Posts from January 2006

State of the Union suggestions

So it seems that Tom Friedman isn’t happy with the State of the Union speech that he’s likely to get; he decided to play make believe and write his own speech for Bush to read. If I recall correctly, this routine has been part of Friedman’s schtick for a few years; the whole thing seems more than just a bit self-important to me, but then, so does the State of the Union speech. Friedman’s idea, it seems, is that Bush should suddenly change into an alternative energy crank (or perhaps skip halfway steps and just suddenly change into Tom Friedman); and that he should use the bully pulpit to expound his newfound faith and lay down a Kennedyesque challenge to the American energy industry. (If he does not jawbone us about Friedman’s pet cause, apparently, you can stick a fork in the Bush Presidency.) So here’s what he’s informed Mr. Bush he’d like to hear tonight:

My fellow Americans, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy gave an extraordinary State of the Union address in which he called on the nation to marshal all of its resources to put a man on the Moon. By setting that lofty goal, Kennedy was trying to summon all our industrial and scientific talent, and a willingness to sacrifice financially, to catch up with the Soviet Union, which had overtaken America in the field of large rocket engines.

While we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, Kennedy said, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last.

I come to you this evening with a similar challenge. President Kennedy was worried about the threat that communism posed to our way of life. I am here to tell you that if we don’t move away from our dependence on oil and shift to renewable fuels, it will change our way of life for the worse — and soon — much, much more than communism ever could have. Making this transition is the calling of our era. …

— Tom Friedman, New York Times (2006-01-27): State of the Union

… and so on, and so forth.

Well, I have my own ideas about what’s important. So I humbly submit my own speech for Mr. Bush to consider giving tonight. I know that this is last minute, but it would be surprisingly easy for him to memorize. And I think it’s important. If Mr. Bush steps up to this challenge, the speech could be a new beginning for our country. If he doesn’t, you can stick a fork in this administration. It will be done — because it will have abdicated leadership on the biggest issue of our day. So here’s the speech I’ll be listening for tonight:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Cheney, members of Congress, fellow Americans…

I resign.

Anything else is just going to mean more of the same old bullshit.

Postscript

Just remember: when these folks get in front of the camera they just lie. Politicians’ aims are political victory, not truth, and not justice. Hanging on the words and dickering about this or that point and fuming about this or that plain non sequitur will be talking past them entirely. You may as well spend the same amount of time cleaning your house, or sorting old photographs, or sucking on lemons.

Pointing out some piece of plain nonsense may have some value in provoking other people–the so-called rank and file, i.e., you and me–to think for a moment; and it may be worthwhile to use it to call on those other people to discourse that moves a bit beyond the braying of talking-points. But lingering on the endless talk of politicians or the professional political windbags inside the Beltway, as if these folks care what we think, or about what is true, is like trying to beat a street hustler at his three-card monty. It’s a scam. Just walk away.

— GT 2005-02-02: The State of the Union: live-blogged for you!

Memo to Rebecca Traister

There’s lots to say about Rebecca Traister’s recent unsuccessful attempt at a conversation with anti-feminist lawyer Kate O’Beirne, but Hopelessly Midwestern already covered it better than I could. I add only a reminder, and a kind of memo to Rebecca Traister, re: Catharine MacKinnon.

Here’s Traister trying to distance the feminist views she likes from the ones she thinks that O’Beirne unfairly dwells on:

R.T.: I was surprised that so much of your book was about Gloria Feldt, Ellie Smeal, Catharine MacKinnon. Only at the very end do you mention someone like Rebecca Walker.

K.O’B.: Are you asking about [why I didn’t discuss] twenty- or thirty-something feminism?

R.T.: Yes. The MacKinnon quote about how all heterosexual intercourse is rape is old news. There has been a whole other wave of sex-positive feminism in part in response to ideas like that. …

— Rebecca Traister (2006-01-17): My lunch with an antifeminist pundit

The quote described here as old news does not exist. Catharine MacKinnon never said this. (As O’Beirne might put it: never, ever, ever, ever, said it. Ever. Ever.) Not surprisingly: she doesn’t believe it. It is a gross misinterpretation of her views on sex, rape, patriarchy, consent, and coercion (which are spelled out in detail in, for example, chapter 9 of Toward a Feminist Theory of the State), and the one notorious example in which she was quoted as saying this, the quote was actually authored by critics trying to describe MacKinnon’s views, but misattributed to MacKinnon herself by an antifeminist columnist too lazy to pick up the book again to get his citations straight. (See also comments at Blind Mind’s Eye, for related issues.)

And no, in case you were wondering, Andrea Dworkin didn’t say it either.

I’m just sayin’.

Update (2006-03-01): Rebecca Traister has filed a correction on the interview as of 23 February 2006. See GT 2006-03-01: Do the Right Thing: Salon issues correction on misquotation of Catharine MacKinnon for details.

In Their Own Words, “Totally Out of Line for Even Thinking Such Thoughts” edition

Dick Durbin:

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

— Dick Durbin, on the Senate floor (14 June 2005)

Scott McClellan, White House press flack:

Q Thank you. Scott, Senator Durbin compares the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo with the way Nazis abused prisoners during World War II. How is the President reacting to these accusations?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Senator’s remarks are reprehensible. It’s a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws. To compare the way our military treats detainees with the Soviet gulags, the Nazi concentration camps, and Pol Pot’s regime is simply reprehensible. … And so I just think those remarks are reprehensible and they are a real disservice to our men and women in uniform. Our men and women in uniform go out of their way to treat detainees humanely, and they go out of their way to hold the values and the laws that we hold so dear in this country. And when you talk about the gulags and the concentration camps in Pol Pot’s regime, millions of people, innocent people, were killed by those regimes.

— Scott McClellan, White House press briefing (16 June 2006)

Commenter PPJ, aka Jim:

His comments are beyond the pale of rational political debate. His false, over the top, comments are demeaning to himself, the Senate, our military and his fellow citizens. He should be censored [sic] by the Senate. He should then apologize to the country and resign.

— PPJ, aka Jim, commenting at TalkLeft (16 June 2005)

Paul at Powerline:

What possessed Durbin to do it? How, after harping constantly on the importance of our image to winning the war on terrorism, could he cast the U.S. in such a false light? It’s not likely that he intentionally set out to injure his country. Until I hear a better explanation, I’ll put it down to a kind of sickness or derangement brought on by hatred — of President Bush, the military, etc. — coupled with a very weak immune system (i.e. intellect).

— Paul @ PowerLine (16 June 2005): Senator Durbin’s trifecta

Michelle Malkin, defender of Japanese internment:

What America needs is for President Bush himself to directly challenge Durbin on his treachery. What President Bush should do is to call on Durbin to retract his remarks (not just apologize) and ask forgiveness from our troops and the American people.

— Michelle Malkin (16 June 2005): THE TREACHEROUS DICK DURBIN

John Furgess, Veterans of Foreign Wars commander-in-chief:

The senator was totally out of line for even thinking such thoughts, and we demand he apologize to every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of our country, and to their families.

— John Furgess, quoted for Veterans of Foreign Wars press release (16 June 2005)

Lee P. Butler, columnist and GOP apparatchik:

Throughout many sectors of the country Senator Durbin’s name is now synonymous with that of Hanoi Jane Fonda or Baghdad Jim McDermott. He decided he would use outlandish and completely absurd language of equating American soldiers in Guantanamo Bay with Nazis, Stalinist Soviets, and Pol Pot as a way of disagreeing with this administration. It seems as though he may have been emboldened to follow this tact, because of the outrageous allegation spewed by Amnesty International who earlier had labeled Gitmo as the gulag of our time … It’s a pretty big exaggeration for Amnesty International to compare Guantanamo Bay or even Abu Ghraib, for that matter, to a gulag and it’s reprehensible for an American Senator to equate our soldiers to torturous despots, even if they are just trying to malign President Bush.

— Lee P. Butler, OpinionEditorials.com, Senator Durbin’s Gulag Is A Liberal Crescendo Of Rhetorical Absurdity (20 June 2005)

Josh Dwyer, expert columnist from Texas A&M:

Sen. Dick Durbin, R-Ill., desperately needs a history lesson.

— Joshua Dwyer, The Batallion (30 June 2005): Durbin erred grossly in calling Gitmo a gulag

Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press (link thanks to DED Space (2006-01-27) and Hammer of Truth (2006-01-27); more at Echidne of the Snakes (2006-01-28)):

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of leveraging their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him to come get his wife.

… The U.S. military on Thursday freed five of what it said were 11 women among the 14,000 detainees currently held in the 2 1/2-year-old insurgency. All were accused of aiding terrorists or planting explosives, but an Iraqi government commission found that evidence was lacking.

Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects’ houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.

— Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press (28 January 2006): Documents Show Army Seized Wives as Tactic

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, prisoner of the Soviet gulag and author of The Gulag Archipelago:

9. Playing on one’s affection for those one loved was a game that worked beautifully on the accused as well. It was the most effective of all methods of intimidation. One could break even a totally fearless person through his concern for those he loved. (Oh, how foresighted was the saying: A man’s family are his enemies.) Remember the Tatar who bore his sufferings–his own and those of his wife-but could not endure his daughter’s! In 1930, Rimalis, a woman interrogator, used to threaten: We’ll arrest your daughter and lock her in a cell with syphilitics! And that was a woman!

— Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (1973–1978), Chapter 3: The Interrogation

Libertarians for Protectionism, Appendix A

There’s been some debate recently over whether recent studies show that the lack of pharmaceutical patent laws didn’t stifle, and perhaps even accelerated, the development of innovative drugs in Italy. (Italy did not join the global intellectual enclosure movement with regard to drug research until 1978.)

I haven’t read the paper and I don’t know that much about pharmaceutical research and marketing processes to begin with, so I don’t know how much water the study holds. (For the pro, see Samizdata (2006-01-09): Can pharmaceuticals be developed without patents? and Kevin Carson (2006-01-23): Alex Singleton: The Effect of Patents on Drug R&D; for the anti, see the comments sections and Joshua Holmes (2006-01-24): On the Italian Pharmaceutical Industry.) My interest here isn’t to ajudicate the dispute. Maybe patent monopolies accelerate new drug production; maybe they stifle it; maybe they don’t affect it at all. The usual moral and economic arguments against intellectual property apply regardless of what effects patents happen to have on the velocity of pharma R&D. What I do intend to do is once again ridicule self-proclaimed free marketeers who throw it all overboard to indulge in the crudest forms of corporate protectionist argument when it comes to so-called intellectual property. Thus:

It takes a $500 million and 12 to 15 years to discover and bring a significant drug to market today. Who is going to invest that kind of money without patent protection?

Posted by Jake at January 9, 2006 03:14 AM

And:

To those of you who think patents are unnecessary:

Why don’t you take out a huge loan (say $500,000,000), invest it in the R&D and production of a new drug, and then send me a copy of your findings. That way I will be able to produce the drugs and sell them to the public myself without having to invest all that money.

No rational person would invest such a huge amount of time and money into pharma if there wasnt a protection in place that made it possible for them to make a profit off of their findings. …

Without the patent protection there would be far less innovation in pharmaceuticals, and without the time limit on the patent, prices would remain unnecessarily high. Both aspects are necessary, so we put up with high prices for awhile to encourage the future production of new drugs. …

Posted by Ryan at January 28, 2006 04:10 PM

Without a protective tariff, what rational person is going to invest in American automobiles? In a free market, who will be in charge of making the shoes?

The horrors we face are numerous. Pharmaceutical companies may have to re-evaluate their business plans. If people can’t make a profit on in-house research and development for new drugs, then drug research will have to be done, God forbid, out of house or by not-for-profit organizations!

A special prize goes to Shannon Love, for the accomplishment of combining crass protectionism in the name of the free market with an overtly state-constructivist theory of property rights in the name of denouncing state socialism, and topped off with the most absurd non sequitur of the entire thread:

We basically have two choices in managing intellectual resources of all kinds: (1) a private property system with all its warts or (2) socialism. If a decision-making about a resource cannot be effectively allocated to private entities via a property mechanism then state will allocate the resource via politics.

The destruction of intellectual property rights will inevitably lead to a new era of sweeping socialism, except in this era it will not be factories that get nationalized but research, art, software and media. State sponsored intellectual products will push private ones out of the market because only the state backed products will have a secure source of funding. …

So make your choice. If you want to live in a world where politicians control the production of virtually all information then by all means pirate media and violate patents but if you want to have some freedom and some hope that people can actually make a living producing information, then you should think long and hard how to make intellectual property systems work.

Posted by Shannon Love at January 9, 2006 03:59 PM

Because, of course, the world owes a living to people producing information, and what better way to ensure that than by allocating them proprietary control over my mind and my copying equipment?

After all, if folks can’t make their living producing information for profit, then some of the work will have to be done by means other than a for-profit retail business model. Some of it may even, God forbid, be left to rank amateurs!

How will we ever survive?

Look, the same lessons still apply. Before you have a successful reductio ad absurdam the conclusion of the lemma must actually be absurd.

Bureaucratic rationality #3: Indecent Exposure edition

With apologies to Max Weber and H. L. Mencken.

IN NOVEMBER 2004, LUCY WIGHTMAN BEGAN RECEIVING anonymous e-mails that threatened to unravel the life she had crafted as a psychologist in two affluent Boston suburbs. It was, by all accounts, a good life. Her practice, South Shore Psychology Associates, was thriving, with an office first in Hingham, then in Norwell. In addition to her adult clients, children came after school, referred by pediatricians, school counselors, and fellow psychologists. She was liked in part because she was more laid-back than your typical psychologist. She didn’t wear makeup, and dressed in flowing skirts and turtleneck sweaters during her meetings with patients. Often her dog, Perry, was by her side. My daughter, says one Braintree mother, fell in love with her at first sight.

… LUCY WIGHTMAN USED TO BE KNOWN AS PRINCESS CHEYENNE, a stage name she was given, she says, by a strip-club owner. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, she welcomed notoriety, but that kind of attention was not going to be as good for her new career. In early 2005, three months after Wightman received the first threats, Princess Cheyenne was back in the news, her story broadcast on Fox 25 Undercover, as the e-mail writer had promised. Three days later, the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation announced that investigators were trying to determine if Wightman, in presenting herself as a psychologist, had broken the law.

Then, on October 6, the state attorney general’s office and a Suffolk County grand jury came down hard. Wightman was indicted on 26 counts of felony larceny, six counts of filing false health-care claims, six counts of insurance fraud, and one count of practicing psychology without a license. Michael Goldberg, the president of the Massachusetts Psychological Association and a psychologist in Norwood, compares it to a surgeon operating without a medical license.

… When Al Deluca, 38, began seeing Wightman in the summer of 2003 to talk about his marital problems, he says Wightman told him not to file an insurance claim because she was not licensed. Many patients, however, believed that she was. The word psychology was in her business name, and that, according to Eric Harris, a lawyer for the Massachusetts Psychological Association, is enough to put an unlicensed practitioner in violation of the law. Her e-mail address is Dr. Wightman. Her billing statements are printed with Lucy Wightman, Ph.D.

While a person can legally practice psychotherapy without a license in Massachusetts, state law requires that psychologists have a degree in psychology from a state-recognized doctoral program and that they be licensed with the state Division of Professional Licensure. Licensed psychologists must also have two years of supervised training. They must take specific courses, pass an exam, and meet continuing-education standards long after they have tacked their degrees to the wall.

… “I HAVE A FULL CASE LOAD RIGHT NOW,” WIGHTMAN E-MAILED IN mid-November. She was talking about her practice, still running and apparently still prospering. The name has changed. It’s now called South Shore Psychotherapy, a notable distinction legally. The people who come to see her don’t care what she calls herself. She made a mistake, I think, in using the word psychology in her business name. But I don’t think what she did warrants all the attention and all the charges that have been levied against her, Al Deluca says. I think Lucy is being used. If this whole thing about her being a stripper had never come out, then this would have died.

— Keith O’Brien, The Boston Globe (2006-01-22): Exposed

(Link thanks to Lori Leibovich @ Broadsheet (2006-01-27).)

If we didn’t have the State to enforce guild rules and save us all from the dire threat of people calling themselves psychologists instead of psychotherapists without a permission slip, who would? If the government won’t stand up to keep people from suffering unauthorized conversations about their problems with a smart, warm, laid-back adviser that they like to talk to, then who will?

Bureaucratic rationality, n.: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may have something good in their life without permission.