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Archive for November, 2007

Apology Not Accepted, Bill

[ 102 ] November 28, 2007 |

Saletan:

I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.

For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to “the scientific study of heredity and human differences.” During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime (“Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous”) and heresy (“Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people”). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.

I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I’m sorry. I owe you better than that.

“Hack” doesn’t really begin to cover it. Saletan sallied forth with the argument that the evidence for inherent intellectual inequality between races was so compelling that liberals who questioned the science were equivalent to creationists. Now we find that, in addition to not understanding most of the science he was trying to talk about, he didn’t even bother to do basic research into the compelling work he was citing.

More Bill:

I wanted to discuss whether egalitarianism could survive if this scenario, raised last month by James Watson, turned out to be true. I thought it was important to lay out the scenario’s plausibility. In doing so, I short-circuited the conversation. Most of the reaction to what I wrote has been over whether the genetic hypothesis is true, with me as an expert witness.

I don’t want this role. I’m not an expert.

Huh. So I guess that’s why Bill devoted two columns to stressing how strong the science was and how reluctant to accept the truth liberals were, and one column to a few half-assed ruminations about the political implications. And I guess that’s why he felt the need to write this missive to the liberal masses:

Evolution forced Christians to bend or break. They could insist on the Bible’s literal truth and deny the facts, as Bryan did. Or they could seek a subtler account of creation and human dignity. Today, the dilemma is yours. You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn’t break your faith.

I’m for reconciliation.

Yeah; I’m pretty strongly against reconciliation with someone who thought taunting liberals for not believing shoddy racist science was more important than doing basic journalistic research.

Seriously, what does somebody have to do to get fired from Slate?

To Be Fair and Balanced

[ 0 ] November 28, 2007 |

Given the minor discussion in comments about Sting’s merits as a solo artist, I thought we should things turn over to the man himself:

It hit me the other day, and it was like, “Whoa—that’s so bizarre.” I was sitting at one of my pianos, working out some chords for my forthcoming album The Tepid Heart, when the wife asked me to pick up some diet soda. Since the staff was off (it was a Sunday), and the kids were due home from football practice soon, I said sure and drove down to the cornershop.

When I got there, the kid behind the counter had a tape playing that sounded oddly familiar. It wasn’t really my cup of tea—polyrhythmic and uptempo, with intense emotional energy and electrically amplified guitars instead of acoustic. And the kid was, to be honest, playing it a bit loud. But instead of being annoyed, I found it compelling in a weird sort of way. When I asked the kid who it was, he said he’d found it in a bag of stuff that used to belong to his older brother. “It’s old, but I like it,” he said. “It’s kind of reggae, but it sounds punk, too.”

Well, several weeks went by, but it kept nagging at me. Then, finally, last Thursday, I figured it out. I was in the den, watching some figure skating on TV and reading Parade. (Isn’t it funny how these things always hit you at the oddest times?) Anyway, there was an article about a policewoman who volunteers teaching schoolchildren about pet safety, when suddenly, it clicked: That kid was listening to Outlandos d’Amour, the first record by my old band, The Police!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow… I haven’t thought about The Police in years.” And neither had I, but you know what? It sounds nothing like what you’d expect after hearing “Fields Of Gold.” At first, I thought, “Wait… Is this just my memory playing tricks on me? I mean, I recorded the love theme from The Three Musketeers with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, for Christ’s sake. How cool could I possibly be?” But then I dusted off a bunch of the old LPs and, boy, was I amazed. Those records were actually pretty rockin’! You wouldn’t think that kind of stuff would come from me, but, hey, the opening track, “Next To You”? Come on! And the rest of the album, too: “So Lonely,” “Born In the ’50s,” and you’ve got to admit that “Sally Be My Girl” is one cool song. I was like, “Did I write this stuff? No way!”

Seems about right. I had forgotten about the Three Musketeers thing; I think it took George Harrison longer to write “Got My Mind Set on You“…

Against The Sorkinization of Hollywood

[ 28 ] November 28, 2007 |

A good article by Sudhir Muralidhar that, rather than attempting to project wingnut aesthetic Stalinism onto the public, wonders if anti-war movies are flopping not because the public loves the war and loves George Bush but because they…seem awful?

How else to explain Lions for Lambs, the most inert, predictable, and unnecessary political film to come out this year? Directed by Redford, the movie turns on the choices of three pairs of characters: A Republican senator (Tom Cruise) and a journalist (Meryl Streep) called to interview him about a new war strategy, two idealistic college graduates recently enlisted in the Army and deployed in Afghanistan (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) to employ that strategy, and a young student disenchanted with the American political process (Andrew Garfield) who must defend his apathy to his liberal political science professor (Redford). Lions for Lambs attempts to distill the debacle of the Iraq War through these characters, to demonstrate how the American public’s (students’) disillusionment with our political process allowed Washington elites (politicians and journalists) to deceive the country and send bright, well-intentioned men (young soldiers on the frontlines) to their death.

Such unsubtle frameworks usually work better in theater than in cinema, and it’s no surprise that Lions for Lambs feels much less like a Hollywood movie than a well-financed play. Not a good play, mind you, but a play written by a precocious high school student who watches lots of CNN. Matthew Michael Carnahan, the screenwriter behind this dreck, litters his dialogue with allusions to Abu Ghraib and Iran’s nuclear program but does little more than reference these real-world events. Cruise’s slick Republican senator speaks about his new war strategy in such vague terms that one cannot help but wonder if Carnahan has ever heard a real policy speech or even read an article on the war that was longer than an entry on the Huffington Post.

As I mentioned elsewhere, descriptions of this film remind me of nothing to much as the nightmarishly atrocious post-9/11 episode of The West Wing. (I know, I know, we wrote it in 24 hours or something. The problem is, virtually all of Studio 60 consisted of the same kind of position-paper reading, although at least they didn’t literally lock students into a room while Sorkin preached at them.)

Muralidhar does seem a little more sympathetic to Redacted but concedes its aesthetic failures. I’ll just add that I’m amused by people are talking about a Brian DePalma movie flopping as if this proves something about the administration and the war. People must love Bush if nobody sees Redacted following the incredible box-office success of Mission to Mars and Femme Fatale!

Bartleby

[ 15 ] November 28, 2007 |


Bartleby (also featured here) passed away on Monday. From his caregivers:

Our crazy, sometimes malicious, but still lovable cat Bartleby died last night. The vet said he had an aortic thromboembolism, and heart failure due to a genetic condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It was very sudden and unexpected. Bartleby had shown no symptoms until last night, having been an avid jumper/runner/hunter right through Sunday night.

Whatever his anger issues, he was a beautiful and active cat.

Sorry, But…

[ 48 ] November 28, 2007 |



Do They Know They Celebrate Christmas In Warmer Climes At All?

Roger claims that Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is indisputably the worst Christmas song ever. Now, it’s certainly awful. But its awfulness cannot hold a candle to “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an exceptionally lame song sung by mostly third-rate British pop stars that is also an unfortunate combination of self-congratulatory charity project and egregious racist condescension. Really, it begins and ends any such discussion. Indeed, it’s so bad that even the Canadian analogue (though not a Christmas song) is much better, if only on the strength of Gordon Lightfoot’s shades and Neil Young’s sideburns…

If you’re not with us….

[ 37 ] November 28, 2007 |

So it appears Atlas ran out of quaaludes and orange juice today:

Bush has lost his mind and his moral compass. This statement is an outrage. A lie and a blood libel. Israel has never committed any acts of terrorism. What a tool of Islamic jihad. Based on that, Bush is a terrorist, anyone that defends himself, his family, his country is a terrorist.

Jeepers. I’d hate to imagine how she’d respond if the Bush administration were genuinely interested in a settlement that came anywhere close the international consensus on resolving the 40-year occupation. It’s almost as if the past seven years — during which the US did utterly nothing to discourage Israel’s brutal reassertions in the West Bank, its conversion of Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison, or its self-defeating war in Lebanon — hadn’t actually happened.

Where’s the gratitude, for chrissakes? After all, by allowing the peace process to founder since 2001, the Bush administration passively (and I’m being generous with that word) abetted a Palestinian civil war that likely only to worsen in the aftermath of all this, whether or not any viable deal is reached next year. And by fouling up two wars in the region, this same administration cleared the way for Iran’s re-emergence as the region’s great boogeyman, a role that assured more than anything that this “meeting” in Annapolis would happen in the first place — all while giving dead-end zealots like Frank Gaffney all the cause they need to shriek about Israel’s impending destruction.

Really, what more do these people want?

Channel 122 On Your Dial!

[ 6 ] November 28, 2007 |

I’m not sure whether to be happy that the Flames are on national TV (well, quasi-national) tonight, or dismayed that hockey fans across the country will see them get destroyed by the Red Wings again…

In other news, apparently Dennis Miller has a new show that involves recycling lame Britney Spears jokes and applying them to sports. I’m sure he’s on Versus because of the same Hollywood blacklist that pretty much stopped Roger L. Simon from getting work several years before he came out as a reactionary…

Paul and Abortion

[ 31 ] November 27, 2007 |

Ramesh Ponnuru makes an interesting point about Ron Paul: “What strikes me is what a throwback Paul is among libertarians. Hard money and anti-interventionism move him, but he seems utterly uninterested in the lifestyle questions that have taken up so much of Reason for the past decade.” Indeed, he’s not merely indifferent to all such questions but in fact is a proponent of using state coercion to force women to carry pregnancies of term. Gillespie and Welch try to get around this by using the classic federalism dodge, asserting that Paul “nonetheless believes that federal bans violate the more basic principle of delegating powers to the states.”

As Ponnuru also notes, however, this won’t wash because he voted for the federal “partial birth” abortion ban. Moreover, from a libertarian perspective the “partial birth” ban is, if anything, less defensible than voting for a total ban. Libertarians could in theory justify a ban because most would see the protection of human life as a legitimate use of state power (although in practice criminalization does very little to actually protect fetal life, and Paul’s libertarian positions on other issues would almost certainly increase abortion rates by a massive extent.) The ban Paul voted for, conversely, does nothing to protect fetal life, but simply tries to force doctors to perform abortions using less safe methods in some cases. Even on its face, therefore, such legislation is about regulating female sexuality and punishing women for making choices the state doesn’t approve of, which is as inconsistent with any coherent set of libertarian principles as it is with “states’ rights.” Paul is more consistent than most Republican-affiliated “libertarians” — he’s not willing to make up ridiculous arguments in favor of the Iraq War, for example — but his libertarianism doesn’t seem to apply to these kinds of issues of individual freedom.

The lesson here is the obvious one: like libertarians, people willing to forego strongly-held substantive preferences in the name of federalism “are as rare as pieces of the True Cross.” And when almost anybody tells you that by advocating the overturn of Roe they want to “send the issue back to the states,” they’re almost certainly lying.

Unintended Consequences

[ 25 ] November 27, 2007 |

Partly because I think you should stick by your predictions as long as they’re still plausible, I still think that Mitt Romney has to be considered the favorite to win the GOP nomination. Matt, however, makes an interesting point about the biggest impediment Romney faces: the possibility that Huckabee will win in Iowa. Assuming (and I think this is right) that Huckabee has enough support to win Iowa but lacks the resources to be competitive in the front-loaded primaries even if he wins, the irony is that the most social conservative major candidate could hand the Republican nomination to the candidate least congenial to social conservatives. Although it’s conceivable that Romney could survive a loss in Iowa, it would be hard to argue that he should be favored over Giuliani if it happens.

Of course, this kind of strange scenario is that result of the fact that there is a prominent hawkish social conservative in the race — who’s uncompetitive largely because of his personal conflicts with social conservative leaders. Between McCain being DOA and the late-entering plain vanilla southern conservative seemingly emulating Wesley Clark’s 2004 campaign we have the current situation in which nobody seems logically capable of winning the Republican nomination. In that context, I still think Romney is the least illogical possibility.

Most Hyperbolic Three Paragraphs Ever

[ 18 ] November 27, 2007 |

I stand in awe:

It is fitting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose the U.S. Naval Academy for the venue of today’s so-called Mideast peace conference. The reputation of that extraordinary institution in Annapolis has been sullied in recent years by a succession of rapes of young women.

Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Miss Rice’s conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia.

This time, the intended victim is Israel. As with the effort to appease the Nazis and Fascists nearly 70 years ago, however, the damage will not be confined to the rapee. The interests of the Free World in general and the United States in particular will suffer from what the Saudis and most of the other attendees have in mind for the Jewish State — namely, its dismemberment and ultimate destruction.

Frank Gaffney has utterly destroyed Godwin’s Law. Future generations will have to use “Gaffney’s Law”, in which Hitler, Mussolini, the gang rape of United States Navy Academy cadets, and the destruction of Israel will all have to be mentioned in order to achieve the level of “inflammatory rhetoric”.

I do hope that at least someone will note that the unruliest of the unruly in the Netroots have only rarely accused Condoleeza Rice of gang rape…

Fake Libertarians

[ 17 ] November 27, 2007 |

D-squared on conservertarians:

They’re always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman. The more independent-minded ones will occasionally come up with a liberalish or fair-minded idea or two, but this is purely for display, not for ever doing anything about if to do so would run the risk of a higher rate of capital gains tax. The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks.

1. Vote Republican.
2. That’s it.

The Iraq War has obviously been useful in exposing bullshit libertarians. It becomes comical to assert that the state cannot be trusted to administer a pension plan it has successfully administered with low overhead for many decades, but can be trusted at a massive expense of lives and money to create a liberal democracy ex nihilo in a country whose prior insitutional arrangements were exceptionally inhospitable to the new form. I’m reminded of my favorite recent example, Randy Barnett. What’s especially rich is that you may recall Barnett questioned whether the state would be necessary to enforce contracts — but deposing a regime that posed no significant threat to the United States in order to pursue an exceptionally ambitious, quarter-assed social transformation scheme that will magically supply a security justification to the war is perfectly OK! And war against nation X is justifiable if stateless Islamic terrorists with no connection to secular state X come from the same region, because the miraculous, very consistent with libertarian premises transformation of secular state X will produce even more miraculous transformations in Islamic states Y and Z, through causal relationships better left unspecified! It all makes perfect sense! As d-squared concludes in re: Milton Friedman:

Why are American liberals so damnably obsessed with extending intellectual charity to right wing hacks which is never reciprocated? It reaches parodic form in the case of those tiresome “centrists” who left wing American bloggers are always playing the Lucy-holds-the-football game with. Oh, but their politics are sooo centrist! They’re practically 50% of the way between Republicans and Democrats! Yeah, specifically they’re right-wing Democrats in non-election years and party line Republicans any time it might conceivably matter (note that here, two years after the White House ceremony at which Friedman apparently “spent most of his 90th birthday lunch telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster”, here he is signing a letter in support of more of the same).

I wouldn’t mind, but it’s clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn’t a party line Republican hack (which he was; he was also an excellent economist, which is why he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, not the Nobel Prize for Making A Sincere and Productive Contribution To The National Political Debate, which he would not have won if there was one).

Tragedies

[ 2 ] November 27, 2007 |

Rob has already mentioned the untimely passing of Sean Taylor; hopefully those who shot him will be brought to justice. And although he’s a less prominent athlete, I should also note the death of Joe Kennedy. Most baseball fans have some sore-armed veteran trying to gut out a career that the root for, and Kennedy was always one of mine. Although I watch most games from the cheap seats, once or twice a year I would buy a really nice ticket, and in 2002 it happens that I saw a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Kennedy and Jamie Moyer from right behind home plate. Kennedy won 1-0 with a 4-hitter, and his stuff was very impressive (although admittedly pitching against Moyer probably makes your heater look better.) He was never the same after he hurt his arm the next year, but I always hoped he’d figure something out and stay in the league. R.I.P.

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