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Worst Graduation Ever

[ 20 ] May 7, 2008 |

I thought I’d seen seen some awful graduation ceremonies in my day, but Jeebus! At Wash U. in St. Louis, Chris Matthews will give the commencement address, and Phyllis “Rape Cannot Exist in the Confines of Marriage” Schlafly will receive an honorary doctorate.

The good news, of course, is that graduation robes are good for smuggling pies.

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Good News on the Gas Tax Follies

[ 34 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Hilzoy notes, the gas tax pander seems to have failed utterly, perhaps even costing Clinton a substantial number of votes. I take some comfort in the notion that voters aren’t as stupid as Jerome Armstrong would assume…

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Still Over

[ 17 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Sam said, tonight conveyed no new information. Clinton had pretty much no chance before tonight, and she still doesn’t. They have the same coalitions they’ve had for most of the race, and Obama’s is somewhat but decisively bigger. Clinton was never going to be able to use the vote totals from North Korea Michigan to go over the top unless you think the superdelegates are mostly complete idiots; after tonight, it’s just that Clinton can’t win even under her campaign’s own silly ad hoc metrics.

What it does seem to change is that the media may give up any pretense that Clinton could win the nomination. And given Clinton’s cancellation of appearances, you have to wonder if she’s finally going to concede the inevitable.

this seems to confirm my speculation about the media.

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Just A Break From Primary Coverage…

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

I’m guessing Moises Alou isn’t the oldest player ever to steal home (Carew? Cobb?), but I suspect he may have the oldest back and knees…

I continue to regret the fact that my Moises-signed softball glove was lost forever on the swampy University of Washington softball fields.

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Lake County

[ 24 ] May 7, 2008 |

Normally I leave this sort of thing to my betters at sites like Openleft. I don’t really know much of anything about this stuff. But:

Playing around with the current Indiana vote totals by county….

The vast majority of outstanding votes are in Lake county.

IF all other counties with outstanding precincts continue to vote as they’ve voted so far,

and Lake County turns out in the same volume relative to population and votes for Obama at the same rate as Marion county (Indianapolis), which is a 2:1 margin, Obama will gain in the ballpark of 41,000 votes. Clinton’s current margin is….41,000 votes. The two counties have virtually identical racial democraphics (25% AA), and of course Lake County is part of the Chicago media market.

Here’s hoping…oalqfb

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You Sure You Wanna Do That?

McCain, again trying to shore up his conservative credentials, is heaping criticism on Barack Obama for voting against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts (Hillary Clinton also voted against Roberts). I’ve gotta say, for anyone even remotely concerned about the integrity of the Supreme Court, this is not a smart criticism. Roberts has been among the least forthcoming nominees ever — a reality that became too clear over the last two terms, in which the Court has disingenuously gutted precedent without admitting to it and has had more 5-4 decisions than ever before (despite Chief Justice Roberts’ promise to unify the Court). Obviously, though, McCain is preaching not to the sane here, but to the wingnut right.

McCain also noted that his model justice would be Alito — hates women’s rights and (unlike Scalia) hates criminal defendants’ rights too, even though those are explicit in the Constitution! He’s a home run!


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[ 0 ] May 6, 2008 |

Another academic year is now officially over. I’ve submitted all my grades, and now — as usual — I’m overcome by an enormous sense of panic as I wonder how I can possibly have enough time this summer to complete my research and prepare for next year’s courses.

For the next few minutes, however, I will permit myself to celebrate.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 9 ] May 6, 2008 |

Andrew Jackson, in a message to the Senate, 6 May 1830, three weeks prior to the passage of the Indian Removal Act.

It is certainly desirous . . . that some agreement should be concluded with the Indians by which an object so important as their removal beyond the territorial limits of the States may be effected. In settling the terms of such an agreement I am disposed to exercise the utmost liberality, and to concur in any which are consistent with the Constitution and not incompatible with the interests of the United States and their duties to the Indians.

. . . The great desideratum is the removal of the Indians and the settlement of the perplexing question involved in their present location–a question in which several of the States of this Union have the deepest interest, and which, if left undecided much longer, may eventuate in serious injury to the Indians.

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If I Were a Betting Man…

[ 14 ] May 6, 2008 |

The predictions part of my diavlog was lost, but I think I predicted Clinton +10 in Indiana, Obama +7 in NC. Overs? Unders?

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The Least Powerful Branch

[ 0 ] May 6, 2008 |

Like Josh Patashnik, I’m puzzled by Anna Quindlen’s claim that the judiciary is the most powerful branch of the federal government. Patashnik notes the relatively narrow scope of the recent decisions Quindlen cites, which is terms of their impact are obviously dwarfed by, say, the Iraq War or Bush’s series of budget-busting upper-class tax cuts, both areas in which the courts have virtually no influence. In addition, many of Qundlen’s examples are hardly example of the unilateral power of the courts. The decision to uphold Indiana’s voter ID law was, in my judgment, a bad one — but it also would have been beside the point had the legislature not passed the bad law in the first place. Similarly, Ledbetter was bad, but the Court has been able to establish a new status quo because 1)the President vetoed corrective legislation, 2)a Republican minority in the Senate the filibustered, and 3)the Equal Pay Act didn’t allow for punitive damages in the first place, making the statute of limitations provisions of Title VII relevant in the first place. The court certainly matters, but in most cases its shaping of the policy generated by the other branches is marginal. And even where the progressive impact of the court is arguably the most important — abortion rights — such rights have substantial support among both the public and among elected officials, and indeed Roe could not have survived even in its current watered-down form if this wasn’t the case.

An additional point is that — as I think I’ve said before — Quindlen’s claim that “[h]istory tells us that virtually all presidents get blindsided by their court choices” is also not really true. Almost all alleged “surprises” were either selected for reasons other than ideology (Warren, Brennan, O’Connor, Souter) or were third choices reflecting the constraints of the Senate (Blackmun, Kennedy.) And even the extent to which Blackmun crossed Nixon has been overstated; there’s very little reason to believe that Nixon cared about abortion when making Supreme Court appointments. On the stuff that Nixon actually cared about, even Blackmun was pretty reliable vote for his first decade. All four Nixon appointees joined the 5-4 decisions that effectively gutted Brown by permitting states to maintain schools that were both de facto segregated and unequal as long as this was done by through district boundaries and funding rather than direct pupil assignment, for example. And no Nixon appointee ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional until is was again well-established. In general, voters are actually perfectly rational in assuming that a President they otherwise support will appoint judges with more congenial constitutional views and using presidential ideology as a proxy.

None of this is to say that the public wouldn’t benefit from knowing more about the courts and what they do, but you can say that about almost any aspect of government. Regulatory decisions are also an extremely important part of modern government and will tend to be very different depending on who occupies the White House, but they attract if anything less public attention.

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Gremlins Get Into the Bloggingheads

[ 0 ] May 6, 2008 |

Diavlogged with Michael Goldfarb yesterday, but gremlins got into the process somewhere, and only about twelve minutes survived. Here’s a bit from the remnant:

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Wolfie’s Hindsight

[ 18 ] May 6, 2008 |

Via Phil Carter and Eli Lake, Paul Wolfowitz on the mistakes of the occupation:

“One was enough troops for the major combat. A lot of people said we didn’t have it, and obviously we did. There was a very difficult balance that had to be struck between surprise, which meant a smaller force, and enough troops or a lot of troops, which meant a much slower force and potential of many disastrous consequences. I think I said in my comments quoting Doug’s book, no one anticipated this insurgency, a lot of people were slow to recognize it once it started,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. “And I do think a real failure — I assign responsibility all over the place — was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough, because I think a sensible counterinsurgency strategy would not be to flood the country with 300,000 Americans, but rather to build up Iraqi forces among the population.”

Phil concentrates on the “no one anticipated the insurgency”, but the bookends of that claim struck me as even less defensible. First, we needed a small force so that we could surprise the Iraqis? Uh…. seriously? Paul, we assembled an army in a neighboring state, then told them pretty much exactly when we were going to invade. There wasn’t any “surprise”; they knew where and when we were going to attack. This was the least surprising attack in modern military memory. And no, a large force doesn’t have to move slowly; elements can move very quickly, while other elements perform necessary mopping up, support, and occupation duties.

Possibly even more egregious is the claim about Iraqi forces. What exactly is Wolfowitz talking about? Was he planning to borrow a hundred thousand followers of Ahmed Chalabi, trained in counter-insurgency and ready to fight the good fight, from Imaginationland? Is this a slap at Bremer for disbanding the Iraqi Army? I think this latter can correctly be called a blunder, but getting the Army back into the barracks wouldn’t have solved the problems of looting and general chaos that immediately followed the invasion, and in any case the Iraqi Army was not well known for its counter-insurgency capability. Or is he proposing that we could have done in a few months what we’ve failed to do thus far in five years, which is to create a large, capable, loyal Iraqi Army from scratch?

It’s five years down the road, and I still find that I can be surprised by how inept our best and brightest turned out to be.

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