Archive

  • CALCULATED OBTUSENESS.

    CALCULATED OBTUSENESS. As it happens, I have some experience with calculated obtuseness as a political and rhetorical tactic. You can see in that episode all the characteristic charlatan's tricks now being applied to John Kerry 's unartful attempt at humor. You can see the Deliberate Missing Of The Point, and you can even see the Knuckling The People Who Actually Do Get The Point, of which John Derbyshire currently seems to be the victim over on The Corner, and you can see how Willful Ignorance can become Accepted Wisdom. My point is that, despite the fact that handing John Kerry a joke is a mistake of roughly the same magnitude as handing me the controls of the Space Shuttle, this technique can be applied to almost anything said by almost anyone you wish to attack, given sufficient volume and bandwidth. There is almost nothing that can be done about the first two elements, but Willful Ignorance can be stopped before it becomes Accepted Wisdom if only the people in my business do...
  • FEMINISM: STILL NECESSARY.

    FEMINISM: STILL NECESSARY. The Happy Feminist and Jessica Valenti draw our attention to a remarkable-in-a-bad-way ruling by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. The court threw out a rape conviction because the judge failed to instruct the jury that a woman could not legally withdraw consent after penetration . The Court's ruling was based on dicta in a 1980 decision, which it itself was based on common law definitions of rape. The court describes the principles animating the 1980 decision as follows: But, to be sure, it was the act of penetration that was the essence of the crime of rape; after this initial infringement upon the responsible male's interest in a woman's sexual and reproductive functions, any further injury was considered to be less consequential. The damage was done. It was this view that the moment of penetration was the point in time, after which a woman could never be "re-flowered," that gave rise to the principle that, if a woman consents prior to penetration...
  • TAX BREAKS FOR DEPENDENTS = FASCISM.

    TAX BREAKS FOR DEPENDENTS = FASCISM. Matt Duss dredges the depths of The Corner and finds that opposition to abortion and the taking of positive steps to encourage families to have children is the equivalent of fascism . At least, that is, if such steps are taken in Iran. President Ahmadinejad is pushing a program that would limit the work hours of married professionals. Michael Ledeen : For this is right out of the fascist manual. Indeed, Mussolini once wrote an impassioned introduction to a very boring book (authored by one Richard Korherr , who I do not believe was from Bologna, and called something like "shrinking population, the death of nations") urging Italians to reproduce like Topsy. And of course Hitler had all those breeding programs, about which I will say no more for fear of being lumped in with Webb and Libby as a foul-mouthed (or is it foul-penned, or foul-keyboarded) sex fiend. Never mind that conservatives regularly denounce Europe for having an insufficient birthrate...
  • ARABIC: DIFFICULT.

    ARABIC: DIFFICULT. Long-time readers of my other blog , American Footprints , may know that I spent the last year and some change in Cairo, Egypt, learning Arabic. So it is with some first-hand experience that I approach Matt Yglesias' observation that "the severe paucity of people who speak Arabic (to say nothing of Farsi, Pashto, etc.) is incredibly crippling to a whole range of military, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement endeavors." Yes, it's true that the U.S. -- and especially the FBI --suffers greatly from its lack of Arabic speakers, but solving the problem is by no means as simple as boosting funding. Arabic, both the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) that they speak on Al-Jazeera and the different dialects used on the street in each Arab country, is really, really hard . I say this as someone who typically does well with languages. The American University in Cairo , where I was studying, hosts the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), thought by many to be the best...
  • BUYER'S REMORSE.

    BUYER'S REMORSE. This gloriously frank piece is getting a decent amount of blogo-buzz this morning, and it's got me to thinking that the current buyer's remorse among "principled" conservatives makes me want to vomit. I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends -- but I don�t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don�t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson�s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse." Hey, John . Michael Dukakis was a decent man. Al Gore was a decent man, and so was John Kerry . Max Cleland and Tom Daschle were decent men. Newt Gingrich , a supremely indecent man, made his career attacking decent men. Going back further, because I'm old enough to remember that vicious closet-case Terry Dolan and his NCPAC campaigns, Frank Church and George McGovern were decent men. It's not enough to decide that the tactics that empowered...
  • DON'T FORGET KATRINA....

    DON'T FORGET KATRINA. With all the mudslinging and war talk that has dominated this mid-term campaign, the Bush administration's Gulf Coast debacle has been forced into the background, except for the occasional use of the name "Katrina" as a synonym for ineptitude (as in John Kerry 's description of the president's "Katrina foreign policy"). Yet Katrina is not simply the story of incompetence; it is many stories, stories of race, class, heritage, and abandonment. And while the failure of the Republican Congress to address devastation wrought by disaster, incompetence, and indifference should indeed be a serious campaign issue on a national scale, we may all find ourselves staring hard at our shoes when it is brought to our attention that most of us have forgotten the Gulf, as well. In today's New York Times , a jarring reminder comes in this article by Adam Nossiter , which describes the fate of high school students living virtually on their own, separated from parents who have found...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ALLEN'S OPTIONS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ALLEN'S OPTIONS. In a Prospect exclusive, Garance Franke-Ruta reports on new information concerning Xybernaut, the beleaguered tech company on whose board George Allen served in the late nineties. On October 20, 2000 -- just 18 days before former Virginia Governor George Allen was elected to the U.S. Senate -- Xybernaut, a Virginia-based technology company, on whose board Allen served, held an early annual shareholder meeting and awarded Allen a tidy bonus of 50,000 stock options. Allen was granted the stock as part of his re-election to the board at a time when polls showed him to be the favorite in the impending senate election against Democrat Chuck Robb, and when it was clear that he would have to resign his board seat if and when he became a senator. Senate rules forbid members from serving on corporate boards. The issuance of these options, whose existence is confirmed by the Form Five filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that The...
  • "HIS AMBITION HAS...

    "HIS AMBITION HAS MADE HIM A COWARD." I like how you put that, Charlie . I know that ambition corrupts, and absolute ambition corrupts absolutely, but I'm still a bit shocked and awed at the depths to which McCain has dropped. Put aside his faux-ideological independence, his disheartening ability to pass off traditional conservatism as modern centrism. The one thing McCain always retained, and always seemed serious about, was an elevated expectation for politics. He seemed to believe that campaigns should be about something more than decontextualized votes and misleading attacks. He'd intervene even when the negative ad, judged by the standards such things are judged, was an average attack. He bristled to see the patriotism impugned or character attacked. That was his virtue: He convinced the country that he was above politics by, at times, being above politics. And yet here he is, doing all the worse, and he must knows it. It's hard to look at this situation and not pity John Kerry...
  • YOU'VE GOTTA LOVE POWERPOINT.

    YOU'VE GOTTA LOVE POWERPOINT. A fun slide from a presentation at Central Command finds its way to the New York Times , upshot being that the situation is worse now than it ever has been before. The presentation was given to President Bush and SecDef Rumsfeld on October 18; maybe it helped spur the "We are not stay the course, we have never been stay the course" charade? By itself it's not all that great of a slide, as it attempts to boil down a dozen different variables into a one dimensional representation, but I suppose that you have to speak at a level your audience can understand. I wonder, though, how long it will be before the right-wing blogs start screaming for blood, since allowing that the Islamofascists are doing well is objectively pro-Islamofascist... In other news, I'm not sure what I think about the decision to withdraw from the blockades around Sadr City. Maliki clearly made the correct call from the Iraqi point of view, as furthering the disintegration of Baghdad's...
  • A PROPOSAL.

    A PROPOSAL. If we're going to play by Mark Halperin 's rules of mindless balance, then every news item about John Kerry 's hamfisted way with humor should be followed by a sentence something like this: "This is not the first time an important politician has been caught in what observers say is an act of disrespect for our troops." Which would then be followed by a description (in print) or the actual footage (on TV) of this . But this will not happen, because Halperin's a salon-sniffer with all the sincerity of a man who sells potions out of a wagon, and because an awful lot of the people you hear yukking it up on that video are the ones playing Don't Get The Joke from their fainting couches today. It's step-up time today, boys and girls. Are you going to play along with the bullshit controversy du jour or are you going to do your actual jobs? By all means, let's talk about Iraq for the next six days. --Charles P. Pierce

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