Property Law Hypotheticals

Law academics are renowned for their creation of bizarre and unlikely hypotheticals. Yet as usual, life is stranger than fiction. When land is owned by two (or more) people in joint tenancy, there is an automatic right of survivorship (if one of the joint tenants dies, his/her share is automatically passed to the remaining joint tenants). Well here's a fact pattern you don't expect to find in your Property casebook:

If A and B, joint tenants, die in a common disaster and there is "no sufficient evidence" of the order of death, Uniform Simultaneous Death Act Section 3 (1953) provides that one-half the property is distributed as if A survived and one-half as if B survived. Suppose that A and B are killed while riding in a car struck by a train. When witnesses arrive, there are no signs of life in A; B is decapitated and blood is gushing from her neck in spurts. Does B survive A? See Gray v. Sawyer, 247 S.W.2d 496 (Ny. 1952).

For anyone who shares my morbid curiosity, here's the text of the decision (which was not on the merits, but rather on whether the witness testimony was sufficient new evidence to mandate a new trial):

The newly discovered evidence is that Mrs. Ruth Hickey heard the noise of the accident, turned and saw what had happened and then went immediately to the scene. She found Mrs. Gugel decapitated, her head lying about ten feet from her body, which was actively bleeding 'from near her neck and blood was gushing from her body in spurts.' Her legs were crossed but thereafter straightened out.

Realistically, a person is dead when there has been a complete decapitation of the head, as was proved in the original case; but upon a hypothetical question submitting the above statements of Mrs. Hickey and, as well, the terrific mangling of the body of her husband and other conditions relating to both, several doctors expressed the opinion that Mrs. Gugel had survived her husband for a fleeting moment. The doctors told the court that a body is not dead so long as there is a heart beat and that may be evidenced by the gushing of blood in spurts. This is so though the brain may have quit functioning.

A horrible accident that has survived 51 years to become a very strange law school casebook footnote.

Netflix

If there are any other Netflix members out there, here are some disturbing statistics about making it harder for members who rent a lot of movies to get the movies on their list. I'm pissed. (Thanks to my classmate Kelly for the link, via Slashdot)

5th Amendment Fruits of the Poisonous Tree

We've been covering the 5th Amendment and Miranda in my Criminal Investigation class, and this week the SC said it would re-examine some issues surrounding the Miranda warnings. In particular, the question is whether "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" exclusion should extend not just to an unwarned statement, but to physical evidence and witness testimony that results from information learned in that statement.

A couple years ago, when Miranda itself was under attack in Dickerson, among the amicus briefs there was quite a bit of police support for Miranda; if you really look at the Miranda decision, you see a whole slew of psychological police procedures that the court was dismayed by (good cop-bad cop, etc.). However, instead of banning them outright, they set up the prophylactic Miranda warnings. Now, once the police have given those warnings (and they've been waived), the police are free to use all those psychological tactics.

Overturning Miranda without some new standard would leave us with the Due Process Clause voluntariness test, and that's going to raise a lot of questions about coercion and deception that police don't want to answer. What this new case does is suggest another reason that police might not be so keen on Miranda/

The court has sort of backed itself into a corner with its Dickerson ruling. They used to be able to exclude Miranda violations from normal "fruit of the poisonous tree" analysis, since Miranda warnings were only 'prophylactic' rules. Thus only the tainted statement/confession was thrown out, but any physical evidence and witness testimony was still valid. Now that Dickerson has constitutionalized the rules, violating them takes on a new meaning. I doubt the court will make the necessary step and throw out this physical evidence, but it'll be nice to see them squirm.

LOTR: TTT

For someone who didn't even read the books until after the movies started coming out, I have to admit to now being a bit of a Lord of the Rings fanatic. The soundtrack to the first film is this exam period's designated study music, and I'm itching to read the trilogy again this summer. I also happen to be a huge movie fan and DVD buff, so when I heard that the Two Towers extended edition would have 43 minutes of additional footage, and that much of it would involve Treebeard (who really got shafted in the theatrical release), I was quite pleased.

/geektalk

The Care Principle

I just finished reading Wolff's Introduction to Political Philosophy and am pretty pleased. It would have been useful during my intro theory class at Harvard. Of particular interest to me were the weaknesses of traditional consent theories (tacit or otherwise), and the last chapter which focused on feminist attacks on liberal individualism. In particular, Wolff references Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice, which though I've yet to read, appears to have a facially interesting look at the distinct approaches to moral theory by men and women. From what I gather the basic distinction is between the male emphasis on abstract rights and the female emphasis on caring and responsibility.

I'll have to read it to give a proper evaluation, but from my own anecdotal experiences this seems pretty insightful. I have noticed in law school that the male students tend to focus immediately on more abstract underlying principles, whereas female students are more likely to be interested in the particular facts of a case. This is obviously a over-simplified generalization. It also means neither that men can't care about the facts nor that women can't understand the abstractions. I just see a difference in what tends to be the first priority.

Never Again

So it looks like Senate Republicans are getting tired of defending the President's more controversial judicial nominations. I'm wondering what the cause for the President's push on these nominations really is? Is it just partisan stubborness? I think maybe not. Who knows if any in the administration are thinking on these terms, but after reading about Justice Stevens' unexpected lurch to the left, it occurs to me just how betrayed many current Republicans must feel by Justice Souter (though appointed by the first President Bush, he's consistently voted with the liberals and wrote a strong dissent in Bush v. Gore).

I happen to think Souter votes quite nicely, but if Clinton had nominated a justice who went on to strike down Roe or had joined the majority in Bush v. Gore, I sure can see Democrats going nuts. I wonder if a similar feeling is an undercurrent to the current administration's approach to judicial nomination. Perhaps they fear moderates because they might just as easily turn out to be center-left as center-right.

UPDATE: Jackpot! Here's what the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly has to say in her vision for 2003:

Bush was elected in 2000 and successful in campaigning for Republican Senate candidates in 2002 largely because of the judicial issue, and his constituency will leave him if he appoints another Justice Souter.

Chalk that up as a completely unveiled threat.

(Aside: I wonder if there's a way to sculpt this into a law review article?)

Justice Stevens

How Appealing notes that Justice John Paul Stevens turns 83 today. Stevens has long been a mystery to me, and I've never really been able to create a coherent understanding of what he's done on the court in the last 28 years. Here's an interesting take:

Stevens has confounded prognosticators who thought they knew him as well as those who did not. Widely considered a 'sure swing vote' in the Court's center, he fairly rapidly proved to be found far more frequently with the 'liberal bloc,' increasingly so with the passing of time. His prorights or proindividual score has consistently been high. The women's rights group who opposed his nomination quickly began to hail him as both sensitive and free of preconceived notions. A 'gadfly to the brethren,' a personal loner, a legal maverick, he forever challenges his colleagues. Always well prepared and soft-spoken in his frequent colloquies with counsel in oral argument, he probes like a veritable explorer and is replete with novel legal theories. But he has not been a Court leader, and it is doubtful that he will become one. He has found it difficult to subsume his own ideas and interpretations to others in order to forge not only a numerically united front, but also one that is jurisprudentially in concord. He has written more dissenting and concurring opinions than any of his colleagues. To dissent, of course, is one thing; but to engage in the veritable flood of concurring opinions that have emanated from Stevens's pen is quite another - for they all too often muddy the constitutional law waters and lay themselves open to the charge that they are ego trips. Yet Stevens is patently a valuable addition to the Court. He is an unceasing stimulator of reflection, of innovation, of disciplined literateness, of cerebral combat in constitutional law, logic, and theory. And his gift for elegant, pungent, memorable expression will always grace the Court's annals.

I'm sure he's been the 5th vote on a number of issues, and thus influential in practical terms. Yet in legal terms, it's hard for me to see what he has really contributed. I don't think being an 'unceasing stimulator' of 'cerebral combat' is particularly valuable if you're arguing by yourself on the sidelines of all the major debates.

Paper and Glue

I just finished reading Dune, and it was a great pleasure. I'm sure future re-readings (particularly if done outside of exam prep) will give me a better sense of all the subtleties, but even the first read had me pretty deeply involved with the subplots and allegories.

As I took it back to my bookshelves, I couldn't help but miss Paul and Chani... always the best sign to me that I really enjoyed a book.

Luckily, my next endeavor was obvious to me (I can often spend an hour staring at the shelves trying to decide what to read next): Steinbeck's East of Eden. It's been a couple years since I read The Grapes of Wrath, but it remains among my favorites. Some say East of Eden is even better. That would be amazing.

AA Again

WP has an article on the potential effects of an affirmative action ban on affirmative minority representation at professional schools. I don't care what your feelings on the subject, these stats ought to be pretty shocking:

Michigan's law school, which is considered highly selective, admits students who average 165 on the Law School Admissions Test and a grade-point average of 3.5. Last fall, 4,461 law school applicants nationwide achieved or exceeded those grades, according to a brief the Law School Admission Council filed at the Supreme Court. Of those students, the council said, 29 were black and 114 were Hispanic.

Read the article... there's a lot to be concerned about.

You Know You're in Law School When..

Here's something you probably didn't know. When the United Nations receives communications about human rights violations, two resolutions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) govern: Resolution 728F which explains why the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has no power to take any action, and Resolution 1503 which provides confidential procedures for analyzing the communication. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights summarizes the communication for compilation in a confidential list, and submits the communication (with author unidentified) to the government of the country concerned. Then the Working Group on Communications (a sub-group of the CHR, itself a sub-group of ECOSOC, consisting of 5 members, 1 each from 5 regions) has a 10 day session, reviews 400-500 files (from 20-25k received), and with a majority vote refers the communication to the Working Group on Situations. Then the Working Group on Situations (5 diplomats from among the CHR member countries) meets prior to the annual CHR meeting, decides which country situations to refer to CHR and drafts recommendations for how to handle them. Then the CHR meets in private session, with just the CHR members and a representative of the country under discussion, and has one of three options: a) Keep situation pending for 1 year; b) Drop the matter; c) Permit CHR to consider the matter in public session.

What lessons should you take from this inane lecture?

1) Law school sucks
2) The U.N. is worse

Town's the Fish, People are the Barrel

CalPundit (it's the Deficit Thinking post) takes the opportunity to shoot some fish in the National Review barrel:

Now normally I'd just disagree with NR and be done with it, since that's the safest way to bet, but I can't even figure out what point they're trying to make here.

What do spending increases have to do with tax cuts? Are they suggesting that every dollar of spending increases should be matched by a dollar of tax cuts? That strikes me as peculiar economics even for a magazine that's desperately trying to support Bush.

Go check it out to see the nonsensical editorial he's talking about.

Powell's a Tattle-Tale

AP reports that Powell may have stepped out of bounds by telling the truth:

When a student asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about the 1973 military coup in Chile, the retired general turned diplomat made no secret of his deep misgivings about the U.S. role in that upheaval.

The matter might have ended there had not Washington operative William D. Rogers taken notice of Powell's televised comment. Rogers served under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975-76 as the department's top official on Latin America and maintains a professional relationship with Kissinger.

In a highly unusual move, the State Department issued a statement that put distance between the department and its top official. The statement asserted that the U.S. government "did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government in 1973" - a reference to the elected president, Salvador Allende.

Institutional aversion to the truth has become an art form.

Racial Gerrymandering

Interesting stuff today in my ConLaw class about racial gerrymandering; my professor points out that the first Bush administration's Justice Department favored the creation of majority-minority districts (putting enough in the same district to elect their own representative), and he thinks they did so because they knew it would drain black Democratic voters out of all other districts, thus increasing the chances of Republicans being elected.

The best example, he says, is Georgia. In 1990, Georgia had 10 representatives: 1 black Democrat (John Lewis), 9 white Democrats, and Newt Gingrich; in 1994, Georgia had 11 representatives: 3 black Democrats and 8 white Republicans.

He acknowledges that the racial gerrymandering doesn't fully explain the shift, but it has had a clear effect.

Interesting. It raises hard questions about whether it is better for minorities to have a few representatives of their own race or more representatives of their own party.

The Rich Get Richer

CalPundit takes apart Irwin Stelzer's article in the Weekly Standard on economic growth:

You wonder how people have the gall to write stuff like this. Surely Stelzer has noticed that while the incomes of the American rich have indeed skyrocketed over the past 20 years, "rapid increases" have been a noticeably absent feature of the incomes of the poor and middle class?

Take a few moments to stare at the chart he's included alongside.

Far from "doing nothing," Republican economic policy for � well, forever, really, but certainly for the past 20 years, has been explicitly aimed at what Selzer unwisely acknowledges: "encouraging" rapid increases at the top end of the income scale. One of the enduring mysteries of American politics has been the ability of the Republican party to get away with this while still retaining the loyalty � and votes � of the middle class that they rather obviously don't care a whit about. Middle class enthusiasm (or, at least, tolerance) for the dividend tax cut is merely the most recent example of this.

This isn't even paternalism, as my rightist friends will cry. It's not that I want to tell the middle class what is good for them. That's their own choice. But once they've made that choice (to be concerned about their own economic well-being), it is mind-boggling to watch them ignore the real effect these economic plans are having on them.

Entrenchment

Yglesias also has a couple posts up about the 'first past the post' electoral systems we have in the United States.

We've been covering vote dilution, malapportionment and gerrymandering in my conlaw class the last few days, and one theme comes up in every case: entrenchment.

Political theorists (and philosophers!) can spend all the time they want discussing possible benefits of switching to proportional representation, but finding a way to actually create such a switch is more difficult.

The idea of entrenchment is rather simple, but goes far to explain many of the voting and election controversies in our history. Put simply, those who wield power will not make expansions to the political community or changes in the electoral system because the status quo is what put them in power.

Take malapportionment for example. Until the Supreme Court got involved in Reynolds v. Sims (1964), several states had not reapportioned their legislative districts since the turn of the century. The state having thus ignored the massive urbanization our country experienced, voters in urban areas were underrepresented in the state legislature by shocking magnitudes. But the legislature itself was never going to make the necessary changes, because those in power were only there because of the malapportionment.

That's why the courts intervened. I assume that Matt is not interested in seeing the courts order a restructuring of Congress, and of course such a possibility is incredibly remote.

So I wonder what the mechanism for this change would be. I have trouble imagining Congressmen themselves supporting such a change, since it poses a tremendous threat to their parties (and their own seats). The only possibility I see is doing it at a state level (individual state legislatures changing the way they elect their own Congressmen; obviously they'll never change the way they themselves get elected). What states would be good targets for such an effort?

Of course if we're setting up a new system, like in Iraq, this problem doesn't exist. But it is interesting to look back at the obstacles to change in America's own electoral system.

UPDATES: Chris Lawrence points out that current federal law mandates single-member districts. That poses an almost insurmountable problem for any movement to multi-member districts, which is the way most who favor proportional representation would probably want it done.

Instapundit

Matthew Yglesias asks whether InstaPundit has jumped the shark. Like many others, Instapundit was my introduction to the blogosphere, and I even emailed a story or two when I started reading. It was a good place to find links to other blogs, and Professor Reynolds even occasionally engaged in thoughtful discourse. I think that ended with the war, and I de-linked him at that time. Hopefully he (and The Agonist) will find his way back to former glory as the war fever fades.

Blast From the Past

I'm sorry for the lack of blogging, I'm knee-deep in putting together my ConLaw outline. I just wanted to mention how odd it was to see stories about both Rodney King and David Duke on the front page of CNN.com today. Rodney King crashes his car and the story somehow gets put between SARS and NY's billion dollar budget cuts. How long is 15 minutes supposed to last, anyway?

Berlin Wall in Baghdad?

Phil Carter has some critical comments on Wolfowitz's comparison of the toppling of the Hussein statute to the Berlin Wall. Phil points out some of the important distinctions: 1) there were a lot more people in Berlin, 2) no looting in Berlin, 3) no war in Berlin.

I think he misses the most important difference: the Berlin Wall was torn down by Germans. The Hussein statute was torn down by Americans, and this may have some interesting symbolism of its own:

So, what are we to make of this fitful flailing in downtown Baghdad? The crowd is still milling around Firdos Square, but they have stopped trying to topple Saddam's monument. And now, here comes the American tank. The Iraqis are now tying a steel chain, no doubt U.S.-supplied, to the statue, and the Abrams M1 will serve as the toppler. Oh, no; it's getting worse. Marines are getting up on the statue to pull it down themselves. One of them has draped an American flag over Saddam's head. What a moron! The very picture of neo-colonialism, which will make front pages all over the Arab world. Now he's taking off the American flag. No doubt, someone from Centcom, watching CNN, phoned the officer on the scene to chew him out and remind him of the orders against such displays.

A big sigh. Is this scene a sad symbol of the Iraqi people's helplessness, after 30 years of brutal dictatorship, to master their own fate? Is this an equally sad symbol of America's inability to liberate without conquering? Will the Iraqis need outside forces to oust not merely Saddam but the figments of his rule? Will the Americans help them without too strong a stench of arrogance?

I think Fred Kaplan goes too far (likely because I'm more hawkish than he), but he's on to something. The fact that Iraqis couldn't even pull down the statue themselves (and Americans had to come along and do it) certainly puts this a hell of a long way from the Berlin Wall.

Dune

I've started reading Dune for the first time, after years of being in the dark about the Harkonnen and Atreides families (though I did play Dune II on my PC way back when). This book has to be the perfect counterbalance to prepping for law exams.

Women in Combat

I think this Slate discussion on women in combat raises a lot of interesting issues, but here's a couple that jump out at me (from Stephanie Gutmann):

The only people who truly want to see women in combat are some TV producers who think it's a "sexy" issue and approximately 500 cranks assembled on college campuses and in NGOs around the Beltway.

Maybe she qualifies as a crank, but my criminal law professor (also my boss this summer) has been leading discussions on this topic here all year. I'm not sure whether she wants ANYONE in combat, but if we do go to war, it seems clear to me that she wants to do away with the exclusion of women from Infantry/Armor/Artillery.

These women never came very close to combat themselves and have found second careers haunting congressional hearing rooms, trying to extract maximum drama from military tours that were largely bureaucratic.

Maybe I didn't read closely enough, but when was the last time Gutmann took up arms in her country's defense?

And of course, the best question: if women are so undermining the military, why didn't we see that in Iraq? It seems we fought at least as effectively as we did in the first Gulf War, before most of the changes Gutmann objects to.

Justice Kennedy

Justice Kennedy taught my ConLaw class yesterday (actually a joint class for all 1Ls here), and it was a nice chance to give some color to my otherwise hollow impression of him. He has long been the last justice I remember when trying to account for all nine, but I'm not sure that's fair to him.

He gave a good lecture on the structures of the Constitution (separations of power, federalism, judicial review), focusing particularly on the unique nature of federalism at the time of the Founding.

He emphasized that in his view, federalism is not a protection of states' rights, but of individual rights, by keeping power closer to home and increasing accountability. He said that Morrison and Lopez should be seen as a warning sign to Congress that they need to be mindful of the effects of unduly duplicating or undermining state power.

I agree with the substance of his point (in fact it helped put me on a track of understanding how to mesh my left-leaning values with my distaste for legislating from Washington), but I couldn't get one question out of my mind: "Justice Kennedy, weren't you in the majority on Bush v. Gore?"

Arab/Muslim Humiliation

I don't think this sentiment should be overlooked:

"For three weeks, Saddam gave Arabs their pride as he faced down the invaders," said Mahmoud Ahmed Youssef, 26, a software designer, as he sipped a latte in Amman's Purple Fig restaurant.

"It's hard to explain why I admire him. I know that he was a dictator, a tyrant. But his defeat, I believe, leaves all Arabs weaker. The fall of Baghdad is a terrible humiliation."

This is not entirely distinct from the point I was making earlier about the need for Iraqis to have their own founding myth. We want these people to be proud of themselves and their nations, but we also want them to believe in liberalism and democracy. Doing the latter without the former only dooms the latter to failure.

Right to Bear Arms

The N.R.A. is not going to like this!

"Iraq has a culture of weapons. There are a lot of them around, most held quite legally," said Captain Cliff Dare, of 3 Commando Brigade Engineer Group.

"If we want to give the new Iraq a chance these weapons have to be taken out of circulation."

Reconstruction

Matthew Yglesias sheds a little light on a question my discussion group was pondering yesterday, that of the analogy to rebuilding Japan:

Having had the pleasure of living under the rule of the Co-Prosperity Sphere, the other countries of East Asia were totally uninterested (and remain uninterested today) in encouraging Japanese national. Everyone, therefore, was pretty happy to give the Americans a free hand in Japan.

So far, we've benefitted from a roughly similar dynamic. The combination of Saddam's brutality and his habitual destabilizing of the region made people (and even more so, governments) in the Middle East extremely reluctant to engage in any sort of active opposition to America's war. Now that Saddam's gone, however, we will need to contend with various other pernicious ideologies kicking around the region.

Here's my concern: I look around at the thriving democracies (and even the struggling ones), and it seems that almost all (Japan is the most prominent exception) of the progress takes place through internal changes, sometimes gradual and sometimes revolutionary. What they all seem to share is a strong native component to the movement. Think of how important the history and myth of founding fathers and revolutionary leaders is to most countries today.

What I fear is that if Iraqis look upon the history of their government institutions, and find that their liberator is General Franks, and founding 'mother' is Barbara Bodine, what are they supposed to make of that? This is meant as no disrespect to those Americans, and I'm trying to separate this out from the dangers of anti-Americanism. Instead, this is a query of how successful any democratic nation-founding can be so long as the architects and functionaries are foreigners.

Irony on the Pitch

Anyone who has been following English football for some time will note the irony in Arsenal's manager complaining about an opponent for playing too conservatively and focusing on defense:

They concentrated on just defending and made it difficult for us.

We had a great attitude but, when you look at the chances they created, they had nothing.

History and Ignorance

Yesterday a small group of UVA Law students, including myself, met to share our thoughts on the war in Iraq and the Middle East generally. It was quite an experienced group: one did anti-terrorism work with the Navy, a Marine who deployed to assist the USS Cole after it was attacked, a former director of a non-profit in Syria who later worked for UNHCR there, one who was born and raised in Turkey, a couple who worked in Washington (one for the Center for Middle East Peace, one doing Senate committee work), and myself (uh.. I studied government in college).

It was thus a very well-informed group and gave us all the opportunity to discuss the issues from a certain plateau of knowledge (none of us think Saddam Hussein responsible for 9/11). However, when the gentleman from Turkey began discussing the history of his country, the role of Islam, and the differences between an Islamic democracy and a Muslim democracy (he thinks the former impossible), I began to realize just how ignorant I really am about that region and its history.

In particular, I realized that my ignorance about the difference between, say, Wahhabis and Alawites, compromises the intelligence of any opinion I can offer on the region's future.

I think this summer my reading list will have to include at least a couple texts on the region's history. I have a lot of work to do.

A Hobbesian America?

I've just started reading Jonathan Wolff's An Introduction to Political Philosophy, having found the Adam Swift book a great introduction of the theory. Wolff's book seems to take a more historical approach, and his early description of Hobbes' view of (the impossibility of) morality in the state of nature reminded me a bit of the administration's current foreign policy:

We would find it hard to disagree that people in the state of nature have the right to defend themselves. That said, it also seems evident that individuals must decide for themselves what reasonably counts as a threat to them, and further, what is the most appropriate action to take in the face of such a threat. No one, it would seem, could reasonably be criticized for any action they take to defend themselves. As pre-emption is a form of defence, invading others can often be seen as the most rational form of self-protection.

Of course this is not really a defense of pre-emption per se, merely a Hobbesian explanation of why pre-emption is certain in the horrible state of nature.

Could this be how America now sees the world? As a stateless place where we can attack for gain, safety, or reputation? Where we are constantly under threat from those envious of our wealth or afraid of our power? One could certainly view 9/11, Afghanistan, and the gulf wars through this lens:

[I]f one plant, sow, build, or possesse a convenient Seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united, to dispossesse, and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but also of his life or liberty. And the Invader again is in the like danger of another.

Further, perhaps what international law we have (had?) is seen as a sham that restricts the American ability to protect itself without providing any of the protection that would induce us to consent to such governance.

Whether one believes in an international Hobbesian state of nature or not, we certainly seem to be pushing closer to one.

UPDATE: I should have known Matthew Yglesias had already touched on the subject:

It seems to me that the Russo-Franco-Chinese position that no military action should be undertaken without Security Council authorization is, in fact, very Hobbesian. The idea is that, absent rules, life will be nasty, short, and brutish and that we ought to avoid creating such an anarchic situation at all costs. It follows from this that, given an institution capable of articulating global rules of conduct we ought to enhance its authority and turn it into a global Sovereign of sorts.

At any rate, what Kagan seems to be doing by labeling US policy as �Hobbesian� is identifying Hobbes with the sort of anarchic situation he most feared.

OK, so America wouldn't be Hobbesian... it'd just be accepting Hobbes' view of the state of nature, and applying it to the international scene. Unlike Hobbes, it isn't really looking for a way out of this state. Instead it sees pre-emptive action as an American pregorative (as a member of the state of nature), and is clearly willing to use it.

The Difference Principle

Thanks to about 4 pages of Adam Swift's intro to political philosophy, I can now read and understand the debate on Rawls' difference principle (and Cohen's critique) discussed last week by Yglesias, Schwartzman, Solum, and Bertram (and probably others).

That doesn't mean I have anything interesting to add, I'm just excited to understand what they were talking about. Kudos to Swift. It really is a fantastic little book.

UPDATE: This sidenote in the discussion about communitarianism vs. liberalism is brilliant, and puts forth a principle I will try to keep in mind:

Especially where somebody disagrees with you, it is usually a good idea to see whether there is any way in which what, or some of what, they are saying could be true. It's likely to be more intellectually productive than the opposing strategy, which is exactly what politicians are trained to do: they deliberately avoid whatever is good in their opponents' arguments and hone in on - and rubbish - the bad bits.

Baghdad Surrealism

This headline on the CNN home page boggles my mind:

At least 6 killed in battle for Baghdad

Is there anyone, I mean anyone, who would have put the number of casualties at 6?!? I know it's not over (could be terribly far from over if Saddam has something up his sleeve), but to even see a headline like this gives me pause.

Sources

When I first started blogging (way back at the end of February) I would scour the web for stories to comment on. I found it a bit tedious and wasn't sure I enjoyed the 'pressure' of posting. After all, it was supposed to be a pleasant distraction from law school, not an additional stress.

Easy solution: I read more books. More magazines. And I don't post anything if I have nothing to say.

This month's Atlantic Monthly already produced a couple posts, and could inspire a couple more. Swift's intro to political philosophy has produced a list of questions swirling in my head, which I might comment on if I can put them together in a constructive way.

That's the kind of writing I'd like to be doing, and that's my ambition with this site. I may post the occasional link to an interesting or amusing web story without much comment, but I want that to be the exception. Regurgitation is not my ambition.

Foreign Shipping

The other item in the Atlantic Monthly that I really wanted to point out was a two-page spread on American military logistics, which passes on three particularly interesting facts:

Today the combined weight of the daily food and water, ammunition, gear, and fuel necessary to equip a U.S. soldier has reached about 400 pounds

That's up from roughly 60 pounds during WWII. This burden has far surpassed our military's ability to have self-sufficient logistics. The story points to the U.S. military's increasing reliance on non-military sources:

P.W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on military privitization, estimates that one of every fifty American deployed in the Gulf War was a privately employed civilian... For a second war in Iraq, Singer estimates, the ratio could reach 1:8.

There is nothing inherently wrong with privatization, but in this case I think there is:

A recent report by the General Accounting Office noted that fully 43 percent of major U.S. military cargo deployed overseas in 2001 was carried on foreign-flagged ships. Some of the ships carried advanced weapons, such as Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Stinger-missile launchers.

This war effort would have been a lot more difficult if a few such ships mysteriously never made it to port. Looks like yet another security vulnerability that is begging to be exploited.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the GAO report, which contains this anecdote:

An example of the dangers of such loss of control occurred in summer 2000. While in the North Atlantic, the captain of a commercial vessel carrying Canadian military equipment and three Canadian Forces personnel from the Balkans refused to proceed to the ship�s destination port in Canada after a dispute over payment to the vessel�s owner. The vessel, GTS Katie, was owned by a U.S. company but registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and crewed by non-U.S. citizens. Alarmed at the loss of control over its equipment, including sensitive items, the Canadian government was compelled to board the Katie with a contingent of Canadian Forces naval personnel from a nearby warship. The vessel was then brought safely into a Canadian port.

The report gives no further breakdown on WHAT nation most of these ships and their crews belong to, and as PG suggests in the comments, if it's a country like Denmark, we might not have as much to worry about. But what if it's, say, Belgium? Or Germany? Or perhaps the problem will be less nefarious than I suggest, more along the lines of the financial dispute illustrated by this anecdote. As the GAO report suggests, the potential problems are widespread.

Cross-Burning

Very strange split in the SC's 5-4 decision upholding Virginia's ban on cross-burning:

Majority - O'Connor, Rehnquist, Stevens, Scalia, Breyer
Dissent - Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Thomas

UPDATE: As always, it's more complicated than at first glance:

O�Connor, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, Scalia, and Breyer, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts IV and V, in which Rehnquist, C. J, and Stevens and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part, in which Thomas, J., joined as to Parts I and II. Souter, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which Kennedy and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Uh-huh.

The House of Saud

This month's Atlantic Monthly is full of stellar articles and well worth picking up. I'm going to blog about at least a couple of those stories today, and perhaps a couple more tomorrow.

The cover story, already mentioned briefly by Matthew Yglesias, is an investigation into the House of Saud, its influence in American politics, and the likeliness of a not-so-far-off collapse.

The early pages of the text (culled from author Robert Baer's upcoming "Sleeping With the Devil") focus on the vulnerability of the Saudi oil industry and thus the world which relies on it:

The most vulnerable point and the most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system is the Abqaiq complex... For the first two months after a moderate to severe attack on Abqaiq, production there would slow from an average of 6.8 million barrels a day to one million barrels, a loss equivalent to one third of America's daily consumption of crude oil.

Hawkish environmentalists like myself (am I the only one?) have been noting for some time how thoroughly undermined our national security is by our reliance on Saudi oil. There are direct vulnerabilities, as shown by this article, but there are obviously indirect ones as well. Much, if not all, of our continued support for the corrupt Saudi regime clearly stems from our oil interests, and it is that support which has really tipped the scales of public opinion against us (there can be no overestimating the Palestinian issue, but I think the average Saudi has been pushed over the edge by the situation in his own country). Why should the Iraqi people be so happy to see us, when all they have to do is look across the border to see what kinds of governments America supports?

Per capita income in Saudi Arabia fell from $28,600 in 1981 to $6,800 in 2001. The country's birth rate has soared, becoming one of the highest in the world. Its police force is corrupt, and the rule of law is a sham. Saudi Arabia almost certainly leads the world in public beheadings, the venue for which is often a Riyadh plaza popularly known as Chop-Chop Square

None of this is new information, but it raises some timely questions. Why oh why would we go after Syria or Iran but let Saudi Arabia continue as is? This is a country not officially lost to fundamentalists, but well on its way. I think the Saudi question truly undermines the so-called "grand strategy" of the neocons.

There's also one piece of information in the story which I found truly shocking, perhaps simply because I've been equally blind to the Saudi infestation of our country:

Just to make sure that no one upsets the workings of this system, perhaps by meddling in internal Saudi affairs, Saudi Arabia now keeps possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks - an agreement worked out in the early eighties by the Reagan Administration, in an effort to get the Saudis to offset U.S. government budget deficits. The Saudis hold anotehr trillion dollars or so in the U.S. stock market. This gives them a remarkable degree of leverage in Washington. If they were suddenly to withdraw all their holdings in this country, the effect, though perhaps not as catastrophic as having a major source of oil shut down, would still be devastating.

What comes to my mind is the fuss raised over possible Chinese infiltration of our government and the Democratic party because of fund-raising and satellite scandals. Can there be any doubt now that the Saudi infiltration is more deep, more entrenched, and more dangerous? This is a country largely responsible for the financing and human personnel of anti-American terrorism. It is also responsible for the financial well-being of a disturbing number of former (and now current) state and defense officials. On top of that, it's cash and oil have become foundational parts of our economy. And this article makes it rather clear that those in the upper echelons of the Republican party (with a few 'entrepeneurial' Democrats thrown in) have allowed this with willful ignorance.

We need to find a way out of this situation. My appeals to obvious solutions:

1) Reduced reliance on gas/oil - I don't care if the environmentalists are wrong about global warming, etc. (I don't think they are), our national security is severely undermined by reliance on corrupt oil regimes.

2) Withdrawal of active support for Saudi regime, including vocal condemnation of the corruption of the Saudi regime and their support for terrorism. No more hypocritical rants against Syria or Iran without including Saudi Arabia in the fold (and toning down all such rants... they serve no purpose but to antagonize potential enemies whom we are not prepared to fight).

3) Renewed engagement in Israel/Palestine. Stop the settlements. If we're going to lose the Saudi's (and we will), we need to work towards ending the first source of anti-Americanism in the region. Siding with Israel is one thing, disengagement another. The latter is unacceptable and will only continue to undermine everything else we do in the region.

UPDATE: Roger Bigod's comment suggested Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, which I note won the Pulitzer in 1992. It's officially on my reading list.

Introductions

I have to say, I have really come to hate introductions to books. With works of fiction, introductions seem more often than not to give away key plot points, not to mention color the text with a certain perspective before the reader even begins.

In Moynihan's Secrecy, which I've just begun, Richard Gid Powers' introduction is 58 pages long, with Moynihan's text a mere 170. The introduction comprises 25 percent of the book! Why didn't Powers just write his own book? He could have called it "The Making of Secrecy."

/RANT

Moynihan the Neocon

With Senator Moynihan's untimely passing, and Matthew Yglesias' question regarding his skills as a senator, I was reminded that I have his book on Secrecy, purchased for a class on the Modern Police State which I took pass/fail (and thus the book went unread). I've decided to read it now, and within the first pages of the book I already have a question for those more knowledgeable (and perhaps older) than myself:

Was Moynihan a neocon?

The dedication of the book is to Irving and Bea Kristol, and the first pages of the introduction mention his work being published in Commentary and his strident anti-communism. The introduction mentions that his anti-communism at least allied him with the "neo" movements, but doesn't offer anything further. Anyone know more?

UPDATE: Here's one answer (rather hostile), from the American Prospect:

He is the prodigal neocon, the one who managed to turn against his fellow liberals again and again, even though he returned to the fold, on his own terms, ending his career with a passionate denunciation of what he insisted on calling the "repeal" of welfare.

For Moynihan, neoconservatism was a short-term survival strategy, a way to get away from the errors of liberalism--crazy students, first-wave political correctness, social-science arrogance--without losing his identity or convictions as a liberal. It's interesting that Moynihan did not choose the strategy that most people expected from him when he first entered the Senate surrounded by allies of the late Senator Henry M. Jackson--the conservative-Democrat tactic that would evolve into the kind of party centrism defined in the Clinton era by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

Interesting that I didn't hear much talk about this in the days after his death. Perhaps I wasn't listening well enough.

Freedom as Autonomy

I've started reading Adam Swift's intro to political philosophy, and it is fantastic. In just a couple pages he succinctly made clear the basics of Rawls and Nozick, as well as the popular conception of justice as desert.

Now I'm in the chapter on liberty, and Swift is making quick work of unpacking the dual liberties of Berlin (the often confusing distinction between 'positive' and 'negative' liberty). I've also finally been introduced to MacCallum's triadic, which I'd heard of but never had summarized so well. Swift thinks the latter offers a better alternative to the false distinction between "freedom from" and "freedom to" (since any freedom can be defined either way), instead proposing a three part definition of a freedom:

x is (is not) free from y to do (not do, become, not become) z

Thus the interesting questions according to MacCallum are: what counts as an x (i.e. what are the agents capable of freedom), what counts as a y (i.e. what types of contraints count; is poverty a constraint?) and what counts as a z (i.e. what are the acceptable goals and ends).

Within the debate, a particularly interesting analogue I'm noticing is between what Swift calls "Freedom as autonomy" and Berlin's fear of the potential totalitarian use of the notion, and what has been called in several of my law classes the 'paternalist' nature of the law. We never discuss judicial paternalism in terms of its potentially totalitarian nature, but I'm not sure they are actually different phenomena.

Hello Soldier

Donald Sensing has a nice photo post on the good deeds of American GI's and the welcome they often receive in foreign lands.

Oversight

Alex Knapp displays prudent skepticism of Congress' oversight powers:

The House Judiciary Committee, in an uncharacteristic move, has decided to do it's job in overseeing the Justice Department. The Committee sent a long list of questions about just what exactly Ashcroft is doing with the powers granted by the PATRIOT Act... Of course, the big question is, what will the committee do with the answers?

U.N. Duties

A Small Victory has some "forward looking insight":

Suggested roles for the U.N.:

Serving meals and drinks to those rebuilding Iraq

Washing the Humvees

Working the PX

Check out the comments on her site for more.

Sources

I did a quick little experiment using the Truth Laid Bear's Ecosystem to calculate citations and links to mainstream new sources. The results:

Washington Post - 2216

New York Times - 2174

Yahoo! News - 1305

CNN - 1146

BBC News - 844

Guardian - 668

Salon - 447 (blogs.salon.com excluded)

Fox News - 340

Reuters - 317

The New Republic - 287 (& included)

UPI - 244

Washington Times - 214

The Nation - 211

Christan Science Monitor - 172



Not calculated:

MSNBC (and Slate) - disabled by ecosystem; likely to avoid attempts to add Alterman's blog for technical reasons

National Review - couldn't exclude The Corner

Close to Home

Phil Carter has a post up about the importance of supporting troops and recognizing their sacrifice, well-written as usual. What is unusual is that the WSJ article he references, written by the mother of a Harvard Army ROTC graduate, is about a man I know and trained with: 1LT Alex Herzlinger.

Herz is a great guy and was a stellar ROTC cadet, so I have no doubts that he is now an exemplary infantry leader. Two years ahead of me in school, he was a senior when I entered the program. He was one of the larger-than-life cadets who put fear and inspiration in the rest of us, and helped us understand the committment we were making and the reasons we were making it.

I have known abstractly that many of the cadets I trained with are likely in Iraq (1LT Daniel Hegg went Ranger Infantry and was in Afghanistan, I don't know where he is now), but this is the first confirmation I've had of it. It's a cliche of course, but your views really can change when world events hit close to home. This is another reminder of that.

Phil Carter's comments on the story also have resonance with me:

I wish more Americans would serve in uniform, especially in the elite parts of American society. That way, more Americans would appreciate the way this Ivy League mother feels about her son, the infantry lieutenant, and the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

What is particularly paradoxical to me is that I see positions on both the left and right which suffer from the same disconnect with soldiers and the realities of military operations. As I've noted before, the leaders of both the current and prior administration have a notable lack of military experience, and I think we've seen as a result a notable lack of restraint in using the military to solve global issues. The same goes for most of the speakers at the various sit-ins and protests, who are unable to recognize the humanity of the American soldier and his desire to serve his country proudly and justly. Why this disconnect? Because both groups are drawn from the elite part of society, which as Phil notes, no longer contribute significant numbers to our military ranks. They don't serve in the military, and they don't have friends or family who do. I've long thought of taking a more academic look at this phenomenon, and may still do so. It is a topic that needs addressing, for the good of our military and thus our country.

Video Games

Interesting study on the use of video games, emphasizing the difference between low and high income households, though this is the part I'm most interested in:

The study... found that overall, teenagers spend less time playing games than watching TV, going online or listening to the radio. However, game playing occupied more of their time than reading books and magazines, it said.

So let's get this straight, teenagers spend more time watching TV, on the Internet, listening to music, AND playing computer games than they do reading? That doesn't leave much time for books.

Protectionism.. sort of

I'm very glad that PFC Lynch is alive and safe. But I can't stand this:

"God watched over Jessica and her family. All West Virginians are rejoicing," said Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

If God watched over PFC Lynch (not Jessica, she's a soldier) and protected her, He also let 11 other Americans die at her side. I don't understand why God gets credit for the good thing but not blame for the bad thing that happens simultaneously.

There was a story a few months/years ago where a little boy was protected from a bullet by a Bible he was holding after leaving church. "God protected him," everyone said. Well his brother was standing right next to him, was shot, and died. I guess God didn't like him as much, right?

(Terrible sidenote that I almost didn't write: has anyone else worried about why it was that PFC Lynch was apparently the only one left alive? I'm worried it might be because she is an attractive young woman and the Iraqis wanted her alive. I hope she really is okay.)

UPDATE: PG's comment makes the good point that it's probably un-PC to talk about my sidenote... I wonder if there is a way to talk about it without implying that she should be treated differently by the media or by the Army. Am I running into a wall where there are real differences between men and women and I (and other feminists) want to be pretend there aren't? Or am I just falling into classic stereotypes by assuming that there might be a gender-based explanation for PFC Lynch's survival? I'm troubled.

Congratulations

Matthew Yglesias has been hired by The American Prospect. I'll have to get myself a subscription. Congrats Matthew!

AA in the Military

Susan Estrich, whom I respect very much, has a column on the military amicus brief:

[T]he decision the Court reaches about affirmative action will affect how the military fights wars in the future.

At least that is what three former generals have argued in their friend of the Court brief. The military, they argue, needs black and Hispanic officers, given the number of black and Hispanic men and women who are volunteering to serve. To fill the need for officers, they need black and Hispanic college graduates, and affirmative action is required to produce those graduates.

This is a really big issue, and I'm glad that the justices paid attention to it. For the most part we are able to think about affirmative action and its results only in large abstract terms, perhaps hoping that we are raising minorities into the middle and upper classes and breaking the cycles of poverty and poor education.

Well I don't know how well any of that has worked or could work, but I do think there is some good evidence that the operations of the military are undermined by an officer class that is tremendously less diverse than the enlisted ranks. The numbers today are a tremendous improvement over the Vietnam-era, when it really was problematic that almost all officers were white. Here's part of an editorial by two of the officers who joined the amicus brief:

A cohesive military requires a diverse officer corps, and it requires that our officers be educated and trained in diverse educational settings. During the 1960s and '70s, while integration increased the percentage of minorities in the enlisted ranks, the percentage of minority officers remained disturbingly low. The perception of discrimination was the standard. This contributed to low morale and heightened racial tension.

The resulting danger is not theoretical, as the Vietnam era demonstrated. As that war continued, the armed forces suffered increased racial polarization, pervasive disciplinary problems and racially motivated incidents in Vietnam and in other places around the world. By the early '70s, racial strife in the ranks was pervasive. The dearth of minority officers substantially exacerbated the problems.

No workable alternative to limited, race-conscious programs currently exists that would increase the pool of high-quality minority officer candidates and ensure diverse educational training for officers. The military's aggressive minority recruiting programs must continue to increase the pool of qualified minority candidates. Our diverse fighting force not only deserves this, it requires it.

I applaud the liberal justices for relying on this brief, as it really puts in perspective the reality of how important race still remains in our society, in a way that government can't just ignore.

Oral Arguments

My conlaw professor (Michael Klarman, if anyone is interested) had this to say about yesterday's oral arguments which he attended:

It was a little bit hard to read Justice O'Connor, which is all anybody cares about.

He said she seemed to raise an interesting standing issue, which relies upon the idea that a plaintiff needs to be able to show some causation between their rejection and the affirmative action.

He also thinks O'Connor seems likely to stick to her Adarand opinion, which held that strict scrutiny is not necessarily fatal, thus there must be some room for race to be taken into account. This doesn't mean she'll support the UMich plan, but it does mean she's unlikely to join a Scalia opinion calling for the total elimination of racial classifications.

He said his biggest surprise was the emphasis on the military amicus brief, (about which I'll have more to say in another post) the so-called "green brief" that Lithwick talked about in her story. He thinks there's an interesting analog to Brown, in which the Eisenhower administration's brief placed a lot of emphasis on national security, though on different grounds.

Rand on Balkanization

Arthur Silber brings us selections from Ayn Rand's work on Balkanization as an illustration of the problems we face in the Middle East. I've never known quite what to make of Rand, but it's certainly food for thought:

Capitalism has been called nationalistic--yet it is the only system that banished ethnicity, and made it possible, in the United States, for men of various, formerly antagonistic nationalities to live together in peace.

What worries me about this solution is what kind of capitalism we plan for Iraq. Certainly Rand's theory is subject to the obvious criticism that America presently has nothing close to that ideal capitalism (even assuming capitalism is the ideal). Previous posts by myself and many others regarding the planned rebuilding of Iraq (by American companies only) does not bode well for the idea of letting Iraqis build their own capitalist structures, let alone the Middle East as a whole. Capitalism is one thing, colonialism another.

Blogs, Links, and Copyrights

Samizdata has good coverage of a blogosphere controversy between the Agonist and Stratfor on whether Sean-Paul acted improperly in copying posts from Stratfor's subscription-only page:

My view on the controversy is straightforward. For me, good blogging is one based on credibility. Audience is, for most part, discerning and it does not make for good practise to make yourself look bigger & better than you really are. If you can't come up with new interesting ideas, there is nothing wrong with using someone else's as long as it's clear. In fairness, Sean-Paul posts were not meant to be creative, but to be on the 'breaking edge' of news.

Another essential feature of blogosphere is linkage. Not linking to sources is a cardinal sin for a blogger...

It's an interesting issue. I have enjoyed Sean-Paul's coverage, but I am a bit surprised at the amount of pure cutting-and-pasting he seems to have done from the Stratfor page, which is only accessible to members. I like knowing sources for my news, so I treat everything Sean-Paul reports as suspect, even if he doesn't suggest so, and would not cite anything he's posted without confirmation from other sources.

I think this all stems from a growing question: are bloggers reporters or columnists? I think most of us consider ourselves closer to the latter... but the distinction is collapsing with sites like Sean-Paul's.

UPDATE: Good for Sean-Paul:

I just had a great conversation from the people at Stratfor. I have used some material from their site recently that hasn't been properly attributed. It will be shortly. In the meantime, might I suggest that you visit them. It is an excellent site that I do recommend.

Salon's Future

Pandagon adds some good commentary to Alterman's inquisitive directed at Salon:

It is not impossible to have an anti-Bush news source from a diversity of ideological sources, provided that the sources are both talented and competent. Andrew Sullivan, however, is no longer either. Regardless of what Salon claims to promote, a liberal cause or simply a political-cultural magazine (or both), Sully's warmed-over paranoia doesn't constitute either of those things well enough to deserve publication, regardless of how poorly your magazine is doing.

Second of all, Salon really, really needs an overhaul. Poorly organized, in the listiest-list format possible (it's got a blog layout and news content, which makes it very counterintuitive). It makes no sense to have to pay to read Salon and then pay again to talk about it in Table Talk, one of the first political posting boards I ever participated in. Articles, services, categories are all difficult to find...and don't even think about trying to cancel. If it was a bold new era for Salon, why did it just look like David Talbot slapped Sully and some stars on the whole thing and called it a day?

Bailout = Handout

Alex Knapp points to the potential bailout (again) of the airlines as further evidence of economic hypocrisy:

Ahhh... Republicans. They're the party of the free market, dontcha know? Well, except when other principles might be at stake.

Corporate welfare is so astonishingly hypocritical that I can barely wrap my mind around it. Either the government should regulate the market or not. If so, what makes anyone think that subsidizing failing industries is the proper way to do it?

Affirmative Action

As usual, Dahlia Lithwick proves herself to be a stellar SC reporter. Read her coverage of the AA arguments yesterday.

My conlaw professor was there, and I'll post if he has anything insightful to say during class later today.

Benefits of the Blogosphere

Just met Micah from Political Theory. He's a fellow UVA 1L, and it turns out we had contracts together last semester. I'm excited, as he's a wealth of political theory knowledge (and other things, I'm sure) and that is an area of growing intellectual interest for me. He was generous enough to loan me several of the introductory political philosophy texts that Chris Bertram recommended. I'll post a beginner's reaction to the books after I've read them.

The Truth At Last?

My girlfriend pointed out that Mickey Kaus has an interesting take on why Rumsfeld wanted 'war on the cheap':

If "regime change" in Iraq were the only goal, there'd be no reason not to provide plenty of soldiers to do the job, with an ample margin of safety. But regime change in Iraq isn't the only goal. Rather, neocons in the Bush administration see the Iraq campaign as the opening move in a series of potential power plays that might involve at least credibly threatening military action against Syria, North Korea, Iran, and maybe even Saudi Arabia. The first two threats have already, in fact, been issued (and I'm not saying there aren't good reasons to want to be able to intimidate some of these countries -- e.g. North Korea -- even while fighting an Iraq-sized war).

If we can take Iraq only with a huge, heavy force --or if the Powell Doctrine that we should use overwhelming force even if we don't need it still applies -- well, we can't very credibly claim that we can take on (or take over) all these other countries at the same time, or even in rapid succession, can we? But if we can topple a heavily-defended government in Iraq with a light, quick non-Powellesque force -- using but a small portion of our strength -- then taking on multiple targets suddenly becomes a real possibility, and a real threat to regimes in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang.

Frightening if true.

Military Negotiations

CNN is reporting that:

Fox News Channel executives and the Pentagon reached a deal Monday in which correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who raised the military's ire when he reported operational details, will leave Iraq voluntarily rather than be expelled, Pentagon officials told CNN.

[A]s the day went on, Fox News executives pleaded with Pentagon officials to not expel Rivera. Pentagon officials stood their ground and insisted that Rivera go, and a deal was eventually reached, the Pentagon sources said.

First off, I think it very unfortunate that the military need be spending any time negotiating over this issue. Fox News should have pulled him immediately after his contested report.

Second, bravo to the military. They get rid of Geraldo and make it seem like they compromised. I'm not sure exactly how this deal is really different than Geraldo being expelled, but just so long as he can pose no further risk to operational security, I'm satisfied.

Defending Burk

CalPundit takes Joel Mowbray to task for his continuing criticism of Martha Burk, giving us some insight into her methods:

The reason Burk harps on Augusta National is because no one pays attention to her when she's talking about substantive issues. Make a speech about, say, the difficulty that single working women have finding decent childcare - and the media yawns. And National Review ignores it. Start a campaign to get women admitted to their precious golf club, though, and you get attention that most organizations can only dream of. So if Mowbray really wants to cut down on the frivolity, maybe he should pay a little more attention to feminist substance.

I couldn't agree more.

Rickety Old Tanks

Flit takes a close look at the M1 Abrams and its troubling performance in the Iraqi campaign. In particular, the costs of a tank-centered force seem to be outweighing the expected benefits:

Does this mean the day of the Main Battle Tank is over? Hardly. The presence of M1s is, in large part, what makes the Americans' position around Najaf, which would otherwise seem rather precarious, almost completely invulnerable. They have at least a few good days yet. But this war is almost certain to give impetus to people's search for another basket to split the army's eggs between. For instance, some people have been saying that the regular army's five heavy divisions in the States and Germany should be reduced to four, in a tradeoff with the army reserve for some of the essential non-combat specialist trades the reserves supply, to disentangle foreign deployments from their heavy reservist reliance. This will be certainly seen to have more merit now, with tanks in the States that can't be shipped and large numbers of disgruntled reservists. The planned "Stryker" brigades, which propose to replace the M1 with a 105mm wheeled direct-fire support vehicle, air-portable, amphibious, and interchangeable with the Marines' new vehicles, should also get a boost from the experience of M1s in Iraq. If America truly seeks the kind of global "constabulary power" role Wolfowitz and Perle, et al seek for it, then it's clear now, more than 2 weeks ago, that the M1 can only ever be part of the answer.

Though I love the M1 and think battle tanks have a tremendous 'romantic' appeal, there can be no doubt that the tank is on its way out. Many thought the first Gulf war was the last stand, and they were probably only wrong because they didn't anticipated heading back to the Iraqi desert.

It should be said, though, that this is one area where the current administration's plans were legitimately forward-looking, though slow and plagued by Army branch territorialism and Congressional pork-barrel spending. Eliminating the Crusader, for example, was a good step. Further movements toward the Objective Force, if supported and successful, ought to answer many of the questions raised by the M1 in this war.

Context and Breadth

Dean Esmay points to war coverage as a troubling example of how narrow the mainstream media has become:

In listening to much of the recent war coverage, you'd think that we're experiencing little but a series of unmitigated disasters, shocking betrayals by the administration, horrifying surprises, and stunning setbacks in the slow-grinding quagmire that is the war in Iraq. Not all reporting has been like that, but it's often rather disorienting: I'll go from listening to NPR, wondering how we'll ever recover from this horrible mess we've gotten into, then head over to The Command Post and I'll see information from all sides and perspectives, from around the world, and I'll realize: hey, things aren't that bad at all. In fact, they're pretty good, if you get past the bug-eyed coverage from so much of the press.

I've been unable to kick a feeling that this war has exposed the incredibly weak and numb status of journalism in America, and I find myself instinctually pointing to the media conglomerate as a major source of this homogenous drivel.

Leftist Sabotage

Critical Mass has very thorough coverage of the controversey surrounding Columbia University's anti-war teach-in. Sounds like another example of left extremists undermining a genuine and legitimate liberal position.

Self-Fulfilling

Tim Blair asks this about the death of 7 Iraqis when their van was fired upon at a checkpoint:

Who will be the first journalist to refer to this tragedy as "Iraq's My Lai"?

Well actually, Tim, I think it's you. ("Tim Blair, journalist, commentator, and oppressor")

Gay Soldiers in Iraq

Asparagirl has an interesting post (a few days old, sorry) analyzing the role of gay soldiers in the current conflict and what that might tell us about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

That the military's gay discharge rate has dropped by a significant amount just when the need for unit cohesion is the strongest should tell you something about the validity of that argument.

A counter-argument to the policy could also be made that it puts undue stress on gay US soldiers, above and beyond what even your average G.I. worried about being shipped off to war would have to deal with. They have to live with the constant threat of discovery and expulsion from the services, not to mention having to hide their biggest base of support: their loved ones.

Political Philosophy

I've been reading Blackwell's Companion to Political Philosophy and have been looking for me. Micah Schwartzman has pointed me to a couple posts by Chris Bertram on various political philosophy introductions. Looks like that $40 Amazon.com gift card is going to come in handy.