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He May Be Right About Hockey Below the Mason-Dixon

[ 129 ] December 28, 2007 |

But Yglesias is wrong about so-called “ice girls.” Ygleisas yearns for half-naked women to objectify in order to better enjoy his hockey watching.

I don’t know about Matt, but when I go to hockey games, it’s actually to watch hockey. Fancy that.

UPDATE BY SL: Lest I be seen as endorsing that part of the linked post, I concur with Bean. As I told the person next to me at the game, I much preferred the Capitals giving youth hockey players the opportunity to sweep up the ice during breaks rather than scantily-clad women.

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It’s The Rules, Stupid

[ 0 ] December 28, 2007 |

To add on to what Markos says about Evan Thomas’s silly version of the “American politics went to hell when the pro-apartheid faction left the Democratic Party” narrative, for further debunking one can look outside the United States. First of all, if polarization depresses turnout, it’s rather hard to explain why countries with PR systems and hence much more polarized parties than the U.S. have much higher election turnouts. Even more importantly, the much greater turnout elsewhere makes it overwhelmingly likely that the unusually low voter turnout in the U.S. has nothing to do with some sort of inherent apathy among the electorate and much more to do with the fact that rule make it much harder to vote in the U.S. If you want to increase turnout, make the state responsible for ensuring that people register, give people time off work, make lines at polling places low, etc. How blurring distinctions between the parties is supposed to increase turnout, conversely, I can’t tell you.

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Fascists Everywhere! Except Among Jingoistic Supporters of Arbitrary Executive Power

[ 7 ] December 28, 2007 |

Brad listens to the podcast-from-hell so you don’t have to. There’s lots that’s amusing-in-a-depressing-way, such as a professor of law discussing William James and Jimmy Carter as fascists as if it was a perfectly reasonable proposition. But I have to say that I enjoyed not only the assertion that providing certain minimum living standards represents fascism but using college campuses as a metaphor for this because they involve “free food, shelter and recreation.” Jonah is in for one hell of a shock if one of his kids gets into NYU.

Meanwhile, as always the comments chez Dr. Helen are a treat; for example, apparently one example of fascism is someone who uses “dominate” in the rec.sport.football.college sense of the word being forced to drop out of grad school because…some teachers and fellow students disagreed with his political views. As we all know, to a true anti-fascist rugged individualist success is only possible when all of your colleagues agree with you about everything.

If you haven’t already suffered from an overload of Teh Stupid, see Spencer Ackerman’s ongoing series of excerpts from Child Labor Laws? You’d Better Believe That’s Fascism.

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And If The Devil Rays Win the Next 18 World Series, Their Reputation as an Organization Will Be Greatly Enhanced

[ 15 ] December 27, 2007 |

As I’ve said before, nothing signals a Must To Avoid more than a positive book review that describes an unreadable book. Such is the case with Robert Dallek’s review of a new book about Condi Rice by official Bush administration mash note writer Elisabeth Bumiller. Apparently, we’re meant to think that the fact that the book makes no judgments and contains no interesting analysis of Rice’s tenure as Secretary of State is a feature, not a bug. The review does, however, contain this bit of high comedy:

Ms. Bumiller says that if President Bush and Ms. Rice can produce a settlement in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, it would give them claims on success that would significantly improve their historical reputations.

Uh, yeah. And if I discover a way of powering cars entirely with oxygen, emitting a vapor that would result in the immediate killing of cockroaches and paralysis in the hands of every Hollywood producer about to sign a contract with Joel Schumacher and Uwe Boll, my reputation as a world-class scientist would be greatly enhanced. I’m reminded of nothing so much as David Adesnik’s suggestion that Bush signal his commitment to a rational foreign policy by appointing Dick Lugar.

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Hockey Below the Mason-Dixon

[ 12 ] December 27, 2007 |

Yglesias says that “it’s a bit sad to see how much more engaged and knowledgeable the crowd at the Caps game is compared to the Wizards’ fans.” As it happens, when I was in town for Farley’s wedding since I had to go to the MCI Verizon Center to get tickets for a game in March anyway I decided to take in the Crapitals/Sabres game. Having seen a lot of games in Calgary and Montreal I was pleasantly surprised by both the near-sellout crowd and the intensity of the fans, neither of which I expected, and were impressive even given the artificial boost given by the presence of a real hockey market in the game (up in the nosebleeds where I was “Let’s Go Buffalo!” chants were frequent.)

Given the context, I was amused that the Capitals decided to combine two lame in-game promotions. A woman was participating in one of those “find the moving puck!” things, and in turned out that the prize for the contestant was…a marriage proposal. The punchline was that although it had to be the least challenging hidden puck/ball game in history, she got the answer wrong. But she said yes anyway.

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Better Get Moving, Congress…

[ 18 ] December 27, 2007 |

…Because after 2010, it’s likely to get even harder to pass progressive legislation. Why? According to predictions, the 2010 census will lead to a shift in the allocation of seats in Congress. New York will likely lose a few seats, while Texas, Arizona, and Florida are likely to gain seats.

This would leave New York with only 27 seats in the House, the lowest since the 1830 census.

For New York, this means that our Congresspeople better get to work in the next few years securing the resources the state needs. Because with fewer seats in Congress comes less power and less access to money.

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The Goggles Noise-Cancelling Headphones, They Do Nothing

[ 11 ] December 27, 2007 |

This is a very radical claim I’m about to make, but I think I might rather watch a Bloggingheads featuring Mickey Kaus and Ann Althouse discussing Bill Clinton’s sex life than listen to this.

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The Candidates React to Bhutto’s Assassination

[ 0 ] December 27, 2007 |

TalkLeft has a roundup of the candidates’ reactions.

Here’s Richardson:

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called on President Bush to force Musharraf to step down. Until then, Richardson said the U.S. must suspend military aid to the Pakistani government.

“A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan’s return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence,” Richardson said.

And Clinton:

“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto’s concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.”

And Obama:

“She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”

Giuliani, of course, used this as an opportunity to trumpet the importance of the War on Terror. Seems to me that only Richardson comes close to making any sort of strong political statement.

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Bhutto Assassinated

[ 16 ] December 27, 2007 |

…as most of you probably know. The most obvious puzzle to this non-expert is how someone could get in a position to fire two shots at close range; the most obvious answer is that Musharraf wanted her dead. Spencer Ackerman supports this:

After an October attack on Bhutto’s life in Karachi, the ex-prime minister warned “certain individuals in the security establishment [about the threat] and nothing was done,” says Husain Haqqani, a confidante of Bhutto’s for decades. “There is only one possibility: the security establishment and Musharraf are complicit, either by negligence or design. That is the most important thing. She’s not the first political leader killed, since Musharraf took power, by the security forces.”

Haqqani notes that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck. “It’s like a hit, not a regular suicide bombing,” he says. “It’s quite clear that someone who considers himself Pakistan’s Godfather has a very different attitude toward human life than you and I do.”

And, of course, not only is Musharraf’s chief rival dead, but this will also serve as a pretext to cancel elections.

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The Candidate of Reagan

[ 42 ] December 27, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Ron Paul: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal. If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational.”

I know he’s right on the war, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s a crank reactionary.

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They’re Called Texecutions for a Reason

[ 38 ] December 26, 2007 |

There’s news today that executions have declined around the country in 2007. This should come as no surprise given the current federal de facto moratorium pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the lethal injection case, and the fact that New Jersey recently became the first state in a generation to repeal its death penalty law and ban the punishment in the state.

But one state is going against the grain — Texas. This year saw the smallest number of executions in over ten years, but a full 60% of the executions that did take place were in Texas (26 of 42). This despite the fact that the death penalty is not imposed in more murder cases as a percentage than in other states and in Texas and juries are no more likely to impose the death penalty than in other states. The big difference is that in Texas, a death sentence means what it says; in other states, a death sentence doesn’t always result in an execution…or at least not for a long time.

Some professors speculate that the trend will continue to expand. From the Times article:

Indeed, said David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death row inmates, the day is not far off when essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.

“The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions,” he said, “is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have.”

While I think this might be overstating the case a bit (there are other injection-happy states out there, particularly Texas’s neighbors), its a worthwhile statement if only to make clear how out of step Texas is becoming with the rest of the nation with regard to criminal justice and capital punishment. First it became the state that upheld a death penalty imposed while the defendant’s lawyer slept through the trial. Literally. And now it is the state that puts more people to death than do most countries, even as the rest of our own country begins (continues?) to shy away from imposing this harshest punishment.

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The Shrum Racket

[ 0 ] December 26, 2007 |

Well, the Democratic Party certainly had some winners in the 2004 election:

Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.

Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.

Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.

Imagine what Shrum would get paid if he ever won elections! It’s good that the Dems are trying to reduce the fees, because the extent of the money that goes to consultants is ridiculous given the number of companies that could otherwise compete for the advertising and the utter lack of accountability.

Of course, it’s possible to defend Shrum narrowly in terms of the 2004 election; if anything, Kerry did a little better than structural models would predict, and certainly he wasn’t an inherently great candidate. Indeed, the only federal election Shrum lost that he should have won was 2000 (and even that one wasn’t so much lost as won by a narrow enough margin that it could be swamped by the archaic American electoral system.) But this defense makes it even more clear that the money being paid to consultants is completely irrational. Campaigns simply aren’t that important in terms of who wins elections, which not only means that consultants aren’t terribly important but also that it’s very difficult to evaluate their performance even within the narrow range in which they can matter. Anybody who acts as a consultant long enough, especially if they also do a lot of local races, is going to rack of some wins, and will also always have an excuse if they don’t win. There’s no good reason for political consultancy to be this kind of resource-eating cartel.

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