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Thinking About Boumediene

[ 0 ] June 16, 2008 |

I have an article up at TAP about some of the implications of last week’s Supreme Court landmark. One important thing is that progressives shouldn’t cede the national security component of the argument:

The first section of Justice Scalia’s dissent contains a screed that seems more likely to have come from an O’Reilly Factor transcript than from a Supreme Court opinion in a landmark case. “The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief,” Scalia asserts, “will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Although unconvincing as legal analysis, Scalia’s demagoguery does make clear the political problem faced by progressives.


For this reason, it is important for progressives not to approach arguments like Scalia’s from a defensive crouch. In particular, there is no reason for progressives to accept the argument that there is a zero-sum tradeoff between reasonable protections of civil liberties and national security. Especially when one considers opportunity costs, there is, in fact, little security value in arbitrarily detaining people against whom the government lacks evidence. As Stephen Holmes has argued in his book The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror, the Bush administration’s aggrandizements of executive power (and Congress’ unwillingness to properly exercise its restraining and oversight functions) have undermined national security rather than preserved it. Long-term arbitrary detentions are bad for both civil liberties and the security of the American public, and it’s crucial for liberals not to concede the latter half of the equation.

Consider these types of revelations. In a world of limited resources, arbitrary detention doesn’t present a tradeoff between national security and civil liberties; it’s bad for both.

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Liberal Democracy: Does Not Require Libertarianism

[ 55 ] June 16, 2008 |

Ogged, riffing on Adam Liptak’s article about the United States as a (recent) outlier on free speech:

It’s dogma in the US that if you give up a strong commitment to the right of free speech, you’re well on the way to tyranny, but we have now several countries with a softer commitment to it and, frankly, we’ve come a lot closer to tyranny lately than they have. So what are the prudential or slippery slope arguments in favor of the American conception of free speech that take into account the experience of these other countries?

I am also inclined to prefer post-Brandenburg libertarian American doctrines on free speech. (At least in most areas; on campaign finance, I think other democracies have struck a balance more consistent with democratic values.) But the answer here, I think, is that marginal differences in free speech laws in democratic states really aren’t a road to tyranny. I think this is a subset of a larger fallacy: the conflation of rights, or even constitutional rights, with the strong judicial enforcement of rights against other political actors. Again, I’m inclined to prefer some form of judicial review on balance, but it’s hard to argue that the United States has a better human rights record than the U.K., New Zealand, Canada pre-1982, etc. The reductionist way of stating the problem is that in a county with strong democratic norms judicial review isn’t necessary to protect tyranny, and in a country without such norms judicial review won’t stop tyranny. (Mark Tushnet’s latest book is good on this.)

So while I think a strong argument can be made on behalf of American norms with respect to free speech, the idea that slightly more restrictive laws are a slippery slope to authoritarianism is not one of them.

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Ya Think?

[ 0 ] June 15, 2008 |

The punchline to this Times article about Giuliani’s fundraising-for-personal-debt-relief racket is so strange that it makes me wonder if the banality is actually deadpan humor:

Political analysts say that Mr. Giuliani’s once prolific fund-raising abilities have been hampered by several factors. Perhaps most significant is the fact that Mr. Giuliani neither holds a position in government nor is a candidate for public office. Both qualities are attractive to donors who are looking for access to government.

I tell ya, it’s good that we have such razor-sharp political analysts to reach such counter-intuitive conclusions! Similarly, I have found my fundraising efforts hampered by the fact that I’m not pursuing and, in some cases, am constitutionally ineligible to hold political office, and I’ve wondered why that is. As a “political analyst” myself, let me present a hypothetical phone call that may explain the puzzle of why Giuliani’s fundraising has declined:

RUDY!: “Hi, I’m doing some fundraising.”

GOP FAT CAT: “For what?”

R!: [Pause] “Look, just give me ten grand! These bills don’t pay themselves!”


R!: “Hello?”


Hmm, I think I’m beginning to see the problem here.

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Retardo Apologizes…

[ 60 ] June 15, 2008 |

…in the course of making new accusations. The apology:

One thing I do regret and apologise for is the assumption that academics are all wealthy. Obviously, many aren’t, especially adjunct professors. I’m sincerely sorry for assuming that about Farley.

Thank you, Retardo. Although I’m not an adjunct, I nevertheless accept your apology. The accusation(s):

Two, there’s a lot of shit over there at LGM that has pissed me off — about the only one I can read anymore without screaming is D. I bit my tongue when Bean accused the very good and decent people who did the SCHIP commercial of racism (because the commercial showed a white girl). I bit my tongue for the most part when Farley championed wargaming U.S. & Taiwan vs. China. And I’ve always resented it that Farley was for the Iraq War because the DFHs in Seattle and Portland were against it. Also, Scott’s culture-crit is rapidly descending to Zhdanovian levels: a critic’s sole purpose being to inspect and judge according to ideological content. I mean, he’s not into Ann Bartow or Ampersand (The Simpsons is an objectively evil TV show because the character of Homer plays to “fatphobic” stereotypes — really, look it up) territory yet, and God knows he’s capable of writing decent criticism, but in the last couple of years: Ugh. Also, I have a vague memory of Farley taking the position that cultural imperialism does not exist (I may be wrong about that one).

Of course, I’ve never been for the Iraq War; the point of the “hawk vs. dove” post that Retardo cited was that I found it surprising (and, at the time, a bit disturbing) that I thought the war was such a terrible idea, and that I was part of a coalition with a group of people (hippies et al), whom I had not previously been in a coalition with. Now, like his comments on my economic status, Retardo could have cleared this question up with a simple e-mail; unfortunately, he failed to do so.

Third, the crux of the problem seems to be that Retardo thinks that I’m calling him an anti-semite when I suggest that “latte sipping et al” is an anti-semitic remark. First, I’ll allow that I did paint with too broad of a brush; the term can also apply to liberal wasps. Second, I should make clear that I had no idea Retardo used the phrase; really, I didn’t know that anyone who wasn’t a hard core right-winger thought that the phrase was useful. So to be clear, Retardo; I don’t think you’re an anti-semite because you like the phrase “latte sipping elite”. I think you’re an idiot for borrowing a right wing smear phrase (one can, in fact, be anti-elitist without borrowing right wing talking points in so doing), but idiots and anti-semites do not invariably share the same space.

…to clarify once more, Retardo:

Is every manifestation of contempt for cultural and political elites anti-Semitic and rightwing in origin? Apparently it is: Farley’s definition could not be broader. Since I, like many (most?) poor people, despise a large portion of the “Best and the Brightest,” I’m an anti-Semite. Similarly, I read not too long ago that any contempt shown for those ultimate economic elites (the banking industry) is also transparent anti-Semitism, because you know how people used to go on about the Rothschilds. Since I — like anyone who’s gone through bankruptcy and indeed like all farmers in the last, say, 150 years — loathe the banking industry, I’m an anti-Semite. Sooner or later, anyone who’s ever said anything bad about Wall Street will be an anti-Semite, too. And ultimately, we’ll get to the point that all populists who loathe the Establishment are anti-Semites.

Um… no. But a phrase like “latte-sipping elite intellectual”, which was more or less manufactured in a right wing think tank, is not helpful, especially because it refers more or less explicitly to a class of people (urban intellectuals) within whom Jews are wildly overrepresented. “Technocratic Elite” strikes me as having a much different meaning; it doesn’t invoke the culture wars, doesn’t invoke urban spaces as the source of elitism, and doesn’t have a specifically right wing connotation. But then I was against the Iraq War before I was for it, or something…

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A Little Morning Misogyny, Courtesy of the NYT

[ 0 ] June 15, 2008 |

On the front page of today’s NY Times — above the fold — is an article about wealthy Russians and travel. It’s entitled “Free and Flush, Russians Eager to Roam Abroad”

The accompanying photo?

Because nothing says eagerness to roam like women in bikinis.

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Against Richardson

[ 31 ] June 14, 2008 |

Agreed (see also here.) I stopped taking Richardson’s candidacy seriously when he endorsed a dissenter in Roe and Miranda (and the writer of the majority opinion in Bowers) as his model Supreme Court justice, and there’s plenty more where that came from. He would make a good secretary of state, but VP (and hence possibly president) isn’t the job for him.

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The Trot Of Desperation

[ 13 ] June 14, 2008 |

If 2004 comes back, I’m sure he’ll be very effective. And between him and Moises the Mets should have at least 20% of their remaining LF games covered.

Actually, all snark aside the frightening thing is that it’s not a bad move. He may be able to get on base, which is an improvement over the Mets’ current corner OF options, as none of them provide any offense at all and only Chavez can even play the outfield. I just hope that Troy O’Leary is keeping limber and in touch with his agent.

I also note that the Metropolitans have pulled into a tie with the mighty Pirates. Weiner’s hearing footsteps! I tell ya, that race is going down to the wire…

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 8 ] June 14, 2008 |

Warren G. Harding, accepting the Republican nomination for President, 12 June 1920:

The womanhood of America, always its glory, its inspiration, and the potent uplifting force in its social and spiritual development, is about to be enfranchised….

Let us not share the apprehensions of many men and women as to the danger of this momentous extension of the franchise. Women have never been without influence in our political life. Enfranchisement will bring to the polls the votes of citizens who have been born upon our soil, or who have sought in faith and assurance the freedom and opportunities of our land. It will bring the women educated in our schools, trained in our customs and habits of thought, and sharers of our problems. It will bring the alert mind, the awakened conscience, the sure intuition, the abhorrence of tyranny or oppression, the wide and tender sympathy that distinguish the women of America. Surely there can be no danger there.

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Russert Heart Attack

[ 0 ] June 13, 2008 |

Age 58, which is too early.

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The Awful Disclosures of Bobby Jindal

[ 19 ] June 13, 2008 |

In light of the news that Bobby Jindal would bring demon-banishing skills to the McCain ticket, we should offer retroactive props to Loomis, who offered this prescient observation a few weeks back:

…I really hope McCain goes with Jindal or Romney. Mittens is a ridiculous choice in itself. I can’t help but thinking of the McCain campaign as Dole ’96 redux. And Mittens would be a perfect Jack Kemp. Totally worthless uninspiring candidate who will bring no one to the ticket but will satisfy the loco wing of the party.

Jindal is even better. They want Jindal because he’s not white. And he’s really their only choice who is not white. On the other hand, he’s totally insane. I really want a VP candidate who runs on creationism, anti-abortion extremism, and other loco positions. A message to the Republicans: just because a candidate is appealing to Louisiana Republicans does not mean he is appealing to the rest of the nation.

But then I hope McCain doesn’t listen to me at all. McCain-Jindal ’08!

Like a lot of Eric’s posts, this one has been cracking me up for weeks now. Part of this, I’m sure, is because I have a former student — a rabid, pro-Bush dead-ender — who has been sending me glowing accounts of Jindal for about the past year. If McCain had been considering Jindal in any serious way, I suppose this ought to pretty well end it. All things considered, evangelical Christians remain skeptical toward Catholicism, and the Harry Potter wing of the evangelical movement is not likely to be impressed when news of his freelance exorcism makes its way outside of Louisiana, where the story played a minor role in the gubernatorial race last year. Of course, the fact that he’s a genuine religious bigot won’t help, either. I doubt any of this will result in a massive resurgence of anti-Catholic know-nothingism, but this is going to be a pretty fucked up campaign season anyway, so I suppose anything is possible.

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Was Kozinski Smeared?

[ 0 ] June 13, 2008 |

Lawrence Lessig makes a convincing case.

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Worst National [fill in the blank] day

It’s today. National Pigeon Day.

Worst. National day of recognition. ever.

… UPDATE (from d): I’m going to respectfully disagree with my esteemed colleague here. When I was living in Boston for a summer in the late 1990s — unemployed, supposedly working on my dissertation, and wishing for nothing more than to be flattened by a bus — I spent countless hours feeding the pigeons in a small park tucked behind Mass Ave and Boylston. I smoked then, and I’d console myself every afternoon by puffing away dejectdedly while meandering through several bags of cheap white bread, which the pigeons gobbled with immense appreciation. Those pestilent little bastards got me through the summer, and for that I’m grateful to the entire species.

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