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Wingnut Laundering

[ 0 ] October 14, 2008 |

After noting that TIDOSY has asserted that being an (imaginary) victim of sexual assault should disqualify one from the presidency (what about being a victim of torture?), Duncan says that “I’m sure his loving Washington Post profile will be out soon, if he hasn’t had one already.” Not surprisingly, the paper that hired Ben Domenech was well ahead of the curve in profiling this brilliant conservative intellectual.


The Self-Perpetuating Fake Vote Fraud Scam

[ 49 ] October 14, 2008 |

Yglesias says most of what needs to be said about the winger hysteria about the fact that large-scale voter vote drives inevitably lead to some errors. The rhetoric notwithstanding, registration “fraud” is very different from vote fraud, and in fact the former is extremely unlikely to lead to non-negligible amounts of the latter. Even if somehow the fake names get through, since “Mickey Mouse” and “Amanda Huggenkiss” and “Al Koholic” can’t actually show up to vote because they don’t exist it doesn’t actually matter in terms of the integrity of elections. Until Glenn Reynolds et al. can find an example of “Foghorn Leghorn” actually being permitted to vote, this is a trivial issue that certainly doesn’t constitute “vote fraud.”

As Matt says if for some reason it was critically important for virtually every single name collected in mass voter registration drives to be accurate, there’s an obvious solution in effect in many other liberal democracies: have professionals trained by the government be responsible for ensuring that citizens are registered. Of course, we’re not going to hear about that remedy from people frothing at the mouth about ACORN because the point isn’t to make registration a perfect process, but rather to use inevitable errors as a pretext to suppress legitimate voters. Since the Supreme Court has declared that you can do this even if there’s literally no evidence that anyone in the state has fraudulently voted based on an erroneous registration, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Peak Wingnut Theory

[ 4 ] October 14, 2008 |

Henley on the NAMBLA wing of the Republican Party. Cf. also here and here and here.

IIRC it was a calumny done to Erick Erickson that caused the development of the farcical Online Integritude project. I’m sure somehow thinking that a 10 year-old could have an “affair” with an adult could also be redefined as representing serious integrity by the relevant wingers. Erickson has written plenty of howlingly dumb things before, but this might be a low that can never be surpassed.

To Provide A Useful Contrast With the Man Across the Page

[ 22 ] October 13, 2008 |

Bill Kristol urges John McCain to “fire his campaign.” Given that he was urging McCain to do what he now says has failed as recently as last week, you’d have to say he has a point — a campaign that listens to Kristol is indeed in very bad shape, although it’s really more a symptom than a cause.

Anyway, if there was a Nobel Prize for hackery, Kristol would be the country’s number-one candidate!

FDR’s Constitutionalism, Which Was Preferable To Herbert Hoover’s

[ 28 ] October 13, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Jonah Goldberg: “…this election year does look quite a bit like Hoover vs. Roosevelt (and given that choice, I’ll take Hoover.)” He goes on to defend the constitutional vision of the Four Horsemen against the one that has been the broadly accepted norm of American constitutionalism for many decades; apparently the “constitution-in-exile” isn’t always a strawman.

While I’m here, I should also note that Goldberg’s claim that FDR’s “court packing scheme that intimidated the Supreme Court into rubber-stamping New Deal policies” is almost certainly erroneous — the key “switch in time” by median justice Owen Roberts occurred in votes that had been cast in conference before the scheme was even announced, and of course the scheme failed in the Senate before the cases came down (so had Roberts been acting out of political fear he could have switched his vote back knowing that no court-packing law was going to be passed in the near future.)

In a recent issue of N+1, Mark Grief made a claim about this that is just transparently wrong:

Elected to four terms in office, working with Democratic majorities in both houses for his key legislation, he was also the progenitor of a failed and utterly illegal and unconstitutional attempt to pack the Supreme Court when it got in his way.

This is, of course, utterly wrong. The proposed court-packing plan was (as Congress ultimately decided) probably unwise and contrary to informal 20th century norms of judicial independence, but it was completely legal and constitutional. The Constitution does not fix the number of Supreme Court justices, which is left entirely to the discretion of Congress. (Indeed, the Court’s membership fluctuated from 5 in 1789 to as high as 10 before the modern norm was established.) And given that within 5 years FDR was (thankfully) able to “pack” the Court by replacing judges who were clinging to anachronistically narrow conceptions of federal power with those who shared his constitutional vision anyway, the threat to democracy adding judges would have represented was pretty modest. The judiciary is never going to be a long-term obstacle to the key priorities of electoral majorities, and this is in general a good thing.

A Political Propp

[ 0 ] October 12, 2008 |

I can definitely see how Glenn Reynolds could be shocked by booing taking place at a sporting event in Philadelphia. I would add that Brian Propp — the ex-Flyer who was part of the ceremony, presumably to try to mitigate the reaction to Palin in case the deployment of her kids as human shields didn’t cut it — had a reputation as one of the biggest whiners and hatchet men in the WHL in the early 80s when I started watching hockey. So you have to admit that it makes him the perfect host for a Republican candidate! And in case there was any doubt about the intentions of the Flyers’ reactionary owner, Propp also happens to actually be a (failed) Republican politician.

Just Say It

[ 5 ] October 11, 2008 |


Connecticut Supreme Court Requires Same-Sex Marriage Rights

[ 12 ] October 10, 2008 |

Excellent news. The ruling is based on the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

Or, at least, it’s excellent news from my non-contrarian perspective. Maybe this will be a counterproductive decision that will also lead to a Republican landslide. After all, surely Peter Beinart’s claim that the rejection of same-sex marriage rights by New York state courts would be good for same-sex marriage rights in the state has been vindicated by New York’s ongoing exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage rights. And who can forget how badly the New Jersey court’s civil union decision hurt the Dems in the 2006 elections? And how Goodridge was roundly rejected in Massachusetts? And how the extremely unpopular 2008 California Supreme Court decision has turned the election by cutting Obama’s lead in California to a razor-thin 15 points?

Frankly, I don’t know when proponents of same-sex marriage will start accepting this kindly concern trolling advice and start recognizing that losing is better than winning.

A Rare One

[ 8 ] October 10, 2008 |

Watching the pathetic efforts of Norm Coleman’s press secretary reminds me that Ari Fleischer’s talent for complex, multi-layered, original lies really was unique. Republicans just don’t seem to have his like anymore.

What’s additionally funny about his flailing about Coleman’s non-position of Social Security is that it also seems to be John McCain’s position: “I no longer favor privatization, exactly. But I’m willing to favor a bold, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission!” Perhaps McCain will get confused at the next debate and in response to a question about Social Security that he “has reported every gift he has ever received.” It would make about as much sense.

"Your Winnings, Sir."

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

Apparently, arbitrary executive power can be abused and exercised in ways that have little relationship with its stated justifications. Shocking!

The Supreme Court and Abortion, Past and Future

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

From the standpoint of a supporter of reproductive rights, Ann Bartow brings a pessimistic perspective while Neal Devins is more optimistic. I have agreements and problems with both arguments.

I do disagree with Bartow that the five votes to overturn Roe “are already there.” In particular, I don’t agree with her claim that Kennedy “has been moving against abortion over time.” I don’t see how his position has changed at all. The plurality opinion in Casey created (as Devins notes) a regime of legal-but-regulated abortion; Carhart II isn’t inconsistent with that. And while bans on “partial-birth” abortion are idiotic, they also have less impact on access to abortion than the waiting periods and parental involvement requirements upheld in Casey. Particularly when you consider his very strong endorsement of the right to privacy in Lawrence, I think the odds that Kennedy would be the fifth vote to overrule Roe are nil.

In addition, I also disagree with the essentially functionalist account of Casey advanced by both Bartow and Devins. Both see Casey as a product of social and political forces that perhaps caused the median justices to vote against their true preferences. But the upholding of Roe was very much contingent; with exactly the same political and cultural context it could well have been overruled. Had Reagan just nominated Scalia and Bork in reverse order, or Bush I had nominated Ken Starr rather than Souter, Roe would be gone. And I think this mattered a little more than Devins assumes. It’s true that majorities favor abortion rights, but a number of state legislatures would have almost certainly passed abortion bans had the Court permitted them.

At any rate, I do agree with Devins that Roe is probably safe in the short term, and certainly isn’t immediately threatened should Obama win. On the other hand, I don’t agree with him that a court with a more conservative median vote would reject abortion regulations that push the envelope. Roberts and Alito might not want an opinion overruling Roe explicitly, but I don’t think they will ever vote to find an abortion regulation unconstitutional, and as Carhart II proves the current “minimalist” court will go to ridiculous lengths to pretend it’s not overruling precedents it clearly is. Moreover, politics can change quickly, and given the relative ages of the pro- and anti- Roe forces on the Court there’s unlikely to be much margin for error for quite a while. The 2008 election really does matter, and a substantive right to abortion will not be on safe ground for quite a while after that. Casey did mirror (for better or worse) national median opinion quite well, but the Court could have plausibly have gone against it before and could do it again.

Canadian Election Blogging!

[ 16 ] October 9, 2008 |

Calgary Grit projects another Conservative minority. A majority had seemed possible to me, but according to this data the Tories just can’t pick up enough seats in Quebec, and strategic voting is likely to decrease the final Conservative margins.

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