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More Piracy…

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

I have another piece on piracy up at Comment is Free. And while we’re on the subject, recall that David Axe is heading to Somalia in order to interact with actual pirates; he could use some donations.

Here’s a groovy video…

Who Says Why?

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

Ed Kilgore says that “a critical plurality of Americans don’t much like abortion but care a whole lot about when and why abortions occur.” Assuming that this is true — and there’s some evidence for it — the obvious answer is that since there’s no way of inscribing “women should get abortions only when a Mythical Abortion Centrist says they’re appropriate” into a legislative enactment, the best way of addressing this majority is to leave the decision to women rather than to, say, panels of doctors enforcing inherently arbitrary standards.

Ross Douthat, conversely, simply pretends that random regulations have this abortion have the effect of reducing “abortions of convenience,” while failing to adduce any evidence that the regulations actually have these effects. (Tellingly, he cites Glendon, but one of the crucial flaws in her book is that she focuses on the abortion laws in statute books but makes little attempt to find out how these laws actually operate in practice.) Of course, this is a somewhat difficult question for the same reason that it’s an appalling suggestion on the merits: who says what an “abortion of convenience” is? (One would think that it would be an even more meaningless and offensive term to a pro-lifer than it is to me, but I guess not.) At any rate, there’s no reason to believe that putting up arbitrary barriers in front of women seeking abortions has much effect on why women choose abortions; rather, they just make it more difficult for some classes of women (poor, rural, single mothers, inflexible working hours) to obtain them. Similarly, Douthat argues that “In a similar “no abortions of convenience” vein, you could also imagine a law that banned repeat abortion.” Omitted is any justification for assuming a priori that a second abortion is an abortion “of convenience.”

Basically, attempts to tie various random regulations to mythical abortion “centrism” is a giant scam. Making women wait 24 hours to obtain an abortion isn’t going to stop educated women who live in major cities from obtaining an aboriton no matter what the reason, and they make it more difficult for a poor women who lives 150 miles from an abortion provider to obtain one even if William Saletan himself would bless her choice. Which is why — even leaving aside the question of why we should care what Ross Douthat or William Saletan thinks about a woman’s reasons for obtaining an abortion in the first place — leaving the choice to the affected women with a minimum of pointless restrictions is the right policy choice.

…UPDATE: To emphasize what Ed says in comments, I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that he supported silly regulations as a response to the public opinion data he (accurately) identifies.

You’re Not Recoiling Instinctively Enough!

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

Nick Kristof and Anne Applebaum are being way too even-handed; perhaps David Greenberg needs to write another article about how liberals are bad for trying to actually understand a war before adopting a rooting interest…

Manufactured hysteria on right wing radio? I don’t believe it!

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

This is pathetic.

For a variety of reasons I can’t quite explain, I listen to right wing radio during my 15-minute drives to and from campus; this is about as much as I can handle before falling into a deep well of boredom, but I take great momentary satisfaction in listening to someone like Mark Levin bring himself to the precipice of a stroke each afternoon as I’m heading home. I haven’t spent nearly as much time listening to, say, Limbaugh or Hannity, so I don’t know if they’ve been pounding the non-issue of the Fairness Doctrine as ferociously as he has, but Levin’s rage has been effervescent in recent weeks, apparently provoked by some comments Chuck Schumer offered on Fox News’ election night coverage. Levin has been vowing to devote all his time and effort to unseating Schumer when he comes up for re-election in 2010. To wit:

Schmucky, you’re up in 2010, Schmucky. We’re going to be talking about you. And when you’re trying to take me off the air, I’m going to fight you. It’s not going to be so easy. That’s right, Schmucky. I’m not rolling over. We’re coming to defeat you. Oh, you might win, but you’re going to know you’ve been in a fight. Yes, you will. We’re going to wipe that stupid smile off your face, Schmucky.

I actually heard this monologue — which continued for about five minutes — when he delivered it the day after Obama’s victory. It was fantastic, and I can only hope that Levin squanders as much lifeblood as possible trying to beat Schumer on a phantom issue like the Fairness Doctrine.

Other folks aside from Schumer — Durbin, Pelosi, Bingaman — have occasionally voiced their personal support for reviving the Fairness Doctrine, but right wing radio hosts and their listeners seem incapable of grasping the simple fact that no one is going to waste their time trying to legislate the issue. Still, I would hope that various Democrats would continue to poke the stick occasionally; provided that it’s done in a low-frequency way, I really don’t see a downside to taunting right wing radio hosts.

Obama’s Supremes

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

One potential list here. I must admit that I have a strong sympathy for Sonia Sotomayor, given her role in stopping MLB’s attempted bad faith union-busting in 1995, but she seems too moderate to be a good first choice on a Court with four doctrinaire reactionaries and no Brennan/Marshall/Douglas style liberal. Marhsall’s former clerk Elena Kagan — who’s only 48 — seems a lot more promising.

Since many progressives are understandably less-than-enthused about the possibility of a Sunstein appointment, the best news I can give is that one logic of my critique of Sunstein’s “minimalism” is that the effect it has on a justice’s votes is veyr minimal. It’s true that Sunstein has said some bad things about Roe; it’s also true that he ends up in the same place (with, in this case, a rationale that’s actually better and more expansive.) I suspect he’d cast the same kind of votes as most other potential Democratic nominees even if they would sometimes be justified with a little more hand-wringing.

That’s Nothing

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

At what’s amazing is that Ted Stevens is far from the worst example of misplaced senetorial courtesy — let us not forget Kindly Ol’ Strom Thurmond, for example.

Huh. Wow.

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |


Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million.

The same technology could be applied to any other extinct species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA.

Read the whole thing, especially the bit about resurrecting Neanderthals.

Half Empty

[ 0 ] November 20, 2008 |

To follow up on Kaufman and Lookout Landing, maybe it would help if the BBWAA would just release the winners. It’s sort of amazing that a group of voters that all other evidence suggests are wholly inept and unqualified managed to get both of the awards right (or at least reach reasonable answers for both.) I probably would have voted for Mauer over Pedroia, but I admit that this is for not better reason than that if it’s a close question you should never vote for the Scrappy White Guy who will be a media darling for the next decade+l; Pedroia was a fair choice.

But the rest of the ballots, oy. About the best you can say about the AL is that at least Morneau was closer to being as good as Mauer than in the year when he actually won the award. And it’s not just that the #2 guy in the NL plays the same position at the MVP and is far worse offensively and defensively, but that he was at best the third best player on his own team (and a lot closer in value to Burrell than Utley, grated that it’s partly about the Bat being very underrated.) I think Bill James wrote in one of the first Abstracts, the bias framework of the 50s (up-the-middle player on championship team) was at least better than the still-current “Juan Gonzalez” bias framework (guy who drives in the most runs irrespective of defensive value, how many guys were on in front of him, etc.) I just can’t explain how a tremendous offensive defensive player like Utley — whose peak at the position is exceeded in NL history only by Hornsby and Morgan — can’t even break the top 10 in a year in which his team won the division. But it certainly reflects horribly on the alleged professionals who do the voting.

Oh, yes, and in other baseball news it’s not clear to me that the rest of baseball has to pitch in and help the Yankees get back to the postseason; seems to be they have plenty of resources already. I think the negotiations went something like this.

Colony to Superpower II: Can’t Go Wrong with John Jay

[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

Erik writes about the harsh criticism that John Jay received upon returning from Europe on the conclusion of the Jay Treaty.

This was ridiculous. Herring states that Jay probably gave up more than he had to on these issues. Maybe. But this was the United States. And England was England. To think that we could simply state terms to Europe, as we did over and over again in these years, was totally absurd but typical of the arrogance in which the United States carried itself, even from the nation’s infancy. Herring defends Jay as well saying “The most likely alternative to the treaty was a continued state of crisis and conflict that could have led to war” and “Rarely has a treaty so bad on the face of it produced such positive results.”

Quite right. Public and elite opinion in the early Republic seemed to swing back and forth between raw terror that either Britain or France were on the verge of destroying the United States, and crazed optimism about the ability of the United States to dictate terms to and win wars against the major European powers. This isn’t terribly surprising; revolutionary regimes tend to have erratic foreign policies in their early years, and the leaders of the United States were self-conscious revolutionaries. At the same time, I wonder if the temporal proximity of the French Revolution to the American, and the very real differences between those two revolutions, didn’t serve to push US foreign policy in a more conservative direction. Interestingly enough, Herring credits Nelson’s victory at the Nile with making France amenable to negotiations with the United States.

Erik is also correct that the biggest omission from this chapter is an in-depth discussion of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Perhaps Herring considered these to be a domestic issues, but I can’t really see why. Without the pressure provided by the war between France and Britain, and the consequent division of the American political elite, I doubt that the Acts would ever have come about. Of course, it’s also kind of interesting to follow the self-immolation of the Federalist Party during Adams presidency. I had not previously knwn that Timothy Pickering is the only Secretary of State in US history to have been fired, rather than resign. In retrospect, Hamilton’s machinations against Adams really do seem foolish and short-sighted. Without the divisions in the Federalists, Adams probably would have beaten Jefferson in 1800.

I’ve heard it argued, and I think it’s correct, that the 1790s, the 1950s, and the 2000s are the only three eras in US history in which foreign policy played a genuinely critical role in American political competition. It’s too early to say whether Herring holds to this position, and I suppose further that the question depends on whether one terms relations with Native Americans as “foreign policy”. Then again, I suppose it could be argued that there was a broad consensus in the American political elite on the Native American question (kill them and take their land), and as such disputes weren’t really politically salient. It’ll be interesting to see how Herring treats this.

Finally, from the “that probably didn’t mean then what it sounds like now” file, Herring quotes an American official saying “The affairs of Europe rain riches on us, and it is as much as we can do to find dishes to catch the golden shower.” Indeed.


[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

I think I just became a lot more sympathetic to the bailout…

Missile Chicken

[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

I have an article on Russia, Obama, and missile defense up at Guardian Comment is Free.

The revolution will not be slenderized

[ 0 ] November 19, 2008 |

Body liberation can start with a donut.

Make it a jelly