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I Don’t Think I’m Respectable, But…

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

I saw these guys opening for Rainer Maria at their farewell show at the Bowery, and…ugh, teh suck. Really, they were too generic for me to even say that I liked their sound, but otherwise Yglesias gets it right on this one. And I couldn’t leave during the set to get a beer because I had a really good space up front I didn’t want to surrender. (I kind of liked the other Brooklyn opening act, who sounded even better in retrospect because they actually had a sound of their own, although I’m vaguely more prog-tolerant than most people of taste.)

Good Question

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

In response to Big Media Amanda, Michael Berube asks:

Hey, I wonder if anyone here would rather read a regular column by Amanda Marcotte at Salon than, say, a regular column by Camille Paglia. Just asking.

Admittedly, this probably doesn’t do Amanda enough credit–I’d probably rather read a column of”gags Tim Allen didn’t feel measured up to Home Improvement‘s usual standards” than Paglia–but a question that bears asking.

A Howlingly Unfunny Day-Boooo

[ 2 ] February 15, 2007 |

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And that Dennis Miller is one outrageous dude!

Dave Weigel notes that “the Half Hour News Hour, a news satire show produced by 24‘s Joel Surnow, is set to become one of the worst pieces of television ever – mentioned in the same breath as Pink Lady and Jeff, Fish Police, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” (Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite pretentious enough to be as bad as that last one.) I think Ana Marie Cox gets at the fundamental problem, which one might call “Mallard Fillmore syndrome.” If you look at the clip, it’s not just that it’s painfully unfunny, it’s that it doesn’t even take the form of comedy. A Charles Krauthammer column doesn’t become comedy because it’s being read unironically by a badly drawn cartoon duck. Similarly, while it’s possible for a skit about Rush Limbaugh becoming President to be funny, when there’s nothing there but “boy, would that ever be cool and stick it to the Democrat Party!!!!!” it’s not failed comedy but not-comedy. (Speaking of Limbaugh, one can say something similar about a lot of Air America’s programming–starting with ideology first is going about it bass-ackwards. Limbuagh wasn’t successful because he was a conservative, but because he is a really, really gifted radio broadcaster. Limbaugh’s TV show failed because he wasn’t good at that job. As Cox points out, The Daily Show reflects liberal values, but its primary goal is to be funny. The point of the Fox show isn’t to be funny but to “stick it to liberals”, which is a guaranteed train-wreck.) My working theory is that the first sketch was written by Marty Peretz, although Ailes cut out all the Arab-bashing.

There is one funny thing to come out of this. As you can see, most conservatives correctly see that this as an abject disaster. But, via Weigel, there’s one exception: the aesthetic Stalinist’s aesthetic Stalinist Jason Apuzzo. A movie could feature two hours of a dimly lit Alan Thicke reading from Rebel-in-Chief and Apuzzo would be outraged that it didn’t make the Sight and Sound Top 10 list. (Will the Right Brothers be the first musical guest?)

Chivalry: The Thin Mask For Sexism

[ 0 ] February 15, 2007 |

Ann Friedman has an article about the “chivalrous” backlash to V-Day, which seems premised on the idea that nothing gets in the way of romancing women like the fact that they have independent sexual desires (or, worse, vaginas):

Hanneken is part of a counter-campaign, run by the conservative group the Independent Women’s Forum, to “Take Back the Date.” The program, whose title mocks anti-violence “Take Back the Night” marches, implores student to reject the vulgarity of the “v-word” and initiate a return to a more chivalrous era.

Um…yeah. And there’s more where this came from (see Amanda for the grim details.) I still remember when Karla Faye Tucker was going to be executed, there were some op-eds about how much feminism cost women because now they can be executed when they kill people, just like men! If they would stop practicing law and owning property and complaining when they get raped and stuff, this wouldn’t happen. Remember the Titanic when it was women and children first! Of course, this “chivalry” is inevitably predicated on sexism–remember what “noblesse oblige” assumes about the relationship between the people in question.

Or perhaps consider #1 in Prof. B’s old Nice Guys typology. I think that’s the IWF target audience right there…

First People Say You’re Good-Looking. But Then You Say You’re Smart! Make Up Your Mind!

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Can someone please tell me why Maureen Dowd has a column in the New York Times? (Actually, frankly, I don’t want to know.)

Jesus, we have almost two years left of this stuff.

…some good comments. gmack:

The problem with Dowd is not so much annoying contrarianism, but insufferable glibness, shallowness, and laziness as a writer.


MoDo is particularly annoying because she doesn’t seem to have any sort of political beliefs or agenda or ideology (if she does, she’s kept them well-hidden for two decades) apart from scolding public figures who have failed to live up to her murky, ill-defined standards in some way (usually some astonishing surface-level misdeed, like their vocal timbre, or their haircut, or their wardrobe). Her high moralizing tone is very hard to take because it isn’t the service of any discernable agenda, save contempt for people who have offended MoDo in some way. And why the hell should I (or anyone) care one way or another about what’s upsetting MoDo on any given day? All she does is knock and snark and tear people down, without offering any sort of consistent framework for doing what she’s doing. It’s apathetic nihilism posing as post-ideological sophistication.


How To Be A Hack

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Glenn Reynolds, 2/11/07 (i.e. 3 days after this was released to the public): “I think it’s legitimate, and partly because it was in the week when she was coming out and making a very big deal on global warming. The plane that she originally had requested was actually a military version of a 757 airliner. And her staff said she wanted to have room for an “entourage,” which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word.”

See, an ordinary hack would just say Pelosi requested something she didn’t request, several days after proof that no such thing occurred (which was sufficiently unrefuted that the White House said it was a non-story) was released. The kind of hack who can get on CNN on Sundays will actually invent content for the fictitious request. Let that be a lesson to you!

…as a couple of commenters pointed out, it’s imprecise to say that Reynolds personally “invented” the smear. My guess is that he was vaguely remembering this now-discredited Washington Times story. Leaving aside the obvious facts that 1)”if an anonymous source said it in a fifth-rate newspaper, it must be true!” is an amusing standard for an anti-Emm Ess Emm crusader and 2)there are rather obvious logical difficulties with making claims about specific wording about a request that anybody even minimally familiar with the facts would know never existed, you’ll notice that even the Times never said specifically that “her staff used the word”–the word was used to describe her claims by the source. As far as I can tell, the embellishment is Reynolds’s own.

Defining Hate Speech Down

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Melissa’s resignation, as many bloggers liberal and conservative have noted, is highly regrettable. The fact that the misogynist, anti-Semite and all around bigot Bill Donohue continued to go after McEwan–who said nothing that, even under the broadest standards, could qualify as anti-Catholic or anti-religious speech unless we’re to believe that cultural reactionaries can’t be criticized long as their beliefs are motivated by religion–gives away the show about this being a faux-outrage kabuki dance. (I should emphasize here that I’m not saying that this means that Melissa shouldn’t have resigned, or should be subject to any criticism–as Christopher Moltisanti said, unless they’re paying your nut nobody has the right to tell anyone how to earn a living, and she should so what’s best for herself irrespective of whether a hateful crackpot will claim a scalp.)

To get something constructive out of this sorry episode, I’d like to turn things over to Julian Sanchez:

For one, I’m fairly contemptuous of the trend toward regarding harsh or snarky criticism of religious (or, for that matter, atheistic) beliefs—propositions capable of being true or false, credible or silly, benign or pernicious—as a form of “bigotry” on par with racism.

Right. The best example of this was Amanda’s analysis of Children of Men, which I’ve seen described as potential “hate speech” (and which of course led Donohue to call for her firing):

The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal, where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. But this movie offers an alternative interpretation of the virgin birth—one where “virginity” is irrelevant and one where a woman’s stake in motherhood is fully respected for the sacrifice and hard work that it is.

Look, the category of anti-Catholic bigotry–people subject to discrimination based on generalizations about their religion–is perfectly real. (My grandfather used to get anti-Catholic graffiti painted on his farmhouse when he was a school trustee. And , actually, he wasn’t Catholic–he just had a French name–but that’s never the point.) But Amanda’s post is about ideas. The underlying point–that Christian doctrines are in many respects patriarchal–is not merely defensible but banal. Her application to this case may be right or wrong, it may be subjected to equally harsh criticism–but it’s only “hate speech” if you believe that religious ideas should be ipso facto exempt from external criticism simply by virtue of being religious ideas. Which is not merely obvious nonsense, but a gross debasement of the categories of bigotry and hate speech. Make sure to note everybody making this kind of argument, and make sure to be extra derisive the next time they inevitably invoke the terms “identity politics” or “politically correct.” Just in case you weren’t sure if these terms weren’t entirely devoid of useful content, this should really be the tip-off.

read this from Slacktivist too.


[ 0 ] February 13, 2007 |

Good one.

Although, in fairness, the Man of More Rubble and Less Trouble was a pioneer of the Hope-Is-Too-A-Plan strategy.

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet, I’m Creating A Massively Counterproudctive International Incident

[ 0 ] February 13, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Glenn Reynolds: “Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists.”

Killing Iranian religious leaders and scientist..quiet. It’s not just that he can’t explain how this would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or how this could be in the American national interest. It’s that he thinks this would be quiet. Yeah, if a foreign government just started to kill American religious leaders and scientists, you’d barely notice! Maybe the President would send a strongly worded memo! Can he possibly believe that this would be “quiet”? Teh stupid, it burns.

(Via Greenwald, who has the more patience to deal with this idiocy than I do.)

…In comments, Ted Barlow also notes how Reynolds notes one of his critics “the complete absence of moral outrage aimed at the Iranian mullahocracy.” Touche! I would like to state for the record that I am opposed to illberal theocracies, strangling kittens, and Scott Stapp being given recording contracts. Oh, and lunatic wars that damage American national interests at immense cost.

…Yglesias has more.

…Reynolds, in an update: “And some of those who are outraged say it’s terrible to attack “religious figures and scientists.” But wait — wasn’t the left calling American bomb builders “mass murderers?”" Um, what the hell? I don’t remember that, but maybe The Left will be willing to correct me. Or maybe Ward Churchill can be reached in a pinch…anyway, the update for some reason fails to explain how Iran will be dissuaded for building nuclear weapons if we start killing Iranians at random, or how this would strengthen democratic forces, or how this can be done “quietly”, but none of this matters because The Left are all mullah-loving traitors or something.

Mithras notes the apparent Tom Clancy influence.

Reproductive Freedom and Doctor-Protection Laws

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

I have a post up at TAPPED about Portugal’s coming liberalization of its draconian abortion laws. I wanted to pick out another excerpt from the genuinely terrific Times article about the referendum:

The current law in Portugal, passed in 1984, allows abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy in case of “mental and physical risk,” until 16 weeks in case of rape, until 24 weeks in case of a malformed fetus and at any time if the woman’s life is in danger. It calls for prison sentences of up to three years for a woman who has an illegal abortion and up to eight years for the person who illegally performs it.

But the availability of abortion is complicated by the medical profession’s narrow interpretation of the existing law. Portugal’s conservative psychiatric hierarchy has ruled that an unwanted pregnancy can be a mental health issue only in the most extreme cases; most medical doctors are unwilling to challenge the conventional wisdom.

By contrast, in Spain, which has a similar law, the legislation is liberally interpreted, and abortions are routinely performed. That has created a lucrative market for legal abortions in Spain for those Portuguese women who can afford to travel there.

There are two important lessons here. The first–which all too many scholars in the field make–is that you can’t infer the availability of legal abortion from the precise wording of statutes that delegate discretion to doctors (and haggling over changes in wording instead of decriminalization is a fool’s game.) The related lesson concerns the fact that laws that focus on protecting doctors rather than women are seen as the Eden of American abortion politics by the Saletan/Wittes/Rosen Axis Of We’ve Got Ours. But as the Spain/Portugal comparison suggests, they don’t in any way correspond to whether or not a woman has a reason for getting an abortion that Ben Wittes finds sufficiently compelling; in liberal areas, abortions will be widely available, and in less liberal areas women will be routinely denied abortion for arbitrary reasons (especially if they don’t have the connections or resources to window shop.) The additional problem, of course, is that these laws also don’t make any sense; given the discretion that doctors will have in practice, they’re making moral, not medical, judgments, and there’s no conceivable reason why these judgments should be made by doctors rather than the women whose lives are at stake.

While web doctor can be very helpful for immediate answers and symptoms its important not to entirely rely. When considering eminent issues like deciding what skin cancer looks like should be done in person with your doctor. Or whether or not a prescription drug is for you. For example buying tenuate is not for the faint of heart. Check with your doctor before buying.

I’m Excitable Enough To Throw Myself Against The Wall of the Louvre Museum!

[ 0 ] February 12, 2007 |

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So the updated FAQ caused someone to demand some more Zevon blogging. And, what do you know–via the mighty TBogg, considered “somewhat popular” by at least 2 out every 3 batty, thin-skinned cranks living in Madison, WI–I see that Rhino is finally issuing The Envoy–one of his best records–on CD for the first time. Not only that, but also the rare-good-live-album Stand in the Fire (sample amended lyric: “You’d better stay away from him/He’ll rip your lungs out, Jim/And he’s looking for…James Taylor”) will be getting its howlingly funny debut, and as a bonus an expanded edition of the classic (and, I suppose, particularly relevant) Excitable Boy. Looks like they’ll be nice remasters, and cheap. Dunno if they’ll be on ITunes, but I never buy MP3s with that little price differential anyway. So, see, we do take requests…

Presumption in Favor of the Anti-War Candidate

[ 0 ] February 11, 2007 |

In the midst of the below-referenced posts pointing out the highly disingenuous attempts to claim that Clinton was not, in fact, a strong contemporaneous supporter of the war, Yglesias notes this about Obama:

Also note: “But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake.” My instinct is that this is going to be a powerful point.

I think this is right. As I think I’ve said before, I think that when choosing a candidate, Democratic primary voters should have a strong presumption in favor of people who didn’t support The Fiasco, for both political and substantive reasons. Not an irrefutable presumption, but a strong presumption. With respect to the politics, I think it’s clear that Edwards’ forthright admission that he made a mistake is preferable to Clinton’s attempt to pretend that she didn’t really support the war, but neither of these are really good options. Edwards is admitting a colossal error in judgment on what will be the central question of the 2008 election. Clinton has to claim to be exceptionally (and implausibly) naive about what Bush was up to, and in addition everyone knows that she made the error in judgment anyway. Given the inevitable centrality of Iraq to the 2008 election, running a candidate who was pro-war at the time is squandering a major potential edge, and I think a candidate has to have a lot of other virtues (and their rivals a lot of potential defects) to overcome it (although Edwards’ early repudiation makes him a little less vulnerable.)