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City of Brass

It is official – by unanimous vote, Rod Blagojevich is no longer the Governor of Illinois. In fact he has been barred from seeking public office in the State of Illinois forever.

The Chicago Tribune has a fantastic live-blog of the day’s impeachment proceedings that provide a wonderful example of government in action. I think one state Senator put it best:

Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) said she went through
today’s proceedings with a heavy heart. But not all the legislators
felt sad about the experience.

 
“I’m happy to have participated
in this process,” said Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago). “Yeah, it’s
unprecedented, but future generations will know that we have this thing
called impeachment, and whenever any of our leaders, who are human
beings like us, overstep the boundaries, the process is in place,”
Meeks said. “We have this thing called impeachment and it’s bleeping
golden
and we’ve used it the right way.”

Brilliant. It stands to reason that a politician may be corrupt; but the impeachment shows that the system is not.

I will be driving home to Chicago this weekend; I plan to see whether Blago’s name is still on all the open-road toll plazas.

UPDATE: Svend asks whether the impeachment trial gave Blago his due process. It’s important to note that the impeachment is a political trial, not a criminal one – Blago does face criminal charges from federal prosecutors, and in that trial he will assuredly get his witnesses and whatnot. But also keep in mind that Blago missed the deadlines to file for subpoenas and then complained of due process after the fact. The prosecutor for the House was working under the same rules as Blago’s defense and did not miss those deadlines. The simple truth is that Illinois has a solid constitutional basis for impeachment and the power to impeach is not an arbitrary one that can be wielded as a political cudgel; Blago’s case really did meet the (quite high) standard. For more on the issue of due process, see this post by Cornell law professor Michael Dorf. I also want to note that Blago’s trial got international attention – including Al Jazeera – so it again showed the world how in America, rule of law is paramount. The value of impeaching Blago thus has national benefit as well as for the state of Illinois.

This is wonderful and weird. I think it’s wonderful because it is so weird.

Perhaps we are seeing the rise of Obollywood?

Gary Farber sounded the alarm last month about President Obama’s nominee for National Intelligence Director, Denis Blair, who was complicit in genocide in East Timor during the Clinton Administration.

Unfortunately, no questions were asked about East Timor during Blair’s confirmation hearing. Blair also refused to categorically state what the attorney general already said explicitly, that waterboarding constituted torture.

This is not good. Blair’s nomination needs to be opposed on basic moral principle. Recall President Obama’s own words during the Inauguration speech:

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today,
from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was
born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman
and child who seeks a future of peace
and dignity, and we are ready to
lead once more
.

Just words?

If Obama, who has lived in Indonesia (a fact he trumpets), is unaware of the history of the genocide in East Timor, then that’s quite an embarrassment, but it can be fixed, starting with replacing Blair as nominee for top spy. If he knows and nominated Blair anyway, then there’s a deeper problem that isn’t so easily fixed. But either way, the nomination of Blair must not be allowed to pass unchallenged.

UPDATE: Good, it seems that he was asked about it, only to deny it outright. I don’t know if it was followed up or not in further questioning. We will have to wait for the transcript of the confirmation hearing to see for sure.

Further to the debate at Talk Islam earlier, I think that it is critical that the broader foreign policy principle of democracy promotion not be discredited by the imperialism-lite of the neoconservative movement.Liberal interventionism is not a purely military effort, but is the “smart power” to which Sec. Clinton referred. The ongoing war in Iraq and the Afghanistan campaign fail to meet the “smart power” test, and can not be characterized as liberal interventions, because they were done with military power as the priority, were mostly unilateral instead of being implemented via a broad coalition of allies, employed aerial bombardment that results in massive collateral damage, and have been riddled with strategic errors in their execution. For all these reasons, the actual promotion of democracy has been hampered, though not prevented outright.

It is important to understand just what “democracy promotion” means, so that in debates (such as the one at Talk Islam) the term can not be misunderstood as being equivalent to the foreign policy of the past eight years alone, but rather seen as a broad umbrella of varying policies. Via the indispensable POMED Wire, there is a very useful overview of all the issues relating to democracy promotion, written by Robert McMahon of the Council on Foreign Relations. POMED summarizes it as follows:

McMahon compiles recommendations from Republican, Democratic, and
nonpartisan foreign policy experts that suggest a shift away from
Bush’s freedom agenda. Recommendations include drawing a distinction
between democracy promotion and regime change, establishing more modest
goals and taking a more realistic approach to democracy promotion in
the Middle East, improving coordination on democracy promotion across
U.S. agencies, increasing involvement with multilateral organizations
that deal with democracy, and emphasizing governance and rule of law
over elections in transitioning countries.

This is “smart power” indeed and I think makes a compelling counterargument to the accusation that Western liberal interventionism is akin to imperialism. It is well-worth a read (here).

Related – excellent opinion piece in the Guardian calling for an end to aerial bombardment. I would go further and argue that the logic of Just War demands that “collateral damage” not be minimized, but be outright forbidden, as a moral imperative.