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Archive for January, 2008

Only Ten?

[ 0 ] January 3, 2008 |

Blogger and commentator Heather Wokusch lists the top-ten worst Bush appointees for reproductive health and rights — the people whose noses Bush has allowed to intrude most into your bedroom.

Her choices are spot-on. Among them: Tom Coburn, the then-Representative (now senator) who believes that doctors who perform abortions should be executed and whom Bush appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA); Lester Crawford and Norris Alderson, whom Bush appointed to run the FDA and who held up the approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception; and Eric Keroack and Susan Orr, Bush’s choices to head the Population Affairs office in the department of health and human services, the department that controls Title X funding for reproductive health services for poor women.

The only nit I’ll pick with Wokusch’s list is this: she’s got Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito as 6 and 7, respectively. While they might not be the most patently offensive choices (at least they are qualified for their posts, as opposed to Keroack), it’s clear to me that their appointments will have the longest-lasting and potentially most-destructive impacts on reproductive justice. Already we have seen their power in the Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart. If this top-ten (or ten-worst) takes any account of the magnitude of impact of these appointees, seems to me that Alito and Roberts should be at the tippy-top.


Anything That Involves Goalies Wearing Toques Is A Good Thing

[ 0 ] January 3, 2008 |


The Winter Classic was, in fact, pretty much the coolest thing ever (albeit in both senses), providing welcome New Year’s Day relief from the exhibition games between also-ran amateur football teams. The game not only drew more than 70,000 fans but despite the competition with said amateur football games allowed the NHL to score a rare American ratings victory over Policy Academy V reruns. As King Kaufman says, this can only mean one thing: that the business masterminds in the NHL will never do it again. If someone rational accidentally obtains decision-making authority, I’d strongly endorse the argument that the Classic act as a permanent replacement for the always unwatchable All-Star game.

To add a more general point, I remember when many fans were optimistic about Gary Bettman’s NBA-certified marketing skillz but worried that he’d be bad for the game. But while from a business standpoint his tenure has been a disaster, it must also be said that the game on the ice is in much better condition than when he took over. I would especially recommend that MLB take a good look at the post-Olympic things Bettman did eliminate unnecessary lags in the action: getting jagoff linsemen to drop the puck in a timely manner, restoring touch-up offsides, waving off icings where the defending team could clearly touch the puck, etc. Bettman gets a lot of abuse and lot of it is deserved, but in the most important aspect of his job from a fan’s standpoint he’s done pretty well. If only he would get rid of the damn shootouts…

The Next-to-Last Temptation of Christ

[ 17 ] January 3, 2008 |

Great moments in church signage, from my last night in Minneapolis:

My favorite element here is actually the “For Sale” sign in the background.

"World’s Most Obnoxious Feminist Concern Troll"

[ 13 ] January 2, 2008 |

What should be my outrage about wrong-about-everything hack Bill Kristol getting a New York Times gig because apparently the dozens of other media outlets he seems to have unlimited access to aren’t enough is attenuated by the fact that the Paper O’ Record still employs Maureen Dowd. Melissa McEwan, Molly Ivors and Echidne deal with her latest vacuous atrocity. As usual, it involves Dowd projecting various trivial personal obsessions onto the candidates and then using this as a reasons to attack their candidacies. Frankly, I would prefer straightforward Republican hackery to this.

Strangely, Dowd largely spares Edwards this time, although if he wins in Iowa I’m sure will be back to MoDo’s Deep Thoughts about his haircuts. Speaking of which, elsewhere among the inexplicably sinecured it is indeed funny that Richard Cohen literally can’t get through one sentence of his column about the alleged mendacious lying of candidates without a mendacious lie about Edwards. As Atrios says, “it’s so awesome when the Villagers can’t even keep their fake “scandals” straight.” But, really, this makes sense; once you’ve decided that the price of someone’s haircuts or their spouse’s sex life should be major factors in determining who should be President of the United States, whether the trivia you discuss is actually true or not is largely beside the point. Indifference to truth is just on symptom of the larger problem of hiring people who don’t care about politics and know nothing about any substantive issue to write about politics on major op-ed pages.

Spain Bleg

[ 18 ] January 2, 2008 |

Anyone know any good academic/policy oriented articles on Spanish security policy? Or, really, anything at all about Spanish security policy?

Against The Caucuses

[ 24 ] January 2, 2008 |

Hitchens gets this right.

…and Kaus too! (via.) Apparently we’ve finally found a use for contrarianism…

…actually, scrolling down I should say that while I support Kaus’s anti-caucus position, I obviously disagree with him that they’re bad because they make the Democratic Party too liberal. They’re bad because the whole caucus/primary system is a bad way of choosing a candidate, fetishizing “retail politics” skills of little actual relevance to the modern presidency beyond all reason to justify a ridiculously arbitrary and unfair system.

Smile! You’re on Camera.

[ 2 ] January 2, 2008 |

No, you’re not on candid camera, but you are on camera in the U.S. virtually all the time. According to a new study from Privacy International, a UK-based group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, the U.S. and the U.K., along with Russia and China, have “endemic” surveillance throughout the country. The study surveyed surveillance techniques including workplace monitoring, visual surveillance, communications interception, and border and trans-border issues (among others).

It shouldn’t surprise us that we are constantly monitored. Between the PATRIOT Act’s intrusions into our data, heightened security measures at airports, and security cameras at every store, subway, and street, there’s more and more surveillance each day.

Of course security is important. But at what cost to our civil liberties and our ability to live our lives with a modicum of privacy? Seems like many other industrialized countries that also cope with the threat of terrorism are doing a much better job finding that balance.

This Things I Believe

[ 0 ] January 2, 2008 |

Jamie Moyer is not a steroid user. His 62 mph fastball is a purely natural phenomenon.

A Map of Slavery

[ 16 ] January 1, 2008 |

Via Matt comes this map, which is genuinely awesome. I initially thought that it was an overlay of density data on an old map, but apparently it was created by Francis Carpenter in 1861. It demonstrates how empty of slaves some parts of the South (Appalachia in particular) were, and consequently why the Confederacy had to deal with so much pro-Union sentiment in those areas. It would be a large (but kind of interesting) project to compare this map with some of the electoral maps at Dave Leip’s website; I fiddled a bit with comparing the 1861 map with the 2004 electoral map, but nothing came of it.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 35

[ 12 ] January 1, 2008 |

Midwestern travel and social obligations prevent me from writing too much today, but on the 113th anniversary of John Edgar Hoover’s birth, it’s worth recalling the words of Benjamin Spock, who offered this anti-eulogy on the day of Hoover’s death in 1972.

It was a relief to have this man silenced who had no understanding of the underlying philosophy of our government or of our Bill of Rights, a man who had such enormous power, and used it to harass individuals with whom he disagreed politically and who had done so much as anyone to intimidate millions of Americans out of their right to hear and judge for themselves all political opinions.

Arguably, Hoover came closer than any American ever has to developing the basic architecture for fascism. It would be an extraordinary error, however, to assume that Hoover’s proto-fascist tendencies derived from his conservative principles. Because his first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Library of Congress, and because everyone knows that librarians are liberals by nature and custom, J. Edgar Hoover’s life indeed offers a hearty vindication of the Goldberg Thesis.

The Textual Basis For The Right To Privacy

[ 0 ] January 1, 2008 |

I’m not going to get into the question of Juno and abortion because I reject the idea that the picture is a “brief” for or against anything; this might be an appropriate way to discuss an Aaron Sorkin project, but Diablo Cody seems like an artist as opposed to someone who was things to say about issues of the day and divides them among, for lack of a better word, characters. I do, however, want to address publius’s argument in comments that he disagrees with Lawrence because “the right to privacy underlying this cluster of cases has no textual basis in the Constitution.” This is, I think, puzzling:

  • As Mark Tushnet pointed out in Balkin’s book about Roe, Douglas’s much-derided opinion in Griswold is actually quite intelligent. People who assert that there’s no textual basis for limiting a state’s authority in this line of cases need to explain what would, say, remain of the Fourth Amendment if the state could ban the use of contraception or noncommerical, consensual, private sexual behavior. What would the search warrants even look like? (“We believe that the individual in question is predisposed to desire sex.”) This kind of state power is inconsistent with several parts of the Bill of Rights, which clearly imply that the state does not have unlimited dominion to invade private residences. (Or to put this utterly banal interpretive point in slightly more pretentious terms, “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”)
  • Here, I would assume that Publius would object that nobody thinks that these laws would be used to routinely inspect private residences to ensure that people aren’t using contraception or giving head. And this is, of course, accurate; such laws would, in fact, be sporadically and arbitrarily applied against unpopular individuals or powerless classes of individuals. Or, in other words, they inherently fail to comport with the Constitution’s perfectly explicit textual command that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” There’s nothing non-textual about the argument that general laws which are unenforceable against most of the people they cover on their face cannot be enforced against anyone; if “equal protection” and “due process” mean anything, they mean that.

Admittedly, Roe does not automatically follow from Griswold and its progeny; it’s like it in some respects (arbitrarily enforced laws, interference with intimate family and sexual relations) and unlike it in others (usually a commercial transaction, not confined to private domiciles), and also involves some issues that aren’t addressed by the case (the importance of reproductive freedom to gender equity, the state’s interest in fetal life.) But it’s not true that Roe lacks any textual basis except in the less-than-sophomoric sense that the generalities of the 14th Amendment don’t include specific policy prescriptions, and in the case of the other (somewhat misleadingly named) “privacy” cases the textual basis is quite clear.

Gosteleradio Excludes Paul

[ 11 ] January 1, 2008 |

JMM and Digby are correct: it’s outrageous that Ron Paul is being excluded from the Fox News debates (and apparently by Fox; the state GOP wants him included.) No, I don’t think he has any chance of winning — but, then, neither at this late date does Thompson, and Paul is outpolling and (by vast amounts) outraising him. As Digby says, this should remind us again that Fox News isn’t “conservative,” which might actually be useful; it’s a house organ for the GOP in general and George W. Bush in particular.

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