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The greatest understatement in the recent history of human civilization

[ 0 ] November 22, 2008 |

Jules Crittenden:

George W. Bush did not solve all the problems of the world’s most troubled and dangerous region.

You don’t say!

Crittenden’s larger claim — that the Bush Doctrine has somehow worked out more or less as planned and predicted — is beyond absurd. He and others who follow this tack seem to believe that “success” may be defined as the fortunate avoidance of the worst possible alternate outcomes. But as anyone who isn’t a transparent hack would understand, the fact that Bush took the nation to war in 2003 does not mean that (a) Saddam Hussein would otherwise have survived into 2008 stronger and more dangerous than anyone could ever have imagined, (b) that Iran would otherwise have nuclear weapons, (c) that al-Qaeda would have earned the sponsorship of numerous other regimes across the Middle East, and (d) that the entire region would otherwise now be perched on the edge of a genocidal bloodbath. There were numerous paths the administration could have taken to avoid any or all of these scenarios; it chose the bloodiest and costliest and the one least conducive to anyone’s long-term interest, save those who enjoy writing about how the United States needs to “impress” and “chasten” its foes with multi-trillion dollar wars.

I imagine we’ll have to endure a lot of this nonsense in the coming months, and probably forever.

More McPherson

[ 0 ] November 22, 2008 |

I suppose this silly column doesn’t really merit further discussion, but I think gmack’s comment merits elevation to the main page:

So far as I can tell, no one here knows whether McPherson harasses women. But we can tell that his argument is utterly ridiculous: if his complaint is that the training is boring and pointless, then why is this worth publishing in the LA Times? Moreover, that obviously isn’t his complaint: if it was, then he would be advocating for reforms to make the training more useful or effective. Given that this is not what he’s interested in, we can also conclude that he doesn’t care about sexual harassment, and indeed, thinks that it is simply a matter of “political correctness.”

Precisely. This may be exceedingly charitable, but let’s assume that an earnest, humorless, self-righteous column with the sole point that “meetings can be boring” wouldn’t justify a column in any newspaper. In fairness, that’s not McPherson’s point; his point (well, one of his points — he also seems arguing that taking your employer’s money while refusing to comply with reasonable professional obligations makes you some sort of hero) is pretty clearly that training that tries to make employees aware of and tries to reduce sexual harassment is wrong in principle. Needless to say, he makes no attempt to actually justify this, but then invoking “politically correctness” as pretty much always about insulating beliefs you’d prefer not to defend on the merits from criticism.

Giving away the show, of course, is the idiotic idea that these meetings somehow undermine his “academic freedom.” Obviously, he seems to have no idea what the term means, but the real claim seems to be that the training is objectionable because it has “a political cast.” Well, on some level this would be true. But, then, McPherson’s implicit argument that the university should remain publicly neutral on the question of whether the harassment and sexual exploitation of students is a good thing would also a “political” decision. The university has to choose among substantive values, and (while the training itself may well be flawed) in this case it’s making the right choice.

Another commenter believes that this follow-up is helpful. Since it makes no actual substantive defense of any of McPherson’s specious claims I’m not really seeing it, but people can make their own judgments…

My Question

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

How can a stigma become attached to an individual based on an informational seminar everyone has to attend?

Mcpherson’s tear-stained column is really some classic whining about nothing, but admittedly I’m not inclined to give a very serious hearing to people who complain about “political correctness” at this late date. I would be particularly interested in someone making this tired argument to identify mechanisms of social change that don’t involve groups urging the redress of injustices…

…make sure to read Jill as well. I also forgot to mention McPherson’s risibly specious claims that the meetings violate his “academic freedom.” Uh, what?

"Seven Years Is Enough."

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

Judge Richard Leon — an appointee of George W. Bush — issued a major ruling following the wake of the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision yesterday, ordering five Guantanamo detainees released “forthwith.” He also added comments that echoed Souter’s Boumediene concurrence:

The judge, in an unusual added comment, suggested to senior government leaders that they forgo an appeal of his ruling on freeing the five prisoners. While conceding that the government had a right to appeal that part of his ruling, Leon commented that he, too, had “a right to appeal” to leaders of the Justice Department, Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies, and his plea was that they look at the evidence regarding the five he was ordering released. “Seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough,” he commented.

This brings the grand total of arbitrarily held detainees released by the federal courts to…five. If I understand correctly, to many Republicans this means that out-of-control judicial activists are essentially running American foreign policy. In fairness, since when has scrutinizing wholly arbitrary executive detentions been considered a function of the judiciary?

…the Talking Dog has more here, and also notes that the detainees haven’t actually been released yet.

Cardinal Directions, Please…

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

I find that “route” directions (turn left at the third McDonalds, the one right next to the Fifth Third Bank) almost invariably get me lost in interesting and disastrous ways. Survey directions (NESW) are much more helpful; contra Ezra, in the city it’s pretty easy to figure out which way is north, although it can be a bit more problematic in a suburban/rural setting.

In Lexington, the problem of route directions is compounded by the fact that Lexingtonians almost invariably seem to navigate according to landmarks that no longer exist. “Yeah, you’ll want to turn right when you reach that Popeyes Chicken that they tore down four years ago” is a common example of this type.

Larry Craig apparently likes airports

[ 0 ] November 21, 2008 |

From today’s bukakke party for Ted Stevens.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho: “I’m en route from downtown Anchorage, to the Ted Stevens International Airport. And as we round the curb and pull up to exit the cab, I look up, and there is your name. And I said, ‘Oh, Ted’s got an airport, that’s neat.’

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.