It's now approaching midnight

While I wait around to see if the Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay/a couple of warm bodies trade happens, I'd like to direct the attention of those interested to a great analysis of the Yankee's recent trades for Nady/Marte and Pudge.




The last 35 seconds are weak though

I'd seriously like to hear the argument that goes from:
1) Ludacris wrote (update: I've seen the track described as a freestyle, so “wrote” may have been the wrong word) and rapped a pretty good track about Obama; and

2) the Obama campaign gave a statement stating its disagreement with sentiments expressed on that track; to

3) any negative belief or inference about Obama or his campaign. Not to the level of a reason to vote for John McCain or not to vote for Barack Obama, but any negative belief at all.

Via Spackerman, who gives his suggestion as to what belief about Obama the person who posted this wants you to form.

In other music and politics related news, these two posts are idiotic and the people who wrote them should reconsider whether they're happy to be useful to liberals solely in the sense that they allow other liberals to play the “condemn the people to your left” game, as I'm doing now.

Update (7/31): Adam Serwer suggests a negative thing about Obama implied by (2) above, namely that he's not fighting tooth and nail against the bizarre idea the he needs to apologize (or react in some way or other) every time a well-known African-American person who supports him says anything offensive. I'm sure we can also expect Sen. John McCain to denounce every each of his white supporters individually each time they say or do something insulting.


The people ride in a hole in the ground

Inspired by a blog post by a crazy person who came to New York for the weekend and spent nearly the entire time eating pizza, I decided to rectify the fact that I'd never been to Di Fara and went last night. It was unbelievably good (wonderful cheese, fantastic crust, etc.), but seriously, on Sunday alone this guy ate at four places which, while all in Brooklyn, are not conveniently located with regards to each other. Oh, and he then apparently had dinner at Luger's! I'm not sure I could fit all that in if I started eating when I got out of bed in the morning and kept it up until the restaurant's closed, and that's ignoring that we're talking about someone who was only in New York for a few days and decided to spend what seems like the entire time eating pizza. But it did manage to embarrass me into trying what might be the world's best pizza joint. I can't believe I hadn't been to it earlier.

One issue, which will mark me as outsider to Midwood: we wanted to sit somewhere and watch the Yankee game while waiting for our pizza (the wait was quite long), but could not find a bar anywhere in the neighborhood.

This also counts as my promised black & white cookie post. I have no idea if the gridskipper author knows what they're talking about or not; I was raised on Zaro's black & whites.




Like fish in some kind of receptacle

Last Tuesday the Chicago Tribune published an op-ed by Steven Calabresi where he argues, as an attempted parody of “purposive, pragmatic interpretation of the Constitution” that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the age minimum for the Presidency. His article argues against a view which no prominent judge or constitutional scholar, the attempted targets of his parody, actually holds, which is nice for Calabresi because it lets him avoid the hard work of actually giving reasons to support his own view. In the course of illustrating his faux-argument that Sen. Obama isn’t functionally mature enough for the presidency, Calabresi makes what he thinks are some very serious charges against him. One of these is a good thing (willingness to negotiate with Iran), another absurd, two more false (and I have reason to believe Calabresi knows that about at least one them making him, you know, a liar) and the rest of which are essentially silly as criticisms of Obama as future President, as opposed to Obama as perfect person who has never spoken to or otherwise associated with anyone who did or said anything wrong (Ayers, Rezko, Wright, and Pfleger). The combination of all this is what led me to call the op-ed “fucking maddening.Much more detail below.

Calabresi is talking about art. II, §1, cl. 5 of the which specifies that, “neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years.” Absolutely everyone who argues for an interpretation other the originalism which Calabresi argues for, and even people making arguments in support of various types of originalism, distinguish between how narrow, structural clauses should be interpreted and how broader clauses should be; noting that it is inappropriate to give broad readings to the structural parts of the Constitution. The normal citation here is to Dworkin, either his section of A Matter of Interpretation or Law's Empire, but it's not just Dworkin, no one argues for interpreting all Constitutional provisions in the manner Calabresi parodies, so I have no idea who he thinks he's mocking.

First Calabresi claims, without explanation, that Obama “has called for levels of federal spending, taxation and regulation that would cause a Great Depression.” Responding to this with any facts is more than it deserves, but this chart of U.S. GDP growth under various Presidents combined with historical taxation rates points towards why it's just embarassing.

Then, Calabresi falsely states that Obama “has criticized the war in Iraq but visited the country for the first time Monday to see how well the surge there is working.” Obama visited Iraq in January 2006. Presumably, Calabresi means that this is the first time Sen. Obama has visited specifically for the purpose of seeing how well the surge is going, since the January 2006 visit roughly coincides with Bush's speech announcing the troop escalation strategy and therefore wasn't for that purpose, but the only reason you'd interpret his sentence that way is if you already know that Sen. Obama has been to Iraq before and are struggling for an interpretation that makes Calabresi's sentence true. It's not how it would normally be read in English, and I think Calabresi is trying to deceive with it, by eliding the fact that Obama had been there before.

Next, Calabresi falsely asserts that “Obama promised that if he were nominated for president he would accept public funding for his presidential campaign and forgo private contributions.” This is so egregious it's not even what the McCain campaign normally claims happened, let alone the truth. The standard claim is that he promised to accept public funding if his opponent accepted it as well, McCain did accept it, and Obama didn't. That's also not true, but it's closer than what Calabresi goes with. The truth is that Obama said he'd “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” This was supposed to have been a framework which “would require some significant agreement about how to handle outside money, 527s, "Swift Boat"-type attack groups, party money, etc., and other factors that have undermined the last two publicly financed elections, from both sides.” Anyway, Obama didn't, as far as I know, pursue the agreement either, which he should have (though it wouldn't have worked out, so he still would have remained outside the public financing system), but that's what he said he would do, not what Calabresi or the McCain campaign claim.

At least as far as his standards of argumentation go, Calabresi is a bad person and not to be trusted.


A boring post about things I don't know

Last week, I was reading Hilzoy's post about the distributional effects (which income classes gain/lose how much) of the income taxation proposals of Senators Obama and McCain, and I took special note of this sentence, “Note that while this graph shows taxes going up for people in the top quintile under Obama's plan, a more detailed breakdown (p. 45) shows that taxes only go up for the top 5% (incomes over $226,918/year.)” That's an interesting feature of Obama's tax plans, but that's not the main reason I bring it up. I highlight it up because I want to know what it means.

My first instinct in restating the quoted sentence so would be to say, “Five percent of Americans make more than $226,918 per year, and Obama's plan is to raise income taxes on those people alone.” In fact, I said that1 to a family member this weekend. And they responded incredulously, so I thought about it, and realized it had to be wrong. There are roughly 300,000,000 Americans and five percent of them would be 15,000,000 people, and it doesn't seem plausible to me that 15,000,000 people in the U.S. make more than $226,918/year. So then I was wondering what the 5% was a percentage of, such that one twentieth of that number could have incomes over $226,918/year. Which also led me to wonder how they're defining income. The latter question is easy, as the chart on p. 45 (pdf page 47) refers to what they're charting as "cash income percentile," and the Tax Policy Center tells me elsewhere that cash income means,
“Cash income includes wages and salaries, employee contribution to tax-deferred retirement savings plans, business income or loss, farm income or loss, Schedule E income, interest income, taxable dividends, realized net capital gains, social security benefits received, unemployment compensation, energy assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), worker’s compensation, veteran’s benefits, supplemental security income, child support, disability benefits, taxable IRA distributions, total pension income, alimony received, and other income including foreign earned income. Cash income also includes imputed corporate income tax liability and the employer’s share of payroll taxes. This puts the income measure on a pretax basis.”
At this point, I know that 5% of some number of entities has more than $226,918 of all that combined in 2008. But I still don't know what I'm taking 5% of, and the chart's annotation doesn't get me much further. It tells me that,
“The cash income percentile classes used in this table are based on the income distribution for the entire population and contain an equal number of people, not tax units. Again, I know from elsewhere on their cite that “A tax unit is an individual, or a married couple who file a tax return jointly, along with all dependents of that individual or married couple.” So I think what the chart means is that tax units which contain five percent of the population (approx. 15 million people) have cash incomes over $226,918, which isn't quite the thing I thought couldn't be true (a tax unit can contain a large number of dependents, so there are presumably far fewer than 15 million individuals each making over $226,918/year), but isn't that far from that either. I've e-mailed the tax policy people to see if they can clarify for me.

Finally, it turns out that the second part of my attempted restatement,
and Obama's plan is to raise income taxes on those people alone is also false. They're the first group of people who will, on average, experience a tax increase under Senator Obama's plans, but in fact some percentage of people in every income quintile would have higher taxes under the Obama tax plan than they would under the Tax Policy Center's baseline assumptions of Bush tax cut expiration and no fix for the AMT.

1. Actually, I at first said “$246,000 and change.” But I know my memory is imperfect, so I checked later and gave them the accurate figure.





Some of my fellow bloggers are wont to refer to the Southern Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War as the Treason in Defense of Slavery movement, for example renaming "Confederate Heritage Month" as "Treason in Defense of Slavery Heritage Month." This admirable avoidance of euphemism led me to wonder how to characterize the movement described in today's New York Times story about a 1939 plan on the the part of some Wyoming residents to have parts of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota (unconstitutionally!) secede from their states to form a new one, as depicted below.

It's not treason against the United States, since they seem to have been planning to remain a State (though it's not clear from the story how concrete their plans were), and, again relying just on the story, they didn't seem to have any particular grievance with their state governments which seceding was supposed to resolve, so it wasn't in defense of anything. I'll go with Insurrection in Relief of Boredom.




Mark 8:36

The most important news story to follow lately, certainly in terms of U.S. politics but also likely in terms of medium-term (next two years, or so) U.S. foreign policy has been that Christian Bale cannot answer the question, “When did you stop beating your mother?” I mean that Robert “Prince of Darkness” Novak hit a pedestrian with his car and then tried to flee the scene no, that John Edwards is having an affair with someone who isn't very photogenic, I don't know why this is happening.

I mean to say that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki came out in favor of U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq on a schedule very similar to that favored by Barack Obama; that event caused John McCain's strategy to come asunder; John McCain responded to some true things Obama said about the effects of the temporary escalation of the Iraq war which substantially began in March of 2007 (the so-called “Surge”) by wondering how Obama could be so stupid as to not realize that the Surge caused events in September 2006 and then told an audience that “It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

Oh, and last week McCain suggested adding more soldiers to Afghanistan, which was a) a position he had previously criticized Obama for holding and b) impossible in the near-term without redeploying soldiers from Iraq, so McCain had to immediately retract the suggestion, though it nevertheless caused Marc Halperin to forget both Obama and McCain's previous positions.

Anyway, I don't want to write about any of that, but all the blogs I read are, and it's all more important than what I do want to talk about, namely a fucking maddening op-ed by Northwestern Law Professor Steven Calabresi, The Elements of Style, and black & white cookies, respectively. So the above is an attempt to address my worries about people who are counting on me as their sole news source and allow me to get on with what I'd prefer doing.




Who knew?

Amanda Peet is awesome.




I'd rather be blogging the Elements of Style

I'm trying to stay away from writing about stupid blog-fights over Obama and McCain, mostly because there's still nearly four months until the election and they're, you know, stupid blog-fights which will be forgotten in a few days time. Plus, with his failure to filibuster the FISA-gutting reforms, I'm not in such an Obama-defending mood. But this one is annoying me.

James Gordon Meek, of the New York Daily News, writes,
“Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned. The presumed Democratic nominee replaced his Iraq issue Web page, which had described the surge as a "problem" that had barely reduced violence.”
Various right-wing bloggers link to this story to say that Obama "purged" or "disappeared" the surge criticism from his website. These people are either illiterate, or liars, or both. Here's what the section of the Barack Obama Issues page for Iraq under discussion said about the surge on July 8 before it was purged:
The Surge: The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war.”
Here's what it says now
Inadequate Security and Political Progress in Iraq: Since the surge began, more than 1,000 American troops have died, and despite the improved security situation, the Iraqi government has not stepped forward to lead the Iraqi people and to reach the genuine political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge. Our troops have heroically helped reduce civilian casualties in Iraq to early 2006 levels. This is a testament to our military’s hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics, and enormous sacrifice by our troops and military families. It is also a consequence of the decision of many Sunnis to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq, and a lull in Shia militia activity. But the absence of genuine political accommodation in Iraq is a direct result of President Bush’s failure to hold the Iraqi government accountable.”
Both versions of the website then go on to discuss the strain this has put on U.S. military resources. Apparently, the old version qualifies as criticism of the Surge, but the new one doesn't, according to, I believe, the Humpty Dumpty rule of interpretation.

P.S. Don't tell the Daily News, but this isn't the first time Obama has updated his Issues page for Iraq. And, as right wing bloggers tell me, updating your web page is the same thing as having always been at war with East Asia.




Say indeed then I proceed cuz my man made a mix

I found Linda Greenhouse's career retrospective, and in particular Greenhouse's discussion of how important Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment was to her, somewhat moving. I think this says something disturbing about me. The article also makes some good, if well-known, points about the Supreme Court's function as one player in a national political issue-resolution process, though I would have appreciated it she didn't constantly refer to this process as a "dialogue." Also the concluding paragraph is a little pat.

I don't read Powerline much, but I find it odd that the title of this post, "The Resistable Rise of Barack Obama," alludes to the Brecht play, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, Brecht generally being associated with the radical left. It also seems to me to be a subtle implication that Obama is a fascist, but it could just be a clever title chosen for that reason alone.

On Friday I argued in the comments of a couple other blogs about the non-issue of John McCain's status as a natural born citizen. He is one.

Random passage from the The Elements of Style (4th Ed.):
Aggravate. Irritate. The first means "to add to" an already troublesome or vexing matter or condition. The second means "to vex" or "to annoy" or "to chafe."
But usage weirds language. If aggravate at one time didn't have that second meaning, surely it does by now. Evidence. Evidence that aggravate had the second meaning in 1611 (the evidence is an overly harsh reviewer of a the Elements of Style saying so).




This blog will make your tongue a funny color

Alt title:Scasm Flasm? Continuing this blog's proud tradition of reporting on free beverages which won't do anyone any good, today, 7/11, is Free Slurpee Day.




An absent segue

Did you guys start “reading” The Big Picture when I previously suggested it? No? Start now with the picture of the Chinese anti-terror police drilling on Segways, then check out the rest, especially the Obama and McCain family photos.

Hendrik Hertzberg is a much better writer than I am (in fact, comparing my ability to write to his is hubris), and usually more knowledgeable as well (though his attempts earlier this year to figure out Democratic primary popular vote numbers make me doubt his math skills a little). I commend to you his take on the governor of Rhode Island's veto of the National Popular Vote bill.

By the by, I'm not up on my compact clause (Art I., §10, cl. 3) jurisprudence but think the National Popular Vote bill might be unconstitutional absent Congress's approval. This is far from a reason not to support it: the only way to put pressure on Congress to approve it is to have enough states enact it that it would otherwise go into effect. Similarly, the way to find out if the Supreme Court think it's unconstitutional to enact it without Congressional approval is to try to enact it without Congressional approval.




John McCain hopes to reinstitute slavery

According to a prominent conservative op-ed columnist and best-selling author who supports McCain over Obama (though I can find no official endorsement, none is needed given his stated views) and who defended McCain against conservative critics during the Republican primaries.


In which I suggest spending the rest of July at the movies

The above is a calendar of movies I'm considering seeing for the rest of the summer. It's almost entirely made up of previously released films playing either outdoors or in one of the New York theaters that runs a repertory program, with the exception of The Dark Knight and Pineapple Express, the latter of which makes the list mostly because the (talented) director is programming/hosting a really interesting series of films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music leading up to the sneak preview I have in my calendar, and will be introducing the movie itself.
The single craziest suggestion in the calendar is obviously that one should try to see four movies in three venues starting between 9:15 PM on Friday July 18th and 7:30 PM on Saturday the 19th, including a 2 AM Imax showing of Dark Knight, yet I'm very tempted to do this.
The second craziest idea is to spend pretty much the entirety of Sunday the 27th watching The Human Condition. I find this less tempting, but I don't know that much about the movie.


Yesterday's political news today

Jesse Helms was a bigot with terrible foreign policy ideas, many prominent Republicans think his is an example to follow. Ross Douthat is a Republican commentator who doesn't think that.

John McCain's plan
to balance the budget is not a plan, and insofar as it approaches a plan-like entity, wouldn't balance the budget.

Jim Webb won't be the next Vice-President of the United States.

There's plenty of things people should be mad at Sen. Obama about right now, but he's more right than wrong on the recent Supreme Court gun control (he's totally right) and death penalty (he's kind of right) decisions.

I have actually ordered this bumper sticker, I don't know if it has arrived yet. These last two pieces of information were not a) news, b) particularly political, or c) from yesterday.




The College Dropout

The National Popular Vote is a bill which, if passed by a sufficient number of states, would make the Electoral College ineffective. It would do so by giving the electoral votes of states with at least 270 Electoral College votes to whomever won the greatest number of votes nationwide, guaranteeing that person would win the Presidency and making who won any particular state completely irrelevant. It was originally proposed, as far as I know, by Akhil and Vikram Amar in response to the 2000 general election. I'm a strong supporter, and I knew that a couple of states (Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii, and New Jersey, it turns out) had passed it. But I hadn't realized that it's at some stage of consideration by the legislatures of a vast majority of states (scroll down to the map of the United States on that page, there's no direct link).

State-level representatives represent far fewer people, and while I don't have numbers on this, I'm reasonably confident that their constituents contact them less often than national-level representatives, even taking into account that they have fewer constituents. So, for the love of god, contact your state-level representative, especially if a National Popular Vote bill is currently pending before them. New Yorkers, you can find your state-level representatives if you enter your address here. Other people, you can't, but I'm sure the information is available if you don't already know it. The bill is currently in the process of moving through the New York State Assembly. Again, New Yorkers, please either ask your assembly person to support it, or, if they already do (mine, Joanne Millman, does), thank them and let them know you care about the issue and hope they do whatever they can to move the bill forward. Other people, I don't know the status of the bill in your legislature, but the information is available if you click your state in the map linked above, and you can then act accordingly.

This post, of course, contained no argument for why the Electoral College is bad or the National Popular Vote is good. If you want to hear about the former, a good place to start is the Amar brother's piece which immediately preceded the one I linked above. The latter is dealt with pretty well by the FAQ at the National Popular Vote site, or you can ask me to address concerns you have, I might know the answer.




And that's a case you don't want to catch

Everything Steven Bainbridge (whom I would normally not cite to on anything but corporate law) says about the problems with the argument that “whatever else Bush has done, he should get some credit (and implicitly a lot of credit) for the fact that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 is right on. To which I would only add: Anthrax, anthrax, anthrax. Bainbridge perhaps avoids the problem by talking about Islamofascist attacks, rather than terrorist attacks (which should hint at why I normally don't cite to him), but I don't know, and am reasonably certain Bainbrdige does not know, who was mailing anthrax.


Flip-flops are available in a vaierty of sizes

And sometimes they don't even exist.

During the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary debates, the first of which took place in 1066 if I remember correctly, Barack Obama came out in favor of federal laws for same sex civil unions, but not for same sex marriages. He said this in multiple debates, here's one example, search on that page for "marriage." Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that the California Constitution requires the state to allow same sex marriages, and in response some Californians want to pass a ballot initiative changing the California Constitution (which is, in a reversal of the opposite error on the federal level, absurdly easy). Barack Obama wrote a letter saying, among other things (but no other things that support same sex marriage, as opposed to civil unions) that he's opposed to the passage of that initiative. Because of this, people, both strongly conservative and putatively moderate (I say putative only because I don't know anything about that person, not to cast doubt) say Obama has flip-flopped on the issue of gay marriage. If anyone can explain me how the position opposing repeal of same sex marriage in California (meaning he'd vote no if he had a vote on that initiative, and he thinks it's a good idea for other people to vote no) conflicts with anything he said about not wanting to pass federal laws requiring same sex marriage, I'd be both very impressed and grateful.