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Are You Tough Enough?

[ 32 ] July 10, 2008 |

No. (I suppose this could work with other entries from the Maurice Starr oeuvre: “Step 2! There’s so much we can do! To capitulate to Bush and expand arbitrary executive power!”)

See Greenwald, CHS, and the ACLU. And all due credit to Clinton.

Just Say No To Crack

[ 43 ] July 10, 2008 |

In light of Flint’s attempt –and I mean, you can understand the priority, what with all of the city’s economic and serious quality-of-life problems a thing of the past and — to make particular diversion from white-bourgeois dress a criminal offense, I am immediately reminded of Holbo’s legendary essay on David Frum:

Even if you are the sort of person who feels deeply offended by funny, ethnic clothes (we’re off the deep end) – even if you think it is anything like your business to dictate fashion sense to everyone around you (we’re so off the deep end) – how could you possibly think it was so important as all that? And yet immediately we are off and running about after the bourgeois virtues, all dying out: thrift, diligence, prudence, sobriety, fidelity, and orderliness. I won’’t bother to quote. Why can I not exhibit all these virtues beneath and/or behind a beard, kente cloth and/or keffiyeh? Frum seems to find it too obvious to bear arguing that the trick is impossible. (Yet he can’’t actually think that.) Does Frum seriously believe there are no shrewd, sober businessmen in those parts of the world where businessmen wear beards and keffiyehs and kente cloths? (Obviously he doesn’’t. That’’s crazy.) So what does he think? I think he just has a powerful feeling that: things ought to be a certain way. And if they are that way, everything will be all right.

Bearded Guy: I like my beard.

Frum: You should shave it.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because it should have been the case that you were too afraid to grow it.

BG: But I wasn’’t.

Frum: But you should have been.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because you are wrecking the culture.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because the culture will decay and then the economy will fall apart and we’’ll all be poor.

BG: Because of my beard?

Frum: Just think about it. Our economy depends on a healthy culture.

BG: But you don’’t even care about the economy. You said you don’’t.

Frum: I wish you hadn’’t mentioned that.

BG: But I did.

Frum: Look, if you shave the beard, everything will be better.

BG: You’’re a moonbat.

Frum: It’’s all related to foreign policy and wheelchair access in public school, in ways that would take a long time to explain.

BG: Get away from me!

Frum: Look. Just shave your beard!

Given that the humidity has been sufficiently high and consistent to warp my floorboards, I’m just happy that Althouse left town before she could get an anti-shorts ordinance rammed through the city council…

A Test

[ 11 ] July 10, 2008 |

If ads prominently featuring McCain declaring that Social Security is a “disgrace” aren’t plastered over the airwaves — with special emphasis on Florida and Pennsylvania — the Democrats genuinely deserve to lose.

"Maureen Goes To Fantasy Camp? Her Whole Life Is A Fantasy Camp."

[ 9 ] July 10, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim MoDo: “Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable.”

Unlike (it seems) Somerby, I don’t see the slightest problem with Sittenfeld using Laura Bush to write a roman a clef. I can’t say it sounds especially promising, but the idea will rise and fall with the quality of the work. Fiction writers aren’t under any obligation to stick to facts about historical figures.

When fantasy narratives become the basis for large numbers of columns on the nation’s most prominent op-ed pages, however, and the writers who push these fantasy narratives with disastrous consequences continue forever in their sinecures, that’s a rather different matter.

Holy Land Trivia of the Day

[ 55 ] July 10, 2008 |

What’s wrong with this sandwich?

Liberals and the Courts

[ 22 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dahlia Lithwick has some interesting thoughts about why liberals tend to be much less focused on the courts than conservatives. I think she’s right that the (often nominal) upholding of Warren Court precedents has made liberals more complacent about the direction of the Court than its actual record justifies. This also, I think, helps to explain why the Roberts/Alito “minimalist” strategy of gutting and refusing to seriously apply liberal precedents is worse for progressives than the Alito/Thomas position that when the Court overturns precedents it ought to do so explicitly.

One thing to add is that, as Sandy Levinson notes with respect to David Broder’s bizarre claim that Anthony Kennedy is more powerful than Nancy Pelosi, in some ways the lower priority liberal voters place on the courts is actually more rational. This isn’t to say that the courts aren’t important, or that liberals wouldn’t benefit from putting more pressure on presidents and Senators in judicial appointments. It’s also important for liberals to be better informed that what the courts do matters in areas far beyond abortion. But it’s also worth keeping in mind that when it comes to health care reform, the courts are pretty much the last potentially countermajoritarian institutional veto point that progressives need to worry about.

At Crazy George’s, EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!!

[ 0 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dan Nexon has a good post about the frenzy of dealmaking that the Bush administration is pursuing in an effort to “lock in” policy preferences before the transition to a new administration. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is aware that the United States holds Presidential elections every four years, that Barack Obama is currently the favorite, and that even if John McCain wins his administration will like be 10-15% less incompetent than that of his predecessor.

Jeff Lewis notes three negotiations on which the President’s “lame duckitude” is having an impact:

  • India is seeking to cement its nuclear relationship with the United States. Under the assumption that Bush’s successor might actually have a non-proliferation policy, the Indian government is risking fractures within its governing coalition in order to nail down an agreement with the US (and the IAEA) now, rather than in six months.
  • Poland is trying to shake down the Bush administration for extra cash and goodies. While the Czechs have been happy to play ball, the Poles are apparently banking that Bush’s fear of an Obama presidency will make America more generous. I’m guessing that they’re right; Obama hasn’t evinced any excitement about missile defense, and after all the trouble that Bush has gone to on this question he almost certainly wants to leave with a robust agreement in hand.
  • Iran is trying to put off any major diplomatic activity until after the election. I doubt this will matter much, since I still don’t see either a US or an Israeli attack on Iran in the cards, and I doubt that either Obama or McCain (in spite of the former’s professed willingness to meet with the Iranian leadership) will be flexible on the Iranian nuclear program. The elections also won’t slow multilateral efforts to push Iran towards more nuclear transparency.

Nexon concentrates on a fourth, which is Iraq. Matt Duss has some good reasons to take the Iraqi skepticism over the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) seriously, including the apparent support of Sistani for a full American withdrawal. At the same time, I’m inclined to agree with Dan that Maliki really wants a more favorable agreement with the United States, which will perhaps include a timetable but will certainly preserve a tight military relationship between the two countries. The reason for this is obvious; Maliki’s military control over his country is tenuous, and Iraq is utterly incapable of protecting its borders. Still, I suspect that Maliki could get a pretty good deal on military cooperation from Obama, and I suspect that Maliki knows that such a deal is available; as such, he’s willing to play hardball with Crazy George.

Long story short, in a number of areas the Bush administration is going to be pushing (and being pushed) for deals while at a disadvantageous bargaining position. In one case (the Indian) the other side is just as desperate as Bush is, but in the others the lame duck situation is going to damage our standing. Now, as it happens I think that the Bush administration’s foreign policy goals tend to be insane and destructive, and as such I’m hoping that we don’t come to an agreement with India, Poland, or Iraq before (hopefully) the beginning of an Obama administration. Nevertheless, Jeff Lewis make the excellent point that lame duckitude sans obvious successor, while in some ways enabling an administration to pursue the policies it wants, can be a severe handicap in some diplomatic negotiations.

Holy Land Trivia of the Day

[ 32 ] July 9, 2008 |

This is a view of what, from where?

Yglesias vs. Kirchick

[ 18 ] July 9, 2008 |

The main point here seems to be that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says many things about Israel, and that the sum total of these things is incoherent contradiction. As such, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to credit what he says to one audience (the Iranian people) more than what he says to another (the international community), given that he may have incentive to deceive both. Of course, Ahmadinejad’s statements about Israel certainly call for some scrutiny, but I doubt that Kirchick credits the Iranian president’s statements about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, the “You’ve criticized Dick Cheney 103 times, but haven’t mentioned Attila the Hun even once; is Cheney really worse than the Scourge of God?” construction is just about the most useless talking point that Kirchick could have invoked.

The other point seems to be that Yglesias needs to regrow the beard.

Against EthnicType

[ 20 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dennis Farina? Not much of an Irishman.

Um, Yes.

Current TV’s funnywoman Sarah Haskins is the smart woman’s (and person’s) answer to all the crap that popular culture throws at us. And unlike so many others in Hollywood, she is willing to admit that she is a feminist. She says:

Yes, I’m a feminist. It is an extension of my lifelong war against pantyhose. To me it means that as women we are individuals before we are gendered people and that we’re not defined by our gender except in the ways we chose to appropriate that definition. We’re in a weird generation, right? Our Moms were forced to grapple with that definition more immediately, and I think it’s changed as we’ve grown up. The core issue “how do I fight bias against me because of my gender” is still there but has gotten more complicated and wrapped into all kinds of identity issues about how you present yourself as a woman and I pretty much think it’s your choice and fuck pantyhose.

More of her genius can be seen here (just click the link if you’re having trouble with the embed):

Indeed. And, oh yeah, take that Hitchens.

A Thousand Points of Servitude

[ 49 ] July 8, 2008 |

It seems appropriate that on the same week the National Review is claiming that support for apartheid and white supremacy represents “one particular vision of civil rights,” Jonah Goldberg is claiming that Barack Obama “vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.” Apparently, this is because of Obama’s plan for setting goals for volunteer work, which indeed is analogous to slavery in exactly the same way in which Jesse Helms supported any vision of civil rights.