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Russian Literature Bleg

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

You weren’t expecting that, were you?

So there’s a short story from the Soviet era, late Stalin I think or shortly thereafter, about a group of friends and acquaintences with a number of lingering personal and sexual conflicts and jealousies. An official announcement is made by the government that for one day, Soviet citizens will be allowed to murder one person without any legal reprocussions. The story revolves around the ways in which this group of people prepare, offensively and defensively, for that day.

If anyone has a clue about the author or title of it, I’d be immensely grateful.

Sophistication

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

Must read: Marc Lynch on Biden’s meaningless, preening “sophistication.” It’s one of those ideas that might sound like it’s worth thinking about for out three seconds if you don’t know much about Iraq. But it’s different, it’s complicated, it’s sophisticated.

What I don’t exactly get is why 74 US Senators are enabling Biden here. If they think this makes it look they’re supporting a “clean exit strategy” they’re not thinking very hard, or assuming their constituents won’t either. I’d like to think most of the 74 know this is a pretty terrible idea (perhaps that’s overly generous), so I’m left looking for the political angle. It’s not at all clear to me.

What a Coinky-Dink!

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

The Verizon policy chief behind the selective attempt to stop NARAL from paying Verizon to set up an IM network turns out to be…an anti-choice former Congressman who explicitly endorsed the GOP plank to make abortion 1st degree murder in all 50 states, and not surprisingly was strongly opposed by NARAL. Verizon will have to decide whether it wants someone to let personal and policy grudges hurt the company…

..a commenter suggests that the decision of Verizon wireless was not connected to Tauke, which is certainly possible. Either way, this is a good time for Verizon customers to into that new i-Phone they’ve been thinking about…

It Can Always Get More Pathetic

[ 0 ] September 29, 2007 |

In his latest attempt to revive his stillborn campaign, John McCain — beloved, you may remember, earlier in this decade by the media and an inexplicable number of liberal pundits for an alleged refusal to pander — decides to engage in rank religious bigotry, arguing (among other things) that a Muslim is not qualified to be President of the United States and (in a Orwellian retelling of history) that the Constitution established a “Christian nation.” It’s even more disgraceful because it won’t work.

Gene Mauch Memorial Last Week of the Season Open Thread

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

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I’ve always thought the pennant race was more exciting than the post-season, and at least in one league this year he have a great finish. Where did the people who care about baseball in Philadelphia come from? Can the Padres keep winning without Bradley and Cameron? Can the Rockies run the table for the last two weeks? Will their incredible luck catch up to the Diamondbacks? Can the Mets win a game against the Marlins? That’s why they play etc…

…Mets up 12-0 in the 8th on Saturday. In fairness, I’d have to give them at least a 15% chance of winning this one…

The MPAA’s Double Standard

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

In her review of the new Ang Lee picture, Manohla Dargis identifies it as another example of the bizarre way that the MPAA evaluates sex and violence relative to each other:

And flirtation is the word, despite the shoving and hitting, a few harsh lashes and geometric configurations that put me in mind of high school geometry more than it did the Kama Sutra. The Motion Picture Association of America, that tireless, cheerless band of Comstocks who regulate all things sexual and few things violent on behalf of the major studios, has saddled the film with an NC-17 rating — no one 17 and under admitted, even with an adult — because of “some explicit sexuality.” The horrors of female nudity (unshaven armpits!) and the vigorous pantomime of coitus apparently offended the sensibilities of the M.P.A.A., which routinely bestows R ratings to movies in which characters are tortured to death for kicks.

If anyone can defend an NC-17 for a not-even-pronographic film with nudity and an R for the torture porn that seems to come out every month, I’d love to hear it…

The Myth of a Shepard Myth

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

Roy has been doing a good job with Andrew Breitbart’s War Against Culture lobs against David Ehrenstein, but missed one thing: Breitbart’s claim that Matthew Shepard “was killed by crazed meth addicts for drugs and money — not because he was gay.” As Roger Ailes points out, these claims that the Shepard killing wasn’t a hate crime rest entirely on on the six-years-after-the-fact, uncorroborated, contradictory, and self-serving claims of the killer and his relatives. If we are to apply the arguments of Breitbart and the other people peddling this crap consistently, we can release about 95% of our prisoners right now –I mean, they didn’t do it, Scout’s Honor!

I don’t make the rules

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

According to several of my students, today marks “Drink as Much Beer as Possible Day.” Among the various alcohol-themed holidays, the legitimacy of this one appears to hover somewhere below that of “Repeal Day.”

Nevertheless, I see no reason to dismiss the minor secular feasts for lack of pedigree, especially if they coincide with the plans I already had for the day.

Closet Tolerant

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

A couple of Matt’s commenters beat me to it, but I don’t think it’s really accurate to say that Thompson is taking a stand on “federalist” grounds. He’s never met a federal abortion regulation he doesn’t like, for example, so as with 99% of the population “federalism” matters to him at most in the familiar question-begging sense in which “federalism” isn’t doing any real work but is just a way of concealing your substantive position on the merits. Rather, I think that he’s using “federalism” as a smokescreen for the fact that he’s a closet tolerant who doesn’t really have a problem with gay marriage. Which admittedly I think is even more charitable towards Thompson, and he does deserve of a modicum of credit for not going along with all of the symbolic gay-baiting the GOP base seems to demand.

And This is An Appropriate Question Because…

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

We (the country, the Dems) have capitulated to the GOP Rhetoric. In the Democratic debate the other night, at the tail end, host Tim Russert asked the candidates to name their favorite bible verse.

Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?

OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we’ve lost over the last six years.

John talked about what we’ve lost. Part of what we’ve lost is a sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we don’t talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in somebody else’s shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the federal level.

That’s the reason I’m running for president, because I want to restore that.

RUSSERT: I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds.

Senator Clinton, favorite Bible verse?

CLINTON: The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think it’s a good rule for politics, too.

RUSSERT: Senator Gravel?

GRAVEL: The most important thing in life is love. That’s what empowers courage, and courage implements the rest of our virtues.

RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich?

KUCINICH: I carry that with me at every debate, this prayer from St. Francis, which says, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” and I believe very strongly that all of us can be instruments of peace. And that’s what I try to bring to public life.

RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: It appears many times in the Bible, “What you do onto the least of those, you do onto me.”

RUSSERT: Governor Richardson?

RICHARDSON: The Sermon on the Mount, because I believe it’s an issue of social justice, equality, brotherly issues reflecting a nation that is deeply torn and needs to be heal and come together.

DODD: The Good Samaritan would be a worthwhile sort of description of who we all ought to be in life.

RUSSERT: Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Christ’s warning of the Pharisees. There are many Pharisees, and it’s part of what has bankrupted some people’s view about religion. And I worry about the Pharisees.

I understand why he’s asking the question: the Democrats have been unable to talk about religion, and it’s hurt them. They’re trying to change that. But why does changing that = talking like Republicans?

Attempt To Make the Electoral College Even Less Democratic Stillborn

[ 0 ] September 28, 2007 |

Good.

…to be clear, I mean small-d “democratic” in the title — no system that could permit a substantial loser in the popular vote to become President for no good reason deserves the word — but of course it applies in both senses.

Oh, the Humanity

[ 0 ] September 27, 2007 |

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[Graphic from Metsgrrl.]

I was in Flushing for tonight’s unpleasantness, and what can you say? Petey did his job; 2 earned, either driven in or scored by the best hitter in the league, and despite some early command issues worked efficiently enough to keep the Arson Squad out of the game for 7 innings. Even hit the low 90s at times if you believe the Shea gun. He’s still beautiful to watch. But when you can’t get a sniff off of Joel Goddamned Pineiro, well, you really don’t deserve to go to the playoffs, And there’s really no reason they can’t still make it, with the Marlins at home. But it’s hard to see it happening at this point.

Not only that, but the utter lack of offense left me more thinking space to get irritated with Tony LaRussa, Super Genius (TM) for batting his pitcher eighth. Not that it really matters, but what’s the possible justification?

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