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Yeah, Surrrrrrre…

[ 0 ] October 18, 2007 |

For those unclear on the concept of bluffing, here’s Brian Cashman:

But yesterday after meeting with the three Steinbrenners and other members of the Yankees brain trust, Cashman said the team absolutely does not plan to negotiate with Rodriguez if he opts out. Another source familiar with talks told Newsday the Steinbrenners are absolutely onboard with that.

“Yes, I can affirm that,” Cashman said. “If Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract, we will not participate in his free agency. That is accurate and that is definitive.”

[5 second pause, entirely for effect] “I re-raise.”

This has been in a lesson in “transparently non-credible bluffing.”

Damning Stuff

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

You know the criminal justice situation in the US is bad when you open the morning paper and read this paragraph as the lede in a front-section article (that happens to be written by Adam Liptak):

In December, the United Nations took up a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1, with the United States the lone dissenter.

Ah, the US. First on the moon and first in incarceration.
In recent years, and especially since the Supreme Court held, in Roper v. Simmons, that the United States cannot execute people who were minors at the time of the commission of the crime, awareness and concern has been growing about the way minors are treated in our criminal justice system. Last year, over 200,000 minors ended up in the adult criminal justice system. According to the Christian Science Monitor (linked last sentence), that’s an increase of over 200% since the 1990s, when states first began passing laws allowing them to try juveniles as adults.
There seem to me to be a number of problems with such a system (putting aside, even, the juveniles who are saddled with life sentences). But the most central one is this: this seems like the clearest way to make sure that we keep a class of people is trapped in the criminal justice system for their entire lives. Again, not counting the kids who get life sentences, sentencing a child as an adult means that he or she serves his/her sentence in an adult prison. Adult prisons are tough places. Kids often don’t get to finish their high school educations while incarcerated. They are often exposed to drugs and violence while incarcerated. Juvenile detention facilities aren’t necessarily such happy places either, but at least they are better equipped to address the special needs of teenagers, and to at least try to make sure that the kids reenter their communities smoothly. Whereas most state adult criminal justice systems couldn’t care less about reentry, therefore creating the prisons’ revolving doors.
How long will we remain the only country not to realize that we are doing more harm than good by treating juvenile offenders with as little humanity as we treat adults?

Gender Discrimination and Mukasey

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

An interesting catch from today’s hearings from Emily Bazelon.

He Can’t Be Serious, Can He?

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

Might Stephen Colbert actually run for President (at least in South Carolina)?

The "Pro-life" Culture of Death

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

Bush’s new nominee to oversee family planning programs doesn’t like contraception; no surprise there. Ann notes that “pro-lifers” don’t really see anything in it for them if middle-class families have health insurance for their children. After explaining the deadly consequences of the new abortion ban in Nicaragua, Jill sums up:

In the meantime, countries with the most “pro-life” laws have higher abortion rates than the Western European countries with the most liberal abortion laws in the world. A large part of the difference is contraception — Eastern Europe has seen a 50 percent decrease in its abortion rate since contraception became more widely available post-Communism. And yet contraception is something else that mainstream anti-choice groups oppose.

Yes, you read that right: Mainstream “pro-life” organizations are opposed to contraception as well as abortion. They’re just keeping quiet about it because they know it’s an unpopular position, and they know it outs them as hypocrites who put ideology over human life. But the fact remains that none of the well-known and influential national anti-choice groups have come out in support of contraception access. None of them promote the very thing that has been proven, time and again, to lower the abortion rate.

What do they promote? Abstinence until marriage and embracing pregnancy and childbirth. (Apparently, no married woman has ever wanted an abortion or experienced pregnancy-related complications). Other than that, anti-choice groups offer no real alternative to women who don’t want to be pregnant, or women who don’t have a choice to say no to sex, or women whose pregnancies threaten their life or their health. They offer no solution to the problem that kills nearly 70,000 women every year, other than “don’t have sex outside of marriage; only have sex if you’re willing to give birth; and abortion is wrong, don’t have one.”

That isn’t working. It has never worked.

[...]

So far, “pro-life” groups have been non-responsive to the dead bodies in their wake. They are, however, mobilizing around the world to spread policies like Nicaragua’s far and wide. They are actively seeking to outlaw abortion in the United States, and in the meantime trying to limit access to it. Right now they’re in Aurora, Illinois, opposing Planned Parenthood. They’re also the base of a Republican party that regularly launches assaults at children and families. The right-wing opposition to children’s health care is just the start; 100 percent of the country’s worst legislators for children are “pro-life.” The global gag rule, which cuts off U.S. funding to any NGO that so much as mentions the world “abortion,” ends up de-funding health clinics that provide contraception, condoms and HIV prevention. As much as anti-choice leaders claim to value life and dislike abortion, their actions don’t back it up.

Dead sluts would seem to be the price the forced pregnancy lobby is willing to pay for…whatever it is that abortion criminalization is supposed to accomplish. Even “Feminists [sic] For Life [sic]” take no position on contraception other than to express concern “that certain forms of contraception have had adverse health effects on women.” To state the obvious, any position that expresses concern for fetal life while being indifferent to or actively opposing policies meant to reduce unwanted pregnancies is a complete fraud.

The Effect of Abortion Criminalization

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

In response to Matt here, let’s go back and see what I actually wrote about the new WHO study:

If the goal of abortion is to protect fetal life, criminalization is at best an ineffective and grossly inequitable means of achieving this goal, and the bundle of policies favoring reproductive freedom (including legal abortion) generally produces lower abortion rates than the illegal abortion-no rational sex ed-limited access to contraception-threadbare welfare state usually favored by the American forced pregnancy lobby.

It is, of course, true that the fact that countries that criminalize abortion have higher abortion rates doesn’t mean that the criminalization itself causes these high rates, and indeed it’s almost certainly true that ceteris paribus criminalization lowers abortion rates; I didn’t say otherwise. My points, however, are that 1)significant numbers of abortions will be performed under legal regime, since affluent women will almost always have access to safe abortions and some poor women will resort to unsafe illegal abortions, and 2)in practice, all things are almost never equal; abortion criminalization is almost always accompanied by other reactionary policies that swamp whatever inhibiting effects the bans have. What effect abortion criminalization would have in some hypothetical society with a strong commitment to women’s equality that happened to have a de facto commitment to fetal life that is rarely evident when push comes to shove even in societies that ban abortion is pretty much a pointless parlor game. If you want to consider marginal reductions in abortion rates that are reversed by the other policies that almost inevitably come with abortion bans in the real world and are obtained at the price of considerable negative externalities and arbitrary enforcement an “accomplishment,” I guess you can; I don’t.

On the normative point, as long time readers will know I don’t consider increasing abortion rates a moral problem and consider the sexual liberation that comes from legal abortion (and access to contraception) a feature, not a bug. (I do think that lower abortion rates that come from preventing unwanted pregnancies rather than restricting abortion access a good thing; I think that most women would prefer not to become pregnant in the first place than go through the expense and small risk of an abortion even if, like me, you consider pre-viability abortions morally neutral.) I don’t think this means, however, we should ignore the fact that “pro-life” policies are indefensible failures even if you accept “pro-life” premises. It strikes me that these arguments are a lot more likely to convince people who are ambivalent on the issue than making normative arguments about the a priori moral status of abortion.

"This May Surprise You, but Manny Ramirez Creates More Runs Than Coco Crisp!"

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

On Saturday, Tom McCarver treated the most obvious banality as if he’d just split the atom; he can’t help it, he’s Tim McCarver. What’s amazing is that he considered it so earth-shattering he needed to share it again!

10:05: I might not be able to describe what McCarver just told us without you thinking I made it up, but let’s try: Over the span of 45 seconds, he just explained that a leadoff home run leads to more multi-run innings than a leadoff walk, only he made it sound like this was some sort of remarkable revelation or something. Did we just watch a sketch for Joe Buck’s late-night show? That just happened, right?

(Rewinding game on TiVo.)

10:06: Yup, it just happened. So if you’re keeping track at home, multi-run innings happen more often when they’re started off by a home run instead of a walk. Thank you, Tim McCarver. Meanwhile, Delcarmen just gave up a Lofton single, a stolen base and a pop-up RBI single to Casey Blake Niedermayer. 7-0, Indians. We’re getting close to a Gagne appearance that might be acceptable under the ground rules established at the top of this column.

Yes–homeruns lead to more runs than walks; I”m as shocked as you are. I guess the idea that this is a revalation is an adjunct to the favorite broadcaster/sportswriter idiocy, that if you’re down multiple runs homeruns are “rally-killers.”

As Simmons also notes, all the more tragic is the opportunity that TBS had. First of all, no Tim McCarver. Their camerawork was less sophisticated but also less annoying; many fewer nostril shots, plugs for network stars, etc. I wish they had kept Darling for the NLCS, but Gywnn and Brenly were tolerable. But Chip Caray — wow. He’s the best argument against nepotism since Adam Bellow edited Liberal Fascism, if not Kiefer Sutherland.

"Theft of Services?"

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Because we didn’t do any political posts yesterday, so I didn’t get a chance to blog about the judge who seems to imply that once you’ve arranged to have sex for money consent can never be withdrawn and rape is impossible. (See also here and here.) Particularly remarkable is the judge’s apparent endorsement of the Bill Napoli “real rape” theory:

“Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?” Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop.

“I thought rape was a terrible trauma.”

A case like this, she said – to my astonishment – “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

Yes, a judge in 2007 still seems to think that merely being forced at gunpoint to have sex without your consent doesn’t qualify as “real rape.” What can one even say to this? I’m reminded of the Canadian judge who argued that an assault victim couldn’t have been a victim because she didn’t “present herself” in a “bonnet and crinolines…” I fear for the time in which a dismisses a rape charge because what happened was merely “gray rape…”

Stop Rudy

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Like Matt, I think JMM gets this exactly right:

I know I’ve said before that Romney’s profound and almost incalculable phoniness is a terrifying prospect to behold in a possible president. But the danger of phoniness, aesthetic or otherwise, cannot hold a candle to the truly catastrophic foreign policy Giuliani would likely pursue if he got anywhere near the Oval Office. Watching him campaign it’s pretty clear that the guy has no real sense that posturing and pandering to ethnic paranoia in New York City simply isn’t the same as running a national foreign policy. The people he’s coalescing around himself as his foreign policy advisors are the ones who are going to help him learn as he goes. And they are simply the most dangerous, deranged and deluded folks you can find in American political and foreign policy circles today. It’s really not an exaggeration. Scrape the bottom of the “Global War on Terror” Islamofascism nutbasket and you find they’ve pretty much all signed on as Rudy advisors.

First, you have the fact that choosing to be advised by people like Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz in the first place shows in itself that Giuliani lacks the requisite judgment to be President, sort of like pushing your mobbed-up police chief to head the Department to Homeland Security. And then, were he to become President these crackpots would actually be advising a President with little knowledge or experience in the field, which would be terrifying.

Matthew Duss offers a full rundown in the Prospect about Giuliani’s prospective war cabinet. If you want to spend enormous amounts of money and kill millions of people in service of policies that will be counterproductive for both democracy and American national security then Rudy’s your man. It’s also more than a little scary that in the primaries his lunatic foreign policy positions are his selling point; to the extent that he remains something of a longshot to win the GOP nomination, it’s almost entirely because of his uncharacteristically rational positions on abortion and gay rights.

Whitewashing S-CHIP

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

It should be abundantly clear to any regular readers that I am not one to criticize the S-CHIP reauthorization effort. That remains unchanged. But what I do think is worthy of criticism — or a least a critical eye — is the way S-CHIP is being sold. The Frosts (and the successors, below) are blameless in this and don’t deserved to be attacked by the pitbulls that are the nutjob talking heads and bloggers.

However.

I am concerned about the whitewashing of S-CHIP. What does that mean, you ask? Well, look at who’s being held out as the beneficiaries of S-CHIP in order to shame Bush et al into passing it?

First Graeme Frost, and now Bethany Wilkerson, who stars it this video:

Don’t get me wrong. Bethany is adorable as is Graeme Frost, and both kids are (undeniably) great examples of why S-CHIP is so important.

My only question is this: why is it that the “good examples” all have to be white? I understand it politically (must beware of any image that might raise the specter of the dreaded welfare state, and who does that more, in the minds of the crazies, than black women and their kids?), but I can’t help but be angry about this. At what point do we stop giving in to subtle (and not so subtle) racism? When our desire to get a good policy enacted bumps up against our indignation, the pragmatic policy consideration usually wins. I’m not sure that’s wrong. But I am sure that, once we’ve gotten that policy we want, we have to think about what it took to get us there and how we might work to change that underlying consideration.

Mitch McConnell: Right Wing Bloggers are Dirty Liars

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Matt Gunterman at Ditch Mitch brings us this Courier-Journal article by James Carroll:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman acknowledged yesterday that he alerted reporters last week to questions bloggers raised about the financial circumstances of a 12-year-old boy Democrats had used to urge passage of an expanded children’s health insurance program.Stewart said McConnell did not know about any of his e-mails until he told the senator about them sometime around last Thursday.

[...]

A week ago yesterday, Stewart said, he sent an e-mail to reporters covering the insurance issue, alerting them that “bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the Dad owns his own business (and the building it’s in), seems to have some commercial rental income and Graeme and a sister go to a private school that, according to its Web site, costs about $20k a year — for each kid — despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only $45k for the Frosts.”

[...]

In a letter to the editor of The Courier-Journal today, Stewart states that while there is no reason to question the Frosts, “only left-wing columnists and bloggers and others who seek political advantage seem to still be interested.”

Rich Brooks, Reconsidered

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

1994 was the eighteenth year of Rich Brooks tenure as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, and he took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1960s. This was a joyous event in Eugene, because it meant two things; the Ducks had arrived, and Rich Brooks would be leaving. Much celebration accompanied his decision to accept a job with the St. Louis Rams that off-season, because the good people of Eugene were, frankly, fed up with fullback traps on 3rd and 12 from the opponent’s 18 yard line. Brooks had, slowly and painstakingly, rebuilt Oregon football; it was time for him to go. He was replaced by Mike Bellotti, and the Ducks have become an A-list football program, even if their uniform choices have become… questionable.

When I arrived in Lexington two and a half years ago, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. Once again, Rich Brooks was head coach of the football team, and once again he was the target of wide disdain. At Patterson, the joke went “Why is Rich Brooks the administration’s best choice for heading the Department of Homeland Security? Because he can clear out a 45000 seat stadium in 10 minutes flat.” That tells you more about Patterson than about Brooks, but you get the point. At the beginning of last year, Brooks was almost unanimously believed to be a lame duck (so to speak). And then, contrary to all expectation, the Wildcats began to win.

Kentucky went 8-5 last year, winning their first bowl game since 1984. As you may have heard, they’ve been relatively successful this year, and are currently ranked 7th in the BCS standings; 3 spots ahead of Bellotti’s Ducks. I think it’s fair to say that Brooks deserves a reconsideration. He has coached two major college programs in his career, and he has essentially brought both of them back from the dead. It took longer with the Ducks, but that probably has more to do with structural changes in college football than with Brooks himself. Assuming that Kentucky doesn’t completely collapse the rest of the way, I’d be surprised if Brooks doesn’t win the Bear Bryant award for the second time. We’ll see what happens after this year; I’m guessing that Brooks won’t make the same leap that he made in 1994, but you never know. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see whether Kentucky can find its own Mike Bellotti. But for now, I’d just like to say that Rich Brooks is a damn fine college football coach.

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