Today in literature

Sarah Palin is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't she? I don't know about you, but I just can't wait for the publication of Going Rogue: An American Life. (And wow, Sarah. Way to write! You must have had lots of time on your hands, what with skipping all those speaking engagements you'd booked.) It's sure to be a treasure trove of amazing insight into a singularly brilliant political mind.

[Editorial note: To head off potential criticism from some quarters that Former Governor Palin is old news, I would argue that she is still plenty relevant.]

However, what I'd like to highlight is this shout-out from Former Senator Rick Santorum (R -- Pleistocene), which came to my attention thanks to Isaac Chotiner's amusing post at The Plank:
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) tells NRO that he looks forward to reading former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s upcoming memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, once it is published on November 17. “Sarah has jumped onto the scene and has been hammered by the mainstream media,” says Santorum. “This is an opportunity for her to show a more thoughtful side. She has a gift for prose. Hopefully that comes across.”
First of all, I'm curious how one's "gift of prose" can "come across." Either one's prose is gifted, or it isn't.

But my favorite aspect of the quote is how this is an "opportunity for her to show a more thoughtful side." You know what would have been an even better opportunity for her to show an iota of thoughtfulness? A glimmer? A soupcon?

The 2008 campaign.

Paving the road to hell

Well, this is disappointing. It looks (via the Dish) like Obama is abandoning one of the cardinal reasons I had for voting for him. Writes Benjamin Wittes:
President Obama's decision not to go to Congress for help in establishing reasonable standards for the continued detention of Guantanamo detainees is a failure of leadership in the project of putting American law on a sound basis for a long-term confrontation with terrorism. It is bad for the country, for national security and for civil liberties. It represents a virtually wholesale adoption of the failed policies of his predecessor -- who, with equal obtuseness, refused to root American detention practices in clear law approved by the legislature and similarly failed to learn from repeated Supreme Court rebukes to this unilateral approach. It violates Obama's much-noted statement this spring that he would "work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution." And it delegates a profound and difficult policymaking exercise to the judiciary and, ultimately, to a single man on the Supreme Court.


We may never know what would have happened had Obama been willing to divert some portion of his prestige from health care to the creation of a political coalition for strong counterterrorism measures rooted in statutory powers debated and passed by the people's representatives.
I am, of course, profoundly disappointed in this decision. I've mentioned before that the issue of human rights abuses under the past administration was of major concern to me, and I am very, very saddened to see that this is what we get.

That being said, and as Wittes notes in the intervening paragraphs, there is no reason to expect that Obama would have any success at all in working with Congress if he should choose to take this up. Given the lunatics and cretins he has in the opposition party, creating reasonable and humane standards for treatment of Guantanamo detainees is probably a bridge too far.

This doesn't let him off the hook, however. It merely serves as a reminder of how tarnished our reputation on the world stage remains, and how likely to remain that way it is.

First I've heard of it

I see via Ambinder's page that there is, apparently, "controversy" surrounding an upcoming "Equality March" on DC in a little over a week. It seems that local gay rights advocates are peeved that the march will distract from their own efforts.
But on Oct. 11, this conservative, measured progress will collide with the National Equality March, a hastily organized gathering of gay-rights supporters on the National Mall. The march, announced just 6 months ago by Harvey Milk protégé and AIDS quilt founder Cleve Jones -- has garnered criticism in the gay blogosphere, slammed as a vanity project for Jones and a distraction from state-level gay marriage initiatives in Maine and Washington state. And D.C. advocates are asking why local organizers were not asked to the table so close to the city's own marriage-rights battle.
It seems like it must have been a slow news day over at Atlantic Politics. The whole post seems to be much ado about nothing. While I'm not in the highest echelons of the marriage equality advocates here in Maine, I keep in pretty close touch and nobody has even mentioned this once. You'd think someone here would have groused a little if there was really all that much controversy boiling over.

Also, I've never organized a march like this, but is "just" 6 months of planning really hasty? Seems like plenty of time to me.

On the other hand, I think big marches on Washington tend to be little more than a feel-good experience for the people involved. I don't think they change any minds, I don't think they advance any concrete goals, and I think they tend to be disconnected from the actual work being done to move a cause forward.

Or, in other words, who cares?


Justice delayed

I have nothing to add to this post at Salon by Kate Harding. As she reminds us repeatedly, Roman Polanski raped a child, pled guilty to it, and then fled the country. The whole thing is worth reading, and serves as a handy rebuttal to the recent outpouring of Polanski apologia.

It is indeed confusing to go from it to another column juxtaposed just below on Salon's main page, which holds that the most just outcome would be for everyone to drop the case. In it, Mary Elizabeth Williams argues that pressing charges against sexual attackers often causes additional trauma to the victims. From this, she comes to the following very perplexing conclusion:
I want to leave Roman Polanski’s victim alone. I don’t want to make her the official spokesperson for sexual victimhood, or relive a life-changing horror. I don't want to presume what's best, when I don't have to live with her nightmares. For Polanski to live out his days scot-free in European ease feels wrong and unfair. It makes a whole lot of us uncomfortable. But I’d rather live with my own revulsion at his actions than carry out some rote exercise in feel-good amends if it means any measure of ease and peace for his victim. I believe her when she says, “It was the media that ruined my life.” And I don’t want to be in the same boat with the man who raped her.
What kind of addled claptrap is this? Since when is prosecuting people for crimes they've committed, and in fact pled guilty, an "exercise in feel-good amends"?

Argue that we, as a society, should treat sexual assault victims with more care, and I will applaud your perspective and agree with your concern. By all means, let us take steps to insure that women who are raped are treated with the utmost respect and kindness. But it is the most ludicrous and offensive moral blindness to conflate those who would demand justice for the victim (and, indeed, for society in general, which has an interest in seeing its laws enforced, no matter the wealth, talent and connections of the violators), even over her objections, and the man who raped her in the first place.

You tell me

I'm going to copycat Steve Benen from Political Animal. Flagrantly.

To begin, it looks as though erstwhile eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is running to govern California, never bothered to register to vote until 2002, when she was 46. Her opponent for the GOP, Steve Poizner, is making a lot of hay about it.

Steve wants to know from his readers if failing to vote (or even register) is as big a deal-breaker as Poizner is making it seem. And because I'm actually curious what you think, I'm passing on the question to you.

Would you consider voting for someone, particularly for an office like the governorship of your state, if he or she had not bothered to vote for most of his/her adult life? For my part, the answer is a resounding "no." I can't relate well enough to people who don't vote (for the most part) to even consider them close friends (seriously), and I would automatically disqualify any candidate (regardless of party) if he or she viewed their civic duty as being so unimportant.

To my chums at Yes on 1

Hello, my good friends. I hope this message finds you well.

Look, I know that we're totally on opposite sides of the whole "treating gays and lesbians like real human beings" question, but that doesn't mean that we can't all get along, right? So, in the spirit of camaraderie, I offer the following advice:

You might want to rethink your ad buying strategy. Because, the thing is, I think your fear-mongering, misleading, poorly-produced ad probably doesn't have much of a chance with the people who are tuning in to watch Glee. Seeing your ad is probably a buzz-kill for them, and a waste of money for you.

You probably don't watch Glee, do you? Pity, really, what with all the fun singing and dancing and such. If you did, you'd probably be more aware of how painfully ironic your ad was, airing during last week's episode. The episode pretty much defines why you've lost the war, even if you win the battle in Maine this November. In it, the very, very gay character manages to:

1) Remain very, very gay,
2) Become the hero of a football game,
3) Convince the other members of the football team to do a dance routine to "Single Ladies," and
4) Come out to his football-loving father.

And we, the audience, are clearly meant to applaud all of this as the meet and proper outcome. So, sorry fellows, but you just can't win in a world where our popular entertainments resolve that way. We may lose in a couple of months, but it will be ever so close, and we'll win in the future.

So go ahead and run your ads. They'll be relics in history's dustbin, just like the angry white faces yelling at black children as they walked to school. And me? I'll sit back and watch the dancing.


Annals of questionable science

I see, via HuffPo, that there is a new study being publicized that says spanking your kids will make them dumber. From America's premier source of hard science news, aka the Today show, I give you this:
Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked, the lower his or her IQ compared with others.


Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids' IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

[Massive preemptive disclaimer -- just because I think this study is weak and flawed does not mean that this post should be interpreted to mean "up with spanking." Like the vast majority of my colleagues in pediatrics, I do not support corporal punishment.]

First of all, I am innately suspicious of any scientific finding that is first reported in the popular media. The media is, like most people, more interested in stories than science, and doesn't provide the kind of scrutiny that peer reviewed journals would. Further, it appears that the first time this study will be subject to critique from the scientific establishment, it will be at a conference instead of through the more rigorous review provided when such studies are submitted for publication in reputable journals. I don't know much about the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, but I wonder if they will be inclined to accept the study's findings with minimal scrutiny because they comport with the biases of those who would attend such a conference in the first place.

Further, the design of the study seems weak to me. They followed a cohort of children over time, and compared the kids who were spanked to those who weren't. Now, obviously, you can't do a "better" study by randomizing kids to a "spanking" group and a control group. ("We're going to hit a bunch of kids in the name of science" would probably fail to impress the Internal Review Boards of most centers for higher learning.) But this study (and, again, it hasn't been submitted for peer review as far as I can tell, so this is just a guess) leaves open the possibility of confounding factors. In other words, even controlling for socioeconomic status, is there something about the kinds of families in which children are likely to be spanked that limits intellectual development, and not the spanking itself? I have doubts that this study sifts out the noise.

Now, again, if this gets parents to hit their kids less, then it's all good, right? From a certain perspective, sure. But I don't like shoddy science, particularly when it gets hyped, even if I like the findings. If we fail to adequately criticize science just because we like what we hear, we will lose the ability to conduct scientific inquiry with objectivity. In other words, at all.

Rep. Steve King (R - Clown College)

Having an English father and a taste for contemporary British fiction (as well as assorted Low Entertainments from the BBC), I have developed a fancy for certain turns of phrase that are peculiar to our fellows across the pond. A particular favorite is the term "barking mad," usually reserved for the thoroughly, unmistakably insane.

Illustrating the definition perfectly is Rep. Steve King of Iowa (by way of the New Bedlam Rest Home for the Emotionally Interesting, it seems). He's graced our bandwidth before, what with his gift for making Michelle Bachmann seem almost statesmanlike by comparison. He's been on rather a roll lately.

First, there's this little gem (h/t TPM for this and the next link):
"If there's a push for a socialist society where the foundations of individual rights and liberties are undermined and everybody is thrown together living collectively off one pot of resources earned by everyone, this is one of the goals they have to go to, same sex marriage, because it has to plow through marriage in order to get to their goal. They want public affirmation, they want access to public funds and resources."
I will pay cash money to anyone who can explain to me what the hell that means. [Editor's note -- cash money offer only applies to those who schlep to Maine to collect their prize.] Seriously. I don't even know how to go about making fun of this, because it would be like mocking one of those meandering stories that a 3-year-old tells you about his toys. I'm scheduled to phone bank for the No on 1 campaign in a few days, and I look forward to telling the other volunteers there that apparently we're all secret socialists. I imagine it will come as a big surprise to everyone.

Not to slack off when he's got a full head of steam, Rep. King then gave us the following:
In a lengthy speech on the House floor today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) declared that President Obama is "the star of ACORN, the lead, chief organizer."

Railing against ACORN, King mentioned Obama's comment on Sunday that he hasn't paid much attention to the scandal.

"Really, Mr. President?" King said, revealing the poster of Obama you see at left.

"He's not interested in ACORN? He's ambivalent about it?" King asked. "Curious."

King went on about Obama's involvement with the housing group, saying it was part of the "genesis" of Obama's political life. "He walks with them all the way through."

He then called on every committee in the House to investigate ACORN.
Really, Rep. King? Every committee? Well, that should be something. I can't wait to hear what the Committee on Agriculture has to say about this. (I'm trying to think of a joke about sorghum, but nothing is coming to me.)

I could go on and on and on, but I'm going to stop and leave you with this little hard nugget of truth -- this man, my friends... this man, who lacks the cognitive abilities of your average intestinal nematode, is a member of the House of Representatives of the United States of America.

Iowa must be very proud.


Dudes, you are so on your own

I have no brief with the whole ACORN fiasco. I found the "Obama and ACORN are going to somehow subvert American democracy and MUST BE STOPPED!!" meme infinitely wearying. And I think I speak for many (most?) Americans when I say that it's pretty obvious that the whole pimp-and-ho-try-to-get-help-defrauding-the-government set-up was exactly that. (Er... a set-up, that is.)

However, I feel about this whole story the same way that I felt about the Lewinsky scandal. In short, if you know that the whole "vast Right-wing conspiracy" is totally gunning for your abject failure, don't behave like a complete and utter fool. In the case of the former President, he really, really needed to keep it in his pants. In the case of ACORN, well... the video (which needs no help from me to enjoy viewers, so you can find the link on your own) speaks for itself.

Now, if it were me, and I had been caught on tape and made a national laughingstock through my own incontrovertible ineptitude and moral bankruptcy, I would probably slink off somewhere and hide until the whole thing blew over. What I wouldn't do is double-down and file a lawsuit claiming defamation of character.

Dave at Ordinary Gents has had a lot of fun with this, as has Ken at Popehat. I don't have anything much to add, beyond an utterly jaded fillip -- dudes, I am so not going to go to bat for you. You have embarrassed an organization that was probably still doing some people some good somewhere, and may be responsible for its going belly-up. If you're expecting some kind of progressive rally to your cause, you are SOL.

PS> Gadfly, consider this my gift to you. Feel free to go nuts on ACORN (see what I did there?). I have no time to defend this foolishness.

Don't get cute with the law

Well, I thought it would be Dukakis, but I'm OK with this.
Gov. Deval Patrick today named Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former aide and longtime confidant of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, to Mr. Kennedy’s seat.
I don't know Paul G. Kirk Jr. from a hole in the ground, but he appears to be a qualified candidate, and has taken the appropriate pledge not to run in the special election next January to fill Kennedy's seat permanently.

The only minor fly in the ointment, which I expect will be dealt with summarily, is this:
Late Thursday morning, however, the Massachusetts Republican Party filed a motion in Suffolk Superior Court requesting an injunction to keep the appointment of Mr. Kirk from taking effect. In its motion, party leaders argue that it was unconstitutional for the governor to have put the new law into effect immediately.
Obviously, the state party simply wants to help obstruct the President's agenda for as long as possible. Can't blame them for trying, I suppose.

Of course, this would all be moot if the Massachusetts legislature hadn't decided to tinker with state law a few years ago. When John Kerry was the candidate for POTUS, there was a possibility that he might win and that then-Governor Mitt Romney would appoint a Republican in his place. Loath to accept that possibility, the legislature hastily changed the law to require a special election to fill vacancies. Now that there's a Democrat in office, they have had to hastily change it a second time.

To which I say -- enough already. As much as I dislike appointments to the Senate, I dislike fooling around with the law for rankly partisan reasons even less. Don't like the possibility that a Republican might possibly appoint someone you don't like to the Senate? Work really hard to get Democrats elected to the governorship, or (failing that) really hard to defeat said appointee in the next election.

Dept. of Pious Euphemisms

From the KJ's lengthier article on the abrupt departure of one Michael Heath, theocrat and all-around heel:
Heath was disciplined by the board in 2004 for asking for "tips, rumors, speculation and facts" about the sexual orientation of legislators and other state leaders. The board put Heath -- who issued a public apology -- on administrative leave for one month saying he "crossed a line of ethical behavior into a realm of sinful gossip."
I like that "sinful gossip." It sounds ever so much better than "tried to launch a smear campaign against his opponents based upon whatever lie people were willing to toss his way." I'm sure he thought long and hard about what a bad, bad boy he was during that month of administrative leave. What lucky people his private consulting clients will doubtless be.

Also, on a side note, the article clues you in on why I will never, ever be a Roman Catholic:
Heath was not a visible figure in the current fight over gay marriage, which is being led by Bob Emrich, a pastor from Plymouth, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
Not "supported." Not "encouraged." No. "Led." (In the interest of fairness, I should note that chances are slim I'll be attending services with Mr. Emrich in Plymouth.) So, thank you, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, for reminding me of how very much I love the Episcopal Church.


So long! Farewell! Auf wiedersehen!! Good-bye!!

My, my, my. So much to say about local news. (I have been directed to inform you that it was an eagle-eyed office partner who alerted me to these stories.) Both stories are from the Kennebec Journal.

First up, this bit of crack reporting (read: cut and paste of our press release):
The Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians today announced its opposition to a Nov. 3 referendum that would repeal the state’s new same-sex marriage law.

Chapter leaders said supporting marriage equality benefits children.

“Children who are raised by legally married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents. What is good for parents and families is good for children," said Dr. Jonathan Fanburg, chapter president.

The chapter's formal statement reads, in part, "As physicians who care for children and their families, we are committed to supporting what is best for children. And there is no question that when their parents can marry, children are more protected legally and socially."

Dr. Dan Summers, an Augusta pediatrician, said, “As pediatricians, we see how supportive parents -- whether gay or straight -- positively impact the development of children. That is why we oppose the referendum that would rescind the law that allows same-sex couples to marry."

A national study commissioned by the national pediatric group concluded that the legal status that marriage achieves “promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means.”

Yay! Local news coverage! Remind me to avoid reading the online comments, so as to keep my blood pressure normal.

But, by far the bigger story (and the reason I have been doing a happy dance for the past five minutes) is this:
The Maine Family Policy Council says Michael Heath, who's been executive director for nearly 15 years, has stepped down to become a private consultant.

The council, previously known as the Christian Civic League of Maine, has been active in public policy issues including gambling and gay rights. Heath's resignation today was announced in the council's online publication, The Record. He said it's been a great honor to serve the organization.

Heath started with the civic league in 1989 as administrative assistant and was appointed executive director in January 1994.

The council's board has not selected a replacement but is starting a search process.

For those of you happily ignorant of the existence of Michael Heath, he is the odious little eel whose sole raison d'etre is opposition to All Things Gay. I can't possibly imagine what kind of glorious private consulting job would lead to his rapid exit right while the Proposition 1 campaign is ramping up, but I would like to add a hearty sayonara to the chorus of people hailing his departure. I can only hope his private consulting work leads him to spend lengthy periods of time plumbing the depths of the Mariana Trench.

Update: It occurs to me that, if I'm giving shout outs to people, now is a good opportunity to thank my reader in Jersey for the Zwetschgenkuchen.

Dept. of Can Kickery

It seems the Veep has a bad feeling about 2010. From TPM (among other sources):
"It's not that Republicans are bad guys. This is just the bet they've made. They're going to put their chips on movement in the 35 seats in the House that have been traditionally Republican districts and trying to take them back," Biden said, according to the White House pool report.

"If they take them back, this the end of the road for what Barack and I are trying to do. This is their one shot," he went on. "If they don't break the back of our effort in this upcoming election, you're going to see the things we said we're for happen."

If Democrats can keep those seats, he said, Congress will finally see bipartisanship.

"All the hidden Republicans that don't have the courage to vote the way they want to vote because of pressure from the party," Biden said, "it will break the dam and you will see bipartisanship."

Well, color me skeptical. I have two qualms with what Biden had to say.

Gripe the first -- so, per Biden's calculation, the GOP has its chips on swaying about 35 seats back to their side. Somehow, if they lose, he posits that they will realize the error of their ways, and will finally start playing ball. But I don't buy that. Following 2010, the GOP will then have its chips on getting their man (or *shudder* woman) into the White House, and will have no motivation to suddenly work with the man they are hoping to oust. Obstructionism will continue to be the one and only thing in their playbook.

Gripe the second -- the prevailing opinion is that 2010 is going to hold losses of some kind for the Democrats. At least, it's certainly looking that way now. And Biden is saying that we'll only see the agenda we support passed if losses are minimal, and we can move forward after that? What about NOW, what with the sizable majorities in both houses of Congress?

Talk about your diminished expectations. I would politely request that the Democrats keep trying to get their work done right now, while they can, in the hopes that they will improve their popularity in advance of the next election. If the GOP wants to obstruct, let them. But get a move on, because 2010 probably won't be a good year, and punting until then is a losing strategy.

My eyes! The burning!!!

Tom Delay dances.


Teeeeee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee

Oh, mercy. This gives me an uncontrollable case of the giggles. (H/t HuffPo)
At the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit today, FRC Senior Fellow Pat Fagan, Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding and Michael Schwartz, the chief of staff for Sen. Tom Coburn, held a discussion on “The New Masculinity.”


SCHWARTZ: And one of the things that he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark. He said, “all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. Now think about that. And if you, if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants.” You know, that’s a, that’s a good comment. It’s a good point and it’s a good thing to teach young people.

Schwartz then added a slight caveat, saying, “if it doesn’t turn you homosexual, it at least renders you less capable of loving your wife. And it’s something you need to be healed of.” [emphasis in original source text]
Where to begin? Where, oh where, oh where?

First of all, I don't really know which 11-year-old boys Schwartz knows, or how long ago he was that age, but I distinctly remember most of my peers when I was 11 or 12 being veeeeeeeerrrrrry interested in Playboy, despite all manner of parental disapproval. While perhaps the odd (in a variety of senses of the word) preteen boy might be dissuaded by being told it will make him gay, somehow I doubt that the effect would be particularly lasting.

Also, don't a whole heck of a lot of preteen and teenage boys, not to mention their older counterparts, read Playboy and the like? Wouldn't you expect there to be a lot more gay guys if Playboy made people that way?

Oh, and one last thing. Back in the day, when all my friends were totally into centerfolds and swimsuit issues and such, guess who was totally not interested in any of it. At all. And was forced to pretend when really he just found the whole boob fascination totally confounding. Yours gaily.

So, while I'm not 100% sure what did turn me gay, I'm 100% sure it had nothing to do with all the Playboys I feigned interest in. What's really sad, of course, is that the Senator whose chief of staff is peddling this scientifically void crack-pottery? He's an MD.

Maine AAP statement

The Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement in opposition to Proposition 1, which is the referendum that would revoke marriage equality in Maine. I'm having trouble formatting the full statement for blog perusal, but you can read the whole thing here (pdf).

Money quote:
We oppose Question 1 on the November ballot, which asks whether voters want
to repeal the law allowing same sex couples to marry, on child welfare grounds. As
physicians who care for children and their families, we are committed to supporting what
is best for children. And there is no question that when their parents can marry, children
are more protected legally and socially.


The Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes Question 1 because denying marriage to same-sex couples has harmful implications for thousands of Maine children.
If you are a pediatrician (or, if you know one well) and support marriage equality, please go here and sign the statement in opposition to Proposition 1. Every voice lends more authority, and we need all the help we can get.

Confidential to my friends at the Oscars

Please tell me you watched last night's Emmy broadcast. Because, seriously? That, my friends, is how to make an awards show enjoyable. (It doesn't hurt that Neil Patrick Harris is both incredibly witty and adorable. I no longer resent being compared to Doogie Howser.)

It was fast-paced. It was funny, often in unexpected ways. (The guy who did the "color commentary," who also plays the PC in those Mac commercials, provided consistent chuckles.) Jimmy Fallon, of whom I am usually no great fan, had the Better Half and me literally crying with laughter during his little bit of high-tech physical comedy. While I don't know what the point of giving "Reality" its own bit was, considering there were only two awards in that category (and better luck next year, Heidi), the concept if handing out awards by genre was inspired.

For dish on the dresses, I defer to the brilliant minds at Go Fug Yourself.

Shamelessly name-dropping update: Oh, what the hell. What's the point of having once rubbed elbows with the famous if you're not going to milk it a little? Having met both Kristen Chenoweth and Cherry Jones (twice!) when I lived in New York City (and both of them were very nice, especially the latter who actually took the time to have a real conversation with me both times I met her, despite my being a complete nobody), I am very happy that both of them took home trophies.


I can no longer maintain my facade

I'm sorry. It's just too much work. You got me, Tea Baggers. (*snerk*) I give in. Pinochle.

From TNR (in an article I apparently missed when it first appeared):
“This isn’t a Democratic administration. This is a progressive administration,” explained Representative John Shadegg, of Arizona. “And they want to destroy everything that you and I think is great about this country.”
No... I... we. The thing is... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. You got me, John Shadegg.

I think I speak for all progressives when I say, yes. Yes. Yes, America, I want to destroy everything that is great about you.

Freedom of religion? Gone. Forget it. Maybe some Unitarians can squeak by, but only if they refer to God as "Shkler." Oh, and also Jeremiah Wright. He can stay.

Private property? Hah! Clearly the 9/12 brain trust has discovered that all progressives only pretend to own property, and actually inhabit a vast, subterranean system of tunnels. Like moles, but with bright pink t-shirts.

Mom? Only if she's a lesbian.

Baseball? Forget it, people. You'll have to do without your phallocentric pastimes.

Whew. It feels so, so good to get that off my chest. It's such a relief, you know? Destroying America is really hard on its own, much less while trying to maintain the ruse that I merely care about a country where people can afford to get medical care and marry the consenting adult of their choice.

Thanks, Rep. Shadegg. I owe you a solid.

Heavy Snowe day

See what I did there? Oh, never mind.

Anyhoodle, our girl Olympia has been all over the place lately. This probably has a lot to do with the Democrats falling all over themselves to get her to climb aboard the Good Ship Health Reform. I have expressed some disappointment with Sen. Snowe of late, but I just can't seem to quit her.

First there was this:
"I've always been a Republican for the traditional principles that have been associated with the Republican party since I became a Republican, when I registered to vote. And that is limited government, individual opportunities, fiscal responsibility, and a strong national defense. So I think those principles have always been a part of the Republican party heritage. And I believe that I reflect those views and I haven't changed as a Republican. I think more that my party has changed."
Hmmm. Perhaps it has, Olympia. Perhaps it has.

There is also this:
"Obviously, I'm a Republican, but I'd like to have more Republicans," she told CNBC's John Harwood.

But asked whether having more Republicans is a requirement, she said, pointedly, "no...I'm going to support the right policy."

And which policy might that be?
It's not ironclad, but it's the first strong sign that Sen. Max Baucus' health care reform bill might win the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) when all's said and done.

She, along with Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have released a joint statement 'commending' Baucus' efforts and saying, basically, if consensus is to be found, it will be here.

So, in a nutshell, Sen. Snowe is all over the place. (I was going to make a pun about "drifting," but decided against it in favor of referring to it obliquely.)

I hope she votes in favor of the reform bill, but I also have no desire to see her leave the GOP. I honestly crave two sane parties, and seeing the very last of the northeastern "moderates" hounded out will do nothing to restore any sort of balance to our two-party system. But it's a hard party she's trying to stick with, and I wonder what the upshot will be if she votes for the Baucus bill.

Further health care thoughts

So, the Great Health Care Debate rages on. And on and on and on. Who supports what, in which bill, in which house of Congress is all too confusing and malleable to be worth commenting on at any given moment. Or at least, it is for me. All you people who are paid to write about such things, I still expect a play-by-play.

That being said, I just thought I'd clarify what I really want from health care reform. If I had to pick one thing I wanted from health care reform, what is it?

I want reform of the insurance industry. As I said elsewhere, I think it is the reform that is most badly needed. If I they have to jettison a public option to get it, I can live with it. While I want to see everyone covered, it's not what I want most.

Exclusions in coverage for preexisting conditions must end. It locks people into keeping the coverage they have, even if inadequate or provided as part of an otherwise unappealing job, because they know subsequent carriers will deny them coverage. It stifles competition, thus hobbling any free market solutions one could theoretically support.

The practice of rescission is vile, and must end. It is appalling in the extreme that the insurance industry would use a practice meant to combat fraud to cull the sick from its rolls when they need to have coverage most badly. The insurance industry has made it plain they have no interest in stopping the practice on their own, so they need to be made to do so.

Private insurers also must make it plain what their plans cover, so consumers know what they are paying for. The stories of patients getting socked with gigantic bills, of which their coverage was nil or close to it, are myriad. People need to know that they are paying for.

If the private insurance industry gets the reform it needs, I will be happy for now. Not satisfied for the long run, but happy with the first important steps toward correcting a system long overdue for reform.


All I can do is shake my head and gape

Over at TNR, John McWhorter ponders whether the vociferous opposition we are seeing to President Obama is sublimated racism. His conclusion?
Dismissing the proposal to admonish Wilson formally for his outburst, Barney Frank quipped, "I don't have time to monitor everyone's civility." Frank is right. It is certainly not pretty that some people's take on Obama is likely mediated by racism. But the phenomenon is less a matter of open bigotry than a breach of civility. Who ever thought that all people would be civil at all times? And who ever thought, given the inherent imperfectability of humankind, that racism is somehow different from our other flaws and could be subject to complete elimination?

No one pens doorstop volumes announcing that mosquitoes still exist. We know they do, and we assume they always will, because life isn't perfect. The issue is how close to perfect we can expect to get. Surely, health care, two wars overseas, and a deeply ailing economy are more important than mosquitoes--or whether some people's feelings about Barack Obama are less than, yes, civil.

First of all, let me concur with Rep. Frank that the resolution condemning Wilson was a waste of the people's time, and did nothing more than create a martyr of a man who is simply a boor. Move along, folks.

On the larger topic at hand, I think it is frankly obvious that many of the more strident protesters are racist. The whole "Birther" movement defies any other explanation, and I include those member of Congress who have played lip service to the "issue" in the racist designation. Sorry, dudes, but you are what you are.

As for the mass of the "Tea Party" gaggle, I don't think they are necessarily racist per se. I will refer you again to this most excellent post of Freddie's over at Ordinary Gents on the underlying demographic anxiety that (I think) more accurately describes the motivation. But you know who really is racist, or (just as bad) willing to stoke racial tensions in the most cynical and nauseous way? This man:

Why do I say that? Because:
Rush got things started today with the latest Drudge special, a story of an assault on an Illinois school bus, with Drudge's headline highlighting the potentially racial element of the event: "WHITE STUDENT BEATEN ON SCHOOL BUS; CROWD CHEERS." Rush ran with it, saying, "it's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America -- white kids getting beat up on school buses now."
It defies all reason that this needs to be said, but apparently it must. The President of the United States is in no way responsible for any change in the country that would lead to any student of any color being beaten up by any other student. It is not "Obama's America" in which this could happen. It is America, period. Black people and white people have been beating each other up in this country since the Dawn of Ever, and will continue to beat each other up long after Obama has left the White House. It is a long and tragic history, and is immensely complex and fraught.

Limbaugh knows this. He is many awful things, but he is not stupid. No, he is something else entirely. Over to you, Rod Dreher:
But it only seems so far away because many people worked too hard -- and some even gave their lives -- to drive those demons out. And now here is Limbaugh, of Palm Beach, and his ilk, calling them back insouciantly, for political advantage. This is evil. [emphasis in original]
Yes, indeed. This is evil. This is an evil man doing evil things.

This, of course, makes me aware of how totally naive I have been. I honestly, fool that I am, expected that my country would be better than this. That, were the sludge we call Beck and Limbaugh to spew forth the drek we are now hearing, the country as a whole would recoil in collective horror. But no, my friends. No. There they sit, with their shows and their viewers and their listeners, and they stoke a fire they have no interest at all in controlling.

Not all of us were so naive. To you, Ta-Nehisi:
I got a note from a good friend yesterday expressing shock, and anger, about Drudge and Malkin's usage of that alleged racial beat-down on a school-bus. On some level, I wonder if something's wrong with me. I'm neither shocked, nor angry. This is exactly how I expected these fools to respond to a black president.
I mourn, sincerely, for that part of my self that believed we were better than this. And I wait, in apprehension, for what may come next.

[Editorial Note: This is my house, and thus my rules prevail. I am not interested in discussing a topic that has nothing, in my view, with the topic of this post. If anyone would like to discuss the travails of the Democratic Party, what kind of American Idol judge Ellen will be, whether Indian or Chinese tea is more fragrant, where to summer if you're tired of the Hamptons... whatever, they are free to do so in the venue of their choosing. This is not that venue.]

The latest ad

The opposition has gotten their ad on the air (if you think I'm providing a link, you are stone crazy). I'm glad to see our side has a quick turn-around time in getting a response up.

We need your support, however. If you believe in marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, you can help by going here.

If you're going to talk the talk

For the record, the Critter got the first of his routine vaccinations yesterday, right on schedule.


Autonomy and discipline

This op-ed, which is number one on the NYT's most emailed list, is the just the latest blossom in a bouquet of impracticable advice to parents based on specious reasoning. As with most such articles, I can't imagine that parents who read it will come away with having any idea what to do with their misbehaving children. They will only feel that whatever they are doing is wrong.

While the author is ridiculously unclear about how parents should deal with children, the funny thing is that I'm pretty sure that under similar circumstances, we would probably perform the same actions. At least, I can only infer this by what the author says not to do. I am a big believer in positive discipline. I never spank, yell, or use punitive time-outs or star charts. Since I only praise actions, and never character traits (e.g., "I like the way you tried several different options until you found the right one," rather than "You're so smart!"), it's not that I'm withholding praise when my son does something wrong, it's just not the kind of situation which calls for praise. I never withhold requested affection, even if my son has just done something of which I disapprove. I do always try to understand why he is feeling angry or frustrated, when he is, and usually there's a pretty good and sympathizable if not exactly justifiable reason for it. And, where practicable and not too terribly inconvenient, I allow him to choose his own actions and request his help with household chores.

The question is why we would perform the same actions. The author suggests it has something to do with having respect for the child's autonomy. But the Kantian conception of autonomy is predicated on a person being a rational being. It is in virtue of rationality that we are to grant each other autonomy. Children simply do not have the either the cognitive equipment or the information necessary to make rational decisions. Decisions that are totally inappropriate to make for another rational adult - such as what to eat, where to be educated, what medical treatment to receive, with whom to associate - must be made for children. Autonomy is not something one can respect in a child - he doesn't have it in any meaningful sense. What parents can ethically do is respect that they are helping to create someone who will be autonomous one day. Therefore, they can insure the health and well-being of their child, nurture their self-reliance, and defer decisions that can wait until the child can make them.

The author suggests that children who have expectations placed on them by their parents report resenting their parents. Contra the author, this is not a conclusive argument that the parents did the wrong thing. I resent being pulled over for speeding, but it is still for the best that a government monitors traffic behavior. Children require education in how to behave in a socially appropriate manner, and require help and attention to develop intellectually. One can do this while still loving the child for who he is. I have to completely disagree with the author that expecting certain behaviors from a child, that may not be the first to emerge from the child, is disrespecting who the child is or means that one loves the child conditionally. One can tell a child what is inappropriate behavior -- because one is teaching someone who is not born already knowing how to get along with people and how to be self-reliant.

So why perform this kind of parenting, then? Why not punish, etc? Entirely for pragmatic reasons. Empirical data show that punishment is not effective, that praise for actions rather than traits is more effective, etc. When my child helps around the house, he feels more invested in the condition of the house. He also learns how to do all these things on his own - and thus is trained in self-reliance. On and on. This kind of treatment is not in itself required morally - it is required morally only because it is effective in creating the rational, self-reliant being that he will become.


I rarely agree with this man

I have lamented the current state of conservatism in America several times. Or rather, the face that currently passes for conservatism in America. The so-called "Birthers." The "tea party" lunatics, with their signs comparing Obama to Hitler (or the Joker, or what have you). The "death panel" mendacity. "You lie." Etc, etc, etc... ad nauseam.

The thing is, there really are intelligent and reasonable American conservatives who have something valuable to say. I am apt to disagree with them regarding just about every single issue out there, but I can respect the integrity of their beliefs and philosophies. And I can only imagine what they're feeling as they watch the frothing, mouth-breathing Beck acolytes rampaging across the country.

Case in point -- Rod Dreher. I see, via the Plank, that he has reached a breaking point. And, while I know that I absolutely disagree with most of what he believes (certainly when it comes to gay marriage, for one), hard not to feel sorry for the guy:
I've always taken complaints about the Fox News Channel as evidence of liberal whining and intolerance. But I don't watch TV news. And then I tuned in to Glenn Beck's popular Fox show the other night and saw him tutor his audience on the president's conspiratorial plan to institute "oligarhy" (sic) in America. And I thought: How does a paranoid like this get on national TV?

Last weekend, I tuned into Huckabee, a Fox program hosted by the avuncular former Arkansas governor, of whom I am a fan. There sat actor Jon Voight, staring gravely at the host, who praised the thespian's "courage."

"We're witnessing a slow and steady takeover of our true freedoms," Voight scowled. "We're becoming a socialist nation, and Obama is causing civil unrest in this country. ... I say that they're taking away God's first gift to man: our free will."

Voight then accused the president of trying to depose God and deify himself – as, according to the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will do. It may sound ridiculous – after all, who looks to celebrities for political wisdom? – but it's deadly serious to millions of Americans. To his great discredit, Huckabee, a pastor, let this crazy talk pass unchallenged.

Why on earth would he challenge it? Maybe when he considered himself a statesman, he might have had a reason to. But now, with a show of his own? Crazy talk gets good ratings! Next up, no doubt, will be Victoria Jackson.

He concludes thusly:
Where can those who wish to think and debate clearly about a serious politics of the right go? The degenerate form of populism now dominant on the right loves to praise "freedom" – but it has no use for freedom of thought, or thinking much at all. In turn, increasing numbers of thoughtful conservatives have no use for it.
Bring on the thoughtful conservatives. Please! But let's not pretend they're anywhere near the leadership of the contemporary GOP, or have any say in steering the ship. Because the ones who are... those cats are crazy.

Update: It probably does it a disservice for me to tack it on to a relatively unrelated post, but this post by Freddie of Ordinary Gents about the anger motivating the right-wing craziness is excellent.

I spoke too soon about speaking too soon

Oh, Olympia. Olympia, Olympia, Olympia. I knew I was miffed at you, I just couldn't place why.

Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan.
Olympia Snowe declared that President Obama should remove the public option from health care reform because “It’s universally opposed by Republicans,” and “therefore, there's no way to pass a plan that includes the public option.” But Snowe is a Republican! She could join with the 59 Democrats to vote for a bill that included the public option, and then it would pass. Alternatively, Massachusetts Democrats could seat an interim Senator, giving them 60 votes, and break a filibuster without Snowe. Those are two ways right there. I’m pretty sure there are others.
(By the way, for those of you wondering why it is that we're all focusing on Snowe and ignoring her fellow GOP "moderate" from Maine, your answer is here.)

So, I guess when she says "all Republicans," she's including herself. Which, once again, puts paid to the idea that, when the chips are down, Snowe will break with her party.

I agree with most of what Hendrick Hertzberg says here, with one minor quibble:
If it were up to the House alone, of course, the public option would be a lock. But in the filibuster-hobbled Senate the fate of reform may come down to the whims of a tiny handful of preening moderates from states that are mostly empty of people, notably the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, of Montana, and Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine.
I certainly think the time for fawning all over Sen. Snowe has passed. But the fact that Maine is not densely populated is rather beside the point. Maine is also an economically depressed state, with a lot of shuttered industry and a monolithic insurance market. Not so long ago, Sen. Snowe seemed aware of this:
Even lawmakers opposed to a government plan have problems with the growing clout of the big private companies.

"There is a serious problem with the lack of competition among insurers," said Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the highest-cost states. "The impact on the consumer is significant."

Wellpoint Inc. accounted for 71 percent of the Maine market, while runner-up Aetna had a 12 percent share, according to a 2008 report by the American Medical Association.

So, even though there aren't a lot of people in Maine, the ones that are here are precisely the kind of people who would benefit from a public option. It's truly a pity, if no big shock, that Sen. Snowe has chosen party loyalty over their welfare.

Well, I think we can all agree with the President on this one

From Politico:
ABC's Terry Moran set the Twitter-sphere all aflutter when he wrote:

I haven't watched MTV since the B-52s were in heavy rotation, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. (The one time I watched recently, I was treated to the worst television show of all time, featuring the worst dregs of humanity I've ever seen.) Thus, I missed Kanye West's latest demonstration that he lacks all manner of class.

Even if Obama's comment was off the record, I think we can all come together and agree that Kanye West is, in fact, a phenomenal jackass.

Because it sucks when your patients can't afford to see you

What's the opposite of "surprised"? (Seriously, I can't think of one.) I am... unsurprised to read this (via Political Animal):
Among all the players in the health care debate, doctors may be the least understood about where they stand on some of the key issues around changing the health care system. Now, a new survey finds some surprising results: A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

When polled, "nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options," says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

Most doctors — 63 percent — say they favor giving patients a choice that would include both public and private insurance. That's the position of President Obama and of many congressional Democrats. In addition, another 10 percent of doctors say they favor a public option only; they'd like to see a single-payer health care system. Together, the two groups add up to 73 percent.

Well, it's nice to see that I'm not alone.

I think the reason most doctors are in favor of a public option is that most doctors:

1) Want their patients to be able to afford health care, and

2) Have seen first-hand how the private insurance industry has failed.

It takes very few visits wherein patients tell you they've lost their insurance, and thus can no longer afford the medication they've been on for years, to realize that our current system simply does not afford reliable coverage. A public option will provide a choice for people who are dissatisfied with their current coverage, and a useful goad to the insurance industry to improve the service they provide. I understand perfectly why most physicians support it.

I am also unsurprised to read this:
Politicians in Washington turn to the AMA for support and guidance, even though fewer than a third of practicing doctors belong to the lobbying group.

The AMA's own position on a health overhaul has, at times, been hard to pinpoint. In July, it praised the bill that came out of the House of Representatives. That bill included a public option. But the AMA made it clear that what it really liked was that it eliminated cuts in doctors' fees from Medicare.

Of course that's what the AMA really liked. Because the AMA is a lobbying group for an industry, not for the public welfare. I find it wryly amusing that the AMA is somehow viewed as a medical authority, which it most certainly is not. (As I've said before, I've been proudly not a member for ten years!) The Medicare reimbursement schedule is weighted heavily toward procedure-based interventions, so physicians who specialize in providing said procedures are going to deploy their lobbyists to protect their interests.


You know why? Because I can.

Yes, I know that there is still a Giant Health Care Debate raging on the Hill.

I know that America is still rife with frothing anti-Obama hatred of the most mind-blowing magnitude.

I know that theocrats and reactionaries of the first order (including the Roman Catholic Bishop of Maine) are itching to remind me of how second-class a citizen I am here in Maine.

But, to hell with all that. The Critter is still waking me several times a night, and I'm tired. So, instead of writing about anything vaguely political right now, I'm going to say that I am unabashedly pleased that Project Runway really has given America an amazingly talent designer who's making a genuine go of it. Shine on, Christian Siriano. (And take THAT, America's Next Top Model.)

Tomorrow I will weigh in on Olympia Snowe, who (once again) has decided to demonstrate that she knows what side her bread is buttered on.

Update: I think I read that Political Animal post too quickly. It looks like Snowe hasn't keel-hauled the trigger yet, so I'll hold off on ranting for just now.

Guess who won't be at my wedding

This guy:

Oh, Random Old White Guy, why do you hate gays so much? (It looks like you're having a tough time controlling the throngs of people at this weekend's invitation-only Discrimination Fest 2009.) I promise (and I think my fellow northern New England gays are with me on this one) that we will never ask you to show up at our nuptials, so you won't have to send in any awkward RSVP cards.

Student evaluations

It is a frustrating fact for academics that a not insignificant portion (sometimes the entirety) of our career advancement is based upon the whims of hung over 19-year-olds. I've been lucky enough to get good evaluations, but I'm pretty sure it's for the wrong reasons (for example, I'm an upbeat lecturer). But I've still felt the pain of being evaluated by someone not capable of true evaluation. Some of my favorite comments I've received: "this class was a waist of time," and "to much reading." Dan mentioned a zillion posts ago (I'm too lazy to find it now) that he was worried about websites that post patient evaluations of doctors - for professors, that nightmare is already here!

This is an interesting analysis that shows just how useful evaluations are (hint: not very). It also demonstrates that student evaluations have pernicious effects on teaching style, such as encouraging dumbing down of material and suppression of controversial stances.


Always a pleasure

I have a new post about health care reform over at Ordinary Gents.

Wordier than "I'm with Stupid"

But the message is the same. (H/t the Dish.)

Meanwhile, on the home front

From the KJ:
AUGUSTA -- More than 1,000 gay-marriage opponents are expected to rally in Augusta for an evening event Sunday featuring religious and conservative leaders from across Maine and the country.

It's the second such rally held in the state capital this year and it's designed to inspire and motivate same-sex marriage opponents, said the Rev. Bob Emrich, of Plymouth, one of the organizers.

"We want to show people they are not alone," he said. "It's OK to stand for traditional marriage. There's a common perception that you're in the minority."

In February, even before state lawmakers began reviewing gay-marriage bills, an estimated 1,000 people came to the Augusta Civic Center for a rally organized by the Christian Family Research Council of Washington, D.C.

This time around, organizers said they expect 1,500 to 2,000 people at the same venue, now that voters will have a chance in November to decide whether to repeal the state's new same-sex marriage law or let it stand.

The Stand for Marriage Rally is being organized by Focus on the Family, The Maine Jeremiah Project, Family Research Council and Stand for Marriage Maine, which includes the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Bishop Richard Malone is expected to address the crowd, along with religious leaders from Maryland and California.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family will provide a video message, Emrich said.

The event is free, but tickets are required. Emrich said members of the media will not be allowed inside the event.

Well, even though I'm not a member of "the media" as such, I probably won't be able to swing a ticket. Thus, sadly, no intrepid reportage from Yours Truly. Which is probably for the best, since I would rather glue my eyelids shut than watch a video message from James Dobson.

I'd also like to touch briefly on the involvement of Bishop Malone, who has single-handedly managed to alienate a large number of moderate Catholics in the state. (My own bishop has offered his own opinion, but has done so in a tempered and humble manner, and has neither claimed to speak for Episcopalians in the diocese or to direct members of the church to comply with his own feelings.) It is one thing for the bishop to support the "people's veto" effort as a matter of conscience or religious conviction. It is another thing entirely for him to take a leading role, and to direct congregations in the state to circulate petitions supporting the measure. By doing so, he has made it perfectly clear that gay and lesbian people are not welcome in the Catholic Church (or, at the very least, not in Maine). Considering how dire the situation faced by the church in Maine is, driving away younger and more moderate worshipers strikes me as a foolish (possibly fatal) move.

Finally, in closing, I am delighted to read that opponents to marriage equality feel as though they are in the minority. I certainly hope so. If you'd like to help them to feel this way until November 3, please go here.

Random health care speech thoughts

I thought it was a very good speech, though you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a more sympathetic viewer than me. (Even Michelle looked like she was in a bad mood as people were getting seated.) While I don't know that it will sway anyone across the aisle, I think it did a good job of reminding people why we're having this debate in the first place. Some thoughts:

1) Boy, insurance companies sure aren't feeling the love these days. One of the things I always look for during any presidential address to Congress is which issues or statements get people standing and applauding through the whole chamber. And the bits about ending insurance company abuses (denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, rescission, etc.) got everyone to their feet. Since reform of the insurance industry is one of the things I most hope to see passed, I was pleased by this.

2) Yes, you heard that right. The President called a lie a lie. (If anyone was paying any attention to the Palin Op-Ed before, somehow I doubt they are now.) It was heartening to hear the plain truth spoken.

3) On a related note, I don't expect Rep. Joe Wilson (R -- Bleachers) will be getting a Christmas card from the Obamas this year. While I agree with Matt that it felt bracingly Old Country to hear a member of the legislature heckling the leader of the country, it's kind of a shame that he chose to be so terribly rude about a point that's not actually true.

4) Malpractice reform. Good. Thank you. It's a good idea, Mr. President. Defensive medicine really does drive up health care costs. (Though whether it plays a larger role that merely crappy medicine is a difficult question to answer.) The GOP is right on that issue, and I'm glad to see that there is space for it in the President's plan.

5) The conclusion of the speech was a good reminder of why people (ideally) enter politics, and why liberals (like certain amateur political bloggers) support government solutions when the free market has failed. I am heartily sick of seeing "self pay" listed for patients' insurance carrier, and wondering how they will pay for the tests and treatments that they need. (Or if we're going to eat the costs of the visit.) It's a real problem that affects real people, and it's time for a real solution.


Also, get off my lawn!!

Thankfully, they have fixed my account over at The New Republic online, so if it suits me I can go back to commenting regularly.

But, I'm sorry folks, I just hate the new design. It's busy, it's cluttered, and it's hard to figure out what's going on. The new stuff and archived material is all jumbled together, and it's just altogether too jam-packed.


Through the circuitous route of checking in on Julian Sanchez and following him to his new digs, I came across a link to a supposedly "terrific" explanation of why people might object to the POTUS addressing the nation's school children. I don't know if "terrific" is the word I would use. "Knuckle-headed" seems more apt. Writes Don Boudreaux:
For the record, I oppose all such “Great Leader” poses, regardless of the party affiliation of the Great Leader du jour. The idea that we should be ‘inspired’ by winners of political elections — the notion that successful politicians have some special wisdom to impart — the stupid consensus that high political office renders its holders unusually trustworthy when delivering clusters of cliches — is intolerable to men and women who value freedom and individuality.
I shall try to use very small words, in order that my point is communicated effectively. I do not think the sitting President of the United States is a "Great Leader." I think he (or she, one fine day) is, simply, the leader. An address from the nation's leader (which, yes, is likely to be rife with cliches) is not the same as "indoctrination," as some of the more unhinged critics claimed. It is an address to a group of people by the leader of the nation. Students are citizens (as a general rule) and listening to what the leader of one's country has to say is an integral part of informed citizenship.

Does this equate with being "render[ed]... unusually trustworthy"? No. I think the last President had as much of a right to address our nation's pupils and expect their respectful attention as our current one, and I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him with a broken arm. Indeed, part of good civics education is attending to what elected leaders have to say, and offering reasoned criticism of those parts one does not agree with. But hyperventilating about indoctrination and recommending that kids opt out of watching the address inculcates the idea that the best way of confronting one's ideological or political opponents is to refuse to engage in dialogue and to accuse them of intentions that have no actual bearing on reality. In other words, to behave like the GOP as currently iterated.

Boudreaux also loses major points for (in a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he reprints elsewhere in the post) referencing the most trite, obvious Pink Floyd song ever written in a misbegotten effort to infuse his rhetoric with cool.

Dept. of Craw Stickage

Via Ta-Nehisi, I came across Caitlin Flanagan's article about Helen Gurley Brown yesterday. I don't have a whole lot to say about the article, frankly. While she offers a well-written indictment of Gurley Brown's advice regarding sleeping with married men, her elision of the simple moral wrongness of doing so leaves me cold. But what really irked the snot out of me was this, which she offered as context for her observations about a funeral for a dead teenager:
I’d known the boy well—he had been a student at the school where I taught English—but I hadn’t loved him. In fact, I had never loved anyone yet, because I was years away from having a child of my own, and until you’ve done that you’re just guessing about love, gesturing toward it, assuming that it’s the right name for a feeling you’ve had.
What a galling, presumptuous and fatuous thing to write. How unutterably insulting to those people who have not had children, and how dismissive of and demeaning to their relationships. How self-congratulatory and pompous. (It's enough to make me reference Ayelet Waldman.) Indeed, how disconnected from the reality of millions of peoples' lives. Come to think of it, some guy who is generally regarded by many to be a paragon of love was childless (unless you believe idiotic best sellers).

Look. While I love The Critter already, my love is in its own infancy now. I have been assured by many close friends who are parents that it will grow and deepen and blossom and flourish in ways that are currently inconceivable to me. I can dig it, and I'm not arguing that parental love is not unlike any other kind of love. However, this is not a Now That I am a Parent post (which I hope to assiduously avoid, if possible.) This is simply my affronted response as an adult member of society. I find it unspeakably offensive for Ms. Flanagan to judge the love of spouses (or, until we have marriage equality, "partners") or friends as lacking in comparison to her love as a parent, to be unworthy of comparison at all or even the use of the same word to describe it. What a callous and indifferent thing, to think of the love that childless people feel for those around them as categorically different and inferior.

Bah. Even though it is incidental to the article as a whole, it mars the whole thing and makes me offended on behalf of every friend I know who does not have children.


Chance would be a fine thing

Oh, Glenn Beck. You bubbling cauldron of crazy. You unmitigated source of sedition and strife. You boil on the buttocks of American discourse. What would the Daily Kos do without you?

Still, even though you provide an endless source of blog fodder for everyone to the left of Franco, I can understand why you'd be worried that the liberals of the world would have it in for you. And where does a lunatic like you turn in times of trouble?

Prayer. (Hat tip Political Animal)
BECK: You know, I said a year ago -- I said you needed to find your voice. And I said I think you'll -- we're coming to a time when voices like mine will disappear.


This game is for keeps. This is who controls the United States of America and its destiny. Is it you? Or is it a group of elites? I'm fighting for you and me, my children, your children. I would ask you for one thing. Please, keep me in your prayers, keep my staff in your prayers, for safety, for wisdom, please. I'm asking you. Because I -- I just will tell you, as I have before, we have the truth on our side; we also have God on our side. If you believe the founders were divinely inspired, well, with firm reliance on divine providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Just pray for protection, please. [emphasis mine]
Well, as long as he's asking us to pray for impossible things, I would also like a villa on Lake Como, right by Clooney's.

Credit where it's due

I'm behind in my posting today. I took Friday off, so catching up on the various blogs and news sources and such has led to a bit of a back-log. Oh, and also the working.

Anyhow, I recently lamented the complete and utter crack-pottery coming from various segments of the Far Right regarding President Obama's speech to America's children. I am still wondering what goes on in the minds of people who think that there is something wrong with the President of the United States addressing our nation's school children, or who fear "indoctrination." It would be laughable, were it not also so sad and disturbing.

So, in the spirit of conviviality and common decency, I will laud a certain (frequently a bit on the frothy side himself) former Speaker of the House who actually managed to inject some sanity into the conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Newt Gingrich.
"President Reagan did it, President H.W. Bush did it," Gingrich said on NBC's "Today" show. "If he could give a speech tomorrow night in the tone of his speech today to the students, this country would be much better off ... It's a good speech, I recommend it to everybody if you have any doubts."
Holy crap! Look! A well-known conservative said something nice about the President, and the sky did not fall. It's been so bloody rare, I'd forgotten it was even possible.

When the state murders people

I'm a little bit late to this story as compared to most of the commentariat, but this past weekend afforded the first opportunity for me to read the horrifying story in The New Yorker about Cameron Todd Willingham. If the article (which is meticulously reported) is to be believed, the state of Texas executed an innocent man in February of 2004.

As I have said at some time or another, I am not a strident opponent of capital punishment per se. Philosophically, I feel that certain crimes, by their cruelty, depravity or scope, cause those who commit them to forfeit their right to live. (I'm thinking of crimes of the Richard Speck/Timothy McVeigh variety.) While I understand the arguments made by death penalty opponents about vengeance, mercy, etc., I cannot find within myself the inclination to protest when society enacts its ultimate punishment in such cases. However, given that there is no recourse when "the system" fails, I believe it is better to be a de facto opponent of the death penalty than to admit the possibility of executing the innocent.

Willingham's case illustrates how badly our system of justice can fail. There is much to abhor in his story, not least of which is the cavalier manner in which the Board of Pardons and Paroles handled his request for clemency when genuine doubts about the facts of his case had surfaced. If one believes that it is just to execute the guilty, then one must also believe that our system is just. Clearly, there is enough potential for injustice in our criminal justice system to make support for the death penalty untenable.

It is also clear that Willingham was the victim of his poverty. Had he had access to quality representation, it seems far less likely that he would have been executed. Again, one cannot support capital punishment in a system when the poor are represented by the overworked, uninterested or incompetent.

I would like to direct my most heated invective at the "medical" "experts" the prosecution used to bolster their case:

The prosecution cited such evidence in asserting that Willingham fit the profile of a sociopath, and brought forth two medical experts to confirm the theory. Neither had met Willingham. One of them was Tim Gregory, a psychologist with a master’s degree in marriage and family issues, who had previously gone goose hunting with Jackson, and had not published any research in the field of sociopathic behavior. His practice was devoted to family counselling.

At one point, Jackson showed Gregory Exhibit No. 60—a photograph of an Iron Maiden poster that had hung in Willingham’s house—and asked the psychologist to interpret it. “This one is a picture of a skull, with a fist being punched through the skull,” Gregory said; the image displayed “violence” and “death.” Gregory looked at photographs of other music posters owned by Willingham. “There’s a hooded skull, with wings and a hatchet,” Gregory continued. “And all of these are in fire, depicting—it reminds me of something like Hell. And there’s a picture—a Led Zeppelin picture of a falling angel. . . . I see there’s an association many times with cultive-type of activities. A focus on death, dying. Many times individuals that have a lot of this type of art have interest in satanic-type activities.”

The other medical expert was James P. Grigson, a forensic psychiatrist. He testified so often for the prosecution in capital-punishment cases that he had become known as Dr. Death. (A Texas appellate judge once wrote that when Grigson appeared on the stand the defendant might as well “commence writing out his last will and testament.”) Grigson suggested that Willingham was an “extremely severe sociopath,” and that “no pill” or treatment could help him. Grigson had previously used nearly the same words in helping to secure a death sentence against Randall Dale Adams, who had been convicted of murdering a police officer, in 1977. After Adams, who had no prior criminal record, spent a dozen years on death row—and once came within seventy-two hours of being executed—new evidence emerged that absolved him, and he was released. In 1995, three years after Willingham’s trial, Grigson was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association for violating ethics. The association stated that Grigson had repeatedly arrived at a “psychiatric diagnosis without first having examined the individuals in question, and for indicating, while testifying in court as an expert witness, that he could predict with 100-per-cent certainty that the individuals would engage in future violent acts.”

"Neither had met Willingham." And yet, both were willing to testify in a case that could very well (and did) cost a man his life. A more revolting abdication of professional responsibility I have not seen in quite some time. Whatever divine retribution falls of those whose indifference leads to the deaths of others, may it fall heavily upon them.

The story, which is worth reading in its entirety, is a damning indictment of a wholesale failure of justice. It comes to a close with the following wryly optimistic statement:
There is a chance, however, that Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the “execution of a legally and factually innocent person.”
Perhaps I am biased against the Great State of Texas, but it seems that they are far too in love with their manner of executing their criminals for them to ever make a confession so dire.

Update: The prosecutor in the original case (now, tragically, a judge) offers a defense of his work, to which the author of the article responds.


The latest ad

What would I do without the Dish? They keep me more informed about what's going on with Maine Marriage publicity than local sources!

The latest ad, which I find touching:

As always, if you believe in marriage equality, please go here to help.

Update: Well, goes to show I should just check my e-mail more regularly. (Sorry, local sources!) It turns out there are two new ads. Here's the other one.


I think I was wrong about something.

Not that long ago, I wrote this:
I think Megan McArdle is very smart.
I may, perhaps, have been wrong about that.

McArdle opposes health care reform, largely based on the premise that reforming health care would lead to a dramatic loss in profits for the pharmaceutical industry. (I mentioned this recently during my conversation over at Ordinary Gents, as well.) I have seen her write that a drop in profits of 80% could be expected were health care reform to pass. Being as it were that she is an economics blogger, and I am not, I kind of took it on faith that her statistic was based on something other than hearsay.


Turns out, she wasn't so much writing about a real number, and more about a possible future situation based largely on stuff she had pieced together. (Hat tip Isaac Chotiner.) So, in reality, she opposes health care reform largely on the grounds that it might stifle innovation on the part of the pharmaceutical industry based on speculation that has no numbers to back it up.

I regret my error, and will take all due steps in the future to avoid similar mistakes.

Update: On the other hand, there is this.