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Spitzer and the Candidates

[ 17 ] March 11, 2008 |

I’m so sick of the Spitzer talk. Yet here I am.

Jon Wiener over at the Nation’s blog the Notion suggests how the Spitzer scandal is going to play out in the Democratic primary: it’ll help Hillary Clinton because she–or any other woman–won’t be a patron of the Emperor’s Club.

Sure, it’s snort-inducing: would be nice if a sex scandal could help Hillary Clinton, for once. And it also goes against what is quickly-becoming the blogosphere conventional wisdom: that the Spitzer scandal will hurt Clinton because it will remind voters of her husband’s indiscretions (which, as far as we know, did not include patronizing a prostitute). But I’m also not convinced it’s so. As Wiener points out, this prediction requires the corollary prediction that McCain and/or Obama is likely to engage in the same stuff Spitzer did. While anything is possible, I just don’t see this one playing out that way.

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Crunching the Popular Vote Numbers

[ 48 ] March 11, 2008 |

For my part I think that the superdelegates should be able to consider whatever they want when deciding between Clinton and Obama, and if they want to take seriously the idea that cobbling together a national popular vote makes any sense, more power to them. Along with “Obama can’t win the big states, so kiss New York and California goodbye”, the national popular vote notion has been one of the few remaining tropes that the Clinton-supporting blogosphere can trot out with a straight face. Mark Schmitt, however, crunches the numbers and demonstrates that this line of thinking doesn’t solve any of Clinton’s problems. Even accepting a big Clinton win in Pennsylvania and a win in the Florida re-vote as big as her win in the straw poll, Clinton remains substantially behind Obama. To close the gap she would need to win huge in Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and a Michigan re-vote, and virtually tie Obama in such states as Oregon and North Carolina.

In short, it’s remarkably difficult to imagine a plausible scenario in which Obama doesn’t reach the convention with leads in the popular vote and the pledged delegate total. A Clinton victory would almost inevitably involve the superdelegates overturning both of those outcomes. The only other option, I suppose, is pushing the Lukasiak “we can use exit polls to demonstrate that Clinton wins a subset of the popular vote” nonsense, but it’s hard for me to believe that even the people peddling that line take it very seriously.

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Brighouse on Blackburn

[ 0 ] March 11, 2008 |

I’ve been meaning to return to the conversation I began in these posts (see also Rob) on atheism, religion, ecumenicalism, pluralism, respect, and the toxicity of Dawkinsian-style engagement with religion, and I hope to do so in the future, when time and energy permit. For now, though, let me heartily endorse Harry Brighouse’s post on Simon Blackburn’s paper, Religion and Respect, which is part of Philosophers Without Gods: Mediations on Atheism and the Secular Life. There’s some excellent comments over there, as well, including some that challenge Harry’s position.

There are a number of good potentially interesting authors included in the anthology; if I can get my hands on it I’ll post more on my own responses to some of them.

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[ 8 ] March 11, 2008 |


If Hillary Clinton were a black man, it’s unlikely that she would have been a national political figure for the past 15 years, as it’s unlikely that she would have married another man from Arkansas, and unlikely that the country would have put an interracial, same sex couple in the White House. But so what? This is an election, not Marvel’s “What If?” series.


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Shifts in the Kentucky Blogosphere

[ 3 ] March 11, 2008 |

Media Czech, former guest blogger here and until recently a blogger at Bluegrass Roots, has a new home in cyberspace. The reasons for the move are complicated, but suffice to say that for my part, the most valuable element of Bluegrass Roots stemmed from MC’s presence. So, for the Kentucky contingent Barefoot and Progressive is the new place for entertainingly angry political rants leavened by the occasional reference to Wildcats basketball…

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Simple Answers To Inexplicable Questions

[ 21 ] March 11, 2008 |

Richard Cohen:

At the moment, no one can figure out how the Democrats are going to get a nominee.

I believe it involves the obscure method of “holding some more primaries,” after which one candidate will almost certainly have a 100+ delegate lead, and then a lot of superdelegates will vote for him (almost certainly a majority, but since he doesn’t need anything like that it doesn’t matter) and he will get the nomination. You’re welcome!

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The Ruined Career

[ 14 ] March 11, 2008 |

I think Lindsay gets it about right about here.

…And I should repeat it has nothing to do with me thinking that the Mann Act is good legislation. But 1)if you want this kind of legislation repealed you want more rich white men to be charged under it, not fewer; the fact that powerful people assume that this kind of legislation won’t apply to them is exactly what keeps it on the books to be arbitrarily applied against other people, and 2)I would have more sympathy for Spitzer if he didn’t have a record of putting sex workers in jail. I can’t see any colorable argument for why the laws should apply to then and not him.

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Pyror Unopposed

[ 0 ] March 11, 2008 |

Wow. If the GOP can’t scrounge up a challenge to a one-term incumbent in a red state, things are looking very good in ’08. (And if the Dems don’t get a larger majority in the Senate, talking about the precise details of health care plans won’t ending up being very important.)

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The Great P.C. Dodge

[ 1 ] March 11, 2008 |

Attempts by the staff at the WaPO to justify printing Charlotte Allen’s women-are-teh-stupid projection were, needless to say, embarrassing. (They don’t discuss Hirshman’s “women who don’t agree with me that they should all vote for the candidate with the more conservative record are stupid” op-ed, which was no prize either, at all.) The assignment editor claims that “funny, clearly tongue-in-cheek and hyperbolic but with a serious point,” which is rather problematic given that it was about at funny as Hepatitis B and yet was also entirely lacking in any serious point. (What the point was, the editor doesn’t say.) Promfret, meanwhile, hauls out the inevitable phrase: “it presented a different, albeit very non-PC take at a time when women and politics is a riveting topic in this country.” See, if you don’t like it, you must be…politically correct! Somerby unloads:

Very non-PC! To our ear, Pomfret self-identified with this childish formulation. He seems to be one of those Aggrieved White Men who simply hate that “political correctness”—who hate the notion that they should be courteous or thoughtful in the things they choose to say about other societal groups. Among boo-hooing white males of this type, aggrieved complaints about “PC” are really cries for return to the (Archie) Bunker times—to the time when Foolish White Men could say whatever came into their heads, without regard for how their comments might affect the sensibilities of the groups they love to ridicule. Pomfret is sick of all that PC! To our ear, he self-identifies with that childish statement.

It’s a great scam. The only use for use of variations of “politically correct” is to use the obsolete cultural meaning (suggesting hypersensitivity to minor or non-existent offenses) to insulate gross bigotry from any scrutiny or criticism. Pomfret, like his assignment editor, understandably fails to indentify exactly what was useful about Allen’s different take; after all, there wasn’t anything of value in it unless you think Father Knows Best had an excessively complex and progressive conception of gender relations. And it’s especially infuriating hearing the “P.C.” card being played by someone who somehow can’t locate a significant number of female candidates who can climb over the exceptionally low bar for intelligent discourse set by people like Richard Cohen and Charles Krauthammer. To paraphrase Robert Christgau on irony, being “politically incorrect” is an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing.

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McCain: Still His Own Guy

[ 11 ] March 11, 2008 |

While making the obvious but necessary point that a McCain presidency would be terrible for reproductive freedom, Robyn Blumner wonders if bovine idiocy is in fact a job requirement for the Republican nomination.

Apparently, yes:

The New York Times Web site reported the following exchange with a reporter in Iowa in March 2007:

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

What Blumner doesn’t point out is by accepting the president’s policy like a warm communion wafer, McCain is also announcing his de facto support for pork. In the interest of funding the evidence-free obsessions of the Christian right, more than a billion dollars of federal money has been shoveled into a pile and set on fire since 1998; most of that money has been gobbled up by folks like this:

Claudia Horn, through her firm Performance Results Inc., collects $1,551 per day for training groups in program and [abstinence-only] curriculum evaluation. According to its federal filing, PRI’s 2005 sales to state and local governments were $1.1 million, with an additional $250,000 coming from the Feds, including such clients as the Department of Justice, the Office of Personnel Management, and Housing and Urban Development. But Claudia Horn’s indirect public receipts are likely even higher, as her-private sector clients include IYD and the National Fatherhood Initiative (once headed by her husband, Wade), each of which is heavily funded through federal grants.

Anne and Gordon Badgley, who received $9 million in federal grants for their nonprofit, Heritage Community Services, also set up Badgley Enterprises to market and sell their abstinence-only curriculum, Heritage Keepers. While Heritage’s IRS 990s are sketchy and marked by vague expenses, even a student loan repayment, they clearly show that the Badgleys pocketed $174,201 from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit by buying the curriculum from their own private company.

If you’re the sort of person who’s likely to miss this sort of shit after Bush leaves office, a vote for McCain makes a tremendous amount of sense.

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Renounce and Reject?

[ 19 ] March 10, 2008 |

I agree with publius: this reject and renounce game could be fun to watch. What will HRC say?

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More on the Prison Nation

[ 0 ] March 10, 2008 |

Certainly no longer the big news of the day (if it ever was), but the Times editorial board got on the Prison Nation bandwagon today with a damn good editorial.

The editorial touches on the issues of cost that I have been raising:

Nationwide, the prison population hovers at almost 1.6 million, which surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

Seems like that comparison puts into perspective how we might argue that prisons are a significant waste of money and mis-allocation of resources.

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