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The War on Choice

[ 3 ] September 3, 2010 |

Alas, a large number of states still seem to have not received Ross Douthat’s memo about how no restrictions on abortion are permitted in the United States.


Can You Be Pathetic When You’re That Malevolent?

[ 16 ] September 3, 2010 |

Advocate for arbitrary torture attempts to engage in rational discourse, fails:

What I want to note is that John Yoo knows that he is already on trial – not just in Spain, but here in the United States – and he is already attempting to put on his defense.

And if his performance at Chapman is an indication of his skill as his own defense attorney – and I think that it is – John Yoo is in serious trouble.

Yoo was meandering, inarticulate, and alternately simplistic and condescending.  He was no match for Darmer and Rosenthal – both former federal prosecutors and both clearly far smarter and more savvy than John Yoo.

I came away from the debate feeling that Yoo is a rather pathetic figure, intellectually out-classed by the others on the panel.

Friday Morning Links

[ 1 ] September 3, 2010 |

Apologies again for the lack of blogging; currently at APSA. Some links for your morning perusal:

Pamela Geller’s Pedophile Problem

[ 53 ] September 2, 2010 |

Pamela Geller wrote a “STICKY POST” seemingly intended to insult the very crowd she courts:


Robert and I respectfully request that those of you who will be attending our protest against the Ground Zero mega mosque bring American flags, not signs […] Please get the word out now […] We are asking that we all respect and honor that day with the flags, states flags, flags of other countries.. lots of flags…PLEASE don’t bring signs […] It is a solemn day. No signs. FLAGS.

From a rhetorical standpoint, listing the banned item before the desired one gives the impression that you’re more concerned with stopping people from bringing the former than encouraging them to bring the latter.  To wit:


Write that and people will not only assume that some members of your audience want to bring a pedophile to a young boy’s birthday party, but that they will do so unless specifically told not to.  What does that say about how you feel about your audience?

It says that you believe they lack common sense, that they might not only consider bringing a pedophile to the party, but that they might even think it’s a good idea.  At the very least, you suggest that your audience might think of bringing a pedophile before a grandma, which means you think they think more about pedophiles than grandmas.

As if to prove you think they’re scum, you decide to “sticky” a post ten days in advance of the event and implore people to “get the word out now,” because you think that if your audience isn’t constantly reminded not to bring pedophiles to the party, some members of it will.  Then—presumably because you feel your audience has been insufficiently insulted—you follow that title with a post whose tone flits between pleading and hectoring:

Robert and I respectfully request that those of you who will be attending Billy’s fourth year birthday bring grandmas, not pedophiles […] Please get the word out now […] We are asking that we all respect and honor that day with the grandmas, great-grandmas, other people’s grandmas.. lots of grandmas…PLEASE don’t bring pedophiles […] It is a happy day. No pedophiles. GRANDMAS.

Why would you write that?  Because you know that more than a few pedophiles will be showing up at the party and you want to establish plausible deniability.

Now replace “pedophile” with “hilariously misspelled, overtly racist, or just plain pig-ignorant sign” and the respect Geller has for her fellow attendees becomes all too apparent.

No There There, Although There’s Plenty There To Be Found

[ 22 ] September 2, 2010 |

I basically agree with Melissa about the most recent Vanity Fair profile of Sarah Palin, which is almost as devoid of content as the last one.   If you were feeling really charitable you could say that in this particular case the obsession with trivia was a more important factor than sexism.    Certainly male politicians —  including Bill Cinton, Al Gore, and John Edwards — have been the targets of similar hatchet jobs, although I do think it’s true that women are more likely to be attacked for their child-rearing or for showing anger around their staff.   But whatever role of sexism per se — and I think it’s pretty evident in the article’s focus — the anecdote about Piper being used for an applause line gives away the show.   The way modern political campiagns use children as campaign props might be distasteful, but as a criticism of any individual politician it’s about as devastating as pointing out a politician dressing more formally in public than they do puttering around the house.

What’s especially frustrating about this is that there most certainly is a good long negative profile to be written about Palin for a general audience.      Calling her followers to “refudiate” tolerance and religious freedom in lower Manhattan is just the latest example of her being an extremely pernicious public figure, and her claims about her accomplishments and stands have been mostly lies and half-truths from the beginning.    An article that detailed this type of information in a high-circulation monthly would be useful.   An article that discusses her low tips to bellboys, twitter ghostwriters, and the similarity of a the nickname of a supporter’s blog to an adult swinger’s site haha — not so much.

In Case You Were Starting To Feel Like We Finally Licked that BP Oil Spill…

[ 0 ] September 2, 2010 |

This just in.

What Would We Be Without Wishful Thinking?

[ 11 ] September 2, 2010 |

8% of the American public believes that the late Thurgood Marshall is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (What percentage of Americans think Earl Warren was a sleazy male stripper remains unspecified.) Perhaps more importantly, fewer than 30% of the public got the question right.

With all due respect to Justice Ginsburg, it’s this kind of data that makes clear that the idea that, for example, Roe would have found greater public acceptance if the Court had waited to decide it on equal protection grounds is absurd. An electorate that for the most part doesn’t even know who sits on the Supreme Court isn’t going to base its evaluation of judicial opinions on careful evaluations of judicial craftsmanship, and Roe is actually an excellent illustration of this.

Bolton for POTUS?

[ 31 ] September 2, 2010 |

Maybe. Mark Leon Goldberg has a few thoughts.

What Exactly is the US Doing to Protect its Afghan Partners?

[ 12 ] September 1, 2010 |

It’s a fair question.

I spent the last ten days seeking answers from the Department of Defense.

Major Christopher Perrine, who specializes in strategic communication for the US military, was eager enough to reiterate DOD’s position about the Wikileaks documents over the phone – that Wikileaks never contacted DOD “directly,” didn’t keep its phone appointments, and that at any rate DOD would not be negotiating with individuals who specialize in leaking classified documents.

But most of my questions were about the US’ broader efforts to protect civilian informants against retaliation – efforts that, I would have liked to assume, surely pre-dated the Wikileaks affair. On this, Perrine referred me to the Pentagon Spokeswoman on Afghanistan Elizabeth Robbins, and warned me that she might refer me to someone with ISAF – only they, he said, would know precisely what was going on on the ground.

Not so unexpectedly, Major Robbins never got back to me.

I did get a more thoughtful response from the brand new DOD Office for the Rule of Law and International Humanitarian Policy, headed by Rosa Brooks. As Spencer Ackerman reported last May, the new entity’s mandate is to “entrench respect for the rule of law and human rights as a core focus within the Defense Department.”

While I have generally interpreted this as an example of the Obama Administration’s commitment to mainstream human security concerns into our defense apparatus, what it means in practice remains unclear. As I was told by an earnest but apologetic aide in an interim response by email, the office is still getting up and running in terms of personnel, budgeting and figuring out its agenda. He promised me a longer response after he’d had time to contact the proper authorities throughout the DOD, and I will pass along what I learn.

Meantime, below the fold is a breakdown of my preliminary questions to Pentagon officials – questions I’d like to see much more front and center in the debate over our strategies in Afghanistan. Public debate over these issues would be especially useful now as the DOD figures out what precisely Brooks’ new office should be focused on – and what kinds of resources it needs to do its job effectively. And just maybe if the mainstream media and informed citizens continue to press DOD on these types of questions, public affairs officers like Major Perrine will eventually be briefed on some of the answers. Read more…

The Worst Argument Against Park 51 Until The Next One

[ 12 ] September 1, 2010 |

And, actually, the New Criterion’s effort may be very hard to top; the logic is turbid and the anonymous author’s heart fairly oozes tenebrosity. Indeed, the pompousness-to-intelligence ratio is so high I suspect it may have been written by Kimball himself.

see also.

An Ode to Ichiro

[ 8 ] September 1, 2010 |

OK, it’s not an ode  in a technical sense, but ode is a word I’ve often thought of when considering Frank Deford.

Do We Need Glenn Beck To Help Us Understand Political Self-Dealing?

[ 8 ] September 1, 2010 |

If I understand Matt’s defense of Reihan Salam’s “Glenn Beck is the new Malcolm X” piece correctly, he seems to be arguing that we should ignore the offensively silly framing device and instead focus on the highly banal points about America’s changing demographics.    Fair enough, I guess, but I still don’t see what’s new about demagogues appealing to reactionary white people or how this specifically illuminates Beck.   In particular, the opposition of older people to the new health care bill says very little about changing demographics or Beck, but is just straightforward “I’ve got mine *^$# you” politics that is as old as the hills and would exist even if the country’s other racial and cultural demographics weren’t changing.   If conservative older Americans were in favor of abandoning their own taxpayer-funded healthcare I might buy “nostalgia politics” as the primary motivating force, but of course they don’t.   The tendency to act in one’s political self-interest is universal, not particular, and affluent old white people being conservative isn’t exactly a new phenomenon crying out for explanations.