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Raptor Jobs Not Preserved

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

General Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff:

All right, all right — some people have to play little games. You play yours. So let’s just say that you’ll give me 60 more F-22s because it is in your interest to give them to me. But I want your answer and the planes by noon tomorrow. And one more thing: don’t you contact me again — ever. From now on you deal with Lockheed.

SecDef Gates:

Uh, General — you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this — nothing. Not even the reimbursement for the public relations campaign, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

In other news, James Inhofe has gone plainly apoplectic. It’s worth noting that the cuts announced thus far have to make their way through Congress, and that Democrats normally in sympathy with the Obama administration may find the prospect of defense cuts in their own states and districts too much to bear. However, Noah makes the argument that the prospect of Congressional opposition may have encouraged Gates to go for broke:

But this parochial opposition may have actually encouraged the Pentagon and the White House to be more sweeping in its plans, one key Congressional staffer suggests. Previous administrations have tried to cut bloated, poor-performing defense projects onesy-twosy — only to be rejected by the Hill. Going after a whole range of weak programs at once makes it more likely that at least some of the Pentagon’s sickliest weapons projects will be amputated.

Finally, I think the question of whether or not keeping Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense was a good idea has been decisively answered.

That Was Just Pathetic

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

J. Swiderski of “bail this out” has won the LGM Tourney Challenge. Mr./Ms. Swiderski’s victory was clinched by North Carolina’s crushing victory over what purported to be the Michigan State Spartans last night. The owner of “bail this out” should contact me (e-mail is available through profile on the right) for prize collection.

Koh v. Bork

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

One thing to add to Dahlia Lithwick’s superb defense of Harold Koh is a comparison with the Bork nomination, allegedly the Most Uncivil Moment in American History (at least before the era of blog commenters.) The thing about the charges in Ted Kennedy’s “infamous” speech about Bork is that the charges in it were accurate — Bork did oppose the Civil Rights Act, advocate an extraordinarily narrow reading of the First Amendment, strongly oppose the existence of a constitutional right of privacy, etc. And he did these things not in obscure speeches but in public writings. One can dispute the relevance of his past positions, agree with them, etc., but bringing them up was fair game. (Kennedy’s speech was tenedentious, sure, but making that accusation of a politician is like accusing water of being wet. The attacks weren’t false.) Claims the Koh favors the imposition of Sharia law, believes that Mother’s Day should be abolished, etc. are just straightforwardly false. And, yet, the mainstream media remains far less bothered about this particular breach of civility.

2009 MLB Preview: The NL

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

West: 1. LA 2. ARI 3. COL 4. SF 5. SD I’ll pretty much go chalk here. Signing Ramirez makes this a relatively easy call; their offense is by far the best in the division and the rotation and bullpen are both good. The top of their rotation aside I’ve thought many sabermetric types have been overrating the DBacks for a couple years and I still think that; the offense remains unimpressive and losing Hudson will hurt the defense badly. Colorado seems back on the submediocrity treadmill. If the Giants’ young pitchers stay healthy I could see them finishing second, but you can’t count on that and the offense remains hideous. The Padres situation is just sad, a consistently competitive team turning quickly into an awful team with little to build on either. Their under does seem like one of the best bets in history, although admittedly I thought that about the Giants last year.

Central: 1. Chi 2. Mil 3. Cin 4. StL. 5. Hou 6. Pit I’m not really terribly impressed with the Cubs — the bullpen shaky, Dempster will be way down, Harden likely to be hurt, the offense very- good-not-great — but I can’t deny they’re the class of this division. I’ll be rooting for the Brewers to win the division but like most people I think they missed their window unless they can bring along some young pitchers; the impressive young talent is misalinged defensively, and their bullpen is atrocious without any Victor Zambrano to compensate. The Reds are the opposite, impressive young pitchers but (even with Votto) not much of an offense. I thought the Cardinals would be bad last year, and although it’s become foolish to bet against LaRussa/Duncan to pull some good innings out of nowhere and although Pujols is amazing I still think they’re pretty bad. I figure that Berkman and Oswalt will keep the Astros out of the cellar they’re likely to occupy perenially now that the Pirates seem under semi-competent management for another year. But the cautious medium-term optimism a Pirates fan might have shouldn’t be confused with thinking there’s much there yet.

East: 1. NY 2. ATL(*) 3. PHI 4. FLA 5. WAS I know, really dumb to bet against the Phillies again, and they certainly could be back in the World Series. And Minaya does some irritating things, most notably compunding the AIG-level-stupid Castillo contract by not writing off the sunk cost with Hudson available cheap. But to me, the key here is bullpens. Even a mediocre bullpen last year and the Mets would have won easily, and this year the Mets will have two elite closers and a pretty good 7th inning guy instead. The Phillies, on the other hand, got a brilliant performance out of a gifted but erratic closer and decent-to-typically-waiver-wire-bait support, which won’t happen again. That turnaround will be an enormous number of runs. Meanwhile, the Mets had a better offense last year and figure to this year, and the Phillies certainly aren’t making that up in the rotation. I actually think the Braves — better than their record two years running and with the first credible rotation they’ve had in a while — are a bit better shot to take the division, although the offense has a few too many holes to put them ahead of the Mets. The Marlins are interesting — some talented young pitchers and Ramirez ranks with Utley and Beltran as the best player in the league’s best division — but the kid pitchers just don’t have the offensive or defensive support. The Nationals have improved offensively, but it’s still not a good offense and the rest of the team is worse. The bad karma of syndicate ownership…

UPDATE: The commenter is completely right, and I am completely wrong, about the Brewer defense; a consultation of The Fielding Bible shows that they are indeed a top 5 defense.

Fish on Churchill

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

This seems like a very sensible take. As far as I can tell the charges of academic misconduct against Churchill are very, very thin gruel — as Fish says, mostly run-of-the-mill academic debates about whether the evidence is sufficiently strong rather than more serious or unequivocal charges — and it’s inconceivable that he would have been fired had he not written his stupid 9/11 essay. And however offensive the essay was, if academic freedom means anything it’s not a firing offense.

Happy Opening Day!

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

Praise your preferred deity for baseball. Cincinnati has stepped up to the plate with an offering of 37 degrees and snow; it was 71 yesterday. Hopefully it will be better on Wednesday, when Dr. Lemieux and myself take in a first-night-of-Pesach Metropolitans-Redlegs tilt down at Great American.

The Problems That Arise When Glenn Reynolds Is Considered A Libertarian

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

Shorter Jonah Goldberg: Libertarians are actually obliged to ignore the systematic effects of state interventions I favor (like the War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs), as well as policies that the National Review has traditionally supported (like apartheid at home and abroad.)

To add to Holbo’s defense of Wilkinson, allow me to return to one of my favorite quotes in the United States Reports, from Robert Jackson:

“I regard it as a salutary doctrine that cities, states and the Federal Government must exercise their powers so as not to discriminate between their inhabitants except upon some reasonable differentiation fairly related to the object of regulation. This equality is not merely abstract justice. The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally. Conversely, nothing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected. Courts can take no better measure to assure that laws will be just than to require that laws be equal in operation.”

The idea that the WO(SCOPWUS)D’s increasing obliteration of the Fourth Amendment would be tolerated if upper-middle-class families were frequently having their doors beaten in, property seized, daughters strip-searched with the approval of future Supreme Court justices, etc. etc. is absurd. Wilkinson is just pointing out the obvious, and libertarians can see the consequences as much as anyone.

From Colony to Superpower XVI: The Big Mess

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

Chapter XVI of From Colony to Superpower covers the Kennedy and Johnson years. Erik has some additional thoughts on chapter XV; check them out. The time periods covered by chapters have shortened from about 15 to about 8 years since the beginning of the book, and the chapters themselves have grown from about forty to about fifty pages. This is an interesting organizational strategy, and isn’t terribly surprising; readers are likely to have more interest in more contemporary events, and because of technological change history happens more densely, so to speak. I think it could also be argued that foreign policy looms ever larger in US social life, although this depends on how we define things.

Herring isn’t overly impressed with John F. Kennedy, although he allows that Kennedy improved substantially across the course of his Presidency. In particular, Herring has minimal patience for the notion that Kennedy intended serious shifts in US policy towards China or Vietnam. Regarding the latter, there is simply insufficient evidence that Kennedy intended, or could have enacted had he intended, a significant change in the course of the war. On the former, there is similarly little evidence that Kennedy intended any modification of US China policy. Herring doesn’t touch upon it, but I have recently read in Nancy Tucker’s Strait Talk that Kennedy hagiographers are of the view that Kennedy would have opened China, but for a threat by Eisenhower to emerge from retirement and oppose such a shift. Tucker argues that the available evidence suggests that Eisenhower was more flexible on the PRC than Kennedy, and that no actual evidence exists of any such threat. In the end, as Herring argues, we must take Kennedy simply on what he did, rather than speculate about what he might have done.

Herring discusses at length the effect that Castro had on Kennedy, Johnson, and the character of US policy towards Latin America. While Truman, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower had experimented with various different Latin American policies, and displayed some flexibility, Kennedy and Johnson interpreted events solely through the prism of the Cuban Revolution. Every leftist was the new Castro, and right wing military dictatorships were accepted as “necessary” to forestall the victory of communism in whatever country one chose to investigate. The obsession with Castro (which occupied Kennedy somewhat more than Johnson) also led to numerous dubious efforts to overthrow the Cuban government, and to the central event of Kennedy’s term, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Herring is, of course, a Vietnam specialist, and so I’d been looking forward with great interest to how he would treat the Vietnam War in this larger narrative of American foreign policy. The Vietnam discussion is, as expected, well done, and it doesn’t dominate the chapter any more than it should. At one point, Herring mentions the various efforts at extortion on the part of US Pacific partners; South Korea deployed a substantial force in return for large subsidies, and New Zealand sent an artillery battalion. Ferdinand Marcos offered to raise a large force in return for US aid, then pocketed the aid and refused to send troops to Vietnam. Chiang Kai Shek went one better; he offered to invade the PRC in order to destroy its nuclear capabilities and distract it from the war. This offer was tactfully declined.

Herring devotes a fair amount of attention to Israel, especially around the 1967 War. He is firmly of the view that the USS Liberty was intentionally attacked, although he allows that Israeli motives remain murky. He writes “Israel naturally fell back on mistaken identity, a claim only the most gullible could believe.” The US response was non-existent. A year later, on the other side of the world, another surveillance ship would be attacked; the North Koreans still hold the USS Pueblo, although they released the crew after eleven months.

More to come..

Polls That I Can’t Take Seriously…

[ 0 ] April 5, 2009 |

I’d like to see how this question was worded: [UPDATE: I had misread the link, and thought that wording was only available to premium subscribers. Make the numbers even more wacky; totally eliminating North Korea’s ability to launch missiles would require full scale war.]

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of U.S. voters nationwide favor a military response to eliminate North Korea’s missile launching capability. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 15% of voters oppose a military response while 28% are not sure.

What exactly does “military response” mean? But here is the real kicker:

Overall, 75% of voters say they’ve been closely following news stories about the possible launch. That figure includes 40% who’ve followed the news Very Closely.

Ahem. If you believe that 75% of the registered voters in the United States were closely following the North Korean missile launch on Friday, then I have a tea party to sell you.

When you have a poll that suggests that 40% of registered voters have been following a national security event “very closely,” and then you note that the poll was taken before the missile launch even occurred, you should know that there’s a problem somewhere…

This reveals how useless polling on obscure issues can be. Rasmussen would have us believe that more people want us to go to war with North Korea than favor the current wars in either Iraq or Afghanistan. This is farcically stupid; although it appears that Newt Gingrich came out in favor of a preventive strike on North Korea, it’s a position that’s held by approximately zero policymakers on either side of the aisle. That said, I’d love to see the Republicans try to run in 2010 on a platform of starting a third unpopular war…

Varnum, Law And Politics

[ 0 ] April 5, 2009 |

Rather than continue the argument in comments, a few responses to Paul’s arguments against Varnum:

  • It’s worth distinguishing between two arguments that Paul seems to be shifting between, one of which is true but trivial and one of which is potentially interesting but (at best) unsupported. It is, of course, true, that the text of the Iowa constitution did not “compel” the conclusion that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was impermissible. But this is (as Paul seems to concede) not so much an argument against the court as an argument against judicial review, since any constitutional question of any interest is going to allow a number of reasonable answers. Given that the Iowa courts were empowered to review legislative enactments, however, this argument is essentially useless. Moreover, if taken seriously this would not just be an argument against judicial review but against high appellate courts in general; pretty much by definition cases heard by these judges require them to choose between multiple plausible interpretations of statutes and/or constitutional provisions and/or controlling precedents. Again, if Paul wants to define most of what appellate judges do as not-law that’s his privilege, but it doesn’t strike me as very useful or illuminating. Saying that politics influences how judges will choose among multiple plausible interpretations, though, is not to say that law is nothing but politics.
  • If this is all Paul was arguing, though, it’s not clear why the Iowa Supreme Court merits any particular criticism, since it’s no more guilty of “legal hocus-pocus” than pretty much every consequential decision issued by every state or federal appellate court in the country. And, indeed, in the original article Paul suggests that the decision was particularly “egregious” “nonsense.” This would be a more interesting claim, but alas Paul’s bare assertions in its defense aren’t much more convincing than Ed Whelan’s. What, exactly, about the opinion is egregious, as opposed to simply an utterly banal exercise in choosing between multiple competing interpretations of a legal text — did it mischaracterize the relevant precedents? Was its interpretation in contradiction of the constitutional text being analyzed? Was it internally inconsistent? Not to my eye, and Paul provides no evidence that anything of the sort is true. Indeed, “question-begging nonsense” would be much better applied to Paul’s apparent assumption that because Iowa’s equal protection clause cannot be applied with mathematical precision the judges required to interpret it should pretend that it has no content at all.
  • Paul also seems to be missing the point about why the comparison to Bush v. Gore is so specious (while a comparison to, say, Parents Involved or Heller would be much more accurate.) The unique problems with Bush v. Gore have nothing to do with it being a “ridiculously transparent bit of circular question begging.” Kennedy’s defense of the opinion’s equal protection innovations is indeed exceptionally weak (and on any standard of craftsmanship, I think, far, far worse than Varnum), but that’s not the key issue; the holding is not, in isolation, indefensible. The real issue is such problems as 1)the fact that the remedy was completely inconsistent with the purported holding, 2)the Court’s attempt to cabin the holding so that it wouldn’t apply to other essentially identical cases, and 3)the fact that the alleged constitutional violation was a result of a Catch-22 created by the Court’s previous directive. Such things, as opposed to the ordinary judicial act of choosing among multiple plausible legal meanings, really are inconsistent with the rule of law. The Iowa court did nothing comparable.
  • I’m going to largely leave the discussion of Rosenberg — whose argument is considerably more problematic than Paul claims — to another post. But one accurate lesson of Rosenberg is that courts aren’t in a position to “impose” anything; judicial review itself only exists because of the substantial political support for it. And in this specific case, the Iowa legislature is free to propose overturning the court’s decision if it chooses. To claim that this particular constraint on the choices of elected officials — as opposed to the countless other “countermajoritarian” checks that are part of every state’s government — is particularly undemocratic is, to coin a phrase, question-begging nonsense. Maybe it is, but this really needs to be argued, not assumed, and any definition of democracy that contains no more normative content than “majority decisions of elected officials” is not going to be very attractive.

It’s a Missile!

[ 0 ] April 5, 2009 |

North Korea finally launches. There don’t seem to have been any premature shootdowns. See? That wasn’t so scary…

LGM Baseball Challenge (Tourney Update II)

[ 0 ] April 5, 2009 |

…I believe that it’s down to Shooting in the Dark vs. bail this out in the LGM Tourney Bracket.

I’ve set up the 2009 LGM Baseball Challenge league. Apologies for tardiness; the first game is tomorrow.

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

As far as I can tell, the following teams are still in the running in Tourney Challenge:

Shooting in the Dark (Michigan State)
The Dawdle Blog (UNC)
dewces1 (Connecticut)
bail this out (UNC)
johnwcasey (Connecticut)
jt (Villanova)