Stop the Presses: Meacham is Dull
At Citizen Cain, our response to Parson Meacham's work is similar to Bob Somerby's. We'll let Somerby paraphrase: "Blah blah blah blah harrumph zzzzzzz." Also: "Blah blah blah blah blah plop fizz."
Watching the Watchmen: Politics, Policy, Press Criticism
Those in our media circus who deliver our truth can't weld, fix a car, shoot a gun, or do much of anything other than run around looking for scoops about how incompetent things are done daily in Iraq under the most trying of circumstances.Sheesh. You hear that, John Burns? Quit running around Baghad looking for scoops and weld something, for chrissakes.
there is a sort of arrogant smugness that has taken hold in the West at large. Read the papers about an average day in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, or even in smaller places like Fresno. The headlines are mostly the story of mayhem — murder, rape, arson, and theft. Yet, we think Afghanistan is failing or Iraq hopeless when we watch similar violence on television, as if they do such things and we surely do not.Is he really this dumb? Can he not tell the difference between a crime problem in a stable, functioning society and an insurgency that threatens to erupt into civil war, or anarchy?
Bush, who had plenty to be morose about through the fall, responded with vigor
as well. Instead of heading immediately to bed after the Oval Office address, as
he usually does, he stuck around to chew through themes for his upcoming State
of the Union address, another high-ranking administration official said.
Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
everything I can glean from friends and contacts in Iraq makes it ever-clearer that the Iranian state and its clerical proxies made a huge intervention in the Iraqi voting earlier this month, most especially in the southern provinces and in the capital city of Baghdad. It was probable that the Shiite parties would have won anyway, but they made assurance doubly sure by extensive fraud and by using both militias and uniformed policemen to exclude, coerce, or intimidate voters. So, the regional dilemma is now as follows: Will the Iraqi model be one day followed in Iran, or will Iran succeed in imposing its own "model" on Iraq?
Hitchens does tell us that the Ayatollah Sistani is an opponent of Khomeniism and that he has some influence in Iran. Thanks for that-- Hitchens could have saved himself a trip to Iran and reported this hot news back in 2003.
Many of today's recruits are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income. Nearly two-thirds of Army recruits in 2004 came from counties in which median household income is below the U.S. median.
Such patterns are pronounced in such counties as Martinsville, Va., that supply the greatest number of enlistees in proportion to their youth populations. All of the Army's top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.
As sustained combat in Iraq makes it harder than ever to fill the ranks of the all-volunteer force, newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war.But in fact Heritage shows that the poorest and second quintile zip codes become less well represented among recruits between 1999 and 2003.
Was the president to ignore the evident fact that FISA's procedures and strictures were simply incompatible with dealing with the al Qaeda threat in an expeditious manner? Was the president to ignore the obvious incapacity of any court, operating under any intelligible legal standard, to judge surveillance decisions involving the sweeping of massive numbers of cell phones and emails by high-speed computers in order even to know where to focus resources? Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed? The questions answer themselves.
Let's begin with the assumption that underlies Groseclose and Milyo's assignment of ratings to the various groups they looked at: if a group is cited by a liberal legislator, it's liberal; if it's cited by a conservative legislator, it's conservative.
On February 24, 2004, for example, in a debate on the medical liability bill, the liberal Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut cited "a study conducted by the Rand Corporation and published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year [which concluded] that individuals received the recommended treatment for their condition in only 55 percent of the cases... " For Groseclose and Milyo, Dodd's citation of the study counts as one piece of evidence that the Rand Corporation is a liberal think tank. In fact, their method assumes that there can be no such thing as objective or disinterested scholarship -- every study or piece of research, even if published in so august a scientific authority as the New England Journal, can be assumed to have a hidden agenda, depending on which side finds its results congenial to its political purposes.
In their response, Groseclose and Milyo state:
Although we did not state it in the paper, our own view is nearly the exact opposite of this assumption. Namely, by and large, we believe that all studies and quotes by the think tanks in our sample are true and objective. However, it just happens that some, but not necessarily all, of these true and objective studies appeal differently to conservatives than liberals. To see why, imagine that a researcher publishes a study in a very prestigious scientific journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Suppose this study gives evidence that a fetus in the early stages of its mother’s pregnancy can feel pain (or cannot feel pain). We are willing to bet that this true and objective study will appeal more to conservatives (liberals) than liberals (conservatives). We are also willing to bet that conservatives (liberals) would tend to cite it more.
This is all that our study assumes—that these studies can appeal differently to different sides of the political spectrum. We do not assume that the authors of the studies necessarily have a political agenda. Not only that, we do not even assume that each study will appeal differently to different sides
of the political spectrum. We only assume that it is possible that such studies will appeal differently.
This is an excellent response, as far as it goes, but it fails to address part of the concern about the study's methodology. Suppose that a think tank, call it the NEJM Association, had published a study giving evidence that a fetus in the early stages cannot feel pain. Suppose further that liberal legislators cited this study frequently and that neither conservative nor liberal legislators cited anything else published by the NEJM Association, making the NEJM Association seem to be a liberal think tank. Therefore, under the Grosecose-Milyo methodology, a newspaper that cited the NEJM Association frequently would be tagged a liberal newspaper. That would make sense, perhaps, if it could be shown that the newspaper was citing the NEJM study about fetal inability to feel pain. But what if the newspaper was citing other work by the NEJM Association -- for instance, studies on the connection between diet and cancer incidence, or on outcomes of obesity treatment. I would contend that it would be unfair to give this newspaper a "liberal" tag.
In think that something like this might be going on with the Grosesclose-Milyo study. Think tanks produce work that is political charged and work that isn't. I would contend that on average, liberal groups produce more non-policically charged work, work that is important for it's expertise and informational content. Conservative groups, I would argue, are on average more political, and more consistently partisan. I don't think that Groseclose and Milyo have adequately controlled for this effect.
. . . stories about race relations that include a quote from an NAACP representative are unlikely to be "balanced" with quotes from another group on their list. Their quotes will often be balanced by quotes from an individual, depending on the nature of the story; however, because there are no pro-racism groups of any legitimacy (or on Groseclose and Milyo's list), such stories will be coded as having a "liberal bias."Since the NAACP is the third most-cited group in the study, this factor could have a significant impact.
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan was asked to explain why Bush last year said, "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." McClellan said the quote referred only to the USA Patriot Act.How low can they go? Clinton was torn a new one for parsing the word “is.” But Bush is allowed to invent new meanings for "any time."
I feel so much better now. Who needs courts when you’ve got an operational work force, including a shift supervisor?
Q And who determined that these targets were al Qaeda? Did you wiretap them?
GENERAL HAYDEN: The judgment is made by the operational work force at the National Security Agency using the information available to them at the time, and the standard that they apply -- and it's a two-person standard that must be signed off by a shift supervisor, and carefully recorded as to what created the operational imperative to cover any target, but particularly with regard to those inside the United States.
Gonzales said that while FISA prohibits eavesdropping without court approval, it takes an exception where Congress "otherwise authorizes." That authorization, he said, was implicit in the authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The reality today is that when theology, philosophy or religion dares to examine the Big Question, its practitioners find themselves increasingly bumping heads with scientific claims of exclusive competence. This is wrong. Neither science nor theology has the right to tell the other to butt out of this quest. In this, no one has the right to demand that the study of intelligent design be kept out of schools. Out of the science class, perhaps, but not out of all classrooms.So Byrne seems to be conceding that scientists should decide what gets taught in science class, and scientists overwhelmingly reject intelligent design as an unscientific theory.
Philosophers and theologians may--must, actually--rigorously examine the scientific theory that random chance explains everything. A denial of that right and responsibility rises from the same spirit of arrogant certitude that haunted
The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials. Authorities, including a former NSA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said.But on Face the Nation today, Sen. Joe Biden explained that existing law allows the President to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone for up to 75 hours. Biden:
I'm the guy that drafted the FISA Act 25 years ago on the Judiciary Committee, one of the three people, and we set it up-- it's a secret court allowing the president to wiretap anybody, intercept anything for up to 75 hours. They can in the meantime go into that court and say, `I needed to do this.' If there's a reason the court thinks is under the Constitution permissible, they're allowed to do it. If it turns out they're not allowed to do it, they have to destroy the evidence.So once again this administration is being dishonest—making it seem as if they need to violate the law in order to protect the public. I hope that Congress has the guts to face down Bush on this one. I also hope that the Washington Post publishes a correction and stops trusting the sources that fed them a line about losing information during the time that it takes to get a warrant.
So I just don't get it. He already has the authority under the FISA court to go in and intercept anything he wants up to 72 hours. This is neither, I think, legal, nor is it necessary what he's been doing. It is a little bit frightening how broadly he asserts his authority as commander in chief, where the guy hasn't shown very good judgment on torture or a lot of other things.
American policy makers and think-tank Johnnies have not really looked at Iraq in
the broader context of . . . [other civil wars]. That's in part because when Americans think of civil war, we tend to think of our own Civil War, which was utterly atypical. It's also because American experts were almost all trained to think about wars between nations . . .
President Bush did not ask Congress to include provisions for the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program as part of the Patriot Act and has not sought any other laws to authorize the operation. Bush administration lawyers argued that such new laws were unnecessary, because they believed that the Congressional resolution on the campaign against terrorism provided ample authorization, officials said.But here is the relevant text of the Authorization for Military Force that Congress passed on September 18, 2001:
the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority.
if one accepts that sexual orientation is genetic, that homosexuality is in the genes, it makes tremendous sense to assert that hetero aversion to gay sex is also in the genes. The point being that it's very hard to imagine a genetic reason why homosexuality would pass on homosexual genes to the next generation, since gay sex doesn't produce children. Whereas it makes excellent sense to suggest that hetero men with an aversion to gay sex are more likely to pass on their genes than hetero men without an aversion to gay sex.Conrad makes some reasonable points, but I don’t necessarily agree. First, let me address the point that “it’s very hard to imagine a genetic reason why homosexuality would pass on homosexual genes to the next generation.” Then I will address whether hetero aversion to gay sex is likely to be genetic, because it enhances genetic fitness.
I'm highly skeptical that a movie about gay cowhands, however good, will find a large mainstream audience. I'll go see it, but I don't want to go see it. (Why? SexualKaus doesn't want to see it because he's straight straight straight. When a correspondent questions why straight men should be uninterested in a gay romance when gay people manage to find pleasure in hetero romances, Kaus responds:
orientation really is in the genes. Sorry.)
If a gay man, say, goes to see "Wuthering Heights," there is at least one romantic lead of the sex he's interested in! In "Brokeback Mountain," neither of the two romantic leads is of a sex I'm interested in. ... My wild hypothesis is that more people will go see a movie if it features an actor or actress they find attractive! If heterosexual men in heartland America don't flock to see "Brokeback Mountain" it's not becauseGot that? Kaus isn't interested in Brokeback Mountain only because he wants to see women when he goes to the movies. But it's not, NOT, because he's homophobic.
they're bigoted. It's because they're heterosexual.
The great thing about blogging is that, if it's done right and honestly, it can sometimes reveal things about yourself even you didn't know.Well said.
Because autism is usually diagnosed sometime between a child’s third and fourth
birthdays and thimerosal was largely removed from childhood vaccines in 2001,
the incidence of autism should fall this year.
It is a myth that "most" mercury came out [of vaccines] in 1999. It wasn't even until July of 1999 that the government suggested that manufacturers begin to remove the
mercury "as soon as possible." Factories did not get approval for, and begin making thimerosal-free vaccines until 2000 at the earliest (Except for Merck, which got approval in Sept. 1999 to make Hg-free Hep-B vaccine, though it is not clear when this new formula actually appeared on the shelves of doctors offices).
On Meet the Press, Dr. Fineberg said that some mercury containing pediatric vaccines expired in 2003. I have reason to believe it was later than that, as many vaccines without thimerosal were not even produced until 2001 or 2002, and most vaccines have a shelf life of about three years from manufacture, it is my understanding. (Again, correct me if I am wrong). Plus, it takes quite some time for new lots to work their way through the distribution system, and new stocks are not ordered until old stocks begin to run low, as far as I can discern.
By this account, there were still mercury-containing vaccines on the shelf, potentially at least, until very recently. This matter is being investigated right now by the United States Senate, and we should have an answer soon, even if the Senators must subpoena the information (which they will, their staffs have indicated).
But let's take Dr. Fineberg at his word for now. He said at least some mercury containing vaccines (we don't know how many because the FDA won't say) expired in 2003. Meanwhile, 3-5 year old children entering the system now were born no later than June, 2002. In fact, we don't have the breakdown of individual birth cohorts, but one would imagine that there were more five year olds (born in 2000, when many kids were still getting the full amount of mercury in their shots) entering the system last quarter than three year olds, born in 2002. However, early intervention programs are lowering the age of diagnosis, and perhaps this ratio is changing as well.
. . .
My guess, and it is admittedly a guess, is that MOST 3-5 year olds entering the system today, on average received relatively high levels of mercury in their vaccines. If the FDA would release the pertinent information, we would know exactly how much that was.
U.S. obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, extend as "a matter of policy" to "U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," Rice said here at a news conference with Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko.
If you've been paying close attention to this mendacious administration, however, it won't come as a surprise that this statement is carefully crafted to mislead, and doesn't say what it seems to say on first impression. As Eric Umansky has explained, the Bush Justice Department has opined that the Convention Against Torture prohibits cruel treatment only of U.S. prisoners at home or abroad. Foreigners, held in prisons not on U.S. soil, such as the secret CIA prisons in Europe. They're fair game.
Moreover, as Media Matters has pointed out, press coverage of Rice's statement failed to point out that the Bush administration uses a extremely narrow definition of torture, that allows it to engage in extremely abusive treatment of prisoners.
So Rice's statement, far from being some kind of breakthrough, was just a continuation of the Bush administration's sickening double-talk on torture: We don't torture, because we're the good guys, but don't make us stop torturing because we're the good guys. We're the good guys because we don't torture, but anything we don't short of causing major organ failure isn't torture. And we abide by our treaty obligations, but we interpret these treaties as allowing us to do whatever the hell we want to foreigners in foreign places.
So it's unfortunate that Nancy Pelosi waded into this story with the following comment, as reported by the Associated Press:
"It's about time," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of Rice's remarks. "Shame on us that it took so long for the administration" to make such a determination.
Yes, Pelosi was being critical of the administration. But she also gave them undue credit for making a determination against committing torture abroad. Sadly, no such determination has been made. Here's what Pelosi should have said:
Secretary Rice seems to be continuing this administration's pattern of double-talk. She says that the United States acts consistent with our treaty obligations, without saying that the administration's interpretation of our treaty obligations allows the use of treatment that any reasonable person would consider cruel and degrading, and allows torture of non-citizens when conducted outside of U.S. territory. I call on Secretary Rice to issue a clear statement that the United States prohibits its personnel and agents from abusing any prisoner, anywhere, and to support legislation that would codify this policy. Until then, we will have to assume that Rice's statements are a smokescreen for a policy that promotes torture and abuse.
A good indicator of the way the wind is blowing in Washington is often the position of Senator Hillary Clinton. A human weather-vane, Clinton has been a long-time supporter of the Iraq war, has visited Iraq, kept close contact with the military, served on the relevant Senate committees, and made hawkish noises that helped her with her rural New York state voters, but slowly alienated her anti-war liberal base.
Now, as with the rest of Washington, she’s shifting a little with the breeze. Yes, she recently voted against both Senate resolutions demanding immediate withdrawal or a fixed timetable for withdrawal. But last week she sent out an e-mail to constituents, finessing things. “We are at a critical point with the December 15 elections that should, if successful, allow us to start bringing home our troops in the coming year,” she wrote.
She still opposes a rigid timetable. But she has made it clear that the Iraqi elections next week will be a critical milestone in the American effort. After that the Iraqis had better step up or the US will start stepping down.
Does Sully provide any evidence at all to justify calling Clinton a human weather vane? After supporting the war in Iraq, she now says that "if successful," the December elections "should . . . allow us to start bringing home our troops in the coming year." That's it. Check the article. This is the closest Sully comes to providing an example of a shift in Hillary's position. I leave it to the reader to decide whether suggesting that we might next year be able to reduce troop levels in Iraq counts as a unprincipled shift from Hillary's war support.
Sully even notes that Clinton's position is very similar to George W. Bush's:
How different is this from the position of the president? On the face of it George W Bush is still insistent on fighting until “victory”, but Washington’s little secret is that the difference between Clinton and Bush is not much more than rhetorical.
So if both Clinton and Bush supported the war, and Hillary has now shifted in the wind, and Clinton and Bush still have the same position, then surely that means that Bush has shifted in the wind too? Simple logic would say yes. But Sully is operating on a level far beyond simple logic. In fact, Sully is able to surmise, without any evidence, that Bush is ignoring short-term political gain and focusing nobly on the big picture:
Are next year’s congressional elections a factor? Much of Washington believes so. I don’t. This president doesn’t need to get re-elected; and he’s smart enough to know that his legacy will be determined far more by resilience and flexibility in Iraq than a few lost seats at home.
Ugh. If Sullivan wants to say that Hillary is unprincipled and Bush is the opposite, that's certainly his right as a pundit. But shouldn't he be required to provide some evidence?