Friday, March 12, 2004

It feels weird being the only blogger on the net who has yet to offer his opinion on the recent bombings in Spain. But on careful reflection, I don't seem to have a damn thing worthwhile to say about them, other to say that life is just horrible sometimes...
I've never been a Howard Stern listener. I may have missed my chance.

I tuned in on a lark this morning to see if I could catch one of the anti-Bush rants I've been hearing about -- and heard a glum Stern talking about the indecency bill working its way through Congress, which sets him up for a fine of $500,000 per ill-defined offense, to the point of suggesting -- I don't know how seriously -- that if Dubya signs the bill, he just won't show up for work. (Next stop: satellite radio, with a possible side trip through the internet, with some minor complications because he is, well ahem, under contract to his current employer).

Fun fact: Howard Stern paved the way for talk-radio folks like Rush Limbaugh giving their opinions on the radio. He also put himself in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow, who brought down Joe McCarthy, though apparently without putting opinions on the air like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. To be fair, the comparison isn't as outlandish as I first took it for -- he had a legitimate point about McCarthy, like our current crop of bluenoses, going after the entertainment industry.

He explained this for a while. Then he invited a guest into the studio to try to pick the straight guy from a trio in which two were gay, and gave a detailed critique of her breasts. He's not gone yet.

You know, it doesn't sound like he's been reading blogs much...

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Via Sisyphus Shrugged, this heartwarming tale of Dubya's respect for democracy:

Stationed in the area of the Baghdad Airport at the time of President Bush’s Thanksgiving 2003 visit to the troops there, [an Army medic] also recounts that on the day before the president’s visit, the troops were given a questionnaire that asked them whether they “supported the president.” Those who did not declare their support with sufficient enthusiasm were not permitted to take part in the Thanksgiving meal, and had to make do with MREs (meals ready to eat, referred to by the soldiers as “meals refused by Ethiopians”) in their quarters.

Clearly, this shows how he respects the troops, regardless of their political positions, for their sacrifices, which he was denied the opportunity to make himself in Vietnam -- not even skipping out on a flight physical would get him bounced out of the Texas National Guard for the combat slot he surely yearned for. Indeed, when some of them have questions about the wisdom of the orders that they nevertheless obey, he respects their principled opposition to his policies so much that he doesn't want to disrupt it with the immense force of his own personal magnetism...

We've all heard about Republican "tort reform" -- the effort to restrain large jury awards from the rich to poor people, lest the 12 commoners on the jury overturn the clear judgment of the divine marketplace that those people deserve to be poor. (They claim that the problem is that runaway juries are ruining the medical profession, but the facts there don't check, so it's really the threat to the moral order. It's got to be. They're just too respectable to be making policy out of naked greed -- right?).

Well, it seems that their leading minds have come up with a new and improved twist on the idea. Rather than going through the time-consuming, tedious procedures of the courts, they want to settle lawsuits quickly and efficiently in Congress. So, for instance, the recent attempts to absolve companies that supplied vaccines tainted with mercury and firearms manufacturers from liability for their actions. And now, they're trying to use the same approach to grant blanket immunity to restaurants whose unhealthy food is super-sizing their customers:

"The food industry is under attack and in the cross hairs of the same trial lawyers who went after big tobacco," said Representative Ric Keller, a Florida Republican who is the chief sponsor of the measure, which was adopted 276 to 139.

Because we all know what a tragedy those tobacco lawsuits were. They were clear proof that the courts don't understand that little people are little people because it's the divinely ordained order of society that they are not supposed to win...

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Shorter David Brooks:

Mercy and forgiveness are a modern and dangerous intrusion into the Christian tradition, introduced by trendy left-wing authors like Mitch Albom, and mercifully properly absent from Mel Gibson's movie.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Teresa Heinz Kerry knows what it's like to deal with John Kerry's Vietnam nightmares. The rest of us can only imagine. South Knox Bubba imagines something more or less like this:

MCAULIFFE: "Karl Rove was one of the most outstanding political minds the system has ever produced. He was a brilliant and outstanding in every way and he was a good man too. Humanitarian man, man of wit, of humor. He joined the Administration. After that his ideas, methods have become... unsound."

STAFFER: "Now he's crossed over to The Dark Side, with his media army, who worship the man, like a god, and follow every order however ridiculous."


MCAULIFFE: "Well, you see Senator... In this political environment, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical political necessity. Out there with these natives it must be a temptation to be god. Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have. Karl Rove has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane."

KERRY: "Yes sir, very much so sir. Obviously insane."

STAFFER: "Your mission is to proceed down to Georgetown in a stretch limo. Pick up Rove's path at K Street, follow it, learn what you can along the way. When you find him infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate Rove and this Administration."

KERRY: "Terminate? The Administration?"

CIVILIAN IN SHADOWS: "Terminate. With extreme prejudice."

Remember all those Afghan women whose lives we improved? Some of them are so thrilled that they're lighting themselves on fire to celebrate.

More: And well they should show their gratitude! The man we put into power there, Hamed Karzai, is saying that they ought to have the right to vote... as directed by their husbands!

via Atrios.

Through the marvels of the legal process, our Republican overlords continue to refine the careful balancing act which is privacy rights in the modern era. For example, when government lawyers are trying to uphold the recently passed "partial-birth abortions ban",

... the Bush administration has set forth a new, more limited view of privacy rights as it tries to force hospitals and clinics to turn over records of hundreds and perhaps thousands of abortions.

Federal law "does not recognize a physician-patient privilege," the Justice Department said last month in court papers that sought abortion records from Planned Parenthood clinics in California, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington. Moreover, the department said in another abortion case, patients "no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential."

Health lawyers and privacy experts said that position reflected a significant shift after six years in which Bush and Clinton administration officials had promised to strengthen the confidentiality of medical records.

The government has to protect itself, you see, from false claims by soi-disant "medical experts" that the procedures have value -- by performing an independent audit of the entire medical profession, privacy of patients be damned. But doctors have rights, too. Like the ones in the great Republican state of Texas who are protecting themselves from patients who might be inclined to file a malpractice suit over little things like a missed tumor, or permanent crippling brain damage. Such miscreants there find themselves listed in a database as "predatory litigants", and denied basic medical care.

Of course, the good folks maintaining this database might find the prospect of a third-party investigation of their own basic fairness, well... unpleasant. So, to protect themselves from that, the new database copyright bill wending its way through Congress will allow them to sue the dickens out of anyone who tries it.

So, doctors have to give up their records, but only under the right circumstances. It's all about balance. The same kind of balance that is on full and open display when the Republicans in control of the Mississippi state legislature discuss coastal drilling rights:

Prior to the meeting, oil and gas industry lobbyists chided the media for "stirring things up down there" by reporting about the legislation. Lawmakers over the last two days have fielded calls and messages from constituents and environmentalists concerned about drilling, an issue that has waxed and waned for years on the Coast.

"We quite frankly have not had opposition from anybody but tree huggers and Democrats," said Marvin L. Oxley, an oil and gas geologist who's helping lobby for the law changes. "Don't use that, say, 'environmentalists.' By Democrats, I mean the blacks. Don't write blacks. Were you in the Judiciary hearing? That's most of who had questions about this."

You see, there are lots of people who come to the table, and their interests have to be balanced. Except for Democrats and blacks, and working-class victims of medical malpractice, who just don't have the cash to pony up.

And don't worry. They're trying to keep you from seeing any nasty TV ads that might make you think bad thoughts about the way they want to run the country. They think that would be unfair. And don't they just need a little love?

Credits: Texas malpractice link via Slashdot, database copyright link via BoingBoing, which also linked to the Republican anti-ad letters, Mississippi link via Michael Froomkin.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Shorter New York Times Editorial Page:

Martha Stewart wasn't convicted of securities fraud, and wasn't even accused of insider trading. But if she had been convicted on those counts, instead of vague charges of obstructing an investigation into something that wasn't a crime, we'd have a nice little morality tale coming out of that courtroom... so let's just pretend.