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[ 0 ] November 11, 2007 |

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The Warm Personality of Bill Belichick, The Mad Skillz of Norv Turner

In light of the failure of even scheduling two service academies to put a mild veneer of respectability on this marvelous Notre Dame season, I would strongly recommend picking up this highly prescient book, which I saw advertised on ESPN and I’m sure is just as persuasive as when it was published. I’m disappointed that Amazon isn’t packaging it with Bush Country, however…

"All over the ship, all through the convoy, there was a knowledge that in a few hours some of them were going to be dead."

[ 12 ] November 10, 2007 |

Norman Mailer, R.I.P.

Between his misogyny and authenticity-obsessed nutty politics — whatever one thinks of the aesthetic quality of the work, I would avoid a first date with a guy who wants to meet you by leaving a note in An American Dream — Mailer was an anachronism. But he was also an anachronism whose best work — especially Miami and the Siege of Chicago and Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song — I’ve been drawn back to recently and holds up surprisingly well. I’m sure this will compel me to pull The Time of Our Times off the shelf and see how often I can be pleasantly surprised as well as infuriated or baffled.

The Lodi Lieberman

[ 50 ] November 10, 2007 |

Dianne Fienstein (Senator Desperately In Need Of A Primary Challenge-CA) supports immunizing companies who acted illegally by violating the privacy of their customers. It would be holding companies “hostage” to punish them for illegal activity, since state actors were also involved! Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo! For reasons I can’t understand, the fact that litigation would be “costly” — and hence deter future illegal behavior and violations of customer privacy — is supposed to be a bug, not a feature. The classic coservertarian bait-and-switch.

With Lieberman out, it’s becoming overwhelmingly clear that with the appropriate regional adjustments Fienstein is the worst Democrat in the Senate. Can we at least get her booted off the Judiciary Committee?

The Crisis in Obama’s Campaign

[ 0 ] November 9, 2007 |

This is indeed depressing. In the debates, it was possible if one was inclined to excuse his comments because he disavowed the fake “crisis” before spouting nonsense on Social Security. But he’s now repeating it and explicitly using the crisis language. Ugh. There’s no way around it –and I say this as someone who’s leaned towards him from the start of the campaign — but he’s been a serious disappointment on the ground, and if he keeps this up it’s nearly a deal-breaker.

Bob Somerby recently pointed out that “it’s fairly clear that the press corps loathes Clinton and Edwards—but not Obama.” Although I wouldn’t necessarily bet on this continuing if he actually wins the primary, this remains one of his strongest selling points: better uncertainty than someone who we know will mean a full-bore return to Dowdite lunacy. But if he’s going to cultivate the press by actually adopting the Millionaire Pundit Values of the WaPo editorial board, that’s useless.

This isn’t terribly promising either.

"Just Like This Post Is An Abortion."

[ 30 ] November 9, 2007 |

Bean et al. have taken care of the most obvious atrocities in this post — suffice it to say that if manliness means beating up your wife after she declines to give birth to another generation of murderers, count me out — but as a connoisseur of Aesthetic Stalinism I can’t resist this:

One of the best scenes in the Godfather movie trilogy was in “Godfather II,” when Kay Corleone (Diane Keaton) told her husband Michael (Al Pacino) she was taking their two children and leaving him.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…one of the best scenes? Is this woman for real? To state the obvious, this scene is far and away the worst thing in the first two Godfather pictures, and indeed arguably worse than anything in the third one. She does us (although not her argument) the favor of quoting the dialogue, which is awful. “Like our marriage is an abortion” — ugh, and it isn’t helped by the wooden reading. (To put it charitably Kay was never Keaton’s finest hour — although she didn’t have much to work with — and this is the nadir of her performance and the character.) And as bad as it would look in isolation, this scene from a third-rate afternoon soap is incredibly jarring in what otherwise is an absolute peak of American filmmaking. The fact that it requires a bizarre reading to make the atrocious scene ideologically congenial enough to praise is icing on the cake.

Truly, one of the great achievements in Aesthetic Stalinism of our time. Libertas and the “Right-wing Dylan” guy should fold up and go home; they can’t compete.

"Too Pro-Choice?"

[ 19 ] November 8, 2007 |

Garance has an interesting excerpt from a speech by John Kerry, in which he asserts that the Democrats are “too pro-choice” and E.J Dionne asks “Why do you think you didn’t give a speech like this in, say, May or June of 2004?” Dionne’s implication is that such a speech would have been politically useful. But would it?

I can certainly see some political value in signaling respect for respect for supporters of abortion criminalization, and I don’t believe that Democrats running for national office can say all the same things about reproductive freedom that I would. But in the particular form Kerry articulates it here, the argument seems the worst of all worlds. First of all, very annoyingly it claims (straight out of the anti-choice Book of Myths) that “science” is substantially changing the abortion debate and greatly altering viability, when in fact there’s no evidence that this is true and the vast majority of abortions continue take place before viability. Kerry’s argument in general concedes (wholly unearned) moral high ground to the abortion criminalization lobby and, even worse, never bothers to explain why it shouldn’t have its way. The structure of Kerry’s speech is essentially “abortion is really bad but should remain legal because it just should.” That’s only a good approach if you want to set up the debate to lose, and as long as you have nominally pro-choice policy positions you’re unlikely to receive credit for it anyway. (After all, Kerry was in fact very squishy in defensing abortion throughout the 2004, but never gets retrospective “credit” for it anyway; you apparently can never be squishy enough. Which in a way makes sense; if I was an anti-choicer, I would want a politician who supports my substantive positions, not one who says that he or she “respects” me.)

If Democratic politicians have to signal respect for “pro-lifers,” it seems to me that rather than saying that abortion is immoral but should remain legal for reasons we won’t get into, much better is to focus in what abortion bans would actually do. Wouldn’t something like this be both better in the merits and more effective strategically?

Many people in the audience believe that abortion is morally wrong. And no matter what people’s moral position is, we can all agree that preventing unwanted pregnancies is better than abortions. However, our opponents take very extreme positions that are unlikely to achieve these goals anyway. The Republican platform supports a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states; I don’t think most Americans support that approach. But even if it passed, the experience of other countries suggests that there would still be a large number of abortions; the only difference is that more poor women will be maimed and killed in back-alley abortions. That’s not effective, and it’s not fair. Giving women the access to contraception, education, medical and child care they need, on the other hand, will both protect women’s freedom and lead to fewer abortions. State coercion doesn’t work, as our history makes clear. This is something we should all agree on.

I’m no speechwriter, so I don’t know exactly how you’d phrase it, but it seems to be that to be useful any gambit like Kerry’s should 1)make clear why one is pro-choice whatever their moral reservations, 2)should focus on areas where the “pro-life” position is unpopular rather than uncritically accepting opposition frames (or, worse, repeating their erroneous claims), and 3)focus on why criminalization fails to be effective or meet basic standards of equality and fairness even if you support its ends. Kerry’s way of discussing the issue fails on all three counts.

Rudy: Locking Up The Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Vote

[ 0 ] November 7, 2007 |

Rudy Giuliani has been endorsed by Pat Robertson, which according to smart conservative commentators is a “big plus.” A depressing, if unsurprising, thought. Not only is Robertson an arch-reactionary who thought that with respect to 9/11 that the U.S. had it coming (especially ironic for Mr. “Noun-Verb-9/11″), Robertson is a purveyor of crank anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. As Michael Lind found:

Robertson’s theories about Jewish bankers and Jewish revolutionaries are central to his conspiracy theory, which in turn is central to his vision of his own destiny, his movement, and his ambitions for the American Right and the Republican party and the United States of America. Not since Father Coughlin or Henry Ford has a prominent white American so boldly and unapologetically blamed the disasters of modern world history on the machinations of international high finance in general and on a few influential Jews in particular. And not since Huey Long, with his Share Our Wealth movement, has there been a radical populist movement as powerful in American politics as Robertson’s Christian Coalition.

A lunatic conspiracy theorist endorsing someone with lunatic foreign policy views; seems about right.

That Glove Looks Good Now That We’ve Seen Your Bat

[ 102 ] November 7, 2007 |

I see that Derek Jeter’s defense has become so wretched that the Gold Glove has finally gone to a good defensive shortstop instead. However — because God forbid we go a year without a popular New York player winning a Gold Glove with his bat — David Wright somehow won the NL Gold Glove at third. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s similarly egregious; Wright is OK defensively, maybe better than his reputation. But you’d have to be crazy to think that he’s better than Feliz or Zimmerman.

Which reminds me: recently King Kaufman wrote about the all-time Gold Glove team. There are a couple people who won with their bats: Morgan was a good second baseman but although as a player he arguably had the highest peak between Mantle and Bonds he was no Mazeroski
with the glove. Griffey was a decent CF in his prime, but overrated; just among ones I’ve seen play every day Grissom and Cameron were better and Beltran not significantly worse. Parker probably wasn’t as good as Hernandez but was good, and I kind of like the idea of there being more light-hitting defensive specialists. The fun comes, however, in the runners-up:

What surprises me about this silly exercise is that current players didn’t dominate. Derek Jeter finished second in the shortstop voting, ahead of Vizquel, Concepcion, Aparicio and Belanger. That’s ridiculous, but at least he didn’t win.

Wow. Like, wow. It’s not like Jeter is a good-but-overrated defender like Griffey or Alomar. He’s a bad shortstop. This is clear if you watch his range, and also empirically unassailable. Only recent Prospectus numbers show him as even OK, and that 1)requires the implausible belief that he suddenly greatly improved in his early 30s, and 2)can’t be detected by more sophisticated methodologies, which show him as being just as bad as ever. To rank him above these guys is like claiming that Brad Ausmus is a better hitter than Manny Ramirez. Anybody who thinks that Jeter is a better defensive shortstop than Vizquel should never be permitted to watch a major league game again for their own good; they obviously don’t know what they’re watching anyway…

And Don’t Get Me Started on What He Did To Vince Foster

[ 20 ] November 7, 2007 |

I mentioned during the Althouse/Valenti dustup that justly earned the former a Golden Wingnut Award that comments sections were awash in claims that Clinton was a serial sexual harasser, groper, etc. The problem is that such claims crucially rely on the claims made by Kathleen Willey, and these claims were so lacking in credibility that even Chief Whitewater Snipe Hunter Ken Starr wouldn’t go forward with them. So what has Willey been up to lately? Well:

In a new book alleging a campaign of slander and intimidation orchestrated chiefly by Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Willey points a finger of suspicion at the former first couple for the death of her husband, who was believed to have killed himself.

Willey, who claims she was groped by President Clinton in the White House, acknowledged in an interview with WND today that she stands by the speculation she poses about her husband’s demise in “Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton,” set for release this week by World Ahead Publishing, WND Books’ partner.

Asked if she suspects her husband Ed, a lawyer and son of a prominent Virginia lawmaker, was murdered, Willey replied, “Most definitely.”

A highly credible source, no question. Given these crank accusations, however, only one question can remain: when will she be appearing on Hardball? The fact that Hillary Clinton is now the alleged source of the conspiracy makes her an even more attractive guest for shows where it’s now going to be all-90s-era-Clinton-lunacy-all-the-time!


[ 4 ] November 7, 2007 |

This is true. I think the exclusion is because I don’t really think Norbiz will be gone for long…

Those Damned Female Persons!

[ 27 ] November 6, 2007 |

I’m glad that Matt alerted his readers to this classic SDB essay, which helpfully divides humans with vaginas into two categories: “women” (i.e. strippers and women who, hypothetically, will sleep with SDB or at least be incredibly flattered by awkward come-ons from co-workers) and “female persons” (women who won’t sleep with SDB.) This typology would be helpful if applied in other manifestations of wingnuttery. For example, perhaps future idiotic abortion regulations can be more explicit by dividing subjects into classes of “women” (i.e. people who share Rick Santorum’s conception of gender roles and hence can be presumed to be acting freely) and “female persons” (who reject 18th century conceptions of gender roles and hence need to have their most intimate personal choices extensively regulated.) I expect the essay to be quoted in the next Kennedy opinion upholding an arbitrary abortion regulation…

The Case For D*n B*este

[ 0 ] November 6, 2007 |

Although he’s blocked any access to the post Matt references here (and that earned him a special judges’ prize), Kieran Healy had the relevant excerpts:

De facto [France is] allied with Saddam even if there’s no publicly-declared treaty or agreement; so will they be willing to intervene militarily? Will they smuggle some sort of weaponry in? Or ship it in openly?

If 20 cargo jets take off from French territory and head towards the middle east, what will we do? If they ignore all attempts to prevent them from reaching Iraq, would we be willing to actually shoot one or more of them down?

Just how far are they willing to take their opposition to us? They’ve reached the point where it seems as if they’re willing to make any sacrifice. Do they see the stakes as being high enough so that they might actually threaten to nuke us?

The context, of course, being that the idea of opposing deposing secular a regime that posed no threat to the United States or France and replacing it with an Islamist quasi-state was so irrational that France must have been an actual enemy of the United States. This kind of lunacy really did pass for serious analysis among warbloggers (and propelled many of them to mainstream media gigs.) Who still make these kinds of arguments — remember Glenn Reynolds surmising that we haven’t engaged in an even more disastrous invasion of Iran…because of the nuclear weapons they already possess, presumably strapped to unicorns with a very long range.

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