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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The New York Times Is Stupid

I realize pointing out bad reasoning on the NYT Op-ed page is about as hard as playing skeet with Aristotle's physics, but today and yesterday are really just atrocious.

First up: Scrutinizing John Roberts.

After an initial volley implying that Roberts was chosen for nepotistic reasons, as well as being able to hide his nefarious purposes until he is safely beyond the reach of the congress to dictate judicial interpretation, the editorial breaks straight into this:
One of the most important areas for the Senate to explore is Judge Roberts's views on federalism - the issue of how much power the federal government should have. The far right is on a drive to resurrect ancient, and discredited, states' rights theories.

"Ancient"? "Discredited"? Discredited by whom, precicely? Posner? The National Organization of Women? Former Chief Justice Warren? It occurs to me that the majority of the country holds the silly view that the separation of powers exists, which you may disagree with, but sadly the constitution is also on their side. Moreover, it would also seem that at a minnimum, three of the present justices in the high court are on board. And ancient? You mean, say, about 218 years old, when the constitution was written?

If extremists take control of the Supreme Court, we will end up with an America in which the federal government is powerless to protect against air pollution, unsafe working conditions and child labor.

Oh noes! Is the federal government can't do it, we'll all be totally fucking helpless! After all, it's only a matter of time before the Nebraska state legislature starts underground pollution factories run by nine year olds. I bet they'll even have a rope bridge to work, just to add a bit of spice to an otherwuse unprecarious situation.

There are also serious questions about the attitude of Judge Roberts toward abortion rights. As a lawyer in the first President Bush's administration, he helped write a brief arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

This is, even along with the pointless deception that the authors are so fond of, ludicrious. As a lawyer for the Soliciter General's office, he argued on behalf of his client (the president) that Roe should be overturned. Guess how much sway the deputy AG has in determining the position of the administration? If you guessed "virtually none," you win a pony. This is like saying, "Johnny Cochrain argued that the LAPD is evil and racist and all criminals in LA ought to go free." The subtext being: obviously, in future circumstances, he would continue to rule this way.

But even so: what's your damn point? Roe should be overturned. It's the worst judicial ruling in the past 75 years. It's also undermined the women's liberation movement, and sidetracked the Democratic party leading to an acute erosion in power. Abortion. Doesn't. Matter. It's also not a constitutional right. Sorry.

The leaders in both parties should resist any pressures to move quickly. It would be irresponsible to take a position on the nomination of Judge Roberts until his background is carefully reviewed, and until senators have a chance to question him at length.

Why even bother to say this? The editorial clearly couldn't care less if he's questioned at length, as long as one of the questions is "How would you rule on an abortion case?"

Second today: Georgia's Undemocratic Voter Law. This gem talks about a proposed Georgia law that would require voters to show some form of government ID when they go to the polls. This would reduce voter fraud.

Count the fallacies:
The new law's supporters claim that it is an attempt to reduce voter fraud, but Secretary of State Cathy Cox has said she cannot recall a single case during her tenure when anyone impersonated a voter.

That is to say: Cathy Cox hasn't caught anyone doing it yet. Therefore, it isn't happening. Is it possible that the reason they haven't caught anyone is because it's so ludicrously easy to impersonate another person if you don't require identification?

In the same period, she says, there have been numerous allegations of fraud involving absentee ballots. But the Georgia Legislature has passed a law that focuses on voter identification while actually making absentee ballots more prone to misuse.

The "this isn't a panacea, so it's bad" argument. They don't note how showing ID at a polling place makes absentee ballots more prone to misuse, so I can only assume they're making this up as it might strengthen their point if they introduced some sort of argument or evidence of this happening. But this is an excellent reason why the state of Georgia might also want to consider an absentee ballot identification measure of some sort.

Then comes the ri-goddamn-diculous section:
The new law will make it harder for elderly Georgians to vote as well. It has been estimated that more than 150,000 older Georgians who voted in the 2004 presidential election do not have driver's licenses, and are unlikely to have other acceptable forms of identification. According to census data, black Georgians are far less likely to have access to a car than white Georgians, so they are at a distinct disadvantage when driver's licenses have an important role in proving people's eligibility to vote.


First: it's amazing when editorials answer their own critiques in adjascent paragraphs. The people who don't have access to cars can, for example, get an absentee ballot. The people who do not have driver's licenses can get state issued ID's of another sort. If these individuals are so infirm as to make a 30 minute trip to the DMV impossible, it's unlikely that a trip of a similar level of exhertion when voting will be in the cards, so to speak.

Second, it's possible that the reason fewer measures are being taken to protect absentee ballots is because these ballots go through the US Postal service. The postal service brings the envelope straight from the post office to the place of residence for the individual. If you simply require that people register or identify themselves in some meaningful way when registering for said ballot, you cure most of the problems they talk about.

But finally, so fucking what? The fact that a Ferrari is expensive makes it less likely I can buy a Ferrari. The fact that a certain class is tangentally disadvantaged in an exceptionally minor way by a rational and good policy does not meant that the policy must be destroyed.

Both of these editorials do what so many are prone to: they try to make everything into some titanic clash of rights. It can't be that abortion is a sensible policy, or that the environment needs to be protected, it's that OH MY GOD THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO STRIP INDIVIDUALS OF A HUGE LIBERTY AND THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER AND DIDN'T YOU KNOW HITLER DID THIS SIX TIMES BEFORE LUNCH. People need to get a grip.

cranked out at 5:18 PM | |

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