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Cast of The Wire reunites!

[ 4 ] October 17, 2014 |

But only to disappoint you.

In all seriousness, though, you have to go to the 58-minute mark and listen to Seth Gilliam discussing how he and Domenick Lombardozzi stormed into Simon’s office and demand he do more with Carver and Herc. It’s beyond priceless.

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Friday Links!

[ 72 ] October 17, 2014 |

Some Friday morning reading:

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And He Pulled Himself Up By His Bootstraps Anyway!

[ 49 ] October 17, 2014 |

Andrew Cuomo, a true Horatio Alger story:

You also write that there are ultimately more negatives than positives to being a famous politician’s son. Why? I wouldn’t trade my father or our experiences for anything. But politically, it’s a negative, because you get all your father’s enemies — and not all his friends.

Right. Being the governor’s son is a net negative. It’s amazing how many public officials in this land have managed to get beyond this handicap anyway.

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Today In the Machinery of Death

[ 10 ] October 17, 2014 |

Texas justice, which is national when Republicans appoint the median Supreme Court justice:

Four years before he murdered his in-laws in Texas, Scott Panetti buried some furniture in his yard. The devil, he claimed, was in it. After he was arrested and charged with the killings, Panetti, who has a history of severe mental illness, represented himself at his capital trial wearing a purple cowboy suit. He called himself “Sarge” and subpoenaed Jesus, among other notables. He lost, of course. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

The case made its way though the appeals courts, eventually reaching the United States Supreme Court, which in 2007 ruled that the state of Texas hadn’t adequately evaluated whether Panetti’s mental condition allowed him to fully understand the nature of his punishment—a constitutional prerequisite for the death penalty. The court stayed the execution and sent the case back for further proceedings.

Seven years later, Panetti’s illness hasn’t gone away, but the Supreme Court has given Texas the green light to kill him. The court’s decision, announced on October 6 without comment, upheld a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Panetti was sane enough for execution. The appellate court’s decision, in turn, was based in part on the opinion of a Florida psychiatrist who has deemed at least three Florida death row inmates with long and well-documented histories of mental illness to be sane enough for the needle.

[...]

The details in this story, gleaned from hundreds of pages of court documents and other official filings, indicate that Scott Panetti was no malingerer. He began showing signs of serious mental illness in 1981, back when he was still a teenager. By 1992, he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and manic depression, and had been hospitalized 14 times.

Well, in a state where you can be executed even when the state has no actual evidence that you’ve committed any crime at all, not executing actually killers because they’re severely mentally ill is probably going to be off the table.

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The Eternal Mystery of Republican Health Care Policy

[ 57 ] October 17, 2014 |

One summary of Republican health care principles:

That’s the fundamental belief that motivates most, if not all, the conservative opposition: Health care should be a privilege rather than a right. If you can’t afford health insurance on your own, that is not the government’s problem.

I happen to find this belief morally bizarre. People who cannot afford their own insurance either don’t earn much money, or have health risks, or family members with health risks, too expensive to bear.

[...]

Indeed, very few Republicans have the confidence to make the case openly that the inability of some people to afford the cost of their own medical care is their own problem. But that is the belief that sets them apart from major conservative parties across the world, and it is the belief that explains why they have opposed national health insurance every time Democrats have held power, and why they have neglected to create national health insurance every time they have.

Hmm. Chait’s unorthodox view seems to derive the content of Republican health care policy based on such strange metrics as “what Republicans do when they control the legislative and executive branches of state and federal governments” and “what conservative intellectuals favor” and “what conservative politicians favor when not creating transparent decoys during periods when they need to pretend to have an alternative.” Odd. If you use more relevant measures like “what laws single Republican governors (mostly) sign when massive veto-proof majorities of New England Democrats put them on their desk” and “what New England Republican Senators who also favor national handgun bans propose when Republicans are in opposition,” you’ll see that the Affordable Care Act represents long-standing Republican policy preferences, even if it took that dastardly neoliberal sellout Obama to use the third term of the Bush administration to pass it.

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Another Winner From Late-Period Posner

[ 45 ] October 16, 2014 |

Judge Posner’s Voter ID opinion — which, alas, came in the form of a dissent from the denial of an en banc hearing — is indeed a beauty. My favorite graf:

Voter-impersonation fraud may be a subset of “Misinformation.” If so, it is by all accounts a tiny subset, a tiny problem, and a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government. Those of us who live in Illinois are familiar with a variety of voting frauds, and no one would deny the propriety of the law’s trying to stamp out such frauds. The one form of voter fraud known to be too rare to justify limiting voters’ ability to vote by requiring them to present a photo ID at the polling place is in-person voter impersonation.

Or maybe it’s this one:

As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials? If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the Court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court-do we increase public confidence in elections-by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel’s interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

You also have to love the appendix titled “Scrounging For Your Birth Certificate in Wisconsin” (a direct shot at Easterbrook’s embarrassing opinion.) The dissent also does a good job distinguishing the case from Crawford, although Posner and the Supreme Court were wrong then too.

I really hope that Ponsner ends up hearing a case brought by the ACA troofers; that could possibly result in the most entertaining opinion in judicial history.

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Horrible Legislation In American History

[ 31 ] October 16, 2014 |

A useful reminder:

The Fugitive Slave Act took this criminalization further, essentially allowing white “man-catchers” to declare black people escaped slaves—again criminals—and remand them to custody. And there was great incentive to do so, as the individual enforcers of the act were given $5 if it were determined “that a slavemaster was not entitled to an alleged fugitive slave” but $10 if it were determined the slavemaster did have a right to his “property.” A U.S. marshal refusing to participate could himself be criminalized and fined $1,000. A marshal who allowed an enslaved person to escape “would be liable to an owner for the full value.”

And in addition to the odious content, as I’ve said before nothing better reveals the farcical nature of the assertion that the Confederacy was about “states’ rights.” To anyone who believed in a “strict construction” of federal powers, the placement of the Fugitive Slave Clause in Article IV rather than I and the lack of an explicit grant of federal authority would render the statute unconstitutional. But…over to you, Justice Harlan:

In view of the circumstances under which the recent amendments were incorporated into the Constitution, and especially in view of the peculiar character of the new ights they created and secured, it ought not to be presumed that the general government has abdicated its authority, by national legislation, direct and primary in its character, to guard and protect privileges and immunities secured by that instrument. Such an interpretation of the Constitution ought not to be accepted if it be possible to avoid it. Its acceptance would lead to this anomalous result: that, whereas, prior to the amendments, Congress, with the sanction of this court, passed the most stringent laws — operating directly and primarily upon States and their officers and agents, as well as upon individuals — in vindication of slavery and the right of the master, it may not now, by legislation of a like primary and direct character, guard, protect, and secure the freedom established, and the most essential right of the citizenship granted, by the constitutional amendments. With all respect for the opinion of others, I insist that the national legislature may, without transcending the limits of the Constitution, do for human liberty and the fundamental rights of American citizenship what it did, with the sanction of this court, for the protection of slavery and the rights of the masters of fugitive slaves. If fugitive slave laws, providing modes and prescribing penalties whereby the master could seize and recover his fugitive slave, were legitimate exercises of an implied power to protect and enforce a right recognized by the Constitution, why shall the hands of Congress be tied so that — under an express power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce a constitutional provision granting citizenship — it may not, by means of direct legislation, bring the whole power of this nation to bear upon States and their officers and upon such individuals and corporations exercising public functions as assume to abridge, impair, or deny rights confessedly secured by the supreme law of the land?

Of course, by 1883, not only the reconstituted slave power but moderate Republicans thought that federal power to protect civil rights (as opposed to the slaveholders) went too far.

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Vote Suppression FAIL

[ 35 ] October 16, 2014 |

Excellent news:

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s voter identification law on Wednesday, saying that it would set a new requirement for voting beyond those listed in the state’s Constitution.

[...]

The Arkansas ruling found that the law went beyond the four qualifications for voting in the state Constitution. The Constitution says that a voter must be a United States citizen, a resident of the state, at least 18 years old and lawfully registered to vote in the election. “These four qualifications set forth in our state’s Constitution simply do not include any proof-of-identity requirement,” the ruling said.

Because the ruling is on state constitutional grounds, pro-vote suppression federal courts will almost certainly not be able to overrule it. There are legitimate concerns about making changes close to an election, but that concern is much greater when requirements are added than when they’re taken away; nobody will be prevented from voting because the ID requirement is struck down, and there shouldn’t be any logistical problems in enforcing it.

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Rick Scott’s fascinating new strategy

[ 100 ] October 15, 2014 |

You’re an unpopular governor running for re-election, burdened by a terrible record and an image and appearance more appropriate for a B-rate supervillian. You’re struggling to keep up in the polls with your opponent, a former governor of the state, who despite a record of mediocrity and rank political opportunism, is starting to look pretty good compared to you. With a few precious weeks to go before the election, what do you do? This, apparently.

Is there a constituency that isn’t quite ready to vote for Scott, but might be convinced to do so if acts even more like a petulant seven year old child? Seems implausible, but it’s Florida, so…

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Pena

[ 16 ] October 15, 2014 |

Elizabeth Pena, rest in peace.

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LGM-Based Tourism

[ 58 ] October 15, 2014 |

Last night, I said I had epic tourism plans today. And indeed I did. I visited the greatest place in all of Orange County: What is believed to be SEK’s office at the UC-Irvine campus where he caught students having sex.

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To say that my friend was befuddled when I dragged him around the UC-Irvine campus for this is an understatement. But really, this could be Irvine’s most famous location. You should go too. This should be a thing we start doing.

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Gulf War Revisited

[ 18 ] October 15, 2014 |

My latest at The National Interest ruminates on the legacy of the Gulf War:

In short, the Gulf War seemed to suggest that international institutions, underwritten by revolutionary advances in American military power, could finally solve real military security problems. The political and technological foundations for a transformation in the functioning of global politics were in place.

The intervening twenty-three years have given us time to reconsider this conclusion.

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