Miers and Abortion

According to research I’ve been doing, in 1993, Miers led a failed effort to get the American Bar Association to change its position on abortion from pro-abortion rights to a neutral position. This doesn’t necessarily say anything about her opinion on abortion or suggest how she’s likely to vote, but in the absence of much of a paper trail, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Democrats make an issue of this. Stay tuned.

Harriet Miers

My initial reaction to the Miers pick is profound disappointment. With the Roberts pick, we were asked to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who didn’t have much of a paper trail, but at least we knew we were getting someone who was superqualified and incredibly brilliant. Not only is Miers an ideological question mark, her qualifications leave much to be desired. Her prime qualification seems to be close ties to President Bush.

More to come.

Times Finally Runs Krugman Correction

Not on the Frist column I mentioned, but on the error he made regarding media recounts of the Bush-Gore race. Of course, Krugman himself was spared from writing the correction.

I am perfectly sympathetic to journalists who make errors. From my experience working as a reporter at a wire service, I know the type of stupid errors even the most skilled journalist can make when under deadline. And I also know how embarrassing it can be when somebody points to a mistake. But once it becomes clear that an error has been made, the only right thing to do is suck it up and offer an quick and honest correction. It’s simply inexcusable and arrogant to fight corrections tooth and nail like Krugman does. It’s one thing if it were just conservative commentators pouncing on Krugman. But two public editors in a row at The New York Times have both had problems with Krugman.

The first public editor, Daniel Okrent, wrote of his experiences:

I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error. When he says he agreed ‘?reluctantly’ to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word ‘?reluctantly’; I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism.

The current public editor, Byron Calame, wrote last Sunday (before today’s correction was issued):

Meanwhile, in the opinion section of The Times, the corrections policy of Gail Collins, the editor of the editorial page, is not being fully enforced. As I have written on my Web journal, Paul Krugman has not been required to correct, in the paper, recent acknowledged factual errors in his column about the 2000 election in Florida.

The Times has long been a trailblazer in its commitment to correcting errors. This is no time to let those standards slip — even when well-known critics and columnists are involved.

CORRECTION: Frist/Krugman

In the “Krugman Errs Again” post, I wrote that, “Frist sold the shares (of HCA) on June 13.” It turns out that on June 13, he ordered the shares to be sold, but the actual transactions were carried out on July 1 and July 8. I’ll let you be the judge of whether Krugman should correct his statement that Bill Frist, “sold all his stock in HCA, which his father helped found, just days before the stock plunged.”

Note: The stock plunged on July 13.

While I’m on the subject, according to the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition (paraphrased by Andy McCarthy):

On April 29 –? over two months before the July 13 earnings warning that caused the stock to decline 9 percent in value –? he told his accountant he wanted “?”to dispose of all hospital stocks in all the accounts that I have control of.” He then asked the Senate Ethics Committee for permission to do so on May 20. He got approval around June 9 and, four days later on June 13, instructed the trustees overseeing his assets to sell the stock. That was done in transactions on July 1 and July 8.

Bennett and Blacks

William Bennett’s comments on his radio show have provoked much debate. He has been called a racist, he has been condemned by leading Democrats and even The White House thinks the comments were “not appropriate.” Tech Central Station’s Nick Schulz, among many others on both sides of the political spectrum, has written in Bennett’s defense.

For those who haven’t been following closely, the impetus for Bennett’s remarks was a caller to his radio show, who speculated that if it weren’t for legalized abortion, Social Security would be solvent because more babies would have been born over the past 30 years. It’s pretty clear that Bennett’s controversial response that, “you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down,” was intended specifically as an example of how such arguments involving abortion can lead to absurd, immoral outcomes. This is clear because he immediately followed up his statement by saying, “That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.” You can listen to the call on Bennett’s Website here.

It is also important to keep in mind that the comments were made during a radio show, which is a casual format that doesn’t provide the time necessary to think through every comment. If it were a newspaper column, or even a blog post, I think it would change the debate.

With that said, I still think it was a poor choice of words by Bennett. In this current political environment, it just isn’t helpful for a Christian conservative to talk about aborting black babies, because you know that it is going to be taken completely the wrong way and provide ammunition to those who seek to paint caricatures of conservatives as racists. I know a lot of conservatives would accuse me of caving in to political correctness and sympathizing with those who want to stifle intellectual debate. But race was not relevant to Bennett’s overarching point. In Freakonomics, the book Bennett mentions that popularized the abortion-crime hypothesis, the authors frame the debate in the context of unwanted pregnancies. Bennett could have just left it at that. (For a response to Bennett’s comments by Steven Levitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics, look here. It’s worth reading). I think the Larry Summers fiasco is a clearer case of debate being stifled because of political correctness. Summers’ comments on gender differences were clearly relevant to his overall analysis of why there weren’t more women in the sciences.

Furthermore, imagine how conservatives would have reacted if similar comments were made by Jesse Jackson. For example, what if Jackson were to have said, “If you wanted to reduce racism, you could abort every white baby.” Even if Jackson followed the statement up with all sorts of qualifications, conservatives would be skewering him.

Spider-Man 3 Villians

Kirsten Dunst spilled the beans on the Spiderman 3 villians: Venom and Sandman. Venom will be played by Topher Gracel, who I don’t know, and Sandman will be played by Thomas Haden Church, who I loved in Sideways, but I have a hard time picturing him as Sandman. When speculating on the next most logical villians for the series, I was always thinking either Venom or Sandman, but didn’t think that it would be both. I hope they pull it off, because I felt that the Batman series went downhill once they started adding multiple supervillians to each movie. It especially makes me nervous when Dunst says, “There’s a lot that they’re trying to fit into this one.” But director Sam Raimi has not failed me yet in the Spider-Man series, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until I see the movie in 2007. They’ll have to come up with a more dramatic way for Spiderman to defeat Sandman than in his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #4, when Spider-Man uses an industrial vacuum cleaner to suck him up. Okay, I should stop letting myself descend into total comic book geekdum.