Thursday, June 30, 2005

Friday Baby Blogging

Originally uploaded by Rivka5.

It's just not fair for the daughter of two feminists to look this sweet in a rosebud-studded pink dress.

I think Alex looks older in this picture than she actually is. Probably because the pose suggests that she's able to sit on her own, when in fact she is leaning parasitically on her Mama. She is a fine strong baby, though, currently dedicating all her mental and physical powers towards figuring out how to take an object in her hands and put it in her mouth. Not food, you understand, because she's way too young for that. Just... stuff.

Same-Sex Marriage And The Goals Of The State: The Canadian Frame

I like the Toronto Globe and Mail's summary of this week's vote to make same-sex marriage legal Canada-wide: "It is rare that a law can be both momentous and anticlimactic..." Anticlimactic, of course, because court rulings had already extended same-sex marriage rights to some 28 million of Canada's 30 million citizens - with a notable lack of the civilization-crumbling effects predicted by foes of gay marriage in the United States. (No one in Canada has petitioned to marry their dog, to give just one example.) But momentous, also of course, because it's a strong affirmation of dignity and equality for all families. Marriage rights are now granted to GLBT Canadians, not just because the courts compel it, but because it's the will of the majority. That's momentous.

My favorite Canadian, Idealistic Pragmatist, sent me a link to an excellent analysis of how the same-sex marriage debate is framed in light of differing concepts of the purpose of the state. The post, at Crawl Across the Ocean, is framed in terms of Canadian politics and the Canadian blogosphere - but I think there's a lot there that Americans can learn from. It draws on a Joseph Heath book called The Efficient Society, which contrasts two models of government:
[T]hroughout time most societies have viewed the pursuit of good (virtuous) living as the goal of society. Whether in the world of Islam, Europe in the middle ages, or Communism in the Soviet Union, society functioned by requiring everyone to buy into the same set of moral values. Of course this required getting agreement on what actions are virtuous and which are vices - here religion traditionally (although not always, as the Communist example shows) plays a big role in determining which actions are good (those which please God) and which are bad (those which offend God).

The (potentially) fatal flaw in this type of arrangement is pretty clear - it only works if there is near unanimous agreement about what is virtuous and what is bad. [...]

Heath argues that the combination of advancing technology (which made disagreements much more lethal) and the Reformation which split the church in Europe and caused numerous civil wars led people to reconsider whether this was a sustainable model for society. He suggests that it was the 'social contract' theorists, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke et al, who developed a new set of values for society. In this new model, the state would no longer seek to impose values on society but would only use the powers which society agreed (contracted) that it should have, most notably a monopoly over the use of force to enforce contracts and prevent disagreements over values from getting out of hand and causing more civil warfare.

Heath calls this new model 'the efficient society' because, with the state's role reduced to enforcing contracts rather than values, legitimacy is shifted to those transactions which both parties enter into voluntarily.
Both the blogger at Crawl Across the Ocean and Heath appear to agree that Canada has a national consensus for the values of the efficient society, rather than the virtuous society. I think we'd all probably agree that the two models are in much greater tension in the United States. What's interesting to me is that I don't think the split falls along party lines. The division within the Republican Party is pretty clear; it's easy enough to arrange libertarians and free market conservatives on the "efficient society" side of the debate and religious conservatives on the "virtuous society" side. But I'd argue that Democrats aren't of one philosophy, either. The kinds of Democrats who win elections may be substantially less inclined to moralize - or at least more diffident about asserting their moral values - than their equivalents across the aisle. But within the liberal activist wing of the Democratic Party is a strong current of belief that the purpose of government should be to make people good. Heck, sometimes I lean that way myself.

Crawl Across the Ocean brings these philosophical points back to concrete political issues with a discussion of how arguments about same-sex marriage can be framed within the context of these differing models of society. It's an interesting perspective on framing, from a refreshingly different direction than the American blogger's must-quote, George Lakoff. Give it a look.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Nationals, The Pioneers, And The Hypocrites

Fred Vincy of Stone Court backs up my visceral baseball outrage with plenty of inconvenient facts for Representative Davis and his pals:
A Soros critic, John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), asks, "from a fan's perspective, who needs the politics?"

Who indeed? Does Mr. Sweeney also object to Bush pioneer William O. DeWitt, Jr., owning the Cardinals? Or Bush pioneer Carl Lindner owning the Cincinnati Reds? Or Bush pioneer Tom Hicks -- who also made W a rich man -- owning the Texas Rangers? (In fact, thirteen current or former owners and their family members are Bush Rangers or Pioneers.)

But it gets worse. How about George Steinbrenner III, convicted of making illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign and obstruction of justice, owning the Yankees? How about Fred Malek -- Deputy Director of Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) who compiled a list of high-ranking Jews in government for Richard Nixon and senior advisor to George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign -- owning part of the Texas Rangers in the 1990s along with George W. Bush?
Excellent questions, Fred. Longtime Respectful of Otters readers may also remember that the Yankees funded attack ads linking Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden. "Who needs the politics," indeed.

Giving Voice To The Liberal Military

Karl Rove's repellent comments about liberals seeking "therapy and understanding" for the September 11th attackers have had one positive outcome: it led to the creation of the website Take It To Karl, which hosts the responses of liberal and Democratic soldiers, veterans, and military relatives to Rove's slurs. The site makes for compelling reading:
Whenever I get into an argument with a conservative, the story is always the same. First, they tell me I'm unamerican and unpatriotic. After I show them my military ID and mention I was in OEF, their next response is to say that I'm hurting my fellow soldiers. Then I confront them and ask them what they've done for the troops. Have they petitioned congress to make sure that the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have all the armor they need? Do they make sure that the Reservists still have jobs when they come home? Do they lift a finger to look out for soldiers families while they're away? Did they even send a care package? So far, everyone I've debated has given me a no to all of these questions.

Then I ask them why they haven't stood up and fought against Bush when he slashed veterans benefits. Why don't they care about troops being undermanned and underequipped in Iraq? Their answer is always the same: Vet's have all they need, and troops in Iraq are doing just fine. Nevermind all of the reports and newspaper stories saying otherwise. Nevermind that soldiers are dying. We're doing just fine over there.

I served in the Navy for eight years, and while I never voted for Clinton I have also not voted for Bush. I am a centrist who finds himself a Democrat for voting purposes here in Florida, although the ranks of Democrats and Liberals must surely be swelling, since they are the monikers applied to all who are left of Bush&Co.’s ideology. Mr. Rove himself is not worthy of my anger, for his words alone are nothing more than rhetoric and media baiting from a man too contemptible to challenge my patriotism or service. The true disgrace belongs to those who were quick to reinforce his words in the public eye, from the President on down - people who knew better but chose to ignore the truth in favor of advancing their personal cause or vendetta.

The government I remember, the one I grew up trusting, the one I served, the one that the Founders thought was a great experiment filled with hope and promise; it has nearly vanished overnight. We live in a house divided when we need compromise and cooperation the most.
Thanks to the Respectful of Otters Military Advisory Board for the link. Please follow, read, and spread the word. These soldiers and vets eloquently give the lie to the propaganda that patriotism is solely a Republican virtue.

In other military news, Phil Carter of Intel Dump is shipping out to Iraq. We here at Respectful of Otters send our thoughts and prayers with him.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Putting The Squeeze On Major League Baseball

Garance Franke-Ruta quotes a subscription-only Roll Call story about the latest flourish of the Republican fist - an effort to intimidate Major League Baseball so that they won't sell the Washington Nationals to George Soros.
While the Soros-Ledecky group is not seen as the frontrunner to win the bidding for the Nationals, who should be awarded to their new owner at the end of the 2005 season, the very prospect that Soros could have a stake in the team is enough to irritate Congressional Republicans.

“I think Major League Baseball understands the stakes,” said Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R), the Northern Virginia lawmaker who recently convened high-profile steroid hearings. “I don’t think they want to get involved in a political fight.”

Davis, whose panel also oversees District of Columbia issues, said that if a Soros sale went through, “I don’t think it’s the Nats that get hurt. I think it’s Major League Baseball that gets hurt. They enjoy all sorts of exemptions” from anti-trust laws.

Indeed, Hill Republicans could potentially make life difficult for MLB in a variety of ways.
You'd think that I could no longer be shocked. But I am utterly astounded by this unashamed, on-the-record threat to prevent a private business from conducting a legal transaction with a private citizen. Davis and his colleagues make no attempt to cover this naked exercise of brute power with even the thinnest veneer of a pretense to legitimate governmental interest. They don't even seem to be aware that this kind of petty bullying is the sort of thing that people usually try to hide.

They simply believe that Congressional Republicans are entitled to demand that every aspect of American society, from great to small, be ordered as they wish. They simply display the two-year-old child's astonished outrage that anyone has the temerity to thwart their will.

I'd close with something about "surely this interference with private business transactions is a wake-up call for American conservatives," but I'm too busy trying to figure out how they sleep at night at all.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Apparently while I was away there was a blogosphere rape controversy. What a nice thing to come back to.

I find myself wondering how many of the men who argue that it's incumbent on women to prevent rape by restricting their behavior (as one commenter at Pandagon says, so very reasonably, "this girl wasn't forced to go to Aruba and wasn't forced to get drunk and wasn't forced (from what i've heard) to leave the bar with a group of relative strangers.") also believe that the problem with feminists is that they're so angry, and such man-haters. Because if men, in the aggregate, are so rape-prone that whole countries ought to be considered off-limits to women who don't want to be raped (no one forced her to go to Aruba; American women need to remember that we're perceived as "easy" abroad), so rape-prone that women must never let their guards down for a minute, so rape-prone that our default assumption should be that any man might rape us... well, I'd say that the only appropriate response to that situation would be anger. And hate.

It's a classic anti-feminist double-bind. Women are supposed to believe that men's sexuality is so powerfully animalistic that they can't be expected not to attack women, and we're supposed to believe that men are good guys. We're supposed to teach our daughters never to be alone with a boy, and yet we're not supposed to embitter them against men. We're supposed to constrict our lives so extremely that no man could ever perceive even the slightest hint of a sexual invitation, and we're supposed to be okay with it.

No thanks.

Anti-feminists love to claim that feminists believe that "all men are rapists."[1] Nothing works them into a condemnatory lather more quickly. But when they say that women ought to know better than to go to Aruba, drink alcohol, get in a guy's car, go back to his dorm room, leave the bar with him, of course they are saying precisely the same thing. The difference, I suppose, is in how women are supposed to feel about it: angry, or placidly resigned.

I don't hate men. (Does it really need to be said? I'm afraid that it does.) But I don't believe that men lack the capacity to control their sexual urges, either. If I did, I'd buy a gun and shoot any man who got too close to me or my female loved ones. If women truly are the ones responsible for preventing rape, that would be the most sensible way to do it, right? But strangely, the helpful advice being doled out in the blogosphere has much more to do with dressing modestly and staying inside after dark. And keeping a positive attitude, because, really, otherwise we're just going to alienate men.

[1] I notice that this quote from Marilyn French's The Women's Room appears over and over on anti-feminist sites: "Men are rapists, and that's all that they are." What they never mention is that The Women's Room is a novel, and that the line is spoken by a fictional character whose daughter was brutally raped and then re-brutalized during the trial. Well, another character in the novel says, "I like cheese," and yet somehow that one never gets elevated to stand as the universal opinion of feminists everywhere. It's almost as if they have some sort of agenda.