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The Green Lantern Theory Of Domestic Politics

[ 4 ] July 9, 2007 |

To follow up on Ezra’s point about Megan McArdle’s claim that impeachment proceedings would “mean[] not having any achievements to show the electorate next year,” it’s always striking to me the extent to which even many smart, politically aware people don’t fully absorb the implications of the Madisonian institutional framework. As Ezra says, as long as the GOP has more than 40 Senators and the White House, major accomplishments are not an issue. This also came up in certain recent not-to-be-reopened debates, but while there are any number of valid critiques of Clinton to attack him for not achieving any major progressive initiatives after 1994 is bizarre; with a Republican Congress this simply wasn’t a possibility. The President has a lot of power to affect the implementation of existing policy and can do a lot to obstruct change, but his ability to create major domestic policy shifts without Congress is nil. (And this is applicable to reactionary — as opposed to merely conservative — policy shifts as well as progressive ones. As Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security recently and thankfully dramatized, the only thing harder than creating a major new domestic program is rolling one with anything resembling a broad constituency back once it’s been implemented.)

Another upshot of this is that debates about impeachment are purely about the politics — obviously there’s no chance of 2/3 of the Senate voting to convict anyone. And here I also agree with Ezra that here McArdle is considerably more persuasive. It’s hard to see how serious impeachment proceedings (as opposed to stepping up use of Congress’ oversight powers in general) would strengthen the Democrats’ political position.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Executive Power, Torture, and the Constitution

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

Marty Lederman has a useful, bookmarkable list of every Balkinization post about the title subjects. Seeing them all in one place reminds me that I while I can take even the most essential blogs for granted sometimes the sheer amount of good analysis is remarkable.

Whatever Happened To Us?

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I really enjoyed this Vanity Fair article about the Wainwright/McGarrigle clan (HT: new well-deserved TAP hire Dana Goldstein.) Plus both male Waingwrights — each, like the McGarrigles, an outstanding live act (and Martha held her own when I saw her on a bill with Joanna Newsom and Neko Case in Brooklyn last year) — have new albums out. Both are good, although with Loudon I prefer his terrific 2005 Bill Frisell collaboration. (Alas, Roy Edroso’s essay on LW III is no longer available for free online.)

OK, OK, Uncle

[ 0 ] July 9, 2007 |

I’m embarrassed that until I read Alone in the Dark’s review I had no idea that Brad Bird had done The Iron Giant, a beautiful film. The only thing stopping me from making Ratatouille a higher priority although everyone says its great is that I found almost-as-universally-praised The Incredibles very disappointing; the setup was excellent, but it became a frequently dull fighting-and-chase movie way too quickly. But, yeah, I really should see it. (And, hey, I’ve been pretty good about non-snooty movie choices recently, seeing two legitimate hits and a movie that wasn’t mainstream only because unlike me most people had enough sense to avoid it like the plague. Plus the Danish noirs and 3-hour Lawrence adaptations and Melville revivals that play more to type; more about all this soon.)

Speaking of which, since I’ve seen even some Bay detractors concede too much on this score elsewhere, AITD has more in comments about the bizarre assertion that Michael Bay is some sort of technical wizard:

I’m glad people are finally shredding the “Bay is such a great visual director” trope. He’s incompetent. I remember a scene in The Rock where the two heroes were surrounded by soldiers who (natch) opened fire. The scene was so badly shot and edited that I couldn’t tell if the soldiers were trying to kill the heroes, each other, or just blow off their own balls.

Right. IIRC, most of his action sequences like this; they’re so inept that they fail to convey such simple and crucial matters as where the characters are in relation to each other, who’s shooting at who, etc. (And while in limited doses and in movies that have characters in them such techniques might be used to intentionally convey disorientation, it’s clear that Bay is just a wanker.) He also lacks other talents of obvious use to the genre director: he has no sense of rhythm or pacing at all, and usually can’t even get good scenery-chewing out of his actors.

Speaking of which, poking around I was reminded of two reviews of Pearl Harbor that rank with J-Pod’s declaring Cinderella Man a peak of American cinema as classics of bad criticism. About Kevin Thomas’s review, which alas doesn’t seem to be online I can only be reminded of John Simon’s response when informed that another LA critic had never been on a studio payroll: “Of course not. Why should they pay for what they’re getting for free?” Then there’s William Arnold, who wrote “I found myself fairly swept away for most of the fast-moving, three-hour running time.” Fast-moving? Unless the last hour when I finally got too annoyed to keep it on even as background was wildly different, the thing moves like Cecil Fielder after a six-course meal.

And because L, G &M prides itself on fair and balanced commentary, I note that fellow Melville revivalist AWB has joined the pro-Transformers consensus. I’m going to take Rob’s word for it, but we report, you decide!

Nobody Cares

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

To follow up on my point from last week, I see that Colin Powell is trying to wipe some blood off his hands. It’s a futile and frankly disgraceful enterprise; when you’re arguably the most important American liar that was involved in selling the war, you take responsibility for it, the end. The fact that you knew is was going to be a disaster makes your behavior less defensible, not more.

[HT: Atrios.]

People Who Should Never, Ever Call Other People "Fatuous"

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

Roger L. Simon, ladies and gentlemen! It’s not exactly news that the co-founder of Trainwreck Media is one of the biggest clowns in the known universe, but “disagreeing with my Trotskyite-turned-Wolfwitzian politics will cause your son to get a DWI rap, which I will take advantage of to sneeringly repeat long-discredited lies and cliches from 1999 Maureen Dowd columns” really merits an entirely new level of contempt.

P.S. Answer to Labs’ question: “No.”

"And you ain’t gotta love me, just be convincin’…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

I have no doubt that Fred Thompson lobbied for Planned Parenthood; it’s not the first evidence of his past moderation on the issue. If I were (God forbid) the kind of person who thought that using state coercion to force (poor) women to carry pregnancies to term was a peachy idea, though, I’m not sure why this would matter. We’re back to the John McCain/George Wallace issue here, but if I had to guess I doubt that any of the serious Republican candidates personally care of Roe v. Wade is overruled, and this is common among elite Republicans. What actually matters about a candidate, however, is not what he believes in his heart of hearts but what he’ll actually do, and since becoming federal politician Thompson has racked up a 0% rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. That’s how he (and McCain and Romney) are actually likely to act as President.

Lesbians Stole My Car Keys!

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

More frivolous lawsuits for purveyors of right-wing identity politics….

I’d have to say that if asking for providing information about cases assumes endorsement, teaching con law is going to be very difficult.

"That’s some catch…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

6 CA upholds the warrantless wiretapping program 2-1…on standing grounds. Great; the prefect ruling for the age of Yoo. The secrecy of the arbitrary executive insulates even the illegal actions of the arbitrary executive from judicial scrutiny. Call me defeatist, but this also sounds like exactly the kind of feeble dodge that Kennedy is going to buy.

The Problem With Game Theory in Constitutional Theory

[ 0 ] July 6, 2007 |

Of limited interest to those of you who aren’t constitutional scholars and/or social scientists, but since I’ve had to read way too much of this literature thought I’d let you know that X. Trapnel makes the case effectively.

Was Article III Repealed Earlier This Week?

[ 0 ] July 6, 2007 |

Many bloggers have already taken whacks at the non-argument, made by Alan Dershowitz and recycled by Marty Peretz, that the Libby conviction was a political conspiracy by conservative Republicans against other conservative Republicans. Obviously, having set this standard of stupidity nothing can really top it, but I was also struck by this claim:

Only President Bush’s political judgment was constitutionally sanctioned, and that is because clemency and pardon are explicit rights of the chief executive.

Uh, what? Since when do federal courts duly created by Congress not have the constitutional authority to pass sentences (that fall within the George Bush approved federal sentencing guidelines!)? What constitutional provision requires appellate courts to grant bail on appeal to every convicted individual? Help me out here.

Politics: About Conflict

[ 0 ] July 6, 2007 |

To follow up on what Thoreau says here, it’s remarkable that people like Ignatius fail to even consider the possibility that Americans won’t just “pull together and take appropriate steps to prepare for future terrorist attacks on America” because people have serious substantive disagreements about what steps are appropriate. Some people, like Ignatius, believed that the appropriate response to 9/11 included replacing a secular dictatorship which had no connection to 9/11 and posed no significant security threat to the United States with an Islamist quasi-state, which would improve American security because…[insert transparently idiotic non-sequitur, preferably expressed in a gambling metaphor, here.] Then you had rational people who thought that terrorism, once Al Qaeda’s sponsors in Afghanistan had been removed, was not a problem that could be solved primarily through military action but would require collaboration, intelligence, policy work — all that much-derided stuff that, you know, actually prevented the terror attacks in Britain. And to borrow a point from Stephen Holmes’s new book, some people simply assume that increases in arbitrary executive power and reductions in transparency automatically increase security; there are others, call them “liberal democrats,” who are skeptical that unconstrained and unchecked power leads to more effective decision-making.

And so on. At any rate, there’s nothing about another terrorist attack that would make these disagreements go away, and it’s not just about partisan politics. Politics is about people with fundamentally differing views. And if “getting serious” means doing all the egregiously counterproductive things that Ignatius wanted to do after 9/11, I’m happy to remain unserious and not join into his sense of “shared purpose.”

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