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Legalize It

[ 0 ] July 10, 2007 |

This is a great point:

It’s really too bad that when politicians get caught doing stuff that shouldn’t be illegal, they never, ever, ever seem to respond by redoubling their efforts to reduce the criminalization of victimless conduct. Does Vitter think Vitter should go to jail? Does he think the hookers he had sex with should go to jail? If not, then doesn’t he think he should use his authority as one of the guys who gets to write the laws to create a more just legal system?

Right. (It’s also puzzling that legalizing prostitution is something that seems to be rarely discussed, although criminalization is obviously a terrible policy even if you support it for more legitimate ends than the usual purpose of such legislation. The effect of these laws is to make sex workers more vulnerable to violence and exploitation, not less.) Moreover, laws like this are particularly prone to arbitrary and abusive enforcement. And therein lies the problem: the fact that wealthy politicians aren’t going to be punished for violating these laws make them less likely to be repealed; it’s a cost-free way of demonstrating fealty to Moral Goodness.

Feature, Not A Bug

[ 0 ] July 10, 2007 |

It’s always refreshing, in this postmodern age, when political struggles can be clearly drawn battles between good and evil:

The fight over a popular health insurance program for children is intensifying, with President Bush now leading efforts to block a major expansion of the program, which is a top priority for Congressional Democrats.

The seemingly uncontroversial goal of insuring more children has become the focus of an ideological battle between the White House and Congress. The fight epitomizes fundamental disagreements over the future of the nation’s health care system and the role of government.

Democrats have proposed a major expansion of the program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, to cover more youngsters with a substantial increase in federal spending.

Administration officials have denounced the Democratic proposal as a step toward government-run health care for all. They said it would speed the erosion of private insurance coverage. And they oppose two of the main ideas contemplated by Democrats to finance expanded coverage for children: an increase in the federal tobacco tax and cuts in Medicare payments to private insurance companies caring for the elderly.

White House objections to the Democratic plan are “philosophical and ideological,” said Allan B. Hubbard, assistant to the president for economic policy. In an interview, he said the Democrats’ proposal would move the nation toward “a single-payer health care system with rationing and price controls.”

It is difficult to overstate the sheer horror that lies at the bottom of this slippery slope. If we expand healthcare for children, we may end up with a system…like those in every virtually other liberal democracy! In which — brace yourself, this isn’t for the faint of heart — healthcare is provided to everyone for less money leading to health outcomes as good or better than the completely indefensible American system! How horrifying! What will we tell the children?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

The ones who won’t become ill or die because of Republicans who care more about their paymasters in the insurance lobby than developing a rational health care policy, I mean.

I Admit It

[ 0 ] July 10, 2007 |

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“It’s just a waffle iron with a phone in it!”

Although she hasn’t mentioned it, perhaps in fear that L, G & M’s head office will be overcome by angry readers with pitchforks, I saw earlier this evening that a certain co-blogger with a legume-themed sobriquet has acquired one of them fancy i-Phones a few of you may have heard of. And…as much as it pains me to admit it, it’s a pretty beautiful thing, just incredibly well-designed and easy to use software. I think the price tag and the allegedly crappy A T & T network can serve as an excuse not to get one, but…I wanted one, I gotta admit. And I don’t even like cell phones.

The Green Lantern Theory Of Domestic Politics

[ 4 ] July 9, 2007 |

To follow up on Ezra’s point about Megan McArdle’s claim that impeachment proceedings would “mean[] not having any achievements to show the electorate next year,” it’s always striking to me the extent to which even many smart, politically aware people don’t fully absorb the implications of the Madisonian institutional framework. As Ezra says, as long as the GOP has more than 40 Senators and the White House, major accomplishments are not an issue. This also came up in certain recent not-to-be-reopened debates, but while there are any number of valid critiques of Clinton to attack him for not achieving any major progressive initiatives after 1994 is bizarre; with a Republican Congress this simply wasn’t a possibility. The President has a lot of power to affect the implementation of existing policy and can do a lot to obstruct change, but his ability to create major domestic policy shifts without Congress is nil. (And this is applicable to reactionary — as opposed to merely conservative — policy shifts as well as progressive ones. As Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security recently and thankfully dramatized, the only thing harder than creating a major new domestic program is rolling one with anything resembling a broad constituency back once it’s been implemented.)

Another upshot of this is that debates about impeachment are purely about the politics — obviously there’s no chance of 2/3 of the Senate voting to convict anyone. And here I also agree with Ezra that here McArdle is considerably more persuasive. It’s hard to see how serious impeachment proceedings (as opposed to stepping up use of Congress’ oversight powers in general) would strengthen the Democrats’ political position.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Executive Power, Torture, and the Constitution

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

Marty Lederman has a useful, bookmarkable list of every Balkinization post about the title subjects. Seeing them all in one place reminds me that I while I can take even the most essential blogs for granted sometimes the sheer amount of good analysis is remarkable.

Whatever Happened To Us?

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

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I really enjoyed this Vanity Fair article about the Wainwright/McGarrigle clan (HT: new well-deserved TAP hire Dana Goldstein.) Plus both male Waingwrights — each, like the McGarrigles, an outstanding live act (and Martha held her own when I saw her on a bill with Joanna Newsom and Neko Case in Brooklyn last year) — have new albums out. Both are good, although with Loudon I prefer his terrific 2005 Bill Frisell collaboration. (Alas, Roy Edroso’s essay on LW III is no longer available for free online.)

OK, OK, Uncle

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

I’m embarrassed that until I read Alone in the Dark’s review I had no idea that Brad Bird had done The Iron Giant, a beautiful film. The only thing stopping me from making Ratatouille a higher priority although everyone says its great is that I found almost-as-universally-praised The Incredibles very disappointing; the setup was excellent, but it became a frequently dull fighting-and-chase movie way too quickly. But, yeah, I really should see it. (And, hey, I’ve been pretty good about non-snooty movie choices recently, seeing two legitimate hits and a movie that wasn’t mainstream only because unlike me most people had enough sense to avoid it like the plague. Plus the Danish noirs and 3-hour Lawrence adaptations and Melville revivals that play more to type; more about all this soon.)

Speaking of which, since I’ve seen even some Bay detractors concede too much on this score elsewhere, AITD has more in comments about the bizarre assertion that Michael Bay is some sort of technical wizard:

I’m glad people are finally shredding the “Bay is such a great visual director” trope. He’s incompetent. I remember a scene in The Rock where the two heroes were surrounded by soldiers who (natch) opened fire. The scene was so badly shot and edited that I couldn’t tell if the soldiers were trying to kill the heroes, each other, or just blow off their own balls.

Right. IIRC, most of his action sequences like this; they’re so inept that they fail to convey such simple and crucial matters as where the characters are in relation to each other, who’s shooting at who, etc. (And while in limited doses and in movies that have characters in them such techniques might be used to intentionally convey disorientation, it’s clear that Bay is just a wanker.) He also lacks other talents of obvious use to the genre director: he has no sense of rhythm or pacing at all, and usually can’t even get good scenery-chewing out of his actors.

Speaking of which, poking around I was reminded of two reviews of Pearl Harbor that rank with J-Pod’s declaring Cinderella Man a peak of American cinema as classics of bad criticism. About Kevin Thomas’s review, which alas doesn’t seem to be online I can only be reminded of John Simon’s response when informed that another LA critic had never been on a studio payroll: “Of course not. Why should they pay for what they’re getting for free?” Then there’s William Arnold, who wrote “I found myself fairly swept away for most of the fast-moving, three-hour running time.” Fast-moving? Unless the last hour when I finally got too annoyed to keep it on even as background was wildly different, the thing moves like Cecil Fielder after a six-course meal.

And because L, G &M prides itself on fair and balanced commentary, I note that fellow Melville revivalist AWB has joined the pro-Transformers consensus. I’m going to take Rob’s word for it, but we report, you decide!

Nobody Cares

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

To follow up on my point from last week, I see that Colin Powell is trying to wipe some blood off his hands. It’s a futile and frankly disgraceful enterprise; when you’re arguably the most important American liar that was involved in selling the war, you take responsibility for it, the end. The fact that you knew is was going to be a disaster makes your behavior less defensible, not more.

[HT: Atrios.]

People Who Should Never, Ever Call Other People "Fatuous"

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

Roger L. Simon, ladies and gentlemen! It’s not exactly news that the co-founder of Trainwreck Media is one of the biggest clowns in the known universe, but “disagreeing with my Trotskyite-turned-Wolfwitzian politics will cause your son to get a DWI rap, which I will take advantage of to sneeringly repeat long-discredited lies and cliches from 1999 Maureen Dowd columns” really merits an entirely new level of contempt.

P.S. Answer to Labs’ question: “No.”

"And you ain’t gotta love me, just be convincin’…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

I have no doubt that Fred Thompson lobbied for Planned Parenthood; it’s not the first evidence of his past moderation on the issue. If I were (God forbid) the kind of person who thought that using state coercion to force (poor) women to carry pregnancies to term was a peachy idea, though, I’m not sure why this would matter. We’re back to the John McCain/George Wallace issue here, but if I had to guess I doubt that any of the serious Republican candidates personally care of Roe v. Wade is overruled, and this is common among elite Republicans. What actually matters about a candidate, however, is not what he believes in his heart of hearts but what he’ll actually do, and since becoming federal politician Thompson has racked up a 0% rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. That’s how he (and McCain and Romney) are actually likely to act as President.

Lesbians Stole My Car Keys!

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

More frivolous lawsuits for purveyors of right-wing identity politics….

I’d have to say that if asking for providing information about cases assumes endorsement, teaching con law is going to be very difficult.

"That’s some catch…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

6 CA upholds the warrantless wiretapping program 2-1…on standing grounds. Great; the prefect ruling for the age of Yoo. The secrecy of the arbitrary executive insulates even the illegal actions of the arbitrary executive from judicial scrutiny. Call me defeatist, but this also sounds like exactly the kind of feeble dodge that Kennedy is going to buy.