Ideological Purity in the GOP

Should've linked this last week, but had a good class discussion on the matter today.  I'll let EJ Dionne take care of the summary:

 Is there room in the Republican Party for genuine moderates? Truth to
tell, the GOP can't decide. More precisely, it's deeply divided over
whether it should allow any divisions in the party at all.

That's why the brawl in a single congressional district in far Upstate
New York is drawing the eyes of the nation. Conservatives are
determined to use the race to prove that there is no place in the party
for heretics, dissidents or independents. 

When local Republicans picked a moderate, Assemblywoman Dede
Scozzafava, as their candidate for the Nov. 3 contest, many on the
right rebelled. They are backing a third-party conservative, Doug
Hoffman, and he may well drive Scozzafava into third place. For the
moment, at least, polls show that Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate,
has jumped into first place on the split.

 It demonstrates just how right-wing some Republicans have become that
former House speaker Newt Gingrich is on the moderate side of this
civil war against his old nemesis Dick Armey, who served under Gingrich
as majority leader.

Gingrich, who backs Scozzafava,
always understood that he would never have become speaker without help
from Republican moderates. Armey prefers ideological purity and, like
fellow members of the Tea Party movement, is supporting Hoffman.

The GOP's battle of Plattsburgh and Oswego underscores the fact that
while the Democrats are a coalition party uniting moderates and
liberals, Republicans threaten to become a party of the right, and only
of the right. That means (as we are seeing on health care) that many of
the big arguments take place almost entirely inside the Democratic

Not much of a "threat" about it.  The Republicans are pretty much there as a party of the right and only of the right.  This is most definitely not the path to a returned majority, but to permanent minority status.  Back to EJ:

Democrats won their majority in Congress by uniting and firing up their
base (George W. Bush helped a lot) and by winning over moderates and
independents, often by running moderate candidates in conservative
districts. These candidates were typically to the left of the
Republicans on economic issues but to the right of, say, Berkeley and

In the meantime, middle-of-the-road voters who had populated the
moderate Republican heartland, notably in suburban areas of the
Northeast and Midwest, shifted steadily Democratic, turned off by the
increasing dominance of Southern conservatives in the party of Lincoln.

Such voters threw solid Republican moderates out of office — among
them Connie Morella in Maryland, Jim Leach in Iowa and Chris Shays in
Connecticut — not because they disliked these champions of the middle
way but because all three came to be seen as enablers of a right-wing
congressional majority.

The political parties scholar in me is fascinated by the Republican party's rush off an ideological cliff.  Ideological purity simply does not make for majorities in a two-party system.  The Democrat in me says, keep on going.


Boys club

It seems that Obama has been taking some heat lately for the fact that his White House basketball games don't include women.  A-ha, he's a sexist!!  Salon's Tracy Clarke-Flory has the right take on this, I think:


There is a tremendous difference between doing business at a topless
bar and organizing a pickup game with co-workers, though. And, as a
woman who has always tried to play ball, literally and figuratively,
with the boys, I couldn't help rolling my eyes at the critique of
Obama's supposedly sexist sporting habits. As a feminist, I find it
embarrassing, frankly. I'm all for political and workplace parity, but
surely the president should be allowed to bond with his colleagues in a
number of different ways, right? We don't really want to require that
he only hold official events with 50-50 sexual representation, do we?
Or that he form a knitting circle, or some other stereotypically
female-friendly club, as a means of connecting with congresswomen?

is, if there's a dominant male culture in the White House it's more
reasonably blamed on the gender divide that is already deeply
entrenched in politics. Changing that isn't an issue of holding a
basketball game with both male and female Congress members (although,
hey, that would be great); it's an issue of balancing power in
Washington and, to his credit, Obama has selected more women for his
Cabinet than any other president. Clearly, there's still plenty more
work to be done and I'm holding out hope the president's performance on
that front will be as impressive as his jump shot. In the meantime, I
sincerely hope he takes up Kathleen Sebelius on her one-on-one

What she said.

Can you be indecently exposed in your own home?

Apparently, the story of a Springfield, VA (my hometown!) man so charged gained "international attention" last week, but missed my attention till 5 minutes ago:

The way Eric Williamson tells it, he might have been making coffee or
flipping eggs or taking a picture down from the wall when a woman and
her 7-year-old son walked by his Springfield house and saw him, through
the window, naked. 

He says he never saw them and never knew they'd seen him — until the police showed up.

In a case that gained international attention last week, hitting a
nerve for anyone who has ever dashed from the bedroom to the laundry
room in the buff, Williamson was charged with indecent exposure.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened Monday morning, but
everyone agrees on this: The 29-year-old was naked and home alone, and
he could face up to a year in jail.

I actually know the neighborhood where it happened– I had lots of friends right around there.  Anyway, in addition to being a matter of he said, she said, there's quite a number of interesting legal issues at stake.  The crux:

Washington area lawyers say the case, like others before it, will
probably boil down to a crucial question: Did Williamson intend to be
seen? Virginia law defines indecent exposure as the intentionally
obscene display of private parts in a public place or "any place where
others are present."

Today, the Post hosted an interesting chat with an attorney to really bore into the legal issues.   Now, that I think about it, I better be a little more careful when I dash through the house looking for some clean boxers.  Or better, yet, just yell for Kim to go find me some.

The irrational fear of H1N1 vaccine

Much to my dismay, I've not been able to get H1N1 vaccine for my kids yet (I figure as a healthy 37-year old, I'm low in the queue and should have to wait a while).  Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are irrationally afraid of this vaccine (thanks Bill Maher, Glenn Beck and other Morons):

At the same time, however, many Americans are hesitant about being
vaccinated or having their children inoculated. More than six in 10 say
they will not get vaccinated, and only 52 percent of parents say they
plan to have their children vaccinated, even though parents tend to be
more worried about the flu.

This is bad because far and away the best method for stopping the flu is vaccinating children.  Kids are the major vector of the flu.  People will die from this flu and it will be largely spread by un-vaccinated children.  An older adult without a vaccination living in a community where a healthy majority of the children are vaccinated is much safer than a older adult who is vaccinated but is in a community where most children have not been.  Here's a great article from several years back in Slate about the importance of "herd immunity."  Getting vaccinated is not just about yourself, but the herd, e.g., your community. 

Anyway, what's missing from the Post data, that I'd really like to know, is how the data of fear of the H1N1 vaccine compares to what people think about the seasonal flu vaccine.  That's critical to analyze just how bad this response is.  Maybe all sorts of people are scared of the regular flu vaccine, too– inquiring minds want to know.

And just for fun, here's Jon Stewart on the matter:

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Stupid conservative columnist tricks

I decided a long time ago that I was generally going to refrain from blogging about idiocy coming from conservative columnists– that's easily a full-time occupation in its own right.  But, I cannot resist the dual foolishness of Kathleen Parker and George Will in today's Post.

What always amuses me and disturbs me is the number of people who are so easily duped into thinking George Will is some sort of fair-minded intellectual who happens to be conservative.  Sure, he breaks with Republican orthodoxy more than most, but wearing a bow time and using a lot of big words does not actually make you smart.  Today he absolutely phones it in with his pathetic celebration of Minnesota Rep (R- crazyville) Michelle Bachman.  That woman borders on insane.  (If you doubt me, just watch some random clips of her on Youtube).   Will blames one set of her indefensible comments on the interviewer, Chris Matthews, and on another not-so-bad set of comments, he says she's right on the merits.  There.  Case solved–she's a great politician unfairly slandered.  That was easy.  So simple when you ignore all the dozens of other instances where she's proven her tenuous grip of reality.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Parker defends the 30 white male Senators who voted against Al Franken's amendment to prevent the DoD from contracting with contractors who make their employees sign contracts which do not allow them to use the US justice system in cases of sexual harrassment.  Parker makes a really poor case against this amendment.  Apparently it may be hard to enforce.  So is interstate wire fraud– should we make that legal?  Then argues, based on a complete absence of a rational basis "Though it appears that there are plenty of bad guys in this story — may they get their due — the 30 Republican senators have been unfairly smeared for doing the harder thing, for the right reasons."  I love this response in the on-line comments: "What makes you think that the 30 GOP Senators were doing "the harder thing for the right reasons" rather than doing the usual thing for large campaign contributors?"  That sounds about right to me.


Why the WNBA isn’t working

I don't blog about sports much, but I came across this rather interesting article about the WNBA in Slate the other day. The basic problem with the WNBA is that it is trying to replicate the model of the NBA on a smaller scale, rather than just using a different and more appropriate model.  The only reason it is still going is because it is massively subsidized by the NBA. The crux of the issue:

There was a women's pro basketball league in the United States before the NBA got into the game. By late 1995, the ABL
had signed 9 of the 11 women on the U.S. Olympic team and had set up
franchises in mid-size cities like Richmond, Va., and Columbus, Ohio.
Before the ABL could play its first game, the NBA announced its
venture. The WNBA would launch in eight NBA cities, had TV deals with
NBC and ESPN, and was sponsored by Nike, Coke, and American Express.
The ABL's demise was assured; it disbanded in 1998.

better-marketed, better-sponsored WNBA won in the short term, but the
ABL was a better model for a women's pro basketball league. The NBA's
grand vision of a league for women that mirrored the league for
men—just add a W!—was never realistic. The fundamental problem is that
the sports world's primary spenders—adult men—have never shown much
interest in watching women play basketball. For all the people like
John Wooden who enthuse over the superior fundamentals of the women's game,
there are thousands more who focus on what women can't do on the court.
Dunking is not all there is to basketball—as your high school coach
used to say, a slam is worth just as many points as a layup. But it's
also true that nobody pays $1,000 for courtside seats to watch a layup

There are two ways to address the problem of male hoops
fans' lack of interest. The first is to appease them. In 1991, a
start-up called the Liberty Basketball Association changed the rules of basketball
so female hoopsters would play more like men. The LBA shortened the
length of the court and lowered the hoop to 9 feet 2 inches in an
attempt to bring the women's game above the rim. The league's marketing
strategy was made plain in the uniforms: skin-tight unitards that
revealed the players' nipples.

Which leads to the second way to address the
male-hoops-fan problem: ignore them. The audience for the WNBA is, by
various accounts, between 60 percent and 80 percent female. The league also has a major following in the gay and lesbian community, a community that some franchises court and others aggressively alienate. If the WNBA focuses primarily on these fans, they can still have a large enough customer base to survive and succeed.

I actually remember the ABL franchise in Columbus, which struck me as a good idea.  I don't see myself going to any pro women's basketball anytime soon, but it seems that a successful league would be much smarter to place teams in cities like Columbus, and Raleigh for that matter, than in LA, DC, etc.

A little more on Fox News

Mickey Kaus, whom I am generally not at all a fan of, has a pretty spot-on post about Fox news as compared to other TV news channels that hits at some of the themes I addressed the other day, and does it better.

I guess there are two distinct axes on which you can judge press
organizations–actually, there are many more than two (see below), but
two are important here: 1) Neutrality–Are they
attempting to be "objective," trying to serve the "public interest" in
some balanced way, or are they ideologically (or otherwise) driven in a
way that inevitably colors their coverage–what topics they pick, what
'experts' they rely on, etc. 2) Independence–Whether
they are biased or generally neutral, can somebody–a political party,
a Mafia family, a government– tell them what to do?

I think it's pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are
independent. The Obama White House can't tell Bill Keller what to do.
They can't tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him,
and it will probably work, but that's a different issue.) Breitbart is
for sure independent–I can't see anyone telling him what to do.

I think Fox is also not neutral (which, again, doesn't bother me) but it's also not independent (which does).
This isn't because it's owned by Rupert Murdoch–moguls are,
typically among the more independent sorts. It's because it's run by
Roger Ailes. I have zero faith that Ailes is independent of the
Republican party or, specifically, those Republicans who have occupied
the White House recently–the Bushes. As I said, I think if Karl Rove
called Ailes in 2003 and said "We don't want so much coverage of
X" it's extremely likely that X would not be covered on Fox. A … suggestive
example of Fox's loyalty is the debate on immigration, in which Ailes'
network initially seemed to try valiantly–against the beliefs of most
of its audience–to push the Bush White House line in favor of
"comprehensive" legalization (while brushing aside its viewers' views).

It's also worth noting that the "agenda" of the other organizations is not particularly liberal, while Fox undoubtedly pursues a conservative agenda, in addition to not being independent.  




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