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No, I Do Not Want to Buy a Stupid Snorg Tee

[ 0 ] August 22, 2008 |

Yes, your models are quite attractive, and yes, the t-shirts can be mildly funny. But after enduring advertisements for Snorg tees under the top post of most of the major blogs I read, all over the Onion, on the New York Times website, and seemingly everywhere else that I look, I can safely say that pure spite will prevent me from purchasing any of your products.

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The Return of von Spakovsky

[ 9 ] August 22, 2008 |

Some excellent reporting from Kate Klonick.

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Posner v. Heller

[ 6 ] August 22, 2008 |

Richard Posner has an interesting article — essentially an application of his recent HLR Foreword — critiquing the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, the D.C. gun control case. It’s a useful corrective to the glib certainty of the majority opinion and its strongest supporters. And yet, it’s frustrating in its own right.

One problem is his apparent assumption that until very recently conservatives had a principled opposition to an activist judiciary, as opposed to an opposition to the substantive decisions of the Warren and early Burger Courts: “The idea behind the decision–it is not articulated, of course, and perhaps not even consciously held–may simply be that turnabout is fair play. Liberal judges have used loose construction to expand constitutional prohibitions beyond any reasonable construal of original meaning; and now it is the conservatives’ turn.” Given that there’s never been a post-Civil War court with a conservative median vote that didn’t engage in significant activism with highly contestable constitutional moorings, the basis for this is unclear. Well over a century after the Civil Rights Cases and Allgeyer and nearly a century after Hammer v. Dagenhart, it’s strange indeed to view reactionary judicial activism as a 21st century phenomenon. Also odd is the absence from Posner’s account of a rather notable recent example of unprincipled “judicial activism” far, far more egregious than Heller: Bush v. Gore. Presumably, this is because Posner wrote an entire book using pragmatism and what can only be called law-office democratic theory to defend the Court’s decision. Posner is entitled to change his mind, of course, but when he complains the he “cannot discern any principles in the pattern of the Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretations” one would think this would compel an acknowledgment of his own strong support for a “loose construction” that reached congenial results for conservatives.

This brings us to another problem, which is that rather than correctly noting that the legal materials surrounding the Second Amendment are considerably more complex than Scalia can allow and admit to multiple reasonable interpretations, he simply asserts without anything like the necessary evidence that Scalia is wrong. (“The text of the amendment, whether viewed alone or in light of the concerns that actuated its adoption, creates no right to the private possession of guns for hunting or other sport, or for the defense of person or property.”) This goes too far. His analysis is at one point even contradictory: he can’t seem to decide whether Scalia’s position is nonsense because “[i]t is doubtful that the amendment could even be thought to require that members of state militias be allowed to keep weapons in their homes, since that would reduce the militias’ effectiveness,” or because “the ratifiers of the amendment probably did think that the right of militiamen to keep and bear arms entitled them to keep their weapons in their homes.” Which is it? His overreaching certainty extends to other cases : for example , he claims that the contemporary doctrine that the Bill of Rights is “incorporated” against the states was “decided in the teeth of the language of the Fourteenth Amendment.” It is true that the Fourteenth Amendment repeating the language of the due process clause of the Fifth is a point against the incorporation theory, but it is hardly dispositive. Proponents of incorporation can point to the other side’s own textual puzzles — why did the framers of the 14th Amendment bother to include a privileges and immunities clause that allegedly just re-affirmed some minor rights already recognized prior to the Civil War? — and cite important historical evidence such as the fact that the floor manager of the Amendment expected it to incorporate the Bill of Rights. One can disagree with Black’s arguments, but to claim that they contradict the text of the Fourteenth Amendment is silly.

Posner is right that constitutional interpretation in interesting cases inevitably involves a significant amount of judicial discretion, although I don’t think that calls for “judicial modesty” have much point; as long as activist judicial review serves the interests of the legislators who make it possible, it will continue, and will come from judges of all ideological persuasions. But Posner’s own unfounded certainties about the meaning of broad, ambiguous constitutional provisions tend to undermine his own argument.

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Art, Life, etc.

[ 15 ] August 22, 2008 |

Snoop!

Court records show Felicia ”Snoop” Pearson, who played a killer of the same name on the televesion series, was charged after police went to her home in Northeast Baltimore to pick her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in a murder trial.

She was arrested Wednesday after police served a warrant that would allow them to detain her, if needed, until the Sept. 16 trial of Steven Lashley. Court documents say Pearson is accused of having two cigars containing suspected marijuana in a bedroom and loose plant material. She was charged with one count of drug possession.

Authorities say Pearson witnessed Lashley stab three men, killing one, during an argument in 2005.

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An Extremely Dangerous Point

[ 9 ] August 22, 2008 |

I concur with Ackerman et al that Maliki is taking a very serious gamble by moving against the “Awakening” leadership. The success of the Iraqi Army in Basra and Baghdad (albeit with US support) has been greater than I expected, but challenging the Sunni elite is a different job altogether. I’m guessing that Maliki thinks he needs to handle this now, while US forces are still in country and prepared to back him up. He’s probably right about that; the US pretty much has to back Maliki, even if the campaign means a substantial increase in violence.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is the inevitable outcome of the “Awakening” strategy. Strengthening and legitimizing Sunni elites directly undercuts the authority and capacity of the Iraqi central government. Conflict is unavoidable.

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More on the Russian Air Force

[ 96 ] August 22, 2008 |

Via Danger Room, David Fulghum has a good post up at Ares on the Russian Air Force. Whatever prep the Army and the Navy may have conducted prior to the beginning of the war, it doesn’t appear that the planning spread to the Air Force. There was apparently no advance recon of Georgian air defenses, no plan for the suppression of the air defense network, and no systematic plan for sweeping the Georgian Air Force from the sky. Perhaps most surprising, Russia did not employ any of its anti-radiation missiles, which are designed to destroy enemy radar installations and SAM sites.

It’s curious, to say the least, that the Air Force apparently didn’t get the memo about the possibility of war against Georgia. Unfortunately, the reasons for the failure are probably so byzantine that we’ll never have a clear picture of what happened.

…in tangentially related news, Axe has a nice post (in which he cites Fulghum) regarding the dueling efforts by the USAF and the Indian Air Force to obscure the capabilities of their most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22 and Su-30 respectively.

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Reporting Beauchamp

[ 0 ] August 22, 2008 |

Spencer Ackerman has a very interesting article about Scott Beauchamp and Elspeth Reeve. The whole thing is very much worth reading. The executive summary:

I ended up interviewing Beauchamp a couple times — once in person and over email a couple times — and did a bunch of follow-up reporting. And I came to a much different conclusion than I started out suspecting: Scott Thomas Beauchamp did not lie and did not misrepresent his service. The New Republic’s investigation did not uncover any such misrepresentation, and yet the magazine threw him under the bus to spare itself the controversy. Yet it was also true that TNR was the victim of cynical misportrayal from conservatives.

The fundamental problems with trying to report stories recounted by a still-serving soldier — most importantly, that the sources who could effectively corroborate Beauchamp’s account won’t go on the record — mean that deciding whether to trust Beauchamp remains a gut judgment. We still don’t really know if the stories hold up — but nor, with the exception of one error in location, have any been convincingly rebutted.

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Mittens!

[ 48 ] August 22, 2008 |

The good news is that “two GOP sources” have allegedly said that Mitt Romney will be McCain’s pick. The bad news is that the news comes from Mark Halperin, so we can probably downgrade the likelihood of a Mittens pick from “unlikely” to “less than zero.”

…oh, and to chime in just for fun, I (unfortunately) am convinced that it won’t be Sebelius, although I hope I’m wrong. I’m feeling pessimistic enough to predict Kaine, I think. The short list being bandied about is also really making Clinton look better…

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Manufactured Outrage

[ 0 ] August 21, 2008 |

Since it’s amazing how persistent the idea that Al Gore was an awful candidate is — with special focus on his allegedly bad debate performance — it’s worth returning to this simple fact:

But without question, “Al Gore’s [alleged] operatic sighs” played a key role in Campaign 2000. In the wake of that first Bush-Gore debate, TV journalists put Gore’s (infrequent) sighs on a tape; jacked the volume way, way up; and played them again and again, in a loop. And yes, this seemed to affect the election. In the immediate aftermath of that debate, five polls of viewers were taken; in all five polls, viewers said that Gore had won the debate, by an average margin of ten points. But so what? After “journalists” played that loop tape—and flogged some trivial errors by Gore—judgments about the debate began changing. Within a week, Gore lost his lead in the national polls. He was forced to fight from behind right through Election Day.

To be clear: it wasn’t “the public” that thought Gore’s sighing was more important that the substantive matters, or that Gore’s trivial errors about which particular FEMA official accompanied him on a particular visit were more important than George Bush’s baldfaced howlers about his fiscal proposals. It was the press. People who actually watched the debate thought Gore won; people who learned about it from press coverage didn’t. And it’s not clear what a candidate can do in the face of such skewed priorities. It is, however, crucial to be alert to the ways these narratives develop and to counteract them before the fact.

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No wonder college kids these days are dumb

[ 17 ] August 21, 2008 |

Pantload’s mommy gets an e-mail:

Dear Lucy,
Stephan spent much of the summer on a college program in Italy, and when he
arrived home he announced the most talked about, most read, most popular
book of his trip was — you guessed it, Jonah’s book — Liberal Fascism.
All the professors & students were reading it – and holding vehement
discussions. So, truly, there’s a universal appeal. Cool.

In case you’re wondering what sort of school might be inclined to host “vehement discussions” about the Richard Scarry’s Silliest Book Ever Liberal Fascism, I think this promotional footage will offer some clarity….

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Same as It Ever Was

[ 18 ] August 21, 2008 |

I can’t be the only one to think that this cover art is just… fabulous in so many ways. In other stuff that you should be reading:

Doug Muir on Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first leader of independent Georgia.

Myers and Shanker on the difficulties of conducting diplomacy with the two-headed Russian executive.

PTJ gets all theoretical.

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Kuznetsov Deploying to Syria?

[ 54 ] August 21, 2008 |

Via ID, it appears that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is deploying from Murmansk to the Mediterranean. The expectation seems to be that she will operate (at least for a short period) out of the Syrian port of Tartus, which has been the focal point of negotiations between Russia and Syria for quite some time. Ironically enough, Admiral Kuznetsov was originally named Tblisi….

A couple thoughts… Kuznetsov deployed to the Med for exercises last year, so this isn’t a radically unusual move. Still, I think it has to be interpreted as yet another “No, we really are serious” message from the Russians to the West. Kuznetsov is the largest, most powerful unit in the Russian Navy (excepting SSBNs), and moving her invariably carries political as well as military significance. And although Russia has been engaged in negotiations with Syria over the base at Tartus for a while, I still have to wonder if the Russians don’t relish this deployment as an opportunity to send a message to Israel. Noah Shachtman has a fine post at Danger Room discussing the extent of Israeli military cooperation with Georgia, a relationship that the Russians are now complaining loudly about. Noah also notes that the Israelis saw the danger of war, and decided to substantially cut back on arms shipments to Georgia at the end of the last year. This included canceling a deal for Merkava tanks. The Israeli justification for slowing down cooperation was the need to maintain good relations with Russia in order to place additional pressure on Iran.

…I am sent this groovy graphic from Komosomolskaya Pravda:

… a correspondent asks whether the Israelis could sink Admiral Kuznetsov. As I’ve built my blogging career around answering such irrelevant and absurd questions, let me take a crack. The short answer is yes; while the Israeli Sea Corps surface fleet would be well advised to steer clear, either the submarine force or the Air Force could finish Kuznetsov without much trouble. I’m sure that the Israeli Air Force doesn’t spend too much of its time practicing attacks against CVs, and hitting a moving naval target is more complicated than hitting a land target, but I suspect the Israelis would be able to figure it out. Moreover, against the Israeli Air Force the lifespan of Kuznetsov’s air wing could probably be measured in minutes. The surface to air capabilities of Kuznetsov and her escorts would be unlikely to give the Israelis much trouble, either. I think it would be easier, however, to sink Kuznetsov with one or more of Israel’s three Dolphin class submarines. These are quite advanced, and I wouldn’t bet on the ability of 80s era Russian anti-submarine technology to detect them.

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