Thursday, November 04, 2004

Southern Strategy

I forgot I wrote this, about how the South would be one tough nut to crack for Kerry.

I also predicted, in February, that Edwards would be the VP candidate.

Wish I could be wrong sometimes. It's a curse, you know.

Talk About Shaky Logic....

I have to highlight a comment from a gentle reader to the post about faculty on the left not insisting that their students make good arguments. Here is the comment:

...Well, yes, but that goes for faculty on the right, too.Your view on what is wrong with undergraduate education is way too simplistic.Do you really think things would be that different if most professors were right-leaning as opposed to left-leaning?The problem is that of faculty rewarding students for reaching the 'correct' (substantive) conclusions, as opposed to rewarding students for careful thought, logical argument, honest use of data, etc.Students simply reflect the problem with academics of the right and of the left: strong convictions, shaky logic.

I have two responses.
1. The statement here is true: far-rightist faculty might well impose their views on students, too. The statement is equally true of unicorns, or Santa Claus, or other nonexistent beasts. THERE ARE NO RIGHTIST FACULTY, homeslice.
2. Still, the claim above in italics does have value, in that it highlights what the solution is NOT. I agree with the gentle reader that the solution is not to hire conservative faculty who ALSO force students to parrot their views. As has been said elsewhere:

Michael Munger, chair of the political science department, was not so quick to dismiss DCU's arguments, although he noted that a balance of political affiliations within a department is not necessarily the answer.
"The solution is not to have 15 Republicans and 15 Democrats in one department. If everybody forced students to write papers based on a faculty member's particular perspective, that's still not diversity," he said. Rather, he said, the classroom, not the department, must be depoliticized.

ATSRTWT. Or this. And, my larger comments, either transcript or (beautifully) visually. Damn, I was great that night.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Phillip Kurian II

Here is Phillip Kurian's follow-up piece.

If you think you hate him, please read it. This incident has really caused him a lot of pain and sleepless nights. And if you think, "Good!", then that's okay too. Just do me a favor and read it.

An interesting response, with its own compendium of responses, to the earlier essay by Philip.

My own view? People are right to be mad at Duke, and other "elite" universities, in this sense: we aren't teaching our students the standards of argument. Philip was making a claim, which might in principle be true or false. (I happen to believe it is false, if that matters). But he larded up the claim with a bunch of gratuitously insulting stereotypes and simple non sequiturs.

Would people would have been just as angry at him if he had NOT included all the personal attacks? If he had just argued his main point, which is that organized Jewish political groups wield influence disproportionate to their numbers? We'll never know. And that is in large measure Duke's fault, for patting him on the head when he made unsupported claims like this, in class or in some professor's office. There is no other explanation for why he was surprised (and he was surprised) at the reaction.

I think he should sue, for nonperformance of the educational contract. More and more, faculty on the left just want students to have the "correct" conclusions, like a memorized catechism, instead of making sure the students can defend those conclusions in a debate. And students on the left are the ones who pay the price.

Questions....Not many Answers

1. Does Terry McAuliffe have to resign? Or can he say "At least we built a really nice DNC building in DC, even though we got hammered again under my nonleadership"? Cause the building is all they've got now.

2. Did anyone really think Kerry would lose this big? Other than Bob Novak and a few people whose direct contacts with reality are largely nonexistent? I was sure Kerry would win, though I thought it would be close. Kerry didn't win, and it was not particularly close.

3. Should Erskine Bowles start a "rent-a-doormat" business? "I'll spend millions of my own money, and make ANY other candidate for office look smart!" He hasn't lost a Governor's race yet, and that other Senate seat comes up again in four more years. Richard Burr is a fencepost with ears, yet he beat Bowles pretty handily. Who in the world is telling Bowles he has any talent as a politician?

4. Big winner: conventional wisdom. Given the performance of the economy, Bush should have won. Given that most of the seats up for grabs in the Senate were in Dem hands, the Repubs should have picked up seats. And that all happened.

5. I was just flat wrong, on net Senate seats and the Prez race. I had thought the Dems would be able to take advantage of obvious low-hanging fruit (the war thing, the job loss in key states, Bush's obvious problems in the debates, that sort of stuff). But the Dems live in a dream world, and both Kerry and Dem Senate candidates (including Bowles) ran like they were incumbents, not challengers. Challengers have to challenge. One of my Duke colleagues, a big Dem guy, told me as late as Monday this week he was sure Kerry would win North Carolina. And it was because everybody he talked to hated Bush so much. "Look, there's Dorothy, get those ruby slippers! There's no place like Oz; there's no place like Oz...." You might want to get out more, man.

6. Bush was completely, totally beatable. Kerry was a weak candidate who ran a terrible campaign (which I have been saying for months, even though it made my Dem pals at Duke crazy to hear it.) But if they had run any of the other nebishes (Dean? Gephardt? Graham? Edwards?) the outcome would have been the same. The Dems are intellectually bankrupt. Their only platform is "Vote for us, and we will give you other peoples' money." It's not working.

Ick. Somebody has to take the Repubs down. Cause this is terrifying.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Begala Shows His Ass

And it looks a lot like his face.

Check these scores.

Now...if you want to say Kerry is better than Bush, that's fine. If you want to say Bush has run a bad campaign, there are good reasons to claim that.

James Carville, it seems to me, is giving Kerry a little too high a grade on qualities. But at least he only gave a B. You have to leave some room at the top for a real politician, like Bill Clinton. If Clinton is an A, I think Kerry is more like a C+/B-. But okay, Carville at least tried to give real grades.

But...Begala? Good golly moses. For someone of Begala's unquestioned political experience and acumen to claim that Kerry has run an excellent campaign on personal qualities and issues? A on issues, and A on personal qualities? Criminy. Why not at least pretend to offer an objective analysis? Kerry has been a disaster. He should have won this thing in a walkover.

Paul B: you might as well just get out the fishnets, and the short skirt, and stand out on the corner making it shake. 'Cause you are nothing but a cheap, nasty ho', man.

Smack Down

Drove by several "polling places" this morning, driving my kids' carpool (M-Th am is my gig).

At lots of polling places, no more room to park, so people are parking on the roadsides.

Of course, that is where lots of horrible signs are poked into the ground, on the roadside right outside the polling station.

So, the cars were pulling in and running over the signs, crushing them into the mud. Not surprising, overall. But some people seemed to be enjoying it. I saw one SUV pulling back and forth over a Kerry-Edwards sign.

Can't this be over, please?

Don't It Make Your Red States Blue? (II)

I tried to invoke the country song once before, with (shall we say) limited success in terms of amusement value. Still, I did offer some truly sage remarks, considering it was July 25.

Still, I found something surprising, though it is probably common knowledge. Right here is an article that dates the "One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State" to no earlier than 2000, at least as a recognized political convention (no, not like the ones in Boston or New York. Pay attention!)

Recess: The Appointed Hour

Folks are getting all het up about the Rehnquist replacement "recess appointment." Like here, or here. Because, what if the election has to be decided by the Supreme Court?

Not going to happen. The SC judges were surprised, and appalled by the reaction to Bush v. Gore. They are going to stay out of it, which is what they should have done in 2000.

Below is an analysis by Garrett Epps. You may want to refresh your memory about 2000. For one thing, if the Supreme Court hadn't acted, the Prez would have been chosen by the House, voting by state delegations. Since that makes the Republicans even more powerful, claims that Bush "stole" the election are simply factually incorrect. The recount was always beside the point. The nice thing about the Epps article is that it correctly castigates the court for the ill-advised Bush v. Gore decision without saying that it changed the outcome.

Remember: the people who wrote the Constitution thought that the House would routinely choose the Prez. The Electoral College was just for steam control, and even then it had the relief valve of allowing the electors to cast more "informed" votes than what the citizens had had in mind.

October 24, 2004 Sunday Final Edition Washington Post SECTION: Outlook; B01

Don't Do It, Justices
Garrett Epps

In 1953, Justice Robert Jackson wrote of the Supreme Court: "We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final." Americans don't believe the court is infallible, but they do respect the finality of its decisions. If the court were to lose that respect, its very authority could dissipate, damaging our constitutional order. That possibility is in the air this fall, as the nation goes through an election that could end up with disputed results in multiple states. Already, we hear rumblings of problems in Florida similar to those that spoiled the 2000 voting. Ohio, where the polls are very tight, is also a potential trouble spot, as is Colorado, where a measure on the ballot may change the rules governing electoral votes after the voting is over. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are assembling flying squads of lawyers to be deployed anywhere on a moment's notice. One party or the other could end up seeking the court's intervention in the 2004 election. But whatever you think of the Bush v. Gore decision of four years ago, the court would be making a terrible mistake if it let itself become involved in determining the outcome again. And it isn't necessary.

There are established political procedures for dealing with disputed elections, and that's the right way to settle a political problem. I am convinced that the negative reaction to Bush v. Gore took the court's majority by surprise. Working in isolation, with almost no time for reflection, these conscientious but somewhat naïve judges thought they were saving the country. In fact, they short-circuited the political process and did serious damage to the American sense that "we the people" are the rulers and not the ruled. And the dire emergency the justices may have thought they were curing was largely a mirage. Like much of democratic government, the Florida recount was by turns crass, vulgar and confusing -- but it was on its way to producing a victor without judicial help.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution and Title 3 of the U.S. Code lay out the procedure that Florida was following. The Constitution says that a state shall "appoint" electors "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." A state need not even hold an election, and if it does, the legislature may still decide to "appoint" its own slate. That's particularly true if the state has held an election to choose electors "and has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law" -- perhaps because the vote is so close that an accurate recount is impossible. In that case, the statute says that the state legislature may appoint the electors "on a subsequent day." Once electors are "appointed" -- however that may be done -- their names are to be sent by the governor to the Archivist of the United States. If there is a "controversy or contest" concerning the electors -- as there was in Florida -- the governor must also send the Archivist a statement of how it was resolved.

The electoral votes are to be opened on "the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December" and officially counted on Jan. 6. If the state has resolved its controversy by the December date, then the statute pledges that Congress will abide by the governor's certification of the state's choice. If the state has not resolved its internal dispute by the deadline and there are two sets of electors claiming victory, the issue goes to Congress. If the House and Senate both choose the same slate, then those electors' votes will be counted. But if the two houses disagree on the proper slate, the statute requires Congress to abide by the governor's certification. Can you see how that statutory scheme would have played out in 2000? The Florida legislature was already moving to "appoint" the Bush electors. George Bush's brother Jeb would have certified that result. Even if Al Gore had "won" a recount, all that victory would have gotten him was the right to present his rival slate to Congress (perhaps with the backing of the Florida Supreme Court). But the Republican-controlled House in Washington would surely have refused to overturn Jeb Bush's certificate.

If that's the case, did the court do any real harm? After all, by acting when it did, it cut off the turmoil on Dec. 12, while following the statute would have delayed the result until Jan. 6, 2001. But the better question is whether the court did any good at all -- let alone enough good to justify the risk to its own legitimacy. Remember that Bill Clinton would still have been president until Jan. 20, 2001 -- two weeks after Congress convened to count the electoral votes. The rules governing congressional voting on electors limit debate, so the vote on the dueling slates would almost certainly have been completed before Clinton left office, and Bush would have been sworn in right on time. I have seen articles detailing a number of ways the process could have gone off the rails (we law professors delight in generating nightmare scenarios).

It's theoretically possible that Congress might have rejected both sets of electors or in some other way botched the process so that no candidate would have had a majority of the electors by Jan. 20. But looking at the numbers, I don't see much practical chance of that having happened. And even if it had, the statutory scheme would then have given way to Article II again -- the final choice of the new president lies in the House of Representatives voting by states. Bush would have needed 26 votes, and the makeup of the Congress elected that year shows he would have won handily. It's no accident that the statutory scheme puts the decision squarely in the hands of elected officials, state and federal. Choosing the president is a political, not a legal matter, and voters who disagree with the choice should be able to hold those who make it to account.

If the people objected to the scenario above, they would have had the chance to make their feelings known in 2002. President Bush scored a huge success in the mid-term elections that year; had the members of Congress also been the ones who anointed him, he might then legitimately have claimed those results as the seal of popular approval. As it is, they gave him more power, but not more legitimacy. The Supreme Court had no obligation to become involved. Every first-year law student studies the "avoidance" and "political question" doctrines, which permit the court to dismiss actions that really belong in another branch of government.

Even if you think (as I do not) that the Florida Supreme Court was acting in a partisan manner, the court should have stopped that behavior without deciding the winner. All it had to do was vacate the lower court's decision, set out the proper legal rule, and send the case back to the state court. The Florida court had no way of forcing either the legislature or the governor to certify Gore's electors. By acting as it did, the Supreme Court may have fixed a temporary crisis; but by lodging the presidential choice in the only branch that is not -- and should not be -- accountable to the voters, it may have sown the seeds of a more corrosive long-term crisis. Millions of Americans (or at least millions of Democrats) still believe that Bush took office through a judicial coup d'etat. It has shaken their faith in our system.

That is unfortunate, but it is done. The question for the nation and the court is what to do if, 10 days from now, the returns from one or more crucial states are inconclusive again. Once again, there is little actual danger in allowing Congress to resolve the question. The greater danger is to our system and to the court's prestige. The past four years have seen no retirements from the high court; some court watchers have speculated that some of the justices have stayed on so as not to be accused of having picked Bush in order to help select their own successors. But courthouse gossip and the actuarial tables suggest that the next president may pick as many as four new justices.

Should five Republican appointees once again turn the election to Bush, we will hear anew the accusation that the justices made their choice so that they could determine the philosophy of their successors. Bush v. Gore was a mistake -- one the people will over time forgive. If the court should make the same mistake again, forgiveness may be more elusive. It would be disastrous for our system if recourse to the Supreme Court became a feature of every presidential race; the already-politicized confirmation process for nominees to the court would become a guaranteed blood bath every time. The court's prestige has been hard-won. In the early 1800s, Chief Justice John Marshall made the court respected; his successor, Roger Taney, forfeited that respect with his opinion in Dred Scott.

Later justices like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Evans Hughes and Louis Brandeis rebuilt the mystique; the partisan conservative majority of the 1930s shattered it again. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt tried to clip the court's authority by granting himself extra appointments. That "court-packing plan," which nearly succeeded, is a stark reminder that a court that loses public respect risks losing its independence as well. On Dec. 9, 2000, the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount.

In his opinion that day, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that allowing the recount to proceed would harm Bush "by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Political legitimacy, however, is not a gift the court can bestow. At stake this year is the court's own legitimacy; a wrong decision may tumble it from its high seat, into a place where it will be regarded as neither infallible nor final.

Garrett Epps teaches constitutional law at the University of Oregon in Eugene. His most recent book is "To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial" (St. Martin's Press).

Monday, November 01, 2004

Alex Knapp Says....

Well, he says this:

You know the thing that really kills me about this stupid election we’ve got coming up? Here it is: in all perfect honesty, I wouldn’t trust George Bush or John Kerry to run a f**king McDonald’s, much less the exectuive branch of the government of the United States government. They’re both pampered little rich boys who, if they hadn’t been born into rich families would be damn lucky to be pulling down $50K a year as middle management, if they hadn’t gotten downsized in the 90’s. And even then their management position would be due to politicking ability, not merit or management ability.
I despise them both, so goddamn much, as human beings. I hate and deplore the fact that this is an election over what set of advisors I pray has the President’s ear at the right time of the day so that maybe a halfway decent decision will get made.
I loathe the fact that we live in a soceity today where everyone is so goddamned eager to pry into every tiny little bit of the lives of public figures that only the most power-hungry and weak-minded souls run for private office, while persons eminently more qualified are also the kinds of persons who would punch a papparazzi in the face–and deservedly so. But as a result, those people don’t run for office. And look who we’re stuck with now.

And, K. Grease? He says: Alex Knapp for President. On the Pusswieler party ticket. Because he is not running. K. Grease could be the VP on that ticket, since he too criticizes but doesn't run, or even really participate, except with some fake above-it-all irony.

I am going to go make a really big drink now, mixing a lot of scotch with a really tall glass. And mutter to myself. Let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the dearth of leadership.

(Nod to Chris L. Although, he isn't running either. Some lame excuse about a big project. Like I'm going to buy that crap.)

Now, HERE You Go: A Real Service

JMPP suggests that my earlier loathing for the youth or disgust with wholesomeness might be remedied simply by sharing information on the alternatives. As opposed to this, which clearly does not involve actual sex.

JMPP's suggestion is this: Votergasm. The illustrations are particularly unwholesome. CERTAINLY NOT WORK SAFE, SHALL WE SAY....

The pledge: I pledge to have sex with a voter on election night and withhold sex from non-voters for the week following the election.

Honoring the pledge: Pledge-fulfilling sex must be consensual, legal, and generous. And safe. And hot.

Time for a "Hollies" riff, which describes Votergasm's view of the election pretty well:
I saw her head up to the table
Just a tall walkin' big black cat
A'Charlie said, "I hope that you're able boy."
Cause I'm tellin' you she knows where it's at.
Well suddenly we heard the sirens,
And everybody started to run.
Jumpin' outta doors and tables,
Well I heard someone shootin' a gun.

So, everybody get out there, and find someone to help you ring your bell, or yank your lever. Preferably the LIBERTARIAN lever. It's the biggest one, after all.

Thanks, JMPP! And good luck on election day.