Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Worst. Argument. Ever.

[ 0 ] February 6, 2007 |

Connoisseurs of trolling prodigious non-sequiturs really should check out the comments thread here. A commenter repeatedly claims that the grossly offensive analogy between the Duke lacrosse case and the Scottsboro boys case should be defended because someone else had once made the same analogy to defend the prosecution. OK, so far merely have a garden-variety bad argument, self-evidently illogical and devoid of merit but not special. But it gets better–when pressed the commenter can’t even produce evidence that the initial analogy was even made! Longtime readers will be reminded of the great Niels Jackson–when they open the Bad Arguments Hall of Fame, Luker will go in on the first ballot.

For the punchline, check out this post begging for reinforcements; you’ll be shocked to discover that legions of defenders have not come forward to defend the propositions that 1)unsubstantiated charges of rape that were dropped as the prosecutor recuses himself in disgrace are analogous to a case where poor blacks in the apartheid south where railroaded to Death Row via a formalized lynching, and 2)that Party A’s use of a bad analogy insulates Party B’s use of said analogy from criticism from Party C. I particularly like the high stakes adduced by Luker–”reputations at stake?” Personally, I think anyone’s reputation can survive a use of an offensive analogy; a reputation can probably even survive using every ounce of ressentiment you can muster to invent someone’s use of a bad analogy to prop up an argument that would be risibly feeble even if the fictitious analogy was real.

…in fairness, Luker is right to note in comments the “or not” added to the end of his sentence, which suggests that he as at least half-joking.

The Fraud Caucus

[ 0 ] February 6, 2007 |

Still fraudulent.

Hack of the Day, Part Trois

[ 0 ] February 5, 2007 |

Baudrillard disciple Bill Kristol. Look for his new book The Iraq Insurgency Did Not Take Place. (And that old Adesnik post taking the “death throes” argument seriously is a classic.)

Hack of the Day, Part Deux

[ 0 ] February 5, 2007 |

Danny Glover.

…meanwhile, I see Patterico is complaining because Amanda points out that criminalizing abortion is not about protecting fetal life but about regulating female sexuality (and still doesn’t seem to understand that using state coercion to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is punishment; the fact that women don’t get criminal sentences just makes the statutes irrational if protecting fetal life rather than regulating sexuality was the underlying motive.) But OK, let’s take him at his word: he doesn’t want to punish women, per se, he’s merely indifferent to the fact that abortion bans punish women while lacking any coherent conception of “fetal life.” Rather, he just has the same attitude about the agency of women as the 19th-century legislators that passed the abortion ban struck down in Roe: “Morally blameworthy or not, these women are often more pathetic and desperate than the doctors who kill dozens or hundreds of babies a year.” Ah, being “pathetic” or “desperate” exempts you from legal punishment for a violent crime–I’m sure Patterico applies this equally to male defendants! In related news, the L.A. District Attorney’s Office has been closed as all of California’s criminal statutes have been repealed for lack of enforceability.

Department of Offensive Historical Analogies

[ 0 ] February 5, 2007 |

As part of his campaign to get Amanda Marcotte fired because if he devotes a blog to a single issue it means that candidates should make being right about all aspects of said issue a non-negotiable litmus test, KC Johnson links to and approvingly quotes this post from Walter Olson:

John Edwards’s life in the law and experience with the justice system is his major resume item dating back beyond the past few years, as well as the major reason this site has given his career extensive coverage. Moreover, the Duke case, which looks ever more like the Scottsboro Boys case of our era, has been convulsing his own state of North Carolina for month after month. Edwards’ dodging of the case—his apparently successful stifling of any urge to speak out at the plight of the falsely accused—might on its own stand as merely cowardly. Marcotte’s hiring, on the other hand, throws an even less attractive light on it, rather as if, in the Scottsboro Boys days, an on-the-sidelines Southern senator took on as a major spokesperson someone who’d been yelling the Boys’ guilt from the rooftops in the most crudely prejudicial language.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yes, both the Duke case and the Scottsboro Boys involved young men who were almost certainly innocent charged with rape in a southern state. But that’s where the similarities end, even leaving aside that there were much more plausible reasons to suspect the accused in the former case. In the Duke case, the accused were white and came from wealthy families who could afford top-flight legal representation, and the result is that the serious charges against them were dropped and it is highly unlikely they will go to trail on any charges (and if they do, they will receive a fair trial in front of an impartial jury.) The Scottsboro boys were poor, black and illiterate in the Jim Crow South, and hence all were given the death penalty or (in one case) a life sentence after a farcical show trial. And after the convictions were reversed, they were tried again and again in clown-show trials, which meant that they served between 5-20 years in jail. To see these cases as being comparable is mind-bogglingly offensive.

And this isn’t just an academic distinction. Victims of prosecutorial abuse who aren’t as privileged as the Duke lacrosse players end up in jail, and sometimes on death row. It’s hardly a coincidence that so many bloggers have latched on to this particular example of deplorable state action–it allows them to bash feminists, work out resentments about liberal academics, etc. in ways that cases of abuse that have much worse outcomes don’t. And of course, many bloggers (I exclude Johnson here because I don’t know his general politics) latching on to this silly controversy attack the ACLU at every opportunity, support the appointment of people like Sam Ailto to the Supreme Court, and see no issue with the president having the ability to detain and torture people without charges. And to take the hypocrisy to the highest level, jumping on the suddenly absolutist-on-civil-liberties bandwagon is…Michelle Malkin. Yep, Michelle “stripping people of their property and sending them to concentration camps solely on the basis of their race–what a great idea!” Malkin. What a joke.

So, anyway, once every blogger who supports arbitrary power to detain and torture without charges, supports reactionary judges being appointed to the federal courts, and/or takes Michelle Malkin seriously resigns from their job in disgrace, maybe then we can talk about whether making a single insufficiently substantiated assertion of guilt on a blog should be a firing offense. And in case there was any remaining doubt about whether this is a politically motivated witch hunt, check out this risibly specious post, in which Johnson claims that John Edwards must have been personally involved in selecting Amanda (and, implicitly, aware of her post on the Only Issue That Matters) because…a few progressive blogs thought the hire was a good idea. Um, what? Perhaps he studied at Non-Sequitur College under Larry Kudlow.

…UPDATE: Thers has more. And Athenae.

…also Kevin Hayden.

In Whose Interest?

[ 0 ] February 4, 2007 |

Brad makes a point that isn’t made often enough here:

I’m also curious to know why it’s always and everywhere considered “pro-Israel” to support military strikes that won’t, in all likelihood, destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but will, in all likelihood, destroy international support for sanctions on the country, entrench the more radical factions in Tehran, and make future conflicts in the Middle East more, rather than less, likely. As if opponents of such a thing are “anti-Israel.”

Right, even if pointing this out means that Phillip Roth will be writing a novel about a hypothetical Plumer presidency. One can say something similar about the Iraq war. Whatever impact they had on the decision to go to war, it’s mind-boggling that anyone in the “pro-Israel” lobby could have thought that 1)a pro-Israeli government would emerge from the ashes of razing Saddam, or that 2)replacing a secular dictatorship with a Islamist quasi-state would be in the interests of Israel.

How To Write TV Satire

[ 0 ] February 3, 2007 |

As at least a partial antidote, some episodes of the anti-Studio 60 will be coming out on DVD. (It’s funny! The satire has actual teeth! The characters don’t all talk like moderately liberal political essayists!) It’s actually a very mixed blessing, since it’s just a best-of, and Season 2+ of Larry Sanders must be the best non-recent seasons of American TV not on DVD. (I try to throw out my VCR, but…) Still, better something than nothing.

Aaron Sorkin Is A Hack Update

[ 1 ] February 3, 2007 |

I have been, ah, less than optimistic about the quaility of Reading Outtakes From Persuasive Speech Competitions While Walking In Offices On The Sunset Strip and did not even have my low expectations met when I saw the thing. But while I can’t stomach it anymore, some people are still watching. And:

Wait, I’m confused: was it Sorkin’s dream to write for “SNL” or to write for “Three’s Company”? Because between the Two Dates On One Night and Locked On The Roof, all the episode was lacking was the Misunderstood Overheard Phone Conversation where Matt started to believe that Harriet was pregnant. Doesn’t matter if you have Danny comment on the hackiness of the roof situation; it’s still hacky, and no amount of highbrow name-dropping can disguise that. Commedia Del’Arte, this ain’t.

I’ll go with the cell phone issue, as the latest TCA press tour was held at a top LA hotel where you could only get reception in the strangest of places, and being outdoors wasn’t always a help. But Tom lying to Lucy about the dinner was the most idiotic of Idiot Plots, a decision made for no reason except that the plot wouldn’t work without it.

Seriously…Two Dates On One Night? Gawd. Lance is also on the case.

Via Lance, I also see another good post by Ken Levine. (Speaking of which, we need to persuade Dave to tell the story of Levine doing color with the Fredo of the Carey family.) Levine is right that it’s hard to take pleasure in the show’s failure; to have someone given a high level of creative control fail is not really good for the medium, because for too many execs the lesson won’t be “Aaron Sorkin is horribly overrated” but “Let’s send that script to the CSI factory for some focus-grouping.” But I think this can cut the other way: look at the bizarrely positive reviews this pretentious train wreck has received. (It could be that these critics all just have bad taste, but I think there was a lot of wishful thinking going on; many of the critics proclaiming it a classic in September couldn’t even find room for it on their Top-10 lists by December.) Creative autonomy, while better for TV on balance, is not a guarantee of success in any individual case (ask Steven Bach); I don’t think it does anyone any good pretend this show is anything but terrible.

Scalia: Bush’s Victory Unconstitutional

[ 0 ] February 2, 2007 |

Antonin Scalia has done us the favor of explaining the equal protection theory behind the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. (Which is handy, since the per curiam opinion for all intents and purposes failed to articulate anything that could be called a theory at all.) Says Justice Scalia:

And this week Scalia told an audience at Iona College in New York that Florida’s handling of the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore was a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. “Counting somebody else’s dimpled chad and not counting my dimpled chad is not giving equal protection of the law,” he said. Scalia let the crowd know that the case is one only for the history books: “It’s water over the deck—get over it,” he said. Given that Bush v. Gore explicitly claims to hold no precedential value in future cases, perhaps he’s right; still, such voting cases will doubtless come before the court again in the future.

Ah, so that’s the argument. It has some interesting implications:

  • The vote count that elected Bush, Scalia now concedes, was egregiously unconstitutional if the court’s decision is taken seriously. After all, under the count the Supreme Court upheld, there were no uniform statewide standards (indeed, the Court specifically told the Florida courts not to use one), and a dimpled chad might be counted in one county but not another. Even worse, one voter’s vote might arbitrarily not count because of different voting technology. Bush, according to Scalia, is an illegitimate president.
  • Because of this, Scalia is admitting that the remedy provided by the court was wholly inconsistent with the rule of law. According to Scalia’s theory, the remedy upheld a vote count that was just as unconstitutional as the count the Court rejected; evidently, this cannot be a proper remedy.
  • He is also conceding that the attempt to limit the decision to “present circumstances”–in addition to contradicting everything Scalia has ever written about good jurisprudence–is ridiculous. If having arbitrary differences in vote-counting procedures within states violates the equal protection of the laws, then such violations are banal. All elections conducted without rigorous, uniform statewide standards are unconstitutional; there’s nothing remotely unique about Florida 2000 if this is the Court’s theory.

It’s nice that Scalia has admitted all this. Whether we should “get over this” is left to the reader.

Perhaps Too Long?

[ 0 ] February 2, 2007 |

I’m afraid that an otherwise good blogger who shall not be named approvingly cited this “classic” passage from Camille Paglia, the Mickey Kaus of “public intellectuals,” explaining why she “was probably the only leading [sic] feminist [sic] to have believed Paula Jones right from the start”:

One reason I believed the Paula Jones story right from the start was because of the allegation that he demanded oral sex from her. Based on my long study of pornographic pictures and videos, I can easily see why Paula Jones would instantly produce a fantasy of oral sex. People kept saying, very ignorantly, “Oh, she’s not very attractive — what would he have seen in her?” Well, I can see very clearly she has this big wide mouth, and a lot of teeth, and there’s a sort of slackness about her jaw — which is what women porn stars develop when they learn how to relax their jaw muscles to perform great oral sex. I think that Paula Jones was at every stage a walking, talking advertisement for oral sex! So I was stunned when I first saw the pictures of Monica Lewinsky on every TV program — the big wide smile, the nicely relaxed lips with all those teeth — and I thought, Oh my God, here we go again!

Isn’t this all cribbed from a colloquy between Paulie Walnuts and Big Pussy with the (verbal, not intellectual) obscenities removed? (Except that, while they’re misogynist enough to imagine a mythical “slack jaw,” they probably wouldn’t think that more “teeth” are optimal for a blowjob.) And since when did women with wider mouths get more teeth anyway? It’s like Tom Friedman–the sheer density of the stupidity is remarkable. She can’t get anything right, on any level, even by accident. And then there’s this:

I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble in my career talking about Hillary Clinton’s frigidity as a personality and how our generation of career women (she and I are the exact same age) have had trouble reconciling our ambitious side with our sexual side. I think that she’s a kind of refrigerator at home…

Oh shut up.

Wow, Salon has come a long way. (Well, except for the much more intermittent interviews with this clown.)

…Approriately enough, a commenter points us to this Molly Ivins takedown. Now that’s classic.

The Hidden Randism of Alfonso Cuarón?

[ 0 ] February 1, 2007 |

Atrios joins the somewhat puzzling backlash against one of the year’s best films. I would disagree on two counts:

  • Apart from the very superficial analogy with the hidden utopia, I just don’t see the comparison with Atlas Shrugged at all. That framework isn’t terribly original; what makes Rand’s novel unique is that it uses the older-than-dirt Shangri-La framework as a premise to allow its half-dimensional characters to read lengthy position papers for and against the position that the world can be divided into great men and parasites. I don’t think that Children of Men has anything in common with this, not only ideologically but artistically. Moreover, in COM there’s complete ambiguity about whether the outside force is a force for good at all–something that certainly doesn’t exist in AS.
  • More importantly, I think there’s the perennial problem of the difference between good politics and good art. Certainly, I yield to nobody in my contempt for complacent pox-on-all-their-houses politics. But leaving aside that I don’t think this is quite what Cuaron is up to, would the movie be better if the lefty terrorists were an unequivocal force for good? I think the overwhelming likelihood is that it would be much worse. (I mean, I suppose the fact that Rushide seemed to consider “Gush and Bore” the height of wit and wisdom might be a clue as to why Fury is so unreadable, but his Naderism would be irrelevant if he was still writing with the skill and imagination of Midnight’s Children.) I have no idea if Cuaron can make any useful contributions to political discourse, but he’s a great filmmaker.

Glad He’s Admitted It

[ 0 ] February 1, 2007 |

This Jonah Goldberg joint is so incoherent it’s hard to know where to begin with it. Well, I think here:

Clark’s comments, predictably, earned him denunciations from Jewish groups. After all, the notion that rich, secretive Jews living in places such as New York are pulling strings to visit war and misery on the masses is a time-honored anti-Semitic cliche heard from Charles Lindbergh, Ignatius Donnelly and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

So comparing someone with Lindbergh is plainly accusing them of anti-semitism. Glad he’s finally conceded this obvious point. And then there’s this:

The first is a rich and fascinating claim. Truth is a defense against slander, but is it a defense against bigotry? Liberals rarely agree when it comes to defending honored members of the coalition of the oppressed. Just ask former Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who questioned whether innate ability explained why fewer women succeed in math and science and who was defenestrated from Harvard as a sexist for his troubles.

Um, well, if truth is a defense then Goldberg is estopped from questioning me for calling Summers a “sexist” because he believes women are genetically inferior–if that’s not sexism, what is? In addition, people who objected to Summers’ remarks most certainly did not do so because they thought they were true. Amazing as it may be for someone who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps like Jonah, but some of us still don’t think that the exclusion of women from science faculties reflects their inability to do the job, any more than the exclusion of women from law firms 50 years ago did (or the must lesser representation of women on the nation’s prominent op-ed pages suggests that women are genetically incapable of matching your remarkable logical skills and command of the evidence.)