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What Surge?

[ 1 ] December 19, 2007 |

This phenomenon was also evident in yesterday’s NYT article about McCain. One searches the article in vain for evidence that voters — as opposed the elite editorial writers with an extensive history of swooning for the Straight Talk Express — are showing more support for McCain. The same thing goes for talk about a Fred Thompson surge in Iowa; if it starts actually reaching voters, then let me know.


Today in Right-Wing Trolling

[ 9 ] December 19, 2007 |

Everyone who reads blogs knows that no discussion of contemporary GOP racism will take place without some idiot mentioning that Robert Byrd was a member of the Klan during the Roosevelt administration. To pre-empt this response. Yglesias makes the obvious point about why the Byrd analogy fails as a defense of Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond’s white supremacy and Gordon Smith’s defense of Lott: the analogy would only hold if someone not only attended a birthday party for Robert Byrd but specifically cited his membership in the Klan and his filibusterting the Civil Rights Act as things to be proud of. In response, some trollbot dutifully intones: “And yet you ignore former KKK member Robert Byrd.” My favorite Robert Byrd tu quoque ever!

In addition, this is a crucial bottom-line point: “Meanwhile, with regard to both Lott and now to Smith, it should be said that indifference to racism is, when taken to these levels, itself a form of racism. Nobody who took the interests or attitudes of black people seriously would be saying this stuff.” Yes, Oregon can do a great deal better than a Senator who thinks it’s horribly unfair to criticize someone for praising a single-issue white supremacist campaign and saying that its victory would have been good for the country in 2002.

Shallow Misogynist of the Day

[ 4 ] December 19, 2007 |


And The Thigh-Rubbing Begins

[ 18 ] December 19, 2007 |

Good question:

If Mickey Kaus wants to use Slate — a professional, well-regarded political “magazine” — to parrot the National Enquirer’s “story” on John Edwards, shouldn’t Slate fire him if this story turns out to be wrong? I mean, if a reporter from Kaus’s hated NYT ran with something like this, he or she would certainly be risking their career on it. Seems like what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Of course, if this were the standard, Kaus’s services would have ceased to be required many years ago.

Powers Don’t Have To Be Used

[ 19 ] December 18, 2007 |

There are a couple frustrating elements to Zev Chafets’s profile of Mike Huckabee. For example, he completely botches the discussion of the DuMond pardon, disappearing the lunatic anti-conspiracy angle that is what makes the pardon so problematic. But this is also odd:

Huckabee’s answer to his opponents on the fiscal right has been his Fair Tax proposal. The idea calls for abolishing the I.R.S. and all current federal taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and corporate and personal income taxes, and replacing them with an across-the-board 23 percent consumption tax.

Governor Huckabee promises that this plan would be ‘‘like waving a magic wand, releasing us from pain and unfairness.’’ Some reputable economists think the scheme is practicable. Many others regard it as fanciful. (For starters, it would require repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.) In any case, the Fair Tax proposal is based on extremely complex projections.

First of all, we have the classic “opinions on shape of earth differ” formulation; I’d very much like to get the names of some of the “reputable economists” who think that a 30%+ national sales tax plan is “practicable.” And while this isn’t terribly important, the claim about the Sixteenth Amendment is bizarre. Here’s the amendment in its entirety:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Absolutely nothing in the amendment requires the federal government to raise revenues through an income tax; it merely gave Congress the option to do, overturning a Supreme Court decision that had held otherwise. Huckabee’s plan would be an unworkable catastrophe on several levels, but it would not violate the Constitution. And while it’s trivial in itself the fact that Chafets would make such an obvious mistake doesn’t give me much confidence that he’s in a position to credibly evaluate assessments of Huckabee’s tax plan.

Episodes In Bullet-Dodging

[ 8 ] December 18, 2007 |

Reading about his disgusting ongoing smears of Obama, I can’t say I’m any less broken up about Wanker Caucus President Bob Kerrey deciding to abjure a potential return to the Senate. I understand that politics is a tough business, but it seems to me that the line should be drawn before racist dog-whistle attacks against potential Presidential candidates in your own party.

Obama’s Rhetoric

[ 34 ] December 17, 2007 |

I agree with Matt that 1)it was stupid of Obama’s campaign to pick a fight with Paul Krugman, but 2)Krugman’s point is very misguided. I don’t think that Obama’s rhetoric about transcending old politics tells us much about how he’ll actually govern. Bush in 2000, after all, didn’t campaign as a 50%+1 conservative who would increase party polarization in Congress, but that’s what he did. Obama’s using this kind of rhetoric because 1)it’s effective, and 2)he’s very good at it. What actually matters, however, is the substance of his policies and record, and on that count he’s clearly superior to Clinton (especially on foreign policy), although on domestic policy there’s a strong case to be made for Edwards. I also second Matt’s point about institutional realities; as nice as it would be if we would be inaugurating a Prime Minister in 2009, no major reform can be passed without the votes of some Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Given that she generates more hostility from the GOP (despite being more conservative), it seems very unlikely that Clinton is likely to get more accomplished if she’s elected.

Extras XMas Special/Series Finale

[ 0 ] December 17, 2007 |

A little disappointing. A lot of good stuff, of course, but the narrative arc was way too similar the last episode of Season 2; it might have been better to leave it at that.

Wedding Liveblogging

[ 32 ] December 16, 2007 |

I am here live at the Hyatt Regency in D.C., in full view of the Capitol, and can confirm that Rob and Davida have, in fact, been successfully married. We have photographic evidence. Here is the official breaking of the wine glass:

And here’s the first dance:

This was followed by me — unprecedentedly — cutting the rug for the second time in a few months. Here’s me as the best man escorting the maid of honor:

Shockingly, of the dozens of pictures of me, that was the best one. The maid, however, was lovely.

Wish Rob and Davida luck!

News Flash: Bush Official Facilitates Torture

[ 29 ] December 15, 2007 |

How about that: new, Chuck Schumer-approved Attorney General Michael Mukasey stonewalls an inquiry into the destruction of CIA torture videos. I reiterate these remarks.

This seems like a good time to savor this bit of High Contrarianism from Ben Wittes:

I know what you’re thinking: If they confirm Mukasey without answers, the Democrats will once again be caving and letting the administration escape accountability. But the Democrats actually don’t have to cave here. They just have to wait a few weeks. While Mukasey cannot answer these questions before confirmation, that inability will not persist long once he takes the reins of the Justice Department. Senators can make clear that they will let him take office but will also expect him back before the Judiciary Committee within two months of his accession to address questions of coercive interrogation, that they will expect answers far more straightforward and candid than they got from his predecessor, and that they will demand these answers–to the maximum extent possible–in public session.

The Democrats have a big club to wield over Mukasey’s head to make sure they don’t get snookered: Without a strong working relationship with them, he won’t be able to get anything done. The lack of such a relationship gravely impaired both of his predecessors, albeit for different reasons. And, with only a year to serve in office, Mukasey’s clock will tick loudly from the start.

Yes, the Dems will actually if anything have more leverage over Mukasey once he’s confirmed! Because, er, he won’t be able to “do anything” –like, oh, just for a random example, obstructing a Congressional inquiry into the obstruction of justice surounding state-sanctioned torture — without them. And the Attorney General requires Congressional approval to fulfill most of the office’s functions because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!


[ 0 ] December 14, 2007 |

I see in this excellent Meghan O’Rourke article [via MY] that Katherine Heigl had (correctly) called Knocked Up “a little sexist.” The film makes an interesting contrast with Juno. The more recent film may seem like a classic Overrated Quirky Indie on paper but in practice it’s very, very good. It’s not as funny as Knocked Up — a tough standard– but it’s very funny, and while in the beginning the witty-in-a-very-stylized-manner dialogue is indeed almost as forced as Gilmore Girls it loosens up a little. But another nice twist of the movie — and here’s the contrast with Knocked Up — is that the relationship between the adoptive parents looks like it will be a classic case of a humorless shrewish wife taking all the pleasure out of her husband’s life, but turns out to be a lot more complex and interesting. (In fairness, as O’Rourke points out there’s a little of this in Knocked Up too, but I agree with here that it seems pro forma.) And this is true of the rest of Juno — every time it gets too close to cliche it veers sharply leftward. Even the part of the script that seems the most didactic on paper — Alison Janney’s response to the assistant’s condescension towards her stepdaughter — is something the character would say; she can’t resist condescension either, but is also someone who will fiercely stand up for her loved ones. I suspect that we’re in for a major anti-Juno backlash, but it’s the work of people with real talent. I think Cody will deserve her screenwriting nomination in the end.

NJ To End Pointless Expensive Boondoggle

[ 12 ] December 14, 2007 |

The New Jersey legislature has voted to abolish the death penalty, and Corzine says that he will sign the bill. Good. Some death penalty supporters will undoubtedly mention that a majority of the state’s citizens still support the death penalty, but this is misleading. When residents are asked to choose between the viable alternatives, what the legislature did was in fact consistent with public opinion:

Where there is a discernable shift underway — and what has partly driven the repeal in New Jersey — is when residents are offered an alternative; the death penalty, or life in prison without parole. Given the choice, New Jersey residents backed life without parole over the death penalty, 52 percent to 39 percent.

This abolition is the formalization of existing practice; New Jersey hasn’t executed anybody since 1963. I think it’s worth noting that although the death penalty is often cited as a uniquely American phenomenon among current liberal democracies, it’s really a regional eccentricity; the vast majority of executions since 1976 have taken place in 5 states, and many states that keep it on the books rarely use it. Unusually harsh sentences for nonviolent offenses, conversely, are a truly national phenomenon.

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