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Some New Entries: Althouse Edition

[ 0 ] December 28, 2006 |

As noted by many commenters, the inevitable meltdown as Althouse refuses to acknowledge the plain meaning of her remarks or suggest another coherent one has occurred [no link because she not only refuses to link to anybody she's dishonestly criticizing but whines endlessly when Andrew Sullivan links to her only through third parties]:

So many people — in the comments and on other blogs — are attributing things to me that I did not write here. Reading with comprehension has, apparently, become optional. Amusingly, the blundering blowhards out there keep calling me and [sic] idiot. Mirrors are in short supply these days.

Look, it’s very simple–you talked about the Iraq Death Toll equaling that of 9/11, and then ask how many people would have died in future attacks had we not “fought back.” The only plausible reading of this sequence of sentences is that Iraq constituted “fighting back” against 9/11. Given the farcical nature of this claim, I can understand why she wants to disown it, but it’s what she said. Which is why, of course, she refuses to identify any of the specific “misreadings” she alleges in general, or to explain what she did mean when she wrote something that didn’t explain what she meant (and why her defenders argue that Iraq was too connected to 9/11.)

Anyway, although the comments are the predictable treasure trove of new variants of “flypaper theory,” enough. I know discussing Althouse by definition requires belaboring the obvious, but this episode seems particularly depressing. Instead, let’s coin some new terms for the Wingnut Debate Dictionary:

The Althouse Defense Initiative (ADI): All incoming substantive critiques of ridiculous arguments are deflected by claims that the critics lack “reading comprehension skills,” without any explanation of why the critics were misreading the post or any substantive rebuttal to the critics’ arguments.

Althouse Apathy Aggrandizement (AAA): Wearied claims by complacent, affluent, moderate reactionaries that nothing is more vulgar that people who actually care about politics, perhaps even going so far as to become minimally informed about them before pontificating about them on vanity websites.

Project Runway Politics (PRP): A political philosophy that holds the fashion choices of various political enemies as being of greater importance than the merits of substantive issues that the blogger often nominally pretends to care about. [See also: Mickey Kaus, passim.]

Better wordings, titles, or entries welcome…

Hatchet Jobs Against Worthy Targets: First in a Hopefully Extensive Series

[ 0 ] December 28, 2006 |

Apropos of nothing, I would like to note that this John Leland [thanks to commenter for the typo correction] review of some compilation of the unread profit-taking by famous authors and unfunny dirty jokes from the pages of Playboy has some excellent lines:

In the first issue of Playboy magazine, published in December 1953, Hugh M. Hefner wrote an essay speaking for its envisioned readers: “We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” On first blush his commercial strategy here seemed straightforward: Men who make a habit of inviting female acquaintances in to talk Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz and sex will have a lot of free nights for reading Playboy magazine.


With its ribald jokes and cartoons, airbrushed “pictorials” and prose selections from America’s best-paid writers — all wrapped up into a glossy connoisseurship that Mr. Hefner called the “Playboy Philosophy” — the magazine can be seen as a mad plot: to create a race of men more boring and insecure than any before.


In the 1950s and 1960s Cavalier, Nugget, Escapade and other euphemistically dubbed “men’s magazines” published some of the most adventurous new writing in the United States, jump-starting or sustaining the careers of Mario Puzo, Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, Jack Kerouac and others. The magazines could risk a little raunch, so they were in the right place for the earthier fiction emerging from the margins. The writers collected in “The New Bedside Playboy,” by contrast, are established brand names, apparently selling from the back of their files. One thing about the Playboy mystique: the paychecks were real. And it is good to know there is still a remunerative home for an Ian Fleming story that begins, “The stingray was about six feet from wing tip to wing tip and perhaps 10 feet long from the blunt wedge of its nose to the end of its deadly tail,”


Was there really a time when swingers imagined themselves in silk jammies chatting about Nabokov and Brubeck and the latest Cognac? No doubt. Ring-a-ding-ding. The right literary reference, the right hi-fi gear, and voilà: the freedom to go home alone, unswung, to a bit of light fiction, corny jokes and an airbrush that liberated the white-collar male from the uncomfortable burden of human curiosity.

I have nothing against Heidi Julavits in general, but is appropriate snark in reviews is wrong, I don’t want to be right. (And apparently serious attempts to elucidate the “Playboy Philosophy”… it doesn’t get much more appropriate than that.)

"Where Powerful Interests Bemoan Modernity"

[ 0 ] December 27, 2006 |

I see that, via various links from this year’s Wank of the Year awards, that The Editors’s classic Shill Central Station parodies have all been conveniently restored to the intarweb (1, 2, 3, 4.) Enjoy!

Bias: It’s Holding That Legal Texts Conflict With The Platform of the Texas Republican Party

[ 0 ] December 27, 2006 |

Steve Benen points us towards some twelfth-rate agitprop by a sitting judge, which repeatedly uses the term “femifascist,” presumably to apply to people who believe that the state shouldn’t coerce (poor) women to carry pregnancies to term. Here are some of the other insights offered by Judge Dierker:

* The judicial tyrants’ legal theory in a nutshell: history and tradition count for nothing, the language of the Constitution is meaningless, and the only criterion for a law is whether or not it will advance the liberal agenda

* “All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others”: how affirmative action laws have enshrined this as a cornerstone of American law

* How liberal courts have used the largely trumped-up phenomenon of racial discrimination as the spearhead in their fight to take control of American culture

* How liberal judges and courts have radically revised both the Equal Protection Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause

* Liberal legal notions of sexual harassment and sex discrimination: little to do with law and everything to do with power

* The liberals’ shoddy reasoning in arguing that the Constitution demands that religion have no place whatsoever in government or public life

* How Leftist judges are bent on weakening America in the war on terror by striking down anti-terror laws in the name of resisting “racial profiling” and “religious discrimination”

* Why recapture of the Senate and the presidency by the Democrats could spell the end of any association of American law with the Constitution on which it is supposed to be based

* Defiance of the Supreme Court: how and why, under certain carefully defined circumstances, it can and must be done

In other words, we’re pretty clearly dealing with a book that is not only Grade-A wingnuttery but utter crap as legal analysis. You have to like the fact that it complains about liberals ignoring original meaning and then argues that Courts should ignore the original intent of the 5th and 14th Amendments and strike down affirmative action laws, how only 50 years after the end of formal apartheid he can call racial discrimination a “trumped-up phenomenon,” and of course how he can accuse liberals of distorting the Equal Protection clause in the wake of Bush v. Gore. The juxtaposition between the appalling nature of affirmative action and the hearty endorsement of racial profiling is also good. I’d also love to know what radically lawless pro-feminist Supreme Court decisions he’s talking about; maybe U.S. v. Virginia, which was so radical it was joined by noted MacKinnonite William Rehnquist. And to top it all off, you have a sitting judge–after claiming that anyone who doesn’t share his far-right views doesn’t believe in the law at all–claiming that it can be acceptable to resist Supreme Court decisions.

Verdict: I think we’re dealing with someone who makes Mark Levin look like Blackstone. As well as someone utterly unfit to serve on the bench.

…UPDATE: As a correspondent reminds me, in fairness Dierker does talk about sexual harassment too. So perhaps he’s talking about Meritor, which was also written by that well-known far-left champion of human rights William Hobbs Rehnquist. Or perhaps he means Onacle v. Sundowner Offshore Services, which was written by prominent Andrea Dworkin disciple Antonin Scalia, with a concurrence from radfem in theory and practice Clarence Thomas. The femifascist conspiracy is a far-reaching one, brothers and sisters!

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

[ 0 ] December 27, 2006 |


Give him this: he put John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

Today in Non Sequitur Theater

[ 1 ] December 26, 2006 |

Homer: Ah, not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm!
Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, honey.
Lisa: By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away!
Homer: Uh-huh, and how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn’t work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around here, do you?
Homer: (Looks around) Lisa, I’d like to buy your rock.

[Now Starring as Homer Simpson: Ann Althouse.]

After pointing out that more Americans have died in the Iraq war than in 9/11, Althouse–quite remarkably at this late date–asks:

A key question — with an unknowable answer — is: How many Americans would have died in post-9/11 attacks if we had not chosen the path of fighting back?

Well, the answer is indeed unknowable, but given that Iraq had no substantial connection to Anti-American terrorism and posed no security threat whatsoever to the United States, the overwhelmingly likely answer is “zero.” Whatever Iraq was, it wasn’t “fighting back” against the Islamic radicals who actually attacked New York.

Of course, if it was only Republican pundits who don’t actually know anything about foreign policy who think that replacing a secular dictatorship with an Islamist quasi state was an effective way of “fighting back” against Islamic terrorism, this would be relatively harmless (although pathetic.) The truly appalling thing is that people actually in charge of American policymaking also didn’t demand any logical connection between a given military response and the actual threat facing the country, and as a result nearly three thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died for nothing.

This Christmas, Hear The Sound of the Funky Drummer

[ 0 ] December 25, 2006 |

The incomparable James Brown, R. I. P.

…see also this excellent AP obit.

And A Happy New Year!

[ 0 ] December 24, 2006 |

In this holiday season, it’s nice to see yet another stinging defeat in the courts for Kansas’ former Immolater of Privacy General Phil Kline.

Can The Stabbed-in-the-back Defense Initiative Work?

[ 0 ] December 24, 2006 |

With respect to the Ackerman/Farley/Lemieux debate, a formerly ambivalent Kevin Drum (along with Mona) comes down squarely in the Ackerman camp. Yglesias and Atrios disagree, and of course I still do. A couple of additional points:

  • The reason that letting them having their surge won’t really change much about the political dynamics is that you can always have done more. As Kevin notes, this narrative was used about Vietnam, which was prosecuted in a much more brutal fashion in Iraq. If you’re inclined to make (or, more importantly, to believe) such arguments, objective actions are always beside the point. As long as the country hasn’t been nuked into oblivion, you can always move the goalposts yet again.
  • My other question is how much effect the “do we get to win this time?” narrative of Vietnam has really had on perceptions of Democratic weakness of foreign policy. My guess is actually very little, and most of what exists is concentrated among people who would never vote Democratic anyway. I think that the link of opposition to an unpopular war to an even more unpopular counterculture, for example, was much more important. I think it’s a small part of the story. (Perhaps Rick Perlstein can adjudicate.)

So I’m still where I was. I don’t think the surge is anything like a net benefit because I doubt that it will provide a substantial political benefit, and it will certainly mean more young men and women sacrificed in a hopeless cause.

Against "Authenticity" Again

[ 0 ] December 23, 2006 |

Nice to see Bob Somerby on board:

Again, when we talk about what is “appealing” and authentic,” we enter extremely subjective territory. And oh yeah—we validate the type of discussion the mainstream press corps is eager to have. Once we allow this type of discussion, they can create any novel they want about who’s “authentic” and who isn’t. And surprise! As an upper-class and corporate institution, the press corps will increasingly tend to judge that Republican candidates seem “authentic”—and that the Dems do not. Indeed, that’s precisely the way this group has called it in our last two White House campaigns—Bush and McCain were authentic straight-shooters, the hideous Gore and Kerry were not. As a general matter, they will continue to make such judgments—if we validate the type of discussion this addled crew hopes to have.

Having studied the 2000 race in detail, we cringe when intelligent liberals adopt the “authenticity” meme. That silly theme is the press corps’ meat. Once we let them start making such judgments, they’ll quickly craft the story they like—and whatever it is, they’ll recite it in unison. And again, their judgments—which will be too subjective to be meaningfully disputed—will tend to favor Republicans. Even now, with Bush having nearly destroyed the known world, they haven’t quite walked away from their “Republicans = authenticity” judgments. They will soon return to these themes in force—if we stoop to the silly place where they want our discourse to go.

And it’s not just that the concept is just an empty shell into which you can pour any a priori preference, but that it’s worthless as a criterion of value even if it actually had any content.

"That Oughta Hold Those S.O.B.s"

[ 0 ] December 22, 2006 |

Travel day today, so very light blogging. In the meantime, enjoy Roy nominating Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser for a Robert Bork “It’s the Sociological Significance” award, and 3 Bulls having fun with the Pitchfork Top 100 singles list.

"You watch too many movies. If you want a happy ending, you should go see a Hollywood movie."

[ 0 ] December 21, 2006 |

GFR has a clever post about George Bush’s one contribution to human discouse, the “fantasy tense.” I think that Ken Pollack should be speaking in this tense full-time.

…see also Fred Kaplan on the “surge” folly. This point deserves particular emphasis:

Kagan writes, “The President must call for young Americans to volunteer to defend the nation in a time of crisis.” Given the unpopularity of the president, and of this war, this seems unlikely. After the Sept. 11 attacks, when Bush was at peak popularity, and when the country was experiencing a surge of patriotism, Congress passed a bill expanding the size of the Army by 30,000 troops. Five years later, the Army has actually expanded by just 23,000 troops. It’s still 7,000 troops short of that target. How does Kagan expect to attract 30,000 more in just one year, much less to do so two years in a row?

This would seem to be the application of the Green Lantern Theory of Foreign Relations to another field. Where are the (arbitrary, ever-shifting number) of troops needed for Kagan’s plan coming from? Why, George Bush will just will them into existence by the force of his powerful rhetoric! Civil war is over…if you want it!