WHAT SUPERDELEGATES ARE FOR

Posted in Election 2008 on April 30th, 2008 by Ed

You're going to have to cut me a little slack today. I just graded 55 research papers (varying in quality from "life-affirming" to "relevatory" to….remember the Holocaust? Like that.) and, after a 4 hour break, must start on 55 blue books.

Or I might drink a nice warm glass of paint. It's too early to rule anything out.

So everyone in America knows what a superdelegate is, or at least has heard the term and wondered. A question I am commonly asked is, quite simply, what the fuck? It's not an intuitively practical idea. It boils down to this: superdelegates exist to prevent exactly what is happening right now. When I put it that way it seems even more logical.

By reserving 20% of the available delegates for party insiders, elected officials, and other people whose decisions are not made by the primaries, the Democratic Party was establishing a safety valve. If the primary/caucus process failed to produce a clear winner, the superdelegates would step in and (this is the important part) make a unanimous decision to determine the nominee. It only works if they act in unison. That was the whole point; if the party is split 50-50, the 20% superdelegates would act as one to tip the balance. What these certified geniuses have failed to realize is that if they divide into factions roughly proportional to the electorate, then there might as well be no superdelegates at all.

What they need is a dark, windowless room and someone to lock them in it. Howard Dean is not an idiot, and although he lacks the legal authority to force the superdelegates to do anything he's not short on persuasive power. He keeps hinting at the end in Friedman Units (soon…always soon….May 1, and then the end of May, then June 15, then mid-summer…) but if he's strategic he understands that the matter is somewhat more urgent. The only way to come to a positive resolution is if the superdelegates do what they're supposed to be doing. They need to come to a consensus. No public debate, no justifications, no politicking – just come out of the dark room and say "We choose ____. This press conference is over."

The Democrats have been the L.A. Clippers of politics for three decades for a reason, though. The inability to avoid doing the transparently self-destructive as a party seems to be one of the prerequisites for membership since the 60s.

SO, HYPOTHETICALLY….

Posted in Rants on April 29th, 2008 by Ed

The Supreme Court ruling about Indiana's Voter ID law has been controversial and has attracted national media attention. Perhaps you can help me figure out what in the hell the SC was doing with this case in the first place.

Briefly, Indiana passed a law requiring voters to present a photo ID in order to cast a ballot (nb: an often-omitted fact about the law is that it allows voters to vote without ID so long as they go to the courthouse within 48 hours to sign an affidavit of their identity). The Democratic Party and various allied organizations filed a number of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law. They were eventually condensed into a single case, Crawford v Marion County. It is a facial challenge, unsupported by any demonstrable injury. If you need to support an argument about the politicization of the judiciary and "legislating from the bench," look no further.

Standing is a fairly basic concept. The courts – especially federal appellate courts, whose time and attention are scarce resources – do not deal in pre-emptive justice. They avoid cases in which no party can say "I challenge this law because it harmed me." The Supreme Court (and political conservatives) loathe the idea of cases based on hypotheticals – i.e., this might hurt someone at some unspecified point. And yet both sides of this case base their arguments entirely on conjecture and speculation.

The Democratic argument, represented by plaintiff Crawford, is that this law disproportionately affects the poor, the elderly, the poorly-educated, and those without transportation. In other words, it affects Democrats. Republicans counter that getting to a government building once every 5 or 10 years to acquire or renew a government-issued ID is a reasonable, or certainly not excessive, burden. Neither Crawford nor any other plaintiff in the case actually fits the description the Democrats give. The ACLU's Ken Falk said:

Today’s decision minimizes the very real burden that Indiana’s voter ID law places on tens of thousands of eligible voters who lack a government-issued identification…

Really? And you couldn't point out a single one when the justices asked? You couldn't find one to use as a plaintiff? His claim makes sense intuitively, but it's also wrong. If these people number in the untold thousands they wouldn't be speaking in generalities in court.

Republicans argue that the law furthers a legitimate state interest in preventing voter fraud. Unfortunately they haven't been able to produce any examples of this either. The idea of people going to the polls pretending to be someone else is something at which they can only darkly hint, not prove.

So we have two sides making purely hypothetical arguments and asking the Court to settle the issue. On the one hand, the Democrats argue that we should not have to wait for an election to be damaged before addressing the law – the potential harm is so great that the Courts need to take extraordinary action. On the other hand, I think we can all see the potential danger in the courts expanding their jurisdiction into the realm of imagination. This is a case that is quite out of character for the SC (especially one with a conservative majority) to hear.

It's not difficult to see why the plaintiffs got hammered in this case – they predicted, they conjectured, they extrapolated, they hypothesized, and they rationalized but they never proved anything. But as all of this was readily apparent before the SC intervened, it doesn't take a mountain of cynicism to suggest that their motive was to give the great Seal of Approval for one of the conservative movement's trendiest pieces of legislation.

ED vs. LOGICAL FALLACIES, PART 19: INCREDULITY

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on April 28th, 2008 by Ed

Reading reviews of the Ben Stein trainwreck Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (which is a funny title, but probably not in the way they intended) is good fun. I suppose there's no definitive way to determine if a film is good or bad, but here's a hint: it's not looking good when you make a piece of red meat for ultra-conservative nutcase Americans and Fox News calls it "sloppy, all-over-the-place, poorly made (and not just a little boring) 'exposé' of the scientific community" and calls its director "either completely nuts or so avaricious that he's abandoned all good sense to make a buck." Good times.

Rather than dignify the creationist nonsense that Stein regurgitates, let's talk about the amusing lengths to which creationism advocates go to turn their little fairy tale into a legitimate science. Specifically, the effort to sell this to the courts as Intelligent Design: All Scientific and Shit revolves around the idea of "irreducible complexity." It is, of course, based on a ridiculously transparent logical fallacy – the Argument from Incredulity.

This fallacy is basically the assertion that something cannot be true (or should be presumed false) because one personally finds it impossible, implausible, or incomprehensible. In other words, "I don't believe that, ergo it isn't true." If this sounds like a fairly silly thing upon which to base an entire belief system and sociopolitical movement, you're not alone in your skepticism.

Irreducible Complexity is the argument that certain biological processes are too complex to be explained by evolutionary theory. Of course "too complex to be explained by science" means that the correct explanation is provided by Genesis.** Here's the problem, though…there are plenty of explanations for every phenomenon purported to support this theory. Creationists simply respond that these explanations are not plausible (ginandtacos preferred whipping boy, Michael Behe, provides a great example of this logic in Kitzmiller v Dover). In other words, "I don't understand it / I don't believe it, therefore it is not true."

Try it out! It's fun. For example, a friend of mine once explained to me how the internet works. I did not understand a goddamn bit of it. It just went directly over my head. Therefore….there is no existing theory that can explain how the internet works except "God made it." Neither can I believe anyone would use an argument this stupid. Therefore it can't be happening. The copious evidence to the contrary that is created every time a creationist opens his or her mouth does not persuade me.

**Not the band

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NPF: HERE'S YOUR CHANCE

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 25th, 2008 by Ed

If you ever wanted to see a Finnish rockabilly band and the Red Army Choir team up to sing "Sweet Home Alabama" in English, this is probably your only chance. Don't blow it.

I guess I can cross this off my list. Now all I need is a video of a teenaged female Euro-pop duo singing "Insane in the Brain" backed by legenday Tuvan throat singers Huun Huur Tu.

DISPATCHES FROM THE FACTLESS WORLD

Posted in Rants on April 24th, 2008 by Ed

I've managed to last this long without commenting on John "If the president decides that it's necessary, it's legal!" Yoo and I have no intention of breaking the streak today. I have no more inclination to dissect the raw idiocy of his words and actions than I have inclination to box a 90 year-old woman. I use that analogy purposefully, as the activities have their level of difficulty in common.

The issue at hand in the Ivory Tower is whether or not UC-Berkeley should dismiss Yoo. The WaPo had a pro/con editorial debate about the issue (h/t Non-Seq) and Ruth Marcus weighed in on the Don't Fire Him side. Marcus, like everyone else to the left of Curtis LeMay, concedes that Yoo's memo illustrates "shoddy legal reasoning" and is both "outrageous" and "repellent." She also notes that the administration rejected the memo. Her conclusion: Yoo may be a moron, and he may be wrong, but these are not reasons to fire someone. Free speech, 1st amendment, academic freedom, insert red herring here, etcetera.

Firing tenured faculty is hard. Real hard. Marcus notes:

Absent "very substantial evidence" of "clear professional misconduct" or criminal violations, Edley said, "no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member."

She goes on to conclude (implicitly) that Yoo's actions constitute neither criminality nor misconduct. That's a fantastic leap across Assumption Gorge, yet Marcus seems to think this is simply obvious; her entire argument is premised on the assumption that, duh, of course he did nothing illegal.

Here's the rub. A professional who writes a blueprint for how to commit war crimes under the flimsiest, shoddiest, not-a-chance-to-stand-up-in-court reasoning could be considered a lawbreaker. Committing murder and plotting a murder are both crimes. Committing torture and plotting torture could also be argued to share that relationship. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to try to answer that question. My point is only that it's far from obvious that he violated no laws, and even less so that he did not engage in misconduct as a lawyer.

And then she writes her way onto logic's shit list.

Pearlstein, a human rights lawyer, found Yoo's memo "blatantly, embarrassingly wrong under the law," but she conceded that legal conclusions lack the hard certainty of scientific truth. Yoo should no more be removed from a teaching job than a Supreme Court justice who writes a despicable opinion — upholding slavery, allowing separate but equal facilities, permitting the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II — should be impeached.

Bullshit stacked upon crates of bullshit. Slavery is blatantly unconstitutional, and a judge who authored an opinion today supporting its legality would in fact be impeached. It's no different than if a judge decided that murder is legal. But to Marcus, these issues are apparently subjective. Reasonable people can disagree about the legality of slavery or torture. No "hard certainty." Yoo's actions constitute little more than expressing an opinion. And we know everyone's entitled to those!

No. This is not an opinion issue. Torture. Is. Illegal. Period. The Constitution does not give the president the power to supercede the law with his wishes simply by saying "wartime powers" or "Article II" or "I think this is really, really necessary." The entire "academic freedom" angle is nothing but a red herring. This has nothing to do with Yoo's right to express an opinion. If he wants to say that Freemasons run the country or torture is cool or Proust is boring he has every right to do so. This is about hard facts. Not opinions. Not subjectivity. Not reasonable people agreeing to disagree.

No amount of phony hand-wringing changes the fact that this is an objective issue. Did he or did he not break the law? I am amazed that Marcus would invoke a slavery analogy since it is possibly the most cut-and-dried legal and moral issue. It's illegal, it's unconstitutional, and it's morally wrong. Some people may choose to disagree, but here's the rub: they're wrong. In error. Incorrect. Of course we have the right to be wrong in this country. Unfortunately there are consequences to abusing the privilege, and Yoo doesn't get to avoid them by semantically turning the facts about torture – it is illegal and immoral – into an "opinion."

Yes, "some people" argue that the law permits torture by executive fiat. And some people argue that the sun revolves around the Earth. So fucking what?

GRADUATING FROM BOVINE UNIVERSITY

Posted in Rants on April 23rd, 2008 by Ed

So you've heard of Kent Hovind, right? The bat-shit insane fundamentalist who acquired a great deal of money and notoriety with his unique hybrid of Young Earth Creationism and tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theories? He usually managed to worm his way into any and all public debates about creationism, evolution, and public schools (not to mention Chick Tracts). I say "managed" in the past tense because he's currently taking very defensive showers in Federal prison after being convicted of 58 counts of tax evasion (idiotic "tax protester" ideology was apparently one of the many fringe theories in which he believed, so much so that he felt he was not legally obligated to pay taxes) and obstruction of justice.

Like many "Creation Scientists" and "Evolution Skeptics" Mr. Hovind's educational credentials consist of rapid attainment of advanced degrees at unaccredited fundamentalist diploma mills. He scored the trifecta: a Bachelor's from unaccredited Midwestern Baptist College and his MA/PhD combo from even-more-unaccredited Patriot University (!!!!) For your edification and amusement, here is a (real) photo of Patriot University:


Patriot U., formerly Navajo Nation Alcoholics Anonymous

Here's where it gets awesome.

Many of his opponents (i.e. the entire scientific community) were rankled by his habit of referring to himself as "Dr. Hovind" or, as his website was called, "Dr. Dino" in reference to his novel, Carl Everett-like theories about dinosaurs.** So they looked into Patriot U. and Kent's doctorate.

One of the basics of a PhD program is that it makes dissertations publicly available – perhaps in a "library" – so that anyone may inspect the recipient's qualifications for the highest possible level of educational attainment. Not so at Patriot, which also raised eyebrows with its "monthly fee" tuition scheme, as opposed to a per-term or per-credit scheme such as are used at real schools. Unable to read Hovind's thesis, we are forced to rely on the second-hand reporting of people who have read it. Like Karen Bartlet, who holds a real PhD in organic chemistry and who hosts The Dissertation Kent Hovind Doesn't Want You to Read.

Where to begin.

First of all, the entire dissertation is 101 pages and 4 chapters, about 20% the length of most real dissertations. It also contains no original research or data, which is essentially the definition of a dissertation. Among the other curious characteristics:

  • The dissertation has one committee member (not the standard five)
  • Absence of a title
  • Absence of page numbers
  • Rampant misspelling ("Voltair", "immerged", "disippated", "centrifical force", and "epic"/epoch are my favorites)
  • One illustration, which is cut out from a science book and taped to the dissertation
  • It begins with a greeting, i.e. "Hello, my name is Kent Hovind." This is highly irregular.

    You can read Bartlet's chapter-by-chapter rundown; it's too funny to summarize quickly here. If you are pursuing or have ever pursued postgraduate education, you are likely thinking what I am thinking: Must. Read. This. Thing. Must……find……a way. Immediate cash payment of $100 to anyone who can supply me with a copy.

    **(The single greatest fan-made sign I've ever seen at a sporting event, back during Mr. Everett's tenure on the White Sox, was fan dressed in a full Barney the Dinosaur costume holding a giant sign reading "I DON'T BELIEVE IN CARL EVERETT." It was awesome on so many levels.)

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    REAL NEWS OR THE ONION?

    Posted in Rants on April 22nd, 2008 by Ed

    I used to play a pretty entertaining game with my students – "Real News or The Onion?" As the name implies, I provide a series of real, unedited headlines and the players try to guess whether they are real (from the "Top Stories" section a major news network website, almost always CNN.com or FoxNews.com) or The Onion. Feel like giving it a try?

    Brazilian priest carried aloft by helium balloons
    Boy's nose blows up 213 balloons an hour
    Toddler forced to smoke pot
    Grandfathers accidentally switched at hospital.
    Gator grins atop back seat of car
    Martha Stewart's dog dies

    Go ahead, give it a whirl (sans google cheating). The winner gets….something awesome.

    PINKWASHED

    Posted in Rants on April 21st, 2008 by Ed

    I made the mistake of grocery-shopping on Saturday, a.k.a. Race for the Cure Day. Rest assured that the shelves were stocked (and the endcaps capped) with pink versions of every product I've ever considered buying in my lifetime and several I haven't. You know the drill. Buy shit and the producers of said shit will donate 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen Blah Blah Blah. That's why you see racks of pink soup cans and pink santokus and pink hammers and pink flash drives and pink hair irons and a pink Hummer and Ken Griffey Jr. swinging a damn pink bat.

    The phenomenon of pinkwashing – and the reality that this amounts to little more than free marketing under the guise of charity – helps manufacturers and retailers far more than it helps cancer research. Why else would they use this Marketing via Causes strategy instead of tax-deductible corporate philanthropy? But since many others have already made that point (it's so egregious that even Time Frickin' Magazine slammed the practice) I won't belabor it here.

    What bothers me is how this fits into a larger trend in our society, the end result of 25 years of unrestrained free market worship. Every desire, every idea for social change, every impulse toward political participation, and every psychological need can be filled exactly the same way: by buying shit. Your desire to be an individual, to be a nonconformist, to change the world, to do good deeds….all can be accomplished with a trip to the mall. Everything, including the idea of doing charitable works, is a commodity. Thomas Frank has written about this seduction at great length (The Conquest of Cool and Commodify Your Dissent) and I recommend his commentary highly.

    Worried about turning into your father or a bland mid-life Organization Man? Buy Nikes, a Harley Davidson, and some $225 lawn seats to see the latest shamelessly mercenary Reunion Tour of 60s/70s icons. Worried about neo-colonialism and income inequality? Buy fair trade coffee from Whole Foods (a behemoth chain store operation, of course). Worried about the environment? Buy a hybrid and some Rainforest-Free lumber for your enormously inefficient home. There's a reason Dennis fucking Hopper is on TV hawking IRAs and the Rolling Stones are rocking out for Ameriquest Mortgage: because refinancing and setting up a bitchin' Roth IRA are what cool motherfuckers do! Now you can prove you're the same cool motherfucker you were in 1969 by following the 60s icons' lead to your financial planner's office.

    What's wrong with pinkwashing? If you're going to buy soup anyway, isn't it better for Campbell's to send a dime to charity? Yes and no. Yes, it's obviously good that charities receive donations. No, it's not healthy to encourage people to believe that they have Done Their Part and Made a Difference by shopping. It's unhealthy to tell people they are expressing their individuality by buying an iMac and a Jetta and choosing the Pottery Barn collection that really communicates who they are as a person. It's unhealthy to reassure your long-dead inner radical that you are not part of The Machine by feeding it.

    It's sad – almost as sad as the Your Job is Nonconformist phenomenon (You're a rebel because you work at IBM or Google or for some Ad Agency or in Marketing or in some office that doesn't even make you wear a tie!) – and it's sucking the ability to think, speak, and act about social problems right out of our society. Perhaps that's why so many Americans feel like the current political situation is so far out of hand; when the Iraq War cheerleading began, they couldn't figure out which products to buy to stop it.

    DAVID BROOKS GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

    Posted in Rants on April 18th, 2008 by Ed

    (No Politics Friday has been cancelled on account of the stupendous crapulence of David Brooks)

    For the many of you who don't care about baseball, let me quickly explain what "FJM treatment" or "FJMing" means. The blog Fire Joe Morgan is written by an excellent staff of folks who love to take idiotic opinion pieces, dissect them, and offer a line-by-line rebuttal (example). David Brooks' defense of ABC's universally-panned Pennsylvania Democratic "debate" last night cries out for the FJM treatment. Let's begin. Brooks in bold, Ed in regular font.

    First, Democrats, and especially Obama supporters, are going to jump all over ABC for the choice of topics: too many gaffe questions, not enough policy questions.

    Whiners. What kind of people expect "policy" questions during a debate between two evenly-matched candidates who hold similar positions on many issues? What would that accomplish other than possibly allowing voters to identify some substantive differences between the candidates in the closest election since the invention of fire?

    I understand the complaints, but I thought the questions were excellent.

    Boom! David Brooks: Contrarian! Mr. Going Against the Grain! Sticking up for the little guy: Multi-Billion Dollar Establishment Media!

    The journalist's job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities.

    I thought their job was to report facts.

    Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that's their own fault.

    Maybe they had mistakenly prepared answers for questions about gas prices, home mortgages, and Iraq.

    We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It's legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues.

    David Brooks, you are a very stupid person. This is the most ridiculous circular logic I hope to see before I die (which, after reading your column, I pray happens before you can write another). Media must cover irrelevant, sensationalist, "gotcha" right-wing talk radio issues because they are important to voters because the media cover them incessantly. Here in the Ivory Tower, we have some data that shows (shockingly) that there's a pretty strong correlation between what the media talk about and what people say are important issues.

    The middle section of the debate, meanwhile, was stupendous. Those could be the most important 30 minutes of this entire campaign, for reasons I will explain in point two:

    Tremendously important. For the 0.000000000000000000001% of the electorate that was still watching after the FULL HOUR of yellow journalism nonsense that preceded this Important Thirty Minutes.

    Obama and Clinton were completely irresponsible. As the first President Bush discovered, it is simply irresponsible statesmanship (and stupid politics) to make blanket pledges to win votes. Both candidates did that on vital issues.

    They made statements about where they stand on issues, up to and including promising that they would or would not do certain things? Unbelievable.

    Both promised to not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year. They both just emasculated their domestic programs. Returning the rich to their Clinton-era tax rates will yield, at best, $40 billion a year in revenue.

    Unless they stop shitting $341 million per day into Iraq. That could be a potential source of savings. Of course no "Serious" candidate (Brooks' favorite term) would ever consider shoveling fewer dollars into that gaping Sarlaac of waste and shame.

    It’s impossible to fund a health care plan, let alone anything else, with that kind of money.

    No way $341 million per day could cover any of that.

    The second pledge was just as bad. Nobody knows what the situation in Iraq will be like. To pledge an automatic withdrawal is just insane.

    No one can possibly know what the situation in Iraq will be like. No chance at all that it will be exactly the same as it is today and has been for five fucking years. This is the Pro-War Faction's most tired argument: We Just Can't Know. It Is Unknowable. Maybe we'll know more in six months! Or "by the end of the year!" Or "soon!" But not now. Never now. Always Soon.

    A mature politician would’ve been honest and said: I fully intend to withdraw, but I want to know what the reality is at that moment.

    "Mature" and "Serious" people always leave easy outs that allow them to go back on their promises! People love that. Voters love that. They always want to hear some wiggle room. David Brooks, your understanding of the American Voter is flawed and you are a stupid person.

    The third point concerns electability. The Democrats have a problem. All the signs point to a big Democratic year, and I still wouldn’t bet against Obama winning the White House, but his background as a Hyde Park liberal is going to continue to dog him.

    Can Obama overcome the fact that smart, successful, educated people like him? People who might even know more about the candidates than Flag Lapel Pins and "Bittergate" and how Hillary tips?

    For the life of me I can’t figure out why he didn’t have better answers on Wright and on the “bitter” comments.

    He foolishly gave Gibson and Stephanopolous the benefit of the doubt. Lesson learned.

    The superdelegates cannot have been comforted by his performance.

    Yep, they were all tuning in to see how Obama would be asked to defend his love of America and his pastor's love of America for the 197481046539829156th time. They won't be happy until they can find a candidate who does a better job of realizing how pants-shittingly stupid the media are.

    Final grades:
    ABC: A, Clinton: B, Obama: D+

    Well everyone else on the planet said ABC should be taken out behind the chemical sheds and shot (hat-tip Alan Moore) but BAM! David Brooks the Contrarian says they get an A.

    My gas is $3.50/gal and the war is costing $341 million EVERY 24 HOURS. Only someone who makes $250,000 sucking up to the Beltway establishment could give ABC an A for this disgraceful display. David, if you were one of my undergrads and you handed this column in as an assignment, I would not only fail you but I would summon you to my office hours and recommend that you drop out of college immediately. I would then follow you home and kick your dog.

    Clinton and Obama get an A for not choking Charles Gibson with George Stephanopolous' severed head. ABC loses at life. David Brooks gets Pancreatic Cancer. I am a tough but fair grader.

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    THE MARSHALL PLAN

    Posted in Uncategorized on April 17th, 2008 by Ed

    No, not the post-World War II plan. The Thurgood Marshall plan.

    He's often remembered as a piece of trivia – America's first black Supreme Court justice – but his tenure on the Court was relatively inconsequential. Marshall should be better remembered for masterminding the NAACP legal strategy that culminated in Brown v Board of Education. He understood that the Court would never declare segregation unconstitutional in one fell swoop. The way to win was to paint them into a corner with an incremental, interrelated series of cases. Baby steps, essentially. Everyone remembers Brown, but there would have been no Brown without Sweatt v Painter. There would have been no Sweatt without Sipuel v Oklahoma. No Sipuel without Gaines v Canada. And so on. It was calculated, it required phenomenal patience, and it worked. Each case poked a small hole in the legal basis for segregation until so little remained that it was crushed under the weight of Brown.

    Quaint story. I wonder if the anti-death penalty folks have ever heard it. Or if they have a plan. Or, if what they're doing constitutes a plan, why it's awful.

    To absolutely no one's surprise, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments in Baze and Bowling v Rees on Monday. The basis of the challenge was that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment – because people performing the procedure can botch it and cause considerable pain to the condemned.

    Seriously. That's the argument. That's the argument that anti-death penalty organizations apparently thought was going to do it. This is what they devote their limited resources to.

    What's the strategy here? Anti-death penalty arguments based on the 8th Amendment haven't worked for 225 years. Was there a reasonable expectation that the Scalia-Alito-Thomas-Roberts court was suddenly going to be the one that bought it? They didn't buy it, and they didn't buy it because it is an absolutely retarded argument.

    Yes, there are dozens of citeable examples of botched executions. Cruelty-based arguments are what eventually phased out Ol' Sparky in favor of lethal injection. But for anti-death penalty people, getting one method replaced with another is not even a hollow victory. It's nothing.

    I absolutely detest the death penalty, and not because I think it's "cruel" or "uncivilized" or any other nonsense. It is statistically proven to be applied disproportionately to blacks and Latinos. Period. Since reinstatement in 1976 (note that it was briefly unconstitutional thanks to an Equal Protection-based argument) there have been 15 white people executed for killing a black person. There have been 223 black people executed for killing white people. In 1990, the Reagan-Bush era GAO concluded:

    "In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."

    Texas manages to have twice as many blacks and Latinos on Death Row as white people (268-121) despite the fact that the state's population is 71% white. I guess white people in Texas don't commit many murders. More accurately, when they do commit murder "something" about their crime just isn't as heinous as when those scary brown people do it.

    The Supreme Court isn't simply going to change its mind on the death penalty. Eighth Amendment challenges will, at best, produce new methods of execution. A coherent strategy based on chipping away at various states' inequalities in seeking capital punishment (and getting it from overwhelmingly white juries) might succeed in a 10 to 15 year timeframe. An non-strategy of randomly litigating of every half-assed idea the 25 year-olds at Legal Aid concoct is guaranteed to accomplish nothing, especially when the basis of the latest lawsuit sounds suspiciously like Rush Limbaugh's impression of a whiny liberal argument.