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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.)

The Burgeoning Problem of Eating Disorders

[ 0 ] February 1, 2007 |

Eating disorders are becoming more prevalent among men as well as women:

Contrary to the long-held belief that anorexia and bulimia are female afflictions, the first national survey on eating disorders has found that one-quarter of adults with the conditions are men.

The study estimated that about 850,000 men had suffered from the disorders and, despite two decades of intense attention to the conditions, had gone largely undetected.

“This is a very important finding,” said Ruth Streigel-Moore, an eating disorders expert at Wesleyan University who was not connected with the study. “It suggests a need to move away from gender-based explanations.”

The researchers said the findings, which appear today in the journal Biological Psychiatry, indicated men are vulnerable to the same social pressures that lead some women to uncontrollably binge and purge on food and others to starve themselves.

“Body image has become more important among men,” said co-author Dr. Harrison G. Pope Jr., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “There’s a large, silent population of men who might be quite ill.”

Overall, the survey found that 4.5% of adults, or 9.3 million people, have struggled with an eating disorder sometime in their lives. Anorexia accounted for 1.3 million of the cases, and bulimia 2.1 million. Binge eating, a disorder of frequent, uncontrollable periods of gorging, accounted for the largest number of cases, 5.9 million.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University Medical School, was based on information obtained from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a mental health survey of nearly 9,000 adults across the U.S.

I’m sure putting BMI on report cards will solve that!

Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?

[ 0 ] January 31, 2007 |

Ugh.

What’s frustrating is not only that this shallow, misogynist claptrap is filling up op-ed space at the Times, but that Dowd is often portrayed as a liberal and sometimes even as a feminist.

…or, to put it another way, the Times is the organization that fired Molly Ivins but continues to sign Dowd’s paychecks.

In All Fairness

[ 0 ] January 31, 2007 |

Norbiz on the hapless Joe Biden: “Is it a mitigating factor if he plagiarized that condescending compliment from a Mississippi housewife describing Nat King Cole in 1964?”

The Exception Trap

[ 2 ] January 31, 2007 |

The South Dakota legislature is planning to reintroduce an abortion ban that (unlike the law overturned by initiative last year) includes exemptions for rape and incest. Jessica Valenti notes that “this is going to mean a change of fighting words on our part. After all, a lot of what pro-choicers talked about when trying to defeat the last ban was the lack of exceptions.”

Although I can understand that sometimes you have to take advantage of what opportunities you have in the short-term, I’ve always thought that from a pro-choice perspective focusing on the lack of a rape or incest exemption is a disastrous long-term strategy. First of all, in practice rape/incest exemptions are unlikely to afford much protection to women, so women don’t really gain anything. Given the compressed time frame, states determined to prevent abortions can make the procedural hurdles to proving that a pregnancy was the result of non-consensual sex so difficult and humiliating that most women who could clear them could probably obtain abortions under any legal regime anyway. And second, to imply that forcing women to carry pregnancies to term is uniquely bad in cases of rape or incest is to essentially accept the reactionary sexual mores that underly the criminalization of abortion in the first place. Implicit in such exceptions is the assumption that if a women gets pregnant through voluntary sexual relations she can be punished by being forced to carry her pregnancy by the coercive authority of the state; rape victims get a pass because they didn’t “choose” to become pregnant. To pro-choicers, this should be viewed as nonsensical. A woman’s reproductive freedom should not depend on whether or not she is a victim of rape or incest. As the South Dakota case demonstrates, pushing pro-life positions toward their logical conclusion is the much better strategy.

[Also at TAPPED.]

RedState.org’s Guide To Defending Apartheid

[ 0 ] January 31, 2007 |

Via Thers, I see that Paul J. Cella and Maximos–RedStaters who articulate Strom Thurmond’s political views in prose that suggests that they think Josh Trevino could use a little more pomposity–have put forward a “reactionary catechism.” Apparently, one central feature is that Jim Crow was a just social order:

¶ A healthy polity will have a majority population and culture; contemporary orthodoxy on diversity tends towards anarchy and strife.

¶ The right of a community to maintain its identity, autonomy, and independence is among the first principles of a free polity.

[...]

¶ Tradition and custom need not constantly explain or justify themselves as practice or policy. The presumption is in their favor. To drag them before the bar of a rigid rationalism is profound impiety.

¶ Men, and societies of men, are ultimately more apt to maintain loyalties among those who are like them. This is natural and not to be either deplored or extirpated, but rather disciplined by civic virtue.

[...]

¶ Indiscriminate blending of cultures is thus undesirable, and more often than not an at least implicit act of aggression against the existing majority culture.

[...]

¶ Voting is not a right but a privilege. Its abuse is rampant, and to contain it is a valid object of public policy. More damaging to a republic than corrupt politicians are corrupt voters.

[...]

¶ The American traditions of federalism, states’ rights, and localism deserve the deepest respect and cultivation: for in them is the truest protection of liberty.

Loverly. It’s not just that these principles would logically require defending apartheid against the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Constitution–although they certainly would–but that these were the arguments that were used. I guess the precise reference isn’t Strom Thurmond, but Bill Buckley circa 1957

I look forward to RedState’s endorsement of Joe Biden.

Mythical Spit

[ 0 ] January 31, 2007 |

Jack Shafer has a terrific piece debunking the myth (recently seen in Newsweek) that Vietnam vets were routinely spit on:

In researching the book, Lembcke found no news accounts or even claims from the late 1960s or early 1970s of vets getting spat at. He did, however, uncovered ample news stories about anti-war protesters receiving the saliva shower from anti-anti-war types.

Then, starting around 1980, members of the Vietnam War generation began sharing the tales, which Lembcke calls “urban myths.” As with most urban myths, the details of the spat-upon vets vary slightly from telling to telling, while the basic story remains the same. The protester almost always ambushes the soldier in an airport (not uncommonly the San Francisco airport), after he’s just flown back to the states from Asia. The soiled soldier either slinks away or does nothing.

"My Third-grader Gets it Right. Why Can’t You, You Prick?"

[ 0 ] January 30, 2007 |

Via a commenter chez Yglesias, a classic from August J. Pollack.

Why Inequality Matters

[ 0 ] January 30, 2007 |

Sam beat me to it, but I’d also like to recommend this piece by Brad Plumer:

The statistics on inequality are well known and–setting aside Reynolds’s dissent–present a clear picture. Between 1979 and 2004, the richest 1 percent of Americans saw their after-tax incomes triple, while those of the middle fifth grew by only 21 percent and those of the poorest fifth barely budged, according to Congressional Budget Office data. By the late ’90s, the richest 1 percent of American households held one-third of all wealth in the U.S. economy, and took in 14 percent of the national income–a greater share than at just about any point since the Great Depression.

In politics, this all matters a great deal. Larry Bartels of Princeton has recently studied the voting record of the Senate between 1989 and 1994–a time, note, when Democrats controlled Congress. He found that senators were very responsive to the preferences of the upper third of the income spectrum, somewhat less attentive to the middle third, and completely dismissive of the policy preferences of the poorest third. In one striking example, Bartels discovered that senators were likely to vote for a minimum wage increase only when their wealthier constituents favored it–the views of those directly affected by the hike had “no discernible impact.”

Nor is this pattern limited to domestic policy. Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota and Benjamin Page of Northwestern have found that the foreign policy views of the executive and legislative branches are primarily influenced by business leaders, policy experts–whose think tanks are often funded by businesses–and, to a lesser extent, organized labor. Jacobs and Page found that the views of the broader public have essentially zero impact on the government when it comes to tariffs, treaties, diplomacy, or military action.

And another problem is that the system becomes largely self-perpetuating. The most important means of redressing the problem (given current First Amendment law) is robust public financing of campaigns–but the pre-existing structural inequalities essentially make this virtually impossible.

The Stupidity, It Runs Down Gullets Like Rain After A Dry Spell

[ 1 ] January 30, 2007 |

When I hear that someone has combined perhaps the two most annoying contemporary American ideologies–gun nuttery and communitarianism –for some reason I’m reminded of Billy Martin telling a fellow manager that if he ever saw Martin put Shooty Babbit (who was apparently to playing second base as Reynolds is to political analysis) in the A’s lineup “I want you to shooty me.”

Also, how can someone call himself both a “communitarian” and “libertarian”? That’s almost as incoherent and silly as calling yourself a “libertarian Jacksonian Whig.” Oh wait…

…thinking of “libertarian communitarianism” reminds me of John Holbo’s classic discussion of David Frum. I guess you can reconcile the two via “dark satanic Millian liberalism”–i.e. that capitalism is good only insofar as it reliably produces cowering conformists.

How Somebody So Well-Regarded Was Oh So Wrong

[ 0 ] January 30, 2007 |

Sawicky rounds up some analysis of Milton Friedman.