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Spain Bleg

[ 18 ] January 2, 2008 |

Anyone know any good academic/policy oriented articles on Spanish security policy? Or, really, anything at all about Spanish security policy?

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Against The Caucuses

[ 24 ] January 2, 2008 |

Hitchens gets this right.

…and Kaus too! (via.) Apparently we’ve finally found a use for contrarianism…

…actually, scrolling down I should say that while I support Kaus’s anti-caucus position, I obviously disagree with him that they’re bad because they make the Democratic Party too liberal. They’re bad because the whole caucus/primary system is a bad way of choosing a candidate, fetishizing “retail politics” skills of little actual relevance to the modern presidency beyond all reason to justify a ridiculously arbitrary and unfair system.

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Smile! You’re on Camera.

[ 2 ] January 2, 2008 |

No, you’re not on candid camera, but you are on camera in the U.S. virtually all the time. According to a new study from Privacy International, a UK-based group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, the U.S. and the U.K., along with Russia and China, have “endemic” surveillance throughout the country. The study surveyed surveillance techniques including workplace monitoring, visual surveillance, communications interception, and border and trans-border issues (among others).

It shouldn’t surprise us that we are constantly monitored. Between the PATRIOT Act’s intrusions into our data, heightened security measures at airports, and security cameras at every store, subway, and street, there’s more and more surveillance each day.

Of course security is important. But at what cost to our civil liberties and our ability to live our lives with a modicum of privacy? Seems like many other industrialized countries that also cope with the threat of terrorism are doing a much better job finding that balance.

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This Things I Believe

[ 0 ] January 2, 2008 |

Jamie Moyer is not a steroid user. His 62 mph fastball is a purely natural phenomenon.

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A Map of Slavery

[ 16 ] January 1, 2008 |

Via Matt comes this map, which is genuinely awesome. I initially thought that it was an overlay of density data on an old map, but apparently it was created by Francis Carpenter in 1861. It demonstrates how empty of slaves some parts of the South (Appalachia in particular) were, and consequently why the Confederacy had to deal with so much pro-Union sentiment in those areas. It would be a large (but kind of interesting) project to compare this map with some of the electoral maps at Dave Leip’s website; I fiddled a bit with comparing the 1861 map with the 2004 electoral map, but nothing came of it.

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 35

[ 12 ] January 1, 2008 |

Midwestern travel and social obligations prevent me from writing too much today, but on the 113th anniversary of John Edgar Hoover’s birth, it’s worth recalling the words of Benjamin Spock, who offered this anti-eulogy on the day of Hoover’s death in 1972.

It was a relief to have this man silenced who had no understanding of the underlying philosophy of our government or of our Bill of Rights, a man who had such enormous power, and used it to harass individuals with whom he disagreed politically and who had done so much as anyone to intimidate millions of Americans out of their right to hear and judge for themselves all political opinions.

Arguably, Hoover came closer than any American ever has to developing the basic architecture for fascism. It would be an extraordinary error, however, to assume that Hoover’s proto-fascist tendencies derived from his conservative principles. Because his first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Library of Congress, and because everyone knows that librarians are liberals by nature and custom, J. Edgar Hoover’s life indeed offers a hearty vindication of the Goldberg Thesis.

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The Textual Basis For The Right To Privacy

[ 0 ] January 1, 2008 |

I’m not going to get into the question of Juno and abortion because I reject the idea that the picture is a “brief” for or against anything; this might be an appropriate way to discuss an Aaron Sorkin project, but Diablo Cody seems like an artist as opposed to someone who was things to say about issues of the day and divides them among, for lack of a better word, characters. I do, however, want to address publius’s argument in comments that he disagrees with Lawrence because “the right to privacy underlying this cluster of cases has no textual basis in the Constitution.” This is, I think, puzzling:

  • As Mark Tushnet pointed out in Balkin’s book about Roe, Douglas’s much-derided opinion in Griswold is actually quite intelligent. People who assert that there’s no textual basis for limiting a state’s authority in this line of cases need to explain what would, say, remain of the Fourth Amendment if the state could ban the use of contraception or noncommerical, consensual, private sexual behavior. What would the search warrants even look like? (“We believe that the individual in question is predisposed to desire sex.”) This kind of state power is inconsistent with several parts of the Bill of Rights, which clearly imply that the state does not have unlimited dominion to invade private residences. (Or to put this utterly banal interpretive point in slightly more pretentious terms, “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”)
  • Here, I would assume that Publius would object that nobody thinks that these laws would be used to routinely inspect private residences to ensure that people aren’t using contraception or giving head. And this is, of course, accurate; such laws would, in fact, be sporadically and arbitrarily applied against unpopular individuals or powerless classes of individuals. Or, in other words, they inherently fail to comport with the Constitution’s perfectly explicit textual command that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” There’s nothing non-textual about the argument that general laws which are unenforceable against most of the people they cover on their face cannot be enforced against anyone; if “equal protection” and “due process” mean anything, they mean that.

Admittedly, Roe does not automatically follow from Griswold and its progeny; it’s like it in some respects (arbitrarily enforced laws, interference with intimate family and sexual relations) and unlike it in others (usually a commercial transaction, not confined to private domiciles), and also involves some issues that aren’t addressed by the case (the importance of reproductive freedom to gender equity, the state’s interest in fetal life.) But it’s not true that Roe lacks any textual basis except in the less-than-sophomoric sense that the generalities of the 14th Amendment don’t include specific policy prescriptions, and in the case of the other (somewhat misleadingly named) “privacy” cases the textual basis is quite clear.

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Gosteleradio Excludes Paul

[ 11 ] January 1, 2008 |

JMM and Digby are correct: it’s outrageous that Ron Paul is being excluded from the Fox News debates (and apparently by Fox; the state GOP wants him included.) No, I don’t think he has any chance of winning — but, then, neither at this late date does Thompson, and Paul is outpolling and (by vast amounts) outraising him. As Digby says, this should remind us again that Fox News isn’t “conservative,” which might actually be useful; it’s a house organ for the GOP in general and George W. Bush in particular.

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On to 2008!

[ 8 ] December 31, 2007 |

Well, 2007 has been…interesting. Here’s hoping that all of you send the year out in style, have a happy and healthy new year, and continue to join us daily at LGM throughout 2008.

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Sun Bowl

[ 5 ] December 31, 2007 |

It certainly would be nice if this holds; Roper has looked very solid, and it would be good to end the season on such a positive note.

…Ah, now 39-14; I am becoming mildly hopeful…

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Babies Behind Bars

[ 60 ] December 31, 2007 |

Given that 7% of incarcerated women in the United States were pregnant at the time of their sentencing, it’s surprising that the conditions of confinement for pregnant and birthing women and the subsequent treatment of their children doesn’t get more play in the media, or at least in alternative media outlets (ahem). So it was interesting (encouraging?) to see an article in the Times today about a women’s prison in Mexico in which children born to inmates stay with their mothers until they turn 6 years old:

While a prison may seem an unhealthy place for a child, in the early 1990s the Mexico City government decided it was better for children born in prison to stay with their mothers until they were 6 rather than to be turned over to relatives or foster parents. The children are allowed to leave on weekends and holidays to visit relatives.

A debate continues among Mexican academics over whether spending one’s early years in a jail causes mental problems later in life, but for the moment the law says babies must stay with their mothers. So the prison has a school with three teachers.

The warden, Margarita Malo, said the children had a calming effect on the rest of the inmates. The presence of children also inspires the mothers to learn skills or, in many cases, to kick drug habits that landed them in trouble in the first place.

And even though the prison is full of women capable of violence, the children usually walk safely among them, as if protected by an invisible shield. It is as though they tap the collective maternal instinct of the 1,680 women locked up here.

Leaving aside for a moment the “maternal instinct” remark, this is an intriguing idea. In the U.S., only four states even have prison nurseries, nevermind provisions for the rearing of children. Bedford Hills, New York’s maximum security women’s prison, allows children to stay with their mothers until the children are 1 year old, unless the mother will be released within six months. To me, programs and facilities allowing babies to remain with their incarcerated mothers for the first months or years of life seem like no-brainers. Necessities, even.

It’s when the children are older that the question gets trickier, as is clear in the Times article.

Elsa Romero Martínez, a psychologist who runs the school, said the children showed no signs of overly aggressive behavior. There have been few reports of abuse, though one child, suffering bruises, was taken away from a cocaine-addicted mother two years ago.

The thorniest problem she and the teachers face is preparing the children and mothers for separations once the children reach 6. “We have to teach them to say goodbye to the mothers,” she said.

To show them that a wider world exists, the teachers try to take the children on field trips as often as possible. Their budget is limited and they rely on charity for the outings. They have managed only three this year — to a museum, an amusement park and a children’s theater.

How does one explain to a school-age child that they are living in a prison and that they will have to leave their mother soon, and will no longer be able to live with her, despite the fact that this is all the child has known? The Mexico City prison allows children to stay with their mothers regardless of the length or indeterminate nature of the mother’s sentence (many of the mothers in the prison have yet to face trial though they have been incarcerated for years – a problem that would be obviated because of speedy trial requirements in the U.S.). One possible fix to the problem of separating a mother from his or her child at an age when the child is sentient would be to only allow women with short enough sentences to keep their children past age 1 (or some other young age). But should a woman’s right to keep her child with her be so dependent on the length of her conviction? Given the range of sentences for similar crimes and the amount of sentencing discretion afforded to judges, the results would be discomfortingly arbitrary.

So what are we to do? Ultimately, a workable and humane solution remains unclear. But at this point, to even acknowledge that such a problem exists in the U.S. would be a step in the right direction.

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The Cult of the Constitution

[ 0 ] December 31, 2007 |

Mssrs. Yglesias, Greenwald, Black and Krugman say most of what needs to be said about the Unity 08/Bloomberg/Broder Axis of Vacuous Wankery. To put on my Sanford Levinson hat for a minute, it seems to me one reason why unspecific claims that “something needs to be done” about important issues take such risible forms is that it’s highly impolitic to point out structural defects in the Constitution, which generally has to be taken as unassailable. But the chief obstacle to getting things done isn’t the character of the current political leadership but Madisonian institutional roadblocks. Toning down “partisan rhetoric” would do nothing to change the facts 1)that as long as you control 40 seats in the Senate and/or the White House you can prevent Congressional majorities from accomplishing anything, and 2)the gross malapportionment of the Senate will usually make its membership considerably more reactionary than the median voter. But because we’re meant to understand that the Constitution was handed down in tablet form on Mount Sinai, rather than accepting this fact we’re treated to this farce of adults claiming that all we need is “specific ideas about how to pull the country together.”

It’s worth noting as well that for this reason talk of a mythical “postpartisan” future is beside the point even if the underlying political conflicts that partisan divisions reflect could float away on the wings of unicorns. Even in the Broder Golden Age of Parties when pro-apartheid Democrats made partisan coalitions jumbled, a shockingly high percentage of the core legislation of the New Deal/Great Society state was passed in two small windows not because public officials suddenly decided to be nice to each other but because 1)a very partisan political genius in the White House was supported by 2)overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. (And even in stage one of the New Deal, the pro-apartheid minority was able to substantially alter the content of the legislative solutions in ways that also made them worse.) Aside from the fact that it’s bizarre to see the status quo ante as preferable, more ideologically incoherent parties would do nothing to change the fact that it’s difficult to for governing parties to find solutions to problems because the Constitution doesn’t give them a fair chance to enact their agendas.

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