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She Made Me Look Ridiculous! And a Man in My Position Can’t Afford to Look Ridiculous!

[ 0 ] July 4, 2009 |

Kristol backed derivatives are crashing. His crowning achievement in Republican party politics was Sarah Palin. He’s trying to make lemonade, but I don’t think anyone is buying:

It’s an enormous gamble – but it could be a shrewd one.

After all, she’s freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues – and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska. I suppose she’ll take a hit for leaving the governorship early – but how much of one? She’s probably accomplished most of what she was going to get done as governor, and is leaving a sympatico lieutenant governor in charge.

And haven’t conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she’ll try to be that. She may not succeed. Everything rests on her talents, and on her performance. She’ll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she’ll have to perform well.

All in all, it’s going to be a high-wire act. The odds are against her pulling it off. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

Continetti gamely tries to back up the Bossman:

Palin’s statement made clear that, while she’ll be leaving the governor’s office, she is not leaving the national stage. Her book is scheduled for release sometime next year. She pledged to support candidates in the upcoming elections without regard to partisan affiliation. She took aim at the Obama administration’s budget-busting spending policies. Palin’s enemies have already taken today’s news to suggest that her political career is over. It isn’t. But Palin may also be thinking that her retirement from office will cause her critics to stop attacking her. She would be wrong to think so. Neither Palin nor the Palin-haters are going away.

As I’ve suggested before, Kristol occupies a central space in the network of right wing media/think tank types. Vast swaths of the Republican intelligentsia are deeply invested in his success, and he invested himself in the success of Sarah Palin. The Palin stocks have now crashed, and that may turn the investment in Kristol toxic. Kristol and his backers will, for a time anyway, deal with the problem by simply refusing to acknowledge that anything has gone wrong. When Jonah Goldberg is jumping ship, though, things aren’t looking good.


No There There II

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

While we wait for Noon’s on-the-scene reportage, I thought I’d mention that I agree with Steve’s take on the Purdum article; it’s either stuff you already know or not very damning. A representative example of what, when you strip the pejorative language/sexist double standards, is pretty weak tea as exposes go:

In dozens of conversations during a recent visit to Alaska, it was easy to learn that there has always been a counter-narrative about Palin, and indeed it has become the dominant one. It is the story of a political novice with an intuitive feel for the temper of her times, a woman who saw her opportunities and coolly seized them. In every job, she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived.

Or, in other words, she’s…a politician. How many political figures of any consequence could most of this not be applied to? The same goes for the alleged dirt about her family; basically, I don’t see anything she’s done wrong that would be worth mentioning, which is rather more than you can say for, say, Saint McCain. The guilt-by-association we can recognize from Purdum’s Clinton story and it’s not really much more convincing, although at least it involves her family rather than her business associates.

Palin on "Endurance"

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

The now funniest line from Palin’s ridiculous Runner’s World interview:

I betcha I’d have more endurance. My one claim to fame in my own little internal running circle is a sub-four marathon. It wasn’t necessarily a good running time, but it proves I have the endurance within me to at least gut it out and that is something. If you ever talk to my old coaches, they’d tell you, too. What I lacked in physical strength or skill I made up for in determination and endurance. So if it were a long race that required a lot of endurance, I’d win.

Of course you would.

LGM Alaska Correspondent Eating Cheese Fries or Something?!?

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Apparently something incredibly entertaining is happening in Alaska. Where is Dave Noon??!?! WHERE IS DAVE NOON!!!!>!>11!!>>!>>>???

UPDATE (from davenoon): Jeebus! The Year of the Shit-Smearing-Crazy Governor continues. This is quite possibly the greatest birthday present I’ve received since — well, some notably cool stuff happened when I turned 21, but . . . Wow. I can only assume that Palin figured that Mark Sanford and Michael Jackson had already taken the more enthralling paths to news-cycle dominance and that just absent-mindedly setting fire to her political career would have to do.

From the sounds of it, Palin implied that ethics complaints and negative national press coverage were interfering with her duties as governor. The opposite, in fact, is quite likely the better explanation — her level of interest and engagement with Alaskan politics has been minimal, and her behavior over the past few months has been fitting for someone who views the job she has as a hindrance to the job she wants. She was a terrible, terrible governor after returning from the campaign trail. It’s hard to overstate how badly she performed in Alaska this year. She lost fights with the legislature over stimulus funding, the state budget, and cabinet appointments, and she fought against the residents state capital by pushing a succession of unqualified goofballs into line for an interim job as Juneau’s state senator. A lot of folks more knowledgeable about the situation than I assumed that she’d not run again next year, mainly because she’d be likely to face (and even possibly lose) a challenge in the GOP primary. It’s safe to say that no one expected this, but really — who’s complaining?

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson

Minimalism and the Roberts Court

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Responding to Jack Balkin on the Court’s “minimalist turn,” Johnathan Adler argues:

It’s an interesting post, but I reject Balkin’s premise. There’s nothing “sudden” about the Roberts Court’s minimalism. Rather, a conservative minimalism has been the defining characteristic of the Roberts Court and, as a general matter, of the two newest justices. In this regard, NAMUNDO and Ricci, are of a piece with Wisconsin Right to Life, Ayotte, Gonzales v. Carhart, NRDC v. Winter, and many other cases in which the Court either adopted a very narrow, incremental holding or avoided reaching an underlying constitutional question.

I think, however, that the claim that nothing has changed is missing something important. I attempt to defend the distinction in detail in this paper for anyone who’s interested, but I think it’s crucial to distinguish between formal minimalism and substantive minimalism. I agree with Adler that Roberts and Alito have always been formal minimalists, declining to explicitly overrule precedents or make broad pronouncements. But prior to this term, this minimalism has often been strictly formal — several of the cases Adler cites were not substantively minimalist. Carhart II, in which they declined to formally overrule Carhart I although they were upholding a statute virtually identical to the one the Court had previously struck down, is the most obvious (and farcical) example. As for Wisconsin Right to Life, I can’t resist once again quoting from Scalia’s footnote 7:

The claim that §203 on its face does not reach a substantial amount of speech protected under the principal opinion’s test—and that the test is therefore compatible with McConnell—seems to me indefensible. Indeed, the principal opinion’s attempt at distinguishing McConnell is unpersuasive enough, and the change in the law it works is substantial enough, that seven Justices of this Court, having widely divergent views concerning the constitutionality of the restrictions at issue, agree that the opinion effectively overrules McConnell without saying so. This faux judicial restraint is judicial obfuscation.

How the Court characterizes the relationship between a holding and its precedents is much less important than whether a holding actually is consistent with precedent. In many cases, Alito and Roberts’ formal minimalism has concealed a substantive disregard for the relevant precedent. In this sense, the VRA case really was different. My guess, though, is that it’s an outlier, an unusual case where a conservative substantive outcome and formal minimalism were essentially incompatible. In the future, I would expect the formal minimalism of Roberts and Alito to continue to mask a substantive conservatism that differs from Thomas and Scalia’s primarily in that it’s even more consistent.

More and Better Choice = More Voters! Go Figure!

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

An article of mine was just published days ago in the latest issue of Party Politics, which is one of the top Political Science journals in the UK.  This one, like a bunch of my stuff, concerns turnout.  I take a practical approach to turnout; where many argue that voting is the norm and non-voters are dysfunctional somehow, I argue the opposite.  The benefits one receives from voting are marginal, the probability of your single vote making the difference impossibly small, thus the costs outweigh the benefits, however marginal those costs are.  Of course, those costs increase at the margins for potential voters of lesser faculties, which in part explains the strong association between education and turnout.

I look at a number of countries, 28 I think (I know, I know . . . I wrote it, I should know), comparing the richness of the electoral market.  Like how stores with greater selection will have more customers, electoral markets with greater selection will have more voters.  Bonus if the better store also has cheaper prices.  In electoral politics, cheaper prices can be arranged through simple things, like having election day on a weekend, extended polling hours (or at least shorter lines!), etc.  It’s also possible to have cheaper prices through something as mundane as accurate partisan cues, which is one reason why judicial elections in my home state of Washington often feature serious drop off on the ballot.  
So in this thing, I argue that electoral ‘stores’ that feature a greater range of choice, and choices closer to the voters’ own views, while controlling for the usual range of individual (such as SES, education or interest) and institutional (electoral system, compulsory voting, age of the democracy, etc.) explanations, are associated with higher levels of turnout.   [Thanks to commenter Matt for pointing out the poor writing in the original.]  The data support both propositions.  In fact, it turns out that electoral context as measured through overall ideological coverage (e.g. more choice) and ideological proximity (e.g. better choice) are stronger, more substantive explanations than the usual suspects (e.g. age, education, or even electoral system).
This all sounds like a no brainer, but this is the first paper to make and empirically test these arguments.  I’ve included a link to the paper above, but with the increasing commercialization of academic presses, this journal is now published by Sage, hence my distribution rights are severely restricted (I am technically not allowed to post the paper on a “web site” among other things).  If you happen to be at an institution that has a subscription to Party Politics, you have access; otherwise, if you’re interested send me a private email and I’ll send you the pdf.  The paper itself relies on some fairly sophisticated statistical modeling, but not too high tech (just four OLS erm, Logistic regression models and two HLM 2-level models), and there’s a fairly low-tech figure that illustrates some of the stuff in handy black and white.
The argument I really want to make is one that I do make in a class I teach on the effects of globalization on domestic politics: that the range of choice, and quality of choice, in electoral politics has narrowed over time, and this explains the general decline of turnout that established democracies have been experiencing since the end of WWII.  While I have no idea how I could empirically pin this narrowing of ideological choice on globalization, I also do not have sufficient time series data for the 28 or however many countries I use in this paper.  What I’ll end up doing, in the book version, is using three or four or five countries where I can find sufficient time points as well as the right measures in the surveys . . . 

Andy v Andy

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Gentlemen’s Singles Semi-Final, The Championships, Wimbledon.  

Today, at some point.  (If you care, you already know.  I really don’t.)
This is a big deal here in the UK as one might imagine, and it’s always a bigger deal when there is a Brit involved in some meaningful way.  Tim Henman used to be the token Brit.  Being English, it was fate that he would lose in the Wimbledon semi-finals.  A lot.  Andy Murray looks to be a superior player; whereas Henman never played in a grand slam final, Murray already has, losing to Roger Federer in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Safe money is on a Federer-Murray Wimbledon final this weekend.  Safe money was wrong.  (Which, given my track record on predicting the outcome of sporting events on LGM is certain to doom at least one of the two to defeat in the semis.)  As I’ve heard repeatedly over the past week or eight, a Murray appearance would be the first time in 471 years that a British player has appeared in the Gentlemen’s Singles final.  And frankly, I don’t really care.  I played the game, even on my high school team, but I was mediocre when at my best, and have no doubt declined since.  What interests me about Henman-mania, erm, Murray-mania is how accepted Murray tends to be south of the border.  This is just a theory of mine that is not supported by any evidence, systematic or anecdotal, but my suspicion is that the English are more accepting of Scots than vice-versa.  
Murray is rightfully proud of being Scottish, to the point where he opined in 2006 that he would be supporting Paraguay against England in the opening match of the 2006 World Cup group stage, indeed going so far as to claim to support anybody but England (even Germany, I wonder?  Argentina?)  Rooting against the England football team in a major tournament (when they qualify) is not exactly going out on a limb, but it should also be pointed out that the last time Scotland so much as qualified was France 1998; in neither the World Cup nor the European Championships have Scotland progressed past the first round.  I suspect the English are aware of this record.
Back to my central point: are the English more accepting of Scottish (or Welsh, or Irish, or whatever) sporting success than vice-versa?  While I suspect this to be true, one of my (English) students has the following as her facebook status: “woo come on Murray only time it’s OK to support a Scot” . . . 
Being the jingoistic, narrow minded, nationalistic, reactionary sort that I am, will be pulling for Roddick in this match, assuming I manage to pay any attention.  If my prediction curse dooms Murray, and all of Great Britain, to semi-final gloom, at least I’m getting on a plane in a little over a week to spend a couple months in the United States, mixing research with pleasure, and if Murray manages to lose today, enhancing my prospects for a long(er) life.
UPDATE: oh shit.  prediction curse continues.  I’m likely a marked man.

Contrarianism I Can Get Behind

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Now, if we can only get someone to take on parades:

Meanwhile, the professional fireworks display is an exercise in pomposity, aggression, triumphalism, and hubris.

And boring. Don’t forget boring. If you’re at a decent July 4th party, whatever you were doing is more fun than the fireworks.

And, Yet, Yar’s Revenge Languishes

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

I’m guessing that this will not end watchably.

Etzioni: Whither the Decent Left?

[ 0 ] July 3, 2009 |

Amitai Etzioni:

North Korean ships are carrying missiles and materials from which chemical and nuclear weapons can be made — to other tyrannies, such as the oppressive regimes in Myanmar and in Yemen. The United States leads a group of more than ninety nations that are committed to stopping such traffic, but North Korea has stated that such interventions would lead to war. One hears extremely little from progressives about what the United States should do next…

Yet, we hear next to no sounds of approval from the progressive camp; one is hard put to find editorials from the left stating that this time we’ve got it right. Are progressives holding that all problems can be treated with merely goodwill, foreign aid, and talk? Or are they willing to fess up and acknowledge that when all other means have been exhausted, and there is clear and present danger–the time to act is now, and to act may entail putting at least one foot down?

A few points:

  1. No one knows what North Korean ships are carrying. It is true that, in the past, North Korea has engaged in the proliferation of missile and nuclear technology. There are good reasons to suspect that it will do so in the future. The exact nature of the cargo carried by the Kang Nam, however, is wholly unknown. Indeed, North Korea has a history of setting public relations traps for the unsuspecting.
  2. Someone did, in several outlets associated with “progressive” foreign policy, publish discussions of the sanctions against North Korea. Other progressives have also written about North Korea. I have no idea whether Jeffrey Lewis and the guys at ArmsControlWonk consider themselves progressive or not, but he’s given some of the most detailed discussion of North Korea’s nuclear program to appear anywhere, and his prescriptions are broadly in line with a variety of “progressive” foreign policies. The Center for American Progress has also weighed in on North Korea.
  3. The Iraq War was a stupid conflict conducted in a stupid manner, and it consequently produced a tremendous amount of domestic opposition. Much, but not all, of this opposition came from what can be understood as “progressives”. The unity of opposition to the Iraq War, however, obscured a series of very real differences within the coalition. Progressives differ on the exact manner and timing of withdrawal from Iraq, on the wisdom of the war in Afghanistan, on the most reasonable approach to Iran, on the future structure of the US armed forces, on the nature and desirability of US hegemony, on the character of US relations with Africa and Latin America, on the utility of nuclear weapons, on the importance of “free trade,” and on the relevance of international institutions and international law. While each progressive has his or her own understanding of the relationship between progressive principles and foreign policy, it’s simply not the case that a singular “progressive foreign policy” can be teased out. Rather, there are many different potential foreign policies that can fall under the label “progressive,” just as there are some that can safely be excluded from that umbrella. Anyone who tries to tell you that “progressives think X” on foreign policy is engaging in a rhetorical trick; those progressives who disagree with the policy are by definition excluded from the debate.
  4. Given this multiplicity of potential progressive foreign policies, conflict and disagreement between progressives (to say nothing of the anti-Iraq War coalition as a whole) is inevitable. The “decent lefting” that Etzioni is engaging in is probably the least productive manner in which to conduct this conversation. The point is to pre-emptively denounce rather than seek any debate, and given the uncertainty associated with North Korea the bluster is particularly misplaced. Indeed, Etzioni can’t even identify any progressives who disagree with him; rather, he’s incensed by their purported silence, and implies that they must hold some odd set of radical anti-American/anti-imperialist views. It’s true enough that there are still some on the left who will denounce a writer as a “neocon” if he advocates supporting a left-wing Latin American President against a military coup d’etat, but these people are few in number, have no meaningful political power, and have little access to mainstream media outlets. It’s also true that the “Where were the WMDs!?” line may eventual gain the same stature as the Munich Analogy, an argument constantly deployed in an effort to understand disparate and dissimilar situations. I’m willing to give it a bit more time, however. In any case, Etzioni leaves the impression not simply that those who disagree with him are wrong, but that those who agree with him at insufficient volume are feckless. I am forcibly reminded of the situation following the South Ossetia War, where progressives who were insufficiently enthusiastic about brave little Georgia, and who were interested in such trivial questions as “who started the war?” were denounced as the indecent left. The same, of course, applies to the run up to the Iraq War, when an entire family of arguments was deemed inappropriate for serious discussion.

All that said, I agree with Etzioni; PSI is a good idea, a tighter set of sanctions against North Korea is sensible and legitimate, and progressive foreign policy goals are well served by such an approach. The arguments go down better, however, without the chip on the shoulder.

Meanwhile, Nixon sucks a dry martini

[ 0 ] July 2, 2009 |

It’s nice to see so many wingnuts lifting Helen Thomas — the recipient of so much of their loathing over the years — and bearing her aloft on their shoulders after she claimed that the Obama administration is more obsessed with media control than Richard Nixon.

Beyond the fact that she seemed most exercised over the Nico Pitney non-story, the merits of Thomas’ argument are of course laughably thin. Call me, for example, when the Obama White House employs people to forge press releases on stolen GOP letterhead, or when it orders wiretaps placed on prominent reporters who disclose the details of illegal invasions, or when it tries to institute prior-restraint over the press as a whole, or when White House aides openly discuss poisoning a nettlesome journalist.

But the manufactured outrage from conservative bloggers is especially ludicrous, given the previous administration’s own preference for simulated spontaneity, arguably the worst example of which was the infamous scripted press conference just prior to the Iraq War. More to the point, if these folks hadn’t spent years cheering Bush’s press psy-ops, advocating the imprisonment (or worse) of journalists who belatedly reported on the administration’s criminal fuckups, wailing tediously when imprisoned photographers were released after years of being held without charges, or regularly accusing press organizations like the AP of functioning as terrorist front groups, I’d be more inclined to take them seriously when they complain about a health care town hall whose choreography was typical of the genre.