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October 09, 2005

Comments

I find some of the same feelings among some of us lefties too, in the interest of balance. By this I mean the desire not just to have history prove us right on various issues, but for a very public "I was wrong" from all who opposed us. I, for instance, crave war crimes tribunals and convictions for this administration over the war in Iraq, and for all of the corruption to finally stick to the corporatist ol' boys network to the point that Reaganism is finally repudiated for all time.

Of course, Bush will smile and say we won while we withdraw from Iraq. Flags will wave, and he'll assume what credit he can. I'll have a victory of sorts then, but it won't feel as satisfying. Maybe we all have to reconcile ourselves to the high road and leave our vindictive justice fantasies at the curb.

I don't know Mo.

To me there's a considerable difference between wanting people to be held accountable (and if I were under oath I would have to say that as I understand them, yes, I belive Bush is guilty of war crimes) and wanting to get one's own back publicallyh.

Well, perhaps that's a bad example. I guess I'm trying to separate a legitimate victory of policy from the savage championship dance of burning cars and "Who's your daddy, b****?" The former is to be sought and the latter is an ugly spectacle. But something in me still wants to riot in the streets with joy. Sigh.

Edward: I am similarly puzzled, and I also agree with you that there's a difference between wanting accountability and wanting a fight.

Here's one thing that might be relevant and might not (and who knows, it might not even be true): it seems to me, after all this time of reading liberal and conservative blogs, that conservatives in general (not particularly the ones who post or comment here) spend a lot more time thinking about, and defining themselves against, "liberals" in general than liberals do with respect to conservatives. We excoriate specific conservatives and Republicans -- Bush, Rumsfeld, Rush Limbaugh, whoever -- but we don't seem to me to spend a lot of time defining ourselves in opposition to "the conservative" as a general figure.

This might be partly because it's hard to figure out what "the conservative" is, these days, since to the extent that they spend time defending a President who has sold out most of their principles, they become less and less coherent. But I also think that there's a kind of animus directed at a view of who liberals are and what we supposedly stand for that has no real counterpart on the left; and I also think that in certain parts of the right, it plays a pretty large role.

(This is even more true if you take some people's support for e.g. Bolton as a basically reactive stance: liberals are for "sensitivity", compromise, appeasement, fussy little diplomatic niceties, etc.; and someone who is undiplomatic to the point of downright rudeness looks appealing simply because he is not another namby-pamby sell-out. Despite the complete absence of any reason at all to think he'd be any good as ambassador to the UN, his not being the least bit deft or tactful was recommendation enough.)

In the above, when I wrote that "to the extent that they spend time defending a President who has sold out most of their principles, they become less and less coherent", I didn't mean that conservatives become less articulate, or capable of coherent speech, or whatever; just that they become less ideologically consistent.

I don't think it's so much that they want a public fight, I just think they want to know that the nominee will vote to overturn Roe. If that results in a fight then there's a fight (and maybe so much the better, and maybe not).

Pat and his followers have been itching for a Culture War for decades.

Maybe Pat is right in one sense, though. Maybe we should have a good old-fashioned knock-down brawl over this once and for all, the sort where both sides emerge so exhausted and so disgusted with how dirty the fight was, they find common ground on the flipside and move on.

As cleek said, Buchanan and his ilk want a culture war.

Which is why I have bolded the above language -- there is no chance that Buchanan and his ilk would ever experience this emotion. They want to revel over your crushed form and all you stand for.

That's their idea of the culture war. This is a credo drien as much by the need to hate and smite the evildoers, as opposed to something Christian or particularly moral.

Is the base so incensed about this nomination? The actual voting conservative movement, the larger part of the Republican Party?

Or is it just the bloggers, the punditocracy, the intellectual right? Who may be, as was told Bainbridge when he asked why the right blogosphere has so little actual influence, offended and perhaps even a little frightened to be told:

"We don't need you."

Bush Jr is the white O.J. Simpson.

His base/tribe/people will defend him no matter what!

that conservatives in general (not particularly the ones who post or comment here) spend a lot more time thinking about, and defining themselves against, "liberals" in general than liberals do with respect to conservatives.

You might be on to something here Hilzoy. If that's true, however, it's very odd, as "Liberals" are as varied in their opinions as any group I can think of.

Perhaps it's easier than that. Perhaps conservatives define themselves in response to change, whereas liberals define themselves in response to the status quo.

Hilzoy, Edward I assume you've read your Hoffer?

"Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil."
-- Eric Hoffer

That really sums up what the liberals are to the extreme conservatives - the devil.

That's all the word "liberal" means to them - that which opposes them. They have never even thought it out - anything they don't like falls under "liberal", it has been named and categorized and can be hated uniformly without out any of that pesky "logic" or "consideration", or "judicious reasoning".

It's "shirts and skins" (and we're the skins, of course, pagan, liberal bastards :-)

Here is a quote from an e-mail send to Andrew Sullivan about the Meirs nomination:

"Harriet Miers is the hair that broke the camel's back. Despite the flaws I always expected things to eventually work out, and that everything was part of a master plan. Now I sit with egg on my face, and disarray that there is no plan: this is how it is supposed to be. Bush is a liberal who knows how to appeal to the churchy types. John Kerry doesn't seem so bad now, because gridlock would have slowed things down and congressional Republicans would get their spines back, having to no longer bow to the Commander in Chief. David Brooks summed it up perfectly with his Manchurian Candidate comment. You were right I was wrong. Hopefully McCain in 2008?"

Does this reader really believe Bush is our "Manchurian Candidate"? What logic goes behind a statement like that? Has Bush done anything (and I mean ANYTHING*) supported by those of us with an even vaguely "liberal" worldview? If Bush is our Manchurian Candidate we need a refund. This correspondent must know that a large contingent of liberals consider Bush the "worst president ever" (certainly this is my view as a voter since Reagan took office) and yet, logic to the wind, they blithely claim Bush is a liberal?

jc

* I did support going to Afganistan, under the assumption that the Powell Doctrine would be followed. My last assumption with this administration.

I have been interpreting all the hubbub this way:

1. The most vocal opponents of Miers (as of now) are those who value having a voice: radio folks, pundits, bloggers.

2. Many of those folks have specific agendas (thus, at least part of their reason for being public figures), and though the agendas aren't the same, the Republican Party is seen as the only possible vehicle for getting their way.

3. Bush, as Presidential candidate and then President, has been the representative for all those views and agendas. From the start, he's been a weak version of what all those folks might have wanted, but he was the only one who could make it happen, so they rallied behind him.

4. They rallied vocally, loudly, defensively, contentiously, and financially. Some had long-standing reps (Limbaugh, Dobson, Buchanan, Norquist), some were trying to establish themselves (bloggers, for example). They used support of this President to highlight themselves and their causes.

5. One by one, issue by issue, Bush has betrayed them. The fiscal conservatives,, the social conservatives, the neocons (because this mess of a war has ruined public support for their ideas)...the public voices of all those groups have found themselves hung out to dry, after putting it all on the line for Bush. Some have already started the separation process, but not enthusiastically.

5. Miers is the last straw. In order to maintain any credibility (after the war, after Katrina, after the spending, after the lack of a gay marriage amendment ban, etc.), these public figures have to sever unconditional ties with this guy, but quick. They need time to regroup with *their* bases (and the Congresscritters who represent them) before 2006/2008. More importantly, they need to send a message to the Republican machine -- don't f*** with us: we can make your lives miserable.

I'm sure there are folks who want the culture war, now -- but in many of the things I'm reading, it seems to be more about how betrayed they feel. They gave (or give) unconditional support publicly when they've never completely felt it privately. They're embarrassed and angry. This is their chance to scream.

jc,

I think you are not using David Brooks's quote as he meant. It's not that Bush is secretly liberal -- he's not by any means -- but rather that he does all sorts of riduculous things in the name of conservatisim that will disillusion moderates and moderate-conservatives.

...spend a lot more time thinking about, and defining themselves against, "liberals" in general than liberals do with respect to conservatives.

I have to admit, the part of all this that provides the most hilarity is the assertion at some conservative sites that this proves that liberals were wrong about their site becoming an echo chamber, which suggests that hilzoy's observation is spot on. However, part of me wants to point out that the conservative movement as a whole is a polygamous (definitely not polyamourous) marriage of convenience, with small government conservatives hopping into bed with religious conservatives and both of them making room for war on terror conservatives (the faux libertarian partner thinks that they are married, and the other three don't want to shatter that illusion because that partner brings a nice wine to the evening meal, shares some convivial chat and thinks that is where all the action is) That they are all screwing each other is a given, and each thinks the other really enjoys it. Slippery slope anyone?

Chris in TX wrote

I think you are not using David Brooks's quote as he meant. It's not that Bush is secretly liberal -- he's not by any means -- but rather that he does all sorts of riduculous things in the name of conservatisim that will disillusion moderates and moderate-conservatives.

You and I (and Brooks) are clear on the fact Bush is NOT a secret liberal as a literal statement.

But even Brooks quote implies Bush is playing for the other team, admittedly in a humorous way.

Conservatives of a certain stripe seem to attribute Bush's boneheaded moves, in all seriousness, as "liberal" or "appeasing liberals" or "caving to the Democratic minority in congress" -?!?- or "sure to make the liberals happy".

I find the Bush supporters concern that Bush is doing things that liberals appreciate or approve of or gain from is genuine. And, I can only presume, an example of cognitive dissonance.

jc

Let me assure the right wing of the Republican Party that George W. Bush has done absolutely nothing that I approve of, except for kiddie baseball on the White House lawn.

Further, I take no comfort whatsoever that Bush has merely been an incompetent godfather of crony capitalism. That the social, religious, and economic conservatives are massing to his far right and building solidarity for yet another run at installing their uncompromising ideologies on this country brings us ever closer to the death of America.

They want cultural and economic war? I'm tired of waiting. Bring it on. May the conclusion be final, because arguing about it any further is no longer remotely interesting. I'm right and they are wrong.

A good sign of the call to arms would be if Judge Roy Moore runs for and wins the Alabama Governorship. Hopefully he would install a state-sponsered Church and the newly-aligned Supreme Court would find nothing in the Constitution to prevent it.

Then the war is on. It will look like "Lord Of The Rings", much to the pleasure of the Tolkien-lovers on the Right.

But I have an exploding nuclear ring. And I'm not tossing it into the volcano. I'll use it.

John: there's one thing Bush has done that I approve of: pushing the North-South treaty in the Sudan. As someone who has always, in the past, agreed with at least one thing all previous Republican presidents had done, and who therefore felt very odd thinking that literally everything Bush did was bad, which I pretty much felt, I was thrilled to be able to write about it.

Hilzoy:

Just about the time I get a good head of revolutionary steam up, some fair-minded person stands and quietly points out that not all is lost nor is it uniformly horrific.

Smile

John, are there no Tolkien-lovers on the left? ;)

are there no Tolkien-lovers on the left? ;)

There are, but they are only in it for the multicultural stuff, like learning Elvish and recreating that Middle Earth 'community'. ;^)

From my readings, I truly believe many of them see Roe as a symptom of a judicial disease

Give me a god damn break. Did these people see Bush v. Gore as an example of judicial activism? No, of course not. Judicial activism is, simply put, when the Supreme Court makes a decision you don't like. There were no hordes of religious conservatives protesting the activism of Bush v. Gore. Nor would a ruling that made abortion illegal bring protests from most self-described originalists, no matter how poorly argued.

It is politics, plain and simple. To argue otherwise is to fool oneself.

Now maybe this fight would be good for the nation

Oh it would. It wouldn't be good for the Republican Party though. Because there isn't a Republican Party. There are two of them. Look, a lot of these religious conservative types aren't very bright. Not that all of them are stupid, but let's be honest, a lot of them are. It will take many of them a very, very long time to realize they have been fooled. At some point, however, they will.

The conservative road map to this point has always been that religious fanatic conservatives must never realize how badly they have been duped. When you've got a Republican president, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and a Republican Supreme Court, at some point even the dumbest of religious conservatives, upon noticing none of their preferred policies have been enacted even after half a decade of Republican rule, are going to balk.

This has been delayed for quite a while, but it is inevitable.

Now, for the liberals, and moderates, and moderate conservatives, I don't know how you capitalize on this schism. Nobody really wants these religious conservatives in their camp because, well, because a lot of them are just plain nutty.

So there's no hope of convincing these people to switch sides, because no one wants them on their side. Not really. If there's going to be a change, it will be from conservatives deciding they don't want to belong to a party that panders to religious nuts, and from religious nuts withholding their support from the Republican Party. And giving that support to....whom?

I would strongly caution anyone here in thinking that Buchanan is particularly representative of the 'right'. He is the slightly less erudite Chomsky of the right. He was driven out of the Republican party, and considering how ridiculously rightist you think the Republican party is, that should tell you something.

"it seems to me, after all this time of reading liberal and conservative blogs, that conservatives in general (not particularly the ones who post or comment here) spend a lot more time thinking about, and defining themselves against, "liberals" in general than liberals do with respect to conservatives."

This seems almost certainly wrong to me. Conservatism is about a lot of things, but one of the biggest one is being cautious about precipitous change. That is a core defining value. It ends up being articulated "against" things because in order to cherish that value you end up fighting against many of the changes currently proposed. That isn't because of any emptiness in conservatism, it is because you don't bother fighting about things that aren't at issue. Liberalism isn't as unified, but it tends to what change--and often major change. So it isn't shocking at all that conservatives talk about resisting the changes they don't think are well thought out rather than changes that no one is proposing. Furthermore it isn't surprising that liberals don't see that as an intrinsic value, because they are oriented to seeing how changes can make things better instead of seeing how changes can make things worse. It isn't a matter of character so much as a matter of outlook. That is why liberals are always accusing conservatives of being unduly pessimistic and conservatives tend to think that liberals are hopelessly naive--we have different basic psychological points of focus and have difficulty understanding why our counterparts are looking so hard at other things.

Conservatism is about a lot of things, but one of the biggest one is being cautious about precipitous change. That is a core defining value. It ends up being articulated "against" things because in order to cherish that value you end up fighting against many of the changes currently proposed. That isn't because of any emptiness in conservatism, it is because you don't bother fighting about things that aren't at issue. Liberalism isn't as unified, but it tends to what change--and often major change. So it isn't shocking at all that conservatives talk about resisting the changes they don't think are well thought out rather than changes that no one is proposing. Furthermore it isn't surprising that liberals don't see that as an intrinsic value, because they are oriented to seeing how changes can make things better instead of seeing how changes can make things worse. It isn't a matter of character so much as a matter of outlook. That is why liberals are always accusing conservatives of being unduly pessimistic and conservatives tend to think that liberals are hopelessly naive--we have different basic psychological points of focus and have difficulty understanding why our counterparts are looking so hard at other things.

Sebastian, in a better world (or "back in the day"?) I'd find your analysis congenial. But I defy you to look at today's reality and tell me that this statement defines most "conservatives." "Being cautious about precipitous change"???? Hah, Bloody Hah.

If your semantic and philosophical point is that the reactionaries who absolutely delight in the prospect of "precipitous change" in American politics, society, economy & culture -- so long as they can dictate the direction of that change -- are not actually "conservatives," then I would, of course, be in agreement with you.

But if we accept the more general usage of the term in America today, then it seems reasonable to include in reference to "conservatives" those who do NOT share your prudent respect for the past and admirable caution about potentially undesirable futures. Until the true (Burkean?) conservatives out there manage to purge their (your) camp of the right-wing loonies, at least semantically ("OK, we're in an alliance of convenience with them on this issue, but they're not One Of Us"), you're stuck with them, I fear.

Seb: I didn't mean to suggest any sort of emptiness in conservatives. This has just been something that struck me, first around the time when I was writing the 'Who is this 'Left'...' post, when I thought: there just isn't any comparable liberal invective against the "right", and then as I read e.g. the periodic RedState posts on: Here's what they think; here's what we think.

And: trust me (but verify!), our problem with the right on, say, Iraq was not due to our excessively sunny outlook. That's why that always struck me as so odd coming from conservatives: the very people who had been telling me for years to just read Burke and all would be revealed (for the record, I read Burke ages ago, and quite like him, but it hasn't made me a conservative yet ;) )were all of a sudden all gung-ho for remaking an entire society from scratch, just like that.

It was truly disorienting.

dr ngo: crosspost ;)

He is the slightly less erudite Chomsky of the right.

Please, I know you don't like Chomsky, but suggesting that he and Buchanan are in the same solar system in terms of eruditude (ok, I just made that word up, but you know what I mean) is ridiculous. Also, while one could say that Buchanan was 'driven out of the Republican party', this would be wholly and unambiguously a Buchananian frame of reference. BTW, his sister, Bay (an altogether appropriate first name) is now working with Tom Tancredo (as John Thullen(?) christened in an earlier thread, the Italian Stallion of demagogues) on his presidential bid. (I was tempted to put an adjective in front of that, but god knows, if I wrote symbolic or quixotic, we'd probably looking at President Tancredo getting sworn in on 1 Jan 2009)

BTW, and just out of curiosity, is there still any thoughts of adding someone else to the roster here?

Let's just say that Chomsky isn't popular for the intellectual analysis that he is acutally good at (if his contributions to linguistics are as good as he claims, I'm not expert enough to really judge that). He may be a brilliant linguist (actually I understand he is quite bad at languages so I should say brilliant at linguistics) but his political analysis is atrocious. As far as political analysis goes I suspect Buchanan is actually more reality-based than Chomsky.

And what does this sentence mean? I can't figure out what you are trying to say: "Also, while one could say that Buchanan was 'driven out of the Republican party', this would be wholly and unambiguously a Buchananian frame of reference."

"there just isn't any comparable liberal invective against the "right"

Are you serious? At least once a month on crookedtimber you can get those types of posts. On any given week on the Eschaton, Democratic Underground, Pandagon, and dKos you can absolutely find those types of posts. OliverWillis rants quite often as well. Even at WashingtonMonthly there are at least monthly debates about how the Republicans are too evil to beat and then endless discussions about whether or not liberals should hide the desire for government health care or try to portray the Republicans as granny-hating union-busters. And there are endless talks about what the Democratic Party "stands for" which don't seem to get anywhere because no one really knows.

Buchanan is interesting because he does try to base his punditry in some sort of Realpolitik and old fashioned reality-based thinking: it is actually possible to follow how his arguments stem from his - er - prejudices.

This attempt at rationality must be why the current Republicans don't like him. They need to exterminate all Reason so they can dream of being History's Actors and Make Their Own Rules (with extra special pixie dust!).

Sebastian makes the argument that Buchanan was thrown off the train because he is too far to the right. Really? I didn't think there was anything too right wing for the GOP (hello, Roy Moore!). Buchanan *used* to be on the far edge but has been left behind looking at the backs of his party running further and further into radicalism (and insanity, if you ask me).

Sebastian, I don't think erudite means what you think it does ;^)

Buchanan is a moderate compared to the people the Bush administration panders to. If any self-described conservative thinks Buchanan is such a nutty right wing extremist, they should reconsider their support for an even more nutty even more extremist political party.

As for Chomsky, he makes his assumptions clear, and his conclusions follow logically from his assumptions. I have seen no criticism from the right that addresses either his logic, or his assumptions, all I have seen from the right is character assassination plain and simple. The usual form is demonstrated above. Note at this point that Sebastian's method of "intellectual analysis", for example, is often to simply call his opponent an "ass-hole" or something similarly witty and then scamper off, and the contrast becomes quite stark.

Also, it should be pointed out that only by fallacy can "Republicans" and "the right" be considered to be the same entity.

felix while YMMV, I feel no matter how aggrieved you feel, I think we should try to only take substantive points from past discussions and leave the cheap shots behind, tempting as it is to resurrect them. Thanx.

"I have seen no criticism from the right that addresses either his logic, or his assumptions, all I have seen from the right is character assassination plain and simple."

Perhaps you are unable to recognize legitimate criticism as anything other than character assassination. It is also possible that you have difficulty sorting good assumptions from bad. But we have been through the Chomsky debate before, and you are a fundamentalist so it isn't worth rehashing. People can use google to ressurect it if they care to.

I also defy you to justify "often". I believe I have only correctly identified you once.

felixray: I have seen no criticism from the right that addresses either his logic, or his assumptions, all I have seen from the right is character assassination plain and simple.

That's because Chomsky's essays are lengthy and erudite. It's possible to take them apart and actually critique what he's saying, but it's hard work. It's so much easier just to adopt the classic right-wing attitude of "I don't have to read him, I already know he's a stinker!"

Oh, and sorry, I missed the question you asked me, Sebastian. To claim that Buchanan was 'driven out of the party' suggests that there were some actions that the party took to drive him out. I recall no motion censuring him, no actions taken against him, no formal mechanisms suggesting that he was unwelcome in the Republican party. My view of Buchanan's leaving is a lot like Novak stomping off the set when Carville made a wisecrack-the stomping off had a lot more to do with Novak than anything Carville said. Of course, you may be trying to practice what the man himself is trying to do with Vladimir Putin

But if we wish to befriend Russia—and America has no more vital interest —we must try to see the world as Putin sees it. We must try to see Russia from the vantage point of a patriot son who joined his nation’s secret service at the apogee of its power, only to see his country collapse, crumble, and fall to pieces in two years.link

But I would really recommend you spend more time trying to put yourself in a liberal's pair of shoes rather than in Buchanan's loafers. At least if you don't want to be ganged up on by the ObWi pack of vicious liberals 8^)

Sebastian: Perhaps you are unable to recognize legitimate criticism as anything other than character assassination.

No. Felixray's right: we very seldom see legitimate criticism of Chomsky, because in order to do it, a right-winger would need to actually read his work, figure out what he's saying, and discover sources that contradict factually what Chomsky is saying. All of this would be hard work. Most people don't want to do it: it's so much easier to run with soundbites someone else picked out, and character assassination.

That is (now I'm cooled down a bit, but it took a year) perhaps legitimate during an electoral campaign. Most Bush supporters claimed the reason(s) they weren't supporting Kerry were the lies that the Bush campaign was spreading about him, or the fact that in the soundbites culled from Kerry's speeches by broadcast news, they hadn't seen/heard anything to justify switching their allegience. In an electoral campaign, where the point was to find reasons to support the guy you want to win, and if that's not possible, as in 2004, reasons to attack the guy you want to lose, it would be justifiable not to bother doing research that might invalidate your party loyalty. Well, "justifiable" in terms of party politics/winning elections - it's what modern politics consists of (said cynically).

But Chomsky isn't running for election. He's not a party candidate. He's an academic, a thinker, and what happens is that people who are not capable of out-thinking him respond to his thoughts by abusing him. You may disagree with his politics and feel he deserves the abuse, but you shouldn't confuse that with legitimate criticism.

It is also possible that you have difficulty sorting good assumptions from bad

It is also possible that you have difficulty sorting reality from your fantasies. I said nothing about whether Chomsky's assumptions were "good" or "bad", just that he made them quite obvious. Which I believe he does. Tell me Sebastian, in which work of Chomsky are his assumptions not made clear enough for you? Could you tell us one assumption that his argument makes that you feel is not explicit? Perhaps in his next work, Chomsky should merely call his opponents "ass-holes", would that be easier for you to comprehend?

I believe I have only correctly identified you once.

A self-contradictory remark that provides further evidence that your main tools of argument are petty insults and fallacious statements.

Legitimate criticism of Chomsky notorious right-wing ideologue Brad Delong here and here

A rather pointed criticism of Chomsky as a propagandist here .

"A self-contradictory remark that provides further evidence that your main tools of argument are petty insults and fallacious statements."

Hmmm, perhaps you might want to re-read this thread and form a considered opinion about which of the two of us is attempting to engage in conversation and which of the two of us are engaging in petty insults.

I believe your first mention of me is:

I have seen no criticism from the right that addresses either his logic, or his assumptions, all I have seen from the right is character assassination plain and simple. Note at this point that Sebastian's method of "intellectual analysis", for example, is often to simply call his opponent an "ass-hole" or something similarly witty and then scamper off, and the contrast becomes quite stark.

I note a snarky comment about my intellectual ability, a remarkable transformation of the single time I called you bad name into "often" and a carefully framed denial of personal recognition of legitimate criticism of Chomsky. I have pointed out DeLong's criticisms to you before, do you fail to note them because he doesn't count as "the right" or did you just fail to read them?

Yeah this IS what happened the last time we had a debate about Chomsky here. It turned out those criticizing him had never read him. They could only turn to quickly googled links.

From all available evidence, it appears you have made blind and false accusations about works you have never read. If I'm wrong, I'll ask the question again, which work of Chomsky's did you read and feel his assumptions were not made explicit, or that his logic was not clear?

I note a snarky comment about my intellectual ability

False. I make no assertions about your intellectual ability. I do make assertions about the tactics you use on this site.

a remarkable transformation of the single time I called you bad name

False. You have used kindergarten insults on multiple occasions. If you deny it, one of us is lying. I repeatedly use the example of "ass-hole" solely for reasons of extreme personal amusement, and thank you for your choice of words (or near words) on that occasion.

a carefully framed denial of personal recognition of legitimate criticism of Chomsky

False. There's nothing "carefully framed", there was an attempt by you to attribute to me views which I did not assert. Perhaps you should be more careful with your framing, no?

As for link #1, if you can't tell the difference between what you are doing and what DeLong is doing, I may have to reconsider one of my earlier statements in this post.

And as for link #2, half a century of writing and that's the best you've got?

You're not making much of a case for yourself here.

At least once a month on crookedtimber you can get those types of posts.

Sorry to interrupt the considered analysis of Chomsky's ouvre, but I was under the impression that crookedtimber is primarily composed of mostly Europeans writing from that perspective. I know that some of them are based at US universities (Kieran Healy, Henry Farrell and Brian Weatherson, I think), but to conflate their views with home grown US liberalism is bizarre. I hasten to add that this is not to claim that their views are bizarre, but when you have one of them discuss their their impression of an American college football game like this, it's pretty clear you are dealing with an outside point of view.

Legitimate criticism of Chomsky notorious right-wing ideologue Brad Delong here and here

The first link does appear to be legitimate criticism: Brad DeLong reads the first 17 pages, doesn't like what he reads in them, and is able to explain what he doesn't like of what he's read. The second link is less certain: it looks awfully like character assassination via soundbites.

A rather pointed criticism of Chomsky as a propagandist here .

This does look like the real thing - though it's long and fairly detailed, and I don't have time to read it now.

I think this proves the point Felixray and I were making: if you want to criticize Noam Chomsky, you have to work at it. And character assassination via soundbite is so much easier, and so much more common.

"Yeah this IS what happened the last time we had a debate about Chomsky here. It turned out those criticizing him had never read him. They could only turn to quickly googled links."

I'm sorry felix, but worrying that I might have used google isn't much of a substantive response to the links I provided. Do you believe they are good criticism or not? Especially Brad's first link he provides very specific examples of very specific problems which appear in Chomsky's presentation of facts.

It isn't a substantive response, but it is an excellent example of your tactics when faced with evidence you don't like. It isn't kindergarten--your response is much more like a tenured proffessor who doesn't like to have his authority challenged.

Tom: 'Tell Leo he's not God on the throne. He's just a cheap political boss with more hair tonic than brains.'

An apt quote, I think.

"Sorry to interrupt the considered analysis of Chomsky's ouvre, but I was under the impression that crookedtimber is primarily composed of mostly Europeans writing from that perspective."

While we are talking about typical debating technique I will repeat my point and then respond:

At least once a month on crookedtimber you can get those types of posts. On any given week on the Eschaton, Democratic Underground, Pandagon, and dKos you can absolutely find those types of posts. OliverWillis rants quite often as well. Even at WashingtonMonthly there are at least monthly debates about how the Republicans are too evil to beat and then endless discussions about whether or not liberals should hide the desire for government health care or try to portray the Republicans as granny-hating union-busters. And there are endless talks about what the Democratic Party "stands for" which don't seem to get anywhere because no one really knows.

What am I to take from the statement about crookedtimber? That you didn't read past "crookedtimber"? That you disagree with main point of my paragraph? That you don't count the other six examples as liberals defining themselves against conservatives? That you agree with my point but don't want to talk about it? That you agree with some of my point but want to say that crooked timber isn't a good example? That you disagree with all of my point and want to talk about crooked timber because it isn't as good an example as the other six?

It is difficult for me to have a discussion when you choose not to respond to the thrust of my argument. Do you believe the thrust of the argument was not apparent in that paragraph? Are you not interested in discusssion of the thrust of that paragraph?

All are fine responses, but by leaving me in the dark about them, you force me to speculate.

I don't expect this to be convincing, because I can't back it up with citations, only impressions. I read the blogs you cited, and I would say that that the posts you're describing tend to be directed toward that very small (a couple of thousand maybe) group of conservatives/Republicans in government, in journalism, in think-tanks, advocacy groups, and lobbying. In other words, Republicans/rightwingers as a political organization -- while I might gripe about Republicans in the same tone as the blogs you cite, I wouldn't think of you, for example, as an example of what I was griping about. You're a private citizen, neither controlling nor directly under the influence of those who control the levers of power.

Rightwing invective seems to conceive of its target more broadly -- as that 20 or 30 or 40% of the population that consistently votes for the left-most candidate, wants socialized health care, etc. Liberals as a population group, not as an organized political movement.

I've probably not read enough Chomsky to comment, but why let good judgment stop me? He's clearly brilliant, and quite passionate, but he counters the murky morality of the Reagan-era government (well, really, any era, but I mostly read about Reagan's monstrous policies in Central America) and the complicit media with a sort of fundamentalist Manichean outlook. Which is not to say that he's entirely wrong, or even mostly wrong, but only that I always get the sense that he's overstating the moral clarity of some things.

Now, back to the previously scheduled food-fight...

Sebastian Holsclaw: Conservatism is about a lot of things, but one of the biggest one is being cautious about precipitous change. That is a core defining value. It ends up being articulated "against" things because in order to cherish that value you end up fighting against many of the changes currently proposed.

I'm interested to know how Social Security privatization, the National Sales Tax proposal (or any such radical overhaul of the tax system), and the Iraq War mesh with this view of conservatism. How do you account for the number of "conservatives" who are hell-bent on abolishing a welfare state which dates back to the 1930's? Do the national sales tax groupies escape the law of unintended consequences merely by secretly intending the unadvertised negative effects of their policy proposals? And in what world is the military enterprise into which we are pouring billions of dollars and thousands of American lives rightly described as "cautious"?

I had a feeling Edward was making a mistake citing Buchanan here. So many Buchananites still fondling those pitchforks from within the Republican Party to go after. Why cite Buchanan, who possesses impermeable plausible deniability?

Why, Dobson was on the phone with Rove just the other day for a winky heads-up.

Noam Chomsky? He admired Monica for her access to the zippered halls of power.

Every two and four years, Buchanan releases his delegates to vote for whatever Republican candidates come down the road. Free trade, sclmee flade. Taxes and fetuses, taxes and fetuses. (I'm for more of both, incidentally, in a non-Chomsky kind of way)

That Buchanan himself is toiling away in the Mexican barrio of talk-whatever wearing his fake Trotsky beard and awaiting the Rovean ice-pick is an amusing piece of long-running kabuki.

Years ago, I read that Buchanan and his florid Irish/Scottish brothers would crash parties when they were teenagers in Washington D.C. (?) and start fights. I wish I'd been there. I suspect Pat has a glass jaw; Bay (the tough brother ;)), on the other hand, might have required more deadly force.

They probably picked on Chomsky, because he stood in the center of the room, glasses askew, regaling the assembled babes with his theories regarding the innateness of grammar. Which the girls found incredibly seductive and which drove the rude Buchananites who collectively {if they will excuse the allusion to Stalin}) needed to summon the five brain cells they posssessed between them and rub them together to think up some boorish behavior.

Bay (the smart one, having been bequeathed two brain cells from her squidish forebears, but also the one who looked least attractive in a kilt) did think to rasp out some anti-Israel slogans before she sucker-punched Chomsky.

Thus missing a fascinating discussion.

"while I might gripe about Republicans in the same tone as the blogs you cite, I wouldn't think of you, for example, as an example of what I was griping about."

Hmm. Is this a line you draw, or one you think the liberal sites I cited draw? I think both liberal and conservative sites do quite a bit of both types of invective. I hear complaints about stupid conservatives in red states voting against their own economic interests from lefty sites all the time. That kind of thing sounds more like the "conservatives as a population group not an organized political movement" to me. Also the demonization of evangelicals on the lefty sites is so severe that pretty much all an author has to do is hint that a conservative might take religion seriously to be able to totally write off anything they say.

"Rightwing invective seems to conceive of its target more broadly -- as that 20 or 30 or 40% of the population that consistently votes for the left-most candidate, wants socialized health care, etc. Liberals as a population group, not as an organized political movement."

On the right, quite a bit of invective is reserved for people like Senator Kennedy or Representative Pelosi for instance, but I think you are saying that is ok. I certainly wouldn't deny that people also engage in population group stereotypes, but from what I've seen on the sites I mentioned the problem is rampant on the left as well. (Demonizing your opponents being a human trait, that isn't surprising).

Not that it matters:

Should read: ".... to think up some boorish behavior, stark raving anti-intellectually crazy"

I'm not at all interested in anything Buchanan has to say, given what has gone before. Maybe that's just me, though.

Hmm. Is this a line you draw, or one you think the liberal sites I cited draw?

Eh -- I was talking about the liberal sites you cited, but I can't define the difference in the targets of rhetoric clearly enough to defend my position, which means I should drop it.

(BTW -- any thoughts about the Eighth Amendment precedent Kennedy cites in support of his position in Roper, and whether that is sufficient to clear him of a charge of judicial activism?)

RE Roper, I won't have time to look it up until later tonight.

It is difficult for me to have a discussion when you choose not to respond to the thrust of my argument.

That said, I'd really rather read a response to Dr. Ngo's criticism of your notion of "conservatism" than another debate on the merits of Chomsky. Your analysis of what "conservatism" might be (or even should be) is goes without saying; but it isn't remotely connected to the real world of US conservative politics in 2005.

("Just like a blogger to bring Oakeshott to a knife fight.")

As for why the screamers and scribblers want a fight on Miers now, posturing, habit, and pathology, in varying degrees, explain the phenomenon to me. Opus and JC are OTM here. I don't have a good grasp of how representative the screamers are in this case of the broader GOP rank & file/elected officialdom.

What am I to take from the statement about crookedtimber? That you didn't read past "crookedtimber"? That you disagree with main point of my paragraph? That you don't count the other six examples as liberals defining themselves against conservatives? That you agree with my point but don't want to talk about it? That you agree with some of my point but want to say that crooked timber isn't a good example? That you disagree with all of my point and want to talk about crooked timber because it isn't as good an example as the other six?

It is difficult for me to have a discussion when you choose not to respond to the thrust of my argument. Do you believe the thrust of the argument was not apparent in that paragraph? Are you not interested in discusssion of the thrust of that paragraph?

Wow, 10 sentences, 9 of them questions. But I think they have pretty much the same answer, which is it's not my debating tactics that are the problem, it's yours. You throw up 7 examples, but your first one is bogus. Thus, one has to wade thru your mistaken example to get to the some real discussion. (I will assume that you knew that CT was not an example of US liberals, but in your rush to pull up examples, you just tossed it in rather than simply using CT to puff up your sense of outrage)

To have a discussion, one has to has to at least agree on facts, or at least understand which facts one disagrees on. That I try to get you off the subject of Chomsky (not because I'm uninterested, but to prevent you from embarassing yourself because I feel it is evident that you haven't read any of Chomsky, just googled up critiques and demanded that people answer them) with an observation that would have let you say 'ah, you are right, please strike CT, but what do you say about the other six?', I would have thought, would have been unremarkable. Though I should be glad that you didn't get Ward Churchill and Larry Summers confused again.

All are fine responses, but by leaving me in the dark about them, you force me to speculate.

I'll remove that gun that I have pointed at your head, as it didn't stop you from asking those 9 previous questions, and permit you to try the question I gave above. Pretending that you did ask it, I would suggest that what Edward is talking about is not fighting words on blogs (which are really a dime a dozen), but the seeming foundation of the sense of outrage at the Miers nomination by those conservatives who disagree with the president's assessement (we can agree that there is disagreement, right?) which is that they wanted a fight and the Miers nomination denies them that fight, and that seems to be the interesting point.

If you want to argue about the 6 blogs you list, I would suggest that there is a difference between individual/small closeknit group sites and large group sites that should be taken into account. You also seem to suggest that we have to take a blog's commenters as part of the entire package, which is the only way you can make that centrist of centrists, Kevin Drum, fit into your category. Frankly, there are more differences between the sites you cite than similarities. I read Atrios, Washington Monthly and Dkos (but only delve into the comments there when they are pointed to), haven't been to Willis in a while, have never hung out at DU, and I used to read Pandagon regularly until Ezra Klein left. Looking at the DU site, it says that it provides political satire and commentary, so already this seems to suggest that there are differing approaches. Since your point is addressing Hilzoy's comment, and she specifically mentioned Redstate, the only comparable blog would be DKos, and the difficulty in trying to define what is the DKos point of view (or even if there is one point of view) has been fought over many times before.

Of course, the fact that you seem to be suggesting that you can look at the blogosphere and summarize the liberal side of it with 6 scattered blogs suggests that Hilzoy has a point, which is that liberal is a placeholder for something that you and other conservatives want to define yourself in opposition to.

determining which bloggers / blog sites are more narrow-minded, partisan and/or hypocritical is an utterly useless exercise, and especially so when performed by partisans. So if anyone reading or writing to this thread thinks that they are persuading anybody by arguing that the liberal blog sites cited above are better, worse, more fair or less fair than conservative blogs, you are Really Just Fooling yourselves.

ditto the chomsky fights. he's kind of a rohrsach blot -- you see what you want to see.

but it will be interesting to see if Bush can paper over once again the growing fissure in the Republican party, and how he can do it. Presumably Blame The Democrats will be high on the list, but it's getting tougher to use that pitch the longer that the dems are out of power.

But I think they have pretty much the same answer, which is it's not my debating tactics that are the problem, it's yours. You throw up 7 examples, but your first one is bogus. Thus, one has to wade thru your mistaken example to get to the some real discussion.

...

To have a discussion, one has to has to at least agree on facts, or at least understand which facts one disagrees on. That I try to get you off the subject of Chomsky (not because I'm uninterested, but to prevent you from embarassing yourself because I feel it is evident that you haven't read any of Chomsky, just googled up critiques and demanded that people answer them) with an observation that would have let you say 'ah, you are right, please strike CT, but what do you say about the other six?'

Evident or not, in my college years I read a number of Chomsky's essays from "The Chomsky Reader". And I'm certainly not demanding that anyone answer DeLong. I am pointing out that the idea that there aren't any solid criticisms of Chomsky isn't correct. I am of course suggesting that the ones I've cited are fairly solid which you could in theory debate if you disagreed. Whether or not I googled for them (I did, though I had read DeLong's first one a few years ago when I wasn't debating anyone on the topic) doesn't really address the issue of whether or not they are substantive criticisms. In fact it completely dodges the question. You can admit they substantive, deny they are substantive, tell me you don't have time to read them, or something else. You can even ignore the question entirely and leave it hanging. But suspecting I googled isn't really an answer to anything. As a matter of fact I did google, but that isn't a bad thing. I read through about 20 criticims of Chomsky, decided that some were too shrill, others were too vague, and others were too long. I cited 3 that were a good balance of medium-length, not-super-venomous, and factually specific. That is how research works (especially when you aren't getting paid for it).

As for the 7 examples problem. If 6 are on point and one is not, surely you can say "I don't think crookedtimber is a good example because they are foreign, but as to dKos, WashingtonMonthly, Eschaton, etc. I think X" as easily as I could say "Ok, ignore CrookedTimber and please respond to the rest". I'm on of a very few conservative commentors responding to a huge number of liberal commentors. We are communicating over a large number of time zones and work under lots of different time constraints. If you do that, we can continue the conversation. If you don't, you have to wait until I respond before anything else can happen.

I also see that you see this as "debating tactics" while I want to engage in constructive discussion. If you want to win points with the judges, by all means just say CrookedTimber is foreign therefore I obviously lose the point. If you want to have a discussion, you might note that I gave 6 other examples. I'm not certain that we were limited to the American blogosphere but for the sake of argument I'm willing to conceed it would be more useful to focus on the other six examples. (See how that lets us move on to a productive discussion more than if I just threw a post up saying "When hilzoy wrote '...I also think that there's a kind of animus directed at a view of who liberals are and what we supposedly stand for that has no real counterpart on the left..." it isn't at all obvious that "the left" excludes leftist websites read by many in the US but originating mostly outside of it". That would get us on an entirely unproductive discussion about what "the left" meant in that context without doing a thing to talk about the merits of the argument. We could discuss that for 50 posts, get to a resolution (maybe), and have avoided talking about the subject she interestingly raised for an entire two days.

I won't claim that I never do that. But I honestly try not to.

"If you want to argue about the 6 blogs you list, I would suggest that there is a difference between individual/small closeknit group sites and large group sites that should be taken into account. You also seem to suggest that we have to take a blog's commenters as part of the entire package, which is the only way you can make that centrist of centrists, Kevin Drum, fit into your category. Frankly, there are more differences between the sites you cite than similarities. I read Atrios, Washington Monthly and Dkos (but only delve into the comments there when they are pointed to), haven't been to Willis in a while, have never hung out at DU, and I used to read Pandagon regularly until Ezra Klein left."

Ok, you sort of do it again to me here. You suggest there is a difference between the small and large sites that needs to be taken into account but you leave absolutely no hint what you think that difference is.

For clarification purposes, I think the comments have to be taken into account on sites which are mostly comments (Eschaton) but NOT WashingtonMonthly. My point in bringing up WashingtonMonthly is that even as a centrist site, the POSTERS still engage in kind of anti-right defining liberalism thing that hilzoy suggests doesn't happen much on the left.

Also, why is it hard to define the dKos front page "point of view" while it is easy to define the RedState "point of view"? The front pages and diaries work on the very same principle.

"Of course, the fact that you seem to be suggesting that you can look at the blogosphere and summarize the liberal side of it with 6 scattered blogs suggests that Hilzoy has a point, which is that liberal is a placeholder for something that you and other conservatives want to define yourself in opposition to."

Here I am in quite a bit of a bind. If I had merely said "liberal blogs define themselves against conservatives quite often" I would have been challenged to provide a specific example. Anticipating this I decided to also give a few specific examples. Apparently that proves something to you, though I'm not sure what. Your point about scattered blogs is odd. One could also characterize it as a broad cross-section including 2 of the most popular left-wing blogs, an academic blog, a super-popular leftwing comment board, and some other leftish stuff I read at random.

Note the difference in how I engage hilzoy. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a comprehensive survey in front of her of all a majority of right-wing blogs and/or media outlets. She gives one data point. I don't attack her on this, because it is something she noticed there, and it might be worth talking about. I don't demand a study. I don't deny that RedState sometimes has writers that seem to define conservatism "against" things. Instead I talk about why the nature of conservatism might contribute to setting up in opposition that way for the purposes of discourse even if it has its own definition apart from that. I also talked about the idea that liberals don't seem to do that much as not being my experience (and I certainly read liberal sites quite a bit). I then shared specfic sites I had seen do this, and at least one of the arguments that I have seen. If it were all about scoring points I could demand a study, argue about whether RedState is a 'conservative' site or a 'Republican' site, complain that 'liberal' isn't well defined, and do all sorts of things in that vein.

I won't claim I am always pleasant. But I do try to keep the conversation moving by trying to address the actual argument instead of nitpicking side issues.

This rarely seems to happen with my arguments. I don't believe I regularly receive the courtesy I try to extend. And it annoys me not only because it seems like I'm talking to multiple pedants, but also because it encourages me to respond in kind--which I think is unproductive (and I'm not proud of it because it is cheesy to discuss things that way).

"Multiple Pedants"

Not a bad name for band or a blog.

Except that James Dobson would be up in arms because he figures there must be pro-child molestation thoughts going on somewhere.

"I don't believe I regularly receive the courtesy I try to extend"

conservative victimology strikes again!

Good response. Way to play to my fears. :)

If I had merely said "liberal blogs define themselves against conservatives quite often" I would have been challenged to provide a specific example.

I tried to simply point out the crookedtimber because I was getting tired of the Chomsky crap and so, wanted to 'move the discussion along'. I'm sorry that I didn't include a 'the other blogs are an interesting question' because, well, it's not really. You did read Francis when he wrote:
determining which bloggers / blog sites are more narrow-minded, partisan and/or hypocritical is an utterly useless exercise, and especially so when performed by partisans.

Of course, this is a horrid, horrid attack on you because you are not a partisan, and you would never drop in the middle of a conversation and drop snark

A blog is wrapped up in so many other things (poster's point of view, commenters it attracts, guest posters, level of seriousness, level of local content, blah blah blah) that picking out 6 or 60 blogs doesn't back up your argument. That I didn't pick that nit was a kindness rather than an attack.

This rarely seems to happen with my arguments. I don't believe I regularly receive the courtesy I try to extend. And it annoys me not only because it seems like I'm talking to multiple pedants, but also because it encourages me to respond in kind--which I think is unproductive (and I'm not proud of it because it is cheesy to discuss things that way).

If you would like to rewind the tape for this thread, I granted you your dislike of Chomsky and simply said that your comparison was flawed. If you had, at that point, simply said 'gee, I guess I let my dislike of Chomsky overwhelm my ability to compare', we wouldn't be here at the Chas Bird 'people scrutinize me more than other posters' memorial. Of course, if I tell you this, I'm only being more of a pedant in your eyes (Imagine that, he actually pays attention to the way I use my rhetoric! The nerve!) I think looking over this thread, one would see me giving you enough room to step back, but apparently, you saw no escape. Cornered conservative lashes out! Fists of Fury!

I find (in my partisan world) you regularly leave things hanging, but again, to go after you to have you acknowledge some points on the other side would again be "pedantry", invoking a 'this is why it is so hard to argue with you' comment (which is, technically speaking, an ad hominem, because it really has nothing to do the content of the arguments being proferred)

You may feel that Edward (you are not talking about Hilzoy, right?) gets treated gently when he rants. But if you look at those rants, he usually is happy to acknowledge them as rants, not as careful and thoughtful musings. And, unless my partisan eyes deceive me, he hasn't been posting a lot, has he?

That said, my usual rule is to never post when you post two comments in a row, because that usually means that you've got a burr up your butt, and this seems to prove the wisdom of that rule.

"A blog is wrapped up in so many other things (poster's point of view, commenters it attracts, guest posters, level of seriousness, level of local content, blah blah blah) that picking out 6 or 60 blogs doesn't back up your argument."

So why is it that a single data point that hilzoy uses (RedState) leads to this kind of comment:

Of course, the fact that you seem to be suggesting that you can look at the blogosphere and summarize the liberal side of it with 6 scattered blogs suggests that Hilzoy has a point, which is that liberal is a placeholder for something that you and other conservatives want to define yourself in opposition to.

So one blog is good evidence for the point that conservatives engage in "a kind of animus directed at a view of who liberals are and what we supposedly stand for that has no real counterpart on the left" while six other blogs (some of them more popular than hilzoy's example) is "doesn't back up your argument"?

How does that work? That is just Calvinball rules.

I don't particularly leave things "hanging" more than anyone else on this board. The hilzoy comments above leave just as many unresolved issues hanging as mine. The difference is that you tend to agree with her, so you don't bother asking her to justify all of them, and I want to discuss the issues so I only ask for justification on ones that are crucial to her argument.

I find the charge of "ad hominem" is rather rich coming from someone whose total response to requested criticsm of Chomsky was a dismissal that I must have googled it.

And yes, this is precisely why it is difficult to argue with you.

I haven't read all the intervening comments yet, but I wanted to leave this quote from Maark Schmitt for Edward, since it's akin to his point in the post:

"I don't want to make too much of a casual comment by some random right-winger I don't know anything about, but this post on redstate.org seemed to capture the mood of the disgruntled right:

"The White House line [Mark Kilmer]

We might have seen what the new White House line [on Miers] will be from Senator Lindsey Graham on FOX News Sunday. Graham insisted that "the keepers of the conservative flame" might be angry now, but that they'll come around as they learn more about Miers as the nominating process plays out.

This indicates that the WH does not understand how badly some want the final showdown with the Dems."

Ah, that's it, "The Final Showdown." "At last we meet, Mr. Bond." Have some people perhaps been watching a little too much Star Wars? A few too many late nights trying to reach the "boss level" of Final Fantasy 10?"

I won't claim I am always pleasant. But I do try to keep the conversation moving by trying to address the actual argument instead of nitpicking side issues.

This rarely seems to happen with my arguments. I don't believe I regularly receive the courtesy I try to extend. And it annoys me not only because it seems like I'm talking to multiple pedants, but also because it encourages me to respond in kind--which I think is unproductive (and I'm not proud of it because it is cheesy to discuss things that way).

FWIW, I think this is a fair description, and that SH is a much better discussion partner than a great many folks of whatever persuasion. We're lucky to have him . . . and owe it to ourselves to engage in a little reflection.


Having now read through the comment thread, I agree with CharleyCarp.

Reflection? We should all be mirrors? I thought that was what Sebastian didn't like, when it happened.

Wow, this is a conundrum. Either I agree with Hilzoy, thereby preserving the essence of Seb's complaint, or I violently disagree with her, proving my pedant status once and for all. OK, you and me, Hilzoy. You goin' down!
(Silly, eh? Kinda like the notion of getting in a fight with Hilzoy)

I'm all for reflection, that seems to be all I do. But the explosion over noting that crookedtimber is a European viewpoint? Ironically, the problem that Seb has is that I am not saying anything about his other examples. That I pass over them because I don't think it's worth a fight over what Oliver Willis, Atrios et al perceive as their individual audiences has Sebastian claim he is dealing with multiple pedants. Whatever.

I agree with CC that we are lucky to have Sebastian, but that doesn't mean that I have to put up with him being tetchy. I make a bit more effort when it was a post, but in the comments? It's like the Niagara Falls routine. "Conservatives are"?! Slowly I turned, step by step...

And as for reflection and mirrors, well, this Zundel quote (which I link to in order to maintain my pedantry status) is quite nice.

lj: no fights needed ;) -- My comment wasn't particularly directed at you; more in general. I don't think you have to put up with anyone being tetchy, but on the other hand he was tetchy-d at first. (Or maybe my reaction is colored by that sinking feeling I get whenever Chomsky's name comes up outside the study of linguistics. Luckily, I can't participate in any conversation about him (outside phil. of language, and probably not even there) -- I read some of Chomsky's political stuff ages and ages ago, and thought it was very, very smart and also very wrong, but for the life of me I can't remember exactly why, and I have approximately no desire to go back and find out.)

Ack! Open italic!

Or, not.

I was hoping to fix it before anyone noticed. I think that this is the first time I've done that. Sigh.

What, left an open tag, or not fixed it before someone noticed?

As if there's a difference, as far as we're concerned. Feel free to erase this, too, as evidence.

"Ironically, the problem that Seb has is that I am not saying anything about his other examples. That I pass over them because I don't think it's worth a fight over what Oliver Willis, Atrios et al perceive as their individual audiences has Sebastian claim he is dealing with multiple pedants."

I can see that you aren't getting my point about that. That paragraph had an argument. The argument was directly on point with the discussion (unlike the Chomsky excursion which is a different example of how we get side-tracked around here. But that was my fault because I forgot that even Chomsky isn't as far out of the pale as Buchannan in terms of general citeability--which is of course precisely my point about citing Buchannan as an exemplar of conservatism). In any case I had 7 examples which led into an argument.

You didn't engage in the argument. In fact you now claim that the argument isn't even worth fighting over. Ok. But that wasn't your response. Your response was to ignore the argument AND ignore six of the examples AND claim that one of the examples was out of bounds because it was out of country. Now it isn't at all clear that a popular foreign leftist blogs should be excluded from 'leftist' in the point in discussion. But even granting that doesn't do anything about the rest of the comment.

Now you try to dismiss the comment as being irrelevant because it:

A) Might not be statistically significant as it represents only 6 outlets in a huge blogospere

B) Partisans aren't fit to judge that kind of thing anyway

C) I don't understand unspecified problems using large/small/group/individual blogs as examples.

and/or

D) dKos can't be judged on tone because it has multiple authors and diaries even though Redstate is set up in exactly the same way.

This is kind of the perfect storm of irrelevancies--especially when you are so interested in hilzoy's comment.

Hilzoy's comment shares every single one of those problems except C) which is avoided only because she has a single example instead of multiple examples.

Does that make her comment useless? I certainly don't think so. You would have to write a 500+ page thesis to even attempt to avoid those problems in a comprehensive way.

But if held to the same standard of evidence, my cites should not be dismissed with a curt "whatever" and even if you don't care for them, the REALLY shouldn't be dismissed with a

Of course, the fact that you seem to be suggesting that you can look at the blogosphere and summarize the liberal side of it with 6 scattered blogs suggests that Hilzoy has a point, which is that liberal is a placeholder for something that you and other conservatives want to define yourself in opposition to.

because it directly reveals that you are holding her comments to a dramatically different standard of evidence than mine. We are talking about the exact same type of evidence. To use the exact same type of evidence to elevate her point to something real while simultaneously using it to dismiss my point is rather breathtaking.

And if it was just you, and/or just every now and then I wouldn't get pissed. But it is quite a few people, and for much of the last year.

And even now, we aren't talking about the rather interesting phenomenon of politically minded people spending so much time defining themselves against their enemies rather than for something. It probably could have been an interesting discussion. Too bad we missed out on it.

Now it is however clear that verb-numbers agreement are a problems for me today.

lj: no fights needed ;)

Awww, you're no fun ;^)

Part of my tetchiness about Chomsky is that I hate having to defend him. Having studied in one of the schools of linguistics (functionalism) that Chomsky has directed his wrath at, I find him infuriating and his rhetorical tricks quite devious. But to believe he is making some sort of left compatible criticism is to miss the whole fact that he is doing a pox on both houses routine.

And, while making some valid points, he has _never_ admitted that he may be mistaken. The discussion of Chomsky's problems about Cambodia is a good link, but a better and more comprehensive one is here. The Faurisson affair is another example, and I like what John Goldsmith wrote about it here

In the end, this epitomizes much of what has been controversial about Chomsky’s views. On issues of importance, Chomsky’s utter certainty of the correctness of the position that he takes is captivating and attractive – up to a point, at least.

Just for laughs, here is Hitchens defense of Chomsky from 1985.

And I'm still someone who thinks that getting on Nixon's enemies list is a CV worthy achievement...

btw, this is a fuller quotation of Zundel's Le Miroir

Lizardbreath, with respect to Roper:

Kennedy refers to p.597 of Coker which says: "These recent events evidencing the attitude of state legislatures and sentencing juries do not wholly determine this controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that, in the end, our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, the legislative rejection of capital punishment for rape strongly confirms our own judgment, which is that death is indeed a disproportionate penalty for the crime of raping an adult woman."

This is historically unsupported (either through legal cites or otherwise) and part of a three vote opinon not a majority opinion. Two of the other votes in favor of the convict come from the jurisprudence-indefensible idea that the entire death penalty is barred by the Constitution despite its explict provisions explaining how capital cases are to be tried.

Furthermore, Coker is involves really bad logic. As Burger points out in his dissent, they rely on the fact that only one state had the death penalty for rape at the time, while ignoring both the fact that many states had been forced to rewrite their death penalty laws because of Supreme Court action in Fuhrman, and while failing to note that 2 other states had quickly thereafter drawn up statutes for the death penalty for rape--perhaps returning to a societal trend of allowing rapists to be punished with the death penalty. It also touches on enhancement of punishment for repeated rape, escaping from prison and raping again. You really should read the whole case and dissent.

This Court has consistently upheld the constitutional validity of such punishment-enhancing statutes. See, e.g., Spencer v. Texas, 385 U.S. 554, 559-560 (1967):

No claim is made here that recidivist statutes are . . . unconstitutional, nor could there be under our cases. Such statutes and other enhanced sentence laws, and procedures designed to implement their underlying policies, have been enacted in all the States, and by the Federal Government as well. . . . Such statutes . . . have been sustained in this Court on several occasions against contentions that they violate constitutional strictures dealing with double jeopardy, ex post facto laws, cruel and unusual punishment, due process, equal protection, and privileges and immunities.

(Footnote and citations omitted; emphasis added.) Accord, Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448, 451 (1962).

4. This special danger is demonstrated by the very record in this case. After tying and gagging the victim's husband, and raping the victim, petitioner sought to make his getaway in their automobile. Leaving the. victim's husband tied and gagged in his bathroom, Coker took the victim with him. As he started to leave, he brandished the kitchen knife he was carrying and warned the husband that,

if he would get pulled over or the police was following him in any way, that he would kill -- he would kill my wife. He said he didn't have nothing to lose -- that he was in prison for the rest of his life, anyway. . .

But in short, I don't think the one sentence in the three person (and probably Powell) gets Kennedy off.

BTW Powell's finding of a lack of excessive brutality in subduing a husband, raping a wife in front of him, kidnapping her, and threatening her with murder is a little odd.

I've probably not read enough Chomsky to comment, but why let good judgment stop me? He's clearly brilliant, and quite passionate, but he counters the murky morality of the Reagan-era government (well, really, any era, but I mostly read about Reagan's monstrous policies in Central America) and the complicit media with a sort of fundamentalist Manichean outlook.

Then that makes him the perfect philosopher of the Reagan era...

...just not in the way that anyone would like.

a long rant [now deleted] can be summarized as follows
-if you think your comment about blogs is equivalent with hilzoy's mentioning of Redstate, I disagree
-if you do not believe that I was trying to change the subject from Chomsky rather than attacking your argument on another flank, your loss
-if you think anyone wants to get in a discussion with someone who adduces his arguments from what he doesn't write, think again
-if you think you understand the meaning of erudite, you're wrong
-and if you think this was snarky, you should have read what I wrote before...

Your disagreement is noted. As throughout the thread, your basis for disagreement is mysterious.

You continue not to engage any of my arguments, including (humorously) my meta-discussion on discussion. I'm sure post-modernists would have a field day with the self-reference possibilities on this thread.

Of course the two of us would have to be important enough for them to care, which seems unlikely.

Ah, well.

You continue not to engage any of my arguments

*sigh*

Given that I only took up hilzoy's observation when you cited it as evidence, to say: especially when you are so interested in hilzoy's comment.

Well, as one person put it, this is why it is so hard to have a discussion with you.

At any rate, Hilzoy's observation was 'what struck her' i.e. a personal observation (you realize hilzoy is probably in the liberal camp). Rather than cite conservative sites that don't fit Hilzoy's observation, (so as to refute the idea that conservatives are defining themselves as anti liberals) your claim is well, liberal sites do it too. A pretty unremarkable observation, and claiming that it is an 'argument' doesn't make it more profound. Of course, if everyone runs around defining themselves as the anti-something, then do we actually have any definitions at all?

And you constantly harp on the liberal/Democratic control of culture and ideas that has forced conservatives like you to cry hold! That this seems like a philosophy defined in opposition, is that really hard to understand?

On to the 6 keystone liberal blogs. My opinion, that you may disagree with if you like, is that single author and small like-minded group blogs have a relationship with their audience that causes them to develop their own voice. Obviously, someone who has the banner of 'like kryptonite to stupid' is going to be a bit aggressive. Likewise, a site that says it delivers satire and commentary should be taken with a grain of salt. It's been pointed out that Atrios is really a 'moderate' with a very low boiling point.

Of course, if we put Yglesias, TPM, Brad DeLong, Steve Clemons, Mark Schmitt, Berube, Making Light, Body and Soul in your mix, well, one could argue that you selected the blogs not for the representative qualities, but for how much invective you think they produce.

As for Crooked Timber, it is a group of people who have widely differing experiences with conservatism (I would venture to guess that they have had little contact with religious conservatism that permeates the US, and I would also suggest that European conservatism is a different beast altogether) Plus the fact that they blog about cricket and rugby. That they are interested in what goes on in the US is not surprise and that they have opinions about it that shade to the left is not either. If you want to dump them in your liberal voice blender, go for it, but it suggests you don't actually care what sort of experiences they bring to the blogosphere. Hence, my suggestion that you just want to set up 'the liberal viewpoint'. That's my "argument". And if you don't address it, I will melodramatically sigh and complain about how you never seem to address my arguments.

That leaves DKos. Since I only read the front page stories, I can only comment that there seems a lot more going on there than defining themselves as anti-conservatives. By your standard, DKos is anti-mercenary because the proprietor made anti-mercenary comments. Or that the liberal voice in your head really doesn't like Barack Obama. You can claim that, but I don't think you are going to get very far.

This leads me to a bleg, which is: is the Hunter at Dkos the same Hunter who posts at Redstate? If it is the case, I would humbly suggest you ask him to blog here. So I could ignore his arguments too ;^)

Can we cut it out with the this is why it's so hard to have a discussion with you nonsense anytime soon? Pretty please? I don't think any of us is completely devoid of this flaw, except for probably hilzoy. Besides, it doesn't accomplish anything at all without some receptiveness on the other end, which at this point I'm thinking isn't there.

Another take on the "final showdown" meme going around.

Whoops, I see hilzoy beat me to it. See what happens if I go out for groceries instead of reading blogs at night...

...which I'm not a big subscriber to, BTW. Victory in politics doesn't last, nor is the electorate, in general, served by it.

"At any rate, Hilzoy's observation was 'what struck her' i.e. a personal observation (you realize hilzoy is probably in the liberal camp)."

And what struck you is that my citing liberal cites meant that she had a point. Which kind of makes it an impossible assertion to do anything but agree with. Your proposal that I cite conservative sites that don't regularly do that won't fit the bill as we shall see below.

It would be like me saying you are in denial about your ability to argue fairly. You could of course say that you weren't in denial but then you would be denying it--whoops. So of course I must be correct, you are clearly in denial about your ability to argue fairly. That wouldn't be very fair would it?

Rather than cite conservative sites that don't fit Hilzoy's observation, (so as to refute the idea that conservatives are defining themselves as anti liberals) your claim is well, liberal sites do it too. A pretty unremarkable observation, and claiming that it is an 'argument' doesn't make it more profound. Of course, if everyone runs around defining themselves as the anti-something, then do we actually have any definitions at all?

It might be an unremarkable observation, but since the claim was comparing conservative and liberal voices, and suggesting that liberal voices don't do so as much, talking about liberal sites that do so is directly on point. (Actually it could be framed as defining liberals against conservative definitions--conservatives have trouble defining themselves while us liberals on the other hand don't....) Your question about whether or not everyone can define themselves against other people is probably a yes. Or at least very close to a yes--perhaps we only need a very small number of people who actually define themselves in medium-to-important ways. Everyone else can probably define themselves against those few and against the counter-definitions that everyone else makes about those few.

"is that single author and small like-minded group blogs have a relationship with their audience that causes them to develop their own voice."

And we should discount their voice? I'm not sure that is clear at all. And does that work for conservative blogs too? So if I were to cite conservative blogs that are small or single author they don't count either? I don't see why single author voices don't count. If anything they count more obviously because there is less disagreement about what who is saying what.

"Obviously, someone who has the banner of 'like kryptonite to stupid' is going to be a bit aggressive."

I don't understand your point here. I agree that Willis is agressive. That is why I cited him. He also tends to define himself against conservatives, which is the other reason I cited him. Just because he sets up a site that is intentionally agressive doesn't mean you can write it off. Redstate.org was set up to be intentionally agressive but we clearly can't write it off. Or can we?

"Likewise, a site that says it delivers satire and commentary should be taken with a grain of salt."

That is satire AND commentary. We are allowed to talk about the commentary aren't we? And it is pretty vile I would say. Also very much counter-conservative rather than defining itself. But then again that is why I cited it.

"It's been pointed out that Atrios is really a 'moderate' with a very low boiling point."

I can't even tell for sure if that is disagreeing with me on Atrios. Are you saying that Atrios doesn't count because he is too moderate? That is a little weird. He obviously defines himself as anti-conservative wouldn't you say?

"Of course, if we put Yglesias, TPM, Brad DeLong, Steve Clemons, Mark Schmitt, Berube, Making Light, Body and Soul in your mix, well, one could argue that you selected the blogs not for the representative qualities, but for how much invective you think they produce."

TPM is quite anti-conservative, and is a single authorial voice (which apparently doesn't count). Delong is an excellent example of defining himself so let me introduce you to Daniel Drezner as much the same on the more conservative (and definitely not anti-liberal) side. Are we now reduced to arguing that RedState.org is representative of all or most conservative sites? It isn't.

"Hence, my suggestion that you just want to set up 'the liberal viewpoint'."

I don't even know what you mean when you say "set up" here. So I can't respond effectively. I did make a comment way upthread about why conservatism might seem to define itself oppositionally in politics even if it weren't at core about that (Oct 10 1:23). Did you miss it?

BTW, on WashingtonMonthly and Yglesias have both complained in the past few months that Democrats don't seem to be good at defining themselves. And then at WashingtonMonthly this segued into post after post about how evil Republicans 'work'. Not very self defining.

"That leaves DKos. Since I only read the front page stories, I can only comment that there seems a lot more going on there than defining themselves as anti-conservatives. By your standard, DKos is anti-mercenary because the proprietor made anti-mercenary comments. Or that the liberal voice in your head really doesn't like Barack Obama. You can claim that, but I don't think you are going to get very far."

The fact that some people, sometimes, do more isn't good enough on a group blog. Redstate isn't all about anti-Democrats either. I even post there from time to time. Dkos authors define themselves against conservatives slightly less than RedState authors define against liberals. But that is only becuase some Dkos authors spend time defining themselves against others on the left. Which doesn't exactly make the point that liberals do the 'anti' thing particularly less than conservatives.


It would be like me saying you are in denial about your ability to argue fairly. You could of course say that you weren't in denial but then you would be denying it--whoops. So of course I must be correct, you are clearly in denial about your ability to argue fairly. That wouldn't be very fair would it?

Wow, if a throwaway joke about disagreeing with Hilzoy threatens you so much, I think you got problems.

And please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you chose the 7 that became 6 blogs by any kind of standard, you chose them because you felt they epitomized the same thing that you thought hilzoy was pointing out. That tu quoque alone should suggest some caution, but you insist that you were trying to make a serious argument. I assume you think it was serious because it started with the question 'Are you serious?', but I'd give another thought to how that one is used to introduce ideas.

I don't even know what you mean when you say "set up" here. So I can't respond effectively.

I was trying to be polite and avoid saying that the image you have of liberalism and the Democrats is one you have created in order to justify your plaints of being treated badly. I hope that is sufficiently clear.

I did make a comment way upthread about why conservatism might seem to define itself oppositionally in politics even if it weren't at core about that (Oct 10 1:23). Did you miss it?

No, I didn't miss it. I just noticed that you didn't answer hilzoy's and dr. ngo's points in reply. Should I start screaming how you 'don't engage in the arguments'?

BTW, on WashingtonMonthly and Yglesias have both complained in the past few months that Democrats don't seem to be good at defining themselves. And then at WashingtonMonthly this segued into post after post about how evil Republicans 'work'. Not very self defining.

Gee, it's not like the Democratic party has had difficulty defining themselves since, oh geez, LBJ. Yet it was your contention that liberals define themselves in opposition to conservatives just as much as conservatives do it, so difficulty defining themselves should be counter evidence, eh? (note the conflation between liberals and Dems, more evidence that you really do just imagine a huge undifferentiated lump of demo-liberalism, all out to make your life miserable)

And yes, I note the retreat in your last paragraph below, that liberals do it 'slightly less than conservatives'. But it's nothing more than CYA, so you can claim 'but I clearly stated ...'

The fact that some people, sometimes, do more isn't good enough on a group blog. Redstate isn't all about anti-Democrats either. I even post there from time to time. Dkos authors define themselves against conservatives slightly less than RedState authors define against liberals. But that is only becuase some Dkos authors spend time defining themselves against others on the left. Which doesn't exactly make the point that liberals do the 'anti' thing particularly less than conservatives.

I have no idea what that first sentence means, but it sounds to me like you want to suggest that just because it doesn't get on a group blog doesn't mean that it isn't there. I don't know why I would think that you would hold what people don't write against them, I guess I'm just being paranoid.

And, if I had said 'here is what defines Democrats/liberals', the whole point about "not being self-defining" might have some bearing. But since I (and no one else here in this thread) has even tried, this is basically the conservative drone about how the Dems don't stand for anything, whereas Repubs are the party of ideas. Hilzoy referred to a specific group of posts and I didn't say anything about Redstate's point of view or organization, so trying to make this like we are equating Redstate with conservatism is just smoke and mirrors.

I am forced to assume (I imagine that this phrase will be the next thing that Slarti asks for a moratorium on) that probably because the party that you support has made a total hash of almost everything it has touched (hilzoy points to one good thing) and to avoid talking about that, it's better to go on the offensive and claim that you have been treated badly. I hope it works out for you, but if two corrections, one on Chomsky and another on the provenance of a single blog (coupled with the fact that I didn't choose to write anything that agreed or disagreed with your opinions of the other blogs) provokes your Saint Sebastian impersonation, you really need to take a break.

But in short, I don't think the one sentence in the three person (and probably Powell) gets Kennedy off.

Sebastian-

Kennedy doesn't only cite to Coker. He cites to Atkins v. Virginia as well, which itself cites to Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 797, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 3376 (1982) ("Although the judgments of legislatures, juries, and prosecutors weigh heavily in the balance, it is for us ultimately to judge whether the Eighth Amendment permits imposition of the death penalty on one such as Enmund who aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that lethal force will be employed.")(emphasis added), and to Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 78 S.Ct. 590, 2 L.Ed.2d 630 (1958), which finds revocation of US citizenship an unacceptable punishment under the Eighth Amendment without appealing to social science based norms. If you want to quibble with Kennedy's drafting, you can, but there is good, longstanding precedent that the moral judgment of the Court is a basis for determining whether a punishment is forbidden by the Eighth Amendment, and Kennedy's use of his own judgment for that purpose in Roper is therefore not improper.

Even if you disagree with the argument that I've laid out, will you concede that it's colorable? And that therefore Kennedy's decision in Roper is not necessarily a knowing rejection of legal considerations in favor of policy considerations and cannot therefore be called judicial activism by the standard you've established?

"Although the judgments of legislatures, juries, and prosecutors weigh heavily in the balance, it is for us ultimately to judge whether the Eighth Amendment permits imposition of the death penalty... "

That is a direct quote from Coker. As I discussed it is dicta, not from a majority opinion and wrong to boot.

By colorable argument do you mean really really awful but written down by someone prior to Kennedy?

It isn't in the regular judicial framework. The mere assertion without documentary or historical evidence that this is a super-special "judges get to decide whatever they feel like" case isn't enough to make it so. If that were the rule, why wouldn't the Constitution say "No one shall be punished using a method that is not in line with the personal feelings of a majority of the Supreme Court justices."?

I'm willing to admit that "cruel and unusual" might be subject to changing societal standards. I'm not willing to admit that it should be subject to pure judicial whim. That is just silly and isn't consonant with the rule of law at all.

I've tried long responses a number of times and the TypePad daemon seems to be eating them, so let's see if I can sneak a short one past him.

"Although the judgments of legislatures, juries, and prosecutors weigh heavily in the balance, it is for us ultimately to judge whether the Eighth Amendment permits imposition of the death penalty...."

is a direct quote from Coker which is then grafted onto another sentence. As you know I'm not particularly enamoured with the out-of-nowhere Coker principle, so I'm not going to think it is any more authoritative when copied later.

Kennedy making up his own personal idea of what is cruel enough to be unconstitutional isn't helped much by the fact that another judge (in a non-majority opinion) made up the idea that it was ok to use your own personal idea as a substitute for a Constitutional understanding. It doesn't do much for the rule of law because "what a judge personally thinks" is going to change from judge to judge.

So if you are asking if Coker offers a fig leaf to cover the naked act of will, yes it does. But it is only a fig leaf. I can still see the naked act of will.

Now this is funny. I checked seconds ago and one of my later responses was definitely not there before. How weird.

As you know I'm not particularly enamoured with the out-of-nowhere Coker principle...

It's not really out-of-nowhere; at least, five minutes gave me a cite predating Coker.

Enmund doesn't cite only to Coker, it also cites to a 1976 case predating Coker, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S., at 184, 96 S.Ct., at 2930 ("As we have seen, however, the Eighth Amendment demands more than that a challenged punishment be acceptable to contemporary society. The Court also must ask whether it comports with the basic concept of human dignity at the core of the Amendment. Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S., at 100, 78 S.Ct., at 597 (plurality opinion). Although we cannot "invalidate a category of penalties because we deem less severe penalties adequate to serve the ends of
penology," Furman v. Georgia, supra, 408 U.S., at 451, 92 S.Ct., at 2834 (Powell, J., dissenting), the sanction imposed cannot be so totally without penological justification that it results in the gratuitous infliction of suffering.") (emphasis added).

You can say that this is a line of caselaw you disapprove of, but there's certainly a fair amount of it. Doesn't that bring Kennedy's decision into accordance with prior precedent? It's prior precedent you dislike, certainly, but it is precedent.

As a matter of historical likelihood, how do you think the framers of the Constitution intended judges to decide what punishments were 'cruel and unusual', if not my consulting their own moral compasses? I can't see a bunch of eighteenth century politicians coming up with the idea of nationwide surveys of law-enforcement practices.

(I should say that I expect that there are pre-Gregg cites for the same proposition other than Trop v. Dulles, but I'm trying to keep the employer-unsanctioned legal research to a minimum.)

Another thought: when 'judicial activism' was being defined on the other thread, one of the features of a decision that was not judicial activism was that it was in accordance with prior precedent. By rejecting Coker, Enmund and Atkins (you haven't rejected Gregg yet) as sufficiently good precedent to justify Roper, you seem to be rejecting that idea, and saying that a decision may reflect judicial activism even if it is supported by precedent. Either that, or that precedent can be divided into good precedent and bad precedent, and that a decision can still be 'activist' if it rests on what you consider to be 'activist' precedent. Am I understanding you rightly, or have I gotten confused.

On a final note, my proofreading is a scandal. Please assume that case names were uniformly italicized, that the last character of the preceding comment was a "?", and that the briefs I file look better than my blog comments.

"The Court also must ask whether it comports with the basic concept of human dignity at the core of the Amendment. "

I don't have to reject this one, because it doesn't say what Coker says at all. It doesn't say that you have to let individual judges choose on their personal feelings, it says that you have to appeal to the actual Constitution. It doesn't say how to do so (which makes it rather lousy precedent) but it doesn't go all crazy like Coker.

Gregg says that you have to determine whether a punishment accords with the basic concept of human dignity at the core of the Amendment by some means beyond finding out whether the punishment is acceptable to contemporary society (which appears to be the method you would limit the court to). In context, the method contemplated is clearly the moral judgment of the Court. I haven't the capacity to do significant legal research without charging it to a client (any law students want to jump in here?), but given the existence of Trop, Gregg, Coker, Enmund, and Atkins, all of which stand for the proposition that the judgment of the court can determine whether a punishment is impermissible under the Eighth Amendment, I expect that other cases supporting the same proposition exist.

In any case, we are now arguing about fine points of the interpretation of precedent. My larger point is that in light of this precedent, Roper may be wrong (if however you are interpreting the list of cases above so that they don't control this situation is correct), but it isn't lawless -- it's a respectable application of precedent.

"Gregg says that you have to determine whether a punishment accords with the basic concept of human dignity at the core of the Amendment by some means beyond finding out whether the punishment is acceptable to contemporary society (which appears to be the method you would limit the court to). In context, the method contemplated is clearly the moral judgment of the Court."

No that isn't clear at all, you could find out whether the punishment is acceptable to a huge majority of contemporary society and abide by that unless it violates the historically understood norms of the 8th amendment. That is well within the normal understanding of how judges operate when interpreting a document. Even if the 8th amendment were one of Bork's infamous 'inkblots' judges wouldn't be empowered to write anything into it that they wanted. Drawing and quartering shouldn't be acceptable under the 8th amendment even if 5 judges on the Supreme Court are personally ok with it--the history doesn't allow for it. Executing someone on a cross shouldn't be acceptable even if 5 judges on the Supreme Court are personally ok with it--the history doesn't allow for it. The history definitely allows for execution for rape and it definitely allows for execution as a concept (despite what two well-admired liberal justices on the Coker case claim)

"In any case, we are now arguing about fine points of the interpretation of precedent. My larger point is that in light of this precedent, Roper may be wrong (if however you are interpreting the list of cases above so that they don't control this situation is correct), but it isn't lawless -- it's a respectable application of precedent."

No we aren't arguing the fine points at all. You seem to be arguing that on the 8th amendment judges can define "cruel and unusual" in any way that makes them feel good. That doesn't fit with the framework of our country. That doesn't fit with established precedent (in fact if it were correct there is no need for 8th amendment precedent at all). If judges aren't bound by anything but their own conscience, that isn't law.

I'm willing to admit that "cruel and unusual" might be subject to changing societal standards. I'm not willing to admit that it should be subject to pure judicial whim. That is just silly and isn't consonant with the rule of law at all.

I agree with this. But I don't think anyone is defending "pure judicial whim." What we are defending, and what Roper was based on, is an informed judgment about the standards of society. You can disagree with that judgment (or with the meaning of "society"), but calling it mere whim isn't particularly fair.

No we aren't arguing the fine points at all. You seem to be arguing that on the 8th amendment judges can define "cruel and unusual" in any way that makes them feel good.

And this is totally over the top. LB said nothing of the sort. Nothing that implies that the decision is not supposed to be based on evidence.

Reread her comments, and you'll see that she's been talking only about the antecedent question: that the 8th Amendment requires a moral judgment as of the time of the punishment. This is in no way inconsistent with saying that it requires an 'informed moral judgment', and your argument that she (and Justice Kennedy) think that "whim" is the standard says more about you than about them.

Which circles around to the point I was making last time I was here: accusations about activism seem to be based pretty substantially on projection.

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