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119 posts from May 2005

May 31, 2005

Real women farm

Did you know that Cheryl Rogowski is the first person to win a MacArthur genius award for farming?
Or that the number of female operated farms has doubled since 1978? Julia Moskin has an excellent article in today's NYT about how women are changing farming.

I admire farmers, especially because I come from a very short line of agrarian underachievers. If there had been a diagnosis of ADD in those days, most of my relatives surely would have qualified for simple lack of interest in their nominal vocation.

You see, some of my Norwegian ancestors believed that farming was easy, classy, and romantic. That's because they were book publishers who read somewhere that the Canadian government was giving away land. Predictably, they started daydreaming about the idyllic classless society they might built in a new world.

Careful what you wish for.

Long story short, my great grandfather spent his whole life as a farm procrastinator. That's a kind of avoidant virtuosity in its own right. As an occupation, farming is singularly inhospitable to those who put off anything they might do today at five a.m.

Family lore has it that great grandpa always had some reason not to farm this year. A gig as a government weed inspector? Great! A burgeoning practice as an amateur lawyer? Sure thing. Allegedly, it always sounded really persuasive when he explained it.

Luckily, Canada industrialized fast enough to get subsequent generations off the land.

Click the green dinosaur on your way out, Okrent

Read Paul Krugman's replies to departing Public Douche Bag, Daniel Okrent, formerly of the New York Times.

Here's a fine snippet of Krugman's long suffering anti-invective:

Moreover, I not only played fair with my readers, I urged them to check the data for themselves. Here’s what I wrote in the column:

“Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site at stats.bls.gov. Click on ‘U.S. economy at a glance,’ then on the green dinosaur next to ‘Change in payroll employment’ for a 10-year chart of monthly job gains and losses.”

If Mr. Okrent had done that, he would have seen for himself that what I said about job growth was true.

Hat tips to Rob of LGM, Jesse of Pandagon, and Armando of DKos. Not to mention Atrios--who incidentally, is going to be around forever. Whip it out, Instapundit, show us your LDL.

70,000 prisoners of war on terror

Talkleft charts the archipelago:

Here are Amnesty International's latest numbers.


USA’s “war on terror” detainees, April 2005
(approximate totals/estimates)(11)
USA: Naval Brig, Charleston, South Carolina2 “enemy combatants”
Cuba: Guantánamo Bay naval base520

(234 releases/transfers)
Afghanistan: Bagram air base300
Afghanistan: Kandahar air base250
Afghanistan: other US facilities (forward operating bases)Unknown: estimated at scores of detainees
Iraq: Camp Bucca6,300
Iraq: Abu Ghraib prison3,500
Iraq: Camp Cropper110
Iraq: Other US facilities1,300
Worldwide: CIA facilities, undisclosed locationsUnknown: estimated at 40 detainees
Worldwide: In custody of other governments at behest of USAUnknown: estimated at several thousand detainees
Worldwide: Secret transfers of detainees to third countriesUnknown: estimated at 100 to 150 detainees
Foreign nationals held outside the USA and charged for trial4
Trials of foreign nationals held in US custody outside the USA0
Total number of detainees held outside the USA by the US during “war on terror”70,000

Information laundering for big pharma

My friend Lisa sent me an excellent article by Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal:

Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies

“Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”, wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in March 2004 [1]. In the same year, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, lambasted the industry for becoming “primarily a marketing machine” and co-opting “every institution that might stand in its way” [2]. Medical journals were conspicuously absent from her list of co-opted institutions, but she and Horton are not the only editors who have become increasingly queasy about the power and influence of the industry. Jerry Kassirer, another former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argues that the industry has deflected the moral compasses of many physicians [3], and the editors of PLoS Medicine have declared that they will not become “part of the cycle of dependency…between journals and the pharmaceutical industry” [4]. Something is clearly up.

Citation: Smith R (2005) Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies. PLoS Med 2(5): e138.

Read the whole thing.

The womb draft

Catholics Split on Embryo Issue: 'Adoption' Embraced by Evangelicals in Stem Cell Debate

Tanner [Brinkman] celebrated his fourth birthday with a cake at the White House last week, and President Bush offered congratulations on national television. That is because Tanner is the product of what evangelical Christian groups call an "embryo adoption." [WaPo]

I think the fundamentalists are being too soft on this issue. They make it sound like this is a morally optional procedure. But these are little people. Surely every Christian family must do its part.

The believers should divide up all outstanding embryos and assign them to wombs immediately.

A reproductive draft is the only fair way to settle this. I don't care how many kids a lady fundamentalist has, or whether it's healthy for her to be pregnant, or what she might rather be doing with her uterus. If her number's up, it's up. No excuses. Jesus hates whiners.

Update: Ol cranky drafts a workable policy proposal.

May 30, 2005

The truth hurts

Bush 43--Not nearly as bad as Stalin!

Can't argue with that. On the other hand, Amnesty International is justifiably concerned that the US is assembling a global prison archipelago outside the rule of law:

"In August, the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld following the publication of photographs of torture and ill-treatment committed by US personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (see below), reported that since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, about 50,000 people had been detained during US military and security operations.

US forces operated some 25 detention facilities in Afghanistan and 17 in Iraq (see below). Detainees were routinely denied access to lawyers and families. In Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access only to some detainees in Bagram and Kandahar air bases."
[Amnesty International Report 2005: United States of America]
"The USA, as the unrivaled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and “counter-terrorism”."
[Amnesty International Report 2005: Secretary General's Message]

The U.S. doesn't just set a bad example for other countries. We outsource torture and call it "extraordinary rendition."

Charles at Obsidian Wings is righteously indignant that the Secretary General of Amnesty International referred to Guantanamo as the gulag of our times. Now, in all fairness, Gitmo is just one little island in America's global penal archipelago.

Some right wingers infer that AI is applying a higher standard to the U.S. Granted, the U.S. didn't come off very well--but here's what the report had to say about North Korea, Iran, and Sudan, and our ally in the war on terror, Saudi Arabia.

It should also be noted that the Amnesty International report gives roughly equal time to almost every country in the world. No country's record is equated with that of any other nation. The report simply recounts the human rights abuses that have been documented over the past year. The summaries on France and Canada each get almost as many column inches as the U.S. Yet, nobody is accusing AI of equating France's human rights record with that of the U.S.

There's no question of moral relativism or double standards. The U.S. is playing in the big leagues of human rights violation.

Music meme

Scott Lemieux and Roy Edroso invited me to play the shorter music meme. So here goes...

1. What is the total volume of musical files on your computer?

6.62 GB

2. What are you listening to right now?

Good Memorial Day listening. Prine makes geekiness the metaphor for earnest American patriotism. It's a good choice, geeks really understand disillusionment.

Up next, more gently subversive Americana...

3. Last CD I bought?

I bought these two at once.

4. Five songs you listen to a lot and which mean something to you

i) Richard Thompson, "Read About Love", Rumour and Sigh, Capitol, 1991.

First off, I really identify with the narrator's outrage and bewilderment when the real world isn't how the book says it's going to be.

"Read About Love" is charming because it's such an affectionate satire of male privilege. The singer is a teenager with a lot of stereotypes about masculinity but no good advice about how to live up to them. It's a sad, funny song about what happens when a boy indiscriminately absorbs cultural messages about being Real Man and a great lover:

I did everything I'm supposed to do,
There's something wrong and it must be you...

His sense of outrage is directed towards his girlfriend, instead of the rigid social script that's left him feeling isolated and inadequate.

ii) Leon Rosselson, "Abiezer Coppe", Guess What They're Selling at the Happiness Counter, Fuse Records, 1992.

Rosselson is a Jewish atheist who is fascinated with the Christianity. Maybe there's some causal connection between his preoccupation and mine, I've been listening to his recordings since I was ten.

Abiezer Coppe was a capital "R" Ranter, a 1640s radical who preached a mystical brand of Christian socialism distinguished by its emphasis on drinking, dancing, swearing, and free love. In short, the guy really took the Gospel to heart.

iii) Stan Rogers, "Second Effort", Turnaround, 1978.

This is Canada's answer to The Boxer--as told by someone who's inconsolable but struggling heroically against loserdom.

iv) Si Kahn, "New Year's Eve", New Wood, Philo Records, 1974.

A great song from one of my favorite albums of all time. Two other great tracks from New Wood are "Like Butter Loves Bread" and "The Better Half of You".

v) Elvis Costello, "Radio, Radio", This Year's Model, Sony, 1978.

5. Three people I'm going to invite to play along: Lisa Sabatier of Culture Kitchen, Bitch PhD, and Steve Gilliard.

Observing Memorial Day


Richard Bermack, The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, published by Heyday Press, March 2005.

Ww164773
From Northeastern University's incomparable World War II Poster Collection

Ww164669
Also from Northeastern's World War II Poster Collection

Bob Geiger's essay, A Conflicted Veteran on Memorial Day.

Amanda's words and images.

RobT's Afghanistan to Iraq photos:

These photos span my wartime deployments from Afghanistan to Iraq, flying some 104 combat missions. [...] They are pictures from my office, mostly at 30,000 feet. I took pictures doing my job so my friends and family could see a portion of what I see and do on a daily basis.

Peoples GE, Jezior JR, and Shriver CD. Caring for the Wounded in Iraq — A Photo Essay. N Engl J Med. 2004;351(24):2476-80. View slide presentation.

Does it Matter? (1918) by Siegfried Sassoon.

May 28, 2005

Texas bans marriage!

Silly legislators, everything is necessarily self-identical:

Jonathan Ichikawa writes:

Here is the full text of the newly proposed section of Article I of the Texas Constitution, proposed by HJR 6, which has been passed by both chambers:

Sec. 32. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Nice work by Jonathan and David.

Filibuster post mortem

Mark Kleiman is absolutely right:

What I'm sure of is that the deal makes no Constitutional sense.

Either the Constitution allows filibusters to block judicial appointments, or it forbids such filibusters. (It seems to me impossible to distinguish between judicial-nomination filibusters and other filibusters in Constitutional terms, but that's a separate question.)

If the Constitution allows such filibusters, then the threat of the "nuclear option" was an illegitimate threat. A concession made to ward off an illegitimate threat isn't a compromise; it's an act of appeasement.

On the other hand, if the Constitution forbids such filibusters, then it's the Democrats who were exacting concessions by threatening unlawful action, and the Republicans who caved in to that threat. [...]

What makes me saddest is that no one seems to care what the Constitution actually says on the subject. That's not a healthy situation for a constitutional republic.

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