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The Important News

[ 0 ] November 24, 2008 |

Congratulations to Henry Burris and the Calgary Stampeders on winning North America’s most important football championship…


More McPherson

[ 0 ] November 22, 2008 |

I suppose this silly column doesn’t really merit further discussion, but I think gmack’s comment merits elevation to the main page:

So far as I can tell, no one here knows whether McPherson harasses women. But we can tell that his argument is utterly ridiculous: if his complaint is that the training is boring and pointless, then why is this worth publishing in the LA Times? Moreover, that obviously isn’t his complaint: if it was, then he would be advocating for reforms to make the training more useful or effective. Given that this is not what he’s interested in, we can also conclude that he doesn’t care about sexual harassment, and indeed, thinks that it is simply a matter of “political correctness.”

Precisely. This may be exceedingly charitable, but let’s assume that an earnest, humorless, self-righteous column with the sole point that “meetings can be boring” wouldn’t justify a column in any newspaper. In fairness, that’s not McPherson’s point; his point (well, one of his points — he also seems arguing that taking your employer’s money while refusing to comply with reasonable professional obligations makes you some sort of hero) is pretty clearly that training that tries to make employees aware of and tries to reduce sexual harassment is wrong in principle. Needless to say, he makes no attempt to actually justify this, but then invoking “politically correctness” as pretty much always about insulating beliefs you’d prefer not to defend on the merits from criticism.

Giving away the show, of course, is the idiotic idea that these meetings somehow undermine his “academic freedom.” Obviously, he seems to have no idea what the term means, but the real claim seems to be that the training is objectionable because it has “a political cast.” Well, on some level this would be true. But, then, McPherson’s implicit argument that the university should remain publicly neutral on the question of whether the harassment and sexual exploitation of students is a good thing would also a “political” decision. The university has to choose among substantive values, and (while the training itself may well be flawed) in this case it’s making the right choice.

Another commenter believes that this follow-up is helpful. Since it makes no actual substantive defense of any of McPherson’s specious claims I’m not really seeing it, but people can make their own judgments…

My Question

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

How can a stigma become attached to an individual based on an informational seminar everyone has to attend?

Mcpherson’s tear-stained column is really some classic whining about nothing, but admittedly I’m not inclined to give a very serious hearing to people who complain about “political correctness” at this late date. I would be particularly interested in someone making this tired argument to identify mechanisms of social change that don’t involve groups urging the redress of injustices…

…make sure to read Jill as well. I also forgot to mention McPherson’s risibly specious claims that the meetings violate his “academic freedom.” Uh, what?

"Seven Years Is Enough."

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

Judge Richard Leon — an appointee of George W. Bush — issued a major ruling following the wake of the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision yesterday, ordering five Guantanamo detainees released “forthwith.” He also added comments that echoed Souter’s Boumediene concurrence:

The judge, in an unusual added comment, suggested to senior government leaders that they forgo an appeal of his ruling on freeing the five prisoners. While conceding that the government had a right to appeal that part of his ruling, Leon commented that he, too, had “a right to appeal” to leaders of the Justice Department, Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies, and his plea was that they look at the evidence regarding the five he was ordering released. “Seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough,” he commented.

This brings the grand total of arbitrarily held detainees released by the federal courts to…five. If I understand correctly, to many Republicans this means that out-of-control judicial activists are essentially running American foreign policy. In fairness, since when has scrutinizing wholly arbitrary executive detentions been considered a function of the judiciary?

…the Talking Dog has more here, and also notes that the detainees haven’t actually been released yet.

Who Says Why?

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

Ed Kilgore says that “a critical plurality of Americans don’t much like abortion but care a whole lot about when and why abortions occur.” Assuming that this is true — and there’s some evidence for it — the obvious answer is that since there’s no way of inscribing “women should get abortions only when a Mythical Abortion Centrist says they’re appropriate” into a legislative enactment, the best way of addressing this majority is to leave the decision to women rather than to, say, panels of doctors enforcing inherently arbitrary standards.

Ross Douthat, conversely, simply pretends that random regulations have this abortion have the effect of reducing “abortions of convenience,” while failing to adduce any evidence that the regulations actually have these effects. (Tellingly, he cites Glendon, but one of the crucial flaws in her book is that she focuses on the abortion laws in statute books but makes little attempt to find out how these laws actually operate in practice.) Of course, this is a somewhat difficult question for the same reason that it’s an appalling suggestion on the merits: who says what an “abortion of convenience” is? (One would think that it would be an even more meaningless and offensive term to a pro-lifer than it is to me, but I guess not.) At any rate, there’s no reason to believe that putting up arbitrary barriers in front of women seeking abortions has much effect on why women choose abortions; rather, they just make it more difficult for some classes of women (poor, rural, single mothers, inflexible working hours) to obtain them. Similarly, Douthat argues that “In a similar “no abortions of convenience” vein, you could also imagine a law that banned repeat abortion.” Omitted is any justification for assuming a priori that a second abortion is an abortion “of convenience.”

Basically, attempts to tie various random regulations to mythical abortion “centrism” is a giant scam. Making women wait 24 hours to obtain an abortion isn’t going to stop educated women who live in major cities from obtaining an aboriton no matter what the reason, and they make it more difficult for a poor women who lives 150 miles from an abortion provider to obtain one even if William Saletan himself would bless her choice. Which is why — even leaving aside the question of why we should care what Ross Douthat or William Saletan thinks about a woman’s reasons for obtaining an abortion in the first place — leaving the choice to the affected women with a minimum of pointless restrictions is the right policy choice.

…UPDATE: To emphasize what Ed says in comments, I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that he supported silly regulations as a response to the public opinion data he (accurately) identifies.

Obama’s Supremes

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

One potential list here. I must admit that I have a strong sympathy for Sonia Sotomayor, given her role in stopping MLB’s attempted bad faith union-busting in 1995, but she seems too moderate to be a good first choice on a Court with four doctrinaire reactionaries and no Brennan/Marshall/Douglas style liberal. Marhsall’s former clerk Elena Kagan — who’s only 48 — seems a lot more promising.

Since many progressives are understandably less-than-enthused about the possibility of a Sunstein appointment, the best news I can give is that one logic of my critique of Sunstein’s “minimalism” is that the effect it has on a justice’s votes is veyr minimal. It’s true that Sunstein has said some bad things about Roe; it’s also true that he ends up in the same place (with, in this case, a rationale that’s actually better and more expansive.) I suspect he’d cast the same kind of votes as most other potential Democratic nominees even if they would sometimes be justified with a little more hand-wringing.

That’s Nothing

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

At what’s amazing is that Ted Stevens is far from the worst example of misplaced senetorial courtesy — let us not forget Kindly Ol’ Strom Thurmond, for example.

Half Empty

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

To follow up on Kaufman and Lookout Landing, maybe it would help if the BBWAA would just release the winners. It’s sort of amazing that a group of voters that all other evidence suggests are wholly inept and unqualified managed to get both of the awards right (or at least reach reasonable answers for both.) I probably would have voted for Mauer over Pedroia, but I admit that this is for not better reason than that if it’s a close question you should never vote for the Scrappy White Guy who will be a media darling for the next decade+l; Pedroia was a fair choice.

But the rest of the ballots, oy. About the best you can say about the AL is that at least Morneau was closer to being as good as Mauer than in the year when he actually won the award. And it’s not just that the #2 guy in the NL plays the same position at the MVP and is far worse offensively and defensively, but that he was at best the third best player on his own team (and a lot closer in value to Burrell than Utley, grated that it’s partly about the Bat being very underrated.) I think Bill James wrote in one of the first Abstracts, the bias framework of the 50s (up-the-middle player on championship team) was at least better than the still-current “Juan Gonzalez” bias framework (guy who drives in the most runs irrespective of defensive value, how many guys were on in front of him, etc.) I just can’t explain how a tremendous offensive defensive player like Utley — whose peak at the position is exceeded in NL history only by Hornsby and Morgan — can’t even break the top 10 in a year in which his team won the division. But it certainly reflects horribly on the alleged professionals who do the voting.

Oh, yes, and in other baseball news it’s not clear to me that the rest of baseball has to pitch in and help the Yankees get back to the postseason; seems to be they have plenty of resources already. I think the negotiations went something like this.


[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

I think I just became a lot more sympathetic to the bailout…

Haven’t Those Thighs Been Rubbed Enough?

[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

I’m generally agnostic about having Clinton at State. But part of me would like to see it happen as a thumb-in-the-eye to the shameless hacks trying to gin up yet more ridiculous Clinton pseudo-scandals. (Apparently, powerful politicians know rich people!) As with most of the alleged “scandals” starting with Whitewater, it’s far from obvious what the there is here.

…I would also have to agree that if Kristof thinks the “war on brains” is over he hasn’t been reading his colleagues on the op-ed pages…


[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

Obama’s apparent AG choice certainly sounds promising, even granting that the previous administration hasn’t exactly set a high bar…

Talking Turkey

[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

If you don’t prefer my heretical choices (i.e., just skip tradition altogether and if you’re a carnivore go with ham or salmon or roast beef or some other meat with flavor in it), Lindsay has good tips. And, actually, having tasted roast turkey done well at Thanksgiving in recent years (including once by Lindsay herself) has increased my appreciation somewhat…

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