Thursday, May 28, 2009

birdsday on a duck island

Conservative MP Sir Peter Viggers was forced to declare his retirement after attempting to claim £1,645 in taxpayer-funded expenses for a "duck island" in his garden.

Just what is a duck island?

Hytesbury Bird Pavilions

Now you know.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

two is not enough

President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will accomplish at least one thing: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will no longer feel quite so lonely.

Obama would clearly have been in some trouble had he not nominated a woman for the seat. Here's my question: will there be repercussions if he picks a man for the next vacancy? (Assume here that the next vacancy is not Ginsburg; obviously her replacement must be a woman.) When John Paul Stevens - who joined the Court when Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts were in college - finally retires, will Obama be expected to name a third woman to the Court? And after that - a fourth?

Given that women comprise 51% of the national population, a representation rate of 2/9 is still quite miserable. And 3/9 won't be good enough. I'm not saying that the percentage of women on the Court must precisely mirror national demographics. But the figures also shouldn't demonstrate a blatant and dramatic bias - which they will until women hold more than a third of the seats.

But at what point do people start saying "so many women in a row! Give men a chance!"?

This is a real problem with historically entrenched discrimination. Any systematic attempt to correct it inevitably looks like a new form of ("reverse") discrimination. Does Obama have the political fortitude for that?