Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2005 August 22-31

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Seen Your Video

I still haven't read Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good for You, so I can't speak to all the arguments Christine Rosen raises against it in "Playgrounds of the Self," her sometimes insightful, sometimes infuriating essay in the current New Atlantis. But she commits at least two fouls in her critique.

Here's the first:

Johnson is not, as he repeatedly claims, challenging the conventional wisdom; he is reaffirming it. In a democratic culture, people want to be told that fulfilling their desires is actually good for them, that self-interest is also self-improvement, that the most time-consuming habit is also time well-spent. Attacking popular culture, which is the underpinning of so much of our conventional wisdom, usually earns one the sobriquet of Puritan or crank. Praising popular culture, which few people can resist, can give any modern-day guru a temporary following.

The problem here is that pop culture is not a single, unitary thing. You can always find an appreciative audience by reaffirming its taste for certain entertainments. You can also find an appreciative audience by reaffirming its distaste for certain entertainments. There are a lot of people out there who hate or fear video games and reality TV shows -- or, same thing, hate or fear the people who play and watch them -- and Johnson is challenging their assumptions as surely as Rosen is flattering the cultural conservatives who read journals like The New Atlantis. Johnson, to his credit, has tried to take his message both to his natural supporters and to people outside his home turf.

Which leads us to foul number two:

Quacks are also notoriously disingenuous, altering their message to suit their audience. In his book, Johnson says, "The television shows and video games and movies that we'll look at in the coming pages are not, for the most part, Great Works of Art," later adding, "I want to be clear about one thing: The Sleeper Curve does not mean that Survivor will someday be viewed as our Heart of Darkness, or Finding Nemo our Moby Dick." But writing on his personal blog the week after his book was released, Johnson argued just that: "We don't have a lot of opportunities in culture to tell a story that lasts a hundred hours, but that's exactly what we're taking in on The Sopranos or Lost or Six Feet Under. I feel totally confident that those shows will stack up very nicely against Madame Bovary a hundred years from now, if not sooner." Like all good mountebanks, Johnson, aiming to please as broad an audience as possible, finds consistency a crutch.

Rosen apparently thinks it inconsistent to believe both that Survivor is not great art and that The Sopranos is. I trust the reader can see why this is not a contradiction.

R's For Right

Here's an encouraging piece of cultural news, and another challenge to the many unpersuasive attempts to explain this summer's Hollywood box office slump. Today, for the first time in as long as I can remember, three of the top five box office achievers, including the Number One picture, are rated R by the MPAA. More encouragingly, two of those are restricted for sexual content, not violence. So no sooner did Edward Jay Epstein explain why sex is a liability in contemporary movies than that dynamic may have already started to fall apart. Most encouraging of all, Wedding Crashers is really an old fashioned dirty movie, which could have avoided its R rating but threw in some titty shots just for fun.

Of all the movie genres, none has suffered more in the era of kid dominance and family-friendly hand-holders than the sturdy sex comedy, which was at best struggling along with entries like the American Pie franchise—R-rated pictures with PG-13 sensibilities. (What could be more perverse than a sex picture with no nudity?) While I'd doubt the success of Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin indicates any new trend, it's encouraging to see movies for adults getting some business. Maybe the lesson for this genre is the lesson for the whole industry: Stop making movies that suck and people might come back to the theaters.

Where Have You Gone, Robert Earl Hughes?

Californians are fatter than ever, says a new study. Americans overall are even fatter than that, says another new study citing a 24.5 percent increase in the national average rate of obesity. While fat detectives look for the root causes, the obvious solution to this problem is simply to define fatness upwards. But more interesting than what's happening in the center of the bell curve is what this may portend for the outliers.

Simply put: Are we getting within range of producing a one-ton person? The goal may be nearer than you think. According to this list of fattest people in history, the current chart-topper, Flint, MI's Carol Yager (1960 - 1994), broke the scale at a peak weight of 1600 lbs. That's a mere 400 lbs. shy of the brass ring. With a larger and more receptive operating environment, more calorie-rich foods, and some cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs, is it possible for a motivated fatso to become history's first Ton of Fun?

Of course, this is just the short ton. You'll recall Austin Powers' description of Fat Bastard—'"He weighs a metric tonne"—a figure that, at 2,204+ lbs., is still beyond our reach. Nor should we forget H.G. Wells' warning against using "weight" as a euphemism for "fat" in his classic story "The Truth About Pyecraft." (I'm also a little skeptical of the above estimate for Carol Yager.) But what is America if not the land where everybody can dream big?

The real, anagrammatic, meaning of Robert Earl Hughes' name here.

That Ahnold-Backed Hollywood Welfare Bill?

It won't just provide targeted tax breaks (already bad enough, IMO) -- it will "offer cash refunds even when no taxes are paid." Which is Pig-Latin, for "subsidies."

The $3 million-per-pic maximum giveaway also depends on deciphering Hollywood's budgeting and profit/loss voodoo, so that should be funny. California's current budget deficit, which for some reason is never mentioned in those new-study-proves-we-need-subsidies stories, is still around $7.5 billion.

Politics Bombs the Pentagon

Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota has been pulled back from the grave by the base closing commission, thwarting Pentagon plans to consolidate the Air Force's small B-1 bomber fleet at a single air base. South Dakota pols portrayed closing Ellsworth as catastrophic for the state, with 4,000 jobs at risk.

Guess it isn't quite true that things are different when America is a nation at war.

Here Come the Sun Addicts (Where Have You Gone, George Hamilton? Edition)

H&R "lurker" Jessica sends along this hilarious Reuters story (via MSNBC.com) about the newest addiction under the sun: suntanning.

Anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of people catching rays at the beach may actually be addicted to tanning, according to new study findings.

After interviewing 145 beachgoers, U.S. researchers found that a significant portion met a series of addiction criteria traditionally used to diagnose alcoholism and other substance use disorders.

These findings suggest that regular sun-tanners may have a new type of substance disorder involving ultraviolet light, write the authors, led by Dr. Richard F. Wagner, Jr., of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Whole thing here.

I want to disagree with Drs. Wagner et al. From the news account at least, what their findings suggest that, to paraphrase Joe Jackson re: cancer, everything is addictive.

Indeed, as someone who tries to squeeze small moments of pleasure out of a world which is mostly shadows, I choose to read studies like the one mentioned above as performance art, esoteric Guy Grand-esque hoaxes designed to brighten our days. Try it, all you existential depressives out there, it really helps.

The New Republic Calls for Marijuana Legalization

The drug policy scholar Harry Levine has done some digging in The New Republic's new online archive and uncovered evidence that liberals used to get upset about marijuana arrests. For those of us who have become accustomed to a New Republic whose editors are at best indifferent to the injustices perpetrated in the name of a Drug-Free Society, even as annual marijuana arrests have reached record levels, these reminders of a time when they cared about such things are poignant. Below are a few samples, but the articles are worth reading in full.

From an April 1967 article by John Sanford: "The worst thing that can happen to a person who smokes pot is prison, not addiction. The worst thing about marijuana is the laws against it, which should be repealed."

From a May 1967 editorial, headlined "The Indecent Society": "After 30 years of federal antipot legislation, and 10 years after federal penalties were raised to ferocious levels, no one has shown that marijuana is more hazardous than martinis."

From a June 1967 editorial, headlined "Keep Off the Grass?": "The federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and state laws patterned after it should be repealed, pot reclassified as nonnarcotic, penalties for possession and sale imposed by the federal Narcotic Control Act of 1956 removed. That, at least, would be a start."

From a November 1970 article by John Kaplan: "Although the present debate over the safety of marijuana is important, the forest of alleged facts should not obscure the question whether or not it should be legalized....The pertinent question here is whether the harm done by a drug approximates the harm done by laws attempting to suppress it....For those who do not appreciate the harm the marijuana laws are doing, misinformation about the drug's dangers makes the resolution of the social policy issue that much more difficult. Exaggerated warnings, rather than convincing people to lay off, feed a growing cynicism about authoritative statements."

The Death Toll Is Important, Except When It Isn't

While researching this week's column on obesity, I came across the CDC's list of "Frequently Asked Questions About Calculating Obesity-Related Risk," an amusing demonstration of how to back-pedal while pretending to move forward:

Why is CDC even involved in estimating how many people die of obesity?

As the nation's disease prevention agency, CDC is charged with protecting the nation's health. Seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States are chronic diseases, the top two being heart disease and cancer. So many chronic diseases are affected by obesity and mortality (deaths) is an important indicator of the severity of a public health problem....

Is CDC changing its estimate of obesity-related deaths?

Yes. We are no longer going to use the previous annual estimate of 365,000 deaths from poor nutrition and physical inactivity. Instead, CDC will state, "The latest study based on a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults estimates that about 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States."...

Does this study mean that obesity is less important than CDC once thought?

Not at all.

In short, obesity-related deaths are an important measure of how serious the problem is, but reducing the number by two-thirds does not make the problem any less serious.

Pot Privatization

This week a DEA administrative law judge began hearings on an application to establish a private, independent source of marijuana for research purposes. Currently the only legal source in the U.S. is the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is notorious for being stingy with its stash, which frankly isn't of such great quality anyway. It's pretty clear that NIDA's decisions about which researchers should be allowed access to the government's pot are colored by nonscientific considerations, such as the desire to provide support for the war on drugs and to prevent cannabis from being approved as a prescription drug.

As if to prove the need to break the government's marijuana monopoly, NIDA announced just a few days before the DEA hearings that it would not supply marijuana for a study of vaporizers, which heat marijuana to release THC and other therapeutic cannabinoids instead of burning it, thereby avoiding potentially dangerous combustion products. California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer, whose organization is cosponsoring the study with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, had this to say:

Once again, the government has displayed its bad faith by creating a Catch-22 for medical marijuana. First, it claimed that marijuana couldn't be used as a medicine because there weren't sufficient FDA studies of safety and efficacy. Then it refused to provide marijuana to conduct the studies. Next it contended that marijuana was inappropriate for FDA approval in the first place due to the dangers of smoking. Now it is blocking the very studies called for by the IOM to develop non-smoked alternatives to smoking.

The DEA hearings are scheduled to resume on September 26, and it's not inconceivable that the judge, Mary Ellen Bittner, will rule in favor of Lyle Craker, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst plant scientist who is seeking permission to grow cannabis. As Gieringer points out, Bittner's predecessor, the late Francis Young, concluded in 1988 that the DEA ought to reclassify marijuana to make it legally available as a medicine, calling it "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." Young was overruled by the head of the DEA.

Friday Fun Link: Masonic Surrealism

Reproduced in its entirety, the 1930 DeMoulin Bros. & Co. catalog of "Burlesque and Side Degree Specialties, Paraphernalia and Costumes" for Masons and other fraternal orders. Especially recommended: the Fuzzy Wonder Goat, which looks like it was designed by Max Ernst. After you ride it, you and your lodge brothers can relax and drink the goat's blood.

[Via bOING bOING.]

New at Reason

Jacob Sullum follows fat detectives from the Centers for Disease Control as they go on the trail of a whole generation of Caspar Gutmans.

Naval Anti-Defamation League

In that innocent era, the early '90s, how we laughed at those P.C. ninnies who argued that phrases like "dutch treat" were offensive. Well, look who's playing the aggrieved-minority card now.

It's Called Bangkok for a Reason

Thailand's prime minister is trying to ferret out a government minister who allegedly had a penis enlargement procedure, saying news of it is affecting the Cabinet's reputation, a news report said Wednesday....

Last week, a woman -- being sued for defamation by a clinic after she claimed it gave her a face-disfiguring silicon injection -- said a Cabinet member had received a penis-enlargement injection at the same clinic and urged him to come forward as a witness in her defense.

Calling on the official through reporters on the steps of Government House on Tuesday, the woman, Rawiwan Setharat, said, "The problem of my face is bigger than the problem of your penis."

Suddenly, U.S. pols seems a whole lot better.

Whole thing, AP via Boston Globe, here.

Tip o' the pen to Fred W. Aziz at Defenstrators.

Update: More Thai madness, this time courtesy of reader Steven Rynerson.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has long complained of press criticism. But he sought to turn the tables Thursday with a new tactic - sounding a buzzer every time reporters ask questions he deems "not constructive."

More here.

What the President Should Read (Pundits Pronounce Edition)

So we all clapped over George W. Bush's vacation reading list when it was revealed a while back. The books included a history of Salt (as a solo act, sans -n-Pepa), something about The Great Influenza (we all cried when he fell off the high wire) and a hardcover sleep aid dubbed The Last Great Tsar (funny, we can't recall the first great czar--Bill Bennett?).

As if those tomes--which clock in at over 1,500 pages--aren't enough to keep Dubya's lips moving until his third inaugural, the Washington Examiner has helped various DC-based pundits to suggest other titles the prez should peruse. Some suggestions:

"The Killer Inside Me," by Jim Thompson. It's the story of a homily-spouting small-town Texas sheriff who practices a kind of water-torture-by-cliche, driving citizens mad with his aggravatingly bland blather....Also, he kills people." - Ana Marie Cox, aka "Wonkette," www.wonkette.com....

"'Five Little Peppers and How They Grew' by Margaret Sidney (Bush may think it's the follow-up to his book on salt)." - Christy Harvey, Center for American Progress; co-host of the "Bill Press" radio show

"I'm a fan of George W. Bush, but while he's impressively sticking to his guns on the war on terror, he has largely abandoned principles of small government. Here are a few books worth reading to remind him what the conservatism in compassionate conservatism means:

" 'The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945,' by George H. Nash. Still the definitive intellectual history of the most succesful intellectual movement of the last half century, at least.

" 'The Fatal Conceit' by Friedrich Hayek. Everyone likes to recommend Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," but that's not nearly as useful as this short explanation of why social engineering is a fool's errand.

" 'Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary,' by Robert Nisbet. The best Cliffs Notes on history, science and ideology ever published from a conservative perspective. Perfect reading for the thinking man on the go...." - Jonah Goldberg, Examiner columnist and editor at large at the National Review Online...

" 'The Berenstain Bears And The Bully,' by Stan and Jan Berenstain. It seems to me that the unilateralist policy adopted by President Bush is basically the global equivalent of schoolyard bullying. As a child I loved the 'Berenstain Bears' books and their practical life lessons. I'm pretty sure Mama Bear wouldn't authorize an attack on a foreign country until she was sure her intelligence was correct, but I'd ask the president to take a look at this book and make up his own mind." - Rob Goodspeed, editor, DCist.com...

" 'The River War,' by Winston Churchill. It's Churchill's first literary effort and it's about the attempt to reconquer the Sudan by the British. As an account of the clash between Western arms and Arab culture, it's a pretty good primer for the morass the president finds himself in today. And it's a great read." - Andrew Sullivan, AndrewSullivan.com; senior editor, The New Republic; columnist, Time magazine

And then there's this godawful pick:

"Bush might take a pass at Nathaniel Hawthorne's great but generally underappreciated 1852 masterpiece, 'The Blithedale Romance,' which is set at a utopian community where everything goes awry. Each of the main characters has a very specific, monomaniacal way of viewing the world and, as the story's disastrous events unfold in death and destruction, each realizes that the world is a much more complex place than they ever allowed. It's a dark allegory about American exuberance and optimism that, when you think about it, should be required reading for not just the president but elected officials everywhere." - Nick Gillespie, editor, Reason magazine

Whole list, including a pick by Reason Online regular Jonathan Rauch, here.

New at Reason

Michael Young takes a fresh look at Anthony Powell's Dance To the Music of Time, and shows how and why Powell ignored the rise of the good ol' USA.

Meanwhile, on Beaver Island...

I must cop to the guilty pleasure of often reading David Broder's annual dispatch from his Lake Michigan hideaway, and not just for the snicker-rific name. Like a post card from a distant relative, Broder's overly familiar, yet self-absorbed, and ultimately baffling vacation notes remind you why you usually keep your distance. The conceit that readers would remotely care what David Broder does up on Beaver Island, the high-arching assumption that op-ed pages the world over could not bear to go Broderless an extra day, the Beltway-honed sifting of routine events for the Big Idea -- well, that sets up some fine comedy. Except this year. A menace stalks Broder's prized Beaver. It goes by the name of harsh reality:

This summer it is homeland security that has laid its clammy hand on us. When you step off the car ferry in St. James, instead of the familiar line of storefronts, what you first see is an 8-foot-tall steel fence whose sharp-pointed spears bend outward at the top, completely surrounding the dock area to thwart any intruders.

The fence and its twin in Charlevoix, the port city on the mainland that is the other terminus of the Beaver Island Boat Co., were built this spring at a cost of $127,000, divided between the debt-ridden federal government and the dead-broke state of Michigan.

Yes, it took an 8-foot-tall steel fence right in front of him, but David Broder is finally aware of the awful waste and casual mendacity of what passes as America's War on Terror. Broder is on the case of "those homeland security bureaucrats in Washington," the very ones Broder brayed for back in 2003 when a Homeland Security cabinet post could not be created fast enough or money spent quickly enough. Money for things like an 8-foot-tall steel fence on Beaver Island smack in the middle of Lake Michigan.

Broder never connects these two rather huge dots, swerving as he does to channel his inner Abe Simpson and vent about a stuck drawbridge, a charity dinner at the Holy Cross Parish Hall "$10 for adults, $5 for children," and a highway technician from Lansing. The only thing missing is an onion on his belt:

The bridge problem in Charlevoix discouraged some people from making the trip and delayed others. As a result, the last return trip, which should have left Beaver Island at 5:30 p.m., did not go until 10 p.m. And when it reached Charlevoix, damned if the bridge didn't balk again, refusing to lift and forcing the ferry to circle out beyond the channel.

This time, the problem was solved more quickly, but it was still 12:23 a.m., Harbormaster Marks said, when the ship docked and the weary passengers disembarked.

Now, I ask you, is it just a coincidence that things went haywire around the time the fence went up...

The whole thing is priceless and actually ends with Broder invoking Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall in hopes of getting the Beaver-spoiling fence torn down. Welcome to the fight, David. We need all the help we can get.

Oh I Wish I Was a Grand Old Party Oinker

Today's reminder that the national GOP has devolved into a pork-pride parade comes from occasional Reason contributor Radley Balko, writing over at FoxNews.com:

The [$286 billion highway] bill calls for nearly half a billion dollars to build two bridges in Alaska. One will connect the Alaskan mainland with a tiny island called Gravina (population: 50). It will cost U.S. taxpayers $230 million. In fact, when it comes to pork barrel politics, Alaska is the new West Virginia. That's because Alaska Rep.Don Young chairs the transportation committee. The transportation bill is named after Young's wife. The second bridge the bill appropriates money for -- another $230 million -- will be called "Don Young Way." [...]

You'd think that a Republican like Young would at least be embarrassed about all of this. He isn't. He's shameless. Upon hearing that only one other lawmaker in the entire Congress had outdone him in securing pork barrel projects, Young told the New York Times, "I'd like to be a little oinker, myself. If he's the chief porker, I'm upset."

Lovely. Then there's the shenanigans of "House Government Reform Committee" chairman Tom Davis.

Davis later threatened sanctions against [Major League Baseball] if it allowed an ownership group, in which billionaire leftist George Soros held a minority stake, to purchase the Washington Nationals -- a stunning, possibly illegal threat to impose legal sanctions against a private organization for doing business with someone Davis opposes politically. Just last month, Davis stuck a provision into a funding bill that would prohibit development of a housing complex in his home district. The congressman told Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher he feared "urban kind of people" moving into his district. This is exactly the kind of federal government edict over local affairs Republicans are supposed to oppose.

Local officials told Fisher that Davis has said privately he fears too much development in his district will attract too many Democrats, which could one day imperil his reelection.

Who's Looking out for You??

On Fox News Aug. 7, John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor, gave out the La Habra, California, home address of Iyad Hilal, who he said was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to the London bombings. He later repeated the La-Habra-is-harboring-a-terrorist line on popular local talk radio KFI.

Outraged Southern Californians drove by the house, taking surveillance pictures, yelling profanities, and spray-painting the word "Terrist." But the vigilant citizens didn't know one relevant detail -- Iyad hasn't lived at that address for at least three years.

"I'm scared to go to work and leave my kids home. I call them every 30 minutes to make sure they're OK," [house resident] Randy Vorick said.

"I keep telling myself this can't be happening to me. This can't be happening to my family. But it is. I want our lives to be normal again."

L.A. Times story (which seems to be having server trouble) here; abridged version available here.

It's Always the Women Who Suffer Most (Bra Crisis Edition)

According to the Sun, protectionist economic policies have left British women exposed:

Britain could be facing a bra shortage after an EU ban blocked Chinese-made clothing heading for the UK, a trade body warned today.

More on Chinese textile quotas here.

Via Wonkette.

He Wasn't Defending Bombers—He Was Defending Trespassers

In the course of explaining how NARAL Pro-Choice America mischaracterized John Roberts' participation in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, the 1993 Supreme Court decision involving abortion protesters, The New York Times mischaracterizes his involvement in a slightly different way. It says the Supreme Court nominee, at the time a deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration, was "defending the right of abortion opponents to protest outside clinics." There's nothing wrong with defending the First Amendment rights of abortion protesters, but in this case they went beyond protest to trespassing and physical obstruction, which were plainly prohibited by state law. Anyone who remembers the abortion clinic blockades of that period could easily get the impression from the Times that Roberts defended these illegal tactics, which was NARAL's implication in its now-withdrawn anti-Roberts ad (which also mendaciously linked Roberts to clinic bombings). In fact, the administration's argument was simply that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 did not authorize a federal injunction against the protesters. I'd suggest a correction, but that would only give the Times an opportunity to get it wrong again.

Stevens: The Constitution Made Me Do It

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens feels bad about the outcomes of Raich and Kelo but says the Constitution compelled him to support the federal crackdown on medical marijuana in California and the wanton use of eminent domain in Connecticut, both of which he opposes as a matter of policy. Since growing marijuana in your yard for your own medical use is so plainly an element of interstate commerce and a hotel is so obviously a "public use" that justifies forcible property transfers, what choice did he have?

Do We Have To Fight About Human Enhancement Tonight? You Bet! DC Event at 7PM

(And so you know, you can RSVP at the door)

ARE STEM CELLS BABIES? THE PROMISE, PERILS, AND ETHICS OF HUMAN BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason magazine present Ronald Bailey, Eric Cohen, Joel Garreau, and Nick Gillespie debating cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology on Thursday, August 25.

What:

A free-for-all discussion about cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology featuring RONALD BAILEY, author of LIBERATION BIOLOGY: THE SCIENTIFIC AND MORAL CASE FOR THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION; ERIC COHEN, editor of THE NEW ATLANTIS; and JOEL GARREAU, author of RADICAL EVOLUTION: THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF ENHANCING OUR MINDS, OUR BODIES--AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN. Moderated by NICK GILLESPIE, editor-in-chief of REASON.

Wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

When:

7-9PM, Thursday, August 25

Where:

Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC
Salon A, West End Ballroom

RSVP: Space is limited, so please reserve a slot by RSVPing to John Thrasher at mailto:jthrashe@gmu.edu

This event is cosponored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason.

About the participants:

RONALD BAILEY is the science correspondent for Reason magazine and the author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other places. He is the editor of Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death (2002), Earth Report 2000: Revisiting The True State of The Planet (1999), and The True State of the Planet (1995). Bailey is also the author of ECOSCAM: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martins Press, 1993). For more information go to http://www.reason.com/rb/baileybio.shtml.

ERIC COHEN is the director of the Biotechnology and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is also the editor of The New Atlantis, the Center's journal about the ethical, political, and social implications of technological advancement and a consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, First Things, The Public Interest, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and many other publications. For more information, go to http://www.eppc.org/scholars/scholarID.52/scholar.asp.

JOEL GARREAU is a reporter and editor at The Washington Post and author of Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to Be Human. He is also the principal of The Garreau Group, a consulting group that analyzes social, geographic and psycho-demographic trends whose clients have included Volvo, Prudential, Coca Cola, McDonald's, the University of Michigan, and many others. Garreau is the author of The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991). For more information, go to http://www.garreau.com/main.cfm?action=bio.

NICK GILLESPIE is the editor-in-chief of Reason, winner of the 2005 Western Publications "Maggie" Award for best political magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, Slate, Salon, Tech Central Station, and many other publications. Gillespie is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, Radio America, and other outlets. He is the editor of Choice: The Best of Reason (2004). For more information, go to http://www.reason.com/gillespie/gillespiebio.shtml.

The Lap Dog Press. Or Lap Dog Dems? (End-It-Now Antiwar Edition)

Is the press as trained to obey power as Paris Hilton's chihuahua? Terry Michael, the former Democratic National Committee press flack who has been showing suspiciously latent libertarian leanings, says in an op-ed today. Snippets:

The most influential interpreters of our public affairs are accepting, rather than expanding, a noose-tight frame the Washington political culture is enforcing to limit permissible discourse on the war in Iraq....

Look at almost any major daily op-ed page, watch the Sunday shows or listen to nightly cable-babble. See how seldom you encounter voices against the war permitted to argue we should just end it, not try to mend it....

Those who control access to mainstream media are telling a quiet, corrupting lie when they allow the Bush administration and "opposition" congressional Democrats to engage in Amish-style shunning of those who advocate immediately ending the war. War proponents attack them with the ultimate Beltway rhetorical weapon: "not serious."...

Arguably, in the run-up to the war, the press could be given a pass for not allowing the case against attacking Iraq to be vigorously presented. Timid congressional Democrats held their fingers to the wind and engaged no real debate. It's hard to cover a conversation not taking place.

But how can mainstream journalism now be excused for quarantining stop-it-now voices from outside official Washington, after justification for the war has shifted from: 1) eliminating weapons of mass destruction, which didn't exist; 2) getting rid of a brutal dictator, who was a secularist thug, not an associate of Osama bin Laden; 3) spreading democracy, in a Hatfield-McCoy style tribal culture, heavily influenced by politicized religious fanatics whose world view never made it past the 8th century, let alone the Enlightenment, and who want theocracy, not liberty; 4) fighting Islamic terrorists, who need the United States in Iraq, not out, as their bete noir for recruiting more terrorists.

Yes, all the arguments in the previous sentence have been heard through opinion channels of mainstream media -- but almost never from anyone who suggests they add up to a case for bringing our troops home now.

Michael, perhaps underscoring why he's the former DNC press guy, saves his biggest slap for high-profile Dems: "[Sen. Joe] Biden and Sen. John Kerry are the quintessential have-everything-every-way empty suits in my party, who essentially allow the Republican party to have no congressional opposition."

Those kind words for Dems doubtless helps explain where this op-ed saw print: The Washington Times, which remains to my mind a great read (and considering I paid only $11 a year for Monday-Friday delivery, a freaking great bargain!).

Whole thing here.

I welcome Michael's general critique of mainstream press deference to power--"it's less messy to propagate power than to question it," he writes at one point--but I think he's mixing two separate issues: press obeisance and Democratic Party spinelessness (hmm, maybe the two are connected...).

The press would certainly cover high-profile Dems with an "end it, don't mend it" message against the war (indeed, they were quick to discuss GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel's get-out throat clearings). The trouble is, there aren't any. Even Howard "Hoo-Yah" Dean isn't pushing that particular string any more, is he?

The Dems are the dissident party; it's up to them to make this conversation happen (though it's more likely to gain momentum when a Republican snipes at his president). Once a big gun in Dem circles, especially one in the House or Senate, comes forward, I think the press will be all over it like Fritz Hollings on Sam Donaldson's toupee.

And given the trends in polls about how the war is going, those finger-in-the-wind Dems such as Kerry and Biden may soon be mustering such courage sooner rather than later.

(Btw, Michael is the Big Kahuna of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism. The group's home page is here; its seminars look genuinely interesting.)

New at Reason

Cathy Young's neurons fire, causing her finger muscles to constrict rhythmically, depressing keys on the keyboard, producing symbol strings which, when absorbed by your optic nerve, produce further neural firing.

New at Reason

Radley Balko follows the money to the roots of PayPal's troubles.

Reductio Creep (Where There's Smoke There's Fire Edition)

From an article about a new ban on smoking in Drew University dorms:

Drew junior Chelsea McCauley, however, applauds the ban. The 20-year-old from Bethlehem, Pa., said there are plenty of places to smoke outside.
[...]
"If you can't smoke in restaurants, why should living spaces be any different?" McCauley said.

For Police States to Triumph, Good People Must Hi-five the Cops

For today's update to the Utah rave-crackdown story, I'll just excerpt from this Provo Daily Herald editorial, and tremble for Utah by reflecting that even a Mormon God might be just:

If you want to rave, you've got to behave. [...]

Was this raid a bit heavy-handed? Should the entire weight of police weaponry (including military-style guns capable of full-automatic fire), special tactics, dogs and helicopters be used to break up a music concert with a few hundred kids, some of whom are drunk or high? There are only a couple of ways out of the Childs property, and a crowd is easily contained. Is this truly a situation that requires full riot gear, including black face coverings that lend a Ninja-like quality to the operation?

Such questions can be answered another time [...]

Let's state some basic facts, just for the record. Officers of the law carry guns. It is part of what they do. They often carry nonlethal weapons, too, such as bean-bag launchers or tear gas. They make plans for dealing with potentially difficult situations. Why? Because it's their job to enforce the laws that have been duly enacted by elected authorities.

It's called enforcement for a reason. Police don't need to ask politely.

The best way to stay out of range of the police is to obey the law. It's a lesson too many people have not learned.

UPDATE: What's particularly poignant is that these comments come in the context of an editorial presented as keeping a mature balance between the "massive police assault," and "the atmosphere of unrestraint [that] fosters sexual assaults, drug overdoses, car burglaries, driving under the influence and other problems." The final line of the piece is a perfect illustration of how important goalposts are moved not necessarily by loyal foot soldiers, but by detached observers ever searching for a pragmatic balance: "It's a sticky wicket that illustrates some of the ambiguities inherent in a free society and the balance between freedom and responsibility."

Al-Qatfish

Like Brazilian terrorism, Vietnamese bioterrorism is one of those things you fail to notice until the authorities have taken care of it:

Alabama is joining Louisiana in banning the sale of a Vietnamese-imported fish that competes with U.S.-farmed catfish, agriculture officials said this week....All this follows a recent Mississippi State University study that showed basa were preferred over U.S.-farmed catfish in a taste test 3-to-1.

Jesse Chappell, a fisheries specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said, "The apparent intent is to protect people from virulent infections and bioterrorism" but the effect in the short term will be to "create an even playing field" where U.S. catfish farmers can better compete.

More here.

Stayin' Alive

Slate legal writer Dalia Lithwick is soliciting thoughts on the idea of a "living Constitution," which even many liberals now seem reluctant to defend. Now, part of the problem is that a lot of people really do seem to think, as Lithwick puts it, that the alternative to some species of originalism is "judges swinging like monkeys from the constitutional chandeliers, making up whatever they want, whenever they want." Consider some of the approving reactions to decisions in Raich or Kelo: There's usually a sense that they implicitly acknowledge that neither is really defensible as a reading of the Constitution's text, but if they'd gone the other way, then goddamnit, someone might think Congress isn't empowered to protect the snail darter, and the seas would boil. Bad jurisprudence, on this view, seems to be whatever obstructs good policy. (Let me, incidentally, include myself in the class of folks Lithwick mentions who's strongly in favor of the effect of Roe v. Wade without quite being able to convince themselves it's really good law.)

That said, I've never found the popular varieties of originalism particularly tenable either. Sophisticated originalists usually recognize that an "original intent" standard isn't going to be workable in many cases: First, because we don't have many mind-reading time travelers on the bench. Second, because there's no guarantee that a diverse gang of Framers would've agreed on how to apply the text. Third, because questions like (say) whether Gouverneur Morris meant "search" to apply to telephone wiretaps or infrared scanning, or whether blog posts are protected as "speech" or "press" (if we're hyper-literal, they're neither), flirt with meaninglessness. These problems often prompt a shift to an "original public meaning" standard, but the very same problems, mutatis mutandis, reappear there.

There's also the niggling problem of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Unless you think the Framers were just, you know, doodling there, those should probably be interpreted to mean something—the trend of modern jurisprudence notwithstanding. The historical record makes it abundantly clear that the Framers did expect the judiciary to use the Constitution to check legislative overreach. But that's got to be a serious problem for the strict constructionist: The Constitution is effectively saying there are things Congress mustn't do (and, by implication, that the courts mustn't let it get away with) but they're not in here, guys. More could be said in this vein, but you get the drift.

At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I'm most inclined toward Ronald Dworkin's approach, based on what I know of it. (Confession: Dworkin's Law's Empire is one of those "classics" I'd love to have read, but haven't thus far actually wanted to actually get through reading.) Dworkin, perhaps like all of us, tends to find a few too many of his own policy preferences—just coincidentally, mind you—endorsed by his preferred jurisprudential approach. But the attempt to navigate a course between an incoherent strict constructionism and monkeys on chandeliers strikes me as sound. Original intent and meaning set some interpretive parameters—smoking a joint in my closet can't be "commerce"—but it's not the end of inquiry either.

Here's one potential application of the approach I have in mind: Consider the question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection" should be read to mean that gay couples must be afforded the right to marry or, at the very least, some kind of civil union arrangement that would cover the same legal rights bundled with marriage. I've no doubt that a late 19th century sample of legislators or ordinary citizens would deny that it did. In the cultural context of the time, the question wouldn't even have come up. But, as with "search" or "speech," the proper approach here isn't to try to method-act James Madison—the "intent" or "meaning" we're looking for from the framers is at a higher level of abstraction than the specific application. That either ingrained prejudice or a set of factual misapprehensions about the nature of homosexuality might've prevented the application of Equal Protection to a case like this in 1890 should be neither here nor there; we want to look at the form of the principle they endorsed (the law should not make arbitrary or invidious distinctions between classes of people) and see whether there are internal reasons to extend it (or not) in this way. (Hayek's familiar point about the legitimacy of law residing in its generality also mitigates against fetishising the response we imagine some set of people at a specific historical time would've had to a particular case, which implies that the normative force of law is bound up with some special right to bind future generations possessed by the Framers.)

The phrase "living constitution" has deservedly earned a lot of ugly baggage. A jurisprudence that endorses whatever five judges think our "evolving needs" require reduces the law to meaninglessness; if nobody's willing to defend that anymore, that's all to the good. But the Constitution is a document of broad principles. The best translations of poetry are almost never literal word-for-word transliterations. So, too, good constitutional translation demands some sensitivity to context and probably a greater willingness to abstract than most "strict constructionists" would be comfortable with.

Well, that should be enough blood in the water; attack!

ADDENDUM: The Lawrence Lessig paper [PDF] linked above may actually be what Lithwick's asking for: A good, relatively recent atempt to defend an interpretive method more flexible than what strict construction allows without (one hopes) degenerating into chandelier monkeys.

What To Do About "Paternal Discrepancy"?

Earlier this month, a British review of scientific studies dealing with paternity testing found that about 1 in 25 fathers are unknowingly rearing children who are not genetically theirs.

As genetic screening for diseases and forensic matters becomes more widespread, doctors and testing centers will coincidentally discover that some fathers and children are not genetically related. The Reason Online poll question for today is: Should doctors and testing centers be required to tell fathers and children about any "paternal discrepancy" they uncover?

Robertson to Special Forces: Take Chavez Out — To Dinner

By assassination, Radical Cleric Pat Robertson didn't mean that kind of assassination. CNN reports:

"I didn't say 'assassination.'I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him."

CNN continues to report:

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson on Monday's program. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Video here.

More here and here.

Meanwhile, Back at Gitmo....

Commenter "Ugh" points us to an article in today's Washington Post that begins like this:

In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. Five were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some of them picked up by Pakistani bounty hunters for U.S. payoffs. The other 10 were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China's communist government -- not the United States, according to senior U.S. officials.

More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.

Pat Robertson's Blowback

Reports Bloomberg news service:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may see an increase in popularity because of the death threat leveled by a U.S. television evangelist, according to Datanalisis, the country's No. 1 polling company.

Television evangelist Pat Robertson's calls for the U.S. to "assassinate" Chavez will lead more Venezuelans to believe his claims that the Bush administration is trying to kill him, said Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based Datanalisis. The additional support may help Chavez's ruling coalition extend its majority in congress in December elections.

"The evangelist's declarations are terrible for the U.S. in that they totally back up Chavez," Leon said in a telephone interview from Caracas. "It is absolutely going to have the opposite effect on Chavez than the U.S. wants. It's something that resonates with the country's poor."

Which of course leads me to figure Pat R. is in fact a paid, deep-cover operative for the Chavez regime (but then, I believe that Arianna Huffington is still working for the GOP; how else to explain the level of ridicule she has helped bring to "progressive" politics and/or the very existence of The Huffington Post?).

More on Chavez & Robertson here.

Original H&R post on topic here.

Reuters Cameraman Held at Abu Ghraib

And we don't know why, or for how long.

U.S. military spokesmen have refused to say why they are holding Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, a 36-year-old freelance cameraman and photographer who has worked for the international news organization for a year in Ramadi, capital of Anbar region.

Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, spokesman for U.S. detainee operations in Iraq, said the journalist was now in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison: "He will not be able to have visitors for the next 60 days," he added.

Well, I'm sure there's a good reason. Oh wait.

Last year, three Iraqis working for Reuters were arrested after arriving swiftly in the area where a U.S. helicopter had been shot down near Falluja. The three, and another Iraqi working for U.S. television network NBC, said they were sexually and physically abused by U.S. soldiers for three days before they were released after pressure from the news organizations.

Reuters is still seeking access to the results of a military inquiry into that incident. A summary report exonerated the troops involved but the Iraqis themselves were never questioned by U.S. investigators.

A number of Iraqi journalists working for foreign news organizations have been detained for months at a time by the U.S. military and some are still in custody.

Story here; link via Sploid.

DC Event Tomorrow!: Stem Cells, Human Enhancement, & More, August 25

ARE STEM CELLS BABIES? THE PROMISE, PERILS, AND ETHICS OF HUMAN BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason magazine present Ronald Bailey, Eric Cohen, Joel Garreau, and Nick Gillespie debating cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology on Thursday, August 25.

What:

A free-for-all discussion about cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology featuring RONALD BAILEY, author of LIBERATION BIOLOGY: THE SCIENTIFIC AND MORAL CASE FOR THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION; ERIC COHEN, editor of THE NEW ATLANTIS; and JOEL GARREAU, author of RADICAL EVOLUTION: THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF ENHANCING OUR MINDS, OUR BODIES--AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN. Moderated by NICK GILLESPIE, editor-in-chief of REASON.

Wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

When:

7-9PM, Thursday, August 25

Where:

Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC
Salon A, West End Ballroom

RSVP: Space is limited, so please reserve a slot by RSVPing to John Thrasher at mailto:jthrashe@gmu.edu

This event is cosponored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason.

About the participants:

RONALD BAILEY is the science correspondent for Reason magazine and the author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other places. He is the editor of Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death (2002), Earth Report 2000: Revisiting The True State of The Planet (1999), and The True State of the Planet (1995). Bailey is also the author of ECOSCAM: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martins Press, 1993). For more information go to http://www.reason.com/rb/baileybio.shtml.

ERIC COHEN is the director of the Biotechnology and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is also the editor of The New Atlantis, the Center's journal about the ethical, political, and social implications of technological advancement and a consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, First Things, The Public Interest, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and many other publications. For more information, go to http://www.eppc.org/scholars/scholarID.52/scholar.asp.

JOEL GARREAU is a reporter and editor at The Washington Post and author of Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to Be Human. He is also the principal of The Garreau Group, a consulting group that analyzes social, geographic and psycho-demographic trends whose clients have included Volvo, Prudential, Coca Cola, McDonald's, the University of Michigan, and many others. Garreau is the author of The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991). For more information, go to http://www.garreau.com/main.cfm?action=bio.

NICK GILLESPIE is the editor-in-chief of Reason, winner of the 2005 Western Publications "Maggie" Award for best political magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, Slate, Salon, Tech Central Station, and many other publications. Gillespie is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, Radio America, and other outlets. He is the editor of Choice: The Best of Reason (2004). For more information, go to http://www.reason.com/gillespie/gillespiebio.shtml.

Tanned, Rested, and Ready

Anthony Gregory suggests a new approach in the Middle East:

We need a solution that will take care of Iraq, Iran, and their embarrassing new affinity to each other. We need a way to continue the war on terror against Iran without stretching the military too thin or exhausting our capabilities for potential intervention elsewhere. We need to keep the new Iraqi Sharia state in check....I modestly suggest, then, that the United States government pull most of its troops from Iraq, deploy them into Iran, overthrow the Iranian government, and install a new one with a leader friendly to the U.S.: I humbly propose we replace the current Iranian regime with Saddam Hussein....

All we have to do is free Saddam from his military prison, fortify 100,000 U.S. troops along the Iraq-Iran border, invade, starting with special forces, take out the major military and government installations with bunker busters, tactical nukes and other precision ordnance -- we can call the operation "Strike and Stun" -- and install Saddam as the new supreme leader and president of the Iranian government. The U.S. has picked favorites to run that country before, so it shouldn't be too hard to do again. In fact, it will be a cakewalk. The Iranians, oppressed as they are, will be overjoyed at the sight of American troops and will welcome their liberators with flowers and candy. The invasion and rebuilding can be financed completely from Iranian oil revenues. And the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be neutralized, put under the authority of Saddam, who, as we now know, can be trusted to tell the truth about such matters.

First You Need to Persuade the President

In a Washington Times op-ed piece, Bruce Fein urges President Bush to use the Roberts nomination as an opportunity "to persuade the public that the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning as mandated by the rule of law and separation of powers, not to achieve particular results." But Fein's subsequent examples of Republican infidelity to this principle suggest that the president is an unlikely defender of the Constitution:

The advocacy task is difficult...because process commands no impassioned and well-funded supporters. In contrast, the opponents of process obsessed with results--whether liberals or conservatives--are organized and vocal. Thus, liberals would manipulate the Commerce Clause to enact federal laws banning guns in schools or transforming state crimes against women into federal cases. Conservatives are equally eager for Congress to brandish the Clause to prohibit partial birth abortions or to thwart Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, or to act without a crumb of constitutional power to disturb a final Florida state court judgment concerning Terri Schiavo's vegetative state. Whereas liberals rejoiced at the Supreme Court's invocation of the "mysteries of the universe" and the "moral fact that one belongs to oneself and not to another or to society" to proclaim rights to an abortion and homosexual sodomy, conservatives similarly crave to wield corresponding fatuousness to promulgate an embryo's constitutional right to birth and a constitutional prohibition against suicide or assisted suicide.

New at Reason

If a sparrow falling to the ground does not escape the federal government's notice, can we hope do stem cell research without its involvement? Ronald Bailey thinks that, just maybe, we can.

Meth Madness

We're learning that meth does indeed cause insanity—among members of the press. Jack Shafer has yet another smart piece on the moral panic epidemic, and what the press didn't learn from the crack craze.

Against the Smart Money?

I'm a little less sanguine than Ron appears to be below about the Tierney/Simmons bet over the price of oil. The whole "Cornucopian" argument, after all, runs something like this: As resource A becomes increasingly scarce, the price rises until market pressure spurs some combination of a shift to subsitute resources B, C, etc. and technology to make more efficient use of A (or to allow resources X, Y, and Z, to act as substitutes whereas previously they hadn't been). The key thing here is that the argument has prices rising first as part of the mechanism. So if we were talking about, say, 2030 or 2050, I'd probably be happy to take the Tierney side of the bet. But the current technologies that use oil—millions of vehicles, and a network of petroleum filling stations to support them—aren't going to be replaced overnight with a wave of a magic market wand. If the killer energy app were developed tomorrow, it would still take a hell of a long while to make it a viable substitute for oil for most people. I find the Tierney/Simon argument generally plausible, but I don't know how plausible I find it on the timescale contemplated in this bet.

Addendum: OK, after having looked at some of the comments here, as well as my friend Tim Lee's post noting that the $200/barrel projection is way out of line with the futures market's estimate, I'm willing to buy that Simmons has taken the sucker bet here. My point was really just that it's too quick to assume that resource prices will drop over any particular time scale: The argument for prices dropping in the long term relies on the idea that they sometimes go up in the short term, and you need to look at the actual details of the case to make a decent guess at what the relevant time scales are.

Dept. of Self-Awareness

In the same paragraph, Christopher Hitchens writes the following:

  • "This is an argument, about a real war, that deserves moral seriousness on all sides. Flippancy and light-mindedness have no place."
  • "[Michael Moore] is spouting fascistic nonsense"
  • "[Cindy Sheehan] should forgo prayer, stay in California, and end her protest."

New at Reason

Looks like Matt Welch won't be making the rotation of experts who provide pithy soundbites and wacky metaphors for the New York Times op-ed page, now that he's dubbed overrated columnist Thomas Friedman a "self-caricaturing hack."

My ($595) Dinner With Novak

Sydney "Killing Fields" Schanberg reports that Bob Novak is offering a "confidential" session with his own bad self and other members of the Beltway elite, "100% off the record," for the low low price of $595. From the invite:

Dear friend, When was the last time you sat in a room just a few feet from the likes of Vice President Cheney or Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, asked a question and got a straightforward answer? [...]

Each speaker speaks briefly about the issues of the day, then opens the floor to questions--any questions. The answers are frank and open, because there are no reporters.

I'll say. (Link via Romenesko.)

Main Street on the March!

Lefty blogger Shawn Ewald contrasts Cindy Sheehan with an online pundit who calls himself The Meat-Eating Leftist:

As you might expect, the Meat-Eating Leftist is shootin' from the hip with no-nonsense, meat-eating common sense like repeatedly comparing Bush to a chimp. That's so fucking hardcore, dude! He keeps on telling it like it is by saying flat out: "That the chimp needs a bat over his head." Whoa, dude! That's almost too radical!...

Sarcasm aside, the difference between people like Cindy Sheehan and people like the Meat-Eating Leftist is that Sheehan is for real. She doesn't sit back and snipe about what other people should be doing, she went out and put her life on hold, risked her marriage, endured the humiliations of the press because she is serious. This whole Cindy Sheehan thing is what it is, it's not the revolution and it probably won't stop the war, but if it embarrasses the president and gets people out in the street that would ordinarily never dream of going to an anti-war protest, Cindy Sheehan will have already accomplished more than the entire anti-war movement has accomplished to date.

Even the craven, evil mainstream press can see why people are interested in her and inspired by her. Because her protest is not a fashion statement, it's not a line item on her activist resume. It's not about her or her reputation, or her future career, or to satisfy her personal delusions of grandeur. She is for real and we on the left have not been, it's really as simple as that.

Steve Earle said something similar at Camp Casey: "the Vietnam War didn't end because I opposed it, it ended because my father came to oppose it. We have Cindy Sheehan to thank for the beginnings of what I believe is a mainstream movement against this war." And in a dispatch for AlterNet, Amanda Marcotte writes: "I guess I read too many right-wing blogs, because I really did fear that this was going to be a load of navel-gazing hippies, but they represent only a tiny minority of the people milling around. The majority of the people we saw at both camps and at the Peace House were middle-aged women in shorts with sensible shoes and sensible hats. Really, if I didn't know what was going on and just stumbled upon this group of women putting up signs and tables, putting out food and chatting amicably, I would have thought it was the local PTA throwing a high school dance."

All of which is my roundabout way of getting to why I'm much more favorably disposed towards Camp Casey than Tim Cavanaugh was when he wrote about its founding mother in this space last week. My initial reaction to Sheehan was skeptical ("A meeting with the president? What's that going to accomplish?") but before long it was clear that she was a catalyst as well as a symbol for Main Street antiwar sentiment -- and that Bush simply doesn't know how to respond to a protest like hers. When the warbots try to slime her, that merely shows how desperate they are: They know they're on the defensive. If Sheehan were the fringe figure they say she is, they would barely bother to talk about her at all.

That Silver Ring Thing You Do

I have no problem in principle with sex-ed programs that focus on abstinence—assuming they're actually effective and don't make those who end up having sex more likely to become sick or pregnant for lack of information, which is a significant if. But it was a little disturbing to see that federal tax dollars have been funding this:

Teenage graduates of the program sign a covenant "before God Almighty" to remain virgins and earn a silver ring inscribed with a Bible passage reminding them to "keep clear of sexual sin." Many of its events are held at churches.

Until the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging misuse of government funds, the Silver Ring Thing's website apparently laid out their goals pretty clearly:

Among the removed items are the organization's newsletters, which contained a clear statement of the Silver Ring Thing's religious purpose: "The mission is to saturate the United States with a generation of young people who have taken a vow of sexual abstinence until marriage and put on the silver ring. This mission can only be achieved by offering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the best way to live a sexually pure life."

Additionally, the Silver Ring Thing's original "12 Step Follow-Up Program" has been modified. Prior to the lawsuit, the website contained only one version of a follow-up program. Now, the site offers a "10 Step Secular Follow-Up Program" and has renamed its 12-step version to include the words "faith-centered" in the title. The new program removes step two, which encourages using the Abstinence Study Bible and step four, which asks students to understand that "God has a plan for his or her life, and a plan for his or her sexuality." And "Deb's Diary," a section of the website that encouraged students to pursue faith and to find completion in Christ, has also been removed.

This Is Your Utah Law Enforcement on Drugs

So what news of that Utah rave busted up by 90 military-style SWAT team cops with automatic weapons, helicopters, tear gas and dogs? Scanning today's Mormon State newspapers we get a bunch of illuminating justifications and outright lying from cops and politicians. For instance, this passage in a Salt Lake Tribune article:

"I stand by everything that was done there that night. We did use some force. It was appropriate and necessary to take those who were fighting us into custody," [Utah County Sheriff Jim] Tracy said.

He also said that no officers used profanity as they conversed with partiers, nor did they punch, kick, Mace or use tear gas on any of the attendees.

"It's all a lie and we refute every word of that," said Tracy.

But the video clearly shows an officer using profanity as he demands the music be turned off.

Tracy's punching, kicking and chemical non-using claims are also refuted by various eyewitness accounts; click on links beginning here and here.

The police said they moved in because organizers didn't obtain a "mass gathering" permit, to allow for crowds larger than 300.** Organizers did obtain a health permit, and reports differ** on whether they got the mass gathering permit or not, but

"That's all smoke and mirrors," said County Commissioner Steve White. "They were selling drugs. They were committing illegal acts, and as soon as that happened it doesn't matter what kind of permit they had."

The awful kicker? Several of the 60 or so people arrested were private security guards, booked on drug possession, because they had searched incoming ravers and confiscated their illegal drugs.

"[Security guards] have no legal statutory authority to take and hold controlled substances. It's against the law for them to have them," Tracy said.

** UPDATE: Commenter Jason Ramsey reports that the "mass gathering" permit was in fact obtained:

I spoke directly with Jay Stone who handles the Mass Gathering permits for the Utah County Health Department's Bureau of Environmental Health Services, and he stated unequivocably that the permit was applied for and granted by his department. He also agreed to write a letter to this effect upon request. The questions about whether or not the permit was issued should be answered and not up for dispute. I am currently attempting to reach the Utah County Board of Commissioners to resolve whether or not an additional permit would have been required by their office. Initial conversations with "Michelle" at their office seemed to indicate that this was not the case.

A Frothy Mixture of Campaign Finance Law and Censorship

No surprise that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is fond of censorship, but he's apparently expanding his horizons by using campaign finance law to go after a Scranton newspaper he's charged with making a "corporate contribution" to his opponent. Overlawyered has a good roundup of the coverage, including a NY Post column by erstwhile Reasonite Ryan Sager.

California Supreme Court Rules: Heather Has Two Mommies

This story about a series of California cases recognizing the parental rights (and obligations) of lesbian couples who have children together seems like mostly good news, with one reservation:

Lower courts and dissenting justices noted the woman, K.M., voluntarily signed a document declaring her intention not to become a parent of any resulting children, and should not be granted parental status.

But Justice Carlos Moreno, writing for the 4-2 majority, said a woman who supplies eggs to help impregnate her lesbian partner, with the understanding the child will be raised in their home, cannot evade her responsibility to that child.

And the Times account notes:

The Supreme Court, in a 4-to-2 decision, ruled for K. M. notwithstanding a state law that says a man who donates his semen to impregnate a woman who is not his wife is not a legal father. Justice Werdegar, dissenting, suggested that treating the donation of sperm differently from the donation of an egg "inappropriately confers rights and imposes disabilities on persons because of their sexual orientation" and so "may well violate equal protection."

I suppose I should read the full decision, but the report here makes it sound as though the court is voiding a contract that established that an egg donor wasn't to retain parental rights, on the grounds that donor and birth-mother also had a relationship. Depending on the specifics, that sounds as though it could be a deterrent to asking someone you know to be your egg/sperm donor (or acceding to such a request). To the extent that the decision depends on both women having acted as de facto parents, the risk of interference with mere-donor relationships isn't terribly great, but it does seem to send the message that if only one member of a couple is interested in being a parent, there's no legal mechanism to allow the other partner to help, by providing genetic material, without also taking on the full set of parental rights and obligations. In a sense, it's like an amped up version of a non-waivable habitability requirement for apartment leases: Some people get inefficiently priced out of the market for parenthood. In the particular case here considered, it's at least possible that the biological mother wouldn't have gone through with the pregnancy if she knew her then-girlfriend's waiver of parental rights would be ruled unenforceable.

Of course, it's not exactly like an apartment lease: There are, after all, those very short people to consider. On the one hand, there's surely some value to ensuring the child the support of two parents. But, first, it's not wholly obvious that requiring genetic and legal parenthood to overlap in this way is the ideal way to go about that: The birth-mother might have a new partner who, in light of the previous waiver, would view herself as the child's second parent. Second, this raises a whole spate of thorny philosophical questions about weighing the relative value of a benefit to existing children against the prevention of children whose potential parents opt not to conceive them because of the lack of contractual flexibility.

I wrote about some other aspects of the battle over gay parenthood in our August issue.

Betting on Cheaper Oil

The insightful New York Times columnist John Tierney has placed a $10,000 bet with peak oil doomster Matthew Simmons. Simmons is author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy which predicts soaring oil prices soon because Saudi oil reserves are much less than they've been telling us.

The bet is modeled on the famous 1980 Julian Simon/Paul Ehrlich bet over the future prices of a basket of five metals. Simon handily won the bet in 1990 when the prices of the metals selected by Ehrlich had fallen by more than half.

Simmons is betting Tierney "that the price in 2010, when adjusted for inflation so it's stated in 2005 dollars, would be at least $200 per barrel."

For the record, when I report the story on January 1, 2011, I expect Tierney will be the winner.

Fire Up Your Sex Life

Burn something today in solidarity with the young women of Swaziland. They're torching their tasseled scarves, which are sort of like promise rings, except that a guy with 12 wives does the promising for you. AP reports:

At dawn Monday, thousands of Swazi girls removed tasseled scarves symbolizing their chastity, abandoning an ancient rite that was revived to combat the modern scourge of AIDS.

King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, reinstated the umchwasho rite for five years in 2001, banning sexual relations for girls younger than 18. But the move was ridiculed as old-fashioned and unfairly focused on girls--and the king himself was accused of ignoring it...

They dropped the tassels in a heap, which state radio said would be burned at a public celebration Tuesday marking the official end of the chastity rite.

Whole delightful thing here.

ACLU asks why taxpayers are paying for promise rings here.

Rev. Pat Sez: Bring Me the Head of Hugo Chavez!

Christian Coalition cofounder and religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, who famously agreed on air with Jerry Falwell that "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle" were partly to blame for the 9/11 attacks, has taken a page from Islam and issued his own fatwa:

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

The strong-arm dictator in question? Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, whom Robertson says is a "terrific danger" to the U.S.

Whole story here.

DC Reason Event, Thursday, Aug 25: Debate How To Improve Brain Cells, Then Kill Some

ARE STEM CELLS BABIES? THE PROMISE, PERILS, AND ETHICS OF HUMAN BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason magazine present Ronald Bailey, Eric Cohen, Joel Garreau, and Nick Gillespie debating cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology on Thursday, August 25.

What:

A free-for-all discussion about cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology featuring RONALD BAILEY, author of LIBERATION BIOLOGY: THE SCIENTIFIC AND MORAL CASE FOR THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION; ERIC COHEN, editor of THE NEW ATLANTIS; and JOEL GARREAU, author of RADICAL EVOLUTION: THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF ENHANCING OUR MINDS, OUR BODIES--AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN. Moderated by NICK GILLESPIE, editor-in-chief of REASON.

Wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

When:

7-9PM, Thursday, August 25

Where:

Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC

RSVP: Space is limited, so please reserve a slot by RSVPing to John Thrasher at mailto:jthrashe@gmu.edu

This event is cosponored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason.

About the participants:

RONALD BAILEY is the science correspondent for Reason magazine and the author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other places. He is the editor of Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death (2002), Earth Report 2000: Revisiting The True State of The Planet (1999), and The True State of the Planet (1995). Bailey is also the author of ECOSCAM: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martins Press, 1993). For more information go to http://www.reason.com/rb/baileybio.shtml.

ERIC COHEN is the director of the Biotechnology and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is also the editor of The New Atlantis, the Center's journal about the ethical, political, and social implications of technological advancement and a consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, First Things, The Public Interest, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and many other publications. For more information, go to http://www.eppc.org/scholars/scholarID.52/scholar.asp.

JOEL GARREAU is a reporter and editor at The Washington Post and author of Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to Be Human. He is also the principal of The Garreau Group, a consulting group that analyzes social, geographic and psycho-demographic trends whose clients have included Volvo, Prudential, Coca Cola, McDonald's, the University of Michigan, and many others. Garreau is the author of The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991). For more information, go to http://www.garreau.com/main.cfm?action=bio.

NICK GILLESPIE is the editor-in-chief of Reason, winner of the 2005 Western Publications "Maggie" Award for best political magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, Slate, Salon, Tech Central Station, and many other publications. Gillespie is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, Radio America, and other outlets. He is the editor of Choice: The Best of Reason (2004). For more information, go to http://www.reason.com/gillespie/gillespiebio.shtml.

Epstein to Jurors: Hands Off My Drugs!

Richard Epstein rebukes the Texas jury that turned a tenuous causal connection and their resentment of pharmaceutical companies into an absurd (and illegal) quarter-billion-dollar Vioxx verdict aimed at "sending a message." Even reduced to a mere $25 million, says Epstein, the award spells doom for pharmaceutical innovation:

I would like to send my message to [plaintiff's lawyer Mark] Lanier and those indignant jurors. It's not from an irate tort professor, but from a scared citizen who is steamed that those "good people" have imperiled his own health and that of his family and friends. None of you have ever done a single blessed thing to help relieve anybody's pain and suffering. Just do the math to grasp the harm that you've done.

Right now there are over 4,000 law suits against Merck for Vioxx. If each clocks in at $25 million, then your verdict is that the social harm from Vioxx exceeds $100 billion, before thousands more join in the treasure hunt. Pfizer's Celebrex and Bextra could easily be next. Understand that no future drug will be free of adverse side effects, nor reach market, without the tough calls that Merck had to make with Vioxx. Your implicit verdict is to shut down the entire quest for new medical therapies. Your verdict says you think that the American public is really better off with just hot-water bottles and leftover aspirin tablets.

Ah, you will say, but we're only after Vioxx, and not those good drugs. Sorry, the investment community won't take you at your word. It realizes that any new drug which treats common chronic conditions can generate the same ruinous financial losses as Vioxx, because the flimsy evidence on causation and malice you cobbled together in the Ernst case can be ginned up in any other. Clever lawyers like Mr. Lanier will be able to ambush enough large corporations in small, dusty towns where they will stand the same chance of survival that Custer had at Little Big Horn. Investors can multiply: They won't bet hundreds of millions of dollars in new therapies on the off-chance of being proved wrong. They know they'll go broke if they win 90% of the time.

Your appalling carnage cries out for prompt action. Much as I disapprove of how the FDA does business, we must enact this hard-edged no-nonsense legal rule: no drug that makes it through the FDA gauntlet can be attacked for bad warnings or deficient design.

New at Reason

Kerry Howley wants to know why the U.S. won't afford her the same level of control over her own healthcare she enjoyed under a dictatorship in Burma.

New at Reason

Looking for Vietnam's hallmark, a shortage of military parts that looks stark, and gayin' it up at the ballpark in the new Reason Express.

Atta Boys

From the Wash Times:

A Pentagon investigation has found no evidence that Able Danger, a secret military intelligence operation, identified September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta as a terror cell member more than a year before the attacks.

From AP via Fox News:

On Monday, Navy Capt. Scott Philpott told FOX News that he had also told the Sept. 11 commission about Atta and Able Danger. In a statement sent to FOX News, Philpott wrote: "My story has remained consistent. Atta was identified by Able Danger in early 2000."

Wash Times story here. Fox News here.

Robert Moog, RIP

Everyone's favorite prog rock enabler is dead. Robert Moog made synthesizers that almost anyone circa 1970, given enough time and patch cords, could use to make sounds and noises no keyboard had ever made before. Much like Les Paul's electric guitar did years before, the Moog anticipated and encouraged the DIY vibe that carries right through to today's digital musical scene.

So pull up some Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream or, my fave, the wholly superfluous Keith Emerson solo at the end of ELP's "Lucky Man," and say a little thank you to Mr. Moog.

Our Trump Card

Domino's pitchman turned C-list blogger Donald Trump offers his solution to the high price of Arab oil:

Better yet, stop sending those politicians over there to negotiate. Send a true business leader--someone who is used to tough bargaining--and see how far he or she could get. A seasoned business negotiator could do some serious talking and those prices would drop like a rock--guaranteed.

You don't suppose he has anyone in mind, do you? I say we test Trump's mettle by sending him to negotiate with the Iraqi insurgents first. As a goodwill gesture, he'll be unarmed.

New at Reason

If it were really the case that terrorists "hate us for our freedoms," we'd be getting more popular with Al Qaeda every month. Unfortunately, as Doug Bandow notices, we seem to be pouring fuel on the fire.

The $1.3 Trillion War

Linda Bilmes, a Commerce Department assistant secretary from 1999-2001 who teaches budgeting and public finance at Harvard, estimates that

if the American military presence in [Iraq] lasts another five years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States.

See a graphical representation of Bilmes' math here; her column here. Key section:

But the biggest long-term costs are disability and health payments for returning troops, which will be incurred even if hostilities were to stop tomorrow. The United States currently pays more than $2 billion in disability claims per year for 159,000 veterans of the 1991 gulf war, even though that conflict lasted only five weeks, with 148 dead and 467 wounded. Even assuming that the 525,000 American troops who have so far served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment only on the same scale as their predecessors from the gulf war, these payments are likely to run at $7 billion a year for the next 45 years.

$1.3 trillion is more than the annual GDP of Canada, Mexico, Spain and 217 other countries. (Bilmes link via Anti-War.com.)

Heavily Armed Troops Crack Down on Utah Rave

Lots of links, including video, over at Sploid. UPDATE: Try this video link if the first one doesn't work.

New at Reason

Matt Welch contemplates saying bye to HI.

New Study Proves it! Hollywood Requires Tax Breaks!

That may as well have been the headline on this deeply incurious L.A. Times article regurgitating as fact data from a new Runaway Production study by the industrial-policy boosters at the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation, who are trying to coax regional tax favoritism from Sacramento with talk like "California loses more than $10 million in tax revenue when a larger-budget movie costing about $70 million is made elsewhere." California's actor-governor, a professed fan of Milton Friedman, is enthusiastically backing a new bill that would

provide a 12% tax credit on a feature film project's spending in California, with a cap of $3 million per production. Television movies, which have thinner profit margins, could get an additional 3% credit.

Best quote, in an article full of unconvincing paeans to Hollywood's humble worker bees:

Director Taylor Hackford said he shot the Oscar-nominated film "Ray" in Louisiana because of a $3.7-million tax credit.

"I wouldn't have been able to make that film without that kind of help," Hackford said. "I want California to wake up."

My argument here for letting Hackford's audience continue to sleep.

Peasant Chic Won't Fly in Calcutta

For a while now, it's been possible to hail a rickshaw on the streets of Manhattan. As of next week, it is illegal to do so on the streets of Calcutta:

Communist state authorities announced last week their intent to ban the hand-pulled rickshaws, saying they consider the practice "inhuman" -- not to mention bad for the city's image.

Missing Proxmire

Over at The Washington Times, Cato's Chris Edwards suggests that, instead of trying to lure social conservatives from the GOP fold, Democrats should try their hand at fiscal conservatism. Surely someone should.

Left Behind: Oil Armageddon

Yesterday The New York Times Magazine plunged into peak oil hysteria: the belief not only that the planet's oil production is declining, which may or may not be true, but that the law of supply and demand is going out the window too. In the real world, gradually increasing prices are a signal encouraging consumers to conserve and entrepreneurs to invest in alternative sources of energy. On Planet Peak Oil, we wake up one morning and discover that the world's petroleum has disappeared overnight, in some ecological equivalent of the Rapture.

Steven "Freakonomics" Levitt thrashes the Times article here. The AP looks into getting energy from cow patties here. Guidelines for writing Left Behind fan fiction here.

Embryonic Stem Cells Reprogram Adult Cells

Scientists at Harvard University reported research yesterday in which they had succeeded in rejuvenating and reprogramming human adult skin cells by fusing them with embryonic stem cells. In a teleconference this morning, one of the researchers Kevin Eggan, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, told reporters that the research is aimed at helping scientists understand how adult cells can be reprogrammed, but that, "this research will not result in a functional entity useful for treatments."

One problem is that the cells contain both full sets of chromosomes from the embryonic and adult cells. These tetraploid cells do divide and exhibit all of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. However, Eggan stressed the point that because they contain genetic material from two individuals, "they are useless for therapy." The really exciting aspect of the work is that these new tetraploid stem cell lines can be created using already abundant embryonic stem cell lines instead of rare human eggs, giving researchers far more lines in which to find and study the factors that can reprogram cells. Eggan explained that the eventual goal is to isolate the factors in eggs and embryonic stem cells that elicit reprogramming. Once these are known, they can be used to directly rejuvenate and transform adult cells without resorting to eggs or embryonic stem cells.

Why fuse the cells? Why not just isolate the cytoplasm from embryonic stem cells and inject it into adult cells to see if factors in the cytoplasm will reprogram adult cells? Eggan pointed out that trying to remove chromosomes from embryonic stem cells is technically extremely difficult. However, other teams are in fact pursuing this type of research. Eggan mentioned unpublished work being done by Yuri Verlinksy at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago in which genes are centrifuged from embryonic stem cells and their cytoplasm is used to dose adult cells and transform them into cells that act like embryonic stem cells.

Eggan acknowledged that main body of his team's research was done using a stem cell line that was derived using private funds in 2004. In August 2001, President George Bush limited federal research funding to only stem cell lines derived before that date. The Harvard team did later use a "presidentially approved" stem cell line to produce a new tetraploid stem cell line in a proof of concept experiment.

Eggan is well aware that his new study is falling right in the middle of the upcoming fight in Congress over whether or not to lift President Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. "Myself and my colleagues feel very very strongly that somatic cell nuclear transfer [cloning human embryonic stem cells] research and research using embryos left over from IVF treatments to produce stem cell lines should go forward," said Eggan. He stressed that his team's research is a complement to, not a substitute for, other promising types of stem cell research.

D.C. Area Reasonoids: Hayyã 'Alã-s-Salah!

ARE STEM CELLS BABIES? THE PROMISE, PERILS, AND ETHICS OF HUMAN BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason magazine present Ronald Bailey, Eric Cohen, Joel Garreau, and Nick Gillespie debating cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology on Thursday, August 25.

What:

A free-for-all discussion about cloning, stem-cell research, and other aspects of biotechnology featuring RONALD BAILEY, author of LIBERATION BIOLOGY: THE SCIENTIFIC AND MORAL CASE FOR THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION; ERIC COHEN, editor of THE NEW ATLANTIS; and JOEL GARREAU, author of RADICAL EVOLUTION: THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF ENHANCING OUR MINDS, OUR BODIES--AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN. Moderated by NICK GILLESPIE, editor-in-chief of REASON.

Wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

When:

7-9PM, Thursday, August 25

Where:

Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC

RSVP: Space is limited, so please reserve a slot by RSVPing to John Thrasher at mailto:jthrashe@gmu.edu

This event is cosponored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and Reason.

About the participants:

RONALD BAILEY is the science correspondent for Reason magazine and the author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other places. He is the editor of Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death (2002), Earth Report 2000: Revisiting The True State of The Planet (1999), and The True State of the Planet (1995). Bailey is also the author of ECOSCAM: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martins Press, 1993). For more information go to http://www.reason.com/rb/baileybio.shtml.

ERIC COHEN is the director of the Biotechnology and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is also the editor of The New Atlantis, the Center's journal about the ethical, political, and social implications of technological advancement and a consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, First Things, The Public Interest, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and many other publications. For more information, go to http://www.eppc.org/scholars/scholarID.52/scholar.asp.

JOEL GARREAU is a reporter and editor at The Washington Post and author of Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to Be Human. He is also the principal of The Garreau Group, a consulting group that analyzes social, geographic and psycho-demographic trends whose clients have included Volvo, Prudential, Coca Cola, McDonald's, the University of Michigan, and many others. Garreau is the author of The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991). For more information, go to http://www.garreau.com/main.cfm?action=bio.

NICK GILLESPIE is the editor-in-chief of Reason, winner of the 2005 Western Publications "Maggie" Award for best political magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, Slate, Salon, Tech Central Station, and many other publications. Gillespie is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, Radio America, and other outlets. He is the editor of Choice: The Best of Reason (2004). For more information, go to http://www.reason.com/gillespie/gillespiebio.shtml.

Reason Writers Around Town

Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of the attempt to remake Iraq as a democracy, the chaos that would result from the failure of that attempt couldn't be anything but bad for the region. So then, wonders Michael Young in the Wall Street Journal, why are so many in the Middle East rooting for that outcome?