My local paper, The Indianapolis Star, ran this editorial Wednesday with eregard to the whole Thimerosal flap that calls into question the scientific basis of the connection between the mercury-based preservative and autism. (Full disclosure: Indianapolis is the headquarters for Eli Lilly and Company, one of the manufacturers of the perservative). However, the editorial glosses over the contention that while Thimerosal might not be harmful as the result of a single vaccination, the cumulative effect of multiple vaccinations might be another matter. In addition, as I understand it, this subject has hardly been thoroughly researched; saying there's little evidence yet hardly proves there's no connection (though indeed, ther may very well not be). And, of course, the undebated secrecy of the provision's last-minute insertion in the so-called Homeland Security bill hardly inspires confidence in the rectitude of its supporters' claims.
P.L.A., always excellent on the subject, has also called attention to the Government's request to seal discovery from the special vaccine court the Homeland Security provision; if the evidence--already known to the pharmaceutical companies--does not support the contention that Thimerosal is harmful, why move to suppress it?
I fully agree with the contention of the Star--and others--that "Good science must dictate the proper course." Let there be good science, then, and openness of information. But rushing to judgement on the basis of scant evidence is not good science, on either side.
Some time back, I sounded off with a rant about the parents of an Arizona high school student who threatened to sue if the teacher gave the student the failing grade she deserved. Unfortunately, the idea of intervening with teachers on behalf of their kids seems to have caught on with parents, even those of college students. Parents are often upset that school privacy rules sometimes prohibit professors from discussing grades even with parents who pay the tuition.
Academics have several theories on what's caused the spike in complaints.
[Professor Gary] Stokley calls it the logical progression for parents accustomed to directing their children's lives. Parents' attitude is "I've been involved with my kid in high school and I want to be involved with my kid in college," Stokley said.
Faculty members also say moms and dads sometimes pressure officials to register students in mandatory courses that are filled to capacity and question the intent of classroom assignments.
One positive note:
Stokley noted that privacy codes do not prevent professors from outlining what led to a sub-par grade. Parents tend to back down once they hear of laggard attendance and low test scores, he said.
A 17-year-old Dayton girl, weighing in at five-foot-three and 110 pounds, chased down a 5'10", 140 pound burglar fleeing her home, tackled him, and hogtied him until police arrived. She was quoted as saying, "The only thing running through my mind was, ‘How dare you?’" She credited her high school track training and experience with horses on the family farm with helping her nab the thief.
In today's post on 'laffaire Lott, Kos wonders: "...despite all the calls for Lott to step down, it looks as though the Republican Party establishment is happy with him as their leader. So, can there be any doubt that the GOP is held hostage to its southern racist wing?"
The Republican party is facing a critical defining moment. We can either shine as a party and totally denounce Lott, ask for his removal (or don't select him when congress adjourns) as Majority Leader, publically censure him very critically...and show some credibility. Or, be labeled as racist (and why the hell shouldn't we all believe that if you aren't willing to deal with this) and be set back 50 years and lose any hope for being a party with influence in the future. The one thing BIG DONORS, BIG BUSINESS can't do, it can't paint a racist pure. If they are counting on the Big Business and donors to bail them out of this one, the American people simply won't stand for it.
Bravo. There's lots more good stuff there; Kos's comment threads seem to attract reasonable discussion from both ends of the spectrum.
For a generation, the Republican Party has coddled and mobilized racial bigotry for the sake of winning elections. It was a conscious policy, which Kevin Phillips, an advisor to Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, described, in The Emerging Republican Majority, as an attempt to "make an ideological bid for the anti-civil rights South." Lee Atwater expanded that strategy by prodding tensions between blacks and working class white ethnics. The racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic Bob Jones University has been a traditional stop for Republican presidential candidates at least since Reagan. Republicans have been experimenting with how much subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) racism they can inject into campaign ads for as long as I can remember (and my political memory goes back a good thirty years).
...That the Republican Party felt it had to present a tolerant face to America says something very good about the vast majority of Americans. We are a better country than we were forty years ago, and overt racism doesn't sell as well as it once did. But even while it was serving up that tolerant face, the party wanted the benefit of the racist vote. It got it. Having reaped the benefit, though, it ought to have to pay the price as well. Call it penance. Call it justice.
Trent Lott is an unrepentant racist, and I'll grant that most Republicans are not. But for me the fact that they aren't, that they know better, and are willing to exploit racism -- and to nourish and sustain it by doing so -- makes them morally worse than the poor dumb racists who are just looking desperately (and futilely) for someone more pitiful than them. That's something I've believed most of my life, and the Lott Affair just holds it up to the light so we can all take a good look at it.
That's why I not only want Trent Lott out as majority leader, I want it to be very clear that he's a Republican, that the Republican Party has provided a forum for people like Lott for decades. They're pretending they don't know what could make a man behave that way, and they shouldn't get away with it.
As I've said, I'm positive that many conservatives are uncomfortable with such tactics and would never condone them. But pretending they don't exist isn't the answer.
Talking Points Memo previews an upcoming article that draws parallels between "chicken hawks" (who, for the record, are those who staunchly advocate war after having declined--or actively avoided--their own opportunity to serve) and what he calls "safety-net entrepreneurs:"
Those would be folks who talk a great game about markets and risk-taking and entrepreneurship and gumption and such but have actually made their cash in ventures which are almost immune from real risk and where their skill isn't entrepreneurship but the ability to work the bureaucracy and purse strings of -- yikes! -- big government. [ed: *cough*Bush*cough* Cheney*cough*etc.*cough*] Safety-nets for the poor and middle-class damage character; for the businessmen, they work just fine.
Economist and newly-permalinked blogger Brad DeLong thinks Bush's nominees to replace Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey should consider declining, noting that their job may not be so much as to formulate economic policy but to attempt to sell a predetermined one. DeLong says, "The chief problem with Bush economic policy hasn't been that it has been poorly sold, but that the quality of what they have to sell is so low."
In the midst of the Trent Lott furor, CalPundit, Brad DeLong and Ampersand (in reverse alphabetical order) cite a sobering NYT story (reg. req.; DeLong quotes the full text of the article) about a research project that indicates that racism isn't restricted to a few bone-headed Senators.
The researchers assigned first names randomly to similar resumes submitted for 1,300 positions listed in help-wanted ads. Half the resumes received first names from a list of some particularly common among blacks and from another that is common among whites. The results: "Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be called for interviews than were those with black-sounding names [with similar qualifications, dont' forget]. Interviews were requested for 10.1 percent of applicants with white-sounding names and only 6.7 percent of those with black-sounding names."
Meanwhile, also via Ampersand, blogger Kieran Healy points out a study indicating not only that whites more likely to get call-backs, but also that a job applicant is better off being a white felon than a black with no criminal record.
Boston Archbishop Bernard Law has just announced his resignation. About time. I haven't been blogging about the Catholic child abuse scandals, but it's becomes clear that Law shamefully concealed the crimes committed by a couple of priests, and in doing so gave them the opportunity to harm even more children. Law's resignation is a welcome assertion that the Catholic Chrch cannot condone such activity.
It's being batted around in some left-leaning blogs that Democrats shouldn't push too hard for Lott's ouster as Majority Leader, on the grounds that his retention would be more politically advantageous: the flap would weaken him politically, and it'd be a dandy issue in 2004 now that the Dems have rediscovered the importance of their minority supporters.
(Update: As Talking Points Memo puts it, "...a lot of Democrats would actually prefer Lott stay as Majority Leader. ...Because as long as he's Senate Majority Leader, politically speaking, he's the gift that just keeps on giving.
Consider the fact that right now we're debating whether the Republican Senate Majority Leader is a racist who yearns for the days of segregation or just a good ole boy who says a lot of things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for the days of segregation. I think you can say that that's a debate the Democrats are pretty comfortable having. And it'll keep being that way. Republicans are starting to realize that.")
I can't agree with keeping Lott as Majority Leader. The entire Senate needs to join in embracing the idea that someone who expresses the statements Lott did is simply not acceptable as the leader of that body, especially in light of mounting evidence that those statements might be a genuine reflection of his attitude. Even if Lott's elevation to Majority Leader offers some political advantage, for Democrats to soft-pedal their criticism would undermine their credibility as that party that most strongly believes in equal rights. Rather, I think this sorry episode is an opportunity for the Democrats to repudiate any flirtation with the voter demographic that Lott's comments might resonate with and, to the contrary, cast a glaring light on any candidate that attempts to curry favor with that crowd, even with euphemistic code words. Indeed, if Lott's ouster means that somewhere down the road a Democratic politician is held tro account for genuinely racist comments, so much the better for the nation.
Congress has no business dictating to states who they're allowed to elect. If the citizens of a district choose a member of the KKK, a Communist, a transvestite "nun", a John Bircher, or an unabashed geek to represent them, that's their business. But the national party is free to declare them an embarrassment and implicitly repudiate them by denying them a leadership role. I expect such will be Lott's fate, and I will applaud the GOP when it happens.
(By the way, Kos points out, Lott's getting the boot from the leadership position has interesting implications.)
It's time to bury the stinking corpse of segregation once and for all. As I said one one of Dodd's comment threads, this is an occasion when the right thing, and the politically advantageous thing, happily coincide.
Update:Dodd believes he has found (via Tough Times) strike three against Lott: While still a student at Ole Miss, Lott led a successful effort to keep his fraternity from integrating. He comments: "...the Sigma Nu action speaks volumes, and it leaves an unmistakeable stink over all the other less clear-cut incidents." And we both agree (yikes!) that the amicus brief Lott filed on behalf of Bob Jones University shouldn't be considered evidence of racism; the ACLU litigates on behalf of unsavory groups all the time, and it wouldn't be fair to interpret that as advocacy of Nazis or the KKK, either.
Some time ago, Bush's "faith-based initiatives" were rejected by Congress over cost concerns. Rather than resubmitting the legislation to the newly Republican Congress, Bush is going ahead and imposing what he can unilaterally by executive fiat.
This great and prosperous land must become a single nation of justice and opportunity. We must continue our advance toward full equality for every citizen, which demands that a guarantee of civil rights for all.
Any suggestion that the segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong. Recent comments by [Mississippi] Senator [Trent] Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He has apologized, and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals.
Update:Talking Points Memo shares my opinion: "It's a few days late in coming, I think. But he said the right things and he said them with eloquence. So no criticisms from me. The question of course is why Lott couldn't have said something similar..."
This artist has created a series of paintings from profoundly pixellated pr0n; up close, they're abstract assemblies of colored squares. Their, um, source material only becomes apparent when viewed from a distance (or thumbnailed...). Possibly not safe for work.
The Emerging Pornographic Majority will continue to reject the repression of sexual ideas and beliefs. Americans have seen the dangers of extreme repression of the human libido in venues such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and have utterly rejected it. In our country, people have the ability to make a choice – and they’ve chosen sex.
Willis has an interesting perspective, and when it comes to the the whole consensual-adult thing, it isn't so much that I favor or oppose what people do as much as I think it's none of anyone else's damn business. That said, I do have some reservations. One is, of course, preventing children's exposure to pr0n. Willis, of course, is talking only about adults, but I think parents need to be very careful in monitoring what their kids are doing online. In my day, kids peeked at copies of Playboy or, later on, images of women rendered in ASCII text; I don't think the impulse is harmful, but there amount of easily available hardcore stuff is a definite concern. There's a *lot* of stuff out there I wouldn't want my daughters exposed to.
Connected to that is the fact that, since there's so much free pr0n out there, pay sites up the ante by offering more extreme stuff (you don't really need examples, do you?). While I'm not going to get into condemning non-harmful consensual practices, I wonder if the saturation of more edge-case sexuality might convey the notion that *non* extreme practices are somehow boring. Back in college, a class I took indicated that consumers of porn tended to need more stimulation to achieve the same level of arousal; these days that curve could be pretty steep.
Frankly, I find a lot of the hardcore stuff out there more boring than anything else...it just isn't erotic. My biggest beef with movies--pr0n or otherwise--in fact, is that they often confuse "explicit" with "erotic."
One criticism of pr0n from the comments is that it creates "unrealistic expectations." Of *course* pr0n involves unrealistic fantasy, but so does the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Harlequin novels, fashion magazines, romantic comedies, etc. Anyone who patterns their expectations around any of those is in big trouble, but I think by and large people can and do handle it. I suspect that there are lots of people in healthy relationships in which one or both partners consume pr0n (or romance novels)--the sheer volume of pr0n consumed would tend to indicate that.
Where are they finding all this liberalism in the media? Do they turn on their radios and hear three hours a day of commentators who advocate lifting the cap off of the maximum salary that is subject to Social Security taxes? Does the TV news seem to be advocating a state-paid national health care plan available for free to all? Do they insist on using the proper term for late-term abortion (that was it), rather than "partial-birth abortion", even?
So what is the "liberal" content that the media contains that conservatives think shouldn't be there? What is the "liberal" bias that so outrages conservatives? Is it the belief that we shouldn't return to lynching blacks? Is it the belief that someone has to pay taxes and it's better if those people are the ones who actually made some money? Is it the belief that women should be able to choose their careers on the basis of their own needs and abilities? Is it the belief that education is a good investment in which the state has an interest and therefore should promote?
Damn right it is.
But those are no longer "liberal" beliefs - they are mainstream. And so are a lot of beliefs that are too "far left" for the press to even bother to cover. ...the media is actually well behind the curve, as is the Democratic Party. And, again, take a look at who is in the current administration, who is in the leadership of the Republican Party: Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, and a bunch of criminals. These people aren't "conservatives", they are raving radical far-right fruitcakes, and the media rarely says so. If you find their presence at the helm of the country anything other than an outrage, you are not conservative, you're a far-right loony. And the media is acting like it's, well, perfectly fine. Perfectly fine not to count ballots in an election. Perfectly fine to destroy programs that the public supports. Perfectly fine to try to wreck public education. Perfectly fine to try to free the wealthy of their obligation to help support our economy while placing the greatest burdens on those who can least afford them. Perfectly fine to evade the draft for a war you support and then call people who served in uniform traitors. What kind of people are these?
Rumsfeld's reaction to the al-Qaeda nerve agent story is strangely low-key: "I have seen other information over a period of time that suggests that could be happening...the terrorist states [note the plural] have chemical weapons and have relationships with al-Qaida and that al-Qaida is trying to get such weapons." At this point, my hunch is the Administration doesn't put a lot of stock in this report, and doesn't want to be slapped with another reality check if they make too much of it.
Where is George W. Bush in the firestorm around Trent Lott? Nowhere, as near as I can tell. He had Fleischer offer some weasly words of support, but has remained silent. He has yet to call for Lott's resignation. He has yet to do anything but hide. The Democrats should not let him. By not calling for Lott's resignation, Bush seems to be trying to have it both ways. He doesn't want to appear to court the racists, but he certainly seems to want their votes.
...During his visit to Bob Jones University, he spoke not one word of criticism to his hosts. He did not speak out against their segregationist policies, or their characterization of the Pope as an anti-Christ. It was not until he left the campus that he criticized the university. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Is George W. Bush a racist? I don't know, but I doubt it. His personality seems to be the classic mean spirited bully, and those tend to hate anyone who doesn't agree with them equally - and to like anyone who does. I seriously doubt race enters into the equation. I do know that it doesn't matter, though. More than once, George W. Bush has had the opportunity firmly place the racists outsides the bounds of acceptable political discourse. Each time, he chose instead to not offend them. The Trent Lott furor offers him yet another opportunity, and he is failing yet again.
I've alluded to my opinion that Bush's stance on this issue has been far from forceful, but Kevin Raybould has it exactly right: As the man with the bully pulpit, Bush should leap on this opportunity to repudiate segregation in no uncertain terms. So far, he has indeed failed to do so.
What this all amounts to is a desperate attempt to make money off of content other than porn, and I'm hoping it doesn't succeed. Let me explain.
Right now, the companies who sell internet access couldn't care less what I or you look at. They get their money whether you read big influential newspapers, little influential magazines, or bored liberals with nothing better to do. [Links omitted] ...If someone comes up with a universal way to make money off of readership, this will all change. Suddenly, there will be big money for the presumably best sites with the highest readerships and even bigger money for those who figure out how to drive readers to sites regardless of how good they are. This would completely change the rules of the game.
For several years now, people have been predicting a future internet model based on micro-payments. Essentially, every time you went to a site you would pay it some tiny amount of money. Big sites would have a lot to gain. Little sites would still get something for their effort. Even though this would make me a few bucks, I think it would lead to real trouble. Once people got paid for clicks, there would be massive attempts to game the system for maximum profit. Popups, of course, would become even more ubiquitous, but that wouldn't be the real problem.
The shit would really hit the fan when companies like AOL and Microsoft figured out that the easiest way to drive traffic to their sites was to restrict access to everyone else's (and don't think micro-payments or something similar wouldn't lead to exactly this). It wouldn't always have to be a total block of sites, although that would be a possibility. First, the internet providers who also make content would rework their servers so that their customers accessed their content way faster than they could access anything else. Then they would start bribing Google and the other search engines to give them preference, the easiest way would be simply to list every hit for a paying customer ahead of every one for a non-payer (which would mean goodbye to being the #1 hit for my name on google), then you could eventually drop the non-payers completely on the grounds that no one clicks on them anyway.
...Most people wouldn't mind so much, since all the stuff they were looking for (sports scores, stock quotes, naked pictures of Britney Spears) would still be accessible. You'd still be able to play games online. You just wouldn't see any non-approved or non-paying sites.
...I'm guessing that if we ever institute a system by which sites get paid for every reader without subscriptions, that'll be the end of the web as we know it. It'd just be a matter of time before the internet was a bunch of sheep looking at the pretty pictures brought to you by Chevrolet and Time/Warner.
(Can you tell I'm reading my blogroll in reverse order today?)
Shucks, all I did was change the background. I've been thinking of changing the template again--so many nested tables are a lot for a browser to process--but I do like the fact that the fairly neutral style of the posts enables a different look just by changing the background.
In the mutual-admiration department, Page has some free advice for people to think about before calling tech support.
For all my love of movies, I'm hardly enamored of Hollywood. Wil Wheaton's fresh post on being snubbed on an invite to the premiere of the new Star Trek movie reminds me of something out of All About Eve or Sunset Boulevard. When Trek honcho Rick Berman told Wheaton that his secenes as Wesley Crusher had been snipped, Berman assured him that all was well and he would, of course, be at the premiere with the rest of the cast. At the time, Wheaton expressed his disappointment in a heartfelt by admirably mature manner. Now Wheaton learns--and from a third party yet!--that he'd been snubbed, and he's understandably hurt.
I just can't express my disgust in anything resembling polite language. (Update: Jen of Very Big Blog doesn't bother to restrain herself.) Frankly, I've never been happy with Berman's handling of the Trek franchise, mainly because he seems to consider it exactly that--a franchise, where it's more about product and marketing than quality. My interest in the various spinoffs has declined steadily: I watched Deep Space 9 for a while (I found the rediscovery of conflict as the dramatic impetus fascinating), Voyager for about a season and a half (it got boring in a hurry, and frankly the addition of Seven of Nine was so overtly T&A pandering as to extinguish any interest, even though I heard the episodes improved for a while), and the new Enterprise not at all. I was hardly burning with desire to see Nemesis, but this pretty much clinches it for me.
Of course, we're seeing The Two Towers, and on opening night, yet--a nigh-unprecedented occurrence.
Mississippi Senator Trent Lott has taken another stab at apologizing for his remarks that fondly recalled the good ol' days of segregation, adding that he won't step down from his Senate leadership position. As I've said, I don't think Lott's racist remarks are a reflection of the Republican Party at large, but I do think that if he's retained as his party's leader in the Senate, such action would imply tolerance of Lott's attitude at the very least. Getting rid of Lott--as a leader, mind, not from the Senate entriely--is a happy concurrence of the politically wise and the right thing to do.
As for his apology, this one is only a bit less L4m3 than his previous one. Lot simply doesn't get it. It isn't about "getting carried away" at a ceremony, it's about making scripted remarks that echoed sentiments he'd expressed before. CNN quoted Lott as saying "Those words were insensitive, and I shouldn't have said them. I regret it and I apologize for it." That's a little better, but nothing in that statement implies a rejection of the segregationist philosophy. Lott needs to echo his betters in the Republican Party and once and for all denounce the concept of segregation as an affront to the prinicples this nation stands for. Every time Lott weasels away from such a statement lends credit to the inference that Lott could really believe in it, after all.
Update: As you'd expect, Talking Points Memo is all over Lott's case. Especially interesting is this comment: "This little snippet gets at what is really almost the bigger scandal of this whole Trent Lott affair. I didn't dig this fact up in some dusty vault. I didn't get put onto it by some secret source. It's in a Washington Post article from three years ago. The truth is that everyone who's sentient and even remotely keeps up on politics has known about this stuff for years -- at least since the last Trent Lott-segregation scandal broke back in late 1998. Sad to say, everyone just agreed not to pay attention, not to care."
30 years ago today, human beings landed on the Moon for what proved to be the last time. Although I was only 2 when the first landing took place, I vaguely remember the last couple, and it's led to a lifelong fascination with space exploration. The moon landings were a marvelous accomplishment, and it's a complete shame that it hasn't been repeated since.
I was interested this morning by an NPR story (RealAudio file) discussing on the WaPo's report that an al-Qaeda-afiliated group is suspected to have obtained the deadly nerve agent VX in northern Iraq and smuggled the chemical weapon out of the country via Turkey. The Post story has an air of surety about it, but CNN is downplaying the report, quoting administration officials as saying it's "far too conclusive sounding."
The Post story correctly notes two key milestones should the report prove true: It's the first time al Qaeda would be known to have access to a sophisticated chemical weapon. And it would, at long last, be solid evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Given the tight control Iraq maintains on its armaments--headed by Saddam's son Qusay--I would be skeptical that the transfer, if it occurred, did so without Saddam's knowledge. If this report proves true, it would justify military action against Iraq.
I'm genuinely puzzled, then, by the downplaying. I would have expected Bush to trumpet this thing from every rooftop, even if it isn't true. (CNN also had this: "Speaking more broadly on whether there is cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda, this official said it remained an issue of significant concern to the administration but also acknowledged disagreements within the intelligence community on the level of any such communication or cooperation.")
One thing concerns me, though. We all know the CIA sounded a discordant note among the Bush administration's war drums by saying the only was Iraq was likely to turn a weapon of mass destruction over to terrorists was if Saddam was convinced military action against him was imminent, and he was on the way out. As the alleged transfer appears to have taken place recently, it'd be a seriously grim, if unintended, consequence if the Bush administration's war fever brought about the very dangerous situation it had ominously predicted. (Since, as Dr. Strangelove points out, a doomsday weapon is no good if it's kept secret, there's also the possibility that the report may be disinformation intended to deter an attack.)
[note: My archives have gone all goofy, so I'll have to add some links later on.]
Cleavage, which the network describes thus: "Sexy and fun, this 2-hour special surveys mankind's fascination with breasts and cleavage, from the goddesses of antiquity to today's silicone-enhanced TV and film stars." Hosted by Carmen Electra.
Toys -- real toys -- the ones without computer chips and technohype, are fighting an uphill retail battle this holiday season.
When children ages 6 to 14 were asked what they wanted most for Christmas, 34 percent said electronics, 31 percent said money and 18 percent cited toys, according to a survey by KidzEyes.
The International Council of Shopping Centers predicts toys likely will take third place in 2002 -- lagging behind electronics and apparel in total dollars spent.
I'm not surprised, given how hard it is any more to find toys that don't have some kind of electronic sound or voice chip embedded. For cryin' out loud, Fisher-Price even has an electronic version of its classic corn popper toy! (Our toddler uses the old-fashioned kind.)
I woke up this morning to discover that, instead of the expected nasty sleet sleet and freezing rain, Indianapolis had been blanketed with a pleasant couple of inches of soft, fluffy snow. My three-year-old was so excited to see it that she ran to me while I was shaving and insisted I come look at all the pretty snow. I put on my excellent boots and cleared the snow off the car as it warmed up. My lovely bride reminded me to be careful as I left for work, and I promised I would; unfortunately, not everyone followed suit.
Update: In the comments, anna asked for some pictures; I'd already thought of that, and my lovely wife obliged.
Today we know that it never crosses the minds of the powers-that-be in the Bush White House that good economic policies might be worth pursuing because good economic policies lead to a stronger economy. To the powers-that-be in the Bush White House, economic policies are way to reward favored groups of constituents. And their effect on the economy? They don't need to think about no stinking effect of policy on the economy.
Attempts to get the White House to understand the seriousness of the threat to America's capital markets from the corporate oversight crisis were doomed from the beginning. In his previous career the President had been a director of a company that used off-balance sheet vehicles to hide big losses. In his previous career the Vice President had been CEO of a company that had failed to report material accounting changes and so fudged its numbers. In such a context, what would happen to anyone in the White House to say that such practices seriously degrade the quality of financial information and keep financial markets from doing a good job of allocating investment funds where they ought to go?
As best as I can tell, Larry Lindsey batted .000 in his two years in the George W. Bush administration. For it turned out that the people who understand economics were not back in charge. As former White House insider John DiIulio wrote, the Clinton administration "[had] a leader with a genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich decision-making… teemed with knowledgeable people interested in making government work… substantive policy debate… a premium on policy knowledge…. The Bush West Wing is very nearly at the other end of this Clinton policy-making continuum." Or, to put it more pithily, the people who matter in the Bush White House--from the President on down--don't know what the government does or how what the government does affects the country, and don't care.
If you listen closely, you can hear what the assistants to the press secretary told the reporters as they informed them of what the White House story was: "they didn't quit, they were fired." ...Admittedly, it doesn't make much sense to anyone who isn't a spin-doctor. They are obviously failures in their jobs, and yet you let them hang around for two full years? You fire them without having any replacements set up, so you demonstrate that you are in control of the economy by creating large holes in your table of organization where the people who prepare your briefings and present you with your options should be? The message is: "I wouldn't listen to them. So they were associated with the biggest failure area in my administration. So they must be fired!"
But the spin-doctors do know the Washington press corps well. Half of the Washington press corps is sufficiently partisan that they will buy the administration line, and the other half of the Washington press corps is too lazy and too cowardly to challenge what the White House spin-doctors say. So the media consensus will be that Larry Lindsey did a bad job in the George W. Bush White House, and was deservedly fired, and George W. Bush showed that he has too soft a heart in keeping him on for so long. Far better had Larry bitten the bullet, and resigned earlier on principle--over the steel tariff, or over the host of other substantive issues where the good guys lost inside the White House, for the people who understand economics are definitely not in control.
On the other hand, Florida's incoming Department of Children & Families secretary Jerry Regier has sparked the ire of child welfare advocates by his proposal to handle the overload of calls to the agency's child abuse hotline. Rather than (perish forbid!) spending money to handle the current level of calls, Reiger suggests implementing screening procedures that will cut down on the numbers of calls that get through.
As I've said, I don't pretend to have the solution to child abuse, except to love and protect my own daughters as best I can. But I will declare without hesitation that I, for one, am willing to pay taxes to fund the local authorites' efforts to protect children.
Landrieu won because in a single month she and her campaign digested the lessons of the Democrats' defeat in November and adjusted accordingly. To understand how important her victory is, you only have to imagine what you'd be hearing now had Landrieu lost to Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell. A Terrell victory would have been seen as a Big Deal, a confirmation of the historic importance of November's Republican victories and a harbinger of realignment. Democrats, congenitally inclined to defeatism and circular firing squads, would have spent another several months feeling sorry for themselves.
The first lesson is that if you're a Democrat in the House or Senate, it doesn't matter how you vote or what you say or how patriotic you try to be. The Bush machine will try to smash you anyway. Consequently there is no percentage in making nice with this administration, especially after it showed its willingness this fall to politicize security issues.
And in a bit of political eclecticism that Bush political guru Karl Rove must have privately admired, she also criticized the administration's own protectionist policies where steel is concerned for hurting the Port of New Orleans. In both cases, she argued she would stand up for Louisiana against Bush.
I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my remarks may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat such a slander at any time in the future.
The irony of DiIulio's recantation is he wound up rewarding an information control system he decried in his now-infamous e-mail to an Esquire magazine writer. ...These are heady times for Rove and the political aides who have been quite successful at limiting scrutiny of White House operations.
This fetish for secrecy is simply a Bad Thing, no matter who is in the White House, and, in my opinion, utterly belies Bush's 2000 campaign promise of integrity. With integrity comes accountability, and accountability doesn't exist without scrutiny. Without the information this Administration seeks to choke off at the tap, its own policies and performance can't be fairly evaluated. That's bad enough, but it is also really necessary to point out that this clandestine attitude in the Executive Branch is what brought us Watergate and Iran-Contra?
Speaking of the recent Lott flap, nearly everyone acknowledges that retired Senator Strom Thurmond has moved away from his former segregationist views. But as this 1997 Slate article notes (via Tapped, once again), that doesn't mean Strom is exactly an admirable figure...
Lott said, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, was the presidential nominee of the breakaway Dixiecrat Party in 1948. He carried Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and his home state. He declared during his campaign against Democrat Harry S. Truman, who supported civil rights legislation, and Republican Thomas Dewey: "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
The WaPo's Howard Kurtz has a roundup of reaction to Lott's statement and the belated apology. I note with satisfaction that prominent conservative bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and my friend Dodd have condemned Lott's remarks (as stupid, if nothing else).
Let's also note that while the beyond-the-pale liberals that conservatives are fond of jumping all over are usually obscure activists, chat-room cranks or radical academics with no constituency but themselves, we here on the left had to look no further than the Senate Majority Leader's [emphasis in the original] office to find a guy who claims we would have been better off if Thurmond had been president.
Instead of saying, "I repudiate the racism of the dixiecrat ticket", he says "the failed policies of the past". Instead of saying "I am sorry I ever implied otherwise", placing the fault on him, he says "I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.", placing the onus on the listeners. Those are weasel words, nothing more.
What makes this half apology so galling is that it only comes after criticism, particularly after Al Gore all but called him a racist, Jesse Jackson called for his resignation, and Jonah Goldberg called on him to explain immediately (to Goldberg's credit).
Update:Tapped has this reaction, and notes that writer Suskind also penned this interesting article on the departure of Bush adviser Karen Hughes (author of the "compassionate conservative" label):
It provides the clearest, most damning picture yet of the Bush White House, but not in the way you might think. We already knew, after all, that the Bush administration was far more conservative than most of the public really understood, more conservative even than the Reagan administration. What shocked us was Suskind's portrait of an administration completely consumed by politics, a White House dominated by callow political operatives, where policy rarely gets discussed beyond the talking-points level. The broader problem, underscored by Suskind's reporting, is that intellectual conservatism is dead. The GOP is increasingly merely a vehicle for rejiggering government policy to the benefit of rich people and corporations. There's no policy agenda; today's GOP is concerned purely about power. The Reaganites at least had ideas -- awful ideas, to be sure, but real ideas with the weight of real thinking behind them. This newer brand of conservatism is hollow and empty.
Actually, reading between the lines of this puff-piece reveals that she is bereft of ideas, does not provide strong leadership, and just flows along with the good old rightwing boys. In fact, Rice is perhaps the worse National Security advisor in memory and interestingly the article does not mention that before the 9/11 attacks terrorism wasn't on her radar, that while Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger made terrorism and al Qaeda a major priority, Rice depriotized terrorism completely. It is disgusting that the mainstream media give such selected accounts of someone like Rice and perpetuate the myth that the Bush team is competent on National Security while the opposite is arguably the case.
Perhaps we're being a bit obsessive -- in fact, almost certainly -- but it seems to us that this is a good example of how attached the media can become to certain storylines about politicians and administrations. The mainstream media's storyline about the Bush administration is one of rectitude, class, dignity and so forth. Their storyline about the Clinton administration was one of narcisism and crassitude. So when Hillary Clinton changes her hairstyle a lot or keeps a mirror in her office, she's vain and self-involved, a perfect synecdoche of Boomer vanity and self-indulgence. But when Condi Rice keeps two mirrors in her office -- two! -- she is "fastidious about her appearance."
It's a small thing, but telling. In fairness, we should also note that the door swings both ways. We have yet to see a profile of Rice that doesn't make mention of her hairstyle, her physical fitness and her choice of clothing. When will some reporter write up a Trent Lott profile that asks him where he gets his toupees made?
This WaPo column points out that Henry Kissinger isn't the only malodorous figure from previous Republican administrations to go to work for the man who vowed to bring integrity back to Washington--Iran-contra rogues Elliott Abrams and John Poindexter are back as well.
You might think that a few of these folks would have had their careers ended by their misdeeds. And you might think that being tough on crime, long a GOP mantra, begins at home. You'd be wrong: On the matter of these men's sordid pasts, the Bush administration has shown an indulgence and permissiveness that would make Dr. Spock blanch.
...Poindexter, Abrams and company are relying on our amnesia to effect their transformations into upstanding citizens worthy of wielding power again. ...In the current crop of Republican retreads, Watergate survivor Kissinger is the exception that proves this rule. Unlike Liddy or Colson, Kissinger had (and still has) a reputation apart from the Nixonian miasma. He is counting on our selective memory: the China opening, not the secret bombing of Cambodia; shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, not the phony peace in Vietnam or his meddling in Chile. He has used his image as a pillar of the foreign policy establishment to shirk accountability for his role in what John Mitchell famously called the "White House horrors." What's unfortunate about the left's hyperbolic "war criminal" taunts is that Kissinger's actions were plenty bad without any embellishment.
Another reminder may be in order: As Nixon's national security adviser, Kissinger (as he admitted in his own memoir) targeted journalists and administration officials to be secretly -- and, the Supreme Court ruled, illegally -- wiretapped.
Why has Bush chosen to resuscitate men with rather unusual résumés? The answer is that he appears not to think they did anything wrong. ...For all the differences between Watergate and Iran-contra, the scandals shared one key aspect: their perpetrators' belief in the virtue of secrecy and White House prerogative at the expense of democratic rules. ...Iran-contra was, at bottom, a purposeful ploy to subvert Congress's will because administration officials judged that they were better suited to the big boys' work of fighting communism and terrorism. [Ed: And, I would repeat, these are the people the current Administration is bringing in to fight the current war on terror.]
Ever since the Florida recount fight, the Bush governance strategy has been to assert that they're in the right and to brook no intimations otherwise. All along, the Bush team has understood that images can be self-fulfilling -- and that the best way to shore up a shaky position is to act as if your legitimacy isn't in doubt. If your decisions are assailed, hang tough, grit your teeth, shrug off the questioners and brazen it out. That attitude has been particularly marked in the waging of the war on terrorism, where the administration's fetish for secrecy and disdain for Congress are eerily reminiscent of -- guess who? -- John Poindexter and Henry Kissinger.
The attempt to rehabilitate the party's scandal-scarred lions must be seen in the context of this governing strategy. If you try something controversial and get away with it, it makes you stronger. The recent appointments -- and the refusal to even acknowledge the legitimate outcry they have occasioned -- are a deliberate demonstration of power, a flaunting of contempt for opposition and dissent, in the expectation that such a show will likely deter, not spur, critics.
I've replied to a couple of the commentsleft with earlier posts, but for some reason enetation hasn't updated the comment counters. If you've left comments recently, I've responded, even if the counter doesn't indicate that I have.
The documents that the administration wants to seal will either strengthen or weaken the link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism. If the documents weaken that link, then scientists will be more inclined to devote scarce resources to other lines of inquiry. In that event, the release of the documents is likely to speed the process of finding a cause and a cure.
If the documents strengthen the link between thimerosal and autism, then scientists may study the mechanism of that link in an effort to find a cure. In either case, release of the documents only furthers the scientific investigation.
Of course, when it comes to legal action against a company that may have done seriosu harm to many children, Meredith points out the Administration's decision is anything but fair:
The “advantage” that the government seeks to prevent is for parents of autistic kids to have the very same information that the defendants already have. Making the information public will level the playing field not tilt it. Keeping the information secret will only serve to prevent scientists who are looking for a cause and a cure from learning more.
Of course, the administration policy has nothing to do with level playing fields. It has nothing to do with finding a cure for autism. It has everything to do with the fact that the big drug companies are large campaign contributors to Mr. Bush and the Republican Party.
...Of course, when the Bush Administration isn't lying, it's obsessed with keeping its actions secret from the American people and Congress, and once again, P.L.A. has the goods. For example:
Attorney General John Ashcroft, who took an oath to uphold Federal law, has assured government officials that it will defend denials of Freedom of Information Act requests (via SixDifferentWays), reversing a Clinton-era policy that presumed government records were public information. (Oh, did I mention that the reversal came after, among other things, information came o light that state prosecutors were refusing to prosecute a number of terrorism cases referred by the FBI and other agencies?)
Bush signed an executive order that restricts the routine release of previous Presidential documents to the pleasure of the sitting President, even if the former officeholder desires their release. The order prevents the scheduled release of records from the Reagan administration *cough*Iran-Contra*cough*.
Bush claimes the SEC's file will exonerate him from any wrongdoing in the Harken Energy scandal. And no, he won't release the file. (Dig, even the Washington Times has a beef with that!)
The Administration's fetish for secrecy has irked even GOP lawmakers who take their role in the check and balance system seriously.
And on and on...as P.L.A. notes, "[o]ur capacity for research failed long before the administration’s capacity for secrecy."
Yeah, those are the actions of a trustworthy administration...
I've noted on several occasions how untrustworthy I consider the Bush Administration. It seems several prominent Republicans have just learned the hard way, too. Dwight Meredith has the goods in an eloquent post, which notes that such dishonorable conducts can have repercussions later on.
My conservative friends profess to admire Bush, and to revile Clinton for his dishonesty. Few conservatives acknowledge and defend Bush's frequent disingenuousness. For the rest, I regard their unalloyed sentiment as partisan first and principled second--which, after all, goes hand in glove with our current Administration.
Update: The Cogent Provocateur postulates that some of the Bush Administration's betrayals may have unhappy consequences for his agenda down the road: "A great deal of important business is done -- and can only be done -- on one's word of honor. FuTrifle with that, trifle with a Senator on an oral agreement, and you're trifling with the great machinery of the Constitution made real. So "Bust a deal, face the wheel", and as this wheel slowly turns, may it grind exceedingly fine."
The Indianapolis Star has been running a superb series of studies on child abuse in Indiana, kicking off with the disturbing information that child deaths from abuse and neglect are underreported. The stories are outrageous and touching, such as this one about a jury pool that bought a headstone for a murdered 3-month-old baby after convicting her father of her murder. The series represents, in my view--exactly what a local newspaper should do: Bring unacceptable situations to the public's attention. I certainly hope the series provokes the kind of public indignation that gets things done.