Thursday, January 26, 2006

Whoa! Evangelicals AGAINST torture?

A Sullivan reader reports:
Over the past week, I have seen some public signs of hope and conscience from within the evangelical movement. One was Charles Marsh's fine op-ed in last Friday's New York Times, in which he called on evangelicals to repent of their support of the Iraq war. Then yesterday I received my February edition of Christianity Today with the cover story: 'Why Torture is Always Wrong.'
What is the world coming to when followers of Jesus Christ object to inflicting bodily harm onto others? Don't they realize we're at war against evil? Traitors.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Iran! What's the recent talk all about?

Need some basic information and a sensible, pre-packaged opinion on Iran? (Just to tie you over until you catch up on your own reading, of course.) Timothy Garton Ash to the rescue.
Now we face the next big test of the west: after Iraq, Iran. As the Islamic revolutionary regime breaks the international seals on its nuclear facilities, and prepares to hone its skills in the uranium enrichment that could, in a matter of years, enable it to produce nuclear weapons, we in Europe and the United States have to respond. But how? If we mishandle this, it could lead not only to the edge of another military confrontation but also to another crisis of the west.
Found the link via Yglesias, who cleverly points out something worth keeping in mind:
Subtantively, we pretty obviously can't invade Iran. I don't even see how we could realistically bomb Iran unless we left Iraq first since the Army is not only bogged down there, but pinned down and exposed to Iranian reprisals.
UPDATE: Here is James Fallows if you want the full rundown.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Ethics of the Professional Ideologue

Julian Sanchez, over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, has a post up that I didn't fully grasp until I read it a second time.

The shorter version (I think) is this: People who produce political opinion for a living (i.e. "pundits") may start out with the noblest of intentions. But informal social pressures make it increasingly difficult to deviate from the ideology they started out with. Thus over time they turn into partisan/ideological hacks -- defending "their side" not in earnestness but to keep from upsetting sympathizers while protecting the "opinion franchise" they've built up over time.

I think he hits the nail on the head. It has been incredibly painful for me to watch all those professional Bush-defenders rake their heads for creative defences in recent years. This is why I still read Andrew Sullivan religiously. He lost the majority of his readership when he turned against Bush in 2004. Sure, I didn't agree with most of the pro-Bush (and pro-war) rant he produced before that, and I still don't agree with him on many issues. But I know of no other writer with a comparably sized audience who has kept his integrity by "switching sides" like that.

Kudos also to Julian for recognizing it this early in his career. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Nixon's revenge

A must read from Andrew Sullivan which puts the NSA wiretaps into an important historical perspective:
Call it Nixon’s revenge. The combination of Watergate and Vietnam created an environment in which executive power was deemed too dangerous to be trusted. President Ford, for whom Rumsfeld also worked, inherited a crippled presidency. Carter brandished his constitutional crutches as a matter of pride. But many conservatives seethed and waited a long time for a chance to reverse what they saw as a dangerous concession to the legislative branch.

It’s clear now that 9/11 was seen by Cheney and Rumsfeld not simply as a catastrophe but as an opportunity. Just as Karl Rove shrewdly exploited the war to divide and defeat the Democrats, so Cheney and Rummy saw a chance to reverse decades of post-Vietnam executive branch erosion.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Rule of Law

Which Bush critic said this?
That none of us is above the law is a bedrock principle of democracy. To erode that bedrock is to risk even further injustice. To erode that bedrock is to subscribe, to a "divine right of kings" theory of governance, in which those who govern are absolved from adhering to the basic moral standards to which the governed are accountable.

We must never tolerate one law for the Ruler, and another for the Ruled. If we do, we break faith with our ancestors from Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord to Flanders Field, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Panmunjon, Saigon and Desert Storm.

Let us be clear: The vote that you are asked to cast is, in the final analysis, a vote about the rule of law.

The rule of law is one of the great achievements of our civilization. For the alternative to the rule of law is the rule of raw power. We here today are the heirs of three thousand years of history in which humanity slowly, painfully and at great cost, evolved a form of politics in which law, not brute force, is the arbiter of our public destinies.

We are the heirs of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law: a moral code for a free people who, having been liberated from bondage, saw in law a means to avoid falling back into the habit of slaves.

We are the heirs of Roman law: the first legal system by which peoples of different cultures, languages, races, and religions came to live together in a form of political community.

We are the heirs of the Magna Carta, by which the freeman of England began to break the arbitrary and unchecked power of royal absolutism.

We are the heirs of a long tradition of parliamentary development, in which the rule of law gradually came to replace royal prerogative as the means for governing a society of free men and women.

We are the heirs of 1776, and of an epic moment in human affairs when the Founders of this Republic pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor - sacred honor - to the defense of the rule of law.

We are the heirs of a tragic civil war, which vindicated the rule of law over the appetites of some for owning others.

We are the heirs of the 20th century's great struggles against totalitarianism, in which the rule of law was defended at immense cost against the worst tyrannies in human history. The "rule of law" is no pious aspiration from a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others while strengthening the common good. The rule of law is like a three legged stool: one leg is an honest Judge, the second leg is an ethical bar and the third is an enforceable oath. All three are indispensable in a truly democratic society.
Actually, it was not a Bush critic who said it but Repuplican Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) who was referring to Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, as Digby says:
All those fine words about the rule of law safeguarding our liberties, the arbitrary exercise of power and Bunker Hill, Lexington and Normandy went right out the window on 9/11. That was when Henry and the rest of his stalwart defenders of the rule of law promptly wet their pants and then let their president use the constitution to clean up the puddle.
Henry Hyde may have turned into the President's whore, but luckily we still have this excellent quote of his.

Jack Abramoff WaPo Overview

The Washington Post has a great one-page summary of the Abramoff scandal. I found it interesting to see that 6 of the top 20 bribe recipients are Democrats.