Archive

  • EXCEPTIONS PROVING RULES.

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

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

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

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

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

    THIS HAD TO HAPPEN TO CANADIANS. Canadians in Afghanistan have met an unexpected obstacle : Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of 10-foot-tall marijuana plants. Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana... "We tried burning them with white phosphorus -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said. Even successful incineration had its drawbacks. "A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hillier said dryly. That's a...
  • The Tierney Challenge: Lifting More People Out of Poverty Than Wal-Mart

    In today's column (Times Select) John Tierney asks what organization has lifted more people out of poverty than Wal-Mart. He points to the large number of poor people in the developing world who have seen substantial improvements in their living standards because they were able to work in factories producing goods for export to rich countries. While his counterfactual is a bit skewed (most of these people still would have been producing goods for export to rich countries even in the absence of Wal-Mart), his column should again remind real free-traders of the great humanitarian good that could be filled by the Wal-Mart Times. If only the proponents of free trade would eliminate the barriers that protect high paying jobs in rich countries for people like Tierney and Thomas Friedman, as well as the high-paying jobs of doctors, lawyers, and the other professionals who occupy the top ranks of the pay scale in the United States, hundreds of millions of people in the developing world could...
  • A SLIGHT OVERSIGHT.

    A SLIGHT OVERSIGHT. Paul Krugman 's column today makes the obvious but always crucial point about what's at stake in three weeks: There are two reasons why party control is everything in this election. The first, lesser reason is the demonstrated ability of Republican Congressional leaders to keep their members in line, even those members who cultivate a reputation as moderates or mavericks. G.O.P. politicians sometimes make a show of independence, as Senator John McCain did in seeming to stand up to President Bush on torture. But in the end, they always give the White House what it wants: after getting a lot of good press for his principled stand, Mr. McCain signed on to a torture bill that in effect gave Mr. Bush a completely free hand. And if the Republicans retain control of Congress, even if it�s by just one seat in each house, Mr. Bush will retain that free hand. If they lose control of either house, the G.O.P. juggernaut will come to a shuddering halt. Yet that�s the less...
  • IN PRAISE OF...

    IN PRAISE OF GOOD ENOUGH. A couple folks, including Jason Zengerle and Ross Douthat , wonder why I thought John Kerry 's overdue interview with Bob Woodward put the former nominee in a positive light. As they noted, nothing he said was particularly revolutionary, and most of it just relies on gathering noted experts and listening to them. Which, I'd suggest, would be a genuine improvement. But if Kerry's comments are a bit overly resonant of Ross Perot 's "I'll get all the smart people, lock 'em in a room, and not feed 'em till they finish" attitude towards governance, there's a more serious reason I found the interview worthwhile. First, there's a fair amount of common sense in there that hasn't been particularly common in government as of late. After 9/11, Kerry says he would have asked, "What are we up against? What is this all about? Did these guys just attack us because this is part of Osama bin Laden 's strategy for a greater caliphate in the Middle East, or are they attacking...
  • MEHLMAN SPEAKS. ...

    MEHLMAN SPEAKS. The American Spectator had breakfast with Ken Mehlman today, and got his perspective on the midterms. He said : 1) The election must be framed not as a referendum, but as a choice. When the question isn't "are you happy now?" but "who do you want, going forward, to handle taxes, national security, and judges, the conservatives or the liberals?," then the conservatives (and, by extension in most cases, Republicans) do better. 2) The generic poll numbers in the past few weeks have major errors. a) the polls have sampled a significantly higher proportion of Democrats than actual turnout has shown over the past 25 years. b) the Democratic voters and the Democratic-leaning districts are "less efficiently allocated" than Republican ones, so that whereas the Dems have a big edge in already-Democratic districts, the race in the battleground GOP-held districts is 50-50 -- and that's even with the mis-sampling. 3) Despite the polls, actual turnout in primaries has belied the...

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