November 02, 2007

Much of this week's controversy (now aborted, thanks to Senators Schumer and Feinstein) about the Attorney General-nominee's rather flaccid answers on the issue of whether waterboarding constitutes "torture" dwell on the legal predicament Mukasey would be placed in if he, as the chief law enforcement officer in the country, were to label the CIA's favorite tactic of the Spanish Inquisition as being beyond the pale. Now that he's not being forced, under penalty of Senate rejection, to take a position, the Bush Administration can go back to whatever it was doing before, and the "highly trained professionals," as the President calls them, need not worry about having to answer in a U.S. court for practicing their arts.

But another alternative exists, notwithstanding any evasions that may play out in the American judicial system. The Hague Convention has criminal courts precisely designed to investigate and punish activities, such as war crimes, torture, genocide and other breaches of the Geneva Conventions, acts that may have been perfectly legal in the countries they were committed in, and although the Bush Administration refused initially to recognize the court, any future President will not be so bound.

Sending Bush or Cheney to the docket at the Hague may be tough for the American public to swallow, no matter how unpopular they may be, but I'm not certain they same will hold true for the torturers and mercs whose activities are currently held to be beyond the reach of American justice. It would have the added advantage of any mooting any last-second pardon that may come out of the White House in 2009. A presidential candidate (Hillary? Edwards? Obama?) who expresses a willingness to sign on to the International Criminal Court, and waive any injunction on Americans being charged as defendants, will be taking a more relevant position on ensuring that a war such as this one never be sought again. [link via Matt Yglesias]

October 31, 2007

A Peculiar Institution: Thank God someone is finally telling the truth about that most unfairly maligned of all American institutions, slavery. Who knew it wasn't "genocidal?"

October 29, 2007

A few weeks back I noted how the ugly and racist use of the term "illegals" to describe a class of human beings was becoming increasingly routine, even in mainstream organs such as USA Today. Lawrence Downes makes a similar observation in the Sunday NY Times:
I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegal parker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched or broken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. The offenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments — penalties and fines — and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me the chance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader, and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whose crimes exceeded mine.

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It’s the crime you can’t make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word “illegal.” It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.


So people who want to enact sensible immigration policies to help everybody — to make the roads safer, as Gov. Eliot Spitzer would with his driver’s license plan, or to allow immigrants’ children to go to college or serve in the military — face the inevitable incredulity and outrage. How dare you! They’re illegal.

Meanwhile, out on the edges of the debate — edges that are coming closer to the mainstream every day — bigots pour all their loathing of Spanish-speaking people into the word. Rant about “illegals” — call them congenital criminals, lepers, thieves, unclean — and people will nod and applaud. They will send money to your Web site and heed your calls to deluge lawmakers with phone calls and faxes. Your TV ratings will go way up.

This is not only ugly, it is counterproductive, paralyzing any effort toward immigration reform. Comprehensive legislation in Congress and sensible policies at the state and local level have all been stymied and will be forever, as long as anything positive can be branded as “amnesty for illegals.”

We are stuck with a bogus, deceptive strategy — a 700-mile fence on a 2,000-mile border to stop a fraction of border crossers who are only 60 percent of the problem anyway, and scattershot raids to capture a few thousand members of a group of 12 million.
My solution to the problem, of course, is to deport anyone who uses, as a noun, the word "illegal," preferably to a country that I'm sure they would fit in more comfortably, like Iran or Burma. In the meantime, we keep the immigrants, legal, illegal or indifferent., and witness a better America.
Kevin Drum, on the Bushies' latest excuse to go to war:
I had a friend many years ago who was a friendly but obsessive fundamentalist Christian who spent his time searching for signs of the antichrist. For a while during the early Reagan era he was convinced it was Konstantin Chernenko. Then it switched to Moammar Qadafi. Then it was Saddam Hussein. (He actually wrote a book on the subject at that point, which in a weak moment I agreed to read.) We lost touch after that, but my guess is that during the 90s he migrated to Slobodan Milosevic, then Osama bin Laden, then back to Saddam Hussein, and perhaps is now on the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bandwagon.

In a way, he reminds of me of America. It's not enough for us to have countries out there that we don't like. Even countries that we really don't like. There always has to be someone who's basically the antichrist, and whoever it is is responsible for everything. When people who believe stuff like that are dressed in rags and yelling at passersby from street corners, we call them crackpots. When they dress in suits and, say, edit the Weekly Standard, we call them foreign policy analysts. Weird, huh?

October 28, 2007

Not a duet I would ever have imagined performing together, but it works !!! From 1970: