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July 27, 2004
Oh, Well

I wanted to watch the opening events for the Convention last night but my roommate was unexpectedly at home and since she's not a fan of political news coverage, I only wound up seeing about 30 seconds of it.

How on earth did Congress manage to pass this clearly unconstitutional Act?

Well, it's obvious, isn't it? They did it on purpose. Passed a bill that won't last, I mean. They want to be able to tell their conservative constituents they voted for it, but there was no way they could gather the votes to pass any Act that would actually survive a challenge. So they spent who-knows how much time and money passing something pretty much guaranteed to fail.

It's okay to vote your conscience, though. 23 Senators bravely voted against the Iraq war in 2002 and don't seem to regret it.

Seems there's been a Rocky Mountaineers Revolt and I'm glad to hear it.

Planned gas drilling of tens of thousands of wells has unleashed a backlash among ranchers, farmers and independent business people from New Mexico to Montana.

I don't have anything against exploiting our own natural resources to lessen our dependence on oil from other countries, but...well, let's rephrase that. I have a lot against the continued insistence on exploiting the limited reserves of the planet instead of putting our effort into developing alternative, renewable, less-polluting sources of energy. (And don't tell me it's impossible. Whenever we want a way to kill more people faster, they find billions to hand out for weapons research. If we cared half that much about clean, renewable energy, we'd get the job done.)

If we don't start making some realistic long-term plans we might need an ark for more than endangered animals.

Hundreds of defectors reach South Korea

More than 200 North Koreans arrived in South Korea on Tuesday behind a wall of secrecy in the biggest influx yet of defectors from the North.

Officials said the mass arrival was ‘‘sensitive’’ and refused to discuss details, disclosing only that an Asiana Airlines flight had airlifted the North Koreans from a Southeast Asian nation they would not specify.


China shows military muscle in weekend drill

About 3,000 people took part in a two-day weekend military exercise off the southeastern coast amid increasing tensions with Taiwan, people.com.cn reported Monday.

Officers and soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), militia and paramilitary police participated in the drill, which concluded on Sunday in Zhangzhou, East China's Fujian Province.

On Saturday afternoon, the exercise started with the lift-off of three red signal flares and lasted for one and half hours, said the report.

Receiving orders, the defence mobilization committee of the city of Zhangzhou rapidly mobilized and organized the local citizens to enter a state of war.

The exercise focused on how to provide support to the PLA on the sea when the war broke out.

The report did not say at whom the exercise was aimed. However, the PLA and the Taiwan army are now both conducting military exercises.


Posted by AnneZook at 07:04 AM


"How on earth did Congress manage to pass this clearly unconstitutional Act?"

Part of the right-wing's continuing war against the courts. It's funny that a House member can vote for this thing and still seriously call themselves "conservative". Yes, lets destroy the almost 1,000 year old English tradition of independent courts, let's make ourselves a lot more like France, all the while denouncing France as a socialist nightmare, let's engage in this radical experiment, and let's call our ideas "conservatism". What an abuse of the language.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 27, 2004 10:28 AM

Umm..I'm not a lawyer but I did stay at a Holiday inn express last night..

It seems the intent of the bill was to force the Supreme Court to get any case about the DOMA from the start as opposed to letting it work through the various layers and having say the 9th Circuit strike it down which would become the de facto law while the SCOTUS took its time to hear the appeal and then might come up with some lame excuse like they did with the Newdow case on the Pledge of Allegiance..I don't think the bill meant the DOMA was free from review, just that only the Supreme Court which was not established by an Act of Congress could review it..

It seems the constitutionality might hinge on "courts created by Congress" wording - but I'm not sure "clearly" is the right word..there's an argument based on the Constitution, but the court may find it unconstitutional..It's still a dangerous path to start on, but I think sometimes the SCOTUS ought to suck it up and just issue a ruling or opinion even without a case when an issue has risen to a significant level with lots of implications for society *Yes, I'm aware that's a vague standard, but the 9 Learned Justices I think can figure out the very few issues that might merit a pre-emptive ruling..*

..or at least issue an "advisory" to Congress..even with the caveats that the advisory is not etched in stone..

Activist courts can be in the eye of the beholder..if SCOTUS was 9 Scalias who struck down Roe, then I suspect liberals would say that "strict interpretation" is activism by another name..

And actually, DOD is trying to find ways NOT to kill people (see the Sunday NYT magazine article..sorry, don't have the link)..

And the Chinese do these exercises every year..especially when they have just told Condi Rice they're not pleased we keep selling arms to a nation we sort of don't recognize..but until they actually have the capability to project and sustain forces over water, it's just like the DPRK that spends money every year to put on a big maneuver in conjunction with our annual exercise with SK..

Posted by: Col Steve at July 28, 2004 12:58 AM

"Activist courts can be in the eye of the beholder"

That's an off target remark. Reasonable people of both the Left and the Right (go read the Volkoh Conspiracy weblog) want the courts to maintain their independence. It's been an understood English tradition for almost 900 years that the courts sometimes invent new law through precedent - that is part of their job (though some now attack it as "activism"). That may have been controversial before the English Civil War (were the courts allowed to rule against the King?) but the English Civil war (1641-1660) and the resulting Constitutional Settlement (1688) officially established the practice once and for all. That is why it is so crazy for those who fight against this tradition to call themselves "conservatives." They are, in fact, radicals at war with an ancient tradition that has long been the foundation stone of English liberty and the rule of law.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 28, 2004 11:31 AM

Leaving questions of "independence" aside, I'd like to make it clear that I think a court is, by nature, "activist."

What is "activism" but interpretation of the law (used as an insult when someone is interpreting a law in a way we don't personally like)?

What do the courts do? Apply the laws? Is it possible to "apply" without "interpreting"? I don't think so.

And, Col Steve I think that pre-emptive ruling is a slippery slope. There are few issues that could not be worded broadly enough to make an argument that they qualify for "pre-emptive ruling." Our current system may be a bit sloppy, but sloppiness is good for freedom and democracy.

Freedom isn't the pavement of society. It's the grass growing in the cracks.

Posted by: Anne at July 28, 2004 01:52 PM

Col Steve - Let me make one thing clear for now and the future.

I do not think "the military" wants to kill people.

I do not think think most soldiers look forward to the opportunity to shoot someone.

I do think most officers in the military would, given the opportunity, work very, very hard to keep their troops out of places where they had to kill or be killed.

However, there is a difference (in my mind) between that military and the DoD.

The DoD is a huge government bureaucracy that, like all bureaucracies, exists for the purpose of continuing its own existence. Regardless of anything else, it has to keep justifying its existence and its size every year. That means money.

Money means they have to spend money and show they need more money. New weapons programs are a logical place for them to spend money. Thus, they keep working on developing new weapons.

There's another whole rant I could get into about power, the men who rise to the top in systems based on power, and the relationship between power and money in D.C., but I think it's pretty obvious.

The fact is, though, that the men in charge aren't going to do anything to jeopardize their power base. and their power base is built on their ability to deal out (or at least threaten) death.

(If war didn't involve killing, anyone could do it.)

The entire subject has just stirred up a whirlwhind of confusion about the whole "let's kill some people"* thing in my head again and I'm not prepared to deal with it today.

(*Not in terms of our military. It's the violence across the globe and the fact that there doesn't seem to be any way to eliminate it that doesn't require more violence.)

Posted by: Anne at July 28, 2004 02:08 PM

Let me make one thing clear for now and the future

I'm standing at attention! I never meant to imply your comments were derogatory to the military - I was actually pointing out that the article is representative of a fledgling, yet (I'm hoping) growing movement that looks at defense more holistically (or I'm a little bias because it's an area I've been pushing to get more attention)

The DoD is a huge government bureaucracy that, like all bureaucracies, exists for the purpose of continuing its own existence. Regardless of anything else, it has to keep justifying its existence and its size every year. That means money.

I'm not going to challenge organizational theory with regards to the slice of the pie..but I'm pretty sure DoD is confident of its relevance..

and their power base is built on their ability to deal out (or at least threaten) death.

No, I think the culture is changing..I think more and more people in DoD view defense as dealing with a greater spectrum of conflict that ranges from global nuclear war to humanitarian and cooperation engagements..the base is on projecting capabilities to create desired effects of which death is one of the more severe to be sure..but effects are being viewed through a much wider lens..

Lawrence - I'm not disputing your history or that the court sets precedents - just making a point that the relationship should evolve as society changes...gathering the legislature and drafting law is not as cumbersome as process as 200 year ago..I agree that it's a nuanced position about activism because yes, courts must interpret the law and in doing so, either validate or invalidate existing laws or policies. I guess my definition of activism is not the interpretation, but the need then to solve the issue instead of demanding the legislature resolve the issue within a set period..I don't see activism as just "liberal judges" as you have Republican appointed judges doing the same things.

.I had in my original post a comment about asking for clarity on "independence" and should have left it..

Freedom isn't the pavement of society. It's the grass growing in the cracks.

Yes, but society's can't live forever with contradictions (the grass can grow for sure, but if the grass grows to the point where people are stumbling because they can't see the cracks, then that's not so good)..Take same-sex marriage.

You have the DOMA at the Federal level, some states saying SSM is constitutional in their state, and a big unknown about how the full faith and credit act applies..

I think this is a state issue but in the interim, why can't the SCOTUS at least get together and give a ruling on whether the DOMA is constitutional and whether the FFCA applies?..it's not as if there is a lot of different cases that could make their way up with regards to the DOMA..

When contradictions hang around and the organization that supposed to resolve them in this case sits idly by for the "process", then you get dumb and short-sided responses by other organizations such as amending the Constitution or this Act on limiting review to only the SCOTUS..

Posted by: Col Steve at July 30, 2004 12:21 AM

Col. Steve:

I'm not going to challenge organizational theory with regards to the slice of the pie..but I'm pretty sure DoD is confident of its relevance..

Bah. Only because they have all the guns. ;)

Seriously, I'm not implying that the DoD is in any danger of being disbanded. (Nor that I'd favor that.) Just that, well, there is (or was, before we adoped "pre-emptive war" as a policy) a case to be made that we don't actually need the largest standing army in the world and we don't need to spend ten or fifteen times what any other country in the world spends on "defense."

But beyond that, power does more than keep a department from being disbanded. It can also stifle oversight, help bury scandals, and influence policy.

The DoD is about more than keeping a fighting force trained and ready to go. You may not like it (I don't myself), but it's a significant voice in setting policy. The money the DoD has to spend makes Senators and Congressmen drool when they think about coaxing some of it into the pockets of their own voters, which influences votes.

But I'm also uneasy about the culture "changing" in the way you mention.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about peace and "Weapons of Mass Construction" instead of Weapons of Mass Destruction." I believe in that kind of international effort.

But...an army is an army. Whatever we think of the idea, they're the Might we use to enforce Right (whenever all else fails). I'm concerned about...well, about dilution.

If we need humanitarian aid, let's put together a standing humanitarian force. But don't train soldiers to kill on command and then be surprised when they're not good at traffic directing and public relations.

Don't be surprised when they're confused by having to lay down their guns and pick up plowshares so they can be "humanitarian" to the people they just barely avoided killing the day before.

I just don't see how it can work. You can't expect them to look through a gun sight and see nothing but an enemy target one day, then demand they see these "targets" as people with a society and culture that has to be respected the next day.

It just seems unreasonable to me.

(I'm constantly amazed and impressed by the amount of "humanitarian" effort the soldiers are able to put forth. Maybe I'm selling humanity short in thinking this dichotomy is too big a strain?)

Now that I've aired my ignorance extensively, I have some free time, so I'm going to try again to find the article you mentioned.

Posted by: Anne at July 30, 2004 07:23 PM

Col. Steve:

I found the article. I read the article. I withdraw my doubts.


Posted by: Anne at July 30, 2004 07:48 PM