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Anti-Choicers: Women Not Rational Moral Agents

[ 6 ] August 2, 2007 |

This column by Anna Quindlen has generated some discussion among the “pro-lifers” at The Corner. As I’ve been through in detail before, the idea that abortion can be a serious violent crime against a human life but that the women who are primarily responsible for obtaining them should face less legal sanctions than jaywalkers is a transparently irrational and incoherent position. And yet, the director of the Pro-Life Action league says “That is the way it has always been in this country. That the way it will most likely be when abortion is once more illegal,” therefore giving away the show. A few responses to individual arguments:

  • Needless to say, we get the classic paternalistic sexism expressed by Kennedy in Carhart: “[t]he woman is also the victim.” Or, in other words, women who willingly decide to commit acts that pro-lifers consider serious violent crimes are not rational, moral agents who can be held responsible for their actions. I think my favorite example in the genre is Patterico’s claim that women shouldn’t be punished because “these women are often more pathetic and desperate than the doctors.” Needless to say, if we can’t apply criminal sanctions against classes of individuals who can plausibly be described as tending to be “pathetic or desperate,” Patterico (a prosecutor) would be out of a job. This doesn’t make a shred of sense, and doesn’t represent a principle that conservatives would apply to any other area of criminal law. As the pro-life operative inadvertently reminds us, this idea that women who initiate the process of getting abortions are “victims” who cannot be held responsible for their actions is an anachronism from the time in which women couldn’t vote, practice law, etc, etc.
  • There’s an additional problem here, which is that under this statutory scheme, self-abortions cannot be punished. Again, if one takes the only legitimate reason for banning abortion (to protect fetal life, which is enough like a baby to justify the state using coercion to force women to bear the health and life burdens of carrying a pregnancy to term) this makes no sense at all.
  • Ramesh Ponnuru tries to make a pragmatic argument: “[t]he crucial legal goal of the pro-life movement is not any particular set of punishments. It is that unborn children be protected in law.” This argument fails for a number of reasons. First, again, I very much doubt that Ponnuru is willing to consistently apply the principle that deterrence is the only reason for criminal sanctions to any other area of law. But more importantly, he writes as if the question of whether only punishing doctors could prevent most abortions is hypothetical, when if fact we have extensive historical evidence that it will not work; wealthy women had consistent access to safe grey market abortions under such schemes, and poor women generally went to the black market or self-aborted. The fact that obtaining information and technology to perform self-abortions has become easier makes it even less likely that such schemes will work to substantially protect fetal life, although they will succeed in killing or maiming some of the women who are allegedly “victims” supporters of forced pregnancy are seeking to protect.
  • Which brings us to the one defensible argument Ponnuru makes: his premises, or at least some versions of them, “do not even require (or preclude) criminal penalties for the abortionist.” One can, it’s true, have pro-life moral premises that stop short of claiming that a fetus is like a baby and conclude that criminalizing abortion makes no sense because it’s a highly ineffective way of protecting fetal life that also entails gross inequities and negative effects on the health of poor women who seek abortions. (Although this is obviously not true of arguments that consider fetuses legal persons, for example.) Somehow, I doubt that this is the conclusion he’s likely to reach. At any rate, while “pro-life” moral premises do not require criminalization, it remains completely irrational to exclude women who obtain abortions from criminal punishment altogether while punishing doctors.

It’s very straightforward:”pro-lifers” who believe that women should not face any legal sanctions for obtaining abortions that are otherwise criminalized 1)don’t take their own underlying moral premises seriously or 2)don’t consider women moral decision-makers responsible for their actions. There is no third option.

[Also at TAPPED.]

The One And Only Social Problem That Merits Complaint About "Political Correctness"

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

Bernie Brewer no longer slides into a mug of beer after a homer (even a Prince Fielder homer!), but just…goes down a slide at the kiddie park behind the bullpens or something. Appalling. What’s next, replacing the sausage races with celery stick races? Is nothing sacred!?!?!?!?!?!? Gorman Thomas must be rolling around is his future grave.

Meanwhile, I just heard that the Mets are starting Brian “Merry Christmas, Mr.” Lawrence tomorrow. If 2001 ever comes back, that’ll work out great.

…Jesus Christ, the White Sox are pathetic. I’d give the Nationals’ Triple-A team a better shot to keep a game with the Yankees competitive for 5 innings. It’s kind of amazing that this team won the World Series two years ago with fairly similar personnel….

sweet. That game was almost too good, but what the hell.

Retroactive Justification

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

Since one fan sez that the last Harry Potter book sucks I was clearly correct never to read any of them! Whew.

It’s Only Fair

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

I agree with Roger. The good citizens of Maine should, by referendum, vote on Chief Justice Roberts’s medical treatments and whether or not he should be permitted to stay on the bench, and hopefully they won’t listen to any of those hoity-toity “doctors” with their phony-baloney “medical degrees.” While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude that Chief Justice Roberts is more likely to have a seizure staying in such a high-pressure job when he could be home enjoying a nice pension and taking it easy. After all, some of his decisions this term suggest that he is so irrational that he might almost have the low decision-making capacity of…a woman! Clearly we cannot allow someone with such a fragile mind and psyche to make his own judgments about medical treatment.

The New (Old) Paternalism In Ohio

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

Legislation has been introduced in the Ohio legislature requiring women to not merely inform fathers before obtaining an abortion but to obtain written permission. And why not? Given that a majority of the United States Supreme Court has argued that anachronistic assumptions about the inferior decision-making capacity of women are sufficiently legitimate state interests that they can save the constitutionality of legislation that is otherwise wholly arbitrary and capricious, it seems like a logical next step. Oddly, I didn’t see any provision in the legislation requiring men to submit a list of potential sexual partners to the state so that they can be coerced into obtaining their written permission before purchasing Viagra or a box of Trojans; must be an oversight.

Assuming — which is probably not entirely wise — that Kennedy will stand by his vote, such a provision would be ruled unconstitutional under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which struck down a spousal notification requirement. It’s worth noting, however, that the newest justice while sitting on the 3rd Circuit dissented from the same holding made by his colleagues. In that opinion, Alito simply assumed that the state had the same interest in regulating children and adult women, and that the only question was the burden imposed by the regulation (while ignoring whether the burden was “due”), and did so despite the fact that the most relevant opinion — O’Connor’s concurrence in Hodgson — began with a discussion of the special interest states have in regulating the conduct of minors. One more Republican appointment, and we’re back to the future of 19th-century sexism in the Supreme Court. And in some cases, like Carhart II, we’re already there. Some legislators seem to be getting the message.

…see also Melissa.

Beyond Embarrassment

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

I will have more on Bergman and Antonioni soon, but in the meantime I should note that anyone who thinks that people who admire Bergman do so because they are “embarrassed by the movies” couldn’t be more spectacularly wrongheaded. The idea that nobody can enjoy art that places more demands on your eye and intellect than Patch Adams – just because not all entertainment is art is hardly follows that art cannot be entertaining, and many of Bergman’s films were exceptional examples of this — is pretty much the definition of philistinism. It is, however, exactly what one would expect from someone who considers (or considered, before George Lucas was subsequently found guilty of Wrongthink) The Phantom Menace “captivating” and Ron Howard’s dreary, interminable, every-scene-a-cliche Cinderella Manone of the best movies ever made.”

[Via Roy.]

Scout’s Honor!

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

The Wall Street Journal asserts that there’s no possible way that Rupert Murdoch will compromise its journalistic standards:

The nastiest attacks have come from our friends on the political left. They can’t decide whose views they hate most–ours, or Mr. Murdoch’s. We’re especially amused by those who say Mr. Murdoch might tug us to the political left. Don’t count on it. More than one liberal commentator has actually rejoiced at the takeover bid, on the perverse grounds that this will ruin the Journal’s news coverage, which in turn will reduce the audience for the editorial page. Don’t count on that either.

It is somewhat misleading to say that Murdoch will push the paper’s news and editorial content “to the left.” It is more accurate to say that he will push content in a way that supports politicians and policies that support Murdoch’s business interests, even if they happen to be Democrats. It’s not really “right” or “left,” but we can certainly expect the Journal to dial down if not entirely eliminate its critical coverage of China, for example. (To paraphrase the Journal‘s defense, Murdoch hardly paid a “premium of 67% over the market price for an asset he intends to threaten the viability of his media empire in authoritarian states.”) At any rate. the idea that Murdoch’s constant interference and the consequent decline in journalistic standards inevitable when he purchases a newspaper is some kind of invention of jealous rivals is laughable:

Those who are suspicious of Murdoch’s pledges of noninterference recall what happened when he first extended his press holdings beyond his native Australia, nearly forty years ago: he persuaded the Carr family of London to sell him the sensational tabloid News of the World, and promised to run the paper in partnership with the family that had owned the paper for nearly eighty years; he abandoned this pledge after learning, he said, that to honor it would harm shareholders because the Carrs had created “a total wreck of a company.” When he bought the New York Post from Dorothy Schiff, in 1976, he publicly pledged to leave its liberal editorial stance unchanged, saying, “The New York Post will continue to serve New York and New Yorkers and maintain its present policies and traditions”—and promptly reversed course. But Murdoch’s approach may best be seen in what happened after he bought the influential and once storied Times of London and the Sunday Times, in 1981. At the time, English journalists asked their Australian-born colleague Phillip Knightley to analyze how Murdoch might behave, and as Knightley now recalls, “The point I made was that Murdoch came from a tradition very different from European and American proprietors. In Australia, a proprietor owned the paper and considered it was his to do whatever he liked with it. Proprietors used their newspapers to support or oppose political parties, settle private feuds, and cross-promote their other interests. Any idea that they could not do this would have met with bewilderment.”

Within a year of acquiring the papers and promising not to interfere in the editorial operations, Murdoch fired Harold Evans as the editor of the Times and transformed the paper into an often-partisan voice on behalf of Margaret Thatcher. Evans had been the twelfth editor at the Times in nearly two hundred years; Murdoch hired and fired five editors in his first eleven years. Evans, in his 1983 memoir, “Good Times, Bad Times,” wrote, “The most charitable explanation of Murdoch’s attitude to a promise was that he meant it when he made it; only circumstances changed.”

Admittedly, as Ezra says maybe the impending destruction of one of America’s last great newspapers has its upside. I can’t quite relish it.

Liberals On My Teevee!

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

Ann says what needs to be said about the latest obsession over meaningless trivia.

Going Backwards

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

When one team in a division acquires Mark Texieira, and another acquires a 2B with no power, just-OK on base skills, and rapidly diminishing speed and range who probably isn’t even an upgrade over the second baseman you’re already playing…this is a problem.

I’ve generally liked Minaya, but it must be said that he made two horrendous trades this offseason, trading a decent young starter and a reliever who predictably turned his high K rates into high-grade performance when left alone for a $25 K-Mart gift card, and while this trade doesn’t really hurt the team it doesn’t help it while one of their chief rivals got a lot better. With Beltran hurt, the Braves could win this division.

The Schumer Rule

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

I don’t think that it will be relevant, as Chief Justice Roberts’s seizure thankfully doesn’t seem serious, but I wonder if LB is right to worry that the Senate would have trouble stalling his appointment would be problematic. Schumer has announced, I think, that they won’t confirm another SC justice under Bush, and I have no doubt that this would hold even if Ginsburg or Stevens retired tomorrow — when you control the judiciary committee there are a lot of ways to bottle up appointments. Replacing a conservative justice, however, would make the political dynamic a lot trickier. I would hope that they would wait it out, but who knows.

Fool Me Two Dozen Times….

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

As a follow-up to Rob, I think we need, once again, to return to dsquared’s one minute MBA:

Fibbers’ forecasts are worthless. Case after miserable case after bloody case we went through, I tell you, all of which had this moral. Not only that people who want a project will tend to make innacurate projections about the possible outcomes of that project, but about the futility of attempts to “shade” downward a fundamentally dishonest set of predictions. If you have doubts about the integrity of a forecaster, you can’t use their forecasts at all. Not even as a “starting point”. By the way, I would just love to get hold of a few of the quantitative numbers from documents prepared to support the war and give them a quick run through Benford’s Law.

Application to Iraq This was how I decided that it was worth staking a bit of credibility on the strong claim that absolutely no material WMD capacity would be found, rather than “some” or “some but not enough to justify a war” or even “some derisory but not immaterial capacity, like a few mobile biological weapons labs”. My reasoning was that Powell, Bush, Straw, etc, were clearly making false claims and therefore ought to be discounted completely, and that there were actually very few people who knew a bit about Iraq but were not fatally compromised in this manner who were making the WMD claim. Meanwhile, there were people like Scott Ritter and Andrew Wilkie who, whatever other faults they might or might not have had, did not appear to have told any provable lies on this subject and were therefore not compromised.


The raspberry road that led to Abu Ghraib was paved with bland assumptions that people who had repeatedly proved their untrustworthiness, could be trusted. There is much made by people who long for the days of their fourth form debating society about the fallacy of “argumentum ad hominem”. There is, as I have mentioned in the past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of “giving known liars the benefit of the doubt”, but it is in my view a much greater source of avoidable error in the world. Audit is meant to protect us from this, which is why audit is so important.

I’m also concede willing to concede that a couple of the very narrow claims Matt made aren’t terribly germane. But the overall point certainly holds. The only potential value from the O’Pollahan op-ed are claims made about the situation on the ground in Iraq. To take them seriously we would have to trust the ability of the people making the arguments to think critically about the propaganda they’re being fed, search very assiduously for disconfirming information, etc. Given that O’Pollahan have 1)a remarkably extensive history of atrocious misjudgments about the situation in Iraq and the competence of the Bush administration and 2)have an obvious stake in defending the disastrous war their reputations were staked on, that their claims about “on the ground” improvements cannot be trusted is the least that can be said. The fact that the claims they make that can be assessed with publicly available data continue to have a strong tendency to be tendentious or false makes this even more clear. It may not be true as a matter of formal logic that it is impossible for them to be right, but I think you’d be smarter to put your money in Baltimore Orioles 2007 World Series futures.

In related news, Thers makes a wish: “You know what I want? The 3-Card-Monty concession outside the Washington Post editorial board room.” I think the bidding for that starts at $500,000….

"Thank God"

[ 0 ] July 31, 2007 |

Dave Neiwert has a good summary of Bill O’Reilly’s hatemongering, but leaves out my favorite example:

O’REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I’m Bill O’Reilly.

In THE FACTOR “Follow-Up” Segment tonight, we’ve been following the various demographic shifts throughout America, and now the Census Bureau estimates, by the year 2050, white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the population. How will that change the USA?

Joining us now from Washington is Dr. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Here in the studio, John McManus, the editor in chief of “American Demographics” magazine.

So I guess this is being driven by Hispanics, right, with all the illegal immigration, millions of people coming in here and the higher birth rate among Hispanics in America. That’s what’s driving this?

JOHN MCMANUS, “AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS”: The Hispanic population is the greatest increase that we’ll see over the time period that we’re talking about. Illegal immigration is a portion of the story, but it’s the increase in — rapid increase in immigration and birth rate in people of Hispanic origin that we’ll see.

O’REILLY: All right. Because black birth rate is fairly stable, right?

MCMANUS: Proportionately, black birth rate and increases in their population will level out and be less significant in growth in that time period. I think Bill will be able to address the numbers better than I can, but…

O’REILLY: OK. And how about Asian? What’s the situation with that?

MCMANUS: Asian — we’re going to see a 213 percent increase, according to the Census Bureau projection, and so that will be a very rapid increase of the percentage of their population in the U.S. as well.

O’REILLY: All right. Now, Doctor, the Census Bureau really doesn’t tell us how this is going to affect the country. Do you have any theories on it?

WILLIAM FREY, PH.D., BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I really think what’s happening is going to be this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population. It is a 50-year time period we’re talking about…

O’REILLY: Yes. We’ll all be dead. Thank God, right?

Better dead than non-majority-white, apparently…

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