Politics: August 2004 Archives

Amazon's Double Standard

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If anyone can find any books other than Unfit for Command that Amazon has opened up for whatever people feel like saying, please let me know. Until then, I'm considering it a double standard. Their reason is that ad hominem attacks can't be restricted during a presidential campaign, which is pretty lame. Of course they can be, and they're still doing it on all their other books. If they want to come out and say that this book is different, giving a reason why it's different, then they should do so. They should just be aware that whatever they might say in such an explanation might also apply to books about Bush by Al Franken, Peter Singer, or others who put forth unresearched and undefended claims that fit at best partially with the facts. It's true that this book isn't exactly trustworthy on every point, but neither are most political books intended at attacking someone, and a double standard is a double standard.

Poverty

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I wanted to write an extended comment on this Evangelical Outpost post on poverty, but I don't think I'm going to have the time today, and I'm not going to be able to post anything else after this afternoon until Sunday afternoon, so I'll just post this link now and say:

1. It has a great summary of why any statistics about how many people in the U.S. are poor need to be taken with a grain of salt due to the richness of resources and quality of life for most people in the U.S. who qualify as below the poverty level.

2. You can learn a little about Joe Carter's childhood, youth, and family background.

3. A start to how each Christian in the U.S. should reflect on poverty issues and those who have less, regardless of where they are on the scale from poverty to wealth.

4. Joe doesn't talk about this, but I think this raises concerns for much of the political rhetoric from black leaders who compare their plight with the poor of the world (where 'their' is supposed to refer to the plight of blacks in general, since the people I'm thinking of probably make more money a year than most Americans do in a lifetime).

World War IV

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The Fourth Rail questions those who would call the war on terrorism World War III. However, it's not because it's not a world war. It's because it's World War IV. World War III was the fight between the capitalist West and the Soviet empire, i.e. the Cold War. I'm not exactly sure what I think of this, but I'm inclined to think he's right.

For those who have links to the Fourth Rail, please note that it has moved to a new site and change your blogroll accordingly.

Most Liberal Senator?

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Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber is making much ado about the misleading National Journal report that had John Kerry turning out to be the most liberal senator in 2003. All the information he presents has been known for a long time, and it surprises me that people still trot this out as a study that proves something about his really being the most liberal senator. I do think it's something to point to regarding his votes that year and what it reveals about his priorities (see below), but it's important to recognize the bigger picture, and this site that Kerry fans are promoting with a Google bomb is designed to give that bigger picture. Since nothing it says is false (except perhaps the claim that he's progressive and the claim, based on an unstated assumption that Cheney knows the truth, that he must have lied -- a problem also with Ted's Crooked Timber post), I don't mind linking to it, though I'm not going to join the Google bomb, because I think the whole tenor of it is misleading. There really is something important that this study shows.

As I commented on the Crooked Timber post, what was interesting to me about the National Journal study was the reason Kerry came out as most liberal in 2003. It was not because he changed his views and got more liberal on the issues he'd previously voted moderately on. It was because he showed up for such few votes that the ones he did vote on counted more, and those were the issues he's most liberal on. What it does reveal is that his liberal-leaning views are the ones that most define him, since those are the ones he cared about enough to show up for. That he voted more moderately some years rather than others is more an accident of what issues there were to vote on than an indication of his priorities. Since the difference with Edwards is even more drastic, that shows an even greater tendency to prefer liberal issues with a much more moderate stance when he doesn't choose which issues are most important to him.

I know there's nothing here that wasn't already in John Rabe's comments on my Alan Keyes post, but since not everyone reads comments that show up after they originally read the entry, I've decided this is important enough to link to his entry making the points his comment already made. His point is that the hypocrisy charges against Alan Keyes are not necessarily justified. Keyes does have an argument for why his case is very different from Hillary Clinton's. She pushed her way into a state whose Democratic party hadn't originally asked her, even if it welcomed her, and her popularity would be expected to discourage other potential candidates. Keyes was asked by the state Republican party in desperate straits who might not otherwise have a candidate who could stand a chance against the guy the national Democratic party gave a spot at the convention to. Keyes might be able to argue that in such a case it's worth risking something he doesn't like to stave off something he likes even less. If there's no absolute principle against running in a state you don't live in, this should be ok. Now he just needs to argue that it's not an absolute principle against it, and Hillary's case was bad enough even given a non-absolute principle that it was worth his harsh words. Otherwise, he needs to say he's changed his view and apologize for what he said.

Eugene Volokh distinguishes between discrimination because of someone's religious action and discrimination because of someone's non-religious actions based on one's own disapproval of that action for religious reasons. If I refuse to hire a Muslim, that's illegal. If I fire someone for eating pork, when the pork eating is for a religious ritual of some sort, then it's illegal. In this case, a woman ate pork on the grounds of the Muslim company she worked for. She didn't do it for religious reasons, though. She was just eating pork. It was entirely secular. Volokh says there's nothing illegal about that, because no one's religion is being discriminated against. It's a secular action that's being discriminated against, and he says that's legal (as long as it doesn't also discriminate against the person for being part of a different protected group, e.g. a racial group).

Two things surprised me here. One is that it isn't agaisnt the law to fire someone for being gay. He's a little uncareful here, because he's talking about actions, and being gay isn't an action. It's a state of being. Engaging in gay sex is an action, so if I fire someone for having gay sex there's nothing illegal about it. He thinks it may still be immoral, but the law can't stop me. I didn't think it was legal anymore to refuse to allow someone to rent from you simply because the person is gay, but perhaps it still is. Second, isn't this structure really easy to abuse? It's hard to argue that eating pork is required by one's religion, and having gay sex is also at least non-obligatory in every religion I've ever heard of, but religions can form easily, and lots of practices that might be a good reason for someone not to want you working for them but that are legal can then be declared part of the religion. I don't like how easily this can lead to discrimination charges if someone wants to go to the effort to sue over something they can concoct a religion to require.

Judge Pickering, victim of Democratic politicking in the Senate, now has a temporary position as a federal judge. The primary reason Democratic senators opposed even giving him a Senate vote was from one case of two cross-burners, one who was only an accomplice who got a harsher treatment than the other who was the real driving force behind the incident. Pickering wanted to see the accomplice treated less badly than the main provacateur. Democrats on the Senate Juiciary Committee used this as an excuse to pretend Pickering is a racist, even though he has a strong record in favor of civil rights. It was some of the most shameful misrepresentation I've seen in the current Senate lineup, in the same category of worrying about John Ashcroft merely because he's an evangelical Christian.

Stuart Buck reports on Pickering's first decision as a federal judge on the issue of segregation and discrimination. Here are some choice quotes:

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