Subscribe via RSS Feed

On Realignment

[ 61 ] November 22, 2014 |

It’s not wrong to suggest that the Tyrion of Game of Thrones is different than the Tyrion of Song of Ice and Fire, or even that these differences are not all for the better. But this is surely problematic:

The problem, however, with making Shae love Tyrion is that it trivializes his story. He is no longer a tragic character — he is loved. In the context of the show this is believable, since Peter Dinklage is a handsome man, and his subsequent scarring in battle could be considered sexy. (It’s absurd that Sansa is so repulsed by the idea of sex with him, in this context — sure, he’s not the man of her dreams, but after the traumas she’s experienced, you would think her fantasies could realign to accommodate a difference in height.)

Emphasis added. The claim being made here is that, in context of the traumas that Sansa has experienced, including most notably the butchery of her father, mother, and brother at the hands of Tyrion’s immediate family, it’s unreasonable to think that Sansa’s fantasies could not “realign to accommodate a difference in height.”

Frankly, I don’t think that’s the problem. And to its credit, the televised version doesn’t ever, to my recollection, imply that Sansa’s revulsion towards Tyrion is even remotely physical.

Share with Sociable

Immigration policy and the rule of law I

[ 31 ] November 22, 2014 |

Scott addressed the most glaring flaws with Damon Linker’s column the other day, but I want to discuss another one: his invocation of his commitment to “the rule of law” as a reason to oppose this executive action:

The rule of law is far more about how things are done than about what is done. If Obama does what he appears poised to do, I won’t be the least bit troubled about the government breaking up fewer families and deporting fewer immigrants.

As Scott said, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny first and foremost because the case that Obama is operating outside the law is simply incorrect, as Russell Arben Fox, who holds a view congenial to Linker’s, has acknowledged in comments. But there are additional reasons to be troubled by it. I confess I’m increasingly dubious of the way the rule of law is used in political debates; Judith Shklar’s observation that the rule of law “may well have become just another self-congratulatory rhetorical devices that grace the utterances of Anglo-American politicians” rings true to me, especially with an “and pundits” added. But let’s consider it more carefully. The conception of the rule of law advocated here is one that appears to only apply to how the different parts of government relate to each other, and not how the government relates to the governed. This is consistent with an old and venerable tradition—one that predates liberalism and democracy—in ‘rule of law’ thinking; that the rule of law is satisfied when the monarch (and his agents) operate in a manner consistent with the law, whatever that may be.

But the rule of law is an essentially contested concept, and there are other uses of it in circulation. In a liberal and democratic world, we have some very good reasons to care about how the law governs not just the interaction of different parts of government with each other, but how it shapes the interactions of the different parts of government with the governed. Jeremy Waldron:

There may be no getting away from legal constraint in the circumstances of modern life, but freedom is possible nevertheless if people know in advance how the law will operate and how they have to act if they are to avoid its having a detrimental impact on their affairs. Knowing in advance how the law will operate enables one to plan around its requirements. And knowing that one can count on the law’s protecting certain personal property rights enables each citizen to know what he can rely on in his dealings with other people and the state. The Rule of Law is violated, on this account, when the norms that are applied by officials do not correspond to the norms that have been made public to the citizens or when officials act on the basis of their own discretion rather than norms laid down in advance.

On this account, it is difficult to square existing immigration law with the rule of law: it authorizes the deportation of many millions of current settled residents, while a) explicitly authorizing significant administrative discretion, and b) only appropriating the resources for a small fraction of those eligible to be deported in any given year. As Ilya Somin puts it,

To the extent that the rule of law is in jeopardy here, it is because the scope of federal law has grown so vast that no administration can target more than a small percentage of violations, thereby unavoidably giving the president broad discretion.

In other words: when statutory law is simply too vague, broad, or general to authorize a predictable pattern of governance as written, the rule of law is enhanced when administrators prioritize and systematize with administrative law, assuming they do so in a manner consistent with the spirit and general intent of the law and other constitutional norms.

I’ve written about Joe Carens excellent work on the political theory of immigration here before. One of his smarter pieces of non-ideal theory is this defense of what he calls the ‘firewall’ requirement for states that have a population of irregular migrants. Carens assumes for the sake of argument that states have the right to deport such individuals. However, insofar as they’re not deporting them, they ought to have a number of basic legal rights and protections in common with residents in general. This can be framed as a matter of basic human rights, as Carens does, but it’s also a rule of law issue—for one’s life to be governed predictably by law one must have access to the parts of the state that provide for various protections. But the threat of deportation cuts of access to what the rule of law provides:

The fact that people are legally entitled to certain rights does not mean they actually are able to make use of those rights. It is a familiar point that irregular migrants are so worried about coming to the attention of the authorities that they are often reluctant to pursue legal remedies and protections to which they are entitled, even when their most basic human rights are at stake….States can and should build a firewall between immigration law enforcement on the one hand and the protection of basic human rights on the other. We ought to establish a firm legal principle that no information gathered by those responsible for protecting and realizing human rights can be used for immigration enforcement purposes. We ought to guarantee that people can pursue their basic rights without exposing themselves to apprehension and deportation.

Carens’ firewall does not, unfortunately, exist (although many municipal governments have moved in this direction) and Obama’s executive order doesn’t create it. But for those eligible, it contributes to the same goal; it makes it more possible and likely that they’ll have reasonable access to the predictability and protections that the rule of law affords.

While we can acknowledge its important role in the history of the concept, it’s difficult for me to see any good reason for the use of a strictly formal concept of the rule of law indifferent to the nature of government/governed interaction today. It is the character and quality of those interactions that cause me to care about government in the first place. Linker’s clumsy attempt to use the rule of law against the Obama administration in this case highlights the shortcomings of that particular version of the concept.

Share with Sociable

How to Embarrass Yourself as a University Administration

[ 65 ] November 22, 2014 |

Graduate students at the University of Oregon are threatening to strike over the university not giving their demand of paid family leave. You can read the details of the bargaining in quite a bit of detail here. It is nearing the end of the quarter at UO, so the graduate students have as much power as they are going to have because all the grading needs to get done. So how did the university administration respond? Pretty much in the most embarrassing way possible, sending deans and directors this leaked memo concerning what to do if they had to give the finals without their TAs.

1. Consider whether the final exam can be reformatted so that it can be graded easily (e.g., Scantron or multiple-choice). Please note that the reformatted final exams should have an equal level of rigor as originally planned.

2. To provide proctor coverage for exams, please use the teaching function strategies above.

3. Provide students with the following options:

a. Forgo the final and take the grade they had going into the final

b. Take the final, but receive an “X” (missing grade) until such time that the finals can be graded

Give everyone Scantron exams! Now that’s education. Let’s not even get into the issue that students forced to take multiple choice exams do significantly worse because there is no partial credit (which is why it is basically impossible to fail a history course unless you don’t turn assignments in or never show up). In fact, let’s just forget about education entirely. Give the students their current grade without a final! Hire some scabs to serve as TAs! Make a mockery of your entire pedagogy!

Really, shouldn’t the University of Oregon just allow students to choose their own grade? That’s only fair way to deal with a labor conflict.

Share with Sociable

Are the Mariners the best team in the American League right now?

[ 39 ] November 22, 2014 |

Ask 100 Mariners fans this question, and 85 would say immediately say no, and other 15 would eventually say it when they stopped laughing. So I expect I’m not the only Mariners fan struggling to process this. As the team managed to succeed and stay into contention through September this year, missing the playoffs by a single game, I became vaguely aware that the team was not, in fact, significantly overperforming or getting particularly lucky, but were, in fact, a borderline playoff team in true talent. But it never really sunk in or felt true.

Initially I approached this data with a similar skepticism. Surely this is a story about the flaws of projection systems in general.  But looking under the hood a bit, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable. The projections include some regression for Seager, Hernandez, and Cano, their three best players, as well as the bullpen as a group. The flawed prospects who underachieved in 2014, Zunino and Miller, are projected to continue to be flawed, making only modest improvements, mostly revolving around a correction for bad BABIP luck. Ackley is projected for a third consecutive modest step forward with the bat, to be cancelled out by regression on defense giving him no improvement at all. Austin Jackson is also projected for a modest bounceback from last season’s dismal showing, but given his age, talent, and three year track record, how could you not?

The most implausible sources of optimism, to my mind, are the playing time estimation for Saunders, the team’s fragile third best hitter and plus RF, as well as the IPs for Walker and Paxton. On the latter, though, it’s worth noting they’re not projected to be especially good, which will lessen the impact if they can’t stay healthy, assuming the team finds some passable inning-eaters on the cheap, which isn’t an implausible assumption.

As for DH, they’re projected to be just above replacement level, which would be a massive improvement over last year’s parade of horribles. I’m not buying the projections for non-prospect Romero; I’ve watched him try to hit at the major league level  and I don’t see a sustained 300+ wOBA there, but based on the current roster they could get that by using whichever SS isn’t playing the field that day. And, of course, they’ll presumably add a bat that projects to be above replacement level, although after the Hart/Morales fiasco it’s hard to be too optimistic about this seemingly modest task. So…huh. I’m not ready to be optimistic, but it’s nice to have a reason to think my pessimism might be not be entirely rational. Via Jeff Sullivan.

Share with Sociable

Immigration Concern Trolling 2: Paul Ryan’s Empty Threats Edition

[ 29 ] November 22, 2014 |

Shorter Paul Ryan: The unprecedented tyranny of Emperor Obama issuing an unquestionably legal order as a term-limited elected official will prevent Congress passing upper-class tax cuts!

In addition to the obvious, Ryan’s response also highlights the silliness of #Grubergate, where the charge of “deception” revolves largely around CBO scoring. Ryan wants the CBO to use supply-side “dynamic scoring” to show tax cuts having magical stimulative effects they do not, in fact, have. Why, I’m almost beginning to think that a party that funded two rounds of upper-class tax cuts, two major wars, and a extremely inefficient Medicare expansion entirely through debt does not really care about the integrity of the CBO process!

Share with Sociable

Another Example of the Reconquista Obama Has Instigated

[ 26 ] November 22, 2014 |

Here’s another example of the kind of horrible terrorist Obama is legalizing through the greatest oppression of whites known in human history: giving undocumented people the chance to live in this nation without fear of deportation:

I’m Odilia Chavez, a 40-year-old migrant farm worker based in Madera, California, the heart of the fertile Central Valley. I’m also a single mother of three: my 20-year-old eldest son came and joined me in 2004, crossing with a coyote. My son is now at the university, studying political science. The younger two were born here — American citizens.

I grew up in Santiago Yosondua, Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. I went to school through third grade, my dad was killed when I was 11, and we didn’t even have enough food to eat. So I went off to work at 12 in Mexico City as a live-in maid for a Spanish family. I’d go back each year to Oaxaca to visit my mom, and the migrants who’d come back from the United States would buy fancy cars and nice houses, while my mom still slept on a mat on the floor in our hut. A coyote told me he could take me to the United States for $1,800. So I went north in 1999, leaving my four-year-old son behind with my mother. I was 26.

In a typical year, I prune grapevines starting in April, and pick cherries around Madera in May. I travel to Oregon in June to pick strawberries, blueberries and blackberries on a farm owned by Russians. I take my 14-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son with me while they’re on their summer break. They play with the other kids, and bring me water and food in the field. We’ll live in a boarding house with 25 rooms for some 100 people, and everyone lines up to use the bathrooms. My kids and I share a room for $270 a month.

You come home really tired. I’ll come home, take a shower, put lotion on my hot feet, and be ready for the next day. I’m usually in bed by 9:00 to get up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to make and pack some tacos for the day. Also, undocumented workers don’t have any medical insurance — so the majority of us just buy over-the-counter pills for any problems. Luckily, I haven’t had many health issues yet.

Some contractors think they can abuse you because you’re undocumented. One time, a contractor who was an American citizen with Mexican parents called me a no-good illegal, and claimed he was going to call immigration on me. I said, “Send ‘em over, I’ll be waiting!” I left that job.

We all want immigration reform. First, I’d get a driver’s license, social security, and go see my mom in Mexico. (The last time I went was in 2008, and I had to cross the dessert again with a coyote to get back here — but it was the only option.) I would still work in the fields. I don’t know how to do anything else. A lot of workers haven’t gotten very far in school, and they can’t use a computer. What job are they going to do? We can’t get a better job. They were farmworkers in Mexico and we’re going to die as farmworkers. I do have a lot of pride in my work, though. It can be fun. We joke around.

My God! How can this nation survive with someone like Odilia Chavez just wandering around picking our crops without watching out for immigration officers!

Incidentally, I actually know Santiago Yosondua, Oaxaca very well. I’ve been to that town’s annual fiesta. It is a very remote town (like really bloody remote) way up in the mountains. It’s beautiful and poor. The surrounding area is about to be destroyed by mining companies. There is some resistance beginning there against this and I may be highlighting this going forward. As happens so often in these situations, there are town members who support the mine for jobs and others who say the few low-paying short-term jobs won’t be worth the long-term impact. It’s complex. But there certainly aren’t many jobs and that’s why people leave it to go work in the fields of the United States.

Share with Sociable

Shorter Rand Paul: “Obama, Like FDR, Oppresses Minorities”

[ 44 ] November 22, 2014 |

The Only Progressive Alternative in 2016 points out how Democratic presidents oppress minorities. Just like FDR threw all the Japanese-Americans into internment camps, Obama is oppressing the white minority by allowing undocumented immigrants to go to school without fear their parents will be locked up when they return home from 5th grade or allowing immigrant business owners to apply for loans to fund their enterprises. The parallel is clear.

Share with Sociable

BENGHAZI!!!!!!!!!!

[ 41 ] November 21, 2014 |

Looks like the revelation of the truth that Saul Alinsky was covering up for Hillary Clinton will have to wait for the next Gruber video.

Share with Sociable

Concern Trolling on Immigration I

[ 86 ] November 21, 2014 |

Via Edroso, we have warnings of TYRANNY coming from Damon Linker:

The rule of law is far more about how things are done than about what is done. If Obama does what he appears poised to do, I won’t be the least bit troubled about the government breaking up fewer families and deporting fewer immigrants. But I will be deeply troubled about how the president went about achieving this goal — by violating the letter and the spirit of federal law.

To grasp precisely what’s so galling about Obama’s proposed actions, it’s necessary to reflect on the nature of executive power and its permanent potential to become despotic.

The main problem with this argument is that Obama is not, in fact, violating the letter of the law. He just isn’t. The Ross Douthat posts that Linker links to have a lot about alleged violations of norms and slippery slopes, but as far as I can tell no argument that Obama is violating the text of the statue, because he isn’t. Nor are his actions even unprecedented. The arguments that his actions are unconstitutional are so weak that one-note anti-immigration crank Mickey Kaus concedes that for the Court to so rule would be analogous to Bush v. Gore.

All of this is standard issue. But what’s unique is that Linker goes on to defend George W. Bush’s actual violations of the U.S. Code and specific provisions of the U.S. Constitution by comparing them to Lincoln’s actions during an actual ongoing military insurrection. That’s how you concern troll, ladies and gentlemen.

Share with Sociable

Why did Obama claim he couldn’t do what he in fact could do regarding immigration policy?

[ 41 ] November 21, 2014 |

I have a piece at the Daily Beast on this question.

The real reason is surely far more prosaic: Obama claimed he didn’t have the power to do things he had the power to do because the administration calculated that it was politically expedient for him to do so. By claiming that his hands were tied, the president hoped to put more pressure on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, which would produce longer-term results than executive orders.

The gambit failed, and now the administration is being forced to try to finesse the president’s fairly unambiguous public flip-flop on the issue.

Obama’s real excuse, if he were to be candid on the issue—an option not available to him because of the same practical considerations that led him to engage in these sorts of tactics in the first place—is that it’s extremely difficult to get anything done in the American political system, for structural reasons that have nothing to do with the characteristics of particular presidents or legislatures.

The immigration reform bill the president favors, for instance, has passed the Senate and is apparently supported by a majority of current House members. But it can’t pass the House because the Tea Party wing of the GOP is holding the House Republican leadership hostage on immigration.

This is yet another illustration of how, as contemporary American politics becomes increasingly ideologically coherent, the many barriers to enacting legislation, aka governing, become increasingly difficult to leap.

Under these circumstances, the kind of unilateral executive action Obama is undertaking will become more and more common.

Share with Sociable

Obama’s Immigration Order: Good Policy, Legal, And Doesn’t Establish A New Precedent

[ 35 ] November 21, 2014 |

I have a piece up on Obama’s immigration order. It’s formally legal, it’s good policy for the reasons Erik explains below, and while it’s not the ideal means of establishing the policy it’s the only game in town. In particular, I reject the idea that this establishes some kind of dangerous new precedent:

If the Republican party was at all interested in actual governance, a mediocre immigration reform proposal passed by Congress would be preferable to an executive order, which can be undone with the stroke of a pen after the next election (which will not have Barack Obama on the ballot). But that also undermines claims that Obama’s executive order represents “tyranny”.

Does using executive privilege to achieve immigration reform set a dangerous precedent? Well, long before Obama even ran for elected office – as Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner observed at the New Republic – Ronald Reagan “took executive action to limit deportations for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles” and the first President Bush did the same for some Chinese and Kuwaiti citizens. At most, Obama’s actions differ only in degree, not kind.

In a more general sense, presidents have been pushing the limits of their constitutional authority since the beginning of the republic. If you had asked Thomas Jefferson in 1799 if the Louisiana Purchase was constitutional, he would almost certainly have said no – but we aren’t giving the land back. (Admittedly, sometimes I’m tempted to say that the US should look for the receipt and return some of those now-red states to France in exchange for a few dozen cases of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.)

It’s understandable for liberals to worry that just because Obama used his executive authority in this way, some future Republican president – like Rand Paul the Terrible, or Emperor Marco Rubio, or His Highness Ted Cruz – might push the limits of the law over the edge. But it’s pretty unhelpful, too.

Both the second Bush administration and the actions of Republicans in Congress make it abundantly clear that the next Republican in the Oval Office is going to push toward – and probably beyond – the limits of his legal authority, no matter what Obama does. (For instance, George W Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, established by executive order, contradicted a statute outright, which Obama’s order does not.) If hypothetical president Rand Paul wants to refuse to enforce the Civil Rights Act, he’s not going to be dissuaded because Obama refused to act on immigration.

But read the whole etc. and discuss.

Share with Sociable

The Impact of the Obama Immigration Action

[ 79 ] November 21, 2014 |

Obama’s executive order on deporting immigrants, while unfortunately temporary, makes the lives of people better. People such as Clara Cortes:

I came here illegally because there were few, if any, economic opportunities in my native Mexico. I was a lawyer and a single parent who could not afford to pay for my daughter’s schooling and cover the medicines for a sick brother with the $150 a week I earned.

I have been in the United States since 1999, and for nearly 15 years I have worked cleaning houses. It takes me 21/2 hours to get to work in Brooklyn from my home in Babylon Town. The commute is physically draining, but I don’t have a choice. I can’t work legally in the United States despite my education and legal skills.

My two daughters, my husband and I awaken every day with the fear that I will be deported. My husband and youngest daughter are U.S. citizens — which is why I should be eligible for legalized status under the president’s order. My oldest daughter benefited from the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offered a temporary reprieve from deportations.

But I remain illegal in this country and, as my 7-year-old daughter’s principal caretaker, I’ve agonized about what would happen to her if I were sent back to Mexico. The fear immigrants like me live under is suffocating, and politicians who have vilified families like mine fail to understand our plight.

When I started working, my wages were often stolen by employers and I was sexually harassed. But I never reported any of it because I dreaded my immigration status would be used against me. I had no sense of security. I have seen immigration officials working on Long Island, and I felt helpless knowing that I could be detained and deported at any time.

Now Cortes can feel a little more secure, at least until a Republican is elected president. Hopefully, Obama’s ruling, despite the racism of the responses to it by many leading Republicans, lays the groundwork for more permanent action. I feel that recriminalizing these people is going to be harder than decriminalizing them. At least I hope so. My only criticism of Obama here is that he didn’t do this years ago. Certainly waiting until after the 2014 midterms in hopes that it wouldn’t contribute to the losses of Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, and Kay Hagan proved futile.

Share with Sociable
Page 1 of 1,91112345102030...Last »