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"Gimme gimme gimmedon’t ask what it’s for"

[ 17 ] December 22, 2007 |

Blogging will be mercifully light from my end until the New Year, when I will return from two weeks of non-stop loafing and snacking in the Midwest.

For those who haven’t finished shopping for the holidays, however, I have a few unhelpful suggestions:

  1. Confederate Men’s Cologne. A mere $15 per bottle (which is somewhat more affordable than the $50 fee required to become a Confederate citizen.) The cologne comes in two varieties — “Secession” and “Southern Gentleman” — both of which I assume carry the faint aroma of dickweed.

  2. GWAR Action figures. I had a chance to see these guys in college once, but I totally chickened out. The regret continues to dangle like a millstone around my neck.
  3. ‘Swounds!
  4. A case of Batter Blaster, the world’s first aerosol-powered pancake batter. Because even the laziest goddamn people in the world should be able to eat pancakes now and again.
  5. The Tom Tancredo campaign store is officially toast, but you can still look like a belligerent xenophobe by shopping the free market.
  6. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
  7. Powerline “messenger bag”. Ideal for delivering mainline GOP talking points.
  8. Baby Jesus Butt Plug. Drove Confederate Yankee to distraction two years ago. Ah, the memories

As they say, give ’til it hurts.

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So Much For Compassionate Immigration Laws

[ 0 ] December 22, 2007 |

[Sorry to disappear for two days, kids. Was out of town surprising a friend who is getting married and who was in the states from Europe, where she lives. Am back. Obviously.]

The loud and clear lesson from this article in today’s Times: if you are an undocumented immigrant, ’tis better to stay under the radar than to take on a public service career. From the sad story of Oscar Ayala-Cornejo/Jose Morales:

Growing up here, Oscar Ayala-Cornejo recalls, he played chess and devoured comics, hung out at the mall and joined the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. After high school, he realized a childhood dream, joining the Milwaukee Police Department.

But when Mr. Ayala-Cornejo filled out recruitment papers, he used the name of a dead relative who had been a United States citizen. He had to, Mr. Ayala-Cornejo says, because ever since his parents brought him here from Mexico when he was 9, he has lived in the country illegally.

The life that Mr. Ayala-Cornejo carefully built here, including more than five years with the police force, is to end at noon on Saturday, when, heeding a deportation order, he will board a plane bound for the country he left as a child.

In May, acting on an anonymous tip, immigration agents arrested him on charges of falsely representing himself as a citizen. He pleaded guilty, and is now permanently barred from the United States.

It’s obviously a bad idea to take on someone else’s identity in this age of identity theft and terrorism. So strike one. But it seems to me that it’s in cases like this that some sort of amnesty program might make sense. He is a policeman, for chrissakes.

For example, if the immigration bill had passed last year, Mr. Ayala-Cornejo and others like him who graduated from high school in the United States would be eligible to adjust status without having to leave the country and re-enter — a process that is onerous, time consuming, and that takes years and years. Stories like this also put into sharp relief for me that the country’s immigration problems stem not only from undocumented immigration but also from the stinginess of our legal immigration system. Mr. Ayala-Cornejo, the article says, could have had his younger brother, a citizen, sponsor him to immigrate. But that would have required a long absence (10 years!) from the country and from his family. The sad irony is that he will now have to bear absences from his family of perhaps indefinite duration; unless his parents have adjusted status, they will not be able to leave the U.S., and he can now never return.

Seems to me there’s room to condemn identity theft in the service of undocumented immigration while also implementing a program that provides amnesty for people who immigrated as children and are now, as adults, dealing with the fallout of their parents’ choices.

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"St. Reagan Didn’t Lie! Or Engage In Racism! He Just Embellished His Rhetoric With Stories That Didn’t Happen While Using Racist Code Words!"

[ 14 ] December 22, 2007 |

Shorter Ross Douthat: The fact that a woman living in subsidized housing in New Orleans has a big T.V. means that there couldn’t have been any racism in Ronald Reagan’s invocation of apocryphal “welfare queens” with “Cadillacs,” and “strapping young bucks“* buying “T-Bone steaks” with food stamps. The logic is unassailable!

*Note: flagrantly racist term used only below the Mason-Dixon line, but I’m sure welfare recipients in New Hampshire weren’t strapping!

(Via Edroso.)

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These Things, They are the Same…

[ 9 ] December 22, 2007 |

Mark Hemingway via Yglesias. Guess who he’s writing about:

His relentless use of folksy aphorisms and corny rhetorical sleight of hand provokes visceral objections — but the criticism isn’t merely superficial. In the TNR I piece I linked to yesterday a member of the press corps observed, “He thinks and speaks in metaphors. And, often, they’re not right.” That, well, hits the nail on the head. [...] I don’t think I’m being uncharitable when I say that’s disturbingly authoritarian. He should probably start answering some critics instead of dismissing this all as “The Establishment” trying to keep a good ol’ boy down.

If you guessed “George W. Bush”, you’re wrong; it’s Mike Huckabee. But it’s difficult for me to understand how Hemingway distinguishes between the two…

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Friday Cat Blogging

[ 14 ] December 21, 2007 |

Although her brother Henry has recetly been caught rogering my daughter’s stuffed animals, Emma is by far the more unhinged of the two. She has always devoted some part of her nights to carrying around fake mice and other cat toys, but in recent months — as our home’s canine-feline hostilities have escalated — she’s turned the crazy amp to 11. All but forbidden from the master bedroom, Emma has apparently decided to barricade her caretakers and their two dogs behind a wall of socks, washcloths, hand towels, diapers, computer cords, mittens, hats and garbage, all of which she drags into the hallway during the middle of the night to prop against our door. Most animal behaviorists would probably claim that she’s overcompensating for lost attention, or that old age has started turning her brain to fruit loops, but I’m convinced that she’s genuinely trying to entomb us.

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And The Money Is Being Laundered Through Vince Foster’s Corpse!

[ 78 ] December 21, 2007 |

The Clenis (TM) — now so powerful that he can control the GOP nomination:

The reader was convinced that none other than Bill and Hill were Huckabee’s ultimate backers. Given how divisive Huckabee is, how well they know know the passions of the Evangelical community (and deep anger there, if my inbox is any guide), and the magnitude of money in Bill’s “library fund,” well, it’s as plausible an answer as any to “how the hell did this happen?” Huckabee is the candidate easiest for any Democrat to knock off, by a long shot. And there goes the GOP coaltion for a long time to come. Now that would be quite a Clinton legacy.

Aside from the high comedy (Huckabee being propelled by Bill Clinton’s money would be rather more convincing if Huackabee actually had any money), the crackdown of GOP elites against Huckabee is instructive. After being told how immensely popular reactionary cultural positions were and how the Democrats had no choice but to throw most of their constituencies under the bus and let the Angry White Men have their way, conservative pundits now claiming that running someone who actually believes this stuff rather than somebody who cynically exploits a minority faction would be electoral suicide. I think the lesson is obvious.

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Bad For Labor, Bad For Business

[ 8 ] December 21, 2007 |

Via Will Bunch, apparently Circuit City was begging some of its laid off employees to come back. Awwwww. As he concludes about the companay’s strategy of firing its competent workers, “[s]ince then, I’ve pretty much done any electronics shopping at Best Buy — and so does everyone else, apparently.”

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Presidential Candidates: Not Pundits

[ 27 ] December 21, 2007 |

Mark Schmitt gets this exactly right:

As an observer of politics, and commenter on it, I almost entirely share Krugman’s and Edwards’ diagnoses. I appreciate the conflictual nature of politics. I don’t think there’s some cross-partisan truth; I understand that the Republican conservatives are intractable. I know those advantaged by the current structure of power are determined to preserve it, and the well-funded campaign to destroy any possibility of progressive governance will be as intantaneous and intense as anything in 1993. I’ve tried to spell this out as clearly and aggressively as possible, especially to counter the tendency among elites to imagine that the good old days when Republicans and Democrats worked together selflessly and put ideology aside to solve the nation’s problems are coming back. (Or that they were so great to start with.)

But let’s take a slightly different angle on the charge that Obama is “naïve” about power and partisanship. Suppose you were as non-naïve about it as I am — but your job wasn’t writing about politics, it was running for president? What should you do? In that case, your responsibility is not merely to describe the situation exactly, but to find a way to subvert it. In other words, perhaps we are being too literal in believing that “hope” and bipartisanship are things that Obama naively believes are present and possible, when in fact they are a tactic, a method of subverting and breaking the unified conservative power structure. Claiming the mantle of bipartisanship and national unity, and defining the problem to be solved (e.g. universal health care) puts one in a position of strength, and Republicans would defect from that position at their own risk. The public, and younger voters in particular, seem to want an end to partisanship and conflictual politics, and an administration that came in with that premise (an option not available to Senator Clinton), would have a tremendous advantage, at least for a moment.

To accept the obvious truths that politics is about conflict, that many political disputes are incommensurable, and that partisanship is therefore not inherently a bad thing does not mean that repeatedly emphasizing conflicts is an effective rhetorical strategy. To take Obama’s rhetoric on this score at face value is silly. It’s overwhelmingly likely that he understands perfectly well the nature of the GOP, but also understands that “the current GOP is horrible and we should therefore kill them and then salt the earth so it can never grow again” isn’t an effective means of appealing to swing voters.

..and as for political efficacy, the fact that Obama substantially outperforms Clinton against anybody seems definitive.

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Happy TIDOS Day!

[ 52 ] December 21, 2007 |

I almost forgot to wish everyone a Happy Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Day. December 20 marks the anniversary of South Carolina’s 1860 decision to leave the Union, in whose newly elected Republican leaders the state’s propertied elites spied a grievous threat to the principle of perpetual black servitude. I’ve got a post on the secession ordinance itself over at the Axis, but for now, let’s hear from someone else.

This fellow, for example, is unambiguously joy-stricken by the occasion:

[T]oday should be a holiday, and is known to some as Secession Day.

South Carolina was soon followed by other states in January, but spent nearly a month standing alone. While many have debated that this was an example of South Carolinians sun-baked brains, South Carolinians still know that it was an example of their stubborn spirit of independence — a spirit that big government types never have and never will put up with.

Exactly. One thing “big government types” didn’t realize at the time is that the proper response to a perceived threat is for a state legislature to rally behind a baseless theory of sovereignty in order to rationalize treason. By contrast, “small government” conservatives understood that the salve to electoral disappointment was create a radical new system — the Confederate States of America — that was in every respect less democratic than the one they thought they were leaving behind. And of course, as the legislature of the “Palmetto Republic” declared four days after the passage of the ordinance, “independence” means . . . um . . . you know . . .

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

As for “Secession Hall” in Charleston, where the ordinance was ratified 147 years ago today, here’s what it looked like in 1865:

Nice work, South Carolina!

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Pluralism follow-up

[ 216 ] December 21, 2007 |

So in general I like to be involved in controversial comment threads that I start, and I seemed have launched the most controversial one of my erstwhile blogging career earlier this week. Due to travel (Thanks to Scott and Jason and Jay and Claire for their hospitality in NY, DC and Philly, respectively, and it was great to meet raise a glass with Lizardbreath, A White Bear, Dave, Zuzu, and everyone in New York!) and grading, I was not available to explain and defend myself.

I’ll try and explain why I think the Dawkins approach to atheism in a few upcoming posts (a series, if you will). For now, I’ll endorse generally the line of reasoning pursued by Lemuel, Matt Weiner, and divguy. Here I’ll just be responding to one line of reasoning offered by my critics. This is the notion that there is a whiff of the dread “sensible civil centrism ™” to my post. There were several comments in this vein (and many more at Yglesias’ place, where accusations of Broderism a bit more common), but “Central Texan” gives us the distilled essence of this critique:

David Broder could not have put it better. I believe in something higher and invisible and you do not. Therefore you must yield to me an automatic assumption of moral superiority and deep insight rather than simple delusion. Oh, and keep your opinions to yourself and we will tolerate your existence.

This casts Linker any myself as the obnoxious and ineffective “Republican light” brand of democrat, acknowledging “republican facts” and shying away from calling Republicans on their dishonesty and various other depravities. I, of course, don’t care for this sort of politics, and criticize it strongly, so why should I follow this line when it comes to religion.

Well, it’s a terrible analogy for a lot of reasons, but I’ll focus on the most important one. I don’t care much for the aesthetics of the aforementioned political style, but the primary reason I oppose it is because it’s bad politics. One of the main reasons it’s bad politics is that on many, many issues, we have the numbers. People don’t like the war in Iraq and generally prefer more liberal positions on most domestic issues to conservative ones. Atheists, on the other hand, are currently a tiny fraction of our society. Bill O’Reilly’s protestations aside, atheists make up a very small percentage of liberals. So while I can see why such an approach might seem like a good one to Naderites, it should give the rest of us some serious pause. Furthermore, going on the offensive as atheists, Dawkins style, is to take the intolerant, poisonous Christianists, and lump liberal mainline religious moderates and liberals in with them, by minimizing the differences between them.

But much more importantly, I like my Democratic politicians proud and agressive because I have clear, concrete, reasons to want them do what they can to win. This is unsurprising; indeed, it’s a good part of what politics is about. Part of what makes politics possible is a separation between politics and comprehensive moral and epistemic approaches to the world. A key tenet of liberalism is to accept the fact of pluralism. The fact of pluralism isn’t a contingent one; that people disagree about which comprehensive doctrine is correct is almost certainly a permanent fact about free societies. What makes Dawkins as well as Christianists similarly illiberal* is that they are convinced that the rightness of their comprehensive worldview and the wrongness (both factually and morally) of others makes it possible to imagine their comprehensive worldview can concievably win out, and their role is to give birth to a future in which the light is seen by all, once their heart is touched by Jesus or they learn to unlearn the mythologies of history and youth and put their faith in science, or whatever. If you accept the fact of pluralism as a persistent social fact, and there’s good reason to believe you should, the actual rightness of your particular comprehensive worldview is irrelevent to anything discussed above.

*Christianists are, of course illiberal and pernicious in other ways that Dawkins is not, and their vision of hte world is obviously much worse so please don’t read this as an exercise in false equivalence.

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The Case Against Ron Paul

[ 26 ] December 20, 2007 |

Made more than ably by Dana Goldtstein.

It is important to remember that, although he was (like Barack Obama) right on the war and supports some other good positions (anti-War (on some classes of people who use some) Drugs), he holds many more crackpot positions, and his libertarianism and federalism seem to stop where women’s rights begin.

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MPAA Thinks of the Children

[ 30 ] December 20, 2007 |

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly hip to the latest in stoner film culture, but would someone please tell me I’m the last person to actually hear about this? Maybe I missed Cheech and Chong Invade Grenada, but this is pretty goddamned tacky. [UPDATE . . . . well, OK, this is why I maybe shouldn't write about movies . . . Having watching the trailer, I'll cheerfully take my licks for this. Meantime . . . ]

Meantime, via Steve Perry, we learn that the MPAA has rejected poster artwork for two documentary films that actually deal with Guantanamo:

The MPAA has rejected the one-sheet for Alex Gibney’s documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan’s Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay.ThinkFilm opens the pic, which is on the Oscar shortlist of 15 docs, on Jan. 11.The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

An MPAA spokesman said: “We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.”According to ThinkFilm distribution prexy Mark Urman, the reason given by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for rejecting the poster is the image of the hood, which the MPAA deemed unacceptable in the context of such horror films as “Saw” and “Hostel.” “To think that this is not apples and oranges is outrageous,” he said. “The change renders the art illogical, without any power or meaning.”

The MPAA also rejected the one-sheet for Roadside Attractions’ 2006 film “The Road to Guantanamo,” which featured a hooded prisoner hanging from his handcuffed wrists. At the time, according to Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, the reason given was that the burlap bag over the prisoner’s head depicted torture, which was not appropriate for children to see.

I’ve actually seen The Road to Guantanamo, and it’s a remarkable film that deserves a wider audience. But I, too, would hate to see children scared away by the film’s poster, so I’ve taken a few moments to adapt it with the MPAA’s sensitivities in mind.

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