Archive

  • ONE-TWO PUNCH.

    ONE-TWO PUNCH. See, not all political campaign staffers are the somber, well-bearded, and amber-lit sages that "The West Wing" folks threw out there for our entertainment during the Santos - Vinick campaign. (Well-bearded, of course, except for Donna Moss , Valkyrie Wonk Queen Of the Great Lakes.) Sometimes, they're just, well, dopes. On a day in which convicted killer and international grifter Don King signed aboard Michael Steele 's foundering plague ship in Maryland, who was the campaign genius who came up with this endorsement , too? This is a one-two combination of such pure stupid that I'm beginning to believe all those theories about the Diebold machines. No serious political party could possibly believe it could win honestly doing stuff like this. --Charles P. Pierce
  • THE WAR OF STRATEGIC DEFERRALS.

    THE WAR OF STRATEGIC DEFERRALS. An interesting article by Warren Richey about whether the Supremes will "trim" the appalling Military Commissions Act. My guess, as Richey suggests, is that the Court will do pretty much nothing -- Justice Kennedy invited Congress to act, and it did. These kinds of interactions between courts and legislatures have long been a hobbyhorse of mine , and I was happy to see the always-excellent Dahlia Lithwick tackle the subject recently in the WaPo : Congress gives in to the temptation of passing bills that are of questionable constitutionality because it's easy and convenient. Political expediency seems to trump constitutional principle. The elected branches need never defy the popular will if the courts are available to do so instead. And those members of Congress who insist that the courts should stay out of Congress's business should recognize Congress for the enabler it has become. It's a two-way street: The courts work with what Congress sends them...
  • YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU.

    YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU. While I�m kvetching about regional politics, I may as well tell you I�m sick of the double standard that operates with respect to Democrats or liberals when it comes to the politics of opponent-framing. With impunity, sneering Republicans and conservatives can mock �northeastern liberals,� but duck and cover if you dare point the �out of touch� finger at southern conservatives. They are the real Americans, you see, and no amount of data will suffice to disprove the back-of-the-napkin Applebee�s analyses of the �Great Davids� ( Broder and Brooks , that is). Here�s just one fact from my book the national media will never report because, gripped as they are by conventional wisdom and too lazy to consider that they might be wrong, they won�t bother to take even five minutes to look it up: The partisan preferences of white northeastern voters are much more mainstream than that of white southeastern voters. The simplest way to demonstrate this is by...
  • AH, ELECTION SEASON....

    AH, ELECTION SEASON. Anyone wonder who sent out this charmer ? The state attorney general's office is investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month.[...] The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time." Of course, naturalized immigrants, of which there are millions, can legally vote. It's just that some folks don't want them to. -- Ezra Klein
  • HITCHENS CLIFFS NOTES.

    HITCHENS CLIFFS NOTES. At his other site, Rob offers a conveniently succinct summary version of Christopher Hitchens 's Slate piece on the "moral idiocy" of the Lancet study on Iraq. I don't pretend to have any inside knowledge, but it seems notable that Hitchens is the one discussing this new Lancet study for Slate and not the eminently more credible Fred Kaplan , who wrote skeptically of the 2004 Lancet study but perhaps has changed his mind since. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • EXCEPTIONS PROVING RULES.

    EXCEPTIONS PROVING RULES. With news that Republicans are pulling resources out of Ohio (and thereby imperiling incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine 's re-election), the national buzz is that Republicans have retreated to a three-state " firewall " in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia in defense of their Senate majority. Strategists and electoral observers, Democrats especially, may now start claiming that the very fact that Republicans are having to defend seats in these states -- two of them southern states, no less -- confirms the genius of the idea of running everywhere with equal vigor, and that doing so has drained GOP resources to the point that, even if the Republicans hold these seats in the end, it's indirectly contributing to the broader Democratic cause. But this is crap. Looking at the two southern races, Tennessee is an open seat with a strong, smart, dynamic Democratic candidate running in a clear, Democratic tailwind cycle, and yet Harold Ford 's lead is still...
  • VERDICT: STILL HOPELESSLY...

    VERDICT: STILL HOPELESSLY ARBITRARY . The Canadian lawblogger Pithlord attempts to answer the (to me, completely unanswerable ) question of how advocates of criminalizing abortion can justify excluding women who obtain abortions entirely from criminal sanctions: *Criminalizing something much of a society thinks is permissible is often a mistake, even if that part of society is mistaken about the moral issue. That's basically my view of spanking. I might support criminalizing it if there was a social consensus against it, but I hardly want to drag ordinary parents away to jail when such a consensus doesn't exist. *Many women seeking abortions do so under conditions of economic or social duress. This would be even more true if abortion was legally unavailable. A person opposed to the legality of abortion could regard this as mitigative, even if not justificatory. The first point is a good one, but it's an argument against criminalizing abortion , period, not against excluding women but...
  • PLUTONIUM.

    PLUTONIUM. The fuel that the North Koreans used for their bomb was plutonium. This is utterly unsurprising; the parallel uranium program that North Korea had developed in the 1990s was never capable of producing much in the way of bomb material. This reinforces the conclusion that the key diplomatic moments came in 1994, when the North Koreans agreed to substantially scale back their nuclear ambitions in return for aid, and in 2002 when they gave up on this agreement. To paraphrase General Buck Turgidson , the Bush administration in 2002 faced two unfortunate but clearly distinguishable realties; one in which North Korea had the material required to make one or two bombs, and one in which had the capacity to make nearly a dozen. Because of its diplomatic ineptitude, ideological commitment, and obsession with Iraq, the administration had neither the interest in dealing with North Korea nor the capacity to carry out any threats. Hilzoy is indispensible on this question. --Robert Farley
  • SCENES FROM IRAQ.

    SCENES FROM IRAQ. Open warfare raged between Shiite militias and Sunni gunmen north of Baghdad (right near the U.S.'s Camp Anaconda), while the president of the United States kindly put in a call to the democratically elected president of a free and liberated Iraq to assure him that rumors of an imminent forced removal from power have been greatly exaggerated. (Despite what the likes of David Brooks might be saying .) --Sam Rosenfeld
  • VETO POINTS.

    VETO POINTS. The article's a week old, alas, but I did want to recommend Cass Sunstein 's review of Sanford Levinson 's interesting-sounding new book Our Undemocratic Constitution . Levinson offers all sorts of objections to the the U.S. constitutional structure based on basic democratic principles (allocations of senators, the electoral college, life-time judicial appointments, etc.), but also makes a different (though related) critique: More generally, Levinson objects to the whole system of bicameralism on the ground that it gives rise to so many "veto points," allowing the democratic will to be thwarted. By its very nature, bicameralism makes it harder to enact legislation, simply because it allows measures to be defeated whenever one house is unwilling to approve of them. And even if we endorse bicameralism, must we accept the president's veto power, which has now become a crucial part of the law-making process? Levinson notes that at the founding, and for decades thereafter, the...

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