Monday, September 25, 2006

The War On Fat Kids

From a letter to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, in response to a report from the Institute of Medicine that states the federal government and the food industry aren't doing enough to combat child obesity:

Why should taxpayers be saddled with yet another task force and more government programs to combat childhood obesity when the two causes of this epidemic for the overwhelming majority of children are clear and agreed upon by all: an unhealthy diet coupled with a lack of appropriate exercise?

In the past, these behaviors were the responsibility of parents, who both monitored and modeled these activities for their children. Now, too many parents are unwilling to set aside the time and resources that it requires to prevent obesity in their own children. When my children were young, I sacrificed time, income and career advancement to ensure that they exercised on a daily basis, ate a well-balanced diet and learned to prepare healthy food for themselves.

Now that my children are grown, I, as a taxpayer, resent being asked to take on this responsibility for other parents by paying for more studies and government programs for remedies that are obvious to all. Similarly, I am fed up with the liberal agenda that makes parents the "victims" of television advertising about non-nutritious foods and the downsizing of school-based physical-education programs.

Parents need to recognize that their children's health is their responsibility, whether that means modeling a healthy lifestyle, preparing nutritious food, or assuming a more active role in schools to reverse the trends of unhealthy food choices and the elimination of physical-education programs. Our precious health dollars should be targeted toward the diseases for which we don't understand causes and cures. For the vast majority of obese children, both the cause and the cure are apparent, and both are modifiable by parents.

I agree with the letter writer, except about the characterization of the "liberal agenda." It is a common trait of all Americans to expect the guvmint to tackle society-wide problems; as well they should, since democratic government, at its best, represents the efforts of collective will. In fact, what this letter writer rails against is what our society, and our goverment task forces, should address: crappy parenting.

So, what to do? The dominant "liberal agenda" notwithstanding, no cultural force is going to make corporations stop aggressively advertising junk food to kids and their parents. And compulsory exercise already exists in most public schools in the form of gym class; extending gym through legislative mandate is politically infeasible, if not unenforceable. What this requires is creativity. How abou tax credits for parents of skinny kids? Annual child body-mass measurements, with mandatory parenting classes for moms and dads of fat kids?

There must be other great ideas out there, short of eugenics. Anyone?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Holy Trinity of the Left

Beautiful! Chavez, Chomsky and the UN.

John Birch is spinning in his grave.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The German People is Unworthy of its Fuhrer

Before Germanicus gets all hot and bothered and mistakenly "invokes" Godwin's Law (what do you expect from a guy who gets all his information from "Britænnicæ Onlinæ"?), let me say that I'm not comparing Bush or the war cheerleaders to Hitler or Nazis. I'm simply wondering where the argument goes from here: the war continues to lose popularity, the armed forces continue to miss recruitment goals, Iraq has become the sectarian hellhole war opponents predicted it would be, no WMD are found, intervention has radicalized the Muslim world and strengthened the hand of the worst elements in the region and severely limited our options with respect to Iran.

Do the hawks just keep saying that Saddam was a monster and the world is better off without him? Well, yeah, but so what? China would likely be better off without the Communist Party, but we all understand that there are many, many practical reasons for us not to invade Beijing. If they were honest, the next stage of the rhetorical campaign would be to blame the American people for a lack of will, a la Colonel Kurtz and the Beltway Vietnam revisionists. However, since they can't do that, I guess they'll just blame Democrats for leading the volk astray. And how about this article, which is says the DOD has a serious case of the soft biggotry of low expectations (my favorite phrase in politics, by the way):

MORE TROOPS....The New Republic reports on the state of our military today:

After failing to meet its recruitment target for 2005, the Army raised the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 40 in January — only to find it necessary to raise it to 42 in June. Basic training, which has, for decades, been an important tool for testing the mettle of recruits, has increasingly become a rubber-stamping ritual. Through the first six months of 2006, only 7.6 percent of new recruits failed basic training, down from 18.1 percent in May 2005.

Alarmingly, this drop in boot camp attrition coincides with a lowering of recruitment standards. The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005, and the Army has doubled the number of non-high school graduates it can enlist this year.

There's nothing all that new in this article, but it's worth reading it to get the big picture. Two-thirds of active Army units are unready for combat and the situation is even worse in the National Guard. The number and quality of recruits is down. Equipment is wearing out and not getting replaced. As the authors say, we simply don't have any more combat-ready troops than the ones that are already in the field.

This is why it's not merely rhetorical to ask guys like Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol to tell us where they're going to get the extra soldiers they keep telling us we need in Iraq. They've already tacitly admitted that we can't win the war without more troops, but they're too timid — or mendacious? — to ask the obvious next question: If we need more troops to win, but there aren't any more troops to be had, then what?

Friday, September 08, 2006

More New Ideas for a New Kind of War

In a just world, Don Rumsfeld would be today terrorizing the employees of the Krispy Kreme location he assistant managed.

From the Washington Monthly's blog:

"HE WOULD FIRE THE NEXT PERSON THAT SAID THAT"....Today, via Orin Kerr, comes a remarkable interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, and one of the people with primary responsibility for war planning. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, he says, Donald Rumsfeld told his team to start planning for war in Iraq, but not to bother planning for a long stay:

"The secretary of defense continued to push on us ... that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."

Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.

"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."

...."In his own mind he thought we could go in and fight and take out the regime and come out. But a lot of us planners were having a real hard time with it because we were also thinking we can't do this. Once you tear up a country you have to stay and rebuild it. It was very challenging."

In a way, this is old news. As much as it beggars the imagination, there's been plenty of evidence all along that Bush never took the idea of rebuilding Iraq seriously. The plan was to remove Saddam from power, claim victory, and get out.

However, this is the clearest evidence I've seen yet. The guy who was actually in charge of logistics has now directly confirmed that Rumsfeld not only didn't intend to rebuild Iraq in any serious way, but threatened to fire anyone who wasted time on the idea. Needless to say, he wouldn't have done this unless it reflected the wishes of the president.

And this also means that all of Bush's talk about democracy was nothing but hot air. If you're serious about planting democracy after a war, you don't plan to simply topple a government and then leave.

So: the lack of postwar planning wasn't merely the result of incompetence. It was deliberate policy. There was never any intention of rebuilding Iraq and there was never any intention of wasting time on democracy promotion. That was merely a post hoc explanation after we failed to find the promised WMD. Either that or BG Scheid is lying.

This is an astounding interview, all the more so for the apparently resigned tone that Scheid brings to it. It belongs on the front page of the New York Times, not the Hampton Roads Daily Press.

POSTSCRIPT: An alternative explanation, based on Rumsfeld's admonition that "the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war," is that Rumsfeld and Bush were planning to stay but simply lied about it in order to build support for the war. However, based on the rest of the interview with Scheid, as well as the other evidence that there was no plan to stay and rebuild in any serious way, that explanation seems unlikely. The bulk of the evidence continues to suggest that democracy and rebuilding were simply not on Bush's radar.

Ruminations on Bush-hating

Like many, many Americans, watching President Bush on TV arouses in me a visceral contempt. His mangling of the language, his evasions and misdirects, his smarmy little frat-boy smirk, his phony-baloney piety - my teeth grit, my hands uncontrollably curl into fists when I ponder that this fucker is leader of the free world.

And yet what bothers me almost as much is this tendency of some on the left to unequivocally hate him and everything he does. Picking apart his every phrase, decontextualizing his speeches (which already start out pretty decontextualized), speculating on his motivations for every move - it eschews civilized debate for demonization, a tactic Bush himself is rightly excoriated for.

Why Bush-hating is problematic:

1. Hate is always such an ugly thing. It may make a Jedi powerful, but it does nothing to boost the average mortal human's moral acumen - or "karma," if you will.

2. A visceral, all-consuming hatred of Bush and all he stands for is exactly the kind of intractable attitude one finds so unconscionable in Bush himself, and the right in general.

3. It almost obliges a person to give fawning praise and unswerving fealty to Bush's opponent(s) or successors, no matter how unworthy they are.

4. It breeds a culture of Bush-hating that is self-perpetuating; that is, the only thing that can feed it is more hate. Eventually he'll be gone, and there will be a giant empty space inside all those for whom despising Bush was their daily bread.

The only useful end I can see it serving is to rally supporters to your cause - as legitimate a reason as any, but there are other ways to achieve this end.

I have no problem with calling him names, satirizing him in verse, photoshopping him fucking a dog, etc. These all fall under "fair use" criticisms of public figures in a free society. What's more, he deserves to be the most criticized President in history, given the crimes and misdemeanors he has committed. But hating him for hating's sake is a dead end, morally and rhetorically.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

ABC & Historical Revisionism

From Glenn Greenwald, on ABC's upcoming "Path to 9/11":

"In addition to the obvious inequities, CBS' quick and complete cave-in to conservative protests over The Regans, set next to ABC's combative attack on critics of this film, tell you all you need to know about the merits of the incessent, petulant complaints from Bush supporters about the "liberal MSM.""

Any thoughts on this perceived double standard? This does seem like a particularly inappropriate use of the "dramatization" defense, given the political and historical importance (and, most importantly, the proximity in time) of the subject matter.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Our Friends The Pakistanis

Sounds like the war on terror is over for Pakistan:

Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a "peaceful life," Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a "peace deal" with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden "would not be taken into custody," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

"Peace deals" with the Taliban? Leaving the world's most wanted man alone to lead a "peaceful life"? Just whose side are these guys on, anyway?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Islamic Fundamentalists are NOT FASCISTS

I take issue w/ the incessant Orwellian labeling of certain sects of Islam as 'fascists' by our government and the MSM. For anyone with any knowledge of history, this is a completely erroneous assertion and should be shoved off as rhetorical propaganda. Fascism should more appropriately be called 'Corporatism' because it is a merger of state and corporate power. The alleged "Islamo-Fascists" defined by the Rove administration are revolting against these very things, the encroachment and colonization on and of their traditional lands, and dilution of their cultures and societies by the corporate and hence state powers of the West (see USA). The term fascism more aptly applies to the current state of our pseudo 'democratic' government.

Wikipedia's take is here.