I Love A Parade
It's cheesy to the max, but I'm always a sucker for our fair city's annual Memorial Day Parade. This year's was special because we also opened a new park right on the river named for our former mayor.
A local charity group also installed a field of 500 American flags, and then sold them off to raise funds.
More photos later tonight.
Marchand Chronicles: Newsweek & Pepsi
Toilets And Middle Fingers
Mike MarchandThe Marchand Chronicles
May 23, 2005
It's like the old (and dirty) joke: "You end two tyrannies, and you're not hailed as heroes. You free millions of people, and you're not considered liberators.
"But you flush one
Koran . . ."
. . . and riots ensue that kill at least 17 people. Even worse was that the Koran-in-the-toilet factoid wasn't true: according to the correction on the Newsweek website
, no evidence exists of any "Qur'an abuse" at Guantanamo Bay.
But even the rumor that a copy of the "Qur'an" had been flushed down the Qum'mode was enough to inflame the Islamic world to issue fatwas
and vow jihad
. Even if the story were accurate, it's still a telling observation about the "Arab Street" that when a brief blurb in a magazine on the other side of the world alleges the U.S. military engaged in "Qur'an abuse" — even though Gitmo detainees have themselves stuck Korans in toilets as a protest — they form riotous mobs that leave more than a dozen dead. While there is much to respect about a culture that treats their sacred texts as, well, sacred, their reaction to any insult by foreign "infidels" — whether real or not — says a lot more about them than it does about us.
In such an environment, would it not be an unreasonable suggestion to, say, American business school graduates, that in foreign environments they should be on their best behavior, lest their trespasses become international incidents?
Not if you're Indra Nooyi, president and CFO of PepsiCo. In her commencement address to the graduates of Columbia Business School (link: PDF
) last week, she used a metaphor for the United States that represented both its vital status and its propensity to anger other nations: the middle finger.
While perhaps not the most delicate analogy (and probably somewhat anatomically inaccurate as well), it's a valid comparison if only because many of the world's citizens believe it. While she didn't explicitly mention nor even imply the riots spurred by the Newsweek
report, it's a perfect backdrop to the reality of her speech: that slights, even perceived
slights, have the potential to reflect badly on not just themselves, but the U.S. as a whole.
However, Ms. Nooyi's attempted symbolization of America as the middle finger angered many who considered the gesture outrageous and unpatriotic. After an apology in which she aptly noted that she had "proven her own point" about the dangers of being offensive, her critics still weren't impressed. Radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt asked
What's missing from this? How about any positive statement about what America does for the world, from liberating Afghanistan and Iraq to billions in tsunami relief? How about pouring AIDs relief into Africa and sending products, services, technology and trade around the globe. How about a full-throated defense of the country that analogizes it not to the middle finger but to the shoulders and spine of the planet, the last best hope of mankind.
Well, because it's not a foreign policy oration, it's a commencement address about international business.
But even if she had began the sentence immediately after the middle finger analogy with something like "The United States has done many things in its history which should dispel this perception . . ." she would still have to conclude, as she did, that "Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now." And her warning would still be applicable.
Furthermore, even though I agree with Hugh's point, the drive to make someone genuflect before all the good that America has done in the world strikes me as creepy. While Ms. Nooyi is an American citizen, she's originally from India.
The American reaction to Ms. Nooyi's address is, of course, several orders of magnitude from the Islamic reaction to the Newsweek
vignette, and the last thing I want to do is suggest that they are in any way similar. In America, desecration of hallowed symbols is constitutionally protected, as it should be. And even the angriest response to Ms. Nooyi's statement would be a full-scale boycott of Pepsi and all of its subsidiaries, not riots that result in multiple deaths.
But let's not lose focus and overreact because a corporate executive was insufficiently sensitive about metaphors in one speech. Regardless of her rhetorical faux pas
, what Ms. Nooyi said at Columbia was true; what Newsweek
printed was not. Moreover, the criticism of mainstream media is that their reports on the war lack context and deliver a stunted, myopic view of events; while Indra Nooyi didn't deliver any context, her speech was at least cognizant of the reality elsewhere in the world.
Would that Newsweek
could say the same.
I Will Post My Essay Soon . . .
. . . but I postponed it so I could read Bill Whittle's new essay, SANCTUARY
. Somehow it existed for five days without my knowing about it.
I'm actually relieved that I still have the urge to write after reading Bill Whittle. Most of the time I'm despondent because I know, in my heart, I can't come up with anything one-tenth as brilliant and wonderful even if I were paid a million dollars to do it.
. Then reread it. Then reread it again.
My Long Disappearance Explained
Or: I Am A Huge Sellout
It's a hard way to make an easy living.
I've spent the last couple weeks attempting to rack up enough points through Full Tilt Poker
's bonus program to get a seat into the World Series Of Poker main event. It'd also be nice to make some money on the side.
Unfortunately, it's slower going than I thought.
I started out very well; in fact, my first-ever hand at a real-money table was Aª
. Several hands later I woke up with K¨
. Both times I made a nice haul.
Sadly, you can't get those kinds of hands all the time, and I'm currently down about 25% of my investment.
I've learned, the hard way, that no-limit hold'em tournaments
and limit hold'em ring games
are two different beasts, even though they're ostensibly the same game. In no-limit, you try to beat people to death with sledgehammers (metaphorically speaking), but in limit, you have to inflict a thousand paper cuts. In a tournament, you can lose significant chunks of stack without really affecting your overall cashflow (unless you bust out), but in a ring game, each loss (or win) represents real money.
I could play my usual hyperagressive, sledgehammer-swinging style with pocket aces or kings because, well, they're pocket aces or kings, and you're supposed to jam the pot with them. But what if I have middle pair with a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw? In no-limit, I fold almost all the time if I face a sizable bet: the odds just aren't there. But in limit, in certain circumstances, you can ride some hands out to see if the draws hit.
Since bets are rigidly defined in limit (I've been playing at $1/$2 tables, where bets are $1 pre-flop and on third street, $2 on the turn and river), I've been taking beats by longshot draws that I never see in no-limit. Only idiots play 9§
and attempt to hit a flush in no-limit. But in limit, while it's still not the brightest play in the world, it can work, because the bets are smaller. In fact, I lost to that very hand while holding A¨
. I was very, very angry: Why did you stay in with that awful hand? Why can't you play smart and fold crappy hands, like me?
But then again: he won and I lost. Perhaps
I'm the one who needs to adapt.
Thanks to some tips from Beck
, I realize that I'm going to have to do just that: adjusting my style to fit the game will work a lot better than bitching because the game doesn't fit my style. In the meantime, I'm going to have to take those beats in stride, because the parameters of the game just make them more possible.
If not, I can still crush my weekly no-limit tournament. Wednesday night I cashed out for $70.
Oh: I'm not sure if it's really noticeable (hmm), but I've joined the Full Tilt Poker
Affiliate Program. FTP has, without a doubt, the most generous deposit bonus program
and, in addition to all the ways you can get into the WSOP, tournaments to let you play along with their pros, and it is an impressive roster: Howard Lederer
, Phil Ivey
, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
, and Phil Gordon
, among others. Just use the Bonus Code MARCHRON
when you sign up.
If you sign up with me, then hell freezes over and I make the WSOP, I promise I'll send you an exclusive souvenir, free. No shipping. Otherwise . . . well, I'll think of something.
And I promise I'll start blogging again soon, probably because I'm going to go broke in the near future and will have to come back to blogging to occupy my time.
Really, I Do
No essay this week, and barring major events, I'm probably going to be posting lightly. Can't tell you why.
I know, I know, I'm a douchebag.
But, in the meantime, Michael Totten
has returned from Lebanon. Although he was part of one of the most wondrous experiences in recent history, all people asked about were the Lebanese Protest Supermodels™. So he posted a gallery
God bless you, Mr. Totten.
Though there are all manner of scorching hotties in the gallery, the most beautiful by far (and I am an expert) is Joumanna Nasr:
In addition to being positively sizzling, she's one-third of the editorial board of the Pulse Of Freedom
blog, being written live from the Martyr's Square Tent City in Beirut.
What she writes is vastly more important than the crap I shovel at you, anyway.
Brad Richards Gloats
Decides To Drop An F-Bomb
Brad Richards, my weaselly first e-mail flamer
, decided to write back. Again, he makes a mockery of Shakespeare's wisdom about brevity and wit:Date: Fri, 06 May 2005 20:23:37 +0000
Subject: Re: You are an idiot
I'm glad I was able to destract you from writing your political vomit
for so long with a simple
"you're an idiot.
Write me back, please!
P.S. - You're a fucking idiot!
Yes, I often find myself destracted
. But at least I'm not so destracted
that I forget to use the close-quote.
What are you, 12 years old? I thought you couldn't get any weaker.
Cubs Lose Seven Straight
Resilient Diehard Fans Pack It In
So the Cubs have lost seven straight games. The good news is they're still in third place! The bad news is that they enter action today already six back of St. Louis.
I don't feel like giving a detailed analysis of why the Cubs are performing so disastrously. Their most important players have proven to be as durable as a papier-maché sledgehammer. Their pitching is, for the most part, awful; they can score runs but not manufacture them; and while I haven't really studied the defense I'll just assume it stinks, too. As for coaching and management . . . well, I haven't yet bought a Mothers' Day gift for my mom, and if I get started on Dusty Baker I can easily run past Fathers' Day.
While I'm not quite ready to completely give up on the season, others have. The Uncouth Sloth has already eulogized them
The Cubs look to avoid getting swept today by the also-hurt, also-disappointing Phillies. A reminder for the hitters: the idea is to hit the white thing with the wooden stick. And to the pitchers: try to aim for over that funny-shaped object, somewhere between knee- and chest-high.
Too Brilliant Too Early, Again
Or Am I Just Really Late?
Earlier this week, Glenn Reynolds
and Mickey Kaus
were bantering about the filibuster, prompted by an Instapundit link of this post by Tigerhawk
, in which he said, in part:
If you are going to filibuster, then you should have to filibuster. Filibusters should come at some personal and political cost. We should abolish the candy-ass filibusters of modern times, and require that if debate is not closed it must therefore happen.
The prospect of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy bloviating for hours on C-SPAN would deter filibusters except when the stakes are dire, if for no other reason than the risk that long debate would create a huge amount of fodder for negative advertising. If Frist were to enact the "reform" of the filibuster instead of its repeal, he would sieze the high ground.
This is not quite my position on the "nuclear option"
: I think it's the right thing to do, just politically problematic.
All the same, though: I was two weeks sooner to the punch on advocating genuine filibusters, and even made virtually the same point about the benefits of nonstop Democratic jabbering with two of the same examples (Kerry and Kennedy; I had Boxer and Schumer instead of Hillary, though). Former Secretary Of Labor nominee Linda Chavez agrees
Kaus thinks forcing the Dems to launch an honest-to-God filibuster is really "a non-solution to the problem confronting the Senate today--which is whether a minority should be able to block a Supreme Court nominee supported by a majority (but less than 60%)." I agree: the GOP's tack should be to let the Democrats exhaust themselves filibustering, and then when it's clear they've lost the debate, then
institute the rule change (what are they going to do, filibuster that
?). That being the case, I'd like to welcome Dick Morris
to Camp Marchand:
When vote after vote for closure fails, usually by the same deadening margin, the voters will increasingly see the case for squelching the filibuster and then the nuclear option would be welcome by the nation.
. . .
Frist and the GOP need to let the Democrats demonstrate how noxious the filibuster really is before they try to explain to America why they are curtailing it. And the best way to do that is to let the Democrats deploy their weapon. Call their bluff. And let ’er rip!
Of course, Patterico
was had an even better idea
six months ago. He even called it "Conventional Warfare," and I unwittingly stole his thunder by naming my essay
the same thing.
Sorry about that.
Beth Thinks I'm A Proctologist
That's Just Nassty
In her comment
to my latest essay
, Beth from My VRWC
suggests that I've performed a "colonic irrigation" on Al Gore.
Come on, now, that's not true; robots don't have colons.
I've also been linked to by an Italian blog
. I can't read Italian, so I can't say for sure if he picked up on the "colonic irrigation" theme, but he did accent his post with this picture, which looks like Gore is in the middle of some sort of exam:
It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.
Pissed Epistle: My First Hate Mail
Awwww, Isn't It Cute??
I received my first-ever hate mail for Marchron earlier this week. Judging by its utter suckitude, I think it's the first hate mail he's ever sent, too.
I hope he read that "I reserve the right to post any and all criticisms and flames." If he didn't . . . well, that's just too damn bad:Date: Wed, 04 May 2005 4:09:32 +0000
Subject: You are an idiot
>I'm Gina Cora's boyfriend. We both think you are an idiot.
Devastating. I should raise the white flag of surrender now.
Or I could say this:Hello,
Who the hell are you? Oh, you're "Gina Cora's boyfriend." Well, that's very helpful. Who the hell is she?
Waaaaiiitt, I remember now; Gina Cora was one of my detractors when I was writing for The Observer. As I recall, she was one of my more unpersuasive and hysterical respondents. I suppose the knowledge that I've started a blog made her catch the vapors, so much so that she was unable to comment and/or reply on her own.
In that case, I should commend you. Chivalry is not dead! You have valiantly taken up the sword to defend your lady's honor! "I shall run the bastard through with my rapier wit! When I tell the foul right-wing beast that we both think him to be an 'idiot,' he will withdraw to his smelly dark cave, and victory shall be ours!"
Truly, thou art a knight of impressive skill and impeccable honor. To further antagonize you would surely lead to my own awful demise.
But, then again, I'm an idiot.
Most people, when they decide to send someone a note of disagreement, at least summon up the courage to illustrate where the recipient was wrong. I suppose you, given your utter dismissal, disagree with everything I've ever said; in which case you could have bothered to point out what really set you off.
However, you chose a different avenue, and an oh-so-gutsy one it was: you simply name-dropped your girlfriend, as if she were Keyser Soze and the mere mention of your connection to her would make me soil myself with fear. Putting aside the question of why either of you consider yourselves capable of informed commentary on my intelligence, that's just . . . weak. Even for a drive-by flaming. For God's sake, I hope you're getting a better education on how to be persuasive by Northwestern's Law School. I can just see it now:
JUDGE: Your closing argument, Counselor Richards?
YOU: [rises] Ladies and gentlemen of the jury . . . this is my girlfriend, Gina Cora. We both think opposing counsel is an idiot. [sits]
GINA: [whispering] Good job, honey.
I mean, really. It's not as if my comments are so impervious to counterargument. They are, however, impervious to the cyberspace equivalent of leaving a flaming bag of dog poop on my doorstep and then running, and what you wrote doesn't even come close to THAT. You lit a fake novelty turd in front of my door, and compounded that by sticking around and introducing yourself by way of your girlfriend. Admittedly, that's slightly less cowardly than just adding an anonymous comment at the end of one of my posts, but I'm not sure if it's any smarter.
So, yeah, whatever you meant to accomplish here, you failed — unless of course you meant to accomplish having me responding to you and quoting both your e-mail (in its entirety of monumental irrelevant, dull nothingness) and my reply in a post; in that case, you've succeeded.
I could go on, but I think I've made my point; which is one more point than what you made.
Linked at My VRWC's Trackback Party!(Edited 5/6 2:32 AM to add the link.)
Marchand Chronicles: Al Gore's MoveOn Speech
Mike MarchandThe Marchand Chronicles
May 2, 2005
It's understandable that Al Gore is unsatisfied with his probable place in history, in the roll call of just-missed presidential candidates alongside Samuel Tilden and Thomas Dewey. Even though he's no longer the flag-bearer of the Democratic Party, he remains a central figure therein, as the disputed result in the 2000 presidential election jumpstarted donations and activism for the despondent left wing.
Last week, he delivered a speech at a MoveOn.org rally
concerning the Senate standoff over judicial nominations (transcript from RCP
). Not surprisingly, Gore opposes the "nuclear option" to break the Democrat-led filibusters, and his address was chock-full of just the kind of boilerplate sloganeering that Democrats will use as their talking points for the issue.
Gore opened his address with a personal anecdote, about how he reacted after losing the Supreme Court decision in 2000 that prevented him from becoming president:
Even though many of my supporters said they were unwilling to accept a ruling which they suspected was brazenly partisan in its motivation and simply not entitled to their respect, less than 24 hours later, I went before the American people to reaffirm the bedrock principle that we are a nation of laws, not men. "There is a higher duty than the one we owe to a political party," I said. "This is America and we put country before party."
The demonstrators and counter-demonstrators left the streets and the nation moved on — as it should have — to accept the inauguration of George W. Bush as our 43rd president.
This is curious for a couple of reasons: first because the Gore team attempted to subvert Florida election law with the willing cooperation of the State Supreme Court; second because groups like MoveOn never really "moved on." To this day, many people have yet to accept Bush's legitimacy. But never mind that now. Gore immediately followed that up with his thesis:
Having gone through that experience, I can tell you — without any doubt whatsoever — that if the justices who formed the majority in Bush v. Gore had not only all been nominated to the court by a Republican president, but had also been confirmed by only Republican senators in party-line votes, America would not have accepted that court's decision.
Moreover, if the confirmation of those justices in the majority had been forced through by running roughshod over 200 years of Senate precedents and engineered by a crass partisan decision on a narrow party-line vote to break the Senate's rules of procedure — then no speech imaginable could have calmed the passions aroused in our country.
The reason why the Supreme Court justices weren't confirmed by party-line votes (with the then-exceptional case of Clarence Thomas) and weren't forced through by altering filibuster rules is because both actions, until recently, just weren't done
Moreover, as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. If any decision comes down to a party-line vote, then by definition both sides are being politically stubborn. But the odd logic emanating from the Democrats on this issue is that their own voluntary decision to be intractably partisan is the Republicans' fault. Gore will offer the justification for this later, but all that needs to be said is that the Democrats
are the ones infringing upon tradition by making confirmation votes a party-line matter and by invoking filibusters, backed by the entire party, on multiple nominees.
Later, Gore conjures up our Founding Fathers, and proceeds to haul out the Ouija board and read their minds:
Our founders gave no role to the House of Representatives in confirming federal judges. If they had believed that a simple majority was all that was needed to safeguard the nation against unwise choices by a partisan president, they might well have given the House as well as the Senate the power to vote on judges.
But they gave the power instead to the Senate, a body of equals, each of whom was given a term of office three times longer than that of a representative, in order to encourage a reflective frame of mind, a distance from the passions of the voters and a capacity for deliberation. They knew that the judges would serve for life and that, therefore, their confirmation should follow a period of advice and consent in which the Senate was an equal partner with the executive.
Gore has to divine the Founders' intentions in this manner because if he had actually read the Constitution, he would have found no evidence for his theory. The Constitution wasn't written to protect political minorities from undue partisanship. As far as that goes, at the time the Constitution was written, senators didn't face "the passions of the voters," since senators weren't popularly elected until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913. As for the Senate existing as an "equal partner" . . . wait, Gore's continuing, I'll get to it in a second:
Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist #78, wrote that the "independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill-humors which the arts of designing men . . . have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.""Help! Help! We're being 'seriously oppressed'! Come see the violence inherent in the system!"
Had Gore, instead of memorizing one pull-quote, read the entirety of Hamilton's words in Federalist #76
, specifically concerning the role of presidential appointments and senatorial confirmations, he would never have baldly asserted that the Senate is supposed to be co-equal with the President in order to prevent excess partisanship. Here's what the Founding Fathers truly believed:
To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. (emphasis added)
In other words, Bush can't nominate Larry Joe Doherty just because he's from Texas
, or his brother Jeb, or Karl Rove, or Simon Cowell.
And even if
the Senate were considered a co-equal partner by the Constitution and its creators, given the near-nonexistent use of the filibuster against judicial nominees for two centuries, it certainly doesn't follow that the filibuster is the Founders' preferred method for senatorial "advice and consent." Al Gore might mention that now, if he didn't have some bogeymen to unleash:
I am genuinely dismayed and deeply concerned by the recent actions of some Republican leaders to undermine the rule of law by demanding the Senate be stripped of its right to unlimited debate where the confirmation of judges is concerned, and even to engage in outright threats and intimidation against federal judges with whom they philosophically disagree.
And there followed nearly 400 words of scary quotes from unnamed Republicans (except Tom DeLay, who was very specifically named). Some were relevant; others, like Ann Coulter's remark that "liberals should be physically intimidated," were not (that remark concerned the possible execution of John Walker Lindh, captured while fighting for the Taliban in late 2001. What does that have to do with judicial confirmations in 2005? Nothing, but dropping a Coulter quote at a MoveOn rally is like tossing a dead animal carcass in the hyena pen at the zoo). After Gore torched every Republican straw man he could find, he then turned on what he saw as the real problem: "extremist organizations," presumably with extreme names, like . . . the Family Research Council, and Focus On The Family.
Anyway, a few more menacing pull-quotes, some comparisons to the religious persecutions that drove immigrants to the New World in the first place, then came this howler:
I remember a time not too long ago when Senate leaders in both parties saw it as part of their responsibility to protect the Senate against the destructive designs of demagogues who would subordinate the workings of our democracy to their narrow factional agendas.
You don't say, Mr. Vice-President? I do, too!
More beware-the-zealots gobbledygook ensued, complete with a reference to Sir Thomas More and the play A Man For All Seasons
, then finally Gore makes his point . . . kinda:
The Senate leaders remind me of More's son-in-law. They are now proposing to cut down a rule that has stood for more than two centuries as a protection for unlimited debate. It has been used for devilish purposes on occasion in American history, but far more frequently, it has been used to protect the right of a minority to make its case.
After this duplicitous blurring of the issue, confusing senatorial legislative
filibusters, which is their sole dominion granted by Article I of the Constitution, with judicial
filibusters, an extra-constitutional commandeering of the president's rights under Article II, there came yet more allusions: to the nascent Iraqi government, to the book of Isaiah, to the labeling of "crises" of the Iraq war and Social Security (remember: it's a MoveOn rally; more dead animal carcasses in the hyena pen). At last our 12th-level Vice President
arrived at something resembling the actual argument:
I served in the Senate for eight of my 16 years in Congress — and then another eight years as president of the Senate in my capacity as vice president. Moreover, my impressions of the Senate date back to earlier decades — because my father was a senator when I was growing up.
From that perspective, I have listened with curiosity to some of the statements made during the current debate. For example, I have heard the Senate Majority Leader, who is from my home state and should know better, say that no court nominee has ever been filibustered before the current president's term. But I vividly remember not only the dozens of nominees sent to the Senate by President Clinton who were denied a vote and filibustered by various means, I also remember in 1968 when my father was the principal sponsor of another Tennessean — Abe Fortas — who was nominated to be chief justice by President Lyndon Johnson. Fortas was filibustered and denied an up or down vote. The cloture vote was taken on October 1, 1968.
When it failed by a vote of 45-43, President Johnson was forced by the filibuster to withdraw the nomination.
Gore spent so much time puffing up his grand rhetorical allusions that he only has time to give the briefest possible précis of actual history. He left a lot out. For example, while Republicans did employ various and sundry methods to block many judicial nominees during Bill Clinton's term, they were the majority party in the Senate. Senate majorities of one party often play hardball with judicial nominees offered by a president of the other party. After Jim Jeffords bolted from the GOP in 2001, the Democrats enjoyed a majority and bottled up plenty of President Bush's nominees. It's a shady practice, but completely allowable. But even then, during the first two years of Clinton's term — when the Republicans were the minority, like the Democrats are a minority now — every last one of his appellate court nominees were voted on and confirmed
Not "dozens," but exactly half a dozen
times in the late 1990s did Republicans attempt to filibuster Clinton's nominees. In every case they failed, because GOP leadership refused to put true muscle behind them. All six got up-or-down votes; furthermore, all six were confirmed. Hence why Gore didn't bother naming any of the Republicans' victims: they all sit on court seats right now.
Only once before 2003 has any cloture vote (vote to end debate) fail for any judicial nominee, and Gore was correct: it was for Abe Fortas. Since Gore didn't spell it out, only keen spotters would note that October 1, 1968 was about a month before the presidential election that year; a contest in which President Johnson was not running. Therefore, he was already somewhat of a lame duck. Abe Fortas was surrounded by several clouds of scandal, so his nomination was almost certainly doomed; he was filibustered most likely because at the time he was a sitting Supreme Court justice, so the Senate was probably attempting to be gentle in its rejection. The filibuster was a bipartisan effort, and Fortas took the hint: he withdrew himself from nomination shortly thereafter and resigned from the Supreme Court eight months later because of yet another scandal (yummy Fortas entrees from Hugh's Place
Of course, that's not how Gore tells it: evidently his "impressions" of his dad's tenure in the Senate are as reliable as his knowledge of the Constitution. According to Gore, the filibuster "forced" LBJ to withdraw Fortas from consideration, as if it were perfectly natural for the Senate to hold veto power over judicial nominees, or for the filibuster to be a binding refusal, as a floor-vote rejection would be.
A natural reaction would be to assume that Bush's slate of judicial nominees are, in Alexander Hamilton's words, "unfit characters," just as Fortas was, and Al Gore tries as hard as he can to convey that. Unfortunately, from these "seven judicial fanatics," he can only hunt up one frightening pull-quote. One.
That's all. When it comes to Republican maliciousness or Christian zealotry, all manner of scary statements are deployed, but these seven nominees are so awful that one sentence is all that can be found to demonize them. Absent any further genuine evidence of unfitness for judicial tenure, Gore must buttress his argument with demagoguery:
[I]f these nominees should ever be confirmed, they would, as a group, intervene in your family's medical decisions and put a narrow version of religious doctrine above, not within, the Constitution. They have shown by their prior records and statements that they would weaken the right to privacy and consistently favor special interests at the expense of middle class America by threatening the minimum wage, worker & consumer protections, the 40-hour workweek, your right to sue your HMO, and your right to clean air and water.
Mmm, dead animal carcasses.
It's no accident that this is straight out of the "How To Bork Nominees" playbook. Gore now owes royalties to Ted Kennedy, who quite famously spewed this tirade against Robert Bork in 1987:
Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is — and is often the only — protector of the individual rights that are at the heart of our democracy.
P.S.: Bork . . . wasn't filibustered.
But Gore's biggest jaw-dropper was yet to come:
Our founders understood that there is in all human beings a natural instinct for power. The Revolution they led was precisely to defeat the all-encompassing power of a tyrant thousands of miles away.
They knew then what Lord Acton summarized so eloquently a hundred years later: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
They knew that when the role of deliberative democracy is diminished, passions are less contained, less channeled within the carefully balanced and separated powers of our Constitution, less checked by the safeguards inherent in our founders' design — and the vacuum left is immediately filled by new forms of power more arbitrary in their exercise and derived less from the consent of the governed than from the unbridled passions of ideology, ultra-nationalist sentiments, racist, tribal and sectarian fervor — and most of all, by those who claim a unique authority granted directly to them by the Almighty.
That is precisely why they established a system of checks and balances to prevent the accretion of power in any one set of hands — either in one individual or a group because they were wary of what Madison famously called "factions."
The next time I hear this argument, I swear on Antonin Scalia's funny-looking hair that I'm going to go on a rampage. This will be the interview from the news report you'll see on CNN:
REPORTER: What happened?
MOVEON MEMBER: Well, I was just minding my own business, holding up a sign that says "Preserve Our Checks & Balances," when some lunatic carrying a large bag and shrieking about dead animal carcasses and hyena pens came from out of nowhere —
REPORTER: What did he do?
MOVEON MEMBER: Well, he pulled something from out of the bag and struck me over the head with it several times before dropping it in my lap and running away.
REPORTER: What was it?
MOVEON MEMBER: It was . . . it was . . . [starting to cry] . . . a civics textbook!
I don't know why, but for some reason I expected a former vice president to be able to get correct the same sort of introductory-level civics concepts immigrants have to learn in order to pass citizenship tests. But no, Al Gore has just proven he'd flunk fifth-grade social studies.
"Checks and balances" doesn't refer to the relationship between Republicans and Democrats. It doesn't even refer, in the broader sense, to the relationship between political majorities and minorities. It refers to the relationship between the different branches of government
As noted earlier, the filibuster — as it's been used almost exclusively, as a legislative
maneuver — is an intra-senate rule. Article I of the Constitution gives the Senate the right to pass whatever rules it sees fit for how it conducts business. The several modifications in the filibuster rule stand as testament to this decision. If the Senate wants to alter the rules of the filibuster, or mandate that all senators must be holding a conch shell to speak, or order that Flemish is the only language permissible to be spoken on the floor — that's their prerogative.
However, filibustering the President's judicial nominees is an unconstitutional usurpation of the executive's role as outlined by Article II, and, hence, is the only violation of "checks and balances" that's actually occurring. Again, Gore is outlining the planned Democrat response to the "nuclear option": blame the Republicans for precisely what they're doing
: whether it's excessive partisanship, derailing Senate tradition, or abusing checks and balances. It's as logical as a con artist calling the police complaining that he'd been suckered.
Gore finally brings it all home in his conclusion:
The rules and traditions of the Senate all derive from this desire to ensure that the voice of the minority could be heard. The filibuster has been at the heart of this tradition for nearly the entire 230 years of the Senate's existence. Yet never before has anyone has felt compelled to try to eliminate it.
Even absent a filibuster, the minority's voice gets to be heard; the filibuster guarantees that the minority's will be followed. In a majority-rule country, that's not a tradition. The filibuster being used seven times to attempt to block judicial nominees in 228 of those 230 years is not a tradition. Just another of Gore's twisted little ironies:
The proposal from the Senate majority leader to abolish the right of unlimited debate is a poison pill for America's democracy. It is the stalking horse for a dangerous American heresy that would substitute persuasion on the merits with bullying and an effort at partisan domination.
Sure; who needs "persuasion on the merits" when various rhetorical dead animal carcasses will do? Duly elected Republican majorities are "extremists," Christian leaders are "zealots" — but Gore's not being a bully. Democrats didn't even use their so-called hallowed tradition of filibusters to attempt to block hated nominees like Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas — but they're not engaging in "partisan domination."
It's a shame. I remember when, not all that long ago, an ex-Vice President's responsibility was "to protect the Senate against the destructive designs of demagogues who would subordinate the workings of our democracy to their narrow factional agendas." Too bad Al doesn't.
Not Dead; Just Working
Like Death, Only With FICA
Contrary to reports . . . okay, well, there are no reports, but I'm not dead, nor have I suddenly and mysteriously fallen off the face of the earth. I've just been working. Three straight twelve-plus hour days, in fact. I get up, I work; I come home, I sleep. That's been my schedule recently. It wouldn't be quite so bad, except 1) a slight shift in my company overtime rules means I don't get paid quite as much as I
used to under the old system, and 2) I didn't have time to wrap up my essay for Monday (it's coming, quite soon).
It's not like I'm just ignoring you readers, though. All the things I had scheduled for Monday I was forced to put off. My student loan and phone bills went unpaid. I wasn't able to pick up the film of some of the pictures I took. I forgot to feed my pets. (Okay, that last one's not true, I don't have any pets. At least, not anymore.) (I seriously don't have pets, don't call the police.)
My work has spread me so thin that I actually experienced de-evolution in the TTLB Ecosystem
. Sunday I was a fish; today I'm a mollusk.
Hopefully I can get back on track. I'd like to once again be a species that someone other than the French enjoy eating.
Fair warning: I reserve the right to post any and all criticisms and flames, in their entirety. Seriously. Just ask