15 November 2004


I've been away since Friday morning at a conference in Chicago. I had the opportunity to tell a roomful of writers that (1) copyright isn't the only kind of law they need to worry about, and (2) fan fiction is a baaaaaaaaaaad idea without permission from the rightsholder(s).

At least Ashcroft has resigned. Judges as traitors because they oppose unbridled executive power with no stated basis in reality, eh? One of the hidden problems with him as AG was that he got "Senatorial courtesy" during the confirmation process. The Senate has a dark history of confirming its own members and alumni virtually without examination. The rejection of John Tower as Secretary of Defense was remarkable precisely because it was so rare, and so intense; ordinarily, there would have been a back-channel rejection sent to the White House, followed by a gracious withdrawal by the candidate. I suspect that Mr Gonzales is in for a rough time at the hearings, even if he is eventually confirmed on a straight party-line vote. I think there is a good chance that he'll try to claim that his actions concerning the "torture memos" were intended only to provide the President with a wide variety of views so that he could make up his mind, and that further details would violate some privilege or other. I have some (not a lot, but some) sympathy for the "privilege" half of that assertion, but for one aspect: The privilege has already been voided.

I find this contempt for the rule of law rather disturbing. Combine it with the administration's refusal to join the ICC and its overarching unlateralism, partisan purges at the CIA that sound like something Joe Stalin would have advocated, and its attempts to keep the law itself secret, and there is plenty of reason to consider myself in the Opposition for the next four years. I don't even have to reach the policy issues; the conduct of government is enough. Now contrast these with the probable Gonzales response to queries about the torture memo outlined in the preceding paragraph…

Of course, the fact that we haven't had a true liberal candidate for President since 1972—and he was a nutcase for other reasons—doesn't help things. Our two-party system and unimaginative party leaderships force the somewhat left of center to rush toward it for fear of advocating change to those it doesn't believe are convinced of the need for change. Gerrymandering doesn't help, either. The quality of political debate in this country has been grievously undermined by this timidity.