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A 2008 Vanity Campaign From the Right?

[ 0 ] October 18, 2007 |

I’m still unconvinced.

Defending the Indefensible

[ 0 ] October 18, 2007 |

Ross Douthat tries to defend ineffective and inequitable abortion criminalization policies:

Whereas we know that when abortion was legalized in America in the early 1970s, the abortion rate went up dramatically; we also know that Western Europe, which has lower abortion rates than the U.S., also has (somewhat) more restrictive abortion laws. Which suggests if you’re serious about reducing the abortion rate in America (as opposed to taking the “more abortion is a good thing” line that Matt espouses), the Edelstein-Saletan answer is something of a cop-out; if some kind of restriction isn’t on the table, you probably aren’t going to get very far.

A few obvious problems here:

  • First of all, the comparative analysis cuts both ways. Since Western Europe also for the most part lacks powerful movements dedicated to opposing rational sex education and access to contraception for unmarried people and also has a stronger safety net (making it easier for poor women to bear children), its lower abortion rates don’t answer the dispute here; they’re just as consistent with the thesis that these policies lower abortion rates more than criminalization. Douthat also ignores Latin America, which has pretty much the exact mix of policies favored by most American anti-choicers (abortion bans, reactionary sexual and gender mores, threadbare safety net) and also has sky-high abortion rates.
  • Douthat also makes the common error of conflating the quantity of formal restrictions on abortion with access to abortion. Since most European abortion restrictions are either similar to ones on the books in most American states or affect only the tiny fraction of late term abortions, the assumption that European women have less access to abortion than American women on the ground is highly problematic. Moreover, of the common non-ban regulations the most important is denying funding for poor women — which is available in most of Europe and not in most American states. And finally, Canada — which has almost entirely unregulated and state funded abortions — also has lower abortion rates than the United States; the same is true of the Netherlands, which effectively has state-funded abortion on demand (unless you consider showing a “state of distress” after 12 weeks is a difficult standard) for pre-viability abortions. This suggests again that the level of abortion regulation has fairly marginal effects on abortion rates.
  • Finally, Douthat entirely ignores the key implications of the study. How could the marginal-at-best reductions in abortion rates possibly justify the arbitrary enforcement, grossly inequitable effects, and the great harm caused to women that are all endemic to the legal regimes Douthat advocates? Like most anti-choicers, Douthat simply hides under the table when the question comes up.

Yeah, Surrrrrrre…

[ 0 ] October 18, 2007 |

For those unclear on the concept of bluffing, here’s Brian Cashman:

But yesterday after meeting with the three Steinbrenners and other members of the Yankees brain trust, Cashman said the team absolutely does not plan to negotiate with Rodriguez if he opts out. Another source familiar with talks told Newsday the Steinbrenners are absolutely onboard with that.

“Yes, I can affirm that,” Cashman said. “If Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract, we will not participate in his free agency. That is accurate and that is definitive.”

[5 second pause, entirely for effect] “I re-raise.”

This has been in a lesson in “transparently non-credible bluffing.”

Gender Discrimination and Mukasey

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

An interesting catch from today’s hearings from Emily Bazelon.

The "Pro-life" Culture of Death

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

Bush’s new nominee to oversee family planning programs doesn’t like contraception; no surprise there. Ann notes that “pro-lifers” don’t really see anything in it for them if middle-class families have health insurance for their children. After explaining the deadly consequences of the new abortion ban in Nicaragua, Jill sums up:

In the meantime, countries with the most “pro-life” laws have higher abortion rates than the Western European countries with the most liberal abortion laws in the world. A large part of the difference is contraception — Eastern Europe has seen a 50 percent decrease in its abortion rate since contraception became more widely available post-Communism. And yet contraception is something else that mainstream anti-choice groups oppose.

Yes, you read that right: Mainstream “pro-life” organizations are opposed to contraception as well as abortion. They’re just keeping quiet about it because they know it’s an unpopular position, and they know it outs them as hypocrites who put ideology over human life. But the fact remains that none of the well-known and influential national anti-choice groups have come out in support of contraception access. None of them promote the very thing that has been proven, time and again, to lower the abortion rate.

What do they promote? Abstinence until marriage and embracing pregnancy and childbirth. (Apparently, no married woman has ever wanted an abortion or experienced pregnancy-related complications). Other than that, anti-choice groups offer no real alternative to women who don’t want to be pregnant, or women who don’t have a choice to say no to sex, or women whose pregnancies threaten their life or their health. They offer no solution to the problem that kills nearly 70,000 women every year, other than “don’t have sex outside of marriage; only have sex if you’re willing to give birth; and abortion is wrong, don’t have one.”

That isn’t working. It has never worked.


So far, “pro-life” groups have been non-responsive to the dead bodies in their wake. They are, however, mobilizing around the world to spread policies like Nicaragua’s far and wide. They are actively seeking to outlaw abortion in the United States, and in the meantime trying to limit access to it. Right now they’re in Aurora, Illinois, opposing Planned Parenthood. They’re also the base of a Republican party that regularly launches assaults at children and families. The right-wing opposition to children’s health care is just the start; 100 percent of the country’s worst legislators for children are “pro-life.” The global gag rule, which cuts off U.S. funding to any NGO that so much as mentions the world “abortion,” ends up de-funding health clinics that provide contraception, condoms and HIV prevention. As much as anti-choice leaders claim to value life and dislike abortion, their actions don’t back it up.

Dead sluts would seem to be the price the forced pregnancy lobby is willing to pay for…whatever it is that abortion criminalization is supposed to accomplish. Even “Feminists [sic] For Life [sic]” take no position on contraception other than to express concern “that certain forms of contraception have had adverse health effects on women.” To state the obvious, any position that expresses concern for fetal life while being indifferent to or actively opposing policies meant to reduce unwanted pregnancies is a complete fraud.

The Effect of Abortion Criminalization

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

In response to Matt here, let’s go back and see what I actually wrote about the new WHO study:

If the goal of abortion is to protect fetal life, criminalization is at best an ineffective and grossly inequitable means of achieving this goal, and the bundle of policies favoring reproductive freedom (including legal abortion) generally produces lower abortion rates than the illegal abortion-no rational sex ed-limited access to contraception-threadbare welfare state usually favored by the American forced pregnancy lobby.

It is, of course, true that the fact that countries that criminalize abortion have higher abortion rates doesn’t mean that the criminalization itself causes these high rates, and indeed it’s almost certainly true that ceteris paribus criminalization lowers abortion rates; I didn’t say otherwise. My points, however, are that 1)significant numbers of abortions will be performed under legal regime, since affluent women will almost always have access to safe abortions and some poor women will resort to unsafe illegal abortions, and 2)in practice, all things are almost never equal; abortion criminalization is almost always accompanied by other reactionary policies that swamp whatever inhibiting effects the bans have. What effect abortion criminalization would have in some hypothetical society with a strong commitment to women’s equality that happened to have a de facto commitment to fetal life that is rarely evident when push comes to shove even in societies that ban abortion is pretty much a pointless parlor game. If you want to consider marginal reductions in abortion rates that are reversed by the other policies that almost inevitably come with abortion bans in the real world and are obtained at the price of considerable negative externalities and arbitrary enforcement an “accomplishment,” I guess you can; I don’t.

On the normative point, as long time readers will know I don’t consider increasing abortion rates a moral problem and consider the sexual liberation that comes from legal abortion (and access to contraception) a feature, not a bug. (I do think that lower abortion rates that come from preventing unwanted pregnancies rather than restricting abortion access a good thing; I think that most women would prefer not to become pregnant in the first place than go through the expense and small risk of an abortion even if, like me, you consider pre-viability abortions morally neutral.) I don’t think this means, however, we should ignore the fact that “pro-life” policies are indefensible failures even if you accept “pro-life” premises. It strikes me that these arguments are a lot more likely to convince people who are ambivalent on the issue than making normative arguments about the a priori moral status of abortion.

"This May Surprise You, but Manny Ramirez Creates More Runs Than Coco Crisp!"

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

On Saturday, Tom McCarver treated the most obvious banality as if he’d just split the atom; he can’t help it, he’s Tim McCarver. What’s amazing is that he considered it so earth-shattering he needed to share it again!

10:05: I might not be able to describe what McCarver just told us without you thinking I made it up, but let’s try: Over the span of 45 seconds, he just explained that a leadoff home run leads to more multi-run innings than a leadoff walk, only he made it sound like this was some sort of remarkable revelation or something. Did we just watch a sketch for Joe Buck’s late-night show? That just happened, right?

(Rewinding game on TiVo.)

10:06: Yup, it just happened. So if you’re keeping track at home, multi-run innings happen more often when they’re started off by a home run instead of a walk. Thank you, Tim McCarver. Meanwhile, Delcarmen just gave up a Lofton single, a stolen base and a pop-up RBI single to Casey Blake Niedermayer. 7-0, Indians. We’re getting close to a Gagne appearance that might be acceptable under the ground rules established at the top of this column.

Yes–homeruns lead to more runs than walks; I”m as shocked as you are. I guess the idea that this is a revalation is an adjunct to the favorite broadcaster/sportswriter idiocy, that if you’re down multiple runs homeruns are “rally-killers.”

As Simmons also notes, all the more tragic is the opportunity that TBS had. First of all, no Tim McCarver. Their camerawork was less sophisticated but also less annoying; many fewer nostril shots, plugs for network stars, etc. I wish they had kept Darling for the NLCS, but Gywnn and Brenly were tolerable. But Chip Caray — wow. He’s the best argument against nepotism since Adam Bellow edited Liberal Fascism, if not Kiefer Sutherland.

"Theft of Services?"

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Because we didn’t do any political posts yesterday, so I didn’t get a chance to blog about the judge who seems to imply that once you’ve arranged to have sex for money consent can never be withdrawn and rape is impossible. (See also here and here.) Particularly remarkable is the judge’s apparent endorsement of the Bill Napoli “real rape” theory:

“Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?” Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop.

“I thought rape was a terrible trauma.”

A case like this, she said – to my astonishment – “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

Yes, a judge in 2007 still seems to think that merely being forced at gunpoint to have sex without your consent doesn’t qualify as “real rape.” What can one even say to this? I’m reminded of the Canadian judge who argued that an assault victim couldn’t have been a victim because she didn’t “present herself” in a “bonnet and crinolines…” I fear for the time in which a dismisses a rape charge because what happened was merely “gray rape…”

Stop Rudy

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Like Matt, I think JMM gets this exactly right:

I know I’ve said before that Romney’s profound and almost incalculable phoniness is a terrifying prospect to behold in a possible president. But the danger of phoniness, aesthetic or otherwise, cannot hold a candle to the truly catastrophic foreign policy Giuliani would likely pursue if he got anywhere near the Oval Office. Watching him campaign it’s pretty clear that the guy has no real sense that posturing and pandering to ethnic paranoia in New York City simply isn’t the same as running a national foreign policy. The people he’s coalescing around himself as his foreign policy advisors are the ones who are going to help him learn as he goes. And they are simply the most dangerous, deranged and deluded folks you can find in American political and foreign policy circles today. It’s really not an exaggeration. Scrape the bottom of the “Global War on Terror” Islamofascism nutbasket and you find they’ve pretty much all signed on as Rudy advisors.

First, you have the fact that choosing to be advised by people like Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz in the first place shows in itself that Giuliani lacks the requisite judgment to be President, sort of like pushing your mobbed-up police chief to head the Department to Homeland Security. And then, were he to become President these crackpots would actually be advising a President with little knowledge or experience in the field, which would be terrifying.

Matthew Duss offers a full rundown in the Prospect about Giuliani’s prospective war cabinet. If you want to spend enormous amounts of money and kill millions of people in service of policies that will be counterproductive for both democracy and American national security then Rudy’s your man. It’s also more than a little scary that in the primaries his lunatic foreign policy positions are his selling point; to the extent that he remains something of a longshot to win the GOP nomination, it’s almost entirely because of his uncharacteristically rational positions on abortion and gay rights.

Florence Welsh, 1917-2007

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

My mother’s mother — my only surviving grandparent — passed away earlier today. It’s very sad, but as the cliche goes probably for the best. The last time I saw her in January she no longer recognized me, and she had effectively stopped eating for two weeks. The last years of her life were in large measure sad and (by choice) lonely, and I hope she’s found peace.

My mother asked me today if I remembered when she was happy, and I do; I still remember visiting her in a small town in Saskatchewan, helping her pick peas from the garden or playing cribbage or 500. In the end, I hope everyone who knew her will remember her that way. I know my mother remembers that her sacrifices were enormous; growing up on a small farm with a fairly harsh climate and no running water, her parents worked to send her boarding school and university, at a time in which neglecting a girl’s education in particular wouldn’t have been unusual. I know that whatever my sister and I achieve will be an indirect product of that. R.I.P.

GOP Values!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Roger takes a closer look. One has to agree with his bottom line about the “Value Voters” summit: “Attendees would be well advised to leave their wallets in their hotel rooms and their children in another state.”

Coming Soon To An Op-Ed Page Near You!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Our “new” troll Fred Jones “unhinged liberal” has managed to distill every idiotic argument commonly seen about anti-Roe countermobilization into one comment! Just for fun, let’s go through every fallacy one at a time:

Issues that are decided in this manner do us no good because the decisions are not accepted by the governed. It’s been 34 years and we are still struggling with this. Quality of decision matters.

Roe, has, of course, been accepted by a strong majority of the governed. But more to the point, the idea that the quality of legal reasoning has anything to do with the reaction to Roe is absurd. (Anybody remember the massive Republican outrage about Bush v. Gore, which makes Roe look like a masterpiece of legal reasoning? Must have missed that.) First of all, nobody without a professional obligation reads Supreme Court opinions. And second, Roe if anything, polls better than the underlying position of legal pre-viability abortions, which is the opposite of what one would predict if the poor reasoning of Roe had the slightest relevance to its public reaction. Roe could have been better argued, but the outcome of the case was plausible, and in any case the quality of Blackmun’s opinion is irrelevant to whether or not it will endure.

Now, just think if this decision had involved the governed such as going through a democratic process. Maybe a referendum….maybe a Senate bill. Win or lose, people would accept the decision more as a legitimate one and chances are we wouldn’t be still doing this.

This would be plausible…if you knew nothing about politics or what abortion politics looked like before Roe. Rather than accepting abortion liberalization, the forced pregnancy lobby got the legislatures of New York and Pennsylvania to pass bills re-criminalizing abortion, which had to be vetoed. The idea that abortion would cease to become a salient issue if the courts would just stop protecting reproductive rights at all and turn everything over to Congress and 50 state legislatures is transparently ridiculous. Abortion is a major issue because there’s a major constituency in this country to punish (poor) women who choose to get abortions and get uppity about their proper place in society; what institution resolves the issue is irrelevant. If Roe were overturned, the issue would still be a major part of politics, except that many states would then have abortion bans, contrary to long-standing privacy and gender equality precedents, which would do very little to protect fetal life and a great deal to endanger women’s health.

Also, like it or not judicial review is a part of the American “democratic process.”

What does it say about the pro-abortion people if they don’t trust the people to make the right choice? It says they think they might be in the minority and can’t take the chance.

Actually, for those of us whose knowledge of politics doesn’t come entirely from bad 5th Grade civics textbooks, it means that 1)we understand that American legislatures are not consistently majoritarian in either theory or practice, 2)the de facto exemption affluent women inevitably have from aboriton bans skew legislative outcomes even more strongly towards the forced pregnancy minority, and 3)fundamental individual rights should not subject to unlimited legislative control in any case.

My question: when does a slightly longer version of this comment show up in Slate?

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