Monday, December 19, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Ricky Gervais podcasts are fucking hilarious.

2008

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 Moral Bankruptcy of Bill Keller And Pinch Sulzberger

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.

The Stasi Talking Points

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.

Let's check in with some of prostrationism's other stalwarts. National Review's "journalist" Byron York wonders if news of COINTELPRO redux will spur an investigation...of the officials who leaked to the New York Times. Elsewhere, York puts two and two together:
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.

Powerline's John Hinderaker (or Hindrocket, as he called himself until mean liberals started making fun of him) is one step manlier than York: Assrocket does not ask if there should be an investigation of the leak; he demands that we "send these guys to jail."

Der Mann mit dem Hut Roger L. Simon meanwhile, publicly declares his bottomless idiocy, not for the first time. The New York Times reported the story (1) because the paper is in financial jeopardy and (2) because
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.

UPDATE: Two plus two equals five.

High Crimes And Misdemeanors

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:
  1. Between 1979 and 2002, the FISA court rejected 0 (zero) warrant applications. In 2003, it rejected 4 (four). In 2004, it rejected 0 (zero). This is out of thousands of applications per year. And of the four applications that were rejected, several were modified and later approved.
  2. FISA specifically provides the attorney general emergency power to conduct surveillance prior to application for a warrant just as long as he applies for a warrant within 72 hours of doing so---i.e., the AG merely needs to apply for a warrant within 72 hours of commencing surveillance, so any footdragging on the part of the FISA court does not delay national security work in the slightest. See 50 USC § 1805 (f).
So, Tom Lehmanite panglossianism aside, the government's infringements on individual liberty were literally purposeless---the law provides a mechanism through which they can do whatever it is they have deemed it necessary to do. The administration chose to break the law anyway.

Lawbreaking is precisely what this is about. The NSA domestic surveillance program was not merely extra-legal and extra-constitutional; the US Code specifically prohibits any domestic surveillance except through the FISA mechanism. When the president, in his weekly radio address, claimed that "The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities," he was uttering simple untruth. I hesitate to claim that he was lying only because it is not at all apparent that he minimally comprehends the legal issues involved. On the other hand, a Yale Law graduate like Glenn Reynolds who throws up his arms in indecision about the legality of the NSA's conduct is a paradigm of prostrationism. The simple fact is that the relevant federal statute is unambiguous:
[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.

ADDENDUM: John Yoo, the leading and only exponent of the constitutional theory of dictatorial powers inherent in the presidency, is the prime mover behind the administration's violations of domestic and international law regarding torture, and now, as we have learned, domestic surveillance. Yoo is currently comfortably ensconced as a Professor of Law at Boalt Hall at the University of California. This is an intolerable situation. He used delegated executive powers specifically to subvert the laws and Constitution of the United States. His sorry ass needs to be tried for crimes against the American people and Congress.

UPDATE: I see that AG Gonzales has been on the boob tube claiming that the post-9/11 authorization of force granted the president the power to conduct warrantless domestic spying. Disbar him.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kieran Healy at CT for the link.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ministers Of Truth And Love

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]...

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.
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:
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.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Iraqi Elections

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.

There's also this:
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ [Jonah Goldberg]
Nice job today.
Posted at 05:53 PM
Oddly enough, there was a reply:
TO JONAH GOLDBERG [the people of Iraq]
Never speak to us again.
Posted at 5:54 PM


UPDATE: Daniel Davies has a fairly persuasive analysis of the elections and what they mean for the success of the Iraq project. Executive summary: It's a mixed bag, with enough inside it for anyone who decided to interpret the elections as an utter triumph or catastrophe beforehand to go ahead and conclude that their premises are true.

Bareback Mountain

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.

[UPDATE 1/4/06: Add Match Point to the list of movies I have zero reservations about. (I don't mean to imply there is absolutely nothing about these movies that could be improved, but that they are (so I say) essentially as good as any film can be.) One caveat: I'm a huge fan of Woody Allen, and reading Dostoevsky was a life changing-experience for me, so any film that is the product of Allen's full exercise of his talent and that rings insightful and ironic changes on the basic plot of Crime and Punishment is going to be up my alley. That is idiosyncratic, albeit very good, taste. N.B.: One prominent reviewer whose name I can't recall, else I'd provide a link, wrote something to the effect that "you'll never see the plot twist coming." That's fatuous. The first two thirds of the movie resound with Hannah and Her Sisters, and the last third with Crimes and Misdemeanors, which is (duh) an adaptation of C&P. If you're familiar with the source material, in other words, you should be able to pinpoint the moment at which the "twist" part of the plot is set into motion, and more or less exactly how it will play out. Of course, grasping the bare essentials of the plot isn't the purpose of the exercise. Which points towards a potential constituent of greatness in art: an experience that becomes richer and deeper on the second, third, nth viewing/listening/etc. My four word review of Match Point (undercutting the old boss by one word): Tolstoyan take on C&P [if Bush gets to bend the rules of FISA, we at FW get to bend the rules of counting--ed.]. With that said, I'm hoping to see a reaction to the film and the foregoing from the actual Tom...Schmidt.]

Robert Farley thought of a few good reasons why Brokeback Mountain might not be worth the ten bucks oh five for a ticket:
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.)

However, some people don't want to see it because they think mansex is gross. Or something. Mickey Kaus, for example, apparently won't see a movie unless there's a female lead he can fantasize about. Well, that's what he says, anyway. I'm gonna have to go ahead and call shenanigans on that. Did Kaus see The Godfather? The Terminator? etc etc ad nauseam ad infinitum?

It's a fairly well documented fact that most homophobes' homophobia is a coping method for their own repressed homosexuality and bisexuality. Since overt gay-bashing is generally seen as vulgar and impolite these days, homophobia itself has increasingly become sublimated under various forms of cover; for pundits, this meta-homophobia tends to get expressed as the preferences of "middle America," since those preferences are just empirical facts, as opposed to, say, the normatively assessable judgement of pundits who hide their own disdain for gayness behind whatever "middle America" is supposed to be. One of the more egregious specimens of this type of bigotry that's relevant to Brokeback Mountain comes from (where else?) NRO, in the person of Kulturwissenschafter Rod Dreher:
[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.

P.S. James Wolcott points out of James Lileks that "[he] should have learned at this point the difference between 'disinterest' and being uninterested." But Wolcott lets him off too easy. Lileks' ignorance of the distinction would be mildly embarrassing were he merely a "semiprofessional writer," as Wolcott has it, but as a fully professional anti-egghead poseur, Lileks would have to do something like lie on his back and give himself a rimjob to embarrass himself any more.

The post Wolcott nods at is classic Lileks: his rhetorical blade flashing from its scabbard, our Man in Minnesota incises and excises and slash boom pow hack the illusions of liberal p.c.dom are in tatters. Thus, Lileks bleats wimpily about Entertainment Weekly putting Brokeback Mountain on its cover instead of The Passion of the Aslan, only to deride as pernicious liberal fluff the notion that "the two movies are somehow in a meta-competition for the Soul of America." Time for another round of spot the contradiction.

P.P.S. Wolcott surely doesn't think that the success of Brokeback Mountain (BM?) in a tiny release in three theaters in NYC, one in LA, and one in SF, is an indication of future box office success, does he?

First Draft Of History

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

*I.e., paying other people to write something under his name. No one cares enough to collate the damn thing so that all the separately authored sections could make some sense together.

UPDATE: Some cunt from a "secure driver's license" group in North Carolina just said, "Arab Americans should in fact be grateful that we...[her brain figures out what her mouth is saying]...would never mistreat a group of our citizens." Yes, they should be grateful that no one's launched a pogrom. And if they had any decency they'd show their gratitude by celebrating Christmas.

All of this in a day's work for Neil Cavuto.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Dream In The Mind Of Graham Chapman

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.

Power Of The Numinous

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.

Douthat's response is twofold:

1) The mythopoeic power of the Romantic numinous points towards a Truth beyond the "the necessarily straitened and punitive morality of organized worship" (Gopnik's phrase). This was the intuition that J.R.R. Tolkien used to convert Lewis to Christianity, and I guess there's a certain something to it, but whatever it is, it does not warrant Douthat's second and conclusive step...

2) There's something illegitimate about the intellectual "who wants to fantasize about the faun in the forest without accepting the reality of the God on the cross"---i.e., once you concede point 1, you're more or less bound to accept the reality of the God on the cross. This is hardly an original claim, as Douthat knows. But what I suspect Douthat doesn't quite grasp is that it's a shell game for precisely the same reason that Pascal's wager is a shell game: the choices are not unbelief or Christianity.

Even if you were willing to grant that fantasizing about the faun in the forest is either effective vocus flatus or else points towards transcendent truth---why this dichotomy is false I'll leave for another time---why on earth would the Truth towards which the faun points necessarily be the Christian myth? Why wouldn't it be, say, Ahura Mazda and the Asuras and the Daivas; or the gods and devas and heros of the Vedas; or the Buddha; or the Tao; or Allah speaking to Mohammed; or Job speaking to God in the whirlwind, and God's concession that Job, who has accused God of acting with caprice and malice, has spoken what is right of God; or general relativity, four-dimensionalism, unified field theory, and the Big Bang? To support the move from Truth behind the faun to God on the Cross, Douthat adduces one datum; here it is in its credulity-straining fullness:
[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.

Ross is welcome to kiss Hank's ass, says I.

On Prostrationism

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.

It's fascinating that every new disclosure and discovery about this administration's foreign policy shows just how non-accidental is the juxtaposition of the administration's foreign policy crimes and blunders, and how the more severe the crimes and blunders were, the more necessarily coexstensive they are.

Take first the president's inability to utter the four word declarative sentence "We do not torture" without either speaking falsely or attaching a few dozen asterisks to each word. Take second the double collosal falsehood of no WMDs and no Iraq-al Qaeda connection at the center of the administration's case for war. The ultimate explanation of each is one and the same fact.

The administration's apologists deny the existence of the football-stadium sized stacks of evidence of a deliberate torture policy in contravention of domestic statutes and the USMC, as well as reams of international treaties that the US not only signed but played the major role in writing, not to mention the small thing of US military tradition dating back to the nation's founding, when Washington instructed his soldiers to treat POWs with the utmost humanity not because of any virtues that they possessed, but because of ideals that we Americans have always claimed to uphold. 9/11, as it turns out, changed at least this much, even if it didn't quite change everything. Rather than attempt to understand the implications of the absence of WMDs in Iraq and the absence of any operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, the apologists have constructed a fantasy world to dwell in, in which the twin threats of WMDs and collaboration between Hussein and bin Laden were only minor appendages of the administration's arguments for war or the ease with which the war resolution passed Congress. They proceed to accuse their opponents of revisionism. A better use of one's time and intellectual energies, it seems, to beat, then expose to deprivation, then waterboard such long-dead horses as the spinelessness and disarray of the self-castrated opposition party than to make any effort to come to grips with just how completely the administration betrayed the trust they had given it. The apologists in the warblogosphere and the MSM do all this, and at the same time describe themselves as conservatives and receive the ascription of conservatism from everyone else.

Conservative intellectuals, and the broader sphere of pro-war intellectuals, have travelled a variety of paths. Some have had Damascene moments---perhaps a better term for it would be Kronstadt moments---and have become unpersons within the movement. These intellectuals have not altered their conservative moral and political beliefs in even one regard; they have simply recognized how great an affront the administration's policies and justifications of policies present to those very beliefs.

For this apostasy, they have been expelled from the movement, rendered unpersons. To the extent their existence is acknowledged, they are unfailingly described as either confused about the facts, changed in their beliefs, or worse. The exemplar of this group is Andrew Sullivan, who has never shifted his positions on globalized trade, on minimal government intervention in the economy, or on social policy aimed at strengthening traditional social institutions. (I find it endlessly amusing that gay rights activists have universally adopted what is essentially Sullivan's fundamentally traditionalist argument for gay marriage, and that the chief antagonists of this argument call themselves traditionalists). But for stating the obvious truth about the administration's crimes and blunders, and consequently, for endorsing the election of the only alternative to those crimes and blunders, Sullivan now represents to the conservative movement marginally less an enemy figure than persons of “reactionary tendencies” represented to Communists. He only has disassociated himself from the administration because he is gay, they say, and the efficient cause of his repudiation of Bush and indeed of his own previous opinions, was Bush's endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment. How manifestly false, not to mention bigoted, an explanation. The reason he got off the train was the torture policy, and the proximate cause was the revelation of the Abu Ghraib horrors and rapid discovery that they were instances of widespread policy dictated by decisions at the utmost levels of the administration.

A second group of conservative intellectuals recognize, to some degree at least, the plain, objective facts. Their response to the facts is to twist themselves into casuistic pretzels to defend the administration's conduct, and of course, their prior defenses of the administration. Thus Charles Krauthammer, erstwhile diagnoser of Bush Derangement Syndrome, finding himself in a relation of political comradeship to legions of sufferers of Anti-Bush Derangement Syndrome---the defining symptom being an inability to understand criticism of the administration to be motivated by anything other than personal hatred of Mr. Bush; explaining Sullivan's criticisms as products of his homosexuality are one instance of the general syndrome---pens a cover piece in the Weekly Standard purporting to ground the case for legal torture in moral philosophy and not, say, acute need to give post facto cover to ongoing conduct that was and should be subject to criminal prosecution in both the US and in the Hague. Krauthammer throws all the resources of his intellect behind proving that torture is not morally impermissible in every single instance: just every single instance of detention in prior human history and every instance that is likely, to many orders of magnitude of probability, to occur in the future; as for how this fact weakens the advocates of a blanket legal ban on torture, or why they should be reluctant to acknowledge it, Krauthammer has no comment. Believing himself to be the discoverer of an important moral law, Krauthammer breezily elides the distinction between permissible and obligatory conduct, so that he can argue for an explicit legal sanctioning of torture, in the only way that law can sanction torture, which is in such a way as to metastasize beyond any de dicto restrictions on its use.

Another sort of conservative intellectual, represented by David Brooks, does acknowledge the truth, and does not indulge in acts of loud public self-exculpation thinly veiled as the selfless and self-righteous bequeathing of the unfortunate truths of life in a complex and hostile world to the clueless idealists---acts that are only necessary because clueless idealism about things like not murdering detainees of unknown guilt or innocence in processes like "Palestinian hanging," a form of ersatz crucifixion known to have been the final experience of a number of detainees---is dangerous for a nation at open-ended war. The Brooksians, in contrast to the Krauthammerians, are genuinely bothered by torture, what torture means to the moral legitimacy of the administration they defended, and what it means their defenses of the administration. They are, however, not troubled enough to devote their attention to pursuing such questions to their inevitable logical ends. Time is a limited resource after all, and there are Democratic backbenchers making incautious or self-contradictory statements, naive but well-meaning anti-war activists, and ill-meaning but irrelevant ANSWER activists. Maybe the Brooksians can get around to scrutinizing the administration once these other issues resolve themselves. (Aside from Brooks, this group’s most visible member is Christopher Hitchens. Ask him if he supports the torture policy, and he will tell you he does not; his opposition to it, however, is less pressing a subject for his Slate column than defending Karl Rove and Ahmed Chalabi.)

The final group of pro-war intellectuals has given itself over entirely to doublethink: the administration doesn't torture, but it's no problem at all that it does; there were Iraqi WMDs (they're all in Syria!), but the absence of Iraqi WMDs does not in anyway discredit the argument for war; there was no-Iraq al Qaeda connection, but Dick Cheney and all the other administration officials
flogging the connection as a talking point spoke truthfully; the Democrats have always been against the war but were afraid to say so in 2003; the Democrats are against a pullout from Iraq but are afraid to say so in 2005. The antinomies go on and on indefinitely, without any variation in their intellectual bankruptcy, reaching their apotheosis in one Stephen Hayes, every US citizen's own personal village idiot, whose career consists of penning books and articles offering forensic defenses of the latest discredited Bush administration claim, usually about a week after the administration gets around to admitting that the claim is utter bullshit. Witness Hayes' latest atrocity (hat tip: Jeremy), a prolonged whine about how the Department of Defense is stonewalling his requests for prewar documents. Could he actually be so thick as to think that any documents the DoD might possess that would support their case wouldn't have been laundered to gullible hacks like himself long ago?

Aside from the first group---its members are mostly disillusioned liberal interventionists, Andrew Sullivan being by far the most prominent truly conservative member---"conservative" is a preposterous thing to call these intellectuals. Whatever it is that connects the threads of variously paranoid, schizophrenic, and hallucinatory apologetics for the administration, it is nothing contained even remotely within the natural language concept of conservatism. We need to find something else. "Nixonite" is promising. "Totalitarian" is more general than reference to a particular figure, and it contains a general principle of unalterable loyalty to a political party under any circumstances whatsoever and boot-licking, self-abnegating subservience to government just in case that party happens to be in power. But "totalitarian" is ultimately misleading; it connotes a view about how government and society should be organized. The conjunction of principles of the Bush apologists has no view other than what the administration is advancing at any moment: for small government one moment, for enormous government the next, for both at once; the only way the administration could fail to enunciate their views is by doing so with less force and more openness to compromise.

There is no conservative movement. I suggest adopting the name "prostrationism" for the set of people, interests, and arguments alleged to constitute the conservative movement. I can think of no better name for the union of inexplicable hatred for the political other and profound dearth of self-respect it embodies.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

No Such Thing As Anti-Semitism

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.


UPDATE: It was the president of Iran. That was quick. Too quick. Okay, there's still an Xbox 360 on the line** for the first person to score 100% on this impromptu quiz:
"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.




























*offer not good, ever
**there is no Xbox 360 on the line

RIPs

Richard Pryor: He ain't ain't dead yet.

Eugene McCarthy: The non-fascist Senator McCarthy.

Keep yer eyes open for how the mainstream media eulogize these guys. If they were doing their thing today, they'd both be subject to casual accusations of treason from the cocoonosphere and Fox News, and the allegedly respectable media would treat such accusations as if they merited serious contemplation.

Bronze Medal

Kevin Drum on the most dangerous job in the world (apparently): being al Qaeda's third in command.

De Hacks

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.

Thank you for the time you took in reading this post.

To The Last Woman

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.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Accidental Bulimia

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?

A Bad Couple Of Days

December 7 and December 8. Yeah. Well, if we'd had the Patriot Act all along, maybe John Lennon would still be alive.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Debate

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.

Two Cultures

Thinking of my long-ago posting days, when I looked at the cultures of life and death, I came across this quote:

"It is not enough to recall that there are cultures of death and that from one culture to another, at the crossing of borders, death changes face, meaning, language, or even body . . . One must go further: culture itself, culture in general, is essentially, before anything, even a priori, the culture of death . . . The very concept of culture may seem to be synonymous with the culture of death, as if the expression 'culture of death' were ultimately a pleonasm or a tautology."

Extra points for identifying the author (not hard).

Or this one: "There is more than one way to make a body invisible."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Uncle," I Cried

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.]

With that, I'm done till there's a senior essay on my advisor desk...uh, mine, not just anybody's.

Analogies

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 security

(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
If 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.

Thus would blogger Bill Nienhuis, whose name isn't kraut exactly but whatever the derogatory term for the Dutsch is [pot smoking gay-married prostitutes?--ed.], have scored your test. Nienhuis is a master of all things analogical and metaphorical; comparisons are his thing. The accurate reporting on CIA prisoner interrogation, you see, is just like "throwing national security under the bus," both because it damages national security, and because you can throw national security under a bus about as easily as you can throw, I dunno, an Afghan detainee under the bus. And if you did throw a detainee under a bus, you need not have a heavy heart or a conflicted conscience. (MSM reporting will break your morale, that's inevitable, which is why it's so important to get the real truth out there.) As long as you only got a leg under the bus (or some other part he didn't need), and you dope him up real good with truth serum which'll also dull the pain, and you just want him to tell you on which East Village street corner* Osama planted a ticking hydrogen bomb (oh, he knows**, and American lives are at stake here), and you promise him that once he tells you the bad people will go away, and you didn't specifically intend to torture him, and your goal was intelligence gathering (I mean, c'mon, you're an American intelligence agent, people might say you inflict wanton cruelty for no reason but that can't be true because you're an American intelligence agent***), fear not. You didn't torture anybody. Because permanent life-threatening injury or death (is losing a limb life-threatening? maybe it is in those wimpy blue states, but not over here in, okay I'm in Bethesda, but my blog is in cyberspace so I technically live everywhere and that includes real states like Wyoming) and a specific and exclusive intent to torture with foreknowledge of what torture is, are essential parts of the timeless and everlasting definition of torture. That we made up three years ago. That we don't do.

Oh Nienhuis, where would we be without you? What hope as a nation, nay, as a community of nations, could we have to be free and secure loved children of the one almighty and eternal God of Abraham and Isaac and the important evangelical leaders in the Republican party---who represent what the true Jackonian spirit of America that the French party I mean Democrats are out of touch with which is why they lose elections but not Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell cause they said some idiotarian things a while back so they therefore have no consituency in the GOP and nobody should pay attention to them---if we could not see the divine spark reflecting from directly from your monitor out into this fragile mortal coil? I mean, it's just holy wisdom that motivates your curiosity about how ABC news could be so confident about their report when George W. Bush---who any fair-minded person would conclude is simultaneously the reincarnation of Themistocles, Churchill, and Reagan, except that that's a Hindu idea and Hindu is too damn close to Muslim to be able to tell them apart but still he's their reincarnation in thought and word and deed and courage, and rather like the philosopher Jesus in that he suffers persecution gladly, safe in the knowledge that God has placed him in the world for a purpose and ordained his path---says that we don't torture. Because, as you rightly point out, goodsir Nienhuis, ABC got whatever facts they got because ABC doesn't want to get scooped like they did on Abu Ghraib and don't care what the consequences of their reporting are for national security and want to bring down the president at the same time they're blindly ambitious and they dug hard enough to find somebody in the CIA who would talk about what was going on but it wasn't that hard because the CIA is a disloyal wing of the government and they don't care what the broader consequences of their actions are as long as they can gain some ground in their intra-executive turf war. If it had been an unreliable MSM-credentialed newspaper reporter laying out the causes and motives of this crushing blow to national security---and what could crush national security worse than throwing it under a bus, except maybe two buses---or even a blogger, all of whom (except the moonbat bloggers of course) take time to get the facts straight and don't let bias influence their presentation of the facts, i.e., just the opposite of yer MSM-gatekeeper elitist relic of the past-I-mean-it's-the-21st-century-BLOG!!!BLOG!!!BLOG!!!---I would have assumed that he had forgotten to mention the third explanation, but he's so smart that he knows without knowing us that those of us who know how to read esoterically as well as exoterically wouldn't need to be reminded of it. The third option, of course, is that ABC just made it up, similar to the way that Dan Rather typed up the national guard memos on MS Word and then spilled coffee on the printout to yellow the pages and make them look like they were from the 70s, and also similar to the way everything else that Powerline ever reported on got 100% right no matter what any Traitorcrat blogger says about stopped clocks being right twice a day.

There's only one Bill Nienhuis, and let's just be glad he's on our side in this war, cuz if he was on the other side like Jimmy Carter, we'd have thrown in the towel by September 18 (the day after the day after the day after the day after the day after the day after the day that changed everything) at the latest.

*Your conventional detective work nailed it down to lower Manhattan, and you're pretty sure it's in the East Village. There's one piece of the puzzle missing. Are you willing to lose 10 million American lives because you're worried what those goddamned oil-bribe taking faggots in the UN or the lying weaselly scumbag hypocritical obstructionist French who lost their civilization cuz they stopped being Christian and the let the Ay-rabs from northern Africa emigrate just cuz they were subjects of France's colonial empire and spoke French and wanted to live in a country with a higher standard of living than Algeria even if it meant doing some shit job that no native fondue-dipper would come within 100 metres of if you gave him a football stadium-sized supply of cigarettes an' a battle-ship sized supply of syphilitic Breton prostitutes an' all the frogs legs fried in snail slime it would take him twenty lifetimes to eat? If so, sir, you're nothing but a pussy. And you can't be trusted with something as vital as our national security.

**And just to make it clear: This isn't some liberal media crock of shit like some unlucky peasant who happened to be the only one of the 540 Hassan al-Hussein's in the metropolitan Kandahar area whose name wasn't on the terrorist watch list, who got picked up by mistake (yeah, where'd you read that? the MSM, huh? you trust the MSM? I mean, hot-damn you are one gullible motherfucker). This is a legit crisis. This guy's got vital info. Like I said, he knows where Osama put the ticking nuclear time bomb. He heard from his second cousin Ghazi in Baluchistan who heard from his wife's friend Jamilah who lives in Islamabad and hears all the big city gossip who heard from her brother Fawzi the traveling Quran salesman who heard from Jabbar a Jordanian Muslim missionary in Jakarta who heard from Harkono, a recent convert (who was thrilled to learn that his homosexuality was a disease and that prayer, reverence, and public hanging were the cure), who was told only two years ago by Leona, the Singaporese transsexual (or Mak nyah, as the wogs over there say)with whom he had a brief but torrid affair which he remained in because he fell in love with her after finding out about you know what (but actually he knew all along and used dating a shemale as a front to deceive himself about being gay as well as allow him to not feel like he's lying when he tells his parents he's dating women now and the "problem" is over). Like I said, this guy knows where the bomb is. You wouldn't be torturing him if he didn't know. Because you can only torture somebody who's a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative (and yes, everybody in al-Qaeda is a high ranking operative, I see you don't know how the new physics works). That's also part of the definition of torture. Forgot to mention it (my bad---but see: self-correcting blogosphere in action!). But you also aren't torturing him, because we don't torture. You've got a choice to make between making Old Europe happy and saving American lives. When American lives are at stake, the right choice isn't just what makes you feel good about your self. Sometimes, it's the hard choice. Like opening secret non-existing non-gulags in abandoned NKVD re-education centers. That was a hard choice. Good thing we have a man like George W. Bush around to make the hard choices. Because if a spineless flip-flopper like Kerry got in there, he probably would have chickened out and not opened the secret dungeons that don't exist. Hard choices. Your socialist professors tried to teach you that there isn't complexity in everything, like Palestinian-hangings, which are difficult to construct a moral theory for, and certainly don't admit of simple absolute rules. Every choice is hard, and everything's complex, except for all of geopolitics, which is simple: There's America, and then there's the countries that wish they were America but not in that jealous way, just a genuine, man you guys are awesome, I know what I'll do, I'll bet all my credibility and the legacy I will hand down to future generations and the image that history books will present of me to a guy who needs to be talked out of bombing al-Jazeera (and hey, if somebody like that can't manage to be a revaluator of values, at least I get to hang out with him a lot and seem incredibly smart by contrast) sort of way. That's one side. Then there are the terrorists and the people who apologize for terrorism, and really they're all just terrorists. And also the people in America who disagree with the president---no, not all of them, I'm not a McCarthyite, just the ones who say they disagree with terrorism anywhere with 10,000 miles of a soldier who might have his morale crushed by hearing our leader criticized or a jihadist who was only a little bit into jihad but now that he's heard domestic dissent within the USA he's become super-emboldened and gets on the next plane to Baghdad where he has to fight us cause as long as we're there he can't fight us here and starts recruiting and training new jihadists all because of some jerk who didn't have the courtesy to keep his treasonous thoughts to himself while we're at open-ended war, thanks very much, but none of that means that the jihadist wouldn't have made it to Baghdad even if we'd never invaded Iraq because we're not the cause of any problems in Iraq, the terrorists are, and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had a Hitler-Stalin pact even if that metaphor hurts my argument because I'm claiming that Hussein was on the side of jihad and not just in a temporary tactical cease-fire with it---yeah, those kinds of Americans, they're on the other side too.

***Let's see what the MSM deal with that logic. However, they do it, I bet it'll be in a way that's objectively pro-fascist.
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Okay folks, let's get serious. There's some kind of acute paranoiac amnesia germ going around and you're apparently at extra risk if you award yourself a gold star every time you hit the publish button and stick it to the MSM and cross the frontier into that glorious future of self-publishing citizen journalists who bring the news straight from Baghdad---I mean, let's face facts, if you think of a time, and it's any time later than now, there's bound to be an American troop presence in Baghdad, at least outside the green zones where everything is safe and schools and hospitals and women walking out at night unaccompanied and parents name their first male child "George" and their second male child "Hat" after 47th president, visionary, and all around Mann mit dem Hut Roger L. Simon---to your computer using really powerful telescopes without ever having to get out of their desk chair or take off their pajamas or do a sit up...where was I...yeah, if you're one of those guys, you should probably call the CDC and see if they can give you a full body biohazard suit as a loner till the epidemic passes, because it's transmitted whenever warbloggers get together and have a big-ol' cyberspace circle jerk and then retire to their respective homes which they never left and fire up the old cyber-printing press and compose a longish think-post about their experiences among these many brilliant and serious and tragically compelled to assume all the world's burdens as their own colleagues of theirs, the Achilleses and Achillesatrixes of the world of ideas. This infection is where you are, so promise to be careful, because we can't afford to lose you, because then what will stand in the way of our brave men and women serving over sees and the terrible, terrible words hurled at them everyday but unthinking and uncaring and just plain malicious politicians to greater lethal effect than anything Iraq's homegrown bin Ladenist insurgency, I mean strike that I didn't say insurgency I don't mean it just tell me what the word we're using now is, is it homicide bombers which don't worry, I know, is not a redundancy nor an idiotic substitution for "suicide bomber" because "suicide bomber" isn't more descriptive or anything, it's just something that people say because they want to express sympathy for the terrorists and study their ways instead of fighting them.
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Okay, seriously, for real seriously this time. I found the Bachelour Nienhuis's little (but also really big, when you think about it) contribution to our understanding of our world and our society and our place in both via a link from...guess who...that's right, the innovator and technician, libertarian futurist, the one and only white hot ball of dispassionate objective presentation of facts that the is too incompetent to give you and too warped with Bush Derangement Syndrome to give you, the blogfather who in whose capacious womb we were all immaculately conceived a new, the prophet-philosopher who demonstrated by dialectic, by analytic, and by antinomy, that the nature of pure reason itself entails that patriotism is the fundamental determinant of truth, and in an encore performance equalled the first despite the metaphysical impossibility of doing so, that any plausible conceptual analysis of patriotism will reduce patriotism to unflinching cocooning loyalty to the President except when he's soft on immigration or signs a pork-laden appropriations bill that isn't his fault really because corruption is everywhere and even if it was his fault the Democrats are worse and their first instinct is to cut and run...you guessed it yet...INSTAPUNDIT, known occasionally by his alias Glenn Reynolds, the guise he uses when it is necessary for him to be in pondering mode, like when he frets over what will happen to freedom of the press after the backlash inspired by people like Glenn Reynolds consensually renting out his blog space to anyone who had a nightmare in which a worldwide secret conspiracy called MSM too uncomfortable with technology to get what blogging's all about but comfortable enough with technology to run a worldwide secret conspiracy was feverishly plotting to bring our president down and hand victory to the terrorists, just as long as said dreamer was prudent enough to commit the dream to paper, i.e., a blog post.

The Insta-post that links to Nienhuis is, in its entirety:
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.

P.S. See Henley, Jim.

P.P.S. I know the countdown is over already, and I'm not saying this should be at the top, but I'm pretty damn sure this post deserves a spot somewhere (like #6b maybe). Just sayin'.

PLACE-HOLDING NOTE: Just wait till I add a gajillion links to all the little subtle references and insidery goodies.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pro-Choice

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.

There are two arguments here: 1) The bundling of cable channels disseminates potentially vicious content to children (snooze, but some people care), therefore cable should be unbundled.

Balko shows how the argument is self-refuting:
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.

Argument 2) Unbundling cable increases freedom of choice, freedom of choice is good (never mind the rich doublethink coming from the puritans), therefore cable should be unbundled.

Balko doesn't really get to this one; Nick Gillespie says that given the fact that Martin "also favors extending federal content regulation to cable and satellite," we should recognize the unbundling proposal as "an attempt to limit what consumers can watch and listen to." I'm not sure this follows, though Martin's support for extending content regulation is good reason to be suspicious of his motives when he claims to be extending choice.

The real fallacy in argument (2) is the notion of choice the unbundling advocates are pushing: the freedom of a consumer to choose something that isn't up for sale. Cable companies are private entities; they have a right to sell whatever goods and services they want to sell. Suppose you want the proprietor of some store to sell you the individual components of some article that comes bundled together. You can haggle, cajole, persuade, but you can't compel him. Nor can the government. It's called a free market, jackasses.

UPDATE: On the subject of cringe-making things Radley Balko linked to, take a glance at the latest drug-war justified lie.

Person Of The Year

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.

Big F'ing Deals

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.)

2) Sullivan says BFD to the news that American intelligence operatives are planting propaganda stories in the Iraqi press. Here's the big fucking deal: A) Unless it's exceptionally well done, a description of exactly nothing in our occupation of Iraq, propaganda declares itself for what it is almost immediately. You can't keep these things secret, and once the secret's out, we've created a PR-humiliation and also set back the cause of Iraqi independence, because the Iraqis would be correct to discount the reliability of their press. B) Apart from practical considerations, the ostensible meaning of the war is to create a free society in Iraq. That includes a free press. BFD? BFS that the administration has found yet another way to betray its affected humanitarianism.

Vitals
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