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Using reasons you don’t believe

by Micah on March 14, 2004

Nate Oman thinks there’s something wrong with using religious reasons that one doesn’t believe to convince people who do believe them to change their political views. Here’s what Oman says:

Consider, for example gay marriage activists who quote the New Testament at opponents of same sex marriage. In other parts of the world, Christians are frequently aligned with left-wing causes, and secular conservatives will quote passages about rendering unto Ceasar what is Caesar’s and getting out of politics. For that matter, consider the attempts of westerners to persuade Muslims that Islam, properly understood, is not really inconsistent with modern liberal democracy.

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Fidelity Pledges

by Micah on February 26, 2004

The Rocky Mountain Progressive Network has issued the following challenge to those state politicians backing the Federal Marriage Amendment, including Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), who introduced the amendement into Congress:

I, ______________________ (name of lawmaker), pledge to the People of _________________________ (jurisdiction that lawmaker represents),  that as a supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment I am committed to upholding fidelity in marriage. I firmly believe fidelity is essential to the institution of marriage and that each person who violates that commitment undermines this institution.
Accordingly, as an elected leader in the State of Colorado I pledge my commitment to uphold fidelity in my own life in order to lead by example and to preserve the institution of Marriage.
____________ (Signature) __________ (Date)

None of the named politicians have signed. Atrios and Geraldine Sealey at Salon (by subscription or day pass) think this campaign should go national. If conservatives are going to push the FMA, I couldn’t agree more. (Disclosure: the rabbi mentioned in the press release linked above is my dad. Go Dad!)

UPDATE: meanwhile, Oxblog has a running tally of those senators who are for and against the FMA. As others have been saying, looks like the amendment is already dead in the Senate.

APSA Political Theory

by Micah on February 22, 2004

Nice to see the APSA Foundations of Political Theory website has been revised and extended (link via Political Theory Daily Review). Lots of very useful links for anyone interested in the field.

A year of blogging

by Micah on February 21, 2004

So I started blogging a year ago today. At first, it took me awhile to get a template together at my old blog. Then, after a couple days of toying around with links to other blogs, I recall receiving an email from a current member of this blog saying: “I’ve seen you show up in my referrer logs a couple of times now. Time for you to get blogging I’d say!” Well, he’d probably say the same thing today, but, at the time, it was great to have some encouragement. I don’t know about others, but my first ventures out into the blogosphere were certainly apprehensive. Did I really want to be putting my name on this half-baked stuff? Is anyone really going to read this? (Welcome to Sitemeter.) Then there was: note to self, this is rather addictive; and, from whence the pressure to post everyday?

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Group blogs aren’t for everybody

by Micah on February 15, 2004

En Banc, which was one of the best law-student group blogs (surely a genre to itself these days), has been disbanded. The members of that blog had their differences, and I’m sure Unlearned Hand has his reasons for pulling the plug on things. Still, I’m looking forward to reading him and the others as they go it alone.

How will history judge?

by Micah on February 7, 2004

Unlearned Hand wonders what we’ll think about America in a hundred years:

Here’s the game I’d like to play, if you’d all be so obliged: name the one thing about America as it is now that the America (if it exists as such) of 2104 will look back on with the most admiration/envy/nostalgia, and the one thing the America of 2104 will look back on with the most disgust/pity.

I’d like to say that we’ll be disgusted by the amount of poverty in the 21st century—and how little Americans did to alleviate it. But that’s probably too optimistic. We’ll pity our inability to cure diseases that will have been eradicated over the next century. Much harder, I think, to decide what we’ll admire. Maybe we’ll be nostalgic for the days before our permanent attachment to computers.

Oxford protests

by Micah on January 27, 2004

I just received an email from a student at Oxford saying this:

The University regrets that it is unable, on health and safety
grounds, to make the Examination Schools available for lectures
and classes today (Tuesday 27 January) because there is a
student occupation of the building.

There were a few well publicized cases of fee resistance when I was at Oxford, but nothing this substantial. More

Oxford sit-in

by Micah on January 27, 2004

I just received an email from a student at Oxford with this announcement from the University’s administration:

The University regrets that it is unable, on health and safety
grounds, to make the Examination Schools available for lectures
and classes today (Tuesday 27 January) because there is a
student occupation of the building.
Students and staff should consult the Examination Schools page of
the University web-site for information about arrangements for
Schools lectures and classes from tomorrow onwards.

There were a couple well publicized cases of fee resistance when I was at Oxford a few years ago, but nothing this substantial. The Guardian has more on the student protests, which are still fairly small, here.

Timing the State of the Union

by Micah on January 21, 2004

Patrick Belton, over at OxBlog, has this analysis of President Bush’s State of the Union address:

If the amount of time given over to a single idea reflects its relative importance in the State of the Union speech (a reasonable assumption), then the most important themes in tonight’s speech, in descending order, are: the need to commit adequate resources to the military for the war on terror (87 seconds); that government will act against single-sex marriage (84 seconds); the administration’s commitment to strengthening families and religious communities, and to combat juvenile use of drugs (78 seconds); the government’s commitment to education and excellence for each child in America (72 seconds); that the world without Saddam is a better and safer place (69 seconds). The closing matter took 78 seconds, centered around the idea that we are living in historic times.

So, at least on this view, what we should take away from Bush’s speech is roughly: we live in historic times in which our major priorities are fighting terrorists, gays and atheists. And who says there’s no culture war in America?

UPDATE: While I’m at it, the funniest moment in the speech had to be when Bush said:

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.

A big bonus for the speechwriter who left a fat pause after that sentence!

Screenwriters Series

by Micah on January 15, 2004

On a slightly lighter note, if you’re a moviegoer and you just happen to be in London over the next couple months or so, this series at the British Library looks excellent. The audio/transcripts in the archives are pretty good, too. (The organizers of some academic conferences would do well to follow suit—but that’s for another post.)


by Micah on January 8, 2004

It appears that Vice President Cheney and Justice Scalia have been out shooting things. So much for being kind to your web-footed friends.

Rawls round-up

by Micah on January 5, 2004

There’s been no shortage of Rawls talk in the blogosphere over the last week or so.

Warning: lots of Rawls-related (but otherwise un-related?) stuff to follow.

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Did you feel it?

by Micah on December 9, 2003

So I’m sitting in the library today when the shelves around me start to shake. And I’m thinking to myself: death by books? There must be better ways to go. 4.5 on the Richter scale. Not bad for Virginia.

UPDATE: the Roanoke Times reports that this “was the strongest earthquake in central Virginia since 1875 . . . Central Virginia’s strongest earthquake in the past century took place in August 1984 and was centered near Charlottesville . . . It was a magnitude 4.1.”

Compulsory voting, continued

by Micah on December 9, 2003

Tim Dunlop has a posted some reflections on compulsory voting in Australia. My hunch is that he’s probably right that a legal obligation to vote, backed even only by a minor sanction, would improve voter competence—however that is measured. There’s a good doctoral thesis out there for someone interested in sorting this out more systematically.

Voter competence under compulsory voting

by Micah on December 6, 2003

Following Brian’s post below about voting in Australia, I thought I’d mention a paper that raises some interesting questions about the relation between compusory voting and voter competence. Dan Ortiz has an article called “The Paradox of Mass Democracy,” printed in recent book called Rethinking the Vote (OUP), in which he argues that democracies are supposed to meet three conditions: (i) near universal suffrage, (ii) equality among those granted voting rights, and (iii) some degree of thoughtfulness among voters. The problem, as Ortiz argues, is that we can’t have it all:

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