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Archive for December, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 14 ] December 21, 2007 |

Although her brother Henry has recetly been caught rogering my daughter’s stuffed animals, Emma is by far the more unhinged of the two. She has always devoted some part of her nights to carrying around fake mice and other cat toys, but in recent months — as our home’s canine-feline hostilities have escalated — she’s turned the crazy amp to 11. All but forbidden from the master bedroom, Emma has apparently decided to barricade her caretakers and their two dogs behind a wall of socks, washcloths, hand towels, diapers, computer cords, mittens, hats and garbage, all of which she drags into the hallway during the middle of the night to prop against our door. Most animal behaviorists would probably claim that she’s overcompensating for lost attention, or that old age has started turning her brain to fruit loops, but I’m convinced that she’s genuinely trying to entomb us.

And The Money Is Being Laundered Through Vince Foster’s Corpse!

[ 78 ] December 21, 2007 |

The Clenis (TM) — now so powerful that he can control the GOP nomination:

The reader was convinced that none other than Bill and Hill were Huckabee’s ultimate backers. Given how divisive Huckabee is, how well they know know the passions of the Evangelical community (and deep anger there, if my inbox is any guide), and the magnitude of money in Bill’s “library fund,” well, it’s as plausible an answer as any to “how the hell did this happen?” Huckabee is the candidate easiest for any Democrat to knock off, by a long shot. And there goes the GOP coaltion for a long time to come. Now that would be quite a Clinton legacy.

Aside from the high comedy (Huckabee being propelled by Bill Clinton’s money would be rather more convincing if Huackabee actually had any money), the crackdown of GOP elites against Huckabee is instructive. After being told how immensely popular reactionary cultural positions were and how the Democrats had no choice but to throw most of their constituencies under the bus and let the Angry White Men have their way, conservative pundits now claiming that running someone who actually believes this stuff rather than somebody who cynically exploits a minority faction would be electoral suicide. I think the lesson is obvious.

Bad For Labor, Bad For Business

[ 8 ] December 21, 2007 |

Via Will Bunch, apparently Circuit City was begging some of its laid off employees to come back. Awwwww. As he concludes about the companay’s strategy of firing its competent workers, “[s]ince then, I’ve pretty much done any electronics shopping at Best Buy — and so does everyone else, apparently.”

Presidential Candidates: Not Pundits

[ 27 ] December 21, 2007 |

Mark Schmitt gets this exactly right:

As an observer of politics, and commenter on it, I almost entirely share Krugman’s and Edwards’ diagnoses. I appreciate the conflictual nature of politics. I don’t think there’s some cross-partisan truth; I understand that the Republican conservatives are intractable. I know those advantaged by the current structure of power are determined to preserve it, and the well-funded campaign to destroy any possibility of progressive governance will be as intantaneous and intense as anything in 1993. I’ve tried to spell this out as clearly and aggressively as possible, especially to counter the tendency among elites to imagine that the good old days when Republicans and Democrats worked together selflessly and put ideology aside to solve the nation’s problems are coming back. (Or that they were so great to start with.)

But let’s take a slightly different angle on the charge that Obama is “naïve” about power and partisanship. Suppose you were as non-naïve about it as I am — but your job wasn’t writing about politics, it was running for president? What should you do? In that case, your responsibility is not merely to describe the situation exactly, but to find a way to subvert it. In other words, perhaps we are being too literal in believing that “hope” and bipartisanship are things that Obama naively believes are present and possible, when in fact they are a tactic, a method of subverting and breaking the unified conservative power structure. Claiming the mantle of bipartisanship and national unity, and defining the problem to be solved (e.g. universal health care) puts one in a position of strength, and Republicans would defect from that position at their own risk. The public, and younger voters in particular, seem to want an end to partisanship and conflictual politics, and an administration that came in with that premise (an option not available to Senator Clinton), would have a tremendous advantage, at least for a moment.

To accept the obvious truths that politics is about conflict, that many political disputes are incommensurable, and that partisanship is therefore not inherently a bad thing does not mean that repeatedly emphasizing conflicts is an effective rhetorical strategy. To take Obama’s rhetoric on this score at face value is silly. It’s overwhelmingly likely that he understands perfectly well the nature of the GOP, but also understands that “the current GOP is horrible and we should therefore kill them and then salt the earth so it can never grow again” isn’t an effective means of appealing to swing voters.

..and as for political efficacy, the fact that Obama substantially outperforms Clinton against anybody seems definitive.

Happy TIDOS Day!

[ 52 ] December 21, 2007 |

I almost forgot to wish everyone a Happy Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Day. December 20 marks the anniversary of South Carolina’s 1860 decision to leave the Union, in whose newly elected Republican leaders the state’s propertied elites spied a grievous threat to the principle of perpetual black servitude. I’ve got a post on the secession ordinance itself over at the Axis, but for now, let’s hear from someone else.

This fellow, for example, is unambiguously joy-stricken by the occasion:

[T]oday should be a holiday, and is known to some as Secession Day.

South Carolina was soon followed by other states in January, but spent nearly a month standing alone. While many have debated that this was an example of South Carolinians sun-baked brains, South Carolinians still know that it was an example of their stubborn spirit of independence — a spirit that big government types never have and never will put up with.

Exactly. One thing “big government types” didn’t realize at the time is that the proper response to a perceived threat is for a state legislature to rally behind a baseless theory of sovereignty in order to rationalize treason. By contrast, “small government” conservatives understood that the salve to electoral disappointment was create a radical new system — the Confederate States of America — that was in every respect less democratic than the one they thought they were leaving behind. And of course, as the legislature of the “Palmetto Republic” declared four days after the passage of the ordinance, “independence” means . . . um . . . you know . . .

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

As for “Secession Hall” in Charleston, where the ordinance was ratified 147 years ago today, here’s what it looked like in 1865:


Nice work, South Carolina!

Pluralism follow-up

[ 216 ] December 21, 2007 |

So in general I like to be involved in controversial comment threads that I start, and I seemed have launched the most controversial one of my erstwhile blogging career earlier this week. Due to travel (Thanks to Scott and Jason and Jay and Claire for their hospitality in NY, DC and Philly, respectively, and it was great to meet raise a glass with Lizardbreath, A White Bear, Dave, Zuzu, and everyone in New York!) and grading, I was not available to explain and defend myself.

I’ll try and explain why I think the Dawkins approach to atheism in a few upcoming posts (a series, if you will). For now, I’ll endorse generally the line of reasoning pursued by Lemuel, Matt Weiner, and divguy. Here I’ll just be responding to one line of reasoning offered by my critics. This is the notion that there is a whiff of the dread “sensible civil centrism ™” to my post. There were several comments in this vein (and many more at Yglesias’ place, where accusations of Broderism a bit more common), but “Central Texan” gives us the distilled essence of this critique:

David Broder could not have put it better. I believe in something higher and invisible and you do not. Therefore you must yield to me an automatic assumption of moral superiority and deep insight rather than simple delusion. Oh, and keep your opinions to yourself and we will tolerate your existence.

This casts Linker any myself as the obnoxious and ineffective “Republican light” brand of democrat, acknowledging “republican facts” and shying away from calling Republicans on their dishonesty and various other depravities. I, of course, don’t care for this sort of politics, and criticize it strongly, so why should I follow this line when it comes to religion.

Well, it’s a terrible analogy for a lot of reasons, but I’ll focus on the most important one. I don’t care much for the aesthetics of the aforementioned political style, but the primary reason I oppose it is because it’s bad politics. One of the main reasons it’s bad politics is that on many, many issues, we have the numbers. People don’t like the war in Iraq and generally prefer more liberal positions on most domestic issues to conservative ones. Atheists, on the other hand, are currently a tiny fraction of our society. Bill O’Reilly’s protestations aside, atheists make up a very small percentage of liberals. So while I can see why such an approach might seem like a good one to Naderites, it should give the rest of us some serious pause. Furthermore, going on the offensive as atheists, Dawkins style, is to take the intolerant, poisonous Christianists, and lump liberal mainline religious moderates and liberals in with them, by minimizing the differences between them.

But much more importantly, I like my Democratic politicians proud and agressive because I have clear, concrete, reasons to want them do what they can to win. This is unsurprising; indeed, it’s a good part of what politics is about. Part of what makes politics possible is a separation between politics and comprehensive moral and epistemic approaches to the world. A key tenet of liberalism is to accept the fact of pluralism. The fact of pluralism isn’t a contingent one; that people disagree about which comprehensive doctrine is correct is almost certainly a permanent fact about free societies. What makes Dawkins as well as Christianists similarly illiberal* is that they are convinced that the rightness of their comprehensive worldview and the wrongness (both factually and morally) of others makes it possible to imagine their comprehensive worldview can concievably win out, and their role is to give birth to a future in which the light is seen by all, once their heart is touched by Jesus or they learn to unlearn the mythologies of history and youth and put their faith in science, or whatever. If you accept the fact of pluralism as a persistent social fact, and there’s good reason to believe you should, the actual rightness of your particular comprehensive worldview is irrelevent to anything discussed above.

*Christianists are, of course illiberal and pernicious in other ways that Dawkins is not, and their vision of hte world is obviously much worse so please don’t read this as an exercise in false equivalence.

The Case Against Ron Paul

[ 26 ] December 20, 2007 |

Made more than ably by Dana Goldtstein.

It is important to remember that, although he was (like Barack Obama) right on the war and supports some other good positions (anti-War (on some classes of people who use some) Drugs), he holds many more crackpot positions, and his libertarianism and federalism seem to stop where women’s rights begin.

MPAA Thinks of the Children

[ 30 ] December 20, 2007 |

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly hip to the latest in stoner film culture, but would someone please tell me I’m the last person to actually hear about this? Maybe I missed Cheech and Chong Invade Grenada, but this is pretty goddamned tacky. [UPDATE . . . . well, OK, this is why I maybe shouldn't write about movies . . . Having watching the trailer, I'll cheerfully take my licks for this. Meantime . . . ]

Meantime, via Steve Perry, we learn that the MPAA has rejected poster artwork for two documentary films that actually deal with Guantanamo:

The MPAA has rejected the one-sheet for Alex Gibney’s documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan’s Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay.ThinkFilm opens the pic, which is on the Oscar shortlist of 15 docs, on Jan. 11.The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

An MPAA spokesman said: “We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.”According to ThinkFilm distribution prexy Mark Urman, the reason given by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for rejecting the poster is the image of the hood, which the MPAA deemed unacceptable in the context of such horror films as “Saw” and “Hostel.” “To think that this is not apples and oranges is outrageous,” he said. “The change renders the art illogical, without any power or meaning.”

The MPAA also rejected the one-sheet for Roadside Attractions’ 2006 film “The Road to Guantanamo,” which featured a hooded prisoner hanging from his handcuffed wrists. At the time, according to Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, the reason given was that the burlap bag over the prisoner’s head depicted torture, which was not appropriate for children to see.

I’ve actually seen The Road to Guantanamo, and it’s a remarkable film that deserves a wider audience. But I, too, would hate to see children scared away by the film’s poster, so I’ve taken a few moments to adapt it with the MPAA’s sensitivities in mind.


Why Liberals Will Never Be Trusted With National Security

[ 9 ] December 20, 2007 |

I’m appalled that a young liberal writer would be so squishy about the kind of Tough Measures needed to stop the Icelandofascist Menace. Stop them before they support Matthew Barney’s art again!

Today in Double Standards

[ 0 ] December 20, 2007 |

Via Lauren, Teresa Valdez Klein finds celebrity gossip hack Perez “Castro Is Teh Dead!!!111!!1!” Hilton calling Jamie Lynn Spears “trailer trash” and exclaiming that “Bitch is begging for her job!” Ha-ha!

My question: how many of the men attacking Spears weren’t having sex at age 16? OK, well, probably a substantial number. To be more precise, how many of the men attacking Spears wouldn’t have had sex if they actually knew someone with the misfortune to be a willing partner? Given that I suspect the answer is somewhere in the order of “none,” all of these people need to shut the hell up.

And what Lauren says:

What our celebrity subject will soon find out is that despite trying to do what is best for one’s particular family in one’s particular place in a particularly controversial situation, “taking responsibility” doesn’t actually mean what people say it means. In the end, doing what’s right for you doesn’t matter if the “correct” decision was to stay classy by quietly terminating the pregnancy and going forth in the wave of paparazzi like nothing ever happened at all.

Of course, if she had obtained an abortion she would still be a white-trash immoral slut. Hopefully this will teach her to be a teenage boy next time!

The Vote Fraud Fraud: Actual Fraud Edition

[ 3 ] December 20, 2007 |

In addition to pressuring U.S. Attorneys to pursue isolated cases of vote fraud for which there was no actual evidence, the DOJ made sure to delay the investigation of actual systematic electoral theft which may have won the GOP the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race before the slime would be spotted on GOP elites:

The Justice Department delayed prosecuting a key Republican official for jamming the phones of New Hampshire Democrats until after the 2004 election, protecting top GOP officials from the scandal until the voting was over.

An official with detailed knowledge of the investigation into the 2002 Election-Day scheme said the inquiry sputtered for months after a prosecutor sought approval to indict James Tobin, the northeast regional coordinator for the Republican National Committee.

The phone-jamming operation was aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from rounding up voters in the close U.S. Senate race between Republican Rep. John Sununu and Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu’s 19,000-vote victory helped the GOP regain control of the Senate.

[...]

Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the state Democratic Party, said the delay spared Republicans embarrassment at the peak of the campaign because a pending deposition would have revealed that several state GOP officials knew about the scheme, which was hatched by their executive director, Charles McGee. The delay also stalled the case beyond its statute of limitations, depriving Democrats of full discovery, he said.

Meanwhile, Blue Girl points us to the forthcoming book How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. Alas, I suspect it may serve more as a GOP instruction manual than as a cautionary tale…

Precedents For A Farce

[ 1 ] December 20, 2007 |

Michael Berube notes the obvious predecessors of Jonah Goldberg’s major new contribution to American letters, Mussolini Was Nice To Kittens, Just Like Many…Liberals!!1!!ONE11!!111.
I note as well that most of the worthless and frequently racist books under discussion — just like Goldberg’s — were edited by Adam Bellow, whose praise for nepotism is eminently understandable. I particularly enjoyed this explanation of Bellow’s rightward turn, which apparently was bereft of any intellectual content even by neoconservative standards. Everything is there: a guy whose worldview seems to be driven entirely by seething ressentiment against something called “Zabar’s liberals” accusing others of shallow prejudice and parochialism; congratulating oneself about attacks on “identity politics” in the context of a defense of Clarence Thomas; concern trolling about how he was merely “attacking liberalism from the right to preserve it from its own dogmatic tendencies,” etc. In other words, exactly the kind of guy I would expect to proudly edit Liberal Fascism.

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