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Archive for January, 2007

Feigning Outrage

[ 0 ] January 26, 2007 |

Apropos of the recent discussion of Marty Peretz’ unsuitability for inclusion in polite society, I’m reminded of this little gem that Matt Duss caught before someone apparently decided to take it off of the main page of the Spine. It’s still available, though, through the permalink.

I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) “atrocities.” They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn’t comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do. But the mutilation of bodies and beheadings of people picked up at random in Iraq does not scandalize the people of Iraq unless victims are believers in their own sect or members of their own clan. And the truth is that we are less and less shocked by the mass death-happenings in the world of Islam. Yes, that’s the bitter truth. Frankly, even I–cynic that I am–was shocked in the beginning by the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq. But I am no longer surprised. And neither are you.

Ah, those Arabs. They just don’t feel like you and me.


"Prune-size?" I’m thinking musk melon . . .

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |

George W. Bush, 27 April 2000:

Let me just give you an example of what I did in Texas. And the only thing I know to do is go by my gut instincts when I get sworn in. But in Texas, one of the first things I did was I went and called upon Democrats.

George W. Bush, 13 April 2004

I don’t think people ought to demean the contributions of our friends into Iraq. People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq, from different countries. We ought to honor that, and we ought to welcome that. I’m proud of the coalition that is there. This is a – these are people that have – the gut leaders have made the decision to put people in harm’s way for the good of the world. And we appreciate that sacrifice in America. We appreciate that commitment.

George W. Bush, 28 June 2004

You know that last Friday we handed over the final ministry to the Iraqi interim government . . . . I thought it was a smart thing to do, primarily because the Prime Minister was ready for it. And it’s a sign of confidence. It’s a sign that we’re ready to go, and it’s a proud moment–it really is–for the Iraqi people. And frankly, I feel comfortable in making the decision, because I feel comfortable about Prime Minister Alawi and President al-Yawr. These are strong people. They’re gutsy.

New York Times, 26 January 2007

Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.”

While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior.

Rick Perlstein is Shrill

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |


As a teacher of military affairs and American foreign policy, I cannot emphasize enough how widely the “dirty hippies lost the war” narrative is held among college students, even those who hold otherwise leftish views. The Right really did a magnificent job, abetted by Hollywood, of writing that particular tale into our national psyche.

Millions of McCarthyite Smears Now Living Will Never Die

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |

Glenn “More Genocide, Less Trouble” Reynolds, 11/11/03: “The real problem with the Iraq war is that it’s (1) waged by a Republican President; and (2) obviously in the United States’ national interest. To some people, those characteristics are enough to brand it evil.”

Jonah Goldberg, 1/25/07: “The 11th Commandment for liberals seems to be, “Thou shalt not intervene out of self-interest.” Intervening in civil wars for humanitarian reasons is OK, but meddling for national security reasons is not.”

Even leaving aside the “Democrats are unpatriotic” crap…yeah, sacrificing the lives of more than 3,000 troops and a trillion dollars to install a more terrorist friendly “state” in Iraq: now that’s using your formidable judgment to advance the national interest!


[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |

ESPN has a good article about the appalling case of Genarlow Wilson. One thing puzzles me about the dodging responsibility game described here:

It’s frustrating work. No one involved believes Wilson should be in jail for 10 years.

The prosecutors don’t.

The Supreme Court doesn’t.

The legislature doesn’t.

The 15-year-old “victim” doesn’t.

The forewoman of the jury doesn’t.

Privately, even prison officials don’t.

Yet no one will do anything to free him, passing responsibility around like a hot potato.

Notice anything missing? It seems to me that the governor could simply end this gross injustice by issuing a pardon. [I am mistaken: see update.] While in some cases like the use of pardons is problematic because it’s such a capricious process, here the use of the pardon would correct an obviously arbitrary sentence. (I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that consensual oral sex among teenagers is not a highly unusual activity in the state of Georgia, and very rarely lands people in the clinker.) Retroactively amending legislation actually seems like an inferior remedy. At any rate, Wilson remains in jail because of Sonny Perdue’s callous indifference about a tragic injustice, and it seems to be that this should be a political issue.

…A commenter answers my question: apparently the pardon power in Georgia doesn’t rest with the governor.

Also, Matt makes a good point in comments:

Well, it’s clear that “the prosecutors don’t” is true in the way that “George W. Bush wants to cut the deficit” is true; the DA says he doesn’t want him to spend 10 years in prison, and he has the means to free him, but he won’t do it. Though he says that if Wilson grovels a bit he might think about it. But his view is that it serves him right for insisting on a jury trial.

Titicut Follies is not an instructional film

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |

Sally Satel — most recently seen emerging from the gauntlet of the American Enterprise Institute’s rigorous peer-review system — has contibuted a piece to this collection of essays by liberals who turned conservative, or something equally trite. Anyhow, Paul from Powerline really loved the book and was especially thrilled with this passage from Satel’s essay:

My Hill experience gave me a startling insight: Liberals and conservatives seemed to have mirror-image approaches to paternalism. Liberals made intrusive laws for the competent while conservatives preferred to rely on individuals to make their own decisions. Conversely, conservatives preferred intrusive laws for the incompetnet [sic] to whom liberals applied a hands-off policy. Liberals were comfortable with public health paternalism: intrusive nonsmoking laws, taxes on unhealthy products, strict risk-averse EPA and FDA regulations. . . . Yet, when a person was incoherent, defecating in the streets, or freezing a limb off in the part [sic], than [sic] — and only then — did the principles of autonomy apply.

Funny, because if memory serves, it was the Grand Exalted and Beloved Comrade Ronald Reagan who — first as governor of California and then as president of the US — released the limbless, feceating incompetents into the streets by defunding community mental health centers and withdrawing on a massive scale public support for the “incoherent.” Among Reagan’s most infamous gifts to California was a paranoid schizophrenic named Herb Mullin, who killed 13 people between October 1972 and January 1973 because he believed it would stop an eathquake from destroying the state. In the wake of Sacramento’s deregulatory glee, Mullin’s parents had been unable to find a state facility to handle him; their son had repeatedly been judged by psychiatrists to be a danger to himself and others, but private care would have cost his family nearly $40,000 a year. After Mullin was convicted of executing four teenage campers, bludgeoning a priest to death in his confessional booth, disembowling a hitchiker, and commiting seven other murders, the jury foreman wrote an open letter to Governor Reagan that assigned him partial blame for the crimes. The next year, the state legislature halted Reagan’s community health rollback — a project he nevertheless resumed in 1981.

If memory also serves, the “intrusive laws for the incompetent” favored by conservatives during the 1980s and 1990s fell mostly into the “law and order” rather than the “prevention, treatment and rehabilitation” category. Preoccupied with the rights and comforts of the “competent,” many conservatives — who continued to believe that homelessness, for example, was a mere lifestyle choice — would rather have returned the days of yore, when the feeble-minded and deranged were warehoused and sterilized. I can’t say specifically what Sally Satel would have advocated back then, but it’s good to know she feels so strongly about anti-smoking laws.

Good Question

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |


I wonder if Jon Chait and others concerned about Wesley Clark’s alleged anti-semitism feel it’s a problem that one of America’s leading political magazines is owned and operated by a man whose political opinions appear to be primarily driven by bigotry against Arabs and Muslims; keep your eyes on The Plank for a response.

Yeah, keep lookin’. If they’re going to publish “The Spine,” I’m not sure why they don’t go all the way and bring in Charles Johnson

Being lazy is hard work

[ 0 ] January 25, 2007 |

Henry notes a potential solution to a serious problem at lifehacker:

The Procrastinator’s Clock is set ahead for a random amount of time from 0 to 15 minutes – which means you don’t know if and how much it’s set ahead, so you treat the possibly later time as if it’s actual. Of course, with the correct time in your system tray, it’s not hard to just check yourself, but with auto-hide enabled…. The Procrastinator’s Clock is available for Mac or Windows, or you can try it in an browser window direct from the web.

The problem, of course, is the existence of watches and cell phones. I’d need all of them to have the same function to make this work.

I’ve actually invented a low-tech version of this for alarm clocks. Every night, just before I go to sleep I set the time on my alarm clock to be somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes fast. I do this when I’m very tired, and I try to pay as little attention as possible to just how far ahead I set it. Then, I set my alarm for when I need to get up. I know I have time for one snooze alarm, because I can’t reasonably expect to get up without at least one snooze. But anything beyond that is a risk, as I don’t know how much time I’ve actually got. The problem is my cell phone–if it’s in the bedroom, I’m prone to get up and look at it, to see if I’ve got more time. So lately, I’ve taken to trying to hide my cell phone. The problem is, I’m pretty good at remembering where I hide it. So last night I threw my cell phone in the closet without looking. That worked pretty well–I began rummaging through my closet looking for the damn thing to see if I had another 15 minutes to sleep, but after a minute or so, I realized how ridiculous the whole situation was, and got in the shower.

I don’t think I’ll have a fighting chance of getting up on time until someone invents an alarm bed–one that hydraulically ejects you at the the appropriate time. The tragic thing is I suspect I might just keep sleeping on the floor. Maybe I just need to live a world a little more worth waking up to…

(and no, this isn’t related to not getting enough sleep. I have the same problem after 4,6,8, or even 10 hours of sleep.)

"That was my pig"

[ 0 ] January 24, 2007 |

Via Brett Mizelle, we read about the use of pigs in the training of medics serving in Iraq:

In one course, an advanced trauma treatment program he had taken before deploying, he said, the instructors gave each corpsman an anesthetized pig.
“The idea is to work with live tissue,” he said. “You get a pig and you keep it alive. And every time I did something to help him, they would wound him again. So you see what shock does, and what happens when more wounds are received by a wounded creature.”

“My pig?” he said. “They shot him twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire.”

“I kept him alive for 15 hours,” he said. “That was my pig.”

“That was my pig,” he said.

Brett reminds us that during the Reagan years, the armed forces conducted this kind of training with dogs. And there’s a fascinating comprehensive history to be written, if it hasn’t already, about the uses of animals during the cold war — monkeys and hounds launched into space, pigs dressed in army uniforms and deposited in the Nevada desert to root around before being obliterated by nuclear test shots, and so on. I really don’t even want to think about what might have been done to cats.

Anyhow, I don’t know why this sort of thing knocks me speechless. It’s not often, I suppose, that we find animals systematically brutalized in the name of some greater atrocity such as war. Usually, we have our way with them in the service of something more obvious and banal — a cheap meal, for instance, or tear-free shampoo.

Benjamin Wittes Explained

[ 0 ] January 24, 2007 |

Standard of legitimacy #1: “Since its inception Roe has had a deep legitimacy problem, stemming from its weakness as a legal opinion.”

Standard of legitimacy #2: “Consider finally the prediction that Bush v. Gore would gravely damage President Bush’s and the Court’s own legitimacy. That claim is subject to empirical testing. And the tests prove it false–that is, if legitimacy is regarded as a function of public opinion.”

Indeed. And Wittes’ claims about Roe are also “subject to empirical testing,” and one will find that Roe is in fact supported by 2-to-1 majorities (which is why Democratic candidates for President explicitly say they will appoint pro-Roe candidates while Republican candidates obfuscate about “strict constructionists.”) At any rate, the fact that he considers Roe indefensible but considers Bush v. Gore a perfectly reasonable application of doctrine by conservative justices (I particularly enjoyed the section where he and Berkowitz–attempting to defend the completely indefensible remedy–make not argument except to cite the Court’s own risibly disingenuous “deference” to a state court three justices were otherwise analogizing to Jim Crow nullifiers, although of course the Florida court had never held that the taking advantage of the “safe harbor” provision should pre-empt a constitutional recount) tells you all you need to know about Wittes. Being a straight-up conservative hack is fine if that’s what you want to be, but why the New Republic is hiring this man to provide legal analysis I can’t tell you.

Second Holocaust

[ 0 ] January 24, 2007 |

Shorter Benny Morris:

Iran will inevitably use its nuclear weapons to destroy Israel, even if it doesn’t use its nuclear weapons to destroy Israel.

I wish there was more to it than that, but there you go. His analysis rests, of course, on the assumption that Iran will behave differently than any country with nuclear weapons has ever behaved, including the Soviet Union under Stalin, the People’s Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution, and North Korea under Kim Jong Il. He rejects any careful analysis of the decision-making of the Iranian state, building his argument around Ahmadinejad but failing to note that there is almost no chance that the current President of Iran will be in power when (and if) Iran develops a nuclear weapon. He notes in passing that the rest of the Iranian foreign policy elite also favors the destruction of Israel, which kind of makes me wonder why Ahmadinejad matters at all. Indeed, if Iran can destroy Israel without even using its nukes (and he approvingly cites Ephraim Sneh’s argument on the point), then I’m rather curious about the point of invoking Iranian nuclear irrationality in the first place. He asserts that Israel’s limited conventional military resources are unlikely to be capable of meeting the challenge of defeating a country with vastly inferior conventional forces, a claim I’m still trying to fathom.

Really, though, parsing through this is just pointless. Invoking the Second Holocaust isn’t meant to be a serious argument. It’s not intended to contribute to a discussion. It’s meant to justify war against Iran, and to associate anyone who rejects such an option as an accomplice to the annihilation of the Jewish people. Indeed, his real target is American critics of an attack on Iran, since he pointedly notes that only the United States has the military resources to destroy the Iranian program, and asserts that American isolation will be the proximate cause of the Second Holocaust. This is perhaps a better Shorter Benny Morris:

If you oppose an Israeli nuclear or an American conventional strike on Iran, then you hate Jews and want them all to die.

Republic Party Jagoff of the Day, Scientific Illiterate Division

[ 0 ] January 24, 2007 |

Kantian Nihilist Chris Muir.

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