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Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor Extraordinaire!

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

When you read something like this:

From a $50 NRO Contributor [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Great job NRO. Your holding down the fort until the conservative movement gets its act together.

Contribute to NRO here.

11/16 03:30 PM

It pays to remember that Kathryn Jean Lopez “has been … praised for her ‘editorial daring.’” That sentence slipped through multiple layers of possible editorial intervention, and the person who wrote it (and likely forwarded the link to that post to his or her friends and relatives) is now wincing with embarrassment at the error and wondering why an editor of Lopez’s (self-professed) awesomeness couldn’t be bothered to make a silent correction. After all, an editor of her talent surely noticed the mistake, but decided to post the email anyway in a deliberate attempt to embarrass its author. He or she must be so happy they paid $50 for the privilege of a public humiliation. I know I’d be.


Not All Bad Policy Is Unconstitutional

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

Attempts to use Pfzier pulling out of New London to argue that Kelo was wrong rather than using it to argue that the New London and Connecticut governments were involved in stupid public policy really gives away the “conservatives object to same-sex marriage because of teh judicial activism!!!1!1!” show. It’s not just that it’s obviously a policy argument, but in the vast majority of cases there’s really no pretense otherwise.

Another thing to note is that eminent domain is just one instance of large corporate welfare scheme. Even had the development scheme that required eminent domain never gotten off the ground, New London would still be out the tax breaks, subsidies, and giveaways of public land, and the decentralization of economic regulation conservertarians like so much makes this kind of stuff more, not less, likely. The Courts are probably right not to use the commerce clause to stop these stupid subsidies, just as they were probably right in Kelo. Kelo deserves sympathy for having her house appropriated for a stupid project, but she was protected by the takings clause: she got compensation, while New London’s other taxpayers weren’t. (I do think Marty Lederman had a point that the courts would be better policing eminent domain abuse by ensuring that takings compensation is on the high side.)

Conceding That Abortion Is Icky — Not An Effective Strategy

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

Lizardbreath is 100% right about this:

I can’t help thinking of the Stupak amendment, prohibiting abortion coverage in any health insurance plan that’s paid for in part by federal subsidies under the House health reform bill, as the payoff from all that talk about how pro-choice voters should be more respectful of pro-lifers’ beliefs. If we just acknowledged that abortion was always tragic, and always kind of wrong somehow, and that prolifers’ total opposition to anyone being able to get an abortion ever was a deeply held moral belief that pro-choice voters shouldn’t hold against them, then they’d respect us more in return and abortion would stop being such a hotly contested political issue.

Turns out, no. What happens when you treat pro-life views with solicitous respect and make sure pro-life politicians feel completely welcomed in your big tent party is that sixty-four House Democrats vote for poor women to be unable to get abortions or, most likely, to in at least some cases get late-term rather than early abortions because they can’t get the money together in time. Solicitious respect isn’t just interpersonal decency that will make political conflict over abortion less intense, it’s unilateral political disarmament, and it has real policy consequences.

The logic that by which “emphasizing that abortion is gross and women who get abortions are immoral” actually benefits the pro-choice position has never made any sense, and surely the Stupak amendment settles the question. The idea that anti-choicers don’t actually want to legally restrict abortion for poor people but just want Democratic politicians to give them a pat on the head makes no sense in theory and is pretty clearly wrong in practice.

Yoo Defends Arbitrary Torture, Opposes Rule of Law, Makes Self-Refuting Argument

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

I suppose this is all a dog-bites-man story…


[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

Edward Woodward, RIP.

On the Other Hand…

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

My throwaway intuition notwithstanding, there seems to be good evidence that Belichick was right. [via Neyer.]

…see also Beaudrot. I also think Belichick was right not to concede a touchdown — whatever your respect for Manning, you can’t treat it like a chip-shot field goal.

Update (Paul): I loved Belichick’s decision to go for it, which statistically made all kinds of sense, and as Scott points out actually becomes more attractive when you consider the precise details of this situation and not merely the statistics regarding these situations in general (as of course any decent coach always does).

Where he can definitely be faulted is for the playing calling sequence — if you’re going to go for it on fourth down then cross them up with a quick hitting running play on third. Even if you don’t make it you force them to use their final time out, which is good in itself and also gives you time to plan the fourth down play. But going for it was a great call, which is confirmed by the universal opprobium pouring forth from the International Guild of Typical Middle-Aged Sportswriters and Washed Up Jocks.

Anyway it’s heartening to see Del Rio, Ryan, and Belichick making smart strategic decisions in the face of the incredulity of the Al Michaels’ of the world.

The Hideous Slot Parlor Requirement

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

Matt raises a question I’ve raised before too — what possible justification can there be for permitting private casinos but not permitting table games? Making an exception for lotteries, at least, has a plausible profit-maximization rationale (state monopoly, horrible odds.) Certainly, I’ve never seen a decent justification for this on the merits, and I assume I never will (especially since, as Matt notes, much less labor-intensive electronic gaming undermines economic justifications of legalization.) But even from a standpoint of narrow self-interest, not allowing table games in casinos makes no sense — the casino operators don’t seem to think that having only electronic games is the way to maximize profits. Is the idea that gambling is immoral, so if states have to permit it it should be as unpleasant as possible? I don’t get it.

This is teh awesome

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

From the Jacksonville-Jets game:

“It included a Jets defense trying to allow a touchdown to give Jacksonville the lead and the Jaguars refusing to score it. And it had nothing to do with either team trying to lose.

Jaguars running Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the stars of the game, intentionally dropped to his knee before the end zone after a 9-yard gain to set up the winning field goal.

Mindful of what some fans care about most, Jones-Drew said, “Tell my fantasy owners I’m sorry.”

He did it to run down the clock because the Jets had no timeouts and the Jaguars did not want the Jets to get the ball back after what was to be a 21-yard field goal by Josh Scobee.

Jones-Drew already had one touchdown and 123 rushing yards. Another score by him would have meant valuable points to fans who drafted him for their fantasy leagues.

“I’d rather take a win any day,” Jones-Drew said.

But when he was told not to score, Jones-Drew said he was surprised at first. “I’m like, a knee? What do you mean?” he said. “I took a deep breath and took a knee.”

What made it even stranger was the play before that. On first-and-10 from the Jets’ 14 with two minutes left, Jets Coach Rex Ryan told his defenders to let Jacksonville score. Ryan figured it would give the Jaguars a 6-point lead but leave his team time to take the ensuing kickoff and drive the field for a game-winning touchdown.

Because not all of his defenders got the message, Jones-Drew was tackled at the 10 by Marques Douglas and Sione Pouha after a 4-yard run.

“We couldn’t even get that right,” Ryan said.

That forced Ryan to use his last timeout. Jones-Drew dropped to a knee at the 1-yard line on the next play, and after that quarterback David Garrard knelt on the next two downs to waste more time and set up the winning kick.”

Meanwhile in related news professional moron Andy Reid kicks a field goal on fourth and one from the San Diego one while down 14-0, and then another one on fourth and one from the San Diego seven while down 21-6.

UPDATE [by SL]: On the other hand, Belichick’s disdain for the conventional wisdom on punting has served him well, but (with all respect for Manning and granting that they got screwed on the call) that seemed to be pushing it to an indefensible extreme.

Sunday Book Review: Hawk and Dove

[ 0 ] November 16, 2009 |

Nicholas Thompson’sThe Hawk and the Dove is an exceptionally readable dual biography of George Kennan and Paul Nitze. George Kennan is, to some, rather an odd dove; he helped formulate the vision of containment that led to NSC-68 and militarized confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Moreover, he was hardly a pacifist; nevertheless, in the way in which debate over national security policy became structured in the Cold War, Kennan most often stood on the “dovish” side. Nitze, the most direct father of NSC-68, as well as Team B, plays the role of “hawk.” Nitze is also Nicholas Thompson’s grandfather.

Both Kennan and Nitze were privileged and wildly talented. It’s true enough that an Ivy League pedigree won an undue degree of influence in the 1940s and the 1950s (a situation which absolutely, positively does not hold today), and Thompson details the manner in which Kennan and Nitze built their social networks and, eventually, their influence within government. Nitze was much better at this than Kennan; whereas Kennan believed that ideas were key to moving the machinery of government, Nitze understood the value of creating, nursing, and maintaining a group of bureaucratic warriors, as well as key connections with other major policymakers. It’s hardly surprising that the most prominent neocons found their start with Nitze; he understood that the bureaucracy responds to ideas that are prominent within the social circles of the bureaucracy, rather than to ideas that are popular within the general public or that are well regarded in the academy. Nitze also came to understand that the best approach to seizing influence over foreign policy was bipartisan; to make sure that your people were part of the larger machine of foreign policy, regardless of who happened to control Congress or to sit in the White House at any given time.

Nitze became obsessed with the question of how nuclear weapons could be utilized in an actual war. This isn’t because he wanted the nuke the Soviets; he genuinely believed that if the Soviets ever achieved “escalation superiority,” which in its essence meant “more megatons than us” that they would be able, by threat of nuclear annihilation, to win serious diplomatic concessions. US “preparedness” prevented both nuclear conflict and inevitable concession to Soviet aggression. Nitze spun out scenarios of nuclear war that were based on pure fantasy; the Soviets would somehow squirrel away the bulk on their population in vast civil defense shelters, then use their larger warheads to deal a devastating first strike to the US, secure in the knowledge that only their cities, infrastructure, and industry would be destroyed by a US counter-strike. The debates became tribal, as all such arguments will; the enemy became pacifist appeasers, and the use of any tactic to defeat this enemy, including accusations of treason and the invention of “facts,” became legitimate.

Nitze’s greatest failure, and the biggest difference between him and Kennan, was his de facto assumption that Soviet domestic politics didn’t exist. For Nitze and his acolytes, the assumption that all of the relevant policymakers in the Soviet Union were incorrigibly and equally hostile was sufficient in order to proceed with analysis. Weapons production was always the result of a nefarious plan formulated in the Kremlin, and never the result of the bureaucratic strength of various faction within the Soviet military. Any modernization, even one required to match US capabilities, was evidence of an evil Soviet plot to acquire escalation dominance. But this was only part of Nitze’s trick; by the time Team B was put together, Soviet arms production and capabilities could be inferred from imputed Soviet intentions. This is to say that evidence of Soviet weapons production at time A indicated evil Soviet intent, which then led Nitze and his cohort to estimate future Soviet production based on that indication of evil Soviet intent. The result, of course, was a wild overestimation of Soviet capabilities, and a complete misunderstanding of Soviet intent. Richard Pipes famously declared Team B a success, because it had established that some within the Soviet Union believed that a nuclear war could be won. What Pipes declined to note was that a) a similarly influential group within the United States believed the same thing, and b) the Soviets who believed in the possibility of victory were, like their American counterparts, a minority of the strategic establishment, c) almost to an individual, these Soviets believed that the war would begin with an American nuclear attack, and d) the most hawkish elements in the Soviet Union won bureaucratic victories on the backs of men like Paul Nitze. The products of School Nitze, as it were, would repeat these errors with Iraq, Iran, and China.

Thompson’s Kennan is a man who was wrong about many things, but who was right about one big thing. Kennan had frankly bizarre views about a number of subjects, including the value of democracy, race relations within the United States, and the project of modernity. However, he was fundamentally correct to identify the internal politics of the Soviet Union as dysfunctional, and to conclude that the regime had a limited lifespan, even on the time metrics normally associated with empires. The Soviet Empire was not, by his argument, the sort of creature that could survive in the long term, and it certainly could not outlast the Western democracies, however flawed they might be. The Soviet permanent war economy depended on a permanent perception of threat, and as this faded the Soviet experiment became less tenable. Kennan was also correct that Soviet expansion was limited in immediate aims, and that it could be successfully managed. Thus managing the Soviet Union was worthwhile, as it was a foul regime led by awful men, but the task had to be undertaken in a measured fashion.

Oddly enough, Kennan and Nitze interacted only at a few key times during their careers. Kennan made his key contribution before Nitze really found his niche in government, and Nitze gave a particular shape to Kennan’s basic framework. Kennan’s influence on major policy was minimal after the early 1950s, while Nitze had his hands in some manner on almost every strategic decision until the late 1980s. The two were friends early on in the same sense that all Ivy League cogs in the US foreign policy machine were friends; they were never particularly close, yet they never personalized their disagreements. Personally, I found the Kennan half of the book fascinating, simply for the basic weirdness of its subject; Kennan was an odd duck, with strange ideas. The Nitze sections left me infuriated; Nitze and his clones pursued one big idea, and didn’t both to worry overmuch about whether it was right, or at all helpful to the country. It’s not quite right to say that Kennan’s ideas deserved more credence, as his central argument was extremely influential; however, Nitze’s acolytes should have been chased out of government and indeed out of public life. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle should have had to struggle to publish an op-ed in the Dayton Daily News; instead, they were able to repeat their flawed analysis of the Soviet Union on a succession of other states, all to dreadful effect.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Bowing Hour!

[ 1 ] November 15, 2009 |

Seems someone forgot to tell Ike what everyone on the right knows (but oddly never cites a source for): the President never ever bows. Because as even a cursory search of the AP Image archive indicates, the man could not stop bowing. Hello there, Pope John XXIII!

Howdy to you, wife of Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Gronchi!

Hi again, Archbishop Iakovos of New York, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America!

Long time no see, Charles De Gaulle!

By their logic, I believe that last bow means we have all been French since 2 September 1959. Eisenhower clearly demonstrated by that bow that the American President is a subordinate of the French, which means that for the past 50 years America has been a French territory with pretensions of sovereignty. Mon Dieu!


[ 0 ] November 15, 2009 |

Spackerman responds to Sarah Palin’s claims that the United States is too fragile to withstand the rule of law:

What’s an actual insult to the victims of 9/11 is the idea that America is not strong enough to withstand the blatherings of a mass murderer.

Oh Noes, The Gays Are Coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[ 0 ] November 14, 2009 |

At least bigotry this undiluted probably isn’t as common as it used to be.