Monday, May 07, 2007

Seeking Trophy Wife

Seeking Trophy Wife: M.R.S. Degree Required
By Mike S. AdamsMonday, May 7, 2007

I have a friend who’s going through a rough time in his marriage. Recently, his wife told him she was moving out and getting an apartment for six months so she could “find herself.” In typical feminist fashion she asked him for some money to help pay for her lease, power, and cable deposits. One of her main criticisms of him was that he offered her unsolicited financial advice. Had she listened to her husband she wouldn’t be in such a fix. So I told my friend to give her a copy of the book Catch-22 instead of writing her a check. Maybe she could “find herself” in a twelve dollar novel by Joseph Heller.

Of course, when I hear of married women making idiotic statements like “I need to go find myself,” “I need to learn how to be me,” and “My husband and I should be equals in every respect of the marriage” I’m forced to make one of two conclusions. First, the woman is not taking the medication her psychiatrist prescribed for her. That can be cured by simply telling her to take her damned medication.

But the other conclusion - that she is just a bad wife because she got a bad education while she was in college – calls for a more complicated cure. That is why today I’m asking colleges across America to put an end to the jokes about M.R.S. degrees by actually starting M.R.S. degree programs nationwide. With all the talk about sexual diversity it’s high time we started to celebrate nuptial diversity without all this useless banter about gay marriage.

No reasonable person could be opposed to M.R.S. degrees for women who aspire to be “nothing more” than a wife and mother. The most important job any woman can ever hold is that of a mother. Important people like teachers can have an effect on thousands of students, but no teacher can have that much of an effect on a child she only knows for one year. Mothers, on the other hand, will influence their own children for about fifty years.

Last week, Fox News ran a story saying that if housewives were paid they would make about $138,000 a year. This number demonstrates that there is a great deal that goes into being a stay-at-home mom. But is the average college graduate prepared to handle these responsibilities? Not without an M.R.S. degree.

A student who chooses to pursue a bachelor’s degree in M.R.S. would receive a true liberal arts degree. She would take classes in general areas such as history, English, and science, just so she can educate her children. She should take child development classes, educational psychology, first aid, and accounting, too. Culinary classes, sewing, interior design, day care management, safe driving classes and communication classes would also be required.

Of course, like any other major, the college would need to set up some new classes distinct to the M.R.S. major. I have several suggestions below:

MRS 101 - Why Ovaries Matter. Recently, a female student at Ohio University was attacked for saying she would want a male, rather than a female, firefighter to save her if she ever got caught in a blaze. Those who criticized her were under the impression that gender differences are simply socially constructed. That isn’t true. Men have testicles and women have ovaries. And both of these facts have consequences.

MRS 102 - Sexual Activity and Reproductive Choice. If a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion, she certainly has a constitutional right to be a slut, too. But there is no constitutional right to exercise a constitutional right without consequences. A woman needs to know how being a slut in college will affect her self-image and how that will, in turn, affect her marriage or marriages later in life. And she also needs to know how sleeping with a lot of women affects the psychological make-up of her future spouse. “Equality” is not the only reason we need to do away with double-standards on pre-marital sex.

MRS 210 - Sex after Marriage. A woman has an obligation to keep herself trim and attractive after she gets married. She also has a right not to have a fat slob for a husband. That’s why married couples should work out together. That will do a lot to keep their sex lives interesting but they’ll need more than just physical fitness. That’s what this class will be all about.

MRS 220 - Spousal Communication. Some women who are married think it’s alright to talk to their mothers each and every single day on the telephone. That’s okay, unless, of course, she’s talking to her mommy about a marital problem her husband does not even know about. It’s not rational or adult to expect the man to figure out the problems you conceal. It’s far healthier to learn to communicate with your spouse directly even if it means there will be an occasional argument. And, for the sake of fairness and balance, there will be plenty of time in this class to talk about the consequences of marrying a momma’s boy.

Cait Jacob and Becky Banks join my wife and mother-in-law as some of the prettiest red-heads you’ll ever see. I thank them for giving me the inspiration to write this column. Because we need more women just like them, we need M.R.S. degree programs now. Our young men need good wives more than anyone needs another degree program teaching women how to become lesbians, feminists, and man-haters for life.

Dr. Mike S. Adams would like to apologize for the redundancy in the final sentence of this column.

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Many Man-Loves of Chris Matthews

The Many Man-Crushes of Chris Matthews
Eric Alterman

Chris Matthews is not known as a particularly right-wing television talk-show host nor, by the standards of the profession, a particularly foolish one. NBC considers him to be such an asset, it gave him his own Sunday program, in addition to the nightly cable shoutfest Hardball.

Within MSNBC, Matthews represents the "center" between the right-wing Tucker Carlson and the taken-for-a-liberal Keith Olbermann. It's worth taking a closer look, therefore, at just what passes for classy, centrist and sane in today's Fox-driven cable cosmos.

Like anyone who spends much time on live TV, Chris Matthews tends to say a lot of silly things. (I did too during the two years I was so employed.) But patterns and passions tell a tale, and those exhibited by Matthews are revealing. Like Elvis, Matthews can't help falling in love. And also like the King--who developed a thing for both Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover late in life--the object of Matthews's affection is invariably a tough-talking, self-styled Republican macho-man. And when he gets going on one of these guys, his style of punditry owes more to, say, Tiger Beat or Teen People than the Trilateral Commission.

Going back to 9/11, Matthews found himself blown away not by Bush's political or military response but by his ability to throw a baseball. He compared the man to--I kid you not--Ernest Hemingway. "There are some things you can't fake," he explained breathlessly. "Either you can throw a strike from sixty feet or you can't. Either you can rise to the occasion on the mound at Yankee Stadium with 56,000 people watching or you can't. On Tuesday night, George W. Bush hit the strike zone in the House that Ruth Built.... This is about knowing what to do at the moment you have to do it--and then doing it. It's about that 'grace under pressure' that Hemingway gave as his very definition of courage."

And remember that now-infamous Mission Accomplished moment? True, Matthews did not join his guest G. Gordon Liddy in admiring--still not kidding--the President's pretend penis, but he was no less focused on Bush's fashion statements. "He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West," he cooed. "We're proud of our President. Americans love having a guy as President, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton.... Women like a guy who's President. Check it out."

Matthews's man-crush on Bush continued longer than that of most of the mainstream media, leading him, for instance, to assert that "everybody sort of likes the President, except for the real whack-jobs," at a moment when the percentage of Americans telling New York Times/CBS pollsters that they "liked" Bush had fallen to 37 percent.

But nobody, save Fred Barnes, thinks Bush is cool anymore, and so Matthews has had to go cruising for a new crush. For a while it looked as if he and John McCain would hook up. "A lot of people," he explained coyly, naming no names, "like the cut of John McCain's jib, his independence, his maverick reputation." This led Matthews to declare the election all but over, announcing that as far as he was concerned, McCain "deserves the presidency."

This was just a warmup, however, for Chris's latest flame: the "perfect candidate"--the one who "looks like a President," who "acts and talks like a President," who "rises to the occasion" and is "the one tough cop who was standing on the beat when we got hit last time and stood up and took it," and who, to top it all off, got "that pee smell out of that subway." Say one thing about Chris Matthews, once he switches loyalties, he's really loyal. He got so mad at that meanie Hillary Clinton for wanting to be President against his new love, Rudy G, he gave a big fat warning to her homies about her husband. Again, I promise I'm not kidding. When Hillary staffer Ann Lewis showed up on Hardball, she was instructed three times by its host that Bill Clinton had "better watch it." And when former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe came on to promote his book, Matthews told him six times that Clinton had better "behave himself," lest his "social life" become a "distraction."

Just what so worried Matthews could only be inferred, as he was, like, too shy to say what he really meant. It's possible his concern was sartorial in nature, as the candidates' clothing has proven a Matthews obsession in presidential elections past. In 1999, for instance, he grew obsessed with Al Gore's suit buttons. "What could that possibly be saying to women voters, three buttons?" he asked a guest. "Is there some hidden Freudian deal here or what? I don't know, I mean, Navy guys used to have buttons on their pants." Indeed, Matthews thought the button development so significant, he returned to it five nights in a row.

Certainly Matthews couldn't have meant Bill Clinton's sex life. First off, it's Hillary who's running this time. And when it comes to screwing around while in office, well, the ex-President is the proverbial pisher compared with Mr. Pee Smell Out of the Subway. While serving as Mayor of New York, Rudy moved in with a couple of gay guys to facilitate cheating on his wife, and let the mother of his children know he wanted a divorce by holding a press conference. This led Mrs. Giuliani (Donna Hanover) to complain about yet another affair he'd apparently conducted with a member of his staff and to seek a restraining order to keep his new girlfriend (now wife) out of Gracie Mansion.

One would think, as my colleague at Media Matters Jamison Foser has so sagely noted, "On the distraction scale, that would have to rate pretty darn high."

Can this romance be saved? Too early to tell, but perhaps Rudy shouldn't be picking out silverware patterns just yet. The race is still wide open. Newt's got that handsome head of hair, and Fred Thompson, well, the guy is practically George Clooney--for a Republican. And hey, let's not forget Mitt Romney. He may not be a credible conservative or even (really) a Christian, but according to Chris, "He's got a great chin, I've noticed."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sitting Still, The Uber Skill

What is the Use of College?
Jim Johnson

A friend just brought to my attention this column Barbara Ehrenreich has written for Alternet entitled "Higher Education Conformity" on why companies insist that entry level emplyees have a college degree. Here is the punch-line:"It seems to me that a two-year course in math and writing skills should be more than sufficient to prepare someone for a career in banking, marketing, or management. Most of what you need to know you're going to learn on the job anyway.

But in the last three decades the percentage of jobs requiring at least some college has doubled, which means that employers are going along with the college racket. A resume without a college degree is never going to get past the computer programs that screen applications. Why? Certainly it's not because most corporate employers possess a deep affinity for the life of the mind. In fact in his book Executive Blues G. J. Meyers warned of the "academic stench" that can sink a career: That master's degree in English? Better not mention it.

My theory is that employers prefer college grads because they see a college degree chiefly as mark of one's ability to obey and conform. Whatever else you learn in college, you learn to sit still for long periods while appearing to be awake. And whatever else you do in a white collar job, most of the time you'll be sitting and feigning attention. Sitting still for hours on end -- whether in library carrels or office cubicles -- does not come naturally to humans. It must be learned -- although no college has yet been honest enough to offer a degree in seat-warming.

Or maybe what attracts employers to college grads is the scent of desperation. Unless your parents are rich and doting, you will walk away from commencement with a debt averaging $20,000 and no health insurance. Employers can safely bet that you will not be a trouble-maker, a whistle-blower or any other form of non-"team-player." You will do anything. You will grovel."Since I am implicated in the "college racket" (both as a professor and soon as a tuition paying parent) this line of argument strikes close to home. Ehrenreich concedes that a College can be enlightening and provocative. And she neglects (here at least) to ask why jobs have to be so thoroughly boring and controlled. That, of course, is another, very big question. But the symbiosis between colleges and corporations on this dimension seems difficult to ignore.___________

PS: You will likely recognize Ehrenreich's argument as a variation on a theme articulated with resepct to elementary/secondary schooling long ago by Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis.

Racial Bias among NBA Referees?

Bad Calls: Race Bias on the Basketball Court?

Published: May 2, 2007

An academic study of the National Basketball Association, whose playoffs continue tonight, suggests that a racial bias found in other parts of American society has existed on the basketball court as well.

Commissioner David Stern says a league study demonstrates “there is no bias.”
A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”

N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern said in a telephone interview that the league saw a draft copy of the paper last year, and was moved to do its own study this March using its own database of foul calls, which specifies which official called which foul.

“We think our cut at the data is more powerful, more robust, and demonstrates that there is no bias,” Mr. Stern said.

Three independent experts asked by The Times to examine the Wolfers-Price paper and materials released by the N.B.A. said they considered the Wolfers-Price argument far more sound. The N.B.A. denied a request for its underlying data, even with names of officials and players removed, because it feared that the league’s confidentiality agreement with referees could be violated if the identities were determined through box scores.

The paper by Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price has yet to undergo formal peer review before publication in an economic journal, but several prominent academic economists said it would contribute to the growing literature regarding subconscious racism in the workplace and elsewhere, such as in searches by the police.

The three experts who examined the Wolfers-Price paper and the N.B.A.’s materials were Ian Ayres of Yale Law School, the author of “Pervasive Prejudice?” and an expert in testing for how subtle racial bias, also known as implicit association, appears in interactions ranging from the setting of bail amounts to the tipping of taxi drivers; David Berri of California State University-Bakersfield, the author of “The Wages of Wins,” which analyzes sports issues using statistics; and Larry Katz of Harvard University, the senior editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
“I would be more surprised if it didn’t exist,” Mr. Ayres said of an implicit association bias in the N.B.A. “There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.”

Mr. Berri added: “It’s not about basketball — it’s about what happens in the world. This is just the nature of decision-making, and when you have an evaluation team that’s so different from those being evaluated. Given that your league is mostly African-American, maybe you should have more African-American referees — for the same reason that you don’t want mostly white police forces in primarily black neighborhoods.”

To investigate whether such bias has existed in sports, Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price examined data from publicly available box scores. They accounted for factors like the players’ positions, playing time and All-Star status; each group’s time on the court (black players played 83 percent of minutes, while 68 percent of officials were white); calls at home games and on the road; and other relevant data.

But they said they continued to find the same phenomenon: that players who were similar in all ways except skin color drew foul calls at a rate difference of up to 4 ½ percent depending on the racial composition of an N.B.A. game’s three-person referee crew.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a vocal critic of his league’s officiating, said in a telephone interview after reading the paper: “We’re all human. We all have our own prejudice. That’s the point of doing statistical analysis. It bears it out in this application, as in a thousand others.”

Asked if he had ever suspected any racial bias among officials before reading the study, Mr. Cuban said, “No comment.”

Two veteran players who are African-American, Mike James of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Alan Henderson of the Philadelphia 76ers, each said that they did not think black or white officials had treated them differently.

“If that’s going on, then it’s something that needs to be dealt with,” James said. “But I’ve never seen it.”

Two African-American coaches, Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics and Maurice Cheeks of the Philadelphia 76ers, declined to comment on the paper’s claims. Rod Thorn, the president of the New Jersey Nets and formerly the N.B.A.’s executive vice president for basketball operations, said: “I don’t believe it. I think officials get the vast majority of calls right. They don’t get them all right. The vast majority of our players are black.”

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price spend 41 pages accounting for such population disparities and more than a dozen other complicating factors.

For the 1991-92 through 2003-4 seasons, the authors analyzed every player’s box-score performance — minutes played, rebounds, shots made and missed, fouls and the like — in the context of the racial composition of the three-person crew refereeing that game. (The N.B.A. did not release its record of calls by specific officials to either Mr. Wolfers, Mr. Price or The Times, claiming it is kept for referee training purposes only.)

Mr. Wolfers said that he and Mr. Price classified each N.B.A. player and referee as either black or not black by assessing photographs and speaking with an anonymous former referee, and then using that information to predict how an official would view the player. About a dozen players could reasonably be placed in either category, but Mr. Wolfers said the classification of those players did not materially change the study’s findings.

During the 13-season period studied, black players played 83 percent of the minutes on the floor. With 68 percent of officials being white, three-person crews were either entirely white (30 percent of the time), had two white officials (47 percent), had two black officials (20 percent) or were entirely black (3 percent).

Mr. Stern said that the race of referees had never been considered when assembling crews for games.

With their database of almost 600,000 foul calls, Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price used a common statistical technique called multivariable regression analysis, which can identify correlations between different variables. The economists accounted for a wide range of factors: that centers, who tend to draw more fouls, were disproportionately white; that veteran players and All-Stars tended to draw foul calls at different rates than rookies and non-stars; whether the players were at home or on the road, as officials can be influenced by crowd noise; particular coaches on the sidelines; the players’ assertiveness on the court, as defined by their established rates of assists, steals, turnovers and other statistics; and more subtle factors like how some substitute players enter games specifically to commit fouls.

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price examined whether otherwise similar black and white players had fouls-per-minute rates that varied with the racial makeup of the refereeing crew.
“Across all of these specifications,” they write, “we find that black players receive around 0.12-0.20 more fouls per 48 minutes played (an increase of 2 ½-4 ½ percent) when the number of white referees officiating a game increases from zero to three.”

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price also report a statistically significant correlation with decreases in points, rebounds and assists, and a rise in turnovers, when players performed before primarily opposite-race officials.

“Player-performance appears to deteriorate at every margin when officiated by a larger fraction of opposite-race referees,” they write. The paper later notes no change in free-throw percentage. “We emphasize this result because this is the one on-court behavior that we expect to be unaffected by referee behavior.”

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price claim that these changes are enough to affect game outcomes. Their
results suggested that for each additional black starter a team had, relative to its opponent, a team’s chance of winning would decline from a theoretical 50 percent to 49 percent and so on, a concept mirrored by the game evidence: the team with the greater share of playing time by black players during those 13 years won 48.6 percent of games — a difference of about two victories in an 82-game season.

“Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you’d win a few more games,” Mr. Wolfers said.

The N.B.A.’s reciprocal study was conducted by the Segal Company, the actuarial consulting firm which designed the in-house data-collection system the league uses to identify patterns for referee-training purposes, to test for evidence of bias. The league’s study was less formal and detailed than an academic paper, included foul calls for only two and a half seasons (from November 2004 through January 2007), and did not consider differences among players by position, veteran status and the like. But it did have the clear advantage of specifying which of the three referees blew his whistle on each foul.

The N.B.A. study reported no significant differences in how often white and black referees collectively called fouls on white and black players. Mr. Stern said he was therefore convinced “that there’s no demonstration of any bias here — based upon more robust and more data that was available to us because we keep that data.”

Added Joel Litvin, the league’s president for basketball operations, “I think the analysis that we did can stand on its own, so I don’t think our view of some of the things in Wolfers’s paper and some questions we have actually matter as much as the analysis we did.”

Mr. Litvin explained the N.B.A.’s refusal to release its underlying data for independent examination by saying: “Even our teams don’t know the data we collect as to a particular referee’s call tendencies on certain types of calls. There are good reasons for this. It’s proprietary. It’s personnel data at the end of the day.”

The percentage of black officials in the N.B.A. has increased in the past several years, to 38 percent of 60 officials this season from 34 percent of 58 officials two years ago. Mr. Stern and Mr. Litvin said that the rise was coincidental because the league does not consider race in the hiring process.

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price are scheduled to present their paper at the annual meetings of the Society of Labor Economists on Friday and the American Law and Economics Association on Sunday. They will then submit it to the National Bureau of Economic Research and for formal peer review before consideration by an economic journal.

Both men cautioned that the racial discrimination they claim to have found should be interpreted in the context of bias found in other parts of American society.

“There’s bias on the basketball court,” Mr. Wolfers said, “but less than when you’re trying to hail a cab at midnight.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Harvey Mansfield on Strong Executives

The Case for the Strong Executive Under some circumstances, the rule of law must yield to the need for energy. BY HARVEY C. MANSFIELD Wednesday, May 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Complaints against the "imperial presidency" are back in vogue. With a view to President Bush, the late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. expanded and reissued the book of the same name he wrote against Richard Nixon, and Bush critics have taken up the phrase in a chorus. In response John Yoo and Richard Posner (and others) have defended the war powers of the president.

This is not the first time that a strong executive has been attacked and defended, and it will not be the last. Our Constitution, as long as it continues, will suffer this debate--I would say, give rise to it, preside over and encourage it. Though I want to defend the strong executive, I mainly intend to step back from that defense to show why the debate between the strong executive and its adversary, the rule of law, is necessary, good and--under the Constitution--never-ending.

In other circumstances I could see myself defending the rule of law. Americans are fortunate to have a Constitution that accommodates different circumstances. Its flexibility keeps it in its original form and spirit a "living constitution," ready for change, and open to new necessities and opportunities. The "living constitution" conceived by the Progressives actually makes it a prisoner of ongoing events and perceived trends. To explain the constitutional debate between the strong executive and the rule of law I will concentrate on its sources in political philosophy and, for greater clarity, ignore the constitutional law emerging from it.

The case for a strong executive should begin from a study, on this occasion a quick survey, of the American republic. The American republic was the first to have a strong executive that was intended to be republican as well as strong, and the success, or long life, of America's Constitution qualifies it as a possible model for other countries. Modern political science beginning from Machiavelli abandoned the best regime featured by classical political science because the best regime was utopian or imaginary. Modern political scientists wanted a practical solution, and by the time of Locke, followed by Montesquieu, they learned to substitute a model regime for the best regime; and this was the government of England. The model regime would not be applicable everywhere, no doubt, because it was not intended to be a lowest common denominator. But it would show what could be done in the best circumstances.

The American Founders had the ambition to make America the model regime, taking over from England. This is why they showed surprising respect for English government, the regime they had just rebelled against. America would not only make a republic for itself, but teach the world how to make a successful republic and thus improve republicanism and save the reputation of republics. For previous republics had suffered disastrous failure, alternating between anarchy and tyranny, seeming to force the conclusion that orderly government could come only from monarchy, the enemy of republics. Previous republics had put their faith in the rule of law as the best way to foil one-man rule. The rule of law would keep power in the hands of many, or at least a few, which was safer than in the hands of one. As the way to ensure the rule of law, Locke and Montesquieu fixed on the separation of powers. They were too realistic to put their faith in any sort of higher law; the rule of law would be maintained by a legislative process of institutions that both cooperated and competed.

Now the rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule. The first is that law is always imperfect by being universal, thus an average solution even in the best case, that is inferior to the living intelligence of a wise man on the spot, who can judge particular circumstances. This defect is discussed by Aristotle in the well-known passage in his "Politics" where he considers "whether it is more advantageous to be ruled by the best man or the best laws."

The other defect is that the law does not know how to make itself obeyed. Law assumes obedience, and as such seems oblivious to resistance to the law by the "governed," as if it were enough to require criminals to turn themselves in. No, the law must be "enforced," as we say. There must be police, and the rulers over the police must use energy (Alexander Hamilton's term) in addition to reason. It is a delusion to believe that governments can have energy without ever resorting to the use of force.

The best source of energy turns out to be the same as the best source of reason--one man. One man, or, to use Machiavelli's expression, uno solo, will be the greatest source of energy if he regards it as necessary to maintaining his own rule. Such a person will have the greatest incentive to be watchful, and to be both cruel and merciful in correct contrast and proportion. We are talking about Machiavelli's prince, the man whom in apparently unguarded moments he called a tyrant.

The American Founders heeded both criticisms of the rule of law when they created the presidency. The president would be the source of energy in government, that is, in the administration of government, energy being a neutral term that might include Aristotle's discretionary virtue and Machiavelli's tyranny--in which only partisans could discern the difference. The founders of course accepted the principle of the rule of law, as being required by the republican genius of the American people. Under this principle, the wise man or prince becomes and is called an "executive," one who carries out the will and instruction of others, of the legislature that makes the law, of the people who instruct or inspire the legislature. In this weak sense, the dictionary definition of "executive," the executive forbears to rule in his own name as one man. This means that neither one-man wisdom nor tyranny is admitted into the Constitution as such; if there is need for either, the need is subordinated to, or if you will, covered over by, the republican principle of the rule of law.

Yet the executive subordinated to the rule of law is in danger of being subordinate to the legislature. This was the fault in previous republics. When the separation of powers was invented in 17th-century England, the purpose was to keep the executive subordinate; but the trouble was the weakness of a subordinate executive. He could not do his job, or he could do his job only by overthrowing or cowing the legislature, as Oliver Cromwell had done. John Locke took the task in hand, and made a strong executive in a manner that was adopted by the American Founders.

Locke was a careful writer, so careful that he did not care if he appeared to be a confused writer. In his "Second Treatise of Government" he announces the supremacy of the legislature, which was the slogan of the parliamentary side in the English Civil War, as the principle that should govern a well-made constitution. But as the argument proceeds, Locke gradually "fortifies" (to use James Madison's term) the executive. Locke adds other related powers to the subordinate power of executing the laws: the federative power dealing with foreign affairs, which he presents as conceptually distinct from the power of executing laws but naturally allied; the veto, a legislative function; the power to convoke the legislature and to correct its representation should it become corrupt; and above all, the prerogative, defined as "the power of doing public good without a rule." Without a rule! Even more: "sometimes too against the direct letter of the law." This is the very opposite of law and the rule of law--and "prerogative" was the slogan of the king's party in the same war.

Thus Locke combined the extraconstitutional with the constitutional in a contradiction; besides saying that the legislature is "the supreme power" of the commonwealth, he speaks of "the supreme executive power." Locke, one could say, was acting as a good citizen, bringing peace to his country by giving both sides in the Civil War a place in the constitution. In doing so he ensured that the war would continue, but it would be peaceful because he also ensured that, there being reason and force on both sides, neither side could win conclusively.

The American Constitution adopted this fine idea and improved it. The American Founders helped to settle Locke's deliberate confusion of supremacy by writing it into a document and ratifying it by the people rather than merely scattering it in the treatise of a philosopher. By being formalized the Constitution could become a law itself, but a law above ordinary law and thus a law above the rule of law in the ordinary sense of laws passed by the legislature. Thus some notion of prerogative--though the word "prerogative" was much too royal for American sensibilities--could be pronounced legal inasmuch as it was constitutional. This strong sense of executive power would be opposed, within the Constitution, to the rule of law in the usual, old-republican meaning, as represented by the two rule-of-law powers in the Constitution, the Congress which makes law and the judiciary which judges by the law.

The American Constitution signifies that it has fortified the executive by vesting the president with "the executive power," complete and undiluted in Article II, as opposed to the Congress in Article I, which receives only certain delegated and enumerated legislative powers. The president takes an oath "to execute the Office of President" of which only one function is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." In addition, he is commander-in-chief of the military, makes treaties (with the Senate), and receives ambassadors. He has the power of pardon, a power with more than a whiff of prerogative for the sake of a public good that cannot be achieved, indeed that is endangered, by executing the laws. In the Federalist, as already noted, the executive represents the need for energy in government, energy to complement the need for stability, satisfied mainly in the Senate and the judiciary.

Energy and stability are necessary in every form of government, but in their previous, sorry history, republics had failed to meet these necessities. Republican government cannot survive, as we would say, by ideology alone. The republican genius is dominant in America, where there has never been much support for anything like an ancien régime, but support for republicanism is not enough to make a viable republic. The republican spirit can actually cause trouble for republics if it makes people think that to be republican it is enough merely to oppose monarchy. Such an attitude tempts a republican people to republicanize everything so as to make government resemble a monarchy as little as possible.

Although the Federalist made a point of distinguishing a republic from a democracy (by which it meant a so-called pure, nonrepresentative democracy), the urge today to democratize everything has similar bad effects. To counter this reactionary republican (or democratic, in today's language) belief characteristic of shortsighted partisans, the Federalist made a point of holding the new, the novel, American republic to the test of good government as opposed merely to that of republican government.

The test of good government was what was necessary to all government. Necessity was put to the fore. In the first papers of the Federalist, necessity took the form of calling attention to the present crisis in America, caused by the incompetence of the republic established by the Articles of Confederation. The crisis was both foreign and domestic, and it was a crisis because it was urgent. The face of necessity, the manner in which it first appears and is most impressive, is urgency--in Machiavelli's words, la necessità che non da tempo (the necessity that allows no time). And what must be the character of a government's response to an urgent crisis? Energy. And where do we find energy in the government? In the executive. Actually, the Federalist introduces the need for energy in government considerably before it associates energy with the executive. To soothe republican partisans, the strong executive must be introduced by stages.
One should not believe that a strong executive is needed only for quick action in emergencies, though that is the function mentioned first. A strong executive is requisite to oppose majority faction produced by temporary delusions in the people. For the Federalist, a strong executive must exercise his strength especially against the people, not showing them "servile pliancy." Tocqueville shared this view. Today we think that a strong president is one who leads the people, that is, one who takes them where they want to go, like Andrew Jackson. But Tocqueville contemptuously regarded Jackson as weak for having been "the slave of the majority." Again according to the Federalist, the American president will likely have the virtue of responsibility, a new political virtue, now heard so often that it seems to be the only virtue, but first expounded in that work.

"Responsibility" is not mere responsiveness to the people; it means doing what the people would want done if they were apprised of the circumstances. Responsibility requires "personal firmness" in one's character, and it enables those who love fame--"the ruling passion of the noblest minds"--to undertake "extensive and arduous enterprises."

Only a strong president can be a great president. Americans are a republican people but they admire their great presidents. Those great presidents--I dare not give a complete list--are not only those who excelled in the emergency of war but those, like Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, who also deliberately planned and executed enterprises for shaping or reshaping the entire politics of their country.

This admiration for presidents extends beyond politics into society, in which Americans, as republicans, tolerate, and appreciate, an amazing amount of one-man rule. The CEO (chief executive officer) is found at the summit of every corporation including universities. I suspect that appreciation for private executives in democratic society was taught by the success of the Constitution's invention of a strong executive in republican politics.

The case for a strong executive begins from urgent necessity and extends to necessity in the sense of efficacy and even greatness. It is necessary not merely to respond to circumstances but also in a comprehensive way to seek to anticipate and form them. "Necessary to" the survival of a society expands to become "necessary for" the good life there, and indeed we look for signs in the way a government acts in emergencies for what it thinks to be good after the emergency has passed. A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away. Yet despite the expansion inherent in necessity, the distinction between urgent crises and quiet times remains. Machiavelli called the latter tempi pacifici, and he thought that governments could not take them for granted. What works for quiet times is not appropriate in stormy times. John Locke and the American Founders showed a similar understanding to Machiavelli's when they argued for and fashioned a strong executive.

In our time, however, an opinion has sprung up in liberal circles particularly that civil liberties must always be kept intact regardless of circumstances. This opinion assumes that civil liberties have the status of natural liberties, and are inalienable. This means that the Constitution has the status of what was called in the 17th-century natural public law; it is an order as natural as the state of nature from which it emerges. In this view liberty has just one set of laws and institutions that must be kept inviolate, lest it be lost.

But Locke was a wiser liberal. His institutions were "constituted," less by creation than by modification of existing institutions in England, but not deduced as invariable consequences of disorder in the state of nature. He retained the difference, and so did the Americans, between natural liberties, inalienable but insecure, and civil liberties, more secure but changeable. Because civil liberties are subject to circumstances, a free constitution needs an institution responsive to circumstances, an executive able to be strong when necessary.

The lesson for us should be that circumstances are much more important for free government than we often believe. Civil liberties are for majorities as well as minorities, and no one should be considered to have rights against society whose exercise would bring society to ruin. The usual danger in a republic is tyranny of the majority, because the majority is the only legitimate dominant force. But in time of war the greater danger may be to the majority from a minority, and the government will be a greater friend than enemy to liberty. Vigilant citizens must be able to adjust their view of the source of danger, and change front if necessary. "Civil liberties" belong to all, not only to the less powerful or less esteemed, and the true balance of liberty and security cannot be taken as given without regard to the threat. Nor is it true that free societies should be judged solely by what they do in quiet times; they should also be judged by the efficacy, and the honorableness, of what they do in war in order to return to peace.

The American Constitution is a formal law that establishes an actual contention among its three separated powers. Its formality represents the rule of law, and the actuality arises from which branch better promotes the common good in the event, or in the opinion of the people. In quiet times the rule of law will come to the fore, and the executive can be weak. In stormy times, the rule of law may seem to require the prudence and force that law, or present law, cannot supply, and the executive must be strong. In judging the circumstances of a free society, two parties come to be formed around these two outlooks. These outlooks may not coincide with party principles because they often depend on which branch a party holds and feels obliged to defend: Democrats today would be friendlier to executive power if they held the presidency--and Republicans would discover virtue in the rule of law if they held Congress.

The terms of the disagreement over a strong executive go back to the classic debate between Hamilton (as Pacificus) and Madison (as Helvidius) in 1793-94. Hamilton argued that the executive power, representing the whole country with the energy necessary to defend it, cannot be limited or exhausted. Madison replied that the executive power does not represent the whole country but is determined by its place in the structure of government, which is executing the laws. If carrying on war goes beyond executing the laws, that is all the more reason why the war power should be construed narrowly. Today Republicans and Democrats repeat these arguments when the former declare that we are at war with terrorists and the latter respond that the danger is essentially a matter of law enforcement.

As to the contention that a strong executive prompts a policy of imperialism, I would admit the possibility, and I promise to think carefully and prayerfully about returning Texas to Mexico. In its best moments, America wants to be a model for the world, but no more. In its less good moments, America becomes disgusted with the rest of the world for its failure to imitate our example and follow our advice. I believe that America is more likely to err with isolationism than with imperialism, and that if America is an empire, it is the first empire that always wants an exit strategy. I believe too that the difficulties of the war in Iraq arise from having wished to leave too much to the Iraqis, thus from a sense of inhibition rather than imperial ambition.

Mr. Mansfield is William R. Kenan Professor of Government at Harvard.

Glenn Greenwald on Harvey Mansfield's Presidential Dictator

Glenn Greenwald
The right's explicit and candid rejection of "the rule of law"

The Wall St. Journal online has today published a lengthy and truly astonishing article by Harvard Government Professor Harvey Mansfield, which expressly argues that the power of the President is greater than "the rule of law."

The article bears this headline: The Case for the Strong Executive -- Under some circumstances, the Rule of Law must yield to the need for Energy. And it is the most explicit argument I have seen yet for vesting in the President the power to override and ignore the rule of law in order to recieve the glories of what Mansfield calls "one-man rule."

That such an argument comes from Mansfield is unsurprising. He has long been a folk hero to the what used to be the most extremist right-wing fringe but is now the core of the Republican Party. He devoted earlier parts of his career to warning of the dangers of homosexuality, particularly its effeminizing effect on our culture.

He has a career-long obsession with the glories of tyrannical power as embodied by Machiavelli's Prince, which is his model for how America ought to be governed. And last year, he wrote a book called Manliness in which "he urges men, and especially women, to understand and accept manliness" -- which means that "women are the weaker sex," "women's bodies are made to attract and to please men" and "now that women are equal, they should be able to accept being told that they aren't, quite." Publisher's Weekly called it a "juvenile screed."

I'll leave it to Bob Altemeyer and others to dig though all of that to analyze what motivates Mansfield and his decades-long craving for strong, powerful, unchallengeable one-man masculine rule -- though it's more self-evident than anything else.

But reading Mansfield has real value for understanding the dominant right-wing movement in this country. Because he is an academic, and a quite intelligent one, he makes intellectually honest arguments, by which I mean that he does not disguise what he thinks in politically palatable slogans, but instead really describes the actual premises on which political beliefs are based.

And that is Mansfield's value; he is a clear and honest embodiment of what the Bush movement is. In particular, he makes crystal clear that the so-called devotion to a "strong executive" by the Bush administration and the movement which supports it is nothing more than a belief that the Leader has the power to disregard, violate, and remain above the rule of law. And that is clear because Mansfied explicitly says that. And that is not just Mansfield's idiosyncratic belief. He is simply stating -- honestly and clearly -- the necessary premises of the model of the Omnipotent Presidency which has taken root under the Bush presidency.

This is not the first time Mansfield has expressly called for the subordination of the rule of law to the Power of the President. In January of 2006 -- in the immediate aftermath of revelations that President Bush had been breaking the law for years by spying on the telephone conversations of Americans without warrants -- Mansfield went to The Weekly Standard and authored a truly amazing article, which I wrote about here (see item 2).

Unlike dishonest Bush followers who ludicrously claimed that Bush's eavesdropping was not illegal, Mansfield embraced reality and candidly argued that President Bush possesses the power to break the law in order to fight The Terrorists. The headline of that article presented the same mutually exclusive choice as the WSJ article today: The Law and the President -- in a national emergency, who you gonna call?

In that article, Mansfield claimed, among other things, that our "enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force"; that the "Office of President" is "larger than the law"; that "the rule of law is not enough to run a government"; that "ordinary power needs to be supplemented or corrected by the extraordinary power of a prince, using wise discretion"; that "with one person in charge we can have both secrecy and responsibility"; and most of all:
Much present-day thinking puts civil liberties and the rule of law to the fore and forgets to consider emergencies when liberties are dangerous and law does not apply. "Law does not apply" -- that is Mansfield's belief, and the belief of the Bush movement. I didn't think it was possible, but Mansfield, with today's article in The Wall St. Journal, actually goes even further in advocating pure lawlessness and tyranny than he did in that remarkable Weekly Standard screed. He begins by describing "the debate between the strong executive and its adversary, the rule of law." He then says: "In some circumstances I could see myself defending the rule of law," but "the rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule."
The rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule. That is what is on the Op-Ed page of The Wall St. Journal this morning. The article is then filled with one paragraph after the next paying homage to the need for a Great Leader who stomps on the rule of law when he chooses -- literally:

The best source of energy turns out to be the same as the best source of reason--one man. One man, or, to use Machiavelli's expression, uno solo, will be the greatest source of energy if he regards it as necessary to maintaining his own rule. Such a person will have the greatest incentive to be watchful, and to be both cruel and merciful in correct contrast and proportion. We are talking about Machiavelli's prince, the man whom in apparently unguarded moments he called a tyrant. . .

The president takes an oath "to execute the Office of President" of which only one function is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." In addition, he is commander-in-chief of the military, makes treaties (with the Senate), and receives ambassadors. He has the power of pardon, a power with more than a whiff of prerogative for the sake of a public good that cannot be achieved, indeed that is endangered, by executing the laws. . . .

In quiet times the rule of law will come to the fore, and the executive can be weak. In stormy times, the rule of law may seem to require the prudence and force that law, or present law, cannot supply, and the executive must be strong. In the course of explaining how the rule of law applies only in "quiet times," Mansfield also argues that "civil liberties are subject to circumstances," not inalienable, and that "in time of war the greater dangers may be to the majority from a minority." Thus, he explains -- in what might be my favorite sentence -- "A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away."

I'm not going to spend much time rebutting the notion that the American President has the power to act as a Prince and override the rule of law when circumstances supposedly justify that. For one thing, given that this belief has governed our country since the 9/11 attacks, I've made the argument many times before, including here and here, as well as in my book.

But more so, one would hope that no response is really necessary, since most Americans -- outside of the authoritarian cult that has followed George W. Bush as Infallible War Leader -- instinctively understand that America does not recognize such a thing as a political official with the power of "one-man rule" that overrides the rule of law. That we are a nation of laws, not men, is so basic to our political identity that it should need no defense.

And for those with any lingering doubts about how repugnant Mansfield's vision is to the defining American political principle, I would simply turn the floor over to the great American revolutionary Thomas Paine (.pdf), writing in Common Sense: The point here is not to spend much time arguing that Mansfield's authoritarian cravings are repugnant to our political traditions. The real point is that Mansfield's mindset is the mindset of the Bush movement, of the right-wing extremists who have taken over the Republican Party and governed our country completely outside of the rule of law for the last six years. Mansfield makes these arguments more honestly and more explicitly, but there is nothing unusual or uncommon about him. He is simply expounding the belief in tyrannical lawlessness on which the Bush movement (soon to be led by someone else, but otherwise unchanged) is fundamentally based.

This is why he is published in The Weekly Standard and The Wall St. Journal -- the two most influential organs for so-called "conservative" political thought. All sorts of the most political influential people in our country -- from Dick Cheney to Richard Posner to John Yoo and The Weekly Standard -- believe and have argued for exactly this vision of government. They literally do not believe in our constitutional framework and our most defining political values. They have declared a literally endless War which, they claim, not only justifies but compels the vesting of unlimited power in the President -- "unlimited" by Congress, the courts, American public opinion and the rule of law.

That continues to be the central political crisis we have in this country. It is an encouraging development that Congress is exercising aggressive oversight and investigative powers, but the administration is stonewalling completely, and will continue to, because they do not recognize any duty to respond, to answer questions, to be subject to scrutiny or accountability. We live in stormy times, and thus, as Mansfield says: "In stormy times, the rule of law may seem to require the prudence and force that law, or present law, cannot supply, and the executive must be strong."

That is why -- as jarring as it is -- it is actually necessary to ask presidential candidates whether they intend to exercise the power to imprison American citizens with no charges of any kind. The dominant political movement in this country believes in that power and has defended and exercised it. Mansfield's beliefs may be twisted and tyrannical and radical and profoundly un-American. But they are also the beliefs that have propelled our government for the last six years and -- absent some serious change -- very well may continue to propel it into the future.

A Voice on the Right Wonders About a Coup

Don’t Get Weak: Random thoughts on the passing scene.
By Thomas Sowell

Sometimes it seems as if everybody is trying to rip off his own little piece of America, until we are all torn apart.

A reader writes: “Liberals hold us individually responsible for nothing but collectively responsible for everything.”

The last time I saw a Republican express outrage was 1991, when Clarence Thomas told the Senators what he thought of the smear tactics used against him. Before that, it was Ronald Reagan saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Before that, it was probably Teddy Roosevelt.

Too many people in positions of responsibility act as if these are just positions of opportunity — for themselves. The ones who simply steal money probably do less harm than teachers who propagandize their students, media who slant the news, or politicians who sell out their country’s interests in order to get reelected.

A reader wrote: “Have you ever noticed that opinion polls ask the opinions of people who have no expertise in the subject on which they are being polled and publish these opinions as if they were gospel truth instead of group ignorance?”

Judging by the polls, Republican voters’ memories do not seem to be as short as Senator John McCain may have thought. Judging by press coverage, the media’s memory does not seem to have been as long as he may have thought when he played to that gallery.

A sign of the times: A full-page ad for an Alaska cruise in the left-wing New York Review of Books says, “See Alaska’s Glaciers Before They’re Gone!” Shipmates listed include Ralph Nader and the editor of The Nation magazine.

The people who are scariest to me are the people who don’t even know enough to realize how little they know.A reader sent the following message, quoting his nephew: “Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented worker’ is like calling a drug dealer an ‘unlicensed pharmacist.’“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

Our education system, our media, and our intelligentsia have all been unrelentingly undermining the values, the traditions, and the unity of this country for generations and, at the same time, portraying as “understandable” all kinds of deviance, from prostitution to drugs to riots.

The home run records that made Babe Ruth famous have been broken but one of his records will probably never be broken — pitching the longest shutout in World Series history, 14 innings. Few pitchers go even nine innings these days.

“Global warming” seems to be joining “diversity,” “gun control,” “open space,” and a growing list of other subjects where rational discussion has become impossible — and where you are considered a bad person even for wanting to discuss it rationally.

Is your employer poorer by the amount of money he pays you? Probably not, or you would never have been hired. Why then should we assume that a corporation or its customers are poorer by the amount paid to its chief-executive officer?

A review of one of the many environmentalist books says that even if you can’t do all you would like toward “living green,” you can at least “congratulate yourself on taking small steps to improve the planet.” That is what environmentalism — and much else on the political Left’s agenda — is really all about, self congratulation.

Just watching Suze Orman for a few moments while channel surfing is enough to make me feel exhausted.

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

In his book Income and Wealth, economist Alan Reynolds says that people often form “strong opinions” based on “weak statistics.” Unfortunately, that is also true of a wide range of other issues, from “global warming” to “gender bias.” I am so old that I can remember a Democrat, at his inauguration as president, say of our enemies: “We dare not tempt them with weakness.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Minorities and Traffic Stops

Study: Minorities fare worse in traffic stops

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.

Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.

The study, released Sunday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people age 16 or over. (Read the full report)

"The numbers are very consistent" with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report's co-author, said in an interview.

"There's some stability in the findings over these three years."

Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply "driving while black."

"The available data is sketchy but deeply concerning," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau. The civil rights organization has done its own surveys of traffic stops, and he said the racial disparities grow larger, the deeper the studies delve.

A call for more data
"It's very important to look at the hit rates for searches -- the number that actually result in finding a crime," Shelton said. "There's a great deal of racial disparity there." He called for federal legislation that would collect uniform data by race on stops, arrests, use of force, searches and hit rates.

"This report shows there are still disturbing disparities in terms of what happens to people of color after the stop," said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's racial justice project.

He also said better reporting is needed.

Like the 2002 report, this one contained a warning that the racial disparities uncovered "do not constitute proof that police treat people differently along demographic lines" because the differences could be explained by circumstances not analyzed by the survey.

The 2002 report said such circumstances might include driver conduct or whether drugs were in plain view.

Traffic stops are the most frequent way police interact with the public, accounting for 41 percent of all contacts. An estimated 17.8 million drivers were stopped in 2005.

Black, Hispanic and white motorists were equally likely to be pulled over by police -- between 8 percent and 9 percent of each group. The slight decline in blacks pulled over -- from 9.2 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent in 2005 -- was not statistically significant, Durose said, and could be the result of random differences.

The raw numbers
The racial disparities showed up after that point:

Blacks (9.5 percent) and Hispanics (8.8 percent) were much more likely to be searched than whites (3.6 percent). There were slight but statistically insignificant declines compared with the 2002 report in the percentages of blacks and Hispanics searched.

Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested. Hispanic drivers were arrested 3.1 percent of the time.

Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to be subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

People interviewed described police hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, pointing a gun or spraying pepper spray at them or threatening to do so. More than four of five felt the force used was excessive, but there were no statistically significant racial disparities among the people who felt that way.

Two years ago, the Bush administration's handling of the 2002 report and its finding of racial disparities generated considerable controversy.

Departing from normal practice, the earlier report was simply posted on the statistics bureau's Web site without any press release announcing it.

The bureau's director at the time, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001,
wanted to publicize the racial disparities, but his superiors disagreed, according to a statistics bureau employee.

Greenfeld told his staff he was being moved to a new job following the dispute, according to this employee, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

This time there was a press release.

Dante Condemns Moderation

Some weeks ago, we had a conversation about "moderation" vs "the extremes" which reminded me of this passage from Dante's Inferno. Generally, we value "moderation" in the United States, but Dante has a different view.

Inferno: Canto III
"Through me the way is to the city dolent; Through me the way is to eternal dole; Through me the way among the people lost.

Justice incited my sublime Creator; Created me divine Omnipotence, The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.

Before me there were no created things, Only eterne, and I eternal last. All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"

These words in sombre colour I beheld Written upon the summit of a gate; Whence I: "Their sense is, Master, hard to me!"

And he to me, as one experienced: "Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned, All cowardice must needs be here extinct.

We to the place have come, where I have told thee Thou shalt behold the people dolorous Who have foregone the good of intellect."

And after he had laid his hand on mine With joyful mien, whence I was comforted, He led me in among the secret things.

There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud Resounded through the air without a star, Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.

Languages diverse, horrible dialects, Accents of anger, words of agony, And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,

Made up a tumult that goes whirling on For ever in that air for ever black, Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.

And I, who had my head with horror bound, Said: "Master, what is this which now I hear? What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?"

And he to me: "This miserable mode Maintain the melancholy souls of those Who lived
withouten infamy or praise.

Commingled are they with that caitiff choir Of Angels, who have not rebellious been, Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.

The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair; Nor them the nethermore abyss receives, For glory none the damned would have from them."

And I: "O Master, what so grievous is To these, that maketh them lament so sore?" He answered: "I will tell thee very briefly.

These have no longer any hope of death; And this blind life of theirs is so debased, They envious are of every other fate.

No fame of them the world permits to be; Misericord and Justice both disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass."

And I, who looked again, beheld a banner, Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly, That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;

And after it there came so long a train Of people, that I ne'er would have believed That ever Death so many had undone.

When some among them I had recognised, I looked, and I beheld the shade of him Who made through cowardice the great refusal.

Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain, That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches Hateful to God and to his enemies.

These miscreants, who never were alive, Were naked, and were stung exceedingly By gadflies and by hornets that were there.

These did their faces irrigate with blood, Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet By the disgusting worms was gathered up.

And when to gazing farther I betook me. People I saw on a great river's bank; Whence said I: "Master, now vouchsafe to me,

Surrendering to Hillary?

Bruce Bartlett,

As each day passes, it becomes increasingly clear that the Democrats will win the White House next year. It’s not quite 1932, but it’s getting close to a sure thing. All the energy is on their side, they are raising more money from more contributors, and there is little if any enthusiasm for any of the Republican candidates—even among Republicans.

Of course, one can never rule out the ability of the Democrats to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. But sometimes the trend in one party’s direction is so strong that even the grossest incompetence can’t keep it from winning. I think 2008 is shaping up as that kind of year for the Democrats.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to a question during a breakfast gathering at the home of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, Tuesday, April 3, 2007, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa home. (AP Photo/Steve Pope)

If I am right, conservatives are going to have to make an important decision at some point. Do they go down with the sinking Republican ship or do they try and have some meaningful influence on the next president by becoming involved in the Democratic race?

I’m sure that the first reaction of most conservatives will be to say that any involvement in the Democratic Party is unthinkable. Many view it as the party of treason and socialism. They could no more involve themselves in Democratic politics than a God-fearing Christian would consider working with Satan just because it looked like he was going to win.

For those of you who feel this way, stop reading. There is nothing more in this column for you. But for those conservatives who don’t see the 2008 election as a race between good and evil, but merely a contest between rivals within the same league, I think there is a good case for participating in the Democratic nominating process.

Here’s why. Although all the Democratic candidates are more liberal than all of the Republicans, they are not all equally liberal. Among the Democrats, some are more to the right and others more to the left. It is a grave mistake to assume, as most conservatives do, that they are all equally bad and that it makes no difference whatsoever which one is elected.

To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative. John Edwards is the most liberal and Barack Obama is somewhere in between.

The hard-core right-wingers who kept reading past the point I told them to stop probably all think I’ve lost my mind by now. But remember, I am talking about the politics within the Democratic Party, not the nation as a whole. Moreover, at this stage of the nominating process, all of the candidates in both parties are appealing mainly to their bases. These are well to the left of the country among Democrats and well to the right among Republicans.

It is in this context that one must evaluate Sen. Clinton’s position. Given the views of the Democratic base and the enormous unpopularity of the Iraq War, it is a real act of courage for her to steadfastly refuse to say her vote for the war was wrong. Of course, like all Democrats and most Americans she opposes the war today and favors a rapid pull-out.

That is why the easy thing for Sen. Clinton to do would be to just thrown in the towel, admit her vote was wrong, and move on. And that’s why it is an act of courage for her to refuse to do so. If conservatives weren’t so blinded by their hatred for her, this would be obvious.
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to a question during a breakfast gathering at the home of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, Tuesday, April 3, 2007, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa home.

On economics, it is reasonable to assume that Sen. Clinton’s policies would not be altogether different from Bill Clinton’s. This is not a bad thing. On trade, his record was outstanding and on the budget was far better than George W. Bush’s. While Clinton raised taxes in 1993, it should be remembered that he cut them in 1997, including a cut in the capital gains tax. On regulatory policy, Clinton was no worse than the current administration and probably better on net.
Democrats know all this, which is why our most liberal pundits, like Bob Kuttner, are attacking Sen. Clinton for being a clone of her husband on economics and attacking her support for “Rubinomics,” named after former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin. Its essential elements are a commitment to deficit reduction and globalization—which are both anathema to the Democratic Party’s liberal base. It wants a hard-line against imports to save jobs and an expansive fiscal policy to pay for a wide range of new social programs.

At some point, politically sophisticated conservatives will have to recognize that no Republican can win in 2008 and that their only choice is to support the most conservative Democrat for the nomination. Call me crazy, but I think that person is Hillary Clinton.

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

Ultra Sound and Abortion, Part II

Will Saletan informs us that the sky is blue, water is wet, and those are fetuses that get aborted
Filed under: Reproductive Rights, Stupidity, Law, Assholes — zuzu @ 3:38 pm

I really wonder sometimes if Will Saletan is my father’s long-lost bastard child. Because he’s got the exact same talent Dad had for telling you what you already knew in a manner that made it clear that he thought he was a genius and you were benighted and in dire need of his instruction. Even where he is hopelessly, utterly wrong — or at the very least, just not getting it in the name of being “contrarian.”

I have noted this similarity once before, comparing Will’s stunning revelation that greater access to contraception will tend to decrease abortion (not to mention his belief that he just thought of this all by himself) to my father’s being full of advice about the use of the microwave that everyone else in the house had already been using for 10 years before he deigned to figure out how to turn it on.

Will’s latest offering from the “No shit, Sherlock” files reminds me very much of my father’s solemnly informing me that there are nine Justices on the Supreme Court. Mind you, I was in college at the time. Poli Sci. I kinda knew that. But Dad was a white guy, and that made him an Expert.

What’s the latest pearl of wisdom from Lord Saletan? Women just don’t know that they’re aborting fetuses, and we have to make sure they know this!

(Saletan) "In its April 18 ruling, the court treated abortion like an obscenity—something that could be done, but not out in the open. Partial-birth abortions, the court reasoned, could be banned because they occur outside the woman’s body. Other abortions need not be outlawed, since the womb conceals them.

Ultrasound dissolves this distinction. It offers to make every fetus and every abortion visible. It forces the court to renounce either the partial-birth ban or the right to abortion."

Oh, my god! Who knew that these were human fetuses that were getting aborted??? Sweet gibbering Jesus, were it not for ultrasound technology, we would never, ever know what goes on within the black box of a woman’s body!

(Saletan) It’s hard to accept if you see abortion as a woman’s right. But it’s even harder to accept if you see abortion as the taking of a human life. That’s one reason why pro-lifers are turning their attention from partial-birth abortion to ultrasound, from the fetus outside the body to the fetus within. They’re trying to open, in their words, a “window to the womb.”Pro-lifers are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their “love affair with the fetus.” But science hasn’t cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn’t want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we. Around the country, ultrasound bills are all the rage. Most of them require clinics to offer each woman an ultrasound view of her fetus. Mississippi enacted a law on March 22. Idaho followed April 3. Georgia’s legislature passed a bill a week ago; South Carolina’s is about to do the same."

Quick! Better lobby your state legislature for an ultrasound bill! All the cool kids are doing it. It’s all techno.

Plus, you don’t want to be a pussy, do you?

(Saletan) Critics complain that these bills seek to “bias,” “coerce,” and “guilt-trip” women. Come on. Women aren’t too weak to face the truth. If you don’t want to look at the video, you don’t have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you’re about to make is as grave as it gets. Are ultrasound pushers trying to bias your decision? Of course. But of all the things they do to “inform” your decision, this is the least twisted. Look at the Senate’s “Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act.” It would order your doctor to deliver a 193-word script full of bogus congressional findings about your “pain-capable unborn child.” Ultrasound cuts through that kind of garbage. The image on the monitor may look like a blob, a baby, or neither. It certainly won’t follow some senator’s script. All it will show you is the truth.

Look at the pretty pictures!

You know, that little line about “the truth” reminds me of that scene in A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise has Jack Nicholson on the stand: “I want the truth!” demands Tom. “You can’t handle the truth,” sneers Jack.

Now, why would I think of a Tom Cruise movie when reading an article about ultrasounds?
I just love how Saletan decides that women don’t know “the truth” about abortion, and that ultrasounds are just the ticket for telling them that they have a human life in their wombs. That fetuses MOVE!

Uh, they know that already, Will. That’s why they’re getting abortions. Because they know that if the embryo or fetus is left there, chances are it will be a baby after nine months, the responsibility of someone who doesn’t want to have a baby. They don’t need to look at an ultrasound to know that. Of course, anti-choicers remain convinced otherwise:

(Saletan) To pro-lifers, ultrasound is a test of pro-choice sincerity. “The same people who scream that women must always be told ‘all their options,’ including abortion, balk at allowing women to see whom it is whose life they are about to take,” says Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC’s state legislative director. “They are petrified that women will change their minds after seeing their babies.”

So, uh, you gonna pay for this, Mary? Because requiring ultrasounds — which are not cheap — is going to raise the price of abortions and force even more late-term procedures as women have to get the money together. Which, of course, is the point here: throw up as many roadblocks as possible, raise the costs, make it as difficult as possible to obtain an abortion, and maybe a few of those sluts will change their minds. And if they don’t want to look at the video, they’re weak and can’t handle the truth.

Actually, given how many obstacles are put into womens’ paths, particularly in Bible-belt states, it’s a wonder anyone goes through with abortion at all. I’ve never had one, but if I ever needed one, I live in a state with incredibly liberal abortion laws. I can’t even imagine scraping together the money, traveling to a distant clinic, going through mandatory waiting periods, having to sit through bullshit disclosures about the procedure, running the gantlet of the protesters outside (not to mention all the security inside due to the terrorism directed at women’s clinics), and then having one more goddamn thing thrown at you: “Look! It’s your baby!”

That so many women do make it through this whole procedure is a real testament to the fact that they know the truth already and they will do what they need to do. Which is something that needs to be added to the list of things Saletan Just Doesn’t Get. Because this is how he closes his piece:

To trust the ultrasound, you have to trust the woman.

If you trusted the woman in the first place, you wouldn’t force her to view an ultrasound.

Ultra-Sound and Abortion

Sex, Life, and VideotapeUltrasound and the future of abortion.
By William Saletan

Last week, pro-lifers won their biggest victory in 40 years: a Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. This week, they announced their next target. Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, concluded that the court's ruling "should give encouragement to the legislators who are pursuing other types of regulation," particularly bills that "require the abortionist to offer the woman an opportunity to view an ultrasound" of her fetus.

For pro-lifers, this segue is logical. For the court, it means trouble. It threatens to unravel the latest judicial compromise and, with it, Roe v. Wade. In its April 18 ruling, the court treated abortion like an obscenity—something that could be done, but not out in the open. Partial-birth abortions, the court reasoned, could be banned because they occur outside the woman's body. Other abortions need not be outlawed, since the womb conceals them.

Ultrasound dissolves this distinction. It offers to make every fetus and every abortion visible. It forces the court to renounce either the partial-birth ban or the right to abortion.

For 34 years, the court allowed states to regulate but not ban pre-viability abortions. That era ended April 18. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, ruled that the partial-birth ban was compatible with Roe because abortions other than the partial-birth kind would remain legal.
Kennedy's colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ridiculed this distinction. The partial-birth ban, she pointed out, "saves not a single fetus," since it allowed the doctor to tear apart the fetus inside the womb instead of pulling it partway out before killing it. "[T]he notion that either of these two equally gruesome procedures … is more akin to infanticide than the other, or that the State furthers any legitimate interest by banning one but not the other, is simply irrational," she wrote.

Kennedy replied that the selective ban was rational because partial-birth abortion, unlike internal dismemberment, "occurs when the fetus is partially outside the mother" and therefore had a "disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant." This similarity, he argued, gave Congress reason to believe that the partial-birth procedure uniquely "undermines the public's perception" of medical ethics and would "coarsen society to the humanity" of innocent life.
In other words, it's rational and constitutional to ban abortions based on how they look, not what they are. Inside the womb, a fetus bears just as much similarity to an infant as it does outside. But killing the fetus inside is OK, because the public won't perceive and be "coarsened" by what's being done.

That's a pretty cynical distinction. It's hard to accept if you see abortion as a woman's right. But it's even harder to accept if you see abortion as the taking of a human life. That's one reason why pro-lifers are turning their attention from partial-birth abortion to ultrasound, from the fetus outside the body to the fetus within. They're trying to open, in their words, a "window to the womb."

Pro-lifers are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their "love affair with the fetus." But science hasn't cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn't want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.

Around the country, ultrasound bills are all the rage. Most of them require clinics to offer each woman an ultrasound view of her fetus. Mississippi enacted a law on March 22. Idaho followed April 3. Georgia's legislature passed a bill a week ago; South Carolina's is about to do the same.
Critics complain that these bills seek to "bias," "coerce," and "guilt-trip" women. Come on. Women aren't too weak to face the truth. If you don't want to look at the video, you don't have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you're about to make is as grave as it gets.

Are ultrasound pushers trying to bias your decision? Of course. But of all the things they do to "inform" your decision, this is the least twisted. Look at the Senate's "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act." It would order your doctor to deliver a 193-word script full of bogus congressional findings about your "pain-capable unborn child." Ultrasound cuts through that kind of garbage. The image on the monitor may look like a blob, a baby, or neither. It certainly won't follow some senator's script. All it will show you is the truth.

If I were a legislator, I'd offer four amendments to any ultrasound bill. First, the government should pick up the tab. Second, the woman should also be offered a six-hour videotape of a screaming 1-year-old. Third, any juror deliberating whether to issue a death sentence should be offered the chance to view an execution. Fourth, anyone buying meat should be offered the chance to watch video from a slaughterhouse. If my first amendment passed but the others failed, I'd still vote for the bill.

To pro-lifers, ultrasound is a test of pro-choice sincerity. "The same people who scream that women must always be told 'all their options,' including abortion, balk at allowing women to see whom it is whose life they are about to take," says Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's state legislative director. "They are petrified that women will change their minds after seeing their babies."

Maybe. But pro-lifers seem equally petrified that women won't change their minds. They rigged Mississippi's ultrasound law with a clause that would ban nearly all abortions if Roe is overturned. Now the Supreme Court has echoed that equivocation, ruling that one way to "inform" women of the evil of partial-birth abortion is to criminalize it. But the clash between ultrasound and the partial-birth ban is ultimately a choice between information and prohibition. To trust the ultrasound, you have to trust the woman.

A version of this article also appears in the Outlook section of the Sunday Washington Post.