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Archive for October, 2007

Of Course Torture Works

[ 17 ] October 31, 2007 |

Silly rabbit; treating your captive as a guest may be more effective at actually getting, you know, intelligence, but that hardly means that it works as effectively at torture. You see, the misconception here is that torture is designed to elicit information. In fact, torture (in the contemporary American context) is designed to demonstrate masculinity and Will; to sort of those who are “serious” about protecting America from those who aren’t. Simply demonstrating that torture doesn’t produce good intelligence can’t reduce its political attractiveness, because after all eliciting information was never the point.

Torture: It sorts the real heroes from the girly men like nothing else.


The Madness of MoDo

[ 0 ] October 31, 2007 |

Molly Ivors does a good job with the latest bit of vacuous misogyny from Maureen Dowd, whose presence on a major op-ed page remains and will always be an absolute disgrace. A couple more points are worth emphasizing. First, none of this has the slightest shred of substantive significance; the idea (also now being propounded by Slate) that pop-psych anecdotes about people’s marriages tell us anything interesting about a presidential candidate’s performance is nothing but a cover for journalists who prefer lazy gossip to actually doing their jobs. The second is that Dowd, as always, doesn’t seem to understand feminism. Not only is feminism (to use Jessica Valenti’s line) not Maureen Dowd’s dating service, most intelligent feminists understand that feminism does not provide any single answer to the question “what should you do if your husband gets a blowjob from somebody else?” Some feminists are in open marriages. Some forgive adultery as anybody in a long-term relationship has to forgive some mistakes. Some will find it intolerable and leave. Feminism is a way of evaluating a relationship, not (leaving aside violence, etc.) a set of one-size-fits-all answers about how to deal with every situation. And finally, it should be obvious (and this is the biggest reason why such analysis is so useless) that Clinton would have been condemned no matter what she did. If she had left her husband, she would be a cold man-hating shrew with no respect for the institution of marriage; since she stayed with her husband, she’s somehow an ambitious schemer who is betraying feminism (which is not betrayed, apparently, by sexist smears on her candidacy in the New York Times.) She can’t win.

There is one value to Dowd’s column: it reminds us of the amount of sexism Clinton is going to be subject to in the general. If Clinton runs against Giuliani, you can bet the ranch that to Dowd, Matthews, Russert et al. the adultery of Clinton’s husband will be a bigger issue than the actual adultery (and callous humiliation of his wife and children, etc.) of the Republican candidate.


[ 30 ] October 31, 2007 |
Above: Audrey encounters a surprisingly life-like replica of Atlas Shrugs.

….SN! link fixed

Tear Out My Hair Moment of the Day

From the NY Times:

When you haven’t changed your curriculum in 150 years, at some point you look around,” said Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law.

The impetus for the changes is the sense that what has been taught and how it has been taught may be “embarrassingly disconnected from what anybody does,” Ms. Kagan said.

Those concerns were highlighted in a report on legal education published this year by the Carnegie Foundation. The report found that law schools generally stressed analytic training over ethical, interpersonal and other skills that could help them practice law after graduation.

This comes as no surprise to those of us in law school or practicing as lawyers. My (our) response is “ya think?!” But in the middle of the week from hell, I can only laugh. And then go back to engaging in legal reasoning disconnected from my real world future practice.


[ 57 ] October 31, 2007 |

MILS asks, in the endorsement thread, why I hate Tim Russert. I thought it was a joke, but then I remembered that this is our friend Mike in Lake Stevens, who is holding our “fair and balanced blog” certificate and won’t give it to us until I get around to my promised and as yet undelivered mockery of Chris Matthews. I’ll get to it soon, I promise, but in the meantime, I’ll answer your question:

Russert’s various attempts at “gotcha” questions are profoundly obnoxious. A good moderator asks occasional point-blank questions that cut through the bullshit, and Russert acts like that’s what he’s doing, but he’s not. Take his Iran question, for example. He could have asked about their assessment of the Iranian problem and their planned strategy and tactics, but instead we got (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Rudy Gulliani has made the following drunken irresponsible boast; will you join him, or dare to attempt a silly answer that, given the current framing of the issue and the 30 seconds you’ve got, is pretty much guaranteed to look like weak and equivocating waffling?” Same thing on the drivers’ license for illegal immigrants question–rather than ask them about their approach to immigration policy, he hammered away at Clinton on whether and how much she supported Spitzer’s widely misunderstood attempt at a coping strategy for dealing with the current failed policies of immigration being undertaken at the state level (why taking a stand on this issue is relevant for candidates for federal office remains unclear), and tried to make her efforts to talk about immigration policy seriously look like a dodge on her part.

There has been a common standard form for Russert’s questions, and it goes something like this:

Russert: I demand you give an unequivocal answer to this bizarre micro-question on a peripheral topic of a larger important issue, designed to tie you down to what will likely be an unpopular stance.

Candidate: (attempts to talk about the actual issue)

Russert, interrupting: Why won’t you answer my question?? What are you hiding?

Politicians peddle bullshit all the time. The fact that the debate moderators routinely outdo do them on this score is apalling.

What has Become of America?

[ 0 ] October 31, 2007 |

Hey, now. Rocky Balboa single-handedly protected America’s vital supply of white women from the threat of unruly black men by beating down Clubber Lang, then he brought down the Soviet Union by knocking out Ivan Drago. And this is the thanks he gets?

How soon we forget…

Air Force Round-up

[ 0 ] October 31, 2007 |

Got some good reactions out there to my Air Force abolition article:

  • David Axe is participating in a roundtable on the article, the results of which will be available tomorrow. He’s also written a couple of posts at War is Boring.
  • Jason Sigger is also a participant in the roundtable, and has a long and detailed response at Armchair Generalist.
  • Mike Burleson at New Wars has a short response, as does Texas Scribbler.
  • Neptunus Lex has a reply in which he more or less comes down on the “interesting idea but…” side. Also see the discussion.
  • JOHCA at Johca’s Conversation has a long, detailed, and very good response. Read the whole thing, but it more or less comes down to the argument that the services no longer plan (as organizations) to fight wars, thus while a division based on capacity to independently fight and win war might have made sense in 1947, it makes little sense now. He also makes the point that inclusion of the Air Force in the Army will severely circumscribe its strategic capabilities. For me that’s a feature, not a bug; I think that the Air Force is largely inept at strategic power projection in the first place, and that a reduction of emphasis on that mission would be of benefit in either a counter-insurgency conflict or in a conventional war. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting post.

I’ll post a link to the Prospect roundtable when it comes out.

Death Penalty Moratorium

[ 28 ] October 31, 2007 |

It’s all but official: the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for a prisoner in Mississippi, “and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.” Scalia and the man who put the doctrinaire conservative in “moderation” Sam Alito — but not Thomas or Roberts — dissented.

It seems almost certain, however, that this stay will be temporary and executions will resume after the case comes down next year. Although the possibility that we’re torturing people to death strikes me as more substantial Eighth Amendment grounds than the recent limitations on the death penalty found by the Supreme Court, preventing the execution of adolescents and the mentally handicapped represents a relatively small number of cases, lethal injection involves virtually every execution in the country. I can’t imagine Kennedy voting to require stringent standards of evidence from the states in this instance.

She’s a "Legal Blogger?" Are You Sure?

[ 15 ] October 31, 2007 |

I suppose it would be too much to hope that she’ll drunk-vlog this event:

CIS/SLATA Panel: How Blogs Impact Legal Discourse

Blogging about legal issues is a growing phenomena and a wholly new format for legal dialog and exchange. The panel will investigate and discuss how legal discourse is impacted by the advent and growth in blogging . . . .

Ann Althouse: Ann Althouse is the Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and currently a Visiting Professor at Brooklyn Law School. She teaches and writes about constitutional law and federal courts. Since January 2004, she’s been blogging prolifically at Althouse which receives over 20,000 page views a day.

Let’s see. In Althouse’s last legal issues-related post, she defended Yale Law School’s decision to admit Elizabeth Wurtzel after her “literary” career sluiced deservedly through the grate. Offering her entirely predictable brief on behalf of talentless, dysfunctional loons, Althouse insisted YLS made the right move, since Wurtzel’s presence in the classroom promised to “spice up the mix.” The rest of the month’s entries appear to be the usual fare — half-witted posts about presidential debates, thrown together with slanty photographs of her latest cup of coffee.

If Althouse counts as a legal blogger, then I write birthday cards for Hallmark.

Let the Backtracking Commence!

Shorter Judge Mukasey: ok, ok, you win. Waterboarding is bad. Now can you just confirm me?

Quote of the Day

[ 7 ] October 31, 2007 |

From commenter Imag:

If Hitler had been able to compare stuff to Hitler, he totally would have done so.

Right; to the extent that invocation of Hitler has become insipid shorthand for having nothing useful to say while demanding extreme measures, Adolf Hitler himself would have used his own example extensively. Leni Riefenstahl would have prominently featured him in Triumph of the Will, in a manner not unlike the way that Norm Podhoretz uses him today. Hitler is a convenient excuse for whatever policy you want to pursue, irrespective of what that policy may be; the original Hitler would undoubtedly have depicted Sławoj-Składkowski, Daladier, Chamberlain, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin as Hitlers, bent on world domination.

On Endorsing…

[ 35 ] October 31, 2007 |

I’m not ready to endorse any candidate for the Democratic nomination. I was leaning heavily towards Obama (I went to an Obama rally in Lexington last month, and it was fantastic), but his moves on Social Security and his campaign more generally hasn’t impressed me. I’m now re-thinking John Edwards; he has until now struck me as a candidate who perpetually punches under his weight, and I don’t like the idea of having to nominate another southern white man, but this southern white man also happens to be the most progressive legitimate candidate in the race, so it’s hard for me to discount him.

And then there’s Hilary. This is the thing about Hilary; I firmly believe that she would win a knife fight staged between the Democratic contenders, and that’s no small consideration. I also believe that she hates Republicans more than any of the Democratic candidates. I think the Republicans know this, which is why they fear her more than any other Democrat. At the same time, she’s clearly the most conservative major Democratic candidate. I should say that I don’t take all that seriously arguments that she can’t win in the general election; in general I think that the appeal of candidates in the general isn’t as predictable as we’d like to think, and specifically I think that Hilary’s strengths will be just as important (and perhaps more important) in November 2008 as her liabilities.

But for now I’m undecided.

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