join the military as a means to starting a new life.

There's a lot more I could rip on them for. For saying Bush is "pretending" to be President (how the hell did Ramsey Clark ever become Attorney General when he doesn't even understand what the Constitution says about the election of the President?). For saying there are "hundreds of thousands of people" at the event, when there's barely tens of thousands, at best. I could pick apart their silly arguments against the war, like the nonsensical statement that the Iraq war is illegal. I could point out that the Bush administration did not kidnap former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but removed him at his own request.

But that's boring.

But then again, so is most of it.

But it's educational. slashdot.org


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George Clooney has a new movie out about Edward R. Murrow, speaking out against Joe McCarthy's hearings in the 50s.

I don't know much about the movie beyond that, except its tagline: "In a nation terrorized by its own government, one man dared to tell the truth."

OK, let's get some things straight. No, the nation was not terrorized by its own government. Some people were terrorized, but to most people, this was something very distant and inconsequential. Hollywood was terrorized, but the nation was not.

That brings us to the blacklist: yes, it existed, but no, it did not ruin lives of innocent people. The people who stopped trying to push Soviet causes -- who in some cases were actually funded and influenced directly by Soviet agents -- largely did not remain on the blacklist. Those who did so work with and for the Soviets: well, I am glad they were blacklisted, as they were part of an active effort to work with the Soviets to undermine the American government during the Cold War.

Yes, McCarthy did a lot of terrible things. But no, he was not wrong about his quest: there were Soviet spies and sympathizers at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

There is one overarching good thing McCarthy did: he was speaking out against existing Soviet infiltration of government and society when pretty much no one else was. The Vice President himself, Henry Wallace, was surrounded by Soviet spies and sympathizers. Alger Hiss, the number three man at State, was a Soviet spy. Then there's the Rosenbergs.

Yes, McCarthy did not expose any of these high-profile spies. But they did exist, and it was a serious national crisis, one that absolutely did threaten to destroy our nation. This does not excuse any of the tactics McCarthy used, in accusing people without cause, and threatening them to name others, and so on. Those were all bad and are not in any way justified.

I am not saying we should say McCarthy was a good guy. I am saying we don't give enough emphasis to the facts of the real danger our country was facing at the time, and recognize that the emphasis McCarthy maintained was a good thing, even if he went about it almost entirely wrongly.

In other words, the narrative should not be "McCarthy was an evil man who subjugated freedoms and ruined lives." The narrative should be, "the United States was at war and the crime of treason reached to the highest levels of the government, and the government was incapable of doing a very good job at taking care of this grave threat, resulting on the one hand with FDR ignoring all the evidence of infiltration, and with McCarthy on the other inventing his own."

Am I glad someone was around to sound the alarm? Absolutely. I am merely dismayed that person happened to be Joe McCarthy.

A better model was Ronald Reagan, who denounced communism and its influence in Hollywood (and government, though he had less knowledge about that at the time), but refused to persecute innocent people, refused to name names. slashdot.org

Speaking of Trolls

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As noted in the comments of the last post, I don't read very many "blogs." Apart from Slashdot and journals of some of my friends, the only "blog"-like site I read is Sound Politics, and I do that to get quick access to local right-wing political information, not for the opinions.

So I did not find out until yesterday about this George Galloway vs. Christopher Hitchens debate from last week. Hitchensweb has some more information.

I knew a bit about MP Galloway, but not very much. And then I started reading some of the Galloway quotes compiled by Hitchens (PDF).

And all I can say is: if you were one of the many who applauded Galloway when he came to the Senate some months ago and blasted the U.S. government and President Bush, you owe it to yourself to read some of this.

I personally found Galloway's performance to be ridiculous: it lacked any serious substance, and was essentially just berating people for the sake of berating them. This is probably what appealed to so many people: they are angry about the war, and just liked seeing someone give voice to that anger, regardless of the sense that any of the words used actually made.

But if you're angry at the war in Iraq, chances are you will be even angrier at some of the other things Galloway has said, such as when he said of the Shi'ites Hussein slaughtered in 1991, he called:

a fifth column who actively undermined the Iraqi war effort in the interests of their country's enemy.
That's right, standing up for your own freedom is aiding your country's enemy.

Not merely content to smear those fighting for their own liberty, he praises the people who wipe them out.

These poor Iraqis -- ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons -- are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day ... it can be said, truly said, that the Iraqi resistance is not just
defending Iraq. They are defending all the Arabs, and they are defending all the people of the world from American hegemony.
Note that these people are also fighting against the will of the majority of Iraqis, and indeed, killing many Iraqis who oppose their views, as well as journalists who report on them.

And note that he is not merely against invaders. He favored the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and says that the loss of the USSR -- which gave liberty to hundreds of millions of people, ending the single most destructive regime in the history of the world -- "the biggest catastrophe of my life."

And regarding the elections last January, he praised Hussein's election, and denounced this one, because of the

thousands of Crusader soldiers occupying the country, drawing up the electoral law, deciding who is allowed to take part in the elections, and utterly dominating the political life of the country.
He ignores the fact that it was mostly Arabs, including the Iraqis themselves and the UN envoy, who decided on the rules of the elections, and that the answer to "who is allowed to take part" was "everyone."

But it gets worse. In 1994 he said to Hussein:

Your Excellency, Mr President. I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq and continue to oppose the war by economic means which is aimed to strangle the life out of the great people of Iraq... I greet you too, in the name of the Palestinian people... I thought the President would appreciate to know that even today, three years after the war, I still meet families who are calling their newborn sons Saddam. I salute your courage, your strength your indefatigability. And if I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory until Jerusalem!
So it was a war of aggression to kick Hussein out of Kuwait? With the full approval of the UN Security Council?

And ... victory in Jerusalem? Is he actually calling for the Arabs to get rid of the Israelis? That was 1994. What does he say this year?

Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and too corrupt to do anything about it.
Note that this is not 1945, this is 2005.

I don't know if Hitchens can be said to have won his debate with Galloway. I can say that he has done something far more important: exposed Galloway as a despicable, hateful, bloodthirsty man who is out to have Israel destroyed, and the West subservient to communism and jihadism.

Next time you root for Galloway when he is lambasting someone you dislike, remember what he is rooting for. slashdot.org


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I learned from several sources who had known Alan Dershowtiz as a student that he gave blood sacrifices to Hitler, and that he was infamous for killing baby seals and kittens.

Really, it's true.

It is quite clear from the third paragraph that Dershowitz has absolutlely no interest in telling "the truth" about William Rehnquist, because "the truth" does not rely on unsubstantiated hearsay; it serves only one purpose, to prejudice people against the subject, without them being able to examine the actual facts.

I didn't bother reading further than that, because there was no need. I get it: Dershowtiz hates Rehnquist and will say anything to make him look bad, regardless of how accurate it is. slashdot.org

Speak For Yourself

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Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive, not just to cope, but to overcome. We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons -- because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love.
-- George W. Bush

Who's this "they"? For the record: it's not me.

I don't NOT want it to thrive, but I don't want it to "thrive" on my dime. Let them build their own city if they want to, I don't care. But I don't want to pay for it. I really don't. slashdot.org

Tally So Far

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Of the witnesses, three minorities against Roberts, two for. There's also a white guy for Roberts, but obviously he doesn't count. slashdot.org

Memo to Witnesses

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Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Wade Henderson (Exec. Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights) are both testifying in the Senate that Roberts would basically abolish civil rights as we know them today.

Psst: no one is buying it. Not even the Democratic Senators. slashdot.org


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I was alerted to a bunch of "softball" questions the Republicans have been asking Judge Roberts. Wonkette thinks she is being clever. Actually, she's just showing her own ignorance.

To take just two examples:

COBURN: Would you agree that the opposite of being dead is being alive?

Coburn asked this question first:

In all 50 states, death is recognized and defined as the irreversible cessation of the brain and heart activity. Do you have any reason to dispute that?

When Roberts demurred, Coburn asked the other question, half-jokingly, to merely get to his point (which was, of course, about abortion: if we define death as the cessation of those things, then we should define life as the existence of them). It wasn't a softball, it was just a way to move on to his point.

Wonkette also mentions this gem from:

GRAHAM: But, you know, it's a free country and that's just the way it is. Right?

In Graham's case -- remember, he's a lawyer -- he was countering statements and implications made by the Democrats, giving Roberts additional opportuity to respond directly, as many defense lawyers might do. Yes, Graham is not in the defense here, but Schumer is not supposed to be a prosecutor either, and that's how he has been acting.

[Update: Graham just noted in today's session what I wasn't sure about: he was, in fact, a defense attorney (in the Air Force). Unsurprising, given the deftness with which he has defended Roberts on a few occasions.]

So this was a direct response to earlier the same day, when Schumer was asking Roberts to comment on terrible things people on the right -- Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, and others -- said about the court. Schumer asked:

Don't those statements turn your insides a little bit?

Roberts responded:

You know, again, I don't agree with them. But it's a free country. They're free to say what they wish.

Schumer didn't like Roberts responses, and said:

Would you be a little stronger than that in terms of language like this? I mean, not appropriate, is kind of mild in these kinds of sort of inflammatory-type statements about the judiciary that you may soon be entrusted with protecting. ... I'm asking just your First Amendment opinion of these kinds of things, and the most I guess you said is you disagree.

So Graham asks:

What's it like to go through the nominating process in 2005 from a personal point of view? I've been watching television, channel flipping, and I see some awful things said about you. Have you seen those things? ... How does that make you feel? ... How's it make your family feel? ... But you know, it's a free country, and that's just the way it is. Right?

So in fact, Graham was being a clever lawyer, by showing that Schumer's attempted implication that Roberts might have had agreement with those statements merely because he did not "strongly" condemn them was nonsense.

Context is king. Wonkette and many other silly people out there don't know it, or don't care.

Oh, and what no one is really reporting is the excellent answer Roberts gave to Schumer right after jokingly noting his favorite movies, right before they adjourned.

The only point I would like to make, because you raised the question how is this different than justices who dissent and criticize, and how is this different than professors -- and I think there are significant differences. The justice who files a dissent is issuing an opinion based upon his participation in the judicial process. He confronted the case with an open mind. He heard the arguments. He fully and fairly considered the briefs. He consulted with his colleagues, went through the process of issuing an opinion. And in my experience, every one of those stages can cause you to change your view. The view you ask then of me, Well, what do you think, is it correct or not? or How would you come out? That's not a result of that process. And that's why I shouldn't respond to those types of questions. ...

Senator, I would just respectfully disagree. I think I have been more forthcoming than any of the other nominees. Other nominees have not been willing to tell you whether they thought Marbury v. Madison was correctly decided. They took a very strict approach. I have taken what I think is a more pragmatic approach and said, if I don't think that's likely to come before the court, I will comment on it.

And, again, perhaps that's subject to criticism, because it is difficult to draw the line sometimes. But I wanted to be able to share as much as I can with the committee in response to the concerns you and others have expressed, and so I have adopted that approach.

What he said about bargaining missed the mark I think (I agree with what Schumer said later: they are not looking to bargain with Roberts, but rather to find reasons to oppose him), but the stuff before that about giving opinions outside of the actual judicial process was spot-on. slashdot.org

Senator Sessions

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SEN. SESSIONS: Do you know where 'The power to sue is the power to destroy' came from?
JUDGE ROBERTS: I know where 'The power to *tax* is the power to destroy' came from ...

Sessions is self-referencing! STOP HIM!

Seriously, check it out, he says, "States can only be sued on grounds that they agree to be sued on, because the power to sue is the power to destroy. That is constitutional history." But he is the only one Google can find saying it, at all, ever, except for one guy on a discussion about file swapping. That's it. All those references on washingtonwatchdog.org, www.access.gpo.gov, and (obviously) sessions.senate.gov are his. Constitutional history?

Just ... dude. slashdot.org


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After yesterday's hearings, I thought something, and I think it even more strongly now. The Democrats are not trying to kill Roberts, they are instead using him.

They know they can't defeat him. And yes, to some degree, this is about appeasing their "base." However, what they are really doing is attempting to establish and solidify the "rules of engagement" so they can use them against the next nominee.

Remember this phrase: "Why won't you answer the question? Chief Justice Roberts did." slashdot.org

Shut Up, Tim Russert

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The other day Michael Chertoff said he was surprised that the levees broke when they did, because they thought that after the levees made it through the initial blast from the hurricane, they would be OK. Tim Russert didn't understand this, though.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to stay on this because this is very important. You said you were surprised by the levee being broken. ... [delete rambling about how everyone knew that the levees could break in a storm like this.]


SEC'Y CHERTOFF: No, Tim, I have to tell you, that's not what I said. You have to listen to what I said. What I said was not that we didn't anticipate that there's a possibility the levees will break. What I said is in this storm, what happened is the storm passed and passed without the levees breaking on Monday. Tuesday morning, I opened newspapers and saw headlines that said "New Orleans Dodged The Bullet," which surprised people. What surprised them was that the levee broke overnight and the next day and, in fact, collapsed. That was a surprise.

That seems reasonable to me, but even if it doesn't seem reasonable to you, at least it's obvious that Chertoff is saying what he meant is different from what Russert is saying. Yet later in that same broadcast, Russert asks a scientific expert:

MR. RUSSERT: So when the president and Secretary Chertoff say, "We were surprised that the levees were breached," were you surprised?

When Russert intentionally misrepresents quotes, are YOU surprised? slashdot.org

Federalist No. 12

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Moving on slightly from the notion that union helps commerce, Hamilton notes that it can help generate revenue, too.

For example, as commerce increases, the value of land increases. "And how could it have been otherwise? ... It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an adversary."

Also, the more commerce, the more tax revenue. Hamilton was a trickle-downer! Hamilton notes direct taxation is not very effective, and therefore indirect taxation -- especially duties on imports -- are preferable.

(Maybe that's the trick: convince the IRS that their methods are ineffective!)

I love this line: "The genius of the people will ill brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of excise laws." In other words, the character of the American people is such that they won't put up with a system that is so pervasive, unavoidable, and nosy. I wish the character of the American people had remained such.

Hamilton goes on to say a national system of duties would be easier to swallow for the people, being the same for everyone, and without prejudice. Further, disunion would require taxes on the trade between the states, which would be impossible to enforce (especially along the rivers), whereas taxes on trade into the country, all coming along the Atlantic, would be relatively simple.

Come back again for another installment of The Federalist . slashdot.org


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The Warren Court pretty well discredited and dismantled the doctrine of states' rights. Starting with Reagan's election and the reshaping of the Court, we now have states' rights back at the center of American Constitutional law. With the Chief Justice's unfortunate passing, as we've got this tragedy in Louisana, we're now seeing again, played out on a grand scale, that kind of federal-state balance -- or imbalance -- that federalists like me think should be resolved in favor of the federal government.

-- Howell Raines, former executive editor of The New York Times, on This Week Sunday

A lot of people have been making this mistake more and more, so let me be clear here: federalism means states' rights with a strong, but strictly limited, federal government. Anti-federalists were against the strong but limited federal government, wanting pretty much everything controlled by the states.

The Howell Raineses of today are not federalists, by any stretch of the imagination, because they recognize neither the rights of states nor the limits of the federal government, which are the two key ingredients of federalism. They want unlimited federal government, which is what federalism was adamantly against, and what the authors of the Federalist Papers clearly supported, such as in this passage by James Madison:

If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their Own hands; they may a point teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare. ... I venture to declare it as my opinion, that, were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America ...

It is amazing that Howell Raines and people like him are in favor of most of the above, while the man who personifies federalism in America was clearly against them, saying they subvert the very foundations of the government instituted by the Constitution. And he has the gall to actually call himself a federalist?

I know little about Raines, except for a few of the huge mistakes he made as editor of the Times, especially in regard to Jayson Blair, so my opinion of him is generally negative. I'll be polite and say this doesn't count as a point in his favor. slashdot.org

Blame Game

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  • You have no real idea what has been done and not been done in regard to the flood victims. No, you don't, and stop arguing with me. All you have are anecdotes. Helping this person over here on TV who is screaming for help would mean that the people over there not on TV won't get help.
  • And because the government and volunteers cannot save everyone at once -- hundreds of thousands of people in need -- the government has implored all of us over the last few years to be ready in case of disaster. For example, everyone who has necessary prescription medication should have enough on hand to last through at least a week of an emergency. When you're told to evacuate, do it. Bring water and food and clothing for yourself and your family.

    (And this should be a big wake-up call to the rest of us to prepare ourselves.)

  • You have no clue whatsoever if this was in any way related to global warming, let alone if it was caused by man.
  • There is only one government that was ultimately responsible for the levees, and for emergency personnel, and it's not the one over a thousand miles away from New Orleans. It's Louisiana's responsibility, and theirs alone. "The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State," and all that.

Not that there is not blame to go around. I'm sure there is. But there's far more being heaped around than is justified, and what blame is justified, we don't comprehend at this early stage.

It's easy to blame. Especially when you feel angry and helpless. But just because you feel angry and helpless doesn't mean that someone else is to blame for it. slashdot.org

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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