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Archive for June, 2005

More German Electoral Analysis

[ 0 ] June 30, 2005 |

You can never have too much. . .


Young Adult Book Meme

[ 0 ] June 30, 2005 |

I’ve been tagged by Daniel Nexon at Duck of Minerva. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard for me to remember my younger years, for some reason. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a try. I’m interpreting teen/young adult to mean pre-collegiate, so all of these are books that I read before setting foot in Eugene. . .

1. Encyclopedia of the World’s Warships, Hugh Lyon

I read the covers off of my first copy of this book, which I acquired in the early 1980s. I also lost a number of the pages, including a couple of the big fold-out battleships. I don’t remember when I purchased my second copy, but it has also fallen out of its cover. I still read this book because I think warships are beautiful. I particularly love battleships, but aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and the rest all do it for me, too. I know that’s appalling, but aesthetic reactions aren’t completely voluntary. I particularly love the American and Japanese battleships. Early American battleships could be identified by their cage masts, while later ships had a cool, modern efficiency to them. Japanese battleships had “pagoda” masts that gave them a particularly menacing appearance. This book, and others like it, spurred an interest in naval affairs, military affairs, and foreign policy more generally.

2. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

What else can be said? My favorite part of the trilogy was left out of the films. In Fellowship of the Ring, Merry the hobbit acquires a dagger from the tomb of the barrow-wight. The resident of that particular tomb was a king who waged war, millenia past, against the Witch King of Angmar. All of his weapons were designed with the specific purpose of killing the Witch King, and when Merry stabs the chief Nazgul in Return of the King, that dagger unbinds all of the spells that held the Witch King together.

Why is this my favorite? Merry didn’t know anything about the dagger, about the Witch King, the stones of Weathertop, or the history of Middle Earth. All of these things were part of the story behind the story. Tolkien’s characters lived and worked against the imposing backdrop of a history that was carefully worked out and consequential for the events of the novels. Tolkien gave the impression that every stone, every hall, every sword, every door had a meaning, a maker, and a purpose, even if none of those were important for the events at hand. Reading the novels, and later the Silmarillion, made me think about history as a living force, one that structured our world, set parameters on the possible. This helped get me interested in the social sciences, which led me eventually to political science.

3. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, Gary Gygax

Yes, I feel an appropriate level of shame for having this book on the list. Indeed, I think there’s something terribly wrong about an RPG-er who doesn’t feel shame. If one takes pride in being a geek, what’s the point of geek-hood? Those who play Dungeons and Dragons should be made the object of fun, subject to all forms of verbal abuse. Pride in such a hobby defies the natural order of things, and seeks to overturn a long, well-honed tradition of bullying. D&D made up a critical portion of my geeky child and young adulthood, and I’m recovering from the deep, deep emotional scars even today.

To my everlasting discredit, I still play D&D, still spend money on the books, still waste my time thinking about castles and dragons. On the upside, when someone says “George W. Bush has maxed out his ranks in Bluff and Perform (Moron), and took Deceitful as his sixth level feat,” I understand completely what they mean.

4. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

I used to read a lot of science fiction, and not all of it has stayed with me. I still like Bradbury, but I haven’t read any Asimov for years. I still occasionally read some of Harlan Ellison’s best stories. Even though Orson Scott Card is one hell of a crank, Ender’s Game has stayed with me. Re-reading it, I can see why. Ender is a badass not because he’s tough, but because he’s smart and desperate. Andrew Wiggin can think his way out of any situation, but Card doesn’t let the tone become, well, juvenile. Ender solves all of the problems put in front of him, but can’t change the basic fact that there are people who have the power to put problems in front of him. Eventually, he ends up, wittingly or no, committing a brutal and unnecessary genocide. Ender’s Game appeals to those who are both smart and essentially powerless. It makes clear that the former cannot solve the latter, thus distinguishing it from the worst of Ayn Rand’s garbage. At the end, Ender achieves a measure (and, importantly, ONLY a measure) of redemption.

5. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

I had a hard time coming up with the last book. I read A Farewell to Arms as a high school sophmore, roughly the same time that I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I think that the latter is better than the former, and I’ve gone back and read Twain several times since high school. Huck Finn, however, was assigned to me in English class. A Farewell to Arms wasn’t, and reading it for “fun” convinced me that reading literature outside of the narrow requirements of coursework was worthwhile. A Farewell to Arms is still my favorite Hemingway. There’s not a shadow of a doubt how the book will end, but the conclusion is compelling nonetheless.

Honorable Mention: Salem’s Lot is my favorite Stephen King book, and established my ever-lasting terror of both zombies and vampires. In elementary school I made a point of reading the Newbery Medal books, the only one of which to stay with me is Rifles for Waite by Harold Keith. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson, taught me everything I know about leprosy. I think that the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the finest novel ever written by an American, even if the last chapters are unreadable. I must have read 1984 two dozen times, although curiously I never went crazy, unlike Christopher Hitchens. There are others that I have forgotten.

I hereby pass this virus on to Matt, Erik, Redbeard, Kat, and my co-bloggers.


[ 0 ] June 30, 2005 |

I love Detroit.

I have roots in Detroit on both sides of my family. My old man spent many of his formative years (the 18+ formative years) in Detroit during the 1960s and 1970s. My aunt still lives there.

Much of my affection for Detroit, I must admit, comes from my fondness for post-apocalyptic films. Driving through Detroit is not unlike spending some time in The Road Warrior or Escape From New York. Detroit serves as America’s relic of the industrial age. Land prices are so low that it doesn’t even make sense to tear down old buildings. Go to Detroit now and you’ll still find Tiger Stadium, even though it’s been abandoned for six years.

Many of the oldest buildings are being torn down, including the massive Packard plant. Although I can understand why people would feel that advertising urban decay isn’t the best strategy for renewal, I think that city is making a mistake by attempting to destroy many of the old, abandoned buildings. Marketed cleverly, the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit might attract tourism rather than dissuade investment.

In any case, take the tour, and try to make it to Detroit before the next old building is torn down.

More Countermobilization!

[ 0 ] June 29, 2005 |

As we all have been informed by many esteemed commentators, the highly charged nature of the abortion debate in the United State is purely due to Roe v. Wade, because social conservatives never thought to oppose women’s rights until the courts got involved. Anyway, Canada recently presented another good test case for the many people (on both sides of the issue) who continue to believe this argument, in spite of the paucity of empirical evidence or theoretical justification. The Canadian courts have recently upheld a number of gay rights claims, and because of judicial decisions gay marriage was legal in 8 out of 10 provinces. What was the public’s reaction to this radical judicial activism? Why, of course, to become generally more supportive of gay marriage, culminating in the federal government granting a national right to same-sex marriage.

Now, to be clear, the lesson here is not that litigation in the United States would be equally effective. Rather, the point is that the opposition to gay marriage in the United States is not plausibly linked to judicial review, per se. Issues like abortion and gay rights are divisive in the United States because they’re divisive, not because the Supreme Court has been involved. Progressives who think that you can mitigate opposition by using the right political institutions are seriously misguided. Cultural reactionaries, as they have proved again and again, while oppose such social changes change no matter how they come about, and progressives should use all the tools they have available.

Chinook in Afghanistan

[ 0 ] June 29, 2005 |

I hope these people aren’t dead, but I also hope they’re not in the possession of the Taliban. Afghani treatment of captured Soviet prisoners during the 1980s was brutal.

UPDATE: 13 dead, 7 unaccounted for. This report from Afghanistan is neither reassuring nor surprising.

UPDATE: All appear to be accounted for.

Supreme Court: Random Notes

[ 1 ] June 29, 2005 |
  • iocaste highlights Scalia’s dissent in McCreary County, a remarkable performance–and I don’t mean that as a compliment. What’s most useful about it is that it highlights the death of “nonpreferentialism” as a viable doctrine on the current Supreme Court. Rehnquist has been articulating nonpreferentialism as an alternative reading of the Establishment Clause: roughly, the idea is that the state cannot discriminate among religions, but can prefer religion to irreligion. The idea here is that the core purpose of the Establishment Clause was to inhibit the conflicts that arise when religious groups fight each other for government funds. I don’t agree with it, but it’s plausible. The 10 Commandments, however, put the seriousness of the doctrine to the test; these cases dealt with clearly sectarian religious support. And, needless to say, none of the conservatives actually take the principle seriously. Scalia’s way around it is to claim to just lie and deny that the 10 Commandments represent “particular” religions (and, presumably, those religions that do not hold them to be a sacred text can be ignored); evidently, this silly tautology renders “nonpreferentialism” a meaningless restriction on government action. And, of course, he also demonstrates the problems with the doctrine even if it meant something. Particularly offensive is Scalia’s claim “Nothing stands behind the Court’s assertion that governmental affirmation of the society’s belief in God is unconstitutional except the Court’’s own say-so..” In other words, those who do not believe in the (Judeo-Christian) God are not really a part of American society. If this seems more Bill O’Reilly than James Madison, consistent with American constitutionalism only in the sense that (as Garry Wills puts it) that running people out of town on a rail is as American as declaring inalienable rights–well, that’s our Nino!

  • I think that Amanda is probably ultimately right about Castle Rock, the tragic case where police falied to enforce a restraining order, resulting in a father killing his three children. However, I think the dissenters’ case is considerably stronger than most commentary has suggested. Certainly, Scalia’s central point is a powerful one: discretionary enforcement of categorical laws by police departments with scarce resources is inevitable, and to hold them liable for such acts of discretion would creat all kinds of problems. Obviously, as everyone concedes, there is no substantive rights violation here. However, the discretion of government officials is bound by the procedural core of the equal protection clause: the police cannot systematically refuse to apply laws to the detriment of a certain group of people. In this particular case, the argument is plausible. As Stevens points out, the fact that the Colorado legislature passed a new law requiring mandatory enforcement of restraining orders in domestic violence cases tells us that the legislature believed that the existing laws were being systematically underenforced. Is this enough to create a procedural violation in this case? Probably not; at least based on the evidence Stevens presents, I’m not sure the underenforcement is so severe as to constitute a procedural equal protection violation. But I think this is a hard case, and with sufficient evidence I could be persuaded that Ginsburg and Stevens are right.
  • I’m very ambivalent about the Cooper/Miller cases the Court refused to hear, and I think it’s necessary to disentangle some separate issues. Should Congress provide at least a modest, rebuttable privilege for journalism? Probably. Does the First Amendment require it? I’m inclined to think not, but I may be able to be convinced otherwise. Do Cooper and Miller belong in jail? Based on my limited knowledge, I’m not sure it’s the wisest use of prosecutorial discretion. (This is, to state the obvious, not based on the fact that Cooper is a nice guy. For all I know, Miller is also a very nice person who takes good care of her cats Chalabi and Perle Necklace. It’s beside the point. Rather, it just seems to me that the punishment of the reporters is disproportionate based on where Fitzgerald seems to be going.) All this aside, based on existing law, do Miller and Cooper have a federal privelege? I think that’s an easy question: they don’t. Moreover, it seems to me that short of a nearly absolute privelege, they wouldn’t have a good claim. As far as I can tell, the public’s interest in protecting the source in this case is almost nil. We’re not talking about a whistleblower, but somebody who shopped around illegal information as part of a smear campaign. Because the source was breaking the law for private purposes, he or she is not entitled to any serious expectation of privacy. It’s nice that Miller feels she has a moral obligation to her source, but that’s not a legal argument. I’m also appalled by the Times‘ argument that this is a more serious violation that the Pentagon Papers case, which involved prior restraint of a publication. That’s a clear infringement of the 1st Amendment. In this case, however, while the paper’s interest is strong, I don’t think its legal position is very compelling.

Raise a Glass to Lord Nelson

[ 0 ] June 29, 2005 |

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Admiral Horatio Nelson was the Royal Navy commander at Trafalgar. Without going into too much detail, the British victory at Trafalgar accomplished very nearly the complete annihalation of a larger French and Spanish naval fleet. As much as or more than any other major military victory (with the possible exception of some of Robert E. Lee’s victories in the Civil War, or Hannibal’s victories at Cannae or Lake Trasimene), the outcome of the Battle of Trafalgar can be attributed to the genius of the commander, rather than to the material and doctrinal assets at his disposal. An ordinary commander might have won a victory at Trafalgar, but Nelson employed unorthodox and, really, shocking tactics designed to achieve a battle of annihilation. Nelson paid for his victory with his life, as he took a bullet to the spine and died soon after the battle.

The anniversary was marked by the first royal fleet review since 1977, and only the fourth since 1944. The French and Royal Navies participated in a mock re-enactment of Trafalgar, without mention of the name of the battle and with designation only as “blue” and “red” teams. Trafalgar has taken on a significance well beyond its importance in the Napoleonic wars, and navies from around the world participated.

The Battle of Trafalgar cemented in the British and American mind, at least, the importance of naval power. This is odd, because the battle failed to transform the balance of power in Europe at the time. The power of France was on land, and the Battle of Austerlitz a few weeks after Trafalgar would prove far more conseqential. Indeed, while France could not defeat Great Britain without destroying the Royal Navy, Britain could make only limited forays onto the continent to harass the Napoleonic empire. Only the power of the Russian Army, combined with Prussian and British forces, was able to bring the war to a close.

Nevertheless, Trafalgar fueled the theory that naval power would provide the key to world domination. To some extent this was true, as Great Britain came to control colonies all over the world. It missed, however, the crucial importance of land power, something Bismarck, for example, understood. Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized these theories in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. The example of Nelson probably made the Royal Navy admirals of World War I more willing to accept unnecessary risks, a tendency which the Germans were unable to take advantage of but might have used to devastating effect. Lord Nelson himself posthumously received a square in the center of London, which is really pretty cool. The Victory, Nelson’s flagship, remains in drydock, available to tourists.

The Trafalgar fleet review evokes a couple of thoughts about the current state of Europe. If we needed another example of the lack of importance of military force in modern Europe, the Trafalgar review would prove quite useful. The Royal Navy is now, for the first time in a VERY long time, smaller and less powerful than the French Navy. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone, although both countries have fought wars about it in the past. Second, the need to generalize the naval re-enactment suggests that questions of identity remain crucial in Europe, although they no longer manifest themselves in violence. This is interesting, as it tends to confirm arguments identity conflict is malleable, rather than a given.

In any case, please raise a glass to the good admiral, Lord Horatio Nelson.

UPDATE: I am, of course, an idiot. As Jeff points out in comments, the actual anniversary is October 21. However, the observance and re-enactment happened yesterday. My response to this error? Two glasses to Lord Nelson.

Worse than Brooks?

[ 0 ] June 28, 2005 |

Erik drops a much needed rock on John Tierney’s head:

Here’s the real point of Tierney’s argument. The expansive federal government has squeezed the economic life out of Native Americans and they are trying to do the same to the rest of us with their regulations, bureaucracy, and anti-growth policies. And maybe you can make this argument if you base your entire understanding of Indian history on a couple of right-wing economists and you don’t read ANY of the massive amount of history, anthropology, sociology, and Native American oral tradition that has been produced on this subject.

Read the whole thing.

China, Part II: In Defense of Ambiguity

[ 0 ] June 28, 2005 |

Part I: Foreign Policy Conflict

I argued in the first part of this series that the United States and China have relatively few direct foreign policy disputes, and even fewer that might conceivably lead to some form of military conflict. Taiwan is the big exception to this general rule. While I don’t believe that China is likely to launch an unprovoked attack on Taiwan anytime soon, I do think that the PRC will fight a war to prevent Taiwanese independence, even if that means fighting the United States. Moreover, I think that any clarification of the policy of ambiguity will serve to either make Taiwan more likely to declare independence or to make the PRC more likely to attack. In this part of the series, I discuss the diplomatic and political elements of the Taiwan problem. In the next section, I’ll discuss the military aspects of the cross-straight dispute.

A realist would not expect the United States and China to come to blows over Taiwan. Why? While realists expect irrational outcomes in the international system (security dilemma, for example), they don’t really expect irrational behavior. If you start from the premise that the three principles are unitary rational actors, each with a careful understanding of the costs and benefits of action, then no conflict occurs. The material gains for Taiwan following a declaration of independence are minimal compared to the losses China could inflict. The economic and material losses that the PRC might suffer in a war to regain Taiwan are similarly out of line with any potential gains. Finally, the value of Taiwan to the United States is probably exceeded by the blood and treasure that would be lost in any conflict with China.

This is a dangerous way to think about the conflict. As Budding Sinologist points out, we shouldn’t think of Taiwan, the PRC, or the United States as unitary actors who make decisions based on national cost-benefit calculations. The decision process in all three states will inevitably involve domestic considerations, the most notable of which is the need to hold on to power. So, rather than thinking about whether it is in the interests of the PRC to invade Taiwan, we should think about whether it is in the interests of the CCP to attack. Similarly, we can’t really expect any US President to make a cost-benefit analysis of a Taiwan intervention without considering the domestic consequences of a failure to intervene. In the parlance of international relations theory, we need to pay attention to the second level of analysis. This is why I find arguments suggesting that economic interdependence will prevent cross-straights conflict uncompelling.

On the question of whether or when Taiwan will declare independence I have no contribution. Even the DPP seems reluctant to press for formal independence in the short term, and the Guomindang seems to have no interest whatsoever in pursuing independence. Given that elections between the Guomindang and the DPP have tended to be very close, I would be quite surprised if Taiwan declared independence anytime soon. A US security guarantee, however, might change that. The electoral landscape might shift in response to PRC intimidation, or for some other cause.

What will happen if Taiwan does declare independence? I argued earlier that the legitimacy of the CCP depends on economic prosperity and national greatness. The holding of Taiwan is critical to the second of these pillars. I think that the CCP would be willing to spend an enormous amount of blood and treasure to prevent Taiwanese independence, because the loss of Taiwan would strike at the core of the CCP’s legitimacy. If the CCP fails to act decisively in the event of a Taiwanese declaration of independence, I think that its grip on power will be severely weakened. As we have seen recently with anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, nationalism is a double-edged sword, and can cause real problems for those in power. Nationalism is about support for the “nation” as an abstract concept, rather than for the state that holds power at any given time. When the state acts in “national” interests, it can gain the benefit of nationalist feeling. When it doesn’t, state legitimacy suffers. There are a number of examples of states that were severely constrained by nationalist attitudes on the part of the general population and of particular interest groups. Japan in the 1930s is probably the best example of a state whose foreign policy was severely constrained by nationalist feeling.

Could the CCP survive a decision not to fight Taiwanese independence? I don’t know. I suspect that the position of the CCP, at least in the short term, would be stronger if it fought and lost than if it didn’t fight at all. Long term, the economic suffering brought about by the conflict might do damage to the first pillar of CCP legitimacy, but survival is, after all, an arena in which short term concerns trump long term. Although there isn’t much in the way of really good data about Chinese national attitudes on the recovery of Taiwan, all the anecdotal evidence I have seen suggests that the idea of military intervention is extremely popular. A decision not to go to war would almost certainly spark nationwide protests, and these protests would soon serve as a vehicle for other discontent about CCP rule. In short, I believe that the CCP would commit itself to war even if it believed that the war was unwinnable. Demonstrating nationalist credentials would be more important than actually recovering Taiwan.

If China decides to go to war to conquer (or recover) Taiwan, the United States will face a difficult set of choices. The precise nature of these choices depends on the form which the conflict takes, as I’ll discuss in the next section. As I have argued previously, the debate over whether or not to intervene should focus on Taiwan’s intrinsic value to the United States, rather than on strategic considerations. Taiwan is in a unique situation, and I don’t believe that a failure to defend Taiwan would create a reputation for weakness or irresolution that might affect the behavior of other allies (and this is even if we take reputation seriously, which I don’t). The recovery of Taiwan would not open new strategic vistas for China, and indeed would probably have the effect of pushing other East Asian states into balancing postures, as well as making US defense commitments in East Asia more manageable. The PRC is not an ideologically evangelical state, and thus a victory for China could not be understood as a victory for Communism, Confucian civilization, or any other nebulous ideational threat. I doubt very much that the fate of democracy in Taiwan will have much of an effect on democratic movements anywhere else, again because of the uniqueness of the situation. Again, I deal with this question at considerably more length here.

This means that we have to consider whether Taiwan is worth defending by referring to Taiwan’s intrinsic value, rather than to its strategic importance. Even with this constraint, there are still good reasons for the United States to intervene. Taiwan under PRC occupation will not be democratic. Its people will not enjoy the political and social rights they have grown accustomed to. This is a relevant consideration, and the freedom of the Taiwanese people is, to me, worth the lives of American soldiers and sailors. That said, there is a limit to how much American blood and treasure I would spend on Taiwan. For example, Taiwan is not worth a nuclear exchange.

This all may seem a bit clinical. Fortunately, I’m not a policy maker, and I don’t have to make decisions about who lives and who dies. The obvious problem with the argument I have laid out is that any conflict may escalate beyond the parameters we set for it. On the one hand, I hope that cooler heads prevail in the case of actual conflict, and that the leaders of both the PRC and the US manage to limit the escalation. On the other hand, I hope that we can pursue policies that limit the chance that any war will take place.

A while ago, I called for a genuine and honest debate about the value the United States should place on Taiwanese independence. This was misunderstood in some quarters as a call for the end of the US policy of ambiguity towards the defense of Taiwan. In fact, I am a firm supporter of the policy of ambiguity, and think that it’s the best chance of avoiding war between the United States and China. The problem is that the United States must send different messages to Taiwan and to the PRC. The PRC must believe that the United States will intervene, and thus be dissuaded from unwarranted military adventurism. Taiwan must believe that US intervention is uncertain, and thus be dissuaded from a declaration of independence or from the development of nuclear weapons. A security guarantee to Taiwan might well convince the Taiwanese that independence was worth pursuing. A hands-off policy might convince the PRC that an invasion was worth pursuing. I believe that a more complex policy, guaranteeing the security of Taiwan except in the case of independence, would lead to Taiwanese efforts to “push the envelope” by taking, then consolidating, small steps toward independence. I suspect that Taiwan would creep towards independence, and that our limited security guarantee would creep toward being an absolute security guarantee. Incidentally, I also believe that any such guarantee would remove Taiwanese incentive to spend in their own defense, which remains crucial to deterring a PRC attack.

The issue of Taiwan is just about the only international security question that keeps me up at night and makes me fear for my physical safety. I think that the threat of war is very real, and that the policy of ambiguity is the best way to prevent the war. The question of Taiwanese independence will not actually be solved by a declaration of independence, because such a declaration will be meaningless until it is recognized by whatever regime controls the mainland recognize it. The Taiwan question is best answered by indefinite delay, with the hope that a friendly, reasonable, democratic regime will eventually emerge on the mainland.

Part III: China’s Growing Military Power
Part IV: China and the Republican Party
Part V: A New Cold War?
Part VI: Chinese Democracy

What did Jackson do to earn that money?

[ 0 ] June 28, 2005 |

I agree with Jack Shafer that the New York Times was out of line in allowing this gratuitous cheap shot against Peter Jackson.

Peter Jackson is an incredible filmmaker who did the impossible on Lord of the Rings. … But there’s a certain piggishness involved here. New Line already gave him enough money to rebuild Baghdad, but it’s still not enough for him.

At issue here is whether New Line can sell certain marketing rights to other Time Warner sections at discount prices. Jackson gets a percentage of those sales, so when the rights are sold at below market value, Jackson loses money. Without knowing too much about the business, it seems to me that Jackson is entirely in the right, and precedent seems to suggest that his lawsuit will be successful.

The cheap shot above brings up another issue, however, which is that of fair compensation. When I first read the article, I was reminded of the contention, often made by talking heads of various stripes, that athletes are overpaid. The unnamed source above is making precisely the same argument as the sportswriter who decries every negotiating tactic that Roger Clemens employs by suggesting that Clemens “already has enough money.”

This is rather an odd argument when you think about it. Money does not, after all, appear out of thin air. Neither Roger Clemens nor Peter Jackson are taking money from the mouths of orphans. If Clemens makes $6 million instead of $16 million, someone else gets to keep the $10 million difference. Strangely enough, the person writing the check is often (and in fact, I believe, always) richer than the person receiving the check.

However, no one ever seems to suggest that the owner of the Houston Astros has too much money. No one seems to suggest that Time Warner has too much money. The talking heads only seem to complain when the artists and the athletes make absurd sums, and never when the execs and the shareholders take home huge profits. Indeed, the sports intelligentsia has even managed to convince itself that high ticket prices are the fault of the athletes rather than the owners who set the prices, even though this is logically impossible.

I wonder, is it possible that even our liberal media is more friendly to corporate elites and billionaire team owners than to artists and athletes?

Newman on Kelo

[ 0 ] June 27, 2005 |

I realize everyone’s moved on, but Nathan Newman has a couple of excellent posts on the implications of the Kelo decision here and here.

…the underlying outrage is no doubt the fear that market value doesn’t reflect the value of living in a community for years that may be lost to being evicted from a home by eminent domain.

Which is accurate, but then where is the outrage at the pervasive evictions of renters from their homes by private landlords who develop property? That is far more common than eminent domain and disrupts far more communities.

This outrage on behalf of an incredibly tiny number of homeowners, while renters suffer day-to-day threat of such evictions with almost no legal resource and no democratic vote by the community, just seems out of balance, especially by progressives.

A lot of progressives opposed to Kelo evoke the horrors of urban renewal, but it’s worth remembering that the problem there was that most of the people displaced were RENTERS, and thus got no economic compensation to help them find new homes.

Even where renters are not officially evicted, rising rents drive many out of their homes and destroy communities in a repetitive manner.

So if the reaction against Kelo is based on a fear of losing existing communities that should not be priced merely at the market value of property, we should be far more politically outraged at the way private real estate markets destroy poor renters’ lives and their communities.

This is really an excellent point. When it comes to the lives of the lower middle class, renter’s rights is a vastly bigger impact issue than the margins of what constitutes eminent domain. It’d be nice to see those who were so horrified by Kelo take up related but far more important battles like renter’s rights. Rental rules tilt fairly heavily toward the landlords in many cities, while others have antiquated and inefficient forms of rent control that benefit the lucky, and skew the rental market for everyone else.

Consent: It’s Just Not in a Wingnut’s Dictionary

[ 0 ] June 27, 2005 |

Rick Santorum is the latest reactionary crank who seems unclear on the difference between sexual acts between consenting adults and various forms of coercion. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people?

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