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With A Barely Audible Whimper

[ 0 ] August 30, 2007 |

Since I was hard on the Tribe earlier this month, I should note that the Red Sox have had three chances to knock out the Yankees this year, and each time they have generously prevented the Yankees from reaching the canvas and poured them a cup of Bigelow Green Tea. Admittedly, nothing in this series was quite as pathetic as having the chance for a sweep handed to you on a silver platter and proceeding to make the hapless Kei Igawa look like Lefty Grove, but pretty feeble stuff. Speaking of feeble, I was at least hoping the Mariners might get a token day in the wildcard slot in September….

Social Conservatism For Thee…

[ 0 ] August 30, 2007 |

Matt says:

A reasonable politics of “family values” needs to contain some penalties for heterosexuals with anti-family behavior (see, e.g., Dick Vitter, Rudy Giuliani) and support for gays with pro-family behavior. What they have right now is just loathing of gay people masquerading as defense of the traditional family.

This is true, but there’s another angle to it as well. Republican social conservatism, at least as instantiated as state policy, is about imposing burdens on other people to make oneself feel virtuous. Bans on abortion don’t seriously obstruct the ability of the affluent women Republicans represent to obtain safe abortions. Large homes in the suburbs are very unlikely to be subject to no-knock searches. And so on. These policies are basically a free pass for the Republican elites who advocate them, appoint judges who uphold them, etc.

And this is why gay-baiting is such a useful Republican tactic, even for the many closet tolerants among GOP elites. To put it mildly, it’s not obvious why gay marriage is a greater threat to family stability and “traditional values” than, say, no-fault divorce. But there’s not going to be a constitutional amendment to ban no-fault divorce introduced in Congress or serious attempts to get rid of it in most states — somehow, social conservatism always loses most of its appeal when restrictions on your liberties and privileges, rather than those of a stigmatized minority, are involved.

Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] August 30, 2007 |

David Ignatius.

Selective Opposition to Animal Cruelty?

[ 3 ] August 29, 2007 |

I actually think that Tia, responding to a criticism of people using the outrage about Michael Vick to criticize factory farming processes, makes a reasonable point here:

Without reading them, but with familiarity with the line of argument, I think all those op-eds are actually…a recognition that we make arbitrary distinctions about what animals’ pain matters, and an effort to make the case for non-arbitrary distinctions that have a basis in something other than totally culture-dependent taboos. I, too, find silly the spectacle of someone who is not in any discernible way opposed to factory farming practices fulminating about dogfighting, and there’s just as much a cultural diversity argument against a prohibition of dogfighting as there is against a prohibition of any kind of law against animal cruelty. It’s much easier to justify encroachments into someone else’s cultural practices if they’re based on some kind of gesture towards a coherent ethical scheme; “factory farmed meat for me, but no dogfighting for thee” strikes me as the most baseless sort of imperialism. You could make an argument that the spectacle of dogfighting is brutalizing to people, and so it should be banned not because of animal suffering, but because of its effect on the participants. I might agree about its likely effects, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the proper province of law to regulate; I don’t generally favor laws designed to protect people from seeing bad things and thinking bad thoughts.

As someone willing to eat bald eagle omelets garnished with panda veal, I must admit that I don’t really have a serious principled response to this. I don’t think think there’s any ethical compulsion to forego meat altogether (health is another question); the production of vegetables, wheat, etc. in our society generally involves the destruction of animal life too. Eating meat humanely raised and killed perfectly defensible. But I have to admit I don’t actually adhere to that kind of meat-eating. And since I consume the products of factory-farmed meat, I’m not sure that selective moral outrage at Michael Vick is particularly justifiable.

There are, I think, some colorable substantive distinctions; in particular, Vick’s actions (not just the dogfighting but the additional torture-killing of the dogs) represents a sadism for its own sake that factory farming doesn’t, and hence it’s reasonable for the law to treat them differently. But is this distinction enough to justify significant federal jail time for Vick in a country where factory farming is not only legal but subsidized? Seems like a hard case to make. Can eaters of mass-produced meat (or, even more so, people who see nothing wrong with mass-produced meat) justify intense outrage at Vick? It’s hard to rationally justify, I think. A little humility is on order for those of us with bad faith eating practices.

When He’s Smart, He’s Dumb

[ 0 ] August 29, 2007 |

As the Mariners jump out to yet another early deficit, I note that one strange thing about Bill Bavasi is that it’s very possible that the smartest thing he did this offseason — letting Gil Meche walk — is very likely to cost the Mariners a playoff spot. Not only because Meche has been very good, but his replacements make one long for the pitching stylings of James “The Fire Next Start” Baldwin. Admittedly, in retrospect optimistic Royals fans like Rany Jazayerli had a point; his uptick in K rates, combined with the fact that he was a talented pitcher with some innings under his belt meant that this wasn’t completely unforeseeable. But that made him a good short-term gamble, not worth a long-term contract for good money. Bavasi did the right thing; it failed. What can you do? (Alas, his stupid moves worked out more predictably. Well, Vidro’s actually been OK, but Broussard/Jones could have been similarly valuable for less money.)

Meanwhile, L, G & M has an exciting reverse hedge wager! Frequent commenter Howard has agreed to donate $50 in my name to Planned Parenthood when the Yankees make the playoffs. If several Yankees stars are killed in an attempt to sell drugs to Alfred Molina that goes horribly wrong tomorrow, Howard will be able to contribute a couple guest posts celebrating his !&*( Yankees during the post-season, and in addition I will of course make the donation myself. (Actually, I think this blog may already have a closet Yankees fan among its authorship, although she or, er, he has kept quiet about it.) Of course, if anyone wants to match…

…could the Mariers piss away a few more baserunners? They’re in danger of scoring another run at some point!

More on Craig and the Law

[ 0 ] August 28, 2007 |

GFR has more details, concluding that under Minnesota law that signaling someone in a public place that you’d be interested in engaging in consensual lewdness is not, in fact, illegal. (To be clear, nobody is denying that if he was actually engaging in sexual relations in a public place the state could legitimately intervene, but as far as I can tell nobody’s claiming that he did that.)

And, of course, nor should such behavior be criminalized, with inevitably arbitrary enforcement being one obvious reason. I mean, do you seriously think that a law that essentially banned making creepy passes at someone in public places would be routinely enforced against heterosexual men hitting on women? Not bloody likely. There’s a reason why in Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court when evaluating a statute that 1)said absolutely nothing about gender or sexual orientation and 2)ostensibly banned sexual behaviors that heterosexuals routinely engage in framed the legal question as whether “the Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy” and (as Blackmun pointed out) displayed an “almost obsessive focus on homosexual activity.”

Another point from Garance:

But, again, I can find nothing in Minnesota state law that makes asking someone to hook up with you a crime, rather than a civil tort (as in sexual harassment law) regardless of the circumstances.

Why, then, do police continue to act as though it is? Because of the long and only-recently ended practice of firm legal discrimination against gay people. Until 2001, consensual sodomy was a crime in Minnesota, meaning that it was only six years ago that gay people in that state stopped being treated by the letter of the law as, quite literally, outlaws and criminals.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, the state Sen. Larry Craig has represented in Congress since 1981, consensual sodomy was a felony punishable as a “crime against nature” by five years to life in prison until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that a similar statute in Texas was unconstitutional, thus striking down the state’s law. From 1996 until then, the state sex offender registry was written so as to add those convincted of even consensual sodomy to the sex offender rolls for life.

Right. Relatedly, Greenwald reminds us of one of my favorite ever manifestations of Instapunditry, in which Reynolds solemnley informed us that he was voting for the Republican in the Tennessee Senate race because…an obscure activist outed an Idaho politician who wasn’t up for re-election. (As I said at the time. “it would be considerably more embarrassing if he were telling the truth than if he was lying.”) At any rate, whatever one feels about outing it’s fairly obvious that Craig has nothing to complain about. To assert that a claim of privacy should entirely shield acts that you believe should be prevented by state coercion backed up with substantial criminal penalties is absurd.

…yet more from Yglesias, replying to a point that I’ve seen a lot in comments: “Weisberg & Plotz are also making sense here. The idea that the real crime was the peering into the cop’s stall doesn’t make sense. The cop was in the bathroom specifically to try to arrest cruisers. He arrested Craig not after the alleged peeping, but after this foot-tap-signal business.”

Partisan Homophobia

[ 0 ] August 28, 2007 |

Yglesias and Balko are right that pretty much any substantive defense of the proposition that what Vitter did is less serious than what Craig did comes down to “pure homophobia.” Indeed, discussing the Craig scandal at all poses a bit of a dilemma; I don’t have much sympathy for him, given his relentlessly anti-gay voting record, but it seems pretty clear to me the arrest of Craig wasn’t justifiable.

In the specific case of Hewitt, though, there’s probably a more important factor: Louisiana’s governor is a Democrat, and Idaho’s is a Republican. Craig resigning would mean a Republican incumbent going into the 2008 election; Vitter resigning would mean another Democratic Senator. So no conservative pundit should get credit for standing on principle for demanding that Craig resign, and that goes triple if they haven’t made the same call for Vitter (who actually violated the law, although he did so in a more heterosexual way that will help to earn forgiveness from conservatives.)

At Least He Hasn’t Compared Libby to the Scottsboro Boys. Yet.

[ 0 ] August 28, 2007 |

It’s not exactly news that the very reactionary but relatively sane Robert Bork who wrote The Antitrust Paradox has vanished forever, but just for a reminder a commenter points us to these ravings:

More recently, we have witnessed the disgraceful performance of Patrick Fitzgerald, who, knowing from day one who had leaked the name of Valerie Plame and that no crime had been committed [er, no–ed.], not only continued his “investigation” but persuaded those with knowledge of the truth to remain silent. The upshot was press and public suspicion of the president and of Karl Rove for months on end. Moreover, Fitzgerald is responsible for the blatant miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Scooter Libby, whose scandal amounted to recollecting a phone conversation differently from Tim Russert, a feat reminiscent of Mike Nifong’s less successful adventures in prosecutorial abuse.

Yes–he’s really comparing Patrick Fitzgerald to Mike Nifong. (Omitted: what evidence Fitzgerald hid from the defense, the evidence that Libby was innocent, etc.) All this makes Bork’s rousing pean to the genuinely unsuccessful, abusive and unethical work of Ken Starr all the more amusing. Oh, speaking of which, it gets better:

At a time when the administration, the press, and the public should be focused on Iraq, Iran, and the worldwide struggle against jihadists, we will instead be preoccupied with furious partisan battles over essentially irrelevant questions.

Yes, leaving aside that it’s not “irrelevant” when the administration violates federal law, it’s amazing to hear Robert Bork complaining about the country ignoring substantive issues to focus on a “partisan” impeachment battle based on utter trivia. Why, an investigation of Bush might even lead to a former federal judge writing a piece for a highly partisan magazine urging his impeachment! (My favorite line: “calling what took place in the Oval Office “dalliance” falls just short of calling World War II a ‘dustup.'” Oh.) I’ll conclude with this observation from the highly principled intellectual giant:

Lying under oath strikes at the heart of our system of justice and the rule of law. It does not matter in the least what the perjury is about.

Unless Republicans do it, of course.

Place Your Bets!

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

In the wake of the sad, sad news that Alberto Gonzales will be resigning, inevitably the speculation will begin about what appalling choice Bush will put forward, secure in the knowledge that several Democratic Senators can be counted to abdicate their responsibilities. The odds are as follows:

  • Michael Chertoff: 5-1.
  • Michael Brown: 4-1.
  • Hugh Hewitt: 10-1.
  • Robert H. Bork: 8-1. (HT: MJD.)
  • Charles Colson: 15-1.
  • Oliver North: 12-1.
  • Vote Fraud Fraud pioneer Jeff Sessions: 7-1.
  • Paul Wolfowitz: 8-1.
  • Scooter Libby: 10-1.
  • John Yoo: 3-1.
  • The mummified corpse of Augusto Pinochet: 2-1.

Over/under for Democratic votes on all candidates starts at 5…

…my most glaring omissions so far: Ken Starr, Ed Meese, and Rick Santorum.

Surrender, Surrender, And Give The Constitution Away

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

On a more substantive note, I think this scenario is all too plausible:

…my best guess is that Bush will go out of his way to pick somebody fairly controversial — someone whose confirmation liberals will find outrageous — and then start loudly and immediately declaring that each hour’s delay in confirming his nominee is putting thousands of lives at risk. The hope would be to generate one of these situations where all the Republicans plus maybe a dozen Democrats vote to confirm, and then progressives spend the next month arguing with themselves over it, and even the Democrats who reliable agree to surrender on anything terror-related get criticized in fall ’08 for being soft on terror.

Moreover, I’m not sure why Bush wouldn’t try to do that. Tom Tomorrow’s parable is relevant here.

Underestimating Our Ability To Combine Wankery With Gambling

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

These kids today. Why, when I was a boy walking five miles uphill each way in a raging blizzard to school where I could try word processing on a Packard Bell, we had hockey pools that used nothing but total points! Not that I don’t enjoy formats that take advantage of modern technological advances in the field of onanism, but really there’s no law saying you have to use a complex scoring system.

It Was You, Fredo

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

A few thoughts on the at-long-last end of a rags-to-fascism success story:

  • One of the few contrarian arguments ever to turn out to be right was Yglesias’s qualified defense of John Ashcroft. The Bush administration has not only pursued poor-to-catastrophic policy outcomes, but is also frequently unable and/or unwilling to carry out the basic functions of government, adhere to the law, etc. Ashcroft was, at least, competent and unwilling to push the Bush administration’s lawlessness past a certain point. Gonzales failed utterly on all counts. And whether or not he was personally more moderate than Ashcroft, it certainly didn’t discernibly affect the policy agenda of his office. All that matters is whether you’re willing to carry out the administration’s dirtiest work, and he certainly was. Maybe this is the best way of summarizing Gonzales: he’s the man who could make you miss John Ashcroft.
  • Evidently, Gonzales’s reign will be be most remembered by his further facilitating Yoo-generated theories of arbitrary executive power and his dissembling before Congress. But firing otherwise well-evaluated U.S. Attorneys because of their unwillingness to pursue bullshit “vote fraud” cases or for actually believing that Republicans should be subject for the law is also a definitive example of modern Republican governance.
  • Even more scary: the GOP base considered Gonzales too moderate to be appointed to the Supreme Court, largely because he was willing to construe a law permitting minors to obtain judicial bypasses as actually permitting judicial bypasses to be issued, a conservative no-no. So he did get more lawless as time progressed. On another Republican-statist note, the one positive thing I can say about Michael Chertoff is that he’s mildly more civil libertarian than Bush’s most recent lifetime Supreme Court appointment. I’m pretty confident that his old-fashioned belief that the police actually need valid warrants before strip-searching people in their own homes will be abandoned if he’s willing to take the AG’s position, though.
  • I’ll give the final word to Jack Balkin: “As for Mr. Gonzales, he was a disgrace to the office. There are many roles he could have competently filled– and did fill– in his career. The Nation’s chief law enforcement officer was not one of them. He abused his office for political gain, repeatedly misled Congress under oath –and probably out and out lied on more than one occasion– and turned a once proud institution of government into an object of deep suspicion.”

[Also at TAPPED.]

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