And Now For Something Completely Different
The Ricky Gervais podcasts are fucking hilarious.
Whack fol me darn O, dance to your partner
Whirl the floor, your trotters shake
Wasn't it the truth I told you
Lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake?!!!
The Ricky Gervais podcasts are fucking hilarious.
Because of the courage and dogged persistence of Russell Feingold, the Senate last Friday blocked cloture on a reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been spending her time drafting proposals to criminalize flag burning. This is an elemental violation of the most basic principles of liberalism. What do her Democratic supporters---salam aleichem Ted Fertik, gutentag Roosevelt Institute---have to say for themselves?
The New York Times does not get a free pass here. As I mentioned in the post below, the Times held off publication of the NSA spying story for more than a year, against the wishes of the reporters who wrote it. The original article contains this gem:
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.The technical term in epistemology for the White House's claim is "bullshit." Julian Sanchez aptly notes:
The supposed reason for the request is that the revelation would threaten national security by tipping off terrorists. But... about what? About the fact that the government is seeking to wiretap suspected terrorist? To whom does this come as news? We all know law enforcement can get secret wiretap warrants through a FISA court; the only reason to expect terrorists to change their behavior now that they know wiretaps are happening without warrants is if we think they've somehow broached the secrecy of the FISA courts.In other words, unless al Qaeda has cracked our national security apparatus's safeguards to such an extent that they have knowledge of who is and who isn't subject to FISA-warranted surveillance, the disclosure that the administration conducted unwarranted surveillance changes the national security calculus not at all. (And if al Qaeda had such access to FISA intelligence, we'd be in direr straits than any newspaper disclosure could ever put us in.) This is not a difficult point to comprehend. Unless you're Bill Keller:
As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.Keller and Sulzberger spent the summer posing as free-press absolutists and the Times devoted a score of editorials to the defense 1st Amendment martyr Judith Miller. Now it turns out that the broadsheet that once published the Pentagon Papers and met and resisted and succesfully turned back an administration hell-bent on suppressing the truth is now led by men who are gulled by the mere pronunciation of the words "national security." Howell Raines' conduct unbecoming an NYT executive editor, if you remember, was that he coddled Jayson Blair and allowed liberal bias to seep into the Times' reporting. That was bad. What Keller has done is worse. As for Sulzberger, we can only hope that he is overthrown by a revolt of the Times Co.'s shareholders.
Eric Muller has begun the work of compiling the prostrationist response to the revelation of the NSA's secret, illegal domestic spying. I would advise against reading Internment Girl's take on the matter without having an enema or at least drinking some ipecac beforehand. Writing vomitous pseudo-Soviet bilge is, I think, an unavoidable side-effect of Malkin's well-known superpower, i.e., the ability to complete massive (if instantly discredited) research projects at light speed.
If you have any doubts that today's New York Times story on "secret" surveillance by the National Security Agency influenced the Senate vote on the Patriot Act extension, at least to the extent of giving some Democrats a cover for their vote to filibuster the Act, just look at a speech given today on the floor of the Senate by New York Democrat Charles Schumer [quote from Schumer follows].Let's get this straight: the Senate takes news that the administration has wantonly, criminally violated the civil liberties of American citizens as a point of evidence against trusting the administration not to abuse its powers and in favor of curtailing the powers it has abused. The problem is, what, exactly? That senators finally objected to a police state in sufficient numbers to halt its expansion, or that accurate journalism prompted these senators to object to a police state? York would not be as much of an embarrassment to himself and his publication if he were to shit his pants on live TV.
It was all they could do in the face of the Iraqi election. With the risk of that being a huge success (and it was - at least for now), they had to do something to salvage their position without seeming to be against democracy.Unfortunately for Simon's interpretation of the disclosure, the New York Times sat on the story for more than a year. Which means that they could have released it prior to the 2004 election. So the idea that publishing the story is attributable to nothing but greed and inchoate desire to damage the administration's credibility is literally incredible. To call such a belief irrational would be to compliment it excessively. What Simon suffers from is not irrationality, but, to coin a phrase, Anti-Bush Derangement Syndrome.
As sickening as Big Brother counterintelligence is in abstract, it is essentially legal. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 enables the executive branch to monitor domestic communications provided that the government can obtain a warrant from specially empaneled FISA courts in camera (i.e. in secret). The reason the NSA program is newsworthy is that it specifically bypassed FISA, which is, obviously, the only mechanism that can provide oversight for such surveillance. The administration and its apologists claim that it was necessary to conduct warantless surveillance because a FISA court might not grant a warrant in a case in which, post-9/11 mugging by reality and all, rational assessment of the risk involved would justify surveillance even if strict adherence to the letter of the law would not. The administration and apologists further claim that even when FISA grants a warrant, it does not always do so quickly enough to meet the unyielding deadlines of national secuirty necessity. Both claims are simply false:
[P]rocedures in this chapter or chapter 121 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance, as defined in section 101 of such Act, and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted. Cf. 18 USC § 2511 (f).According to the AP, the president personally approved explicit and direct violations of this statute on more than three dozen separate occations. In simple terms, the president's conduct was criminal, not in the metaphorical sense in which most of his conduct as president has been criminal, but in the strict de dicto sense in which the various legal mechanisms for remedying crime are triggered. The president's crimes, moreover, are high crimes. There is only one adequate remedy: Mr. Bush's immediate impeachment, removal from office, and criminal prosecution.
Over the past few days I've been trying to sort out my thoughts on the news that the president authorized the NSA to conduct warantless domestic surveillance starting in 2002:
While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said.In addition to the NYT article, the Washington Post has a complementary report here. Some more highlights from the Times:
Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation...[snip]...Bottom line: the Bush administration has since 9/11/01 been conducting a secret war against American republicanism, a war they have prosecuted with more vigor and efficiency and demonstrable success than their ostensible war against Islamo-fascism. For those who have been paying attention to the war on republicanism, it won't be a surprise that the legal/constitutional justification of the domestic spying program turns out to be another John Yoo special:
Traditionally, the F.B.I., not the N.S.A., seeks such warrants and conducts most domestic eavesdropping. Until the new program began, the N.S.A. typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities, and obtained court orders to do so...[snip]...
Some officials familiar with it say they consider warrantless eavesdropping inside the United States to be unlawful and possibly unconstitutional, amounting to an improper search. One government official involved in the operation said he privately complained to a Congressional official about his doubts about the legality of the program. But nothing came of his inquiry. "People just looked the other way because they didn't want to know what was going on," he said...[snip]...
Several senior government officials say that when the special operation first began, there were few controls on it and little formal oversight outside the N.S.A. The agency can choose its eavesdropping targets and does not have to seek approval from Justice Department or other Bush administration officials. Some agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation, a former senior Bush administration official said. Before the 2004 election, the official said, some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president.
Mr. Yoo noted that while such actions could raise constitutional issues, in the face of devastating terrorist attacks "the government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." [emphasis mine]"[C]ould be seen as infringements of individual liberties"? So is the claim that domestic spying in peacetime would be an infringement on individual liberty, but that it is not in wartime? Or that it is never an infringement on individual liberty, but in peacetime might be perceived that way? But anything can be perceived any which way at anytime. The closest I can come to making sense of Yoo's proposition is that domestic surveillance is not an infringement on civil liberties at anytime; however, perceiving it as such during peacetime is somehow normatively justified in a way that it is not in war---and in open-ended, barely-defined war, no less. This "could be seen" business just might be the key to everything; if we knew what it meant, I think we'd understand to a significant extent the essential nature of the administration's war, and of the prostrationism subordinate to it. I'm hoping our resident semiotician Jeremy can give an analysis.
The early indications are that yesterday's elections went well (and John F. Burns is a fantastic reporter), but could we, I dunno, wait a goddamn day before declaring victory? I get it: the premature celebrations---from the crotch-stuffed carrier landing to the preliminary elections to the transfer of sovereignty to the drafting of the constitution to the other preliminary elections---those were all bullshit, but this time, we've done it right for sure.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ [Jonah Goldberg]Oddly enough, there was a reply:
Nice job today.
Posted at 05:53 PM
TO JONAH GOLDBERG [the people of Iraq]
Never speak to us again.
Posted at 5:54 PM
So, if you haven't heard, there's this movie about gay cowboys, and according to the New Yorker's Ken Tucker:
You either buy into this tale of men in love or you join the ranks of those who've been snickering during the movie's prerelease trailers, and who can be divided into the insecure, the idiots, or the insecure idiots.Well, here's the thing: Offhand, I can think of two theatrical releases in the last two years that I unreservedly enjoyed: Kinsey and The Aristocrats.
because Ang Lee is a hit or miss director...because films on such topics often take on an Afterschool Special quality...because [one] doesn't care for cowboy romance films....Add to that that I don't care for romance films in general and that if I'm not super motivated I'm not going to do the grunt work involved in catching a limited release flick. (I still have to see Jesus Is Magic.)
[I]t does seem pretty inarguable that the mainstream American film audience doesn't have much enthusiasm for a film that depicts male-on-male eroticism. What's interesting to me is that there really is an appetite, however limited, for non-erotic male homosexuality (e.g., Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The Birdcage), and there is an appetite for lesbian eroticism in mainstream film. But not frank male-on-male eroticism. I can't begin to explain the discrepancy--I mean, why so many people find male-on-male eroticism distasteful, when they tolerate the same from female-to-female--but it's real.Yeah, that is a head scratcher, isn't it? The mystery of why the "mainstream American film audience" likes its fags nice and flamingly harmless but digs hot chicks making out---the "mainstream" appetite for lesbian action between stereotypical lesbians is what exactly?---is just one of those eternal puzzles, a bit like the problem of change.
I'm awake doing a takehome and (of course) watching Fox News Channel in the background; I just heard something that needs to be committed to memory; Col. David Hunt, FNC's resident toughness expert, is pissed that GWB caved in on John McCain's torture ban. Hunt's take:
They shouldn't be getting involved in this, let Congress handle steroids.Yeah, that sounds about right. Odds that Tom Clancy is right now working* on a novel in which nuclear armageddon would have been averted had we not hamstrung our, sigh, boys out there: 1.5:1
One of the following states of affairs is a Monty Python sketch. The other really happened. Can you tell which is which?:
A group of sailors stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean argue over which one the others should eat. They decide to eat the kosher one.OR
A man is struck by a car in the middle of the street. A policeman writes him a ticket for jaywalking. He dies.Answer here.
A few weeks ago, as the release of the Narnia movie was transitioning from grave and gathering to imminent threat, Ross Douthat wrote a longish criticism of a piece by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker on how C.S. Lewis would have been a greater storyteller had he not saturated his mythos with Christian allegory.
[T]he power of the "Romantic numinous" proved less satisfying, less hopeful, and less powerful - to most people, at least - than a specific belief in what may or may not have transpired during that "controversial incident in Jewish religious history."In other words, we hold a poll to see which myth people find most satisfying, hopeful, and powerful, and by gum, the results of that poll are guar-an-teed to hook up with the Truth. Or perhaps that's not the way it's supposed to work; if Christianity is True, isn't it True no matter how many believers there are? So maybe there is some kind of more rigorous comparison we can do of the various competitors to decide which is most satisfying hopeful, powerful. But what is it that the foundational myths of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism---just for starters---have in common that the foundational myths of Christianity do not? Answer: the former were not immediately transcribed into a demotic bastardization of a literary language specifically in order to begin the work of proselytization. Christianity has no capacity to distinguish the Word from Its distribution. To find the Christian story more compelling than that of the older religions whose mythoi it ransacked is to confess a sheer lack of imagination, an inability to register the Romantic power of the numinous.
So. The New York Times brings word (only a month after the LA Times did) that the pre-war evidence of a connection between Baathist Iraq and al Qaeda was procured through torture; the detainee knew what to tell his captors to make torture stop, and so he told them; the administration, untroubled by this methodology, was similarly untroubled when the evidence could not stand up to minimal scrutiny---and proceeded to sell the public a bill of goods.
An XBox 360* to the first non-anonymous commenter to identify the source of this quote:
Some...insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail.Hint: It wasn't Mel Gibson or Mel Gibson's father. Or Paul De Man.
"This Jew-Baiting Has Got to Stop"
---the actual Rod, in reference to the War on Christmas nonsense
1) This remark was a) sincere, or b) insincere.
2) Anti-Semitism is a) just as indefensible as racism, no matter whose mouth or pen it issues from, b) something only white Christofascists can do, a bit like racism, or
c) only a racist would ask this question.
3) Belief that Muslim anti-Semitism and Christian anti-Semitism have precisely the same moral status is a) entailed by any sincere repudiation of bigotry, b) New Republic Syndrome, c) a racist assumption predicated on blah blah blah uneven structures of power blah blah blah Ariel Sharon, or d) only a racist would ask this question.
4) The president of Iran has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and claimed that the Holocaust is a Zionist myth perpetuated to justify Israeli oppression. These sentiments are a) the authentic voice of the world's oppressed crying out against injustice, b) the voice of the world's oppressed crying out against injustice disguised as anti-Semitic bilge, c) irreducible anti-Semitic bilge, or d) only a racist would ask this question.
5) People who (correctly) allege the widespread existence of western neo-fascism and neo-Nazism but make excuses for Muslim genocidalism towards Jews are a) moral sophisticates, b) shameless cocooning bullshit artists, or c) only a racist would ask this question.
6) The claim that the president of Iran is an anti-Semite a) entails the claim that all Iranians are anti-Semites, b) entails the claim that all Muslims are anti-Semites, c) entails neither, or d) only a racist would ask this question.
Richard Pryor: He ain't ain't dead yet.
Kevin Drum on the most dangerous job in the world (apparently): being al Qaeda's third in command.
Here's a link to Andrew Sullivan's website. If it's gone from the top of the site, scroll down for the post entitled "Hitch on Hacks." What follows is a quote from C. Hitchens' latest guardian column on journalism, I think. Then, Sullivan says "How Hitch turns stuff out of this quality and quantity is a mystery to me. It must be alcohol and nicotine and raw, insane talent, I guess." At first, I really thought Sullivan had to be joking. But then I remembered that Sullivan is on Hitchens' nuts, and that despite S's frequent attempts to condemn torture, etc., that and his pro-gay rights stance are the only two things that in anyway make him look like a competent human being. Hitchens uses the phrase "suicidal imbibing" in the first line of the passage Sullivan quotes. The entire Hitchens column is totally incoherent and meaningless. He's a hack writer. So is Andrew Sullivan. The coaliton of these two English fuck faces tells you a lot about the state of "intelligent discourse" today. The fact that they hang around America actually makes me quite resentful. There's this sort of space they get for being British-esque which makes them think that their utterly incoherent and contradictory and apolitical analyses of America make some sort of noble sense. They read big books, and yet their synthetic abilities are around third-grade level. They are also hateful and complacent bourgeois war-mongers. Also, Sullivan's precious insights into Catholicism, where he balances a perfectly reasonable condemnation of the Church's stance on social issues with a sort of preeningly insider, emotional "I'm sort of catholic and support good Catholic people who like anal sex but still want to be religious and dependent on hate-filled scumbags" rhetoric, make me sick.
Here's what I don't get about the Christopher Hitchens, we'll stay in Iraq until the end of time if necessary position: Assuming you're against a draft, which army is it, exactly, that's going to keep this thing up indefinitely? I ask the question because, look over here, we're down to calling up 43-yr-old single mothers from inactive reserve.
If you're not on Lindsay Lohan's diet plan, you should probably look away:
I hadn't been at an event with the President (who is looking slim and trim) in four years and didn't know if he would recognize me. But the minute he saw me in the line he called out "Horowitz" with a big smile on his face, then embraced me in a bear hug. In the moment I had his ear I said, "Thank you for taking all those arrows for the rest of us." Graciously, he said "You take more than I do," which I don't and said so. Then as I was walking away he called out, "Don't let them get to you." I called back, "Don't you either," and he replied in a strong voice. "I won't."The Horowitz, of course, is David Horowitz. Which prompts the obvious question, what is Bush's nickname for Horowitz? Turdblossom'd be great if it weren't already taken. Any proposals? How about nicknames for Bush?
December 7 and December 8. Yeah. Well, if we'd had the Patriot Act all along, maybe John Lennon would still be alive.
Here's a link to the December 1st debate on Israel-Palestine between A. Dershowitz and N. Chomsky at Harvard's Kennedy School. Dershowitz, who has all the rhetorical abilities of a Stalinist petty officer, is pathetic but Chomsky comes across as lame and geriatric as well. The big losers are the kids, who are real shit-heads.
Thinking of my long-ago posting days, when I looked at the cultures of life and death, I came across this quote:
Okay, I know, I know. Philosophy and Conlaw? Boring as fuck. I give the people what they want in the post below. It did sort of grow in the writing---I was going for something quite a bit smaller originally, but I just couldn't stop myself after I'd started playing around with the "throwing national security under the bus" metaphor. Really, Analogies is a cry for help? As in, I desperately need help figuring out how otherwise normal people find themselves writing these bootlicking apologias for torture, let alone how anybody, normal or not, could be pissed that all these torture reports are coming out---pissed that the reports are coming out, but otherwise fine with the torture. [It's not torture. We don't torture.--ed.]
Let's see if I remember how the SATs went.
34) blowing the cover of a CIA agent:illegal disclosure that damages national security :: _______________:illegal disclosure that damages national securityIf you answered (d), well sir, consider your acceptance letter from the Yale admissions committee in the mail. Du bist ein Genie, as the krauts say.
(a)publishing tactical maps of all US troop locations in Iraq
(b)selling nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union
(c)giving Osama bin Laden blueprints and security codes to the 12 most densely populated buildings in America's twelve most densely populated cities
(d)reporting truthfully about CIA agents acting on executive authority to use interrogation techniques banned under domestic law, the US military code, and a raft of international treaties and coventions
INDEED: "It's as if the whole Valerie Plame matter never happened."The original content, of course, is the "INDEED," which does, you know, add a layer of meaning both to the excerpt and the large piece from which it is drawn. It also added to the tease, okay I'll say it if no one else will, the sexual excitement bound up in seeing what lay beyond that link: could it have been some expose of Joseph Wilson, some vindication of Judith Miller perhaps, or a round up of things Tom Maguire said vis-a-vis something.
Radley Balko is covering the coverage of senate hearings on broadcast indecency. Executive summary: social conservatives are pushing for an option to order cable channels a la carte, instead of in bundles (e.g. basic + HBO, basic + Showtime, stripped down basic, whatever), so that the Concerned Scolds for America can sit their kids in front of the TV and neglect them without worrying that little Joseph, Mary, or Butters might stumble onto a Madonna video or a Janet Jackson tit. The logic, phrased memorably by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (who apparently makes Colin Powell Jr. look like a friend of freedom of expression) is this:
"You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don't want, "but why should you have to?"The appeal of the proposal is that it seems, prima facie, to increase freedom of choice, and after all, why should anybody else care if somebody wants to watch all EWTN, all the time.
Niche programing gives kids kid-friendly shows to watch. And as previously discussed here, bundling is what makes niche programing possible. More to the point, if Graham can limit his own kids' viewing habits to kid-friendly programing, why does he assume no one else can?In other words, since niche programming exists because of bundling, bundling creates its own regulatory mechanism. I get accused of being a libertine, but in all seriousness, if and when I have kids, I probably wouldn't want them to watch Skinemax (except that they will discover pornography eventually, and good parenting involves accepting that reality rather than installing v-chips). Fortunately, they get to have Nickelodeon. When I was six years old, I would much rather have watched Looney Toons (which is pretty damn violent, btw) than some daddy hurting some mommy and making her yell. When I was twelve, it was a different story---which is an indication that my content boundaries shifted naturally, and positively.
My verdict on Nostradamus's person of the year contest (x-posted on Death/Media):
On the Colbert Report last night, Katrina vanden Heuvel said that she was hurt by Rush Limbaugh referring to "Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel." I laughed, because the first time I heard the phrase "Hurricane Katrina," it was from somebody on the Fox News Channel and I thought he was just making fun of Katrian vanden Heuvel.
Terri Schiavo, by the way, is not a person. She is the timeless concept of the absolute universal feminine, actualized on a mythic time scale in an eternal return.
Harriet Miers is also not a person. She is George Bush's horse.
That leaves Natalee Holloway and Cindy Sheehan. Close call; Cindy Sheehan is ahead in things reflexive liberals idealize for no reason points. Natalee Holloway is ahead in hot blond who disappeared who wouldn't be on the news if she weren't a hot blond points. In self-righteousness points, Sheehan herself is doing well, but Holloway is dead and her parents are turning into minor celebrity scolds because of it, so Holloway ekes out a win.
Two quick points from Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning: 1) Apparently Daniel Pipes is pissed that Muhammad Ali received the presidential medal of freedom; now, I have no sympathy for the Nation of Islam, but Pipes' suggestion that the ideology of the NoI has something to do with Salafist fundamentalism, along with the idea that Ali is some sort of fifth-columnist made to look benign by his illness is just nuts. Pipes also criticizes Ali for his protests of the Vietnam war. Consider: Ali maintained his opposition to the war knowing he would incur the scorn of the Lumpen and that his career would be hobbled; what he did was honorable, and Pipes' claim that Ali wasn't a true pacificist because he said he would have made an exception for causes sanctified by Allah is about as petty as it gets. On the other hand Pipes supported the war, dodged the draft, and attacks others for their decisions to stay out of Vietnam. I don't buy into chickenhawk arguments---having served is irrelevant to the soundness of one's position on a war and on one's right to hold a position on a war---and there's nothing per se wrong with Pipes supporting the war but choosing to go to Harvard instead of fighting it. However, the rightness of one's decision to serve or not to serve is completely independent of one's position on the war. If it was wrong for Ali not to go, it was wrong for Pipes not to go; they both consciously avoided fighting in Vietnam, and it makes no difference that their avoidance of combat took different forms (though Ali's took some bravery). Pipes is engaging in reverse chickenhawk-ism. We need a word for the idea that it's legitimate to avoid serving in a war as long as you don't actively oppose its prosecution. Unfortunately, "chickenhawk" is the best description but it's already taken. (I do like the title of Pipes' column; who would mind seeing a boxing match between Vietnam-era Ali and Vietnam-era W. Bush.)