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The Man With The Golden Glove

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Nice to see Derek Jeter get not only the usual single on a ball hit a couple steps to his left but a throwing error in on Opening Day (alas, the sound wasn’t working on my machine so I couldn’t hear if Kay tried to pin the error on Phelps.) And Slappy misplaying a foul popup to go along with his clutch K in the first. If only the Devil Rays had a bullpen…

…Shawn Camp, Christ. I give this lead about two batters.

Abortion Criminalization on the Ground

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Mexico City is on the verge of decriminalizing abortion. The New York Times story on it is really first-rate. What I like about it is that it makes clear what the effects of the abortion ban are, and women will have large numbers of abortions even under conditions of formal illegality:

Dominated by liberals, Mexico City’s legislature is expected to legalize abortion in a few weeks. The bill would make this city one of the largest entities in Latin America to break with a long tradition of women resorting to illegal clinics and midwives to end unwanted pregnancies.


Leftists and feminists, meanwhile, have accused opponents of turning a blind eye to reality. They say millions of women here, and indeed throughout much of Latin America, already ignore the law and choose to abort fetuses, often in dingy underground clinics or the private homes of midwives. They risk infection, sterility and sometimes death.

“Women are dying, above all poor women, because of unsafe abortions,” said María Consuelo Mejía, the director of Catholics for the Right to Decide. “What we would like is that these women never have to confront the necessity of an abortion, but in this society it’s impossible right now. There is no access to information, to contraceptives. Nor do most women have the power to negotiate the use of contraceptives with their partners.”

The key question of abortion policy is always not whether women will get abortions, but whether non-affluent women will have access to safe abortions. It’s strongly in the interests of the forced pregnancy lobby to ignore this reality, because once you do take it into account abortion criminalization is essentially indefensible.

Another interesting aspect of the article is the reaction of pro-criminalization elites: “[Calderon's] health minister and other surrogates in the conservative National Action Party, however, are in the thick of it. They have proposed streamlining adoption laws, improving sex education and providing subsidies to unwed mothers as alternatives.” This makes them more serious than most of their American counterparts, at least. But I would ask the same question I would of “Feminists For Life”: if you favor these things, what’s stopping you? Why are they merely “alternatives,” particularly given what an ineffective tool criminalization is when it comes to preventing abortions? And, again, the answer is that American criminalization regimes are about a lot more than protecting fetal life.

The Blogroll Issue

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Lauren links to this argument about the “purging” of blogrolls by A-List bloggers. While I agree that there are plenty of good bloggers who get less traffic than (I think) they deserve and who I wish got more links, I’m not really sure about these kinds of arguments in general.

First, I think it’s worth noting how small the stakes are here. As it happens, we were “purged” from the mighty Eschaton blogroll during the “amnesty.” As far as I can tell–and I’m not obsessive about sitemeter numbers, but I do try to check and see if any posts are generating traffic periodically–the effect on traffic is very small. Atrios links certainly have a major impact (not just immediately but in adding new readers), but he’s linked to us several times after removing us from his blogroll, so I don’t see that it’s made much difference. Not being on someone’s blogroll won’t stop someone from linking to a post they find interesting. (FWIW, Atrios has also kept or added a significant number of blogs that get comparable or less traffic than us; I don’t see any reason to believe that there’s some systematic effort to exclude smaller blogs.) In addition, the only blogrolls we’ve gotten significant traffic from are Yglesias’ and Wolcott’s, which generate disproportionate traffic because they’re selective. The goal of more comprehensive blogrolls just means that they won’t generate more than negligible traffic, and if for some reason you care about it they can’t really confer status either.

None of this is to be against comprehensive blogrolls, per se; I’m glad that people like Shakes compile them so I can check out something I might not otherwise read. I guess what I’m arguing for is idiosyncrasy. Link to blogs and posts you like; maintain the blogroll you think is appropriate. I link much more to longer, wonkier posts and much less to activist blogs because that’s what I read and blog about. I share Chris’ disappointment that blogs with more detailed content are less popular. But I’m not crazy about the idea that blogrolls (or systematic linkage) should reflect highly self-conscious patterns of what people think they should be doing. It’s true that I’ve seen more conservative blogs try to do more of this; in my judgment, most of these blogs are also terrible. Blogroll what you read or what you’d particularly like to bring attention to — I think it’s that simple. And the composition of blogrolls isn’t any kind of matter of justice.


[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

Ah, only 2 and a half innings into Opening Day Night, and Tony LaRussa, Super Genius (TM) throws out the first wankoff “look at me! I’m ever so clever!” strategery of the season. A suicide squeeze down 2-0 in the 3rd inning? What the hell? Well, it was certainly consistent with my rooting interests, so more power to him.

Slick Willey

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

In the wake of the discussion of the smears of Bill Clinton and Jessica Valenti I allude to below, debate about Clinton has resumed in some comments sections. What drives me crazy is that many liberal commenters seem to take various Clinton Tall Tales at face value, accepting that he’s a “sexual predator” but merely quibbling over the severity of the incidents. Whatever the ethical problems involved, the consensual Lewinsky scandal could not come close to justifying this label. The key to those arguing that Clinton is guilty of some kind of actual assault, then, is Kathleen Willey, and many comments sections have rolled over and played dead when apologists for Althouse and the rest of the Clinton Smear Machine have brought her up.

The problem? Her story was so strikingly lacking in credibility that Ken Starr’s office wouldn’t move forward with it. Josh Marshall:

But Willey didn’t merely hurt Clinton. It was also on her say-so, and to sustain her credibility, that the OIC pursued a merciless prosecution against Julie Hiatt Steele, one of the bit players in the Lewinsky saga, but one of the most damaged. Steele was a onetime friend of Willey’s who first said Willey had confided in her about the groping incident shortly after it happened. Steele later recanted this story and told the grand jury that Willey had put her up to it — testimony that won her an indictment from the OIC for obstruction of justice and a series of bizarre side investigations into matters as far afield as the legality of the adoption of her daughter. (The case ended in a mistrial in May 1999.)

So how credible is Kathleen Willey? Apparently, not very credible at all. And that’s not the word from some Clinton lapdog, but from the OIC itself. Appendix B of Ray’s report analyzes Willey’s accusations and concludes, rather hermetically, that “there was insufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton’s testimony regarding Kathleen Willey was false.” But that conclusion is a comic understatement when read in the context of the report’s Appendix B. The OIC lawyers couldn’t even convince themselves that Willey was credible, let alone prove it beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. They had already concluded that Willey was a liar.

For instance, as Appendix B explains, Willey’s testimony in the Jones suit differed from what she told the Lewinsky grand jury. It was contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses friendly to the OIC. And, most damning, during the period when Willey was cooperating with the OIC under an immunity agreement, the OIC caught her in a lie about her relationship with a former boyfriend. (As the report phrases it, with oblique understatement, “Following Willey’s acknowledgment [of the lie], the Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements in this regard.”)

In other words, the OIC did not opt to forego prosecution of President Clinton on the Willey front because it could not prove Willey’s credibility to a jury: They themselves believed she was not a credible witness. That makes you wonder why the OIC lawyers pursued their case against Julie Hiatt Steele based purely on Willey’s word. And if the OIC now thinks Willey isn’t credible, why didn’t this get a bit more play in the press? (And should we wait around, in Part 2 of the report, for an apology to Julie Hiatt Steele?)

See also Bob Somerby. Can we know, to an absolute certainty, that Clinton didn’t “grope” Willey without her consent? No. But to assert her story as simple fact is ridiculous. I mean, if Ken Starr won’t go forward with it, I think you have to presume Clinton innocent. Same thing with Paula Jones; unlike Lewinsky, that would be a serious case of sexual harassment, except that the case was thrown out of court. The evidence that Bill Clinton is a sexual predator, in other words, is scant at best. Liberals really need to stop accepting right-wing smear narratives as proven fact.

Rumsfeld Speaks!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

The TD gets an exclusive

She’s Engaging In Shameless Revisionism. Just Ask Her!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

Sorry to return to this, but I found it while researching something else and it’s too good to pass up. Althouse, you may recall, has justified her unprovoked rage at GFR by claiming that she was merely engaging in a sober political discussion about feminism and Bill Clinton, and liberals who claim that she was engaging in personal attacks are being horribly, horribly unfair to her, and even worse is when they label her very serious political arguments the “Jessica Valenti breast controversy,” which is a grievous insult. Evidently, it’s not exactly news that her rationalizations are utter nonsense. But I now call to the witness stand…Ann Althouse:

No, you’ve mischaracterized the original post, which mocked the bloggers for effusing over Clinton. A commenter made a wisecrack about Monica Lewinsky. The person you refer to as “woman with the rack” showed up in the comments to refocus things on her, at which point, I decided to write a post making fun of her for sort of unwittingly and indirectly claiming to be good-looking.

To write the post, I visited her blog and saw that it was loaded with breast images! She was a total breast-blogger! How is that not hilarious? I then made fun of her ridiculous hypocrisy.

Well, I think that’s settled.

Comparative Evidence of Idiocy

[ 0 ] March 31, 2007 |

I’ve always thought skipping the 13th floor (although calling it “12A” rather than skipping it is a new one on me) has always been among the starkest evidence about the number of extremely stupid and irrational people a country has. I’m still not sure if it’s worse than the fact that astrology columns appear in major newspapers, though…

"Before you could say Eric Keroack you’d turn your back and I’d be gone."

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

The anti-contraception wingnut appointed to oversee the nation’s birth control policy has resigned. Lots of interesting stuff at the link about Keroack’s rather fishy medical practice. Also, there’s a good reminder of this story about the scientifically inaccurate propaganda distributed at his “crisis pregnancy centers”:

A Woman’s Concern promotes itself to pregnant women considering abortion as a “pregnancy health center designed just for you.” Nowhere does the center reveal that its real mission is to dissuade women from abortion.

The center staff told our volunteer misinformation and lies about abortion. Counselors provided gruesome exaggerated details of an abortion procedure – including a description of “prying” open her cervix to get the “bigger baby out” because her pregnancy was past the first trimester. Our volunteer was also told gross exaggerations about the risks associated with RU-486 (the abortion pill), including hemorrhaging and ineffectiveness.

Counselors further made false assertions about the mental health effects of abortion –including telling our volunteer that she would likely have severe depression as a result of her abortion and that this was a common occurrence. Such assertions about “post-abortion syndrome” are not supported by the weight of scientific evidence, nor recognized by major psychiatric associations.

A Woman’s Concern also provided our volunteer with pamphlets containing information falsely linking abortion to a risk of breast cancer. This long-time anti-abortion myth has been repeatedly discredited. Other pamphlets in the center’s waiting room likewise contained disinformation about condoms and sexually transmitted infections, and were often seriously outdated.

A Woman’s Concern adopts an air of medical authority but in actuality it fails to provide accurate information or legitimate medical services of use to any woman.

Good riddance.

The Moderate Senator…Who Terrorized Chris Matthews!

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

It is quite remarkable how obsessed Chris Matthews, remains with Bill Clinton’s sex life. (Why the adultery of Hillary Clinton’s husband is a major campaign issue while we can be free to swoon over Republican adulterers, some of whom actively humiliate their exes, remains unclear. Although one prominent law professor does claim that Hillary’s campaign events are being used as fronts for Bill to meet women — I’m sure Matthews will be discussing that soon.) Needless to say, this is just one dimension to his exceptionally creepy misogyny. Bob Somerby finds Matthews engaging in the following sober analysis, in language that occasionally bears resemblances to English:

You know, somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean, I think there might be a giant, green, ugly, horny monster. A gigantic, gigantic monster of anti-Hillary, and anti-woman Hillary, anti-liberal woman Hillary, some real ferocious beast out there that says no matter what happens between now and Election Day, they’re not going to let her win. Men, some women, are just not going to let this woman, this woman win the presidency. I don’t know whether that monster’s out there. All men I meet are afraid to talk like that. You only hear criticism of Hillary from smart, college-educated women. They’re the ones that always have a problem with her now.

[Count Floyd] Vasn’t That Scarrrrry! [/Count Floyd] I know I can’t have a conversation with a smart, college-educated women without her expressing abject terror about Hillary Clinton winning the presidency either! I’m assuming they all really like the idea of the Straight Talk Express running into town to invade their uterus, though.

The Crucial Question

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

Fred Thompson scares me in the general more than Matt if he could secure the nomination. (I think Giuliani is a poor general election candidate — he largely takes social issues of the table, which won’t be good for the GOP in a lot of swing states, and paradoxically his lengthy record of social liberalism means that he will have to make more specific claims about the unpopular goal of overturning Roe more generic reactionaries like Bush had to.) On the other hand, I think it’s important to consider that campaign restrictions may result in his Law & Order reruns being taken off the air, which is a major social good. It would be one step toward returning to the golden age of L&O reruns, when the crappy new episodes were relegated to TNT where they could be easily avoided while the good old ones were on A&E. Has someone asked Dianne Wiest about running for the Senate somewhere?

But If We Make Access to the Ballot Easier, Democratic Unicorns Will Steal Our Elections!

[ 0 ] March 29, 2007 |

A really terrific piece by Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt about the GOP’s vote fraud fraud. The scam is advanced by the common method of “generalizing from apocryphal anecdotes”:

Allegations of voter fraud — someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote — have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously “found” a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.

Before and after every close election, politicians and pundits proclaim: The dead are voting, foreigners are voting, people are voting twice. On closer examination, though, most such allegations don’t pan out. Consider a list of supposedly dead voters in Upstate New York that was much touted last October. Where reporters looked into names on the list, it turned out that the voters were, to quote Monty Python, “not dead yet.”

Or consider Washington state, where McKay closely watched the photo-finish gubernatorial election of 2004. A challenge to ostensibly noncitizen voters was lodged in April 2005 on the questionable basis of “foreign-sounding names.” After an election there last year in which more than 2 million votes were cast, following much controversy, only one ballot ended up under suspicion for double-voting. That makes sense. A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike.

Yet the stories have taken on the character of urban myth.

And not only does the grossly exaggerated problem of voter fraud detract attention from the really serious problems with voting in this country, such as unreliable voting machines that vary across districts, insufficiently staffed vote booths, etc.–these urban legends are used to actually oppose efforts to make it easier to vote, as it is in most liberal democracies (which don’t seem to have problems running fair elections.)

…see LizardBreath as well.