Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Fame Don’t Take Away The Pain, It Just Pays The Bills

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

As a couple commenters noted, apparently I was on the teevee earlier today:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

While Lazurus. IIRC, gave me a welcome but probably not formally binding promotion to associate, C-SPAN got the rank right but the discipline wrong.

More on the Impossibiity of "De-Politicizing" Reproductive Freedom

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

Dana has an excellent post responding to claims that progressives should “de-politicize” issues of reproductive justice, noting that the main problem with this is that it’s impossible. We’ve already been through this with respect to the Iraq War, but you can’t “de-politicize” an issue that is a)salient, and b)on which substantial groups of people have fundamentally incommensurable views. And this is true not only with respect to abortion but with other reproductive issues. Despite the endless attempts of the Will Saletans of the world to believe that if we just stop talking about abortion (natch, by endorsing his anti-Roe views entirely and calling it a “consensus”) we can reach agreement on other issues. But we won’t be able to reach a consensus about lowering abortion rates by increasing access to birth control and rational sex-ed because in general the American forced pregnancy lobby is opposed to these policies. You can’t “de-politicize” an issue on which people disagree all the way down to first premises.

And this idea that a magic compromise is just waiting out there on these issues should be particularly untenable in the wake of Carhart II. The only thing that can be said for the idiotic “partial birth” bans is that, because the don’t even arguably protect fetal life, they force people like Kennedy to fully reveal the fundamentally sexist underpinnings of the movement to regulate abortion; without the anachronistic assumptions about women’s inferior decision-making capacities the legislation has no rational justification at all. Debates about abortion aren’t just about abortion, but involve very deep divisions about the role of women in society and the desirability of regulating female sexuality, and these irreconcilable differences structure debates about not only abortion but all reproductive issues. To think that we can make them go away is dreaming in Technicolor.

Don’t Look At Us, We Didn’t Do It!

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

This gets it right in re: GOP attempts to pretend, now that he’s become indefensible, that the rot in the executive branch begins and ends with Alberto Gonzales:

Presumably, the idea here is that we’re supposed to believe that Republicans are shocked, shocked to find out that there’s perjury happening in this attorney-general’s office. Just as the fact that George W. Bush is a horrible president is supposed to be no reflection on conservatism, we, too, are supposed to believe that the fact that the Republican Party, with the complete and utter backing of every significant conservative institution in the country, fought tooth and nail, day after day, week after week, month after month to ensure that there was absolutely no oversight of the executive branch whatsoever is just totally unrelated to Gonzalez’ unraveling.

Another classic recent example of this comes from Roger L. “Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick” Simon. How do Yoosta-Bees square the Bush administration’s alleged commitment to democracy, whiskey and sexy (well, there are some pretty serious problems with that last one too) with its decision to sell $20 billion worth of arms to the most repressive and illberal autocracy in the region? Easy: Blame the whole thing exclusively on Condi Rice! Does Simon seriously think that major middle eastern foreign policy can go ahead without, at an absolute minimum, the approval of Cheney and Bush? What’s scary is that Simon’s writing betrays so little knowledge of how government works that he may well believe that. The New Media at work!

When The Obvious Needs Restating

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

Oh, and to add to what Matt says here one interesting thing about the panel is that Rosen immediately conceded that while the quality of legal craftsmanship may be normatively important it has no impact on the public’s perception of the courts. This is empirically demonstrable — see Terri Peretti, for example — and it’s also common sense. Given that almost nobody without a professional obligation to do so reads judicial opinions, it’s highly implausible to claim there will be a public backlash to the courts if their reasoning isn’t good enough.

It’s also worth noting that while the public supports the ruling upholding the idiotic “partial birth” legislation, it supports it by less of a margin that it supports the legislation in the first instance, which is precisely the opposite of what the backlash theory would predict.


[ 0 ] July 29, 2007 |

The conference was really good; I strongly recommend it if you’re interested in such things. I was on a panel about anti-judicial backlash with the Reva Seigel, Robert Post, Roger Wilkins and Jeff Rosen, moderated by Edward “Closed Chambers” Lazurus. Although frequently timorous in social contexts I’ve rarely been at all nervous about public speaking, but given the shockingly large crowd (at academic conferences, I’m used to more like 5 audience members, and which as you can see was certainly not because of my presence!) and the high-wattage co-panelists it was a humbling experience, but I think a productive one. It was also filmed for C-SPAN, so it will probably be shown on a weekend late night so that the alcoholics, angry loners, and/or unemployables in our audience will be able to judge for themselves.

I will have more later, but the most important thing to note is that the Post-Seigel paper on backlash in available online. It’s brilliant, rich stuff. Two points worthy of emphasis: 1)in addition to the many empirical problems with the judicial backlash claims, it’s not clear why conflict avoidance should be such a high priority, and 2)claims made by people like Falwell about having been changed immediately by Roe tend to be retrospective projection, not supported by contemporaneous evidence. (The second point was also made recently by Michelle Goldberg.)

Civilized Discourse

[ 0 ] July 29, 2007 |

Intriguing results from an empirical study of Crooked Timber. See, this is why they’ve never invited any of us; those meanness stats would go through the roof the next time Althouse posted about the moderate pro-feminist views of Sam Alito…

The spectacles and pagaentry/The thousand things you’ve got to see

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

I am in Washington D.C. this weekend for the American Constitution Society conference, so blogging from me will be sporadic for a couple days. However, for your reading pleasure I have a new TAP article arguing that, in spite of predictions from various quarters that John Roberts would be the harbringer of the “Unity ’08!” Court, last term’s highly divided Court illustrates the vastly more likely scenario.

The Story On Louise

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

A flashback from GFR about the NYT reporter who implied that Foer had some doubts about whether “Scott Thomas” was a soldier: apparently she was responsible for one of those “based on some highly dubious random anecdotes I will assert that women now want to be housewives” stories.

A Personal Defense

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

Scott Thomas issues a defense of his TNR Diary. The fact that he’s willing to open himself up to the inevitable wingnut smear jobs does give me more confidence in the veracity of his accounts.

…and the smears begin.

More on the Federalism Dodge

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

To follow up on Matt and Ezra, another angle to run at it from is to apply the logic to the civil rights movement. If one takes the Rauch/Brownstein argument seriously, wasn’t it also wrong to “federalize” the divisive issue of segregation? Of course, they wouldn’t say that, but that first of all demonstrates the underlying question-begging; as a normative matter, 99% of the time saying something should be “left to the states” is just another way of saying that the question of social justice isn’t a very high priority. But even more importantly, it also raises obvious problem for their empirical claims: desegregation and disenfranchisement were “protest issues” even when they were left to the states, and became “ordinary politics” issues after they were federalized. And to get on my old hobbyhorse, the gentility of the American abortion debate pre-Roe has been grossly romanticized, and it’s also worth noting that Canada has federalized both abortion and gay marriage, and not only have the issues remained largely “ordinary politics” they aren’t even especially salient, and at least with the former the outcome has been perfectly stable. This suggests that federalism isn’t the key variable here. There’s no reason to believe that allowing 20 states to ban abortion will somehow diminish the conflict over abortion, and of course you have the negative externality of many women being maimed or killed in black market abortions, arbitrarily forced to carry pregnancies to term, etc.

And, of course, there’s the larger issue: why “protest politics” is supposed to be a problem in the first place. People protesting and mobilizing around what they consider to be fundamental injustices, at least in the context of a nation where the basic legitimacy of the state isn’t in question, is the sign of a healthy polity, not a dysfunctional one.

A Grim Prediction

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

The Yankees will be in a playoff spot by early-to-mid August. Sucks, I know, but what can I tell you. A couple of other post-all-star-break notes:

  • Despite his truly historic season — not only by far the best hitter in the world, but playing exceptional defense — Murray Chass has twice in the last month called Tom Hicks stupid for the contract he gave Slappy, the first time lumping it in with the Chan Ho Park signing. Look, Tom Hicks is a complete idiot — for not only trading A-Rod for a much worse player but giving the Yankees a considerable sum to do so. And if Hicks’s contract was so silly, why does virtually everybody assume he’s going to opt this year, and if he does why is he clearly going to get more money? The contract was, in fact, perfectly rational. With the Mariners finally coming back to earth, it’s worth considering what they’re doing with the money they didn’t give to Rodriguez. Rodriguez is making $23 M this year. The Mariners are paying $18M to three guys — Vidro, Weaver, and Ramirez — who are absolutely useless, plus $15 M to Richie Sexson, a player with old player’s skills who has predictably aged very badly. You telling me they couldn’t afford Rodriguez, who would clearly make them the best team in the division? Please. And what exactly have the Rangers done will the money they’re not paying him?
  • I would feel a lot better about the Indians’ chances of staying ahead of the Yankees if they had kept Brandon Phillips rather than playing Josh Barfield at second. I can’t criticize Shapiro too much for this, however, since he got Phillips by pulling off one of the great heists of all time: Sizemore and Phillips and Cliff Lee for a half season of Bartolo Colon. (At the time, I and most other Expos fans I knew thought that Phillips was the real gem; it’s amazing how good Sizemore has become.)

pinko points us to a relevant Fire Joe Morgan! post

A New Third Second Party?

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

Adam Kotsko offers as a “thought experiment” a heighten-the-contradictions scenario that would result in the “liquidation of the Democrats.” And as with all such scenarios, there are several missing links in the causal chain — which goes, roughly, from “electing a few social democratic members of Congress” immediately to “a viable social democratic second party” with no intervening step (except the Democrats losing a lot of elections) being explained. The problems here are obvious:

  • It’s nice, at least, that he proposes to start the liquidation at the congressional level rather than the presidential level, which will at least avoid the Nader problem of electing the most reactionary president since Harding if not McKinley in return for no benefits whatsoever. However, it’s unclear what exactly this will actually accomplish. The few House districts and even fewer Senate seats that could plausibly elect a social democrat are already represented by…very liberal Democrats. If Jim McDermott becomes the leader of SDPUSA and is joined by a few more colleagues, the effect of this would be…nothing. Their up-or-down votes can’t change, since they already take the left-most position on almost every vote. They will have virtually no power affect the content of legislation brought to the floor. Indeed, in the House, a rump party will have no power at all, and even if a couple of SDPUSA Senators are added to Bernie Sanders they couldn’t use their amendment power to do anything but obstruct progressive legislation that isn’t progressive enough.
  • The most recent implosion of a party over a century ago had an obvious cause: the slavery issue combined with demographic trends made a bisectional northern-based party unsustainable. What is going to cause the Democrats to be replaced by an entirely different coalition is unclear, and if Kotsko knows he isn’t saying.
  • Which brings us to the bigger problem: where exactly is this second party getting votes? What evidence is there than “social democracy” is going to be anywhere near the median voter nationally, let alone in a majority of House and Senate districts? How is this going to happen? If the answer is that a winning political coalition can be well to the left of the median voter, this is exceptionally implausible; indeed, a variety of factors (most importantly the malapportionment of the Senate and the laissez-faire campaign finance regime protected by a Supreme Court majority that will be bulletproof for the foreseeable future) skew electoral outcomes to the right of median opinion, not the left. It’s especially unclear why a rump party could effect such a massive change in American political culture when the very liberal Democrats already representing the winnable districts cannot.
  • Under these circumstances, even if a social democratic second party emerged, exactly what it would accomplish, other than to ensure perpetual filibuster-proof Senate majorites for the GOP, is unclear. I leave the last word to Michael Berube, with “SDPUSA” replacing the “Democrats”: “…“divergence” in and of itself is not a value; it needs to be supplemented by the possibility that the newly divergent Democrats will actually beat their opponents. What’s the point of fostering “divergence” if the result is a feral Tom DeLay GOP that controls the entire country and a feeble liberal-progressive Democratic party that controls a few cities and college towns? “Ah, yes, we’re completely powerless, except for that tough new recycling law in Madison, Wisconsin,” the Curtisses will say in 2012 when the parties have diverged a little more to their liking, “but at least we know now that our opposition is truly oppositional.” I’ll pass, thanks.
Page 559 of 752« First...102030...557558559560561...570580590...Last »