Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Be Careful What You Implicitly Agitate For

[ 0 ] June 14, 2007 |

What’s really funny about Glenn Reynolds’ latest passive-aggressive “nice freedom of the press you have here, be a shame if something happened to it” routine (not, alas, a new one) is his claim that the British press is bringing it on itself because of “shoddily political and dishonest” war reporting. Reynolds better hope that the mobs with pitchforks don’t rise up, because if “shoddily political and dishonest” reporting was a crime, Reynolds would be doing 20-to-life.

"Mercilessly Frivolous"

[ 0 ] June 14, 2007 |

Ezra gets this entirely correct:

The remarkable thing about the growing liberal hawk literature on Iran is its evasiveness — the unwillingness to speak in concrete terms of both the threat and proposed remedies. The liberal hawks realize they were too eager in counseling war last time, and their explicit statements in support of invasion have caused them no end of trouble since. This time, they will advocate no such thing. But nor will they eschew it. They will simply criticize those who do take a position.

Iran raises several complicated questions, but also a simple one: Do you think military force is called for in preventing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons? Some, like me, say no. Some also, like me, do not believe the evidence supports the contention that Iran is a fully totalitarian society under the rule of a crazed and suicidal Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, and in fact think that such portrayals should be resisted and identified as part of a larger, pro-war narrative. This is how I ended up in Baer’s article as a convenient straw liberal who “excuse[s] the Iran regime, all the better to deny the very existence of a threat.”

Oddly, Baer did not take the opportunity to argue against my position. “Israel is again staring down a possible existential threat,” he wrote, “and the United States is once more facing a serious challenge to its interests in the region.” So the threat is to Israel, as well as to unspecified American interests in the region that face a “serious challenge.” Does that mean Baer thinks we should use force to prevent Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weaponry? Who knows? Baer retreats here to platitudes, saying that “it is incumbent upon us to provide a coherent foreign-policy alternative to Bush’s neoconservative vision, one that is true to the progressive legacy of internationalism — liberal democracy, rule of law, and equal opportunity.” But what about those nukes? What does that sentence suggest that we do?

Baer’s dodge is not rare. A while back, The New Republic demanded that “the West finally get ruthlessly serious about Iran.” Unless “ruthlessly serious” describes some subset of containment theory that I’m unfamiliar with, this seems like mercilessly frivolous advice. But such is the sorry state of discourse on Iran: lots of hyperventilating, but relatively little in the way of actual diagnosis or prescription.

It’s very simple. When it comes to Iran, “liberal hawks” need to either 1)explain in concrete terms what the threat to American interests is and — this is important! — what kind of military action can advance American interests and why, or 2)enjoy a delicious frosty mug of shut the fuck up. (And given their recent record of assessing American security interests and the efficacy of military force, perhaps some slinking away in shame would also be in order.)

Hillary’s Intragender Gap

[ 0 ] June 14, 2007 |

Riffing off this poll and this piece by Dana, Matt asks why Clinton has such a huge majority among progressive women — enough to make her a solid primary favorite — which doesn’t carry over among more conservative women. This is an important question, because if Clinton can’t change this it could make her a suboptimal general election candidate leaving aside normative issues — the progressive women that support Clinton are unlikely to vote Republican. My guess is that women with the strongest feminist commitments have the strongest stake in seeing a long-overdue woman as President, and will be particularly aware of (and place an especially high priority on) Clinton’s record on gender issues, which are Clinton’s strongest progressive credentials. But her (largely unmerited) reputation as a staunch liberal in general will make this less appealing to more moderate women. I’m not sure if the data will bear this out, but that’s how I would try to make sense of the gap.

Be Careful What You Wish For

[ 0 ] June 14, 2007 |

So the other day a Red Wings fan asked me what I thought about the Flames in ’08, and I told her that they had a potentially championship-quality base but Playfair was the wrong coach for this kind of team. With their two superstars on the last year of their contracts, they needed a hardass veteran short-term maximizer like Mike Keenan rather than an inexperienced coach who may or may not be good. I’m not sure I meant it this literally.

I guess this will re-kindle the debate among my Ranger fan friends about how much credit Keenan deserves for the ’94 Cup. My position has always been that Keenan’s contribution was greatly underrated; I know Messier was allegedly the real coach of the team or whatever, except that they still had Messier but were mediocre before Keenan came and were mediocre immediately after he left. Same thing with Philly and Chicago; like him or not, his teams greatly overachieved. His record with the Blues was less impressive but still not bad. He did an abysmal job as Florida’s GM, but that’s not really germane here. I don’t know if he’s still got it, but historically when he’s had anything to work with he’s won. He’s hockey’s Billy Martin–you pay for the improvements over the long term–but this is the last year for the Flames’ current core anyway. I may regret this, but I think it’s a great gamble.

The Other Side of TimesSelect

[ 0 ] June 13, 2007 |

Roger Ailes reads MoDo so you don’t have to:

Maureen Dowd embarassed herself again today with a column comparing Tony Blair and Tony Soprano. Did you know they both have the same first name? And that’s just the beginning of the comparative fun! It seems that neither the Prime Minister nor David Chase live up to Dowd’s lofty but unintelligble standards.

And…that’s really the entire column. Perhaps TimesSelect will give her an extended director’s cut so she can also draw the Tony Awards, Tony Oliva, and Tony the Tiger into the discussion. Well, she does judge the Sopranos finale insufficiently neat and simple-minded for her tastes, which has to be counted as a point in Chase’s favor. But, really, doesn’t James Gandolfini remind you of James Madison and James Taylor?

Forgotten But Not Gone

[ 0 ] June 13, 2007 |

Why is Camille Paglia being given space by Salon (in 2007!)?

Essentially every sentence in the thing is vacuous idiocy, of course, but this is particularly remarkable:

Whatever his high ideals, Gore is a mass of frustrated yearnings and self-defeating vacillation. Raised in a bubble of wealth and privilege, he has never fully emerged from his senator father’s judgmental shadow. Women (wife, daughters, wifty hired hands) have to buck him up and prod him in this direction or that.

So, sort of the silly “authenticity” argument but with some asinine pop-psych and a generous serving of misogyny smeared on top. (Needless to say, she celebrates the “electricity” of the Republican debate without getting into the glaring factual errors.) Good to see the pre-eminent online liberal magazine promoting this kind of brilliant analysis!

Big Media Lindsay

[ 0 ] June 13, 2007 |

Long-time friend of L G & M Lindsay Beyerstein has joined In These Times as a national political reporter. You can check out her first piece here.

With a Capital "L"

[ 0 ] June 13, 2007 |

Some high comedy from Benjamin Lambert, who was shown the door in the Democratic primary after trying to save the flailing campaign of racist airhead George Allen (and, hence, to keep the Senate in Republican hands):

Lambert said, “I have no hard feelings. We ran a clean, fair race.”

Lambert said his support of Allen probably cost him his job. “I thought the Allen folks would have helped me more, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Christ, that’s rich. “Let’s trust the honor and integrity of George Allen and his supporters! What could possibly go wrong?” That’s what you call someone who deserves to lose.

Against Authenticty

[ 1 ] June 13, 2007 |

I was busy Monday and forgot to mention Krugman’s great column. Bob Somerby summarizes for the non Select:

“Authenticity” became the press corps’ favorite buzz-word in 1999, along with its silly handmaiden, “comfortable in his own skin.” And let’s state the obvious: When the press corps adopted such subjective markers as key standards of measure, they were giving themselves the right to tell whatever story they choose. It’s perfectly easy to shape a narrative in which any candidate is most “authentic.” As long as our standards of measure are so subjective, there’s no real process of assessment being conducted at all.

Right. And assertions of “authenticity” are not only feeble tautologies that are worthless as criteria of value. As Krugman points out, this focus — with the focus on the haircuts of John Edwards being the most recent example — on balance cuts strongly against progressive politics. Although there’s no reason that a wealthy person can’t advocate policies that help the poor — FDR came from considerably greater means than Reagan — suddenly any politician with lots of money (i.e. any politician who could be a serious national candidate under the current system) can be tarred as “inauthentic” if they propose progressive economic policies (although a rich actor renting a pickup as a campaign prop is good enough for a Republican to be “authentic.”) Not only is the Dowdian transmutation of political coverage into gossip and meaningless personality narratives bad in itself, in other words, its overall political effects are not random but reactionary. Which is why the behavior of people like Dowd and Frank Rich in the 2000 campaign is considerably more damaging than Fox News.


[ 0 ] June 13, 2007 |

The Nation on Hunter College and immigration.

Shameless Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] June 12, 2007 |

Andrew Ferguson.

…seriously, the “he doesn’t have footnotes [because he has endnotes]!” routine? I can understand why Ferguson did it–he’s a hack, is apparently entirely comfortable with comically transparent dissembling, and wanted to get yet another “Al Gore Invented the Internet While Wearing Earth Tones” smear out there. But did the WaPo think nobody would notice? Let’s be clear: the War On Gore’s most important locus has always been the mainstream media.

More great stuff from Boehlert. (via)

…Somerby has more on Ferguson’s hack dissembling:

First, note how pathetic the paper is as it struggles and strains after ways to trash Gore. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that this actually is one of the bogus quotes that float about, attributed to Lincoln. No one—no one but the Post, that is—would ever think that this would merit full treatment in an Outlook piece. But the Post is in love with denigration of Gore, who is too fat—and too big a smarty. And so, like the blithering fools that they are, they turned this trifle into a full “Outlook” piece, complete with mocking commentary on what pure crap Gore’s book is. (For the record, Gore’s book is the current New York Times number-one best-seller. His last book, An Inconvenient Truth, pretty much transformed the world.)

But denigrating Gore wasn’t enough; the Post also felt the deep compulsion to show the world how stupid it is. Has Ferguson read any books in the past dozen years? Not seeing footnotes, he dumbly assumed that Gore hadn’t sourced his work. And apparently, Outlook’s editors were too f*cking stupid to double-check this improbable claim for themselves.

Politcs of Resentment, Edwards Consultant Division

[ 0 ] June 12, 2007 |

Several people have already commented about the self-immolation of Mudcat Saunders’ poor-poor-pitiful-rural-Democrats shtick at Swampland. Obviously, substantive engagement with someone who declares that “I don’t care what the “Metropolitan Wing” of my party thinks. I don’t like them,” while in the same paragraph claiming that the Strawman Ressentiment Built is guilty of “erroneous stereotyping of my people and culture” is impossible. So, instead, I thought I would summarize the content of his posts in quantitative terms:

  • Number of serious policy proposals: 0
  • Examples of substantive disagreements between the crude stereotype wings of the party adduced by Saunders: 0
  • Citations of actual Democrats who express contempt for their rural allies: 0
  • Citations of urban, online Democrats who disagree with his earth-shattering claims that we need to “fight Republicans”: 0
  • Actual content of the posts once the blubbering self-pity, crude attacks on large groups of people based on cultural stereotypes straight out of GOP anti-Dean ads, and insincere apologies are boiled off: too small to be measured.

Although I tend strongly toward Tom’s view of such matters, I’m very open to serious arguments about ways in which Democrats can appeal to more rural voters. Saunders’s posts, however, has absolutely nothing useful to contribute to this question. Why the Edwards campaign thought that sending out someone with literally nothing but insults about unnamed urban elitists and banalities about how we need to oppose Republicans to contribute was a good idea I can’t tell you.