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"I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says…"

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

Poor Fredo.

In related news, see Gene Healy on John Yoo and the Neoconstitution.


Bitter Gaffe

[ 29 ] April 14, 2008 |

I don’t have an enormous amount to add about Obama’s comment. Evidently, on the merits the controversy is stupid; as Roy says, the comments were a takeoff for politics-of-resentment silliness “in the precise manner Obama described.” And, yes, I wish that Clinton wasn’t discussing it using Page 1 of the Republican playbook, but that’s just another way of saying that I wish Obama had already knocked her out of the race. As long as she’s in, not using it would be to fail Campaigning 101, especially given her base in Pennsylvania.

It does, however. remind me to link to this fine recent piece by Eric Alterman about the ridiculous use of the epithet “elitist” by conservatives:

John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.” His comrade in anti-intellectual arms, former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who has spent a career working within what conservatives would call the “liberal media elite” and who wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a “prison bitch,” has sworn off all association with liberals even when he agrees with them, he says, “because of their elitism. They look down their snobby noses at ordinary Americans who eat at Red Lobster or because they like to bowl or they go to church on a regular basis or because they fly the flag on the Fourth of July.”

In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is more commonly large.” Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. Yet while unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or David Brooks would ever choose to live.

This isn’t to exculpate Obama for his comments; it was bad politics to frame his perfectly banal point in the precise way that he did. But wealthy urban conservatives and quasi-liberal pundits pretending to be offended on behalf of working-class rural people is a stupid kabuki, as well as considerably more condescending than anything Obama said.

The Greatest Silence

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

I haven’t had a chance to watch the new HBO documentary about the revolting amount of gang rape in the Congo and its heartbreaking aftermath yet, but Lauren has and gives it her recommendation.

Life Imitates Seinfeld

[ 2 ] April 13, 2008 |

Pinkberry settles suit launched, in part, because the company falsely understates the caloric content of its product. On those rare occaisons where I’ve felt like dessert in SoHo, I’ve always been a Rice To Riches man anyway…

Making Trends out of Nothing At All

[ 6 ] April 13, 2008 |

As Tim Noah points out, what’s particularly strange about the bizarre NYT article claiming that blogging was turning into a job so stress-inducing it could kill you is that the author actually concedes within the text that these are not only random anecdotes but even with respect to these anecdotes there’s no reason to believe that there was a significant causal relationship between the job and the death. How this could still have ended up a Page One story I certainly can’t tell you.

Post-Convention Electability

[ 26 ] April 11, 2008 |

Brad DeLong makes a stronger case for Sean Wilentz’s assertion that Hillary Clinton deserves the Democratic nomination than Wilentz managed, and as he says it remains highly unconvincing. Since I assume the only possible purpose of Wilentz pointing out that given some arbitrary, post hoc changes to the Democratic nominating process Clinton might have done better is to convince superdelegates to back Clinton, it’s worth making one additional point. Like DeLong, I disagree with the claim that Clinton is more electable, but given her potential strength in some important swing states it’s at least plausible enough to potentially justify a vote for her in the first instance. To make Clinton the nominee now, however, means that one has to argue that that she would be the most electable candidate after superdelegates awarded her the nomination over the pledged delegate and popular vote winner who also would have otherwise been the first African-American candidate for president. It’s quite obvious that Clinton would not be the most electable candidate under than scenario. Given that she has much less ability to enlarge the Democratic coalition, a Clinton candidacy with significant parts of the Democratic base demobilized because they think the nomination was stolen would be very poorly positioned in the general.

Southern-Fried Red-Baiting

[ 0 ] April 10, 2008 |

Shorter All-too-verbatim Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee:

Is Obama “merely” another radical leftist like another one of his mentors, Saul Alinsky?

Is he a Marxist, as would befit his continued 20-year association with a church founded on the Marxism underlying Black Liberation Theology?

Is he a socialist revolutionary with Maoist tendencies that wants to wage war against the United States like his close friend, fellow Woods Fund board member, and domestic terrorist William Ayers?

Is he a communist, like his mentor Davis, his father, his ethic-cleansing, Islamist-coddling cousin, and even his own wife Michelle Obama, who insisted just yesterday the thought that, “someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.”

At this point we simply do not know where along the radical leftist continum Barack Obama’s thoughts reside, because no one has ever pressed him on his beliefs or his meager record.

Is Obama the moderate liberal (or center-rightist in virtually any other non-Stalinist liberal democracy) his record suggests? Or is he the Maoist radical envisioned in Bob Owens’s Southern-Comfort-and-Coke-fueled fever dreams? If you’re a star writer for Pajamas Media, it’s a real puzzler!

Bonus wankery in comments:

He hasn’t yet tried to nationalize corporate property, but promising to take money (also property) from you for the common good is the same thing in my mind. That is certainly a statist philosophy. Is it communist? Marxist?

Nozick lives! In really, really dumb form! Sure, the income tax, being sent to Siberia by an undemocratic government for 6 months, what’s the difference? Also note above that he considers “adding to the budget deficit” evidence of Obama’s communism, which I guess puts Bush well to the left of Brezhnev…

NHL Playoff Preview

[ 0 ] April 10, 2008 |

Various other commitments will prevent the usual lengthy analysis, but for fun some quick picks and comments.


(1)Det v. (8)Nsh Nashville seems to be a trendy upset pick, and with Lidstrom, Rafalski and Holmstrom all seeming less than 100% and the goaltending dubious I would give Detroit very little chance against San Jose or Anaheim. But I think they’ll get through the first round; Nashville is a similar but inferior team, and I don’t like that matchup. Wings in 6.

(2)SJ v. (7)Cal I’d love to make a case for my beloved Flames here. With one of the top 3 players in the league, a Norris nominee and a recent Vezina winner Calgary has more front-line talent than the typical 7 seed. I always think this is San Jose’s year and I’m always wrong, and people generally overrate late season performance, so in itself I don’t think San Jose’s red-hot finish portends a non-competitive series. But, still, I can’t do it. The Campbell trade — shoring up the overrated defense that has been San Jose’s Achilles‘ heel — really was big, and Calgary is just too mistake-prone on defense and too thin up front to beat what’s probably the best team in the league right now. Sharks in 5.

(3)Min v. (6)Col I hate to pick Quenville over Lemaire, and I like Backstrom over Theodore. But between Minnesota’s depleted defense and Forsberg playing his best hockey in a while I don’t see the Wild winning (and a Colorado/Detroit series would be fun.) Avs in 7.

(4)Ana v. (5)Dal The sooner what has become one of the most loathsome franchises in pro sports goes down the better, but I don’t see it happening here; Anaheim can beat Dallas at its own defensive game and I still don’t believe in Turco. Ducks in 5.


(1)Mtl v. (8)Bos You have to pick one massive upset for this to be any fun, right? So I’ll be the only person to pick this one. It reminds me a little of Edmonton/Detroit a couple years ago; a team with a defenseman like Chara can always be dangerous, and Thomas is pretty good. And, although I’m probably wrong, I’m still not convinced that the Habs are as good as their record. Bruins in 7.

(2)Pit v. (7)Ott Two weeks ago, Ottawa looked like a live dog (again, “momentum” being Latin for “bullshit.”) Then two of their best forwards got hurt. I don’t see Marc-Andre Fleury being the goaltender of a championship team, but the Hossa-sweetened Pens blow away the Sens and get their revenge to start. PENS IN 5.

(3)Wsh v. (6)Phi I’ll be rooting hard for the Capitals, having seen them twice live this year and been impressed, and I also think they’ll beat the Flyers. Even a Flames fan has to concede that Ovechkin is the runaway MVP, and he has more help than you might think. (I especially like the Federov trade; the fact that he’s no longer a superstar shouldn’t obscure that he’s still a tremendous defensive center.) For once, the automatic #3 seeded team is more talented than the #6. CAPS in 6.

(4)NJ v. (5)NYR Another classic rivalry matchup. It’s probably foolish to bet against Brodeur, but I think the Rangers’ talent edges up front will be decisive. Plus, if I pick against them bean will never forgive me! So RANGERS IN 6.

UPDATE: World’s most dangerous professor and Eastern Conference expert Michael Berube sends on the following predictions:

Rangers over Devils in 6. Yes, both defenses are good and both offenses have been anemic all year. The difference is, the Rangers’ offense actually can score when they need to, and they have two lines to the Devils’ one.

Penguins over Senators in 6. Maybe five! It’ll be payback for last year. The Sens started off brilliantly this year and have been strangely mediocre in the second half. They’ll stay mediocre, even though I have to like Cory Stillman as a last-minute pickup more than Hossa. Stillman is one of those undersung second- or third-liners with a hard nose and a knack for the timely goal, but he’ll be playing golf with the rest of the Senators in about two weeks.

Canadiens over Bruins in 5. Nice to see Beantown back in the hunt. Now get them out of here so we can move on the Habs-Pens conference final.

Capitals over Flyers in 6. Maybe five! Jeez, would I hate to be playing the Caps right around now. A very average team through March, they’re suddenly, what, undefeated in regulation over their last 11 or 12? And they have that guy, whatsisface, with the 65 goals. I hear he’s good. Anyway, the sooner the Flyers and their thuggish West-Coast counterparts the Ducks are watching the playoffs on TV, the better for the game of hockey.

UPDATE THE SECOND: When I picked the Sharks, I was unaware that Greg Kihn would be singing the national anthem…

Most. Overrated. President. Ever.

[ 56 ] April 9, 2008 |

As an addendum to the Harding discussion, I think it’s telling that the strongest points to be made in Harding’s favor involve improvements over the civil rights and civil liberties records of Woodrow Wilson. Is there any question that Wilson is the most overrated president ever? The compendium of rankings here puts him as high as fourth and no lower than eleventh, but on balance his record was terrible. His civil liberties record was unspeakably bad, and this can’t be explained away by context — it was a much worse record than Lincoln with much less excuse, and he actually wanted more authority to criminalize political dissent than Congress was willing to grant. And, of course, the opportunity for the worst civil liberties record since Adams was created by dragging to the United States into a war whose connection to the national interest was (to put it charitably) oblique. As Matt notes, he also entrenched segregation above and beyond the requirements of his political coalition. And he is also responsible for a Supreme Court appointment–a sixth-rate intellect who refused to shake hands with his Jewish colleagues and among countless other reactionary holdings voted to uphold the show-trial death sentences of the Scottsboro boys — who has to be the worst of the 20th century. He did have some domestic policy achievements, and put Brandeis on the Court too, but that’s a pretty bad president.

Put it this way — JFK is the other candidate for most overrated among progressives, but an ineffectual pro-civil rights record is infinitely preferable to an extensive record of pro-apartheid accomplishment, McReynolds was a much worse blunder than Byron White, etc.

Nobody Cares

[ 29 ] April 8, 2008 |

It’s obviously funny in itself to see Serious Journalist and (Pro-stripping people of their property and sending them to interment camps solely on the basis of their race) Historian Michelle Malkin engaging in an interminable whine about Barack Obama’s choice of sandwiches and the unwillingness of Obama or Clinton to patronize bigots. But I especially liked that she included this line from a story about John Kerry in 2004:

It will doom his candidacy in Philadelphia,” predicted Craig LaBan, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the Sandwich Scandal. After all, Philly cheesesteaks come with Cheez Whiz, or occasionally American or provolone. But Swiss cheese? “In Philadelphia, that’s an alternative lifestyle,” LaBan explained.

Hmm, how did that work out?

Philadelphia County:

Kerry (D) 542,205 81%
Bush (R) 130,099 19%

Why, it’s almost as if the primary class of people who gives a damn whether a presidential candidate gets crappy processed cheese on their sandwiches is not so much “Ordinary People” as “wealthy wingnut pundits who live in the gated suburbs of urban centers.”

(Via Tristement, Non!)

Give it Up

[ 24 ] April 7, 2008 |

Via Publius, Sean Wilentz has an exceedingly weak piece arguing that Clinton would be the easy winner in any fair primary system. Now, the primary system is full of irrationalities, so one might think that it would be possible to come up with a decent argument, but alas he fails at the task. Rather, the core of his argument is to assert again and again that the GOP winner-take-all model is the only fair way of apportioning delegates because…that’s how we do it in Presidential elections! But, of course, winner-take-all plurality voting is notoriously the least accurate of vote count systems commonly used in liberal democracies, and it is precisely that feature that led to the popular vote winner losing in 2000 and given different weather patterns in Ohio could have very easily led to the popular vote winner losing in 2004. Indeed, not using winner-take-all is one of the very few defensible aspects of the current primary system, and certainly Wilentz doesn’t even begin to make an argument about why PR is so much worse as to render the winner illegitimate (and I’m not counting “we do it that way in other parts of our anachronistic election system” as an argument.)

And, indeed, it gets worse: Obama is attacked for refusing to certify the results of an election which 1)the authoritative decision maker declared in advance would not count, 2)all candidates agreed not to campaign in, and 3)only one major candidate appears on the ballot. (I can’t wait for Wilentz’s piece next week railing against people who claim that Dimitry Medvedev’s election is illegitimate: after all, lots of people voted! That’s the only criterion that counts!) In general, the whole article reminds me of Wilentz asserting that JFK would have benefited from a much greater halo effect than LBJ…without being assassinated.

Penn To Embarass Clinton Campiagn Less In Public

[ 0 ] April 7, 2008 |

Mark Penn, Union Buster (TM) steps down as “chief strategist,” although he’ll be raking in fees to provide advice and polling data. Apparently “Garin officially began polling for the campaign last month, a major sign that senior Clinton aides doubted not only Penn’s judgment, but also his numbers.” Why you would continue to pay him huge send of money for worthless data about “taking kids to French horn lessons moms” when you also may have useful data available is beyond me, but it’s not my money. I also agree with Melber that “[t]weaking titles does nothing to address the serious questions about Penn’s potential conflicts of interest.”

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