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Going Out In A Blaze of Union-Busting

[ 4 ] November 14, 2007 |

Brad Plumer has the goods on what the Republican-majority NLRB has been up to and what’s coming out with its term set to expire.

Meanwhile, Kung-Fu Monkey takes on some of the more specious arguments aimed against the striking writers.

1880’s Wingnuttery Today

[ 5 ] November 14, 2007 |

Idaho Republicans try to use public policy not only to trap women in marriages they want out of but to encourage them to stay at home where they belong. Which is indeed in character with their refusal to regulate day care because, of course, quality day care might provide a disincentive against women staying barefoot and pregnant! Ugh.

Sentencing on Crack

[ 3 ] November 13, 2007 |

As a number of bloggers have noted, the U.S. Sentencing Commission will be hearing testimony today about whether their new guidelines reducing the gross and arbitrary disparity between sentences for crack and powdered cocaine should be applied retroactively. Sentencing Law and Policy points to this WaPO story, noting that upwards of 90% of those affected by the change would be black, while only 6% are white. Hopefully the Commission will act to address this injustice for those who have already been affected. Jeralyn Merritt concludes with this argument:

Reducing the crack penalties is just the beginning. A renewed fight to get Congress to change mandatory minimum sentences based on drug quantity alone must come next. Perhaps with the internet’s ability to spread the word, it will come, before all those serving life sentences die in prison of old age and can still benefit from it.

Evidently, the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs — expensive, ineffective, and where civil liberties go to die — is in need of serious reform. One thing I’ve wondered is how politically damaging opposing at least its most draconian aspects would be at this point. Hopefully some popular incumbents with a conscience will allow us to find out sooner rather than later, although there’s a very long way to go. It’s very important, however, for drug laws to be applied more equitably if headway in reforming them is going to be viable.

Herbert v. Bobo

[ 0 ] November 13, 2007 |

Following up on the fine post of his colleague, Bob Herbert tees off (implicitly) on David Brooks’s attempts to whitewash Reagan’s awful record on civil rights and use of rhetorical code to appeal to the white supremacists whose votes were crucial to the post-CRA partisan realignment:

Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable. Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context.

That won’t wash. Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Congress overrode the veto.

Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.

Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record.

Indeed. Similarly, I’m sure it’s an amazing coinky-dink that the lone dissenter in Bob Jones v. United States thought as a Supreme Court clerk that “Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be re-affirmed,” served as a polling booth goon, opposed civil rights at the federal, state, and local level, etc.

…and this, of course, is also a critical point.

Big Al

[ 0 ] November 13, 2007 |

It’s appropriate that Al MacInnis is being inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same day as Mark Messier; as a contemporary of Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios, he was always destined to be overshadowed. But he’s always been a personal favorite, not just because he was the greatest player on the Only Championship Team I Will Ever Root For but because he was a neighbor for a bit; I used to see his wife jog by all the time. My jersey is still a MacInnis #2; I suppose I need to update it, but I’ve never been compelled to.

Since bean will kill me otherwise, I’ll also reluctantly acknowledge that magnificent bastard Messier. And of course the formidable Scott Stevens; that’s an amazing crop.

I Told You What?

[ 1 ] November 12, 2007 |

Matt provides some useful quotes taking on Paul Berman’s attempt to claim that he was contemporaneously against the Iraq War. Perhaps even more instructive is this one from another post in the Slate symposium. After conceding that mistakes were made by the leaders of the war, he turns to another enemy:

But some of the blame falls as well on the anti-Bush naifs who pretend not to hear when anyone speaks about the larger reasons and goals—the people who pretend that WMD and non-existent conspiracies were the only reasons for war and pretend that the only serious goals were the arrests of a couple of men, or the achieving of a magical utopia tomorrow, and pretend that if war has still not ended, we have gotten nowhere at all. It’s all too true that better leaders could have made better plans, and the French and the Germans and the United Nations could help even now, if only they would. But it ought not to be so hard to see that, even so, the prospects of the totalitarian movement are looking a lot less healthy today than they did on Sept. 10, 2001 and the prospects of Muslim liberalism are looking up, somewhat.

So if I understand the argument here, Berman is saying that 1)the war has, on balance, been a good thing (the prospects of the totalitarian movement are looking a lot less healthy), 2)the administration did in some measure support Berman’s strategic goals and anti-war liberals simply refuse to acknowledge this, and 3)to the extent that the war, while still good, has been less good than expected the fault lies largely with liberals who, unlike Berman, fail to see the value in the war. (As is often the case with Berman’s arguments about Iraq, the causal chain here seems to be missing a few links; if more liberals had foolishly supported the Iraq war or at least attributed better motives to the Bush administration, this would have done what exactly to facilitate a stable liberal democracy in Iraq?) And then there’s concluding sentence: “In Iraq as in Afghanistan, a liberal war is going on—liberal in the philosophical sense, meaning liberty.” If Berman was opposed to the war and thought it was going badly, this argument is…strange. Either Berman supported the war, or for a brief period in 2004 repudiated liberal interventionism.

The other thing to say is that I think it’s entirely possible that many members of the Bush administration did in some measure share Berman’s conviction that stateless Islamic terrorists, different Islamic dictatorships, and secular dictatorships were all part of a common “Islamic totalitarianism” that posed an existential threat comparable to the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Since this underlying theory is both transparently erroneous and neither here nor there in terms of the Bush administration’s ability to create a liberal state ex nihilo in Iraq, I don’t find this terribly comforting.

Eisenhower and Race

[ 26 ] November 12, 2007 |

Matt says he’s reading this book defending Eisenhower’s record on race. I haven’t read it, so maybe it makes the case. But I would be skeptical on several fronts that the book would need to be overcome:

  • I think there is, in fact, good reason to believe that Eisenhower’s appointment of Warren was not a result of a steadfast commitment to civil rights. Eisenhower, after all, promised Governor Warren an appointment after he agreed to deliver California’s delegates to him at the convention, and the fact that he was made Chief was just a fluke created by Fred Vinson’s sudden death (the first indication Felix Frankfurter ever had that there is a God); I think the patronage factor was more important. And while Warren was certainly a liberal Republican, I’m not sure that there was a strong basis for believing in 1952 that a prime author of the internment of Japanese citizens was especially progressive on race in particular. The appointment of Brennan, similarly, was almost certainly about appealing to the Catholic vote. To see these appointments as being about Eisenhower’s commitment to civil rights is to project the currents ways in which presidents select Supreme Court justices onto a previous era.
  • Although I accept the limitations of rhetoric in re: a comparison with JFK’s all-hat-no-cattle approach to civil rights, Eisenhower hanging the Supreme Court out to dry after Brown actually matters. Rhetoric is, after all, part of a president’s job. Nor, as far as I can tell, was his lukewarm-at-best reaction to desegregation inconsistent with his privately expressed thoughts on the matter. The fact that he informed Warren that southerners were not bad people, just concerned lest their “sweet little girls be seated alongside some big black bucks” also makes me question his staunch commitment to civil rights, and Nichols seems to concede that he wasn’t especially progressive in his personal views. (The “black bucks” phrasing is also relevant to Reagan’s rhetoric on the subject.)
  • The favorable comparison with Truman seems especially strange. Given that Truman actually desegregated the armed forces while Eisenhower testified against integration in Congress, to primarily credit the latter strikes me as bizarre. Under Truman, the federal government also started aggressively favoring civil rights in the federal courts by filing amicus briefs.
  • It is true, as Nichols repeated in his NYT op-ed, that LBJ watered down civil rights legislation in 1957 (and given that it was that or nothing, he was right to do so.) On the other hand, as Robert Caro points out (pp.918-9) Ike was himself unfamiliar with key provisions of his own bill, and in private correspondence said that some of its provisions were “too broad” (while reiterating his skepticism about Brown and his lack of objections to the glacial pace of desegregation.) In fairness, I am willing to believe that, like a lot of moderates, Eisenhower became more sympathetic to civil rights after Little Rock.
  • In the description, it says that Nichols “attributes Lyndon Johnson’s actions to his presidential ambitions.” This may be true, but it is also entirely irrelevant to anything. If were evaluating presidents on their records — as Nichols would like — LBJ’s is so vastly better than Ike’s that the comparison is ridiculous. Whatever motivated him — and it’s clearly silly to reduce it to any one factor — LBJ did more for civil rights than every other president of the century combined while Ike’s record was highly unimpressive.

None of this is to say that Eisenhower was especially bad for a public official of his era; he was more of a squish than an active opponent of civil rights. But it’s also true that on the crucial question of Brown, Ike hid under the covers and whimpered until violent resistance forced his hand. And while I might agree that he and JFK differed more on rhetoric than results — although I think the rhetoric is more important than he allows — to favorably compare Eisenhower with Johnson on civil rights borders on the obscene.

The Impossible Dream

[ 3 ] November 12, 2007 |

Billionaires for Bush mounts a search for the mythical family farmer affected by the estate tax. If you can find one — and a pony — you’ll get a free gift bag, so you lucky duckies should hop to it.

I’m also glad that they reminded us about Giuliani canceling a press conference because the family wasn’t wealthy enough to be a Potemkin front for the upper-upper class tax cut he was advocating…

I Guess Noon’s State Has Something Going For It

[ 0 ] November 12, 2007 |

Alaska court throws out law requiring parental consent — not notification, which is useless enough, but consent — to obtain an abortion. [Via Ann.]

More Relevant Than Ever

[ 0 ] November 11, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Warm Personality of Bill Belichick, The Mad Skillz of Norv Turner

In light of the failure of even scheduling two service academies to put a mild veneer of respectability on this marvelous Notre Dame season, I would strongly recommend picking up this highly prescient book, which I saw advertised on ESPN and I’m sure is just as persuasive as when it was published. I’m disappointed that Amazon isn’t packaging it with Bush Country, however…

"All over the ship, all through the convoy, there was a knowledge that in a few hours some of them were going to be dead."

[ 12 ] November 10, 2007 |

Norman Mailer, R.I.P.

Between his misogyny and authenticity-obsessed nutty politics — whatever one thinks of the aesthetic quality of the work, I would avoid a first date with a guy who wants to meet you by leaving a note in An American Dream — Mailer was an anachronism. But he was also an anachronism whose best work — especially Miami and the Siege of Chicago and Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song — I’ve been drawn back to recently and holds up surprisingly well. I’m sure this will compel me to pull The Time of Our Times off the shelf and see how often I can be pleasantly surprised as well as infuriated or baffled.

The Lodi Lieberman

[ 50 ] November 10, 2007 |

Dianne Fienstein (Senator Desperately In Need Of A Primary Challenge-CA) supports immunizing companies who acted illegally by violating the privacy of their customers. It would be holding companies “hostage” to punish them for illegal activity, since state actors were also involved! Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo! For reasons I can’t understand, the fact that litigation would be “costly” — and hence deter future illegal behavior and violations of customer privacy — is supposed to be a bug, not a feature. The classic coservertarian bait-and-switch.

With Lieberman out, it’s becoming overwhelmingly clear that with the appropriate regional adjustments Fienstein is the worst Democrat in the Senate. Can we at least get her booted off the Judiciary Committee?

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