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Is It News?

[ 28 ] July 28, 2008 |

Emily Bazelon and Hanna Rosin discuss the news value of the National Enquirer story about John Edwards’s alleged affair. Both score some points. I guess that in a world where Maureen Dowd can win a Pulitzer Prize it’s hard to dispute that under existing standards “it “is news, absolutely clearly and by any definition I can think of.” From Edwards’s standpoint, if he did it he had to know the risks he was taking and can’t be shocked that he was exposed. Modern politics, for better or worse, means that you can’t expect discretion about your private affairs. After all, in this campaign we’ve seen the Paper of Record engage in innuendos about John McCain with less basis than this.

Having said that, on a normative level — if we ask whether this should be considered news by the serious press — Rosin is right. It is unlikely that Edwards will be a candidate for vice presidency, and as for the possibility that he could be Attorney General, please. I don’t recall extensive discussions about Michael Mukasey’s sex life during his confirmation hearings, almost as if they were completely irrelevant to his performance in office. The analogies with Craig and Vitter are null, and not only because there’s no contradiction with any policy being advocated by Edwards. Edwards wasn’t testifying in open court. The mainstream media didn’t discuss Craig’s sexual proclivities until he was arrested and his colleagues demanded he resign, both of which are actual news (although the coverage was, I think, greatly overblown and calls on him to resign ridiculous.) In the midst of this gruesome thigh-rubbing, Roger L. Simon cries crocodile tears about how “playing this game while his wife had cancer makes it contemptible beyond words.” Leaving aside that if I were his wife I would (as Rosin says) prefer to be left alone, what would Simon say about an actual current candidate for President who cheated on and then unceremoniously dumped his wife after she was in a horrible accident? Why, he would support him, of course. Because when you get down to cases almost nobody really thinks that this kind of thing matters in evaluating candidates for higher office; it’s a way of trashing people you already dislike for independent political reasons. And this is entirely appropriate.

So, basically, the current confinement of the story to the National Enquirer seems exactly right, and I hope it both continues and (while we’re dreaming) is applied more consistently.

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Supply and Demand Is Over…If You Want It!

[ 0 ] July 28, 2008 |

Shorter John McCain: “Economists don’t understand that a gas tax holiday will work to significantly reduce gas prices because I’m going to have oil companies sit down and tell them to cut the bullshit.”

One one have thought that the Republican candidate’s intellectual capacity and command of policy detail could only go up, but apparently not.

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Far Beyond Roe

[ 10 ] July 28, 2008 |

For those who think that the threat John McCain poses to American women is the anti-Roe median vote he would try to put on the Supreme Court, Kate Sheppard and Kathy G. make clear that the problems a McCain presidency would pose would go far beyond this. One of the many valuable things about Kate’s piece is her point that Democrats need John McCain to be forced to clarify his very reactionary position on abortion as much as possible. I would also suggest that an anti-McCain ad on the subject should start with his support for the too-draconian-for-South-Dakota abortion ban and go from there.

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[ 0 ] July 28, 2008 |

From Marc Lynch’s summary of a US Institute for Peace panel he attended last week.:

Finally, Kim Kagan shocked me with a comment made forcefully, twice, once towards the end of her prepared remarks and again at the opening of her closing remarks: the future of Iraq depends primarily on American decisions, not Iraqi decisions. I found this extraordinarily revealing: for her it really is all about us. This infantilizes Iraqis – and [. . .] demands nothing of them, since it is American decisions and will which matter and not theirs. Such a world-view, characteristic of so much neoconservative foreign policy thinking, explains a great deal. How could one possibly contemplate drawing down American forces, after all, if American actions are the only actions that matter, American power the only power which matters, American decisions the only decisions which matter? Why would it matter what Maliki says, or what Iraqi politicians or public opinion polls say, if what really matters is only ultimately us?

Because, as Kagan has argued before, that’s all that’s ever mattered:

At the end of the day, the United States is not in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqis. American forces are not fighting to allow Iraqi leaders to make hard choices. The U.S. is engaged in Iraq in pursuit of its own interests in fighting terrorism and resisting Iranian destabilization and hegemony. Reconciliation agreements within the Iraqi parliament are part of what is required to secure those interests over the long term, but they are not now and never have been the reason for the presence of American combat forces in Iraq.

I assume this is probably the sort of remark that Kagan actually made at the panel, though I’d be interested to see the transcript. It’s not even worth commenting on Kagan’s sleight-of-hand there — arguing that the US is in Iraq to “fight terrorism” and resist Iran when, as everyone knows, the war has served as a compost box for terrorism while abetting, through the profound incompetence of its planners, the expansion of Iranian influence in the region.

The more immediately relevant point is that it shows why some of the war’s apologists are able to insist that their unconditional vision for the US in Iraq amounts to unconditional support for the Iraqi government and its people. It’s breathtakingly simple, I suppose, to support a potentially endless mission in Iraq when you can’t imagine that your decision to leave might have anything to do with the wishes of your hosts. Under those circumstances, I would guess it’s possible to imagine that everything amounts to consent if not enthusiastic gratitude.

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Random Film Links

[ 0 ] July 28, 2008 |
  • Self-Styled Siren on Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (and the number of great movies still unavailable on Region 1 DVD).
  • Michael Wood on David Lean.
  • Glen Kenney on Bresson.
  • David Edelstein gets, as one would expect, a considerable amount of negative feedback for being a Dark Knight detractor (I’m not endorsing his view; I haven’t seen it yet.) In the course of the post, he says that “It took awhile for the fanboys to come around to the consensus that The Phantom Menace was inept — I got death wishes for that review, too.” As I’ve said before, it wasn’t just fanboys but a remarkably large number of professional critics who for whatever reason were compelled to be apologetic: check out the number of 60+ scores for a stupefyingly dull movie with a level of acting and writing well below the standards of a typical made-for-Lifetime joint. To correct the historical record, it was Masterpiece-A-Week Maslin, not Elvis Mitchell, who slobbered all over Lucas’s stillbirth in the Times.
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Evolution Happens Quickly These Days!

[ 0 ] July 27, 2008 |

The formerly significant gap in math SAT scores between men and women has essentially been erased.

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Radical Country Club Ivory Tower Negro Elitist Snubs Troops

[ 3 ] July 27, 2008 |

While engaging in quasi-fascist workout regimen on foreign soil.

Via the Straight Talk Express.

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True = Funny

[ 12 ] July 27, 2008 |

This is a fantastic piece of performance art:

What I love best about No Quarter is the smart, lively debate about issues of critical concern, the colorful and flamboyant language that is often enough wildly clever and can be knee-slapping funny…

But, beware of Trolls who can ruin the party. Trolls have been around since the Internet began, sort of like how maggots emerge from good fruit. The usual definition is someone who has no real interest in lively debate but rather aims to sabotage the post by making irrelevant, often inflammatory diatribes that disrupt the communication process.

I couldn’t agree more. Because a vigilant citizenry is ill-served by pranksters who would stoop to —

holy crap! Barack Obama is a Republican Manchurian candidate concocted in the undersea laboratory run by Donna Brazille and Karl Rove! Cue the videotape! Cue the videotape!

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Saturday Food Chain Blogging

[ 8 ] July 26, 2008 |

It’s hard out there for a salmon. Better luck next time, my friend.

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If Dubya were a relief pitcher

[ 0 ] July 26, 2008 |

He would be Todd Jones, i.e., he would

(1) Inexplicably be handed a series of very important high-paying jobs; where he would

(2) Suck at them; yet

(3) Continue to get promoted; thereby destroying

(4) The United States of America/The Detroit Tigers’ season.

Actually the Todd Jones Situation (and wouldn’t that be a good name for a band?) is even less defensible than the Bush presidency. At least Bush doesn’t have an ERA or a K/BB ratio.

[Edit: I now see there are implied references to the topic of How Much Todd Jones Sucks in the Pirate Booty thread, where it’s conceded he’s not an “elite” (LOL!!!!) reliever. The guy has had one good season in the last eight years! He has an adjusted ERA of 84! He’s not even an average relief pitcher let alone an average closer! He’s being paid $7 million this season by a team with a $133 million payroll! Alright doctor I’ll stop now]

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The Obvious Proved

[ 9 ] July 26, 2008 |

Shockingly, the Clinton logic that because Obama performed worse against her in the Democratic primary among Hispanics that he was therefore doomed to struggle against them in the general turns out to be faulty. Why, the next thing you know you’ll tell me that Clinton would have gotten more than 10% of the African-American vote against McCain!

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Is There a Monkey Gap?

[ 10 ] July 26, 2008 |

Appalling from a variety of perspectives:

Hundreds of endangered African monkeys are being taken from their natural habitat and sold for scientific experiments, as well to a “secretive” biological laboratory in Iran, London’s Sunday Times reported.

In an undercover investigation by the Times, animal trader Nazir Manji said he sells some 4,000 vervet monkeys a year to laboratories all around the world for about $100 each.

The monkeys, although protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — or Cities — are likely to undergo sometimes painful experiments ultimately leading to their death, the paper reported.

Manji, who has been exporting monkeys for 22 years, said Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute bought 215 vervet monkeys from him this year.

The biological research institute, which has headquarters near Tehran, has been accused in the past by an Iranian opposition group of conducting biological weapons testing, it is reported, further fueling suspicions that the monkeys are being used for nefarious purposes.

For Iraq we get yellow cake, and for Iran there’s nothing but monkeys. I have my doubts about the “nefarious purposes”; there’s not much reason to credit the veracity of an unnamed “Iranian opposition group”, but nevertheless it sucks for the monkeys.

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