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A Moderate Republican Physician in Vermont
Commentary on Psychiatry, Healthcare, Culture and Politics
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Check out this Red State post for a good overview of three of Alito's more interesting rulings.
In the spring of 2004, US-Arab relations were rocked by the Abu Ghraib scandal. Then-Secretary Powell made this assurance to Arab leaders:
But even in the midst of their disappointment, the secretary told the Arab leaders he met to "watch America. Watch how we deal with this. Watch how America will do the right thing. Watch what a nation of values and character, a nation that believes in justice, does to right this kind of wrong. Watch how a nation such as ours will not tolerate such actions."
"I told them that they will see a free press and an independent Congress at work," he continued. "They will see a Defense Department led by Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld that will launch multiple investigations to get to the facts. Above all, they will see a president -- our president, President Bush -- determined to find out where responsibility and accountability lie. And justice will be done. The world will see that we are still a nation with a moral code that defines our national character."
Bloggers like to compile lists of hippocritical quotes, like these prominent Republicans' Clinton-era warnings about the Balkans(Link):
After the mujahadeen helped drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, they distributed their Islamist ideology and their technical knowledge all over the globe. The Afghan war amounted to a catalyst for the formation of a global Islamist militant community, by concentrating like-minded militants in one place, where they networked and trained together. Peter Bergen and Alec Reynolds argue that Iraq may serve a similar function for the next generation of Islamists:
Several factors could make blowback from the Iraq war even more dangerous than the fallout from Afghanistan. Foreign fighters started to arrive in Iraq even before Saddam's regime fell. They have conducted most of the suicide bombings--including some that have delivered strategic successes such as the withdrawal of the UN...
Fighters in Iraq are more battle hardened than the Afghan Arabs, who fought demoralized Soviet army conscripts. They are testing themselves against arguably the best army in history, acquiring skills in their battles against coalition forces that will be far more useful for future terrorist operations than those their counterparts learned during the 1980s.
Mastering how to make improvised explosive devices or how to conduct suicide operations is more relevant to urban terrorism than the conventional guerrilla tactics used against the Red Army. U.S. military commanders say that techniques perfected in Iraq have been adopted by militants in Afghanistan.
The Right is more in favor of judicial activism than it likes to admit to itself. ChargingRINO cites John Danforth:
They [the Religious Right]- they want a political judge. They want a judicial activist. This business about judicial conservatism and somebody who decides the law, that's baloney. I mean, that's what they should want. That - that is what the judge should be, somebody who interprets the law and not makes it. But forget about that. I mean, these people are just as activist as the People For the American Way and all those organizations."
Texas and Vermont are not often mentioned in the same sentence. But recent polls on consumer healthcare preferences show that the iconically Red State Texas and the poster-child Blue State Vermont aren't that far apart in health care policy priorities.
The NY Times op/ed page opines on the Bush administration proposal to change McCain's anti-torture amendment to allow the CIA to abuse prisoners:
President Bush's threat to veto the entire military budget over this issue was bizarre enough by itself, considering that the amendment has the support of more than two dozen former military leaders, including Colin Powell. They know that torture doesn't produce reliable intelligence and endangers Americans' lives.
But Mr. Cheney's proposal was even more ludicrous. It would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the C.I.A.) to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of "counterterrorism operations conducted abroad" and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the C.I.A. is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition. It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.
Brent Scowcroft has been grumbling quietly in the background about the Iraq War, and with good reason. Amy Davidson interviewed Jeff Goldberg about his article in the current New Yorker about the Scowcroft/Bush 43 split. Here's a telling quote:
Are the conservatives turning against the neoconservatives?
They’ve been doing so for some time. Just read George Will. Their complaint is that neoconservatives aren’t conservative; they’re liberals with guns. Conservatives tend to take Scowcroft’s more jaundiced view of human nature. Paul Wolfowitz, on the other hand, is a liberal, but a liberal who believes that transformation can be brought about by force, not just persuasion. Obviously, there are other breaches within the Republican Party, on the Harriet Miers nomination, on spending, and on and on.
The impending economic hegemony of China has been widely predicted, and Secretary John Snow has been working hard to convince China to revalue its currency in an effort to stem the US/China trade deficit. Indeed, as The Economist reports, China has made large strides in the past 10 years, solving many of the problems of transition to markets that, for instance, Russia, has not.
The number of state firms has tumbled from over 300,000 to 150,000 in the past decade.
This has been offset by rapid growth in the private sector. The OECD estimates that in 2003 private companies accounted for 63% of China's business-sector output (which in turn accounts for 94% of GDP). This compares with 54% in 1998 and virtually nothing in the 1970s. If you add in “collective” enterprises, which are officially controlled by local government but in practice operate more like private firms, the private sector's share was 71% in 2003 (see chart). By now it is probably close to three-quarters. Nevertheless, that still leaves state enterprises' share of output well above that in OECD countries.
Robert Birnbaum interviewed Camille Paglia in The Morning News and here's what she had to say about the notion that people voted against their best economic interests in the last presidential election:
RB: I take it you agree with Thomas Frank’s [What’s the Matter With Kansas] notion of what he calls an “age of derangement,” that working people are voting against their interests?
CP: I totally reject that formulation.
CP: The idea that working people are voting against their interests seems to me—I’m sorry, I find that to be one of the most condescending, twisted things that has now taken root. It’s now in the media everywhere. That is twisted.
CP: The people are voting against their interests? Who knows that? Tom Frank knows that? Tom Frank knows what is in the people’s best interest? It’s an outrage.
RB: Yes, he gets to say that. If people need health care and jobs and housing and he points out that in specific circumstances, such as in Topeka where the Republican administration granted huge concessions to Boeing and Boeing pulled out when they thought they had a better deal elsewhere, costing 4,000 jobs, that’s clearly not in the interest of working people.
CP: You can find a lot of local stories of misery—the mill towns outside of Boston and everywhere. But Frank’s animus is against capitalism. OK? And here’s my point—you can’t just go around—and I could make the same point about upstate New York, which has been declining. Carrier, IBM, the shoe factories that my family came to work in, closing. GE, all kinds of stories, but the point is the people are not voting against their interest. Their interest is capitalism. This is my objection. In my view, comparing the evidence of the 20th century, that socialism in a nation ultimately does lead to economic stagnation and eventually of the creative impulse, in terms of new technology and other things. And that capitalism, despite all its failures, despite the fact that it’s Darwinian, has indeed produced a high standard of living. And, here’s the big one for me, as a feminist: It is capitalism that has enabled the emergence of the modern independent woman, for the first time free from fathers and brothers and husbands—a woman who can be self-sustaining. Now, I do believe—I am a Democrat, I am not a Republican, I do believe that because capitalism is Darwinian that it requires a strong safety net, that the government needs to provide certain things... So what I am saying is, how dare Thomas Frank decide what is—the people who are voting Republican believe that capitalism, despite the misery of individual places, they still believe that capitalism provides the best chance for small entrepreneurs to have an idea, put it into motion and eventually make a killing. Even if you are not rich you see other people getting rich and you want a system that can produce rich people.
RB: Sure, but it’s a chimera. They have been sold that bill of goods. They believe they can do that but they can’t—
RB: Hold on a second. Your point that a significant social security, as the consensus has produced in Europe and Scandinavia, leads to stagnation—
CP: Forty percent of a paycheck over there is taken by the government. The government does everything. People rely on the government to do everything. And I do believe there is a slow decline in creativity that is observable in Europe over the last 40 years.
The 17th Amendment provides for direct election of US Senators by the electorate, changing the original constitutional procedure for their election by state legislatures. Has it been a success? With Medicaid shifting cost burdens to states, and highway bills used as leverage to force states to adopt laws that the federal government would not otherwise be able to pass on its own jurisdiction, it seems that states' powers are constantly being eroded by end-runs around the constitution. The states' check on federal power now is only through the Supreme Court, rather than through the constant political mechanism that legislature appointment of senators provided.
Professor Zywicki basically demolishes both these explanations. He contends, first, that explaining the Seventeenth Amendment as part of the Progressive Movement is weak, at best. After all, nothing else from that movement (such as referendums and recalls) was adopted as part of the Constitution. He also points out that revisionist history indicates the Progressive Movement was not driven as much by efforts to aid the less fortunate as once was thought (and as it claimed) - so that direct democracy as an empowerment of the poor might not have been one of its true goals.
What about the "corruption and deadlock" explanation? Zywicki's analysis shows that, in fact, the corruption was nominal, and infrequent. In addition, he points out that the deadlock problem could have been easily solved by legislation that would have required only a plurality to elect a Senator - a far easier remedy than the burdensome process of amending the Constitution that led to the Seventeenth Amendment.
Fortuntely, Professor Zywicki offers an explanation for the Amendment's enactment that makes much more sense. He contends that the true backers of the Seventeenth Amendment were special interests, which had had great difficultly influencing the system when state legislatures controlled the Senate. (Recall that it had been set up by the Framers precisely to thwart them.) They hoped direct elections would increase their control, since they would let them appeal directly to the electorate, as well as provide their essential political fuel - money.
Here are some highlights from the New England Journal report on the current state of avian flu (Influenza A H5N1).
The liberal arts-trained, senior civil servant is quickly becoming a creature of the past, writes Michael Lind. He describes how trends in education and politics have eroded the influence of the class of elite public official ("mandarins"), stemming from the rise of four distinct sources of authority:
The mandarin thus is a scapegoat for all of the major forces in contemporary society. The humanist programme of mandarin education is rejected alike by the professional (for whom education is vocational), the positivist (whose task is to expose the power relations that works of literature or history conceal, in preparation for doctrinal instruction in an ideological system), the populist (whose goal is either to replace the classics with a contemporary canon or to reinterpret them to make them "relevant" for today) and the religious believer (for whom the substitution of mandarin humanism for revealed religion was always an enormity). The mandarin is an amateur, to the professional; a statist, to the libertarian; an elitist, to the populist; and a heathen, to the religious believer. What possibly could be worse than a society run by such people?
The answer is a society without them.
America's unofficial mandarinate, the northeastern establishment, crumbled in the last quarter of the 20th century. The result is a social experiment in today's US as audacious, in its own way, as that of Soviet collectivism: an attempt to have a government without a governing elite. The US ship of state veers now in one direction, now the other. From a distance, one might conclude that the captain is a maniac. But a spyglass reveals that there is no captain or crew at all, only rival gangs of technocrats, ideologues, populists and zealots devoted to Jesus Christ or Adam Smith, each boarding the derelict vessel and capturing the wheel briefly before being tossed overboard.