Friday, March 12, 2004

Krauthammer Is Warped

We all knew that, but his latest column just reinforces that knowledge:

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Jean-Marie Colombani, who wrote the famous Sept. 12, 2001, Le Monde editorial titled ``We are all Americans,'' gives us the usual more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger lament about America's sins: We loved you on Sept. 11. We were all with you in Afghanistan. But, oh, what have you done in Iraq?

This requires some parsing. We loved you on Sept. 11 means: We like Americans when they are victims, on their knees and bleeding. We just don't like it when they get off the floor -- without checking with us first.

Okay, if by "parsing" you mean "drastic misinterpretation." How on earth can he take the statement of solidarity (a solidarity the Bush administration has been relentless in squandering pointlessly) and twist it into anti-Americanism? This is the epitome of the right-wing American paranoia that flows so effulgently from right-wing American arrogance.

He goes on, later in the column:

It is not John Kerry's fault that he is endorsed by a Frenchman. (Or by Kim Jong Il of North Korea, whose media have been running some of Kerry's speeches verbatim!) But Kerry has made the major -- indeed, only discernible -- theme of his foreign policy ``rejoining the community of nations'' and being liked abroad once again.

Which is why he does not just court foreign support, he boasts about it. ``I've met foreign leaders, who can't go out and say this publicly,'' he told a Hollywood, Fla., fund-raiser, ``but boy they look at you and say, `You gotta win this one, you gotta beat this guy.'''

For the world. For France.

Only a committed neocon could possibly argue that wanting to be a respected and responsible member of the international community is a bad thing.

Oh, and one other thing he notes:

Only an ignoramus oblivious to what is happening in American politics could prefer Kerry over Bush on grounds of free trade. Has no one told Colombani that the Democrats have made protectionism -- attacking everything from NAFTA to the WTO -- a theme of this campaign, radically reversing the Clinton policies of the 1990s?

First of all, there is the blatant contradiction. Kerry's only foreign policy is to want to rejoin the international community, but his policies are all bound to anger the world, unlike Bush's? Nonsensical. Further, if the United States Democratic party truly opposed the present workings of NAFTA and the WTO, I would be delighted. But it just is not so.


Because the Terrorists Have Been Attacking Us with ICBMs

As early as July, silos in Alaska could be filled with three-stage interceptors meant to destroy incoming ballistic missiles with the help of ground- and space-based sensors. It would be the first time the nation has had a system for destroying warheads aimed at American soil since the short-lived Safeguard program in the 1970's.

Of course, if al-Qaeda did somehow come across an intercontinental ballistic missile, this system would keep us safe from it, right?

"Ever since the president made his decision, the priority of the program has been on deployment, not on understanding whether the system works," said Mr. Coyle, now a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information, a private research group. "Most people don't appreciate how complicated this system is, nor how much all of the tests so far have been artificially scripted to be successful."

Those Republicans, so much stronger on national security than the Democrats...


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Follow Up

I was shocked earlier at the Bush administration's mendacity regarding Medicare. How much more so now...

WASHINGTON - The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.

When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.


I Hope He's Right

Carlos Watson writes:

I predict Ralph Nader will help the Democrats this fall. How so? After the 2000 election, Nader is likely to be strategic about where he gets on the ballot, avoiding potentially close contests in states like Florida and New Hampshire, and instead getting on the ballot in heavily Democratic or Republican states where he is unlikely to affect the state outcome, for example California, New York, Alabama, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Alaska. By qualifying for 25 to 30 states but avoiding key battleground states, Nader will have enough legitimacy to garner free media and be a part of the national political debate.

If this is indeed the case, I will regain some of the respect for Nader that his decision to run again at all has caused me to lose...


No Capital in Outer Space!

They must be stopped.

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Orion, the Big Dipper and Andromeda could be joined in the heavens by ads for soft drinks and cigarettes if a Russian inventor's device catches on.

Alexander Lavrynov, a spacecraft designer, said he has patented a device for putting advertising into space that would be seen from Earth, Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

"Space commercials could embrace huge areas and a colossal number of consumers," he said. "This would literally be intercontinental coverage."

He said the satellites would be visible in the night sky by employing sunlight reflectors, with multiple satellites linked together to create a message large enough to be seen.

"People would be able to see writing in the skies from the Earth no worse than they see the stars," he said.


Abstinence Works!

Or, perhaps not:

Most American teenagers who pledged not to have sex before marriage did not live up to their vows, a study has revealed.

The teenagers also developed sexually transmitted diseases at about the same rate as adolescents who had not sworn off sex.

In fact, pledging abstinence is in some ways worse than not doing so:

The researchers tested the participants for three common sexually transmitted infections - chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis - and found rates were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not.

Yet the teenagers who had taken pledges were less likely to know they had an infection, raising the risk of their transmitting it to others, the researchers said.

That's right, pledging abstinence is socially irresponsible and leads to the spread of disease.

I feel certain that the Bush administration will immediately react to these scientific findings and revise their domestic and international policies to deal with objective reality.


And Water Is Wet

Bush misrepresents Medicare changes in ads:

The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Wednesday that advertisements and brochures prepared by the Bush administration to publicize a new Medicare law, although not illegal, misrepresented the prescription drug benefits that would be offered to millions of elderly and disabled people.



More on Gray

I said I did not have words about the recent suicide of Spalding Gray, but ever since I wrote that, I find myself thinking and brooding about it more and more. Suicide is one of those issues that stand at crucial fault lines in our ways of thinking and feeling, and it generates all sorts of contradictory emotions--in me, at least.

Freedom to do what one wants with one's life is a putative fundamental value in the West; of course, such sweeping statements always necessitate exceptions. In the case of the US, these exceptions include drug use, prostitution, and suicide (leaving aside, of course, all those actions which obviously and immediately hurt someone else). I am for the legalization of drug use and prostitution, of course. But suicide raises questions that those other exceptions do not. (Let me state here that I am not addressing the issue of the right to die in the case of terminal illness.)

Perhaps this is just because suicide makes me angry. Having had a friend who killed himself, just as his life was beginning to go very well (or so it seemed from the outside), I find myself torn with confusion, bitterness, and rage whenever the issue comes up. On the level of principles, I cannot but think that if people choose to end their lives, then that right is theirs. But knowing the gaping, ragged hole that my friend left behind in the lives of so many people when he opted out of life, I cannot be so sanguine about it.

I myself have been--far too literally--very close to that brink myself in the past. I know that thinking of tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, can be very like staring into a void. But I know also that, having backed away from the edge, I since have had some of the best experiences of my life.

I am not sure that there is any real resolution to this contradiction, but for now I have to make do with: Suicide may be a right, but in the vast majority of cases it is utterly selfish and deeply, deeply stupid.


More Media "Objectivity"

Like most everyone, I don't know a great deal about the chaotic situation in Haiti, other than that it is in fact chaotic. However, I feel that the reporting of the events there once again reveal that the "objectivity" of the major US media amounts to willful blindness to possibilities that don't reflect terribly well on the US.

Today we hear this from the NYT:

GĂ©rard Latortue, the economist and former diplomat chosen by a United States-backed council to lead Haiti out of its political crisis, arrived in the country from southern Florida on Wednesday, promising to reconcile opposed factions and bring peace and prosperity to a nation long wracked by poverty and brutalized by generations of dictators.

And this:

With armed rebels menacing the capital and with the United States and other nations pressuring him to step down, Mr. Aristide fled into exile in Africa on Feb. 29.

Now, don't Aristide's repeated assertions that US troops forced him onto a plane without telling him where they were taking him and effectively held him captive in Africa warrant mention in this context? If you put the pieces together, you have 1) an elected leader whisked away by a foreign government, 2) that same foreign government deploying military forces within that leader's country to "maintain order," and 3) a new leader installed by a council backed by that foreign government.

The NYT is being very polite, but I wonder just what the US has to do for the phrase "coup d'etat" to appear in print.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Mental Breakdown

This is what can happen when you want something to be true far too desperately. Reason is the first casualty of faith:

when Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain approached the lunch counter of the Elm Street Woolworth's in Greensboro, N.C. on Feb. 1, 1960, all they were looking for was something to eat. The four North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College students only wanted what any white customer might want, and on precisely the same terms -- the same food at the same counter at the same price.

Jacoby goes on to write:

The marriage radicals, on the other hand, seek to restore nothing. They have not been deprived of the law's equal protection, nor of the right to marry -- only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a "marriage." They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don't want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically -- by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn't civil rights.

This is just so fatuous it is hard to know where to begin. Civil rights relied quite heavily on "judicial fiat" in the 1960s, and they are likely to continue to do so. This is why judges are more shielded from removal from office than legislators and executives, so that they can apply democratic principles even in the face of unpopularity. How hard is that to understand? And how hard is it to understand that lunch counter sit-ins were, by Jacoby's own twisted logic, all about demanding new terms, about altering institutions.

And then there's this:

The civil rights movement for which he lived and died was grounded in a fundamental truth: All of us are created equal. The same-sex marriage movement, by contrast, is grounded in the denial of a fundamental truth: The Creator who made us equal made us male and female. That duality has always and everywhere been the starting point for marriage. The newly fashionable claim that marriage can ignore that duality is akin to the claim, back when lunch counters were segregated, that America was a land of liberty and justice for all.

Let's not even get into the fact that there are more than two sexes and more than two genders (this fact, and the distinction between sex and gender, would be enough to make Jacoby's head explode). But is it not entirely obvious that this assertion is identical to those made by anti-integrationists back in the 1960s; just replace "male" and "female" with "black" and "white."

In a way, it is always sad to see someone so desperately needing that something be true that thought just shuts down entirely.


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

And It Continues

SEATTLE -- This left-leaning city joined the gay marriage fight Monday, with the mayor announcing that City Hall will recognize unions of gay city employees who tie the knot elsewhere and six same-sex couples suing for the right to wed.

Mayor Greg Nickels issued an executive order requiring the city to recognize same-sex marriages by municipal employees.

I just don't see how the conservatives can do anything about this. And I very much hope they continue to try...


In Memoriam

A body that surfaced in the East River on Sunday was identified by the city medical examiner yesterday as that of Spalding Gray, the confessional monologuist and actor who disappeared two months ago.

I have no words for this. I know I feel a little emptier knowing he isn't out there anymore.


Bush Cares about 9/11, Knows Exactly How Long Questions Will Take

"He's going to answer all the questions they want to raise," the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters today. When pressed, Mr. McClellan repeated this statement but did not clarify whether the time restriction had been dropped.

"That's what it's scheduled for, an hour, but look, he's going to answer all the questions that they want to raise," Mr. McClellan said.

"Nobody's watching the clock," the spokesman said in another press briefing later in the day. "But again, there is a reasonable period of time that has been set aside for this meeting."

And they accuse Kerry of flipping and flopping. How could these statements be any more meaningless?