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A Brief Note On the Latest Silly Season Controversy About Nothing

[ 150 ] July 15, 2008 |

I’m going to go even beyond where bean is and straight-up endorse the views of Edroso and the Editors. On the proposition that all satire requires extensive belaboring-the-obvious signaling lest some complete idiot misunderstand the point, I vote “no.” On the proposition that everything in a magazine (or movie or song or whatever) should be precisely calibrated so as to weigh its potential partisan impact, I vote “double hell no, you want to be like those NRO tools who decry the wrongthink in movie trailers and are only capable of enjoying “Clampdown” if they can convince themselves that it was really an endorsement of Reagan’s policies in El Salvador?”

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Veep Random Notes

[ 72 ] July 14, 2008 |

Kathy G has an exhaustive roundup on potential running mates for Obama. I bascially agree with the rankings, if not all of the reasoning. A few points:

  • This adds further ammunition to my belief that Sebelius is the best choice. Of the top three, she’s the only one with significant executive experience, and the only woman. Edwards’s greater national experience cuts both ways; his performance on the previous ticket was underwhelming. With respect to Brown, I don’t think that having a Democratic governor in Ohio ends the problem with appointing a red-state Senator. Whether we would get another re-electable, progressive Democratic Senator in Ohio is questionable. I’d rather have Brown in the Senate unless he was clearly better than the alternatives, and I don’t think he is. Edwards offers similar strengths without the obvious downside.
  • This point about is important: “Evan Bayh is one of the biggest Democratic corporate ‘hos in the senate — he’s “fiscally conservative,” voted for the bankruptcy bill, is a DLC Dem all the way. He is literally one of the Wall Street Journal’s favorite Democrats.” Although it’s tempting to describe divisions within the Democratic caucus as falling along cultural lines, red-state Democrats tend to straightforward economic reactionaries. (Tim Roemer whining about not being made DNC chair although he voted for Bush’s tax cuts and against Clinton’s budget package is a classic example.)
  • Kathy’s claim that Lieberman may have cost Gore the election is, I think, a pretty clear pundit’s fallacy. I knew a lot of people how voted for Nader or flirted with the idea at the time, and I don’t recall Lieberman being a major issue for anybody, and nor am I aware of any contemporaneous evidence for the proposition. Moreover, selecting Lieberman was the only time period of the campaign in which Gore received generally positive press coverage, which has to at least balance whatever trivial loss of voters there were. On the other hand, Lieberman also suggests that picking running mates on the merits is important, as he certainly would have been a disaster in he job, especially had 9/11 happened.

Hell Exists on Earth? Yes. I Won’t Live In It.

[ 0 ] July 14, 2008 |

When you hear that the country’s most prominent op-ed page can feature the Feng Shui Princess of Georgetown describing a conversation between Mike Barnicle and Margaret Carlson, you know that the State of Perfect Complacent Vapidity has been achieved.

And what’s worse is that they weren’t even the first to get there.

Somerby: “Things have deteriorated to the point where staffers at People are mystified by the inanity of the political press corps.” Sad, but true.

Personnel and Precedent

[ 10 ] July 14, 2008 |

Reading Linda Greenhouse’s valedictory essay , Digby emphasizes this passage:

In five days on the witness stand, Judge Bork had a chance to explain himself fully, to describe and defend his view that the Constitution’s text and the intent of its 18th-century framers provided the only legitimate tools for constitutional interpretation. Through televised hearings that engaged the public to a rare degree, the debate became a national referendum on the modern course of constitutional law. Judge Bork’s constitutional vision, anchored in the past, was tested and found wanting, in contrast to the later declaration by Judge Anthony M. Kennedy, the successful nominee, that the Constitution’s framers had “made a covenant with the future.”

It has made a substantial difference during these last 21 years that Anthony Kennedy got the seat intended for Robert Bork. The invective aimed at Justice Kennedy from the right this year alone, for his majority opinions upholding the rights of the Guantánamo detainees and overturning the death penalty for child rapists — 5-to-4 decisions that would surely have found Judge Bork on the opposite side — is a measure of the lasting significance of what happened during that long-ago summer and fall.

Elsewhere in the dead tree edition, the paper identified three landmark cases; Casey was called “The Triumph of Precedent.” But was it, at least in the sense that precedent compelled justices to do something they would otherwise have been strongly opposed to? It’s far from clear. The three justice plurality in Casey reached pretty much the same conclusion you would expect reasonably moderate Rockefeller Republicans to reach: formally legal pre-viability abortion while states have wide latitude to pass silly regulations that make it harder for poor women to procure them. More importantly, had Bork been confirmed the Roe precedent would have been worth nothing. It was the defeat of Bork, rather than the pull of precedent, that explains Casey.

And for this reason, as I’ve said before, it’s unwise for progressives to get too complacent about Roe or other landmark liberal precedents. The upholding of Roe may seem inevitable in retrospect. but it wasn’t. Had Reagan nominated Bork and Scalia in reverse order, or Bush had gone with Ken Starr rather than Souter, Roe would have been overruled. It’s true that the Court rarely swims far outside the mainstream, but governing factions have a variety of interests and political priorities. In the Rehnquist Court, culturally moderate conservatives controlled the center. I would be unwise to assume that the same would be true of the Roberts Court after another Republican term or two.

The Bonds Question

[ 11 ] July 14, 2008 |

I was at Shea yesterday, which was great except for Pedro leaving the game early (although he was pitching 1-hit shutout ball with no stuff.) Between that and Alou unsurprisingly out for the year, it makes me a little sad (and makes me feel old) as the number of still-active players from the definitive team of my baseball fan existence continues to shrink. You have to think this is it for Alou, and the careers of Better Than Koufax Martinez and Floyd aren’t exactly looking robust right now.

Anyway, with the Expos playing Cinderallas and marginal prospects on the corners but back in contention, I guess this brings up the Barry Bonds question. At his subscription site, Bill James has made an extensive case against a team signing him in most circumstances:

Look, I like Barry Bonds. I don’t have to deal with him, but I was always on his side, and I still am. I don’t think he belongs in jail; I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Ten years ago, he was playing by the rules as they were enforced ten years ago. It seems self-righteous to me to say now that he was cheating.

But. . .it’s over.

The argument is primarily baseball related: basically, that once a player 1)starts getting hurt, and 2)produces value solely by hitting homers and drawing walks the chances of a complete collapse in his value have to be considered very high. (Perhaps this could be called the Jack Clark effect? Although I still wish he had showed up to the ’93 Expos…)

Is this right? It’s certainly plausible. I think there’s a tendency to rely to much on the Ruth analogy, although the 1935 Braves are certainly a powerful example (pretty good team signs still-high-OPS Ruth, Ruth collapses, team literally posts worse record than 1962 Mets.) Still, one can say something similar about Aaron and Mays, and the comparable players you can’t say that about (Williams, Mantle) retired without pressing the issue. None of those players peaked in their late 30s, but it’s reasonable between that and the circus he would create (especially when he didn’t go through spring training) you would want to pass. In the context of New York, I can understand if the Mets would prefer to make a play for Ibanez or Rivera or Bay. Still, if I’m the Devil Rays, and look at my athletic, good pitching-and-defense team notably lacking in the power core your main wildcard rivals have…I’d be pretty inclined to take the risk. Tom Tango summarized the discussion and disagrees with James.

9/11 Changed Nothing

[ 13 ] July 13, 2008 |

I wanted to think this was a joke. I really did. Alas. Still, there’s a sort of Zen perfection in the same paper that print Fred Hiatt’s pro-disastrous-war editorials and stable of reliably pro-disastrous war columnists returning us to the 2001 summer of “Gary Condidit.”

Graphical FISA

[ 1 ] July 12, 2008 |

A useful tool. (Via Sanchez.)

Bonus: Lanny Davis, a wanker for all seasons. (Davis: “The compromise bill would provide strict supervision by the special FISA Court.” Sanchez: “This is right, if by “strict supervision” you mean ‘checking whether Mike Mukasey can fill out a form correctly.'”) Anyway, when Lanny Davis is defending you it’s pretty much a dead certainty that you’re wrong; I hope he will be back to being an anti-Obama hack soon.

Clinton’s FISA Vote

[ 22 ] July 11, 2008 |

There seems to be some debate about whether Clinton’s laudable vote against the FISA bill was politically motivated or not. Obviously, this is unknowable, although I suspect that she would have voted differently had she won the nomination. Josh Patashnik, however, makes the more important point: it doesn’t matter. Trying to figure out whether Clinton’s FISA vote was sincere or not is as irrelevant as figuring out what John McCain really thinks about abortion rights. Responding strategically within a given environment is what politicians do. And if Clinton responds to the fact that her political power base will be in the Senate rather than the White House to be a leader in checking the growth in executive power, great. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of member of Congress who have remained supine against assertions of executive power.

A Thousand Times Yes

[ 19 ] July 11, 2008 |

I can’t agree with this strongly enough:

I keep hearing that Nutsgate is a “Sister Souljah moment” for Obama. Frankly, it’s annoying me. First – it’s not a Sister Souljah moment at all. Second – I’m sick of that term. It’s time to retire the Sister Souljah label altogether. It’s inaccurate, and even borderline racist.

Right. How often is the object of a “Sister Souljah” moment a powerful white person? And are Republicans ever required to have “Siser Souljah” moments?

Fanfare For the Common Woman

[ 15 ] July 11, 2008 |

Via Jesse Auguste, the late Clinton campaign’s turn to reactionary populism has produced a hilarious denouement courtesy of inevitably moronic PUMAs. A Clinton fundraiser claims on (natch) Fox News:

This is a hard decision for me personally because, frankly, I don’t like [Obama]. I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.

The fundraiser’s identity?

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild

OK, well maybe she’s a black sheep Rothschild down on her luck?

Sitting down with her on a recent afternoon in the new pad–an 18th-floor duplex in River House that was previously owned by Carter Burden and Libet Johnson–it’s hard to begrudge her the excess of good fortune, thanks to her affability and occasional self-deprecations. (The Chateau Lafitte she pours–“the family wine,” as she calls it–and the heaping bowl of beluga don’t hurt, either.)

Jeez, and I thought turning Crown Royal into an uber-populist beverage was bad…anyway, if McCain starts serving Waygu beef and truffles with Cheval Blanc on the Straight Talk Express I’m sure that will turn into a populist meal too. Maybe Lady Lynn can whip something up for him…

Where Are All The Women Bloggers?

[ 22 ] July 11, 2008 |

Here, for instance.

Are You Tough Enough?

[ 32 ] July 10, 2008 |

No. (I suppose this could work with other entries from the Maurice Starr oeuvre: “Step 2! There’s so much we can do! To capitulate to Bush and expand arbitrary executive power!”)

See Greenwald, CHS, and the ACLU. And all due credit to Clinton.

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