Byrd vs. US Gov

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va, speaking against the creation of the Homeland Security bill in the Senate last Tuesday:

It is long past time for us to finally do our best to prevent another deadly strike by those who hate us and wish us ill. Terrorism is no plaything.

Political service is no game. Political office is no place for warring children.

And the oath of office which we take is no empty pledge to be subjugated to the tactics of election-year chicanery perpetrated on a good and trusting people.

Though I've been a bit removed from the proceedings myself, I can't help but wonder how the creation and merger of 20-odd agencies into one bohemoth governmental organization is going to do anything towards making Americans more secure. Corporate mergers rarely work. Why would public service mergers work any better? And when critical work needs to be done (in the armed forces or in companies), SWATs are organized — small groups of excellently-equipped people given the resources, clearance, and leeway to do whatever's necessary to accomplish clearly defined goals. The Department of Homeland Security seems to be a step in a very different direction.

DC Social Life and international relations

I read an "article with potential" on the plane in W magazine (whose tagline should be "our fashion layouts double as porn!") (runner-up tagline, "this magazine is total superficial shit, worse than InStyle") about the lack of social scene in Washington DC since the Bush II's came to town. Apparently G.W. doesn't like to entertain much and his social schedule is in line with his political approach: isolationist (he likes to order Tex-Mex, invite close friends over, and go to bed by 9 PM).

It made me think about what this does for international relations and I'd love to see a publication with more substance (The New Yorker? The Atlantic? The Times or the Washington Post?) examine the history of DC social life. Is there any relationship between the number of state dinners/presidential entertaining policies and the way the US interacts with world? Are relations smoother when we have a more social president? Or are they worse? When there is more socializing between branches, do Congress and the Executive get along more smoothly? Is there a reduction in filibusters? Or not? I think that would be a totally cool article. If you're an editor, or you know an editor, at one of these publications, could you make this happen? Thanks.

From the NYer: The Duel

There's a wonderful piece in this week's The New Yorker by Jesse Lichtenstein called The Duel, a series of letters in which President Bush demands a "Gentleman's Satisfaction" with Saddam Hussein to settle their differences. If you've ever read any 18th century correspondence (Thos. Jefferson's, for example) this may delight you even further. In addition it contains the phrases "seditious Moustaches" and the Shakespeareian-sounding "Cankerous Blight."

The End of the West

There's an interesting article in this month's Atlantic by Charles Kupchan, The End of the West. The premise is that, "[t]he next clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest but between the United States and Europe–and Americans remain largely oblivious" Kupchan posits that the USA/EU similarities are superficial and that fundamentally the two superpowers (if one can call the EU a superpower at this point) hold quite different values and belief systems. His analogy for the power-shift and rivalry? Rome and Constantinople and the fate of the Roman Empire after its division into eastern and western halves. Something interesting to think about, especially next month when I'm in Paris experiencing the EU life first-hand.

More on Eldred v Ashcroft

Ernest Miller writes in with several points of clarification regarding yesterday's post. Apparently it was Justice Ginsberg who was questioning Lessig's First Amendment argument. He was in attendence, Yale Law School LawMeme notes here. Also he points out something I didn't know. He says,

Also, I don't know where Aaron was sitting. Not all of the seats have a clear view of the Justices. Reporters always complain that they can only see one or two of the justices from where they sit. So, it is entirely possible that Aaron only heard the voice and couldn't see the justices.

Makes total sense. Another reader points out that a Former Solicitor General twice called one female justice by the other's name. So I guess getting them mixed up is more common than one would think.

Aaron Swartz on the Supreme Court, DC, and Lessig

Aaron Swartz has a wonderful write-up of his experience listening to the oral arguments at the Supreme Court for Eldred v. Ashcroft. One thing that struck me in his write-up though was this passage,

One of the female justices interrupted and pressed him on the First Amendment issues.

Based on other write-ups I've read, I believe it was Justice O'Connor who interrupted Lessig. I found it kind of amazing that Aaron didn't recognize her. I mean, aside from the fact that there are only two women on the Supreme Court at all, O'Connor was the first woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court.

I don't mean this as any slight on Aaron whatsoever, it just struck me as odd for someone not to know her name. And made me feel a bit old too — I remember when O'Connor was nominated and thinking it was one of the coolest things in the world: a woman on the Supreme Court! But that was all before Aaron was born. I'm really envious he was able to attend such an amazing event.

It’s Funny Because It’s True

Two Onion articles this week are so spot-on, they almost read like honest news items. First, Bush Seeks Support For 'US Does Whatever It Wants' Plan. Choice quote: "Despite repeated American efforts to change the situation, Saddam Hussein defiantly continues his longtime policy of being the president of Iraq," Bush said. "The time has come for this man to step down, because we want him to." The brilliance continues with RIAA Sues Radio Stations For Giving Away Free Music. "It's criminal," RIAA president Hilary Rosen said. "Anyone at any time can simply turn on a radio and hear a copyrighted song." God Bless the Onion.