Kerry Grows a Pair

John Kerry put his foot in it:

Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and do your homework and you make an effort to be smart you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

But thankfully he’s not waffling.

Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how,” Kerry said. “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the President and his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team.

GOP leaders are calling for Kerry’s head like it’s 2004 all over again, apparently, the truth hurts.

Many of today’s recruits are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income. Nearly two-thirds of Army recruits in 2004 came from counties in which median household income is below the U.S. median.

Or, from Slate:

Further evidence that the war in Iraq is wrecking the U.S. Army: Recruiters, having failed to meet their enlistment targets, are now being authorized to pursue high-school dropouts and (not to mince words) stupid people.

This year the Army set a goal of recruiting 80,000 active-duty soldiers, but it wound up with just 73,000—almost 10 percent short. As a result, the Army Times reported this week, the Pentagon has decided to make up the difference by expanding the pool—by letting up to 10 percent of new recruits be young men and women who have neither graduated high school nor earned a General Equivalency Diploma.

More than that, the Los Angeles Times reports today that 4 percent of recruits will be allowed to score as low as in the 16th to 30th percentile—a grouping known as “Category IV”—on the U.S. Armed Forces’ mental-aptitude exam.

Makes me wonder why the GOP is so terrified of having this info more widely disseminated. So terrified that party hacks the Heritage Foundation [in an article I won't link to because of Google considerations] actually went to the trouble of creating one of the most bogus “research” projects I’ve ever seen to refute this.

Anyway, inelegant though his comments were, at least Kerry didn’t back away from his own truth-telling.

P.S.  John Kerry — don’t lose us another election.  STFU!!!

Mmm . . . Santorum Sure Tastes Good!*

I’m sympathetic to David Brooks’ Santorum position:

For there has been at least one constant in Washington over the past 12 years: almost every time a serious piece of antipoverty legislation surfaces in Congress, Rick Santorum is there playing a leadership role.

[snip many examples of antipoverty legislation and one "man on dog" non-apology]

The bottom line is this: If serious antipoverty work is going to be done, it’s going to emerge from a coalition of liberals and religious conservatives. Without Santorum, that’s less likely to happen. If senators are going to be honestly appraised, it’s going to require commentators who can look beyond the theater of public controversy and at least pretend to care about actual legislation. Santorum has never gotten a fair shake from the media.

And so after Election Day, the underprivileged will probably have lost one of their least cuddly but most effective champions.

Couldn’t one also correctly note that “If serious antipoverty work is going to be done, it’s going to emerge from a Democratically held House and Senate”?

In other words, Santorum might be correct about antipoverty, but I’m sure the U.S. can find someone else just as excited about the same good antipoverty legislation.

Now, that said, I do think there is an undercurrent of anti-Catholic and perhaps anti-Italian and probably anti-blue collar elitism when it comes to how all you all perceive Santorum. You can agree, disagree or strongly disagree, but I’ll put that out there anyway. And I’d like you to consider it, if you don’t mind — you’ll be a stronger person if you do . . .

(*And don’t get me wrong, I’ve played with Santorum in the past . . . oh, I kill myself . . .)

Somebody Please Let the NY Times in on the Joke

Follow up to the Contrarian’s piece on life-extending calorie-restricted diets.

In today’s NYT, there’s a bit about a study involving rhesus monkeys.

Check out the sample diets offered, one demonstrating a calorie restricted menu of 2000 calories, the other the “average” diet of 3000 calories. The diets were prepared by one Mike Linksvayer.

Now, I don’t know who the venerable Mr. Linksvayer is, but I’m pretty sure he’s one of the militant calorie restrictors noted in the previous NYT article. Or at least he’s someone who likes to torture himself with food. “Fermented soybeans and garlic” for breakfast? Er, Mr. Linksvayer? If that’s all you’re eating, I wonder how you can even get to 2000 calories a day to begin with. It may shock you to know that you can also eat a healthy diet of things like, say, “oatmeal with raisins and almonds” (full disclosure: Matski’s prefered breakfast) and still limit yourself to only 2000 calories a day.

This graphic presents the choice between restricted and non-restricted diets as a stark dichotomy — either you eat fermented soybeans for breakfast and live forever (or, for an extra 80 years or so {{LOOK OUT FOR THE BUS!}}), or, apparently you eat a burger and fries and you get fat and sickly and die.

I usually don’t call out ridiculousness in the Grey Lady, but this is just egregious.

A Tourist Came in from Orbitville, Parked in the Air and Said

A tourist came in from Orbitville, parked in the air and said,

“The creatures of this Democratic party resemble nothing so much as the European style parliamentary coalitions I studied in my ‘Modern European History and Government Class’ back at that elite East Galaxy university my parentals paid way too much money to send me to.

“While the Republicans are a more or less solid block of Nationalists and socially conservative populists (with a fading few libertarians stubbornly clinging to the notion that the party that has put America in massive debt and passed laws to steadily erode civil liberties is somehow pro-sensible economics and pro-individual rights), the Democrats are a hodge-podge of competing groups. It’s a rickety coalition, with myriad constituencies having so little in common that even when united in opposition to the most important policy disaster of the day (Iraq) can barely muster collective victory.

“You’ve got the party’s progressive (socially liberal populist) core. This used to be a broad group of farmers, trade unionists, academics and professionals, but these days it’s really just a small but vocal group of policy activists. That yeller guy — what’s his name? oh, Howard Dean — is their leader. This group trends more and more to out and out socialism, or even to utopian socialism in its most extreme examples, like that strange little city in the far northwest of the contiguous 48 states … Seattle, I think it’s called. Let’s call this group the Social Dems.

“You’ve got the American equivalent of Christian Democrats — socially conservative trade unionists and other manufacturing workers. These folks have traditionally favored redistributive policies along class lines and tolerated their more progressive party breatheren, but lately as their economic circumstances have become more and more tenuous, their latent nationalist and reactionary beliefs have come out and they’ve been defecting in droves to the GOP.

“Then you’ve got the ‘liberal centrists,’ or what in Europe would be considered a right wing party of classical liberalism. Pro-trade, pro-business, pro-individualism, in America these folks tend to be regarded as elistist, as their politics tend to be those of the educated upper management and high-income professionals. Most of the party’s current putative ‘leaders’ belong to this group — Hillary Clinton being the most visible example.

“Finally, you’ve got a hodge-podge of special interest groups. Greens, ethno-centric groups, women’s rights voters, and others who have very specific policy preferences based neither on redistribution nor broad social policy. Generally, their interests are aligned with the progressive elements of the Democratic party, but their loyalties are weak and the party has to ‘spend’ inordinately platform planks and lip-service to keep them happy.

“Since the Democrats have by necessity to be the ‘party of all policies, master of none’ — and when you consider the American electoral system, which rewards ‘first past the post,’ combined with the particularities of the geographic dispersal of voting groups — you’ve got a situation where any given Democrat voter has little likelihood of seeing their preferred policy mix adopted. So since the PMC of voting is higher than the PMB, the Dems stay home, and the party of the plurality — the Republicans — are likely to keep winning for a long, long time as soon as they drop their goober leader and the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.”

“The Dems — are they the guts or the brains of the United States?”

“They’re both, and more, and so they’re neither.”

And so our interstellar De Tocqueville departed.

In Fear of the Unwashed Masses

Fascinating piece in the NYT about the growing (and apparently already widespread) use of hand sanitizer among politicians.

As you know, I’m a germ-o-phobe myself. Still, I hate hand sanitizer (and its evil cousin — the sanitizer spray they use at the gym). Why?

Purell and its ilk are anti-bacterial. That is, they only kill bacteria. Don’t believe me? How ’bout you check out the Purell product info page. Bacteria are only one type of li’l bugger that can cause illness. Colds and flu, for example, are caused by viruses, so Purell doesn’t keep you from contracting them. Other types of infections — athlete’s foot, e.g. — can be caused by fungi. Generally, virucides and fungicides are pretty nasty (check out a bottle of non-organic fungicide for use on plants sometime and read the warnings … eye opening). So, by dousing yourself in Purell, you’re maybe stopping strep and pnuemonia, and that’s about it — both of which can be largely avoided by frequent hand-washing and avoiding touching your own face.

Meanwhile, there’s a serious social cost to all this Purell use — the very good chance that we’re creating superbugs, bacteria that are resistant (or immune) to currently available anti-bacterial treatments — including antibiotics like pencillin (which, for the record, is also only useful against bacteria and not viruses).

In fact, the spread of anti-bacterial lotions and sprays is indicative of a classic problem described by public choice theory. While the potential social cost of widespread anti-bacterial use is huge (i.e., the creation of a mutant, drug resistant bacterium), the potential private cost (the chance of any individual user contracting the superbug) is low, so the products are overused. It’s market failure, and it’s something that’s classically, properly addressed by the government.

Of course, Dingbat in Chief displays his incredible powers of erudition on this as in so many things:

“Good stuff, keeps you from getting colds,” Mr. Bush raved about hand sanitizer …

I’m worried.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

After reading Peggy Noonan’s latest*, I have two questions. One, is there anybody — save Karl Rove himself — who believes the Republicans will win this election? And two, won’t it be totally funny if they actually pull it out this time?

Vintage Nooner:

There remains a broad, reflexive, and very Republican kind of loyalty to George Bush. He is a war president with troops in the field. You can see his heart. He led us in a very human way through 9/11, from the early missteps to the later surefootedness. He was literally surefooted on the rubble that day he threw his arm around the retired fireman and said the people who did this will hear from all of us soon.

Images like that fix themselves in the heart. They’re why Mr. Bush’s popularity is at 38%. Without them it wouldn’t be so high.

Ba dum-dum!

*I’m guessing that there isn’t even one BATP reader in a hundred that can stomach Peggy Noonan, but I tell you, when she’s not shilling for a party or JPII, she’s good.

Sexual Frustration and Suicide Bombing

As I mentioned back-handedly in a post yesterday, I’ve long contended that most suicide bombers just need a good lay to get their minds off jihad. Apparently, the same idea is gaining traction elsewhere.

Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle profiled a provocative new film on [suicide bombers], which some might say isn’t sympathetic enough. “Suicide Killers,” directed by French-Jewish filmmaker Pierre Rehov, posits that bombers and would-be bombers are “influenced by a religious culture that represses sexual desires and channels the resulting frustration into homicidal rage,” the Chronicle reports. The documentary’s subjects are Palestinians currently imprisoned for attempted suicide bombings; according to the article, they cite revenge, anger and the desperation and hopelessness induced by the prolonged Israeli occupation as motives for their actions. Rehov, however, fixes on another incentive. As one young man tells Rehov, “Those who blow themselves up get a good bonus from God — they marry 72 virgins.”

My first thought at seeing the pictures of the Infamous 19 [note: I refuse to mention perps by name -- it aggrandizes their perfidy] was “man, those guys really need a blowjob.” And how did many of them spend their last nights on planet earth? At a strip club in Miami.

To shift the discussion slightly, there’s another piece to this whole “72 virgins in heaven” thing. Can’t find the reference, but — much like many ancient languages — classical Arabic omits vowels in writing. So there’s some debate among Islamic scholars as to whether the reference in the Koran refers to martyrs recieving 72 houris (virgins) or 72 huris (white grapes — an expensive delicacy).

Regardless, as with any matter of faith, it’s probably more important what the faithful BELIEVE to be true about their sacred text, than what’s ACTUALLY true about it.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, let’s just donate to KAMEL.org and Keep Arab Men — Everyone — Laid. Volunteers, anyone?