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Archive for January, 2008

"Heh, how does Iron Man go to the bathroom?"

[ 1 ] January 31, 2008 |

This may be Mr. Duss’ finest work.


LBJ: The Civil Rights President

[ 0 ] January 31, 2008 |

I was happy to see Ted Kennedy endorse Barack Obama, but he apparently did it in at least some measure for a silly reason:

There’s more to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama than meets the eye. Apparently, part of the reason why the liberal lion from Massachusetts embraced Obama was because of a perceived slight at the Kennedy family’s civil rights legacy by the other Democratic presidential primary frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Sources say Kennedy was privately furious at Clinton for her praise of President Lyndon Baines Johnson for getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act accomplished. Jealously guarding the legacy of the Kennedy family dynasty, Senator Kennedy felt Clinton’s LBJ comments were an implicit slight of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who first proposed the landmark civil rights initiative in a famous televised civil rights address in June 1963.

One anonymous source described Kennedy as having a “meltdown” in reaction to Clinton’s comments. Another source close to the Kennedy family says Senator Kennedy was upset about two instances that occurred on a single day of campaigning in New Hampshire on Jan. 7, a day before the state’s primary.

I suppose the fact that he’s related to JFK gives him marginally more of an excuse to defend his brother’s legacy, but the fact is that JFK consistently dragged his feet on civil rights while LBJ actually got the two most important pieces of civil rights legislation since Reconstruction passed. Clinton’s comments were not only unexceptionable but obviously correct.

…commenters are correct to note that the sourcing on this isn’t exactly airtight.

Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] January 31, 2008 |

Jake Tapper decontextualizes and distorts the perfectly clear statements of Bill Clinton.

A Point of Personal Interest

This post is going to reveal more about me than I usually share in the blog-o-sphere, but oh well. It’s for a good cause.

When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I ate breakfast at the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop, affectionately known as “The Doodle,” every Friday. Some of my favorite college moments were sitting in the twelve-stool diner, eating my $2 deliciously fluffy scrambled eggs with an English Muffin, and chatting with the owner and operator Rick Beckwith, whose grandfather first opened the Doodle 58 years ago. I never competed in the doodle hamburger eating competition because I knew I had no shot at coming close to the record of 26, or 27, or 28. But I dream about those eggs.

And now, because of “financial considerations” the Doodle, which has been open since 1950 in the same spot, is closed. The Yale-funded gentrification that swept Urban Outfitters, J. Crew, and Au Bon Pain into New Haven has now robbed the city of one of its real treasures (and yes, New Haven haters, there are treasures in the city).

But hopefully the Doodle will not remain closed forever. There’s a movement afoot to Save the Doodle.

Save the Doodle!

All of which is just to ask that any of you who have any connection to Yale, have ever eaten at the Doodle while passing through New Haven, have ever had a favorite coffee shop drive out of business by the big chain stores, please help save the Doodle. And then, when it reopens, make a little trip to New Haven and try the scrambled eggs.

A Clerisy of Clerisies

[ 15 ] January 31, 2008 |

Via Yglesias, Dean Baker has some tough words for the Washington Post and the Beltway media more generally:

Rather than acknowledge that the experts on whom they rely had badly misunderstood the problems facing the economy, the Post just acted as though nothing had changed. “Everyone agrees we need stimulus.” Isn’t that simple?

This refusal to acknowledge fallibility stems from the same sort of anti-democratic impulse displayed by the Soviet-era press. Just as the Soviet press wanted the public to trust the wisdom of the party bosses, the Post and other pillars of the elite media want the public to believe that the experts who are the insiders on the decision-making process in Washington are uniquely qualified to craft policy.

Quite right. This reminds me of the debate several months ago about the “foreign policy clerisy”, one facet of which investigated whether the foreign policy clerisy was unique or simply one of several communities of experts who essentially controlled the parameters of policy discussion. I leaned pretty heavily towards the latter position, and Baker seems to agree:

Of course this is true for all areas of public policy, not just economic policy. Does anyone who failed to recognize that invading Iraq would lead to a long and costly occupation deserve to be viewed as an expert on Middle East policy? But the Post and other elite media outlets perform a beautification process whereby even the most enormous mistakes are conveniently swept under the rug.

Misunderstanding the economy’s weakness earlier this month is trivial compared to the much more grandiose mistake of failing to recognize the $8 trillion housing bubble, or before that, a $10 trillion stock bubble. If performance mattered, then the experts who got things so hugely wrong would no longer be the ones shaping public policy. Instead, with the Washington Post style beautification process, experts can jump from policy disaster to policy disaster and never have their failures affect their standing.

If we are ever to have an open debate on economics, or any other area of public policy, we will need media that honestly discuss policy failures and that hold those in charge accountable. In the current situation, the economic disaster facing the economy was entirely preventable, but the Federal Reserve and the rest of the inside crew were either too incompetent to recognize the housing bubble or felt the short-term benefits outweighed the costs that the country would inevitably face when the bubble burst. The Post and most other major news outlets chose to hide any serious debate on the problems posed by the bubble on the way up, and they would like to prevent any discussion of this massive policy failure even in retrospect.

In a related development, Matt Duss and I are currently working on a project that investigates the origins of the foreign policy clerisy, and includes some musings about its coming collapse. We’ll keep you updated.

Bulwer-Lytton Awards, Abject Wankery Division

[ 44 ] January 31, 2008 |

Thers discovers more high comedy from Ben “CTRL-C CTRL-V” Domenech, whose abysmal prose makes for a strong case that he should really just go back to ripping of P.J. O’Rourke. Best I can fathom from reading this interminable self-gropery, the Box Turtle is supporting McCain because he’s like Don Quixote, Abe Simpson and Henry VIII rolled into one, and because McCain had his photo taken with Ronald Reagan a few times, and because — I dunno, something about Bob Dole and peanut butter — and then there’s always Jesus.

They will say the [Reagan] coalition is dead — but we will know better. We know it only sleeps. We will cast our votes knowing that the day will come, four years from now, when a new leader, one who knows what the shining city truly means, stands in front of the fresh-dug tomb, and calls into the blackness, as if to Lazarus — “Come out!”

And when we hear it, we will rise from out of our stupor, dust cobwebs from our arms, stumble to the door, our eyes blinking in the sunlight . . . and we will know our day has come.

Uh, Ben? Best I can recall, Lazarus was not “only” sleeping. He was, you know, actually dead.

I realize that describing Ben Domenech as a “writer” is like describing Maureen Dowd as a “human,” but if awards were being handed out for the worst prose in the blogosphere, it would be hard to deny the boy his due.

High Contrarianism Progress Report

[ 13 ] January 31, 2008 |

You may recall Ben Wittes arguing that once Mukasey was dutifully confirmed he wouldn’t be able to stonewall because the Democrats would suddenly have more leverage him because Mukasey would…need them to accomplish some unspecified things. I was criticized for thinking that this was less than plausible. How’s it working out?

Over the course of a long, maddening day, it’s quickly manifest that Mukasey’s legal opinions have a 30-second shelf life. He won’t opine on what’s happened in the past and he won’t opine on anything that might happen in the future. When Sen. Arlen Specter—concerned about seven years of vast new claims of executive authority—asks Mukasey whether, in his view, the president “can break any law he pleases because he’s the president—including, say, statutes banning torture,” as well as FISA and the National Security Act, Mukasey replies, “I can’t contemplate any situation in which this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.”

“Well, he did just that when he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Specter shoots back. Mukasey’s response? “Both of those issues have been brought within statutes.”

Specter is flabbergasted: “But he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know,” Mukasey replies. But does is really matter? What’s past is past.

Amazing — apparently Mukasey didn’t get the memo.

Hey Now…

[ 0 ] January 31, 2008 |

The status of my meth habit is irrelevant to the question at hand.

…although I think it is appropriate to state at this time that James McMurtry’s Choctaw Bingo is likely the best song that will ever be written about meth.

Nader: Threw The Election To Bush

[ 94 ] January 31, 2008 |

I hate to go through this again, but we have a commenter trying to claim that Nader didn’t throw the election to Bush:

*All votes that Nader received in Florida would have gone to Gore instead;

*The appearance of Nader did not lead to people registering in Florida in order to vote for Gore;

*That Gore would have had the same positions without Nader in the race that he had with Nader in the race, thus meaning that no voters would have shifted from Bush to Gore in the absence of Nader; and

*That the Republicans would not have found a way to steal the Florida election.

The first, and most important, claim is of course transparently wrong; not every single Nader voter would have had to vote for Gore, just enough to throw Florida to Bush. And according to Nader’s own data, this was the case:

Nader is at his slipperiest on the issue of whether his campaign tipped the election to George W. Bush. The evidence that he did so is unambiguous. First, by repeating his charge that there was no significant ideological distance between the two major-party candidates, Nader helped bolster the message of Bush, who sought to blur unpopular Republican positions on key issues. Second, by peeling off substantial blocks of liberals in states such as Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin, he forced Al Gore to devote precious time and money to shoring up states that would (if not for Nader) have been safely Democratic, leaving him fewer resources for swing states such as Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Third, and most directly, Nader won 97,488 votes in Florida. Appearing on a talk show after the election, Nader cited polls that showed that, had he not run, only 38 percent of his voters would have backed Gore versus 25 percent for Bush. Strangely, Nader held up these numbers as a defense against the spoiler charge. Yet the very data cited by Nader, if applied to Florida, shows that he took a net 12,000 votes from Gore — more than enough to hand the state, and the electoral college, to Bush.

So it’s clear that Nader fulfilled the only significant goal of his campaign and threw the election to Bush. The other points made in Nader’s defense are no more persuasive. On #2, if anyone has evidence that Nader’s relentless vilification of Gore and claims that which candidate was elected didn’t matter caused a net positive number of people to register and vote for Gore let’s see it. On #3, 1)again there’s no evidence whatsoever for this having an effect, 2)the states in which an alleged hard turn to the left in Gore’s rhetoric which no Naderite noticed at the time would have been likely to have a net benefit were states Gore won so overwhelmingly minor shifts in rhetoric would have made little difference, and 3)the rhetorical point cuts both ways; how many people did Nader dissuade from voting for Gore with his nonsensical claims that he was indistinguishable from Bush? And on #4, this cannot be known for certain, but we do know that Republicans didn’t steal any other state in which the Dems won a narrow victory. If the Democrats came out ahead in the initial vote count they almost certainly would have held on, especially since the nature of electoral system means that recounts would work in the Democrats’ favor. GOP malfeasance doesn’t let Nader off the hook. And finally, to pre-empt this coming up in comments, the fact that Nader wouldn’t have been able to throw the election to Bush under a more rational electoral system is completely irrelevant to anything.

If Nader doesn’t run, no Bush. It really is that simple.

Orcinus Fundraiser

[ 3 ] January 31, 2008 |

After publishing what I still think is the most useful review of Liberal Fascism, Dave Neiwert has devoted much of the past several weeks handing Jonah Goldberg his own ass — digging into Pantload’s bogus sources, pointing out his gaping ignorance about the scholarly literature on fascism, and engaging him directly on the substance of the book’s argument (as opposed to — ahem — some people around here, who get their kicks by writing Goldberg fake letters of praise….)

In any event, Orcinus is running a fundraiser at the moment. If Dave and Sarah are semi-regular reads of yours, consider dropping them a few nickels. For chrissakes, if Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee can ask his readers to buy him a new grill….


[ 15 ] January 31, 2008 |

Brighter than Creation’s Dark is finally starting to grow on me. I’ll have a full write up tomorrow or the next day, but until then I leave you with some favorites of mine from Mike Cooley:

So I’ll meet you at the bottom if there really is one
They always told me when you hit it you’ll know it
But I’ve been falling so long it’s like gravity’s gone and I’m just floating
Gravity’s Gone

Well, my daddy didn’t pull out, but he never apologized
Rock and Roll means well, but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies.
Marry Me

And I ain’t gonna crawl upon no high horse
Cause I got thrown off of one
when I was young and I ain’t no cowboy
so I ain’t going where I don’t belong.
When the Pin Hits the Shell

I got friends in Nashville, or at least they’re folks I know
Nashville is where you go to see if what they said is so
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac

Your Brother was the first-born, got ten fingers and ten toes
And it’s a damn good thing cause
He needs all twenty to keep the closet door closed
Zip City

Thank You

[ 0 ] January 30, 2008 |

I just wanted to say thanks to all of LGM’s commenters. You guys really are the best. You could win a knife fight against any group of blog commenters on the intertubes.

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