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I'm With the Rude Pundit

Friday, June 29, 2007
Check it out.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:16 PM

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Check, but not Checkmate.

The Supreme Court decisions of the last few days have revealed the new contours of the nation's highest judicial body: 2 open reactionaries (Scalia & Thomas), 2 thinly concealed reactionaries (Alito & Roberts), 4 moderates (Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens), and 1 easily manipulated waffler (Kennedy). We can expect for the forseeable future many more 5-4 decisions that substantively overturn major court cases while theoretically preserving them. Scalia & Thomas will call for a forthright overturning of precedent, Alito & Roberts will perform verbal gymnastics in order to cover up their identical positions, and Kennedy will get bullied into going along by the court's conservative majority. For the next decade at least, there is no liberal law or egalitarian judicial decision which is safe from the runaway Supreme Court.

At first glance it would appear that there is very little that can be done. The decisive battles were fought in the 2004 election and the 2005 confirmation battles, and we lost both of them. No matter what kind of political majorities Democrats are able to build in the next dozen years, no matter what sort of policies we manage to enact to reverse the disastrous course of the last seven (or twenty-seven) years, the right-wing Court will be there to stop us. It is the Supreme Court, not Iraq, that is George Bush's ultimate legacy.

I am not quite ready prepared to concede the match, however. The Court is a body of awesome power, but it is vulnerable to external pressure. The Supreme Court's power resides neither in the purse nor the sword, but only the law - something that Bush and his henchman have demonstrated is a very weak power indeed.

As I see it we have 2 basic strategies open to us. The first could best be described as a war of attrition. It is the accept the composition of the Court, working to mitigate its damage through legislative enactment when we can, and allowing the passage of time to remove the 70-year old Scalia & Kennedy from the bench. There is some promise in this approach. While civil liberties questions are outside of Congressional power to overrule the Court, it would be possible (but radical) to get around the Roberts Court on economic issues by amending the laws of incorporation. Corporations are products of positive legislation, without explicit protection by the constitution. "All" we would have to do is amend the laws to state that corporations do not have the legal status of persons.

But strategy #1 carries enormous risks. Democrats might not hold the Presidency when new retirements take place. The Court might extend its reach over economic regulation by striking down the amendments I proposed. And tremendous damage will take place in the meantime. I am not optimistic about the long-term benefits of such a strategy.

Which brings me to option #2 - a strategy of confrontation. An extremely aggressive approach would be to intimidate the Court by threatening their jurisdiction and funding, or attempting to impeach Roberts or Alito (who may have committed perjury during their confirmation hearings by claiming they would uphold precedent and then failing to do so). These tactics would probably fail, and even if they succeeded would inflict tremendous harm on the constitutional balance.

A less extreme version of the strategy of confrontation would be to apply public pressure - congressional censures, public protests, and most particularly making the Courts and their decisions an explicit political issue. The Democrats in the next Presidential campaign should highlight these decisions, which if they were well-known would be extremely unpopular with the general public. No Supreme Court justice, and most especially not Anthony Kennedy, wants to see the Supreme Court become an issue in electoral campaigns. I believe that making Supreme Court decisions a major element in the campaign would also help Democrat electorally, since it could force the campaign to be much more substantive. The last thing the Republicans want to talk about is repealing environmental laws or gutting civil liberties.

Now some would say that we should not politicize the Courts. To which I respond - the Courts are already politicized. The days of moderate judges who invoke careful legal reasoning drawn from precedent is over. The Court is now ruled by the same clique that we just toppled from power in the Congress and that has drawn Bush down to 26% in the polls. The "four horsemen" on the Court are a constituent element of the conservative movement, faithful vassals of the Republican Party. They should be treated accordingly. One does not give respect to an office when the man holding it is so obviously unfit.

Oh, and by the way - every future judicial nominee by George Bush should simply be rejected out of hand. He's done enough damage. Better no judges at all than more wingnuts.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:23 AM

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Supreme Court Guts Brown vs. Board of Ed

Thursday, June 28, 2007
Pretty shocking news, isn't it? I won't dwell on the specifics. But it does behoove us to consider how the sane people in this country are going to reign in a wacky Supreme Court while overcoming an obstructionist Senate minority. I'll be writing about those subject soon, but first I think I've earned an "I told you so." From a post I wrote after Alito was confirmed:

The second thing we need to think about is what we are going to do about the Courts. For decades now liberals have relied on good judges bailing us out after we lose elections. The Theocons pass prayer in schools requirements or something and the Supreme Court strikes it down. We always had the Court backing us up. That is no longer going to be the case -the other side is going to have control. We'd better figure that out quickly, or we are going to suffer some major surprises. Three more years of Bush is going to give them a chance to consolidate their hold on the federal courts. And what if another Supreme Court Justice dies or retires, like John Paul Stevens? Or what if the Democrats lose in 2008?

We are going to have to come to grips with the reality of conservative domination of the Courts. What do we do when they nullify environmental laws, or eviscerate habeus corpus rights? What do we do when they undermine collective bargaining and the minimum wage? What do we do when they uphold religious indoctrination in public schools? As I have said several times before, when we finally do regain control, we might be forced into a major confrontation with the Courts. Do we pack them like Roosevelt? Do we try a Judge for impeachment just to send a message? Do we strip them of jurisdiction? Or do we just tamely watch them repeal the 20th century?

We need to think hard but fast about these problems, because we don't have much time to come up with solutions. As bad as things are, I have a feeling that they could get considerably worse. We all want to think that the worst is over, that they're bound to get better. A sentiment I'm sure was shared by Germans in 1932.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:16 PM

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Shocking Developments

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Political Press Corps Demonstrates Stupidity!

So Bill Richardson is surging in the polls! He's gaining in Iowa and New Hampshire! So it Mitt Romney!! Wowie!

Except Richardson and Romney have been the only ones running TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire for weeks. Of course Romney is at a respectable 10% nationally, but Richardson is at a measly 4.

These guys need to shut up until they, y'know, learn something.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:11 PM

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The Electability Criterion

Many liberal bloggers these days are very down on the concept of electability. Put most eloquently by Chris Bowers, the idea is that candidates who are perceived as electable are really just wishy-washy moderates who can't run effective general election campaigns, thus resulting in a demobilized base and a smear job by the Republicans. Far better, so the theory goes, to nominate a passionate true-Blue Democrat who will fight back. The primary example deployed in this argument is John Kerry, who supposedly was a weak nominee destined to lose. Advocates for this position also sometimes suggest that the Republicans never worry about electability.

Except which candidate today is arguing that he should be the nominee because he is the most electable? Why, progressive/populist John Edwards, the man who is running the sort of campaign the "netroots" has been clamoring for. Now Edwards is probably just making the not-so-subtle point that Democrats are taking a huge risk if they nominate a black of a woman, but there is also the case to be made that white Southern male Democrats do better among swing voters in the border states and farm belt. It's not fair, but there it is.

Beyond the case of Edwards, I must object to the notion that Kerry was a poor nominee. Despite what many of my fellow bloggers would like to believe, Howard Dean would have been devoured by Karl Rove. We must remember that Kerry won 48% of the vote against a sitting President in wartime - no minor accomplishment. Did he run a sufficiently aggressive campaign? Perhaps not. But there is a case to be made that a) he faced a hostile press - as would any Democrat, and b) it is extremely difficult to "go negative" against wartime Presidents without appearing unpatriotic. I am not so convinced that any Democrat, running any sort of campaign, would have done any better against Bush. It's a pretty iron-clad rule that Presidents get their approval ratings on election day, no matter who the opposing nominee is. Bush was in (barely) positive territory, and he got a close win.

What is truly bizarre, however, is the suggestion that a political party interested in winning elections would not take a candidate's potential vote-getting ability into account. The ability to win is always the dominant concern of any nomination contest. And of course the Republicans take electability into consideration, which is why Tancredo and Brownback are also-rans and that useful cypher Fred Thompson is leading in the polls.

None of this is to say that Democrats shouldn't desire a candidate who will champion liberal ideas. But if that candidate can't win, then what's the point in nominating him/her? Do you truly believe it's better to end up with a Republican in office than a middle-of-the-road Democrat? Sounds like some real Naderish reasoning to me.

I am not saying that electability should be our sole concern, but I am arguing that it is a conditioning factor on every other consideration. Think of it as a simple equation, in which the wisdom of supporting a candidate (C), is equal to our support of that candidate's issues (I) multiplied by his/her likelihood of winning (W). If W is close to zero, then it really doesn't matter what I is, does it? As Lyndon Johnson said, there is nothing more useless than a dead liberal.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:27 PM

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Like That's A BAD Thing Or Something

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I do like people, I do! What are they talking about?

I got the same results on the Myers-Briggs before, except my Extrovert score is WAY higher now. It used to be 50/50 extrovert/introvert.

Your Score: Dictator- ENTJ

66% Extraversion, 86% Intuition, 53% Thinking, 53% Judging

Have you no soul? It's clear you have no heart and that your blood runs cold, but really, do you have even one redeeming factor?

Sure. You're a natural born leader. So was Hitler. You just don't like people, do you?

You don't play games. You take charge. And there's very little room for mistakes in your world. You're forceful, intimidating and overbearing.

Heard of the word "patience?" Trust me, it's a word and it's something you're sorely lacking. Believe it or not, you're not always right. Learn to have some patience for those who think differently from you, knobflap.

From the way people's knees knock when they see you, you should have realised by now that you're not exactly a "people-person." You're more of a "people-eater." You just ain't tuned into people's feelings and probably couldn't care less whether you were anyway. Maybe you're not from this planet but the rest of us are.

Sure, you're intelligent. So what? You have some semblance of power. Big deal.

At least people LIKE the rest of us.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Freak - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:08 AM

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"Scraping By"?

Monday, June 25, 2007
A letter posted at Salon:

My husband and I are well-educated professionals who have scraped and saved for what we have. I myself have money issues to the point of making sure that we have at least one year of living expenses in savings because I'm afraid of losing what I have.

The merits of her dilemma aside, I must say that anyone who can afford to give somebody else 5 grand and has saved a year's worth of income is not someone facing financing problems. Get some goddamn perspective, all right?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:38 AM

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Opening Night, Baby

Friday, June 22, 2007
I just learned a whole bunch about an Iron Man movie coming out next year (thanks Occasional Superheroine!), with Robert Downey as Tony Stark. I have drifted away from comics in the last few years, but when this comes out I am going to have to get my old boxes from my brother and geek out for a while. Hey, I'll be done with my dissertation by then, so what else will I have to do? Sorry honey!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:23 PM

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Dick Cheney Resigns!

I mean, how else does one interpret a letter from the Vice President stating that he is not a part of the executive branch? House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman (to whom the letter was sent) should just accept the resignation and begin proceedings to replace him. Then we should impeach Bush & remove him from office. President Pelosi, yaaaaaaaay!

Can I go back to bed now?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:14 AM

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Like A Fine Wine

Thursday, June 21, 2007
I purchased the complete 7 season Buffy the Vampire Slayer box set for Brazen Hussy last year for Christmas. We've been working steadily through them ever since (we just started Season 5), and I have a confession to make. That show was way, way better than I ever gave it credit for. Now I always liked it - I started watching it I think at the end of the first season or the beginning of the second. But because it was full of monsters and campy dialogue, I considered it a guilty pleasure.

Perhaps it's the distance since the show ended, or blooming nostalgia, or watching the episodes in a more compressed fashion, but I now think it was one of the greatest shows in the history of television. There's the clever allegories of angst actualizing as monsters, of course. There's the wonderfully believable three-dimensional characters, all of whom change in incremental and realistic ways during the series. There's the resistance to hackneyed plot - no end of season cliffhangers, no pregnancy scares, no deaths by main characters (there is that one resurrection by Angel, but I'll forgive it). But what I find truly striking is the sheer discipline of the show. It's amazing - they lay out a plot line and then leave it in the water for years, letting us get a nibble here, a nibble there, until they finally reel us in. The greatest temptation of writers is to rush to the good parts, but Joss Whedon is an expert in leaving us, not hanging, but savoring every twist and turn.

Only is it now, years after the show went off the air, that I really appreciate it for what it was. And now I'm going to have to go and buy that damned comic series Joss is writing to find out what happens next. Because with great characters, you are never ever finished.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:52 PM

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Bloomberg and the Church of High Broderism

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The press is suffering from yet another frenzy about a potential Presidential aspirant - Michael Bloomberg. In case you've lost track, that list now includes Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Al Gore, as well as Bloomberg. I know that journalists are desperate for an election of operatic complexity (it saves them from having to get bored, you see), but this is ridiculous. And by the way, is every politician in New York going to be running for President before 2007 is over? Is Mario Cuomo next?

Yglesias and Skinner have some good analysis on how a Bloomberg candidacy might play out. There's also some reasonable arguments that he would hurt the Republicans more, despite his moderate position on issues. All very worth reading.

What I want to focus on is not Bloomberg the candidate - he's just the latest flavor. While I detest Bloomberg, it's those supporting the possibility of a Bloomberg I think are truly worthy of scorn. The fatuous search for a third-party is not just the product of David Broder's midnight fantasies or the buffoonish ravings of a cabal of Hollywood dilettantes (i.e. "Unity08"). The desire for a third party is rooted mainly in the upper classes of American life - people who are socially tolerant, internationally myopic, and economically comfortable. These elites view the two major parties with disdain not just because the professional classes are accustomed to a nose-eye view of others, but because they believe that neither party truly represents their interests. The Democrats are too interested in the disadvantaged, and the Republicans too theocratic. So they look around every four years for someone who truly embodies their special, unique, privileged, and of course superior desires. After all, America belongs to them, right?

This is all hooey, of course. In reality the leadership of both parties is dominated by the professional classes, their leadership stuffed with morally inert quasi-imperalist free traders who make occasional nods to their respective bases (not that I will name any names). The reality of American politics is that there has indeed been a vital center - of incrementally more restrictive social policy, backhanded colonialism, and the concentration of wealth. Since the elites' checkbooks are fuller than ever, their sons don't fight in wars, and their daughters can get abortions, they are comfortable with Republican rule. Incrementalist Democrats are welcome as well, as long as they don't tinker with corporate profits and aren't peaceniks.

The possibility of populist rebellions against this D.C. elite in both parties - in the form of anti-immigration on the right or opposition to Iraq on the left, appears to have the beltway mandarins concerned, which explains their turgid moanings for a self-involved mediocrity like Bloomberg. It's a waste of time and limited (at best) to a gutter vote of about 10%, but it might happen. If America's professed leaders have demonstrated anything in the last decade, it's that they are entirely unacquainted with reality.

(cross-posted at Daily Kos)
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:41 PM

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What Do You Have To Do To Get Impeached Around Here

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Sign laws, then ignore laws. How is this legal again? But then, if the calls for a Libby pardon, Abu Ghraib, FISA, and the Iraq War didn't convince you that so-called person doesn't deserve to be president of a barrel of jello, then nothing will.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:53 AM

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If We're Winning, Why Have We Been Losing?

Friday, June 15, 2007
In case you haven't heard, Media Matters & the Campaign For America's Future has written a report claiming that, based on public opinion polls, we live in a liberal country, not a conservative one. Boy am I glad to hear that! And here I thought we'd been fighting a desperate struggle to preserve the Republic against religious zealots, imperialists, and greedy corporations!

All joking aside, I've read the report pretty carefully, and on the surface the authors make a pretty persuasive case. On issue after issue, whether economic or cultural or international, substantial majorities of voters favor a liberal narrative over a conservative one. This is not a revolutionary result - the Democracy Corps polls have routinely demonstrated similar results.

But given that America is a left-leaning country, how is it that conservatives have generally been able to get their own way for the last 30 years? We liberals might like to just say "presto!" and wish away right-wing political hegemony, but the reality is far different. So here are some reasons why Democrats have remained on the ideological defensive despite what seems a favorable political terrain - in order from bad to worse.

1) Organization. The Republicans are better organized than Democrats. You can either view that as a credit to them or a criticism about us, but it's a fact. Organization counts of a lot. This is of course very fixable if the D's get their act together.

2) Media. I've been reading Al Gore's book (which I'll review later), and from that and a number of other sources it's clear that whatever the status of public opinion, media elites are almost hostile to liberalism. The rise of the internet does give us the ability to push back against a hostile media narrative, but it's a much harder task than just registering voters.

3) Salience. While Democrats are on the side of the majority when it comes to health care, or guns, or abortion, most of the those who are passionate about these subjects are on the other side of the political aisle. People may consider themselves pro-choice, but do they necessarily vote on those issues? It seems like while we have the numbers, they have the intensity. As we saw with the Immigration Bill, a determined minority can defeat a lukewarm majority with surprising ease. It's possible that the sheer extremism of the Right is finally leading to a liberal counter-mobilization, but only time will tell.

4) Issue Voting. Here's the really worrisome thing: what if people don't vote based on issues? It is quite possible that people don't vote based on what they perceive to be their narrow interests (which in some senses is a good thing), but because of atmospherics - which candidate to they like more, which one makes them feel safer, etc. What if that crucial 20% of swing voters who are with us on the issues just don't care about issues? If that sounds like a situation dangerous to democracy, you're absolutely right. Voters who are easily swayed by substanceless emotional appeals are not self-governing citizens, but mere tools of propaganda. I certainly hope that isn't the case, but sometimes it certainly seems like it.

Having said all that, the objective circumstances running up to the 2008 election are so unfavorable to the Republicans that their aforementioned advantages may not matter. The Republican majority has been built in opposition to the nation's underlying political majority. I have to believe that eventually things will right themselves. I just have to.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:00 PM

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Imitating Atrios

This an edition of what Melissa said.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:39 AM

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Let's Not Take Anything For Granted

Thursday, June 14, 2007
(via Chris Hayes) Azar Gat correctly notes that the 20th century triumph of liberal democracies had more to do with the size of the U.S. than any inherent competitive advantage. He goes on to argue that if China and Russia stay on their present trajectory and become authoritarian capitalist states (like pre-WWII Germany & Japan), the U.S. will remain essential for preserving liberal democracy.

Has it occurred to Mr. Gat that we are moving in precisely the same direction as China and Russia? Who says the U.S. will always be a liberal democracy? Tell me, what does this description remind you of....

They could establish a powerful authoritarian-capitalist order that allies political elites, industrialists and the military; that is nationalist in orientation; and that participates in the global economy on its own terms...

Gat could just as easily be talking about the U.S. Republican Party as China or Russia, now couldn't he?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:22 PM

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Why Am I Blogging So Much Today?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Mainly because the third post I published I actually wrote back in February and forgot to put up. Silly me. Does that ever happen to you guys - you save something as a draft meaning to go back and proofread it, and then just forget all about it? Or am I some particular kind of fool?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:31 PM

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Constitutional Confusion and the Imperial Presidency

All reasonable people are shocked at Bush's ability to defy public opinion and the will of Congress in order to expand a war most people want to end. What concerns me most, however, is that even if Democrats do regain the Presidency in 2008, we will promptly forget that Bush's "unitary executive" is not an isolated instance. Presidents have been abrogating greater and greater powers to themselves for at least a century. Signing statements, fast track authority, executive agreements, executive orders, unilateral military actions, recess appointments - the list goes on forever. The expansion of presidential power in war and peace has reached alarming proportions, under Democrat or Republican.

The undemocratic character of this assertion of presidential power speaks for itself. But what is most annoying to me about the ever-more-bloated Chief Executive is how blatantly unconstitutional it is. These powers have been usurped through a selective misreading of Article II. Presidents have claimed these powers under the doctrine of "inherent powers" stemming from the "vested in clause," which states that all executive powers will be vested in a President. Advocates of the imperial presidency have claimed that the other powers mentioned in Article II - vetoes, appointments, pardons, commander in chief, diplomacy - should be considered as being fully under the control of the President by virtue of the vested in clause. The problem with this doctrine is that none of those powers are executive. Vetoes regard legislation and nominations to the bench concern the Judiciary. Most particularly, the appointment of ambassadors, the conduct of diplomacy, and the management of the army - whatever the popular conception may be - were never intended to belong exclusively to the President. Foreign policy and war are what the 2 chief influences on the framers, Locke and Montesquieu, called federative powers. They are intended to be shared with the Congress (which declares war and ratifies appointments and treaties), and the Courts (which adjudicates treaty enforcement). T0 claim that federative powers should be annexed to the executive is to have no idea what the executive power is - namely to enforce laws passed by Congress. That's it. Nothing more.

Even more dangerous is the heretical idea that Presidents have the authority to ignore the Constitution in times of crisis - something Bush has done repeatedly. These are what are called prerogative (or emergency) powers. If the founders intended for the President to have such authority, they most assuredly would have said so. Thankfully Hamilton and Madison were far too leery of the development of tyranny to suggest that Presidents should have the ability to ignore the Constitution at will - even in times of extreme crisis. The pernicious and heretical idea that Presidents have prerogative powers is the unfortunate legacy of Thomas Jefferson. When Napoleon offered Louisiana to the United States, Jefferson saw that the U.S. must buy the land or risk it passing to Great Britain. Unfortunately Jefferson's doctrine of strict construction barred him from buying the land, since nowhere did the Constitution mention any such power adhering to the federal government. Of course he did so anyway, but only by claiming that Presidents have prerogative powers - a precedent fraught with danger for the future.

The framers intended that the President share federative and appointment powers with the Congress, and that no one would have emergency powers. As we look at the Democratic candidates for the White House, we must keep in mind that we are electing a person who will control an executive branch that is threatening to consume the entire political system. We must insist that the Congress is and should be the most powerful branch of government. Democracies simply cannot afford to place too much power in the hands of any one person - whatever that person's party.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:51 PM

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Glenn Greenwald Rocks

Everything I always intended to say on the subject.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:35 PM

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More MSM Propaganda on Trade

In an article on Larry Summers (he of "girls can't be scientists" fame), NYT Magazine columnist David Leonhardt casually asserts the following:

Most [Democrats] globalization itself cannot be held back, because it stems more from the inexorable march of technology than from any change in trade laws. Credit-card call centers have moved to India and Ireland because they can function there, not because a new law allowed them to go. Trying to prevent jobs from leaving will create the problems that protectionism always had, like higher inflation and slower economic growth. But leaving the market to work its magic also won’t do.

I love how free trade rhetoric is always so uncontested in major publications.

Contention 1: Globalization is a product of technological change.
Reality: Globalization is as much a product of liberalized capital flows (from free trade agreements), low transportation costs (from government-supported low oil prices), weak labor unions (from government policy), and the embrace of markets by India, Eastern Europe, and China (from political decisions) as any "technology" genie.

Contention 2: Outsourcing is not due to trade policy
Reality: Not just trade policy, but the whole panoply of political action (and non-action) has facilitated globalization.

Contention 3: Protectionism leads to low growth and inflation
Reality: I demand evidence for this argument. I keep waiting for someone to identify a country which has successfully industrialized without some sort of industrial policy - usually in the form of protectionism. I keep waiting for someone to identify a major industrailized country other than the U.S. that does not practice some sort of protectionism. And I keep waiting for someone to present me with statistical evidence that tariffs leads to lower growth rates and higher inflation, controlling for other factors.

I am still waiting.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:51 AM

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If I Were In The Connecticut State Legislature....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I would introduce a recall law. You see, Joe Lieberman has been acting in a pretty outrageous fashion - between voting for Alberto Gonzalez and saying we should invade Iran - I think he needs therapy, not a seat in the U.S. Senate. At present there is no provision in Connecticut state law for removing a sitting officeholder. According to Wikipedia, the Democrats have a 2/3 majority in both houses of the General Assembly, so they theoretically have the power to override a veto by Republican Governor Jodi Rell. And of course the moment the law passed I'd work to get petitions to remove Lieberman from office. Let him explain to the voters why he broke every one of his campaign promises of 2006.

I know this isn't going to happen, but we can dream, can't we?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:25 AM

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Monday, June 11, 2007
That's my word of the day. I don't care that it's Monday. I don't care about administrative snafus, or an impending heat-wave, or slow computers, or stupid statistical programs. I don't care that the Cavs lost again, or that the ending of Sopranos sucked. I don't care about screwed up financial aid. I refuse to let any of those things bother me.

Brazen Hussy & I had a lovely weekend, and I have an adorable little kitten, and I'm happy, dammit. So all those frustrating obstacles can just drop dead. I am not going to be moved off my happy little cloud. So there.

That is all.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:27 PM

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How Dare He?

Friday, June 08, 2007
Of course he dares. In today's op-ed David Brooks (behind that darned subscription wall) attempts to claim the legacy of Alexander Hamilton. Creating an amusingly facile typology of free-marketeers, Hamiltonians, liberals, and populists, Brooks subscribes to the 2nd - an emphasis on human capital & light regulation, not micromanaging the economy or ameliorating its effects.

To which I say - balderdash. That isn't Hamiltonianism. As far as I know he never spoke to "human capital" other than his opposition to slavery. Perhaps Brooks is equating internal improvements with education, but that's quite a stretch, isn't it? And why precisely would the man who said the debt was a "national blessing" be freaking out over a non-existent entitlement problem?

The most egregious claim Brooks makes is to assert that Hamilton would have resisted government regulation of the economy. Hello! Hamilton was the founder of American protectionism and internal improvements! He advocated direct subsidies to new industries. How is that not government intervention in the economy?

It's probably boring to say so, but David Brooks is a buffoon.

P.S. Amen to Susie!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:46 PM

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Did I Ever Love Toys This Much?

Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:31 AM

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Corrected New York Times Headline

Thursday, June 07, 2007
It should not read "Europe and U.S. Reach Climate Deal"

It should read "Bush Tells Europe to Screw Themselves"

I mean honestly, how is an agreement to "seriously consider" doing something about global warming any kind of agreement at all?

Here's the meeting to "consider" reductions in emissions.

Condi Rice: "So Mr. President, what should we do about carbon emissions?"

Cheney: "Nothing."

Bush: "Yessir."

Condi: "Next subject. When do we attack Iran?....."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:11 PM

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Strange Wording

When did "pearl-clutching" as an insult (and a sexist & agist one at that) become such a popular catchphrase? And to describe Republicans, no less? Twice in an hour!

More heated debate on the Hill, when Lindsey Graham got all clutch-pearls over an amendment offered by Obama.... (Ana Marie Cox)

These law 'n order, national security tough guys are a bunch of pearl clutching, incoherent ninnies who don't have the integrity or the intelligence to protect a bunch of first graders crossing the street, much less the nation. (Digby)

Did I miss something or is this just coincidence? Or is Digby really Ana Marie Cox?

Okay, probably not.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:53 PM

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What I Was Always Afraid Of (Updated)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The scary scenario in Iraq was never civil war - this sort of low-grade conflict is in the fact the most I expected from our intervention. No, what I have feared is Iraq becoming the Flanders of the Middle East - the battleground among competing powers like the Saudis, the Turks, and the Iranians.

And it might be happening. If you trust the AP (via Think Progress), it's reporting that Turks have been crossing the border into Kurdistan. In case you're wondering, the Kurds are our best friends in Iraq, and the Turks our NATO allies. Not good. Not good at all.

Do you remember my caveat "If you trust the AP"? Well it turns out maybe we shouldn't. I should have learned my lesson by now.....
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:36 PM

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Yet Another Example of a Collective Action Problem

I get why they're putting on a Spanish-language Presidential debate. After all, a large proportion of Hispanics are Spanish speakers, and it behooves anyone wanting to be President to reach out to them. It satisfies both the interests of the candidates and an important voting bloc. It is useful and respectful voter outreach. But.....

I still think it's probably a bad idea. Not because of the specifics of the issue, and not because of the potential backlash of white nationalists voters. No, I'm afraid this is just where I part company with my fellow liberals. No common language, no country - it's as simple as that. I am not necessarily proposing making English the official language, or getting rid of Spanish/English signs. I just think that political discourse needs to be conducted in a way in which every citizen can watch and understand. To have a Spanish-only debate is to effectively exclude the vast majority of the citizenry from the debate. A Spanish translation? Sure. But the reality is that far, far more American voters are English speakers rather than Spanish ones. As such, political discussion has to be conducted in English. I mean, having 2 languages hasn't really helped Canada all that much, has it?

I'm not even sure that a Spanish-language debate would be that helpful to Hispanic voters. From a quick google, it turns out to be 75% of Hispanics are either English-dominant or bilingual. So why is this even necessary? And as I've said before, I am deeply concerned that linguistic bifurcation would make it very, very easy for unscrupulous politicians to manipulate their constituencies.

So at risk of getting flamed or being accused of being a racist, I wish this weren't happening. It's just one of those cases where every actor has an interest in doing what may not be the right thing for the country as a whole. Univision wants ratings, Spanish-dominant speakers want a convenient Presidential debate, and candidates want a chance to appeal to to Hispanic voters and don't want to be labeled as anti-Latino.

But I'm just concerned about where this is all heading. I think it is far more likely than not that Latinos will over the long term be a fully assimilated into American culture as every other immigrant group. But stuff like this certainly doesn't help in that cause. But maybe I'm wrong - I'm more than happy to entertain an argument on this point.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:00 AM

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I'm a bad blogger

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
And I don't care! I haven't posted since Thursday, apparently (and not so substantively even then), but so what? Brazen Hussy finally came back on Saturday! We've been having a lovely time. We even took a half-day yesterday and went to go see "Knocked Up," which was quite funny (although there were a few motivational problems - why did she keep the baby?). And then, even more fun, we re-arranged our office. If that doesn't sound like fun to you - me neither. But it looks nice now, so I suppose I'll just have to overlook the fact that I got roped into doing major reconstructive house surgery on a Monday. I finally have my camera back (Brazen absconded with it when she went to the field), so I'll try to take some pictures tonight.

I'm back forced into my usual pattern, of going to work and trying to squeeze in as much dissertation time there so I don't have to do it at home (and I can spend time with Brazen). 4 hours of diss work a day is enough, isn't it? Isn't it? Of course the fact that I can spend half the day at work doing my own thing tells you something about my job. To be honest, they either really don't need a full-time employee for this position or I'm spectacularly efficient. They seem to think it's the latter, so I won't dispel their illusions. Now it is true that I always look like I'm working......

Oh and by the way, check out this nice little piece by Al Franken on public financing of campaigns. Preach on, brother!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:21 AM

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