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Archive for June, 2006

It’s Official

[ 0 ] June 19, 2006 |

Ugh. My sentiments here. As zuzu suggests, I’m not entirely sure what the forced pregnancy lobby and its legislative supporters are up to in LA and SD. As I’ve said before, there’s the potential to use this somewhat atypical candor as a wedge, but pro-choicers have to take the initiative and be clever about it.

…in comments, MJD solves the puzzle: “Clearly she got god’s message (via Pat Robertson?) and if LA stops killing babies they won’t get hit with another hurricane. It’s cheaper than fixing the levees.”

Narrowing The CWA

[ 0 ] June 19, 2006 |

The Supreme Court handed down a divided opinion about the applicability of the Clean Water Act today. I’ll let my two legal-eagle guest bloggers (and environmental policy specialist co-blogger) parse out the details; in summary, existing Army Corps of Engineers interpretation of the scope of the CWA are no longer applicable, the court’s four most reactionary members wanted a very narrow ruling (apparently we can add “deference to the reasonable interpretations of executive branch officials” as another asserted principle that Scalia is happy to abandon), the JPS/RBG/DS /SB dissents wanted to uphold the existing standards, and Kennedy played the O’Connor role of muddying the jurisdictional waters to the point where they’re opaque (as Roberts pointed out.) Although the Commerce Clause evidently lurks in the background, it’s essentially a statutory interpretation case, so it’s not entirely clear how far Roberts and Alito will go in adopting the New Federalism standard yet, although the narrow construction of the statute provides a good guess…

Quick Notes On Hudson

[ 0 ] June 19, 2006 |

With respect to the merits of Hudson v. Michigan, I remain mostly happy to second iocaste and Lindsay. I have a couple of additional points:

  • Orin Kerr notes the distinctly non-originalist nature of Scalia’s opinion. (I disagree with Publius that this means that Scalia didn’t write and perhaps barely read the opinion; for Scalia to submit non-originalist opinions to reach desired outcomes is utterly banal.) Scalia’s defenders might argue that Scalia’s preferred option would be to entirely overturn the exclusionary rule–something which could be justified in originalist terms–but this was the best available outcome, so he took what he could get. In isolation, that’s true enough; it’s fairly run-of-the-mill strategizing, and there’s no such thing as a Supreme Court justice that doesn’t do it. The problem is the insufferable arrogance of Scalia and his followers, who constantly accuse others of being unprincipled hacks while ignoring his own tendency to abandon even his shallow law-office history when it threatens to produce inconvenient policy results, which in the wake of Bush v. Gore has become particularly intolerable.
  • Publius, who as has been widely noted has the best defense I’ve seen of the opinion, leads us to another argument, which can be summarized as: given that I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with utilitarian analysis what’s wrong with Scalia’s opinion? Like Radley Balko, where I completely disagree with Publius is in Scalia’s pragmatic justifications, which I found entirely unconvincing. (Breyer, who is at least an open pragmatist, takes the empirical evidence much more seriously.) Publius is right, of course, that the exclusionary rule is just a remedy, and because of its consequences it would be preferable if there was a better one. The problem is that neither he nor Scalia takes any account of the fact that using civil liability as a disincentive to unconstitutional behavior is not remotely viable politically. When Congress passes the “Ice Cream Castles In The Air. And A Pony!” act creating an effective, viable civil remedy for this particular violation of the 4th Amendment I might happily join Publius and Scalia, but until then, nope. Moreover, if we’re going to be good utilitarians, perhaps we should go all the way and consider the context of the drug war. No-knock searches (like most of the ongoing gutting of effective Fourth Amendment protections) are particularly endemic to the War On Some Classes of People Who Use Some Drugs, made necessary by the facts that the criminal transaction is consensual and outside of normal public bookkeeping and the only evidence can usually be disposed of quickly. So perhaps we should ask: what compelling public interest is being served by the WOSCoPWUSD that makes it worth turning it into a solvent into which the Bill of Rights is slowly dissolved? A violent criminal being released because evidence is suppressed is a serious public cost (but how often does this actually happen?), but person X rather than person Y selling the drugs that will inevitably be sold as long as there’s a demand, rather less so. In the cases most likely to be affected by effectively removing any legal barrier to the no-knock rule, the risk of excluded evidence isn’t all that appalling, and to my mind doesn’t remotely outweigh the negative externalities. In addition, some evidence that the militarization of some police forces is an effective means of stopping crime would also be nice, but (correct me if I’m wrong) I can’t find it in Scalia’s opinion. Scalia’s argument not only fails on originalist grounds, but fails on its own pragmatic terms as well.

Father’s Day

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

If you’re one of the millions of us whose personal histories leave you with less than warm and fuzzy feelings on this particular day, I strongly suggest you go read read the much-missed Jesse Taylor’s powerful and remarkable father’s day post from last year, which Amanda has been kind enough to re-run, which I somehow managed to miss last year.

I’ll Bet You Retell the Story to Your Family Every Christmas

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

Cereal in the Bowl, Not on the Floor

IN theory at least, pouring a bowl of cereal is one of the simplest tasks imaginable. But early-morning grogginess can wreak havoc on a person’s eye-hand coordination, occasionally turning the act of dishing out corn flakes into a messy adventure.

To correct this age-old design flaw, [Phillippe] Meert developed the Cerealtop, a yellow and red plastic cover that latches onto a cereal box and channels its crunchy contents through a resealable, trapezoidal hole.

And how did you come up with the idea for such a thing?

Four years ago, while on a business trip in Los Angeles, he tried to start his day with a healthy breakfast.

“I poured cereal into this bowl, and a lot of the cereal ended up on the table,” said Mr. Meert, a product designer who lives in Erpe-Mere, Belgium.

Again, again, tell it again!

2500

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

Armchair Generalist, responding to Tony Snow’s claim that 2500 “is a number”:

No, Tony. It’s not a number. “No. 2500″ had a face, family, and friends. Not that he was one of your friends – asshole.

Yes… but.

There’s no doubt that the death of the 2500th American serviceman in Iraq is a tragedy. However, that particularly death is no more or less tragic than death 1831, death 722, or death 118. I concur that Snow was displaying the flip attitude towards casualties that this administration has become famous for, an attitude that is both infuriating and inexcusable. On the other hand, though, he’s kind of right.

A war supporter made the point to me that numbers like 2500 are for all intents and purposes politically meaningless, and I think that he was right. The debate on either side of the war would not be affected a whit if the number was 1250 or if the number was 5000. Indeed, I’m not convinced that doubling or halving the casualty number would even give a reliable indication as to whether the war was going well. Casualty rates are far more useful for evaluating such claims than absolute casualty numbers.

Nor does the number 2500, or even 5000, represent some kind of upper limit on what the United States ought to be willing to sacrifice in a war. The willingness to accept a cost in blood has to be proportionate to the goals pursued and the benefits expected of a military action. If I had believed that Hussein was two weeks away from a nuke, and that he would immediately have handed that nuke over to Osama Bin Laden, and that he had planned and helped bankroll 9/11, and that he was about to invade Kuwait again, and that his removal would cause democracy to spring all over the Middle East etc., then I daresay 10000 American dead would not have been too high a price to pay for his ouster. Since I’m not an idiot, I didn’t believe any of those things. It’s impossible to come up with a specific number of American servicemen that I would have been willing to sacrifice to eliminate Hussein, but it’s fair to say that 2500 is way too many.

Nevertheless, Tony Snow has a point. The issues that render the Iraq War just or sensible have almost nothing to do with the tragic death of the 2500th American serviceman in Iraq. Invoking that number (and I don’t mean to pick on Jason; lots of bloggers have mentioned it, but his comment had a characteristic blunt elegance) doesn’t really tell us anything new about what’s happening in Iraq. The next number to receive serious attention will be 2987 (one more than died on September 11), but its occurence will be no more relevant to the war, or even to the evaluation of our current progress in the war, than was 2500.

News and Notes

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

First things first, thanks deeply to Steve Gimbel and Dan Nexon for helping out over the past two weeks. If you enjoyed their work, please visit Duck of Minerva and Philosopher’s Playground in the future; good guest blogging deserves a reward, and Lord knows, we’re not paying them.

  • Loomis has been doing some good work lately; read Death and the American West,his piece on the King papers, and his post on teaching evaluations. Alterdestiny also appears to have metastasized in the last few days, so make sure to check it out.
  • Yglesias helpfully summarizes my thinking on the Lamont-Lieberman tilt. Dave, of course, has already commented productively on this question.
  • Bill Petti has an excellent post on just how useless the Osirak analogy is for any kind of proliferation-related defense planning.
  • I’m about halfway through the Patterson School Summer Reading List, a list that all current and incoming Patterson students are supposed to digest. I’ve finished Packer, Saunders, Pollack, the Mearsheimer/Walt, and I’m about halfway through Colossus. In an effort to preserve what little dignity I still have, I’m steadfastly refusing to read The World is Flat… I plan to review all of these for LGM.

.. and a good time was had by all me.

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

My time at LGM has come to an end. I want to thank Rob for letting me guest post, and to LGM”s readers for their wonderful and challenging comments. Special thanks to LB for participating in our intra-blog debate.

When you have the chance, please be sure to take a look at my own group blog, The Duck of Minerva. We’ve got a fantastic team of (in general) left-of-center international-relations specialists. Just like LGM, our topics range beyond international relations: to popular culture, geekery, baseball, and all manner of other subjects. This morning’s posts include an interesting reflection by Dr. Peter Howard (American University) on what the U.S. Government “knows” about the state of Iraq and what I hope to be my final entry in the Linda Hirshman debate.

As always, you can also find my incoherent, poorly edited contributions to the burning issues of our time in the comments section here at LGM.

What Is Wrong With These People?!? Nth In A Continuing Series On The New York Times Modern Love Column.

[ 0 ] June 18, 2006 |

For once, the relationship described in the Modern Love column doesn’t sound intrinsically nightmarish — there’s nothing wrong with a liberal woman falling in love with a guy in the military. You can have a wonderful relationship with someone you disagree wilth about all kinds of things. Admittedly, the fact that the guy involved appears to be a cartoon rather than anything recognizably human could be a problem, but given that the writer also appears to be a cartoon, they’re well matched.

No, this one is bizarre on grounds of gun safety. Look at the first two sentences:

MY husband is like the Lone Ranger: he leaves a trail of bullets in his wake. Not silver bullets, but gold 9 millimeters, orange “simunitions” and menacing hollow-points with bronze tips.

I find them at the bottom of the washing machine, next to the pile of mail in our front hall or mixed in a heap of change.

Now, I’m just an urban non-gun-owning liberal, but surely that can’t be a sensible way to treat ammunition. After all, do bullets even work after they’ve been through the wash? (also at Unfogged.)

Sunday Battleship Blogging:Sevastopol

[ 2 ] June 18, 2006 |

The annihilation of the Baltic Fleet at Tsushima left Russia short of battleships. Although the Tsar was successfully persuaded not to dispatch the Black Sea Fleet to Asia, the two major Russian fleets had historically been distinct units, and transfers between them were rare. The construction of Dreadnought rendered all remaining Russian battleships obsolete anyway, so the Russians were forced to rebuild from scratch. Russia commissioned battleship designs from Italy and France, and finally settled on what amounted to a hybrid, although the new design resembled the Italian Dante Alighieri more than any other ship.

Sevastopol was laid down in 1909, but because of inefficiency and corruption at Russian naval yards, was not completed until November of 1914. She carried 12 12″ guns in four triple turrets, not superfiring. This meant that she had a 12 gun broadside but only a 3 gun end-on fire, a serious design flaw. Sevastopol displaced 24000 tons and could make 23.5 knots. The speed was the only plus element of the design, as Sevastopol had relatively light armor. It should be noted that this was an extremely poor design choice for a ship likely to operate in the Baltic Sea. There is no question that Sevastopol and her sisters were hopelessly outclassed by foreign competition upon completion. The British Iron Duke, the American New York, the Chilean/British Canada, the Austrian Viribus Unitis, the Japanese Kongo, and the German Konig were all completed prior to Sevastopol, and were all notably superior in design and performance. The design also failed aesthetically; Sevastopol and her sisters were probably the ugliest battleships ever built.

Adding to the Russian difficulties were problems of geography. The Russian Baltic Fleet was hemmed in by the far superior German High Seas Fleet, and consequently rarely left port. Sevastopol and her three sisters rusted in Petrograd for most of the war. The unstable political situation in Russia didn’t help, as maintenance and morale suffered. Sevastopol was laid up in late 1918, and not recommissioned until 1923. While in reserve, she was renamed Parizhskaya Kommuna (Paris Commune) in a victory of ideology over nationalism. After an overhaul, Parizhskaya Kommuna was returned to service. Because all of the dreadnoughts of the Black Sea Fleet had been sunk or captured during World War I and the Civil War, and because the Soviet state lacked the fiscal capacity to rebuild the Fleet, it was eventually decided to dispatch Parizhskaya Kommuna to the Crimea. After a refit in early 1929, PK embarked for Sevastopol.

The journey did not go well. The refit included a new bow design that did not perform well in heavy seas. PK nearly sank during a storm in the Bay of Biscay, and had to put into Brest for repairs. The Soviet authorities were embarrassed by the incident, and mandated that the repairs be conducted only by the crew. I suspect it also likely that the crew was mildly embarrassed to be sailing a ship named “Paris Commune” into a French port. PK put back to sea three days later, and almost sank again. Upon her return to Brest, adequate repairs were performed by French workers. PK arrived in Sevastopol in January of 1930.

In the Black Sea, PK was a big fish in a small pond. The only other capital ship in the area was the Turkish Yavuz, and PK probably could have stood her own against the aging German battlecruiser. PK was modernized between 1934 and 1938, and played an active role in World War II, operating against German positions in the Crimea and keeping the tiny Romanian Navy in check. In 1943 the Soviets noticed that Paris Commune was a ridiculous name for a Russian battleship operating in the Black Sea, and changed her name back to Sevastopol. The Germans had air superiority over the Black Sea for a time, and Sevastopol suffered bombing damage during the course of the war. After the war Sevastopol became a training ship, and was finally scrapped in 1957.

Trivia: What was the last veteran battleship of World War I sold for scrap by the Royal Navy, and why was she last?

Dare to Dream

[ 0 ] June 17, 2006 |

Ezra suggests that, at least in California, initiatives are becoming toxically unpopular. I certainly hope that this is true, although I wonder how much of this was related to the unpopularity of the political figures involved. In a related and highly gratifying development, however, it must be noted that Washington state uberonanist Tim Eyman’s attempt to branch out from idiotic economically reactionary initiatives to idiotic culturally reactionary initiatives–this one a repeal of the state’s civil rights protections for gays and lesbians–failed to even make it to the ballot. I’m cautiously optimistic that in the western states the virtues of representative democracy may be becoming more evident.

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive.

[ 0 ] June 17, 2006 |

So I asked for someone to point out flaws in that study of day care in Quebec I blogged on the other day, purporting to show significant negative effects from the introduction of a heavily subsidized daycare program. Linda Hirshman, (who I’m becoming quite the fan of) obliges, pointing to a critique of the study by some researchers at the University of British Columbia. The main point of the critique is that the Quebec study does not look at any population of children known to be in day care; it also points out that it contradicts many other better focussed studies. Worth a look if you’re interested. (also at Unfogged.)

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