And just to add one to Jesse's observation below: Bush's argument against actual protectionism—the traditional economic sort—was framed in terms of the need to resist the temptation to take panicked measures that centralize power in the federal government in response to economic uncertainty. A fair point... one that might even have wider applicability.
Bush sure seems to be the master of the dubious conflation. Julian has already noted how human cloning got lumped in with chimeras, protectionist economics with a non-interventionist foreign policy. But the weirdest moment came when the president seemed to see a connection between the Abramoff scandal and gay marriage. What the hell?
There's some areas, on the other hand, where he could stand to do a little more conflating. If you're going to keep hammering the idea that America shouldn't wall itself off from the world, perhaps you might want to wait for another evening to give us your plans for energy independence.
Listening for incongruous applause, usually the product of partisan counterclapping, is one way I stay awake during State of the Union speeches. My favorite example this year: When Bush mentioned the failure of his Social Security plan, Democrats stood and applauded the president's defeat. Republicans retaliated by applauding enthusiastically when Bush added, "The rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away." Yay! We're screwed!
That is my memory of Gov. Tim Kaine's closing line. Which is right up there with "Beef, it's what for dinner" and "Knowledge is good" in terms of really rousing a crowd.
I'd like to think that the Dems can do better--not because I'm a partisan but simply because I'd like to see an actual debate of ideas between the two major political parties.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has obviously been prepped for the Democratic response by whatever misguided bastard instructed Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to adopt the demeanor of blissed-out cult leaders with creepy rictus grins locked on their faces. Someone get James Carville up there.
An "American Competitiveness Initiative"? Doubling federal funding for science research? Encouraging kids to take more math and science courses? I feel more hopeful already! A New Frontier is on the horizon!
Hey, have any conspiracy-mongering Bush-bashers spread the idea that he had Coretta Scott King bumped off to give him a good liberal-conciliatory opening bit?
Thirty seconds into Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's response to Bush's SOTU and I think it's already time for the hook. Part of my reaction is the colonial parlor backdrop.
This would have been a fun and possibly enlightening exercise for the president's speechwriters: Try putting together a State of the Union address without using the word freedom even once, let alone in every other sentence. "We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," the president says, by fighting for the freedom of everyone else in the world and by fighting against those who hate freedom, including the forces of radical Islam and the rulers of every nondemocratic country in the Middle East. "We seek the end of tyranny in our world," Bush says, because "the future security of America depends upon it." Hence we will "lead this world toward freedom."
I like freedom at least as much as the next guy, and I concede there is something to Bush's argument that the world tends to become safer as tyrannies give way to liberal democracies. But that does not mean that going "on the offensive" to forcibly overthrow tyrannies throughout the world will make Americans more secure, given the unintended consequences of such a crusade. In any case, it is undeniably true that Americans can be free even if Iraqis, Syrians, Saudis, Egyptians, and Iranians are not, so why pretend otherwise?
Annoying anti-war activist and buddy of Hugo Chavez, Cindy Sheehan was removed from the House Chamber by Capitol police because she had an anti-war sign, according to CNN's crawl. She was the invited guest of a member of Congress. I dislike Sheehan, but is there a law against sitting quietly with a protest sign in the Capitol? Hey, it might be indecorous, but what about the right of citizens to petition their government?
Check 'em out here.
One could say we sorta did accept "the permanent division of Europe," couldn't one? Yes, there are all the complicated and endless debates about what role Reagan's Cold War spending and steely-eyed gaze played in the collapse of Soviet and Eastern European communism. but our role in that, whatever it might have been, surely makes poor parallelism with Lincoln's role in the Civil War.
CNN's John King has just noted that Bush has "really trimmed his sails" (or something close to that), the prez's ambition's this time around are pretty small compared to the start of his presidency. No more serious Social Security reform, etc.
Was there a real theme to this speech? I'm not sure, though it's clear that foreign policy issues prevailed...
Note how human cloning and embyronic experimentation just got lumped in with the creation of human-animal hybrids, or chimeras—the latter a huge category involving some pretty radically different options, and in any event presenting quite different ethical questions from the other technologies.
...with this applause line: "The Iranian government is defying the world with its nucular ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nucular weapons." And so the debate continues: Does he do it on purpose for that common-man touch, or can't he help it? Did his advisers spend long hours drilling him, Henry Higgins-style, to no avail?
Update: Bush's subsequent reference to "clean, safe nucular energy" shows that the mispronunciation is not limited to the context of weapons. Does he also say "nucular family"?
We are addicted to oil as a transport fuel and likely to be for some time to come. Nixon, Carter, Bush I, and Clinton all had new high tech car initiatives--internal combustion cars still dominate. As I've argued before, energy independence is a chimera. Tech is the solution to our energy conundrums, but history teaches that government tech initiatives are not likely to work.
Did the prez just claim that he's cut non-defense discretionary spending every year he's been in office? I'm not sure of his locution, but he's been the biggest spender in recent history when it comes to non-defense discretionary spending, jacking totals up about 28 percent over his first five years in office, even kicking LBJ's and Tricky Dick Nixon's butts when it comes to that particular activity.
It's good to know that the tight the president has kept on non-security domestic discretionary spending has "saved taxpayers $14 billion." I sure hope there hasn't been any massive offsetting spending. And dear sweet flying spaghetti monster, is he really still peddling this canard about being "on track" to cut the deficit in half in ten years—a projection that depends on his not getting the extension of the tax cuts he called for just seconds earlier?
Surveillance was authorized by statues? Like, the creepy ones with the glowing eyes from The Prisoner?
Apparently Cindy Sheehan, who'd been invited to SOTU as the guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), was arrested and ejected shortly before the speech began under unclear circumstances.
Julian relax--it's not just trade in daisy cutters. He's right about free trade and immigrants. Walling off the economy like we did in the 1970s will bring back the vibrant economy of that halcyon decade. However, I don't see a lot of support in Congress on either side of the aisle for free trade and better treatment of immigrants.
I was heartened by what sounded like some opening pro-trade rhetoric. Then I realized the guiding conceit of this last riff was going to be that a lack of enthusiasm for invading and rebuilding other countries is a form of "isolationism," or even "protectionism."
If you're subjecting yourself to the C-in-C's fraught relationship with the English language too, incidentally, you might take a wistful glance at today's New York Times op-ed on the desirability of going back to a written State of the Union report.
A dog is among the honored guests sharing box seats with first lady Laura Bush during tonight's State of the Union address.
Rex, a 5-year-old German shepherd and former working military dog, will attend with Technical Sgt. Jamie Dana of Smethport, Pa., who joined the Air Force in 1998 and is stationed at Peterson Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sam Alito's "wow, this is pretty cool" expression as he glances about the room like an overstimulated kid on his first trip to FAO Schwartz is pretty priceless. Part of me wants to believe Harriet Miers is watching on C-SPAN from some dive bar, decked out in "robes" she handmade from a Hefty Cinch Sak.
Unemployment is 14.1 percent, the stores are boarded up, the population is still dropping, and even The Bus' boyhood home is a burned-out stump. The Motor City will be the real loser at Super Bowl XL.
But wait! Detroit is back! Sunday's Bowl will show everybody, promises Motown chief exec:
The jokes are out of date. Seventy new businesses have moved in downtown since Detroit won the rights to this Super Bowl four years ago, including 35 restaurants. There are three casinos in the city, and another across the water in Windsor, Canada. A massive Super Bowl XL banner covers the city's largest building.
This is not your father's Detroit, [Mayor Kwame] Kilpatrick says. It is not the one that hosted the 1982 Super Bowl, when a snowstorm, a traffic jam caused by a bus fire and the motorcade of then-vice-president George Bush snr led some journalists to declare it the worst Super Bowl ever to cover.
Because, you know, if we have to play football when it's snowing, the terrorists have won.
How has the city revived? How else—with a stadium that only cost the public $500 million.
Will the bowl ever return to its birthplace?
And speaking of public building projects, light a firecracker for Guy Fawkes—the only man ever to go to Parliament with honourable intentions—who was executed 400 years ago today (a mere three months after the crime!).
With health care expected to be a big theme in tonight's State of the Onion address, Ron Bailey makes the case for putting insurance back in the hands of the individual.
As Julian Sanchez once wrote, "Sam Alito, Jump a Little Higher."
Alito has been confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 58-42 vote and what will surely be known as the era of the Trenton Court has begun (Alito shares a hometown with Antonin Scalia).
Some Reason writings about Alito here.
And back last July, we polled legal seers about who should be named to the Supreme Court (and more). The number of our crew who picked Alito as a likely--or wise--choice? Go here for the answer.
Editors at Wikipedia have compiled an amusing/appalling list of edits made to Wikipedia entries by IP addresses allocated to the House and Senate. The editors also threw in a list of the "potential staffers involved," who were no doubt trying to distinguish a Freyesque "essential truth" from annoying facts by replacing entries with staff bios and removing "unflattering quotes." Occasional Reason contributor Declan McCullagh notes:
One edit listed White House press secretary Scott McClellan under the entry for "douche." Another said of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) that: "Coburn was voted the most annoying Senator by his peers in Congress. This was due to Senator Coburn being a huge douche-bag."
This juvenalia is, of course, thoroughly bipartisan. Another change to the Iraq invasion entry shows that the anonymous congressional editor played up the dubious connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Salon's Walter Shapiro profiles John Sununu of New Hampshire, one of four Republican senators to break with the president on the Patriot Act. At the end of the article, Shapiro observes a fact that isn't acknowledged as often as it should be among civil libertarians of the left:
It is tempting to use party labels (augmented by descriptive adjectives like "moderate" and "maverick") as a shorthand for the white hats and black hats of American politics. But the divisions over the Patriot Act illustrate the limitations of such a lazy typology. The Republican senators loudly opposing a no-questions-asked extension of the Patriot Act are not celebrated naysayers like John McCain nor the always-on-the-fence New England moderates (Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Lincoln Chafee). Instead, it is Sununu and the libertarians on the right who are standing firm.
And speaking of civil liberties and internecine warfare: There's a fascinating piece in the current Newsweek about the battles within the bureaucracy over Bush's efforts to extend presidential powers. I wish I knew more about where the details of the story came from, but even with that caveat I highly recommend the article.
Thomas Hobbes argued that humanity can escape the state of nature, in which lives are nasty, poor, brutish and short, only by surrendering some natural liberty to the common power of Leviathan. "The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men," declared Hobbes.
Or in the case of macaques, to "one assembly of monkeys." Researchers at the Santa Fe Institute removed 3 of 4 dominant males from a troupe of 84 macaques and chaos ensued. The New Scientist reports,
Without monkey cops, group cohesion rapidly disintegrated. Feudal cliques formed and social networks broke down. Communal activities such as playing, grooming and sitting together all decreased. Meanwhile, the amount of violence escalated, with no one to broker the peace. "Individuals had significantly more play and grooming partners in the presence of policing," say the researchers.
Question: Why do monkey cops permit "play and grooming" to flourish, while human cops are so often called upon to stamp out comparable human activiities (sex, drugs, rock-and-roll)?
Deconstructing Dubya, hamstringing Hamas, and badgering bureaucrats, in Reason Express.
I've spent a substantial chunk of my career writing about radio stations that operate without a license and cover community politics. If you tune your receiver to 1620 AM in Sandy Springs, Georgia, you'll find such a station. Unlike other unlicensed outlets I've written about, this one may well be legal.
Radio Business Report has the story:
"Radio Sandy Springs"...is running without a license, yet it is not a pirate station. It's a network of low-power AM transmitters fed simultaneously that covers the entire town and beyond. The station's programming is professionally done and centered around community affairs. It even airs the Sandy Springs City Council meeting, brought to you by a local Mercedes-Benz dealership. It airs plenty of local spots from local businesses....
RBR spoke with owner/GM [general manager] David Moxley, first assuming he was a pirate operator: "I'm not a pirate station. We're an LP [low-power] AM station and don't have to be licensed, according to Part 15 of the FCC regs. which allows for AMs to broadcast at one-tenth of a watt. They don't offer a license for this. Each transmitter is its own station of sorts. One transmitter covers between seven tenths and one mile radius. We can, within reason, hold our signal into one spot. Our transmitters are FCC-certified, but at the same token, it says nothing in the rules about where each transmitter gets a signal from, just as long as I stay below a tenth of a watt. Nowhere in the code does it state where each transmitter should get their audio. My transmitter, my antenna and my ground lead, if used, is not any more than 3 meters. My attorney and I have read the regs up one side and down the other and I'm not breaking any law. We pay BMI, we pay ASCAP...."
In addition to covering the community, Moxley's station runs locally produced shows devoted to everything from classic cars to radio drama. If you're curious to hear it but don't live in the area, you can catch it on the Internet.
Reason's own science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, will be taking on the precautionary principle and other misguided notions at the following DC event on February 14:
Panic Attack: The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 9:00 AM--4:30 PM
American Enterprise Institute
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Ron will be talking specifically on a panel about how media and science interact. He'll be joined by Reason contributor James K. Glassman and friend of Reason, the Institute of Ideas' Tony Gilland.
Bonus points: Reason contributing editor Charles Paul Freund will be moderatin' a panel earlier in the day.
More details--including how to RSVP for a free lunch--here.
More about the Institute of Ideas, who cosponsored a transhumanism conference with Reason back in 2001 amid the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, here.
So how's Bush doing on the eve of his State of the Union address? The short answer: 44 percent approve of "how Bush is handling his job"; 55 percent disapprove; and 4 percent just don't know (they really, really, really just don't know). Here's some more data from a Time mag poll:
Almost two-thirds of Americans (63%) still see the country going down the wrong track, up three points from late November (60% wrong track).
Two in three (64%) disapprove of the job that President Bush is doing to keep the cost of government down.
Bush continues to have negative approval ratings with regard to his handling of illegal immigration (61% disapprove--24% approve) the economy (56%--39%) and the situation in Iraq (60%--38%).
60% disapprove of his handling of the war in Iraq, unchanged since late November.
About half (51%) of Americans say it was wrong to go to war with Iraq, with 44% saying it was right-- little changed over the past year.
Handling the war on terrorism (48% disapprove--47% approve) with approval down 9 points from last January.
In the "red" states, that is the states responsible for Bush's 2004 re-election, his approval rating is split at 48% approve--48% disapprove.
Although Bush's approval among Republicans remains steady at 79% approve--18% disapprove, the President receives negative ratings from his party in handling of the illegal immigrant problem (49% disapprove--37% approve) and split ratings on keeping the cost of government down (47% approve--45% disapprove).
Even more data--including a couple of answers that explain why the Dems haven't capitalized on low Bush and GOP ratings--here.
Good Night, And Good Luck
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Actor (Ladies' Division)
Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
George Clooney (Syriana)
Matt Dillon (Crash)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
William Hurt (A History of Violence)
Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Amy Adams (Junebug)
Catherine Keener (Capote)
Frances McDormand (North Country)
Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Haggis (Crash)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Bennett Miller (Capote)
George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Steven Spielberg (Munich)
The only one of these I've seen is A History of Violence, which I caught on an airplane a few weeks ago, and I can tell you William Hurt was so goddamn bad in that movie he not only brought down the temperature of the movie by about 15 degrees, he caused a potentially lethal drop in cabin pressure. The only bright spot was that the next movie—it was a long flight—featured a great performance by Reese Witherspoon (not Walk the Line but some crapola romantic comedy with the equally great Mark Ruffalo).
Cathy Young says pull the plug on feeding-tube buttinskis and their plans to bogart the Haleigh Poutre case.
Hans Blix uses the f-word, and it's not "fourteen-forty-one." Team America fans will be amused—or not—to find the formerly controversial weapons inspector goofing on his supermarionated effigy. Thanks to mediageek for the link.
Back when Blix was a radioactive public figure in a figurative though not literal sense (and weren't those the days), I gave the preternaturally calm bureaucrat one and a half cheers.
Bonus discussion of Lance Rentzell's When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow.
Try to reconcile these two quotable quotes:
"We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth
time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the
march and that we are on the side of those whom you -- the
Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family -- most fear: We're on the side of
your own people."
—Former CIA Director James Woolsey, in April, 2003
"I've asked why nobody saw [Hamas' election victory] coming. It
does say something about us not having a good enough pulse... I
don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong
—Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, yesterday
Secretary Rice is a vast improvement over her immediate predecessor, and she shouldn't be tied too tightly to the neoconservative democratization project, for which her support always seems to have been pretty lukewarm. But come on, this soup is so thin you could read a fine-print Koran through it. How can anybody in a responsible foreign policy position claim she didn't know there was, at least, a strong likelihood that Hamas would win a Palestinian election? She doesn't know anybody who wasn't caught off guard? Who is she hanging out with—those Pauline Kael cronies who didn't vote for Nixon?
Even if Rice was honestly surprised, she shouldn't admit it. What's wrong with saying something like: "Of course, we've always known there was widespread support for groups of this type, but we're confident that with time and increasing opportunities for political expression, that support will burn up in Freedom's Unstoppable Wildfire." I don't have a lot of faith in that scenario, but I'd expect the Bush Administration's secretary of state to have faith in it.
Though it's entertaining to play gotcha with Rice, there's a more disturbing issue here: Are the architects of democratization prepared for the electoral strength of Islamists? Two or three years ago I'd have said: Sure, these guys are all otherworldly geniuses; they figured that stuff out ahead of time. Maybe they're betting that the popularity of Islamists is really a function of lack of political freedom (as in Egypt, for example, where Ayman Nour is in jail and the Muslim Brotherhood is one of only two parties on most ballots). Or possibly they're figuring these groups will be moderated or discredited once they get into power. But there's just no way they haven't considered such a basic question. Right?
Today, I would bet exactly $0.00 on the foresight of the Forward Strategists of Freedom. The problem isn't just that the War On Terrorism is being opposed by people who don't believe in it. It's that it's being waged by people who don't believe in it.
Related: In Time, Daniel Pipes, Moises Naim, Abdul Sattar Kasim, Dennis Ross, Ziad Abu Amr, and Richard Haass put in their combined 12 cents on Hamas' strong showing. ("Hamas have been taken by surprise by this as much as anyone else," says Abu Amr, who may be angling for a job at Foggy Bottom.)
Jeff Taylor considers BB&T's decision against eminent domain seizures and says we shouldn't be asking why, but why not?
A roadside bomb attack on a joint Danish-Iraqi patrol near Basra; Danish flags burned in West Bank protests; masked gunmen in Gaza take over a European Union office; Libya shuts down its Danish embassy; Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa are reported to have warned all Scandanavians to get the hell out of Palestinian territory, posthaste; what ties together all these developments of the past few days is...a series of cartoons in a Danish publication, Jyllands-Posten, thought to be insulting to the Prophet Mohammad, including one showing his turban in the shape of a bomb with a lit fuse.
Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter site has a great link roundup on details of this simultaneously absurd and horrifying story, still unfolding.
Reason has been on top of this story for a while; see this Bruce Bawer article from November on how Europeans have failed to stand up to radical Islam (although the Jyllands-Posten is singled out for their heroic refusal to buckle under to threats).
The L.A. Times notes that only 3.6 million seniors have signed up for the botched Medicare prescription drug program on their own. (The remaining millions were automatically transferred from state Medicaid rolls or already had coverage through Medicare.) The same article points to this Kaiser Family Foundation study, which reminds us that unless healthy seniors sign up in droves, the program risks becoming even more useless than it has been thus far. Behold the Medicare death spiral: If few healthy seniors sign up, premiums will jump. If premiums jump, fewer healthy seniors will sign up. And so on.
It would be nice to think that at this point we could all give up, admit that the benefit was a uniquely terrible idea from its inception, and dull the pain of millions wasted with some cheap Canadian percocet. Instead, legislators are pushing for an extension to the May 15 sign-up deadline and begging seniors to jump onboard, desperate to unload slices of a billion-dollar giveaway no one much wants. Look for more bright ideas from this camp during tomorrow's State of the Union Address.
...well, more like unfinished like the Sistine Chapel. It'll be done when it's done, reports The New York Times in this profile of William McGurn, the Bush admin hand charged with crossing the i's and dotting the t's:
"He'll say, 'Get it out, it doesn't follow,' " Mr. McGurn said. The president, never known for his elocution, does have clear ideas of how a speech should sound -- no fat, no repetition, no meandering. "He's not big on anecdote," Mr. McGurn said. "He really wants to make it on an argument."
Whole thing here.
Incidentally, McGurn penned the excellent--and heartbreaking--1994 Reason story, "A Tale of Two Countries: Hong Kong, the Philippines, and protectionism's human toll", which reveaed the stupid policies that led to so many mothers from the Philippines working as domestics in Hong Kong.
Last week, after defending the "essential truth" (as opposed to the literal, corresponding-with-reality truth) of James Frey's pseudo-memoir A Million Little Pieces in a call to the Larry King Show, Oprah Winfrey looked around, noticed there are still quite a few people who think lying is not a good practice for a writer of nonfiction, and reversed herself, excoriating Frey in the only episode of her show I can honestly say I'm sorry I missed. According to The New York Times, Frey's humiliating expulsion from Oprah's book club has prompted some concerns among publishers about the honor system on which they rely to vouchsafe the accuracy of their books. But since routine fact checking is neither foolproof (witness Stephen Glass) nor economically feasible, it sounds like things will remain pretty much as they are. If this episode serves any useful purpose beyond its short-term entertainment value, it will be to alert (or remind) readers that appearing between hard covers on a library shelf does not make information any more reliable than appearing in the pages of a newspaper or a magazine. In fact, depending on the periodical, the quality of its writers, and the thoroughness of its fact checking, it may deserve considerably more trust than the average nonfiction bestseller.
Matt Welch sells out:
I'm generally the kind of smart-ass who bristles at being told what to do (like registering for the "Selective" Service at 18, which I selected not to); and for the last few years I've worked at the libertarian Reason magazine, the kind of place where senior editors write books called "Saying Yes."
Yet there I was two weeks ago, handing my warm yellow beaker to the urine analyst ("Your temperature is nice," she said, clearly trying to soften the blow). So, presented with the lure of an interesting job, did I abandon my libertarian principles even faster than the Gingrich revolution?
Somewhere in cyberspace, a reader is preparing to comment that the Times should have the right to require anything it pleases as a condition of employment, from peeing in a jar to rooting for the Dodgers. Comment away -- but first read Jacob Sullum's 2002 article on the roots and rationales of the urine-testing craze.
Delightful tidbit from a Boston Globe report on the enormous rise in last-minute insertions of pure pork in the form of "earmarks," done with no official sponsors (there were 1,439 such earmarks in 1995, costing us all $10 billion, last year; a decade after the Gingrich/GOP revolution to slash government, we saw 13,997 earmarks, costing $27.3 billion): one of the recipients, from acting majority leader Roy Blunt's district, was "Students in Free Enterprise," which won a million in federal grants.
"I think people are going to be surprised at how boring most parts of the trial will be," says Nancy Rapoport, a bankruptcy expert and dean of the University of Houston law school. "Watching grass grow and paint dry will have more excitement. There will be some good stuff, but the good stuff will be punctuated by a lot of monotonous stuff."
A set of interviews from the January 2006 Reason tried to make sense of Sarbanes-Oxley, the corporate accounting law overhaul largely inspired by Enron shenanigans.
[Link via Rational Review.]
Jacques Pluss, a part-time history professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ, was fired last year after a mysterious letter to the student newspaper exposed him as a secret Nazi.
Pluss is now saying that, influenced by Foucault, Derrida, and Kantorowicz, his Nazism was a deliberate deep masquerade, necessary for his research into fringe politics, since "any attempt to understand a group, a movement, or an individual psyche, would have to include becoming, as much as an individual can, the subject under study."
He notes that he knew his position was going away before next year anyway, so he engineered his own outing through that anonymous letter, "and I was on my way to living the experiences I needed in order to gather live research for my forthcoming volume on the 'wacky White Power Movement' in the United States, tentatively entitled 'False Blizzard.'"
His entire explanation makes entertainingly bizarre reading. One wonders if he will find many followers in this historical technique, or if he will ever find a job teaching again.
If you want a despairing (although admittedly not scientific) indication of just how far from understanding demand and supply Americans are, check out this MSNBC poll. Sigh.
Hat tip to Marc Hodak for the link.
P.S. No oil stocks were flogged in this blog item.
Michael Siegel lays into Action on Smoking and Health for pushing outdoor smoking bans by claiming that transient exposure to secondhand smoke might just kill you. "Breathing drifting tobacco smoke for even brief periods can be deadly," ASH claims in a background document that accompanied a press release it issued on Saturday. "For example, the Centers for Disease Controls [CDC] has warned that breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes ( less than the time one might be exposed outdoors on a beach, sitting on a park bench, listening to a concert in a park, etc.) can raise a nonsmoker's risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker." Siegel, who supports smoking bans for indoor workplaces, says this scare mongering is "the lowest I have observed the anti-smoking movement sinking in terms of misleading the public." He elaborates:
It is simply not the case that breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes can raise a nonsmoker's risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker, and in my view, it is not the case that CDC made such a claim.
The truth is that an otherwise healthy nonsmoker cannot suffer a heart attack as a result of 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke. A nonsmoker's risk of a heart attack from breathing tobacco smoke for 30 minutes is not the same as that of a smoker. It is actually ZERO.
You are not going to have a heart attack if you don't have coronary artery disease; and 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke is not going to clog your coronary arteries.
I cannot over-emphasize the fact that ASH's claim is completely fallacious. It's not like ASH is distorting the truth here. In my opinion, they are just completely making this up, or at least, misinterpreting the data so badly that it has the appearance of coming out of nowhere. You simply aren't going to get atherosclerosis and clogged coronary arteries in 30 minutes!!!
Siegel worries that such baseless claims will hurt the credibility of the anti-smoking movement and weaken public support for indoor smoking bans. I wish. But it seems to me that people will pretend to believe almost anything, no matter how ridiculous, if it helps them get what they want, and most people want to avoid cigarette smoke.
Last night's 60 Minutes segment about Florida pain patient cum "drug trafficker" Richard Paey was very sympathetic to him without being heavy-handed, mainly letting the facts (and a highly articulate Paey) speak for themselves. Morley Safer highlighted an important element of Paey's appeal: contradictions in statements by Paey's New Jersey doctor, who initially confirmed that he had authorized the narcotic prescriptions that were the basis for the criminal charges against Paey, then changed his story to help the prosecution, apparently to avoid being charged himself. In an interview with Safer, the state prosecutor who handled the case, Scott Adringa, acknowledged these inconsistencies but defended the decision to pursue charges against Paey that resulted in a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Andringa also conceded the government had found no evidence that Paey sold any of the drugs on the black market but argued that Paey could not possibly have consumed all of them himself. Pain expert Russell Portenoy easily rebutted this claim, noting that patients who develop tolerance to opioids may end up taking doses that seem enormous to people unfamiliar with long-term pain treatment--doses that would kill someone unaccustomed to narcotics.
Although Adringa is still pushing this uninformed argument, it was not necessary to convict Paey or to earn him his draconian sentence. As Andringa explained to Safer, Florida's mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking applies to illegal possession of narcotics above an arbitrarily defined weight threshold--a threshold so low that one bottle of pills can send you to prison for 25 years.
The Baltimore Sun's most libertarian columnist, Jay Hancock, reviews Alan Greenspan's career at the Fed, arguing the erstwhile Randite "became what he once would have despised: a central economic planner, a government employee who thinks he's smarter than the markets, a price-fixer."
After summarizing the potential hazards of Greenspan's decisions, Hancock defers judgment:
Economic history often takes even longer to sort out than political history, and serious questions about the Greenspan legacy and the paper-currency standard increase the need to postpone judgment....
But I do know that central economic planners tend to mess up. I know that economies are like ecological systems: Intervention that seems to generate great results at first often comes back and bites you on the behind. The unintended consequences of the Greenspan years should be interesting.
Surveying three recent books about modern Iran, Michael Young wishes for a little less personal and a bit more political.