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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

Jimmy Carter, speaking of the Equal Rights Amendment, 15 May 1980

Equal rights is more than just equality of pay; it’s an opportunity to receive an equal education, equal training, equal job opportunities, equal treatment under the law, equal access to the kind of realization of the use of talent which God has given us all, and a sense among men and women that the time for official, legally condoned discrimination has been eliminated in our country. This kind of continued discrimination is a source of embarrassment and a legitimate source of shame for those who are responsible for the Nation’s affairs. It’s almost unbelievable that the ERA has not yet been ratified.

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Moral vs. Procedural

[ 26 ] May 15, 2008 |

Chris Bowers does a fine job with the popular vote question:

The problem with this popular vote total is that it is a moral argument about the will of the participants in the Democratic nomination campaign, not a legal argument over the definition of the winner of the nomination campaign. Legally, the Democratic nominee is determined by delegates, not by popular vote totals. For a moral argument about the popular vote–a.k.a. the will of the nomination campaign electorate–to carry weight, it needs to be as inclusive as possible in its vote totals. Instead, this vote total pretends that the over 550,000 caucus goers in Washington, Nevada, Maine and Iowa, not to mention the quarter of a million uncommitted voters in Michigan, didn’t actually have candidate preferences in the nomination campaign just because those candidate preferences weren’t recorded. Excluding those 800,000 participants in the nomination campaign from a popular vote toal, especially when exit polls and turnout numbers make close estimates on those preferences quite simple, renders that popular total pointless. Since popular vote totals are statements of moral value, mass exclusions of this sort drains any popular total of all its moral force.

The popular vote total in the nomination campaign is a moral argument about fairness, intra-party democracy, and legitimacy. It isn’t even a moral argument that many people accept, given, among other issues, the variances in voter eligibility from state to state, the various “legitimacy” of the nomination events used in the totals, and the staggered primary calendar itself.

Which is pretty much a more eloquent version of what I wrote here.

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[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

Probably not ideal to refer to a professional journalist as “sweetie” on the same day that you receive an endorsement from NARAL. A “bad habit” indeed; if I ever did it in the classroom I’d be rightly sanctioned.

…I agree with Erik that some folks in comments seem to be overly apologetic for Obama. When I say that I would face sanction for calling a woman “sweetie” in class, I’m dead serious; even if the woman weren’t offended, it would still be inappropriate and reflect a poor classroom environment. This isn’t dread “political correctness”. “Sweetie” is belittling in a way that “buddy” really isn’t, and it really shouldn’t be used in any kind of professional setting, except perhaps between those who are exceptionally familiar.

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[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

NARAL and John Edwards come out for Obama. The former’s explanation here. It obviously makes sense; Obama and Clinton have indistinguishable records on reproductive rights, McCain has an extremely bad record, and Obama will be the nominee, so it’s a pretty obvious move. NARAL has made some shaky decisions (*Lieberman*, cough), but this one is good.

…More from Ann Friedman.

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A Little Respect, Please

[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

I would like to join Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee in scolding certain bloggers who yesterday chose to make light of President Bush’s ominous warnings of a disaster in Iraq. If we have learned nothing else from his seven years in office, we have learned that when President Bush speaks about Iraq or the greater Middle East, his insights must be treated with the respect to which only clairvoyants are entitled.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking to farmers in Washington, D.C., 14 May 1935

It is high time for us to repeat on every occasion that we have not wastefully destroyed food in any form. It is true that the Relief Administrator has purchased hundreds of thousands of tons of foodstuffs in order to feed the needy and hungry who have been on the relief rolls in every part of the United States.

The crocodile tears shed by the professionals mourners of an old and obsolete order over the slaughter of little pigs and over other measures to reduce surplus agricultural inventories deceive very few thinking people in this country, and least of all the farmers themselves.

I have always supposed, ever since I was able to play around, that the acknowledged destiny of a pig is sausage, or ham, or bacon or pork. It was in those forms—as sausage, ham, bacon or pork—that millions of pigs were consumed by vast numbers of needy people who otherwise would have had to do without them.

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A Couple Thoughts on Invading Burma

[ 114 ] May 14, 2008 |

1. It’s a terrible idea.

2. It’s a terrible idea because…

The problem with Burma right now is that the civil service infrastructure is by turns unable and unwilling to manage the disaster that resulted from the cyclone. Offers of foreign assistance are dangerous, because they put the inability of SLORC to handle the crisis into stark relief, thus loosening the regime’s hold on power.

The threat of an invasion could have two purposes. First, if we take the idea seriously, an invasion could attempt to ensure international access to the disaster area, thus enabling international assistance efforts. This is nothing less than a recipe for disaster, however. Any military attack will invariably disrupt current disaster management efforts on the part of Burmese authorities; such efforts have been insufficient but hardly nonexistent. These management efforts would be replaced at some time considerably (by crisis standards) in the future by international capabilities that would have greater resources, but that would undoubtedly be hampered by an unstable security environment and, more importantly, by an unfamiliarity with local conditions. As such, international efforts would almost inevitably be less effective even than than the current local disaster management. The international community would need, in an extremely short time frame, to essentially replace the entire civil bureaucratic structure of Myanmar; this is an enormous administrative task, and one that the IC is incapable of accomplishing in the time allotted. Long story short, it’s quite likely that an invasion would cause a lot more people to die than are likely to die sans intervention.

The idea of a threat of an invasion in order to force SLORC compliance with international aid efforts is a little bit better on its face, but collapses when subjected to scrutiny. The primary interest of the regime is survival; it cares more about survival than the lives of the Burmese people. Allowing itself to be forced at gunpoint to accept international assistance strikes me as considerably more dangerous to regime survival than to simply allow the disaster to run its course. The regime, undoubtedly, also has a strong sense of the difficulties that any invasion would face, especially one with a humanitarian objective. In other words, SLORC has a) reason to believe that the international community is bluffing, and b) strong incentive for calling that bluff. Again, the threat of military intervention in the short term is likely to lead to more, not fewer, dead Burmese.

The best case that can be made for an invasion would be to wait for the end of the crisis, then attempt regime change. I think that the prospects of successful regime change are slightly better for Burma than for Iraq; it’s twice the size of Iraq, but a relatively strong domestic opposition is already in place, and as such it’s possible to imagine a smoother shift to a new government. Burma’s neighbors would also likely be altogether more tolerant of intervention than Iraq’s neighbors. However, SLORC would undoubtedly fight, meaning that whatever force the international community cobbled together for the invasion would face a hostile environment. Given current US deployments, I can’t imagine that the US could provide much in the way of ground forces, although I suppose we could lob cruise missiles and hope that the regime just fell of its own accord. Aside from the practical difficulties, an invasion of Myanmar would set a somewhat disturbing precedent; the international community would now be forcibly intervening in countries to ameliorate a) levels of political repression that are serious, but that don’t approach genocidal, and b) poor disaster management. As criteria for intervention go, these seem to be lacking…

So, no, I don’t really see the case for an invasion of Burma. Mark Goldberg has more…

UPDATE: Read Barbara Stocking on why airdropping supplies is a fantasy.

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Further Indications that the World Has Changed

[ 16 ] May 14, 2008 |

The Chinese appear to be stealing an effective and marketable Russian weapon design; the Russian response is to threaten a lawsuit:

Russia is getting more and more upset at what it sees as Chinese making unauthorized use of Russian military technology. The latest irritation is the new Chinese diesel electric sub design, the Type 39A, or Yuan class. They look just like the Russian Kilo class…. The Russian sub building organizations are not amused, and are warning China of legal action if Yuans are offered for export (and in direct completion with the Kilos.)

Ah… I remember when this kind of problem was handled through bitter claims of ideological revisionism, dire threats of military action, and the rumbling of artillery along the Ussuri River. Now it all comes down to the lawyers…

Via Information Dissemination.

…Incidentally, we’re working on a paper on the intersection of intellectual property law and military procurement; if anyone knows a ton (or even a few pounds) about the issue, please drop me a line.

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Crude Stereotypes: Not Progressive

[ 60 ] May 14, 2008 |

Reading some comment threads about the now-meaningless WV primary, I feel compelled to quote the GOS:

To all you Obama supporters tempted to belittle or insult West Virginia, just remember how annoying it has been when the Clinton camp has done that to Obama states like Idaho and Utah and Mississippi. A 50-state strategy means just that. You don’t go around insulting states.

Speaking of Mississippi, this is indeed encouraging news.

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The Vote Fraud Fraud: Citzenship Requirements Edition

[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

The Times:

The Missouri legislature is, as Ian Urbina reported in The Times on Monday, on the verge of passing an amendment to the State Constitution that would require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. In addition to the Missouri amendment, which would require voter approval, Florida, Kansas, South Carolina and other states are considering similar rules.

There is no evidence that voting by noncitizens is a significant problem. Illegal immigrants do their best to remain in the shadows, to avoid attracting government attention and risking deportation. It is hard to imagine that many would walk into a polling place, in the presence of challengers and police, and try to cast a ballot.

There is, however, ample evidence that a requirement of proof of citizenship will keep many eligible voters from voting. Many people do not have birth certificates or other acceptable proof of citizenship, and for some people, that proof is not available. One Missouri voter, Lillie Lewis, said at a news conference last week that officials in Mississippi, where she was born, told her they had no record of her birth.

This would seem to have the possibility to disenfranchise substantially more people than the Indiana law, with just as little connection to an actual problem.

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The Sacrifice We Make

[ 25 ] May 14, 2008 |

Like the President, I gave up golf in order to honor the sacrifice of our soldiers in Iraq. Last year, I gave up non-diet pop to honor our soldiers in Afghanistan. In 2006, I gave up fried cheese in order to honor our soldiers in Portugal. In 2005, I gave up Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in order to honor our soldiers in Okinawa. In 2004, I gave up Rocky Mountain oysters in order to honor our soldiers in Germany. In 2003, I gave up reading Tom Friedman in order to honor our soldiers in Bahrain. In 2002, I gave up lutefisk in order to honor our soldiers in Cuba. In 2001, I gave up pheasant hunting for Lent; to be honest, that one was rather an easy sacrifice.

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Flash of the Blade

[ 0 ] May 13, 2008 |

I took a two-credit foil fencing class during my first semester of college. At least half of us, I imagine, were there because we’d listened to too much Iron Maiden in high school. To my surprise, fencing was absolutely the most grueling sport I’ve ever attempted; for someone like myself whose reflexes are substandard, fencing involves a tremendous amount of wild arm-flailing, all of which is supposed to be accomplished from a devastatingly painful semi-crouched position. During the end-of-the-semester tournament, I lost a 45-minute match to a guy who — being even more uncoordinated and violent than I — managed to snap a foil in half against my chest. (Matches, I should mention, typically don’t last more than a few minutes, and blades don’t typically break during routine play. When we approached the instructor to explain that we’d destroyed one, her only response was to ask, “Well, how the fuck did that happen?”)

Anyhow, I earned B for the semester, as the written exam also turned out to be impossibly difficult.

All of this is mere preface to this bit of insanity from Australia:

Bye-bye bingo, so long sewing. The old folk at this seniors’ home have found a new activity to sharpen their wits and tone their bodies – fencing.

The group at Melbourne’s Catholic Homes Corpus Christi, most of them retired priests and nuns, have spent the past nine months studying swordplay and are learning to leave their walking sticks behind and lunge like Zorro. . . .

About 16 residents older than 80, including 93-year-old Sister Delores Kirby, now take part in the Monday sessions.

Kirby, a retired nun from the Faithful Companions of Jesus order, said: “It’s very unusual at our age – it’s a challenge. I’m always a bit afraid I might fall over.”

I’ll bet she does.


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