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Logan International Airport Blogging

[ 0 ] March 12, 2007 |

There are, of course, many reasons to watch NASCAR, as is clear when you’re stuck in a venue where it’s being shown; it’s excruciatingly dull, it goes on forever, and the sound (both the whine of the engines and the commentary) intensely irratating when you’re trying to watch a real sporting event at the same place. From my narrow perspective, however, what really sucks is that the NASCAR crowd overwhelmed security at the Vegas airport, causing me to miss my flight. Fortunately, I was able to get the last flight out to Boston and connect thorugh there, but ugh. Our guests can feel free to keep contributing today: I won’t be back until this aft.

One thing learned: ambien + these headphones = a red eye on which even I can sleep.

Creepiest. Ad. Ever.

[ 0 ] March 10, 2007 |

Dick Vitale for Hooters.

The prospect of seeing it again is almost enough to keep me away from the Bellagio Sports Book. Almost.

…don’t blame me for the embed. A commenter made me do it.

The "Privacy" Dodge

[ 0 ] March 8, 2007 |

Matt is right about this. Now, it must be said that when it comes to a candidate’s personal “family values” I’m strictly of the “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids” school. Personally, while there are many good reasons not to want Rudy to be president, the fact that he’s a jerk and bad husband and bad father is not, to me, one of them. You may remember this from the “Liberals should like Sam Alito because he’s nice to his wife and likes baseball” routine. George W. Bush is a much better husband and father than FDR or LBJ were, William Rehnquist a much nicer person than William Douglas, and so on and so on and so on. If it’s not entirely accurate to say that there’s no relationship between being a nice person and being a good president (or Supreme Court Justice or whatever), certainly the correlation is weak enough that you’d be crazy to put any real weight on it. When assessing candidates, “character” is bascially a Latin word meaning “bullshit.”

Having said all this, though, you can’t have it both ways. Either the fact that you’re a family man matters, or it doesn’t. Giuliani can’t use his family as a campaign prop and then squeal about his “privacy” when the rather more unpleasant aspects of his domestic life come to light. If he thought it mattered that he was a good husband and father, then it’s fair game for people to bring up the fact that he isn’t.

Blog Against Sexism Day

[ 0 ] March 8, 2007 |

Plane to catch, so I will outsource to The Left, which means that in a way I did kind of contribute original material…

Well, Uncritical Iraq War Supporters Certainly Have Sat On Many Metaphorical Bayonets

[ 0 ] March 8, 2007 |

Recently, I wondered about the reliability of Glenn Reynolds’s claim–invoked yet again–that Talleyrand 1)said that “you can do anything with bayonets, except sit on them,” and 2)that he actually meant this as an endorsement of the Green Lantern Theory Of Geopolitics. Jim Henley answers:

What bayonets are genuinely good for is stabbing people and threatening them, unless they’ve got a bayonet and a longer reach or, worse yet, ammo. The thing is, stabbing people and threatening them is a very tiny subset of all possible human actions and interactions. The internets are not good for getting the full context of Talleyrand’s remarks, but he appears to have meant it as a caution against overreliance on military power. He was foreign minister of a government conceived in high ideals, birthed in terror and ruined, at the end, by the conviction that attacking, and attacking first, was the only appropriate response to every foreign risk. In his own way, Talleyrand himself was trying to point out how little bayonets are good for. He was talking to Napoleon, but he might have been talking to Glenn Reynolds, albeit no more successfully.

This isn’t surprising. But, at any rate, it’s all beside the point; even if Talleyrand did mean that military force can accomplish anything, it means that Talleyrand once made an exceptionally stupid argument, as the Iraq War is demonstrating so tragically.

Misogynist Enabler of the Day

[ 0 ] March 7, 2007 |

Ann Althouse.

I’ve been through this before, but the idea that we can assume fully “rational” employers who will infer nothing from this kind of shaming other than “these women are hot!” is living in some alternate universe. As Jill says, “[f]or women who aren’t as public as I am, whose names don’t bring up almost 2,000 Google hits, this could very well be the first thing an employer comes across. And middle-aged Big Law attorneys may not be the most savvy people in the world when it comes to internet communities. They see a thread talking about the promiscuity of a woman they’re considering hiring, and that raises red flags. They see a link to a contest, where that woman’s smiling pictures are on first glance it appears that she fully consented to participate, and it might be a deal-breaker. While, from a feminist perspective, I think it’s silly that participation in a beauty contest can make or break your job prospects, the reality is that it can.” Of course. Many professional people read profound significance into the most superficial characteristics (see the works of Ann Althouse, passim.) The involuntary beauty contests on the boards in question are extremely creepy, and for law firms to look at them in making hiring decisions is disgraceful but to pretend that it won’t happen is crazy.

Lindsay: “What rational employer would care what anonymous twerps on a message board said about a woman’s body? No rational employer would.* However, as the entire history of civilization illustrates, people are sometimes, uh, less than rational when it comes to human sexuality and gossip pertaining thereto. If this story is any indication, law firms don’t make their hiring decisions rationally.” Indeed.

Julia (in comments):

I think maybe I’m confused. This is the same Ann Althouse who started a raging blog war over a woman wearing a sweater that fit in an online picture because by having a picture posted in which she was wearing a sweater that fit she was sexualizing her image and causing herself not to be taken seriously to the point where Ann Althouse and her commenters were totally justified in making blowjob jokes?

She can’t figure out what the problem is with having bathing suit pictures explicitly linked to your professional career in an online contest?

I wonder how her law students deal with her working backwards from the results she prefers approach. Must make case law awfully complicated.

Yeah, it’s shocking that she would defend Bush v. Gore.

Why Buy The Cock When You Can Get the Wake-up Call For Free? The Sequel

[ 0 ] March 7, 2007 |

A brilliant post by Belle Waring (but I repeat myself) about the crude reductionism and misogynist (and, for that matter, misandrist) double standards of Laura Sessions Stepp and her even more reactionary admirers. This is as good a summary as you can find:

It always goes back to two points: a strong belief that men are slavering idiots ruled by the tyrannical and capricious whims of their cocks, and a deep conviction women don’t like having sex. The first point is something which, as many have pointed out, is a much bleaker condemnation of men than anything you are likely to get from an actual feminist…The second point, that women don’t like sex, is an undercurrent in every discussion of this type. Not even an undercurrent: a foundation stone for the whole creaky apparatus.

I’ve discussed this before with respect to Leon Kass, who takes this well beyond the point of self-parody, but this is exactly correct: unless you assume that women don’t really like sex, but use it strictly as a tool to get material things from men who are apparently assumed to have no interest in female companionship and the solace of long-term relationships otherwise, the whole argument fails. Which, given that these arguments are in fact transparently false, is kind of a problem. And even if one assumes that in these particular social conditions men, on average, have a greater interest in casual sex (which is far less than is necessary if you’re going to argue that casual sex is bad for women), as Belle says there’s no reason whatsoever to assume that this is a natural condition. We don’t know how women would act in conditions of gender equality because nothing remotely like this exists. “What would a world look like in which women who had sex whenever and with whomever they want were never called sluts? Never judged by strangers and friends? What would it be like if girls were never told that they had to be gatekeepers for their bodies, defenders of castle walls that are always under assault by men wanting sex? Not to put too fine a point on it, what would the world be like if there wasn’t the pervasive threat of sexual violence?” All excellent questions, and ones that Stepp and Douthat would prefer remain unasked.

A couple of additional points. First, staunch feminist Ann Althouse, seemingly untroubled by Stepp’s egregious double standards and profoundly reactionary conceptions of gender and sexuality, claims that Stepp “irks some critics who don’t want to hear that casual sex may hurt a young woman’s heart.” The first problem is discussed above: maybe, just maybe, some of thus hurt is caused by the fact that women who engage in casual hook-ups are often stigmatized in ways that men aren’t. But, in addition, of course casual hookups can “hurt someone’s heart.” You know what else can hurt a young woman’s heart? Marriage. Long-term relationships. Not getting laid at all. You know can also experience emotional trauma from all of these things? Men. Nobody’s saying that freedom and equality means a world free from pain. Freedom and equality means being free to make good and bad choices, to experiment is ways that will sometimes go well and sometimes not. I don’t think most people think that casual hookups are unproblematic; rather, I think that they judge that in many cases it’s preferable to celibacy or committing to a life-long committed relationship when you’re 20. This strikes me as a quite reasonable thing to believe.

The second thing I don’t understand about this argument is the strange either/or assumptions it makes about people’s romantic and sexual lives. Stepp seems to think that people can choose love or uncommitted sexuality, hookups or Serious Relationships. But there’s no reason whatsoever that people–even women!–can’t do both of these things. Really, people want different things at different stages of life. Once you get beyond crackpot assumptions about female sexuality being some sort of scarce resource that must be dispensed only with the greatest gravity, it’s really not hard to understand this.

…UPDATE: Based on comments, I think it’s worth repeating Stepp’s metaphor: “Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?” In other words, she’s not talking about individual cases of women being pressured into sex (and, as Lesley says in comments, it’s not as if shaming women somehow causes this pressure to vanish, and as zuzu says it’s not as if they’re aren’t countervailing pressures), but she’s making an a priori assumption that casual sex is something men want, women are the gatekeepers of, and are inherently damaging themselves by consenting to. I’m sorry, but no productive discussion is going to proceed from these assumptions.

Reader Feedback: Alito and Abortion Edition

[ 0 ] March 7, 2007 |

Commenter (and blogger) Bean raises some interesting points with respect to this post. I’ll respond to each point separately:

First, while I agree that the current iteration of abortion law is important because it can ensure that poor women have access to abortion, it hasn’t done that. Because of the Hyde Amendment, many poor women do not have access to this important right. Further, there are abortion providers in only 13% of U.S. counties and it is often poor women who cannot take 1 or 2 days off from work to procure the abortion they desire (sometimes more in states with waiting periods). They can’t afford the time off and can’t afford childcare for the children they already have. So while I agree with you on the meta point, I think it’s at best a half-empty promise right now.

It is certainly true that, particularly in light of Harris v. McRae (which upheld the Hyde Amendment), the regime created by Roe has been suboptimal in terms of creating abortion access. It is also true that virtually all of the regulations upheld under Casey affect poor women more than rich women (which is one reason that a loosely interpreted “undue burden” standard could be used to effectively used to deny access to abortion. On the other hand, despite all this, Roe really has made a difference in abortion access for poor women compared to 1973. Private clinics can 1)advertise and 2)offer sliding scales, and this does provide significant (although far, far from ideal) access to poor women that they wouldn’t have without the “negative” right. The crucial question is the whether the Court will do something to stop states from harassing and shutting down abortion clinics. In its current form, obviously it won’t, so a lot depends on getting as few bad laws (and precedents) as possible in the meantime.

Another thing to add is that the problem geographic disparities in access is, on some level, one that law is limited in its capacity to solve (although it would be nice if it didn’t make things worse.) And I should also take this opportunity to recommend Melody Rose’s book.

Second, I’m not nearly as optimistic as you are about Alito. I think you may be right about Roberts, but given Alito’s previous abortion jurisprudence, I am not so sure he would vote to uphold Casey. I don’t think he’s as conservative (little c) as one might hope. Maybe you have some more insight into his stance that I am missing and that you can share? Either way, Roberts has talked a big game about this so it would be interesting as a test for him.

I’ve discussed my views about what Alito is likely to do here and here (as well as in discussions of his nomination passim.) I agree with Bean that Alito would, if it came to that, provide a fifth vote to overturn Roe and Casey, although I doubt he would author an opinion urging it as Scalia has done. He will certainly vote to uphold every abortion regulation that comes to the Court. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think simply stripping all protections from the “undue burden” standard is an optimistic scenario — quite the opposite. If the Court is going to stop protecting reproductive freedom it would be better if it is done openly, preferably with Scalia writing the lead opinion denouncing the Court for having previously signed on to the “baby-killing agenda.” That Roberts–like Rehnquist–may be savvy enough to understand this is my fear, not my hope.

The McCain Paradox

[ 0 ] March 6, 2007 |

Yglesias notes that Maverick McStraightTalk “has the misfortune of being both the most conservative candidate in the race and the one most hated by conservatives.” It’s quite strange, and is one of the ways in wish the Bush personality cult will hurt the GOP going forward. It seems to me that Ramesh Ponnuru is being completely rational. For someone who cares about policy rather than sticking it to liberals, has strong cultural conservative commitments (especially on abortion, where whatever his bizarre liberal glee club would prefer to think McCain’s pro-criminalization record is as staunch as can be), and for whom fiscal conservatism is about something other than upper-class tax cuts (that will be temporary because of huge deficits), McCain is a perfectly respectable conservative, and certainly infinitely preferable to Giuliani or Romney. But he fought with Bush and made occasional gestures against Republican orthodoxy during the aftermath of the ’00 primaries, so he has no chance this year.

Another interesting thing about the electoral dynamic Matthew describes is that if Rudy or Romney get the nomination a good Democratic candidate should be able to make overturning Roethe least popular “cultural” issue the Republicans have–an albatross around the neck of the Republican candidate in the general election. Someone like Bush who was trusted by cultural reactionaries could get away with babbling about “a culture of life” and Taney Court decisions they probably don’t understand. But any of the big 3 will have to keep saying how much they hate Roe, which means that unless the Democrat is inept that should be another issue fought on friendly Democratic terrain in ’08.

After Roe?

[ 0 ] March 6, 2007 |

Jessie Hill has an interesting three-part series about potentially overturning Roe at PrawfsBlawg. [HT: Volokh Conspiracy.] The long version of what I have to say on the issue can be found in my article last summer in TAP here and my reply to Benjamin Wittes-type “letting Roe go will be good for reproductive freedom” arguments here. To give the short version:

  • The starting point for any discussion for the consequences of changing abortion law, I think, has to be the law on the ground, not the law in the books. The pre-Roe status quo ante was not that no women could get abortions, but because of arbitrary enforcement patterns affluent women had access to safe abortions and other women did not. What is at stake in abortion rights is whether poor women will have access to safe abortions.
  • I think Hill is correct that Roe is safe for now–there are still 5 votes on the record for affirming it. Even if Republicans get another appointment to replace Stevens or Ginsburg, my guess is that Alito and (especially) Roberts would prefer not to formally overturn Roe, at least right away, but would rather simply empty Casey‘s “undue burden” standard of any content. However, in some ways this is the wrong question to ask, since for advocates of reproductive freedom this is the worst of all worlds–it would be much better if Roe were directly overturned than if states were allowed to create the pre-Roe status quo ante through the back door. Keeping Roe as (to use Rehnquist’s phrase against his approach) a Potemkin precedent while removing any bite the “undue burden” standard has gets most of the policy benefit while denying the Democratic Party the political benefits of overruling Roe.
  • The question of what would happen to laws still on the books is an interesting one. I can’t believe that there would be any problems at all if there was a trigger passed by the legislature, and it’s also hard to believe that a Court that would overturn Roe would prevent states from enforcing laws on the books (particularly since getting into questions of application would raise many difficult questions for advocates of criminalized abortion.)
    It’s also important not to focus too much on the precise wording of statutes or exactly how exceptions are worded; these distinctions have very little effect in practice. Whether the statute is an outright ban or delegates the decision to panels of doctors, the effect tends to be abortion-on-demand for well-connected affluent women and severely restricted access for women who aren’t either way.

[Cross-posted at TAPPED.]

Guest Bloggers!

[ 0 ] March 5, 2007 |

Since two members of the L, G & M consortium will be in Las Vegas for the Western Political Science Association conference, this week we are pleased to announce (as you can see below) that the estimable LizardBreath of Unfogged will be making a return appearance. In addition, Thers of Whiskey Fire (and some more obscure outlets) will be favoring us with the highest levels of civiliosity. Welcome them both!

"When You Read Dowd, You’re Riding With Coulter."

[ 0 ] March 5, 2007 |

Somerby notes that Maureen Dowd that when it comes to obsessing about allegedly feminine Democrats, is essentially Coulter without the outright slurs:

But then, why should pundits criticize Coulter when she describes Dem males as big “f*ggots?” It’s very similar to the gender-based “analysis” their dauphine, the Comptesse Maureen Dowd, has long offered. In Dowd’s work, John Edwards is routinely “the Breck Girl”(five times so far—and counting), and Gore is “so feminized that he’s practically lactating.” Indeed, two days before we voted in November 2000, Dowd devoted her entire column, for the sixth time, to an imaginary conversation between Gore and his bald spot. “I feel pretty,” her headline said (pretending to quote Gore’s inner thoughts).That was the image this idiot wanted you carrying off to the voting booth with you! Such is the state of Maureen Dowd’s broken soul. And such is the state of her cohort.

And now, in the spirit of fair play and brotherhood, she is extending this type of “analysis” to Barack Obama. In the past few weeks, she has described Obama as “legally blonde” (in her headline); as “Scarlett O’Hara” (in her next column); as a “Dreamboy,” as “Obambi,” and now, in her latest absurd piece, as a “schoolboy” (text below). Do you get the feeling that Dowd may have a few race-and-gender issues floating around in her inane, tortured mind? But this sort of thing is nothing new for the comptesse. Indeed, such imagery almost defines the work of this loathsome, inane Antoinette.

Quite right. Dowd reminds me of Glenn Reynolds engaging with Andrew Sullivan:

The Ole Perfesser calls Andrew Sullivan an “excitable” “emoter-in-chief” who should write “a bit less about gay marriage.” To his credit, the Perfesser did not just up and call him a faggot, but when you have such command of schoolyard code, you don’t have to get crude.

And the difference between Dowd and Coulter, of course, is that the former is much more damaging to both Democrats and the nation’s political discourse.