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"You’re Walking Blind Without a Cane, Pal."

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

Shorter Verbatim Camille Paglia: “I was bitterly disappointed after voting for Ralph Nader that he didn’t devote himself to helping build a strong third party in this country.”

Paglia was also bitterly disappointed that George W. Bush didn’t turn out to be the Gerald Ford-like moderate that Joe Klein assured us he would be, and that Cinderella Man turned out to be a third-rate melodrama rather than the greatest American film since Citizen Kane. (But that J-Pod is so reliable!)

Anyway, I’m sure that, like me, your first thought on Salon‘s inexplicable decision to devote significant bandwidth to this kind of crap was, “Wait…Camille Paglia is still alive?”

…A commenter also points out this gem:

And why didn’t Democrats notice that they were drifting into an area which has been the province of the right wing — that is, the attempt to gain authoritarian control over interpersonal communications on the Web? It’s very worrisome and yet more proof that the Democrats have lost their way.

In addition to the general idiocy of blowing off the importance of arbitrary executive power, the denial of habeas corpus, etc., etc., there’s the additional irony that the bill that established special penalties for these kind of IM communications was largely rammed through Congress by Foley himself. This is the problem with discussing politics when you know absolutely nothing about it.

Nicaragua v. Women

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

I have a post up at TAPPED about the total ban on abortions in Nicaragua. As a follow-up, Liza Sabater provides valuable cultural context.

The Conservative War On Aesthetics Continues

[ 0 ] October 27, 2006 |

George Allen and Matt Drudge: world-class wankers.

See also Steve on the contemporaneous conservative reactions to Webb’s novel. Meanwhile, Patterico trots out the “but Democrats would hypothetically be doing the same thing, so they’re equally guilty, and remember that the obscure crank who tried to out a Senator who’s not even running this year represents the entire Democrat Party!” routine…

Ezra has more.

Procedure Masking Substance

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Tom Maguire objects to my suggestion that objections to the Supreme Court of New Jersey ‘s recent decision from (nominal) supporters of civil unions are, at bottom, substantive rather than procedural:

My personal opinion is that gay marriage or civil unions is fine if enacted by the state legislature but wrong if crammed down by judicial fiat. How would pollsters, or Mr. Lemieux, score that? Surely I am not alone in believing that process counts.

Maguire is, of course, correct that the fact that a majority of New Jersey’s citizens support civil unions goes only to the questions of whether the decision is “countermajoritarian,” and neither here not there in terms of the merits of the opinion. But he doesn’t quote the passage where I actually address his point:

I would be interested in a more robust explanation of why nominal supporters of gay marriage such as Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds oppose these judicial decisions, which are based on a perfectly plausible (although contestable, and opposed by precedent) reading of equal protection clauses. It certainly can’t be a general commitment to judicial deference to the legislatures in cases where the constitutional text is ambiguous–when the Supreme Court deferred to state legislatures in Kelo, for example, Reynolds and Volokh strongly disagreed, arguing that the Supreme Court should adopt a plausible (but contestable, and opposed by precedent) reading of the takings clause that would have the federal courts use a broad conception of “public use” to trump the judgments of elected officials.

The problem is that I don’t see any evidence that, as a general rule, Reynolds or Volokh believe that exercises of judicial review based on ambiguous constitutional provisions represent cramming policy judgments down the throats of the public. (This may not be applicable to Maguire, although the stray references to Kelo I found on his blog suggest that he believes that the federal courts should, to use his purported vision of the democratic process, “cram” a judicially-determined conception of public use “down the throats” of the public against the will of elected officials.) And it’s not just Kelo; Reynolds and Volokh also seem to support more aggressive Supreme Court policing of federal powers, for example. Moreover, given that Reynolds, Volokh and Maguire pre-empitvely oppose any judicial decision expanding marriage benefits irrespective of the text, history and precedents of an individual state’s constitutional order, it’s implausible that this is simply about the fine points of legal doctrine. “Process” matters here only in the banal sense that of course the court’s shouldn’t strike down laws without a constitutional basis, but given that there’s surely at least a plausible argument that the denial of marriage benefits to same-sex couples is inconsistent with broad guarantees of equal protection, that doesn’t do any real work in this case. What’s going on here is that Reynolds et al. place a higher substantive value on the rights of property owners than on the rights of gay people. That’s their privilege, but they should defend that rather than hiding behind banalties about judicial restraint that are clearly intertwined with substantive judgments about the merits of rights claims.

The Majority Get What it Wants

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Ann Althouse claims that yesterday’s civil unions ruling by the Supreme Court of New Jersey is an example of “judges who get out in front of what the majority wants.” The problem is that the court was doing what the majority wants. (This is what one may call the Robert Bork fallacy: if I disagree with what the courts are doing, then they must be countermajoritarian.) As with abortion, it was legislators who were behind the public. This doesn’t, in and of itself, make the decision right, but if there’s a problem with what the court did, it’s not that it’s going against the will of a majority of the citizens of New Jersey.

The Square Quotes of a Hack

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

Yglesias has cherry-picked the best bit from this lunatic-even-by-
Victor-Davis-Hanson-standards post at the Corner (“we were lectured daily about the intricacies of Vietnamese, Russian, and Chinese Communists — their rivalries, hatreds, and quite separate aims-as they combined to defeat the United States, and trumped their own tensions with an all-encompassing hatred of Western democratic capitalism.” Damn that airtight Sino/Soviet alliance–no wonder we’re all speaking a strange Russian/Chinese hybrid today!”) But I also like this part:

I was lectured by some that there was nothing such as jihadism in the comprehensive sense. That is, that Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. simply have entirely separate agendas, understandable (i.e., Israel, “occupation” of Arab lands) and particularist grievances, etc.

Leaving aside the fact that these “lectures” are of course entirely correct, it’s possible to exploit tensions between groups who share some interests and diverge in other ways, etc., is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza supposed to be controversial? I guess we can argue about whether Israel was justified, what the borders of a two-state solution would look like, etc., but Israel’s occupation of these territories is a simple empirical fact. (I guess this an echo of Zell Miller’s insane rants about how it’s immoral to call American soldiers in Iraq “occupiers” unless George Bush is doing it, because military domination of a country for multiple years doesn’t count as an “occupation” if you’re doing it to make apple pies grow on trees or something.)

The Coming Countermobilization Argument

[ 0 ] October 26, 2006 |

In the wake of the decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual married couples (although not necessarily under the rubric of “marriage,”) we’re bound to hear a lot of speculation about how this will affect the upcoming election (which I’m sure will be forgotten should the Democrats take the House and pick up seats in the Senate.) As I have previously explained at TAP, I think the effect of these decisions is often overstated, and there’s no evidence that it matters whether it’s legislation of litigation that leads to the policy change. I also don’t think that it matters a lot whether the courts call the equal civil rights required for same-sex couples “marriage.” One thing Jack Balkin leaves out of his otherwise fine account is that while the Goodridge decision was an important issue in the 2004 elections in Massachusetts, the pro gay marriage side won. There’s no indication at this point that the policy in Massachusetts will be any less stable than the one in Vermont; both seem like one the voters of the state can live with.

Matt Yglesias also makes an important point. We can argue about whether judicial decisions that advance minority rights are good for the Democratic Party, but claims that their bad for the interests themselves are completely implausible. The important question to ask in such circumstances is “compared to what?” Gerald Rosenberg was correct in his landmark book The Hollow Hope to argue that Brown v. Board had almost no impact on school integration in the Deep South prior to the Civil Rights Act. Where I believe he is mistaken is to use this data to conclude that the courts are therefore “flypaper” that attract interest groups against their own interests. I’m sure the NAACP would have preferred a legislative solution, but the option was not on the table–the hammerlock of segregationists in the Senate meant that it couldn’t even pass anti-lynching legislation, let alone desegregate the schools. What are you going to do, lobby the Alabama legislature? Litigation wasn’t the ideal option, but it was the best option. And the same is true of gay rights litigation. The initial victories in the battle for equal rights are very likely to be won in the courts, and there’s no reason to believe that this will stop progress toward equal rights.

[Cross-posted at TAPPED.]

Foer’s Firing

[ 0 ] October 25, 2006 |

This account of Ackerman leaving TNR (ht Atrios) contains a couple interesting things (in addition to Ackerman being fired for being too shrill.) First, Foer describes what Lee Siegel (who still hasn’t been fired) did as a “first offense,” so apparently calling a distinguished academic a “pedophile” with no evidence whatsoever is perfectly acceptable. Second, TNR has to be pretty thin- skinned for being upset because someone criticizes your blogging software on a personal blog. And then, the comedic coup de gras:

Mr. Ackerman described Mr. Peretz as a foe of his leftward drift, but said he could not cite any instance in which a piece had been killed for not conforming to the boss’ politics.

“I think he’s a little bit childish,” Mr. Peretz said, speaking of Mr. Ackerman’s online work for the magazine. “He didn’t grow, in my estimation.”

Mr. Peretz said that Mr. Ackerman in a blog post had once referred to someone as a “fool.”

“I said to myself, ‘Where does a 15-year-old come off saying stuff like that?’” Mr. Peretz said.

A…fool? Somebody get the smelling salts! Anyway, I agree that if Ackerman wasn’t willing to emulate the calm, reasoned discourse of The Spine, there was no way he could be kept on…

Go Tigers!

[ 0 ] October 25, 2006 |

After seeing this, all I can say is, hopefully Suppan will get hammered tonight!

Incidentally, speaking of overrated TV, if I recall correctly, Everybody Loves Raymond was for a significant period of time a weakly-rated critic’s darling. Can anyone explain that to me? (The critical darlingness, I mean, not the weak ratings.) Not, of course, because Patricia Heaton is a right-winger–which I didn’t know until after the show was over–but because the show was, how you say, boring and unfunny.

The Center of a Meeting of Country-Club Republican Imperialists

[ 0 ] October 24, 2006 |

Via alicublog, Michael Totten proposes some “centrists” who won’t simply recycle hack talking points. The results are predictably hilarious:

Ann Althouse
Andrew Sullivan
Jeff Jarvis
Matt Welch
Armed Liberal
Megan McArdle
Dean Esmay

Oh, yeah, Ann Althouse–if there’s anything T.V. needs, it’s more right-wingers obsessed with meaningless personality trivia, especially about the Clenis! (I think you can see why Totten–who voted for Ralph Nader (!) because Al Gore was a “blowhard”–would find La Althouse appealing.) What’s particularly striking is that, whether good or bad, more or less Republican hacks, all of these bloggers (well, I don’t know much about “Armed Liberal’s” domestic politics; I have no interest in wading past the highly non-centrist nonsense about how American academics caused 9/11) tend to represent the pro-war/staunchly economically conservative/nominally socially liberal elite consensus that is already grossly overrepresented in the media.

But, of course, the best one is Dean Esmay. Whatever label you choose to attach to, say, crackpot HIV denialism, or believing that anyone who doesn’t think Michael Moore is a fascist is unpatriotic, “centrist” doesn’t really work.

But there’s an explanation. Let’s remember my favorite Esmay quote, “I still believe that George W. Bush was the only progressive liberal running for President in 2000.” If George Bush is a “progressive liberal,” then it’s plausible to argue that Megan McArdle and Glenn Reynolds are “centrists.” Earlier, I think Roy identified the purpose behind this silly exercise of defining reactionaries as non-partisan moderates:

I used to think that Althouse, the Perfesser, and other conservatives denied their orientation because they were ashamed of it, but time has proven that they are strangers to shame. My current operating analysis is that they’re attempting to normalize wing-nuttery — that is, if a popular writer can be identified as “not partisan” though 95% of what he professes is right-wing boilerplate, folks who are new in town may take that to mean that ordinary, untainted-by-politics people are supposed to believe exactly what right-wing political operatives believe.

It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you lie.

…oh, I had forgtten about this. The unfailingly moderate and centrist Dean Esmay on reporters who uncover illegal activities by the American government: “we should then hang them by the neck until the are dead, dead, dead.” Who else is on Totten’s centrist list, Michael Savage?

…and I should note that I am not saying all these people are wingnuts, or have bad blogs. Welch is not a Republican hack and does interesting work, AI is a perfectly good blog if you’re into complacent conservertarianism, Sullivan can write. But a list of “centrists” this ain’t.

Middlebrow Trainwreck on the Sunset Strip?

[ 0 ] October 24, 2006 |

As the ratings for Studio 60 get steadily worse, I’ll be interested whether the reaction from critics is that this show is too smart for the public, or whether we’ll get the Phantom Menace effect, where once a few critics start noticing that an manifestation of critical overpraise is mediocre or sucks ass there’s sort of a tipping point where more people start saying it. There seem to be some signs of the latter. Heather Havrilesky is pretty much off the reservation, and Slate is surprisingly hard-hitting:

It’s not just that the sketches aren’t funny, although they’re not. Take the third episode’s centerpiece: a game-show parody called “Science Schmience,” in which fundamentalists of all stripes—an Orthodox Jew, a Taliban member, an evangelical Christian, Tom Cruise, and a witch—attempt to refute science with faith. In premise, it’s promising, if cluttered (that’s a lot of yahoos on one stage). In practice, though, it’s painful. To the evangelical, who’s just claimed that life began 6,000 years ago, the game show’s host pronounces: “You understand that archaeologists are in possession of a 3 million-year-old skull found by Johannesburg, which would put your answer off by 2,994,000 years.” Yeah, it sounds about as funny as it reads.


So, what does Aaron Sorkin think is the sketch comedy of your dreams? What’s his idea of “cutting-edge political and social satire” that challenges the audience? “Pimp My Trike,” starring a blinged-out D.L. Hughley, and sketches poking fun at such timely and relevant superstars as Nicolas Cage and Juliette Lewis.

And Sorkin makes it even harder for himself when he forces his wan sketches to provide the dramatic payoff to episodes of Studio 60. The second episode, “The Cold Open,” follows Matthew Perry’s character, Matt Albie, as he struggles to come up with a dynamite opening for his first show back on Studio 60. His solution? A light-orchestra version of “The Major-General’s Song.” Leave aside the absurd notion that Sorkin thinks Gilbert and Sullivan are hip. Leave aside, as well, the fact (pointed out by Entertainment Weekly’s Scott Brown, among others) that Saturday Night Live featured a parody of “The Major-General’s Song” in 1995. Just imagine you tune in to Studio 60 the week after Wes Mendell’s now-legendary on-air tirade, eager to see how the show deals with this momentous event. And you get … a Gilbert and Sullivan song? With no mention of Wes Mendell’s freakout? Filled with glib lines like, “To bite the hand that feeds you is a scary way of doing lunch,” sung too quickly to be understood? To close the Studio 60 episode “The Cold Open” with this fussy and unfunny song—a close meant to be uplifting, climactic, ennobling even—hamstrings the episode and Sorkin’s entire series.

Hmm. Actually, the thing seems to have such a high pretension-to-achievement ratio that I might have to watch next week…

…thanks to eRobin in comments, I see that is fairly generous with the clips, although they don’t seem to have Martin Prince Sting playing the lute. They do have the Gilbert & Sullivan parody up, and nothing I read prepared me for its almost painful lameness. (They’ve also generously included the lyrics. Heh, they said “reacharound.” Edgy!)

The Politics of Puerility

[ 0 ] October 24, 2006 |


Meanwhile, administration figures have correctly discerned that it would be easy to manage the situation in Iraq — to at least keep some kind of lid on the bloodshed — if Syria and Iran were cooperating with us. Unlike weak-kneed appeasers who want to try and achieve this through talks including the governments of the United States, Iraq, and Iraq’s various neighbors, the administration has hit upon the awesome “new” “policy” of talking shit about Syria and Iran in hopes that empty rhetoric and a hostile attitude will lead to the rise of a new spirit of benevolence in Damascus and Teheran. The president is like a five year-old sitting in the sandbox hoping that if he cries and screams long enough his mom will drop by and sort out his disagreements with the other kids in the park.

And in January 2009, some poor bastard is going to have a lot of pee to clean up.

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