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But At Least We Didn’t Do What Clinton Did!

[ 0 ] March 1, 2007 |

I assume that Rob may have more to say about this, but in the meantime allow me to point out that the Bush administration’s foreign policy can be summed up in two words: “in” and “ept.”

…Update by Rob; I have very little to add, other than this.

An Applied Experiment

[ 0 ] March 1, 2007 |

Inspired by Atrios’ comments below, let’s take Instapundit’s invitation and compare the George Carlin civility indexes of Glenn Reynolds and Josh Marshall. Don’t give me guff about “who cares?” or “what does this mean?” or “isn’t comparing criticism of the Bush administration you disagree with to the Turner Diaries much less civil than using the word “piss”?” We have been informed that this is a highly meaningful comparison that will Embarrass The Left! Onward:

#1: Reynolds, 6 pages of hits. Heavens to Betsy, get me the smelling salts and the fainting couch! JMM, only 5.

#2: Reynolds: 5 pages of hits! Shocking! Marshall gets 2 pages, not all of them his.

#3: Reynolds: 4 pages of hits! Calling miss manners! Masrhall himself seems to have one usage, some more at the Horses’ Mouth and/or its comments.

#4: Reynolds is clean. Give him a Fauntleroy Ribbon of Civileritude. With the spam eliminated, JMM is also clean.

#5 The word has appeared twice in Instapundit’s hallowed pages, the horror! What will we tell the children!?!?! JMM is clean.

#6: Reynolds has allowed this word to appear twice! Oh my! JMM is clean.

#7: Appears chez Reynolds only once. His participation in the smear campaign against Jessica Valenti doesn’t count because he avoided this word. Marhsall gets some hits but none referring to the female breasticle, so he’s clean.

Anyway, the evidence is clear: Josh Marhsall is a Serious Thinker Interested In Ideas, while Glenn Reynolds is an uncivil potty mouth who can be safely ignored, QED.

…Ted Barlow, in the thread below: “There isn’t much left of the dried up corpse of “South Park Republicanism”, is there? Just the feeling of entitlement to mock minorities, then sneer and say “Jeez, just kidding.”" Heh. Indeed!

Perverse Values

[ 6 ] February 28, 2007 |

Shorter Glenn Reynolds: Coming up with kooky schemes for illegal death squads and casually accusing political opponents of hating America for disagreeing with your idiotic foreign policy preferences represents a Serious Interest In Ideas as long as you don’t swear.

And for bonus serious ideas, John Quiggin documents how Reynolds has Very Seriously repeatedly touted George W. Bush’s masterful outfoxing of Moqtada al-Sadr. Thank heavens he didn’t curse and deprive us of these profound insights!

…And I forgot to mention–InstaPunk says that we should also take the comments sections of the blogs into account. Given that most top 20 liberal blogs have comments and a majority of Top 20 reactionary blogs don’t, that’s a nice hedge!

Open Heart

[ 0 ] February 28, 2007 |

Make sure to send your best wishes to Steve Gilliard.

Not That I Intend To Find Out, But…

[ 0 ] February 28, 2007 |

When I saw the jaw-dropping preview for Black Snake Moan, it seemed to either be 1)some sort of mutli-layered critique of patriarchal gender relations, or vastly more likely 2)a movie so bizarre and creepily misogynist it would seem to be a screenwriting collaboration between Joe Francis and Ace of Spades. Apparently, it’s what’s behind door #2… Ew.

Full Canadian Takeover

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

Apparently CanWest has bought 100% of The New Republic. Which makes this rather puzzling:

Marty Peretz, who no longer owns part of the magazine, for the first time since 1974, will remain as Editor in Chief.

Um, why? Was that part of the deal? Can the suits think that Peretz makes the property more valuable on its merits? I’m also puzzled by the logic here. If one agrees with Peretz about Al Gore, they’re not allowed to disagree with sentiments like these? I wish TNR had a different editor-in-chief not out of some inherent animus but out of a desire to see a magazine that has a lot of good stuff in it to get better.

Iraq and Democracy

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

Patrick is right–there’s something seriously sick in our political discourse when Ann Althouse can get a month on the most prestigious op-ed page in the country, with Tom Freidman and Maureen Dowd on full-time, while Hilzoy writes for a medium-readership blog (along with Publius, who should have Stuart Taylor’s job) :

And another was this: liberation is not just a matter of removing an oppressive government. It can seem that way when you live under tyranny. Nothing is more comprehensible than people living in apartheid South Africa, or under Saddam, thinking: if only that government were removed from power, things would be better. They would have to be. After all, how could they possibly be worse?

Unfortunately, there are almost always ways in which things could be worse.

Thomas Hobbes, who actually lived through a civil war, believed that to escape from “the war of all against all”, it was necessary to grant a monarch unlimited sovereignty, and that living under such a monarch was preferable to living in a state of war and anarchy. I am not a Hobbesian, in part because I do not believe that those are our only two choices. But I’ve never been sure that if we had to face that choice, his answer wasn’t the right one.

This is quite right. One of my biggest puzzlements with the “liberal hawk” pro-Iraq-War arguments were the blithe assumptions that razing Saddam would mean a democracy (or, at least, a substantially more liberal state.) Liberal democracy isn’t the default condition of society that appears as night follows day when a dictatorship is toppled; it’s a very complex web of institutional arrangements that can’t just be created ex nihilo. Given the particular conditions in Iraq and who was prosecuting the war, civil war and anarchy were always much more likely outcomes.

Hockey Deadline Blogging!

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

Huh–the Oilers tear down a year after getting to Game 7 of the Finals. Although I just finished criticizing Lowe as overrated, I actually think it’s a decent deal for the Oil. They’re obviously dead this year, and I think they made the right judgment in not signing Smyth to a long-term deal at ~$5.5 M/year. He’s a very-good-not-great player, 31, and a high-punishment power forward who’s likely to age badly–a bad contract waiting to happen. It’s not necessarily bad for the Isles either–they may be looking at Buffalo’s injuries and think, what the hell, might as well try to go on a big playoff run. It’s highly regrettable that the Sharks–who scare me–got Guerin, but at least they didn’t add a big defenseman. And I see the Panthers dealt Bertuzzi for a conditional draft pick and a center who can’t get a point a game in the OHL, meaning they got a dubious prospect, a backup goaltender and some picks for Roberto Luongo. Christ, they’re morons down there.

But thank God a season was canceled so that teams never have to trade their stars for financial reasons! The fact that a small-market Alberta team played a dubious Sun Belt market in the finals is even more proof–that never could have happened under the old system!

Ken Houghton has the Bertuzzi video, for those with strong stomachs who don’t know the background. And the thing is, trading an elite goaltender for Bertuzzi was an extraordinarily bad trade leaving the morality out of it.

Columnist About Nothing

[ 0 ] February 27, 2007 |

You know what’s worse than giving op-ed space to people who write empty-headed fluff about things vaguely related to politics? Giving op-ed space to people who explain how they write empty-headed fluff about things vaguely related to politics in other media:

Because I had the longtime habit, inherited from my grandfather, of reading out loud whatever little things in the newspaper happened to catch my attention, I said: “Hmm. ‘Little known fact: at 59, Wesley Clark has only 5% body fat.’ “

My son Christopher, who was used to finding himself on the receiving end of this habit, came back with: “Should it be: ‘Wesley Clark is 5% body fat?’ “

That cracked me up, and, instantly making the transition from old family habit to new blogging habit, I posted our little interchange on my blog.

And her posts about how fictitious requests attributed to Nancy Pelosi prove that Pelosi’s a chardonnay-sipping elitist who hates the troops are totally nonpartisan don’t you know, and then somebody made an atypically dumb comment vaguely discussing some centralized blog committee and…Good God, who gives a shit? What could this possibly be doing in a serious newspaper? It makes Bobo’s rants about apocryphal parents who make their kids listen to TV on the Radio look like Gunnar Myrdal.

As an antidote, yesterday the Times published this:

Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country.

How did that happen? First, he got the Republican nomination by locking up the big money early.

Then, he got within chad-and-butterfly range of the White House because the public, enthusiastically encouraged by many in the news media, treated the presidential election like a high school popularity contest. The successful candidate received kid-gloves treatment — and a free pass on the fuzzy math of his policy proposals — because he seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, while the unsuccessful candidate was subjected to sniggering mockery over his clothing and his mannerisms.

Today, with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead thanks to presidential folly, with Al Qaeda resurgent and Afghanistan on the brink, you’d think we would have learned a lesson. But the early signs aren’t encouraging.

Yeah, and one person who seems to have learned nothing is Gail Collins Andrew Rosenthal. Frankly, it’s amazing that Krugman keeps his job.

…my bet on the Times’ next columnist: Tom Maguire. (Edroso: “I understand nearly 40 million people in the U.S. watched the Oscars last night. And from what I see on the blogs, 20 million of them were right-wing dorks looking for something to bitch about.” Indeed.)

…Corrected the name of the responsible party at the Times–thanks to TS.

Great Moments In Bullet-Dodging

[ 1 ] February 26, 2007 |

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And that little boy nobody liked grew up to be…the nation’s chief Inquistor and Underwear Drawer Inspector!

I’m reading Jan Crawford Greenburg’s new book about the Supreme Court, which is pretty good. One thing it emphasizes is how narrow the margin for Roe (as well as other liberal decisions preserved by 5-4 majorities in the late Rehnquist Court) was. Had Reagan appointed Bork first and then Scalia, for example, he may well have gotten both. (Greenburg’s account of the Bork hearings, though, is pretty problematic for reasons I may discuss later.)

Then there’s Souter. Some of you may know that the main alternate choice to Souter was Ken Starr, which would have obviously had a major impact on Roe and any number of other cases. What I didn’t know was why Starr was rejected, leading to Rudman and Sunnunu being able to push Souter. Apparently, it was a dispute within DOJ about a trivial nondelegation case:

The issue dividing [Bill Barr, Michael Luttig, and Starr] was a law that permitted private citizens to sue for fraud against the federal government [and receive a bounty]…Barr and Luttig thought the law infringed on presidential authority, the final straw in a series of court decisions eroding executive authority…But new soliticor general Starr concluded any challenge to the law would be quixotic at best. Barr and Luttog were furious that Starr wouldn’t take their side. They came to think he rejected their position in part to avoid antagonizing Charles Grassley, a populist Republican from Iowa who had sponsored the 1986 amendments to the law and who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Consciously or not, Starr, they thought, had put his own interests above the president’s, possibly because he was envisioning appearing before that very committee as a Supreme Court nominee.

The showdown over presidential power set a pattern which continued after Barr became deputy attorney general the next year and Luttig moved into Barr’s old job. From that point forward, Starr was the odd man out.

[AG Dick] Thornburgh slammed the door shut that Saturday morning, insisting to Bush and other advisers that Starr was unsuitable for the Supreme Court. He suggested he felt so strongly about it that he was willing to resign.


That ended the discussion–and the Supreme Court prospects–of Kenneth Starr. (pp.92-3.)

So David Souter was appointed to the Supreme Court instead of Ken Starr…because some people in Justice thought Ken Starr wasn’t wingnutty enough. Always nice when their incompetence can work in our favor.

BoBo Imagines Park Slope

[ 1 ] February 26, 2007 |

Ben beat me to this, but indeed Sunday’s Bobo was remarkably devoid of evidence and irrelevant even by the standards of his sociological thumbsuckers. Not only am I, shall we say, unpersuaded that even in Park Slope there are large numbers of parents force-feeding “Brian Eno, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens into their little babies’ iPods,” I can’t imagine who could give a rat’s ass even if it was happening. Maybe Althouse’s tenure on the op-ed page is actually making the NYT‘s bad columnists even more vapid and unserious through some magnetic force–in that case, MoDo’s next conversation with Al Gore’s bald spot will actually be printed in crayon.

Thank God For the Rain to Wash the Trash Off the Sidewalk

[ 0 ] February 26, 2007 |

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When it came out, I assumed that The Departed was too good and too alive to be competitive for Best Picture; I’m happy to be wrong, and it’s good that the greatest living American director got his award. I still can’t quite believe that this happened with the AMPSA, but it’s gratifying that he won for his best film in nearly two decades rather than for something like The Aviator. It’s partly a testament to Scorsese and partly a testament to the kind of middlebrow doorstops (and, sometimes, utter crap) that the Academy generally likes that while it obviously doesn’t rank with his very greatest work I think it’s by far the best film to be so honored in the last decade (well, OK, that’s also partly a testament to the fact that I don’t get Tolkien.) Indeed, although this is idiosyncratic almost to the point of perversity, the last Best Picture I unequivocally prefer is Annie Hall, granting that 1)Schindler’s List is (at least before its last 20 minutes or so, and John Williams in that context ugh) a tough case, underrated by some cineastes, 2)The Silence of the Lambs is a good thriller, and 3)I know my belief that Unforgiven is merely very good will get catcalls.

My other question: I know there were a lot of other strong candidates–the Children of Men in particular was visually magnificent–how on earth did Scorsese’s great cinematographer Michael Ballhaus not even secure a nomination?