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Evaluating congressional leadership

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

There’s been an active and instructive comment thread in Rob’s post below (which I largely agree with). I think Rob and his interlocutors were often talking past each other, but I think a particular point of Rob’s (in comments) leads to an important thought experiment for progressive Democrats and allies who are frustrated with the apparent inability or unwillingness of Democratic leadership to take steps to end the war:

I disagree with the assessment that denouncing the Democratic Party in general, and Reid and Pelosi in particular is a sensible way of characterizing the situation.

This strikes me as one of Rob’s most important points here. Let’s do a thought experiment–assume that before they began to push for the initial timetable/benchmark funding package, R/P knew that while they might be able to cobble together a bare majority willing to pass some version of this bill, they also knew that they probably couldn’t sustain that majority in the face of a Bush veto. It seems perfectly plausible to me that they likely had this knowledge.

Now, for those condemning the Democrats in general or congressional leadership in particular for commiting a political blunder, it’s important to explain what you think Reid and Pelosi should have done. How many of you seriously think you wouldn’t have been critical of Reid and Pelosi had they not bothered to try to put together a serious funding? It’s hard for me to see us giving them a collective pass for not even bothering to try.

Our media environment is such that Democrats are going to be portrayed as weak, craven and unprincipled by our national political press no matter what they do. It seems obvious to me that we do ourselves no favors when adopting positions that require we vigorously condemn our party no matter what path they take. If there’s some politically brilliant and feasible third path the Democratic leadership should have taken, I’d love to hear it, but it’s not at all obvious to me that such a path exists.

Another Daytona Morning…

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |


To give some context and explanation, djw and I are again grading ETS Advanced Placement exams. We have been moved this year from Fort Collins to Daytona Beach, a shift that I remain displeased with. The food isn’t as good, there’s less to do except for drinkin’ (although, really, that’s enough), and there are a variety of other mild inconveniences. The ocean is quite nice, though.

R.I.P.

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

Steve Gillard’s Times obituary. (Via Shakes.)

Discrimination Double Standards

[ 0 ] June 6, 2007 |

Speaking of Judge Southwick and peremptory challenges, this is interesting. Apparently he (along with a majority of his colleagues in Mississippi) is sometimes sympathetic to claims of racial discrimination. If they’re made by a white person:

Judge Southwick has participated in numerous cases involving challenges to the racial makeup of a jury under Batson v. Kentucky, in which the United States Supreme Court held that peremptory challenges to jurors cannot be used in a racially discriminatory manner. In 59 of the 70 Batson cases reviewed for this report, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had used peremptory challenges to strike African- American jurors. Judge Southwick, voting with a majority of the Court in every case, voted to uphold the convictions in all but five of these cases.

In 10 of these 70 Batson cases, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had unfairly prevented them from using their peremptory challenges to exclude white jurors (in one case the juror whom defendant sought to strike was Asian American). Defendants, with Judge Southwick again joining the majority of the Court in every case, lost all ten of these challenges. In the final case, the defendant challenged his conviction on both grounds and lost on both grounds, with Judge Southwick again in the majority.

In other words, Judge Southwick and a majority of the judges on the Court of Appeals routinely rebuffed allegations of prosecutorial racism against African Americans in jury selection while upholding allegations of anti-white discrimination levied against defendants.

Again, the point here is not that Southwick is racist in his personal beliefs; I have no idea if he is. As the previous Chief Justice made clear, you can be consistently hostile to civil rights without being a bigot, and the public positions matter more than subjective beliefs. Obviously, there are probably other elements of reactionary statist judging involved here: one set of discrimination claims would benefit defendants, and one would benefit the state. And, depressingly, it is also true that creating standards that make it virtually impossible for black defendants to prove racial discrimination doesn’t make Southwick unique; it makes him an all-too-common reactionary, the kind of judge George W. Bush held up as his model (and appointed to the Supreme Court when he had the chance.) That’s the point. We don’t need more of them on the federal courts.

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)

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