Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Back in Black

AC/DC's best song, in my humble opinion. I heard it on the radio this morning and had to mention it to somebody.

So I haven't written anything for five days, and I apologize for that. It seems that a fair amount of stuff has been going on, so I'll just give a quick roundup of my feelings about things before getting back into the fray.

Newsweek: If the offenses that were reported actually happened, then I don't have a problem with their being reported. The absence of a vigorous, free press lessens the accountability of those in power, and that's never good. The press has a job to do, and I'd rather see them jump boldly than tread lightly, even at poorly sourced leads. That having been said, the press still should be held accountable when and if they make mistakes. No exceptions. But to blame Newsweek for this issue is to obscure the fact that there are people out there willing to kill at the slightest provocation. But that's been said before.

The Nuclear Dud: The entire Senate is acting like a bunch of spoiled third-graders. Both sides of the aisle. I agree more with the Democrats, but the problem with this whole situation is that nobody was acting on principle. Had the situation been reversed, the Republicans would have been fighting to preserve the judicial filibuster and the Democrats would have been fighting to abolish it. I'd like to think that I would have stood on the principle of preserving the filibuster if the situation had been reversed, but I probably wouldn't have.

But the Democrats had a chance to stand up on a principle, though not necessarily the principle of Senate procedure embodied by the filibuster. Their principle was this: Brown and Owen are extremists, it would be bad for the country if they got confirmed, and we're willing to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to make sure they don't get confirmed. That is a principle. No matter what the talking heads might say, that's more than just reactionary. That's a principled position that the Democrats didn't take. Instead, they copped a deal that let those candidates through to a vote on the floor (where they'll likely be confirmed), and which closed the flap poorly enough that it's guaranteed to blow open again when Bush begins presenting nominees to the Supreme Court.

They've pledged to only use the filibuster in "extraordinary circumstances." But those circumstances were not defined by either side, and there's no question that both sides of the aisle see things rather differently. Harry Reid's "extraordinary circumstances" certainly are not Bill Frist's "extraordinary circumstances," and we'll see this fight fought again before 2008, I'm pretty sure. Except the Republicans have the weapon (and this isn't an original thought, I saw this elsewhere, though I'm don't quite remember where) of saying that whatever nominee the Democrats want to filibuster is no more extreme than Owen or Brown, and thus would violate that whole "extraordinary circumstances" clause.

My last word on this: I don't see how either side could be happy with this "compromise." For the Democrats, they're right back where they started, with a vague verbal leash on their ability to use the filibuster and their most-feared nominees on the way to getting confirmed. For the Republicans, they haven't gotten all of their nominees confirmed, and they've presented a front which, while united strongly in the past, looks to be cracking. The Religious Right looks at McCain as a maverick and a traitor, and the moderate conservatives look at James Dobson and his hand pupppet Bill Frist as dangerously close to the fringe.

Nine dead in Iraq: As my good buddy Oliver pointed out to me, CNN's homepage has, at the top right, a little button labeled "most popular." As he also pointed out to me, clicking on that link shows you that more people care about what Paris Hilton has to say about her new advertisement, or about the final showdown on American Idol, than about nine of our troops being killed in Iraq. A nine-man death toll in one day is significant, especially given the relative calm for our troops there in the past months. But I guess idiot heiresses trump real news.

Okay, so it feels good to be back. I'll have to look for something else to write about this afternoon. But expect to see a couple of random thoughts on some movies I've seen lately (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and I (Heart) Huckabees).