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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blog Round Up

Blog Round Up

It has been one crazy week; I hardly know where to start. But since it is technically still Friday on my coast, we might as well start with a Science Friday slant. Or Pseudo-Science Friday, as the case may be. It seems the FDA was for over-the-counter sales of Plan B birth control before they were against them...

A congressional audit released Monday cited "unusual" steps in the FDA's initial rejection of over-the-counter emergency contraception, including conflicting accounts of whether top officials made the decision even before scientists finished reviewing the evidence.

...In December 2003, FDA's scientific advisers overwhelmingly backed over-the-counter sales of the Plan B brand for all ages. They cited assessments that easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unintended pregnancies.

Conservatives who consider the pill tantamount to abortion intensely lobbied the Bush administration to reject nonprescription sales, saying it would increase teen sex.

In May 2004, FDA leaders rejected the nonprescription switch, saying there was no data proving anyone under 16 could safely use the pills without a doctor's guidance.

...The result was unprecedented public discord from the normally secretive agency: Top-ranking FDA officials have acknowledged they overruled their own scientists' decision that nonprescription sales would be safe, and the women's health chief resigned in protest.

Preemptive Karma, like everyone else, was nonplussed:

Rightwing ideologues in the Food and Drug Administration were rejecting Plan B pills before the scientific data was reviewed???

How terribly shocking.

Maybe this disdain for science explains the NYT/GOP affinity; the "paper of record" just hasn't been very empirical since the advent of Miss Run Amok. Via Atrios, we find a rather disturbing item from Arms Control Wonk; I really hope we're not being millered into Iran:

David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and Interational Security (ISIS), recently criticized a New York Times story by Bill Broad and David Sanger, on the grounds that it contains a “a deep and misleading flaw.” Broad and Sanger, Albright explained, “repeatedly characterize the contents of computer files as containing information about a nuclear warhead design when the information actually describes a reentry vehicle for a missile.”

This made it sound like the US had proof Iran was designing a nuclear weapon, which it does not. Look at it this way: Just because Ford puts seat-belts in its automobiles, doesn’t mean they know how to build people.

In they days following his critique, which was e-mailed to colleagues around the arms control community, David Albright has encouraged the New York Times to run a correction. The Times refuses.

...In another instance, Broad dismisses Albright’s argument that Iran’s nuclear weapons would be too large for the triconic warhead they described. Broad replies the point “is technical and in my judgment is not worth discussing in any detail.”

Yes, technical information is just not worth discussing in a newspaper.

Bill Broad, mind you, is the Times science writer.

Correction: Broad is the Times' Pseudo-science writer, or "newest admin shill," whichever. ArmsControlWonk.com has the full exchange between Albright and the Times available for download; I imagine it makes for a good read. As with the (mal)administration the NYT so breathlessly cheerleads, one is left to wonder if the Times is deceitful or simply daft.

Speaking of Cheney's (mal)administration, he and his buddies in big oil have some 'splainin to do. In their recent testimony before the Senate regarding price gouging, a handful of oil executives lied about attending the infamous no-you-cab't-see-the-records energy task force meetings. And why not; it's not like they were under oath as the baseball players were during the steroid hysteria. We can thank Sen. Stevens for that. And Aravosis helpfully points out that Cheney knew this, but failed to come forward with the pertinent information.

At least he only held out for a week; Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, kept mum for over two years about the fact that he, too, had learned of Valerie Plame from "administration sources." By some unknown contortion of logic, Woodward thought it was significant that his knowledge of Plame predated the earliest known leak identified in Fitzgerald's investigation. To be fair, it is significant, just not in the way he thinks it is.

The bombshell in this revelation lies in the fact that, Woodward expounded at length about the leak and downplayed the importance of the whole affair. He wrote about the case for two years, often dismissively, without disclosing his involvement. Similarly, his source ignored Bush's directive to "fully cooperate" with Patrick Fitzgerald. If that doesn't amount to obstruction of justice, I'm not sure what would. The rest of the story, of course, is what this all implies about the leak and its seeming orchestration. Jane Hamsher tackles this magnificently over at the Huffington Post. Curioser and curioser.

In other judicial news, Nathan Newman has a wonderful post about the impact Alito might have on the Supreme Court, should he get confirmed.

But what is most striking about Alito's statement is this line:

In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.


For the non-lawyers out there, Alito meant he was against the Supreme Court decisions requiring that all state legislative districts be designed to guarantee "one person, one vote", instead of giving some districts with very few voters the same representation as urban districts with far more voters.

While I strongly believe that most judicial activism by the Warren Court was unneeded or even counterproductive for progressive goals since ongoing democratic mobilization was moving civil rights and feminist goals forward, the reapportionment cases-- Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms-- dealt with a problem that democratic voting inherently could not correct, namely the lack of real democracy in most state legislatures.

...Substract Brown and Roe and little in modern American history would be different. But subtract Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms, and our state governments around the country would have remained bastions of racist and anti-democratic prejudice and power.

But wait; there's more SCOTUS news. Matthew Gross points us to an essay at the Election Law blog addressing the potential effect of the Roberts Supreme Court on election law. It isn't pretty.

Even before the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the announced retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, election law scholars had declared that the Supreme Court had reached "doctrinal interregnum." In the campaign finance arena, the Court's jurisprudence was becoming increasingly incoherent; voting rights law was said to be "at law with itself;" partisan gerrymandering claims in flux; and the question of Supreme Court oversight of the "nuts-and-bolts" of elections after Bush v. Gore a big mystery.

...The result is that 5-10 years from now, the ground rules for American political competition could undergo a major change. Within the next decade, we could well see deregulation of campaign financing, a limiting of Congressional power to impose national solutions to problems of minority voting rights, and an upholding of state power to redistrict for partisan gain and impose increasingly draconian election administration tools enacted in the name of fraud prevention. The ability of states to manipulate election rules for partisan gain may present the greatest danger, as the Court exits from that corner of the political thicket. For those who look to courts for the promotion of political equality, the signs are not encouraging.

I couldn't find anybody weighing in on the Supreme Court vis-a-vis torture, but I did stumble upon this lovely ditty from Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon.

It's so morbidly surreal that we are even having a debate on torture. As much as I have never cared for shrubya, I certainly could not have imagined torture as American policy. I guess we can say that shrubya's presidency has been exceptional, after all...

On to some happier news: a diary at dailykos brings us word of developing strands in the Delay/Abramoff/god only knows who else web of corruption: It seems that Michael Scanlon has agreed to cooperate in the Abramoff investigation. Grab your popcorn, kids!

The charge was detailed in a court document known as a "criminal information" -- a process that often precedes a plea-bargain arrangement with a cooperating witness. Officials familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Scanlon has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in the ongoing bribery and public corruption investigation of Abramoff, members of Congress and executive branch officials.

An article in Roll Call states that Scanlon would then testify against Abramoff and anyone else indicted in the case, according to Justice Department sources.

Just read that last sentence: anyone else indicted in the case.

...Ney (the subject of the immediate indictment) is only the beginning. Delay, Bush, Cheney, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed ... the potential targets of this probe read like a Who's Who of GOP power brokers. And now a man at the very center of this network has flipped and agreed to testify against any of them who get caught up in this investigation.

The GOP implosion marches inexorably forward. The effects of Delay's resignation as House Majority Leader are already being felt; legislation central to the GOP platform has been faltering and today the house nearly exploded over Rep. John Murtha's recent proposal to withdraw from Iraq. Naturally, the response from prominent republicans was to brand Murtha as a traitor, etc., with even Cheney coming down on the honorable Congressman. Murtha was unphased:

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done," Murtha said.

Today, the majority took things a few steps further, in every way imaginable. Instead of addressing Murtha's proposal, the GOP decided to bring their highly abbreviated version to the floor. I suppose this was an attempt at forcing the Dem caucus to go on record as against withdrawal from Iraq, but it backfired in the most delicious way. The highlight was Jeanne Schmidt reading from an email, saying "cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

It took the chair a good five minutes to restore order, at which point Schmidt requested her comments be struck from the record, lest she be censured. The video is definitely a must-see. Her battiness truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Everyone from House Dems, to C-SPAN callers was denouncing this cynical stunt from the GOP - even some of the (R) members of the House. Given that conventional wisdom holds that Murtha has the ear of top Military Officers, methinks they messed with the wrong Marine.

Do poke through all the relevant links; the whole sordid episode was truly something to behold. I don't think Howard Dean could have asked for a better birthday present. He turned 57 this week and the blogosphere was tripping over itself with birthday threads for the good doctor. And DNC donations, of course. Yessir; with the GOP in self-destruct mode and Howard and Harry to help them along, things are definitely looking up.


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