Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Salon Solon indulges in conservative anthropology, or Imprimis gets a backhanded compliment

The anthropological report appears HERE. An accusation of malfeasance is contained therein:

In the February 2010 issue, for instance, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan speaks about "Health Care in a Free Society." In his printed speech, he says that "Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the administration's point people on health care, advocates what he calls a ‘whole life system' -- a system in which government makes treatment decisions for individuals using a statistical formula based on average life expectancy and ‘social usefulness.'" Ryan's claim is actually a widely discredited assertion plucked from a widely discredited article in the New York Post by the widely discredited Betsy McCaughey. The nonpartisan website, run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, determined that "Emanuel's meaning is being twisted. In one article, he was talking about a philosophical trend, and in another, he was writing about how to make the most ethical choices when forced to choose which patients get organ transplants or vaccines when supplies are limited." Very simply, McCaughey lied, Ryan repeated the lie, Imprimis published the lie -- and a few million conservatives read it as fact. "I relish every word in Imprimis," one fan wrote on the publication's Facebook page. "The idea that government will now make decisions about how long people should live and who should be denied health care is repugnent [sic]." It certainly would be repugnant -- if it were true. This is as ideal an example of conservatism's "epistemic closure" as one can find.

Wow, even invocation of conservative "epistemic closure".

I can’t really do any better than these couple of posts from NRO’s Corner in composing a send up of the literary genre’ fondly dubbed “Conservatives in the Mist”. I’ll leave that to the Cornerites. HERE and HERE.

But, the claim made by the Salon writer, Jordon Smith, regarding the Ezekiel J. Emanuel piece appears to be flat out false, at the most, and contestable at the least, this despite the fact that a trusted fact-check organization did some allegedly definitive debunking of the claim made by Ryan and dutifully transmitted to the tribe by Imprimis:

If you have access to JSTOR, you can read the entire Emanuel piece that was quoted HERE. The basic message:

Of late there has been a sort of confluence of opinion between political philosophers of the small "l" liberal variety, and communitarians. They have recently become more receptive to the idea that some substantive but general conception of the good life, must underpin modern republics or democracies, or they will weaken, because there will be no sense of loyalty to a purely formal process oriented philosophy as a moral grounding of democracy as an institution. There is much to be said for this.

Emanuel sees adoption of such a contentful view of human good, as a leading theoretical wedge that will allow policy makers to generate a list of health services that should be universally provided("socially provided" is his actual terminology), to all citizens, as well as another list of services that need not be universally provided for they do not provide people with the ability to meet the requirements of citizenship in a democratic republic (they do not allow human beings to be or become independent, deliberate rationally, nor do they protect that status).

Now, a fair reading of the article also makes quite clear that he believes there should be a sorting of people into two basic groups; those that should receive the basic services, and those to whom the services need not be 'socially provided'. The criterion for inclusion in the former group: present ability or capability to develop into a human being able to function as a deliberative member of the republic. Here is Emanuel in his own words:

Thus, it seems there is a growing agreement between liberals, communitarians, and others that many political matters, including matters of justice and specifically, the just allocation of health care resources can be addressed only by invoking a particular conception of the good. We may go even further. Without overstating it (and without fully defending it) not only is there a consensus about the need for a conception of the good, there may even be a consensus about the particular conception of the good that should inform policies on these nonconstitutional political issues. Communitarians endorse civic republicanism and a growing number of liberals endorse some version of deliberative democracy. Both envision a need for citizens who are independent and responsible (sic, the misspelling occurs in the article - ED) and for public forums that present citizens with opportunities to enter into public deliberations on social policies. This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason. Clearly, more needs to be done to elucidate what specific health care services are basic; however, the overlap between liberalism and communitarianism points to a way of introducing the good back into medical ethics and devising a principled way of distinguishing basic from discretionary health care services. Perhaps using this progress in political philosophy we can begin to address Dan's challenge, begin to discuss the goods and goals of medicine.

JSTOR link to entire piece is HERE

By the way, who is Dan?

Source: The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 26, No. 6, In Search of the Good Society: The Work of Daniel Callahan (Nov. - Dec., 1996), pp. 12-14

Now, after accusing Ryan and by extension, Imprimis of essentially lying and misrepresenting Emanuel's true position, Smith finishes the piece with a backhanded compliment:

It is difficult to name a liberal counterpart to Imprimis. Critchlow says there was once a string pamphleteering presence on the left, starting with Communist Party publications in the 1930s and 1940s. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the leading student activist organization in the New Left, revived this tradition in the 1960s,; "but beginning with the demise of the New Left, the left has lost its pamphlet tradition," Critchlow says. He sees left-wing blogs and online newsletters as a 21st century revival of pamphleteering. "They proved critical in mobilizing groups to vote for Obama," he notes.
Whether blogs will ultimately render old-style pamphlets like Imprimis obsolete remains to be seen. What's clear is that Imprimis has helped connect would-be conservatives across the country with conservative thought. As Democrats seek to extend their 2006 and 2008 successes into the future, they may want to consider the old American tradition of pamphleteering as a way of keeping voters engaged. The Imprimis model might be a good place to start.

I guess that's as good as it gets for compliments from the cultural anthropologists at Salon.

Fighting "The Narrative" Sisyphus and the boulder?

Another story about the Bircheresque bad craziness in Pakistan, from the NYT:

The problem is more than a peculiar domestic phenomenon for Pakistan. It has grown into a narrative of national victimhood that is a nearly impenetrable barrier to any candid discussion of the problems here. In turn, it is one of the principal obstacles for the United States in its effort to build a stronger alliance with a country to which it gives more than a billion dollars a year in aid.

It does not help that no part of the Pakistani state — either the weak civilian government or the powerful military — is willing to risk publicly owning that relationship.

One result is that nearly all of American policy toward Pakistan is conducted in secret, a fact that serves only to further feed conspiracies. American military leaders slip quietly in and out of the capital; the Pentagon uses networks of private spies; and the main tool of American policy here, the drone program, is not even publicly acknowledged to exist.

“The linchpin of U.S. relations is security, and it’s not talked about in public,” said Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad.

The empty public space fills instead with hard-line pundits and loud Islamic political parties, all projected into Pakistani living rooms by the rambunctious new electronic media, dozens of satellite television networks that weave a black-and-white, prime-time narrative in which the United States is the central villain.

I might add that it compounds the problem when Americans travel to Pakistan and say things that tend to confirm the conspiracy theories. (And more recently)

At least two Federal Ministers, Dr. Ataur Rehman and Abbas Sarfaraz, came to listen to Chomsky in Islamabad. But they appeared uncomfortable in the face of Chomsky's plain-talk. When Chomsky asserted that the U.S. President was a bigger terrorist than Osama bin Laden, as the former had no proof against Osama while the killing of innocent people in Afghanistan was the proof against President Bush, people in the hall clapped.

And now, some U.S. Naval History, the early days: Fighting France and the Barbary Kingdoms

Thanks to the Naval History & Heritage Command a nice vintage documentary, like those we used to watch in school, way back in the dark ages before YouTube. Seems to be only the first part, but enjoy:

This 1953 Navy documentary uses colorful artwork to tell the story of the Quasi-War with France, and the Barbary Wars. Part 1 begins with the hard times experienced after American victory in the Revolutionary War, the birth of the United States Navy, and the outbreak of the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800). Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UMO-39.

Elliott Abrams on the present state of Israeli American Relations

A departure from the normal panel format. A one on one discussion. Ranges from a discussion of the difference in quality of life between the West Bank and Gaza, to the settlement issue, which becomes the prime focus of the discussion. In Abram's view it was unwise of the U.S. administration to demand an outright freeze on construction, for that demand was leveled, not only toward outlying areas, but toward Jerusalem itself. The demand, unrealistic, had the effect of scuttling what minor progress had been made in 'tacit' agreements (Abram's term) over the course of the Clinton and Bush administrations.

The discussion is very interesting. I can only add, that I think real progress will be piecemeal, and it will stick only if the Palestinian leadership, becomes unified and moves well beyond "tacit" agreements, and very publicly makes such agreements, in concert with a very public renouncement of any and all declarations that their long term political aims are to remove Israel from existence. That is clearly Hamas' intention, and, lest we invest too much naive optimism in the West Bank, Fateh has yet to remove that goal from their charter (a sort of amalgam of Marxist revolutionary thought and Arab nationalism):


Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.

Article (13) Establishing an independent democratic state with complete sovereignty on all Palestinian lands, and Jerusalem is its capital city, and protecting the citizens' legal and equal rights without any racial or religious discrimination.

The Palestinian leadership, and the odious local media must move well away from the tradition of either proclaiming, cynically promoting or quietly tolerating rank anti-semitism before substantial change will occur.

The episode wraps up with a brief discussion of our options in regard to Iran going nuclear. Abrams believes the present regime is on a path to dissolution due to growing internal dissatisfaction. But, he also believes that the 'time line' to the downfall is longer than the time line to attaining nuclear weaponry.

He rightly worries about the regime's actions should it succeed in arming itself with nukes. He believes the 'Green' movement is something we should have been publicly supporting. Yes, and we should offer covert support as well. I suspect we may very well be doing so.

But a possibility, or more likely a hope, occurs to me as I listen to that discussion. Maybe acquisition of nukes would be some sort of tipping point in the internal political life of Iran. The Greens and supporters within the present government and military may at that point say; "Enough. Now the risk is too great. We cannot allow you to continue to hold the reigns now that you have this device." Then the uprising would boil over, and a revolution start. A perhaps wishful, and at the same time, worrying possibility. For, what would the regime do if it knew it was on the way out? Would it want to 'go out with a bang'?