Sunday, 31 July 2005

Liberty, Security, Privacy, & Social Responsibility

Some beliefs have their roots in a deeply seated conviction, while others are based on practical considerations. I generally think of the former as trumping the latter, but really it depends on what is at stake, and how compelling the conviction or practical consideration is.

Sometimes something which began from a practical consideration becomes such an article of faith that we start believing that it is tied to a deeply held moral conviction even though it is not.

Looking at my title, I believe that Security and Privacy are practical values, while Liberty and Social Responsibility are values of conviction. I'm a member of the ACLU, and am happy to pay my annual dues, but sometimes I do believe that they tend to make articles of faith out of principles which stem more from practical considerations than deeply held convictions. Putting a lid on government snooping is one such instance.

Now in the current political climate, I am happy that the ACLU is acting as a watchdog on our government, because that function is sorely needed. There are sufficient troubling stories about surveillance which is based on ideological position rather than on keeping tabs on true menaces, that I look to the ACLU as a protector in that regard.

But from a utopian perspective, government having information about its private citizens is not an a priori evil. Open information, in fact, should be seen as a good thing. We can make the best decisions and be accountable to the highest standards when transparency is high - in government, in corporations, and in our personal lives. I've not yet read David Brin's The Transparent Society, but am favorably disposed to the ideas which I understand he espouses there. Unfortunately we live in a world where power is inequitably distributed and unscrupulous institutions are all too willing to use information about others for nefarious ends.

So in the short term, practical considerations sometimes must trump ideals, if that lessens the ability of the powerful to exploit the vulnerable.

The national identity card, which many of my friends would decry as an outrageous infringement on their freedom, is not dangerous because it is at odds with some inherent truth, but because of the practical possibility that it could be misused by a government more intent on silencing its enemies than protecting its citizens. The time for a national identity card is not now, but only after the ability to misuse it has been limited convincingly by laws with teeth, and the expectation that they be followed scrupulously.

DNA fingerprinting has proved to be an invaluable tool in criminology, superceding ordinary fingerprinting as the gold standard for identification. In an ideal society, our government would be so fully trustworthy, that it would be plainly obvious to anyone that every infant or immigrant would have their DNA recorded in a national database. True criminals would be hampered, missing persons could be more easily found, medical matches would be quickly found - though always with the right to refuse participation without identification to third parties. Strict laws and societal expectations would circumscribe the use of the database for just these sorts of cases, and never for commercial exploitation, oppression, or blackmail.

Clearly we're not there yet. Perhaps we never will be. But my point is that privacy in and of itself is not such an inherent value that it should be protected above all else. I recently discovered Jack Grant's Random Fate where he writes
The struggle is between liberty and safety, as it always has been, but now the struggle is waged in a society and culture that has valued the freedom of the individual at the expense of a larger social responsibility that was so ingrained in the culture of the founders that it literally went without saying in most of their writings.
in making his own case that the ACLU overreached in challenging the constitutionality of random New York subway searches. Though I found myself in this particular case more inclined to agree with some of his commenters who suggested that the searches were far likelier to result in abuse than to quell an actual attack, that is a practical judgment, and Jack's point stands insofar as it will not ALWAYS be correct to limit every intrusion. There is a balance to be struck, and we err in thinking that privacy is sacrosanct in every instance.

It's not Really about Stem Cell Embryos

Oh sure, there is a relatively small percentage of true believers who see any fertilized human egg as the moral equivalent of an adult human being. They earnestly oppose not only Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESR), but In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the morning after pill, or any process in which a fertilized human egg is not allowed every chance to mature into a human. But most opponents of ESR fall into one or more of four categories. They are ignorant of the facts; they fear the "slippery slope"; they fear that any worthy research use of fetal or embryonic matter legitimates abortion, or, if they are politicians, they are pandering to a certain constituency.

My first question to anyone decrying the immorality of ESR is "Are you working just as hard or harder to ban in vitro fertilization?"

In vitro fertilization was certainly not without controversy when it was first introduced 27 years ago. Not only was there concern about fertilized eggs that wouldn't make it, but real questions about the role of science and technology in procreation, where it would stop, and concerns about the health of children brought into the world in that way. That last concern has been largely allayed, as many children now have come into being through IVF who are perfectly healthy and happy. Worries about "playing God" persist, and no one disputes that some fertilized eggs become waste in the process of IVF. That ship has sailed, however, and even opponents realize they won't be stopping IVF anytime soon.

Those who claim that ESR is a dangerous extension of IVF are either misinformed or being dishonest. While it is true that the "lives" of the otherwise discarded eggs are kept alive for an additional four days, embryos at that stage have not developed a nervous system, so claims of pain and suffering are simply not valid. If there is a wrong in having produced the eggs, that was a result of IVF, while ESR only provides hope that those eggs will serve a benefit far nobler than providing an infertile couple with genetically related progeny.

And yet IVF gets mentioned in a minority of any media reports on the matter, and not at all, as far as I can tell, by the political opponents making sanctimonious statements about "creating commodities out of embryos". If these politicians were truly grieving for the discarded eggs, they would be focusing their attention on IVF instead. But politicians are little inclined to fight losing battles, and so they pander to their constituents outraged by a procedure few understand fully, by feigning outrage themselves. And the media dumbly relays the political posturing of the "latest" controversy, rarely connecting the scientific dots for the under-educated public.

In fact, I would argue, that it is precisely the nobler purpose of finding cures for disease which really threatens opponents of this technology. Once science establishes a popular moral underpinning for technologies which opponents believe to be immoral, then the moral upper hand is lost in the larger battle against abortion or against science "playing God". It is rather akin to something I noticed during the cold war with leftist governments around the world. There were many two-bit tyrannical states around the world, and especially in Africa, which called themselves communist or socialist, but the left leaning nations that the U.S. government took interest in undermining were precisely those which had the noblest beginnings, such as the democratically elected government of Allende in Chile. Now much of that also had to do with economic connections and the relative interests of big corporations, but I'll wager the threat of legitimacy being lent to a socialist state played a big factor. In similar fashion, abortion foes are most threatened by the likelihood that embryonic stem cell research puts a humanitarian face on a procedure which consumes fertilized eggs.

One may legitimately believe that it is always wrong to fertilize a human egg in the foreknowledge that some of them will be destroyed, but I'll have more respect for those who acknowledge that if that is going to happen, science should be allowed to make beneficiary use of that otherwise discarded material, rather than insisting on cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. As biological technology advances, ethical questions will remain front and center in the debate over what to pursue and what to disallow, but the more that all the facts are put out in the open the more likely we are to arrive at reasonable compromises which consider both ethics and scientific reality.

Friday, 29 July 2005

Repudiation of Violence is Welcome News

Whether it comes from the Irish Republican Army or American Muslim clerics, clear statements repudiating violence as a means of achieving ends are always welcome.

The IRA story got a lot of media attention yesterday and today, but the fatwa against suicide bombing issued by two prominent American Muslim organizations, got far less attention than I would have expected.
The Fiqh Council of North America wrote: "There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram - or forbidden."
There may be justifiable skepticism that the word of American Muslims will carry much weight in the Middle East. However, many Muslims have spoken unequivocally against violence, plainly decrying the silence or complicity of putatively peaceful mainstream Islamic leaders who won't speak more plainly against violence in front of Arab audiences used to a steady stream of anti-Western rhetoric. Columnist Amir Taheri writes:
The London attack is not the work of a small group of people. It is the bitter fruit of a religion that has been hijacked by a minority of extremists, while the majority looks on in concern and amazement. Until we hear the voices of the Muslims condemning attacks of this kind with no words [of qualification] such as 'but' and 'if,' the suicide bombers and the murderers will have an excuse to think that they enjoy the support of all Muslims. The real battle against this enemy of mankind will begin when the 'silent majority' in the Islamic world makes its voice heard against the murderers, and against those who brainwash them, believe them, and fund them.
Another article can be found here. The extent to which this latest fatwa may bring more such discussion to the fore in the Islamic world is certainly in question, but we can welcome it without reservation. Certain principles cry for support without equivocation - no 'buts' or 'ifs'. Decent humans regardless of their political or religious persuasions should stand against torture, against slavery, against the murder of innocents, against oppression, and against terrorism - period. Here is the honor roll of Muslims from the second article who have courageously taken their stand against violence:
  • Mashari Al-Dhaydi, Saudi columnist for London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat
  • Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director general of Al-Arabiya TV in UK
  • Hamad bin Hamad Al-Salami, Al-Jazeerah columnist who outed extremists
  • Mun Al-Tahawi, Egyptian columnist for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat
  • Dr. Mamoun Fandy, Egyptian scholar & columnist
  • Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, former editor Saudi daily Al-Watan
  • Sheikh Abd Al'-Aziz bin Baz - Salafi school
  • Muhammad bin 'Athamin
  • Mufti Sheikh Abd Al'-Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh
  • Sa'ad Allah Khalil
  • Majed Al-Gharbawi, Iraqi researcher
  • Amir Taheri, columnist
  • Dr Kazem Habib, Iraqi commentator & human rights activist

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Picking at Nits While Ignoring the Elephant

Rove and DeLay are the whipping boys for Democratic outrage these days. Were identities leaked inappropriately? Were trips paid for by lobbyists? These peccadillos are serious enough and likely to be breaches of the law, but the truly odious behavior is the whole gestalt of power abuse and slander which is not necessarily illegal, but has become standard operating procedure in the halls of power. [Continue reading]

It's rather analogous (at a lower order of magnitude, of course) to the attempt to ding Saddam Hussein for maybe being out of compliance with his weapons development, when his indisputable history of genocide, torture, and oppression should be fully sufficient for the world community to demand his -bloodless- removal from power. The same is true for the scores of tyrannical despots still in power around the world - but I digress.

Must the opponents of treachery wait around for the perpetrators to slip up on the petty stuff in order to bring a halt to their treachery?

This elevation of the nits to public prominence in lieu of the overarching generalizations, however obvious they may seem to some observers, is nothing new and operates on all sides and from local politics to global diplomacy. I'll even concede that it is not all bad, as often the nits represent specifics which are less deniable than the more general observations which may spring unfairly from ideological bias. But it is important to understand the nits in context to the whole, lest the casual reader misconstrue the debate as defined wholly by how a particular conversation between Karl Rove and Matt Cooper started and proceeded, or whether Tom DeLay knew that his golf trip in the Marianas was being funded illegally by lobbyists.

Now it may be true that Karl Rove as he wanders the halls of the White House humming "Onward Christian Soldiers" believes that he is doing the Lord's work; but only by applying a "means justifies the ends" type of logic which I grew up associating with Marxism. The likelihood that his revelations to reporters (that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA operative) was designed more to smear Wilson than to save the reporters from the embarrassment can be guessed at by Rove's historical track record of slander and innuendo. Frank Rich in his recent NYT Follow the Uranium (subscription required) op-ed piece is right on target when he writes:
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

Similarly, in the case of Tom DeLay, it is laughable that the big news is that lobbyists might have paid for any number of his international jaunts. No, what is odious is that DeLay secures for the powerful business interests in the Marianas "protection" from American labor laws which might throw a wrench in their ability to exploit foreign workers in sickeningly inhumane fashion, while still being able to carry a "Made in America" label.
None of this was a secret back home in the U.S. In 1998, ABC, CNN, the BBC and the New York Times each confirmed reports of forced labor, sex slaves and domestic forced servitude among the Marianas' so-called "guest workers."

What is outrageous is that DeLay carries the power (apparently legally!) to prevent a measure holding Marianas manufacturers to these labor laws from even coming to a vote on the floor of the house in spite of widespread bipartisan support. He used the same power nearly two years ago in preventing a measure limiting media consolidation from coming to a vote, even though it would have won easily due to wide popular support. It is small wonder that our corporate controlled media did little to cover the story.

I believe that DeLay will get his comeuppance yet, as the TRMPAC scandal from several years back appears destined to expose plenty of illegality. It is sad, however, that we seem unable to derail the structure of power that allows one man elected from a single district to hold so much sway over our nation's laws.

Instead of insisting on decent public behavior from our officials, we are reduced to picking at the nits, which are easily cast as not so odious as a sitting president allowing his prestige and rank to afford him gratuitous sexual favors from a lowly intern. And make no mistake, I believe that too was a despicable abuse of rank. Clinton's behavior was clearly worse than allowing a lobbyist to pay for a trip, but not nearly as condemnable as leveraging one's power to perpetuate virtual slave labor abroad.

Ironically this administration's dishonesty with respect to "fixing the intelligence and facts around their policy" can be partly attributed to the tendency of the community of nations to pay more attention to nits than the big picture. As I stated earlier, Saddam's unfitness to rule any nation was starkly obvious to any observer, and yet for official steps to be taken it was necessary for him to violate particular rules which he could just avoid violating. The same can be said of dozens of other tyrants whose nations are officially represented at the United Nations. It is easy to understand conservatives' problems with taking the UN seriously when we are required to engage in diplomacy with the representives of thugs in order to accomplish baby steps in reining in the abuses of despots. But in spite of the necessary hypocrisies, the method of nations acting in concert to make demands of other nations, is far preferable to any one nation's unilateral military action.

Saddam was a particularly thorny problem because of the decades of Baathist rule which had allowed him to create layers of protection, and a whole class of people dependent on his despotism for their standard of living. Dethroning him and his party in a bloodless fashion was sure to be problematic in the extreme, while doing so militarily was bound to produce the type of fallout we're seeing today. Acting with the blessing of a much larger world community, and without the type of retributive actions as were undertaken in Fallujah would have certainly helped, though.

It is a sad testament to the disconnect between America's ideals and her foreign policy, that Saddam owed much of his ability over the past several decades to consolidate his iron grip to U.S. policy. It is a further irony that in attempting to reverse (selectively) our support of tyranny abroad, the current President has not taken seriously the need to curb our own excesses and fully honor longstanding Geneva protocols, leading to justifiable perceptions that we are the bullies on the world stage.

This is why much of the world, including plenty of Americans of diverse ideological stripes, stand in slack-jawed wonder at the willingness of a populace steeped in a democratic tradition, to reelect this administration.

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Conserving Energy for Important Battles

I hadn't really planned to write about the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court once I found out a bit about the nominee. I think David Remer sums it up pretty well. But I find my friends asking for my spin, and have gotten several emails about it, the most disappointing coming from, who are clearly trying to organize to block the nomination. Sure the Senate should do their due diligence on the nominee, but it's pretty clear any objection to Roberts would fall outside the scope of the "comity compromise", so it seems a waste of effort to spend energy to block this nominee. Most telling for me, though, is the radio interviews I've heard with liberal legal professionals who know Roberts personally and can vouch for his decency. I'd rather have a Supreme Court Justice of sound temperament with whom I disagree, than one who might be more likely to make a ruling or two that I'd be happier with, but who has shown clear unsound judgment in matters of law in the past, especially given the lifetime nature of these appointments. That's why I'm much happier with Roberts than Gonzales, even if it does increase slightly the fragility of Roe v. Wade for instance. There will undoubtedly be some 5-4 decisions going in what I consider the wrong direction due to Roberts' appointment, but I'd rather save our energy for a principled fight against a potential fire breather on the court.

Let's hope that Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy, and Souter hold out until we get a moderate with some intellect in the White House.

Monday, 18 July 2005

After the Future

"They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn."

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

The proximity of hope to despair is exactly what should propel us to action. When I prognosticate about the future, I must admit that I fluctuate wildly between seeing a stark descent into hell and a transformative renaissance toward opportunities beyond imagination. It often feels that we live on the knife edge, though in my calmer moments I know that glory and tragedy will continue to coexist as they have throughout human history. But history has included some very dramatic fluctuations, and I'm not alone in sensing the volatility of the current age.

Many thanks to Micah Newman for pointing me recently to the writing of Jack Whelan, whose clarity in his analysis of America's current culture and politics is almost stunning. In reading his essay Philosophers, Artists, Saints, I was fascinated by his use of the Prodigal Son parable to critique what he refers to as the Phariseeism of today's rightwing Christianity. The gist of the article though seemed overly bleak to me, as I believe remnants of the transcendent reside in our very genes, and hence in all of us, despite the cultural emphasis on materialism or legalism. But elsewhere in his writing there remains great hope, not the least of which is in his statement of purpose, Toward a Progressive Future.

And his recent political analysis on the blog portion of his site, offers as incisive an indictment of the Bush administration as I've seen anywhere, with such morsels as:
the main problem that confronts us now with this particular administration is its dishonest use of the GOP framing narrative. It uses it as a sheep's disguise to hide its wolfish agenda. Compassionate Conservatism? Oh, come on. That's what makes this particular group so odious. What we see is not what we're getting. Sure the Dems do it too, but this group has taken this kind of mendacity to a new level. This administration presents itself as the proponent of small government, but it's about the promotion of centralism and greater police power. It presents itself as the party of fiscal responsibility, and it is about as irresponsible as a rich party animal college kid living off a family trust fund. It presents itself as the party of strong defense, but it is not defending us against the real threat posed by international terror. It is, instead, the party of strong offense with its doctrine of unilateral preemptive war. It presents itself as the party of family values, but it is the party of corporate, free-market capitalism, which more than any social force active in the world today is the destroyer of family and traditional values.
Check out any of the essays in his sidebar. I have not yet been disappointed.

Saturday, 16 July 2005

Confidence and Humility

Humility and Confidence need not be mutually exclusive. In fact they desperately need each other. Confidence without humility breeds meanness, self-righteousness, and arrogance. But the wisdom born from humility is lost to the world without the confidence to share it.

In preparing for this post, I searched for quotes from accomplished, and necessarily confident, historical figures extolling the virtue and necessity of humility. I expected to find wisdom from Martin Luther King, for instance, and I am sure he had great things to say about humility in his extraordinary life which exuded wisdom, confidence, and humility. But quickly I came upon the following from Helen Keller which strikes at the heart of this message:
I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
Keller, against incredible odds, indeed did accomplish a great and noble task in publicly sharing her wisdom with posterity. But she had the humility to recognize that without the goodness of the multitudes there would be no substance from which the great and noble could emanate.

We require the talents of many, as without each other all that is good falls apart. We need the philosophers, the teachers, the artists, the scientists, the manufacturers, the workers, the mothers and fathers, the logicians, the planners, the cleaners, and the earnest efforts of the humblest among us. In a well-functioning dignitarian society each role is carried out for the benefit of everyone, all are recognized for their contributions, and each can retain his or her dignity. Our own Western society functions far better than many, indeed in many ways amazingly well, but leaves plenty room for improvement, and in some areas dire need for improvement.

When we are able to take a role in our society, cognizant of the contribution we can make in it, we can and should be satisfied with our place in the world. We can sharpen our talents, expand our abilities, and improve on our contribution, but clearly no one can do it all. Everyone, no matter how great their accomplishments, is indebted not only to the "giants" who preceded them, but also to the many nameless contributors without whom they never would have had the platform from which to realize their greatness.

I feel I have some talent for expressing my thoughts. I feel no obligation to be the most brilliant philosopher to share my perspectives on our world for public scrutiny. I know I have some things wrong, but I'll do my best to honestly share what I believe to be true. Because the things I think about frequently have me making moral judgments, I am keenly aware of the need to guard against the hubris of feeling personally morally superior, because I know that not to be the case. I can look not only to failures in my past, but also to flaws in my current character and behavior to see my own warts. But it is a critical contribution to our society that we speak to a greater vision, and celebrate the best of human values. Millions upon millions of people do these things every day in large ways and small ways. Most parents do it with their children. It is unreasonable and unnecessary that we require of anyone addressing a moral concern that they be without flaw in regard to the area which they are addressing. Indeed, who better to speak to at-risk youth than an ex-con who took the wrong turn himself at their age?

Yet we are frequently timid, too timid, about speaking to the greater vision we may see, especially when that means speaking truth to power, because of doubts about our own truths as well as fear of repercussions. Some timidity is warranted, though, lest we become smug and self-righteous in our own surety. Dee Eisenhauer in a beautiful statement for peace, reminds us
Humility will help us cool our jets a little even as we seek to create peace. Here is a teaching I have found helpful for many years: I am right about 80% of what I believe and wrong about 20%; the trouble is, I don’t know which is the 80 and which is the 20. Some reserve even about our best ideas is appropriate. It’s not that there is no “right” and “wrong” -—a huge liberal mistake—- but in our speech we seek always to persuade and not pulverize, realizing we may be in error.
Eisenhauer's caution does not grant us leave from speaking our truth, but rather counsels care in how we do so. If the world only hears from those who (think they) are 100% right, I fear for her prospects.

The web has made such public introspection easily available, so I've decided to hang my ideas out here, while looking for other means to speak my truths and challenge authority where I believe it to be in error. My readership has remained relatively small, which has limited my temptation into hubris about the importance of what I have to say. But the nature of my explorations lends itself to big ideas, and the danger of succumbing to self congratulation always lurks around the corner. I've appreciated tremendously kind comments and emails from readers who have appreciated my words and have expanded my own perceptions with their offerings. Such exchanges keep me motivated to continue to explore and share, both here and in the rest of my daily encounters. But Keller reminds us that the small kind acts of those around us, nobly undertaken, provide the push for advancing the causes that sustain our hope for a better future.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Celebrating What's Right

It has been a few days now since I returned from the westbound leg of my cross-country family car trip. Open water of the Great Lakes, waterfalls, forests, prairies, badlands, mountains, and wildlife; these trips never disappoint, and the memories sustain me for years to come. Good people come in many flavors and from many places and bring meaning to our experiences. Happiness springs from the ability to amplify the kindnesses we encounter so that the meanness and pettiness that gets tossed our way becomes but a minor nuisance. I've been very fortunate in my life to have the former in healthy doses, and the latter in manageable doses, most of the time. And so it is that I return from the wide open spaces resolved to celebrate the positive, more than to curse the negative.

The politics of denigration and mockery persists, however, and I confess you may find me celebrating the potential demise of Karl Rove or Tom DeLay, as Rove's current troubles take center stage in our daily news. My objection to the actions of Rove and DeLay is amplified by the extent to which the promotion of their agenda is dependent on the disparagement, mockery, or sometimes worse of their opponents. I may differ fundamentally with their agenda, but if it were pursued in honest and fair debate with the ideas of their political opponents, I would not so resent their successes, and could grant their right to a place in the discussion about how to shape our public policy.

But if I become so enthused about their potential downfall that I lose sight of why an alternate way forward seems preferably to me, then I put myself at risk of succumbing to the negative political spiral which spoils so much of the current discourse in our society. While Rove tries to spin reaction to 9/11 to create distrust or even hatred of "liberals", it behooves those of us who are prone to wear the liberal label to be unafraid to celebrate what we see as right and noble about liberalism, rather than simply denigrate the agents of changes with which we disagree. It may not be the most expedient political strategy, but in the long run I think people will respond to a positive message, especially one which allows a breadth of ideas to be considered. I steadfastly maintain that there are principles of both liberalism and conservatism that hold legitimate value, as there are both libertarian and communitarian principles of value.

Perhaps my inclination to wear the liberal label is partly a contrarian one, because it is currently out of favor, but I know that liberalism's precepts, which I intend to expand on in future posts, are not deserving of the rebuke which they are currently receiving from the disdainful faction of the right in this nation. I also know that there are many conservatives who are impatient with the tenor of the message of their fellow conservatives who are predisposed to dismissive language, and they will be our allies in finding the best way forward if we are able to exhaust society's patience with the politics of disparagement.

Friday, 8 July 2005

Ridding the World of Despots

Conservatives rail against the United Nations, International Courts, International Police forces and the like, and anyone should be trepidatious about how power is dispensed to super-national groups, but given what the world faces today I think we should at least allow a conversation about coordinated action to hold rogue states to account. One year ago I was acknowledging the rightness of deposing Saddam, while seeking a better ways to accomplish comparable regime changes in the future. Just over a week ago I identified the reigns of tyrants as one of three grave power inequities with which the world needs to be concerned. We ignore this ongoing problem at our peril.

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

06 July 2004

It wasn't enough, but Gephardt surely would have been worse. I don't think he would have flipped Missouri.

Monday, 4 July 2005

"America the Beautiful" for National Anthem

What more to say? Just the Obvious:
It's more beautiful.
It's easier to sing.
Nearly everyone knows it.
It focuses on the land and the people, not a military moment in the distant past.
It stirs the heart.
It doesn't divide the country.

Saturday, 2 July 2005

Illusion of Private Sanctuary

Busy with other projects, in the coming week, I'll be presenting my thoughts from a year ago, when in the throes of an upcoming election I was putting a good deal of energy into this web log.

The "upcoming book" referred to in this post did not disappoint.

Friday, 1 July 2005

O'Connor's Resignation

There was no need to turn on the news today for me to learn of Sandra Day O'Connor's stepping down from the high court. Five separate emails encouraged me to make my voice heard in one way or another about the selection of her replacement. Blogging about it is probably not what they had in mind. I can only imagine how many emails flooded the in-boxes of those who are involved in pro-choice politics. My own came from Democracy for America (Dean's old group), John Kerry, the ACLU, a gay rights group, and Of course the subtext here is mostly about choice/abortion since O'Connor was a swing vote, but fairly consistently voted to defend Roe v. Wade principles.

When conservatives complain that it's the Democrats who apply the litmus test to high court appointments they have a point. Of course there will be plenty of litmus tests to go around on both sides of the issue depending on who's doing the judging. In the Presidential debates though, it was Bush who rhetorically denied the application of a single issue litmus test, while Kerry in spite of eloquently expressing sympathy for pro-life sentiment, suggested that his court appointees would necessarily be pro Roe v Wade.

My concerns with O'Connor have largely been on other issues close to my heart, such as her dissent on the decision disallowing the death penalty for juveniles. Personally I would like to know a prospective justice's proclivities on a whole range of issues, and it does not necessarily follow that given a choice between two, my preference would go toward the one most likely to uphold Roe v Wade. I find it rather annoying that the Democratic Party's choice would almost automatically go to the pro-choice candidate regardless. Make no mistake, though, I still would much prefer that Kerry be making this choice than Bush. The political fallout will be interesting.

One email pointed me to this piece in the Washington Post in which Harry Reid publicly encouraged Bush to name one of the following Republican Senators: DeWine of Ohio, Graham of South Carolina, Martinez of Florida, or Crapo of Idaho. It seems quite unlikely Bush would do so, especially DeWine or Martinez, who come from states where Republican majorities are slim. I'm not sure, if for instance the just elected Martinez became a justice, whether brother Jeb, as Governor of Florida would get to name the replacement Senator for a brief interim until a special election, for a longer interval until the 2006 election where the voters would elect someone for the 4 remaining years of the term, or for the full remainder of the term.