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Trainwreck Media Never Deserved Him Anyway

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

Sadly. Max Sawicky is stepping down. But you have one more chance to look at the classic Vicious Instapundit Blogroll Contest.

"I’ll Take Your Money, But I’m Not Going to Respect Your Due Process."

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

A classic tale from the War (on Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs:

Anastasio Prieto of El Paso gave a state police officer at the weigh station permission to search the truck to see if it contained “needles or cash in excess of $10,000,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit Thursday.

Prieto told the officer he didn’t have any needles but did have $23,700.

Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.

Border Patrol agents searched his truck with drug-sniffing dogs, but found no evidence of illegal substances, the ACLU said.


DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he’d have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.

They told him the process probably would take a year, the ACLU said.

The ACLU’s New Mexico executive director, Peter Simonson, said Prieto needs his money now to pay bills and maintain his truck. The lawsuit said Prieto does not like banks and customarily carries his savings as cash.

“The government took Mr. Prieto’s money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night,” Simonson said. “In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator.”

Nice little theft-by-tautology racket the DEA has going there: cash is the basis for the search, and then you can confiscate the cash even if there’s no other evidence of a crime, and the burden of proof reverts to the person whose cash was seized despite said lack of corroborating evidence. At least in the landmark case Reed v. Big Old Cop before the cop said he’d “keep all that money for evidence” they actually saw them shooting craps…

[via Mona.]

Wankers Unity ’08!

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

You’ll be shocked to know that David Broder is thrilled about the prospect of a ticket that represents “post-partisan leadership” composed of two moderate Republicans (OK, one is not technically a Republican anymore.) As Benen says, “The column reads like a daydream of a writer who believes a liberal independent and a very conservative Republican will join forces, solve all of our problems, and ‘get something done.’ Get what done? It doesn’t matter; it’ll be something.” But taking explicit policy positions is so vulgar!

On a related note, I saw about 20 minutes of the even-more-atrocious-than-you-would-expect Robin Williams vehicle Man of the Year on HBO recently. The comedian was running on an exciting platform: he would transcend partisanship, you see, by denouncing “special interests” and explicitly supporting “getting something done” about education and the environment. Broder must consider that the greatest film made since Capra died. (And for a talented director, boy has Barry Levinson directed some crappy films.)

If Only We Could Get Brookings To Take Over the Twins

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

I really don’t understand why Matt won’t take the Pentagon’s secret evidence at face value; would they really lie to use about such matters?

In related news, on a superficial, fuzzy-math, pre-9/11 way it may look like the incomparable Horacio Ramirez has been torched for 67 runs and a .400 OBP in a great pitchers park while striking out only 32 batters in 80 innings. But Bill Bavasi, who if you use such unsophisticated figures might look like the biggest dumbass in the known universe for trading a talented reliever for the privilege of paying this lemon $2.65 million, after my tour of the executive boxes at Safeco Field has shown me top-secret data complied by his assistant Micken O’Pollahan demonstrating that Ramirez is in reality having a year that makes Sandy Koufax look like Jose Lima‘s sickly little brother. I assume that Terry Ryan is smart enough to use the real, top-secret numbers, and will be trading Johan Santana and Justin Morneau to acquire him before the deadline. The Twinkies could be contenders yet!

Why Is John Galt?

[ 0 ] August 25, 2007 |

Apparently NYC development officials had warning that the John Galt corporation was not an ideal choice to demolish the Deutsche Bank building, but went ahead and did it anyway. This was also in violation of the general principle that “giving important municipal contracts to shell corporations named after Ayn Rand characters is a bad idea.”

Speaking of which, don’t forget to register for the conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, with a lunchtime keynote by Mr. Charles Murray!

Yoosta-Bee Sunk Costs

[ 0 ] August 25, 2007 |

It’s a generalization, and therefore subject to exceptions and qualifications, but this seems basically right:

If we discount the out-and-out hacks, my entirely unscientific impression that apparently smart1 pro-war bloggers who were/are genuinely right wing have been much more likely than apparently smart pro-war bloggers who were (or who claim to have been) left of center to accept that they were wrong and that their former comrades appear to be increasingly deranged.

Especially if you fold the Reynolds/Althouse “right-wingers who refuse to admit that they’re (at least now) right-wingers” into the mix, this seems right. Some initially pro-war liberals bailed either just before or soon after the shooting began — Yglesias, JMM, Drum — but otherwise among the “liberal hawks” or “decents” there have been very few conversions against the war comparable to actual conservatives like Cole, Sullivan, Bainbridge, etc. (Did Drezner support the war initially? I don’t remember and don’t have time to check.)

Another exhibit of both strands of the premise: Greg Djerejian on O’Pollahan.

Undermining The Electoral College

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

I’ll have a longer piece about the general subject coming up next week, but in the meantime Brian Beutler notes an interesting proposal by California Dems. In response to the California GOP’s “21st century democracy for thee but not for me” initiative, the Democrats have a proposal that would award the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Given current circumstances, it’s not a terrible idea; it would still be unilateral disarmament, but at least the it would matter much less frequently, and would have a better chance of being balanced by a couple other states. I still probably wouldn’t support it, but as a way of undermining the electoral college through initiative (assuming that Article II is read so as to permit this at all) it’s probably the best one can do, at least without a trigger requiring other states to come on board before it goes into effect.

Man-Child With A Mustache

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

The Editors replay some of Tom Friedman’s greatest hits. Although being op-eds in an otherwise respectable paper the sentiments are at least not expressed entirely in 80’s action movie chiches, “suck on this” captures the puerility of the “thoughts” much better. It’s particularly amazing that Friedman, having supported a war that he concedes was fought “because America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world,” reacted to the inevitable resulting chaos by claiming that Iraq may be “beyond transformation” because they “hate others more than they love their own children.” Democracy, you see, isn’t something that emerges from an exceptionally complex series of social, cultural, and economic, and institutional factors, but it something you choose like a new brand of soap. If razing a state in a country (not to produce a democracy or even for security reasons, mind you, but because the thought of invading an Arab country selected almost at random in retaliation for an attack by people who had nothing to do with the country in question gave people like Tom Friedman a boner) riven by ethnic conflict and without the institutions of civil society that characterize democratic states doesn’t immediately produce a stable, democratic state, why, it’s just that those Iraqis are beyond help!

What can one even say at this point?

The Politics of Abjection

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

As a response to Clinton’s claim that we should respond to the fact that catastrophic Republican policy failure will be seen in many quarters and advantage for Republicans by accepting this as inevitable, I think this is 100% right:

Two points in response. The first is that I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn’t reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.

The other is that I think there’s a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush’s Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush’s national security policy should be blamed on Bush’s failed policies. Obama has a straight shot (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said”) and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect”) whereas I’m not 100 percent sure what the Clinton message would be. Most of all, though, I think the politics of national security call for a strong, self-confident posture that genuinely believes liberal solutions are politically saleable and substantively workable, not the kind of worry-wort attitude that says we need to cower in fear every time Republicans say “terror.”

Clinton is correct in the sense that the idea that everything is good for Republicans will get a more respectful hearing than it deserves. But it also seems obvious that the only way to counter that is for major Democrats to challenge the narrative rather than accept it as a fact of life. Which is another reason why Clinton’s front-runner status is regrettable.

Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum

[ 0 ] August 24, 2007 |

Brad Plumer has the details on mountaintop-removal mining and the Bush administration’s inevitable but still-appalling attempts to ensure more of it with toothless legal restraints. Garance fills us in on both the Democratic reaction and on civilian activism.

On the "Cancer Survival Rate" Factoid

[ 1 ] August 24, 2007 |

Ezra assesses the meaning of the fact that the United States ranks #1 in cancer survival rates, which seems likely to be adduced frequently by apologists for the indefensible American health care system:

Moreover, simply having the highest survival rates isn’t a particularly useful metric of whether we’re getting good value for our money. Our 5-year cancer survival rate, according to the study Andrew links, is 62.9%. Italy’s is 59%. Italy spends about $2,532 per person. America spends about $6,100. And these numbers, incidentally, are adjusted for purchasing power parity. Then there’s the question of who our treatment is best for. Not the poor. Studies show significantly lower mortality rates for the low-income cancer patients in Canada than in the US. Is this all a good deal? Maybe. But Sullivan should explain why we should believe that.

At the end of the day, the question is never American health care: Good or bad. It’s whether it can be better. It’s whether we get good value for our dollar. It would be absurd if a system that spends twice what anyone else does didn’t demonstrate superiority in some areas. The question is why so few, and why by such minor margins (a percent or two, in this case). It baffles me — genuinely baffles me — that conservatives seem so intent on defending an obviously bad deal.

Let’s be frank: conservertarians are as unlikely to do a cost/benefit analysis of American health care as they were with the Iraq War.

Can Stats Be Contrarian?

[ 0 ] August 23, 2007 |

Most of the rest of the top 10 make sense — it it figures to be razor-thin — but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have gotten the current NL leader win shares with 50 guesses. And I don’t think careful analysis would leave him has one of the top 5, but I will note that other methods seem to largely corroborate the eye-popping defensive stats that put him over the top.

I’m also pleased that not only is Magglio slightly ahead of Slappy in the AL race, but Ichiro! is even with him. If this holds up, I’ll have some empirical justification for my inevitable results-oriented justification for putting Slappy 3rd on my BP ballot…

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