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"New Atheism"

[ 0 ] December 17, 2007 |

Yglesias is generating some unwarranted abuse from his commenters here. Yglesias links to this TNR article by Damon Linker. While Linker’s piece suffers from some of the defects of the genre–he’s a bit overly schematic in constructing two distinct atheist traditions, good and bad–it’s a sound and good piece. Dawkins and Hitchens are deeply and troublingly illiberal on the subject of religion (and in Hitchens case, at least, everything else). Some are suggesting Dawkins ought not be linked with a bombthrower like Hitchens, but this won’t fly. From the Linker piece:

Following a lecture in Dublin, he recalls, “I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.”

In addition to being demonstrably false, this view is an awful and appalling thing to say, and he clearly deserves strong criticism for it. As does, in my view, anyone who suggests that people who holds a substantially different theological position is not capable of being a good and decent person. A society that contains deep disagreements regarding these sorts of questions will be benefited by deep pluralism and ecumenicalism. Many commenters feel compelled to point out that atheists of all sorts are often not afforded the respect and tolerance that Linker wants atheists to extend to theists. This is factually correct, but as a defense of the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins, it’s nothing but a tu quoque. Moreover, even if returning the disrespect in kind had some sort of strategic value, which I can’t really see, Hitchens and Dawkins attack illiberal and intolerant believers and ecumenical, pluralist believers with the same broad brush.

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Obama’s Rhetoric

[ 34 ] December 17, 2007 |

I agree with Matt that 1)it was stupid of Obama’s campaign to pick a fight with Paul Krugman, but 2)Krugman’s point is very misguided. I don’t think that Obama’s rhetoric about transcending old politics tells us much about how he’ll actually govern. Bush in 2000, after all, didn’t campaign as a 50%+1 conservative who would increase party polarization in Congress, but that’s what he did. Obama’s using this kind of rhetoric because 1)it’s effective, and 2)he’s very good at it. What actually matters, however, is the substance of his policies and record, and on that count he’s clearly superior to Clinton (especially on foreign policy), although on domestic policy there’s a strong case to be made for Edwards. I also second Matt’s point about institutional realities; as nice as it would be if we would be inaugurating a Prime Minister in 2009, no major reform can be passed without the votes of some Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Given that she generates more hostility from the GOP (despite being more conservative), it seems very unlikely that Clinton is likely to get more accomplished if she’s elected.

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A Worthy "Pardon"

[ 19 ] December 17, 2007 |

There’s good news out of Saudi Arabia today. King Abdullah has “pardoned” the rape victim who had been sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes for being in a car with a man who was not her relative. As the Times put it in their lede, the 19-year-old woman was sentenced “after pressing charges against the seven men who raped her,” and who also raped the man – an ex-boyfriend – in whose car she sat. According to the Saudi justice ministry, she invited the attack because she violated the sexual segregation laws and because she was indecently dressed.

Not only has the woman suffered emotional and medical problems since the rape, but she has also survived an attempted murder by her brother. The perpetrators of the rape received sentences ranging from 10 months to 5 years and 80 to 1000 lashes.

In pardoning the woman, the King did not indicate that the sentence was unfair or the sexual segregation law wrongheaded. Instead, the pardon was because of the “psychological effects” the punishment would have had on her.

I’m not sure what I can add by way of commentary. Obviously, the fact that women are punished for being raped is appalling. But it shouldn’t be that surprising to us — not only because we’ve heard so many similar stories but also because we harbor similar attitudes (if only attitudes alone) in our own society, where judges call rape victims “stupid” and where Maryland state rape law holds that once consent is given, it cannot be withdrawn. It’s a different magnitude of misogyny, but not a different animal.

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Extras XMas Special/Series Finale

[ 0 ] December 17, 2007 |

A little disappointing. A lot of good stuff, of course, but the narrative arc was way too similar the last episode of Season 2; it might have been better to leave it at that.

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The Nail in the Coffin

[ 16 ] December 17, 2007 |

Joe “MoJoe” Lieberman is set to endorse John McCain. Why would an ostensible “independent Democrat” do such a thing? Why, the war in Iraq of course, with both McCain and Lieberman seem to think is such a great idea.

At this point, the Vegas odds makers must have their money on Lieberman officially switching his party affiliation to Republican at some point before the primaries are over.

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Stupidest Comment Thus Far on the Mitchell Report

[ 29 ] December 16, 2007 |

Tom Scocca, taking Billy Beane hatred to the predictable next level:

Or, as Beane says elsewhere in the book [Moneyball]: “Power is something that can be acquired. … Good hitters develop power. Power hitters don’t become good hitters.” Oakland, with its limited funds, wouldn’t spend payroll to buy power hitters. Instead, it invested in cheaper, patient hitters. And those hitters, it seems, bought the power themselves.

Did Beane have steroids deliberately or explicitly in mind? He was talking about his hopes of drafting someone who could be the next Jason Giambi.

Uh… no. I’m pretty sure he was talking about long term and well established statistical trends that indicate (even in the pre-steroid era) that young players develop power over time, but that young power hitters with “old man skills” often don’t develop as they age. But I’ll concede that this narrative does nicely square the circle for self-appointed “traditionalists” in baseball; Beane is already a demon for destroying the notion that payroll is destiny and opening the door for the statisticians, so making him responsible for steroids (even as the Mitchell Report clearly excludes that hypothesis) is, so to speak, a predictable phenomenon.

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The Nice Guy Cometh

[ 1 ] December 16, 2007 |

This pathetic lament received an approving link from Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser, which probably is about all we need to know before proceeding.


What happened to all the nice guys?

The answer is simple: you did.

See, if you think back, really hard, you might vaguely remember a Platonic guy pal who always seemed to want to spend time with you. He’d tag along with you when you went shopping, stop by your place for a movie when you were lonely but didn’t feel like going out, or even sit there and hold you while you sobbed and told him about how horribly the (other) guy that you were fucking treated you.

At the time, you probably joked with your girlfriends about how he was a little puppy dog, always following you around, trying to do things to get you to pay attention to him. They probably teased you because they thought he had a crush on you. Given that his behavior was, admittedly, a little pathetic, you vehemently denied having any romantic feelings for him, and buttressed your position by claiming that you were “just friends.” Besides, he totally wasn’t your type. I mean, he was a little too short, or too bald, or too fat, or too poor, or didn’t know how to dress himself, or basically be or do any of the things that your tall, good-looking, fit, rich, stylish boyfriend at the time pulled off with such ease.

The whole thing descends into a vindictive and childish rant, the basic point of which is to insist that unresponsive women turn nice men into assholes who finally learn how to get laid. No, really.

All that said, the post nevertheless gives me the chance to quote this apt description of the psychology of the Nice Guy(tm):

The ones I’ve actually talked with (generally whining on the internet about how they can’t get a girlfriend) seem to have this notion of Woman As Vending Machine / Arcade Game. If they just figure out which buttons to push, then Woman will Put Out. And they’re pushing the buttons that they’re supposed to, but Woman is not lighting up the right little “Score!” buttons. That asshole over there is pushing buttons and lighting the whole system up! Damnit, this Woman is broken! They tried up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-stat, too, did someone give them the wrong cheat code? The last woman said that she liked this, why doesn’t this woman respond to it?

None of the Nice Guys I’ve ever tried to talk to seem capable of believing that women aren’t issued with a standard cheat code that will open them up to whoever gets the button sequence right. And the cheat code is Their Right, Dammit. The woman is incidental.

Which I suspect explains why Nice Guys(tm) are probably better off with their hands in their pants.

….more at SN!, where Bradrocket even agrees with Ace of Spades on something….

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Wedding Liveblogging

[ 32 ] December 16, 2007 |

I am here live at the Hyatt Regency in D.C., in full view of the Capitol, and can confirm that Rob and Davida have, in fact, been successfully married. We have photographic evidence. Here is the official breaking of the wine glass:

And here’s the first dance:

This was followed by me — unprecedentedly — cutting the rug for the second time in a few months. Here’s me as the best man escorting the maid of honor:

Shockingly, of the dozens of pictures of me, that was the best one. The maid, however, was lovely.

Wish Rob and Davida luck!

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Shred Everything

[ 16 ] December 15, 2007 |

At least that’s what Tony Blankley recommended in an editorial that inexplicably appeared on NPR the other night. I heard it while I was out running errands and completely forgot about until reading about the Stonewaller General this morning.

Like nearly everything I’ve ever heard or read from Blankley, the NPR commentary was free-verse madness. He began by arguing that because the torture video would eventually have been leaked to Al Jazeera and YouTube, it was entirely appropriate for CIA employees to obliterate the evidence. After all, Blankley continued, those images of “actual waterboarding” would have constituted a “catastrophic propaganda defeat” for the US at precisely the moment it needs to “win the hearts and minds” of “currently non-violent Muslims.” And since it’s apparently better to avoid propaganda defeats than to adhere to the law — never mind that lawlessness itself is nothing if not detrimental to the nation’s image abroad — Blankley can’t understand why any of this should be controversial.

What has happened to common sense? The lawyers and the hearings will, I suppose, sort out whether the CIA was permitted to destroy that incubus of disaster. But whoever did it is owed a debt of gratitude. He or she applied common sense for our common defense. And rather than jockeying for yet another round of short-term Washington political advantage, it is time — and well past time — for everyone in Washington to start doing what that CIA employee did: Think and act for the country. Forget the battle for your power in Washington, and start fighting the battle for our survival in the world.

Yes, what this country really needs is one, two, a thousand Oliver Norths to spindle unpleasant information. Blankley doesn’t recommend a specific role for the press in this matter, but one assumes they’re to keep their pieholes closed until the “currently non-violent Muslims” assure us that they don’t mind if we keep bombing their countries.

Well, it’s a good thing we live in a nation that protects the rights of whistleblow–oh, fuck

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Does It Matter?

[ 48 ] December 15, 2007 |

Ok, reader poll time: should we care that Barack Obama used cocaine as a teenager?

My answer: no. It’s totally irrelevant to his ability to lead this country. The only use of this information (and not even a legit one at that) is as a political tool. Obama admitted to drug use in his memoir. We should not punish a politician for actually being honest for once.

Your thoughts?

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To Be or Not to Be

[ 6 ] December 15, 2007 |

Last night, after I finished my exam and my brain had oozed out of my ears and then been reconstituted, I listened to a recent “This American Life” that KMZ recommended. The hour-long show was entirely devoted to a production of Hamlet . . . inside a St. Louis jail. Staging hamlet inside a maximum security prison presents unusual challenges: security (no paperclips allowed, and the actors have to undergo a strip search simply to make it to rehearsal); the fact that prison rules prevent the incarcerated men from congregating for long enough to view the play in one sitting; and, of course, a shortage of trained actors. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

But it’s not. Guided by the founder of Prison Performing Arts (a local nonprofit), the men channel their lived experiences into a surprisingly moving (and good!) rendition of (one act) of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. And guess what? They prove that if we were actually willing to funnel money into programs like this, rehabilitation wouldn’t be such a pipe dream. At least for some.

I can’t do the program justice, so trust me and go listen to the podcast of the show. It costs $.99 since the show took place more than a week ago. But it’s worth every penny.

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News Flash: Bush Official Facilitates Torture

[ 29 ] December 15, 2007 |

How about that: new, Chuck Schumer-approved Attorney General Michael Mukasey stonewalls an inquiry into the destruction of CIA torture videos. I reiterate these remarks.

This seems like a good time to savor this bit of High Contrarianism from Ben Wittes:

I know what you’re thinking: If they confirm Mukasey without answers, the Democrats will once again be caving and letting the administration escape accountability. But the Democrats actually don’t have to cave here. They just have to wait a few weeks. While Mukasey cannot answer these questions before confirmation, that inability will not persist long once he takes the reins of the Justice Department. Senators can make clear that they will let him take office but will also expect him back before the Judiciary Committee within two months of his accession to address questions of coercive interrogation, that they will expect answers far more straightforward and candid than they got from his predecessor, and that they will demand these answers–to the maximum extent possible–in public session.

The Democrats have a big club to wield over Mukasey’s head to make sure they don’t get snookered: Without a strong working relationship with them, he won’t be able to get anything done. The lack of such a relationship gravely impaired both of his predecessors, albeit for different reasons. And, with only a year to serve in office, Mukasey’s clock will tick loudly from the start.

Yes, the Dems will actually if anything have more leverage over Mukasey once he’s confirmed! Because, er, he won’t be able to “do anything” –like, oh, just for a random example, obstructing a Congressional inquiry into the obstruction of justice surounding state-sanctioned torture — without them. And the Attorney General requires Congressional approval to fulfill most of the office’s functions because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!

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