Chasing rainbows

“It’s never been more fashionable or popular to be gay or lesbian than now, if television coverage is anything to go by. If they’re not building or renovating homes, they’re winning Oscars and thanking their boyfriends, getting married in San Francisco, or “zhushing” straight guys. Does this mean queer is the new black?”The Age Or is the depiction of gays in popular culture a marketing dream?

Squandering the trauma of September 11

” “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta,” said George Bush in the immediate aftermath of September 11, according to his budget director. War, recession and national emergency liberated him to soar in the political stratosphere. But after several faltering starts this year, he felt compelled to relaunch his campaign with $4.5m (£2.5m) of television advertising in 16 key states…

The trauma of September 11 has been squandered as a political factor. Just as Bush has misspent the goodwill of the world, he has wasted his opportunity to create any consensus at home. He had planned to run his campaign on the Bismarckian formula of the primacy of foreign policy and Kulturkampf. But his trifecta has been turned upside down: David Kay’s confession that ‘we were all wrong’ on WMD in Iraq; job stagnation; increased recriminations about 9/11 as the commission begins its work in earnest. Bush, moreover, is patently using 9/11 not for ‘changing times’ but to advance his reactionary social agenda. Rather than appearing ‘steady’, he is setting himself against change, including changing his own policies. What he has left is a negative campaign. If he cannot elevate himself on the presidential pedestal he must throw himself into the abattoir of the culture war.” —Sidney Blumenthal, writing in the Guardian.UK

Certainly, the outcry about the Ground Zero ads is rampant on the Left, and certainly it has upset an outspoken number of those who lost loved ones on 9-11. But will it significantly alienate the electorate as a whole? I am not sure, since for noncritical viewers, the ads certainly pluck all the right heartstrings. There are still an awful lot of ‘United we stand’ bumper stickers on the cars I pass on the highway each morning. Even those who do not question the necessity of the perpetual WoT® or the War President’s prowess in leading us ought to wonder at his judgment if he could so badly miscalculate the impact of the first ad he chose to run in his reelection campaign.

[Ah, but, you might say, it wasn’t his ad, it was his handlers’. But the same people making his p.r. decisions for him are the ones making his policy decisions for him… As Elvis Costello says, joking on his current concert tour that he had seen Vice President Dick Cheney at an all-you-can-eat buffet, “Let’s hope he doesn’t die of a heart attack. Then who would be president? His Texan hand puppet.”]

‘Caesarean refusal’ mother in jail

“A mother was in jail on charges of murder yesterday after refusing to undergo a caesarean delivery in a case that reignites America’s debate on the competing rights of foetuses and women.

In what was seen as a test of new state and federal legislation expanding the definition of human life, Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, was accused of exhibiting ‘depraved indifference to human life’ for disregarding the advice of doctors to give birth to her twins by caesarean section.

One of the twins, a boy, was stillborn. The other, a girl, survived and has been adopted. If she is convicted of causing her unborn son’s death, Ms Rowland could face life in prison, press reports said.

It was not clear yesterday why she ignored repeated medical advice last winter that the twins were in danger. The prosecution argues it was vanity, and that Ms Rowland told a nurse she did not want a scar.” —Guardian.UK

Addendum: On further reflection, I largely agree with other observers who doubt the ‘vanity’ rationale. First of all, it appears Rowland had both a history of prior C-sections — which makes a mockery of prosecution claims she was motivated to avoid a scar — and a history of mental illness. The evidence suggesting that the woman was terrified argues that it may have been anything but ‘depraved indifference’ which impaired her ability to cooperate with medical advice.

[On the other hand, I need to express my scorn at the scurrilous comments that are beginning to appear to the effect that one cannot imagine vanity as a motivation after looking at the widely disseminated wire photo of Rowland. Not that it is up to any of you to rule on whether someone’s appearance even at their best justifies their putative vanity, but the woman appears terrified and exhausted; she was alone, postpartum, one of her babies having been taken away and the other stillborn, and she had just been booked on murder charges.]

It is certainly not as cut-and-dried as pitting the rights of the foetus against that of the mother. While the death of the baby boy is grievous, it may not be reprehensible, and the case may perhaps be better considered to pit the rights of the mother against those of a Utah prosecutor with a morally conservative agenda and opportunistic visions of an illustrious career move from a sensational case.

‘There is no relationship between what you find in a living person and what you find in a dead person"

Post-mortem drug test errors increasing:

“A technique for inferring how much of a drug a patient has taken may be putting innocent people behind bars.

The problem seems to be that doctors are incorrectly applying the method to corpses, in a bid to establish how much of a drug a deceased person took, or was given, before their death. That error can result in vastly inflated readings…” —New Scientist

Spanish bombs

“Purported al-Qaida videotape claims responsibility while 5 arrested in Madrid: Authorities found a videotape claiming al-Qaida carried out the Madrid terrorist attacks, Spain’s government said Sunday, hours after three Moroccans and two Indians were arrested in connection with the bombings.”

And: “A top Clinton-era expert on Europe and security warns that if the deadly Madrid bombings prove to be the work of al-Qaida, it could transform politics throughout Europe.” —Salon Charles Kupchan, formerly President Clinton’s director for European affairs on the National Security Council, hedges his bet, saying that the enhanced perception that they face a common enemy could edge Europe closer to the Bush position. We might see a strengthening of the hand of the rightwing nationalist movements throughout the Continent which focus on the disenfranchised and largely unassimilated Islamic immigrant populations in European nations. I think it is more likely and more justified, given that the majority of Spaniards opposed Aznar’s support for the invasion of Iraq, that the bombing will be seen as retribution as well as reinforcing the perception that the US actions have made the Western world less rather than more safe. We will see if Aznar is repudiated in this weekend’s Spanish voting; the timing of the bombings just before the election may not have been a coincidence.

Bush’s Latest Missile-Defense Folly

Forces are finally converging for a genuine debate on President Bush’s missile-defense program. The Republican-controlled Congress is looking for ways to cut $9 billion from the military budget (which, at $420 billion, is getting unmanageable even for hawkish tastes). It’s becoming painfully clear that rogues and terrorists are more likely to attack us with planes and trains than with nuclear missiles. And a recent series of technical studies—bolstered on Thursday by a high-profile Senate hearing—has dramatized just how difficult, if not impossible, this project is going to be.” As readers of FmH know, I have been trying to keep the folly of the missile defense program on everybody’s radar screen, because of my concerns about how destabilizing it would be for the nuclear balance of terror. If Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate, is right, the balance may be shifting against support for it on the most pedestrian of grounds — fiscal realism.

Starbucks Tunes In to Digital Music

“Sip on a mocha latte while using headphones to listen to any of 250,000 songs you call up on a computer. Then order the ones you like — burned on your own CD — to go… BusinessWeek has learned that on Mar. 16, the Seattle coffee giant will unveil an in-store music service allowing customers to do just that, using Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) tablet computers to make their choices. The first musical Starbucks opens in Santa Monica, Calif., and the service will expand into 2,500 stores over the next two years.” It is hard to tell if this has any chance of succeeding to an extent that would justify the enormous hardware costs; it depends on whether it will tap a customer base essentially different than iTunes users and the like, and whether the song selection and ease of use of the interface are beckoning.

Dept. of Bush League Distortion (cont’d):

Bush Exaggerates Kerry’s Position on Intelligence Budget: “Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut — about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years — would have ‘gutted’ intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office — the same program Kerry said he was targeting.” —Washington Post