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Prayers for Ted

[ 0 ] May 21, 2008 |

You know, it was really nice yesterday to see so many conservative bloggers — like Michelle Malkin, or this happy fellow here — taking a few moments to express their sympathies for Ted Kennedy and his family. But I’m wondering if there isn’t anything less plausible than a wingnut who insists that his or her disagreements with Ted Kennedy are of a “merely political” nature?

If you’re JammieWearingFool, for example, your “political disagreements” with Ted Kennedy have consisted almost entirely of describing him as a traitor — literally — and reminding your readers that Mary Jo Kopechne died in his car. If you’re Michelle Malkin . . . goodness, I’m not sure the rest of that sentence would make any sense. Let’s just make a tentative assertion that if you’re kind of person who goes dumpster-diving in an effort to prove that a 12-year-old boy is receiving health care he doesn’t deserve, you’re also the sort of person whose public prayers for Ted Kennedy should not be taken seriously. The incongruity between what these folks have written about Kennedy in the past and what they wrote yesterday is so extraordinary that one has to wonder why on earth they’d bother to break character and say anything at all.

But the point of these false-ringing gestures, though, is for certain bloggers to preserve the self-delusion that their work is, at the end of the day, fundamentally humane. The comment threads bear this observation out, as readers climb over one another to remind themselves that the diarists at Daily Kos would never be so generous if George Bush were similarly afflicted. Of course, if Ted Kennedy had drowned in a hotel bathtub, or if his liver had suddenly petrified, I’d wager the insincere mourning would have been harder to summon. But like the Bush administration — which believes it preserved the nation’s soul by drawing the threshold for torture just south of organ failure and death — there appear to be a great many conservative bloggers who needed to congratulate themselves for discovering a tiny spark of conscience that they’ll quickly discard in the name of, say, urging a war against Iran or advocating the internment of Muslims.

At the bottom of it all, it’s pretty simple. No one cares how wingnut bloggers feel about the glioma in Ted Kennedy’s brain, just as no one would (or should) care about my thoughts — however earnest they might be — if Dick Cheney were trounced by elephants or if Donald Rumsfeld were overcome by blood-born parasites. Having written a great deal of unfriendly things about these and other public figures, I’d like to think I’d at least have the good sense to say nothing at all.

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Clinton Campaign Self-Parody Watch

[ 0 ] May 21, 2008 |

Make it stop:

If I’m not mistaken Terrry McAuliffe just announced two new goalposts.

1. Hillary has gotten more votes and delegates since March 4th.

2. Hillary has gotten more votes in a nomination race than anyone in history. “Hillary Clinton has now received more votes than any candidate ever running for president in a primary.”

The central premise here is a Grade A, or a Jeff Jacoby, level of illogic:

Bush was reelected with the highest vote total in American history.

I trust the idiocy here is transparent.

But wait! At least what Jacoby said is literally true. Whereas, as Josh points out, unless you insult people’s intelligence by counting North Korea-style one-major-candidate unsanctioned not-even-straw polls and not counting several contests actually sanctioned by the party (under standards McAuliffe contemporaneously supported), the person who wins under the meaningless “most primary votes in history” metric is…Barack Obama.

Given that the Clinton campaign seems to think this crap will actually convince people, it’s pretty easy why they thought that blowing off a month’s worth of primaries and caucuses was an effective strategy.

…I can understand people thinking this kind of thing is trivial. But I don’t think that’s right. It should be remembered that Clinton’s campaign (see also) is using these ridiculous Calvinball metrics to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic nominee. If there was any significant chance that she could win, that might be acceptable. If she even had a credible argument that she was ahead in the popular vote — one anyone would have accepted before the nomination, without knowing who it would benefit — that would be a different issue. But to send flacks to rile up other Democrats against Obama under these circumstances is a disgrace.

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Not a Newsflash

Reproductive healthcare in prisons in the U.S. sucks.

First, there were prisons that were refusing to allow pregnant inmates to get abortions, even when the women could pay for the procedures themselves. The ACLU challenged the prison policies and won. Twice.

But there are also – and still – problems of women being sterilized in prison – not by force, but by neglect. Women who do not receive adequate gynecological care while incarcerated at a high risk for sterilization because, by the time illnesses such as cervical cancer are detected, they are too advanced to treat any other way. In other situations, women who have gynecological issues that could be treated otherwise are given hysterectomies. Given that many of these women are women of color and given this country’s discomforting history of sterilizing women of color, this should make us all queasy. Feministing has more.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 20, 2008 |

Ronald Reagan, during remarks at the signing of the Just Say No Week proclamation, 20 May 1986:

Because of these grassroots efforts, all of us, inside government and out, are seeing a change of attitude about drug abuse. Public awareness has increased dramatically in the past several years, and our children are more aware of the dangers of drugs now than ever before. By educating our children about the dangers of drugs, we’re going to dry up the drug market and kick the dope peddlers right out of this country. Every time Nancy and I meet this country’s wonderful young people, we feel more confident that we are going to win this battle.

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The Hitter

[ 72 ] May 20, 2008 |

The greatest hitting catcher ever retires.

Whether he is the greatest catcher ever is tough to say, of course, since it all comes down to how much the defensive edge of Berra and Bench should be weighted. It’s a big edge, since Piazza wasn’t merely bad for a guy who played a key defensive position for a long time, like Hornsby, but was really bad. I can see a certain intuitive strength to the position that at a key defensive position a player has to be at least adequate to rank #1. On the other hand, he was a considerably better hitter overall than Bench or Berra, and how many runs does having a cactcher who can’t throw at all cost you anyway? (Bench and Berra deserve credit for being key members of some of the greatest teams in history too, but this has to be mitigated by the fact that those teams were anchored by even greater players.) He belongs in the discussion, anyway.

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Take it to the Bank…

[ 15 ] May 20, 2008 |

I predict that if Barack Obama wins a double digit victory in Kentucky today, Senator Clinton will concede. Judging solely by conversation with my small group of Lexington friends, this outcome seems entirely likely.

Off to vote…

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Just Say No

[ 25 ] May 20, 2008 |

So the National Fatherhood Initiative — one of the great sluice boxes for wingnut welfare — has linked arms with the tee-totalers at Anheuser-Bush to create a site called “Positive Parenting,” which aims to provide wholesome advice to anyone seeking to discourage their teens from drinking. Now, I won’t have a teenager until 2019, but it’s probably never too soon to begin thinking about it. Indeed, if memory serves, I began pondering the teenage years about 15 minutes after our first ultrasound confirmed that we were in fact producing a human child rather than some sort of alien-goat hybrid. That said, I’m pretty certain that as a father I’ll learn almost nothing helpful from a venture that brings the booze industry together with a group that believes my role in the family should be analogous to Jesus’ relationship to the church.

I could be wrong, though. Let’s have a look around the site and see.

Oh, hello there, Dr. Lonnie Carton. I see you work here. What’s that, you say? You’ve a list of clever retorts that teens can use to deflect friends who offer them alcohol? Well, good gracious — let’s hear them!

1. “No thanks. I don’t want to take the chance. My Mom has a nose like an elephant and she can smell alcohol on me a mile away.”
2. “No thanks. I’m driving after I leave here.”
3. “I’m trying out for the team and if the coach finds out I’m a goner.”
4. “You’re really cool to share, but, no thanks.”
5. “No thanks; I’ve tried it and all it does for me is put me to sleep.”
6. “Me chicken? Do you see any feathers on me?”
7. “Not now. I’m already in enough trouble with my parents.”
8. “No thanks…there must be a good reason why they say you have to be older to drink so I think I’ll just wait.”
9. “Right now, I’m totally hungry not thirsty, so I think I’ll just grab some munchies.”
10. “No thanks, maybe later. Right now a soda would taste really great.”

[crickets chirping, occasional coughing and chair shifting]

Oh, sorry. I was just imagining how those snappy comebacks would pan out in real life.

On the other hand, this list might work well in our occasional encounters with trolls here.

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Get Out Your Hankerchiefs

[ 0 ] May 20, 2008 |

GOP vote suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky cries in the Wall Street Journal about unfairly being denied a spot in the FEC for such trivial matters as lying to the Senate Rules Committee and pre-clearing de facto poll taxes struck down by the federal courts. Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo!

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Family Values

[ 0 ] May 20, 2008 |

As Vito Fossella ends his political career in disgrace, let us remember such things as his belief that the Constitution of the United States should be amended to explicitly make gays and lesbians second-class citizens:

Vito Fossella built a career as a staunch “family values” pol, polishing his image in his predominantly Catholic district with a string of anti-gay votes.

He even shuns his gay sister, Victoria Fossella, refusing to go to family events if she and her partner attend, a source close to the family said.

[...]

As congressman, Fossella voted to prohibit any funding for joint adoptions by gay couples.

He has voted for the Marriage Protection Amendment, a federal prohibition on gay marriage.

He also demanded housing funds be held back from San Francisco unless it repealed its domestic partnership law.

I’m embarrassed that New York City was ever represented by this hateful clown, although admittedly in some way I suppose I respect his shunning of his sister more than Cheney-style wining on gay bashing while treating his sister daughter cordially. At any rate, whether the prospect of some same-sex couples getting married is a greater threat to Traditional Family Values than maintaining multiple families while lying to each partner about the other’s existence and relying on your mistress to bail you out when you risk other people’s life by driving when stone drunk, I leave to the reader’s judgment.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 11 ] May 19, 2008 |

Harry Truman, in a message to Congress, 19 May 1947:

National health insurance is the most effective single way to meet the Nation’s health needs. Because adequate treatment of many illnesses is expensive and its cost cannot be anticipated by the individual, many persons are forced to go without needed medical attention. Children do not receive adequate medical and dental care. Symptoms which should come early to the attention of a physician are often ignored until too late. The poor are not the only ones who cannot afford adequate medical care. The truth is that all except the rich may at some time be struck by illness which requires care and services they cannot afford. Countless families who are entirely self-supporting in every other respect cannot meet the expense of serious illness. . . .

A national health insurance program is a logical extension of the present social-security system which is so firmly entrenched in our American democracy. Of the four basic risks to the security of working people and their families–unemployment, old age, death and sickness–we have provided some insurance protection against three. Protection against the fourth–sickness–is the major missing element in our national social insurance program.

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Karl Rove: Still Entitled to "The Math"

[ 19 ] May 19, 2008 |

In addition to his election maps, here are a few other items that Karl Rove has offered the credulous Jake Tapper:

  • a shoebox filled with old baseball cards, the highlight of which is a 1981 Von Hayes rookie edition with “Karl’s Kard — Go Away” written on the back in blue crayon;
  • a small Glad sandwich bag filled with oregano, which Rove insists is from his “totally sweet” private stash;
  • an expired parrot;
  • stock certificates from Zim’s Crack Cream;
  • his Newton MessagePad100, which Rove insists still “totally kicks the new Blackberry’s ass”;
  • exit polls showing that Republicans totally won the 2006 mid-term elections;
  • that slice of pizza over there.
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Part of the American Democratic Process

[ 16 ] May 19, 2008 |

In response to Eugene Volokh, I should say that I’m perhaps making a slightly different argument than the one he’s addressing. My point about the vote in the legislature, as well as the support for same-sex marriage signaled by the governor urging the courts to resolve the issue and opposing a referendum to overturn it, is that claims of judicial usurpation of the prerogatives of the political branches are not in any way a useful description of this case, as a majority of legislators and the governor almost certainly agree with the court’s ruling. As is often the case, the California Supreme Court’s decision does not involve a zero-sum struggle for power, but rather is a case where the courts are resolving an issue because it cross-cuts existing party coalitions. This, in itself, doesn’t mean that the court’s decision was right; it’s possible to disagree on the merits. In many cases, one can also argue that the courts should respond to evasion by the other branches by throwing the ball back, but in this case it’s complicated by California’s silly system allowing its constitution to be amended (and hence judicial decisions overridden) by a simple majority of the popular vote.

I am, however, somewhat puzzled by his implication of disagreement with the proposition that “California Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision actually consistent with the democratic process.” In the American system, for better or worse, it’s part of the democratic process for the judiciary to scrutinize the actions of the other branches as well as (in California’s case) popular initiatives and pass judgment about their constitutionality. Strong-from federal review is a well-established part of this process, making California’s effectively very weak-form review certainly consistent with it (as Volokh somewhat concedes here.) I can imagine, in the abstract, an argument that the courts should always defer to other branches or the people unless the text of the constitution is clear. But, in practice, virtually nobody in the American system believes this or acts like this in practice, so these claims generally amount to arguments that progressives should unilaterally disarm. I don’t know if this is true of Volokh specifically, but certainly most of the critics of the California decision have no objection to cases where the courts use ambiguous constitutional materials to override electorally accountable officials to reach more congenial policy results (cf. Parents Involved, Garrett, Morrison) and are also strongly critical of the court in some case where it does defer in the face of ambiguity (cf. Kelo, Raich, Grutter.)

The California court could, I suppose, be criticized for usurping the democratic process if its reading of the state constitution were simply unreasonable, but that’s not the case. The majority’s reading is not commanded by the constitution, but it’s certainly defensible. And if we’re going to have judicial review, protecting unpopular minorities from being arbitrarily excluded from fundamental privileges strikes me as being at the type of case where judicial intervention is most defensible. But even if one disagrees, I fail to see how the court’s holding is in any way inconsistent with democracy as it is actually practiced in this country.

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