Proof a well-placed thought is a deadly weapon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

If you're reading this....

then you aren't seeing new posts.

Those w/o nostalgia, click here: WWW.PSYCHOPOLITIK.COM

This site is now solely an archive. No new posts will be made here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Go Google Yourself, George...

So far, the government's request for search records is being firewalled. This I'm actually surprised about for once...

Google is defying a request by the US government to hand over data revealing what its users are searching for online. The Bush administration wants a list of requests entered into Google's online search engine in an unspecified single week. It also wants 1m randomly selected web addresses from Google's databases.

The White House said the information is part of an effort to protect children from online pornography, and would not violate personal privacy - but the request immediately raised concerns.

Rights groups in the US are already on alert after revelations that the White House authorised phone tapping without court orders. "This is exactly the kind of thing we have been worrying about with search engines for some time," Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum told the Associated Press. "Google should be commended for fighting this."

What is it they want those records for? Oh, just so they can blatantly ignore a rare Supreme Court ruling that blocked yet another attempt at censorship "for the children". They think filtering software doesn't do a good enough job of blocking porn sites, ignoring that this is none of their business anyway.

Interesting side-note: their stock price took a hit over this...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Yeah, right

Ever notice that those Bin-Laden tapes always seem to pop up when Republicans are in hot water over something?

Osama bin Laden warned that his al Qaeda network is preparing new terrorist attacks in the United States but indicated the group was open to a truce in response to U.S. public opinion against the war in Iraq, according to an audiotape aired by an Arabic television network today.

U.S. intelligence analysts have authenticated the tape, concluding that the speaker is indeed bin Laden, one informed intelligence official told The Washington Post. The official asked not to be identified.

Portions of the tape were broadcast by the al-Jazeera satellite television network.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked about the tape at a briefing, rejected the vague truce offer. He said bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders are "on the run" and vowed that "we will bring them to justice."

Anything short of Bin-Laden's head on a stick doesn't even matter anymore. All this time of beating the drums of war & it has yet to accomplish anything since, oh, 2002 -- and even that is debatable. So these tapes, if anyone is paying attention, should serve as a reminder of failure, not a reinvigoration of politically-convenient panic.

If the hawks out there had some balls, they'd be screaming at their boy asking why the hell this guy is still alive.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

States' Rights win -- for once

Re: assisted-suicide in Oregon:

The Supreme Court delivered a rebuff to the Bush administration over physician-assisted suicide today, rejecting a Justice Department effort to bar doctors in Oregon from helping terminally ill patients end their lives under a 1994 state law.

In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled that then-U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft overstepped his authority in 2001 by trying to use a federal drug law to prosecute doctors who prescribed lethal overdoses under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, the only law in the nation that allows physician-assisted suicide. The measure has been approved twice by Oregon voters and upheld by lower court rulings

Now if only this principle held sway on a regular basis...

Oh yeah, about that 6-3 vote:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., dissenting for the first time since he joined the court in September, sided with the two most conservative justices -- Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- in voting for the minority view.

Gee, Roberts voted in the Bush administration's favor. [sarcasm]What a surprise...[/sarcasm]

Scott at Catallarchy looked at the opinion & exposed what could quite possibly be the dumbest dissent I have ever seen: Thomas actually voted the other way only because he thought it hypocritical for the majority to call this one on federalism grounds when they bent over and took it on Raich. That's quite childish for someone on the highest court in the land...

Updated @ 1:20pm EST, 01/20/06 -- Look, a bear shitting in the woods....
A "true conservative", "christian" criticizes the ruling, & my comment on Thomas:

I say that I have read the opinions because a lot of what is being said about this case is - in my humble opinion - being assumed by those who haven't read the case. They assume that this is a victory for states' rights, a victory delivered by the liberals who suddenly embraced the argument for federalism because it suited the outcome they desired. Those same people chide Scalia and Thomas for abandoning their states' rights position, painting them as hypocrites....

While this case may have looked like states' rights versus the right to life, it was more like the right of the Attorney General to define what is a "legitimate medical use." The majority said that he had no such authority. I can see their point, but why hand the decision for that definition over to the populace of Oregon or (even worse) the legislators of Oregon? If the question is as technical as [Supreme Court Justice] Kennedy makes it out to be, shouldn't the group with the expertise - the doctors - make the decision? Yes, I am suggesting a vote amongst the doctors of Oregon as to whether they feel comfortable violating the Hippocratic Oath on a regular basis.

The doctors can vote themselves already. It's called saying "no" when the request is made. Far as I've heard, the law allows physician-assisted suicide, it doesn't require it in any sense that would suggest criminalizing a medical decision to refuse to do it.

To expand on this: Laws against suicide are ridiculous anyway. To accept that there can possibly be a law against willingly ending one's own life you would have to start off from an assumption that people are never truly in control of themselves, negating the common arguement of self-ownership -- that your body is, by definition, also your property, to use how you see fit. This isn't popularly acknowledged anymore because people see in it suggestions that laws against acts they see as culturally unacceptable would fall like dominoes if they accepted it with no loopholes or contradictions. They're correct, but that's not an arguement against legal suicide, it's an invitation to an arguement on what the law itself should be based on, w/ their view being that it should be defined by the morals of a plurality.

Reject him

The hearings showed me all I needed to know: Alito is a weasel. Vote No.

At first the guy seemed like a wash -- obviously not what I would personally prefer, but not bad enough to warrant active opposition. But I must say, anyone whose conscience allows them to slip around their words to the extent that this guy has is not fit for anything, let alone the Supreme Court.

The past reference to being anti-abortion on his Reagan administration application was one thing. That could've easily been just him playing to his audience, and even if it wasn't, it's not like the Constitution is clear on that issue anyway -- that is, in comparison with what it says on holding US citizens w/o charges or intercepting their communications without a warrant. But when that kind of was-I-lying-then-or-am-I-lying-now question becomes the basis for a sizeable chunk of ones testimony, you just want to say "ENOUGH!".

A description of the last straw, via the San Francisco Chronicle. Long excerpt, but long for a reason:

A year after Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination was scuttled by the Senate, federal prosecutor Samuel Alito called Bork "one of the most outstanding nominees of the century.'' Eighteen years later, the comment must have seemed like a godsend to Democrats hoping to paint Alito as a reactionary unsuited for the high court.

But when a senator confronted him with his words, Alito said he had only been expressing admiration for Bork, and loyalty to the administration that appointed them both. He insisted he wasn't endorsing Bork's views on topics such as abortion, voting rights and presidential power....

Alito's 1985 application for a political job in Reagan's Justice Department took some [positions comparable to Bork] -- denying a right to abortion, disputing Supreme Court rulings on equal political districts, and endorsing the supremacy of the president and Congress over the courts. By the time of his 1988 interview with a reporter about Bork, Alito had left the administration to become the Reagan-appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a position he held until his appeals court appointment in 1990.

Bork, Alito told his interviewer, was a superior candidate who had been unfairly rejected by the Senate. "He is a man of unequaled ability, understanding of constitutional history, someone who had thought deeply throughout his entire life about constitutional issues and about the Supreme Court and the role it ought to play in American society,'' Alito said.

Last Tuesday, Kohl reminded Alito of his words and asked whether his praise for Bork reflected compatibility with his opinions. "One of the ways you get at a person's judicial philosophy is to look at the people whom they admire,'' said the senator.

Alito demurred. "When I made that statement in 1988, I was an appointee in the Reagan administration, and Judge Bork had been a nominee of the administration, and I had been a supporter of the nomination, and I don't think the statement goes beyond that,'' he said. (emphasis mine)

Clearly if he agreed with Bork on the extent of executive power he'd earn himself a No vote right there. Yet, his conduct in the hearings was so slippery that frankly I could care less which Alito was telling the truth & which one was lying in hopes of being liked for it. Away with ye.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stillborn insurgency

What with the impending fallout from Abramoff, among other things, there's talk of "reform" within the Republican Party. You can laugh at that one later, because within that is something even funnier: the crackpotted idea that there may emerge from the wreckage a "libertarian" friendly direction to the GOP.

Jon Henke of QandO comments:

The entry of Congressman John Shadegg into the race for Majority Leader is, I think, a notable moment. Notable, because, as Below the Beltway notes, Shadegg is a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus. [RLC]....

It seems to me that the ascension of a Republican Liberty Caucus member to the leadership of the House of Representatives — combined with the good work being done by Rep. Mike Pence in the Republican Study Committee — would mark a remarkable shift in the balance of power within the Republican Party away from the religious right and toward the limited government faction.

"Republican Liberty Caucus"....Hah! More like Ron Paul plus some opportunistic hanger-ons. When most of the members of your caucus vote in the other direction, I'd be inclined to think your caucus means nothing.

Back to that reform thing: if the idea is to carve out the taint of Abramoff in particular & corruption in general, it might be a good idea to have as the "reform" candidate someone who didn't take money from him....

Arizona GOP Rep. John Shadegg last month shed more than $6,900 in campaign contributions from sources connected with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has confessed to bilking Indian tribes and buying political influence.

Shadegg's office on Wednesday confirmed that his campaign fund has returned one tribal contribution and donated to charities five others that had come to him through a partner of Abramoff and the political arm of the lobbyist's employer. One of the contributions went undisclosed for five years in violation of federal campaign-finance rules.

It just shows how deep the culture of corruption goes that someone can be considered a "reform" choice for having taken smaller bribes instead of none at all. Nice try though.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Stability" is in the eye of the beholder

Of all the things to bark about...

The US moved yesterday to stop Spain completing a $2billion arms sale to one of America's bitterest critics in the Americas, Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez. State department officials informed the Spanish government that it would not give the licences needed to allow the sale of a dozen military aircraft that carry US technology. Spain vowed to press ahead with the deal regardless.

The 10 C-295 transport planes and two CN-235 patrol planes, which Venezuela has insisted would not be armed and would be used for tackling drug smuggling, were part of a deal to supply ships and planes. "In a region in need of political stability, the Venezuelan government's actions and frequent statements contribute to regional instability," the US embassy in Madrid said in a statement. "This proposed sale ... has the potential to complicate the situation." (emphasis mine)

Uh, yeah, because things were quite stable when we were propping up dictators down there...

This is a petty slap at them over the region no longer playing ball on trade, nothing more. When you tie people's hands on every little detail & then have the nerve to call the result "free trade" & "liberalization", is it any wonder that they reject it?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Unexpected Truth Alert

Joe Biden just had an honest moment:

Supreme Court nominees are so mum about the major legal issues at their Senate confirmation hearings that the hearings serve little purpose and should probably be abandoned, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden said Thursday.

"The system's kind of broken," said Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.

"Nominees now, Democrat and Republican nominees, come before the United States Congress and resolve not to let the people know what they think about the important issues," such as a president's authority to go to war, said Biden.

As the committee headed into its fourth day of hearings on the Alito nomination, Biden told NBC's "Today" show that a better solution might be to skip hearings and send nominations straight to the Senate floor for a vote. "Just go to the Senate floor and debate the nominee's statements," the Delaware senator said, "instead of this game."

As the article further notes, that's actually how it used to be done. There'd be spewing about it anyway if that were taken seriously, but that's us.

Another thought Re: Alito

I wondered a slight bit of something. Do not take the following as endorsement of the idea, just as submitting it for consideration:

Suppose the "advise & consent" part for confirmation of Supreme Court justices were revised so that though the Senate still voted on the nomination, the questions for hearings (a modern phenomenon) were submitted by regular citizens -- 50 randomly picked, one from each state? That'd bypass the grandstanding tendency of congressmen, while encouraging citizens to at least muddle into some sort of understanding of the judicial branch. Plus, a lot of the code talk that usually goes on in these kind of affairs would be voided in one stroke, since someone that isn't in office for anything that wants to ask about some type of relevant issue would just spit it out. It'd be relatively easy to do, what w/ modern communication technology.

As I said, not endorsing this, just holding it in the wind to see what flies into my face over it. If you have any other thoughts on encouraging citizen concern about these kind of things, then say that too. I'm wide open.

If he walks, it's on

Padilla has entered his plea:

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who was held for more than three years as an "enemy combatant," pleaded not guilty Thursday to criminal charges alleging he was part of a secret network that supported Muslim holy war around the world.

The plea, followed by a judge's refusal to set bail for Padilla, came one week after he was transferred from military to civilian custody.

The plea marks Padilla's first formal answer to any government charge associated with terrorists. His lawyers fought for three years to gain access to the federal courts. "Absolutely not guilty," said Michael Caruso, one of Padilla's Miami lawyers. Padilla did not speak during the hearing.

A lot of people who feed off of the power of government ought to be praying that he's convicted. Because if after all this "dirty bombs!" mess, & him, a U.S. citizen, being held in limbo for years at the behest of the president....mark my words, if the outcome of all this is that a jury finds him innocent, there will be havoc. This is simply too big to ignore, the implications from such would blow the doors open, watch.

Congressmen? Or prop-comics?

They used to throw tomatoes at bad comedians:

Since Alito first sat down in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, it has become clear that the process is as much about the senators and their own agendas as it is about the nominee. Several lawmakers have spent more time delivering their own stemwinders than they have asking questions of Alito. Nary a mind appears to have been changed....

"Since the politicians seem to have made up their mind, and the rest of this is simply playing out, I suspect that if there weren't TV cameras, this part of the hearing would be over by now," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who is thinking about running for president in 2008, found a sure-fire gimmick to get the cameras turned on him. Discussing a controversial Princeton University alumni group of which Alito was once a member, Biden clapped on a Princeton baseball cap. Every camera in the room swung to him, and the sound of shutters clicking was deafening.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also understood the value of props in a hearing as dry and legalistic as this one. He pulled out and waved a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. Again, cameras clicked.

Republicans had props of their own. Responding to Democrats' claim that Alito was being evasive and refusing to answer key questions, Kyl displayed a poster with quotes from the day's newspaper articles describing him as a forthcoming witness....

This shows the catch-22 with televising things like this. Sure it gives the public an eye on the procedure, but also it gives politicians an excuse to ham it up & cheapen the whole point. Of course, if they stuck to the script then even fewer people would watch it, so....

Basically we get the representation we deserve, folks. Ignore what goes on, & you get campaign-style grandstanding & softball questions during what's supposed to be a heated fracas on all things Constitutional, and the only place you see a reference to the Constitution is as a Carrot-Top moment for someone who shows by their legislative actions to have never read it.

Alito's going to be confirmed having answered basically nothing relevant. Aside from Senator Drunk-off-his-arse bringing up executive overreach in a moment of clarity, nothing was said with weight behind it. Tomatoes aren't hard enough, bricks would be more appropriate.

Nagin, PLEASE!

First one to say they didn't see this coming gets a Dunce cap & some quality corner time:

Tempers flared as expected Wednesday with the unveiling of a bold plan to temporarily halt the issuance of building permits in flood-ravaged parts of New Orleans -- a four-month timeout proposed by Mayor Ray Nagin's rebuilding commission to allow for a planning process that would chart the future of those neighborhoods.

The message to Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission from many of the roughly 20 audience members who spoke out at the presentation of its land use plan was direct and simple: Don't tell me what I can do with my property. Fueling the anger was the plan's call for using eminent domain, as a "last resort," to buy out homeowners in areas that show few signs of rebirth. (emphasis mine)

So they get through all this, just for the city to try to kick them out. Nice one.

Considering all the talk about how people that were forced away are somehow "better off", how the lowest areas (coincidentally -- according to them -- also the blackest) should be "reclaimed" by the gulf, & how quickly politically connected developers showed up, it's obvious what's going to happen: New Orleans is gonna be remade as a cajun-themed DisneyLand, an expensive, soulless tourist trap and nothing more.

If we can't have the NO back, then may we have Little New Orleans' sprout up in cities across the country. The rest of us could use some flavor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The sky has fallen

SCOTUSblog's liveblogging of the confirmation hearings shows not only that someone asked a relevant question, but that that someone was....Ted Kennedy.

I wasn't even expecting anyone to bring up the topic of executive overreach, let alone him. They need to hammer on that from here on out. Maybe try to deliberately get Alito pissed off about something, people tend to get honest when they're angry. But who would be able to say something meaningful & get him mad with it? Any ideas?

Re: measuring economic freedom

A Hit'n'Run post on the Heritage Foundation's annual Index of Economic Freedom -- and the resulting arguement over the meaning -- inspired the following...

I've never given much credit to the "Index of Economic Freedom". For many reasons: the inaccurate suggestion that economic freedom & civil liberties are two different animals (notice Singapore's position on that list...), general distrust of a Republican thinktank, etcetera. Though, the main one would be how economic freedom is defined by people sympathetic with the State.

The criteria for such ranks are inherently biased in favor of a corporatist interpretation of capitalism in that they would consider some concerns that are actually completely compatible with a true free-market economy to be "social issues" (read: socialist crap) & thus not to be counted. To serve a real purpose in measuring economic freedom rather than compatibility with corporatism, the measurement itself would have to be redefined:

1) extent to which open, honest exchanges are "left alone".

2) whether the relationship in the larger-scale sectors between management & employee is defined by the State (in collusion with either), or is solely on a voluntary case-by-case basis. For example, though a "closed-shop" law (requiring union membership for employment) & "right to work" rules (stating you can be fired for any, or no, reason, among other things) are outwardly intended for different factions, both are impositions by government on labor.

3) equality of status between various manners of voluntary economic organization. Basically, whether or not the government plays favorites to some types of market actors.

4) corruption. Degree to which "who you know" matters to market access.

I'm curious what the rankings would be on such a list.

This would pull the definition of economic freedom more in line with how liberty is defined in non-economic terms: absense of force. The more that economic activity is driven by voluntary means, w/ no hidden force guiding anything, the more free that economy is. I'd personally object to measuring economic freedom & personal liberty seperately on principle, but there's a right way to do everything.