Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Council Winners

Watchers Council winners have been posted for the week of June 20.

First place in the council went to Judicial Activism Run Amok by Wolf Howling. This post dealt with Boumediene v. Bush, as did several nominees this week. Wolf, like most of the posts nominated on the topic, sees it as a travesty:

The case of Boumediene v. Bush is far more of a policy document than a reasoned Supreme Court decision. Indeed, the 'reasoning' of Justice Kennedy, who penned this travesty, is sophistry of the highest order. The outcome of his "reasoning" is a gifting of Constitutional rights to foreign prisoners of war and a vast intrusion of the judiciary into the enumerated powers of the Congress and President. It promises true havoc.

I suppose it's an election year thing; it puzzles me that so many people on both sides of this one are so adamant that their interpretation is the only possible honest one, and that anything else is treason or fascism. It seems to me there's reasonable grounds to be wary of granting the habeas corpus rights of an American citizen to suspected alien pseudo-paramilitaries swept up on distant battlefields in Asia. That seems like something we'd want to consider carefully before rubber-stamping.

On the other hand, I appreciate the logic of innocent-until-proven, and the requirement to give such scooped-up riff-raff a decent avenue to prove they are not what they are alleged to be. And in general the principle that Americans ought to be as generous as possible with human rights, in the name of our ideals.

I agree with Richard A. Epstein about the flaws in the recent decision:

Yet Boumediene is rich in constitutional ironies. In addressing whether non-Americans detained outside the United States are entitled to habeas corpus, the court passed up an opportunity to clarify the law, and instead based its reasoning, flimsily, on a habeas corpus case that was decided just after World War II. This is too bad, because issues as important as habeas corpus should turn not on fancy intellectual footwork but on a candid appraisal of the relevant facts and legal principles.

At the core of the dispute in Boumediene is the Constitution’s suspension clause: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Unfortunately, the text neglects to specify the grounds for granting habeas corpus. And historical precedent is inconclusive on the question of when it should be available to aliens held in American custody outside the United States.

Everyone rightly waves the flag for habeas corpus, but ever since 1861 it's been know that the Constitution is practically hazy on the circumstances under which it applies, and under which it can be suspended, and by whom. It's still so.

Votes also went to Admitting Defeat in the Rhetoric War by Cheat Seeking Missiles, in which Laer contrasts President George W. Bush's wartime rhetoric to Franklin Roosevelt's.

That's a bit unfair, I think, as some of Bush's addresses on this topic -- when he has made them -- have been sterling. They haven't been the same type of rhetoric Roosevelt gave, because that was a different type of war, by our choice.

What Laer might be wishing is that the war was fought more in the Eisenhower style than in the clumsily sensitive and politically delicate climate of the Bush White House. Roosevelt led a war to unconditional surrender, and his commanding general, Eisenhower, warned the Germans we came as conquerors, not liberators. In this war, we profess to come as liberators -- and I think the record in Iraq and Afghanistan shows we mean it -- and that is a much more delicate path to tread. The jury's still out on whether we have the patience for it.

Either way, he's right, I think, in his assessment of what is coming next:

We are in a quandry. The candidate with the rhetorical powers to patch things up has the wrong policy, and the candidate with the right policy is perhaps even worse rhetorically than Bush. McCain might want to make his #1 qualification for running mate "soaring rhetorical power."

And votes went to What the Free World Would Do Well To Emulate by The Colossus of Rhodey, a strong post on how, as Mark Steyn (quoted in the post), says, "[T]he bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins" is that "Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

Steyn also says: "The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they're not about facts. They're about feelings." Especially in the case of the Western nations other than the U.S., where laws forbid such speech, but the government only gets involved after some person or group speaks up and claims offendedness.

I disagree with the part of the post that imputes a fondness for this type of law to a simple lust for power by liberals:

What is it about this liberal desire for the restriction of speech and expression? The answer is simple: Power. If you can restrict and punish expression which you do not like, you'll always get your way.

I think there are fair and honest ways that can lead a person down a primrose path, including this one. Of course it always helps if you're the kind of person eager to silence dissent and enthrone one human vision as God's. But that is not restricted to liberals.

Votes also went to Say It Loud, Say It Proud: I Am a Racist! by Bookworm Room, anticipating the response she expects from people when she doesn't vote for Obama; and to A Rose By Any Other Name -- Tiptoeing Around Jihad by Joshuapundit.

Outside the council, the winner was After the Charge at Miserable Donuts, another winning post from a sterling milblog. I really think when you look back on this decade, one thing that will stand out is the emergence of the milblog voice. It's not great writing, but at its best it's great description. And in other cases it's great horse-sense analysis. Here's a sample of the latter from this one:

The Iraqis paused to mourn their dead, caught up on some rest, maintenance and refitting – and went back to operations. Their progress is never enough if you hold them to American military standards, but is undeniable by anyone who watched them throughout this time. They are slowly and inexorably gaining strength, experience and an identity of their own. It was elements of three Iraqi Army divisions and two National Police brigades that won in Basrah. We, the Coalition, helped – and I believe that our help kept the casualties and damage down - but make no mistake, this was an Iraqi victory won by the Iraqi Security Forces. The people of Basrah are why the ISF are winning the post-battle too. They have experienced militia/religious fanatic/thug rule and they don’t want any more truck with it. It is the ordinary Abduls, Hattams and Fatimas of Basrah who point out the weapons caches, told the ISF where the JAM and Iranians were hiding, and it is they who are getting to step out into the light at last.

Votes also went to Obama and Taxes: An Unchanged Liberal Agenda at Lone Star Times; The United States Supreme Court Versus America: Awarding "The Privilege of Habeas Corpus To Terrorists", Hugh Hewitt's take on Boumediene; Why Irish Voters Rejected the Lisbon Treaty at The Brussels Journal; and Serlo the Mercer and Magna Carta at Brits At Their Best.