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Dog And Pony Show

[ 0 ] April 3, 2007 |

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A red rubber nose would really complete this outfit

JMM analyzes the moldering corpse that is John McCain’s ambition to be President, and links it to the ice-cream-castles-in-the-air rhetoric that has consistently characterized pro-war discourse about Iraq:

So much of this country’s experience of Iraq — and I mean the experience of those of us who’ve watched the carnage at a great distance — has been the widening, agonizing, often comical but always awful gap between what we are told about what’s happening in Iraq and the overpowering reality of what we can see, read and hear about it. A few quotes capture the disjuncture — Dick Cheney’s line about the insurgency in its “last throes”. Perhaps, in retrospect at least, the president’s Mission Accomplished stunt. Actually, for the best evidence that none of this is real and that we’re all just characters on the pages of a tragicomic novel, you need look no further than the fact that our new public culture of cartoonish flimflam was prefigured in the words of the neo-jingoistically named ‘Baghdad Bob’ at the start of the story.

[..]

And here I think we have it. The aging war hawk, proving that security is returning to Baghdad by walking into a market encased in body armor, surrounded by rooftop sharpshooters and enveloped in a shield of a hundred soldiers, helicopters (Blackhawks), helicopter gunships (Apaches) and all after another group of soldiers went in for a pre-jaunt security sweep which, in the words of Larry Johnson, “searched for explosives, sent informants into the crowd, set up a perimeter, and secured the area before the Senators showed up with their 100 armed guards.”

It’s an iconic moment, like but much more than the Dukakis image, since its ridiculousness can be come at again and again. And from so many angles. Here, for instance, Times reporters go back to talk to the merchants on hand for McCain’s dog and pony show, who promptly dump on the senator’s malarkey. When asked about the senators’ claims that their jaunt showed that security was returning to Baghdad, appliance shop ower Ali Jassim Faiyad said, ““What are they talking about? The security procedures were abnormal!”

Politicians can be wrong and successful. But what no politician can handle or sustain is to be ridiculous. And isn’t that what we have here? And especially from someone who, at least some seasons ago, some of us had learned to expect so much more from.

I can’t endorse the last bit–given his conducts over the last few years, could we really expect anything more of Maverick McStraightTalk?–but otherwise this is dead on. One wonders if even his media glee club will still be singing his praises to the same extent after this.

"Or you’re gonna what, fire me? On an $80,000 day?"

[ 0 ] April 3, 2007 |

Obviously, Lamoriello deserves a pretty high benefit of the doubt, but his firing of Claude Julien with 102 points and counting is just bizarre. I really can’t think of any non-Devil precedent for the coach of a very successful team being fired this late in the season. Even Steinbrenner didn’t fire his manaagers in the last week of pennant-winning seasons (although whether you would survive until next May was another matter.) The obvious precedent is Lamoriello’s own firing of Ftorek, but I don’t think it was quite this late, and Ftorek and well-known issues with his players. And Esposito fired Michel Bergeron with 2 games left, but that team was barely over .500, and Esposito was a walking punchline as a G.M. It’s very strange.

Heh.

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Indeed.

And all of this, of course, was a convenient distraction from Saint McCain taking a “stroll” accompanied by a bulletproof vest, 100 troops, and aerial cover…

Quite correct: “In answer to that need, the Perfesser and his peers embed their rightwing talking points in a creamy, formless mess that we might call I Can’t Believe It’s Not Politics. Its apotheosis is — was, I guess I should say; who takes this shit seriously anymore? — the “Anti-Idiotarian” concept, which held that old ideas of “Left” and “Right” had lost all relevance, and the real litmus was now whether you agreed with the Perfesser’s right-wing ideas, or were an idiot. This is politics with no fuss, no muss — that feeling of resentment the Perfesser’s hehs and indeed have stirred in you are all the sign you need that you’re in the right church.”

The Man With The Golden Glove

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Nice to see Derek Jeter get not only the usual single on a ball hit a couple steps to his left but a throwing error in on Opening Day (alas, the sound wasn’t working on my machine so I couldn’t hear if Kay tried to pin the error on Phelps.) And Slappy misplaying a foul popup to go along with his clutch K in the first. If only the Devil Rays had a bullpen…

…Shawn Camp, Christ. I give this lead about two batters.

Abortion Criminalization on the Ground

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Mexico City is on the verge of decriminalizing abortion. The New York Times story on it is really first-rate. What I like about it is that it makes clear what the effects of the abortion ban are, and women will have large numbers of abortions even under conditions of formal illegality:

Dominated by liberals, Mexico City’s legislature is expected to legalize abortion in a few weeks. The bill would make this city one of the largest entities in Latin America to break with a long tradition of women resorting to illegal clinics and midwives to end unwanted pregnancies.

[...]

Leftists and feminists, meanwhile, have accused opponents of turning a blind eye to reality. They say millions of women here, and indeed throughout much of Latin America, already ignore the law and choose to abort fetuses, often in dingy underground clinics or the private homes of midwives. They risk infection, sterility and sometimes death.

“Women are dying, above all poor women, because of unsafe abortions,” said María Consuelo Mejía, the director of Catholics for the Right to Decide. “What we would like is that these women never have to confront the necessity of an abortion, but in this society it’s impossible right now. There is no access to information, to contraceptives. Nor do most women have the power to negotiate the use of contraceptives with their partners.”

The key question of abortion policy is always not whether women will get abortions, but whether non-affluent women will have access to safe abortions. It’s strongly in the interests of the forced pregnancy lobby to ignore this reality, because once you do take it into account abortion criminalization is essentially indefensible.

Another interesting aspect of the article is the reaction of pro-criminalization elites: “[Calderon's] health minister and other surrogates in the conservative National Action Party, however, are in the thick of it. They have proposed streamlining adoption laws, improving sex education and providing subsidies to unwed mothers as alternatives.” This makes them more serious than most of their American counterparts, at least. But I would ask the same question I would of “Feminists For Life”: if you favor these things, what’s stopping you? Why are they merely “alternatives,” particularly given what an ineffective tool criminalization is when it comes to preventing abortions? And, again, the answer is that American criminalization regimes are about a lot more than protecting fetal life.

The Blogroll Issue

[ 0 ] April 2, 2007 |

Lauren links to this argument about the “purging” of blogrolls by A-List bloggers. While I agree that there are plenty of good bloggers who get less traffic than (I think) they deserve and who I wish got more links, I’m not really sure about these kinds of arguments in general.

First, I think it’s worth noting how small the stakes are here. As it happens, we were “purged” from the mighty Eschaton blogroll during the “amnesty.” As far as I can tell–and I’m not obsessive about sitemeter numbers, but I do try to check and see if any posts are generating traffic periodically–the effect on traffic is very small. Atrios links certainly have a major impact (not just immediately but in adding new readers), but he’s linked to us several times after removing us from his blogroll, so I don’t see that it’s made much difference. Not being on someone’s blogroll won’t stop someone from linking to a post they find interesting. (FWIW, Atrios has also kept or added a significant number of blogs that get comparable or less traffic than us; I don’t see any reason to believe that there’s some systematic effort to exclude smaller blogs.) In addition, the only blogrolls we’ve gotten significant traffic from are Yglesias’ and Wolcott’s, which generate disproportionate traffic because they’re selective. The goal of more comprehensive blogrolls just means that they won’t generate more than negligible traffic, and if for some reason you care about it they can’t really confer status either.

None of this is to be against comprehensive blogrolls, per se; I’m glad that people like Shakes compile them so I can check out something I might not otherwise read. I guess what I’m arguing for is idiosyncrasy. Link to blogs and posts you like; maintain the blogroll you think is appropriate. I link much more to longer, wonkier posts and much less to activist blogs because that’s what I read and blog about. I share Chris’ disappointment that blogs with more detailed content are less popular. But I’m not crazy about the idea that blogrolls (or systematic linkage) should reflect highly self-conscious patterns of what people think they should be doing. It’s true that I’ve seen more conservative blogs try to do more of this; in my judgment, most of these blogs are also terrible. Blogroll what you read or what you’d particularly like to bring attention to — I think it’s that simple. And the composition of blogrolls isn’t any kind of matter of justice.

Squeezed

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

Ah, only 2 and a half innings into Opening Day Night, and Tony LaRussa, Super Genius (TM) throws out the first wankoff “look at me! I’m ever so clever!” strategery of the season. A suicide squeeze down 2-0 in the 3rd inning? What the hell? Well, it was certainly consistent with my rooting interests, so more power to him.

Slick Willey

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

In the wake of the discussion of the smears of Bill Clinton and Jessica Valenti I allude to below, debate about Clinton has resumed in some comments sections. What drives me crazy is that many liberal commenters seem to take various Clinton Tall Tales at face value, accepting that he’s a “sexual predator” but merely quibbling over the severity of the incidents. Whatever the ethical problems involved, the consensual Lewinsky scandal could not come close to justifying this label. The key to those arguing that Clinton is guilty of some kind of actual assault, then, is Kathleen Willey, and many comments sections have rolled over and played dead when apologists for Althouse and the rest of the Clinton Smear Machine have brought her up.

The problem? Her story was so strikingly lacking in credibility that Ken Starr’s office wouldn’t move forward with it. Josh Marshall:

But Willey didn’t merely hurt Clinton. It was also on her say-so, and to sustain her credibility, that the OIC pursued a merciless prosecution against Julie Hiatt Steele, one of the bit players in the Lewinsky saga, but one of the most damaged. Steele was a onetime friend of Willey’s who first said Willey had confided in her about the groping incident shortly after it happened. Steele later recanted this story and told the grand jury that Willey had put her up to it — testimony that won her an indictment from the OIC for obstruction of justice and a series of bizarre side investigations into matters as far afield as the legality of the adoption of her daughter. (The case ended in a mistrial in May 1999.)

So how credible is Kathleen Willey? Apparently, not very credible at all. And that’s not the word from some Clinton lapdog, but from the OIC itself. Appendix B of Ray’s report analyzes Willey’s accusations and concludes, rather hermetically, that “there was insufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton’s testimony regarding Kathleen Willey was false.” But that conclusion is a comic understatement when read in the context of the report’s Appendix B. The OIC lawyers couldn’t even convince themselves that Willey was credible, let alone prove it beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. They had already concluded that Willey was a liar.

For instance, as Appendix B explains, Willey’s testimony in the Jones suit differed from what she told the Lewinsky grand jury. It was contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses friendly to the OIC. And, most damning, during the period when Willey was cooperating with the OIC under an immunity agreement, the OIC caught her in a lie about her relationship with a former boyfriend. (As the report phrases it, with oblique understatement, “Following Willey’s acknowledgment [of the lie], the Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements in this regard.”)

In other words, the OIC did not opt to forego prosecution of President Clinton on the Willey front because it could not prove Willey’s credibility to a jury: They themselves believed she was not a credible witness. That makes you wonder why the OIC lawyers pursued their case against Julie Hiatt Steele based purely on Willey’s word. And if the OIC now thinks Willey isn’t credible, why didn’t this get a bit more play in the press? (And should we wait around, in Part 2 of the report, for an apology to Julie Hiatt Steele?)

See also Bob Somerby. Can we know, to an absolute certainty, that Clinton didn’t “grope” Willey without her consent? No. But to assert her story as simple fact is ridiculous. I mean, if Ken Starr won’t go forward with it, I think you have to presume Clinton innocent. Same thing with Paula Jones; unlike Lewinsky, that would be a serious case of sexual harassment, except that the case was thrown out of court. The evidence that Bill Clinton is a sexual predator, in other words, is scant at best. Liberals really need to stop accepting right-wing smear narratives as proven fact.

Rumsfeld Speaks!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

The TD gets an exclusive

She’s Engaging In Shameless Revisionism. Just Ask Her!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2007 |

Sorry to return to this, but I found it while researching something else and it’s too good to pass up. Althouse, you may recall, has justified her unprovoked rage at GFR by claiming that she was merely engaging in a sober political discussion about feminism and Bill Clinton, and liberals who claim that she was engaging in personal attacks are being horribly, horribly unfair to her, and even worse is when they label her very serious political arguments the “Jessica Valenti breast controversy,” which is a grievous insult. Evidently, it’s not exactly news that her rationalizations are utter nonsense. But I now call to the witness stand…Ann Althouse:

No, you’ve mischaracterized the original post, which mocked the bloggers for effusing over Clinton. A commenter made a wisecrack about Monica Lewinsky. The person you refer to as “woman with the rack” showed up in the comments to refocus things on her, at which point, I decided to write a post making fun of her for sort of unwittingly and indirectly claiming to be good-looking.

To write the post, I visited her blog and saw that it was loaded with breast images! She was a total breast-blogger! How is that not hilarious? I then made fun of her ridiculous hypocrisy.

Well, I think that’s settled.

Comparative Evidence of Idiocy

[ 0 ] March 31, 2007 |

I’ve always thought skipping the 13th floor (although calling it “12A” rather than skipping it is a new one on me) has always been among the starkest evidence about the number of extremely stupid and irrational people a country has. I’m still not sure if it’s worse than the fact that astrology columns appear in major newspapers, though…

"Before you could say Eric Keroack you’d turn your back and I’d be gone."

[ 0 ] March 30, 2007 |

The anti-contraception wingnut appointed to oversee the nation’s birth control policy has resigned. Lots of interesting stuff at the link about Keroack’s rather fishy medical practice. Also, there’s a good reminder of this story about the scientifically inaccurate propaganda distributed at his “crisis pregnancy centers”:

A Woman’s Concern promotes itself to pregnant women considering abortion as a “pregnancy health center designed just for you.” Nowhere does the center reveal that its real mission is to dissuade women from abortion.

The center staff told our volunteer misinformation and lies about abortion. Counselors provided gruesome exaggerated details of an abortion procedure – including a description of “prying” open her cervix to get the “bigger baby out” because her pregnancy was past the first trimester. Our volunteer was also told gross exaggerations about the risks associated with RU-486 (the abortion pill), including hemorrhaging and ineffectiveness.

Counselors further made false assertions about the mental health effects of abortion –including telling our volunteer that she would likely have severe depression as a result of her abortion and that this was a common occurrence. Such assertions about “post-abortion syndrome” are not supported by the weight of scientific evidence, nor recognized by major psychiatric associations.

A Woman’s Concern also provided our volunteer with pamphlets containing information falsely linking abortion to a risk of breast cancer. This long-time anti-abortion myth has been repeatedly discredited. Other pamphlets in the center’s waiting room likewise contained disinformation about condoms and sexually transmitted infections, and were often seriously outdated.

A Woman’s Concern adopts an air of medical authority but in actuality it fails to provide accurate information or legitimate medical services of use to any woman.

Good riddance.

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