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Daniel Clowes is not, per his insistence, one of those comic book readers.

[ 30 ] May 3, 2010 |

The title says “per his insistence,” but it would be more accurate to say “per his repeated insistence,” as he is incapable of writing a book in which he doesn’t distance himself from the poor sods who enjoy genre comics.  His dismissal of such readers almost reaches the point of fetish, as if he thrills at the thought of being the comic auteur who produces books that don’t belong on the same shelves as Marvel or DC titles.  So strong, in fact, is his desire to not be numbered among the lowly readers of genre titles that despite banking his career on sympathetic portrayals of losers and misfits, he lumps anyone who’s ever picked up a copy of Detective Comics and enjoyed it in with the Dan Pussey‘s of the world.

Which is only to say that in Clowes hierarchy of worth, there are reasonably well-adjusted people, self-conscious consumers of indie comic art, losers, pariahs, and loser pariahs who read mainstream comics.  The fate of the aforementioned Pussey is, you recall, to have his “silly books” ransacked and mocked by elderly iterations of Ghost World‘s Enid and Rebecca.  How powerful is his desire to distance himself from mainstream titles?  His new book, Wilson, contains exactly one reference to comic books period, and it serves to demonstrate that while his titular character may be a felonious asshole whose misogyny dresses the windows of a much more malicious psychosis, at least he knows what’s what:

Read more…


The absence of blacks is more significant than the presence of whites.

[ 38 ] May 3, 2010 |

Dennis Prager confuses me.  In an attempt to mitigate the overwhelming whiteness of the tea partiers, Prager argues that “the virtual absence of blacks from tea party rallies cannot possibly reflect anything negative on the black and minority absence, only on the white tea partiers.”  Is he employing “virtual” as an intensifier and admitting that these tea parties are abundantly white affairs?  Or is he claiming that there is merely a “virtual absence of blacks,” but that in reality tea parties are teeming with blacks?  Clearly he means the former, which is quite the confession in itself, but he confuses the issue by blaming minorities for being inherently irrational and not supporting his position:

But in a more rational and morally clear world, where people judge ideas by their legitimacy rather than by the race of those who held them, people would be as likely to ask why blacks and ethnic minorities are virtually absent at tea parties just as they now ask why whites predominate. They would want to know if this racial imbalance said anything about black and minority views or necessarily reflected negatively on the whites attending those rallies.

Note that Prager himself is not asking these questions: the hypothetical rational inhabitants of a morally clear world are.  That they happen to agree with Prager is beside the point.  The point is that these hypothetical rational people want to know why “blacks and ethnic minorities” are so irrational they refuse to attend events hosted by rational people who just happen to be white.  If only minorities would stop thinking for themselves and looking out for their own self-interest long enough to listen to what the hypothetical rational people (and their proxies like Prager) have to say, they would see the error of their ways and choose to attend tea parties.

Which is to say: the tea parties will become more diverse when minorities become rational and decide to defend white interests.  I have a feeling this paternalistic insult will be received quite differently than Prager intended, but who knows?  Maybe minorities really are irrational.  We should monitor the racial composition of tea parties and find out for ourselves.

Yoo Tortures Logic Again

[ 10 ] May 3, 2010 |

Apparently having run out of human beings, the Philadelphia Inquirer has given a column to John Yoo.   And, if you’re a glass-one-twelfth-full kind of person, you could acknowledge that it’s much better to see Yoo lightly re-writing Manuel Miranda blast faxes than applying his specious arguments to defending arbitrary detention and torture in an official government capacity.    Still, you’d think the Inky would want more for its money than this kind of rote hackery:

Over the years, Senate Democrats have destroyed the confirmation process by turning it away from qualifications to a guessing game over how court nominees might vote on hot-button issues such as abortion, the death penalty, and racial quotas. They began the degradation of the advise and consent role with the 1987 rejection of Judge Robert Bork, who would have been one of the most qualified justices in the history of the Supreme Court, and the outrageous effort in 1991 to smear Clarence Thomas (for whom I served as a law clerk). They continued the descent with the filibuster of a slate of excellent picks for the lower courts by George W. Bush, and they reached a new low with their votes against John G. Roberts Jr. and an attempted filibuster against Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Even leaving aside the ridiculous premise that voting against some federal judicial nominees is somehow an exclusively “Democratic” tactic, if I understand Yoo is arguing that it’s wrong for Democrats to 1)even cast votes against judges with certain formal qualifications, and 2)it’s also wrong for Democrats to even vote against nominees who lack these formal credentials if John Yoo can vouch for them. I’d have to say I’m not persuaded.

Now consider this instructive juxtaposition:

Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee made clear that he was a man of the left. Sotomayor’s views put her at odds with most Americans – her view that a “wise Latina” made a better judge than a white man [sic], her easy approval of racial quotas for hiring firefighters, her belief that the Supreme Court should import foreign laws and precedents into its decisions, and her conclusion that the right to bear arms applied only to Washington, D.C., and not the states.

The GOP will earn public support for its actions, but more important it will be returning the Supreme Court to the original meaning and purpose of the Constitution. The framers wanted the federal government to play a limited role in domestic affairs, and an energetic one to protect the national security against unforeseen emergencies and war. They did not establish a government to redistribute income or impose a socialistic vision of regulated markets.

It’s obviously not surprising to see someone who wrote an entire book attempting to defend, directly in the teeth of the text, purpose, and history of the document, that the Constitution was originally understood as conferring virtually unconstrained arbitrary power on the executive branch make the all-too-familiar argument that the Constitution should be originally understood as enacting the 2009 platform of the Texas Republican Party. Still, he can’t help himself: he fatally undermines his arguments about judges following the law by attacking a circuit judge for following clear-cut Supreme Court precedents, and his arguments about “original intent” sit uneasily next to his demand that judges enact policy preferences about affirmative action that quite obviously cannot be justified by examining the original meaning of the 5th and 14th Amendments (something his judicial heroes have not even tried to do.)

Sad. At least some of his previous attempts to defend the indefensible had a certain creativity to them.

There Is No Right to be Exempt From Criticism

[ 85 ] May 3, 2010 |

As part of her excellent take on the racist email send by a student at Harvard Law School, Jill identifies another excellent example of Sarah Palin’s theory of free speech, i.e. that the First Amendment means that your arguments can’t be criticized. In this case, the argument is that “we should be able to debate all issues rationally, vigorously and openly, without having to worry about offending anyone.” As Jill says, “part of the consequences of raising controversial (or idiotic) arguments is that people will become annoyed, angry or offended.” That’s what free speech, inside or outside an academic setting, means.   You have the right to express yourself, not to control the reactions of others.

Of course, the relentless invocations of “political correctness” are, in themselves, a means of stultifying debate. The underlying premise — made rather openly in this case — is that one should be able to express bigotry while being exempt from criticism that might make the person expressing the bigotry uncomfortable. And going along with this is the even sillier assumption that people who defend existing social privileges are the real iconoclasts. Please.

History’s Greatest Victim

[ 3 ] May 3, 2010 |

Shorter Roman Polanski: The only way to obtain justice for the woman I raped when she was a 13-year-old is to let me off for pleading guilty and then fleeing the jurisdiction, although if you look carefully you’ll notice no specific allegation that any agent of the state did something illegal, let alone that I would have been unable to vindicate actual legal rights had I remained in the jurisdiction.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Illinois*

[ 8 ] May 2, 2010 |

From the Straight Dope:

Constructed and furnished for $115,000, big money at the time, the Illinois rested on a foundation of piles and timber, on top of which sat a faux hull made of brick covered with concrete to give the appearance of steel. The superstructure, including guns, turrets, and armor, consisted of wood framing and metal coated with cement.

The rest, by and large, was real, including the decking, masts and smokestacks plus, evidently, many of the smaller armaments, such as Gatling guns and breech-loading cannon. There were engines, boilers, a steam launch, boats, anchors and chains, searchlights, winches, cabins and mess rooms, a bridge and charthouse, and everything else you’d expect to find aboard a mighty warship — even a brace of cutlasses and revolvers. A trench had been dug in the lake bottom so that the Illinois could launch torpedoes at any enemy craft that strayed into its crosshairs. (What, if anything, they were actually launched at I haven’t been able to discover.) The Navy detailed a crew to wear old-time uniforms and explain the the ship’s intricacies and exhibits to the gawkers who crowded the decks.

It was a grand spectacle — maybe a little too grand. People began to get big ideas. After the fair closed, the Navy donated the replica and its furnishings to the state of Illinois. Soon a scheme was afoot to move the Illinois to a new berth at a pier off Van Buren Street, where it would serve as the headquarters for the newly-formed Illinois naval militia.

USS Illinois* was built to roughly the same specifications as USS Indiana (BB-1); Cecil argues (correctly, I think) that the ship was part of the general PR project that the Navy undertook in the wake of Mahan’s The Influence of Seapower Upon History.

Via JL.

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Sunday Good News Blogging

[ 0 ] May 2, 2010 |

Things we can be grateful for as this beautiful Sunday comes to a close:

1) Maternal mortality has declined sharply worldwide, and guinea worm may soon go the way of smallpox.

2) The first zero-carbon, zero-waste city is being built as we speak.

3) The world is laughing with us.

In political commentary, a little nudity goes a long way.

[ 33 ] May 2, 2010 |

At the conference in Manchester, I attended a panel by Roger Sabin and Martin Barker titled “Doonesbury goes to Iraq,” and it mostly concerned what is, from a European perspective, the rightward turn in the politics of Trudeau’s Doonesbury after B.D. had his leg blown off.  Their argument, briefly, is that focusing on B.D.’s gradual acceptance that he had suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder transforms him into an object of sympathy for both the American right and left; and that, as such, PTSD represents a political common ground that is, to the rest of the world, rather unsavory.  For example, if an American soldier kills civilians in Iraq, from the American perspective, that soldier suffers a trauma; whereas from the international perspective, that soldier may have committed a war crime, etc.

It was an impressive argument, but it didn’t sit well with me because it relied too heavily on the notion that, unlike Vietnam, the United States military is a volunteer force.  It ignores both the extent to which stop-loss has been used to plug recruitment shortfalls and the class politics at play in all military recruitment.  If you want to claim that the United States military is used to achieve imperialists ends, there’s an argument to be made there; but if you want to claim that United States soldiers knowingly support an imperialist agenda, you have your work cut out for you.

All of which is only to say, it seemed odd that these sharp British scholars were taking Gary Trudeau behind the woodshed for being implicitly conservative when there are so many explicitly conservative cartoonists who better express the ideological incoherence of the foreign policy and cultural politics of the contemporary right.  Granted, they might not consider actual conservative cartoonists worthy of their attention, and I can see why.  Consider Chris Muir, a.k.a. the man who unwittingly proves that white male Tea Party aficionados only listen to arguments proffered by scantily clad women.

The only interesting thing about Muir is how bereft of his ideas his “strips” are: he finds the conservative talking point of the day, imagines a domestic scene in which his female characters would be fully or partially nude, and combines them into a poorly drawn political burlesque.  How formulaic is he?  He could continue his strip indefinitely without ever needing to “draw” again in his life.  To demonstrate the validity of this claim, I’ve done Muir the favor of remixing some of his recent output into entirely new comics:

They do, I admit, border on the absurd, but I’d consider that an improvement.  I suppose I understand then why Sabin and Barker decided to treat the implicit conservatism in Trudeau then: they probably had a difficult time believing that folks like Muir realistically represent conservative thought in American politics.  Would that they were correct.


NAC Breda 0 – 2 FC Twente

[ 2 ] May 2, 2010 |

FC Twente Enschede win the Dutch Eredivisie.  Why does this matter, the uninformed might ask?

1. Twente have never won the Dutch league (at least in their current form, or in “modern times”).  They nipped Ajax Amsterdam (whom one or two around LGM might have heard of) by a single point on the final table.

2. Before the University of Plymouth saw fit to pay me money to do my hobby, I worked for three years at Universiteit Twente, in Enschede.  U Twente is literally across the street (and train tracks) from what was then known as Arke Stadion, and now goes by De Grolsch Veste (Grolsch is brewed in Enschede).  When I lived in the west (first Amsterdam, then later Rotterdam), I would take the train into the Enschede Drienerlo station, which is in the shadow of the stadium.

3. OK, enough about me.  Steve McClaren is the manager.  The same McClaren who failed miserably as England manager, in the post-Sven, pre-Capello months, and became something of a national joke.  He is now something of a hero in Enschede and Twente more generally.

Words I never thought I’d hear in my life time in this precise order: “There’s Only One Steve McClaren . . . “


[ 10 ] May 2, 2010 |

Since we haven’t checked in for a bit, a quick progress report on the Kaus Kampaign.  Apparently, it has entailed:

–Going public with the large number of California Democratic primary voters who listen to the early-morning talk show apparently hosted by the nation’s foremost moral arbiter, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Bill Bennett.

–Going public with the California primary voters who are regular readers of Ann Althouse’s blog.  (Come on Mickey, we’ve given your campaign more publicity, some actual Democrats read us for reasons other than lazy blog fodder, and we’re much cheaper!)

–Expressing abject gratitude for the endorsement of Trainwreck Media winger Victor Davis Hanson.

–Getting Charles “this period of two unusually coherent and closely-divided political parties reminds me of 1860!” Lane to strongly endorse his Deeply Serious union-bashing platform, if not his immigration-bashing platform.

–Comes out in favor of Arizona’s “show us your papers” law.   Also reminds us that he doesn’t actually care about tightening border security if it won’t result in hundreds of thousands of deportations.   It seems worth re-emphasizing at this point that Kaus is running in a Democratic primary.  In California.

Oddly, this has not led to a flood of campaign contributions.  But give it time.

UPDATE: Realized that I forgot to credit FMK for the photo this time.

Person of Actual Accomplishment and Power vs. Conservative Media Personality

[ 4 ] May 2, 2010 |

Even granting that the latter was also a half-governor and worst full-campaign VP candidate in history, I think this is a good question. Of course, if Time is measuring influence among the media, it’s probably accurate. In conclusion, I can’t really answer the question until I see the latest unreliable third-hand gossip about who the former’s husband might be sleeping with.

The strange career of Elena Kagan

[ 7 ] May 2, 2010 |

In stark contrast to other current and former law professors whose names have been floated recently as SCOTUS candidates, such as Pam Karlan, Harold Koh, and Diane Wood, Elena Kagan has written almost nothing, and what she’s written is both unimpressive on its own terms, and tells us very little about what sort of justice she would be.

As a sociological matter, comparing Kagan and Harriet Miers is, of course, outrageous. After all, Kagan is one of the most brilliant legal minds of her generation. How do we know this? Just ask her friends!

There’s nothing wrong with putting a non-judge on the SCOTUS, but given that such candidates can’t be evaluated on the basis of their work as judges, it’s all the more imperative that their views on both substantive legal issues and general jurisprudential questions need to be a matter of public record. That it’s necessary to even say such a thing is a sign of how bizarre Kagan’s nomination to the Court would be.

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