Friday, March 2, 2012

Those Wacky Conservatives

George Will would just as soon re-elect Barack Obama.

"Valleri," The Monkees

Featuring the late Davey Jones on lead vocals, the namesake song of my elder daughter, Valerie, who's getting married on Oct. 6. Don't tell her, but I might see if the St. John's folk circle can get this together for the reception. Song by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. I always wondered if guitarist Mike Nesmith really played those runs.

"Blue Bayou," Linda Ronstadt

The Roy Orbison classic, performed in 1977. Rush was still working as a DJ when this was a hit. Bet he showed more respect for women back then.
Hat tip to Paul Arndt

Sandra Fluke Vs. Today's Biggest Loser

Hat tip to Bebe Bahnsen

Commie Girl Acquires Means Of Production

Rebecca Schoenkopf, who wrote the "Commie Girl" column at OC Weekly until 2007, has taken over from Ken Layne as editor, publisher, and owner of the sassy Washington, D.C. blog Wonkette. On Feb. 27 St. John's men's group speaker-turned-law student Frank Mickadeit devoted his Orange County Register column to Schoenkopf and hinted that the deal was in the works:
She's had spotty writing and editing employment over the last three years. She went back for a master's degree, though, and she's negotiating to acquire a very well-branded national blog, which, if she pulls it off, everyone will remark, Oh, this was what she was meant to do! To which I will say: No, this is what she's always done, better than anybody.
Maybe, but while the blog's subtitled "the D.C. gossip," Schoenkopf's first two posts were based on stories that appeared in the LA Times (about Gov. Jerry Brown, pictured here with rock stars, when he was cooler) and LA Weekly. She'd better move to Washington quick! To celebrate one of the nation's reddest county's new toehold in one of its bluest cities (and in the probably misguided hope that the new editor will discontinue her blog's tradition of sometimes putting swear words in headlines), I'm finally adding Wonkette to my blog roll.

Mid-Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

St. John's lower elementary students after school on Wednesday

Political Theater Of The Absurd II

Mitt Romney was for the federal individual health care mandate before he was against it.

Political Theater Of The Absurd

Neither Bishop Romney nor St. Santorum has the guts to speak truth to Rush.

Son Of His Father, Or Father Of Lisa Loopner?

Mitt Romney was against the Blunt-Rubio anti-contraception amendment before he was for it, and before it failed today, which would have been a good day to stand up for women's rights. Romney missed a rare opportunity to make a virtue out of his record.

No Fluke

The woman Rush Limbaugh viciously attacked got a call from the president.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Birth Control And The Dufus Vote

After weeks of conflict over the peripheral question of whether employees of Roman Catholic institutions should be offered free birth control, the New York Times finally gets to the nub of the the matter -- the Obama administration's requirement that all employers offer contraception to insured employees:

Over all, 63 percent of Americans said they supported the new federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control, according to the survey of 1,519 Americans, conducted from Feb. 13 to Feb. 19 for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

While 8 in 10 Democrats said they supported requiring birth control coverage, only 4 in 10 Republicans did. Six in 10 people calling themselves independents voiced approval. Many Americans, in the survey and in independent interviews, expressed impatience with the focus on women’s reproductive issues in an era of economic distress.

As I've argued to conservative friends, the religious freedom issue is relatively trivial compared to the federal government deciding in its great wisdom that of all the procedures and medications that could be free of charge, including hay fever pills, Lipitor, and prostate cancer screening, the nod now goes to birth control and other women's health services.

What are the feds up to, anyway? One motive is equity. If women seem to be unduly advantaged under the Obama health care reform, perhaps it's because in the past they've been charged higher premiums than men and had to endure pregnancy being defined as a preexisting condition. Providing free birth control is in the insurance companies' interests as well, since contraception is cheaper than prenatal and obstetrics care during an unplanned pregnancy.

Far more important, the policy will reduce the number of abortions. The more birth control, the fewer abortions. Nothing could be more obvious, except to two powerful constituencies. The first is the Roman Catholic church, which in its absolutism equates never-pregnant with getting an abortion. In doing so, it facilitates more abortions, especially in the developing world. (The Protestant view of contraception runs the gamut.) A theologically sound way out of the thicket of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal encyclical on reproduction, is to compare the emotional condition of the parents when an abortion occurs vs. the moment of contraception. God can tell the difference between a fetus and a sperm and egg that are never formally introduced, and so can almost everyone else. Catholic women in the U.S. have figured it out for themselves, thereby writing smarter theology than the pope.

But understanding women's perspectives is not the Vatican's specialty, nor indeed Rush Limbaugh's, who viciously attacked a Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress about a friend who lost an ovary because she couldn't get birth control. I'd like to think he'll get spanked for his 13-year-old's potty mouth -- at least a few lost advertisers. Critics are demanding that Republicans denounce him, but they probably won't*. He's powerful, because some people like what he says. On this issue, he's channeling the creepy vein of misogyny that lingers in our culture and crops up during debates over women's reproductive rights. Remember that women didn't even get the vote in the U.S. until 1920. Even today, some smile inwardly when Rush calls Sandra Fluke a whore.

So the second powerful constituency preventing a rational discussion of contraception is composed of ignoramuses and dufuses. That's why on this issue, which is all about reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions, I'm sorry to say that Big Brother knows best.

*After posting this, I learned that this morning Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement saying that Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke were "inappropriate." Carly Fiorina, last year's GOP candidate for the Senate in California, said they were "incendiary" and "distracting."

Don't Scoot, Newt

Help Mitt lick Rick.

Living, Learning, And Living

Even though peace talks with Israel have been stalled for years, polls show that Palestinians prefer non-violent resistance to a Third Intifada. The reason, experts say, is that violence against Israel doesn't work.

The 1/49th Door

Debating the Archbishop of Canterbury in Oxford on Feb. 23, Richard Dawkins -- our most famous atheist now that Christopher Hitchens has passed or ceased -- surprised the audience by keeping the heavenly door open the crackest of cracks:
[T]he evolutionary biologist [said] that he was "6.9 out of seven" certain of his long-standing atheist beliefs.

Replying to moderator Anthony Kenny, a noted English philosopher, Dawkins said, "I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing (is) very, very low."

A Promise Israel Would Expect Us To Keep

Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military security and one of the pilots who flew F-16s in the strike against an Iraqi reactor in 1981, summarizes the stakes in next week's U.S.-Israel summit:
Asking Israel’s leaders to abide by America’s timetable, and hence allowing Israel’s window of opportunity to be closed, is to make Washington a de facto proxy for Israel’s security — a tremendous leap of faith for Israelis faced with a looming Iranian bomb. It doesn’t help when American officials warn Israel against acting without clarifying what America intends to do once its own red lines are crossed.

Mr. Obama will therefore have to shift the Israeli defense establishment’s thinking from a focus on the “zone of immunity” to a “zone of trust.” What is needed is an ironclad American assurance that if Israel refrains from acting in its own window of opportunity — and all other options have failed to halt Tehran’s nuclear quest — Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran while it is still within its power to do so.

I hope Mr. Obama will make this clear. If he does not, Israeli leaders may well choose to act while they still can.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bibi And Obama

Only 19% of Israelis support an attack against Iran without U.S. support. With it, the number is 42%. According to Andrew Sullivan, that's why Benyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington with President Obama in his sights:
Netanyahu desperately needs US cover for an attack; and is furious he cannot simply push them around as he was once wont to do. Nonetheless, he has a united Republican front in Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, funded by Greater Israel fanatics like Sheldon Adelson, and in desperate need of a way to ignite the Christianist base. He will have a chunk of Democrats as well - and next week's AIPAC conference to beat the drums for war. He also has the potential to send oil to $7 a gallon by election day - and tip Europe and the world into both a new terror crisis and a deeper, longer recession. All of this is leverage to get Obama to do something of enormous risk to the Middle East, the West and the wider world, and launch a war that America, rather than Israel, would have to own.

Route 241 Sky

Late afternoon in southern California

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hardly Fulsom Praise

Good for the Boston Globe. It recruited John Mitchell biographer James Rosen (left) to review Don Fulsom's Nixon's Darkest Secrets, which recycled Anthony Summers' false wife-beating charges and proposed that Nixon (the straightest, squarest person in history) was gay. He calls it "the most virulently hateful book about the 37th president ever written -- and the worst." Amen.

Good News For Nixon And Bush In Iraq

Describing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's consolidation of power at the expense of the country's Sunni minority (as well as an encouraging reduction in sectarian violence), Tim Arango quotes the journal published by the former Nixon Center:
After the crisis erupted in December, analysts warned the country was on the edge of a civil war. “There has been a rapid and widespread deterioration of security in Iraq since the mid-December end of the U.S. military mission there,” Michael Knights, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, wrote this month in The National Interest.

After a bloody January — by some accounts a deadlier month than any last year — February had been on pace to be one of the least violent months since the American-led invasion nine years ago, until a series of car bomb attacks in Baghdad and around the country on Thursday left more than 40 people dead.
Arango finishes with also-encouraging comments by an al-Maliki ally which suggest that someday George W. Bush may be remembered more fondly in Iraq and U.S. history than he is today:

Ahmed al-Khafaji, the deputy interior minister, a Shiite whose life, like many Iraqi leaders, was shaped by years in exile in Iran, dismissed criticisms that the Iraqi state had shut out Sunnis from power.

“Freedom is the most important thing,” he said.

“Here is an Islamic newspaper,” he said, waving it about. He pointed to his laptop, and his cellphone. “Now we have 600 satellite channels.”

He echoed the familiar refrain here that it will take generations to achieve a durable sectarian co-existence.

“With time, democracy will continue, and one day we will be like Switzerland, or France or the Italians,” he said. “In the United States in the 1960s, a black man couldn’t get on a bus, and now Obama is president."

"Hello Stranger"

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell performing with her Hot Band on a German TV show in 1977. She'll tell you about the classic song. Hat tip to No Depression.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dangerous Ambiguity

According to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence experts believe Iran isn't currently planning to build a nuclear weapon. Instead, it may be using Saddam Hussein's disinformation playbook -- not the smartest move when facing adversaries whose patience for "strategic ambiguity" has declined since Sept. 11:
[S]ome intelligence officials and outside analysts believe there is another possible explanation for Iran’s enrichment activity, besides a headlong race to build a bomb as quickly as possible. They say that Iran could be seeking to enhance its influence in the region by creating what some analysts call “strategic ambiguity.” Rather than building a bomb now, Iran may want to increase its power by sowing doubt among other nations about its nuclear ambitions. Some point to the examples of Pakistan and India, both of which had clandestine nuclear weapons programs for decades before they actually decided to build bombs and test their weapons in 1998.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No Domestic Political Benefit From Avoiding War

The Economist reviews Trita Parsi's new book on Barack Obama's failure to find common ground with Iran:

Even during the deepest chill of the cold war, America and Russia found ways of talking. Today a frozen silence stretches from Tehran to Washington. “When you don’t know what’s going on, and you don’t feel like you have somebody you can communicate with on the other side of the table, you are going to revert back to what’s safe…and what’s safe in the Iran context is demonization and just general negativity,” explains an American official....

[The] political will, says Mr Parsi, has been absent. The mutual mistrust has left no margin for error. Neither has seen any domestic political benefit in pushing for a serious settlement. And now, with the tick-tocking of the nuclear clock growing ever more insistent, reconciliation looks less and less likely. The enmity between America and Iran, stoked by three decades of demonizing each other, is no longer a phenomenon, concludes Mr Parsi. “It is an institution.”