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Oh, Give it Up

[ 0 ] March 12, 2008 |

Geraldine Ferraro refuses to back off her claim that Obama has gotten so far in the presidential primary because he is black. In fact, she’s made things worse, saying:
“Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”
How’s that, Geraldine? Well, it’s both (1) blatantly untrue and (2) undermining the history of racism in this country.
So how about you remove your foot from your mouth and apologize, Ms. Ferraro? How’s that?

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A Couple of Brief Thoughts on the Wire Finale

[ 48 ] March 12, 2008 |

Like Scott, I thought that the Wire finale was fantastic. Three of the four great HBO dramas have had great final episodes; Deadwood is the tragic exception. A couple of very random thoughts…

It had occurred to me before I read this interview with David Simon that a film on the Dreyfus Affair might be an interesting project for him, and the fact that he reveres Kubrick’s Paths of Glory only reinforces that impression. On the surface it is kind of odd to think that Simon, whose work is so deeply focused on Baltimore, might participate in the making of a film about an unjustly accused French military officer. But to me the strength of the Wire has, from the very first, been in its portrayal of the internal dynamics of bureaucratic organizations, and in particular of how those dynamics can create serious deficiencies in policymaking. The Dreyfus Affair, of course, is about nothing so much as the unwillingness of the French Army and of those in whose interest it was to protect the French Army to accept that an innocent man had been railroaded. I’m not sure that Dominic West would really be appropriate for the role of Dreyfus, but such a project would represent a further exploration of the themes that Simon dealt with in the Wire.

I’ve seen in a couple of places the complaint that the finale focused too much on McNulty at the expense of the other storylines. There’s a certain fairness to this line of critique, but I think it misses the point of McNulty’s role in the series. The point of this exercise was in part, as Martin Wisse noted, to use the blogosphere as pointlessly as possible, but was also motivated by an interest in placing Wire characters within the larger cinematic universe. Jim McNulty and Han Solo strike me as almost the same character; if Han Solo had grown up in 1970s Baltimore, he might well have ended up living McNulty’s life, and vice versa. They play a similar narrative role, in that both are, in a sense, first moving free agents. Star Wars isn’t “about” Han Solo; it’s about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, but the intervention of Han Solo at a critical moment (preventing Anakin from killing Luke) allows destiny to play out. Similarly, McNulty pulls the lever that gets all of the bureaucracies, from the street to the courthouse to the police to City Hall, moving towards the more or less inevitable collisions that play out across the five seasons. And so in that sense I think it was appropriate to end on McNulty, especially as he finally returned to the outsider status after everything had played out.

Also, Marlo may be street, but he looks a lot better in a suit than in a white t-shirt. Kind of interesting following Marlo’s wardrobe since he’s been introduced; pretty much steady improvement until the orange jumpsuit.

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Just Saying

[ 162 ] March 12, 2008 |

I really like Chris Hedges, but if we take this column and replace the phrase “Ralph Nader” with the phrase “some dude I know who reads a lot of Naomi Klein and Greg Palast books,” his argument only becomes marginally less persuasive.

In the piece, Hedges quotes Nader arguing that a vote would be like a vote for the Liberty Party, which ran candidates on an abolitionist platform in 1840 and 1844. Nader’s self-serving analogy is both silly and unintentionally appropriate. Silly because unlike Nader, the leaders of the Liberty Party actually worked to develop a sustainable organization that could survive from one election to the next; by 1848, the Liberty Party had morphed into the Free Soil Party, which by the mid-1850s melded into the coalition that formed the basis of the emergent Republican Party.

As for the unintentionally appropriate comparison, Nader might have forgotten that the Liberty Party quite probably cost Henry Clay (the Buffalo Bills of antebellum American politics) the presidency in 1844, when it drew 16,000 votes in New York, a state that James Polk carried by just over 5000. Polk, to no one’s surprise, went on to provoke a fraudulent, expansionist war with Mexico that reopened the slavery question, led the country toward civil war, and opened the door to professional hockey franchises in southern California and Arizona. Perhaps Nader believes those contradictions were worth heightening, but it’s hard to argue in retrospect that the country wouldn’t have been better served by a Clay presidency.

Even more calamitous, of course, was Polk’s introduction of the mullet into the White House:

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[ 24 ] March 12, 2008 |

24-point win for Obama, netting +6 delegates and nearly 100,000 popular votes. Also note that this was despite GOP voters going for Clinton 3-to-1.

I must also admit finding it grimly amusing in light of these antics that I was supposed to be outraged by Samantha Power.

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Really, No

[ 0 ] March 11, 2008 |

I agree with K-Drum and Atrios about this Orlando Patterson op-ed. I mean, even if there was a potential racial subtext that the ad should have avoided — and Patterson’s case that there is, to put it charitably, strained — to compare it to a film that was not merely pro-Klan and anti-Reconstruction but actually played a major role in mobilizing private terror is really far, far beyond the pale. I think a couple criticisms of Clinton campaign’s use of race have been valid, and many more have not been, but if you’re going to make this kind of analogy your case has to be far stronger than Paterson’s is.

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More, Please

[ 16 ] March 11, 2008 |

The Obama campaign hits back on Clinton’s allegedly extensive foreign policy “experience.” (Admittedly, they don’t seem to be counting the time she went to Albania with Amy Grant and Nipsey Russell in their rundown.) And, of course, the bottom line remains the most important thing:

Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong…He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader — an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.

That’s the way to do it, in both the primary and the general. Even if Clinton had the foreign policy experience she claimed, if she thought that the Iraq War was a good idea it can’t have done her much good. And although Clinton may think McCain would be a bang-up Commander in Chief his own misjudgments make clear that this isn’t true.

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And Yet.

[ 23 ] March 11, 2008 |

Apparently, Dr. Laura Schlesinger just couldn’t resist the chance to woman-bash. When she appeared on the Today Show this morning to discuss the Spitzer Scandal (TM), she had this to say:

“When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs.”

Right. People are actually still saying this in 2008?! Apparently, yes.

Meredith Viera, who was momentarily flabbergasted, managed to eke out a question:

Finally, Viera managed to speak: “You’re saying the women should feel guilty that they somehow drove the man to cheat?” she asked.

“The cheating was his decision to repair what’s damaged and to feed himself where he’s starving,” Schlessinger explained. “But, yes, I hold women responsible for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.”

Right again. Because Spitzer is obviously a prize of a man and has treated his wife with the “love and kindness and respect” that she deserves. I’m just hoping that Jezebel is right: no one takes this hack seriously anymore…if they ever did.

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Spitzer and the Candidates

[ 17 ] March 11, 2008 |

I’m so sick of the Spitzer talk. Yet here I am.

Jon Wiener over at the Nation’s blog the Notion suggests how the Spitzer scandal is going to play out in the Democratic primary: it’ll help Hillary Clinton because she–or any other woman–won’t be a patron of the Emperor’s Club.

Sure, it’s snort-inducing: would be nice if a sex scandal could help Hillary Clinton, for once. And it also goes against what is quickly-becoming the blogosphere conventional wisdom: that the Spitzer scandal will hurt Clinton because it will remind voters of her husband’s indiscretions (which, as far as we know, did not include patronizing a prostitute). But I’m also not convinced it’s so. As Wiener points out, this prediction requires the corollary prediction that McCain and/or Obama is likely to engage in the same stuff Spitzer did. While anything is possible, I just don’t see this one playing out that way.

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Crunching the Popular Vote Numbers

[ 48 ] March 11, 2008 |

For my part I think that the superdelegates should be able to consider whatever they want when deciding between Clinton and Obama, and if they want to take seriously the idea that cobbling together a national popular vote makes any sense, more power to them. Along with “Obama can’t win the big states, so kiss New York and California goodbye”, the national popular vote notion has been one of the few remaining tropes that the Clinton-supporting blogosphere can trot out with a straight face. Mark Schmitt, however, crunches the numbers and demonstrates that this line of thinking doesn’t solve any of Clinton’s problems. Even accepting a big Clinton win in Pennsylvania and a win in the Florida re-vote as big as her win in the straw poll, Clinton remains substantially behind Obama. To close the gap she would need to win huge in Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and a Michigan re-vote, and virtually tie Obama in such states as Oregon and North Carolina.

In short, it’s remarkably difficult to imagine a plausible scenario in which Obama doesn’t reach the convention with leads in the popular vote and the pledged delegate total. A Clinton victory would almost inevitably involve the superdelegates overturning both of those outcomes. The only other option, I suppose, is pushing the Lukasiak “we can use exit polls to demonstrate that Clinton wins a subset of the popular vote” nonsense, but it’s hard for me to believe that even the people peddling that line take it very seriously.

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Brighouse on Blackburn

[ 0 ] March 11, 2008 |

I’ve been meaning to return to the conversation I began in these posts (see also Rob) on atheism, religion, ecumenicalism, pluralism, respect, and the toxicity of Dawkinsian-style engagement with religion, and I hope to do so in the future, when time and energy permit. For now, though, let me heartily endorse Harry Brighouse’s post on Simon Blackburn’s paper, Religion and Respect, which is part of Philosophers Without Gods: Mediations on Atheism and the Secular Life. There’s some excellent comments over there, as well, including some that challenge Harry’s position.

There are a number of good potentially interesting authors included in the anthology; if I can get my hands on it I’ll post more on my own responses to some of them.

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[ 8 ] March 11, 2008 |


If Hillary Clinton were a black man, it’s unlikely that she would have been a national political figure for the past 15 years, as it’s unlikely that she would have married another man from Arkansas, and unlikely that the country would have put an interracial, same sex couple in the White House. But so what? This is an election, not Marvel’s “What If?” series.


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Shifts in the Kentucky Blogosphere

[ 3 ] March 11, 2008 |

Media Czech, former guest blogger here and until recently a blogger at Bluegrass Roots, has a new home in cyberspace. The reasons for the move are complicated, but suffice to say that for my part, the most valuable element of Bluegrass Roots stemmed from MC’s presence. So, for the Kentucky contingent Barefoot and Progressive is the new place for entertainingly angry political rants leavened by the occasional reference to Wildcats basketball…

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