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Bowl Mania Reminder

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

As of this moment, you have about 2 hours to fill out an entry and join the LGM Bowl Mania Challenge:

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Sorry for the late reminder…

Failed Purge?

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

The coup that was probably a purge now turns out maybe to have been a failed purge:

Iraq’s interior minister said all 24 of his officers who had been arrested in a security crackdown this week would be released. And in a bold gesture of defiance, he publicly condemned his own government’s investigation, calling the accusations false and motivated purely by politics.

The minister, Jawad al-Bolani, in a series of interviews and at a news conference on Friday, insisted on the innocence of the officials detained on charges of aiding terrorism and having inappropriate ties with political parties, including Al Awda, an illegal party that is a descendant of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

“It’s because of the competition of the provincial elections,” Mr. Bolani, who arrived in the country on Friday after a week away, said of the arrests in an interview. “It’s just electoral propaganda, and that’s playing with fire.”

Regarding my earlier backhanded praise of Maliki’s authoritarian instincts, it doesn’t bode well for him that either a)the coup plotters, or b)the purge victims are now on the street with the apparent full support of the Interior Minister.

Friday Cat Blogging: Beau

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

Please welcome Beau to the LGM family.

As Alaska Turns

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

Weird day up here in The Crazy State.

(1) Sherry “Fuckin’ Redneck” Johnson — the maybe, sort-of someday mother-in-law of Bristol Palin — has apparently been smelling a bit too much like cat urine these days. Still, the Palin-Johnson axis has a long way to go before they take over the title of Most Dysfunctional Family in Recent State History. Keep reaching for that rainbow, people!

(2) Walt Monegan, the most famous ex-public safety commissioner in the world, is running for mayor of Anchorage. Palin supporters are questioning whether he has the “experience” required to manage the largest city in the state. That’s just funny.

(3) Another former state senator pleads guilty to being a Corrupt Bastard. At the pre-sentencing hearing, the ailing, 78-year-old John Cowderly expressed his wish to be confined at home so he could visit his doctors. The judge earned style points by noting that if Cowderly were jailed, “the doctors [would be] right there.”

If Alaska didn’t already exist, you’d all have to invent it.

Piracy and the Maritime Strategy

[ 0 ] December 19, 2008 |

Matt and Spencer greet the news that China will contribute to anti-piracy efforts with a bit of faux surprise; the motivating concept behind the most recent Maritime Strategy and its predecessor, the 1000 Ship Navy, holds that naval power isn’t zero-sum. Galrahn has a good discussion here considering piracy as the quintessential test of the 1000 Ship Navy concept. Of course, the Maritime Strategy includes a component on the deterrence of peer competitors, but part of that deterrence involves the integration of such competitors (Russia, China) into multilateral arrangements so that the potential competitors have a stake in international society. Incidents like this, in which thirty Chinese crewmen were rescued from pirates by multinational forces, are hoped to reinforce great power commitment to multilateral norms.

The Maritime Strategy is high liberal internationalism; it’s founded on the concept of cooperation in an arena traditionally reserved for competition, and spreading the costs (and benefits) of hegemony as widely as possible. The rescue operations following the 2004 tsunami represent another manifestation of the Strategy.

On the issue of piracy more generally, see this interview with a pirate, this discussion of the effectiveness of assaults on pirate bases, and this discussion of the role played by Kenya in Somali piracy.

The "Hate Speech" Lie

[ 0 ] December 19, 2008 |

To follow up on this, it’s not merely that the California court’s decision was directed entirely at state actors, and had no bearing on the actions of private churches at all. It’s that the whole category of “hate speech,” as it pertains to American law, doesn’t exist. The state cannot restrict speech solely based in its content no matter how hateful or potentially dangerous; this has been well-settled federal law for nearly 40 years. (The separate category of hate crimes, which deal with the intent of the perpetrators of violent crimes — which is always relevant — as opposed to their beliefs per se is again of no relevance to Warren’s claims.) This is recognized by critics of the libertarian American approach as well as those (like me) who generally favor it.

Whatever the decision Prop 8 sought to overturn had said, therefore, it simply could not have made any action by a church criminal, and anybody who actually knew anything about American politics and constitutional law would know that. Whether Warren himself is fully immersed in a world of paranoid conservative fantasia or is simply cynically pandering to the ignorant paranoia of his audience I can’t say, but either way it doesn’t speak well of him.

Dissent Must Be Encouraged…

[ 0 ] December 19, 2008 |

Read Benen on Rove. Also, RB sends this delightful transcript:

MR. DeMUTH: Another book that you famously read was Eliot Cohen’s “Supreme Command.” And he later went to work for you.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he did.

MR. DeMUTH: Do you think he got it right in that book?

THE PRESIDENT: I can’t even remember the book. (Laughter.) I remember reading it, but give me a synopsis. (Laughter.)

MR. DeMUTH: That –

THE PRESIDENT: You can’t remember it either. (Laughter.)

MR. DeMUTH: No. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Just teasing. Did he work for you at AEI? Is that why you’re –

MR. DeMUTH: He was on our Council of Academic Advisers.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, okay. I did read it.

MR. DeMUTH: The essential point is that in history, in wartime, Presidents do well not leaving the war to the military, but being the supreme commander themselves.

God. Shades of 8:30am American Foreign Policy discussion section, except that the frat boy at the end of the table who clearly didn’t do the reading happens to be the President of the United States…

It Never Ends

[ 0 ] December 19, 2008 |

This abominable rule shouldn’t survive the first week of the Obama presidency; the fact that it will — because reversing it takes a good bit of time and squanders resources that could be devoted to other tasks — it’s precisely the sort of thing that puts the lie to the polite notion that we should “disagree without being disagreeable.”

The country is being managed for the time being by people who would be instantly tossed into the ocean if our democracy permitted such an entirely reasonable solution to be put to a national plebiscite. And yet here they are, providing legal cover for the tiny percentage of health professionals who would rather adhere to religious superstition than do their bloody jobs. Moreover, they did so in the face of overwhelming professional condemnation of the proposed rules during the public comment period, and they issued the final regulations late enough that they’ll take effect two days prior to the end of the Bush administration. Being “disagreeable” with the people who created and supported these changes is quite literally the least they deserve. These people don’t care about effectively running a government, and of course they never have. But now that the end is near, they’re ripping out the drywall and stripping the wires, fastening laser printers to their backs, and loading up the service elevators with everything that isn’t nailed down.

Coleman Cites Bush v. Gore

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

I’ve believed for a while that the most constructive way for progressives to deal with Bush v. Gore is to play it straight — that is, to pretend that it actually stands for a principle that vote counting standards should be fair and uniform. Norm Coleman, however, has an approach much closer to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s indefensible intervention into the 2000 election. Obviously, his claim that the 14th Amendment requires ballots that were improperly excluded to remain excluded is a legal argument with the rare distinction of being more farcical than Bush v. Gore itself. But when you consider that the actual “principle” (to distort the word beyond any possible meaning) that the Supreme Court seemed to be applying in that case was that arbitrary, non-uniform recounts are perfectly acceptable unless they threaten the election of a Repblican candidate, in which case states are required to conduct a recount according to uniform statewide standards restore the arbitrary recount that benefits the Supreme Court’s preferred candidate…well, you have to admit that the Coleman team’s cite is directly on point. Fortunately, I doubt that the Minnesota courts are going to go along….

Religion versus religiosity

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

Barack Obama has always claimed his religious faith is one of the most important things in his life, and essential to his identity. It’s therefore all the more disappointing that his choice of Rick Warren reflects a particularly American brand of incoherence and hypocrisy when it comes to public displays of supposed religious belief.

The incoherence is reflected by behavior — such as choosing Warren to give the invocation — that seems to affirm two propositions:

(1) Religious beliefs are enormously important.

(2) The actual content of those beliefs is irrelevant.

The first proposition is something that almost all religious believers have to affirm, given the putative content of their beliefs. The second is affirmed by absurd formulations such the supposed importance of being “a person of faith” , without any regard to the actual content of that faith (assuming of course it stays within the boundaries of the “acceptable” religions with which American politicians may be affiliated).

Does Obama have to be as phony on this kind of thing Mitt Romney? That’s a pretty low bar to leap.

If Obama’s religious beliefs are important to him as he claims, and he wanted to do something genuine in regard to the invocation, he would either have someone from his own religious community deliver the invocation, or not have an invocation at all. Both choices would no doubt be considered too politically problematic, so they had to do something phony. But if they were going to do that, they should have picked some utterly generic person to give an utterly generic invocation, devoid of any real religious or political content, like the rote invocation of God’s blessing at the end of a presidential speech.

Choosing somebody like Warren is an insult not only to political progressives, but to religious believers (and especially politically progressive religious believers). It trivializes religious belief — which I would bet even most of Warren’s biggest fans will recognize as well, thus eliminating any supposed political advantage to be gained from this nauseating little exercise in pseudo-ecumenical posturing.

Warren Addenda

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

In addition to Rob’s links below, make sure to read Sarah Posner. And as Steve Benen notes, even defenses based on crude political criteria are exceedingly unconvincing. It’s unlikely in the extreme that Rick Warren’s “purely symbolic” selection is going to attract any non-negligible number of reactionary evangelical voters, while slapping major Democratic constiuencies in the face surely carries its own risks. And worse, it elevates Warren’s stature further, giving him “bipartsian” media credibility when he inevitably attacks any decent part of Obama’s agenda. It’s a dismaying choice, wrong on the merits and wrong on the politics.

Speaking of unconvincing defenses, some low comedy from the woman whose alleged support for gay and lesbian rights and reproductive freedom has long put the “effectively non-existent” in “nominal.” The punchline: “I don’t believe the image of the angry, spiteful gay is helpful to the gay rights cause.” I strongly advocate finding some way of stripping law professors who constantly make excuses for bigots of crucial fundamental rights and we’ll see how many of them don’t start sounding “angry” or “spiteful.”

Making Me *BLARF*

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

What Adam and Matt and Digby and everyone else said. The presence of Rick Warren is inexcusable; the guy is more dangerous than James Dobson, and at least six times as annoying.