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“Rather than turning to my local politician for prenatal advice…”

[ 10 ] February 22, 2012 |

I intended to link to this yesterday, but here is an outstanding piece of testimony to the benefits of the very kinds of prenatal testing that Bishop Santorum regards as indulgent and murderous. Mittens inevitability aside, I do hope our Man of the Froth eventually wins the GOP nomination, if for no other reason than to facilitate our long-delayed national debate over the merits of 20th century obstetric techniques.


Your daily dose of unpersuasive counterfactuals

[ 82 ] February 21, 2012 |

Frum has an odd little piece about “the elections that went most disastrously wrong for the United States and the world.” Politely refusing to consider more recent contests, Frum decides instead to fixate on the three elections beginning with Wilson’s victory in 1912. Why? I honestly have no idea. It seems that Frum thinks the election of Wilson in 1912 and 1916 guaranteed that the US would neglect to enter the Great War until it was too late; that an earlier mobilization (under Taft or Hughes) would have resulted in a shorter war; and that with Zombie Theodore Roosevelt as president from 1921 onward, the post-war debt crisis might have been resolved in a way that discouraged the Germans from attempting to kill all the people.

The whole thing is just insufferably weird, especially as Frum claims to have turned his “‘what if?’ mind” to these elections “again and again” — though evidently without knowing much at all about them. This is especially so for Wilson’s election in 1912, which Frum suggests had something to do with Roosevelt refusing to “discipline himself” and accept Taft for another four years.

Hardly. Taft was a clumsy President who managed to alienate nearly everyone in the progressive wing of his own party by voting for a tariff bill they hated (and which he subsequently described as “the best bill” Republicans had ever passed), by firing Gifford Pinchot from the Forest Service, and for regarding the presidency in decidedly more conservative terms than Roosevelt had approached the job. Taft was, moreover, distracted by a horrific stroke suffered by his wife, Nellie, a mere two months into his term, as well as by what I’d have to describe as an overall dislike for the position. (In my never-to-be-written book, Presidents Who Hated Being President, Taft would be near the top of the list.) The Democratic Party, helped along by Republican infighting, absolutely clobbered the GOP in the 1910 elections, seizing 59 seats (and the majority) in the House while reducing their adversaries from 60 seats to 48 in the Senate. Heading into 1912, the Democrats could easily have nominated a cinder block, festooned it with tiny American flags, and defeated Taft with several electoral votes to spare. As it happened, the Democrats took the unusual route of selecting the strongest available (and perhaps the strongest possible) candidate, and they won a victory that was more or less inevitable. Roosevelt’s pride had nothing to do with it; he and his supporters would have sat out the election rather than swallow another four years of Taft. Indeed, if anyone could deny Wilson a victory by stepping aside, it would have been Taft himself — but in one of the great episodes of spite in American political history, Taft hung around and accepted the GOP nomination even though he understood that he was toast in the general election. The guy barely campaigned for another term — defeating Roosevelt was satisfaction enough.

But even if Taft had won in 1912, I have no idea why Frum thinks he’d have been able to persuade Congress (and a deeply ambivalent public) to enter the Great War before 1917. After all, Taft — unlike Frum’s former boss — rejected TR’s expansive view of presidential power. Even with fellow interventionists clamoring for blood, Taft most likely have relied on his “What the Fuck Am I Supposed to Do?” face to evade the problem altogether.

“Lager’s amber fluid mild/gives health and strength to wife and child”

[ 32 ] February 20, 2012 |

I happened across this image while reading Daniel Okrent’s fantastic Last Call, a history of the Prohibition movement that I assigned to an upper-division course largely out of an interest in remedying my own failure to devote much time at all to the political and cultural economies of booze during the early 20th century. (I have a variety of hypotheses — none of them very satisfying — about why many historians give short shrift to Prohibition. It certainly deserves more attention than I routinely offer it, especially to the degree that it shared ground with an almost endless variety of social movements, including woman suffrage agitation, nativist jeremiads, Jim Crow apologetics, anti-boss campaigns, child protection crusades as well as the drive for a federal income tax to release the state from its dependence on the impost duty on alcohol. For decades, there was almost literally no aspect of American life that couldn’t be explained, promoted or condemned by reference to whiskey and beer, which the Sage tells us are “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”)

At any rate, the Gies “Against Prohibition” series is outstanding. Okrent doesn’t offer much detail about Gies himself, but the internet (and specifically Google Books) remembers. George H. Gies was evidently dead by the time his sons began issuing these cards around 1914, right about the time Michigan was succumbing, along with dozens of its peers, to state-level dry laws. While alive, Gies had operated a highly-regarded, five-story, 50-plus-room “European Hotel” located on the second Williams Block of historic Monroe Avenue. During the 1880s and early 1890s, he had refused to abide by Michigan’s new statutes regulating saloon and restaurant hours; he also refused to serve black patrons. Both controversies drew him into court, where Gies argued that the 14th Amendment prevented the state from limiting his business hours and permitted him to deny blacks the opportunity to eat and drink and sleep in his place of business. (The latter case, decided in his favor by the Michigan Supreme Court, helped inspire the formation of numerous Afro-American Leagues in the state — a response to the <i>Plessy<i>-era logic by which Federal courts imagined no roadblocks that might inhibit anti-black policies and practices.) George Gies, then, would seem to have been in many ways the embodiment of alcoholic respectability. He ran a classy establishment, defended the property interests of business in court, and refused to supply dangerous negroes with rape juice.

So this madonna-like image here would have fused with Gies’ claims on behalf of his own (now posthumous) reputation and on behalf of his clients’ decency. Among other things, it was clearly drawn to counteract the arguments made by progressive women (suffragists, temperance advocates, etc.) that drinking was a homosocial male cultural enterprise that encouraged the sort of immoderation that endangered the health and security of both wives and children. Progressive feminists were apt to evoke concepts like “home protection” and “municipal housekeeping” to explain why second-class citizens like themselves should have a voice in monitoring the safety of the food supply, improving the labor conditions in textile factories and sweatshops, or reforming the local school and state court systems to better serve the needs of the nation’s youth. Corporate power was invading the home, and its pernicious influence needed to be checked. This image accepts the link between the corporate and domestic spheres but merely reverses the polarity, insisting that responsible brewers are no menace to mother and child. It would have summoned to mind the folk tradition — one that’s medically baseless yet still widely believed — that alcohol somehow enhances lactation by increasing the mother’s milk supply.

Given that the Gies company was essentially working on someone else’s (secure) rhetorical terrain, I seriously doubt the image had any other effect than to infuriate the Anti-Saloon League. But it’s a remarkable little document nevertheless.


[ 45 ] February 9, 2012 |

Thank Jeebus for this

The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

“If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.

…because it gives me the opportunity to link to this 1997 classic

Hot on the heels of last week’s FDA approval, on Monday PepsiCo subsidiary Taco Bell launched its controversial “morning after” burrito, a zesty, Mexican-style entree that prevents unwanted pregnancies if ingested within 36 hours following intercourse.

Developed by a team of top Taco Bell gynecologists, the $1.99 “ContraceptiMelt” burrito creates an inhospitable environment within the womb, causing fertilized ovum tissue to be flushed from the body.

Also available are ContraceptiMelt Supremes, featuring sour cream and extra cheese.

Could someone please alert the office of Rep. John Fleming? The People must be told.

Another defeat for liberal fascism

[ 26 ] January 27, 2012 |

The Jane Addams Hull House Association is closing today. This is depressing for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the loss of a connection to one of the progressive movement’s greatest landmarks. The original Hull House complex was absorbed by the University of Illinois-Chicago and turned into a museum about 40 years ago, but the Association carried on the work begun by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889, serving tens of thousands of poor Chicagoans who will now have to rely on the over-strained resources offered by the city’s remaining social service agencies.

Surely Newt Gingrich has some miraculous plan to lift Chicago’s destitute from the cavern of their self-inflicted misery — perhaps by putting their children to work as custodians on our new moon base, where they’ll be forbidden to speak the language of the ghetto — but I’m eager to hear Ron Paul’s important philosophical musings on the need to expose the poor to the moral hazards of the welfare state. Perhaps they’ll pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged at the library and join him in his crusade to blow up the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, in the time I’ve spent this morning reading the news and perusing Addams’ Twenty Years at Hull House, Willard Romney’s money has metastasized by an additional $5000 — roughly a quarter of what a family of four earns in a year at the federal poverty level.

Fucking hell.


[ 21 ] January 12, 2012 |

Bill Janklow, noted asshole, croaked today, and USA Today decided to stake its claim on the award for Most Unfortunate Choice of Metaphor:

He served four terms as governor and was elected to Congress in 2002. But he resigned in 2003 when he was jailed for manslaughter for causing the death of a motorcyclist by running through a stop sign.

Janklow changed the face of the state’s economy, education system and tax structure. Even his enemies admitted the Republican had a talent for getting things done, even as they complained that he ran roughshod over his opponents.

Um . . . yeah.

It will be interesting to see if any of the obits mention that Janklow may very well have gotten away with raping a girl in 1967. I won’t be holding my breath, though.

Government is not a business, part MMMCXXIV

[ 25 ] January 10, 2012 |

Somewhere in Bourdieu’s conversation with Wacquant, he observes — and I’m paraphrasing here — that the purpose of social science is to make it difficult to say idiotic things about the social world. Now I’m not an economist, of course, but to the degree that idiotic analogies are something of a hobby of mine, so I also have a passing interest in the moronic things people routinely have to say about macroeconomics. By far the worst of the lot, in my view, is the analogy between household and sovereign debt. Today, Krugman describes what might be the closest contender for top honors.

. . . [T]he fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift, or even the inflationary impact of increases in the money supply (which is real when the economy isn’t in a liquidity trap.)

All of which only reminds me of Berton Churchill’s famously idiotic harangue in Stagecoach (1939):

I don’t know what the government’s coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen it pokes its nose into business. Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks. Why, Boone, I actually have a letter from a popinjay official saying that they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in the country. America for Americans. The government must not interfere with business. Reduce taxes. Our national debt is something shocking. What this country needs is a businessman for President.
Because, of course, that plan has always turned out well.

All your Klan robes are belong to us

[ 60 ] January 5, 2012 |

Well, this is mighty awkward:

A judge in South Carolina has declared a black church to be the lawful owner of a building that is home to a store that peddles Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia — although it isn’t quite clear if the ruling will impede the sale of the racist stuff anytime soon. 

The latest chapter in this long, weird and disturbing tale out of Laurens, S.C. — about an hour northwest of the capital city of Columbia — comes courtesy of Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press, who reports that Rev. David Kennedy and his New Beginnings church have been declared the rightful owners of an old theater building that houses the Redneck Shop, which trades in Klan robes, T-shirts with ethnic slurs and, according to its website, “bumperstickers, belts, mens and womens [sic] swimsuits, one or two piece, cotton or nylon flags, bird houses, and you name it…”

The bird houses, I should note, look pretty much like what you’d expect a birdhouse made by Klansmen to look like; alas, the site doesn’t tell us whether the birds who inhabit them are supplied with their own tiny robes and pamphlets detailing the international Papist-Zionist Conspiracy, nor do we learn whether they’re encouraged to cleanse the surrounding property of inferior avian species. The shop’s Wikipedia page — no shit, it exists — mentions as well that its owners sell posters of Warren Harding, of all people, who has long been rumored (however implausibly) to have been a member of the KKK. Sadly, the Redneck Shop lacks a website that might help us satisfy our great national craving for Warren Harding paraphernalia, but if you’re in the mood, I highly recommend my favorite picture of Harding, in which he displays an almost Nixonian sternness and seems to be on the verge of expressing a coherent idea of some kind or another.

Bachmann’s strengths are truly intangible!

[ 21 ] January 3, 2012 |

Oh, how we’re going to miss her.

She fails to mention, however, that Tim Tebow also believes the Obama administration is moving the nation toward a One World Currency. I’m pretty sure that’s what he was talking about during the Bears game a few weeks back.

The 53 percent, 1609 edition

[ 29 ] November 7, 2011 |

Whatever else might be said about Michele Bachmann’s invocation of 2 Thessalonians (“The Bloodening”), we ought to remember that Bachmann — as a devoted and serious pupil of American history — must also have known that she was offering a shout-out to Captain John Smith, the belligerent self-promoter who served for a brief moment as president of the local council of the Virginia Company from 1608-1609. Under Smith, the Jamestown settlers were obligated to follow Bachmann’s Biblically-inspired command to work or eat, with Smith himself explaining that “by the hazard and endeavors of some thirty or forty, this whole colony [of several hundred] had ever been fed.” In his Genreral History, Smith noted that while the Virginia colony possessed a handful of skilled laborers — and a few others who, though incapable, at least wanted to contribute — “all the rest were poor gentlemen, tradesmen, serving-men, libertines, and such like, ten times more fit to spoil a commonwealth, than either begin one, or but help to maintain one.” When his patience with the idlers expired, Smith had a public hissy fit, announcing his famous policy that “he that gathereth not every day as much as I do, the next day shall be set beyond the river, and be banished from the fort as a drone, till he amend his conditions or starve.”

It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Smith’s orders were conceived with idling gentlemen as much in mind as the scrofulous poor. It’s also worth noting that Smith’s efforts did little to alleviate the long-term Hobbesian conditions that prevailed in Virginia for years after he left the colony forever. But I think it’s even more interesting that in trying to inspire her fellow citizens to great feats of self-reliance, Bachmann — who presumably remains a somewhat viable Presidential candidate for a major political party — would turn to a slogan befitting an experimental, disorganized, resource-strapped, unskilled menagerie of landless gentlemen, unemployed soldiers and indentured servants living in a 17th century malarial swamp. And the Republicans criticize Obama for not being sufficiently optimistic?

The dumbest article on weight loss you’ll read this week

[ 66 ] October 20, 2011 |

Lindsay Beyerstein points us to this piece in which Slate managing editor Rachael Larimore announces to the world that she’s available to purchase your fradulent goods and services. The short version is that Larimore recently decided, in the name of shedding “10 to 12 pounds” for her 20th high school reunion, to submit herself to a demonstrably insane diet that requires its marks patients to bang human chorionic gonadotropin on a daily basis while hacking their caloric intake to .5 kcal/day — roughly one-quarter of what someone like Larimore should be consuming — for several weeks. For those keeping score at home, hCG is a hormone derived from the urine of pregnant women and is used in the treatment of infertility; during the 1950s, however, a physician in Rome (Albert Simeons) became convinced that it could be used to fool the bodies of obese young boys into mimicking the early stages of pregnancy. He developed a notion that hCG basically “freed up” adipose tissue so it could be burnt off, since (by his theory) the recipient’s body — believing itself to be pregnant — needed the energy to, say, develop a placenta. Undeterred by the batshittery of his theory, Simeons produced an entire weight-loss regimen based on it. The catch was that Simeons happened to combine the hCG “treatments” with a starvation-level diet, so the fact that his subjects lost weight was less than remarkable.

Paul noted a few months back that the diet is essentially indistinguishable from anorexia, but Larimore seems convinced that her behavior isn’t pathological or dangerous because her OB-GYN — whom she actually names in the article — tells her that it’s completely fine to live on two apples, a handful of vegetables, a bowl of spinach and a few slivers of “lean protein” each day, so long as your Bataan Death March diet is accompanied by subcutaneous injections of a hormone that has never been shown to provide any specific weight-loss benefit whatsoever.

The entire piece is a masterful defense of consumer gullibility and scientific illiteracy — indeed, it’s so poorly reasoned that I’m not even confident the Huffington Post would accept it. As Lindsay points out, Larimore simply doesn’t care that no scientific data exist to support the diet she’s undertaken; but her doctor (who is perfectly happy to separate Larimore from her “iPad money”) recommends it, so who is she to argue? After all, there are results to contend with! Specifically, Larimore congratulates herself for losing 18 pounds in 6 weeks — a pace that well exceeds all the clinical guidelines for weight loss, especially for someone who claims (as the author does) to be interested in shedding a dozen pounds at most.

So to sum up: Larimore embarked on a scientifically-baseless crash diet, lost an inadvisably-large amount of weight in a short period of time by creating enormous calorie deficits, and somehow emerged from the experience feeling “sane.” Never mind that someone could achieve the same results by eating 500 calories and reading nothing but Instapundit every day for six weeks. Though I suppose if presented with the option of reading Glenn Reynolds or shoving off-label hormone treatments into your arm, the choice is kind of a wash . . .

Welcome to our online winter jacket sale. We have a variety of toddler winter jackets, ladies winter jackets, biker clothing and womens motorcycle jackets.

The 53 Percent, Progressive Era Edition

[ 69 ] October 14, 2011 |

I work in a plumassier – that’s a fancy word for “sweatshop.” I spend fourteen hours a days willowing ostrich feathers so that rich women can wear attractive hats. Because they want to wear these hats, I am able to HAVE A JOB. I used to make 15 cents an hour, but now there are so many young girls in the business that I only make seven or eight cents. The boss tells us that we will soon be paid only five cents.


Also, my boss will fire or rape me if I complain.


The girl who used to work next to me got tuberculosis from inhaling all the dust and fluff from the feathers. But she did not expect the GOVERNMENT to pay for her health care while she recovered. Instead, she went out and got a job SEWING SLIPPERS during the day while her son PICKS OVER THE SWEEPINGS FROM COFFEE WAREHOUSES. They are saving up with THEIR OWN MONEY so she can have BOTH OF HER LUNGS COLLAPSED. This will leave her permanently short of breath and dizzy, but she will continue to WORK because that is the AMERICAN DREAM.


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