Respectful Insolence

Bullet dodged (not by me)

It looks to me as though one of my favorite lefty bloggers, Majikthise (real name: Lindsay Beyerstein), dodged a bullet. In a Salon.com article, she describes how she originally was approached to blog for the John Edwards campaign. As you may recall, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon ultimately was offered the job and ultimately ended up having to resign as Edwards’ political enemies quote-mined her blog for quotes that could be used against her, Michelle Malkin did a “dramatic reading” of selected excerpts from her blog, and that embarrassment to Catholics everywhere, William Donohue of the Catholic League, attacked her for some of her more–shall we say?–”vociferous” comments on Catholicism. Majikthise gives a fascinating insider account of her knowledge of this kerfluffle.

A couple of points are worth mentioning. First, Majikthise clearly showed more wisdom than Marcotte did. Really, what happened was in retrospect very predictable given the power and organization of the rightwing attack machine. The huge downside of a blogger signing on for such a high profile position in any politician’s campaign should have been obvious, which makes me wonder if Edwards is as politically savvy as he is represented as being. (I doubt that there’s any blogger out there who’s been around for more than a year whose archives couldn’t be mined for ammunition to use in a smear campaign against him or her.) I also suspect a bit of ego massage is what resulted in Marcotte making such a bad decision. She was a horrible choice. Personally, I think she’s overrated and dropped Pandagon from my blogroll ages ago. However, my personal opinion about Marcotte’s talent as a writer and blogger is irrelevant to what ended up happening. What is relevant is her propensity to use of profanity and gleefully attack religion in general and Catholicism in particular.

Second, you and I may laugh at, for example, Michelle Malkin’s “dramatic reading” parody of selected quotes from Amanda, but, looking back at it, I see that it was a highly effective ploy, particularly when coupled with the extensive quote-mining by others. To see how effective, all I had to do is to imagine what my in-laws, all of whom are staunch Democrats, would think–or my parents, both of whom are devout Catholics, would react. (Heck, Marcotte’s recent post calling abortion a “moral good” irritated even me. At the most generous interpretation, abortion can be viewed as morally neutral medical procedure; in cases where the fetus is potentially viable, the best that can be said is that it may sometimes be the lesser of two evils.) In any case staunch union-supporting retirees like my in-laws and Catholics like my parents are precisely the kinds of voters that no Democratic candidate for President can afford to risk alienating, and putting someone like Amanda Marcotte in such a high visibility position in Edwards campaign risked doing just that. Fortunately for Edwards, this happened so early and lasted such a short time that it probably won’t hurt him much–not that it matters much in terms of my deciding what candidates I can and can’t support, given that there never was (and still isn’t) any scenario that I can imagine under which I see myself ever voting for John Edwards

Comments

  1. #1 Dianne
    February 26, 2007

    At the most generous interpretation, abortion can be viewed as morally neutral medical procedure

    A potentially life saving procedure is morally neutral? Is tumor resection also morally neutral?

  2. #2 JS
    February 26, 2007

    Watching all this as an outsider to American culture and politics, it amazes me that rabid vermin like Donohue and Malkin are at all effective. I like to believe that in Denmark, such attack mice would not even be accorded the dignity of a response from any real politician.

    In short, I suppose that my question is: What mistake was made in the history of American culture that Europe Should Not Repeat? Allowing cross-ownership of ether-media? Failure to politically castrate resident religions? Failure to educate the public? Something else entirely that I have completely missed?

    - JS

  3. #3 Dianne
    February 26, 2007

    Fortunately for Edwards, this happened so early and lasted such a short time that it probably won’t hurt him much

    I disagree. I think, and rather hope, that Edwards’ viability as a candidate are now at an end. Not because he hired Marcotte, but because he did not support her when she was under attack by right wing idiots. He certainly lost the support of people like PZ Myers, who is a major blogger with some influence. And Edwards’ lack of spine on this point irritated me to the point that I refuse to vote for him or contribute to his campaign. No big deal in itself, but a possible sign of trouble: I am, arguably, the sort of person the candidates hope to impress in the early stages: a politically involved yuppie with disposable income and a propensity for donating to political causes.

    As it happens, Marcotte actually still supports Edwards and is calling for people to play nice in the primaries, as the Republicans will undoubtedly put up the worst candidate they can find and fight as dirty as possible. (Though how they’re going to top Bush I don’t know.) While I respect that position, I actually think that she is wrong on this. I think that this is a golden opportunity to establish the “liberal athesist blog reading bloc” as a group that you don’t piss off if you want your candidacy to go anywhere. This means doing everything possible to make sure that someone else besides Edwards is nominated. So be it. Who is Edwards anyway? The guy who couldn’t beat Kerry. And who is Kerry? The guy who couldn’t beat Bush. What else needs to be said against him?

  4. #4 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    A potentially life saving procedure is morally neutral? Is tumor resection also morally neutral?

    How often is abortion a “life-saving procedure,” as opposed to a form of birth control? Not very. Pointing out that in relatively uncommon cases it is does not outweigh the vast majority of times when it is not, and it comes at a price that resecting a tumor does not.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    Oh, come on. Did you have to include as one of your reasons that she uses profanity? That’s so lame.

    I walk by our local Catholic school yard most days — it’s about 2 blocks away from my house — and I hear language from 3rd graders that my uncles in the merchant marine would have considered quite homely back on the docks. I can understand why some people might consider her (well-deserved, IMO) harsh criticisms of Catholicism grounds for letting her go for someone more mealy-mouthed and less likely to antagonize a special interest group, but cussin’? Please.

  6. #6 Scott Belyea
    February 26, 2007

    Edwards’ political enemies quote-mined her blog

    Hardly necessary, I’d say.

    I have absolutely no time for Donohue or Malkin, but I’m amazed at the poor judgment of someone on Edwards’ staff believing that they were going to avoid this very sort of thing.

    In fact, Donohue and Malkin really blew it … they should have waited another 6 months or so before publicizing this. Would have been much more effective.

    And Dianne said …

    He certainly lost the support of people like PZ Myers, who is a major blogger with some influence.

    Right. I think he’s a divisive enough figure that it’s not clear whether his support would help or hinder a candidate. I read his science posts with great enjoyment and I learn a lot from them … but when he wanders off into politics and religion, he’s out of his sphere of competence.

    In any event, I have a strong suspicion that the blogosphere overestimates its visibility and influence considerably to begin with. I may be all wrong, but I don’t see any evidence of much influence yet …

  7. #7 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    Oh, give me a break, PZ. Surely you aren’t that naive. This is politics, and, whether you think it’s silly or not, cussing in public by a candidate or a highly visible employee of a candidate is generally not considered appropriate, What you or I think of this taboo is irrelevant. The taboo exists in politics, and it is strong, particularly in older voters, you know, the ones who are the most reliable voters. When they (and, for that matter, I) think “Presidential,” they generally don’t visualize a lot of cussing, even though lots of Presidents have cussed a lot in private. Having someone who cusses a lot in such a visible role could only hurt a candidate, aside from the other rants that Amanda likes to go off on. Personally, I’m shocked that the Edwards campaign didn’t realize this.

    In fact, I consider gratuitous cussing (as Amanda does) to be a sign of sloppy writing. I do occasionally leaven my blog with the infrequent use of “hell,” “damned,” or even “bullshit,” but I almost never use the f-word, at least in any way other than quoting someone else’s words. (The only exception–I think–was my post about September 11.) In fact, not using these words very often allows me to use them to cue my readers when I’m really, really ticked off (as with Dr. Egnor).

    I’m surprised you don’t realize that very basic fact of politics.

  8. #8 Adrienne
    February 26, 2007

    I’m a full-grown woman (not a 3rd grader), and I find Amanda Marcotte’s constant use of profanity to be tedious and uncouth. It makes her sound like a high-schooler who is using “dirty words” in a pathetic attempt to sound cool and grown-up.

    I agree with Orac too re: Amanda’s being highly overrated. I don’t think that Edwards’ mistake was in not supporting her, it was in picking her in the first place. Surely there are more moderate, level-headed liberal female bloggers out there?

  9. #9 Adrienne
    February 26, 2007

    Orac,

    I think you mean that most abortions are done for convenience, not birth control. Anyone using abortion as birth control is a raving idiot, given that birth control costs far, far less (and doesn’t require you to pass a gauntlet of screaming protesters to obtain it).

    I agree somewhat with Marcotte in that I think abortion *can be* a moral good, even when done for convenience as opposed to saving a mother’s life. There are some situations into which it would be better not to be born.

  10. #10 RP
    February 26, 2007

    So in your world, Adrienne, all birth control is 100% effective? And there’s no coerced sex? Must be nice!

  11. #11 Scott Belyea
    February 26, 2007

    …makes her sound like a high-schooler who is using “dirty words” in a pathetic attempt to sound cool and grown-up.

    Agree. And to quote (approximately) the late Michael Flanders …

    I am very much against this trend toward four-letter words. If they all come into everyday use, we’ll have nothing left for special occasions.

    (The thought has occurred to me – what does Amanda (or any one of a number of others) say when she drops something on her big toe? :-) )

    And as Orac said, “…sloppy writing.”

  12. #12 Avon
    February 26, 2007

    Orac,
    So Marcotte did not give ammo to the “rightwing attack machine” with her ignorant comments about the Duke Lacrosse Rape case that she tried to whitewash when they came to light.

    http://kingdomofidiots.blogspot.com/2007/02/crooks-and-liars-proves-me-right.html

  13. #13 MattXIV
    February 26, 2007

    JS,

    I think Donohue being taken serious isn’t actually the reason that this became as high profile as it did. Donohue’s organization, as a rule, fires off a press release whenever anything, anywhere, by no matter how tortured of a reading, strikes them as anti-Catholic. The strong-stomached can observe the prodigious amounts of feigned outrage produced by the Catholic League at http://www.catholicleague.org/newsreleases.htm. Why this issue had legs is because Marcotte said things that could offend sane mainstream Catholics and that Marcotte apparently also posted some inflammatory things about the rape case involving Duke (located in Edwards’ base state) basketball players as well. (Aside: I don’t know the details on that one. I’ve had a policy of avoiding high-profile cases like that to the point that I don’t even know what I’m supposed to have an opinion about since the OJ trial. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.)

    The Edwards campaign’s handling of this has been comically inept. You shouldn’t have people you’re trying to hire feeling the need to explain to why you shouldn’t hire them. Why was the campaign explicitly looking to hire controversial feminist blogger? To court that huge demographic that enjoys graphic mocking of Catholic pieties? I haven’t seen this much magical thinking about the power of the internet since the dot com boom.

    As for profanity – you don’t use it in national politics for the same reason you don’t wear shorts to a job interview. There is nothing inherently wrong with it on a moral level, but abstaining from it is one of the ways you signal that you want to be taken seriously in mainstream political discourse.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    Politics is unreal, so we’re going to pretend that the politicians also talk like choirboys? (I was a choirboy myself, once…so maybe that’s true. I sure heard a lot of dirty jokes up there on the balcony.) I think that rings false; if profanity is such a crime, how did the foul-mouthed Cheney and finger-flipping Bush get elected? This is one of those principles that is selectively and hypocritically applied.

    It’s a bit odd that the people here who claim not to read Pandagon are so familiar with the frequency of obscenities in her articles. It’s simply not true. Try reading through a few pages of Pandagon, sampling Amanda’s posts, and you’ll see that there’s far more rational argument than spluttering dirty words. I suspect you’ve been biased by the selective right-wing presentations — we could, perhaps, recite Orac’s use of the forbidden four-letter word repetitively in a podcast, with much histrionic emoting, and if we promoted it enough, get him a reputation for being potty-mouthed.

    What’s most revealing, though, is the admission that they are a useful cue for when you are “really, really ticked off”. We are in an unjust war, with no end in sight, with young people dying and being horribly wounded, with an entire country gutted and devastated by civil war. And, apparently, we are so enervated by this tedious catastrophe, that we can rebuke people for their language in addressing it. Nothing to be ticked off about here!

  15. #15 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    The thought has occurred to me – what does Amanda (or any one of a number of others) say when she drops something on her big toe? :-)

    Maybe something like, “Golly gee willikers, that hurt!” ;-)

  16. #16 Tyler DiPietro
    February 26, 2007

    PZ,

    Politics is unreal, so we’re going to pretend that the politicians also talk like choirboys?

    I think that this is actually the point. To say that politics is unreal is quite an understatement. Politics is a pile of putrid slime, a game where honesty and integrity is simply not to be expected. I don’t mean to sound Machiavellian, but Amanda was simply too vulnerable to be a good choice as a blogger.

    I agree with Lindsay that the blogosphere can be at it’s best outside of the electoral process itself. Being our own open-source equivalent of the right-wing noise machine will likely be much more successful than working directly for candidates.

  17. #17 Tyler DiPietro
    February 26, 2007

    Correction (in bold):

    Politics is a pile of putrid slime, a game where honesty and integrity are simply not to be expected.

  18. #18 Scott Belyea
    February 26, 2007

    Politics is a pile of putrid slime, a game where honesty and integrity is simply not to be expected.

    This sort of silly comment is about as pointless as it gets.

    And the alternative is …?

  19. #19 Tyler DiPietro
    February 26, 2007

    This sort of silly comment is about as pointless as it gets.

    And the alternative is …?

    I’m not saying we need an alternative, try to read what I wrote and get back to me.

  20. #20 SLC
    February 26, 2007

    Re Edwards

    Of course Mr. Orac could never support Mr. Edwards. Mr. Edwards made his fortune suing physicians for malpractice. Can’t have somebody like that in the White House.

  21. #21 MattXIV
    February 26, 2007

    “the foul-mouthed Cheney and finger-flipping Bush”

    And we are aware of said indescretions because they caused their own little tempests in teapots at the time. I recall no shortage of handwringing about Cheney droppin’ the F bomb. Profoundly silly as it is, coarse language is considered a valid political target in Washington, and that particular bipartisan fount of outrage will not soon run dry in the city that gave us the PMRC.

  22. #22 Adrienne
    February 26, 2007

    To RP: What the heck are you talking about? How did you get to those questions (assumptions, really) based on what I posted? Just because I said most abortions are done for convenience? Well, they are (in the US and other nations where they are legal). I don’t believe that “done for convenience” equals “morally wrong”, however, if that’s what you think you inferred from my earlier post.

    To PZ: I really have to disagree with you on Marcotte’s normal posts being rational. I read enough Pandagon before this Edwards fiasco happened to discern that Marcotte is typically anything but rational. She repeats a lot of the same overblown feminist rhetoric that I used to see spewed on the late, not-so-great Ms. boards, which is where her ideological twin ginmar (a frequent Pandagon commenter) used to post quite a bit as well, IIRC. Marcotte’s stubborn belief in the Duke lacrosse players’ guilt despite all evidence to the contrary is illustrative of this, as others have pointed out. She’s not a rational or skeptical thinker.

  23. #23 Dianne
    February 26, 2007

    How often is abortion a “life-saving procedure,” …l?

    Well, given that the mortality rate from pregnancy is about 1 in 10,000, which is similar to the mortality rate for melanoma in whites, I’d say about as often as a mole biopsy.

    and it comes at a price that resecting a tumor does not.

    Oh? What price? Surely you remember embryology. The majority of abortions occur during the embryonic phase, when there are essentially no functioning neurons. The vast majority occur before 12 weeks, at which point the fetal brain is smaller and substantially less well organized than a mouse’s brain. And later abortions are nearly always about major fetal defects, often incompatible with life or…saving the life of the mother. And who said that tumor resection doesn’t have the same price? Tumors have unique DNA, just like fetuses do. Some can live independently of their host, if given the right environment (check your incubator if you don’t believe me). Teratomas are essentially totipotent cells, much like blastulocytes, only a bit less organized. Yet I doubt that many people would argue that resection of a tumor is NOT a moral good. Certainly I wouldn’t. Well, not unless it was lymphoma or small cell lung cancer or something similar.

  24. #24 Scott Belyea
    February 26, 2007
    This sort of silly comment is about as pointless as it gets.

    And the alternative is …?

    I’m not saying we need an alternative, try to read what I wrote and get back to me.

    I read well, thanks.

    It’s pointless, and the lack of an alternative contributes to that. Whining is easy.

  25. #25 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2007

    Ah, yes. Those nice boys at Duke. Only some raving overblown feminazi would take offense at the talk of “killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.”

    Using four-letter words to refer to the antics of the Bush administration? Oh, so much worse.

  26. #26 DJA
    February 26, 2007

    Heck, Marcotte’s recent post calling abortion a “moral good” irritated even me.

    Orac, Lindsay has called abortion a “moral good” countless times — certainly far more often and more vocally than even Amanda.

    Which, you know, is fine, since the availability and accessibility of abortion clearly is a moral good, given that state-enforced unwanted pregnancies are extremely bad for everyone concerned.

  27. #27 Adrienne
    February 26, 2007

    PZ: Red herring. The creep who wrote that e-mail was not one of the accused rapists. And while being a misogynist male scumbag may be a lousy way to get dates with women, it isn’t a crime. Sexist pig does NOT equal rapist, which is something that Marcotte and her ilk have failed to grasp…along with the central tenet of American jurisprudence: innocent until proven guilty.

    Come on, PZ, you’re usually a much more careful thinker than this.

  28. #28 Tyler DiPietro
    February 26, 2007

    I read well, thanks.

    Could’ve fooled me, judging by this drivel:

    It’s pointless, and the lack of an alternative contributes to that. Whining is easy.

    What exactly was I whining about? I never even suggested changing anything. I was describing the reality of sleaze in politics and how Amanda was vulnerable to attack. Anyone who was hired by Edwards’ was going to be quote-mined.

    (And btw, as far as alternatives go, I endorsed Lindsay Beyersteins idea that bloggers should act outside of campaings instead of directly working for them. Your need to puff yourself up seemed to cause to overlook that.)

  29. #29 Colugo
    February 26, 2007

    Even when I agree with Marcotte she often uses a juvenile, ‘humanities major trying to sound transgressive’ tone that I would have found really cool in a zine when I was 20 years old listening to Napalm Death and John Zorn but now it’s just tiresome. Well, to each their own.

    In comparison Beyerstein is like a less melancholic Sarah Vowell.

  30. #30 Graculus
    February 26, 2007

    and it comes at a price that resecting a tumor does not.

    Yeah, it’s a lot cheaper (than cancer surgery).

  31. #31 decrepitoldfool
    February 26, 2007

    I do wish people would grow up and get over their silly reaction to profanity, but it’s pretty far down my wish-list. We have a choice between campaigning for better acceptance of the f-word, or equal rights for gays, reduction in greenhouse gasses, evidence-based education, etc. That is simply a political fact.

  32. #32 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    What’s most revealing, though, is the admission that they are a useful cue for when you are “really, really ticked off”. We are in an unjust war, with no end in sight, with young people dying and being horribly wounded, with an entire country gutted and devastated by civil war. And, apparently, we are so enervated by this tedious catastrophe, that we can rebuke people for their language in addressing it. Nothing to be ticked off about here!

    PZ, I think you’ve wandered down a convenient tangent. I agree that our attitude towards profanity tends to be hypocritical, but I also agree with the other commenter who likened why profanity is not appropriate into a political campaign as similar to why you don’t wear shorts to a job interview. When you’re campaigning to be President, you’re basically interviewing for a job, and lots of people (myself included) don’t look kindly to profanity coming from a candidate or his surrogates. It tends to undermine and destroy the impression of gravitas that any Presidential candidate needs to cultivate if he is to be elected. It’s also just a matter of professionalism. Of course, given that Marcotte is a blogger, not a political operative, I suppose she might get a bit of a pass there personally; but as far as a political campaign goes there really isn’t such a thing as a free pass–at least not from poltiical opponents.

    But really, the profantity wasn’t my main point; perhaps I should have left out the part about profanity altogether (that’s what I get for one of these fast posts and foolishly wandering too far into pure politics). In reality, even if Marcotte never put a single curse word up on her blog, she’d still be a problem to any Democratic candidate who hired her based solely on her attacks on religion alone, particularly Catholicism. You may not like it, but working class Catholics still make up a significant constituency in the Democratic Party. Even if many Catholics agree that the Church’s stand on, for example, birth control or priestly celibacy, for example needs to be changed or that the behavior of the Church in shielding pedophile priests has been abominable in many cases, they do not take kindly to the sorts of full frontal assaults Marcotte likes to make against the Church, attacks which also tend to offend religious people in general. Of course, it’s certainly her right to make such statements and for self-described godless liberals like you to lap them up, but the Edwards campaign was shockingly inept in not realizing what a problem their existence would cause.

    Finally, about the Duke rape case. I really have no idea if the lacrosse players are guilty of rape, but at the moment, from what I’ve read, the DNA evidence seems to suggest that they probably are not. Either way, it’s obvious that the prosecutor was hot for glory and screwed up bigtime. In any case, just because some or all of the lacrosse players appear to be a bunch of misogynistic morons does not necessarily mean they are guilty of rape. Marcotte jumped to the conclusion that they definitely are guilty, and, quite frankly, her words about “Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair” were embarrassingly over the top (so much so that apparently she deleted the infamous comment from her blog.)

  33. #33 Colugo
    February 26, 2007

    I’m not talking about profanity. I don’t care about that. I’m talking about hackneyed ‘tude and clichés painfully familiar to anyone versed in the college town alterna-culture of the last couple of decades. But beyond that, Marcotte is fairly talented and will do fine after some stylistic maturation.

  34. #34 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    And who said that tumor resection doesn’t have the same price? Tumors have unique DNA, just like fetuses do. Some can live independently of their host, if given the right environment (check your incubator if you don’t believe me). Teratomas are essentially totipotent cells, much like blastulocytes, only a bit less organized.

    Come on; you can do better than that. I know you can from previous comments about a variety of posts.

    Leaving aside for the moment arguments for or against the morality of abortion, that has to be one of the weakest analogies I’ve heard. I’d bet that even those who support abortion with a passion equal to that of Marcotte could tell you the difference real fast between a tumor and a fetus: No tumor has ever developed into a complete human being. We could argue all day over whether how much weight, if any, that potential should be given in the whole debate over the morality of abortion, but it wouldn’t make your analogy any less fallacious.

    As for tumor cells growing in incubators, that’s not the same thing and (I’m guessing) you know it. Finally, the vast majority of tumors do not produce good cell lines that keep growing in the incubators. Some tumors are much better at it than others. Human melanomas, for example, are quite good at producing tumor cell lines, whereas most breast cancer cell lines are derived from malignant pleural effusions or other metastatic deposits because cells harvested from the primary tumors generally don’t take.

    (I’m beginning to remember why I so seldom dive into pure political posts; I don’t know what came over me earlier. I promise pure science/medicine tomorrow–which will probably draw zero comments.)

  35. #35 themann1086
    February 26, 2007

    The guy that makes [frequent] bodily-function jokes over woo-meisters* is put off by Marcotte’s profanity? I’m amused.

    As a reader of both Pandagon and Respectful Insolence, I’m gonna stick up for Amanda and say that not only is she a good writer, she argues her points very well [even when she's wrong]. And, those posts were erased due to a server attack, so please don’t make baseless accusations. If you read Pandagon, you would know that…

  36. #36 Orac
    February 26, 2007

    Heh.

    If you read my post above, you’d know that I don’t read Pandagon anymore. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    However, thanks for the info. I learned of that quote from the New York Times, actually.

    Finally, I’m not, nor am I ever likely to be, a high profile blogger for a political campaign. I’m sure that my EneMan posts alone will guarantee that I never will be. If I were, however, I’d hold myself to a higher standard than I do now as far as language goes.

  37. #37 Cain
    February 26, 2007

    What I can’t understand is why the Edwards campaign let her keep posting on Pandagon after she came on staff. That just seems very practically and politically unsound. Jerome Armstrong and Matt Stoller, for example, stopped their personal blogging while they were working on the Dean campaign. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

  38. #38 Adrienne
    February 27, 2007

    It is a total bullcrap claim that those Pandagon posts were erased by a server attack. The whole thread is still there, and Marcotte replaced her earlier ridiculous, imflammatory comment with a toned-down response after the right-wing attack machine drew public attention to it.

  39. #39 Robert M.
    February 27, 2007

    I was surprised when Amanda (one of my favorite bloggers, for full disclosure) accepted the position with Edwards’ campaign. It seemed like an odd move for a national campaign that wanted to pick up steam, because (as Orac mentioned) her brand of rhetoric is a strange fit for the usual political atmosphere of faux-politeness.

    With that said, the Edwards campaign made an enormous mistake. Either they failed to vet her writing before picking her up as campaign staff, or they read it but failed to anticipate the kind of storm they were in from the attack mice (thanks, JS!). There’s no other explanation for the days-long silence on a statement of support for Amanda (which gave Donahue a couple of news cycles all to himself), or the tepid, conciliatory tone of the statement when it finally did emerge.

    The post about the Duke rape case was posted from an airport, where she was stuck sitting under a TV with the news blaring. In context, she was expressing frustration with the fact that the media narrative shifted within hours from “Duke lacrosse players accused of rape” to “black sex worker levels rape accusation”. The oft-quoted comment about white boys and rape was, in context, a bitter paraphrase of the news anchor.

  40. #40 Lindsay Beyerstein
    February 27, 2007

    Thanks for the link, Orac.

    If it’s morally permissible to perform an abortion at all, then abortion is a moral good.

    One of the primary duties of a physician is to relieve suffering. An unwanted pregnancy is a source of intense suffering, not just the psychic pain of being unwillingly pregnant, but all the discomforts and risks that go along with gestation, and finally, labor and delivery. ‘

    Relieving a woman of an unwanted pregnancy is a moral good because it relieves suffering and eliminates a potential health risk. It’s almost always safer to have an abortion than to carry a fetus to term and deliver a baby

  41. #41 Dianne
    February 27, 2007

    It’s almost always safer to have an abortion than to carry a fetus to term and deliver a baby

    Just to put numbers on this…It’s about 10X safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term and deliver a baby, on average (pregnancy related mortality is about 10-11/100,000 in the US whereas abortion related mortality is around 1/100,000). If the abortion is in the first trimester, the risk drops another factor of 2 or so. On the other hand, a vasectomy has a mortality rate of approxiamtely 1/1 million, so perhaps the main onus of surgical pregnancy avoidance should, logically, be on men.

  42. #42 Avon
    February 27, 2007

    In context, she was expressing frustration with the fact that the media narrative shifted within hours from “Duke lacrosse players accused of rape” to “black sex worker levels rape accusation”.
    B.S. Robert, you are spinning and being disingenious. As someone who has followed the case, media narrative has not shifted within hours.

    It took months for the media to backtrack when the following evidence came to light.

    1) Multiple conflicting stories from the accuser including today, the accuser has changed her story to get around the current alibi/evidence and runs right into a new alibi.
    2) No DNA evidence of the rape.
    3) The rigged lineup (pick a Duke Lacrosse member)
    4) Alibi of one of the accused. Eyewitness and video evidence of the accused nowhere near the scene of the crime when the rape occurred.
    5) The DA plotting with a lab to hide exculpatory evidence (DNA from five, unidentified males from in the rape kit) from the defense.
    6) It turns out today that the more exculpatory evidence was kept from the defense.
    http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/2007/02/latest-bombshell-motion.html
    7) Dropping of the rape charges as the accuser was no longer certain that the men had vaginally assaulted her with their penises.

  43. #43 Robert M.
    February 27, 2007

    “Hours” was meant as hyperbole. If that wasn’t obvious, I apologize.

    I’m not arguing that the men on the lacrosse team should go to jail without trial, or that they should be put on trial despite the lack of incriminating evidence. It’s become obvious that Nifong vastly overplayed his case while he was busy basking in publicity.

    Football announcers have a terrible habit of pretending halfway through the fourth quarter that they knew which was the better team all along. News pundits do the same thing: as soon as the outcome of any event becomes obvious, they trip all over themselves to reassure each other that they always knew how it would turn out. At the beginning of this year, everyone who could get in front of a TV camera was in such a hurry to condemn the accuser and exonerate the accused that they started to display bias. The emerging narrative was that there never even could have been a rape, and no one had any idea what all the fuss was over, and why did anyone bother those fine, upstanding boys about it in the first place?

    That’s what Amanda was reacting to in her post, and it’s what I was talking about in my earlier comment. I’m not spinning, I’m not being deliberately deceptive, and I’d appreciate it if those who disagree engaged me on the merits of my argument instead of calling names.

  44. #44 Avon
    February 27, 2007

    Robert M.
    Reread the original comment and tell me where you get the impression that Amanda does not believe that the Duke Lacrosse players did not sexually assault the accused.
    http://liestoppers.blogspot.com/2007/02/edwards-hires-hoax-apologist-to-run.html

    “”Naturally, my flight out of Atlanta has been delayed. Let’s hope it takes off when they say it will so I don’t miss my connecting flight home.

    “In the meantime, I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will–not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out.
    “Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it?
    “So unfair.”

    “Yes, how dare a rape victim act confused and bewildered like she was raped or something.”

    “Natalia, do you know the details of the case? If so, why do you think a women enthusiastically jumped into a sexual situation with men making slavery jokes at her? Furthermore, what is your theory on why she supposedly looooooved having sex with guys holding her facedown on the bathroom floor? There’s no “if” they behaved in a disrespectful manner. We have conclusive evidence that happened.”

    “This is about race and class and gender in every way, and there’s basically no way this woman was going to see justice. In her part of the country, both women and black people are seen as subhuman objects to be used and abused by white men.”

    “Yeah, I know, Alon. Which is why I’m frustrated that people are pretending “can’t identify which one raped her” somehow equals “wasn’t raped”. I had some initial confusion about exactly who was assaulting me when I was assaulted, but that doesn’t mean that his hands weren’t actually where they were.”

    “Plus, the media is acting like these men are exonerated!” ”

  45. #45 Marc
    February 27, 2007

    If using profanity makes one unfit for public office, can we (PLEASE) kick out Dick Cheney?

  46. #46 decrepitoldfool
    February 27, 2007

    I don’t think using profanity makes one unfit for public office at all. But it certainly makes it harder for them to be elected to public office. It’s not morally wrong, it’s just bad strategy. Last I heard the Democratic party was trying to get someone elected.

    An election is a job interview with the whole country.

  47. #47 Lucas McCarty
    February 27, 2007

    Very few English-speaking people on Earth will have gone their entire lives without swearing their heads off at some point, so it’s quite difficult for anyone to moralise about it without feel they themselves are being a hypocrite.

    I have no problem with that. Swearing is wrong because it’s a refuge of the ill-mannered, inconsiderate and violent. When good people swear they are diminishing their own capacity to take the high ground against thugs and bullies. Swearing is such a strong expression of anger and sometimes hate that those who noticeably have swearing completely(or appears to) absent from their vocabulary have a presence of authority, fairness and resolve. People have a moral duty to keep a certain kind of other people in check and there are key areas where to jeopodise it themselves is immoral.

    And abortion is wrong because it disregards even the possibility that the individual to be terminated could be a person with the same value as anyone already born. When does a ‘person’ begin? This isn’t a reason to deny a woman the right to choose, but it was precisely this issue I ran into in my teens that made me considerably less liberal than I was before. It disturbed my most core liberal beliefs to hear the disgusting utilitarian(completely at odds with Disability rights) arguements made by pro-choice people which made every effort either to disparage or ignore the existence of unborn children.

  48. #48 Davis
    February 27, 2007

    And abortion is wrong because it disregards even the possibility that the individual to be terminated could be a person with the same value as anyone already born.

    …the existence of unborn children.

    You nearly touched on, but then glossed over the underlying assumption many people don’t necessarily share with you — that any pregnancy constitutes a “person” or a “child.” I have a hard time taking seriously the notion that, say, an early-stage embryo should be given either label.

    (I also think “unborn child” is loaded language to use in any discussion of abortion, though it may be reasonable in regards to the third trimester of a pregnancy.)

  49. #49 Avon
    February 27, 2007

    If using profanity makes one unfit for public office, can we (PLEASE) kick out Dick Cheney?
    Only if you include the Clintons.
    Senator Arrogant Pottymouth (D – Elitist) In Her Own Words
    http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/senator_arrogant_pottymouth_d_elitist_in_her_own_words/

  50. #50 decrepitoldfool
    February 27, 2007

    “Swearing is wrong because it’s a refuge of the ill-mannered, inconsiderate and violent. When good people swear they are diminishing their own capacity to take the high ground against thugs and bullies. Swearing is such a strong expression of anger and sometimes hate.. “

    Oh, horseapples. You are confusing refinement with virtue. I know lots of people who are counter examples to that piffle; they swear all the time and have hearts of gold. Not a syllable of their rich invective is inspired by malice toward another.

    Swearing is not a moral failing of any kind. It is just bad political strategy, due in no small part to such judgmental nonsense as above. Sad that anyone would be distracted from important issues by it, but many voters are, so a candidate should act accordingly. And to return to the original topic of this post, it makes me think Edwards’ political instincts are not very sharp.

  51. #51 Orac
    February 27, 2007

    Thanks for the link, Orac.

    If it’s morally permissible to perform an abortion at all, then abortion is a moral good.

    Say what, Lindsay? {Does a double take}

    This is a nonsequitur that only weakens the rest of your argument that follows. I’m surprised that you used it. After all, it’s “morally permissible” to do all sorts of things that are morally neutral. Indeed, if it comes to weighing risks and benefits, as we do in bioethics all the time, there are times when it’s “morally permissible” to do things because they are the lesser of two evils, and the lesser of two evils, as I am fond of pointing out, is still an evil. “Morally permissible” does not necessarily equal “morally good.”

    As for the latter part of your argument, Lucas makes a good point when he points out that it completely neglects the possibility that the fetus is potentially a human life. The intentional destruction of potential human life, taken in isolation, is hard for me to view as an unalloyed good, with the possible exception of very severe nonsurvivable birth defects, such as anencephaly. In the case of a pregnancy endangering the life of the mother, it is probably the lesser of two evils.

    In any case, how much weight is given to the value of this potential life probably depends a lot on how advanced the pregnancy is (people are far more accepting of early abortions than later ones), and the overall equation may tilt in favor of abortion being morally permissible if the potential life is viewed as having little value. And, as Lucas pointed out, there can be endless arguments over when “personhood” begins, ranging from the Catholic view that it begins at conception to the view I’ve heard espoused by some on occasion that it doesn’t begin until birth, meaning that abortion should be acceptable all the way through pregnancy. Most people’s views fall somewhere well between these two extremes.

    Either way, unless you completely discount the possibility that the fetus is a potential human life (the rather disturbing comparison of abortion to the the good of removing a malignant tumor mentioned above comes to mind), it’s virtually impossible to view its destruction as being entirely “good,” (At least to me it is. Whether it can be morally neutral or not, I haven’t decided.) Finally, whether abortion can be considered “permissible” (or “good”) does depend on the motivation behind it.

  52. #52 Lucas McCarty
    February 28, 2007

    Davis, there was no ‘underlying assumption’. I have no idea at what point in time a person starts, as I made clear. I could just as easily say that the term ‘embryo’ is a loaded term because so many that use it do not consider the embryo to be a natural stage in a person’s life but to exclusively mean a clinical object.

    There are only a few religious anti-abortion/pro-lifers that have said definatively that an embryo is certainly a person, others, and I am an example of the often unhead non-religious pro-lifers say they don’t know but pro-abortion/pro-choicers don’t know either.

    The only thing we can reasonably agree on is that we don’t know, but my stance in my teens changed dramatically because I hit a brick-wall during a few discussions when I tried to play Devil’s advocate because I noticed others I shared the same pro-choice views with had a tendency to distort and shout down others. It was incredibly difficult to get anyone to admit that they did not know if and when an embryo becomes a person. Those that finally caved in and said it was all down to when ‘it’ could survive outside the womb then couldn’t cope with my questions regarding how this contradicts a great number of Disability rights principles; there are actually quite a large number of *years* after birth where the individual is entirely dependent and unable to survive on their own and yet is not at risk of being aborted. They then argue that they are no longer an embryo at this stage, it gets pointed out that this is both special pleading and circular logic which once again has them assuming that the embryo can not possibly be a natural life cycle of a person.

    I wish the mainstream and well-publicised part of the debate would stop assuming one way or another and argue entirely from the neutral position that no one knows when personhood begins(Utilitarian philosopher Peter Stringer believes personhood doesn’t exist at all in the first few years of life and abortion should be a choice long after birth) and moral arguements should be made from that.

  53. #53 Lindsay Beyerstein
    February 28, 2007

    It’s not a non-sequitur, it’s the synopsis for the argument that follows.

    You agree that it is morally permissible to terminate a pregnancy, right?

    I’m not arguing that everything that’s morally permissible is also morally good. I’m saying that it’s morally good for a doctor to perform an abortion on a woman who wants one. Why? Because relieving a woman of an unwanted pregnancy alleviates physical and psychological suffering. An abortion is also usually also safer than a term pregnancy, so a doctor who performs an abortion is typically reducing the woman’s risk of death and disability relative to what it would have been if she’d carried the pregnancy to term. Those are all morally good things.

  54. #54 epador
    February 28, 2007

    Wow, political posts make for lots of comments.

    I am not a church goer or a Bible reader. But having father two children, I can say the mothers (two marriages) and I could feel the presence of our child’s life and whatever energy that makes each person unique in that child very early on. No, not scientific, purely anecdotal. But I can agree with those that say while abortion may be safer for the mother than a term pregnancy, its 100% fatal for the child. The mothers that I’ve known who have also had abortions seem to hide great grief over the pregnancies they’ve ended. SO I don’t take the lightly and innocuous. I find it very sad.

    All this hype from both sides of the campaign blogger scandal seems pretty sad as well. Kind of an abortion of a process that would have been very interesting had it been allowed to fully gestate. I’m no supporter of trial lawyers, but I would have truly loved to see how Edwards handled things after M&M had continued blogging profanity while working his campaign. That might have been a good chance to see his true character in action.

    While there were folks of the religious right campaigning against them, I saw mostly folks who are tired of the ugly rants these folks and their ilk pollute society with, glad for a chance to expose and chase away from higher positions of fame and power. The right has its own nasties, who I abhor just as strongly, but these bloggers of filth (not so much direct profanity but profanity of thought processes and reason) had no business on a serious Presidential campaign.

  55. #55 Flex
    March 1, 2007

    After further consideration about Amanda Marcotte blogging for Edwards, I think I’d attribute the entire thing to the inexperiance Edwards’ campaign managers have with blogging.

    Consider: the first presidential candidate to use bloggers was Dean. No other candidate seemed to even be aware of these intertube thingies. A number of books came out between 2004 and 2006 showing how broad an audience blogging can reach. Blogging and the internet is a communication pipe already in many homes, it is accessed at the convenience of the reader, and is not censored by an editor who may have different political viewpoints. Compared to other ways to distrubite campaign information it is absurdly cheap. This makes blogging a rather potent force for reaching voters.

    So what does a campaign manager do to get a presence in the blogosphere? Start one from scratch? No. That’s not how they think. Instead, a campaign manager would look for popular bloggers with similar views and offer them jobs.

    Now, in Amanda’s case, it appears clear that she didn’t realize that once she joined the campaign everything she wrote, either on campaign time or on her own time, would be considered as expressing the viewpoint of Edwards’ campaign. I know. It’s not fair. But that’s the way people look at politics. Once you get involved in a campaign, you are involved 24 hours a day. You represent that candidate in everything you do.

    Edwards’ managers know this, and they should have made it clear to Amanda that Pendragon should either get a temporary author, or put on hiatus, during the campaign. I don’t know how much experiance Amanda has in campaign politics, so I wouldn’t automatically expect that she knows what restrictions the campaign process puts on the canditates and campaign workers speech.

    However, considering that she was hired to blog about the campaign, someone should have let her know what language the campaign feels is appropriate for the image the Edwards wants to project, as well as warn her to use that language at all times.

    So, all in all, Amanda’s resignation is probably a wise move for both parties. Amanda writes a good blog with a very distictive voice, it would be a shame to lose that voice. Even if I don’t care for it all that much, lot’s of people do enjoy it.

    As far as Edwards’ campaign, hopefully they learned a lesson too. Although from the experiance I’ve had with national level campaign managers (which I admit is limited) I doubt that they learned the right lesson. The lesson I expect they learned is to be clearer with their bloggers about what they expect them to write about.

    The lesson that campaign managers should learn is that they don’t need to seek out established bloggers for their campaign. If they get some good writers, let them write on a variety of topics, and provide good information to the readers, the blog will attract traffic. Blog readers are more interested in reading about interesting opinions and experiances, they don’t really care too much who the writer is.

    Sorry Orac, regardless of what DaveScot claims, we read your blog because of the articles, opinions, and quality of writing. Not as sycophants to an Orac cult.

  56. #56 Lucas McCarty
    March 1, 2007

    Lindsay, substitute ‘abortion’ for ‘murder’ and it’s morally indefensible to murder any person regardless of the net benefit to others.

    We do not know if abortion is murder or not, and should not make an assumption either way. That includes weighing the moral position of the matter whilst excluding the individual who is most affected by it: the person who may exist in the future or may already exist.