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Who does this guy think he is, Josh Trev!n0?

[ 0 ] June 11, 2007 |

John Holbo links to the dispute between Scott Kaufman and a commenter at Jesus’ General. Long story short, a disagreement in comments at JG escalated into a full broadside denunciation of Scott as a white supremacist to his employers at UCI. Not satisfied with a single attack, the commenter in question has sent several e-mails to various levels of the UCI hierarchy, as well as to the office of Scott’s US Congresswoman.

As an academic, I may be oversensitive to these kinds of attacks on one’s employment. Nevertheless, while I can understand the reluctance to give out the IP address of the attacker, I can’t sympathize with it. From here on out at LGM, I think it’s fair to say that if you engage, as a commenter, in a series of attacks designed to get another commenter fired, you’ve relieved me of any obligation to keep whatever data I have private.

UPDATE BY SL: I concur, especially with the premise that this kind of tattling is reprehensible. It’s especially bad when the tattling is libelous, as in this case, but it’s always bad, and since I’m a fan of JG I’m dismayed that he’s enabling this kind of behavior. [On reflection, I think this charge against patriotboy is too strong. He's not responsible in any way; I wish he called out the individual commenter more forcefully, and didn't ban SEK for no obvious reason, but it's not enabling. Fundamentally, this is about his commenter, not him.]

Sopranos Final Season: Preliminary Notes

[ 0 ] June 11, 2007 |

[Pretty much all interesting discussion of good TV or movies is going to include spoilers.]

  • The last episode was excellent. It was very well -structured, the typical day-in-the-life rhythm of the show with some subtle Last Episode events (I liked Hunter coming back as a med student.) It was good to see Harris’ entanglement with Tony pay off so strikingly, providing a resolution without false hope. The concluding sequence was brilliant, and I’m baffled by people who would prefer a neat, tidy, Friends-like ending. One can read the ending as assuming that the guy won’t come out of the bathroom with just his dick in his hand, with the fade to black reflecting the recalled warning that you don’t see it coming. Or the bell ringing that concluded the show could suggest that the killer (or the FBi) just walked in. Or to represent the fact that Tony, despite Philly’s killing, will be looking up at every bell for the rest of his life. Would just choosing one of these endings be more satisfying? Of course not. The ambiguity is more appropriate. I don’t want The Sopranos to be a typical middlebrow broadcast drama–to repudiate what made it great–and am glad it didn’t go out that way.
  • The final season was very, very strong. Admittedly, I’ve always opposed the lazy narrative that held that it declined steadily after the first and second seasons; several of the best episodes were in the fifth, the final episodes of season 3 all spectacular, and there was no real decline in quality until the 6A, which (especially in the first half) was genuinely subpar. It very much recovered in season 6B, however. After the terrific opener a couple of the episodes were clearly transitional, setting up the final plotlines, but none were weak and they kept getting better. The need to use Melfi had been a drag on the show for a while, but the conclusion in the penultimate episode was perfect.
  • The one episode I need to watch again is “Kennedy and Heidi.” I was very much torn between thinking that Christopher’s death wasn’t given enough dramatic weight, and thinking that its sudden, opportunistic nature was just right. The more I think about it, the more I lean toward the second option.
  • Like Rob, I was baffled by Matt’s point here. Tony’s gambling was hardly a new “character trait,” but a dramatically interesting manifestation of the impulsiveness and desire for immediate gratification that has consistently caused problems for his business and his marriage (as well as a means of addressing the economic insecurity that he’s worried about since literally the first episode.) It’s precisely the same aspect of his character that, later in the season, caused him to kick out the teeth of the guy who mildly insulted his daughter when rational long-term planning would dictate laying low.
  • I felt confident that Chase would not end things with a shootout. I was worried about a dream sequence, but thankfully he seemed to get it out of his system. (I should note that while the second half of 6A improves on a second viewing, the lengthy dream sequence gets even worse–knowing how trite the payoff will be makes the vacuous pretension even worse, a bizarre lapse in quality for such a remarkable achievement.)
  • I don’t want to say much more until I’ve had a chance to watch them twice, but certainly this was a much more satisfying conclusion than I expected.

UPDATE: Matt is, of course, correct that there’s nothing necessarily “middlebrow” about a neat conclusion and to call out my implication otherwise, but I do think there is something middlebrow about requiring a neat conclusion (although not everybody dissatisfied with this particular ending necessarily falls into this category, so in that sense the charge was unfair.) In terms of the “Stockholm Syndrome” charge, I think it’s pretty effectively rebutted by the dream sequence link above, as well as what I’ve said about the atypical Sorkinesque position-paper-reading in “Christopher.” Chase is definitely capable of shooting bricks (one of which nearly wrecked a season); I just don’t happen to think that the final episode was one of them, and in general have also never heard a good argument about how the show got aesthetically worse in seasons 1-5. (And not because I think the first season was perfect; the dream sequences/visions in the penultimate episode were pretty annoying, actually.)

Glenn Reynolds: The World’s Dumbest Living Human?

[ 0 ] June 11, 2007 |

This doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense:

You know, if we had been firm in 1979, [Iran] wouldn’t think they could get away with these kinds of threats. If we responded firmly now, we’d get less of that in the future.

But we probably won’t, because our political culture makes a firm response to threats almost impossible. Which is why we get so many.

Actually, Glenn, it seems that as I write this, we’re four years and three months into a “firm response” mustered by “firm” people to a threat that wasn’t . . . um . . . actually very firm to begin with. And I hate to point this out — because it’s such an unbelievably inconvenient fact for people who want to simply bring the pain and bring it faster, please — but the “political culture” we inhabit still happens, for the time being, to qualify as a democracy. And wingnut protestations aside, we don’t actually inhabit a “warrior culture” that envelops the entire social order in an ethical code of submission and violence. It’s worth remembering that if certain advocates of “firmness” had been given the kind of free hand that Reynolds thinks is necessary to keep America from being threatened, the war on Iraq would have started in September 2001. That may be a small comfort, but it’s not an insignificant one.

And to take a historical detour, what precisely does Reynolds think a “firm” response to the 1979 hostage crisis would have been? Quiet assassinations of mullahs and scientists? Unilateral military action against Iran — a nation armed to the teeth with weapons we’d sold to its deposed ruler, and a nation bordering awkwardly upon another nation that the Soviets were a month away from invading? Or perhaps a declaration to the world that America’s hegemony over Persian Gulf oil was not up for negotiation, and that outside interference with those resources would be “repelled by any means necessary?” Or how about supporting Iraq in a brief, cakewalk of a war against its neighbor, whose army was by all accounts in a shambles after all the shah’s men had been purged? Oh, wait. That last one didn’t work out so well. Rummy’s handshake must not have been firm enough.

Anyhow, we get the point. Reynolds is a loon with a minimal grasp of history and utter contempt for reason. He’d have worked out quite well in the current administration, if only people like him hadn’t made such a bloody mess of things already.

Keep screwing in those lightbulbs, Glenn.


[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Let the interpretations begin…

I’m simultaneously gratified and disappointed that Chase didn’t provide for a neat, unambiguous ending.

…actually, I’m going to declare the ending sequence brilliant.

Another Sopranos Post (Various Spoilers)

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

I’ll refrain from guessing how the Soprano’s will end; we’ll find out soon enough. Spoilers ahead:

The return to relevance of Melfi might be the greatest accomplishment of the second half of the sixth season. I had come, like many others, to dread the Melfi appointments, as they stopped adding anything past about season three. This year they’ve become interesting again, first in the Moltisanti episode and later in response to the “sociopath” article. Tony’s conversations with Melfi in that episode (both real and imagined) gave some real insight into what Tony was thinking, and how he felt about Christopher’s wake. The “sociopath” comment also paid off quite nicely; I had initially thought that there was something not quite right about it, because Tony had clearly, over the years, seen some benefit from his therapy. During the last episode, though, I had to wonder if that was true. If maybe he’s been fooling Melfi such that she can’t trust her own appraisal, then maybe he’s been fooling the audience, too. Watching her lose trust in Tony, and become angry at herself for coming to grips with her voyeurism, was really wonderful television.

Last year Matt told me that he thought Tony had made a terrible mistake by not strongly backing Little Carmine in the power struggle with Johnny Sac. I disagreed, pointing out that the Mafia isn’t a zero-sum game; Johnny clearly seemed to be the more capable of the two, and it doesn’t necessarily do the Jersey crew any favors to have an inept partner in their many collaborative projects with New York. Now, I think I was wrong on the basic point and wrong on the logic. On the one hand, backing Little Carmine might have forestalled the rise of Phil Leotardo. On the other, I think that I may have mildly underestimated Little Carmine’s capabilities. He’s managed to stay alive in the bloodbath that New York has become, and to retain some influence within the family and with New Jersey. Malaprops aside, I think he’s acquitted himself well this season, suggesting that maybe he wouldn’t have been the complete, Fredo-esque disaster that I expected. The scene in which he described to Tony why he didn’t want to be Boss was priceless; his endless, tendentious, and boring interpretation of his dream was something that Tony, because of his own relationship with the dream world, had to respect.

As for Phil, well, he’s the revenge of Sonny Corleone. He doesn’t have Sonny’s style or sophistication, but he certainly has Sonny’s rage, brutality, and instinct for revenge. The Godfather taught us that Sonny’s day had passed, and that future crime bosses would have to be of the same ilk as Michael or Hyman Roth. Tony, being from Jersey, doesn’t really count, but Johnny Sack filled the bill quite nicely. Phil, though, shows us that murderous, almost indiscriminate brutality still counts for something.

Anyway, in preparation for the last episode, tonight we’ll be watching the first.

It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately I’m gettin’ the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.

…this shall serve as a Sopranos’ finale open thread.

Lieberman: More Attacks Will Save This Mess!

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Joltin’ Joe Lieberman:

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

This could be achieved mostly with air attacks, Mr. Lieberman said, adding, “I’m not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran.”

What’s missing here is any causal logic. Unless Senator Lieberman thinks that attacks against Iran will destroy the industrial capacity to supply or the infrastructure to transfer weapons to Iraq (extremely unlikely since EFPs can be manufactured in any warehouse and transported by any truck), a successful campaign would require coercion, convincing the Iranian leadership to change its attitude on Iraq. The administration itself, however, refuses to assert that the Iranian leadership is behind the supply of any weapons to Iraqi insurgents. Even if the Iranian leadership is shipping weapons to insurgents, the success of an air campaign would depend on doing enough damage to Iran to convince the leadership to give up such behavior. Such would require the leadership to be far more reasonable and far more sensitive to costs than SENATOR LIEBERMAN HIMSELF has asserted that they are.

In other words, Joltin’ Joe is calling for attacks in a situation and in a manner in which force has almost no chance of working. And this is what passes for “serious”. The man is genuinely disturbed.

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Solomonic Dynasty

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

In the late thirteenth century, the son of the slave of an Abyssinian cheiftain deposed the last king of the Zagwe dynasty and married the king’s daughter. Yekuno Amlak claimed to be the sole male descendant of the ancient Kingdom of Axum, which had seen the rise of Christianity in Ethiopia and claimed, itself, to be descended from the union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Yekuno Amlak’s descendants would expand their reach and hold power in the territory of modern Ethiopia until the 20th century.

In the fifteenth century Portugeuse explorers seeking Prester John, a mythical Christian king of Africa, arrived in Ethiopia and established contact. Both trade and diplomatic relations developed, and the Portuguese assisted the Solomonic kings in their wars against Islamic invaders in the 16th century. Relations between the Ethiopians and the Portuguese later broke down, and Jesuit missionaries were expelled in the 17th century. The next serious period of contact would come in the 19th century when British explorers arrived and developed widespread contacts. Ethiopia fought brief wars against both Britain and Italy, and retained its independence in spite of the suicide of one Emperor in 1868 and the death in battle of another in 1889.

Emperor Haile Selassie ascended to the throne in 1930. In 1935, Mussolini decided to extend Italy’s colonial holdings by invading and conquering Ethiopia. Although the Ethiopians under Selassie’s command fought well, superior Italian numbers and technology eventually won the day. Selassie fled into exile, and Mussolini declared Victor Emmanuel III of the House of Savoy Emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie did not give up, however, and gave what is recorded as an extremely stirring speech on the floor of the League of Nations. Unfortunately, League sanctions against Italy were quite weak and failed to break Italy’s hold over Ethiopia. In 1941, however, the British Army liberated Ethiopia and returned Selassie to the throne. In 1951, the UN awarded the former Italian colony of Eritrea to Ethiopia, a move which made everyone happy and has had no significant negative repercussions to this very day.

After the war, Selassie became an important advocate of African independence, in 1963 presiding over the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Presumably because of his prominence as an independent African leader, Haile Selassie became the focus of the Jamaican Rastafari movement. Selassie’s purported linkage to Biblical figures probably played no small part in his elevation. Rastafarians apparently view Selassie as God Incarnate and Messiah. The Emperor remained firmly within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but made no formal effort to disavow the Rastafari, or even to discourage the movement. In 1966 he visited Jamaica, and he later donated a piece of Ethiopian land for the creation of a Rastafari community. Rita Marley, wife of Bob, atteneded Selassie’s funeral in 2000 (Selassie was exhumed from his initial resting place to be given a full funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church).

Economic dislocation resulting from a severe drought and ideological turn to the left within Ethiopia made the Emperor’s position tenuous by the mid-1970s. Although Selassie’s international profile remained high, his domestic position had slowly deteriorated over the 1960s. On September 12, 1974 Emperor Selassie was deposed by a military coup and imprisoned in an old palace. In August 1975 he died, reportedly of repiratory failure. Some believe that he was assassinated. Rastafarians, by and large, refused to believe that Selassie had died. The coup plotters aimed to put Amha Selassie, Haile’s son, on the throne, but the son refused and the monarchy was abolished in 1975. Amha Selassie accepted the title of “Emperor-in-exile” in 1989, but efforts to reach agreement with Ethiopia’s government about a return and possible restoration broke down in the early 1990s. His son, Zera Yacob, is the current head of the Solomonic dynasty, and lives in Ethiopia. Prospects for a restoration to the throne are uncertain. Amha Selassie actively pursued a restoration of the monarchy to no great effect. Zera Yacob and the rest of the imperial family have remained active in Ethiopian politics, and continue informally to seek some form of restoration.

Trivia: The heir to which throne received his undergraduate degree in the United States, learned to fly a fighter aircraft in the United States, and currently lives in Potomac, Maryland?


[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Via Hilzoy, it’s the philolsophers Flickr pool.

My favorite:

I’m working on some lol-wingnuts, because I apparently have nothing better — or non-derivative — to do with my day.

Wait ’til Next Year!

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Renewable in perpetuity.

You Say Patriarchy, I Say Equality (With Bonus Quiz!)

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Shorter Ann Althouse: “What’s the deal with you flighty “pro-sex” feminists? First, you believe that patriarchal repression of female sexuality is bad. Then you object if someone engages in creepy sniggering about your body when you appear dressed appropriately at a political event and attacks you with erroneous descriptions of your website and lunatic, insulting conspiracy theories. Make up your minds!”

Bonus contrarian silliness: Althouse approvingly cites this allegedly “debunking” argument by Mickey Kaus: “Murray reminds me of those radical feminists who insist that their reasons for censoring pornography are completely different from Pat Robertson’s. No they’re not.”

You’d think that as a MacKinnonite radical Althouse would understand this, but yes, they really are. Catharine MacKinnon and Donald Wildmon really don’t want to censor pornography for the same reasons, and often don’t even favor the same remedies. Both of their conclusions are, I believe, mistaken–I don’t believe that state suppression of sexually explicit material is desirable on policy grounds or consistent with the First Amendment properly understood–but to argue that there’s no normative difference between wanting to ban sexually explicit material to uphold traditional (and patriarchal) sexual mores and wanting to create a civil remedy in cases where pornography has demonstrably harmed women is absurd.

Here, as an educational service, is a quick quiz. One of those quotes is from Catherine MacKinnon’s Feminism Unmodified, another from Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah. See if you can spot the difference!

  • “Pornography turns sex inequality into sexuality and turns male dominance into sex difference…Thus does pornography, cloaked in the essence of nature and the index of freedom, turn the inequality between women and men into those twin icons of male supremacy, sex and speech, and a practice of sex discrimination into a legal entitlement. Confronting pornography through civil rights law–meaning, with a concrete intention of actually doing something about the damage pornography does to women’s safety and status–has somewhat illuminated the social meaning of state power.”
  • “Sooner of later censorship is going to have to be considered as popular culture continues plunging to ever more sickening lows…It is possible to argue for censorship…on the ground that in a republican form of government where the people rule, it is crucial that the character of the citizenry not be debased…Can there be any doubt that as pornography and depictions of violence become increasingly popular and increasingly accessible, attitudes about marriage, fidelity, divorce, obligations to children, the use of force, and permissible public behavior and language will change?…It would be better, I think, to drop the word “feminism” because the movement no longer has a constructive role to play; its work is done. There are no artificial barriers left to women’s achievement.”

Tough one, eh? Everyone else is dismissed. For Althouse and Kaus, Bork is the second set of quotes. You’re welcome!

Fear the Domino Effect!

[ 0 ] June 10, 2007 |

Just as warbloggers and other apologists predicted, Middle East dictators walk with shaky knees! Democracy, whiskey, sexy! And surely the installation of an Islamist quasi-state under indefenite American occupation will make liberal democracy look even better throughout the region!


[ 0 ] June 9, 2007 |

As a follow-up to Digby’s follow-up of Marcy, I recommend Bork’s Human Events tribute to Ken Starr, “Man of the Year”:

That is not because he has .achieved celebrity or, more accurately, had celebrity thrust upon him. Others, including some not very savory personages, have rated more column inches and television coverage than Starr, but no one has exemplified old-fashioned republican virtue in the pursuit of civic duty than he.

Bill Clinton may or may not be removed from office, but, if he is not, that will in no way diminish Starr’s performance. The destruction of the President was never Starr’s objective or the measure of his success.

Stop it, you’re killing me. Unless Bork means “Republican” in the large-R sense.

Though reliably on the conservative wing of the court, which meant that he tried to follow the law and minimize the role that inevitably a judge’s personal outlook plays in decisionmaking…

Hah, that’s rich. This is pure comedy gold, really. I could go on to talk about how Bork considered Starr insufficiently zealous, and how uneasily this sits next to his attacks Patrick Fitzgerald, but I trust this speaks for itself…

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