When you think about it, it’s amazing how many aspects of Republican economic and foreign policy Homer’s reasoning can account for. (“This time, huge-tax-cuts-with-increased-spending-except-for-food-stamps program is sure to work!”)
Author Page for Scott Lemieux
If Only The Democrats Would Start Supporting Social Security and Reproductive Rights, I Might Vote For Them
Shorter Glenn Reynolds: If only the Democrats would abandon the confiscatory tax rates and stagnant economic growth of the Clinton years and embrace the booming growth and lush surpluses of the fiscally sensible Bush years, I wouldn’t really consider voting for them anyway but I’m sure some random emailer might.
This–for lack of a better word–analysis gets a thumbs-up from our good friends at Donklephant, who claim that if the Democrats get fiscally responsible they may have a shot in 2008. I don’t even know what to say about that. The Instawankery he quotes says the emailer votes GOP “because of their stance on money and taxes, but that he agrees with the Democrats on a lot of other issues.” Unless he’s just talking about cultural issues, this would seem to mean that this voter supports middle-class entitlements but not raising taxes in order to pay for them. In other words, it seems that his support for Republicans is perfectly rational. If, on the other hand, you think that the state should actually raise sufficient revenue to fund what most people want it to do, you should vote Democratic. But there’s nothing the Democrats need to “get”; you may recall a presidential candidate who argued that the enormously successful fiscal policies of the Democratic administration–under which, although Glenn Reynolds missed it, many people even got rich–should be continued and the revenues for the largest entitlement be put in the “lockbox,” while his opponent proposed a program of spending and massive upper-class tax cuts that didn’t add up even given the most optimistic assumptions. But that lockbox guy was such a grind! That give away the surplus feller, you could have a beer with, even if you were rich. And like the Instawife says, the only good measure of fiscal policy is whether it immediately saves affluent people money, and since Milton Friedman says that tax cuts don’t decrease revenues that must be what’s happened the last 5 years.
I see Stuart Taylor is again trying to sell the “Alito is a harmless moderate” line with a lot of diversion and pretty much no evidence. I’ll probably have more on that latter. The punchline, however, is something we’re hearing a lot:
It should also explore liberal analysts’ concerns that in split decisions, Alito has taken the conservative side so consistently as to suggest ideological rigidity. The Senate should figure out whether Alito has been more consistently conservative than, say, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been consistently liberal.
We also see this in John Manning’s (far better) op-ed, which I was planning to discuss but Balkin said pretty much everything I wanted to say. (My short version would be that Manning is right that “balance” is impossible and the President is perfectly within his rights to try to change the balance, but the next point that therefore only qualifications matter is a non-sequitur. In fact, the President takes constitutional philosophy and outcomes into account–indeed, this is what constitutes a shift in balance–and the Senate can too.) But you hear this a lot: if the GOP was willing to let a radical liberal like Ginsburg onto the Court, then Democrats are therefore obliged to let Alito on the Court.
The problem is, the idea that Ginsburg is an ultraliberal is just false; she’s far less liberal than Brennan or Douglas or Marshall. From Baum’s The Supreme Court, here’s the Segal/Spaeth data on liberal voting from the 2000-2001 terms on the Court:
1. Stevens 64.2
2T. Souter 60.2
2T. Ginsburg 60.2
4. Breyer 57.9
5. O’Connor 42.6
6. Kennedy 39.2
7. Rehnquist 31.3
8. Thomas 30.7
9. Scalia 27.3
As it happens, Stevens–the most liberal member of the current court–served for a fair period of time with Brennan and Marshall. On the Burger Court, however, Stevens generally ranked 3rd or 4th in liberalism; always behind the first two, sometimes behind Blackmun, and on federalism behind White and Powell as well. And often the differences were huge; Stevens, like today, was generally between 50%-70% (none higher than 69.9%) depending on the category, Marshall and Brennan were in the high 80s or low 90s in criminal procedure, civil rights, and the 1st Amendment. (And, of course, nobody thinks Stevens was nearly as liberal as Brennan or Marshall; this is hardly controversial.) And yet Ginsburg is no more liberal than Stevens. [All data from SCAM I, 250-1.)
And, of course, the Republicans knew this too. She had a moderate record on the appeals court–unlike Alito–and that’s why Hatch recommended her. The GOP expected her to be a solid but moderate liberal, upholding existing precedents but not boldly creating new rights in the manner of a Brennan or Marshall, and that’s exactly what she’s turned out to be. And this is what the argument that if-Ginsburg-then-Alito leaves out; Hatch proposed Ginsburg, while Reid said that the Dems wouldn’t approve Alito. There’s just no analogy there.
So, in other words, Taylor’s argument is just more question-begging. The analogy to Ginsburg simply assumes that he’s a moderate-to-solid conservative, in between O’Connor and Scalia (like Roberts, who was easily confirmed) the way Ginsburg is between O’Connor and Brennan. Which brings us back to the point that Taylor still doesn’t have any evidence that Alito is more moderate than Scalia, and in fact since Alito doesn’t have a libertarian streak on criminal procedure there’s if anything more evidence that he’s more conservative than Scalia. The fact that the Republicans approved Ginsburg requires Dems to do exactly nothing about Alito.
At this point, virtually the only initiative I’d vote for is one to get rid of initiatives. It’s not that the voters are bad folks, but they’re not trained or experienced legislators, so some of what they approve on face value ends up have subtle and negative impacts down the road. Happily, they seem to have figured this out, and are now rejecting the whole process as a tool of special interests. It’s a shame, because legitimate initiative drives are a positive option, but this sort of cynical overuse is killing the whole medium.
I am even more negative about referenda than Ezra, but it’s for a slightly different reason. It’s not so much that the voters are ignorant, although that’s part of it (and they’re quite right to have seen that initiatives are generally extensions of special interest politics.) The problem is that they’re too rational. Initiatives tend to undermine effective governance because they individuate the issues, which allows voters to get goodies without making the tradeoffs. The reason that California is ungovernable has little to do with bad faith on the part of politicians or “special interests” or whatever. It’s because voters have voted for tax cuts and various mechanisms that make it extremely difficult to raise revenues, and have simultaneously voted to lock in spending for all kinds of pet projects. And when you see the issues in isolation, that’s perfectly rational; looked at on its own terms without specifying what you have to give up, it always seems good to vote for any tax cut or spending increase. But in toto, you get what Michael Kinsley calls the “big babies” syndrome; voters want Swedish level of social services and Mississippi levels of taxation, and if that can’t happen “it’s those damned bureaucrats down in Sacramento with their fraud and waste!” And then you end up with stuff like California going from one of the best education systems in the country to one of the worst to ensure that wealthy homeowners pay fewer taxes.
So to the extent that anti-initiative sentiment is growing, I’m all for it. Representative democracy, which requires officials to make at least some of the necessary tradeoffs, is much better. (And nor are initiatives particularly good at generating nonpartisan reform; as was the case in California, “process” initiatives tend to be badly drafted and/or partisan, and it’s tough to sell process changes.) Nice to see the gas tax repeal–an intrastate version of red state parasitism–get voted down in WA too…
I think it all has its roots in a failed relationship with Kathryn Lopez. He was so initially smitten (“She appeared like an angel. Out of this filthy mess, she is alone. They. Cannot. Touch. Her.”) But then there was that unpleasant incident at the Pioneer Fund fundraiser…the final scene must have been very awkward for all involved.
Kurtz (forlornly holds out copy of The Bell Curve): “But I bought it for you, K-Lo.”
K-Lo: “I’ve already got it.” (Slams door.)
Given my effusive praise for the terrific cover story (buy it at your local newstand!) , I am obligated to note that this article by Jeffrey Rosen about the Fitzgerald indictment is, um, not good. There are a lot of bad parts, culminating in the absurd comparison of Fitzgerald’s indictment with the Starr Inquisition’s prosecution of Julie Hiatt Steele. But it does do one thing that Miller’s defenders generally haven’t: articulate an actual shield law. And, amazingly, he’s proposing one that would indeed protect Miller:
It’s a sign of the declining political clout of the traditional media that Congress is in no rush to pass a version of a federal shield law that would protect professional reporters from having to reveal their sources in federal investigations (except in cases where the disclosure is necessary to prevent imminent harm to national security). Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have shield laws, as do a number of European countries. But a bipartisan shield law bill is moving slowly through the House and Senate, in part because of the opposition of the Justice Department and in part because of opposition from bloggers.
Such a law would, of course, be terrible public policy: a journalist can’t reveal a source, to provide information about a serious felony, even if the public interest is minor? That’s absurd. And it also creates the bizarre idea that this protection should be given to identities (“professional reporters”) rather than an action (“journalism”). This is silly, but also inevitable given the near-absolute shield, which requires it be available to a small number of people. A more rational law, that would balance interests more reasonably, would allow us to focus on the activity, not the identity of the person doing it. But would this uphold the principles that Judy Miller stood for? Which brings us to Respected Small-Circulation Journal With Good Taste in Guest Authors Matt:
The right of journalists to protect their sources? But Libby wasn’t a source for any article Miller wrote or was planning on writing. Nor was the fact that Libby had spoken to Miller on the day in question a secret, Libby had already said as much to the prosecutors. Miller was protecting not the identity of her “source” but the content of what the source told her. There’s no journalistic principle saying reporters shouldn’t disclose what their sources tell them. It would be very hard to write articles on the basis of that principle. Reporters are in the business of disclosing what their sources tell them. They’re not, ordinarily, in the business of saying who their sources were, if their sources don’t want to be identified. But, again, Libby had already identified himself.
There was no principle here. Miller was refusing to testify in order to protect a friend from a perjury charge. That’s an understandable thing to do. People like to protect their friends. The New York Times by agreeing to assist Miller in her quest and drag the first amendment into it managed to delay the investigation by a year. There’s a non-trivial chance the paper, and Miller, thereby got George W. Bush re-elected. Good work.
This is quite right. And I think the implication here is that, as fun as it is to make fun of the Queen of All Iraq the Times should really take the most heat. Miller was trying to save a friend, had good reason to use the First Amendment instrumentally, and was willing to go to jail. Nothing admirable, but nothing awful (unlike her actual Iraq reporting.) But to have invested its capital to defend her despite the utter lack of any free speech principle being involved was a horrible decision by Keller, and more than anyone else reflects badly on him.
I’ve written before about the attempts of NYU grad students to organize, which were set back by the NLRB. Of course, NYU can still recognize them if they choose, and grad students there have gone on strike. Lindsay has the report.
The argument made by research universities which rely massively on grad student teaching that because grad students are students, they’re therefore not workers is quite remarkably bad. (It’s like saying that because professional baseball is a sport, it’s therefore not a business.) But there’s any easy way to resolve it: universities can just pay students the same money for not teaching; after all, they’re not workers, so who will notice? Problem solved.
He basically said . . . that Roe was precedent on which people — a lot of people — relied, and been precedent now for decades and therefore deserved great respect,” Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D (sic)-Conn.) told reporters after meeting with Alito yesterday.” (via FL)
The Court’s opinion brings to the decision of this troubling question both extensive historical fact and a wealth of legal scholarship. While the opinion thus commands my respect, I find myself nonetheless in fundamental disagreement with those parts of it that invalidate the Texas statute in question, and therefore dissent.” Rehnquist, J., Roe v. Wade (dissenting)
To repeat, these kinds statements by Alito mean absolutely nothing. Talking about “respected precedents” is a good way of evading the issue, and that’s it. It takes someone as hard-wired to roll over and play dead as Lieberman to infer something from them. It should be noted as well that talking about how much you respect precedents before you overturn them is quite common; considerably more common, I would bet, than the “it was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today” rhetoric that was used in Lawrence. Particularly given that Alito knows that advocating the overturn of Roe (whether explicit or sub silento) would be the end of his nomination, these statements mean less than zero.
…AFJ notes that even Clarence Thomas touted the value of stare decisis at his hearings.
…Shakes Sis writes letters.
You have to like to see this. I hope someone remembered to take the laces out of Mickey Kaus’ shoes. (Speaking of Kaus, he argues that “you might say it’s time to take the fight to the courts–and there are valid constitutional arguments to be made, along Baker v. Carr lines, against partisan or pro-incumbent gerrymanders.” Yes, I can’t believe nobody has ever thought to do that before!)
By the way, I noted that the allegedly socially liberal, anti-”special interests” Republican engaged in a familiar bargain (which also explains his veto of gay marriage legislation):
Also on the ballot were four other initiatives. Voters were narrowly defeating Proposition 73, which would bar abortions for minors without parental notification. The state Republican Party promoted Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of the measure among evangelicals and other religious conservatives in a bid to boost turnout of voters who would back the rest of his agenda.
At this point, I guess we’re just haggling over the price. But now I can see why he’s such a darling of the bullshit-libertarian movement!
…may I just say how pleased I am that California voted down every single initiative yesterday, thereby shoving Schwarzenegger’s useless 70 million dollar special election down his throat. Even the parental notification for minors seeking abortion went down.
Schwarzenegger is toast. After watching Bush and him in action maybe people are finally beginning to move beyond the “dumbshit guy I’d like to hang out with” and “movie stars are, like, awesome” methods of choosing our leaders.
Paul “I encourage free speech in the blogosphere by filing risible nuisance suits” Deignan. What Deignan doesn’t understand is that if you say something stupid to another person, that person might actually tell someone else about it; that’s how free speech works. When you’re on the job market, your advisors may talk to other people who have met you, and some people may even contact her! (What “Wally” did in this case strikes me as inappropriate and excessive, but it’s not a violation of free speech or any other rights. As I believe John Stuart Mill once said, if free speech means anything, it’s that you’re allowed to tell person A that person D is a jagoff based on person D’s behavior.) That you write up your puerile rants on other people’s blogs doesn’t provide you insulation from the consequences of social interactions, no matter what your profession. Suck it up.
…More at unfogged. In comments, alameida summarizes Mr. Deignan’s game theoretic innovations: “it’s as if there were a poor man’s steven den beste, and then there was the poor man’s poor man’s steven den beste. and then we had to turn to this guy, later, after the poor man x2 den beste suffered a fatal brain haemmorage brought on by being a fucking eeeedjeet. and we found this guy’s writing rolled up with some used BART transfers in that other guy’s pockets after he passed out.”
I see here that there will be a remake of the greatest of all heist movies, Rififi [Mmm, probably not a great idea] starring Al Pacino [This whole casting system is out of order!!!!!!!!!] and directed by Mercury Rising auteur Harold Becker [No, really, see the original. I mean, I love Pacino too, when he's good. But trust me; really, really bad fit.] What’s worse is the likelihood that I’ll end up seeing the thing.
On the other hand, I didn’t really trust my fond memories for The Passenger, which I retained from a grainy VHS copies I watched as an undergrad many moons ago. My subsequent viewing of his previous movie, Zabriskie Point, didn’t increase my trust; it’s worth seeing only to see how bad a film by a major director not doing actual hackwork can get. But I saw the reissue last weekend and I think it holds up very well; unlike Manohla Dargis I still prefer L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, but it still often produces a haunting beauty, and the final sequence deserves its classic status.