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Archive for August, 2008

The politics of energy policy

[ 0 ] August 27, 2008 |

Some explanation for my off the cuff remark about energy policy. Here’s why I’m not sold on focusing on energy policy as a centerpiece of the electoral strategy. I think it’ll penetrate the minds of voters in roughly this manner:

Obama/Democratic message: renewables, efficiency, multiple sources, green collar jobs, blah blah blah

McCain/Republican message: renewables, efficiency, multiple sources, green collar jobs, blah blah blah, and DRILL NOW

The drill now position seems to play reasonably well. When the Granholm-lead “roundtable” started getting into detail about the awesomeness of Obama’s plan, my eyes started to glaze over and I’m actually interested in energy policy. McCain has been very good at mimicking the details of the Obama message, and I think hope of achieving any meaningful differentiation (aside from the drill now element) is probably misplaced.

It seems to me the best way to neutralize the advantage added by the “drill now” component is to focus on the attack portion of energy policy discussions: attack McCain for policies that enrich oil companies at our expense. This is believable, but I think it’s better done in the context of attacking McCain on his general propensity to support policies that enrich the already very rich. (I’d really love to see this and this getting more play). Energy policy isn’t the capacity to give this particular line of attack it’s larger context.

Also, just in general, it seems wiser to me to try and shift public attention to the many issues in which Obama and Democrats have a natural advantage, rather than try to neutralize the one issue that currently helps McCain, unless you have evidence (which, I suppose, they might, but I’m not aware of it) that this issue is likely to be decisive for a large number of voters.


Opening Day

[ 0 ] August 27, 2008 |

Ah, the first day of class…. nothing like coming into the office, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, then noticing that you didn’t quite finish the cup of coffee that you poured for yourself on the last day of class in April. Anyway, here are the webpage and syllabus for my National Security course.

Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself

[ 32 ] August 27, 2008 |

. . . when you’re old enough to repay, but young enough to sell?
I gather Alex Rodriguez was booed mercilessly last night for single-handedly destroying the Yanqui season. NYY seems headed towards a dodgy transitional year or three (ARod will be 34 next summer and he’s still almost the youngest guy on the team who can play), and I have a feeling that the $300 million man is going to be the target for the frustrations of many an overpriced ticket buyer in the team’s palatial new digs.
I wonder if he’s having second thoughts . . .

Honesty And Ambiguity

[ 16 ] August 27, 2008 |

Ann Althouse watched Lily Ledbetter and claims “what she should say, to be honest, is: ‘Our Court declined to rewrite the statute to be fair to me.'” To be honest, this is utter nonsense. It might be fair to say that Ledbetter wanted to “re-write” the statute if she simply claimed that the statute of limitations should just be ignored because it led to an unjust outcome, but of course she argued no such thing. Rather, she argued that since she was still being paid less due to gender discrimination, the discrimination was ongoing and hence her filing was within the 180-day window. Whether one agrees with this or not, it’s at a minimum a reasonable interpretation of the statute. Which is why this interpretation was shared by a federal district court, four justices of the Supreme Court, and — this is important — the EEOC itself. (As Ginsburg noted, “Similarly in line with the real-world characteristics of pay discrimination, the EEOC—the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII—has interpreted the Act to permit employees to challenge disparate pay each time it is received.” This remained its official position until well into the Bush administration.) If Althouse wants to claim that all of these people were advancing an indisputably erroneous interpretation of the statute, she really needs more than bare assertion.

Althouse’s sneering about Ledbetter doesn’t get any more coherent:

She goes on to blame the Senate for voting down the amendment that would make it possible to sue if you don’t know about the discrimination when it first takes place, but then she says that Barack Obama as President will solve the problem: “As President, he has promised to appoint Justices who will enforce laws that protect everyday people.” That doesn’t really add up. But she’s doing a good job of making us feel that the Democrats will protect the rights of working people.

Of course, what Ledbetter is saying makes perfect sense. Evidently, there are many institutional veto points that were responsible for allowing businesses to evade Title VII protections. A minority in the Senate was able to filibuster an attempt to override the court’s interpretation of the statute, and President Bush vetoed another attempt. Ledbetter is therefore right that more politicians who (unlike John McCain) actually support gender equality are needed. But it’s also true that this corrective action wouldn’t be necessary had a bare majority comprising the court’s most conservative members not interpreted an ambiguous statutory provision against Ledbetter. And in the modern regulatory state, these kinds of disputes matter; statutory provisions are often open to multiple reasonable interpretations, so who is responsible for applying them matters. The reactionary judges Althouse enthusiastically supports (just like John McCain) will tend to resolve such cases in favor of business interests; the kind of judges appointed by Obama are more likely to resolve ambiguities in favor of women’s rights. Hence, who appoints judges matters (and who controls the executive branch matters even more), and what Ledbetter is saying is right on all counts.

…I think what Yglesias says here is relevant to Althouse’s unique brand of feminism (as far as I can tell, it can be distilled into the following principles: 1. Hating Bill Clinton 2. There is no #2):

But at some point politics is about policy. If your opposition to pay discrimination doesn’t extend to favoring measures to halt pay discrimination, then what’s it worth? To people suffering from illegal discrimination, it’s worth nothing. To people who want to engage in illegal discrimination, it’s worth quite a lot.

Russian TV in the Internet Age

[ 27 ] August 27, 2008 |

A correspondent keeps sending me groovy Russian TV clips; this one takes something of an alarmist view of the ability of a Tomahawk missile to strike targets in Russia.

Of course, nothing that I’d be surprised to find on Fox News. Here’s a clip of Moskva visiting Abkhazia.

A Dodged Bullet?

[ 0 ] August 27, 2008 |

I didn’t see the speech, but if this is right, Obama passing Sebelius over certainly looks more defensible. She was the best of the major contenders on the substantive merits, but (particularly given the secondary role VPs have in setting policy) it’s worth giving up a little to get someone who passes a certain minimum threshold of campaigning ability. It’s quite possible that Biden was in fact the best mix among the contenders.

The Convention

[ 21 ] August 27, 2008 |

The roommate just commandeered the remote and switched the TV off the convention and onto Rachel Ray. I’m not sure it’s not an improvement. The only way I can watch the Democratic Conventions without freaking out is to repeat over and over again that I’m not the target audience for this and someone somewhere surely knows what they’re doing. I guess this “ordinary people as political props” thing must actually work, but I find it really annoying myself.

One thought: everyone’s talking way too much about energy policy. It’s too defensive. Instead, hammer away at pocketbook issues here you have an edge.

I sure hope Clinton can successfully do the 17 different mutually contradictory things the CNN buffoons keep saying she absolutely has to do.

Come for the Republican performance artists; stay for the impeccable logic

[ 0 ] August 26, 2008 |

Conclusive evidence that your average PUMA is to the Democratic Party what the bonnacon is to the Equidae family.

“We’ve been told by Pelosi that we’re ungracious,” said Robin Carlson, a cancer survivor from Los Angeles and a member of the Clinton for McCain contingent whom I interviewed after the made-for-TV demonstration. . . . Carlson says that 500,000 people have pledged on her Web site to endorse John McCain sometime during this convention. “Our foremothers marched in the streets so that our voices could be heard. We will not be silenced now.”

I asked Carlson why, if she was offended by being called “Sweetie” and invested in the legacy of her foremothers, she would express her disappointment over Obama’s nomination by supporting a man who would rob women of their reproductive rights and who does not support equal-pay legislation. “We are really sick and tired of having women’s rights held over our heads as a threat,” she said. “It’s country over party now.”

With Bob Costas at the Olympics and now this, I’m awfully grateful I don’t have cable anymore.

A Big Man Has Passed On

[ 10 ] August 26, 2008 |

Kevin Duckworth died last night while vacationing on the Oregon coast. Duckworth played center for the great Trailblazer teams of the early 1990s, including the Western Conference Championship squads of 1990 and 1992. Those teams also had Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, and of course the great Clyde Drexler, with Cliff Robinson coming off the bench. Duckworth was, it’s fair to say, the weak link on that team; he could shoot, but wasn’t much of a defender, and had a lot of trouble with conditioning. Because of this, Duck was the least popular member of the starting five, which turned me into his apologist.

Like Erik, I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for those Trailblazer teams, right next to the Bill Musgrave led Ducks of the late 1980s and the 2000-2003 Seattle Mariners. The devastating conclusions of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons taught me an early lesson in hopelessness, frustration, and futility; oddly enough, the experience of the 2000-era Mariners would serve as a refresher course in that regard…

RIP, Duck.

If Only More Liberal Intellectuals Could Have Focused Our Attention On Al Gore’s Claims To Have Invented the Internet!

[ 10 ] August 26, 2008 |

K-Drum spots something in Wilentz’s most recent monument to bad faith that I missed. I swear that this is verbatim, not a shorter:

Liberal intellectuals actually could have aided their candidate, while also doing their professional duty, by pressing him on his patently evasive accounts about various matters, such as his connections with the convicted wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko, or his more-than-informal ties to the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers…Instead, the intellectuals have failed Obama as well as their readers by branding such questioning as irrelevant, malicious or heretical.

Yes, if anything could have helped both Obama and the Democratic Party, it would have been to lend their imprimatur to wingnut guilt-by-association smear jobs! The logic is impeccable! Good of Wilentz to help the party out with his sincere advice like that.

By the way, can someone point to the article where Wilentz solemnly informed us about the immense benefits that would accrue to both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party if only liberal intellectuals had focused more on, say, Todd Purdam’s vacuous insinuations about Bill Clinton’s sex life and business practices. Or think of how much it would have helped Clinton if liberal intellectuals had looked more carefully into Kathleen Willey’s accusations! Anyway, I’m sure Wilentz has pointed all of this out; it certainly couldn’t be the case that he developed his innovative theory that repeating Republican smears as widely as possible helps the Democrats purely to further his petty hatred of Barack Obama, could it?

Biden and the VAWA

[ 0 ] August 26, 2008 |

To put fair criticisms of Biden’s record as head of the Judiciary Committee in context, Jon Cohn extensively details Biden’s role in creating the Violence Against Women Act and its importance:

It may be hard to remember now, but widespread awareness of domestic violence–and how to deal with it–is a relatively new phenomenon. As late as the early 1990s, many communities had no domestic violence shelters at all, while those that did couldn’t fund them adequately. And neither law enforcement nor the judicial system were prepared to deal with the special nature of domestic violence. If a woman who’d been battered or raped went to the police, she was frequently lucky if she got sympathy–let alone experts trained in how to handle such cases, go after perpetrators, and counsel the victims. “At that time there were no victim rights and [somebody] had to witness an act of violence in order to prosecute it,” says Judy Ellis, now executive director of First Step, a domestic violence program based in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. “The criminal justice system lacked information and training on the dynamics of domestic violence and its effects on the family.”

VAWA changed all of that. It cracked down on interstate stalking, set standards for the collection and use of evidence in abuse cases, and set up a national domestic violence hotline. No less important, VAWA poured money into local communities for the creation of new prevention and treatment initiatives. In Detroit, according to Ellis, a VAWA grant allowed local authorities to hire prosecutors, police officers. and counselors specifically trained to deal with domestic violence. It also paid for outreach programs into non-English speaking communities, where many victims had no idea of their rights–or the resources now available to them.


So what did Biden have to do with all of that? Everything. Biden had been promoting a domestic violence bill starting in the early 1990s, and although it didn’t go far at first, he kept at it, finally getting his chance in 1994, once Bill Clinton became president and began pushing for a crime bill. Even then, it was a tough sell. Critics, led by Republican Senator Robert Dole, thought the ’94 crime bill was bloated with unnecessary spending and demanded cuts from it–including the $1.6 billion over six years set aside for VAWA. But Biden held firm and, eventually, got his way. “You can sponsor a bill, but if you just sponsor a bill and let it sit there, that’s nothing,” says Pat Reuss, a longtime activist who was one of the measure’s chief advocates in Washington. “He shepherded it. He made sure it happened. He assigned staff to it, gave them carte blanche to do with they needed, they spent days and nights on it.”

Combine that with his large role in defeating Bork, and…it’s more than many long-term Senators accomplish in itself.


[ 0 ] August 26, 2008 |

Many thanks to frequent commenter Howard for generously sending me the classics Out To Lunch and Underground from the ol’ wish list. Supoib choices, and as they are now freshly loaded into ITunes will make my upcoming train ride all the more pleasant.

In addition, when it comes to my reverse-hedge bets with Howard I note that as of now I would be on the hook for $50 donations to Planned Parenthood and the anti-Prop 8 campaign, as the Yankees are missing the playoffs as well of course as being out of the division. Until we see the upcoming series, though, I’m at least not writing off the former…

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