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In Case There Was Still Any Doubt..

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

…that the quality and quantity of healthcare is vastly different depending on where you live, what your racial and ethnic background is, and how much money you have. And the differences are especially apparent when it comes to maternal health and infant mortality.

A new study shows that, at least in New York City, while the overall numbers of infant deaths are decreasing, the divide between white people and everyone else continues to grow:

A troubling and persistent phenomenon over the last decade is that infant mortality rates for black and Puerto Rican New Yorkers are more than double those for whites and Asians — a gap persists even when poverty is factored out. Infants born to higher-income black women died at nearly three times the rate of those born to higher-income white women.

Not surprising. Something S-Chip might have helped remedy…

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

One of my favorite sections of Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class dwells on the “pecuniary reputation” of certain varieties of domesticated animals. In short, Veblen argues that while they invest considerable effort cultivating the aesthetically worthy — which is to say practically worthless — qualities of domestic creatures, the leisure classes are less preoccupied with cats than with the breeding of racehorses, pigeons, or dogs. The cat’s flaw, predictably enough, rests in its utility.

The cat is less reputable than [dogs or fast horses] because she is less wasteful; she may even serve a useful end. At the same time the cat’s temperament does not fit her for the honorific purpose. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of all distinctions of worth, honour, and repute, and she does not lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her owner and his neighbours.

For a culture rooted in conspicuous displays of waste, the cat provides little “honorific” benefit. By contrast with the dog, whose character Veblen describes as “fawning” and “servile,” the cat refuses to flatter its master’s sense of authority, as Henry — pictured above — helpfully demonstrates.

For anyone who’s ever lived with cats, there’s a certain “no shit” quality to Veblen’s analysis, but I still take a lot of delight in knowing that the greatest American sociologist of the early 20th century was a cat person.

A First Grade Political Test

[ 1 ] October 5, 2007 |

The major Republican candidates have all endorsed Bush’s appalling veto of S-CHIP. If the Democratic candidate can’t repeatedly hammer his or her opponent throughout the campaign for this, they don’t deserve to win.

Dobson’s Bluff

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

I certainly agree with Yglesias that “It would be a big, big problem for Giuliani’s general election campaign to have any of the major cultural conservative institutions backing a third party candidate. It’s generally very difficult to win when you have a spoiler trying to take you down the way Ross Perot was gunning for H.W. Bush in ’92 or Ralph Nader was taking aim at Gore in 2000.” (It’s particularly important that such a campaign would be primarily an anti-Giuilani campaign, just as electing Bush was the primary purpose of Nader’s campaign.)

One has to question, however, whether or not this is a serious threat. My default assumption that Christian conservatives, in Michael Tomasky’s phrase, “are far smarter than these left-wing lions of ideological chastity.” I think this is pretty clearly an attempt to stop Giuliani in the primaries rather than an actual intention to run a third-party candidate. One reason that Nader and his followers didn’t worry about the Democratic primary is that they’re essentially unappeasable unless the Democrats were willing to commit electoral suicide; any Democratic candidate capable of winning more than 75 electoral votes would be unacceptable, so there was no reason to bother. Dobson, on the other hand, would accept any major candidate other than Giuliani without even a sniff of a third-party run, and he’s trying to assure that it happens. I still think that Giuliani will not be the nominee. If push came to shove, though — granting that a pro-choice Republican winning would be a disaster for the forced pregnancy minority — I’m pretty sure that Dobson will not be indifferent about whether Giuliani or Clinton makes at least the next four years of federal judicial appointments.

That’s Going Too Far!

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Daily Conservative, in re: one of the corporations that Made Milwaukee Famous sponsoring the Folsom Street Fair: “They’re still crappy beer, now they’re crappy gay beer.” Oh noes! (Alas, Coors would seem to be out too; I’m not sure if Schiltz or Hamm’s have been involved in any Wrongthink.) Remembering that these days Republicans are supposed to be a little more subtle about their gay-bashing, though, Mr. Conservative cites someone who claims that “The fact that it’s a primarily gay event is irrelevant – in their sponsorship of this fair, Miller is supporting public indecency. Public heterosexual contact would be just as offensive.” Oh, yes, if Miller sponsored, say, a Mardi Gras event that involved the public exposure of the female breast, I’m sure the same conservatives would be posting the telephone numbers of Miller executives; that’s completely plausible! Now let those conservative bloggers get back to carefully examining the pictures to see just how pre-verted they are.

When You Fund Health Care for Children, You Fund The Terrorists!

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

The war on parody proceeds at full speed.

UPDATE by bean: . . . and look who’s laughing.

I Fear for the Future of the New Republic…

[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

You might ask “How could it get any worse?” To that query, I reply “Mr. James Kirchick.”

First things first, in accusing Eric Alterman and Matt Yglesias of nihilism for the crime of linking to my denunciation of Christopher Hitchens China column, Mr. Kirchick handily demonstrates that he doesn’t know what the word nihilism means. Here’s a hint, from an authority no less august than Jeffrey “Dude” Lebowski:

Nihilists, man. They believe in nothing!

Now, while we can hardly expect that Mr. Kirchick would achieve the wisdom of The Dude, we perhaps could hope that he would actually read the nihilistic post in question. Instead, he simply asserts, without evidence, that Christopher Hitchens related a series of “cold, hard facts” about Sino-American relations, and that our refusal to accept these facts implies support of the military junta in Burma, and adherence to the aforementioned nihilism.

Unfortunately, neither Mr. Kirchick nor Christopher Hitchens have the first coherent idea about Sino-American relations. I’m almost more willing to forgive Hitch than Kirchick; after all, I aspire to his remarkably successful career of alcoholic punditry. Hitchens is nothing more than a bomb thrower, and bomb throwers are never, by design, over-careful regarding their factual claims. Kirchick, as an apparent rising star at a major American magazine, ought to be a bit more reticent regarding evidentiary claims. Thus, in an effort to educate the young Mr. Kirchick, I’ll take the time to deal with each of Christopher Hitchens claims (all of which, again, Mr. Kirchick heartily endorses) in detail:

China also maintains territorial claims against India and Vietnam (and, of course, Taiwan)

China recently made a claim to parts of an Indian province on the Chinese border. Anyone who isn’t a grade A moron understood this as a counter to India’s claims on territory won by China in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. No person of any wisdom would delve into the merit of these counter-claims, as they depend on uncertain colonial boundaries drawn by the British Empire and the Qing Dynasty. The Chinese claim is a relatively transparent effort to create grounds for a trade with India, and only the aforementioned grade A moron would believe that these claims will ever result in a military dispute. The Vietnamese claims are similarly twitchy on merit; it’s not plausible simply to assert that they represent Chinese aggression, as the Chinese have plausible grounds for the territorial claims on both legal and historical grounds. As for the Taiwanese claim, it’s worth noting that roughly half of the Taiwanese population agrees with the argument that Taiwan is an integral part of China; there is disagreement about the means of re-unification, but the claim itself is uncontroversial to a very large portion of the Taiwanese population, and to almost the entire population of the PRC.

and is building a vast army, as well as a huge oceangoing navy, to back up these ambitions.

The first statement is flatly untrue; the size of the People’s Liberation Army has declined, not increased, over the past two decades. It’s relative fighting power has (probably) increased, but this is as much a consequence of China’s economic and technological growth as an indicator of Chinese aggression. As for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, I have detailed on this blog on many occasions the spasmodic growth of the PLAN. There is no question that the Chinese navy is growing, or that it’s oceangoing component is increasing. However, no sane observer would concur with the term “huge”, unless both Kirchick and Hitchens have a vastly different understanding of the word huge than myself. The Chinese navy remains substantially inferior in size and quality to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Its most advanced units are hopelessly outclassed by those of South Korea and Taiwan. Against the Seventh and Third Fleets of the United States Navy (those allocated to Pacific Command) the lifespan of the PLAN could be measured in days, if not hours. There is growth potential; in twenty or twenty-five years the PLAN might threaten to achieve temporary local superiority against either the JMSDF or the USN (although probably not a coalition of the two), but until then the word “huge” is probably best used to describe either Mr. Hitchens hangover or Mr. Kirchick’s ego.

It seems an eon ago, because it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but we should not forget what happened when an American aircraft was involved in a midair collision over Hainan island in the early days of this administration. The Chinese acted as if the accident was deliberate, impounded the plane and the crew for several days, and mounted mass demonstrations of hysterical chauvinism. Events in the Middle East have since obscured this menacing picture, but actually it is in that region that China’s cynical statecraft is most obviously on display. If Beijing had had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Iran is being supplied with Chinese Silkworm missiles.

You really have to wonder where Hitch and Kirchick have been for the last six years. Apparently it escaped both of them that Chinese foreign policy during the Bush administration has been, according to any plausible observation, geared towards accomodation rather than confrontation. I daresay that if one of the Tu-95s that the Russians have recently been flying along the Alaskan coast had bumped an F-15, killing the latter’s pilot, that the United States would issue a very strong diplomatic condemnation of Russian behavior and, in all likelihood, send the Tu-95 home in a box. Kirchick and Hitchens were apparently asleep and comatose, respectively, during the run-up to the Iraq War, else they would have noticed that China made no obvious move to counter the US effort at the UN, and no vocal effort to condemn the invasion itself. Rather, the Chinese used the helpful cover of the War on Terror to repress dissent in Xinjiang, and took advantage of the newfound radioactive diplomatic status of the United States to extend diplomatic and economic contacts with Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Islamic world. Nowhere, outside of the fantasies of neoconservatives and PACCOM bureaucrats, has China adopted a confrontational position regarding the United States. Even neocons tend to temper their claims with reference to the future; China will be a challenger to the United States, rather than China has challenged the US established world order.

Also, while the claims about Chinese missiles supplied to Iran are rather rich, given the weapons that the US supplies to foul regimes all over the world, they’re also quite wrong; China stopped giving Silkworms to the Iranians in 1989.

Most horribly of all, China buys most of the oil of Sudan and in return provides the weaponry—and the diplomatic cover at the United Nations—for the cleansing of Darfur.

In the original post, I compared this statement to US support for the brutal authoritarian regime of the House of Saud. That was really going too far afield; US behavior towards the Chinese regime has been at least as favorable as Chinese behavior towards Burma over the past six years. I’m genuinely curious about what Mr. Kirchick thinks about US economic relations with China; if we’re really in the midst of confrontation, then why does the US continue to borrow huge sums of money from the Chinese government? And why has US investment in China steadily increased? And why has trade between the US and China metastasized over the past fifteen years? And why have American corporation steadfastly resisted efforts (both in the US and China) to establish labor, environmental, and consumer regulations on their investments?

The first lesson here is that one ought not rely on Christopher Hitchens for evidentiary claims. The second lesson is that one ought not make nonsensical claims about nihilism when one a) doesn’t know what that word means, and b) didn’t bother to look it up at Wikipedia. The third lesson is that one ought to read a post before reacting to it; I (and I imagine Matt and Eric as well) probably agree with Mr. Kirchick that Chinese behavior towards Burma and Darfur is bad, and that changes in said behavior might have genuinely beneficial effects. The fourth lesson is that The New Republic has a grim, grim future.

Good Grief

[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

Someone apparently forgot to tell Charlie Manuel what any Twins or Reds fan already knows, which is that Kyle Lohse is not, in fact, a good pitcher.

Best to get these things straight before you allow him the opportunity to surrender four runs on his first pitch.

Maybe next time.

Sing It From the Hillsides…

[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

Ann Coulter, via Garance:

If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democratic president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, a personal fantasy of mine

I’m starting to wonder if the whole “Betrayus” boondoggle hasn’t started to backfire on the Republicans. Having devoted more attention to that ad than anyone conceived that it might have deserved, the mainstream press finally seems to be paying grudging attention to the cesspool that has been the mainstream of movement conservatism for the past 15 years.


[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

Last night, Mikhail Gorbachev visited Louisville, and the bulk of the Patterson School braved deer filled roads to attend. I haven’t seen Gorbachev before, so I can’t say how much or whether last night’s talk varied from the speech that he normally gives, but I was a little bit surprised at the sharpness of his tone. Somewhere along the line he apparently became a strong environmentalist, and he criticized the Bush administration for inaction on Kyoto, global warming, and other development issues. His sharpest words, however, came when he began to discuss American primacy and the war in Iraq. In short, he holds the very sensible view that driving for American hegemony, especially through military means, is a project that is both doomed and likely to result in disaster.

Now, none of that is particularly radical or insightful, but I was kind of surprised that he had chosen a course of discussion that might well have produced an irritable American audience. Louisville does tend to be fairly liberal (not just for Kentucky), and perhaps Gorbachev’s handlers have a good sense of what the crowd is going to look like, but I had to wonder how his lecture would have gone if he’d given it in Dallas. As it was, there were certainly some uncomfortable people in the crowd, and at least one loud boo.

During the question-answer, Gorbachev received questions about the Arctic and his attitude towards Vladimir Putin. On the former he gave a very mealy-mouthed answer (“Needs more discussion”), while in response to the latter he expressed strong support for the President/Prime Minister-to-be. He also seemed to be in pretty good health, although it’s always hard to tell.

One Tiny Tent

[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

It’s no longer a surprise to hear about Republican presidential candidates (or presidents) blowing off the black community. But it’s still enraging and sad…and, at the hands of the Daily Show, even funny.

(via Cara & BFP)

What He Said

[ 0 ] October 4, 2007 |

In response to this excellent Paul Waldman article, Yglesias cuts to the heart of the matter:

I’ll beat that. What’s really, really remarkable is the source of Iowa’s growing significance — arbitrary diktat from the media. If campaign reporters covered Iowa in a manner proportionate to its objective significance — the assignment of a tiny number of delegates by an unrepresentative electorate through an arbitrary and anti-democratic procedure — then Iowa would barely matter at all. But the press, instead of doing that, treats us to this endless valorization of the alleged “authenticity” of Iowa as if the vast majority of Americans who don’t live in all-white rural states are somehow fake.

These narratives of “authenticity” are indeed crucial, because the idea of having the two major candidates for President be effectively selected by a handful of small and unrepresentative rural states, one with a voting system badly designed even by American standards, rather than by the party membership as a whole or at least the party’s elected representatives is transparently indefensible. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of examples of rational and democratic ways of selecting party leaders to choose from; we’ve just chosen to not to adopt them, and the silly veneration of anachronistic retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire is a way of ignoring that it’s an incredibly bad way of choosing a President.

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