Shocked and Persuaded

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Separating Fact From Fiction

Quote of the Day

Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“I’m a great believer in the wisdom I learned in my first Wall Street job: In God we trust…Everyone else, bring data.”

Iraq Geography Lesson

This is truely an informative and needed reminder of the nuanced divisions in Iraq. It is from The Economist (http://www.economist.com/world/middle-east/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15502375). The article basically is discussing the issues surrounding NE Kurdistan and the rest of the nation. The author discusses how the Kurdish v. Arab tussle may be of more long-term importance than Sunni v. Shiite, which is the classic struggle we hear about in the west. The Shiites being the party of El-Maliki. However, the Kurds in the NEastern section of the country guard what they call “The Trigger Line”, because they were burned by Saddam Hussein and feel as though with their oil riches Hallibur…Oops I mean Exxo…Kidding I meant El-Maliki wants desperately to divide and conquer the region. The article makes the point that with General Odierno et al leaving at the end of this summer it will be worth keeping an eye on “The Trigger Line”.

iraq_nw

Good and Bad of It!

GOOD

“The United Nations received today the 30th instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munition,” said a statement from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s press office.

“The Convention on Cluster Munitions was opened for signature in December 2008, and it has taken only 15 months to attain the 30 ratifications necessary for it to become binding international law.”

“The Obama administration has not yet made its views on the convention known, but President Obama signed a law on March 11, 2009, banning the export of all but a very tiny fraction of the cluster munitions in the US arsenal.”

BAD

“Unfortunately, albeit unsurprisingly, the US, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan – a group that includes the biggest makers and users of the weapon…” attended negotiations or showed any interest of signing an agreement.

“It’s also no surprise that the US, Israel, but also Russia refuse to ratify the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, signed by 158 countries – as of 2007 – which prohibits the production, transfer or use of landmines.”

UGLY

“According to the group Handicap International, one-third of cluster-bomb victims are children. Equally alarming, 98 percent of the weapon’s overall victims are civilians. The group estimates that about 100,000 people have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs around the world since 1965.”

Quotes of the Day II:

“Defense…has become this mantra…and once people hear the word defense they stop thinking.” Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel

Quotes of the day:

From The Economist January 3oth, 2010

“Thus Thomas Jefferson’s mandate to pursue happiness “falls like kerosene on the torch of liberty”, warming many but “scorching and blinding” countless others.”

From The New York Times:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As a murmur swept through a hearing room packed with gay rights leaders, Admiral Mullen said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

The Definition of Chutzpah

Regarding Supreme Court case No. 08-205 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that the federal government may not ban politically motivated spending by corporations in candidate elections:

“…the most partisan decision since Bush v. Gore.”

“It’s basically the neutron bomb in our election system. It’s such a reversal, you can only guess at some of its far reaching implications.”

You would think these were the words of someone who had done everything in his or her power to prevent the inevitable 5-4 ruling handed down by the Supreme Court last month. You would think if this is the ex post facto reaction of a legislature than maybe that legislature had exhausted all avenues of preventing such a ruling. You would be wrong. These are the words of Vermont’s senior senator Patrick Leahy in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/politics/29scotus.html?ref=todayspaper) and on VPR (http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/87100/), respectively.

It is really quite simple Senator Leahy as the lead Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmations of both Chief Justice John Roberts and his sycophant Samuel Alito had the option to filibuster the confirmations of both to the Supreme Court. He chose not to do so in both cases. He chose a more conciliatory tact instead, because George W Bush had been so amazingly conciliatory I guess?

Even the least schooled legal onlooker could see during the confirmation of these two archconservatives they were hell bent on reshaping the American legal system. Neither judge gave what appeared to be answers to the questions posed to them by Senator Leahy and his fellow Democrats. In all fairness the questions were quite pointed, however, the problem was that for as pointed as the questions were the answers were equally opaque to the point of being complete mumbo-jumbo. Yet, the point that both justices made perfectly clear was their allegiance to the principle of stare decisis, which basically means that judges are obligated to show deference to historical precedent. Judge Roberts especially was quite adamant in his loyalty to this principle, while judge Alito as was his want preferred a more circuitous route. Here is where it gets juicy last month’s ruling on which both judges predictably sided with big corporations overruled two…PRECEDENTS! The first being Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell (i.e. Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell) v. Federal Election Commission, both of which challenged the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act or as it is commonly referred to McCain-Feingold.

The conservative majority and fence rider Anthony Kennedy decided that corporations are entitled to protections under the Fourteenth Amendment as jurisitic persons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juristic_person). This idea that corporations should have the same inalienable rights as citizens dates back to cases like Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1886and later U.S. v. Detroit Timber and Lumber in 1905 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara_County_v._Southern_Pacific_Railroad; http://www.answers.com/topic/santa-clara-county-v-southern-pacific-railroad). The common thread is the debate about what constitutes a person in the United States. With this latest ruling the Supreme Court came down decidedly in favor of the idea that my vote and your vote are no less important than the collective will of corporations. This is a very scary thought as is evidence in Senator Leahy’s comments. More importantly this was a ruling that could have easily been avoided if Senator Leahy had stood up to the corporatist and civil liberty violating ways of the Bush administration. He didn’t and I would hasten to add that is why we’re at the dawn of a new era in electoral subterfuge

What these two judges said and how they ruled, wrote, and spoke in the past were two entirely different things. I knew this from my brief reading-up on the two candidates and I am sure Senator Leahy and his considerable staff at the Senate Judiciary Committee, with considerably more resources and expertise was well aware of this double-speak and -think. Yet, Leahy knowing all this and with his considerable legal background decided to back away from a filibuster the most extreme tool he had left. Extreme times call for extreme measures Senator Leahy and make way for someone that wants to stay in the ring for all nine rounds.