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The War On Gore

[ 0 ] October 13, 2007 |

It never ends.

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The NPT is Dead

[ 0 ] October 13, 2007 |

Well, this does make a certain kind of sense, I suppose. The Israeli strike on what now appears to have been a nuclear reactor at a very low state of construction is preventive war at its most distant; the Israelis have determined that Syria, at least, will never be allowed to have a nuclear program, even under the legal structure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as long as the current regime or a regime like it remains in power. The implications for a long term peace agreement between Syria and Israel are obvious, but those prospects were probably pretty grim, anyway.

I’m more convinced now than ever that the strike was a direct message to Iran regarding Israel’s capacity to do damage to the former’s nuclear infrastructure. The target itself was of relatively low value, and wouldn’t have had a meaningful effect on the Syria-Israel balance of power for a decade or more. The reason to strike now was to demonstrate to Iran that its air defenses (similar to those of Syria) were insufficient protection from the IDF. We’ll see how seriously the Iranians take this; their nuclear infrastructure is more developed and better protected than Syria’s nascent program, and Iran’s air force larger and better equipped. Of course, this won’t matter if the United States decides on direct participation instead of indirect complicity. As I noted previously, there’s some small hope to be had in the fact that the Israelis may not want war; they’ve decided to flaunt their capabilities rather than hide them, which could mean that they’re bluffing, or that they truly hope the Iranians will be deterred.

The strike, and especially the apparent acquiesence of the United States in its planning and execution, means that the NPT is pretty much a dead letter. The treaty has always been open to charges of unfairness, since it legitimized the nuclear programs of a select number of states while delegitimizing similar programs in other states. This was a deal worth upholding, based on the principle that fewer nuclear states is better than more nuclear states. The deal also ensured that signatories would have the capability to engage in peaceful nuclear activity, some of which is indistiguishable from the opening steps of a long term weapons program. American complicity in this strike means that the deal is as good as dead, and has been replaced by a de facto arrangement in which states that the US approves of are allowed to have nuclear power, while states we dislike get airstrikes. I think this is a tragedy; the NPT has, in my view, worked to minimize the spread of nuclear weapons across the international system through a combination of moral suasion and legal inspection for the last forty years. It only works if the states involved agree that it’s legitimate and of some benefit to all; as I said before, that concept is pretty much dead now. Combine this with the recent nuclear deal with India, and I’d have to say that the Bush administration’s effort to kill a legal cornerstone of international stability have been remarkably successful.

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Beck

[ 0 ] October 13, 2007 |

I know I’m supposed to be mocking Chris Matthews and denouncing Jeneane Garofalo’s many vicious and heinous crimes against humanity in order restore the much coveted “fair and balanced” label to LGM, but for the moment I have to once again marvel at the madness that CNN has unleashed onto its national audience. The blogosphere occasionally and rightly notes and flags the appalling bigotry and racism of Beck, but what’s missed is sheer level of looniness he delivers.

I was at the gym yesterday afternoon, and after the Indians spit out the bit, I started flipping channels, and found myself sucked into the vortex. He evidently found some street-corner lunatic, slapped on a suit, and proceeded to interview him for the entire hour of his show. I came in during an extensive discussion of how the Bible clearly predicted that Vladimir Putin will unite the Muslim world and lead an attack on Israel. He strongly hinted (but didn’t commit to the notion) that Putin may well be the antichrist. Strong stuff, but it couldn’t prepare me for the exchange that followed:

Beck (I’m working from memory here, but this is damn close to the transcript): Now, the last time you were on, you said the Bible didn’t say that America would have a big role in end times. We got lots of email about that, can you explain your comments?

Wingnut preacher: Well, Glenn, one thing we have to remember is that America is a pretty new country….

This is the Beck method; invite the biggest lunatics you can find onto national television, then make them look sane by comparison.

Update: commenters and atrios track this down; it’s Joe Lieberman’s buddy John Hagee, and if anything it’s more bizarre and stupid than I remembered.

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Abortion Criminalization: It Doesn’t Work

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Over at TAPPED, Kate Sheppard beat me to my own hobbyhorse: a new study published in the Lancet about the effects of abortion criminalization. The findings are, to people who know something about the subject, not surprising:

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

This is not to say, however, that criminalizing abortion has no effect:

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.

If the goal of abortion is to protect fetal life, criminalization is at best an ineffective and grossly inequitable means of achieving this goal, and the bundle of policies favoring reproductive freedom (including legal abortion) generally produces lower abortion rates than the illegal abortion-no rational sex ed-limited access to contraception-threadbare welfare state usually favored by the American forced pregnancy lobby. If, on the other hand, you’re in it more for the injuring women than for the protection of fetal life, then criminalizing abortion makes good sense.

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Update Your Cue Cards Accordingly

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Old Wingnut Debate Rule:

Unelected judges — especially those from foreign lands — are teh suck.

New Wingnut Debate Rule:

Unelected judges — especially those from foreign lands — are TEH AWESOME!* GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!

* Rule void when unelected foreign judges are holding forth on subjects having nothing to do with the greatest living monster since Rigoberta Menchu.

. . . Wingnut Debate Corollary:

Ignore everything Tim Lambert has to say. After all he defended the Lancet study.

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Still Waiting For An Originalist Defense of Affirmative Action

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Atypically for something written by John Yoo, I actually agree with much of the first part of his Clarence Thomas apologia. Thomas is the most principled conservative on the Court, his contribution (whether or not one agrees with the conclusions) , and claims that Thomas was Scalia’s sock puppet are both plainly wrong and may even in some cases by motivated by racist condescension.

The second half of the editorial, though, predictably runs off the rails. Yoo — who himself has produced some of the most farcical arguments put forward under the “originalist” banner — spends considerable time on Thomas’s belief that affirmative action is almost always unconstitutional. Unfortunately for Yoo’s claims about Thomas’s jurisprudence, this argument is plainly inconsistent with the theories of constitutional interpretation that Thomas claims to apply. I thought that Yoo might, unlike Thomas and Scalia, would actually try to offer an originalist defense of this position, but he doesn’t. Rather, he ignores the text (let alone the history) of the 14th Amendment entirely, and simply recites Thomas’s policy arguments against affirmative action. Whether or not one finds these persuasive, they are not arguments that the equal protection clause was originally understood as prohibiting all racial classifications. Similarly, Yoo’s defense of Thomas’s position on the constitutionality of school vouchers ignores the First Amendment and instead recites the banal proposition that education “means emancipation.” Indeed it does, but this claim is neither here nor there in terms of whether a program that by design will direct taxpayer funds almost exclusively to religious schools is consistent with the First Amendment. (And, even from a pragmatic perspective, the emancipatory potential of a program that allows less than 5% of students to switch schools is pretty negligible.)

In addition, the Thomas case presents a deeper irony. For obvious reasons, Yoo fails to mention that Thomas probably would not have gotten into Yale Law School and unquestionably would not been nominated to the Supreme Court had he not been an African-American. And yet — admittedly with results that are less than ideologically congenial from my perspective — affirmative action worked; taking Thomas’s background into account in fact identified a perfectly able law student and Supreme Court justice. Should a discussion of Thomas’s opposition to affirmative action deal with this?

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And Here We Thought it Wasn’t Possible to Love Dahlia More

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

But then, via publius, she gives us animation:

There’s so much wrong with Slate (see: Saletan). But sometimes they just get it right.

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A Reminder To Send Money To Obama

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

America’s Worst Columnist With the Possible Exception of Maureen Dowd endorses Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. We already knew she was the least progressive major candidate, but…[via MY]

Bonus Krauthammer hackery:

And look what Clinton unveiled this week: a modestly government-subsidized, personal retirement account. True, it is yet another big-government middle-class entitlement. Yes, she ignores the looming Social Security crisis. On the other hand, establishing a universal, portable, personal retirement account (though without the government subsidy) is something conservatives have long and devoutly sought. It establishes a parallel to the Social Security system — the perfect vehicle for a future conservative administration to use for shifting from the current, unsustainable government-controlled program to a privatized system such as the one in Chile.

The first problem here, of course, is that there is no Social Security “crisis” and the program is perfectly sustainable. But even more remarkable is citing the Chilean system as a model:

For all the program’s success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others – because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally – remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.

Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts – burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment – are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.

Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.

“Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me,” he said, “are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month – good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981.”

Now that, at least if you’re marginally more civilized than Krauthammer, is unsustainable.

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[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson

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Just Pathetic…

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

We haven’t sufficiently badgered Mickey Kaus lately, in no small part because I find his immigration blogging interminably boring. His “John Edwards affair scandal” blogging is just pathetic, though:

Smith also has a too-broad denial from Edwards: “The story is false.” (As every press secretary knows, that could logically mean there’s nothing to the story; it could mean an affair didn’t start “18 months ago” but rather 8 months ago).

Indeed, Mickey. Indeed. When Edwards follows up with an even flatter denial, Kaus’ focus is on who Edwards is attacking, rather than on how the story he’s been pushing is going nowhere. Really, Mickey, when Drudge won’t touch a potential Democratic sex scandal, it really is reason to doubt that anything is going on…

…Instaputz takes us down memory lane

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Could Have Been a Contender…

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

Congrats to Al Gore on winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Idle Thoughts on Modern Travel

[ 0 ] October 12, 2007 |

I understand that niche airlines are dicey ventures. I’m not sure how the airline for smokers is doing, for example, though it appears already to have survived longer than the airline for sad, corporate shitheads.

That said, after listening to a just-barely-too-loud-for-earplugs, several-hour soliloquy yesterday from a passenger sitting behind me — about how she’s a vet student at LSU, and how boring Baton Rouge is, and how excellent LSU football is, and how she was on her way to interview for a job, and how she tends to stay out later at the bars when her boyfriend isn’t in town — I would be really keen on an airline for introverts. “STFU Air” might not be the most limber of names, but if anyone wants to develop a business plan for this sort of sure-to-fail scheme, let me know.

Not being a devout follower of college football these day, I will nevertheless be making additional burnt offerings this weekend on behalf of the Kentucky Wildcats, who will — if justice is not the cruelest of illusions — tear LSU limb from limb.

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