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The Only Solution Is To Let the Owners Keep More Money!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Damn lack of comeptitive balance in baseball — I don’t see how small market teams can compete when a big market team can acquire a great reliver like Eric Gagne and use him as a setup man!

With all due respect to d., I’m happy that it looks like the Tribe will win; it would be nice to have at least one decent up-and-down series this year, and I really don’t want it to involve Arizona winning…

The War On Gore

[ 0 ] October 13, 2007 |

It never ends.

Abortion Criminalization: It Doesn’t Work

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Over at TAPPED, Kate Sheppard beat me to my own hobbyhorse: a new study published in the Lancet about the effects of abortion criminalization. The findings are, to people who know something about the subject, not surprising:

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

This is not to say, however, that criminalizing abortion has no effect:

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.

If the goal of abortion is to protect fetal life, criminalization is at best an ineffective and grossly inequitable means of achieving this goal, and the bundle of policies favoring reproductive freedom (including legal abortion) generally produces lower abortion rates than the illegal abortion-no rational sex ed-limited access to contraception-threadbare welfare state usually favored by the American forced pregnancy lobby. If, on the other hand, you’re in it more for the injuring women than for the protection of fetal life, then criminalizing abortion makes good sense.

Still Waiting For An Originalist Defense of Affirmative Action

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Atypically for something written by John Yoo, I actually agree with much of the first part of his Clarence Thomas apologia. Thomas is the most principled conservative on the Court, his contribution (whether or not one agrees with the conclusions) , and claims that Thomas was Scalia’s sock puppet are both plainly wrong and may even in some cases by motivated by racist condescension.

The second half of the editorial, though, predictably runs off the rails. Yoo — who himself has produced some of the most farcical arguments put forward under the “originalist” banner — spends considerable time on Thomas’s belief that affirmative action is almost always unconstitutional. Unfortunately for Yoo’s claims about Thomas’s jurisprudence, this argument is plainly inconsistent with the theories of constitutional interpretation that Thomas claims to apply. I thought that Yoo might, unlike Thomas and Scalia, would actually try to offer an originalist defense of this position, but he doesn’t. Rather, he ignores the text (let alone the history) of the 14th Amendment entirely, and simply recites Thomas’s policy arguments against affirmative action. Whether or not one finds these persuasive, they are not arguments that the equal protection clause was originally understood as prohibiting all racial classifications. Similarly, Yoo’s defense of Thomas’s position on the constitutionality of school vouchers ignores the First Amendment and instead recites the banal proposition that education “means emancipation.” Indeed it does, but this claim is neither here nor there in terms of whether a program that by design will direct taxpayer funds almost exclusively to religious schools is consistent with the First Amendment. (And, even from a pragmatic perspective, the emancipatory potential of a program that allows less than 5% of students to switch schools is pretty negligible.)

In addition, the Thomas case presents a deeper irony. For obvious reasons, Yoo fails to mention that Thomas probably would not have gotten into Yale Law School and unquestionably would not been nominated to the Supreme Court had he not been an African-American. And yet — admittedly with results that are less than ideologically congenial from my perspective — affirmative action worked; taking Thomas’s background into account in fact identified a perfectly able law student and Supreme Court justice. Should a discussion of Thomas’s opposition to affirmative action deal with this?

A Reminder To Send Money To Obama

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

America’s Worst Columnist With the Possible Exception of Maureen Dowd endorses Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. We already knew she was the least progressive major candidate, but…[via MY]

Bonus Krauthammer hackery:

And look what Clinton unveiled this week: a modestly government-subsidized, personal retirement account. True, it is yet another big-government middle-class entitlement. Yes, she ignores the looming Social Security crisis. On the other hand, establishing a universal, portable, personal retirement account (though without the government subsidy) is something conservatives have long and devoutly sought. It establishes a parallel to the Social Security system — the perfect vehicle for a future conservative administration to use for shifting from the current, unsustainable government-controlled program to a privatized system such as the one in Chile.

The first problem here, of course, is that there is no Social Security “crisis” and the program is perfectly sustainable. But even more remarkable is citing the Chilean system as a model:

For all the program’s success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others – because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally – remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.

Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts – burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment – are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.

Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.

“Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me,” he said, “are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month – good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981.”

Now that, at least if you’re marginally more civilized than Krauthammer, is unsustainable.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

[ 0 ] October 11, 2007 |

Could Nobel Prize Spur Gore To Run In ’08?”

No.

This has been simple answers etc. (Long version.)

I’m worried that pundits asking “will Gore run?” although there’s absolutely not the slightest shred of evidence that he’s considering it is going to be the new “will there be a brokered convention this year?”

Liberal Hawk Illogic: Vintage Edition

[ 0 ] October 11, 2007 |

I could keep picking on the arguments of the few remaining dead-enders — did you know that Marc Danzinger is still blogging, with Weber quotes of no discernible relevance? — but I thought I would check back on the Slate year-after “reconsideration” by the Bush administration’s liberal stooges to trace the lineage of the bad arguments still being made by the Roger Cohens of the world. Let’s hear first from Paul Berman:

I never did think that Saddam’s weapons were sufficient grounds for war. I even said so here, in Slate, before the war. If WMD were the problem, containment and deterrence were the solution. But I can understand, sort of, why Bush and Blair ended up harping on the weapons issue, and why the Bush administration kept hinting at conspiracies that probably never existed. I don’t defend Bush and Blair for speaking in these ways, and I hope that future elections will show that Bush has been punished for his misdeeds, and Blair has not. But I can imagine what drove them to do this.

See, the problem is that Berman apparently had never considered that the administration sold the war in this way not to provide a clever sales job for their secret liberal-hawk-approved humaritarian war, but because they actually believed what they were saying. More to the point, one might have thought by by early 2004 it would have been obvious that irrespective of their motivations their war plan was consistent with the objective of disarming a regime with nothing to disarm but utterly inconsistent with an ambitious nation-building plan. This kind of thing remains the ultimate in “liberal hawk” solipsism: projecting a different war with different objectives that you support onto the administration and then supporting that. Of course, Berman’s conceptualization of the problem is so confused that one hardly knows what the objectives should have been:

What was the reason for the war in Iraq? Sept. 11 was the reason. At least to my mind it was. Sept. 11 showed that totalitarianism in its modern Muslim version was not going to stop at slaughtering millions of Muslims, and hundreds of Israelis, and attacking the Indian government, and blowing up American embassies. The totalitarian manias were rising, and the United States itself was now in danger. A lot of people wanted to respond, as any mayor would do, by rounding up a single Bad Guy, Osama.

Obviously, this is a strawman; presumably deposing the Taliban, say, goes beyond “rounding up one bad guy.” But the larger problem is that this whole framework is not helpful in itself and does not provides any clue for why the Iraq War in particular was a good idea. In Stephen Holmes’s phrase, “Berman’s cultural and philosophical approach…raises the identification of Saddam and Osama, the tyrant and the terrorist, to a level of blurry abstraction that no facts can possibly refute.” All of which conceals that, in classic “liberal hawk” fashion, Berman never quite gets around to explaining how installing an Islamist quasi-state in Iraq would stop this “totalitarian menace.” Indeed, once you’ve conflated Islamism and secular Baathism as part of one great “totalitarian” threat, the argument for war completely collapses on itself; attacking the latter militarily just helps the former to no discernible purpose. But he knows that dictatorships are really bad, so this must be a serious argument!

Politicians? In the United States Congress?

[ 0 ] October 11, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim CNN: “More and more, Congress is acting less like a deliberative legislative body, and more like a political campaign. We’ve been seeing the politicization of every aspect of government.” What kind of deliberation is inherent to a five-minute radio address, or how “politics” is to be avoided on an issue where two branches of government support overwhelmingly popular legislation and the president vetoes it, is not clear.

I don’t think that CNN has a “pro-conservative” bias so much as a “pro-stupidity” bias, although in the Age of Bush there’s obviously considerable overlap between these two categories.

Conservative Liberal Hawks

[ 0 ] October 10, 2007 |

Speaking of “liberal hawks,” the Bush administration’s idea of a Deep Thinker tries to combine the vain preening of liberal Iraq War dead-enders with very strange conservative strawman arguments about moral relativism. And, alas, it succeeds:

It is inherently difficult for liberals to argue against the expansion of social and political liberalism in oppressive parts of the world — though, in a fever of Bush hatred, they try their best.

Yes, some liberals hate Bush so much they really don’t want states to become more democratic! Omitted: not only actual names, but what the Iraq War, at its immense cost in money, opportunity, and human life, has actually done to advance “political liberalism.” Reason for omission: the answer is obviously “nothing.” Gerson’s argument is the flipside of the “you were opposed to the war because you secretly like Pol Pot” silliness of Cohen. It’s all an attempt to pre-empt rather crucial questions about whether their favored policy is actually advancing their very noble-sounding goals. Then there’s this:

The unavoidable problem is this: Without moral absolutes, there is no way to determine which traditions are worth preserving and which should be overturned. Conservatism assumes and depends on an objective measure of right and wrong that skepticism cannot provide. Without a firm moral conviction that independence is superior to servitude, that freedom is superior to slavery, that the weak deserve special care and protection, the habit of conservatism is radically incomplete. In the absence of elevating ideals, it can become pessimistic and unambitious — a morally indifferent preference for the status quo.

Again, this is just a pointless non-sequitur. Very few Americans on either the left or right believe that the Hussein regime was a just social arrangement worthy of preservation. A lack of moral conviction on the trite question of whether liberal democracy is better than brutal dictatorship is not the issue. The problem Gerson is eliding by conflating normative and empirical skepticism is that our conviction that a social order is unjust is neither here nor there in terms of whether or not a half-baked military intervention is capable of replacing said unjust social order with something substantially better at a cost that wouldn’t be put to better humanitarian purposes elsewhere. Like “liberal hawks” Gerson wants to be judged on intentions rather than results. I’m guessing most Iraqis suffering under the disaster Gerson helped create and is still apologizing for might want to apply a different criterion.

UDPATDE: Beutler, Joyner, and Logan have more.

Books That Really Needed Writing

[ 0 ] October 10, 2007 |

Although I remain almost as confident that McCain’s primary campaign will remain a dead parrot as, er, I was sure that the Dems wouldn’t take over the Senate in 2006, this looks great:

At any rate, in the event that a McCain surge does materialize, the antidote is Matt Welch’s new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, a comprehensive dissection of the man who for a long time held the title of America’s most overrated politician and who still in many circles is viewed as something of a sympathetic, tragic figure.

In the book, Matt builds upon some earlier writing of his on McCain through the revolutionary (given the subject matter) method of actually examining McCain record and views than the more traditional approach of wishful thinking and ideological projection. In essence, it’s the story of a man who succeeded in turning his own life around through embracing hard-line American nationalism and then decided to adopt this as a governing philosophy before becoming a media darling in a way that left him simultaneously overexposed and underanalyzed.

Obviously, my favorite example remains people straining to find a pro-choicer beneath a 0% NARAL rating, but there’s plenty more where that came from. The movement in the early 2000s to pretend McCain was a liberal because he didn’t embrace (at the time) the very nuttiest supply-side policies remains utterly inexplicable.

Elimination Day: Day After Notes

[ 0 ] October 10, 2007 |
  • It’s all A-Rod’s fault for working so hard. Make sure to see this handy “why Slappy’s homers are all meaningless” chart. I really don’t think Cashman will stick by his pledge not to sign him if he opts out, but I’m sure hope he’s being honest about it.
  • Admittedly, St. Derek of Pasta Diving supplementing his usual atrocious defense by hitting roughly 000/000/000 with 15 DPs was so bad that even his reliable apologists in the media had to say something, although this was generally framed as the loss of his previously unassailable “clutch gene” or something. How he gets a pass for 2004 is beyond me. I guess that unlike Sheffield and Slappy he didn’t make the mistake of playing well when the Yanks got off to a 3-0 lead; if they had all played like Jeter, they would have gotten swept rather than choking historically. He’s a terrific hitter who has had many good postseasons, but really, we’ve heard enough about the Captain of Clutchiosity.
  • I also have a lot of crow to eat in regards to Eric Wedge. Happy to be wrong!
  • Apparently Torre is likely to be replaced by Tony LaRussa, Super Genius (TM). Goody. Average Yankee game time in 2008: 7 hours, 22 minutes. (I’m rooting for Larry Bowa, granting that Torre’s credentials in 1995 we just as suspect.)
  • I can’t say I really grasp why an organization that gave $1 million a start to the 112-year old Roger Clemens and half the GNP of Bolivia on Kei Igawa, Jaret Wright and Official Opening Day Starter Carl Pavano would let Mariano Rivera test the free agent waters bitter because the Yanks wouldn’t give him an extension. Hopefully the Cubs will blow him out of the water…
  • I should also mention that because the Yankees made the playoffs, Planned Parenthood of Seattle is $50 richer thanks to faithful reader Howard. As long as such wagers are confined to the regular season, abortion access in this country could be significantly broadened….

Like Before Sunrise, But More Long-Winded!

[ 0 ] October 9, 2007 |

You know, sometimes when the studios suppress the work of artists they have a point. It did produce a great summary of Hawke’s acting in such roles: “He still seems to mistake brooding for depth, solipsism for self-awareness, and gaudy declarations of love for the thing itself.”

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