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Let the Backtracking Commence!

[ 0 ] October 31, 2007 |

Shorter Judge Mukasey: ok, ok, you win. Waterboarding is bad. Now can you just confirm me?

Quote of the Day

[ 7 ] October 31, 2007 |

From commenter Imag:

If Hitler had been able to compare stuff to Hitler, he totally would have done so.

Right; to the extent that invocation of Hitler has become insipid shorthand for having nothing useful to say while demanding extreme measures, Adolf Hitler himself would have used his own example extensively. Leni Riefenstahl would have prominently featured him in Triumph of the Will, in a manner not unlike the way that Norm Podhoretz uses him today. Hitler is a convenient excuse for whatever policy you want to pursue, irrespective of what that policy may be; the original Hitler would undoubtedly have depicted Sławoj-Składkowski, Daladier, Chamberlain, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin as Hitlers, bent on world domination.

On Endorsing…

[ 35 ] October 31, 2007 |

I’m not ready to endorse any candidate for the Democratic nomination. I was leaning heavily towards Obama (I went to an Obama rally in Lexington last month, and it was fantastic), but his moves on Social Security and his campaign more generally hasn’t impressed me. I’m now re-thinking John Edwards; he has until now struck me as a candidate who perpetually punches under his weight, and I don’t like the idea of having to nominate another southern white man, but this southern white man also happens to be the most progressive legitimate candidate in the race, so it’s hard for me to discount him.

And then there’s Hilary. This is the thing about Hilary; I firmly believe that she would win a knife fight staged between the Democratic contenders, and that’s no small consideration. I also believe that she hates Republicans more than any of the Democratic candidates. I think the Republicans know this, which is why they fear her more than any other Democrat. At the same time, she’s clearly the most conservative major Democratic candidate. I should say that I don’t take all that seriously arguments that she can’t win in the general election; in general I think that the appeal of candidates in the general isn’t as predictable as we’d like to think, and specifically I think that Hilary’s strengths will be just as important (and perhaps more important) in November 2008 as her liabilities.

But for now I’m undecided.

"Are you sure this is the casino?"

[ 7 ] October 31, 2007 |

Goulet is out.

Islamo-fascists: Objectively Pro-Rudy

[ 9 ] October 30, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Delroy Murdoch:

As the War on Terror continues, Americans should study our foes’ political preferences — and then pull the lever the other way.

I’m not sure what else needs to be said here, except that Murdoch and Aaron Klein seem to believe informed citizens are less capable than “Islamo-fascists” at choosing American presidents.

It works just about as well in theory as in practice. Wallace Shawn demonstrates:

Tomorrow’s Contrarianism Today

[ 7 ] October 30, 2007 |

Just enough cowbell!

Since I often disagree with MY on aesthetics, I should note that I concur with his assessment of the widely-derided new Rilo Kiley album, which although being less “indie rock” than More Adventurous is almost as great song-for-song. And “Silver Lining” isn’t even my favorite cut on the album; the terrific straight disco “Breaking Up” and the epitome of the funky & poppy & catchy & sleazy vibe “Smoke Detector” are even higher peaks for me, and Lewis’s increasingly commanding vocals put some of the lesser tracks across. Even Blake’s track, normally a pissbreak, is pretty good. Terrific live show at the Bowery, too.

When You’re Insane, It’s Always 1938 and Iran is Capable of Conquering Europe by 2012

[ 20 ] October 30, 2007 |

To Rudy Giuliani’s foreign policy non-braintrust, it’s all Hitler all the time.

Stop the Madness

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

What’s the new best way to stop your teenage daughter from becoming unpure by having pre-marital sex? Why, hold her down and forcibly pierce her genitalia of course! According to the Associated Press:

A woman who had her 13-year-old daughter’s genitalia pierced to make it uncomfortable for her to have sex was acquitted of aggravated child abuse on Thursday.

The girl, now 16, had testified that her mother asked a friend in 2004 to shave the girl’s head to make her unattractive to boys and later held her down for the piercing.

A jury deliberated for about three hours before deciding the mother’s actions didn’t involve punishment or malicious intent, or cause permanent damage or disfigurement.

So let me get this straight: genital mutilation in order to prevent teenage sexual expression is OK, but healthy teenage sexuality is not?* Boggles the mind.

(Via Grace)

Full disclosure: in this case, there are allegations that the girl was being molested by the mother’s boyfriend, sparking the mother’s response. Whether or not this is true, it doesn’t change the court outcome.

Anthony J. Kennedy’s Great Moments in Medical Practice

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

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“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude that some women shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about manly medical treatment.”

Looking for information about Lurleen Wallace — George’s wife and briefly the proxy governor of Alabama when her husband was term-limited out — I found this:

She had made her gubernatorial run carrying a tragic secret. Lurleen Wallace had been diagnosed with cancer as early as April 1961, when her surgeon biopsied suspicious tissue he noticed during the cesarean delivery of her last child. As was common at the time, her physician told her husband, not her. George Wallace insisted that Lurleen not be informed. As a result, she did not get appropriate follow-up care. When she saw a gynecologist for abnormal bleeding in 1965, his diagnosis of uterine cancer came as a complete shock to her. When one of her husband’s staffers carelessly revealed to her that Wallace had discussed her cancer with them, but not her, during his 1962 campaign three years earlier, she was outraged.

In order to facilitate his plan to use her as a surrogate candidate in 1966, Mrs. Wallace cooperated with a campaign of dissimulation and misdirection as she began radiation therapy in December, 1965. This was followed by a hysterectomy in January 1966. Despite her ill health, Mrs. Wallace maintained a brutal campaign schedule throughout 1966 and gave a 24-minute speech — her longest ever — at her January 1967 inauguration.

Depressingly, Wallace’s political heirs have in addition to using federal spending power to deny women appropriate medical advice added such innovations as using state coercion to force doctors to give women psudeoscientific propaganda and restricting their access to safe medical services.

James and the Red Sox

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

Since I’ve been a fan since I purchased the 1985 Baseball Abstract on a whim and among other great stuff saw that he published a hilarious attack on bane-of-my-youthful-Expos-fan-existence Bill Virdon, I enjoyed this take on James and the success of the Red Sox:

One of the first things Epstein did was to hire James, as a senior consultant to the Red Sox organization. In the four years since, the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series in 85 years, have reached baseball’s pinnacle twice.

Some of the central themes of James’ work apply particularly well to his own story. For example: An expert is someone who knows what he’s talking about, whether he has any credentials or not. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Talent is not in short supply. The qualities that impress people are not necessarily the same qualities that correlate with success. Powerful, wealthy institutions can be run for decades by people who don’t know what they’re doing. And the conventional wisdom is often wrong.

These ideas, obviously, can be applied far beyond the subject of baseball. They’re the sorts of ideas that never fail to annoy and infuriate authority figures, which is why it takes a special kind of person to hurl himself into the face of the solid rock wall of stupidity that defends many a comfortable social institution.

I’ve written this with respect to Billy Beane, but I think the work of James and the success of the A’s and Red Sox is often portrayed as being about “statistics” when it’s much more about not accepting received wisdom when it conflicts with evidence, making evaluations based on performance rather than images, etc. Michael Lewis actually conveyed this every well. Alas, MLB seems to be making more progress than our political class.

One unfortunate thing about James working for the Red Sox, though, is that if he could make his new research public he’d be a blogging natural…

Speaking of Sicko & Healthcare

[ 44 ] October 30, 2007 |

Among the many, many disturbing moments in Sicko (and there were many), of the most enraging for me was among the least graphic: the moment when Moore indicates, with thought bubble-like images, how much money each of several elected officials has taken from the healthcare industry. The very same industry that profits from keeping people as far away from adequate health care as possible. The bottom line is that a lot of people have taken a lot of money, not the least of which is Hilary Clinton.

Which is why I was not at all surprised (though again, disappointed), to see in yesterday’s Times that Hilary is certainly not the only one in the Democratic presidential field to be taking money from the insurers and pharmaceutical companies with one hand while holding sick babies and promising universal single payer healthcare with the other, though she has amassed the most.

According to the Times article (source of this graphic):

Mrs. Clinton received $2.7 million through the end of September, far more than Mitt Romney, the Republican who raised the most from the health care industry, with $1.6 million. The industry’s drift in contributions toward Democratic candidates mirrors wider trends among donors, but the donations from this sector are particularly notable because of the party’s focus on overhauling the health care system.

Among all the candidates in both political parties, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the health care industry, having raised about $2.2 million, according to campaign finance records.

I want to choose a democratic candidate and wholeheartedly throw my support behind her or him. But with figures like this, whose campaign promises of a healthier America can I take to the bank?

"Columbia’s Gone!"

[ 5 ] October 29, 2007 |

Although I have yet to overcome my bitterness over the bulk of BSG season 3, I must admit that I’m looking forward to Razor, and that the flashbacks (especially #3) are pretty cool.

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