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Making Me *BLARF*

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

What Adam and Matt and Digby and everyone else said. The presence of Rick Warren is inexcusable; the guy is more dangerous than James Dobson, and at least six times as annoying.

Maliki Announces His Presence with Authority

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

Looks like Maliki is moving to consolidate power:

Up to 35 officials in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ranking as high as general have been arrested over the past three days with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to senior security officials in Baghdad.

The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The involvement of the counterterrorism unit speaks to the seriousness of the accusations, and several officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security said that some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup.

Credit where due, I suppose; I had not expected Maliki to survive as long as he has. This is latest of several steps that he’s taken to ensure his survival in power after the United States leaves.

…Drezner wonders “was this Maliki engaging in a coup or him preventing a coup by others?” I’m guessing the former; an “elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki” is pretty much an ideal tool for seizing the Ministry of the Interior, which is crucial for controlling the rest of Iraq. Curious to see how the Kurds will respond.

"Bad Things Happen"

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |


I cringe — like many of us — when I read that the shoe-thrower may have been beaten in prison. For p.r. if nothing else, guys! But another wrong does not make a right — or a desire in me to understand the root cause; forgive me. Bad things happen, all around. And, please, guys, be humane, even in the face of shameful acts. But the fact remains: A journalist committed an outrage and the media here should be outraged, not publishing odes to him.

Like, one bad thing is that I happen to wake up with a hangover. Another bad thing is that someone happens to wake up with three quarters of a million or so dead countrymen. Bad things happen, all around!

Hat tip to CT.

Defeat as National Narrative

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

I think that Burg’s comments on Masada could stand in for any number of other nationalistic narratives of catastrophic defeats:

Also, Gershom is the coolest looking person I know.

"Critical thinking? Not really my area"

[ 0 ] December 17, 2008 |

This is a pretty awesome sort-of-job-market story for aspiring academics.

Having sat on more hiring committees than I’d care to think about, I’m still amazed by the capacity of some candidates to duplicate this sort of witless reaction in actual interview scenarios. During one of my own interviews, for example, I was informed that at some point in the near future, the person hired for the job would be expected to serve as program chair. I’d known about this possibility for several hours before the official department grilling. At which point, asked to provide a brief account of my “leadership style,” the best I could come up with was a distracted, noodling monologue that ended — no kidding — with the blunt declaration that “I’m not a tyrant.”

About a month later, I received a very nice phone call from one of the committee members who — when I asked about it — confirmed my suspicion that yes, indeed, that particular moment had probably cost me the job. Of course, she didn’t put it quite so directly, but instead explained that the tipping point had been my lack of leadership “experience.” But I’m reasonably certain that if I’d managed a more capable, articulate response to the question, I’d be living in wine country right now.

More Political Expertise In Malkinland

[ 0 ] December 17, 2008 |

Former Cap’n Morrissey gives us a rousing chorus of “Kumbayah”:

Racial divide? Didn’t this election prove that our racial divide had moved to the past? Barack Obama didn’t win from the black vote — he won a majority of white voters as well. While racism will never get completely stamped out, it has thankfully faded out of our public life.


Vote By Race


Obama 43%
McCain 55%
Other 2%

And the thing is, even if you for some reason weren’t aware the exit polls were available free online, if you know anything about politics at all shouldn’t you realize immediately that this assertion is implausible? If you know that Obama overwhelmingly won the Latino vote, the GOP’s African-American vote is basically a rounding error, but McCain only lost by 7 points…how could he have lost white voters?

As for Morrissey’s claim that racism is no longer a factor in public life, yeah, it sure is an amazing coinky-dink that in the 1960 Apartheid Belt McCain did better than Bush in what was otherwise an abysmal year for Republicans.

When Bad Things Happen to Rich People

[ 0 ] December 17, 2008 |

The Madoff affair is interesting on a bunch of levels — psychologically, politically, and sociologically, among others.

Something that ought to be looked into vigorously by the new administration is how one of the financial world’s most prominent people could run a scheme that produced such an extraordinary improbable result (15 straight years of significantly above-equity market returns with something approaching zero fluctuation, i.e., something that seemed to combine the advantages of the riskiest and most conservative investment vehicles) without being investigated by the relevant regulators.

Why the Argument About Torture Will Endure

[ 0 ] December 17, 2008 |

Torture isn’t about effectiveness, it’s about toughness. As we know from Usual Suspects, the winner is the one with the most WILL; if Reuel Marc Gerecht believes that brutally torturing suspects displays more WILL than the terrorists possess, then of course he will believe that we need to torture to win. Demonstrating the empirical absurdity of such a position is, and has always been, beside the point.

The Boundless Absurdity of Sean Wilentz

[ 1 ] December 16, 2008 |

About the only takeaway from this piece is that Sean Wilentz’s hold on the title of Greatest Wanker in the American Historical Profession remains secure for another quarter. The article itself is quite awful in its own right. Its thesis is little more than a secularized version of “The One” ad that McCain ran this past summer; readers are supposed to cluck and shake their heads over Obama’s occasional (and not particularly grotesque) invocations of Abraham Lincoln, yet Harris and Burns can’t actually come up with more than a few stray examples of Obama’s “preening” historical audacity. They do, however, manage to elicit this golden moment from Wilentz:

Sean Wilentz, a scholar in American history at Princeton, said many presidents have sought to frame themselves in the historical legacies of illustrious predecessors, but he couldn’t find any examples quite so brazen.

“Sure, they’ve looked back to Washington and even, at times, Jackson. Reagan echoed and at times swiped FDR’s rhetoric,” said Wilentz. “But there’s never been anything like this, and on this scale. Ever.”

Right. It’s not as if we’ve had presidents in recent history who’ve tried to rationalize illegal, pointless wars by wrapping themselves in Brokavian “Greatest Generation” nostalgia, or by essentially claiming that George Washington would have approved of such ventures, or by arguing that the logic of preventive war somehow bears comparison to the Truman Doctrine. Because if we’d have had to put up with that sort of self-aggrandizing crap, Obama’s self-professed reliance on Abraham Lincoln for “inspiration” would seem too insignificant to merit attention.

On the other hand, if Obama would merely content himself with worshipping JFK or Andrew Jackson, all would be forgiven!

Today In Left-Medvedism

[ 0 ] December 16, 2008 |

Sacha Zimmerman approvingly cites this New York article. Alas, she doesn’t deal with its fundamental problems, most notably its reliance on anecdotes and otherwise less-than-impartial data and the fact that it’s not clear what an increase in female drinking would have to do with feminism even if it was true (cf. Valenti, Howley, Filipovic.) And, worse, the tut-tutting about young women (rather than, say, young people in general) drinking is pretty clearly anti-feminist.

Rather than addressing any of these problems, Zimmerman makes the kind of argument I’d prefer to leave to the Michael Medveds of the world.

Still, in a pop landscape that turns drunk women into comedic icons, it’s easy to see why bingeing might at least appear empowering. Every swilled cosmopolitan on “Sex in the City” is fetishized; indeed, the pink martini has become a kind of symbol of female liberation. (Never mind that actress Kristin Davis, who plays Charlotte, is an alcoholic who has been sober 18 years.) Meanwhile, every booze-soaked character actress on television, from Karen on “Will & Grace” to the ladies of “Ab Fab,” makes alcoholism seem downright fun–if anti-intellectual. The gals on “How I Met Your Mother” are constantly drinking beer but are rarely shown drunk–unlike the Woo Girls of a recent episode (so named for their penchant to scream, “Wooo!” every time a drink is poured or a great song comes on).

This is strange on a number of levels. First of all, I’m not sure who’s saying that binge drinking (or, for that matter, drinking at all) is “empowering”; as Howley puts it, “I happen to have a female body. It does not follow that my every vice is part of some misguided attempt to achieve gender parity.” I’ve never seen the last show, but I have no idea what SITC or AbFab have to do with “feminism.” The cosmos are fetishized in SATC because all the consumption is fetishized (as most of its fans, I’m sure, are perfectly aware of.) And, most importantly, these are fictional characters in comedy shows. Characters who drink more than is strictly healthy or are otherwise irresponsible tend to being comedic potential to the table; to state the obvious, a show consisting entirely of Ned Flanderses would be considerably less funny than a show with one (usually serving as the butt of jokes.) Leaving aside Zimmerman’s implicit insults to the intelligence of the audiences of these shows, a culture world in which female characters were seen a role models rather than characters would be had for feminism and even worse for art, high and low. To borrow a point from Katha Pollitt, it’s like Irving Howe critiquing Roth because he wasn’t creating good Jewish role models (everyone knows that Portnoy’s Complaint would have been better if it only had the “strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses”!)

Even if one accepts Zimmerman’s dubious proposition that one can’t really be a feminist if one drinks more than Zimmerman considers appropriate, let’s please not use “empowerment” as the primary criterion for evaluating art.

Silver Linings

[ 0 ] December 16, 2008 |

Don Surber, reassuring his readers that everything is OK, no matter how many shoes are tossed at the president.

Dude, chill. Iraq was a Soviet client. It just signed a security deal with us. If the American press truly looked at the world objectively it would see how successful the war on terrorism is.

You know who else is no longer a Soviet client? Laos. If American historians truly looked at the world objectively, we would see how successful the Vietnam War was.

LGM Bowl Mania Challenge

[ 0 ] December 16, 2008 |


I have created an ESPN Bowl Mania League.

Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

When creating your entry, choose the “confidence” option. Winner gets a free LGM t-shirt.