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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 46

[ 0 ] February 10, 2009 |

Talk-show host and Incredibly Strange Man Glenn Beck turns 45 today. A former substance abuser and sufferer from adult-onset Mormonism, Beck vaulted into media prominence from the back of Terri Schiavo, whom he had saddled up nearly five years before the Republican Party discovered her in early 2005. After riding the Schiavo case to its inevitable conclusion, the triumphant Beck earned the chance to bring his unique version of methodological schizophrenia to a national television audience in the early fall of 2006. Since then, he has received numerous awards for his work, including the coveted Fistulae Prize for Most Hyperbolic Reaction Ever to Routine Hemorrhoid Surgery (Transparent Drug-Seeking Behavior Division).

On occasion, Beck has described himself as a “rodeo clown,” a comparison we might find apt if only rodeo clowns were known for their bizarre, racist tirades about immigrants; their evidence-free insinuations about the loyalties of Muslim Americans; uninformed, documentary-length hypotheses about science; or their dueling preoccupations with Hitler and Antichrist, which provide them with readily interchangeable frameworks to characterize people with whom they happen to disagree. Most rodeo clowns, moreover, possess the additional virtue of not weeping when they consider the life of George Washington, nor do they spend their non-Red/Nazi/Antichrist-baiting moments writing bathetic holiday novels about handmade sweaters:

I began writing this story with the intention of sharing it with just my family. But something happened along the way: The story took over and wrote itself. There are things I spent years trying, and eventually succeeding, to forget that just spilled out of me — events I never intended to share with anyone. It’s almost as if my sweater wanted its story told. Perhaps it had sat silent on a shelf long enough.

One might wonder if Glenn Beck’s talking sweater would be more or less of a douchebag than Glenn Beck himself. A living refutation of the principle that low ratings should pose an obstacle to career advancement, the erstwhile star of Headline News was recently offered a make-work position at the Fox News Channel after his contract negotiations with CNN foundered. As it happened, CNN was hoping to replace the late evening re-run of Beck’s program with a re-run of Lou Dobbs or — in a move that would have actually expanded the 8 p.m. audience — with a web cam trained upon a tub of guinea pigs.


Wherein I Agree with Jonah Goldberg

[ 0 ] February 10, 2009 |

BSG Spoilers, etc.

Jonah has a good point on Tom Zarek:

The brilliance of Zarek’s night of the long knives was that he understood better than anyone what they were doing. He was the consummate revolutionary and former terrorist, who understood at every step that victory mattered more than anything else (note: as a moral matter, I think this is all nuts) because he day dreamed about power while pretending to be a democrat. What I like about the characters on BSG is that they are flawed, deeply flawed, sometimes idiotically flawed. The notion that Zarek wouldn’t cross that line stems from a misguided belief that people with good intentions don’t end up doing terrible evil.

The one caveat I’d add is this; Zarek had the Quorum executed just a bit too early. He had the legislative body under his literal, physical control, and there was no need to execute them prior to their arrival at a decision. Adama was, as Zarek realized, a different proposition; Gaeta would have been well advised to shoot him in the back of the head at the first opportunity. The Quorum, however, represented no real threat to Zarek and considerable opportunity. Executing them when he did was premature. That said, I can understand why the writers telescoped events.

H/t Duss.

Maritime Bloggingheads

[ 0 ] February 10, 2009 |

Galrahn and I sat down last week and diavlogged about all things maritime. He’s our discussion of the “rise” of Chinese naval power:

We also talk about piracy, Robert Gates, and public relations. Check it out.

A nation held hostage by Ben Nelson’s folksy common sense

[ 0 ] February 10, 2009 |

I finally found time to read the symposium on Rosenblum’s On The Side of The Angels over at Jacob Levy’s blog. For the most part, very good stuff, but it’s hard not to enjoy criticism of the alleged virtues of non-partisanship in this historical moment when the breathtakingly vacuous and openly random (but Centrist! and independent!) policy priorities of Ben Nelson have stumbled into the center of our political process. Ezra Klein provides outrage and snark:

(Nelson): “Well, y’know, I don’t know where he’s from, but I’ll tell you, in Nebraska, $60 billion for education on top of $40 billion, that’s a pretty big commitment to education nationwide.”

And thus life imitates snark: Ben Nelson’s economic theory is based on a survey that Nelson has not conducted on Nebraskan attitudes towards education funding. Meanwhile, this is, as you’ll note, utterly non-responsive to the question at hand. Ben Nelson believes Nebraskans would think $100 billion a “pretty big commitment to education.” And maybe they would. He does not, however, say that they would think $150 billion an excessively big commitment to education. Nor, for that matter, does he suggest that they would think $80 billion an insufficient commitment to education. Confronted with Krugman’s argument that Nelson’s cuts did not display “any coherent economic argument,” Nelson offered no coherent argument — economic or otherwise — in response. And this is the guy deciding the size of the stimulus package. He’s cutting 500,000 jobs from the stimulus based on some fake poll he mentally conducted of Nebraskan preferences. He doesn’t even bother to justify his actions on the merits.

My fantasy is that all of the Collins/Nelson crap is systematically undone in conference, and leadership is able to scrounge up a few provisions to get the needed cloture votes elsewhere, but that’s probably not realistic. Hell, I’d settle for the Senate’s coalition of idiotic centrists being exposed as the frauds they are, but that’s probably asking too much as well, and as satisfying as it would be, it probably wouldn’t be worth the cost.

Obligatory flamewar starter: another steroids post

[ 0 ] February 10, 2009 |

In comments on Scott‘s post, Jay says

I am still uncomfortable with saying that steroids are no big deal and that the argument for banning them is silly. Allowing steroid use creates an institutional pressure to have players unnecessarily put their health at risk to stay competitive. In no other industry would we so cavalierly accept this state of affairs except in professional sports.

I’m in basic agreement with this. Even without certainty about just how harmful to your health or helpful to your performance steroids actually are (and my sense is that their harm, like most drugs on the wrong side of our culture’s good vs. bad drug dividing line, is probably overstated), a solid case can be made for a ban on a sort of collective action problem grounds Jay suggests. Ownership may have legitimate concerns about this as well, including PR concerns. On the other hand, I take privacy pretty seriously, so if they players union democratically concluded the privacy violations of drug testing were a bigger negative to them than solving the collective action problem of steroid use was a positive, I’d certainly respect that conclusion–I’m not the one who’ll be required to give blood samples, pee in a cup, etc. But it seems clear to me that this is a matter of the terms and rules of employment best hashed out between MLBPA and management, as it eventually was.

However, since it’s not my body, my privacy, or my financial interests, I’m not in a reasonable position to claim to be a stakeholder in whatever conclusion is reached. Until I see a compelling argument that “the public” or “the fans” have a legitimate, non-sentimental basis for claiming stakeholder status on this issue, I’m going to continue to be dismissive and contempuous of moralistic hand-wringing about steroids.

…also, what McKingford said about the football/baseball double standard. It strikes me as really, really weird.

How not to apologize

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

“How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn’t get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice?”

This question was posed in an email sent out by Florida Republican State Committeewoman Carol Carter of Hillsborough County.

She later sent out this email:

“I have been asked to send this apology for my earlier email. I am sorry that it was received in a negative manner. I do hope that we are going to be allowed to keep our sense of humor. As you can now see, it went to very few people. I did add Todd Marks in this apology, as he is in the mix now. I am also sorry to learn that some of these persons are not real team players. There really was no reason for this to go beyond those that I emailed ( 8 people). This was not an email blast as I do not have that capability.


She then resigned.

Why do people do this? (I don’t mean send out racist emails — they do that because they’re racists). Isn’t it obvious that a non-apology apology is far worse than no apology at all?

Great Moments In Wingnuttery

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

Shorter Verbatim Glenn Reynolds, circa 2004: “TODDZILLA ASKS: ‘Where is everybody going to Spring Break? Daytona? Guantanamo Bay?’ Well, there are some similarities…”

Hahahahahahahahaha! Obviously, this is the kind of civility that Pajamas Media is bringing to the interwebs. Meanwhile, Tristam reminds us of the latest news:

Last week, two British High Court judges ruled against releasing documents describing the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.


The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.

Another source familiar with the case said: “British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.”

Let’s just say that I hope that Reynolds never publishes his vacation diaries.

The Etrenal Question: Are Sports Pundits or Political Pundits Worse?

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

It’s really too bad that the Yankees aren’t dumb enough to follow this kind of advice. And yet, the competition remains stiff.

“One of these days, there’s going to be a national throw-your-hands-up moment about steroids, when the prevailing point of view is going to become “Ah, hell, they were all doing it. Let’s call off the witch hunts and get on with our lives.” I hope so. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that these kinds of purtain moralistic outrages have a remarkable ability to perpetuate themselves.

The internet made me a potty mouth

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

You know, if you want to argue that the internet has made American politics “considerably ruder, cruder, and more paranoid than it used to be,” you’d do well to find a better totem of our lost virtues than the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates. Leave aside the obvious fact that the major subject of their argument — the question of whether to permit the extension of slavery into the territories — led to the bloody Civil War. And leave aside the obvious fact that the debates came at the tail end of a decade constipated with paranoia — from rumors of vast papist conspiracies, to racist yodeling about the “heathen Chinee,” to sectional beliefs that abolitionists or the Slave Power were conspiring against liberty itself. And while you’re at it, forget the other unpleasantness of the 1850s — the massacres in Kansas, or the bludgeoning of a US Senator at his own desk, or the national frenzy over John Brown.

While you’re forgetting all that, just remember that from August to October 1858, Stephen Douglas and his surrogates waddled about the state of Illinois, arguing that Abraham Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery because he wanted to marry a black woman.

But the debates were long, so Americans must have been classier back then.

Metallica Wins Grammy

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

Jethro Tull robbed again!

See, it’s a meta-joke about the irrelevance of the Grammys that I’m the millionth person to make a 20-year-old joke. It’s like the Oscars, I guess — the scary thing is that the middlebrow work of artists who have done better work elsewhere is actually a considerable improvement over the typical winner.

And I admit I slightly regretted missing the 9-months-pregnant M.I.A. until I saw the video. Eh–that mutli-artist dilution never works.

The Worst Outcome of Stalinist Aesthetics Since An American Carol

[ 0 ] February 9, 2009 |

Apparently there is now a self-described wingnut answer to Doonesbury. I dunno, I think it makes me miss the crudely drawn cartoon duck reading Glenn Beck transcripts. Maybe they should start smaller, with a wingnut response to “Hi and Lois” or something. Then the not-funniness would just be an homage.

The most expensive governor in the country

[ 0 ] February 8, 2009 |

Always remember that the free market is always vastly more efficient and less wasteful than government:

New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues’ “Troopergate” investigation.

The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values. The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the six legislators in the case as well, and turned to Liberty Legal for its constitutional expertise. The lawmakers reported a $40,000 gift of services from Clarkson’s firm.

That brings the total bill for their lawsuit to $185,000.

This seems awfully bizarre. The lawyer retained by the Legislative Council earned just under $30,000 for the effort. Ordinarily, I’d be delighted to learn that a right wing legal defense organization had just blown a couple hundred thousand dollars, but I’m assuming there’s a sizable tax advantage to be gained from such a venture — not to mention the wingnut public relations/donor utility that would come from trying to protect Sarah Palin from the godless socialists who opposed her right to abuse her office. I’d imagine the $185G will prove to be a fairly good investment in the long run. Can anyone make me feel better by showing how wrong I am to assume this?