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And Some of the Scripts Were A Little Pedantic

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

From the recent Times article about attempts to turn Atlas Shrugged into a movie:

Under Mr. Aglialoro’s sponsorship a succession of writers and producers developed at least four scripts. One writer was Mr. Peikoff’s ex-wife, Cynthia Peikoff, who had been Rand’s typist. Some of the scripts, she said, were too sci-fi, others reduced the novel’s characters to caricatures, and she was told that her own attempt was no better than “workmanlike.”

Reduced?

Not only that, but some of the scripts eschewed dramatization and just had the characters give interminable speeches outlining the author’s philosophy or its strawman opposition! What a betrayal of Rand’s artistic vision!

What’s Actually Important

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

Make sure to wish Jane well.

That Liberal Academia!

[ 0 ] January 16, 2007 |

With respect to Sunday’s appalling New York Times op-ed making a series of disingenuous excuses for a rapist, Amanda found a Harvard Crimson article that details the faculty debate on the subject:

What some did have trouble with, Faculty in attendance said, was determining degrees of consent and miscommunication between Douglas and the woman he assaulted last spring.

In particular, some still had questions about the force with which the woman refused Douglas’ advances–whether she sent nonverbal signals which may have blurred any clear message about consent.

What we have here, essentially, is a genteel version of the “she did not present herself wearing a bonnet and crinolines” argument. Apparently, if a woman stops short of cutting off someone’s scrotum, there’s some measure of ambiguity–sure, every action taken by the woman in this case suggests that she did not consent, and nothing on the record suggests that she did consent, but…who knows, maybe her eyes were saying “yes yes yes” while her mouth was saying “get the hell out of my room!” Other than unfalsifiable nonsense, I fail to see where the ambiguity lies here:

Instead of “miscommunication,” the court documents reveal a situation in which the woman continually told Douglas to leave her House, her suite and her bed. Before entering her room, Douglas “slammed her against the wall” and began kissing her, even though she “told him to leave [and] was struggling to get away from him.” His advances continued even as she repeatedly told Douglas to leave and tried to push him off her bed.

The quality of the arguments inventing “ambiguity” out of pure nothingness are about what you’d expect:

Ryan said yesterday that some Faculty felt the woman’s behavior had created an ambiguous situation prior to the assault.

“There might be other forms of communication.It was the kind of non-verbal communication that might have caused some sort of confusion in the mind of the young man,” she added.

Other administrators confirmed that the debate focused mainly on gradations of consent.

“Most of the main points were not in dispute,”President Neil L. Rudenstine said. “It was really a question of how to weight the different pieces.”

Another senior administrator said that some professors still viewed this as a “hazy” situation. “It was friends who were together,” the administrator said. “He may have assumed one thing and she another.”

He said that several people supporting the requirement to withdraw held the position “that it was consensual,” the senior administrator added. “I think it was a substantial element of [their case].”

The first problem here is the classic problem of justifying date rape–the silly and extremely dangerous assumption that since were friends, there clearly must be some kind of implied consent. (Personally, I’ve been on dates where the woman I was out with clearly had no interest whatsoever in pursuing sexual relations. Shocking, I know!) In the real world, you are more likely to be raped by someone you know in any case, and knowing someone before the fact doesn’t imply the slightest consent to sex. But in addition to the fact that this is wrong on its face, it’s a highly misleading portrayal of the situation. The claim that it was “friends who were together” and hence “hazy” ignores the fact that she had been out with someone else and he insinuated his way into their outing, and that he entered her room against her consent.

Obviously, it’s good that a strong majority of the faculty rejected these kind of arguments. But the fact that a number of Harvard faculty members were willing to strain so hard to invent reasons to mitigate the inexcusable is a good demonstration of the prevalence of rape myths within society.

Next, You’re Going To Tell Me Someone Remembers That So-Called "Wall" In Germany

[ 0 ] January 16, 2007 |

Marty Peretz, while engaging in some pro forma lunacy about the Middle East, unleashes some quite original lunacy:

Who knows what animates Gorbachev? Maybe he hopes just to be remembered. He won’t be. Certainly not by the Russian people. A passing figure. Not even one on whom American colleges will bestow honorary degrees.

I mean, really, can you add anything to this that would be remotely as funny? Actually, apparently you can:

I concede that Marty is probably better at extracting honorary degrees than Gorbachev, and conclude that it’s a shame Raisa wasn’t some sort of sewing-machine heiress so her husband could purchase some endowed chairs in, say, yiddish literature.

Zing! But I’m sure they’ve already forgotten that Spencer Ackerman guy…

"She wasn’t accusing him of plagiarism"

[ 0 ] January 15, 2007 |

Adam B does a very good job with this exceedingly strange SundayStyles column. But I was particularly struck by this:

He had left school immediately after the incident. He knew the university was investigating the allegations and that he might face dismissal. What he didn’t know was that he soon would face consequences much more severe than being forced to leave school. Rather than allow the college administration to handle the situation, his accuser filed criminal charges.

Obviously, the phrasing here is profoundly offensive, implying that the victim should have “allowed” the university pat her on the head and give her a lollipop, wasn’t the victim of a violent assault. But my question is: how common is it for rapes involving students to be dealt with by internal procedures? How much are victims persuaded to do this? Whenever I teach U.S. v. Morrison–a case involving an alleged gang rape at Virginia Tech that resulted in a crucial provision of the Violence Against Women Act being struck down–students always act why it was initially a case of internal university discipline rather than criminal law. And I never have a good answer. I can understand why sexual harassment–where behavior that would otherwise be OK is rendered unethical by the particular relationships of trust in a teaching or employment relationship–is a case for internal procedures. But I really can’t see where rape should be considered an purely internal university matter. It’s a violent crime; it shouldn’t stop being treated as such because the victim is a college student. I wonder how widespread Cross’s attitude is.

Who Lost The Divisional Playoff?

[ 0 ] January 15, 2007 |

Because of some serious F-Train issues on my way to meet a friend before the (excellent) Secret Society gig, I missed almost all of the second half, so I can’t say. But I see that at least one scribe is already blaming the Chargers’ loss on Schottenheimer. What I do notice, however, is that this particular argument is just tendentious bullshit–the writer keeps asserting that Schottenheimer “played not to lose,” but the only major failed strategic decision he talks about was a 4th-down gamble that, while probably ill-advised, was certainly the antithesis of playing not to lose. Rather, the key plays seem to have been a post-interception fumble and a random dumb penalty, which would have little or nothing to do with coaching per se. I can’t say, obviously, but nothing in the highlights or the accounts suggests that this was a game turned on the Chargers being too conservative.

Look, Belichik–while highly dislikable–is an unassailably great coach, and Schottenheimer (while very good) isn’t. But sometimes a cigar etc. You can tell me if something doesn’t show up in the highlights, but by all accounts what happened is that the the Patriots made a couple plays the Chargers didn’t. I don’t think it says anything about the character (or, in this case, even the ability) of the losing coach.

Oh, and the other game was teh suck, but an honorable loss.

Breaking News! Must Credit LG&MOpenSource Media! Mutliple Sirens!

[ 0 ] January 14, 2007 |

Michael Ledeen R.I.P. (Or is it just his brain? Attacking the shoddy standards of the Em Ess Em can be so confusing sometimes.)

"First you didn’t want me to get the pony, now you want me to take it back, make up your mind!"

[ 0 ] January 14, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, we see that “liberal hawks” (at least as defined as liberals who think that replacing a bad dictatorship that posed no security threat to the United States with an Islamist quasi-state was a great idea) are as capable of being pathetic Bush dead-enders as any conservative. Michael O’Hanlon:

But it would still be counterintuitive for the president’s critics to prevent him from carrying out the very policy they have collectively recommended.

Jeffrey Herf:

Now that Bush wants to send more troops to fight with a different strategy, this chorus of critics rejects the policy. It is irritating and depressing to see the uniformity with which Democrats reject or even fail to recognize the new thinking in the military and the new thinking that is reflected in Bush’s proposals even when at last the President agrees with the criticisms of some of his critics.

This is so childishly obvious I can’t believe it needed to be pointed out even once, but to put it in concise terms:

  • It is entirely possible in both principle and practice for a political leader to switch from one bad policy to another bad policy. Criticizing the first bad policy does not require one to support the second bad policy.
  • In more specific terms, supporting a very large troop presence in 2003 does not logically compel someone to support a relatively minor and temporary troop increase in 2007. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite; the underpinnings of the former argument make quite clear that the latter strategy will not work. It should also be noted that it is a waste of everyone’s time to discuss whether a much larger escalation would work (aside from the fact that it probably wouldn’t), because 1)the necessary troops don’t exist, and 2)Bush isn’t going to support such a thing anyway.

In fairness, Herf does provide us with some comic relief:

If the Democratic party’s national leadership continues in its opposition to the strategy Bush has just announced, and if, against expectations, that strategy is successful, Democrats may look forward to another decade or more of losing Presidential elections.

Absolutely. And what if the movie scripted by Jenny McCarthy had gone on to make more than the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies combined? Boy, would the executives who passed on it look stupid! Clearly, the company that financed it did the right thing.

Seriously, what’s wrong with these people? Somebody needs to convene the remaining “liberal” supporters of the war and explain the concept of sunk costs.

NFL Quick Picks

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

More a pretext for an open thread, but–team I would pick in bold:

Indianapolis (+3 1/2) at Baltimore: Like a Yankees/Dodgers World Series or a Canucks/Maple Leafs Stanley Cup final, a true “the only good result is two plane crashes” bowl, as the result of the two most odious franchise shifts in history face off. For some reason, now that they’ve been written off, I think Manning might have a good playoff game in him.

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-5): I’d like to see the old Stampeder star Jeff Garcia do it one more once, but to use Bill James’s phrase while it’s fun to believe in Cinderella you have to believe in midnight too. Of course, the Saints are a fairy tale in their own way, but with Brees and Bush they’re also really good (for an NFC team.)

Seattle (+9) at Da Bears: Since they get no respect despite being defending conference champions, I’d actually like to go whole hog and pick the Seahawks outright. And you can make a case: Grossman is even less well-positioned to take advantage of the Seahwaks’ temp secondary than Romo, and the Bears have gotten steadily worse. I can’t quite do it with the Bears at home and Alexander considerably less than 100%, but that line is way too steep.

New England at San Diego (-4 1/2): OK, if you had actual money at stake, could you justify betting on world-historical playoff choker Marty Schottenheimer and a rookie QB against Bellichik and Brady? You’d probably be better of wagering that Democrats will sweep the electoral college in the Deep South. And yet, my gut says that Rivers is for real, New England’s win over the Jets was less impressive than the score, and while MS has done a lot of stupid things he’s also had a lot of bad luck; it’s not like he told Byner to fumble. I think this year he may catch a break.

You Know You’re In Trouble When *Peretz* Is The Sane One…

[ 1 ] January 12, 2007 |

Reading about Peter Beinart’s attempt to turn pre-war discourse into a giant pissing contest (via Ezra) reminded me about some gossip from Spencer Ackerman. I–like I suspect most people–had always assumed that the New Republic‘s fatally ridiculous endorsement of Joe Lieberman was a Peretz special all the way. Apparently not:

It’s a common misconception about Marty and Lieberman. Without speaking for Marty, I can tell you that he absolutely did not endorse Lieberman in 2004. This was mostly a Peter decision, as I believe he explained on CNN when the endorsement came out. It’s not for me to say who Marty actually backed, but it definitely wasn’t Lieberman.

Beinart felt so strongly that he went against the publisher to endorse that feeble clown. It’s amazing.

While were engaged in TNR-related snark, I’ve mentioned before the sales of Beinart’s book would not seem to justify a $600,000 advance–as of last week, it had moved fewer than 10,000 copies (and I don’t think this is just second-guessing–it’s not as if outside the pundit class liberal hawkery is a huge market.) But that’s nothing. You know how Lee Siegel inexplicably got a deal for a book about politics and the internet? His recent book Falling Upwards has moved…304 copies. But I’m sure his expanded-to-book-length argument about why people who disagree with you on blogs are just like Mussolini will be much more successful!

Your Straightforward Reading Of The Plain Meaning Of My Words Is Proof Of Your Lack Of Reading Comprehension!

[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

Josh Trevino claims that “[t]here’s little to be done for the reading comprehension of the online left,” and that his bringing up the Boer War was “not to make a policy prescription but to conduct a thought-experiment to demonstrate the insufficiency of the President’s ‘surge.’” Of course, nobody thought that Trevino favored the President’s plan–which is precisely what makes his claim that Bush exists on a “higher moral plane” so transparently idiotic. But is it unfair to claim that Trevino is advocating Boer War-style tactics? As a commenter at TAPPED also notes, obviously not:

  • Trevino, first of all, asks us to ignore not only his argument while the tactics used in the Boer War were “cruel” and that “I endorse cruel things in war–to eschew them is folly” but his subsequent claim that Bush is on a “higher plane ” because he realizes that losing is unacceptable. The only logical reading of the post is that, while he doesn’t endorse Bush’s specific plan, he does support Boer War-style scorched-earth tactics: if we can’t lose, and the deployment of cruelty is the only way to win…there’s only one way this argument can go.
  • And, of course, Trevino is not writing in a vacuum. Previously, he has written the following: “The ability of a society to see through grinding conflicts like the Philippines Insurrection or the Boer War augers well for its future, lest it lose the mere capacity to conquer, and be susceptible to humiliation by any small power with no advantage save mental fortitude. It is indeed difficult to imagine now the methods that transformed the Philippines for us, and South Africa for the British, from bitter foe to steadfast friend being applied in Iraq. Would that they were.” [my emphasis.] So this is at least the second time he’s made the argument that while the U.S. may not use brutal military tactics, it should. Again, it couldn’t be more explicit.
  • And, wait–he’s also written (scroll down to “the road untaken”) that “[c]onceptually, the Algerian-style sealing of Iraqi borders coupled with Boer War-style civilian control measures are workable and even just. [my emphasis]” although “their imposition would mean the implicit repudiation of the very mythos of the war.” Do you see a pattern here? Again, the U.S. probably doesn’t have the fortitude to exterminate all the brutes–but it should.

So the idea that the problem here is a lack of reading comprehension on the part of Trevino’s critics is absurd. At least three times (and who knows how many examples there were be if his primarily online venue still had available archives) he has explictly endorsed the desirability of Boer War style tactics. It is true that he has also said that Bush will be unlikely to use them, but this is beside the point (and, indeed, just makes his support of Bush and initial support of the war incoherent.) The fact that he seems to want to back off from the plain implication of his words isn’t his critics’ problem. If he doesn’t want to be accused of supporting Boer War-style tactics, he should stop saying that he supports them.

The Lowest Plane

[ 0 ] January 11, 2007 |

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The latest effusions of Josh “A Wingnut Leaves the Door Ajar As He Swings A Whip From the Boer War” Trevino, already linked below, are a treasure trove of lunacy. There’s also this:

What was good about the President’s speech? He remains committed to victory. Whether he will achieve it or not is a separate matter; the mere fact that he seeks it sets him on a moral plane above the mass of the American left that thinks defeat a wholly palatable option.

Yes, the fact that the President would really like to win (not that his plan might lead to victory, mind you, but that he thinks some kind of undefined “winning” would be nice) puts him on a “different moral plane” than people impertinent enough to point out that our continuing presence in Iraq is making things worse and therefore ipso facto want America to lose (which is particularly strange when Trevino says that a “desire to win is small consolation without the means to win”–without the McCarthyism, Trevino seems to have the same position on Bush’s plan as the evil, anti-American liberals.) But what makes this risible even for Tacitus is that he delivers this pompous jingoism after explaining that–as part of an invasion of a country that didn’t attack and posed no significant security threat to the United States–our military should put innocent women and children in concentration camps so that men can be indiscriminately slaughtered. Trevino and I are on “different moral planes,” all right.

…Yglesias is rather more astute about how to read the President’s empty banalities about victory:

The point of view from which the hail mary metaphor makes the most sense is if your primary concern is not the interests of the United States of America but the reputation of George W. Bush and other leading architects of war. From that point of view, the difference between initiating and then losing a war at great cost and initiating and then losing a war at even greater cost really is minimal, much like in a football game. From Bush’s point of view, conceding that his Iraq policy has failed is so catastrophic to his ego and reputation that it makes perfect sense to ask other people to bear any burden and pay any price for even the smallest sliver of a hope of even deferring the problem successfully. For the country, though, it doesn’t make sense at all.

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