Dialogs under the Full Moon

Perhaps it was the full moon – but the moon won’t really be full until Saturday, 30 June.  But from the window here in Hollywood it sure looked full, three days early.  They say odd things happen with a full moon.  Full Moons are traditionally associated with temporal insomnia, insanity (see lunacy and lunatic) and lycanthropy – the delusion that one has become a wolf, or if you believe in such things, the assumption of the form and characteristics of a wolf.  The folklore is that something odd happens with the full moon –

 

The devil’s in the moon for mischief; they

Who call’d her chaste, methinks, began too soon

Their nomenclature; there is not a day,

The longest, not the twenty-first of June,

Sees half the business in a wicked way,

On which three single hours of moonshine smile –

And then she looks so modest all the while!

- Byron, Don Juan (Canto I, stanza 113)

 

Well the day was the twenty-eight of June, not the twenty-first, but still full of odd events.  That firebrand of the right, Ann Coulter, was in rare form, and the Supreme Court closed its session with a flurry of rulings, one quite startling, the president’s signature program, the immigration bill, went down in flames (“See you at the signing ceremony” indeed) – and after Congress issued subpoenas to key people in the administration, the White House went into full-Nixon mode, claiming executive privilege and daring Congress to take them to court.  Quite a day.

 

And the regular readers, the email discussion group on the issues at this site, got on a bit of a “full moon roll” – having at it all.

 

Earlier, in Fun with Sociopaths, you’ll find a discussion of Richard Lugar’s speech where he breaks with the Bush administration and says there is no military solution in Iraq, and maybe we ought to try something else.  Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, wondered about that light at the end of the tunnel thing –

Do we glimpse the “end days” at the end of the tunnel?

 

To put Richard Lugar’s message even more into context, one should read Frank Rich’s column in last Sunday’s New York Times “Week in Review,” days before Lugar spoke – “As [retired Army Gen. William Odom, a national security official in the Reagan and Carter administrations,] says, the end-game will start ‘when a senior senator from the president’s party says no,’ much as William Fulbright did to L.B.J. during Vietnam.”

 

Rich goes on to speculate that this is why Washington’s eyes will now be on John Warner, who told the Washington Post he always regretted not speaking out during Vietnam. (“We kept surging in those years,” he said in January. “It didn’t work.”) Maybe Lugar saw Rich’s column and stole Warner’s thunder.

 

Also worth noting: Earlier in that column, Rich quotes Odom as telling him that, for the Bush White House, “the real definition of victory has become ‘anything they can get away with without taking blame for defeat,'” including running out the clock until January 20, 2009.

To that last remark, Dick in Rochester, says this –

 

There is absolutely nothing the Democrats are going to be able to do with this mess and look good.  It’s like you are the doctor on the scene when the patient dies – you have done almost “miracle medicine” but your patient still died.  That is the only part of anything people remember.

 

Maybe so, and Rick in Atlanta replies –

And the smart money says that’s what the GOP is counting on. Hell, thin gruel! What the hell else do they have going for them?

 

Speaking of other things I read lately, I don’t know how I missed this before but George Packer points out in this week’s New Yorker that not only are we possibly headed for a “subway series” presidential campaign if Clinton and Giuliani are their parties’ candidates, but it could be a three-way subway series if Independent Bloomberg joins. Jeez, I do love my old hometown New York, but I have a hard time imagining my voting for any of those people!

 

Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, replies, from more than thirty floors up in One World Trade Center – “None of the three choices excite me one bit.” 

So much for the New York vote.  All your editor in Hollywood can muster is this – “I somehow think it will be Fred Thompson versus John Kerry.”

The riposte from Atlanta – 

If you’re searching for extremely dark horses who will surprise us, I think you got the wrong guys. For example, as a candidate from Tennessee, didn’t you mean to say Mike Huckabee? Also, you obviously meant Bob, rather than John, Kerry. (Between those two, I might actually consider voting for Bloomberg.)

 

From Hollywood –

 

No, no, no – the Republicans will go with the closest they can find to the long-dead Reagan and the Democrats will go with a known quantity sure to lose.  It’s tradition.

 

Support from Lower Manhattan –

 

C’mon people!  How can one argue that logic?

 

And Atlanta concedes –

 

Yeah, he’s got something there.

 

Yes, Thompson is definitely the tall conservative from what many Republicans consider “behind enemy lines” – namely, Hollywood – but when the Democrats picked John Kerry, they thought they were doing roughly the same thing – that is, tapping someone with real military experience who none of the blood-sucking warriors on the other side could criticize, especially in light of the fact that Bush avoided the same war that Kerry actually served in. Maybe that plan was “naive,” as many will argue that it turned out to be, but it wasn’t exactly designed to fail.

 

From Hollywood –

 

Rick, regarding Kerry, the calculation was as you note, but he was a compromise.

 

Look at the 2008 race – Hillary is too divisive (those high negatives), Obama too idealistic (and he has that unfortunate middle name), Edwards is too pretty, and so on.  And Maureen Dowd at the New York Times has already kicked into high gear to destroy the latter two, as she did Gore in 2000 by mocking his “earth tone” clothes.  She repeatedly calls Obama “Bambi” and still writes twice a month about Edwards’ four-hundred-dollar haircut.  She’s on a roll, and Chris Matthews and the rest are working as line amplifiers.  She’ll get the job done.  In the real world, positions and proposed policies don’t really matter a bit.
 
As in 1968, the Democrats will look for someone completely safe – following the consultants’ advice, to offend the most people the least.  Hubert Humphrey isn’t available.  Kerry will do.

 

Atlanta –

 

All kidding aside, too many Democrats think Kerry screwed himself (and them) in that campaign. I think he’s poison.

 

I myself think he probably would have made an okay president, had he made it into office – certainly better than what we got instead – but after watching him in action, I now think he probably doesn’t have the proper signal receptors installed in his brain to know what to do and how to do it.

 

And I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Ralph Nader for helping make America what it is today.

 

Yes, yes, modest guy that he is, I’m sure he would deny having anything to do with it, but the truth is that we never would have been seeing any of this had Al Gore been elected president, which is what would have happened had Ralph not intervened.

 

Phillip in Georgia chimes in –

 

Though we end up with the worst public speaker in the history of man as a leader, Kerry lacks showbiz skills in the extreme with his droning circular answers. Something smarmy is up with Edwards like the divorce lawyer who took the bass boat as part of the settlement.  Obama (code name “chicks dig ‘im”) is such a sloganeer I have my doubts, and Hillary, what a Yale girl – But daddy, I want the pony! – even if she didn’t have a pony or even go to Yale.  Ah well. what do we have to deal with?

 

Rick –

 

I think Hillary did go to Yale.  Didn’t she and Bill meet at Yale Law?

 

What’s the bass boat reference? Is that real, or is it one of those southern metaphors I’m not too quick at picking up? My biggest problem with Edwards right now is his wife giving a platform to that Ann Coulter guy. (And now that Coulter has the stage, could she please explain that whole Adam’s apple thing? What’s with that?)

 

Hollywood –

 

As far as Coulter is concerned, Elizabeth Edwards is just upset because Ann said, three years ago, that the Edwards were happy because their son died long ago, as it made for a good political fodder, and John had a bumper sticker on his car that said “Ask Me about My Dead Son.”  Then Monday of this week Coulter said, on the NBC Today Show, that she thought it would be good if terrorists murdered John Edwards – that was her idea of how the world should be, and that is what she prayed for.

 

Elizabeth should lighten up.  It’s the usual – Coulter famously said she wished Timothy McVeigh had blown up the NY Times building in midtown Manhattan and not the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, as that would be completely justified.  She’s called for the assassination of Justice Stephens.  She has said a few prominent liberals should be executed to make an example of them – Americans don’t like traitors.  Then they’d shut up.  She says we DID find those WMD in Iraq.  She is who she is.  Whatever.  But her latest book just came out in paperback, and all the bookers are scrambling to get her on-air, now.  Ratings matter.  What wrong with CNN?  Everyone else has booked her.

 

See this – NBC’s David Gregory thinks we just need to “strip away” Ann Coulter’s inflammatory rhetoric to listen to her points.  According to Gregory we’re all missing the very important points that Ann Coulter makes because we get caught up in her hate speech.

 

Ah, right.

 

Atlanta –

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, all well and good, but I still want to know, what’s with that Adam’s apple?

 

I imagine someone inside CNN is probably trying to book her as well, but I think she may be contracted to Fox. I also suspect there are people at CNN who are shy about giving a platform to someone who makes all her money by grabbing the attention of the media, then pushing her latest stupid book. The nice word for Coulter-type people is “sophist” – but I think she is so aggressively sophistic that she crosses over the line into full-blown publicity whoredom.

 

Although with that Adam’s apple, I suspect she might be just another Republican male prostitute, in drag. We’ll know for sure if she ever ends up getting her own assigned seat at a White House press briefing.

 

Hollywood –

 

Coulter.  She is contracted to Fox, as a commentator.  She has a side deal, a release, to appear on NBC-MSNBC-CNBC.  That’s why she appeared on Matthew’s “Hardball” show, where more precisely she announced that instead of using homophobic slurs to attack John Edwards, which seems to offend people for some reason, she will instead now just wish that he would be “killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”  Previously she had said he was obviously gay – or even more precisely she used the word “faggot.”  She said the same about Bill Clinton last year, also on Matthew’s “Hardball” show.

 

I don’t think her agent would strike a deal with CNN even if they wanted her on-air.  She has her forums – and Dan Abrams, the news director at MSNBC, needs the numbers.  She was on Scarborough this morning – video here – and now Brent Bozell is defending her – saying he hates censorship of any kind.
 
She’ll be fine.  I have no idea about the Adam’s apple.

 

Atlanta –

 

Okay, so maybe CNN considers it unethical, not to mention somewhat unseemly, to give a platform to anyone contracted to whore for its competitor networks. In my view, they lucked out. They have until her contract runs out to take the high road – then, they’re probably stuck with no good excuse to hide behind.

 

She thought Bill Clinton was a “faggot”? Did she snooze through that whole administration? I assume the reason I’ve never heard that one is because she’s being protected from herself by her publicist.

 

Wouldn’t it be cool if we found out there actually is an assassination plot by some terrorist group to kill John Edwards, simply because he would be missed, and that the same group unanimously voted down a proposal to assassinate Ann Coulter, on the grounds that not only would she not be missed by Americans, it would be the moral equivalent of finding the cure for genital herpes? She is such a homophobic dork, they probably think of her as one of their own!

 

Okay, forget the Adam’s apple. I think you can maybe sneak some DNA from one of her discarded jock straps and see if it shows whether she has a Y chromosome (“Cripes! She’s a guy!”) or mitochondrial DNA (“Cripes! She’s a broad!”) For my part, I’m prepared to be shocked, either way.

 

Hollywood –

 

Rick, you never heard that?  You just were not paying attention.

 

Thursday, July 27, 2006, there was this:

 

Summary: Chris Matthews asked pundit Ann Coulter, “How do you know that Bill Clinton is gay?” – referring to her comment the night before on CNBC’s The Big Idea that Clinton “show[s] some level of latent homosexuality.” Coulter responded, “I don’t know if he’s gay. But Al Gore – total fag.” In concluding the interview, Matthews said of Coulter, “We’d love to have her back.”

 

… She went on to defend her theory about Clinton’s sexuality by stating that “everyone has always known, widely promiscuous heterosexual men have, as I say, a whiff of the bathhouse about them.” Coulter claimed she was “just kidding” about Gore, but said of her theory about Clinton, “It’s not only not a joke, it’s not even surprising.”

 

Make of it what you will.

 

Atlanta –

 

True enough. I often just don’t pay attention.

 

“Everyone has always known…?” Whoa! “Hey, everyone in my sorority house knows this!” (Or was it in her fraternity house?)

 

It’s a well-known fact that obnoxious blond conservative women tend to be actually men in disguise, or at the very least, wish they were.

 

Hollywood –

 

I was channel surfing just after five out here and caught her on O’Reilly.  She led the show and was on for the first twenty minutes – he was lauding her for her courage and ranting about the cowards who attacked her for no reason at all.  The usual.  I have no link for you, but I did hear her boldly say she was more of a man than any male liberal out there. 

 

Well, yes.  That was all I caught.  One of the secondary movie channels was running “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  I decided 1953 was fine with me.

 

Well, we have our traditions – hapless Democrats and oddly nostalgic and sexually insecure Republicans, and Saint Ralph.  And while that dialog was zipping back and forth across the contiunent, the newly reconfigured Supreme Court effectively reversed the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling – so we can keep the black kids out of the good public schools now.  About the same time the immigration bill failed – no Mexicans here on the sly will ever get a chance to become citizens.  One could say tradition is alive and well.
 

And then there’s this

 

In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a “whites only” shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn’t sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn’t care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree….

 

The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena’s black population didn’t take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could “end their life with a stroke of the pen.”

 

Black students were assaulted at white parties. A white man drew a loaded rifle on three black teens at a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school, and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six black students being charged with attempted murder. To his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are juveniles….

 

There’s a note there that they just impaneled an all-white jury for the attempted murder charges.  We’re getting back to the way things used to be, or so it would seem.

 

The New York attorney disagrees with a bit of that, the characterization of the Supreme Court decision –

 

Of course now I have to disagree.

 

Attached please find a link to the opinion.  While I can’t read the entire thing during the day, it appears that you may have misread the decision.  The Divine Nine have reversed and remanded because in the words of the court “[t]he school districts have not carried their burden of showing that the interest they seek to achieve justifies the extreme means they have chosen – discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments.”  Furthermore, if you search the pdf for Brown you will see supportive comments regarding that case.

 

The link is here.  Perhaps I am misreading as I have not had the chance to read the entire opinion.  Needless to say, I don’t believe I have.

 

Well, maybe he is right, and Rick in Atlanta thinks so –

 

I think your characterization of this case – that it’s not a reversal of Brown – is probably right.

 

Still, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, standing in front of the steps this morning, relayed an exchange between Chief Justice Roberts – who implied out loud that the white students denied their first choice in this case had been just as wronged as the black students in Brown who were denied access to white schools in the 1950s – and Justice Breyer – who’s response to this was something like, “You’ve got to be kidding, comparing all this to Jim Crow!”

 

The truth is that all these so-called “reverse discrimination” cases are like nefarious word games, using the language of civil rights against those who were historically the victims of injustice and in support of the historically over-privileged. This is not to say there aren’t problems that we need to resolve in these affirmative action cases, it’s just that there seems to be a tendency of white people to try to adhere to a strict standard of “color blindness” (a phony lesson we supposedly learned from the civil rights era) simply because it tends to favor white people.

 

Agreed, but not in Manhattan –

 

I think it shows that the media (sorry Rick) is way too fast to get the story out before digesting the entire opinion.  I admit that I have not read the entire thing but certainly in reading the first few pages to conclude that it reverses Brown seems a tad reckless.

Rick defends the network he helped build – “Media? Maybe, but all I heard was CNN and they didn’t do that.” 

So let’s get this straight.  What really happened? 

It seems you cannot now consider race at all in any attempt to remedy racial discrimination.  This just presents a new and interesting challenge, or a wall no one will ever be able to scale. 

The events as they occurred are clear -  

Concluding its current Term with a historic ruling on race in public policy, the Supreme Court divided 5-4 on Thursday in striking down voluntary integration plans in the public schools of Seattle and Louisville. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote the majority opinion in the combined cases. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy did not join all of the majority opinion, but joined in the result. Kennedy suggested in a separate opinion that the Chief Justice’s opinion, in part, “is at least open to the interpretation that the Constitution requires school districts to ignore the problem of de facto resegregation in schooling. I cannot endorse that conclusion.”

 

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote. On the two school plans, the majority found that the districts have “failed to provide the necessary support for the proposition that there is no other way than individual racial classifications to avoid racial isolation in their school districts.”

 

The Chief Justice, in his oral announcement of the ruling, insisted that the Court was remaining faithful to Brown v. Board of Education in barring public school districts from assigning students on the basis of race. Answering that, Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that there was a “cruel irony” in making that claim, because it involved a rewriting of the history “of one of this Court’s most important decisions.” Stevens noted that he joined the Court in 1975, and asserted that “no member of the Court” at that time “would have agreed with today’s decision.”

 

Justice Kennedy recited from his separate opinion, in which he declined to join the Roberts opinion as it discussed the lack of a compelling interest in achieving racial balance in public school classrooms. The Chief Justice’s opinion notes that Seattle was never officially segregated by race, and that Louisville is no longer under a court order to desegregate its once-segregated system. Kennedy said in his concurrence that ending racial isolation may sometimes be a compelling interest in public education, and can be pursued with race as “one component” of the plan to achieve racial diversity.

 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer next opened his microphone and began a long recital for the dissenters. The several oral statements made the announcement one of the longest in years, running for 41 minutes.

 

At the end of Breyer’s discussion, the Court recessed for the summer, to return for new Term on Monday, Oct. 1. Concluding orders for this Term, the Chief Justice announced, will be released at 10 a.m. Friday.

 

Also see this quick analysis 

Nothing in the text of the Constitution compels these programs to be struck down. Essentially, Roberts’s plurality opinion rests on the assertion that racial classifications intended to perpetuate a caste system should be considered the precise legal equivalent of racial classifications intended to remedy segregation. This is exceptionally unpersuasive, and also makes it almost impossible to actually remedy the ongoing de facto segregation of American school systems, much of which has roots in various forms of state discrimination (not just formal apartheid in the South, but the drawing of arbitrary school district lines to create segregated systems, local ordinances encouraging residential segregation, etc.) As Breyer says, “This context is not a context that involves the use of race to decide who will receive goods or services that are normally distributed on the basis of merit and which are in short supply. It is not one in which race-conscious limits stigmatize or exclude; the limits at issue do not pit the races against each other or otherwise significantly exacerbate racial tensions. They do not impose burdens unfairly upon members of one race alone but instead seek benefits for members of all races alike. The context here is one of racial limits that seek, not to keep the races apart, but to bring them together.” To compare what these cities are doing to states that maintained apartheid is historically blinkered and morally untenable.

 

Given the modesty of the Seattle program – which used race only as a tiebreaker, making the potential injustices of the classification particularly dubious - it is clear that no affirmative action program is going to survive an encounter with the Roberts Court in its current configuration. This is another area where replacing O’Connor with Alito makes a major difference.

 

The opinion was predictably narrowed by Kennedy, who provided the swing vote but (exactly as Dahlia Lithwick predicted) holding out the dim possibility that a future program may theoretically take race into account. This probably won’t be terribly meaningful in practice (particularly since the federal courts are rapidly abandoning the desegregation orders necessary for Kennedy’s distinction to be relevant.)

 

I strongly urge you to read Breyer’s dissent, which among many virtues contains a detailed history of segregation in both cities, pointing out that federal court orders were necessary to compel desegregation in both cities and (contrary to the plurality) even Seattle had significant elements of de jure segregation. It also does a good job of pointing out the opinion’s obvious inconsistency with past precedents the Court claims to be applying (I’ll have more on that later.)

 

I’ll have an article about this coming out tomorrow, but you will be shocked to hear that Thomas’s concurrence does not contain the long-awaited historical evidence that the Fourteenth Amendment was originally understood as prohibiting even remedial racial classifications. Strange; I’m sure he must have it somewhere and just hasn’t gotten around to it! Obviously, in the wake of Bush v. Gore accusations by conservatives about liberals favoring “judicial activism” or “outcome-oriented” jurisprudence are risibly hypocritical, but here’s another data point.

 

I’ll give the last word for to Breyer:

 

“Today, almost 50 years later, attitudes toward race in this Nation have changed dramatically. Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. The long history of their efforts reveals the complexities and difficulties they have faced. And in light of those challenges, they have asked us not to take from their hands the instruments they have used to rid their schools of racial segregation, instruments that they believe are needed to overcome the problems of cities divided by race and poverty. The plurality would decline their modest request.

 

“The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality’s position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.”

 

From Rick in Atlanta –

 

Two years back, our elementary schools here in Decatur, Georgia, were all rearranged in such a way to make them neatly balanced according to race. Some folks hereabouts were pissed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them now try to undo the arrangement, which I think has worked rather well. My eight-year-old attends, and we’re pleased to see that about half her best friends (she has a bunch) are black, including one little Somalian girl who attends school in a head-scarf.

 

No more of that!  But a caution from Manhattan –

 

Without reading the entire history of the case it is hard to get the full picture.

 

Not to move away from this subject but did anyone notice that Stonewall Bush invoked executive privilege today?  A constitutional crisis is probably now inescapable, but then what the hell do I know?  I’m a regulatory lawyer which I guess makes me just a regular kind of guy.

 

Hollywood –

 

AP covered it – “President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers’ demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.”

 

Yep.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy responded to the announcement – “This is a further shift by the Bush Administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances. This White House cannot have it both ways. They cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses, while claiming nothing improper occurred…. Increasingly, the President and Vice President feel they are above the law – in America no one is above the law.”

 

Really?  What planet is Pat Leahy on?  Legally, we’re in for a brutal fight in the courts.  Politically, the White House is now left looking as if it has something to hide, in large part because it almost certainly has something to hide.  But they can string this out in the courts until Giuliani or someone else president.  In the interim, you can expect the fall-back to the old argument – “This internal stuff is no one’s business, as the vote in 2004 was clear, and the people decided to accept everything I do.”  The case is closed.  We get to vote again next year, if we have a problem with any of this.

 

So be it.  One should be very wary when the moon is nearly full.  Madness seems likely.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to Dialogs under the Full Moon

  1. Pingback: Race and the Law, and History « Just Above Sunset

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