P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism
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Saturday, March 22, 2003
Ted Stevens Update
We recently wrote about Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' promise to use his power as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to punish Senators who voted against Stevens' pet project, oil drilling in Alaska’s ANWAR preserve.
Senator Stevens, wearing an Incredible Hulk tie during floor debate, threatened:
"People who vote against this today are voting against me," Mr. Stevens said. "I will not forget it."
It appears that some localities are concerned that Mr. Stevens' wrath will affect specific local projects. One Republican Senator voting against ANWAR drilling was Mike Dewine of Ohio.
WCHS TV reports as follows:
Ohio Senator Mike DeWine's vote against drilling for oil in an Alaskan wildlife refuge may come back to haunt him when it's time to divvy up the money for home state projects.
If Stevens makes good on his threat, we hope the voters of Ohio will blame Ted Stevens and not Mike Dewine.
Standing Upright In The Winds
PLA reader and frequent commenter Chris Vosburg sent us a portion of dialogue from Robert Bolt’s screenplay of A Man For All Seasons. We thought that the comment was relevant to a number of current issues including Richard Perle’s op-ed in the Guardian entitled Thank God For the Death of the U.N as well as to the issue of protecting Constitutional rights during war.
In the scene, Sir Thomas More discusses the effects of the breakdown of law with his son-in law, Will Roper:
Alice: While you talk, he's gone!
Friday, March 21, 2003
No Capacity For Shame
We particularly liked a post by Jeanne D’Arc today. She writes about Richard Perle and the administration’s gloating over the trashing of the U.N. We particularly liked the following:
There isn't a lot of shame in this administration. A great deal that is shameful, but no capacity to be ashamed. They'd like us to believe that the rules and constraints we think exist aren't really there at all. The Constitution is a pretty, but fragile little tchotchke -- something you might need to put out of sight until things calm down. International law does not exist unless a great power wants to invoke it. Moral standards apply to things like sex and drugs, not war and peace, not compassion. There are no standards, there is only power and expediency (but just for the hell of it, we'll call that morality). A person who believes that whatever he does is good, simply by virtue of the fact that he is the one doing it, is not shameable. He's made himself into a little god, and a god is never embarrassed.
The administration not only treats the U.N., other nations, Congress, liberals, and Democtrats with the attitude Jeanne describes, it treats its friends and fellow Republicans the same way if they have the termerity to disagree with the administration on any issue.
This is an issue that we intend to revisit at greater length in the future but we have not thought it completely through yet. In the meantime please read this Washington Post article.
Longer Ted Barlow
Please read the Longer Ted Barlow. It is a very good post and expresses a number of thoughts that we have been having a hard time getting down in writing. This is why Ted is a premier blogger.
More Excellence Transference
We recently wrote about the phenomena of “excellence transference” in the area of children’s books. Excellence transference is the idea that success in one field will transfer to a completely different area. Thus, Madonna now has a contract to write children’s books.
One of the more enduring examples of the myth is that a businessman with no political experience is qualified for the Presidency.
That myth has manifested itself in boomlets of support for a variety of people. Donald Trump was rumored to be a candidate in 2000. Lee Iacocca once had his 15 minutes in the political spotlight. Steve Forbes ran twice and was once considered the most serious opposition to George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000.
The pinnacle of the myth of a businessman being qualified to be President was 1992 when Ross Perot, a very successful businessman who is also nuttier than a fruitcake, actually received 19% of the vote for President as a third party candidate.
Is there any evidence that a person with experience only in the area of business would be a successful President? Is there any other area in which we discount relevant experience to as great an extent as politics?
Most attempts to transfer excellence from one field to another meet with failure. Michael Jordan may have been the greatest athlete of a generation but when he played minor league baseball, he had trouble reaching the Mendoza line.
Dick Cheney may have been a decent Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff but his stint at Halliburton was not a resounding success.
The only recent President without substantial experience in elective office was Dwight Eisenhower and his Army experience was, to a large extent, political in nature.
Why in the world would we think that Steve Forbes’ experience running his father’s magazine qualified him to be president? How does Donald Trump’s career in real estate development prepare him for the burdens of the Oval Office? Why does the development of the Mustang and the minivan qualify Lee Iacocca to be Commander in Chief? There was once speculation that even Warren Beatty would run for President. It has been a while since he made a decent movie and it is hard to imagine that he has the skills for the Presidency.
We think that the myth is perpetrated by the fact that what a politician does in public looks easy. Giving speeches and shaking hands does not look difficult. The media emphasizes the performance aspect and minimizes the skills necessary to actually do the job.
It is similar to watching a great conductor leading a symphony. It looks easy to stand in front of the musicians and wave the baton. The skill is hidden from the view of the casual observer.
We once watched a woodworking show on PBS. The host was demonstrating how to build a rocking chair. When it came time to attach the legs to the rocker, the host simply said that he “would eyeball” the angle of the hole. He succeeded on the first try. We expect that using the “eyeball method” would be significantly less successful for us.
Like watching the conductor or the woodworker, being a politican looks easy. The skills of the profession are hidden from the casual observer. The observable aspects of the job just do not look hard.
We remember a Republican primary debate from, we believe, the 1996 presidential election. In that debate, Lamar Alexander noted that he admired Steve Forbes desire for public service but suggested that instead of running for President, he should first run for the school board.
We agree completely.
A Matter of Hypocrisy
The Bible teaches of the dangers of hypocrisy. In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 7, we find the following:
 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Republicans in Congress should heed that scripture when questioning the patriotism of Democrats. Take for instance the recent hullabaloo over comments made by Senator Tom Daschle.
Daschle recently remarked:
I'm saddened, saddened that the president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war.
Mr. Daschle, a Vietnam era veteran went on to say:
If the President decides that force is the only remaining option to disarm Saddam Hussein, Democrats and Republicans will be unanimous in our strong support for our troops and for ensuring that they have all the tools and resources needed to be successful.
Despite Mr. Daschle’s support for the troops and his commitment of sufficient resources, Republicans were quick to pounce in an effort to question the Minority Leader’s patriotism.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, whose web page biography has no mention of military service responded to Mr. Daschle by saying:
Those comments may not undermine the president as he leads us into war," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert. “And they may not give comfort to our adversaries, but they come mighty close.”
Tom Delay, Majority Leader of the House, who claimed that he was prevented from serving in Viet Nam because minorities took all the available spots, told Daschle he should shut up. The Washington Times reported that Mr. Delay took the following position:
Rep. Tom DeLay, a staunch supporter of the White House, called for an end to debate about how to proceed on Iraq, suggesting that lawmakers keep any thoughts of disagreement to themselves.
John McCain, an authentic war hero, remarked that:
Look, it's not possible to only support the troops and not their mission.
The Republicans’ search for a speck in Daschle’s eye could be aided by the removal of a log from their own eyes.
When President Clinton committed American troops in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, the Republicans saw no difficulty with supporting the troops while criticizing the President. Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged recently sent us a link to a post by Ivan Durak that lists positions taken by Republicans when a Democratic President committed the troops. The following quotes are taken from links provided in that fine post.
Mr. Delay did not shut his mouth with regard to President Clinton’s policy in Bosnia. He said:
“I don't think we should be bombing in the Balkans," said Rep. Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican. “I don't think NATO should be destroyed because we changed its mission to a humanitarian one."
Republican Senator Arlen Spector had no problem differentiating between support for the mission and support for the troops when it cam to Bosnia:
“US troops will be deployed in Bosnia no matter what the Congress does," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania. "Congress should support the troops without endorsing the president's policy."
Republican Congressman Randy Cunningham did not believe that criticism of President Clinton’s foreign policy “came close” to providing comfort to our adversaries:
Rep. Randy Cunningham, Republican of California, accused President Clinton of pursuing “the most inept foreign policy in the history of the United States.”
A spokesman for House Republican Bud Shuster also had no trouble with criticizing the mission while supporting the troops:
Some Republicans are voicing worries about the operation, however. Scott Brenner, a spokesman for House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Everett, said Shuster "doesn't think we should be over there. He'll continue to support the troops, but he doesn't think we should be over there in the first place."
Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and James Inhofe supported a Senate resolution that even Republican Bob Dole criticized:
Dole and his allies have made it clear in statements this week and on the floor that support for the Hutchison amendment would undermine not only the troop morale in Bosnia, but would completely undermine American global leadership and NATO.
When Mr. Clinton committed U.S. troops to action in Iraq, then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made clear that he reserved the right to make an independent judgment as to the policy all the while supporting the troops:
“I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time," Lott's statement said. "Both the timing and the policy are subject to question."
It is hard to take the Republican attacks on the patriotism of Tom Daschle’s eye seriously when they are so ripe with hypocrisy. Perhaps the Republicans should remove the logs from their own eyes before they look for specks in the eyes of others.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Senator Seab Cooley, Revisited
One of our favorite novels about politics is Allen Drury’s classic, Advise and Consent. Drury tells the story of the nomination of Robert A. Leffingwell to be Secretary of State and the events surrounding the Senate fight to confirm his nomination. A central character is Senator Seabright B. Cooley of South Carolina. Senator Cooley is a man who holds grudges and his seniority in the Senate gives him the power to exact revenge for perceived grievances. When the President nominates Leffingwell to be Secretary of State, Senator Cooley is adamantly opposed to the nomination because of a personal slight from 13 years earlier. Cooley uses every available means to defeat the confirmation. Some of those means are legitimate, some less so.
Senator Cooley’s opposition to the nomination sets off a chain of events that results in allegations of Communist sympathy, the death of a young Senator and the shaking of the foundations of the Senate. It is a great novel.
In real life, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina often played the role of Senator Cooley. Mr. Helms knew how to hold a grudge and he knew how to use to rules of the Senate to exact his personal revenge. In the eight years of the Clinton administration, Mr. Helms single handedly prevented any Federal Judges nominated for a seat in North Carolina from being confirmed. In addition, he single handedly derailed the nomination of Massachusetts Republican Governor Bill Weld as Ambassador to Mexico because of a perceived personal slight.
With the retirement of Mr. Helms, some may have thought that we had seen the last of the great Senate barons who used their power to command respect and even fear and who promoted or defeated legislation not on the merits but as a matter of personal pique. Such a thought would have been naïve.
With the war beginning, it would have easy to miss the news that the Senate defeated President Bush’s plan to drill for oil in ANWAR. The New York Times reports as follows:
The Senate narrowly voted against drilling for oil in the Alaskan wildlife refuge today, dealing a crippling blow to the central element of the Bush administration's energy plan.
The most important Senate backer of the President’s proposal was Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stevens is the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. In that position, Senator Stevens has the power to kill funding for pet projects of other Senators or, alternatively, to push funding for specific projects forward.
Senator Stevens made clear on the Senate floor that he intends to succeed Jesse Helms in the role of Senator Cooley. The Times reports:
The chief proponent of drilling, Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, ended his remarks on the floor with an unusual but unmistakable threat to use his power as Appropriations Committee chairman against those who disagreed with him.
In effect, Mr. Stevens is promising to use his power as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee to decide funding issues not on the merits but rather on whether other Senators paid him proper respect on the ANWAR vote.
Mr. Stevens is trying to bully other United States Senators. When his argument on the merits of the policy failed to generate a majority, he abandoned the merits in favor of simple extortion. While we are ambivalent on the merits of drilling in ANWAR (we suggested some time ago a compromise in which drilling was allowed in ANWAR in exchange for increased CAFE standards on SUVs), we are adamantly opposed to Mr. Stevens’ tactics.
Republican Senators incurring Mr. Stevens wrath are Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Peter G. Fitzgerald of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona. We salute them for standing up to Mr. Stevens’ bullying tactics.
Update: In Comments, jdancingkid reports that during the floor debate, Senator Stevens was wearing an Incredible Hulk tie.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Barring a miracle, war with Iraq will begin in a matter of days. We have no expertise to judge the military prospects of such a war. We assume that it will be relatively quick and, at least on the American side, relatively bloodless. Bob Novak reports that Dick Cheney assured a group of Republican Senators last week that the war would won “quickly and confidently.”
We certainly hope that Mr. Cheney is correct. Assuming that is the case, how many troops will be needed to occupy Iraq while the hoped for democracy takes hold?
Via Tapped, we located this article by Joseph Galloway, the War Reporter for Knight Ritter. Galloway notes the size of previous peace keeping forces:
Let's take a look at how many soldiers it takes or has taken to keep the peace in some of the world's leading trouble spots. The British Army in 1995 kept 19,000 troops in Northern Ireland to control a population of 1.6 million. That's one soldier for every 84 residents. If a similar ratio were applied to Iraq, the United States and its allies would need an occupation force of 285,000 troops.
The administration could have either spent the last year building international support of the war and its aftermath so that we would not bear the full burden of the post war reconstruction. Instead, it alienated the entire world.
Alternatively, the administration could have spent the last year educating and preparing the American people to shoulder the load. That load included increasing the size of our armed forces as well as paying the costs of the occupation. As Tapped put it:
Given the challenge of occupying Iraq, you'd do one of two things. You'd either put your diplomatic nose to the grindstone, working to build consensus until we had secured an allied force big enough to do the job, or you'd be aggressively recruiting and building up the armed forces and preparing the nation for a massive deployment of reservists. Instead, the Bush administration has spent the last year screwing our traditional allies (including most of those who fought with the U.S. in 1991), fracturing treaties, sowing distrust throughout the world and generally ensuring that the U.S. would be going in essentially alone. At the same time, Bush has never once called on young Americans to enlist, and now that a large plurality of Americans no longer trust him to be honest on Iraq, it probably wouldn't make any difference if he did. The country is not emotionally or mentally prepared for a general mobilization of its armed forces, even though that's what invading and occupying Iraq will eventually require.
As to the financial costs, the administration has refused to give Congress even rough estimates of the costs. Bush believes that he can just run of the costs and then send a supplemental appropriation request to the “spenders” in Congress. Does Bush think that the cost of war and occupation will have no effect on the domestic economy?
The American people have not been educated about the costs nor asked to sacrifice for the war effort. The administration has asked the public only to keep on shopping and receive another tax cut.
The administration has done nothing to prepare to pay for the war or the occupation. It has done nothing to prepare in the event that another conflict (North Korea?) breaks out while our forces are in Iraq.
Chess players plan many moves ahead. It appears that the administration just muddles along from one crisis point to another without ever thinking about the longer-term aspects of its policies. We hope that we do not hear someone shout “Checkmate.”
Sunday, March 16, 2003
A Small Bone to Pick
Emma of Late Night Thoughts has a perceptive post on the reasons that France opposes our policy in Iraq. While we agree with her thesis in the main, we do have one small bone to pick. Emma describes the Bush administration’s diplomacy as being “composed of carefully calibrated amounts of testosterone and stupidity.”
We disagree. There is no careful calibration.
Off Label Use of Prescription Drugs
Mark Kleiman recently posted a criticism of Pfizer for cooperating with distributors who permit Viagra to be sold through the Internet without a real medical need and without a medical exam:
As everyone knows, though, most of the river of Viagra currently flooding this country and the rest of the world, and in the process earning something over a billion dollars a year for Pfizer, isn't used to treat anything more serious than the desire of 60-year-olds to perform sexually as if they were 20, or even the desire of 20-year-old to achieve feats of sexual athleticism they can look back on fondly when they’re 60…
Big Pharma does more than turn a blind eye towards off label use of its medications. It actively and illegally seeks to promote off label uses.
Warner Lambert developed Neurontin for use by epileptics who were already taking a seizure medication. That, however, is a relatively limited market. Warner Lambert, now a part of Pfizer, decided that the way to make more money was to create additional markets in “off label” uses.
Once a drug is approved for any use, a Doctor may prescribe it for any condition he or she feels is appropriate. Warner Lambert launched a campaign to convince Doctors to prescribe Neurontin for a number of off label uses. That campaign sought to convince Doctors to prescribe Neurontin for conditions that were not helped by the drug and for conditions for which the drug had not been tested.
To increase sales, Warner Lambert hired “medical liaisons” such as Dr. David P. Franklin. Medical liaisons are Doctors or scientists who are supposed to answer questions about medications for Doctors. Medical liaisons are not supposed to be part of the sales force. It is illegal for a company to market its products for uses not listed on the label.
Dr. Franklin contends that Warner Lambert used the medical liaisons to market Neurontin for off label uses. As the New York Times reports:
When Dr. Franklin joined Warner-Lambert in April 1996, executives there were unhappy with the limited sales potential of Neurontin, he said. The drug was originally approved only to treat epilepsy patients who were already taking a seizure medicine.
To compensate, he said, Warner-Lambert executives created a plan to sell Neurontin for conditions ranging from migraines to manic-depression to attention deficit disorder — even though such uses were not supported by proper clinical studies.
That campaign was so successful that the sales of Neurontin soared to $2.3 billion with 78% of the prescriptions for off- label uses.
In addition to the use of medial liaisons, the Times reports that Warner Lambert provided Doctors with financial incentives to prescribe Neurontin:
According to Dr. Franklin and to thousands of pages of company documents that became public in the lawsuit, Warner-Lambert paid some doctors tens of thousands of dollars to speak about Neurontin to other physicians at dinners and meetings. Other doctors were paid to serve as the named authors of medical journal articles that were actually written by medical marketing firms, according to court papers. Still other doctors were paid to enter patients into clinical trials that were too small to have any scientific value, Dr. Franklin said. In such cases, doctors were paid to let drug company representatives review the confidential records of patients taking Neurontin so that the representatives could develop a written report to be shared with other doctors.
Dr. Franklin contends that the way in which Warner Lambert trained its medical liaisons was designed to break the law:
Dr. Franklin said that as a Warner-Lambert medical liaison, his primary job was to sell. He was trained to earn doctors' trust, he said, and then provide them information. Some of it, he said, was not scientifically valid.
The Times report continues:
After only four months at Warner-Lambert, Dr. Franklin decided to resign. Medical liaisons were beginning to complain to their superiors about what they were being asked to do, he said. Dr. Franklin remembers one of his supervisors telling the group that anyone who was not comfortable with aggressively selling Neurontin should leave, he said.
Dr. Franklin did leave. As he left, he claims that at least one Warner Lambert executive told him that "if he talked publicly about the company's marketing he would be made a scapegoat and be described as a rogue employee in a company that played by the rules."
Pfizer abets the illegal sale of Viagra without a medical need and without an examination. Warner Lambert, which is now part of Pfizer, illegally attempts to convince Doctors to prescribe Neurontin off label. The uses it promotes are not beneficial to the patients and the drug has not undergone clinical trials for such uses.
We send kids to jail for life for petty crimes under the three strikes and you are out laws. Perhaps we need a three strikes and you are out rule for corporate crime as well.
Tom’s War Or George’s War
Professor Balkin has a nice post concerning the evolution of N.Y. Times columnist Tom Friedman’s position with regard to Iraq.
In essence, Friedman has long supported a war to remove Saddam from power so that the U.S. could spur positive the development of democracy throughout the Middle East. Freidman once said that foreign policy is like a pottery shop. There is a sign on the door that says “If you break it, you bought it.”
Friedman supports going to war in Iraq so that we will break it and be forced to buy it. Once bought, we will have to fix it. After buying it, we can fix it. The war would give us responsibility to pursue what Freidman thinks is the best chance to turn the Arab world to the direction of peace and democracy.
As the war gets closer, it become more and more apparent that Bush believes that he can break the pottery but will have little or no responsibility to buy it once it is broken.
As Balkin quotes Freidman as writing:
I deeply identify with the president's vision of ending Saddam Hussein's tyranny and building a more decent, progressive Iraq. If done right, it could be so important to the future of the Arab-Muslim world, which is why I won't give up on this war. But can this Bush team be counted on to do it right? Mr. Bush's greatest weakness is that too many people, at home and abroad, smell that he's not really interested in repairing the world. Everything is about the war on terrorism.
Professor Balkin sums up our position quite well:
For those readers who think that the reason we should fight this war is to rid the world of a despicable tyrant and replace him with a vibrant democracy, I salute you. I applaud your idealism and your commitment to making this a better, freer world. But you need to realize that your agenda is not Bush's agenda. Your motives are not his motives. He is playing you, and all of us, for fools. Don't be taken in. He isn't serious about making the long term commitment that will be necessary to secure a democratic state in Iraq. And, as a result, he is going to make this world an even bigger mess, and an even more dangerous place than it was before he became President.
We agree completely.
At Least I know I’m Free
The issue of whether public school employees can force children to say the Pledge of Allegiance may be headed to the Supreme Court. The legal issue in that case is whether the inclusion of the words “Under God” in the 1950s violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
We have always been troubled by another aspect of the Pledge. The phrase “with liberty and justice for all” has always struck a dissonant chord with us for two reasons.
First, how can we have both liberty and justice for all? In the case of law-breakers, the terms are oxymoronic. The administration of justice requires that some people lose their liberty. Liberty for violent felons would surely not be justice. Perhaps what we really mean is “liberty and justice for most.”
Secondly, does not forcing someone to praise our liberty violate the very same freedoms being celebrated? Professor Jack Balkin has argued that the phrase “under God” may not offend the constitution because it is merely "Ceremonial Deism":
Nevertheless, the expression "under God" might fall into a small category of situations or cases that have been called "ceremonial Deism." These are situations where people express hope or faith or trust in God through traditional and stylized invocations that have very little religious feeling to them. Ceremonial Deism is hallowed by long practice and tends to lose its religious significance over time. The idea is that it has become essentially secular and people shouldn't get too upset about it; it is just the sort of thing one is supposed to say on important occasions and we shouldn't understand it as an official religious point of view.
Perhaps the same phenomenon has occurred with the ritualized invocation of our liberty. Hesiod links to a story that suggests that the invocation of our “liberty” may be a ritual with no understanding of the actual meaning of the term.
A local Houston TV station reports as follows:
With some 15,000 to 20,000 folks at the rodeo drinking beer and having fun, things can get a little out of hand at times. It happened when a tape of Lee Greenwood's song Proud To Be An American was playing. Some rodeo fans were standing and others were sitting down. Felix Fanaselle and his buddies chose to remain seated.
What are the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American” that requires everyone to stand and show respect or face potential attack?
I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
Perhaps we should define “Ceremonial Patriotism” as occurring in situations where the love of country and our freedoms is expressed by forcing people to participate in traditional and stylized invocations during which liberty is required to be foregone.
Apparently, the freedom of which Mr. Greenwood sings does not include the freedom to remain seated at a rodeo when the Bubba National Anthem plays. That is one price of moving from real patriotism to a ceremonial patriotism.