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Archive for September, 2009

That Doesn’t Sound Very WASPy…

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

Seriously?

[Robert] Gates doesn’t travel much on the Beltway’s social circuit, instead spending off-hours with his wife and a small cadre of aides. He smokes cigars, drinks Belvedere martinis with a twist (the first President Bush weaned him from gin to vodka), and watches trashy movies—Transformers and Wolverine were recent favorites.

George H.W. Bush drinks vodka martinis? Really? That’s so… disappointing.

Project Sapphire

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

The Washington Post had a nice article last week about Project Sapphire, the Clinton-era effort to spirit 600kg of enriched uranium out of Kazahkstan. If you haven’t read it, take a look; this has to be considered one of the most important foreign policy victories of the post-Cold War era.

…a correspondent sends this, which just sounds kind of scary.

I’m going to spend the rest of my life apologizing to Jack Cashill, aren’t I?

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

(Warning: a very long post about a very silly man that I would’ve tucked beneath the fold if Blogger allowed such things.)

Because today he interviewed journalist Christopher Andersen (who, like him, writes celebrity biographies) on The Mancow Show and Andersen announced that “he had two separate sources ‘within Hyde Park’ [who claim William Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father] but, understandably, would not elaborate.” Two anonymous sources from, as they say, the neighborhood is the tipping point for me: when combined with the credibility Andersen has earned by dint of a “highly successful career as a celebrity journalist” and the evidence gathered during Cashill’s “textual sleuthing,” no intellectually honest person could doubt that there’s a there in there. How could there not be? Andersen “interviewed some 200 people for the book,” which is a whole lot. Here is a list of them drawn from the back matter and organized by chapters:

Chapters 1 and 2

  1. Janet Allison
  2. Maxine Box
  3. Clive Gray
  4. Joyce Feuer
  5. Leslie Hairston
  6. Lowell Jacobs
  7. Keith Kakugawa
  8. Eric Kusunoki
  9. Julie Lauster
  10. Alan Lum
  11. Chris McLachlin
  12. Abner Mikva
  13. Newton Minow
  14. Toni Preckwinkle
  15. Vinai Thummalapally
  16. Carolyn Trani
  17. Pake Zane

Chapters 3 and 4

  1. Loretta Augustin-Herron
  2. Bradford Berenson
  3. Cheryl Johnson
  4. Hazel Johnson
  5. Jerry Kellman
  6. Mike Kruglik
  7. Yvonne Lloyd
  8. Alvin Love
  9. Abner Mikva*
  10. Judson Miner
  11. Newton Minow*
  12. Linda Randle
  13. Vinai Thummalapally*
  14. Laurence Tribe

Chapters 5 to 8

  1. Janet Allison*
  2. Letitia Baldrige
  3. Mary Ann Campbell
  4. Joyce Feuer*
  5. Leslie Hairston*
  6. Tom Harkin
  7. Coralee Jacobs
  8. Denny Jacobs
  9. Lowell Jacobs
  10. Mike Jacobs
  11. John Kerry
  12. Edward Koch
  13. Rick Lazio
  14. Alan Love*
  15. Abner Mikva*
  16. Judson Miner*
  17. Newton Minow*
  18. Jeremiah Posedel
  19. Toni Preckwinkle*
  20. Betsy Vandercook
  21. Larry Walsh
  22. Wellington Wilson
  23. Zarif

If you subtract the sources I asterisked because they were counted in previous chapters, the final tally of Andersen’s 200 some interviews is an impressive 43. That means that only 157 or so of them were unwilling to speak truth to the powerful lies of the President on the record. That so few of them were willing to follow the example of the young Obama’s “roommate and closest friend . . . Siddiqi” and speak on the—hold on a minute. Does anyone see Siddiqi’s name among those listed as interviewees? No?

Must be Andersen toeing the ethical line again and passing off information from someone else’s published work as original research. No big deal: Siddiqi told someone that he had no memory of Obama having had a “year-long relationship with a rich, green-eyed lovely” who, as Cashill corroborated via independent textual sleuthing, was actually Ayers’s former flame, Diana Oughton. The credibility of Siddiqi’s memories is further enhanced by the fact that when he lived with Obama, he spent the majority of his time snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana, and perfecting his Cheech impersonation. Who wouldn’t believe his memory of that period is infallible?

Cashill anticipates that the critics who balk at the “lack of attribution by Andersen” or believe that “the citation of [Cashill] as a source and/or a reliance upon [him] as a source” constitutes a demonstration of intellectual unseriousness. Neither of those positions (both of which I have taken) “imply,” as Cashill claims, “that Andersen is a fraud and a liar and the he contrived the story he told” because I’m not implying anything.

The sloppiness of Andersen’s research demonstrably proves that he’s not the sort of celebrity biographer an intelligent person trusts with anonymous sources. Andersen’s inability to recognize the worthlessness of Cashill’s impressionistic “textual sleuthing” demonstrably proves that he’s not the sort of celebrity biographer an intelligent person trusts to do responsible literary analysis. Need I remind you of the “quality” of Cashill’s work?

The A-level match

Cashill:

What Mr. Midwest noticed recently is that both Ayers in [A Kind and Just Parent] and Obama in [Dreams From My Father] make reference to the poet Carl Sandburg. In itself, this is not a grand revelation. Let us call it a C-level match. Obama and Ayers seem to have shared the same library in any case . . . Ayers and Obama, however, go beyond citing Sandburg. Each quotes the opening line of his poem “Chicago” . . . This I would call a B-level match. What raises it up a notch to an A-level match is the fact that both misquote “Chicago,” and they do so in exactly the same way.

Reality:

Both Ayers and Obama misquote the opening line of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago,” substituting “hog butcher to the world” for “hog butcher for the world.” This mutual error would be significant (an “A-level match”) if Ayers and Obama were the only two people who ever made it, but according to Google Book Search—a secret search engine to which only I have access—the same mistake has been made by Nelson Algren, Alan Lomax, Andrei Codrescu, H.L. Mencken, Paul Krugman, Perry Miller, Donald Hall, Ed McBain, Saul Bellow, S.J. Perelman, Nathanaël West, Ezra Pound, Wright Morris, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress. (To name but a few.) According to Cashill, I have now proven that Dreams From My Father was written by many a dead man of American letters, a living mystery writer, a New York Times columnist and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress. That bears repeating: I have an “A-level match” that proves that Obama’s autobiography was written by a “study of the economic and social effects of automation and other technological changes on industry, commerce, agriculture, education, manpower, and society in Illinois” when Obama was only six years old.

The “baleful” affair

Cashill:

Returning to the exotic, in his Indonesian backyard Obama discovered two “birds of paradise” running wild as well as chickens, ducks, and a “yellow dog with a baleful howl.” In [Ayers'] Fugitive Days, there is even more “howling” than there is in Dreams . . . In [A Kind and Just Parent], he talks specifically about a “yellow dog.” And he uses the word “baleful” to describe an “eye” in Fugitive Days. For the record, “baleful” means “threatening harm.” I had to look it up.

Reality:

Cashill cited as “A-level” evidence the fact that Ayers and Obama used a word he didn’t know, despite his being the Executive Editor of Kansas City’s premier business publication, Ingram’s Magazine; despite his having written for Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Weekly Standard; despite his having authored five books of non-fiction; and despite the word “baleful” having appeared in print 342 times in the past six months alone. Granted, all those appearances were in high-minded literary publications like Newsday (“[w]ith his baleful countenance, wild hair, sonorous baritone and sage pronouncements”) or leftist rags like The Washington Times (“warn them in baleful tones if they’ve forgotten, say, the Constitution”), so it would be unreasonable to expect Cashill to have been familiar with the word . . . or would be, were it not for the fact that it also appears 19 times in the pages of the American Thinker, the publication for which Cashill penned this tripe. (Seems he can begin his careful literary analysis of the other 848,000 potential ghost writers closer to home.)

Lawyers and legal jargon

Cashill:

To this point, I have just skimmed the 759 items in the bill of particulars in my case against Obama’s literary genius. Not familiar with the term “bill of particulars?” Uncertain myself, I looked that one up too. It means a list of written statements made by a party to a court proceeding. Ayers and Obama each refer knowingly to a “bill of particulars.” Doesn’t everyone?

The answer, of course, is no.

Reality:

The phrase “bill of particulars” is an uncommon construction, and its repeated use indicates that the speaker has a specialized vocabulary in which this construction regularly appears. According to LexisNexis, this is exactly the case: in the past six months, that exact phrase has been written 509 times and every single one of them looks like this:

United States v. Clark, NO. 05-6507, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT, 09a0422n.06;, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 12940; 2009 FED App. 0422N (6th Cir.), June 15, 2009, Filed, NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION. SIXTH CIRCUIT RULE 28(g) LIMITS CITATION TO SPECIFIC SITUATIONS. PLEASE SEE RULE 28(g) BEFORE CITING IN A PROCEEDING IN A COURT IN THE SIXTH CIRCUIT. IF CITED, A COPY MUST BE SERVED ON OTHER PARTIES AND THE COURT. THIS NOTICE IS TO BE PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED IF THIS DECISION IS REPRODUCED.

The only people who regularly use the phrase “bill of particulars,” then, are lawyers[.]

Self-evidently hilarious examples of “textual sleuthing”

  1. Common words are common: “Another note of interest is that all of the distinctive words in the last sentence above—’master,’ ‘beast,’ ‘grim,’ ‘unapologetic,’ and ‘deed,’ as well as the phrase ‘hunkered down’—appear in Fugitive Days.
  2. The sea is a pregnant metaphor: “Ayers and Obama both use words that relate to the sea (‘fog, mist, ships, seas, boats, oceans, calms, captains, charts, first mates, storms, streams, wind, waves, anchors, barges, horizons, ports, panoramas, moorings, tides, currents, and things howling, fluttering, knotted, ragged, tangled, and murky’).”
  3. People are lonely: “After the neighbor’s death, the police let themselves into the old man’s apartment, and for no good reason Obama finds himself in the apartment. ‘The loneliness of the scene affected me,’ he writes. Loneliness as a theme courses through Fugitive Days as well.”
  4. Old men are stooped and people wear hats: “In the opening pages, Obama makes an exception to his New York solitude for an elderly neighbor, a “stooped” gentleman who wore a ‘fedora.’ In Fugitive Days, it was Ayers’ grandfather who was “stooped” and a helpful stranger who wore a ‘fedora.’”
  5. Some people are quiet: “Obama tells the reader that the neighbor’s ‘silence’ impressed him. ‘Silence’ impressed Ayers as well. There are at least ten references to the word in Fugitive Days.
  6. Angry people feel rage: “[B]oth Ayers and Obama speak of ‘rage’ the way that Eskimos do of snow—in so many varieties, so often, that they feel the need to qualify it, here as ‘impressive rage,’ elsewhere in Dreams as ‘suppressed rage’ or ‘coil of rage,’ and in Fugitive Days as ‘justifiable rage,’ ‘uncontrollable rage,’ ‘blind rage,’ and, of course, ‘Days of Rage.’”

The Kicker

Cashill tells us he wouldn’t believe himself either: “I have as much faith in the hypothesis that follows as . . . biologists do in evolution, so bear with me please as I, like they, present my evidence in the indicative.” He has as much “faith” in his hypothesis as biologists do in the hypothesis of evolution. I wonder what Intelligence Design advocate Jack Cashill has to say about that kind of faith?

ID partisans across the board believe in micro-evolution: that is, evolution within a species. Some believe in evolution between species, macro-evolution, if guided.

What the ID movement challenges is Darwinian mechanics, random variation and natural selection, an elegant idea in 1859 but in 1999 still just an idea. Neo-Darwinians have as much trouble explaining how complex organs like a wing or an eye—or even a single cell within an eye—could be the result of unguided, incremental change as Darwin did.

Darwin could only hope that the fossil record would one day prove him right. It hasn’t. No evidence has surfaced of a transformation from one species to the next. Nor has anyone offered a satisfactory explanation for the rash of new animal life that inexplicably entered the fossil record during the so-called Cambrian explosion.

I am not about to dignify that creationist nonsense by responding to it. If Cashill really wants to know what use half a wing might be to a flightless bird, he can go ask a penguin.

Conclusion

When I first wrote that anyone who uses “Cashill’s juvenile musings as a hypothetical which, if true, suggests all the unsavory things [they] already believe about Obama,” I didn’t know that Cashill also bought into Intelligent Design, but it makes sense that someone who could compile and be convinced by the evidence above would be a subject of King Tendentiousness himself. Like ID, Cashill’s theory consists of details inexpertly cobbled together by deeply interested parties. The similar caveat applies in both: should it turn out that one day the Great Designer reveals Himself or Obama admits that Ayers helped edit his memoir, the soundness of their respective methodologies would not be validated—all that will be proven is that sometimes tendentious idiots get lucky.

Further thoughts from Anne Applebaum: The slut was asking for it

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

Incredibly, Applebaum’s followup to her original contribution on the Polanski rape is even more clueless and offensive than the original:

Of course, there were some very legitimate disagreements, including two excellent ones from my colleagues Gene Robinson and Richard Cohen, and I take some of their points. But to them, and to all who imagine that the original incident at the heart of this story was a straightforward and simple criminal case, I recommend reading the transcript of the victim’s testimony (here in two parts) — including her descriptions of the telephone conversation she had with her mother from Polanski’s house, asking permission to be photographed in Jack Nicholson’s jacuzzi –and not just the salacious bits.

Here’s the relevant part of the transcript:

Q. What happened out there after he indicated he wished to take pictures of you in the jacuzzi?

A. We went inside and called my mother.

Q. When you say “we called,” did you call or did Mr. Polanski call?

A. He told me to and I talked and then he talked and then I talked again.

Q. What did you tell your mother?

A. She goes, “Are you all right?

I went, “Uh-huh.”

And she says, “Do you want me to come pick you up?”

And I went, “No.”

And he said that we’d be home kind of late because it had already gotten dark out.

Q. When you said “he said,” did he tell you or did you hear him tell your mother on the phone?

A. He told my mother.

Q, Did he tell your mother any other things?

A. Not that I was listening to.

Q. After talking to your mother on the telephone, what happened?

A. We went out and I got in the jacuzzi.

Applebaum can’t even read 20 lines of a trial transcript accurately (the victim never asked her mother for permission to be photographed in the jacuzzi). But that idiocy pales to insignificance in comparison to the moral blindness involved in suggesting, as Applebaum clearly does, that if the 13-year-old victime had in fact asked her mother’s permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi by a 44-year-old man that would somehow transform the man’s subsequent drugging and raping of the girl into something other than a “simple and straightforward criminal case.”

Applebaum’s first post on this subject might have been ever so slightly excused by the possibility that she simply hadn’t thought through exactly what she was defending. This has no such excuse.

"The Left" Strikes Again!

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

Neo-neocon bring her mad yoosta-bee skillz to the Polanski issue:

The reaction of no small number of pundits on the Left to the Polanski case is to recommend that we let bygones be bygones.

Amusingly, the post goes on to engage in some speculation about the motives of these dastardly “pundits on the Left” without getting around to naming any of them or their their alleged specific arguments, which one would think would be necessary for her project. And the reasons for this are obvious: leaving aside Hollywood directors/writers and mediocre French “philosophers” (who don’t fit the criteria anyway), the most prominent American pundit to apologize for Polanski has been…Anne Applebaum, whose politics are essentially identical neo-neo con. The one dismaying actual leftist exception to this is Katrina VandenHeuvel, who posted a one-line twitter agreeing with Applebaum’s idiotic column, which she’s partially walked back (albeit with a regrettable endorsement of Wanted and Desired.) And…that’s it. (And, no, Richard Cohen really doesn’t count.) Pretty thin reed to hang an indictment on “the Left,” I’d have to say. (Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffrey’s reactions would be far more representative.)

And now, the punchline:

But thank goodness the rank and file liberals at HuffPo and Salon don’t happen to agree with their journalist “betters” that Polanski should be let off the hook.

Yes, damn Salon for publishing so many apologies for Polanski! I’m afraid neo has a lot to learn about writing lazy indictments of “the Left”; it’s generally a bad idea to even name sources, because it makes it embarrassingly obvious that you haven’t even read the ones you’re criticizing.

For rather more useful contributions on Polanski, see Lauren and little light. They don’t even blame Polanski on the moral relativism of “the right!”

Au revoir, les enfants

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

This reads like a wingnut parody of degenerate France and degenerate Hollywood engaging in an orgy of amoral pomposity. (As a lawyer I confess ignorance regarding the principle of immunity from legal process for film festival attendees).

I can only hope that most of the signatories to this kind of thing aren’t actually familiar with the facts of the case. Of course that sort of selective blindness is a huge problem of its own.

As djw notes in a thread below, the worst part of minimizing Polanski’s crimes is that almost all the arguments used to do so are classic rape culture tropes. (Consider the central claim of this petition, which is that Polanski was arrested on a “morals” charge, as if it were obvious that it’s perfectly possible for a 44-year-old man to have genuinely consensual sex with a 13-year-old girl, let alone one he had first drugged up, and who has always insisted that she was forcibly raped).

Depressing.

Clutching at Straws

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

Gordo lays out his vision for the next Labour government.

Most of it is the typical Labour shopping list (and the Tory critique that it hasn’t been costed out does ring true). I am intrigued by the long awaited constitutional / electoral system reform.
Two suggestions stand out. First, he wants to adopt the recall for MPs. I wrote about the sheer lunacy of this back in June; I will temper my reaction somewhat now by observing that it would need to be implemented very carefully for it to work. I still see large problems in tightly balanced parliaments or minority governments.
The second is that he has come out in favor of the alternative vote to elect MPs. This I like. While I would prefer MMP, the AV is a classically British incremental approach to reform: it would retain single member districts, and be less likely to lead to coalition government than MMP. It would also significantly reduce the probability of tactical voting as it increases the incentives for a sincere vote. I hope to find the time to explore the ramifications of this in greater detail, but as this is the first week of the semester at my august institution, I’ve been hilariously busy. Indeed, as we have undergone our own restructuring over the summer, I find myself temporarily without an office, with my PC packed away in a box somewhere. An advantage of this arrangement is that I am now permanently housed in the Elections Centre, where we have the data and expertise to have a quick chat about how this may change the electoral landscape.
Of course, none of this matters. In a move that surprises nobody, the typically opportunistic Sun has shifted its allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives for the first time since the 1997 election. While Labour have received what appears to be a stable bump as a result of their conference, they are still 11 points down. With the Conservative conference upcoming, expect this gap to widen as the Tories manage to say something tangible for a change. Also interesting is a recent MORI poll that places the Lib Dems in 2nd place, but I suspect that this is an outlier.

Blue Dog Votes

[ 0 ] September 30, 2009 |

In addition to the fact that Blue Dogs who won’t allow up-and-down votes are pretty much entirely useless, it seems to me that Blue Dog votes on cloture provide a pretty good first approximation of whether Republican-collaborationist Blue Dogs are primarily worried about constituents or donors. If the former, for low-information voters a no vote on the merits should be good enough; “sure, she voted no, but she refused to prevent a majority vote” isn’t going to make a good campaign ad. If your primary audience is high-information donors and lobbyists, though, you’re going to have to vote for filibusters.

One Last Thing

[ 0 ] September 29, 2009 |

I will hopefully leave this subject for a while, but before I do, for those who haven’t seen Wanted and Desired I can’t recommend Lauren Bans’s post more strongly:

Excepting the lawyers who worked on the case, the majority of the voices in the film are Polanski’s Hollywood friends, and they make great strides to point out the “reputation” of the victim. More than two people note that the girl was not a virgin. In a clip that made me want to stab out my eyeballs, one female friend of Polanski’s goes so far as to mention that the girl’s mother introduced herself to Polanski as “an actress” and then asks, “Why would her mother let her daughter go to a photo shoot alone with him in the first place?” Oh yes, I see, clearly her mother deliberately set her up to be raped in order to advance her career! Now there’s some stellar logic fit for inclusion in a documentary.

I had read enough about the film to expect it to be somewhat tendentious. But absolutely nothing prepared me for the extent to which Zenovich allowed various Polanski allies to smear the victim with reactionary and misogynist stereotypes, made all the worse by the fact that she chose to excise the most important parts of the victim’s grand jury testimony. And the fact that so many reviewers ignored this elephant in the room while describing the film as persuasive or even-handed is also dismaying, and sadly instructive about the power that retrograde sexual politics still holds over too many people.

You forgot about Keyes!

[ 0 ] September 29, 2009 |

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve got two children currently being leveled by illness, or that I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in — I dunno, months? — but this paragraph keeps making me laugh today:

Sarah Palin is done with her memoir, which will be titled “Going Rogue: An American Story”; Rick Santorum’s trip to Iowa will happen this week, with a speech at the University of Dubuque Thursday; Eric Cantor pooh-poohed President Obama’s attempts to get the Olympics to Chicago in 2016; Mitt Romney, meanwhile, praised them; Romney says he wants to return to Iraq and Afghanistan; Newt Gingrich and Bobby Jindal raised a combined $350,000 for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell; and Jindal will attend fundraisers in Virginia and DC tonight and tomorrow.

It’s like Ocean’s 11 for shitheads. God bless.

"I’m not a racist, I just wish black people were more white."

[ 1 ] September 29, 2009 |

(Before I begin, I want to thank Rob, Scott and company for the invite and y’all for the warm welcome. That said, remember when you were in seventh grade and had spent all summer mowing lawns to buy an elegantly awful Z. Cavaricci ensemble only to arrive at the bus stop to discover that everyone was wearing Girbaud and you cursed the heavens and vowed never to try too hard again? Me neither. But if I did, writing this post would sorta feel like that.)

Listen closely to outrage manufactured over an utterly innocuous NEA conference call and you can almost hear Pat Buchanan regaling the Republican faithful with tales of brave white soldiers taking “back the streets of Los Angeles, block by block.” Fearful his symbolism might prove too subtle, he charged the overwhelmingly white audience to “take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” He never specified exactly who they would be taking back their cities, culture and country from, but he didn’t have to—one look at the army that’d be doing the taking said it all. None of the current crop of complaints are explicitly about race any more than Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Republican Convention was, but now as then, one look at the enemy they fear and the forces they align against it and the identity of their antagonists becomes obvious.

The question, then, is whether this is a story we want told twice. America, conservatives insist, bought a false sale of goods, and the only way Obama can sustain his popularity is to pull the wool before our eyes via the political equivalent of an atomic wedgie: overt propaganda. Attacking the National Endowment for the Arts comes straight from the ’90s script: every dollar the NEA disburses will be tracked by the likes of Andrew Breitbart until the perfect moment to introduce the world to the next “Piss Christ” arrives. They’ve already begun to remind the troops of all the old tropes, but their attempt to preemptively undermine the institutional credibility of the NEA indicates that this generation of conservative critics might be more media savvy than their ’90s counterparts. Tim Slagle’s response to a recent MoveOn campaign is a sign of smears to come:

It looks like the NEA’s call for artists to promote health care initiatives has been heard by some comedy artists.

MoveOn was not a party to the infamous conference call, but because it involves actors, and actors are artists, it’s a party to the propaganda agenda established during that call. As a consequence of that call, all artists—whether they shoot a crucifix in urine like Andrew Serrano or urinate on themselves like Will Ferrell—will be seen as complicit in a conspiracy to undermine America so grand even Goebbels would blush.

But while they may be savvy, they’re far from smart. In the article quoted above, Slagle offers a “prize to anyone who can name all eight [actors in the MoveOn video] without using Google,” includes the name of all of them in his tags not once, but twice, and his commenters are still stumped. And the one and odious John Ziegler calls for a return to “the Golden Age of television (the 70′s and 80′s),” when Americans came together to laugh at black people for the wrong reasons, before he realized—or was told—that he should be laughing at Archie Bunker, not with him.

That his list of programs excludes The Cosby Show is no surprise. He prefers Sanford and Sons because its humor was a function of its characters’ blackness, whereas the comedy on Cosby was situational, and Ziegler found its situations implausible. How could a black obstetrician treat white women without race becoming an issue? The specter of miscegenation may not, I confess, be responsible for him preferring Golden Age shows with majority black casts, but his vision of American unity is undeniably odd:

The major networks used to create a de facto “team photo” of our nation which (after a slow start) eventually included everyone in the picture. Now, each race, gender, and age group has their own “team” and tends to watch programming that is built to only appeal to them. In short, we end up living in very different realities with almost nothing in common[.]

So in the Golden Age, when Norman Lear was adapting the BBC sitcoms Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe and Son for American audiences, television became “a de facto ‘team photo’ of our nation [that] included everyone in the picture.” First, white and black do not a photograph of America make; second, in Ziegler’s photograph there are shows with majority white casts and shows with majority black casts, but none, like Cosby, with what could be called integrated casts. Ziegler further complains that his inability to find Tyler Perry funny represents “a net loss to the strength of the fabric of our country,” because once upon a time he could laugh at the scheming of Fred Sanford, but now that black people have shows built to “appeal to them,” they appear to be “living in very different realities with almost nothing in common.”

He seems not to realize that they did then and do now. A commenter who named himself after Dane Cook does his damnedest to embody the plain racist underpinning of Ziegler’s argument:

For the most part, blacks on television have assimilated into the mainstream of society and no one thinks much about it any more.

The mainstream of society . . . they assimilated into the mainstream of society . . . now what would that be again?

Crime and punishment

[ 0 ] September 29, 2009 |

Several commentators in the Polanski thread are apparently taking the view that if a particular exercise of criminal punishment is unlikely to deter crime or rehabilitate the offender, then punishing the offender is pointless at best if not actually barbaric.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not punishing Polanski would deter anyone from committing rape in general or child rape in particular, I find it odd that some people so easily dismiss the idea that Polanski should be punished because he deserves to be punished. One doesn’t have to be a strict Kantian to accept the idea that a person who commits a henious crime should be punished irrespective of whether the punishment specifically deters the offender, or generally deters others from committing similar acts.

For example, I imagine hardly anyone would accept the idea that if Polanski had murdered his victim it would be wrong to punish him unless one could show the punishment was likely to deter murder.

All of which is to say that arguments about how there’s no “point” in punishing Polanski now are only plausible to the extent that it’s accepted that what Polanski did wasn’t a particularly serious crime.

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