Apparently there’s a book coming out today about a teenage wizard saving the world from Derek Jeter or something. People can discuss it here if they so choose.
Meanwhile, like LB I think it’s odd that Megan McArdle thinks that problems of internal logic are problems of bad economics, but otherwise I think she has a point; one reason that magic can be annoying is that it can be used to get the author out of traps in ways that are usually unsatisfying, like the L.A. Confidential problem where a carefully plotted noir just ends with a big shootout like in a Chuck Norris movie. There are exceptions to everything, but fantastical premises are generally interesting devices only when they follow their own internal rules. I can’t, of course, say whether LB and McArdle are correct in applying the accurate general premise to the Harry Potter books specifically.
Meanwhile, for those who want to be positive, um, why are you reading LGM? But, anyway, ogged has a counterpoint. I retain zero interest in reading them but, hey, de gustibus etc.
Franklin Foer stands behind his anonymous diarist:
Whenever anybody levels serious accusations against a piece published in our magazine, we take those charges seriously. Indeed, we’re in the process of investigating them. I’ve spoken extensively with the author of the piece and have communicated with other soldiers who witnessed the events described in the diarist. Thus far, these conversations have done nothing to undermine–and much to corroborate–the author’s descriptions. I will let you know more after we complete our investigation.
And, really, although I’m sure this story will continue to be flogged by people with an anti-EMM ESS EMM axe to grind, obviously it’s not as if I or anybody else who wasn’t there but is suspicious can identify any factual errors in the piece. So we’ll see if the stories can be corroborated.
The other thing to note is that nothing of any larger political consequence turns on the veracity of this soldier’s account. The war would remain an indefensible disaster if every American soldier was a saint, and conversely a just war is not undermined because some individual soldiers do bad things. There are potential questions about journalism raised if the story doesn’t check out, but as d. says evidently such questions are to not to be taken seriously when raised by people who would, say, proudly invite Judy Miller to be the keynote speaker at the launch of their new blog aggregator.
This is 100% right. Whatever label you want to apply to the policy of “making sure that the parties of an extremely bloody civil war are even better armed and trained, and maybe keeping enough troops to move insurgent attacks to City B from City A,” “humanitarian” is not a plausible alternative.
Huh. I’m assuming that the point shaving didn’t involve betting on teams with superstar players — the mob is probably smart enough not to pay for the arbitrariness it’s already getting for free…
Reading the article excerpts referenced by d. below, is it just me or isn’t the first story Goldfarb discusses — about some soldiers making fun of a woman horribly disfigured by an IED — highly reminiscent of a famous fabricated Stephen Glass anecdote? It’s only referenced obliquely in Shattered Glass, but Glass made up an incident where some young Republicans at a convention who picked up an overweight young woman at a bar, had her partially disrobe, and then cruelly humiliated her. It was a more clever fabrication that the stuff in “Hack Heaven,” because it’s at least imaginable that someone would do such a thing. The story in the new anonymous New Republic article is similar; not facially inconceivable (most people who aren’t conventionally attractive, especially women, will be no strangers to some kind of casual cruelty), and yet there’s something about the details that has a faint whiff of bullshit about it. It’s all just a little too After School Special-y. I’m not saying that it’s made up — and as d. points out it passes the Michael Yon credulity threshold — but I have to admit being pretty dubious about it.
…just FYI, an Iraq War veteran emailed me and said that (s)he felt that the first two stories were at least plausible (the first only if the woman is a contractor), but the third — the maniac Bradley driver — is implausible on its face. Again, I have no idea if the stories are made up or embellished.
J. beat me to it, but Marc Ambinder is obviously dead wrong to say that “John Edwards’s haircut was a valid story to cover.” The idea that only poor people, or more relevantly to a presidential campaign people who pretend to be poor, can advocate policies that help the poor is transparently illogical, and as J. says artificially skews politics to the right. (Was FDR more conservative than Reagan? According to the logic of Ambinder’s argument, this is a fair assumption.) This is all premised on the completely useless and always tautological concept of “authenticity;” as we can see from his post, these kind of personality critiques can always be spun so as to apply to Democrats but not Republicans even when they’re engaged in objectively similar behavior. Ambinder also ignores that this smear isn’t just about poverty hypocrisy but also about feminizing the Democratic candidate. But perhaps the most remarkable argument in Ambinder’s failed defense of political discourse as dimwitted junior-high-school gossip is this:
There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn’t like John Edwards.
Fairly or unfairly? Granting that Ambinder isn’t quite endorsing it, I’m amazed that anyone can see the question of whether or not reporters should use their reporting not to inform readers but to irresponsibly indulge their petty superficial prejudices about the individual candidates as a fairly debatable proposition. This open press corps contempt for Gore defined campaign 2000, and personally I think there are a lot of dead soldiers and Iraqis who think that what a president will actually do in office is more important that his or her suits and haircuts. Apparently, if the Democrats nominate Edwards we can look forward to another year of this kind of abominable conduct by the nation’s political reporters, and hey, it doesn’t matter to most of them if Antonin Scalia becomes the median vote on the Supreme Court.
In fights like this, there are no winners. Well, except for connoisseurs of inadvertent comedy….
Who could have predicted it? Taking away resources that could have been used to actually go terrorists that posed a potential threat to American civilians in order to destroy a state that posed no significant security threat to the United States and replace it with an anarchic terrorist haven turns out…to have been bad for American national security! A truly shocking development. But we’re “fighting back,” and that’s what matters! Insisting on a minimally rational relationship between security goals and a military action is the kind of thing you’d only favor if you’re willing to live with a president who had bad socks or earth tone suits or something.
The real problem with the news today is that people just don’t get any historical context. What about the legendary filibusters of civil rights legislation led by Hubert Humphrey and Paul Douglas? Kids today just won’t learn anything!
This is quite remarkably disgusting. I’m glad that his celebrity didn’t prevent him from being indicted for torturing animals for profit.
Hilzoy has more on Anne Applebaum’s crazy strawman-building tactics. Personally, perhaps because I’m more cynical, I didn’t check the empirical claim because I wouldn’t have been shocked had no Democratic politician had been fully candid; it wouldn’t be unusual for politicians not to point out the potential downsides when choosing among a bunch of bad policy options created by someone else’s catastrophic blunder. (People not running for office can, and should, be criticized for not being honest about the downsides.) And yet, at least 3 Democratic candidates including Barak Obama did to this, making Appelbaum’s silly point also factually false. It seems pretty clear that this was bullshit in the classic Frankurt sense; Applebaum seems to have been indifferent about her claims were true or not, but just needed some assertions to fit her evasive high-Broderite framework.