Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for June, 2007

Another Step on the Road to Success

Posted by Gerald on June 30, 2007

Even as the President continues to plead for patience with the surge in the face of the defections of Voinovich and Lugar, we get this piece of news from Iraq.  The Sunni bloc is withdrawing from participation in the cabinet.

This demonstrates clearly that no amount of US military force is going to create the situation that might lead to stability in Iraq.  This isn’t a situation where political violence is getting in the way of civil society, this is a situation where intense divisions are leading to violence.


The only people who can decide that Iraq is to be a stable multi-religious and multi-ethnic society are the Iraqis themselves.  The desire for peace and stability are not enough.  People need to be willing to live and work with different types of people, or nothing works at all.


Posted in America, Iraq War, news, opinion, politics, United States | 1 Comment »

Insane or Not?

Posted by Gerald on June 29, 2007

Scott Panetti was in and out of mental hospitals (oh, thanks for saving us from socialized medicine, conservatives) before he killed somebody.  At his trial he represented himself.  He wore a purple cowboy outfit and called the Pope, JFK, and, oh yeah, JESUS as witnesses.  This not being evidence of insanity in Texas, he was convicted by a jury of his peers (I’d like to meet his peers – but only under clinical circumstances) and sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote (gonna need a macro for that – I’m going to be typing it a lot) voted to order the Federal District Court to review Mr. Panetti’s claims of insanity.

A quote from the dissent by Justice Thomas – this is a “half-baked holding that leaves the details of the insanity standard for the District Court to work out”.

Maybe they could start by using the purple cowboy suit test?

Posted in America, Clarence Thomas, death penalty, law, news, opinion, politics, Supreme Court, United States | 1 Comment »


Posted by Gerald on June 29, 2007

Our beloved President is holding up Israel as an example of a functioning democracy dealing with violence, and as a model for Iraq.  Read more here.

So he thinks the Shi’ite majority in Iraq should basically turn the Sunni minority into stateless persons and leave them that way for the next sixty years.  Then the minority can commit acts of pointless violence due to anger and despair while the threatened majority responds with overwhelming violence and repression that creates a seemingly endless cycle of attack and reprisal only interrupted by short period of illusory hope.

Great plan, Mr. President.  You seem to be well on your way to success in Iraq.

Posted in America, Bush Legacy, George W. Bush, international relations, Iraq War, Israel, news, opinion, Palestinian, politics, United States | 1 Comment »

Please Take Action to Save Troy Davis

Posted by Gerald on June 29, 2007

Troy Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for several years after being convicted for the murder of a police officer.  The problem is that several witnesses have recanted their testimony, there is no physical evidence in the case, and there are irregularities associated with his trial.

Please read more about this situation and if you agree help Amnesty International in its campaign to save Troy Davis’s life.

Posted in America, Amnesty International, death penalty, Human Rights, law, opinion, taking action, United States | Leave a Comment »

Civil Rights and Individual Rights

Posted by Gerald on June 29, 2007

Several people have been discussing the two decisions by the Supreme Court striking down the voluntary desegregation programs in Louisville and Seattle.  You can read some details here and you can see some of the discussion on my friend Bridgett’s blog at My Beautiful Wickedness


I believe that the Supreme Court’s decision today reflects long-standing issues in the law – what are civil rights laws meant to do – and one of the biggest questions confronting the American experiment – are individual liberties always more important than public needs?  It isn’t like these questions are new.  Figures like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau (among many others) have put forward answers.  It is a sign of how difficult this is in practice, as opposed to theory, that none of these brilliant people have come up with an answer that works all the time.  Today’s decision reflects a vision of American society as being essentially atomic.  Each individual is isolated and separate.  The preservation of their separate rights is the paramount duty of the law.  What this leaves out is any idea of America as a community.  It says we are always a group of individuals, we are never one nation.  As such, the decision is not surprising.  Isn’t this exactly the view we see reflected throughout our culture?  It is the double-edged sword of individual rights.

It is simplistic to try to define today’s decision as a racist view versus a non-racist view, which supporters of both sides are already doing.  Each side is using a different definition of what the idea of “rights” means and a different idea of how those rights are to be protected.  There is a big question at the root of the division of the court.

Do civil rights laws exist to protect the individual civil liberties of each American or do these laws exist in order to affect a set of social changes concerning how this society deals with race?

To date, the existing laws have tended to use the first of these goals as a justification for policies aimed at the second of these goals.  Each American is supposed to be guaranteed certain rights; therefore we must build a society which will overcome the racial divisions of our past.  In the beginning, the issue was ending a system of state-mandated racial segregation.  Over time, school desegregation became a tool to try to end the de facto segregation of American society.  In education, this has led to the idea that it is of vital importance that students be brought together in multi-racial educational institutions so that most people will be starting from the same place.  This vision says that integrated schools will create an integrated, and equal, America. 

This idea has been questioned, and not just by avowed racists.  African-American parents have questioned the “assimilation” of their children.  Parents of all races have deplored the relocation of children to other neighborhoods.  Also, in order to do this, some students have found themselves denied access to schools they wanted or found themselves forcibly reassigned to schools they didn’t want on the basis of their race.  Certain individuals had their liberties infringed upon in the name of a certain vision of the common good – but what about the rights they were guaranteed?  Thus we had legal challenges to existing programs intended to promote racial diversity in schools, all of which leads to today’s decisions by the Supreme Court.

The position taken by the Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas portion of this decision is that the whole attempt to use schools to fix American society is misguided.  The only important issue is the individual liberties of each student.  The government must be racially blind when dealing with these students.  The government cannot force them out of a school due to their race; the government cannot assign them to a school due to their race.  The government must pretend that race doesn’t exist.  If it does, this reasoning goes, there will be no racial discrimination in law and that is the only thing that government or the courts should concern themselves with.  This argument says that we are a nation of individuals and individual rights are all that matter.  Government must not infringe on the rights of the individual for any reason.

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens dissented in the name of the traditional vision of civil rights law.  Breyer’s dissent argued that there is a difference between race-based programs of exclusion and race-based programs of inclusion.  This is the idea that the ultimate goal of equality in America is an important enough public goal that the abridgement of some individual’s liberties is justified.  This is an argument that a communal good occasionally outweighs private needs.  This argument says we are sometimes a group of individuals, but we are also one nation.  Sometimes what is good for the group must take precedence.

Justice Kennedy’s concurrence shows the tilting point.  He agreed that the way race was used in these school systems – as an individual sorting method – was illegal, but he allowed that the goal of social change was something the schools, and hence the government, could legitimately pursue.  This is a significant difference in philosophy from the Roberts group.  I think there is an argument to be made that the divisions of the court, like the divisions in Congress, simply represent a much divided public mind.

I cannot agree with the Roberts group.  I think that the view of an atomic society that they and other neo-Conservatives put forward will create a Republic that cannot stand.  This legal reasoning is dangerous to us as a nation because it denies that there is any “us” at all.

But is the law the real problem here?  Isn’t there another set of questions we need to ask?  The reason for the Louisville and Seattle programs is the continuing geographical, economic, and social segregation of America.  Why, five decades after Brown are we still living in an America with “black” neighborhoods and “white” neighborhoods?  I tend to favor the position of the dissenters on the court, but there is still a valid question to ask about why school desegregation hasn’t produced the America its promoters envisioned.  If we are going to come back at the supporters of this decision, and the thinking behind it, we are going to need answers more compelling than “if we just give it more time it will work.”  I think I’ve been hearing someone use that as an argument for “staying the course” in another area, and I don’t buy it there so why should they buy it here?

We’ve got work to do people – and only a small part of it is about voting and law.


Posted in America, American culture, American history, desegregation, individualism, inequality, John J. Roberts, law, news, opinion, politics, Samuel Alito, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution, United States | 14 Comments »

The Real Bush Legacy

Posted by Gerald on June 27, 2007

The discussion has already started about Dubya’s legacy as President – handling of 9/11, War on Terrorism, Patriot Act, Afghanistan and Iraq, etc…

We can see the real legacy, however, in this story from the L.A. Times; one of many covering these decisions by the Supreme Court.  Bush’s real legacy is going to be in the persons of Justices Roberts and Alito.  These men will be shaping the laws and the structure of government long after Dubya has retired to the ranch in Crawford.

John Marshall, the most influential Chief Justice thus far, carried the philosophy and ideals of the Federalists well into the 19th century – when the Federalist Party itself had ceased to exist.  Roberts and Alito will also carry on the legacy of this administration for years – and probably decades – to come.

Money is speech and faith-based initiatives.  The future is here, folks.

Posted in America, American history, Bush Legacy, George W. Bush, History, John J. Roberts, news, opinion, politics, Samuel Alito, Supreme Court, United States | Leave a Comment »

This is NOT a Good Sign

Posted by Gerald on June 27, 2007

At an ANC policy conference in South Africa, Thabo Mbeki is warning delegate that this isn’t the time to discuss the identity of his successor.

It is to early to be really alarmed, but given the track record of fledgling democracies in Africa (and the post-Apartheid regime there would still have to be considered “fledgling”) it is always alarming when leaders make noises about not being succeeded.

Posted in Africa, ANC, news, opinion, politics, South Africa, Thabo Mbeki | Leave a Comment »

A Woman’s Moment of Triumph?

Posted by Gerald on June 27, 2007

This might be the kind of news you have got to be a history teacher, or history buff, to get excited about, but since I AM a history teacher, I’m excited.

A team of scientists have announced they have identified the mummy of Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled as Pharaoh during the Middle Kingdom period in ancient Egypt.  Hatshepsut was, by most accounts, a very capable ruler who extended Egyptian trade and built on a large scale.  Unlike the more famous Nefertiti, she was not simply Queen, she was Pharaoh in her own right – only the second woman to claim the title of King of Upper and Lower Egypt.  She certainly has a solid claim to being the most successful of Egypt’s female rulers.

This could be seen as a kind of triumph in that there was an attempt made under the reign of her successor, Thutmose III, to lessen – or completely obliterate – her historical memory.  The reasons for this are a matter of dispute, but the fact is that she disappeared from the historical record for a long time.  Now she is not only back, but she is getting her own special on the Discovery Channel.

Take that, Thutmose!

Posted in Archaeology, Egypt, Egyptology, Hatshepsut, History, Pharaoh | 5 Comments »

“The Economist” on Palestine

Posted by Gerald on June 26, 2007

The Economist had a very interesting write-up on the situation arising from the fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

The authors ask some very useful questions.  What does this division mean for Palestinian statehood?  Answer, nothing good.  Is the Western hope that the division between Fatah and Hamas will lead to the end of Hamas realistic?  Answer, probably not.  Will Western aid do more to polarize the situation than to prop up Fatah?  Answer, probably.

Read it here.

Posted in Diplomacy, international relations, Israel, Middle East, news, Palestinian Authority, politics, reviews | 1 Comment »

On the True Nature of the Cheney

Posted by Gerald on June 26, 2007

How are those of good conscience to know the proper course of things, if we have no clear understanding of the true nature of the Cheney?  This is what I intend to explore.

At issue is whether the Vice-Presidency is part of the executive or the legislative branch.  Several years ago, in refusing to allow Congress access to his visitor lists when reviewing issues related to the administration’s energy policy, the Cheney manifested his “executive” nature, proclaiming the “executive privilege.”  More recently, the Cheney has proclaimed his “legislative” nature when explaining how he is not bound by executive orders concerning the handling of classified documents.

To understand these things, we must explore the true nature of the Cheney and to understand the heretical views that have been raised.

Dick Durbin and others have raised a heretical notion that would deny the dual nature of the Cheney.  This began with the idea of Nestorianism which suggested that there is both a Legislative Cheney and an Executive Cheney, or logos.  In reaction to this emerged the Monophysite position, which would maintain that the Cheney has a single nature.  One variation of this would be Eutychianism which holds that the Legislative nature of the Cheney was obliterated by the Executive nature.  Another variation, called Apollinarianism holds that the Cheney has a Legislative body and “living principle” but that the Executive Logos has taken the place of his Legislative nous.  These ideas are heretical in that they deny the dual nature of the Cheney, which has been made clear in his words and those of his messenger Dana Perino.

True insight into the word of the Cheney reveals his true nature.  His nature is dyophysite, he is both Legislative and Executive in his being.  His separate natures exist together in a hypostatic union.  Thus he is unbound by the limitations of his Legislative Nature and of his Executive Nature.  He cannot be compelled by Presidential Authority or by Congressional Oversight.

He is the Cheney, and he is forever.

Posted in opinion, politics, satire, United States | 3 Comments »