Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Powers Don’t Have To Be Used

[ 19 ] December 18, 2007 |

There are a couple frustrating elements to Zev Chafets’s profile of Mike Huckabee. For example, he completely botches the discussion of the DuMond pardon, disappearing the lunatic anti-conspiracy angle that is what makes the pardon so problematic. But this is also odd:

Huckabee’s answer to his opponents on the fiscal right has been his Fair Tax proposal. The idea calls for abolishing the I.R.S. and all current federal taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and corporate and personal income taxes, and replacing them with an across-the-board 23 percent consumption tax.

Governor Huckabee promises that this plan would be ‘‘like waving a magic wand, releasing us from pain and unfairness.’’ Some reputable economists think the scheme is practicable. Many others regard it as fanciful. (For starters, it would require repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.) In any case, the Fair Tax proposal is based on extremely complex projections.

First of all, we have the classic “opinions on shape of earth differ” formulation; I’d very much like to get the names of some of the “reputable economists” who think that a 30%+ national sales tax plan is “practicable.” And while this isn’t terribly important, the claim about the Sixteenth Amendment is bizarre. Here’s the amendment in its entirety:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Absolutely nothing in the amendment requires the federal government to raise revenues through an income tax; it merely gave Congress the option to do, overturning a Supreme Court decision that had held otherwise. Huckabee’s plan would be an unworkable catastrophe on several levels, but it would not violate the Constitution. And while it’s trivial in itself the fact that Chafets would make such an obvious mistake doesn’t give me much confidence that he’s in a position to credibly evaluate assessments of Huckabee’s tax plan.

Episodes In Bullet-Dodging

[ 8 ] December 18, 2007 |

Reading about his disgusting ongoing smears of Obama, I can’t say I’m any less broken up about Wanker Caucus President Bob Kerrey deciding to abjure a potential return to the Senate. I understand that politics is a tough business, but it seems to me that the line should be drawn before racist dog-whistle attacks against potential Presidential candidates in your own party.

Obama’s Rhetoric

[ 34 ] December 17, 2007 |

I agree with Matt that 1)it was stupid of Obama’s campaign to pick a fight with Paul Krugman, but 2)Krugman’s point is very misguided. I don’t think that Obama’s rhetoric about transcending old politics tells us much about how he’ll actually govern. Bush in 2000, after all, didn’t campaign as a 50%+1 conservative who would increase party polarization in Congress, but that’s what he did. Obama’s using this kind of rhetoric because 1)it’s effective, and 2)he’s very good at it. What actually matters, however, is the substance of his policies and record, and on that count he’s clearly superior to Clinton (especially on foreign policy), although on domestic policy there’s a strong case to be made for Edwards. I also second Matt’s point about institutional realities; as nice as it would be if we would be inaugurating a Prime Minister in 2009, no major reform can be passed without the votes of some Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Given that she generates more hostility from the GOP (despite being more conservative), it seems very unlikely that Clinton is likely to get more accomplished if she’s elected.

Extras XMas Special/Series Finale

[ 0 ] December 17, 2007 |

A little disappointing. A lot of good stuff, of course, but the narrative arc was way too similar the last episode of Season 2; it might have been better to leave it at that.

Wedding Liveblogging

[ 32 ] December 16, 2007 |

I am here live at the Hyatt Regency in D.C., in full view of the Capitol, and can confirm that Rob and Davida have, in fact, been successfully married. We have photographic evidence. Here is the official breaking of the wine glass:


And here’s the first dance:


This was followed by me — unprecedentedly — cutting the rug for the second time in a few months. Here’s me as the best man escorting the maid of honor:

Shockingly, of the dozens of pictures of me, that was the best one. The maid, however, was lovely.

Wish Rob and Davida luck!

News Flash: Bush Official Facilitates Torture

[ 29 ] December 15, 2007 |

How about that: new, Chuck Schumer-approved Attorney General Michael Mukasey stonewalls an inquiry into the destruction of CIA torture videos. I reiterate these remarks.

This seems like a good time to savor this bit of High Contrarianism from Ben Wittes:

I know what you’re thinking: If they confirm Mukasey without answers, the Democrats will once again be caving and letting the administration escape accountability. But the Democrats actually don’t have to cave here. They just have to wait a few weeks. While Mukasey cannot answer these questions before confirmation, that inability will not persist long once he takes the reins of the Justice Department. Senators can make clear that they will let him take office but will also expect him back before the Judiciary Committee within two months of his accession to address questions of coercive interrogation, that they will expect answers far more straightforward and candid than they got from his predecessor, and that they will demand these answers–to the maximum extent possible–in public session.

The Democrats have a big club to wield over Mukasey’s head to make sure they don’t get snookered: Without a strong working relationship with them, he won’t be able to get anything done. The lack of such a relationship gravely impaired both of his predecessors, albeit for different reasons. And, with only a year to serve in office, Mukasey’s clock will tick loudly from the start.

Yes, the Dems will actually if anything have more leverage over Mukasey once he’s confirmed! Because, er, he won’t be able to “do anything” –like, oh, just for a random example, obstructing a Congressional inquiry into the obstruction of justice surounding state-sanctioned torture — without them. And the Attorney General requires Congressional approval to fulfill most of the office’s functions because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!

Juno

[ 0 ] December 14, 2007 |

I see in this excellent Meghan O’Rourke article [via MY] that Katherine Heigl had (correctly) called Knocked Up “a little sexist.” The film makes an interesting contrast with Juno. The more recent film may seem like a classic Overrated Quirky Indie on paper but in practice it’s very, very good. It’s not as funny as Knocked Up — a tough standard– but it’s very funny, and while in the beginning the witty-in-a-very-stylized-manner dialogue is indeed almost as forced as Gilmore Girls it loosens up a little. But another nice twist of the movie — and here’s the contrast with Knocked Up — is that the relationship between the adoptive parents looks like it will be a classic case of a humorless shrewish wife taking all the pleasure out of her husband’s life, but turns out to be a lot more complex and interesting. (In fairness, as O’Rourke points out there’s a little of this in Knocked Up too, but I agree with here that it seems pro forma.) And this is true of the rest of Juno — every time it gets too close to cliche it veers sharply leftward. Even the part of the script that seems the most didactic on paper — Alison Janney’s response to the assistant’s condescension towards her stepdaughter — is something the character would say; she can’t resist condescension either, but is also someone who will fiercely stand up for her loved ones. I suspect that we’re in for a major anti-Juno backlash, but it’s the work of people with real talent. I think Cody will deserve her screenwriting nomination in the end.

NJ To End Pointless Expensive Boondoggle

[ 12 ] December 14, 2007 |

The New Jersey legislature has voted to abolish the death penalty, and Corzine says that he will sign the bill. Good. Some death penalty supporters will undoubtedly mention that a majority of the state’s citizens still support the death penalty, but this is misleading. When residents are asked to choose between the viable alternatives, what the legislature did was in fact consistent with public opinion:

Where there is a discernable shift underway — and what has partly driven the repeal in New Jersey — is when residents are offered an alternative; the death penalty, or life in prison without parole. Given the choice, New Jersey residents backed life without parole over the death penalty, 52 percent to 39 percent.

This abolition is the formalization of existing practice; New Jersey hasn’t executed anybody since 1963. I think it’s worth noting that although the death penalty is often cited as a uniquely American phenomenon among current liberal democracies, it’s really a regional eccentricity; the vast majority of executions since 1976 have taken place in 5 states, and many states that keep it on the books rarely use it. Unusually harsh sentences for nonviolent offenses, conversely, are a truly national phenomenon.

The Afternoon Debates

[ 5 ] December 14, 2007 |

While waiting with djw for a train to D.C. in Wilmington this afternoon — alas, we weren’t able to tour a screen door factory — I noticed that a Democratic debate was on the teevee; I assumed that it was a replay, but close inspection revealed that, in fact, the debate was live. I was baffled as to why a debate — especially one so close to the primaries — would be on with the nation at work. Yglesias specultates : “I wonder if the scheduling is just a slight post-modern nod at the reality that the chattering class is, in fact, the real audience for these things.” I certainly can’t think of a better explanation…

Put Your Makeup On, Fix Your Hair Up Pretty…

[ 6 ] December 12, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

“We can play some blackjack, go to Morton’s, get a steak. That way the wedding won’t be a total loss!”

Off to beautiful, tasteful Atlantic City for some guy’s bachelor party, and then to D.C. for the Sacred Event. I’ll be around, but blogging will be a touch lights…

Women…Wearing Pants!

[ 10 ] December 12, 2007 |

More sexist trivia at the Washington Post. In fairness, the Givhan/Milbank clown show doesn’t just apply to Clinton. Somerby — who also correctly points out “the rule of this upper-class clan: Big Dem women are really men. And Big Dem men are just women,” sums up the Post’s coverage of several candidates:

1. An insipid attempt at psycho-biography, written by one of the world’s dumbest people.
2. A piece called “How He’s Running.” (According to Kornblut, who writes today’s piece, “Edwards is running as ‘the son of a millworker.’”)
3. A piece called “How He Looks” (Robin Givhan).
4. A piece called “How He Talks” (Dana Milbank).

If you love the competence of President Bush, you’ll like this method of evaluating candidates.

Uh, I Hate To Tell You This, But…

[ 0 ] December 12, 2007 |

I enjoyed this from the National Review‘s endorsement of Mitt Romney:

Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.

Yes, try to imagine a world in which a Republican administration substantially increased government spending, spent spectacular amounts of money to invade a country that posed no threat to the United States, packed the federal courts with statist reactionaries, and repeatedly supported arbitrary executive power. That kind of Republican Party sure would be useless!

Page 550 of 776« First...102030...548549550551552...560570580...Last »