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Columbus Day

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Although Columbus Day has its roots in 19th century secular fantasy — specifically, an odd blend of Anglo-American nationalism and Italian-American ethnic pride — since the Nixon administration the second Monday in October has been set aside to acknowledge the accomplishments of one of mid-millennial Europe’s greatest religious fanatics.

In his correspondence with Ferdinand and Isabella, “Columbus” (as his name was later anglicized) signed his name “christo ferens,” which literally means “Christ-bearer.” Based on his own readings of scripture, Columbus believed that the reconquista — Spain’s forced conversion and expulsion of Iberian Muslims and Jews in 1492 — marked the completion of Biblical prophecy. Moreover, Columbus believed in the wake of this glorious ethnic cleansing, Spain’s patronage of his voyages offered proof that he was to serve as a great evangelizing instrument on behalf of the Catholic faith. Personal aggrandizement aside, however, the “Christ-bearer” imagined that his voyages would serve much wider geopolitical ends. To the degree that Columbus himself would earn a tithe from the conquest of the Indies, he also encouraged the Spanish monarchy to devote the accumulated riches of the New World toward the recapture of Jerusalem.

For very good reasons, almost no one gives a shit about Columbus Day any more. On the other hand, if we were to think of Columbus as the continent’s original neoconservative gangster, the second Monday in October might become interesting again — particularly if we recall that after his third voyage, he was arrested and brought home in leg irons.

Two Equally Crazy People

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Here’s my question: Why is Bill Kristol accorded any more respect in the media than Lyndon Larouche?

I Defy You To Show Me A Christian White Male in a Position of Power Anywhere In the United States

[ 5 ] October 8, 2007 |

Shorter Dr. Helen: Men are “screwed” by laws preventing domestic violence because they don’t have the political power to influence the laws. And a random anecdote about David Letterman provides convincing evidence that many restraining orders are granted just to give women leverage in custody disputes!

So Close, and yet, So Far

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, I watched this ad, which apparently aired during the Redskins game yesterday (I wouldn’t know).

There’s much that’s good about this ad; encouraging parents to talk to their kids about sex seems commonsense to me. But given that it was paid for and produced by the federal government (using your tax dollars, natch), I knew there had to be something awry. And oh how there was.

Here’s the ad transcript (available for download on the website):

It’s me.
We gotta talk.
We have to talk about sex.
It’s okay.
I can handle it.
Can you?
Talk to me about sex.
Tell me how you feel.
Tell me you want me to wait.
I may roll my eyes
Act all bored
But I’m listening.
I’ll hear you.
So talk to me about sex.
‘Cause my friends do.
It’s all over the Internet.
Now it’s your turn.
Tell me, “Son, you have the world at your feet.”
Or, “Honey, the sky’s the limit.”
Tell me what you want for me.
An education.
A family.
A career.
Tell me to wait to have sex.
I know you’re nervous.
Weirded out.
Me too. Me too. Me too.
But we gotta do this.

Announcer: Tell your kids you want them to wait ’til they’re married to have sex. And
talk with them early and often so they’ll have a better chance at success. Visit this website
for help making the conversation easier.

Kids (visual is graphic image and URL):
Come on Dad.
Speak up Mom.
You can do it.

Do you see where it went horribly wrong? I’ll give you a hint: it’s somewhere around the time when the ad makes the connection between being able to be happy and have a career and a relationship and be successful, and waiting to have sex until marriage. Which is a fine message in a vacuum, but not given this context. And what about encouraging parents to talk to their kids about safe sex and abstinence (especially given that it’s been proven about 572576 times that abstinence only programs don’t actually produce greater levels of abstinence)? Another opportunity wasted would’ve been a better tagline for the PSA.

The Hackitude Spreads…

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

It’s hard to figure out how to react to this Michael O’Hanlon column on health care. The first thought that struck me was “What the hell is Michael O’Hanlon doing talking about health care?”, but on further consideration that’s not quite right. My professional training is in international relations, but that hardly stops me from blathering nonsensically about whatever strikes my fancy, so far be it from me to call O’Hanlon out for choosing to write nonsensical blather on whatever he wants to write about. But O’Hanlon’s foray still struck me wrong, and I think there’s a reason why. While I only occasionally trot out my affiliation with the Patterson School or my Ph.D. in political science when writing about an international relations issue, those credentials are nevertheless there for anyone who cares to investigate. Moreover, even in a forum like the blogosphere those credentials lend a certain authority to what I write about IR, and that authority probably seeps a bit both into topics that directly relate to political scienceish questions (most political scientists have a handle on the functioning of electoral institutions, for example), and into topics that don’t (Farley’s Ph.D. demonstrates that he’s no moron, so maybe Cubs fans are evil).

But here’s what I wouldn’t do; whatever seepage might occur, I wouldn’t invoke the authority of Patterson or of the University of Washington in defense of writing outside of my area of professional expertise. O’Hanlon comes very close to doing this, noting that the roundtable was a Brookings event, and that he’s a Brookings general analyst (although I’m uncertain of that; does O’Hanlon actually do any non-foreign policy analysis?). A bit more twitchy, I think, is that he tries to draw the discussion into an area on which he might legitimately be called a professional:

Critics of President Bush often point out that he has asked very little in the way of sacrifice from most Americans during this time of war. Our troops abroad, our homeland security officials at home and the families of these brave individuals bear a huge burden while the rest of us are asked to go shopping and given tax cuts. But whatever one’s view of Mr. Bush’s politics, it is also true that he was in part being responsive to a political environment in which shared sacrifice has gone out of style.

And then he starts to talk about health care. It doesn’t really make any sense, except as an effort to say “Hey, I’m a foreign policy expert, and this is me talking about health care policy, which relates to foreign policy in… uh, some fashion.” That said, I don’t think that O’Hanlon himself crosses any really obvious line in misrepresenting his expertise. I would never hire O’Hanlon to write an op-ed on health care policy, but that’s more of a problem with the editor than the author.

The much bigger problem, though, is that O’Hanlon writes about health care very, very badly. And I don’t just mean that he gets the policy wrong; check this out:

But even more, in keeping perhaps with the down-to-earth pragmatism and Granite State sensibilities of the people of New Hampshire, I was struck by how many of the panelists as well as audience members talked about what normal American citizens will have to do themselves. Politicians were not asked to do it all for us. Evocative of John Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” line, the participants in the event described a number of sacrifices and efforts that regular citizens needed to make.

Jesus, is he planning on running for President? Normally the good folks of New Hampshire only receive such attentions from candidates on the stump. I have to wonder; do people in Washington D.C. and northern Virginia lack “down-to-earth pragmatism and Granite State sensibilities” (whatever the latter may be), and are they in some sense abnormal Americans?

In the rest of the column O’Hanlon demonstrates that he has paid very little attention to the health care debate in the United States over the past five years. As I’m no expert on the subject myself, I’ll leave that part to someone else. Foreign policy specialists should, as a general principle, try not to write overmuch about things they know nothing about.

Via Yglesias.

Bush: War On Drugs Over The War On Terror

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

One major reason I always strongly opposed the Iraq war is that my graduate training entailed some study of the difficulties of state-building. Building stable states, let alone liberal democracies, is very difficult, and usually involves alliances with other powerful actors to help raise revenues and maintain coercive authority. One reason Iraq was so disastrous is that the people responsible for designing the plan for the invasions failed to grasp this simple point:

An even more fundamental argument against fighting terrorism by promoting democracy, however, is that no one in the US government has any idea how to promote democracy. Fukuyama accuses the neo-cons of chatting offhandedly about democratisation while failing to study or even leaf through the ‘huge academic and practitioner-based literature on democratic transitions’. Their lack of serious attention to the subject had an astonishing justification: ‘There was a tendency among promoters of the war to believe that democracy was a default condition to which societies would revert once liberated from dictators.’ Democracy obviously has many social, economic, cultural and psychological preconditions, but those who thought America had a mission to democratise Iraq gave no thought to them, much less to helping create them. For their delicate task of social engineering, the only instrument they thought to bring along was a wrecking ball.

One might have thought that this ‘remove the lid and out leaps democracy’ approach was too preposterous ever to have been taken seriously. But it is the position that Fukuyama, with some evidence, attributes to neo-cons in and around the administration. They assumed, he writes, that the only necessary precondition for the emergence and consolidation of democracy is the ‘amorphous longing for freedom’ which President Bush, that penetrating student of human nature, detects in ‘every mind and every soul’. Their sociology of democracy boils down to the universal and eternal human desire not to be oppressed. If this were democracy’s only precondition, then Iraq would have no trouble making a speedy transition from clan-based savagery and untrammelled despotism to civilised self-restraint and collective self-rule: sceptics who harped on the difficulty of creating a government that would be both coherent and representative in a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian and tribally fragmented country, simply failed to appreciate the love of freedom in every human heart.

Cavalierly designed by mid-level bureaucrats who were both historically and theoretically illiterate, the administration’s half-baked plans backfired badly. This should have come as no surprise. And prospects for reform in the Middle East have not been improved by the perception that democratisation in the region, at least when promoted by the West, spells violent destabilisation, criminalisation and a collapse of minimally acceptable standards of living.

And the inability to understand the basic fundamentals of state-building continues to lead to incredible blunders. As Yglesias and Kleiman note, both undercutting the Karzai government in Afghanistan and denying it the ability to obtain revenue from poppy-growing while effectively ensuring that said revenues will instead go to the Taliban is utterly insane. It would be insane even if there was any reason to believe that it would reduce American heroin use, which of course it won’t. To prioritize failed anti-drug war policies over protecting American security is beyond indefensible, and (like Iraq itself) an instruction in what happens when you talk a lot about fighting Islamic terrorism but are incapable of thinking about anything to actually accomplish your goals that don’t involve torture and conventional military force.

Personal to Maureen Dowd

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Please never try to write satire in another voice ever again.

I’ve been thinking for a while at picking some of the Pulitzer-winning columns from 1999 at random and seeing just how debased the standards of whoever votes for those awards are. But I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.


[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

By now we all know about Bush’s politically stupid and unconscionable veto of Congress’s bill expanding S-CHIP, the health care program that would cover kids whose families are not poor enough to get medicaid but who cannot pay for private healthcare.

SCHIP is a laudable program, and Bush’s rationale for the veto is just mind boggling. But there is a sort of seedy anti-abortion underbelly to the whole SCHIP debate. Carol Joffe explained when the SCHIP story first broke in August.

But Bush’s deplorable response to expanding SCHIP is not just about opposing government provided services. Like so much else in his presidency, his administration’s record on SCHIP is also entangled in anti-abortion politics. In 2002, his Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation that stipulated “unborn children” — but not the pregnant women carrying them! — were eligible for SCHIP funds. This move contradicted well established standards within the medical community. Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that the pregnant women and her fetus should be treated together.

Immediately after this regulation was issued, health care providers feared that funding for crucial pregnancy-related services that did not directly relate to the “unborn child” — such as pain medication during delivery and postpartum services — would be denied to women under SCHIP. However the twelve states that have elected to use SCHIP funds for pregnancy care have largely managed to get around this restriction through various maneuvers, and the worst fears of massive amounts of denied care did not materialize.

Now, it’s ridiculous that the only way poor and struggling pregnant women in this country can get healthcare is through their fetuses. But at least it was something. But, mindful that Congress may override his veto, Bush is already trying to goad states to purge pregnant women from the SCHIP rolls.

Bush also said that six states project that they will spend more SCHIP money on adults than they do on children in this fiscal year. However, those states got federal permission, in many instances during the time Bush has been in office, to cover adults. The president urged both parties to come together to support a bill “that moves adults off this children’s program.”

Bitch, Ph.D.
makes the consequences of such a move clear:

SCHIP covers children *and pregnant women*. Moving adults off it means not providing health care to pregnant women. Make sure that anyone you talk to about this knows that.

Culture of life, my mama ass.

Seems like Bush is starting to abandon Americans even before they’re born (he abandoned their mothers a long long time ago).

UPDATE [BY SL]: I believe we once again need to return to Barney Frank’s dictum that to Republicans life begins at conception and ends at birth.

"Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died — the bliss!"

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Good god:

More than 300 people were picked up by ambulances along the course, many of them suffering from nausea, heart palpitations and dizziness from the stifling heat, fire officials said. Forty-nine were hospitalized for their illnesses, race officials said, and the rest were treated at race-sponsored aid stations and a medical tent.

“I had no faculties whatsoever,” said Dawn Dowell, who was among the injured, having blacked out at Mile 19. Ms. Dowell, 37, of suburban Wheaton, said she could not provide her address or phone numbers in the minutes after she awoke with an emergency medical technician attaching an IV bag to her arm. Ms. Dowell, who spent two hours in a hospital, said she was running her first marathon.

In the 18th mile, a 35-year-old man collapsed. He was later pronounced dead. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office identified him as Chad Schieber, 35, of Midland, Mich.

As runners began falling ill on the course, city authorities sought help from suburban fire departments in case they ran out of ambulances. Fire hydrants were opened, creating an enormous spray along a downtown street. Fifteen city buses, air-conditioned to the coolest levels, were sent out as aid stations.

Could someone please explain to me the urge — evidently common these days within the ranks of ordinary schlubbos — to run a full marathon? I understand that what happened in Chicago yesterday was a complete anomaly, but the rationale for this fundamentally escapes me. Of all the Olympic events that could possibly have cracked into the mainstream of American culture, why this one? Why not, say, the javelin instead?

Oh. OK. Never mind.

At Least Get Your Story Straight

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Of the innumerable jaw-dropping feats of illogic performed by American “pro-lifers,” I’ve always been amused by the fact that to the forced pregnancy lobby women are simultaneously routinely getting abortions on a whim because a pregnancy might interfere with their pedicures and yet such helpless, desperate victims that they should not be held liable in any way for what is allegedly a serious violent offense against another human beings. It really would be helpful if they would figure out which particular line (among the several mutually inconsistent ones) of idiotic reasoning they want to go with.

A Freeper Posted Something Misleading?

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

Shorter Glenn Reynolds: It’s unconscionable that the government would provide health assistance to families making the austounding sum of $45,000 a year. They’ll probably just use it to buy more ivory backscratchers!

ALDS Game 3 Open Thread

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

I heard from more than one Yankee fan who was happy that they avoided the Angels. Somehow, past history or no past history, I’m guessing they don’t believe that anymore. Anyway, we’re now at most three games away from the regrettable return of Tim McCarver. (The TBS broadcasts haven’t been great, but compared to the Fox “cut to closeups of nose hair/cut to stars (using the term loosely) of about-to-be-canceled Fox shows/very occasional baseball” formula it’s a godsend.)

That said, one game before the AL is on Fox would be much better. Let’s see if the Tribe can make it happen…

…that straightforward E6 was scored a hit? There’s home cookin’, and then there’s cooking for Jeter. Embarrassing. And clutch by Garko to push across what should be an unearned run! I do wish Martinez wouldn’t have swung at two of the five balls Clemens threw him…

…and that figures to be a wrap on Clemens’s career. Give Torre credit for not trying to squeeze a few more batters from him after the K.

…WP by Hughes leads to the third ER charged to Clemens (granting that the first one is a farce.) I blame the bugs. And the sun in Hughes’s eyes. And the Trilateral Commission.

…I don’t understand: Chamberlain was lights-out in one inning, and then gave up a run in another. Plaugue of locusts, I assume? Anyway, I guess we’ll see you in Cleveland, unless Paul By…um, I think I’m going to leave that.

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