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Memo To the Times: Just Hire Dahlia Lithwick Already

[ 0 ] February 17, 2007 |

Scroll to the bottom of this column and weep. Do prominent op-ed pages need more women? Absolutely. Law professors? Why not. Conservative, even? Might be OK at the Times, although overrepresented on most papers. But one MoDo is far too many. Maybe she will get that Salon gig when this is over.

Anyway, I wonder what the next columns will look like. I was going to suggest an op-ed asserting with no evidence that liberals should support Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court because he’s a Harry Blackmun-like moderate, but the Times has already published that for no obvious reason. Or maybe an op-ed about a crucial case that wastes time discussing whether Warren Burger is being referred to with the appropriate nomenclature. Oh, they published that one too. Hmm. Perhaps she will elaborate on her claim that liberals no longer believe that people have rights, and that William Brennan’s (sorry, Associate Justice William Brennan’s) passionate rights-based legacy would be apparently honored by supporting the notably robust conception of individual rights and commitment to grand theory so evident in the jurisprudence of Sam Alito. That would be even more convincing at greater length, I’m sure!

[Personal to Norbiz: I know, I know, but if the Times is publishing her it's an exception.]

"The Problem With Neoconservatives Is That Everybody Has Them"

[ 0 ] February 17, 2007 |

A commenter chez Henley explains a major problem with the Green Lantern Theory:

Iranian Rumsfeld:
“Look, you go to jihad with the naval graffiti teams that you have, not the naval graffiti teams that you would like to have. Did we equip the Mahdi Army? Yes. Did we send them Austrian sniper rifles? No. Did we give them Chinese sniper rifles? I can’t comment on that.”

Iranian Cheney:
“Western democracy is in its last throes. Those throes may, of course, last for a few hundred years.”

Iranian Feith:
“I have proof that the Americans have supplied plutonium to the Kurds. See, I have a copy of a memo by Porter Goss. Well, yes, the handwriting does look suspiciously like my own…”

Iranian Scalia:
“Actually counting the votes could do irreparable damage to Ahmadinejad.”

Iranian Bush:
“I’m running on a platform of religion, nationalism, and massive government spending. And please don’t ask me what I was doing in the 1970’s.”

Oh, wait, that last one describes the guy who won the 2005 election in Iran. Shit!

And don’t get me started on the Iranian Don Young…

…oh, and for a twofer, JH on this article: “Kudos to Matt Welch and crew for making space for the piece, but it’s a bizarre inversion that Cockburn’s reality check ends up in the ‘opinion’ section while precis of the unsourced and ill-supported suppositions of government briefers and spokespeople somehow counted as ‘news.’”


[ 0 ] February 17, 2007 |

Have I mentioned how much I hate morning radio lately?

Speaking of Which…

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

I see that Joe Lieberman towel boy Dan Gerstein has deigned to share some high-Broderite musings about the phony Edwards blogger scandal. If you had never encountered Gerstein before, you might expect that a claim that “the left’s bigger digital diatribers never stopped to address the substance of what the Edwards bloggers actually wrote before joining the campaign” might be followed by some substantive discussion of what the bloggers wrote. You might also think that a claim that “the postings were widely deemed by Democrats and Republicans alike as bigoted and patently offensive [my emphasis]” to be followed by some evidence that large numbers of Democrats found the writings to be anti-Christian bigotry. Needless to say if you have read Gerstein before, you would be wrong. And it goes without saying that he discusses the two interchangeably (they’re women, they’re liberals, what’s the difference? Either way, they don’t have the what the Democratic Party needs, the ability to uncritically support a Republican President’s ruinous war with a minimum of cursing.) Which, again, is why at least liberals like Joan Walsh need to stop ruminating about Amalisa MarEwan.

Gerstein goes on to say…oh, who cares.

…Melissa has more here.

The Salon Conundrum

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

To elaborate a bit on Atrios’ one liner, Salon has always been a strange animal. I was actually a premium subscriber for a couple years, and it’s always published good writers and interesting stuff. But it’s as if there’s some sort of Slate contrarianism magnet that pulls it toward mitigating good choices with choices that have no conceivable substantive or market rationale. (David Horowitz?) Again, Salon has actually done a lot of good things recently–Broadsheet is generally excellent, and brining in Daou and Greenwald was smart. And it supports good writing, Stephanie Zacharek is a very good critic, King Kauffman is very good (although he seems to take off days than late-period Johnny Carson.) But Camille Paglia? I mean, substantively, it’s incomprehensible; six years of Bush, and we want somebody engaging in speculation about Hillary Clinton’s sex life (while discussing how to spot good teethy blowjobs) and expressing her ultimate disappointment with Ralph Nader, party builder (gee, maybe something earlier could have tipped you off–the fact that he never joined the Green Party? That he sabotaged any chance they had of getting matching funds to go to swing states and fulfill his stated goal of putting Bush in the White House? And if he wanted a third party, what’s the payoff?) Haven’t the wages of vacuous snark become obvious enough by now? But leaving aside the lack of merit in her writing, she’s so over. Check out the letters–do they think any discernible market is going to shell out to read this crap at this late date? (In fairness, she did have a few defenders. My favorite: “I for one am glad Dr. P is back, despite – or maybe because of – her knack for combining serious topics with fluff.” What serious topics?) I’m almost afraid of them bringing on somebody good now, because it means the inevitable announcement next week that Salon will proudly be hosting Ann Althouse’s new blog “Pictures of”

I didn’t find the Walsh piece quite as objectionable as Atrios, but it’s still frustrating in a couple places. What I found most annoying is her reading straight from the Bill Donohue playbook here:

The posts that got them in trouble were intemperate in their take on Catholicism, but that’s not the only thing they’ve been intemperate about. They are young and brash. Like many of us, they sometimes blogged first and asked questions later. Their blogs are passionate and sometimes funny; the writing is uneven, but the commitment to candor and to street-fighting the right wing are not. If Bill Donohue hadn’t come along to make them a campaign issue, somebody else would have. I don’t say that to bash Marcotte or McEwan, just to ask whether Edwards’ move to hire them was really thought through carefully.

I’ve asked this before, and I’m going to keep asking it until people (especially liberals) keep repeating it: where is McEwan’s intemperate take on Catholicism? I don’t believe Marcotte’s writings are anti-Catholic bigotry, but I can certainly understand that you wouldn’t need to be Bill Donohue to find a couple posts offensive, and I can understand the argument that a Presidential campaign needs to be careful about this. But McEwan, as far as I can tell, never discussed Catholicism specifically at all, and the idea that simply attacking the policy views Christian conservatives (yes, sometimes using Cheney-like language, get me the fainting couch) is credibly described as “intemperate” Catholic-bashing is absurd. In addition, their writing styles just aren’t that similar. It’s not suprising that being young, liberal women is enough that the Bill Donohues of the world would discuss Amanda and Melissa as if they were interchangeable, but I expect more from what is set up to be a major thinkpiece from a prominent liberal magazine.

I Don’t Think I’m Respectable, But…

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

I saw these guys opening for Rainer Maria at their farewell show at the Bowery, and…ugh, teh suck. Really, they were too generic for me to even say that I liked their sound, but otherwise Yglesias gets it right on this one. And I couldn’t leave during the set to get a beer because I had a really good space up front I didn’t want to surrender. (I kind of liked the other Brooklyn opening act, who sounded even better in retrospect because they actually had a sound of their own, although I’m vaguely more prog-tolerant than most people of taste.)

Good Question

[ 0 ] February 16, 2007 |

In response to Big Media Amanda, Michael Berube asks:

Hey, I wonder if anyone here would rather read a regular column by Amanda Marcotte at Salon than, say, a regular column by Camille Paglia. Just asking.

Admittedly, this probably doesn’t do Amanda enough credit–I’d probably rather read a column of”gags Tim Allen didn’t feel measured up to Home Improvement‘s usual standards” than Paglia–but a question that bears asking.

A Howlingly Unfunny Day-Boooo

[ 2 ] February 15, 2007 |

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And that Dennis Miller is one outrageous dude!

Dave Weigel notes that “the Half Hour News Hour, a news satire show produced by 24‘s Joel Surnow, is set to become one of the worst pieces of television ever – mentioned in the same breath as Pink Lady and Jeff, Fish Police, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” (Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite pretentious enough to be as bad as that last one.) I think Ana Marie Cox gets at the fundamental problem, which one might call “Mallard Fillmore syndrome.” If you look at the clip, it’s not just that it’s painfully unfunny, it’s that it doesn’t even take the form of comedy. A Charles Krauthammer column doesn’t become comedy because it’s being read unironically by a badly drawn cartoon duck. Similarly, while it’s possible for a skit about Rush Limbaugh becoming President to be funny, when there’s nothing there but “boy, would that ever be cool and stick it to the Democrat Party!!!!!” it’s not failed comedy but not-comedy. (Speaking of Limbaugh, one can say something similar about a lot of Air America’s programming–starting with ideology first is going about it bass-ackwards. Limbuagh wasn’t successful because he was a conservative, but because he is a really, really gifted radio broadcaster. Limbaugh’s TV show failed because he wasn’t good at that job. As Cox points out, The Daily Show reflects liberal values, but its primary goal is to be funny. The point of the Fox show isn’t to be funny but to “stick it to liberals”, which is a guaranteed train-wreck.) My working theory is that the first sketch was written by Marty Peretz, although Ailes cut out all the Arab-bashing.

There is one funny thing to come out of this. As you can see, most conservatives correctly see that this as an abject disaster. But, via Weigel, there’s one exception: the aesthetic Stalinist’s aesthetic Stalinist Jason Apuzzo. A movie could feature two hours of a dimly lit Alan Thicke reading from Rebel-in-Chief and Apuzzo would be outraged that it didn’t make the Sight and Sound Top 10 list. (Will the Right Brothers be the first musical guest?)

Chivalry: The Thin Mask For Sexism

[ 0 ] February 15, 2007 |

Ann Friedman has an article about the “chivalrous” backlash to V-Day, which seems premised on the idea that nothing gets in the way of romancing women like the fact that they have independent sexual desires (or, worse, vaginas):

Hanneken is part of a counter-campaign, run by the conservative group the Independent Women’s Forum, to “Take Back the Date.” The program, whose title mocks anti-violence “Take Back the Night” marches, implores student to reject the vulgarity of the “v-word” and initiate a return to a more chivalrous era.

Um…yeah. And there’s more where this came from (see Amanda for the grim details.) I still remember when Karla Faye Tucker was going to be executed, there were some op-eds about how much feminism cost women because now they can be executed when they kill people, just like men! If they would stop practicing law and owning property and complaining when they get raped and stuff, this wouldn’t happen. Remember the Titanic when it was women and children first! Of course, this “chivalry” is inevitably predicated on sexism–remember what “noblesse oblige” assumes about the relationship between the people in question.

Or perhaps consider #1 in Prof. B’s old Nice Guys typology. I think that’s the IWF target audience right there…

First People Say You’re Good-Looking. But Then You Say You’re Smart! Make Up Your Mind!

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Can someone please tell me why Maureen Dowd has a column in the New York Times? (Actually, frankly, I don’t want to know.)

Jesus, we have almost two years left of this stuff.

…some good comments. gmack:

The problem with Dowd is not so much annoying contrarianism, but insufferable glibness, shallowness, and laziness as a writer.


MoDo is particularly annoying because she doesn’t seem to have any sort of political beliefs or agenda or ideology (if she does, she’s kept them well-hidden for two decades) apart from scolding public figures who have failed to live up to her murky, ill-defined standards in some way (usually some astonishing surface-level misdeed, like their vocal timbre, or their haircut, or their wardrobe). Her high moralizing tone is very hard to take because it isn’t the service of any discernable agenda, save contempt for people who have offended MoDo in some way. And why the hell should I (or anyone) care one way or another about what’s upsetting MoDo on any given day? All she does is knock and snark and tear people down, without offering any sort of consistent framework for doing what she’s doing. It’s apathetic nihilism posing as post-ideological sophistication.


How To Be A Hack

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Glenn Reynolds, 2/11/07 (i.e. 3 days after this was released to the public): “I think it’s legitimate, and partly because it was in the week when she was coming out and making a very big deal on global warming. The plane that she originally had requested was actually a military version of a 757 airliner. And her staff said she wanted to have room for an “entourage,” which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word.”

See, an ordinary hack would just say Pelosi requested something she didn’t request, several days after proof that no such thing occurred (which was sufficiently unrefuted that the White House said it was a non-story) was released. The kind of hack who can get on CNN on Sundays will actually invent content for the fictitious request. Let that be a lesson to you!

…as a couple of commenters pointed out, it’s imprecise to say that Reynolds personally “invented” the smear. My guess is that he was vaguely remembering this now-discredited Washington Times story. Leaving aside the obvious facts that 1)”if an anonymous source said it in a fifth-rate newspaper, it must be true!” is an amusing standard for an anti-Emm Ess Emm crusader and 2)there are rather obvious logical difficulties with making claims about specific wording about a request that anybody even minimally familiar with the facts would know never existed, you’ll notice that even the Times never said specifically that “her staff used the word”–the word was used to describe her claims by the source. As far as I can tell, the embellishment is Reynolds’s own.

Defining Hate Speech Down

[ 0 ] February 14, 2007 |

Melissa’s resignation, as many bloggers liberal and conservative have noted, is highly regrettable. The fact that the misogynist, anti-Semite and all around bigot Bill Donohue continued to go after McEwan–who said nothing that, even under the broadest standards, could qualify as anti-Catholic or anti-religious speech unless we’re to believe that cultural reactionaries can’t be criticized long as their beliefs are motivated by religion–gives away the show about this being a faux-outrage kabuki dance. (I should emphasize here that I’m not saying that this means that Melissa shouldn’t have resigned, or should be subject to any criticism–as Christopher Moltisanti said, unless they’re paying your nut nobody has the right to tell anyone how to earn a living, and she should so what’s best for herself irrespective of whether a hateful crackpot will claim a scalp.)

To get something constructive out of this sorry episode, I’d like to turn things over to Julian Sanchez:

For one, I’m fairly contemptuous of the trend toward regarding harsh or snarky criticism of religious (or, for that matter, atheistic) beliefs—propositions capable of being true or false, credible or silly, benign or pernicious—as a form of “bigotry” on par with racism.

Right. The best example of this was Amanda’s analysis of Children of Men, which I’ve seen described as potential “hate speech” (and which of course led Donohue to call for her firing):

The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal, where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. But this movie offers an alternative interpretation of the virgin birth—one where “virginity” is irrelevant and one where a woman’s stake in motherhood is fully respected for the sacrifice and hard work that it is.

Look, the category of anti-Catholic bigotry–people subject to discrimination based on generalizations about their religion–is perfectly real. (My grandfather used to get anti-Catholic graffiti painted on his farmhouse when he was a school trustee. And , actually, he wasn’t Catholic–he just had a French name–but that’s never the point.) But Amanda’s post is about ideas. The underlying point–that Christian doctrines are in many respects patriarchal–is not merely defensible but banal. Her application to this case may be right or wrong, it may be subjected to equally harsh criticism–but it’s only “hate speech” if you believe that religious ideas should be ipso facto exempt from external criticism simply by virtue of being religious ideas. Which is not merely obvious nonsense, but a gross debasement of the categories of bigotry and hate speech. Make sure to note everybody making this kind of argument, and make sure to be extra derisive the next time they inevitably invoke the terms “identity politics” or “politically correct.” Just in case you weren’t sure if these terms weren’t entirely devoid of useful content, this should really be the tip-off.

read this from Slacktivist too.