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Hockey Deadline Blogging!

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

Huh–the Oilers tear down a year after getting to Game 7 of the Finals. Although I just finished criticizing Lowe as overrated, I actually think it’s a decent deal for the Oil. They’re obviously dead this year, and I think they made the right judgment in not signing Smyth to a long-term deal at ~$5.5 M/year. He’s a very-good-not-great player, 31, and a high-punishment power forward who’s likely to age badly–a bad contract waiting to happen. It’s not necessarily bad for the Isles either–they may be looking at Buffalo’s injuries and think, what the hell, might as well try to go on a big playoff run. It’s highly regrettable that the Sharks–who scare me–got Guerin, but at least they didn’t add a big defenseman. And I see the Panthers dealt Bertuzzi for a conditional draft pick and a center who can’t get a point a game in the OHL, meaning they got a dubious prospect, a backup goaltender and some picks for Roberto Luongo. Christ, they’re morons down there.

But thank God a season was canceled so that teams never have to trade their stars for financial reasons! The fact that a small-market Alberta team played a dubious Sun Belt market in the finals is even more proof–that never could have happened under the old system!

Ken Houghton has the Bertuzzi video, for those with strong stomachs who don’t know the background. And the thing is, trading an elite goaltender for Bertuzzi was an extraordinarily bad trade leaving the morality out of it.

Columnist About Nothing

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

You know what’s worse than giving op-ed space to people who write empty-headed fluff about things vaguely related to politics? Giving op-ed space to people who explain how they write empty-headed fluff about things vaguely related to politics in other media:

Because I had the longtime habit, inherited from my grandfather, of reading out loud whatever little things in the newspaper happened to catch my attention, I said: “Hmm. ‘Little known fact: at 59, Wesley Clark has only 5% body fat.’ “

My son Christopher, who was used to finding himself on the receiving end of this habit, came back with: “Should it be: ‘Wesley Clark is 5% body fat?’ “

That cracked me up, and, instantly making the transition from old family habit to new blogging habit, I posted our little interchange on my blog.

And her posts about how fictitious requests attributed to Nancy Pelosi prove that Pelosi’s a chardonnay-sipping elitist who hates the troops are totally nonpartisan don’t you know, and then somebody made an atypically dumb comment vaguely discussing some centralized blog committee and…Good God, who gives a shit? What could this possibly be doing in a serious newspaper? It makes Bobo’s rants about apocryphal parents who make their kids listen to TV on the Radio look like Gunnar Myrdal.

As an antidote, yesterday the Times published this:

Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country.

How did that happen? First, he got the Republican nomination by locking up the big money early.

Then, he got within chad-and-butterfly range of the White House because the public, enthusiastically encouraged by many in the news media, treated the presidential election like a high school popularity contest. The successful candidate received kid-gloves treatment — and a free pass on the fuzzy math of his policy proposals — because he seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, while the unsuccessful candidate was subjected to sniggering mockery over his clothing and his mannerisms.

Today, with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead thanks to presidential folly, with Al Qaeda resurgent and Afghanistan on the brink, you’d think we would have learned a lesson. But the early signs aren’t encouraging.

Yeah, and one person who seems to have learned nothing is Gail Collins Andrew Rosenthal. Frankly, it’s amazing that Krugman keeps his job.

…my bet on the Times’ next columnist: Tom Maguire. (Edroso: “I understand nearly 40 million people in the U.S. watched the Oscars last night. And from what I see on the blogs, 20 million of them were right-wing dorks looking for something to bitch about.” Indeed.)

…Corrected the name of the responsible party at the Times–thanks to TS.

Great Moments In Bullet-Dodging

[ 1 ] February 26, 2007 |

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And that little boy nobody liked grew up to be…the nation’s chief Inquistor and Underwear Drawer Inspector!

I’m reading Jan Crawford Greenburg’s new book about the Supreme Court, which is pretty good. One thing it emphasizes is how narrow the margin for Roe (as well as other liberal decisions preserved by 5-4 majorities in the late Rehnquist Court) was. Had Reagan appointed Bork first and then Scalia, for example, he may well have gotten both. (Greenburg’s account of the Bork hearings, though, is pretty problematic for reasons I may discuss later.)

Then there’s Souter. Some of you may know that the main alternate choice to Souter was Ken Starr, which would have obviously had a major impact on Roe and any number of other cases. What I didn’t know was why Starr was rejected, leading to Rudman and Sunnunu being able to push Souter. Apparently, it was a dispute within DOJ about a trivial nondelegation case:

The issue dividing [Bill Barr, Michael Luttig, and Starr] was a law that permitted private citizens to sue for fraud against the federal government [and receive a bounty]…Barr and Luttig thought the law infringed on presidential authority, the final straw in a series of court decisions eroding executive authority…But new soliticor general Starr concluded any challenge to the law would be quixotic at best. Barr and Luttog were furious that Starr wouldn’t take their side. They came to think he rejected their position in part to avoid antagonizing Charles Grassley, a populist Republican from Iowa who had sponsored the 1986 amendments to the law and who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Consciously or not, Starr, they thought, had put his own interests above the president’s, possibly because he was envisioning appearing before that very committee as a Supreme Court nominee.

The showdown over presidential power set a pattern which continued after Barr became deputy attorney general the next year and Luttig moved into Barr’s old job. From that point forward, Starr was the odd man out.

[AG Dick] Thornburgh slammed the door shut that Saturday morning, insisting to Bush and other advisers that Starr was unsuitable for the Supreme Court. He suggested he felt so strongly about it that he was willing to resign.

[...]

That ended the discussion–and the Supreme Court prospects–of Kenneth Starr. (pp.92-3.)

So David Souter was appointed to the Supreme Court instead of Ken Starr…because some people in Justice thought Ken Starr wasn’t wingnutty enough. Always nice when their incompetence can work in our favor.

BoBo Imagines Park Slope

[ 1 ] February 26, 2007 |

Ben beat me to this, but indeed Sunday’s Bobo was remarkably devoid of evidence and irrelevant even by the standards of his sociological thumbsuckers. Not only am I, shall we say, unpersuaded that even in Park Slope there are large numbers of parents force-feeding “Brian Eno, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens into their little babies’ iPods,” I can’t imagine who could give a rat’s ass even if it was happening. Maybe Althouse’s tenure on the op-ed page is actually making the NYT‘s bad columnists even more vapid and unserious through some magnetic force–in that case, MoDo’s next conversation with Al Gore’s bald spot will actually be printed in crayon.

Thank God For the Rain to Wash the Trash Off the Sidewalk

[ 0 ] February 26, 2007 |

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When it came out, I assumed that The Departed was too good and too alive to be competitive for Best Picture; I’m happy to be wrong, and it’s good that the greatest living American director got his award. I still can’t quite believe that this happened with the AMPSA, but it’s gratifying that he won for his best film in nearly two decades rather than for something like The Aviator. It’s partly a testament to Scorsese and partly a testament to the kind of middlebrow doorstops (and, sometimes, utter crap) that the Academy generally likes that while it obviously doesn’t rank with his very greatest work I think it’s by far the best film to be so honored in the last decade (well, OK, that’s also partly a testament to the fact that I don’t get Tolkien.) Indeed, although this is idiosyncratic almost to the point of perversity, the last Best Picture I unequivocally prefer is Annie Hall, granting that 1)Schindler’s List is (at least before its last 20 minutes or so, and John Williams in that context ugh) a tough case, underrated by some cineastes, 2)The Silence of the Lambs is a good thriller, and 3)I know my belief that Unforgiven is merely very good will get catcalls.

My other question: I know there were a lot of other strong candidates–the Children of Men in particular was visually magnificent–how on earth did Scorsese’s great cinematographer Michael Ballhaus not even secure a nomination?

Horrible. Infuriating. Sad.

[ 0 ] February 25, 2007 |

Radley Balko (click through for a summary of all the evidence of how much violence has dropped because of the surge) on the Instapundit-approved evidence-free assertions of Patrick Ruffini:

I wish I could say that it’s merely amusing to watch politicians and war supporters play with other people’s lives to save themselves the embarrassment of having wasted so many lives already. “If only we send a few thousand more other peoples’ kids into harm’s way, this whole “remap the Middle East” plan will finally start to materialize. Then you’ll see. We were right all along.”

Alas. It’s not amusing. It’s horrible. And infuriating. And sad.

Exactly right.

…Roy also points out Ruffini’s claim that the media is devoting wall-to-wall overage of Anna Nicole Smith…as a way of deflecting attention from the success of the surge! Yeah, that’s plausible.

Fake Scandal, Republican Edition

[ 0 ] February 25, 2007 |

Ed Morrissey and Kevin Hayden are right–this is a bullshit smear piece on Romney. Indeed, it seems to me straightforward religious bigotry. I mean, seriously, he had a relative with 5 wives during the McKinley administration? Another one gave sermons about polygamy in 1852? How could this possibly be relevant to anything? (Apparently, it’s “a part of current events” because HBO has a show on the subject. Hmm, maybe Giuliani has some relatives who participated in some political assassinations in ancient Rome? That’s even more cutting-edge!) Does anyone think he’s going to have 3 more wives move into the White House if he gets elected? Ram a constitutional amendment legalizing polygamy through Congress? Should we start scrutinizing politicians to see if they had distant relatives who were involved in the Inquisition, or owned slaves, or opposed the signing of the Magna Carta? At least most silly “character” stories are ostensibly about the candidate, not their great-great-great grandparents.

Shakes: “But this kind of juvenile, he’s-got-cooties, smear-by-association faux-journalism has to stop. It’s pathetic; it lowers the public discourse; it insults us all.” See also Jackmormon on the LDS and public discourse.

…Breaking! Red Sirens! Must credit Lawyers, Guns & Money! A major scandal is erupting surrounding Ezra Klein: “When my great-great-grandfather was 14, he stole a wagon. At 22, he over-imbibed from a wineskin and had impure, though partially humorous, thoughts about a nearby goat. These thoughts were never acted upon, but they existed nonetheless.” So much for him becoming President. Although that’s nothing: my grandfather considered Atlas Shurgged the greatest novel ever written. I expect to receive my notice from TAPPED in the morning.

Great White Rule of Law

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

I am proud of my non-home and native land today, as the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously rejected a government policy that permitted the indefinite detention of foreign born suspects based on secret evidence. Chief Justice McLachlan:

The procedures required to conform to the principles of fundamental justice must reflect the exigencies of the security context. Yet they cannot be permitted to erode the essence of s. 7. The principles of fundamental justice cannot be reduced to the point where they cease to provide the protection of due process that lies at the heart of s. 7 of the Charter. The protection may not be as complete as in a case where national security constraints do not operate. But to satisfy s. 7, meaningful and substantial protection there must be.

[...]

I conclude that the IRPA’s procedures for determining whether a certificate is reasonable and for detention review cannot be justified as minimal impairments of the individual’s right to a judicial determination on the facts and the law and right to know and meet the case. Mechanisms developed in Canada and abroad illustrate that the government can do more to protect the individual while keeping critical information confidential than it has done in the IRPA. Precisely what more should be done is a matter for Parliament to decide. But it is clear that more must be done to meet the requirements of a free and democratic society.

The opinion is, I think, a good model for thinking through questions of balancing fundamental rights against legitimate security interests. I wish I thought we would see somethign similar from the United States Supreme Court.

And Then There Were Eight

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

Another U.S. Attorney is fired. According to the WaPo story Jeralyn points us to:

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told senators earlier this month that all but one of the prosecutors were fired for “performance-related” reasons. McNulty said that former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock was removed so the job could be given to a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Nearly all of the dismissed prosecutors had positive job reviews, but many had run into political trouble with Washington over immigration, capital punishment or other issues, according to prosecutors and others. At least four also were presiding over high-profile public corruption investigations when they were dismissed.

I actually think that the precise reason for the firings makes a big difference. It’s at least defensible for the administration to fire attorneys because they won’t seek the death penalty, for example. I disagree with the substantive priorities of the Bush administration, but they are entitled to hire people who will, within the law, follow them. If competent U.S. Attorneys are being fired for investigating corrupt Republicans, on the other hand, that’s appalling.

Judicial Activism: The Real Definition!

[ 0 ] February 24, 2007 |

The Conservapedia (via everybody and their cat) is indeed pure gold, and many people have picked out their favorite bits. (I’m particularly partial to “[Nineteen-Eighty-Four] is a utopian book because it talks about a place where everyone is watched over by Big Brother.”) I like the entry on “judicial activism“:

There are two major types of judicial activism practiced in the United States’ court system:

1. Liberal judges striking down laws that uphold core conservative American values
2. Liberal judges refusing to strike down laws that subvert core conservative American values

The most famous example of this is Roe v. Wade. Other examples include Brown v Board of Education[1] and Loving v Virginia[2] which stripped state control over education and marriage, respectively, putting it in the hands of the federal government.

Indeed. I only wish someone would add the Rehnquist quote about “strict constructionism,” (perhaps with a discussion of whether overturning Roe or Loving would produce more sweet, sweet freedom), and that the entry had an initial definition of “judgifying we don’t like.

…as a commenter points out, make sure to check out Patrick and his commenters as well.

Freedom Is Forced Pregnancy

[ 1 ] February 24, 2007 |

Finally the New York Times adds a strong (self-described) feminist voice to its op-ed pages:

Similarly, Giuliani respects the distinctive work of judges and the separate role of the state legislatures. If Roe were overruled, those legislatures would decide how to regulate abortion. And decentralized legislation really is fairly called “part of our freedom” because the Constitution’s framers saw the balance of power between the national government and the states as a safeguard against tyranny.

Ah, yes, nothing would enhance our freedom like the ability of state legislatures to violate people’s fundamental rights–just ask George Wallace! Anyway, there are some obvious problems here:

  • The Madisionian “double security” argument is at least plausible if you’re defending a narrower construction of federal legislative powers, but when (as with abortion) it’s a question of individual rights versus state power, to claim that expanding the power of the state–in this case, to force women (not in Ann Althouse’s economic bracket, so who cares?) to carry pregnancies to term–enhances freedom is Orwellian. Perhaps the increase in state power is desirable, but it’s absurd to claim that it’s a net increase in freedom for American women.
  • But, of course, the argument is even worse because the idea that overturning Roe would return the issue to the states is transparent nonsense. If Althouse gets her wish and Giuliani (or any other Republican) is able to appoint enough justices to completely gut or overrule Roe, abortion will be a federal as well as a state issue, and Congress can and will pass abortion regulations (indeed, this term Althouse’s beloved Justice Alito is almost certainly going to vote to uphold a particularly irrational federal abortion law.)
  • And most farcical of all is Althouse’s claim that Giuliani’s pledge to appoint judges that are (to use a term that is essentially meaningless in the context of constitutional interpretation) “strict constructionists” is a signal that he won’t “populate the judiciary with politicos.” As William Rehnquist said in an admirable moment of candor, “A judge who is a “strict constructionist” in constitutional matters will generally not be favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs—the latter two groups having been the principal beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s “broad constructionist” reading of the Constitution.” Anybody who thinks that Republican presidents that appoint alleged “strict constructionists” aren’t seeking some particular political outcomes would lend their credit cards and house keys to someone they just met through a Craig’s List personal.

Why oh why can’t we have better guest columnists?

…oh, and one more thing to add. In light of Althouse’s alleged commitment to the Sacred Principles of Federalism and purported opposition to “politicos” on the Supreme Court, you may wonder what she thinks about Bush v. Gore, in which 1)a ludicrously insubstantial federal constitutional question was used to override a state court interpretation of state law, 2)the Court not only declared that the ad hoc federal principle was inapplicable in future cases but failed to apply it logically in the case itself, and 3)all of this had the result of putting the favored candidate of the Court’s bare majority in the White House. Needless to say, she supports it.

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Abortion, Choice, and Communitarianism

[ 0 ] February 23, 2007 |

Russell Arben Fox has a thoughtful post, expressing his ambivalences about abortion, which you should read. Obviously, much of my disagreement is on well-trodden ground: I don’t think that a woman’s reproductive freedom can be legitimately abridged to further a vague sense that traditional (and generally patriarchal) sexual morality is preferable, I’m happy to be candid that an increase in sexual freedom is a feature not a bug, etc. As even casual readers will know, I also think it couldn’t be more wrong to claim that reproductive freedom is about rights for the middle class. The affluent will always have access to contraception and safe abortions, under any legal regime (including when abortion is formally illegal in most circumstances.) It’s the centrists on abortion, not pro-choice “extremists,” who abstract abortion discourse from social inequities. Whether the decision was framed as a “negative” right or not, Roe matters far more to poor women than the middle class. Things brings us to what I think the the fundamental error in Russell’s analysis:

But at least, in trying, I’m engaged in a genuine social project–whereas the rhetoric of rights and choice is mostly non- or even anti-social. Not that that hurts it as a movement in contemporary, non-participatory, my-your-own-business America; anything but, in fact. Still, it’s a point for liberal defenders of abortion rights to keep in mind, next time they wonder why so few people from the office or the grad seminar show up to walk the picket line with the janitors.

This is very similar to the William Saletan argument that abortion rights advocates won the battle but lost the war, because the rhetoric of choice helps conservatives more. I think this is completely wrong on several levels. First of all, it gets cause and effect backward: reproductive freedom is often framed in terms of rights because it’s effective, not vice versa. Radical feminist critiques of Roe sometimes make a similar error: the choice was not between Roe and a Canadian-style regime of unregulated state-funded abortions; the choice was Roe or nothing. It’s a fantasy to think that abortion would be more accessible if not for the Supreme Court’s intervention, and I also think it’s a fantasy to think that there would be more labor solidarity in the United States if only states could use their coercive power to stop (poor) women from getting abortions, or if women were less aggressive about making rights claims. By looking at other liberal democracies, we can notice that having greater access to abortion than in the United States doesn’t seem to prevent many countries from having robust welfare states, strong labor movements, etc., which further suggests that Russell is getting the cause-and-effect backward. (Moreover, pace Mary Ann Glendon–who focuses too much on law on the books and not enough on actual practices–abortion discourse in Germany is saturated with discussion of rights.)

Relatedly, I think there’s also false a claim that rights upholding individual choice are “non” or “anti-social.” A woman’s right to choose does involve individual claims against a particular vision of the social (patriarchy, class and gender double standards, assumptions that the biological capacity for childrearing should be central to a woman’s experience, etc.), just as the civil rights movement was opposed to the deeply embedded social mores of Jim Crow. But the right to choose is also part of a social vision of its own, one that assume that a woman’s equality, dignity, and security of person are better for men, women, and society as a whole. (It’s not feminists, after all, who oppose the welfare state, and nor does the communitarian, religion-drenched rhetoric that is so pervasive below the Mason-Dixon line seem to lead to more unionization.) Moreover, even if one assumes that most people are happier and children better off in committed, monogomous relationships and society should encourage this, it is (to put it mildly) unclear that increasing the number of unwanted–or, at least, unplanned–pregnancies will increase family stability. (Consider LizardBreath’s post about Roe–I think that the individual/community split is a false dichotomy. Her exercise of abortion rights was in her interest, and also in the long-term interests of her committed relationship and eventual loving family.) I have to respectfully reject the claim that abortion rights-claiming is fundamentally anti-social.