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Archive for May, 2010

The War of Words in the Korean Peninsula

[ 1 ] May 26, 2010 |

Among the various claims being bandied about in Asia is the reminder that “a state of war” still exists between the two Koreas because a formal peace was never declared in 1953. (In fact this article from Reuters had the highest Google ranking yesterday for the keywords “North Korea.”)

And it’s true. It’s also fairly meaningless. As Columbia University’s Tanisha Faizal shows in this working paper based on a new dataset she’s gathered, almost no one declares either war or peace anymore.

“Rich Pricks Who Don’t Care About Football May Be Less Likely To Attend 2014 Super Bowl.”

[ 29 ] May 26, 2010 |

Uh, good?

This will be familiar to everyone who reads political journalism, but many sports journalists are afflicted with a similar Stockholm Syndrome in which “maximizing the taxpayer-subsidized profits of billionaire owners” is conflated with “the good of the sport” or “the fans.” But this faux-concern that corporate fat cats might be slightly inconvenienced by not being able to watch football in antiseptic conditions is an especially good example. I can see why it might be in NFL’s interests to keep its corporate sponsors as comfortable as possible, but why the hell should I care about that? What I do know is is the football is vastly better outdoors than played in a warehouse, and having to deal with less-than-perfect weather makes the game much more interesting.

Not that I think the NFL is even sacrificing profits anyway; if you can get 71,000 fans to watch a regular season NHL game outside in January in Buffalo, it’s safe to say attendance isn’t going to be down. And having the Super Bowl played in an actual football stadium is likely to attract even higher ratings than usual.

The Deficit Scam

[ 11 ] May 26, 2010 |

And, of course, it’s even worse than this. If the Obama administration does succeed in cutting the deficit, this will just be a pretext for even more upper-class tax cuts from the next Republican administration. After all, otherwise we might face history’s worst crisis, paying off the national debt too quickly!!!!!!!!!!!! Or, more likely, a brand-new pretext that’s even more idiotic.

If you hear from any nominally Democratic or liberal pundit who hasn’t figured out the con yet, you can safely decide to ignore everything they might have to say about politics in the future.

Nobody Could Have Predicted

[ 11 ] May 26, 2010 |

The states would end up pulling a bait-and-switch on the significant resources necessary to actually make “welfare reform” work.

If You Love Reagan, You’ll Like Field of Dreams.

[ 3 ] May 26, 2010 |

Indeed.

V Sucks

[ 11 ] May 25, 2010 |

Here’s a thought: If you’re going to make one of your main characters a Catholic priest, try to have a point.  It makes it so much more interesting for the viewer.  You’d think, for example, that the Catholic priest might have some mild qualms about the plan to abort several hundred alien eggs with plastic explosives.  Did the Pope determine that the Visitor unborn don’t have souls?  If so, did the half-human-half-lizard baby have half a soul?

I really wish I could believe that this was a subtle dig at the incoherence of the anti-choice movement, but coming from ABC that really strains credulity…

More on Israel and South Africa

[ 2 ] May 25, 2010 |

Josh Pollack engages in a somewhat defensive dissent from the idea that Israel may have offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa. He argues that the documents do not provide sufficient proof that Israel offered to sell warheads to SA, and mobilizes Avner Cohen, who knows a lot about the Israeli nuclear program, in support of this case. A couple of observations:

  1. Cohen and Pollack are correct to note that the evidence presented is not definitive. The problem is that, short of a signed confession by Shimon Peres detailing his intentions behind offering payloads in three sizes, there essentially can be no proof of Israeli willingness to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa. Even in that case, it could correctly be noted that Peres often undertook somewhat adventurous foreign policies, and there’s no evidence that Rabin would have allowed the sale go forward. There might be some document somewhere in the Israeli archives indicating a willingness, but I doubt even that. The question, then, isn’t whether we have 100% proof of such willingness, but rather what standard of evidence we’re willing to accept. Frankly, I don’t know whether Rabin (and the rest of the relevant bits of the Israeli national security apparatus) would have gone ahead with the sale if the South Africans had pursued the question further. In this sense, Pollack is probably correct to suggest that McGreal’s headline was a touch sensationalist. I do know, however, that the documents raise some exceedingly difficult and twitchy questions about the Israel-South Africa relationship, above and beyond what was previously known.
  2. Cohen and Pollack seem to allow that Peres was at least rhetorically open to the option of selling nuclear weapons to South Africa. While the statement “Israel was prepared to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa” is more troubling than “Israel’s Defense Minister was willing to entertain the idea of selling nuclear weapons to South Africa,” the distance isn’t all that great. As I suggested in my earlier post, catching the Defence Minister of Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea in a similar conversation would produce calls for the most drastic international action. Relatively few, I suspect, would worry overmuch about whether Supreme Leader Khamenei or Kim Jong-Il had actually given the go ahead to such a sale.

Mavericky!

[ 17 ] May 25, 2010 |

It’s pathetic enough for the Deeply Principled John McStraightTalk to flip-flop on DATA. But it’s especially risible that he’s using the favorite new Republican form of evasion, “they’re ramming it through!

While it pales in importance next to the bungled coverage in the runup to the Iraq War, the creation of John McCain, Maverick (TM) in the 2000 campaign is about as egregious a case of media incompetence as one can imagine.

A Minor Correction

[ 6 ] May 25, 2010 |

While I can’t disagree that Ross Douthat seems to have dedicated his career to proving his thesis about the inadequacy of his education correct, this particular example of reducing serious arguments into silly “Patio Man drives like this, but Grill Man drives like this” categories is in fact a Bobo special; one shouldn’t have even needed to see the byline.

The Ressentiment of the Reactionary Elite

[ 15 ] May 25, 2010 |

Zev Chafets has padded his fawning, puddle-deep New York Times Magazine profile of Rush Limbaugh into a book, with results that are apparently so bad that World’s Nicest Reviewer Janet Maslin delivers a merciless pan.   The WaPo, meanwhile, has enlisted the Good Frum to review it, with entertaining results:

“Largely decorated by Limbaugh himself, [his Palm Beach house] reflects the things and places he has seen and admired. A massive chandelier in the dining room, for example, is a replica of the one that hung in the lobby of New York’s Plaza Hotel. The vast salon is meant to suggest Versailles. The main guest suite, which I didn’t visit, is an exact replica of the Presidential Suite at the Hotel George V in Paris. There is a full suit of armor on display, as well as a life-size oil painting of El Rushbo. Fragrant candles burned throughout the house, a daily home-from-the-wars ritual.”

There is a great deal more in this vein, and not a syllable of it is meant mockingly. Yet Chafets also writes the following, with equal non-irony: “Rush wasn’t enthusiastic [about the reelection bid of George H.W. Bush]. Bush struck him as a pretty, country club moderate, an Ivy League snob.”

[...]

Chafets quotes Limbaugh telling Maureen Dowd in a 1993 interview, “You have no earthly idea how detested and hated I am. I’m not even a good circus act for the liberals in this town. . . . You can look at my calendar for the past two years and see all of the invitations. You’ll find two, both by Robert and Georgette Mosbacher.” (Robert Mosbacher was secretary of commerce under President George H.W. Bush.) Not two pages later, we hear of Limbaugh’s New York evenings with investment banker Lewis Lehrman, William F. Buckley and Henry Kissinger. And yet the aggrieved subject and biographer are fully sincere in both instances.

Limbaugh has skillfully conjured for his listeners a world in which they are disdained and despised by mysterious elites — a world in which Limbaugh’s $4,000 bottles of wine do not exclude him from the life of the common man.

This line of argument merely skims the surface of how bad the book is, but it’s certainly especially instructive. The way in which extremely wealthy and powerful conservatives have not merely portrayed themselves as endlessly put-upon victims but gotten gullible hacks like Chafets to play along is remarkable.

Hacktacular!

[ 12 ] May 24, 2010 |

Fresh off his…not entirely convincing defense of libertarianism, Matt Welch tabs uberhack Michael Barone’s argument “that [government] spending is not popular this year.”   The obvious problem with this argument is that public opinion surveys continue to indiciate that all federal government spending of any fiscal consequence ranges from “popular” to “extremely popular.”   So what evidence does Barone have for his claim?

  • A couple members of Congress defeated in primaries, and another one retiring after a 41-year career, were members of the apporpriations committee of their respective house.   Omitted:  evidence that even 1 in 20 voters were aware that these members of Congress were members of an appropriations committee,  let alone that it was a desicive factor in thier voters.
  • A conservertarian winger won…a Republican primary.   In Kentucky.

As evidence that government spending is unpopular among the American electorate, this leaves rather a lot to be desired.   And for the coup de grace, he also praises Eric Cantor’s YouCut gimmick, although the only way it could be made more farcical would be for Glenn Reynolds to design a goofy graphic celebrating the trivial spending cuts Cantor isn’t quite advocating.   Verdict: fiscal libertarianism continues to be extremely unpopular, just like the worthwhile kind.

…since most of the commentary has focused on what I assumed to be an uncontroversial throwaway line at the end, I guess I have to clarify that of course many if not most of the people who call themselves “libertarians” are basically standard-issue Republican hacks. Of course, some libertarians are not Republican hacks and have valuable things to say to people who do not share all of their values, but that’s not the real issue.    The point is that there are areas — criminal procedure, the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, executive war powers, etc. — where there are obvious overlaps between left-liberal and libertarian principles.   But, alas, libertarian principles tend to be just as unpopular when they’re salutary as when they’re pernicious.    I’m not sure how pointing this out constitutes an endorsement of a nightwatchman state.

Sexist Nonsense About Trivia

[ 6 ] May 24, 2010 |

Christ, Givhan is awful.    (See also the point made in limerick form.)

…I had forgotten about this one.  [via]

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