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The Dreamlife of Narcissists

[ 0 ] March 27, 2007 |

Taunted? She has a richly detailed fantasy life, you have to give her that. In a week she’ll be talking about how GFR threatened her with physical violence and how TAPPED blogs about nothing but breasts…

…Alterman has more background. It would be one thing if she refused to discuss the matter entirely, but she’s happy to discuss it with people who won’t challenge her.

Craziness Concealing Revisionism

[ 1 ] March 27, 2007 |

Ann Althouse gets livid at Garance Franke-Ruta over nothing. At one point, she threatens to hang up. She’s become such a pathetic figure that it’s almost painful to watch. (UPDATE: C&L excerpts a section here. Dave has the full transcript of the segment with commentary.)

Garance is understandably surprised that Althouse would go into an incoherent rage because she brings up the Valenti incident (make sure to scroll down to Althouse’s own comments, including such knee-slappers as “Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too”), since she had apparently discussed it the previous week with Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen. But this isn’t really surprising — she’s constructed a very carefully sanitized ex post facto version of this incident, and she’s not going to engage the merits with anybody who might remember it or who might challenge her version of events. (It is worth noting that it was Althouse who first brought up the “breastblogging” accusation, so it was hardly out of bounds for Garance to describe the incident the way she did.) I won’t fully rehash the events (I discussed it in detail here and here), but obviously her claim that her attack on Jessica was about how some bloggers “lacked the feminist grit to object to what Clinton meant for feminism” is farcical. It’s highly unpersuasive on its face to claim that a feminist can have absolutely nothing to do with a President with a relatively good record on woman’s rights because of a consensual (though potentially objectionable from a feminist perspective) affair. But coming from someone who strongly supports George Bush and Sam Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, this absolutism is laughable. Is feminism served by appointing a staunch opponent of woman’s rights who boasted about his membership in a group that wanted to keep women out of Princeton? Or by a President who would institute a global gag rule in his first day of office, appoint people like David Hager to important positions, appoint people like Altio and Priscilla Owen to the federal courts, etc etc.? This wasn’t about feminist principle; this was about someone obsessed with The Clenis and with a well-documented resentment toward liberal feminists taking a cheap shot that she was rightly called on.

Anyway, as a public service to counteract her revisionism I thought I would transcribe a relevant portion of “Audible Althouse 65,” (seriously, you owe me for this) in which she discussed the incident. If you go to about 20 minutes in, you’ll get some instructive comments. She first of all claims, erroneously, that Feministing is “sexed up with pictures of women in bras” and “talks about breasts a lot.” (She engaged in a vicious attack on a blogger, on other words, without the slightest idea what the hell she was talking about.) Her outrage over Garance’s description of the incident is particularly amusing when you hear how often she asserts her imaginary claims about Feministing being dominated by breast images. Then, 35 minutes in, after her speculations trying to explain the deep, deep puzzle of why someone would take a picture with the taller people in the back and the shorter people in the front, you get this (the transcription is not perfectly word for word):

Now why they brought in this woman with the breasts all over her blog [sic], I don’t know….now, obviously, you could come up with a theory that Clinton actually wanted to meet her….I think her blog has a lot less traffic than the other bloggers, and the name of her blog is “Feminsiting,” which I think is pretty clearly a portmanteau word combines the words “feminist” and “fisting,” (!) so it’s a graphic sexual image. And then there are all these breast images on the blog too [sic]. I don’t really know why you would want to bring that in and connect it up with Clinton. I mean, the sort of Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation, is that Clinton actually wanted to meet this woman.

Yes, the most straightforward explanation for the fact that a campaign event associated with Hillary Clinton would want to bring in a prominent feminist blogger (and NARAL’s house blogger) is…that Bill Clinton wanted to get laid! And if you describe utterly banal T-Shirt ads of the type found on many blogs across the ideological spectrum (combined with an obvious parody of sexist mudflaps) as “sexualized images,” it all becomes clear! Yes, I can’t imagine why this serious nonpartisan thinker and principled feminist is such a object of contempt and derision.

Prison Reform and the PLRA

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

I strongly recommend reading this post about the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which makes it more difficult for prisoners to sue and reduces the scope of potential litigation in ways that enable appalling prison conditions to continue. This is particularly problematic because (due to prisoners’ evident lack of political clout) prison reform has always been a litigation-driven exercise, as Feeley and Rubin have explained in great detail. Limiting prisoner’s right to sue in this manner is effectively the equivalent of sanctioning substantial amounts of abuse; hopefully Congress will amend some of the bad effects of PLRA. The SAVE coalition has a list or recommendations with other useful resources here.

UPDATE: See also this ACS paper explaining how to close the loophole the legislation created for rapists.

The Most Indefensible Comment in the History of Human Discourse

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

Labs has found it: “My own favorite meeting moment came when an old dude at a large faculty meeting said that we should have more meetings.” I support the institution of tenure as much as anybody, but I can fully get behind revoking it for anyone who suggests increasing the number of meetings out of general principle.

What Market Forces?

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

To follow up on Atrios’ point, it seems worth noting the newspaper situation here in one of the nation’s most liberal cities (my borough, which Kerry won 72-27, is conservative by New York standards), our dailies include the New York Times, with a moderate-left op-ed page (featuring at least one regular conservative columnist). OK. Then you have the Wall Street Journal, whose op-ed pages are a fount of entirely unleavened wingnuttery. And the New York Post, which to borrow a friend’s line is not so much a newspaper as a social meance. And The Daily News, which endorsed Bush in 2004. And The New York Sun, which you’ll like if you think it’s a good idea to have an entire newspaper written like the WSJ’s editorial pages. Even if you count Newsday as a New York paper, that’s two liberal op-ed pages out of six. Moreover, the comparative ideologies aren’t commensurate — can you imagine the Wall Street Journal joining in an endless attack on Bush based on trumped-up pseudo-scandals, as the Times did against Clinton in the 90s? Is there any equivalent in the Times of the Journal implying that Clinton was involved in drug-running? At any rate, it’s pretty clear that the reactionary tenor of the city’s op-ed pages, far from playing to market forces, is cutting against them. (In its last audited circulation, The Sun had a circulation of 18,000.) Just as Olbermann proves that the exclusion of liberals from cable news was never just about market forces.

Hillary: Hawk

[ 0 ] March 26, 2007 |

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We know Clinton’s positions have been more hawkish than her rivals (marginally so than Edwards, much more so than Obama.) It would, as Michael Crowley suggests, seem worthwhile to compare her advisers as well:

Hillary Clinton still talks regularly with her husband’s senior foreign policy team, whose generally hawkish slant may help to explain why Hillary has been far slower than her Democratic rivals to shift left on the war. (It’s telling that the three well-known former Clinton foreign policy officials who have signed up with Obama’s campaign–former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, State Department African affairs expert Susan Rice, and Greg Craig, a lawyer and onetime adviser to Albright–are more dovish than many of their old colleagues.) Hillary’s campaign still lacks a formally structured foreign policy team, perhaps in part because her lasting personal friendships provide much of the advice she needs. A month after Hillary’s election to the Senate in 2000, for instance, Holbrooke hosted a gala dinner for her at his private residence in Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Towers, featuring attendees like Robert DeNiro and Harrison Ford. When Hillary traveled to Munich in 2005 for a speech about the United Nations, Holbrooke was there, taking notes in the front row. He’s also inside enough to have recently solicited recommendations for a new full-time foreign policy aide to join Clinton’s campaign. “He’s obviously gunning for secretary of state,” a Democratic foreign policy expert told me. “He’s putting all his eggs in this basket.”


Newer additions to Hillary’s fold also suggest that her hawkish profile is about more than just polls. One is her Senate foreign policy staffer Andrew Shapiro. The 39-year-old Shapiro is affable but charged with nervous energy. (Sitting in the audience at a recent Clinton speech on the military, he rocked steadily back and forth like Rain Man at Wapner time.) A Gore-Lieberman campaign aide and Justice Department lawyer, Shapiro was also briefly a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a center-right think tank. Shapiro is “a mainstream foreign Democratic policy establishment moderate,” says a congressional foreign policy aide. “He’s hawkish on defense issues and Israel.” It is Shapiro, Hillaryites say, who is in the room for most of her important foreign policy decisions.

He has a lot more. As I’ve said before, trying to establish whether her support of the Iraq War was “calculating” or “sincere” is on some level beside the point; it’s not as if political conditions would somehow vanish if she got elected (although, since foreign policy tends to produce more sui generis problems, I suppose it’s slightly more relevant than with domestic policy.) But I think the evidence is overwhelming that her foreign policy is likely to be substantially more “hawkish” than Obama’s.

[Via Yglesias, who has another excerpt here.]

The Eastwood Myth

[ 0 ] March 25, 2007 |

I can’t discuss his take on Letters From Iwo Jima, which I haven’t seen, but I think Charles Taylor has a good take on Clint Eastwood here. I didn’t know that A.O. Scott — who I think is an excellent critic — had argued that with the passing of Altman Eastwood was America’s greatest filmmaker, but as I’ve argued before I think that’s crazy. More controversially, I pretty much agree with his take on Unforgiven too:

That’s a depressing prospect: It’s as if, with Altman’s maverick crapshoot approach to filmmaking out of the way, American movies can return to the static genre familiarity that his films made look unutterably square.

Eastwood’s films — in which well-worn genre conventions are rendered with the slow, heavy solemnity that is often taken as a signal that art is being committed — offer the comfort of seeing B-movie tropes become respectable objects of critical contemplation. For all the talk of Eastwood’s originality, nearly everything he has gotten credit for as a director has been done before, and done better, by other filmmakers — filmmakers who may have won some critical favor in retrospect, but who have never managed the transition to respectability that Eastwood has.

The moral complications that his Unforgiven supposedly injected into Westerns, for instance, were present in the 1950s Westerns directed by Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher (to say nothing of the later work of Sam Peckinpah). Eastwood’s lumbering, inflated Million Dollar Baby couldn’t match the sweat-and-liniment haze of small-time boxing captured so indelibly by Robert Wise in his 1949 film, The Set-Up. And you can find some of what Eastwood is getting at in his currently playing Flags of Our Fathers (the movie that, along with Letters From Iwo Jima, comprises his World War II diptych) in Mann’s Men in War (1957) and in Samuel Fuller’s grungy combat films like Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

Right. It’s certainly not that Eastwood lacks talent, and Mystic River proves that solemn and middlebrow can be perfectly effective if executed well. Unforgiven is a good picture, a very well- turned and entertaining genre piece, but claims about its originality are indeed absurd. Gender switch or no gender switch, however, the sheer density of cliches in Million Dollar Baby becomes intolerable, especially given how leaden and pretentious it is. But it’s not just that his best movies aren’t nearly as good as Scorsese’s best, say, it’s that he’s made movies that Joel Schumacher would be reluctant to sign for — not only is Absolute Power risibly bad, it doesn’t fail in the interesting way one might expect from our Greatest Living Filmmaker. I don’t really understand the magnitude of the praise being heaped on him.

Clinton and Gender

[ 0 ] March 24, 2007 |

I should say that I take a somewhat more charitable view of what GFR is arguing than Matt does here. I don’t think she’s arguing that I oppose Clinton because I’m a man in some reductive sense. Rather, as I read her she’s claiming that 1)the male dominated pundit class is not likely to have representative views of what Democrats think of Clinton, and 2)people’s judgments can never be fully abstracted from their social circumstances. Both of these points are, I think, correct. How would I evaluate Clinton if I had experienced an enormous amount of sexism in my life? I have no idea. I make the best judgments I can based on what I know, but that’s not an all-seeing or infallible perspective (to put it mildly.)

Having said that, I endorse the rest of Matt’s post. Yes, Clinton is infinitely preferable to any possible Republican nominee. Absolutely, liberals should counter the inevitable deranged media and conservative attacks (whatever combination of sexism, obsession with her husband, and the general triviality of our political discourse) that Clinton has likely to face. But none of this means that she should get the nomination. As Matt says, “In Clinton’s case, you would need to convince me that there are some important issues where she’s likely to make a better president than would the available alternatives, and/or that she has some clear electability edges. And I don’t really see it.” On both metrics, I think she’s clearly worse than Edwards or Obama, and compared to Richardson is no better on substance and less electable. And it’s worth noting that, despite a few bits and pieces here and there, Garance hasn’t made this case either. We may all be missing something, but it’s up to Clinton’s defenders to make the case.

Stating What I Hope Is Obvious

[ 0 ] March 24, 2007 |

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“It’s not comedy that’s in my blood. It’s selling out!”

The editors of Lawyers, Guns & Money do not necessarily endorse the sentiments of all of our fine advertisers. On an entirely unrelated note, I thought this post was interesting.


[ 0 ] March 23, 2007 |

Matt is right about this. In addition to the fact that it’s contrary to progressive interests to have Penn advising people, there’s the additional issue of what it says about Clinton’s priorities that she would hire him in the first place. Clinton wants her head pollster to be somebody whose specialty is giving catchy names to wholly arbitrary groups of affluent people as a justification for throwing progressive policy initiatives under the bus. This says something important about her judgment, and what it says is obviously not good.

Friday Cat (Power) Blogging

[ 0 ] March 23, 2007 |

Anti-Choice Wedges and Bribes

[ 0 ] March 22, 2007 |

Prof. B has a good post about the strange plan in Texas to pay $500 to have babies and give them for adoption. She hits the most obvious problem: Honey, $500 isn’t even going to pay for the extra groceries you’ll eat during a pregnancy. Let alone the prenatal care, if you’re not insured or on Medicaid, or the cost of the birth. Senator Patrick, would you agree to take care of a neighbor’s dog for nine months for a measly $500?”

So, yeah, that doesn’t seem likely to change much behavior. But there’s also a practical problem with the law: how do you know they were going to get an abortion? Give application forms only at clinics. But how do you know they really wanted an abortion and weren’t just coming to get the 500 bucks? You get the idea.

This kind of thing often happens the other way, as forced pregnancy advocates come up with various wedges to try to water down abortion rights. “But what if abortion is used as sex selection? To kill fetuses with the gay gene?” Back when we had abortion trolls, they often brought it up as if it were definitive objections. The problem is, though, that even if these choices are always immoral there’s no way these distinctions can be drawn in legislative enactments. Once you assume that most women will be smart enough to lie or stay quiet if asked their motives, how do you prove that women are getting abortions for bad reasons? Presumably, one suspects, by creating doctor panels, which given the impossibility of evidence in most cases will be ineluctably arbitrary. The choice, as always, is really simple: ban all abortions, or trust women with the ability to make choices (understanding that some will be ones you wouldn’t agree with.) The criminal law is too crude too accommodate efforts to ensure that abortions are obtained for specific reasons, even if we could agree on what they are.