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We Can’t Get on Any of the Best Enemies Lists…

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

How is Noon not on this list?

H/t GC.

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Relevant Seasonal Videos

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

To echo Rob, Happy Holidays, and take care of each other!

Merry Christmas and So Forth

[ 0 ] December 25, 2009 |

Happy holidays. Be good. Stay safe.

Wait, Acorn Did Not Commit Voting Fraud?

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

You’re kidding, right? At least that’s the line by the reasonable representative from Iowa, Steve King (R). After weighing his complete lack of evidence to the contrary, he finds this report “unconvincing”. Instead, he goes with his well honed imagination:

“This report doesn’t begin to cover the transgressions of Acorn,” Mr. King said.

Admittedly, the authors of the report were likely unable to interview the voices in King’s head, so he does have a point.
“I think Acorn is bigger than Watergate.”

To which all I can think is that I’d like some of that eggnog he is drinking, but I have to drive back down to Oregon from Kitsap County today.
Of course, maybe with that eggnog and King’s imagination, my car might be sprinkled with fairy dust, sprout wings, and we could fly down to Oregon . . . because it must be powerful stuff, seeing as how King has voted in favor of Acorn projects early and often.
Life’s ironies can be delicious.
As an aside, it appears that Congressional legislation cutting off Acorn is vulnerable to a constitutional critique as a bill of attainder. I’d search to see if Scott or Paul have picked up on this, but I can see the wings unfurling from my car as I type . . .

Dinga Dinga Dee!

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

This is indescribably awesome in every way:

Via Danger Room.

The Enemy of My Enemy Really Isn’t Necessarily My Friend

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

I’ll bet that there are some things that I’d agree with Grover Norquist about. He has a nice beard, for example. If somebody asked me to co-sign a “Defense of Facial Hair” letter with Grover, though, I suspect I’d have to shave.

I Always Suspected That Peter Mandelson Was a Wanker

[ 0 ] December 23, 2009 |

I’ll have more to say about this later, but I’m out the door for a Christmas dinner with my partner’s family. Merry Christmas, Lord P.

Of course, the British university system never really recovered from the Thatcher slash and burn approach, only just recently recovering a modicum of respectability. Nobody really believed Tony Blair’s desire to see 50% of British “school leavers” in university was possible (or even desirable), but this is the same government, right, that now claims this:

Lord Mandelson made his position clear in the Secretary of State’s annual letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He said: “My predecessor repeatedly made clear the risks of student over-recruitment putting unmanageable pressures on our student support budgets.”

And people wonder why most people no longer believe a word that the Labour government has to say about, well, much of anything.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope

[ 2 ] December 22, 2009 |

This largely fawning Times Magazine profile of Robert George nonetheless manages to be quite damning. George’s purportedly major intellectual contribution, Fitzpatrick explains, is to apply tautology and bare assertion natural law to contemporary questions of jurisprudence and political theory. You will probably not be surprised to learn that this would-be modern Aquinas has discovered that “natural law” and “practical reason” reveal…a near-perfect photocopy of the 2008 Republican platform:

Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops’ “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.

[…]

The “rights” to education and health care are another matter, George told his seminar. “Who is supposed to provide education or health care to whom?” George asked. “Health care and education are things that you have to pay for. Resources are always finite,” he went on. “Is it better for education and health care to be provided by governments under socialized systems or by private providers in markets or by some combination?” Those questions, George said, “go beyond the application of moral principles. You can get all the moral principles dead right and not have an answer to any of those questions.”

It is to his credit, I suppose, that he’s so straightforward about his cafeteria Catholicism. But it is nonetheless clear that the argument he’s making fails on its own terms. Surely the truism that “you can get all the moral principles dead right and not have an answer to any of those questions” applies no less to abortion policy than anything else, which makes it highly relevant that George’s preferred policy mix (draconian criminalization of abortion, reactionary gender politics, minimal welfare state) in fact has a notably dismal record even when it comes to reducing abortion rates. Indeed, there’s much better evidence that robust welfare states reduce poverty than that abortion criminalization substantially reduces abortion rates (as opposed to the incidence of safe abortions.) Moreover, it seems rather clear that grubby politics rather than natural law is the primary factor in determining why George and his adherents are more concerned with same-sex marriage than, say, no-fault divorce when addressing alleged offenses against traditional marriage.

As a punchline, I’ll also highlight this tidbit: 

Later that year, when Bill Clinton denied Casey a chance to speak about abortion at the 1992 Democratic convention, it was George who had helped to write Casey’s speech.

Yes, the fact that Casey was denied that speaking slot sure was an outrage…

Lee Sigelman

[ 0 ] December 22, 2009 |

Rest in peace.

Where Are The Votes?

[ 0 ] December 22, 2009 |

I think Nate Silver’s decimation of the reconciliation dodge is definitive. Granted, I roughly share his ideological priorities, and as a result I don’t think there’s a very serious argument the bill doesn’t improve the status quo (and any such argument would apparently have to rely on some pretty reactionary propositions, such as “compensation in the form of health care should be permanently exempt from taxation.”) So any argument for blowing up this bill does indeed have to rely on claims that a better bill could be obtained through reconciliation. Which seems implausible in the extreme. As I see it, the key points:

  • There’s no way that there’s even 50 votes for a public option sufficiently robust to be worth risking the bill’s regulate-and-subsidy provisions over.
  • Once you consider the lost votes of Feingold and Byrd — as well as God knows how many centrist wankers who would use reconciliation, and the threat is poses to their leverage, as a pretext to vote nay — it’s not even obvious that there are 50 votes for a weak public option through reconciliation.

The bottom line is that holding out hope for a better bill through reconcilation is to fundamentally misunderstand the politics of the situation. The fact that pre-existing majoritarian Senate rules would probably result in a better bill most certainly doesn’t mean that using reconciliation would result in a better bill — many Senators have a vested interest in the existing rules. So killing the bill in the hope of reconciliation would almost certainly make the rest of the bill much worse, and at best would result in a weak public option in exchange. As a percentage move, this would be roughly akin to having Babe Ruth circa 1923 bunt with a runner on second down three runs. It may be true that the threat of reconciliation could have led to a better bill, but I doubt it for these reasons — especially once Feingold made it clear that he wouldn’t play ball, I don’t think either conservative Democrats or Republicans would have viewed the threat as credible.

At any rate, the only reason to oppose the bill is if you think it’s worse than the status quo on the merits. The rest is ice cream castles in the air.

Right Addition, Wrong Subtraction

[ 0 ] December 22, 2009 |

I’d have to agree that Richard Cohen — if only for his status as a nominal “liberal” — merits addition to this list. But I’d remove the merely boring Hoagland instead; while I understand Duncan’s point, I’ll insist that three years of Kelly is worth a full decade of the typical winger. For those who don’t remember, read this.

I’d also have thought that Applebaum would be an easy choice, but honestly I can’t identify anyone else I’d remove…

…Henley, despite his inclusion of Dionne (hey, electing Obama was always going to fray the libertarian/liberal alliance) makes a good case for Cohen. And he’s also right about how horrendous Broder is.

Teenage Runaways Need to Up Their Game

[ 0 ] December 21, 2009 |

Because there’s running away from home, and there’s sailing away from home.

OK, technically, they’re not sure how she transported from The Netherlands to the Dutch Antilles, but I would think that it’s somewhat difficult for a 13/14 year old to just up and buy a KLM ticket and board without any indication that this is approved by a parent / guardian / the state.
Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Laura Dekker could withdraw €3,500 from her personal bank account. When I was 13 (or 14, as The Guardian reports her age to be) I didn’t have a personal bank account, let alone €3,500 to put in or take out of it. Hell, come to think of it, I don’t have that now.