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Lessons About Globalism From Phuket

[ 7 ] August 6, 2010 |

Current Intelligence has published some ruminations of mine from my trip to Phuket last month. Lead paragraph follows:

Though I definitely passed through customs and back, it’s hard to know whether I traveled to a country called Thailand these past two weeks or whether I was actually just in one of those many outposts of globalization where a multi-national cacophony of Western tourists connect superficially with caricatures of a place’s pre-globalized culture.

At the invitation of an old friend who largely controlled the itinerary, I found myself on beaches and in bars, on dive boats and in spas, but never far from the American muzak and English-language-dominant service industry of Patong, never forced to navigate or speak in a local tongue, dis-incentivized to take seriously local governance, culture and politics except where it could be commodified, and mostly encouraged to have fun instead of thinking or talking too much about the place in which I found myself.

Full essay here. I am on the road again this next two weeks, so beyond reviews of travel books I may post in the next few days, blogging will be light.


The Kennedy Question

[ 25 ] August 6, 2010 |

I outline some reasons to be skeptical about whether Kennedy would be willing to cast a fifth vote to hold bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional here. At a minimum, there’s no reason to simply assume that “[t]here are 5 votes for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.” The typically overrated assertions of America’s most overrated justice notwithstanding, it wouldn’t be remotely difficult for Kennedy to distinguish Lawrence and Perry if he wanted to do so. It might be different if Lawrence had been based on equal protection, but the fact that it was a privacy case gives him an easy exit route. All he would have to do is point to the status quo on abortion, in which the state cannot ban abortion but can exclude abortion from medical funding, although the central purpose of the Hyde Amendment is to obstruct the exercise of a constitutional right. And there are other important contextual differences between this case and the major liberal (or half-liberal) rulings Kennedy has joined: upholding Perry would have a much larger policy impact and have significantly less public support. It’s possible that Kennedy could provide a fifth vote to uphold Perry, and it was shrewd of Walker to cite Kennedy as much as he could, but on the basis of what we know I would definitely bet against it.

One thing I didn’t address is the possibility that there could be some way of upholding Prop 8 without creating a national right to same-sex marriage (in a manner similar to the way Romer ruled Colorado’s Amendment 2 unconstitutional without explicitly overruling Bowers.) I’m very skeptical about this, in part because it’s hard to see any way of invalidating Prop 8 that wouldn’t apply to other same-sex marriage bans (whether or not the Court makes that explicit.) One intriguing possibility suggested by a commenter is that Prop 8 could be considered irrational because California already grants all of the material benefits of marriage, so refusing to apply the title of marriage to same-sex unions is just raw discrimination that the Court ruled unconstitutional in Romer. I don’t know if Kennedy would buy it, but it’s a clever argument. But the problem is that — like conservative attempts to have the insurance mandate ruled unconstitutional — it would be very much a “be careful what you wish for” outcome. Because it would create a perverse incentive for states that don’t want to recognize same-sex marriage rights to keep their marriage regimes as inequitable as possible in order to avoid a challenge under Perry/Schwarzenegger, it would probably make the policy status quo worse in the short term. It’s possible that Kennedy (or even Roberts) could write such an opinion, but I wouldn’t count that as a victory for same-sex marriage rights, although at least it would make future challenges to marriage discrimination easier to mount.

The Audacity of Dopes

[ 98 ] August 6, 2010 |

Obviously, Krugman versus Paul Ryan isn’t a fair fight, but this is nonetheless quite satisfying.


[ 8 ] August 5, 2010 |

Kagan confirmed. I hope she will prove to be a successful appointment.

The best government money can buy

[ 2 ] August 5, 2010 |

My favorite nugget in this particular chart is the inspiring tale of the veritable K Street Horatio Alger, Thomas Scully.

At UW, They Check on this Sort of Thing…

[ 35 ] August 5, 2010 |

Rand Paul lacks both accreditation and a bachelor’s degree?

Rand Paul, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Kentucky, holds a medical degree from Duke University but never received a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, contrary to several media reports in recent months. Baylor officials confirmed this week that Paul was a student there from the fall of 1981 to the summer of 1984 but never obtained a degree. Instead, he left early when Duke accepted him in its School of Medicine. Doug Stafford, a consultant for Paul’s Senate campaign, said Wednesday that Paul has never said he holds a degree from Baylor, only that he attended Baylor in Waco, Texas. Multiple media outlets, including the Lexington Herald-Leader, made an incorrect assumption, he said. “I guess many people and some in the media have assumed Dr. Paul had a bachelor’s degree but he has never said that,” Stafford said.

You can get into Duke med school without a bachelor’s degree? Way back when, I was late sending my undergraduate transcripts to the UW graduate school. In what was surely a instance of anti-Oregon bias, I received a series of increasingly angry and threatening letters from the authorities until I submitted the relevant paperwork, indicating that I had indeed graduated from UO. Apparently they don’t do this at Duke?

…apparently matriculating students without a BA or BS was unusual, but not unknown when Paul entered Duke.

Our incredible deals of 70-562 and 74-676 tutorials make your success certain for 70-444 & MB7-223 exams and you can get 70-542 also.

Hawks Everywhere…

[ 5 ] August 5, 2010 |

Like I say, every country has its neocons:

In his first interview since his capture after the fall of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein’s former top deputy Tariq Aziz tells the Guardian that it would be wrong for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq now. Speaking only days after Obama confirmed that the US would be ending its combat mission in Iraq this month with the withdrawal of thousands of troops, Aziz said the country was in a worse state than before the war…

Aziz goes on to mount a defense of his old boss, though he says he tried unsuccessfully to talk Saddam out of invading Kuwait in 1991. He also remains an Iran hawk:

“Now Iran is building a weapons programme. Everybody knows it and nobody is doing anything. Why?”

In fairness to Aziz, I suspect that the Weekly Standard would have come out in strong support of the invasion of Kuwait…

Did They Hire George Costanza to Manage the USAF Tanker Contract?

[ 6 ] August 5, 2010 |

This is almost surreal. The company that’s trying to put forward a Ukranian Antonov aircraft as the new USAF tanker is protesting a decision to reject its bid on account of tardiness. Here’s the story:

At issue is when USAF took control of the proposal documents submitted by U.S. Aerospace. All of the following detail was provide from an industry executive who wished to be anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The company claims its messenger, which was delivering the proposal was at the Wright-Patterson Area B gate before 1:30 p.m. July 9. The deadline was 2 p.m. that day.

According to the company, Air Force personnel at the gate “initially denied the messenger entry to the base, then gave incorrect direction to the 1755 Eleventh Street Building 570,” where the proposal was headed. The messenger apparently became lost, and Air Force personnel told him to wait while they came to him.

By the time the papers reached their destination, the Air Force stamped the proposal as being received at 2:05 p.m.

U.S. Aerospace was notified July 22 via a letter from the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patt that the company’s bid was late and would not be considered as part of the source selection.

So, one of the questions that is likely to be addressed as GAO reviews the protest is at what point the USAF had “control” over the proposal.

Was it when the messenger stepped onto the base? I’d suspect that when it comes to matters of security, the Air Force would say its personnel have control over all people on their bases. When it comes to a contracting matter, it may be different.

Apparently, Air Force officials subsequently told a company representative that delays at installation gates are common (and they are — I’ve been subject to more than a few), and that the company should have anticipated this potential snag and planned appropriately.

Two things. First, you’d wonder why the USAF would risk the potential of a protest and lawsuit based on a five minute delay. However, since the US Aerospace/Antonov bid is thought by some to be intended specifically to generate a protest, they may have thought that having a clear-cut reason for rejection would make things easier.

Good, And Bad, Reasons For Mixed Feelings About Perry

[ 21 ] August 5, 2010 |


Which is simply to say that legal details aside (I’m not a lawyer, but you can play one on TV by reading the decision) this seems like a clear victory for moral justice and nobody has any reason to have mixed feelings about it.

To elaborate a bit on my previous post, I agree 100% of this in terms of fears of a backlash. As long-time readers of this blog know, both here and in my academic work I’ve argued that the idea that social change produced through the courts leads to greater conflict is not supported by any good evidence, and also that the idea that conflict is a reason to avoid social change makes no sense. I definitely recommend this Ryan McNeely post, which provides further support for these claims.

So there’s no reason to have mixed feelings about the decision because finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage would generate a backlash. The reason to have mixed feelings is that circuit court decisions are only remain authoritative if higher courts are willing to uphold them, and the conditions in the Supreme Court right now just aren’t very favorable. Strictly speaking, this is more a criticism of the decision to litigate now rather than the decision per se, but it’s worth emphasizing that although skeptics of the power of the courts to generate social reform are wrong about the backlash issue, it doesn’t follow from this that litigation is always a sound strategic option.

Civilian Control

[ 3 ] August 5, 2010 |

I have an article up at Right Web on conservatives and civilian control of the military:

The reaction of right-wing elites to the cashiering of McChrystal represents a genuine improvement over the historical attitude of conservatives toward civ-mil relations. Most importantly, conservatives have affirmed civilian supremacy over the military, even in the context of a Democratic president lacking military credentials.

However, this affirmation carries some warning signs. In the future, conservatives may well use the McChrystal firing as part of a “stab in the back” narrative, explaining how a Democratic president lost an otherwise winnable war by declining to take military advice. While every indication suggests that Obama acceded to all of McChrystal’s requests on doctrine and troop strength in Afghanistan, future attacks may nevertheless use the McChrystal firing as a touchstone in the conservative narrative of the “war on terror.”

Of Course, The Priveleged Could Not Possibly Have Any Interest In Maintaining the Status Quo

[ 7 ] August 5, 2010 |

Shorter Gerard Bradley:  “It’s outrageous that Thugood Marshall didn’t recuse himself from school desegregation cases, and that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor didn’t recuse themselves from gender equality cases.  In fact, the federal judiciary should be limited entirely to reactionary white men; nobody else is capable of being impartial enough to see that the Constitution enacts the 2008 Texas Republican Party platform.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a better parody of the de facto Republican position that the Constitution should be interpreted as protecting the interests of those already overrepresented by other parts of the political system, only that Bradley isn’t joking.

Let the Hyperbole Commence!

[ 36 ] August 5, 2010 |


So, how are the crazy-cons going to react to the court decision striking down Proposition 8 in California? I ask because we’ve been hearing that the new right-wing crazies don’t care about “values” issues the way the old right-wing crazies did; we’ve been hearing that the new crowd is even kinda-sorta gay-friendly. [Ha-ha, what a bunch of cards at CNN. –ed]

And answered. Oh dear, I think South Park Republicanism may have died again.