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Whatever Happened To the Legion of Decency?

[ 0 ] December 15, 2006 |

Shorter Daniel Henninger: We’re stuck with awful television like The Sopranos and Deadwood because of that damned Supreme Court and its insistence that upholding “generally accepted standards of conduct” isn’t a sufficient basis for censorship.

No, really:

Comedians will do whatever works, so if they are now saying toilet humor isn’t even fit for toilets, we have to believe them. I know who to blame for this, too. Not hip-hop. HBO.

Watching “The Sopranos” on HBO a couple seasons ago, it became apparent that these once-powerful, four-letter exclamation points had become the characters’ entire vocabulary. Paulie Walnuts, Tony, Christopher, even Carmela seemed to be “communicating” in some arcane f-language. I had no idea what they were talking about. And so stopped watching. Someone said, “You should check out ‘Deadwood’ on HBO.” I won’t, but there is a Web site that undertook the challenge to do an f-count of “Deadwood,” concluding that the average number, per episode, in one season was 87.5. Call it deadword.

Can we blame this verbal morass on the Supreme Court? Maybe. Back in 1973, in Papish, the court ruled on a college that tried to ban a student newspaper showing a cop raping the Statue of Liberty. The college had a rule that students should observe “generally accepted standards of conduct.” It lost, 6-3.

Has anybody ever seen Henninger and Michael Medved in the same room? Not only was the latter a pioneer in the “counting uses of the word ‘fuck’” school of art criticism, but Henninger’s celebration of the fact that “[c]leaner comedy is an easier sell at corporate events, theme parks, cruise lines and the like” reminds me of Medved’s lament that young filmmakers would for some reason rather be Martin Scorsese or Woody than Robert Zemeckis or Ron Howard. (“The Paper changed my life!”) Yes, if there’s anything this country needs it’s for middlebrow corporate blandness to become more powerful. (Although in fairness to Medved, I think he prefers that Hollywood do it on its own rather than reading the First Amendment out of the Constitution.)

(Via Roy.)

The Moral Clarity of Jonah Goldberg

[ 0 ] December 15, 2006 |

Nitpicker has the roundup. Next week’s LA Times column will defend J-Pod by pointing out that while in retrospect Cinderella Man was really more of a crappy Hallmark movie-of-the-week melodrama whose cliches would have been stale in 1945 than one of the greatest movies ever made, you have to admit that Ron Howard is a better director than Uwe Boll, so really J-Pod was right all along! Why won’t The Left acknowledge J-Pod’s greatness as a film critic?

Moral Clarity

[ 0 ] December 14, 2006 |

Via Drum, I see that Jonah Goldberg is arguing that you can’t make an omelet without throwing a few people out of planes, and that the baseline for measuring the quality of a country’s leadership should be Fidel Castro. (This must have been the grading curve his colleague John Podhoretz was using when he called George W. Bush a “great leader.”)

Of course, if one was inclined to be charitable–and when it comes to people who supported this disastrous war for many years, I’m not–it could be pointed out that the current situation in Iraq proves that pretty much any state is better than having no effective state, which is true enough. But consider how much is being conceded here. Evidently, it was never plausible to think that Iraq was magically going to turn into a stable, pro-American democracy after the invasion, which means that the immense cost in lives and resources was going to be expended in a war in which the best-case scenario was a mildly less repressive dictatorship, and the rather more likely scenario was a theocratic quasi- state that would be worse for the Iraqi people and far worse for American interests. But somehow, I don’t think this argument would have flown at the time–and Goldberg, who claimed that “standing-up a stable, democratically inclined government was supposed to be comparatively easy,” certainly wasn’t invoking a claim that the invasion might produce a state marginally better than Castro’s Cuba when it mattered.

…UPDATE: Norbiz reminds us of this Goldberg Komedy Klassic:

Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there’s another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I’m all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.

Anytime he wants to make wagers that involve comparing his expertise with that of Juan Cole, I’ll take some of that action…

…see also Steven Taylor.

[Cross-Posted at TAPPED.]

Today Among Thin-Skinned Hacks

[ 0 ] December 14, 2006 |

Via Redbeard, I see that forth-rate novelist, global warming denialist, xenophobe, and Bush Administration scientific consultant Michael Crichton inserted a child rapist named after the New Republic‘s Michael Crowley (who had dismantled Crichton’s anti-scientific propaganda) into his new novel. Classy!

Better "Best Centrist Blog" For A Day Than Schmuck For A Lifetime

[ 0 ] December 14, 2006 |

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

“I was living in Madison, WI, which was not at the time a federal offense. Despite that, the Bush administration held me without charges and tortured me for three years. What a hoot!”

Needless to say, the passive-aggressive ressentiment is out in full force chez Althouse. She first laments that “I make some throwaway, half-humorous remark in the middle of a comment thread and touch off multi-blog fireworks that go on for days.” Yep, don’t let the fact that her claim that it was plausible that Padilla was deprived of his senses so that he couldn’t blink messages of unspecified content to people who had no way of seeing him was entirely unfunny and defended with several earnest, defensive follow-ups fool you…she was joking! See, arbitrarily detaining people and torturing them is funny! Ha-ha! Why on earth can people not see the (intentional) comedy gold in Althouse’s remarks?

In fairness, surrounding her next whine is her insightful discovery of her analogue on the nation’s op-ed pages. “What is it about the ’08 presidential season that is making Maureen Dowd’s nicknames seem funny — instead of annoying — all of a sudden?” (I believe what he have here is a “false premise,” although it’s easy to understand why Althouse suddenly finds Dowd amusing–she’s no longer aiming her empty fashion commentary and primary school nicknames at the Republicans Althouse adores.) Anyway, I think you can see why Althouse takes the Weblog Awards so seriously–when you think it’s the height of wit and insight to treat elections for President of the United States like junior high student council elections, treating the Weblog Awards this way is nothing.

"I’m not Bertrand Russell. Well what do ya want? I’m a cabbie you know."

[ 0 ] December 14, 2006 |

Peter Boyle, R. I. P.

…Norbiz has the whole scene linked here.

Why the "Partial Birth" Cases Matter: An Anti-Reproductive Freedom Perspective

[ 0 ] December 13, 2006 |

Hadley Arkes, one of the pro-life movement’s most prominent intellectuals, has an article in First Things about the upcoming “partial birth” abortion decision. It starts off strangely with the claim that “people on both sides seriously expect the Court will use its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.” My question–such as who? I read as much as I can on the subject, and I certainly haven’t encountered anyone saying this. The “people” adduced here would seem to be comparable to the extensive list of Castro lovers in adacdemia and the media that Tailgunner Glenn Reynolds claims to have.

What many pro-choicers have argued is that the partial-birth case can be used to water Casey‘s “undue burden” standard down to pretty much nothing. And where Arkes’s essay is useful (in addition to previewing the highly unconvincing ad hoc justifications that will be trotted out if Thomas makes the unprincipled decision to uphold the statute on federalism grounds) is its confirmation of the pro-life strategy of covertly destroying Roe‘s underpinnings:

…if Roberts and Alito help simply to overturn that prior decision on partial-birth abortion, my own judgment is that the regime of Roe will have come to its end, even if Roe itself is not explicitly overruled. What the Court would be saying in effect is, “We are now in business to consider seriously, and to sustain, many plausible measures that impose real restrictions on abortion.”…That would invite a flood of measures enacted by the states.

And, of course, this is the whole point of the phony “partial birth” controversy; it’s the second part of a pincer movement against Casey. On the one hand, by reading the “undue burden” standard as upholding measures (such as mandatory waiting periods) that limit abortion access in a highly inequitable way, the Court has permitted significant “burdens” on a woman’s right to choose. On the other hand, if the Court sustains legislation with no connection whatsoever to any legitimate state interest–legislation that doesn’t protect fetal life, or woman’s health, but simply places health risks on women for exercising their constitutional rights–then the “undue” prong of the test is reduced to nothing. Hence, Casey is largely stripped on content, but in a way that will fly largely below the public’s radar.

The other interesting thing is that while Arkes would like Roe to be overturned through the back door, he seems to think that the Court will duck the case: “The voters who have backed two Bushes and Reagan, expecting something dramatically different, may discover once again that the judicial world is fixed in a mold that will persistently break their hearts.” I certainly hope that he’s right about this, but I don’t think that he is.

[Cross-posted to TAPPED.]

These Awards Require Some Sincere, Non-partisan Self-Reflection

[ 0 ] December 12, 2006 |

Although I had been intending to ignore the passel of right-wingers with one actual moderate that comprised the Weblog Awards’ “best centrist blog” category, I must shift course and heartily endorse Ezra’s endorsement. Vote early, vote often!

…the fine folks at Unfogged also endorse The Moderate Voice.

One Variable Not to Consider

[ 0 ] December 12, 2006 |

I acknowledge that there are good reasons not to support Al Gore in the ’08 primaries, and the question is looking increasingly moot anyway. I would like to think, however, that one question–how much weight should be put on the fact that the media hates Gore–has now been answered. Given that our beloved vacuous media Heathers have now taken to discussing such troubling issues as Obama’s terrorist-loving middle and last names and his authoritarian-loving suits, I think that the weight put on this factor should be roughly “nothing.” I mean, again, let’s consider this from MoDo:

There were already a few top Democrats scoffing at the idea that a man whose surname sounded like a Middle East terrorist could get elected president. Now it turns out that his middle name sounds like a Middle East dictator. So with one moniker, he evokes both maniacal villains of the Bush administration. And to top it off, as Jennifer Senior noted in New York magazine, Barack rhymes with Iraq.

A classic, right down to the unnamed and probably apocryphal “a few top Democrats.” I mean, seriously, do you think there’s any way of appeasing people who will write stuff like this? Trying to come up with a candidate immune from such attacks is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Misogynists Of The Day

[ 0 ] December 12, 2006 |

Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser and commenters.

What I enjoy most is the men who, if women who start thinking that they have the right to deny sex if they don’t feel like it and similar crazy feminist guff don’t shape up, they’ll…stop dating them! (“Rather, as Cadmus noted, we’ll just refuse to get married, buy flowers, remember birthdays, ask single women out for a date, etc.”) These would seem to be people who have no familiarity with the concept of “leverage.” I can imagine the conversation:

Dr. Mrs. OP commenter: Hey, hot stuff, want to come back to my place to service my sexual whims without your consent and wait on me hand and foot?

Unfortunate Woman: Fuck off. What the hell makes you think I’d want to date a moron who threatens to hit me with his large-print Star Wars novelizations when he’s not asserting unlimited dominion over my body anyway?

DRMOPC: That’s it–I’m not going out with you anymore. How do you like them apples?

UW: Oh, yeah, that’s…devastating. Here’s a complimentary one-way plane ticket to Vladivostok, just to make sure I won’t be tempted.

If she wanted to help her readers, Dr. Helen would start offering free mirrors.

On the NYC Trans-Fat Ban

[ 0 ] December 11, 2006 |

I discuss, and (support it) here, and Ezra joins the discussion here. Having slept on it, I think that, if anything, I was too qualified. I was sort of making the same mistake that some liberals who were more ambivalent about the war than they should have been–because some supporters of the bill (as well as its opponents) are using the bill to push asceticism and their aesthetic disdain for fat people is really neither here nor there. What matters is whether a slippery slope, and I think Saletan is wrong to think that such bans will extend to saturated fats. I mean, does he think that cities will ban butter? Bacon? Chicken sold with skin on it? Salmon? The more I think about it, the sillier the slippery slope argument seems in this case.

This is clearly a good law–it bans an unhealthy practice in ways that will have no impact on important individual freedoms (although it may have some impact on companies poisioning their customers for profit.) I would also urge people to remember the predictions of catastrophe for restaurants and bars in light of the ban on indoor smoking, which didn’t happen.

The Brownest Shirt Awards

[ 0 ] December 11, 2006 |

There’s plenty of amusement here–starting with the fact that Mickey Kaus gets significant support for “favorite left-of-center (sic) blogger, while Andrew Sullivan finishes second in the “most annoying left-of-center (sic) blogger” competition. But the fact that won “best blog overall” with Our Blessed Lady of the Concentration Camps second tells you most of what you need to know.

Speaking of silly intarweb awards, check out what Wizbang considers to be a centrist blog. What a hoot!

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