Thursday, March 30, 2006

Awesomely Lame 

Reader JK can rest easy, while I will pine for Vince McMahon to come back to pro football.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Left Chicago for New York to Enlist in the War on Terror 

Via everybody, right-wing blogger and radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Time chief Baghdad correspondent:
Read the transcript of Hewitt's conversation with Michael Ware. There's this interesting discussion of how Ware came close to having his head sawed off:
By the same token, trying to film them secretly in Baghdad, I was kidnapped by them, dragged out of my car, and a group of Syrian fighters for Zarqawi were preparing to execute me on the street here in Baghdad. So I've been with Zarqawi's people in a number of different forms....And eventually, the al Qaeda Syrians decided it wasn't worth it, and through very gritted teeth, after having said a Westerner comes in here and you expect us to let him leave alive, they finally relented and set me free. It was not a pleasant experience.
Then, some time after this discussion--that is, after we've been made aware of the fact that Ware's been in some serious shit--he says
I mean, you're sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.
and Hugh responds, hilariously, with this:
I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
Ok. I just wanted to note the larger context. Nothing more to say, really.
Now, if my office moves to the new New York Times building, which is about a 50/50 proposition right now, I'll be the on the central front in two wars on terror--the Al-Queda one and the Ann Coulter one!

But I Want My Pony NOW!!! 

We have the Democratic Party's position on Iraq:
Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.
Atrios, through the miracle of time travel possible when you're a super-duper blogger in control of the Internets, gives us the 2010 Democratic Party platform for Iraq:
Ensure 2010 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces, and a pony.
Atrios blames this on having to keep Joe Lieberman on board, which may be partly true, but I'd say it's as much the fault of the Biden/Clinton "Incompetence Dodge" wing as Lieberman.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Off-Season NFL Blogging 

No, not important commentary on the new collective bargaining agreement or the Browns' many attractive free agent signings. I just want to tell you all I agree with Peter King's reader and Peter King himself on this issue 100%.
THE NO FUN LEAGUE. From Scott of Moncton, New Brunswick: "Once again the NFL wants to rein in the celebrations that in many ways are harmless and, more often than not, outright funny. In a world full of pressure and stress, these few moments of creative humor each Sunday are what the NFL should be promoting rather than banning. Kudos to Chad Johnson, Steve Smith and T.J. Duckett (his "start the car " routine from last year was an all-time classic). The NFL needs to realize that they are an entertainment product and they shouldn't take themselves so seriously all the time."

I couldn't agree with you more. I only hope the members of the competition committee read this, because it would be a shame if they legislate some harmless fun out of football. Next.
I hereby proclaim all opposed to be fuddy-duddies.

How is this Legal? 

Via Rep. Slaughter writing on Kos, we find out she's introducing a bill to prevent Capitol Hill aides from day-trading based on inside information:
Amid broad congressional concern about ethics scandals, some lawmakers are poised to expand the battle for reform: They want to enact legislation that would prohibit members of Congress and their aides from trading stocks based on nonpublic information gathered on Capitol Hill.

Two Democrat lawmakers plan to introduce today a bill that would block trading on such inside information. Current securities law and congressional ethics rules don't prohibit lawmakers or their staff members from buying and selling securities based on information learned in the halls of Congress.

It isn't clear yet what kind of support the bill will garner from Republicans. But its prospects are enhanced by the current charged environment in Congress; lawmakers from both parties in both houses have placed a high priority on passing ethics and lobbying-reform legislation. Such legislation would provide a vehicle to which proponents could attach a measure on stock trades.

In addition to banning trading on inside information, the proposal would require that lawmakers and their top aides disclose within 30 days any stock trades. Congressional rules now require lawmakers to disclose their trades once a year. The bill also would require that companies register with Congress if they sell information about congressional activity to Wall Street investors.

Unlike members of Congress, executive-branch employees already are banned from trading on inside information. Employees of several federal agencies are prohibited from investing in companies that have business before them. In 1934, for example, Congress banned Federal Communications Commission employees from owning stocks or bonds in telecommunications or broadcast companies.[Emphasis G&G]
Now, I am not am a securities lawyer, and I cannot believe that this is legal under current law. Is there some exemption to the insider trading law that exempts congressional aides? Now, time to sue my awesomely powerful lawyer skills (warning: Do Not Attempt Without J.D.): Rule 10b-5 (specifically, 10b5-1) under the Exchange Act covers insider trading. It reads in part:
a. General. The "manipulative and deceptive devices" prohibited by Section 10(b) of the Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder include, among other things, the purchase or sale of a security of any issuer, on the basis of material nonpublic information about that security or issuer, in breach of a duty of trust or confidence that is owed directly, indirectly, or derivatively, to the issuer of that security or the shareholders of that issuer, or to any other person who is the source of the material nonpublic information.

b. Definition of "on the basis of." Subject to the affirmative defenses in paragraph (c) of this section, a purchase or sale of a security of an issuer is "on the basis of" material nonpublic information about that security or issuer if the person making the purchase or sale was aware of the material nonpublic information when the person made the purchase or sale.
Now, I am not up on the caselaw, but I can't imagine Congressional aides are not found to owe a duty of trust to the issuer, at least indirectly. But maybe caselaw states otherwise. Rep. Slaughter say:
The bottom line is, at the very least, individuals with access to non-public government information should be held to the same standards as any other American. There is a gaping hole in the law and it needs to be closed. People should come work in Congress to serve their country, not to enrich themselves.
So, I guess we have to just assume that insider trading is, in fact, legal for these people? So my question is: What is this loophole and how does it work? Anyone?

Role Reversal 

This blog rarely comments on gender issues in Hollywood, but this caught my eye, in an article announcing that they will make Ocean's 13:
However, the sultryEllen Barkin will keep the estrogen quotient in check this time around and, as Weintraub told Variety, she'll be heating up the screen with Damon's character, Linus.
Ellen Barkin will turn 52 on April 16; Matt Damon is 36. I have to applaud the studio and producers for reversing the normal Hollywood gender roles. I think more likely would be paring Carl Reiner's character with Mischa Barton, so this is some refreshing thinking. Good for them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Golden Age of Television 

Three of the best shows ever are running right now, and they are all pretty close to the top of their game. The Sopranos, 24 and Lost are good week in and week out, and for the next few months they will be on every week (although Lostwill skip a few weeks). And apparently I'm not even watching the best show on television, which Goldberg insists is The Wire.

It's a pretty exciting time to be alive.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Concert Review 

[Updated below]

Last night I went to the Bring Em Home Now at the Hammerstein Ballroom to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and to benefit various veterans groups (viz., Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace). It was a fun time, with all kinds of guests and acts. I'll run through some of them now:

Well, that about it. Overall, very fun with some quality music. Although, the combination of FischerSpooner, Margaret Cho, Peaches, Rufus Wainright and Michael Stipe, it was probably the gayest thing I've been to.* Nevertheless, fun and a good cause.

UPDATE: Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money (one of my new favorites, and not just because it's named after a Zevon song) posts about anti-war protests in general. I'm virtually certain Guthrie would agree with his post, and I agree with most of it. Check it out.

*other than summer camp, of course. But that doesn't count, right?


Thursday, March 16, 2006


Great to see my alma mater in the news.
Miami, Florida (AP) -- A growing scandal over teachers who paid to get credit for courses they never took has cost nearly three dozen educators their jobs, and hundreds of others are being investigated...

The Miami-Dade County School Board in Florida voted 5-4 on Wednesday to fire six teachers and accept the resignations of 26 others.

The punishments stem from a scam run by former high school teacher William McCoggle, who claimed to offer continuing-education classes through a private company. McCoggle pleaded guilty to fraud in November, admitting he did little more than sell transcripts, requiring no tests, homework or other academic work.

On Wednesday, dozens of students and parents defended the teachers who lost their jobs, saying that removing them in the middle of the school year would be too disruptive.

Board member Evelyn Greer, who voted against the firings, agreed. "It baffles me, just baffles me, to have disruptions at the class level," Greer said.

Florida law requires teachers in public schools to take the equivalent of six education credits every five years to maintain their licenses. The credits can also get teachers raises and let them teach other courses.

McCoggle, who had taught in Miami-Dade County schools since 1983 before retiring last summer, agreed to serve two years in prison in a deal with prosecutors and must pay up to $100,000 in restitution.

Hundreds of teachers who never took classes are being investigated for buying continuing education transcripts.

Last fall, Ohio's Otterbein College, which has about 3,000 students, revoked nearly 10,000 credits given to 657 teachers. It was one of five schools that prosecutors say provided the course credits through McCoggle's company, Move On Toward Education and Training.
Of course, what do you expect from a "college" that censors performances of that edgy, "controversial" playwright David Mamet. Sad.

(For some reason I just got angry about that again. For those who know me, I've probably told that tale 1,000,000 times. For those who don't, see here.

Actually, I just realized that article is only available on Google's cache. I'll repost here in full, to save it from cyber-obscurity:
This article was originally obtained from http://www.dispatch.com/panarchive/1998-9-16/features/ottfea.html. It is also available in the Friday, October 16, 1998 edition of the Columbus Dispatch.

Otterbein College Theatre, responding to student complaints about racial stereotypes in an upcoming David Mamet drama, will shift the show's venue to a more private classroom audience.

Originally planned as a workshop presentation Nov. 5-7 in the Campus Center Theatre, Mamet's Edmond will be performed instead as a classroom project in response to "real concerns" that a campus protest "could result in violence," Artistic Director Dennis Romer said.

"As a classroom project, it is protected by rules of academic freedom," he said.

Mamet's episodic 90-minute piece, produced in Chicago in 1983 and off-Broadway later, is a dark portrait of an unhappy white man whose frustrations are expressed through self-hatred, misogyny and bigotry.

Eric Dysart, a 24-year-old senior in Otterbein's theater program, was the first to complain "because I found (the play) offensive, I didn't consider it art and I felt, as an African-American, that it exploited African-Americans."

Dysart -- who most recently played the Emcee in Otterbein's Cabaret and a college student in Moonchildren, Otterbein's coproduction with Contemporary American Theatre Company -- asked to be excused from the requirement to audition for all college productions.

Dysart and two other black actors were excused under a department policy allowing students to disassociate themselves from plays that offend them, Romer said.

But Dysart said he wasn't satisfied, and took steps to "stop the play from being done."

Among them: contacting a family attorney, sending a script to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and communicating his concerns to the African American Student Union, an Otterbein student group.

Dysart's actions led to a reportedly contentious campus meeting last week with about 50 people, including cast and crew members, student union members, Dysart and Darryl Peal, a student-union adviser and college staff member.

"We live in a society where people see stereotypes about African- American characters constantly," Dysart said. "They said we were censoring art, and that they had a right to do this no matter who it affected. But on the other side, if you're going to open a wound like racism up, you have to be more responsible.

"Edmond curses, spits on and kicks a pimp who tries to rob him, and a black prisoner rapes and sodomizes him... The title character comes out in the end smelling like a rose when he discovers his own spirituality, but at what cost?... I want (plays) to be a positive representation of my community."

Mamet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Glengarry Glen Ross), is known for his frequent use of profanity and his stylized portraits of seriously flawed characters, especially modern American white men.

Otterbein's Edmond was conceived as a workshop, rather than a full production within the regular subscription series, because the Theater Department recognized that its disturbing subject matter and profanity would "not appeal to a mainstream audience," Romer said.

At the same time, "We believe strongly that the play also contains a journey of individual redemption and a spiritual awakening that includes... the subsequent shedding of past narrow-minded belief systems," Romer said.

The initial production was planned with "talkbacks" after each performance to encourage discussion of the play's issues, he added.

Professor Ed Vaughan, the workshop's announced director, will lead the classroom project for a "private audience" at a time and location to be announced, Romer said.

Copyright © 1998, The Columbus Dispatch.
Go freedom! Actually, another reason that article makes me mad is because it reminds me how I once had ideals.)


As I promised here, I'm going to post a couple of pictures from my recent trip to Big Sky and Yellowstone. This first picture is from our snowmobile tour in Yellowstone. It needs no caption.
Hmm, this is interesting--Blogger has made some strides in how you can post pictures since I last did this. Cool. So, yeah, this first pic to your left is of a Buffalo that passed us right on the road. This second picture isn't actually one I took, but one my little sister took a couple of weeks after I was out skiing. She's a Fine Arts major who concentrates in photography, so her pics are always good. This is a picture of her skiing the First Gully off the top of Lone Mountain.

And here's a very cool picture she took of the view from the top.

Anyway, great stuff. Enjoy.

Best. Idea. Ever. 

This has been batted around for a few years, but I have a question. Would painting my ski helmet like a Cleveland Browns helmet be the Best Idea Ever or the Worst Idea Ever? My buddy the Goat (everyone's favorite astrophysicist) has been hounding me to do this for years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom!! 

Today is my mom's some-not-too-large-number birthday! Of course, since I'm a terrible person, I called her on an unrelated matter, and eventually she said, "Do you know what day is today." I said, "Uh...March fif-oh....oh, fuck." Yeah, nice job me. But, I figure a shout-out on a blog read by thousands hundreds tens of people (on a good day) will more than make up for my poor showing, right? Hmm.

Feingold's Censure Resolution 

UPDATE: Here is Senator Feingold's statement introducing the resolution.

UPDATE 2: Here's a WaPo article on how Dems are running and hiding from this. Barack--your response is pathetic.

I, for one, support it, and urge you to as well. What's interesting, though, is the reaction it's getting--Democracts, perhaps (and unfortunately) not surprisingly, are trying to distance themselves from this resolution. Feingold has the correct response to that here:
"I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide…too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues…[Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question administration, you’re helping the terrorists."
I think that's pretty obvious. In fact, it's so obvious that even Donna Brazille, historically one of the absolute lamest "Dem Strategists," thinks we should support it:
For those who worry that this issue will create more tension between the progressive "net-roots" types and the party's base, I say fear not. Let's use this resolution to talk about what's really troubling so many Democrats and other astute Americans: the lack of Congressional oversight and accountability. No sooner had Feingold made his announcement than Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" urging caution. In other words, hold your powder -- wait until the investigation, if any occurs, is completed before urging action.

As a Beltway insider, I am convinced that we cannot continue to tell those who have loyally supported our Democratic leaders to wait. Wait for what? Wait until our pollsters give us the green light to speak up? Should we continue to wait, hoping that the Republicans will finally invite Democrats into the room when important decisions affecting our national security are made? All I know is that people outside the Beltway have grown deeply impatient with our focus-group style of politics. They want to see some bold changes and some new leadership.

It's time to break with the same-old, same-old and use the Feingold resolution to force the Republican-controlled Congress to commit to serious oversight of the controversial, but increasingly popular, surveillance program. The message from the left-leaning blogosphere is clear: Democrats should understand the real issue. The point is not censure or impeachment; it is Congress' lack of oversight and its failure to hold anyone accountable for major mistakes or missteps. And especially, it's about clearly misleading the American public...While the Feingold resolution is not going anywhere given the full Republican control of Washington, D.C., a change in leadership in the fall would make this a ripe item for conversation and action in 2007 and beyond.
Yet, Bill Frist is probably right when he says he has 85 votes against this resolution. That's pathetic. We have a President who, quite explicitly, claims he can ignore any law or constitutional provision if he feels like it. And what's our recourse? We simply have to trust him. This is totally at odds with our entire structure of government, yet most Democratic senators either don't think it's a big deal or do but are afraid to rock the boat. Pathetic.

Read this Digby post. He points out not only that the usual GOP suspects are calling Feingold a traitor, but also why, using examples from the recent past, this type of executive power grab is dangerous. The sheer lack of historical knowledge is maybe what's most infuriating to me.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cool Runnings 

The movie Cool Runnings seems to suggest that people are ignorant and bigoted for being skeptical about the bobsledding prowess. Is it really racist to think that people from a small country where it never snows would be bad at bobsledding?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Abortion 

Poor Men Shouldn't Have Sex

It's a frequent comment by both anti-choicers and busybodies who think it's their right to judge "good" and "bad" abortions largely based on the perceived morality of the women getting the abortion that women who can't afford children shouldn't have sex.

Of course a lot of these poor-women-getting-abortions are married women with children who don't have the economic resources to support another child, and not the caricature of the "irresponsible slut" that the busybodies are conjuring in their heads. If these people really believe that anyone who doesn't have the economic resources to support (another) child should simply stop having sex then that applies to the men as well.

Fortunately, with the twin joys of DNA testing and forced pregnancy more and more men may rationally decide to do just that. Congratulations, fellas!
Atrios' mention of males and men is not because that's what he cares about, but because he's trying to rhetorically turn the tables a bit. The point remains that this anti-abortion activism is clear mysogyny and also a clear indication that, at its heart, this movement just thinks that The Sex is bad and icky and you should be punished for having it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

New York Review Review 

I believe that The New York Review of Books is the best periodical in this country--at the least, it provides me with the most consistent supply of thought-provoking and educational historical and political essays each week. And, this week's issue is no different. I haven't read all of it (and there are some promising essay's I've yet to read), but I want to comment quickly on two that I have read, both of which are available online.

First is Paul Krugman and Robin Wells essay on health care in America. Nothing in the essay is particularly new, and many of you may find it like preaching to the choir, but I think it's a very good one-stop-shop type deal for learning about the problems and possible solutions to our health care nightmare. And, it's always good to actually be armed with facts when debating healthcare, right? So, read it and get your learn on.

Second is Tony Judt's review of John Lewis Gaddis new Cold War book. Now, I haven't read this book, but I have read his "We Know Now" book and I also had Gaddis as an undergrad in a class on the Cold War that he team-taught with Kenneth Branagh.* For full disclosure, I should also tell you that I despise John Gaddis both as a teacher and as person, for as far as I know** he was more responsible for railroading my mentor out of the Yale history deparment as anyone back in 2000.

So, I have some biases here against him. But, I would like to note that this Judt review makes me think that I am 100% correct in my biases. If I could have guessed what the problems with a new Gaddis-penned Cold War history would be, they'd be a laundry list of everything Judt states: overreliance on "Great Powers" giving the short-shrift to the Third World, Eastern Europe, and internal conflicts in Communist societies; an overall view of the Cold War as a not much more than a game of Risk; an overly American-centric view; etc. So, it's good to see that sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover! In any event, the essay is extremely interesting, whatever you think of John Lewis Gaddis and the Cold War, so check it out.

*As my mentor said in his "Revolution in Europe, 1789-1917" class, we actually had to read for that class, as CNN had yet to produce a miniseries of the same name

**I should note in fairness that, obviously, I was not privy to any intradepartmental meetings in which the history department rejected the subcommittee's recommendation to retain my mentor--so my blaming Gaddis is based only on second-hand knowledge and circumstantial evidence. But, I'm pretty sure it's an accurate impression.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fuck pro-lifers 

and then let them live with the consequences.

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone 

As I mentioned the other day, last week I spent a day on a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone National Park. Our tour started in West Yellowstone, Montana and went from there to Old Faithful and back again (via Madison Junction; see this map). In all, it's 60 miles roundtrip. The vast, vast majority of winter visitors to Yellowstone take this route--Old Faithful is the main winter destination in the park.

The New York Times had an article* about snowmobiling in the park this past Tuesday. In general, this article is pretty terrible. It purports to describe a new battle between environmentalists and West Yellowstone businesses, with Montana's Democractic governor, Brian Schweitzer, recently siding with the businesses.

First, some background. Since the end of the Clinton administration (I believe it was one of the last executive orders he signed), new rules have been put into place that (1) ban "two-stroke" snowmobiles from Yellowstone and only allow the much cleaner-burning "four stroke" sleds, (2) ban solo riders from entering the park--you now must be with a tour guide and (3) limit the number of sleds allowed in the park on any given day. These rules do a very good job of balancing the interests of businesses, tourists and the Yellowstone environment.

Ok, so back to the article. Basically, the article really has no point, other than trying to gin up a controversy that doesn't seem to exist. Schweitzer does not want to see two-stroke snowmobiles in the park--he merely wants a few more permits to be allowed each day. As I see it, this is probably a bad idea, unless the permits are issued to allow for additional sleds to turn north to the Canyon from Madison instead of going south to Old Faithful (again, check out the map). The Times article makes is seem like the park is nearly deserted in winter. Let me assure you this is not the case. If anything, there were too many snowmobile tours going in the park last Saturday--it seemed crowded and fairly jam-packed to me. Now, let me tell you that I've also been in the park prior to the new rules taking effect. Unfortunately, I did so on a day in 1998 when the high was minus-18, so on that day there was not much of a crowd and, clearly, that is a not a good day to use as an ex ante frame of reference. Nonetheless, there were PLENTY of snowmobiles rushing to Old Faithful last weekend.

And, the point is that, while Schweitzer does want to change the rules, what he's suggesting is very much at the margin and won't have a great effect on anything overall. Allowing 700 permits instead of 450 is not going to cause the bison to leave (although, as I said, I think this increase would be a bad idea). I guess the point is that I believe the current rules are indeed doing a good job. It would be terrible to ban snowmobiles outright, as Yellowstone is a national treasure that's worth seeing in the beauty of winter. Oh, and I still want to post some pictures up, but I haven't downloaded them from my camera yet.

In other Yellowstone news, this article is interesting.

*unfortunately, I couldn't generate a permalink for this article, so the link will die in a few days

Health Care 

Well, I'm sure the vast majority of the readers here believe in universal healthcare. Nonetheless, via his blog, I just read an article by Malcolm Gladwell that probably makes this point better than anyone else (not a surprise, given the author). His point is that the idea that moral hazard causes Americans to over-consume health care (the "problem" that Bush's Health Savings Accounts will supposedly "solve") is ludicrous.
The U. S. health-care system, according to "Uninsured in America," has created a group of people who increasingly look different from others and suffer in ways that others do not. The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Half of the uninsured owe money to hospitals, and a third are being pursued by collection agencies. Children without health insurance are less likely to receive medical attention for serious injuries, for recurrent ear infections, or for asthma. Lung-cancer patients without insurance are less likely to receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Heart-attack victims without health insurance are less likely to receive angioplasty. People with pneumonia who don't have health insurance are less likely to receive X rays or consultations. The death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is twenty-five per cent higher than for someone with insurance. Because the uninsured are sicker than the rest of us, they can't get better jobs, and because they can't get better jobs they can't afford health insurance, and because they can't afford health insurance they get even sicker. John, the manager of a bar in Idaho, tells Sered and Fernandopulle that as a result of various workplace injuries over the years he takes eight ibuprofen, waits two hours, then takes eight more--and tries to cadge as much prescription pain medication as he can from friends. "There are times when I should've gone to the doctor, but I couldn't afford to go because I don't have insurance," he says. "Like when my back messed up, I should've gone. If I had insurance, I would've went, because I know I could get treatment, but when you can't afford it you don't go. Because the harder the hole you get into in terms of bills, then you'll never get out. So you just say, 'I can deal with the pain.'"
You should read the whole thing, as we say in blogland. Excerpts don't really do it justice.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Robert Reich and Matt Yglesias on Ports 

Robert Reich, on PRI's Marketplace this morning. His basic point is that the key is port security, not who runs the ports.
Reich: I don't mean to minimize the real danger that a terrorist might sneak into an American port, or plant a nuclear bomb in a container heading toward an American port...but if this happens, it won't be because of the nationality of the company that has the contract to run the ports, or the nationality of its managers or even the workers on the ground. It will be because this nation didn't want to pay for the gamma ray monitors and radiation scanners and inspectors necessary to oversee more than a tiny percent of containers heading into America. Because we didn't want to bother with security checks and special ID cards and fingerprints and other biometrics for workers at the ports and other border crossings. Because all of this would cost about $7 billion a year, out of a defense and homeland security budget of hundreds of billions; and might slow down commerce through our borders just a bit and reduce some corporate profits. See, the real issue here is not about nationality. It's about what we're prepared to pay for our security. It's about whether we pay mostly for a war in Iraq or we finally get serious about security here at home.
This is a good point, and I think Democrats would be wise to get in front of this story by making it about the Bush Administrations total failure to secure our ports, not just about the Dubai company deal. That said, Matt Yglesias has a good counterpoint
Friedman quotes Steven Flynn, saying that, "Among the many problems at American ports, who owns the management contract ranks near the very bottom." And, indeed, the Bush administration has screwed up port security in myriad ways. This is hardly a reason to give them a free pass for screwing it up in this particular way. Rather, the president's sorry record of nonchalance on the general subject is reason to doubt assurances that he's performed due diligence in this matter.
More from Matt Y. here
To pivot away from the narrow security concern, the other thing we have here is a reminder of the elephant in the room when it comes to Version 3.0 of the Bush Doctrine -- America's strategy for the Middle East is centered on transforming its states into liberal democracies, but our main local partners in this effort are...sharia-enforcing hereditary monarchs. Nobody seems to talk about it anymore, but this is obviously dumb. I used to think it reflected insincerity on Bush's part, but insincerity implies that there's some coherent "real" policy that's being implemented behind the make-believe one.

After years of watching, I just don't see what that could be. Instead, I think it's genuine incoherence. But one way or another it's a big deal. And it's an incoherence that goes beyond Bush. The bulk of American elite opinion has switched over to the Bush view that we need to democratize the Middle East, but as we've been seeing in the port controversy the bulk of American elite opinion, like Bush himself, thinks the Arabian peninsula's monarchical elites are wonderful people who we should be supporting to the end. You can't do both. Maybe someday I'll get invited to Davos and learn what's so impressively awesome about Emir so-and-so (fun parties, according to Syriana), but until then I think the American public's gut instinct that these are not, generally speaking, the folks you want to rely on reflects a certain wisdom.

...And...We're Back! 

Not sure what Guthrie's excuse is, besides being a worthless sack of shit, but I took the NY bar exam last week and was in Montana over the weekend.

Basically, taking a second bar exam is just about as unpleasant as you'd expect, but, since you know what to expect, it's not nearly as unpleasant as taking that first exam. I was much more of a stress case in Chicago in the Summer of 2003 than I was in New York this past February. Regardless, I am very, very glad it is over with. Now I just have to wait until May to learn if I passed.

So, that was last Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday my girlfriend and I flew out to Big Sky, Montana for three nights. We skiied Friday and Sunday, and on Saturday we did a snowmobile tour in Yellowstone. Pretty much the whole trip was amazing, and I'll post some pictures if I find some that are decent. I think winter is the time to go to Yellowstone--the juxtaposition of the snow and cold air against the thermal springs and steam is breathtaking, and in the summer you don't get that nearly as much b/c of the warmer air. Plus, having a group of bison walk 3 feet away from your sled is very cool, too.

As for the skiing--wow, the best I've ever had. Friday afternoon I was skiing in powder that, at worst, was knee-deep and at best was chest-deep. For those of you who know the mountain, chest-deep in the gullies is about as cool as it sounds. The other great skiing news is that my girlfriend, in a near-miraculous show of improved skill and improved confidence, skiied Liberty Bowl off the Tram (skiing off the tram ain't no joke, boys and girls) twice. Well, I won't bore you with any additional details...let's get to blogging proper.

So, some of you may have seen that South Dakota has once again passed an unconstitutional abortion ban. The only thing is that this time, they think the law might give the Supreme Court the chance to use it to overturn Roe. For my money, the best blogging on this topic, and abortion rights in general, is at Lawyers, Guns and Money, specifically this post. Read it. In that post, Scott Lemieux takes issue with the oft-seen "progressive" argument that "that because I believe that most people advocating other restrictions are arguing in bad faith doesn't mean that I can't see the point in certain restrictions." He says that you cannot just debate these issues in the abstract, and he's right. He points out that any progressive analysis must deal with the practical effects of these regulations, which amount to a de facto abortion ban for non-urban, non-affluent women. PZ Myers lays this out in a narrative:
We’re all Dakotans

Just a thought…but you know, my town isn’t far from the South Dakota border, and there really isn’t that much difference between my neighborhood and that of some small South Dakota town 50 miles away. I think the piggish prigs who are pushing the legislation to criminalize abortion are contemptible, but does that mean we people of the progressive state of Minnesota are any better? That got me wondering—I’m a fully entitled, blissfully unaware, card-carrying member of the Patriarchy, after all, so I’ve never had to consider what it would be like to be female, 17, and worried that I might be pregnant.

I tried to imagine it.

I can get a pregnancy test kit from the Pamida down the road. I’d feel a bit weird about it, though: this is a small town. We know everyone and they know us, and those are high school and college kids working the cash registers there. Everyone is going to know about it if I buy one…I suppose I could try shoplifting it, but jeez, if I got caught shoplifting a pregnancy test, I might as well just die.

If I somehow got the test and it were positive, the next step would be difficult. There is a sign on the edge of town here that purports to be helpful— it says “Pregnant? Need advice?” with a phone number on it—but it’s put up by some of the local religious wackos, and all they’ll do is tell you to keep the baby and slap you upside the head with a Bible, so they certainly aren’t to be trusted.

The phone book isn’t much help. I wouldn’t trust the Morris hospital either…locals again, and they have a reputation for being very conservative. They don’t do abortions anyway. The
nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is 45 minutes away, they don’t do abortions either, but they do provide emergency contraception…except that they’re only open on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. WTF? Do a lot of people get knocked up on Monday and Tuesday nights or something?

As it turns out, the only abortion providers in Minnesota are all in Minneapolis. Three hours away, by car; to get there by bus requires a shuttle to Alexandria, then taking Greyhound the rest of the way. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. Once there, though, there’s more. Minnesota has a parental notification law, so at least one parent has to come along, and the other has to send along a notarized letter granting permission. Then there is a state-mandated 24 hour waiting period: at the first appointment, they have to counsel the person against getting an abortion, and can only do the procedure the following day…as if a young lady who has had to struggle that much just to get there hasn’t already thought things through thoroughly. Spending a night in the Big City is going to cost.

Did I mention that the procedure itself is going to cost $500+?

I’m beginning to realize that the only young women who will be able to get abortions in my part of the state are the ones with a supportive family, or who are old enough and prosperous enough that they can afford the rigamarole and hassle. The ones who are going to be most distressed by a pregnancy, who are least able to cope with it, are the ones who are going to be excluded.

I’m feeling a bit ashamed of being a male and not having thought much about this before. That little Y chromosome does confer some privilege in this regard, and it seems petty and cruel that we should so unthinkingly impose a greater pain on those who have already had more than their share.

Right now, a few scrofulous boars in South Dakota have raised their snouts and squealed loudly, asserting their selfish rule over women, and it’s easy to condemn them. But there are only about 750,000 South Dakotans, so most of us don’t live there anyway; it seems to me that maybe what we ought to be doing is also looking to our own states’ laws on abortion. Our pigs might be a little more muted, but they’ve been busy for years, planting a lot of little restrictions that add up to a substantial hurdle.
"I think the stars are aligned," said House Speaker Matthew Michels, a Republican. "Simply put, now is the time."
Maybe he’s right. Maybe now is the time to wake up and do something about this everywhere, not just South Dakota.
Well, there you are.

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