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Why, oh why can’t we have better baseball journalists?

[ 0 ] July 2, 2007 |


Despite a lackluster season and a cloud of suspicion hanging over him, Barry Bonds found a home in the 78th All-Star Game. Fans voted the embattled Giant to his 14th Midsummer Classic.

I’ll grant the cloud of suspicion, but lackluster season? You would hope, after all the work that sabermatricians have done over the last decade and a half, that sports journalists covering baseball would look past triple crown stats. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the starting left fielder for the National League All-Star team:

Barry Bonds
Equivalent Average: .381 (NL-1, LF-1)
Equivalent Runs: 43.5 (NL-5, LF-1)
Runs Above Position: 35 (NL-1, LF-1)

Bonds has created more runs than Matt Holiday, the next best left fielder, in spite of the fact that Holiday has 80 more plate appearances than Bonds. Given that Holiday makes more of a defensive contribution than Bonds, it would have been defensible to select Holiday, but Bonds’ season can hardly be called lackluster.

Indeed, I think that the only appropriate grounds to exclude Bonds from the All-Star Game would be that baseball is a game intended for human beings, and Bonds is obviously some kind of robot or extra-terrestrial. Credit the steroids if you want, but at age 42 he’s having the best rate season in the NL this year. But for the fact that he’s been walked 82 times so far, he would already have coasted past Aaron. No offense intended to the Hammer, but he hit .229/.315/.369 as a DH at the age of 42, in his final season. At some point, people have to deal with the fact that while Bonds isn’t the only guy to have taken steroids, he is the only guy to have utterly re-written the baseball record book.

Keyboard Kommando: Liberal Fascism From Justin To Kelly Edition

[ 0 ] July 2, 2007 |

I especially like panel #5. Speaking of which, Orson Scott Card has decided to take time off from writing political “novels” so subtle they make Atlas Shrugged look like The Charterhouse of Parma to favor us with an twelve-billion word essay recycling the most specious warblogger World War II analogies from 2004. If only the damned Some Guys With A Sign Somewhere didn’t want to surrender like Chamberlain everything would be OK!


[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

…with the template again. Changing back to fixed from float. As always, indicate in comments if disaster occurs, but please note OS and browser when you so indicate.

Oh, and I will be re-adding the shifting images, just as soon as I can.

The End of the Human Rain Delay

[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

A friend still in Seattle emailed recently to note that the Mariners’ surprisingly good season was a mixed blessing, in that it probably wouldn’t be good enough to make the playoffs but good enough to save the jobs of the hapless Bavasi and Hargrove. Well, at least in the latter case, apparently that’s no longer something to worry about. Having said that, though, one can’t be happy about the circumstances of a manager resigning in the midst of a long winning streak; hopefully it’s nothing too dire.

Think of the Children!!

[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

Goddamnit. And we were hoping to get a big US release.

Online Dating
Via Yglesias.

Cubans don’t take a dump, son, without a plan

[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

Fred Thompson:

Noting that the United States had apprehended 1,000 people from Cuba in 2005, Thompson said, “I don’t imagine they’re coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We’re living in the era of the suitcase bomb.”

The merits of the position aside (I don’t think that any of the Cubans fleeing Cuba leave because they like Castro), how dumb do you have to be, on the American political scene, to accuse Cuban immigrants of pro-terrorist sympathies? I mean seriously, Fred, if you want villify immigrants and play to your xenophobic base, accusing Mexicans of having leprosy is better than accusing Cubans of having suitcase bombs.

Hope you don’t have any plans to visit Florida soon.

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Bourbon

[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

The House of Bourbon is one of many cadet branches to House Capet, an ancient dynasty that first came to power in France in 987 AD. The rulers of Estate Bourbon were a minor noble family until the sixth son of King Louis IX married Beatrice of Bourbon, holder of the lordship. Their son, Louis, was made Duke of Bourbon in 1327. The title Duke of Bourbon stayed in the family until 1527, when it was revoked upon the death of the traitorous Charles de Bourbon. In 1403 the family also acquired the Duchy of Vendome, and retained that title until 1589. This branch of House Bourbon came into possession in 1572 of the Kingdom of Navarre, on the modern French-Spanish border.

Salic law limited succession to the French throne to direct male descendants of Hugh Capet. After the death of French King Henry III’s brother in 1584, the succession fell upon Henry of Navarre, ruling as Henry III. Unfortunately, Henry III of France was Catholic, while Henry III of Navarre was Protestant. Nevertheless, Henry of France recognized Henry of Navarre as his heir. In 1589 Henry of France was assassinated, allowing Henry of Navarre to ascend to the throne as Henry IV. War between Protestant and Catholic factions would, nevertheless, continue until 1593, when Henry IV renounced Protestantism and accepted Catholicism. The Edict of Nantes, in 1598, granted measured toleration to remaining Protestants, but did not end conflict. Unfortunately, Henry IV was assassinated in 1610, leaving the throne to his nine year old son, Louis XIII.

Four more Bourbons, all named Louis, would rule France for the next 182 years. Louis XIV, who began his reign at age 5 and ruled for 72 years, would come to personify absolutist monarchy in Europe, as well as to bring martial glory, followed by military retrenchment, to the Kingdom of France. He would also manage to put his grandson, Philip V, on the throne of Spain. With a few interruptions, Bourbon’s have ruled Spain ever since. In 1774, Louis XVI would assume the French throne upon the death of his grandfather, Louis XV. Not well liked either by the populace at large or the nobility, Louis XVI ran up considerable debts while assisting anti-tax malcontents revolutionary forces in what was to become the United States. This assistance won him the gratitude of the Americans, who were kind enough to name several locations after House Bourbon, a couple after Dauphin, and more than a few after the King’s servant Marquis de Lafayette. The debts Louis XVI accumulated were viewed differently in France, and in 1789 a rather severe disturbance broke out. In 1791 Louis tried and failed to flee France. In late 1792 the Revolutionaries decided he was a liability, and he was publicly executed by guillotine in January 1793. His wife was executed nine months later. The couple’s son, Louis-Charles, died in prison two years later at the age of ten, although Legitimists consider him Louis XVII.

A long series of wars ensued, ending in the restoration of House Bourbon to the throne of France in 1814 in the person of Louis XVIII. After a brief interruption caused by Napoleon Bonaparte’s return and subsequent defeat at Waterloo, Louis XVIII would rule for ten years. Charles X, brother of Louis XVI, succeeded to the throne but became unpopular. He abdicated in favor of his son, Louis XIX, in July 1830. Twenty minutes later Louis XIX abdicated in favor of Henry V, who nine days later abdicated in favor of Louis-Phillipe of House Orleans, itself a cadet branch of House Bourbon. It is thought that twenty minutes is the shortest royal reign in history.

Like all Bourbons who retain their heads, Henry V lived a long time. After the fall of Napoleon III in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, Henry was offered the throne of France. He said that he would only accept if France gave up the Tricolor in favor of the Fleur-de-lys. This France would not do, and the opportunity to restore House Bourbon was lost. It is probably, on balance, a good thing that Henry turned down the throne. The Bourbons represented French conservatism, and having a Bourbon on the throne during the Dreyfus Affair and (especially) during the Vichy period might have proven disastrous. Then again, as Henry had no viable heirs, the throne most likely would have passed to the more liberal minded House of Orleans. Of course, the ideological predisposition of a royal family does not necessarily imply behavior on the part of the members of that family; witness the efforts of the Bourbon Juan Carlos to re-democratize Spain in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the ideological meaning of the monarchy and of the particular House that holds its extends beyond the individual at its head.

Seven heads of House Bourbon have come and gone (so to speak) since Henry died in 1883. Bourbon monarchs would hold the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies between 1816 and 1861. Henry, reigning Grand Duke of Luxembourg, is also a Bourbon, as is his father. The current Bourbon heir to the throne of France is thought by most to be Louis Alphonse, a thirty-three year old Spaniard. For obscure and technical reasons, King Juan Carlos of Spain does not care for Louis Alphonse’ claim to the throne. Essentially, part of the deal that allowed the Bourbons to ascend to the throne in Spain prohibited the crowns from being united in the future. As Louis Alphonse’ claim to the throne goes through the Spanish line, it is rejected by some legitimists and by the Spanish Bourbons. However, Juan Carlos is next in line to the throne of France if the Bourbon claim were ever recognized.

Early this year, Prince Michael of Greece, a member of House Oldenburg-Glucksburg, published a novel titled Le Rajah de Bourbon. The plot centers of the adventures of a early member of House Bourbon, and hypothesizes the existence of an elder line of House Bourbon living in India, and ending in Balthazar Napoleon de Bourbon, an Indian lawyer living in Bhopal. This story, depending on the existence of a 16th century Bourbon for whom little documentation exists, has not been taken seriously either by contemporary Bourbons or by scholars of royal succession.

Prospects for a restoration to the throne appear grim. Monarchist parties have had little recent success in France, and Henri Phillipe Pierre Marie d’Orleans, the Orleanist candidate, would have to be contended with in any case. Louis Alphonse currently lives in Venezuela, native country of his wife.

Trivia: The only King of what House spent four years in exile in the United States before his eventual ascension to the throne?

The "De Farco" Overruling

[ 0 ] July 1, 2007 |

I’ll have more substantive comments on the post (and the Greenhouse article, and the WaPo‘s ridiculous “we’re strongly opposed to the rulings that were made utterly inevitable by the justices we endorsed” editorial stance) later. But I wanted to have some fun this comment from Lederman first:

even when it means a very heatedly divided Court, and when (as in Leegin, WRtL and elsewhere), it requires de jure or de facro overruling of past cases.

I wonder if that’s a typo? Either way I think that it could come in handy in describing a depressing amount of future Roberts Court jurisprudence. A case, such as Carhart II, in which the Court makes a farcically trivial or specious distinction in order to avoid formally overruling a precedent is a “de farco overruling.” I like it!

Preserving What?

[ 1 ] June 30, 2007 |

Jonathan Zasloff beat me to Cass Sunstein’s discussion of Roberts and Alito’s “minimalism,” but since I’m working on and thinking about a scholarly article about it I thought I’d add my two cents. Sunstein’s basic point — that Alito and Roberts cast pretty much the same votes as Scalia and Thomas but are less interested in theory and write narrower opinions — is true as far as it goes. But when they vote to nominally “preserve previous decisions,” one has to ask exactly what is being preserved. The clear and explicit overturning of landmark precedents a la Lawrence is rarer than one might think; the New Deal Court, for example, often overturned precedents sub silento, and the Warren Court’s overturning of Plessy happened the same way (strike down segregation in a case emphasizing that education was unique and therefore not controlled by Plessy, and then just cite the case to overturn other types of segregation with no further explanation.) Rehnquist’s strategy was to hollow landmark Warren Court precedents rather than explicitly overturning them, and he tried to do the same thing with Roe. Upholding the precedents means something only they retain actual content. As Zasloff argues with respect to the nominal upholding of Flast v. Cohen, the centerpiece of Sunstein’s argument:

This is really grasping at straws. Does Sunstein really think that the next time taxpayers sue over a legislative appropriation, Alito and Roberts will gravely uphold standing, saying that they are bound by the precedent? If so, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell him. No–they will find some other meaningless distinction to show that there is no standing here, either. The distinction that they insisted on here actually cut against their argument: it makes MORE sense for there to be standing with an executive action, because the President is much less accountable to the public than Congress is. (If you don’t like something that the government is doing, whom do you call: your Congressman or the White House?). Besides, it’s easier to overrule a precedent simply by depriving it of all of its force: this is precisely what Roberts and Alito will do with Roe.

Right. And, of course, this is even more striking with the “upholding” of Carhart in Carhart II. As far as I can tell, what’s been preserved is “a woman’s right not to be burdened by an arbitrary abortion regulation if anyone is dumb enough to pass a law that’s exactly like the Nebraska statute.” (And since Kennedy found that statute constitutional anyway, almost certainly not even that.) What matters here is not the (laughably disingenuous) characterization of precedents but what the decision actually did with the statute and why, and the Court’s accepting anachronistic assumptions that no matter what the data says women must be crazy to want to get an abortion as a legitimate state interest will obviously give the states more leeway to regulate a woman’s right to choose. A couple of other points:

  • As I mentioned yesterday, while Sunstein likes to tout the democratic advantages of minimalism, I think there are real democratic costs to the kind of disingenuous hair-splitting employed by Alito and Roberts. Moreover, the democratic advantages of narrow rulings are inhere only if they actually reserve real legislative authority (or a right to sue that might actually be recognized or whatever.) Accountability is best served by candor (and, yes, I would say the same thing about the Warren Court’s post-Brown desegregation jurisprudence.)
  • I don’t mean to suggest that narrow holdings are never relevant, only that they can’t assumed to be and that we shouldn’t just take the Court’s word for it. While I remain skeptical that Kennedy himself will ever find an affirmative action program that will pass muster, failing to overrule Grutter has at least some consequences even as Bakke is reduced to less and less. Having said that, though, it’s important to remember that Alito and Roberts’s lack of interest in legal theory cuts both ways. The rare cases where the justices differ in their votes are likely to be cases where Scalia and Thomas cast more “liberal” votes. While, as we’ve seen, their commitment to “originalism” doesn’t constrain them on the issues that matter most to them, there are others — punitive damages, the 4th Amendment, 6th Amendment right to a jury trial, etc. — where they will vote with liberal justices. With the similarly reactionary but more pragmatic Alito and Roberts. conversely, there’s nothing that will cause any unpredictability.

At any rate, the first term demonstrates Roberts and Alito to be doctrinaire conservatives just as their records predicted, and the most likely effect of their “minimalism” is to do most of what Scalia and Thomas want to do in a more politically palatable manner.

"Market-Based Solutions"

[ 0 ] June 30, 2007 |

Nearly everything worth saying about this week’s Parents Involved decision has probably already been covered in previous threads (and elsewhere), but I want to highlight one piece of relevant historical obfuscation that joins several right-wing talking points about the history of and appropriate remedies for racial segregation. It’s axiomatic, of course, that your garden-variety wingnut sallies forth into the world with a severely limited understanding of the history of race in the US; as near as I can tell, the second half of the 19th century is an especially dark void for these people, who are prone to utter all kinds of bloated inanities about the Civil War, reconstruction, immigration and optional, imperial wars. That period really has it all — expanding government authority, massive demographic change, violent social conflict in every region of the nation, corporate growth, military revitalization — and nearly every time conservatives open their mouths on any of these subjects, they fuck it up royally.

The latest iteration of this trend comes by way of Captain’s Quarters, where Ed observes that

[r]acial preferences may have suffered a body blow, but we still have not succeeded in pushing market-based solutions to resolve the vestiges of the government failures to enforce the 14th Amendment for 100 years.

Um. Say what?

First of all, if I read Ed correctly, he’s expressing a geniune lament that radical reconstruction efforts — including state-level, race-based policies dedicated to integrating public schools — amounted to what Carl Schurz famously described as a “revolution, but half accomplished.” Good for him. As I gather from reading conservative blogs this week, it takes remarkable moral courage to denounce the “vestiges” of Jim Crow. I’m heartened to see that we’ve moved beyond the agonizing denunciations of Dred Scott and chattel slavery. (As a side note, could we at last retire the noxious metaphor of “vestigial” racism — as if economic inequities, vote suppression, and other ills were nothing more than vanishing traces of a regrettable past, or a shrunken, useless organ like an appendix? Among other things, racial resentment has been a vital part of conservative electoral success since the 1960s. However we choose to characterize that fact, “vestigial” isn’t the accurate term.)

But what is this “failure” of which the Captain speaks? As Ed is doubtless aware, by the 1872 Presidential election, the Republican Party had essentially abandoned the project of reconstruction to prevent the defection of Northern white voters from its ranks; by 1874, only a handful of states governments had not yet been “redeemed” by white supremacists; and beginning with the Slaughterhouse cases in 1873, the Supreme Court began narrowing the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that flatly ignored its legislative history and the easily discernible intent of its framers. In other words, “the government” did notfail to enforce its own Constitution for 100 years — this would imply that some sort of genuine attempt had been made in that direction.

Instead, “the government” allowed “the market” to determine that blacks were unfit for equal citizenship, that they were biologically and socially inferior, that they were to be governed by a regime of petty coercion and extraordinary violence, that they were uniquely suited to unskilled labor, and that all of this was to function as permanently as possible. “The market” also satisfied a healthy white demand for coon songs, racist postcards, horrid novels and films, and souvenirs from the latest lynchings — all of which helped to rationalize the broader architecture of white supremacy. Now, one could make the case (as liberal opponents of segregation sometimes did) that Jim Crow laws were an unjust interference with the socio-economic order and that Jim Crow regulations — however much they conformed to popular (i.e., white) preferences — weren’t actually expressions of the mystical priorities of “the market.” But as Nancy Cohen points out in her excellent work on late 19th century liberalism, most of the “market-based solutions” to the post-Civil War racial landscape went no further than boarding up the Freedman’s Bureau, removing federal troops from conquered lands, and muttering pieties about hard work, personal responsibility, and the immutable laws of the economy as Southern blacks were siphoned into debt peonage.

The larger point is this: As our courts narrow the remedies available to correct racial disparities in education, we’re going to have to endure a lot of nonsense about how “market-based solutions” like coupons “vouchers” will cleanse our souls. Clarence Thomas and others will ask us to worry about “elites bearing racial theories” — a statement so historically ignorant as to deserve a separate post — while asking us to trust the better angels of the market. It’s worth bearing in mind that “the market” has been part of the problem all along.

The Sporadic Originalists

[ 0 ] June 29, 2007 |

I have an article up in TAP about the affirmative action cases and “originalism.” The cases make clear that for even justices who occasionally practice it rarely gets in the way of strongly held policy preferences:

Affirmative action cases pose a similar but even more difficult problem for conservative originalists. It is implausible in the extreme to claim that the equal protection clause was generally understood, at the time that Congress was creating the Freedman’s Bureau, as prohibiting even remedial or otherwise benignly intended racial classifications. And neither Scalia nor Thomas has even tried to make a serious historical argument to this effect. Rather, they make policy arguments or speak in abstract terms about the principle of “color blindness,” a principle that is consistent with but hardly compelled by the 14th Amendment’s broad language.


And that’s even not the worst of it. Consider the case of Adarand v. Pena, in which Scalia and Thomas found a blanket constitutional prohibition on federal affirmative action. The problem for originalism here is even more grave, because the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the federal government. And if it’s a stretch to say that the equal protection clause was originally understood as prohibiting all racial classifications, it is absolutely farcical to read this principle into the due process clause of the 5th Amendment, which was ratified when the Constitution protected slavery. Whatever its independent merits, then, the Scalia/Thomas position on affirmative action has nothing whatsoever to do with originalism.

Having said that, I do think that Scalia deserves credit for taking Roberts to task for his disingenuous “I’m not overturning the precedent, I’m just refusing to ever apply it” hair-splitting. (As a friend noted in email, with Alito it seems almost a neurosis — what state will the Republicans lose in 2008 if Flast v. Cohen is overturned explicitly? He supposes that it’s the counts of precedents overturned that matters; if relatively few precedents are explicitly overruled some people may be fooled into thinking that nothing is really changing even as major branches of doctrine are being significantly revised.)

Walter Dellinger wrote recently that “But it’s neither minimalist nor restrained to overrule cases while pretending you are not.” Admittedly, as a skeptic I’m inclined to think of this kind of behavior as exemplifying minimalism rather than betraying it. But leaving aside the semantic issue the overall point he’s making is absolutely correct. The Court owes it to the public and role of the courts in a democracy to be honest about what it’s doing. If it wants to overrule Stenberg v. Carhart or McConnell or Flast v. Cohen, it should do so explicitly. In the meantime, however, it’s important not to be fooled when the Court declines to formally overrule a precedent it’s completely gutting.


[ 0 ] June 29, 2007 |

Shorter neo-neocon: “Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Brown v. Board of Education.”

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