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Death Penalty Moratorium

[ 28 ] October 31, 2007 |

It’s all but official: the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for a prisoner in Mississippi, “and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.” Scalia and the man who put the doctrinaire conservative in “moderation” Sam Alito — but not Thomas or Roberts — dissented.

It seems almost certain, however, that this stay will be temporary and executions will resume after the case comes down next year. Although the possibility that we’re torturing people to death strikes me as more substantial Eighth Amendment grounds than the recent limitations on the death penalty found by the Supreme Court, preventing the execution of adolescents and the mentally handicapped represents a relatively small number of cases, lethal injection involves virtually every execution in the country. I can’t imagine Kennedy voting to require stringent standards of evidence from the states in this instance.

Tomorrow’s Contrarianism Today

[ 7 ] October 30, 2007 |

Just enough cowbell!

Since I often disagree with MY on aesthetics, I should note that I concur with his assessment of the widely-derided new Rilo Kiley album, which although being less “indie rock” than More Adventurous is almost as great song-for-song. And “Silver Lining” isn’t even my favorite cut on the album; the terrific straight disco “Breaking Up” and the epitome of the funky & poppy & catchy & sleazy vibe “Smoke Detector” are even higher peaks for me, and Lewis’s increasingly commanding vocals put some of the lesser tracks across. Even Blake’s track, normally a pissbreak, is pretty good. Terrific live show at the Bowery, too.

When You’re Insane, It’s Always 1938 and Iran is Capable of Conquering Europe by 2012

[ 20 ] October 30, 2007 |

To Rudy Giuliani’s foreign policy non-braintrust, it’s all Hitler all the time.

Anthony J. Kennedy’s Great Moments in Medical Practice

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

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“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude that some women shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about manly medical treatment.”

Looking for information about Lurleen Wallace — George’s wife and briefly the proxy governor of Alabama when her husband was term-limited out — I found this:

She had made her gubernatorial run carrying a tragic secret. Lurleen Wallace had been diagnosed with cancer as early as April 1961, when her surgeon biopsied suspicious tissue he noticed during the cesarean delivery of her last child. As was common at the time, her physician told her husband, not her. George Wallace insisted that Lurleen not be informed. As a result, she did not get appropriate follow-up care. When she saw a gynecologist for abnormal bleeding in 1965, his diagnosis of uterine cancer came as a complete shock to her. When one of her husband’s staffers carelessly revealed to her that Wallace had discussed her cancer with them, but not her, during his 1962 campaign three years earlier, she was outraged.

In order to facilitate his plan to use her as a surrogate candidate in 1966, Mrs. Wallace cooperated with a campaign of dissimulation and misdirection as she began radiation therapy in December, 1965. This was followed by a hysterectomy in January 1966. Despite her ill health, Mrs. Wallace maintained a brutal campaign schedule throughout 1966 and gave a 24-minute speech — her longest ever — at her January 1967 inauguration.

Depressingly, Wallace’s political heirs have in addition to using federal spending power to deny women appropriate medical advice added such innovations as using state coercion to force doctors to give women psudeoscientific propaganda and restricting their access to safe medical services.

James and the Red Sox

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

Since I’ve been a fan since I purchased the 1985 Baseball Abstract on a whim and among other great stuff saw that he published a hilarious attack on bane-of-my-youthful-Expos-fan-existence Bill Virdon, I enjoyed this take on James and the success of the Red Sox:

One of the first things Epstein did was to hire James, as a senior consultant to the Red Sox organization. In the four years since, the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series in 85 years, have reached baseball’s pinnacle twice.

Some of the central themes of James’ work apply particularly well to his own story. For example: An expert is someone who knows what he’s talking about, whether he has any credentials or not. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Talent is not in short supply. The qualities that impress people are not necessarily the same qualities that correlate with success. Powerful, wealthy institutions can be run for decades by people who don’t know what they’re doing. And the conventional wisdom is often wrong.

These ideas, obviously, can be applied far beyond the subject of baseball. They’re the sorts of ideas that never fail to annoy and infuriate authority figures, which is why it takes a special kind of person to hurl himself into the face of the solid rock wall of stupidity that defends many a comfortable social institution.

I’ve written this with respect to Billy Beane, but I think the work of James and the success of the A’s and Red Sox is often portrayed as being about “statistics” when it’s much more about not accepting received wisdom when it conflicts with evidence, making evaluations based on performance rather than images, etc. Michael Lewis actually conveyed this every well. Alas, MLB seems to be making more progress than our political class.

One unfortunate thing about James working for the Red Sox, though, is that if he could make his new research public he’d be a blogging natural…

Hey, My Wife Can Get An Abortion, So Screw Roe!

[ 22 ] October 29, 2007 |

Shorter abortion centrists: Me me me me me me me me me me!

Longtime readers will know that this has been one of my pet peeves for a long time, but Dana is of course exactly correct. The idea that California women should be indifferent about abortion rights as long as they have theirs is useful only as a window into the solipsism some pundits project onto others. It’s like saying that African Americans in northern states in the 1950s should have been indifferent to federal civil rights because, after all, they didn’t have to live under apartheid! And the analogy should make clear, again, that the “moral federalism” position is just evading the issue; it’s another way of saying that you don’t consider the right in question to be important. If that’s your position, you should defend it on the merits rather than hiding behind “states’ rights” principles virtually nobody applies consistently.

…Cara has more.

New Fields of Concern Trolldom

[ 4 ] October 29, 2007 |

When I read about the sure-to-be-atrocious series by Melinda Henneberger trying to infer something meaningful about candidates for president by using tarot cards horoscopes random anecdotes about their marriages, the name sounded familiar. So I looked, and sure enough I first heard about Henneberger because she’s a classic “Democratic” abortion concern troll, arguing that the Democrats have to embrace her own support for arbitrary regulations forcing young women to carry their pregnancies to term, without bothering to make either an argument for her positions on the merits or to even to articulate her actual positions (let alone providing any non-anecdotal evidence that her strategy will have significant political benefits.) Goody.

So, anyway, If we were selecting a national marriage counselor rather than a president, this might be useful. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll learn from her pop-psych analysis that the candidates Henneberger likes are good and the ones she doesn’t like are bad. I’m sure it will be fascinating.

It’s Girardi

[ 0 ] October 29, 2007 |

On balance, I think this is bad news for the Yankee-hater. As a correspondent noted, Mattingly’s candidacy can be summed up in two words: Alan Trammell. Hiring a guy whose primary credential is being a beloved star pretty much never works. He could have won anyway — Torre had pretty poor credentials when he took over too, so you never know — but it would have said something bad about the organization. (Reading/listening to Mattingly’s media defenders in print and radio, what was striking was that nobody was making the case that he was the best man to manage the Yankees so much as that the Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Beloved If Very Overrated Star Don Mattingly. Hiring managers on that basis would be egregiously stupid; it’s a bad sign that the Yankees have proven that non-stupid people are in charge.)

The ray of light is that while Girardi shows every sign of being a very talented manager, I would look at what happened to the Marlins’ pitching staff after he left, as well as the fact that he got fired after a surprisingly successful season because he couldn’t get along with anybody. I can live with the Yankees winning 100 games next year if it means plenty of 120+ pitch games and post-hour-long-rain-delay comebacks for Hughes and Joba, and an organization in chaos in 3 years. It also makes Slappy less likely to re-sign; he hated Showalter and Girardi is a similar hardass. If the Yankees can stop his Dallas Green-esque handling of the pitching staff, though, I’m afraid that he’ll be an excellent manager.

Opt-Out

[ 24 ] October 29, 2007 |

Sweet, although I continue to believe that the Yankees aren’t serious about staying out of the subsequent negotiations for his servies.

Unlikely as it is, I like the Slappy-at-Shea idea…

Mini-Steinbrenner:

“It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee,” Hank Steinbrenner told the Daily News last night. “He doesn’t understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field.

“I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee.”

“We’re not going to back down,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s goodbye.” [via]

Again, if you want to bluff you need to bet more than quarter of the pot. The idea that they were going to get him to give up the leverage of an opt-out with $150 million in this market…please. And I don’t think anyone takes the idea that the Yankees are now out seriously.

Rudy Giuliani: Authoritarian

[ 7 ] October 28, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, two of the key things you need to know about Giuliani:

Beyond religious issues, a second conservative trait defined Giuliani’s tenure: his Cheney-esque appetite for executive power. In 1999, for example, he directed (without the City Council’s permission) the police to permanently confiscate the cars of people charged with drunken driving — even if the suspects were later acquitted.

[…]

The fanciful notion of Giuliani’s liberalism also omits the pi¿ce de r¿sistance of his mayorship: his flagrantly undemocratic bid to stay in office for an extra three months after Sept. 11, 2001. During earlier crises, even World War II, U.S. elections had always managed to proceed normally. But Giuliani maneuvered for weeks to remain mayor after his term-limited exit date. Only as normalcy returned to New York did his power grab fail.

If you think that John Yoo has an excessively narrow view of executive powers, you’ll love Rudy.

Would You Like That JD Neat, on the Rocks, or Injected Into Your Cock?

[ 0 ] October 28, 2007 |

I’m not sure that this is an optimally healthy lifestyle.

We Have A Game!

[ 6 ] October 28, 2007 |

Now if they could only force them to bring Gagne in, things could get really interesting. Even Kaz’s bizarre stolen base down 6-2 may have paid off, because if the infield is playing a DP depth I don’t think Tulowitzki’s grounder gets through…

…well, OK, scratch that.

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