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Archive for May, 2010


[ 10 ] May 2, 2010 |

Since we haven’t checked in for a bit, a quick progress report on the Kaus Kampaign.  Apparently, it has entailed:

–Going public with the large number of California Democratic primary voters who listen to the early-morning talk show apparently hosted by the nation’s foremost moral arbiter, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Bill Bennett.

–Going public with the California primary voters who are regular readers of Ann Althouse’s blog.  (Come on Mickey, we’ve given your campaign more publicity, some actual Democrats read us for reasons other than lazy blog fodder, and we’re much cheaper!)

–Expressing abject gratitude for the endorsement of Trainwreck Media winger Victor Davis Hanson.

–Getting Charles “this period of two unusually coherent and closely-divided political parties reminds me of 1860!” Lane to strongly endorse his Deeply Serious union-bashing platform, if not his immigration-bashing platform.

–Comes out in favor of Arizona’s “show us your papers” law.   Also reminds us that he doesn’t actually care about tightening border security if it won’t result in hundreds of thousands of deportations.   It seems worth re-emphasizing at this point that Kaus is running in a Democratic primary.  In California.

Oddly, this has not led to a flood of campaign contributions.  But give it time.

UPDATE: Realized that I forgot to credit FMK for the photo this time.


Person of Actual Accomplishment and Power vs. Conservative Media Personality

[ 4 ] May 2, 2010 |

Even granting that the latter was also a half-governor and worst full-campaign VP candidate in history, I think this is a good question. Of course, if Time is measuring influence among the media, it’s probably accurate. In conclusion, I can’t really answer the question until I see the latest unreliable third-hand gossip about who the former’s husband might be sleeping with.

The strange career of Elena Kagan

[ 7 ] May 2, 2010 |

In stark contrast to other current and former law professors whose names have been floated recently as SCOTUS candidates, such as Pam Karlan, Harold Koh, and Diane Wood, Elena Kagan has written almost nothing, and what she’s written is both unimpressive on its own terms, and tells us very little about what sort of justice she would be.

As a sociological matter, comparing Kagan and Harriet Miers is, of course, outrageous. After all, Kagan is one of the most brilliant legal minds of her generation. How do we know this? Just ask her friends!

There’s nothing wrong with putting a non-judge on the SCOTUS, but given that such candidates can’t be evaluated on the basis of their work as judges, it’s all the more imperative that their views on both substantive legal issues and general jurisprudential questions need to be a matter of public record. That it’s necessary to even say such a thing is a sign of how bizarre Kagan’s nomination to the Court would be.

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Derby Day!

[ 7 ] May 1, 2010 |

So, there is a horse racing event of some note over in Louisville this afternoon. I would be remiss in failing to make some recommendations:

1. Conveyance 12-1 (a gray horse with a nice, practical name)
2. Mission Implazible 20-1 (unconventional spelling of “implausible” seals the place)
3. Jackson Bend 15-1 (looks feisty)

Take it to the bank! Or to your bookie. Either way.

Mildly Surprising

[ 4 ] May 1, 2010 |

The Guardian endorses the Liberal Democrats.  While endorsements do not have the power that The Sun believes, they can affect outcomes at the margins.  In my own work, endorsements have been shown to matter in low information contexts where most voting cues are unavailable, such as partisanship (think non-partisan city council elections here for example).  Partisan cues will be readily available on May 6.

Policy Success Reaps Few Rewards…

[ 19 ] May 1, 2010 |

John Styles, via Chris Blattman:

About a week after the earthquake, economist Tyler Cowen wrote that Obama looked like the “Haiti president”:

Obama will (and should) do something about this situation … Yet he will have a festering situation on his hands for the rest of his term … Obama now stands a higher chance of being a one-term President. Foreign aid programs are especially unpopular, especially relative to their small fiscal cost … Just as it’s not easy to pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan, it won’t be easy to pull out of Haiti.

But it’s now clear that Haiti won’t affect Obama’s political future in any significant way. In part, this is because the worst fears about the earthquake’s aftermath weren’t realized; Haiti didn’t descend to utter lawlessness. Still, it faces extraordinary challenges. The problem is that these are largely invisible in American news and thus among American voters, who are therefore less likely to hold Obama accountable for Haiti’s struggles.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, my co-blogger Galrahn repeatedly argued that this was a key moment for the Obama presidency. Failing to formulate a competent foreign policy response to the earthquake would result in a diplomatic and humanitarian disaster that would affect US standing in the hemisphere and, quite possibly, generate waves of refugees on American shores.

This disaster appears to have been avoided; things are hardly great in Haiti, but the state hasn’t completely collapsed, and relief efforts have in general been considered successful. The response of the USN in particular has been extraordinary. Haiti will not, as Cowen and Styles suggest, dominate the Obama presidency. It’s worth noting, however, that Styles and Galrahn might offer different explanations for why the effect of the Haiti earthquake will not endure. Styles argues that Americans simply don’t care about Haitians; if relief operations had failed to forestall a greater disaster, Americans would have taken little note (except perhaps insofar as the refugee crisis would directly impact Gulf communities). Galrahn, I suspect, would suggest that Haiti has ceased to be a story because relief operations have been so successful. No one remembers disasters that don’t occur, or recalls waves of refugees that never show up.

These explanations aren’t mutually exclusive. Styles is certainly correct to argue that the American public is less than fully attentive to disasters that happen to brown people. However, I think that Galrahn is also right, and that there’s a very serious dilemma in this story for advocates of good governance. Sensible, responsive, well-staffed, well-funded governance tends to prevent horrible things from happening. When horrible things do happen, authorities respond quickly and effectively. Crisis prevention and effective crisis response, however, are inherently less interesting and less attention-getting than failed crisis response. If the 9/11 hijackers had been captured prior to conducting their attacks, very few people outside the intelligence community would have much recollection of a crucial policy victory. If the Bush administration had conducted adequate preparation for Katrina and responded effectively, there’d be relatively little shared memory of the disaster.

Success and failure in crisis response, consequently, have asymmetric political effect. The Obama administration’s response to the Haiti earthquake, in my view, has been a resounding success for responsible, capable governance. No one will remember that in six months. Bush’s response to Katrina will endure in the political memory for decades. On the one hand this is (politically) good for progressives, given that conservative efforts to gut governance tend to result in horrible disasters. On the other hand, because policy and execution failures stick in the mind longer than successes, it’s difficult to convince the general public of the importance of a responsible approach to government. In the rhetoric of anti-statist nutjobs, Katrina actually becomes an argument against adequate government, while success in Haiti fades from history.


[ 8 ] May 1, 2010 |

I hate to disagree with Charles Pierce — see here for one of many posts I can endorse entirely — but I really can’t agree that the technically correct but perhaps not consistent with de facto standards wave-off of the potential tying goal for the Caps in Game 7 constituted “the single most psychedelic piece of hockey officiating in the past several decades.”   Leaving aside such obvious examples as the Brett Hull Cup-winning non-goal goal, this wouldn’t even make Denis Morel’s all-time top 100 inexplicable-by-any-standard-of-human-rationality calls.   I alas am unable to find footage of Terry Crisp’s insane yet fully justified meltdown after Morel waved off what should have been Doug Gilmour’s series-tying goal for no earthly reason in the ’91 playoffs on the intertubes.   But even that can’t compare to this sequence, which should have had the ushers handing out free pot and Ummagumma playing over the PA:

Alas, hockey doesn’t have the literature that would make Morel into the legend he should be, but he made Michael Brown look like the world’s most competent administrator. (And surely a Bostonian will remember how often he used to show up in crucial games for the Canadiens at the Forum…)

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