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The Dumbening

[ 0 ] July 18, 2007 |

The real problem with the news today is that people just don’t get any historical context. What about the legendary filibusters of civil rights legislation led by Hubert Humphrey and Paul Douglas? Kids today just won’t learn anything!

The Age of Yoo Reaches Grossly Overrated Quarterbacks

[ 0 ] July 18, 2007 |

This is quite remarkably disgusting. I’m glad that his celebrity didn’t prevent him from being indicted for torturing animals for profit.

Need To Question The Authority

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Hilzoy has more on Anne Applebaum’s crazy strawman-building tactics. Personally, perhaps because I’m more cynical, I didn’t check the empirical claim because I wouldn’t have been shocked had no Democratic politician had been fully candid; it wouldn’t be unusual for politicians not to point out the potential downsides when choosing among a bunch of bad policy options created by someone else’s catastrophic blunder. (People not running for office can, and should, be criticized for not being honest about the downsides.) And yet, at least 3 Democratic candidates including Barak Obama did to this, making Appelbaum’s silly point also factually false. It seems pretty clear that this was bullshit in the classic Frankurt sense; Applebaum seems to have been indifferent about her claims were true or not, but just needed some assertions to fit her evasive high-Broderite framework.

Radical Implications

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

As a follow-up to Bean’s post below, I will once again note that, as long as the 14th Amendment remains unamended, the necessary consequence of fetal personhood is that anyone obtaining or performing an abortion is guilty of first degree murder, anyone who knows about it an accessory to murder, etc. etc. At the absolute core of the equal protection clause is that no class of persons can be excluded from the protection of general laws providing for basic personal security. A federal “life amendment” would not merely permit but require every state to treat abortion as murder.

Fortunately, this lunatic position is confined to such fringe organizations as the party of the incumbent president.

"I’m Not Trying To Be Sexist. It Comes Naturally!"

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Noted paragon of civility Robert Novak expresses a need for a fainting couch — apparently some ladies are being insufficiently dainty.

Anne Applebaum, You Gotta Be Putting Me On

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Henley and Yglesias say most of what needs to be said about today’s bite of banality. As the former points out, the actual effect of this pox-on-all-their-houses-but-not-my-house High Broderism is to implicitly advocate the status quo without having to bother to make an argument in its favor. The only thing I’ll add is that the fact that withdrawal could have disastrous consequences, while certainly a convincing argument against starting the predictably disastrous war in the first place, is only a good argument against leaving if the occupation was actually improving the security situation. What’s actually happening, however, is that we’re getting further from the plausible emergence of a stable Iraqi state, and even Applebaum isn’t willing to claim otherwise. So the potential for bad things to happen after the troops leave — which I’ve heard few opponents of the war deny — is neither here nor there given the obvious inability of the American military to create a strong Iraqi state ex nihilo. The point of the argument, rather, is simply part of the broader war apologist long-term exit strategy: i.e. to shift the blame for the catastrophe from the people who are actually responsible for it to people who tried to stop it.

On the Reverse-Filibuster

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

I have to admit that I think Henley is probably right here:

I confess a suspicion that the Dem leadership is counting on not getting an up-and-down vote. There’s a decent chance that some of the Senators happy to vote for a cloture motion they know is doomed to lose will be unwilling to vote for a troop drawdown they know could win. And then what will we tell the netroots? Thirty hours of theater that ends in another unsuccessful cloture vote is the safe-sex version of defunding the war.

I don’t really think that this is Reid’s fault, per se; this kabuki is probably the best way of communicating opposition to the war given that he doesn’t have the votes to stop. But it remains depressing.

The Hilzoy Curve(s)

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Some applications of the econometric innovations of Dow 36,000 co-hack Kevin Haslett.

Yoo Tortures The Law Again

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

He’s back, with another crackpot theory justifying arbitrary executive power in defiance of the plain language of several constitutional provisions as well as the structure and underlying theoretical basis of the Constitution.

As Stephen Holmes points out (and expands on in his new book), it’s not just that Yoo believes as a normative matter — contrary to the fundamental principles of liberal democracy– that power is most effectively deployed when it’s secret and unchecked, but his farcical attempts to locate the monarchical executive in the original meaning of a Constitution that (although it leaves the precise contours of executive power vague) plainly cannot support such a reading:

The Framers charged the President with protecting the nation, he tells us, “even if that meant fighting with the legislature to enforce the desires of the people.” True to their British heritage, Yoo also asserts, the Framers modeled the President’s war powers on those of King George III. They therefore refused to grant Congress even a concurrent power to commence war. At its core, the Constitution embodies the Framers’ intention to prohibit Congress from “encroaching” on the executive’s power to initiate as well as conduct war.

To make his contrarian claim ring true, Yoo whites out contrary evidence and draws dubious conclusions on the basis of fragmentary and carefully selected facts. He disregards the main thrust of the historical record and misrepresents the parts he acknowledges. He ferrets out (and exaggerates the importance of) scattered shreds of evidence that, at first glance, seem to back up his predetermined narrative. This cherry-picking of the sources may explain why he fits so comfortably into an administration known for politicizing intelligence, smothering doubts, silencing critical voices and fixing the facts around the policy.

But why would an aspiring legal scholar labor for years to develop and defend a historical thesis that is manifestly untrue? What is the point and what the payoff? That is the principal mystery of this singular book. Characteristic of The Powers of War and Peace is the anemic relation between the evidence adduced and the inferences drawn. The footnotes and citations teem with ambiguity and complexity, while the summary statements snap dogmatic simplicities. For instance, in a section devoted to the powers of war and peace in various state Constitutions, between independence and the ratification of the Constitution, Yoo uses selective citation to convey the impression that state executives not only possessed substantial foreign-policy powers but were also, when commanding the state militias, freed from any obligation to act according to laws passed by state legislatures. That his case is wobbly on both counts is the least that might be said. But what makes his misleading account additionally baffling is that he cites without comment the very provisions in several state Constitutions that deny the executive branch any power to act except “under the laws” passed by the legislative branch.

Even by the standards of this administration, Yoo is an embarrassment.

Great Moments In Cafeteria Catholicism

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

I have a follow-up post on the Troy Davis case at TAPPED. Among other things, I discuss the famous Scalia concurrence in which he asserts that there is no constitutional right to bring evidence — no matter how compelling — of actual innocence after one had been validly convicted of a capital crime. But why worry?

I can understand, or at least am accustomed to, the reluctance of the present Court to admit publicly that Our Perfect Constitution lets stand any injustice, much less the execution of an innocent man who has received, though to no avail, all the process that our society has traditionally deemed adequate. With any luck, we shall avoid ever having to face this embarrassing question again, since it is improbable that evidence of innocence as convincing as today’s opinion requires would fail to produce an executive pardon.

Whatta card! And, of course, the governor will meanwhile claim that no actually innocent person could ever be convicted and have this conviction upheld for one whole round of federal habeas appeals — state criminal defendants, of course, never have anything but the best legal representation! — and round and round we go and before you know it some innocent person will be executed.

While We’re Flashing Back

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

This discussion of Brookings Institute Fellow For Disastrous, Counterproductive Foreign Interventions and Bush Administration Apologism Michael O’Hanlon reminds me of my very favorite “liberal hawk” argument defending the surge, this comedy classic from Jeffrey Herf:

If the Democratic party’s national leadership continues in its opposition to the strategy Bush has just announced, and if, against expectations, that strategy is successful, Democrats may look forward to another decade or more of losing Presidential elections.

And if you don’t give my $50,000 right now for a share of my Mega Millions ticket, you’ll look really stupid when I win!

The Perot Myth

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

I have to agree with Michael against Chris Clarke that I don’t see any basis for the assertion that the post-1992 Republican strategy was to “find out what the disaffected [Perot voters] wanted that the GOP failed to offer, and offer it.” If the Republicans became the party of deficit reduction and protectionism, they have certainly kept it well hidden. (Although on only one of Perot’s two key issues, Michael is right that there’s a better case that Clinton co-opted Perot voters.)

In addition, I think it’s worth nothing that the claim that Perot cost Bush the 1992 election is really not even “arguable.” Perot’s support was much more cross-cutting than Nader’s, and the only state polling data indicates may have flipped to Bush in Perot’s absence was Ohio — which would have left Clinton with a 150 electoral vote margin. There’s no serious empirical basis for the assertion that Perot plyed a decisive role in the 1992 campaign.

…In comments, Rick Perlstein points us to this book, which he says supports Chris’s claims. I admit to being skeptical about the first claim — I really find it hard to believe that Perot swung well over 100 electoral votes, but maybe they have data I haven’t seen — but it is certainly plausible that the GOP was thinking about these voters when crafting the Contract On America. (Of course, there’s also little evidence that the COA had a substantial impact on the election, but at least narrowly Chris’ point was just about what the GOP was trying to do. And evidently it also doesn’t follow that chasing 17% of the electorate isn’t more potentially profitable than chasing 3% of the electorate.) Anyway, I’ll check it out.

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