The Third Estate
What Is The Third Estate?
What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
What Does It Want To Be?

Friday Meme Thing

Friday, September 30, 2005
My wife Dr. Brazen Hussy suggested I write one of these, so here goes.....

Seven Things That Might Surprise You About Me

1. I can't drive a car. Sure I have a license (which I got when I was 28), but I've only done so a couple of times. Under supervision. Careful supervision.

2. I love studying war. I think it's fascinating. Board games, computer games, books on strategic theory, military history, you name it. It drives my wife insane.

3. I'm petrified of needles. They've given me the heebie-jeebies ever since I was a kid. I cover up my eyes when I see them in movies. I've never had the guts to donate blood, but now I don't have to feel guilty because I've had malaria.

4. My wife and I met when we were in high school. No kidding - we were really high school sweethearts. We broke up for 10 years before we got back together and got married. It's like something out of a movie.

5. I have totally retro musical tastes. The Beatles, the Doors, the Stones, Cream. My wife calls it "Dad Rock." I call what she listens to "crap."

6. I'm a hopeless romantic. I watch romantic comedies, hate books where the guy doesn't get the girl, and am addicted to the Gilmore Girls. Yeah, that makes me kind of gay. What are you going to do about it?!

7. I hate porn. I think it's icky. No I'm not writing this for my wife's benefit. I finally went cruising on the internet to see what all the fuss was about and was more than a little disturbed.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:30 AM

0 comments :: permalink

No More Mister Nice Guy

Hunter over at the Daily Kos, channeling the Rude Pundit, has a few words for Republicans who are "shocked, shocked" that Democrats are making hay out of Tom DeLay's indictment:

But here's some advice. You'd better start hating me more. This is the world you forged and, unfortunately for you, I'm beginning to take a fancy for it. Welcome to the politics of your own party, finally sprouting from the ground on which you planted the seeds and shat upon them. [ ] Get used to the world you have created, and the stench your worshipped heroes have unleashed.

I'll admit to that a certain frisson of glee when I read this. It's nice to see such ferocity out of my side. And I think it's fascinating that the Thecons just don't seem to care about corruption- sexual fidelity is much more important to them than integrity. It's weird but there it is.

As emotionally satisfying as it may be, I have a couple of reservations about a no-holds-barred approach of personal political combat.

First, I think that it is probably miscast. Personal politics will ultimately avail us nothing. I've said this over and over again, but once more won't hurt - you can destroy all the Republican leaders you want, but until you break up their infrastructure and their political coalition, they will just throw up another one. Gingrich was replaced by Bush and DeLay, who will be replaced by somebody else. They have a conveyor belt of evil over there. I'm encouraged that a lot of Democrats (props to Bull Moose in particular) need to use these scandals to make a broader political point about Republican corporate cronyism and corruption. We need to build a narrative, not just send a few crooks to jail.

Second, I'm worried that we will become what we hate. If we start targetting them as ruthlessly as they target us, where do we draw the line? I'm already upset at the deliberate "outing" of gay Republicans and the comments made about Bush's family. I have no interest in becoming as bad as they are.

Third, the whole thing might just escalate. They got involved in this kind of politics because they couldn't win any other way. If we respond in kind, it might level the playing field. The question then becomes how the Theocons react. Do they pull back from the brink? Do our actions shock them into retreat? Or do they just up it another notch? Because if they do, we really are headed for a civil war. They are already this close to wanting us rounded up in camps and tried for treason.

So let us consider very carefully before we step over the brink. We might not like where we end up.

Or we could just say screw it and go get the bastards who are destroying our country.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:29 AM

0 comments :: permalink


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Okay, it's out of my system.



What a bunch of crooks. Do you hear that, "moral" conservatives? CROOKS!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:28 AM

0 comments :: permalink


Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I know I should play nice. The ACLU does a lot of good work. Civil libertarians are frequently, maybe usually, on the same side. But when the Supreme Court considers revisiting one of the worst decisions in the last century, Buckley vs. Valeo, and the ACLU wants it upheld - well all I can say is screw them.

For those of you who aren't following, in the Buckley vs. Valeo decision the Supreme Court ruled that spending money on political campaigns is a protected form of free speech. This means that people can raise and spend all the money they like, and all laws saying otherwise are unconstitutional. The practical effect of this decision has been to grossly magnify the importance of wealth and celebrity in our political system. Only a very select group of people are capable of raising the vast sums needed to run for political office, so we have in effect instituted a wealth test for office.

I'm praying that the Court realizes this and strikes down (or at least extensively modifies) Buckley. From a legal perspective, they can do so on the grounds of the one man one vote and equal protection standards. I don't have a lot of faith in the Supreme Court, but on occasion this crew does do the right thing.

Which is why I have such special loathing for the ACLU. I expect incumbent politicians, Republicans, corporations, and well-financed special interest groups to want Buckley upheld. But the ACLU is supposed to be there to defend the legal rights of people who have no voice. Perhaps they can explain to me how creating an electoral oligarchy serves that purpose.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:27 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Now That's Going Too Far

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
I wrote a few days ago why I wasn't crazy about Freddy Ferrer's candidacy for Mayor. But vote for Bloomberg? That's going beyond the pale.

The rationale for Bloomberg has been laid out by Fred Kaplan at the Prospect:

The truth is, neither Bloomberg nor his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, is a
Republican by the national party's standards. Both men favor abortion rights,
gay rights, immigrants' rights, and gun control. (This is why, despite his
ambitions and popularity, Giuliani will never head a GOP presidential ticket.)
Bloomberg isn't even really a Republican: Until 2001, he was a registered
Democrat, and a liberal one at that; he ran for mayor that year as a Republican
strictly to avoid a crowded primary. (Opportunistic? Yes, but shrewd in an
inventively New Yorkerish way.) It's quite likely that if he had run in the
Democratic primary this year, he would have won handily.

Those who decry the Democrats-for-Bloomberg movement nonetheless admit that Bloomberg has been a surprisingly very good mayor. He's balanced the budget, averted union strikes, improved education (albeit marginally), pushed down the crime rate further (fairly significantly), and repaired much of the damage that Giuliani inflicted on the city's race relations. Giuliani had made New Yorkers doubt -- he wanted them to doubt -- that a big city could be run effectively and inclusively. Not the least of Bloomberg's accomplishments is that he showed that you can do both.

This might be a plausible case if one had no long-term memory. But unfortunately I can remember events more than three months ago. First, there is more to being a Democrat than social liberalism. Bloomberg's singleminded obsession with big corporations and stadiums betrays a big business sensibility greatly out of touch with Democrats.

Second, his list of accomplishments is appallingly meager: he failed to get the Olympics here, and failed to build a new stadium in Manhattan, failed to get any money from his buddies in Albany and Washington, failed to do anything about the housing crisis, and failed to institute non-partisan elections so that more people like him (i.e. not Democrats) could get elected. The crime rate was already falling (they have been for over a decade). His education policies are more style than substance, and are excessively top-down. He has tried to break local unions. His budget policies created the illusion of a surplus this year so he could offer a tax rebate, but the long-term situation is horrific. He has also thrown a lot of his personal money around for political purposes, creating a "creeping corruption."

But Bloomberg did invite the Republicans to exploit 9/11 for political purposes by holding their convention here, and he also authorized the abuse of peaceful protestors. He also replaced fresh with frozen and/or spoiled meals to seniors. What a guy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:27 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Supposed Moderates

Monday, September 26, 2005
"Moderates" enjoy a lot of prestige in political circles. Moderates are supposed to be the sober, sensible people who split the difference between the two political sides and don't get too worked up about things. Unfortunately, I think what today passes for moderation is really just a hodgepodge of inconsistent (and occasionally wrongheaded) points of view. If what you mean by "moderate" is the application of reason unclouded by prejudices, then I aspire to be a moderate. Unfortunately, when most people say "moderate" all I hear is lazy thinking.

Let me give you two examples of the positions of the "lazy middle."

Bull Moose thinks that what Russ Feingold did is great because it establishes the principle of deference to Presidential nominations. Therefore by voting for Roberts, Feingold has helped the next Democratic President get his nominees through. Of course, this presumes that a) there should be near-complete deference to the President on court nominations, and b) that Republicans will reciprocate Feingold's gesture - which we know from the Clinton years, when they held up tons of appointments, that they won't. Nothing quite like wish-fulfillment.

The Mighty Middle (via Commonsense Desk) suggests that there is a majoritarian centrist position in the U.S. represented by himself. His laundry list includes being in favor of the Iraq War but thinking it was incompetently managed, parental notification and late abortion bans but pro-choice in the 1st trimester, legalizing gay marriage, recognizing government as a necessary evil, pro-commercialization but also pro-progressive taxation/welfare state, anti-racism but pro-affirmative action, gun rights but gun safety, drilling in Alaska, drug legalization, easygoing secularism, and anti-censorship.

Now this smorgasbord of positions may or not represent where the majority of "middle" voters are, but my more important question is - what do they have in common? The easy answer would be "nothing" but the real answer is "just splitting the difference between conservatism and liberalism." The desire to do so is certainly understandable, but this just assumes that both sides have some truth to them, which isn't necessarily the case. One side could simply be wrong. In a debate between Eurosocialists and Communists, we know the Communists were wrong. In the debate between Fascists and Democrats, we know the Fascists were wrong. In the debate between civil rights advocates and segregationists, we know segregationists were wrong. In the debate between Lincoln and Douglas, we know Douglas was wrong. And today in the debate between evolutionary biologists and "intelligent design" advocates, we know the id'ers are wrong. Why? Because experience and reason tell us so.

So here's the problem: self-proclaimed moderates want to take the good from both sides of an issue in search of a better truth by recognizing the merits of each. But this only works when both sides of the debate have some merit. And in most cases I would suggest that conservative ideology is so distorted, so distant from our basic orientation as human beings, that any negotiation with them, any compromise, is just a deal with the devil.

Moderatism is NOT just splitting the difference between two sets of arguments. If it was, then we would be halfway to fascism, racism, and tyranny (oh, wait). Moderatism is the cool application of reason to the facts of the case. So I would contend that there is a true "moderate" position in American politics, and that position is liberalism. It's not our fault the other side is just kooky.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:26 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Proofreaders Wanted

Friday, September 23, 2005
Go quick, before they fix it, to the Washington Post website and look at the left column about halfway down under the "Style" subsection. The title of the article is "Two Families United by Tradegy." Tee hee.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:25 AM

0 comments :: permalink

The South & Race (Again)

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Matt Yglesias says here that for all of our talk about "culture" and "values", race remains the primary determining factor in Southern elections. And Digby notes that this racial politics is a big part of why we don't have things like national health care. The legacy of slavery is what distinguishes America from other industrial democratic nations.

This is all pretty obvious, although worth keeping in the forefront of our minds. The point was made as long ago as W.E.B. DuBois, who was trying to explain why socialism got nowhere in America. The answer is easy - conservatives in America have been able to use the racial divide to change the subject away from class. If we are all tribal groups warring over supremacy, the elites in society will be able to rob the store. The racial split in the South is so deep that conservatives have been able to maintain power there, and have used that regional supremacy to win power in the nation at large, using the South as a political base.

But where I would like to depart (or at least modify) Matt and Digby's argument is that in America, race is a cultural question. "Cultural group" might in fact be a better method of identification than race. Southerners on both sides have a cultural history deeply effected by the legacy, which colors their opinions on every subject. Where slavery is present, you see the spirit of domination and rationalizations of superiority (and inferiority). Whites, as the dominant social class, have acquired as a group all of the psychological attributes of the Romans - social hierarchy, intense religiosity, militarism, and a personalized, oligarchic politics. And because skin color is the determining factor for ancestry, white nationalists have been able to attach a permanent stigma to blacks in the minds of Southern whites.

The question is how to solve this problem. Because as long as this vein in the Southern psychology remains dominant, liberals are going to have a gigantic political problem. I don't have an easy answer for you. Essentially we have to hope that the homogenizing power of the mass media will eventually mute the distinctiveness of the South. But whenever someone talks about their "Southern Heritage," at least you know what they are referring to.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:25 AM

0 comments :: permalink


Tuesday, September 20, 2005
There's a lot worth commenting on, so I'll get to it....

1) The Backlash is apparently alive and well. The New York Times has seen fit to do an article on the new tendency of educated women to prefer motherhood to careers. This is what Susan Faludi calls a "trend" article. Their evidence is an email survey of 190 students at 2 Ivy League schools. So a tiny sample size with a self-selected set of interviews justifies front page coverage on the country's #1 newspaper? How about I start a sample of all my friends asking them whether I'm a cool guy or not, and then get a headline on the NYT claiming that "Publius is the coolest guy around!" I don't know what's more offensive - their misogyny or their incompetence.

2) Washington Post headline: "Recruits Sought for Porn Squad." Sign me up! Do they write these stories just to make us giggle? And why are we diverting scarce FBI resources to this when there are people trying to destroy the country? Y'know, like in the White House?

3) A panel by Jimmy Carter and James Baker has an election reform proposal. They want better technology for maintaining the voter lists, to require voter id's, better registration, electronic machines with paper receipts, and a regional system of primaries after Iowa and NH.

A lot of this sounds good. Unfortunately the voter id provision seems suspect, since it relies on the states actually providing everyone a free id. It also shifts the burden from the state to the voter, and changes the presumption that someone is a voter to one that someone is not a voter - not exactly a positive change.

I'm also opposed to the regional primary, since it will just magnify the importance of the big states. Kevin Drum thinks that we should just accept that money and wholesale politics is inevitable, which is why he wants to strip NH and Iowa of their privileged position. I say, why make a problem worse?

There is a better alternative anyway - the "small state bias" system of primaries going from large to small states every week of the primary process in clusters. This would diminish the importance of money and make for a dramatic finish to the primary season in June, like what we used to have. And hey, if you want to change the nomination system, how about just restore the 2/3 rule and/or make the primaries nonbinding "beauty contests" again? That would restore the nomination structure to that of the 1960's, which represented a good balance of virtues.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:24 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Silver-Spoon Candidates

Monday, September 19, 2005
The New York Times wrote an interesting piece this weekend on the effect that term limits has had on encouraging young candidates to run for office. Which would amount to a good argument for term limits (which I have generally opposed). There was one thing in the article that really disturbed me, however...

...A 2003 study by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers found that roughly half of all governors, United States senators and members of Congress held their first electoral office before the age of 35. The study also found that politicians under 35 are overwhelmingly male (as are elected leaders in general), that 81 percent of them are white and that 29 percent have relatives who are or were in politics.

The first part isn't so surprising, since it takes time to climb the political ladder. The earlier you start, the better chance you have to advance. But the second point, that nearly a third of young candidates are members of political families... that's pretty disturbing. Sure, I can see how it works: if you grow up around politics, you're likely to get involved earlier in life. And it may be that "families involved in politics" means mostly activists rather than elected officials - but I'm a little sceptical of this point, given the decline in the number of activists over the last generation.

What bothers me is the possibility that an unintended consequence of term limits is to elect a bunch of people from political dynasties. And that's not democracy - it's aristocracy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:23 AM

0 comments :: permalink

If John Roberts Were On A Date With America

Friday, September 16, 2005
"You're so intelligent."

"I really understand what you're saying."

"Do you want to watch a movie?"

"There's nothing at the theater that's good. Why don't we just go watch a video at my place?"

"I have some wine. Want some?"

"Have another glass."

"Have another glass."

"Have another glass."

"Have another glass."

"Have another glass."

"It's late and you shouldn't drive. Just crash here."

"That couch is uncomfortable. Lay down here. We'll just sleep."

"Let's just cuddle."

"I haven't felt this way about anyone in a long time. I feel like a really know you."


"That was great."

" I have to go to work. "

"I'll call you later."

"This is John Robert's answering machine. I'm not here right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you."

"This is John Robert's answering machine. I'm not here right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you."

"This is John Robert's answering machine. I'm not here right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you."

Boy the NYT is stupid.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:22 AM

0 comments :: permalink

How Depressing

Thursday, September 15, 2005
So it looked yesterday like we were going to have a runoff for NY mayor, and then my candidate bailed. Anthony Weiner dropped out, citing the importance of party unity.

Needless to say this really took the wind out of my sails. Some of my friends were ready to jump off a cliff. I think Weiner meant what he said, but I also believe that he made the calculation that a) Bloomberg is not going to be beaten by anybody (he's got a 60% approval rating and $100 million dollars) and b) that if there was a runoff, Weiner would be risking any future Latino support.

I'm not sure this is an appropriate calculation. Four years is a long time, and Weiner has disappointed a lot of people by not fighting it out. Our system has rules, and we should play by them. The nomination shouldn't be handed to anybody just so we can avoid a fight - political office must be earned. Beyond that, William Thompson (the African-American comptroller) and Adolfo Carrion (the Latino Bronx Borough President) will be running in four years, and Weiner will be faced with the same strategic dilemma all over again: how to defeat someone from one of those ethnic group without alienating their supporters.

One final thing: I've had it with Ferrer's supporters accusing his critics of implicit racism. We don't dislike Freddy because he's Latino. We dislike him because he's a bad candidate. We dislike him because he has some absurd policy positions. We dislike him because he's vaciallated on abortion and the death penalty. We dislike him because he has surrounded himself with some people of questionable character. And we dislike him because he and his friends sabotaged Mark Green in 2001. They literally closed the doors of Bronx County Headquarters on election day, and the Bronx leader's son endorsed Bloomberg that year. It takes a lot of nerve to demand we support your candidate in the name of party unity when you have never displayed any.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:49 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Mixed Bag

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I'm still exhausted from my 20-hour day working in the NYC campaign yesterday. I'll talk more about it tomorrow. Needless to say the evening was a qualified success. Weiner made the runoff, but only by the skin of his teeth. So we're looking at a very tough two weeks ahead.

In other news, our local city council candidate won what was supposed to be a tough race with 73% of the vote. Sweet.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:49 AM

0 comments :: permalink

What Majority?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The New York Times is propagating a very strange but regrettably popular notion of racial identity. In today's article, they note that for the first time non-Hispanic Whites will no longer make up a majority of the city's voting population. They act like this is a revolutionary development, when it fact it is quite a boring one.

According to the U.S. census and popular cant, there are five races in the United State: white, black, hispanic, asian, and native american & pacific islander. So Germans, Irish, Jews, and Italians are all pretty much the same. As are descendants of southern slaves and Jamaicans, or Mexicans & Puerto Ricans, or Koreans & Pakistanis.

Am I the only one who finds this absurd? There is no country of "Whitia" nor am I a "Whitean." In fact, New York (and America's) white population has been internally divided from the beginning. The country was founded by the English, but they haven't made up a plurality (much less a majority) since the late 1800's. In New York, there has never been an ethnic majority. To suggest that there has is to blind oneself to the tensions that have existed between English, Dutch, German, Irish, Italian, and Jewish populations (among others) for the last 300 years.

What's sad about this piece is that the Times should know better. In their own piece they note the ethnic fragmentation of the Latino, African, and Asian populations. For some reason they fail to apply the same standard to whites.

So while it's true that no longer will one ethnic group will dominate the political affairs of our largest city, my response is.. what else is new?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:45 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Weiner for Mayor

Monday, September 12, 2005
Being Mayor of New York isn't quite like being Mayor of any other city in America. It's a little like being Governor of state (NYC would rank in the top 10 or so), given the population. And there are a plenty of countries that are smaller. But beyond that, New York is the economic and cultural center of the United States and the world's de facto political capitol. It is therefore no small thing to decide who should lead it.

For the last three years or so I've lived New York City. I'm therefore hardly a native, but I have grown to love this town a great deal. It is here that I have learned to agree with Aristotle - there is something about cities that provides human goods available nowhere else. Whether it is the fact that I am cheek & jowl with every race and ethnicity, or the availability for great cultural institutions and civic space, or even the sheer size and diversity of the place - I have certainly discovered that living in New York is a truly unique experience.

But New York has a problem. For most of its history, there have been extremes of wealth and poverty. But it was also a place where working and middle class people had a real opportunity to make a living, educate their children, find a nice place to live, and start a business of their own. The winds of economic change have made this increasingly difficult all over the country, but particularly here in New York. Many of the city's workers are forced to live in New Jersey, Westchester, or Long Island because the schools are terrible and the rents too high. Every day a row of mom & pop stores gets replaced by a big box chain store. Every day a block of 100 year old brownstones gets torn down to make way for a high-rise luxury apartment building. So every day New York loses a little bit of its soul.

While these changes have occurred, the city has (strangely enough) been led by Republican mayors. Predictably, they have done everything they can to play off one ethnic group against another in an effort to maintain power. While doing so they have done nothing to address the fundamental problem of New York - can regular people afford to live here - while accelerating the process of destruction. Guiliani was in your face about it, which made him very controversial. Bloomberg has a softer voice, but he is actually more single-minded about destroying the essence of New York. When people express a liking for Bloomberg, it makes me extremely angry. Not only can they not point to one specific thing he has done to help the city, but they seem to forget all the things he has done to distract or damage it. So the ethnic diversity that has always been one of the great things about the city has been used against it: Jew against Hispanic against Black against Asian against whatever.

In 2005 we get to elect a Mayor. Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx Borough President, has a great deal of experience but is clearly an unserious person, as witnessed by his absurd stock transfer tax. He is closely tied to one of the most corrupt political organizations in the country and I have no desire to see the city return to the days of Tammany Hall. The Bronx machine is also a tool in the hands of Puerto Rican nationalists who want to co-opt or marginalize every other ethnic group. Hardly a recipe for a great city.

Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, is a very nice woman. I've talked to her. She is also boring, long-winded, without ideas, and weak. In a prosperous era when there is little to running New York I might support her - it'd be nice to have a woman mayor - but I'm afraid she just isn't up to the challenge.

Gifford Millor is the Speaker of the New York City Council. He's been a very effective leader and I like some of his ideas - particularly his renter's tax credit. But he's run into some problems with borderline campaign finance practices and has run a pretty flawed campaign. It's been about his ideas, which is good. But this is an age of personality politics, and he's told us nothing about him. More importantly, his positive accomplishments as Speaker have largely been in cooperation with Bloomberg, which makes it hard for him to really distinguish himself from the Mayor.

And finally there is Anthony Weiner. A 40-year old congressman from the outer boroughs, he has a middle-class background and is full or energy and policy suggestions. I'm not crazy with everything he has proposed (such as a 10% tax cut paid for by an increase in the tax on millionaires - something that is fiscally risky and that requires permission from the state), but some of his other notions - like strengthening discipline in the classroom, expanding ferry service, and taking over the MTA, I like very much. More importantly, his entire campaign has been focused on a simple proposition: New York must be led by a Mayor who understands what it is like to struggle and who is focused on the difficulty of a middle-class person making a go of it in this town. He has therefore, I believe, put his finger on the essential problem facing New York. It's smart politics, it transcends racial messages for social ones, and it is exactly the right question to ask. Which is why I'm going to get up at 5Am tomorrow and spend all day campaigning for him.

Wish me luck.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:44 AM

0 comments :: permalink

The Rehnquist Record

Friday, September 09, 2005
I've hesitated to make any comments about Chief Justice Rehnquist's demise, but there's been far too much worshipping coverage for me to remain silent. What is it with the press wanting to say that anyone dead was a Great Man?

I have no idea what Rehnquist was like as a person. I can only evaluate his influence on the Court system. And from that point of view, Rehnquist was at best irrelevant and at worst pernicious. Pernicious in that the doctrines he pushed are profoundly antithetical to the vein of 20th century jurisprudence. Irrelevant in that he was one of the most ineffective Chief Justices in the history of the Supreme Court. I mean seriously, how often was this dude in the minority? 90% of the time? He, Scalia, and Thomas have been the wacky wight wing on the court for a decade now.

Great Chief Justices use their legal acumen and political skill to steer the court through the political shoals of the era in a direction favorable to their ideology. What has Rehnquist done? Presided over to erosion of the Court both in popular esteem and political independence. And to the degree that the Court's jurisprudence has moved in his ideological direction, it has to do with court-packing by conservative Presidents rather than Rehnquist's own political skill.

Sorry, but Rehnquist is no great figure. He's simply a politically connected hack lawyer who got lucky.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:38 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Black Lining

Thursday, September 08, 2005
Hey, it's been awhile since a bashed David Brooks. I even liked his last piece. I thought "maybe Katrina has finally gotton Bobo to open his eyes!" Silly me.

In today's foray into Neverland Brooks suggests that there is a silver lining to the whole Katrina disaster - namely that it gives us an opportunity to conduct experiments on New Orleans' poor. He doesn't put it that way, but it's what he's really talking about. Brooks thinks that we should use the blank slate that Katrina has made of New Orleans to disperse the poor into middle-class neighborhoods in the suburbs where their children will learn the habits of the sober American middle class and break out of the cycle of poverty.

Where to begin? The first consequence of moving the poor into subsidized housing in the suburbs (which is what we are really talking about here) is that housing prices will drop and the middle class people in the area will leave. You will have replaced urban poverty with suburban poverty. Speaking of, does Brooks really think that all poor people live in inner cities? If so he has never even seen an exurban region, where so many of them live. Ever heard of a trailer park, Dave?

The second result of this policy will be to gentrify the inner city. Now this appears to be where most cities are moving anyway. In my beloved New York, the poor and middle class are being forced out of town because housing prices are so astronomical. Every time a new building goes up it's for luxury apartments. Now maybe Brooks just doesn't want poor people cluttering up his sidewalk, but I fail to see how just moving around the poor is a real social policy.

I also fail to know where the resources and commitment to this policy are going to come from. Brooks' favorite President and political party have underlined their total contempt for the poor during this tragedy. Do we really believe that they are now going to turn around and use the political and economic capital needed to help them? Puh-lease.

Brooks fails to recognize what is so great about cities: that they mix up people of different backgrounds and classes, block by block. In this way we are forced to deal with fellow citizens who are different from us. This is where the great energy and and creativity of the city comes from. The inner city problem is in part the result of the urban renewal disaster that concentrated the poor. We should be breaking up those masses, but within the city, not outside of it. Moving the poor out the the suburbs won't make them less poor - it will just make them less visible.

Which is what I am guessing Brooks and his Republican friends really want: not to help the poor, but to make them easy to ignore. Because a problem you can't see isn't really a problem, is it?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:02 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Listen Carefully

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
You heard it here first: we are headed back into a recession. Don't believe me? Just look at the evidence on the front page of the NYT. The effects of Hurricane Katrina are a big part of it - we're going to lose 400,000 jobs, face gigantic cleanup costs, and have to deal with dramatic increases in fuel costs (here and here). But we'd have a big problem even without Katrina - there is a slowdown in productivity growth and the housing market is beginning its long-anticipated decline.

Let me make one other prediction. While the Times and others have speculated that our emerging economic difficulties will make it difficult for Bush to pursue his economic agenda, I think that Dear Leader will do what he has always done - make lemons into lemonade. In a recession, what could be better than more tax cuts?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:02 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Ridiculous, Predictable, and Bizarre

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
So Bush has decided to nominate Roberts for Supreme Court Chief Justice. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has continued to carry water for him by describing him as an advocate of judicial restraint.

I can think of 3 responses to the new Roberts nomination:

1) It's absurd to nominate a man with 2 years of judicial experience to Chief Justice of the country's highest court. Bush just can't be serious. We should dismiss the idea and move on.

2) The fact that Bush has nominated Roberts demonstrates the level of competence he is currently displaying with regard to the New Orleans fiasco. This administration has brought us failure in Iraq, the longest period of slow growth in American history, murdered thousands along the Gulf through neglect and disinterest, and now is putting cyphers in charge of our civil liberties.

3) This man's views are strange and cultish. His argument doesn't seem to be with liberalism but with the 20th century. The Post can say what it likes, but when its own headlines proclaim that Roberts was "influenced by critics of the Warren Court" we should all sit up and take notice. That was the court that established meaningful individual rights for millions of Americans. To attack it is to attack liberty itself. And Roberts' so-called "judicial restraint" only seems to apply to regulations on corporations. He never hesitated to argue for judicial activism when he use the court's power to gut environmental or civil rights laws.

Those who say that we can't invoke ideology when evaluating a judge don't really mean what they say. If there was a judge of great experience and insight who was an avowed Communist or NAZI, would he consider him acceptable to the bench? Of course not. Well Roberts' views about civil rights, executive power, corporate autonomy, and the environment are equally radical. You might say " well millions of Americans and the President himself hold those opinions, how bizarre can they be?" To which I would respond: so much the worse for us. Lots of well-meaning Germans voted for Hitler, and many respectable southerners supported George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Just because a lot of people and major political figures believe something doesn't make those beliefs okay.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:01 AM

0 comments :: permalink


Sunday, September 04, 2005
Finally some good news. My wife has made an oath which I fully support and will do everything in my power to make a reality.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:01 AM

0 comments :: permalink

More Outrage

NYT headline: President Hastert Cancels Relief Effort.

Result: No one notices.

Where I am I going with this? Well check this out: According to Crooked Timber, they are keeping out the Red Cross. Because, y'know, it's not like there aren't thousands of people without food and water trapped there.

I have one more thing to say to my Bush-voting friends out there: I told you so.

P.S. Oh crap.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:00 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Invoke the 25th Amendment!

Saturday, September 03, 2005
Hey George, if you're not going to use the Presidency, may we borrow it for a while?

We have no President, so it's time to replace him with someone else. Cheney is missing, so I suppose under the rules it has to be Denny Hastert. Oh well. At least things can't get any worse.

But what about Bush, you say? Well the national guard has finally arrived in New Orleans four days after the flood when we had two days advance notice. Is this is the kind of response we can expect if there is a major terrorist attack on an American city? The "President" strums his guitar and goes on vacation while thousands die while the religious right talks about we asked for it? And just to make sure that the catastrophe is complete, we hired Halliburton (via Pandagon) to clean up New Orleans, guaranteeing that the place will degenerate into chaos and Cheney will make a buck. Sorry, but I can't seem to find the "do nothing in time of national crisis" provision in Article II. We don't have to impeach these guys because they're not even here.

This is the most appalling display of incompetence seen in an American executive since at least Herbert Hoover, and perhaps since James Buchanan wandered around the White House in a daze as the South seceded. But thankfully we have a Constitutional remedy. Congratulations to our 44th President, Dennis Hastert! (sigh)

P.S. I firmly endorse this idea from Rude Pundit.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:59 AM

0 comments :: permalink

A Brief Note on Katrina

Friday, September 02, 2005
As I watch the horrors unfold, I find myself unable to speak intelligently about them. All I can say is that our response to the disaster has been worse than the disaster itself. Between the implicit racism and lack of political response, I just don't know where to direct my anger. All I can say for sure is that there is no way Bush & Co. can really believe in an afterlife, because if there is one they're definitely going to hell. Between the "my pet goat" and the guitar-strumming, it's clear that our leader is no leader at all - just the image of a leader. Which is after all what we voted for. Shame on us.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:58 AM

0 comments :: permalink

Rude Pundit Gets It

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Rude Pundit talks a little dirty, but he puts his finger on the main point of cultural conservatism in this post. Apparently the new Iraqi constitution, after excluding women from its preamble (repeating our mistakes), includes a provision stating that individual liberties are contingent on "general morality." In addition, all laws must be consistent with Islam. This means that the eventual imposition of an Iranian-style theocracy is all but inevitable.

Is this what our people are bleeding and dying for? Is this why we are spending astronomical sums? So that we degrade women and oppress dissenters?

One could wonder why the Christian Republican Party would be in such a hurry to help radical mullahs impose their beliefs on Iraq. But such curiosity would betray a real ignorance about the motivations of the Theocons. Their definition of "liberty" is the medieval definition: freedom is the freedom to follow God's will (defined my me). As I've said before, their beliefs are other-regarding - they are about what other people should do. Which don't make them personal beliefs but public ones, the religious nature of which bars them from the public forum. Apparently these morons can't read the First Amendment any better than they can read the bible.

So the reason that Pat Robertson etc. aren't up in arms attacking the new Iraqi constitution isn't that they're afraid to criticize Dear Leader. It's that they think we should do the same thing here.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:58 AM

0 comments :: permalink