The right to face your accuser
Indefinite detentions are now the Justice Department's blanket policy for illegal immigrants:
US Attorney General John Ashcroft has ruled that the government may detain groups of illegal immigrants indefinitely if federal officials say their release would endanger national security.

The attorney general said that in a time of national emergency such as the war on terrorism, the federal government is not able to make an exhaustive factual investigation of each illegal immigrant.

What happened to innocent until proven guilty? This specious argument about a state of national emergency is going to set our whole legal system on its head. If the government doesn't have the resources to make an exhaustive factual investigation of every person they arrest, then give them more resources!

This is, after all, the same government that just shelled out $79B to put 150,000 troops in the Person Gulf and knock down the Iraqi regime, all in the name of Iraqi freedom. Wouldn't paying for more investigative resources for Homeland Security - even if it's just to help guarantee immigrant civil rights - be a political no-brainer?


Anxiety of influence
From Metafilter, this is odd... didn't the 300th episode of the Simpsons air a couple months back? I can only conclude that there's some kind of delay between its initial airing in the states and its airing in the UK. But what possible reason could they have for delaying? It seems kind of backwards, in an age when they could probably have emailed the episode as an attachment.

Cash and carry
In a fun piece on traffic jams, Michael Kinsley makes this suave argument in an aside about what it would mean to have a kidney market:

Should a rich person who needs a kidney replacement be allowed to buy one from a healthy poor person? The answer of all the advanced democracies is: no. Human kidneys should not be part of the dollar economy. A rich person shouldn't be able to get one of yours just because he has more money. But outlawing this deal doesn't thwart just the rich person. It thwarts the poor one too. He thinks he'd be better off with the cash than with the second kidney. We think it's terrible that he has to make that choice, but we're not offering a third alternative. We're just forcing him to take what he thinks is the worst of the current two.
I've posted on this at length before, but of course Kinsley makes the same point much more gracefully.

The Economist has an understandably self-satisfied explanation of their long-running Big Mac index. Hopefully their predictions for the coming year will be so accurate.

Papa, don't preach
Behold, the creative genius of Madonna. Or maybe the marketing genius... I guess the two are pretty similar where she's concerned. Still, it's worth a laugh. According to Metafilter, the remixes have already begun.

Any future entitlement
PLA, whose permalinks never seem to work, has a very long, very good post on the basics of the funding side of Social Security. He ends up arguing that even though Social Security funds current benefits with current tax revenues, it's not irresponsible as long as our leaders are fiscally responsible. He's right, of course.

Likely contributors?
Via Matt Yglesias, Patrick Belton explains that he's been added to the Bush admin's database of potential campaign contributors, and it is probably because he applied for a federal job.

Having actually held a federal job (with the Social Security Adminstration), I can tell you that many federal employees are forbidden from taking part in political activism at the federal level. I don't know whether this is true for the National Security Council or not, and of course Patrick isn't yet employed, but there's something pretty suspicious about this.


Your story didn't hold up
Brett Marston links to this disturbing article on the lack of serious investigative reporting in the American press. Go read it.

MORE: Shock & Awe links to this related commentary from Morning Edition's Bob Edwards. The bit about the media watching the polls as closely as politicians is particularly incisive.

Confirmation wars
This is good news - high profile interventions by the Europeans and now an Egyptian envoy have led to an agreement on the Palsetinian cabinet. One thing that bothers me about this is that through this crisis there hasn't been any mention of a serious US effort, even though Bush has expressed his support for Abu Mazen. Is this because we don't have any credibility with them, because we're occupied elsewhere, or because our stance is implicit after having conquered Iraq?


Clark's plans
This report via Taegan makes it look like Wesley Clark won't be running for president. If this is true, it's a big blow to Democrats. Clark is one of the few potential candidates who has any credibility on national security issues, and having him in the primary would have forced others to address these issues. I think if he walks away now it rules out VP too, but look for him as a national security advisor if a Democrat takes office in 2005.

Also Gary Hart, who seems poised to announce his candidacy, has a convincing post on what should be the Democrats' approach to 2004:

Democrats will only win the White House when we convince a majority of voters - including Independents and moderate Republicans - that we have sufficient depth of understanding and experience in world affairs and increasingly complex security issues to promote legitimate American interests as well as to create economic growth and justice. We're now part of a revolutionary new world and can no longer pretend that our own economic challenges are separate from it.
As always, I should point out that I'm loosely affiliated with the Hart campaign. I guess at some point I'll do a post on that and link to it permanently...

Unintended consequences
The Bloviator (whose permalinks aren't working) has some observations about the tradeoffs between voluntary and involuntary quarantine:
Obviously, for purposes of maintaining the proper balance of human rights/dignity and public health protection, a voluntary approach is recommended. And while there are risks to this approach, as evidenced in the above case, the mandatory quarantine approach offers even more significant risks, like those who may be infected being reluctant to come forward and/or seek diagnosis and treatment for fear of being stigmatized and/or locked away.
I can't find any reference to whether quarantines in Hong Kong or China are volunatary, and I'm not sure it's safe to assume that they aren't, even in the case of the latter. I have a feeling we're never going to see any reliable/straightforward information about the initial spread of the disease in China, but if they are using involuntary quarantine, it might be illuminating to compare how the different policies affect contagion levels.

Insult to injury
TalkLeft links to this editorial on the posthumous award of citizenship to US soldiers. It's always seemed strange to me that serving in the military doesn't get you instant citizenship. I guess there has to be some incentive to keep you enlisted, but I'm not sure you have the right to leave when you want anyway, once you're in.

Another bad idea
If there's anything worse in the eyes of the Arab world than US control of Iraqi oil, it's this (link via Kos).

Game over, man
Eugene Volokh responds to pending legislation in Washington state that would ban video games depicting violence against police. He quotes an opinion by Richard Posner which quickly debunks the only argument I can even anticipate in favor of the ban:
Maybe video games are different. They are, after all, interactive. But this point is superficial, in fact erroneous. All literature (here broadly defined to include movies, television, and the other photographic media, and popular as well as highbrow literature) is interactive; the better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader's own. Protests from readers caused Dickens to revise Great Expectations to give it a happy ending, and tourists visit sites in Dublin and its environs in which the fictitious events of Ulysses are imagined to have occurred. The cult of Sherlock Holmes is well known.
It looks like the legislation will pass (all it needs now is the governor's signature), but I guess it won't be around long.


A new MO
General Jay Garner has arrived in Baghdad, charged with the task of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and assembling a government. I was interested to learn that Garner reports to General Franks, and not to any civilian authority. Does the US military really have the knowhow to establish a functional government in Iraq?

Since it seems clear we're going to be reinventing the military now, maybe it's time to add some new capabilities to the US arsenal. I'm thinking of peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, infrastructure replacement/development, and possibly even interim governance.

Yes, some of these capabilities are already present in our armed forces, but breaking them out into a sepcially outfitted fifth corps could have a lot of benefits. For one thing, specializing tends to bring with it increased professionalism and expertise. But just the act of grouping these missions under a different heading would be a signal to the world: the United States takes this stuff as seriously as combat.

OK, I'm not exactly serious about the idea - it's pretty obvious to me that at least some of these functions are the wrong domain altogether for a military force. (A special museum security brigade is not the answer to the looting debacle we saw last week.) But faced with the fact that we've now had two recent wars end in mass confusuion and uncertainty, it might not be such a bad idea to bone up on our postwar military procedure. After all, we're going to be doing a lot of this kind of thing...

I might be wrong
Jeff Cooper is back today with a long post on why he hasn't been writing much lately. He's having a hard time dealing with the blogosphere's lack of real conversation and understanding:

Perhaps some of this is inevitable. War is very serious business, after all, and it inevitably arouses high passion in the political arena. But it does make me wonder about the utility of continuing this enterprise. I'm not so egotistical as to think that I would change many minds, or even any minds, by writing here. But I did hope at least to make my positions understood, and to come to better understand the arguments of those who see things differently. That requires a certain openness, though, a willingness to attempt to see the world from different perspectives and to take seriously the possibility that I might sometimes be wrong. And, unfortunately, I don't find many other bloggers approaching their writing in a similar spirit.
I definitely share some of the same frustrations. Blogging has turned out to be a lot less conversational than I expected - when I'm not shouting at an empty room, I'm shouting at people who are shouting back. There's not a lot of room in there for subtlety.

Strange bedfellows
Here's a fascinating article about the development of the neocon movement, from a somewhat personal paleocon perspective. I'm always amazed by the foreign policy stuff at The American Conservative - I'll be completely enamored of one paragraph and totally put off by the next. Too bad the publication doesn't seem to be doing very well... after months in print you can still get a charter subscription for peanuts.

Greivous unto us
PG/Bertrand Russell at Half the Sins of Mankind had this to say about my criticism of Colin Powell's State Dept underlings:
[F]rom a bureaucratic perspective, Powell was in the wrong. He is in the employ - even as top management - of an entity that is being sued for at least $33 million and a loss of official reputation. If Michael Eisner had had a fit of lunacy and declared Mickey Mouse to belong in the public domain during the Eldred case, we all would have applauded him for his integrity, as we do now with Powell. But Disney's legal team would have squashed his words immediately as not representing the company's legal position. The State Department must do the same.
The problem with this analogy is that Colin Powell doesn't represent the interests of an amoral corporate machine. In this situtaion, the American people and their government actually have some interest in making things right, or at least owning up to the wrongs committed. If what Powell said really wasn't the position of the State Department, it certainly should be - lawsuit or not.

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Comments have been down for a long time, and apparently IE users are having to click through a flood of error messages. Sorry about that. I haven't noticed too much myself... spent most of my weekend making ravioli.

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