Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Confirmed

Blah blah, let's see where this takes us. Anyway...

Chaffee voted against Alito. Good on him for actually representing the views of his state. There's been a lot of discussion about him and NARAL, and I'm glad to see he's not wholly an empty suit.

Kerry's filibuster attempt. Clearly the definition of lame, and yet...

I am unimpressed by arguments that since he made the call from Switzerland, he is not only politically stupid but morally depraved and all around sucky. I may understand xenophobia in terms of political necessity, but I'm not going to yell about how elitist other countries are and that leaders need to avoid them.

And there's something here about the long game. Politicians need to pay more attention to the future, and act now based on what they know will be true then - instead of what appears true now. There is a very good chance Alito will overturn Roe v Wade, or be a deciding vote in some other horrible Supreme Court decision. The American people seem to feel they don't support overturning Roe v Wade, but the Democrats have failed to capitalize on this because they have failed to connect overturning RvW and the passage of Alito. Unfortunate but true.

However, when RvW is overturned (or some other hot button judicial decision happens), that connection will be easy. If it comes before 2008, you know what? Kerry will say "I did what I could to stop it. Where were you Hillary? Why didn't you filibuster this man?" No one will care that he was at Davos at the time.

PS: I don't know if Kerry intends to run in 2008, or what any of his personal goals for the rest of his Senate career are. But in terms of any future with the left, I think saying "I did everything I could to stop Alito" will be an asset.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Difficult Unravelings

One of the reasons it's so annoying to see political hay made out of legal decisions, is because legal arguments are very complicated and generally have a lot more going on that just the policy at hand.

For instance, the most recent SCOTUS ruling on federal action against the Oregonian referendum on assisted suicide. They struck down attempts at federal intervention (at least by the executive branch).

George Will decided to burnish his conservative-contrarian credentials by praising the "anti-pro-life" ruling as conservative. The SCOTUS decided to let the Oregon law stand, after all and bowed to democratic will.

The three dissenters—John Roberts and Clarence Thomas embracing Antonin Scalia's argument—favored striking down the law that Oregonians passed in a 1994 referendum and resoundingly reaffirmed by a 60 percent vote against a 1997 attempt to repeal it. The dissent by the three conservatives could be characterized as liberal—judicial activism favoring the federal government's aggrandizement of its power at the expense of federalism.

Except well, executive action counts as democratic will as well. The president was legally elected, and what the court actually did was overrule the actions the federal government wanted to take.*

The issue was a matter of competition between two democratic bodies, and the court was simply interpreting a congressional law as to decide who held precedence here, for now. Not some "activist" scenario pitting a clear democratic will and some arcane interpretation of the constitution. And in fact this is what high courts in every republic deal with every day, as these are very important issues.


1) Simply praising one side of the ruling or the other as "democratic" or "judicial activist" is myopic and simplistic. And thus such descriptions are largely based on partisan motivation.

2) We need to be appointing our justices on better things than their view of when life begins and ends.

*Yes, it could supposedly be viewed as a federal vs state issue then. Well the who judicial activism label isn't about deferring specifically to state authority. And more importantly, the court isn't choosing to say states get final say, but rather whether a Congressional law passed years ago gives the executive power to overrule states, taking into account the previous judicial and executive interpretations. As said previously, these things get really complicated.


Monday, January 23, 2006

"Truce" and Democratic talking points

The right wing is getting a lot of hey from this offer of Bin Laden asking for a truce or whatnot. It shows Bush's war is working, and it has implicit connotations of liberals who would seek peace. Here's what I think the proper liberal response would be.

Would we make a truce with Lee Harvey Oswald, or the DC sniper? No.

Would we make a truce with Stalin or Pol Pot, or if possible Hitler? Yeah.

What's the difference? You make treaties with heads of state, not criminals.

Osama (and the problem of terrorism) should be dealt with that way. He is a criminal who follows no agreements, has no tangible power-base, and would be quickly replaced if he individually conceded.

Terrorism is a police problem.