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Biden and the VAWA

[ 0 ] August 26, 2008 |

To put fair criticisms of Biden’s record as head of the Judiciary Committee in context, Jon Cohn extensively details Biden’s role in creating the Violence Against Women Act and its importance:

It may be hard to remember now, but widespread awareness of domestic violence–and how to deal with it–is a relatively new phenomenon. As late as the early 1990s, many communities had no domestic violence shelters at all, while those that did couldn’t fund them adequately. And neither law enforcement nor the judicial system were prepared to deal with the special nature of domestic violence. If a woman who’d been battered or raped went to the police, she was frequently lucky if she got sympathy–let alone experts trained in how to handle such cases, go after perpetrators, and counsel the victims. “At that time there were no victim rights and [somebody] had to witness an act of violence in order to prosecute it,” says Judy Ellis, now executive director of First Step, a domestic violence program based in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. “The criminal justice system lacked information and training on the dynamics of domestic violence and its effects on the family.”

VAWA changed all of that. It cracked down on interstate stalking, set standards for the collection and use of evidence in abuse cases, and set up a national domestic violence hotline. No less important, VAWA poured money into local communities for the creation of new prevention and treatment initiatives. In Detroit, according to Ellis, a VAWA grant allowed local authorities to hire prosecutors, police officers. and counselors specifically trained to deal with domestic violence. It also paid for outreach programs into non-English speaking communities, where many victims had no idea of their rights–or the resources now available to them.


So what did Biden have to do with all of that? Everything. Biden had been promoting a domestic violence bill starting in the early 1990s, and although it didn’t go far at first, he kept at it, finally getting his chance in 1994, once Bill Clinton became president and began pushing for a crime bill. Even then, it was a tough sell. Critics, led by Republican Senator Robert Dole, thought the ’94 crime bill was bloated with unnecessary spending and demanded cuts from it–including the $1.6 billion over six years set aside for VAWA. But Biden held firm and, eventually, got his way. “You can sponsor a bill, but if you just sponsor a bill and let it sit there, that’s nothing,” says Pat Reuss, a longtime activist who was one of the measure’s chief advocates in Washington. “He shepherded it. He made sure it happened. He assigned staff to it, gave them carte blanche to do with they needed, they spent days and nights on it.”

Combine that with his large role in defeating Bork, and…it’s more than many long-term Senators accomplish in itself.


[ 0 ] August 26, 2008 |

Many thanks to frequent commenter Howard for generously sending me the classics Out To Lunch and Underground from the ol’ wish list. Supoib choices, and as they are now freshly loaded into ITunes will make my upcoming train ride all the more pleasant.

In addition, when it comes to my reverse-hedge bets with Howard I note that as of now I would be on the hook for $50 donations to Planned Parenthood and the anti-Prop 8 campaign, as the Yankees are missing the playoffs as well of course as being out of the division. Until we see the upcoming series, though, I’m at least not writing off the former…


[ 14 ] August 25, 2008 |


Russia’s flagship cruiser re-entered the Black Sea on Monday for weapons tests hours after the Russian military complained about the presence of U.S. and other NATO naval ships near the Georgian coast.

The “Moskva” had led a battle group of Russian naval vessels stationed off the coastline of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia during Russia’s recent conflict with Georgia and sank smaller Georgian craft.

Galrahn, as always, has more, including some gorgeous pics of Moskva returning to Sevastopol.

Inflatable Life Size Russian…

[ 11 ] August 25, 2008 |

For several months I’ve been making the case that Patterson needs a T-72, or at least an Su-25. This argument, unaccountably, has fallen on deaf ears. Now, however, we have an opportunity to deter our enemies without breaking state, Federal, and international law. If we acquire just a few of these inflatable S-300 SAMs, along with a couple of inflatable Su-27s and maybe a Hind or two, then Fletcher and Georgetown wouldn’t dare attack us…

Science, Religion, and the First Amendment

[ 258 ] August 25, 2008 |

Following up on Rob’s post, if a public high school biology teacher teaches his or her students that there is no evidence for the existence of God (or, in what amounts to the same thing, that science provides no evidence for the existence of God and the only valid evidence on that question is what counts as evidence within the confines of science), then that teacher isn’t merely teaching science, but rather espousing scientism, which for the purposes of First Amendment establishment clause doctrine is a quasi-religious view. For a teacher to espouse a religious or quasi-religious view in a public school classroom is a violation of the establishment clause according to current constitutional doctrine.

Parenthetical edited for clarity.

A Sycophant’s Lament

[ 25 ] August 25, 2008 |

Shorter Sean Wilentz: “John McCain will tell Vladimir Putin to sit down and cut the bullshit. This represents the kind of ‘comprehensive vision of international politics’ that Obama lacks.”

Reading his praise of McCain at least makes me understand why he repeatedly goes too far in exculpating Jackson’s racist militarism. Also, for further amusement remember that Wilentz is also a hack JFK worshipper. I think this makes it even more clear that the experiential standards (like his ex post facto primary system preferences) are strictly ad hoc.

[Via publius, who has much more.]

Turning High School Biology into a Battleground Over the Existence of God

[ 159 ] August 25, 2008 |

I love PZ, but I really can’t imagine a less effective way of trying to teach evolution than declaring to high school juniors that religion is evil and there is no God, and then trying to debate them on that point. No, there isn’t “a dark evil gnawing at the heart of the American public”; to the extent that religion can be characterized as a dark evil (and I would take exception with that), it dominates, rather than gnaws at, the heart of the American public. A science teacher who demands that his or her students reject religion in the course of a high school biology class is doing those students (and science) a disservice, and shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom. To be sure, the biology teacher who went out of her way to undermine the teaching of evolution also doesn’t belong in the classroom, but the latter doesn’t excuse the former, and (more importantly) the former is no antidote to the latter. It isn’t appeasement to recognize that a high school biology class is hardly the place to start a war between science and religion.

Let me now give the normal caveats; while I find evangelical atheists annoying, I also find their position more compelling than that of evangelical Christians. Moreover, it’s obvious that religious extremists pose a greater danger to freedom, tolerance, secular democracy, etc. than evangelical atheists (although I’m less sure that’s because of the content of belief than because the former outnumber the latter by a 10-to-1 margin), and that the that inroads religious extremists make into public institutions should be challenged whenever it is productive to do so. Finally, in the interests of disclosure I should also note that I think PZ (and Dawkins) are dead wrong about the roles science and religion play in human civilization, but I don’t want this comment thread to degenerate (as some in the past have) into competitive screeching on that point.

We are all POWs now

[ 41 ] August 25, 2008 |

I see no reason why John McCain should accrue all the rhetorical gain from the years he spent in Hanoi, cleansing humanity’s sins not living in a house. That’s why, when the new semester begins in a week or so, I’ll be taking every opportunity to remind students and colleagues that because John McCain was a prisoner of war, their complaints and criticisms will not be taken seriously. When students, for example, wonder why their papers have not been marked in their usual, borderline-timely fashion, I’ll explain that like John McCain — who was once a POW — I did not have a pen handy, and I was probably thinking about more important things. Or when colleagues wonder how I could have “forgotten” to attend yet another faculty senate meeting to help ratify decisions that have already been made by our natural and bureaucratic superiors, I will remind them that John McCain once missed five years of meetings when he was being held captive in Hanoi. I also hope to use John McCain’s POW status to relieve me of cat-litter-scooping duties as well as the burden of paying for my own drinks, and to immunize me against the usual accusations of slothfulness and general moral dissipation. I suppose if I were running for some kind of public office, this might constitute a decent campaign strategy.

The Price You Pay For Forgetting The Mute Button Is Your Friend

[ 14 ] August 25, 2008 |

In my defense, I was engaged in Real Work and had the Devil Rays/Sox game on in the background, so I needed the sound. But as bad as seeing the Rays lose after a beyond-farcical call when A.J. Pierzynski elbowing Willy Aybar resulted in an interference call…on Aybar, hearing the Pale Hose’s uber-hack announcers try to rationalize the whole thing was much worse.

Admittedly, I may have been upset because the Mets somehow managed to lose by giving up — in the same inning, I swear! — the first post-Clinton administration homer for both Brad Asumus and Darrin Erstad. Do you know what the odds of that are? It’s in the billions! It couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen! Did you not see you were being set up after the second hit?

Ummmm . . .

[ 33 ] August 25, 2008 |

. . . what was that?

The GOP Glass Ceiling

[ 13 ] August 24, 2008 |

I suppose the latest Kristol/PUMA meme is so obviously disingenuous it’s barely worth responding to, but for the record.

Joe Biden, Drug Warrior

[ 35 ] August 24, 2008 |

Radley Balko points out that Biden’s voting record on drug issues in particular and civil liberties in general is quite bad. (Edit: As a couple of commentators have noted, Biden’s overall civil liberties record isn’t as bad as Balko is making it out to be).

FWIW I think on average too much attention gets paid to VP picks (this rule contains an exception for nominating one of Satan’s actual minions). Still there are a lot of things about the Biden pick that are troublesome. Yglesias notes that Biden’s Iraq vote seems to have been based on the rather strange theory that an Iraq war skeptic could influence the process in a positive way by supporting the Bush administration’s push for maximum latitude in going to war.

Further thoughts: What really bugs me about the Biden pick is that he voted for the war, and picking him inevitably blurs the message of what a gigantic mistake that was. It also reinforces the myth that it was “political suicide” to vote against the war in 2002. In fact more than half of the Democratic members of Congress voted against the war, including a solid minority of senators, and of course far from being political suicide, there’s no real doubt Clinton would be the nominee if she had simply done the right thing at the time. As Scott pointed out yesterday, the Beltway wisdom on Iraq remains so twisted that having voted for the war makes Biden more acceptable in the eyes of the Villagers.