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The Crisis in Obama’s Campaign

[ 0 ] November 9, 2007 |

This is indeed depressing. In the debates, it was possible if one was inclined to excuse his comments because he disavowed the fake “crisis” before spouting nonsense on Social Security. But he’s now repeating it and explicitly using the crisis language. Ugh. There’s no way around it –and I say this as someone who’s leaned towards him from the start of the campaign — but he’s been a serious disappointment on the ground, and if he keeps this up it’s nearly a deal-breaker.

Bob Somerby recently pointed out that “it’s fairly clear that the press corps loathes Clinton and Edwards—but not Obama.” Although I wouldn’t necessarily bet on this continuing if he actually wins the primary, this remains one of his strongest selling points: better uncertainty than someone who we know will mean a full-bore return to Dowdite lunacy. But if he’s going to cultivate the press by actually adopting the Millionaire Pundit Values of the WaPo editorial board, that’s useless.

This isn’t terribly promising either.

The China-Pakistan Relationship

[ 3 ] November 9, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, China Hand has a pretty interesting post about China’s influence over the Pakistani decision to crack down in Waziristan and at Lal Masjid:

It was, after all, the provocative kidnapping of 7 PRC nationals that compelled Musharraf—reportedly under heavy Chinese pressure—to abandon a policy of appeasement and compromise with Islamic militants at the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad and, in July of this year, launch a bloody assault that revealed the extent of the security crisis at the heart of the Pakistani military regime and displayed to the U.S. Musharraf’s—and Pakistan’s–wholehearted reliance on China.

This also reminds me of Jonathan Mirsky’s article in the November 8 NYRB about Xinjiang. Among other things, Mirsky reminds us that the PRC welcomed the War on Terror as an opportunity to launch its own crackdowns on Islamic militants (and Islamic non-militants) in Xinjiang. Memories of this (and notice of China’s role in Pakistan) should cause neo-Cold Warriors of the Kirchik/Hitchens variety to hesitate before making absurd claims about Chinese obstructionism in the War on Terror; it should, but it won’t…

Centrist Fallacy

[ 0 ] November 9, 2007 |

To add just a bit to Atrios’ point, Centrism in the Blogosphere is the idea that people of all ideologies can come together to worship Glenn Reynolds.

Mukasey is In.

[ 12 ] November 9, 2007 |

53-40, even without a disavowal of torture. Apparently Clinton, Obama, Biden and Dodd didn’t think this one was important enough to get to D.C. for. Or, more likely, they didn’t want to cast a vote that could be used against them in the election.

"Just Like This Post Is An Abortion."

[ 30 ] November 9, 2007 |

Bean et al. have taken care of the most obvious atrocities in this post — suffice it to say that if manliness means beating up your wife after she declines to give birth to another generation of murderers, count me out — but as a connoisseur of Aesthetic Stalinism I can’t resist this:

One of the best scenes in the Godfather movie trilogy was in “Godfather II,” when Kay Corleone (Diane Keaton) told her husband Michael (Al Pacino) she was taking their two children and leaving him.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…one of the best scenes? Is this woman for real? To state the obvious, this scene is far and away the worst thing in the first two Godfather pictures, and indeed arguably worse than anything in the third one. She does us (although not her argument) the favor of quoting the dialogue, which is awful. “Like our marriage is an abortion” — ugh, and it isn’t helped by the wooden reading. (To put it charitably Kay was never Keaton’s finest hour — although she didn’t have much to work with — and this is the nadir of her performance and the character.) And as bad as it would look in isolation, this scene from a third-rate afternoon soap is incredibly jarring in what otherwise is an absolute peak of American filmmaking. The fact that it requires a bizarre reading to make the atrocious scene ideologically congenial enough to praise is icing on the cake.

Truly, one of the great achievements in Aesthetic Stalinism of our time. Libertas and the “Right-wing Dylan” guy should fold up and go home; they can’t compete.

Putting Women in their Place

[ 19 ] November 9, 2007 |

What’s the best way to “punish” a woman who has had an abortion? Why, if you’re Jill Stanek or one of her readers, the answer is easy: just beat her up, of course! Feministe’s Jill F., bravely wading into the morass of Stanek and her commenters, reveals the depths of their misogyny. When people are pointing to Michael Corleone as the paragon of manhood, you know you’re in trouble. Jill F. [Feministe] reports:

That’s the right-wing, “pro-life” definition of ‘family’ for ya: A wife who you can control and slap around. Of course, Don Corleone was a murderer and a criminal (didn’t he kill his own brother? and didn’t he end up basically getting his daughter killed?), but so long as he’s pro-life and hits his wife when she steps out of line, he’s the image of a real Family Man. If I remember correctly, Corleone was specifically angry because he wanted a male child, and Kaye emphasized that had she continued the pregnancy, the baby would have been a boy — I suppose that falls pretty well in line with pro-life family values, too.

In Jill Stanek’s world, men who beat their wives — especially when she has gotten an abortion of his SON! — deserve to be slapped around. Amanda thinks it’s a total misreading of American gangster films:

The misogyny aspect of gangster movies couldn’t be more obvious—like the killing and the drug-peddling, it’s part of the entire evil package. In these movies, the way women are traded and flaunted as objects and not as human beings, the way wives are supposed to be quiet and obedient and look the other way when mistresses come into the picture, all this reflects the internal logic of the hyper-capitalist gangster world, where even human beings are commodities. It’s not supposed to flatter you or your gangster stand-ins onscreen. But leave it to an anti-choice nut to watch a scene where a woman’s being treated like a commodity and say, “Well, he can’t be all bad, because he knows how to put a bitch in her place. And wow, did you check out that slapping technique? Most men need some kind of weapon to silence a bitch that fast.”

But getting back to Stanek’s post, it’s her commenters who really highlight the rampant woman-hating going on here. The beauts include:

You see, pro aborts support the murdering of children, however when it comes to other issues, they suddenly become these “bastions of tolerance.” Domestic violence? I think he snapped. Abortion is murder. The act is wrong. Domestic violence is also wrong. You can’t condone one and loathe the other.

So if a woman gets an abortion, it’s ok to beat her up because she deserves it. Because she has exercised her autonomy and challenged the patriarchal paradigm and has just got to be put in her place. Because there’s no way to “honor” women like a little bruising. I’ve got to agree with Jill (@ feministe); I think I’ll keep my own family values thankyouverymuch.

I Know What I am Doing Saturday Night

[ 12 ] November 9, 2007 |

Seeing this.

I’m not crazy about Cormac McCarthy. But given that I would see an Ann Coulter book adaptation if the Coens were directing, and given that A.O. is just about gushing, I’ve got high hopes for this one.

Holy Crap

[ 13 ] November 9, 2007 |

Holy Joe:

But there is something profoundly wrong — something that should trouble all of us — when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.

Maybe it has something to do with how the Bush administration actually did respond to Al Qaeda’s murder of 3000 people?

I dunno, I’m just spinning wild, left wing blogger conspiracy theories here.

"Too Pro-Choice?"

[ 19 ] November 8, 2007 |

Garance has an interesting excerpt from a speech by John Kerry, in which he asserts that the Democrats are “too pro-choice” and E.J Dionne asks “Why do you think you didn’t give a speech like this in, say, May or June of 2004?” Dionne’s implication is that such a speech would have been politically useful. But would it?

I can certainly see some political value in signaling respect for respect for supporters of abortion criminalization, and I don’t believe that Democrats running for national office can say all the same things about reproductive freedom that I would. But in the particular form Kerry articulates it here, the argument seems the worst of all worlds. First of all, very annoyingly it claims (straight out of the anti-choice Book of Myths) that “science” is substantially changing the abortion debate and greatly altering viability, when in fact there’s no evidence that this is true and the vast majority of abortions continue take place before viability. Kerry’s argument in general concedes (wholly unearned) moral high ground to the abortion criminalization lobby and, even worse, never bothers to explain why it shouldn’t have its way. The structure of Kerry’s speech is essentially “abortion is really bad but should remain legal because it just should.” That’s only a good approach if you want to set up the debate to lose, and as long as you have nominally pro-choice policy positions you’re unlikely to receive credit for it anyway. (After all, Kerry was in fact very squishy in defensing abortion throughout the 2004, but never gets retrospective “credit” for it anyway; you apparently can never be squishy enough. Which in a way makes sense; if I was an anti-choicer, I would want a politician who supports my substantive positions, not one who says that he or she “respects” me.)

If Democratic politicians have to signal respect for “pro-lifers,” it seems to me that rather than saying that abortion is immoral but should remain legal for reasons we won’t get into, much better is to focus in what abortion bans would actually do. Wouldn’t something like this be both better in the merits and more effective strategically?

Many people in the audience believe that abortion is morally wrong. And no matter what people’s moral position is, we can all agree that preventing unwanted pregnancies is better than abortions. However, our opponents take very extreme positions that are unlikely to achieve these goals anyway. The Republican platform supports a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states; I don’t think most Americans support that approach. But even if it passed, the experience of other countries suggests that there would still be a large number of abortions; the only difference is that more poor women will be maimed and killed in back-alley abortions. That’s not effective, and it’s not fair. Giving women the access to contraception, education, medical and child care they need, on the other hand, will both protect women’s freedom and lead to fewer abortions. State coercion doesn’t work, as our history makes clear. This is something we should all agree on.

I’m no speechwriter, so I don’t know exactly how you’d phrase it, but it seems to be that to be useful any gambit like Kerry’s should 1)make clear why one is pro-choice whatever their moral reservations, 2)should focus on areas where the “pro-life” position is unpopular rather than uncritically accepting opposition frames (or, worse, repeating their erroneous claims), and 3)focus on why criminalization fails to be effective or meet basic standards of equality and fairness even if you support its ends. Kerry’s way of discussing the issue fails on all three counts.

A Note to New Yorkers

[ 0 ] November 8, 2007 |

If you plan to ride the subway or bus, do not take this advice.

Because I trust LGM readers to steer me in the right direction . . . .

[ 0 ] November 8, 2007 |

. . . I’m wondering if I should send the following e-mail to the dozen or so students who warm the chairs in my Wednesday night course:


As some of you might have noticed, I was not at all happy with our class session this evening. I understand that the text load for this course is quite heavy; I also understand that each of you has a life outside History XXX that makes a variety of more interesting and lucrative demands on your time. Quite honestly, though, it’s an utter waste of an evening — for all of us — when the vast majority of students show up and give no indication of having even started the assigned readings for that week. If this were the first time, I wouldn’t bother firing off an e-mail about it. But this is an ongoing problem, and I’m well beyond the point of irritation.

We have three class sessions left before the end of the semester. If you honestly can’t find the time or the motivation to do the work for this course, I’d recommend doing something else with your Wednesday evenings.


Since context is everything, I’ll simply note that they had an entire week to read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle — or the book’s SparkNotes — and failed in spectacular fashion.

UPDATE: I really enjoyed reading this thread — thanks for the suggestions and critiques. I agree with folks like aimai who pointed out the passive aggressive nature of e-mails like this, and if the group met two or three times a week, I’d just wait until next session and give The Speech. I wound up sending an amended version of this e-mail, though, primarily because the class meets once a week, and I think there’s still time to salvage the semester. This group has been pretty accommodating this semester, with my father’s illness and death causing several cancellations; for whatever reason, my early-semester explanations of how to do well in an upper-division history course seem not to have survived the disruption.

Sweet Zombie Jeebus

[ 15 ] November 8, 2007 |

This ain’t no good. I blame the Democrats.

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