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No Surprise Here: Bill Maher is a Misogynist

[ 1 ] September 18, 2007 |

So Bill Maher is funny sometimes. But for the love of whatever, he has got to stop talking about women. At all. Because he can’t do it without demonstrating how much he hates us.

Exhibit A:

Turns out, breastfeeding women “go Janet Jackson” on everyone whenever they breast feed, and shouldn’t get any “special privileges” because all a woman did was make a baby, “which even a dog can do.” Also, breastfeeding is an “intimate act” akin to masturbation. Not to mention that seeing a breast as a non-sexual object makes Maher feel nauseated. The cherry that tops this sundae? When Maher ties breastfeeding to the war in Iraq. I shit you not.

Maher says that the lactivists’ fight for the ability to breastfeed in public (so that pregnancy and child rearing does not impede their ability to continue with their lives) demonstrates that activism has become narcissism (apparently the new term for identity politics). And the narcissistic activism is why the war in Iraq has continued and why it won’t end without a draft. huh?

To Bill Maher, apparently, breasts are the source of the world’s problems (not just his own). Now I’m the one who feels sick.

Legislative Protection For Abortion Access

[ 0 ] September 18, 2007 |

A good article here about the conflict surrounding a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, IL. The clinic has been delayed by zoning issues with the local government, which is also threatening to pass an inevitably useless parental involvement regulation. The tactic of arbitrarily using zoning or other regulations as a pretext to shut down clinics — see also Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio — is particularly important, with the potential to place far more severe burdens on abortion access than any of the regulations explicitly upheld in Casey. Such actions also attract much less attention than trying to ban abortion outright.

Obviously, using litigation is one important element of a strategy to counter these methods. However, local abortion regulations like parental notification have already been held to be constitutional, and given the current composition of the federal courts one can’t be optimistic of an “undue burden” standard being applied with much teeth when it comes to states using regulations to shut down safe abortion clinics. In conservative states, this is a serious problem for the time being. But in pro-choice states, supporters of reproductive freedom should push for uniform access laws that prevent localities from obstructing poor women’s abortion access and also prevent zoning laws from treating abortion clinics differently than other non-residential entities. Thinking about ways to legislatively protect abortion rights — as Elliot Spitzer has done in New York — should be an important part of the pro-choice arsenal.

Confirm Mukasey?

[ 0 ] September 18, 2007 |

Scott Horton makes the case, which I think is correct. There’s obviously no question that Mukasey isn’t someone I would prefer to see appointed as AG. But the relevant universe of options here is not “people qualified to be AG,” but “people George Bush would appoint as Attorney General.” Given that last time Bush managed to select someone far worse than John Ashcroft, I think it’s pretty clear that Mukasey as as good as we’re going to get. (The fact that many conservatives aren’t happy with a clearly qualified candidate tends to reinforce this.) I also agree with Horton that with respect to the cabinet — as opposed to lifetime appointments to an independent branch of government — the President is entitled to considerable ideological deference. This doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be subject to tough questioning at his confirmation hearings, of course, but it seems clear that Mukasey is far better than anyone could reasonably expect of this administration.

Times Non-Select

[ 0 ] September 18, 2007 |

This has always been a non-issue for me since I subscribe to the dead-trees edition, but for better or for worse most of the Times website is going to be free again. Actually, although we tend to think of the op-ed columnists, the really good news for non-subscribers and bloggers (and teachers) is that the post-1986 archives and the public domain archives are also going free — not only a valuable source of information, but I presume fewer dead links.

Syllabus Bleg

[ 0 ] September 18, 2007 |

So we’re not even three full weeks into the semester, and for incomprehensible reasons I already need to submit textbook orders for Spring. I’m reworking the reading list for my “US Since 1950″ course, and I’m totally without ideas for what to assign for the week we’ll be devoting to the Bush I/Clenis years. Last time I used Thomas Frank’s One Market Under God; I’ve always enjoyed that book, but students weren’t so keen on it, so I’m on the lookout for something new. Here’s what we’ll be reading so far (I think):

  • Paul Boyer, Promises to Keep (broad survey of post-WWII US)
  • H.W. Brands, The Devil We Knew (survey of the Cold War)
  • Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open (post-WWII feminism and politics)
  • James Baldwin, Fire Next Time (short essays on race and religion)
  • Timothy Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name (white dude’s memoir of race and power in a small NC town)
  • Michael Herr, Dispatches (reporter’s memoir of US War in Vietnam)
  • Michael Schaller, Reckoning with Reagan (survey of the 1980s, mostly focusing on politics)
  • Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire (US policy and the Middle East)
  • Though we’re looking memoirs and surveys for the most part, I’m open to all suggestions — I usually assign a novel or fiction of some other kind (like Tim O’Brien’s Things They Carried), so that’s also an option. So far, the list doesn’t really have much on immigration, and so I’m thinking of using David Reimers’ Unwelcome Strangers, which examines the new nativism and its ties to the hard right; I’ve also considered Mary Romero’s Maid in the USA (about domestic labor). I haven’t assigned Romero or Reimers before, but I’m sure either one would be a barrel of laughs.

    Any suggestions?

    . . . Oh, and the first person who recommends Liberal Fascism has to buy TIDOS Yankee that new grill.

    Return of the Tank

    [ 1 ] September 17, 2007 |

    If the tank doesn’t interest you, skip this post.

    After the dreadnought and the strategic bomber, the tank is probably the most overrated weapon of the 20th century. However, while enthusiasm for the first proved to be folly, and for the second extremely destructive folly, the tank played a meaningful military role in World War II and later conflicts. Rather, it’s more appropriate to say that the tank is a lot like Derek Jeter; it’s an important contributor, but undeserving of the hype. Virtually given up for dead a decade ago, however, the tank appears to be making a comeback.

    To give a very brief history, the tank was developed by the British Army in World War I, but eventually used by all combatants. The hope was that an armored vehicle with tracks could cross broken territory against artillery and small arms fire. Early tanks suffered breakdowns and sometimes sank into the mud, but workable models became available by the end of the war. The tank didn’t, however, break the stalemate on the Western Front. In 1918, the Reichswehr deployed new tactics involving cooperation between infantry and artillery that allowed it to blow large holes in the Allied lines, but exhausted itself before these holes could be fully exploited. The Allied counter-offensive employed large numbers of tanks, but succeeded mostly because of German exhaustion. During the inter-war period, Germany and the Soviet Union worked out the theoretical problems associated with armored warfare at a school at Kazan. Most of the important generals of the Wehrmacht attended this school, while most of the Soviet students were later shot by Stalin. In any case, proper armored warfare involved close cooperation between tanks, dismounted infantry, artillery, and close air support. Infantry and artillery created breakthroughs in prepared enemy defensive positions, while armor exploited those breakthroughs, and aircraft complicated enemy reinforcement and logistical efforts. When war came, the Germans used the Polish campaign to work out the practical problems, then proceeded to conquer France with fewer (and poorer) tanks than the Allies possessed.

    Allied tank doctrine was less advanced. JFC Fuller and BH Liddell Hart had pushed the tank in the interwar period, but fundamentally failed to understand that its success depended on cooperation with other arms, rather than in replacement of them. In the Western Desert and during Operation Goodwood, British tanks operating without the support of dismounted infantry were simply massacred by German anti-tank weapons. The Americans did better, in spite of the uneven performance of US infantry, and the Soviets eventually developed extremely capable armored/deep battle operations. However, it’s important to note that in relatively few cases did tanks actually fight each other. For the most part, the role of the tank was to exploit breakthroughs, either surrounding enemy armies or busting apart their command and logistical networks. Tanks are large, loud, and warm, and tend to do poorly against the prepared defenses of a competent enemy. At Kursk tanks fought one another, but this was the exception and not the rule.

    The tank remained a important part of armies in the Cold War period, although again there were very few tank-on-tank confrontations. The IDF employed the tank to very good effect in 1967, depending on superior gunnery to destroy formations of Syrian and Egyptian tanks almost without loss. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, however, the story was different. The Egyptian Army employed personal anti-tank missiles that blunted and threatened to destroy the armored offensives of the IDF. On the Golan Heights, the Syrians threw hundreds of tanks against Israeli defenders, largely without dismounted infantry support, only to see them destroyed in mass by Israeli gunnery. The effect of anti-tank missiles was to expand the ability to kill tanks from competent to even semi-competent armies. The Yom Kippur War led to a doctrinal crisis in US Army, which briefly adopted a defensive doctrine based on the destruction of Soviet tanks with precision weapons. AirLand Battle, adopted in 1982, would return the tank to its offensive role. Tanks played an important role in the Gulf War, but became increasingly vulnerable to tactical air attack, especially while moving. US tanks were extremely effective against Iraqi T-72s, in large part because the Iraqis employed their vehicles poorly, but also because the T-72s had trouble penetrating the armor of US M1A1s.

    After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, there was a feeling in major Western armies that the era of the tank had passed. Tanks played almost no role in that conflict. Compared to other vehicles, tanks are heavy, expensive, and hard to transport. Against even a semi-competent opponent with the right equipment, they’re quite vulnerable. Western armies could destroy the tanks of their enemies without tanks of their own, and extended high-intensity conflicts between technologically advanced foes seemed unlikely. The US Army put plans in place to retire the M1A2 Abrams and replace it with lighter vehicles. Even the Israelis gave strong consideration to shutting down the Merkava line.

    Over the past couple of years, however, the tank has rebounded. While it has almost always been conceived of as a high-intensity warfare platform, the tank has performed relatively well in low and medium intensity combat in the past few years. Tanks are difficult to kill with IEDs, or with other weapons that insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq normally have access to. Even in Lebanon, against a sophisticated and capable opponent, Israeli Merkava tanks performed well, often serving as evacuation ambulances for wounded Israeli soldiers. Accordingly, several states have revised plans to retire their tank fleets. The US Army now envisions operating the M1A2 into the foreseeable future, and the Merkava line in Israel continues production. Canada, deeply involved in Afghanistan, is purchasing a large number of German Leopard 2 tanks from the Netherlands.

    The tank isn’t perfectly suited for this kind of warfare, but the context of casualty-phobic democracies it has provided it with a new role, and it has performed well enough. The Israelis remain out in front on this, as new Merkavas have been developed for urban combat (more machine guns and more protection from small fire and explosives), for ambulance duty, and for service as armored personnel carriers (main gun replaced by other weapons). This last is probably the most interesting, because it suggests the most likely path for future tank development. While the main gun of the tank has become increasingly less useful, its heavy armor helps protect soldiers from the most likely forms of asymmetric attack. 120mm direct fire guns aren’t all that useful against insurgents now, and probably won’t be all that useful in the future, but hulls capable of resisting power IEDs and RPGs will be in demand for the foreseeable future. Then again, the continued (and even expanded) use of tanks and tank-like vehicles may drive insurgents to acquire and develop ever more lethal weapons.

    In Case you Haven’t Heard…

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    …it’s Mukasey, the former chief judge of the Southern District of New York and partner at Patterson Belknap someone and someone. He most recently made waves with an August Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he (much boiled down here) said that US courts were not the proper fora to deliberate about punishing terrorists, and that by hearing cases about alleged terrorists in US courts, we are helping get information to bin Laden et al.

    Schumer has in the past come out strongly in support of Mukasey, but is now backpedaling a bit (if you trust the NY Sun). Frankly, the fact that he is a judicial adviser to Giuliani is enough to scare me off.

    Another Reason Why SCOTUS was Wrong

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    In case any more evidence were necessary, here’s yet another example of why the Supreme Court’s decisions banning school admission plans that consider race were just plain wrong.

    UPDATE [BY SL]: I have more here. “Color-blind” conservatives who endorse state racial discrimination as long as it’s manifested in the drawing of district boundaries instead of pupil assignment goes back decades. Once again, I’d like to quote Bill Douglas’s dissent in Milken:

    Today’s decision, given Rodriguez, means that there is no violation of the Equal Protection Clause though the schools are segregated by race and though the black schools are not only “separate” but “inferior.”

    So far as equal protection is concerned, we are now in a dramatic retreat from the 7-to-1 decision in 1896 that blacks could be segregated in public facilities, provided they received equal treatment.

    As I indicated in Keyes v. School District No. 1 Denver, Colorado, there is, so far as the school cases go, no constitutional difference between de facto and de jure segregation. Each school board performs state action for Fourteenth Amendment purposes when it draws the lines that confine it to a given area, when it builds schools at particular sites, or when it allocates students. The creation of the school districts in Metropolitan Detroit either maintained existing segregation or caused additional segregation. Restrictive covenants maintained by state action or inaction build black ghettos. It is state action when public funds are dispensed by housing agencies to build racial ghettos. Where a community is racially mixed and school authorities segregate schools, or assign black teachers to black schools or close schools in fringe areas and build new schools in black areas and in more distant white areas, the State creates and nurtures a segregated school system…there is, so far as the school cases go, no constitutional difference between de facto and de jure segregation. Each school board performs state action for Fourteenth Amendment purposes when it draws the lines that confine it to a given area, when it builds schools at particular sites, or when it allocates students.


    Why Not Just Merge With the AEI and Be Done WIth It?

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    Matt points us to this remarkable panel at a think tank often described as “liberal.” Not only does it seem to define Joe Biden as the leftmost acceptable opinion on the Iraq catastrophe, and is it chaired by Brookings scholar and the dead-ender’s dead-ender Michael O’Hanlon, but if features Peter Hoekstra. Yes, that Peter Hoekstra: the guy who did a presser with Dead Senator Walking Rick Santorum — in 2006! — announcing that Iraq really did have scary, scary WMDs. The Peter Hoekstra who claimed that leaks about the administration’s illegal activity may have been “penetrated” by “other nations or organizations.” But whose opposition to leaks is highly selective! That Peter Hoekstra. Truly a credible voice on Iraq, well-situated to share his insights about how national security issues will affect the next election.

    You Wanted to Know What Happened After…

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    …the last moments of the last episode of Angel? Now we know.

    What Happened in Syria?

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    Much of the blogosphere is astir with discussion of the Israeli strike into Syria. Initial speculation suggested that the attack targeted a Syrian weapons shipment to Hezbollah. According to this Times article, the strike was directed at a cache of nuclear materials that had recently been delivered to Syria from North Korea.

    This didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I understand that Syria would like to have nuclear weapons, but by no account does it have any of the infrastructure necessary to support the construction of such a weapon. I suppose that the North Koreans could have shipped a completed nuke to Syria, but that seems quite outlandish; North Korea is thought to have only a small handful of weapons, and it’s unclear that any of them work. Syria could have intended to cap a Scud with radioactive material in order to create a “dirty bomb”, but the dirty bomb is the single most over-hyped weapon of our age; it does no substantial damage, and any target can be scrubbed in short order. Unsurprisingly, the wingnutosphere went, well, nutty, with Captain Ed penning the following:

    That’s also why the US had better start harking back to the Bush Doctrine on terror-supporting states. Israel has the right idea, and if we don’t stop nuclear arms from getting to terrorists, it won’t just be Tel Aviv that goes up in a mushroom cloud.

    Of course, a sane person could detect the difference between an Osirak style strike and the invasion of Iraq, but this is what passes for strategic thought in Right Blogistan.

    Fortunately, Jeffrey Lewis at ArmsControlWonk has supplied a much needed dose of quiet reason. Pointing out that there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Israelis struck a nuclear site, he traces how the story of such a strike has developed without noticeable empirical foundation. Blake Hounshell links to Joe Cirincione’s utter demolition of the story. It’s too good to excerpt, so read the whole thing. Brian Ulrich has some more at American Footprints, where he points out that the sources pushing the North Korea connection are the same folks who were opposed to the deal with North Korea. However, Ulrich also notes that the Times article linked above does seem to have some Israeli sources.

    In any case, I’m still pretty skeptical. The sources that are suggesting a nuclear connection have incentive to lie and a history of deception. I don’t think the Syrians could do anything useful with nuclear material short of a bomb, and I’d be stunned if the North Koreans were willing to actually sell them a completed weapon. But we’ll see how the story develops.

    Cross-posted to TAPPED.

    Right-Wing P.C.

    [ 0 ] September 17, 2007 |

    Jack Balkin on Michael Drake‘s feeble defense of his decision to fire Erwin Chemerinsky for transparently political reasons:

    Nothing Drake says sheds much light on why it would be reasonable for him to act as he did. Indeed, he only creates greater suspicion that the reasons for the firing were illegal, unethical, and dishonest. He is trying to save his own job by suggesting that there is something wrong with the man he fired, without giving any details or any way for Chemerinsky to defend himself from these unspoken charges.

    This is a disgraceful way to treat Erwin Chemerinsky, a very fine legal scholar. It is bad enough that Drake fired him in what can only be described as an act of cowardice. Now he must go on an extended public relations campaign lying about why he did so and further impugning Chemerinsky in the process. One suspects that the next person whose job is on the line will be Drake himself.

    This is even worse than Juan Cole’s rejection by Yale, which at least happened before the fact (although after departmental approval.) Needless to say, if what happened to either had happened to a conservative, we would be hearing these anecdotes recycled for decades (and not without reason.)

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