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Today In Aesthetic Stalinism

[ 8 ] February 26, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim stooge at Veritas Libertas — Conservative Thought (sic) About Film (sic): “You know what, I’m glad little Miss Julie -Close Gitmo- Christie lost. Acting like a anti-American pig on the red carpet waving her little Canadian flag (White, right?) and bitching about Gitmo… She can kiss our terriorist killing, UN hating, Iraq invading, Red White and Blue ass as she goes home empty-handed hoping she someday scores an HONORARY Oscar. See ya in Canada Julie– unless, of course you decent decent healthcare.”

I don’t know how much one has to hate art and hate life to harbor an intense, simmering resentment against Julie Christie because she made some mild statements opposing arbitrary detention and torture. Frankly, I don’t want to know. It’s the kind of market we can do without.

One might also think that a writer about film would be aware that Julie Christie has actually already won an Oscar, but of course the website in question has nothing to do with film so it makes sense.

[Thanks to Roy. I think.]

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Only the Times…

[ 15 ] February 26, 2008 |

…Could frame this as a negative for Obama:

“And while he has made progress among women, he still faces a striking gender gap: Mr. Obama is backed by two-thirds of the Democratic men and 45 percent of the women. White women remain a Clinton stronghold.”

So the paper is telling me that the fact that Obama supporters include almost half the women in the country Democratic party and 66% of the men is a vulnerability? Sure there’s a gender gap, but it’s much smaller than it used to be.

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Is SNL Back to Being Funny?

[ 60 ] February 25, 2008 |

Exhibit A: the “annuale” commercial that aired on this weekend’s show:

I personally prefer this to the popular “bitches get stuff done” bit. Certainly not perfect from a feminist perspective, but nice to see some funny ladies back on the small screen.

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Oh No! A Turban!

[ 0 ] February 25, 2008 |

My assumption about the Drudge story was that the pictures of Obama dressed in a turban with the racist and/or xenophobic connotations that flow from that was that it was a right-wing smear he was trying to launder by pinning it on the Clinton campaign. But this non-denial denial suggests pretty strongly that it was, in fact, a Clinton smear job. I really hope it’s over next Tuesday….

an actual denial from Wolfson. I’ll take their word for it.

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You can’t spell "integrity" without SMU!

[ 31 ] February 25, 2008 |

The school that hosted the greatest football scandal in NCAA history has topped itself by agreeing to host the George W. Bush library after The Decider shuffles off his presidential coil next year.

The entire project would be intellectually suspect, if for no other reason than Bush’s issuance of Executive Order 13233 in November 2001. That document, which was written up by Noted Friend of the Constitution Alberto Gonzales, essentially suspended the 1978 Presidential Records Act by allowing presidents nearly limitless authority over their papers and by permitting them to designate representatives to act in their name — and continue to withhold the release of what should be public records — after their deaths. As well, the order enables sitting presidents to revise the wishes of their predecessors and block their papers from release. It was an abhorrent order, and Congress has allowed it to stand for well over six years. (The moderately good news is that 13233 will almost certainly be rescinded by the next president; it may not even make it that far if the Senate follows the House’s lead and passes a veto-proof bill restoring the old procedures. Barack Obama is one of three co-signers to the Senate legislation. Jeff Sessions is blocking the bill in committee.)

None of this is news, of course. What’s truly jaw-dropping about SMU’s decision, though, is that the library comes with an affiliated “institution” whose openly partisan mission will be to continue promoting the “ideas and views” of George W. Bush. The institution will be sited on SMU’s campus but will not actually be under the control of the university itself.

While SMU will not release details about its agreement with the president’s foundation until later today, the summary indicates that the university agreed to a structure that would link the institute to the rest of the library and the university, while agreeing to let the foundation control the institute.

The institute will have its own board, which will consist of from three to nine members. SMU said that under its agreement with Bush, the university will be assured one board seat if the board size is up to five, and two board seats if the board is larger.

To a degree, I can understand why the Bush foundation would insist on this sort of thing as a condition for hosting Bush’s collection of books and papers. He’ll leave office next year as one of the worst and least popular presidents in American history, and he’s going to need a permanent public relations infrastructure — an historical analogue to the Office of Special Plans — if he’s going to keep the 20-percenters from ever regarding him (correctly) as a gross incompetent.

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Almost Single Digits

[ 18 ] February 25, 2008 |

Late last week there was news of President Bush’s new approval ratings, which are his lowest ever: 19%.

Other polls have him slightly higher (in the 20s). I take such perverse joy in this. I think the day he hits 9%, I may have to throw a little party.

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The Non-Sequitur Defense

[ 84 ] February 25, 2008 |

A commenter recommends this diary defending the candidacy of Ralph Nader, making an argument I’ve heard many times before. I agree strongly with the diarist that we should get rid of the electoral college and institute instant runoff voting, and mildly agree that a PR system would be preferable to first-past-the-post (although a PR system creates some serious problems with a separation-of-powers system.)

The problem, of course, is that Ralph Nader’s candidacies have done absolutely nothing to bring these things about, and at least two of them (direct vote for president and PR) are because they would require small states or incumbents to give up vested interests. It’s silly to defend Nader by saying that if we had a different electoral system he wouldn’t have thrown the election to Bush. We don’t, and he did, and I don’t see how putting George Bush in the White House took us closer to instant-runoff voting.

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[ 47 ] February 25, 2008 |

Didn’t see the ceremony. Glad to see No Country win Best Picture; it wasn’t my very favorite picture of the year, but as I said last year it’s again the best movie to win Best Picture since Annie Hall, and the class this year was unusually strong.

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More On Experience

[ 38 ] February 25, 2008 |

Kevin Drum objects to my argument about experience, claiming that Obama’s experience will be a disadvantage against McCain but Clinton’s would not. I’m not entirely convinced. It’s worth untangling the normative and empirical issues here. The heart of Kevin’s argument is this: “Like it or not, most voters have a sort of vague operational view of experience that means something like “involvement in big league politics.” And on that score, Hillary gets 15 years: 8 years as an activist first lady and 7 years as U.S. senator. Obama, conversely, gets a total of 3 years as U.S. senator.” The problem here is that this seems pretty arbitrary, with the general criteria selected to give Clinton maximum advantage. Do most voters believe that serving as first lady counts as full “involvement in big league politics” but Obama’s longer (and arguably more effective) history as a legislator doesn’t count at all? Maybe, maybe not. The difficult first lady question is particularly crucial, because without full credit Clinton is clearly at a major disadvantage to McCain if experience matters, and my guess is that voters not only won’t give full credit to this but will indeed give less credit to it than I would consider appropriate. At any rate, it’s even less clear that this qualified edge in experience matters very much. Consider not only this year’s Dem race but compare Bill Clinton (zero years big time experience by Kevin’s criteria) against the lengthy resume of George H.W. Bush, or the latter’s son against Al Gore. Either voters evaluate experience in a more nuanced manner than Kevin suggests, or it’s a pretty trivial consideration. Perhaps a little of both, but pols from Henry Clay to Robert Dole might suggest that it’s more the latter. (Or maybe the things that go along with experience in politics make candidates unattractive for other reasons.)

On the normative question, I have a hard time believing that Obama’s somewhat greater inexperience make him much riskier than Clinton. Clinton’s extra Senate term means pretty much nothing, especially since she got the most important question of her tenure wrong. Her first lady experience may be marginally more relevant than Obama’s good state legislative record, community organizing, and work in legal academia, but it’s hard to see that it would compel you to vote for anyone you otherwise wouldn’t. (And this cuts both ways; some Clinton supporters may think I’m underrating the importance of her experience in the White House, but I also don’t think that her husband’s general failure to mobilize support for major progressive reform is much of an indicator of what Hillary Clinton would do as president.) The Presidency is sui generis, and you really are rolling the dice either way (including McCain, even though he’s the most experienced.) None of the major remaining candidates has experience that really sheds much light on how effective they’d be. You pull the lever and takes your chances.

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Birthday Girl

[ 16 ] February 24, 2008 |

Greta — one of the more neurotic and sweet dogs you’d ever want to meet — turns six today. I’m baking her a cake, which is just the sort of thing to do when a Newfoundland makes it 2/3 of the way through the average lifespan of her breed. She’s also going to receive a giant rawhide covered with some variety of meaty goo.

I’m setting the odds at 4-1 that she’ll heave all this on the rug by early evening.

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[ 66 ] February 24, 2008 |

Reactionary vanity candidate Ralph Nader is apparently pleased enough with record of the man he put in the White House that he’s running again in hopes that we can get four more years of similar policy outcomes. This time, of course, it won’t matter. Unlike in 2000, I believe that the vast majority of people willing to see the parties as indistinguishable after 8 years of Bush really are people unlikely to vote for any Democrat until they try to grab the true pulse of the American people and run a Chairman Bob Avakian/Mumia ticket. I’m more sad than angry about what Nader will do to his reputation with another pointless Republican-funded campaign at this late date.

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Are You Experienced?

[ 0 ] February 24, 2008 |

Related to this point, arguments for Clinton proceeding from her allegedly greater experience have always been unpersuasive, precisely because if Clinton’s rather marginal and contestable experiential advantages over Obama should be decisive any of the other major Democratic candidates would be unquestionably preferable to either. (And, even worse, the same would be true of McCain in the general.) Fortunately for the Dems in November, I also agree with Yglesias that experience tends to be “the time-honored election argument of losers.” I think there may be exceptions in cases of long-time executive or high-ranking military experience, but no viable candidate has that.

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