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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.

Horse Race

[ 0 ] October 24, 2006 |

A summary of recent Senate polls:

* Two Republican incumbents in very serious trouble, Santorum and DeWine.
* One Republican incumbent trailing his challenger, Chafee.
* Three Republican incumbents virtually tied with their challengers, Allen, Burns and Talent.
* One Democratic incumbent tied with his challenger, Menendez.
* One Democratic incumbent with a real lead, Cantwell.
* One Republican open seat with a tie, Tennessee.

Fairly promising. PA, WA, and OH are over, and I also think we’ll hold Joisey and take RI and MT. But of the three conservative states that are up for grabs, my gut says we’ll only get one of the three–I think McCaskill will win, but I also see Allen holding on and Corker winning. (At a weekend meeting of political junkies, a lot of people thought I was underrating Ford’s chances, but I’d still put a sawbuck or two on Corker.) So I think we’ll get close but not quite over the top–51-49 GOP [actually, 50-49-1, assuming Lieberman wins, as noted in comments.]

…and what Taylor and Ezra said. It’s not like Meehan is running for president, or Kerry should be running for president. And as for CD’s friend…this is ridiculous. To be clear, a liberal Democratic Senator is not an option in Tennessee. It’s Ford, or it’s a wingnut Republican. To not want money to be given to a close campaign because a Democrat is more conservative than you’d like a Democrat in Illinois to be…I’m sure her friend is smart, but he or she ain’t smart about politics.

Wait–The Republican Party Has Anti-Gay Factions In It?

[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

Pat Robertson on Mark Foley: “Well, this man’s gay; he does what gay people do.” Sully:

I wonder if that would make Glenn Reynolds vote Democrat.

Heh. Indeed!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere…Shorter Dan Riehl: “When I called John Cole a ‘cock Sucker’, and obsessed about Glenn Greenwald’s sexuality prior to going into hysterics over Democratic “outing” of Republicans, I meant it in the most anti-homophobic sense possible. Some of my best dead relatives are ‘Gay’.”

more from Riehl. In fairness, one of his former best friends died alone, maybe of Parkinson’s, in a Motel Six in Vallejo, so I’m not sure how anyone could find that offensive.

Marty Peretz Weekly’s Loss…

[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

…is TAP’s gain, as it seems that TAPPED–making up for some rather more dubious recent hiring decisions–has snapped up Spencer Ackerman. A superb choice.

Local Media: No Panacea

[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

Another reminder of why local ownership of media is neither here nor there in terms of either a progressive editorial slant or quality journalism: that epitome of third-rateness the Seattle Times has followed up its Bush 2000 endorsement by endorsing Mike McGavrick for the Senate. What’s worse about the Times is that it’s not even really that the publisher has strong wingnut ideological commitments as his selfish opposition to the estate tax, which of course figures prominently in the endorsement. Seattle’s Hearst paper, conversely, actually tries to reflect the politics of its readers.

Um, Perhaps We Should Mention This?

[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

Apparently, George Bush is going to try to revive his privatize-Social-Security agenda, a happy confluence of an awful policy that’s exceptionally unpopular. It’s hard to follow the logic here:

Hey, and maybe after that he can rehire Brownie! And reopen the Terri Schiavo case! And sell some ports to Dubai!

You know, I can understand the Bush portrayed in today’s New York Times article, the one who’s just trying to keep the base motivated by exuding confidence. But the fact that Bush pointedly prioritized his immigration plan, which his base hates, and his Social Security plan, which appalled everyone else, suggests that his narcissistic personality disorder is trumping any political instincts he might have. That narcissism makes him unable ever to admit that he’s licked. (See, of course, Iraq.) It’s high time everyone realized that Bush isn’t a simple, straightforward guy — he’s a neurotic.

Anyway, if there’s a better argument for getting as many Republicans out of Congress as possible, I don’t know what it is. (You have to think Round 1 is a key reason why Santorum is being thumped so badly.) Hopefully Democrats in tight races are taking note of this and will act accordingly.

Kaplan: Strike Two

[ 0 ] October 22, 2006 |

For reasons Tim Lambert explains in detail, I think Matt is being far too generous to Fred Kaplan’s attempt to discredit the Lancet study, which doesn’t seem to be any better than his first. Particularly hackish is Kaplan’s argument that the study’s pre-war mortality rates are less credible than the UN’s–although the latter are based on pure guesswork!–because it’s implausible that Iraq would have a lower mortality rate than Western Europe or surrounding countries. As Lambert explains again, this is just false:

I went to the UN population page and looked up the death rates for every country neighbouring Iraq for 1995-2000. Here are the numbers: Iran 5.5 Jordan 4.6 Kuwait 1.8 Saudi Arabia 4.1 Syria 3.9 Turkey 6.6. All but one are less than or equal to 5.5. Remember, this is the same source that Kaplan used for the death rate for Iraq. Kaplan’s claim seems to have been made with a reckless disregard for the truth.

And, of course, this isn’t surprsing–what’s implausible is thinking that Western Europe’s superior medicince could make up for its vastly older populations. Kaplan is a fine writer on subjects he knows something about, but I really don’t see how his new article is any better than the old one–he still lacks even a basic grasp of the central facts he’s discussing.

Mutual Delusion

[ 0 ] October 21, 2006 |

What’s really funny about this is that a significant percentage of Reynolds’ readers actually thought there was some chance he would vote for Ford. But this Republican-hatchet-man-posing-as-nonpartisan-”libertarian” schtick does seem to be a particularly weird form of bad faith that’s as important to his audience as it is to him. Even funnier is the pretext he’s chosen for his inevitable Republican vote:

…ultimately the combination of Ford’s “F” rating on gun rights and the sleazy “outing” behavior of the Democrats was such that I just felt I had to vote Republican in this race.

As with Clarence Thomas’ claim that he had never considered the question of Roe v. Wade prior to being nominated to the Supreme Court, it would be considerably more embarrassing if he were telling the truth than if he was lying. Starting with the transmutation of “one gay rights activist” into “the Democrats,” this is just transparent nonsense, and it’s particularly ridiculous coming from somebody who strongly supported Sam Alito for the Supreme Court and can’t rouse himself to express any objections to arbitrary surveillance of American citizens by the executive branch. And anybody who would cast their vote in a Tennessee Senate election based on the behavior of a single activist over a Senate race in Idaho just doesn’t take politics seriously.

And the punchline, as many of you know, is Ken Blackwell’s insinuation that Ted Strickland is not only gay but a pedophile. (See also Blue Texan.) But, in fairness, when it comes to claiming that obscure academics and people on the intarweb represent “the Democrats” but powerful Republican officials are completely irrelevant to the Republican Party, Reynolds is at least consistent

…via Mona–who also has some good commentary on the issue– actual libertarian Radley Balko gets it exactly right:

First, it’s rather unfair to blame the Democratic party for what leftist blogs and leftist activists are doing (I’ve yet to see any evidence that the outtings are coming from anyone at the DNC, or any Democrats on the Hill).

Second, there actually is some evidence that GOP candidates and campaigns are directly involved in making sleazy accusations about the sex lives of Democrats in this campaign. Not to mention that these types of tactics have been GOP standard operating procedure for twenty years, now. Seems awfully odd and selective to suddenly be outraged by the tactics, now that they’re coming from the activist left. Seems odder to say they’re indicative of a party not ready to govern, given that the governing party that Reynolds supports is doing the same thing, and has perfected the tactic over the years.

Third, there actually are some colorable arguments (other than raw bigotry) for the left’s outing campaign. Many of these gay GOP staffers are working for the most vocally anti-gay members of Congress, members pushing for legislation — even a constitutional amendment — that make no bones about treating gay people differently than everyone else. Some have advocated legislation that goes yet further than that.


I don’t know about you, but I find fake, appeasing-the-base bigotry quite a bit more offensive than even the real thing. If these staffers are to be believed, Republicans like Ney and Santorum are projecting the anti-gay stuff, inflaming ingrained bigotry, and pushing for real laws that will adversely affect millions of gay people not because they actually believe in those policies, but because they want to stay in office.

Reynolds says the outting campaign “bespeaks an unprincipled hunger for victory and power at any cost” among the Democrats. That’s one explanation, I guess. I find the “exposing hypocrisy” explanation more plausible.

But if Republicans are taking anti-gay positions they don’t actually believe, what does that say about their own “hunger for power at any cost?”

This idea that exploiting hatred of gay people by pushing substantive opposition to gay rights (some merely symbolic, some quite serious) is perfectly acceptable, but calling a gay person gay is completely beyond the pale of civilized discourse, has always been remarkably specious and dishonest even by Reynolds’s extremely low standards. Where do people who use a completely phony commitment to gay rights to justify consistent opposition to the party that’s much better on the issue fit in on this scale?

Chilling Effect

[ 0 ] October 20, 2006 |

I generally don’t do this kind of thing, but in light of this (see also here) I’ve removed Feminist Law Professors from my blogroll. I regret this, since it’s a good blog, and I’m mystified about why Bartow is engaging in this kind of behavior–I would hope that liberals in the blogosphere could leave this kind of thing to the Jeff Goldsteins and Josh Trevinos of the world. Anonymity is a crucial tool for many people who don’t have the privilege of being largely exempt from repercussions from their employers, and threatening frivolous lawsuits also has the effect of inhibiting speech among those who can’t afford the legal fees necessary to get the suit dismissed. I simply can’t promote a blogger who would do this.

this is encouraging. But I still don’t understand why she would even mention a lawsuit, or why she did all her communication through third parties.

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