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Archive for May, 2005

More compromise

[ 0 ] May 24, 2005 |

Glad to see I’m not alone in my reaction. Kos is making the case for it, and of course if he is correct that this gets us a signifigantly less noxious SC justice in the long run, than I’ll concede the point. But I’m just not sure why we should believe that will be the case. I think it goes without saying that Kos (and others, including Steve Gilliard) are overstating the influence of James Dobson here. We don’t really know what the administration’s SCOTUS nominee selection process will look like, and I have no doubt Dobson and his ilk have far more influence they should in a sane world. The GOP has other factions and interests to appease as well, and they’ve been happy to screw the religious right when it suits them to do so. Let’s not assume Dobson’s rise in visibility and volume has some sort of one-to-one ratio with his rise in power.

But that’s not the point. The point is, whatever Dobson’s chances were of selecting a SCOTUS member for life, they’re not much lower now than they were before. The GOP conceded almost nothing of substance. Rather than explain it myself, I’ll let Mike DeWine have the honors:

Some of you who are looking at the language may wonder what some of the clauses mean. The understanding is – and we don’t think this will happen – but if an individual senator believes in the future that a filibuster is taking place under something that’s not extraordinary circumstances, we of course reserve the right to do what we could have done tomorrow which is to cast a yes vote for the constitutional option.

Here’s the problem with the word “extraordinary.” The GOP gets what it wants now, more or less, and all they have to do to pull this stunt again in six months or a year is insert the word “extraordinary” into a sentence. Here’s how it works:

It’s “extraordinary” that Senate Democrats would oppose this highly qualified nominee simply because of his religious convictions.

There. Done. Those words out of Mike DeWine’s mouth and we’ve right back where we started, with Priscilla Owen stinking up the 5th circuit for 40 years to boot. The more I think about this, the less I like it.

Update: One final point and I’ll shut up about this. There are those who are characterizing this a victory for the center. If by center, you mean “14 Senators who self-identify as centrist” than maybe you have a point. But if you mean “centrist politics” you’re dead wrong. Let’s be frank about what this deal did: fancy promises with out clauses big enough to drive Mack trucks through aside, this deal did one tangible thing: it sends three judges to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote, which will quite likely put them on the Appellate court bench. Anyone who has been reading this blog (or many others) knows a little about these three judges, and knows that whatever they represent, it isn’t centrism. Let’s all stop and reflect on the fact we’ve reached a point that conceding to the demands of right-wing extremists in order to prevent said extremists from attempting an ill-concieved act of political self-immolation now counts as a victory for “centrism.”

Update II: While it’s a cute line, can we please stop with “anything that pisses James Dobson off this much must be pretty good.” First of all, Dobson is always pissed off–it’s integral to his political strategy, and I suspect his personality as well. Moreover, we should never, ever take what he says at face value. Dobson’s sputtering is amusing, but let’s not draw any inferences from it.


Shorter "Compromise"

[ 0 ] May 24, 2005 |

This is about right. As near as I can figure, the GOP gets their worst nominees through, gives up nothing whatsoever (and, no, I don’t count vague promises as “something”), and we don’t get the nuclear option, which would at least allow the Dems to kill the filibuster. What’s the upside here?

UPDATE: I have to say that I think Yglesias was right the first time. I don’t think the missives of Bauer and Dobson mean anything; their interests are served by being maximalists. In addition, I think there’s some question about whether they’re thinking clearly about the long-term effects of eliminating the filibuster. Dobson’s jeremiad, for example, claims that Scalia would not be on the Court today if the filibuster had been permitted; leaving aside the fact that the filibuster was not in fact prohibited, Scalia passed 98-0. You’ll forgive me if I don’t draw inferences based on Dobson’s political analysis.

The compromise

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

This is a completely instant reaction with no reflection, but it doesn’t seem that great to me. It’s not like appellate court judges don’t have a real impact. I’ll be happier if Lindsay Graham is correct and one of the Pryor/Owen/Brown gets voted down. Perhaps I’m being naive in thinking we actually had a chance of winning the post-nuclear PR war. We did last time GOP hubris shut things down.

On the other hand, the sound of wingnut heads exploding across this great land is music to my ears. Eat your own, boys, eat your own.

Update: I’m on Harry Reid’s mailing list for some reason and I just got this in my in-box:

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and
while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible
Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside there differences and
work from the center.

So is part of the strategy to embarrass Frist, and paint him as the incompetent that he is, thus assuring he draws fire from all sides?

The Imperial Project

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

Damn useful corrective to Niall Ferguson in the March 3 London Review of Books. Bernard Porter reviews books by Caroline Elkins and David Anderson on the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. Also see Neal Ascherson’s review of the same books in the April 7 NYRB, available by subscription only.

The British declared the Kenya Emergency in 1952, when seven years of restless dissatisfaction with British rule culminated in the full-scale rebellion known as Mau Mau. It was very largely the struggle of the Kikuyu, the country’s majority ethnic group – about 1.5 million in a native population of five million – who had lost much of their land to white settlers and had moved into reservations or continued farming as tenants. The Emergency saw out two prime ministers – Churchill and Eden – and ended in January 1960. In that time, Mau Mau supporters killed at least 2000 African civilians and inflicted some 200 casualties on the army and police. In all, 32 white settlers died in the rebellion. For their part, the British hanged more than 1000 Kikuyu, detained at least 150,000 and, according to official figures, killed around 12,000 in combat, though the real figure, in David Anderson’s view, is ‘likely to have been more than 20,000’. In addition, Caroline Elkins claims, up to 100,000 died in the detention camps.

It is the scale of the British atrocities in Kenya that is the most startling revelation of these books.

Heh. And I thought that only francophone imperial powers committed colonial atrocities, and that the British Empire brough civilization, democracy, and crumpets to all of its subjects. Go figure.

LGM Template Changes

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

Expect minor visual changes this week. The most consequential, going into effect within the next hour or so, will be a switch to light as the default background. This reflects the apparently overwhelming preference of our readers. However, if you typically view LGM with light background, you’ll need to click “light” again to reset the cookie.

LGM Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 7

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

Dave Noon continues to lead blah blah etc.

The real news is that I’ve moved out of last and into 5th place. Scott now has cellar-dwelling honors. Look out, Loomis!

1 Axis of Evel Knievel, d. noon 1914
2 Swinging At Space, K. Jepsen 1780
3 The Spot, D. Watkins 1695
4 New Mexico Alterdestiny, E. Loomis 1690
5 Oregon Bearded Duck, R. Farley 1584
6 Discpline And Punish, S. Lemieux 1566

A Liberal Blog?

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

I have no desire to refight the Tacitus war here, or to contribute to the skirmishes in that war which have taken place at Daily Kos and other locations. Due fairness to the other side, however, mandates some attention to this nonsense.

Atrios professes stupefaction that this study (PDF) lists as a “liberal blog.” Of course, had he read the study in question, he’d see that its timeframe was the couple of months leading up to the November 2004 election: a period in which I was posting almost exclusively at Red State, and this site was, even to my mind, overrun with leftist commentary. Indeed, it’s one reason I decided to take the place back.

I’m not going to hold my breath that Duncan Black will acknowledge his error — which does, in addition to displaying his own ignorance, also do a disservice to those lefties who sunk a great deal of time and energy, admirable in itself, in this site back them. But I do think it’s worth noting, at the least, the malleability of perception here, and the evidently rather woeful effects on discourse of this manner of pigeonholing. Inasmuch as he has missed out on some allies here, Black is a fool. Inasmuch as Black is indicative of a larger phenomenon, it is even more the political culture that is foolish.

What what what?

Long time readers will recall my obsession with the insipid Bird Dog, premier poster at during the months of Josh Trevino’s absence. In short, Bird Dog combined an admirable commitment to GOP talking points with a mind singularly incapable of conceiving of an original thought. His posts were both plentiful and terrible, and eventually caused me to drift away from the site. Tacitus never became a liberal blog, but it did become a bad blog during the months that Levin worked at Tac’s assertion that the blog was liberal during this period is stupefying; I suppose that he must have been reading the same community as I, but at the same time can’t imagine how that is possible.

The Tacitus community has managed to achieve a more bipartisan profile than most other such communities. The cause for this lies primarily with Trevino, his appreciation of some good work coming from the left, and his general unwillingness to adopt Bush administration talking points as conservative first principles. Some on the right think that this means liberal. Nobody with any sense thinks this, however, and assaulting Duncan Black for calling a spade a spade is unbecoming.

NASCAR Projectors

[ 0 ] May 23, 2005 |

Roy Edroso notes that Glenn Reynolds linked to a review of a couple books about NASCAR that was, indeed, bad enough to be a cover story of the Times book review (and apparently they ran out of books by or about Times employees to put on the cover.) The thing is, though, Reynolds completely misinterprets the review, which “reveals” only the lazy thinking of its author. The stereotypes are not the author’s, but rather perceptions he’s projecting onto eeeeevilllll “blue staters”:

For a certain segment of the population, Nascar’s raid on American culture — its logo festoons everything from cellphones to honey jars to post office walls to panties; race coverage, it can seem, has bumped everything else off television; and, most piercingly, Nascar dads now get to pick our presidents — triggers the kind of fearful trembling the citizens of Gaul felt as the Huns came thundering over the hills. To these people, stock-car racing represents all that’s unsavory about red-state America: fossil-fuel bingeing; lust for violence; racial segregation; run-away Republicanism; anti-intellectualism (how much brain matter is required to go fast and turn left, ad infinitum?); the corn-pone memes of God and guns and guts; crass corporatization; Toby Keith anthems; and, of course, exquisitely bad fashion sense. What’s more, they simply don’t get it. What’s the appeal of watching . . . traffic? It’s as if ”Hee Haw” reruns were dominating prime time, and the Republic was slapping its collective knee at Grandpa Jones’s ”What’s for supper?” routine. With Nascar’s recent purchase of a swath of real estate on Staten Island, where it intends to plop down an 80,000-seat racetrack and retail center for the untapped New York City market, the onslaught seems poised on the brink of full-out conquest. Cover your ears, blue America. The Huns are revving their engines.

If I may be permitted to state the obvious, this is just unadulterated horseshit. In most blue state urban areas, nobody cares about NASCAR. If NASCAR takes up a few hours on FOX on the weekends or people like going to it, good for them. It’s true that I, like many people (both above and below the Mason-Dixon line) find NASCAR boring. I also find the NBA and most action movies boring, and many people find things I like boring, and while this can occasionally lead to a good-natured argument over drinks these differences of taste are hardly crucial cultural signifiers. This idea that blue staters are obsessed with NASCAR is 100% pure projection. It’s about Southern insecurity, combined with (as Roy points out) the double-standard stereotyping about blue staters that dominates the media. It’s the media, not members or the electorate, that thinks “NASCAR dads” is a useful category. The idea that NASCAR dominates the thoughts of blue-staters is media solipsism right out of the Cokie Roberts school.

Music Meme, The Shorter One

[ 0 ] May 22, 2005 |

I’m already behind on music memes I’ve been conscripted to do, but since it’s shorter I’ll do Lauren’s, tagged by Roxanne.

1. What is the total volume of musical files on your computer?

Zilch. Remarkable, I know; I don’t have an I-Pod and don’t have downloading chops. To paraphrase Richard Thompson, I am an old man inside a vaguely young man.

2. What song are you listening to right now?
Loudon Wainwright’s “No Sure Way.” Really good one. A post-9/11 song that gets it right by focusing on the sudden exaggeration of quitodian details. And boy, Bill Frisell is terrific.

3. Last CD I bought?
3 at the same time: The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree; Spoon, Gimme Fiction, and Lucinda Williams, Live at the Fillmore. The Lucinda live double was a pure impulse buy; I had no inkling about it, but it was cheap and thought it might make an interesting contrast with her studio perfectionism. But it’s excellent; I’ve played it as much as the other two, which are predictably strong. Actually, I’m gotten some very good stuff over the last couple months. The Decemberists indeed worthy of near-namesake Mark Schmitt, the new Low very, very good, new Go-Betweens fantastic. I’ve found the new Beck somewhat disappointing, though.

4. Five songs you listen to a lot and which mean something to you:

1. Bob Dylan–Simple Twist of Fate.

I don’t know what to pick off of my favorite album, but although its fatalism isn’t quite optimistic enough for my existentialist label, this unconscionably beautiful song may be my very favorite.

2. Television–Venus.

Great riff. “I fell into the arms…of Venus De Milo” a definitive lyrical hook.

3. Randy Newman–Guilty.

Again, as with Blood on the Tracks the quality of songs here is so exceptional as to defy singling out one. I think I’ll save “Marie” for the other meme, and “Rednecks” is obvious. So I’ll go with this one, which takes on additional power in context. The particular genius of Newman’s critically distant first-person songs is to guarantee empathy with those who you’re inclined to hold in contempt.

4. Ani DiFranco–Letter to a John.

Politics and music can mix, of course, although better by implication than by direct argument. Catchy as hell, too, especially in the Living in Clip version.

5. The Rolling Stones–Paint It, Black.

Perfect–irresistible hook, struggling with dark impulses, Watts/Wyman could power a locomotive.

Since this list leans a little sad/angry, if I had a sixth it would be Big Star’s “September Gurls” or Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.”

I pass to Amanda Marcotte, Lindsay, and Erik.


[ 0 ] May 22, 2005 |

The New York Times headline reads U.S. Memo Faults Afghan Leader on Heroin Fight. It ought to read U.S. Memo Finds that Hamid Karzai is Neither Stupid nor Insane.

Some policymakers in this administration would like to believe that the interests of US established leaders are identical to the interests of the United States. In the case of Iraq, this leads to the fairly bizarre belief that a democratic Iraq will be supportive of Israel. In Afghanistan, the situation is somewhat worse. Some in the administration seem to believe that cutting down on poppy cultivation would be both in the capacity and interest of the Afghan central government. Hamid Karzai, of course, is under no such illusion; he understands the weakness of his government, appreciates the paucity of US support, and realizes that any vigorous program aimed at poppy destruction would result in the collapse of his regime. In short, Karzai understands that the demands of the War on Terror conflict fundamentally with the demands of the War on Drugs. Bush administration policymakers, incapable of grasping value trade-offs, cannot bring themselves to understand this.

Notably, the British do grasp these problems:

The cable also faulted Britain, which has the top responsibility for counternarcotics assistance in Afghanistan, for being “substantially responsible” for the failure to eradicate more acreage. British personnel choose where the eradication teams work, but the cable said that those areas were often not the main growing areas and that the British had been unwilling to revise targets.

While the British haven’t had the good sense to stay out of the US imperial project, they do have some sense of how such a project should be conducted, and realize that trade-offs are necessary. For this, they come under attack.

With us, or against us. Even when we can’t decide if we’re with or against ourselves.

Random Baseball Blogging

[ 0 ] May 22, 2005 |

In no particular order. . .

Watching Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson hit 889′ worth of home runs in the space of four pitches reminds me why I was mildly optimistic about the Mariners at the beginning of the year.

The powers-that-be at Safeco Field ought to be commended for Extreme Hat Trick. For the last six years, I have endured the slow dumbing-down of Hat Trick, such that any idiot could tell which hat the ball was under. Extreme Hat Trick, dragged out only a few times a year and involving normal Hat Trick at triple speed, restores some of the challenge.

The “Wave” is inappropriate at baseball games. Football is a vulgar sport, and “the wave” is appropriate at a football game. No one who “waves” at a baseball game is deserving of my respect. Similarly, no decent human being puts ketchup on a hot dog.

While I once viewed the electronic hydrofoil races at Safeco Field with indifference, I now actively cheer against the Comcast sponsored boat. This is a strange thing, as Comcast certainly brings me more joy (through internet access and cable TV) than either Oberto Beef Jerky or Schucks Auto Parts. Nonetheless, I find myself hating those who bring me what I love.

That is all.

Priscilla, Queen of the Mediocre

[ 0 ] May 22, 2005 |

Amanda Marcotte notes that the woman whom the GOP thinks it’s worth breaking clear-cut Senate rules for is rated “poor” by 43% of the raving Trotskyites at the Houston Bar Association. Yes, clearly if Bush can get 200 appointments but not her, the republic cannot stand.

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