Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas, Texaco!

After being encouraged that some moderate Republicans (including one of our West Michigan congressmen) successfully blocked the agenda of conservative Republicans to open up oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the conservatives got what they want by employing a failsafe strategy: attach what you want to a Pentagon spending bill and spineless Democrats (and moderate Republicans) everywhere will cave. (After all, who wants to be seen as against the military?) Shameless, and disappointing. As one congressman put it:
"A can't-pass measure has been added to a must-pass measure in order for the Republicans to give an early huge Christmas gift to the oil companies of the United States," said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.
Whatever happened to the days when such ludicrous defense spending was not a de facto "must pass" measure?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Welcome Back, Mr. Hitchens?

It was wonderfully refreshing to actually see Christopher Hitchens offer a critique of the current administration, and in particular, the Defense Department's propaganda tactics in Iraq. Hitchens has been so busy defending the war in Iraq I was starting to think he was losing his contrarian edge. This piece in Slate is proof that some of the old Hitchens is still lurking inside his DC apartment. I suspect that the Orwellian in him just couldn't ignore the disturbing echoes of the "Ministry of Truth" in 1984.

[By the way, word on the (blog) street has it that Hitchens' next book will fill out his critique of religion. Warner Twelve will publish God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. This should be the perfect foil for a book I've got in the works: On Religion: An Open Letter to Christopher Hitchens and Other Cultured Despisers.]

Monday, December 05, 2005

Give a Water Buffalo for Christmas

What to get for that special someone who has everything? How about a water buffalo? Or ducks? Or a mosquito net? Or even a house? Last year while we were in England we bought some gifts for our family through Oxfam: a goat and some ducks as I recall. The "gifts" were then sent to those who really needed them in the developing world.

This year we're doing the same thing through the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. The CRWRC has set up a great "gift shop" that allows you to purchase a whole range of things for specific justice missions around the world--including all the suggestions noted above, as well as literacy classes in Haiti, seeds & tools in Sudan, school lunches in Romania, and much more. When you purchase the gift (online), you'll receive a card that you can shared with your loved one. Our families loved it. Consider doing it this Christmas!

Un-Natural Law? Alito on Non-Resident Aliens

The Washington Post ran a fairly disturbing analysis of some of Alito's opinions written opinions while serving as a senior lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department. Of particular interest--to me--was his rendering regarding the constitutional rights that are afforded (or not!) to not just illegal immigrants but also non-resident aliens--of which I am one! (I'm a Canadian, for the record--which will explain quite a lot for some of my critics.) In a January 1986 memo to the FBI director Alito said that constitutional rules that applied to citizens (in particular, the prohibition of spreading 'stigmatizing' information about someone) did not apply to nonresident immigrants. He also cited a 1950 Supreme Court case "to support the contention that nonresident immigarnts of other countries had 'no due process rights' under the Constitution."

One could point out just a couple of serious concerns here: first, this is just the kind of aggressive limitation of legal protection that fuels the current administration's "exceptional" stance vis-a-vis the Geneva Convention and a host of other human rights expectations for non-American citizens in custody. Second, such a constructionist or conventional notion of rights would seem to contradict Alito's own natural law philosophy. I'm no fan of natural law theory, but at least it mitigates against this kind of commodified treatment of non-resident aliens.