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Archive for April, 2007

West is Best

[ 0 ] April 24, 2007 |

The oft-reliable Yglesias is off his head:

What do sports fans do here on the West Coast? You’ve gotten Eastern Conference playoff games starting at 4PM. You’ve got NFL games starting at 10 AM. I’m on vacation, so whatever, but this is madness. Sure, sure on more than one spring morning I’ve felt a bit weary because I stayed up late to watch a western game, but that’s not nearly as big a deal as it simply being impossible to watch games if you have a job or asking football fans to wake up early on Sundays. It’s probably nice for schoolkids but, seriously, they can’t vote.

Sorry, but having experienced both, I have to say that the West Coast sports viewing experience in infinitely preferable to that of the Eastern time zone. On the weekend, you roll out of bed around ten or so, and there’s already a game on to watch. You fry up an egg, or fill a bowl of cereal, and you have instant entertainment. On a weekday, you come home from work and there’s almost always a baseball or basketball game to watch. The latest of late games are over at 10pm, leaving the late night for the Daily Show or whatever other activities one deems appropriate. If you’re interested in a West Coast game, there’s no need to stay up until 1am or later to learn the outcome. It’s a tragic fact, given that I now live in the Eastern time zone, but fans in the East really get the short end of the stick as far as sports timing is concerned.


A Pox On the House of False Equivalences

[ 0 ] April 24, 2007 |

Karen Tumulty has an account of Carhart II that fits squarely within the extremely annoying pox-on-all-their-houses genre endemic to media coverage of the subject. First, she has to claim that both sides are being dishonest in the D&X debate. The anti-choice lobby is criticized because the distinction between methods at the same stage of gestation is completely arbitrary; in other words, their position is genuinely incoherent and unprincipled, and the issue is purely a ginned-up political tactic. Pro-choicers (although not any of their specific statements) meanwhile, are criticized 1)for making statements about the relative rarity of the procedure that are in fact accurate, and 2)for claiming that the procedure is used for medical reasons although “there are alternative ways to perform the abortion safely, though perhaps not as safely as when intact D&E is used.” Uh, what? Since when does using a procedure that reduces medical risk not count as a medical decision? If a doctor chose to prescribe an anti-cholesterol medication with the same positive effects but less risk of producing heart attacks, this wouldn’t count as a medical judgment? This is just a bizarre claim. And it’s unclear why women should be burdened with any degree of greater health risks at all given that the two procedures in question are morally indistinguishable.

In addition to this blaming-both-sides-regardless-of-the-facts, which seems to be a contractual obligation for this kind of article, she also makes the strange claim that despite further watering down of Casey “I don’t expect the court decision this week to have many larger implications.” She explains:

The fact is, where the two sides of the issue are at war over abortion and always will be, most Americans long ago decided what they think about it. They want abortion to be legal, but they don’t want it to be easy. And their qualms about it grow as a pregnancy progresses. As with everything else about this debate, the absolutes will always give way to the individual.

This is just a non-sequitur. The fact that public opinion is relatively stable does not mean that the statutory obstacles put in front of (some classes) of women will remain stable. Public opinion didn’t change much after Webster or Casey, but the number of regulations increased a great deal. Most of these regulations, moreover, have nothing to do with the stage of pregnancy at which an abortion is contained (and indeed these centrist regulations make later abortions more likely.) When legislation is used to close abortion clinics, for example, those clinics remain just as closed for first-trimester abortions. The fact that the Supreme Court has assumed that women are irrational is not only appalling in itself but makes virtually any obstacle short of a ban defensible. And finally, one thing these regulatory regimes do not do is “give way” to the “individual.” Their effect is the opposite: to permit reliable access to safe abortions for affluent urban women irrespective of the circumstances, and to make it more difficult for poor rural women to obtain abortions irrespective of the circumstances. The law is simply too crude an instrument to make these kinds of subtle moral distinctions. If you want individual circumstances taken into account, the solution is the “extreme” pro-choice position of leaving decisions about abortions between a woman and her doctor. As Ann says, “letting individuals make personal decisions about abortion is not the “middle ground.” That’s a flat-out pro-choice position.”

"Now there’s the inflated sense of self-esteem"

[ 0 ] April 24, 2007 |

Shorter TIDOS Yankee (and commenters):

“Though I was originally concerned when I read John Derbyshire’s manly boasts about how he’d act differently than the Virginia Tech victims, a week’s sober reflection has led me to wonder why all those people behaved like sheep — and by calling them sheep, of course, I mean no disrespect. But isn’t it possible that we’ve become a nation of cowards, like those people who got shot?”

I suppose when you’ve got the cat-like instincts of Gun Counter Gomer, you’re pretty much ready to be peppered with small arms fire at any time of the day. That’s why you’re capable of making observations like this:

Certain calibers are simply better than others for [conceal and carry] purposes, and the calibers cited above encompass the overwhelming majority of those in which defensive handguns are chambered. The frangible ammunition mandate may be new to some that are more familiar with full metal-jacketed (FMJ) and hollowpoint ammunition, and so may need to be explained.

Frangible ammunition is designed to fragment or disintegrate upon or shortly after contact. This significantly reduces the dangers associated with overpenetration, by transferring most or all of the projectile’s energy into the target as the bullet fragments. While typically being more lethal to the target, frangible ammunition is not as likely to penetrate structural components (walls, floors, doors). Glaser and MagSafe are two of the most common examples.

Oh, Bob. You had me at “frangible ammunition mandate.”

But seriously — if there’s anything you probably don’t need to worry about, it’s “the dangers of overpenetration.” Then again, when this is what you think you see in the bathroom mirror each morning as you’re getting ready to do . . . um, whatever the fuck you do for a living . . . I suppose those fears seem plausible after all:

A New Voice Enters the Vlogopshere

[ 0 ] April 24, 2007 |

I think she’ll go far!

And Every Time You Buy A Copy, Ann Althouse Cries

[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

Rebecca Traister interviews Jessica Valenti, who discusses her new book Full Frontal Feminism (available at fine booksellers everywhere!)

Another Downside of the Surge

[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

Sam Dagher at the CSM has a good article on the potential detrimental effect of having large numbers of US troops in close quarters with Iraqi civilians. Invariably, in a counter-insurgency conflict, civilians are going to be killed by US forces. This is particularly true of a country like Iraq, in which the general populace tends to be quite heavily armed. The Surge exacerbates the regular problem of US-caused civilian deaths by putting troops who are less well trained and less well equipped than they should be in extremely dangerous situations. While it’s true that the Surge could reduce civilian deaths in Baghdad by making it more difficult for sectarian militias to operate, it’s not a 1-1 swap; every person killed by the US causes more damage than each person saved by US forces. Moreover, since much of Baghdad seemed to rely on the sectarian militias for defense, even their suppression is double-edged.

Oh, and the insurgents are very, very desperate. If they weren’t, a suicide bomber wouldn’t have just killed nine Americans and wounded twenty more in Diyala province.



[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

Just my imagination, or are there a lot of people dying lately?

The Best and the Brightest is an outstanding book; I haven’t yet read War in a Time of Peace, but I have it and I’ll probably dig in eventually. His baseball work was full of factual errors, but always included a powerful, well related narrative. Halberstam spoke at the University of Kentucky in the autumn of last year. It wasn’t the best performance, either substantively or in delivery, and it seemed as if he was ailing, although that hardly has any relevance for how he died. Nevertheless, he was one of the most important journalists of the last forty years, and his Vietnam work continues to hold up well.


Spitball, or High Fastball?

[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

Interesting; I’ve always thought of Bernie Shaw’s death penalty question to Mike Dukakis as more of a high fastball than a spitball. Dukakis could (and did) strike out on the question, but he also could have hit it out of the park, all while staying true to his anti-death penalty principles. Everyone in the audience and at home understood that Shaw had stepped outside the bounds of polite discourse, but Dukakis failed to recognize this in time, and answered it as a straight policy question. He could have followed Shaw out of bounds and given an answer that acknowledged that the question was emotionally exploititive, while at the same time pointing out that making an important policy decision based on such an appeal is a very bad idea. Dukakis could have said something like this:

Sure, I’d like to take the guy apart myself. But that’s why we don’t let victims serve on juries, or as judges. And if we can’t come up with a justification for a punishment beyond raw anger, then we need to seriously consider why we have it on our books

Indeed, that’s pretty much the answer I expected Dukakis to give, and I remember being immensely pleased when he flubbed it (the message of the Republican Party was then and is now particularly appealing to fourteen year old boys; why anyone else supports the Republicans is a mystery to me). On the other hand, Paul is right to call out Bernie on his pretension to Murrow status. Murrow is relevant because he made a contribution on questions of genuine policy import, not pointless sideshows like the death penalty.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. XIII

[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

James Buchanan, arguably the worst chief executive in American history, was born on this date in 1791. The only president to hail from Pennsylvania, Buchanan stood for nearly everything the state’s Quaker founders detested, including the institution of slavery, which he sought to extend before watching inertly as it cleaved the nation in two.

A lawyer by training, Buchanan ascended into political life as a young man and migrated from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to the US Congress, in both of whose chambers “Old Buck” resided during the 1820s and 1830s. When not enrolled as a legislator, Buchanan was employed as a diplomat, serving the Tennessee imperialist James K. Polk as Secretary of State during the most priapic era of Manifest Destiny, 1845-1949 1849 (oops). Two years before his election to high office, Buchanan gave even more ballast to his imperialist credentials by helping draft the disastrous Ostend Manifesto (1854), which essentially demanded that Spain agree to the sale of Cuba to the United States. The manifesto, composed in Belgium, advised President Franklin Pierce that if Spain proved “dead to the voice of her own interest, and actuated by stubborn pride and a false sense of honor, should refuse to sell Cuba to the United States,” the United States would be obliged to act strongly in the name of “self-preservation.” Insisting that Cuba’s domestic troubles might spill into the southern United States, Buchanan and his fellows advised that the US could rightfully dislodge the island from Spanish rule. They likened it to a desperate individual “tearing down the burning house of his neighbor if there were no other means of preventing the flames from destroying his own home.”

The Manifesto was a disaster for slavery’s advocates, who were ever more desperately arguing that the extension of the Peculiar Institution was the only means of preserving it where it already existed. The document fueled Northern suspicions that elements of the “Slave Power” were mobilizing to thwart the ambitions of free white landowners. Such concerns were further fueled by the insistence of Southern Democrats — and even many Whigs — that the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 had unlawfully restrained slavery’s growth into the Western territories. On the great moral and political questions of the day, Buchanan was unmistakably supportive of the Southern cause.

When Buchanan was elected to the White House in 1856, only five of the sixteen so-called “Free States” endorsed his ticket, while the slaveholding regions of the country voiced unanimous approval. As President, Buchanan returned the favor. He heartily congratulated the Supreme Court on its notorious Dred Scott decision, which was issued mere days after his inauguration; he supported the admission of Kansas (where the Civil War had already commenced) as a slave state; and when the first, petulant wave of Southern secession occurred in late 1860, Buchanan blamed the “intemperate interference of the Northern people” for the troubles. While Buchanan had six years earlier recommended an imperial war against Cuba in the name of “self-preservation,” he could not bring himself to lift a finger in the cause of preserving the Union. Instead, he insisted that the President could do nothing to scold a recalcitrant state like South Carolina. Moreover, he urged Congress — whose lower house was run by a free-soil Republican majority — to succumb to the demands of man-stealers and lawbreakers. By forever securing white rights to human property, Buchanan believed that a Constitutional amendment would “restore peace and harmony to this distracted country.”

Buchanan then did practically nothing until he left office in March 1861.


[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

1931-2007. He got drunk and fell off a bridge once. Then he presided over the final wreckage of his country. If anyone ever wants evidence of what the two worst economic models of the 20th century — Soviet communism and Washington neoliberalism — can do for a nation, go ask a Russian.

What It Means to be A "Pro-Life" Republican

[ 0 ] April 23, 2007 |

The federal GOP’s social and economic model Mississippi, as some of you know, is one of the more than 20 states with latent abortion bans that would come into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned. (Although, of course, as Ben Wittes points out, going from abortion being legal in all 50 states to being banned in 15-25 states and more heavily regulated in many of the other states would actually be better for reproductive freedom because…I’m not going to lie to you Marge. Well, goodbye!) And should the Court decline to overturn Roe explicitly, it has also been at the forefront of legislation instituting arbitrary regulations used to harass abortion clinics until they close. Via Barbara O’Brien, however, after fetuses become children are born the state’s interest in them seems to wane somewhat. How did the “pro-life” Mississippi GOP respond to increases in infant mortality? I think you can guess:

In 2004, Gov. Haley Barbour came to office promising not to raise taxes and to cut Medicaid. Face-to-face meetings were required for annual re-enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, the children’s health insurance program; locations and hours for enrollment changed, and documentation requirements became more stringent.

As a result, the number of non-elderly people, mainly children, covered by the Medicaid and CHIP programs declined by 54,000 in the 2005 and 2006 fiscal years. According to the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program in Jackson, some eligible pregnant women were deterred by the new procedures from enrolling.

One former Medicaid official, Maria Morris, who resigned last year as head of an office that informed the public about eligibility, said that under the Barbour administration, her program was severely curtailed.

“The philosophy was to reduce the rolls and our activities were contrary to that policy,” she said.

Mississippi’s Medicaid director, Dr. Robert L. Robinson, said in a written response that suggesting any correlation between the decline in Medicaid enrollment and infant mortality was “pure conjecture.”

Dr. Robinson said that the new procedures eliminated unqualified recipients. With 95 enrollment sites available, he said, no one should have had difficulty signing up.

As to Ms. Morris’s charge that information efforts had been curbed, Dr. Robinson said that because of the frequent turnover of Medicaid directors — he is the sixth since 2000 — “our unified outreach program was interrupted.” He said it has now resumed.

The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.

The department has also suffered management turmoil and reductions in field staff, problems so severe that the state Legislature recently voted to replace the director.

Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund, said: “When you see drops in the welfare rolls, when you see drops in Medicaid and children’s insurance, you see a recipe for disaster. Somebody’s not eating, somebody’s not going to the doctor and unborn children suffer.”

Providing further evidence for Barney Frank’s dictum that for Republicans life begins at conception and ends at birth.

(Also at TAPPED.)


[ 0 ] April 22, 2007 |

Ugh. At least it could have been a quick execution, not an ugly 2 overtime job. It would have been a temporary stay with a hearing in front of Scalia on Tuesday anyway; Kiprusoff really deserves a better team in front of him (and coaching staff) than this.

The only good thing is that if Vancouver wins tomorrow I’ll put up a rare 8-0 in my first round predictions, which is better than certain English professors or New Republic writers I could name…

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