Saturday, February 16, 2008

Socialized Medicine

Matt Yglesias has the poll, Ezra Klein digs into it deeper. Short story: the term "socialized medicine" doesn't turn people off like it used to. In fact, a plurality of Americans say they'd prefer socialized medicine to the current system.

Now, the immediate impact of this is indirect: what Democrats are proposing is not, in fact, socialized medicine, so all this polling does is indicate that the favored GOP talking point (can two words be a talking point?) against universal health care may not turn out to be as effective as they'd hope.

Yglesias, however, says that Dems should use this poll as cover to push for some attributes of actual socialized medicine. Without getting into the merits of that, I'm skeptical that these numbers will hold if folks actually began to proactively adopt the label "socialized medicine." It's like impeachment: even if it polls well now, two months of the media being aghast at how radical the Democrats have become and things will start to slip quick. I hate to say play it safe, it safe, and be thankful that conservatives will have a harder time shutting down universal health care than they're expecting.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Footnote Siberia

Citing the Russian, Eugene Volokh says that footnotes are the Siberia of your article. That's too bad. I always liked footnotes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Plain(s) Feminist has a large post on how best to respond to Female Genital....well, a big part of the post is on what we should call it. Mutilation? Excision? Cutting? Circumcision? Surgery?

Thus far, I have not been hesitant to call it Female Genital Mutilation. The term seems to capture the brutality and barbarism of the procedure (and I want to here register my disagreement with the author that such terms can't be employed when the subject is African practices without being "imperialist". For that matter, there is a lot of things in the post I think are a bit off). Stepping back the rhetoric seems often like it is an excuse.

But Plains Feminist makes one very compelling counterargument: the women who undergo this procedure -- including many who oppose it -- don't use the term "mutilation." More importantly, they don't like it when we say they're "mutilated." They don't see themselves as mutilated. That doesn't mean they don't oppose the violation. They just don't want their experience named for them in terms they don't themselves, recognize. And that seems like a legitimate grievance.

Now, I don't have any empirical backing as to whether PF's claim here is true. I suspect some women whom have experienced it would claim that it is mutilation. And furthermore (despite what conservative politicians would have you believe) nobody likes to cast themselves in the role of the victim, so people are always going to be resistant to language that fully expresses the degree of violation foisted upon them. So this "name your own oppression" thing, while tempting, may not ultimately be the way to go. And provisionally, I'm sticking with FGM.

But it was a intriguing argument, and I wanted to throw it out there for comment.

Via Alas, a Blog.

Contempt Citations Issued

After petulant obstruction by House Republicans (where they, among other thins, deliberately disrupted Rep. Tom Lantos' memorial service), the House of Representatives has voted to issue contempt citations against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton for the refusal to testify in front of the committee.

And now for a statement that fills me with optimism and hope: The ball's in Mukasey's court now.

Unfortunately, there's no drama here, because Mukasey has already said he won't enforce the citations. Federal court, here we come!

UPDATE: On the Lantos thing, it appears there is some blame to be cast on both sides. I don't know why House leaders called the chamber back in session during the middle of the service. But there were no votes scheduled at the time, so its simply wrong that Republicans "had" to immediately get back to obstructing the debate. They could have waited 20 minutes, and then been as childish as they wanted. But instead they made a choice to get back on the horse right then and there, and they deserve to take all the flack for that free decision.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting Specific

Back in the day, I noted the absurdity of anyone railing on Obama's "lack of experience" while giving anything but scorn to Rudy Giuliani. Alas, Hizzoner's brilliant campaign strategy ("1.Lose state after state by resounding margins. 2. ? 3. Victory!") somehow foundered, so that rule is now moot. However, we have a replacement: neither John McCain nor his supporters get to complain about Obama's supposed lack of specificity, or his supposed lack of policy knowledge, or his supposed appeal that is based solely on his personal attributes.
McCain takes a strong interest in foreign policy, to be sure, but his main public appeal has been to endless remind voters of his history as a POW. On economics, he's repeatedly admitted that he knows very little. And on social issues, he doesn't even know what his own positions are. (See this hilarious report from last year.)

McCain is like Obama in that he's appealed to voters largely on the basis of broad themes and his personal charisma and history. The difference is that Obama is a former law professor who's actually done his homework on the policy, and McCain is still winging it.

Of course, this is St. McCain we're talking about, so rest assured he'll never be called on it.

Creeper of the Day

Tennessee State Senator Doug Henry, arguing that (sigh) rape just isn't what it used to be:
“Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it’s simply, ‘Let’s don’t go forward with this act.’ ”

Via Feministing, who got it from Ema.

Shall we debate whether his implicit claim that marital rape is impossible is more or less appalling than his implicit claim that raping a woman who isn't "chaste" is impossible? No, let's not.

UPDATE: Here's the YouTube of the speech. Right after the quoted part, Sen. Henry says something unintelligible that has variously been interpreted as "that isn't rape" or "that is rape." I can't make heads or tails of it myself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We Can't Win. We Can't Leave.

Most shrewd military observers, writes William Arkin, now believe we cannot win in Iraq. Unfortunately, as David Brooks writes, a Democrat who actually tried to withdraw from Iraq would immediately sink his or her Presidency into a partisan mosh pit from which it might never emerged. But if that President decides to delay withdrawal, the left flank of the party will go ballistic.

While 2009 will be a welcome relief from the current presidency, lets not forget just how doomed we are.

Via Kevin Drum

Monday, February 11, 2008

Che Hillary

The Feministe gals have pictures of some of the shirts being sold at CPAC. For the most part, they're standard, uncreative affairs: Roe v. Wade equals the Holocaust, stop illegal immigration, people are poor because they're stupid and lazy. But one in particular caught my eye: the one comparing Hillary Clinton to Che Guevara.

Over the past few years, I've seen a concerted effort by American conservatives to push back against the image of Che as some hip, cool hero. Che, they argue, was a brutal thug, a wanna-be totalitarian who caused countless deaths [Interesting digression: my roommate, a Republican-turned-Marxist, has a big poster of Che in our room -- complete with a time line of his life. A friend of mine and I spent about 20 minutes looking it over, trying to find "oversaw the deaths of untold Cuban peasants in show trials." "Maybe it's under 'Minister of Labor'?"]. And of course, they're right.

But now they say Hillary = Che. Isn't this unbelievably demeaning to all the victims of Che's barbarism that they say they care oh-so-much about? These are the folks who have a seizure every time some jerk on a comment thread writes "Bushitler". But they're playing the same game, and at one of their largest and most prestigious conferences. It's disgusting.

RIP Tom Lantos

California Congressman, staunch protector of human rights, and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos has died.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Political Prognostication

Maybe I'm not the best at it (Louisiana is Hillary Country!), but you know whose thoughts I really don't care about? George W. Bush's!:
The president weighed in on the Democratic race, saying it "seems far from over to me." And he rejected criticism of former President Clinton's work on the campaign trail for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"I can understand why President Clinton wants to campaign hard for his wife. And those accusations that Bill Clinton's a racist, I think is just wrong. I just don't agree with it."

As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Bush said, "I certainly don't know what he believes in."

It ranges from inane (the race is far from over!) to meaningless (I didn't realize anybody said Bill Clinton's a racist. I do recall them saying he made a cheap-shot attack, which is not the same thing.) to smear (maybe Obama's thoughts are just on a higher plane than yours, chimpanzee boy).

Also, on McCain's travails with conservatives:
Asked about some leading conservative pundits who oppose McCain's nomination, Bush said, "I think that if John's the nominee, he's got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative. And I'd be glad to help him if he's the nominee."

I'm sure McCain can't wait for 26% to start stumping for him.