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Touch Of Evil

[ 0 ] April 6, 2008 |

As a bit of stuck-at-such-an-interminable-delay-at-O’Hare I’m-willing-to-shell-out-the-7-bucks-for-intarweb-access blogging, to follow up on Rob’s tribute I’ll second Kathy’s remarks here.

…Glen Kenny has more thoughts here.


A Good Example

[ 20 ] April 5, 2008 |

One wonders how differently the primaries would have played out if Hillary Clinton had done what it took the Colombian government much less time to figure out how to do

The Casey Myth Once Again

[ 53 ] April 3, 2008 |

Bob Somerby notes Michael Gerson once again repeating the Myth of Bob Casey, blubbering about Casey Sr. being “banned from speaking to the Democratic convention for the heresy of being pro-life” without mentioning that Casey refused to endorse the Democratic ticket. (Not that I think that parties preferring speakers who reflect the party’s values, as well as in this case the values of a majority of Americans, is any kind of scandal even if it was true.)

The rest of the column — about Obama’s abortion “extremism” — is as bad as you’d expect. He dishonestly claims a majority for a near-total ban on abortion. On the authority of Daniel Patrick Moynihan but needless to say making no actual argument on the merits, he attacks Obama for opposing transparently irrational “partial birth” abortion legislation that does nothing to protect fetal life but does threaten the health of women obtaining abortions (something that to Gerson’s friends in the “pro-life” movement is apparently a feature, not a bug.) And then there’s this:

Having endorsed partial-birth abortion, Obama has little room to maneuver on the broader issue. But he does have some. He could take the wise counsel of evangelical Democrats such as Amy Sullivan and come out strongly for policies that would reduce the number of abortions — support for pregnant women, abstinence education, the responsible promotion of birth control.

Except of course, that 1)Obama already supports “the responsible promotion of birth control,” 2)since “abstinence education” doesn’t work it won’t reduce abortion rates, and perhaps we should even do more to support parents after they have children, and 3)supporting access to birth control and rational sex-ed wouldn’t help to create a greater consensus because Gerson’s pathetic attempts to project a non-existent Christian Democratic tradition onto the Republican Party notwithstanding Republican anti-choicers generally oppose these policies, for the obvious reason that support for criminalizing abortion is generally bundled together with reactionary conceptions of sexuality and gender relations. (The fact that Gerson advocates useless abstinence education as opposed to sex-ed that might actually work gives away the show.) And moreover, advocates of reproductive freedom don’t need the “wise counsel” of Amy Sullivan to support policies that reduce abortion rates; they’ve supported them for many decades.

Deep Rot

[ 10 ] April 2, 2008 |

Although Yoo certainly deserves all of the criticism he’s getting today and far more, it’s also important to remember that his analysis only meant something because he was telling the President and his subordinates what they wanted to hear. Consider this, for example, from GOP Moral Sage James Dobson explaining why he’s not wild about John McCain:

Mr. Dobson took issue with a litany of Sen. McCain’s positions, including support for embryonic-stem-cell research and opposition to a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Those stances, plus Sen. McCain’s discussion of global warming and his push to outlaw torture and shut down the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have “frustrated” conservatives “whom McCain seems to have written off,” Mr. Dobson said.

So McCain’s (nominal) opposition to torture is a good reason to be worried about his tendency. And in these policy preferences, as far as I can tell, Dobson is hardly an outlier. The mean and median GOP voter and public official seems to believe (or at least are not strongly oppose) the ideas that 1)the president should be able to torture people at his whim irrespective of any statutes or treaties, and 2)morality requires that the United States Constitution explicitly make gays and lesbians second-class citizens. The fact that so many people share these views is the real problem here.

And as Glenn points out, Democrats in Congress haven’t covered themselves in glory here either. It’s outrageous that it required an ACLU lawsuit, rather than strong Congressional action, to get these documents (which had no business being classified in the first place) declassified.

It’s Just That Evil Life Got You In Its Sway

[ 14 ] April 2, 2008 |

The Yoo torture memos have finally been declassified. Emily Bazelon cites their “glib certainty,” which is part of it. But this would be potentially acceptable if its arguments were more plausible and the implausibilities weren’t in service of such reprehensible ends. It’s one thing to, say, confidently assert a very narrow but plausible reading of a statute restricting executive power. Confidently asserting a broad range of arbitrary executive powers (including the power to torture), allegedly beyond the power of the legislature to regulate despite the explicit textual grants of relevant powers to Congress, during a “war” whose battlefield could be the entire planet and whose duration could be infinite, is another matter entirely.

NL Preview

[ 30 ] April 2, 2008 |

NL EAST: 1. NY 2. ATL 3. PHI. 4. WAS 5. FLA This is how I would have picked them this weekend, and although I could revise it given the injury to Pedro, I decided to leave it. All of the top 3 teams are very talented and very flawed. I think the Mets have the best chance because they have both a serious pitching and hitting core, although the surrounding cast is getting increasingly decrepit. I think they’ll have just enough, and although the ridiculous Milledge trade may haunt the organization more than the Kazmir giveaway, this year Church could be nearly as productive. The Braves could be back for sure; they’re better than their last two years suggest, and probably have less downside than either the Mets or Phillies this year. The Phils will probably score the most runs in the league but outside of Hammels the pitching is mediocre-to-ugly, and I’m still far from sold on Manuel; I think they’ll have a bit of an off-year, although they can certainly repeat if the Mets and Braves break down enough. Bowden has quietly done a good job reassembling an offense; except for Guzman and maybe the aging LoDuca it’s pretty solid everywhere. Alas, they and the no-hope Marlins will compete with Baltimore for the worst rotation in baseball honor, although their bullpen is OK. The Marlins can console themselves with the best shortstop in the division.

NL CENTRAL 1. MIL 2. CHI. 3. CIN. 4. HOU 5. PIT 6. STL On paper, this is a silly pick, but since I can’t root for the Cubs and Lou Pinella (despite being a good manager overall) has allowed his bullpens and second-line starters to piss away much better talent cores than this, I’ll pick the upset. Milwaukee is probably a year away, but if the Cubs underperform they’ll slip in, and their core is young enough to really break out. The Reds are interesting; I can’t go so far as to call them a sleeper team but they’re putting together a staff to go with the decent (if declining) offense. The rest of the teams in the division are all terrible; I think the Pirates will improve a bit and the Cards (especially with Pujols looking not fully healthy) bottoming out, but I don’t see any of them being competitive.

NL WEST 1. LA 2. ARI(WILDCARD) 3. SD 4. COL 5. SF The young talent at the top of this division may (along with the Santana trade) help the NL restore a little balance. Any of the 4 major league teams in it could win. I;ll pick LA in a tossup because I think the DBacks’ young players are a little overrated and theeir record last were was considerably better than the team, but the team itself should be improved and Webb/Haren is an impressive 1-2. Most projections have the Padres dropping off considerably, and they might, but they’re a good organization and even with the park effects I like their rotation a lot. Colorado had a lot of things break right last year and could win again, but it’s tough to keep a good rotation together in that park and in a tough division I think the Plexiglass Principle will push them back a bit. The Giants are just a staggeringly bad team–the lineup a joke, with one average innings eater and two impressive young starters who might stay healthy the only remotely saving grace. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost 110.

Dictatorship Is Over…If You Want It!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

A commenter chez Yglesias links to this 2003 interview with Paul Berman. I think this is my favorite part:

Even people who think that Bush is making a blunder with his military approach can try to undo that blunder themselves in some way by going ahead and doing the things that ought to be done — promoting liberal ideas. Promoting liberal ideas, finally, is the only real way to oppose the totalitarian movements that threaten us and threaten people in the Arab and Muslim worlds, whether they’re Baathist or Islamist.

Leaving aside the narcissism involved in the implicit claim that making banal arguments about liberal democracy being preferable to totalitarianism represent great courage, I’m confused about the causal mechanism here. Protests that had no impact on a domestic government’s rush to war can be expected to topple dictatorships in other countries? Protest movements in Iran will be helped by being associated with western groups? In fairness, Berman is consistent — he also seemed to really think that rather than being dispensed with once their useful idiocy had served its purpose, liberal intellectuals — including war opponents — could actually influence Bush’s conduct of the war. (“The people who have demanded that Bush refrain from action should now demand that the action be more thorough.”) Perhaps they could help by conjuring up troops that don’t exist, knowledge about how to impose democracy ex nihilo by force that doesn’t exist, etc.

It should also be noted that the interviewer does a very good job. Responding to Berman’s claims that Bush couldn’t defend this allegedly liberal war in liberal terms, she asks the obvious question: then why didn’t Blair do it? His answer:

I admire Tony Blair but I imagine that he’s hobbled by the Bush policy. Bush has confused the whole situation by saying that the goal of the war in Iraq is disarmament. Disarmament has nothing to do with the establishment of liberal freedoms.


He’s made it very difficult to present the war as an extension of the liberal and humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s in which Tony Blair played a distinguished and honorable and brave role.

Maybe it was hard to “present” that way because…it wasn’t. Anyway, apparently we were supposed to be believe that the leader of the most important American ally in the war couldn’t influence Bush’s conduct at all, but some liberal hawks with no electoral constituency who supported the war for the right reasons could. Evidently, the fact that this kind of stuff is presented in a frame of self-congratulation for telling the Hard Truths that war opponents are too blinded by Bush-hatred to see adds to the comic effect.

Noted Without Comment

[ 2 ] April 1, 2008 |

From the 2003 Berman article in The New Republic, discussed here and here:

TODAY, WE ARE living through not just a military crisis but something of a political crisis within the larger liberal democratic world, trans-Atlantically. Robert Kagan has written a subtle and brilliant book on this theme called Of Paradise and Power

Admittedly, he doesn’t think Kagan is quite right in his descriptions. He says that Europeans are from Venus “Tocquevillean”: they are defined by “a liberal democratic idea of a sort that cannot conceive of wielding power.” Americans aren’t Hobbesians but are from Mars “Lincolnians.” Uh-huh.

The "Technological Change" Dodge

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

In a post engaging in the time-honored pastime of Mickey Kaus-bashing, Kathy makes an important point with respect to Kaus’s claim that increasing income inequality is the result of “increasing returns to skill produced by trade and technological change”:

…over the past several decades, other industrialized countries were faced with the same economic forces, such as technological change, globalization, and trade, that the U.S. did. Yet among OECD countries, only the U.S. and the U.K. saw large increases in wage inequality; the other countries saw only modest rises in inequality.

Right. Globalization, technological change, etc. happen to all market economies, but most of them have nothing like the increasing inequality of the U.S. There’s nothing inevitable about it; it’s in significant measure a product of policy choices.

Score One For Legal Realism

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

The Supreme Court’s decision today in New Jersey v. Delaware was decided in favor of the latter. The two dissenters? Trenton’s Antonin Scalia and Trenton’s Sam Alito. (Well, Stevens dissented in part, but to argue that the rule announced by the Court was insufficiently protective of Delaware’s sovereignty.)

The Grim Reality of What Eventually Happens When Jeffrey Loria Runs A Team In Five Words

[ 6 ] April 1, 2008 |

Mark Hendrickson, Opening Day starter.

MLB Preview I: The AL

[ 15 ] March 31, 2008 |

AL EAST: 1.NYY 2.BOS (WILDCARD) 3. TOR 4. TB. NOT CLOSE TO 4th. BAL There’s obviously not much to choose between the top two, of course; Yankees have the better offense, the Red Sox solider pitching. My guess is that while Girardi will have problems long-term — if he can’t get along well enough with management and the press to survive in Florida, you wonder how he’ll deal with New York — his attention to detail will cause them to jump forward after the more avuncular Torre. The Blue Jays have become a little overrated; their offense is mediocre and their fine pitching too injury-prone to push them into contention. The Rays are also being puffed up a bit (their over/under last I checked was 76); they’re headed in the right direction, but they don’t get on base enough, a 73-year old Troy Percival won’t fix a ghastly bullpen and while I like Shields and Garza Kazmir’s injury and Maddon selecting Hinske over Gomes are ominous signs. They’re a year away at least. Meanwhile, although the Jones trade bodes well for their future this is the year when the Orioles hit rock bottom.

1. DET 2. CLE 3. CHI. 4. KC. 5. MIN Again I’ll go with offense over pitching, albeit without much conviction; I’m not sold on Carmona as an ace or on the Cleveland bullpen-except-the-awful-closer repeating, but if I’m wrong about either they’ll be in the postseason. Getting a better year out of Pronk is key. Still, Detroit could outscore the Yankees and their pitching should be a little better than last year. I like Chicago adding some onbase guys, but their rotation is also shaky and their core ain’t Ordonez/Cabrera/Sheffield/Guillen. The Royals continue their modest improvement. Very modest. The Twins could be over .500 if their pitchers all fulfil their potential, but that seems like a bad bet, like Mauer playing 145 games.

1. LAOFCAUSA 2. SEA 3. OAK 4. TEX The Mariners have become a trendy pick, and I wish I could agree. I see the logic: the Mariners were over .500 last year, and (whatever the long-term cost) added the ace pitcher they’ve lacked, while the the two underrated pitchers that kept the Angles in 1st despite their hacktastic offense will be hurt (one for the year.) The problem is that the Mariners weren’t as good as their record last year, and are an old offense that lacks both power and plate discipline. I could see a really good management team putting the Mariners over the top; alas, the manager was a time-serving bench coach who showed no sign that he knew what he was doing when he took over and was hired anyway, and the GM thought trading Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez was a good idea. Oakland is retooling; they may hang in a little longer than many expect but it won’t involve the postseason. I thought Texas would be OK last year; I’m not falling for that again until some pitchers actually deal with the park successfully.

It’s amazing how far the west has fallen in 5 years…

NL later on Opening Day the Third. But I’ll say this: if you’re anywhere near Vegas, take the Giants under 72 and put $500 on it for me. You’ll thank me in October…

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