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Category: Politics

Joe Biden's week for news

It must be Joe Biden’s (D-Del) week for attacking civil liberties. This time round, he’s sponsoring a bill that would criminalize raves. It’s already a felony to knowingly house and profit from a drug enterprise; OK, I have no real issues with that other than my general feelings about the War on Drugs (which are negative).

However, extending that law to cover people who throw raves seems sketchy — yes, there are going to be drugs at raves. But there have also been drugs at every rock concert I’ve ever been to in my life. You can’t hold promoters responsible for drug use in the culture; they didn’t create the culture.

Prosecutors in related cases have argued that the venues sell items associated with rave drug culture. Glow sticks. But glow sticks don’t cause drug use, nor are they drug paraphenalia. Both drugs and glow sticks are part of rave culture. What’s next — going after clothing stores that sell rave fashion?

Assassination for fun and victory

Time to go to the the assassination strategy, apparently. Rumsfeld has reportedly given the U.S. Special Ops command direct orders to go after the top leadership of al Qaeda, under their own guidance rather than under the authority of Central Command. It makes a sort of sense, for a country traumatized by civilian deaths; now is probably the best time to switch to an assassination strategy, because we’re so aware of collateral damage (and are finding out that we inflict quite a bit ourselves).

Of course, one still assumes that we would become distressed if England sent SAS into the US to take down IRA leaders living over here. Our leadership continues to neglect the acid test: would we mind if someone else did that to us?

Free the 9/11 thousand!

Judge Gladys Kessler just ruled that the federal government must release the names of everyone who’s been arrested and detained in the course of the September 11th investigations. I can’t find the decision itself online, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

I'm not a huge Salon fan

I’m not a huge Salon fan, but they have the occasional strong article. Today, there’s a very good discussion of the Left Behind series. (If you haven’t seen them, they’re the Christian apocalyptic series of books which is selling like hotcakes.) The article is a good primer on the nature of the books, and is pretty fair. It doesn’t mention that the Left Behind comic books are the best selling comic books in the US right now, but I’ll go ahead and mention it for them. It’s more important, and more interesting, to discuss the author’s connection to conservative politics without making too much of it, and the article does that.

The liberal media

There’s a popular belief that the media is liberal. Interestingly, the media is apparently more likely to label a liberal politician as liberal than they are to label a conservative politician as conservative. Geoffery Nunberg did a study on this.

It’s not clear to me that this proves anything; you could say that the qualifying adjective (in this case, liberal) only needs to be used when the subject noun is not mainstream. That’s kind of what Nunberg is saying. I don’t know if I believe it, though; you could also say that the liberal media is calling attention to the fact that politicians with admirable policies are liberal.

But it’s a nice little dose of fact-checking. Nunberg was inspired to do the study by a conservative pundit’s claim that the results were precisely the opposite. Ooops.

I picked this one up on the Daniel Keys Moran announcements-only mailing list. It’s not exactly an announcement list, despite the billing. Anything DKM posts to the discussion list goes directly to the announcement list as well.

I left the main discussion list when I got tired of reading Robert Hansen’s conservative rants. (Why not use the name? It’s not as if there’s more than one person going all libertarian asshole in that neck of the woods, so if he happens to read this, he’s gonna know anyhow.) DKM finds him to be enjoyable conversational company, though, so every now and then I get a message from the announcement list which is just DKM responding to Hansen.

For some reason this is way more enjoyable than reading the original source. I was thinking it might be that the Hansen always comes complete with rebuttal, but DKM doesn’t always rebut. Sometimes he agrees, creating a small slice of that macho hard SF John Wayne con environment I miss so little.

So I don’t know. Anyway. Nice little bit of fact-checking.

Andrew Sullivan has a couple

Andrew Sullivan has a couple of entries in the last few days discussing a NYT piece on Colin Powell. Doesn’t seem like rocket science to me. Does Powell disagree with Bush a lot? Yes, obviously. Is Powell well-liked? Yes. Is the article slanted? Oh, sure.

But really. When I read “a Republican administration supposedly eager to demonstrate its commitment to compassionate conservatism,” it is fairly obvious to me that the author, Todd Purdum, is implying that the administration is not actually eager to commit to compassionate conservatism — they just want to look like they are. Powell (Purdum thinks) symbolizes compassionate conservatism, and thus his presence in the administration indicates a committment which isn’t actually there.

That belief may or may not be valid, but the meaning of the sentence is far clearer than the accuracy of its suppositions. Despite this, Sullivan asks, “So is Todd Purdum saying that the administration doesn’t even want to appear to be eager to be seen as compassionately conservative?” I can’t figure out that reading. It literally makes no sense to me. No, you dork; he’s saying that the administration wants to appear eager while not actually being eager.

On third read-through, I see the problem. Sullivan read the original text, and mentally inserted the word “appear” in there somewhere. Then he pretended that “supposedly” modified “appear,” instead of “demonstrate.” Nice work if you can get it.

So, what’s Powell done to deserve all this wrath? Been praised by liberals? Horrors. The ideological divide persists partially because commentators on both sides make a nice living off it; there is war because who can imagine any other way of life? And once again attention to more substantitive issues than the choice between an elephant and a donkey is directed elsewhere.

Operation TIPS Cruises Onward

So this I just don’t get. Say you’re John Ashcroft, and you come up with a plan to do such and such. You properly sponsor a bill to allow the appropriate federal department to carry out that plan (among other plans; it’s a big bill). The House takes a look at the legislation and modifies the portion of it dealing with your clever plan. They feel you should not carry out your plan.

Is it not wrong to say “Well, they didn’t understand us, we’re going to go ahead with it anyhow.”? I mean, this is the checks and balances thing, here. The legislative branch does get to say “We don’t think that’s a good idea.” It’s sort of how the entire system works.

The trend I see — and note that I’m not calling these guys evil — is an imperial Presidency; they appear to feel that they are trustworthy people who should be given the power to do what’s right for us. I firmly believe that Bush and Ashcroft are trying to do what’s right for us in their minds. I suspect they just don’t get that some people don’t trust them.

When you think of it that way, it makes more sense. Sure, some of these bills would permit horrendous abuses of power. But Bush knows he wouldn’t ever abuse the power, so what’s the worry? I think it’s crippling to assume that Bush’s goal is to abuse power; it hampers communication. He’d probably do some of the things I consider abusive, but in many cases the things that strike me as abusive might well strike him as abusive as well. Mostly he seems to want freedom to do what he wants without pesky oversight.

Doesn’t make me any happier about a lot of the legislation he’s proposed, though.