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Justified Hatchet Jobs of the Day

[ 0 ] September 23, 2007 |

Usually, when a self-evident piece of shit comes down the pike the Times will assign one of their bench critics to the task of panning it. But every once in while they’ll let Scott or Dargis loose on one, and the results can almost justify the release of the film. Cf. Scott on Dane Cook and Good Luck Chuck:

I’ve occasionally heard Dane Cook, one of the stars of “Good Luck Chuck,” described as a comedian. I find this confusing, since my understanding is that comedians are people who say and do things that are funny. Perhaps Mr. Cook is some new kind of conceptual satirist whose shtick is to behave in the manner of a person attempting to be funny without actually being, you know, funny. Or maybe he answered an ad in the back of a magazine and sent away for a mail-order license to practice comedy.

Indeed. It continues:

Whether Jessica Alba, his co-star, acquired her acting credentials by similar means is an issue that will be addressed if she ever tries to act. To be fair (but why?) she does expend a little effort in “Good Luck Chuck,” pretending to be goofy and clumsy, doing stuff like running into a metal pole, catching her skirt in a car door and upending a tray of dentist’s instruments.

But the main audience for this dim little sex comedy has no particular interest in seeing Ms. Alba act. They want to see her in her underwear and also to confront one of the central cultural questions of our time: will she take her top off?

No spoilers here! In the meantime plenty of less famous women do take their tops off, which will make “Good Luck Chuck” a must-see for young men with a subscription to Maxim but no access to the Internet.

Alas, between that Robin Williams priest thing and the Elisha Cuthbert torture porn thing this seems unlikely to be the very worst movie of the year, but a valiant effort!

Wendy Shalit Feminism

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

Like Cara, I think I’ll pass. Any allegedly feminist project that divides women into the category of “good” and “bad” based on how often they have sex, or uses the word “slut” pejoratively, really needs to go back to the drawing board.

Other Reproductive Freedom News

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |
  • New York is rejecting federal money for “abstinence-only” sex “education.” Good. (Meanwhile — perhaps in a bid to attract the bullshit-libertarian vote he’s alienated with his opposition to deposing regimes that pose no substantial threat to the United States and then engaging in quarter-assed reconstruction schemes — I see that alleged libertarian Ron Paul has come out for federal money telling teenagers not to have sex. Well, I guess the libertarian upside is that they don’t work.)
  • Ann Friedman has an excellent account of the situation surrounding the Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora. I especially like this about the structural disadvantage faced by clinics, like PP, that actually provide medical care to women: “The Aurora clinic represents the best of both worlds: The shiny façade of professionalism that you get with a crisis-pregnancy center with real medical care for women on the inside. Planned Parenthood’s decision to complete the permit paperwork using the name of a subsidiary is a major reason this was possible. But even the most well-funded reproductive-health provider in the country, using this stealth tactic, ended up wrangling with anti-choicers in court.”

When You Can’t Win A Fair Fight…

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

In case there was still any question about whether the anti-contraception position of Catholic hospitals who don’t want to provide emergency contraception to rape victims (but certainly don’t feel so strongly about the principle that they, say, want to stop performing secular functions with taxpayer money) was highly unpopular, the fact that they have to lie about EC being an abortifacient should settle the question.

The King of Cocktails

[ 0 ] September 22, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A good analysis of the Manhattan [HT: DJA], which among other advantages over the martini has never evolved into “whiskey up” and, even more importantly, has never been re-defined to accommodate vodka. I also like the variant called the “Brooklyn” they serve at Chestnut in Carroll Gardens:

2 parts Sazerac rye
1 part Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Amaro Nonino bitters 

What Yglesias Said

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

This has been another edition etc.:

The whole fracas of Petraeus, Crocker, MoveOn, etc. has had, to a good first approximation, no impact whatsoever on anything of any significance. Bush continues to be stubborn. Republicans continue to back Bush. The war continues to go poorly and continues to be unpopular. There was nothing else that ever could have happened. A bunch of editors and politicians talked themselves into believing that this September showdown was crucially significant, but they were all wrong and their theory never made any sense.

The only showdown that mattered happened months ago. Democrats passed a war appropriation that funded the phased withdrawal of troops. Bush vetoed that appropriation and said he would only sign an appropriation that funded open-ended war. Bush sought to portray a congressional refusal to appropriate money for an open-ended military involvement in Iraq as some kind of plot to leave the troops starving and without bullets in Iraq. The press largely bought into this frame, which was re-enforced by the fact that many leading Democrats immediately decided to buy into as well. The party then decided not to try to fight to reframe the issue but, instead, to accept it. Given that framing of the question, the only thing to do was surrender and give Bush his money. And given that precedent, the only thing to do is to keep on surrendering any time Bush rhetorically holds the troops’ well-being hostage to his preference for perpetual war.

That was a blunder — a decision that condemned hundreds of Americans to die in Iraq — and one that appears to have resulted from a total failure of the leadership to do any advance planning about their legislative tactics. All of September 2007 has been a meaningless sideshow.

All entirely correct. Whether MoveOn didn’t take out the ad or had chosen to sumperimpose a picture of Benedict Arnold on Petraeus makes absolutely no difference to anything. The war would have gone on anyway. The war would remain unpopular. GOP Senators would find some other way to run out the clock at the hearings that most people don’t watch because they’re at work and also find some other way of claiming that opposition to their disastrous war means hating the troops. It’s all a completely empty kabuki. (And to echo djw, I can’t believe Reid let a vote on this get to the floor.)

A MoDo Glossary

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

Bad writing and thinking, defined.

Freakonomics and the Klan

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

Yeah, I’d have to say that, when doing an empirical analysis of the KKK, “Perhaps the most limiting feature of our data is that we were unable to obtain any records on Klan members or activities in the Deep South” is one hell of a caveat…

Dept. of Corrections

[ 0 ] September 21, 2007 |

Lindsay has the news about NYC subway stations being wired for cell phone use. However, there is one minor error:

If everything goes according to plan, all 277 underground stations will get cell phone service within 6 years. Unfortunately, the tunnels won’t be wired.

Must be a typo. Here’s the corrected version:

Fortunately, the tunnels won’t be wired, so that people –some of whom are probably the same people who triple egress time from the subway because they can’t wait to get to the top/bottom of the stairs to check their goddamned messages — won’t make subway rides completely unbearable by producing a cacophony of voices on their goddamned cell phones.

Whew, dodged a bullet on that one.

…Kvetch offers a preview of when (God forbid) the tunnels are wired:

“Hello? HELLO? Hey, it’s me. What’s going on? I said WHAT’S GOING ON? WHAT? Nothing, I’m on the subway. What? No, THE SUBWAY! Hold on, you’re dropping out. WHAT? I said YOU’RE DROPPING OUT!! Six train, downtown. No, DOWNTOWN! Yeah. So, anyway, what’s going on? What? I said… WHAT? I SAID WHAT’S GOING ON?!? Yeah, nothing with me either. What? I SAID…”

I can’t wait.

When that happens, please shoot me.

Court Gossip

[ 0 ] September 20, 2007 |

From a (generally unfavorable) David Garrow review of Jeffrey Toobin’s new Brethrenesque book about the Supreme Court:

Toobin devotes two chapters to Bush vs. Gore, the case that decided the 2000 presidential election. He asserts, based on unidentified sources, that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was overly eager for the court to resolve the dispute even before it came to them. He also stresses that Justice Stephen G. Breyer felt that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to order a statewide recount “didn’t pass the smell test.” He relies heavily on not-for-attribution comments from law clerks who worked for the court that year, and he states that the clerks “set the tone in the building” each year, not the justices.

Obviously, one has to take off-the-record assertions from clerks with several grains of salt. But this rings true to me, partly because it seems consistent with the resolution of the cases. There are other sources confirming that Kennedy’s vote was never in play, and his claim in his abjectly embarrassing opinion in Bush v. Gore that the Court has exercising its “unsought responsibility” can be most charitably described as black comedy. Meanwhile, if the story about Breyer is true this would help to explain why Breyer didn’t — as I would have — pull his dissent when it became clear that Kennedy was playing him for a sucker. Apparently, he actually thought (unlike the majority) that there was an equal protection problem with the recount and was willing to apply it seriously. But it still makes no sense for Breyer to make this argument after he signed an opinion specifically instructing the Florida courts not to apply a statewide standard; like the majority, the impossibility created by his collective positions is basically inconsistent with the rule of law.

Meanwhile, like Michael O’Donnell, I have to admit that however dubious Toobin’s analysis is I’m happy to have some good clerk gossip, and he passes along more of the book’s dish: for example, “After Rehnquist died, Dick Cheney pressed for hunting buddy Antonin Scalia to be named chief justice.” Apparently, the book also repeats something I’ve discussed before — Ginsburg circulated an appropriately tough dissent in Bush v. Gore but immediately withdrew the passages that offended Scalia after he complained. (Coming from Scalia, these complaints about tough rhetoric exposing the illogic of a majority opinion are especially ridiculous, and I still can’t believe that Ginsburg would give in to the bullying.) He also claims that Souter wept and almost resigned after Bush v. Gore, although as Garrow points out this has been rebutted by Warren Rudman and Souter is known for his relatively leak-free chambers.

Today in Good Lines

[ 0 ] September 20, 2007 |

Garance reminds me of Belle Waring on Fred Thompson: “First of all, are women voters, taken as a whole, really so much like retarded kittens in our motivations? And secondly, doesn’t Fred Thompson pretty much look like a basset hound who’s just taken a really satisfying shit in your hall closet? Finally, even if we restrict our field of play to Republicans who have played prosecutors in the later seasons of Law and Order, I would much, much rather have sex with Angie Harmon, even though I’m not gay.” Indeed.

Of course, his objective attractiveness has nothing to do with why (predominantly heterosexual male) political reporters believe him the height of rugged handsomeness. Rather, it’s because he’s a Republican, and hence therefore represents an ideal type of masculinity to some journalists, just like America’s Mayor and Straight Talkin’ John McCain. (Alas, given his history when Matthews called Thompson an Aqua Velva man I’m pretty sure he meant it as a compliment.)

…I think this from Michelle Cottle’s profile, about conservative activists who seem to think they’re voting for his Law & Order character, is also relevant:

Happily for Thompson, his on-screen record of leadership is more successful–and vastly better known. Indeed, his four-year stint playing District Attorney Arthur Branch on “Law & Order” is arguably his number-one qualification for a presidential run. It’s not merely that Thompson’s character is a commanding yet avuncular figure; it’s that he’s an explicitly and appealingly conservative one, a type you don’t often find on network television. Within the context of the show, Branch is a down-to-earth, common-sense conservative surrounded by twitchy liberal Manhattan types whom he can lecture about their squeamishness on capital punishment and their ludicrously broad interpretations of the Constitution.

Authoritative but not authoritarian, paternal but not tyrannical, strong but not scary, Branch is, in many ways, the portrait of an ideal conservative. And, in the minds of countless Americans–including many inside the Beltway–Fred Thompson is Arthur Branch. As Bob Novak put it in a column a few months ago, “Sophisticated social conservative activists tell me they … are coming to see [Fred] Thompson as the only conservative who can be nominated. Their appreciation of him stems not from his eight years as a U.S. senator from Tennessee but from his role as district attorney of Manhattan on Law & Order.” One shudders to think how the unsophisticated activists decide whom to support.

I guess they didn’t learn their lesson with George Allen

The Pretentious, Highly Unreliable Music Criticism Gap

[ 0 ] September 20, 2007 |

Apparently Pitchfork is an almost entirely all-male preserve — indeed, there are more reviews by guys named “Mark” than by women. [Via Ann and Amanda , the latter of whom explains why women leave the otherwise promising field of Insufferable Music snobbery.]

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