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Category: General

James Hudnall seems to have forgotten about the other 51 percent of the population.

[ 39 ] July 9, 2010 |

I get mail:

If this combination of two of your favorite topics doesn’t rouse you from your blogging doldrums, nothing will.

To which I replied:

My my.

Then I started writing this post, which is, as per the title, about James Hudnall’s remarkably unselfconscious rant about Wonder Woman. Hudnall’s not interested in her costume change, which was apparently a topic of no small interest while I had my head in the sand, and about which all I have to say is this: if you attended a meeting and were the only one there wearing a swimsuit, would you feel uncomfortable? Enough said. For Hudnall, though, the debate about her costume merely provides him an excuse to attack her character. Like many a spurned misogynist, he does so by accusing her, and by proxy all feminists, of misandry. He begins:

The problem with Wonder Woman isn’t her look. It’s her personality. She has never been a warm, appealing character. She comes from an island populated only by immortal Amazons who hate men. And men aren’t allowed to set foot on the island. This island of super-women send her to “the man’s world” where she brings the baggage of this sexist worldview.

You want to talk about baggage? Consider what Hudnall brings to the table: women who are not “warm” are also not “appealing.” The first question, obviously, is what does he mean by “warm”? The second, of course, is “appealing” to whom? That he failed to notice that his definition of “warmth” entails that she must be “appealing” to men like him is a remarkable, albeit typical among his lot, feat of argumentative blindness: women who possess characteristics that he finds unattractive hate all men because they fail to cater or conform to Hudnall’s needs.

In addition to his inability to distinguish the universal from the particular, he simply misunderstands the character. Wonder Woman does enjoy giving those who underestimate her because she’s a woman, be they thugs or comic villains, their comeuppance—a category that by extension includes readers like Hudnall, but more on that in a bit. But notice what Hudnall fails to: the comic universe is predicated on the logic of a vicarious enjoyment of comeuppance.

Consider this scene in The Dark Knight. The nifty camerawork helps ratchet up the tension on a formal level, but on a narrative one, the tension comes from the viewer knowing what the Joker doesn’t: the implications of having crashed Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser. The viewer anticipates the comeuppance, because the Joker underestimated Wayne on account of his being a wealthy playboy. Same thing works in any situation in which Clark Kent is threatened. It even girds works that demonstrate the limitations of the genre, as that last panel neatly illustrates.

In other words, despite being the motivating force behind the genre, the logic comeuppance only bothers Hudnall when men who underestimate women receive theirs.

I wonder why that is?

Read more…

Lazy Friday Blogging: Cliff Lee, Austerity Budgets, England in the WC Final

[ 6 ] July 9, 2010 |

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this, and like Rob, I’m delighted — even though it’s a rare deal within the same division.  This seems to be a better deal than the mooted Yankees offering.  It’s only a shame that the M’s couldn’t put together a season that justified keeping Lee around all year.  He’s had an amazing year.

I wonder what the Miami Heat put forward as an alternative to the Rangers’ package?

I had been trying to cobble together a piece on the UK Coalition Government’s austerity budget, but found it all a bit too depressing.  The New York Times does a decent job of aggregating the grim, and they’re not impressed.  Oddly enough, the kids over at think 40% cuts are fantastic (in a good way).  I’m not sure if my daughter would agree, with I being ostensibly a public sector employee, and her police officer mother very much an employee of a department that is not ring fenced.  Yes, even the Conservatives admit it: Cameron is little more than a Thatcherite — with one small exception: Thatcher relied on the cops a hell of a lot to quell the concomitant riots that her policies ensued.

At least Labour are devouring one another rather than fielding a credible opposition, as David Miliband goes out on a limb and critiques Gordon Brown.  Only a year too late, mate; I’d link to my several posts on the subject, but the archives link under my name doesn’t seem to be functioning.

And, yes, the English have made the World Cup final.  The refereeing team, that is.


[ 7 ] July 9, 2010 |

Apparently, Cliff Lee not going to the World’s Greatest Manifestation of Evil. Particularly since the Yankee offer wasn’t overwhelming (if Montero could actually catch, maybe), this must be considered an unequivocal good.

The DOMA Invalidation

[ 7 ] July 9, 2010 |

Obviously, in the short term ruling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is an improvement in public policy.  Unfortunately, one of the arguments used in the rulings was a 10th Amendment argument that is both specious and dangerous, and I think it’s unlikely that the better argument will survive appeal either.

The Incompetence of Democratic Political Advisors

[ 41 ] July 8, 2010 |

It’s true that we dodged a bullet during the Democratic primaries when the prospect of Mark Penn running the White House political shop didn’t come to pass.   Unfortunately, Obama’s political team seems about as incompetent. As DeLong says, it’s especially remarkable that Obama’s political team is urging a focus on cosmetic, short-term deficit rather than stimulus and job creation.   Political science can’t resolve a lot of questions definitively, but this is one of them: any political advisor who thinks that spending cuts matter more to the electorate than employment and economic growth is a complete incompetent who is stealing his or her employer’s money.    And this all has to come back to Obama; if he can’t find political advisors who are familiar with even the most basic research relevant to their field, he’s getting exactly the advice he deserves.

Unfortunately, while many elite Democrats deserve exactly what’s going to happen to them in the 2010 midterms, the country (and especially its poor and unemployed people) doesn’t.    And I assume the gravy train that ensures that overpaid Democratic political advisors are never punished for failure will continue unabated.

Another Originalism Problem

[ 13 ] July 7, 2010 |

John Elwood, with respect to the trend toward more recess appointments by the president, and especially the recent intrasession appointment of Donald Berwick:

It is certainly not without controversy, however; Attorney General Daugherty said in dicta in one opinion that an adjournment for “5 or even 10 days” would be too brief to constitute a recess for purposes of using the Recess Appointments Clause.  But the Executive Branch (unsurprisingly) has been walking away from the Daugherty opinion  pretty much ever since.  And that is to say nothing about the considerable academic writing on the subject, much of which has been critical of intrasession recess appointments.  See, e.g., Michael Rappaport, The Original Meaning of the Recess Appointments Clause, 52 UCLA L. Rev. 1487, 1487, 1562 (2005) (stating that “one-month recesses seem too short” but acknowledging that the “prevailing interpretation” of the Recess Appointments Clause “allows the President to make recess appointments . . . during intrasession recesses of ten days and perhaps of even shorter duration”).

Let’s leave aside some of the basic conceptual problems with originalism, and assume arguendo that the Recess Appointments Clause was not intended to give the president the power to make appointments during short recesses, and was also not intended to facilitate the type and quantity of recess appointments made by recent presidents of both parties. This still leaves us with a problem, in that the Constitution is not just a series of isolated clauses, but is in many respects a structural whole. We can’t evaluate the original understanding of the Recess Appointments Clause in isolation; rather, it has to be evaluated in tandem with the Advise and Consent Clause. And if you found that the Advise and Consent Clause was not originally understood as empowering Senate minorities to block large numbers of executive branch appointments for long periods of time — which you probably would — then you haven’t really resolved the constitutional question. The better alternative is to apply the language of the Constitution in light of how politics is actually practiced in 2010, rather than how some political elites expected politics to work in 1789.

On the merits, I think this is an easy question: the appointment of Berwick is justified. Using the recess appointment in response to increasing Senate obstructionism is perfectly reasonable, and indeed is probably an equilibrium that leaves too much power to Congress (given that recess appointments are of shorter duration.) And on the broader question, while I don’t like some of the power grabs that have been made by the executive branch in recent decades (including many that the Obama administration has continued or initiated), this represents a case where expanded executive power would be a good thing. Judicial appointments are a trickier question, but presidents should be able to fill executive branch positions in a timely manner, and a norm of deference to presidential appointments in those cases is appropriate. And I don’t see any good argument for reading the Constitution to require the president to unilaterally disarm as traditional norms are redefined.

Shaving the Big Shaggy

[ 4 ] July 6, 2010 |

Dean Baker takes the shears to David Brooks before flaying him and turning his skin into a nice hat:

[Saith Brooks,] “The Demand Siders don’t have a good explanation for the past two years.”Hmmm, is that right? Seems to me that we have a very simple theory to explain the past two years. There was a huge bubble in housing that burst beginning in 2006. This led to a plunge in residential construction that cost the economy more than $500 billion in annual demand. In addition, the loss of $6 trillion in housing wealth, coupled with the loss of around $7 trillion in stock wealth, has cost the economy more than $500 billion in annual consumption demand. This is the result of the wealth effect on consumption, a phenomenon that economists have been writing about for close to a century. In addition, there was a bubble in non-residential real estate that collapsed about a year after the collapse of the housing bubble. This cost the economy about another $150 billion in demand. That gives a total loss in annual demand of around $1.2 trillion. All of this was completely predictable and predicted by at least some demand siders.

It was also easy to see that the stimulus approved by Congress was inadequate. Demand siders rely on something called “arithmetic” to reach this assessment. After pulling out the $80 billion fix to the alternative minimum tax, which had nothing to do with stimulus, and the $100 billion or so designated for later years, the stimulus provided for roughly $600 billion in spending and tax cuts over the years 2009 and 2010. This comes to $300 billion a year. Roughly half of the federal stimulus was offset by cutbacks and tax increases at the state and local level, leaving a net stimulus from the government sector of roughly $150 billion a year.

Demand siders did not believe that $150 billion in annual stimulus from the government could offset the contractionary impact of a reduction in annual spending by the private sector of $1.2 trillion ($1.2 trillion > $150 billion). That is how demand siders explained the failure of the stimulus to have much impact in reducing the unemployment rate. Perhaps this explanation is too complicated for Mr. Brooks (he repeatedly complains about the high IQs of the demand siders), but it actually seems fairly straightforward. If he wants to be honest, he could at least say that he doesn’t understand the demand siders’ explanation, rather than asserting that demand siders do not have an explanation.

At some point, philosophers will need to set aside their current work and describe several new species of logical fallacy sired by David Brooks. Meantime, it takes a very special kind of idiocy to proffer advice against “reckless” actions to folks who occupy political institutions that are barely capable of passing even the most innocuous correctives to the economic, ecological and foreign policy catastrophes of the past decade.

The Great One

[ 22 ] July 6, 2010 |

Really, really good story about Mariano Rivera.

Given the degraded quality of Honus Wagner’s competition, I think the choosing the best closer of all time is easier than any other position, especially if you place appropriate weight on Rivera’s insanely good postseason performance.   (Given the leverage of his typical outing, is he the most valuable postseason performer of all time?   It’s hard to argue with that.)    What’s especially interesting about Rivera is that his immortality — unlike that of Wagner, say, or Ruth or Mantle or Bonds or Pedro or Pujols — doesn’t rest on doing things that only a tiny handful of other players in history could do.    If you were to look at 1998, when Rivera had a slightly subpar (especially in the K/W data) but essentially typical season — the 233 ERA+ actually above his career average, 36 saves about right given that he missed a few games — there were plenty of distinct non-immortals having seasons about as good or better: Urbina, Hoffman, Wetteland, Nen, Jeff Shaw, Michael Jackson fer Chrissakes.  And then there were more pitchers — Beck, Wagner, Lightenberg — who were in the same general class if you account for how small samples can make the ERA fluctuate.   Given that, it would seem as if it there would be multiple Riveras, guys who who could sustain the performance of the typical Excellent Closer Year for as long as great position players have.    Maybe not Rivera, but at least guys who belong in the discussion.

But nobody does.     Among the few modern closers who have maintained anything like that level of performance for more than a decade — Lee Smith, Hoffman, Reardon and Franco and Myers if you’re feeling really charitable –  all have settled into a distinctly much lower level of quality even as they remained good enough to be decent closers.    While Rivera has not only sustained his excellence, he’s gotten better; barring a second half collapse, his three year performance from ages 38-40 will be the best of his career and significantly better than his age 28-30 seasons.     It’s genuinely remarkable, and if I’m still not not sure I understand it Traub’s article takes me about as close as I can.

Milbank v. Weigel

[ 5 ] July 6, 2010 |

Like Matt, I think that Carr has the Post dead to rights on its double standards. A couple additional points:

  • The analogy is pretty direct.   If I understand, the justification for firing Weigel was that you couldn’t expect Weigel to cover Matt Drudge if he wrote mean emails about him.   Milbank’s beat involves covering the White House, so it would seem that the same logic would apply in his case.
  • It should also be re-emphasized, as Carr says, that “none of the Post leadership suggested his actual work was anything less than rigorous or fair.”   Whereas one can actually find examples of Milbank’s sexist attitudes about Clinton affecting his actual work for the Post.    But, then, Milbank himself believes that media antipathy toward Clinton can simply for taken for granted.   It’s not like picking on poor defenseless Matt Drudge!
  • A central issue would indeed seem to be that Weigel just isn’t part of Beltway media culture, and I’m guessing that one of the biggest crimes that one can commit among the kind of people who send anonymous emails to Jeffrey Goldberg is to actually take politics seriously.    One can’t imagine Weigel acting like Milbank and asking politicans multiple questions about how they look in a swimsuit; in the culture of the Post, this is apparently a major negative.

It’s Small Consolation, But…

[ 6 ] July 5, 2010 |

To play a little “glass half full” on Independence Day weekend, this can remind you that if you think today’s liberal elites are bad, liberal elites sixty years ago were so thoroughly saturated with white supremacist Southern revisionism about Reconstruction that they viewed Andrew Goddamned Johnson as a much better president than Ulysses Grant.

Independence Day Redux

[ 2 ] July 5, 2010 |

I spent my first independence day in the US since 1999 driving a massive GMC truck from Idaho to Portland, towing a 1973 VW Type III that was gifted to me by my future brother in law.  We drove through “Real America”, full of, presumably, real Americans, tending to their amber waves of grain.  Or something.  It was an eventful 732 mile round trip journey.

The VW didn’t fall off the tow dolly, our best efforts regardless.

Upon my return to Oregon, I was stunned to see that Portland has been named “America’s Most Patriotic City“, according to that most seminal of arbiters, Men’s Health (or simply MH for those in the know).  High voter turnout, loads of volunteerism, heaps of cash spent on veterans, and copious purchases of flags and material to blow stuff up with.

What’s missing from this list?  Republicans.  Portland is one of the heavier Democratic cities in the union.  Clearly the methodology employed by MH is deeply flawed; I thought Republicans were the only “true Americans”.

I’ll leave you with an old standard, that I posted last year:

This Will Hurt You More Than It Hurts Me

[ 25 ] July 4, 2010 |

The Catfood Commission is indeed appalling. The primary rule of the Pain Caucus is that actual members of the caucus and their core supporters are exempt from the pain.

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