But the issue may find a hostile audience in the Massachusetts Legislature, which has been considering a constitutional amendment that would legally define a marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The state's powerful Speaker of the House, Tom Finneran of Boston, has endorsed this proposal.I smell a civil union compromise ahead, disappointingly. Romney and Mass. Republicans could be bold and allow gay marriage whole-hog, but they'll continue to try to protect a long past vision of marriage. While I commend the court's ruling (particularly it's decison to force the legislature to actually legislate and risk political capital), I don't think we'll see anything more progressive than what already exists in Vermont.
And Republican Gov. Mitt Romney criticizing the ruling, saying: "Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear. Of course, we must provide basic civil rights and appropriate benefits to nontraditional couples, but marriage is a special institution that should be reserved for a man and a woman."
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
From the opinion:
The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples . . .
It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a "civil right" . . . Without the right to marry -- or more properly, the right to choose to marry -- one is excluded from the full range of human experience and denied full protection of the laws for one's "avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship" . . .
The department argues that no fundamental right or "suspect" class is at issue here, and rational basis is the appropriate standard of review. For the reasons we explain below, we conclude that the marriage ban does not meet the rational basis test for either due process or equal protection. Because the statute does not survive rational basis review, we do not consider the plaintiffs' arguments that this case merits strict judicial,scrutiny . . .
The "marriage is procreation" argument singles out the one unbridgeable difference between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and transforms that difference into the essence of legal marriage. Like "Amendment 2" to the Constitution of Colorado, which effectively denied homosexual persons equality under the law and full access to the political process, the marriage restriction impermissibly "identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board."
His bluntness was, at times, staggering. Responding to critics who had dug up a quote from 1995 about how more rich white people should go to jail for drug use and accused him of hypocrisy, Limbaugh said he had himself begun taking drugs around the same time and that "the truth of the matter is that I avoided the subject of drugs because I was keeping a secret . . . I've been doing what drug addicts do, which is keep secrets."Later Limbaugh rambles about "being responsible for my own happiness," and being "reborn at the age of 50," making one ask, "What did they do to you?"
Perhaps the "reborn Rush" will be allow a note of humility to creep into his broadcasts, making him more tolerable for many. But will it make him less entertaining and stylish? Wait and see, and check the January Arbitron ratings.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity tie for #1 (snore...even most conservatives have gotten bored with Fox News and Coulter's book was criticized from both ends of the spectrum). Oddly enough, Mickey Kaus is #14 (not quite as annoying as large slobbering dogs) for "masquerading as a liberal."
W., disappointinly, only makes it to #7. Hang in there, George. There's always next year.
Good for a chuckle, but Pandagon does little to back up his criticism of any of the Top 20, and some are just laughably irrelevant (Sandy Rios?). Sheesh, this guy annoys easily.
Link via Cobb.
When the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in a divorce case recently that a married woman who had a lesbian affair had not committed adultery in the eyes of the law, one disappointed party was GLAD, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. In an amicus brief, GLAD had taken the side of the betrayed husband, who wanted to be divorced from his wife not on the neutral grounds of "irreconcilable differences," but on the specific fault ground of adultery.Jacoby goes on to get everything else wrong, though, by praising the decision. Jacoby, like the court, thinks adultery, like marriage, is between a man and a woman, and that to grant legitimacy to a divorce on the grounds of adultery, when the actual adultery was a lesbian affair, is to see homosexual and heterosexual sex as threateningly similar. This is a cowardly decision. The court, to hold as it did, must have willfully decided the case not on its merits but with an eye toward how such a case would sit as precedent. In fact, I submit it to you: Is it not obvious that the woman in question was unfaithful to her marriage vows? To make the case that she was not is to marshall judicial fiat against the facts of the case and reasonable interpretation. This kind of irresponsible judicial thread-the-needle doesn't stand up to common sense and logic; further, it does so with callous disregard of the case at hand -- that is, denying justice to a reasonable complainant for divorce because a grant of divorce under the terms he requests challenges how a particular judge feels about the legitimacy of the queer.
Jacoby ends with a standard "marriage defender" non-sequitur:
The purpose of marriage is to unite the fundamental opposites of male and female -- the only kind of union that can produce new life. Wherever human society has developed, marriage has developed too, and always for the purpose of bridging the divide between men and women. We look back with scorn at those who twisted the law to make marriage serve their racist agenda [i.e., those who made anti-miscegenation laws]. So will our descendants look at us if we yield to the demand that the marriage laws be twisted to suit a radical sexual agenda.In other words, Jacoby thinks the fight to open marriage beyond racial laws is morally the same as the fight to keep it closed to homosexuals. The tortured logic of that boggles the mind. Jacoby, like those who fought miscegenation, thinks that his argument is made when he simply covers his eyes and says, "This is not how marriage should be!" Moronic, yes, but at least one court has borrowed his blindfold.
1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandPointless to argue with this sort of tabulated nonsense, I suppose, but I have to make the point that nothing Bob Dylan ever did comes within a country mile of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.
2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
3. The Beatles, Revolver
4. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
5. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
6. Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
7. The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
8. The Clash, London Calling
9. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
10. The Beatles, The Beatles (The White Album)
Oh, yeah. These guys just loved Mike, and they really wanted to talk about it. I mean, everybody from General Blount right down to the sergeant who had been driving Mike around—not the one who was driving when he died, but who had been driving him around when he was with his proper embed, before he sort of wiggled out in order to get up to the front. Every single one of them said, "I've just never met anyone who was interested in the same stuff that I am." For one of them, it would be military history, for another one it would be politics, for one of them it would be logistics and planning. Finally, I get down to this sergeant and he said: "Me and Mike, we used to talk for hours." And I asked, "What'd you talk about?" And—if you'll excuse the language— he said, "Beer and pussy." In fact, Mike had bumped into somebody else I talked to, a photographer for USA Today, Jack Gruber, and he said, "Yeah, I bumped into Mike and he said, 'It's been a long time since I've been around eighteen-year olds—if I have to talk about beer and pussy for one more minute, my head is going to explode.'" But they just all loved him. Mike's enthusiasm, and his way of paying attention to people, and the fact that for at least those moments he was with those people, he did care about that stuff in the way they did—that's part of what made him such a good reporter.I have to admit that I was disappointed that Atlantic did no wrapup on their dead colleague, other than an editor's note. Perhaps these comments from O'Rourke are as close as we'll get to knowing what Kelly saw in Iraq, where he went, what he thought. I wish he was still here to write about it all.
Friday, November 14, 2003
In that vein, the Connie reports that the situation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the facts still suggest that most of the attacks are coming from foreign nationals, and are not necessarily reflective of "Ameen Iraq" (my version of "Joe America") and his viewpoints on the occupation. Stated differently, the attacks are opportunistic and designed to inflict pain on the U.S., more as revenge for its infidel ways than for its toppling of Saddam.
On the other, there are serious concerns about the apparent shift in U.S. doctrine to speed up the hand-off of power to the natives. First of all, what do you leave in your wake?
Mr Bremer had previously insisted that the drafting of a constitution should precede elections (as in Afghanistan). But writing constitutions is a painfully slow process—Afghanistan’s effort, unveiled two months late, is a case in point.But, if you wait too long, you face the real possiblity of countries like Italy backing out (notice how brave Berlusconi seeks to appear by keeping his forces in the face of one attack) and Japan never showing up. Granted, both of those countries are giving nominal support, but sometimes the appearance is more important than what lies beneath.
And as the CIA report suggests, time may not be on America’s side. According to the New York Times, Mr Bremer is expected to urge Iraqis to hold elections in the first half of next year. However, he must still work out an agreement with the country’s Governing Council, a 24-member executive made up of Iraqis but set up by America. The council is expected to seek more immediate power for itself, possibly instead of rushed elections. Any solution will require delicate handling of the country’s ethnic divisions, as the Sunni Muslim and Kurdish minorities will be worried about too much power accruing to the Shia Muslim majority.
In the end you can probably view this in one of two ways: (1) all of the attacks and sudden reversals in policy show that W never had a realistic gameplan and that he's simply treading water with no attainable objective in sight with the shift in policy aimed solely at appeasing future voters; or (2) Iraq is a wildly fluid place, with near anarchy, a disturbing mixture of ethnic influences, no democratic tradition in recent memory, and hell, throw in 70% unemployment, no running water, security or healthcare.
. . . in Jamaica, Mick Jagger would challenge Richards — then in his ‘elegantly wasted’ phase — to a game of tennis. Sir Mick appeared for the contest dressed for Wimbledon; his opponent sported ragged jeans and kept a butt end clamped to his lip throughout. Keith won the match 6–1.(Link thanks to Hit & Run.)
The emerging conventional wisdom on Howard Dean's forthcoming endorsements by the country's two most powerful service unions . . . is that, by so clearly elevating Dean to the status of front-runner, they make him an even fatter target for rivals to attack . . . But since Dean was already the front-runner before the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements, the practical effect of those endorsements will be to transform him from de facto front-runner to prohibitive favorite. And what having a prohibitive favorite does is create a situation in which no other candidate can beat Dean outright. Instead, they have to try to win what's essentially a race for second place . . . But if the only race that matters for the moment is the race for second place--i.e., just making the playoffs--why on earth would you waste your time attacking the guy who's in first? The only front-runner any candidate should now care about is the guy who's the front-runner in the race for second. Which means the attacks on Dean should start to diminish.Don't tell that to Joe Lieberman, who just made a big (for rural New England, anyway) media buy specifically to whack Dean:
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, trailing his major rivals in New Hampshire, takes a few soft swipes at front-runner Howard Dean in a new television ad that began airing Friday . . . He doesn't name Dean, but the subject is clear . . . It is the first ad of the presidential campaign that singles out a Democratic rival albeit without naming names.I think TNR's analysis is wrong-headed anyway. If Kerry were the solid front-runner, with Dean as a strong dark horse, it would pay to attack the dark horse, partly because Kerry is running, for all its bluster, a bland campaign. But when a candidate like Dean has the "big mo" and a huge financial advantage, he's a sensible target, particularly as a front-runner. If you want headlines, hit the guy who's getting headlines. (Of course, Kerry's getting headlines too. But the rule there that obtains is "Never interfere with your opponent when he is in the process of self-destructing.")
If there is a correction, I'm sure it will be followed by a giant "BUT." For Vanity Fair columnists, any dollar amount more than what Affleck spent on "make-up jewelry" for you-know-who is beyond their ken, and is therefore unreasonable. So even if we're only several trillion in hock, it's time to start soaking somebody. Just not P-Diddy, 'cause he raised like tons of money for charity when he ran the NYC marathon and his Grammy after-parties 'effin rock.
That said, I wholly strongly endorse Bowen's musical choice. "Tis not the season, till I hear it.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Nonetheless, complaints were made:
On Thursday, some of Moore's supporters promised to file suit over the chief justice's removal, saying his ouster overturned the will of those who elected him to office.Umm, yeah, see, just because you're an elected official it doesn't mean you can flaunt the Constitution. You could vote in a candidate whose sole platform was to put Jews into "education camps" but that doesn't mean he gets to do it.
"Our vote is being negated," said Bob Jewitt, a media coordinator for the Christian Defense Coalition.
"This is not just for show," Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, one of the yak-a-thon proponents, pronounced. Of course it's just for show! There is zero possibility the event will change Democratic votes on the disputed nominees . . . [Majority Leader Bill] Frist says the yak-a-thon will raise public awareness regarding the cloture rule. People are going to march in the streets about cloture?Raise public awareness? Isn't that we have liberal whiners . . . er, activists for? I've made no secret of the fact that I think the Democrats' strategy is petty, juvenile, ill conceived, and likely to backfire. The GOP, obviously, believes in fighting fire with fire -- hence the petty, juvenile, ill conceived gesture now going on in the Senate that will likely backfire.
In the coincidences department, Easterbrook is surely aware that his brother Frank has been mentioned as a possible "spoiler" recess appointment if the Dems succeed in blocking the current slate. The idea goes that Bush, if defeated by the Senate, would recess-appoint some leading conservative intellectuals for a year -- ostensibly to make the Dems realize how safe-as-milk mainstream the current nominees really are. Easterbrook, Posner, Kozinski, and Bork are regularly mentioned in this scenario, though at least the first two have flirted enough with libertarian ideas to be as likely unpalatable to the right as the left.
At the same time, cigarette makers pumped up their marketing budgets by 66 percent in the three years following the settlement to a record $11.45 billion a year, the group's report said.
Casualties at day’s end are nothing short of horrific; at least 8,000 and possibly as many as 9,000 were wounded in the haphazardly coordinated attack, which seems to have no unifying purpose or intent. Of this number at least 3,000 have been estimated as having been killed, making June 6th by far, the worst single day of the war which has dragged on now - with no exit strategy in sight - as the American economy still struggles to recover from Herbert Hoover’s depression and its 25% unemployment.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Howard Dean's temper is no secret here in his home state. He has called political opponents "boneheads" and said they're "in la-la land." He's told lawmakers that he would like to see them lose their jobs. One longtime adversary wonders whether he's up to tasks that require tact, such as international diplomacy.Is Dean too much of a hotheat to be president? I don't think so. This is a nice example of "meme" journalism. The "Dean Temper" story has been bouncing in the undercurrents for a while, and his opponents have quietly made it a key talking point. But it comes across as a little bit silly. For one thing, Dean's mouth has been the source of his stellar rise in popularity among the party faithful. Yes, he'll have to modulate for the general election, but for now he's clearly riding a straight-talk wave. For another, Dean's outbursts have been pretty minor. I was among the minority who thought he defended himself well over his Confederate flag comments, and thought he had no reason to apologize. Perhaps it was a gaffe according to the Kinsley definition -- when a politician accidentally speaks the truth -- but the fallout would have been much less if the Democrats didn't insist on sharing the stage with race hustler Al Sharpton, who will call out any statement that even appears to break the Democrats' byzantine racial taboos.
Finally, look at the successful presidents who had trouble restraining their emotional side: Nixon presided over a period of very successful diplomacy, despite a short-fused temperament and a tendency to vehemently denounce his opponents for everything, including bad weather; Clinton was notoriously hotheaded (and foulmouthed) and still managed to project a friendly, if slightly oleaginous, persona; LBJ had almost no ability to self-edit, including on racial issues, but still pressed for the civil rights victories that cemented his legacy; Truman, while president, once publically threatened to break the jaw of a critic who panned his daughter's musical debut.
Dean's competitors, particularly Kerry, want to foster a public perception that Dean is not a fellow we want to trust with "the button." Back to USA Today:
[Presidential scholar Fred] Greenstein predicts that if Dean is the Democratic nominee, Bush will run ads attacking him "on grounds of stability." He even imagines a hypothetical spot in which Dean "sends off the (nuclear) missiles and then says, 'Maybe I should rethink this.' " Greenstein hastily adds: "I'm not saying that's what he would do."My apologies to Greenstein, but he sounds like a shill. The fact that he says this legitimizes the point, even though the evidence suggests Bush is set to run a high-minded, rhetorically shiny campaign (as incumbents usually do). It's a self-fulfilling prophecy in camouflage: Dean's competition can invoke just this kind of logic to paint Dean as -- if not unfit for the presidency -- an unwise choice to run against Bush. In other words, it's the same thing: If Kerry, for example, strategically raises Greestein's "Bush will attack" point, it's the same damn thing as Kerry making the attack himself, only with the added twist of gutlessness.
I disagree with Howard Dean about pretty much everything, but the gun-to-the-head test tells me I'd vote for him over the midgets who benefit from the propigation of the "temper" line.
Now, I'm not balding yet, and if the wives' tale holds true, I won't be anytime soon (mother's father wasn't; my dad has his and almost no grey hair to boot - and I've found no evidence of coloring). But even if I were, the last fu*king thing I'm gonna do is get plugs. I see three men regularly (two on the train, one at work) who got them some time ago, at a point when they obviously thought they were as bald as they were going to get. Wrong. Now they're left with the fringe on the side and a ridiculous, artificial hairline in the front, with a regular pattern of plugs fading toward the top and back. I'm sure they got sold on them by some shyster "doctor" who assured them this would be the miracle cure. Now, thousands of dollars later, and with the passage of time, they're left off worse than if they never did a thing.
I'm also amazed by the combover. There has to be a point where you have to stop compensating for the lack of middle, by stretching the sides. Worse still, those who come up from the back and either comb it all forward, or swirl it around. Sometimes we're talking a handful of strands plastered straight across to give the briefest illusion of a hairline, of course only when viewed from straight on and at eye-level (which probably, not-coincidentally, equates to the man's view in the mirror each morning). Let's call this the "Guiliani" (although I see now he's given up the ghost).
I guess the question is: who do they think they are fooling? And also, can the person really feel that much better about himself by doing it? Here's the real proof. Compare men like Michael Jordan (and we'll leave aside, for the moment, whether black men can pull off the bald look more effectively), Patrick Stewart, and Yul Brynner, even. Then look at someone using the -over. Granted the aforementioned men are all good-looking, in-shape athletes or actors, but still. A dignified, graceful bald or semi-bald head that is well-maintained (shaving, polishing, etc.) has to win hands-down over a sick, twisted attempt to manipulate what you have left into a full cover. And let's not start on toupes.
As Eno would say:"Let the market sort it out."
These underground restaurants range from upscale to gritty, and are born from youthful idealism, ethnic tradition or economic necessity. They lack certification from any government agency and are, strictly speaking, against the law. You dine in them at your own risk. If you can find them.I saw this phenomenon, on a smaller scale, in the alleyways of the string of Hispanic-flavored little towns along the Jersey side of the Hudson: Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City. One Cuban fellow I worked with (call him Carlos) was a good example: After work, he would go home, open the back door, and dish out homemade comfort food -- soups, stews, red beans -- that his wife cooked up during the day. It was only a couple of bucks, and it was great food. A number of Puerto Ricans and Salvadorans ran similar businesses, with good food at good prices -- all illegal as hell. Of course, their market wasn't the white yuppies but the locals, so word of mouth tended not to spread very far, and the likelihood of a health department bust was low.
What Radley doesn't say, and the article only implies, is that in a major city, the restaurant business is a racket in which the business owner is regularly rolled by suppliers, the mob, and . . . the state. (In Massachusetts, you need a special license to serve milk, for chrissake.)
''It's all about how to avoid making people sick,'' said Jack Breslin, director of the consumer protection program at the San Francisco health department. ''If no one is looking over my shoulder to see how I'm storing, processing and serving my food, the greater the risk of something bad happening.''It's a lovely sentiment, but really, I'm a big boy now. I can weigh the risks of getting my menudo or pupusas on the sly. The cost of opening a restaurant is often prohibitive, especially in a poor neighborhood. Carlos couldn't charge his neighbors enough to go legit; as it was, his prices covered food costs and a bit of profit for his family. Getting licensed, providing bathrooms, meeting ADA access requirements: these were not in his budget, and they would have priced him out of his market's reach. In the end, how much do you want to pay for a plastic bowl of red beans and a hunk of cornbread on a napkin? How much more is it worth, and how much better is it, in a china bowl with silverware?
Another thing: Carlos . . . was essentially a garbage man, managing waste disposal for a large apartment building. I regularly saw him digging through the central dumpster because the chute was clogged. Does it make a difference? I had no concerns about eating the food he served, about getting sick from contamination, from food poisoning. In fact, I think I probably felt better about it from seeing how clean he kept the trash room at that building.
I'm glad she has the nerve to write about it, but I wish she'd told the CNN handlers to stop insulting the youth of America.
That's my job.
Link via Bitter.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The funny part was reading the Socialist answers.
My left-leanings come in the socio-environmental arena, but not monetary policy, defense, unions or wages. Good quiz. I couldn't easily answer a few, which made it fun to sort them out.
Try it and see where you fall. I'll give you my guesses: Razor is a solid Keynesian, but with a dash of Chicago. Don't play Monopoly with him, since that's where he lets out his inner capitalist-pig demons and will squash you like fly.
Flyer is a Chicago boy; yeah, he read Ayn Rand and everything, but he's still wary that the market might prove fallible . . . someday.
I suppose you can guess where I sit -- I got an 85. (Link via Hit & Run.)
As for the EPA's New Source Review reinterpretation, try this piece by Jonathan Adler, in which he says:
Many of the charges against the Bush Administration's NSR reforms are simply untrue. The Natural Resources Defense Council, for instance, claims that the regulatory changes allow facilities to increase their emissions if they qualify for certain exemptions. Not so. Under the rules finalized this summer month, upgrades or repairs that increase a facility's emission potential are still required to adopt state-of-the-art pollution controls under NSR. The rule only exempts proposed repairs and modifications that will not increase emissions above permitted levels, and that also meet several other conditions designed to prevent wholesale reconstruction of facilities under the guise of maintenance and repair. The point of these changes is to facilitate modifications and repairs that enhance the safety, reliability, and efficiency (and therefore the environmental performance) of existing plants.Since that's National Review, you'll probably bust my balls over being gullible. Fair enough: Here's Easterbrook's full argument on Bush the enviro-monster. It only mentions New Source en passant, but the gist is the same:
Taken together, Bush's three dramatic anti-pollution decisions should lead to the biggest pollution reduction since the 1991 Clean Air Act amendments.Here he is again last year in a speech at an energy technology seminar:
Why is the Bush environmental record so relentlessly distorted? Because it could ruin the instant-doomsday script. Democrats are bashing the president for political reasons, just as Republicans bashed Clinton for political reasons. Environmental lobbies raise money better in an atmosphere of panic, and so they are exaggerating the case against Bush.
More generally, the stupidness of the current debate was on display in the synthetic furor over the new-source rule. Environmentalists were right to say that some Ohio Valley plants were evading the intent of the rule, and business was right to complain that new-source perverse incentives were the worst provisions of the otherwise highly successful Clean Air Act. But the significance of the rule was blown all out of proportion. Enviros and the media suggested the Midwest plants were causing some kind of astonishing calamity, when in fact air pollution in the Midwest and on the East Coast is in steady decline; what was really at issue in the new-source rule was not higher pollution, but the future rate of decline.Bonus: Here's a good study, by someone who has actually read the New Source rules start to finish, which concludes that:
The disproportion between the rhetoric and the reality of air quality policy is really a measure of the disenfranchisement environmental groups fear will take place if a relatively simpler scheme of regulation is adopted--a scheme that will remove their de facto seat at the regulators' table and courthouse steps. Keep this in mind as the new round of public hearings offers mostly nonsensical noise pollution.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Listen, I understand the games countries play with subsidizing certain industries to boost productivity and/or lower prices. Responding countries slap on tariffs, called "safeguard restrictions" to fight fire with fire.
But here's the issue, the WTO, our brainchild and pet project decided not once, but twice, that Bush's pandering to steel states was illegal. In response, Bush is "considering" still whether he's going to remove them. People say that the U.S. doesn't need to play nice with its "allies" because we're right, and everyone else is too wimpy to do what needs to be done. On the security issue, I'll agree. However, these tariffs have nothing to do with security...not even under the expanded umbrella that Ridge et al. use. It's about securing W. Va. among other states come election time. The increased antagonism towards the U.S. will have a reckoning. No, we're not about to face invasion, but an economic cold shoulder is hardly helpful to either side. Hell, even most steel producers don't even want the things. And if those struggling American steel companies want any kind of international market, long term, then they had better re-prioritize their votes. The stakes only get higher.
If you can show that but for the added cost of an upgrade, a polluter would have modernized, then yes, that law is perversely written. But is the company more or less dirty before the upgrade, i.e. is the upgrade designed so that more pollutants can be shed from boiler more quickly? Okay, now I'm reducing this to the micro-, micro- level, and may be impossible to debate. Clinton's final days were full of questionable activity (Ed: as opposed to the first 7.5 years??) to be sure, but the solution to poorly written or unrealistic regulations is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater for the sake of "efficiency". Please, re-write the things, by all means. But don't simply erase them and claim the problem solved. And to be clear, the new regulations provide an alarming back door: Up to 20% of the value of the physical plant can be spent on upgrades without improving pollution controls. This to me sounds like a bone thrown.
Last, all the revised EPA regulations do is invite the states to come around with process servers.
Any organization quickly develops beyond its original goals and becomes a self-perpetuation machine, an organism designed for fundraising. (Trust me on this; I've worked in non-profit development.) It's always about a crisis that can only be averted if you Give Now. Note that NPR, following its $200 million endowment from the Kroc estate, one of the biggest philanthropic gifts in history, is not even thinking about dropping the public-funding teat from its ratlike jaws, nor will there even be a brief fundraising holiday for stations. If anything, NPR will announce that this endowment calls for an expanded mandate.
One of its main targets was a rule requiring operators of older, coal-fired plants to install the most up-to-date pollution-control equipment whenever they upgraded their facilities in a way that increased airborne emissions. During the late 1990s dozens of companies, including Southern, were slapped with stiff fines and sued for violating that rule.The claim that we're rolling back environmental protection, as that author firmly believes, is at best an extremely one-sided reading of the rule changes, as even the nature-boy, anti-SUV Easterbrook has admitted:
Last month, the EPA essentially wrote the rule out of existence and will now allow polluters to increase emissions without having to install new control equipment. EPA officials insist that lawsuits filed under the previous rule will still be pursued, but that assurance is worthless. Certainly, utility executives don't seem too worried by the prospect.
Congress has not altered environmental law under Bush 43, and administration decisions in matters such as the "new source review" issue [i.e., the policy under which the polluters had been pursued] on power plants will, in the worst case, simply slow the rate at which pollution declines.I agree with you that efficiency is a matter of some perspective. I'm talking about principles. Bush waived those coal-emissions regulations because companies were using the restrictions as a reason not to upgrade. Plus, some of the upgrades that tripped the requirement for updated pollution control were questionable. It was, in short, onerous policy. So is the principle cleaner air or having "tough" policies? Under the Bush rules, the plants can upgrade facilities (thus reducing some pollutants -- a good thing, after all) without having to comply with the heavy, stack-scrubber pollution-control updates that would blow the capital improvements budget -- the requirement of which would lead to the unintended outcome of the Clinton-era EPA rules: no upgrades at all, increased pollution as plants age, and a strained business-regulatory relationship. Thus was Clinton able to claim he had tough EPA rules on the books, even though those rules increased pollution by discouraging upgrades.
In other words, the Bush compromise reduces pollution less than total implementation of the Clinton-era rules. But those rules provided a perverse incentive for coal burners to run decrepit plants on outdated technology for as long as they possibly could. Bush has in effect handed the environment half a loaf, instead of none; and the environmentalists have collectively shit in his hand for it.
More: This is all slightly reminiscent of the idea that Bush "wants more arsenic in your water." Clinton, on his way out the door, had dropped arsenic tolerance to nearly unmeetable levels (unmeetable, at least, without huge increases in local spending -- another unfunded mandate). In addition, a lot of the morbidity and mortality information showed that the reduction would have a negligible effect on public health. In other words, Clinton made a huge, expensive, and poorly understood environmental gesture (but not, by the way, until he was grabbing his hat on the way out); Bush put things back to where they had been for 99.999% of Clinton's 8 years, and the greens roasted him for it. That's why we need efficiency in environmental policy. Not everything that is arguably good for the environment is worth the cost, either factored or unintended. I agree that efficiency has an unfriendly face, since it effectively puts a price on everything -- even endangered Warblers. But everything does have a price, even if we don't admit it.
When we look back to some of the horrors of pollution, I think the efficiency argument is further weakened (and nice try with the absurdist example of the Warbler - we're talking billowing plumes of un-treated coal fumes that lead to acid rain, contaminated drinking water, and lung problems - obviously editors read enough Grisham novels to catch on to the lawyer tricks). Efficiency, like anything else, is dependent on perspective. It's certainly more efficient for the companies and their creditors and employees to operate without costly scrubbers and monitors weighing down the bottom line. Not so much for the neighboring housing market or farm, however. Should the laws be modernized to ensure effective remedies? Yes, but that's not what Bush is really doing. He's taking off any risk of sanction.
When you let the asylums run the place...well, you know how that chestnut goes. No one should be left to police themselves. Just like taking a quiz in high school where you grade your own results (or worse, let your best buddy do it), there's little incentive to mark "F" when with a few cosmetic changes, you have a "B". And what market, exactly, is there for pollution regulation? I'm not going to buy a car from GM because it (or its supplier) uses hundreds of dangerous, polluting chemicals to make the impact-resistant plastic resins in a bumper? By the time I learn of all this, it's water under the bridge, and GM has pledged to change its evil ways.
If Bush wants to phase out antiquated laws, that's one thing. But leaving nothing in their place seems a bit drastic, and not very realistic.
Okay, I won't split hairs. Call them laws. From a strict legal standpoint, a change in law (or jurisprudence) will naturally affect those charged. Let's say you're charged with eating a roast beef sandwich in the park. The day before you're called to stand trial for your offense, the city parks commission decides that they will now allow roast-beef-sandwich-eating activities. So you're gonna go before that judge and say, "Fair cop, your honor. I'll pay the fine"? Forgive me, but bullshit. You're going to argue that the change in policy shows that the park has awakened to your plight and blah blah blah, and you'll either win or cause the park to spend gobs of money fighting your appeal -- that is, fighting to prosecute you for something you're now allowed to do anyway.
[Sidebar: Your attempt to stir my moral indignation with a gratuitous death-penalty reference is wasted. Besides, it's only an old lawyer's trick of distraction. Who cares what the inverse of this situation is? We're not talking about the inverse. The analogy above is a better way to look at it.]
Moreover, the change in policy, which will no doubt be covered by the "neutral" media as a sop to "big pollution," is part of an overall pro-market plan for environmental efficiency; it's about time, too, that we approached the environment as we would any other issue of enormous cost and uncertain benefit. (E.g., how many people would you put out of work to save a Cerulean Warbler?) Part of that cost-benefit reassessment will obviously trickle down into enforcement, with activities like prosecution of non-crimes being pretty high on the budget-cutting list. If it's time for the old liberal-green policy paradigm to be reconsidered (and I think it is), doesn't it make sense to shut down prosecutions on things we don't consider crimes anymore?
The environmentalists will spin everything Bush does as part of a black-thumbed plan to pave the entire country (except for snowmobile trails). It doesn't wash, though. The decision to change pollution standards is a good idea, and the decision to cease prosecution under the old standards is smart policy and good budgeting.
As a practicing commercial litigator, my experiences in traffic court are infrequent, thank god. I usually end up there as a favor to a client or friend. Traffic court may best exemplify the two-headed purpose of government bureaucracy: 1) patronage, 2) revenue generator. The judges are all hacks. I don't mean this in a personal way, but in the sense that the worst thing they're seeing is well, traffic violations. There's not much drama there, much less any high-level analysis or policy-making, and as such, they're lazy and not really interested in working too hard. In Philly, it's about 8 "courtrooms" each manned by one police officer who stands-in for the reporting officer (meaning they don't make the actual officer who found the violation appear - the stand-in simply reads from the citation), plus a tipstaff (think "Bull" from Nightcourt), and a judge. Before them, the huddled masses. Insult to injury to those masses, the attorneys get to sit up front, and go first. Our only other perk is we can avoid the metal detectors.
Anyway, back to the hacks. These judges are only there to generate revenue. They really don't care about what happened, and as such, they are pre-disposed to take the officer's side of things 99 times out of 100. This is why you hire an attorney. With an attorney, your odds increase to losing on the cited violation only about 79 times out of 100. Yes, you can always appeal afterwards and start anew and make a deal with the A.D.A., but it's better to clear it up right away. See, an attorney knows the game. We know that the Court will be more apt to let you off if it can still serve its purpose of making money.
Let' say you get caught speeding 55 in a 35. 20mph over, that's some pretty hefty points on your license, not to mention a fine. But, if your record is otherwise good, and you weren't drinking Bud while you were driving, an attorney can usually get the judge to knock your citation down to a "3111" which is a generic non-point moving violation. $99 later, and you're off the hook and your insurance company is never the wiser.
Now if you're dealing with a mere parking violation, then yes, you simply mail in your check. You lose so much more value in taking time off of work, only to wait for two hours and have the judge not listen to your arguments as he finds you guilty. Why bother? You may very well be smarter than the system, but the system always wins. There's my free legal advice.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Yes, Bush's speech was excellent (from our point of view anyway), and it's time for the do-nothings in Olde Europe to understand that all their speeches don't amount to the force of one Abrams tank. Might does not make right, but neither does being contrary on every point make you brilliant. It just makes you disagreeable without offering viable alternatives.
But, what about our environment? Why is Bush bending over backwards to help polluters? Interestingly, it's not that his policies going forward were changed (we already knew he intended to give polluters a break), but now he's killing the investigations into those already tagged for penalty. Meaning those that were in violation of earlier laws, will now be judged under the rules as written. The inverse of that would be akin to executing someone for an act that wasn't a crime at the time the person committed it. Lovely policy.
One week ago: "Yeah, but it's a jobless recovery."
A sudden improvement in the U.S. employment picture on Friday sent some economists scrambling to revise their views on when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates . . . [T]he October payrolls report showed a 126,000 gain, more than double analysts' forecasts. Dramatic revisions to previous data showed three consecutive months of gains.It's all Bush's . . . um . . . fault.
President Bush's call for greater democracy in the Middle East is drawing a cautious response from commentators in the region, who say the United States must first show it is honestly moving to resolve regional conflicts.Perhaps they're referring to the Israel/Palestine question, hmm? That will always be the fallback of statists and stasists in the region -- "Fix the Palestinian situation first!" I would be sympathetic if so many in the region weren't working to bail water back into the leaky lifeboat of a "peace" process.
The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.Further, Bush expressed the great ideal of universality:
Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress.As I listen, I become more and more convinced that, at least in foreign policy, a Bush presidency is the natural choice for liberals with a non-partisan attachment to their core principles. In fact, the very traditions that the GOP embraced for years, Bush explicitly rejects:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.What Bush rejects, as Totten notes, are the very realpolitik principles that liberals derided in the past (in Totten's words, the "our bastards" policy). But most of the liberal commentariat (i.e., those who define their liberal commitment by their degree of opposition to Bush) is silent on the speech. Perhaps I'm reading too much actual policy into a foot-stomper speech, but I don't think so. As Dan Drezner says, up until now, "President Bush hadn't articulated the case clearly enough for why the U.S. should be in Iraq regardless of the WMD question." Perhaps not, but he nailed it yesterday.
Several readers have complained about my dissing of 2001. I stand my ground. There's one point a couple readers have made though I will concede. They say if I'd seen it when it first came out I would think differently. That is undoubtedly true. But some movies -- and books and bands and art -- are significant because they break new ground and some are significant because they are timeless. I'm sure there are other Cornerites more qualified to discuss that point at length. But it seems to me that 2001 was pathbreaking but it wasn't timeless. I feel the same way about Citizen Kane, by the way. I watched it in film class in college so I know all about the groundbreaking techniques used in the film. But those techniques have now been absorbed by the trade. What's left is a pioneering movie which is more interesting as a historical document in the history cinema than as a movie.I've made the same observation myself. Let me put it in the context of a favorite actor of mine, Humphrey Bogart. Michael Curtiz's Casablanca is one of my all-time favorites. It's a stirring, heavyhanded melodrama with great performances, outsized characters, and a zippy script. But it is, as a cinematic achievement, wholly inferior to John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Sierra Madre takes a fairly simple morality tale (more or less an updating of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale) and brings it to life through outstanding use of black and white film, pioneering use of location shooting (i.e., refusing to "pretty things up"), and iconoclastic use of casting (e.g., Bogart, so frequently a hero or anti-hero, is neither in this film). Casablanca is a fun, superficially symbolic story on a thoroughly conventional canvas, while Sierra Madre is an allegorical story told with great artistic merit.
So why would I rather watch Casablanca any day of the week? So much of what made Sierra Madre unique and astounding (and, at the time, unpopular) has slowly become part of the film vernacular, much the way the pioneering techniques of Alfred Hitchcock literally created the cinematic syntax of horror and suspense films. Casablanca, which may have been the best "B" movie ever, has dressy but unconvincing sets, low comedy, crowd-pleasing musical numbers, and a Max Steiner score that is constantly barging in on the dialogue; meanwhile, the story is pure soap opera.
As for Sierra Madre, its outstanding features were either co-opted by convention or overcome by events: casting against type became more common as the studios' monopoly on actors began to crumble; the dominance of Technicolor meant that audiences forgot how to watch B&W movies (that is, B&W in the late-40s/early-50s became associated with lower budgets, rather than artistic choice); location filming became the norm, and John Ford's epics quickly outclassed any location shooting that came before. What's left is, as stated above, a historical document worth pointing to and saying, "Huston was the first one to do that!"
Casablanca, on the other hand, was and always will be an exercise in pure movie enjoyment.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
The anti-Coalition forces can harass the U.S. forces and inflict casualties, but they cannot prevail unless we permit them to. But we do need to acknowledge what is happening there and to modify our approach. In Iraq, we need to isolate the Baathist regions . . . But we also have to secure the borders between Iraq and its neighbors, especially Iran and Syria. These countries need to understand that they will pay dearly for supporting the jihadists that cross their borders into Iraq. Those who believe this is a diplomatic issue need to recall the observation of Frederick the Great: "Diplomacy without force is like music without instruments."No, Iraq is not Vietnam. In fact, he goes on to say, Vietnam wasn't even Vietnam.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Comes now "Reason" with its eloquent and legally persuasive defense of Martha and the federal charges. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's just a particularly persuasive snippet:
The most serious criminal charge against her is not perjury or insider trading but securities fraud, based on the fact that she denied to the press, personally and through her lawyers, that she had engaged in insider trading. This was done, the feds say, not for the purpose of clearing her name, but only to prop up the stock price of her own publicly traded company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. In other words, her crime is claiming to be innocent of a crime with which she was never charged.The remainder of the article goes on to question the foundation of insider trading laws and whether they actually help achieve market efficiency. I'm not quite ready to say they don't, but you decide for yourself.
As for the SEC’s civil case, it hinges on an elastic understanding of insider trading, an offense Congress has never defined. The justification for the ban on insider trading, which makes little economic or legal sense, is just as murky as the behavior covered by it. Given the difficulty of figuring out exactly what constitutes insider trading (let alone why it’s illegal), it is entirely possible that Stewart and her lawyers weren’t sure whether she had broken the rules. In any event, under existing case law, it’s clear that she didn’t.
I don't believe Democrats often, if ever, try to muscle the First Amendment like this...these important decisions should be based on artistic integrity rather than an attempt to appease a small group of vocal dissidents.Says Keane, "Is she talking about [CBS's] The Reagans, or [Mel Gibson's] The Passion?"
In California, the governor-elect is hailed as the Republicans' Great White (or, through the miracle of modern tanning, Orange) Hope. The first Republican gubernatorial candidate to proclaim himself pro-choice, anti-assault weapon and anti-homophobic, Schwarzenegger exhibited a crossover appeal that the GOP hadn't seen since Ronald Reagan invented the Reagan Democrats.Meanwhile, though, Bush has a base to appeal to:
More pointedly, as Karl Rove himself has noted, 4 million Christian evangelicals did not bestir themselves to vote in the election of 2000. At the rate things are going, Bush will need every one of those votes next year. Time, then, to unveil the real risk to our security. No, not al-Qaeda fanatics plotting the deaths of Americans at home or abroad. The administration's credibility on military and security matters generally may not be a whole lot higher than the Democrats' when the election rolls around.So what to make of it? As popular as Arnold is, the GOP is not about to stand for G(ay marriage), O(rgies in the gym), and P(ornography) -- much as we might celebrate such a change. Likewise, Arnold is not going to ever be socially conservative. It looks like it will be an awkward dance for Arnold and the party – and, importantly, for Arnold and Dubya. This is important stuff, and the GOP has to be thinking about the inroads Arnold made into independent-voter territory. Further, if Bush won in 2000 (arguably: yeah, yeah, yeah) with 4 million of his supposed base sitting on their hands, what kind of trade is worthwhile to pick up some Schwarzenegger Republicans in 2004? Meyerson calls for a "Sister Souljah" moment within the GOP, presumably on social issues. Don’t doubt for a second that the Bush team is looking for the right issue, the right time; they showed a bit of this by hammering some of the evangelicals who, post-9/11, attacked Islam.
Happily, Republicans have identified a threat right here at home on which the Democrats lack all backbone: marauding Unitarian ministers, cruising back alleys, threatening to swoop up same-sex couples and, before anyone can think better of it, marry them. Listen closely and you can almost hear the whispers: "Hey, big fellas -- wanna tie the knot?"
Where Meyerson overreaches, though, is in his characterization of the stalemate:
[Schwarzenegger could] condemn his fellow party leaders for their manipulation of xenophobic, homophobic and racist fears. That speech would be no less powerful if delivered with an immigrant's accent.That’s a bit unfair, considering even Democrats have local/national conflicts that can’t easily be papered over. A nominee Howard Dean and his party will have to do a similar dance over guns, considering how Democrats accused Bush of giving the NRA their own West Wing suite. Dean, as Vermont (i.e., local) politics requires, is more vocally pro-NRA than Bush. Likewise, Gephardt has spoken loudly against NAFTA, as befits his Midwestern, union-heavy, blue-collar Democrat base. But NAFTA was a crowning triumph of the Clinton administration’s trade policy and a plank in the New Democrat platform that isn’t likely to disappear. A smug right-wing commentator could make hay about such cynicism (to use Meyerson’s word), and no doubt one is out there now, doing just that. In reality, though, that’s politics. Tom Daschle would love a majority in the Senate in 2004, even if it means getting out the vote for a pro-life Democrat. But the party certainly wouldn’t run a pro-life Democrat for president, since it takes away a good gender issue. Good politics? Yep. Cynicism? Hardly.
Or Schwarzenegger could take a pass, and the Republican Party could stay its current course, alternating between Old Testament morality and new age sexuality in accord with the demographics of the district. Call it a big-tent party, or a boundless well of cynicism.
STILL READING IT: My favorite part is Dean playing Neil Young in "Southern Man" and then Edwards coming back in "Sweet Home [North Carolina]". Priceless pandering.
FAVORITE SHARPTON LINE: On why he's an "authentic" politician: "I've gone to jail ... I've been stabbed."
EDWARDS AGAIN: On how to create jobs. First, identify areas that need jobs, then dole out money to people as "seed money". Also, give "help" to businesses that will re-locate to areas that need it. Hmmm, this sounds like "handouts" to me.
KUCINICH: Also on job creation. Undo the Bush tax cuts on the rich. Then take 15% of the Pentagon budget and put into universal kindergarten. How this helps the economy is left unsaid. What a loon.
Props to Viking
Besides, I bet in the 1850s, people thought an implosion of the Whigs would be great for the Democrats. By 1861, a Republican -- you know, the third party -- was in the White House.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
I can't see anyone from the Green party winning a significant national election, as their whole raison d' etre is so micro-focused that they'd have trouble broadening their base enough. The Libertarians might have a better chance, if they either embraced a more hawkish foreign policy or better explained how foreign direct investment and Levi jeans could transform the third world.
In the end, I think the point is that the Democratic party is so split into interest groups with checkbooks, that there is no cohesive set of principles keeping the party together. Maybe a split is inevitable. The big winner, though, would certainly be the Republicans. This seems so obvious, but Eric didn't mention it. The GOP might not gain in actual numbers, and may even lose some if, for instance, the Libertarian party became a more realistic choice, but a fractured Democratic party would scatter its members in a variety of directions. The net result would be marginally stronger GOP. Predictable chaos would then ensue.
The Liberal Media rears its head often enough that I don't think this proves anything other than that network executives have spines as sturdy as as jellyfish and couldn't stand on their principles if it was part of a field sobriety test. I mean politics is important, but not if it hurts the overnights of Everybody Loves Raymond, right.
Nevertheless, I join my colleagues: Show the damn thing already, fer chrissake.
That said, I think it should have been shown, on CBS not Showtime, simply because this sets a horrible precedent for networks caving in to pressure. It says they don't have the guts to make controversial programs and put them on the air despite hurting a few feelings. I may not have liked their treatment of the Reagans, but I wasn't about to boycott CBS over it. And I think it's important that media outlets don't always censor themselves to the point that caution becomes the rule. It's boring and doesn't "move the ball" in an intellectual sense.
Aside from that, I don't like sacred cows, even if Reagan is a man I respect and admire, despite his flaws.
I think it's fair that he's being picked as the godhead of conservatives, but that doesn't mean critical examination of that life can't occur (even Jesus gets his makeovers). If CBS is pulling the show and putting it on Showtime, for fear of boycotts (and by all accounts, this show is no smear-job, but rather tries to show a complex man during complex times) because certain people can't handle being criticized, then it shows that there is something afoot larger than the man. It also does many a disservice, especially younger people who now won't even have a chance to learn about someone that they either were too young to remember, or maybe missed altogether. Shame on CBS.
Oops. Scratch that. Real pirates don't say things like "coincidentally." Avast! Me boy talks like a deck swabbin' bilge rat, not a land lubber!
As the speed cameras go up in my city, I look forward to hearing about these types of incidents more often. Aside from the issue police overreach, these things just don't work and they cost a ton, encouraging authorities to play a little fast and loose so the machines pay for themselves with tickets. There's no evidence that safety is improved, but somebody's making a buck, so who cares.
As for Mrs. James, the perp in question, the police should just drop it. I don't think they'll like the PR they're gonna get out of this.
Link from Agitator.
The polls don't paint a pretty picture for Katz. Amazingly, this guy only lost by 9,000 votes four years ago. The bugging scandal in City Hall has actually worked in Street's favor. If you go back about a month-and-a-half, Katz had a six point lead. That means a swing of roughly 26-27% in that time. You can only attribute that to a) voters simply changing their mind as the election drew nearer (meaning they were toying with Katz, but then figured they better stay on party lines), or b) the federal investigation energized Street's base as cries of "conspiracy" filled the air. I can tell you, it's more likely the latter, as I've heard enough people spout that rhetoric, egged on by Street's buddies, Gore and Clinton.
I usually vote Democrat, but am not tied to the party. Even my much more liberal wife said that this would be the one time she'd vote against the Dems (fortunately for them, we moved out of the city). Katz's message really got lost in this investigation scandal, which is too bad. As good a job as Street has done in cleaning up Philly, both literally (i.e. abandoned lots, broken-down cars) and metaphorically (violent crime and drugs), his own house is in great disorder (pick one), and he has no economic vision (other than spend, spend, spend). I'm afraid it's going to be four more years.
* (This is paraphrased for the simple reason that the transcript isn't up, plus NPR makes you pony up for them. Listen for yourself: Go here, click "Archives," find the ice cap story in "Monday's stories.")
Monday, November 03, 2003
Then there's Putin. Dubya said he looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul. Many Russians laughed at this notion as most doubt he has one. Well, now he's hell-bent on exacting revenge on the "Oligarchs" who took the Communist industrial machine left-overs and with a little know-how and a whole lot of corruption and violence, made themselves filfthy rich.
This is a fascinating study of the early stages of capitalism, that should be examined closely.
Patients admitted to hospital with heart problems suffer fewer complications if someone prays for them, according to scientists in the US.I never doubted that this was anything more than an anomaly, a bit of statistical noise. It was a small study, first of all; secondly, and more importantly, I didn't see how researchers could effectively work past all the variables that might confound attempts to isolate what amounts to a "paranormal" phenomenon. In other words, we can know (to some extent) why a single heart patient might get well. He may change his diet, start an exercise regimen, quit smoking, etc. But there's no telling why a group of patients might get better (at least not without extensive data collection), and attempting to paste a question of prayer onto such a problem is an open door to the misinterpretation of the data.
The study, carried out at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, found that patients who received alternative therapy following angioplasty were 25% to 30% less likely to suffer complications . . . [a]nd those who received "intercessory prayer" had the greatest success rate.
So I was unsurprised to read this follow-up:
The world's largest study into the effects of prayer on patients undergoing heart surgery has found it appears to make no difference.But the point is that this research is really no better. It came up with an accurate answer (that there's no reason to believe prayer helps) but the methodology is still so flawed that the whole line of research should be thrown out. I can't believe adults are studying this with straight faces.
The results of the controversial study contradict earlier findings from the same team which suggested a drop of a quarter or more in "adverse outcomes" - including death, heart failure or heart attack.
However, that trial involved only 150 patients, and the more extensive research, completed this year, found no evidence of any benefits.