Thursday, March 31, 2005

Back to Bolton


Readers of this blog have doubtless become familiar, over the last several days, with the name John Bolton. Mr. Bolton is President Bush's nominee to the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and he appears to be a rather bad man. He also personifies the go-it-alone, we've-got-all-the-toys-so-shut-up modus operandi of the Bush administration, only with attitude. (For a little context here, consider how Rodney Dangerfield once characterized his nabe: "I come from a neighborhood so tough that Bella Abzug was the Avon lady.")


For a vigorous discussion of how the Democrats should handle the thorny topic of Bolton's confirmation hearings, go to Steve Clemons' The Washington Note. Here's Clemons:

No Bush diplomatic nominee has ever been uniformly opposed by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The fact is moderate Republicans despise Bolton as well -- they do. Party tectonics are complicating them voting their conscience -- but Bolton is not only a despicable choice for this job, but he is more beatable than various other bad choices that progressives and centrists might want to contest.


Voting for Bolton is a vote against American interests. I am generally a subscriber to ethical realism if you want to give it a name. And Bolton is the antithesis of most of what I believe is in the hard-core, unsentimental interests of the United States.

Here your cybertrix shares a little tip: She came upon the Clemons piece via LiberalOasis, which is quite the must-read for aficionados of the blogosphere.

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May she rest in peace

In her last few months, as Terri Schiavo lay in a state of suspended animation, that state of neither quite life nor death, she became a symbol of many things: of our nation's confusion about and rejection of death, of the heartlessness of liberalism, the phantasmagoria of radical authoritarianism, the opportunism of Congress and, not least of all, the unmeetable twain of the great national divide.


In death, one hopes, she becomes flesh again, a mere mortal. Godspeed.



For a clear-eyed, blow-by-blow look at the case as it coursed its way through the courts over the past few days, look at Tim Grieve's blogging for Salon's 'War Room.'

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One for the Constitution


At last, a member of the judiciary involved in the Schiavo case has been willing to call a spade a spade. In yesterday's appeal by Terri Schiavo's parents to the 11th Circuit federal Court of Appeals, one of the judges on the panel issued an opinion devoted to the peril posed to the Constitution by congressional intervention in the case. (It was legislation passed by Congress that allowed the case to live another day in the federal system after all appeals had been exhausted in the Florida state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear it.) The New York Times reports:


The 11th Circuit court's decision, signed by Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson, was only a sentence long. But in a concurring opinion, Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., appointed by the first President Bush in 1990, wrote that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the case and that the law enacted by Congress and President Bush allowing the Schindlers to seek a federal court review was unconstitutional.


"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow."

Read the Times's coverage by Abby Goodnough and William Yardley

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Nominee for U.N. post
denies existence of U.N.
according to Citizens for Global Solutions


From our World Federalist friends at StopBolton.org:

“While the United Nations needs to be better equipped so that it can meet the challenges of the 21st century, John Bolton is not the right person to spearhead this critical reform effort,” said Don Kraus, vice president of Citizens for Global Solutions. “Bolton [President Bush's nominee for the post of ambassador to the U.N.] has proven himself to be a divisive diplomat, with a track record of breaking bonds rather than creating coalitions. He has long argued:

‘[T]here is no such thing as the United Nations… [but merely] an international community that occasionally can be led by… the United States when it suits our interest.’"

(See StopBolton.org for video clip of Bolton's speech from February 1994, Global Structures Convocation.)

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Blogging a dead horse


Today your blogstress fears that she has used up all of her creative writing time trying to get Blogger.com to publish the (finally) unscrambled version of yesterday's post. How sad is that, what with Wolfie traipsing through Europe, the first lady in Afghanistan and Jerry Falwell and the pope both flirting with the great beyond?


Talk amongst yourselves, please. (Then send your Webwench the transcript.)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Trying valiantly...

...to republish today's post, which seems to have been eaten by Blogger.com. Working on it, though..

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The global trust


While your blogstress, with the rest of America, engaged in the distraction of pontificating on the Schiavo case, elsewhere in the world folks find themselves less concerned with the future of the U.S. Constitution (though they may want to ponder that), or the tragic circus into which Terri Schiavo's final days have devolved, than the implications of two critical appointments made by President Bush to international bodies: that of John Bolton to the post of U.N. ambassador and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to president of the World Bank.


It's hard to know which of these is more frightening. Bolton's background harkens back to the bad old days of the Nicaraguan contras--the army of thugs set up in the 1980s by the U.S. to topple the socialist Sandinistas--or Wolfowitz, a believer in the spread of "doable" wars, who has no background in finance or banking.


On the Bolton appointment, the Associated Press reports a chorus of concern from around the world now joined by some 59 former U.S. diplomats (yes, some are Republicans) who have signed a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of that body's Committee on Foreign Affairs, asking for committee's rejection of the Bolton appointment:


The ex-diplomats have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, some for long terms and others briefly. They include Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Carter and Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Nixon.

Others who signed the letter include James Leonard, deputy ambassador to the U.N. in the Ford and Carter administrations; Princeton Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton; Monteagle Stearns, ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations; and Spurgeon Keeny Jr., deputy director of the Arms Control Agency in the Carter administration.


Wolfie's revenge?

If, like your cybertrix, you fell behind on the many reasons to fear the ascension of Wolfowitz to the throne of the Global Trust*, Jude Wanniski's piece on Counter Punch is a must-read. It's hard for the opposition to dismiss Wanniski as some left-wing crank (though they no doubt will try), what with his background as a Wall Street Journal editor. Here's a taste:


One of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Wolfowitz is a political theorist, a 61-year-old man who spent most of his adult life at blackboards and lecterns teaching students about international politics. He may know how to operate an Automatic Teller Machine when in need of ready cash, but he knows absolutely nothing about banking. Wolfensohn, who was a New York investment banker before President Clinton named him to the post a decade ago, at least knows something about banking. His partner in New York, to which I suppose he will return, is Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, our nation's central bank. Wolfie the Warrior, by contrast, is the lifetime sidekick, even protégé, of Richard Perle, probably the most important intellectual in the service of the military-industrial complex. If you want to know how Professor Wolfowitz got the job, follow the money.


Read Wanniski on Wolfowitz, the World Bank and the military-industrial complex


The Beeb offers a more reserved take, but one worth reading.

Inside the trench coat

Until the courts and the pundits and the journos-that-be decide that bloggers really are journalists, your Webwench generally reserves the right to withhold full disclosure while blogging, though some may find it hard to imagine just what she might have left to expose. Here, however, she treats her readers to something of a flash, finding it necessary to report that she has indeed herself toiled in the service of the World Bank, for a year in the translation department applying her monolingual talents to administrative tasks and, in a later stint, as the editorial consultant on the edition of the 2001 Energy & Development Report that served as the Bank's presentation at the U.N.'s Rio+10 summit in Johannesburg.


With this admission, your net-tête hears the door slamming as a contingent of her devoted readers stalks out. To this she says, get real. Yes, the World Bank does many things of questionable value to the impoverished nations in whose economies it mucks around and, yes, it does some things that are outright rotten.


But the Bank is also full of good people who signed on to do good things, things that virtually no other institution has the means or the will to do. It was there that she met the energy specialist who brought electricity to off-grid areas of Asian jungles, sparing the lives of countless women who suffer horrible fates as the result of hunting miles for fuelwood with babies on their backs. It was there that she met a team leader who helped the people of a central Asian city produce a cleaner-burning indoor stove (of the sort that are used inside the cold-weather tents common to the region), lengthening lives and stimulating the local economy in the process. And it was there that she met people devoted to educating local people about the dangers of indoor air pollution and others who ran clinics designed to clean up the output of the two-stroke engines on the motorbikes of Thailand that had clouded the landscape with smog.


Now imagine what the Bank could do under the leadership of someone who, in lieu of building an empire, simply wanted to raise living standards around the world. If we all imagine together perhaps...well, maybe we can at least levitate the Pentagon.**

Oh, I forgot. Timothy Leary's dead.



*For an exploration of the word "trust" as used in this and other contexts, allow yourself a digression to Hendrik Hertzberg's Talk of the Town Comment on Social Security.

**From Camille Paglia, writing in Arion: "[At] the mammoth antiwar protest near Washington, DC, in October 1967, Yippies performed a mock-exorcism to levitate the Pentagon and cast out its demons. Not since early nineteenth-century Romanticism had there been such a strange mix of revolutionary politics with ecstatic nature-worship and sex-charged self-transformation. It is precisely this phantasmagoric religious vision that distinguishes the New Left of the American 1960s from the Old Left of the American 1930..."

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Friday, March 25, 2005

A few brave mastodons

Just as yesterday she made note of the 47 Democrats who, on Sunday night, betrayed the U.S. Constitution (and hence, the American people), today your blogstress celebrates the five brave Republicans who, during the House vote on a bill that yanked the Schiavo case from the jurisdiction of the Florida courts, voted in favor of the government created by the Framers:


Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.)

Michael N. Castle (Del.)

Charles W. Dent (Pa.)

David G. Reichert (Wash.)

Christopher Shays (Conn.)



Most impressive among them is Mr. Shays, who seems to be getting over playing nice, calling it as he sees it. Last night on "Hardball", Shays reiterated what he told the New York Times' Adam Nagourney earlier in the week:


"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."


Read Nagorney's piece



Pretty strong stuff from a nice man. Theocracy! It's an obvious fact that most Democrats don't have the guts to allege. Yet, with Randall Terry, late of Operation Rescue, representing Schiavo's parents before the media, isn't it obvious that this case has nothing to do with morality, and everything to do with authoritarianism?


Read Rep. Shays's statement on the House action regarding Terri Schiavo

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Et tu, Donkeys?

Today's activity around the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose future her family is famously fighting over, reached a frightening level of absurdity when Florida Governor Jeb Bush stood poised to the sieze custody of Schiavo. Then some sort of sanity ensued when the Supreme Court of the United States, in a cryptic decision, refused to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube, as her parents had wanted and her husband did not.

Alas, the high court, according to news reports, offered no real reason for its refusal. Your blogstress hopes against hope that it was based on the unconstitutionality of the congressional vote that brought the matter before the Supreme Court for a fifth time. And if that's the case, it's a lesson the American people desperately need to hear. In fact, your cybertrix thinks that a concerted, organized campaign to educate the public on just what exactly the Constitution says is in order, and she would gladly wield a chalkboard pointer in its service.

Until that happy day, she offers this, a list of all of the House Democrats who voted against the Constitution last Sunday night and for the bill titled, For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo:


Joe Baca (Calif.)

Melissa L. Beam (Ill.)

Marion Berry (Ark.)

Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (Ga.)

Dan Boren (Okla.)

Robert Brady (Penn.)

Ben Chandler (Ky.)

Jerry Costello (Ill.)

Robert E. "Bud" Cramer (Ala.)

Lincoln Davis (Tenn.)

Chet Edwards (Tex.)

Bob Etheridge (N.C.)

Chaka Fattah (Penn.)

Harold Ford (Tenn.)

Al Green (Tex.)

Stephanie Herseth (S.D.)

Tim Holden (Penn.)

Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Ill.)

Paul E. Kanjorski (Penn.)

Jim Langevin (R.I.)

Daniel Lipinski (Ill.)

Jim Marshall (Ga.)

Jim Matheson (Utah)

Mike McIntyre (N.C.)

Michael R. McNulty (N.Y.)

Kendrick Meek (Fla.)

Charlie Melancon (La.)

Michael Michaud (Maine)

Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.)

James L. Oberstar (Minn.)

Earl Pomeroy (N.D.)

Mike Ross (Ark.)

David Scott (Ga.)

José Serrano (N.Y.)

Ike Skelton (Mo.)

Vic Snyder (Ark.)

Bart Stupak (Mich.)

John Tanner (Tenn.)

Albert Wynn (Md.)


Note: The senators very cleverly avoided a roll call vote on their version of the bill, so we'll never really know which Dems wussed in the upper chamber.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bright spots and wedgies

If you're looking for a bright spot in the maelstrom, consider the several ways in which elements of the GOP appear to be poised for a rift.

In today's New York Times, Adam Nagourney tells us that not all Republicans--nor all conservatives, for that matter--are cheered by Congress's trampling of the Constitution in the Terri Schiavo case:

"This is a clash between the social conservatives and the process conservatives, and I would count myself a process conservative," said David Davenport of the Hoover Institute, a conservative research organization. "When a case like this has been heard by 19 judges in six courts and it's been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the process has worked - even if it hasn't given the result that the social conservatives want. For Congress to step in really is a violation of federalism."

Read Nagorney's piece


Several days ago, the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, Jr., wrote of another tear in the making--between Tom DeLay's most loyal soldiers and religious conservatives:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ethics troubles threaten more than his own political future. They have the potential to create a much wider scandal over lobbying on the Indian gambling issue and to open a rift among socially conservative Republicans.

Read E.J. Dionne on the gambling rift


Now, if only a few Democrats would get off their morally superior horses and get busy setting a wedge or two.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

You tell me it's the Constitution


WASHINGTON, D.C.--As the Terri Schiavo case wends its way back up to the highest court in the land, the United States Constitution is gasping for breath. But if, like most Americans, you get your news from the broadcast media, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this case, as well as the extraordinary congressional vote that took place on Sunday, was about one family's quest to save their daughter's life. And who can blame them for taking their quest to whatever quarter would hear them?

Yet, with Congress's cynical vote to override the jurisdiction of a state court, the crisis of Terri Schiavo's parents has brought the nation to its own crisis. A constitutional crisis.

Lest you think your blogstress seized by the hyperbole demon, she asks her gentle reader to consider just what it means when the nation's top legislative body refuses to let an exhausted judicial process stand, simply because it rejects the court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court, after all, had refused to review the ultimate decision of the Florida court on the right of Terri Schiavo's guardian to remove her feeding tube based on medical diagnoses. And the Constitution's framers, I'll wager, were pretty certain that they had designated the Supreme Court, and not the House of Representatives, as the end of the legal line.

It's been headed this way for a while. In the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers seemed to be the only one to take note of two other pieces of House legislation (one of which rocked AddieStan's world) in which the House seemed to reserve for itself the right to determine the outcome of certain cases that may arrive before a federal court. In September, the House passed a bill that banned federal courts from enacting any decision that would result in the removal of the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. At the time, your cybertrix felt alone in her state of alarm as the bill received only minor note in the media since it was unlikely to pass the Senate. No one seemed distressed by the fact that a majority of the larger legislative body had voted to trample on the Constitution.

Our nation, it seems, is set to suffer the kind of rule that perhaps, in its contempt for its own grand heritage, it deserves.

As Conyers said on the House floor this Sunday night:

There is only one principle at stake here--manipulating the court system to achieve pre-determined substantive outcomes. By passing this law, it should be obvious to all that we are no longer a nation of laws, but have been reduced to a nation of men. By passing this law, we will be telling our friends abroad that even though we expect them to live by the rule of law, Congress can ignore it when it doesn't suit our needs. By passing this law we diminish our nation as a democracy and ourselves as legislators.

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