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[ 4 ] October 25, 2007 |

La Lubu, guest posting at Feministe, has a moving and eye opening post up about her difficulties with health insurance and unemployment after her “micropreemie” daughter was born.

Lest there be any doubt that the health insurance system in this country is irretrievably broken.

Go read it.

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World Serious

[ 43 ] October 25, 2007 |

A good roundup from Nate Silver. The Red Sox are not only the best team in baseball but are, on paper, as well-designed for the playoffs as can be. On the other hand, the Rockies are a better team than their regular season record suggests. One concern for Boston would be that I’m not sure that their rotation 2-4 is as good as the numbers suggests; Schilling had nothing even in his Game 6 win, and Dice-K seems out of gas. Should be a competitive series overall, although you have to pick Boston in 6. If Beckett loses, though, all bets are off. Like most neutral observers I’ll be cheering for the Rockies but obviously it’s a low-risk low-reward series for me.

Did they just call John Williams the most accomplished composer of our times?

…see also Charlie Pierce on the great Washington Heights virtuoso.

…I was hoping the Jeff Francis would restore the honor of Canadian pitchers after the unpleasantness in the other dugout, but I guess not…

…What am I talking about? Brilliant clutch pitching from Cy Young Gagne.

…Responding to McCarver’s bizarre claim that these were not “your grandfather’s Rockies,” a commenter notes that “My father’s Rockies was a hockey team coached by Don Cherry.” Wasn’t that Hardy Astrom pitching in the eighth for the Yankees Red Sox tonight? I suppose it would be pushing it to note that I once went to a hockey school where one of the coaches was the guy who recorded the only shutout in the (hockey) Rockies’ history…

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Great Moments in Presidential Foresight

[ 14 ] October 24, 2007 |

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men Gang aft agley:

Your recent requests for aid to assist in the formidable project of the movement of several hundred thousand loyal Vietnamese citizens away from areas which are passing under a de facto rule and political ideology which they abhor, are being fulfilled. I am glad that the United States is able to assist in this humanitarian effort . . . .

The purpose of this offer is to assist the Government of Viet-Nam in developing and maintaining a strong, viable state, capable of resisting attempted subversion or aggression through military means. The Government of the United States expects that this aid will be met by performance on the part of the Government of Viet-Nam in undertaking needed reforms. It hopes that such aid, combined with your own continuing efforts, will contribute effectively toward an independent VietNam endowed with a strong government. Such a government would, I hope, be so responsive to the nationalist aspirations of its people, so enlightened in purpose and effective in performance, that it will be respected both at home and abroad and discourage any who might wish to impose a foreign ideology on your free people.

Letter from Dwight David Eisenhower to Ngo Dinh Diem
dated 1 October 1954
delivered 24 October 1954
released 25 October 1954
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Back to That Debate.

[ 0 ] October 24, 2007 |

Whatever you think about the debate over the availability of the birth control pill in a Maine middle school, the Onion’s done you one better.


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[ 9 ] October 24, 2007 |

Obama will vote to filibuster any immunization of corporations who abetted illegal government behavior by violating the privacy of their customers. Excellent news, and credit Dodd for forcing his hand as well. Obviously, if Clinton won’t follow suit no progressive should give even a second thought to supporting her in the primary.

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On the Language of the Antis

[ 13 ] October 24, 2007 |

Amanda’s got a solid post up today at RH Reality Check in which she dissects the anti-abortion/forced pregnancy brigade and its rhetoric.

Consequences: Punishment. Aware of the unpopularity of the straightforward argument that sex is wrong and those who indulge deserve punishment, anti-choicers use the euphemism “consequences.” Sex does indeed have consequences, both positive (good moods, closer relationships) and negative (unplanned pregnancy, STDs), but anti-choicers usually only use the word to refer to the negative, and usually only to those consequences that are avoidable, but that anti-choicers wish to make harder to avoid. When an anti-choicer petulantly says, “Sex has consequences,” he usually means, “People are getting away with having sex and we should artificially introduce more risks in order to scare people off of it.”

Amanda’s right to lift the oh-so-sheer sheet of euphemism to reveal the dirty underbelly of their smart talk. But what she doesn’t address — and what I think is important — is why their rhetoric is so powerful and ours is, well, not. They won the war of words. Think about it: most Americans still use “pro-life” to describe the forced pregnancy movement and still label people who support reproductive justice as pro-abortion (as in, we love a procedure that can include invasive surgery! Woo hoo!). While it’s good to decode their language, it only gets us so far. What’s next – -and perhaps even more important — is figuring out how to get away from that language, not only in our happy progressive blog world, but more broadly. So long as we are not understood to be “pro-life” — despite the fact that we are actually the only ones in this debate who actually are supportive of life — we won’t be able to make any gains.

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I Said From The First He Was The Worst

[ 9 ] October 24, 2007 |

We’ve been having a debate at TAPPED about who’s the least bad of the potential Republican candidates. As Kevin Drum notes, however, there should be no serious question about who’s the worst:

Choosing the best presidential candidate among the 2008 contenders is a tough job. Picking the worst is easy. Rudy Giuliani is the guy you’d get if you put George Bush and Dick Cheney into a wine press and squeezed out their pure combined essence: unbounded arrogance and self-righteousness, a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood, a studied contempt for anybody’s opinion but his own, a vindictive streak a mile wide, and a devotion to secrecy and executive power unmatched in presidential history. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

And he didn’t even bring up such crucial names as Norman Podhoretz, Bernie Kerik, Alan Placa…the danger of a Giuliani presidency can scarcely be overstated.

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On Leverage

[ 0 ] October 24, 2007 |

The President on Cuba:

President Bush is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people.

As described by an official in a background briefing to reporters on Tuesday evening, Mr. Bush’s remarks will amount to the most detailed response — mainly an unbending one — to the political changes that began in Cuba more than a year ago, when Fidel Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother Raúl.

Here’s the problem. I want a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba as much as the next guy, but one of the consequences of adopting a 47 year hardline policy on the current regime is that your threats become pretty hollow. Short of invading Cuba or subjecting it to airstrikes, there’s just not much that the US can do to Cuba in terms of the “stick” part of diplomacy. All of the leverage is on the carrot side. This administration isn’t wholly averse to carrots; it eventually made the North Korea deal, and the Libya deal was far more carrot than stick based (even if it was primarily at the behest of Tony Blair), but given the combination of John Bolton’s continuing efforts to scuttle the North Korea deal and the power of the dread Cuba Lobby, we’re unlikely to see any realistic policy initiative. The consequence is that, whether or not Fidel manages to outlast his tenth American President, the political transition in Cuba will happen largely without US influence.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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[ 20 ] October 24, 2007 |

I have to say that I’m getting pretty close to endorsing Dodd. The Arbitrary Executive Power and Surrender of Congressional Prerogatives Act is bad enough, but the blanket immunization of corporations who assisted in illegal activity is beyond the pale. It’s not just awful on the merits; for candidates unwilling to argue against it because Republicans will say “Dimmicrats want Islamofascistcommienazis to kill your children! Booga-booga!” although there’s little evidence that it even works anymore indicates that they plan to run on national security from a permanent defensive crouch. Enough. Clinton and Obama need to try to shape the discourse on the issue or we need to look for another standard-bearer.

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Happy Anniversary!

[ 19 ] October 24, 2007 |

Via Roy, I see that conservatives are whining about the great day 20 years ago on which arch-reactionary Robert Bork was justly rejected by the Senate. First if all, it’s worth repeating that in this case the Senate functioned as it should, focusing on constitutional philosophy rather than trivial details, and that attempts to turn “Borking” into a pejorative notwithstanding, it’s ridiculous to argue that the President can consider ideology in nominations but the Senate cannot consider in in confirmation.

In addition, for the occasion it’s worth once again excerpting Bruce Ackerman’s devastating review of Bork’s shoddy, transparently outcome-orietnted attempt to defend his “originalism” in The Tempting of America:

Bork has succumbed to his own temptation. Proclaiming his fidelity to history, his constitutional vision is radically ahistorical. Pronouncing an anathema on value relativism, his jurisprudence brings skepticism to new heights. Insisting on the sharpest possible line between law and politics, his bitter concluding section transforms a legal treatise into a Red-baiting n3 political tract. Tempting reveals that Bork’s ordeal has transformed him into a human type that I, at least, had previously encountered only in Dostoyevsky novels. Mutatis mutandis, he is America’s Grand Inquisitor — grimly excommunicating heretics in the name of a Cause he has inwardly betrayed.


The historical vacuum at the core of Bork’s orthodoxy may seem surprising, since the man spent much of his life as a professor at Yale and had the time to engage in the disciplined historical reflection that his orthodoxy demands. The mystery dissolves when one recalls that Bork’s principal academic specialty was antitrust, not constitutional law. He did not win national leadership in this field by dint of historical research, but by championing the Chicago School of Economics’ notably ahistorical and theory-laden approach to antitrust. Few readers of Bork’s major book, The Antitrust Paradox, would guess that its author would next try to make a name for himself by championing the use of historical methods against the seductions of abstract theory. Indeed, one question left unresolved in Tempting is the extent to which Bork himself is aware of the tension between the ostentatiously theoretical methods of Paradox and the putatively historical concerns of Tempting.

Particularly telling is Bork’s remarkable dismissal of the Ninth Amendment, and its obvious implications for his jurisprudence:

Perhaps we should be grateful, then, that Bork tries to decipher the Ninth Amendment without an independent examination of extrinsic sources. Sticking to the text, he reports that it “states simply, if enigmatically, that ‘[t]he enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’”

The puzzle here is why Bork should find the text “enigmatic.” It seems, almost preternaturally, to be written with him in mind. What Bork is up to is precisely to use “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights” to “disparage” the idea that there are other constitutional rights of fundamental importance. I especially admire the Framers’ choice of the word “disparage.” I can think of no better word to describe Bork’s general tone. Nonetheless, Bork finds the text enigmatic and yearns for greater clarity…


It is, of course, an old lawyer’s trick to create uncertainty by writing hypothetical texts that, in the writer’s mind, do a better job than the Framers’. Bork, however, does not seem to recognize that what the Framers wrote is stronger, not weaker, than the texts he considers as replacements. His hypothetical “clarifications” would narrowly address the courts and explain to them that they should not “disparage” unenumerated rights. In contrast, the Ninth Amendment speaks to all interpreters of the Constitution, presidents no less than courts, citizens no less than legislators, and expressly cautions all of them against committing the interpretive blunder that Bork would impose in the name of the Framers.

Bork’s jurisprudence in fact had a great deal to do with reaching conservative policy outcomes and very little to do with “originalism.” From the right, Glenn Reynolds makes a similar point.

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Not a Good Year for the Climate

[ 0 ] October 24, 2007 |

Between this and this, I’m starting to worry that those doomsday NYC under water scenarios are not far off.

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 28

[ 48 ] October 23, 2007 |

Depending on whom one asks, Nancy Grace broke free from her leathery shell either 47 or 49 years ago today. Sharing CNN’s primetime bandwidth with fellow performance artist Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace is best known as cable news’ foremost advocate for missing white girls, whose assorted misfortunes are reflected back to the world through Grace’s oceanic narcissism.

Official legend tells us that Grace was propelled into the world of criminal justice by the murder of her betrothed, who was cruelly dispatched in 1979 by a vicious stranger, a repeat offender whose attorneys then manipulated the system in all the ways that make legal populists quake with fury. By unnecessarily drawing out his trial, confusing the jury, and then spinning and endless weave of post-conviction appeals, these defense lawyers — members of a professional breed that Grace would one day compare to “guards at Auschwitz” — heartlessly victimized Grace and her dead lover’s family for years to come.

Unfortunately, the actual details of Keith Griffin’s shooting death were insufficiently prosaic for Grace, who somehow forgot that the accused — who was not a random killer but a former co-worker of Griffin’s — actually confessed to the murder that very evening and was convicted by a jury who deliberated less than a day before returning their verdict. The system, far from failing Griffin and his family, actually functioned as intended. None of this, however, has forestalled Grace from devoting her career to reinforcing right wing folklore about the cruel, offender-friendly imbalances of criminal law, which — among other scandalous inconveniences — prevents accused criminals from being nibbled to death by raccoons or tossed from bridges in canvas sacks.

Much more could be said of Grace, a truly vulgar specimen who has quite literally badgered guests into an early grave. But for those who regard Nancy Grace with the contempt she deserves, the following clip may well stand as the greatest moment in television history.

. . . except that it’s apparently a fake. What the hell? I can’t believe someone would post a doctored video on the internet. Does this sort of thing happen often? Sheesh.

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