Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, August 19th, 2006.


You Had to Be There

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Bush Administration

Be sure to see the Talking Dog’s interview with George Lakoff. I was particularly intrigued by the comments on how 9/11 imagery impacts the right-wing brain.

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The Betrayer

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Bush Administration, Congress, Dick Cheney, Republican Party

Sidney Blumenthal explains why George Bush needs Joe Lieberman in the Senate.

Lieberman has become an active obstacle to Democratic victory and one of the key bulwarks for protecting Bush’s one-party rule, essential for him to remain unaccountable for the rest of his presidency. For Bush, that is the importance of Lieberman.

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Losin’ It

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Bush Administration

Yesterday President Bush went through the motions of doing his job and met with his economic advisers at Camp David. Afterward he made a statement and took questions from reporters.

MSNBC has a video. I normally wouldn’t ask you to look at a Bush video, except to call your attention to the way the president’s speech utterly lost cohesion when he was talking about Thursday’s wiretap ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.

If you want to skip the statement part (executive summary: bullshit) and go right to the questions, start the video at 6:10. The first questions are about Lebanon, and Bush’s answers — again, the usual bullshit — were spoken well enough. But it seemed to me that when the questions turned to the wiretap ruling (11:44) he went downhill — stammering, hesitating, changing thought in mid-sentence. He managed to dredge up some stock phrases and speak them forcefully — “this country of ours is at war”; “if al Qaeda is calling into the United States we want to know why they’re calling” — the latter being a non sequitur, and of course no one called Bush on it. But especially after about 13:15 I wondered if he was going to survive to the next clause.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think the boy’s nervous.

The most-quoted line from Bush’s talk is this: “I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.” I have nothing to add to Tristero’s take on the quote. For more commentary on Bush’s defiance of the law, see TChris at TalkLeft.

As for Bush’s claims about our glorious economy, I call your attention this this article by Ashley Seager in today’s Guardian.

The recent flow of news from around the world suggests that the balance of world economic power may finally be swinging away from the United States – the powerhouse of the past decade or more – towards Japan and Europe, which have lagged behind for many years.

The world economy has put in its fastest growth spurt for decades over the past three years, and is still bowling along at a healthy clip this year, despite a tripling of oil prices since early 2004. China and India continue to grow at breakneck speed but many economists are fearful that the interest rate rises by the world’s central banks this year, led by the US Federal Reserve, could put a swift brake on the world economy next year.

Indeed, the US economy has already slowed, expanding at an annual pace of only 2.5% in the second quarter. With news this week that the 12-member eurozone expanded at an annualised rate of 3.6% in the April to June period, Europe is suddenly growing faster than the US. Britain, too, has recovered from last year’s slowdown and expanded at an annualised 3.2% in the second quarter.

Back to Constitutional issues: Today, The People Who Understand This Stuff Better Than I Do are discussing the reasoning behind Judge Taylor’s decision. This article by Adam Liptak in the New York Times quotes a number of people who say the opinion is not as strongly grounded in legal opinion as it could have been. These people are not necessarily saying the decision was wrong, however. For example:

Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, predicted that the plaintiffs would win the case on appeal, but not for the reasons Judge Taylor gave.

“The chances that the Bush program will be upheld are not none, but slim,” Professor Sunstein said. “The chances that this judge’s analysis will be adopted are also slim.”

Today’s discussion seems to focus on whether the flaws in Judge Taylor’s arguments for her decision matter, since the decision can be supported solidly using other arguments. Professor Sunstein and others seem to believe the appeals court could take a fresh look at the case and side against the government even if they disallow Taylor’s opinion.

Glenn Greenwald argues that those picking apart Judge Taylor’s rhetoric and reasoning are losing sight of the Big Picture.

In the scheme of the profound issues our country faces, obsessing about the inartfulness of this judicial opinion is not unlike those who use a laughably grave tone to write articles about fights between Daily Kos diarists or the latest blogger “scandal” while ignoring our national media’s grotesque failure to scrutinize meaningfully our government’s conduct and claims — particularly on matters of war and peace or threats to constitutional liberties.

Scott Lemieux ain’t so sure:

… having read the opinion carefully I have to say that I side with Publius over Glenn on this one; while I strongly believe that the outcome of the case (at least insofar as the conclusions that the NSA program violates FISA and the 4th Amendment are concerned) was correct, the shoddiness of this opinion really does matter. First of all , this goes beyond mere inarftfulness; Publius is right that it’s ridiculous to claim that there is no dispute over the First and Fourth Amendment claims being made here (indeed, I don’t even agree with the former claim.) And second, if this was the Supreme Court the argument would be merely normative. But since it’s a District Court, the quality of the legal reasoning matters in a pragmatic way as well: this decision is certain to be overturned by 6CA. For lower courts, the quality of the legal reasoning most certainly does matter, and even a court sympathetic to the outcome will have no choice but to overturn this one. The NSA program is unconstitutional–but this argument needs to be made in an opinion that has some chance of holding up on appeal.

In the comments to Scott’s post, Ann Bartow and Glenn G. argue that Taylor’s opinion amounts to a summary judgment and wasn’t meant to be the final word. I take it the fact that the government’s “evidence” is secret, meaning Judge Taylor couldn’t discuss it specifically in her opinion, is a factor here. See also J.B. at Balkinization, who thinks Judge Taylor had tactical reasons for approaching the case as she did.

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