Posted by Brad @ 1:14 pm on May 30th 2010

Baseball Trivia

The best pitcher in baseball (note: he was the best pitcher in baseball when he played for the Blue Jays too), Roy Halladay, throws MLB’s 20th perfect game. It is the second perfect game in Phillies history. Anyone know who threw the first? Hint: not Trey Grayson.

Posted by Brad @ 5:01 pm on May 28th 2010

The Sestak Job Offer

The White House did a bit of a Friday document dump and released their report on the negotiations between the Obama White House and Joe Sestak to try to get Sestak to not challenge Specter. The bottom line? Rahm Emanuel and Bill Clinton spoke with Sestak and floated the idea of him serving on some “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board.” Sestak confirms the characterization.

Two take-aways:

1. That’s a pretty pissant carrot to dangle. Unpaid consulting work that probably would have required him to drop out of Congress? I can’t decide if that means the White House didn’t view Sestak as much of a threat, or didn’t care to go to bat very hard for Specter, or both. I mean, not even an ambassadorship? I’d have been offended at the lowball more than the bribe attempt itself.

2. It sounds like Sestak definitely allowed the story to get exaggerated and abetted that to some extent. He didn’t actually lie about anything, but he definitely left the impression that we were talking something in the cabinet. Instead, it’s just Bill Clinton saying he could probably get some kind of honorary thing out of it which is to say, nothing.

All in all, pretty much a non-story.

Posted by Brad @ 12:12 pm on May 28th 2010

Where We Still Are

This week, yet another federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to release yet another Guantanamo detainee on the ground that there is no persuasive evidence to justify his detention. The latest detainee to win his habeas hearing, Mohammed Hassen, is a 27-year old Yemeni imprisoned by the U.S. without charges for 8 years, since he was 19 years old. He has “long claimed he was captured in Pakistan studying the Quran and had no ties to al Qaida,” and that “he had been unjustly rounded up in a March 2002 dragnet by Pakistani security forces in the city of Faisalabad that targeted Arabs.” Hassen is now the third consecutive detainee ordered freed who was rounded up in that same raid. The Obama DOJ opposed his petition even though the Bush administration had cleared him for release in 2007. He has now spent roughly 30% of his life in a cage at Guantanamo.

What’s most significant about this is that Hassen is now the 36th detainee who has won his habeas hearing since the Supreme Court in 2008 ruled they have the right to such hearings — out of 50 whose petitions have been heard. In other words, 72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process (which is what a habeas hearing is) — after years of being in a cage without charges — have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained. These are people who are part of what the U.S. Government continues to insist are “the worst of the worst” who remain, and whose release is being vehemently contested by the Obama DOJ.

Posted by Brad @ 12:06 pm on May 28th 2010

“The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.” Some quotes for the dust jacket.

Andy McCarthy’s new book is getting some rave reviews.

Adam Serwer:

In the deranged, spittle-flecked parallel universe of Andy McCarthy, the fact that there are a few lawyers working in the Justice Department who once advocated for due process for people accused of terrorism is proof that the Obama administration is actively working to aid al-Qaeda. Aside from being detached from reality, McCarthy’s thesis is ripe with all the usual right-wing contradictions: Liberals are alternately unstoppable and vicious, but also weak and frightened. They are socially permissive but can’t wait for Osama bin Laden to come in and force a burka onto every woman in sight. Liberals seek a “transformation” of the existing constitutional order, while it is McCarthy who dreams of a world where any Muslim accused of terrorism can be locked away forever and waterboarded to the point of insanity without ever seeing a lawyer or the inside of a courtroom.

Conor Friedersdorf:

Unfortunately, this first excerpt of Mr. McCarthy’s book isn’t an argument against President Obama’s rhetoric, it is a wildly, serially misleading, factually inaccurate account of the rhetoric he uses that better resembles an alternative universe.

It is so easily shown to be false that it ought to exist only in the author’s mind. Unfortunately, this misinformation is being touted by Rush Limbaugh as piercing, Michelle Malkin is recommending it to her readers, and Mark Levin is calling it “thorough” and “cutting edge, and few of their listeners will question the facts the book presents because they foolishly if understandably underestimate the capacity for intellectual negligence perpetrated by these hosts everyday.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:25 am on May 28th 2010

Guess who just voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

If you’re reading it on this blog, you’ve probably figured it out already…

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Ron Paul, R-Texas, Joseph Cao, R-La., and Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, were the only Republicans to vote in favor of scrapping the law.

I am delighted…and bewildered. Dr. Paul was unambiguously pro-DADT on the campaign trail in 2008, and we at this blog went round and round trying to square that stance with the rest of his principles (see the comments thread here).

There is not a clue on his website as to what prompted this vote; my best guess is that he will attempt to explain this in terms of a desire to overturn the Congressional mandate of DADT, thereby leaving the military free to set its own rules.

Or maybe…dare I hope…he had the same trouble squaring this with his principles that the rest of us did, and changed his mind.

History is going to judge the Republicans who voted in favor of this very much the way it judges those who broke the filibuster on the Civil Rights Act. I think particular congratulations have to go out to Cao on this; it will be a brutally tough sell in his constituency, and it’s not like he’s going to have the easiest road to reelection in any case.

Posted by Liz @ 9:50 pm on May 27th 2010

James Webb: Still a Jackass

Color me completely not shocked that Senator Webb voted against the DADT repeal in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I see no reason to pre-empt the process that our senior Defense Department leaders put into motion, and I am concerned that many members of the military would view such a move as disrespectful to the importance of their roles in this process.

Of course he doesn’t and, oh by the way? Bull. Shit. Bullshit. As a non-mind reader, I am not usually one to question the motivations of others, but Webb has a history of opposing people other than straight males joining the military. Yes, I’m once again referencing Women Can’t Fight , a chauvinistic masterpiece based on the premise that “Man must be more aggressive in order to perpetuate the human race” and “Where in this country can someone go to find out if he is a man?”. It was written years ago, in 1979, but Webb’s continual reference to rape and his concern that “Many women appear to be having problems with their sexuality,” is still relevant. There is a sense of paranoid phallic belligerence about the article and about the attitude that produced such an article. Over and over, he talks about the detriment of feminizing the military, he wonders “What kind of a woman would seek out the Academy routine?”

He’s a Senator with a big, fat D after his name now, so he can’t really come out and say it like he used to. However, anyone who posits “The Hall, which houses 4,000 males and 300 females, is a horny woman’s dream,” probably thinks it’s a horny gay man’s dream too. As for the lesbians. . . well, he never thought they should be allowed to serve in the first place.

Bullshit. Webb knows that the military is not in the habit of polling its members before changing a policy. This is an excuse; a coward’s way to perpetrate prejudice without having to come out of the closet as a sexually obsessed bigot.

Posted by Brad @ 2:43 pm on May 27th 2010

Of All The Things

A fantastic documentary that I saw at the Maine International Film Festival last year, it sounds like they’re going to make it into a movie, and are pursuing Steve Carell for the lead. The documentary:

Warner Bros. is reportedly chasing Steve Carell to play songwriter-turned-humble-realtor Dennis Lambert, the 11-time Grammy-nominated songwriter who penned hits for The Four Tops, The Commodores, Player, and Glen Campbell (among many others) before retiring—and the guy who will go down in history for one of the worst/greatest songs ever committed to wax, Starship’s “We Built This City.”

Lambert spent more than 30 years in the business as an in-demand producer and composer, but released only one album of his own, 1972’s Bags And Things. It was all but ignored everywhere but in the Philippines, where he became an unlikely star. At the age of 60, many years after Lambert had retired from the music business to sell homes in Florida, a Filipino promoter convinced him to do a five-date tour over there, which was subsequently filmed for the festival sleeper hit documentary Of All The Things, directed by Lambert’s son.

I highly recommend it.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:33 pm on May 27th 2010

The Highlander Baby

I thought it was a hoax when I first read about it; apparently it isn’t. Brooke Greenberg is sixteen years old and still inhabits the body and brain of a toddler. Nobody is able to fully explain why.

Apparently she IS aging at the cellular level, so she will in fact “grow old and die”, but without ever entering any developmental phase beyond very early childhood.

Posted by Brad @ 11:11 am on May 27th 2010

Is Venezuala a Terrorist State?

That’s the argument being put forward by 11 Republican Senators (John Ensign (R-NV), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), and Roger Wicker (R-MS)). Right now, only four countries are recognized as official state sponsors of terrorism: Syria, Iran, Sudan, and Cuba.

The case to add Venezuela, in a nutshell, from Ensign:

Under President Chavez, the Venezuelan government has established a growing alliance with state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Cuba and provided support for terrorist organizations such as the FARC in Colombia. For at least 3 years, joint Venezuelan-Iranian factories have sprung up in remote areas of eastern Venezuela – areas that are believed to be rich in uranium. Since 2007, Venezuela has conducted weekly Tehran-Damascus-Caracas flights without proper controls and customs inspections. Recently, the Pentagon reported to Congress that Iran is increasing its paramilitary operations in Venezuela while covertly continuing to supply weapons and explosives to Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Franc at National Review’s The Corner also chimes in.

Now, I know Venezuela sticks in the craw of everyone on the right, for many good reasons and a healthy number of bad ones. But is it a terrorist state? The case seems pretty thin to me (indeed, the strongest argument would probably be the FARC support, but even that, though not really in doubt (save in degree) has never had a smoking gun). I know Rojas is pretty onboard with the anti-Chavez crowd, and Jack knows his way around the region. Is this just more flaying from the right on yet another of their favorite whipping posts? Is this just more cheapening of the “terrorism” designation (used to be, flights to a place like Iran without proper paperwork would be considered a trade violation; now it’s terrorism)? And would this serve any purpose other than further militarizing the leftist/populist governments in South America against us?

Posted by Brad @ 11:00 am on May 27th 2010

Detainee Lawyers Targeted in New Defense Appropriations Bill

Steve Vladeck explains the provision slipped into the bill:

Buried in the depths of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011 (H.R. 5136) is the latest salvo in the war on lawyers. In particular, section 1037 of the Act [page 403 of the PDF], titled “Inspector General Investigation of the Conduct and Practices of Lawyers Representing Individuals Detained at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,” instructs the Department of Defense IG to “conduct an investigation of the conduct and practices of lawyers” who represent clients at Guantánamo and report back to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees within 90 days

And goes on to unpack what that means. Essentially, it’s a paean to the Republican meme, championed most aggressively by Andrew McCarthy, that lawyers representing Gitmo detainees are inherently suspicious and probably terrorist sympathizers of some fashion. Mostly, it’s a despicable attempt at scoring even more dehumanization points against terrorists (such that even legal counsel for them is an innately anti-American act) and bullying any DOJ lawyers who might try to mount any case in their favor or against their detainers.

You’d think this was just some under-the-radar move by a Republican, but no. While proposed by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), The amendment was unanimously agreed upon and inserted into the bill by the Democrats who control the House Armed Services Committee, after some cosmetic changes. Glenn Greenwald breaks it down further.

Posted by Brad @ 9:11 am on May 27th 2010

Good Riddance, 24

My least favorite cultural totem is over, but unpacking the legacy that it was a part of is going to take years. Andrew Sullivan has an okay roundup of a few initial stabs at it.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:40 pm on May 26th 2010

The last writhings of DADT

Army General George W. Casey:

I remain convinced that it is critically important to get a better understanding of where our Soldiers and Families are on this issue, and what the impacts on readiness and unit cohesion might be, so that I can provide informed military advice to the President and the Congress…. I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.

Nice trick. Exclude an entire category of people from the category of “Soldier” and their spouses and dependants from the category of “Families”. Then demand that said groups–now purged of the affected group–be polled as to their opinions on the purge.

And while you’re at it–show your “respect” for the persons remaining within the categories described by Capitalizing Both Words.

This policy can’t end soon enough.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:25 pm on May 26th 2010

Rand Paul and the road to Galt’s Gulch

In all the weirdness surrounding Rand Paul’s statements on Title II of The 1964 Civil Rights Act, one of the weirdest aspects of all has gone largely undiscussed.

We watched a major party candidate for a US Senate seat completely reverse his position on an issue within a period of 48 hours.

I suppose that Rand Paul’s office would deny it, if asked; they would claim that Rachel Maddow’s questions were worded confusingly or some such thing. But in point of fact, Paul reversed himself 180 degrees on the question of whether it was legitimate for the federal government to mandate public accommodations of African-Americans in 1964. At the time Maddow interviewed him, he was pretty clearly against it. Two days later, his press releases made clear that he was for it. A cynical analysis would suggest that Paul was reversing his public stance for the voters’ consumption, but this seems unlikely given that Paul continues to proudly uphold any number of other positions that the voters of Kentucky will likely find equally offensive. No, it seems more likely that Paul reviewed the historical evidence and his own ideology and, with a fresh assessment of the facts, flat-out decided he had been wrong.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 4:52 pm on May 26th 2010

Campaign Shakeup at Team Rand

The campaign team I was so impressed with during the Republican primary in Kentucky moves closer to being the campaign team I was decidedly less impressed with during the Republican primary for President.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Rand Paul has hired one of his father’s former aides to manage his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Jesse Benton, who was communications director for former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s last campaign, replaces David Adams as campaign manager.

Time to start pumping out anti-immigrant fliers?

Posted by Rojas @ 11:28 am on May 26th 2010

Your Democratic Congress in action

Wendy Kaminer on the latest progressive initiative:

Maybe it’s an instance of bad cases making bad law. In response to suspicions that attorneys for Guantanamo detainees violated federal intelligence laws by supplying their clients with pictures of covert CIA agents, the House Armed Services Committee has proposed legislation that seems likely and is perhaps intended to substantially hinder the ability of lawyers to provide detainees with meaningful representation. A provision inserted into the Defense Authorization Act would authorize the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate Guantanamo defense attorneys for vaguely and broadly defined infractions like “interfering” with DoD operations at Guantanamo. (Steven Valdeck critiques the bill at balkinblogspot.com.)

From a civil liberties perspective, unified government under the Democrats is every bit as bad as unified government under the Republicans. The difference now lies exclusively in the arena of federal involvement in the marketplace. I am becoming increasingly interested in replicating the late Clinton-era split: maybe we can have the Obama administration’s adult approach to foreign policy and willingness to check demented right-wing “compassionate conservatism” in combination with a Republican Congress that will laugh every time the administration pushes for a massive new entitlement.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:26 pm on May 25th 2010

Executive Deification Watch

We ran it under Bush, so why stop now? Take it away, Deval Patrick!

Patrick said that even “on my worst day, when I’m most frustrated about folks who seem to rooting for failure,” he doesn’t face anything like the opposition faced by the president.

“It seems like child’s play compared to what is going on in Washington, where it is almost at the level of sedition, it feels to like me,” Patrick said.

Merriam-Webster.com, the dictionary site, defines sedition as “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.”

Actually, as Doug Mataconis notes, legally speaking “sedition” means something a lot more specific and a lot worse than that. But we continue:

After the forum, Patrick explained his remarks.

“I think that the number of people in the Grand Old Party who seem to be absolutely committed to saying ‘no,’ whenever he says ‘yes,’ no matter what it is, even if it’s an idea that they came up with, is just extraordinary,” the governor told reporters after the forum.

But did the opposition really border on sedition?

“That was a rhetorical flourish,” Patrick said.

Truth be told? I’d just as soon have us agree that when politicians engage in silly comments of this sort, we take them as rhetorical flourish in all circumstances. However, there is now a thriving cottage industry on both sides of the aisle to play up this sort of thing for greivance purposes; so in the absence of a blogosphere-wide Hyperbole Exemption Treaty, I guess our next best alternative is to report boobery from both sides.

Posted by Brad @ 4:22 pm on May 25th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Alternatively…

Geto Boys – Still

This single video is the entire reason YouTube was invented.

Posted by Brad @ 3:37 pm on May 25th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Joshua Radin and Laura Jansen – You Got Growin’ Up to Do

Posted by Brad @ 1:23 pm on May 25th 2010

Prison Transport Carrying 17 Million Prisoners Crashes; Humanity Doomed?

The invasion has begun. In Minnesota.

Posted by Brad @ 12:34 pm on May 25th 2010

Getting Serious About DADT Repeal

Just over the last few days, the Obama administration has decided to make a push for DADT repeal. The vehicle will be an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill this year. The mechanics are a little fuzzy to me, but Ambinders makes a game attempt at explaining it here.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:38 pm on May 22nd 2010

A kick in the nutmeg

Connecticut local politics is weird. If only there were a blog that specialized in the subject…

Apparently, their state Republican party convention issues an endorsement for statewide races based on delegate count, and in some circumstances a primary follows.

Well, the primary is still to come, so the story is not over yet. But the convention happened yesterday, and the Republicans of the state have selected as their endorsee for Chris Dodd’s Senate seat…one Linda McMahon.

Yes, that Linda McMahon.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:09 am on May 22nd 2010

The greatest commercial in the history of television

Write The Future from Nalden on Vimeo.

Posted by Brad @ 4:33 pm on May 21st 2010

It’s Not that It Passed That Gets Me…

It’s that only 32 Congressmen, out of 389, voted against it.

The bill, Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2010, used the federal power of granting highway money to make states collect DNA samples from people arrested for—arrested, not with a warrant, not convicted—certain crimes. If it passes, collecting and presumably storing DNA samples of people arrested for crimes will start becoming normalized and commonplace.

Well, even if only 32 managed to vote against it, at least there was a healthy and robust debate.

Bonus:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership scheduled Tuesday’s debate on the bill–called the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2010–using a procedure known as the “suspension calendar” intended to be reserved for non-controversial legislation.

“Suspension of the rules is supposed to be for praising the winner of the NCAA championship or renaming Post Offices,” [Jim] Harper [of CATO] says. “Things like collecting Americans’ DNA are supposed to be fully debated in Congress.”

But hey, what are their thoughts on the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

Posted by Brad @ 4:02 pm on May 21st 2010

The End of the Liberal-Libertarian Alliance

David Weigel adding the context as only David Weigel can:

As I noted last night on Hardball, Paul’s campaign was surprised and unhappy that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow drilled him so hard on the civil rights issue — something that was obvious when Paul sarcastically thanked Maddow for a brutal introductory video, clipping together all of his quotes on the CRA. Normally, it wouldn’t be news that a Republican candidate was annoyed by Rachel Maddow. But Rand Paul and his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), had been welcome on Maddow’s show, where they’d happily light into mainstream Republicans. Before the younger Paul became a Senate nominee, he was an emissary for a brand of Republican politics less threatening than the Dick Cheney kind — anti-Fed, anti-war, pro-drug legalization. (Paul is not personally pro-drug legalization, but many of his supporters are.) After he won the nomination, it was open season on his more extreme politics.

We saw this happen in 2008 with Ron Paul. In December 2007, the New Republic ran a piece on Paul by Tucker Carlson, the most glowing of several fun pieces it ran about him. Weeks later, the magazine ran an exposé by Jamie Kirchick of racist passages in newsletters that went out under Paul’s name. “If you are a critic of the Bush administration,” Kirchick wrote at the top of his article, “chances are that, at some point over the past six months, Ron Paul has said something that appealed to you.” Hint, hint — it was fun to indulge the libertarians for a while, but the time had come for good liberals to take them seriously.

I think Rand Paul has been whipsawed by the literally overnight shift in his coverage — from “check out this exciting insurgent candidate” to “will this insurgent candidate destroy the Republic?”

Posted by Brad @ 3:31 pm on May 21st 2010

Ethics Investigation into Sestak?

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, may file an ethics complaint against Joe Sestak, which would then create an official investigation.

The complaint? Sestak has alleged a few times, and most people believe it to be true, that the Obama administration offered him a job (Secretary of the Navy being the one most commonly guessed) if he would not run against Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.

Issa says that, if true, that would be possibly three felonies on the Obama administration’s part (I have no idea how clear that is). If not true, then Congressman Sestak is lying. He wants to know which it is.

Knowing Congress, I doubt it goes anywhere, but it’s an interesting story.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:29 pm on May 20th 2010

Good location, good price, think I’ll…wait, what?

Wonkette offers up what might be the least effective roommate ad in recent history.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:14 pm on May 20th 2010

Paul/Johnson/Paul?

Informed speculation at RCP regarding the next two Presidential cycles:

As for Ron Paul’s candidacy, my source pointed out that according to every public and private indication, he doesn’t want to run another presidential race. The congressman told Reason magazine that he remains “firmly undecided” about another go-round, with good reason. He is not a young man. He is seen by too many people as a dangerous radical. A sub-par performance in 2012 could damage the Paul brand and make it harder for his son to make a run at it.

The possibility that Ron Paul seems to be playing with, my source argued, goes like this: Put up a candidate for the next Republican primary who credibly carry the banner, and then hand off his new political machine to his son for a run in 2016. Former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has been making the rounds at many Campaign for Liberty events, and could make a credible candidate, provided he doesn’t begin every speech by talking about pot.

A politician more dedicated to viability of the message than to his own ambition? It’s hard to imagine such a thing in American politics.

Speculation regarding the 2016 cycle is massively overblown, particularly given that the candidate in question has every chance to lose his Senate campaign. But I’m immensely encouraged by this scenario for 2012. Johnson is a wonderful evolutionary step for the movement; it ceases to be seen as a cult of personality, and it makes permanent the presence of libertarianism at the highest levels of Republican politics. It also etches in stone Ron Paul’s legacy and ensures that the memory of his campaign will not be tarnished the way, for instance, Perot’s has been. Let it be done!

Posted by Brad @ 10:36 am on May 20th 2010

Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act

Rand steps in it a bit on the Rachel Maddow show, asked about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rand’s answer was, in essence, that all parts of it that stopped institutional racism were good, but the parts of it that regulated private business practices (who a diner was willing to serve to, for instance), is something he doesn’t like in principle. As Rachel Maddow puts it rhetorically “So you’d march with Martin Luther King Jr. but vote for Barry Goldwater?” This blows her mind, I guess, but I don’t get at all why those two things are mutually exclusive, or why they would even seem mutually exclusive unless you totally lacked any ability to hold two competing but overlapping thoughts in your head at the same time.

Anyway, I was going to write a post on the subject, but I feel like Doug at Below the Beltway writes what I would have said anyway. Ta-Nehisi Coates disagrees, although his post is a bit laborious in explaining why. Apparently, what offends Coates is that Paul doesn’t have a fluid knowledge of what exactly is in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But Coates prefaces that by, in essence, agreeing with or at least expressing sympathy and respect for his point. So his objection isn’t racial, it’s knowledge-based, which strikes me as a bit obtuse. I doubt many Senators or national political leaders could name the titles and contents of the major aspects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, whatever. I think Coates has a lot of unexamined premises regarding Tea Party candidates, and conservatism in general, that make his writing seem pretty veiled and not-brokering of other POVs to me in the last six months or so. He seems to spend less time thinking and challenging himself and more time laboriously trying to retroactively justify his own first impressions/preconceived notions.

Likewise, Josh Marshall does a bit better job of essentially the same thing. And more from Doug and the Outside the Beltway folks here. David Weigel has a very clear-headed rebuttal of the liberal take on it here. The rejoinder from Marshall and Coates et all seems to be “Yeah, but it seems racist.”

Andrew Sullivan I think hits the middle ground the best, and his view on it is roughly mine, save for his extrapolation later on as to why this is proof that Tea Party candidates are unfit to govern and must compromise with Obama to prove their value.

What I believe was a necessary act to redress a uniquely American historic evil became a baseline for every minority group with a claim to grievance. To my mind, this is settled law and should remain that way. But it is not without cost to liberty. And a real libertarian will feel some qualms about it. Not because they are racists or homophobes (although some may be). But because a truly principled defense of individual freedom will inevitably confront the huge role government now plays in policing fairness in what were once entirely unfair private transactions. You could argue, and I would agree, that the Act expanded freedom immensely overall. But you have to concede, I think, that it also restricted freedom for a few.

Bork made this case in The New Republic as the Civil Rights Act was being debated. It’s a principled argument, and should be treated that way, without the usual stigmatization. There was a very solid constitutional case against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was why Goldwater opposed it. But as an empirical matter, I think the history of race in America proves the inadequacy of pure freedom to redress the darkest of human impulses – to own, torture and terrorize an entire race.

Posted by Brad @ 10:17 am on May 20th 2010

The “Nancy Pelosi” Card Does Not Work

I still scratch my head when Republicans bang on about Nancy Pelosi on the campaign trail, and try to use her as a boogeyman to whip up their base. Mostly because I’ve just never thought Pelosi was as polarizing as Republican strategists seem to just assume she is. To hear people on the stump talk about her, you’d think it would have the same power as invoking Nixon. As a generic stand-in for liberalism, I suppose Pelosi is as good a figure to pull out as anybody, but I would think the point of individualizing liberalism into one or two boogeymen is that those people have an individual power that then taints the idea of liberalism. And frankly, there just isn’t that much personally offensive or off-putting about Pelosi. Her national favorability numbers aren’t good, but they’re not in George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, or even John Boehner’s realm. They’re pretty standard for a congressional leader of either party. I just don’t quite get where, at some point in the past, Republicans decided Pelosi was toxic, and that cw has stuck, and so they keep banging away about her despite that fact that they never seem to get much mileage out of it.

A small complaint, I guess, but it annoys me just the same because it strikes me as part of the Republican bubble thinking that leads them to believe that all those middle American “real voters” burn Nancy Pelosi in effigy or that the “silent majority” is still out there for them, ready to be activated by just a few key words. And it just comes off to me as lazy.

Anyway, I bring it up only because Kos has a good post about it.

Posted by Jack @ 10:47 pm on May 19th 2010

In which I confuse “posting on the blog” with “responding to an email.” Oops.

Bra,

I assure you, your spate of emails these last 24 hours have been anything but spam. I truly enjoy discussing politics with you, whether in person, on the phone, or via these delayed exchanges. Given the vast gulf in our age, intellect, height, and standing per primogeniture common law, at least we have this to bond us.

You have solicited my opinion as to the Democrats’ prospects in November, particularly in light of the growing anti-establishment mood of the American people and their wide-spread unease with the expansive programs enacted and ostensibly proposed by Obama and Pelosi’s party. But I sense in your free ranging question two separate queries, one direct: what do I think are their chances, and the other implied: what do I think “ought” to happen. One a clinical analysis of odds, the other an opinion, (endorsement or condemnation) of existing and probable Democratic legislation. It reminds me of those frequent times in your youth, when in earnest moments of reflection and angst, you would ask if we, your loving family, thought you were attractive. We would respond, consistently, with a rousing and reflexively supportive affirmative. But the subtext was different; what you really wanted to know is if we thought you were pretty in your dresses and bows. It was uncomfortable, but we muddled through, confident that with enough aversion therapy you would outgrow this phase. Where was I. Oh yes, the Democrats.

Their chances: As I said in a previous response, which perhaps your meds have caused you to forget again: I think yesterday’s results in the PA-12 special election to fill Jack Murtha’s seat, in which the Democrat Critz drubbed the latest hot GOPer in a race that was widely portrayed, particularly on The Right, as foreshadowing November, ought to give pause to those pundits predicting Democratic devastation due to a growing national anti-establishment mood and Obamacare backlash. I think the Dems will loose seats in both houses, but retain a majority.

What ought to happen: Your questions are loaded, sir. In the midst of ostensibly normative analysis, you question whether “2 additional years of the type of legislation we have seen thus far is a good thing for America ’s long-term future and solvency.” I question it as well. But as has been frequently pointed out on this blog, these policies began in the Bush administration, and I sense in you a tendency to downplay this aspect. You are willing to condemn Big Government intervention and nanny-statism now, but distinctly I remember our conversations during the initial days of the financial meltdown, when you, like financial managers everywhere, where rather thankful for government bailouts and TARP. I recall your tone as something like a British officer surrounded by the Zulu nation, retaining a stiff upper lip for the troops (clients) while confiding to friends and relatives that is was indeed time to panic, and that stocking up on gold, liquor and ammunition would not be an overaction.

So too your gallows humor with regard to Iran. Perhaps I over-read, but I sense that you at least partially buy into the “mad mullah” theory of Iranian foreign policy, while I am more a “rational actor” guy. For all the posturing, the anti-Israel threats, and the revisionist history, I think the forces controlling Iran, including both the Supreme Islamic Council and Ahmadinejad, are pursuing policies that they perceive as beneficial to Iran, or at least an Iran with themselves in power, and that such policies involve quite a lot of propaganda for both internal and external consumption that has little to do with actual intentions. They know they would be vaporized in atomic fire should they launch a WMD attack on Israel. And even were that not to happen, the worst, most aggressive instincts of the radical Islamic militant movement advocates not the physical destruction of the land of Israel, but rather the removal of a Jewish state. A nuclear attack would decimate an untold number of Islamic shrines, not merely the lives of Jews. But this is mere distraction: the truth is we have only ourselves (by which I mean the policies and actions of the Bush administration) to blame for the current status of Iran as the most powerful nation in the region. You could not have designed a foreign policy more specifically designed to increase Iranian influence and power than that pursued by the U.S. during the post 9-11 Bush years. We removed all of the indigenous military, cultural, and political forces providing competition to or balance against Iran, and substituted U.S. troops. We inflamed worldwide Islamic opinion against us through a carefully crafted and heavily executed confirmation of their worst fears about our hegemonic intentions in the region, and our disdain for Muslim lives and dignity in our prisons.

The European welfare state: In our discussion of Americans’ expectations and demands upon our entitlement programs, you reference the current economic crisis in Greece, lightly implying that an expansive welfare state leads rather inevitably to this sort of “riot in the streets” scenario, and also suggesting that the American people will recognize and reject such risks. I think both propositions are risible. You have selected the worst of of the Euro nations as if they are representative, which they are not. Further, I am given to understand that were Greece still in retention of their own currency, the crisis would be significantly mitigated by automatic currency devaluation. This is your area, you tell me. But as to America’s supposed wisdom in recognizing the danger of a Greek scenario: In terms of unwise entitlement and tax policy, we have our own Greece, we just call it California.

Obamacare: You write “The system needed reform like a great many things. However, I just don’t automatically think that Washington control makes it better. Already, insurance premiums are on the rise. Fundamentally, if I am sick I take the US system. I don’t see a whole lot of folks running North to Canada when they need heart surgery.”

I think your view on healthcare is distorted by growing up with a doctor in our family who always made sure we were adequately taken care of, just as so many of my coworkers’ (military officers) views are distorted by having full government funded medical coverage for themselves and their immediate family for their entire adult lives. Somehow, this rarely prevents them from sneering at “socialized” medicine. I digress. I think your “like a great many things” is meant to downplay the significance of the need, as if it were just one of many overstated problems we faced as a nation. The bottom line for me was that 40 million Americans were uninsured, a great many more were underinsured, our health care costs were roughly twice that of industrialized European countries, and our health care quality was less than most of those same countries. I sense that you reject, at a minimum, the last point. I am not stating this out of some sort of reflexive anti-Americanism. I am saying what repeated studies of our medical statistics will tell you. Life expectancy, infant mortality etc etc are lower than our first world European counterparts. Sure, you can find individual statistics that put us at the top, but the big numbers do not. We get less medical care of a lower quality, and are charged more for it. Your preference for a U.S. hospital has more to do with cultural affinity than actual knowledge of comparative systems. And as to Americans’ supposed failure to seek medical care elsewhere; again, cultural affinity, compensation from existing program’s, the cost (and discomfort) associated with foreign travel and services, these account for most of the limitations. Despite these factors, medical tourism overseas is booming field, because it is often cheaper and still of high quality.

Despite this, I do understand your concerns and the implied preference. The admittedly soft libertarian in me, the part that truly respects the power and efficiency of the free market’s invisible hand, objects. But I am on guard against what Tyler Cowen refers to as the libertarian vice: a perception that all government programs are equally bad, and that all private options are equally superior, much less feasible. In some cases, the comparative advantage of the private option is so small as to be negligible, and in many more cases the possibility of enacting a private option is vanishingly small. At certain key times we are left with the option of either continuing a set of policies and programs which have been entirely captured by corporatism (what the GOP and many conservatives frequently mistake for “the free market”), or enacting a more heavily regulated and government influenced option that, if not exactly efficient, at least stabilizes and mitigates the problem while retaining core private market aspects. U.S. medical care is, in my mind, one of those situations. A fully privatized (and likely efficient!) model is completely unfeasible, even less so than all levels of government abandoning any involvement in civil marriage. So the only real choices for me are the status quo and all of the well known but frequently downplayed (by conservatives and libertarians) negatives, or a system that while still privatized, at least mitigates some of those problems. As I told you in an earlier email: I have made my peace with it.

In any case, I am glad to hear that they have granted you at least limited access to a computer and the internet, and hopefully there will not be another Incident that requires Intervention. Take care, stop worrying so much about how small it is, and keep ignoring the voices like Dr Rosenstein tell you.

Much Love,
Jack

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