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Gender Discrimination and Mukasey

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

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

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He Can’t Be Serious, Can He?

[ 0 ] October 17, 2007 |

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

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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"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…”

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.”

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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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Orrin James Noon, Jr., 1943-2007

[ 1 ] October 15, 2007 |

After surviving nearly eight months with pancreatic cancer — the same disease that killed his own father four years ago — my dad passed away quietly at home this morning. My three siblings and I were able to spend the last few days with him, which I know gave him enormous comfort as he slowly drifted away. I’d like to say that I’ve been preparing for today since he was diagnosed on February 27, but mostly I’ve been living in various states of denial and haven’t begun to comprehend this loss.

If you had asked him, my father would have insisted that history was never his best subject. Nevertheless, I find it impossible to think about the second half of the 20th century without the stories and commentary I’ve borrowed from him. He grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he lived down the street from Norman Rockwell. Of all things, he actually worked as a model for some of Rockwell’s Boy Scout tributes; he’s the kid in the middle of the “Ever Onward” painting, commissioned for the Scouts’ 50th anniversary in 1960. Though he shared Rockwell’s liberal values — particularly his vision of racial equality — I don’t think he shared Rockwell’s confidence that small-town virtues still defined the United States during the cold war. If nothing else, Dad’s experience during the Vietnam War ruined that illusion.

When Dad first learned of his cancer, he reminded me that he’d already lived four decades longer than he once assumed he would. As an undergraduate English major at St. Bonaventure, a small Franciscan university in upstate New York, he enrolled in two years of ROTC because he wanted to learn how to fly. He graduated a few months after ground forces arrived in South Vietnam. When Johnson got the war he’d been seeking, and when he and William Westmoreland promised that the troops would be “home by Christmas,” Dad believed them and breathed a sigh of relief. He seems to have developed a keen ear for bullshit after that.

By 1967, to his lifelong bewilderment, he found himself running Hueys in the Army’s 129th Assault Helicopter Corps, serving in a war he opposed and for an institution he came to detest. Until about five years ago, I actually believed his two tours of duty were relatively free of danger. If I had ever bothered to ask, I might have learned that he was stationed near Qui Nhon during the Tet Offensive, and that he lived each day with the expectation that he’d never see the age of 25. More than anything, he wanted to have children, and he worried that Johnson’s war would deprive him of that chance.

Remarkably enough, he survived the American war in Vietnam and became a father, first to me, then to three others who came to share his wry sense of humor and his well-placed skepticism toward authority. Over the years I’ve been able to notice this influence more clearly. In 1974, when I asked him who “Tricky Dick” was, he explained the horrors of the Nixon administration in a way that actually made sense to a four-year-old; Watergate was, appropriately enough, the first thing I ever learned about the American presidency, and I can’t say my impression of its officeholders has changed significantly since then. A few years later, I listened to my father describe the Desert One hostage-rescue attempt as “dumb with a capital D,” then promptly repeated the same (completely accurate) assessment to my fourth-grade colleagues. Dad was profoundly unimpressed by the Reagan-Bush years. During my junior year of college he recognized the Gulf War as a disastrous venture long before I did. During Clinton’s two terms, he agonized over the various Balkan wars and was bewildered by his oldest son’s apparent indifference when the US launched what he viewed as a cowardly air war in 1999.

After retirement, Dad spent much of his free time watching C-SPAN and surveying the ills of the Bush administration. When he wasn’t shaking his first at the television, he began reading more about the Vietnam War era, spending his last few months trying to finish Frances FitzGerald’s Fire on the Lake, Jules Witcover’s The Year the Dream Died, and David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. The week before he died, when he could no longer walk and struggled to stay awake, he checked out Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco from the public library. The war in Iraq troubled him immensely, and he took some comfort in being able to watch the undoing of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, and the 109th Congress. In a rare moment of optimism, I asked him earlier this summer if he might hang on until January 2009. “That would be great,” he chuckled, “but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

At the bottom of it all, though, my father wasn’t a political creature. He was a quiet, funny man who loved dogs, golf, the Red Sox and — above all else — his family with an intensity that far surpassed his hatred for the “jerks” who ran the world. But powerful people at home and abroad pissed him off because he understood that the consequences of their actions trickled down upon the most vulnerable. He knew that idiotic wars and bogus heroism did nothing but sever decent, gentle people from the rest of their lives.

He also knew that he was one of the lucky ones — that he’d lived an immensely fulfilling life, despite the errors of the “best and the brightest” and despite the sickness that took him before any of us were ready to let him go.

I have many words to explain how very much I loved my father, but none to capture how much I miss him already.

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Florence Welsh, 1917-2007

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

My mother’s mother — my only surviving grandparent — passed away earlier today. It’s very sad, but as the cliche goes probably for the best. The last time I saw her in January she no longer recognized me, and she had effectively stopped eating for two weeks. The last years of her life were in large measure sad and (by choice) lonely, and I hope she’s found peace.

My mother asked me today if I remembered when she was happy, and I do; I still remember visiting her in a small town in Saskatchewan, helping her pick peas from the garden or playing cribbage or 500. In the end, I hope everyone who knew her will remember her that way. I know my mother remembers that her sacrifices were enormous; growing up on a small farm with a fairly harsh climate and no running water, her parents worked to send her boarding school and university, at a time in which neglecting a girl’s education in particular wouldn’t have been unusual. I know that whatever my sister and I achieve will be an indirect product of that. R.I.P.

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