One Reason Not to Like Bush

Michael Kinsley is contemptuous:

“None of this matters if you believe that a microscopic embryo is a human being with the same human rights as you and me. George W. Bush claims to believe that, and you have to believe something like that to justify your opposition to stem cell research. But Bush cannot possibly believe that embryos are full human beings, or he would surely oppose modern fertility procedures that create and destroy many embryos for each baby they bring into the world. Bush does not oppose modern fertility treatments. He even praised them in his anti-stem cell speech.

It’s not a complicated point. If stem cell research is morally questionable, the procedures used in fertility clinics are worse. You cannot logically outlaw the one and praise the other. And surely logical coherence is a measure of moral sincerity.

If he’s got both his facts and his logic wrong — and he has — Bush’s alleged moral anguish on this subject is unimpressive. In fact, it is insulting to the people (including me) whose lives could be saved or redeemed by the medical breakthroughs Bush’s stem cell policy is preventing.

This is not a policy disagreement. Or rather, it is not only a policy disagreement. If the president is not a complete moron — and he probably is not — he is a hardened cynic, staging moral anguish he does not feel, pandering to people he cannot possibly agree with and sacrificing the future of many American citizens for short-term political advantage.” —Washington Post


Television and Hive Mind

“Sixty-four years ago this month, six million Americans became unwitting subjects in an experiment in psychological warfare.

It was the night before Halloween, 1938. At 8 p.m. CST, the Mercury Radio on the Air began broadcasting Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. As is now well known, the story was presented as if it were breaking news, with bulletins so realistic that an estimated one million people believed the world was actually under attack by Martians. Of that number, thousands succumbed to outright panic, not waiting to hear Welles’ explanation at the end of the program that it had all been a Halloween prank, but fleeing into the night to escape the alien invaders…

In a sense, those people who fled the Martians that night were right to be afraid. They were indeed under attack. But they were wrong about who was attacking them. It was something far worse than Martians. Had they only known the true nature of the danger facing them, perhaps they would have gone to the nearest radio station with torches in hand like the villagers in those old Frankenstein movies and burned it to the ground, or at least commandeered the new technology and turned it towards another use–the liberation of humanity, instead of its enslavement.” —mackwhite.com


New Quarktet:

Subatomic oddity hints at pentaparticle family: “Physicists at a European particle accelerator say they’ve spotted a never-before-seen elementary particle composed of five of the fundamental constituents known as quarks and antiquarks. In contrast, protons and neutrons contain three quarks, and no particle is known to have four quarks. The new report marks only the second sighting ever of a five-quark particle, the first one having been found last summer by three independent groups working in the United States, Japan, and Russia…

The discovery of a new family of quark-containing particles may help physicists fill in blanks in their understanding of quark interactions, says theorist Frank Wilczek of MIT. For one thing, it could end what had been a puzzling absence of evidence for particles with groupings containing more than three quarks or antiquarks, which theorists for decades have been expecting to show up in accelerators.” —Science News


A tough lesson on medical privacy

Pakistani transcriber threatens UCSF over back pay:

“A woman in Pakistan doing cut-rate clerical work for UCSF Medical Center threatened to post patients’ confidential files on the Internet unless she was paid more money.To show she was serious, the woman sent UCSF an e-mail earlier this month with actual patients’ records attached.

The violation of medical privacy – apparently the first of its kind – highlights the danger of ‘offshoring’ work that involves sensitive materials, an increasing trend among budget-conscious U.S. companies and institutions.” —SF Chronicle


Toddler scarred all over body

More than a dozen toddlers at a Croatian nursery turned on one of their own, inflicting more than thirty bites on their one-year old victim when their class nanny briefly left the room. Deep wounds covered his body, including his face. “Biting between young children is not uncommon. But I have never seen anything like this,” commented the doctor who treated the boy. Authorities are clueless as to the cause of the biting frenzy. —Sky News


Gov. Bush orders feeding tube reinserted in Schiavo case

The Florida legislature empowered Bush to step into the fray. (MSNBC) The move emboldens the Christian fundamentalist right, which campaigned hard for this intervention. (New York Times). Pundits say the Florida law will be found unconstitutional (Dallas News). Terri Schiavo remains a ping pong ball (Reuters). As I have written before, some of the opposition to ending life support for Schiavo arises from a merciless misunderstanding of what a ‘persistent vegetative state’ is. This woman and others like her have no conscious awareness or possibility of regaining such. I have seen press coverage liken this to Nazi eugenics programs or raise the spectre of state-sanctioned killing of ‘defectives’, which is pitifully, contemptibly off the mark. Even if one grasps the PVS concept, mistrust of the medical profession leads to fears that mistakes could be made in diagnosing someone as irretrievable in this way. Finally, some of the opposition revolves around the notion that it is barbaric to starve someone to death, which is probably wrong on two counts. First, there is no sentient experience in PVS. Secondly, as has been recently reported here, death from starvation may not be an uncomfortable way to go, especially if someone is being kept comfortable in other ways. But withdrawing nutrition is the best that a medical profession that cannot take compassionate life-ending measures can do. Perhaps the fundamentalists should start to espouse the death-with-dignity cause?


Rumsfeld’s doubts about war on terror

The leaked internal memo:

The memo was published yesterday by the USA Today newspaper, and a Pentagon official confirmed its authenticity to the Guardian, describing it as one of Mr Rumsfeld’s “snowflakes” (Pentagon slang for the daily blizzard of notes he sends to his subordinates). —The Guardian

It is in direct counterpoint to the usual dysadministration bluster about how we are winning the WoT®, e.g. statements of Wolfowitz and Cheney in the last few days. David Corn suggests Why it matters in The Nation. Corn finds its major significance in Rumsfeld’s suggestion that hatred of the west has to be fought at its roots by countering the influence of the madrassas. He juxtaposes the task of enticing the radical Islamists to be more moderate with Rumsfeld’s detestable refusal to repudiate the vile slaver coming from ‘Christian jihadist’ Gen. William Boykin.

With these comments, Rumsfeld veered dangerously close to becoming one of those root-cause-symps who routinely are derided by hawks for arguing that the United States and other nations need to address the forces that fuel anti-Americanism overseas–in the Muslim world and elsewhere. The public disclosure of these views also made Rumsfeld’s refusal to criticize Lt. General William Boykin appear all the more curious.

Rumsfeld has recently taken it on the chin in the administration tugs-o’-war, what with the overall Iraq reconstruction oversight being reassigned to Condoleeza Rice. As this New York Times editorial notes, “Mr. Rumsfeld is a canny player who knows exactly what he is doing when he drafts internal memos and makes them public.” It is hard not to see him as the truculent prima donna sulking over feeling slighted. The Times continues,

Mr. Rumsfeld’s big problem is that he seems to want to run almost every aspect of the war on terror but prefers to share the blame when things do not work out. Now he muses about forming a new institution that “seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies” on the problem of terrorism. He helpfully suggested that this new institution might be located within the Defense Department — or maybe elsewhere.

The Times concludes that Bush should resist fueling Rulsfeld’s megalomanic quest by expanding the budget for his ‘bureaucratic empire’ any further.

Slate correspondent Fred Kaplan: “Donald Rumsfeld’s war-on-terror memo—which was leaked to USA Today on Wednesday and picked up by the rest of the media, for the most part with a shrug, on Thursday—may be the most important, even stunning official document yet to come out of this war…Rumsfeld’s memo marks the first unconcealable eruption of a ‘credibility gap’ in the wartime presidency of George W. Bush.”

Have you ever read a more pathetic federal document in your life? What is being stated here can be summed up as follows: We’ll probably win the battle for Afghanistan and Iraq (or, more precisely, it’s “pretty clear” we “can win” it, “in one way or another” after “a long, hard slog”), but we’re losing the struggle for hearts and minds in the broader war against terrorism. Not only that, we don’t know how to measure winning or losing, we don’t have a plan for winning it, we don’t know how to fashion a plan, and the bureaucratic agencies put in charge of waging this war and drawing up these plans may be inherently incapable of doing so.

The last word, however, should be Joe Conason’s. “Actually, the terrorism memo — one among many messages raining down from his office onto the Pentagon brass, who call them “snowflakes” — makes Rummy sound more in tune with reality than some of his colleagues.” —Salon


The Widening Crusade

Bush’s war plan is scarier than he is saying: “Global wars, space control, and projection of U.S. power around the world — all are part of the statement of principles of the Project for the New American Century — signed by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others more than six years ago. Sydney H. Schanberg gives one of the clearest explanations yet of the Bush administration’s plan for global domination.” —The Village Voice