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A Little More Prohibition Will Put Out That Fire!

[ 0 ] December 11, 2008 |

The War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs continues its roaring success:

Killings linked to Mexico’s drug war have more than doubled this year compared with 2007 and are likely to grow even further before they begin to fall, Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said Monday.

The prosecutor tied the sharp increase in deaths to a battle for control among cartels and a power vacuum created by a series of high-profile arrests and seizures.

The number of gangland killings reached 5,376 from the beginning of the year until Dec. 2, a 117 percent increase over the 2,477 killings in the same period in 2007, Mr. Medina-Mora said in a luncheon meeting with foreign correspondents.

The bulk of the killings have occurred in the border states of Chihuahua and Baja California, where traffickers have sought to wipe out rivals on the streets of Juárez and Tijuana, and in Sinaloa, where one of the country’s most powerful cartels has its base.

“These criminal organizations don’t have limits,” said Mr. Medina-Mora, who previously served as Mexico’s public safety director and spy chief. “They certainly have an enormous power of intimidation.”

Mission accomplished! In fairness, it must be said that this violence is trivial compared to the turf wars between Busch and Coors…


5 Provosts in 7 Years?

[ 0 ] December 11, 2008 |

Leaving aside his wanktastic politics, one thing that was never clear to me was exactly what credentials Bob Kerrey had to run a university. I know fundraising is very important to a modern university president, but…

More at the COHE.

More Double Standard Puzzles

[ 0 ] December 10, 2008 |

This K-Drum post encapsulates much about what I find strange about the way some liberals have been discussing the American auto industry. First of all, is there any other context in which progressives would uncritically use the conserveratrian formulation “wage problem”? Am I supposed to be cheering for Wal-Mart to crush Costco because of the latter’s “wage problem” while shopping at the former besides? When he watches American Dream, does Kevin cheer for the Hormel executives? Call me crazy, but I’m inclined to think of the generous wages and benefits accorded to their workers is a point in Detroit’s favor. (And if you think that wages at non-union American factories will remain at their current level if Detroit stops competing for labor, I have some beautiful condos in Flint to sell you.)

Similarly, I don’t really know on what basis Kevin and Leonhardt assume that it’s impossible for GM, in particular, to be a viable company after a bailout. (Chrysler, I’ll grant, is a tougher case.) GM has several lines of cars that are of both good quality and with at least decent consumer demand — Chevy sedans, trucks and SUVS and Cadillac most notably. If it can develop a decent compact like it redesigned the Malibu — which hardly seems impossible — that seems like a perfectly viable operation to me. Of course, GM needs to ditch Pontiac/Saturn and/or turn them into small divisions producing cars for rental fleets. But this is precisely what justifies a bailout — closing down product lines is enormously expensive, and this restructuting will require cash. Similarly, in the long term it would be good for Detroit to produce more small-margin compacts and fewer high-margin SUVs…but again, if you run out of cash while effecting the transition this is hollow advice.

The devil is in the details, of course. But Ford and GM, at least, are producing some quality cars that people in fact are buying, and it’s by no means obvious that they can’t be profitable companies after the Bush Depression turns around. Given the stakes involved for the American economy and American labor, government money that permits product line consolidation and development with longer time horizons certainly seems like a good gamble to me. And if Chrysler has to be carried along to ensure that suppliers don’t crater while the economy is awful, I can live with that. If they develop something to go along with their minivans and trucks they could have some value in a merger, if not let them die when the consequences are less dire.

The Detroit Bailout

[ 0 ] December 9, 2008 |

Marcy Wheeler has the details on the bridge loan plan. I like the Atrios and (especially) Pelosi amendments, the latter of which is certainly essential.

I also agree with Wheeler about the double standards in coverage. Citigroup has gone back for much more money with much less oversight, but this seems to get considerably less scrutiny from the media and (especially) Congress. But, of course, getting rid of those greedy union workers with their “middle class wages” and “apocryphal gold-plated benefits” and making sure any remaining jobs go to companies whose sales are taking a similar hit but employ people in reactionary right-to-work states is just the Natural Order of the Free Market. (BTW, have any of the banks bailed out by the government had to give up their corporate jets?)

That Word "Absolutism," I Do Not Think…

[ 6 ] December 8, 2008 |

I was amused to see Ross Douthat claim that “[A]n iron law of recent American politics dictates that any Republican setback at the polls will be quickly pinned on the pro-life movement.” I certainly agree that (pace William Saletan) national elections are not referenda on the abortion issue. But in fact, the Republicans’ unpopular abortion policies have been consistently given undue credit for Republican electoral victories, to the extent that the real “Iron Law” is that every time the Democrats lose an election an army of pundits will claim that the solution is for the Democrats to abandon their popular support for Roe v. Wade. This is just the beginning of the problems with the op-ed — Steve M. identifies the most remarkable one, Douthat’s argument that the “pro-life” movement compromised by…reducing terrorism against American women and medical professionals who serve them. How thoughtful! And, of course, this wasn’t really so much a decision of the movement as the result of federal legislation (that substantial numbers of anti-choice legislators opposed.)

In addition, let’s consider Douthat’s assertion that Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a “monument to pro-choice absolutism.” I’d have to say that, given that the “undue burden” standard has been interpreted to uphold every common regulation of abortion with the exception of spousal notification requirements, Casey represents the most compromised “absolutism” in history. Indeed, one wonders if part of the reason polls reflect a desire for more restrictions is that op-ed editors are willing to let anti-choice pundits simply lie about the state of the law.

Compare, for example, the regulatory regime permitted under current Supreme Court doctrine with the French system, which Douthat sees as an acceptable “compromise.” The only major differences in terms of restrictions are that 1)the period before which a woman’s choice can merely be regulated rather than banned is a little shorter, and 2)after this period 2 doctors rather than one has to certify that an abortion is necessary for the woman’s health. Whether this is more restrictive on the ground depends entirely on how French doctors interpret this standard. Douthat shows no interest in how abortion laws actually work (and I suppose that’s a necessary condition if you’re going to support criminalization.) But given that France has similar abortion rates to Canada — where abortion is almost entirely unregulated — one doubts that the standards applied by French doctors are very stringent. Admittedly, the differences Douthat mentions aren’t the whole story. He leaves out two very important facts about the French system: the state-funded medical care and the availability of RU-486 (which greatly mitigates the effect of arbitrary waiting periods.) Taking everything into account, it’s arguable that abortion is more practically accessible under the French system. I would certainly (if reluctantly) support a couple of Douthat’s cherished treat-women-as-children regulations if I could secure a repeal of the Hyde Amendment and widely available mifepristone in return. And the idea that Casey represents “absolutism” is utterly absurd.

Shocking Discoveries

[ 1 ] December 7, 2008 |

Following up an insane week of travel and other commitments I will be attending tonight’s Flames/Rangers tilt with the World’s Most Dangerous Professor and have another silly Times op-ed to get to, so I’ll have to let someone else give the remarkably high words-to-content ratio of Caitlin Flangan’s latest joint a more extensive treatment. I do wish to make a couple of points:

  • I often hear that, whatever one thinks of Flangan’s silly ideas, they are expressed in first-rate prose. I note that, on Decemember 7, she wrote the following sentence: “Whether that was the game-changer or not is a question for near-constant debate.” (In fairness, she at least did not follow-up that up by saying that Prop 8 opponents couldn’t “close the deal.”)
  • I am unable to discern any meaning to her distinction between ordinary coalitions and “rainbow” coalitions, except that apparently the internal tensions that are inevitable in large parties are more troubling if they contain people of color.
  • I am afraid that she considers the fact that “one oppressed group does not necessarily support the goals of another oppressed group” some sort of novel insight. She may want to talk to a feminist who was involved in anti-war politics in the 60s…


[ 0 ] December 4, 2008 |

I’ve been in transit for much of the week so haven’t been able to say as much about the story as I’d like, but Canada’s Governor-General has permitted Stephen Harper to “prorouge” (or suspend) government to avoid the confidence vote he would almost certainly have lost. So the opposition prevented Harper’s overreaching but I’m guessing won’t succeed in toppling his government in January, and anyway Harper will stay in power for the time being. I’m not sure that waiting until after the Liberals select a new leader in April is the worst thing in the world, although I would have liked to have seen Dion ascend to the PM position, if only temporarily.

Meanwhile, via Yglesias this post is really priceless. Aside from the idiocy of arguing that coalition consisting of a majority of the legislature representing a majority of Canadian voters could represent a “coup,” I particularly enjoyed the argument that “by definition a minority government can be outvoted if other parties gang up on them.” Sounds scary! Just like McCain lost because voters unfairly “ganged up” on him, I guess.

I also note that Shapiro’s complaints about the proposed new coalition requiring support from the Bloq Quebecois are rather difficult to take seriously given that the Conservatives also require the assent of the BQ to stay in power. They’re not part of the current cabinet, and wouldn’t have been part of the new cabinet, and they hold the balance of power either way. So what’s the difference? They would have gotten concessions from the Liberals and NDP — and will also have to get concessions from the Tories in January if Harper intends to stay in power. So this wailing is as silly as the rest of his post.

And Her Support Was Also Crucial to USC Beating Notre Dame

[ 0 ] December 4, 2008 |

I, for one, am extremely impressed with Sarah Palin’s political skillz. Anyone who can be a part of a Republican narrowly winning a state as liberal as Georgia is clearly the new FDR. (It’s weird; at least Dems generally make fun of Bob Shrum’s 0-fer in Presidential elections rather than praising him for the remarkable feat of getting Democrats elected in Massachusetts…)

Harper’s Blunder

[ 0 ] December 1, 2008 |

Despite their ideological dissimilarity, Stephen Harper seems to be emulating the parliamentary strategery of Joe Clark, which apparently will lead to Canada’s left-leaning electoral majority retaking power. A couple notes:

  • This was really an incredible blunder on Harper’s part. Did he think that the opposition parties would just fail to notice the key triggering proposal — an end to public party financing — would have left them at a huge disadvantage? You can get away with that kind of thing in a typical Canadian majority government, but of course Harper didn’t have one. It should also be noted that this policy was embedded in an idiotic neo-Hooverite budget package, which was as bad on the merits as it was bad politically.
  • As Yglesias notes, this could represent a significant shift in Canadian politics, as outside of wartime Canada has not had European style coalition governments. Because there isn’t a PR system even pluarolity votes generally produce parliamentary majorities, and in relatively rare cases of minoritiy governments pluaralities have governed through informal arrangements with other parties. Should the current fractured party system endure, however, coaliton governments seem inevitable. (One would think that such a party system won’t endure without PR, but Canadian federalism may provide an exception to the general rule.)
  • Since the Conservatives had already withdrawn the policies must unacceptable to them, though, I wonder why the Liberals are choosing this particular time to bring down the government; it might seem more logical to wait until new leadership was in place. But I guess they saw the oppurtinity and took it, although perhaps they may decide at the last minute to bide their time. Let me just say: no Ignatieff.

How Bipartisan!

[ 0 ] December 1, 2008 |

To follow up on Glenn Reynolds’s impeccable logic, I would like to announce that, as someone with impeccable credentials as a Nelson Mandela Republican, I have no choice but to cross party lines and endorse Jim Martin. I can assure that it’s painful to abandon my long-standing party loyalties like that, but sometimes you have to put principle ahead of partisan interests…

A Scandal on Multiple Levels

[ 0 ] November 30, 2008 |

I hope you’ve all read David Barstow’s very important (if depressing) story. It is, first of all, the tale of a truly shameless hack. But that’s not the most damaging thing; probably not many people have the integrity to turn down large amounts of money for undemanding work; it’s just that most of us aren’t in a position to be asked. The bigger story is NBC’s apparent belief that it should be able to put paid shills on to serve as objective analysts because, after all, the anchor and the shill have a “close friendship.” (Well, I’m convinced!)

But there’s an even deeper scandal here — the extent to which the McCaffreys and Williamses of the world form part of the military-welfare-queen complex. In a time period with immense strains on the public fisc, all military spending remains essentially beyond criticism. In this remains true even though as a description of the relationship between much of the spending and national security “diminishing returns” is a gross understatement.

A Food Note

[ 0 ] November 27, 2008 |

Apparently, you should be grateful that turkey is the Thanksgiving staple, as opposed to testicles. Even in a goulash…

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