A long-standing sycophant of Niall Ferguson and Henry Kissinger was commissioned by the NYT Book Review to review Niall Ferguson’s hagiography of Henry Kissinger. (By the way, is there anything more pathetic than being a sycophant of Niall Ferguson?) The results may not surprise you:
This Sunday, the New York Times Book Review will publish a review of the first volume of Niall Ferguson’s authorized biography of Henry Kissinger, Kissinger: The Idealist. The reviewer is Andrew Roberts.
Roberts brings an unusual level of familiarity to the subject: It was Roberts whom Kissinger first asked, before turning to Ferguson, to write his authorized biography. In other words, the New York Times is having Kissinger’s preferred authorized biographer review Kissinger’s authorized biography.
So how is the review itself? Contrary to the bet that an opinionated yet informed expert might turn in an exciting piece, Roberts’s essay is ponderous, and, if possible, even more hagiographic than the authorized biography itself.
“Kissinger’s official biographer,” writes the man Kissinger first asked to be his official biographer, “certainly gives the reader enough evidence to conclude that Henry Kissinger is one of the greatest Americans in the history of the republic, someone who has been repulsively traduced over several decades and who deserved to have a defense of this comprehensiveness published years ago.”
Now it’s very clear what scene she’s referencing: It’s a section of this Center for Medical Progress film, the relevant portion of which you can find right here (warning: tough-to-watch content), that weaves together interviews, graphic footage, and excerpts from the CMP’s sting videos of Planned Parenthood officials to tell an anti-PP story. The specific clip in question features a former technician for Stem Express, Planned Parenthood’s (erstwhile) partner in fetal-tissue procurement, describing her work at a Planned Parenthood clinic; this interview is intercut with video footage of a fetus twitching while it expires in a metal bowl, which is not from the abortion/procurement being described, but taken from a different undercover video at an unidentified clinic.
So far, the video Fiorina described has not been made public. This latest video most definitely is not it.
The video, titled “Carly Fiorina was right” (warning: extremely graphic), was provided by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. They are the group that provided an image of a fetus, moving slightly, that is used by the Center for Medical Progress in one of their videos. This new video shows the context: The fetus is pulled from a woman and placed in a bowl. At no point does anyone say, “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” There is no sound. There is no indication that we are inside a Planned Parenthood–affiliated clinic.
The only new information this video adds is the revelation that the fetus came out of a woman’s body. If that surprises you, then you have no right to weigh in on debates over women’s health care.
It is easy to see how someone who has no obstetrical training might think this could be something other than a previable premature delivery. Cunningham’s statements clearly show he is no medical expert and isn’t in the position to explain it. However, I am.
Here are all the issues with the video from start to finish:
It is illegally and clandestinely shot. I feel very badly for the poor woman in question and wonder why Fiorina and our elected officials are not as outraged as I am about her violation and exploitation. I had second thoughts about watching it myself given the lack of consent from the woman, however, I felt if I could end the conversation about it faster by weighing in. Time magazine or Slate have links.
The prep of the patient. The physician (I’m assuming) pours surgical prep/cleaner on the woman’s perineum. We don’t do that anymore for spontaneous deliveries or for abortions that involve induction of labor. This tells me this video is at least 15 years old or from another country.
The delivery. It is a spontaneous delivery as the operator waits for the fetus to be expelled. This is what we do with a previable premature delivery. If this were shot mid way through a 2nd trimester abortion (meaning the Laminaria in the cervix, which are osmotic sticks that help the cervix dilate, had just been removed) it is highly unlikely the operator would have waited for a spontaneous expulsion.
Waiting for the placenta. The clamp is left on the placental end and at the end of the video the placenta still hasn’t delivered. If this were an abortion the placenta would be removed with suction immediately, no one would wait 11 minutes. Ever. Every abortion clinic has a suction machine.
There is no proof this video is in a Planned Parenthood clinic never mind in the United States. This could easily be an operating room.
So, in summary, Fiorina’s description of video evidence of Planned Parenthood is fundamentally unexceptionable even though the footage 1)didn’t come from the videos Fiorina was discussing, 2)there’s no evidence that the footage comes from a Planned Parenthood, and 3)there’s very good evidence that it doesn’t involve abortion at all. Well, I’m convinced!
But here’s another way in which the Republican mission to destroy one of the country’s largest providers of women’s health care is divorced from reality: It appears completely blind to evidence that Americans — the same Americans on whom the Republican party relies as voters — really, really love Planned Parenthood.
Americans love Planned Parenthood so much that in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday, 61 percent of people polled said that they opposed cutting funds to the organization. But more notably, Planned Parenthood again emerged as the entity with the highest favorability ratings in the poll, with 47 percent of respondents saying they feel positively about it, more than felt good about either political party or any of the presidential candidates.
And public officials who support PP are generally more popular than those that don’t, too.
Obama arguably deserves as much or more blame for that failure as Boehner. The President has also struggled to stand up to the far left. “Fairly or not, Obama and Boehner, as much captives as leaders of their respective parties, will be indelibly identified with the dysfunction of their times,” The Post’s White House bureau chief, Juliet Eilperin, explains in her own look at the relationship between the two men. Like PK, she focused on the failed grand bargain of 2011 as a turning point the duo never recovered from. “But it was Obama, the one who felt stranded at the altar in the past, who decided to move on. At the start of 2014, the president decided to pursue a strategy that emphasized executive action … The moves came with political costs — and a lawsuit, filed by Boehner, challenging Obama’s authority.” The only time they really cooperated this year was on trade promotion authority.
If I understand correctly, what being on “the far left” means in this instance is “opposing massively unpopular Social Security cuts.” And Obama was supposed to “stand up” to the “far left” by continuing to make offers to Republicans he knew they would refuse. This is one of those times where to state an argument is to refute it.
In case you think I’m being uncharitable, earlier there was this:
President Obama, already a lame duck, is less likely than before to get big ticket items out of Congress. McCarthy will not be nearly as worried about his legacy at this stage of his career as Obama is in the twilight of his presidency. This will make it harder for him to take risks or go out of his comfort zone. As a result, there will almost certainly be no meaningful movement on issues like tax reform next year or any kind of grand bargain that would raise revenue.
Actually, the very meta nature of the enterprise stunned me—trying to doctor doctored videotapes and still failing to produce an image that corresponds to Fiorina’s narrative. It’s truthiness elevated to almost cosmic levels.
Nobody—not even Fiorina’s staunchest defenders—can say that these videos that clearly don’t exist are real. Even one of the most brazen defenders of the imaginary videos, Jonah Goldberg, opens with this concession to the petty, mewling fact-checkers: “[T]hey have a point. The exact scene, exactly as Fiorina describes it, is not on the videos.” (The article could felicitously end there, but Goldberg goes on to defend the statement under the theory that since “[m]ost Americans are morally appalled by late-term abortions,” Fiorina might as well supply them with pretend images to go with their preconceptions.)
This is an extraordinary moment in the annals of political deception. No walk-back, no clarification, just a persistent insistence that a video that doesn’t exist and can’t even be manufactured in the underground labs of political deception is really out there but, like the Emperor’s new clothes, only the virtuous can see it. In Fiorina’s world and the world posited by Goldberg, if people want to believe the big lie about the kicking fetus and the brain harvesting badly enough, who are we to tell them it couldn’t have happened?
Here are the facts: In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. It’s true that many tech companies had trouble during this period of the Internet bubble collapse, some falling in value as much as 27 percent; but HP under Fiorina fell 55 percent. During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched. The S&P 500 yardstick on major U.S. firms showed only a 7 percent drop. Plenty good was happening in U.S. industry and in technology.
It was Fiorina’s failed leadership that brought her company down. After an unsuccessful attempt to catch up to IBM’s growth in IT services by buying PricewaterhouseCooper’s consulting business (PwC, ironically, ended up going to IBM instead), she abruptly abandoned the strategic goal of expanding IT services and consulting and moved into heavy metal. At a time that devices had become a low margin commodity business, Fiorina bought for $25 billion the dying Compaq computer company, which was composed of other failed businesses. Unsurprisingly, the Compaq deal never generated the profits Fiorina hoped for, and HP’s stock price fell by half. The only stock pop under Fiorina’s reign was the 7 percent jump the moment she was fired following a unanimous board vote. After the firing, HP shuttered or sold virtually all Fiorina had bought.
During the debate, Fiorina countered that she wasn’t a failure because she doubled revenues. That’s an empty measurement. What good is doubling revenue by acquiring a huge company if you’re not making any profit from it? The goals of business are to raise profits, increase employment and add value. During Fiorina’s tenure, thanks to the Compaq deal, profits fell, employees were laid off and value plummeted. Fiorina was paid over $100 million for this accomplishment.
When I took the occasion of the Mets clinching the NL East to make fun of Jon Papelbon, I wouldn’t say I anticipated this:
It’s not news that Papelbon is a gold-plated asshole. What’s amazing is that Matt Williams — while taking Harper out — left Papelbon in the game. It’s a meaningless game, your pitcher literally chokes your best player for no particular reason, and…your response is to do nothing. Williams is in over his head on every level, of course, but I insist that this is a reflection of his biggest problem. The systematic underachievement of the Nationals isn’t just some big coincidence. It is appropriate, though, that Williams used the same robotic “he’s our closer” response that he uses to justify his unwillingness to use his best relievers in high-leverage situations. (The fact that today he was using Papelbon in a tie game just makes it more awesome.) He’s a beauty; I hope the Nats keep him forever.
To move up the coaching chain a little, there’s not really any justification for a separate Chip Kelly post this week. On the one hand, they stopped the bleeding; on the other hand, since the secondary was facing (Ryan Fitzpatrick – 2 of his 3 viable weapons), his most expensive running back was unable to play and his expensive QB was highly ineffective (QBR: 25.7), critics of his offseason work have no reason to back off. Since there’s been some good stuff written about it this week, though, I do want to (re)address one narrow issue. I’ve seen very few people defending the Murray signing at this late date, but a lot of people do seem to be insisting that trading a 2nd round pick for the privilege of being the idiot who issues Sam Bradford’s hefty paychecks this year was a good move. The argument, roughly, is that while Bradford is already 27, has a huge litany of injuries, and has been well below-average on those occasions when he takes the field, he has a big arm capable of taking big shots down the field and offering upside that guys like Foles and Sanchez don’t.
The explanation favored by the Eagles, and not without reason, is that everything wrong with the offense at the moment is linked to an inability to run the football. Whether the problem is a talent deficit on the offensive line, or a fundamental failure to execute, or that opposing defenses have decoded Chip Kelly’s system, the end result is the same. If opponents don’t worry about the run, they can pay more attention to the pass, and specifically to preventing deep passes.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with taking a shot down the field. What we have to do is be able to run the ball vs. a six-man box,” Kelly said Thursday. “[If you do], now you’ve got to get a safety down in the front. Now you have an opportunity to make him pay for getting an extra guy down there. But we haven’t in either game we played, whether it be Dallas or Atlanta, seen an extra defender in the box because we didn’t run the ball well enough to get that extra defender in the box. So there was no opportunity to throw the ball down the field.”
That’s fine and logical, but there have been passes completed in the history of the NFL against teams playing two high safeties. It’s not like threading a needle wearing boxing gloves. Completing a pass in that circumstance might be more difficult, but the great quarterbacks in the league don’t get paid because they can make the easy throws. The difficult ones are what separate them from the pack.
For whatever reason, Bradford has seemed to prefer rating risk above reward during his career. Among all active NFL quarterbacks – a list that includes 30 with enough lifetime attempts (1,500) to qualify – Bradford is ranked 30th for both yards per attempt (6.3) and yards per completion (10.7) over his entire career. Those numbers not only put him miles from guys at the top of the lists such as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady but also behind lesser lights such as Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, and Matt Cassel.
BTW, I love the first two sentences of the third quoted paragraph. One favorite technique of apologists for Darrell Bevell’s Super Bowl-losing atrocity is to observe that the Patriots had their BIG BODIES on the field. Typically, apparently, Lynch’s successful runs in short-yardage situations have come against dime packages, because no NFL defensive coordinator has ever considered putting in his best run defenders in on short yardage situations before. Moving right along, when the trade was made Barnwell had more sophisticated data:
Foles was incredible throwing deep that season, doing so effectively and on a frequent basis. Bradford didn’t throw deep at all, and when he did, he posted a dismal QBR. In his career, 9.9 percent of his passes have traveled 20 yards or more in the air, which ranks 24th out of 29 qualifying passers over that time frame. His QBR on those throws was also 24th out of 29. And his average pass has traveled just 7.5 yards in the air; only Alex Smith has managed to be worse.
Rams fans complained after the article that it somehow wasn’t Bradford’s fault — that, through all the offensive coordinators and draft picks and free-agent dollars spent on receivers and linemen, it was everybody else and not their quarterback. But last year, we got a full season of the Rams offense without Bradford. And what do you know? They suddenly somehow found a way to throw downfield! The combination of Austin Davis and Shaun Hill, hardly superstar quarterbacks, threw passes 20 yards or more on 13.4 percent of their passes, the eighth-highest rate in the league. Their QBR on those passes was 93.6, which was 12th among NFL teams. Either Kenny Britt is the greatest downfield weapon the league has ever seen, or Bradford is not a good downfield passer. You pick.
Bradford does not have anything remotely resembling a good long passing game. The data on this point is unambiguous. So the argument is that 1)it made sense to trade a second round pick for a below-average QB because he would fit very well into Chip Kelly’s system although 2)said QB runs like an cement block and doesn’t throw a good deep ball. If your QB allegedly needs a great running game to make downfield plays this means he sucks, and in the NFL an effective running game isn’t actually going to help the QB much anyway. There was no reason to think this would work at the time and there’s even less reason to think it will work now.
Given that roughly a third of Cespides’s value came with the Mets, that’s what you call a high-impact acquisition. Evidently, the credit due Alerdson is mitgated by the fact that Cespides was his third choice, but…well done.
While we’re here, I am an admirer of Billy Beane, SUPERGENIUS, but it must be noted that Beane has traded away two of the top 6 in the last two years and doesn’t have a great deal to show for it. The Cespides trade was fine — he had only one+ year of team control left, and he got Price Lester in return. But the Donaldson trade…yikes. Barreto did have a good year with the bat at A ball, but trading away an elite talent with several more years of team control for that little return was a massive blunder.
Oh, and since he’s cooled down I assume we won’t be hearing much about it, but the idea that Cespides should be the NL MVP is insane. Harper shouldn’t be blamed because Rizzo, Williams et al didn’t do their jobs, and while limiting MVPs to single leagues is arbitrary in this day and age Harper has been the best player in baseball this year by any measure.
It was not a distinguished tenure. His meager accomplishments came in spite of himself and to the great consternation of his Republican colleagues. He pinballed from one pathetic humiliation, usually at the hands of his own caucus, to the next. The only reason Boehner remained speaker for as long as he did—to his eternal regret, it is clear—is because his bitterest opponents were too stupid to figure out how to oust him, and his likeliest replacements never wanted the job.
Because he was dealing with a Congressional caucus increasingly made up of ideologues and idiots, and because he was occasionally forced to betray conservatives in order to stave off catastrophes, moderate pundits occasionally speak, with some fondness, about John Boehner as a man who tried his best to keep his unruly conservative colleagues from doing too much damage.
There is no particular reason to feel any sympathy for the man.
John Boehner was and is an unprincipled ward-heeler who simply couldn’t weather the transition of the Republican Party from a corporatist party with a sizable conservative base to a purely conservative party. Boehner came to power when the priorities of the House Republican caucus were driven by what was effectively straight-up bribery, and his power came from his close ties to industry lobbies. This is the guy, as we all ought to be regularly reminded, who passed out checks from tobacco companies on the floor of the House.
But for a man frequently derided as lacking in backbone, he has stuck to his one overarching principle: Each one of his major legislative compromises as speaker—and even from before he was speaker, like when then-Minority Leader Boehner tearfully begged his Republican colleagues to vote for the 2008 bank bailout—represented Boehner defying the conservative base to act in the interests of the Republican donor class.
The current conservative movement’s frothing, apocalyptic style of politics is the natural result of 30-plus years of resentment-stoking by that same donor class. The monied interests that happily indulged the hysteria of the initial Obama backlash now worry that Jeb Bush can’t beat Donald Trump. Eric Cantor, once Boehner’s likely replacement, and a genuine conservative to his very core, was voted out of office by party activists. It’s long past time for Boehner to get the hell out of Washington and settle into the plush industry “consulting” gig that surely awaits him.
Right now, the best-case scenario for Congress is that the Republican congressional leadership be able to do what the Chamber of Commerce wants at crucial junctures. And it is far from clear that this will happen, or at least that it will be able to happen without a great deal of needless damage being inflicted in people harmed by government shutdowns and the like. In conclusion, Both Sides Do It and How Bout Them Emails?
Obviously, these two decisions (and there are many more on either side of the divide) offer different templates for determining how to think about Kim Davis: from the perspective of Smith, Judge Bunning got it right; from the perspective of Sherbert, the state should find a way to accommodate Davis’s deeply held beliefs and not exact as the price for adhering to them her employment and her physical freedom. (She has now been released, but after having been jailed for six days.)
I believe that Oregon v. Smith was in fact correctly decided, and the incoherent argument Fish uses to advocate a free exercise standard that would be completely unworkable in practice is an excellent illustration of why, but let’s leave this aside. Even on its own terms, this argument is rather feeble question-begging that is highly misleading about the legal doctrines he’s discussing. First of all, Adell Sherbert was asking for access to a state benefit, not asking for a right to be paid without doing her job. Second, and more importantly, Sherbert was not a public official with a responsibility to treat citizens impartially. Sherbert was not interfering with the rights of others; Davis is. And, finally, it is in fact far from obvious that Sherbert would mean that “the state should find a way to accommodate Davis’s deeply held beliefs.” Even if we grant arguendo that being required to issue marriage licenses impartially constitutes a substantial burden on Davis’s religious freedom, Sherbert nonetheless allows such burdens if a policy is narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest.
Given Davis’s actions, I think it is entirely obvious that Bunning’s order is consistent with not only Smith but Sherbert. It is arguable that Sherbert requires that Davis not personally have to issue marriage licenses if citizens can still obtain them from her office with no more than a de minimis burden. Had Davis simply allowed her clerks to issue licenses, of course, she would never have spent a day and jail and the question would be moot. But Davis explicitly refused — and refuses — such a compromise, interfering with the ability of other clerks in the office to carry out the law. If any application of Sherbert suggests that Davis has the right to do this, Fish doesn’t cite it.
A central problem with Fish’s argument is that he overstates the difference between Sherbert, as actually applied, and Employment Division v. Smith. The vast majority of state burdens on conduct that potentially conflicts with religious conviction were undisturbed while Sherbert (which, technically, Smith didn’t overrule) was still the reigning standard. Fish, needless to say, is maddeningly slippery about what he thinks the implications of his much broader reading of Sherbert would imply. Rather than address such questions, he uses his familiar tactic of banalities about the marginal cases in which drawing line between private and public spheres is difficult. These banalities are not particularly interesting in any case, and also not relevant to this case, which isn’t a marginal case — Davis is a public official.
Does Fish, for example, think that U.S. v. Lee was wrongly decided and anyone citing a religious objection should be exempt from taxation? If one takes his defense of Davis seriously, it’s hard to avoid this implication. As always, Fish’s argument is either uninteresting and doesn’t actually tell us anything useful about the Davis case (sometimes there are marginal cases in which balancing the free exercise of religion and state regulations of conduct is difficult!) or is transparently wrong and unworkable (neutral state regulation should generally yield to private individual conviction.) As Terry Eagleton has observed, pretty much all of Fish’s arguments proceed like this.
The reasons for Fish’s defense of Davis will not surprise anyone familiar with Fish’s body of work:
Years ago Justice Potter Stewart famously said that the refusal to permit religious exercises in the public schools should be understood “not as the realization of state neutrality,” but as “the establishment of a religion of secularism” (dissent in School District of Abington v. Schempp, 1963). What Stewart sees (but doesn’t quite say) is that neutrality is secularism. A state that declares itself neutral toward religion — will not pronounce on it one way or the other — is a state that has taken religion off the political table and effectively neutered it while pretending to be indifferent to it. “We won’t say yes or no to religion” means that we will operate independently of its perspective; it means, in effect, that we say no to it. It is in the end impossible for the secular state to be fair to religion, not only because fairness is not what religion demands — it demand precedence — but because fairness is a secular value whose invocation always marks the marginalization and downgrading of religious interests in favor of the interests the state has identified as primary. Just ask Kim Davis.
Some decades ago, Fish had an unoriginal and not particularly interesting idea — the liberal state exercises power and makes policy choices — that he considers to be a profound insight, and has been reiterating it ever since. The state is indeed exercising power against Kim Davis based on substantive principles. But so what? The fact that there is never impartiality all the way down doesn’t make the norm that state officials apply the law impartially any less valuable. Does Fish think that public officials should routinely be able to interpose their religious beliefs between citizens and their legal rights and privileges? Presumably not, but if he doesn’t it’s not clear what he is arguing.