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Spendifying I Don’t Like

[ 0 ] August 5, 2007 |

There are some obvious problems with, as part of the silly “Porkbusters” project, blaming “pork” for the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. But the most obvious is that providing funding for local bridge repair projects is exactly the kind of spending generally referred to a “pork” or an “earmark.” To set up an opposition between “infrastructure projects” and “pork” is just bizarre; most of the former will also be examples of the latter — they’re local projects that benefit local constituencies, even if some are also in the national interest. And as far as definitions of “pork” go, contrasts between “shiny new” projects and “unglamorous” repairs are neither here nor there; sometimes strengthening infrastructure will involve new projects, and funding local repairs is no less “pork” than funding local new bridges.

Which, of course, illustrates why the whole “Porkbusters” thing is useless. To have a generalized opposition to “earmarks” makes no sense, and if all you mean is “we shouldn’t spend money on bad projects” this is nothing but a banality that breaks down on inherently ideological questions of what spending should be prioritized, and for these questions whether spending is national or local is beside the point. If we’re skimping on badly needed infrastructure repair because of spending elsewhere, the trillion or 2 we’re spending to install an Islamist quasi-state and terrorist haven in Iraq is an infinitely bigger problem then throwing a few bucks at local museums.


[ 0 ] August 5, 2007 |

Although Matt is wrong about baseball he is right about Bonds. I’ve avoided writing about steroids because my position is “who gives a shit?” Even leaving aside the fact that nobody knows how much they improve performance in a complex, multi-dimensional sport in which skill and craft are more relevant than brute endurance (especially since pitchers can also use them), they’re a condition of the time, like improved training, nutrition, video technology, etc. etc. Claims that he’s a “cheater” are transparently specious given that to be “cheating” you have to, you know, be violating actual rules of baseball. (And if the argument is that he was violating non-baseball laws, I’ll listen to this as soon as the arguer advocates kicking Mickey Mantle and every other player who took amphetamines out of the Hall of Fame.) And it seems worth noting that even before he was accused of using steroids Bonds was a better player than Aaron was.

Once one boils off the moralism — whether motivated by a strange idea of “natural” athleticism that is obviously inappropriate to modern sports, an obsession with the Potemkin “amateurism” of the Olympics, or whatever — steroids are a straightforward question of collective action. If baseball players, or athletes in other sports, decide that they don’t want to take the health risks associated with steroids, it’s fine to ban them so users don’t get an unfair advantage. If they don’t care, neither do I; it’s their bodies and careers. There’s really nothing else to it.

Rob Neyer is correct that Ruth remains the greatest of all time, however.

Please, Sir, May I Urinate on the Bill of Rights Now?

[ 0 ] August 4, 2007 |

Above: Harry Reid (D-NV, #5)

I can’t add much (aside from an obscure reference to my favorite non-baseball team evah to cheer me up a little) to to the analysis of Le Chien Qui Parle, Lederman, Greenwald, and The Left when it comes to the abjectly disgraceful capitulation of Senate Dems. It’s not necessary for national security, I see no reason to believe that it was necessary politically, and for all intents and purposes it’s a retrospective legitimation of the Bush administration’s illegality. The six-month sunset period is, of course, a joke; if they’re willing to sell out now — after Bush stuck his thumb in their eye and reneged on a deal, yet! — they’re sure not going to develop any more backbone-like properties in an election year. It’s just an appalling abdication of constitutional responsibility; there’s nothing else one can say.

Abstinence-Only Sex Education: Still An Idiotic Boondoggle

[ 0 ] August 4, 2007 |

More evidence in the British Medical Journal.

Let’s Play Two!

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

I must admit, seeing the camera pan around Wrigley Field before the game made me wish I was at Yearly Kos (well, I wouldn’t have been at Yearly Kos now but you can see what I’m driving at.) Especially given the possibility (now unlikely to happen) of the astonishing return of Jim Brown Kerry Wood. Hell of a game, too, especially since I love watching El Duque — who even with the Yankees was a rare Yankee I Can’t Hate — pitch.

Also, Moises Alou is, shockingly, hurt again. Which reminds me that the Mets are my logical rebound team given that 2 of the 3 (assuming White and Eischen don’t come back) remaining players of my beloved 1994 Expos — team Coitus Interruptus — are now Mets. The third is playing left for the Cubs today. And, hey, Moises gets a ninth inning pinch hit single as I type, making me feel marginally less old…

The Spirtual Status of Skimming Off The Top

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Ah, I believe we would have here our wanker of the day. I also note that 1)the money made by hedge fund managers is clearly compensation not capital gains, and 2)taxing capital gains at lower rates is stupid anyway. Oh, and hedge funds are on average irrational investments:

With the help of a graduate student, Helder Palaro, Kat also undertook a larger study, in which he examined more than nineteen hundred funds. The results, which Kat and Palaro posted online as a working paper last year, showed that only eighteen per cent of the funds outperformed their benchmarks, and returns even at the most successful funds tended to decline over time. “Our research has shown that in at least eighty per cent of cases the after-fee alpha for hedge funds is negative,” Kat told me. “They are charging more than they are adding. I’m not saying they don’t have skill; I’m just saying they don’t have enough skill to make up for two and twenty [hedge fund managers get 2% of the investment and 20% of profits].”

When you consider that hedge funds are also much riskier than the typical investment fund, that’s pretty awful. But it’s not surprising; the more hedge funds the are, the fewer opportunities for successful arbitrage.

Language and the Ocean City Stillbirth Case

[ 0 ] August 3, 2007 |

Following up on Bean’s excellent analysis from earlier this week, Lindsay notes the shifts in language in the way the story was covered, and brings us to the obvious bottom line: “Hoarding self-aborted fetuses is creepy as all hell, but it’s not a crime in Maryland.”

My question: if possessing a fetus after a stillbirth is murder, shouldn’t Rick Santorum be doing 25-to-life right now?

…via a commenter, the prosecutors have dropped the arbitrary indictment and now have a real charge.

And This Month’s Vichy Democrat Award Goes To…

[ 1 ] August 2, 2007 |

Diane Feinstein, who cast the key vote to let arch-reactionary Leslie Southwick out of the Judiciary Committee. Apparently, she saw the Roberts Court’s first term, liked what she saw, and figured that the federal courts could use yet another neoconfederate judge. This would be one thing if it was a Southern Democrat, as opposed to someone in a safe-as-milk seat in one of the most liberal states in the country. Well played! Not that this is shocking; she’s been an appalling wet for a long time. California really needs to get two Democrats in the Senate at some point.

No Glass Here

[ 0 ] August 2, 2007 |

Showing how much my instincts can be trusted, the “Scott Thomas” story turns out to have been solid, with the only demonstrable error a trivial detail irrelevant to the main thrust to the story. For the punchline, one of his primary critics seems to have his own credibility issues

Anti-Choicers: Women Not Rational Moral Agents

[ 6 ] August 2, 2007 |

This column by Anna Quindlen has generated some discussion among the “pro-lifers” at The Corner. As I’ve been through in detail before, the idea that abortion can be a serious violent crime against a human life but that the women who are primarily responsible for obtaining them should face less legal sanctions than jaywalkers is a transparently irrational and incoherent position. And yet, the director of the Pro-Life Action league says “That is the way it has always been in this country. That the way it will most likely be when abortion is once more illegal,” therefore giving away the show. A few responses to individual arguments:

  • Needless to say, we get the classic paternalistic sexism expressed by Kennedy in Carhart: “[t]he woman is also the victim.” Or, in other words, women who willingly decide to commit acts that pro-lifers consider serious violent crimes are not rational, moral agents who can be held responsible for their actions. I think my favorite example in the genre is Patterico’s claim that women shouldn’t be punished because “these women are often more pathetic and desperate than the doctors.” Needless to say, if we can’t apply criminal sanctions against classes of individuals who can plausibly be described as tending to be “pathetic or desperate,” Patterico (a prosecutor) would be out of a job. This doesn’t make a shred of sense, and doesn’t represent a principle that conservatives would apply to any other area of criminal law. As the pro-life operative inadvertently reminds us, this idea that women who initiate the process of getting abortions are “victims” who cannot be held responsible for their actions is an anachronism from the time in which women couldn’t vote, practice law, etc, etc.
  • There’s an additional problem here, which is that under this statutory scheme, self-abortions cannot be punished. Again, if one takes the only legitimate reason for banning abortion (to protect fetal life, which is enough like a baby to justify the state using coercion to force women to bear the health and life burdens of carrying a pregnancy to term) this makes no sense at all.
  • Ramesh Ponnuru tries to make a pragmatic argument: “[t]he crucial legal goal of the pro-life movement is not any particular set of punishments. It is that unborn children be protected in law.” This argument fails for a number of reasons. First, again, I very much doubt that Ponnuru is willing to consistently apply the principle that deterrence is the only reason for criminal sanctions to any other area of law. But more importantly, he writes as if the question of whether only punishing doctors could prevent most abortions is hypothetical, when if fact we have extensive historical evidence that it will not work; wealthy women had consistent access to safe grey market abortions under such schemes, and poor women generally went to the black market or self-aborted. The fact that obtaining information and technology to perform self-abortions has become easier makes it even less likely that such schemes will work to substantially protect fetal life, although they will succeed in killing or maiming some of the women who are allegedly “victims” supporters of forced pregnancy are seeking to protect.
  • Which brings us to the one defensible argument Ponnuru makes: his premises, or at least some versions of them, “do not even require (or preclude) criminal penalties for the abortionist.” One can, it’s true, have pro-life moral premises that stop short of claiming that a fetus is like a baby and conclude that criminalizing abortion makes no sense because it’s a highly ineffective way of protecting fetal life that also entails gross inequities and negative effects on the health of poor women who seek abortions. (Although this is obviously not true of arguments that consider fetuses legal persons, for example.) Somehow, I doubt that this is the conclusion he’s likely to reach. At any rate, while “pro-life” moral premises do not require criminalization, it remains completely irrational to exclude women who obtain abortions from criminal punishment altogether while punishing doctors.

It’s very straightforward:”pro-lifers” who believe that women should not face any legal sanctions for obtaining abortions that are otherwise criminalized 1)don’t take their own underlying moral premises seriously or 2)don’t consider women moral decision-makers responsible for their actions. There is no third option.

[Also at TAPPED.]

The One And Only Social Problem That Merits Complaint About "Political Correctness"

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

Bernie Brewer no longer slides into a mug of beer after a homer (even a Prince Fielder homer!), but just…goes down a slide at the kiddie park behind the bullpens or something. Appalling. What’s next, replacing the sausage races with celery stick races? Is nothing sacred!?!?!?!?!?!? Gorman Thomas must be rolling around is his future grave.

Meanwhile, I just heard that the Mets are starting Brian “Merry Christmas, Mr.” Lawrence tomorrow. If 2001 ever comes back, that’ll work out great.

…Jesus Christ, the White Sox are pathetic. I’d give the Nationals’ Triple-A team a better shot to keep a game with the Yankees competitive for 5 innings. It’s kind of amazing that this team won the World Series two years ago with fairly similar personnel….

sweet. That game was almost too good, but what the hell.

Retroactive Justification

[ 0 ] August 1, 2007 |

Since one fan sez that the last Harry Potter book sucks I was clearly correct never to read any of them! Whew.

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