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The Infomercial

[ 10 ] October 30, 2008 |

I was working so have only seen brief excerpts — was it this good? Certainly, Tom Brady is even better than Katarina Witt. (I’m guessing that very few people still wish that Mark Penn was running the Democratic campaign…)

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No Phutility Here

[ 0 ] October 30, 2008 |

Congrats to Philadelphia’s local athletic club for winning their professional sports competition. A few notes:

  • The Rays seemed to spend the series proving my egregiously misplaced skepticism retroactively correct. They played like a talented but inexperienced team, symbolized for me by Upton lunging at the first pitch with the (extremely fast) tying run on first in the top of the 8th. They had a lot of terrible ABs against wily but (the marvelous Hamels aside) hittable pitchers. And defensively they seemed to think it was 2007 again.
  • Another addition to my voluminous “people I was wrong about” file is Charlie Manuel. And it will be interesting to see how Amaro does as GM. Gillick has done a terrific job filling out his formidable talent core with a lot of quality spare parts (and also deserves credit for not dealing the underrated Burrell.) It may seem like when a GM arrives with three MVP-calibre players in his lineup his job is easy, but as a fan whose formative sports experience was the early 80s Expos and most recent is the Mets teams the Phillies have humiliated for two straight years and have to be considered the favorites to do so again, it ain’t easy. If the Phillies keep finding Werths and Victorinos while the Mets keep finding Castillos, Chavezes, and Decomposed Corpse of Alouses, they’ll keep beating them. (Of course, this makes it all the more annoying that he conspicuously failed — speaking of teams with formidable talent cores who win much less than they should, although most of that was Woodward — to do this with the Mariners.)
  • It will, of course, to be interesting what happens to Tampa. The bad news is that the only miracle team to have accomplished much of anything else is the 1991 Braves; the good news is that it’s probably the best comparison (although ironically I think you can also make a good case for the Whiz Kid Phillies.) You have to worry about a team with so much young pitching in a division that will leave little margin for error, but they have a lot of impressive talent on both sides of the ball and a seemingly good organization. It will be interesting to watch.

Taking Joe’s Gavel

[ 22 ] October 29, 2008 |

Looks like the idea of stripping Joe Lieberman of his Homeland Security Chairmanship is being floated publicly. Obviously, given his stumping for McCain (including at the GOP convention), the Democratic leadership should show no mercy towards him; the only question is which punishment is most consistent with party interests. I still like the idea of making him commit to voting cloture on every Democratic bill as a condition of keeping his chairmanship, but if Reid thinks that it isn’t necessary just booting him is certainly fine with me.

With respect to the Select Intelligence committee, I would see Rockefeller leaving as good news, but Dianne Feinstein taking over is just marginally less bad news. Easing Byrd out of of his Appropriations chair seems like a good idea too.

Lies, Dripping Off Your Mouth Like Dirt

[ 9 ] October 29, 2008 |

Apparently pointing out the indisputable fact that the Bush administration lied in the run-up to the Iraq war is now, according to one of the Kagans who pass for a Republican foreign policy intelligentsia, a “conspiracy theory.” Of course. if Kagan knew anything about anything that would be “elitist”, and he’s nothing if not a man of the people by that standard.

Bonus Bush Iraq-related lying here.

Pierre Laval Feminist of the Day

[ 0 ] October 29, 2008 |

Elaine Lafferty.

Although, in fairness, when Lafferty asserts that “Sarah Palin supports women’s rights, deeply and passionately,” one can see her point. Palin does clearly support such cherished women’s rights as their right to be subject to state coercion forcing them to bear their rapist’s child, their right to have no viable legal remedies if they get unequal money for equal work, their right to pay for your own rape kits, etc. If you define “feminism” as “bog-standard reactionary Republican anti-women policies…supported by a woman!” then you have to admit Palin qualifies. As for the value of using this standard, you’ll have to use your own judgment…

LGM Meme Goes National!

[ 8 ] October 29, 2008 |

Huh. I see no alternative but to give us the credit for the forthcoming victory.

[Thx to T.S. for the tip.]

And You’ll Be Forced To Marry a Box Turtle!

[ 0 ] October 28, 2008 |

Steven Calabresi waxes hysterical and ludicrously implausible:

If Mr. Obama wins we could possibly see any or all of the following: a federal constitutional right to welfare; a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities, without regard to proof of discriminatory intent; a right for government-financed abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy; the abolition of capital punishment and the mass freeing of criminal defendants; ruinous shareholder suits against corporate officers and directors; and approval of huge punitive damage awards, like those imposed against tobacco companies, against many legitimate businesses such as those selling fattening food.

Admittedly, not all of these are equivalent. The idea that the Constitution says nothing about the size of punitive damage awards, for examples, is held by such un-American Trotskyites as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and it’s hilarious to see Calabresi get finished complaining that Obama’s judges will write their notions of economic policy into the Constitution and then claim that his own right-wing economic views can magically be found in penumbras and emanations from the 14th Amendment. At any rate, some of these positions would in my view be defensible, others would not, some are just crude, unserious demagogy (“mass freeing of criminal defendants?” “a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities”?) but for most of these the idea that the median Supreme Court justice would support such judgments after an Obama administration is silly. One can say the same thing for the idea that “the left” is poised to “capture” largely Republican-dominated federal courts. And the whole piece is based on idiotic claims that to disagree with Steven Calabresi’s highly contestable views is to reject constitutionalism altogether.

Anyway, on how does Calabresi justify his claims that Obama would pack the Supreme Court with justices that would have to turn right to see Thurgood Marshall? By, like many Drudge-driven hacks before him, quoting his (perfectly accurate) claims that the Warren Court wasn’t particularly radical, while leaving out some rather key information, such as his skepticism about the courts as tools of social reform. The idea that Obama is going to appoint a bunch of judges far to the left of the current mainstream is, for better or worse, almost entirely unfounded. And I somehow doubt that this attempt to create panic about the possibility that after winning the popular vote in 4 out of 7 elections the Democrats might get more than 2 Supreme Court appointments is going to be very politically effective either.

Spackerman is Making Sense

[ 24 ] October 28, 2008 |

Right. Selig was unequivocally right not to want to have the World Series determined by a 5 1/2 inning game, and I can’t believe that any serious Phillies fan would want to win the World Series that way.

Bloomberg’s Term Limit Extension

[ 21 ] October 27, 2008 |

Mr. Trend doesn’t like the New York City Council’s decision to permit Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term. I’m not really persuaded by the arguments against, however. A couple points:

  • Term limits (especially term limits this short) seem, for the reasons Dana cites, highly unlikely to have progressive implications over the long term. Obviously, this isn’t true in every individual case (imposing term limits on congressional committees in the 40s and 50s would have had progressive effects), but in general diminishing expertise and involuntarily retiring popular, effective leaders is not likely to enhance the cause of good progressive government. If Bloomberg has to benefit to get rid of a bad policy I can live with that, especially since it’s not clear to what extent the alternatives would do a better job.
  • I would give arguments that prior referenda represent some sacred Will of the People that shouldn’t be amended by mere elected officials exactly the same weight I would give them when Rick Warren makes them about Prop 8: i.e. none whatsoever. This is a representative democracy; so long as the legislation is otherwise constitutionally valid I don’t think rules created by referenda require any special deference beyond their rightness on the merits.

The bottom line for me is this: talk about a supposed “deep contempt for democracy“aside, Bloomberg actually has to run for re-election; he’s not being re-appointed to a third term. If the term limit extension is truly a high priority for New York voters and they strongly oppose it, they’re free to vote him (and the councilors that supported the extension) out of office. If the voters prefer Bloomberg to remain in office — whether because they support the extension or because they see the issue as trivial — I see no good democratic argument for why they shouldn’t be allowed to have their way.

Double Standards

[ 0 ] October 27, 2008 |

Indeed:

In any case, deadly threats aimed at abortion providers – unlike, for example, bombs planted in opposition to the War in Vietnam – remain a live fact about life in the United States. So when Sarah Palin refuses to call clinic bombers “terrorists,” it’s hard to take seriously her pretended moral outrage about the fact that Barack Obama served on a foundation board with someone who had been an anti-war bomber (never involved in a fatal incident) thirty years earlier.

And one might add that it’s perhaps even more instructive that having served on some foundation boards with an ex-terrorist with zero deaths on his cv is supposed to be disqualifying for one candidate, but apparently his opponent can actually boast about Henry Kissinger’s endorsement of and active involvement in his campaign.

The Blame Acorn Game

[ 14 ] October 26, 2008 |

Peter Dreier and John Atlas break it down.

In her own excellent article on the subject, Dahlia Lithwick has some good analysis of John Paul Stevens’s unfortunate endorsement of the vote fraud fraud earlier this year:

In the end, all roads lead back to John Paul Stevens. He wrote the plurality opinion in last term’s Crawford v. Marion County, which upheld Indiana’s restrictive voter-ID law. Stevens understood that there is no such thing as polling-place vote fraud, conceding that “[t]he record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” But, continued Stevens, in the manner of someone rationally discussing the likelihood of UFO sightings, “flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this nation’s history.” Like, um, an 1868 mayoral election in New York City, he notes, and a single 2004 incident from Washington. Stevens was more worried about shaky “voter confidence” in elections than actual voting. The message that went out from on high was clear: undermine voter confidence. Even if it’s irrational and hysterical and tinged with the worst kinds of racism, keep telling the voters the system is busted.

Each time they spread the word that Democrats (especially poor and minority Democrats) are poised to steal an election, John McCain and his overheated friends deliberately undermine voter confidence.

It’s a great scam; use apocryphal stories of “voter fraud” to create a pretext for further vote suppression, and the Supreme Court will actually cite the completely unfounded fears you’ve created as a justification! Even granting that Stevens was trying to keep the possibility that some vote suppression method might be held unconstitutional in the future, once you’ve accepted “voter confidence” as a valid reason it’s not clear what will ever fail the test…

Bottomless Credibility Pit

[ 0 ] October 24, 2008 |

I remember when Andy McCarthy was just a garden-variety hack, making sudden conversions to farcical constitutional arguments that happen to favor Republican interests (note: his analysis of the unconstitutionality of filibustering judicial appointments expires in January 2009.)   But impending electoral oblivion has apparently removed any remaining mental faculties, causing him to become a crackpot Obama birth certificate truther  (hey, if you don’t spend most of your resources defending against ludicrously frivolous lawsuits filed by people who are to 9/11 what you are to Obama, their claims must be true!), claim that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s biography,  and to unthinkingly endorse claims about black Obama supporters assaulting McCain supporters so implausible even Michelle Malkin won’t touch them.   What a shame it is to lose one’s mind, such as it was.   

Alas, this is going to get worse before it gets better; I expect his cover story about how Obama was behind the killing of Vince Foster and the Arkansas drug trade no later than March.     And he should take over editorship of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page no later than June…
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