Lots of interesting stuff out there that I briefly want to touch on, so:
* There’s a lot of media schadenfreude going on about the Republican meltdown last week. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories about how the GOP now has an inkling that November could be very bad indeed for them (which dovetails into the entry here from the other day). I think there are definite parallels between where the GOP is today and the Democrats were in 1994, but as I’ve said a number of times before anyone, who underestimates either the GOP drive to win at any cost or the recent Democratic ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory needs to beam back down to planet Earth. There’s still quite a lot of time between now and November.
* Speaking of schadenfreude, the writers of Time and Newsweek’s articles on the discovery of the Tiktaalik creature, which sits in the evolutionary gap between fish and amphibians, are positively gleeful on banging on the “intelligent design” people because here’s yet another transitional fossil (of course, now that means there’s just two more transitional fossil gaps, aren’t there. They’re just half the size).
The Newsweek piece has an adorably defensive quote from the Discovery Institute about how ID doesn’t have a problem with transitional forms, and then stuffs them with the observation that “fossil gaps are cited many times in the controversial ID textbook “Of Pandas and People.” The book takes particular note of the large difference between ‘the oldest amphibian’ and ‘its presumed [fish] ancestor.’ It’s a gap wide enough for a fish to walk through—and now we know that one did.” The Time piece is even more snarky: “Evolution is, as ID supporters love to say, “just” a theory. It also happens to be one of the most successful scientific theories in history, whose predictions of what should be found in the fossil record have been proven out… for the zillionth time.”
Yeah, the “sell by” date on ID has come and gone. It won’t stop morons from continually trying to push it, of course. But the bloom is off the intelligently designed rose.
* Time has an interesting article from a retired Lt. General who was also the Pentagon’s top operations officer, talking about what a pointless war Iraq has been, and share the blame between clueless civilian leaders (which you may understand to mean Secretary Rumsfeld, although he’s not the only one) and timid military brass, who didn’t speak up while the war was being planned. Here’s a key quote, which I can get behind: “The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them.”
* Over at the New York Times, a long magazine piece on El Salvador, where there is a constitutional amendment that says that the government must protect life from conception onward, and where abortion of any sort has been illegal for eight years. Just in case you’re wondering what that would be like, if, say, the Supreme Court decided South Dakota’s new abortion law was Constitution, or if a “right to life” Constitutional amendment got passed. For those of you who don’t want to bother with the entire article, three choice words for you: “forensic vagina inspectors.” El Salvador’s got ’em.
To be clear, I have an exceptionally hard time imagining a circumstance in which the US goes down the same road as El Salvador, whose anti-abortion position is enabled by a small, homogeneous population of Catholics whose government was apparently rather intensely susceptible to pressure from the Vatican. Nor do I think that even in a post Roe v. Wade America, some place like South Dakota would be able to get away with sentencing a woman to 30 years in prison for having an abortion, as can happen in El Salvador. The first time someone tried that here in the US (to a rich white girl, he said, oh-so-cynically), that would be the end of the anti-abortion movement as a recognizable political force.
On the other hand let’s not pretend that the end result of making all abortion illegal is not what happens in El Salvador, where women become criminals. If you want to make abortion illegal, no exceptions, this is what it looks like.