Subscribe via RSS Feed

Self-Parody is Too Mild a Term

[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

Shorter Verbatim Bernard Henri-Levy: “I am mostly thinking about him: Roman Polanski, who I don’t know, but whose fate has moved me so much. Nothing will repair the days he has spent in prison. Nothing will erase the immense, unbelievable injustice he has been subjected to.”

I suppose it should go without saying that this alleged Major Intellectual cannot be bothered to advance an argument defending the proposition that apprehending someone who raped a 13-year-old and then fled the jurisdiction to evade his punishment constitutes an “immense, unbelievable injustice.” (This kind of rhetoric isn’t just silly, it’s insulting to actual victims of immense injustices. At this rate, BHL would need about 70 adjectives to describe the Cameron Todd Willingham case.) To the extent that one can infer an argument from the surrounding text, the mentions of his wife and family seem to imply a retread of Robert Harris’s apparent argument that if you have a spouse and kids you should get one retrospective child rape for free. I once again take this to be self-refuting…


William A. Jacobson likes making my points for me.

[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

Which is unfortunate, because I’m about to call him illiterate. He claims that I argued that Sarah Palin and her supporters are “racist because there were so few non-whites pictured in the available photos.” I did nothing of the sort. My claim, as you can tell by the words I used to write it, was that the “images she and her people have decided should represent her mass-appeal on a mock-presidential bid launch” demonstrates that “her own handlers consider her appeal limited to white people.” I even emphasized that first statement in the post, which as we all know is the online equivalent of burying it under a rock behind the fire-pit in someone else’s backyard. (“Officer, you can search my property, absolutely, but I assure you that you won’t find any claims here.”) You would think that a law professor would be able to recognize an argument when he saw one, but apparently not, which is why he provides evidence that bolsters mine. He quotes a reporter from MSNBC:

“I can tell you this crowd today was very, very diverse, a lot of people from different races, ages, all coming to see Palin and wanting get a glimpse of who this lady is that says that she’s going rogue.”

If this is true—and for the moment, I grant that it is—then Palin and her handlers are deliberately not posting pictures of the many non-white people who attend her events. That, Mr. Jacobson, is the sort of evidence that someone like me would use in support of my claim that the pictures posted to her page are designed to appeal to a specific audience. Because I don’t trust you with logic, I will draw the obvious inference for you: Palin’s people are excluding photographs of the non-white people who attend her appearances because those photographs aren’t intended to appeal to a non-white audience.

Which was my original point.

You do realize that you’re helping me out here, Mr. Jacobson, don’t you?

He also claims that I “maliciously and falsely referred to one conservative blogger as a ‘noted racist.'” But—no doubt for some reason other than it demonstrates that Riehl’s a racist—he doesn’t reproduce the link that I included to a post demonstrating that Riehl is, in fact, a racist. He also makes the classic debating mistake of assuming facts not in evidence when he claims that I only did so “because this is the internet, and no one is held accountable,” his assumption being that were I to meet Riehl on the street, I wouldn’t call him a racist. Of course, being that these words are also on the internet, I can’t prove to his satisfaction that I wouldn’t; however, in a different context, he would point out the fact that because I’m an academic who hangs out with folks like this, I spend all day calling everybody I pass on the street a racist, and since Riehl belongs to that category—how about a little freshman logic, Mr. Jacobson?

SEK calls all people who are on the street a racist.
Dan Riehl is a person on the street.
Therefore, SEK calls Dan Riehl a racist.

I would say that syllogism puts him in a bind, but I think we can safely assume that someone who believed my earlier posts were intended “to smear the crowds at Palin book signings” probably never took freshman logic, and thus isn’t even aware that he’s in one.

Update (from davenoon): We’d be remiss in not pointing out that Jacobson, in a post complaining about the use of “the race card,” approving links to a diaper load in The American Thinker [sic] written by a — cough, cough — “former leftist-feminist Hillary supporter” who describes the treatment of Sarah Palin as a “wilding” and explains that she youstabee a feminist Democrat until she realized that left-wing men never protected her from angry black hoodlums. Well, “Robin from Berkeley” has me convinced!

Thanksgiving: Arguments Against "Authenticity" Put Into Practice…

[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

Although I regretted missing out regular Thanksgiving meal with the superb hosting of regular readers MJD and JRD, we for the first time hosted Thanksgiving for my girlfriend’s family. My feelings on turkey having long been on the record we weren’t going to put a lot of weight on traditional Thanksgiving cusine, so instead:

  • Beef Wellington with red wine reduction [or: vegetarian Wellington]
  • Mushroom bread pudding
  • Maple-glazed carrots
  • Cauliflower braised with white wine, anchovy, capers, and garlic
  • Butter lettuce salad with hearts of palm and shallot vinegrette
  • One Girl pumpkin whoopie pies and chocolate cream pie
  • Hors d’oeuvres: tomato and basil bruschetta, goat cheese-stuffed dates, vegetable platter

Best argument against tradition I can muster. Hope everybody’s Thankgiving was equally tasty and convivial!

…A commenter reminds us of this Calvin Trillin classic.

Friday Daddy Blogging

[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

Elisha and Miriam


[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

The Guardian published the NME’s list of the best 50 albums of the last decade a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to comment.

The Strokes are over-rated — they were highly derivative, rather like Beck was highly derivative ten years prior. My favorite band of the last five to six years is easily The Libertines, and while I think they deserve their spot in the rankings, a mate of mine commented down the pub last night that Karl, Pete, et al. owe a lot to the Strokes, which pretty much put me in my place.
So I guess I’m left with bitching about this. Third? When the Monkeys came out a couple years back, they were heralded as the next big thing. They weren’t. Highly over-rated, and just not that interesting, and more critically, they didn’t advance pop music one millimeter.

You only noticed I’m white because you’re a racist, Part II

[ 0 ] November 26, 2009 |

Instead of playing “Count the Non-White People!” with Sarah Palin’s photographs of her appearance at Fort Bragg, I will present some statistics about the base and surrounding community:

  • White Non-Hispanic (52.9%)
  • Black (25.2%)
  • Hispanic (15.8%)
  • Other race (8.3%)
  • Two or more races (4.5%)
  • American Indian (2.1%)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.9%)
  • Filipino (0.6%)
  • Korean (0.5%)

Having noted that 47.1 percent of the base and the surrounding community are non-white, I will now post a photograph her handlers thought would appeal to her constituents:

Noted racist Dan Riehl notes that “[i]f you’re a Democrat [these pictures] have to give you pause,” and they do. Riehl just fails to realize what that pause presages. (That would be laughter, Dan.) I’m sure Click and her claque will call me a racist for pointing all this out, but that’s how their knees jerk these days.

Going Rogue, chapter 5

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, English Puritans developed a method of Biblical and historical interpretation known as “typology.” In its simplest form, typology involved the discovery of Old Testament precursors — events, people, rituals and other elements of scripture — that foreshadowed or prefigured similar details in the New Testament. According to Puritan interpretation, Old Testament “types” were recycled and fulfilled in the works of Christ, the somewhat awkwardly-termed “antitype.” (Puritans also used Old Testament “types” to make sense of their own historical situation, as when they interpreted Native Americans as anti-types for the people of Canaan, heathens whom the Puritans — as anti-types of Israel — needed to drive from the new holy land.)

Reading the last few chapters of Going Rogue, we can see how Puritan theology supplies a useful tool for understanding Sarah Palin’s political development, and especially her bizarre decision (on my birthday, no less) to leave the governor’s office. For instance, here’s a “type” from chapter 1, in which a young Palin and her friend Chuck are beleaguered by by a state trooper:

It was Christmas Day; we were out in the middle of nowhere, a couple of kids on a snowmachine up against a big dude with a gun and a badge. I couldn’t help wondering about his priorities, if he really didn’t have more important things to do, like catching a bad guy, or maybe helping a poor plady haul in her firewood for the night. Looking back, maybe this was my first brush with the skewed priorities of government.

And three decades later, the “anti-type” as Palin whines about the eighteen ethics complaints filed against her since the summer of 2008:

We never imagined our critics would be so unscrupulous as to make a mockery of a serious issue like the ethics act. My state had been rocked by real ethical violations. We had lawmakers taking bribes and going to prison, the former administration’s chief of staff pleading guilty to a felony, and oil service executives ready to go to the clink. But now partisan operatives were using the reformed ethics [sic] to level charges against me that were as trivial as they were absurd — charges that were eagerly reported by the press as though they were actual news.

What a bass-ackward way of doing the people’s business.

The book is loaded with similar type/anti-type pairings (e.g., the biased reporting of the local Wasilla paper prefigures the antics of Katie Couric and Andrew Sullivan; her resignation from the oil and gas board prefigures her swan dive from the governor’s office; her loss in the 2002 lieutenant governor’s race prefigures her loss with McCain in 2008; and so on). But since Palin’s book is fundamentally a tale of martyrdom and apotheosis, she’s able to ennoble her decision to quit the very job that supposedly qualified her to serve as Vice President. The dozen-plus ethics charges, the heinous fabrications of left-wing bloggers, the endless FOIA requests from reporters — all of these are merely the stations of the cross as Sarah Palin lumbers toward Golgotha.

Financial hardship is painful but bearable. Loss of reputation I can take. But I could not and cannot tolerate watching Alaska suffer . . . .

I prayed hard because I knew that if I resigned, it might very well end any future political career.

But then I thought, This is what’s wrong with our political system. Too many politicians only consider their next career move. They don’t put the people they are serving first.

I don’t suppose it’s worth arguing about the degree of triviality bound up with these complaints (though several of them, including the ones related to the Walt Monegan fiasco as well as the complaint involving travel funds from Palin’s kids, are exactly the sorts of problems that state ethics boards should be investigating). Similarly, there’s no sense in wondering if the accusations against Palin were more or less flimsy than the campaign-season accusations she herself made about Barack Obama and Bill Ayers (or the ones she explains in the book she wanted to make about Obama and ACORN). It’s probably also not worth pointing out that while Palin compares her own ethics ordeal with Netw Gingrich’s during the mid-1990s — I wish I were making that up — our maverick savior doesn’t pause for a moment to reflect on the much costlier (and less substantiated) investigations launched into the financial transactions of the fellow who happened to occupy the White House at the same time.

At the end of the day, if Palin truly wanted to “put the people [she was] serving first,” she would have been a better governor. Instead, she returned from the campaign trail with a chip on her shoulder after ticking off nearly everyone she’d need to work with in the legislature. She embarked on an ideologically-motivated, fact-free campaign to reject federal stimulus funds, resulting in a protracted pissing match that gobbled up time better spent on serious policy questions; she spent months fucking with the people of Juneau, nominating an array of unqualified goofballs to fill our vacant seat in the state senate; and she spent most of her time acting as if the job she had was interfering with the job she wanted. Ethics complaints might have caused the state a bit of hassle and expense, but they didn’t stop Palin from wasting valuable time on her own petty obsessions.

As Palin herself might say, what a bass-ackward way of doing the people’s business.

There’s a bathroom on the right

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

A few years ago I ran into the concept of a mondegreen, which is usually defined as a mis-heard line in a song. The most commonly cited examples include “there’s a bathroom on the right,” as a mis-hearing of CCR’s “there’s a bad moon on the rise” and “s’cuse me while I kiss this guy” rather than Jimi Hendrix’s original “s’cuse me while I kiss the sky.”

Thanks to the wonders of wikipedia, I’ve learned that the original definition, formulated by Sylvia Wright, is actually narrower and more interesting: “The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original“.

It doesn’t seem to me that either of the common examples given above qualify. I humbly submit the following as instances from from my own personal history of mis-hearing song lyrics:

Rod Stewart, Maggie Mae:

I suppose I could collect my books and go back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool.

The correct lyric is “fool.” “Pool” deploys a clever pun, and a much more arresting image of the feckless yet suddenly intriguing father.

[Correction: Jim in comments points out that in fact “pool” is the real lyric, and that my subsequent interpretation is the actual mondogreen, except it wouldn’t be one by the original definition. As Emily Litella used to say . . . never mind].

Speaking of which, The Kinks, Father Christmas:

When I was small I believed in Santa
Though I knew there was no dad.

Instead of the canonical “though I knew it was my dad.” The mis-hearing adds a level of wistful pathos to the proceedings.

Next up, Neil Young, Helpless:

There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort memory to spare

The correct line is “With dream comfort memory despair.”

I’m of two minds about this one, as the correct version is more disturbingly surreal, while the mis-hearing has a certain homey charm.

Anyway, I like Wright’s original definition much more than the contemporary (mis)understanding of what she had in mind, which is rather ironic as Alanis Morrisette did not observe.

Social Security

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

To be clear: Fred Hiatt will never stop trying to kill it, and Democrats shouldn’t be scared of facing the issue.

"In previous decades people would have laughed about it."

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

But, Bruce people laughed about a lot of hilarious things in previous decades that turned out, with the passage of time, to not be bloody funny at all.

So when Bruce Forsyth, CBE, so called “national treasure” of Britain (and still on the telly every week hosting the wildly popular and utterly pointless Strictly Come Dancing, the forebear to what I’m sure is the equally popular and pointless Dancing With the Stars in the U.S.), lamely attempts to convince us that Paki is as racist as Limey, meaning it isn’t racist at all but just something we should all laugh off, all we can do is sigh and continue to pay our license fee* (£142.50 this year, and I pay mine every December . . . )

Or maybe when you’re 81, you may still find things funny that haven’t been since Neville Chamberlin was Prime Minister?

* This is one of the more regressive taxes among the western democracies, and one I happily pay every year. Value for money and all that malarkey, Forsyth, Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, and George fecking Lamb aside . . .

You only noticed I’m white because you’re a racist.

[ 0 ] November 24, 2009 |

In the comments to a long, inaccurate attack on those who consider Palin evidence that the conservative movement is trending stupid, Darleen Click claims that those who point out the extreme whiteness of Palin supporters “reveal a great more about [themselves] than Palin.” Because such people notice race at all, they’re insufficiently colorblind and therefore more racist than Click, who merely advocates creating and maintaining structural inequalities that disproportionately affect people who just happen to not be white.

Set aside for a moment the fact that Click labors under the delusion that noticing people of color is more racist than harming them and remember that 1) the figure she defends, Sarah Palin, is using her publicity tour as a prelude to a 2012 presidential bid launch, and 2) candidate Palin is posting photographs of the people she meets on her Facebook page, meaning that these are not images produced by a liberal media elite out to make her look like her appeal is limited to white people but images she and her people have decided should represent her mass-appeal on a mock-presidential bid launch. Time to play “Count the Non-White People”!

  1. Image #1: 0
  2. Image #2: 0
  3. Image #3: 0
  4. Image #4: 0
  5. Image #5: 0
  6. Image #6: 0
  7. Image #7: 0
  8. Image #8: 1 (a mall security guard)
  9. Image #9: 0
  10. Image #10: 0
  11. Image #11: 0
  12. Image #12: 2 (but only one identifiably of her own volition)

In all those photographs, there is one non-white person who can be positively identified as having come of their own accord. To Click, pointing out that Palin’s own handlers consider her appeal limited to white people makes me a racist. Over in the increasingly diverse place known as the United States, this is why people like Click should hunker down for a long run of political disappointment.

Update. Over at my place, one of Darleen’s flock attempts to prove me wrong by being racist.

Update 2. Someone should tell them to quit digging.

Yet More on Lieberman

[ 0 ] November 24, 2009 |

This seems largely correct to me:

So why is he doing this? Because he’s bitter. According to former staffers and associates, he was upset by his dismal showing in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary. And he was enraged by the tepid support he got from many party leaders in 2006, when he lost the Democratic primary to an anti-war activist and won reelection as an independent. Gradually, this personal alienation has eaten away at his liberal domestic views. His staff has grown markedly more conservative in recent years, and his closest friends in Congress are now Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. For Lieberman, the personal has become political, and it has pushed him further to the right.

There are two ways of reacting to this argument. On the one side, you can treat it as an accusation that liberals are “to blame” for Lieberman’s lurch to the right. The altogether more sensible way to take it is that the campaign to unseat Lieberman by supporting Ned Lamont had the foreseeable consequence of pushing Lieberman to the right if he managed to win anyway. As Ezra argued, the primary forced Lieberman to find an electoral coalition that was far more right wing than the one he had previously assembled, and it’s natural that he’d be more responsive to that coalition after the election. But as Beinart suggests, politicians aren’t simply vote-seeking automatons. It’s not surprising that Lieberman reacted to harsh criticism with bitterness, and consequently with a shift farther to the right.

None of this means that supporting Ned Lamont was a bad idea. First, it was unlikely that both of the above conditions would hold. Had Lieberman won the primary, he might have been bitter but he would have been responsible to the same electoral coalition. Having lost the primary, it was unlikely that he was going to win the election, but unlikely things do happen in politics. Second, Ned Lamont would have made a much better, and much more progressive, Senator than even the pre-2006 Joe Lieberman.

The institutional failure, I think, was that the Democratic Party didn’t fully understand that it needed to put Joe Lieberman’s political career in the dirt in 2006. I think they believed that the choice was essentially between two Democrats, rather than between a Democrat and a guy who was going to be elected by Republicans and was going to loathe the party’s progressive base.