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Judgment

[ 0 ] March 23, 2007 |

Matt is right about this. In addition to the fact that it’s contrary to progressive interests to have Penn advising people, there’s the additional issue of what it says about Clinton’s priorities that she would hire him in the first place. Clinton wants her head pollster to be somebody whose specialty is giving catchy names to wholly arbitrary groups of affluent people as a justification for throwing progressive policy initiatives under the bus. This says something important about her judgment, and what it says is obviously not good.

Friday Cat (Power) Blogging

[ 0 ] March 23, 2007 |

Anti-Choice Wedges and Bribes

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

Prof. B has a good post about the strange plan in Texas to pay $500 to have babies and give them for adoption. She hits the most obvious problem: Honey, $500 isn’t even going to pay for the extra groceries you’ll eat during a pregnancy. Let alone the prenatal care, if you’re not insured or on Medicaid, or the cost of the birth. Senator Patrick, would you agree to take care of a neighbor’s dog for nine months for a measly $500?”

So, yeah, that doesn’t seem likely to change much behavior. But there’s also a practical problem with the law: how do you know they were going to get an abortion? Give application forms only at clinics. But how do you know they really wanted an abortion and weren’t just coming to get the 500 bucks? You get the idea.

This kind of thing often happens the other way, as forced pregnancy advocates come up with various wedges to try to water down abortion rights. “But what if abortion is used as sex selection? To kill fetuses with the gay gene?” Back when we had abortion trolls, they often brought it up as if it were definitive objections. The problem is, though, that even if these choices are always immoral there’s no way these distinctions can be drawn in legislative enactments. Once you assume that most women will be smart enough to lie or stay quiet if asked their motives, how do you prove that women are getting abortions for bad reasons? Presumably, one suspects, by creating doctor panels, which given the impossibility of evidence in most cases will be ineluctably arbitrary. The choice, as always, is really simple: ban all abortions, or trust women with the ability to make choices (understanding that some will be ones you wouldn’t agree with.) The criminal law is too crude too accommodate efforts to ensure that abortions are obtained for specific reasons, even if we could agree on what they are.

On Elizabeth Edwards

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

Most of what I had to say I already said yesterday, so I think I’ll outsource the rest to Jane Hamsher. I only hope that in a similar situation I would have a fraction of the courage that either possesses. You can see the press conference here.

"Argumentum Ad Patchouli"

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

Indeed.

I suppose it’s not literally true that no genre of blogging is less likely to produce anything of interest or value as the typical Trainwreck Media blogger: i.e. Yoosta Bees whose banal tendency to get more reactionary as they get older and wealthier was accelerated by post 9/11 bedwetting (which, even worse, convinced them that bog-standard conservative politics represented some kind of incredibly earth-shattering insight). But I’m inclined to say it anyway.

Cathy Seipp

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

The conservative blogger has died after what by all accounts was an immensely courageous 5-year battle with lung cancer. My father’s mother (who, incidentally, was also not a smoker) passed away from lung cancer when he was 13, which is a powerful reminder to me that this could happen to anyone. R. I. P.

Mystery And Misery

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

The main question about this upcoming Edwards press conference would seem to be how awful it’s going to be; I certainly hope fervently that the news will be more benign than seems likely. Even if Elizabeth is ill once again, I’m not sure that it will end John’s campaign–every family is different, of course, but I wouldn’t want my unfortunate hypothetical spouse to put off a pursuit of her dream job to care for me full-time almost no matter how sick I was (although a presidential campaign is evidently pretty sui generis in terms of the time it takes away from family.) Anyway, I’m not going to even think about how this will affect the race until we know about Elizabeth’s health. Let’s hope she’s well.

doesn’t seem promising.

Climate Change: Views Differ. Ask This Scientician!

[ 0 ] March 21, 2007 |

Great stuff from Eric Boehlert on the latest NYT hit piece on Al Gore. As he says:

Where the Times went so wrong was that after it discovered there was, in fact, very little serious debate within the mainstream scientific community (i.e. “the middle ground”), the paper still plowed ahead with its controversial thesis and tried to fool its readers by suggesting, very high up in the story, that there were deep rifts among “rank and file” scientists — “the centrists,” as the newspaper called them. If that were true, the Times article, written by William Broad, would have been brimming with rank-and-file scientists questioning Gore’s facts. It was not.

Instead, as blogger David Roberts noted, the article had “all the hallmarks of a vintage Gore hit piece: half-truths, outright falsehoods, unsubstantiated quotes, and a heaping dose of innuendo.” The article also had all the hallmarks of a journalist approaching a topic with an already confirmed belief and then working backwards trying to prove that point by selectively quoting sources.

The Times piece did prove that the newspaper was willing to cast a very wide net to locate sources with scientific affiliations who expressed doubts about An Inconvenient Truth. No offense, but if an emeritus professor from Western Washington University was the most prominent critic the Times could find (the prof’s the first person quoted in the Gore piece), I’m guessing Gore is on pretty solid footing. (Another critic prominently quoted by the Times isn’t even an environmental scientist.)

See here, here, here, here, and here for detailed analysis of the article’s obvious scientific shortcomings. In short, the article has been thoroughly demolished.

No offense intended to Dave’s alma mater, but that’s what you call manufacturing a controversy.

You Bought…a Bunch of Them?

[ 0 ] March 21, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser: “My favorite bumper sticker as of late is one that states, “Bumper Stickers Are Not the Answer.” I bought a bunch of them just because I thought it was funny. However, sometimes bumper stickers are the answer, they can tell you oodles about the person in front of you and warn you to avoid the person or just make you laugh. A good laugh is nothing to sneeze at and frankly, neither is an early warning system that tells you that the driver in front of you lacks critical thought, is emotionally fragile, or just has a wicked sense of humor when you see a bumper sticker that says something like this: “Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?”"

Um, I think this is one of those times when commentary is superfluous, except to say that I guess drawing broad psychological inferences based on bumper stickers might be slightly less unreliable than basing such inferences on someone’s socks.

[Via Roy.]

Why I Have Less Than No Use For Frank Rich

[ 6 ] March 20, 2007 |

As a follow-up to my post about Al Gore allegedly “squandering” the 2000 campaign, I thought it would be useful to take a look at Frank Rich’s analysis of the first debate (where Gore’s victory among viewers was esclipsed by Bush’s wins among the army of morons who covered it.) As Rich’s colleague Paul Krugman–who, unfashionably enough for a media pundit, actually cares about policy outcomes–was pointing out, it was also where Gore laid out a serious policy agenda while Bush systematically dissembled about his plan to piss away the surplus on upper-class tax cuts. How did Rich cover it?

Still, I wouldn’t have missed the debate for anything. Though it added exactly zero to our knowledge of either Al Gore or George W. Bush, it is a keeper for any time capsule of America 2000. At a cultural moment when many voters are forced constantly to make that hard choice between the Gap and Banana Republic, what is more apt than the spectacle of two princely boomers in identical outfits hypothesizing about how to spend a surplus of infinitely elastic trillions that both assume will last indefinitely?

Ha-ha, Gap and the Banana Republic, very droll! But did you hear the one about “Gush and Bore”? That’s a real knee-slapper! Anyway, I take the point; there’s really no difference between an accomplished center-left vice president and a not-very-bright guy who governed to the right of the Texas legislatures–after all, they both wear suits!

…what is more apt than the spectacle of two princely boomers in identical outfits hypothesizing about how to spend a surplus of infinitely elastic trillions that both assume will last indefinitely? Now that branding and marketing are the national ideology — and focus groups have a clout unmatched by labor unions or the religious right — what could be more fitting than a debate in which not a single word is uttered that hasn’t been pre-tested more rigorously than a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich rollout?

Jesus Christ, the whole goddamned point of the “lockbox” phrase you reliably make fun of later is that Gore doesn’t assume that the surplus will last forever. Almost as if, unlike his opponent, he actually knows what he’s talking about.

Though Mr. Bush is fond of boasting that he’s a man of principle, not ”polling and focus groups,” he was just as scripted as his opponent — no small feat. Mr. Gore’s hit parade of tested buzz words and phrases — ”middle class” (10 mentions), ”wealthiest 1 percent” (10), ”lockbox” (7) — was nearly matched by Mr. Bush’s Pavlovian references to bringing ”Republicans and Democrats” together (9) and ”fuzzy” math (4).

Wow, people actually prepare for debates and reiterate key themes in modern presidential campaigns. No kidding! But good that you repeated the narrative about Gore being “scripted.” Good boy.

OK, he does say something about Bush’s lies:

The moment came when Mr. Bush told a Gore-like whopper, fudging his previous stand in favor of trying to thwart the F.D.A.’s approval of RU-486, the abortion pill.

Bush told him one lie–which made him for a second just like that evil Al Gore, whose entirely fictious lies Rich has been hyping (and sometimes making up himself) for months!

And, the inevitable punchline:

Mr. Bush is still an entitled, hail-fellow-well-met American blueblood who has coasted through life with the right name and its attendant connections. Mr. Gore is still the overcalculating child of the expediencies of Washington, where no principle is written in stone for longer than a polling cycle.

Because you can recite cliched personality narratives about both candidates, see, what difference does it make who becomes president?

What a disgrace that people like this are hired to analyze politics in this country’s most presigious newspapers. (I think you can see why the Times thought it was a great idea to hire Ann Althouse for 5 columns.) Nothing rings hollower than the anti-war posturing of people like Rich and Dowd–few people worked harder to make it happen. Not out of principle, but because they’re vapid, self-satified clowns.

Eroticizing PTSD?

[ 0 ] March 20, 2007 |

I agree with Lindsay–the choice of photos for the article about women in the military suffering from PTSD is exceedingly strange, although this charitable interpretation of the editors’ motives is plausible enough. Kay has more on the article’s substantive content.

The Bill of Rights Is The First Casualty Of The War On Drugs

[ 2 ] March 20, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

What do you mean we can’t punish oral sex just because it happens off-campus? Let’s install cameras! It will destroy our precious bodily fluids educational mission!

The War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs has, among its many other problems, acted as an all-purpose Fourth Amendment destruction machine. The nation’s former Panty-Sniffer-in Chief proposes that we throw the First Amendment into the refuse heap while we’re at it:

Oral argument in Morse v. Frederick does reveal some of the worst aspects of sharing a bong. The first being paranoia. Because according to Kenneth Starr, former righteous independent counsel—now tanned Californian law-school dean—the fate of the drug wars depends upon the unconditional school message that drugs are bad, yet schools cannot enforce that message because smartass kids keep undermining them. Starr’s alternative (and if you ask me, far more paranoia-inducing) universe: Schools get limitless discretion to craft broad “educational missions” and are then free to squelch any student speech that “undermines” them.

The justices appear to loathe each alternative about equally. At some point, Justice Stephen Breyer groans that a ruling for the students would encourage them to be “testing limits all over the place in the high schools,” whereas a ruling for the schools would certainly end up limiting lots of speech.

Starr opens with the statement that “the glorification of the drug culture” is at stake here. He claims that schools, even under the broad standard laid out in the armband case, can’t necessarily limit political protest but may bar “disruptive speech.” This sets the court’s hippies off. Justice Anthony Kennedy: “There’s no classroom here.” Justice David Souter: “What did it disrupt on the sidewalk?”

Yes, it’s certainly not as if these restrictions are content-based restrictions of speech!

That middle paragraph is a little scary; I fear that we might be in for a Breyer swing opinion in which he upholds the policy but writes a “compromise” opinion emphasizing that a future violation of the First Amendment might be enough to shock his conscience or something.