Ramblings From the Ragged Crumbling Edge Of The Reality-Based Community

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sneaking One Through 

…while we’ve all been wrapped up with the need to address pressing questions like how often Bill and Hil Clinton spend the night together (as in the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”) or whether 700 miles of border fence is a more stupid idea than 350 miles of border fence or is just a longer version of the same stupid idea, White House aide Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to a seat on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Why this guy didn’t become a household name because of the fight over his nomination will remain one of those enduring mysteries, like why does bread always land butter-side down on the floor.

Kavanaugh’s strongest qualifications for the position appeared to be a delightfully flexible and partisan view of the expanse of presidential power, depending on whether he was working for Ken Starr in the single-minded pursuit of Bill Clinton or whether he was working for George W. Bush. Although he had clerking experience at the Appeals and Supreme Court level, he has little or no experience as a principle actor in a court of law and was said to be the second least qualified D.C. Appeals Court nominee (of 22) since the Nixon Era, with his old boss Mr. Starr being the class leader in that category. This may have played a role in the reflective reconsideration that the American Bar Association gave to the matter when they downgraded his rating from “highly qualified” to “qualified”. Whatever the reason, he clearly wasn’t the best that could be done when it came to filling this particular judicial vacancy; his nomination smacks of the sort of court packing that liberals feared and neo-cons have longed for.

Aside from all other considerations, this is why Democrats need to control a chamber of Congress in the Age of Bush, and this is why it should be the Senate. The judicial nomination process is the crown jewel of a president’s power and his legacy; more that declaring morally unjust wars or gutting Congress’s constitutional authority with signing statements, the placement of judges in the Federal Court system is what leaves the biggest footprint on the American way of life for decades to come. Until such time as Democrats have the numbers to be a player in this process, we can expect a constant procession of under-qualified out-of-the-mainstream partisan hacks with law degrees marching toward the federal judiciary…

The Fizzled CIA Fight 

…remember all the fuss when General Michael Hayden was nominated to head the CIA. Democrats and Republicans were all up in arms about an active-service military man who had been the architect programs involving shady-looking monitoring of Americans’ phone calls being placed in that position. Fights were promised. Blood would be shed. Arlen Specter and George W. Bush would stage an Ultimate Fighting cage match on the National Mall in front of the Air and Space Museum.

Forget that.

Hayden swooped to confirmation 78-15, also known as “without breaking a sweat”. It’s said that the General managed to charm the socks off of most Senators, which indicates a heretofore undetected suaveness that must just burst from his chest like that baby “Alien” monster once he’s behind closed doors, because his public performances have reminded me of just exactly the sort of person I’ve always cautioned my child not to talk to (but some say the same of me, so who knows). For whatever reason, whether it be charm or something more along the lines of “Say, Senator, I have some phone logs from your private line that you….or maybe your wife….or the Washington Post….might find interesting”, this circus packed up and left town without ever putting on the Big Show. No filibuster fights or ‘nuclear option’ talk, just a straight-up butt-whuppin’ for anyone still opposed to his nomination, making all the fuss either a waste of energy or some strange sort of smoke screen obscuring some other madness we should have been focusing on…

The only small solace in this little adventure – aside from slightly improved disclosure to the Intelligence Committee about just what the heck is going on over at NSA - is that my man Oregon Senator Ron Wyden held the faith and was one of the pitifully few 15 no votes. It’s a pretty lame peg to hang my hat on, I know, but on a cold Friday when my Central Oregon sky is filled with fat snow clouds making any memory of last week’s 80-degree temperatures seem like an ugly hoax, it’s about all there is…

Monday, May 22, 2006

Being The World's Bully 

...it wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the United States woke up one morning to discover that it was the only thing resembling a superpower, there was supposed to be this warm growing glow of altruism, this magnanimous sense of being...oh, I don’t know...maybe Superman or some other hero who spanned the globe righting wrongs and battling the dastardly forces of evil, protecting the downtrodden and providing that voice for those who had none of their own. Going into the former Yugoslavia to stop the rape and murder and ethnic cleansing - kicking the oppressor Serbian butts; that’s what it was all about. But times - and administrations - change, and suddenly you find that those things in the toolbox that you coulda swore looked like wrenches for bolting a bold new world together seem to work, in a different set of hands, just fine as hammers and bludgeons to tear things up. Hence, Iraq, where we charged in at a cost that hasn’t yet been fully added up for the supposed purpose of overthrowning an evil-doer that we created and staunch a personal threat that didn’t even exist. It was a more costly endeavor, in both lives and treasure, that Reagan’s little Grenada adventure, but the underlying premise - “because we can” - was still the same. As North Korea and Iran fiddled around with various stages of nuclear development, we threw the carrots away and went with the stick, vaguely threatening all manner of military action and essentially getting in a testosterone-flinging match with those two regimes and accomplishing little more than scaring the holy hell out of their neighbors (especially South Korea and Japan). Never let it be said, however, that this current twisted crew of fixers, mechanics, and hustlers aren’t capable of multitasking....

Today for example, on just one day, our very own temp agency diplomat, UN Ambassador John Bolton, was demonstrating once again that it would take a long dinner date to explain all the reasons why he shouldn’t be turned loose on the international scene by stating flat out that the government of Iran
would be allowed to remain in power if they would turn away from their nuclear ambitions while, down the road, his boss Gee Dub was continuing the ongoing administration Cold War against Venezuela (throwing Bolivia into the mix just for good measure) by expressing concern for the erosion of democracy in those two commie-wannabe countries. Apparently nobody has invested the effort to explain the political situation within the borders of our close friends Kazakstan and Pakistan, but that’s only part of the issue. The bottom line is that both of these observations deal directly with the subject of the possible overthrow of governments with which we disagree (for whatever reason). Aside from the fact that we don’t have the wherewithal to do much more that drop some bombs on ‘em and mess things up a bit, and we certainly have neither the national political will nor the resources to actually threaten either one of them, but it’s all the same sort of behavior in any case. We are bullies, letting slide the misbehavior of those we deem as our little buddies - for whatever reason - while talking tough at other countries that have human circumstances that are no worse, and in most cases are much better, than those nations with whom we have allied ourselves. We have become the world’s bully, ready to declare that we don’t like the cut of your jib and making clear motions that we are gonna kick your butt...just because we can and we want to. Who ever would have believed that this sorry state would have been where the fact of being the world’s only superpower would have led us...

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