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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.)

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.