We're all sensitive people ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

The long decline in sexual activity among U.S. teenagers, hailed as one of the nation's most important social and public health successes, appears to have stalled.

After decreasing steadily and significantly for more than a decade, the percentage of teenagers having intercourse began to plateau in 2001 and has failed to budge since then, despite the intensified focus in recent years on encouraging sexual abstinence, according to new analyses of data from a large federal survey.

That's here. The CDC resisted releasing this information, refusing to break down the data into before and after Bush, but the Post managed to get the data.

So let's be clear: "Abstinence Only" sex education is not only filled with lies, it is also counterproductive, depriving teenagers of the information they need to make informed decisions about sex and practice contraception when they do. Conservatives prefer this. Faced with the evidence that their preference for this program causes more sex and more pregnancies, they say, "Bring it on." They prefer their own smug hypocrisy to saving teenagers from the horrors of choosing between abortion and teenage mother-and-fatherhood. The numbers do not lie. George W. Bush and his Christian conservative supporters are, objectively speaking, pro-abortion and pro-teen pregnancy, just so long as they get to make speeches denouncing them.

What is the problem with liberals? Well, too many to name, but one of them has long been a commitment to advocacy overanalysis: to wishful thinking over hard-headed vote-counting. Take a look at this Daily Kos attack on yours truly. What are my crimes?

To Alterman, Clinton must be viewed mainly in the context of her gender and Obama must be defined mainly by the color of his skin...

[...]

Alterman linked to his Media Matters site rather than repeat the racist and sexist argument of Novak under his own byline. There, you can read Novak's argument, now endorsed by Alterman.

[...]

When Novak says it, the statement is seen in its full naked Cromagnon glory: Clinton is reduced to her gender and Obama to his pigmentation. And Republicans, given the chance to run a campaign based on bigotry, turn from despairing to hopeful.

This is so ridiculous because both those candidates have already broken the molds of stereotype and showed themselves to be multi-dimensional living and breathing human beings and leaders, and that's a big part of why they are, today, ahead of the field. (And polls reveal that Clinton beats Edwards among men and Obama beats Edwards among Caucasians, which makes the Alterman-Novak argument largely moot.)

I, for one, grow weary of the "liberal racism and sexism" thrown against Clinton and Obama masquerading as concerns over "electability" especially when, from the likes of Alterman, the "electability" question is exclusively tied to gender and racial prejudice.

At least the conservative Novak could say what he meant but the liberal Alterman had to shroud his own "identity politics" (a white male saying only a white male can get elected president does suggest adherence to a particularly privileged form of "identity politics" even by those that claim to dislike them) in his cowardly link to Novak's column.

Bigotry is not the exclusive realm of one political party or one side of the ideological spectrum (we saw plenty of evidence of that during the immigration reform debate last month in which some Republicans and some Democrats could not see millions of undocumented workers as human beings and voted barbarically to maintain them in sub-human "illegal" status).

[...]

And when the Altermans and Novaks of punditry inevitably pop up with their simplistic appeals to racism and sexism, supporters of the candidates they claim are most "electable" would do well to vocally distance themselves from such backward and bigoted notions. This may well be the election when such outmoded conventional myths are buried for good.

I love that part about the "Altermans and Novaks of punditry" and their "simplistic appeals to racism and sexism." This is, to put it mildly, nonsense on stilts, and it's particularly pernicious, both when it comes to peoples' opinions of liberals as well as liberals' ability to win elections. This kind of ignorant, insulting advocacy does more harm than good, alienating allies as it simultaneously blinds one to reality. Look, people, all of us would love to live in a country where women and non-Caucasian men are just as likely to be elected president as not, but, um, it's never happened. In fact, by my count, Obama is the only black man in the Senate, which has a membership of 100. And while only some of the potential obstacles Hillary Clinton would face as the nominee would be attributable to sexism, they are no less real for being so. Pointing out that it's a risk for the Democrats -- perhaps a risk worth taking in either case, but a risk nevertheless -- is obviously not an endorsement of that fact; it's a recognition of reality. The fact that Novak made the same observation doesn't make it wrong either; an awful lot of Democrats say it in private. Saying racism and sexism continue to exist is hardly the same as saying that's a good thing; and refusing to admit that they do is, by the way, a sure way to ensure that they continue to exist, unexamined and therefore unopposed in any useful fashion, to say nothing of their effect on elections. A mentality like that evidenced here is one that would rather lose elections rather than admit that the world does not conform to one's one political views. Just ask Senator Harold Ford...

Finally, just to clarify, I did not endorse Edwards over Clinton or Obama and do not intend to do so. Any one of them would make a fine president, IMNSHO ...

And Michael Kazin has a smart column about Obama, here.

Torture Is Us.

Wrong about everything:

The author of "The Spine" and nothing else, ever, really, writes: "Well, I saw 'La Vie en Rose' last night, and the title of the movie is the title of one of Piaf's greatest songs. Piaf is played by Marion Cottilard whose performance will not be forgotten: intense, breaking the edges of compulsion and madness, erotic, religiously (it seems to me) authentic and psychologically so truthful that it could be used in university classes about childhood and later identity. In any case, it was a rapturous two hours."

Actually, it's unbelievably awful. I love Edith Piaf, but I left this movie after about 40 minutes, which was all I could take.

Howie "Konflict of Interest" Kurtz carries the water of the right wing again, here, quoting Power Line bloggers as if they have any expertise whatever, and without any counterpoint.

And hey, look at Tim Russert's Meet the Press roundtable on Sunday: there's William Kristol protégé David Brooks, one of the last defenders of the discredited George W. Bush, picking numbers out of thin air, as he himself admits, and William Kristol protégé Stephen Hayes, defender of the discredited George W. Bush, plaything of the discredited Dick Cheney, and his discredited notions of a Saddam/Al Qaeda alliance, and is insane (and here), together with Bob Woodward, former defender of the discredited George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who has changed his mind, thereby discrediting his own previous analysis. This, ladies and gentleman, is your liberal media.

Alter-recommendations: Read the profile of Sly Stone in the current Vanity Fair by David Kamp: A hundred bucks says you can't find a longer article that has less of its subject in it. Every single one of Sly's quotes is either incoherent or banal to the point of not worth saying. And yet it's over 8,400 words. Amazing, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Edward Furey
Hometown: New York

Pierce is right about this rich guy stuff about Kennedy being humbug in 1948, but it was actually tossed at Kennedy in 1946, when he first ran for the House. It was still humbug in '48 but his foes had learned not to try it on him.

Kennedy handled it masterfully. In a "meet the candidates" dinner before the primary, he was deliberately placed last on the bill by the resentful regulars, with the introductions and remarks of the eight other candidates preceding him. Those introductions emphasized the hard times their subjects had endured, in presumed contrast to Kennedy.

When it was finally his chance to speak, he began with: "I seem to be the only here tonight who didn't come up the hard way."

The almost somnolent crowd snapped awake and roared with laughter. The race was all but over in the ten seconds it took him to say it.

History does not record what anyone else said that night.

Name: John
Hometown: Pittsburgh

This isn't political or insightful, but if you're out there looking to pick up one Drive-By Truckers album, make it Decoration Day. The Rock Opera gets more attention, but for my money, DD is not just the best Truckers' CD but one of the finest from anyone in years. I first saw them in Savannah, Ga. in 1999, in a bar with maybe 15 people. Been a huge fan ever since. Their live shows are titanic. Oh, Eric, how was the show now that Jason Isbell is gone?

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

To Mark Whipple:

The following Altercation from November 2004 is what you are looking for:

Noam is an Island

Eric replies: Thanks.

Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown: Port Angeles

Eric,

What do you think of former Reaganites saying things like "Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran." (Paul Roberts on Counterpunch.)

I mean, this is on Alexander Cockburn's website and Roberts is a former WSJ editorial page editor but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Eric replies: If it's on Alexander Cockburn's website, I guess I think it's about as accurate as his insistence that the left needs to support the enemy in Iraq and that global warming is a hoax ...

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