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Safety In Numbers

[ 0 ] November 17, 2006 |

To make a shameful admission of my own, I have to admit that Roy made it considerably further through 100 Years of Solitude (“could have done with less magic and more realism”) than I have managed in multiple attempts. And to ratchet the shame even further, despite female characters that fail to achieve two-dimensionality and its dull subplots, I kind of liked The Information, although admittedly it’s been a while.

Put this way, I really don’t like what this says about my underlying tastes in fiction, but there you go.

"Politically (In)Correct": A Term Devoid of Value

[ 0 ] November 17, 2006 |

I’m…well, not surprised, but still have some capacity for irritation at the fact that CNN continues to employ an abject bigot hasn’t gotten more attention. Hilzoy takes the opportunity to note how the term “politically incorrect” is used to shield abhorrent statements:

Um: no. This is not ‘political incorrectness’, in the sense of casting off the bonds of convention and saying something daring and clever and insightful, though slightly out of bounds. This is accusing a newly elected Congressman of treason, on the grounds that (a) he is a Muslim, and (b) he holds a view about Iraq that is shared by a significant chunk of the American people, and (c) he’s a Democrat. (Nice to have the idea that being a Democrat helps to make one presumptively treasonous stated so explicitly.)

Or maybe Beck is kinda sorta not accusing him of treason, but just saying that he feels like saying: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” Frankly, I’m not sure I really understand this distinction. If Beck is really just divulging his own personal feelings, why on earth should he think that they are of any interest at all to us? If, on the other hand, he is expressing his feelings because he thinks that maybe they’re onto something, and that that something might be worth talking about, then he does not get to hide behind the claim that he’s not saying what he thinks, just what he feels.

Actually, I would push this argument further. Whatever value the term once had–and I’m a little more skeptical than Hilzoy–as Amanda says “politically incorrect” now is just wingnut-speak for “asshole.” Or, to put it in more elevated terms, it’s a way of insulating arguments you’d prefer not to defend on the merits from any criticism. For example, like when Glenn “More Rubble, Less Trouble” Reynolds wants to implicitly defend racial profiling or indiscriminate bombing, he can just use the term “political correctness” and, bingo, he doesn’t have to be clear about what he’s advocating and has plausible deniability. See? It’s just a way of pre-empting arguments, and an increasingly dishonest one.

Executive Branch Crackpot Alert

[ 0 ] November 16, 2006 |

Admittedly, it’s probably not quite on the level of David Hager or Leon Kass. But the Bush administration has dug up yet another anti-choice crackpot to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs. Not is the new person responsible for Title X funding someone who cut his teeth in “Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” he’s an “abstinence-only” nutter who propounds some sort of New Agey theories about how sex prevents people from binding in relationships and make people unable to love. Reminding us once again that January 2009 can’t come quickly enough.

confirmed here.

…PZ refutes the science.

Hoyer Wins

[ 0 ] November 16, 2006 |

149-86 was the vote. Given what I know, he seems like the better of the two highly suboptimal alternatives.

Washed His Hands and Sealed Their Fate

[ 0 ] November 16, 2006 |

Shorter New Republic editorial board: “OK, we “regret” our support for the Iraq war, but not in ways that lead us to seriously question the underlying theoretical or empirical assumptions that led us to endorse (and stridently attack the critics of) this unmitigated fiasco.”

Longer New Republic comes from Spencer Ackerman:

Among the most annoying of TNR tropes is the flight to meta-analysis as soon as the recognition dawns that the magazine can’t win an argument. And here, it pains and saddens me to say, TNR embraces it like a security blanket. First, TNR concedes that nothing it can possibly desire is likely to occur: “The U.S. presence in Iraq will not last long. Perhaps this new political reality will serve as shock therapy, scaring Iraq’s warring factions into negotiations that can prevent the worst sectarian warfare. But perhaps not.” The “perhaps not” is an intellectual prophylactic: it changes the subject before one can ask what in the world the U.S. could tell the Sunnis and the Shiites that could make them believe that that their interests are better served by peace than by war. If TNR has any idea what it means by this, it has an obligation to say so. But — and, my friends, I can tell you, because I went to those Thursday editorial meetings for years — these people have no idea what they mean.


Please believe me when I say that this makes me want to cry, since I used to love working for TNR. But the magazine is setting itself up for making the same mistake over and over and over again. This is the emptiest of evasions — a fetishization of “seriousness” without ever actually being serious. In one of my last pieces for them, I wrote that “Faced with a disastrous war, the most important consideration is not ‘Were we wrong?’ but ‘Why were we wrong?’ and ‘How can we avoid being so wrong in the future?’” I begged TNR during my time there to address these last questions. But now it’s dawned on me that my former friends never will.

Read the whole etc.

And When He Sees His Reflection, He’s Fulfilled

[ 0 ] November 16, 2006 |

I see Carville is continuing his ridiculous crusade against the DNC chair who presided over a Congressional victory nobody could have plausibly foreseen a year ago. The key graf is this one:

He said he tried to meet with Dean to argue for additional spending for Democrats in the final days of the campaign, but Dean declined and gave no reason why.

Ah, yes, this is the issue. The real problem with Dean is that he wouldn’t listen to the sage advice of James Carville, just because he’s a far-past-his-sell-by-date hack with nothing worthwhile to offer and no discernible constituency, and is the kind of person who would gin up a circular firing squad on a farcially silly pretext in a period in which the Democrats should be all rights be happy and relatively unified. All one can say is, good for Dean. Indeed, Carville is beginning to remind me of the most destructive faux-populist narcissist to curse progressive politics in America in the last decade:

The Jimmy Carter presidency only saw a heightening of Nader’s schismatic tendencies. “I want access. I want to be able to see [Carter] and talk to him. I expected to be consulted,” he told The New York Times. That Carter filled his administration with former Naderites didn’t help. Less than a year after Carter put former Nader deputy Joan Claybrook in charge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Nader denounced her, demanding she resign for implementing an air-bag regulation with “an unheard of lead time provision.” In 1980, Nader told Rolling Stone, “In the last year we’ve seen the ‘corporatization’ of Jimmy Carter. Whereas he was impotent and kind of pathetic the first year and a half, he’s now surrendered. … The two-party system, by all criteria, is bankrupt–they have nothing of any significance to offer the voters, so a lot of voters say why should they go and vote for Tweedledum and Tweedledee.” (Liberals today who anguish over Nader’s insistence that no important differences exist between the two parties should note that this belief dates back more than two decades.)

Shorter James Carville and Ralph Nader: “Me me me me me me me me me!!!!” Luckily, during the 2008 campaign they figure to be equally irrelevant…

Roxanne: “There is serious work ahead. Countless lives are at stake. And your unfounded grandstanding is a distraction from ending our long national nightmare.”

When He’s Right, He’s Right

[ 0 ] November 16, 2006 |

Patterico on Bush sending some of his most unqualified wingnut appointments back to the Senate again: “polls show that Americans like cautious judges who hew closely to the text of the Constitution and relevant statutes.” Indeed! So I think we can all agree then that the court needs fewer justices, who will, say, invent a heretofore unknown (and utterly inconsistent with the past jurisprudence of said justices) right to have ballots counted in the same manner, claim that it doesn’t apply to any future cases, and then fail to provide a logical remedy even in the case under discussion after the court’s favored litigant got what he wanted. Or, say, discover in “not so much for what [the 11th Amendment] says, but for the presupposition…which it confirms” a concept that state governments should have similar immunities against their citizens as 17th century British monarchs, hence leaving rights without effective remedies. And so on and so forth.

This idea that because the public will agree with nice-sounding platitudes about judicial restraint that no remotely sophisticated legal observer could think that justices appointed by Republicans adhere to in any meaningful way that they therefore want radical right-wingers rated unqualified by the ABA appointed to the federal bench cracks me up almost as much as the “Glenn Reynolds is a nonpartisan libertarian” routine.

…I also agree with Mitch McConnell that Dems should treat Bush’s nominations they way they treated Clinton’s…

"Yes, and that woman’s name was Earl Warren."

[ 0 ] November 15, 2006 |

Don Surber: “[Mitch McConnell] was the guy who not only opposed McCain-Feingold, but took it to court. Unfortunately, the first woman Supreme Court justice ignored the First Amendment and upheld that campaign deform.” Those damned women–they screw up everything! Whether John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, and William Rehnquist–who wrote and/or joined important parts of the court’s opinion(s)–have vaginas remained unclear at press time.

Today In ‘Pro-Life" Illogic

[ 0 ] November 15, 2006 |

A Republican-led panel in Missouri has claimed that illegal immigration is caused by…abortion. But I’m not sure why they’re stopping there: if they banned birth control, that would really stop those damned immigrants!

Actually, I think that following Woody Allen’s joke about oral contraception, the women of Missouri should just mutually agree to stop having sex with Republicans…

What A Shame The Republicans Lost

[ 0 ] November 15, 2006 |

Shorter Verbatim Grover Norquist: “Bob Sherwood’s seat would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled.” Yeah, what a tragedy that these moral giants no longer control Congress.

Party of Lincoln: Still Dead

[ 0 ] November 15, 2006 |

Trent Lott: the #2 Senate Republican. Maybe the GOP will now make Jeff Sessions the RPC chair too, just like Red State wants.

I forget if it was Atrios or Josh that put this up on their site during the Lott incident, but let’s return to the 1948 Dixiecrat Platform, which Lott endorsed in 2002:

1. We believe that the Constitution of the United States is the greatest charter of human liberty ever conceived by the mind of man.

2. We oppose all efforts to invade or destroy the rights guaranteed by it to every citizen of this republic.

3. We stand for social and economic justice, which, we believe can be guaranteed to all citizens only by a strict adherence to our Constitution and the avoidance of any invasion or destruction of the constitutional rights of the states and individuals. We oppose the totallitaran, centralized bureaucratic government and the police nation called for by the platforms adopted by the Democratic and Republican Conventions.

4. We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

5. We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

6. We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

7. We stand for the check and balances provided by the three departments of our government. We oppose the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments. We unreservedly condemn the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.

8. We demand that there be returned to the people to whom of right they belong, those powers needed for the preservation of human rights and the discharge of our responsibility as democrats for human welfare. We oppose a denial of those by political parties, a barter or sale of those rights by a political convention, as well as any invasion or violation of those rights by the Federal Government. We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.

9. We, therefore, urge that this Convention endorse the candidacies of J. Strom Thurmond and Fielding H. Wright for the President and Vice-president, respectively, of the United States of America.

So, in other words, “these problems” were Brown v. Board and the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. Just keep this in mind the next time some Republican hack tries to claim that the GOP represent MLK’s or Rosa Parks’s true heirs, because they oppose affirmative action…

…C&L has the video.

Raise The Green Lantern

[ 0 ] November 14, 2006 |

As you would expect, it takes Glenn Reynolds to really push the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics to sublime heights of lunacy. Does the deteriorating situation in Iraq prove, say, that state building in a context where civil society essentially didn’t exist and where sectarian divides provide the main basis of social control is enormously difficult? Oh, no. Bush certainly could be turning Iraq into Switzerland with a lot more people being blown up, but: “And my speculation that Iran has some method — nuclear or otherwise — that has deterred us from taking the kind of action that both Bill Quick and I expected in 2004 is seeming better-founded.” (This isn’t the first time, alas, he’s “speculated” about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons.) At any rate, it’s not “better founded” in the sense that there’s a shred of evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons or some other secret form of blackmail. But it is true that Reynolds’s assumptions that military power can accomplish anything if you want it, that “more rubble less trouble” counterinsurgency can coexist with democratic state building, and that everything in Iraq is great (or at least would be great if it weren’t for those meddling reporters) are becoming more and more transparently false by the day. But Reynolds can’t be wrong, so we must turn to fantasy to explain the easily explicable.

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him–at least his visions of armies of Iranian unicorns equipped with death rays is distracting him from his stab-in-the-back arguments, which I’m sure he’ll return to post-haste.

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