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Need To Question The Authority

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Hilzoy has more on Anne Applebaum’s crazy strawman-building tactics. Personally, perhaps because I’m more cynical, I didn’t check the empirical claim because I wouldn’t have been shocked had no Democratic politician had been fully candid; it wouldn’t be unusual for politicians not to point out the potential downsides when choosing among a bunch of bad policy options created by someone else’s catastrophic blunder. (People not running for office can, and should, be criticized for not being honest about the downsides.) And yet, at least 3 Democratic candidates including Barak Obama did to this, making Appelbaum’s silly point also factually false. It seems pretty clear that this was bullshit in the classic Frankurt sense; Applebaum seems to have been indifferent about her claims were true or not, but just needed some assertions to fit her evasive high-Broderite framework.

Radical Implications

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

As a follow-up to Bean’s post below, I will once again note that, as long as the 14th Amendment remains unamended, the necessary consequence of fetal personhood is that anyone obtaining or performing an abortion is guilty of first degree murder, anyone who knows about it an accessory to murder, etc. etc. At the absolute core of the equal protection clause is that no class of persons can be excluded from the protection of general laws providing for basic personal security. A federal “life amendment” would not merely permit but require every state to treat abortion as murder.

Fortunately, this lunatic position is confined to such fringe organizations as the party of the incumbent president.

Law is the New Science

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

In the Gonzales v. Carhart opinion, certain Supreme Court justices seemed to be confusing their JD’s with MD’s. That move seems to have set a trend.

From the Colorado Springs (home of Focus on the Family) Gazzette:

A newly formed El Paso County political committee has submitted a ballot initiative that would outlaw abortion in Colorado by changing the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception.

The measure goes Wednesday before a title-setting board of the Secretary of State, which must determine whether its title is a single subject and in proper form. If that board gives its OK, Colorado for Equal Rights has six months to collect roughly 76,000 signatures to get the amendment on the November 2008 ballot.

The group seeks to add a clause to state law that the term “person” shall include “any human being from the moment of fertilization.” Similar efforts are under way in other states, including Mississippi and Georgia, said Mark Meuser, organizer for the Peytonbased committee.

Doctors, on the other hand, don’t even define pregnancy as beginning at fertilization.

That, and the fact that about 1/2 of all eggs fertilized do not go on to implant in the uterus and become pregnancies. So are women murderers simply for failing to actually get pregnant? The mind pretzels just thinking about it.

Justice Kennedy, can you clarify?

"I’m Not Trying To Be Sexist. It Comes Naturally!"

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Noted paragon of civility Robert Novak expresses a need for a fainting couch — apparently some ladies are being insufficiently dainty.

Anne Applebaum, You Gotta Be Putting Me On

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Henley and Yglesias say most of what needs to be said about today’s bite of banality. As the former points out, the actual effect of this pox-on-all-their-houses-but-not-my-house High Broderism is to implicitly advocate the status quo without having to bother to make an argument in its favor. The only thing I’ll add is that the fact that withdrawal could have disastrous consequences, while certainly a convincing argument against starting the predictably disastrous war in the first place, is only a good argument against leaving if the occupation was actually improving the security situation. What’s actually happening, however, is that we’re getting further from the plausible emergence of a stable Iraqi state, and even Applebaum isn’t willing to claim otherwise. So the potential for bad things to happen after the troops leave — which I’ve heard few opponents of the war deny — is neither here nor there given the obvious inability of the American military to create a strong Iraqi state ex nihilo. The point of the argument, rather, is simply part of the broader war apologist long-term exit strategy: i.e. to shift the blame for the catastrophe from the people who are actually responsible for it to people who tried to stop it.

On the Reverse-Filibuster

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

I have to admit that I think Henley is probably right here:

I confess a suspicion that the Dem leadership is counting on not getting an up-and-down vote. There’s a decent chance that some of the Senators happy to vote for a cloture motion they know is doomed to lose will be unwilling to vote for a troop drawdown they know could win. And then what will we tell the netroots? Thirty hours of theater that ends in another unsuccessful cloture vote is the safe-sex version of defunding the war.

I don’t really think that this is Reid’s fault, per se; this kabuki is probably the best way of communicating opposition to the war given that he doesn’t have the votes to stop. But it remains depressing.

The Hilzoy Curve(s)

[ 0 ] July 17, 2007 |

Some applications of the econometric innovations of Dow 36,000 co-hack Kevin Haslett.

Update on Troy Davis

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

There’s news about the scheduled execution of Troy Davis (Also written about here, here, here).

The Georgia Board of Pardons today granted a 90-day stay of execution so that they could consider the new evidence in his case. The stay gets the defense closer to what they want — an opportunity to present the evidence about the witness recantations.

TalkLeft has more.

"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds"

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

16 July 1945.

Yoo Tortures The Law Again

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

He’s back, with another crackpot theory justifying arbitrary executive power in defiance of the plain language of several constitutional provisions as well as the structure and underlying theoretical basis of the Constitution.

As Stephen Holmes points out (and expands on in his new book), it’s not just that Yoo believes as a normative matter — contrary to the fundamental principles of liberal democracy– that power is most effectively deployed when it’s secret and unchecked, but his farcical attempts to locate the monarchical executive in the original meaning of a Constitution that (although it leaves the precise contours of executive power vague) plainly cannot support such a reading:

The Framers charged the President with protecting the nation, he tells us, “even if that meant fighting with the legislature to enforce the desires of the people.” True to their British heritage, Yoo also asserts, the Framers modeled the President’s war powers on those of King George III. They therefore refused to grant Congress even a concurrent power to commence war. At its core, the Constitution embodies the Framers’ intention to prohibit Congress from “encroaching” on the executive’s power to initiate as well as conduct war.

To make his contrarian claim ring true, Yoo whites out contrary evidence and draws dubious conclusions on the basis of fragmentary and carefully selected facts. He disregards the main thrust of the historical record and misrepresents the parts he acknowledges. He ferrets out (and exaggerates the importance of) scattered shreds of evidence that, at first glance, seem to back up his predetermined narrative. This cherry-picking of the sources may explain why he fits so comfortably into an administration known for politicizing intelligence, smothering doubts, silencing critical voices and fixing the facts around the policy.

But why would an aspiring legal scholar labor for years to develop and defend a historical thesis that is manifestly untrue? What is the point and what the payoff? That is the principal mystery of this singular book. Characteristic of The Powers of War and Peace is the anemic relation between the evidence adduced and the inferences drawn. The footnotes and citations teem with ambiguity and complexity, while the summary statements snap dogmatic simplicities. For instance, in a section devoted to the powers of war and peace in various state Constitutions, between independence and the ratification of the Constitution, Yoo uses selective citation to convey the impression that state executives not only possessed substantial foreign-policy powers but were also, when commanding the state militias, freed from any obligation to act according to laws passed by state legislatures. That his case is wobbly on both counts is the least that might be said. But what makes his misleading account additionally baffling is that he cites without comment the very provisions in several state Constitutions that deny the executive branch any power to act except “under the laws” passed by the legislative branch.

Even by the standards of this administration, Yoo is an embarrassment.

"The sound of one hand wanking"

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

Thers hears it, coming from a gun counter in North Carolina:

They aren’t stupid, either, or we’d catch them faking the news far more frequently than we already do.

I know that TIDOS Yankee is looking for work these days, but he really ought to consider getting into the underdeveloped market for wingnut-themed fortune cookies.

Great Moments In Cafeteria Catholicism

[ 0 ] July 16, 2007 |

I have a follow-up post on the Troy Davis case at TAPPED. Among other things, I discuss the famous Scalia concurrence in which he asserts that there is no constitutional right to bring evidence — no matter how compelling — of actual innocence after one had been validly convicted of a capital crime. But why worry?

I can understand, or at least am accustomed to, the reluctance of the present Court to admit publicly that Our Perfect Constitution lets stand any injustice, much less the execution of an innocent man who has received, though to no avail, all the process that our society has traditionally deemed adequate. With any luck, we shall avoid ever having to face this embarrassing question again, since it is improbable that evidence of innocence as convincing as today’s opinion requires would fail to produce an executive pardon.

Whatta card! And, of course, the governor will meanwhile claim that no actually innocent person could ever be convicted and have this conviction upheld for one whole round of federal habeas appeals — state criminal defendants, of course, never have anything but the best legal representation! — and round and round we go and before you know it some innocent person will be executed.

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