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But Trent Lott Was Forced To Resign Before Becoming the Second Most Powerful Senate Republican!

[ 0 ] April 28, 2007 |

Seriously, can someone make a case that this isn’t even worse than what Imus did? As Digby reminds us:

Rush is not some misunderstood schlub who just made a few slightly off-color jokes and doesn’t understand why it bothers some people.He’s not even a nasty old racist/misogynist creep like Imus who just thought he could demean anybody he felt like and make big money doing it. Rush Limbaugh a professional cog in the GOP machine who has been helping to set the political agenda in this country for more than a decade. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he plays on racist stereotypes and it isn’t just for the laughs.

Yet in 2000 NBC hired him to do election commentary. ESPN later hired him to do sports. The Republican party defends even the most disgusting of his antics. The president himself appeared on his show just days before last fall’s election.

This flagrant racist is a major part of the GOP. It can’t be emphasized enough. And while one would like to think there’s a better defense available than bizarre homophobic slurs, some appalling racist nonsense about Hillary Clinton and attempts to argue that pointing out someone’s explicit racism is suppressing their “free speech,” let’s be frank: there really isn’t a better defense available.

…it is the crazy season.

More on the Terrorism in Austin

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

From Amie Newman.

Sunstein on Reproductive Freedom and Gender Equality

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

Last week, Bean pointed us to this op-ed by Cass Sunstein, who argued that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in Carhart II–which rooted a woman’s right to obtain an abortion on the basis that most attempts to interfere with this right violate a woman’s equal citizenship–may well become the Court’s majority one day. In the long sweep of history, this is probably right, and certainly this provides a compelling doctrinal basis. (Reva Siegel, a pioneer in equal protection theory, argues in the recent book What Roe Should Have Said that such an opinion would have been possible for the Court to advance based on the legal materials available in 1973.) A few random comments about Sunstein’s argument:

  • While I think gender equality is fundamental to a woman’s right to choose an abortion, I don’t agree with Sunstein’s assertion that “[m]uch more than the right to privacy, the ban on sex discrimination is firmly entrenched in constitutional doctrines.” [my emphasis] Whether or not one finds it a persuasive reading of the text, the “right to privacy” is perfectly well-entrenched in precedents that have no chance of being overturned reaching back to the 20s, and the doctrine provides a compelling basis for Roe (at the very least, there can be no serious question that choosing an abortion represents a fundamental right; the only question is whether there is a sufficiently compelling state interest to override it.) Moreover, I think that Sunstein creates a false dichotomy here. As the post-1980 jurisprudence of Blackmun, Stevens, and Ginsburg (and, in the case of the husband notification provision, even O’Connor) makes clear, recognition of a woman’s equality rights can be, and is, an important part of applying “the right to privacy” (a somewhat misleading name applied to a line of cases that are really about a broader right to reproductive autonomy). As Carhart II makes strikingly clear, asserted state interests in regulating abortion almost always embody reactionary gender mores, so gender equality is always relevant no matter what docrtine is being applied.
  • One striking thing about Sunstein’s article is what a radical revision of the “minimalist” position on Roe he had previously advanced it is. One implication of the gender equality argument, as Sunstein seems to accept, is that abortion regulations (the 24-hour waiting period is a particularly obvious example) that might be colorable when applying a due process argument are plainly impermissible when applying a gender equality standard. Resting on equal protection also seems likely to have at least as broad an effect on other areas of the law. I certainly approve of all of this, but it’s a strange position for someone who had previously argued that the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence should rest on the narrowest possible grounds and leave the largest possible space for subsequent legislative regulation to advocate without explanation for the switch.
  • I do think that Sunstein deserves credit for acknowledging that “the sex equality argument will not be convincing to committed opponents of the abortion right.” I like discussing the finer points of abortion doctrine considerably more than the next person, but it’s important to recognize that in terms of the public acceptance of the decision, or subsequent results on the Supreme Court, the weak craftsmanship of Roe is irrelevant. (For one thing, as Carhart II makes depressingly clear, the gender equality argument won’t persuade many opponents of abortion because they’re against gender equality.) Whether Ginsburg’s jurisprudence will secure 5 votes will depend on Presidential and Senate elections, not on it being a more attractive jufiscatory framework.

Strange Justice

[ 0 ] April 26, 2007 |

I like Bill Richardson, and hope that he becomes a viable candidate in the primary. But his choice of “Whizzer White” as his ideal Supreme Court Justice in tonight’s debate is…odd. Myself, I would prefer a justice who was on the right side of (just for starters) Roe, Miranda, and Bowers. (In fairness, he did write one of my favorite concurrences.) The fact that, when informed he was expected to choose a living justice, he chose Ruth Bader Ginsburg while singling out her demolition of the rank sexism of Carhart II makes it all the stranger.

Parental Involvement Laws: A Popular Bad Policy

[ 0 ] April 26, 2007 |

Phoebe Maltz makes a good point about laws requiring that women under 18 obtain parental consent before obtaining an abortion. Why is it a good idea for state policy to increase teen pregnancies? This is particularly true of Brooks, who thinks that pre-viability abortions should be legal. Why on earth would we want to make it harder for the group for whom unplanned children extract the greatest cost to terminate an unwanted pregnancy?

We can argue about whether parental involvement laws should be constitutional (I will concede that they have the strongest constitutional case of the common abortion regulations.) But between the arbitrary application of bypass provisions, the fact that they’re usually superfluous for young women in stable loving families and dangerous to young women with bad family relationships, and the fact that their primary concrete effect is increasing the number of teenage mothers they’re certainly appallingly bad public policy.

Slimy Republican Operative of the Day

[ 0 ] April 26, 2007 |

Smilin’ Joe Lieberman.


It’s remarkable that the newspapers don’t demand a bit more in the way of originality. Back in 2005, Lieberman took to The Wall Street Journal to write, “More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood — unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.” In fact, it sounds a lot like what he wrote back in July of 2004, when he said, “The successful handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last month offers fresh hope for stability and democracy in their country, but it could also mark a turning of the tide in the world war against terrorism.”

And on and on it goes. Every few months, Lieberman pops up to identify this — this day, this hour, this moment — as the turning point in Iraq and warn that withdrawal will impede the improvements. Then the country descends even deeper into civil war, and he picks a new instant when everything is on the upswing and only American will stands in democracy’s way. And, every time, the nation’s newspaper editors let him publish, no new arguments or information needed.

Projection In Constitutional Interpretation

[ 0 ] April 25, 2007 |

Ruth Marcus on Carhart II:

Second, the Father Court Knows Best tone of Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion. “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child,” Kennedy intoned. This is one of those sentences about women’s essential natures that are invariably followed by an explanation of why the right at stake needs to be limited. For the woman’s own good, of course.

Kennedy continues: “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” No reliable data? No problem!

And I thought women were the ones who were supposed to be bad at science.

Kennedy’s opinion doesn’t merely rely on anachronistic gender stereotypes to defend an otherwise arbitrary law; his opinion consistently reflects the assumptions about defective reasoning and decision-making ability that he erroneously attributes to women. I would suggest he get his own house in order before making demeaning generalizations about an entire gender.

Hogging: Second Round Edition

[ 0 ] April 25, 2007 |

Time for a preview of the Western Conference’s second round (and since I was 8-0 in the first round, you can take these straight to the bank.) One’s enthusiasm is always slightly diminished when one’s primary rooting interest, which looked like a serious contender at the beginning of the year, is hopelessly outclassed in the first round. (They really did leave everything on the ice in Game 6, and it was still only because of Kiprusoff that it was even close.) Bard and Michael, who may be linked or appended later, have no (or only half–sorry about Michael’s angry Penguins. Bring back the scarf!) But if one can’t get over heartbreak, one really shouldn’t be a Flames or Expos fan. Onward:

Detroit (1) v. San Jose (5)
This one should be great. In evaluating the Wings , one faces the difficult dilemma: were they really great, or the Flames just really abysmal? A little of both, I guess, but there really is a huge difference between this Wings team and ’04. They’re tough, relentless, gutty, and still have a deep offense, plus Hasek looks healthy. I liked the Sharks more before the season, and you obviously have to love their top-line scoring. They could certainly win. And yet–at times this season they reminded me of the Flames at a higher level of accomplishment, a very good team that should be better. I think the difference will be at the blueline. The Sharks are thin–I still think Hannan is enromously overrated–and not only do the Wings have Lidstrom but Schneider and (amazingly) Chelios played wonderfully in the first round. I wouldn’t bet on the old guys surviving a war with Anaheim, but they’ll win this round. WINGS IN 7.

Anaheim (2) v. Vancouver (3).
A similar thing here: do I admit that I was wrong about Turco, or is the Canucks’ offense is really shitty? Again, a little from column A…anyway, if one wanted to be optimistic about the ‘nucks they could be compared to the ’04 Flames or ’03 Ducks–well coached, underrated defense, ace goaltender. But as of now they don’t have a Kariya or Ignila–the Sedins are good but not that good, and Naslund had that ability but hasn’t actually done it for two years. And the Ducks present the kind of challenge that the Ducks and Flames underdogs avoided–a similar but clearly better team. I don’t think there’s any precedent for a team having arguably the league’s two best defensemen, one a burner one a rock, in peak form at the same time. (The Devils were close, but I think by the time Niedermayer fully matured Stevens had slipped quite a bit.) I hate to say this, because I hate Burke, but as long as the two are healthy I think they’re by far the best team in the NHL, and they’ll win this one easily–Luongo isn’t a huge edge over Giguere, and the Ducks are also better offensively and tougher. DUCKS IN 5.

As for the East, because perfection is boring I’ll pick the Rangers in a 7 game upset–for some reason I think the Sabres are a year away, although they’re very good (and in retrospect trading Lydman instead of Warrener was a huge blow for the Flames.) I’ll also take the Senators in 6 in what will be a definitive series for them; I think the Devils, which no longer have an A defense, will have similar problems to the ones they had against Carolina last year.

…Berube’s hogging is here, complete with some valuable historical information about the guy who played pervo stay-at-home defenseman Moe Wanchuk. (“What did ya shay to him, Reg?”) Hopefully in the next round we’ll get more data on Billy Charles-boys, from Moose Jaw, Sakatchewan…

Memo To Camille Paglia

[ 0 ] April 25, 2007 |

Please shut up. Nobody cares. No rational person could believe the fact that creepy losers don’t have an unlimited supply of sexual partners is some sort of indictment of feminism. And even Maureen Dowd seems to have stopped short of applying this line of reasoning to the VT shootings.

At this point, it seems worth returning to the Editors’ analysis of Paglia’s inexplicable return to Salon:

Points at which she demonstrates her ignorance of the difference between being interesting and being on a job interview: 3 (plugging her unreadable piece-of-shit book; then naming both publishers; finally, celebrating her ghastly old Salon column – which was, oh by the way, THE WORST THING EVER – with the air of Napoleon returning to Paris.)

Episodes of egregious self-aggrandizement: 1 (1940-present)

Moments of unintentional comedy: 1 (complaining that the blogosphere is “numbingly predictable and its prose too often slapdash, fragmentary or drearily prolix,” and then yammering on for another 50,000 words about how geocaching is the Promethean spectacle of Dionysian abandon on a field of mythic American post-feminist manhood and how Madonna has succeeded where Spinoza failed, or whatever.)


The Truth About Celebrity Politics

[ 0 ] April 25, 2007 |

Steve nails it. For some reason, the Politics of Resentment wing of the Bush-dead-enders club seems to think that poking holes in the arguments of celebrities is some sort of major coup. (Glenn Reynolds has written at least 6 posts about Sheryl Crow this week.) What they don’t seem to realize is that the only people who give a rat’s ass what Rosie O’Donnell or Sheryl Crow or Sean Penn have to say about anything are conservatives. You’re really not sticking it to anybody; you’re just demonstrating that you’re incapable of engaging with serious arguments. (Which, if you’re still an uncritical defender of the Iraq War at this late date, pretty much goes without saying.)

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.”

A New Voice Enters the Vlogopshere

[ 0 ] April 24, 2007 |

I think she’ll go far!