Mssrs. Yglesias, Greenwald, Black and Krugman say most of what needs to be said about the Unity 08/Bloomberg/Broder Axis of Vacuous Wankery. To put on my Sanford Levinson hat for a minute, it seems to me one reason why unspecific claims that “something needs to be done” about important issues take such risible forms is that it’s highly impolitic to point out structural defects in the Constitution, which generally has to be taken as unassailable. But the chief obstacle to getting things done isn’t the character of the current political leadership but Madisonian institutional roadblocks. Toning down “partisan rhetoric” would do nothing to change the facts 1)that as long as you control 40 seats in the Senate and/or the White House you can prevent Congressional majorities from accomplishing anything, and 2)the gross malapportionment of the Senate will usually make its membership considerably more reactionary than the median voter. But because we’re meant to understand that the Constitution was handed down in tablet form on Mount Sinai, rather than accepting this fact we’re treated to this farce of adults claiming that all we need is “specific ideas about how to pull the country together.”
It’s worth noting as well that for this reason talk of a mythical “postpartisan” future is beside the point even if the underlying political conflicts that partisan divisions reflect could float away on the wings of unicorns. Even in the Broder Golden Age of Parties when pro-apartheid Democrats made partisan coalitions jumbled, a shockingly high percentage of the core legislation of the New Deal/Great Society state was passed in two small windows not because public officials suddenly decided to be nice to each other but because 1)a very partisan political genius in the White House was supported by 2)overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. (And even in stage one of the New Deal, the pro-apartheid minority was able to substantially alter the content of the legislative solutions in ways that also made them worse.) Aside from the fact that it’s bizarre to see the status quo ante as preferable, more ideologically incoherent parties would do nothing to change the fact that it’s difficult to for governing parties to find solutions to problems because the Constitution doesn’t give them a fair chance to enact their agendas.
Admittedly, despite the lack of overarching historical significance yesterday where exciting comebacks are concerned I was more emotionally invested in the Flames’ later one against what in terms of its current personnel and management has to be far and away the most loathsome team in professional sports. But the game on every network in the country yesterday turned out to be an excellent one. And while I would in general have been rooting for the underdog, I’m actually happy the Patriots did it. The underdog thing is less compelling because the teams that could stop the Patriots from winning a championship are as bad or worse — any decent person has to hope they’ll pummel the Cowboys senseless if it comes to that. And I’m especially glad they went undefeated and hope they’ll now win because I’ve never seen any players less gracious about having a record broken than the ’72 Dolphins (who are also the Dolphins, and are based in Florida, so they’re already hateful before their specific odious actions.) In some way it’s understandable because had they not exploited an extremely weak schedule to go undefeated they wouldn’t even be in the discussion of the greatest team ever, but that’s all the more reason to be happy that the regular season record is now shared by a genuinely great team.
Plus, it makes Gregg Easterbrook cry.
…to be clear, I’m using the Csonka quote merely as an illustrative example; cf. also here and here.
Of course Bill Kristol has been hired by the Times; why should having seemingly endless access to other media outlets despite having no discernible expertise about anything and being consistently wrong about everything stop him from getting a prestigious gig on an allegedly liberal op-ed page? And, of course, the response to this latest reactionary affirmative action hire will be that they need even more conservatives…
To add on to what Markos says about Evan Thomas’s silly version of the “American politics went to hell when the pro-apartheid faction left the Democratic Party” narrative, for further debunking one can look outside the United States. First of all, if polarization depresses turnout, it’s rather hard to explain why countries with PR systems and hence much more polarized parties than the U.S. have much higher election turnouts. Even more importantly, the much greater turnout elsewhere makes it overwhelmingly likely that the unusually low voter turnout in the U.S. has nothing to do with some sort of inherent apathy among the electorate and much more to do with the fact that rule make it much harder to vote in the U.S. If you want to increase turnout, make the state responsible for ensuring that people register, give people time off work, make lines at polling places low, etc. How blurring distinctions between the parties is supposed to increase turnout, conversely, I can’t tell you.
Brad listens to the podcast-from-hell so you don’t have to. There’s lots that’s amusing-in-a-depressing-way, such as a professor of law discussing William James and Jimmy Carter as fascists as if it was a perfectly reasonable proposition. But I have to say that I enjoyed not only the assertion that providing certain minimum living standards represents fascism but using college campuses as a metaphor for this because they involve “free food, shelter and recreation.” Jonah is in for one hell of a shock if one of his kids gets into NYU.
Meanwhile, as always the comments chez Dr. Helen are a treat; for example, apparently one example of fascism is someone who uses “dominate” in the rec.sport.football.college sense of the word being forced to drop out of grad school because…some teachers and fellow students disagreed with his political views. As we all know, to a true anti-fascist rugged individualist success is only possible when all of your colleagues agree with you about everything.
If you haven’t already suffered from an overload of Teh Stupid, see Spencer Ackerman’s ongoing series of excerpts from Child Labor Laws? You’d Better Believe That’s Fascism.
As I’ve said before, nothing signals a Must To Avoid more than a positive book review that describes an unreadable book. Such is the case with Robert Dallek’s review of a new book about Condi Rice by official Bush administration mash note writer Elisabeth Bumiller. Apparently, we’re meant to think that the fact that the book makes no judgments and contains no interesting analysis of Rice’s tenure as Secretary of State is a feature, not a bug. The review does, however, contain this bit of high comedy:
Ms. Bumiller says that if President Bush and Ms. Rice can produce a settlement in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, it would give them claims on success that would significantly improve their historical reputations.
Uh, yeah. And if I discover a way of powering cars entirely with oxygen, emitting a vapor that would result in the immediate killing of cockroaches and paralysis in the hands of every Hollywood producer about to sign a contract with Joel Schumacher and Uwe Boll, my reputation as a world-class scientist would be greatly enhanced. I’m reminded of nothing so much as David Adesnik’s suggestion that Bush signal his commitment to a rational foreign policy by appointing Dick Lugar.
Yglesias says that “it’s a bit sad to see how much more engaged and knowledgeable the crowd at the Caps game is compared to the Wizards’ fans.” As it happens, when I was in town for Farley’s wedding since I had to go to the
MCI Verizon Center to get tickets for a game in March anyway I decided to take in the Crapitals/Sabres game. Having seen a lot of games in Calgary and Montreal I was pleasantly surprised by both the near-sellout crowd and the intensity of the fans, neither of which I expected, and were impressive even given the artificial boost given by the presence of a real hockey market in the game (up in the nosebleeds where I was “Let’s Go Buffalo!” chants were frequent.)
Given the context, I was amused that the Capitals decided to combine two lame in-game promotions. A woman was participating in one of those “find the moving puck!” things, and in turned out that the prize for the contestant was…a marriage proposal. The punchline was that although it had to be the least challenging hidden puck/ball game in history, she got the answer wrong. But she said yes anyway.
This is a very radical claim I’m about to make, but I think I might rather watch a Bloggingheads featuring Mickey Kaus and Ann Althouse discussing Bill Clinton’s sex life than listen to this.
…as most of you probably know. The most obvious puzzle to this non-expert is how someone could get in a position to fire two shots at close range; the most obvious answer is that Musharraf wanted her dead. Spencer Ackerman supports this:
After an October attack on Bhutto’s life in Karachi, the ex-prime minister warned “certain individuals in the security establishment [about the threat] and nothing was done,” says Husain Haqqani, a confidante of Bhutto’s for decades. “There is only one possibility: the security establishment and Musharraf are complicit, either by negligence or design. That is the most important thing. She’s not the first political leader killed, since Musharraf took power, by the security forces.”
Haqqani notes that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck. “It’s like a hit, not a regular suicide bombing,” he says. “It’s quite clear that someone who considers himself Pakistan’s Godfather has a very different attitude toward human life than you and I do.”
And, of course, not only is Musharraf’s chief rival dead, but this will also serve as a pretext to cancel elections.
Shorter Verbatim Ron Paul: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal. If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational.”
I know he’s right on the war, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s a crank reactionary.
Well, the Democratic Party certainly had some winners in the 2004 election:
Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.
Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.
Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.
Imagine what Shrum would get paid if he ever won elections! It’s good that the Dems are trying to reduce the fees, because the extent of the money that goes to consultants is ridiculous given the number of companies that could otherwise compete for the advertising and the utter lack of accountability.
Of course, it’s possible to defend Shrum narrowly in terms of the 2004 election; if anything, Kerry did a little better than structural models would predict, and certainly he wasn’t an inherently great candidate. Indeed, the only federal election Shrum lost that he should have won was 2000 (and even that one wasn’t so much lost as won by a narrow enough margin that it could be swamped by the archaic American electoral system.) But this defense makes it even more clear that the money being paid to consultants is completely irrational. Campaigns simply aren’t that important in terms of who wins elections, which not only means that consultants aren’t terribly important but also that it’s very difficult to evaluate their performance even within the narrow range in which they can matter. Anybody who acts as a consultant long enough, especially if they also do a lot of local races, is going to rack of some wins, and will also always have an excuse if they don’t win. There’s no good reason for political consultancy to be this kind of resource-eating cartel.