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The Supreme Court and the Clean Water Act

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

While the Court’s decision not to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — at least, not yet — was probably the best outcome that could have been expected, the same was certainly not true of another of the Court’s decisions yesterday, which went along with a Bush administration decision allowing a company to dump large amounts of extremely toxic chemicals into a a lake on the grounds that the toxic slurry was “fill material” rather than a “pollutant,” and hence a permit could be granted by the Army Corps of Engineers rather than the EPA.



[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

Good one. I suppose seeing the world-historical importance of Obama eating ice cream while there is any injustice anywhere in the world is a close cousin to warbloggers who believe that linking to Steven Den Beste posts and saying “heh” is a form of combat, or warboggers who believe that changing their font to green — and maybe even posting staggeringly unfunny null anaology twitters — is of world-historical importance…

You are Correct, Sir!

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

Ed McMahon has passed. I guess now I’ll never be on Star Search…

All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

Now that Mark Sanford has turned up doing some sort of wingnut imitation of Bill Bryson, my personal pet theory as to his whereabouts can be safely dismissed.


Conservertarian False Equivalence, Meet Facts

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |


It is true that some countries have controlled costs, and therefore made it easier to afford coverage for more people. It is also true that some countries have cut marginal tax rates, and thereby actually raised the tax revenue they collected.


McArdle’s comparison — some countries have cut taxes and thereby raised revenues, some countries have controlled costs with universal coverage — turns out to be true if you replace the first “some” with “zero” and the second “some” with “all.” Other than that, great comparison!

Game, set…although, in fairness, it must be said that Democratic presidents will probably be unwilling to engage in the avoidance of public frozen custard eating that would allow these savings to be realized.

Denounce! Renounce! Etc.

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

In trying to break down the “Obama Should Denounce!” crowd into some subsets, I came up with the following five groups:

  1. Obama is being quiet because he thinks that US intervention would cause the situation in Iran to deteriorate; he’s wrong about that.
  2. Obama is being quiet because he thinks that the US can still win concessions from Iran on the nuclear program, and doesn’t want to endanger that possibility; he’s either a) wrong about the possibility of winning concessions, or b)the game isn’t worth the candle.
  3. Obama is weak, indecisive, and objectively pro-Ahmadinejad.
  4. Obama is pro-Ahmadinejad.
  5. I don’t really know anything about this, but any opportunity to criticize the Obama administration is worth taking.

These groups are not mutually exclusive. Daniel “Go Ahmadinejad!” Pipes probably fits most comfortably into Group 5. Group 4 includes such luminaries of American punditry as Andy McCarthy and Victor Davis Hanson. Group 3 is a touch harder to categorize, because it overlaps a lot with #2, but I’d say it’s a view that’s broadly shared across the wingnutosphere. Group 2, I think, includes Charles Krauthammer, Paul Wolfowitz, and some of the smarter folks at the Corner. Group 1 includes, once you cut through the manifest crazy, Christopher Hitchens.

I think, thus far, that Obama has handled the situation fabulously well. I’m guessing that he believes that any US intervention will backfire, and that the US will need to talk to Iran in the future, whether or not Ahmadinejad remains President. I think he’s definitely correct about the first. I also suspect that it is going to be extremely difficult to carry out any engagement strategy with Iran going forward. If the regime survives, it will be because of the loyalty and brutality of its security forces. With that brutality on display on US televisions (if only rarely) it will be much more difficult for Obama to build any domestic support for talks. Moreover, it’s not clear that he should; knowing that the Iranian regime was repressive before these latest incidents, and acknowledging that many US allies in the region don’t even bother with the fiction of elections doesn’t change the fact that it’s an ugly bit of business. I’d rather, other things being equal, not have my President engage with Iran while the current group of thugs is in power. Finally, I do think that the repression has opened greater opportunity for what might be termed a non-interventionist coercive strategy; this is to say that more and tougher sanctions against the regime are on the table now than was the case two weeks ago.

Now Available Exclusively at LGM!

[ 0 ] June 23, 2009 |

After three fine years, I have left TAPPED, more or less by mutual agreement*. It was an honor to write daily for the American Prospect, and I hope to publish there in the future in a different capacity. The three or four of you who have followed both blogs will have noted that style and content was quite a bit different. TAPPED favored longer, wonkier posts, without a lot of space for nonsense. I was contractually allowed to cross-post one third of my TAPPED product to LGM, but in practice it ended up being less than that, simply because I didn’t feel that many of the TAPPED posts fit well with LGM. In the short to medium term, I’ll probably be posting a bit more to LGM, and the posts will be a little wonkier.

*Rob (to self): I’m pretty busy; maybe I should quit TAPPED.
TAPPED: Hey, Farley? You’re laid off. Hit the road.
Rob: Okay… (to self) I would also like a gold plated Mercedes, with a bag of $100 bills in the passenger seat.

Foreign Policy Isn’t About Your Feelings

[ 0 ] June 22, 2009 |

Reading the comments here, what’s most striking is that Treacher et al. have yet to even attempt an argument explaining, in concrete terms, what more forceful rhetoric or more private dessert eating would accomplish. If I can try to piece together the causal logic:

  • Obama supports Iran opposition, ignores daughters, eats good American salad consisting of Kraft Mayonnaise over iceberg lettuce rather than those fancy greens and olive oils that people who never leave major urban centers assume that people outside of major urban centers have never heard of
  • Iranian government uses comments to paint the opposition as the cat’s paw of a hated regime; opposition distances itself from Obama’s comments.
  • ?????????
  • Profit! Revolution!

I’m not really seeing it. In fairness, calling Iran the “Axis of Evil” did singlehandedly usher in an era of Democracy, Whiskey, and Sexy in Iran, so I’m sure similar comments from Obama would be equally effectual.

Meanwhile, the ill-named Socrates asks:

Let’s try a thought experiment..

What would you all really be saying today if it had been Booooooosh! doing this while Iran burned, instead of Obama..?

Take a few minites to think; and be intellectually honest about it…

See, this may be shocking news to people who think that Obama can make democracy appear in Iran through his silver tongue (and they call us “Obamabots”!), but Iran is not the only tyranny in the world. This blog has been in operation for quite a long time, stretching all the way back to the Bush administration. So, for example, we can consider the case of Zimbabwe. You may recall that — while Bush was in the White House! — an even worse regime than the current Iranian one engaged in even more egregious and violent election theft. If you search our archives, however, you will note that at no point did I attack Bush for clearing brush instead of spending all of his time denouncing Robert Mugabe, for the obvious reason that you’d have to be a Grade A Moron to think that anything Bush said would somehow cause fair elections to be held in Zimbabwe. The same, of course, goes for the assertion that more forceful rhetoric will somehow produce a fair election in Iran. But thanks for the question!

UPDATE BY ROB: Shorter Andy McCarthy: Barack Obama is objectively pro-mullah!

Biggest upset in major sports history?

[ 0 ] June 22, 2009 |

It’s too bad not many Americans care about soccer, because what happened at the Confederations Cup yesterday might well have been the longest shot to ever come through in the sport’s history.

First, the US had to beat Egypt by three goals. The US never beats anyone by three goals in a major international competition. That’s a blowout at this level. But beyond that Egypt had just beaten Italy and was unlucky to lose to Brazil — two teams that had just routed the US. On top of that, Egypt knew that in all likelihood all they had to do to advance was not get routed by the US. So the US had the extra disadvantage of having to blow out a team that could go through simply by playing a hyper-conservative style.

Add that all up and the pre-game odds of the US winning by three must have been 50-1, at least.

But that’s only half of it, since winning by three wouldn’t help unless Brazil beat Italy by either exactly 3-0 or by at least four goals (4-1, 5-2, etc. would have put Italy through since it would have pushed things to the fourth tiebreaker, which was head to head results).

Now Italy is old and not playing well, but they lose 3-0 or by at least four when scoring in a big tournament about once every 20 years, plus this is a far from overwhelming Brazilian team. So the odds of that were hardly better than the odds of the US beating Egypt by three.

Add it up and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that from a ex ante perspective it was literally looking like a 1000-1 shot for the US to go through.

Section 5 of Voting Rights Act Narrowed But Not Struck Down

[ 0 ] June 22, 2009 |

The Supreme Court today, by an 8-1 vote, narowed but did not strike down the “preclearance” provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require certain jurisdictions to get federal approval for any changes in their election laws. The opinion of the Court, written by Chief Justice Roberts, declined to address the question of whether the Voting Rights Act is constitutional but rather ruled on the narrow grounds that the utility district in question was eligible to apply for a “bailout” from the preclearance provisions if they meet certain conditions. Justice Thomas, in partial dissent, argued that Section 5 should have been ruled unconstitutional.

Despite how it looked after oral argument, I’m not actually surprised by the outcome. The Court’s conservatives have generally been much more likely to narrow civil rights legislation and major Warren Court precedents than overturn them outright, and it seemed especially unlikely that they would start a new trend with a provision of the Voting Rights Act however much they disliked it. And while I tend to be skeptical of “minimalism” in general and how the Roberts Court has used it in particular, in this case I actually think it’s meaningful and appropriate. The outcome in this case is both reasonable on its face and doesn’t completely gut the statute.

While I’m engaging in rare praise for John Roberts, I should also say that I think that conservatives do have one objection to Section 5 that I consider reasonable. As regular readers know, I have less than no use for arguments that the “sovereign dignity” of states should trump human rights, and also think that the localized American electoral system is a disaster that should be mitigated as much as possible. However, I do think Roberts has a good point when he questions the ongoing selective applicability of the preclearance provisions: “The evil that §5 is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance. The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.” It’s not obvious to me that, say, Indiana is less likely to enact legislation restricting minority access to the ballot than Virginia or Kings County New York. To the extent that the Supreme Court is signaling that the legislation would be more easily defensible if it applied to everyone, I think they have a point (although I suspect that the Court’s conservatives may be planting a Catch-22 in which the legislation will turn out to be under- or over-inclusive depending on how Congress deals with this question.)

More Mustard Green Tea Ice Cream Gate!

[ 0 ] June 22, 2009 |

It was a very busy weekend, so when I saw Patterico’s compare and contrast post linked I decided to pretend that it was really a critique of media types giving detailed twitterings of the president’s ice cream buying. But then he showed up in comments to Noon’s post, and…yes, he seems to think that this is a serious critique of Obama. Sad. And this meme is apparently becoming widespread!

Around the same time, Obama found time to get some ice cream with his daughters, which became further proof of his contempt for the Iranian people.

Patterico put tweets about Iran and Obama’s ice cream side by side to show… we’re not sure what, but something very bad, no doubt — maybe that every time Obama licks a cone, it’s a signal for Iranian troops to get out the rubber hoses. Michelle Malkin put a picture of a dead protester next to a picture of Obama eating ice cream, to similar effect.

“To show his disengagement he took his daughters to a custard shop for (a bit like NERO) eating ice cream,” said Political Mavens. The Founding Bloggers announced “The Obama Ice Cream Scandal.” Moonbattery, looking for a fresh spin, tried “Iran Erupts, Obama Feeds His Dog Ice Cream.”

“Bloodshed in Iran vs. Obama’s Ice Cream Parlor Trip,” cried Frugal Cafe Blog Zone, “Maybe tomorrow, I can write a commentary. Now, right now… I simply can’t. I’m too dismayed and sickened.” Lactose intolerant, perhaps?

“Obama Snacked, Iranians Got Whacked,” said Jim Treacher, adding in boldface, “It isn’t about the ice cream,” though he declined to say what it was about. “Barack Obama… Let The Iranians Eat Ice Cream,” said Scared Monkeys, adding, “CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW THE PRESS WOULD HAVE REACTED IN GWB DID SOMETHING LIKE THIS?” — as if they, or anyone else, could have reacted any more stupidly.

Apparently, there would be democracy in Iran if Obama didn’t have dessert; perhaps we can call this the “New Green Lantern Flavor at Ben & Jerry’s” principle. Or is there a general principle that public officials can’t do anything with their children as long as there’s anything bad happening in the world? Are these people dumb enough to think that Obama has the same impact on Iranian domestic politics that the president has on American domestic politics? Who knows, but it’s funny in its pathetic way.


[ 0 ] June 22, 2009 |

Who would have thought that one of the most annoying “liberal” Iraq war apologists and torture apologists would turn out to be, when inexplicably given the leadership of a major political party, a strategic mastermind incapable of making lemons out of lemonade?