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Bad Penny

[ 54 ] April 1, 2008 |

I’m apparently a bit late to the conversation, but I’d like to submit my brief as a penny hater. Forget the economic arguments, which are compelling enough; the fact is that the American penny is one of the ugliest coins on the planet.

Of course now that it’s Confederate Heritage Month again, I’m all for retaining currency in circulation so long as it reminds the South of its defeated status.

Also, without the penny we wouldn’t be able to enjoy this excellent Big Black tune. So now that I think about it, I guess the debate is kind of a wash after all.

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Dictatorship Is Over…If You Want It!

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

A commenter chez Yglesias links to this 2003 interview with Paul Berman. I think this is my favorite part:

Even people who think that Bush is making a blunder with his military approach can try to undo that blunder themselves in some way by going ahead and doing the things that ought to be done — promoting liberal ideas. Promoting liberal ideas, finally, is the only real way to oppose the totalitarian movements that threaten us and threaten people in the Arab and Muslim worlds, whether they’re Baathist or Islamist.

Leaving aside the narcissism involved in the implicit claim that making banal arguments about liberal democracy being preferable to totalitarianism represent great courage, I’m confused about the causal mechanism here. Protests that had no impact on a domestic government’s rush to war can be expected to topple dictatorships in other countries? Protest movements in Iran will be helped by being associated with western groups? In fairness, Berman is consistent — he also seemed to really think that rather than being dispensed with once their useful idiocy had served its purpose, liberal intellectuals — including war opponents — could actually influence Bush’s conduct of the war. (“The people who have demanded that Bush refrain from action should now demand that the action be more thorough.”) Perhaps they could help by conjuring up troops that don’t exist, knowledge about how to impose democracy ex nihilo by force that doesn’t exist, etc.

It should also be noted that the interviewer does a very good job. Responding to Berman’s claims that Bush couldn’t defend this allegedly liberal war in liberal terms, she asks the obvious question: then why didn’t Blair do it? His answer:

I admire Tony Blair but I imagine that he’s hobbled by the Bush policy. Bush has confused the whole situation by saying that the goal of the war in Iraq is disarmament. Disarmament has nothing to do with the establishment of liberal freedoms.

[...]

He’s made it very difficult to present the war as an extension of the liberal and humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s in which Tony Blair played a distinguished and honorable and brave role.

Maybe it was hard to “present” that way because…it wasn’t. Anyway, apparently we were supposed to be believe that the leader of the most important American ally in the war couldn’t influence Bush’s conduct at all, but some liberal hawks with no electoral constituency who supported the war for the right reasons could. Evidently, the fact that this kind of stuff is presented in a frame of self-congratulation for telling the Hard Truths that war opponents are too blinded by Bush-hatred to see adds to the comic effect.

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Yet Again with the Diavlogging

[ 24 ] April 1, 2008 |

Me and Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard mix it up. A taste:

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Fafblog Returns?

[ 14 ] April 1, 2008 |

Glory be. Let’s hope it’s not just April Fools.

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Noted Without Comment

[ 2 ] April 1, 2008 |

From the 2003 Berman article in The New Republic, discussed here and here:

TODAY, WE ARE living through not just a military crisis but something of a political crisis within the larger liberal democratic world, trans-Atlantically. Robert Kagan has written a subtle and brilliant book on this theme called Of Paradise and Power

Admittedly, he doesn’t think Kagan is quite right in his descriptions. He says that Europeans are from Venus “Tocquevillean”: they are defined by “a liberal democratic idea of a sort that cannot conceive of wielding power.” Americans aren’t Hobbesians but are from Mars “Lincolnians.” Uh-huh.

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The "Technological Change" Dodge

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

In a post engaging in the time-honored pastime of Mickey Kaus-bashing, Kathy makes an important point with respect to Kaus’s claim that increasing income inequality is the result of “increasing returns to skill produced by trade and technological change”:

…over the past several decades, other industrialized countries were faced with the same economic forces, such as technological change, globalization, and trade, that the U.S. did. Yet among OECD countries, only the U.S. and the U.K. saw large increases in wage inequality; the other countries saw only modest rises in inequality.

Right. Globalization, technological change, etc. happen to all market economies, but most of them have nothing like the increasing inequality of the U.S. There’s nothing inevitable about it; it’s in significant measure a product of policy choices.

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Score One For Legal Realism

[ 0 ] April 1, 2008 |

The Supreme Court’s decision today in New Jersey v. Delaware was decided in favor of the latter. The two dissenters? Trenton’s Antonin Scalia and Trenton’s Sam Alito. (Well, Stevens dissented in part, but to argue that the rule announced by the Court was insufficiently protective of Delaware’s sovereignty.)

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The Grim Reality of What Eventually Happens When Jeffrey Loria Runs A Team In Five Words

[ 6 ] April 1, 2008 |

Mark Hendrickson, Opening Day starter.

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Learning to Curse

[ 1 ] April 1, 2008 |

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

I think this is mostly my fault, but I’ll simply point out that we’re rank amateurs compared to Thers and Molly, who hit 45%. As for the LGM Enemies List, here’s how things stack up:

Althouse: 16%
TIDOS Yankee: 7%
Mickey Kaus: 3%
Americaneocon: 1.6%
Richard Nixon: 0.9%
Glenn Reynolds: 0.6%
Jonah Goldberg: 0.0%

Via Don Surber, of all the fucking people. Of course, Surber shits himself and enters the addresses on his blogroll incorrectly, giving him a string of zeros for proprietors who apparently do not deserve them.

Dr. Helen, of all people, comes in at 17.5%. That can’t be right.

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Women as Tropes

[ 12 ] March 31, 2008 |

The NY Times is a repeat competitor in the let’s shove women into boxes olympics. This week’s entry: the Magazine’s article about people who remain abstinent into their teens…people at Harvard (gasp!).

Melinda Henneberger* gets to the heart of my complaints on XX factor. In the Times’s oh-so-clever way, they are able to stereotype subliminally. But we are on to you, gray lady.


* surprisingly, this is about the fourth time in a row that I have agreed with her.

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And again…

[ 0 ] March 31, 2008 |

Prisons are a feminist issue.

Last week, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court that requires prisons to provide transportation for incarcerated women seeking abortions. It’s a blow to America’s Toughest Sheriff (TM) Joe Arpaio, who makes his male wards wear pink underwear because he believes that it feminizes them and makes them more docile. Cute, huh?

As Pamela Merritt makes clear in her RH Reality Check post today, prisons are a feminist issue not only because of abortion, but also because of the over two million people incarcerated in the US today, tens if not hundreds of thousands of them are mothers, caregivers, pregnant, or the daughters of women who also found themselves in jail. But I’d argue that we’ve got to push further than Merritt does — it’s not just about protecting reproductive rights for incarcerated women. It’s also about recognizing that prison reform is important for women on the outside — and for their families and communities.

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Some Initial Basra Thoughts…

[ 0 ] March 31, 2008 |

This looks to me like a clean victory for Sadr. In the words of the immortal Jim Malone, if you open the door on these people, you have to be prepared to close it; Maliki couldn’t close it, and now he looks pathetic. It’s becoming clear that Maliki or elements within his government asked Sadr to ask for a ceasefire, which indicates that the former believed there was no chance for victory.

The broader point is that the Iraqi central government utterly lacks meaningful coercive capacity. Training is all well and good, but after all the development of skill is something quite different than the development of capacity; the well trained Army that fought in Basra and Baghdad lacked the wherewithal to deliver victory against Sadr’s militia. And of course when the central government tries to exert its authority and fails, it is weakened as a result.

The Surge and the broader tribal strategy has utterly failed to create Iraqi state capacity. Divide and rule is a fine strategy for running a territorial empire, but a poor one for attempting to make a new state.

See Spencer for more.

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