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Maybe Merkel Should Buy It

[ 40 ] July 18, 2014 |

Buy it, rename it “Graf Zeppelin.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday suggested France should halt the export of Mistral warships to Russia, even if the current sanctions regime still allows it. “In Germany, we are putting on hold the construction of a shooting centre in Russia, given the situation,” she said during a press conference.

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Murphy’s Hamdi Botch

[ 68 ] July 18, 2014 |

Last month, a tweep asked me what I thought about arguments made by the National Review‘s Ed Whelan about Bruce Allen Murphy’s new Scalia bio. I had forgotten to look into it, but taking some time to finish the book I came across a dumbfounding passage that I immediately knew must have been the one under discussion.

As many of you already know, Scalia’s dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld is one of his finest hours on the Court, the bizarro version of his Bush v. Gore stay opinion. Scalia, joined by Stevens, argued that as an American citizen Hamdi had habeas corpus rights unless the writ was suspended, a power Scalia’s opinion locates in Congress. That Scalia wrote an opinion cutting against his both his general ideological and partisan preferences because he believed the law bound him to do so in this case was admirable, and the dissent is therefore both interesting in itself and an opinion that anyone writing about Scalia’s jurisprudence needs to pay careful attention to.

Murphy, however, portrays Scalia’s dissent as arguing “in favor of a ‘blank check’ on behalf of total presidential power.” According to Murphy, for Scalia “Hamdi was a traitor who was working with the enemy in times of war, and thus was not afforded [habeas corpus] protections.” (Both p. 319 in my uncorrected proof; apparently, this argument hasn’t been modified in the final version.) Whelan has further grim details, but…it’s every bit as bad as he says. We all make mistakes, but this is like saying that Dred Scott found all state slave codes to violate the 5th Amendment or that Lawrence v. Texas reaffirmed Bowers v. Hardwick. It’s mystifying. (When I read the “blank check” sentence my first thought was that Murphy was confusing Scalia’s Hamdi dissent with his Hamdan dissent, but he quotes from the former directly so that can’t be it.) It’s the kind of mistake that forfeits a reader’s trust.

I didn’t encounter another mistake of this magnitude, but in an extreme form it illustrates why Scalia: A Court of One is a major disappointment as a follow-up to the excellent Wild Bill. Murphy’s Douglas bio had two major advantages: 1)the subject lived an unusually interesting and eventful life for a Supreme Court justice, and 2)we have a lot more access to the inner workings of the Courts Douglas served on that we do of the contemporary Court. Dealing with a subject whose personal life isn’t particularly interesting, a lot of the book is taken up with Murphy’s analysis of what Scalia contributes to the United States Reports, and this really isn’t Murphy’s strong suit. Again, the hash be makes of Hamdi seems to be an outlier, but he’s sometimes shaky on basic concepts (“the Court defers to a state’s laws because a rational person would agree with them” isn’t really what the “rational basis” test means) and even when his doctrinal analysis is unobjectionable it’s pedestrian. So what you’re going to get out of the book depends on how interested you are in Murphy’s extensive discussion of Scalia’s Catholicism and its impact on his jurisprudence, and for me a little goes a long way. It’s a book I expected to be a lot better.

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Late Obituaries

[ 18 ] July 18, 2014 |

John Le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman as A Most Wanted Man comes close to its release date. I’m excited about it but it’s going to be hard to watch just because you know you are watching Hoffman’s last great performance (I know he’s in some Hunger Games movies yet to be released but the chances of me watching those are low so for me this is it).

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“It Is Crazy. It Is Insane”

[ 131 ] July 18, 2014 |

Why can’t Obama be more like Reagan?

 It is worth recalling that Reagan’s own response in 1983 did not get good reviews from the Fox News of the day. According to Richard Reeves’s “President Reagan,” (see p167-70), the administration was seen as far too weak.

True, the president’s nationally televised address on Sept. 5 was full of strong rhetorical condemnation: Reagan called the Soviet action “monstrous,” “murderous,” and “born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life.”

But little action followed. Reagan demanded an apology to the world and continued a number of sanctions — but he decided not to end grain sales to the USSR or to suspend arms control talks. George Will argued that “the administration is pathetic…. We didn’t elect a dictionary. We elected a President and it’s time for him to act.”  The Manchester Union-Leader editorialized that “if someone had told us three years ago that the Russians could blow a civilian airliner out of the skies – and not face one whit of retaliation from a Ronald Reagan administration, we would have called that crazy. It is crazy. It is insane. It is exactly what happened.”

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“And Does Someone Have Judy Miller’s Number if the Replacement Doesn’t Work Out?”

[ 128 ] July 18, 2014 |

Hmm…

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

[...]

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

In fairness, Mohyeldin was naive to think that reporting actual news was a way to advance your career working for a major network newscast.

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Lefties Like Ugly Art Because Socialism or Something

[ 346 ] July 18, 2014 |

I was trying to think of a funny way to talk about John C. Wright’s latest meth-and-thesaurus-fueled word-vomit, but honestly I’m at a loss. So I’m just going to share a few passages with you and try to riff on them, knowing that my riffage cannot in any way compete with the florid pomposity  and TimeCube-level insanity of John C. Wright’s prose.

The jist of this “The Wright Perspective” (god, that name) is that people on the Left like ugly art, demand that people see the beauty  in ugly art, and also we’re creating ugly art so that people will be more amenable to peeing in cups. If this sounds insane to you, then good. I’m conveying what I want to convey to you in a concise manner. (Wright, please take note!)

To be a man means to seek a truth that satisfies the mind, a virtue that sates the conscience, and a beauty that breaks the heart. Deprive a man of any of these things, and he will find neither happiness nor rest.

And we’re off!

The most precious, profound and important of the great ideas which the Left has raped from us is beauty.

Suck it, Breitbart. It’s “Stop raping beauty from the people! Stop raping beauty from the people!” you’re supposed to drunkenly blog scream at Lefties. You did it all wrong.

Have you, dear reader, read anything discussing beauty, putting forth a coherent theory of beauty, or even extolling beauty’s central importance of the human soul in a year? In 10 years? Ever? This may be the only essay you will read on the topic this decade, and yet the topic is one of paramount importance. It is a matter of life and death not for the body but for the spirit


AND did you know that John C. Wright has many leather-bound books?

There is no discussion of it because by convincing the public that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the Left has placed it beyond the realm of discussion. According to the Left, beauty is a matter of taste, and arbitrary taste at that. There is no discussion of taste because to give reasons to prefer tasteful to tasteless things is elitist, nasty, uncouth and inappropriate. To have taste implies that some cultures produce more works of art and better than others, and this raises the uncomfortable possibility that love of beauty is Eurocentric, or even racist. To admire beauty has become a hate crime.
I got nothin’.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then anything, anything at all, can be declared to be beautiful merely by the artist. Like God creating light from nothing by the power of His word, the artist creates beauty not by any genius nor craftsmanship, but by his naked fiat. It is beautiful not because he actually created anything, but only because he says so.

By this logic, a urinal is beautiful, a light going off and on, a decapitated cow’s head covered in blood, flies and maggots, a glass of water on a shelf, a crucifix dunked in urine, a can of excrement, or an unmade bed. The argument given by the Left is that your inability to see the beauty in these things is due to your limitations, your untrained soul, your dullness. The argument merely ignores the fact that training the tastes to be dull, philistine and coarse is the opposite of training the tastes to be sensitive to beauty.

Here’s the thing: aside from this literary abortion being bugfuck INSANE, the premise of is is just wrong on its face. Yes, people create controversial, “ugly”art.  That’s because the purpose of art isn’t always to soothe. Sometimes people create art to shock or provoke thought. But nobody is forcing you to look at “Piss Christ” and declare it’s beautiful. Nobody’s expecting you look at a urinal and say “I want to hang that above my sofa.” In fact, I’d venture to say that most of the artists who create “ugly” art don’t want you to think it’s beautiful. When people make ugly art, the intent is not to desensitize; in fact, most often the intent is to jolt.

And, ya know, let’s not forget that for every lefty out there making ugly art, there’s a lefty out there making mundane, goofy, whimsical, innocent, bad, kitschy and, yes, beautiful art. The idea that there are armies of left-leaning people out there cranking out art that’s raping John C. Wright of his god-given right to beauty is just…I feel like I’m going to over-use this word…insane.

 

In that timeless moment of sublime rapture, the heart knows even if the head cannot put it into words that the dull and quotidian world of betrayal, pain, disappointment and sorrow is not the only world there is. Beauty points to a world beyond this world, a higher realm, a country of joy where there is no death. Beauty points to the divine.

Horseshit. Beauty points to the miraculousness of nature. If you need to look to the supernatural to feel awe, you are a broken person.

 

The Left hates this argument, because if beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder, then beauty tells us what is a truth, a real truth, a truth from a world beyond the world of petty propaganda, a beauty beyond the world of pornography. The Left hates this argument, because if beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder, then beauty is meant to be served, not used for your selfish pleasures. Beauty humbles the proud, for it shows them something beyond themselves and their appetites. And the left hates that.

If you’ve never felt wonderfully small while looking at the ocean, you haven’t lived. No divinity needed. And the idea of being lectured by the World’s Most Pompous Idiot on the virtue of humility is head-desking in its absurdity.

Do you think I am exaggerating? Do you think what we are dealing with is merely distaste or polite disagreement, and not hatred? Go into a modern art museum: look at the urinal, the severed cow head, the can of shit, the soiled bed. These are not the expressions of one or two aberrant individuals with psychological problems: this is the condition of our culture for nearly a century, an industry involving endless amounts of money public and private. This is the leadership of the artistic vision controlling our civilization, and the thing future archeologists will point to as the defining spiritual images of our times.

Why do they adore such imagery? That answer is not difficult: the desolation of ugliness aids the Leftist cause in a very real and very subtle way.

Imagine two men: one stands in a bright house, tall with marble columns adorned with lavish art, splendid with shining glass images of saints and heroes, mementos of great sorrow and great victories both past and promised. A polyphonic choir raises their voices in golden song, singing an ode to joy. The other stands in a slum with peeling wallpaper, or a roofless ruin infested with rats, hemmed by feces-splashed gray concrete walls lurid with jagged graffiti, chalked with swearwords and flickering neon signs advertising strip joints. Rap music thuds nearby, ear-splitting, yowling obscenities. A bureaucrat approaches each man and orders him to do some routine and routinely humiliating task, such as pee in a cup to be drug tested, or be fingerprinted, or suffer an anal cavity search, or surrender his weapons, or his money, or his name. Which of the two men is more likely to take a stand on principle not to submit?

Right. We want John C. Wright to like ugly art so he’ll become a slave to the State. He’s figured us out. It’s at this point when I start to think that even he knows he’s as full of shit as “The Holy Virgin Mary.” John C. Wrong? He’s just trolling. And it ain’t beautiful.

I’ll leave you with this:

If you see a sunset clothed in scarlet like a king descending to his empurpled pyre…

Bless his heart.

 

 

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MH 17 Link Roundup

[ 51 ] July 18, 2014 |

A few links on the ongoing MH17 investigation:

To my mind, the most likely scenario (but not the only possible scenario!) is that Donetsk separatists acquired the SAM from existing Ukrainian stocks, then refurbished and put it into service with Russian military assistance. They likely lacked sufficient training to understand how to discriminate between a Ukrainian military transport and a commercial jet liner. The most interesting bits going forward will be reaction in the EU (how far will Berlin and Paris go to pressure Russia), and in Moscow itself.

…and also Gaza. I just have nothing useful to say about Gaza.

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Maybe a Prize for Anyone–ANYONE–Who Can Figure Out What This MRA Commemorative Coin Design Means

[ 200 ] July 17, 2014 |

 

 

I’ll let Dave Futrelle take it from here…

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Class War: Yes Please

[ 168 ] July 17, 2014 |

I mostly agree with Harold Meyerson’s essay on the Democrats reaping a huge political opportunity by refocusing itself on class-based issues. While I might quibble with a couple of points (not sure FDR’s speechmaking is relevant plus it plays into green laternism), there’s a lot to suggest real political opportunities. Polls and demographics are a big part of this.

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

This is a big deal. It’s not often that Americans don’t identify as middle class. They will again at the first opportunity, with the political conservatism that comes with it. Taking advantage of this moment to build upon class discontent with real policy ideas is a good idea. Even if they can’t pass at the national level, they can in states and cities, and of course we are already seeing this with higher minimum wage legislation.

Then of course there is this:

The new base of the Democratic Party appears primed for such a change. The share of liberals in party ranks has swelled. In 2000, Gallup reports, 44 percent of Democrats identified as moderates, and 29 percent as liberals. Today, the share of moderates has dropped to 36 percent, while that of liberals has increased to 43 percent.

And this:

As with Latinos, so with millennials. A Pew survey of those young Americans from March of this year found them to be the only age group in which the number identifying as liberals (31 percent) exceeded the number calling themselves conservative (26 percent). Fifty-three percent of millennials preferred the bigger-government-with-more-services option, and just 38 percent the smaller.

One reason millennials lean left, of course, is that each successively younger cohort of Americans contains a larger share of Latinos (not to mention Asians and secularists). White millennials preferred the smaller government option by 52 percent to 39 percent, but millennials of color supported the bigger-government alternative by a hefty 71 percent to 21 percent margin.

But millennials’ left-leaning politics is also the result of their having borne the brunt of the economy’s dysfunctions. It’s disproportionately the young who have been saddled with a trillion dollars in student-loan debt. It’s millennials who have experienced the highest levels of unemployment. Nor is their employment anything to boast about: In 2012, 44 percent of young college graduates were employed in jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

Of course the Republican minority is doing whatever it can to stop any of this from turning into progressive political change, using gerrymandering, filibustering, and judicial extremism to push their reactionary agenda, all of which leads to the war on organized labor, the most class-based institution in American history. That this is an intentional program for them is obvious, as is the disfranchising of voters of color and the anti-immigrant politics. A plutocratic white supremacist nation is what Republicans want. Democrats need to recognize this for what it is and aggressively organize the vast majority left out of Republicans’ vision. Starting by supporting policies that would take riches from the wealthy, create job programs, and expand the welfare state would move us on that road. Unfortunately, President Obama is a big believer is the centrist economic policies of the late 20th century Democratic Party. Blowing up the Trans-Pacific Partnership is necessary here. Luckily, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi get this, if Obama doesn’t.

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Shit, Meet Fan

[ 309 ] July 17, 2014 |

Damn.

A Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has crashed in eastern Ukraine, Russian news agency Interfax reported Thursday.
The jet is a Boeing 777, according to Interfax.
The plane reportedly went down near the border between Russia and Ukraine.

The only conclusion that I’m prepared to leap to is that this is going to stir up even more trouble than the last Malaysian jet that crashed. Russia and Ukraine are actively contesting this area, they both have surface-to-air missiles, Russian partisans have shot down several Ukrainian planes over the past weeks, and the Russian Air Force has reportedly been testing Ukrainian air space in recent days.

So, yeah. Should’ve taken the long way around.

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Comment Section Changes: A Brief Q&A

[ 516 ] July 17, 2014 |

Rather than applying to a bunch individual comments, I thought I’d make a few points as we ponder changes to the comment section.

Q: Why change?

A: Trolls destroy potentially interesting comment threads.  Registration will not eliminate this problem but it will attenuate it.

Q: Why not delete troll comments?

A: In addition to time issues, since even the laziest pro forma trolling is guaranteed to immediately generate several comments deletions destroy comment threads by unraveling the threads.

Q: Why not disemvowel trolls/moderate comments?

A: Send me a check for $60 grand and we can consider this for a year.  Otherwise, I already have a full time job.

Q: Are you going to switch to Facebook commenting? That sounds horrible!

A: No.

Keep the feedback coming!

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Getcher Hot Links

[ 6 ] July 17, 2014 |

Things to click on and possibly read:

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