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Blame-shifting

[ 0 ] June 22, 2007 |

Depressingly, the “because having a bare majority in one house of Congress was not enough to entirely strip the executive branch of its powers, the Democrats are equally responsible” routine being trotted out by Nader-exculpating voters here. I guess we need to return to Jon Chait on this:

Before the election, a New York Times editorial rebutted Nader’s Tweedledee-and-Tweedledum analysis by citing the two candidates’ starkly different approaches to using the budget surplus — with Bush favoring a massive tax cut for the rich and Gore preferring other governing priorities. In his memoir, incredibly, Nader throws this back in the Times editors’ faces. “So what happens in June 2001, with the Democrats taking over the Senate?” he asks. “The Democrats call a $1.3 trillion Bush tax cut a victory for their side, as indeed numerous Democrats voted with the Republicans.” While repellent, the collaboration of a minority of Democrats with the Bush tax cut hardly vindicates Nader; quite the opposite. The tax cut fiasco, like Supreme Court nominations, demonstrates the difficulty of stopping a president’s agenda from moving through the legislative branch. But it was Nader who argued (at least implicitly) that controlling Congress mattered more than controlling the White House. He claimed all along that his candidacy would help the Democrats win Congress; indeed, he asserted that the extra turnout he spurred gave Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) her winning margin and that this would offset any advantage Republicans gained by controlling the presidency. The tax cut showed that Nader was wrong and that the Times was right: What really matters in setting governing priorities is which party has the White House. Nothing resembling the Bush tax cut could have passed with Al Gore in the Oval Office.

To listen to Nader explain himself on these questions, then, is to stumble into a funhouse world of illogic and trickery. His systematic dissembling was necessary to hide something he could not, for political reasons, admit: Helping elect George W. Bush was not an unintended consequence but the primary goal of his presidential campaign.

Then there’s the claim that the possibility of Clinton running means that the Dems are just as bad because she’s just responsible. Now, I won’t be supporting Clinton in the primaries, and please criticize her awful vote on the war as heartily as you like. But as for apportioning responsibility, I think this is pretty straightforward:

  • If Clinton votes against the war, we would have had the Iraq war.
  • If Nader doesn’t run in 2000, no war.

This is pretty straightforward–their relative responsibilities are not remotely comparable.

Brian Fuentes Will Have His Revenge on Seattle

[ 0 ] June 22, 2007 |

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Ah, yes, nice to see the Rockies accomplish what the BoSox couldn’t. Even a bug turned into a feature, as the fact that TV audio wasn’t working at the gym meant that I got to hear Sterling go ballistic about St. Derek of Pastadiving’s baserunning blunder for two innings. Sweet! (I guess it would have been even funnier if it was a Fox broadcast and McCarver explained that Jeter had no choice but to light out for third on a grounder to short with one out because the moons of Neptune were in his eyes, but that option wasn’t on the table.)

Meanwhile, watching Brian Fuentes reminds me that while Peter Bavasi’s reputation as a gold-plated numbnuts is fully justified, Pat Gillick didn’t exactly depart in a blaze of glory in his own right…

Um, What?

[ 0 ] June 22, 2007 |

Shorter Dick Cheney: I belong to the branch of government that, being not something that can be created by any “Constitution,” is beyond any standard of law or morality.

…a valuable civics lesson!

The Man Who Gave Us Iraq and Alito Mounts His High Horse

[ 0 ] June 21, 2007 |

Saint Ralph:

Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters.

And the problem is, given his asceticism he’ll never sidle up to the bar, flag the bartender, and order the double shut the fuck up on the rocks that he needs to drink until they’re picking him off the floor.

Letting The Misogynist Cat Out of The Bag

[ 0 ] June 21, 2007 |

I have a post over at TAPPED noting that Kennedy’s opinion in Carhart II was a “gaffe” in the Kinsley sense of telling the truth. And in this case, the truth was particularly inconvenient for the anti-Roe pro-choice position. What I had in mind in particular was this claim in Rosen’s mock opinion in What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said:

The only evidence we have of the purpose of the legislators who passed the abortion laws (as opposed to the doctors who lobbied for them) is their text, and that text clearly suggests that the primary purpose of the laws was to protect fetal life…We must, I think, take them at face value; and search for hidden purposes to enforce stereotypes would be empirically fraught and hard to sustain.

I agree that it’s the text, as opposed to the subjective intention of legislators, that is most important, but (as Balkin’s mock opinion demonstrated in detail) the assertion that it’s clear from the text that the sole purpose of these laws is to protect fetal life is exceptionally unconvincing. The case of “partial-birth” abortion bans make this especially clear. It’s hardly necessary to search for “hidden motives” when the anti-choice lobby enthusiastically supports legislation that can injure women but doesn’t significantly protect fetal life even in theory. If Kennedy had been strategically savvy enough to not mention this it wouldn’t have changed this fact, and the only good thing to come from Carhart II is that is makes the extent to which debates about abortion are debates about 19th and 21st century conceptions of women very clear.

Right on Target, So Direct

[ 0 ] June 21, 2007 |

Holbo on the range of acceptable debate among the Bealtway elite and its implications for assertions about whether parties have “new ideas” and “vigorous debates”:

Let’s take it from the top: if the Republicans have got a guy who wants to spend money building a wall against Canada, that’s intellectual vibrancy. If the Democrats get someone who wants to expand health insurance or combat global warming, that’s a canary dying in the coalmine of the Democratic party’s political extremism?

It’s a nice illustration of a dilemma for Democrats. The only way they can get credit for ‘having ideas’ is by turning Republican – not because the Republicans have ideas, but because the range of media-acceptable impulses you can exhibit runs the gamut from the far right to the right-leaning left.

Right. And to be clear, having vigorous debate within your party about whether torture and arbitrary executive power are good things is really not a selling point.

Make It Stop.

[ 0 ] June 21, 2007 |

Amazingly, the appalling Scottsboro Boys/Duke analogy has reared its ugly head again in the pages of the nation’s most prestigious clearinghouse for irrational wingnuttery, with (natch) a hearty heh-indeed from the blogosphere’s ditto. Let us summarize some of the key reasons why this analogy is grossly inappropriate:

  • The unjustly accused young men in the Scottsboro case were effectively denied legal counsel, provided at the last minute with a single lawyer unfamiliar with Alabama criminal procedure and who had every incentive not to put on more than a token defense. The unjustly accused young men in the Duke case were able to afford good lawyers.
  • Most of the first group were sentenced to death after what was essentially a formalized lynching. The second group were released before trial.
  • Even after their first convictions were overturned, most of the Scottsboro boys were given more show trials, and served between 5-20 years in prison. I think you can see the difference here.

There is, in short, absolutely no basis for comparison here. The injustices involved in these two cases are different not merely in degree but in kind. Some members of the Duke faculty behaved irresponsibly (in the kind of way that in America doesn’t necessarily stop you from getting your own cable news show), but not only does Gordon have no substantiation for his claim that the rush to judgment was “racist,” but rather more importantly they don’t have the power to sentence people to death. And as Blue Texan notes, what’s especially odious is the implication that privileged white men at Duke are in a situation in any way analogous to blacks in the apartheid south, an exceptionally offensive implication even by the standards of the Politics of Resentment.

The Goggles! The Earplugs! They Do Nothing!

[ 0 ] June 20, 2007 |

Ye gods. I guess this is the “nuclear option” in all future YouTube wars…by the way, who is the other singer in the video?

…Apparently this was widely linked a while ago. But clearly it’s more relevant than ever!

The Guardians of Our Liberty!

[ 0 ] June 20, 2007 |

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To those who demand competent acting, I say “Vaffanculo!”

I, for one, am happy that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court is taking jurisprudential lessons from sixth-rate torture porn. What’s doubly scary is that he at least seems to favor jury nullification in torture cases rather than simply ceding unlimited arbitrary power to the executive, which I believe puts him well to the left of the current Republican Party…

The Fabled Goodridge Backlash

[ 0 ] June 20, 2007 |

I have an article up at TAP about the recent rejection of an anti-gay constitutional amendment in Massachusetts and its implications for claims that using litigation is a counterproductive strategy. I also discuss the extent to which normative attacks on Goodridge rarely come from any kind of coherent democratic theory. At times like this, it’s especially useful to strip away too-clever-by-well-more-than-half “contrarian” arguments and explain what’s actually happening:

Despite the attempts of contrarian pundits to muddy the waters, what happened in Massachusetts is simple, and a straightforward win for equality and justice. Under American constitutionalism, for better or worse, the judiciary scrutinizes legislative enactments to ensure their compliance with state and/or federal constitutions. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reached a decision that did not contradict the text or purpose of the relevant provisions of the state constitution, and as far as I know nobody has argued that the decision was inconsistent with principles previously expressed by the Court’s majority. While contestable, in other words, the court’s holding was hardly an illegitimate “usurpation” of democratic prerogatives. Since the court’s decision, same-sex marriage rights have grown more popular in the state, and supporters of equality have fared better at the ballot box than opponents. Less than five years later, opponents of same-sex marriage were unable to scrounge up even the bare 25 percent of the vote necessary to permit a vote on an amendment to go forward, and polls suggested that the referendum would lose in any case.

And while you’re there, check out Kay Steiger’s article about strategies for overriding Ledbetter.

Bloomberg and Libertarianism

[ 0 ] June 20, 2007 |

Matt notes that libertarians may be irrationally unsympathetic to Michael Bloomberg because of his support for relatively trivial nanny state regulations like public smoking and trans fat bans. (As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that public smoking bans have a serious non nanny-state, if not quite libertarian, justification: even I’m libertarian enough to oppose smoking bans to protect the health of smokers or patrons, but they’re defensible insofar as they protect the health of workers.) However, there is a serious reason libertarians should be skeptical of Bloomberg: the appalling string of arbitrary detentions with no serious justification during the 2004 GOP convention. With Giuliani (in my view) effectively out of the race, it’s conceivable that Bloomberg’s stance on crucial issue of lawful constraints on executive power could be worse than even the GOP nominee.

People Who Will Not Be the 2008 GOP Nominee: A Reminder

[ 0 ] June 20, 2007 |

Odd as it seems to think that Mitt Romney should be considered the prohibitive frontrunner, with Fred Thompson the only other candidate with a non-remote chance…what can I tell you, it doesn’t seem right, but the process of elimination doesn’t lie.