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Civilized Discourse

[ 0 ] July 29, 2007 |

Intriguing results from an empirical study of Crooked Timber. See, this is why they’ve never invited any of us; those meanness stats would go through the roof the next time Althouse posted about the moderate pro-feminist views of Sam Alito…

The spectacles and pagaentry/The thousand things you’ve got to see

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

I am in Washington D.C. this weekend for the American Constitution Society conference, so blogging from me will be sporadic for a couple days. However, for your reading pleasure I have a new TAP article arguing that, in spite of predictions from various quarters that John Roberts would be the harbringer of the “Unity ’08!” Court, last term’s highly divided Court illustrates the vastly more likely scenario.

The Story On Louise

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

A flashback from GFR about the NYT reporter who implied that Foer had some doubts about whether “Scott Thomas” was a soldier: apparently she was responsible for one of those “based on some highly dubious random anecdotes I will assert that women now want to be housewives” stories.

A Personal Defense

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

Scott Thomas issues a defense of his TNR Diary. The fact that he’s willing to open himself up to the inevitable wingnut smear jobs does give me more confidence in the veracity of his accounts.

…and the smears begin.

More on the Federalism Dodge

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

To follow up on Matt and Ezra, another angle to run at it from is to apply the logic to the civil rights movement. If one takes the Rauch/Brownstein argument seriously, wasn’t it also wrong to “federalize” the divisive issue of segregation? Of course, they wouldn’t say that, but that first of all demonstrates the underlying question-begging; as a normative matter, 99% of the time saying something should be “left to the states” is just another way of saying that the question of social justice isn’t a very high priority. But even more importantly, it also raises obvious problem for their empirical claims: desegregation and disenfranchisement were “protest issues” even when they were left to the states, and became “ordinary politics” issues after they were federalized. And to get on my old hobbyhorse, the gentility of the American abortion debate pre-Roe has been grossly romanticized, and it’s also worth noting that Canada has federalized both abortion and gay marriage, and not only have the issues remained largely “ordinary politics” they aren’t even especially salient, and at least with the former the outcome has been perfectly stable. This suggests that federalism isn’t the key variable here. There’s no reason to believe that allowing 20 states to ban abortion will somehow diminish the conflict over abortion, and of course you have the negative externality of many women being maimed or killed in black market abortions, arbitrarily forced to carry pregnancies to term, etc.

And, of course, there’s the larger issue: why “protest politics” is supposed to be a problem in the first place. People protesting and mobilizing around what they consider to be fundamental injustices, at least in the context of a nation where the basic legitimacy of the state isn’t in question, is the sign of a healthy polity, not a dysfunctional one.

A Grim Prediction

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

The Yankees will be in a playoff spot by early-to-mid August. Sucks, I know, but what can I tell you. A couple of other post-all-star-break notes:

  • Despite his truly historic season — not only by far the best hitter in the world, but playing exceptional defense — Murray Chass has twice in the last month called Tom Hicks stupid for the contract he gave Slappy, the first time lumping it in with the Chan Ho Park signing. Look, Tom Hicks is a complete idiot — for not only trading A-Rod for a much worse player but giving the Yankees a considerable sum to do so. And if Hicks’s contract was so silly, why does virtually everybody assume he’s going to opt this year, and if he does why is he clearly going to get more money? The contract was, in fact, perfectly rational. With the Mariners finally coming back to earth, it’s worth considering what they’re doing with the money they didn’t give to Rodriguez. Rodriguez is making $23 M this year. The Mariners are paying $18M to three guys — Vidro, Weaver, and Ramirez — who are absolutely useless, plus $15 M to Richie Sexson, a player with old player’s skills who has predictably aged very badly. You telling me they couldn’t afford Rodriguez, who would clearly make them the best team in the division? Please. And what exactly have the Rangers done will the money they’re not paying him?
  • I would feel a lot better about the Indians’ chances of staying ahead of the Yankees if they had kept Brandon Phillips rather than playing Josh Barfield at second. I can’t criticize Shapiro too much for this, however, since he got Phillips by pulling off one of the great heists of all time: Sizemore and Phillips and Cliff Lee for a half season of Bartolo Colon. (At the time, I and most other Expos fans I knew thought that Phillips was the real gem; it’s amazing how good Sizemore has become.)

pinko points us to a relevant Fire Joe Morgan! post

A New Third Second Party?

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

Adam Kotsko offers as a “thought experiment” a heighten-the-contradictions scenario that would result in the “liquidation of the Democrats.” And as with all such scenarios, there are several missing links in the causal chain — which goes, roughly, from “electing a few social democratic members of Congress” immediately to “a viable social democratic second party” with no intervening step (except the Democrats losing a lot of elections) being explained. The problems here are obvious:

  • It’s nice, at least, that he proposes to start the liquidation at the congressional level rather than the presidential level, which will at least avoid the Nader problem of electing the most reactionary president since Harding if not McKinley in return for no benefits whatsoever. However, it’s unclear what exactly this will actually accomplish. The few House districts and even fewer Senate seats that could plausibly elect a social democrat are already represented by…very liberal Democrats. If Jim McDermott becomes the leader of SDPUSA and is joined by a few more colleagues, the effect of this would be…nothing. Their up-or-down votes can’t change, since they already take the left-most position on almost every vote. They will have virtually no power affect the content of legislation brought to the floor. Indeed, in the House, a rump party will have no power at all, and even if a couple of SDPUSA Senators are added to Bernie Sanders they couldn’t use their amendment power to do anything but obstruct progressive legislation that isn’t progressive enough.
  • The most recent implosion of a party over a century ago had an obvious cause: the slavery issue combined with demographic trends made a bisectional northern-based party unsustainable. What is going to cause the Democrats to be replaced by an entirely different coalition is unclear, and if Kotsko knows he isn’t saying.
  • Which brings us to the bigger problem: where exactly is this second party getting votes? What evidence is there than “social democracy” is going to be anywhere near the median voter nationally, let alone in a majority of House and Senate districts? How is this going to happen? If the answer is that a winning political coalition can be well to the left of the median voter, this is exceptionally implausible; indeed, a variety of factors (most importantly the malapportionment of the Senate and the laissez-faire campaign finance regime protected by a Supreme Court majority that will be bulletproof for the foreseeable future) skew electoral outcomes to the right of median opinion, not the left. It’s especially unclear why a rump party could effect such a massive change in American political culture when the very liberal Democrats already representing the winnable districts cannot.
  • Under these circumstances, even if a social democratic second party emerged, exactly what it would accomplish, other than to ensure perpetual filibuster-proof Senate majorites for the GOP, is unclear. I leave the last word to Michael Berube, with “SDPUSA” replacing the “Democrats”: “…“divergence” in and of itself is not a value; it needs to be supplemented by the possibility that the newly divergent Democrats will actually beat their opponents. What’s the point of fostering “divergence” if the result is a feral Tom DeLay GOP that controls the entire country and a feeble liberal-progressive Democratic party that controls a few cities and college towns? “Ah, yes, we’re completely powerless, except for that tough new recycling law in Madison, Wisconsin,” the Curtisses will say in 2012 when the parties have diverged a little more to their liking, “but at least we know now that our opposition is truly oppositional.” I’ll pass, thanks.

Be Very Afraid

[ 0 ] July 25, 2007 |

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Remember Clarence Thomas replacing Thurgood Marshall?

In case you had any doubt about whether the 2008 election is a high stakes one, Tom Goldstein has a GOP Supreme Court shortlist:

As things stand, my short-list for a first nomination is: Ninth Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan, Florida State Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, Sentencing Commission Chairman Ricardo Hinojosa, Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina, and Fifth Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen.

Yikes, imagine Priscilla Owen replacing Ginsburg or Stevens. In addition to being the bought-and-paid-for pro-business hack you would expect to emerge from the Texas bench, her jurisprudence is an object lesson in why the judicial bypass option for parental consent doesn’t work. She’s written several dissents — yes, dissents, she’s reactionary even for a Texas appellate court judge — arguing that young women haven’t received quite enough pro-life propaganda and religious instruction to demonstrate that they’re “mature.” Particularly remarkable was here unwillingness, contrary to the language of the statute, to grant a bypass given a likelihood that a young woman would be abused after telling her parents:

She further testified that she did not want to inform her mother about her decision to have an abortion because “her mother would tell her father and her father would become angry and physically take it out on her mother.” This was insufficient for Owen, who stated that “the evidence of physical abuse of Jane Doe’s mother was not so direct, clear, and positive that a trial court was required to conclude as a matter of law that if one of Jane Doe’s parents were notified, then Jane Doe may be emotionally abused.” Four justices disagreed, noting that, under the express terms of the statute, a judicial bypass “shall” be granted when the minor shows that parental notification “may lead” to her emotional abuse. [cites omitted]

Anybody who thinks that Kennedy’s opinion in Carhart II wasn’t quite sexist enough will love Owen. And, yes, she’s now on 5CA, in case you had any doubts about whether the “Gang of 14″ agreement was anything bit a crushing victory for the GOP.

"Dial M For Moustache"

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Tomorrow on Tom Friedman.

And the Award For Most Hackish Column About Economics Not Written By The WSJ Ediotiral Borad or Larry Kudlow Goes To…

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Bobo! My heartiest congratulations. (Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping tabs on Donald Luskin recently, so the award must be considered provisional.)

National What?

[ 0 ] July 24, 2007 |

Rob says most of what needs to be said about Jonah Goldberg’s inevitably failed attempt to turn the Iraq catastrophe into a policy problem for…liberals. I’d like to address this: “If you can justify causing genocide in order to end a nation-building exercise that — unlike similar efforts elsewhere — is fundamentally linked to our national interest, then how can you ever return to arguing that we should get into the nation-building and genocide-stopping business when it’s explicitly not in our interest?”

The problem here should be obvious: attacking a country that posed no threat to the United States in order to install an Islamist quasi-state that would be a breeding ground for anti-American terrorism was not in the national interest; indeed, it was dramatically contrary to the national interest. Which is why conservatives started a cynical, largely ex post facto attempt to sell it as a humanitarian intervention. If Goldberg means that it would now be in the national interest to find a large network of unicorn stables in Iraq, I can’t disagree, but this would seem to provide an easy out for the strawliberals who want lots of ineffective military interventions with no consideration of the national interest: just raze a country’s government and completely botch the occupation, and then the intervention automatically becomes in the national interest! Rational liberals, of course, can continue to ignore Goldberg’s silly dichotomy altogether, and will also remember that the fact that outcome x would be really nice doesn’t magically produce the capacity to make it possible.

The Doctrines of Yoo Summarized In A Sentence

[ 0 ] July 23, 2007 |

Jules Crittenden excuses corpse desecration by applying “the legal principle of who cares?” With, of course, an approving link from Glenn Reynolds.

Evidently, this will have a million uses. “The Constitution gives the President virtually unlimited and plenary power to declare and conduct wars.” “Actually, several Constitutional provisions explicitly give such powers to Congress.” “In that case, I’ll apply the legal principle of who cares?” I’d expect Crittenden to get a job in the DOJ soon…

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