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Are You a Republican?

Saturday, April 30, 2005
Take this fun quiz and find out (courtesy of Wife of Publius).
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:20 PM

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Republicans Commit Suicide

Friday, April 29, 2005
They really do make it too easy.

First they propose privatization, which goes over like a lead balloon. Then the Schiavo law, which went over like a uranium balloon. Tom DeLay get enmeshed in ethics problems, but they are going to fight to the knife to protect him. Frist continues to push the unpopular "nuclear option" in his deluded quest for the Presidency, while he and other theocons are all over the news attacking the independent judiciary. Last week things were looking pretty sweet for the good guys.

And then came yesterday. In one evening the Republican Congress passed cuts to poor people and little kids, opened up ANWR, and created another tax cut for rich people - all in the same bill. Finally, Bush goes on national television and not only doesn't abandon private accounts, but comes out in favor of benefit cuts.

So the right has made all that thematic links we'd like to draw about them. Anyone watching the news will associate Republicans with: corruption, religious radicalism, a contempt for the Constitution, gifts to rich people, wrecking the environment, hatred for the needy, abolishing social security, and attacking the elderly.

If they keep this up, we won't even have to run campaigns in 2006 & 2008. The Republicans will have spent 4 years running negative ads against themselves.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:23 PM

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Talking Liberal

Thursday, April 28, 2005
There is a very useful discussion going on right now about what the Democrats' "elevlator pitch" should be. Kos kicked if off by saying that Democrats are for people who "work for a living." Which prompted a pile-on by Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, and Digby. The basic argument by Kos's (friendly) critics is that we need not just a slogan, but a statement of specific policy positions that a) unify us, b) divide them, c) are easily understood, and d) are thematic.

I don't have anything concrete to throw out yet, but let's point to things that Democrats and moderates are for and Republicans (at least right-wing Republicans) are against. A good example is what Orcinus notes is the overt aim of the right wing: abolishing the separation of church and state and the right to privacy. Hell, if we want to get wacky we could always propose a constitutional amendment to make the right to privacy explicit. We'd have to be careful not to make it sound like the consititution doesn't already protect those rights, but you get the idea.

Another major theme we need to hit is the economic one. We need to come up with a statement about our commitment to economic opportunity that excludes the Republican positions. The words "security," "obligation," and "responsibility" should probably be in there somewhere. Finally, we need to reinforce our commitment to oppressed minority groups - some language about equal respect might be useful.

I'm still ironing out the details, but you see where I'm headed. If you have any proposals, let me know.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:19 PM

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Third Party Madness

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The romance of the "3rd party of the center" is precisely that: a fiction. Churchill tried it in Britain and it didn't work there either. I am no fan of 3rd parties - I have said all I have to say about what a mistake importing multiparty democracy in the the U.S. would be (here). It won't happen, and it shouldn't happen, and it's completely unnecessary.

There are those who can't seem to grasp reality, however. Ron Brownstein has revived the idea that a third party of centrists could appear to challenge both major parties. He suggests that with the Democrats and Republicans so polarized, and with the organizing potential of the internet, a viable 3rd party race could be possible in 2008:

Yet if the two parties continue on their current trajectories, the backdrop
for the 2008 election could be massive federal budget deficits, gridlock on
problems like controlling healthcare costs, furious fights over ethics and
poisonous clashes over social issues and Supreme Court appointments. A
lackluster economy that's squeezing the middle-class seems a reasonable
possibility too.

In such an environment, imagine the options available to Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) if he doesn't win the 2008 Republican nomination, and
former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, now that he's dropped his
flirtation with running for mayor of New York. If the two Vietnam veterans
joined for an all-maverick independent ticket, they might inspire a gold rush of
online support — and make the two national parties the latest example of the
Internet's ability to threaten seemingly impregnable institutions.

Bull Moose is absolutely orgasmic at the prospect.

Now there is indeed a revolt of the center from the Republicans, with no real shift towards the Democrats, as Dionne as noted (although check out Abramowitz for more encouraging news.)

There are a lot of problems with the Brownstein scenario. As Chis Bowers has pointed out, the support for a hypothetical third party is actually less than it once was, and there are major structural obstacles to any competitive third-party run. But the more important argument I think it that of the Decembrist, who reminds us that there is no party polarization, as such. The Democrats are no more liberal, and in fact are much more moderate, than they were a generation ago. There is only one political party which is ideologically extreme, and that is the Republicans. Fighting extremists does not make you an extremist too. And perhaps one of the reasons that Democrats are so much more unified than in the past is that their differences have been buried in the face of such a threat to American democracy as presented by DeLay & Co.

The centrist strategy and the liberal strategy for opposing Republicans are essentially the same: to recapture middle and working class white voters by emphasizing clean government, responsibility, and economics; to fight the war on terror in a more sober and realistic way; and to carve a middle path between cultural license and cultural oppression. Democrats and "centrists" really disagree on NONE of these issues.

So there is no need for a centrist third party, because we already have a centrist party in America: the Democrats.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:18 PM

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What Price Order?

Bull Moose is once again barking up the wrong tree. In one of his latest posts, he suggests that Democrats should discover the value of "order." It is the failure to recognize this central political value that has led to the left's political defeats over the last few decades.

What is interesting is Moose's definition of order: flag-burning, abortion, gay rights, and "values". It is revealing that Moose doesn't mention crime, which is the only real "order" issue which is up for debate. The issues Moose mentions have in reality nothing to do with order. All they are concerned with is control. They are about one group of Americans attempting to impose their vision of the good life on another. The only way it can be labelled as "order" is if the values of the imposers are the only legitimate values. Which amounts to political intolerance. No surprise.

Abortion rights, tolerance for gays, and respect for political disssent have nothing to do with order and everything to do with liberty. Remember the root of "liberalism" is "liberty." So let the Republicans keep order - we liberals will claim freedom instead.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:26 AM

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Analyzing the Bankruptcy Vote

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
I and others have thrown a lot of rocks at the Bankruptcy Bill, and there have been a lot of loose accusations that congressmen who voted for it were "bought off" by the credit card and car companies. Now I think charges of corruption are pretty serious, and worthy of futher investigation.

To sort out the dynamics of who voted for the bill and why, I decided to dust off my political science skills. For the last week or so I have been collecting data on who voted for the bill, the median income of the congressional districts (both from techpolitics), campaign contributions from those interest groups supporting the bankruptcy bill (from Open Secrets), and who is on the finance committee (from the House website). I then ran the numbers through a statistical program to figure out if there was a relationship.

There are several hypotheses of why a member of the House would vote for the bill: they are taking large campaign contributions (the corruption thesis), they are from wealthy districts that don't care about the law (the representation thesis), and they are on the finance committee and are "getting along" (the committee thesis).

There is some evidence that members from rich districts and who received lots of money were more likely to vote for the bill, but the relationship is weak. Being on the finance committee doesn't seem to have any effect. The importance of these variables is dwarfed by political party, which should be no surprise: Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill and only half the Democrats voted for it.

But our real interest is why Democrats would support bankruptcy "reform." If we look just at them, there are some interesting results. There is a slight (and I mean slight) suggestion that members from poorer districts opposed the bill. And there is a correlation between campaign contributions and the vote. These results support the worst suspicions of the left: Democrats were bought off by wealthy interests. However, the statistics are less informative than they might first appear. The entire model only has an adjusted r-squared of 6%. In other words, all three factors (money, district income, committee status) only explained 6% of the vote. The other 94% percent remains unexplained by these variables.

This is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that House members didn't really represent the economic interests of their districts. If they had, then the median income of the district would be a powerful predictor of the vote. But there is good news as well: House Democrats weren't bought off by big corporations. They may have voted for reasons we don't like - they wanted to appear pro-business, or just agreed with the substance of the issue - but they aren't shills for credit card moguls.

So we can (and should) be mad at those Democrats for being wrong. But the evidence simply does not support the idea that they are corrupt.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:18 PM

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Keeping Our Eye on the Ball

Monday, April 25, 2005
Liberal Oasis has identified disturbing indications that senior Democrats are willing to compromise on judicial nominations in order to avert the "nuclear option." A compromise on this issue would be tantamount to an outright defeat. The purpose of the nuclear option threat has been to intimidate Senate Democrats into lifting the filibuster. If the Dems agree to accept the proposed judges, the Republican strategy will have worked.

Such a compromise would also amount to the death of the filibuster anyway. In the future, any time a Senate Majority was being stymied, all they would have to do is say "nuclear option!" and the minority would cave. The filibuster threat would have been shown to be an empty one.
What further disturbs me about this debate is that is has become about the filibuster, not the proposed judges. This is a serious mistake, and not just because people might not care about arcane institutional rules. Sure Democrats can paint the abolition of the filibuster as just another example of the abusive Republican majority, but I worry about the precedents for the future of the Democratic position becomes "we must preserve the autonomy of the courts and the rules protecting the minority in the Senate."

Imagine this.....

The Democrats manage to preserve the filibuster in 2005 a the price of accepting more Bush judges. This effectively ends the Senate’s "advice and consent" role, and wingnut judges fill the judiciary. Another terror attack in 2007 permits Jeb Bush to eke out a win in 2008, but a faltering economy results and 10 years of party-building facilitate a Democratic landslide in 2012. The Democrats sweep into power with large majorities in the House & Senate and control of the Presidency. President Obama attempts to undo the damage of the last 12 years of disastrous Republican policies and manages to overcome relentless filibustering, but he is blocked at every turn by the conservative courts. Over a decade of packing the judiciary has resulted in the victory of the Federalist Society and the "constitution-in-exile" loonies, and they proceed to nullify every labor, environmental, and economic policy that emerges from the liberal-dominated Congress.

The Democrats are now faced with an intransigent judiciary openly defying popular will in the name of a lunatic ideology. The Democrats, after years of talking about the sacrosanct character of the courts, don’t have a rhetorical leg to stand on. They have no desire to try another court-packing plan and resist "jawboning" the judiciary, and so their bold attempt at reform accomplish exactly nothing. Frustrated by perceived Democratic incompetence, the Republicans return to power in 2016.

So I would argue that our real focus should be the substantive merits of the issue, not the process. These judges are unacceptably out of the mainstream of American society and are trying to impose a theocratic, pro-corporate vision on the U.S. In this they are good representatives of today’s Republican party, but not of America. THAT should be our position, not some abstract commitment to an independent judiciary or the filibuster.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:17 PM

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Five Very Interesting Questions

Saturday, April 23, 2005
By way of Lean Left, here are five questions worth answering:

1. If you could permanently change one thing about the U.S. right now, what would it be, and why?

If this is a structural question about U.S. politics, then I'd probably like to change the way we run elections. This means something akin to public financing and a ban on individual and PAC contributions, with candidates nominated by a mixed party convention/primary system. There is no more serious problem in American politics today than the growing elitism of our electoral process.

If this is a question about U.S. society, then I am torn in a number of different directions. A national unionization rate of 50% would be cool, or an educational system that actually taught critical thinking and citizenship. But if we're going to be pie-in-the-sky, how about an ideological self-placement in America of 50% liberal, 25% moderate, and 25% conservative?

2. If you could appoint absolutely anyone to the office of U.S. President right now, replacing the current President, who would it be, and why?

Anyone alive? That's easy, Bill Clinton. Warts and all, he's still been the most effective liberal President since Lyndon Johnson.

Oh, but you mean someone constitutionally eligible. Probably Barack Obama: the election of a black male as President would do for African-Americans what Kennedy did for Irish & Catholics.

3. If you’re married, what do you appreciate most about your spouse and why?

I'm lucky enough to have a beautiful, intelligent, fun-loving wife. But I think the thing I love most about her is here fierce independence. She doesn't take crap from anybody, including me.

4. If you had to adopt a religious faith other than the one you currently belong to (if you belogn to one at all), which would you pick, and why?

I could most accurately be described as a deist. I don't know much about the eastern religions, so I can't really speak to them. Today's mainstream Islam and Christianity are deeply troubling to me, given their tendencies to social oppression. Maybe liberal Judaism.

5. If you could go back in time and witness one historical event, but not alter the outcome, which would you choose, and why?

The Gettysburg Address. There has been no greater statement of democracy. Ever. Kennedy's First Inaugural comes close, but the results of that speech make it a bit too poignant for me.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:16 PM

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Theocons Run Amok

Friday, April 22, 2005
I didn't have anything to write about today until I started listening to Randi Rhodes. Apparently the next step in the wingnuts' plan to destroy the federal courts is to cut their funding. I can only shudder that "conservatives" would want to fundamentally destroy a branch of government in the name of short-term partisan ambitions. This is the biggest threat to an independent judiciary since the the court-packing plan of 1937.

Of course, that proposal halted the New Deal. Perhaps we can use this to finally smash the right-wing machine.

Go read the article. Scary stuff.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:15 PM

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Brooks on Abortion

Thursday, April 21, 2005
He's not really anti-choice, you see. It's just that Roe vs. Wade has made politics so nasty.

In his latest foray David Brooks tries to persuade his readers that Roe vs. Wade has poisoned America's political dialogue. Rather than allowing abortion policy emerge from the legislative process, which would have been seen as legitimate, abortion rights were created by judicial fiat. This sparks today's anti-judiciary, anti-filibuster jihad and pulled liberals from a focus on people to a focus on the courts. The product has been total war ever since, and threatens to wreck the protections for minority rights, etc. The solution? Overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Need I remind Mr. Brooks that it is always those who resist oppression who start the war?Tyrants would be most pleased if everyone else were pacifists. It is not pro-choice forces who started the war - they are not forcing anti-choicers to have abortions. The abortion rights movement simply believes that it is women who should make this decision, and not have it imposed on them by a bunch of religious fanatics possessed of a flawed teleological conception of biology and who openly express a desire for women to "know their place." And does Mr. Brooks think that the anti-abortion crowd really would have thrown in the towel if they'd lost the legislative battle? Because if he does, I have a bridge to sell him.

Brooks' essay is riddled with errors, but allow me to focus just on one. Brooks asserts that it would have been better to allow the abortion debate to work its way out within the the traditional mode of political debate, i.e. as a product of elections, legislation, and compromise. But what this assumes is that abortion is an issue like street lamps or filling potholes. It's not. It is a fundamental question of human autonomy, and state governments are notoriously bad dealing with those sorts of issues. Or has he forgotten civil rights?

And abortion is precisely that, a question of rights, of fundamental liberties. It is to deal with these questions that we have courts. The purpose of the courts is to defend human liberties, especially if they are controversial. The court was right to act because it is its job to rule in exactly these sorts of cases.

Brooks shakes his head in supposed sorrow at the war over the courts, but he does so while simply handing the Republican agenda more ammunition. His essay ultimately blames Democrats for the current crisis, much in the same way that a wife-beater might claim that his wife made him do it by smarting off. He fails to mention the many occassions that Republicans have abused Senate minority prerogatives like holds and filibusters.Republicans are not attempting to fashion a legislative compromise - they are attempting to ram through laws that effectively eliminate the right to an abortion. And the filibuster war is over the attempt by Republicans to pack the court with anti-choice (not just anti-Roe) judges, judges who would do the very thing that Brooks opposes: rule by judicial decree.

This dude is just a hack for the right. No person should ever be fooled by his reasonable appearance. David Brooks is Newt Gingrich with less hair.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:14 PM

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More on the Bankruptcy Bill

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I think this comment is worth posting for everyone to read:

I share your outrage at this bill, but I can answer your question as to arguments for it.

One argument for it is that it may lead to a lowering of interest rates and fees, as fewer credit card bills will remain unpaid. (No, there was no mandate of such a result).

A second argument for this bill is that the Democrats have to show they are not merely "excusers of bad behavior" such as not paying bills. (No, this bill contained no exemptions for people bankrupt as a result of illness, disability, job loss or other factors beyond one's control.)

This IS a terrible bill, with insult added to injury by Democrats trying to prove themselves "relevant" to big money contributors by supporting it too.

If the Democrats are to become the majority party in the lifetime of any living person, we will have to prove ourselves "relevant" to our core constituency: ordinary people who need help from government. This is difficult to do when the most outrageous anti-consumer legislation is cloaked with a bi-partisan patina that shields many Republicans from blame.

Rep. Mark B. Cohen

Representative Cohen is House Democratic Caucus Chairman in Pennsylvania. Let's just say that this is certainly the most prestigious comment I've ever had. Who says blogging doesn't matter?

To the substance of Rep. Cohen's post: I'm glad that he had the detailed knowledge of this issue to explain what the rationales for this bill were. And I'm pleased that he opposes it.

Just for the sake of it, I'm going to reply to the pro-bill arguments.

1. Lower fees and interest rates
Representative Cohen already notes that there is no mandate for lower fees, so this is just a pie-in-the-sky hope as a benefit as opposed to a real cost to consumers. Not exactly a good deal. Another response would be that credit card companies are among the most profitable industries in America. If they had any incentive to reduce rates, wouldn't they have already done so?

2. Rewarding bad behavior
So getting sick is "bad behavior"? As I understand it, one half of all bankruptcies are due to health crises. In addition, who loaned this money to high-risk borrowers? The advocates of the bill may argue that they are eliminating a "moral hazard" problem, but what about the moral hazard on the part of companies who loan to 18 year old college students and encourage them to spend irresponsibly? A good example of this problem is the car companies, who offered easy credit terms and cash back in order to improve sales, and now are backing this bill because they are afraid people won't have the money to pay. Tell me, who's being irresponsible?

So sorry, but the arguments in favor of the bill are weak at best. Any Democrat who voted for this bill is either just a sucker or in bed with the credit card companies. Either is equally probable.

I'm not done with this issue. In the next few days I'm going to present statistical analysis on the relationship between campaign contributions, district median family income, and a House member's vote for the bill. Then maybe we'll see who these "Democrats" are really representing.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:13 PM

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George Will Doesn't Do Logic

There are just two things I want to draw your attention to. I'm going to hold off on commenting about the new Pope until I see what he does. But expect a guest blog on the subject in the next couple of days from my new partner, Zola.

First, George Will continues to embarrass himself with his sloppy reasoning. In his op-ed, he argues that Europe is "destroying" itself by its lack of his faith. The crisis is not a spiritual but a demographic one. Europe is the most secular region on earth, and as such it has the lowest birthrate. The declining population is putting severe strain on the welfare state and necessitating the importation of millions of muslims.

Now assuming that low population growth and immigration is a bad thing, AND that present trends will necessarily continue, Will might have a point. But did you catch the logical error he made? Will just assumes that secularism causes lower population growth. But correlation is not causation. The secularism-population relationship is probably an example of what we call a spurious correlation. It's like saying that since short skirts are common when the stock market is doing well, short skirts cause the stock market to rise.

There is in fact a third factor which causes both phenomena: education. Europe is the best educated region on earth, and education tends to lead to less religious enthusiasm and less reproduction. So unless the pseudo-intellectual Will wants Europe to get dummer, there isn't much to be done.

On another subject entirely, take a look at this article on the willingness of employers to regulate blogs by their employees. Pretty scary stuff. You know, when the Republicans used to talk all the time about "freedom" they never mentioned that Corporate America does a hell of a lot more to restrict our personal liberties than the U.S. government ever has. Maybe it's time for Democrats to start talking about workplace democracy and workplace rights. I suspect people are tired of being treated like objects by their employers.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:11 PM

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Ah, the Post

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
What a rag. You'd think these journalists could read their own charts. I don't know how to upload a picture, so I'll just explain it. The article is on the rising importance of merit-based financial aid in college as opposed to need-based. If this is a real problem, then we should thank the Post for pointing it out.

Unfortunately, the data they present doesn't support their conclusion. In the last five years, the number of need-based scholarships has declined from 404 to 104, while the number of merit-based scholarships has declined from 274 to 64. So there has been a decline in absolute terms in merit-based scholarships. And if you run the percentages (which I bothered to do), you see that the proportion of need-based scholarships was 80% in 1999, and in 2004 it had declined to.....81%. In other words, there has been no appreciable change in the share of scholarships that go the the affluent. There has been a decline in scholarships generally, which would affect the needy more than the affluent (obviously). But that isn't what reporter Jay Matthews was writing about.

So the title (and argument) of this article, "As Merit-Race Escalates, Wealthy Often Win," is a giant load of poo-poo.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:10 PM

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Conservatives Think Black America is Stupid

Monday, April 18, 2005
Brent Staples has an op-ed in the New York Times in which he attacks the Civil Rights Leadership for failing to support the No Child Left Behind Act. He suggests that the Civil Rights movement has sacrificed its traditional independence for partisan loyalty. The target of this essay really isn't that heads of the NAACP, it is in fact black America. There's nothing Republicans would like more than the dismantling of the civil rights (i.e. minority) infrastructure and a bunch of black votes for Republicans.

Staples behaves as if the three most common objections to NCLB are just handwaving. The opposition of teachers, the failure of adequate funding, and the problems with testing are all legitimate criticisms of the program, but Staples' basic position is that "it's better than nothing" and "you know this will really work." He also implies that teachers are just being greedy liberals. In order, he commits the fallacies of binary opposition, begging the question, and poisoning the well. and Not the stuff of which great arguments are made.

But what if I accepted these second-rate objections as real ones? Well, there is one very important reason that the civil rights movement is opposed to NCLB: it is a backhanded way to return to segregation. What do I mean? Well, NCLB is a backhanded way to destroy the public school system and implement vouchers. The program states that if a school continues to "fail" parents will be able to use vouchers. Then the Bush Administration just happens to withhold funding for the program! It's no coincidence - this is an on purpose. Vouchers are little more than a subsidy to upper middle income people to send their children to prep schools. There is no way that private schools would accept the millions of disadvantaged minority children (it would pull down their test score too much). So the result of NCLB will be the creation of a two-track school system of private schools: one set of great ones with rich (white) students, and another set with poor (minority) students. Which is what we had in the 1950's.

So the Civil Rights leadership hasn't "lost its courage." It is attempting to preserve its greatest accomplishment in the face of a family whose father voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a son who is trying to undo it. I wouldn't say that's political cowardice. I'd say that's consistency.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:10 PM

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John McCain: Poseur

Sunday, April 17, 2005
I have reached my limit with all this McCain swooning. He is conservative Republican who has not become a complete lunatic. For this we give him a medal? Bull Moose hails his courage in resisting the efforts to destroy the filibuster. That's wonderful. I'm glad McCain is one conservative who hasn't entirely lost touch with conservatism. But where was all this political courage when George Bush was smearing McCain's friend John Kerry? Why did McCain run around the country telling everyone that Bush was the only man for the job when McCain knew better? Was it just so he could run for President in 2008? How courageous is that?

I will give McCain his due for his actions in Vietnam. But I have seen precious little of that vaunted heroism lately.

So enough with the McCain hagiography. He isn't evil. That doesn't make him a saint.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:09 PM

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Saturday, April 16, 2005
The Unreasonables

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has an op-ed in which he accuses Democrats of opposing judges because of their religious beliefs. This is a position so easy to dismiss it's almost laughable. It's not private beliefs that cause Democrats concern, otherwise we would have never made Harry Reid or Tom Daschle party leaders. It is public beliefs: the fact that these nominees want to impose their religious opinions on other people. Of course, the Unreasonables are incapable of making this distinction. Theocons think that it is a violation of their rights for me to do what they don't like. They really need to take Political Science 101.

What Ideas?

Bull Moose thinks that the Democrats are focusing too much on structure and not enough on message. Now while there is some truth to what he is saying, I have to scratch my head when he says that the Republican revival in the 1970's was due not to their organization but their ideas. What ideas? Hating black people? Smearing the left as pacifists? Making up a ridiculous economic theory? Honestly folks, the only "idea" on the right was to harness the cultural/vietname backlash to the service of their very old agenda of destroying the New Deal. I really don't see that as an idea: it's more like smart strategy and ruthless demagogy.

The Primary Calendar

I have real reservations about the California plan (other than the fact that it's unrealistic), and even more about regional primaries (it is unrealistic, but has more problems), both discussed here. Look, I liked the old 1960-model of nominations, in which primaries were beauty contests and delegates were selected in party caucuses. I believe this strategy gives small-time candidates a chance and encourages broader participation. The problem is really the dominance of primaries. And we could reduce their influence by just restoring the old 2/3 rule at the convention and ending the obligation to vote for a particular candidate on the first ballot.

Hillary and Newt, sitting in a tree...

People have been wondering why Newt and Hillary are getting along. Look, it's no mystery to me. They both believe that the other is the only one they could defeat in a Presidential general election. It's like when right-wing Israelis cooperated with Hamas to destroy the peace process. Sometimes your biggest enemy is your most useful partner.

Where I disagree with liberals

This is a useful question from Pandagon: where do you disagree with liberal orthodoxy?

I am more interventionist/realistic on foreign policy. My position on China (it's a rising rival to U.S. power) is evidence of this - I liked Kagan's op-ed on this subject. I think U.S. power matters.

I am more to the right on immigration, which I'll talk about soon.

I am uneasy with technocratic solutions to problems. I think that D.C.-based policies are often the wrong way to go.

I don't look down on small town rural life. Sorry, but there is a negative stereotype at work here.

I think big deficits are immoral.

That's all I can think of at the moment.

Identity Politics

Chris Bowers has a good discussion on identity politics at MyDD. I would just like to add that identity politics is inherently conservative (which is why I never liked multiculturalism as a political movement). The entire right wing game is to get the lower classes fighting over symbolic issues so that they'll forget that the plantation owners are exploiting them. The only viable liberal vision is an integrationist one, because then people starting thinking about class issues. This is why the left is so strong in Europe and so weak here: more cultural homogeneity in the latter (historically, anyway). Don't just believe me: I got the idea from DuBois.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:40 PM

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Roll Call of Shame

Here is the list of House Democrats who voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, courtesy of Josh Marshall and Techpolitics:

Artur Davis (AL)
Bud Cramer (AL)
Mike Ross (AR)
Marion Berry (AR)
Ed Pastor (AZ)
Dennis Cardoza (CA)
Jane Harman (CA)
Joe Baca (CA)
Jim Costa (CA)
Ellen Tauscher (CA)
Mike Thompson (CA)
John Salazar (CO)
Kendrick Meek (FL)
Jim Davis (FL)
Allen Boyd (FL)
Sanford Bishop (GA)
David Scott (GA)
Ed Case (HA)
Leonard Boswell (IA)
Melissa Bean (IL)
Dennis Moore (KS)
Ben Chandler (KY)
William Jefferson (LA)
Charlie Melancon (LA)
Steny Hoyer (MD)
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD)
Albert Wynn (MD)
Michael Michaud (ME)
Collin Peterson (MN)
Ike Skelton (MO)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Bob Ethridge (NC)
David Price (NC)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Earl Pomeroy (ND)
Robert Menendez (NJ)
Robert Andrews (NJ)
Steven Rothman (NJ)
Steve Israel (NY)
Gregory Meeks (NY)
Brian Higgins (NY)
Joseph Crowley (NY)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY)
Ted Strickland (OH)
Dan Boren (OK)
David Wu (OR)
Darlene Hooley (OR)
Robert Brady (PA)
John Murtha (PA)
Allyson Schwartz (PA)
Tim Holden (PA)
JOhn Spratt (SC)
Stephanie Herseth (SD)
Lincoln Davis (TN)
John Tanner (TN)
Jim Cooper (TN)
Harold Ford (TN)
Bart Gordon (TN)
Henry Cuellar (TX)
Al Green (TX)
Silvestre Reyes (TX)
Charles Gonzalez (TX)
Solomon Ortiz (TX)
Chet Edwards (TX)
Jim Matheson (TX)
James Moran (VA)
Rick Boucher (VA)
Rick Larsen (WA)
Brian Baird (WA)
Ron Kind (WI)
Nick Rahall (WV)
Alan Mollohan (WV)

I would really like an explanation of how a good Democrat could support this legislation. No really, does anyone have a legitimate argument here? Because I am really tempted to run a statistical analysis comparing campaign contributions from credit card companies to who voted for the bill. Not that I'm trying to embarrass anyone.......
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:08 PM

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Bankruptcy Bill

Friday, April 15, 2005
I haven't talked about this bill because so many other good bloggers have written about it. But before I have to rush to class, I just wanted to say that this bankruptcy legislation is one of the most repugant laws ever to emerge from the U.S. Congress. It is particularly insulting given the passage of the Paris Hilton bill yesterday.

What is even more infuriating is that a lot of Democrats voted for this bill. As soon as I can get a complete list of Democrats who sold out to the credit card companies, I will post it here. That way we will know who in our own party we really can't trust to support the interests of working Americans when there are campaign contributions to be had.


Here is a list of the Senate Sellouts who voted for cloture (via Obsidian Wings):

Biden (D-DE)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

I would REALLY like to hear a reasonable justification for this bill. Particularly given that I have always liked some of those Senators.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:08 PM

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A Bridge Too Far...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I agree with Matt Yglesias that sometimes contesting strictly symbolic issues is a waste of time, but his example of permitting the posting of the 10 commandments in public places is going a little too far for me. While references to God in the pledge of allegiance and on money is pretty harmless as far as I'm concerned, a public endorsement of a specific religious creed is beyond the pale. One could argue that all of the major monotheistic religions recognize the validity of the 10 commandments, but what in the world are Hindus, Buddhists, etc. supposed to do? And what do we tell people who don't believe in any God at all?

So sorry Matt. I agreed with your formal argument, namely that we should let the minor stuff slide to focus on major issues. But the 10 commandments is NOT symbolic. It would amount to a piece of religious propaganda in the public square, which is incompatible with religious liberty.

On another note, I'm glad to hear that a solid majority continues to think that abortion rights should be protected. Score one for the good guys.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:38 PM

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Minority Faction

The debate over the filibuster continues to rage, with Matt Yglesias wanting to get rid of it and the Decembrist coming to its defense. I tend to be a bit of an institutionalist, so I'm in favor of retaining the filibuster. But I think that Matt's argument is worthy of a response.

Yglesias argues that liberals should support the elimination of the filibuster because of what he describes as its inherently conservative character. The filibuster is a tool for frustration of majority will, and is therefore an instrument for blocking change. Since liberals like change and are generally majoritarian in outlook, they should want to get rid of the practice. You would expect conservatives would like the filibuster, but they're too shortsighted to realize that it ultimately benefits them.

I have two objections to Matt's position, one simple and the other a little complicated.

The simple objection first: Matt confuses change with left. We can also change to the right.

Matt's mistake is that he confuses left/right and conservative/liberal, thereby ignoring the existence of the another dichotomy, radical/reactionary. Liberals are indeed in favor of (gradual) change while conservatives are against it. But there also exists radicals, who want to push in an egalitarian direction without respect to institutional restraints, and reactionaries who want to turn back the clock. Today's political dispute is not between liberals and conservatives (I wish it were). It is a fight between liberals and conservatives on the one hand and reactionaries on the other. The first two have combined to preserve the long-established reforms of the 20th century. The reactionaries have never accepted the New Deal settlement and are trying to overturn it. Since the reactionaries have the political initiative, it is the liberals who are against change.

Political change can therefore come from either the left or the right. Whoever is in favor of restraint usually ends up being whoever is at a political advantage. At the moment, that is the left, hence our love of the filibuster. In 1993-93 we hated it and the right loved it, and now the shoe is on the other foot. But there is no principled reason who liberals should want to get rid of the filibuster. Anti-majoritarian institutions are sometimes a good thing. Hence our defense of the independent judiciary.

Okay, now from one long-winded response to another. The complicated objection to Matt's position is that, at the moment, the filibuster is serving the interests of the political majority against an empowered minority.

Yeah, yeah I know it sounds impossible, but there it is. Let me explain. First, you need to accept that the majority of the country does not really favor the agenda of the Republican reactionary right. There's plenty of polling evidence to this effect. The next thing you need to remember is that Senate is gerrymandered in favor of small states, which gives a bonus to agrarian interests. Now when the rural vote swung between the two parties, this did not present a problem. But now the Republicans have a lock on the countryside and therefore have a real advantage in controlling the Senate.

Evidence? As others have pointed out, the Democrats actually received more aggregate votes for Senate candidates than the Republicans did in the last election, so we have a situation in which a political minority actually controls the chamber. So the Democratic (majority) uses the filibuster to prevent the passages of reactionary laws directed against them. Weird, ain't it?

But wait a minute, you say, what about the House? It's not mal-apportioned like the Senate! Shouldn't it be a good enough check on these shenanigans?

Well...no. The House is gerrymandered in favor of rural interests too. It was for years until the Baker v. Carr decision in 1962, but since the racial re-districting of the 1990's, minorities (who tend be urban-dwelling Democrats ) are packed in a few supermajority seats. So we have a pro-rural gerrymander in the House just like we did before 1962, but unlike then it is now also an anti-Democratic gerrymander (since the rural vote is now strongly Republican).

On top of this, the internal organization of the House makes it easy for the rural-based minority to win working control of the House. The senior leadership of the House has total control of the legislative process. And since that leadership is either of or beholden to the reactionaries, they have been able to force through legislation using the "majority of the majority" doctrine so baldly enunciated by Dennis Hastert. So while the ideological majority of the House is somewhere in the middle, the extreme right is able to run roughshod over their moderates and pass any laws they like. In the House, like the Senate, the minority has control of the chamber.

So there is no check on our impassioned reactionaries in the House, and the Senate is gerrymandered in their favor by the Constitution, so we have a situation in which the only protection that the ideological majority of the country has is the filibuster.

So go ahead and dump the filibuster. But you'd better re-write the Constitution, the rules of the House, and eliminate gerrymandering while you're at it. Let me know how that goes, will you?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:07 PM

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The Democratic Culture Wars (again)

For a few weeks I thought this issue had finally gone away. Then Dan Gerstein in the Wall Street Journal (which typically requires a subscription to read) starts it all up again. Now we weary warriors shall pick up our spears and march reluctantly to battle. Sigh.

Let's just summarize the two sides:

On one side of the battlefield stands Gerstein, Amy Sullivan (here and here), Norm Scheiber, and Mike Gecan. Their basic argument is that liberals, by being insufficiently respectful of religious beliefs and committing a massive strategic blunder. Why don't liberals bash Hollywood the way they bash Exxon?

On the other side are Matt Yglesias (here and here), , and a very animated Digby (here, here, and here). They believe that regulating TV/etc. for "cultural"reasons amounts to censorship. Democrats would be better off defending personal liberties than becoming socially traditionalist.

New Donkey and Pandagon, in their own ways, stand somewhere in the middle. They lean towards one side or the other, but believe that the cultural issues can be subsumed within the greater issue of child-rearing.

Where am I on this issue? Well, if the issue is ceding ground to cultural traditionalism as such, then count me in the Yglesias camp. I don't think cultural traditionalism is an intellectually defensible position, since it is essentially other-regarding. You can practice your own belief system, but just because mine bothers you doesn't mean you can make me practice yours Politically I think this civil liberties grounding (I hesitate to call it libertarian) is also the right position to take. My inspiration here is JFK's speech to the Baptists ministers: by making his Catholicism a matter of tolerance, he made the issue go away.

However, on the specifics of how we raise kids, I think that New Donkey and Pandagon are on th money. The core Democratic constituency is (or should be) working class/middle class folks struggling with economic anxiety. These people don't feel in control, which makes them angry. The Republicans have been much more skilled in directing this anger (inappropriately, of course) than Democrats have. One of the places they don't feel in control is in how they raise their children. Now this is a very tricky issue, since I don't think parents have an absolute right to indoctrinate their children any way they please. But when it comes to protecting children from bad TV or bad food, I don't think that regulating behavior is necessarily the same as censorship. We let cigarette companies advertise, but not to kids.

The key element (for me) in this debate is whether we are talking about children or adults. We accept the importance of controlling what influences children are exposed to precisely because they are vulnerable. But once someone is an adult, you have to let them make their own decisions. I don't see why drawing this distinction should really be so hard, either from a philosophical or rhetorical point of view.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:06 PM

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Why People Hate the Media

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Nicholas Kristoff just can't understand why people hate the press so much. He's concerned that with so little public support, the freedom of the press is in real danger. He thinks that journalists need to take steps "re-connecting" with the public.

Gee Nick. Why would people distrust the MSM? I can think of a good reason or two. Could it be the puerile and sensational nature of most coverage? How about the total lack of substance? Or could it be the shocking ignorance and gullibility of even the most elite journalists? Oh, and how about the self-satisfied condescension of the press? And whatever happened to "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted"? The last few years the usual position of the press with regards to those in power is on all fours.

Sure, the press is suffering the usual fate of moderates in a time of polarized political conflict. But they certainly haven't made things better for themselves. You see, today's journalists have forgotten what their real purpose is: the truth.

Stop trying to make people happy and do your jobs.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:05 PM

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The China Question

Monday, April 11, 2005
Matt Yglesias thinks that the Pentagon and Neocons are using fears of China as rationales to beef up the defense budget. Now Matt is probably right about this, and he doesn't necessarily think that China isn't a problem, but I'd like to respond to the Neocons' substantive arguments rather than just poison the well.

You can put in the camp of those who think China is a rising strategic threat to the United States. This doesn't mean it's a threat now, or necessarily will be in the future. But the main point is unassailable and unavoidable. Within the next generation China will surpass the United States as the #1 economic power, which means that it will sooner or later displace us as the #1 power, period. If you don't believe me, read Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

Now speaking as a patriot, a China as #1 does make me queasy. But I can get over the pride thing. You don't have to be #1 to have a nice country. I do think it will make many on the right go apeshit, however. They are after preserving U.S. dominance for the sake of dominance.

But what really concerns me about a rising China is that it will act as an expansionist hegemon on the lines of Wilhemine Germany. I'm not convinced that capitalism inevitably leads to democracy. I hope I'm wrong, but I think it is quite possible that the tyrants in Beijing could use xenophobic nationalism and economic prosperity to maintain their grip on power. Maybe not forever, but long enough to do some real damage. I believe that China's mercantilist tradition could beggar the rest of the world, as it is presently doing to the U.S. And I believe that the environmental consquences of unregulated capitalism in a country with a billion people would be incalculable.

So should you count me in with the Neocons? Absolutely not. Their cure (a bigger defense budget) would actually accelerate the Day of Reckoning. The folks at the Pentagon and the imperialists don't seem to realize that the foundation of China's growing political and military power is its growing economy. China is growing faster that the U.S., and if China reaches anything remotely approaching the per capita production of the U.S., they will easily outstrip us. Which means they will be able to pay for a much bigger army than we will, as well as use access to their consumer market as a diplomatic tool. Building more tanks will not forestall this situation, and by diverting scarce resources into unproductive areas like military spending, we will actually make things worse.

Secondly, the militarist diplomacy of the right is making China's emergent hegemony easier, both by overstraining our power and inviting a backlash. If the Neocons are really worried about China, they should be trying to contain it by building a network of alliances. Instead their policies are isolating us.

What should we do about China? We should integrate it into international institutions in order to divert its energies to peaceful endeavors and open it up to democratic penetration. And we also need to put our own economic house in order. But these are solutions that require clear thinking, which is pretty rare on the right these days.

So you can think that China is a potential problem without believing that an aggressive foreign policy and a big army are the way to address it. In fact, if you are thinking clearly you will realize it is the opposite of what we should do. China is one of the few cases where the right may have identified the correct question, but typically they come up with precisely the wrong answer.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:04 PM

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Georgetown Democrats

Friday, April 08, 2005
A lot of anti-Dean folks are gloating over a recent study that suggests Dean's core supporters are primarily white, middle-aged, middle class, secular, and left wing. Bull Moose gets a few jabs in about the Deaniac's claims to moral superiority, dubbing them"Latte Liberals."

So let me get this straight. Dean brings in a ton of activists, and for this you're blaming him? Why, because political activists generally tend to be white middle class ideologues? Because I might remind you that the people who have been running the party for years happen to be about a dozen rich white male lawyers sitting around a bottle of scotch in a Georgetown salon. How representative are they of the average Democratic voter? What are they, like .00001% of the population?

Give me a break.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:00 PM

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Gloating to a Purpose

Thursday, April 07, 2005
As I am sure that you have heard, the infamous "Schiavo Memo" lauding the issue's political benefits to the Republican party was written by Mel Martinez' legal counsel. The right wing bloggers had been yelling "fake" and now they have egg on their faces, along with Howard Kurtz.

So let's have a good chuckle at their expense, but let's also not get too big for our britches. Because with the Rather memo, we were the ones in the wrong.

In line with my post from yesterday, let's also not get distracted from the main issue. This memo is not important because we get to prove Powerline was wrong, but to get people to understand that the Republicans were using this issue (and their own supporters) in order to stay in power. So less copy on "tee hee Powerline was wrong" and more on "Aren't those Republicans horrible people?"
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:59 PM

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Stake Through the Heart

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Tom DeLay is in trouble with ethics. John Coryn is under fire for supporting violence against judges. I'm happy at their discomfiture but worried that we are missing an opportunity. Why? Because our purpose is not to bring down these two men. Men are not important. The real challenge is to use these scandals to paint a larger picture about the Republican party.

Let me tell you a story. When I was in D.C. in 1995, all the Democrats were talking about how to "get" Newt Gingrich. I argued that they were wasting their time, because if Gingrich was gone someone just as bad would replace him. Attacking a person is fruitless if you do nothing to challenge the political forces that support him (or her). Those political forces will always be able to find another champion.

Instead of harping on the peccadillos of a few individuals, what liberals need to do is make them and their actions iconic, to use them to make people identify Republicans with the radical actions of their worst representatives. So we shouldn't say, "DeLay is a crook." We should say that "DeLay is a symbol of the corruption and hypocrisy of the Republican majority in Congress." We shouldn't say "Coryn is encouraging violence." Instead how about "Here is yet another example of right wing radicalism and disrespect for law."

If Democrats can hang these men and their actions around the Republican party as a whole, they will do something a lot better than driving a few wingnuts from office: they will discredit the entire conservative movement. Which is what we are really after.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:59 PM

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In The Interest of Fairness

Let it never be said that I never link to anyone who disagrees with me. Digby argues against my position (indirectly) on political protesting. Read my post and then read his and make up your own minds.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:58 PM

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Add One More Name To The List

Here's yet another dynasty candidate: Senator Mike DeWine's son is running for Congress, and apparently way ahead. And daddy is still in office! Guess who's going to replace Sen. DeWine when he retires?

I have a new personal rule. In honor of the Pope, let's call it the Consanguinity Principle: no candidates in the related in the first degree to anyone in office. I will never, ever vote for any candidate in the Democratic primary if he or she is immediately related to an elected officeholder, past or present. That means spouses, siblings and children (and parents I suppose). If they win the primary, I'll support them in the general. But I won't lift a finger to help them get the nomination.

Am I being unfair? Yup. But how fair is it to pass your job on to your kids?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:57 PM

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Paul Krugman has essentially re-written my piece on the absence of conservatives in Academia. Oh well. The more the merrier.

Anyways, the Volokh conspiracy has taken issue with Krugman's piece (am I not good enough? :) ). Juan and Orin Kerr do their best, but it really is a pretty shoddy set arguments they produce. First, they get confused between the "supply side" argument (conservatives don't get into academia) and the political argument (academics don't vote Republican). These really are two sides to the same coin: serious intellectuals do not become conservative because conservativism is not intellectually serious. Then the Volokhsters whine that Krugman is being mean to conservatism in general by painting them with a broad anti-intellectual brush. Well if the shoe fits......

Oh, and Kerr makes a snide crack about readers living on the Upper West Side and Cambridge who have might one day "meet a conservative" realizing that they are intellectually credible after all. Hey Buddy, I grew up in the Deep South, and I have met precious few conservatives who knew what a good argument was. Typically all they had to say was some combination of "that's just my belief" or "the bible says so" or "why do you hate America?"

So my (and Krugman's) basic point remains: academics are not conservative Republicans because no one who learns how to think is likely to end up a conservative Republican, not because there is some bias in the academia against hiring right wingers. Find me a cogent right winger, and we'll hire him. The problem is that we can't find one.

One last thing: conservatives have been making a big deal lately about how left wingers don't talk books, i.e. they are disengaged from their own philosophical tradition. The right, on the other hand, is obsessed with theirs. I find this pretty amusing, given that the people who write all the serious books are liberals. There hasn't been a conservative political philosopher of note since Nozick, and he wasn't that much of a conservative.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:54 PM

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Looney Watch

Monday, April 04, 2005
Still not convinced that the right is out to lunch? Try today's entries.....

Eric Cohen at the Weekly Standard attacks the left for its "autonomy agenda" in reference to the Terry Schiavo case and abortion. Hmm, couldn't one use a single word rather than a cumbersome phrase like "autonomy agenda." Like "freedom" or "liberty." Go back and read the piece and insert the word "freedom" for "autonomy" and Cohen's tract reads like a Mussolini screed.

Next, there is a new book out attacking the Supreme Court. Combined with DeLay's recent threats against federal judges, it appears that the right has decided to destroy the judicial branch. Now aren't these people conservatives? Shouldn't they be in favor or preserving traditional institutions, particularly ones that contain popular passions? Silly person - you are describing conservatives. These people aren't conservatives. They are neofascists, who have little regard for niceties like constitutions and the rule of law. And remember, the democratic function of the courts is to defend unpopular minorites from oppression by oppressive majorities. So I guess destroying the courts is just another part of repealing freedom...er...I mean the "autonomy regime."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:52 PM

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Silly Right Wingers

Sunday, April 03, 2005
Okay, I have finally found something worth making fun of on the right wing blogs. Thanks guys!

First, the Volokh Conspiracy (he of the famous "torture is good" postings") argues that we should abolish the bar exam. His reasoning is that it serves as a credential that inflates attorney salaries by limiting access. In other words, the ABA is a guild. Now liberalizing the requirements might have some reasonable arguments to support it, but doing away with the bar is just a stupid idea. Do we really want a bunch of incompetent lawyers running around?

Second, the Belmont Club has made a couple of embarrassing errors. Apparently one of the leading candidates to succeed John Paul, Francis Arize, is from Africa, which would make him the first black Pope. Arize is also the point man on relations with Islam.

Belmont Club claims that there have in fact been a number of black Popes in the past. His evidence? Some of the early popes were from Africa. This is very much the same reasoning that says that the ancient Egyptians were black, or that Cleopatra was. Look, there is a gigantic difference Africa north and south of the Sahara. North we find barbers and Arabs (and in the old days, covets). They are essentially of Semitic ethnic stock. Sub-saharan Africa is what we think of in America as "African," i.e. black. I'm all for having blacks in positions of prominence in the world, but can we please not falsify history?

Also, in the same post it is claimed that the Catholic Church has long had relations with Islam. Yeah, if by "relations" you mean "destruction." That's like saying that I have good relations with my brother-in-law because I just punched him in the face yesterday.

Last, check out the comments section in the Belmont Club post. There are some seriously anti-Muslim people on the right. So it doesn't surprise me that they think that "conflict" equals "relations."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:51 PM

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Good-bye John Paul

The Pope has finally passed on. Godspeed.

I for one will not be one of those who the day after he dies rushes in to pronounce on the significance of his tenure. We need to wait a few years before we can present a really balanced picture of his life. We should give time for his supporters to grieve, and we should resist the media tendency toward hagiography.

Having said that, I am very interested in watching the process by which a new Pope is elected. And I wait eagerly to see how a new Pope will tackle the problems that still face the Catholic Church. Stay tuned.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:51 PM

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Dynastic Politics

Saturday, April 02, 2005
You want more evidence that the republic is in decay? How about the fact that more and more candidates for office just happen to be the children of elected officials? I live in New York, where Bronx politics is essentially a competition between 3 or 4 Latino families. In Alaska Lisa Murkowski gets appointed to the Senate by her dad and manages to defeat a popular former governor. I was watching a report on CSPAN from Hotline, and apparently in Florida there are something like 5 candidates for the House and Senate who are the children of politicians. And finally there is the looming 2008 campaign, where we see the wife of a President and the brother of a President the most likely successors to the son of a President.

I know there has always been some of this, but I'm willing to bet that it has gotten much worse in the last generation. I love the Kennedys, but they might have opened a pandora's box. For more, check out Kevin Phillips' book American Dynasty.

I've said if before: democracies do not have the luxury of engaging in dynastic politics. Do we really believe that political ability and the right to hold office is somehow transmitted through the blood? Because if we do, then we have something like the old Roman oligarchy. Sure people got to vote, but everyone on the ballot had a very familiar last name.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:48 PM

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Friday, April 01, 2005
Little bits of catch-up commentary for the week.....

National Sales Tax

I was going to write about George Will's outrageous endorsement of a national sales tax, but Kevin Drum beat me to it. 'Nuff said.

We're Doomed

Given what a complete disaster the planet is in (here and here), it's a little disturbing that some people are arguing that the environmental movement is in political disarray.

Bad Doctors

These people have obviously abandoned any relation to humanitarianism. Pharmacists are going to refuse treatment of people they don't like? Doctors refusing to treat gays? Does this sound like a "culture of life" to you? They claim to be Christians, but it is quite clear that they have never read the new testament.

Democratic Strategy

Bill Bradley thinks that Democrats have a weak political infrastructure that is too reliant on candidates(but see Yglesias's reply here). Glen Browder thinks we have to come to grips with the South. Josh Green thinks the Dems have become too obsessed with "message" and need some new substance, while Chris Bowers talks a lot about framing. Bull Moose thinks Dems can appeal to moderates and disaffected Republicans by constructing a "reform" platform. Then there's David Sirota's New Populist argument. There's a lot of interesting work going on about reviving an expansive liberal foreign policy. And then (if I may be so bold) there's my endless yammering about the need to reach out to small towns & small businesses in addition to making democracy itself (i.e. greater direct political participation) a compelling issue.

Who says Democrats don't have any ideas? I think there are all of the makings for a workable liberal strategy floating around out there. To me it seems that the problem is less that we don't have methods as much as it is we lack execution. It's time we stopped debating which strategy we should employ - they are in fact quite complimentary, as long as we don't get too obsessed with any one in particular. So less jaw, jaw and more act, act.

Hypocrite in Chief

And then there's the whopper of the week, courtesy of the Great Leader:

"I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected," the president said, "especially those who live at the mercy of others."

"The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life."

This is from the "man" who callously enters a war, is willing to execute children and the mentally handicapped, reviews death penalty cases after only 15 minutes, believes that rewards should go the strong, that wealth is the best indicator of virtue, that the weak are responsible for their own suffering, etc. I could go on for hours.

You're absolutely right, Mr. President. The standard of a civilization is in how it treats the least of its members. Which makes you a barbarian. One who is not just beyond the gates, but occupying the capitol.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:47 PM

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