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On the persistent metafictions of Alan Moore

[ 0 ] March 8, 2010 |

I can’t wait until the new site goes live and I can tuck bulky material below the fold. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the rhetorical chicanery of early Alan Moore (particularly in Miracleman), you can find an analysis of it here.



[ 0 ] March 7, 2010 |

A good question: should the acting categories at the Oscars be gender-neutral? Certainly, in the abstract I think Elsesser is correct that the gender segregation is indefensible: acting is acting. I take the point in response that in our actual unjust world gender-neutral awards would lead to the underrepresentation of women. My guess, though, is that acting is the one category in which women least need further recognition — and award for women who direct would have much greater egalitarian effects, I think, particularly in terms of encouraging studios to find talent. (It’s hard to imagine that a Lynne Ramsay or Tamara Jenkins would find it so hard to get capital if they had a chance at a directing Oscar.)

Tonight’s will win/should win:

Best Picture: Dances With Expensive Smurfs/No strong preference, in that I liked all the ones I saw very much and all were flawed. Basterds, I guess, although without second viewings that’s pretty tentative.

Director: Bigelow/Fine with me, although Tarantino’s work was also exceptional.

Actor: Bridges/Can’t say, haven’t seen Crazy Heart. I’d certainly be happy to see Bridges win.

Actress: Bullock/Haven’t seen The Blind Side, although I doubt that matters. I’d vote for Mulligan, although Streep was certainly terrific.

Supporting Actor: Waltz/Well, it’s the only one I’ve seen, but…Waltz.

Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique/Can’t say, haven’t seen Precious. I will say that I thought Farmiga was terrific.

Gimme Moore

[ 0 ] March 7, 2010 |

Michael Moore has a recommendation for President Obama about a replacement for Rahm Emanuel:

“Dear President Obama,

I understand you may be looking to replace Rahm Emanuel as your chief of staff. I would like to humbly offer myself, yours truly, as his replacement.

I will come to D.C. and clean up the mess that’s been created around you. I will work for $1 a year. I will help the Dems on Capitol Hill find their spines and I will teach them how to nonviolently beat the Republicans to a pulp.

And I will help you get done what the American people sent you there to do.

It’s not a bad cover letter, though fflambeu at Firedoglake asks whether Moore could effect this change with anything short of the Presidency itself. But it sure is a great read – check it out here if you’ve not already – and don’t forget the post-script:

“P.S. Just to give you an idea of the new style I’ll be bringing with me, when a cornhole like Sen. Ben Nelson tries to hold you up next time, this is what I will tell him in order to get his vote: “You’ve got exactly 30 seconds to rescind your demand or I will personally make sure that Nebraska doesn’t get one more federal dollar for the rest of Obama’s term. And then I will let everyone in your state know that you wear Sooner panties, backwards. NOW DROP AND GIVE ME 50!”

The federal government is like Schlitz after Schlitz stopped being a good beer

[ 0 ] March 7, 2010 |

This is possibly the worst metaphor in the history of, um, . . . history.

For one thing, putative changes in the perceived legitmacy of a political regime cannot in any way be compared usefully to consumer preferences in regard to beer. For another, Schiltz always sucked. For a third — ah forget it.

OK seriously, this kind of thing is embarrassing to law professors, bloggers, non-arboreal bipeds, both late justices Harlan, and the state of Tennessee.

Amazon’s loss is your gain; also, Chris Muir is a thief

[ 0 ] March 7, 2010 |

For those of you who don’t frequent comic blogs but do read comics, you might like to know that Amazon suddenly decided to start selling Marvel’s glossy, hard-bound, phone book-sized omnibus editions for $8.24. Click here to go a conveniently pre-sorted list of severely discounted titles and buy some before Amazon stops honoring orders on $99 books currently priced at less than a tenth of that. (I realize this reads like an ad, but think of it as a PSA: you know you want 1,064 shiny pages of this at $8.24, so don’t try to pretend otherwise.)

Update: To assuage my guilty anti-consumerist conscience, let me add another item to Rich Johnson’s swipe file:

The image on the left is a promotional poster for the new Tim Burton film; the one on the right comes from Chris Muir’s latest Day by Day, in which he tries to prove that not only is he a thief, he’s an incompetent one. He could claim that such tracery legitimately qualifies as satire, and therefore isn’t actually plagiarism, but that wouldn’t change the fact that his only real “talent” is for breaking backs and showing crack.

Update 2: It was fun while it lasted. Please feel free to continue to mock Muir, though.

Netherlands Okay, But We Ain’t Surrendering to New Zealand…

[ 0 ] March 7, 2010 |

Your Sunday morning surrender ceremony:

I still look forward to the day that Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar surrender on board the USS Ronald Reagan…

Immoral Liar of the Day

[ 0 ] March 6, 2010 |

Bart Stupak.

I actually think Digby is being a little too charitable when she says that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is “willing to deep six the rest of their social justice agenda for political reasons.” I don’t see any real evidence that the Bishops (an interest group that should, as Digby says, not be conflated with Roman Catholics per se) have a meaningful social justice agenda at all. As far as I can tell, their actual policy agenda is 1)making it as hard as possible for poor women to obtain safe abortions and 2)there is no #2.

…as a number of commenters point out, I forgot about rule #2: no pooftahs.

Election Boycott in Iraq

[ 0 ] March 6, 2010 |

This is a guest post by Dr. Emily Beaulieu, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky.

Contentious elections usually make us nervous. To be sure, elections aren’t the nicest of affairs. At best, elections are competitions where the accompanying rhetoric can, and often does, take a nasty turn. But when elections bring violence, accusations of fraud, and protests (threatened or real)—particularly in places where we want those elections to effect or improve or cement democracy—they are more than simply competitive, and they cause us concern. The good news: sometimes these contentious elections can induce elite concessions and move countries closer to real democracy. The bad news: this is not likely to happen in Iraq.

With the US withdrawal looming, the contention surrounding tomorrow’s election has already raised concerns about the prospects for democracy there. Violence at the early polling stations has added to mounting tension from earlier accusations of electoral malfeasance. Sunnis cried foul (and threatened to boycott) when more than 300 of their candidates were barred from competition in late February. More recently, thousands of supporters of the INA—an opposition coalition of Shia religious parties considered the main rival to al-Maliki’s SOL—are claiming their names have been stricken from voter registers, and are blaming “the Americans” for it.

There are numerous historical examples where similarly contentious elections have produced positive results for democracy. Election boycotts in the Dominican Republic (1974) started that country down a path of resistance that brought down its authoritarian regime within five years. That transition was short-lived, but democratization continued through more contentious elections in the early 1990s. Bangladesh spent the late 1980s to the mid 1990s experiencing a series of highly contentious elections, replete with boycotts, general strikes, mass demonstrations, and violence. These elections brought an end to the country’s military regime and began a process of democratization (even if more work remains to be done). In the former Soviet Union the early 21st century witnessed a series of “Colored Revolutions” where accusations of electoral fraud and massive protests led to leadership alternation in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. And, before recent tragic events, many observers felt that Haiti’s long history of contentious elections might finally have put that country on the road to better, more democratic governance.

In other cases, however, contentious elections have had no positive impact. Election boycotts occurred in Pakistan (1985), Algeria and Egypt (1990), Belarus (2000), and Zimbabwe (2005), with negligible democratic impact. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have all experiences contentious elections, with protests and violence, in the past two decades and politics there remain undemocratic. Most recently, and perhaps most instructively, the boycott of Afghanistan’s presidential election has yet to produce any positive changes for democracy.

Those cases where contentious elections furthered democracy all share one or both of the following traits: a massive ground-swell of domestic support, or pressure from key international actors. If electoral contention gets the people into the streets—clogging capitals and bringing business as usual to a halt, as it did in the Colored Revolutions and Bangladesh—leaders can be pressured to make democratic concessions. Alternately, or additionally, if contentious elections bring key international actors to intervene—as with the US in the Dominican Republic, and the US and the OAS in Haiti—real improvements for democracy are also possible.

So what does this mean for democracy in Iraq? Perhaps the best one could hope for is that the fraud complaints of the Sunni and Shia opposition might lead to an outpouring of domestic pressure for democratic reform. But given the current climate of occupation, where the incumbent is seen as largely indistinguishable from “the Americans”, domestic unrest at this point could be more problematic than productive. And as with Afghanistan, the ambivalence of Iraq’s most important international actor, the US, does not bode well for democracy. When faced with the opposition boycott of the presidential election in Afghanistan, the US chose to support the incumbent in a bid for stability, at the cost of real democratization in that country. Now, at the same time that Ambassador Hill is telling Iraqis that the US wants a clean election everyone knows the administration is hoping desperately to avoid any conflict that would delay the September 1 troop withdrawal. If the US makes this election another choice between democracy and stability, then those who care about democracy in Iraq should indeed be concerned.

[ 0 ] March 6, 2010 |

Friday Daddy Blogging… Miriam

Ann Althouse defends Rush Limbaugh from accusations of race baiting

[ 0 ] March 6, 2010 |

As Hendrick Hertzberg points out, for people like Althouse the only significant form of racism left in America appears to be the racism of liberals who patronize black people (by electing them president apparently), while falsely accusing conservatives of racism, when they’re the real racists (Harry Reid! The 1964 Civil Rights Act, enacted over the objections of the Democrat Party etc etc).

Hertzberg also points out that he didn’t claim Limbaugh was a racist — only that he used “racist coding.” In any case, what sort of person listens to the audio clip to which Hertzberg links and feels impelled to defend Limbaugh?

Are You Smarter Than a Human Rights Prof?

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

Take this short test and find out. I only got 85% of the answers right. Plus it’s all for a good cause.

Justice for sale

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

If Rahm Emanuel is actually deciding what sort of trial KSM et. al. should get on the basis of what he calculates would be most politically convenient for the Obama administration, then the only honorable thing for Eric Holder to do is to resign. It’s every bit as illegitmate for the White House to order Holder what to do in this matter as it was for Richard Nixon to order Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox. Barack Obama (let alone his messenger boy Emanuel — or is the other way around?) is not the nation’s chief law enforcement officer: Eric Holder is. Holder has spent the last three months telling everyone that considerations of basic justice argued for trying KSM in our regular courts, rather than in military tribunals set up for the purpose of disposing of particularly troublesome criminal cases.

When Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus were ordered to do something perfectly legal but also perfectly disgraceful, they resigned (their underling Robert Bork had no such scruples).

It’s simply outrageous for White House officials to make prosecutorial decisions of this sort, and in this manner. It’s essentially no different than having Rahm Emanuel order the DOJ to indict certain persons, against the better judgment of government’s top lawyers, because such indictments are calculated to improve his boss’s political fortunes. Or is that the next step in the administration’s ongoing “pragmatic” accomodation to the worst impulses of the American political system?

See also Scott Horton:

In sharp violation of rules of prosecutorial conduct and ethics, political figures in the White House are engaged in the micromanagement of decisions concerning the prosecution of individual criminal defendants. Rahm Emanuel is a political figure, without any serious legal expertise or abilities. He openly presented the question as a matter of political opportunity—thereby infecting the criminal justice system with political horse-trading. This is more than just unseemly. It presents a direct affront to the integrity of the criminal justice system. After eight years in which Karl Rove manipulated essential prosecutorial decisions at Justice, now his successor is engaged in the same type of misconduct. But unlike Rove, Emanuel does it openly.