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Archive for September, 2005

Better Behaved

[ 0 ] September 23, 2005 |

Perhaps with the exception of Scott’s post below (and the last two paragraphs are truly exceptional), this is the best blog post I’ve seen all week. All hail Lance.


The False Hope of Consensus

[ 0 ] September 23, 2005 |

is a fig leaf that can easily be blown away by the winds of political fortune. If we really believe in abortion rights, let us stand up and say so in a form that will resolve the issue once and for all.” As I’ve said previously, I think as political strategy this is profoundly misguided; I should probably explain why in a little more detail.

I do agree with Ed on a couple of points. Most importantly, as I argued in a previous discussion with Publius, I don’t think (David Souter’s valiant attempts in Casey notwithstanding) that stare decisis is a very convincing basis for upholding Roe. On these issues, I’m basically with Thomas; when it comes to constitutional (as opposed to statutory) interpretation it’s more important to get it right than uphold a bad precedent. I think that Roe should be upheld because it was correctly decided, but it’s virtually impossible (I think) to articulate a principled standard that would not allow one to reconsider Roe but would allow the overturning of, say, Bowers v. Hardwick. And certainly stare decisis won’t save Roe if 5 members of the Court are determined to overturn it.

But none of this makes a constitutional amendment viable. Nobody who favors reproductive rights could dispute that a constitutional amendment entrenching Roe would be a good idea. The problem is that 1)there is absolutely no chance of it happening, and 2)in a hypothetical context in which you could get 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states to agree to such an amendment, Roe would obviously not be threatened in the first place. Even though Roe is popular and the Republican-endorsed Human Life Amendment is not, the former doesn’t have any more chance of passing the arduous amendment process than the latter, and using resources to fight for it would be an equally big waste of time. We should leave hopeless amendment fights to opponents of reproductive freedom.

One of the thing that puzzles me, in studying the abortion issue, how many people are desperate to believe that there’s some way of just ending the debate once and for all, despite the obvious incommensurability of the opposing positions. This is just something that I can’t really understand. Here’s the thing: politics is about conflict. Issues like slavery, on which a true consensus that a previous social arrangement was unjust emerges, are exceptionally rare. Most issues don’t end up being resolved by constitutional amendments. (The 14th Amendment, which would be more analogous, is the exception that proves the rule; it had to be ratified by replacing the amendment process by force, arguably its most important provision was immediately gutted by the Supreme Court, and the apartheid system it was designed to pre-empt persisted for damn near a century anyway.) Moreover, the 13th Amendment reflected the new social consensus; it didn’t create it. A constitutional amendment is not a means of winning the abortion debate; it would be a sign that you’ve already won. But it’s winning in the first place where all the work comes in.

The brutal truth is this: there are no guarantees. Protecting the freedom and equality of women is an ongoing political struggle; there’s no way around it. There’s only two viable ways of protecting Roe: 1)winning elections, or 2)making it politically unprofitable for Republicans to appoint justices who will overturn Roe. It’s difficult to accept that core freedoms should be subject to political changes, but as with most freedoms there’s no way around it. There are no shortcuts.

[ 0 ] September 23, 2005 |

Friday Cat Blogging. . . Lizardo and Nola

To: Bobo and Kotkin Re: The Blindingly Obvious

[ 0 ] September 23, 2005 |

Especially in the South, the automatic equation of “Democratic” and “liberal” is utterly ludicrous.

And That Goes Double For Priscilla Owen

[ 0 ] September 22, 2005 |

Lauren finds this quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience Wednesday that she doesn’t like the idea of being the only female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But in choosing to fill one of the two open positions on the court, “any woman will not do,” she said. There are “some women who might be appointed who would not advance human rights or women’s rights,” Ginsburg told those gathered at the New York City Bar Association.

Which is a good time for me to re-quote what Thurgood Marshall said after his resignation:

“My dad told me way back that you can’t use race. For example, there’s no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They’ll both bite.”

The same can be said, of course, of a woman or man wielding a bloody coathanger…

The Anti-Tribble

[ 0 ] September 22, 2005 |

An interesting article on the great Leo Mazzone. The key to his approach can be summed up, I think, in one word–rationality. For example:

There are no parachutes on your back, no cones to run around, no 10 different meetings talking about something that doesn’t concern you. All the other stuff, you don’t partake in. So you spend less time doing nothing, and you spend all your time doing what it is you have to do to get better on the mound.

You don’t think pitchers appreciate that? Running all these drills and doing all this stuff before you get on the mound is not very bright. Your first priority is to get on the mound and practice your craft, without being fatigued from drills that are not going to mean near as much as you trying to make pitches.

This is the sign of quality management, and why Cox and Mazzone have such a great record. If you want to hire a good academic, you should focus on their academic work and teaching, not on what television programs they watch (even if it’s easier to do a quick google search than to look carefully at someone’s dissertation.) And if you want to win the division title every year, you have players do things because they actually work and are connected to developing their skills, not because they allow you to assert your author-i-tah or because your high school coach did it that way. You would think that this would be widely understood, but people like Cox and Mazzone are always a minority.

This can also be seen with respect to Billy Beane. The A’s probably won’t make the playoffs this year, but their record given their payroll and stage of development is remarkable; but, of course, he’s widely hated throughout baseball. The Seattle media for many years discussed the question of Beane vs. the Mariners management as if the question was actually open; uh, I think when the other team beats your brains out every year with a third of the payroll I don’t think there’s really a debate here. And the chief argument against Beane illustrates a misunderstanding of his method, which is sometimes boiled down to being about “statistics.” Beane was overrated, people argue, because the A’s were built on Hudson/Zito/Mulder, and hence their scouts. But that’s completely wrong. Mulder, admittedly, was widely recognized as a great prospect. But Hudson was considered by scouts to be too short, and Zito was considered a flake who didn’t have a good enough fastball. Beane drafted the latter two over the objections of his scouts. The key quote of Moneyball is “we’re not selling jeans here.” The core philosophy of Beane is that talent is about performance, not images. Statistics are part of it because they allow more accurate evaluation of performance, but they’re just a tool; it’s the general philosophy that matters. And the wisdom inherent in the rationality of a Mazzone or Beane goes well beyond baseball.

Count Hackula Tries Political Science

[ 0 ] September 22, 2005 |

Shorter Mickey Kaus: The success of political parties is based entirely on their ability to implement objectively sound public policy and ignore the demands of narrow interest groups, which certainly explains the success of the Bush Administration and the DeLay-led Republican Party. Conversely, the decline of organized labor has obviously not hurt the Democrats in any way.

(Yglesias notes that in addition to the fact that he understands absolutely nothing about politics, he’s also wrong about the merits of the policy.)

Like Elisabeth Rohm Never Happened

[ 0 ] September 22, 2005 |

Admittedly, I watched the first half while writing lectures/editing overdue papers, but tonight’s Law & Order must have been the best episode in many, many years. The plot was fairly interesting, although admittedly pretty similar to the one in which Edie Falco defended a guy who looks like Don Imus (“an irony he gets to ponder for the next 30 years in Attica”). There were some classic corkscrew ethics and a nice DA/ADA conflict. But–I know you won’t believe this–no courtroom scene turned into two lawyers reading position papers about the Iraq War or something; the logic of the story actually played itself out. (They must have used a script from 1996.) And then there was the highly questionable legal manipulations to produce a nice pro-state conclusion, which as a friend notes was always the defining characteristic of the show in its great years (although admittedly the rule of law has been subverted more egregiously in the past; here, just some abuse of judicial discretion.) And, of course, The Sopranos it wasn’t, but then it never was; just good solid middlebrow entertainment, rare enough these days.

Whether this is a fluke or a portends a serious improvement, I don’t know. But the couple post-Rohm episodes I caught last year did seemed OK, so maybe it’s righted itself a bit.

Coward of the County?

[ 0 ] September 21, 2005 |

I’ve discussed this in comments, but I think that it’s also worth a post. Mr. Gardner of Donklephant has repeatedly requested that someone from LGM give him a call in order to converse about the arc/crescent problem, and potentially about our attack on his particular concept of centrism. Since my time is valuable (there are episodes of Law and Order I’ve only seen six times), I haven’t taken him up on his offer, and I suspect that neither Scott nor Dave have, either.

Nonetheless, I find the request troubling for reasons other than my commitment to television. First, I suspect that the conversation would be genuinely pointless, as we have set out our best case and he has set out his. Justin seems to think that “a continuous, immediate dialogue is needed and that’s what a phone conversation can bring”, but I’ve talked to people on the phone before, and I’m unconvinced that the telephone is some sort of magical device that produces consensus. I suspect that this is a symptom of Mr. Gardner’s approach to blogging, which seems to be that a mealy-mouthed centrism is preferable to vigorous pluralism. I very much doubt that any argument can be made over the phone that can’t be made in electronic form.

More important, a phone call between bloggers really does defeat the purpose of, well, blogging. Blogging is a public sphere activity. People come, they read, they comment, they link, and they leave. Debates are held in the open, cases are put forward, arguments are made, answered, and improved upon. I would like to think that the LGM crew has put forth its best arguments, and I suppose it’s possible that Justin has put forth his best. Because this has happened in a public forum, there’s a chance that someone might have learned something, or some mind might have been changed. This discussion could spur someone else at some other blog to write an even more enlightening or convincing post, or (more likely) to unleash an amusing torrent of brutal sarcasm. In any case, the project of blogging is productive because of its public nature, not in spite of it. It follows that taking the debate private isn’t terribly helpful to the general blogging enterprise. In general, I don’t think that it’s terribly appropriate for bloggers to resolve their blogging differences in a private, rather than a public, setting. Now, this would be a bit different if the conflict involved two friends; everyone knows that Erik Loomis, for example, is a yellow bellied chickenhawk for not immediately volunteering for the US Army, but the constraints of friendship force me to rail against him in private while defending him in public. Nobody here knows Justin Gardner from Adam, however, so that constraint doesn’t apply.

I suppose that this is a long winded way of suggesting that publicly asking for a phone call to solve a blogging dispute is a violation of blog etiquette. It’s probably pointless anyway, and the request does a disservice to the blogosphere. Private requests for private communication are more defensible, and just all-around more sensible, really.

Supply Side in a Nutshell

[ 0 ] September 21, 2005 |

Rob Cordry:

Sounds like somebody here is unfamiliar with the work of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school.

Simply put, Jon, supply side economics is when a President cuts taxes. This makes people happy, and him popular. The tax cuts deprive the government of money, and after eight years the deficit balloons to astronomical size. Then, with the economy in tatters, a Democrat is elected. He has to cut the deficit by raising taxes, making people unhappy, and him unpopular, perfectly setting up the next election, when a Republican uses the Democrats tax hikes against them to win back the White House, and start the circle all over again.

Four men won Nobel Prizes for that, Jon.

The Counterspin Theory of Language

[ 1 ] September 21, 2005 |

My vote for the most unintentionally funny thing to appear on the political wing of the internets* is FactChuck admonishing the opponents of Janice Rogers Brown for using her words to imply that, she did, in fact, believe that Social Security was the same as eating human flesh. Brendan Nyhan, former proprietor of the similar and equally useless Spinsanity, is also a big believer in the theory that because he does not believe that words can ever convey anything other than their literal, decontextualized meaning, everyone else must share the belief too. Nyhan applies this new theory of language to Eric Alterman, with hilarious results. And then, in defending Nyhan, Justin Gardner says that I’m make a similar mistake as Alterman, although “he is the Alterman” in this debate. (I admit that I’m a little confused.)

So lest there be any confusion, when I titled this post “John Birch Lives,” I did not in fact mean that John Birch–or even Robert Welch–has risen from his grave and is attacking the International Islamist Conspiracy in zombiefied form. When I used the phrase “the shape that hates America” I was not attributing a belief to opponents of the memorial that the semicircular shape literally feels the emotion of hatred toward the United States. (Well, maybe Charles Johnson.) With respect to the shape/symbol distinction, Justin is simply begging the question. The point of my argument was that I completely reject the claim that a semicircle of maple trees constitutes a symbol of Islam simply because the shapes share some similarities, and proponents of this belief have not provided any evidence whatsoever that this symbolism was intended in any way. I am perfectly clear about the distinction between shapes and symbols, which is why I would not make such a silly conflation; it is people who believe that the Flight 93 memorial is a tribute to Islam who apparently are having trouble with this distinction.

*This phrase is a references to a statement made by President Bush. The author does not in fact believe that there are multiple internets.

Baseball Challenge and College Pick’em Standings

[ 0 ] September 21, 2005 |

In LGM’s Baseball Challenge, Dave Noon has retaken the lead from Erik Loomis. Expect blood to be spilled over the next couple of weeks.

1 Axis of Evel Knievel, d. noon 3096
2 New Mexico Alterdestiny, E. Loomis 3009
3 Discpline And Punish, S. Lemieux 2818
4 Shangri-La Coelacanths, J. Daw 2815
5 Oregon Bearded Duck, R. Farley 2749
6 SLC Maniloff, P. Maniloff 2745
7 Chan Ho Ballpark, P. McLeod 2480
8 Sweet&Tender Hooligans, J. Dudas 2436
9 Exciteable Roland, P. Kerwin 2387

And here are the College Pick’em standings; Loomis and Noon have yet to demonstrate the same talent for football as they have for baseball. My team, however, still blows.

1 Old Old Blue , e. thibodeau 122
2 PantherPundit , M. Schirber 116
3 Largo Housepainter , S. Meredith 112
4 Vulgar Marxism , E. Loomis 110
5 Oregon Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 85
6 Wowee Zowee , M. Stewart 84
7 Axis of Evel Knievel , d. noon 70
7 Plethora of Robots , I. Fish 70

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