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"Maureen Goes To Fantasy Camp? Her Whole Life Is A Fantasy Camp."

[ 9 ] July 10, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim MoDo: “Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable.”

Unlike (it seems) Somerby, I don’t see the slightest problem with Sittenfeld using Laura Bush to write a roman a clef. I can’t say it sounds especially promising, but the idea will rise and fall with the quality of the work. Fiction writers aren’t under any obligation to stick to facts about historical figures.

When fantasy narratives become the basis for large numbers of columns on the nation’s most prominent op-ed pages, however, and the writers who push these fantasy narratives with disastrous consequences continue forever in their sinecures, that’s a rather different matter.


Liberals and the Courts

[ 22 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dahlia Lithwick has some interesting thoughts about why liberals tend to be much less focused on the courts than conservatives. I think she’s right that the (often nominal) upholding of Warren Court precedents has made liberals more complacent about the direction of the Court than its actual record justifies. This also, I think, helps to explain why the Roberts/Alito “minimalist” strategy of gutting and refusing to seriously apply liberal precedents is worse for progressives than the Alito/Thomas position that when the Court overturns precedents it ought to do so explicitly.

One thing to add is that, as Sandy Levinson notes with respect to David Broder’s bizarre claim that Anthony Kennedy is more powerful than Nancy Pelosi, in some ways the lower priority liberal voters place on the courts is actually more rational. This isn’t to say that the courts aren’t important, or that liberals wouldn’t benefit from putting more pressure on presidents and Senators in judicial appointments. It’s also important for liberals to be better informed that what the courts do matters in areas far beyond abortion. But it’s also worth keeping in mind that when it comes to health care reform, the courts are pretty much the last potentially countermajoritarian institutional veto point that progressives need to worry about.

A Thousand Points of Servitude

[ 49 ] July 8, 2008 |

It seems appropriate that on the same week the National Review is claiming that support for apartheid and white supremacy represents “one particular vision of civil rights,” Jonah Goldberg is claiming that Barack Obama “vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.” Apparently, this is because of Obama’s plan for setting goals for volunteer work, which indeed is analogous to slavery in exactly the same way in which Jesse Helms supported any vision of civil rights.

The "PC" Dodge

[ 0 ] July 8, 2008 |

I suppose that this line from the National Review’s heartwarming tribute to unreconstructed white supremacist, homophobe, and enthusiastic supporter of brutal authoritarian governments Jessie Helms was inevitable: “Helms’s real offense was a stubborn and victory-making political incorrectness.” I’m not sure if I know of a better example of the current wingnut definition of “politically incorrect,” which seems to mean “bigoted arguments we’d prefer not to defend on the merits but want insulated from any criticism.”

Elsewhere, Jonah Goldberg claims that the “liberal line” on Helms isn’t true, although for some reason he can’t be bothered to actually refute the extensive and unambiguous evidence concerning Helms’s bigotry. Perhaps he can start by giving the non-racist explanation for his penchant for whistling “Dixie” around Carol Mosley-Braun. That sure was “politically incorrect!”

The Late-Term Abortion Diversion

[ 10 ] July 7, 2008 |

Professor B provides some useful data about late-term abortions in light of Obama’s dumb (and I guess now clumsily partially retracted) comments about abortion policy. Admittedly, the policy consequences of what Obama is proposing would probably be negligible; as long as the decision rests with individual doctors rather than a panel, the precise definition of a health exemption makes very little difference on the ground. (Pre-Roe, some states with very strict-sounding statutes had relatively easy access to abortion in practice, while other state with broader access on paper had limited access in practice.) Of course, this cuts both ways: because most women don’t choose to get post-viability abortions and most doctors won’t perform them, there’s no “problem” that needs to be solved here by changing the law.

So as Jill, Amanda, and Jan Crawford Greenburg point out, the problem with Obama’s statement isn’t so much a policy issue as that it plays into right-wing frames about the abortion issue. As Greenburg notes:

History shows that those proposals — offered and embraced by legislators who would call themselves “pro-choice” — have been seized by conservatives who oppose abortion. As Dailard wrote, the attacks on the mental health exception have had “significant repercussions beyond that significant issue, seriously reviving a legislative attack on abortion rights that largely has been dormant for two decades.”

Given the unpopularity of the Republican position of banning pre-viability abortions, it’s obviously in their interest to focus on the tiny minority of (already restricted) post-viability abortions, and pretend that women routinely seek them for frivolous reasons. The appropriate Democratic response is to note that the vast majority of abortions are pre-viability and there’s no reason to believe that the ;aw restricting the tiny fraction of post-viability abortions don’t work. The Democrats have to stop playing on Republican turf, and Obama’s comments show that he doesn’t seem to understand that. As with foreign policy but with even less reason, national Democratic politicians seem to think that the Permanent Defensive Crouch is the way to go.

And since this isn’t the only place I’ve seen the conflation, I suppose I should note yet again that 1)bans on “partial birth” abortion apply to some pre-viability abortions, and 2)don’t prevent any abortions at any stage of gestation from being performed, but rather require doctors to perform abortions with methods that aren’t as safe. And hence, not only do such bans have nothing to do with restricting post-viability abortion, they are facially irrational.

Party Of Helms Watch

[ 5 ] July 7, 2008 |

How morally twisted to you have to be to mobilize hatred against the idea of gay soldier during a time of war? I guess you have to be at a Fred Barnes level of degeneracy. Fortunately, Fred’s projection of his views onto a majority of the public is so 1993:

Polling consistently finds that the public supports allowing openly-gay people to serve in the military. In fact, that support is growing even stronger with time.

Well, prominent conservative Republicans keep saying that Jesse Helms was an exemplary figure of their movement. It’s hard to argue…

Don’t Forget the Mashed Potato!

[ 0 ] July 7, 2008 |

Avert your eyes!

Give Helms this: his embrace of the worst elements of wingnuttery was nothing if not comprehensive. Since it’s easier to laugh at than his more typical race- and gay- baiting and support for bloodthristy dictators, I also like this quote:

“The nation has been hypnotized by the swaying and the gesturing of the Watusi and the Frug.”

I, for one, would have been terrified.

Tito’s Players Home Cookin’ Aren’t Talent Evaluators

[ 0 ] July 7, 2008 |

I don’t mind the defending World Series manager favoring his own players in marginal cases, but seriously, Jason Varitek? What a disgrace. I mean, he was a fine player for a long time, but he’s turned into Brad Ausmus without the arm. Well, maybe he’ll hit a feeble popup in a key spot like he did Saturday, and the NL will get home field advantage for once…

UPDATE: Whoops–Varitek was actually voted on by the players. I remember Bill James once running down the history of awards voted on by players with frequently ludicrous results, and this fits right in. And yet I’m sure we’ll hear more broadcasters talk about taking the vote away from the fans and giving it to the players every year…

On the Radio

[ 1 ] July 6, 2008 |

I did a Supreme Court roundup with Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis, which is available in convenient MP3, XML, and ITunes formats.


[ 0 ] July 5, 2008 |

Hmm, bases loaded, none out, one run down, maybe Rivera will finally blow one, and…oh, Gawd, Crisp is up. One should take the hint and just turn the game off. The puzzling thing is how that stiff even hits his empty .260; combining the bat speed of the beyond-washed-up current version of Varitek’s with Alfredo Griffin’s plate discipline makes for unwatchable atbats. I guess there is a lot of bad pitching around.

Anyway, the outcome of the game can hardly be surprising. Given the chance to deal a serious blow to the Yankees’ playoff chances in recent years, we’ve established conclusively that the BoSox will inevitably extend a hand, help them of the canvas, and stitch up their eyes. At least today didn’t involve getting shut down for several innings by Kei Igawa…


[ 6 ] July 5, 2008 |


One fascinating thing about the death of Jesse Helms is the conservative reaction…But instead conservatives are taking a line that I might have regarded as an unfair smear just a week ago, and saying that Helms is a brilliant exemplar of the American conservative movement.

And if that’s what the Heritage Foundation and National Review and the other key pillars of American conservatism want me to believe, then I’m happy to believe it. But it reflects just absolutely horribly on them and their movement that this is how they want to be seen — as best exemplified by bigotry, lunatic notions about foreign policy, and tobacco subsidies.

Reading the Corner’s unabashed celebrations has been especially remarkable.

Defining Civil Rights Down Out Of Existence

[ 11 ] July 4, 2008 |

Via Steve, this classic from John J. Miller:

He “opposed civil rights”? Uh, no. He opposed a particular vision of them.

Yes, if your “vision” of “civil rights” includes white supremacy, segregation, and no protection for civil rights at the federal, state, or local level, then Helms didn’t oppose them. For that matter, neither did Miller’s own publication! I think you can understand how Miller can consider the Clash right-wingers: when words mean nothing they can mean anything!

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