Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Now she'll be skewering eternity

Molly Ivins, one of my commentator heroes, has died.

She'll live on; I am only one of many she inspired.

I often quote something she said in that otherwise dark year of 2002, any time someone says they can't be bothered with politics:

Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom you can decide you don't much care for. Is the person who prescribes your eyeglasses qualified to do so? How deep will you be buried when you die? What textbooks are your children learning from at school? What will happen if you become seriously ill? Is the meat you're eating tainted? Will you be able to afford to go to college or to send your kids? Would you like a vacation? Expect to retire before you die? Can you find a job? Drive a car? Afford insurance? Is your credit card company or your banker or your broker ripping you off? It's all politics, Bubba. You don't get to opt out for lack of interest.

Rest well, Ms. Ivins.

...because I'm doing it as hard as I can.

So, the "suspicious electronic devices" that triggered a bomb scare, a massive police mobilization, and the shutdown of two bridges in Boston? Here's a picture of one:

No, I'm not making this up. Ye gods we've gotten hysterical. I blame politicians who have overhyped the threat of terrorism for their own benefit. I also blame movies where bombs always have some kind of elaborate display. People don't seem to have worked out that in real life a terrorist bomb is more likely to resemble a suitcase or a cardboard box.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pharmaceutical companies prefer money to your life.

Yes, great shocker, I'm sure. But what else can you make of this article from the New Scientist?

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers.

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their "immortality". The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Hmm, sounds interesting, doesn't it? So I looked up on "the Google" what this dichloroacetate was all about. I found an interesting bit of information.

Dean's World:

We've actually known for decades now that vitamin C in megadose quantities kills cancer cells. How many clinical trials have been conducted on that? A tiny handful, decades ago, and they only used oral dosages. A couple of years ago one very small study was done using vitamin C on cancer patients intravenously and showed some signs of success, but the study was too small to be definitive.

And why couldn't such research get broader traction? Perhaps the same reason as now:

The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines.

Pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay. Heck, I'll go a step further: they're not likely to want to acknowledge its existence. And as for governments, we can probably forget about ours. In fact, if more research proves DCAs to be effective in cancer treatment, we can probably expect a bigger exodus to Canada than ever thought possible. We know what our governments lick-your-boots stance is towards pharmaceutical companies. Fox, CNN, and the AP can be expected to toe the line and ignore this story for as long as possible.

Years of giving money to cancer research has provided us with a wash of complexities and barriers. For those of us who fear it and have seen more people die from it than from terrorist attacks, we have had to take researchers at their word. But now, in our country, we know that money has truly and utterly won out over the values that the Republicans have pretended were in their hearts. Even if DCAs are untested by FDA standards, shouldn't the victims and their families know about it? Shouldn't it be brought to the table of mainstream discussion, right up there with stem cell research, which is just as embryonic?

Continued research and clinical tests may come to nothing, but this is clearly something that should be considered. This isn't quack medicine from the nineteenth century. This is a possibility that should at least laid out in the open, positives and demerits included, given the potential doors it could open up. Still, it seems that if it is indeed a solution, the only way it will be allowed to save lives is if the poor seven-digit earners scrape a huge profit margin out of it. Welcome to America, where we don't really care if you live or die.

Cool kid punditry

I guess I really thought it'd be different now. I guess I really thought people were over the idea that politics is all about who you'd want at your barbecue (if you're a voter) or cocktail party (if you're an insider pundit).

Sigh. Andrew Sullivan, on the Chris Matthews Show, talking about Sen. Clinton:

SULLIVAN: I think she’s been a very sensible senator. I think—find it hard to disagree with her on the war. But when I see her again, all me—all the cootie-vibes resurrect themselves. I’m sorry—

PANEL: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

HOWARD FINEMAN: That’s a technical term!

SULLIVAN: I must represent a lot of people. I actually find her positions appealing in many ways. I just can’t stand her.

For the pundits at the top, it actually makes very little difference what those positions are; he only mentions in passing that he "finds her positions appealing," and doesn't seem to think it's important even to elaborate. No, see, the important criterion in selecting a president is not whether she will govern in a way you feel will be good for the country. It's whether or not she's icky and has cooties.

Sadly, this is how we got stuck with Bush in the first place. Remember 2000? When for two years, the central theme of the media coverage was what a great aw-shucks regular guy George W. Bush was (this was even more frustrating because, to me at least, it was transparently not true) and what a big stinky pootyhead wussy nerd Al Gore was. It was like policy didn't exist. For every news item that actually examined how these two people would govern differently, which would seem like pretty much the only really relevant fact in an election for high office, there were ten that were written like we weren't holding an election so much as rating the Hollywood super-hunks.

Al Gore? He's that icky nerd. George Bush? Oh, he's dreeeeeeeeamy. Hillary Clinton? Ewwww, she has coootieeeeeeeees.

What? You say policy actually matters to the hundreds of millions of people who will be governed by whoever's elected, that (as the last six years have shown) it's often literally a matter of life and death for some of them?


To say our elite pundits are like children is an insult to children, who are sometimes very sensible people. It's more like they're the biggest wankers in the known universe. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. That's a technical term.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Strange bedfellows for the Planet Earth

Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk. I don't honestly think the DRIVE act is the total fix we need on America's energy consumption, but it's a step in the right direction, and here it is defended by the National Review, of all things.

But what gets me most about the article is this little justification for domestically-produced alternative fuels:

Imagine if you could pull up to a pump and choose between conventional gas and similarly-priced alternative fuels guaranteed not to fund terrorists. Which would you choose?

THAT was the argument environmentalists were missing. You're either environmental, or you're with the terrorists. Think of other arguments we could make. You either want universal health care, or you're with the terrorists. Perhaps once we have a well-thought out progressive plan, we should develop an alternative argument plan to tie opposition to terrorism...

....Good grief, THIS is how someone goes power-mad, isn't it?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sometimes I only have to write it down

Sometimes, "I Drew This" strips occur in real life.

For instance, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) reports the following exchange between G. W. Bush and Speaker Pelosi:

PELOSI: (After pointing out that the "troop surge" is an idea that's been tried twice already, without success) Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?

BUSH: Because I told them it had to.

(Here is where I'd have one panel with no dialogue, to pause for humorous impact)

PELOSI: Why didn't you tell them that the other two times?

Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm with Natalie

One of the odder features of our current discourse is how so many of the same people who a few years ago were insisting that anyone who didn't want to invade Iraq must be in bed with bin Laden...

...are now insisting they always knew invading Iraq was a bad idea.

Do they think nothing they have ever said has been recorded?

Consider the case of Toby Keith.

Anyone who pays attention to such matters will recall that Toby "Mr. Boot-in-your-ass" Keith was pretty unambiguously in favor of the war in 2003, when he was feuding with war opponents the Dixie Chicks. In fact, I am reminded via Atrios that Mr. Keith used to display this image at his concerts, in those days:

Now, however, rather than just coming out and saying "I was wrong to support the war and now I think we should end it, and by the way I'm sorry I called Natalie Maines a Saddam supporter, seeing as I now freely concede she was completely right and I was completely wrong," Mr. Boot-in-your-ass seems to believe he can just retroactively not support the war.

"Never did," says the man who apparently does not understand that people remember things and often record them and write them down.

You see this a lot from former war supporters. Not a hint of apology for being wrong and for accusing people who were right of treason. To call this particular brand of former war supporters a bunch of rats deserting a sinking ship is a slur against rats.

So I have never had any use for Mr. Keith, but as for the Dixie Chicks, I gained a lot of respect for them through all this. I admire them for having the courage of their convictions, and for not backing down and making their lives easier by meekly apologizing when their entire musical genre turned against them.

It's actually pretty interesting. Formerly pretty firmly aligned with the country genre, the Chicks, after the country establishment decided they had the wrong political views and stopped playing their records, moved from Nashville to Los Angeles, and their most recent album was made in a much more rock/pop style. The single, "Not Ready To Make Nice," actually reminds me a bit of, say, Throwing Muses or P.J. Harvey (yeah, poppier than either, but way closer than I ever thought the Chicks would get to that alt-chick-rock style).

I'm not sure I can think of another example of a musical artist switching genres for political reasons. Maybe Marvin Gaye with his antiwar protest songs in the 60s. Anyway, rock on, Dixie Chicks. And Mr. Keith? Natalie Maines's famous "FUTK" t-shirt still speaks for me, too.


In the discussion over my previous post about Dinesh D'Souza, forum user detrius pointed out the article "Hurray! We're Capitulating!" in Spiegel Online. The article discusses how Europeans are going out of their way to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities.

To me, the striking thing about this article is the parallel to how we react to the Christian right in our own country, especially in the last several years. We go to great pains to avoid offending them. We fine companies who broadcast words or images offensive to Christian morality. We provide alternate, religiously-correct explanations for events where the Bible disagrees with science. In dozens of ways, some of them so small they escape notice, we take pains to avoid offending thin-skinned religious people. It's right-wing political correctness, and it's a tradeoff we rarely discuss. But the Spiegel article is confronting a very similar issue head-on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Should we gag ourselves for peace?

Dinesh D'Souza, author of The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, wrote an op-ed recently for the Christian Science Monitor in which he summarizes the thesis of his book. To summarize the summary, D'Souza believes that Muslim anger toward the U.S. exists mainly because they feel our pop culture promotes depravity. He points to sex and profanity, both in lowbrow fare like Howard Stern and highbrow culture like The Vagina Monologues. He believes that to win the war on terror, we need to "restore" our culture to traditional Judeo-Christian values and make sure that Muslims see those values reflected in our movies and television. Only then, he suggests, will they begin to see us as non-threatening.

This is one of those ideas that seemed so blatantly wrong to me that it took me some time to decide what exactly was wrong about it. But I see two basic problems with D'Souza's modest proposal.

The first problem is that it won't work. Even the most conservative Americans (who appear to be D'Souza's target audience) are unlikely to concede enough to placate Islamic radicals. Given the choice between an increased risk of terrorism and forcing every woman on television to put on a burqua, Americans are going to choose the former.

The second problem is closely related, but more philosophical. The idea that Americans should restrict their own freedom of speech in order to avoid offending non-Americans is contrary to the very ideas that America stands for, or indeed the ideas that we're supposed to be exporting to Iraq and Afghanistan. Would D'Souza have us become like the Taliban, which destroyed ancient statues because they offended those who felt they represented idolatry? Logically, we cannot go down the road D'Souza suggests and remain a free nation.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Law of the Land

E. Howard Hunt, a major organizer of the Watergate break-in, died today. From this article, a telling quote:

"I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land," Hunt told People magazine for its May 20, 1974, issue.

Do they ever learn? It seems not, on the eve of a State of the Union speech filled with misguided, uninformed directives. It doesn't matter how you get the President's job done, get it done, and don't bother him with the details.

However, details add up. They brought down a corrupt man in power before. Whether they do so again depends on whether our collective ears will allow the truth to drown out the advertising.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

All we are saying is give it a rest

Via Kevin Drum, I see that the Iraq War is now more unpopular than the Vietnam War ever was.

So, since it seems like even after November 7 there are still a few people in the media who don't get this: I think we can stop worrying that opposition to the war will come at a political price.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Liberal Eagle's weekly top five

Skipped a week, but ah well. (I'm sure you were all heartbroken.)

5. Ben Folds, "Still"
4. Tom Waits, "Alice"
3. Thom Yorke, "Black Swan"
2. Bob Dylan, "Not Dark Yet"
1. Keane, "Nothing In My Way"

I'm sick of Iraq

The Democrats' 100-hour agenda is on track; already they've passed a minimum wage increase, re-passed the stem cell research bill (though it's doomed to another veto, presumably), voted to implement the results of the 9/11 commission, and a bunch of other stuff.

I support pretty much all of it, but once again, it's not getting nearly as much attention as the ongoing Iraq mess. (No word quite captures the situation Bush and co. have wrought over there like Jon Stewart's "catastrofuck.")

And that's how it's been, for years now. Everything I believe in, sidelined. Because the thing about a great big ruinous misguided military misadventure is, it's kind of by definition the big story. So instead of participating in debate on policy issues that matter to me, I'm left being just another weary opponent of an ongoing disaster, waiting out the clock until we can stop being distracted by flag-draped coffins and honestly discuss health care, environmental protection and civil rights again.

It didn't have to be this way, you know. If the press had not almost universally decided Gore did not deserve the presidency, so let's give it to that nice Texas frat boy (what's the worst that could happen?), then decided he was Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln rolled into one and taken him at his word that we had no choice but to invade Iraq so Saddam didn't throw his aluminum tubes at us (I bet he can hurl them really hard!)...

If President Gore had come in, who knows what the major issue of the day would be? It would not be the bloody mess we're in now. We could be making progress. Now, it's all about slowing the bleeding. We'll ultimately have killed hundreds of thousands of people, spent over a trillion dollars, and made virtually no progress on important domestic concerns, all because David Broder decided Bush was the guy he'd rather have at his DC cocktail parties.

I'm just tired of it. And I wish things had been otherwise. That's all.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Okay, fine, impeach the bastard

One of the great ironies of our time is the way anyone who even suggests Bush ought to be impeached gets ridiculed as a shrill, irrational Bush-hater by the very same people who felt that impeaching Bill Clinton for getting extramarital blow jobs was what a sober reading of the Constitution clearly demanded.

I mean, I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks sex is a constitutional crisis but feels we should all look the other way on lying the country into a ruinous illegal war and subverting numerous parts of, you know, the actual constitution is, to put it mildly, hardly a dispassionate observer of presidential offenses.

I have felt for at least three years that Bush's crimes rose to the level of impeachable offenses. Nevertheless, there have always been political arguments against impeaching him. It would make the Democrats look vindictive and partisan. It would make impeachment look like a mere political tool instead of the nuclear option it used to be, if two presidents in a row got impeached (after having only one president get impeached in the entire rest of history).

I was on board with those arguments--reluctantly, because if the stuff Bush is doing isn't impeachable, what would be? (If history is any indication, blow jobs, burglary, and botching Reconstruction.) But I thought, well, we'll get through this, and it's better for the Democrats not to take the risk.

You know what, though? Screw the risk. I hope the buzz is wrong, but the speculation right now seems to be that Bush is going to try to provoke Iran and Syria into war. Without Congressional approval, and without making any sort of case to the American public.

The administration also openly believes in the "unitary executive" theory of presidential power, meaning they think the president gets to do everything he wants.

Press Secretary Tony Snow, the other day: "But, you know, Congress has the power of the purse. The president has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way."

As Charlie Pierce puts it:

OK, that last comment is the ballgame. If Congress says no, he can do it anyway, because his pet AG and a couple of third-string academics say he can, or because big baby Jesus commands him to do it, or because he's the Decider. He is impervious to persuasion; not listening to Jim Baker was sheer ingratitude, if nothing else, given the fact that he'd be digging dry holes in Midland if Baker hadn't helped bail him out all those times. He recognizes no limits. Hell, if you did impeach him, and if you did convict him, I think it's even money he wouldn't recognize the Congress' power to do THAT. Of all the wreckage that's accumulated over the past seven years, the "unitary executive" is the one that most desperately needs to be swept away. I'm not sure there's another way to do that.

That's the problem. There isn't. Other, younger democracies learned from that mistake; in most western countries, if the President were at 30% approval and wildly overstepping his authority in deeply unpopular ways, they'd have a vote of "no confidence" and throw his ass out. We don't have that here. So we have a destructive fool of a president basically thumbing his nose at Congress and the public saying "yeah? How're you going to stop me?"

Well, the Constitution gives us two ways.

One, the Democrats have the power of the purse. They can cut off funding for things Bush wants to do. I'm all for this. I don't care if it has political consequences. Given that the escalation is roughly as popular as flesh-eating bacteria, and the war itself isn't doing much better, I'm actually not convinced it does have political consequences in the first place, but even if we assume "the Democrats don't support the troops" is an argument with some venom left, so what? It's the right thing to do. They need to do it.

The other is impeachment.

And if Bush thinks he's the king, and he can expand a war the country wants out of even if Congress says no, we have one way to stop him.

One way or another, we will be setting a precedent, here. If Bush expands his war, and Congress doesn't impeach him, the precedent will be that the President really is king. He has no checks on his authority. He doesn't have to listen to Congress no matter what they do.

Or, we could pull the trigger. For the Constitution, for the future.

If he goes into Iran and Syria, for Buddha's sake, pull the damn trigger.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Avoiding the inconvenient truth

The school board in Federal Way, Washington has placed restrictions on showing the film An Inconvenient Truth after Frosty Hardison, a local parent of seven, complained. Hardison is a creationist who believes the Earth is 14,000 years old and...well, here's a quote from the article:
"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher. The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
His wife, Gayle, feels the movie is excessively anti-American:
"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all. If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown."
The school board passed a resolution stating that before showing the film teachers must get the approval of the principal and superintendent, and must make sure a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented."

Personally, I think a "credible, legitimate opposing view" to global warming is a contradiction in terms. I also don't think Frosty Hardison represents a credible view on anything. But what if he's right and global warming is just a sign that the Second Coming is imminent? Well, maybe we should start cleaning up our planet so it's in nicer shape when Jesus gets here. It's polite to clean up your house for important guests, after all.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ironically, it's the only way to watch without puking

Rachel Maddow's Bush escalation speech drinking game.

Do it somewhere you don't have to drive.

Bush "disturbed" by Hussein execution video

According to CNN, Bush is "disturbed" by the taunting Saddam Hussein received during his execution. But how do we square this with Bush's 1999 comments to a Talk magazine reporter about the execution of Karla Faye Tucker?
"I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "

"What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

Perhaps Bush believes condemned criminals should only be mocked after they've been executed?

Monday, January 8, 2007

I hereby call for less bipartisanship

Yes, you heard me. I hereby call for the new Democratic Congress to be as partisan as they need to be, without apology.

I'm starting to get rather annoyed that the national press seems to have decided that the Democrats ran on a platform of restoring bipartisanship to government, and that the message the voters sent in overwhelmingly electing Democrats to Congress (not a single Democratic incumbent lost, while Republicans lost a lot of previously "safe" seats) was actually that they wanted everyone in the government to play nice with each other.

That strikes me as complete and utter nonsense.

I mean, that's basic logic, isn't it? You don't overwhelmingly elect one party if the message you're trying to send is that you want both parties to play nice. You only do that if your objective is to stop the party in power from doing what it's been doing. This was pretty clearly a response to the public's losing faith in the Republicans and trying to put a check on their power. In that sense, it's a mandate for as much partisanship as possible.

Furthermore, the Democrats didn't talk about bipartisanship during the campaign. They only started promising to work with the other side after the election, as a goodwill gesture to the Republicans whose electoral backsides they'd just kicked. Logically, then, people couldn't possibly have voted for them because of their promises of bipartisanship.

Of course, this is just another instance of a Republican talking point being accepted by the mainstream media as if it were an objective framing of the truth. But it's always seemed to me like the Washington media establishment values "bipartisanship" and government harmony more than the public does. In fact, they often seem to value it as an and unto itself, which it isn't.

David Broder, the "dean" of the national press corps, wrote multiple columns singing the praises of the Iraq Study Group before their plan was even unveiled--not because of any expected result, but because it was soooo good to see members of both parties working together toward some objective. It seemed entirely beside the point to him what that objective was--never mind that the issue at hand was one of life and death, what really mattered was that the people at Washington cocktail parties get along.

(It's worth noting, incidentally, that the sages of our national news media seemed untroubled by "partisanship" when Newt Gingrich was calling Democrats a bunch of sick traitors, when the Republican Congress was shutting Democrats out of the debate entirely for years, when Clinton got impeached for nakedly partisan reasons, when George Bush was insinuating that Democrats wanted al Qaeda to kill us all...but suddenly, when Democrats seize power, these same sages are apoplectic over the idea that Democrats might be too "partisan." Once again--liberal media, my tailfeathers.)

Look, bipartisanship is only a good thing if it's in the service of a good idea. If a Democrat and a Republican decide to work together to push me down and take my lunch money, that's "bipartisan." If the Republican tries to do that and the Democrat tries to stop him, that's "partisan strife," but it's also better.

I'd like to see both parties working together for the genuine public good as much as anyone, and I imagine most of the country would, too, but if one party goes completely off the rails and starts pushing terrible policies, it does no one any good for the other party to work with them in a "bipartisan" fashion to enact those terrible policies. And this last election was a reflection of that.

I hope Madame Speaker et al will worry more about what's good for the country than about "bipartisanship."

Saturday, January 6, 2007

More Rice-a-Roni for everyone

So Fox News put up a banner in front of a picture of Nancy Pelosi holding her gavel reading "100 Hours to Turn American Into San Francisco". Can anyone tell me why this is remotely a bad idea, anyway?

The constant tarring of San Francisco in political discourse is amazing. Besides the obvious nutcase Bill O'Reilly's entreaties to al-Qaeda to blow up San Francisco, there's also the term "San Francisco values" which they have desperately tried to paint as a pejorative. Heck, trying to sway rural voters by calling Nancy Pelosi a "San Francisco liberal" was intended to be a fierce swipe at her morality.

This just doesn't take, except with the extremists. I don't know a single progressive activist who would use an epithet like, say, "Montgomery, Alabama ideals." (Honest, I'm just picking a city at random here.) For one thing, to tar a whole city based on an outlook shared by some vocal residents is ludicrously unfair. For another, it's missing the point entirely. You can't base your arguments on some vague idea that once Sodom falls, the maypoles spring forth out of the earth. Misinformed attitudes don't come from a physical place; they come from an ideology. It is possible that facets of this ideology are formed in a single location, but once they spread into the consciousness of the public, the argument has gone beyond "cutting off the head and the body will die."

Many conservatives live in the San Francisco area. Many more have loved ones there. As a result, the blame the name game can't possibly succeed on a massive level, or Republicans will never have a credible chance in California again. (Besides Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose success of late has come from creeping towards the left.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The McCain Doctrine

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) deserves a serious look in the 2008 primaries. He showed part of why again when, seemingly off the cuff during an interview (but who knows), he called the idea of escalating the war in Iraq "the McCain Doctrine."

I hope it sticks. McCain is, of course, the uberhawk who's always being called a centrist for some reason I've never understood. And he's been pushing for sending 20,000-30,000 more troops into Iraq for months, now.

Given McCain's obvious presidential aspirations, and the obvious extreme unpopularity of the Iraq occupation, this was either 1) a statement of pure principle (unlikely, since McCain seems to have violated nearly every principle I associate with him in his effort to play nice with the insane right-wing fringe), or 2) a political calculation. The latter theory goes like this: McCain judged that Bush would never actually send in more troops, so when things inevitably continue going to a hot place in a handbasket there, McCain can say that if we'd done it his way it would have worked.

You see that strategy, sometimes, on both sides: you propose something you know won't become actual policy, but which is (or sounds plausibly like) a better idea than the status quo, so later you can claim to have been the one with better judgment.

The problem is it looks like Bush is actually going to do it. And if McCain is closely associated with the escalation of a tremedously unpopular conflict, that's a big hurdle in 2008. The tag also has the advantage of being true--McCain's been pushing this longer than anyone.

The McCain Doctrine. Pass it on.

Cloned T-Bone?

The FDA recently gave preliminary approval to meat and milk from cloned livestock, saying the products from cloned animals were indistinguishable from products from animals bred the usual way. (This makes sense, since a clone is essentially an identical twin, albeit one born at a different time than its "sibling.") This has been a tremendously controversial decision, and I'm not entirely sure why. We already eat food from cloned plants all the time, after all. (You don't really think seedless grapes reproduce on their own, do you?)

My guess is that people see this as a proxy battle for genetically engineered foods, which is a different technology, but one that's developed by many of the same companies that are also pursuing cloning. The public is not particularly good at distinguishing similar-sounding issues and responding to them in a nuanced way, and activist groups often make no effort to explain the differences, probably fearing it might dilute the impact of their message.

There's also probably a religious aspect -- people who see cloning as tampering with God's creation, or who see acceptance of cloned animals as part of a slippery slope towards human cloning. Similar objections were raised when Robert Bakewell introduced selective breeding methods in the 18th century. In what was perhaps a bit of anthropomorphization, many raised particular moral objections to the practice of "breeding in," where a parent is bred with their offspring to help reinforce a desirable trait.

On the whole, I think the attention being paid to cloning right now is unfortunate. For one thing, it's a tempest in a teapot. Very little product from actual cloned animals will ever make it into the food supply -- it's mainly going to be used to aid selective breeding, so it's the offspring of clones that we'll be eating. Activists would be better off spending their time on genuinely worrisome issues, like the overuse of antibiotics. A stance that opposes any and all new food technologies, on general principle, doesn't benefit anyone.

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