The body politic is in an interesting place. The most important distinctions are decided time and again by razor-thin margins, yet the winning side gets all. Thus, in 2004, the electoral margin was very thin -- yet the Republicans won both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Though the margin of victory was only a few points, the whole power of the state passed into Republican hands.

In Hamdan, a 5-3 decision that would have been 5-4 if Roberts had participated decided the day. The margin was as narrow as can be, and yet the intent of the other two branches of government was set aside, and the most hardline liberal ruling in years became, for now, the law.

The SCOTUS is designed to 'tack behind' the rest of the government, as lifetime appointees of previous administration continue to hold to an older understanding of propriety. This has a conservative effect on government, in the sense that it slows and moderates change. That is the real effect of Hamdan -- to hold us to a Cold War understanding of the Geneva Conventions.

During the Cold War, terrorists and guerrillas were the regular proxies of both sides, though particularly the Communists. As such, the great powers had an interest in pretending that those groups had a kind of legitimacy they really never deserved -- whether it was the Contras or the proto-Taliban on the one side, or the Viet Cong or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or various quasi-Marxist African militias on the other. The Cold War superpowers each adopted a false morality in order to pursue the real goal of disemboweling the other sides' interest through proxies. We chose to treat these people as if they were noble freedom fighters -- at least the ones whose defiance of the laws of war was beneficial to our own side -- and now we are paying the price. The community of legal scholars who came up during the Cold War considers terrorists to simply be disadvantaged soldiers, and considers the violations of the rules of war that terrorists engage in to be simply a balancing of the playing field. We must treat them as if they were moral equals, if only to show how much better we are.

SCOTUS will come around on this one, as more justices retire and are replaced. Justices chosen after 9/11 will not be soft on terrorists, as the old-school justices have learned to be.

Nor will the international situation continue to be so kind. The Cold War is over. The great powers have changed: they are now the United States, China, and a declining European Union. There is a rising India. Of those, only the EU has an interest in continuing to treat terrorists as a sort of criminal, rather than as a sort of barbarian. The EU's power declines steadily, as it strangles itself with regulations and tries to force economies as different as Frances' and Greece's to obey the same rules. India has no love for terrorists, as it suffers more from radical Islamic terrorism than anyone; China has already adopted the issue as a way of dealing with "splittists."

The tide is strongly against Hamdan and its advocates. I join those who suspect that the Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress will set out to overturn it as their major business between now and the 2006 elections. They will not find it hard to do, as the groundwork is already lain. Hamdan, though stern, is a last stroke from a once-strong champion. Once that model of thinking bestrode the world. This was its last hour of strength.

As for what lays beyond, Chester has some interesting thoughts. I myself simply believe that the Republican Federal powers will undo the work of the SCOTUS, and gain political strength in doing so. The Congress will be asked for new authority, and will grant it gladly. Abroad, there is nothing at the international level that is strong enough to resist the combined interests of the United States, China, India, and Russia into the bargain.

There will be no great new rights for terrorists. They will not enjoy the full protections of courts martial, as if they were honorable men. The tide turned long ago. All we see in Hamdan is proof that a few old men and women failed to notice.

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake:

The boy is four years old now. We were moving during his birthday, so the celebration was postponed until tonight. My mother, his grandmother, made him a birthday cake.

I haven't said much about my mother (here and here are the only times I recall), but you probably know that Southern women are polite and sweet, yet stern and iron-willed.

My mother is all those things, and also rather assertive on the question of health food. This is a departure from when I was a boy; in those days, she hardly cooked at all. I left home knowing how to make everything from pancakes to lasagna from scratch. At our house, if you wanted to eat it, you'd better know how to cook it. At some point, though, she decided that she wanted to eat right and have better health, and naturally therefore she accomplished both goals. Nothing in her house is low-fiber, full-fat, or otherwise potentially unhealthy.

Which brings us to the birthday cake.

I swear this is true: his grandmother made him a prune-bran birthday cake.

She really did.


The Move South:

I've been quiet for a few days while moving house. A few notes on the experience:

1) I've never driven a truck quite that size before. It was a very large Penske rental, right at the upper limit of what a non-commercial license allows.

2) Naturally, therefore, the first part of the drive included crossing the Blue Ridge mountains.

3) In the worst rainstorm on record.

4) Having gotten off the mountains and into the Shenandoah valley, where the rain was even worse, we came across (in the little village of New Market) an absolutely horrendous wreck involving six semis and numerous smaller vehicles. "Great," I thought. "Even the professionals can't keep the big rigs on the road today."

5) "Perhaps it was a fluke, though," I thought, carrying on down the road. About ten miles later, there was another wreck, this one involving two semis.

6) The rain was so bad that, on some occasions, traffic just stopped. After a while, people shut off their engines and waited for a break in the rain.

7) A "break" still meant very heavy rain.

8) Penske's trucks are top-notch. I loved the thing -- beautiful, powerful, outstanding.

9) Penske's service sucks. The truck was more than half a day late showing up. Nothing they told us about it was true. No proper instructions were given for anything, including the question of whether it could accept low-sulfur diesel fuel or how it was to be returned.

10) Did I need a truck that large? Yes and no. Only about one third of the truck was actual furniture or household goods. The other two thirds? About half of that was the wife's art supplies and artwork in progress. The rest was flowers. Tons of them, pot after pot, three shelves full lashed together to make big platforms and then all the floor space. I can't understand how she could acquire so many flowers.

11) OK, I can understand it -- she grew most of them from seeds. But still.

12) In spite of everything, we survived. All is well, more or less. Hope you've had a good few days.

Sending a message.

If this report is true,
Israeli warplanes buzzed the summer residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad early Wednesday, military officials said, in a message aimed at pressuring the Syrian leader to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier.

I think the Israelis are about to take the gloves off.

I guess it is true.

This doesn't leave much wiggle room, either:
Earlier, Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that Mashaal, was a target for assassination due to his ordering of the kidnapping of Shalit.

"He is definitely in our sights ... he is a target," Ramon told Army Radio. "Khaled Mashaal, as some who is overseeing, actually commanding the terror acts, is definitely a target."

Well, it isn't like Hamas isn't asking for it.
Life Changes.

The fellows over at Situational Awareness are going through a major change.

I wish them good luck in their new endevors, and it seems that they already more to say. Yeah, I agree. Keep bombing.



OOH-Rah -- I tell you what, every now and then that Bush fellow really gets one right.

Speaking of getting it right, Michelle Malkin's WWII-poster Photoshop contest results (here and especially here) are something to see. I hope we'll be seeing serious prosecution for these leakers, who took oaths to keep our secrets and then betrayed them. In the meantime, as Darleen's Place put it:

Don't Kill Her Daddy with Careless Talk!
The one difference between the WWII posters and the modern situation, though, is this: it's not just the soldiers being put at risk. Indeed, in the case of the NY Times publishing every detail of our anti-terrorist programs it comes across, it's not even primarily the soldiers.

Terrorists love soft targets.

It's you that's threatened by this.