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Channel 122 On Your Dial!

[ 6 ] November 28, 2007 |

I’m not sure whether to be happy that the Flames are on national TV (well, quasi-national) tonight, or dismayed that hockey fans across the country will see them get destroyed by the Red Wings again…

In other news, apparently Dennis Miller has a new show that involves recycling lame Britney Spears jokes and applying them to sports. I’m sure he’s on Versus because of the same Hollywood blacklist that pretty much stopped Roger L. Simon from getting work several years before he came out as a reactionary…

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Paul and Abortion

[ 31 ] November 27, 2007 |

Ramesh Ponnuru makes an interesting point about Ron Paul: “What strikes me is what a throwback Paul is among libertarians. Hard money and anti-interventionism move him, but he seems utterly uninterested in the lifestyle questions that have taken up so much of Reason for the past decade.” Indeed, he’s not merely indifferent to all such questions but in fact is a proponent of using state coercion to force women to carry pregnancies of term. Gillespie and Welch try to get around this by using the classic federalism dodge, asserting that Paul “nonetheless believes that federal bans violate the more basic principle of delegating powers to the states.”

As Ponnuru also notes, however, this won’t wash because he voted for the federal “partial birth” abortion ban. Moreover, from a libertarian perspective the “partial birth” ban is, if anything, less defensible than voting for a total ban. Libertarians could in theory justify a ban because most would see the protection of human life as a legitimate use of state power (although in practice criminalization does very little to actually protect fetal life, and Paul’s libertarian positions on other issues would almost certainly increase abortion rates by a massive extent.) The ban Paul voted for, conversely, does nothing to protect fetal life, but simply tries to force doctors to perform abortions using less safe methods in some cases. Even on its face, therefore, such legislation is about regulating female sexuality and punishing women for making choices the state doesn’t approve of, which is as inconsistent with any coherent set of libertarian principles as it is with “states’ rights.” Paul is more consistent than most Republican-affiliated “libertarians” — he’s not willing to make up ridiculous arguments in favor of the Iraq War, for example — but his libertarianism doesn’t seem to apply to these kinds of issues of individual freedom.

The lesson here is the obvious one: like libertarians, people willing to forego strongly-held substantive preferences in the name of federalism “are as rare as pieces of the True Cross.” And when almost anybody tells you that by advocating the overturn of Roe they want to “send the issue back to the states,” they’re almost certainly lying.

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Unintended Consequences

[ 25 ] November 27, 2007 |

Partly because I think you should stick by your predictions as long as they’re still plausible, I still think that Mitt Romney has to be considered the favorite to win the GOP nomination. Matt, however, makes an interesting point about the biggest impediment Romney faces: the possibility that Huckabee will win in Iowa. Assuming (and I think this is right) that Huckabee has enough support to win Iowa but lacks the resources to be competitive in the front-loaded primaries even if he wins, the irony is that the most social conservative major candidate could hand the Republican nomination to the candidate least congenial to social conservatives. Although it’s conceivable that Romney could survive a loss in Iowa, it would be hard to argue that he should be favored over Giuliani if it happens.

Of course, this kind of strange scenario is that result of the fact that there is a prominent hawkish social conservative in the race — who’s uncompetitive largely because of his personal conflicts with social conservative leaders. Between McCain being DOA and the late-entering plain vanilla southern conservative seemingly emulating Wesley Clark’s 2004 campaign we have the current situation in which nobody seems logically capable of winning the Republican nomination. In that context, I still think Romney is the least illogical possibility.

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Most Hyperbolic Three Paragraphs Ever

[ 18 ] November 27, 2007 |

I stand in awe:

It is fitting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose the U.S. Naval Academy for the venue of today’s so-called Mideast peace conference. The reputation of that extraordinary institution in Annapolis has been sullied in recent years by a succession of rapes of young women.

Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Miss Rice’s conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia.

This time, the intended victim is Israel. As with the effort to appease the Nazis and Fascists nearly 70 years ago, however, the damage will not be confined to the rapee. The interests of the Free World in general and the United States in particular will suffer from what the Saudis and most of the other attendees have in mind for the Jewish State — namely, its dismemberment and ultimate destruction.

Frank Gaffney has utterly destroyed Godwin’s Law. Future generations will have to use “Gaffney’s Law”, in which Hitler, Mussolini, the gang rape of United States Navy Academy cadets, and the destruction of Israel will all have to be mentioned in order to achieve the level of “inflammatory rhetoric”.

I do hope that at least someone will note that the unruliest of the unruly in the Netroots have only rarely accused Condoleeza Rice of gang rape…

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Fake Libertarians

[ 17 ] November 27, 2007 |

D-squared on conservertarians:

They’re always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman. The more independent-minded ones will occasionally come up with a liberalish or fair-minded idea or two, but this is purely for display, not for ever doing anything about if to do so would run the risk of a higher rate of capital gains tax. The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks.

1. Vote Republican.
2. That’s it.

The Iraq War has obviously been useful in exposing bullshit libertarians. It becomes comical to assert that the state cannot be trusted to administer a pension plan it has successfully administered with low overhead for many decades, but can be trusted at a massive expense of lives and money to create a liberal democracy ex nihilo in a country whose prior insitutional arrangements were exceptionally inhospitable to the new form. I’m reminded of my favorite recent example, Randy Barnett. What’s especially rich is that you may recall Barnett questioned whether the state would be necessary to enforce contracts — but deposing a regime that posed no significant threat to the United States in order to pursue an exceptionally ambitious, quarter-assed social transformation scheme that will magically supply a security justification to the war is perfectly OK! And war against nation X is justifiable if stateless Islamic terrorists with no connection to secular state X come from the same region, because the miraculous, very consistent with libertarian premises transformation of secular state X will produce even more miraculous transformations in Islamic states Y and Z, through causal relationships better left unspecified! It all makes perfect sense! As d-squared concludes in re: Milton Friedman:

Why are American liberals so damnably obsessed with extending intellectual charity to right wing hacks which is never reciprocated? It reaches parodic form in the case of those tiresome “centrists” who left wing American bloggers are always playing the Lucy-holds-the-football game with. Oh, but their politics are sooo centrist! They’re practically 50% of the way between Republicans and Democrats! Yeah, specifically they’re right-wing Democrats in non-election years and party line Republicans any time it might conceivably matter (note that here, two years after the White House ceremony at which Friedman apparently “spent most of his 90th birthday lunch telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster”, here he is signing a letter in support of more of the same).

I wouldn’t mind, but it’s clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn’t a party line Republican hack (which he was; he was also an excellent economist, which is why he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, not the Nobel Prize for Making A Sincere and Productive Contribution To The National Political Debate, which he would not have won if there was one).

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[ 2 ] November 27, 2007 |

Rob has already mentioned the untimely passing of Sean Taylor; hopefully those who shot him will be brought to justice. And although he’s a less prominent athlete, I should also note the death of Joe Kennedy. Most baseball fans have some sore-armed veteran trying to gut out a career that the root for, and Kennedy was always one of mine. Although I watch most games from the cheap seats, once or twice a year I would buy a really nice ticket, and in 2002 it happens that I saw a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Kennedy and Jamie Moyer from right behind home plate. Kennedy won 1-0 with a 4-hitter, and his stuff was very impressive (although admittedly pitching against Moyer probably makes your heater look better.) He was never the same after he hurt his arm the next year, but I always hoped he’d figure something out and stay in the league. R.I.P.

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Following the News…

[ 14 ] November 27, 2007 |

Yglesias writes, in reference to the death of Sean Taylor:

It’s best to follow actual news stories on actual news sites

At the risk of using the tragedy of Taylor’s death to discuss a meta-blogging issue, this position on the news seems to be a massive point of divergence between left and right blogistan. The most useless type of post in all the blogosphere is the “why aren’t leftist bloggers writing about this important issue?”; here’s an example from Michael Goldfarb (whose work I generally like) regarding Burma. Part of the answer is that lefty bloggers don’t have the same fantasies about policy relevance that right wing bloggers do; we figure that since there’s not terribly much that the US government can do about Burma, we’re likely to be even less effectual. I think that we also have a certain degree of respect for our readers, in that we expect that people will know without being told that the government of Burma is bad. Note to Ace of Spades; blathering endlessly about a course of events that you can’t possibly affect, then denouncing others for insufficient blather of their own, is rather the definition of “preening in righteous indignation.”

I think, though, that the biggest reason there’s such a divergence is that lefty bloggers don’t imagine themselves as a replacement for the news media at large. While we complain relentlessly about the failures of the MSM, we also recognize that organizations like the NYT have access to resources we don’t in places we don’t, and can usually be relied on for at least a basic narrative of events. We supply commentary, color, and critique, but our role is essentially complementary. I don’t think that this understanding holds in right blogistan; if it’s not featured at Red State, Instapundit, or Captain Ed, then it probably never happened. Of course, this probably goes a very, very long way towards explaining why conservatives tend to have such a poor grasp of basic current events; when Fox News is literally the best that you’ve got, there’s bound to be a substantial gap between perception and reality.

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Taking Back Marriage

[ 65 ] November 27, 2007 |

People are talking about Stephanie Coontz‘s NY Times Opinion column today, in which she advocates that we take back marriage from the control of the states. Here’s the nub of Coontz’s argument:

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.

I am with her 100%. When I suggested as much in my property class during my first year of law school, during a discussion of marital assets, people were shocked and appalled by the idea that marriage should be a religious institution and the state should be in the business only of civil unions for all couples, gay or straight. I would like to think that Coontz’s piece is a sign that notions are changing. But then again, that law school discussion was only two years ago.

I also have to say that as much as I support Coontz’s marriage proposal (pun intended), there is something about her historical framing of it that makes me a little uncomfortable. Yes, one strong thing going for the so-called privatization of marriage is the practice’s historical roots. That said, I think we need to be careful not to idealize the marriage of the past, in which women were property and a marriage was a business arrangement. Coontz is completely right to suggest that the state is not the appropriate purveyor of “marriage”; the state should recognize civil not religious unions. But I think we can advocate for this shift without recalling the marriage misogyny of days gone by. It continues strongly enough today as it is.

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Oh, to be A Fly on the Wall

[ 7 ] November 27, 2007 |

Anyone else think from this photo that perhaps the meeting on the environment didn’t go so well?

Related story here. It’s worth noting that Bush didn’t host Gore by choice — the get-together was part of an annual photo op of the president with the Nobel Prize winners.

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Naomi Wolf Believes The Children Are the Future

[ 62 ] November 26, 2007 |

Professional concern troll Naomi Wolf explains why the kids aren’t down with civics these days. The piece is mostly an infomercial for her new something-or-other — the American Freedom Campaign for Freedom and Democracy in a Free and Democratic America — but it also aims to supply yet another grand theory about how leftward intellectuals stabbed the nation in the back by “abandoning” patriotism to the Right during the last quarter of the 20th century. After reviewing the Dumb Things College Students Say About Democracy, Wolf gives the predictable stink-eye to all the hippies and college English professors.

Here she is in medias absurdum:

In the Reagan era, when the Iran-contra scandal showed a disregard for the rule of law, college students were preoccupied with the fashionable theories of post-structuralism and deconstructionism, critical language and psychoanalytic theories developed by French philosophers Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida that were often applied to the political world, with disastrous consequences. These theories were often presented to students as an argument that the state — even in the United States — is only a network of power structures. This also helped confine to the attic of unfashionable ideas the notion that the state could be a platform for freedom; so much for the fusty old Rights of Man.

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how Lacanian psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, and Derridean literary analysis were actually “applied” to American politics during the 1980s. Moreover, I’m curious to know how Wolf arrives the idea that these theories are to blame for persuading anyone that the state is merely an instrument of power or an on-shore holding corporation for late capitalism. Until the sun rises on that day, I’m going to assume that people who follow this line of argument either (a) haven’t ever read Grapes of Wrath or (b) are simply taking advantage of the opportunity to cheap-shot the French and the English Department in the same breath.

I’ve tried to explain this to skeptical friends and colleagues over the years, but — pass the smelling salts — it was completely possible during the 1980s to receive an English degree without reading a single word of Continental literary theory. No, really. Aside from the point that there’s nothing inherently corrosive about any of the intellectual tendencies Wolf mentions, the fact remains that with the exception of about a dozen or so students enrolled at elite universities, almost no one gave a gingersnap about Of Grammatology during the 1980s. If Wolf wants to understand why young people are supposedly feeling “depressed, cynical and powerless,” I can’t imagine why she’d include the reading list for the Yale English Department’s senior seminar.

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Will He Also Get Some Ships Named After Him?

[ 22 ] November 26, 2007 |

With #2 Senate Republican Trent Lott apparently set to retire, it seems worth returning again to the Dixiecrat Platform that Lott endorsed in 2002:

4. We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

5. We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

6. We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

7. We stand for the check and balances provided by the three departments of our government. We oppose the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments. We unreservedly condemn the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.

8. We demand that there be returned to the people to whom of right they belong, those powers needed for the preservation of human rights and the discharge of our responsibility as democrats for human welfare. We oppose a denial of those by political parties, a barter or sale of those rights by a political convention, as well as any invasion or violation of those rights by the Federal Government. We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.

9. We, therefore, urge that this Convention endorse the candidacies of J. Strom Thurmond and Fielding H. Wright for the President and Vice-president, respectively, of the United States of America.

In fairness, after Lott’s claim that this platform would have effectively addressed “these problems,” which should have been unsurprising given his history of ties to racist origanizations, he was briefly demoted from being Senate Majority Leader to being only the powerful chairman of the Rules Committee…

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Oh. My. God.

[ 0 ] November 26, 2007 |

At this blog and in other venues, I have for a long time tried to warn America about the robot menace; the inevitable moment when robots will rise against their creators and, mistaking us for bacon, try to eat us.

But have we neglected the monkey menace? Earlier this year I noted that the deputy mayor of Dehli was killed by a swarm of angry monkeys. But it looks as if that’s not the worst:

Wild gorillas have been seen using “weapons” for the first time, giving a new insight into how early man learned to use sticks and stones for fighting and hunting millions of years ago. Researchers observed gorillas in the Cross River area of Cameroon throwing sticks, clumps of earth and stones at human “invaders”. It is the first time that the largest of the great apes has been seen to use tools in an aggressive way.

It’s well known that revanchist elements in the monkey community have long held our advanced evolution and lack of body hair against us. While we’re trying to keep robots out of the front door, do we run the risk of letting monkeys in through the back?

Via Danger Room.

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