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Defining Hate Speech Down

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Melissa’s resignation, as many bloggers liberal and conservative have noted, is highly regrettable. The fact that the misogynist, anti-Semite and all around bigot Bill Donohue continued to go after McEwan–who said nothing that, even under the broadest standards, could qualify as anti-Catholic or anti-religious speech unless we’re to believe that cultural reactionaries can’t be criticized long as their beliefs are motivated by religion–gives away the show about this being a faux-outrage kabuki dance. (I should emphasize here that I’m not saying that this means that Melissa shouldn’t have resigned, or should be subject to any criticism–as Christopher Moltisanti said, unless they’re paying your nut nobody has the right to tell anyone how to earn a living, and she should so what’s best for herself irrespective of whether a hateful crackpot will claim a scalp.)

To get something constructive out of this sorry episode, I’d like to turn things over to Julian Sanchez:

For one, I’m fairly contemptuous of the trend toward regarding harsh or snarky criticism of religious (or, for that matter, atheistic) beliefs—propositions capable of being true or false, credible or silly, benign or pernicious—as a form of “bigotry” on par with racism.

Right. The best example of this was Amanda’s analysis of Children of Men, which I’ve seen described as potential “hate speech” (and which of course led Donohue to call for her firing):

The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal, where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. But this movie offers an alternative interpretation of the virgin birth—one where “virginity” is irrelevant and one where a woman’s stake in motherhood is fully respected for the sacrifice and hard work that it is.

Look, the category of anti-Catholic bigotry–people subject to discrimination based on generalizations about their religion–is perfectly real. (My grandfather used to get anti-Catholic graffiti painted on his farmhouse when he was a school trustee. And , actually, he wasn’t Catholic–he just had a French name–but that’s never the point.) But Amanda’s post is about ideas. The underlying point–that Christian doctrines are in many respects patriarchal–is not merely defensible but banal. Her application to this case may be right or wrong, it may be subjected to equally harsh criticism–but it’s only “hate speech” if you believe that religious ideas should be ipso facto exempt from external criticism simply by virtue of being religious ideas. Which is not merely obvious nonsense, but a gross debasement of the categories of bigotry and hate speech. Make sure to note everybody making this kind of argument, and make sure to be extra derisive the next time they inevitably invoke the terms “identity politics” or “politically correct.” Just in case you weren’t sure if these terms weren’t entirely devoid of useful content, this should really be the tip-off.

read this from Slacktivist too.


[ 0 ] February 13, 2007 |

Good one.

Although, in fairness, the Man of More Rubble and Less Trouble was a pioneer of the Hope-Is-Too-A-Plan strategy.

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet, I’m Creating A Massively Counterproudctive International Incident

[ 0 ] February 13, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Glenn Reynolds: “Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists.”

Killing Iranian religious leaders and scientist..quiet. It’s not just that he can’t explain how this would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or how this could be in the American national interest. It’s that he thinks this would be quiet. Yeah, if a foreign government just started to kill American religious leaders and scientists, you’d barely notice! Maybe the President would send a strongly worded memo! Can he possibly believe that this would be “quiet”? Teh stupid, it burns.

(Via Greenwald, who has the more patience to deal with this idiocy than I do.)

…In comments, Ted Barlow also notes how Reynolds notes one of his critics “the complete absence of moral outrage aimed at the Iranian mullahocracy.” Touche! I would like to state for the record that I am opposed to illberal theocracies, strangling kittens, and Scott Stapp being given recording contracts. Oh, and lunatic wars that damage American national interests at immense cost.

…Yglesias has more.

…Reynolds, in an update: “And some of those who are outraged say it’s terrible to attack “religious figures and scientists.” But wait — wasn’t the left calling American bomb builders “mass murderers?”" Um, what the hell? I don’t remember that, but maybe The Left will be willing to correct me. Or maybe Ward Churchill can be reached in a pinch…anyway, the update for some reason fails to explain how Iran will be dissuaded for building nuclear weapons if we start killing Iranians at random, or how this would strengthen democratic forces, or how this can be done “quietly”, but none of this matters because The Left are all mullah-loving traitors or something.

Mithras notes the apparent Tom Clancy influence.

Reproductive Freedom and Doctor-Protection Laws

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

I have a post up at TAPPED about Portugal’s coming liberalization of its draconian abortion laws. I wanted to pick out another excerpt from the genuinely terrific Times article about the referendum:

The current law in Portugal, passed in 1984, allows abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy in case of “mental and physical risk,” until 16 weeks in case of rape, until 24 weeks in case of a malformed fetus and at any time if the woman’s life is in danger. It calls for prison sentences of up to three years for a woman who has an illegal abortion and up to eight years for the person who illegally performs it.

But the availability of abortion is complicated by the medical profession’s narrow interpretation of the existing law. Portugal’s conservative psychiatric hierarchy has ruled that an unwanted pregnancy can be a mental health issue only in the most extreme cases; most medical doctors are unwilling to challenge the conventional wisdom.

By contrast, in Spain, which has a similar law, the legislation is liberally interpreted, and abortions are routinely performed. That has created a lucrative market for legal abortions in Spain for those Portuguese women who can afford to travel there.

There are two important lessons here. The first–which all too many scholars in the field make–is that you can’t infer the availability of legal abortion from the precise wording of statutes that delegate discretion to doctors (and haggling over changes in wording instead of decriminalization is a fool’s game.) The related lesson concerns the fact that laws that focus on protecting doctors rather than women are seen as the Eden of American abortion politics by the Saletan/Wittes/Rosen Axis Of We’ve Got Ours. But as the Spain/Portugal comparison suggests, they don’t in any way correspond to whether or not a woman has a reason for getting an abortion that Ben Wittes finds sufficiently compelling; in liberal areas, abortions will be widely available, and in less liberal areas women will be routinely denied abortion for arbitrary reasons (especially if they don’t have the connections or resources to window shop.) The additional problem, of course, is that these laws also don’t make any sense; given the discretion that doctors will have in practice, they’re making moral, not medical, judgments, and there’s no conceivable reason why these judgments should be made by doctors rather than the women whose lives are at stake.

While web doctor can be very helpful for immediate answers and symptoms its important not to entirely rely. When considering eminent issues like deciding what skin cancer looks like should be done in person with your doctor. Or whether or not a prescription drug is for you. For example buying tenuate is not for the faint of heart. Check with your doctor before buying.

I’m Excitable Enough To Throw Myself Against The Wall of the Louvre Museum!

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So the updated FAQ caused someone to demand some more Zevon blogging. And, what do you know–via the mighty TBogg, considered “somewhat popular” by at least 2 out every 3 batty, thin-skinned cranks living in Madison, WI–I see that Rhino is finally issuing The Envoy–one of his best records–on CD for the first time. Not only that, but also the rare-good-live-album Stand in the Fire (sample amended lyric: “You’d better stay away from him/He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim/And he’s looking for…James Taylor”) will be getting its howlingly funny debut, and as a bonus an expanded edition of the classic (and, I suppose, particularly relevant) Excitable Boy. Looks like they’ll be nice remasters, and cheap. Dunno if they’ll be on ITunes, but I never buy MP3s with that little price differential anyway. So, see, we do take requests…

Presumption in Favor of the Anti-War Candidate

[ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

In the midst of the below-referenced posts pointing out the highly disingenuous attempts to claim that Clinton was not, in fact, a strong contemporaneous supporter of the war, Yglesias notes this about Obama:

Also note: “But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake.” My instinct is that this is going to be a powerful point.

I think this is right. As I think I’ve said before, I think that when choosing a candidate, Democratic primary voters should have a strong presumption in favor of people who didn’t support The Fiasco, for both political and substantive reasons. Not an irrefutable presumption, but a strong presumption. With respect to the politics, I think it’s clear that Edwards’ forthright admission that he made a mistake is preferable to Clinton’s attempt to pretend that she didn’t really support the war, but neither of these are really good options. Edwards is admitting a colossal error in judgment on what will be the central question of the 2008 election. Clinton has to claim to be exceptionally (and implausibly) naive about what Bush was up to, and in addition everyone knows that she made the error in judgment anyway. Given the inevitable centrality of Iraq to the 2008 election, running a candidate who was pro-war at the time is squandering a major potential edge, and I think a candidate has to have a lot of other virtues (and their rivals a lot of potential defects) to overcome it (although Edwards’ early repudiation makes him a little less vulnerable.)


[ 0 ] February 10, 2007 |

So, let’s say you’re working with a Word document at home and at the office, and you open the document up from email to work on it. You foolishly just keep saving it to the temp file. Then you download a version you save from another location, and are unable to open up the recent temp file. Is there any way to recover the last saved version of the temp file, or can I kiss an evening’s work off entirely? (Note to self: be more competent.)

Don’t Trust Uncritical Stenographers

[ 0 ] February 10, 2007 |

A reminder.

Good one.

That Smear Would Taste Better With A Dash of McCarthy

[ 0 ] February 10, 2007 |

Any garden variety Republican operative can run with the farcical non-scandal ginned up from someone requesting on behalf of the Speaker of the House of Representatives the legal privileges claimed by her predecessor as well as low-ranking Republican cabinet officials, even though she’s not only a Democrat but a woman. It also has some standard applications, like using it as an even-more-feeble-than-usual pretext for not caring about global warming like your friends at Dow 36,000 Central, because everyone knows that global warming turns on the individual choices of one’s political enemies and not actual public policy. But it takes a truly shameless and innovative brand of Republican hack to add to this less-than-pseudo-scandal some demagoguery about how Democrats hate the troops!!!!!!ONE!!1111! I give you Ann Althouse:

Yes, it’s a question of distance between you and ordinary mortals. Can someone explain how Nancy Pelosi has the nerve to tell a group of veterans that her desire to avoid having her plane stop to refuel is all about security?

What could possibly give her the idea that this policy had anything to do with national security? Even Howie Kurtz can get this right:

Did you know she was entitled to a military plane? Neither did I. But under legislation passed after 9/11, it’s legally mandated for security reasons. Dennis Hastert had such special transport for five years.

So what gave Pelosi the crazy idea that this had something to to with security was the fact that the relevant legislation was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President as a security measure after 9/11. Amazingly, she failed to notice either the fact that voting for this legislation is spitting in the face of the troops or the troubling implications of the fact that powerful people don’t take the Greyhound from D.C. to San Fransisco like an honest proletarian when it was Republicans taking advantage of the law. What could possibly explain it?

To summarize, then, Howie Kurtz understood that this was an idiotic non-scandal, and yet still tried to push it by cherry-picking blogs that didn’t exist on January 31st, one of which has one post in its history. Ann Althouse is a considerably more egregious Republican hack.

…in light of the ad hominems predictably being flung against me, I thought it would be worth flashing back to this example of Althouse’s law-school-trained close reading skills and legendary impartiality about Democratic politicans. Althouse, you may recall, claimed that John Kerry was “outrageously lying” when he claimed that a botched joke wasn’t referring to American troops, although even the most cursory read of the context would make clear that the joke only made sense if he was referring to George W. Bush (and certainly at a very minimum Kerry’s reading was plausible, making flat-out claims that he was lying outrageous.) Something similar is evident here. Obviously, Althouse isn’t applying some sort of pre-existing principle holding that the jet used by Denny Hastert is acceptably close to the experience of the people but a jet that can fly to direct to California is evidence that one sees themselves as being above ordinary mortals, for the obvious reason that nobody could believe such nonsense. It’s just an opportunity to propagate a well-coordinated right-wing smear campaign against a politician she dislikes, with the extra bonus of claiming that she’s insulting the military (just like John Kerry likes to!) by simply telling the truth about why the jet was requested on her behalf. That’s all that’s going on here, and we’ve seen it countless times, and I’m not going to stop criticizing such arguments whenever I see them. As Bob Somerby once again pointed out, these pseudo-scandals and transparently bad faith attempts to portray Democrats as unpatriotic out-of-touch elitists on the most spurious grounds may seem silly, but they’re what gave us Bush in 2000, and they’re not going to stop doing it as long as it’s working.

…I should also add that I’m assuming that people will click through to the Greg Sargent link to explain what’s going on with the “Pelosi requested a luxury jet, not the good Republican cloth jet that was good enough for Denny Hastert” smear. For those who aren’t familiar with the facts, 1)Hastert’s plane couldn’t reliably fly direct to California, 2)Pelosi (entirely reasonably) wanted to make direct flights and offered to fly commercial, 3)but the law requires the Speaker to use a military jet for security reasons, and then 4)the House Sargent-At-Arms–not Pelosi– requested a a plane on her behalf that could make direct flights to California. So, in other words, Pelosi was just telling the truth by saying that the jet was mandated by national security concerns, and to conceive of this as an insult to the troops is silly. And as for the faux-populist resentment that opens Althouse’s post, given the facts what could the argument be here? Again, is it acceptable to have a direct flight to Illinois but not California? Is there some pre-existing, precise level of expense at which the use of a private jet is insufficiently plebeian, even if more expense is justified by perfectly reasonable requirements? Does anybody think that this precise, rarified populism, rather than simple partisan rancor, explains Althouse’s attack on Pelosi? Look, Althouse supports the Iraq War, she supports Bush, and would (logically enough) like to see Republicans in control of Congress–that’s her privilege. But to pretend that she’s an above-the-fray non-partisan despite these kinds of obviously specious attacks on Democratic politicians is simply an insult to our intelligence. And she and her defenders are the ones with a shaky grasp on the facts here.

…Since I’m tired of explaining this in comments, let me elaborate one last time. It is, as it happens, true that Althouse doesn’t understand the basic facts of the non-scandal. There is uncontroverted evidence that the Sargent-at-Arms–not Pelosi–requested the jet for security reasons. The very story Althouse cites is inconsistent with her interpretation. The Bush Administration acknowledges that the request was for legitimate security reasons. I left this to a link rather than elaborating upon it because I don’t really care–this would be a non-scandal even if the charges against Pelosi were true. If someone–Republican, Democrat, 3rd in command, lower-tier cabinet secretary–who has to use a jet wants one that can fly home directly just like Denny Hastert had, fine with me. Who the hell cares? The point of my original post, rather, was simply that 1)the allegedly non-partisan Althouse wedges the discussion of this triviality into two predictable Republican smear narratives–”Democrats are chardonnay-sipping elitists!” “Democrats hate the troops!” and 2)the self-and-by-nobody-else described “feminist” Althouse is willing to smear Pelosi with uppity-woman narratives being pushed by feminist-baiters like Glenn “why vote for the first woman President if we’ve already got one?” Reynolds, which is entirely preidctable given her support for radical woman’s rights opponent Samuel Alito, her creepy misogynist sniggering about Jessica Valenti’s breasts, etc etc. Althouse is wrong about this non-scandal too, but it’s the “why” that matters because it’s a much larger problem than one hack blogger. You’ll be seeing a lot more of these smears used against Pelosi (and Clinton.)

There, There, Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head About Your Reproductive Freedom

[ 0 ] February 9, 2007 |

Sara Anderson brings our attention to another innovation in the irrational abortion regulation obstacle course, this one from the Idaho legislature:

A North Idaho lawmaker wants to make it a crime to attempt to coerce a woman or girl into having an abortion, according to S-R reporter Parker Howell, who covered the House Health & Welfare Committee meeting today where the bill was introduced.

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, persuaded the committee to introduce his bill to outlaw the use of threats or physical force to dissuade a pregnant woman from giving birth. The measure also prohibits threatening to do “anything that the person does not have the legal right to do against the pregnant woman.” That could include employers threatening to withhold a job or promotion or “a school counselor maybe describing to a young person that by having this baby you have no future, those kinds of acts,” Nonini told the panel, Howell reported. Under the measure, it does not matter if the woman has the abortion.

While perhaps not quite on a level with legislation which makes the legality of abortion turn on which way a fetus’ legs are pointing in the womb, this legislation is evidently irrational. If it applies only to physical coercion or doing anything that is already illegal, it is superfluous; if, as Nonini implies, it applies to giving advice or verbal persuasion, it would take a lengthy brief to detail the ways in which it is unconstitutional. And all of this is premised on the classic belief of the forced pregnancy lobby that women are incapable of making moral choices.

Having said that, the rhetoric surrounding this kind of legislation is a fairly clever tactic. There is a grain of truth here: pre-existing gender disparities don’t go away when a woman is deciding to carry a pregnancy to term. It is undoubtedly true that some women feel they can’t have a baby they would have in better circumstances because they can’t support the baby financially, trust their partner to maintain a stable relationship, etc., and they may feel pressure from employers or partners. But, of course, using state coercion to make it more difficult or impossible for poor women or women in bad domestic situations to obtain abortions exacerbates the underlying problems rather than solving them. Forcing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will–particularly given the skimpy state support for child care that exists in most states–simply makes financial and educational disparities worse and makes women even more dependent on their partners whose power this legislation purportedly seeks to curtail. (Which is also why feminist policies tend to actually be more effective at reducing abortion rates than criminalization. Women are more likely to being pregnancies to term in conditions of emotional and financial security, and the law on the books can only do so much to constrain women who are desperate.) At any rate, as with most anti-choice legislative proposals, the legislation makes sense only if you think that women are incapable of rational judgment and that choices to make abortion are always somehow made by men.

Is Death Not An Option?

[ 0 ] February 9, 2007 |

Um, can I choose “neither”? Admittedly, the Atlantic article has a clever setup–given that with their puerile misogyny, proud idiocy, and not-quite-porn Maxim/FHM lad type lad magazines are pretty much the nadir of human culture, I guess anything, including Playboy‘s annoying and empty but generally harmless pretensions, would have to be better. And you can make a good case that George W. Bush is a better president than Andrew Johnson, but I’m not sure where this gets you. One thing that both genres have in common, however, is a homogeneous and ultimately dehumanizing conception of what women should look like, which is both bad for women and bad erotica. (I’m often not sure that “objectification” is a very useful term, but in these cases I think it fits perfectly.) Zobenica seems to think that exclusively pictures with the formula “on top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield” is a feature, a reminder that this is the fantasy of a 13-year-boy, not reality. But even for a 13-year old boy, isn’t this kind of, er, circumscribed? I guess the one thing you can say about the lad mags is that their adorning text fits the pictures even better than surrounding it with Norman Mailer’s latest claptrap about his waning libido.

Dana Goldstein gets it pretty much right.

Simple Answers To Straightforward Questions

[ 0 ] February 8, 2007 |

Rick Moran:

But I cannot leave this subject [the Marcotte/McEwen phony witch hunt] without examining the role of those of us on the right who flogged this story into the mainstream media and may have cost Marcotte her job. Certainly our motives lacked nobility. I will be the last to argue that anything more than “scalp hunting” animated this effort. And the questions I raised in the quote at the top of this page remains valid: Is this all we are? Is this what we have become?


This has been simple answers to straightforward questions.

And, obviously, good for Edwards. One can argue about whether the Edwards campaign should have been more risk-averse in terms of hiring Amanda (although some people are ignoring the many positive things she brings to the table), but for Edwards to have caved in to transparently phony reactionary-identity-politics outrage would have been catastrophic. It also seems worth pointing out–especially given the smearing of Shakes, who said nothing that could be seen as “anti-Catholic” even by ridiculous wingnut standards–that any prominent feminist blogger would have been victim of the fake outrage machine. If Edwards had hired Jessica Valenti, Danny Glover would have been on the horn to Ann Althouse and Dr. Helen so they could discuss Jesscia’s profoundly troubling décolletage and its implications for John Edwards’ campaign before the ink was dry on the press release. Playing the appeasement game in a context where William Donohue can appear on the teevee as some sort of civil rights leader is a futile enterprise. It’s encouraging that Edwards understands this.