Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

The Second Amendment on Trial

[ 36 ] November 20, 2007 |

The Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal to the D.C. Circuit decision striking down D.C.’s handguns ban. I’ll have more discussion about this later, but to stimulate discussion in the interim I’ll say that 1)the most plausible interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, I think, confers an individual right to bear arms, although this is certainly not the only reasonable interpretation; 2)given this, D.C.’s draconian ban is (for better or worse) clearly unconstitutional, but 3)more reasonable gun control measures may be constitutional even if the right to bear arms is considered an individual right.

Ignorance Is Bliss

[ 20 ] November 20, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gainer The Gopher sez: Slappy Who?

One advantage to being in Canada right now is that sportswriters are much more preoccupied with such matters as the epochal Riders/Lions tilt and much less with the distressing news that A-Slappy will be back in pinstripes. Although I knew better, for a brief moment I allowed myself to think that some kind of irrationality had overtaken the Yankees and that they might have let Rodriguez walk, but they didn’t, and alas most other teams look at player salaries primarily as expenses rather than investments, which is why they are where they are and the Yankees are where they are. I’m sure the feats of illogic on behalf of American sportswriters have been spellbinding, but I’m trying to ignore it for the week; looking at bad political journalism is bad enough. I’ve got tickets tonight — go Flames! Lalalalala I can’t hear you!

Borking and The Court

[ 8 ] November 20, 2007 |

I actually agree with two points that Ross Douthat makes here. First, I think that there’s a tendency to assume that Roe‘s popular support made its upholding inevitable, but this really isn’t the case. If Reagan had appointed Bork and Scalia in reverse order, for example, Roe would have been overturned. Although most sophisticated observers understand that the Supreme Court is better understood as an adjunct to national governing coalitions than a stalwart protector of unpopular minorities, it’s easy to push this too far; the Court wouldn’t have been prevented from overturning Roe any more than the Warren Court was prevented from issuing Everson and Miranda. (Indeed, as all three examples suggest it’s entirely possible for positions to be broadly consistent with current elite governing coalitions and be unpopular among the public at large.) Second, he is of course right that Alito and Roberts are doctrinaire conservatives who will never find an abortion regulation unconstitutional, although their fake “minimalism” may mean that even with a fifth vote we’ll see the complete gutting rather than the explicit overturning of Roe. (Of course, at this late date nobody but Ann Althouse could think otherwise.)

On the other hand, we have the tired claim about of a “shameful-but-effective Democratic smear campaign against Robert Bork.” Obviously, the Senate being a political body, criticisms of Bork were not expressed in the tones of an academic seminar. But the core of the case against Bork was that he 1)entirely rejected any implicit right of privacy, meaning that the state not only had the authority to pass arbitrarily enforced laws requiring a woman to carry her pregnancy to term but also to pass arbitrarily enforced laws preventing people from using contraception, 2)he had a consistently awful record on civil rights including public claims that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and hostility to claims of gender equality, and 3)took an exceptionally narrow view of free speech rights. This campaign was effective because it was accurate — there were at the time enough moderate Republicans to oppose his views on privacy and no Southern Democratic Senator (given that they required near unanimous black support to be competitive) could have supported someone with Bork’s record on civil rights. Some of these issues have become less important over time — conservatives have largely adopted libertarian positions on issue #3, and many reactionary nominees are now young enough not to have contemporaneously opposed the Civil Rights Act. On issue #1, however, justices like Roberts and Alito are easier to confirm than Bork not because their positions are more popular but because the lesson they learned from Bork is to simply refuse to state their position explicitly. Hence the high comedy of Republicans who had admired Alito for being a doctrinaire conservative suddenly reacting with outrage against those pointing out the obvious fact that he held very conservative positions on legal issues as soon as he was nominated. This silliness, of course, could stop as soon as he was safely on the Court. This kabuki does, however, make “Borking” more difficult (or, as the case with Thomas, be reflected through discussions of marginally relevant personal issues.) This is not, however, a good thing.

Halftime Harassment

[ 22 ] November 20, 2007 |

Well, this makes me happier that the Jets are 2-8:

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.

Marco Hoffner, an 18-year-old from Lacey Township, N.J., was expecting to see more. Not from the Jets — they pulled off a big upset over the Steelers. He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.

“Very disappointed, because we’re used to seeing a lot,” Hoffner said.

The mood of previous Gate D crowds — captured on video clips posted on YouTube — sometimes bordered on hostile, not unlike the spirit of infamously aggressive European soccer hooligans. One clip online shows a woman being groped by a man standing next to her.

Ew. But this isn’t only icky; it’s a security threat. So where is security? Being vigilant — against anyone who might report the harassment:

Throughout halftime, about 10 security guards in yellow jackets stood near the bottom of the circular, multilevel ramp, located beyond the stadium’s concourse of concession stands and restrooms. One of the guards was smoking a cigarette; many fans do the same during halftime on the giant ramps, which are located at each corner of the stadium. Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.


A Pledge To Keep

[ 11 ] November 20, 2007 |

Especially useful with Thanksgiving approaching:

So why not try this for a day? If you’re going to eat something, eat it. If you’re not, don’t. Beating yourself up about food, privately and publicly, much as you think might help you stay thin out of guilt, doesn’t actually work.


…I do think the mighty Atrios makes a fair point in comments:

More seriously as much as I agree this kind of dynamic is messed we should understand that people with food and fat related issues do adopt various coping mechanisms. Not saying I endorse them all as being “healthy,” but the problem probably isn’t the mechanisms themselves but the issues which lead people there.

My impulse is to be as cranky about this as M. LeBlanc — even though I’m sure I’ve done this kind of thing myself — laregly because it’s my impulse to be cranky about pretty much anything, but the real point (and I assume hers as well) is that the dynamic doesn’t work and reflects counterproductive attitudes towards food; the fact that it can be annoying to others is not the central point.

A Constitutional Amendment About Nothing

[ 20 ] November 19, 2007 |

The recent hysteria about a few peripheral citations of legal norms in other liberal democracies in Supreme Court opinions has reached some kind of apex with a speaker at a Federalist Society convention proposing a constitutional amendment banning the practice. What’s strange is the amount of energy being expended over what it quite obviously a trivial issue — it’s not clear why anyone thinks such dicta have any actual causal effects on the outcome of cases. Such citations are likely to come up almost exclusively in cases where the text of the Constitution can plausibly support a wide range of outcomes, and hence are overwhelmingly likely to be used only to back up conclusions judges have reached for independent reasons. This is certainly true of the cruel and unusual punishment clause, at issue in the case that has generated the greatest outrage about the supposedly pernicious effects of citing foreign law. Does anybody seriously think that a single vote in the case would have changed had the Constitution forbidden the citation of law of other democracies? Scalia noted in his dissent that Kennedy would be unlikely to cite foreign law when its conclusions were less favorable to his position, but that’s the point: the cites are window dressing. It may be true that Kennedy’s experience teaching abroad has had a moderating effect, but this would remain true whether his opinion cited the laws of other countries or not.

Crucial to making this triviality into a major issue is a strawman. According to Adler, the advocate of the amendment laid out the “basic case against relying upon foreign or international law in constitutional interpretation.” [my emphasis] But, of course, nobody says (as the word “rely” would seem to imply) that American judges are bound by the laws of similar countries; rather, at most it’s simply one of many sources that a judge might consult when trying to construe the meaning of an ambiguous constitutional clause. Reasonable people can differ about whether it’s an appropriate source to look at, but such pragmatic use of sources outside the constitution is utterly banal. I don’t recall any conservatives complaining about, say, Clarence Thomas’s (implausible) paean to the emancipatory effects of vouchers, although strictly speaking such policy effects are irrelevant to the question of whether state funding that goes almost entirely to parochial schools violates the First Amendment. I’d also be interested to know how many people furious about Roper have railed against the Rehnquist Court’s “sovereign immunity” doctrine, which seems to “rely” heavily on centuries-old British common law being binding in American federal courts…

Defending Clinton Through JFK Worship

[ 9 ] November 19, 2007 |

Responding to Sean Wilentz’s attempt to analogize Obama and Clinton to Stevenson and JFK, respectively, in 1960 I think Matt has the correct response:

Meanwhile, the reality of the Kennedy Administration — as opposed to the Myth of Camelot — is precisely what makes people leery of Clinton. A 50%+1 win followed by a domestic agenda that goes nowhere in congress and a drift toward foreign policy disaster driven in part by a unshakeable fear of looking soft on defense.

Having said that, I don’t really think the analogy holds water either way. I suspect Clinton in office would be better on domestic policy than JFK (although on foreign policy, the JFK analogy is all too accurate.) Of course, JFK would be infinitely preferable to any GOP nominee of 2008, so if the ther end of the analogy held up this would still favor Clinton, but I also don’t think that Obama is really comparable to Stevenson in terms of political skills, and Matt is right that Stevenson could certainly have won in conditions as structurally favorable to the Democrats as 2008 is likely to be anyway.

This also reminds me that with all due respect to Wilentz, who has done a lot of terrific work, he has a very strange JFK fetish — see here. There are any number of (to put it charitably) tendentious claims to be found — such as his implication that JFK could have overcome the many obvious problems facing the Democrats in 1968, such as civil rights legislation (which Wilentz problematically assumes that JFK could have gotten passed quickly) destroying much of the traditional Democratic coalition, rising crime rates and urban violence etc. — with his boyish charm, but I think this is the best example:

There’s no question that Johnson was able to carry forward Kennedy’s domestic agenda because of the 37 House seats gained by the Democrats in the 1964 elections, a landslide that produced a working majority for progressive legislation for the first time in a quarter century. But Kennedy was a more popular figure than Johnson. Had Kennedy lived to run against Barry Goldwater, the Democrats probably would have picked up 50 more liberal legislators.

What Wilentz leaves out here is that one reason the Dems were able to pick up so many Congressional seats in 1964 is the halo effect created by JFK’s assisination, something that seems rather unlikely to have accrued to a non-assassinated JFK. Nor can a presidential candidate get much more popular than 61% of the popular vote; can Wilentz seriously believe that JFK would have had longer coattails? None of this makes me much more comfortable about JFK analogies made by Clinton’s supporters….

The Horror

[ 11 ] November 18, 2007 |

The heart sags at the idea of dealing with yet another case of MoDo using her longing for 19th century gender relations to create asinine, content-free negative scripts about the Democratic candidates. That features an African-American man being “whipped” by a white woman. Fortunately, it’s been taken care of by Steve:

Is any of this true? I don’t know, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is. What Dowd is saying is that if a woman tries to psych out her opponents, that makes her a “dominatrix.”

Men can psych out other men all they want, as anyone who’s ever paid any attention to sports knows perfectly well. But a woman? If she competes like a man, she’s using a whip. Girls have to be nice all the time, you see.


Dowd is appalling — and she will be no matter who the Democratic nominee is. (She loathes all three front-runners.)

Right now, if I were a Democratic operative and a genie said I could choose one media figure to be struck dumb for the next year, my choices being Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Maureen Dowd, I’d pick Dowd in a heartbeat. She’s going to have more of a negative impact on the Democrats in ’08 than anyone else. Her take on the Democrats is a highly contagious toxin.

He also discusses the double standards of her discussions of Strong Saint Rudy and Uppity Bitch Hillary. And also there’s Molly:

In MoDo’s world, where strong women must be balanced out by weak men, the idea of a mutually strong relationship is unthinkable (which may be why Hill and Bill confuse her so much). I can see a similar dynamic with Michelle, who strikes me as less bitchy than funny and self-deprecating, realistic rather than idealistic about the person who shares her life, far from the doe-eyed adoration expected of your Jeris and Judis of the world.

I don’t know what else to say.

Cautious Optimism

[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

A long way to go, but this is obviously excellent news. The state enlisting private entities to reveal information about their customer will be a major privacy issue, and it’s critical that incentives remain in place that would force companies to actually consider the rights of their consumers before assisting in illegal government activity.

"Bush Derangement" Derangement Syndrome

[ 11 ] November 15, 2007 |

Is there anything more pathetic than someone whining about excessive “Bush hated” based on generalizations derived from nameless individuals at apocryphal-sounding dinner parties…in 2007? This column has been written so many times that there must be a template you can use by now. Well, you could use the occasion to return to your feeble defense of Bush v. Gore. Most embarrassingly, Berkowitz claims that it was “Al Gore who shifted the election controversy to the courts,” when of course the first lawsuit was filed by Bush, who challenged Gore’s first attempt to seek the recounts he was unequivocally entitled to under Florida law. And, needless to say, he has yet to explain how the recount that gave the election to Bush — which was conducted under even more arbitrary standards that the one the Supreme Court reviewed Bush v. Gore — was any more consistent with the equal protection clause. Really, he should give it up, especially if he wants to accuse other people of distorting issues for partisan reasons.

"This Woman Claims To Be A Feminist, But She Seems More Interested In Apologizing For Radical Opponents of Women’s Rights."

[ 17 ] November 15, 2007 |

Professor Althouse approvingly links to some winger interviewing Kathleen Willey, who asks people to look at what Hillary Clinton “has done to me.” Needless to say, Althouse omits the fact that one of the things that Willey believes Clinton to have done to her is to have her husband killed. Admittedly, to Althouse the fact that Willey is fabricating lunatic conspiracy theories about the Clintons probably adds to her credibility, but to people capable of a modicum of rationality where the Clintons are concerned this may serve as a reminder that one reason why feminist groups may not have given Willey the level of support she deemed appropriate is because her story was utterly lacking in credibility. Willey also trots out this classic routine:

The feminists, NOW, they’re all about one issue: abortion. They’re not talking about women’s rights, being an advocate for women, or equality in the work place. Those aren’t issues anymore. It’s abortion, plain and simple.

Indeed; for example, NOW completely ignored the major employment discrimination case that ruled in favor of companies engaging in rank discrimination (thanks to the decisive vote of Althouse’s beloved Justice Alito) that came down this term! And refused to try do anything about it! The claim is also transparently wrong in another way. NOW and other feminist groups came out strongly against Bob Packwood, a strong pro-choicer who opposed Bork on the grounds that he would vote to overturn Roe, because there was actual credible evidence that he had repeatedly sexually harassed members of his staff.

At any rate, it’s obvious that while Bill Clinton has engaged in personal behavior that is potentially objectionable on feminist grounds he’s certainly never done anything remotely bad enough to justify supporting alternatives who are vastly worse on women’s rights in policy terms. And while Hillary Clinton overall would be no higher than fourth if I was ranking the potential Democratic candidates in order of overall preference, it is overwhelmingly likely that if elected her administration would do more to advance women’s rights than any previous one — this is one of her strongest selling points. When you’re reduced to citing Kathleen Willey against this (and are a Rudy Giuliani lickspittle selectively claiming that how a candidate treats the women in his or her personal life is of overriding importance), it’s pretty clear that you don’t have a serious rebuttal to this.

Alberta Bound Arrived

[ 7 ] November 15, 2007 |

I have just arrived in not-as-cold-as-it-might-be Canada for a wedding; I will not be absent over the next week but blogging will be more sporadic. Fortunately, bean has seamlessly fit into the Dowd-bashing role. (Hopefully this won’t be a Wally Pipp situation…)

…Admittedly, even Dowd’s gigantic narcissism-to-achievement ratio pales next to that of Camille Paglia.

Page 567 of 788« First...102030...565566567568569...580590600...Last »