The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stupid Constitution tricks

He really should know better:

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert has signed two bills authorizing the state to use eminent domain to seize some of the federal government's most valuable land.

Supporters hope the bills, which the Republican governor signed Saturday, will trigger a flood of similar legislation throughout the West and, eventually, a Supreme Court battle that they hope to win -- against long odds.

Um...no. Starting with the Supremacy Clause, moving on to the Federal applicability of the 5th Amendment, and ending with the unfortunate result of the 1832 Nullification Crisis[1], this bill has less chance of having legal effect than the Cubs have of winning a post-season game. In fact, of the two events, I'd wager on the Cubs.

This silly act is merely the latest in a disturbing trend of Republican legislatures imagining that the last 150 years of U.S. history didn't happen.

Or maybe it's not their imagination. Maybe, on top of being ornery, they might in fact be ignorant of the late unpleasantness and its aftermath. Utah has no excuse, though. They entered the Union in 1896, four decades after all that stuff about, you know, Federal supremacy had been decided.

[1] President Obama will probably not send the U.S. Navy to Utah, owing to certain practical difficulties, but you get the idea.

Right-wing rage

To hear the right wingers describe it, passing the Health-Care Reform Act ranked somewhere between breaking the second seal and sending Federal troops to Birmingham in atrocity. I cannot fathom the rage, not one bit. Nor can I fathom the hypocrisy. For example, as the New York Times reported this morning, a sizable chunk of the Tea Party movement have the luxury of banging on against the welfare state because—why else—they're supported by it:

Tom Grimes, [who] lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago...has organized a local group and a statewide coalition, and even started a "bus czar" Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to go to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government's takeover of health care.

Mr. Grimes, who receives Social Security, has filled the back seat of his Mercury Grand Marquis with the literature of the movement, including Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots" and Frederic Bastiat's "The Law," which denounces public benefits as "false philanthropy."

"If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own," Mr. Grimes said.

Now, I believe Grimes has an absolute, without-a-doubt, Congress-given right to Social Security. (I also think that people who receive assistance can spend it any way they want. Assistance should not mean paternalism.) I just can't figure out why he's against it.

Possibly, though, we on the left are trying to apply reason where none exists. People like Grimes are nuts. People like Glenn Beck are either nuts or sociopathic. And people like John Boehner are craven opportunists who will probably preserve their own seats at the expense of their party.

I know many smart, conscientious conservatives. I go to school with a bunch. (Yes, there are Republicans in business schools.) None, to my knowledge—all right, maybe one or two—is nuts, craven, or sociopathic. Oddly, though, their critiques of HCR come from the economic and fiscal uncertainty they worry it will cause. I've yet to hear one (ok, maybe one :) ) denounce the Democratic party as a bunch of fascistic Communists.

The Times' Frank Rich has a hypothesis about the rage:

If Obama's first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It's not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend's abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan "Take our country back!," these are the people they want to take the country back from.

Racism? Really? It's not the craziest theory. But I'm not as worried as Rich that the far-right loonies are about to take over. They didn't in the 1850s, though they did put up a fight. Similarly, the far-left loonies didn't take over in the 1970s—or 1870s, or even the 1760s, for that matter.[1]

I would like the opposition party to think, just think, about the long-term damage they're doing to their party and to the country by encouraging their loony fringe. Take it from a Democrat: after our loony fringe took over after the 1968 election, we spent 24 years in the wilderness.[2] So unless you want Democratic majorities until the 2030s, you might want to move more to the center.

[1] Far-left radicals like Tom Paine got pushed aside as the country swung back to the right during the 1780s. Loonly-left radical Samuel Adams never had much popularity outside New England, unlike his right-leaning brother John. Even Jefferson didn't govern as a radical, though he was considerably left of his two predecessors.

[2] President Carter, wonderful man that he is, got the Democratic nomination and won the 1976 General Election almost accidentally. Absent Watergate, Reagan would likely have won in 1976. It's an interesting story, but not one that undermines my basic premise.

Thus endeth all dispute

An island claimed by both India and Bangladesh has vanished, ending a territorial dispute going back to 1971:

The uninhabited territory south of the Hariabhanga river was known as New Moore Island to the Indians and South Talpatti Island to the Bangladeshis.

Recent satellites images show the whole island under water, says the School of Oceanographic Studies in Calcutta.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Professor Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta.

Professor Hazra said his studies revealed that sea levels in this part of the Bay of Bengal have risen much faster over the past decade than they had done in the previous 15 years.

And he predicts that in the coming decade other islands in the Sundarbans delta region will follow New Moore, or South Talpatti, beneath the waves.

The article doesn't explain that both countries claimed the tiny uninhabited island because the law of the sea allows countries to claim a 370 km exclusive economic zone around any land they "control," even if it's just a speck poking above the water. This means the total disputed territory was actually over 430,000 km²—an area about as big as California or Thailand. But with the island gone, the competing claims have vanished as well.

(With the island sitting right at the mouth of a major river, however, the 22 km territorial waters were probably more important to both.)

Too much dark humor, but too many victims

Today the Vatican announced that there has been no cover-up in the latest U.S. sex-abuse scandal, and could we all just leave the Pope alone?

This whole thing must feel like someone stampeded cattle through St. Peter's.

But let's be serious. It looks quite like the current Pope intervened in the Ecclesiastical trial of a priest accused of molesting 200 deaf boys, and failed to act on dozens of other cases:

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

Andrew Sullivan:

What's fascinating in the steady onslaught of new incidences of previous cover-ups of child rape and molestation in the Catholic hierarchy is the notion that the hierarchs tended to see child rape as a sin rather than a crime. Hence the emphasis on forgiveness, therapy, repentance - rather than removal, prosecution and investigation. Obviously, there's one reason for this: they were defending the reputation of the church by hiding its darkest secrets, and they were using the authority of religion to do so. But I suspect it's also true that this is how they genuinely thought of child rape or abuse.

How could that be, one asks? Well: imagine you are a young gay Catholic teen coming into his sexuality and utterly convinced that it's vile and evil. What do you do? I can tell you from my own experience. You bury it. But of course, you can't bury it. So you objectify sex; and masturbate. You cannot have sexual or even emotional contact with a teenage girl, because it is simply impossible, and you certainly cannot have sex with another teenage boy or you will burn in hell for ever ... so you have sex with images in your own head. Your sex life becomes completely solitary. It can be empowered by pornography or simply teenage imagination. Some shard of beauty, some aspect of sensuality, some vision of desire will keep you sexually energized for days.

Now suppose your powers of suppression and attachment to religious authority are also strong - perhaps stronger because you feel so adrift you need something solid to cling onto in your psyche. And you know you cannot marry a woman. But you want to have status and cover as a single man. If this is the 1950s and 1960s, it's into the Church you go. You think it will cure you. In fact, it only makes you sicker because your denial is buttressed by their collective denial. And the whole thing becomes one big and deepening spiral of lies and corruption.

As Sullivan said only last week, "If this were a secular institution, the police would move in and shut it down."

True Conservatives

If you believe in small government, individual liberty, and all the other things that conservatives traditionally believe, then equal rights for gays naturally follows. As evidence I give you the British Conservative Party's leader (and probably the next prime minister), David Cameron:

[N]o-one should be in any doubt that the Conservative party abhors homophobia, that we support equal rights, that we support civil partnerships, that we think that part of being a strong central right party in Britain today.

One of the bedrock issues is being in favour of proper equality for people whether they are straight or gay, or black or white, or men or women, or whether they live in the town or the countryside or whatever God they worship - important points.

He's the Conservative Party leader. That's what a center-right politician looks like everywhere else in the world. His positions are entirely within the foundational beliefs of conservatism (and liberalism, of course).

Incidentally, the interview quoted above was with—wait for it—Gay Times magazine. Now stop, for a moment, and consider the crashing improbability of Sarah Palin or John Boehner sitting down with the Advocate and you start to see how out of touch with conservatism the Republican leadership really is.

Stock market declines; Republicans vindicated

Well, maybe the Republicans who predicted market Armageddon over the weekend were right. Even though the markets went up on Monday and Tuesday, this morning they have, indeed, collapsed. During the first half-hour of trading this morning the Dow has lost 24, the NASDAQ 10, and the S&P 4. Points. Meaning, 0.23%, 0.4%, and 0.3%, respectively.

Yes, the markets have spoken. They just haven't said anything about health-care reform.

Where's the kaboom?

Yesterday some of my classmates fretted about how the stock market would collapse today because of health care reform passing the House.

Yawn. With half an hour to go, the NASDAQ, DOW, and oil are up; bonds are down; gold is down. All the indicators are within 1% of Friday's closes.

What a disaster:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they'll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections.

Yeah, that's not Josh Marshall; that's David Frum. He continues:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

What a lovely spring day we're having in the U.S.

219-212

And we now have a 20th-century health care plan for America. Just in time.

Fifty years from now, our children and grandchildren will wonder why the vote was so close, kind of like how we today wonder about the 85 who voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Or maybe the way we don't, but we should.

UpdateJames Fallows:

For now, the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)... TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.

That is how the entire rest of the developed world operates, as noted yesterday. It is the way the United States operates in most realms other than health coverage. Of course all older people are eligible for Medicare. Of course all drivers must have auto insurance. Of course all children must have a public school they can attend. Etc. Such "of course" rules offer protection for individuals but even more important, they reduce the overall costs to society, compared with one in which extreme risks are uncontained. The simplest proof is, again, Medicare: Does anyone think American life would be better now, on an individual or a collective level, if we were in an environment in which older people might have to beg for treatment as charity cases when they ran out of cash? And in which everyone had to spend the preceding years worried about that fate?

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

Or, if you prefer, FDR:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Springtime in the U.S., indeed.