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8/22 Passed and All I Got Was This Lousy Urine-Soaked Bed

[ 0 ] August 22, 2006 |

Apparently, this Bernard Lewis article about the horror Iran was going to unleash on 8/22–whose only distinction to rational people was managing to look foolish even by the standards of the Wall Street Journal‘s op-ed pages–was deemed to be worthy of major coverage at Trainwreck Media, which admittedly didn’t have much trouble finding people who took it seriously. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on such a distinguished clown show, but it seems to me that it’s now 8/23 in Iran and…

(HT: LGF Watch.)

Nice Guy Ressentiment: Upping the Ante

[ 0 ] August 22, 2006 |

In the comments to a post about some ev-psych wankery at the Freakonomics blog, Belle Waring has uncovered someone taking “Nice Guy” self-pity to quite remarkable depths. A taste (and doesn’t his personality seem wonderful):

Any good looking guy knows that women favor ugly men. It is a mystery, just like every single action that most females undertake. Maybe its about their low self esteem, since all good looking women have low self esteem, just look at the supreme arrogance they display, that is really a sign of an inferiority complex. Maybe its about controlling some ugly loser and spending all his cash and treating him like dirt. Maybe its just because they are irrational and there is no answer. I have a great personality, but, I get turned down for some ugly jerk who treats them like a piece of meat, and I am told its because of personality. Women make this judgment on looks alone, they are intimdated of a good looking guy and assume he is a jerk because he won’t bow before them, and they mainly just intimidated since their whole world is based on the supreme superficiality of the reflection they see as they put on their make up. They profit from their looks, exercising a level of power that is so potent and omnipresent that most people do not even see its existence. They primp and priss and strut around like gods, holding a man’s self esteem in the palm of their hand, which they are only to glad to crush to make themselves feel better. The good looking guy pays a dear price for daring to compete with her in her area.

I can at least sort of understand the “why do women date good-looking men who treat them like shit” fallacy–the underlying idea that it’s some sort of cosmic injustice that the your precise attributes are not the ones most valued in the dating market is, while stupid, at least coherent. And I suppose there’s a grain of truth to the idea that people will put up with flaws in a very attractive person they wouldn’t put up with in someone they don’t find attractive (the problem with this is both the tendency to grossly exaggerate this and that there’s nothing wrong with placing a relatively higher value on aesthetic factors; one can also point out that having a good personality puts your aesthetics in a better light.) But “women just want to date ugly jerks” is one I haven’t heard before. When I think about it, though, it really is a logical extension of the Nice Guy whine; if your worldview is based on the idea that you’re God’s gift to women and them stuck-up bitches just don’t know what’s good for them, you might as well take it all the way.

A Pony For You, What About Two Ponies For Me?

[ 0 ] August 21, 2006 |

In light of today’s “closing the barn door after thieves have stolen your livestock, burned down the barn, killed your family, and absconded with a trillion dollars” revelations by the always-prescient Kenneth Pollack, Jonathan Schwarz reminds us of his excerpts from Pollack’s comedy classic, The Threatening Storm :

[Saddam's] own determination to interpret geopolitical calculations to suit what he wants to believe anyway lead him to construct bizarre scenarios that he convinces himself are highly likely.

[...]

Imagine how different the Middle East and the world would be if a new Iraqi state were stable, prosperous, and a force for progress in the region, not a source of violence and instability. Imagine if we could rebuild Iraq as a model of what a modern Arab state could be, showing the frustrated and disenfranchised of the Arab world what they should be trying to fashion. Imagine if there were a concrete symbol demonstrating that America seeks to help the Arab world rather than repress. Invading Iraq might not just be our least bad alternative, it potentially could be our best course of action.

Imagine a Liberal Hawk (TM-Iraq War Edition) with no brain cells; it’s easy if you try.

The War on (Some Classes of People) Who Use (Some) Drugs: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

[ 0 ] August 21, 2006 |

Ugh:

The idea is that when they break up the drug ring, the dealers forfeit the suitcases full of money found in their closet next to the kilo of coke. The standard for forfeiture is that the government must establish a ‘substantial connection’ between the money and a controlled substance offense.

It turns out that ‘substantial connection’ doesn’t mean a lot in the Eighth Circuit. The linked opinion tells the story of Emiliano Gonzolez, a guy with limited English fluency. He got stopped for speeding, and the police asked for, and received (insert tone of scepticism here) permission to search the car. They found $125K in cash in the car, and a police dog ‘alerted’ to the cash. Nothing else related to criminal activity was found in the car, and Gonzolez has no criminal history beyond a drunk driving arrest.

[...]

The government’s story is that having that much cash, and giving some inaccurate answers to initial questioning by the police (Gonzolez denied having a criminal record, later saying that he didn’t think drunk driving counted as such, and gave the wrong name for the person who rented the car for him), combined with the dog’s alerting to the money, together were sufficient evidence of a ‘substantial connection’ to a drug crime. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got. Absolutely no direct evidence of any, you know, crime. And the Eighth Circuit agrees with them, and is letting them take 125K from these people.

It’s not just that TWoSCoPWUSD is problematic in many respects in itself; it also acts as a sort of solvent where civil liberties go to die. (The de facto legalization of no-knock searches being the most recent example.)

Non Rebuttal-Rebuttals: East Coast Straussian Edition

[ 0 ] August 21, 2006 |

Martha Nussbaum’s review of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness is the most devastating critique of the philosophical pretensions of a Strauss disciple since…Nussbaum’s evisceration of The Closing of the American Mind. (I’m not sure if the review is available to nonsubscribers; generous excerpts are available here.) While the review is venomous (“On the logical principle that from a contradiction everything and anything follows, I conclude that Manliness says it all. Try that out on the back jacket”), it’s also very detailed and rigorous about Mansfield’s sloppiness, incoherence, and egregious misreadings. You have to read the whole thing, but as a representative example, consider Mansfield’s claims about feminism:

Mansfield is horrendous when he reads feminist thinkers. He gives us a hasty, superficial summary of several bits of some early works (de Beauvoir, Millett, Greer, Firestone), but absolutely no sense of how any of these women argues, and no sense of what the women’s movement has produced since the early 1970s. (Cursory references to Carol Gilligan and to an exchange between Judith Butler and Seyla Benhabib do not tell us anything about the framework of their ideas.) Susan Okin is mentioned once in the text, and Andrea Dworkin is ignored altogether. (Catherine MacKinnon turns up in the bibliography.) By such strategic omissions, Mansfield is able to hoodwink his implied reader into thinking that all feminists want to have a lot of sex without commitment, and that they ignore or denounce the family, and that they “do not worry about violence in sex, and they do not refer to the respect in which one should hold one’s partner.” This last is the most extraordinary claim of all. If any topics could be said to be absolute cliches of modern feminist thought, they would be the topics of sexual violence and sexual respect (treating a person as a person instead of as an object).

Yep–according to Mansfield, feminists don’t care about the respect in which women are held or about sexual violence. It’s quite remarkable that this book was published by a major academic press.

Anyway, Mansfield wrote a letter in reply (TNR, 8/14/06) that is a model of the feeble letter-to-the-editor rebuttal:

Among the many errors and misrepresentations in Martha Nussbaum’s review of my book on manliness is the statement that I have retired from a chair at Harvard (“Man Overboard,” June 26). Not so. Apart from that, I say that I did not follow her instruction for writing my book because I did not want a product quite as earnest as the books she has done lately. Nor do I desire the servile future of caring males listening raptly to righteous females that she has in mind for us.

Truly a model of the genre. First, you hint at the review’s many “errors and omissions” without bothering to point most of them out. Then you point out one trivial error that is completely irrelevant to the main thrust of your argument, and move right to the ad feminams and non-sequiturs. (Apparently it’s “earnest” to care about whether you meet scholarly standards or apply any rigor to your argument, and this is not a manly characteristic.) And, finally, your book having been utterly demolished by a vastly more serious and accomplished scholar, without rebutting a single substantive argument she puts forward you triumphantly note that she has a vagina, and hence can be safely patted on the head and ignored while non-caring and non-earnest men talk utter nonsense about how Margaret Thatcher is the only female to have led a society and how feminists don’t write about sexual violence and John Stuart Mill’s views on education wouldn’t permit On Liberty to be taught in the classroom.

What’s particularly funny about this, of course, is that Harvey “C Minus” has been the self-appointed scourge of declining standards at universities and is constantly portraying himself as standing athwart them, yelling “Stop!” But, of course, as his letter makes clear what he’s concerned about is not the decline of standards per se but the decline of privilege; he wants his arguments pre-empitively insulated from feminist critics and other interlopers. To believe that it’s “earnest” to point out that someone lacks even minimal knowledge about the schools of thought he’s writing books about, and that such criticisms can be ipso facto ignored based on irrelevant personal characteristics of the critic, is pretty much the opposite of high standards.

…Full review is available via the fine folks at Powell’s. (HT Steve.)

2006 AL East Pennant Race, Abated By Death

[ 0 ] August 21, 2006 |

A few points on Boston Massacre II:

  • The Red Sox made two crucial moves that 1)I heartily supported at the time, and 2)have, in retrospect, turned out to be bad-to-disastrous. One the first of these–letting Damon walk and brining in Crisp–I was completely wrong about, not just with hindsight but at the time. From Speaker to DiMaggio to Lynn to Damon, the Red Sox’s best teams have always had a plus defender in center to cover all that ground. And while Crisp can’t possibly be as bad as his Luzinskian routes indicated this weekend, a look at his numbers confirm that he’s not quality defender in center. And at the plate, he’s an undisciplined singles hitter who’s OK if he hits .300 and barely acceptable if he hits .275. And it’s not just that Damon’s a lot better; he went to the Red Sox’s main competition, and kept them afloat when they lost their other two OFers. Given their resources and that he was pretty clearly going to the Yankees, the Red Sox needed to accept the fact that they’d be taking a bath on the last year of the contract and sign him.
  • On the other hand, I still think that the Beckett trade was a good one; given the thinness of the pitching market, getting a still-young pitcher of that talent was a move they had to make. And–as with the Yankees the previous two years–I think a lot of what looks like failings in the Red Sox’s pitching staff is in fact a result of the left fielder-and-two-DHs “defense” they’re frequently going with. Still, not only has Beckett not done the job, but Ramirez is having a pretty good season as a 22-year old shortstop. I would still have made the trade given what I knew at the time, but this could look even uglier than the Damon fiasco in three years.
  • In some respects, Joe Torre got incredibly lucky; he has a lot of flaws, and was an unqualified failure with the Mets and Cards and a qualified one with the Braves. But managers have skills that work better with some teams than with others, and the Yankees context lessens the importance of his indecision with personnel and his smallball fetish, and emphasizes the importance of his ability to massage egos and manage the press. (That may sound backhanded, but it’s not; in New York, those are major requirements.) But one area where Torre is a truly great manager is his instinct for the jugular. You would never see Torre starting the 8th inning of a game where a season was hanging in the balance with a completely gassed Mike Timlin out there. You would never see Torre fail to pinch run for his immobile slugger before a bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game because he was worried about what would happen if he didn’t score. Tito has done a good job in Boston overall, but Torre humiliated him on Sunday.

Print The Legend

[ 4 ] August 20, 2006 |

In his review of an interesting-looking new LBJ biography, Alan Brinkley writes:

Woods challenges as well a critical element of Caro’s extraordinary portrait of Texas politics in the second volume of his Johnson biography, “Means of Ascent.” Johnson, then a congressman, was first elected to the Senate in 1948, in a close and controversial contest in which allegations of fraud emerged that plagued him for the rest of his life. Like Caro, Woods vividly describes the complex web of corruption that accompanied this race. But he does not share Caro’s romantic preference for Johnson’s opponent, Coke Stevenson, whom Caro presents as a figure of outstanding integrity but whom Woods portrays as a hardened white supremacist whose campaign was no less corrupt than Johnson’s. And despite the many concessions to conservatives that Johnson had to make to survive in Texas politics, Woods argues that even in the 1950’s he remained the most important figure in the still substantial progressive wing of the state’s Democratic Party.

Like many people, I greatly admire Robert Caro’s work; The Power Broker deserves all of its accolades, of course, and the LBJ biographies have been consistently interesting and the third volume is almost as good as the Moses biography. But it must be said the general frame into which he puts the 1948 Texas Senate race is a profound embarrassment (as well as another lesson about the uselessness of the concept of political “authenticity.”) His portrayal of Stevenson as an almost noble figure done in by the corrupt Johnson is just remarkably wrong. As Sidney Blumenthal wrote in The New Republic (June 4, 1990):

Caro’s description of Stevenson’s racial attitudes is so flawed and incomplete that it creates a picture at variance even with his hero’s own publicly stated positions. In 1942 a black man named Willie Vinson was accused of raping a white woman, dragged from a hospital bed, and lynched by a mob. It was the first lynching during the war, and it besmirched the international reputation of the United States. Attorney General Francis Biddle wrote a distressed letter to Governor Stevenson urging him to bring the murderers to trial. Stevenson refused to prosecute those responsible for the deed. But it was worse than that: in his reply to the attorney general, he made a sly argument in favor of lynch mobs. “Certain members of the Negro race,” he wrote, “from time to time furnish the setting for mob violence by the outrageous crimes which they commit.” With this carefully crafted letter, Stevenson shrewdly played to the galleries. (This entire affair, by the way, is recounted in detail by George Norris Green in the book that Caro cites on Stevenson’s integrity.)

Race, as we shall see, was a powerful undercurrent in Stevenson’s politics, and in his contest with Johnson, but one will not learn this from Means of Ascent. Caro’s thorough mishandling of the issue begins with his introduction. In it, he attempts to show the positive side of Johnson, delivering his famous “We Shall Overcome” speech in 1965, before he embarks on the exposure of his negative one. The section is a literary and political non sequitur, a misdirection to the reader, perhaps inserted to insulate the author in advance from the sort of harsh criticism from Johnson’s partisans that he experienced after the publication of his first volume.

But even this bit of fairness is so intense in its prosecutorial zeal that all nuance is flattened and Johnson’s civil rights record is made one-dimensional. “Until 1957, in the Senate, as in the House, his record–by that time a twenty-year record–against civil rights had been consistent,” writes Caro. The truth is that Johnson was never more hypocritical than in his votes against civil rights. They were never made out of conviction and were always taken as political positioning, in line with every other statewide Texas officeholder. And even so, in March 1949, after his election to the Senate, he said: “Racial prejudice is dangerous because it is a disease of the majority endangering minority groups …. For those who would keep any group in the nation in bondage, I have no sympathy or tolerance.”

This was not the normal thing for Texas politicians to say. In 1954 Johnson was the only Southern senator (apart from Estes Kefauver and Albert Gore Sr., both from the border state of Tennessee) to break ranks by refusing to sign the Southern Manifesto in favor of segregation and against the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Senator Richard Neuberger, a liberal Democrat from Oregon, remarked that it was as “courageous an act of political valor as I have seen take place in my adult life.”

And Stevenson wasn’t just rabid racist running against one of three Southern and Border Senators who didn’t sign the Southern Manifesto; as Garry Wills notes, “Stevenson’s conservatism was not only states’-rights on racial matters but on fiscal ones as well. He took a pay-as-you-go approach to the state’s own budget, and wanted to keep the federal government out. He had always opposed the New Deal–a position Caro seems to prefer to Johnson’s inconsistent support for Roosevelt’s programs.”

The problem, I think, is that in his first two volumes Caro was trying to re-tell the story of Robert Moses using Lyndon Johnson. The problem is that Moses–a young man with an interest in progressive reform, who after a few failures became obsessed with accumulating power for its own sake, and was also a racist whose power was exercised in a way that was generally devastating for the less affluent–is something close to the opposite of Johnson, a great champion of civil rights who became more progressive as he became more powerful and whose Presidential power was invested in passing a staggering percentage of the best legislation to ever reach an American president’s desk. Master of the Senate is far and away the best of Caro’s LBJ books because he finally seems to be grasping this, and I hope that continues in future volumes. But, anyway, it’s nice to see somebody else challenging the myth of 1948; I might have to check Woods’ book out.

Memo From Turner’s Diary

[ 0 ] August 20, 2006 |

Shorter various blogospheric wingnuts: the government’s appalling lack of racism gives people no recourse but to take racism into their own hands.

…UDPATE: via Roy, I see that Glenn Reynolds concurs that the racist harassment of the passengers is explained by “excessive political correctness on the part of governments.”

In light of Reynolds’ explicit endorsement of state-sanctioned racism, it’s worth remembering that Reynolds has called affirmative action programs “racism in a different guise,” and also remember his endless silly fulminating about MEChA. So, to be clear, affirmative action programs that benefit historically disadvantaged minorities and Latin campus organizations are unacceptable “racism,” but opposition to the state harassing people on the basis of their race is “political correctness” run amok. Good to know. I think I’m beginning to see why a twelfth-rate Michelle Malkin book could compel him to reconsider his views about Korematsu–the invocations of “color-blindness” to support conventional Republican positions disappear pretty quickly when there’s a conflict.

Barbara has more. As does (the non-reactionary) Glenn.

…to make clear why this is particularly important, Steve notes a Winnipeg Free Press story about 3 doctors (one Muslim) who were kicked off a plane based on the suspicions of a drunk. If only Jim Crow could be re-instituted, this kind of thing could be avoided!

…in comments, Alan reminds us of another Ted Barlow post that remains the definitve take on the ridiculous MEChA issue. (Like Ted, I’m puzzled about how the proliferation of allegedly Klan-like organizations wasn’t an issue a month before or a month after it was a way to bash a Democtratc politican during an election.)

The Forgotten Bad Play

[ 0 ] August 19, 2006 |

Admittedly, I can’t oppose to making fun of Slappy Rodriguez for hitting into yet another inning-ending double play with Beckett in the ropes. It should not be forgotten, however, that also crucial to bailing Beckett out was the fact that Saint Derek–after Beckett, who’s gotten hammered in first innings all year went 3-0 and then give up a ringing double to Damon–gave Beckett a gift out by bunting the runner over to third, the kind of play that a bush league team worried whether it can scratch out two runs puts on. And what’s amazing is that he’s not overrated despite the silly, attention-getting bunting but people actually think that’s a point in his favor.

Of course, when you can get expect to get 25 baserunners a game none of this matters much…

They Rise Up In the Sweat and Smoke, Like Mercury

[ 0 ] August 19, 2006 |

It must be said that Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey is–as has been widely noted–a real find, the most hilariously oblivious libertarian crank to emerge in quite some time. (Amber Pawlik, come back, all is forgiven.) Just as if you repeatedly assert how nice you are, you aren’t, if you repeatedly assert what an incredible catch you are, you aren’t.

One would think that this assertion of incredible desirability would drive away all the competition, but there are some other high-quality fish in the sea stepping up. If you can get out of bed after the devastating pre-emptive rejection by elaborately named Randian crackpots, at least. S.Z. makes her case:

1. My hair has lots of bounce and body. Not every woman’s hair is thick and full, as any shampoo commercial will inform you. This automatically puts me in the top 10th percentile of desirability.

2. I own a car. Many famous people, to include Gandhi, Socrates, and Jesus, didn’t. This demonstrates my moral superiority to them.

3. I obtained a bachelors degree from an accredited college, so I am way more educated than most women who lived in the 12th century.

4. My IQ has been tested and found to be higher than the IQs of several other people. So, I’m not only educated, I can also darken little squares with a pencil.

5. When I posted a photo of a porn starlet at Hot or Not? and claimed that it was me, I was rated as 97% more attractive than John Podhoretz.

6. I was not born crippled or blind or anything, thus making me a much better catch than those blind and crippled girls. And I’m way hotter than those chicks who lost their hair during radiation therapy for their cancer!

7. I was not directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, thus proving that God considers me to be a really good person.

8. I am not a fat single mother on welfare.

So, now that you know how out of your league I am, will you all PLEASE stop dreaming that we have a future together?

That should keep the losers away! But wait, Becks ups the ante:

I am not Jacqueline Passey.

Whew, it doesn’t get much higher quality than that! Clearly, they’re both out of my league. But don’t despair: welfare mothers make better lovers.

A Really Dark Alliance

[ 0 ] August 18, 2006 |

Roxanne directs us to this excellent story in the L.A. Times about reporter Gary Webb. Webb , who committed suicide in 2004, wrote a series of stories about the CIA’s connections with Nicaraguans who were dealing drugs north of the border. What followed his reporting was “one of the most bizarre, unseemly and ultimately tragic scandals in the annals of American journalism, one in which top news organizations closed ranks to debunk claims Webb never made, ridicule assertions that turned out to be true and ignore corroborating evidence when it came to light.” Definitely a must-read.

Old Skool

[ 0 ] August 18, 2006 |

Ah, nothing better than a consequential August doubleheader. Well–something could be better; the Red Sox could be starting a major league pitcher instead of Jason Johnson. I actually had a measure of optimism going into the series after the Orioles actually showed some signs of life against the Yankees (maybe they got some good karma because Herc finally gave Gus Triandos that mercy fuck.) But I suspect that will have evaporated in about 10 minutes.

Alright, this calls for being watched while working out; hopefully NYSC’s erratic satellites are picking up AlYankeezera today.

…at least Johnson is still good enough to make Slappy Rodriguez hit a weak popup. That could have been a lot worse.

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