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Dubious Soldiers In A Good Cause

[ 0 ] March 3, 2009 |

While as most if you know I certainly agree with David RePass’s general hostility to the filibuster, some of his specific arguments here are problematic. His conclusion — that the solution to the problem of adding yet another onerous supermajority requirement to a constitutional order that already has too many veto points is to force “real” filibusters — is one you see a lot. And maybe it’s right, although I think this is a lot less clear-cut. Filibusters have become informal because they entail real costs to the majority as well, as the Senate can’t do anything while they’re ongoing. And while such arguments simply assume that the filibustering minority would at least take the political hit for this, it ain’t necessarily so. It comes down to competing narratives, and while most of the media might blame minority obstructionism they might also blame the majority for not playing nice enough with the Wanker Caucus. Maybe it’s a strategy that’s worth trying, but it’s no panacea, and could backfire.

This argument, though, I really don’t buy:

The phantom filibuster is clearly unconstitutional. The founders required a supermajority in only five situations: veto overrides and votes on treaties, constitutional amendments, convictions of impeached officials and expulsions of members of the House or Senate. The Constitution certainly does not call for a supermajority before debate on any controversial measure can begin.

This claim is, quite frankly, nonsense, just as it was when Republicans were making it before 2006. While it’s true that the Constitution does not require a supermajority for legislation to proceed in the Senate, it alas also explicitly gives the Senate plenary power over most of its rules and procedures, which doesn’t preclude any kind of supermajority requirement to end debates (whether formal or informal.) It debases constitutional arguments to make claims about “clear” unconstitutionality that are so poorly grounded. The better approach is just to approach the filibuster head-on: it’s a bad rule that imposes real costs while providing virtually no benefits in practice, and it should be changed. But not every bad rule is unconstitutional.


The Joe-the-Plumberization of the Press Corps

[ 0 ] March 3, 2009 |

This is quite possibly the silliet thing you’ll read all day. It’s what happens, I suppose, when a reporter who clearly has no idea how marginal tax rates work writes an article that (a) accepts the premise that someone making $249,999 a year would pay less than someone earning $250,000 and (b) derives a possible trend from two people scattered across the country who accept the same premise and are willing to deliberately reduce their incomes (including firing employees) to starve the gummint.

If the goal was to induce Glenn Reynolds to jabber about rich people “going John Galt,” I suppose the article’s not a complete waste of space.

The Effects of the End of Local Newspapers

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

The creator of two of the five best series in modern television history notes one area where the impact will be particularly baleful:

In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

It seems highly doubtful that this is a gap that blogs will be able to fill.


[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

I can’t add much to what Greenwald says here and Wheeler argues here, but the Obama administration’s use of Yoovian theories of arbitrary executive authority are indeed appalling.

The Political Value Of Ideas

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

I think that Chait is basically right here, especially where “new ideas” are concerned. There is a caveat, which is that ideas and quality of governance aren’t entirely inseparable; a Bush administration that didn’t have such catastrophically bad ideas as the invasion of Iraq and upper-class tax cuts as the only substantial economic policy wouldn’t have left the Republican candidate as vulnerable (and this is especially true in the 2006 elections, before the economy completely tanked.)

Just a wild guess

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

I’m betting that according to Larry Kudlow this means we need to deregulate the markets and cut taxes.

2012 Too Early for Huntsman?

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

Jon Huntsman certainly has an interesting strategy for making it through the 2012 GOP primary; it seems to be based on the assumption that the Palin-Huckabee-Jindal crazy wing of the party (which seems to represent ~70% of the party) will be divided enough to allow Huntsman to win several of the early primaries by occupying the center. Because of the structure of the Republican primary system, he could potentially build up a nice little delegate lead. Alternatively, Huntsman could just be hoping that the party establishment, perhaps chastened by additional losses in 2010, comes to its senses regarding the rightward drift.

There are several potential problems with the strategy. The first problem is that Huntsman won’t be the only candidate to occupy what passes for the centrist position in the 2012 primary; Mitt Romney will by all accounts be there, and Mitt will once again bring the money. The second is that, in all likelihood, the crazy wing will burn down to one candidate pretty quickly, and whomever that candidate is will then proceed to crush Huntsman (or Romney) for the rest of the primary season. And while I do think that the establishment will eventually rein the crazies in, I don’t think it’ll happen until 2016 at the earliest; the mantra for 2012 will still be “we lost because we’re not conservative enough”.

Then again, I’m glad I never published the post I wrote in 2005, with the excerpt “Wes Clark should coast to victory in the 2008 Democratic primary, but can he beat George Allen in the general?”

Coup in Guinea-Bissau…

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

Or something, anyway:

Army troops shot dead the president of the tiny west African country of Guinea-Bissau early Monday, following a bomb attack that killed the army chief of staff, according to diplomats in the region.

News reports said army troops blamed the president, João Bernardo Vieira, for the death of the army chief, Gen. Batista Tagme Na Wai, who died in an explosion on Sunday night. Diplomats, who spoke in return for anonymity under customary rules, said the president was killed at around 5 a.m. in an attack outside his house and the country’s borders had been closed. “Nobody knows who is in charge,” one diplomat said. “Nobody knows what the army will do.”

Apparently, Guinea-Bissau has become one of the major points of transit for drug trafficking into Europe. The consequences of having lots of money and drugs transiting through the territory of a relatively undeveloped state are predictable. On a minor personal note, I represented Guinea-Bissau in a Model UN “light” exercise way back in high school. That really doesn’t mean anything, aside from the fact that I pay more attention when the name Guinea-Bissau passes through the NYT.

Takin’ it To the Streets!

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

Some teabagging in NYC. I think it’s fair that when you can attract 200 fine crackpots citizens in a metropolitan area of only 18 million, you’re dealing with a political force more devastating than Unity ’08 and the Victory Caucus put together.

Just A Reminder

[ 0 ] March 2, 2009 |

Anybody who thinks that salary caps reduce ticket prices is economically illiterate, and the Maple Laffs (“the arrogance of the Yankees with the post-LBJ accomplishments of the New Orleans Saints!”) are just the latest example of that. (Not that there’s any problem with raising ticket prices to what the market will bear if it hasn’t been accompanied by a recent massive public subsidy, but all the mention of ticket prices as a justification for the disastrous lockout is a joke.) Salary caps have nothing to do with increasing competitive balance or lessening ticket prices; they’re about putting more money in the pockets of the owners, period.


[ 0 ] March 1, 2009 |

It’s hard to be a contender for “most apparently unwatchable movie released this week” when yet another attempt to turn a video game into a movie hits the screens, but the latest attempt to make a dumbed-down middlebrow Short Cuts about an Important Social Topic — this one about immigration — sure seems to be giving it the ol’ college try:

Crossing Over is an L.A.-based ensemble social-problem melodrama for people who thought Crash was a bit too subtle.


The most memorable scene is also among the most maladroit ever committed to film, a liquor-store robbery that begins with people getting splattered over the walls and builds to an earnest dialogue about the “sublime promise” on the faces of immigrants about to take the oath of citizenship. The scene is a career-killer. The whole movie is, in a way.

And yet, I also believe Edelstein when he says that “it’s better than Crash.” It’s always worth remembering that, overrated as Slumdog is, the Academy has done far, far, far worse. I mean, when you have history behind you like 1)Masturbates With Camera winning over GoodFellas, and 2)MWC not even being the worst movie nominatedI’d have to say that giving a Best Picture to an entertaining movie that peters out after an hour is one of Oscar’s better years.


[ 0 ] March 1, 2009 |

Tanned, rested, and ready!