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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.

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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.

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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.

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[ 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.

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"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.

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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.

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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!

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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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God, I Miss the Cold War

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

Hat tip to Leo. I can’t seem to find any Islamofascist Unicorns.

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Bobo’s Burkean Bush

[ 1 ] October 7, 2007 |

Henry Farrell notes a contradiction in Brooks’s embarrassingly belated realization that George W. Bush is not, in fact, a Burke/Oakeshott conservative. My favorite example from the Brooks archives, however, has to be this one:

Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn’t even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any ”plan” hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.

I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise. They are muddling through, devising shambolic, ad hoc solutions, and learning through bumbling experience. In the building of free societies, every day feels like a mess, but every year is a step forward.

Yes, an extraordinarily ambitious plan (led by a Secretary of Defense committed to proving theories about warfare that would use as few troops as possible) to depose the government of a society riven by a complex web of sectarian conflicts, economically dependent on a single resource not evenly distributed throughout the country, and long governed by a brutal despotism representing a minority faction and transforming it into a stable pro-American pro-Israeli democracy was an example of the Oakeshottian conservatism of the Bush administration…because they had no idea what the hell they were doing or how they would accomplish their grandiose schemes. Right.

The Iraq War is a case in which Burkean conservatism (or its Foucauldian variants) has a great deal of wisdom to offer, and its advice is “it was an extraordinarily stupid idea.” That Brooks tried to turn this theoretical line into a defense of the war tells you what you need to about him. He was sort of the Oakshottian variant of Hayek-stops-at-the-water’s-edge libertarians, who’s now backtracking after his hack defenses of the war have proven disastrously wrong. I can’t say that I’m terribly interested in what he has to say at this point.

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[ 2 ] October 7, 2007 |

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George M. Steinbrenner is principal owner of the New York Yankees.

It’s not just the announcers who can see only one possible explanation for Greatest Pitcher In Known Human History Joba Chamberlain giving up a run:

But with his team teetering on the brink of a knockout, the old Steinbrenner came out swinging on Saturday night, putting Torre on immediate notice and ripping into umpire Bruce Froemming, the veteran crew chief from Friday night’s Game 2 who declined to stop play despite an infestation of Lake Erie gnats.

“The umpire was full of [expletive],” Steinbrenner said of the retiring Froemming. “He won’t umpire our games anymore.”

Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo. Granted that Froemming should have retired during the Reagan administration, his decision here was unquestionably correct; bugs are part of playing baseball on humid days on Lake Erie. Moreover, the bugs also affected the hitters — for all we know Chamberlain would have given up a three-run homer pitching in a bug-free environment — and amazingly the bugs didn’t prevent Carmona from throwing that great slider, or Rivera from pitching two scoreless innings.

But it’s not only Joba; it’s the Greatest Athlete In History of Mankind who was affected!

In the wake of that Game 2 defeat, Steinbrenner said the Yankees had complained to baseball commissioner Bud Selig about the decision to play on. “[Selig] just said, ‘That’s in the umpires’ hands,’ ” Steinbrenner said. “But Jesus Christ, it was terrible. It messed up the whole team, [Derek] Jeter, all of them.”

Yes, Jeter is one for eight, and has no range, because of the bugs. It’s all the bugs. They somehow knew to affect only one team on the field; amazing.

The bad news here is that Steinbrenner claims that he’ll re-sign A-Rod no matter what. I would especially like to see the Yankees out before Slappy can get hot to increase the pressure to let him walk, but alas Cashman isn’t nearly as dumb as the median fan or pundit.

As for what will happen tonight, I can’t even predict. Part of me sees this like Game 4 last year, with Clemens pulling up gimpy and the Indians getting out to a big lead and the Yankees losing their discipline. Part of me sees the Yankees — as has been their wont — teeing off on Westbrook and getting right back in it. I’ll say this: I think it goes 3 or 5; I don’t see Byrd beating Yankees Stadium Wang. With Sabathia and Carmona both on full rest a Game 5 wouldn’t be awful, but still, it would be immensely desirable for the Indians to put the boot down now.

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Your Demographics

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, a fun and interesting Sunday morning diversion: check out this website that uses census data to give you the demographic of your ZIP code. Especially interesting for you new yorkers, where ZIP codes are proxy for income, level of bourgeoisity, and, of course, coolness. My ZIP turns out, like much of Manhattan, to be wealthy and educated. But it’s also interestingly more stable than its neighbors, with over half of residents living in the ZIP for more than five years. Which in Manhattan real estate market terms, is a lifetime.

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