Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 21, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

STEM CELLS....Matt Yglesias comments on President Bush's apparent disconnect when it comes to embryonic stem cell research: namely that he only seems to care about banning federally funded stem cell research.

If the cells are sacred human life, then surely it's not okay to kill them in a privately financed manner. The nonsensical nature of Bush's position on this issue is old news, but continues, in my view, to be under-remarked upon in mainstream coverage of the issue. Years ago, he hit upon a goofy split-the-difference compromise and ever since then he's been wandering the country insisting that he's taking a bold stand of principle.

Well, OK. But two things.

First, when it comes to federal funding all Bush has to do is veto a spending bill, and he can make this stick as long as he has the support of one-third of one house of Congress. Conversely, banning all embryonic stem cell research would take the affirmative passage of a bill, which requires the support of half the members of both houses of Congress. So Bush can do the former but not the latter simply due to the level of congressional support he can muster.

Second, would a ban on private research be constitutional anyway? Normally I'd be inclined to say that Congress can ban almost anything it wants using its commerce clause powers, but the Supreme Court has been slowly eroding that authority over the past couple of decades. So, ironically, a research ban might actually be found unconstitutional thanks to the increased business conservatism of the Supreme Court in recent years. It's yet another example where social conservatives have gotten the short end of the stick because the Republican Party doesn't really care about them. What they really care about is supporting corporate interests, and the justices they've nominated to the Supreme Court are a lot more interested in that than they are in stem cells. More evidence on that score here.

UPDATE: Steve Benen has some good pushback on this. It's one thing to do as much as you can while reluctantly accepting that you don't have the votes for an outright ban. It's quite another thing to actively tout the fact that private funding is still available and imply that this is just the way it should be. If embryonic stem cell research represents destruction of human life, why is private funding so admirable?

Kevin Drum 1:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (85)

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Comments

Weren't the state-level medical marijuana laws struck down (or rather, federal enforcement in those states upheld) using the commerce clause? That's not much of an erosion.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on June 21, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

your two points don't nullify the fact that bush's reasoning for vetoing stem cell legislation is nonsensical. you just sound like a crotchety old bastard.

Posted by: reserche on June 21, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I think you have a valid point but its incorrect. The courts have become more conservative but as we can see from the Bush adminstration conservative doesn't mean small government.

With a conservative court, I'm sure they would side on the pro life side of the argument. At the very least thats what they were supposedly put there to do. Also, the "conservative" court has justices like Alito which favor giving the executive branch more power.

I also think that is banning stem cell research is illegal then banning other times of research would have a legality question and I dont think the supreme court is likely to open a door that dangerous.

Posted by: Phil on June 21, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

“Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical,” US President George W. Bush said yesterday

As I and others over at Matt's place noted, “destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life" is pretty much exactly the rationale Bush uses for the so-called War on Terror in general and Iraq in particular.

Posted by: Gregory on June 21, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

kevin, there are a couple people on the Supreme Court who actually believe that the words "interstate commerce" are not completely nebulous, and thus actually place a discrete limit on Congressional power, and they come to that belief in a principled manner. I certainly wish there were more of them, and not simply justices like Scalia, who has this belief on a intermittant basis.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

God, this is the stupidest post in a long time. The court has modestly curtailed Congressional Commerce Clause power in a few cases, most notably Lopez, the gun-free school zone case. What it has not done is "slowly erode" Commerce Clause power over the "past couple of decades". That's just ludicrous. Aaron is correct. In Gonzales v. Raiche the Court arguably let its social conservatism (drugs bad!) override its prior inclination to place some limits on the reach of the Commerce Clause power. Scalia was the key vote. I believe only Thomas took a principled CC stand, but I could be wrong. It's reasonable to believe that a similar result would be reached in a stem cell case. That is, the majority's social conservatism, (stem cell research bad!) would override what would otherwise be a principled CC decision, and the ban would be upheld. The problem is we don't have many cases like this on record to know how socially conservative the court is on this issue. You never know though. But hey, if there's one thing liberals love, it's shaking their fists against corporations, so don't let actual analysis get in your way!

Posted by: Homer on June 21, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

How can Democrats make the stem cell bill veto-proof? By changing the name to the "Ronald Reagan Life Legacy Act."

For the details, see:
"How to Make the Stem Cell Bill Veto-Proof."

Posted by: Angry One on June 21, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Bush's position on stem cells has an entirely reasonable background behind it. It's a practice that's considered wrong by many Americans, therefore it shouldn't be funded by federal monies. But it's not something that's clearly and self-evidently wrong, so the states and private industry shouldn't be banned from it. The federal government is simply choosing to be uninvolved either way.

That's an entirely legitimate, libertarian, small c conservative governing philosophy. It's just not consistent with the philosophy Bush has demonstrated in any other area.

Posted by: Imaginary on June 21, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

There is no principled CC stand on the court. The conservatives on SCOTUS are social conservatives second, big-biz conservatives first, and CC cases are decided based upon the relative interests of those two forces. Of course they ruled against medical marijuana, since there are no big biz interests in favor of it (the exact opposite, actually), whereas with stem cell research their allegiance to big pharm will certainly outweigh their allegiance to Dobson.

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Slightly off topic - but, only slightly, - did anyone listen to Bush's speech yesterday when he was vetoing the bill?

He couldn't pronounce "umbilical". Tried saying it three-four different ways. Jesus, what a bozo.

Posted by: phoebes on June 21, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas was the justice who wrote the dissent in Raiche which correctly pointed out that Congress had no legitimate Constitutional power to regulate the cultivation of marajuana grown for personal consumption, or grown without the purpose of pursuing interstate commerce.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Normally I'd be inclined to say that Congress can ban almost anything it wants using its commerce clause powers, but the Supreme Court has been slowly eroding that authority over the past couple of decades."

As several posters have noted, this quote suggests that the current Supreme Court promulgates is Commerce Clause in a principled, or even coherent, fashion. Scalia, et al (w/the possible exception of Thomas) only place limits on the reach of the the CC to strike down laws they otherwise don't like.

My guess is that if the rightwing got enough votes to pass an outright ban on stem cell research, this court would have no problem finding a sufficient impact on interstate commerce to uphold it.

Posted by: brewmn on June 21, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

"namely that he only seems to care about banning federally funded stem cell research."

Mr. Drum misplaced "only": should be between "banning" and "federally"

Posted by: grammar police on June 21, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Stem cell research is like global warming - a phony issue dressed up as science to advance the liberal agenda.

The benefits, if there are any, of embryonic stem cells are minimal. Just as the risks of global warming are fictional.

Modern American liberals make T.D. Lysenko look like a carnival huckster.

Posted by: Al on June 21, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to have to concur that only Thomas (to be fair Roberts and Alito haven't voted on a Commerce matter yet and Alito has been statistically shown to disagree with Scalia quite a bit so far) has grasped the obvious point that if the Constitution meant for Congress to do anything it wants through the Commerce Clause, it would say so....and been consistent about it.

Posted by: Nathan on June 21, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I tell ya' Nathan, if Alito and Roberts go the way of Scalia regarding Commerce Clause jurisprudence, Bush's judicial appointments will have been a disaster for anybody who supports Constitutional government, to say nothing of limited government and federalism.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

If only Bush cared as much about the thousands of living children that have been slaughtered by his cluster bombs and maimed and disfigured by his use of depleted uranium munitions and phosphorus and incendiary bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

He has more innocent blood on his hands than anyone since Pol Pot.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 21, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's judicial appointments will have been a disaster for anybody who supports Constitutional government, to say nothing of limited government and federalism.

Why would anyone expect GWB's judicial appointments to be any different than the rest of his administration?

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Just because it's politically practical for Bush to ban federally funded research through a veto and impractical for him to ban privately funded research through a bill doesn't remove Yglesias's objection that Bush is inconsistent and is not taking the bold stand he pretends to take.

And it really doesn't remove Yglesias's more important criticism of the mainstream media and its failure to remark upon Bush's inconsistency.

Posted by: nemo on June 21, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Please read this website to understand why this funding is so important.

www.DanielsHope.com

Daniel has changed us with his smiles but this disease has changed how EVERYONE we know sees stem cell research and treatment.

Posted by: connie on June 21, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Disputo, it isn't as if Gore or Kerry would have nominated a justice who actually though that the words "interstate commerce" had meaning, so it wasn't as if I missed anything, and I still have a chance with Alito and Roberts.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I have some tendency to side with Imaginary on this. I have no use for the proposition that people should be denied the chance for life saving therapies because there is something morally wrong about using human embryos for this purpose, yet I can question the use of the tax dollars of Americans who believe differently, for such purposes. Dumbya actually made reference to this notion when he vetoed the bill, but he has proven time and again that he has no principles except his own interests and you can tell when he is lying because his lips move. Further, even my most conservative friends seem to feel that government support of stem cell research is justified even when they complain bitterly about just about every other government program--just self interest because they are getting older? Perhaps, but they argue that the type of research that is needed just will not get done if left to the marketplace.

Posted by: Terry on June 21, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Is it a genetic condition that when libernuttians think of "constitutional gvmt" they only think of the ICC?

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

A ban on stem cell research would be easily, easily constitutional under the Commerce Clause, even with the recent minor contraction of the expanse of that doctrine.

Think about the partial birth abortion ban. It wasn't even challenged on commerce clause grounds.

Posted by: Liberal Chris on June 21, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Is it a genetic condition which results in hard-core statist thugs (see, isn't ad hominem wonderful?) not engaging the argument regarding the ICC on it's merits, and instead dishonestly saying that others think consitutional government pertains only to the ICC?

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Bush at 26% in Newsweek poll.

Now below Carter territory and closing in on Nixon territory.

Posted by: anonymous on June 21, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nominally, I agree with Matt here. If Bush really believed his rhetoric on stem cell research, he should be campaigning to have it outlawed, and he certainly didn't make any effort to ask for that even when he had a Republican congress.

But in the end, all it boils down to is Bush's rhetoric not matching his policies, which is so common it hardly seems worth mentioning anymore.

Posted by: Royko on June 21, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, Will. No one would really mistake you for a libertarian.

Posted by: shortstop on June 21, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

It should be obvious that Bush's ban of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research does nothing whatsoever to protect the embryos in question. If they are not used embryonic stem cell research, they are discarded and destroyed. There is no protection of "human life" at all.

In other news, 14 US troops and uncounted (but at least 19) Iraqi civilians have been killed in the last 48 hours.

Posted by: Leisureguy on June 21, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

The point, *Will*, is that you appealed to unconstitutionality, when the GWB admin has clearly violated the USCon more than any other admin in US history (with the possible exception of Jackson). It's just that most of the violations you happen to agree with, so you really are not concerned with USCon violations, per se. You just appeal to unconstitionality when it suits you.

Sorry that I had to spell out the obvious to ya.

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Leisureguy: In other news, 14 US troops and uncounted (but at least 19) Iraqi civilians have been killed in the last 48 hours.

It's okay, Leisureguy; they weren't embryos or fetuses so they don't count.

The real terrorists are those sick researchers who would destroy life by killing live embryos.

Posted by: George W Bush on June 21, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

phoebes: He couldn't pronounce "umbilical".

Maybe he was trying to say "unbiblical" and got them all twisted up together, sorta like he did with "weapons of mass destruction" and "winnebagos of mass deception."

Posted by: anonymous on June 21, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

"If it's destruction of human life, why is private funding so admirable?"

Because when you're talking to two different audiences you tell each one what it wants to hear. As long as they both hear what they want to hear, so what if you're contradicting yourself? Since when are logic and consistency important? What's important is pleasing your constituencies, when are you going to understand that?

Posted by: Bloix on June 21, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

This post and the comments attached are good evidence that Bush's efforts to split the baby with the Democrats are doomed to be misunderstood and maligned. He is the first president to authorize stem cell research funding. The California initiative was a scam to fund bioendineering companies with taxpayer dollars. If you want to see corporate interests celebrating, you should have been at USC Medical School the day the Governator was cheering the new steering committee for the funds with the chairman the guy who backed the initiative.

Stem cell research is worthwhile but it won't cure anything for decades. The new Japanese de-differentiation work will probably make it moot anyway. Too many people are creeped out by the idea of farming human embryos, which is what they are talking about. Too close to 1984.

Posted by: Mike K on June 21, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, no, Disputo, that would be FDR's Administration, the Democratic hero who, among other acts, went so far as to inform the Supreme Court that he was going to have U.S. citizens executed regardless of how the court ruled on the condemned's appeal, so the Court better just go along, or be stripped of it's future perceived legitimacy. As to your other inaccuracies, you really don't know what my position is on on most of the Bush Administartion's actions. Jabber away. Pointlessly, of course.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: It's quite another thing to actively tout the fact that private funding is still available and imply that this is just the way it should be.

Many Bush critics misrepresented his first veto as a "ban on stem cell research". It seems overly harsh to now criticize Bush for simply correcting this error.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 21, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

If the cells are sacred human life, then surely it's not okay to kill them in a privately financed manner.

Commenting on just this excerpt from Julio's nephew, why oh why does anyone pay Yglesias the least bit of attention?

The conservative ilk the opposes embryonic stem cell research is the same conservative ilk that opposes abortion under almost any circumstance.

Currently, neither abortion nor embryonic stem cell research are illegal. The position of the conservative ilk opposing both is that we may not be able to outlaw them all together at this time, but we'll be darned if we'll have our tax dollars paying for these kinds of murder.

Perhaps Julio's nephew connects these dots somewhere in the piece. I'll never know nor care since I think pretty much everything he writes is a waste of bandwidth and not worth linking to, Kevin.

Posted by: JeffII on June 21, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite another thing to actively tout the fact that private funding is still available and imply that this is just the way it should be.

Just as the free market is more efficient when it is unregulated, it is also more ethical.

Except for abortion and sodomy which should be banned. The exception proves the rule.

Posted by: American Buzzard on June 21, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Stem cell research is worthwhile but it won't cure anything for decades.

Even longer with Bush's ban.

Too many people are creeped out by the idea of farming human embryos, which is what they are talking about.

Since the ban isn't limited to "farming embryos" that's not what they are talking about.

This post and the comments attached are good evidence that Bush's efforts to split the baby with the Democrats are doomed to be misunderstood and maligned.

He lied about what he was doing, so he wasn't misunderstood and he was properly maligned.

Note also his offer to "split the baby" is exactly what the Bible condemns, so his stance is anti-Biblical, anti-Christian, and wholly immoral, according to his own claimed standards.

Posted by: anonymous on June 21, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Many Bush critics misrepresented his first veto as a "ban on stem cell research".

Many Bush supporters, including ex-liberal, misrepresent Bush's critics' representations about Bush's first veto so they can create a strawman to knock down.

Posted by: anonymous on June 21, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: Thomas was the justice who wrote the dissent in Raiche which correctly pointed out that Congress had no legitimate Constitutional power to regulate the cultivation of marajuana grown for personal consumption, or grown without the purpose of pursuing interstate commerce.

Right, and the majority tried to counter this by saying marijuana is fungible, and if someone grows it to use it personally, they could change their minds and sell it to someone in another state.

Posted by: anandine on June 21, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: ...you really don't know what my position is on on most of the Bush Administartion's actions.

Right, Will. No one has any idea, because you're such a man of mystery. With an occasional half-hearted critique of some Bushism or other (always accompanied, because you can't help yourself, by a squeal of "but the Dems are worse!"), you've successfully drawn a curtain over your innermost political thoughts, you elusive scamp.

We know you're smart enough to be profoundly embarrassed by George W. Bush and the actions of his administration, and embarrassed that we know you're dumb enough to have voted for him twice.

We know you like to think of yourself as completely independent, free of the partisan chains that bind more emotional and less world-weary citizens.

You like to think of yourself that way, but you're the only one you're managing to convince.

Like I said, no one would ever mistake you for a libertarian, Will. No one except you, preening over a non-bias and openmindedness you have to believe you possess, because to admit that for all your talk you are, over and over, the Republicans' dream voter is just too uncomfy for you.

Now indignantly tell me I have no idea who you voted for and no idea who or what you support! No idea at all!

Or you could, for once, just save the self-delusional bullshit.

Posted by: shortstop on June 21, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

American Buzzard: Just as the free market is more efficient when it is unregulated, it is also more ethical.

I agree. Our drug and pornography laws should be market-based, too. If a store in Iowa or West Hollywood sells enough pornography to keep it in business, that shows what community standards are.

If a drug dealer can make a living selling pot on a corner, that proves community standards toward drugs. The market has spoken.

Posted by: anandine on June 21, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Note also his offer to "split the baby" is exactly what the Bible condemns, so his stance is anti-Biblical, anti-Christian, and wholly immoral, according to his own claimed standards.

You'd be surprised how many Xians believe that "splitting the baby" is the point of that particular biblical fable.

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

I take Will Allen's refusal to address anything pertinent and instead bicker over the irrelevant point about who is/was the most unconstitutional president as acknowledgment that my characterization of his hypocrisy is correct.

Thanks Will!

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

You'd be surprised how many Xians believe that "splitting the baby" is the point of that particular biblical fable.

And they call us a culture of death!

Posted by: shortstop on June 21, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

If embryonic stem cell research represents destruction of human life, why is private funding so admirable?

Because if corporations, especially corporations that provide campaign donations, are able to make money from any activity, that activity is, ipso facto, admirable.

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

Posted by: James E. Powell on June 21, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, shortstop, I've never claimed to be a libertarian. As usual, you haven't the slightest idea of what you are talking about, so you just make something up out of thin air. No, you really don't know what my position is on various Bush administration policies. All you know is that I don't march in lockstep with your tribe, and you just take it from there.

Disputo, believe it or not, I don't really feel obliged to check in here constantly when I'm also engaged in other things. Listen, you were the one who decided that ad hominem yammering added something to the thread. If you would like the content elevated, start with yourself. If you don't think the question of which President violated the Constitution the most is pertinent to the thread, why on earth would you raise the issue? Do you normally complain about an issue being raised when it was you that raised it? Do you also argue with yourself, while pushing a shopping cart?

Yes, Anadine, I know that was the majority's court's fatuous reasoning in Raiche.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Will,

We do know that your take on the Iraqi prisoner-torture scandal essentially reduced to the following: democrats who criticize the torture of Iraqi prisoners are hypocrits because they don't criticize the torture that takes place in American jails, such as in California, which has a democratic attorney general.

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that there's a slight difference between torturing prisoners in such a way that they think they're going to be killed, and sodomizing them. Let's also set aside the fact that there's a difference between prison guards torturing prisoners, and prisoners abusing each other. Let's even ignore that fact that it's California's governor (not its attorney general) who is ultimately responsible for what goes on in California's jails, but by an odd coincidence the governor is a Republican and the AG was a Democrat.

The more important fact is that the torture of Iraqi prisoners, including innocent prisoners, should be morally repugnant to anyone who questions expansive state power, and yet you simply couldn't find it within yourself to offer an unqualified criticism. Instead, you had to aim your ire at the critics of torture, and drag party politics into it. That was your choice, my friend.

As for your views on constitutionality, and your political affiliations, why don't you tell us what abuses you see as most serious, and who you think is most responsible for those abuses. Is it extension of the commerce clause that most troubles you, or is there anything else? That being the case, is it your opinion that justices like Thomas are the most reliable guardians against unconstitutional actions, or is there anyone else? No need to keep it a mystery, unless you're afraid to defend your positions....

Posted by: keith on June 21, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

unless you're afraid to defend your positions....

bingo

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, believe it or not, I don't really feel obliged to check in here constantly when I'm also engaged in other things. Listen, you were the one who decided that ad hominem yammering added something to the thread. If you would like the content elevated, start with yourself. If you don't think the question of which President violated the Constitution the most is pertinent to the thread, why on earth would you raise the issue? Do you normally complain about an issue being raised when it was you that raised it? Do you also argue with yourself, while pushing a shopping cart?

Boy, Will's really gone off the deep end this time.

Look, dumbass, either stop lying and add something substantive, or STFU. Or continue looking like a dumbass. Your choice.

Posted by: Disputo on June 21, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

If your goal is to privatize everything, then preventing federal funding guarantees that all advances, discoveries and patents will be obtained by nonfederal entities, such as corporate, nonprofit and state.

Posted by: Hillsdale on June 21, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, keith the differences you allege are non-existant, morally, and the fact that you would try to rationalize in this fashion merely reveals you for what you are; a supporter of torture. Congratulations.

No, you moral imbecile, if one knowingly participates in a regime in which prisoners are deliberately allowed to be tortured at the hands of other prisoners, that is no different, morally, than having the torture performed by guards. No, having prisoners repeatedly raped, to the point that suicide or lifetime mental trauma results, is not less morally culpable than making prisoners fear for their lives via torture. Your post is grotesque beyond words.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, you wrote...

"The point, *Will*, is that you appealed to unconstitutionality, when the GWB admin has clearly violated the USCon more than any other admin in US history (with the possible exception of Jackson)"

.....which makes it puzzling that you would later write....

"I take Will Allen's refusal to address anything pertinent and instead bicker over the irrelevant point about who is/was the most unconstitutional president as acknowledgment that my characterization of his hypocrisy is correct."

Why on earth would you inject the issue of which President was the most unconstitutional President, and then say a few posts later that the issue is irrelevant? I'm truly curious; how does your brain work?

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Normally I'd be inclined to say that Congress can ban almost anything it wants using its commerce clause powers, but the Supreme Court has been slowly eroding that authority over the past couple of decades.

Umm, no. The Supreme Court has barely touched the Commerce Clause over the last few decades, Kevin. Lopez and Morrison (both decided in the 90's) weakened the Commerce Clause by making it slightly less than an absolute power under which Congress can regulate everything. But Morrison involved gun crimes near school and Lopez involved the cummulative effect of violence on women - both areas that are barely related to interstate commerce.

Stem cell research affects interstate commerce no matter how you cut it. Congress would have absotutely no problem banning it. Whatsoever. At all. It's a no brainer. Any first year law student would tell you the same.

You are 100% wrong and it's not even close.

Posted by: owenz on June 21, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Why on earth would you inject the issue of which President was the most unconstitutional President, and then say a few posts later that the issue is irrelevant?

Because, William, as anyone with a 3rd grade reading comprehension can attest, the comment about Bush being the first or second most unconstitutional prez was an aside to this Disputo person's central point, which was this:

It's just that most of the violations you happen to agree with, so you really are not concerned with USCon violations, per se. You just appeal to unconstitionality when it suits you.

That is a point which, we all observe, you still haven't addressed. (Oh, dear. You were slow-witted when you were in my class and you're slow-witted now.)

Posted by: Will's 3rd Grade Reading Teacher on June 21, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Classic Will Allen!

Criticize one poster for ad hominem attacks, then launch an unprovoked ad hominem attack on another poster. Way to go, Will!

Isn't this exactly the tactic you pursued when Kevin brought up the theft of congressional information from computers that were being used by both Democrats and Republicans: it wasn't the GOP staff members to blame, it was the Democrats, because they left the information lying around (I believe your analogy was leaving a wallet lying on the floor of a common room). When it was pointed out to you that nothing was left lying around, that the accounts were supposed to be secure, and that this was more like breaking into someone's room and stealing a wallet, you resorted to... ad hominem attacks. It's nice to see that some things never change!

In fact, as someone who's on record as "looking for confrontations," you might want to be careful of criticizing any one else's morality. In any case, if you think there's no difference between engaging in torture, and failing to stop torture -- if you think that my failure to fly immediately from Hawaii to Iraq or California and stop prison abuse makes me morally culpable -- then you operate on a very odd moral compass, indeed.

Why don't you tell us just who is "participating in a regime in which prisoners are deliberately allowed to be tortured." Be sure to clarify your use of the word "participating." Then explain how I'm one of those participating, and you are not.

After that, you can stop ignoring the point of my questions -- which is par for the course for you -- and provide us with some answers rather than your usual attacks and talking points. Let me spell the questions for you:

- why have you refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with torturing Iraqi prisoners?
- why do you think the people most worthy of criticism are those who criticize torture, rather than those who perpetrate it?
- why do you feel that there is no substantial difference between torture and intramural violence?

For the record, I'm horrified by the violence that takes place in prisons. I've got a foster son whose father is incarcerated, and he worries a great deal about how his father is going to survive several years in jail. In the meantime, I'm raising this guy's son, and trying to keep tabs on him while he's behind bars. Does that get me off your "moral imbecile" and "supporter of torture" lists?

As for you, you're provided no evidence for your assertion that prisoners in California are deliberately allowed to be tortured, you've provided no criticism of the prisoners who abuse their fellow prisoners, and you've provided no criticism of the governor or the head of the prison system.

Tell us, tell us all, if you're such an opponent of torture and prison violence, what have you ever done to stop it?

Posted by: keith on June 21, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Since when did raising irrelevant asides become the mark of a writer in possession of his faculties?

I'll also note that Disputo has yet to list a violation of the Constitution by Bush that I allegedly do not differ with.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Crazier and crazier, more and more desperate.

Down the rabbit hole!

Allen in Wonderland!

Posted by: Will's 3rd Grade Psychologist on June 21, 2007 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Nope, Keith, not as long as you maintain that there's a moral difference between subjecting a prisoner to years of sexual torture at the hands of other prisoners, and having guards torture prisoners to the point that they fear for their lives. The fact that you actually know of such a person who could be subject to the former regime, and you still maintain that there is a moral difference between it and the latter regime, only highlights your deficiencies, and the fact that you engage in such a grotesque rationalization makes you complicit.

From CBS News:

"Two years ago, 60 Minutes Correspondent Mike Wallace first reported the story of the nation's largest prison system, California's, and one prison there in particular. Corcoran State Prison was being investigated by the FBI because numerous corrections officers -- prison guards -- were accused of staging inmate fights, sometimes wagering on the outcome and then, when those fights got out of control, of shooting the inmates involved.

Wallace returned to Corcoran recently for a 60 Minutes II. segment to air Wednesday, April 7, at 9PM ET/PT. (Check local listings.) He learned of yet another kind of brutality that California prison guards committed against inmates -- rape. Not by the guards but by other inmates, used by the guards to retaliate against prisoners who had gotten out of line."

Yeah, Keith, I'm sure the tortured inmates felt a lot better knowing that the guards had merely set other inmates upon them, instead of committing the acts themselves. Glad you rationalized that one for us. Thanks for your service!

The fact that I did not mention the Republican offcials complicit in this matter, in this forum, which I did in other forums, was due to the fact that it was in this forum that Democrats were falling all over themselves in condemning an evil Republican who supported torture, while failing to note that Democrats were just fine with an Democratic Attorney General who saw fit to to threaten people yet to be convicted of a crime with torture in California prisons, in the context of a history of rampant torture in California prisons. Golly gee, I'm so sorry if this interferes with your rationalizations!

Posted by: Will Allen on June 21, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter me: Your pertinent questions embarrass and flummox me, so I'm desperately trying to recast my own poorly comprehended obsessions as the central issues here. I know it's totally weak, but remember, I'm fucking crazy!

Posted by: Will's 3rd Grade Brain on June 21, 2007 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, good lawd. Will cannot even parse a sentence correctly and/or honestly. It is obviously a waste of time engaging him in any discussion.

Posted by: Disputo on June 22, 2007 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

Btw, shorter Will "to Power" Allen: a tenuous Dem connection to alleged illegal activity offsets active GOP sponsorship of the same activity.

Yes, a man of mystery, that Will is.

Posted by: Disputo on June 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

There is nothing tenuous about a Democratic Attorney General threatening someone accused, but yet convicted of a crime, with torture in the prison system that the Attorney General has a responsibility to enforce the law within. Yet another grotesque rationalization, and for what? So the rationalizer can feel better about his tribal association.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

I've been a corrections officer in a large urban jail for some 20 years. In direct supervision jails (where the unarmed officer is continuously in with the inmates) no one stages fights or needs to. All you have to do is not pay attention for a few moments and someone will disrespect someone else and its off to the races.

Rape and sexual issues are thornier because almost always these are "he said/he said" cases. In the old days all we officers had to do was be bright enough to recognize when someone is physically bulldogging a weaker person. Now we are getting shrill demands from the outside that we recognize psychological bulldogging. This is a much harder call because many people in custody are weak-minded and can be manipulated.

Inmate testimony on such cases has to be viewed with the understanding that practiced liars with endless time to think up a good whopper can craft a fictional scheme to fit any physical evidence in their environment that gives them a starting place for their stories.

Posted by: mike cook on June 22, 2007 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is a much harder call because many people in custody are weak-minded and can be manipulated.

Lot of that going around. Sorry about your failed Republican campaign for state rep, BTW.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Mr. Cook, rape and beatings by other inmates aren't used as a means of punishment by corrections officers in the American penal system, or as a way to threaten people accused or suspected of crimes, by police officers or prosecutors in the criminal justice system. Nope, all the reports of such actions, some by corrections or police officers themselves, are lies. The fact that there are Attorneys General in large states openly or implicitly threatening the accused with such treatment isn't representative of anything.

And to head off the usual dishonesty, I challenge anybody to quote me defending the Bush Administration on this issue.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK
Normally I'd be inclined to say that Congress can ban almost anything it wants using its commerce clause powers, but the Supreme Court has been slowly eroding that authority over the past couple of decades.

While that's true, or at least a valid perspective, at the farthest zoom, I don't think its really relevant; the limits I can think of off the top of my head (e.g., regarding firearms near schools) don't head in a direction that would touch the ability of Congress to restrict this kind of research, and the Supreme Court has recently upheld Congress's power in cases far more analogous regulating the research at issue here than the cases in which it has restricted Congressional power (e.g., in medical marijuana cases.)

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK
kevin, there are a couple people on the Supreme Court who actually believe that the words "interstate commerce" are not completely nebulous, and thus actually place a discrete limit on Congressional power, and they come to that belief in a principled manner.

Could you name two, and point to the opinions supporting this characterization?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, cmdicely, I overstated it. I did appreciate Thomas' opinion in Raiche, however, and once and a while I try to be optimistic. Maybe Roberts and Alito will surprise me.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, do you think a research regime within a state could be constructed in a fashion so as to gain Thomas dissent in a Supreme Court ruling which upheld a Congessional ban on stem cell research?

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

And to head off the usual dishonesty, I challenge anybody to quote me defending the Bush Administration on this issue.

You can't be this dumb, Will, but it's becoming obvious that you are this unstable. Look, no one has said you defended the Bush administration on this issue. Everyone is saying that you are utterly unable to make an unqualified condemnation of the Bush administration's position on torture.

And so you are, and so you have been. You keep talking about prison rape and Democratic AGs and so forth because these are the topics you'd rather discuss. You simply can't bring yourself make a standalone, full condemnation of torture because you see it as ceding ground to the hated left rather than standing up against a practice that should be abominable and unconscionable to every American. So you tell yourself that you're not changing the parameters of the discussion; your ego and capacity for rationalization are such that in your mind, the Democratic AG is now the discussion and anyone who suggests you actually address the original point rather than follow your lame attempts at misdirection is a "hypocrite." (Five bucks says the only part of this post you even touch is the sentence preceding this one.)

Now why would you want to talk about Democrats and prison rape, rather than even begin to discuss American military torture, I wonder, my "equal-opportunity" cynic? (Wink! Wink!) We can't even hazard a guess, because your politics are so thoroughly mysterious, and your iconoclasm transcends any kind of label. Mmmmhmmmm.

Here's one for you. I, shortstop, thoroughly and wholly condemn the ignoring, overlooking, threat, encouragement, commission or coverup of prison rape or psychological or physical torture or intimidation of the incarcerated, regardless of who is doing it, and regardless of that person's political party, affiliations or sympathies. There is no excuse for it, and it goes against everything we should be striving for as a nation.

Now let's see if you can make an identical statement solely about torture of enemy combatants, prisoners of war and anyone else connected with the "GWOT." Can you do it without bringing in anything else?

I don't think you can, my shaky friend. You just aren't capable of it. And that tells us everything we need to know about your character, honesty and motives.

Oh, and not incidentally, your politics, too.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop, perhaps it missed your penetrating intellect, but this forum hasn't exactly lacked for condemnations of the Bush Administration. I've condemned the practice of torture, by anyone, and specifically named the Bush Administration in plenty of forums, although maybe not in this one (I think I actually have a couple of times), for the simple reason that many people in this forum characterized support for torture as a phenomena reserved to evil Republicans, so I thought I'd point out that Democrats are neck deep in the phenomena as well.

Every time I have, including this thread (by the way, it was not I who raised the issue in this thread), I've been met with one grotesque, pathetic, rationalization or outright lie after another. It's only other inmates doing the torture. There is no involvement by corrections offcers. Raping someone for years on end (as if that is all that has happened!) is not as bad as what occurred under the American military or CIA. Having Attorneys General of large states openly or implicitly threaten the accused with torture is only a tenuous connection to the torture regime. The fact these pathetic, grotesque rationalizations are still being put forth is proof that the issue needs to be brought up every time the Bush Administration, rightly, is condemned for it's behavior.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Just exactly, ludicrously, painfully as predicted.

I knew you couldn't do it, Will. Oddly, I'm sorry for you that you couldn't pull it off; it's obvious don't even understand what you're doing.

Everything we need to know about your character, honesty and motives. Everything.

Next.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop, everything we need to know about your character, honesty, and motives can be surmised by the fact that you are more interested in me echoing your exact words than you are in confronting your fellow tribe members in this thread who have rationalized the torture that your tribe participates in.

In any case.....

I, Will Allen, thoroughly and wholly condemn the ignoring, overlooking, threat, encouragement, commission or coverup of torture of prisoners of any kind, or psychological or physical torture or intimidation of the incarcerated, regardless of who is doing it, and regardless of that person's political party, affiliations or sympathies. There is no excuse for it, and it goes against everything we should be striving for as a nation.

Keep protecting your faction, shortstop, by focusing on me, instead of the people in this thread who have actually rationalized or lied about the use of torture. The tribe must be protected, right? Actually rationalizing or lying about the use of torture, as has occurred in this thread, is less important than the fact that I didn't adopt your words, because the rationaliuzers and liars in this thread are politically alligned with you, right?

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Will "to Power" Allen -- ever the man of mystery, whose political views are truly unknowable since they vary depending on which route he must take carrying water for the GWB admin in each instance. Sometimes it requires a head-on attack; sometimes a little concern trolling; most often, a simple diversion is the indicated treatment.

*yawn*

Posted by: Disputo on June 22, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, LMAO that Will "you stop making a fool of yourself already?" Allen is still too stupid to meet shortstop's challenge.

I blame the public schools.

Posted by: Disputo on June 22, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'll simply note that Disputo has yet to produce a quote where I've defended the Bush Administration. Perhaps he can use his titanic intellect to explain how threatening the accused with torture only tenuously connects an Attorney General to the practice.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 22, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK
cmdicely, do you think a research regime within a state could be constructed in a fashion so as to gain Thomas dissent in a Supreme Court ruling which upheld a Congessional ban on stem cell research?

Not so far as Thomas' position on future cases can be rationally inferred from my off-the-cuff recollection of those of his previous opinions that I have read, but I could be forgetting some previous position of his, and of course past decisions are no guarantee of future positions.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Has "tribe" been discarded in favor of "faction?"

It would be a welcome relief.

I was beginning to suspect a Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Maybe I still do.

Posted by: anonymous on June 22, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from what you think of stem cells per se, this is not as dopey as it looks. Blocking federal funding of X is often done because that is the only authority you have, and to "protect" outraged taxpayers from funding something they abhor.

Posted by: Neil B. on June 22, 2007 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

It would be enlightening if the Gallup Organization, or other pollster, were to query the American public on just what is an embryonic stem cell.

Posted by: pollcall on June 22, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's weird, but this is a defining characteristic of the breed. Privatization, to conservatives, is the moral equivalent of money laundering. If the government does it, it's bloated, inefficient, wasteful and wrong but when private industry does the exact same thing, it's "market forces," which makes it OK be definition.

Posted by: jalmari on June 23, 2007 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Will Allen: Perhaps you could clean up your argument by specifying particular incidents where you feel it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that corrections officers have encouraged rape or violence for any purpose whatever. Please remember that we corrections people are constantly immersed in a world of frivolous or vindictive accusations, so we have learned to navigate the politically correct legal world pretty well. My union lawyers would eat a guy like that idiot prosecutor in the Duke University cases for lunch and spit out his bones on the dung hill.

So, the famous freedom in cyberspace to say anything about anyone, no matter how defamatory, doesn't get far in the real world. Enjoy your venue while you may.

Posted by: mike cook on June 23, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Mike, I did cite a 60 minutes story above. If you really desire to stop being ignorant, go to spr.org, where you san read the testimony of corrections officers themselves, recalling how they used sexual predators to punish other inmates.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 23, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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