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Now George Bush, There’s a Suit You Can Set Your Watch To!

[ 0 ] January 18, 2007 |

OK, so the New York Times publishes a monumentally idiotic (and egregiously sexist) article about the fashion choices of female political leaders. No allegedly seriously blogger (with a tendency to invoke claims of sexism, if only as a spurious club to attack liberal opponents) would think the article poses worthwhile substantive questions, right? Right? I think you know where this is going. (Answer to title question: who the hell cares?)

My question: who’s a better example of why it’s bad to discuss politics like a particularly superficial 11-year old: Ann Althouse, Maureen Dowd, or Chris Matthews?

Webb of Prescience

[ 0 ] January 18, 2007 |

In TAPPED comments, Bob Somerby directs is to this 2002 op-ed from Virignia’s newly elected Senator:

Other than the flippant criticisms of our “failure” to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for “a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad.” Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq’s regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself.

The connotations of “a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad” show how inapt the comparison is. Our occupation forces never set foot inside Japan until the emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for our arrival. Nor did MacArthur destroy the Japanese government when he took over as proconsul after World War II. Instead, he was careful to work his changes through it, and took pains to preserve the integrity of Japan’s imperial family. Nor is Japanese culture in any way similar to Iraq’s. The Japanese are a homogeneous people who place a high premium on respect, and they fully cooperated with MacArthur’s forces after having been ordered to do so by the emperor. The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.

In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.

In fairness, if he didn’t say this to you personally it doesn’t really count, so the war’s critics were really all just reflexive pacifists…

Who Is With Jane Galt?

[ 0 ] January 18, 2007 |

I note here that Al Gore’s pre-war remarks hold up rather better than the predictions of the war’s cheerleaders, despite attempts to claim that everyone was equally wrong. Atrios does us the favor of collecting some of the contemporaneous reaction to Gore’s speech(including Neal Pollock’s dead-on Michael Kelly parody.) I particularly enjoy this from Andrew Sullivan, who after upbraiding Gore for not being terrified of the nuclear weapons Saddam was about to send to the U.S. on the wings of armor-plated unicorns said:

He says we have “squandered” the good will generated by the attacks of September 11. Really? A liberated Afghanistan, where women can now learn to read, where a fledgling free society is taking shape? No major successful terrorist attack on the homeland since the anthrax attacks of last fall? Growing support among Arab nations and at the U.N. for enforcing U.N. resolutions that Gore’s own administration let languish? Signs that Arafat may soon be sidelined on the West Bank? Squandered? The only thing that’s been truly squandered is what’s left of Gore’s integrity. At least Lieberman has been consistent. I must say, as a former Gore-supporter who was appalled by his campaign lurch to the left, that there are few judgment calls I’m prouder of than having picked Bush over Gore two years ago. Now I’m beginning to think we dodged a major catastrophe in world events.

Yeah, that holds up really well today, especially the claims about Bush’s competence.

Meanwhile, while we’re doing flashbacks just for fun I thought I’d bring up my favorite example of McArdle’s use of personal anecdotes as an all-purpose trump card. In explaining why John Roberts was right to claim that the government should use civil rights laws designed to prevent terrorists from obstructing the exercise of constitutional rights shouldn’t apply to anti-abortion terrorists trying to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights, McArdle said:

Similarly, Mark Kleiman’s attempt to excuse NARAL’s ad by calling Operation Rescue a terrorist group is an abuse of the word. Is Operation Rescue attempting to keep women from having abortions by making them feel shame and public humiliation at an extraordinarily vulnerable time? Undoubtedly. Have they attempted to physically block women from entering clinics? Indeed they have. But speaking as one who used to form a human chain in front of clinics to help women through the protesters, I’ve never seen anything from Operation Rescue that even remotely qualifies as terrorism, nor seen anyone physically threaten a woman (shoving a picture of a fetus in her face does not count).

I suppose it would be too uncharitable of me to wonder if McArdle’s activism took place in front of the A. Pocryphal Health Clinic. But even if this is true, let’s remember that in 1991 alone there were “2 cases of murder or attempted murder of abortion providers, 9 bombings/arsons (or attempted bombings/arsons), 83 cases of invasions, assault and battery, vandalism, death threats burglary or stalking, and 3,885 arrests at blockades. To take one example, by the end of a seven-week Operation Rescue operation in Wichita that summer, “police had arrested 1,734 people for 2,657 acts of trespassing, resisting arrest and violating injunctions against blockading.”" But I’m sure none of this was intended to intimidate abortion patients and providers, because McArdle didn’t witness every one personally! Or perhaps she looked into the heart of every vandal, obstructionist, and issuer of death threats and saw that frightening women was the last thing on their minds. (Just as she can tell in advance that anti-war protesters deserve a good, swift, but non-intimidating 2×4 to the head.)

Arguments That Were Made

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

Ezra points us to Julian Sanchez’s excellent rebuttal to Megan McArdle’s claim that critics of the war were just a wrong as the supporters. For my part, it’s somewhat difficult to respond to McArdle’s post, since not only does she argue strictly from anecdote but she also declines to specify most of the allegedly erroneous anti-war arguments. Adding on to Sanchez, it’s worth identifying some arguments that were, in fact, in circulation at the time:

  • The war would be enormously costly, and the administration’s claims that the war could be funded primarily by Iraqi oil revenues were transparently farcical. (As Matt says today, a candid assessment of the costs would have made it impossible to justify the war, and it’s obviously false to say that everyone took them at face value.)
  • The fact that Iraq was riven by ethnic divisions and lacked a strong civil society made it a particularly implausible candidate for forced democratization.
  • Whether or not Iraq had some weapons that could fall under the essentially useless “WMD” rubric, it did not pose any significant security threat to the United States. (Obviously, possessing chemical weapons that are significantly less dangerous to American civilians than bombs you can build with materials at any Home Depot do not constitute a meaningful security threat, especially since Iraq had no means of delivering such weapons.) There was never good evidence that Iraq had any nuclear weapons capacity, or was anywhere near acquiring it.
  • Iraq had no substantial connection to Al Qaeda, and was a diversion from pursuing Islamist terrorism in the wake of 9/11.
  • The Bush administration was dishonest and incompetent, and even if the war might be a good idea in the abstract in particular the war was unlikely to come out well. Some people (although not me) were smart enough to use this principle to discount any WMD claims made by the American government entirely. As Daniel Davies says, “[g]ood ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.”

I don’t mean to suggest that critics of the war didn’t make bad arguments or erroneous predictions–they did. But it’s equally silly to claim that all anti-war critics were simply lucky, or that none of the outcomes of the war were foreseen. If McArdle never heard any of the above arguments, this says more about her circle of friends (and the general exclusion of anti-war voices from prominent media outlets) than about the quality of anti-war arguments.

[Also at TAPPED.]

More On Campus Rape

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

In light of the recent discussion about rape on campus, it’s particularly worth reading Courtney Martin’s article about this country’s dearth of rational sex education and the extent to which this may contribute to the problem. She also adduces some useful data:

Every two and half minutes someone is sexually assaulted in America. Many of these assaults take place on college campuses; 80 percent of rape victims are under age 30. Two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim, not a stranger in a dark alley. (Though rape statistics are notoriously inaccurate, we can assume that these, from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) are at least close to the truth, as they are derived from a survey of multiple studies, including the National Crime Victimization Survey from 2005.)


All the more reason that this shouldn’t be dealt with as if it were academic misconduct.

And Some of the Scripts Were A Little Pedantic

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

From the recent Times article about attempts to turn Atlas Shrugged into a movie:

Under Mr. Aglialoro’s sponsorship a succession of writers and producers developed at least four scripts. One writer was Mr. Peikoff’s ex-wife, Cynthia Peikoff, who had been Rand’s typist. Some of the scripts, she said, were too sci-fi, others reduced the novel’s characters to caricatures, and she was told that her own attempt was no better than “workmanlike.”

Reduced?

Not only that, but some of the scripts eschewed dramatization and just had the characters give interminable speeches outlining the author’s philosophy or its strawman opposition! What a betrayal of Rand’s artistic vision!

What’s Actually Important

[ 0 ] January 17, 2007 |

Make sure to wish Jane well.

That Liberal Academia!

[ 0 ] January 16, 2007 |

With respect to Sunday’s appalling New York Times op-ed making a series of disingenuous excuses for a rapist, Amanda found a Harvard Crimson article that details the faculty debate on the subject:

What some did have trouble with, Faculty in attendance said, was determining degrees of consent and miscommunication between Douglas and the woman he assaulted last spring.

In particular, some still had questions about the force with which the woman refused Douglas’ advances–whether she sent nonverbal signals which may have blurred any clear message about consent.

What we have here, essentially, is a genteel version of the “she did not present herself wearing a bonnet and crinolines” argument. Apparently, if a woman stops short of cutting off someone’s scrotum, there’s some measure of ambiguity–sure, every action taken by the woman in this case suggests that she did not consent, and nothing on the record suggests that she did consent, but…who knows, maybe her eyes were saying “yes yes yes” while her mouth was saying “get the hell out of my room!” Other than unfalsifiable nonsense, I fail to see where the ambiguity lies here:

Instead of “miscommunication,” the court documents reveal a situation in which the woman continually told Douglas to leave her House, her suite and her bed. Before entering her room, Douglas “slammed her against the wall” and began kissing her, even though she “told him to leave [and] was struggling to get away from him.” His advances continued even as she repeatedly told Douglas to leave and tried to push him off her bed.

The quality of the arguments inventing “ambiguity” out of pure nothingness are about what you’d expect:

Ryan said yesterday that some Faculty felt the woman’s behavior had created an ambiguous situation prior to the assault.

“There might be other forms of communication.It was the kind of non-verbal communication that might have caused some sort of confusion in the mind of the young man,” she added.

Other administrators confirmed that the debate focused mainly on gradations of consent.

“Most of the main points were not in dispute,”President Neil L. Rudenstine said. “It was really a question of how to weight the different pieces.”

Another senior administrator said that some professors still viewed this as a “hazy” situation. “It was friends who were together,” the administrator said. “He may have assumed one thing and she another.”

He said that several people supporting the requirement to withdraw held the position “that it was consensual,” the senior administrator added. “I think it was a substantial element of [their case].”

The first problem here is the classic problem of justifying date rape–the silly and extremely dangerous assumption that since were friends, there clearly must be some kind of implied consent. (Personally, I’ve been on dates where the woman I was out with clearly had no interest whatsoever in pursuing sexual relations. Shocking, I know!) In the real world, you are more likely to be raped by someone you know in any case, and knowing someone before the fact doesn’t imply the slightest consent to sex. But in addition to the fact that this is wrong on its face, it’s a highly misleading portrayal of the situation. The claim that it was “friends who were together” and hence “hazy” ignores the fact that she had been out with someone else and he insinuated his way into their outing, and that he entered her room against her consent.

Obviously, it’s good that a strong majority of the faculty rejected these kind of arguments. But the fact that a number of Harvard faculty members were willing to strain so hard to invent reasons to mitigate the inexcusable is a good demonstration of the prevalence of rape myths within society.

Next, You’re Going To Tell Me Someone Remembers That So-Called "Wall" In Germany

[ 0 ] January 16, 2007 |

Marty Peretz, while engaging in some pro forma lunacy about the Middle East, unleashes some quite original lunacy:

Who knows what animates Gorbachev? Maybe he hopes just to be remembered. He won’t be. Certainly not by the Russian people. A passing figure. Not even one on whom American colleges will bestow honorary degrees.

I mean, really, can you add anything to this that would be remotely as funny? Actually, apparently you can:

I concede that Marty is probably better at extracting honorary degrees than Gorbachev, and conclude that it’s a shame Raisa wasn’t some sort of sewing-machine heiress so her husband could purchase some endowed chairs in, say, yiddish literature.

Zing! But I’m sure they’ve already forgotten that Spencer Ackerman guy…

"She wasn’t accusing him of plagiarism"

[ 0 ] January 15, 2007 |

Adam B does a very good job with this exceedingly strange SundayStyles column. But I was particularly struck by this:

He had left school immediately after the incident. He knew the university was investigating the allegations and that he might face dismissal. What he didn’t know was that he soon would face consequences much more severe than being forced to leave school. Rather than allow the college administration to handle the situation, his accuser filed criminal charges.

Obviously, the phrasing here is profoundly offensive, implying that the victim should have “allowed” the university pat her on the head and give her a lollipop, wasn’t the victim of a violent assault. But my question is: how common is it for rapes involving students to be dealt with by internal procedures? How much are victims persuaded to do this? Whenever I teach U.S. v. Morrison–a case involving an alleged gang rape at Virginia Tech that resulted in a crucial provision of the Violence Against Women Act being struck down–students always act why it was initially a case of internal university discipline rather than criminal law. And I never have a good answer. I can understand why sexual harassment–where behavior that would otherwise be OK is rendered unethical by the particular relationships of trust in a teaching or employment relationship–is a case for internal procedures. But I really can’t see where rape should be considered an purely internal university matter. It’s a violent crime; it shouldn’t stop being treated as such because the victim is a college student. I wonder how widespread Cross’s attitude is.

Who Lost The Divisional Playoff?

[ 0 ] January 15, 2007 |

Because of some serious F-Train issues on my way to meet a friend before the (excellent) Secret Society gig, I missed almost all of the second half, so I can’t say. But I see that at least one scribe is already blaming the Chargers’ loss on Schottenheimer. What I do notice, however, is that this particular argument is just tendentious bullshit–the writer keeps asserting that Schottenheimer “played not to lose,” but the only major failed strategic decision he talks about was a 4th-down gamble that, while probably ill-advised, was certainly the antithesis of playing not to lose. Rather, the key plays seem to have been a post-interception fumble and a random dumb penalty, which would have little or nothing to do with coaching per se. I can’t say, obviously, but nothing in the highlights or the accounts suggests that this was a game turned on the Chargers being too conservative.

Look, Belichik–while highly dislikable–is an unassailably great coach, and Schottenheimer (while very good) isn’t. But sometimes a cigar etc. You can tell me if something doesn’t show up in the highlights, but by all accounts what happened is that the the Patriots made a couple plays the Chargers didn’t. I don’t think it says anything about the character (or, in this case, even the ability) of the losing coach.

Oh, and the other game was teh suck, but an honorable loss.

Breaking News! Must Credit LG&MOpenSource Media! Mutliple Sirens!

[ 0 ] January 14, 2007 |

Michael Ledeen R.I.P. (Or is it just his brain? Attacking the shoddy standards of the Em Ess Em can be so confusing sometimes.)