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5 minutes of CNN

[ 21 ] April 9, 2010 |

I haven’t glanced at CNN for months, but at the gym today I clicked over to CNN to see what they were saying about Stevens and the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. I like to think I’m quite aware that CNN is breathtakingly vacuous and has no discernable redeeming value or purpose, but even I was unprepared for what I saw.

The scene opens with former Minnesota governor and 9-11 truther Jesse Ventura, who appears to be the “host” of the program. He is interviewing disgraced and indicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on the following topic: Are the Tea Party protesters good for America? this little vignette is wrapping up as I tuned in. Back in studio, an young woman of Asian descent with whom I am not familiar appears to be arguing that Obama and Bush are more or less identical because Bush took us  to war in Iraq, and Obama took us to war in Afganistan. Ventura’s remaining connections to reality are apparently sufficiently robust for him to call bullshit on this particular narrative, and as he is doing so, he is interrupted by an off-screen and previously unseen Ron Paul, who proceeds to speak uninterrupted for approximately 27 minutes on the dangers of creeping socialism. When he pauses for air, Ventura interrupts to observe that he “makes a lot of sense” and they cut to commercial.

At the current rate of deterioration, what will CNN’s programming look like in 5 years? The mind, it boggles.


A Campaign of Dunces…

[ 1 ] April 9, 2010 |

We’ve been unaccountably lax in Mickey coverage. Fortunate, TBogg is on the case.

Thoughts on Stevens

[ 1 ] April 9, 2010 |


Koh and Karlan!

[ 13 ] April 9, 2010 |

Well, if we’re ever going to discuss excellent potential nominees Obama isn’t actually going to consider, today’s the day

My Boycott Will Continue

[ 17 ] April 9, 2010 |

Particularly if it puts me alongside the  immense moral authority of the people who run Augusta National, I’m afraid I’m going to have to join the Editors in taking a firm stand on principle, irrespective of the great sacrifices it may entail:

I learned on the news today that Tiger Woods has been putting his pee-pee in very many ladies.  I am outraged!!!!   Tiger how could you?!?!  I am so outraged, I will never play, or watch, or pay any attention to  golf ever again.  Or, come to think of it, ever before.  I believe that moral values are eternal, and so must be defended in a time-invariant manner.

If nobody else will think if the children, I guess I’ll have to step in!

Stevens Makes It Official

[ 22 ] April 9, 2010 |

No huge surprise here, but John Paul Stevens will be resigning this summer. [UPDATE: more from Liptak.]  I hope Obama will consider that since 1916 this seat on the Court has been held by three-just-three giants: Louis Brandeis, William O. Douglas, and Stevens. (And, personally, I’d prefer a throwback to someone like Douglas, as it says something that a moderate Republican has become the leader of the Court’s liberal wing.) I’ll have more about possible replacements as well as some of JPS’s greatest hits over the coming weeks. Let’s start with his short, classic concurrence in Carhart I:

Although much ink is spilled today describing the gruesome nature of late-term abortion procedures, that rhetoric does not provide me a reason to believe that the procedure Nebraska here claims it seeks to ban is more brutal, more gruesome, or less respectful of “potential life” than the equally gruesome procedure Nebraska claims it still allows. Justice Ginsburg and Judge Posner have, I believe, correctly diagnosed the underlying reason for the enactment of this legislation–a reason that also explains much of the Court’s rhetoric directed at an objective that extends well beyond the narrow issue that this case presents. The rhetoric is almost, but not quite, loud enough to obscure the quiet fact that during the past 27 years, the central holding of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), has been endorsed by all but 4 of the 17 Justices who have addressed the issue. That holding–that the word “liberty” in the Fourteenth Amendment includes a woman’s right to make this difficult and extremely personal decision–makes it impossible for me to understand how a State has any legitimate interest in requiring a doctor to follow any procedure other than the one that he or she reasonably believes will best protect the woman in her exercise of this constitutional liberty. But one need not even approach this view today to conclude that Nebraska’s law must fall. For the notion that either of these two equally gruesome procedures performed at this late stage of gestation is more akin to infanticide than the other, or that the State furthers any legitimate interest by banning one but not the other, is simply irrational. See U.S. Const., Amdt. 14.

A British Nate Silver(s)?

[ 7 ] April 8, 2010 |

Perhaps.  I was unaware of this trio prior to reading about them over at UK Polling Report, which is odd as I’ve been reading The Times‘ soccer (football) coverage for the past ten years.  The most recent football blog entry of theirs I can find is over two years old, (any readers know otherwise???) but this piece in The Times seems in awe of their methodological prowess.  When Silver turned his attention to politics I was largely pleased, as one buying the Baseball Prospectus since their second year (no, I will not claim to be one of the 12 participants who jumped on the BP bandwagon from the beginning.  Call me a late bloomer.)  I knew Silver et al. knew what the hell they were talking about, due to my unfortunate passion for baseball.  These guys in the UK seem to have the qualifications, putting it lightly, but I haven’t had the time to digest how they apply this to sport.

The British context is at once more complicated and simpler than the American context, in terms of predicting outcomes of an election.  I’m intrigued.

Uncomplicated Hero

[ 5 ] April 8, 2010 |

Lt. Miroslav Steven Zilberman:

Hundreds of mourners gathered Thursday at Norfolk Naval Station to pay tribute to Lt. Miroslav “Steve” Zilberman, a Navy pilot killed last week when his plane crashed into the North Arabian Sea after mechanical difficulties. Zilberman, 31, was lauded as a hero whose actions in the cockpit saved the lives of three crew members. Those aviators bailed out of the troubled E-2C Hawkeye before it hit the water and were rescued uninjured. The plane – Bluetail 601 – was returning to the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower from a mission to Afghanistan when one of its engines lost oil pressure and had to be shut down. At the end of the memorial service, Zilberman’s widow, Katrina, was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross. “Without his courageous actions, the entire crew would have perished,” read the citation, signed by Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations. Zilberman grew up in the Ukraine and was in sixth grade when his parents emigrated to the United States, settling in Columbus, Ohio. He joined the Navy right out of high school, but didn’t serve in the enlisted ranks for long. He entered the Navy’s “Seaman to Admiral” program and became an ensign after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in computer science.

See also this post. The E-2 has no ejection seats, and so has to remain level during descent for anyone to successfully escape.

Coalitions and politics

[ 14 ] April 8, 2010 |

One curious line of reasoning used by many who defend appalling exercises like Confederate History month is to attempt to muddy the waters by observing that Lincoln, the Republicans, or “the North” were not, in fact pure as the driven snow with respect to slaver. On its own terms, this line of argument seems to pretty clearly be a dead end: a moderate shrinking of the moral gap between the North and South would do nothing to move the absolute position of the South on the moral spectrum here, which is what’s at issue when discussing the appropriateness of this kind of public historical narrative. But beyond that, the notion that Lincoln and many Northerners were primarily motivated by goals other than the abolitionist cause is true, but this is a deeply trivial truth. Indeed, the following is true: De Jure slavery was ended in this country by a political coalition which contained the following: some committed abolitionists, some lukewarm, timid abolitionists, and some people who were largely indifferent to the abolitionist cause. (Lincoln himself moved from the second category to the first). In this sense, the end of slavery is exactly like every other major political accomplishment in American history–by skill, luck or both, a group of committed reformers manages to steer a larger coalition long enough to accomplish a major goal. That’s how good things happen in politics. The notion that this ‘revelation’ makes a moral evaluation of the Confederacy more ambiguous is beyond bizarre.

Malcolm McLaren 1946-2010

[ 10 ] April 8, 2010 |

While I would not go as far as Jon Savage, quoted in the BBC piece as saying “Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk”, it is indisputable that McLaren had a massive influence in redefining music.

Strawman Building in Defense of Treason in Defense of Slavery

[ 79 ] April 8, 2010 |

In attempting to defend the indefensible, John Guardino says that picking on Bob McDonnell’s celebration of pro-slavery treason is unfair because many Confederate soldiers were not personally motivated by slavery.   Actually, even more pathetically he says that people who believe that treason in defense of slavery is nothing to celebrate in 2010 are “race-baiting.”    Obviously, his entire argument is specious, given that McDonnell didn’t issue a proclamation of remembrance for the Civil War, or even for Confederate soldiers, but for the Confederacy itself.

But even on its own terms, the argument fails.   Let’s concede that many Confederate soldiers fought valiantly for the Confederacy’s abominable cause and assume arguendo that many Confederate soldiers were not motivated primarily by a desire to protect slavery when joining in a treasonous war.    By the same token, I’m sure many members of the Wehrmacht fought valiantly and were not personally motivated by a desire to exterminate Jews; this would hardly make a month commemorating Nazi soldiers — let alone a “Nazi History Month” whose proclamation made no reference to genocide — defensible.    And if we concede that Confederate soldiers were fighting for a kinder, gentler form of white supremacist authoritarianism than the Nazis, at least members of the Wehrmacht weren’t taking up arms against their own country…

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Security Theater: Denver Edition

[ 3 ] April 8, 2010 |

I’m really looking forward to flying out of Denver later this morning, after last night’s latest outbreak of rampant hysteria and stupidity.

Because this guy is a diplomat he isn’t going to be charged with some bullshit federal offense involving “interfering” with the operation of a flight. Otherwise he’d probably end up with a felony conviction and 50K in legal bills.

Note that a couple of F-16s were scrambled, 160 people were held in custody for five hours after the flight landed, and FBI agents flew in from near and far to deal with this latest assault on our Freedoms. (No doubt part of the explanation for incidents like this is that tens of thousands of federal employees are paid to sit around waiting for something to happen that basically never happens, so false alarms trigger feverish activity out of sheer boredom if nothing else).

Meanwhile in the last five days four people in the Denver area have been killed by RTD bus drivers. The lesson, clearly, is that while we are safer than we were before 9/11, we are not yet safe enough.