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That’ll Solve All Your Problems!

[ 0 ] January 11, 2009 |

I know the state of Michigan is reluctant to turn down money from the feds these days, but this kind of thing really should be left to wingnuttier states. In fairness, its administrators certainly can mount a convincing defense:

And a study by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, released in late December, shows that youth who take chastity pledges and partake of abstinence-only education will start sexual activity at the same time as their religious and conservative peers, only they are much less likely to engage in behavior to protect from unwanted pregnancies or sexual transmitted infections.

“What we know is that there are study after study that shows this stuff (abstinence-only) doesn’t work,” said Lori Lammerand, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan.

“Well, I disagree with you that studies show that it (abstinence-only education) doesn’t work,” said MDCH spokesperson James McCurtis when asked about the studies. “I challenge you to cite one study that shows that.”

When presented with a study from the Guttmacher Institute web site, McCurtis responded, “I am not going to amend my previous comments. Thank you for the study.”

Well, I’m convinced!

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Distinction Without A Difference

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

Jacob Weisberg:

The disputed dates and details go to the most interesting larger issues about what went wrong during the Bush years. Did Bush’s own innocence and incompetence drive his missteps? Or was it the people around him, most importantly his vice president, who manipulated him into his major bad choices? On so many issues—the framing of the war on terrorism, the use of torture, the expansion of executive power—it was Cheney’s views that prevailed. Yet at some point, perhaps around the 2006 election, Bush seems to have lost confidence in his vice president and stopped taking his advice.

I suspect that in the short-term, attempts to defend Bush (especially by liberalish pundits who inexplicably saw him as an essentially harmless moderate in 2000) will fall along the lines of “he wasn’t really that bad, although he had some bad people around him.” The kinds of distinctions that Weisberg is drawing above, though, strike me as trivial; in any case, the responsibility rests with Bush and exemplify Bush’s incompetence. First of all, he selected these people. And second, he was structurally superior to all of them (and Cheney, in particular, has essentially no meaningful institutional authority the president didn’t grant him, as Weisberg’s last concession reflects.) It’s not clear what difference it makes if he was “manipulated” by people he chose to appoint and then allow to set policy or if he reached his administration’s bad ideas independently. It seems pretty obvious that it’s some from column A and some from column B, but it doesn’t matter. A president works through his administration; to speculate about how a president would have fared with different people is to wish for a different president. Cheney, Rumsfeld et al had their authority for a reason and Bush is fully responsible for their actions. The whole game of trying to abstract some kind of abstract independent president who is a different figure than the one reflected when embedded in a staff of his choosing is a strange and not very productive one.

I Can’t Argue With That Logic!

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

America’s Worst Columnist says that “there are only two possible endgames: (A) a Lebanon-like cessation of hostilities to be supervised by international observers, or (B) the disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza.” It will not surprise you that he advocates for (B). Alas, it will also not surprise you to know that he doesn’t seem to consider the question of what exactly Hamas would be replaced by should these aims be achieved. The assumption that a lengthy, destructive Israeli bombing campaign will produce a government more sympathetic to Israel and less sympathetic to Iran is so transparently idiotic that I think we can assume it’s the one that Krauthammer is working with.

Deep Thought

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

The fact that more than two and a half million jobs were lost in 2008 proves that upper-class tax cuts are great economic policy. And thank God we took the advice of the great Alan Greenspan and didn’t pay down the debt too quickly; that was always a serious risk and we sure couldn’t use that money now.

Shame Has Consequences

[ 0 ] January 8, 2009 |

One thing to consider, when listening to Will Saletan types talking about how everybody should simply agree that abortion is immoral, is that shaming women about obtaining abortions has real (and bad) consequences. And, of course, starting from the premise that abortion is morally wrong makes even keeping abortion legal more difficult, and encourages arbitrary regulations of abortion that will inevitably lead to some women poor women to choose methods that aren’t as safe because they lack access to safe abortions.

Bullets Dodged

[ 0 ] January 8, 2009 |

The grim possibility that Bob Casey could become Pennsylvania’s best Democratic Senator seems to have been averted.

Seating Burris

[ 0 ] January 7, 2009 |

My position on the Senate’s authority to refuse to seat Roland Burris appears to be in conflict with several of the legal scholars I most admire (cf. Tushnet, Balkin, and Amar, but see also Levinson). My chances of persuading many people against that kind of all-star team are probably pretty remote, but I remain unpersuaded. To be more precise, I certainly agree that the Powell case can be distinguished. What I still don’t see as any compelling reason for why it should be distinguished. I still fail to see any good argument that Burris has not, in Balkin’s terms, “been properly appointed by the executive authority of the State of Illinois.” As far as I can tell, there is no serious question about the legality of Burris’s appointment per se — Blagojevich is still the governor of Illinois, and there does not seem to be a scintilla of evidence that he solicited or received a bribe to appoint Burris. Claims that the appointment were improper, then, have to rely on the much weaker tea of a “tainted process.” I wouldn’t be very convinced by this unless some evidence emerges that the impropriety extends to Burris, and moreover I agree with Ygelsias that on the narrow issue of Senate appointments the indictment of Blagojevich is extremely thin. It seems to me that Powell requires a better argument than “the governor who otherwise has the unquestioned legal authority to appoint an interim Senator is kind of a sleazebag.”

Of course, even if we were to assume for the sake of argument that the courts should defer to the legislatures in this instance, there would still be the political question of whether the Senate should exercise its authority. I don’t think it has any good reason not to seat Burris even if the courts would permit it, so I hope that reports that Reid will ultimately acquiesce are accurate.

Please Please Please

[ 0 ] January 7, 2009 |

I sure do hope that anti-choicers keep bringing up Terri Schiavo. Who knows, maybe this time the media will even figure out that the federal intervention was unpopular.

Risible Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] January 7, 2009 |

Erick Erickson. A lesser hack would be careful not to remind people of this great moment in circus clowndom, but Erickson is very, very special.

Recession Is Over, If You Want It Hang Out Exclusively With Other Wealthy Exurbanites

[ 0 ] January 7, 2009 |

Shorter Verbatim Dr. Helen: “Now, most Americans under 70 apparently think that 2008 was the worst year they have ever seen economically. Yet, whenever I talk to people, they always tell me that they, themselves are doing fine.” [Via]

What could possibly explain this baffling paradox?

Institutions and Health Care

[ 0 ] January 6, 2009 |

Long-time readers will know I agree entirely with this:

So that’s the context in which to ask whether or not it makes sense to have a supermajority requirement for many Senate votes. I would say “no.” Even absent the filibuster, our system would still feature an unusually large number of veto points, especially when you take our unusually robust system of judicial review into account. The supermajority requirement is at odds with our basic democratic norms, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with an example of it ever actually being used to protect the interests of some kind of put-upon minority, and I see no empirical reason to think that our systematically larger number of veto points is producing systematically better results than you see elsewhere. On the other hand, there’s good reason to believe that the large number of veto points makes it easier for narrow interest groups to block public interest reforms.

In terms of Matt’s question about the originality of Tsebelis’s argumemts, I don’t mean it as a criticism of his excellent book to note that this point has been made convincingly by people working in the historical institutionalist tradition as well as rational choicers. Most relevant to the Obama administration is the analysis of scholars like Ellen Immergut and Sven Steinmo, which demonstrates how the chances of achieving major health care reform diminish greatly with additional veto points. Talk about how American doctors and insurance companies oppose health care reform doesn’t explain much in itself, because these groups pretty much always oppose comprehensive reforms everywhere. The difference is that the American system allows representatives of these interests to block even popular reforms much more easily.

For this reason, it’s good that Pelosi is taking away tools allowing for minority vetoes in the House of Representatives, and it’s black comedy for Congressional Republicans to claim that making it more difficult to quietly thwart majority-favored legislation without an up-or-down vote is a blow to “transparency” and “fairness.”

More Hacks Will Solve This Problem!

[ 0 ] January 5, 2009 |

Shorter Michelle Malkin: “The work of a Little Green Footballs commenter who wrote lengthy posts asserting that polls showing a comfortable Obama win were clearly a product of systematic liberal bias shows that there’s no dearth of quality reporting and analysis among conservative bloggers.”

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