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Archive for May, 2006

This Man Is Not A Blue State Senator

[ 0 ] May 27, 2006 |

Fer Chrissakes:

One of the favored ways in which the relentless and well-funded anti-choice machine is making its way into government is the “choose life” license plate scam. Part of the funds from selling the plates go to the state, but a portion also goes to support “pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion as an alternative.”

The battle seems headed for the Supreme Court, particularly since states like Tennessee — which allow sales of the plates — won’t allow pro-choice groups the same options. You expect this kind of stuff in a place like Tennessee, but when these anti-choice groups start trying to make a beach head in blue states like Connecticut using the same tactics it’s quite a different matter.

So what happened when the Connecticut state DMV said they were reviewing the right of an out-of-state group to sell such license plates in Connecticut? The group’s president, Elizabeth Rex of Yonkers, New York, produced her letters of support, incuding one from…wait for it…Joe Lieberman.

Make sure to follow Jane’s links as well. As she points out, it’s worth emphasizing that these “crisis pregnancy centers” are part of a very calculated strategy of the forced pregnancy lobby. To express support for this is indeed pretty much what you would expect of someone now touting his “pro-choice” credentials but who on the most important pro-choice vote of his career (the cloture vote on Alito) was on the other side. I think we know who the Nutmeg state’s next Senator should be.

Incidentally, the constitutional issue that Jane discusses from the top is very interesting; the appeals courts have been badly split. The 6CA opinion on the Tennessee case upheld Tennessee’s policy, although the reasoning is pretty shaky. To put it crudely, the key issue is whether the state’s decision to permit pro-life but not pro-choice plates is “government speech”–in which case of course the government can discriminate between viewpoints–or whether the state was creating a forum for private speech, in which case the state has to be viewpoint neutral. Given the nature of Tennessee’s program–which permits more than 150 private groups to put forward messages they’ve crafted–is much closer to the latter. I was also amused by what the government of Tennessee considers to be acceptable and what it doesn’t. Addressing the majority’s claim that requiring viewpoint neutrality would require the state to create KKK license plates (which, as the dissent points out, is a better argument for getting the state out of the business of advertising political messages on mandanatory license plates than for violating viewpoint neutrality; the 1st Amendment doesn’t permit the government to restrict speech because people may say racist things), the dissent notes:

Finally, I also cannot subscribe to my colleagues’ melodramatic doomsday predictions about what would occur should we hold that the Constitution requires that Tennessee’s specialty license plate program be viewpoint neutral. The majority claims that viewpoint neutrality will require the state to issue Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party specialty license plates. The simple answer in response to this suggestion is: Well of course that’s true if viewpoint neutrality means anything. That is the same reason that Tennessee cannot prevent the KKK or Nazi Party from getting parade licenses on the same terms as other groups and the same reason that Tennessee cannot prevent these groups from espousing their views in the town squares.

Additionally, what my colleagues seem to miss is the fact that Tennessee already authorizes a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate bearing the emblem of the Confederate Flag. To some, the Confederate flag is a symbol of pride in one’s heritage. To many others, however, the Confederate flag is a symbol that is just as offensive as the examples my colleagues put forth. (“One of the Confederacy’s key beliefs, as its Constitution readily asserted, was the interminable white man’s right to own black slaves. The battle flag of the Confederacy, then, [can be interpreted as] an exclusionary message that stigmatizes blacks as outsiders of the political community.”) (“Moreover, common sense suggests that such problems are not readily resolved merely because symbols such as a Confederate flag may be accompanied with slogans such as ‘heritage not hate,’ because a symbol’s significance often lies ‘in the eye of the beholder.’ To its supporters at the time of its creation as well as some proponents today . . . the Confederate flag undeniably represented, and represents, support for slavery, . . . and opposition to the Republic.”). The majority’s invocation of KKK and Nazi Party license plates is a red herring. [cites ommitted]

Shorter Tennessee government: “We proudly endorse treason in defense of slavery and white supremacy, but supporting a woman’s reproductive freedom is beyond the pale!”

UPDATE: More on the free speech issue at FLP.


Here It Comes Softer Now

[ 0 ] May 26, 2006 |

Ah, nice to see that Big Media Matt has finally messed the hair of the night and come around to the correct position that salary caps are about putting money in owners’ pockets, not about “competitive balance.” (And, of course it’s far from surprising that owners’ shill Malcolm Gladwell didn’t highlight this in his New Yorker review.)

But, of course, this myth will be almost impossible to kill. The first thing that sports capital’s lickspittles will now cite is the new NHL (TM). Because after the owners’ crushing of the player’s union, a tiny market team from Alberta has upset San Jose and Detroit in 6 games and is on the verge of the final, a truly radical change from the last free-market year, when a tiny-market team from Alberta upset San Jose and Detroit in 6 games and was a goal away from winning the Stanley Cup. The real genius of the NHL, though, was to tie much-needed and popular rule changes to the new labor rules, although the two are logically independent. But, anyway, the effect of salary caps on “competitive balance” is relatively trivial. To conclude, in the article linked in comments, John Brattain sums it up:

What Bud and the owners say: “The Yankees and Red Sox payrolls make it impossible for other teams to compete.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

What Bud and the owners say: “Our small markets need faith and hope.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

What Bud and the owners say: “A new stadium is vital to make [insert team name] a viable franchise.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

What Bud and the owners say: “Salaries are out of control.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

What Bud and the owners say: “Competitive balance is something we‘re striving to achieve.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

What Bud and the owners say: “We lost several million dollars this year.”
What they mean: “We need more free money.”

I also agree with the commenter about this terrific article about the botched management of the Marlins, perpetually whining about the taxpayers not giving them a free stadium. Of course, when it comes to Loria, for me it’s personal…

[ 0 ] May 26, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

More on the Late Marriage Myth

[ 0 ] May 26, 2006 |

To amplify Amanda’s post on the exploding of Newsweek‘s “women over 40 never get married for the first time” myth, Jeff Zaslow has an excellent article which further elaborates on the article’s perniciousness–in particular, what he correctly identifies as the original article’s “core message” that “educated, career-focused women risk spending their lives alone.” First, with respect to the individual women discussed in the Newsweek (most of whom ended up, in fact, being married) an important addendum:

Well, it turns out that less than 10% of college-educated women now ages 50 to 60 have never been married, census records show. And I did something far less scientific: I checked in with 10 women who in 1986 appeared in Newsweek and other media reports about the study. Eight of them had found a husband. Two others were single by choice.

So, in other words, they’ve got literally nothing. Not only does the systematic data refute them, but once you consider that some women might actually not want to get married, they don’t even have a single cherry-picked anecdote. Hell, even Maureen Dowd can come up with some of the latter. Speaking of Dowd, Zaslow also provides further data falsifying Dowd’s argument that feminism is a lie, and has changed little, because men are inherently uninterested in accomplished, educated women:

Meanwhile, new research suggests that women today who are highly educated are actually more likely to find husbands. For a study released last month, Elaina Rose, a University of Washington economics professor, crunched three decades of census data. She found that in 1980, women ages 40 to 44 with professional degrees or doctorates were 25% less likely to be married than women in that age group with just high-school diplomas. By 2000, women ages 40 to 44 with postcollege education levels were slightly more apt to be married than women who finished only high school.

And, of course, another crucial aspect of Dowd’s argument is her dyed-in-the -wool classism: if the men in your immediate social circles are superficial sexists who want to marry their young maids and personal assistants and paralegals, well, you’re out of luck! Nothing to do but to whine and throw out a whole bunch of non-sequiturs about how it’s feminism’s fault somehow. But wait–is there an alternative strategy?

Christine Stroebel-Scimeca is a financial planner in Mequon, Wis. In 1986, at age 30, she appeared in Newsweek, telling of a date she had with a man who taunted her about her biological clock.

In the years that followed, she was sometimes panicky about her marital status. But at 38, tired of dating “superficial professionals,” she found the courage to approach the friendly, handsome man who ran the local butcher shop. She invited him to a small dinner party at her house. Though he had no college degree, he arrived with flowers and an open heart. They were married two years later. Ms. Stroebel-Scimeca never had children of her own but helped raise two stepsons.

What–you might actually find an attractive person who shares your values outside of a narrow group of professionals? What a crazy idea!

Anyway, the willingness of people–including the only female op-ed writer for EventheliberalNewYorkTimes–to recycle these well-worn reactionary falsehoods is, I think, the central lesson about the way the media approaches Hillary Clinton’s marriage: educated women can’t win. If you divorce an unfaithful husband, you’re undermining a sacred institution with your unwillingness to sacrifice for the good of the family; if you keep the marriage together, you’re a frigid materialist putting your ambitions above your personal dignity. Similarly, 50 years ago women weren’t supposed to be doctors and lawyers and such; once they started entering those professions in significant numbers, it was going to stop them from getting laid and having families, and we’ll just keep saying it even if it’s false. As Caitlin Flanagan’s career proves, there certainly is never a shortage of men who run media outlets who want to hear it.

A Cautionary Note

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

One addendum to the verdicts in the Enron case: apparently a central issue on appeal will be the burden of proof required by the jury instructions, which was the issue that led to the overturning of the Arthur Andersen convictions. So, alas, it’s not over yet.

Much more at the Houston Chronicle. From the right, Stephen Bainbridge also has a useful compilation of links.

Gay marriage, divorce, hypocrisy

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

At CT, Harry is contemplating the possible ways out of the hypocrisy charges that would seem to accompany divorced opponents of gay marriage. Along the way, he considers one possibility:

One might, of course, believe nevertheless that divorce should be legal, because one might recognise that some marriages fall so far short of the ideal that it is better that they end, even though this does harm to the institution

The last phrase here seems potentially wrong. I think it’s potentially consistent with a generally conservative view of marriage that some marriages should end–namely, those that make a farce or mockery of institution through how short they fall of its ideals. The end of those very bad marriages actually strengthens the institution of marriage. This is potentially consistent with the view that divorce is far too common. All we’re doing is simply submitting another fact for consideration: marriages fall into two categories, the salvagable and the unsalvagable. Divorces in the former category harm the institution of marriage, divorces in the latter category reinforce it. We don’t have a perfect tool for sorting out those two sorts of marriages, but we might develop some pretty functional imperfect ones.

Here’s my attempt:

1) There exists platonic ideal of marriage X.

(as a non-subscriber to this view, I won’t attempt to specify all the conditions of X, but for the purposes of this argument we’ll assume it contains, amongst other things, the stipulation that the parties to the marriage are one man and one woman and they don’t hate each other. It is also probably permanent, the but amongst the internal criteria, this criteria does not always necessarily trump to the other two mentioned criteria.)

2) It’s good for society when the actual practice of marriage is as closely aligned with X as possible.

3) Non-participation in the institution of marriage isn’t ideal, but it’s less threatening to the institution (and therefore society) than the existence of marriages that fall well short of X.

4) Gay marriage is easy to legally prevent before the fact; marriage between men and women who hate each other is not. Therefore, both bans on gay marriage and divorces between people who hate each other both serve the same goal–strengthening the institution of marriage.

Kenny Boy, The Pen Is Calling

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

Lay and Skilling–guilty. My understanding is that–particularly with respect to Lay–this was would be difficult case to get across to a jury, so a terrific job by the prosecution. (For the larger story, I strongly recommend Eichenwald’s book, which is grimly fascinating.)

And the Speculating Leads to Touching, and the Touching Leads to Wanking, and then There is No Intellect Left

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

Shorter Patrick Healy: Your sex life is highly relevant to discussions about political figures. If you’re a Democrat.

And, of course, in his (admittedly selective) obsession Healy follows the priorities of our beloved Dean of Punditry:

So to sum up Broder’s worldview:

Bill Clinton’s Wang And What It’s Doing Right This Second: HOT! HOT! HOT!

Lies That Have Killed Tens Of Thousands: EH. THIS MAKES ME SLEEPY.

In addition, Will Bunch makes a good point about this idiotic story presumably being a front-page advertisement for the Times’ new blog. However, I disagree that this was the case of the NYT trying to pander to the vulgar blogosphere; after all, they have been signing Maureen Dowd’s paychecks for many years before they decided to start a blog–evidently, they’re independently interested in dumb vulgarity masquerading as political coverage. (In fairness, maybe Dowd’s obsession with meaningless and sometimes made-up-out-of-whole-cloth trivia is the result of her being dumped by Michael Douglas and Aaron Sorkin. Perhaps the NYT can interview 50 people about it and splash the results over the front page.)

Admittedly, I’m particularly cranky about the more onanistic parts of the media today because I forgot to turn the radio back to NPR after listening to the Mets game while resting last night, and hence woke up to Imus and Mike Barnacle whining about how mean people were being to poor Tim Russert and his great new “book.” Hasn’t my stomach suffered enough recently?

NYT Styles And Arguments From "Nature": Equally Vacuous

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |
  • Fascinating: apparently feminist women can also be heterosexuals. And I’m afraid that this earth-shattering insight can be found not in tossed-off filler in a bad junior high school newspaper, but in the New York Times. (I disagree with Alameida, however, that this represented the “zenith” on the NYT Styles Section. I think “bottomless pit” is the more accurate phrase. It apparently can always get worse.) This article does contain one novel thing, though: by implication, its author does seem to be a (former) example of the normally apocryphal feminist who gets really agitated if someone holds open a door. So maybe at least one does exist.
  • Amanda is completely right: arguments from “nature” are just as useless as arguments about “authenticity.” Menstrual cramps are indeed “natural,” as are headaches, tooth decay, body odor, and cancer of the rectum. This doesn’t make any of these things desirable, or stand aspirin, toothpaste or deodorant in some kind of opposition to the body. It’s true that sometimes “natural” practices are better. But as Amanda says, breastfeeding is better in most cases because it’s cheaper and more nutritious, not because it’s “natural” per se. Likewise, teaching women that periods should be a source of shame is a bad thing, not because it goes against “nature” but because it’s bad. And, of course, tautologies about “nature” are indeed also convenient ways of insulating existing inequities from criticism. Like “authenticity,” “nature” does no useful work in any argument.

Technical Difficulties

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

I understand that we are currently suffering from some technical difficulties. Without getting into too much detail, I blame the University of Washington. If it doesn’t clear up in an hour or so, I’ll take more vigorous action.

UPDATE: Problem solved.

Applications of the Theoretical Underpinnings Of Pro-Iraq War Liberals

[ 0 ] May 25, 2006 |

Shorter Gregg Easterbrook: “Having finally accepted the truth of global warming after denying it for many years, I don’t understand why Al Gore would make a film explaining the science to a general audience who has long been falsely told that the evidence was highly ambiguous by hacks such as myself.”

Ah, yes, I believe that this is the same routine we saw from disillusioned liberal hawks in the aftermath of the Iraq war; for some reason, having been utterly wrong in every respect is supposed to make your subsequent criticisms more serious. Okey-dokey.

…Atrios reminds us that Easterbrook is also an Intelligent Design Wanker.

When Ronald Reagan Saved Us from the Metric System

[ 0 ] May 24, 2006 |

Dean Dad:

Anyway, the metric system at that time came off as a sort of effete, Euro-Modernist import, shoved down the throats of Real Americans by the same smug coastal elites who got all self-righteous about banning smoking and conserving energy. To my memory, the song “Take This Job and Shove It” pretty much captured the spirit of the age. At that point, to suggest posting highway signs in kilometers was tantamount to announcing that you like to traipse through daisies and dress up like a pretty little girl.

Readers of a certain age – do you remember just what, exactly, was behind the anti-metric movement? I think this represents the dilemmas of American liberalism in microcosm.

Great question. I remember just the very tail end of this, but I recall pretty clearly that the grandparents (good, solid Republicans who viewed Ronald Reagan as a secular deity) viewed the defeat of the metric system as a victory in the battle to turn back the barbarians at the gates. I didn’t really understand, but, good American that I was, I tried until junior high to convert ideologically problematic metric measures back into the good “American” English system…

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