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Pre-Qualified

[ 3 ] November 3, 2007 |

Publishing stuff like this, as well as stuff like Jamie Kirchick’s arguments with the strawmen in his head, seems relevant to questions about how much nepotism was involved in hiring the new editor. If Commentary was meant to be a serious, highbrow intellectual journal, then obviously the hire would be pretty much 100% nepotism. Given that the actual content of the journal seems to be sixth-rate defenses of failed imperialist schemes and feeble Republican hackery, however, J-Pod seems eminently well-qualified. And it also makes the question moot; when the journal isn’t intended to produce anything of value, “is the candidate related to the no-longer-sane former editor?” seems about a good a criterion for choosing an editor as anything.

Best. Posts. Ever.

[ 33 ] November 2, 2007 |

Henley and DeLong start the discussion, with dsquared’s immortal attempt to show that an MBA might actually be useful after all a justified consensus pick. Like one of Henley’s commenters, I have to add Holbo’s epic dissection of Dead Right to the mix. Rather than just adding well-known examples of brilliant analysis, I’d like to also add major examples of a key aspect of blogging: good snark. Dsquared again:

Remember that living well is the best revenge. A simple corollary of this is that maintaining an anime blog is the opposite of “living well” and thus the worst revenge, so if you are in a pissing match with someone who does spend all his time protesting to the Internet that he really does shut his eyes when the naked cartoon children are on screen, honestly, then all you really have to do is sit tight and wait for history to rack up enough points on your side.

See also the Editors on the Wingnut-Wanker continuum, Fafblog’s interview with the religious right, Michael Berube on Roger Simon (“Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick”), and of course the Editors again with Poker with Dick Cheney:

Andrew Sullivan: Dick Cheney never said he had a straight. He was very careful about this. His cards can form many different hands. None of these hands alone can beat a pair of twos; but, taken together, the combination of all possible hands presents a more compelling case for taking the pot than simply screaming “Pair of twos! Pair of twos!” as unprincipled liberal critics of the Vice President so often do.

MD: ****DRUDGE REPORT EXCLUSIVE****
*****MUST CREDIT THE DRUDGE REPORT*****
Did The Editors claim to have “a pair of Jews”? Are they anti-Semites as well as racists? Developing …

Zell Miller: As a lifelong liberal Democrat, I believe Dick Cheney, and I hate liberals and Democrats.

William Safire: Why are liberals so obsessed by Dick Cheney’s poker hand? The pot has been taken, the deal is done. If liberals are upset that we are no longer playing by the Marquis of Queensbury patty-cake poker rules, they clearly lack the stomach to play poker in the post-September 11th environment. And why do they never complain about Saddam Hussein’s poker playing, which was a thousand times worse?

Christopher Hitchens: The Left won’t be happy until the pot is divided up equally between Yassar Arafat, Osama bin Laden, and Hitler. Orwell would have seen this.

Any thoughts about either category (or for the worst of all time) welcome in comments…

Rights and the Hyde Amendment

[ 64 ] November 2, 2007 |

David Nieporent says:

But a right means the government can’t stop you from doing something; it doesn’t mean that you have some claim on anybody else’s wallet to give you that thing.

There are a number of potential misconceptions here. First, not all rights are constitutional rights. Second, there’s nothing inherent about rights that they be merely “negative” rights. Third, as Cass Sunstein and Stephen Holmes correctly point out, even the enforcement of “negative” rights requires substantial state expenditures (and hence claims on “other people’s wallets”), making the distinction between “positive” and “negative” rights itself problematic. And finally, leaving aside the fact that there are other constitutional traditions than the American one, even the primarily “negative rights” American framework recognizes positive rights. Most obviously. the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel has been construed to require that taxpayers provide legal counsel, even if libertarians would prefer that the law in its majestic equality merely prevent the state from denying rich and poor defendants alike access from the lawyers they have on retainer.

With respect to the issue under discussion, the Hyde Amendment, the issues of constitutional rights are more complex than they may appear at first glance. There are other cases in which the Constitution mandates a positive right in any plausible long-term political context; Brown v. Board, for example, does not require the state to provide public schools but does require that if the state does provide public schools that they be provided equally to whites and African Americans, which (at least if taken seriously) requires the spending of taxpayer money. The Hyde Amendment presents such an issue. There is not a constitutional right to medical treatment; however, if the state provides medical treatment it does have a constitutional obligation to provide such benefits impartially. It’s a difficult case, but denying funding to a medical procedure not for reasons logically related to the purpose of the program but to obstruct the exercise of a fundamental right does in fact raise a difficult constitutional question and at least arguably a violation of constitutional rights.

And lest you think this is some kind of crazy-left wing notion, the court’s conservatives — including Scalia and Thomas — have held that the state is obligated to provide money from taxpayer wallets to religious student newspapers if it provides funding for other publications. And this case goes further, in the sense that providing state funding to religious organizations arguably violates the Establishment clause, while nobody believes that current doctrines make Medicaid unconstitutional. At any rate, most people across the ideological spectrum accept that there are cases in which the state’s arbitrary use of its spending powers raises a constitutional violation, and hence Nieporent’s description of American constitutionalism is inaccurate. And it’s therefore perfectly reasonable for Ann to describe the Hyde Amendment as not only awful public policy but an interference with reproductive rights.

[ 12 ] November 2, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

Krugman Takes Giuliani to the Mat

[ 17 ] November 2, 2007 |

Krugman body slams Giuliani (and the msm’s coverage of the candidate) today in his column. Feeling feisty, Krugman takes on Rudy’s claim that American men have much higher prostate cancer survival rates than the Brits because the Brits have socialized medicine. The claim is, of course, totally false. Where’d he get his data? The Manhattan Institute. A source of unbiased fact-based reporting if there ever was one. Here’s what Krugman has to say:

You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottom line is that a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America.

So Mr. Giuliani’s supposed killer statistic about the defects of “socialized medicine” is entirely false. In fact, there’s very little evidence that Americans get better health care than the British, which is amazing given the fact that Britain spends only 41 percent as much on health care per person as we do.

Krugman takes care of the math. We take care of the eyerolling. WaPo’s Eugene Robinson gives us the numbers:

Okay, the math: Gratzer writes that his figures come from seven-year-old data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the numbers of men in various countries who are diagnosed with prostate cancer and, of those diagnosed, how many die from the disease. The latest official figures show a much smaller gap: Of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, about 98 percent survive five years in the United States vs. about 74 percent in Britain.

But even that is misleading, because — as even Gratzer acknowledges — a much higher percentage of American men than Britons are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the first place. The reason Americans are more likely to be diagnosed is that we are screened and tested much more often than our British counterparts. Doctors here are much more likely to diagnose, say, a slow-growing tumor in an elderly patient who will die of something else before the prostate cancer progresses to a serious state.

That’s why the more relevant comparison, experts say, is mortality rates — which are about equal.

That Giuliani is either dishonest or willfully blind is not a surprise to those of us who lived through his mayoralty. But Krugman is mad that the MSM is not doing its job to help the rest of the country realize that the GOP frontrunner just doesn’t care enough to check the facts. He’s more interested in using the scary specter of socialism to scare people into voting for him than in pretty much anything else. And news outlets let him; Krugman notes that there’s been some coverage of the Giuliani prostate lie, but that it pales in comparison to the amount lavished on Hillary’s hint of cleavage or John Edwards’s haircut. And, shockingly (not), Chris Matthews is giving air time to this crap. All while Giuliani tours with his ridiculous claim that the “liberal media” have redefined torture. At some point, we’re all going to have to stop being so serious and just laugh at it all.

More on Vouchers

[ 15 ] November 2, 2007 |

Laura McKenna:

OK, a little poking around found that the Cleveland voucher is now worth up to $5,000 per student, which is much closer to what the average per student funding is for public school students. And no schools have popped up.

It’s actually really expensive to run a school. The only way to break even with $5 – 7,000 is if you have packed class rooms. The church schools are able to function with low tuition levels and small classes, because they are subsidized by the church and they pay the nuns nothing.

To fill all those seats in the classroom, all the kids in a community would have to be eligible for vouchers and also use them. A education venture capitalist couldn’t make it in a community that had a competing public school system that drew away 50% of the population.

Right. And as I said in the previous voucher thread, even more problematic is that fact that the point is not to have private schools, but to have good schools. The invocation of private schools by voucher proponents can carry the suggestion that students will be able to attend high-performing, established private schools, but of course that won’t happen. It is much less obvious that newly formed private schools, with fewer resources to attract good teachers, provide facilities, etc. than both good private and good public schools in the metropolitan area and charged with educating mostly poor children will do a good job. Which, again, compels the conclusion that any remotely politically viable voucher program is likely to have an utterly trivial impact.

Dana has more. I’d be interested to know how many conservertarians purportedly defending the the interests of poor children oppose the funding of schools through local property taxes rather than through general state revenues, an obvious engine of inequality.

Slow News Day?

[ 0 ] November 2, 2007 |

I’m disappointed that my breakfast was photoshopped out of the picture, but for some reason this was on the front page of the local paper.

“I’ll put it this way: The things that have happened in November hang together in a weird kind of way,” Noon said.

Noon, a sixth-year teacher at UAS, will present a multimedia look at these 30 days of horror in “November is the Cruelest Month: A Misanthrope’s Historical Almanac,” a free Evening at Egan lecture at 7 p.m. Friday at the Egan Lecture Hall

The night will include an examination of the birth of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Nov. 25, 1915); the mass murder/suicide in Jonestown (Nov. 18, 1978); and the bloody St. Brice’s Day Massacre (Nov. 13, 1002).

“There’s a lot about nuclear weapons and aerial warfare,” Noon said. “There’s also a number of things that have to do with the French Revolution.

“I feel like maybe I should bring a (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp for the side,” he said. “I can’t promise this will lift any spirits. My wife is constantly telling me, ‘You have to make this funny. There has to be some comic relief in there.’ And there is.”

Translation: I’ll be doing some prop comedy lifted from old Carrot Top videos.

I Can’t Say Whether the Rack is Torture; I Haven’t Been Briefed

[ 18 ] November 1, 2007 |

Clarification, please:

The president said it was not right for senators to press Mr. Mukasey about interrogation techniques on which he has not been briefed. When Mr. Bush was asked whether he considered waterboarding illegal, he said he would not discuss specific methods used in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. “It doesn’t make any sense to tell the enemy whether we use those techniques or not,” he said. “And the techniques we use by highly trained professionals are within the law,” the president said. “That’s what’s important for America to know.”

So I have to wonder, has Mukasey been briefed of the use of the rack? Thumbscrews? The iron maiden? Hot iron pokers up the ass? If not, then would it be inappropriate to ask him whether he thought such methods were torture? And is it the President’s position that asking whether or not we stick hot iron pokers up the ass of terrorist suspects is inappropriate, because it would “tell the enemy whether we use those techniques or not”?

Worst Freedom Medal Ever

[ 18 ] November 1, 2007 |

President Bush today announced that he will award a Medal of Freedom to Henry Hyde…because Hyde is a strong defender of life. The Henry Hyde of the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortion (in case the implications aren’t clear, this means that many many poor women are prevented from getting abortions they badly desire, or that they are forced to choose between an abortion and the electricity).

I think Ann at Feministing put it well:

Because nothing says “freedom” like severely curtailing the reproductive rights of low-income women.

Don’t you just love Bush’s brand of freedom?

Air Force Roundtable

[ 0 ] November 1, 2007 |

The roundtable for the Air Force article is now up at TAP. Participants included myself, David Axe, Jason Sigger, Michael Goldfarb, John of Op-For, Sharon Weinberger, and Noah Shachtman. The subscription wall for the original article is now down as well.

Vouchers For What?

[ 0 ] November 1, 2007 |

As a follow-up to the debate that various TAPPEDers and ex-TAPPEDers are having with respect to conservertarian claims about the efficacy of school vouchers, this from Justice Stevens’s dissent in Zelman (although peripheral to the question of whether voucher programs that will cause funding to go almost exclusively to parochial schools are constitutional) seems worth quoting:

First, the severe educational crisis that confronted the Cleveland City School District when Ohio enacted its voucher program is not a matter that should affect our appraisal of its constitutionality. In the 1999—2000 school year, that program provided relief to less than five percent of the students enrolled in the district’s schools. The solution to the disastrous conditions that prevented over 90 percent of the student body from meeting basic proficiency standards obviously required massive improvements unrelated to the voucher program. Of course, the emergency may have given some families a powerful motivation to leave the public school system and accept religious indoctrination that they would otherwise have avoided, but that is not a valid reason for upholding the program.

The most obvious limitation on voucher programs, as both Matt and Ezra note, is that there’s nowhere for most students to go. A market in education wouldn’t function like other markets. Whereas more customers (within reason) for a department store mean more profits, more students for a school makes it harder to educate everyone, and places substantial demands om physical spaces that can’t be easily expanded. Even assuming that they provide enough money for students to have a genuinely wide theoretical range of private schools to go to, which in practice is unlikely, vouchers are only an effective solution for more than a tiny number of students if there are lots of spaces in good schools for children to go to. Or, in other words, they only work if you assume away the problem you’re trying to solve in the first place. The small numbers involved and the fact that schools are very far from being like markets in consumer goods also make large transformative effects created by vouchers exceptionally implausible. And, certainly, as Matt says to talk about vouchers in the abstract without any details about what level of funding is on the table, how we’re going to pay for it, and what slots are available for students given vouchers is entirely useless.

Burkean Rhetoric, Supply-Side Policies

[ 3 ] November 1, 2007 |

As a follow-up to the point that Mike Huckabee’s noblesse oblige rhetoric is not terribly meaningful given that his only significant domestic policy proposal is a massively regressive tax cut, although the article is no longer available online I think it’s worth returning to this from the New Yorker profile of Michael Gerson, often cited as the kind of Christian Democratic evangelical that Democrats can allegedly attract to the fold:

Gerson defends Bush’s tax cuts, which the President’s critics believe not only favor those with the highest incomes but have also left less money for important domestic programs; Gerson believes that free markets and free trade are the best means of lifting people out of poverty, and that lower taxes stimulate both. “The part of Mike I have the most trouble understanding, perhaps because we simply disagree, is how he can square his support for pretty substantial spending for the very poorest among us with a defense of Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest people,” Dionne said. “Maybe Mike just buys supply-side economics in a way that I don’t, but most supply-siders don�t think like Mike.”

It’s entirely possible that Gerson has convinced himself that policies with a proven track record of increasing inequality will actually decrease it if tried again. But even if the arguments are in good faith, they point out that mere rhetoric about social justice is not enough for coalition-building. When more evangelicals actually start supporting progressive economic policies, then Democrats might have something.

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