Peace through victory - the American way.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Long Live The Nation State

Nationalism has a bad name in Europe. The 20th Century saw an excess of nationalism in Europe that left millions dead. In reaction the European Union was formed and for years the EU has sought to restrain the power of its nation states within a political union. That drive suffered a huge setback when France voted overwhelmingly to reject the European Constitution, which it should be remembered, was drafted by a former French president. It seems nationalism is not completely dead in Europe.

Not to worry though, the EU will probably do what it has always done when a nation's voters said no. They'll schedule another election and do it all over again, or they'll let the French legislature decide the issue. Nine European nations have voted in favor of political unity. Only one did so by national referendum. To EU proponents "no" never means no.

Europe's drive to eliminate the nation state and to embrace an international union is an odd one for a democratic continent to embrace. Although European nationalism performed badly in the 20th Century, democratic self-rule is more closely linked to the nation state than it is to international organizations.

At least one voter in the French election quoted in this AP article on Yahoo (click here) recognized that connection. Emmanuel Zelez is quoted as saying, "I voted 'no' because the text is very difficult to understand. Also I'm afraid for democracy. The way the EU functions is very opaque. Many people there are not directly elected." His concern was shared by other voters. As another voter, Gilles Nouel, said in this Washington Post article in the San Diego Union Tribune (click here), "I voted no out of a concern for democracy. For me, the decisions should not be made by Europe but by each nation. I want France to make decisions for herself."

Some have suggested that the EU is the model for a future world government and that the United States has no alternative to offer. In that view, one day non-European countries will be clamoring to join the EU. This view has always mystified me. I've never understood why a democracy would hand over its sovereignty to a bureaucratic government unaccountable to the voters. It's one thing to join an economic organization to enhance trade and wealth. It's quite another to join a political union that promises to strip elected national governments of their power. Why voluntarily trade democratic self rule for empire?

France's vote is a reality check. France has not necessarily killed the dreams of a European Union but the difficulty the EU has in convincing Europeans to join it politically suggests its future is not as bright as some believe.

Moreover, the United States does have an alternative model to offer. It's not a model for a world government but it is a model for a world of independent nations ruled by democratic governments. That model is based on delivering the promise of the Declaration of Independence to all nations. The Declaration's promise says that a nation's sovereignty rests with the people. It further says that a government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the people and a government that rules without the consent of the people lacks legitimacy. National sovereignty and democratic self-government flow naturally from this model. The Declaration does not seek to eliminate the nation state. Instead it seeks to make the nation-state's government directly accountable to the citizens.

The EU's model on a global scale would result in a bureaucratic government unaccountable to the voters wielding power over powerless national governments. On the other hand, delivering the promise of the Declaration of Independence on a global scale would result in a world populated by democratic nations with governments accountable to their own people.

Perhaps before the world embraces international government as exemplified by the EU it should let the history of democracy's takeover of the nation state play itself out until the last tyrant falls.



Sunday, May 29, 2005

George Bush: Threat To Democracy

It's more evident every day that the Bush Administration truly is a great threat to democracy in this country. Not because of any danger George W. Bush himself poses but because his success is causing Democrats and their fellow anti-Republicans to give up on the the principles underlying our democracy.

Liberals have long used non-democratic means to push their issues agenda. They have a long history of going to the courts to get what they couldn't otherwise get through legislation. That strategy continues to this day. The same-sex marriage issue is but the latest example.

Elections, however, were generally left alone.

But the prospect of Bush's victory in 2000 led Al Gore to try and steal the Florida election by cherry picking votes and by trying to create them by manipulating the recounts. It happened again in California when lawsuits were filed by the usual liberal interest groups to stop the recall election of Gray Davis. It happened again in Washington last year when the Democrats succeeded in stealing the election for governor. It manifested itself here in San Diego when supporters of Donna Frye for mayor, speaking in the name of democracy and counting every vote, tried to overturn the election and put their candidate into office by arguing that democracy demanded the laws governing the election be ignored.

In all these examples Democrats sought to thwart the will of the voters in choosing their political leaders. This tactic is substantially different from the past tactic of overturning legislation or enacting policy through litigation. It represents a significant threat to democratic self-rule and it originated in 2000 when the Democrats refused to accept Bush's victory. Many of them continue to reject his victory to this day.

The ongoing filibuster debacle in the Senate is a direct result of the Democrats' refusal to accept Bush's presidency as legitimate. That's proven by the bogus argument they make, joined unfortunately by 7 wobbly Republicans, that Bush must consult with the Senate before he nominates a judicial candidate. The constitution requires no such thing.

It's also a result of their refusal to accept the Republican majority in the Senate as legitimate. That's proven by the comparisons Democrats make to the percentage of Clinton's judges that were confirmed or held up. The problem with the comparison to Clinton is that many of his judges were held up when Republicans controlled the Senate and his judges did not enjoy majority support. In other words, under Clinton, the Senate was controlled by the opposition party. Today, under Bush, the Senate is controlled by the government's party. The only way the two situations can be considered the same is by equating the status of the minority Democrats today to the status of the majority Republicans back in Clinton's day. To do that is to delegitimize the Republicans as the majority party in the Senate.

The voters gave the majority in the House and the Senate to the Republicans. By a majority vote, they also gave the presidency with ALL its powers to Bush. It's past time for Democrats to respect the results of this century's elections. If they want the political power that rightly belongs to the winning party they should spend their time working on winning future elections instead of trying to re-fight the elections they've already lost.



Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Extraordinary Circumstances.

The 7 Democrats who signed the filibuster buster deal promised not to support filibusters except in "extraordinary circumstances." (Click here to see the document.) So, what are extraordinary circumstances? The term is nowhere defined in the document and the definition is left to each Senator. However, the document suggests what the 14 believe are ordinary circumstances for judicial nominations and appointments, from which it is easy to infer what extraordinary circumstances might be.

The compromise document states in its penultimate paragraphs that the 14 believe the proper constitutional practice for judicial nominations is for the President to consult with the Senate before sending a candidate to the Senate for confirmation. This is what the 14 seem to believe are ordinary circumstances for judicial nominations and appointments.

Thus, extraordinary circumstances occur when a President consistently sends candidates to the Senate for confirmation without first consulting the Senate. In other words, extraordinary circumstances exist now.

Any of the 7 Democrats who support a future filibuster on that claim will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the 7 Wobbly Republicans to criticize the filibuster or support cloture.



Jack Bauer Is Shane.

The season finale of "24" aired last night. The ending put the show solidly in the tradition of the protective gunslinger epitomized by the movie, "Shane."

Shane is a gunslinger who comes to town and befriends the locals. He ends up saving them from the outlaws by operating outside the law himself. He does so in order to make sure that civilization has a chance to survive against the outlaws.

In the end, he has to leave town because he doesn't belong in society and the final scene is him riding off into the frontier where he belongs.

Jack's inability to keep his relationship because of what he has to do in his
job and then his walking off at the end were very much like the character Shane and the final scene in that movie.

A very good and mythic ending to the season.


Labels: ,

Advice And Consent?

Here's the filibuster buster. The two penultimate paragraphs are a hoot. They state the belief of the 14 Senators that the Advice and Consent clause means that the President should consult with the Senate before he makes a nomination. Trouble is the text of the clause in the constitution doesn't support that interpretation. Here's what the constitution's clause says:

"and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other Public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States ..."

The clause thus provides the President with the sole power to nominate judges after which the Senate gives its advice and consent on the nomination. It may be smart practice and politics to consult with the Senate before making a nomination but in no way is it required by the constitution. For these Senators to say so is grandstanding at best and a power grab at worst.



Three Steps Forward, Take Two More.

Now that the immediate threat of a filibuster is lifted by the defection of 7 Democrats, it's time for Republicans to take advantage of this victory and move as quickly as possible for votes on all of Bush's judicial nominees.

The 7 defecting Democratic Senators agreed not to filibuster 3 justices, Brown, Pryor, and Owens. They made no agreement one way or the other on two others, Henry Saad and William Myers. But they did agree not to support any filibusters absent extraordinary circumstances.

So, Republican leadership should test this agreement immediately. Get Brown, Pryor and Owens through the Senate and then move immediately to debate on Saad and Myers. After a reasonable time move for cloture.

If the 7 defecting Democratic Senators meant what they said when they agreed not to support a filibuster except in extraordinary circumstances, they will have to vote for cloture. If they don't, put the pressure on the 7 wobbly Republican Senators to support the so-called nuclear/constitutional/Byrd option.

If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward.



Thursday, May 12, 2005

Maybe Bolton Should Run For Senate Instead.

Psuedo-Republican George Voinovich got in his licks on John Bolton calling him "arrogant and bullying." He also said he won't vote to confirm Bolton because of it. In my view, that makes him a perfect fit for the UN. Voinovich disagrees, however. Perhaps he believes that Bolton's personality is better suited for Congress.



Tuesday, May 03, 2005

10 Years After Brain Damage And Now A Recovery

So, now a firefighter has emerged into consciousness 10 years after sustaining a brain injury. (Click here for story.) Down in the story is the important point that he received continuous therapy beginning 2 1/2 months after his brain injury despite his apparent lack of awareness of his surroundings. Although he had been down for 10 years he believed it had only been a few months. Buried at the bottom of the article are two other interesting stories of similar recoveries from brain injury with limited results. In one the man emerged after 19 years but has limited capabilities. In the other the man emerged briefly, receded, and died of other health complications a year later.

There's a lot we don't know about the workings of the mind.