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Low Broderism

[ 17 ] September 28, 2010 |

Is it possible to come up with a dumber “Obama would be leading the Democrats to a victory in the midterms if only he had sucked up even more to Republicans” argument than Clive Crook’s? Well, I don’t know, but some participants in this forum are certainly giving it the ol’ diploma mill try. Our first candidate is the nominally Democratic answer to Alan Simpson, Mr. Bob Kerrey. According to Kerrey, Obama needs (like a good Nebraska Republican, which for all intents and purposed Kerrey now is) to embrace states’ rights, some vague mush about “private sector innovation,” the Catfood Commission, and:

Second, the president should downsize the federal government. Don’t let anyone say it cannot be shrunk by at least 10 percent; there is always room to cut. He should connect this with his efforts to make policymaking more open and transparent and use the savings to finance a small-business recovery plan.

Bonus points for saying that the federal government can be cut 10% while conveniently omitting anything that should actually be cut, beyond some of the usual waste/fraud/abuse handwaving, which is now called “transparency.”

Can this be topped? You might not think so, but you haven’t reckoned with the farcically fraudulent hack who was inexplicably paid millions of dollars to destroy Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. I give you Mark Penn, Union Buster (TM), who would like you to know that the housing bubble won’t reinflate itself, and unemployed people want more money going to NASA :

Rather than cut the space program, he should double its size. [!] He should make sure that every American with a broadband connection has access to online education.[?]


Voters will re-elect President Obama only if they believe that America is on the move, creating and building things. Homeownership is still a vital part of the American dream and must remain a goal of his administration, despite the housing crisis. [What could possibly go wrong?] And he should work with both parties to come to a reasonable compromise on immigration reform, one that would create a clearer path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and effectively control the borders. [And a pony!]

After the midterms, President Obama will likely face the same decision that President Clinton faced in 1994 — to stay the course on the left or return to the center. His choice could be the difference between a one-term presidency and four more years governing with the coalition that elected him. [Why, Mark, whatever path do you think he could choose?]

I think I’m going to give this to Penn, if only on the grounds of sheer laziness. He can’t even be bothered to come up with some new arbitrary group of rich conservative white people who Obama should pander to this time…


I Take It Back

[ 7 ] September 28, 2010 |

OK, maybe he was right to praise himself — for the first time we have evidence that Richard Cohen is a very funny man. The segue from “practically, some suburban Jerusalem settlements won’t be dismantled'” to “therefore, Israel should be able to build more illegal settlements pretty much wherever it pleases and Obama should just butt out” — now that’s priceless comic timing.

Boarding the Waaaaaaaambulance

[ 8 ] September 28, 2010 |

Shorter Ed Gillespie: “I must oppose transparency, because it violates the rights that individuals and especially corporations have under the First Amendment to have nobody disagree with them.”

Jeez, Ed, even Antonin Scalia is making fun of you right now.

UPDATE: More here.

Teaching Panel Transitions via Craig Thompson’s Blankets

[ 24 ] September 27, 2010 |

The standard caveat applies: these analyses are designed for freshmen-level composition courses.  I repeat: these analyses are designed for freshmen-level composition courses.  The wheel will not be reinvented here.

I begin the quarter teaching excerpts from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Making Comics not because all arguments about comic form and content end with the theories contained therein, but because 1) his terms have come to define the debate and 2) they are damn useful in setting up classroom debates.  (My students don’t realize that they frequently recapitulate the scholarly arguments inspired by the book, but they do.)  The basic idea behind this exercise is to get them to understand that they’re all murderers and the only way they’ll get their heads out of the gutters is figure out how to move from one panel to the next.  First I provide the McCloud:

Scott mccloud transitions 01

Then I follow it with an example from their text, in this case Craig Thompson’s Blankets:

Scott mccloud transitions 02

You’ll note that I haven’t included an obvious example of a moment-to-moment transition here, but that’s because I want them to understand from the get-go that this terminology is flexible.  In this case, I would argue that this is moment-to-moment on two accounts: the first would be conventional McCloud, because in the gutter between the those panels the reader must imagine Phil squirm until he can spot the “sharks” on the floor beside the bed.  My assumption here is that “squirming” represents “a single action” and Thompson portrays its constituent parts, but my assumption is also an assertion that students can (and tomorrow will be forced to) take issue with.

For example, it could be argued that “squirming” is an indivisible act and that, as such, it cannot be broken down into a series of moments (although the very existence of these panels would seem to indicate otherwise).  Here as elsewhere, the poor fit between McCloud’s term and Thompson’s text works to my advantage: something cannot simply be said to be something.  It must be argued.  The same difficulties arise with McCloud’s next transition:

Scott mccloud transitions 03The problem is right there in the word-picture relation: is the “single subject” of McCloud’s panels a baseball player and a drunk (“person”) or a baseball bat and a drink (“object”)?  It may seem like a distinction without difference until you imagine a fourth panel for each example: if the baseball player swings and the fourth panel presents him rounding the bases, the “single subject” had to be him; if the batter swings and the fourth panel presents the bat flying into the stands and injuring a spectator, the “single subject” must have been the bat.  Implicit in retroactive determinations of the sort is a more complicated argument about what the meaningful elements within a panel are.  Here’s the Thompson I’m pairing with the above:

Scott mccloud transitions 04

What is the subject of this panel?  Is it Thompson or the blood on his hands?  An argument can made be for either (though obviously one is more interesting the the other).  I could continue in this vein, but I want my students to figure this out on their own and not simply repeat what I write on the blog.  With that in mind, I will simply present the last examples (minus non-sequitur for Thompson-specific reasons I’ll cover later) in the order in which they will appear on the wall.  Feel free to knock them (and me) about in the comments.  Here goes:

Read more…

Yeah, Sure

[ 5 ] September 27, 2010 |

Shorter Clive Crook: People would be perfectly happy with Obama, despite the dismal economy, if he were more like David Broder. Certainly, he cannot continue to be such a populist firebrand, always pandering to hippies. Oh, and he should definitely support extremely unpopular upper-class tax cuts; that will put him over the top.

No, really. This is one of those columns that make you wonder if they could possibly believe this stuff.

UPDATE: Henry has much more.

The Full Range Of Opinion From Jonah Goldberg to Rich Lowry!

[ 11 ] September 27, 2010 |

Son of a Nobel Laureate Adam Bellow continues to masterfully undermine the thesis of his own book.

I Can’t Decide Whether This Is Wrong Until I Know His Party Affiliation

[ 16 ] September 27, 2010 |

Meet New York Republican nominee Carl Paladino, who has some other things besides racist emails on his cv:

She was talking about her husband’s affair, a subject she was ready, if not eager, to address. Since her husband, Carl, won the Republican nomination for governor of New York last week, the only story in the race as compelling as his upset victory has been their personal back story: that her husband not only had an affair, not only fathered a child with that other woman, but also told his wife of 40 years about it all the same week that their 29-year-old son, Patrick, was killed in a car accident. He pulled her aside, Ms. Paladino said, as she was looking for family photographs to bring to the wake.

“He said he was very sorry to cause me pain, the relationship with the mother was over … and there was a child,” she said.

The problem is, I’m unsure about the moral status of Carl Paladino’s actions here. The reaction to John Edwards’s similar actions and Bill Clinton’s substantially lesser actions would suggest that Paladino’s adultery makes him History’s Greatest Monster.* The reaction to the similar actions of Newt Gingrich, John McCain, David Vitter, Rudy Giuliani, and John Ensign suggests that his political career should go on as if nothing happened. Hmmm, if there was only some pattern here that would allow me to determine what the reaction will be.

*And yes, yes, I understand with Edwards there’s the “meta” argument that his adultery should be disqualifying because of the lack of political judgment it showed, and sure as far as it goes. But that argument works because his adultery would be seen as disqualifying, and note that the same argument could be made about all of the other men I’ve named with the possible exception of McCain.

The Death of Brown Continues

[ 12 ] September 27, 2010 |

School boards have gotten the green light from the Supreme Court to re-segregate, and so why not just abandon any pretense of caring and go back to the same “neighborhood school” polices that maintained segregated schools in the immediate wake of Brown?

“You’re Not Black”

[ 36 ] September 26, 2010 |

Despite seeing the write-up, I have a hard time believing this actually happened. I do like the fact that Coulter has illustrated another twist to the general Republican belief that “George Wallace and Strom Thurmond are the true heirs to Martin Luther King,” namely civil rights protections for African Americans that conservatives opposed at the time now being used to justify the denial of civil rights protections to other groups.

Deep Thought, Part Duh

[ 30 ] September 25, 2010 |

If we had a hipper press corps, someone would just go ahead and ask Christine O’Donnell how all those fucking magnets work.

Deep Thought

[ 5 ] September 25, 2010 |

It could be argued that Troy Tulowitzki has been one of Colorado’s more effective players this September.

Either way, puppies will die

[ 23 ] September 24, 2010 |

An obscenely busy (yet curiously unproductive) schedule has kept me from reading much non-Alaskan coverage of our weird-ass Senate race, so I don’t know if Steve Kornacki’s optimistic take is representative of how folks are interpreting Murkowski’s decision to run as a write-in candidate. Yet here it is:

In Alaska, where it takes extraordinary circumstances for a Democrat to win a statewide election, Murkowski’s effort holds the potential of depriving Miller of the votes of less conservative Republicans (and Republican-friendly independents), leaving him with just the hard-right Tea Party base of the GOP. If that kind of split were to emerge, Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate, would then have an opportunity to win by uniting the Democratic base and Democratic-friendly independents.

And therein rests the problem. There simply aren’t that many “Democratic friendly independents” in this state right now, and those who exist seem to be in the process of convincing themselves (along with a depressing number of actual Democrats) that Murkowski is the only alternative to Miller, a guy who disproves the thesis that bearded men are worthy of our trust. Now, given that Miller is a complete nutter, there’s no question that — at least so far as Alaskan interests are concerned (i.e., using your money and pretending we harvested it ourselves from moose innards) — he would be a worse Senator than Murkowski, especially if he received her spots on the Appropriations, Energy/Natural Resources, Indian Affairs and Health/Education/Labor/Pensions committees.  Meanwhile, because the state Democratic party completely ignored the Senate race and spent all its energy trying to win Sarah Palin’s old job, we’ve got a Democratic candidate from a small Southeast Alaskan city whose lack of name recognition isn’t being helped by all the drama in the GOP.  A decent fellow, McAdams is sadly not the sort of candidate who’s likely to inspire a stampede on election day.  So I’m predicting that Kornacki has things backwards — Murkowski is going to siphon away a depressingly large number of Democratic votes from folks who will talk themselves into believing that she’s actually some kind of reasonable moderate. But it won’t be enough, and at the end of the day Joe Miller will be our next Senator.

He probably would have beaten Scott McAdams in a two-way race anyhow, but the willingness of good Democrats to line up behind Murkoski is kind of baffling. Joe Miller is a pinhead, but there’s no reason to reward Murkowski for being not quite as odious as Joe Miller — especially when that reputation isn’t all that well deserved. She chose (in the most cowardly way) not to help end DADT; she voted against reforming (even mildly) the institutions that fucked our economy in the ear; she voted against a health care bill comprised almost entirely of GOP ideas from 17 years ago, when the party was apparently less insane than today; she’s voted against extending unemployment benefits at least three times this year alone; she voted against the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act in 2008; she voted against an insufficiently large stimulus bill; and on and on and on. For god’s sake, she voted against confirming Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court. And that’s not even getting into her wildly overrated status as a “pro-choice” Republican.

Look. If the Democrats put forward a bill making it a federal crime to kill and eat puppies, Lisa Murkowski would join her colleagues in opposing it. As would Joe Miller. He’d claim that opposition to puppy killing is the first step on the road to socialism; she’d claim that while she opposed puppy-killing in principle, she rather disliked the process that Democrats were using to remedy the problem. Either way, we’d have the blood of dead puppies on our hands.