Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Bush administration wants to see more Americans in agonizing pain. Literally.

They've announced a crackdown on painkiller use -- even though painkillers are already badly underprescribed, leaving many patients, particularly in cancer wards suffering grievously, and completely unnecessarily.

Via Talk Left.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Shorter William Safire:

John Kerry has the Democratic nomination sewn up. Now, he must quickly return to the lukewarm, wishy-washy rhetoric that once made everybody write him off.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

David Brooks takes a bold intellectual stand today, arguing that the seemingly commonsense belief that poor people need money to eat is in fact an illusion, borne out of discredited Marxist theory:

[Senator] Edwards talks about poverty in economic terms. He vows to bring jobs back to poor areas and restrict trade to protect industries. He suggests that if we could take money from the rich and special interests, there'd be more for the underprivileged.

This kind of talk is descended from Marxist theory, which holds that we live in the thrall of economic conditions. What the poor primarily need is more money, the theory goes. ...

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that liberals have it backward. In reality, culture shapes economics. A person's behavior determines his or her economic destiny. If people live in an environment that fosters industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality and dependability, they will thrive. But the Great Society welfare system encouraged or enabled bad behavior, and popular culture glamorizes irresponsibility.

So if food banks in the suburbs can't handle the demand from laid-off executives, it must be because those laid-off executives don't live in an environment that fosters industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality, and dependability. If they did, they would thrive.

Just look at former telecom analyst Jack Grubman, who is under a lifetime ban on working in the securities industry, and paid a $15 million fine to settle a case arising from his strong buy recommendations for companies that quickly went broke, but hasn't let that get him down. He has just been hired as a strategic consultant for a telecom firm. Clearly this reflects his superior culture.

Or heck, look at Paris Hilton. If the culture of industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality and dependability in which she was raised does not explain how she has thrived, then what does?

Brooks is particularly hard on Senator John Edwards, who in his campaign speeches has been talking about finding jobs for the poor. If they had the right culture, the jobs would appear as if by magic. And how would we know when they had the right culture? Why, when they had jobs.

And don't envy the rich. Rockefeller said, "G-d gave me my money". Know your place.

Economics has nothing to do with it.

For a Jew, Brooks makes one hell of a Calvinist...

Monday, March 01, 2004

Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" is giving us an unwitting look at the reality behind reality TV.

A couple of weeks ago, the challenge was to fix up and rent an apartment in a couple of days. And even in New York, apartments have been known to go vacant longer than that. So it was a real streak of luck for what turned out to be the winning team when a prospect walked in just before they had to shut down, and rented the place for a very high markup over the assessed value. Or something like that:

Though [prospective tenant Deborah] Young appeared to enter the apartment just before the 5 p.m. deadline, she says she was actually there earlier in the afternoon to witness the circus of producers, camera crews and microphones parading through the one-bedroom space.

When she asked what the show was about, she said she was told that it was top secret and she would have to watch NBC to find out.

Young left without bidding on the apartment, but still homeless later in the day, she returned to the clutches of [Team] Protégé, who were only too willing to sign her to a lease.

However, before she signed the lease, she apparently obtained an off-camera promise from the landlord that he would rent her the apartment at the original price he had quoted--which he did.

This may not be a case of deliberate deception -- it's not clear that the show's producers knew about the off-camera agreement either. (Though they certainly could have followed up with the tenant later, regardless).

But at the very least, beware the editing. The most accurate predictions of votes on "Survivor" (produced, like "The Apprentice", by Mark Burnett) have generally come from people who just pay attention to which film clips the producers are choosing to show, which becomes particularly obvious on "Survivor" when people are clearly reacting to character traits of other contestants which haven't shown up on-screen...

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The news from Haiti:

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide left Haiti at dawn today, resigning under intense pressure from the United States, according to Haitian and American officials.

Mr. Aristide was the first democratically elected president in Haiti's 200 years of independence, following a long line of dictators, despots and military men. His presidency crumbled as armed rebels seized Haiti's north this month and Bush administration officials announced an "Aristide must go" stance this weekend.

Aristide must go, that is, to save the rebels who have been rampaging through the country the trouble of actually overthrowing him.

Of course, that rebel movement was completely spontaneous, and rumors to the contrary are irresponsible and should be disregarded. The rebels are, after all, veterans of the former dictator's goon squads, who are capable of a certain degree of organization on their own. Maybe they were just keeping weapons and ammo in their basements until the right moment. Colin Powell says they're bad men, and would surely use all the influence he has at his disposal to keep the US from dealing with them. And the swift arrival of American troops surely reflects the nimbleness of our armed forces, not prearrangement.

Cripes. Next, they'll be accusing us of trying to stage coups in Latin America again. This particular accusation shows the tendentious nature of our critics, presenting the people on a videotape as CIA operatives when, in fact, they had credentials that showed them as employees as a private security firm -- surely proof positive that they had nothing to do with the CIA. There was no overt presence of the US government at the meeting. What more could you ask for?

Update: via Atrios, this AFP report of eyewitness accounts that Aristide was forced from his home by US troops. Haitian eyewitnesses don't have a completely impeccable reputation for telling the truth though, so you can still, if you like, be happy and believe our government...

Yet more: The current story is that the U.S. was providing assistance at Aristide's request...

And still more: Here's an activists' broadsheet reporting claims by U.S. representatives of the Aristide government that the "opposition" was armed by the U.S., and is headed by a man who was born in New York.

CNN has now picked up reports from American activists that Aristide was indeed hustled out of the country, and is now being held incommunicado, getting messages out through smuggled cell phones. But hey, can you really believe that US-backed coup plotters would try a stunt like that after similar shenanigans blew up in the faces of the guys in Venezuela?