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Psych!

[ 0 ] September 25, 2007 |

Beauty pageant — or, as their organizers would prefer to call them. “scholarship pageant” winners — ripped off and denied their scholarship money.

The Hidden Rightward Shift

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

Jeff Rosen has a very good piece on John Paul Stevens in the Times Magazine. The central point is that Stevens isn’t so much a liberal as someone who plays one on the Rehnquist and Burger Courts:

Stevens, however, is an improbable liberal icon. “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” he told me during a recent interview in his chambers, laughing and shaking his head. “I think as part of my general politics, I’m pretty darn conservative.” Stevens said that his views haven’t changed since 1975, when as a moderate Republican he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court. Stevens’s judicial hero is Potter Stewart, the Republican centrist, whom Stevens has said he admires more than all of the other justices with whom he has served. He considers himself a “judicial conservative,” he said, and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues. “Including myself,” he said, “every judge who’s been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell” — nominated by Richard Nixon in 1971 — “has been more conservative than his or her predecessor. Except maybe Justice Ginsburg. That’s bound to have an effect on the court.”

It is a measure of how not only how much the Court has changed but how much the Republican Party has changed that Rockefeller Republicans now seem like liberals on the Supreme Court. There’s no Brennan, Marshall or Douglas on the modern Court. There have been some liberal advances, but that have been mostly modest expansions of existing doctrines agreeable to moderate northern Republicans: overturning a widely derided 5-4 decision that the swing vote repudiated almost immediately to strike down laws that were sporadically and arbitrarily enforced, and striking down a couple unusual applications of the death penalty that represent a small fraction of the total number of cases. And as Souter demonstrated, a Harlan-like incrementalist is obviously going to look more liberal after the Warren Court than when on the Warren Court.

The other thing to mention here is that the Burger and (especially) Rehnquist Court shifted doctrine to the right in subtle ways that makes it seem as if it changed less than it did. It’s true that the Court has generally avoided overturning major Warren Court landmarks — but it has often substantially alerted their content. The Court, of course, has never considered overturning Brown, but it has defined it to require only formalistic non-segregation as opposed to actual substantive desegregation (and has also made it very difficult for school districts to voluntarily desegregate.) Miranda has never been overturned, but any number of exceptions to it have been carved out. Casey is remembered primarily for re-affirming Roe, but also allowed the states (and the federal government) substantially more leeway to regulate abortion. And so on. Especially when dealing with the Roberts Court, it’s important to look at the substantive outcomes of the cases, not at how they characterize the precedents.

Ray of Light

[ 0 ] September 24, 2007 |

Those of us discouraged by Clinton’s imminent victories in the Democratic primary got some great news: George Bush has predicted that 1)Clinton will win the nomination, and 2)the GOP will win the election. Given his track record, I’d buy up Obama presidential contracts in the election markets right now!

A Bit Of Calm

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

I think I 80% agree with the Editors in re: Belichick. My disagreement is that (unlike, say, Barry Bonds) Belichick actually cheated, repeatedly breaking a clear rule he was repeatedly told not to break, and hence he’s in no position to complain about nay punishment. On the other hand, some of the hysteria is a bit much. In terms of winning or losing, videotaping the public signals of a coach form the sidelines rather than the stands is trivial. Call me crazy, but I think the Partiots’s success rests more on such factors as “having excellent players well-coached” and “not being dumb enough to fire Marty Schottenheimer to hire Norv “6-10″ Turner.” (I suspect like the other teams that have fired Schottenheimer, the Chargers are about to find out that losing several wins certainly solves your “being upset in the playoffs” problem…)

EuroInstahackery

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

This reminds me of the fact that Reynolds used to think that if the Euro fell it was evidence that the European economic model didn’t work. Oddly, the currency market metric seems less important to Reynolds now; I wonder why?

Justified Hatchet Jobs of the Day

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

Usually, when a self-evident piece of shit comes down the pike the Times will assign one of their bench critics to the task of panning it. But every once in while they’ll let Scott or Dargis loose on one, and the results can almost justify the release of the film. Cf. Scott on Dane Cook and Good Luck Chuck:

I’ve occasionally heard Dane Cook, one of the stars of “Good Luck Chuck,” described as a comedian. I find this confusing, since my understanding is that comedians are people who say and do things that are funny. Perhaps Mr. Cook is some new kind of conceptual satirist whose shtick is to behave in the manner of a person attempting to be funny without actually being, you know, funny. Or maybe he answered an ad in the back of a magazine and sent away for a mail-order license to practice comedy.

Indeed. It continues:

Whether Jessica Alba, his co-star, acquired her acting credentials by similar means is an issue that will be addressed if she ever tries to act. To be fair (but why?) she does expend a little effort in “Good Luck Chuck,” pretending to be goofy and clumsy, doing stuff like running into a metal pole, catching her skirt in a car door and upending a tray of dentist’s instruments.

But the main audience for this dim little sex comedy has no particular interest in seeing Ms. Alba act. They want to see her in her underwear and also to confront one of the central cultural questions of our time: will she take her top off?

No spoilers here! In the meantime plenty of less famous women do take their tops off, which will make “Good Luck Chuck” a must-see for young men with a subscription to Maxim but no access to the Internet.

Alas, between that Robin Williams priest thing and the Elisha Cuthbert torture porn thing this seems unlikely to be the very worst movie of the year, but a valiant effort!

Wendy Shalit Feminism

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

Like Cara, I think I’ll pass. Any allegedly feminist project that divides women into the category of “good” and “bad” based on how often they have sex, or uses the word “slut” pejoratively, really needs to go back to the drawing board.

Other Reproductive Freedom News

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |
  • New York is rejecting federal money for “abstinence-only” sex “education.” Good. (Meanwhile — perhaps in a bid to attract the bullshit-libertarian vote he’s alienated with his opposition to deposing regimes that pose no substantial threat to the United States and then engaging in quarter-assed reconstruction schemes — I see that alleged libertarian Ron Paul has come out for federal money telling teenagers not to have sex. Well, I guess the libertarian upside is that they don’t work.)
  • Ann Friedman has an excellent account of the situation surrounding the Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora. I especially like this about the structural disadvantage faced by clinics, like PP, that actually provide medical care to women: “The Aurora clinic represents the best of both worlds: The shiny façade of professionalism that you get with a crisis-pregnancy center with real medical care for women on the inside. Planned Parenthood’s decision to complete the permit paperwork using the name of a subsidiary is a major reason this was possible. But even the most well-funded reproductive-health provider in the country, using this stealth tactic, ended up wrangling with anti-choicers in court.”

When You Can’t Win A Fair Fight…

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

In case there was still any question about whether the anti-contraception position of Catholic hospitals who don’t want to provide emergency contraception to rape victims (but certainly don’t feel so strongly about the principle that they, say, want to stop performing secular functions with taxpayer money) was highly unpopular, the fact that they have to lie about EC being an abortifacient should settle the question.

The King of Cocktails

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A good analysis of the Manhattan [HT: DJA], which among other advantages over the martini has never evolved into “whiskey up” and, even more importantly, has never been re-defined to accommodate vodka. I also like the variant called the “Brooklyn” they serve at Chestnut in Carroll Gardens:

2 parts Sazerac rye
1 part Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Amaro Nonino bitters 

What Yglesias Said

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

This has been another edition etc.:

The whole fracas of Petraeus, Crocker, MoveOn, etc. has had, to a good first approximation, no impact whatsoever on anything of any significance. Bush continues to be stubborn. Republicans continue to back Bush. The war continues to go poorly and continues to be unpopular. There was nothing else that ever could have happened. A bunch of editors and politicians talked themselves into believing that this September showdown was crucially significant, but they were all wrong and their theory never made any sense.

The only showdown that mattered happened months ago. Democrats passed a war appropriation that funded the phased withdrawal of troops. Bush vetoed that appropriation and said he would only sign an appropriation that funded open-ended war. Bush sought to portray a congressional refusal to appropriate money for an open-ended military involvement in Iraq as some kind of plot to leave the troops starving and without bullets in Iraq. The press largely bought into this frame, which was re-enforced by the fact that many leading Democrats immediately decided to buy into as well. The party then decided not to try to fight to reframe the issue but, instead, to accept it. Given that framing of the question, the only thing to do was surrender and give Bush his money. And given that precedent, the only thing to do is to keep on surrendering any time Bush rhetorically holds the troops’ well-being hostage to his preference for perpetual war.

That was a blunder — a decision that condemned hundreds of Americans to die in Iraq — and one that appears to have resulted from a total failure of the leadership to do any advance planning about their legislative tactics. All of September 2007 has been a meaningless sideshow.

All entirely correct. Whether MoveOn didn’t take out the ad or had chosen to sumperimpose a picture of Benedict Arnold on Petraeus makes absolutely no difference to anything. The war would have gone on anyway. The war would remain unpopular. GOP Senators would find some other way to run out the clock at the hearings that most people don’t watch because they’re at work and also find some other way of claiming that opposition to their disastrous war means hating the troops. It’s all a completely empty kabuki. (And to echo djw, I can’t believe Reid let a vote on this get to the floor.)

A MoDo Glossary

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

Bad writing and thinking, defined.

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