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My Hands Remain Unwringed

[ 0 ] August 20, 2007 |

I’m frankly not sure even what to say to Josh Patashnik’s response to my post from earlier today. Essentially, he concedes the merits of the arguments Matt and I made but argues that “it would be comforting to at least see a bit more hand-wringing and equivocation from Yglesias and Lemieux before condemning Wittes’s piece” because Wittes –unlike us — is “grappling with the real conundrum here.” But the “conundrum” is perfectly straightforward. Senate Democrats acknowledged the need to update FISA and hammered out a deal. The administration reneged, and then the Democrats simply gave them what they wanted, and what they wanted was essentially a blank check. I don’t think any “hand-wringing” is required to reject this legislation because 1)once these powers are given it’s almost politically impossible to take them away, and 2)because I don’t think unchecked, arbitrary executive power is an effective means of protecting national security, and our Constitution is based on the same premise. The solution, in this case, is worse than the status quo, and it’s also extremely problematic to accede to the blackmail of crying “national security” every time the President chafes against legal restraints.

In addition, as I said last week it’s a mistake to focus too much on the particular nature of the Bush administration. Obviously, it’s especially foolish to give broad powers to a President who has demonstrated again and again that he will push any powers to the brink (and in some cases, as with FISA, beyond) of their limits, but it would be unwise to trust any administration with this authority. This would be bad legislation under a President Clinton or Obama, just as it’s bad legislation now.

Is This A Plot Conceived By Michael Skube?

[ 0 ] August 20, 2007 |

Tristam Shandy points us to this extraordinarily weak piece of media criticism from walking punchline Pajamas Media. As TS points out, the biggest problem is that it’s mostly unfounded speculation. But there are a couple more gems. I like this one:

Let’s go into the fact-checking department. [Beauchamp’s wife] Elspeth Reeve was one of three fact-checkers at the magazine.

Did she fact-check her husband’s articles? While it is hard to believe that an established magazine would make such an elementary error, so far no one at the magazine has bothered to address the question. That’s an interesting omission.

Even if Reeve did not double-check her husband’s reporting, she worked alongside the other two fact-checkers and often shared a take-out lunch with them in the magazine’s conference room.

She…had lunch with some of her co-workers! Truly, an enormous scandal. Similarly, I’ve heard rumors that Dick Miniter once had lunch with Roger Simon and Glenn Reynolds, so clearly his piece wasn’t fact-checked at all! And the scandal deepens:

Perhaps the fact-checkers believed that they didn’t have to check his work thoroughly because they knew and trusted his wife, who they affectionately called “Ellie.”

Clearly, we know that TNR committed journalistic malpractice because they called the wife of the person whose article was under review…by her name. I’m convinced! It’s entirely possible (although, the assumptions of this story aside, it’s hardly been proven with any publicly available evidence) that Beauchamp made up the entire story, but this is pretty feeble stuff.

I am looking forward to the story about how that journalistic beacon Pajamas Media was suckered into a laughably false story that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had died, though…


[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

Amanda says most of what needs to be said about Michael Skube. But this is a pretty amazing punchline:

Not long after I wrote I got a reply: “I didn’t put your name into the piece and haven’t spent any time on your site. So to that extent I’m happy to give you benefit of the doubt …”

This seemed more than a little odd since, as I said, he certainly does use me as an example — along with Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and Kos. So I followed up noting my surprise that he didn’t seem to remember what he’d written in his own opinion column on the very day it appeared and that in any case it cut against his credibility somewhat that he wrote about sites he admits he’d never read.

To which I got this response: “I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples … “

And this is from someone who teaches journalism?

Perhaps I’m naive. But it surprises me a great deal that a professor of journalism freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he’s never read.

Actually, if you look at what he says, it seems Skube’s editor at the Times oped page didn’t think he had enough specific examples in his article decrying our culture of free-wheeling assertion bereft of factual backing. Or perhaps any examples. So the editor came up with a few blogs to mention and Skube signed off. And Skube was happy to sign off on the addition even though he didn’t know anything about them.

For comparison, shorter verbatim Michael Skube: “[s]ometimes argument — a word that elevates blogosphere comment to a level it seldom attains on its own — gains from old-fashioned gumshoe reporting.” Indeed. For instance, one could — to pick an entirely random example — actually read some blogs prior to writing an LA Times thumbsucker about them…

"Curtis LeMay Without the Experience"

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

I think this sums up Rudy pretty well…

Today From the Asylum

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Michael Ledeen: “Washington diplomats have steadfastly refused to see the Iranian regime for what it is: a relentless enemy that seeks to dominate or destroy us.” Um, I’d have to say it’s not doing much of a job. Although since their public officials are capable of asserting power from beyond the grave, maybe they’re capable of anything!

Just to frighten you a bit, I’ll cite this passage from Supreme Discomfort:

…But then one night in February 2001, Bailey was channel surfing and caught [Clarence] Thomas on C-SPAN givng the keynote Francis Boyer lecture at the American Enterprise Institutes’s annual black tie dinner.


Thomas extolled the work of leading right-wing intellectuals — Gertrude Himmelfarb, Michael Novak, Michael Ledeen — and seemed to remove his judicial robe for the night and take up arms as a conservative movement combatant.

A guy who thinks it’s a serious possibility that Iran could militarily “dominate” the United States isn’t just some crank with a blog on a fourteenth-rate internet media outfit, but is an actual Respected Conservative Intellectual. It tells you all you need to know about the contemporary American conservative movement.

Kick Me Again!

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

The WaPo comes out for arch-reactionary Leslie Southwick. If I understand their criteria, the Senate has an obligation to confirm any nominee smarter and less overtly racist than Harrold Carswell, no matter how little the lily-white 5th Circuit needs another doctrinaire right-wing statist appointed by an exceptionally unpopular lame duck President.

Next year: an editorial expressing shock and outrage that Southwick always casts conservative votes. After all, Dianne Feinstein called him “circumspect,” just like that nice Sam Alito!

Publius has more, taking on the silly argument that the president can consider ideology in judicial appointments but the Senate cannot.

OhMyGod, Gagne With A Spoon

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Speaking of bad trades — although in this case, of course, only ex post facto — the Gagne trade in turning into a catastrophe of Slocumbesque proportions (on the receiving end, at least.) Several teams must be happy that they didn’t “win” that particular bidding war right now…

Centrist Abortion Regulations: They Don’t Work

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

I have a review of Helena Silverstein’s new study of judicial bypass provisions in parental involvement statutes up at TAP. My bottom line:

The particularly salient lesson to draw from Silverstein’s book is that it’s important to ask whether abortion regulations actually accomplish anything, even on their own terms. “Basing a policy that regulates the right to abortion on confidence that the law stands outside of politics and free of bureaucratic red tape,” writes Silverstein, “is a mistake fraught with consequences for those whom the right ostensibly protects.”

Support for these laws is often more about the assumption that compromise on abortion is inherently desirable rather than arguments about what benefits will come from the legislation. Is there any evidence, for example, that the lack of abortion regulation makes the decisions of Canadian women less responsible? Whatever their merits in the abstract, in practice “centrist” abortion regulations do little but put up obstacles in the path of the most vulnerable women while not accomplishing any useful objective. Parental involvement laws — which are largely superfluous for young women in good family situations and potentially dangerous for young women in bad situations — are a case in point, especially since the safeguards intended to protect the latter don’t work. Silverstein makes a careful, meticulous, and ultimately powerful case that even those who support the ends of parental involvement laws should reject them in practice.

Most abortion regulations that represent the compromise beloved by so many pundits are bad laws, for two different reasons. The first is that the regulations usually have no rational connection to the asserted state interest: statutes that allegedly advance goals such as “not using abortion at birth control” or “only allowing abortions that William Saletan thinks are appropriate” in fact obstruct some classes of women from obtaining abortions irrespective of the circumstances and do little to stop other classes of women from obtaining abortions irrespective of the circumstances. With parental involvement laws, there is at least a connection between the policy and the asserted interest, and the problem becomes that the policies just don’t actually achieve the results.

Making A Bad Policy Worse

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

A great article by Erwin Chemerinsky about the latest appalling cutback on habeas corpus rights. The odious Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act gave a one-year time limit to file a habeas petition in federal court. The limit could be cut down even further to six months, but only if the state provided lawyers for a federal appeal. You can probably see the classic Republican bait-and-switch coming:

When it reauthorized the Patriot Act last year, Congress added a little-noticed provision that lets the attorney general, rather than federal judges, decide whether states are complying with the 1996 law. No one paid much attention, until now.

Gonzales, it has been widely reported, is about to certify California and other states as being in compliance with the 1996 law, in essence just giving them the six-month statute of limitations. But these states have done nothing that this law requires. Everywhere but Arizona, death row inmates still have to pay for their attorneys (unlikely), get pro bono representation (difficult) or represent themselves (unwise). Any “certification” is a lie.

Those who favor the shorter statute of limitations are frustrated by the long delays before executions are carried out. But Gonzales’ move is not about preventing delays; at most, it speeds things up by six months. It is about preventing some inmates from having a habeas corpus petition heard at all.

Gonzales continues to exemplify the remarkable Van Halen trend in the AGs office, where somehow things started with John Ashcroft and yet have gotten much worse. The other lesson, of course, is that as is often the case the Patriot Act contained a number of provisions that had nothing whatsoever to do with fighting terrorism but were simply longstanding reactionary-statist proposals warmed over and repackaged under a more appealing label.

Bad Deals

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Carlos Guillen coming to town and making Derek Jeter the third best shortstop in yesterday’s game reminds me that The Left recently had a post about bad trades. Evidently, Bill Bavasi has provided us with many classics of the genre, but while you might think that Rafael Soriano-for-Horacio Ramirez would be tough to top, Carlos Guillen-for-Ramon “The Worst Regular on the Worst Team of the last 40 Years” Santiago-so you can sign the moldering corpse of Rich Aurillia seems very likely to stand as the worst trade of the decade. As an Astros fan, however, I’m surprised that Norbiz hasn’t been made aware of Spec Richardson’s world-historical Nixon administration run, which involved giving away Joe Morgan, Mike Cuellar, and John Mayberry.

Meanwhile, there was the time I was furious at Dan Duquette for trading Delino DeShields for Pedro Martinez. In retrospect, this may not have been entirely fair.

Not Making The Case

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

My favorite part of the VDH rant that d. links below:

First is fiscal sanity. For most Americans piling up debt is as much an emotional and spiritual crisis as it is an economic one. [Most Americans? Evidence? –ed.] An indebted America makes all of us feel collectively lousy—weak, dependent, and self-indulgent. Who likes to be lectured by the Chinese, Germans, or Japanese that we are spendthrifts? Tax cuts are great and really did bring in more gross revenue, but who cares if we still spent far more than we took in? The first four years of this administration did more to discredit the sound policy of tax cuts that any other: had they just kept spending rises to the level of inflation, the ensuing surpluses would have proved that budgets can be balanced through the stimulation of less taxation.

The thing is, I think there is considerable value in reading the classics. But when the lessons you draw from them include laughably incorrect supply-side crackpottery, you’re not a very effective spokesman for the position. I particularly like the apparent assumption that large federal spending increases have no effect on federal revenues, a hack classic.

Max Roach, 1924-2007

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Remarkably, Sonny Rollins’s sublime “St. Thomas” came up on my I-Tunes shuffle about 10 minutes before that I read that the incomparable drummer who played on the track had passed away. R.I.P.

Darcy has more.

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