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The Schumer Rule

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

I don’t think that it will be relevant, as Chief Justice Roberts’s seizure thankfully doesn’t seem serious, but I wonder if LB is right to worry that the Senate would have trouble stalling his appointment would be problematic. Schumer has announced, I think, that they won’t confirm another SC justice under Bush, and I have no doubt that this would hold even if Ginsburg or Stevens retired tomorrow — when you control the judiciary committee there are a lot of ways to bottle up appointments. Replacing a conservative justice, however, would make the political dynamic a lot trickier. I would hope that they would wait it out, but who knows.

Fool Me Two Dozen Times….

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

As a follow-up to Rob, I think we need, once again, to return to dsquared’s one minute MBA:

Fibbers’ forecasts are worthless. Case after miserable case after bloody case we went through, I tell you, all of which had this moral. Not only that people who want a project will tend to make innacurate projections about the possible outcomes of that project, but about the futility of attempts to “shade” downward a fundamentally dishonest set of predictions. If you have doubts about the integrity of a forecaster, you can’t use their forecasts at all. Not even as a “starting point”. By the way, I would just love to get hold of a few of the quantitative numbers from documents prepared to support the war and give them a quick run through Benford’s Law.

Application to Iraq This was how I decided that it was worth staking a bit of credibility on the strong claim that absolutely no material WMD capacity would be found, rather than “some” or “some but not enough to justify a war” or even “some derisory but not immaterial capacity, like a few mobile biological weapons labs”. My reasoning was that Powell, Bush, Straw, etc, were clearly making false claims and therefore ought to be discounted completely, and that there were actually very few people who knew a bit about Iraq but were not fatally compromised in this manner who were making the WMD claim. Meanwhile, there were people like Scott Ritter and Andrew Wilkie who, whatever other faults they might or might not have had, did not appear to have told any provable lies on this subject and were therefore not compromised.


The raspberry road that led to Abu Ghraib was paved with bland assumptions that people who had repeatedly proved their untrustworthiness, could be trusted. There is much made by people who long for the days of their fourth form debating society about the fallacy of “argumentum ad hominem”. There is, as I have mentioned in the past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of “giving known liars the benefit of the doubt”, but it is in my view a much greater source of avoidable error in the world. Audit is meant to protect us from this, which is why audit is so important.

I’m also concede willing to concede that a couple of the very narrow claims Matt made aren’t terribly germane. But the overall point certainly holds. The only potential value from the O’Pollahan op-ed are claims made about the situation on the ground in Iraq. To take them seriously we would have to trust the ability of the people making the arguments to think critically about the propaganda they’re being fed, search very assiduously for disconfirming information, etc. Given that O’Pollahan have 1)a remarkably extensive history of atrocious misjudgments about the situation in Iraq and the competence of the Bush administration and 2)have an obvious stake in defending the disastrous war their reputations were staked on, that their claims about “on the ground” improvements cannot be trusted is the least that can be said. The fact that the claims they make that can be assessed with publicly available data continue to have a strong tendency to be tendentious or false makes this even more clear. It may not be true as a matter of formal logic that it is impossible for them to be right, but I think you’d be smarter to put your money in Baltimore Orioles 2007 World Series futures.

In related news, Thers makes a wish: “You know what I want? The 3-Card-Monty concession outside the Washington Post editorial board room.” I think the bidding for that starts at $500,000….

"Thank God"

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

Dave Neiwert has a good summary of Bill O’Reilly’s hatemongering, but leaves out my favorite example:

O’REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I’m Bill O’Reilly.

In THE FACTOR “Follow-Up” Segment tonight, we’ve been following the various demographic shifts throughout America, and now the Census Bureau estimates, by the year 2050, white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the population. How will that change the USA?

Joining us now from Washington is Dr. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Here in the studio, John McManus, the editor in chief of “American Demographics” magazine.

So I guess this is being driven by Hispanics, right, with all the illegal immigration, millions of people coming in here and the higher birth rate among Hispanics in America. That’s what’s driving this?

JOHN MCMANUS, “AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS”: The Hispanic population is the greatest increase that we’ll see over the time period that we’re talking about. Illegal immigration is a portion of the story, but it’s the increase in — rapid increase in immigration and birth rate in people of Hispanic origin that we’ll see.

O’REILLY: All right. Because black birth rate is fairly stable, right?

MCMANUS: Proportionately, black birth rate and increases in their population will level out and be less significant in growth in that time period. I think Bill will be able to address the numbers better than I can, but…

O’REILLY: OK. And how about Asian? What’s the situation with that?

MCMANUS: Asian — we’re going to see a 213 percent increase, according to the Census Bureau projection, and so that will be a very rapid increase of the percentage of their population in the U.S. as well.

O’REILLY: All right. Now, Doctor, the Census Bureau really doesn’t tell us how this is going to affect the country. Do you have any theories on it?

WILLIAM FREY, PH.D., BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I really think what’s happening is going to be this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population. It is a 50-year time period we’re talking about…

O’REILLY: Yes. We’ll all be dead. Thank God, right?

Better dead than non-majority-white, apparently…

Fame Don’t Take Away The Pain, It Just Pays The Bills

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

As a couple commenters noted, apparently I was on the teevee earlier today:

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While Lazurus. IIRC, gave me a welcome but probably not formally binding promotion to associate, C-SPAN got the rank right but the discipline wrong.

More on the Impossibiity of "De-Politicizing" Reproductive Freedom

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

Dana has an excellent post responding to claims that progressives should “de-politicize” issues of reproductive justice, noting that the main problem with this is that it’s impossible. We’ve already been through this with respect to the Iraq War, but you can’t “de-politicize” an issue that is a)salient, and b)on which substantial groups of people have fundamentally incommensurable views. And this is true not only with respect to abortion but with other reproductive issues. Despite the endless attempts of the Will Saletans of the world to believe that if we just stop talking about abortion (natch, by endorsing his anti-Roe views entirely and calling it a “consensus”) we can reach agreement on other issues. But we won’t be able to reach a consensus about lowering abortion rates by increasing access to birth control and rational sex-ed because in general the American forced pregnancy lobby is opposed to these policies. You can’t “de-politicize” an issue on which people disagree all the way down to first premises.

And this idea that a magic compromise is just waiting out there on these issues should be particularly untenable in the wake of Carhart II. The only thing that can be said for the idiotic “partial birth” bans is that, because the don’t even arguably protect fetal life, they force people like Kennedy to fully reveal the fundamentally sexist underpinnings of the movement to regulate abortion; without the anachronistic assumptions about women’s inferior decision-making capacities the legislation has no rational justification at all. Debates about abortion aren’t just about abortion, but involve very deep divisions about the role of women in society and the desirability of regulating female sexuality, and these irreconcilable differences structure debates about not only abortion but all reproductive issues. To think that we can make them go away is dreaming in Technicolor.

Don’t Look At Us, We Didn’t Do It!

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

This gets it right in re: GOP attempts to pretend, now that he’s become indefensible, that the rot in the executive branch begins and ends with Alberto Gonzales:

Presumably, the idea here is that we’re supposed to believe that Republicans are shocked, shocked to find out that there’s perjury happening in this attorney-general’s office. Just as the fact that George W. Bush is a horrible president is supposed to be no reflection on conservatism, we, too, are supposed to believe that the fact that the Republican Party, with the complete and utter backing of every significant conservative institution in the country, fought tooth and nail, day after day, week after week, month after month to ensure that there was absolutely no oversight of the executive branch whatsoever is just totally unrelated to Gonzalez’ unraveling.

Another classic recent example of this comes from Roger L. “Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick” Simon. How do Yoosta-Bees square the Bush administration’s alleged commitment to democracy, whiskey and sexy (well, there are some pretty serious problems with that last one too) with its decision to sell $20 billion worth of arms to the most repressive and illberal autocracy in the region? Easy: Blame the whole thing exclusively on Condi Rice! Does Simon seriously think that major middle eastern foreign policy can go ahead without, at an absolute minimum, the approval of Cheney and Bush? What’s scary is that Simon’s writing betrays so little knowledge of how government works that he may well believe that. The New Media at work!

When The Obvious Needs Restating

[ 0 ] July 30, 2007 |

Oh, and to add to what Matt says here one interesting thing about the panel is that Rosen immediately conceded that while the quality of legal craftsmanship may be normatively important it has no impact on the public’s perception of the courts. This is empirically demonstrable — see Terri Peretti, for example — and it’s also common sense. Given that almost nobody without a professional obligation to do so reads judicial opinions, it’s highly implausible to claim there will be a public backlash to the courts if their reasoning isn’t good enough.

It’s also worth noting that while the public supports the ruling upholding the idiotic “partial birth” legislation, it supports it by less of a margin that it supports the legislation in the first instance, which is precisely the opposite of what the backlash theory would predict.


[ 0 ] July 29, 2007 |

The conference was really good; I strongly recommend it if you’re interested in such things. I was on a panel about anti-judicial backlash with the Reva Seigel, Robert Post, Roger Wilkins and Jeff Rosen, moderated by Edward “Closed Chambers” Lazurus. Although frequently timorous in social contexts I’ve rarely been at all nervous about public speaking, but given the shockingly large crowd (at academic conferences, I’m used to more like 5 audience members, and which as you can see was certainly not because of my presence!) and the high-wattage co-panelists it was a humbling experience, but I think a productive one. It was also filmed for C-SPAN, so it will probably be shown on a weekend late night so that the alcoholics, angry loners, and/or unemployables in our audience will be able to judge for themselves.

I will have more later, but the most important thing to note is that the Post-Seigel paper on backlash in available online. It’s brilliant, rich stuff. Two points worthy of emphasis: 1)in addition to the many empirical problems with the judicial backlash claims, it’s not clear why conflict avoidance should be such a high priority, and 2)claims made by people like Falwell about having been changed immediately by Roe tend to be retrospective projection, not supported by contemporaneous evidence. (The second point was also made recently by Michelle Goldberg.)

Civilized Discourse

[ 0 ] July 29, 2007 |

Intriguing results from an empirical study of Crooked Timber. See, this is why they’ve never invited any of us; those meanness stats would go through the roof the next time Althouse posted about the moderate pro-feminist views of Sam Alito…

The spectacles and pagaentry/The thousand things you’ve got to see

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

I am in Washington D.C. this weekend for the American Constitution Society conference, so blogging from me will be sporadic for a couple days. However, for your reading pleasure I have a new TAP article arguing that, in spite of predictions from various quarters that John Roberts would be the harbringer of the “Unity ’08!” Court, last term’s highly divided Court illustrates the vastly more likely scenario.

The Story On Louise

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

A flashback from GFR about the NYT reporter who implied that Foer had some doubts about whether “Scott Thomas” was a soldier: apparently she was responsible for one of those “based on some highly dubious random anecdotes I will assert that women now want to be housewives” stories.

A Personal Defense

[ 0 ] July 26, 2007 |

Scott Thomas issues a defense of his TNR Diary. The fact that he’s willing to open himself up to the inevitable wingnut smear jobs does give me more confidence in the veracity of his accounts.

…and the smears begin.

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