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Wankers Unity ’08!

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

You’ll be shocked to know that David Broder is thrilled about the prospect of a ticket that represents “post-partisan leadership” composed of two moderate Republicans (OK, one is not technically a Republican anymore.) As Benen says, “The column reads like a daydream of a writer who believes a liberal independent and a very conservative Republican will join forces, solve all of our problems, and ‘get something done.’ Get what done? It doesn’t matter; it’ll be something.” But taking explicit policy positions is so vulgar!

On a related note, I saw about 20 minutes of the even-more-atrocious-than-you-would-expect Robin Williams vehicle Man of the Year on HBO recently. The comedian was running on an exciting platform: he would transcend partisanship, you see, by denouncing “special interests” and explicitly supporting “getting something done” about education and the environment. Broder must consider that the greatest film made since Capra died. (And for a talented director, boy has Barry Levinson directed some crappy films.)

If Only We Could Get Brookings To Take Over the Twins

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

I really don’t understand why Matt won’t take the Pentagon’s secret evidence at face value; would they really lie to use about such matters?

In related news, on a superficial, fuzzy-math, pre-9/11 way it may look like the incomparable Horacio Ramirez has been torched for 67 runs and a .400 OBP in a great pitchers park while striking out only 32 batters in 80 innings. But Bill Bavasi, who if you use such unsophisticated figures might look like the biggest dumbass in the known universe for trading a talented reliever for the privilege of paying this lemon $2.65 million, after my tour of the executive boxes at Safeco Field has shown me top-secret data complied by his assistant Micken O’Pollahan demonstrating that Ramirez is in reality having a year that makes Sandy Koufax look like Jose Lima‘s sickly little brother. I assume that Terry Ryan is smart enough to use the real, top-secret numbers, and will be trading Johan Santana and Justin Morneau to acquire him before the deadline. The Twinkies could be contenders yet!

Why Is John Galt?

[ 0 ] August 25, 2007 |

Apparently NYC development officials had warning that the John Galt corporation was not an ideal choice to demolish the Deutsche Bank building, but went ahead and did it anyway. This was also in violation of the general principle that “giving important municipal contracts to shell corporations named after Ayn Rand characters is a bad idea.”

Speaking of which, don’t forget to register for the conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, with a lunchtime keynote by Mr. Charles Murray!

Yoosta-Bee Sunk Costs

[ 0 ] August 25, 2007 |

It’s a generalization, and therefore subject to exceptions and qualifications, but this seems basically right:

If we discount the out-and-out hacks, my entirely unscientific impression that apparently smart1 pro-war bloggers who were/are genuinely right wing have been much more likely than apparently smart pro-war bloggers who were (or who claim to have been) left of center to accept that they were wrong and that their former comrades appear to be increasingly deranged.

Especially if you fold the Reynolds/Althouse “right-wingers who refuse to admit that they’re (at least now) right-wingers” into the mix, this seems right. Some initially pro-war liberals bailed either just before or soon after the shooting began — Yglesias, JMM, Drum — but otherwise among the “liberal hawks” or “decents” there have been very few conversions against the war comparable to actual conservatives like Cole, Sullivan, Bainbridge, etc. (Did Drezner support the war initially? I don’t remember and don’t have time to check.)

Another exhibit of both strands of the premise: Greg Djerejian on O’Pollahan.

Undermining The Electoral College

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

I’ll have a longer piece about the general subject coming up next week, but in the meantime Brian Beutler notes an interesting proposal by California Dems. In response to the California GOP’s “21st century democracy for thee but not for me” initiative, the Democrats have a proposal that would award the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Given current circumstances, it’s not a terrible idea; it would still be unilateral disarmament, but at least the it would matter much less frequently, and would have a better chance of being balanced by a couple other states. I still probably wouldn’t support it, but as a way of undermining the electoral college through initiative (assuming that Article II is read so as to permit this at all) it’s probably the best one can do, at least without a trigger requiring other states to come on board before it goes into effect.

Man-Child With A Mustache

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

The Editors replay some of Tom Friedman’s greatest hits. Although being op-eds in an otherwise respectable paper the sentiments are at least not expressed entirely in 80’s action movie chiches, “suck on this” captures the puerility of the “thoughts” much better. It’s particularly amazing that Friedman, having supported a war that he concedes was fought “because America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world,” reacted to the inevitable resulting chaos by claiming that Iraq may be “beyond transformation” because they “hate others more than they love their own children.” Democracy, you see, isn’t something that emerges from an exceptionally complex series of social, cultural, and economic, and institutional factors, but it something you choose like a new brand of soap. If razing a state in a country (not to produce a democracy or even for security reasons, mind you, but because the thought of invading an Arab country selected almost at random in retaliation for an attack by people who had nothing to do with the country in question gave people like Tom Friedman a boner) riven by ethnic conflict and without the institutions of civil society that characterize democratic states doesn’t immediately produce a stable, democratic state, why, it’s just that those Iraqis are beyond help!

What can one even say at this point?

The Politics of Abjection

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

As a response to Clinton’s claim that we should respond to the fact that catastrophic Republican policy failure will be seen in many quarters and advantage for Republicans by accepting this as inevitable, I think this is 100% right:

Two points in response. The first is that I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn’t reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.

The other is that I think there’s a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush’s Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush’s national security policy should be blamed on Bush’s failed policies. Obama has a straight shot (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said”) and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect”) whereas I’m not 100 percent sure what the Clinton message would be. Most of all, though, I think the politics of national security call for a strong, self-confident posture that genuinely believes liberal solutions are politically saleable and substantively workable, not the kind of worry-wort attitude that says we need to cower in fear every time Republicans say “terror.”

Clinton is correct in the sense that the idea that everything is good for Republicans will get a more respectful hearing than it deserves. But it also seems obvious that the only way to counter that is for major Democrats to challenge the narrative rather than accept it as a fact of life. Which is another reason why Clinton’s front-runner status is regrettable.

Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

Brad Plumer has the details on mountaintop-removal mining and the Bush administration’s inevitable but still-appalling attempts to ensure more of it with toothless legal restraints. Garance fills us in on both the Democratic reaction and on civilian activism.

On the "Cancer Survival Rate" Factoid

[ 1 ] August 24, 2007 |

Ezra assesses the meaning of the fact that the United States ranks #1 in cancer survival rates, which seems likely to be adduced frequently by apologists for the indefensible American health care system:

Moreover, simply having the highest survival rates isn’t a particularly useful metric of whether we’re getting good value for our money. Our 5-year cancer survival rate, according to the study Andrew links, is 62.9%. Italy’s is 59%. Italy spends about $2,532 per person. America spends about $6,100. And these numbers, incidentally, are adjusted for purchasing power parity. Then there’s the question of who our treatment is best for. Not the poor. Studies show significantly lower mortality rates for the low-income cancer patients in Canada than in the US. Is this all a good deal? Maybe. But Sullivan should explain why we should believe that.

At the end of the day, the question is never American health care: Good or bad. It’s whether it can be better. It’s whether we get good value for our dollar. It would be absurd if a system that spends twice what anyone else does didn’t demonstrate superiority in some areas. The question is why so few, and why by such minor margins (a percent or two, in this case). It baffles me — genuinely baffles me — that conservatives seem so intent on defending an obviously bad deal.

Let’s be frank: conservertarians are as unlikely to do a cost/benefit analysis of American health care as they were with the Iraq War.

Can Stats Be Contrarian?

[ 0 ] August 23, 2007 |

Most of the rest of the top 10 make sense — it it figures to be razor-thin — but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have gotten the current NL leader win shares with 50 guesses. And I don’t think careful analysis would leave him has one of the top 5, but I will note that other methods seem to largely corroborate the eye-popping defensive stats that put him over the top.

I’m also pleased that not only is Magglio slightly ahead of Slappy in the AL race, but Ichiro! is even with him. If this holds up, I’ll have some empirical justification for my inevitable results-oriented justification for putting Slappy 3rd on my BP ballot…

Wait, Armed Liberal Is Still Alive?

[ 0 ] August 23, 2007 |

Marc Danzinger argues that Duncan Black is trying to gag…Tom Friedman. No, I’m serious. Why, one more “Wanker of the Day” award and Friedman’s inexplicable presence on the nation’s most valuable op-ed space, inexplicably best-selling books, all-too-explicable ubiquitous TV presence will vanish entirely! It’s that kind of grasp on logic that leads you to still be in Iraq War supporter in 2007.

And yet, you can see where it comes from. I mean, consider again the definitively puerile and reprehensible comments from Friedman that were the original subject of discussion:

What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?”

You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow?

Well, Suck. On. This.

Okay.

That Charlie was what this war was about. We could’ve hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

Pretty much a representative summary of the general seriousness and intellectual merit of the typical warblog circa 2002, you have to admit.

Abortion and Animals

[ 0 ] August 23, 2007 |

LT comments in the thread earlier today that (s)he can see some relevance of animals to the abortion debate. And I can actually see it in one narrow context. In his essay in What Roe Should Have Said, Akhil Amar argues:

There are indeed plausible textual reasons for not treating the unborn as persons within the meaning of the Constitution…but even nonpersons may have interests that deserve of human protection. A pet dog is not a person, yet society may protect it from cruelty or wanton destruction…

This is is true, as far as it goes. The fact that the fetus is not a legal person does not, in and of itself, mean that the state cannot legislate to protect fetal life. (Well, apparently there are some libertarians who argue that the state cannot protect animals; not being a libertarian, I’m free to agree with McArdle that such legislation is perfectly acceptable, and in any case it’s certainly not prohibited by the United States Constitution.)

But as applied to abortion, the analogy doesn’t do any serious work: it breaks down in ways that are particularly important to assessing abortion. Most importantly, unlike animals fetuses reside in women’s bodies, and being forced to carry a pregnancy to term imposes serious burdens on a mother’s health and life prospects, which forcing a woman not to torture dogs does not. Similarly, bans on abortion ineluctably place these burdens exclusively on women as a class, while most laws protecting animals don’t burden any particular class of individuals. And finally, unlike with abortion statutes as Michael Vick now knows we’re willing to enforce laws banning animal cruelty against rich people. Roe extended the de facto access affluent women had to safe abortions to more women by straining down legislation that was arbitrarily enforced; again, there’s no analogy with bans on animal cruelty here.

So ultimately the point, while narrowly clever, isn’t useful. If access to abortion is not a fundamental right, the analogy is superfluous; the state can already balance the relevant interests pretty much however it chooses. (It matters only in the sense that the state would not be required to ban abortion, a conclusion that for obvious reasons opponents of legal abortion are generally desperate to avoid in any case.) And if abortion is a fundamental right — and under the relevant doctrine is clearly is — comparing fetuses to animals doesn’t get you very far in terms of justifying the severe burdens abortion bans place on the right.

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