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Archive for August, 2008


[ 28 ] August 29, 2008 |


Well, I guess maybe that secures Alaska’s 3 electoral votes for McCain. It should also play well in British Columbia. If McCain is picking Palin (and we should note that this hasn’t exactly been confirmed) in order to appeal to PUMAs, then I have to wonder whether the folks at Confluence, Corrente, and No Quarter haven’t done Barack Obama a fantastic favor…


Rules of the Game

[ 0 ] August 29, 2008 |

China isn’t comfortable with the rules Russia wants to play with.

A summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a seven- nation security alliance that includes China and four former Soviet republics, yesterday declined to back its recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions. China expressed “concern,” said Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

As Doug suggests, territorial integrity is a value that Russia really shouldn’t have expected China to have a sense of humor about. In every international forum worth the name, China has fought for the supremacy of territorial sovereignty over the right of self-determination, and Russia is invoking the latter in defending its actions in South Ossetia.

I also think it would be correct to say that China and Russia don’t share the same approach to international society as it exists in 2008. Part of Russia’s point in using excessive force against Georgia was to thumb its nose at the West; it wanted to indicate that the rules that purport to govern relations between sovereign states in the rest of the world don’t apply to the Russian near abroad. Rather, a different set of rules, closer to a nineteenth century realist understanding of spheres of influence, should (and will) dictate how Russia relates to its neighbors. While China has certainly engaged in belligerence toward some of its neighbors, there is no pattern of coercion similar to Russia’s neighborhood behavior. Trade relations are conducted pretty much above board, and territorial disputes a)typically have some good cause, and b)don’t seem to poison the rest of the relationship. China even manages to have dense and intricate trade ties with Taiwan. Moreover, I think that China has determined that it can better pursue its national interest (which amounts to the survival of the CCP) within the current international normative framework than outside it. Being within that framework also allows China to manipulate the normative structure to some degree, such that the norms of internal sovereignty and territorial integrity supercede certain other norms that the West might want to pursue.

Finally, Matt is correct to point out that there is no emerging “League of Autocracies”. Russia and China are quite distinct in governance structure, economy, and security interest. They both have some cause to resist certain initiative of the US, but we shouldn’t expect that they will present a unified front against United States. China is now far more deeply integrated in the international economy than Russia, and one consequence of that integration is that China has little interest in rocking the boat for its own sake.

Slow Thursday Night?

[ 14 ] August 29, 2008 |

Let this serve as an open thread for the Stanford-Oregon State game. Or anything else you want to talk about…

Asking the Hard Questions

[ 6 ] August 28, 2008 |

Duss at Think Progress:

Earlier today, Think Progress contacted John Hagee Ministries to see if erstwhile John McCain endorser Rev. Hagee saw the Lord’s hand in reports that President Bush might not speak at the Republican National Convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Gustav.

Think Progress asked Rev. Hagee’s spokesperson, Kara Silverman, whether Gustav’s possible impact on the Republican National Convention might be seen as punishment against Republicans for their not having done enough to combat the “homosexual agenda,” or whether this storm could be attributed to some other divine wrath.

Ms. Silverman said Hagee had “no comment.”

C’mon, stick to your guns…

The March

[ 0 ] August 28, 2008 |

On this date in 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought several hundred thousand Americans together in the nation’s capital, where — depending on whom you might have asked — they had convened un support of national civil rights legislation, to chastise the Kennedy administration for its meandering commitments to racial justice, to summon young African Americans into action, or to dramatize the “Beloved Community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr., had so often spoken. Though united by a wish to rivet the nation’s attention to the cause of black freedom, the event’s organizers famously disagreed on nearly everything else. Indeed, the march has to be considered the symbolic high point of the post-war freedom struggle as well as the moment at which generational, regional and tactical fault lines began to slip.

Arguably, 1963 was the most consequential moment for the civil rights movement. In this, the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation, the SCLC and other groups won a crucial victory in Birmingham by stuffing its jails and forcing the city to defend its apartheid with a spastic display of police violence. The effects of “Project C” — as the Birmingham campaign was known — were transformative. It brought thousands of poor, working-class, urban blacks into the struggle, and it drew greater attention to the meshed relationship between segregation per se and the broader patterns of economic and residential inequality that shaped the likes of blacks nationwide. The “package settlement” that activists won from the city of Birmingham encouraged civil rights leaders to push for what Whitney Young called a “domestic Marshall Plan” for black America. Others in the movement saw Birmingham as a template for grassroots action. In the wake of Birmingham, groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) — which had pushed the tactics of the movement toward direct action and confrontation — hoped to spur a new wave of protest, especially in the urban North and West.

When President Kennedy announced his support for a federal civil rights bill in early June, a coalition of groups assembled to revive the notion — posed two decades earlier by labor organizer A. Philip Randolph — of a mass civil rights demonstration in the nation’s capital. The Kennedy administration, for its part, was terrified that “a big show at the Capitol” might accomplish precisely what its younger activists had hoped it might. Envisioning a city brought to its knees, and fearful that a march would cost him the support of whites in states like Michigan and Illinois, Kennedy pressured King to call the whole thing off. From the Justice Department Robert Kennedy and Burke Marshall warned King that he his “communist” associates were jeopardizing the bill and imperiling the President’s political future. Meantime, J. Edgar Hoover helpfully offered to tap King’s phones.

Somewhat belated, JFK at last endorsed the march in July — all the better to try and contain it. “If we can’t stop it,” he huffed, “we’ll run the damn thing.” And on August 28, they more or less did. The event was rigorously scripted, and the “march” itself consisted of a short, unobtrusive walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Mindful of the fact that CBS would be broadcasting everything, the White House sought to convert the march from a black protest to an administration pep rally. Organizers were instructed to lard the crowd with as many conservatively-dressed whites as they could find, and speeches — most notably that of SNCC’s John Lewis — were trimmed of their inflammatory barbs. (To some extent, the debate over Lewis’ speech was moot. If Lewis or anyone else had, in fact, shaken their fists too vigorously, administration aides were prepared to cut the microphone and play a Mahalia Jackson record instead.) The day was a triumph of moderation.

In the intervening 45 years, the march — and King’s synecdochal address at the Lincoln Memorial — has been converted into perhaps the most recognizable expression of American civic nationalism, a day-long ode to aspirations deferred and fulfilled, a colorblind vindication of the American creed, a Lincolnesque utopia from which angry Negroes and peckerwood throwbacks alike had been effortlessly dismissed. We’ve inherited comfortable, self-congratulatory and ahistorical mythology about that day, a story easily assimilated into liberal, minor-key tales of progress as well as the obnoxious, conservative efforts to claim Martin Luther King, Jr., as an opponent of multiculturalism and affirmative action. (King’s epic speech, with the perverse assent of his own estate, has even been used to shill for fiber optic companies that manufacture components for “smart” bombs and missile “defense” systems.)

To believe in the myth, it’s necessary to forget the intra-movement rivalries that only grew in intensity after the march (and to a great extent because of it); to forget that the march failed to sway Congressional support for the civil rights bill; to forget that the march did little to enhance local civil rights organizing; to forget that the event was bracketed by white supremacist violence throughout the South (including the assassination of Medgar Evers and the obliteration of four young girls at a Birmingham church); and of course to forget that King himself lived another five years, during which time he articulated truths about his country that remain a thousand times more relevant than any words he delivered 45 years ago today.

(cross-posted at EotAW)

Bork Myth Addendum

[ 6 ] August 28, 2008 |

A commenter spotted this howler from Rosen’s article:

In every presidential election from 1988 to 2004, the court had a six-justice majority in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade.

Is this why Rosen thinks that Kennedy was “distorting” the effects of confirming Bork? At any rate, this is wrong. In the 1992 election, there were 4 unambiguous anti-Roe votes: Scalia, Rehnquist, White, and Thomas. Indeed, pro-choice litigators pressed Casey in 1992 in part because they wanted any overruling to come before an election, and Kennedy’s position was unclear. Had Bork been confirmed, of course, Roe would have been overruled. And it is unlikely that Roe would have survived a GOP win in 1992. Hopefully the Times will print a correction…


[ 5 ] August 28, 2008 |

The ticker appears to have drifted past 5000000 this morning. It’s fair to say that’s more than we ever expected, and that we do appreciate your business.

We Had a Dream

[ 12 ] August 28, 2008 |

It’s s a beautiful morning in Boulder, and later today I’m going to take a bus the 25 miles down the turnpike to Denver and Invesco Field, to hear Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination for president, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.

First I’m going to teach a Legislation class that will be focused on the story of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was enacted in the face of the longest filibuster in American history, and which certainly would never have become law if not for the march on Washington, and King’s speech, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson’s brilliant exploitation of those events, and of course many other things as well.

Any sustained engagement with politics makes almost anyone quite cynical, at least at times, and I’m well aware that Barack Obama is far from a dream candidate for those of a progressive political persuasion, let alone some sort of national savior.

But at this moment I’m feeling neither cynical, nor in the mood to hedge the moment with endless academic caveats about the messy complexity of the world.

It’s a great day for America.

Ethiopia Cutting and Running?!!?

[ 8 ] August 28, 2008 |


Ethiopia is prepared to withdraw troops from Somalia even if the interim government is not stable, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said.

Ethiopia invaded its neighbour in 2006 to oust an Islamist militia and re-install the transitional government. He told the UK’s Financial Times paper that financial pressures had to be taken into account and said the commitment was not open ended.

Indeed. While the United States is a wealthy enough country to carry on its foreign policy mistakes indefinitely, Ethiopia is not. Given that piracy has skyrocketed since the displacement of the ICU (including a spread to the Gulf of Aden), and that Ethiopian and Somali “government” forces still control only a bare patchwork of the countryside, I’d say that this has been a pretty big disaster…

The Politics of Personal Destruction Accurate Characterization

[ 20 ] August 28, 2008 |

I have some minor quibbles with Jeffrey Rosen’s defense of Joe Biden’s handling of the Bork and Thomas confirmation hearings. While I agree with Rosen, for example, that the looking into Bork’s video records was outrageous, it’s also not reasonable to conflate that with Anita Hill. But since there seems to be a rule that it has to be mentioned in any Broderite complaint about the confirmation process, I was really dreading the inevitable blubbering about mean Ted Kennedy’s treatment of poor defenseless Robert Bork, and sure enough we got it — but with a twist. Nothing in Kennedy’s famous statement was inaccurate, although I grant that some of it was tendentious. (I know, shocking behavior from a politician.) When he said that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which…blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,” he was right that Bork had both claimed that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and bad policy, but Bork had at least repudiated his position once his position had been repudiated by history. But what does Rosen quote?

When President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the court in 1987, some liberal senators and interest groups were eager to distort his record. Hours after the nomination was announced, for example, Senator Edward Kennedy charged that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.”

Senator Biden, who had built a national reputation by attacking the excesses of liberal interest groups, made clear that he would not tolerate these ad hominem attacks.

First of all, Kennedy’s statement wasn’t an ad hominem attack; it was an attack on Bork’s substantive views. That it was harsh doesn’t it render it ad hominem. But more to the point, the passage quoted by Rosen, far from a “distortion,” is indisputably accurate. Bork would have provided the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade; this was not in serious dispute at the time, and surely Bork claiming in a book written immediately after the hearings that Roe was as bad or worse than Dred Scott settles the question. So what could Rosen’s objection possibly be? Is he claiming that no state would have banned abortion if Roe had been overruled? Is he saying that this new round of laws, unlike every other criminalization in history, would not have produced a black market? Obviously, neither argument would be tenable. Kennedy’s statement was wholly correct. If one wants to argue that Bork merited confirmation anyway, fine, but I don’t see why on earth senators shouldn’t be permitted to candidly discuss the inevitable implications of his confirmation, especially since said implications played a crucial role in the president’s decision to nominate him.

If I understand correctly, “Borking” means “describing the views of arch-reactionary judicial nominees in ways that are accurate but make centrist pundits uncomfortable.”

"That Place Is Scranton…With Clams."

[ 8 ] August 28, 2008 |

So I’m here about to conference in Boston, so I’m just seeing excerpts of the speeches. I’ve seen nothing that would contradict the positive-to-ecstatic reviews I’ve seen; all the major speeches look great. Clinton did his job beautifully, as one would expect, and while much less gifted Biden did exactly what he was hired to do.

[And, no, I don’t share Philly Parisi’s views; I just like the line. I especially can’t be down on Boston given that their team finally delivered the de facto knockout blow tonight.]

Please proceed to the exits in an orderly fashion

[ 10 ] August 27, 2008 |

2 PM Monday is when the GOP convention is scheduled to be kicking off, so this might possibly be taken as evidence that Mother Nature has a mordant sense of humor.

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