Another Victory for the Human Extinction Movement

It’s just incredible that, by all evidence, the Soviets set up, and the Russian government may still be operating, a doomsday machine. For one thing, the logic for setting it up is rather flawed. It seems like a waste of nukes to use them to blow up the entire planet, given that in any given case, the vast majority of the nuclear detonations would be totally useless for deterrence. Moreover, it’s surprising that the Soviets were able to place the weapons in enough places worldwide to cause human extinction. But the kicker, as Ron Rosenbaum says in the Slate piece, is still the point made by the title character in Dr. Strangelove: if the Soviets spent the time, money, and effort setting up this system, then why the hell didn’t they tell anybody? The whole mechanism is useless if it’s kept secret. I don’t doubt that the system was/is actually in place, but the motives behind the apparent sequence of events are baffling.

The Senators Warner

It’s kind of hard to believe that Sen. John Warner (R-VA) only joined the Senate in 1979; he seems like far more of an elder statesman than that. But no longer – he’ll be retiring at the end of the term, setting up Mark Warner to beat down Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) or (this would be fun) Jim Gilmore in the general. It’s amazing to think that as of January 5, 2009, the governor and two Senators from Virginia will all be Democrats. That’s a quick transformation.

I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means

This seems to be the latest Republican argument against a pullout:

[Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV)], who returned Tuesday from his fourth trip to Iraq, met with U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Iraqi Deputy President Tariq al-Hashimi and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.
“To a person, they said there would be genocide, gas prices in the U.S. would rise to eight or nine dollars a gallon, al-Qaida would continue its expansion, and Iran would take over that portion of the world if we leave,” Porter said Wednesday in a phone interview from Las Vegas.

All of these claims are pretty clearly false. al-Qaeda is thriving because of, not in spite of, the occupation; Iran would, indeed, back Shi’ite militias and parties, but it’s not like they’re not doing that currently; and it’s laughable that a pullout would damage the Iraqi oil export industry enough to provoke a tripling of the gas price. But this last argument intrigues me. Supposing it were true, it should be a reason to get the hell out, not to stay. Oil prices skyrocketing to $9 a gallon would be an amazing, fantastic development; it would encourage massive conservation and prompt the development and distribution of alternative energy sources like there was no tomorrow. Moreover, achieving that price through a very popular policy, like a withdrawal from Iraq, is obviously preferable to achieving it through a very unpopular one, like a big gas tax. So here’s hoping that by some miracle, Rep. Porter is right, and we start paying up the wazoo for oil once we’re out of Iraq.

The Carlson Clarification

Tucker Carlson, on the apparently-not-a-gay-bashing incident:

Let me be clear about an incident I referred to on MSNBC last night: In the mid-1980s, while I was a high school student, a man physically grabbed me in a men’s room in Washington, DC. I yelled, pulled away from him and ran out of the room. Twenty-five minutes later, a friend of mine and I returned to the men’s room. The man was still there, presumably waiting to do to someone else what he had done to me. My friend and I seized the man and held him until a security guard arrived.
Several bloggers have characterized this is a sort of gay bashing. That’s absurd, and an insult to anybody who has fought back against an unsolicited sexual attack. I wasn’t angry with the man because he was gay. I was angry because he assaulted me.

He wasn’t clear about this on the show, for reasons that are now evident, but I’m willing to trust him and say that this really was an attempted rape on the part of the gay guy. In that case, my apologies to Carlson. It was an unfortunate event, and it was too bad that a spectacle was made out of it.

They Are The Pipettes

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Have you heard the Pipettes? If not, that’s understandable. Their debut album, appropriately titled We Are the Pipettes, is only available in the U.S. through import. It used to be available at eMusic, which is how I got a hold of it, but it’s gone now.
It’s too bad, really. The Pipettes sound like the long lost love child of Phil Spector and Kathleen Hanna, and their debut is 30 minutes of feminist girl-group pop bliss. Don’t believe me? Listen to its most successful single, “Pull Shapes”:

Yep, the Pipettes are pretty fantastic. Which is why it’s fortunate that Interscope has announced that it will release We Are the Pipettes stateside on October 2nd, with a North American (and Japanese, and Australian) tour to follow. What’s more, the U.S. edition will add two new tracks, so even impatient folks like me might need to shell out for it. But I don’t mind; The Pipettes are the kind of band whose albums I don’t mind buying for just two songs. They’re just that good.

Main Defender

Allow me to echo the many people pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of John McCain, Norm Coleman, and Pete Hoekstra calling for Larry Craig to resign without making the same demand of David Vitter. Moreover, let me go further and say that neither Vitter nor Craig should resign. As the cases of Clinton, Barney Frank, and Gerry Studds all show, being involved in a sordid and socially verboten sexual relationship does not, in and of itself, render someone a bad lawmaker. This isn’t to say that either Vitter or Craig are actually, well, good lawmakers. They’re not, but that has much more to do with their mutual proclivity for voting in lockstep with the Republican leadership than with their taboo sexual interests. I would be more than happy to support their resignations if they were to be based on, say, their support for the war, but resignations based on sexual behavior just seem silly.

The Varieties of Tucker Carlson Dickitude

Tucker Carlson is a dick. But most of the time, he’s just a faux intellectual, dishonest argument-making kind of dick. He’s the kind of guy for whom I have contempt because of his inane, incoherent and infuriatingly smug arguments, not because he’s a violent jerk to people. Except that it turns out he’s a dick of the thuggish variety as well:

CARLSON: Having sex in a public men’s room is outrageous. It’s also really common. I’ve been bothered in men’s rooms.

[Dan] ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.
CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and — and —
ABRAMS: And did what?
CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!
[laughter]
CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I’m the least anti-gay right-winger you’ll ever meet…

Jesus, I sincerely hope I meet right-wingers who are less anti-gay than someone who unapologetically attests, on national television, to having committed a fairly extreme and violent hate crime against some random gay guy. How on earth is it that Tucker Carlson didn’t at least get arrested for this? This seems like a fairly clear-cut case of assault and battery.

Being Sick Is Bad. More At 11.

Megan McArdle has been writing a series of epically point-missing posts about health care that seem specifically designed to annoy. The latest really got me, though. Megan is flabbergasted – flabbergasted! – to hear that one thinks that the government should help the sick:

If we should give money to sick people regardless of need, is it because being sick sucks and we’re giving people bonus payments for having sucky things happen to them? If that’s the case, why don’t we give people bonus payments for, say, being really ugly, or being severely socially awkward, both of which seem at least arguably worse than, say, having chronic asthma.
Also, if they deserve money just for being sick, why give them the money in the form of healthcare? Wouldn’t a cash transfer be even better? Then the people who wanted to be treated could spend the money on healthcare, and other people could spend the money on something they valued even more than healthcare. It seems like a Pareto improvement in net happiness over a simple single-payer system.

There are a whole number of things wrong with this. The hypothetical in the first point is beyond silly. The difference between giving a sick person medicine and giving a socially awkward person money is that the medicine will get rid of the sickness, whereas I’m pretty sure money is an, at best, unreliable cure for social awkwardness. Inasmuch as we’re interested in alleviating suckiness, it should be pretty obvious that universal health care is a much more sensible policy than welfare payments to ugly people.
Megan again ignores the fact that medicine cures illness (a minor point in discussions of health policy, I know) in her second argument. When choosing between a cash transfer and medical treatment for a sick person, one is operating under the presumption that the person deserves one of these two things because they’re sick. Hence, it’s pretty absurd to argue for an option that wouldn’t necessarily reduce said sickness over one that most certainly would.
But the thing that annoys me most about Megan’s argument here is that she seemingly forgets that sickness is bad – not just sucky, bad. It just doesn’t cause discomfort. It hurts the economy, through disabling and/or killing workers. In communicable cases, it endangers everyone in contact with the sick person. Etc., etc. Combatting individual illness is a public good – not just a helpful action for the patient in question. The government has a legitimate interest in combatting it, not for welfare purposes, but for the entire public’s economic and medical well-being.

Supergroupitude

I imagine that if every member of every indie rock band, ever, went to the same elementary school, this is what said school’s sing-alongs would look like:

Via Pitchfork, members of the white-clad chorus and backing band include:

  • Three members of The National.
  • Two of Feist‘s colleagues in Broken Social Scene.
  • A.C. Newman, fearless leader of The New Pornographers (he’s the redhead with the beard in the second row).
  • The husband-and-wife team from Mates of State.
  • Nicole Atkins.
  • Grizzly Bear in its entirety.
    That’s, um, impressive.