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Purity of Essence

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

So I return from three weeks of travel to learn that our local fluoride controversy continues unabated. To make a long story short, the local assembly voted last fall to stop adding fluoride to the city’s water supply; Juneau is now one of the latest communities to suspend or eliminate such programs, which have been conducted in the US since 1945 and which have been alleged ever since to cause anything from Down syndrome to osteoporosis to lowered IQ’s to rare forms of bone cancer. While the scientific evidence supporting these anxieties ranges from minimal to non-existent, water fluoridation programs — which contributed over the course of the 20th century to substantial reductions in dental caries and tooth loss, and at minimal public expense — seem, to me at least, to be a pretty wise allocation of resources. Most of our local dentists, pediatricians, and public health officials agree, a stance that places them squarely within the mainstream of their respective professions.

I’m no scientician, but I’m quite frankly amazed by all this. I don’t have any particularly strong feelings one way or another on the issue, and as someone whose adult teeth were hideously stained by an excess of fluoride as a child — mostly from (no shit) eating toothpaste — I’m obviously receptive to the argument that fluoridation can have unintended consequences. But the conventional arguments against water fluoridation seem especially unconvincing. True, fluoride is deadly in sufficient quantities, but so is carbon dioxide; and the fact that people who work with undiluted fluoride have to wear protective clothing is irrelevant to the question of whether elevating the fluoride level of water to 1 ppm is an effective public health intervention. And sure, dental caries is most effectively addressed at the level of the individual — but this does nothing more than state the obvious, and it does nothing to take away from the credibility of existing fluoridation programs.

Having said all that, I have to admit this was much more interesting when fluoridation was a communist plot.

Michael Bay Sucks

[ 1 ] July 8, 2007 |

With due respect to Ezra and Matt, Michael Bay sucks. He doesn’t suck in an interesting way, he doesn’t make “good” bad movies, he can’t direct an action sequence, and he has terrible instincts as a filmmaker. He is, in short, a no talent hack.

I grew up with Transformers, both the toys and the cartoon. I loved the first film when I saw it as a wee lad, and could acknowledge that it still had a certain charm when I watched it again a couple years ago. I felt compelled to see the new film, even though I have never had anything but contempt for Michael Bay and the works that he has wrought. My expectations were utterly fulfilled; the movie was simply terrible. One could enjoy, say, Live Free or Die Hard as parody, as camp, or as a well constructed entry in the action genre. The action sequences made sense; it was possible to follow particular characters, events within the sequences built to understandable climaxes, and each sequence had elements that were restrained enough to provide contrast with the high kinetic elements. In Transformers, as with most of Bay’s work, there was no such contrast, the characters were hard to tell apart, and the sequences lacked any internal logic or direction. Michael Bay simply cannot direct action scenes. Full stop. He can’t direct any of the other constituent aspects of a movie, either, but that would be forgivable in certain circumstances if he could handle a damn action scene. As Matt correctly notes, the only talents he has are for filming abs, and filming men watching abs; this talent was demonstrated upon Megan Fox, but I felt almost dirty after watching those scenes.

Friends don’t let friends see Michael Bay movies. And Davida, I deeply, deeply apologize for making you watch that movie.

…UPDATE BY SL: To recapitulate, the other thing that should be said in re the “but he makes good popcorn movies” defense is that Bay is extraordinarily pretentious. In the tradition of Keith Emerson and Kip Winger, his shows of technique have no purpose — not only no artistic purpose, but no purpose in terms of constructing an action sequence, advancing a story, etc. — other than to draw attention to themselves. This is usually intolerable coming from people with real talent; when someone is showing off skills no different than dozens of guys who direct car commercials it’s especially irritating. I also blame Bay for the trend of summer genre movies with threadbare-at-best plots and no characters that go on for two and a half hours.

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House of Orleans

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

The House of Orleans is a cadet branch of House Bourbon, itself a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty that ruled France for nearly a thousand years. The “founder” of the modern House of Orleans was Philip I of France, son of Louis XIII and younger brother of Louis XIV. Philip was given the title Duc de’ Orleans by his father, a title that carried considerable prestige and influence in French royal circles. Philip II served, for eight years, as regent to King Louis XV.

Louis-Philippe II, Duc de Orleans, earned the hatred of Marie Antoinette and led an unsuccessful naval career before choosing to support the Revolution in 1789. As the Revolution developed, the royal court blamed Louis-Philippe for supporting and agitating the radicals. In October 1789 he was dispatched by the King to Great Britain, but returned in 1790 to serve in the National Assembly. In spite of his measured support for the Revolution, he fell under suspicion as a potential claimant to the throne. Arrested in April 1793, he was tried for treason and guillotined on November 6, 1793.

Louis-Philippe, son of the Duc de Orleans, was initially very supportive of the Revolution. He served with the Army of the North, but fled to an Austrian army camp shortly before the arrest of his father. Over the next 22 years, he lived in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, the United States, and finally Great Britain. After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte he returned to France, and maintained cordial relations with Louis XVIII and Charles X, although he distanced himself from the latter’s repressive policies. In no small part because of his reputation as a liberal, he was chosen to succeed Charles X after the 1830 July Revolution. Louis-Philippe ruled as “King of the French” rather than as King of France, and was known as the citizen’s king.

Eighteen years passed, and the French were once again revolting. The February 1848 revolution drove Louis-Philippe from power, and he fled to Great Britain in order to avoid the fate of Louis XVI. He left his nine year old grandson, Philippe, as heir designate, but Philippe was in turn rejected and exiled by the French. Louis-Philippe died in 1850. Philippe volunteered for the Union Army in the American Civil War, and served in the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign. Philippe anticipated a restoration of the monarchy in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, but his Bourbon kinsman Henry V refused to reign under the Tricolour, and the monarchist moment in France was lost. Although Henry V failed to recognize Philippe as his heir, the former’s death reunited in the minds of most the legitimist and constitutionalist claims to the French throne. The Orleans would spend much of the next century in exile, although Henry VI joined the French Foreign Legion in 1940. The abrogation of the law of exile in 1950 allowed the family to return to France.

The modern House of Orleans continues to lay claim to both the constitutionalist “King of the French” and the legitimist “King of France” titles. The current heir to the throne is Henri Phillipe Pierre Marie d’ Orleans, and goes by the titles Comte de Paris and Duc de France. Upon restoration, he would become King Henri VII. In 1987, Henry sued Louis Alphonse in French court to prevent the latter from using the royal arms and, essentially, from claiming the French throne. French courts threw the suit out without addressing the merits. Although Henry has by far the most compelling claim of any on the French throne, prospects for a restoration appear grim. Monarchical sentiment remains weak in France, and barring a profound ideological shift, even a constitutional restoration is unlikely.

Trivia: A grandnephew of what monarch founded the FBI?

Nobody Cares

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

To follow up on my point from last week, I see that Colin Powell is trying to wipe some blood off his hands. It’s a futile and frankly disgraceful enterprise; when you’re arguably the most important American liar that was involved in selling the war, you take responsibility for it, the end. The fact that you knew is was going to be a disaster makes your behavior less defensible, not more.

[HT: Atrios.]

People Who Should Never, Ever Call Other People "Fatuous"

[ 0 ] July 8, 2007 |

Roger L. Simon, ladies and gentlemen! It’s not exactly news that the co-founder of Trainwreck Media is one of the biggest clowns in the known universe, but “disagreeing with my Trotskyite-turned-Wolfwitzian politics will cause your son to get a DWI rap, which I will take advantage of to sneeringly repeat long-discredited lies and cliches from 1999 Maureen Dowd columns” really merits an entirely new level of contempt.

P.S. Answer to Labs’ question: “No.”

"And you ain’t gotta love me, just be convincin’…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

I have no doubt that Fred Thompson lobbied for Planned Parenthood; it’s not the first evidence of his past moderation on the issue. If I were (God forbid) the kind of person who thought that using state coercion to force (poor) women to carry pregnancies to term was a peachy idea, though, I’m not sure why this would matter. We’re back to the John McCain/George Wallace issue here, but if I had to guess I doubt that any of the serious Republican candidates personally care of Roe v. Wade is overruled, and this is common among elite Republicans. What actually matters about a candidate, however, is not what he believes in his heart of hearts but what he’ll actually do, and since becoming federal politician Thompson has racked up a 0% rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. That’s how he (and McCain and Romney) are actually likely to act as President.

Lesbians Stole My Car Keys!

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

More frivolous lawsuits for purveyors of right-wing identity politics….

I’d have to say that if asking for providing information about cases assumes endorsement, teaching con law is going to be very difficult.

Things are Different in Germany…

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |


Hessia’s education minister Karin Wolff has recently drawn attention for proposing that school biology lessons include the biblical creation story. Now she has drawn attention by outing herself as gay. All too many politicians pander to creationists; and some out themselves. But it’s pretty rare, I’d think, that the same politician does both.


Values and Foreign Policy

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

I had been planning to write a longer post on Ezra Klein’s “anti-values” column from last week, but after reading Hilzoy, I find that I pretty much agree with everything that she says.

Saying that we want a foreign policy of consequences, rather than one of values, doesn’t actually get us anywhere. The only way to differentiate between potential outcomes is through an assessment of values. Moreover, there’s no value-neutral way of coming to such assessments. Even bare bones realism makes some assumptions about the values of policy-makers; they value nationalism over class solidarity, for example. Marxist theories make different assumptions, but both hold that pragmatism has to start somewhere. Now, as Publius notes, Ezra may really be wanting to attack the language of abstract values, in which terms such as “freedom”, “liberty”, etc. can take on pretty much any meaning. I again agree with Hilzoy that, first, we’re giving up something important when we abandon such terms (there’s a reason such arguments can be powerful and persuasive), and second, that tossing the terms aside doesn’t solve the problem. It makes no sense to say “I’m acting pragmatically” if you don’t understand yourself to be working toward some end, and that end can only be determined in the context of values. Tossing aside abstractions associated with American democracy would leave us with “the national interest” which is every bit as nebulous as “freedom”, “democracy”, and “liberty.”

"That’s some catch…"

[ 0 ] July 7, 2007 |

6 CA upholds the warrantless wiretapping program 2-1…on standing grounds. Great; the prefect ruling for the age of Yoo. The secrecy of the arbitrary executive insulates even the illegal actions of the arbitrary executive from judicial scrutiny. Call me defeatist, but this also sounds like exactly the kind of feeble dodge that Kennedy is going to buy.

The Problem With Game Theory in Constitutional Theory

[ 0 ] July 6, 2007 |

Of limited interest to those of you who aren’t constitutional scholars and/or social scientists, but since I’ve had to read way too much of this literature thought I’d let you know that X. Trapnel makes the case effectively.

Was Article III Repealed Earlier This Week?

[ 0 ] July 6, 2007 |

Many bloggers have already taken whacks at the non-argument, made by Alan Dershowitz and recycled by Marty Peretz, that the Libby conviction was a political conspiracy by conservative Republicans against other conservative Republicans. Obviously, having set this standard of stupidity nothing can really top it, but I was also struck by this claim:

Only President Bush’s political judgment was constitutionally sanctioned, and that is because clemency and pardon are explicit rights of the chief executive.

Uh, what? Since when do federal courts duly created by Congress not have the constitutional authority to pass sentences (that fall within the George Bush approved federal sentencing guidelines!)? What constitutional provision requires appellate courts to grant bail on appeal to every convicted individual? Help me out here.

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