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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.

And She Rubbed The Pot Roast All Over Her Chest

[ 0 ] March 29, 2007 |

In addition to explaining the rather obvious problems with the claim that asking a question about the “Jessica Valenti breast controversy” is beyond the pale (“Ann then says that “It was character assassinating to talk about it like that.” Now, maybe I’m slow, but as far as I remember, Ann wrote a post about about Jessica’s breasts. The post was entitled “Let’s take a closer look at those breasts.” In the post, she refers to Feministing as a “breast blog.” Lots of comments ensued. Lots of other blogs picked up the post, and many were critical of Althouse. In other words, there was a controversy.”), Jill gives us the perfect summary of the YouTube meltdown:

Which is one of the reasons that I don’t like Ann Althouse, so I don’t think Garance was all that far off. Well, Ann did not like that answer, and proceeds to completely flip her shit. You really have to watch it to understand. She starts yelling at Garance and shaking her finger, and tells her that “I don’t accept your saying the Jessica Valenti breast controversy. I consider that an insult. — You know, I’m on the verge of hanging up with you for bringing it up that way.”

The look on Garance’s face is priceless. It’s the same look that I probably had when a little girl I was nannying for decided to pee on the floor to get my attention.

Admittedly, for the analogy to be perfect the girl Jill was nannying for would have then berated Jill for assassinating her character by discussing the puddle on the floor rather than assessing the theories about Bill Clinton’s murder of Vince Foster she was expounding at the time of the incident, but close enough to be the last word.

[Video by Chris Clarke.]

no comment.

More On Quebec Nationalism and Secessionism

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

I can once again outsource follow-up commentary to Jacob Levy, whose views and experiences are similar to my own (although mine might be more intense since I was there during the last referendum. You might think that teaching Canadian politics would present few challenges other than keeping students awake, but mine got into a fistfight in the library elevator. And his are expressed in much better prose.) After some good stuff about the desirability of “normal politics” in Quebec, Jacob commented in the earlier thread:

I’ve been amazed at how much my basic indifference to Quebec secession (two liberal democracies or one, what’s the difference?) has transformed into (stereotypical anglophone) antipathy toward the PQ since I moved to Montreal. It’s not out of any affection for the territorial integrity of Canada: I really don’t care about that as such. And it’s not about a defense of the Montreal anglophones even though I’m now one of them– I moved to another country, and perceive myself to have moved to a French-speaking country, deliberately moved to the Plateau in order to make the most of that move. I wanted to move to Montreal, regardless of whether that was in Canada or not. I just have the wrong upbringing to care about the Canada-shaped object on a map. Being an anglophone minority in a French-speaking society (independent or not) is what I signed up for.

But I do have real annoyance at the victimhood-and-bad-faith tales that I see the PQ using. The indivisibility-of-Quebec argument above all annoys the hell out of me– my interest in indigenous rights is a lot older than my move to Montreal, and makes it very hard for me to be cheery about people who tell a straightforwardly hypocritical story about their own right to self-determination and the lack of same among the First Nations. As a secondary matter I genuinely perceive the PQ to be relevantly similar to the Jacobin laicite’ tradition in France on matters of multiculturalism and minority religions. It somehow turns out that most of the ostensible hostility to religion falls on the shoulders of conservative Jews and Muslims, with very little falling on the giant cross looming over the city, or all the Christian holidays. And as a tertiary matter, while it’s ordinary rent-seeking, I’m more than a little shocked at the ‘fiscal imbalance’ narrative as a justification for secession. Upshot: after nine months I’ve become utterly disgusted with the PQ and happy to see them lose. I’d have been very unhappy to see the ADQ win the election, but am pretty pleased with the outcome we got.

Right. The argument about Quebec’s indivisibility really gives away the ethnic nationalist show (although, of course, many individual proponents of secession are liberal progressives.) I have no particular attachment to arbitrary national boundaries, but the current post-Quiet Revolution secessionist movement is premised on all kinds of bad faith. And not only is the fiscal imbalance argument the kind of dishonesty people will recognize from the American south (Quebec is actually gets a net fiscal gain from the federal government), it’s a fundamental part of many “sovereignty-association” schemes, which seem to involve Quebec retaining all powers except those that involve the ability of the federal government to transfer money to Quebec. There just aren’t any arguments about why secession is necessary that work without ethnic nationalism.

In response to Matt, I would say that the kind of social democracy advocated by the PQ is only half-appealing, particularly given the much different political context than the U.S. (even in Alberta, you can’t run against the fundamentals of single-payer.) The Quebec left supports the robuset European welfare model that I support, but also some elements of European dirigisme that I’m more more skeptical about. I will concede, though, that Dumont is pretty awful.

UPDATE: John dissents.

It’s Not Personal, Sonny

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

I have no particular desire to revisit the issue, and indeed have every intention of continuing my post-Pelosi-smear policy of ignoring her except for MSM appearances or unusual circumstances such as her bullying a colleague, but since Garance has implied here that there’s some sort of mutual personal grudge between me and Ann Althouse I suppose I have to clarify something. I invite anyone to click on the link and look at what I’ve written — you’ll see nothing remotely resembling the kind of genuinely personal insults Althouse has directed at me or Glenn Greenwald (among many others.) I criticize Althouse a lot because she happens to combine in one package several of the most annoying and most pernicious types of punditry: “Everything changed for me on September 11. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick” fake moderation, obsession with meaningless trivia and junior-high-school personality narratives when discussing politics, and crying “civility” to pre-empt your vicious smears form any scrutiny. But whether you agree or disagree, these are things I consistently believe to be odious irrespective of the party involved. If you look at most of the things I’ve criticized her for — completely undefended assertions that Sam Alito is a moderate, apologizing for the Bush administration’s foreign policy (including its assertions of arbitrary power and use of torture), claiming the Iraq War is rationally seen as part of a conflict with Islamic terrorism, repeating lies about Nancy Pelosi requesting a luxury jet — you’ll find that I’ve criticized other people who have made similar arguments. Admittedly, some of her arguments are sui generis, so you’re just going to have to take my word that I would find claims that liberals opposition to Sam Alito reflected their belief that people don’t have rights, or that New York’s most prominent feminist blogger was invited to a meeting by Hillary Clinton’s campaign as part of an elaborate ruse to get Bill Clinton some action equally idiotic if someone else made them. I don’t think this is much of a stretch.

Of course, saying that this is all about a personality clash, in addition to being an almost comically transparent case of projection (and her meltdown in the face of Garance’s mild questions is just the latest example), is also yet another clever strategy for insulating her silly arguments from any criticism on the merits. People criticize her not because they disagree, but because they’re been “sucked into the Althouse vortex” or some such nonsense. This her way of seeing the world, not mine. And in fairness, given the quality of the arguments Althouse would have to try to defend, you can’t really blame her for using various diversions to avoid having to do so. Don’t buy it.

In Defense of Jacques Lemaire

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

Looking at the boxscore, you might think that last night’s Flames/Wild game was a throwback to the worst of the early-aughts NHL. But you would be quite wrong. It was a terrific game: fast, plenty of chances, great goaltending. As long as the league is enforcing the anti-obstruction rules, looking at total goals scored is the wrong metric to evaluate the quality of play. All of which reminds me that I’ve always thought that Lemaire’s great Devils teams always got a bad rap. There certainly were teams of that era that tried to win through tedious clutch-and-grabbing, but the Devils were an exciting, hard-hitting, highly skilled team that happened to specialize in defense and goaltending. If you don’t allow goals because you’re fast and well-coached, that’s still fun to watch. The other good thing about the game is that the Flames had been so bad in shootouts it was difficult for me to argue against them without seeming to be acting out of self-interest, but now that we’ve won a few in a row I’m free to reiterate what an abomination they are.

Also, for Brad, Darcy et al. allow me to graciously congratulate the Pigfuckers Canucks on clinching a playoff spot.

The Boy Who Cried Lieberman

[ 0 ] March 28, 2007 |

Nice to see Lieberman admit he’s been straightforwardly lying for years about Iraq as he used it to slander his ex-party mates. One day some members of the Connecticuit electorate may wake up and say, “my god, what have I done?”

Abortion? Not-abortion? Either Way, As Long As Yong Women in Unstable Families Are Placed In Danger!

[ 0 ] March 27, 2007 |

Ann — the actual feminist one, I mean — has a good discussion of recent events in North Dakota. In addition to a draconian abortion ban that would be triggered if Roe is overturned, the legislature failed to pass a law that would guarantee teens the right to seek prenatal care. Ann explains the issue:

Conservatives are wailing that explicitly stating there is no parental notification requirement would “drive a wedge between the daughter and the parents.” But isn’t it obvious that, if a young woman has chosen to carry her pregnancy to term without telling her parents, she most likely has a compelling reason for keeping them in the dark? And if a teenage girl faces very little support at home for keeping her pregnancy — which, presumably, is the reason she would keep this info from her parents — then you would think anti-abortion activists would be in favor of this legislation. After all, they love to publicize cases where parents have coerced their daughters into abortions. You would think that this legislation would prevent that from happening.

Seeing as how the pro-choice movement is actually pro-choice, not pro-abortion (as the antis love to characterize us), we can agree it’s bad for parents to force their daughters into abortions AND bad to force them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

The disconnect in requiring parental notification for abortion but not for prenatal care has long been pointed out as part of the legal rhetoric opposing laws that meddle with teens’ reproductive rights. A Guttmacher Policy Review article from 2000 found no states that require parental consent or notification for teens to receive prenatal care, whereas more than 20 required it for abortion.

Right. Teenagers should be permitted to choose abortion, and they should also be guaranteed medical care if they choose to carry their pregnancies to term.

Quebec Election Blogging

[ 0 ] March 27, 2007 |

Ah, you always have to like it when the ethnic nationalist secessionists finish third. I hope Pithlord will follow up; I’d be interested to know if Charest and Dumont can make it a relatively stable coalition.

…in response to comments, this should not be seen as an endorsement of Dumont per se, who I agree is a highly problematic figure. Laura is certainly correct that this is a collection of bad choices. But until secessionism is off the table, these bad choices are inevitable, and even Dumont’s better than the PQ.

The Dreamlife of Narcissists

[ 0 ] March 27, 2007 |

Taunted? She has a richly detailed fantasy life, you have to give her that. In a week she’ll be talking about how GFR threatened her with physical violence and how TAPPED blogs about nothing but breasts…

…Alterman has more background. It would be one thing if she refused to discuss the matter entirely, but she’s happy to discuss it with people who won’t challenge her.

Craziness Concealing Revisionism

[ 1 ] March 27, 2007 |

Ann Althouse gets livid at Garance Franke-Ruta over nothing. At one point, she threatens to hang up. She’s become such a pathetic figure that it’s almost painful to watch. (UPDATE: C&L excerpts a section here. Dave has the full transcript of the segment with commentary.)

Garance is understandably surprised that Althouse would go into an incoherent rage because she brings up the Valenti incident (make sure to scroll down to Althouse’s own comments, including such knee-slappers as “Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too”), since she had apparently discussed it the previous week with Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen. But this isn’t really surprising — she’s constructed a very carefully sanitized ex post facto version of this incident, and she’s not going to engage the merits with anybody who might remember it or who might challenge her version of events. (It is worth noting that it was Althouse who first brought up the “breastblogging” accusation, so it was hardly out of bounds for Garance to describe the incident the way she did.) I won’t fully rehash the events (I discussed it in detail here and here), but obviously her claim that her attack on Jessica was about how some bloggers “lacked the feminist grit to object to what Clinton meant for feminism” is farcical. It’s highly unpersuasive on its face to claim that a feminist can have absolutely nothing to do with a President with a relatively good record on woman’s rights because of a consensual (though potentially objectionable from a feminist perspective) affair. But coming from someone who strongly supports George Bush and Sam Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, this absolutism is laughable. Is feminism served by appointing a staunch opponent of woman’s rights who boasted about his membership in a group that wanted to keep women out of Princeton? Or by a President who would institute a global gag rule in his first day of office, appoint people like David Hager to important positions, appoint people like Altio and Priscilla Owen to the federal courts, etc etc.? This wasn’t about feminist principle; this was about someone obsessed with The Clenis and with a well-documented resentment toward liberal feminists taking a cheap shot that she was rightly called on.

Anyway, as a public service to counteract her revisionism I thought I would transcribe a relevant portion of “Audible Althouse 65,” (seriously, you owe me for this) in which she discussed the incident. If you go to about 20 minutes in, you’ll get some instructive comments. She first of all claims, erroneously, that Feministing is “sexed up with pictures of women in bras” and “talks about breasts a lot.” (She engaged in a vicious attack on a blogger, on other words, without the slightest idea what the hell she was talking about.) Her outrage over Garance’s description of the incident is particularly amusing when you hear how often she asserts her imaginary claims about Feministing being dominated by breast images. Then, 35 minutes in, after her speculations trying to explain the deep, deep puzzle of why someone would take a picture with the taller people in the back and the shorter people in the front, you get this (the transcription is not perfectly word for word):

Now why they brought in this woman with the breasts all over her blog [sic], I don’t know….now, obviously, you could come up with a theory that Clinton actually wanted to meet her….I think her blog has a lot less traffic than the other bloggers, and the name of her blog is “Feminsiting,” which I think is pretty clearly a portmanteau word combines the words “feminist” and “fisting,” (!) so it’s a graphic sexual image. And then there are all these breast images on the blog too [sic]. I don’t really know why you would want to bring that in and connect it up with Clinton. I mean, the sort of Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation, is that Clinton actually wanted to meet this woman.

Yes, the most straightforward explanation for the fact that a campaign event associated with Hillary Clinton would want to bring in a prominent feminist blogger (and NARAL’s house blogger) is…that Bill Clinton wanted to get laid! And if you describe utterly banal T-Shirt ads of the type found on many blogs across the ideological spectrum (combined with an obvious parody of sexist mudflaps) as “sexualized images,” it all becomes clear! Yes, I can’t imagine why this serious nonpartisan thinker and principled feminist is such a object of contempt and derision.

Prison Reform and the PLRA

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

I strongly recommend reading this post about the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which makes it more difficult for prisoners to sue and reduces the scope of potential litigation in ways that enable appalling prison conditions to continue. This is particularly problematic because (due to prisoners’ evident lack of political clout) prison reform has always been a litigation-driven exercise, as Feeley and Rubin have explained in great detail. Limiting prisoner’s right to sue in this manner is effectively the equivalent of sanctioning substantial amounts of abuse; hopefully Congress will amend some of the bad effects of PLRA. The SAVE coalition has a list or recommendations with other useful resources here.

UPDATE: See also this ACS paper explaining how to close the loophole the legislation created for rapists.

The Most Indefensible Comment in the History of Human Discourse

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

Labs has found it: “My own favorite meeting moment came when an old dude at a large faculty meeting said that we should have more meetings.” I support the institution of tenure as much as anybody, but I can fully get behind revoking it for anyone who suggests increasing the number of meetings out of general principle.