Category Archives: US politics

How The Anti-Fluoride Craze Explains Sarah Palin

Tom Flanagan is upset that Calgary’s city council has decided to end fluoride treatment of Calgary’s water supply. This is, as Flanagan correctly points out, against all evidence about the safety and benefits of fluoride in the water supply. Of course, as the Big City Liberal observes, Flanagan is reaping a whirlwind that he sowed by scoffing at “evidence” and “scientists” and so on when it came to global warming. Flanagan belongs to that strange and shrinking group of so-called respectable right-wingers. These are those on the right who like to whip up populist sentiment against the by deriding scientists, elites, liberals, ivory tower intellectuals and the government as being aloof and out of touch but still like to be able to hit the brakes some of the time and admit that yes, science or scholarship or what-have-you needs to be taken seriously once in a while. Some problems do actually require evidence-based solutions.

Of course as long as the majority opinion among right-wing media personalities was of this variety, there was a limit to how much frothing know-nothing outrage made it into the mainstream. There might be extreme or radical proposals on the American right but they had to be at least somewhat rationally defensible. I could call on the example here of William Buckley who had the courage to cast the Birchers out of the American conservative movement. I disagree with most of what Buckley stood for, but at least he had some kind of sense of what was the difference between someone who was strong-minded or opinionated and someone who was just plain crazy.

In today’s conservative movement though, it appears that the monkeys have final taken over the zoo and the energized populists will not heed the calls of sensible conservatives to rein in the crazy. They of course now have two heroes in this approach: Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Both Palin and Beck have been willing to double-down on the crazy every time they are given the option. They are prepared to entertain the nuttiest fringe stuff from birthers to death panels. Imagine if Palin and Beck somehow got embroiled in this fluoride thing, Palin would be calling on scientists to refudiate fluoride while Beck would draw a weird chart trying to show that big fluoride is connected to Soros, Islam, and the Nazis. If Flanagan is going to use the crazy fringe as a means to political ends, he is going to have to deal with more and more of this kind of thing. This is the tiger he has chosen to ride.


Imaginary Constitutions

The Onion nails it, as usual.

2009 – Are We Really Talking About Female Suffrage?!

This is disturbing.

Rachel Maddow on Obama’s Prize

I was pretty skeptical about Obama’s Nobel win, and I maintain that there’s still much more that Obama needs to do, nonetheless I think Maddow makes a good argument in favour of the prize. Good enough at least to post here:

Obama as Nobel Laureate

The Peace Prize? The man has done little to draw down troops in Iraq, he’s toying with increasing the troop commitment in Afghanistan, and he’s still moving very, very slowly to shut down Gitmo. Now this is not to say that it’s inconceivable that Obama will merit the Peace Prize at the end of four or eight years – the man moves slowly on everything it seems – but so far the evidence is just not there. It’s also not to say that I would support anything that the party of Beck and Palin would offer up in 2012. Obama is still probably the best choice from among the serious contenders in the 2008 election.

This award for Obama is akin to giving a promising freshman their university degree on account of their potential. Worse, I fear that this takes pressure off of Obama to get serious about shutting down the legal vacuum of Gitmo and deciding how best to extricate his country’s soldier’s from two nasty conflicts where there is little evidence that they can effect much change.

Why Afghanistan?

This post caught my attention. The argument that Jeffrey Goldberg makes is that Afghanistan isn’t really a “central front” in any kind of war on terror. (An aside, once again, why are we fighting a tactic?Using current nomenclature we should call the Cold War the “War on Missiles, Tanks, and Submarines” or something.) Anyway, my quibbles with Goldberg’s wording aside, I think he raises a salient point: Afghanistan is a place where al Qaeda could train, but most of al Qaeda’s members come from elsewhere.

What this means is that NATO is caught in a place where there was little native impulse to attack NATO countries because the preceding regime had allowed al Qaeda to hide out there. NATO troops may be able to make some temporary improvements in the lives of women, but these seem not to withstand NATO’s withdrawal from any particular area. Reforms do not extend beyond the range of NATO arms.

It should now be readily apparent that all we are doing in Afghanistan is propping up a budding dictator in Hamid Karzai while creating native anger at the West by bombing weddings and destroying the poppy crop that provides a livelihood for many farmers.

Public Access TV?

Glenn Beck is on a major cable news network, but you wouldn’t know it from his props or his wardrobe: