Writer Eric Zimmerman thinks that the Republicans are being silly when they say that Elena Kagan supported banning books as solicitor general. All she really wanted to do was ban pamphlets, which anyone would have to admit are much smaller than books.
Modern Thomas Paines take heart because Kagan lost her argument and the campaign finance law that prevented “electioneering” by individuals not registered with the government as official candidates.
Kagan has been pretty cool with placing conditions on free speech in pursuit of limits on hateful or pornographic materials throughout her career, but she also went to the mat to keep non-candidates out of the political process.
Zimmerman goes to the court records to give us the picture of Kagan’s page-count contingent limits on free speech:
“‘If it's a 500-page book, and at the end it says, 'and so vote for x,' the government could ban that?’ [Chief Justice John] Roberts asked.
Kagan's deputy, Malcolm L. Stewart, said yes.
‘We could prohibit the publication of that book,’ he responded.
In a later oral argument, Kagan slightly modified that position, but still found herself arguing that the government could ban certain pamphlets, depending on who paid for their publication.
‘And if you say that you are not going to apply it to a book, what about a pamphlet?’ Roberts asked.
‘A pamphlet would be different. A pamphlet is pretty classic electioneering, so there is no attempt to say that [law] only applies to video and not to print,’ Kagan responded.
Europe has the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain), but for the U.S., the problem is the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
The four countries are finding more and more common ground as the economic insurgents looking to knock over Amero-European world domination. They might not agree on everything, but they can agree that it’s time to shake things up on the world stage. They have positive momentum, we are stagnating, therefore they favor upheaval.
As a sign of how this will all play out, look to Iran.
Russia and China are not keen to see the sanctions sought by the U.S. applied to trading partner Iran. Plus, Iran is a destabilizing force in the U.S. sphere of Middle East influence, another desirable trait for China and Russia. Accordingly, the two countries, which have vetoes on the U.N. Security Council, who have been dragging their feet on President Obama’s demands.
As the Obama administration was aiming lower and lower in an effort to win some kind of symbolic new U.N. sanction against Iran, fellow BRICer Brazil showed up with a cockamamie plan to create a nuclear fuel swap with Turkey. The U.S. had wanted the Iranians to trade their potentially dangerous enriched uranium for peaceful energy-producing fuel rods. But we were thinking of a swap with, say, France, under our watchful eye not the Muslim nation next door to Iran ot of the back of a truck.
But this will be more than enough cover to prevent any retribution against Iran and leave the BRIC more confident of its ability to thwart U.S. international aims.
Writer Margaret Coker explains:
“Iranian negotiators had signed off on the original deal, but amid a mood of increasing distrust with Western powers, Iran's leadership never approved it. Since then, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials have offered a series of sometimes contradictory counterproposals, including one in which Iran would agree to swap its uranium for the higher-enriched fuel, but on Iranian territory.”
In Iraq, American troops could befriend restive locals by making a common enemy of the foreign Islamists who had come to fight the Great Satan but were killing Iraqi women and children too.
In Afghanistan, our men have killed or captured a heap of al Qaeda fighters in the past eight years, and most of the rest are hiding from Predator drones in mountain caves.
The Taliban, which is the Afghan equivalent to the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South, may be nasty, but it is indigenous.
As NATO ramps up the assault (er, “process”) in Kandahar, writer Carlotta Gall goes back to the scene of the previous effort to “clear and hold” in Marja and finds the Taliban operating with impunity, residents fleeing in droves, guerilla fighting, and a government that can’t govern.
“The population remains divided in its support for the Taliban, with a portion providing shelter and assistance to the militants and few daring to oppose them. In some places, people are still lining up for aid, indicating a certain resistance to Taliban strictures.
But many repeat the Taliban contention that the Americans are bent on long-term occupation of Afghanistan and seek to eradicate their religion, Islam, and impose an alien, Western-style democracy.”
Writer Tony Barber with a superb look at the way the meltdown in Europe is playing out.
Foreign investors simultaneously believe that the $1 trillion debt bailout package is insufficient to the task of preventing default and also so large that it will produce further profligacy in the medium term.
The debt crisis has revealed the real problem in Europe: stagnation and entitlement make the region a long-term economic loser.
What helps America is the belief that we are still capable of changing our ways. No one believes Europe will change for the better anytime soon.
Barber examines many reasons for the inability to adapt, but also suggests that political upheaval after 20 years of center-left domination may be at hand.
“Angela Merkel, German chancellor, suffered a severe blow on May 9 when her Christian Democrats were defeated in a state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, wiping out her majority in the Bundesrat, parliament’s upper house.
In March the centre-right forces of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, were destroyed in elections that gave the opposition Socialists control of 21 of France’s 22 metropolitan regions. Mr Sarkozy’s popularity rating is at its lowest since he assumed power in May 2007.
The troubles of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s premier, stem not from a resurgent opposition – the Italian centre-left has rarely been more divided and ineffective – but from the rising strength of the Northern League, an unpredictable ally in his centre-right coalition, and from internal disputes in his People of Liberty party.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s socialist premier, leads a minority government that cobbles together deals with small parties, such as moderate Basque and Catalan nationalists, to stay in power.”
At long last, BP has had some success in stanching the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico by fitting a big bottle stopper into the broken pipe.
It’s only part of the leak and the tar balls that have started washing up on Gulf beaches are just a foretaste of the hassles to come.
America’s trial lawyers have been waiting for a moment like this. The class action lawsuit army that grew because of asbestos and tobacco has been without a big target for the last several years. But a huge oil spill by a mega-rich company near some states that have pretty racy laws when it comes to establishing plaintiffs’ classes has gotten the tort forces fired up.
Writers Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin look at the stampede (88 suits and counting).
“‘On Thursday, I could smell the oil and, being a toxic tort lawyer, I realized that the fact that you're smelling something means that you're inhaling something,’ Stuart Smith, a New Orleans lawyer, said this month when breezes were carrying the scent of the oil slick toward the city. Smith, who has sued major oil companies before, immediately contacted toxicologists and air monitors to start doing tests that could be used as evidence.
The law firms now assembling are members of the all-star team of plaintiffs' attorneys. They have experience suing big companies over asbestos, tobacco, oil company waste, breast implants and Chinese drywall. They have represented Ecuadoran shrimp farmers and New York lobstermen, patients who have swallowed Vioxx and investors who lost money on shares of Enron. And their ranks include the likes of Erin Brockovich, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and former partners of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.”
--My column about Tuesday’s Kentucky primary and the slackening GOP support for the president’s Afghan policy is here.
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