Republican degeneracy is its own reward?

Rafe Colburn comments on the slime machine:

“On some days, I try to convince myself that all politicians are the same, that they all run negative campaigns, and that they all try to smear their opponents. But the truth is that they’re not all the same. The awful truth, though, is that the Bush campaign and the Kerry campaign are not the same, and the Bush supporters and Kerry supporters are not the same. What this campaign is really teaching us is that if you want to be President, it is better to do nothing in life than to attempt to distinguish yourself in any way before aspiring to higher office. Kerry’s service in the Vietnam war and tenure in the Senate are being used to bludgeon him in ways that I honestly wouldn’t have imagined before the campaign. George W Bush accomplished nothing before he became governor of Texas, and he’s better off for it. “

Colburn is despondent today, thinking that the Swift Boat Veterans will torpedo Kerry’s chances to win the presidency all on their own.

“It’s been a lot of work for me to keep up with the inaccuracies and outright lies from the Swift Boat Vets, and I know that most people aren’t putting in the effort that I am. Unless people do begin to see this group as an unofficial arm of the Bush campaign willing to tell any lie to smear Kerry, I think that Kerry’s campaign is basically over.”

But Josh Marshall thinks Kerry is getting fighting mad, discussing a new Kerry campaign ad which uses 2000 footage of John McCain castigating candidate Bush’s attempt to besmirch his war record, finishing with a shot of Bush’s speechless trapped face that cannot fail to convince us what a shameless coward he was, and is. It strikes me that this is as much Kerry’s response to McCain’s re-embrace of the President, about which I wrote below, as to Bush’s smear attack.

And Ed Fitzgerald holds a hand out for people trying to find a way to kick the self-deceived-Republican-vote habit:

“…We’re here to say that we’re not holding it against you folks who voted for Bush, somehow deluding yourselves into thinking that the President of the United States can effectively make good decisions by picking them from a menu provided by his staff and advisors, without himself having much of an idea what it all means.

Don’t feel embarrassed, we’ve all done stuff we’d like to forget, but also don’t think that you’re locked into position on this thing just because you made a mistake four years ago. Look around — there are plenty of people who did the same thing as you did and who have now recognized their error and mustered the will to make the big change. You can do it too, we’ll help you get through it.”

Fitzgerald is building on this wonderful plain speakin’ from Matt Yglesias:

“The job of the president of the United States is not to love his wife; it’s to manage a wide range of complicated issues. That requires character, yes, but not the kind of character measured by private virtues like fidelity to spouse and frequency of quotations from Scripture. Yet it also requires intelligence. It requires intellectual curiosity, an ability to familiarize oneself with a broad range of views, the capacity — yes — to grasp nuances, to foresee the potential ramifications of one’s decisions, and, simply, to think things through. Four years ago, these were not considered necessary pieces of presidential equipment. Today, they have to be.

…(T)o state what should be obvious, the president is not your father, your husband, your drinking buddy, or your minister. These are important roles, but they are not the president’s. He has a job to do, and it’s a difficult one, involving a wide array of complicated issues. His responsibility to manage these issues is a public one, and the capacity to do so in a competent and moral manner is fundamentally unrelated to the private virtues of family, friendship, fidelity, charity, compassion, and all the rest.”

Reduced to its essence, Yglesias is trying to hammer home a single concept, on which I repeatedly harp here — that, as he puts it, “intelligence matters more than character.” FmH readers will know that I have been pretty despondent about the voters’ receptivity to this notion.

But, hey, Bush and his slimy ilk just sink further and further into their sleazy morass, as made clear by this pair of columns from Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman on their latest Florida dirty trick. Maybe even the voters who still believe they need to vote for righteousness regardless of brains will have their eyes opened if this sort of thing continues.

PS: Do voters who like South Park have a sense of humor?

Antidepressant Study Seen to Back Expert

“A top government scientist who concluded last year that most antidepressants are too dangerous for children because of a suicide risk wrote in a memo this week that a new study confirms his findings.” (New York TimesThe ) The senior FDA epidemiologist drew his conclusion from a study of 22 studies, but his findings were reportedly suppressed by his bosses at the FDA. A newer study using different data analyzed by a different methodology parallels his conclusions. Should antidepressant prescribing to children be banned? Certainly, the credible evidence that they are more likely to commit suicide when administered antidepressants is worrisome. Children have less ability than adults to understand and contain the bodily agitation, the feeling “like you’re crawling out of your skin” (in the words of numerous patients), that some antidepressants can cause, so they are far more likely to get into trouble with these medications. And I feel that, like most psychotropics, they are far overprescribed by the pharmacological evangelists most of my profession have become, uncritically. However, I would be concerned if the rare truly, desperately, lethally depressed child were deprived of the possibility of a properly used powerful therapeutic agent. In other branches of medicine, doctors use very dangerous medications when the potential benefit outweighs the risk, and they are capable of using them carefully. Police the profession, not its armamentarium! And get the damn pharmaceutical industry and its single-minded devotion to its profit, which mediates for prescribing to more and more patients more and more uncritically, out of the central role it has in healthcare!

Actually, the FDA does not have the power to ban thei drugs’ use. As the equivalent agency in the UK has done, they can recommend restrictions in a medication’s use, but any licensed physician is able to prescribe a legal drug for any indication, including so-called ‘off-label’ uses, they deem necessary. Making antidepressant use off-label for children would have several consequences. First, one would hope doctors would become far more cautious, since an adverse outcome arising from an off-label use presents far more liability to the physician. Second, risk management in off-label prescribing requires far more stringent informed consent to the patient (or the patient’s parents or guardians). A thorough explanation of regulatory concerns about these drugs’ use would make many a parent too skittish to consent. Finally, prescription coverage by third-party payors for off-label uses may be denied or may require prior approval, effectively placing the drugs out of financial reach of many patients.

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Bearhug Politics:

Careful Steps to a New Bush-McCain Alliance: “…one of the odder embraces in politics in a long while.

…The newfound friendship may be good for late-night laughs, but it is deadly serious political business for both men, the result of a deliberate, months-long effort by the White House to woo the Arizona senator – the most popular national political figure in the country – and of Mr. McCain’s self-interested susceptibility to same. The turnabout could not be more striking, and for both men the stakes could be nothing less than the presidency itself.” (New York Times)

An effective Democratic response to this would be to paint McCain’s newfound compliance as the selfserving attempt that it is to reestablish his party loyalty iin order to position himself for a 2008 presidential run.

Study outlines doctors’, medics’ role in Iraq prison abuses

“Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights, a bioethicist charges in The Lancet medical journal.

In a scathing analysis of the behavior of military doctors, nurses and medics, University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles calls for a reform of military medicine and an official investigation into the role played by physicians and other medical staff in the torture scandal.

He cites evidence that doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured. No reports of abuses were initiated by medical personnel until the official investigation into Abu Ghraib began, he found.

‘The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations,’ Miles said in this week’s edition of Lancet. ‘Army officials stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib.'” (Associated Press )

One of my readers alluded to this study in a comment on another post on medical ethics, but it certainly deserves to be put out front. The medical profession has always considered such breaches as failures of individual ethical responsibility, and taken individual disciplinary action. This is consistent with the official whitewash of the Abu Ghraib scandal, where I predict (and have predicted) that official ‘soulsearching’ will ignore systemic permissiveness and facilitation of abuse in the military command structure and Pentagon/administration culture, blaming only the ‘morally depraved’ perpetrators. The evidence of medical and psychiatric participation in the abuses calls for an examination of broader issues of the corruption of inherent medical standards when used to support an immoral war machine.

Could Najaf Cost Bush the Election?

Juan Cole wonders. His thinking is that Muslim Americans are an important voting bloc in the Midwest, including several important swing states. Adding to Muslim (and Christian Arab?) voters’ dismay at the defilement of the holy city are the domestic trampling on civil rights of Arab Americans, the poor economy and the ripple effect of rising oil prices because of the continuing Iraqi unrest. Much of the Arab American support Bush got on 2000, Cole says, was based on fears that a Gore-Lieberman administration would be heavily pro-Israel.

Iran warns of preemptive strike to prevent attack on nuclear sites

“Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani warned that Iran might launch a preemptive strike against US forces in the region to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities.

‘We will not sit (with arms folded) to wait for what others will do to us. Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly,’ Shamkhani told Al-Jazeera TV when asked if Iran would respond to an American attack on its nuclear facilities.” (Agence France Presse via Yahoo!)

Weapons of Minimum Destruction

“‘Believe it or not, what we refer to as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ are actually not very destructive.’

David C Rapoport, professor of political science at University College Los Angeles and editor of the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, has examined what he calls ‘easily available evidence’ relating to the historic use of chemical and biological weapons.

He found something surprising – such weapons do not cause mass destruction. Indeed, whether used by states, terror groups or dispersed in industrial accidents, they tend to be far less destructive than conventional weapons. ‘If we stopped speculating about things that might happen in the future and looked instead at what has happened in the past, we’d see that our fears about WMD are misplaced’, he says.” (sp!ked )

CIA Study on Iraq Weapons Is Off Course, Officials Say

This LA Times report says the embarrassed CIA Iraq Survey Group charged with finding WMD in Iraq will release a final report next month that shifts gears into speculating on what Iraq’s arsenal might have looked like by 2008 if the US had not invaded. The report is being assailed as a departure from the mandate of the group, as designed to obscure the fact that WMD were never found, as confusing the distinction between evidence and fanciful speculation, and as clearly politically motivated. It seems to me that David Kay (former director of the survey group)’s main problem was in resigning too soon. Of course, the dysadministration would try to repair the damage by putting in place a successor without his integrity who would be willing to have the group’s agenda hijacked in this manner. With the deceptions about WMD at the core of the growing outrage about the war and the change in dysadministration justification of the invasion from asserting Iraq had WMD to asserting it had intentions of and capability for weapons production, shouldn’t opponents have had their sights on what the Iraq Survey Group was doing for, oh, the past year or so? It was only last month that Congressional leaders were taken aback to learn of this plan in briefings from a representative of the weapons survey team who acknowledged (before moving on to another assignment and refusing to comment further) that its mandate indeed was “the search for and elimination of weapons of mass destruction.” While an outraged Representative’s request for assurances from John McLaughlin, interim director of the CIA, that the group’s report confine itself to what the search efforts in Iraq had actually yielded has gone unanswered, a CIA spokesperson dismissed charges that the shift in the group’s focus is politically motivated as [perhaps the most common phrase on the lips of government officials these days? &m-dash; FmH] “nonsense.”

Can You Forgive Them?

Ostracizing the people who were right on Iraq.:

“Not long ago, I spoke with a Democratic moderate about the war in Iraq. He said he considered support for the Iraq war to be a necessary prerequisite to assuming any powerful role in the party. It showed that the person in question was willing to project U.S. force abroad. But wait, I asked. Do you still think the Iraq war was a good idea? After some hemming and hawing, he admitted that he’d rather we hadn’t gone in. Then why make support for a mistaken policy a litmus test? Because, he repeated, it shows that the person in question is willing to project U.S. force abroad. I should emphasize that we weren’t talking about whether troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, which is an entirely separate and vexing question that speaks to our responsibility in a country whose previous government we destroyed. What this man was saying was that it was better to have been wrong about Iraq than to have been right. That’s the prevailing (though not always conscious) consensus in Washington, and it’s completely insane.” — Timothy Noah (Slate )