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Serious Political Journamalism

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

I suppose it’s not exactly shocking that the internet’s premier source for political haircut news would uncritically endorse the “look–boobies!!!!” story about an entirely banal group photo (with an egregious mischaracterization of the book written by the woman being demeaned in the bargain!) Still, what I don’t understand is if they’re going to uncritically endorse Althouse’s crackpot interpretations, why not go all the way? How about a good conspiracy theory about the Clenis (TM), perhaps something about how Jessica was a plant meant to throw investigators who were about to arrest Clinton for his role in the slaying of Vince Foster off the scent? Or perhaps a sidebar asking why Hillary Clinton would endorse a site that’s “clearly” about particular sexual practices? Some creativity, please! (Christ, I hope they don’t take this as a challenge.)

…see the video of Jessica on Colbert here.

The One Percent Doctrine, Creationist Edition

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

Conservapedia, from which Sam Brownback learns about all matters scientifical, continues to bring joy and good tidings to a world hungry for more bullshit. Here, Alex Beam of the Boston Globe learns a little more about baramins, by way of the ‘roo:

Their entry on kangaroos, for instance, says that, “like all modern animals . . . kangaroos are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah’s Ark prior to the Great Flood.”

You may not recognize the word “baramin.” It’s a 20th-century creationist neologism that refers to the species God placed on earth during Creation Week. Special for kids: I wouldn’t use that word on the biology final. Although maybe your parents could sue the local school board for failing to teach the Book of Genesis in science class.

More on Conserva-kangaroos: “After the Flood, these kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land with lower sea levels during the post-flood ice age, or before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart, or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.”

I must concede that the idea of ancient kangaroos guiding a turfy armada to Australia is nearly sufficient to change my mind about evolution.

On a side note, I’ve found that Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study also clears up a lot of lingering confusion over how eight humans cared for thousands of baramin couples; how the freshwater fish managed to survive along with their saltwater cousins; and how the animals avoided the “hazards” of inbreeding. [Pictured above: Kangaroo defending his sister's honor -- and the integrity of his baramin.]

Oh, yeah, there’s also a blog about baraminology. It’s just about as informative as it sounds.

Peremptory Challanges

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

I reiterate my opposition here.

Bush’s Idea of a Fair Judge

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

Via Matt, an excellent summary of the record of Leslie Southwick, the latest Bush Circuit Court nominee whose primary qualification is a slavish devotion to business interests. Particularly remarkable is the case of Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, in which the Court of Appeals of Mississippi (in an opinion joined by Southwick) upheld the state’s decision to overrule the Department of Human Services’s decision to fire an employee who used a racial slur against another employee. The state’s decision is subject to review, and cannot be “arbitrary or capricious.” So what were the findings that justified overriding the decision of DHS? As the dissent notes, here was the argument:

(1) DHS overreacted;

(2) the remark was made in an open meeting with an atmosphere of give and take;

(3) the term “good ole nigger” was not a racial slur;

(4) calling Varrie Richmond a “good ole nigger” was equivalent to calling her “teacher’s pet.”

Arguing that these justifications for overriding the DHS’ decision to fire the employee strain credulity is the least that can be said. (“Teacher’s pet?”) They were, however, good enough for Southwick, despite his typical position that employers should normally have the virtually unlimited discretion to fire employees. Southwick is not good enough for a seat on the federal circuit courts, and the Democrats should not consider even letting him out of committee. Although Supreme Court appointments get the vast bulk of the attention, other federal appointments matter a great deal, and the more appointments Bush gets to make the more ambiguous Supreme Court precedents that will be applied by judges who make John Roberts look like Thurgood Marshall.

Decision Rules

[ 0 ] June 5, 2007 |

Although it’s unfortunate for the Democrats, I have to say that Wyoming’s rules for replacement of Senator Thomas make sense, or at least more sense than a system under which the governor gets to choose whomever he likes. The random death of a legislator shouldn’t be allowed to shake up the political balance in Washington.

6:55 AM, Daytona Beach

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

States’ Rights!

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

Welcome to Crazy Nino’s House of Federalism! We guarantee that any characterization of facts by a state court, even if it’s so tendentious or transparently false that even a conservative darling circuit court judge can see through it, will be accepted!* Don’t worry about pesky Constitutional rights–make up whatever crap you need to and string ‘em up!

*Note: guarantee void if it may prevent a Republican President from being elected.

Great Moments in Drunken Mayhem

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

Today is the 33rd anniversary of one of the most staggering promotional failures in American sports history. On 4 June 1974, fans who showed up to watch the Cleveland Indians host the Texas Rangers were treated to a remarkably ill-conceived event known as “Ten Cent Beer Night.” Throughout the game, vendors dispensed tens of thousands of cups of Stroh’s beer to the 25,000 irascible fans who filled the soul-less, bug-infested cavern otherwise known as Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The result, quite predictably, was ugly.

The 1960s and 1970s were an awful time for northern Ohio, as the departure of heavy industry and the frenzied flight of white residents to the suburbs helped cut the city’s population nearly in half from its post-World War II high of 900,000. By 1974, Cleveland was five years past the infamous Cuyahoga River chemical fire and four years from declaring bankruptcy. For those who were able to struggle out of bed on June 4, the opportunity to drown in cheap alcohol must have seemed like an instance of divine intervention.

As fate would have it, a similar cheap beer promotion grew out of hand the previous week, when the Rangers and Indians met in Arlington, Texas. Midway through that game, the teams brawled, and Rangers fans responded by tossing cups of beer onto the field. Nothing that night, however, rivaled the lunacy that ensued in Cleveland when the Rangers arrived for a three-game series on June 4; averaging a mere 8000 fans per game that season, Cleveland Indians officials hoped that alcohol might create a buzz that their team’s players themselves could not.

During the first few innings, tipsy fans tossed smoke bombs and firecrackers at each other. By the second inning, a topless woman had leaped onto the field and chased down one of the umpires for an unwanted kiss; another streaker joined the Rangers’ Tom Grieve as he circled the bases following his second home run of the night; a father and son team ran into the outfield and dropped their pants. Meantime, golf balls, rocks and batteries rained down on Texas’ players throughout the game. At one point, someone heaved an empty gallon of Thunderbird wine at Rangers’s first baseman Mike Hargrove. As the game neared its conclusion, the evening descended into total chaos. During the ninth inning, the Indians managed to tie the score and placed the winning run on third base. At that point, a fan ran into the outfield to steal Jeff Burroughs’ glove. When Burroughs began chasing the fan, Rangers’ manager Billy Martin, along with several of Burroughs’ teammates, rushed to help out — several of them, including Martin, carried bats.

Not caring that their team was about to win a rare victory, the most intoxicated people in Cleveland began throwing hot dogs, beer cups, broken seats and glass bottles at their guests from Texas. Thousands of fans stormed the field, some of them brandishing chains and knives and metal chairs.

Within minutes, the umpires’ crew chief Nestor Chylak had invoked Rule 3.18 and forfeited the game to Texas. Chylak later described the fans as “uncontrollable beasts,” adding that he had never seen anything quite like it, “except in a zoo.” American League president Lee MacPhail concluded that beer “played a great role” in the affair.

(Cross-posted at the Axis)

It’s Alright Mr. Kennedy, My Uterus Is Only Bleeding

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

Marty Lederman points us to an interesting WaPo article, in which a few members of America’s tiny minority of serious, principled “pro-lifers” have come to see that “Partial Birth” bans are silly, irrational laws whose primary purpose is to separate money from their wallets and funnel it to the Republican Party. Focus on the Family, however, maintains that the bans do have an upside: the law does increase the “danger of internal bleeding from a perforated uterus.” If you don’t believe me that most of the American forced pregnancy lobby cares a great deal more about punishing women for sexual choices they don’t approve of than protecting fetal life, well, I say we take their word for it.

And, again, this explains the sexism in Kennedy’s opinion; you take it away, and the legislation has no connection with a legitimate state interest at all. As you can see, most anti-choicers (despite the bad faith Congressional findings that 2+2=171) don’t really think that these bans on a safer procedure protect women’s physical health. They simply believe that women can’t be trusted to make judgments about their own lives, and if this causes some women to be seriously injured that’s a feature, not a bug. It’s almost impossible to overstate how disgusting this legislation is, and how deeply entwined outright misogyny is with the American “pro-life” movement.

Off the Canvas

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |

The Red Sox, I suppose did the job they needed to do for themselves; they’re still pretty much in command of the division. But although mitigated by Saturday’s enjoyable victory–with Pasta Diving turning in such a wretched defensive performance that (after some hilarious straining: “Lowell got in his eyes! And then the moons of Saturn!”) even McCarver had to stop making excuses–with respect to the more important question of knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs they failed once again. The Yankees are only 7 out of the wildcard, and they’re certainly capable of making that up. You can’t say they’re favored–the Tigers and Indians are both pretty good–but they have a very serious chance. I still think they’ll score the most runs in the league, their rotation will be OK, and Rivera’s clearly back. (A lot of the undue optimism about the Yankees seems to revolve around Slappy’s alleged lack of clutchiosity and Jetertude, which as we saw once again last night are regrettably unfounded.) Although I like the Red Sox more as a team, it must be said that the Angels did their job while the Red Sox have now let them hang around by losing 4 out of 6 when they were down.

Having said that, I was probably wrong about the Red Sox not winning the division and certainly wrong about them not signing Damon. I still don’t like Crisp at all as an offensive player–he’s a singles hitter with no plate discipline–but he’s not only been better than Damon in the field but actually good period, and if the Red Sox sign Jones or Ichiro! they’ll obviously win the gamble easily. But the Yankees will be in the playoff hunt in September.

You may have also heard that Clemens was scratched today with a “fatigued groin.” Rumors that he was following the Slappy Tour of Manhattan are unconfirmed at press time.

Hitchens, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

[ 0 ] June 4, 2007 |


Peter Collier: Of all the public intellectuals that kind of snapped to attention on 9/11, only you and a few others — Victor Davis Hanson comes to mind — still seem to be on a war footing. Do you feel embattled? You feel chastened by the stuttering incompetence of the War on Terror? Has it become a chore to defend the war in Iraq?

Christopher Hitchens: Well, when you say I feel embattled, it would be as if, if I said yes, that would be in some way to be morose, or to feel self-pity. You picked the crucial word. I should come right out and say it. I mean, for me, it’s enough to be at war. The crucial thing is to be at war, and to know what side you’re on in it.

As with Victor Hanson, who I didn’t know before this, though I’d once reviewed one of his books on classical studies — if you haven’t read his book on the Peloponnesian War, you must.

Peter Collier: It’s great.

Christopher Hitchens: Very modest and decent guy. If you like the Cincinnatus of our struggle — and he was a farmer. He wanted to be left alone, teaching classics to Spanish-speaking immigrants in the valley around Fresno, and traveling up every now and then to Stanford to teach classics at a higher level, and be a great historian. And his only real work on warfare had been a sort of memoir of those of his family [who fought] at Iwo Jima.

A man literally — like Cincinnatus — taken from the plough to say, All right, now it’s war. Now everyone must be involved. Very proud to have met him this way. He and I agree.

Hitch’s belief that “the crucial thing is to be at war” — and that he offers up this casual belligerence to deflect a question on the failures of the war on terrorism — is merely the second most jaw-droppingly thick thing he has to offer in this passage. Remarkable feat, that.

Reputation and the Vote

[ 0 ] June 3, 2007 |

Several of the comments on this post make what is essentially a reputational argument about the failure of the Democrats to establish a timetable or create other limits on the ability of the President to carry out the war. Since I reject reputational arguments in reference to international politics, I’m not sure why I should take them seriously in the domestic context, either. If I can summarize (and I understand that I may do violence to the intent of some commenters), the argument goes something like this: By backing down, the Democrats in Congress displayed a lack of resolve, and the President will take advantage of this lack of resolve in future conflicts over war funding. I’m skeptical for several reasons:

  • The Democrats didn’t display a lack of resolve. They displayed a lack of votes. I fail to see how reminding everyone of this by failing to stop the war in a prolonged legislative fight improves the situation of the party or begins to end the war.
  • Resolve is important in a theoretical sense because it changes the behavior of the adversary. If the enemy believes we possess resolve, then s/he will be deterred from some behavior that we find unpleasant. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it makes no sense in this context. First, I doubt very much that the President’s beliefs about Democratic resolve or lack thereof are going to change his behavior regarding the war. His own rhetoric has left him with very few options. I don’t really see how, if the Democrats had displayed additional resolve at this juncture, it would have changed Presidential behavior down the line. Moreover, the behavior of the President doesn’t really matter. The next fight over funding will be determined by the ability of Reid and Pelosi to hold the caucus together and to chase down Republican defectors, which is another way of saying that capability instead of resolve will decide the outcome.
  • The theoretical case for the importance of resolve is, in any case, indeterminate. There are multiple ways in which the President (and anyone else) could have interpreted the series of votes on the war. It’s certainly possible that the President believes that the failure of the Democratic Congress to press the withdrawal vote is evidence of lack of will or lack of resolve. But people don’t always view such events in this way; it’s also quite possible that the administration (and other Republicans) understood this as a preparatory effort to a later fight. In any case, like I suggest above, the point is probably moot; I doubt very much that anything about the President’s behavior depends on the behavior of Democrats.

Fighting the tough fight now doesn’t necessarily make the next fight easier, and it can make that fight harder. A demonstration of resolve makes little difference either way. Pressing a fight at an inopportune time can actually prove counter-productive. While Atrios may be right that the oft-mentioned defection of a group of Republicans from the war party will never happen, the practical meaning of this is that, until January 2009, a withdrawal won’t happen, either. The Democrats cannot force a withdrawal without Republican support. Were they to force Bush into some funding shenanigans in order to continue the war, they would still need Republican support in order to punish the administration. The sad fact of the American political system is that what the Democrats want to do cannot be accomplished without the defection of some Republicans. Did the course of events make it easier or harder for marginal Republicans to support the President come September? It’s difficult to say, but my guess is harder; barring a radical transformation of the trends, Iraq will look as bad then as it does now.

I also quite strongly disagree with the contention that nothing was accomplished by the initial vote for a withdrawal timetable. While no formal restriction on the President’s powers was achieved, rhetorical position obviously matters in politics. Pelosi and Reid have taken a party that, a year ago, was confused and disoriented regarding the war have placed it quite clearly on the side of withdrawal. It’s now more obvious than ever that the war is, fundamentally, a Republican war, to be continued with the active support only of the Republican Party, and perhaps only part thereof. This is work that needed to be done in preparation for later funding battles, and is the central achievement of the last several months.

Finally, I quite agree with this, from Terence Samuel:

The war is obviously unpopular, and President Bush’s job approval rating is at historic lows — it would be tempting to just play the strongest available hand. That would be to force him to keep vetoing bill, and to force unpopular votes on the GOP in Congress. That would be easy, but it wouldn’t end the war. The vetoes would be sustained, and at any rate wars don’t end at the conclusion of a roll call vote. It will take Republican votes to force the president into the corner. Those are starting to come; cutting off funding would turn back that support.

So even though the supplemental compromise had the look of past weak-kneed Democratic surrenders, there was a strategic rationale to it that should make the opponents of the war, if not proud, at least hopeful. The slow build from a series of failed non-binding resolutions last summer to a presidential veto this spring shows a level of persistence — and strategery — among Hill Democrats that would make the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue proud.

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