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Jules Tygiel

[ 0 ] July 4, 2008 |

The great baseball historian has tragically passed away at 59. As goes without saying, Baseball’s Great Experiment is essential reading for anyone interested in the integration of baseball, ranking with the best work of James and Creamer and Alexander. R.I.P.

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Criminalizing Abortion: Always A Disaster

[ 11 ] July 3, 2008 |

Roughly 1 in 10 pregnancies in the Arab world ends in an abortion, despite draconian abortion bans in most countries. Just another reminder that the reproductive policies favored by John McCain, the Republican Party, and Islamic theocrats are very ineffective at reducing abortion rates, but are very effective at increasing health risks to women.

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Granting And Repealing Rights

[ 0 ] July 3, 2008 |

I agree with Sanchez and Patashnik that there’s no necessary contradiction between Obama’s nominal opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to the California Restoration of Bigotry initiative. As I think I mentioned before, Dan Pinello found a significant number of Massachusetts legislators who didn’t initially support same-sex marriage rights but was opposed to repealing them once granted. Obama’s position isn’t terribly surprising or unusual, and nor is it incoherent on its face.

Still, I also agree with Matt that while this position as a coherent rationalization of his stated views, something simpler is probably going on. More likely, Obama supports same-sex marriage but doesn’t feel he can express this view while trying to hold a national coalition together, but will support same-sex marriage in cases where it’s more politically viable. At any rate, his subjective beliefs aren’t really important; as same-sex marriage becomes more popular Democratic politicians will support it in greater numbers. And while people often focus on the backlash successful litigation provokes among hostile to same-sex marriage, there’s another side to it: litigation also makes voting against same-sex marriage more difficult and provides political cover for politicians who would like to support it but are reluctant to support changes in legislation. In addition, having even a few states where same-sex marriage is instituted and doesn’t produce the hysterically anticipated social apocalypse makes arguments against it harder to sustain, which is why supporters of discrimination fight tooth and nail against expanding rights in every state and support uniform federal standards. They’re fighting a losing battle, and every state victory for human rights makes their defeat more imminent.

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Off the Grid

[ 11 ] July 3, 2008 |

Blogger robots will take over Presidential Statement duties until I return to the intertube grid sometime next week.

Meantime, if any of our readers live in Emden, Illinois (pop. 500), I’ll be there, drinking and staring at the walls with my extended in-laws, for the next few days.

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Corporations are Not Unitary Rational Actors

[ 0 ] July 3, 2008 |

Matt writes:

As you can perhaps tell from my dyspeptic response to some of our Ideas Festival sponsors’ efforts to brand themselves as “green,” (see also Boeing’s hilarious hand-crank powered flashlight) I don’t see the “corporate social responsibility” movement as having a ton of promise. I think large firms will more-or-less inevitably seek to maximize profits and the role of the state is to ensure that that profit maximizing behavior takes place in a larger framework such that its impacts are beneficial.

I’m not so sure. A few months ago I visited the Cincinnati headquarters of Proctor and Gamble as part of a departmental field trip, and one of the things that struck me was the apparent role that employee preferences played in terms of corporate environmental policy. The framework that Matt lays out above is the traditional “billiard ball” understanding of the corporation; it is a unitary, rational actor that seeks to maximize profits within the legal framework set forth by the state. It may also, of course, try to modify that legal framework to increase profit maximization opportunity. This is a framework that the discipline of international relations borrowed from economics to create Neorealism, the idea that states can be treated as unitary, rational actors seeking to maximize power (or security).

Of course, we all know that states are not, after all, unitary rational actors; they are instead fragmented actors that respond to a variety of different external and internal stimuli in a way that leaves their behavior “rational” only in a very technical sense. I think that corporations can probably be treated similarly; the CEO of Proctor and Gamble does try to maximize profits, but there are internal as well as external constraints on P&G’s behavior. If the employees strongly support a certain kind of environmental, recycling, or social program, then it becomes hard for P&G to ignore that concern in the pursuit of profit maximization. No corporation, after all, can simply fire all of its workers. As such, I think that Matt underestimates the prospect of some companies branding themselves as “green” in a meaningful ways. Such moves aren’t simply public relations, but rather can also be a response to “grassroots” demands from within the corporation, and from shifts in corporate culture.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 6 ] July 3, 2008 |

Harry Truman, statement on the independence of the Philippines, 3 July 1946:

The independence achieved today by the Philippines comes after a period of forty-eight years of American sovereignty over the Islands. Throughout this period it has been the consistently expressed policy of this Government, as revealed in the instructions of President McKinley to the Philippine Commission, the Jones Law, and the Tydings-McDuffie Law, to prepare the people of the Philippines for independence. An ever increasing measure of self-government has been granted to the Filipino people as year after year they demonstrated their capacity for democratic self-government.

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Sonics Gone

[ 0 ] July 3, 2008 |

This is djw’s department, but the Sonics will officially be leaving Seattle. As an NBA nonfan, it’s especially easy for me to be happy that the city and state refused to sub,it to the usual extortion demands from plutocrats. But having lost a favorite team (in especially agonizing fashion) myself, it’s certainly not the time to gloat either.

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Holy Land Trivia of the Day

[ 28 ] July 3, 2008 |

Who killed whom here?

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What I’ve Been Doing…

[ 0 ] July 3, 2008 |

This is what I’ve been up to for two of the last three weeks:

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Everyone Hates Joe

[ 5 ] July 2, 2008 |

If only Senate elections were every two years:

The new Q-Poll has Obama has crushing McCain 56 to 35 in Connecticut. No real surprise there. The same poll also finds that even if McCain were to pick native son Joe Lieberman as his runningmate, only 14 percent of Connecticut voters say they’d be more likely to vote for McCain, while 32 percent say they’d be less likely to do. In other words, adding Lieberman to the ticket would cost McCain votes in Connecticut.

It would have been nice if more of the fine voters of Connecticut had figured this out a little sooner, but…

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Pregnancy Discrimination: It Just Won’t Die

Way back in 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to undo the damage wrought by the Supreme Court in Geduldig v. Aiello, in which the Court infamously (foot)noted that:

The California insurance program does not exclude anyone from benefit eligibility because of gender but merely removes one physical condition – pregnancy – from the list of compensable disabilities. While it is true that only women can become pregnant, it does not follow that every legislative classification concerning pregnancy is a sex-based classification . . . . Normal pregnancy is an objectively identifiable physical condition with unique characteristics. Absent a showing that distinctions involving pregnancy are mere pretexts designed to effect an invidious discrimination against the members of one sex or the other, lawmakers are constitutionally free to include or exclude pregnancy from the coverage of legislation such as this on any reasonable basis, just as with respect to any other physical condition.

The lack of identity between the excluded disability and gender as such under this insurance program becomes clear upon the most cursory analysis. The program divides potential recipients into two groups – pregnant women and nonpregnant persons. While the first group is exclusively female, the second includes members of both sexes. The fiscal and actuarial benefits of the program thus accrue to members of both sexes.

That’s right, kids: under the Constitution pregnancy discrimination is not sex discrimination because there are some women who are not pregnant. Or something like that.

Anyway, Congress tried to change this in 1978. But the more things change with regard to pregnancy discrimination, the more they stay the same. The Supreme Court last week granted cert to hear a pregnancy discrimination case against AT&T. The case — AT&T v. Hulteen — presents the question of whether a corporation is free to count leave taken before the 1978 passage of the PDA against women who continued to work at the company after the PDA’s passage. A summary from Cara:

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, Noreen Hulteen, Eleanora Collet, Linda Porter and Elizabeth Snyder took maternity leave from their jobs at AT&T. Under AT&T rules during this time, pregnancy was considered personal leave, and counted against employees for promotions, vacation, and pensions. Other types of long term sick leave, taken by men or women, were not counted against the employees. This type of discrimination, against only pregnant people, is currently illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Today, AT&T is counting the pregnancy leave against these women for purposes of their pensions.

Instead of dropping the case and giving these women the pensions they deserve after careers devoted to the company, AT&T is fighting their female employees all the way to the Supreme Court. And particularly given Ledbetter, I can’t say that I have any confidence in what SCOTUS will do.

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[ 6 ] July 2, 2008 |

Best wishes to Brian Beutler for a speedy recovery.

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