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[ 0 ] January 17, 2009 |

God, that was some depressing TV. Guess we know who the 12th cylon is, at least. Be careful of spoilers in comments.

Taibbi on Friedman II 1/2: The Smell Of Fear

[ 0 ] January 17, 2009 |

OK, I wish he hadn’t opened with a but-John-Edwards-lives-in-a-big-house fallacy, but you’re looking for the quality of the venom rather than the quality of the ideas, and once again Taibbi delivers:

But whatever, let’s concede the point, forget about the crazy metaphors for a moment, and look at the actual content of Hot, Flat and Crowded. Many people have rightly seen this new greenish pseudo-progressive tract as an ideological departure from Friedman’s previous works, which were all virtually identical exercises in bald greed-worship and capitalist tent-pitching. Approach-and-rhetoric wise, however, it’s the same old Friedman, a tireless social scientist whose research methods mainly include lunching, reading road signs, and watching people board airplanes.

Like The World is Flat, a book borne of Friedman’s stirring experience of seeing IBM sign in the distance while golfing in Bangalore, Hot,Flat and Crowded is a book whose great insights come when Friedman golfs (on global warming allowing him more winter golf days:“I will still take advantage of it—but I no longer think of it as something I got for free”), looks at Burger King signs (upon seeing a “nightmarish neon blur” of KFC, BK and McDonald’s signs in Texas, he realizes: “We’re on a fool’s errand”), and reads bumper stickers (the “Osama Loves your SUV” sticker he read turns into the thesis of his “Fill ‘er up with Dictators” chapter). This is Friedman’s life: He flies around the world, eats pricey lunches with other rich people and draws conclusions about the future of humanity by looking out his hotel window and counting the Applebee’s signs.

And it gets better, especially with regards to Taibbi’s Friedmanesque contributions to social science. (See the previous iteration here.)


[ 0 ] January 17, 2009 |

Sad, and yet true:

Thinking back to George W. Bush’s farewell address it’s striking that the best thing the man can say about his record in office is that only once during his term in office were 3,000 people killed by foreign terrorists. And it’s really striking that other people in the conservative movement seem to take this “accomplishment” very seriously.

The man did warn us about the soft bigotry of low expectations…

Selling the product

[ 0 ] January 16, 2009 |

USC coach Pete Carroll isn’t happy about QB Mark Sanchez’s decision to enter the NFL draft. Of course that decision is bad for Carroll’s team, but Carroll is sophisticated enough to know that, for recruiting purposes, that can’t be the basis of his objection to Sanchez leaving (Carroll’s recruiting pitch is largely about how USC prepares players for the NFL).

So Carroll cites what he claims is a high failure rate for QBs who enter the draft early. He doesn’t compare that rate to the success rate of senior entrants, so it’s a useless statistic.

His other claim is that NFL teams would prefer for Sanchez not to enter the draft this year, since they don’t see Sanchez as a “finished product.” This is such an absurd argument — as if Sanchez’s decision ought to turn on what NFL teams think is good for them! Of course they would prefer for Sanchez to spend another year at USC — that lessens their risk by giving them more information about what they’re buying. However it greatly increases Sanchez’s risk. Maybe he’ll get hurt. Maybe he’ll have a less than stellar year.

As it stands, Sanchez will surely be one of the two top QBs in the draft, because several top juniors decided not to come out. That practically guarantees him a first round selection, which in turn guarantees him several million (and potentially tens of millions) dollars in signing bonus money.

From an economic perspective it would be crazy for Sanchez not to enter the draft. Carroll’s argument is essentially that Sanchez will be getting $10 million now, but he might get $50 million if he stays another year. Assuming Sanchez’s current net worth is around zero, this argument is very weak. In practical terms, the difference between zero net worth and $10 million is almost infinitely larger than the difference between $10 million and $50 million. And Sanchez’s odds of going from being worth $10 million to zero in the next year are way, way higher than his odds of going from $10 million to $50 million.

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] January 16, 2009 |

What’s a crappy ex-president to do?

[ 0 ] January 16, 2009 |

At his last press conference, Bush pondered the question of how he might occupy his time after leaving office.

I’m a Type A personality. You know, I just — I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach.

Jonathan Schwarz has a good idea.

The Abstinence Only Clown Show

[ 0 ] January 16, 2009 |

Joe at Advocates for Youth notes that clowns are always scary:

We currently spend $1.5 billion a year to fund abstinence-only until marriage sex education in our public schools. And yes, that money goes to people like Derek Dye, as he is employed by the Elizabeth New Life Center that received a $800,000 CBAE grant in 2007 to promote abstinence until marriage. His qualifications? A “Bachelor of Fun Arts” from Barnum Bailey Clown College, and an abstinence educator certification that can be purchased for $50.

I long sought a Bachelor of Fun Arts, but the classes were too hard. One of Derek’s maxims is that “Having sex before you are married is just like juggling machetes!” I however, have never found this to be true.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

Taking The Whaaaaambulance To Court

[ 0 ] January 15, 2009 |

Speaking of Supreme Court qualifications, I would definitely support trying to find justices who don’t cry like an especially immature four-year-old who just dropped their lolly in the sandbox just because some people voted against his confirmation. Admittedly, this may mean a pretty small pool of wealthy conservative Republican white men, seeing’s how they’re the self-described Most Oppressed People on Earth, but I’m prepared to make that non-sacrifice. (HT: Atrios)

Plane Crash

[ 0 ] January 15, 2009 |

Apparently a plane just crashed into the Hudson. Word is that all of the passengers survived, which is a pleasant surprise given that it’s currently ridiculously cold in NYC.

via ID, here’s the flight path. Here’s a profile of the pilot.

Pretending that Bush v. Gore Was Constitutional Law: Minnesota edition

[ 0 ] January 15, 2009 |

Michael Stokes Paulsen, in the fine tradition of Bush v. Gore itself, attempts to argue that the recount that gave the Minnesota Senate election to Al Franken “is an obvious, embarrassing violation of the Constitution.” This argument, as you would expect, consists almost entirely of blatant mischaracterization of the facts:

  • Despite Paulsen’s repeated assertions, Bush v. Gore was not a 7-2 decision. No dissenter joined any part of any majority opinion, including its equal protection analysis.
  • This isn’t just a pedantic point, because the equal protection rationale (such as it was) used by the majority was fundamentally different than the one advanced by the dissenters (which required an appropriate remedy.) Paulsen claims that under Bush v. Gore “Whatever standards Minnesota uses must be applied uniformly, consistently, and under clear standards not admitting of local variation.” I agree it would be nice if this had been Bush v. Gore‘s holding, but of course the Court said no such thing (“The question before the Court is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections. Instead, we are presented with a situation where a state court with the power to assure uniformity has ordered a statewide recount with minimal procedural safeguards.”) Nowhere did the Court claim that complete uniformity was required to comport with “minimal safeguards,” and indeed the Court declined to say anything beyond the specific facts before it. And, of course, the Court’s remedy makes clear that unformity is not a Constitutional requirement, since the recount that gave Bush the office was not remotely uniform. Despite Paulsen’s attempt to skate around this question, you can’t just seperate the remedy from the holding.
  • Like most of the Court’s apologists, Paulsen also convieniently ignores the fact that the Florida courts in 2000 did not use a uniform recound standard because the Supreme Court told them not to. Paulsen has to ignore this, of course, because it destroys his claim that Bush v. Gore stands for a requirement for recounts “not admitting local variation.”)
  • Paulsen asserts that “subsequent media counts confirmed that Bush won anyway, under any uniform standard.” Sadly, no!
  • And, finally, like most “Al Franken stole the election” types, Paulsen never gets around to saying what was wrong with the decisions that favored Franken. The fact that different boards reached different results, of course proves nothing; it doesn’t even prove that they were applying different standards (although the Constitution as currently interpreted clearly allows them to do so anyway.) In particular, he fails to put forward an argument for why improperly excluded absentee ballots shouldn’t be counted, for what I take to be obvious reasons.

Of course, one suspects that Paulsen doesn’t really believe that vote count systems must be uniform (I must have missed his op-eds making such claims when local variations in the vote count came out in Coleman’s favor.) Rather, in a faithful application of Bush v. Gore, we seem to know when a count is sufficiently constitutional at the exact point at which the Republicans win. Fortunately, the Minnesota courts won’t buy it and the Supreme Court isn’t going to revisit its 2000 atrocity.

Gutting the Exclusionary Rule

[ 0 ] January 15, 2009 |

For people who care about civil liberties, it was definitely not a good thing when the Roberts Court decided to hear an exclusionary rule case this term. The Court’s Wednesday decision in Herring v. U.S. confirmed these fears, holding that evidence obtained after an illegal search (police conducted a search based on an expired warrant, which appeared to still be valid because of their own negligence) did not have to be excluded under the circumstances. For reasons I went into in the post linked above, I strongly disagree with the Court’s judgment — the gutting of the exclusionary rule reduces incentives for state officials to comply with constitutional commands.

And it’s even worse than it might have been. Tom Goldstein notes that the case goes well beyond previous exclusionary rule exceptions:

The opinion has nothing to do with the fact that the error here is one of recordkeeping. It applies fully to negligence by police officers in their day-to-day determination whether there is probable cause to conduct a search. If the officer makes an objectively reasonable mistake – i.e., he is merely negligent – the exclusionary rule does not apply to whatever evidence he finds. Put another way, the Supreme Court today extended the good faith exception to ordinary police conduct.

As Breyer noted in his dissent, the Court had previously confined the “good faith” exception to cases where negligence by other actors led police to conduct an illegal search. Contra Breyer, this never made much sense — it’s far from clear why the exclusionary rule should be addressed only to police misconduct rather than illegal actions by all state actors — so the Court refusing to confine the exception to non-police actors has its own grim logic. And while I’m not without a certain sympathy for the idea that it’s appropriate to balance the effects of applying the rule based on the effects on a particular case, the fact that the Court permitted an exception in a run-of-the-mill drug poession and gun case as opposed to a serious violent crime makes clear that the cost-benefit analysis will be done with a 2-ton anvil on the state’s side. There’s no serious weighing of costs and benefits being done here at all.

Finally, it should be noted that once again the purported “minimalism” of Roberts is a complete farce. Roberts and Alito aren’t substantively “minimalist” even if they abjure grand theory, and this will be far from the last 5-4 Roberts decision that (however the opinion chooses to characterize the precedents) revises a substantial body of law in an inevitably reactionary direction.

[X-Posted at TAPPED.]

Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009

[ 0 ] January 15, 2009 |

This is really djw’s department, but in the interim a fine tribute to McGoohan can be found here.