The Ineluctable Modality of Brewing

The cures of the Irish is what ales you.

Before Fray Editor heads out for his own Saint Patrick’s Day tipple at Maloney’sWestwood’s faux Irish experience for the skeevy undergraduatehe invites you to consider the Fray’s discussion of Irish authenticity in the international pub, sparked by Austin Kelley’s article on Ireland’s “Crack” Habit.

Fray Editor relates most strongly to morganja’s celebration of the universal authenticity of good times with good company and good brew:

[…] I loved Ireland and the pubs. When in France, I took a much-needed break from the wine bars to sit down in an Irish Pub, drink a Smithwicks or five, and listen to live Celtic music, an incredibly talented fiddle player from Britiany. I don’t go to a pub looking for a historical reproduction, I go looking for the same things that pubs in Ireland seemed to have perfected. Crowded, friendly, fiddle music and beer, it sure seemed real to me.

In an amusing display of American solipsism’s reverse polarity, Ex-Pat finds nothing Irish in IPCo’s export commodity:

These places were designed for a very particular market, namely, Americans. Americans like things to be the way they expect them to be. If they go to an Irish pub they want their childish and simple-minded perception of what an Irish pub is to go unchallenged. To seek out truths and realities about other cultures takes too much effort. […]

The ostensibly (and plausibly) Irish TeaHag finds that the accouterments may vary, but mostly just in levels of hygiene:

My husband and I will happily drink in any Irish pub, no matter the extent to which it has been pre-fabricated.  We’re both born and raised Irish, and now live a heck of a long way from […] the zillion pubs that made up our social life during our college years. So, we won’t care how artificial the environment, in much the same way that we were indifferent to the poor level of hygiene in Irish bathrooms, or the ripped up seats, or the vomit outside the back door. It’s nearly always about the beer and the company.

GreenwichJ discovers a more distinct cultural advantage of the Irish pub, faux or not:

In Bratislava recently it dawned on me why pubs, and Irish pubs in particular, have become so commonplace in non-English-speaking cities. Basically, if you want a beer in most European bars you have to sit down and wait for table service. When you want to leave you have to wait for the waiter to get your bill. This gets to be a pain, and, just as sometimes one just craves a quick burger from MacDonalds, you sometimes just want to buy a quick pint at the bar and then leave.

Slate’s saturation coverage of all things Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day sparks several other wonderful conversations. The Foreigners Fray sports several erudite essays on the state of Ulster in response to Ron DePasquale’s article Fantasy Ireland.

Daniel Engber’s recent Explainer on local dispensations from Lent leads Pine to lightheartedly question whether the Irish are the “super-equals” of the Catholic world:

OK, I’m Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. So I can eat corned beef and cabbage on Friday !

Does the dispensation also mean that Italians can eat beef ravoli ? or Polish can eat pork perogies?  Can Latinos eat chorizo ?

If I want filet a minion instead of corned beef, is that OK ?  Or if I eat lobster newberg, am I keeping the fast?

If I gave up drinking for Lent, can I extend the dispensation to having a few Guinneses on St. Pats? A shot of Bushmills?

Or are The Irish some sort of more-than-equal Catholic who can eat corned beef while my Italian and Polish brethern have to fast? […]

Happy St. Patricks everybody, laugh a little.

Fray Editor agrees with that closing wish a healthy and happy St. Patrick’s to all. GA1:25pm PST Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sure it’s art, but what does it mean? Over in the Art Fray, Lee Siegel’s latest slide show sparks a debate—does the MOMA’s exhibit of artists from the “Islamic World” confuse the issue of Islamic culture? argonaut thinks so:

I believe Siegel was arguing that the show started off with artists who were themselves composites of so many influences, especially Western, that it made no sense to describe them as representative of the Islamic world. These hybrid influences aren’t “syncretic.” They’re cosmopolitan. It seems to me Siegel is saying there are more representative figures, still living in Islamic countries, who would be better test cases of how diverse contemporary–not historical–Islamic culture really is. […]

Theodore_Geisel looks in another direction, arguing that the MOMA is deconstructing the geographical delusions of Western art:

It’s possible, I suppose, that the curator’s objective wasn’t to “break down Western perceptions of Islam” as to “break down American perceptions of high art as ‘Western.’” You seem to be proposing that they should have gone to Morrocco in search of handicrafts. […] The concept of ghettoized “Islamic art,” […] is exactly what the show is trying to counter.

august suggests the exhibit is indeed calculated to rescue rescue the label of “Islamic”:

[…] Calling someone “Islamic” has rather specific connotations in the current cultural moment – driven by doctonaire religion, stuck in repressive political atmosphere, fundamentally opposed to artistic expression. This show suggests that “Islamic” can mean other things. I don’t think it is reacting to a straw man, nor do I think the point is simplistic. […]  Why should Islamic artists have to come from a particular place? Why should we accept some reductive definition of what Islam can be?

Siegel I’m sure would be appalled, but it seems to me that there is a kind of devil’s bargain between radical Islamic groups and various Western commentators: Islam is a thing. It is a very narrow thing that demands conformity, and deviation from said conformity is strictly verboten. Many parties use this logic to justify violence.

It seems to me that a show that splits up that elective affinity is both academically sound and morally compelling.

Perhaps proving his point, twangmonkey throws down a theological challenge:

[…] it seems to me that these works were created by secular Muslims, not practitioners of Islam. The author hints at, but does not state, the end of his argument–that there may in fact be no Islamic art because there is in fact no secular Islam. The necessary distancing of faith and ideas is simply not there. […]

Or is there something to Theodore_Geisel’s argument that high culture is a trait, rather than an identity or a place?

[…] I hardly think the fact these artists are showing in New York and Geneva rather than in Peshawar is evidence of their Westernization. […] Artists invariably go where the money is. […] To be sure, artists represented in the Moma show are members of a cosmopolitan class, operate in European languages, as well as Arabic or Urdu etc., and are influenced by contemporary stylistic trends in America and Europe. They aren’t producing folk art. But all “high art” has that cosmopolitan characteristic. The idea of these artists as Westernized only makes sense if you think that the globalized high culture of today is itself “Western.” This is precisely the idea that the curator is rejecting.[…]

Get in on the discussion in Slate’s Art FrayGA1:08am PST

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Jurisprudence readers took great interest in further untangling the complex legal knot of Fifth Amendment issues analyzed by Dahlia Lithwick in her  elucidation  of the prosecution’s missteps in the Moussaoui trial.

JohnLex7 gets the ball rolling here:

Perhaps, he didn’t commit an offense at all. Dahlia focuses on the federal conspiracy law, and only tangentially refers to the two far more compelling legal arguments for why he cannot be sentenced to death, and possibly why his guilty plea should not stand. Duty and the 5th Amendment.

First, duty. Person A generally does not have a legal duty to report that Person B is going to commit a crime or is committing a crime. (there are exceptions for mental health professionals, and even lawyers aren’t bound by attorney client privilege if a client says that he is going to commit a crime) In other words, if I’m sitting at the bar, and the guy next to me says “I’m going to shoot my old lady tonight, here’s the gun” I have no legal duty to report that to anyone. Whether or not I have a moral duty is a subject for the faith-based fray, not for this one. However, the law is pretty clear that I don’t have a legal duty to do anything. So, Moussaoui had no legal duty to report anything to anyone, and failure to do so is not a crime.

Second, the 5th Amendment. Conspirators get caught all the time. Their statements to the police are often used against the other co-conspirators. However, they cannot be forced to a) talk or b) tell the truth. Any answer other than that violates the 5th Amendment’s prohibition against forced self-incrimination. Caselaw says that not only can you not be forced to incriminate yourself, but you can’t be punished later if you didn’t incriminate yourself. But wait, you say, there is a difference between refusing to answer and affirmatively lying, shouldn’t that make a difference? No. Self-incrimination means just that. Self-incrimination. If telling the truth requires you to incriminate yourself, then you can’t be forced to do it, and you can’t be punished for doing it.

This prosecution has been about overreaching from day 1. Moussaoui is mentally disturbed, to be sure, but he is not guilty of a capital offense, and possibly not of any offense at all.

stevearoni addresses the murky Fifth Amendment waters into which the Moussaoui trial has now waded:

I get the conspiracy part of the case, but the “meat” of the prosecution seems to be that once Moussaoui was in custody, he should have ‘fessed up to what he knew, the FBI would have thwarted the plot, and lots of people would have lived.

The obvious issue being that once in custody, it’s pretty hard to pretty hard to explain that you know about this big hijacking coming up without explaining how you know it – therefore incriminating yourself.

Which, as I understand it, even a scumbag like Moussaoui isn’t required to do .

Ethics aside, can he be punished for, in essence, keeping his mouth shut about crimes he planned to commit?

How is the prosecution getting around the Fifth Amendment issue?

I’m sure someone here has specifically addressed this, but I can’t find it, so bear with me.

sir_biff pithily explains: “The difference is that you can’t be executed for a conspiracy charge and the government wants the death penalty for him so they made up a new charge. They could easily have convicted him for conspiracy but the penalty is less.”

Following Lithwick’s observation, calgodot attempts to extend a tort-law framework to the Moussaoui case and asks:

If Mousaaoui’s “neglect” is a proximate cause of 9/11, then isn’t the neglect of certain administration officials also a proximate cause of the event?

… the Bush administration failed to heed warnings from other nations, failed to inform the FAA and airlines of threats, and failed to issue warnings to the public.

By their reasoning in the Moussaoui case, several Bush administration officials merit legal prosecution. Most notably, Condelezza Rice, who has admitted she failed to properly inform the President, which of course led to the chain of denial and ignorance that allowed terrorists to attack us with absolutely no defensive reponse or preparation.

Insofar as causality is at issue in the Moussaoui case, this article in the Los Angeles Times suggests that, as a general rule, “terrorism cases have proved to be especially difficult for prosecutors because investigators need to disrupt plots before they come to fruition. That leaves prosecutors to make a decision on whether to bring a thin case to court.” Share your insights and questions over in Jurisprudence. AC4:45pm PST

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dan Crane’s guide to alarm clocks had fraysters abuzz over the best and worst ways to undergo the daily ritual of waking up.

For twifferTheGnu, the inherent flaw in all alarm clocks

is the alarm. doesn’t matter if it’s screeching or gentle. these damn things are designed, specifically, to wake you up. therein lies the problem. how can one ever be pleased with such a device, when its primary function is so unpleasant?

next item up for review, find the best personal electro-shock therapy system! wait, that might actually be something more pleasant that an alarm clock.

How about wakin’ to bacon? LiannaKong tells us here about

…the Bacon Alarm Clock which wakes you up to the smell of bacon. If you google Bacon Alarm Clock, you’ll find that numerous blogs like Boing Boing and Gizmodo have blogged about this fantastic invention. You put a piece of bacon in the alarm clock and when it is time to wake up, a light bulb turns on and cooks the bacon(a la Easy Bake Oven) so you get to wake up to the delicious scent of greasy bacon in the morning. To me, that seems like the most pleasant way to wake up. There are no loud noises or lights or sleep cycles involved. It’s just you and your basic human instinct to eat in the morning.

run75441 describes another intriguing brand of alarm clock which “projects the time, in red, on the wall or the ceiling large enough to make it readable.”

panscapes, for his part, is a partisan of what he calls the “Zen alarm clock“:

Waking up to the Zen alarm clock is a kindly process - a hammer strikes the bowl, producing a warm, harmonious chime that lifts you from your sleep and gently lowers you right back into it as the note slowly fades. Five minutes later, it chimes again, and you’re like, “Mmmm. *snort*” and you roll over and hug a pillow. The interval between gong-strikes halves until the bowl chimes every five seconds or so, and by then, you’re as awake as you’re going to get before coffee and a shower.

It’s also totally bourgeois, and it makes me feel like a well-intentioned, leftist white guy in my forties, but I swear, it’s worth that awful feeling of self-recognition.

According to bathsheba, none of the reviewed models even compares to

the Nokia cell phone, “free” when I signed up 4 years ago. The phone has long been replaced but I keep the Nokia solely as an alarm clock.

Small, travels well, battery lasts a long time, programs in an instant.

Here’s the genius to the design: the Nokia starts beeping barely audibly, then gradually gets louder. Most civilized. The only thing kinder is a lover gently rocking you awake.

Immune to most traditional alarm clocks, baby4mommy proposes some radical wake-up strategies of her own:

About six years ago I purchased an alarm clock billed by the manufacturer by Howard Miller as The world’s loudest alarm clock. It cost about $50 and for the first 5 years it did a great job. Unfortunately I have gradually gotten used to the sound and can now sleep through an alarm that’s loud enough to wake my neighbors. It’s so loud my next door neighbors have asked that I not set it to go off before 10 AM on weekends…

I’m currently considering buying something called the Puzzle Alarm Clock. It has a relatively simple 4 piece puzzle embedded in the top of the clock and wakes you up by firing puzzle pieces up in the air. The only way to turn it off is to find them and assemble the puzzle. The only reason I hesitate to order it is that I don’t think four puzzles pieces is enough…

Many years ago I saw a movie where the main character, a college kid, had what I thought was the ideal alarm clock solution…the kid rigged his bed frame so that he had only one minute to get out before painful amounts of electric current would course through his body. The funny part was that he would still stay in bed counting up to 59 to squeeze out a few more seconds in bed. A different movie featured another novel solution with a reverse Murphy bed set up. When the alarm clock rang the head of the bed would pop up until the mattress was nearly vertical. I think they’re both great ideas but I still think the ideal solution would be an alarm clock that begins to pump caffeine intravenously about an hour before you need to wake up? Of course it would need to have adjustable sugar and cream settings.

Want some Gap jeans with that alarm clock? Share your theories over at Moneybox on the slow decline of this once-hot brand. AC 8:11pm PST

Thursday, March 9, 2006

William Saletan’s latest dispatch from a conference on pro-choice politics continues to bring out the Fray’s best in the Human Nature Fray: thoughtful replies, rooted in a wide range of perspectives (though Fray Editor notes a shortage of pro-life voices) and challenging almost every aspect of Saletan’s argument. 

C-D-Day explains her own ambivalence toward the movement’s politics of abortion:

I’m pro-choice but not pro-abortion. That puts me outside of the mainstream of the movement, which is the problem with the movement. But I’ve actually HAD an abortion, sort of. I was going to have an abortion, but started to miscarry before I could. I had to go through with the abortion procedure at the clinic in order to clear my uterus. So I’ve had the procedure, but didn’t have to deal with “the decision” per se. I know I would have done it anyway, though and without regret. It’s not fun. It’s painful. And it’s a lot more expensive than simple contraception.

So for women’s sake, I’d like to see the number of abortions go way down. But you can’t say that or you’ll be labeled as not completely supportive of women’s rights or worse, gasp, Judgmental! Well, sorry to say that sometimes I am judgmental and I don’t apologize or regret it. I have a friend who had a late-term abortion when she discovered her fetus had Downs. I had zero problem with that until they named the baby and had a memorial service for it. Now, I never said anything to her and I remain committed to the idea that it was her right to make that choice and that never having faced that dilemma I wasn’t in a position to disapprove. But if she considered it a human baby enough to name it and have a memorial service, it bugged me that she could then kill it because it wasn’t perfect.

So, I’m not welcome in the pro-choice crowd or the anti-choice crowd. I’m just representative of the majority of Americans who are told they have to choose sides based on absolutes. It makes it tough to get excited and involved. So it’s up to the extremists on both sides and unfortunately, the right has more extremists than the left so abortion rights are themselves going to be aborted.  – (To reply, click here.)

SonofGoliath wonders aloudabout the role of men in the respective camps of the abortion debate:

[Saletan] should try a pro-life conference. Maybe he has. Maybe he can attest to the over abundance of male pragmatism in the pro-life movement. It seems to me that their whittling away at the edges of abortion rights is a very pragmatic approach. Therein lies a key difference between the two movements as far as I’m concerned. Pro-choice men are unconcerned. For them, it’s a woman’s issue. Their general logic is simple. If they were a woman, they’d want the option. But they’re not women and are content to leave it up to women to protect the right. Pro-life men are a different story. Not only is the pro-life movement deeply rooted in the male dominate hierarchies of religious institutions, but pro-life thinking men, generally speaking, believe they are fighting for justice and the life of innocents. That’s their business. Or to put it more bluntly. The women in the pro-life movement aren’t threatened by their male allies. If anything, they welcome them. The battle over abortion is nothing short of boys and girls vs. girls. That’s why the pro-choice movement is losing. They don’t have the numbers because their male counterparts are more than content to sit on the sidelines. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the pro-choice movement would sooner lose the war than admit they need a man’s help. – (To reply, click here.)

HoundDog volunteers an explanationof how a woman’s life can be “constructed around” the right to an abortion:

You construct your life around it in the sense that it defines the worst case scenario: If contraception fails then I have to have an abortion, which will be traumatic but not the end of the world. That’s a lot different than if contraception fails I will have to have an unwanted child which (depending on circumstances) may well destroy evey other goal I have in life. The difference between those outcomes has a much greater impact on how you “construct” your life than who buys the condoms. If you’re not prepared to deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy and abortion is not an option, then you may have to forsake the sexual relationship entirely. That’s probably not a bad thing from the point of view of pro-lifers, most of whom are also anti-premarital/nonprocreative-sex (because it makes baby Jesus cry). But it’s a big deal for people who just want to get on with their lives unconstrained by other people’s religion. – (To reply, click here.)

In defense of “absolute relativism,” rufustfyrfly explains the moral center inside liberal open-mindedness:

Valuing human freedom and equality is not relativism. As much as the center-right, from William Saletan to Pope Benedict want to believe otherwise, liberals are not all a bunch of relativists.  The fact that we have a different idea of what constitutes morality (advancing human capabilities and equality) than that proposed by conservatives (sex is bad) doesn’t mean that we subscribe to the post-modern notion that all viewpoints are equally valid. They aren’t. The conservative formulation of morality as primarily a sexual phenomenon is ridiculous and flat out wrong. And I don’t care that conservatives nominally care about morality in other facets of human life. Their policies betray their true priorities.

What liberals take issue with when Saletan calls abortion “bad” and hopes that we reduce the abortion rate is the fact that this has at its core the “sex is bad” morality. Why do we think that abortion is shameful, such that women who are faced with that choice feel guilty about choosing to have an abortion? Because on some level the “sex is bad” morality tells us, to put it crudely, “bitch shoulda kept her legs closed.”

If you don’t think that zygotes are fully formed human beings […], the only way that abortion would be a tragic choice is within a society which tells women that sex is bad and that giving birth is their societal duty.

Liberals disagree that keeping one’s legs closed has anything to do with morality, and definitely believe that women are of greater intrinsic value than that, so it simply does not follow that ‘abortion is bad.’ To liberals, the “sex is bad” morality is the problem, and supporting it would make our society worse. The very premises upon which believing that abortion is bad is based are core problems that liberals see in our society–gender inequality and an unhealthy attitude towards sex. That does not make us relativists, and to claim otherwise is intellectually dishonest. – (To reply, click here.)

JeffonMelrose raises some provocative questions about the moral consistency of the pro-life movement:

At the moment of human conception, an egg and a sperm (each with 23 chromosomes) fuse and become a biologically unique living thing. For this reason, many of us who are pro-choice cannot accept that an embryo is simply a lump of tissue, like a cyst or a tumor, that has no independent moral status. After all, I have never heard anyone–even the most ardent pro-choice activist–ask a woman when her fetus will become a human being. Instead, they ask: when is your BABY due? William Saletan is simply stating that, in his opinion, the pro-choice movement would be better served by acknowledging these moral difficulties. As I understand Mr. Saletan, he believes that because the answer to these moral and philosophical questions is ultimately unknowable, the born person most affected by the pregnancy–the pregnant woman–should be given the authority to make this decision.

If you listen to the rhetoric of the pro-life movement, a two-month-old embryo has the same moral status as a two-year-old child. However, if the South Dakota legislature truly believed that, it would have made the women who have abortions subject to prosecution for premeditated murder. They did not do so, which suggests to me that most pro-life people don’t really believe that early-stage embryos and fetuses are morally equivalent to born human beings. They simply believe that the choice belongs with the State. – (To reply, click here.)

Channeling William Saletan’s concern with framing, koplaw recasts the moral debate:

Since 1973, Millions of American Women, for various reasons, have elected to have an abortion. Ironically, these abortions ocurred in an era of safe, effective, and widely available methods of birth control. Those women are our mothers, wives, lovers, co-workers, and friends. Unfortunately, women who have had abortions do not come forward and advertise that fact. So the opposition gets to define women who have had abortions as nameless, faceless irresponsible teenagers, or selfish career women who were too lazy to use birth control. Sportsmen and peole who use firearms lawfully do not remain faceless in the crowd, nor do they allow themselves to be defined by gun control advocates. […]

The problem with the “Pro-Choice” movement is that the chief beneficiaries of safe legal abortions do not really become advocates for the future right of another women to make the same choice, particularly since they now have mixed feelings over that choice. […]

The trick is to throw the moral dilemma back onto anti-abortion activists. In other words, are they willing to expose the identity of every woman, man, or doctor who has had or participated in an abortion in the past and criminalize that choice. To put it simply, the pro abortion movement has to rename themselves “Those Unwilling to Throw the First Stone” and the Anti-Abortion movement as “The Hypocritical Stone Throwers.” […] When the conservatives ultimately did personalize the whole “right to die” debate in the context of Terri Schaivo, they did not score points. It is easy to argue “slippery slope” arguments in the abstract, but a lot of us identified with the gut wrenching choices, Michael Schaivo was facing, even in the presence of a widespread campaign to demonize him.

It’s like gay rights, as long as gays were willing to stay in the closet, it was much easier to demonize them. It is much harder to demonize productive ethical people who happen to be gay. If the million of women who have had abortions remain in the closet, then this battle will ultimately become lost at the ballot box. – (To reply, click here.)

Get in on the discussion in the Human Nature FrayGA2:05 a.m. PST

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

In this piece from late last week, William Saletan argues that technology may render current abortion laws obsolete by “helping many women avoid unwanted pregnancies altogether.” He follows it up this week with an analysis of the loopholes in the (near-total) abortion ban passed by the South Dakota legislature.

TurningSaletan’s argument back upon itself, jnichols1 suggests how technology could actually work to the opposite effect:

…based on the quote you pulled from Section 3 of the new law, that if the fertilized ovum is destroyed, it is illegal. I think the key word in that section is “contraceptive.” I think we all agree that contraceptive means “that which prevent conception.” However, preventing implantation after conception is a wholly different matter. Granted, conventional testing may not be able to detect a pregnancy prior to implantation (5 days or so after conception) right now, but if the science of pregnancy testing progresses to the point where conception can be detected prior to implantation (and what reason is there to believe that it won’t) then Section 3 becomes moot and all of a sudden the law is a lot more strict. A loophole? Yes, but it may only be temporary… don’t get too comfortable.

Applying jnichol1’s rigorous pro-life standard, lucymom poses this question:

Pre-implantation embryos are destroyed every day in IVF clinics in this country. Some are destroyed in the freeze/thaw process, some are destroyed in lab accidents (someone drops a dish) and some are destroyed just because an incubator is not as good at maintaining embryonic life as a fallopian tube. Are you advocating shutting down all IVF programs in this country?

Find jnichol1’s reply here.

Catorce eyes the other massive loophole in the SD law:

South Dakota actually makes it pretty easy to get around the supposed abortion ban, so long as you abort using medication and not surgery.

The law states that “no person may … administer to, prescribe for, or procure for, or sell to any PREGNANT WOMAN any medicine” with the specific intent of causing the end of a pregnancy. The law also states that “Nothing in this Act may be construed to subject the pregnant mother upon whom any abortion is performed or attempted to any criminal conviction and penalty.”

In other words, the pregnant woman cannot be convicted of abortion. And nothing prohibits the procurement of abortion medication for non-pregnant women. So if any South Dakota woman who IS NOT pregnant thinks that if she became pregnant she would consider an abortion, all she has to due is obtain abortion medication before becoming pregnant. Then, when she takes the medication, she does so without anyone having committed a crime.

So much for South Dakota’s abortion “ban.”

cbs offers up this personal testimonial in support of keeping late-term abortions legal.

Whatever the fate of the SD ban, Arkady argues that we cannot turn back the clock so easily:

Think of ways in which 1972 differed from 2006, relative to the abortion debate. In 1972, there was no abortion pill. In 1972, almost no other country had given women the right to choose. In 1972, there hadn’t been decades of legalized abortion, during which abortion expertise could be spread and perfected in this country. In 1972, information was hard to obtain and easy to police. In 1972, your typical American had considerably less expendable income than today. And in 1972, travel was VASTLY more expensive than today.

All these things are relevant to the abortion debate, since they each factor into what the real-world result of making abortion illegal in this country would be. In 1973, when Roe v. Wade struck down anti-abortion laws nationally, it increased the actual prevalence of abortion because it made abortion much cheaper and less risky (both in terms of medical risks and social consequences). But the changes since then mean that it’s not a readily reversible process. Making abortion illegal – even on a national basis – cannot reasonably be expected to have a meaningful impact on the actual abortion rate…

Finally, Jingoist derides Saletan’s discussion of abortion as “an outline for gradual retreat. The ease and availability of early contraception are heralded, while later term abortion only gets a passing mention as being morally perverse.”

On the subject of reproduction (in a digital domain), check out the latest debate on cloning movie stars through computer animation.  AC7:22pm

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Michael Kinsley pokes at the Bush administration with a probing inquiry into the tension between militant democratism and democratic militarism in U.S. foreign affairs. The Fray probes back with a wide range of stimulating responses:

EarlyBird argues that the evidence of Bush’s commitment to democracy can be found in his actions:

The fact is that whatever one thinks about Bush’s democracy crusade, it has not merely stopped at demanding countries have free elections, then coronating the resulting government a “democracy.” He clearly understands the double-edged sword of popular elections and is willing to take the risk and push on past the election itself. […]

Bush has not merely suggested that these countries are now democracies by virtue of their free and popular elections; the US has been deeply involved in helping those countries develop democratic institutions and constitutions. […] [I]t is in fact, a crusade for full democracy, not just temporary, one-time popular elections. We need to understand that so we know what we’re either agreeing with or rejecting.

BenK makes a strong case for the pursuit of political liberalism above democracy:

[…] Why we should trust democracy, with it’s horrid track record of not protecting its own citizens and unleashing Grand Armees on hapless continents? It’s simply not wise to expect liberal states to grow up from democracies. It didn’t even happen here; what happened here was that democracy grew from a liberal state.

Taking an intermediate position, Mangrovensumpf argues for both democracy and liberalism as necessary conditions:

A crucial distinction is often missed when discussing whether certain societies are “ready for democracy.” […] The distinction comes when you look deeper into the purpose of democracy itself. Philosophically, democracy is intended to protect certain values through self-rule. For example, the “purposes” of representative democracy in the US can be gleaned from the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.

So, if you’re wondering whether a country is “ready for democracy” a better inquiry would be whether democracy will serve to support any other more fundamental objectives. If not, or if those objectives are not in its national interest, then why would any state allow itself to be entangled in the imposition of such a democracy? These are questions that the Bush administration has not addressed, and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them to do so.

satish_desai makes a universalist case for militant intervention on democracy’s behalf:

[…] The freedom of one is freedom of all, because freedom is a collective attribute. Freedom of all people is freedom of American people. Defending freedom of the American people requires defending the freedom of the Iraqi people and the freedom of the Serbian people and the freedom of the Korean people.

That is basically the lesson of WWII. It started with the violation of freedom of France and it ended up with the entire world engulfed in a bloody battle of the freedom for all nations.

There can be no American freedom without freedom of all people. There can be no American democracy without world democracy. […] There is a lot of sacrifice both in terms of material wealth and human lives in defending freedom around the world. But the benefits are enormous and permanent. […]

Schadenfreude offers a more tentative defenseof Bush’s signature executive project in Iraq:

[…] It’s fair to say that Iraq is a disaster. It’s also fair to say that the majority of Iraqis are convinced that the old way of doing things has brought that disaster upon them. They seem willing to embrace democracy. It may be distressing for us that they are using that democracy to try Islamism as their new way of doing things (gross oversimplification, I realize). We believe that Islamism is also a failed way of doing things.

However, as long as they continue to embrace democracy, they leave open the possibility of change. This is the true benefit of democracy. It is a method by which the people can change their government peacefully, by giving them choices at regular intervals.

So, while Iraq presently seems to heading down an undesirable path, it is far too early to write it off as a failed experiment in “nation-building”. Their long term prospects are probably not as grim as they presently appear.[…]

On a closing note, Sawbones raises some provocative questions about the United States’ own democracy:

[…] The last time I checked, sitting members of Congress running for re-election had a success rate somewhere north of 90%. Does anyone really believe, given the amount of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth about the institution, that 90% of our representatives are doing their jobs in a way that is satisfactory to their constituents? Somehow, I doubt it.

You can cite any number of factors, whether they be the massive and barely-disguised quid pro quo contributions from lobbying groups, the gerrymandering of districts, or the simple mathematics that favor candidates who are independently wealthy. But regardless of what you see as the termite in our house, the wood is rotten to its center.

We ask other countries to submit to the uncertainty of elections, while we have systematically removed all uncertainty from our own. Is this really fair?

If you care to get in on the amateur foreign-policy debate, click right in to our Readme Fray.  … GA5:00 a.m. PST