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Speaking of the NYT Magazine

[ 19 ] August 13, 2014 |

Hacktacular! I especially like Draper’s assertion that he was citing the Pew data (that completely disproves the core assertion of his article) because Reason‘s advocacy polling was kinda sorta doing the same thing.

After This Strained Comparison, Ms. Dowd Was Put on the 60-Day DL

[ 71 ] August 13, 2014 |

Maureen Dowd, really:

As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly’s idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you’d have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.

I couldn’t wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter

So when I think of Williams, I think of [Michael] Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.

Let’s leave aside the nutty ethnic/gender politics, as much as they explain. I obviously have no problem with attacking Clinton on her Iraq War vote, particularly since she’s currently re-vindicating those of us who supported Obama in the 2008 primaries on foreign policy grounds. I’m not sure what it’s doing in a a Robin Williams remembrance, but whatever.

But Michael Kelly as a passive victim of the Iraq War? Really? Dowd is apparently hoping we’ve forgotten that Kelly was not merely a fanatical Iraq War supporter, but one of the most disgustingly jingoistic and demagogic ones. “That Kelly was brave in going to cover the combat,” Tom Scocca observes, “does not change the fact that he chose to be bold with other people’s lives.” Here, for example, is Kelly after Al Gore criticized the proposed invasion of Iraq:

Gore’s speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts — bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

The column goes on to call Gore an idiot for saying that Osama bin Laden and other architects of the 9/11 attacks remained at large while Bush was busy preparing an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. It must be read to be believed, although I don’t particularly recommend it. More here. I don’t wish death on anyone, but to pretend that Kelly was just a disinterested journalist rather than an influential proponent of the “baloney” Iraq War, please.

On a related note, I see that Dowd will now be writing for the NYT magazine. I assume her assignment will be to take over the “let’s do a point-by-point comparison of people with vaguely similar names” thing. (This week: Jean Vajean and Jean-Claude Van Damme! Are you laughing yet?) For virtually every writer in the world, including those who write obituaries, this assignment would make their writing less funny. But for Dowd, it would be exactly the right level in terms of both intellect and wit.

…see also. And here.

Standing Athwart History, Indeed

[ 142 ] August 12, 2014 |

It seems right that in the same week Kevin Williamson argued that as long as you ignore African-Americans American federalism has been awesome, he would also write something like this:

There are a few lines in here that a good editor would cut but could be waved off as unwitting bad judgment — the Heart of Darkness reference, three fifths, making fun of the hair. But when the writer also decides the best comparison for a young black kid’s behavior is a monkey and to gratuitously question his parentage, there’s really not much question, is there?

There’s also the unstated humor of Williamson describing his subject as “racially aggrieved,” as if the description does not apply to Williamson himself, or as if the kid’s aggrievedness is not, in this case, warranted.

I assume that the National Review was looking for someone who combined John Derbyshire’s racial politics and the pretentious pseudo-intellectualism of Roger Kimball, and on these criteria the Williamson hire has to be considered a major coup.

Robin Williams

[ 195 ] August 11, 2014 |


…RAF lists his favorite performances. I am compelled to note that despite being an academic I hate Dead Poet’s Society, although not because of Williams’s performance. I’ll add praise for his performances in Cadillac Man and the season 2 opener of Homicide.

...Dahlia Lithwick:

Robin Williams did all the voices, all of them. Ranging from the tiny breathy narration of tiny Shawn himself, to the voice of his mom, whose Spanish accent Williams replicated so perfectly that I kept wondering if she had coached him on the way over. Except that she lived in Florida. He nailed everyone in the chapter, from Paula, the beautiful, soulful healer who understood Shawn better than any of us, to the brisk oncologists who flitted in and out of Shawn’s people-packed life.

That afternoon, I was briefly introduced to Williams and then dispatched to the other side of the glass in the recording booth, where I was allowed to sit and watch him inhabit each of these characters. It was the most electric, frantic, high-energy few hours I have ever spent in my life. The whole performance, as he read, and then hit his mental delete key and reread, trying out voices of people he didn’t know and yet capturing them completely—was unforgettable. I was aware that I was in the presence of a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime talent who could not even for a moment settle down enough to breathe himself in. For the few minutes that he was himself, talking to me, he was this sweet gentle, big-hearted guy. But he was happiest doing the voices. And you see this quality in everything he ever did, including an interview about his history of addiction where he only really seems happy when he is doing the British, the French, and the Italians. That sunny day while I watched him read, he was overtaken almost completely by the people he met, and the joy he packed into them—and into the characters he played—was, in some way, stolen from himself.

That day, Robin Williams did all the voices, read all of the paragraphs, read them again, and channeled every character in the chapter, flawlessly and without taking breaks. He just sat there and read the words Shawn wrote, and it was as if he were speaking them and the words as written were almost unnecessary. For days after I met him I was exhausted; totally depleted. And I was also aware that there was no filter, no membrane at all between Robin Williams and the rest of the world; and of what it must have cost him to so fully inhabit so many people—including a dying child he would never meet but to whom he had pledged to give voice. All I could think was very how hard it must have been to take a leave of absence from himself to do that, every day, and how hard it must have been—having done that—to find something to come home to.

Depression is a harrowing and ultimately gutting disease and Robin Williams was open about his struggle. I want to thank him for what he did for Shawn Valdez, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and for all of us who benefitted from his generosity with his talents. Mostly I wish that his lifetime of sharing himself with us had somehow nourished him as much as it fed us all.

All Hail Our Benevolent Local Overlords

[ 106 ] August 11, 2014 |

Shorter Kevin Williamson: With notably rare exceptions, federalism and localism have been awesome for integration and equality under the law in American history.

Halbig Trooferism: Bad Faith All The Way Down

[ 44 ] August 11, 2014 |

Nice catch by Abbe Gluck:

It is no secret that the people bringing the challenge to the Obamacare subsidies in the Halbig and King cases—challenges now seeking review from both the full D.C. federal appellate bench and the U.S. Supreme Court after federal appellate courts in Virginia and D.C. came out in opposite ways last month—are some of the same people who brought the 2012 constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the high court (the same counsel, and one of the same plaintiffs).

What’s less known, however, is that in the 2012 constitutional case, these same challengers filed briefs describing Obamacare to the court in precisely the way they now say the statute cannot possibly be read.


The challengers have spent more than a year arguing that no reasonable reader of text could construe the statute in any way other than denying federal subsidies to insurance purchasers on exchanges operated by the federal government. But what about their statements from 2012—statements then echoed by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito in their joint dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the constitutional challenge, NFIB v. Sebelius?

And, as Gluck says, it must be remembered here that the “but the card says Moops!” challenge to the ACA does not merely have to show that their alternative reading of the statute is plausible. They have to show that there is no other reasonable interpretation of the statute, or they lose. The argument that the statute could not possibly have meant what everyone on both sides of the political spectrum thought it meant in 2010 is so preposterous it’s profoundly embarrassing that even two federal judges bought it.

This litigation, admittedly, does seem to be based on a principle that has been around for nearly two decades; namely, Judge Costanza’s dictum that it’s not a lie if you believe it.

Antitrust and the NCAA Cartel

[ 59 ] August 11, 2014 |

I have a piece up about last week’s NCAA ruling. The opinion is somewhat odd, in that it methodically demolishes the feebleness of the NCAA’s justifications for exploitation, and then pulls its punches by not even going as far as the modest alternatives proposed by the plaintiffs. But I’m cautiously optimistic that this is one blow against a foundation that’s ultimately going to collapse.

To expand on one point, I am glad that the judge saw through the NCAA’s citation of public opinion surveys purporting to show that if the coaches and administrators aren’t allowed to keep the money for the good of the players, fans will lose interest. This is what one might call the XFL fallacy. Remember that? Vince McMahon built a whole league based around talking talk-radio bullshit at face value — stop coddling the players! Stop protecting the quarterbacks! We want ordinary guys making almost no money, like in that movie about a scab team that showed that Gene Hackman has no reject pile! Predictions that people will lose interest in the NCAA if players can endorse products will work out about as well as the XFL did. It’s easy to say that you care about this stuff, but in practice nobody does.

Today In Senseless Violence

[ 74 ] August 10, 2014 |

This is horrible:

The fatal shooting of a teen Saturday afternoon by a Ferguson police officer outside an apartment complex sent angry residents into the street, taunting police and firing shots.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot at approximately 2:15 p.m. in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive.

His mother, Lesley McSpadden, said the shooting took place as her son was walking to his grandmother’s residence.

Piaget Crenshaw, 19, said she was waiting for a ride to work when she saw a police officer attempting to place Brown in the squad car.

She then said she saw the teen, hands in the air, attempt to flee. Several shots hit Brown as he ran, Crenshaw said. She complied with a request that she give photos of the scene to authorities.

This is unsurprising:

“Stand your ground” laws hinder law enforcement, are applied inconsistently and disproportionately affect minorities.

Those were the main findings from the ABA National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws. In a preliminary report (PDF) that was officially unveiled during a Friday session at the ABA Annual Meeting, the task force found that states which have some form of stand-your-ground law have also seen increasing homicide rates.

The task force, which was co-chaired by Leigh-Ann Buchanan of Berger Singerman and Jack Middleton of McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton, conducted its investigation throughout most of 2013. It also found that stand-your-ground laws carry an implicit bias against racial minorities. In terms of the laws’ effects, the task force found that there was widespread confusion amongst law enforcement personnel as to what actions were justified and what were not.

As LGM reader PK observes, I guess the laws are working as intended…

Yes, Steven Salaita Was Fired, And No, It’s Not Defensible

[ 396 ] August 9, 2014 |

Via Corey Robin, Inside Higher Ed has an essay by current opponent of academic freedom Cary Nelson giving an extended defense of the firing of Steven Salita, along with a counterpoint from current supporter of academic freedom John K. Wilson.  It’s a close call which one ultimately makes the stronger case against the firing, and that’s not because Wilson fails to do the job.  Let’s start with the most important way in which Nelson and other supporters of the firing are trying to obfuscate the issue:

I should add that this is not an issue of academic freedom. If Salaita were a faculty member here and he were being sanctioned for his public statements, it would be. But a campus and its faculty members have the right to consider whether, for example, a job candidate’s publications, statements to the press, social media presence, public lectures, teaching profile, and so forth suggest he or she will make a positive contribution to the department, student life, and the community as a whole. Here at Illinois, even the department head who would have appointed Salaita agreed in Inside Higher Ed that “any public statement that someone makes is fair game for consideration.” Had Salaita already signed a contract, then of course he would have to have received full due process, including a full hearing, before his prospective offer could be withdrawn. But my understanding is that he had not received a contract.

To be clear, what Nelson is doing here is trying to bullsh…wait, I don’t want to put my academic career at risk by using bad words on a widely read public forum, so let’s say “sell a bill of goods” to people who don’t understand how the academic hiring process works, and “insult the intelligence” of those that do. I’ll turn things over to Wilson here:

One thing should be clear: Salaita was fired. I’ve been turned down for jobs before, and it never included receiving a job offer, accepting that offer, moving halfway across the country, and being scheduled to teach classes.

The remaining administrative approval necessary for Salaita to be hired was pro forma. He didn’t resign his position and move because he was a crazy risk-taker but because he had every rational reason to believe the job was his. Whether he had signed all the paperwork might be relevant to his legal remedies, but from that standpoint of norms and ethics the job was his, and if you believe in the principles of academic freedom they clearly apply in this case.

In addition, as Wilson effectively points out even if one assumes for the sake of argument that the strong protections of academic freedom shouldn’t apply here, this is still a terrible argument, an Ivan Tribble argument. People don’t have due process protections when they’re turned down for a job, but this still doesn’t mean that “does the candidate disagree with Cary Nelson about Israeli policy too stridently?” is a criterion that any responsible hiring committee should be taking into account. The “I would choose to have him as a colleague” line gives away the show here — this is supposed to be a professional process, not a consideration of who you’d like to be sharing cognac with at the 19th hole of the country club.

Most of Nelson’s bill of particulars consists of selected tweets. While they sometimes express ideas I don’t agree with in language I would be disinclined to use, can’t possibly be firing offenses. To add to this, he asks whether “Jewish students in his classes [will] feel comfortable” with his Tweets. At least here we’re talking about something (teaching) that is relevant to whether someone should be fired, as opposed to something that isn’t (whether someone disagrees with Cary Nelson’s political views too vehemently.) But leaving aside his obviously erroneous assumption that no Jewish student could agree with the substance of Salaita’s views, this is again a remarkably poor argument. First of all, as many people have pointed out, this proves too much; it’s just an argument that no faculty member should ever express a view on a controversial topic. And, second, it’s not as if this was Salaita’s first job out of a British PhD program; if he had any record of treating students who disagree with him about Israeli policy unfairly this would, presumably, come out in the evaluation of his teaching. If it didn’t, it’s not relevant.

As part of the LGM community we needn’t dwell on the fallacies of arguing that a retweet constituted an “incitement to violence”; let’s leave the War On Metaphor with Michelle Malkin’s lickspittles, please. Grasping at another straw Nelson asserts that Salaita’s “discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” If there was evidence that Salatia was an anti-Semite, this might justify an exception to the principle of academic freedom. But the case for this hinges almost entirely on this one tweet:

Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.

Conveniently, Nelson provides the context of a previous tweet that makes it clear what Salatia was trying to argue here: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say anti-Semitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Now, I don’t actually agree with this argument, and I think we can reaffirm that Twitter is a poor medium for making too-clever-by-half points with potentially inflammatory terminology. But as evidence of anti-Semitism, this is nothing, unless you think Nathan Glazer is an anti-Semite.

And, finally, the punchline:

I also do not believe this was a political decision.

Clearly, when I gave the Bush v. Gore Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Bad Faith to another candidate earlier in the week, I acted prematurely. If you’re trying to sell this argument, it’s probably best that your column not focus mostly on how you disagree with the person’s political views.

I’ll leave the final word to Berube:

Nothing in Professor Salaita’s Twitter feed suggests a violation of professional ethics or disciplinary incompetence. The University of Illinois is therefore clearly in violation of a fundamental principle of academic freedom with regard to extramural speech; moreover, your decision effectively overrides legitimate faculty decisionmaking and peer review in a way that is inconsistent with AAUP guidelines regarding governance. Those faculty members who engaged in the process of peer review for Professor Salaita cannot be said to have been unaware that he has strong opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict– as do many millions of people. To overturn faculty peer review on the basis of a Twitter feed, therefore, is to take a page straight from the Kansas playbook.

UPDATE: Nelson’s argument was not only sloppy and tendentious but in one instance relied on a falsehood. Nelson’s assertion that Salaita “had not received a contract” is demonstrably erroneous.

The World’s Most Boring Con Artist

[ 20 ] August 9, 2014 |

Jeff Jarvis, forgotten but apparently not gone.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

[ 75 ] August 9, 2014 |

A crook resigned.

Jonathan Bernstein has a good Watergate primer.   Jeff Shesol didn’t get the memo explaining that Nixon was the most progressive major political official between FDR and Rand Paul.

Love It Or Leav…Well, You May Not Live Here, But You Can See What I’m Driving At

[ 27 ] August 8, 2014 |

Shorter Shmuel Rosner: I’m not saying that liberal Zionists should refrain from criticizing the military and foreign policies of the Israeli government.  I’m just saying that liberal Zionists should unconditionally support the military and foreign policies of the Israeli government, or they will lose their non-existent influence over Israeli policy.

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