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Archive for February, 2007

Gordon

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

In addition to an article on the Iranian IEDs on Friday, and an article on the aluminum tubes in 2002, Michael Gordon co-wrote Cobra II, which condemened the administration’s war conduct and use of intelligence in harsh terms. Thus, it’s simply not true that Michael Gordon is “the administration’s best friend” even at the New York Times. While he may be arrogant, he is hardly a “stenographer”. While at the Times, Gordon has published many articles harshly critical and deeply skeptical of administration conduct. Did he forget that he was the administration’s best friend when he was writing them? Did he cease to be either arrogant or a stenographer?

Here’s what I wish. I wish that the blogosphere could think in less dispositional terms. When Gordon, or anyone else, writes a bad article, we tend to attack them on dispositional terms; Gordon failed because he’s a friend of the administration, an arrogant stenographer, a neocon, etc. We don’t have a vocabulary that, for lack of a better phrase, allows us to hate the sin and love the sinner. I love the blogosphere, but I loathe this aspect of it. A few weeks ago, we all had a terrific rage fest against the hack pundit Joe Klein. Then, Klein started to write things that we liked, and the declarations of hackishness and bad faith went away. I still think that Joe Klein is a hack, but that’s rather beside the point; he’s either a hack or he’s not, and just because he starts directing his hackery in directions we like doesn’t change that fact. Same thing with the various writers for the New Republic, the blogospheric reaction to whom vacillates wildly between “foul servant of Dark Lord Peretz” and “Oh, hey, that’s an interesting point”. To use a nearer and dearer example, only part of what makes me loathe Mickey Kaus is his political position; much more irritating to me is his manifest inability to convey a thought in writing and his trivial approach to political questions.

I can even see the point of this kind of thinking, the hope being that the various targets will contribute something more to our liking. I’m not asking for civility, either, or for a turn the other cheek attitude. What I’d like, I suppose, is accuracy; an effort to direct dispositional attacks against those who deserve them, and more precisely aimed barbs against the rest.

Word Press Photo

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

Remarkable. Via Jay.

Reproductive Freedom and Doctor-Protection Laws

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

I have a post up at TAPPED about Portugal’s coming liberalization of its draconian abortion laws. I wanted to pick out another excerpt from the genuinely terrific Times article about the referendum:

The current law in Portugal, passed in 1984, allows abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy in case of “mental and physical risk,” until 16 weeks in case of rape, until 24 weeks in case of a malformed fetus and at any time if the woman’s life is in danger. It calls for prison sentences of up to three years for a woman who has an illegal abortion and up to eight years for the person who illegally performs it.

But the availability of abortion is complicated by the medical profession’s narrow interpretation of the existing law. Portugal’s conservative psychiatric hierarchy has ruled that an unwanted pregnancy can be a mental health issue only in the most extreme cases; most medical doctors are unwilling to challenge the conventional wisdom.

By contrast, in Spain, which has a similar law, the legislation is liberally interpreted, and abortions are routinely performed. That has created a lucrative market for legal abortions in Spain for those Portuguese women who can afford to travel there.

There are two important lessons here. The first–which all too many scholars in the field make–is that you can’t infer the availability of legal abortion from the precise wording of statutes that delegate discretion to doctors (and haggling over changes in wording instead of decriminalization is a fool’s game.) The related lesson concerns the fact that laws that focus on protecting doctors rather than women are seen as the Eden of American abortion politics by the Saletan/Wittes/Rosen Axis Of We’ve Got Ours. But as the Spain/Portugal comparison suggests, they don’t in any way correspond to whether or not a woman has a reason for getting an abortion that Ben Wittes finds sufficiently compelling; in liberal areas, abortions will be widely available, and in less liberal areas women will be routinely denied abortion for arbitrary reasons (especially if they don’t have the connections or resources to window shop.) The additional problem, of course, is that these laws also don’t make any sense; given the discretion that doctors will have in practice, they’re making moral, not medical, judgments, and there’s no conceivable reason why these judgments should be made by doctors rather than the women whose lives are at stake.

While web doctor can be very helpful for immediate answers and symptoms its important not to entirely rely. When considering eminent issues like deciding what skin cancer looks like should be done in person with your doctor. Or whether or not a prescription drug is for you. For example buying tenuate is not for the faint of heart. Check with your doctor before buying.

Rome Thoughts, with Spoilers

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

My thoughts…

  • I am displeased by the depiction of Marcus Agrippa. The Moltke to Octavian’s Bismarck is portrayed as a stammering schoolboy, and he looks like a damn hobbit. Octavian wasn’t worth a plugged sesterce in a fight, and the chief architect of his military triumph deserves better. And since when did they decide that what Rome needed was more drug humor?
  • Cicero is getting a little bit more lively, or at least they’ve decided to increase his visibility and give some access to his motivation. I do wish that they had quoted directly from his Second Philippic Against Antony instead of giving him some half-assed claptrap. I think that they’re closer to showing the true Cicero, though; a man willing to maximize his own power and prestige within the established rules of public life at the time, but nevertheless possessed of a deep respect for those rules, unlike Antony, or Octavian.
  • The Vorenus as mafia don plot is interesting enough, I suppose, if only because it evokes comparison to Al Swearingen and Tony Soprano. However, it would be nice if they demonstrated that he had any talent as boss. He has owed all of his positions to luck and to friendship with Caesar and Antony. Moreover, he has the personality of a junior military officer, not of a mob boss. As Tony Soprano has ably demonstrated, managing a mafia family depends less on direct authority than persuasion and camraderie, the ability to convince both one’s own soldiers and other mobs that they enjoy being part of the organization and will do better within it than without. Vorenus simply orders people around, instead of making the compromises necessary to keeping everyone happy. Pullo is more charismatic, and I think he would make a better don. However, I did like the scenes in which Vorenus recovered his children, and thought that the icyrelationship that ensued was well done.
  • Lepidus is often treated as a minor figure, but he was part of the Second Triumvirate and a major personage in Rome after the Civil War. I rather liked his brief appearance, and hope that he’ll be featured in future episodes. I recognized the actor, but couldn’t identify him, and I can’t find anything on the web to identify him, either.
  • Where the hell is Cleopatra? We need more Cleopatra. I need more Cleopatra…
  • Next week it looks as if we’ll see the end of Cicero and the Battle of Philippi. The previews indicate that we might see an actual battle, even. They’d damn well better be saving some money to put together a good Actium…

    I’m Excitable Enough To Throw Myself Against The Wall of the Louvre Museum!

    [ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    So the updated FAQ caused someone to demand some more Zevon blogging. And, what do you know–via the mighty TBogg, considered “somewhat popular” by at least 2 out every 3 batty, thin-skinned cranks living in Madison, WI–I see that Rhino is finally issuing The Envoy–one of his best records–on CD for the first time. Not only that, but also the rare-good-live-album Stand in the Fire (sample amended lyric: “You’d better stay away from him/He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim/And he’s looking for…James Taylor”) will be getting its howlingly funny debut, and as a bonus an expanded edition of the classic (and, I suppose, particularly relevant) Excitable Boy. Looks like they’ll be nice remasters, and cheap. Dunno if they’ll be on ITunes, but I never buy MP3s with that little price differential anyway. So, see, we do take requests…

    Prison Rape and CSI

    [ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

    To add briefly to the point that Ezra has made, one of the most irritating aspects of CSI (which, sadly, I have been unable to break from) is the common, almost offhand manner in which the heroes threaten suspects with the prospect of rape in prison. It suggests to me that the public at large has simply concluded that a) rape is an integral part of prison life, such that a five year prison sentence automatically includes five years of rape, and b) that anyone who goes to prison is irredeemably besmirched, and thus deserving of constant rape.

    To take this a bit farther, it’s interesting to compare modern conceptions of prison (sadly or no, I’ve never seen Prison Break) with the work of Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard. For Haggard or Cash, that a poor white family would have to deal with the prison system in some fashion was simply a fact of life, even if Cash himself only spent one night behind bars. Moreover, neither Cash nor Haggard dodged the question of guilt; even if the protagonists of their songs weren’t going away for life, they were usually guilty of something. At some point (probably as the War on Drugs saw a steady increase in the incarceration percentages of young black men) the idea that white people would have to deal with prison became alien. Is there music or other art today that deals with the possibility that guilty white folks might spend time in prison, and thus that prison should be made at least survivable?

    Making a bigger leap, I think that the thread connecting 24, CSI, opposition to anti-bullying legislation, and in the past opposition to anti-lynching statutes is the conviction that society requires extra-legal violence in order to hold together. On 24 (as ably demonstrated by Jane Mayer; more on this later) elite agents of the state murder and torture in the darkness to keep us safe. The heroes of CSI are agents of the state working in the open, but their main job is to track down deviants killing other deviants in order to send the first group of deviants to prison so they can get raped. As Sarah Posner discussed, opposition to anti-bullying legislation is founded on the idea that, without bullying, our children will be recruited into gay cabals, and society will crumble. Conservative opposition to efforts to stem lynching were explicitly about how lynching was a necessary tool to defending the social order of the South.

    This brings to mind the defense of tradition and community made in the “reactionary catechism” over at Red State not long ago. Their evocation of tradition and community, however, glides over the fact that these values require defense through violent means; reactionaries, especially, have never shied away from using this violence, whether in prison or as part of a lynch gang or in support of the bully who beats up the “queer” kid in junior high. One wonders, of course, why so much violence is necessary to convince people to accept the self-evident goods of community and tradition…

    Apropos of almost nothing

    [ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

    It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. As his party gathered itself for the annual leap into the memory hole, Bill Kristol decided to celebrate by issuing, as Loomis pointed out in the comments to Rob’s post, what must surely count as one of the two or three worst historical analogies ever belched forth into the atmosphere.

    Eric doesn’t overstate the issue a bit. When Kristol suggests — wearing his arrogant smirk like a badge of honor — that Barack Obama “would have been for Douglas in 1858,” he seems not to know one important historical fact. According to the laws of Illinois in 1858, Barack Obama would not only have been incapable of voting for Stephen Douglas, but he also would not have been allowed to enter the state in the first place. In 1853, Illinois passed one of the most restrictive black codes in the so-called “free north.” Blacks from other states were permitted to remain in the state for ten days; if they did not leave, they were subject to arrest and temporary enslavement — they would be sold to bidders who would be entitled to their labor until the mandatory $50 fine had been worked off. If the offending individual remained in Illinois after his or her release, the fines increased by $50 increments for each subsequent offense.

    These laws remained in effect for years. Indeed, the Illinois state legislature tried to make these restictions permanent during the civil war and did not actually grant African Americans the right to vote until the US Constitution required them to do so.

    It should go almost without saying now that William Kristol is desperately ignorant, but his his trivialization of history — with the sole intent of scoring cheap points against a black guy — demonstrates that he geniunely just doesn’t give a fuck.

    ***

    In other Lincoln news, here’s one of Ronald Reagan’s brighter moments from 20 years ago today. Speaking to a group of middle school kids, Reagan offered this charming story about Lincoln’s ghost and Reagan’s King Charles spaniel:

    But I have to tell you, I am puzzled. Because every once in a while our little dog, Rex, will start down that long hall toward that room just glaring as if he’s seeing something and barking. And he stops in front of Lincoln’s door, the bedroom door. And once, early on in this, I just couldn’t understand it. So, I went down and I opened the door, and I stepped in, and I turned around for him to come on, and he stood there, still barking and growling and then started backing away and would not go in the room. So, the funny thing, though, is I have to feel — unlike you might think about other ghosts — if he is still there, I don’t have any fear at all. I think it would be very wonderful to have a little meeting with him and probably very helpful.

    It wounds as if Rex, too, would have been a Douglas supporter in 1858.

    Barack Obama: Objectively Pro-Slavery

    [ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

    Bill Kristol:

    We’re electing a war president in 2008. If I can go back to Obama and Lincoln for just one second, Lincoln’s “house divided” speech in 1858 was a speech saying we cannot live as a house divided on slavery. And he implicitly says well have to fight a civil war if necessary on this.

    Obama’s speech is a “can’t we get along” speech–sort of the opposite of Lincoln. He would have been with Stephen Douglas in 1858.

    Via Chotiner, via Sully.

    LGM Frequently Asked Questions

    [ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

    UPDATED!!

    Q: Are you lawyers?
    A: Not all of us, although this is a common misperception. Paul Campos is, in fact, a law professor.

    Q: Do you have any guns?
    A: No. One of us does have a baseball bat, though.

    Q: Do you have any money?
    A: Not so that you’d notice.

    Q: Wha?
    A: It’s a Warren Zevon song. We’re social scientists, and we’ve devoted our careers, such that they are, to the study of the noted topics, more or less.

    Q: Which of you is which?
    A: Scott is Lawyers, Rob is Guns, and DJW is Money. More or less.

    Q: Why does DJW never post?
    A: He’s finishing his dissertation. He’s, uh… resting.

    Q: And you guys are cool with that?
    A: Yes. If there’s anything this world needs less that another political theory dissertation, it’s another blogger.

    Q: Wait; who is “d”?
    A: Well, if you listen to Ann Althouse, “d” is a life-size representation of Scott’s genitalia. Others know “d” as David Hoogland Noon, historian.

    Q: What’s a Hoogland?
    A: I don’t know. Some kind of terrier, I think.

    Q: How did Noon become part of LGM?
    A: We found him on the street. And he had no home, and so we took him in, and he’s been with us ever since. He’s a good lawyer. Not a Sicilian, but I think he’s gonna be consiglieri.

    Q: Really?
    A: No. He writes at Axis of Evel Knievel, we felt we needed another contributor, so we invited him to join.

    Q: And who is Paul Campos?
    A: He’s a law professor at the University of Colorado. Unlike the rest of us, he actually has a wikipedia page. Check it out.

    Q: Do the rest of you want wikipedia pages?
    A: I can’t speak for the others, but I don’t think I could handle the strain of seeing my wikipedia page deleted for lack of relevance.

    Q: How long has LGM been running?
    A: Since May 31, 2004

    Q: How do you guys know each other?
    A: Rob, Scott, and DJW were graduate students in political science at the University of Washington.

    Q: What’s a “lefarkins”?
    A: A term for the three of us coined by other political science graduate students.

    Q: That sounds kind of derogatory, doesn’t it?
    A: Yes.

    Q: You guys don’t care for Sam Alito or Sarah Palin, do you?
    A: No.

    Q: Do you think Sarah Palin is worse than the Hitler?
    A: Um, no.

    Q: So why do you write more about Sarah Palin than Adolf Hitler?
    A: That’s a stupid question.

    Q: Is Sarah Palin worse than, say, a peanut?
    A: Depends on which one of us you ask.

    Q: Do you guys like terrorists?
    A: Not as a general rule.

    Q: Do you take requests?
    A: Sure, we take them…

    Q: Why do you hate Mickey Kaus so much?
    A: That’s like asking the square root of a million; no one will ever know.

    Q: What’s with the whole battleship thing?
    A: Apparently, Rob would rather write about battleships than get tenure.

    Q: How many cats do you own?
    A: Rob has three, Dave Noon has two, and DJW has one.

    Q: Do they all hump things?
    A: Only Noon’s cats have displayed serial sexual deviance. I don’t have a good explanation for that, but it probably has something to do with Sarah Palin.

    Q: Does anyone ever try to jump on the LGM bandwagon?
    A: Strangely, no.

    Q: What’s your blogroll policy?
    A: We don’t have one.

    Q: Do you blogroll conservatives?
    A: Sometimes, if they blogroll us.

    Q: What’s your comments policy?
    A: Arbitrary random drunkenness. Does that count as a policy?

    Q: Do you worry about losing your jobs because of the blogging?
    A: Not really. We work with cool people.

    Q: Do you blog elsewhere, in addition to LGM?
    A: As noted, Dave Noon blogs at Axis of Evel Knievel, and Edge of the American West. Scott and Rob blog at Tapped.

    Q: Um… are there other questions I should ask?
    A: Probably.

    Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg

    [ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |


    In 1832 the long struggle for Greek independence ended as the Great Powers recognized the separation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire. The London Conference of 1832 made Greece a monarchy, and established as its ruler Otto I, a Bavarian prince. Although he adopted a Greek name (Othon), Otto refused to convert from Roman Catholicism to Greek Orthodoxy, and proved unable to produce an heir. He grew increasingly unpopular with the Greek people, and was forced to abdicate in 1862, at the age of 47. After searching for a replacement, the great powers settled on the equally appropriate George I, a Danish prince of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. In spite of his heritage, George I proved a far more capable monarch than his predecessor. First, he learned Greek, and dismissed many of his Danish advisors. Second, he helped sponsor the democratic constitution of 1864. After a successful and largely happy reign of fifty years, George I was shot on the streets of Salonika by a vagrant, alcoholic anarchist.

    George II, grandson of George I, ascended to the throne in 1923, following the abdication of his father. An attempted royalist coup in the same year forced George II to flee to Romania, and he was officially deposed in 1924. Greek politics took a disastrous turn in the ensuing years, as no government could remain in power for very long, and a plebiscite returned him to the throne in 1935. Unfortunately, George II acceded to the establishment of dictatorship in 1936. The Greek government’s pro-Axis sympathies didn’t save Greece from Mussolini, who attacked and invaded Greece in October 1940. The Italian invasion fared poorly, as the Greeks launched a counter-offensive that took a large portion of Albania. In April 1941 Germany intervened, and quickly began to roll up the country. George II (who had always had pro-British sympathies) fled to Crete, then to Egypt, then to Great Britain. Before and after liberation, the question of the return of the King became politically incendiary. Many opposed his return because of his perceived sympathies with the pre-war dictatorial regime. However, in the first post-war elections monarchist parties did well, and another plebiscite returned George II in September 1946. His return helped fuel the Greek Civil War, but, as George II died in 1947, he didn’t live to see most of the bloodshed.

    Constantine II, nephew of George II, became King in March 1964. In 1960 Constantine had participated in Sailing events of the Rome Olympics, winning a gold medal. Constantine II soon became embroiled in a dispute with Prime Minister Papandreou that led to a series of turnovers of government. The dispute was ended by the 1967 coup of a group of right wing colonels. Although initially reluctant, Constantine II eventually agreed to collaborate on the condition that some civilian ministers would be added to the government. At the encouragement of the United States, the King attempted to launch a counter-coup in December 1967. However, due to the ineptitude of the King, this coup failed and Constantine fled. The leaders of the coup conducted yet another plebiscite in 1973 that abolished the monarchy, although the vote was believed to have been rigged. A final plebiscite in 1974, after the return of democratic governmance, confirmed the abolishment of the monarchy.

    Constantine has recognized the abolition of the throne, but still refers to himself as King. Some monarchical sentiment remains in Greece, but prospects for regaining the throne seem grim. Constantine’s occasional visits to Greece have proved controversial, and he currently lives in London.

    Trivia: The last reigning King and Crown Prince of what country died in a Communist internment camp?

    Post-Cold War Cliches, vol. MCLXVI

    [ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

    Good grief.

    “As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday’s speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time,” Mr. Gates said. He paused for effect before adding, “Almost.”

    I understand the futility in suggesting this, but could we dispense at long last with the notion that the cold war was in any fashion a “simpler” or “less complex” era? It’s a useful fantasy, I’m sure — in the same sense that the cold war made many Americans nostalgic for the “simplicity” of previous decades — but it’s just embarrassing to hear it coming from public officials who should, at least in theory, know better. Not to belabor the obvious, but perhaps when he gets a spare moment, the Secretary of Defense could explain just how lacking in complexity all this was.

    Presumption in Favor of the Anti-War Candidate

    [ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

    In the midst of the below-referenced posts pointing out the highly disingenuous attempts to claim that Clinton was not, in fact, a strong contemporaneous supporter of the war, Yglesias notes this about Obama:

    Also note: “But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake.” My instinct is that this is going to be a powerful point.

    I think this is right. As I think I’ve said before, I think that when choosing a candidate, Democratic primary voters should have a strong presumption in favor of people who didn’t support The Fiasco, for both political and substantive reasons. Not an irrefutable presumption, but a strong presumption. With respect to the politics, I think it’s clear that Edwards’ forthright admission that he made a mistake is preferable to Clinton’s attempt to pretend that she didn’t really support the war, but neither of these are really good options. Edwards is admitting a colossal error in judgment on what will be the central question of the 2008 election. Clinton has to claim to be exceptionally (and implausibly) naive about what Bush was up to, and in addition everyone knows that she made the error in judgment anyway. Given the inevitable centrality of Iraq to the 2008 election, running a candidate who was pro-war at the time is squandering a major potential edge, and I think a candidate has to have a lot of other virtues (and their rivals a lot of potential defects) to overcome it (although Edwards’ early repudiation makes him a little less vulnerable.)

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