The stimulus worked

It's somewhat depressing that I even have to explain to a good (though not particularly well-informed) Liberal Democrat like my wife, that, indeed, the stimulus worked.  Of course, as her small business, like many others, goes through really tough times, it's hard to see that.  I'm pretty sure I blogged about this a while ago, but today's buzz in the liberal blogosphere would seem to suggest that Dave Leonhardt has written the ultimate stimulus defense.  Here's the catchy beginning:

Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.

Let’s
say this bill had started spending money within a matter of weeks and
had rapidly helped the economy. Let’s also imagine it was large enough
to have had a huge impact on jobs — employing something like two
million people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.

If that had happened, what would the economy look like today?

Well,
it would look almost exactly as it does now. Because those nice
descriptions of the stimulus that I just gave aren’t hypothetical. They
are descriptions of the actual bill.

Of course it doesn't help that Republicans keep claiming it didn't work despite all evidence to the contrary and the media just repeats their claims as if they have some validity. 

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Quick Hits (Chait Edition)

1) The big Republican talking point on health care reform is that you should be able to purchase it across state lines.  This is, of course, utter folly, but it sounds good.  We'd quickly end up with something similar to the consumer disaster that is the credit card industry.  Jon Chait does the best job of spinning out the policy logic that I've seen on this issue.  You should read it to rebut those GOP claims.  [Update: Ezra Klein takes this and runs with it, spinning out the logic even more.]

2) Harold Ford is an idiot, who's really not worth my time to blog about.  I'll just say, man, I hope I never get on Chait's bad side.  His takedown of Ford is much like a great critic reviewing a bad movie.  

DADT

Interesting McClatchy story describes the lack of resistance to DADT among actual troops.

Indeed, since Mullen appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this month and
told a stunned Congress that in his personal view, gays and lesbians
should be allowed to serve, the response among members of the military
has been little more than a shrug.

This actually jibes what I've been hearing from my students in the military (I teach a Distance Ed class which typically has active duty service members in the class, or at least several who have very recently served).  I suspect there is still plenty of resistance among front-line infantry units, but the truth is that is just a tiny portion of the overall military.  The Airman working in an air traffic control center or refueling jets has very little reason to care whether the person next to him is gay or not.  When all is said and done, I think people will be surprised how little difference a change in policy will make (except, of course, to gay soldiers who would've otherwise been booted out).

 

Bye Bayh

I don't really have a lot to say about Evan Bayh's announcement that he is not seeking re-election.  There is no doubt that the man is a dim bulb who has done his best to undermine the Democratic agenda on the simple-minded principle that half-way between what Democrats and Republicans want must be a good thing.  On the other hand, he votes Democratic most of the time, most importantly for majority leader– that's important and will be missed as Indiana will likely go Republican.  Nonetheless, Bayh is my least favorite type of Senator, a preening centrist, always drawing attention to how reasonable and moderate he is regardless of the actual incoherence of his positions.  Okay, enough on Bayh, but I'll end with a quote from Chait:

 This was just a completely unremarkable man who, had he not been the
hansome son of a famous politician, would never in a million years have
been a Senator.

[Okay, wait, I'll almost end there.  I really enjoyed this column blasting Bayh by Katrina vanden Heuvel]

 

Childhood bipolar disorder

Let's stick with the mental health theme… Really interesting story on NPR last week about how the diagnosis of "childhood bipolar" disorder is going to be eliminated from the new DSM-V.  I've been intrigued by this diagnosis since I read a really interesting New Yorker story a few years back about the raging over-diagnosis of this condition.  Anyway, this NPR story, which you can read or listen to, quite nicely explained what's fundamentally wrong with this diagnosis.  Short version: adult bipolar is episodic whereas childhood bipolar seems not to be.  Also, there seems to be very little relation to children diagnosed bipolar and adults diagnosed this way.  Thus, psychiatrists have created a new, and seemingly more appropriate diagnosis: temper dysregulation disorder.  Ultimately, it will be most interesting to see how the medical treatment (bipolar disorder is treated with powerful drugs that raises many concerns when used in children) may change with this new condition.

 

R word

Apparently, there's been a bit of a micro-scandal based on reports that Rahm Emmanuel referred to the the strategies of liberal activists on health care as "[expletive] retarded."  If he's talking about Jane Hamsher and friends, he's right, but that's beside the point, here, which is that it has brought about a debate on the use of the word "retarded."  I've always been particularly interested in this debate as when I was a kid, we referred to my older brother who has severe autism as "retarded."  There was no slur intended, that's simply what people like him were called back in the day when most people did not know the word autism.  Now, of course, I have a son who in addition to his autism truly is "retarded" or intellectually disabled as we like to say now.  He is seven, but generally functions on a cognitive level of a 2-3 year old.  Kim likes the term "developmental delays" but to me "delay" implies he'll catch up.  He won't.  I honestly don't have a problem with the word retarded, again, probably because of my experience with my brother, but given the world we live in, I generally use "intellectual disability" or "cognitive impairment"  (I like the clinical sound of that, for some reason).  Anyway, by way of that long preface, in the Post on Sunday, Christopher Fairman had an interesting column arguing against "banning" the "r" word.  This particular section really resonated given my experience with my brother:

The irony is that the use of "mental retardation" and its variants was
originally an attempt to convey greater dignity and respect than
previous labels had. While the verb "retard" — meaning to delay or
hinder — has roots in the 15th century, its use in reference to mental
development didn't occur until the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
when medical texts began to describe children with "retarded mental
development," "retarded children" and "mentally retarded patients." By
the 1960s, "mental retardation" became the preferred medical term,
gradually replacing previous diagnostic standards such as "idiot,"
"imbecile" and "moron" — terms that had come to carry pejorative
connotations.

As I was growing up in the 1970s, my father worked for the Texas
Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, one of the
now-renamed state agencies. The term "retardation" was common in my
home and life, but it was sterile and clinical. It is only in the past
generation that the medical term turned into the slang "retard" and
gained power as an insult. 

The next day, the Post followed up with a column from  Timothy Shriver (the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics).  I was not entirely persuaded by his argument, though:

And the word "retard," whatever its history, reflects a massive problem.

Mental Disability Rights International has found evidence around the
world of horrific conditions — starvation, abuse, isolation — in
institutions serving people with intellectual disabilities. It happens
in this country. In Texas, caregivers were recently found to be forcing
residents of an institution to awake in the middle of the night and
fight one another while staffers cheered and taunted. Here in
Washington, repeated investigations have revealed people with
intellectual disabilities as the victims of abuse, indifference and
negligent death.

Something tells me these things would still be true if the victims were labeled "intellectually disabled."  If people are going to use the word as a slur, obviously it largely loses it's legitimate medical meaning, but I think Shriver definitely overstates the case against the word.  Anyway, regardless, given my personal experiences, I find this a really interesting issue.

Abdulmutallab

 I should find a nice comprehensive article to link to about the interrogation of Abdulmutallab.  This one from Nick Bauman (filling in for Kevin Drum) is a little bit dated, but gets the main points across.  Mostly, I just want to say how sick I am of the stupid Republican fear-mongering on this issue.  God forbid we should give a terrorist a lawyer when we can pull off his fingernails.  You don't get to pick and choose who the Constitution applies to.  This is like the morons who support the 1st amendment until somebody says something they disagree with.  The Constitutional protections for those under prosecution protect all of us.  We don't get to just say, "oh, this is a really bad guy, let's skip the lawyer and fair trial business for him."  Well, if you're the Bush administration or their flunkies, I guess you do say that.  Slippery slope arguments are certainly over-done, but it is quite clear that once you start picking and choosing who gets Constitutional protections, you've set an extremely dangerous precedent.  Furthermore, its just dumb from a policy perspective as the Abdulmutallab case makes clear.  We've gotten good intelligence from him precisely because we did not torture him and his father worked with US authorities to help get him to cooperate.  Any chance that would've happened if we sent him to some secret site for "harsh interrogation."  Not to mention, all the torture methods we use were designed to elicit false confessions.  Thus, one of the things that upsets me about all the torture apologists and their Fox-news/sheep followers, is that not only is this policy immoral, it is demonstrably stupid. 

 

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