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Archive for February, 2014

Standing Athwart History Yelling “Derp”

[ 145 ] February 28, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim Erick Erickson:

In December of 1865, the several American states ratified the 13th amendment, constitutionally ending involuntary servitude in the United States. In the 21st century, Americans are coming full circle. In a number of states, a black man can again be forced by the government to work involuntarily for a white man.

In addition to the obvious, on Erickson’s own idiotic terms (i.e. “requirements that public accommodations be open to all comers with deep common law roots are like chattel slavery”), this is now true in every state. Anyway, I’m sure equating civil rights with slavery will greatly aid in Republican minority outreach.

[Joke expropriated from Warren Terra and Zandar. The 13th Amendment is dead, after all.]


Same sex marriage, public opinion and religion

[ 110 ] February 28, 2014 |

Rod Dreher, in one of his increasingly frequent loud sighs about  his side’s impending loss on same sex marriage, flags an interesting and revealing finding from the recent PRRI poll:

About 6-in-10 (59%) white mainline Protestants believe their fellow congregants are mostly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, among white mainline Protestants who attend church regularly, only 36% oppose allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry while a majority (57%) actually favor this policy.

Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics believe that most of their fellow congregants are opposed to same-sex marriage. However, Catholics who regularly attend church are in fact divided on the issue (50% favor, 45% oppose).

The framing of ‘secular vs religious’ is so pervasive that pro-SSM religious people fail to recognize they’re in the majority in their own church. It’s certainly true that they’re been an significant increase in Americans identifying as secular or irreligious in absolute terms, but they were starting from a very low baseline that the growth in their growth can only account for a trivial amount of the shift on public opinion regarding SSM. That group, however defined, is an important source of support for SSM, but in this country you can’t have social change without a significant fraction of Christendom on board, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. SSM is becoming popular because Christians are very quickly deciding they don’t have a problem with it after all. This is why when I hear people say that Christian teachings and doctrines on human sexuality and marriage  just can’t possibly accommodate SSM, I wonder what world they’re living in. Of course, some people, as part of a an attempt to dig in their heels, have convinced themselves of that, but that’s not particularly revealing; given the ease with which their fellow co-religionists have done it. In the end, Christianity has been the mainstream religion in American society by calibrating the amount of racism and sexism build into their teachings to remain close enough to the mainstream to retain its status. It’s clearly happening again with the tremendous change we’re seeing regarding acceptance of gays and lesbians.

In Dreher’s comments, someone quickly chimes in to worry that outsiders will use anti-discrimination law to sue churches that don’t perform same sex marriages. In addition to having no understanding of the relevant law, his risk assessment has a sort of Dale Gribble character to it.

Crimea Links

[ 58 ] February 28, 2014 |

Stuff on Ukraine… Chris Lofting

Texas Executed An Innocent Man Update

[ 66 ] February 28, 2014 |

“There are three forms of evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham — 1. Junk science. 2. Baseless conjecture. 3. Uh, uh, uh…get me another Tito’s and Ambien!”

The case of Cameron Todd Willingham now has a not-at-all surprising development:

In the 10 years since Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham after convicting him on charges of setting his house on fire and murdering his three young daughters, family members and death penalty opponents have argued that he was innocent. Now newly discovered evidence suggests that the prosecutor in the case may have concealed a deal with a jailhouse informant whose testimony was a key part of the execution decision.

The battle to clear Mr. Willingham’s name has symbolic value because it may offer evidence that an innocent man was executed, something opponents of the death penalty believe happens more than occasionally. By contrast, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote seven years ago that he was unaware of “a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit.”


What has changed is that investigators for the Innocence Project have discovered a curt handwritten note in Mr. Webb’s file in the district attorney’s office in Corsicana. The current district attorney, R. Lowell Thompson, made the files available to the Innocence Project lawyers, and in late November one of the lawyers, Bryce Benjet, received a box of photocopies.

As he worked through the stack of papers, he saw a note scrawled on the inside of the district attorney’s file folder stating that Mr. Webb’s charges were to be listed as robbery in the second degree, not the heavier first-degree robbery charge he had originally been convicted on, “based on coop in Willingham.”

In a sense, this new evidence is superfluous. Webb’s story — a jailhouse snitch asserting that someone who ended up getting executed because he wouldn’t cop a plea decided to spontaneously confess to a prisoner in another cell — doesn’t have a lot of room to get less credible. It underscores that the state of Texas always had nothing.

Admittedly, this isn’t an idea case to address Scalia’s claim, because this isn’t the kind of case (like a rock-solid albil) where we can know to an absolute certainty that Willingham is factually innocent. But there wasn’t even enough evidence for a responsible prosecutor to consider charging him, and as a condemnation of the death penalty that’s more than enough.

When May I Shoot a Student?

[ 214 ] February 28, 2014 |

In a world where we are all going to be armed, Boise State biology professor Greg Hampikian asks a key question in the face of an Idaho bill to allow students to bring guns on campus: When may I shoot a student?

I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

If two armed students are arguing over who should be served next at the coffee bar and I sense escalating hostility, should I aim for the legs and remind them of the campus Shared-Values Statement (which reads, in part, “Boise State strives to provide a culture of civility and success where all feel safe and free from discrimination, harassment, threats or intimidation”)?

While our city police chief has expressed grave concerns about allowing guns on campus, I would point out that he already has one. I’m glad that you were not intimidated by him, and did not allow him to speak at the public hearing on the bill (though I really enjoyed the 40 minutes you gave to the National Rifle Association spokesman).

Knee-jerk reactions from law enforcement officials and university presidents are best set aside. Ignore, for example, the lame argument that some drunken frat boys will fire their weapons in violation of best practices. This view is based on stereotypical depictions of drunken frat boys, a group whose dignity no one seems willing to defend.

The problem, of course, is not that drunken frat boys will be armed; it is that they are drunken frat boys. Arming them is clearly not the issue. They would cause damage with or without guns. I would point out that urinating against a building or firing a few rounds into a sorority house are both violations of the same honor code.

Russia Not Kidding Around

[ 92 ] February 28, 2014 |



Around 400 people are in the airport of Belbek now. They have occupied runway and all plane movements have been stopped,” the news agency quoted the source as saying.

At the same time, AP journalists in Crimea have spotted a convoy of nine Russian armored personnel carriers and a truck on a road between the port city of Sevastopol and the regional capital, Sinferopol.

The Russian tricolor flags were painted on the vehicles, which were parked on the side of the road near the town of Bakhchisarai, apparently because one of them had mechanical problems.

Russia is supposed to notify Ukraine of any troop movements outside the naval base it maintains in Sevastopol under a lease agreement with Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said movements of armored vehicles belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet were prompted by the need to ensure security of its base and didn’t contradict the lease terms.

As you may recall, Russia is deeply committed to the principle of state sovereignty.

“Dont think of it as ‘stolen.’ Think of it as ‘Gone Galt.'”

[ 193 ] February 28, 2014 |

The group of people who would see this nothing-to-see-here reassurance on Bitcoin convincing would surely constitute the most valuable set of contacts for con artists since the Glengarry leads.

The Good Fight: Bush vs. Obama?

[ 0 ] February 28, 2014 |

Last week I moderated an episode of The Good Fight, a new Bloggingheads venture.  The discussion, between Cato’s Justin Logan and Thinkprogress’ Zack Beauchamp, revolved around how we assess the differences between Bush and Obama era foreign policy:

Race to the bottom

[ 46 ] February 28, 2014 |

Ichininosan has compiled a list of the law schools that have slashed their admissions standards most drastically over the past four years, as measured by average LSAT. I’m reproducing his work here, and adding 2004 data for comparison purposes (Note that good LSAT scores are far rarer than respectable UGPAs, because of grade inflation and variability in college quality, Note also that the “same” LSAT score in 2010 is actually a bit lower than the same score from 2004, because in 2007 LSAC allowed schools to start reporting only the highest scores of re-takers, as opposed to their average score).

The LSAT percentages are ordered 2004, 2010, and 2013.

1. Suffolk 67. 4% 67.4% 40.3%
2. Valparaiso 54.9% 44.3% 22.9%
3. Illinois 90.1 % 93.2% 80.4%
4. Arizona Summit N/A 44.3% 22.9%
5. Elon N/A 67.4% 44.3%
6. Florida Coastal 48% 40.3% 22.9%
7. DePaul 70.9% 77.6% 59.7%
8. Vermont 60.1% 67.4% 48.1%
9. San Francisco 79% 77.6% 59.7%
10. Capital 55.8% 55.6% 36.3%
11. Catholic 73.4% 77.6% 59.7%
12. American 79% 85.9% 70.9%
13. Charlotte N/A 44.3% 26.1%
14. Thomas Jefferson 54.5% 48.1% 29.5%
15. Samford 66% 67.4% 48.1%)
16. John Marshall (IL) 57.8% 48.1% 29.5%


[ 91 ] February 28, 2014 |

In case you weren’t paying attention…

Amid fears of a Kremlin-backed separatist rebellion here against Ukraine’s fledgling government, armed men in military uniforms took up positions at two Crimean airports as Ukraine’s interior minister warned of “a direct provocation,” but there was no sign of any violence.

In Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea, a large number of masked armed men were stationed at the international airport Friday morning. They were dressed in camouflage and carrying assault rifles, but their military uniforms bore no insignia. It was not clear who they were and they declined to answer questions.

A new frozen conflict? Depends on the reaction of the Ukranian military.




[ 36 ] February 28, 2014 |

Been too busy to really post today, but I can at least say this. You should be listening to Wussy.


Creeping IP

[ 3 ] February 27, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat dabbles in some constructivism:

As Susan Sell has argued, international IP protection is, in and of itself, a power play on the part of major economic actors.  The construction and maintenance of the rule systems owes itself to the entrepreneurial behavior of private business, working not only through the U.S. government, but also through international institutions.  As such, power relations are embedded within the rules of the IP system, and within our entire way of talking about intellectual property.  This is one reason why the IP provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have proven so controversial.

But adherence to international institutional frameworks isn’t entirely voluntary. The demands of international organizations (and, in bilateral terms, of the EU and the United States) require the Chinese government to develop a position on intellectual property, a set of policies designed to support that position, and the bureaucracy necessary to execute those policies. While this bureaucracy may lack power initially, over time the state acquires what amount to habits of compliance, where it becomes more problematic to step outside the expectations of the international regime than to stay within them.  In China Goes GlobalDavid Shambaugh outlines this process with respect to China’s engagement with the various regimes of the liberal international economic order.  Thus, the development of a bureaucracy to manage IP rights, which China has begun, almost inevitably produces a policy shift towards compliance.


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