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Belated Admissions of Wrongness

[ 0 ] May 21, 2009 |

Since I’ve been taken to task by several commenters for neglecting my hockey blogging duties, I should note that Berube once again beat what would have been my predictions had I gotten them in on time. And he was only 2-for-4! Alas, I would have gotten only the Penguins right. (And I think he deserves extra credit for at least seeing the Bruins/’Canes going 7; I wouldn’t have.) So while it’s late again, hopefully you’ll believe me when I say I would have taken Detroit (I give up; teams like that you have to knock out early) and Pittsburgh. So, it looks like a finals rematch, and if it happens I think the Pens are in deep trouble unless they go back to the friendly-penguin-with-scarf logo.

And, while I admit to burnout once the Flames once again were eliminated early, it has indeed been a terrific postseason. And Simmons compels me to repeat my take on Gary Bettman; contrary to what was widely assumed (at least in Canada) when he took over, he’s been horrible for the buisness of the NHL, but the game itself is in far, far better shape than it was 10 years ago.


What Henley Said

[ 0 ] May 21, 2009 |

There are plenty of justified ways to express contempt for Charles Krauthammer. But what Klein said was completely indefensible, and hopefully it’s not just “neoconservative malingerers” who can see that.

Make that Eleventh Drink a White Russian!

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

From Wonk Room, the economic impact of an alcohol tax:

– 35 percent of adults pay nothing at all.
– 80 percent of drinkers pay at most $26.50 per year, about 7¢ per day.
– Half of beer drinkers pay at most a penny a day.
– The heaviest drinkers (top 5%), who average some 11 beers per day, pay on average $215 a year, about 60¢ per day.

How does anyone average 11 beers per day? I’m simultaneously impressed and relieved.

Term limits for SCOTUS justices

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

Scott has blogged on this a few times. I don’t intend to overdraw the current parallels with the situation in 1937 (that’s what the comment thread is for), but I think they’re suggestive.

Also, I was looking at some voting records from the 1970s SCOTUS, and it really is striking the extent to which Stevens was smack in the middle of the Court at that time, while now he’s supposedly a flaming lefty, despite little discernable shift in his views.

Revisionism About Clinton’s Supreme Court Appointments

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

Writing with respect to Ed Gillespie’s preemptive defense of Republican hypocrisy over judicial appointments, Johnathan Adler comments:

I understand this view, even as I lament it. I continue to believe the Senate should maintain a more deferential approach — much like Senate Republicans adopted toward Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. I also fear there may be no going back. If Senate Republicans follow Gillespie’s advice — and Gillespie is hardly the only one urging this course — I hope they will also promise to restore the status quo ante if Senate Democrats will commit to follow suit.

I trust that many have you have already spotted the fallacy in Adler’s comparison, which derives from the irredeemably flawed premise of an ideological equivalency between the Court’s “liberals” and “conservatives.” The Ginsburg and Breyer appointments were smooth for the obvious reason that both were pre-approved by Orrin Hatch. Ginsburg had a very moderate record as a circuit court judge, and the Chamber of Commerce-approved Breyer has cast more conservative votes than two of the Court’s Republican appointees. (Alito, on the other hand, is about as doctrinaire a conservative as you can be.) Hatch made it clear that had Clinton tried to nominate the liberal equivalent of Alito or Roberts, there would have been a major fight. And, of course, had Bush nominated the conservative equivalent of Breyer — another Kennedy, roughly — he or she would have sailed through the Senate. It’s not that Republicans didn’t consider ideology in dealing with Clinton’s appointments; it’s that Clinton conceded in advance.

Lest I be accused of my own hypocrisy, I should say that my own positions haven’t changed; I still 1)couldn’t care less if a substantial number of Senate Republicans vote against Obama’s nominee, and 2)think the position that the President can consider ideology in choosing a nominee but the Senate can’t consider it when evaluating a nominee is indefensible on the merits. But to draw an equivalence between the Breyer and Alito nominations is frankly absurd.

Surviving Without a Car

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

Upon my return from Seattle, I found this from Dana Goldstein:

Rybczynski claims that only six American cities have downtowns dense enough for a mass transit-dependent lifestyle: New York (midtown and downtown), Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. This will come as news to those of us who live in Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn without cars, just to name two communities in which I’ve spent a lot of time. But while the childless lifestyle without a car is rather easy in a number of mid-sized cities, things get substantially more complicated when you’re responsible for ferreting a small, fussy person around to all their activities, while still being on time yourself. Any parents out there have experience with the car-less lifestyle outside of Manhattan? Any childless people who are making car-lessness work in cities other than the ones I’ve discussed here?

I managed most of my eight years in Seattle without a car, and rarely used the car during those periods in which one was available. Seattle doesn’t have a train, but the bus system is as good as I remembered. Even from West Seattle, you only need to make one connection to get most anywhere in the city. The first caveat is what Dana mentions; I never had to drag around a small child. The second is that I was often able to depend on friends or roommates for particularly car-critical tasks like buying new furniture.

Lexington and Cincinnati are, unsurprisingly, far less friendly to the carless. Part of this is social; while a bus route serviced the non-walking neighborhood where I spent my first year in Lexington, I never even considered riding. No one I knew did. Car-free isn’t even really workable in downtown Lexington, because of the lack of a grocery store. In Cincinnati I live in a very walk friendly area (grocery stores, drug stores, gym, lots of restaurants within fifteen minutes), but I occasionally use the bus to get downtown for baseball games and such. Nevertheless, bus ridership in Cincy is, fair to say, radically different than in Seattle; professionals (or, more accurately, people wearing suits and ties) were never out of place on the bus in Seattle, but would stick out like a sore thumb in Cincy.

Back to Dana’s question; childless car-free is certainly workable in Seattle. I suspect that I could manage it in Cincy if I didn’t work 87 miles away, but it’s not as easy as Seattle. In August I will begin evaluating the city of Baltimore on these metrics (for reasons way too complicated to explain right now); are there any Baltimoreans here who have thoughts on the plausibility of the car free lifestyle?

The Costs of Poverty

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

An outstanding article about the compounding economic obstacles faced by those living in poverty. (This is something Eherenreich’s book is very good on as well.)

[Via Really Big Media Ezra.]

The Wages of the Hyde Amendment

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

A powerful reminder. Getting to a political universe in which it’s politically viable to repeal it is a crucial task for advocates of reproductive freedom; I wish had some idea about how this change could be effected.


[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

The illogic and desperate ad hoc exceptionally implausible counterfactuals are what make Mickey Mickey, but since when has Kaus ever needed to pretend that a sex scandal (involving a Democrat) needed to be politically relevant to justify tawdry gossip? He seems a little off his game…

IR Film Series

[ 0 ] May 20, 2009 |

Over the past several weeks, a number of international relations scholar-bloggers have set forth lists of films suitable for use in an IR course. Unfortunately, most of these lists have been riddled with fallacy and error. This is the correct list:

  1. The Third Man: Discussed here. Long story short, America meets the world, world fails to meet American expectations, hijinks ensue.
  2. Breaker Morant: Briefly discussed here. Law, war, morality, the confusion of order; it’s all things to all people.
  3. Grand Illusion: Also discussed here. Attachments to class and other non-state identities wilt in the face of war and modern nationalism.
  4. Dr. Strangelove: This is on pretty much all the lists, for obvious reasons. I’ll add that Dr. Strangelove is about more than just nuclear theory; it’s about the intersection between nuclear theory and conceptions of masculinity.
  5. Hero: Discussed here. It’s all about the Hobbes, baby; the transition between anarchy and hierarchy and the choices made therein.
  6. Downfall: Briefly discussed here. If the Fog of War is about the little decisions, Downfall is about the big ones. These are the institutions of the state at their breaking point, at the point in which a state transitions from sovereignty, however limited, to not-sovereignty.
  7. The Fog of War: Discussed here. I still believe that Morris let McNamara get away with far too much in terms of rehabilitating his reputation. In my experience, those who’ve lived through the Vietnam era like this movie much less than those who haven’t. It’s nevertheless critical, however, for its depiction of how wind themselves into decision trees that have no reasonable exit.
  8. Battle of Algiers: Discussed here. It’s about more than Algeria, or counter-insurgency; it’s about the state, violence, colonialism, and evil in the modern world.
  9. When We Were Kings: How many films set in Africa aren’t about a white guy who goes to Africa and goes crazy? In this case, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton effectively (if unknowingly) send up the entire white-centric Africa genre. It’s about Foreman, Ali, the African diaspora, and decolonization; white people are just along for the ride.
  10. Red Dawn: “Because we live here!”

It’s unsurprising that there are a lot of war movies on this list. States make war, and war makes states; it creates their institutions and helps bind them together. The international system cannot be understood without understanding the state, and the state cannot be understood without an appreciation for its particular forms of violence and coercion. The films above are only incidentally about war; they’re really about the state. I once showed the Ox Bow Incident in a Europe in World Politics course just to illustrate the limitations of state authority and the consequences of those limitations…

Next list: Name five television series that can be effectively used in the classroom to teach IR. Here are mine:

  1. Yes Minister
  2. Sandbaggers
  3. Battlestar Galactica
  4. Deadwood
  5. Star Trek: TOS

The Real Offenses of Dan Brown

[ 0 ] May 19, 2009 |

A.O. Scott:

I might as well begin with a confession. I have not read the novel by Dan Brown on which this film (directed, like its predecessor, “The Da Vinci Code,” by Ron Howard) is based. I have come to believe that to do so would be a sin against my faith, not in the Church of Rome but in the English language, a noble and beleaguered institution against which Mr. Brown practices vile and unspeakable blasphemy.

The Reverse Nuremberg Defense, Supreme Court Edition

[ 0 ] May 19, 2009 |

I’ll have more about the Toobin article on John Roberts later. But the bottom-line quote — “The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society” — applies quite forcefully (as it usually does) to all of the Court’s conservatives in the most recent Anthony Kennedy atrocity, Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

Lyle Denniston explains that the ruling creates a standard that will make it very difficult to hold high officials responsible for misconduct carried out by their subordinates. And what’s particularly disturbing is what Kennedy had to do to reach this conclusion. As Souter lays out in section 1A of his dissent, what’s remarkable is that Kennedy held that a superior’s knowledge of and indifference towards unconstitutional conduct by subordinates could not make the former legally liable, although Ashcroft and Mueller conceded that they would be liable if their knowledge and indifference were proven. Kennedy, in other words, went far out of his way to insulate powerful state actors from consequences of illegal conduct they should (and, under previous Supreme Court precedents, properly would have) been held responsible for, with patently unjust consequences:

Finally, the Court’s approach is most unfair to Iqbal. He was entitled to rely on Ashcroft and Mueller’s concession, both in their petition for certiorari and in their merits briefs, that they could be held liable on a theory of knowledge and deliberate indifference. By overriding that concession, the Court denies Iqbal a fair chance to be heard on the question.

I would post Kennedy’s defense of his casual disregard of precedent in order to protect powerful state actors in their abuse of people’s constitutional rights. But (as one of our commenters noted) he doesn’t actually have a response to Souter. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, and it’s a disgrace.