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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 28

[ 48 ] October 23, 2007 |

Depending on whom one asks, Nancy Grace broke free from her leathery shell either 47 or 49 years ago today. Sharing CNN’s primetime bandwidth with fellow performance artist Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace is best known as cable news’ foremost advocate for missing white girls, whose assorted misfortunes are reflected back to the world through Grace’s oceanic narcissism.

Official legend tells us that Grace was propelled into the world of criminal justice by the murder of her betrothed, who was cruelly dispatched in 1979 by a vicious stranger, a repeat offender whose attorneys then manipulated the system in all the ways that make legal populists quake with fury. By unnecessarily drawing out his trial, confusing the jury, and then spinning and endless weave of post-conviction appeals, these defense lawyers — members of a professional breed that Grace would one day compare to “guards at Auschwitz” — heartlessly victimized Grace and her dead lover’s family for years to come.

Unfortunately, the actual details of Keith Griffin’s shooting death were insufficiently prosaic for Grace, who somehow forgot that the accused — who was not a random killer but a former co-worker of Griffin’s — actually confessed to the murder that very evening and was convicted by a jury who deliberated less than a day before returning their verdict. The system, far from failing Griffin and his family, actually functioned as intended. None of this, however, has forestalled Grace from devoting her career to reinforcing right wing folklore about the cruel, offender-friendly imbalances of criminal law, which — among other scandalous inconveniences — prevents accused criminals from being nibbled to death by raccoons or tossed from bridges in canvas sacks.

Much more could be said of Grace, a truly vulgar specimen who has quite literally badgered guests into an early grave. But for those who regard Nancy Grace with the contempt she deserves, the following clip may well stand as the greatest moment in television history.

. . . except that it’s apparently a fake. What the hell? I can’t believe someone would post a doctored video on the internet. Does this sort of thing happen often? Sheesh.

But He Cares…

[ 12 ] October 23, 2007 |

Via Jeffrey Lewis, John Bolton seems to care very much about the North Korea deal:

Other top Bush administration officials, such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have criticized Bush since leaving office. But they have refrained from meeting with large groups of lawmakers to lay out their opposition.

Bolton did just that in an address last week to a joint meeting of Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans and Republican Policy Committee members, as well as in a separate session with the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of right-leaning Republicans founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). In both meetings, Bolton expressed his concerns about the nuclear agreement reached by the U.S., North Korea and four other countries earlier this month.

The North Korea deal is pretty much literally the only competent thing that the Bush administration has done on the foreign policy front, and it came six years too late. In spite of that, you still have the crazies coming out of the woodwork, and by “crazies” I mean “major Bush administration foreign policy appointees”, and “major Republican Congressional figures.” But hey, elect Rudy Giuliani and you’ll get the same thing, only with more crazy!

Topic For Discussion

[ 28 ] October 23, 2007 |

Do people agree with Becks that there are good reasons not to dispense the Pill to teenagers, even if the motives of wingnuts who complain about the practice are different?

…good discussion with plenty of dissent from Becks’s position, including my colleagues bean and djw. An important point from lt, who argues that “Not to mention, while condoms might have fewer side effects, the pill is controlled by the teenage girl, which is important when negotiating teenage sex.” Elsewhere, Tia agrees with Becks, arguing that the quality of medical care provided is likely to be inadequate.

So Not Funny.

[ 14 ] October 23, 2007 |

At last week’s press conference, President Bush was his usual joker self.

Q: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said, recently, that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there.

BUSH: I’ve been planning that myself.

Har. Excuse me while I roll my eyes in as exaggerated a manner as possible.

And Now the Navy…

[ 0 ] October 23, 2007 |

I have a piece at TAP Online about America’s “elegant decline” or lack thereof:

We live in strange times. While the United States is responsible for close to 50 percent of aggregate world military expenditure, and maintains close alliances with almost all of the other major military powers, a community of defense analysts continues to insist that we need to spend more. In the November issue of The Atlantic, Robert Kaplan asserts that United States hegemony is under the threat of “elegant decline,” and points to what conventional analysts might suggest is the most secure element of American power; the United States Navy. Despite the fact that the U.S. Navy remains several orders of magnitude more powerful than its nearest rival, Kaplan says that we must beware; if we allow the size of our Navy to further decline, we risk repeating the experience of the United Kingdom in the years before World War I. Unfortunately, since no actual evidence of U.S. naval decline exists, Kaplan is forced to rely on obfuscation, distortion, and tendentious historical analogies to make his case.

It’s not behind the subscriber wall, so read the whole thing for free…

MoDo of the Atlantic

[ 0 ] October 23, 2007 |

Shorter Caitlin Flanagan: The fact that Hillary Clinton gave her cat to another person who would care for it makes her evil. Said cat also had a massive impact on American politics.

No, I’m serious. See also Thers; alas, I doubt we’ve heard the last of this idiocy.

Verbatim Caitlin Flanagan: “I have little interest in national politics.” You say “little interest in,” I say “no apparent knowledge of,” we agree that you should not be writing for the subject for a prominent national publication, and we both go home.

The Follies Of Mike Huckabee, Cot’d

[ 8 ] October 23, 2007 |

Says Huckabee: most” of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were “clergymen.” This is true to the extent that 1 out of 56 = “most.”

Of course, what matters even more than what the Framers personally believed is the Constitution they signed, which is a secular document for a secular state.

Of Mothers & Morality

[ 21 ] October 23, 2007 |

Sui Generis has been following the case of Bobbijean P., the child taken away from her parents – two homeless people struggling with crack addictions. In the neglect proceeding regarding custody over the girl (initiated wholly on the basis of the child’s positive drug screen at birth), her mother was told by a New York family court judge that she must not become pregnant “until she has actually obtained custody and care of (her child) Bobbijean P. and every other child of hers who is in foster care or has not been adopted or institutionalized.” Two weeks ago, a mid-level appellate court unanimously threw out the judge’s order, holding that the family court judge had “no authority to impose the ‘no-pregnancy’ condition.”

Unfortunately, the appellate court did not address the constitutional issues at stake — most centrally, who gets to decide whether, when, and how a woman will bear a child? I’m willing to venture that the state should play no role in that decision — and most certainly should not impose a bar to it.

It seems to me that the U.S. has especially little to say about when and how women can become parents (this applies both to abortion rights and to the rights at stake in this case), when it does so little to support women who do choose to become parents and when it seems to care so little about their health and humanity. Not sure what I mean. Take this excerpt from Sarah Blustain’s recent TAP piece, “No Country for Mothers”:

According to new government numbers, the rate of Americans dying in 2004 (the most recent year to be calculated) hit a record low, while life expectancy — for blacks and whites, men and women — hit a record high. Men were closing their historic life-expectancy gap with women, and African Americans were closing their life-expectancy gap with whites. Even the babies were doing well: The infant mortality rate dropped, too.

Sadly, however, if you are a pregnant mortal living in the United States today, your chances of dying appear to be greater than ever. Yes, the total number of women who die in childbirth in America is low. But according to the Centers for Disease Control’s new “National Vital Statistics Report,” the number of women dying in or around childbirth has risen — putting the United States behind some unsurprising countries, like Switzerland and Sweden, and some surprising ones, like Serbia and Macedonia, Qatar and Kuwait, in its rate of maternal mortality. In rankings calculated on 2000 numbers, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States at No. 29 on the list, even though, according to the most recent statistics, there is only one country, Tuvalu, that spends more on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United States.

Blustain identifies undertreatment as a central cause of this high mortality rate. Undertreatment because so many millions of pregnant women lack healthcare, especially poor women who most desperately need prenatal care to up the chances that they will give birth to healthy children. How much of a difference does care make? Well, a lot.

Perhaps the most notable fact in the CDC’s new report is that African American women are nearly four times as likely as white women to die in child-birth. That is, while 9.3 white women per 100,000 died in childbirth, 34.7 African American women died.

Admittedly, race is not necessarily a proxy for the level of care. But it’s undeniable that there remains in the US a correlation between race and poverty, and it’s equally uncontrovertible that poverty is linked to lack of access to prenatal care.

To me, the connections seem clear: women like Bobbijean’s mother are punished for being unable to simultaneously carry a pregnancy to term and kick a drug habit. And the state spends plenty of time meddling in her carrying out of her reproductive life. But when it comes to providing affirmative support to pregnant women (drug treatment, prenatal care, whatever), the state just can’t be bothered.

(Sui Generis via Michelle M.)

Belated Thanks

[ 14 ] October 22, 2007 |

If I can be allowed a brief moment of sincerity, I’d like to thank everyone who e-mailed or commented on last week’s post about my father’s passing. I still can’t read the entire comment thread without losing my composure. The last eight months have been extremely difficult, but I must say that writing for and reading LGM each day has been one of the few things keeping me sane. My father didn’t really read blogs as far as I can tell — and I’m not sure if he even knew I posted here — but he would have liked all of you. Hell, he was such a nice guy that he might even have liked our trolls.

Thank You For Smoking

[ 16 ] October 22, 2007 |

Is this a joke?

When it comes to the health of our children, two cigarettes may be better than one. Young smokers who begin their habit with nicotine-laden cigarettes need a cigarette that will not leave them to later fight the ravages of addiction.

Experts tell us that teenagers often begin smoking to copy their peers and others whom they see smoking. As adults, however, they continue smoking largely because of the addictive qualities of nicotine. (Ninety percent of smokers regret having begun smoking and most make efforts to stop.) This means that in the absence of addictive levels of nicotine in their cigarettes, most young smokers would ultimately quit.

A two-cigarette strategy would prohibit young smokers from buying addictive cigarettes. The tobacco industry is capable of producing cigarettes that are virtually free of nicotine, and regulators could develop clear standards for non-addictive cigarettes.

I suppose this makes me a garden-variety liberal fascist, but I have no trouble whatsoever endorsing burdensome “standards” to which the tobacco industry should conform; nor would I object to higher taxes on “addictive cigarettes” (which Adams also proposes) to dissuade kids from smoking them. That said, I can’t quite imagine what makes this proposal good for anything other than derision.

I’m sure teens “often” begin smoking because they’re imitating others, but as I quite clearly recall, they continue because of the head rush that only a bloodstream filled with multiple varieties of poison can offer. Social and cultural lures aside, there’s simply no other reason to smoke. So David Adams might be right that after a few nicotine-free cigarettes, the average neophyte — receiving utterly no benefit from it them — would throw the pack away. But unless I’m completely misremembering how teenagers work, that moment of disavowal will last only so long as it takes to bum an actual smoke from someone who has one to spare.

If you want to dissuade or prevent people from smoking, go ahead and do it. But pushing nicotine-free cigarettes to teenagers makes about as much sense as trying to market O’Douls for an after-prom party.

Proving Too Much

[ 17 ] October 22, 2007 |

You may have heard about this embrace of utter crackpottery from new social conservative darling Mike Huckabee:

Speaking before a gathering of Christian conservative voters, GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said legalized abortion in the United States was a holocaust.

“Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce,” the former Arkansas governor said. “It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”

Leaving aside the rather problematic economic assumptions here, we have two classic pieces of stupidity and exploitation common to the rhetoric of the forced pregnancy lobby. First, if abortion is a “holocaust,” one wonders why most anti-choicers believe that the alleged primary perpetrators of this genocide should face fewer legal sanctions than if they spat on the sidewalk. And Huckabee would have signed the North Dakota law that also exempted women from punishment for contributing to the “holocaust.” Does Huckabee believe that Eichmann should have been exempt from punishment? Or maybe he should stop using this idiotic and spectacularly offensive analogy?

In addition to the bizarre causal logic, the “Oh no! Giving reproductive rights to women means more furriners undermining the values of Good White Americans by coming here to feed their families!” argument has perhaps broader implications than he intends. If the key problem with abortion is lower birthrates, forget abortion: we need to stop the production and distribution of contraception immediately! Passing arbitrary laws forcing poor women to obtain unsafe abortions will do nothing while Trojans are freely produced! Oh the humanity!

Again, there are few things as bizarre in American politics as “pro-lifers” who demand constant congratulation for having Unyielding Moral Principles as they advance positions that are a moral, legal, logical, and political shambles.

Tawdry Gossip of the Day

[ 0 ] October 22, 2007 |

Richard Mellon Scaife or St. Derek of Pasta Diving? (The former via the Sultan of Shrill.)

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