Direct Democracy amok

Democracy is a great thing, but I think the best evidence suggests that, like most good things, you can have too much democracy.  As I’ve noted many times, there’s a reason we don’t govern by public opinion.  The closest we come is ballot initiatives.  Here’s a great look at the process in California via the Daily Show

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Hitchens hagiography

I’m totally with Glenn Greenwald that it is especially wrong to whitewash the full nature of the dead, just because they were political figures.  In many cases, the reason their death attracts so much attention is for being politically controversial in life.  He starts with the example of Ronald Reagan and then moves onto the recent death of Christopher Hitchens.  The man sure knew how to write, and by all accounts had quite an intellect.  But that’s not enough to forgive him his mistakes, that he oh-so-surely, would not have forgiven others.   What I really loved though, was this awesome John Cook obit in Gawker, which Greenwald linked to:

The outpouring of grief, goodwill, and teary encomia that has attended news of Christopher Hitchens’ passing would—if he was anything like the persona he presented in print—have turned his stomach. He loathed sentiment, welcomed combat, and delighted in inflicting hard truths. In that spirit, it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong…

He shared that impulse with George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz, and they found their moment in the stupid decision to invade Iraq. For Hitchens, it was the opening maneuver in a grand, imagined clash of western civilization against the Islamofascist hordes.

It was something else for 113,000 civilians who died in the chaos unleashed. The great tragedy of Hitchens’ life was that, toward its end, he aligned himself so stridently with the very fools, cowards, and charlatans who most desperately invited exposure by his prodigious skills as butcher. How can someone who devoted so much of his life to as noble a cause as destroying the reputation of Henry Kissinger blithely stand shoulder to shoulder with Rumsfeld?

People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made…

Torture and murder by feckless American troops at Abu Ghraib? “Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad,” he wrote. How clever! Anyone objecting to the occupation of Iraq on the grounds that torturing and murdering people is wrong and illegal is now obligated to defend the “abattoir” that existed prior to our arrival.

Anyone complaining that the chief rationale for the invasion—the indisputable presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—turned out to have been a fantasy is being “childish,” he wrote. “‘You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire.’ I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra.” How tiresome you are with your boring insistence that wars be justified!

Great stuff.  And there’s more.   One of the reasons I always enjoyed “Heathers” so much (a pitch black comedy, not for everybody, but really worth seeing if you have not) was the underlying theme of how people are remembered in death versus how they are treated and thought of in life.  Anyway, Christopher Hitchens surely had much to recommend him, but one should not so easily whitewash or forget just how wrong he was on Iraq.

Photo of the Day

From International Business Times best photos of the year:

Top Best Photos of 2011

Schalke 04’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer throws away his gloves during the German Bundesliga soccer match against Hamburg SV in Gelsenkirchen Jan. 15, 2011. Hamburg won the match 1-0.

Source: Reuters

On a quasi-related note, Time Warner Cable has finally added Fox Soccer channel in HD.  Certain things in like, HD makes a huge difference.  Watching soccer on television is definitely among them.  And, for those who think soccer is boring because there’s not a lot of scoring, yesterday’s 1-0 Manchester City vs. Arsenal match was a super-dramatic, wide open game.  Yeah, I’m an American and more goals would’ve been nice, but I’ve seen games with a lot more goals that were a lot less exciting.

No Newt to kick around anymore?

That would be quite a disappointment.  As the man deserves a lot of kicking.  I was all set to write a post about his absolutely reprehensible views on the judiciary, when I saw a link to the latest PPP Iowa polling results via FB:

Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa.  He’s at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row.  His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%.  And there’s been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich’s image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has ‘strong principles,’ while 43% think he does not.

Given the lack of any major campaign faux pas, etc., (conservatives don’t mind hearing absolutely reprehensible views on the judiciary) this is some great evidence for the power of negative ads in a primary context.  Apparently the widespread air-war against Newt is really doing it’s job.

Nonetheless, still worthy a minute to discuss Newt’s absurd and offensive comments from the past week:

Newt Gingrich says as president he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflict with his powers as commander in chief, and he would press for impeaching judges or even abolishing certain courts if he disagreed with their rulings.

“I’m fed up with elitist judges” who seek to impose their “radically un-American” views, Gingrich said Saturday during a conference call with reporters.

In recent weeks, the Republican presidential contender has been telling conservative audiences he is determined to expose the myth of “judicial supremacy” and restrain judges to a more limited role in American government. “The courts have become grotesquely dictatorial and far too powerful,” he said in Thursday’s Iowa debate…

Relying on those precedents, Gingrich said that if he were in the White House, he would not feel compelled to always follow the Supreme Court’s decisions on constitutional questions. As an example, he cited the court’s 5-4 decision in 2008 that held that prisoners at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had a right to challenge their detention before a judge.

Short version: Rule of Law?  We don’t need no stinkin’ rule of Law!  Kevin Drum sums up just how ridiculous Newt’s actual position is:

Apparently not. In fact, he wants the judiciary to be independent 99% of the time — which brings to mind all the usual jokes about being a little bit pregnant — and defines the 1% this way:

Another branch would step in, Gingrich said, when a judge or a court makes a decision that is “strikingly at variance with America.”

Even for Newt this is crazy stuff. I’ve heard of strict scrutiny and original intent and reasonable doubt, but I’ve never heard of the “strikingly at variance with America” rule. But not to worry. If you read more about Newt’s views on this, it turns out that “strikingly at variance with America” isn’t nearly as vague as you think it is. What it really means is any court decision dealing with religion in the public square. Newt wants religion front and centerin the public square and he wants it funded and fully endorsed by any level of government that’s so minded. And woe betide the judge who tries to get in the way.

I think the most depressing part about this is that more conservatives are not willing to call Newt out on this.  As the Post story’s sub-headline on the matter said, “even some conservatives object..”  Really should be more than just some.  Either you believe in the rule of law, or you don’t.  As Drum says, it’s like being a little bit pregnant.  You can’t just say we’ll only over-rule one branch of the American Government when we really need to.  In an intellectually honest Political Party that actually cared about core American values, Newt’s statements would be utter anathema.  The fact that they’re not is telling.

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