Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alito and the "Unitary Executive"

It seems that the difficulties in earning a living will occasionally prevent me from posting more than once a week. I'll try to avoid letting that happen too often.

Not that I have any evidence that anyone but me is reading my scribblings. (*sigh*) I guess I'm not nearly as entertaining as I think I am. I am, however, the master of the run-on sentence. And to prove it, let us consider the strange case of Samuel Alito.

As far as anyone can tell, the nomination of the uniquely unqualified Harriet Meiers as Supreme Court justice was just a feint by Bush, to see just how stupid a decision he could make and get away with it. And since he didn't, in fact, get away with that one, he stopped letting his ADHD make decisions for him, and went back to his original purpose: the gutting of the US Constitution, and the remaking of the United States in his own, uniquely Stalinesque image.

Bush has managed to get away with a number of things that the American people should have objected to, but not everything has worked out the way he wanted.

OK, really, not much has worked out exactly the way he wanted. The Iraqi people didn't welcome us with flowers, he couldn't dismantle Social Security, and every time he tries to take a vacation, people point out that he's spent more time clearing brush on the Crawford ranch than most presidents have spent on the toilet.

(And to be fair, that last argument completely ignores William Howard Taft and the Constipation Crisis of 1911, but it took a special Congressional Order requiring them to invoke the Federal High Colonic to clear that up.)

However, in Samuel Alito, Bush has found a way to ignore 230 years of American history and give the Presidential Finger to the "Founding Fathers."

You see, despite that whole "we don't want a king, so we'll elect a President with severely restricted powers" argument that describes the state of mind of Jefferson, Adams, and the rest of the Constitutional Congress, Bush got tired of not having god-like powers. So to counter this, Bush nominated the only judge in America who thought that what our country needed was a "Unitary Executive."

Here's the problem. In the early days of America, our "Founding Fathers" (who, admittedly, weren't always saints either) were pretty strongly opposed to America being governed by a King. They'd tried that form of government, and they didn't enjoy it. They had some pretty strong ideas about how much power a president should have.

Unfortunately, Bush doesn't agree that his power should be limited. But fortunately for him, he found a judge who agreed with him. In 2001, Alito gave a speech to the Federalist Society, where he said, "When I was in (the Office of Legal Counsel)..., we were strong proponents of the theory of the unitary executive, that all federal executive power is vested by the Constitution in the President. And I thought then, and I still think, that this theory best captures the meaning of the Constitution's text and structure . . . ."

"All federal executive power." That's what Alito believes Bush should have. It seems that having the ability to gut environmental laws and being able to take the country to war for no apparent reason isn't good enough. Alito wants Bush to be the next Pharoah.

The eternal God-Emperor. That should satisfy them, shouldn't it?

Will we have to start building pyramids next?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Some nights, you don't feel cynical. Just old.

Wilson Pickett died on Thursday, January 19 from a heart attack, in a hospital in Reston, Virginia. He was 64.

Several news stories announced that piece of trivia today. And those twenty words may be the only thing that most people bring away from the report. But there was a time in America when "soul music" didn't mean recycled R&B, and didn't mean easy-listening pap sold on late-night television. A part of America has died this week, and too many people don't know to mourn for it.

His mother was abusive. One of eleven children, in 1955 he finally left Prattville, Alabama to live with his father in Detroit.

He grew up singing in gospel choirs, and even toured with Sam Cooke as part of a gospel music group. To support his family, he began singing more secular music, and, following a musical tradition slightly different from the blues, he helped to create "soul music" as a force of its own.

He joined a group called the Falcons in 1959. They climbed to #6 on the R&B chart in 1962, with Wilson singing lead on "I Found a Love." But his greatest success was from solo hits, starting with "It's Too Late," But of his hits, the two songs synonymous with his name, were "In the Midnight Hour" and "Mustang Sally."
Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down.
Mustang Sally, think you better slow your Mustang down.
You been running all over the town now.
Ooh! I guess I'll have to put your flat feet on the ground.

All you want to do is ride around, Sally,
(Ride, Sally, ride)
One of these early mornings,
Oh, you gonna be wiping your weeping eyes.

I bought you a brand new Mustang,
'Bout nineteen sixty five.
Now you come around signifying a woman,
You don't wanna let me ride.
Mustang Sally, think you better slow your Mustang down.
You been running all over the town now.
Oh! I guess I'll have to put your flat feet on the ground.

All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride...
His slightly raspy voice and the feeling he could put into a song gave a sensuous edge to his music that other, smoother soul singers couldn't match. It also earned him a title from a public slowly climbing out of the sexually-repressed Fifties: "the Wicked Wilson Pickett."

But times changed, and with his biggest hits behind him, Wilson didn't react well to fading into obscurity. He was arrested several times in the Nineties, for assault, carrying a loaded weapon, and drunken driving. And at the start of 2006, his heart gave out.

His songs were recorded by everyone from the Rolling Stones and Hootie and the Blowfish, to Echo and the Bunnymen and Ani DiFranco. "Mustang Sally" alone was recorded by, among others, Los Lobos, blues contemporary Buddy Guy, and even, in her original demo CD, by pop-tart Jojo (who just turned 15 a month ago). In 1991, the Oscar-nominated movie "The Commitments" was essentially built around a framework of his music, although he himself never appeared in it.
I'm gonna wait 'till the midnight hour;
That's when my love comes tumbling down.
I'm gonna wait 'til the midnight hour,
When there's no one else around.
I'm gonna take you, girl, and hold you,
Do all things I told you,
In the midnight hour.
Yes I am, whoa, yes I am

I’m gonna wait 'til the stars come out,
See them twinkle in your eyes.
I'm gonna wait 'til the midnight hour,
That's when my love begins to shine.
You're the only girl I know,
Really love you so,
In the midnight hour.
Most of his hits came before I was old enough to remember. But one of the earliest memories I have of my wife involves his music.

We had a good-sized group of friends who used to get together every weekend. And much of the time, we would end up moving the furniture out of the way, playing the music much too loud, and dancing. Everyone brought a few albums, but invariably, one compilation that one of us had put together would get played. And among several other hits of the Sixties and Seventies, there was "Mustang Sally."

I had spent the first two decades of my life not dancing - I couldn't dance. I was too cool. I was too scared. I just didn't.

But Wilson Pickett, in a recording from decades earlier, would belt out the often-covered lyrics, and Annette, long before we started dating, would drag me out on the dance floor.

It took another year or two before we got married, but we're still together eighteen years later. And now the Wicked Wilson Pickett is dead, and it's been a long time since I danced with my wife.

Perhaps it's time to start again.
All you want to do is ride around, Sally,
(Ride, Sally, ride)
One of these early mornings,
Oh, you gonna be wiping your weeping eyes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm not armored against this

OK. I'm finding myself deeply conflicted by a story that's currently... well, by a story currently not really in the news. It's covered, in passing, by a couple of sources. They make a quick reference to it, and then they go away. They ignore it.

The only people who are really interested is a couple of bloggers, and me. And, really, the entire armed services of the United States. But do they really matter? (Except as a prop for a couple of politicians who pretend to care about them, I mean...)

Oh, I'm sorry. Did that sound cynical? Damn it. I've got to stop that.

But maybe there's a reason for my attitude.

Body armor has come a long way over the last couple of centuries. The average soldier wanted all the protection he could get for a while, and the early armor, which could protect pretty well against a sword, was what he wanted. Big iron breastplates and chunks of metal that were strapped all over his body.

But, as the sword was replaced by the gun, those pieces of iron just didn't do the trick. And as the gun became more prevalent, less people wanted to hang heavy chunks of metal all over their body: it slowed them down, and really didn't do a thing to keep them safe.

But people kept trying to invent something that might work. The Vietnam-era flak vest was popular for several decades (I had one when I entered the Air Force), but it mostly protected against flying debris from a bomb. Nobody thought that it would stop a bullet, but we wore them for years anyway.

Several versions came and went, but finally, as time went on, we ended up wearing the Interceptor body armor. It was an advancement. It claimed to stop the largest round used by any military, and we were happy with that.

Of course, then we went into Iraq. First we didn't use as many troops as we needed, and then we started over-using and abusing the Reserves and National Guard. Regardless, we didn't have enough armor to go around. And after a while, a bunch of people started buying their own armor, assuming that the Department of Defense cared about them and would reimburse them for the money that those poor bastards spent trying to save their own lives.

Well, that didn't work. A lot of the survivors discovered that the military was in no hurry to repay them for the armor that they bought out of their own pockets. Apparently, somebody in the Pentagon realized that it cost less to pay for a funeral than to reimburse a soldier for body armor.

I'm sorry. Did that sound cruel and unreasonable? Well, here's the truth of the matter. A bunch of soldiers bought a higher-quality armor than the Interceptor vests that the military had been supplying them, and the Pentagon got cranky.

These soldiers had bought a product called Dragon Skin, and the military was apparently upset that it seemed to work as well as it was supposed to. In fact, soldiers were ordered to leave their Dragon Skin behind when they deployed to Iraq; the word had also come down from on high that soldiers who were killed in combat while wearing any armor that the military didn't give them, would not be paid benefits from the military life insurance policy that they'd been paying into since they entered the military.

Isn't that just adorable? And here's the cool part. Daily Kos looked into it, and noticed that the primary supplier of body armor to the military just happened to be a major Republican donor.

Is this just a coincidence? Hell, I don't know. I only know one thing.

When I was deployed to Iraq (we were the first relief team in after the invasion), we wore Interceptor vests. So I was there, on the ground, wearing the crappy vests that studies are now showing wouldn't have protected me if a bullet had come my way.

Does this bother me? Hell, I'll leave that for you to figure out. In the meantime, I'm finding that I'm suddenly happier that I made it home.

And so are my wife and kids.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Let's consider Ms Malkin

You know, I don't want to become one of those obsessive Malkin-watchers (and they are out there), but I clicked over to one of her stories this morning, and she commits the same errors there that she did in the cell-phone incident that I talked about in my previous post.

In fact, looking at her work, all I can say is that the woman is ridiculously partisan, and because of this bias, her work is filled with factual and logical errors that a more objective mind would avoid. And so, because I'd already wasted my time reading her column, I decided to waste a little more and write her an e-mail.

I don't have any illusions that she'll even consider what I said, but I sent it off to her anyway.

Subj: Starbucks bombing
Date: 1/16/2006 10:02:19 AM Mountain Standard Time

OK, so I'm thumbing through the internet, and I came across your column on the Starbucks "bombing." And in it, you say:
Bay Area moonbats have quite a history of Starbucks-bashing... Apparently, they don't think the left-leaning corporation is guilty enough about its profits or organically pure enough for their caffeine-stained tastebuds.
Then you go on to quote one of your readers, who adds:
Once again, left-wing terrorism and violence gets a pass in the MSM. The Chronicle was equally coy when left-wing terrorist groups like ELF exploded devices at Emeryville's Chiron headquarters. But if a right-wing anti-abortion group placed a pipe bomb at a Planned Parenthood office, you wouldn't see such vague "vandals" descriptions.
Very nice. A little wide-eyed. Paranoid, even. But let's not go so far as to say "insane." That's a loaded term. But then, in your update, you provide the most important point of the story. And the headline says it all.

Starbucks 'bomb' found to be harmless
Preliminary tests apparently find no explosive material

Now, in light of that, let's go back to your initial writeup. You ended it as follows:
Whoever it was that left the IED in Starbucks ought to face serious consequences for endangering people's lives. But it's the Bay Area. So they won't.
Hmmm... But what we have here is a hoax. Possibly just something innocent that was misidentified - the Bomb Squad doesn't like to take chances on things like that - but more likely a hoax. So how "serious" do the charges have to be?

Perhaps, instead of "it's the Bay Area," you should say "it's the way justice works in this country."

Now, I realize that you're trying to be a neo-David Brock (from the early part of his career, of course - we all know how he ended up), so it's unlikely that you're going to pay any attention to me, but you also claim to have been a journalist. So I'm hoping that you can see where you screwed up on this one. You shouldn't express a wildly inflammatory opinion like that, without having all the facts.

Not that that's ever stopped you before, admittedly.

You know, whatever your degree was in, I hope it wasn't journalism, because your professor would be ashamed of you.

Take care

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What the hell is the matter with you people?

Does anyone remember the Cold War? How about the mostly-false image that Americans had of the Warsaw Pact countries, with a cowed populace peering fearfully around the curtains, while out in the street, Stalin-trained agents waited for anyone to screw up, so that they could swoop down on them and drag them off to "reeducation camps" in Siberia.

Note that I said mostly false. I'll be the first to admit that there was some truth in it, but it was magnified in the public perception until it resembled an ongoing, Orwellian nightmare. But regardless of how overblown the fantasy was, nobody wanted to live that way.

Until now.

Apparently, there is a large contingent of people who think that should be a description of America. Running and hiding from the evils of those evil Muslim terrorists, they are willing to accept any kind of behavior from their government, as long as it can be justified in the name of "the War on Terra."

Why should the government need a warrant to listen in to any phone line they find? And, for that matter, why should they actually hold trials for the people they arrest? It's inconvenient - let's just put 'em in Guantanamo and forget about them! And of course the CIA can have secret bases to imprison enemies of the state! Hell, yes! We'll even rent out those gulags in Siberia! Nobody's using them, are they? Just tell me you're doing it to protect me from the evil terrorists, and I'll let you do whatever you want. Civil rights? Who needs 'em?

Here's a new word for you, folks. Dystopia. It's the opposite of Utopia. Look it up. I can wait.

What makes me think this? Well, for one thing, there's this little piece of whimsy from Michelle Malkin, which she entitled We Are All Homeland Security Agents:
Picture this: You're a retail store clerk. It's the busy Christmas season. A half-dozen men of Middle Eastern/South Asian descent walk into the store. They want to buy between 60-150 disposable cell phones--you know, the kind that can't be traced. The kind that have been used by terrorists as detonators.
What do you do?

Do you think nothing of the incident? Hope for the best, sell them what they want, and move on?

Do you feel guilty for "profiling" them and dismiss any misgivings you have? Or do you listen to your post-9/11 conscience and contact the authorities?

...if 9/11 taught us anything, it was to be unapologetically vigilant. To act now and avoid the cacophany of
hindsight hysterics later. What good are all the "Be alert" admonitions from the government if no one alerts authorities when their alarms go off?

Some civil liberties absolutists will no doubt go bananas over "racist" store clerks who blow the whistle on suspicious behavior. But the rest of us, including the feds who are now following up on the citizen watchdog reports, should be nothing but grateful--and ready to do the same.
And she's not the only one, either. A kid with an annoying love of boldface and brightly-colored letters (but an apparent hatred of spell-checking), who self-righteously calls himself Astute Blogger (a.k.a., "reliapundit"), goes even farther.

The jihdoterrorists might now each be using a series of phones (each only once or twice) to communicate with other jihadoterrorists who are also using a series of disposable phones - each only once or twice. All they have to do is tell their comrade which cellphone number to use next. NOW HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET WARRANTS ON THAT!? It's impossible. Which is why it's ABOSLUTELY necessary for the POTUS, as CinC, to use his Article II powers during wartime in order to get the foreign intelligence we need to DEFEND OURSELVES.

By exposing the NSA intercept program, the leakers and their comrades at the NYTIMES have CONFIRMED valuable information to the enemy, alerted the enemy to the information, and NOW - AS A RESULT - the enemy has adjusted. Therefore, the leakers and the NYTIMES have endangered the lives OF MILLIONS of Americans, and our entire economy and also the world's economy (which after all depends on the US economy). They should ALL be charged, tried, convicted, and executed for TREASON.

I tried to reproduce his formatting, just to show you how annoying it is to read. Oh, incidentally, he also wants to make sure that you know one thing:
You can tell that this message is important to him. That's why he puts it in bright red, bold-faced capital letters. Did you ever feel like you're the last adult in the playground?

Nor are they alone. They link to several other blogs who are salivating to lock down the country. And what do all of these people have in common with George Bush, other than a blind love of the government posited in 1984? Well, they're all willing to go out on a limb based on inaccurate, cherry-picked intelligence. And the sad part is, Malkin even has this link at the end of her story.
Bill Vanderland, the agent in charge of Midland's FBI office... said Thursday after the ABC report aired that assertions of a connection between a terror cell and the men who attempted to purchase cell phones from a Midland Wal-Mart were invalid.

"There is no known link or demonstrated link or any other kind of link at this point between the people here and any terror cell," he said.
Yes, folks, we had a single immigration violation. No terrorists. But that's OK, right? We're being protected from the evil, wicked, vicious Islamic terrorists! It doesn't matter what the government does, as long as we're safe! After all, those nasty jihadists haven't been able to attack us since 9/11, right?

Doesn't anybody have any kind of memory?

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef tried to bomb the World Trade Center. After that attack, it took those nasty Islamic terrorists eight and a half years to try again. As I write this, it hasn't even been five years since 9/11. Maybe they just like to take their time.

Grow up, people. When you give in to fear like that, the terrorists have won. Al Qaeda doesn't have to do anything to destroy America. Apparently, we're going to do it for them.