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Tuesday Links

[ 264 ] July 28, 2015 |

Some reading:

SCORCHING HOT Iran Take of the Day

[ 141 ] July 27, 2015 |


As a colleague observes, Leon Wieseltier has written an interesting critique of the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq:

The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.

This is nothing other than the mentality of disruption applied to foreign policy. In the realm of technology, innovation justifies itself; but in the realm of diplomacy and security, innovation must be justified, and it cannot be justified merely by an appetite for change. Tedium does not count against a principled alliance or a grand strategy. Indeed, a continuity of policy may in some cases—the Korean peninsula, for example: a rut if ever there was one—represent a significant achievement.

Alas, Wieseltier sees this as an argument against the distinctly non-disruptive Iran deal, as oppose to the catastrophic war he strongly supported. Oh, and against the Obama administration’s Cuba policy, which I concede is disruptive but since the existing policy has been a consistent failure for decades I’m not sure why this is supposed to be a bad thing.

Wieseltier then goes on to explain his opposition to the Iran deal on the grounds that it does not present an ironclad guarantee that Iran will never in the sweep of human history acquire a nuclear weapon, and not only that the deal doesn’t even nationalize the American health insurance industry. Anticipating the obvious objection of what exactly Obama could have done to guarantee that Iran would never again pursue a nuclear reaction, he responds with an outstanding achievement in the field of vacuous pomposity:

But what is the alternative? This is the question that is supposed to silence all objections. It is, for a start, a demagogic question. This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and it seems uncontroversial to suggest that it does not guarantee such an outcome—then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it? The status is still quo. Or should we prefer the sweetness of illusion to the nastiness of reality? For as long as Iran does not agree to retire its infrastructure so that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon becomes not improbable but impossible, the United States will not have transformed the reality that worries it. We will only have mitigated it and prettified it. We will have found relief from the crisis, but not a resolution of it.

To the extent that there is content here, it is transparently wrong. A deal that makes it less likely that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, the status is not still quo. Oh, and the status will also not be quo for the Iranian citizens who are suffering due to the sanctions regime, citizens who do not feature in Wieseltier’s calculus at all. But, remember, his war-is-the-answer-to-any-question foreign policy views are rooted deeply in liberal humanitarianism!

Will the Clinton Rules Still Apply?

[ 76 ] July 27, 2015 |

The public editor assails the latest round of making stuff up about Hillary Clinton:

First, consider the elements. When you add together the lack of accountability that comes with anonymous sources, along with no ability to examine the referral itself, and then mix in the ever-faster pace of competitive reporting for the web, you’ve got a mistake waiting to happen. Or, in this case, several mistakes.

Reporting a less sensational version of the story, with a headline that did not include the word “criminal,” and continuing to develop it the next day would have been a wise play. Better yet: Waiting until the next day to publish anything at all.

Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times’s reputation for accuracy.

What’s more, when mistakes inevitably happen, The Times needs to be much more transparent with readers about what is going on. Just revising the story, and figuring out the corrections later, doesn’t cut it.

On one level, this is encouraging, showing that the Clinton campaign and its prominent supporters can effectively push back in a way that Gore in 2000 couldn’t. On the other hand, if the pushback means that splashy A1 stories are quietly correctly online later, it’s kind of a hollow victory. It will really matter if they just stop running inaccurate stories in the first place.

Today In Bad Pundit’s Fallacies: “Joe Lieberman Cost Gore the Election”

[ 223 ] July 27, 2015 |


Almost anytime either the 2000 election or Joe Lieberman come up in comments, someone will proffer their theory that Gore picking Lieberman was why he lost the election in 2000. Just so I have something to link to so I don’t have to go through this every time it comes up, here’s why this is a very silly argument:

  • First, let’s start with actual evidence. The political science literature shows that vice presidential selections generally have no discernible impact on election results, and 2000 was no exception. If either party had an advantage, it was the Democrats, but the effect is negligible. Reaction to the pick of Lieberman was more positive than is typical for a VP pick.
  • Yes, social science is far from perfect. But the stories told to justify the idea that Lieberman swung the election to Bush are massively implausible. The election came down to Florida. So…we’re being asked to believe that Lieberman was a net negative in a relatively conservative southern state with a large population of elderly people and a relatively large numbers of Jewish people? Please. Or you could also see the election coming down to New Hampshire, and, again, I don’t see how a New England Democrat who was immensely popular in his own state at the time was a net drag on the ticket there.
  • There’s also another important point, which helps to explain why Gore picked Lieberman although he didn’t particularly like him. The media, which was engaged in an all-out war on Gore, loved Lieberman. Picking Holy Joe earned Gore pretty much the only positive media coverage his campaign generated. I don’t know how much this helped but it couldn’t have hurt.
  • But “LIEBERMAN WANTED LABELS ON VIDEO GAMES” is one of the more hilariously solipsistic pundit’s fallacies I’ve ever heard. You will be unsurprised that exit polls do not find evidence that this issue drove voters in 2000.
  • Yes, Lieberman was terrible in the VP debate. As for how much vice presidential debates affect election outcomes, ask President Michael Dukakis.
  • We should also remember that while at the time Lieberman was an irritating squish, in 2000 he was bad like Dianne Feinstein, not bad like Zell Miller.
  • One thing that a lot of people have forgotten, willfully or otherwise, is just how much “Bill Clinton shouldn’t be impeached, but what he did was horrible” was a consensus position among the Democratic caucus during the impeachment. Lieberman has come to symbolize this just because he’s such an insufferable blowhard in general, but on this issue he was the rule, not the exception. Paul Wellstone, fer Chrissakes, called for a censure vote while going on about “the disgrace which those lies have placed upon his Presidency for all time” and “the President’s behavior was shameful, despicable, unworthy, a disgrace to his office” and “we all condemn the President’s behavior.”
  • As the consensus among even liberal Democratic officeholders suggests, the idea that using Clinton was a completely straightforward question for the Gore campaign because of the former’s good approval ratings is an anachronism. There were many people who approved of Clinton’s performance in general while believing that he had engaged in troubling, immoral behavior that also reflected badly on history’s greatest liar, the man who claimed he invented the internet Al Gore. Look at those exit polls again. Choosing Lieberman to try to diffuse this line of attack was not irrational.
  • Does this mean that Lieberman was a good pick by Gore? Well, no. Precisely because vice presidential picks don’t affect electoral results very much, the most important thing is to choose someone who would be an acceptable president if that is necessary and who could make a useful contribution as a vice president. Lieberman obviously fails both tests, and hence I think Gore shouldn’t have picked him. But did Lieberman cost Gore the election? It’s overwhelmingly clear that he did not.
  • …oh, and I forgot to mention this, but even worse is the idea that Lieberman cost Gore the election by calling for military ballots to be counted.  First of all, Lieberman was not the relevant decision-maker.  And second, “we should use an ‘intent of the voter’ standard for every ballot except those cast be people in the military” would be a massive political loser and the Florida courts would have rejected the argument anyway.  So…no.

Today In Editorial Misjudgment

[ 113 ] July 27, 2015 |


I love the NYRB in general, but…publishing a self-serving, fact-challenged defense of the nail salon industry that didn’t meet the standards of the New York Post (!) (No, really, !) is a doozy of a blunder. Hopefully, this is is an aberration — if I see “Massey Energy: The World’s Safest Workplaces” by Don Blankenship next week I’ll have to cancel my subscription.

The 35

[ 27 ] July 26, 2015 |

Noreen Malone’s story about Bill Cosby’s accusers will be a blockbuster, and it eminently deserves to be. The sheer fact of 35 women pictured together and telling their stories is powerful enough. But what they have to say is equally important. Essential reading.

That Green Lantern Won’t Raise Itself!

[ 170 ] July 26, 2015 |


In this confusing, ever-changing world, it’s reassuring to know that Joe Lieberman is always an asshole:

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is pressuring a top Senate Democrat to buck the Obama administration on its Iran nuclear deal to ensure a safer future for Israel.

Yes, nothing would ensure a “safer future for Israel” than having the sanctions regime that is inflicting immense suffering on ordinary Iranian citizens collapse without getting any concessions at all! But, of course, Lieberman is pretending that this wouldn’t be the outcome of Congress overriding Obama’s veto and preventing the deal from going into effect:

Lieberman blasted White House negotiators for a deal that he said would allow Iran to ignore U.S. demands and instead support its own regional allies, which he described as “terrorist.”

“How can you make a deal with somebody who says they want to kill you?” Lieberman asked, reiterating the stance of Israeli leaders and its supporters who oppose the deal. “Pretty impossible in my opinion.”

Israel’s leaders say the agreement will make the country more vulnerable in an already-volatile region.

Instead, Lieberman encouraged the White House to go back to the drawing board to negotiate a better deal.

See, your garden-variety warmongering hack would just stop with saying that Obama should have gotten everything hawks want from Iran in exchange for nothing, using the same powers he could have used to get Congress to pass the Patient Protection, Single Payer, and a Clinic Offering Free Abortions in Every County Act of 2010 only he Didn’t. Even. Try. That Lieberman makes this argument only after asserting that it’s inherently impossible to make any deal with the Iranian state is the kind of thing that makes Lieberman very special.

The Flagship Journal of American Conservatism, Everybody!

[ 141 ] July 26, 2015 |


Shorter Crazy Andy McCarthy: “Given that Obama has used his imaginary “executive branch” powers to reach an agreement with Iran, he should be impeached for treason. I am not a crackpot.”

Meanwhile, at America’s most popular winger blog:

McCarthy’s right, of course. But as his ending query reveals, no one realistically expects the Republican establishment to call for impeachment, despite the fact that the House GOP could issue articles of impeachment with a simple majority vote, sending the case to the Senate for conviction (which would require 2/3 supermajority).

Why not? Because the GOP leadership has given up, and like a jilted lover, is trying so hard to “look the other way” that it no longer sees the obvious, and has lost all self-confidence in its own power, and the power of the truth. It also is betting the farm–i.e., the country–that the U.S. can survive another 18 months of an Obama presidency, and that the next (hopefully) GOP President can magically “cure” all of the Obama-induced cancers. It’s a risky and stupid gamble.

Yes, impeaching Obama on absolutely ludicrous grounds and have removal fail massively in the Senate would be the risk-averse and intelligent gamble. I hope that Ms. Foley will go on to a long and lucrative career as a Republican consultant.

The Great One Speaks

[ 60 ] July 26, 2015 |


I will have more about my favorite of today’s Cooperstown honorees later today, but let us explore some other reasons why Pedro Martinez is awesome. First, his remarks on “sock a teenage boy keeps under his mattress” Colin Cowherd:

Second, his comments on blowhard drug war moralism:

Pedro Martinez doesn’t think Alex Rodriguez will someday be elected into the Hall of Fame based on the track records of the BBWAA members with votes.

But he does think Rodriguez and other steroid users with Hall of Fame-worthy statistics deserve to get in.

“There’s nothing I can do with the way voters handle who did what,” Martinez said. “Certainly the numbers are there (for Rodriguez). But as you know, from previous cases where — Why not Roger Clemens? Why not Barry Bonds? — because of the same reason. So I’m not going to go into that and make a big deal out of this. I hope they all make it to be honest.”

Incomparably great on the field, also great off. (He’s also a treat to watch on the MLB Network if you’re into that kind of thing.)

The Clinton Rules

[ 111 ] July 25, 2015 |


Kurt Eichenwald — author of two of my favorite nonfiction books — has an excellent piece about the train colliding with a bus that just got hit by a blimp that is the latest NYT HILLARY CLINTON’S DISTURBING EMAILS story:

The story seemed to further fall apart on Friday morning when Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a statement saying that he had spoken to the inspector general of the State Department and that there had been no criminal referral regarding Clinton’s email usage. Rather, Cummings said, the inspectors general for State and the intelligence community had simply notified the Justice Department—which issues the regulations on Freedom of Information Act requests—that some emails subject to FOIA review had been identified as classified when they had not previously been designated that way.


Indeed, if the Times article is based on the same documents I read, then the piece is wrong in all of its implications and in almost every particular related to the inspector generals’ conclusions. These are errors that go far beyond whether there was a criminal referral of Clinton’s emails or a criminal referral at all. Sources can mislead; documents do not.

The Times‘s war on the Clinton’s gets all the more deeply strange every year. They thought that uberhack Jeff Gerth gave them the new Watergate when he had given them nothing. But you’d think that one impeachment over a blowjob later they would hold off on reporting Clinton scandals unless there was some actual scandal. But, no, we keep getting the sequels.

Saturday Links

[ 79 ] July 25, 2015 |

NIMBYism And San Fransisco

[ 151 ] July 24, 2015 |

It really hasn’t worked for the non-wealthy.

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