Hackery just doesn’t get much more hackish than Roger L. Simon. This is the kind of thing that happens when you don’t actually care about movies, but just like using them as a pretext to share various half-cooked reactionary bromides.
Author Page for Scott Lemieux
Although I don’t fully agree, I think ogged has a point about acting and The Wire. It’s a really, really, outstanding show, and getting better too. But part of me does wish that Simon had been able to do Homicide on HBO. Particularly in the first season, when you compare McNaulty and Pembleton you have to notice that while the latter character is one of the greatest in TV history the former is a pretty stale cliche, and one also notices that Dominic West ain’t Andre Braugher. (Of course, The Wire doesn’t rely on a central police character either, but that’s only partial mitigation.) So, myself, I still say that while The Wire towers over anything on network TV, it’s also not as good as Season 1-5 of The Sopranos; the fact that the latter is more immediately compelling, more likely to convert the unconverted, is actually related to aesthetic strengths, not a reflection of bad compromises. (Part of what’s going on, I think, is like what Bill James says about great teams; you can’t write a book saying the ’27 Yankees were the best team ever because it’s not surprising, and you can’t write a book saying they weren’t because they were. The Sopranos, being the first great HBO drama, has been so widely praised to say that it’s the best show the medium has ever produced isn’t an interesting argument; nonetheless, it happens to be right, although The Wire and Deadwood are in a similar general class. The Wire has a stronger case because it’s different and innovative in a lot of ways. But still, The Sopranos is at least as well-written, and generally has better acting and direction, and is also funnier than most comedies.)
With respect to whether The Wire‘s reliance on amateur actors hurts it at the Emmys, I would simply note that apparently Kiefer Sutherland–Kiefer Sutherland!–won the Emmy for “best actor.” I feel pretty confident in arguing that The Wire‘s ultimately minor aesthetic flaws have nothing to do with its failure to win an Emmy…
My reaction to the decision to make Plan B available over-the-counter to women over the age of 18 was positive. And, in a sense, it still is; the current policy is preferable to the status quo ante. I feel like Stevens in Casey: “The portions of the Court’s opinion that I have joined are more important than those with which I disagree.” Casey was, on its own merits, a serious setback; not only did it overrule the crucial protections of Akron, it was also something of a jurisprudential disaster, creating a standard that gave virtually no guidance to lower courts and legislatures and also failing to defend it convincingly. Nonetheless, given the personnel on the court it was also victory, because it was the best result viable under the circumstances, and the same is true of the FDA as long as Bush remains in office.
Still, as ema notes in detail here, it must also be noted that the exclusion of women under 18 is a ridiculous decision: “There is no more medical justification to restrict Plan B sales to women 18 and older, than it is for sales of the drug to be restricted to males only.” And it’s not merely that the exclusion of women under 18 has no medical justification. Just like the irrational “reasonable” regulations of abortion rights favored by so many legislators, it increases the burdens on the class of women who are already burdened the most. Women under 18 are more likely to have difficulty acquiring a prescription, and the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy are on balance more severe for these women. The FDA’s decision was an important first step, but this irrational and counterproductive rule should be amended as soon as the Democrats re-take the White House.
Great post by Brad Plumer on the subject of the 1996 welfare reform bill. The key point is that most assertions that welfare reform has “worked” reference nothing more than the fact that fewer people on welfare. And as Brad notes, this is just a tautology; fewer people receiving welfare benefits isn’t a test of whether the policy worked; it was the policy. It’s like saying that the Medicare drug plan “worked” because, in fact, more government money went to pharmaceutical companies. The meaningful test is whether the policy was better for poor people, and as Brad notes on that score the evidence that the reform has been effective is scant-to-nonexistent: even people who got jobs aren’t making more money on average, poverty rates have stayed the same despite considerable economic growth, and children aren’t faring noticeably better either. While it may have been a political success, as policy while it hasn’t been catastrophic it also hasn’t been effective.
His punchline is worth quoting as well:
Many liberals will say that welfare reform can and will be a stunning success story if only we increase the Earned-Income Tax Credit and raise the minimum wage and provide heaps more funds for child care and heaps more money for job-training and so on. Well, no kidding. Cup Noodle makes a great meal if it comes with a side of steak. If people are going to be forced to work then the government should make work pay. If society isn’t willing to do this, then cash assistance is the way to go.
It may be that indirect subsidies and tax credits are more viable politically than welfare payments, and perhaps they’re even better policy. But welfare reform won’t be effective until the government gets more serious about providing the funds.
Shorter Verbatim Mark Steyn:
“Ann Coulter’s new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism is a rollicking read very tightly reasoned and hard to argue with…Lest you doubt the left’s pieties are now a religion, try this experiment: go up to an environmental activist and say “Hey, how about that ozone hole closing up?” or “Wow! The global warming peaked in 1998 and it’s been getting cooler for almost a decade. [Sadly, No! --ed.] Isn’t that great?” and then look at the faces. As with all millenarian doomsday cults, good news is a bummer.”
The fact that a third-rate theater critic who knows nothing about foreign policy (or anything else) is taken as a foreign policy guru by the right-blogosphere makes perfect sense; after all, a fusion jazz musician and a Second Amendment scholar who know nothing about foreign policy are the most popular “warbloggers.”
Speaking of which, flogging the deadest of dead horses Reynolds has a post totuting an idiotic WaPo story (amazing how much less scrutiny the dread
MSM “527 Media” gets when it reaches politically convenient results) which compares death rates of American soldiers in Iraq to the death rate of the American population, and finds that it’s only half–apparently it’s like a gated suburb! Surely, you say, the Post must have at least taken death rates for the age segment of the population most likely to serve in the military? I’m afraid not–it really does compare the population as a whole to the frequency of much younger soldiers dying in Iraq. An intellectually honest five year-old could see the utter uselessness of the comparison. Reynolds, conversely, crows that “it’s hard to look at these numbers and see the catastrophe that the “527 media” are proclaiming.” Needless to say, to Reynolds the death rates (not to mention the basic inability to even make a living or purchase essential goods because of the lack of a functional state) of Iraqi civilians who don’t live in heavily fortified areas and walk around with flak jackets aren’t weighted in the discussion at all; as long as American soldiers have less chance of dying than an 85 year-old with cancer, everything is great over there! Perhaps he’ll be leaving soon to report, without a military escort, from a typical Iraqi city and confirm his analysis…
…more at The American Street.
…and, of course, it’s not just age demographics; soldiers are pre-selected to be healthy and fit, and are further trained. As Brian notes in comments, “So, it’s seven times more dangerous to serve in Iraq as it is to serve somewhere else among the identical popuation (the peacetime military). In fact, peacetime soldiers are 2.7 times less likely to die than the same male age cohort in the United States, according to the article.”
Also, some commenters make the (correct) point that calling the Post article “idiotic” was glib; it did a bad job of presenting the data, but did ultimately conatin some more useful information. All of this is irrelevant to the central point about Reynolds, who cited only the first (entirely meaningless) data, and made the even worse mistake of generalizing substantial-but-not-catastrophic American casualties to the success of the situation in Iraq itself while completely ignoring the more relevant question of the casualty rates among people in Iraq who don’t have access to armored bodies and vehicles, heavily fortified areas, etc., as well as broader questions of the efficacy of the current Iraqi (non)state.
…and, as Brad notes, it’s unclear why the ozone hole closing up after a set of regulations favored by environmentalists was put in place should be embarassing to environmenalists, but then maybe I lack Ann Coulter’s deft reasoning abilities…
…And I’ll give Kieran the final word.
Make sure to remember these disgraceful actions of the Alabama Democratic Party the next time you hear “Mudcat” Sanders or some other idiot go into the umpteenth self-pitying rant about how the Democrats can’t possibly afford to write off the Deep South. That’s the Democratic Party using an egregiously selective application of an obscure technicality to disqualify a gay candidate (with, admittedly, some of what deserves the usually vacuous epithet “identity politics” thrown in) who’s running unopposed. The idea that the national Dems could come close to carrying Alabama while maintaining any semblance of their current principles is just a joke. Pam has more.
Because the blogosphere tends to skew toward the opinions of educated elites, it’s relatively hard–even among conservative blogs–to find nice, chewy wingnuttery on the subject of the decision to make Plan B available over the counter. Even Josh Trevino doesn’t seem to have written anything, although admittedly I may have missed a number of the blogs he’s undoubtedly joined and left in the past week.
But, fortunately, there are exceptions that can provide some amusement. Sister Toldjah gives the standard reactionary boilerplate, claiming that if Planned Parenthood were serious about stopping teenage pregnancies, it would be trying to promote abstinence programs that are demonstrably useless rather than proving teens with tools that can actually stop pregnancies: “Imagine if PP were to change its tune and devote as much time now to promoting abstinence as it has in the past promoting ’safe sex’ and ‘alternative ways to engage in sexual activity that doesn’t involve the actual act’. We wouldn’t have to worry about that high teen pregnancy rate that Richards mentioned.” You read that right–she seriously seems to believe that teens would stop having sex if Cecile Richards were more vocal on the subject. Because if there’s anything besides moral instruction from teachers that teens are thinking about when they’re about to get it on, it’s the words if the head of prominent interest groups. The logic is airtight!
I was expecting Dawn Eden‘s take to top even this, but it’s actually kind of disappointing. Despite a title that promises a spittle-flecked rant worthy of Lee Siegel himself, we are only given the opportunity to play “straightforward answers to idiotic questions:”
So, riddle me this: Why do oral contraceptives still require a prescription, seeing as they’re so safe that you can take 40 times the prescribed amount anytime you want?
Because Plan B is for emergencies and must be taken within a narrow time frame, which makes obtaining a prescription considerably more burdensome than in the case ordinary birth control? You’re welcome!
Having beaten the Giants while the Cardinals were busy getting swept by the Pedro-and-Glavine-free Metropolitans, I note that Rob’s Redlings are now tied for first in the Central. I doubt they’ll be able to win it, but it really is remarkable–and predictable before the season–how much the Cards have let themselves go. It’s hard to say why the NL is currently in such a down cycle, especially now that the Mets are back under competent management, but the Cardinals’ fascination with low-OBP vets and third-rate reclamation projects has caught up to them, as has John Schurholz’s, while the high-resource Cubs have a similar fetish without the kind of core those teams have; they’re becoming the same kind of joke they were in the late 70s. And meanwhile, the Giants have been squandering Bonds’ last years by trying to assemble a team that saves healthcare costs because everyone on the team qualifies for Medicare. (Although admittedly even at age 39 Vizquel is as good as any shortstop in the league except Reyes, and Moises can still hit when he’s healthy.) As for who will win the wildcard, beats me; I think Rowand’s injury all but eliminates the Phils, and while I stubbornly think the Braves are the best of the non-division leaders they’re too far back. The Reds may still hold on to a playoff spot.
To given an indication of how much worse things could get, a veritable Federalist Society All-Star panel of judges on the D.C. Circuit (Douglas Ginsburg–who, if
I he [much as I'd like to take credit for that--ed.] didn’t smoke pot with his students would probably be on the Supreme Court today– Judith Rogers, and Janice Rogers Brown) held that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to tax damages gained in a suit by a whistleblower after she was blacklisted, arguing that such damages are not “income” and hence beyond the scope of the 16th Amendment. Reaction from tax law profs has been overwhelmingly hostile; see also Marty Lederman and Stephen Bainbridge (“Let a 1000 lawsuits bloom. Every tax nut in the country is probably getting ready to file suit challenging some tax or another using Murphy as a template.”) At TaxLawProfs, Steve Bank explains the peril of law office “originalism”:
This is an odd application of original intent or even original meaning analysis (assuming you agree that either is relevant). The court acknowledges that there were a number of revenue acts before Congress even addressed damage recoveries, thus providing at least five years of separation from the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to any opinion on this issue. Five years is not long, but the onset of World War I in the intervening years, plus the dramatic increase in the top marginal rates from 6% in 1913 to 65% in 1918, radically changed the landscape under which the issue was considered. That renders the 1918 view of the situation hardly the final word on what was the commonly understood meaning in 1913, prior to World War I. Even then, the opinion was from the Attorney General and not from Congress or any committee of Congress. More importantly, during this period, the definition of income was far from settled. The income tax was only five years old and Congress was borrowing from economic definitions, legal definitions, and popular definitions. The economic understanding of the term “income” at the time was arguably evenly split between those advocating an accretion tax notion of income (e.g., Haig) and those advocating a consumption tax notion of income (e.g., Fisher). The latter would not have supported a tax on capital gains, although the Supreme Court held that it was permissible in a 1921 decision. As I have argued in the context of tax-free reorganizations, the provisions adopted in 1918 were an attempt to compromise between these conflicting definitions of income so as to assure a proper revenue to pay for war expenses while still maintaining the appearance of fairness and responding to heavy lobbying from business and the wealthy. The notion of taxing people who recovered damages during this war period may have violated our sense of fair play when war profiteers were seeking to avoid paying tax on their bounty.
Under the Murphy Court’s analysis, it is not clear whether stock dividends should be taxable (since Treasury held them to be so soon after the 16th amendment was ratified in 1913) or not (since the Supreme Court held their taxation to be unconstitutional – in the only instance in which a tax statute was struck down as unconstitutional – in 1920 in Eisner v. Macomber). There are many other examples, including examples of Treasury flip-flopping on its own positions. The law was in flux in part for the very reason that there had been no “commonly understood” definition of income for tax purposes at the time the 16th amendment was ratified.
Of course, even if the historical analysis were less cursory than what Ginsburg’s, this demonstrates one of the fundamental problems with originalism: attributing a fixed, singular meaning to broad, ambiguous concepts whose definition is often a point of significant political contestation. For most constitutional questions of any interest, this is simply impossible, and assertions of centrainty generally represent policy choices on the part of the judge.
Why Founding A Publication Based on the Principle of Contrarianism For Its Own Sake Is A Bad Idea, Part MCLVII
Shorter Jack Shafer: I have yet to be convinced that an article exclusively about why men shouldn’t marry women with incomes over $30K isn’t gender neutral. The fact that the author took gender-neutral data and used it entirely to bash “career women” just proves my point! (Via Feministe.)
The FDA does, at long last, the right thing. I’m not going to give much administration much credit for finally getting beyond letting the likes of David Hager interpose his crackpot beliefs between American women and the scientific evidence. But kudos to Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray for forcing the issue. And when a Democratic administration takes over hopefully the pointless and arbitrary age restriction–do we consider teenage pregnancies more desirable?–but this is a major step in the right direction.