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In Which I Date Myself Embarrassingly

[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

I first learned BASIC on a Commodore VIC-20. With a cassette drive instead of a floppy drive (which was probably good for educational purposes, since the chances of a surreptitious game loading actually working were highly erratic.) I did use an Apple II in school the next year, but our first home PC was a Commodore-64, with PaperClip (the word processor whose copy protection required you to plug something into the joystick port.) It was good for a lot of hours of Geopolitque 1990, I’ll tell you that!

"No More Questions Asking If This Is a Joke."

[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I would like to think that Stephen Hayes’s new book Cheney: An Excess of Torture to Avenge Saddam’s Extensive Role in 9/11 Is No Vice was an elaborate joke, but apparently not. Given Hayes’s record of making empirical claims even the Bush administration isn’t willing to stand behind, I think this has a chance of ranking with Midge Decter’s mash note to Don Rumsfeld as the most risible book in the history of Bush administration hagiographies (and, hence, in the history of American arts and letters.) There’s a lot of competition, though.


[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

From today’s NY Times (my emphasis):

At a news conference that coincided with the report’s release, President Bush said, ”I believe we should succeed in Iraq and I know we must.”

In remarks clearly aimed at his critics, he added, ”When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will (be) because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it’ll be good politics.”

When the archive of George W. Bush’s clichés is at last assembled, I’m not sure if “conditions on the ground” will command the most attention. However, I can’t think of a string of four words that so tragically illuminate everything with which this administration has not been concerned, in Iraq or elsewhere. We might think, for example, of The Decider in California ineptly strumming a guitar, gobbling John McCain’s birthday pastries and attending a San Diego Padres game while “conditions on the ground” swept away vast sections of New Orleans. We might also recall the pre-war warnings — from actual military commanders — that “conditions on the ground” didn’t necessary lend themselves to the light forces being assembled for the anticipated cakewalk.

And all of this is merely an aside to the “conditions on the ground” reported by Hans Blix’s inspectors, whose observations were ultimately deemed not nearly so relevant as the conditions on the ground at the Weekly Standard and in Douglas Feith’s alternative intelligence unit at the Pentagon.

Like Bush’s oft- and self-described “patience,” Bush’s invocation of “conditions on the ground” is clearly intended to suggest for us the actions of a pragmatic leader, guided in his work by nothing more elaborate than what the circumstances unambiguously demand. This fable mitigates the image an uninformed rube, hewing only to the Archimedean advice of Jesus and Dick Cheney. Most Americans, of course, understand these empirical pretensions for what they are and have stopped paying attention (I suspect) to nearly everything the man has to say.

Others, like the

Unity Behind Idiocy

[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

It’s good to know, if thoroughly unsurprising, that when David Ignatius wanted us all to agree (i.e. with him) about how to respond to security threats, the consensus we’re all supposed to rally around to is to stay in Iraq forever to accomplish nothing except to make all sides in the ongoing civil war more skilled and well-armed fighters. [Via Atrios.]

Also note the somewhat subtle stab-in-the-back routine: “History will be equally unforgiving if their agitation for withdrawal results in a pell-mell retreat that causes lasting damage.” In other words, people who want to end the Iraq fiasco are just as responsible as the people who designed, implemented, and shilled for it if withdrawal from the country they destroyed fails to magically produce a stable, mutli-factional government ruled by wise ponies and unicorns. (And as for how keeping a number of troops much smaller than the number that is already unable to prevent chaos and “training” all sides in a sectarian conflict will somehow avert “lasting damage”…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!)

Nice trick; apparently consensus means “agreeing with David Ignatius while he affixes a ‘kick me!’ sign to your back and frames you for stealing money from taxpayers.” Count me out.

Wonder Why There’s No Money for Federally Funded Social Services?

[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

No, I’m not talking about the War in Iraq (though that’s probably a contributing factor).

It’s another war: So far this year, the federal government has spent over $27 billion on the War on (some classes of people who use some) Drugs.

(via TalkLeft)

Erasing Whatever Doubt is Left that Church & State Are No Longer Separate

[ 0 ] July 12, 2007 |

From the Kansas City Star (via C&L):

Gov. Matt Blunt signed legislation Friday placing more abortion clinics under government oversight by classifying them as ambulatory surgical centers. Planned Parenthood claimed the law, HB 1055, could force it to spend up to $2 million to remodel one of its clinics and halt medical abortions at another site.

The new law, which will take effect Aug. 28, also bars people affiliated with abortion providers from teaching or supplying materials for sex education courses in public schools, and it allows schools to offer abstinence-only programs.

It cements into state statute an existing grant program for centers that encourage women to deliver babies instead of having abortions.

Blunt proclaimed the law “one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in Missouri history” as he spoke from a cross-shaped lectern during a signing ceremony in the sanctuary of Concord Baptist Church . The governor also was scheduled to promote the legislation in Joplin, Hannibal and suburban St. Louis. (emphasis mine)

So let me get this straight. The signing statement. For a state bill. Was at a church. With a cross-shaped lectern?!

Getting to the nitty-gritty of the law, its ramifications are huge for Missouri. Beyond placing expensive and onerous, not to mention unnecessary, new requirements on reproductive health clinics, the law will harshly restrict access to sex ed. In Missouri, Planned Parenthood runs a lot of the in-school real sex-ed. This law may place their involvement in jeopardy. Also, I am so sick of the anti-choice movement portraying Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers as diabolical people who will do whatever they can to keep the abortions flowing. Here’s what one supporter of the bill in Missouri said to the KC Star:

Missouri Right to Life, which backed the measure, says groups such as Planned Parenthood have a conflict of interest in supplying materials for sex education courses, because they could potentially make money off female students who later visit their clinics.

That’s right. People who believe in comprehensive sex ed — the ones working within the parameters of the real world to actually prevent pregnancy — are (bwah hah hah) just conniving to get more young women pregnant so they can keep providing abortions. Or, god forbid, they want to make sure young people know that their clinics provide full reproductive healthcare. No! not healthcare!

Blue Girl, Red State
has more.

Everything changed for me on 9/11. I used to be a Democrat, but now I’m outraged that people don’t accept hack editorials as the uncontroverted truth

[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

Responding to Harry Reid stating the obvious point that the “Surge” shows no signs of working, neo-neocon has a stern admonishment:

It’s clear that Reid doesn’t read the Wall Street Journal. Or if he does, he doesn’t believe it. Or if he does read it and believe it, he doesn’t think his constituency does either, so he can safely ignore it.

Hmm, well, the Wall Street Journal‘s news pages are certainly first-rate, but I read today’s paper and don’t recall a scoop nobody else has that the Iraq state is secure and political reconciliation among warring Iraqi factions is imminent. Strange, maybe I should look ag…oh wait, a link! Which leads us to…an op-ed. Which uses a familiar strategy of evading the fact that none of the most important a priori goals of the Surge are actually any closer to actualization. And was written by…Kimberley Kagan. Yup, someone who had a hand in developing the plan, and whose husband was a primary architect of the plan.

In other words, we have a claim here that Harry Reid is hopelessly divorced from reality because, unlike Ms. neocon, he does not accept the specious arguments made by transparently self-interested hacks in notoriously wingnutty op-ed pages at face value. I think you can see why she finds the Bush administration appealing.

…from a commenter chez Yglesias:

How many Kagans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

One to describe how well it is going, one to say how marvelous the room will look when it is well-lit, and one to tell the workmen that with enough force, the bulb can be screwed directly into the ceiling plaster.

And, of course, another one to feed this nonsense to particularly gullible rubes in one of the nation’s more prominent journals or op-ed pages…


[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

I have always preferred the “one barber” option, given numerous opportunities to have my hair cut. When I arrived in Seattle in 1997, I found a barber, near campus, who charged high rates but gave a decent haircut. I decided that the price was worth the consistency. This barber was particular obsessed with trivia questions, and would always ask four or five during the course of a haircut. Being a trivial kind of guy, I’d do pretty well. A couple of times, though, he offered me a free haircut if I could answer a particularly question. Both times (these were about a year apart) the question was “What was Ladybird Johnson’s first name?” Both times, I failed, and had to pay for my haircut.

He was a fine barber, and I mourn him today.

More on the Muzzling of Dissident Voices

[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

Simon Heller and Vivian Labaton of the Center for Reproductive Rights have more on the muzzling of Bush administration officials both before and after their departures from the administration (happy now CJR?). Their experience is based on the Center’s lawsuit against the FDA to get over-the-counter approval for emergency contraception:

In the course of our lawsuit against the FDA first filed in 2005, we discovered that one high-ranking FDA official told a subordinate that the Plan B over-the-counter application was being rejected in order to appease the Bush administration’s constituents. Another high-ranking scientist within the FDA testified that the decision to reject over-the-counter status for Plan B was made in consultation with the White House. All the FDA scientists who would ordinarily make the decision whether to make P B available without a prescription strongly favored that action, but their authority to make the decision was taken away from them early on in the process when the agency’s Commissioner began to express vague concerns about easier access to Plan B for young women. We also know that scientists at the FDA were fearful that their positions in the agency would be in jeopardy if they did not fall in line behind the Bush administration’s political opposition to wider access to Plan B.

We shouldn’t be surprised to read that the Administration exerted political pressure on a decision like this (especially because the fallout at the time made it clear that that had occurred), but with the Carmona testimony, there’s a new twist:

Former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan admitted that he spoke from time to time about the Plan B application with the White House, but claimed that this was simply to update the White House about a controversial matter so that it could respond to press inquiries. We find this explanation for his repeated contacts with the White House highly suspect, especially in light of Dr. Carmona’s testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday. McClellan’s appointment calendar also reflects that he spoke with Dr. Carmona about Plan B within days after the application was filed with the FDA in 2003. And we now believe it is likely that this conversation passed on instructions from the White House to Dr. Carmona to adhere to the White House’s ultra-conservative positions against women’s access to this important drug.

It just keeps getting better and better. Or should I say worse and worse?

Fighting Indian Fighter Aces…

[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

Matt writes, in respone to David Axe’s suggestion that F-22s ought to be unleashed against Indian or British aggressor squadrons:

Uh huh. But think about that. Why would the US Air Force be fighting Indian aces in Su-30s? And that’s to say nothing of the Royal Air Force. I don’t want to say it’s inconceivable that the United States would find itself engaged in a struggle for air superiority with a near peer-competitor but it’s way, way, way, down on the list of contingencies that any reasonable person would be hedging against. Alien robots seems like an only slightly less plausible adversary.

Well, I think that Axe is just suggesting that we include F-22s in the Cope India exercises, which seems like a good idea to me. Why fly F-15s when we can fly F-22s (given that we’ve already bought the damn things), especially when the Indians can beat our F-15s? Makes them better, makes us better. I would also dissent a bit from Matt’s argument that we don’t need to think so much about air superiority; I’d say that a conflict with China over Taiwan is plausible, and that if it happens, the Chinese will contest the skies for at least a while. And the Chinese fly Su-30s…

Whether we need the Air Force or the F-22 are separate questions; now that Matt is taunting me, maybe I’ll need to write that article.

Boomer Nostalgia Is Not An Argument

[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

At the end of an excellent post about the nature of allegedly “traditional” marriage, Dana Goldtsein concludes: “What’s at stake for conservatives aren’t marriages that raise happy children, but a fear of sex and women’s liberation, especially in combination.” Completely correct, and it’s really palpable in Brooks’s column.

This whole “the idealized marriage I remember from the precise moment when I was a kid must be the optimal form of family relations” line of non-reasoning reminds me of nothing so much as the assertion that America “lost its innocence” when…it found out quiz shows were being fixed (or some other trivial event that happened well over a century after America’s decidedly non-virgin birth when the person making the argument was a naive child.) Solipsism and nostalgia are really not sound justifications for maintaining unjust or irrational social institutions, and tends to lead to the distortion of history as well.

You Know What they say About Karma

[ 0 ] July 11, 2007 |

From today’s NYT story about the political pressure placed on Dr. Carmona, W.’s first Surgeon General, and other Surgeon Generals:

Similarly, Dr. Carmona wanted to address the controversial topic of sexual education, he said. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives.

“However there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect,” he said.

Dr. Carmona said drafts of surgeon general reports on global health and prison health were still being debated by the administration. The global health report was never approved, Dr. Carmona said, because he refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration.

“The correctional health care report is pointing out the inadequacies of health care within our correctional health care system,” he said. “It would force the government on a course of action to improve that.”

Because the administration does not want to spend more money on prisoners’ health care, the report has been delayed, Dr. Carmona said.

“For us, the science was pretty easy,” he said. “These people go back into the community and take diseases with them.” He added, “This is not about the crime. It’s about protecting the public.”

Here’s what I love about this excerpt (and really, the whole article): The Bush administration’s bad acts are coming back to bite them in the ass. The ways in which they manipulated important issues that should be one step removed from Congress may not harm his electoral chances (since he’s a dead duck at this point), but will, I think, affect the GOP for years to come.

What’s also great: finally someone, somewhere in some way attached to the U.S. government (even if only formerly) is speaking out about and making sense of health care for the over 2.25 million men and women who are incarcerated in this country. Carmona’s right to frame prisoner health as a public health issue both for actual (it *is* a public health issue) and political (helps deflect attention from the fact that – gasp – we might actually do right by prisoners for once). HIV and other STDs spread rampantly in prisons. So do other infectious diseases. People then get out of prison and return to their communities. The lack of care they receive would be a human rights violation if we discussed such things more forcefully in this country; to frame it as an issue affecting the larger community is the smart way to get it heard now.

And of course, abstinence only is easy. It doesn’t work. It’s misogynist and heterosexist. Yet the Bush administration continuse to bend the science to fit its political and ideological goals. Carmona’s point about this surprised me not at all. The fact that someone was even thinking about any sort of prison reform in the Bush administration did.

But – as we all know too well at this point – speak out against GWB, lose your job.

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