The Manchurian Presidency, continued


We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Reporting Iraq Is a Lot Harder Than It Looks," which is here, and a new Nation column called "What's Really Wrong with the MSM."

The rest of the world vs. Joe Klein and Time, continued, by Glenn Greenwald, here. More here.

Here we read of a "troubling reversal [in] the nation's teen birth rate [which] rose for the first time in 15 years, surprising government health officials and reviving the bitter debate about abstinence-only sex education. The birth rate had been dropping since its peak in 1991, although the decline had slowed in recent years. On Wednesday, government statisticians said it rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006."

Once again, we are shown that the Iraq war is the Bush administration's model of operations. There were no terrorists worth mentioning operating in Iraq before Bush's invasion. Bush claimed there were and insisted his program, based on lies, would fix the problem. Instead it created the threat it insisted was there before, and then blamed it on the people who were right in the first place.

The Clinton administration instituted a series of programs designed to reduce teen pregnancy. They worked. The following is from Why We're Liberals:

As a society, we were actually making considerable progress on helping to do just this with regard to the most vulnerable members of society: teens. Pregnancies between age 15 to 17 fell thirty-five percent beginning in the early 1990s, with most of that drop attributable to increased use of contraception, together with reduced teen sexual activity. It was, according to Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, "a really remarkable achievement." Alas, beginning in 2001, when the Bush administration conservatives instituted their purposefully misinformation "abstinence only" sex-education policy. Evidence indicates that massive educational undertaking on exactly these issues would be far more effective.

According to one study done in George W. Bush's home state of Texas, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active mirroring the overall state trends despite having been given the "abstinence only" curriculum. The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex. In a larger study by the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found that although teenagers who take "virginity pledges" may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, they are more likely to enjoy oral and anal sex, and they are just as likely as other students to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases. 88 percent eventually have premarital intercourse. And while abstinence-only programs show little evidence of sustained effect on student's sexual activities, they do reduce the use of contraception, including condoms, when sex does take place.

The failure of these programs is at least partially attributable to the fact that they are purposely, indeed transparently, dishonest. Of the thirteen federally funded programs studied, just two provided students with accurate medical and scientific information. In the rest, students learned some of the following:

· abortion can lead to sterility and suicide.

· that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus.

· touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," Eleven, however, contained the following false information.

  • A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."
  • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
  • condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse. (In fact, the rate is less than three percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.)

· women who experience abortions "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as ten percent of them become sterile.

According to the conservative Christians in the Family Research Council, however, these results merely indicate that even more of the same may be needed. Upon the announcement of the results by yet another study, this one Congressionally mandated and published by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. in the spring of 2007 demonstrating the ineffectiveness of these programs, the group insisted that these very same failed "programs must be intensive and long-term, so that the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to reject sex before marriage are constantly reinforced -- particularly in the pivotal high school years."

What's more, you might imagine that the nation's most important public health advocate, the American Public Health Association, here, would be doing everything they could to promote rigorously evaluated, empirically demonstrated successful programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy. Yet at their recent national conference, APHA accepted money from Heritage House '76 to allow them to distribute and market their "health education" materials to the thousands of health professionals attending the conference. Featured at their booth were the brochures, posters and other materials promoting abstinence-only education that they distribute. The materials they distribute make use of familiar tactics: they ignore most of the research, gloss over the ideas of reducing risk, and focus on the idea that "nothing is 100% effective" except abstinence. For instance, these materials also spin decades of research that demonstrate that using condoms can dramatically reduce the risk of contracting STDs into "this means you can be infected with any STD even when using condoms 100 percent of the time." Abstinence-only campaigns tell young people that nothing works 100 percent of the time to prevent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS or STDs except abstinence -- a statement that's true, but not very helpful. What is helpful, and what the research has demonstrated, is teaching young people that if they choose to have sex, they can use contraception, including condoms, and substantially decrease risks of unintended pregnancy and exposure to HIV and other STDs. That's the public health message. So why is APHA taking money from these people?

The new CDC report, including state-by-state figures, can be found here.

Alternative Universe Quote of the Day: What if Marty Peretz had been born a Muslim?

Marty Peretz, 2/4/07:

It is entirely preferable for the Israelis to have their rump and run it as they will or can. But, please, enough about how civilized they are. They are on their way to being Jews.

Posted by M. Duss

This week on Moyers:

New media is changing the face, pace, and language of the election -- what does it mean? Bill Moyers get perspective on the impact of the Web -- blogs, YouTube, and social networking -- on the election with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. And with pastor and denominational leader Mike Huckabee, surging in the polls and Mitt Romney giving a widely anticipated speech on his Mormon faith, Moyers and Jamieson are joined by scholar Melissa Rogers for a discussion of religion in politics. Rogers is visiting professor of Religion and Public Policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

From TomDispatch:

In his latest TomDispatch post, Middle Eastern expert Dilip Hiro offers an assessment of the U.S. stand-off with Iran that's worth its weight in gold. Putting it in the context of Bush administration dreams of global domination, he points out that the very stand-off itself is a measure of "the steepness of Washington's recent fall." Only decades ago, he notes, the United States was engaged in a zero-sum game (that we called the Cold War) with the Soviet Union, another superpower, while the zero-sum game in the Persian Gulf region "applied only to Iraq and Iran, two minor powers on the world stage."

As he notes, "Whereas Washington once played off Tehran against Baghdad, while involved in a superpower zero-sum game with the Soviet Union, the Bush administration is now engaged in a zero-sum game, as a virtual equal, with Iran." This, in itself, represents a humiliating fall, brought on by the President's disastrous decision to invade Iraq.

This contest between the planet's "lone superpower" and a middling regional power now drives so much else in Washington policy, including the recent Middle Eastern meeting convened in Annapolis, Maryland, which "had more to do with mollifying Arab leaders in order to hold them together in its ongoing confrontation with Tehran than realizing a genuine urge to create a viable, independent Palestine within a year."

Elaborating on this striking insight, Hiro concludes:

Eager to counter rising Iranian influence by any means, [the administration's] top officials are now trying to rally Arab rulers as Sunnis against Shiite Iran, forgetting that a hasty and unnecessary invasion of Iraq was what has brought about this wretched mess in the first place. Increasingly, Washington under Bush will be the loser, no matter who prevails in the region -- an apt definition of a superpower in decline and of a genuine zero-sum fiasco.


Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series

The first animated series ever on Comedy Central, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, is one of the relatively unsung moments of comedy greatness on cable, overshadowed, appropirately, by both The Larry Sanders Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but not a notch or two below both. It is finally being made available on DVD by Paramount Home Video. There are 13 discs, containing the entire series, which features appearances from not-yet-quite-famous comedians Dave Chapelle, Ray Romano, and others in their comedic, "squigglevision" glory. (Squigglevision is where nothing but eyes and mouths move, but the borders around some object are constantly waving, giving an illusion of constant movement). It's expensive but it'll make some cool person really happy, plus you'll be telling them how cool you think they are. The extras are overgenerous, but hey, people like that. More here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York

Anyone want to buy a vintage, mint Taxi Driver poster? I paid $750 for it a while back, but I'll sell it for any decent offer, shipping included.

Name: Ray Lodato
Hometown: Chicago

Hi Eric,

I haven't had time to read Saletan's series or the responses, but this quote from the Times article jumped out at me:

"Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, said that since Mr. Saletan is a senior writer, his posts went up without anyone there reading them."

Is he serious? Is this just at Slate, or other publications? Does Judy Miller know about this?

I have "senior" in my job title, too, but my work is vetted by my colleagues (not all of them above me in the hierarchy) constantly. I work with a methodologist who is senior to me in every possible way (age, years with the company, experience in the field) and she submits her work for review to everyone else on the project, too.

Is it just me, or is editor an even cushier job than I thought?

Name: Ed Mahan
Hometown: Marlborough, MA

Just say it, Bush et al knew it and lied about it. They don't really care what Iran is doing or knows, they just want to create a pretext, or in their case, the appearance of a pretext. The Bushies intend to carry out their plan regardless of anything in the reality based world. My guess is March 2008.

Name: Reed Richardson
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ

Near the end of yesterday's supposed no-nonsense (three-on-one!) interview with Cheney, which focused on Iran and the recently released NIE, the "serious" journalists at Politico decided they could devote a paragraph to providing some interesting "you are there" context for the reader which, you eventually realize, was done for no other reason than to throw in what amounts to a shameless plug for their own publication.

"By contrast to President Bush's paper-free Oval Office desk, Cheney's is a working desk, stacked with reference and reading material, including a pictorial directory for Congress and the latest issue of Politico."

Gotta love that subtle product placement. Maybe the Politico is about to monetize its journalistic content through other revenue streams as well? ("Cheney dismissed Ahmadinejad's latest denials to the IAEA in between snacking on handfuls of Nabisco Cheez-Its, and then soberly called for tougher sanctions and more cooperation from Russia and China while downloading last week's episode of the CW's "Gossip Girl" and sipping on Gatorade's new Tiger-flavored sports drink.")

Most troubling of all has to be the fact that, even if one thinks this logrolling is harmless, what does it say about their overall judgment that, of all the people on Capitol Hill that may or may not have a copy of their paper on their desk, THIS is the guy they want to represent as one of their loyal readers. Talk about backing the wrong horse, Johnny.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.