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The Great P.C. Dodge

[ 1 ] March 11, 2008 |

Attempts by the staff at the WaPO to justify printing Charlotte Allen’s women-are-teh-stupid projection were, needless to say, embarrassing. (They don’t discuss Hirshman’s “women who don’t agree with me that they should all vote for the candidate with the more conservative record are stupid” op-ed, which was no prize either, at all.) The assignment editor claims that “funny, clearly tongue-in-cheek and hyperbolic but with a serious point,” which is rather problematic given that it was about at funny as Hepatitis B and yet was also entirely lacking in any serious point. (What the point was, the editor doesn’t say.) Promfret, meanwhile, hauls out the inevitable phrase: “it presented a different, albeit very non-PC take at a time when women and politics is a riveting topic in this country.” See, if you don’t like it, you must be…politically correct! Somerby unloads:

Very non-PC! To our ear, Pomfret self-identified with this childish formulation. He seems to be one of those Aggrieved White Men who simply hate that “political correctness”—who hate the notion that they should be courteous or thoughtful in the things they choose to say about other societal groups. Among boo-hooing white males of this type, aggrieved complaints about “PC” are really cries for return to the (Archie) Bunker times—to the time when Foolish White Men could say whatever came into their heads, without regard for how their comments might affect the sensibilities of the groups they love to ridicule. Pomfret is sick of all that PC! To our ear, he self-identifies with that childish statement.

It’s a great scam. The only use for use of variations of “politically correct” is to use the obsolete cultural meaning (suggesting hypersensitivity to minor or non-existent offenses) to insulate gross bigotry from any scrutiny or criticism. Pomfret, like his assignment editor, understandably fails to indentify exactly what was useful about Allen’s different take; after all, there wasn’t anything of value in it unless you think Father Knows Best had an excessively complex and progressive conception of gender relations. And it’s especially infuriating hearing the “P.C.” card being played by someone who somehow can’t locate a significant number of female candidates who can climb over the exceptionally low bar for intelligent discourse set by people like Richard Cohen and Charles Krauthammer. To paraphrase Robert Christgau on irony, being “politically incorrect” is an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing.



[ 40 ] March 10, 2008 |


To repeat what I said when a Republican was involved recently:

  • If I were in charge of writing laws, I do not believe that anyone belongs in jail for procuring or (certainly) selling sex for money, or that any criminal offense more severe than a ticket for the purchaser should be involved.
  • If poor sex workers are thrown in jail under existing laws, then affluent white johns sure as hell should be too. This goes double for people who have positions that might allow them to work to repeal laws they don’t feel are just.

Comparing Finales

[ 15 ] March 10, 2008 |

I wish Adam Sternbergh wouldn’t project his philistinism on me: “For everyone who felt cheated by the stubbornly ambivalent series finale of The Sopranos — which is to say, everyone.” Watching the finale of The Sopranos again before yesterday’s finale for kicks, I remain more convinced than ever that the brilliant final sequence will 1)be remembered as a great moment in television history, with cavils from people who prefer neat bows (perhaps Meadow racing to meet Finn at the airport cross-cut with Tony’s and Philly’s crews involved in a 20 minute shootout?) only adding to its aura, and 2)it’s the major thing that doesn’t make a comparison to The Wire finale look embarrassing. It had other moments — Meadow’s justification for not becoming a doctor being especially satisfying. But while the conclusion looks better on multiple viewings, the slack parts stick out even more: the stuff with Paulie and the cat, especially, would be pretty lame time-filler in an early setup episode, let alone the finale. (The inability to use Paulie effectively was a crucial element of the post-Season 5 dropoff; the silly soap opera plot with his mother wasn’t as bad as the dream sequence, but that’s only true in the sense that National Treasure is probably better than The Hottie and the Nottie.) And Chase, while a great writer and conceptmeister, isn’t always a great director: Philly’s vlugar death scene might have been OK without the sitcommy, poorly edited reaction shots.

If The Wire‘s conclusion didn’t have a formal tour de force like the diner sequence, it was a great deal more consistent. I’d like to be contrarian enough to defend the newspaper stuff, but I can’t; not only is the “chasing Pulitzer” theme not terribly interesting or conducive to good characters, the arc was too predictable. But everything else was gripping and intelligent, as always, and it looks like Clark Johnson (whose presence was often the only reason the newspaper scenes were even watchable) has the ability to be a very fine director. The various intersections of corruption were perfect, and the return of Presbo with Duquan heartbreaking in a way that Simon properly didn’t spoil with an implausible happy ending. I also liked the way-are-they-now montage focused on the persistence institutional destruction in particular. Not everybody is ruined by the system — some have options — but nobody can act with any integrity within it. If Season 5 was the weakest, and I think most of us agree that it was, that was one hell of a great show, and it wrapped up about as well as could be hoped for.

Tuckered Out

[ 8 ] March 10, 2008 |

Like most of you I’m sure, my first reaction to this was “Tucker Carlson still has a show in MSNBC? Is Dennis Miller still there?” It is oddly reassuring, however, that sometimes low ratings and abysmal quality can kill even a conservative talk show.

There’s still time for Alan Keyes is Making Sense to come back, though!

The Torturer In Chief

[ 12 ] March 8, 2008 |

President Bush, as most of you know, has used his veto powers sparingly. But on some issues — like more poor children getting health care — he simply can’t avoid using them. Today, he acts to advance another issue he feels strongly about: torture. He’s for it:

President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques that are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using such interrogation methods, which include waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad.

Less than a year left. But remember that Straight Talkin’ John McCain urged Bush to support torture as well. Indeed, unlike Joe Lieberman Zell Miller Hillary Clinton, I think that future Democratic candidate Barack Obama is in fact much better qualified to be Commander-In-Chief, and hopefully a majority of voters will reach the same conclusion.

And Don’t Forget Those Negotiations With Tim Allen And Carrot Top

[ 17 ] March 8, 2008 |

Hillary Clinton, as you know, is claiming that having a considerable amount of foreign policy experience is crucial for the next President. Leaving aside the fact that she completely botched the most important vote of her Senate career by making an extremely bad judgment on foreign policy, the problem is that she doesn’t, in fact, have anything like a considerable amount of foreign policy experience. So how does she square the circle?

Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she “helped to bring peace” to Northern Ireland [um] and negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo.

Sounds impressive! What was the nature of these high-level negotiations in Macedonia?

The Macedonian government opened its border to refugees the day before Clinton arrived to meet with government leaders. And her mission to Bosnia was a one-day visit in which she was accompanied by performers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, as well as her daughter, Chelsea, according to the commanding general who hosted her.

The good news is that I’m slightly less worried about Clinton making Michael O’Hanlon her Secretary of State. The bad news is that I’m more worried about Gallagher becoming Secretary of State. Actually, I retract the bad news part — that would probably be an improvement.

Her Secretary of Defense, of course, will be her new BFF Straight Talkin’ War Mongerin’ John McCain.

The Powers Resignation

[ 9 ] March 7, 2008 |

I think it was the best option for the Obama campaign.

The Book or the Review?

[ 0 ] March 7, 2008 |

This review of Gusher Of Lies makes me wonder whether the bad arguments are the book’s or the reviewer’s. For example, Bryce’s attacks on ethanol seem very convincing, but in what way do they challenge “cherished green beliefs?” This is djw’s department, but it seems to me that the class of people pushing ethanol contains a rather higher percentage of “corn-growing interests and their political representatives” than “environmentalists.” Then there’s this:

Wind power and solar power have the added drawback of being intermittent and unpredictable. A town that relied entirely on solar or wind power would suffer constant service interruptions and wild fluctuations in output, which is why both technologies must be used in conjunction with traditional fossil-fuel generators.

You don’t say! One hopes that it’s Grimes and not Bryce who considers identifying the fact that wind and sunlight are not constants as potential problems in using them to generate power a monumental insight.

Be More Funny! And Less Homophobic!

[ 40 ] March 7, 2008 |

Since I really, really Don’t Get Garrison Keillor, at least I can say that I don’t find this disillusioning. (I mean, given the esteem with which his wit is inexplicably held in many quarters, shouldn’t his attempt at homophobic humor at least involve some stereotypes that wouldn’t have stood out as stale cliches at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast in 1971?)

[Via TS.]


[ 0 ] March 7, 2008 |

Yglesias on Abe Foxman giving a pass to the anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-gay, all-purpose nut whose endorsement John McCain assiduously sought out: “What does Foxman have to say about all this Hageean nuttiness? He thinks it’s just fine since Hagee’s pro-Israel. Obviously, we’re not supposed to give too much scrutiny to the content of Hagee’s “pro-Israel” views since in an ordinary sense deliberately seeking the destruction of the Jewish state and the deaths of all its citizens wouldn’t be considered an especially pro-Israel stance.”

The Five Universal Commandments of Writing About Women

[ 8 ] March 6, 2008 |

Dahlia Lithwick infers them:

1. It’s not sexism if it’s women trashing women.

2. Writing by women about women need not be held to the same critical or analytical standards as writing by men because—I suppose—we really are as stupid as Allen suggests.

3. No need for originality in pieces by women about women. Oprah, Celine, and Grey’s Anatomy never get old. Good times.

4. When all else fails, say the piece was meant to be funny. Then you can say that anyone who didn’t like it has no sense of humor.

5. Laugh all the way to the bank.

This is very smart, so maybe John Pomfret will mistake her for a man and give her an op-ed job with an assignment to write about a topic besides why Women Are Teh Stupid. (Or, as I’m sure she’d prefer, the Times will give her Greenhouse’s job when it comes open, but I’d miss the snark.)

They’re Being Run By A Committee Consisting of Cam Bonifay, Michael Brown, and Katherine Harris

[ 0 ] March 6, 2008 |

That explains why there’s nothing resembling a vote count in the Texas caucuses. I believe that the operative words are “in” and “ept.”

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