November 17th, 2010
By ERIK SCHELZIG
The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 7:12 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Don't expect a Facebook friend request from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer any time soon.
The 72-year-old justice said in a speech at Vanderbilt Law School on Tuesday that he was perplexed when he recently saw the film "The Social Network" about the origins of Facebook.
But Breyer said the film illustrates his argument that modern conditions - like the development of the social-networking site - should inform justices when interpreting a Constitution written in the 18th century.
"If I'm applying the First Amendment, I have to apply it to a world where there's an Internet, and there's Facebook, and there are movies like ... 'The Social Network,' which I couldn't even understand," he said.
Breyer said of the high court: "It's quite clear, we don't have a Facebook page."
Although Breyer was making a point about judicial philosophy, he also touched on the court's sometimes limited grasp of technological developments. For example, Chief Justice John Roberts in a public employee privacy case before the court earlier this year tried to figure out the role of a text-messaging service in enabling an exchange between two people.
"I thought, you know, you push a button; it goes right to the other thing," Roberts said. Responded Justice Antonin Scalia: "You mean it doesn't go right to the other thing?"
And in a recent case dealing with a California law regulating the sale or rental of violent video games to children, Justice Anthony Kennedy pressed a skeptical state lawyer on whether the v-chip blocking device, rather than a state law, could be used to keep children away from the games.
"V-chips won't work?" Kennedy asked, before the lawyer politely explained they are limited to television programming.
Breyer was in Nashville to speak to students, teach a class and promote his new book "Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View."
Breyer, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994, said his views contrast with originalist members like Scalia, whose approach focuses on giving a fair reading to the words of the Constitution as they were meant when they were written.
Scalia and Breyer sparred over their philosophical differences in a joint appearance at the Texas Tech University Law School last week. Scalia, who was appointed in 1986 by Republican President Ronald Reagan, called the writing of the Constitution "providential."
Breyer said he disagrees with those who argue that originalism is "a good system because it will keep the subjective impulses of the judge under control."
"If you want to have history solve everything, let's get nine historians and not nine judges," Breyer said. "And you'll discover that the nine historians are fighting about the various points on which these cases turn anyway."
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report from Washington.
November 17th, 2010
The Huffington Post / 11/17/2010
WASHINGTON -- At a private meeting on Tuesday afternoon, George Soros, a longtime supporter of progressive causes, voiced blunt criticism of the Obama administration, going so far as to suggest that Democratic donors direct their support somewhere other than the president.
The Hungarian-American financier was speaking to a small side gathering of donors who had convened in Washington D.C. for the annual gathering of the Democracy Alliance -- a formal community of well-funded, progressive-minded individuals and activists.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of his remarks, Soros told those in attendance that he is "used to fighting losing battles but doesn't like to lose without fighting."
"We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line," he said, according to several Democratic sources. "And if this president can't do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else."
Michael Vachon, an adviser to Soros, did not dispute the comment, though he stressed that there was no transcript of a private gathering to check. Vachon also clarified that the longtime progressive giver was not referring to a primary challenge to the president.
"Mr. Soros fully supports the president as the leader of the Democratic Party," said Vachon. "He was not suggesting that we seek another candidate for 2012. His comments were made in a private, informal conversation that was about the need for progressives to be more forceful in promoting their agenda. He was stressing the importance of being heard by elected officials."
Dissatisfaction with the Obama administration was not limited to Soros's private gathering with donors. On Wednesday morning, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina received several tough questions during his address to the Democracy Alliance. According to a source in the room, he was pressed multiple times as to why the administration has declined to be more combative with Republicans, both in communication and legislative strategy. Another source in the room said the exchange was not entirely contentious as people were simply expressing frustration about the fact that "we just came out of an election where the right wing and the Republicans distorted what was going on."
Requests for comment from the White House were not returned, though a Democratic operative sympathetic to the administration said that Soros's dissatisfaction with the White House was "hardly news." Sources who relayed that and other exchanges insisted on anonymity, citing the strict rules against talking to the press that come with being part of the gathering.
The tone nevertheless was said to be notably different this year than in past years. In 2008, representatives for Obama were received relatively warmly when they pitched the need to shepherd funds to the presidential campaign. Other progressive institutions were left -- somewhat bitterly -- looking for scraps. But, by and large, the donor base felt their investment had been wise, with Democrats regaining control of the White House and padding their majorities in Congress.
This year, following a drubbing in the 2010 elections and some stalling on major legislative items, the dynamics were notably different. As one attendee put it: "It was a sober atmosphere... people are looking for answers but they are not unwilling to do the work."
While Soros's comment gave some attendees the impression that he'd cheer a primary challenge to the president, the point, sources say, was different. Rather, it is time to shuffle funds into a progressive infrastructure that will take on the tasks that the president can't or won't take on.
"People are determined to help build a progressive infrastructure and make sure it is there not just in the months ahead but one that will last in the long term," said Anna Burger, the retired treasury secretary of SEIU. "Instead of being pushed over by this election it has empowered people to stand up in a bigger way."
"There was frustration," said one Democratic operative who attended the meetings. The main concern was about messaging. I think they are frustrated that the president isn't being more direct. But I did not get the sense that anyone's commitment to the progressive movement was wavering... The general consensus is that support has to move beyond being about one person and more about a movement. I don't know if we've moved beyond there."
One of those "movement" ventures is an outside-government arm to match conservatives in the 2012 elections. For several weeks, discussions have been led by Media Matters for America founder David Brock about the need to create a group that will run advertisements, conduct opposition research and perform rapid response functions. Those talks continued this past week, though disputes have begun to emerge about the most effective role for such a group. As one activist who is involved with the Democracy Alliance noted:
"There are a handful of funders committed to the idea of taking on corporate interests in politics... I think the [Supreme Court's] Citizens United decision [allowing unlimited corporate donations in campaigns] intellectually caused a shift to want to deal with corporate money. The election results split the partners in the Democracy Alliance, not down the middle, between those who say let's fight back and those who say we have to change the rules."
November 17th, 2010
November 16, 2010
Podcast: Quantitative Idiocy: Infecting the Body Politic
November 17th, 2010
November 17th, 2010
By Barry Secrest
But, Obama did, in fact, become the first Official, whether visiting or otherwise, in India's entire longish history to speak before their Parliament by utilizing a teleprompter. The bemused Indians were quite taken aback as a result--"We thought Obama as a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact"-- wryly noted one official whose voice seemed eerily familiar. To which we would respond, No my dear foreign friend, you have understandably confused what seems as ordinary eye contact with what is actually Obama's hypnotic third eye contact--a totally different medium of expression. Oh, and thanks for helping me with that bitchy modem problem, by the way; we Americans often fail to say thank you properly.
Defining Jihad For (Certain Highly Placed) Dummies
However, the International incredulity did not end there, Obama's entire trip spawned all sorts of brazen and yet deserved critiques from both home and abroad. While in Mumbai and during the President's Town Hall with a large group of students, the President once again, became an apologist for jihad on the one hand, while maddeningly continuing his failure at identifying terrorism for what it is and who it predominantly belongs to, on the other hand. The President's first question appeared to be an atomic doozy as the student asked Obama what his take or opinion on jihad was. Before we let the fun begin, we first need to discern what Merriam-Webster has to say about jihad defined:
1 A holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also a personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline
So, in each of the above two cases, its pretty much what we expected as to our ongoing experiences-- in having dealt with jihadism as a nation.
The second definition reads much as the first, if not even a bit worse as far as we infidels are concerned:
2 A crusade for principle or belief
Ouch, a bit of Christian-ish lingo sinking in with regard to crusade except--just add a smidgen or more of gunpowder and a dash of bolts and voila', violent jihad. So, after noting the official definition, we should now turn to "the muck stops here Messiah" and hearken to his personal definition:
Obama: "The phrase Jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of interpretations"
Us: OK, first of all jihad is not a phrase, it's a word and words have meanings Mr. President. You know, like "Marxism", "Totalitarianism," or even "Anti-Capitalist-- these, in fact, are words. While phrases have mixed meanings, ex: "Socialism is a waypoint to Marxism" or "The Dark Lord" or even "we're turning a corner." These are phrases that we feel certain you are most familiar with Mr. President. So, the President even starts out with a bit of obfuscation. But after going on and on about how Islam is one of the world's great and peaceful religions and actually performing his best Billy "Abdul" Graham impersonation, Obama got down to the really interesting part of his non-teleprompted (we think) version of jihad:
Obama: "This great religion, in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified. And so, I think that one of the challenges that we face is How do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war and reaffirm those who see faiths of all sorts-- (oral listing of various religions)--accepting that we can all treat each other with respect and mutual dignity"