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Abortion and Down Syndrome

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Atrios makes an interesting point with respect to my argument that pro-lifers are likely to identify certain types of abortion is particularly immoral and use that as a wedge, and fetuses identified with Down Syndrome would be one example:

I really don’t think so. I imagine large numbers of the “abortion is icky” and “pro choice for me but not for thee” crowds would see the abortion of children with severe disabilities as “good” abortions in many cases. I don’t think this would be an especially productive strategy for the anti-choice crowd.

It’s certainly possible. According to the story in today’s Times that Dana Goldtsein drew our attention to, for example, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” I suppose this won’t necessarily stop opponents of abortion rights from invoking these cases–according to the data I’ve seen, women who identify as “pro-life” are no less likely to get abortions than those who identify as “pro-choice”–but it has to create a strong presumption in favor of Atrios’ point that such a move would be ineffective. (Sex selection, which I lumped into the argument, is likely to be a more effective wedge.) I seem to remember the Down’s Syndrome argument being deployed, but without further data I have to concede Atrios’ point.

UPDATE: In comments, Michael reminds us about this post, [corrected!] which is also very much worth your attention.

As a matter of controversy late stage abortion is highly discussed in the political arena. For great info on medical doctors and procedures turn to med-help. Everything from hair loss advice like buying propecia online to learning CPR. Get great up-to-date medical information so you’ll know without waiting.

Bayeaux

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Via Kingdaddy, this is, like, pretty awesome.

Long Live the Revolution!

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

The venerable Martini Republic, one of this blog’s earliest allies, has expired. Rising from the ashes is Martini Revolution.

Adjust your links accordingly.

Joining the Increasing List Of People So Corrupt And Incompetent They Can’t Even Keep Working For the Bush Administration

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

I mentioned earlier today the scandal concerning the DoE allowing loan companies to loot subsidies intended to help poor students–they were informed about the loophole by a whistleblower, who was of course blown off. Well, somebody has at least finally paid the price. Er, I mean she’s taking time off to spend more time with Randall Tobias’s masseurs:

Under criticism that it has been lax in policing the $85 billion student loan industry, the Education Department announced yesterday that the chief official responsible for overseeing the loan program was stepping down.

The resignation of the official, Theresa S. Shaw, was made public two days before Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is to testify to a Congressional committee. Ms. Spellings is expected to face tough questions about the oversight of lenders’ practices and her department’s enforcement of policies against conflicts of interest.

Officials in the department characterized Ms. Shaw’s departure as chief operating officer of the office of federal student aid as unrelated to disclosures about how lenders have plied universities and financial aid officers with favors to win more business.

Ms. Spellings said in a statement that Ms. Shaw told her in late February that she would leave in June. That was after the Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced an investigation of ties between lenders and universities.

“Terri has told us that she plans to take some time off,” a spokeswoman for the department, Katherine McLane, said.

Ms. Shaw was appointed in 2002 by Education Secretary Rod Paige after 22 years in industry, mostly at Sallie Mae, the largest student lender.

Ms. Spellings called Ms. Shaw “a tireless advocate for students and families,” saying that the aid program “now delivers more aid to more students at a lower operating cost with greater accuracy than at any point in its history.”

Mr. Cuomo, by contrast, recently told the House education committee that the Education Department had been “asleep at the switch” in regulating the practices of lenders.

Once again, the changes from the Democratic takeover of Congress are manifest and salutary.

Ouch

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

When asked, I’ve always said that if I didn’t pass quietly in my sleep at the age of 85, I would want to die — heroically defending my reputation for dexterity and rhythm — in a dance contest.

Looks like I need a new Plan B.

But How Does He Hold A Megaphone?

[ 0 ] May 9, 2007 |

Jon Chait gets the modern GOP down cold:

Of all the low points during the Bush administration, perhaps the most surreal was the week in December 2004 when Bernie Kerik was poised to become secretary of Homeland Security. By the traditional measures used to judge qualifications for this sort of job, Kerik was not an ideal candidate. The main points in Kerik’s favor were his loyal service to Rudy Giuliani, first as driver for his mayoral campaign, then corrections commissioner, then police commissioner–the last of which was commemorated by the casting of 30 Kerik busts. On the negative side of the ledger were his multiple alleged felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping (currently being investigated by federal prosecutors), and his (also alleged) ties to the DeCavalcante and Gambino crime families.

If a “Sopranos” writer proposed a plotline in which a Kerik-like figure rose through the ranks to become head of the department charged with preventing the next terrorist attack, he would be laughed off the show. So how did it almost happen in real life? The Washington Post recently reconstructed the Kerik nomination: The decisive factor seemed to be that Bush was “lulled by Kerik’s swaggering Sept. 11 reputation.”

That last sentence is, in many ways, the perfect epigraph for the Bush presidency. The Kerik episode displayed many of the pathologies of modern Republican governance: incompetence, corruption, an obsession with loyalty over traditional qualifications. But it shows with particular clarity Bush’s most distinct contribution: the mistaking of macho bluster for strategic acumen.

[...]

Alas, Republicans seem to be making the same exact mistake again. Exhibit A is the leading GOP candidate, Giuliani. Republicans love Giuliani, of course, for the same reason they loved Bush: He’s a 9/11 tough guy. Recently, GOP consultant Roger Stone explained the basis of Giuliani’s appeal to Texas Republicans. “Stylistically, Texans like the Giuliani swagger,” Stone told The Wall Street Journal. “He’s a tough guy, and Texans like tough guys.”

The war on terrorism, boasts Giuliani, “is something I understand better than anyone else running for president.” This would be very scary if it were true. In recent weeks, Giuliani mistakenly said that it was unclear whether North Korea was further along toward a nuclear bomb than Iran, casually lumped together Shia Iran and Sunni Al Qaeda, and confessed he didn’t know enough about the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism detainees to take a position. In fact, Giuliani wasn’t even a particularly good terrorism fighter as mayor. A mere six years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he decided to locate the city’s emergency headquarters in the World Trade Center itself–the one spot in all New York City he knew had been targeted for attack. He also failed to ensure that police and firefighters could communicate with one another, with disastrous results.

I am still inclined to think that Giuliani won’t win the nomination (although I must admit I can’t say who will win it.) But it does make sense that he would do better than one might suspect given his substantive positions. He’s the logical heir to the vapid candidacy of George Allen. Anti-terrorism is Giuliani’s selling point, but his actual record is one of gross incompetence that led to many unnecessary deaths on 9/11. But he looked good holding a megaphone, and to Republicans (not only the base but many elites) that’s what really matters.

For one of hundreds of examples of how this leads to appallingly bad governance, see the Bush Department of Education helping its friends in the student loan industry loot the public fisc.

[via Yglesias]

Informed Consent

[ 0 ] May 8, 2007 |

Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that there’s any right answer to balances of aesthetic (or other) pleasures and health risks, that drawing broad inferences based on consumption patterns common among very different people is a sensible thing, that feminism mandates particular fashion choices, etc. It does seem that this demonstration of the effects of heels on a woman’s body is something that it worth knowing, though.

Smart and Good Lookin’

[ 0 ] May 8, 2007 |

As Rob notes below, TAPPED has completed a spanking new re-design, so check it out. I have a post about Rudy and the NRO up.

Take That Emm-Ess-Emm!

[ 0 ] May 8, 2007 |

One thing I don’t understand about the right-blogger gnashing of teeth about impoverished-homeless-man’s Erma Bombeck Jim Lileks’s column being spiked by the Strib (the best line among the many funny counter-reactions, in response to someone comparing Lileks to E.B. White (!): “I say, imagine E.B. White writing endlessly about his trips to the hardware store and the cute things his widdle girl says, and trying to get that past Harold Ross”) is why we’re supposed to care about someone losing their gig in the “horse and buggy” Old Media? Why, think of the countless opportunities waiting out there in the New Media Paradigms For Opinion Leaders And Tipping Point Type Audiences!

Take, for example, Pajamas Media. (Yes, it still exists; I’m as surprised as you are.) Apparently, they’ve decided that “60 tiresome I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick‘ right-wingers who staked their credibility on a disastrous war plus Marc Cooper and some guy who reviews movie posters for signs of Liberalthink” is not in itself a winning strategy for an exciting media project. Not only have they finally taken a blog that had one post after Februrary 2006 off of their main site, check out this cutting edge gem providing things you’ll never find in the Dead Tree MSM or in 8 million Live Journal sites for free:

However, just because Peapies Design has bit the dust over in Pajamas Land, don’t think for a moment that Roger has stopped being stupid. Oh, no. My evidence? Now we have The Gleeson Blogomerate, one of Pajamas Media’s ‘new bloggers’ to remind us of what New Media is really all about…

And remember, Pajamas Media is paying for this!

The Gleeson Blogomerate (blog.gleeson.us) is an amalgamation of the three separate blogs of the Gleeson family of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The three are as follows:

There’s the blog of Sean Gleeson (sean.gleeson.us), who appears to be Pappa Bear in this story. Sean professes to be about ‘humor, art, politics and sundry’, although not all that often. He hasn’t posted since December 31, 2006.

Then there’s feebeeglee (phoebe.gleeson.us), aka Phoebe Gleeson, who seems to be playing the role of Mama Bear. She’s doing ‘mothering, knitting, and family living’. To her credit, she’s far more industrious than Papa Bear, but unfortunately most of her posts appear to be rants about Jenny McCarthy and photos of small children with runny noses.

Finally, there’s holy family school (homeschool.gleeson.us), the blog of Faith, Abby, Bede, Gil and Trixie Gleeson. I’m betting these are the Baby Bears. The site ‘is the homeschool of the Gleeson family in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’.

Here’s the nitty: The Gleeson Blogomerate’s first post was on February 6, 2006. Between February 6 and May 15 of that year, the blog accumulated a grand total of 7 posts, at which time all posting ceased until December 23, 2006. Then, between December 23 and December 31, 2006 came another 7 posts. Either the entire family went into hibernation or took a very long walk while their porridge cooled, because blogging didn’t resume until April 27, 2007. All posts since then have come from Mama Bear.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m sure the Gleeson family are all very fine folks. Their family blog is no worse than hundreds of others just like it all over the internet. But what I can’t figure out is why anyone, much less the supposedly hard news and in-depth analysis providing Pajamas Media, would pay them for the product they have. Maybe it’s simply that The Raj hasn’t set foot in flyover country for 100 years: The Gleeson Family is like the My Own Antfarm kit he got back when he was swindling the other kids in 1st Grade… Something to stare at and attempt to understand while you drool on your pants.

So, can somebody lend me some cute baby pictures so I can slap ‘em up along with some rants about Daisy Fuentes and get some of that sweet, sweet venture capital? Given this business model, it’s not going to last forever…

Forrest

[ 0 ] May 8, 2007 |

Huh. Ted Poe (R-TX) thinks it’s appropriate to quote Nathan Bedford Forrest on the floor of the House of Representatives. Forrest, a major figure in the early KKK, also led the massacre at Fort Pillow in 1864.

Now, in mild defense of Ted Poe, I have occasionally used the Herman Goering “when I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver” in a variety of different contexts. Referring to a memorable quote doesn’t necessarily imply a recommendation of the speaker (“How many divisions has the Pope”, for example). However, everyone knows when I refer to the Goering quote that I’m neither a Nazi nor sympathetic to Nazi aims. I don’t know enough about Poe’s politics, but I’d be quite curious as to his attitudes on the Confederacy and on Texas’ participation in the Treason-in-Defense-of Slavery War. The second one, that is; Texas is, of course, notable for seceding from two different countries in order to defend slavery…

UPDATE: Anderson points out that the quote above actually belongs to Hanns Johst, the wrong Nazi. Also, I misspelled Hermann.

Spiderman III (spoilers aplenty)

[ 1 ] May 8, 2007 |

Saw Spiderman III on Saturday. Although I’m as incredulous as Scott regarding Matt’s self-assessment as “usually a relatively harsh judge of films”, I do think Yglesias is more or less correct on the merits of the film. It’s a decent summer popcorn flick, flawed, and not the disaster that some have argued.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I suspect that much of the negativity about the third film stems from how poorly it stands up to the second. I think that we have an “Empire Strikes Back” problem. Thinking people everywhere understand that Empire was, by far, the best of the original Star Wars trilogy. Jedi appears to be a weak entry in large part because of the strength of Empire, but Empire, and not Jedi, is the real outlier. Similarly, Spiderman III really isn’t any worse than the first Spiderman flick. The problem is that Spiderman II was much, much better than it had any right being. One of my favorite scenes from the second movie comes when Ursula (Parker’s next door neighbor) brings him some milk and cake. He accepts, and they sit down and eat the cake. It’s a complex, interesting, understated, and generally outstanding scene, but what struck me as most notable is that it had no business whatsoever appearing in a summer popcorn blockbuster. For whatever reason, Spiderman II, like Empire, transcended the form. A repeat performance was too much to expect. Nevertheless, there were some genuine problems with the execution of Spiderman III.

The structural problem in the film is the Flint Marko character. Long story short, he doesn’t add anything, and should have been cut entirely. There was ample plot to be had in the continuing rivalry between Parker and Harry Osborn, and the developing rivarly between Parker and Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock. Excising Marko would have given Raimi more time to develop Venom, and potentially to create a relationship between Venom and Osborn’s Goblin. The tension with Mary Jane’s work situation (which I thought was well done) could have remained, as could her potential rapproachment with Harry. There was also the potential for an evil Alfred-Bruce Wayne relationship between Osborn and his butler, but this was hardly explored. Marko did nothing but re-open a plot line that was settled in the first two films, and on which there was little productive left to say. I like Thomas Haden Church as much as the next guy, and perhaps Raimi was seduced by the Sandman special effects, but it was a character and plotline for some other movie.

The ending of Spiderman III has also been justly criticized. As noted above, I think that the fundamental problem arises from the inclusion of the Flint Marko character, as an interesting three way duel could easily have been developed between Spidey, Venom, and Goblin, and would even have allowed the deathbed conversion of Osborn. Instead, we get an extraordinarily predictable and hackneyed fight (sound hurts the symbiote, for some reason that’s completely unclear) that doesn’t really cap off the narrative (since Spidey doesn’t even really know who Venom is before the fight starts). Most annoying, however, is how Raimi uses the crowd and the media to help pace the fight. To go against my own advice in the previous paragraph, let’s compare the use of the crowd in the train fight sequence of S2 with that of the final sequence of S3. In S2, the train passengers are an integral part of the plot; they’re the reason Spidey and Ock are there, and they affect (and are affected by) the behavior of both. In S3, the crowd is simply there; its presence has no impact on the fight, and there’s no investment on the part of the crowd above the excitement of the battle itself. Now, surely it would have been implausible to stage a giant fight in the middle of Manhattan with no one watching, but that fact doesn’t determine how the crowd was to be used. Even spectators would have been better than cheerleaders; we don’t need the gasps and applause of the crowd to tell us when Spidey is doing poorly or well.

On this last point, my filmgoing companion noted that it’s still a bit uncomfortable to watch scenes of falling buildings and debris in New York City. I think that’s right, and I think it’s quite interesting that the Spiderman trilogy has almost entirely avoided any reference to 9/11. The finale of the first film, of course, was supposed to occur between the Twin Towers. Events made that finale impossible, although I do remember a early film poster at a Seattle poster shop that showed a reflection of the Towers in Spidey’s eyes. Instead of a price, the post simply had a note saying “Inquire Within”. The second and third films don’t touch on 9/11 at all. Now, this wouldn’t be notable (it’s a popcorn movie, after all) except for the fact that the other recent New York superhero movie did deal with the September 11 attacks. No one mentioned 9/11 explicitly in Superman Returns, but they didn’t have to; September 11 infused the film. The early scene of Superman rescuing a crashing jetliner and landing it in a baseball stadium could not but evoke memories of 9/11. More important, the film was structured around the questions “Where did you go?”, and “How did we manage to get along without you?” The first carries with it an implicit rebuke of Superman for abandoning Metropolis to the depredations of evil-doers, while the answer to the second is, again implictly, “Not very well.” Superman Returns is a sad film, and part of that sadness comes from the recognition that something horrible that only happens to New York in comic books happened to New York in real life, and that Superman wasn’t around to stop it.

Each approach has its merits, and Spiderman’s focus on smaller problems (street crime, saving babies from fires, etc.) is probably more true to the ethos of the character than some grand fight against ideologically driven supervillains. It’s Superman (who I believe is an illegal alien) who has always been burdened with the ideological baggage. Of Batman I have little to say. Anyway, the critics are correct to say that Spiderman III is overlong and has some serious structural flaws. Nevertheless, I found the film entertaining, and I think that there’s still some value in exploring the Spiderman character.

Cross-posted to the attractive new TAPPED.

Herbert

[ 0 ] May 8, 2007 |

November 1996 – 7 May 2007

I’ve never been known as a great enthusiast of my own species, but it seems indisputable that the planet would be better off if cats and humans swapped life expectancies. This year has not been kind to the feline companions of Lawyers, Guns and Money. After a terribly unproductive battle with diabetes, Herbert spent the last week begging for help; tonight, we obliged his wishes. Since the official LG&M response to this sort of trauma is to get loaded, I’m going to finish off a two-liter bottle of Bartles and Jaymes and go pour a St. Ides on the backyard grave I dug this evening.

Bless you, Herbert. You won’t be forgotten.

If you really want to feel miserable, the full obit is here.

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