Thursday, 5 February 2004

Kroger accused of colluding with itself

No, that isn’t a euphemism for masturbation; Xrlq has the details on the latest twist in the California grocery strike shenanigans.

Audix: the spawn of the devil

The one good thing about being unemployed is I don’t have to deal with this pathetic attempt at a voice mail system any more.

Time to push the veep out the airlock

Judging from the Plame leak investigation news, the idea of keeping Dick Cheney around seems more and more foolish by the day. He’s got no constituency in the base, Halliburton will always be an albatross around the administration’s neck with him around, and you can hang virtually every criticism of the administration on him—the WMD claims, Plame, corporate cronyism, the works—on his way out the door.

Not that I know who to replace him with, mind you…

Update: Robert Prather thinks I was a bit coy above in not naming Condi Rice as my preferred replacement. Certainly she would be preferable to Guiliani, I don’t see any of the “hard right” folks like Ashcroft or Santorum as being worthwhile, and I don’t really see any other credible candidates out there. On the other hand, making such a pick feels like nothing so much as jumping on the Panthers bandwagon last week did—for all I know, the right pick could be someone from left field (Fred Thompson?).

And, the Functional Ambivalent agrees that it’s time for Cheney to find a privately-financed, but still secure, undisclosed location.

On Southern Republicanism

Amanda Butler quotes from an op-ed by George WIll in today’s WaPo that’s mostly about whether Democrats can win without the South, but takes a foray through Republican fortunes as well:

Much academic and journalistic energy has been expended attempting to prove that Republicans became competitive in the South not because of positive change there but because of a negative change in the GOP —pandering to racists. But Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia notes that Eisenhower, like Richard Nixon in 1960, polled badly among whites in the Deep South. Eisenhower ran strongest in the “peripheral South,” the least-polarized part.

States representing more than half the Southern electoral votes have been, Alexander notes, “consistently in play” since 1952. That was before the Goldwater candidacy, before school busing and at a time when congressional Republicans were stronger supporters than Democrats were of civil rights bills. A higher proportion of Republican than Democratic senators voted for the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills, and in 1968 whites in the Deep South preferred George Wallace to Nixon.

Beginning in the 1950s, millions of Midwesterners and Northeasterners moved to the South. But, Alexander says, instead of voting Democratic, they voted Republican “at higher rates than native whites.” Even today, “identification with the GOP is stronger among the South’s younger rather than older white voters.” Republican strength has been highest among persons young, suburban, middle class, educated, non-Southern in origin and concentrated in the least “Southern” high-growth areas.

Eisenhower was, at best, a reluctant desegregator, as his actions at the time of Little Rock in 1957 demonstrated—and I’m not at all certain Eisenhower could have carried Southern states in 1960, had he been on the ballot, even without considering Harry Byrd’s presence on the ballot in Alabama and Mississippi.

That being said, I think a fair assessment of Republican strategy in the south would recognize that racial issues were an undercurrent, but not the whole story, and that Republicans benefitted from the racial issue only to the extent that southern Democrats conceded their racially conservative positions. By the time of Eisenhower, the New Deal coalition’s papering over of the Democrats’ internal racial divisions was coming apart as the inherent logic of New Dealism, and more boistrous antisegregationists in the North, pushed the national Democratic Party away from segregationism. But southern Republican successes were rare while the Dixiecrats continued to stick with the segregationists, and most of the successes were the result of Democratic defections, not home-grown Republicanism—a division that persists to this day.

Compare, for example, Bill Frist and Trent Lott—Lott is essentially a Dixiecrat, born and raised, who defected to the Republicans mainly for electoral considerations; Frist, on the other hand, is much closer to the traditional national Republican mold, albeit with a southern flavor. And, as the Lott generation leaves politics, the Frist generation is taking over as the face of southern Republicanism—a change that hopefully will lead to the politics of race receding into history.

Diploma day

My diploma showed up in the mail today; thankfully, even though a corner of the envelope was soaked through, the diploma itself was safely tucked away in the cover it came with, so was undamaged. Most exciting.

Partisanship, independence, and voters

Leave it to Michael Totten to write a post I have to respond to right before I feel like losing consciousness for the evening. Hopefully I’ll remember to say something about it tomorrow.

No easy answers

Apropos of the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s latest salvo in the Bay State’s same-sex marriage war, I suppose I should have something to say about the topic.

From a sort of policy-wonkish point of view, I tend to agree with Steven Taylor that it’s probably going to affect the presidential campaign in all sorts of nasty ways—not just because it raises the stakes by virtually ensuring there will be a DOMA challenge sometime during the election season, but also because it makes the ongoing judicial nominations battle even more intense, especially since this natural court* is waaaay overdue for someone to either retire or kick the bucket.

From the point of view of being someone who believes in democratic accountability, the idea of four justices in Massachusetts deciding the issue of same-sex marriage—based on their own state constitution alone, mind you—for the rest of the country is profoundly disturbing. The comparison to Loving v. Virginia (388 US 1; 1967) doesn’t wash, because that case was a decision reached by the U.S. Supreme Court. In practice, of course, much economic regulation is carried out this way—the product liability standards of the most plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction in Mississippi are de facto the product liability standards of the nation. That doesn’t mean I have to particularly care for its extension into other areas of law.

On the other hand, though, there’s a great deal of legislation that is outmoded, overly intrusive, or downright pure garbage on the books—and legislatures full of spineless creatures who are loath to stand up to excise these laws from the statute books. Sure, they could do the right thing and repeal Mississippi’s idiotic law that makes cohabitation by unmarried couples illegal (you can go to jail for six months), but why risk grief from Donald Wildmon and his dwindling band of morals police? These laws may be “uncommonly silly,” to borrow from Justice Thomas’ dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, but that silliness was obviously not evident enough to the Texas legislature for that state’s sodomy statute to be repealed. And, in the meantime, people go to jail or are fined on the basis of a law that most observers would concede is “uncommonly silly.” Ends do not justify means, but neither do means inherently justify ends.

Now, unlike the aforementioned cohabitation statute, or Texas’ sodomy statute, prohibitions against same-sex marriage are not necessarily “uncommonly silly.” They may not even be silly. If you’re someone concerned about the free association and free exercise rights of coreligionists, you might reasonably conclude that legalization of same-sex marriage might soon lead to judicial requirements that a church perform the sacraments of marriage for same-sex couples, even if such sacraments would be contrary to its doctrine. Marriage remains an important institution to millions of Americans; for every Britney Spears or J-Lo who makes a mockery of the institution, there are thousands of responsible, but sometimes imperfect, people who make their best effort to uphold it. It is not an institution to be altered lightly.

Nor do I personally find outcome-based arguments in favor of (or for that matter, in opposition to) same-sex marriage persuasive. As a matter of principle, I believe fundamental liberties should not be subject to cost-benefit analysis. Questions of whether gay marriage will “civilize homosexual men” or lead to higher divorce rates miss the point.

In the end, I don’t have an easy answer. My gut feeling, proponent of individual liberty that I am, is that if two people want to be married and they are consenting adults, that’s just fine with me. But I can see where reasonable people can differ, and I don’t know what I could say to make them think differently.