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Archive for October, 2009

You Can Do Criticism, Or You Can Get Paid

[ 0 ] October 23, 2009 |

As we all expected, TBogg has weighed in on Slate’s pro-Creed contrarianism….



[ 0 ] October 23, 2009 |

I’ll grant that Oliver has pitched well for two years, but what the hell was he doing taking Lackey out after 104 pitches? You’ll have to take my word that this was a first guess, but wow. Especially given the thinness of his bullpen it’s bizarre.

Admittedly, the Angels are not probably going to lose tonight just because of that; as is their wont they basically stopped having decent at bats after the first inning with a pitcher on the ropes. The Yankees comeback was keyed by batters who are actually willing to take pitches, which is the real difference.

…and, in fariness, Giradri bringing in his worst reliever was almost as dumb, and he would have gotten away with it had Hughes not thrown a guy who swings at pickoff throws a 1-2 pitch right down Gene Autry Way. Who’s he taking pitch selection lessons from, Brian Fuentes? (One of the few encouraging signs for Yankee haters is that Hughes hasn’t been very impressive in the postseason so far; hopefully he’ll go Joba.)

…it was never in doubt! Glad they could carry the Yankees for 1 more round. Even if they can get to a Game 7 and force Sabathia to pitch that would help…

The Backlash Against Out-of-Control Legislative Activists

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

In addition to being excellent news on the policy merits, the fact that Maine has an initiative system means that the state provides an excellent test case for claims that recent initiatives opposing same-sex marriage were driven by institutional critiques of judicial review or by substantive policy views. And pretty much all the evidence continues to suggest that it’s the latter. The whole argument is essentially one big pundit’s fallacy. People act to oppose same-sex marriage because they oppose same-sex marriage irrespective of the institution that annunces the policy change, not because they have a well-worked-out theory of democracy that happens to comport with Alexander Bickel’s.

Things to remember during the fall pledge drive

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

This is lame, even by NPR’s diminishing standards. Rudin — whom you might recall comparing Hillary Clinton to Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction — is apparently a master of grotesque analogies.

Since the historical crime of Nixon Minimization is in full effect here, it’s worth recalling for a moment that Nixon’s attacks on the press were mounted against people — most notoriously Jack Anderson — who through actual investigative reporting were discovering facts that proved embarrassing to the administration. When Anderson’s “Merry-Go-Round” column disclosed, for instance, that Nixon’s justice department had settled an antitrust case against ITT in exchange for a $400,000 campaign contribution, Nixon specifically asked Bob Haldeman if someone couldn’t be found to trash Anderson’s office and discover the source of the leak. (The source of the reporting for that story, incidentally, was a young journalist by the name of Brit Hume, who worked for Anderson from 1970-72.) As anyone with an ounce of historical memory knows, everyone in Anderson’s orbit — including Hume and Howard Kurtz — was monitored by the CIA as well as the FBI during the Nixon years. When conventional forms of harassment failed to stop Anderson, and when Nixon concluded (without any proof) that Anderson had blown the cover of a CIA spy, genuine fascists like G. Gordon Liddy were given to understand that Nixon would be pleased if Jack Anderson were somehow assassinated.

The great thing about Nixon, though, is that it always gets worse. Not only did his goons use flagrantly illegal tactics against the press, but they also ruined the lives of innocent government employees whom they suspected of feeding information to Anderson and others. In 1970, after Anderson reported some unflattering details about a Pentagon meeting in which top DoD officials joked about who should be fired before Christmas, Bob Haldeman went after a clerk named Gene Smith, whom he erroneously believed was responsible for the leak. From one of Anderson’s books, here’s what happened to Smith:

Investigators combed Smith’s neighborhood, knocking on doors, gathering intelligence. Under bright lights, Smith was interrogated by military investigators who badgered him in language laced with obscenities. They behaved like caricatures from a B-grade movie. “Do you know Anderson?” they demanded. “Anderson must be stopped!” they repeated over and over again.

Smith was fired from his job in a phony reduction of force. Debilitated by inflamed ulcers and high blood pressure, he was summoned before a federal grand jury in Norfolk, Virginia. When Smith denied the charges, U.S. Attorney Brian Gettings told Smith that he would nail him either for the illegal taping of the meeting or for perjury.

You’ll be stunned to learn that the case against Smith went absolutely nowhere. He didn’t get his job back, and nor did he receive an apology from the people who destroyed his career.

Ken Rudin should think about this sort of thing the next time he invokes the memory of Richard Nixon.

. . . Lance Mannion makes a more compelling case for the similarities between Obama and Nixon…

. . . Rudin admits the mistake…


[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

Daniel Davies clearly knows a thing or two about playing the contrarian. His rules for contrarians post is, unsurprisingly, a must-read:

The whole idea of contrarianism is that you’re “attacking the conventional wisdom”, you’re “telling people that their most cherished beliefs are wrong”, you’re “turning the world upside down”. In other words, you’re setting out to annoy people. Now opinions may differ on whether this is a laudable thing to do – I think it’s fantastic – but if annoying people is what you’re trying to do, then you can hardly complain when annoying people is what you actually do. If you start a fight, you can hardly be surprised that you’re in a fight. It’s the definition of passive-aggression and really quite unseemly, to set out to provoke people, and then when they react passionately and defensively, to criticise them for not holding to your standards of a calm and rational debate.

The Interminable And Futile Search For a Decent Anti-SSM Argument

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

Ross Douthat was, understandably but not admirably, unwilling to defend his opposition to same-sex marriage rights in public:

At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: “I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public.”

Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.


He added: “The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren’t just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don’t find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,’ you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.’ Who wins that debate? You win that debate.”

The problem here is that “institutional support for reproduction” isn’t merely an “abstract” argument. It’s a bad argument. If the policy goal is supporting the raising of children, then limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is both overinclusive (providing privileges and benefits to couples who choose not to reproduce) and underinclusive (denying privileges and benefits both to single parents and same-sex couples who do have children.) Which should serve to remind us that, at bottom, secular arguments against SSM are about bigotry and/or custom, which is probably why Douthat isn’t interested in trying to defend them.

Conservatives Pretending To Care About Sexism

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

Example 1: The simple act of criticizing Sarah Palin is sexism. Really: you don’t even need an implausible story about what’s sexist about the criticism, the fact that there’s a book critical of Palin is good enough.

Example 2: Calling a Republican woman accused of excessively sane policy positions a “cow that had a rear leg chopped off by an M-60 machinegun”: — teh funny!

Axis of Evil: Now with Turkey!!!

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

It’s difficult to plow through the many layers of rank idiocy in the assertion that Turkey is “lost to the Islamists”; I can identify at least a few…

  1. The insinuation that the oppression of the Kurds was launched by AKP, rather than by the secular Turkish Army.
  2. The odd definition of “democracy” that includes occasional military interventions into the democratic process, and the serial abuse of human rights.
  3. The idea that Turkish observance of human rights has gotten worse over the past eight years, contrary to all evidence.
  4. The idea that the AKP government is somehow unique in its reluctance to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide (it is, notably, unique in pursuing good relations with Armenia).
  5. The idea that “treating political prisoners humanely and canceling the death penalty” is contrary to liberal democracy.
  6. The idea that the strength of the AKP is primarily the result of the behavior of US Presidents.
  7. The notion that support of the Iraq invasion constitutes a sufficient test for residence in the civilized West.

It’s fair to say that no one, and I mean no one, who has bothered to study Turkey for longer than a day would entertain any of these arguments; indeed, the last three are prima facie absurd even for someone who had never heard of a country called “Turkey.”

But my biggest question is this: If you believed this garbage, what policy would you recommend? Would you try to kick Turkey out of NATO? Would you suspend US arms sales to Turkey, and US military exercises with Turkey? Would you cut ambassadorial level contact with Turkey (after all, if Turkey really is Iran, then they might invade our embassy any day now)? Would you call for an invasion of Turkey (I’m sure that the secular military leadership would greet American and Israeli troops with rose petals…)? Because the thing is, if Turkey is “lost to Islam,” then we’re not talking about Turkey moving into Iran’s arms, or Turkey becoming part of Iran’s axis; Turkey becomes the hub. Turkish military and economic power dwarf Iranian, and I suspect that if Ankara wished to go nuclear, it could do so in very short order. This is rather the problem with making support of Operation Cast Lead the fundamental metric of support for the survival of the Israeli state; you throw out the bathwater, then the baby, then the cat, and then somebody else’s baby.

Here’s the problem: Beating the bejeezus out of Gaza, whatever merits it may have had for Israeli security, also had costs. People, even in relatively friendly states, didn’t think that the operation was sensible, or that it was conducted in a civilized manner. Endless bullying on the Goldstone Report won’t change that fact. Support for every aspect of Israeli policy does not constitute the central divide between Western and Islamic civilization; Operation Cast Lead was just as unpopular in Europe as it was in Turkey, and Turkey’s recent exclusion of Israel from military maneuvers only highlights the fact that Turkey has maintained a closer military relationship with Israel than just about any European country. Moreover, there’s a reason why the Israeli leadership is unwilling to go as far as Caroline Glick in calling Turkey out; they are, by and large, far more concerned than she with the survival of the Israeli state.

Double Standards

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

Another example.

The Next Four Years: Nightmare of Evil?

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

Loomis has identified a troubling trend.

Because being ignored is exactly the same thing as being muzzled.

[ 0 ] October 22, 2009 |

The attacks on the administration and its allies for deciding to shun Fox News are so cute. This is my favorite:

In [Obama’s] America there is no Constitution, there is no First Amendment, there are no principles of free speech or free press.

As all good children know, the silent treatment renders the person to whom it’s administered incapable of saying anything. They can’t run around shouting, “Why are you ignoring me?” or “What did I do? Please tell me!” because their tongue has been silenced by the mystical power of the treatment. It makes a person wonder what Fox will air now that their hosts have lost their words. An hour of Glenn Beck sobbing uncontrollably while pointing at a chalkboard on which the links between ACORN and his muted mouth-hole have been arranged into a misspelled anagram? Granted, they were ready to go with the sobbing and pointing before the Plague of Silence zipped his mouth and pocketed the key . . .

. . . but seriously, because this is serious, serious stuff, otherwise Jake Tapper wouldn’t be on the case:

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say—

Gibbs: ABC—

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

I will answer this question, both for Tapper and the conservatives who think the Obama administration is politicizing news coverage, via another childhood staple:

One of these [Presidents of network news divisions] is not like the others. One of these [lives] is just not the same.

Jonathan Klein (CNN), worked for WLNE in Providence, R.I. before becoming a broadcast producer for CBS News.

Steve Capus (NBC), worked for WCAU and KYW in Philadelphia before becoming an executive producer for NBC News.

Sean McManus (CBS), worked for ABC News before managing sports broadcasting for CBS.

David Westin (ABC), clerked for Nixon appointee and dogged moderate Lewis Powell before working as in-house counsel for ABC.

Roger Ailes (FOX), served as a political consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani.

I’m sure Tapper and company will continue to claim the administration playing politics by excluding the network chaired by a Republican operative, but honestly, I’m not sure why anyone thinks a Democrat should talk to representatives of a network whose president has devoted his life to championing Republican causes. I suppose the Democrats should also let Republicans strategists produce their campaign ads, as that would eliminate some of the dishonest viciousness of elections—after all, there’s no need to Willie Horton a Democrat whose campaign you already drove off a cliff.

Contrarianism Approaches Rock Bottom

[ 0 ] October 21, 2009 |

Next week: Celine Dion is really a better singer than Billie Holiday — ignore the “cognoscenti,” just look at the sales figures!

…UPDATE [from davenoon]… Behold proof of Creed’s rockitude one of the worst videos ever made, wherein God attacks a pondering Scott Stapp with a hail of meteors before driving him into a gigantic phallus; wherein a bell that DOESN’T FUCKING KILL SCOTT STAPP opens up a portal into some kind of septic tank; wherein Scott Stapp is purified by baptismal sewage.

…UPDATE THE SECOND [SL]: Getting further into Slate self-parody, note that his archives seem replete with examples of the same article applied to a different awful band (Limp Bizkit were really good! The Killers are good exactly because they’re so emptily pompous! Thank God Coldplay are great again!) So if you’re interested in cashing a Kaplan paycheck you may want to submit an article arguing for the misunderstood greatness of Starship or Matchbox 20…

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