Saturday, March 30

Holy Weekend Olio: Miraculous Imprints Of The Inside Of Your Own Eyeballs Edition

• If there was a God She'd be way too embarrassed to allow this Shroud of Turin horseshit to come up year after year after fucking year. Q.E.D.

By the way, for extra laughs, there's the usually authoritative Wikipedia slog, which spends its entire "Science" section referring to people who don't believe this is the single, gosh-darned, authentic proof of something no one's ever found a scrap of other evidence for, in a couple thousand years of a billion people trying, as "skeptics". 

• Shorter Michael Gerson,  Fred Hiatt's Petting Zoo Sennightly:  All the gravestones at the American Normandy cemetery are either crosses or Stars of David. Things were much better then.
Those cheering the trend of religious disaffiliation should consider some broader social consequences. The rise of the nones is symptomatic of the decline of many forms of belonging. According to Pew, all of the recent growth in the nones has come among those who are not married. This indicates a group of people distrustful of institutions, with marriage being the most basic of institutions. The unaffiliated donate less to charity than do the affiliated. They participate in fewer volunteer organizations. Individualism can easily become atomization. Whatever else you may think of the communitarian creeds, they help create community.
Really, th' fuck happened to you people? How did religious observance turn into an infomercial? Yeah, there are a few crackpots out there like me, who like to poke you for praying on the hustings, and demanding Special Recognition for your own particular peccadilloes, but most people would be content to leave you alone to believe whatever it is you believe. Just turn the volume down, huh? It's for your own good

And, for the record, that's "the affiliated self-report donating more to charity. They also report attending church twice as often as they, uh, actually do. 

• Dear Lord, is it not simply enough to report that the title of this thing is "Time to stop hooking up. (You know you want to.)" ?

If not, then this is:
When I was an undergraduate at Georgetown University in the early 1990s, my roommate and I dressed up like prostitutes for Halloween. We bought fishnets, wore our tightest, sexiest clothes and sauntered out like we were the hottest girls alive.
I remember that night fondly, even though my feminist sensibilities cringe a little now. For me, that costume was a form of sexual experimentation. I chose to dress sexier than I ever had and to stretch the boundaries of what I considered acceptable. And back then, I didn’t know anyone else who had done it.
Yeah, back in the 90s, when everyone was prudish.

Half the damned research, you should pardon the expression, involves the rather obviously Catholic Freitas interviewing Catholic students at Catholic schools, and finding a distinction between what they do and what they say they believe, or "feel." Stop the Presses! Alert the Curia! Then blaming The Culture. One forgets, sometimes, just how valuable Commies were in their day. 

Dating is Dead! We might call this the Lawrence Welk Conundrum; the Welk Show's still playing on PBS, despite the fact that anyone who volunteered to watch that blend of de-sensualized music and blinding polyester hues the first time around is long since dead. That it still exists, and that the "Welk Stars" continue to pack 'em in in Branson, is to cultural studies what claims of mysterious scat piles are to Bigfoot. 

Why don't you fucking worry about guns? Or the economy? And not whether young adults like the sex, or have the sex, or might regret having the sex? Take it from someone who's had it more than once: it doesn't need the evil cachet of trendiness to recommend it.

• Pope washes female feet; crowd goes wild. Both fer and agin'. Wasn't this guy infallible as little as a week ago?  

Thursday, March 28

Kicking The Blind Elephant In The Room While It's Dead

Megan-Jane McArdle-Galt, "Why Gay Marriage Will Win, and Sexual Freedom Will Lose". March 26

LET'S deal with the fine print at the start:

• Yes, I know the entire internet has already hooted about this.

• Yes, I still hold that, in the case of Megan McArdle, it is impossible, whatever rich loam of unintentional self-parody she's spreading at the moment, to make sport of her one-hundredth as cutting as the fact that she chose "Jane Galt" as a nom de flume.

• There seems no possibility that "Megan McArdle" is a leg-pull.

• The only alternate explanation for her continued blipping on the most sensitive of our nation's radar screens, the idea that she's engaged in a lifetime effort to prove, redundantly, that the real point of Objectivism is that one needn't be able to write, or think, in order to do either, is mooted by the fact that her own attempts at communication make Ayn Rand sound like Tolstoy.

• "Why" continues to reign as the most indecipherable adverb in the history of English, for some reason.
In some sense, it doesn't really matter how the Supreme Court rules on the gay marriage case it's hearing today.

Yes. That would be the sense of "Republicans are up shit creek both without a paddle and in a canoe manufactured by a company Bain Capital took over".
The culture war is over on this front, and gay marriage has won.

Right. Just a little matter of forty-one state legislatures agreeing, not counting those with civil union laws that differ from their marriage laws. Including some which have enshrined heterosexual marriage in their constitutions, and/or prohibited themselves and their posterity from recognizing homo nups from other states. But I'm sure it'll all be cleared up by spring, if that ever gets here.
Even if it loses at the Supreme Court this term, it will win in the legislatures . . . because it is already winning in popular opinion.

As goes popular opinion, so goes the legislature.
Few people much under the age of sixty see a compelling reason that straights should marry and gays should not.

Yeah, and there are no young racists, either.  Today's maritime forecast: smooth sailing forever.
At this point, it's just a matter of time.  In some sense, the sexual revolution is over . . . and the forces of bourgeois repression have won.

I can't believe you just said that.
That's right, I said it:

No, see, Megan-Jane, the reason I couldn't believe you said it is it's so fucking stupid.
this is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality.  Once gays can marry, they'll be expected to marry.  And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats.

Megan-Jane, darlin', the practice of same-sex marriage was going on long before James Buchanan was a girl. We're just arguing over the legal recognition, okay? Now run along.
Wait until all those fabulous "confirmed bachelors" and maiden schoolteachers...

Oh dear God. Ladies and Gentlemen, and "Others", your new, hip, under-60, Tolerant America.
are expected to ditch their cute little one-bedrooms and join the rest of America in whining about crab grass, HOA restrictions, and the outrageous fees that schools want to charge for overnight soccer trips.

And people ask where the new Dennis Millers are supposed to come from.
I know, it feels like we're riding an exciting wave away from the moral dark ages and into the bright, judgement free future.  But moral history is not a long road down which we're all marching; it's more like a track.

Jesus Christ, my junk drawer is better organized than her brain.
Sometimes you're on the licentious, "anything goes" portion near the bleachers, and sometimes you're on the straight-and-narrow prudish bit in front of the press box.  Most of the time you're in between.  But you're still going in circles.  Victorian morality was an overreaction to the rather freewheeling period which proceeded it, which was itself an overreaction to Oliver Cromwell's puritanism.  (Cromwell actually did declare a War on Christmas, which he deemed to be sensuous paganism.)

"Victorian morality was an overreaction". Fuck a duck. While there's still time.
We've been moving away from the Victorian view of marriage for a long time, which means that we're probably due to circle back around the prudish front that drove Charles Dickens to lie when he left his wife for another woman.

And sleeve garters. Don't most people sink into a reverie about this when they're, oh, fifteen or so? And is that actually a contradiction in Megan's case?
The 1970s were an open revolt against the idea of the dutiful pair bond, in favor of a life of perpetual infatuation.  The elites led the way--and now they're leading it back.  Compare Newt Gingrich or John McCain to the new generation of Republican hopefuls.  Jindal, Ryan, Christie, Rubio . . . all of them are married to their first wives.  Jindal met his wife in high school, Christie in college.  By their age, McCain was preparing for his first divorce, and Gingrich was just a few years from his second.  

This is what made me read an entire McArdle piece. Because, even granting that Megan's grasp of the imaginary 70s is no better than her grasp of the imaginary 50s--and for the same reason--how th' fuck does anyone choose Newt Gingrich and John McCain as arbiters of 70s fashion? Especially seeing as how neither man made it to national semi-prominence, nor to divorce court, before that decade was up? What, you should pardon the expression, was the thought process here? Are those the only two divorced politicians McMegan can name? Or the only two she imagines as alive in the 70s? Did she pencil in Ronald Reagan before someone explained to her he actually would torpedo what passes for her argument, if she had one? Sheesh.

For fuck's sake, being divorced is still a bit of a political liability, and if you don't believe me, ask First Lady Cheri Daniels. This may go some way to explaining what "born after the horrors of Perpetual Infatuation" does not, namely, why a bunch of ambitious pols in the Family Values party might yet want to avoid Alimony. Not to mention the fact that Chris "Ladykiller" Christie is the only one of the bunch to've gone past 44, the age where McCain divorced his first wife, reportedly amicably, before running for office. Newton Leroy was 38, but that man had lots of travelin' to do, and knew it.

Is the argument that social morality is an Cosmic Hamster Wheel any smarter than that Henny Youngman routine about why should The Straights suffer alone?

No.

And for the record, Megan, why th' fuck do you care?

Wednesday, March 27

Marital Aides

OKAY, so I'm hardly the only person who wishes Tout le Beltway would just shut th' fuck up. And marriage equality is hardly the only issue where I'd appreciate compliance. But, really, just shut th' fuck up.

I don't wanna hear about "how rapidly public opinion has changed." Public opinion is an ass, kept around to do mule work when you people need it. Ten or fifteen or forty or fifty years of denying civil rights has gone on with your help. Hell, Ralph Fucking Reed is still on the Sundays, and if there's a stronger argument against the existence of a benevolent God at the moment I can't think of it. If th' teevee news had had the balls to call this--or much else--as it is, it's a good bet those Americans whose opinions are changing fast enough to make their heads spin, assuming their heads are involved in their decisions, would have been forced to make the choice years ago.

But we couldn't treat gay rights as an ethical slash legal problem with a pretty straightforward answer in The Land of Freedom because the Republican party wanted to use it as an issue. Now that much of the party's "intellectual" platoon wants out from under the clear Public Good of marriage equality has suddenly become inevitable, somehow, "no matter what the Court decides."

Fuck that. This is getting on the right side of history before it rips a hole in your pocket. (Fuck the Clintons, while we're at it.)  Go on insisting that politicians aren't supposed to show courage, or independent thought, if you want. Just don't hand 'em a Bush Presidential Medal of Approval after the fact.

The Republican party cannot live without its Backwoods Bronze Age wing. At least not on election day. It's in desperate need of cover. Unlike forty years ago, it doesn't have a race card to play. It wants to do nothing and be applauded for its progressiveness. Talking about how public opinion has transformed itself, or how cool and happenin' all the Youngs are, ignores who made all this necessary.

Half the population of the country is having its established Constitutional right to reproductive freedom eaten away on an almost daily basis; there's a pretty clear consensus about that as well, as if that mattered. But the Republican party still wants to use that one. So does the Catholic Church. Start getting on the right side of that, motherfuckers.

Sunday, March 24

"Needs More Rationality" Says Noted Climate-Change Denier

George Eff Will, "The Republican 'Reformation'". March 22

SO let's take a moment to look at, and laugh at, the current Republican makeover, before it's forgotten. It's the ninth major one since 1964, by my count, which puts it only two down to Joan Rivers (the Goldwater "Reformation", the Nixon "Reformation", the People Who Are Desperate Enough To Cling To Dick "I Am Not A Crook" Nixon "Reformation" (heeeere's your host, Father John McLaughlin), the Reagan /Backwoods Superstition "Permanent Coalition", the Klintoon Kock-sniffers Klub, the Carrier Landing Appreciation Society, the Support the Troops/They Give Purple Hearts for Paper Cuts Craze, and, of course, Teabagging). So that's four in the past decade, or just a bit more, suggesting that "Conservatism" is catching up with the pace of modern life, the same way modern life is catching up with "Conservatism's" hurtling insanity.

Obviously, there are better places to chuckle over this stuff than a George Eff Will Joint. For one thing, it's a lot funnier coming from Rinse Primus, or David Brooks, or Weigel, guys who are young and/or venal enough to take it seriously. Or pretend to, which, in "Conservative" circles, amounts to the same thing.

On the other hand, none of that really matters; the GOP has remained the Party of Goldwater since 1964. It's still the party of business avarice on the Western states model, the party of opposing gubment spending and gubment interference while soaking up much more than its share of its fellow citizens' tax dollars. It's still the party of class and racial animosity, still the party of big-ticket Defense spending and international paranoia. It's still the party of God, Guns, and More God and Guns. As the issues have changed the stated reasons for the positions have changed, but the positions themselves haven't budged.
[T]inkering with the party’s political process is no substitute for improving the party’s political substance. No nominating process featuring an array of candidates as weak and eccentric as the Republicans’ 2012 field would have produced a much better result. So the party must begin whatever 2016 process it devises by fielding better candidates...

That, by the way, is the last paragraph, not the first.
Because of the grotesquely swollen place the presidency now occupies in the nation’s governance and consciousness, we are never not preoccupied with presidential campaigning. The Constitution’s Framers would be appalled.

Thank God there's still one man left who can speak for them.
The nation reveres the Framers but long ago abandoned the presidential selection process they considered so important that they made it one of the four national institutions created by the Constitution.

Doncha just love this sort of argument? As though the every word in the Constitution was unanimously agreed upon, just like the King James Version? The method of selection of the Executive was as fraught and contentious as the nature of the Executive itself. The Electoral College appeared, disappeared, and returned; a special compromise committee took up the question and essentially split the difference, pleasing no one; at the eleventh hour the matter was decided, based on separate proposals from Roger Sherman and Hugh Williamson. By the way, if America reveres the Framers so, I'd like to see how many of its citizens could pick either of those two out of a lineup.

As far as the Framers being appalled at how low we've sunk at this point, well, the good news is that they didn't really have to wait. The system never worked the way it was envisioned. It's the subject of the 12th amendment, ratified in 1804. Of the 660 words in Article II, Section 1, 368 are now superseded. It's only political lethargy and self-interest that's kept the Electoral College around our necks at all.
Now, responding to the fact that the 2012 nomination process was ruinously protracted, the Republican National Committee (RNC) suggests reforms that might, like many improvements, make matters worse. This is because of a prior “improvement” — campaign finance reform.

I'm old enough that any time a Republican brings up "unintended consequences" these days I just sit back and admire the ability to keep a straight face.
The RNC report does not challenge the role of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in beginning the delegate selection. Perhaps it is not worth the trouble to challenge these states’ anachronistic entitlement; like all entitlements, it is fiercely defended by the beneficiaries. But a reform process that begins by accepting this crucial component of the status quo substantially limits possibilities. By the time these four states have had their say, the field of candidates often has been considerably — and excessively — winnowed, and the outcome is, if not settled, given a trajectory that is difficult to alter.

Yeah, it's always disappointing when a clamor of politicians behaves less that bravely. That said, what exactly is the problem here? Iowa is overrepresented, to be sure; it's also full of religious nuts, which means it resembles the party as a whole. Mitt Romney won the 2012 primaries going right through that path. He was what passed for the rational candidate. George Bush won in 2000. 2008 is when you had problems, and frankly, George, they're you're fucking problems. The fact that Michele Bachmann can become a Serious Candidate in Iowa, or Rick Santorum win it, or Newt Gingrich win South Carolina seems less a problem with who gets to go early than with the sort of loon your party lovingly incubates.

The Early Winnowed List in 2012 consists of Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. Neither was going to be the nominee regardless. If y'all imagine you were deprived of Mitch Daniels, Miracle Candidate because he couldn't make it through the early primaries, well 1) he wasn't ever gonna run anyway and, 2) you couldn't have started in Indiana, and landscaped the rest of the race so it all ran downhill, and had the man win. He's a terrific liar, but an egomaniacal one; those Romney flips, flops, and flys were beyond him. Plus he's like four foot eleven.

In 2008, when the disaster in the primaries mirrored the disaster of the GOP, you lost Duncan Hunter and Rudy Giuliani early. That was a net positive.
Supporters of Sen. Rand Paul, or of any other candidate thoroughly unenthralled by the policies and procedures that have resulted in Republicans losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, are understandably suspicious of any proposed changes that might tilt the nomination process against the least known and less-lavishly funded candidates. They are especially apt to squint disapprovingly at the RNC’s suggestion of regional primaries.

'Course they could just get out the vote. Just kiddin'.
The party, however, must balance two imperatives. One is the need to enlarge the number of voters participating in the process. Hence the suggestion that primaries should replace all nominating caucuses and conventions — events where ideologically motivated activists and insurgent candidates can more easily predominate.

Maybe you could warm up by making the party more inclusive first. Just kiddin'.

Seems to me I recall howls of urban-legend-motivated red-meat Republicans that members of the Democrat party were voting in Republican primaries last time. But, fuck, you're gonna have to deal with nuts, whichever way you turn.
The party’s second imperative is to preserve opportunities for less-known and financially challenged candidates to break through. This is where government restrictions on campaign contributions restrict the range of candidates from which voters can choose.

Oh, do go on.
Existing restrictions on large contributions to candidates are commonly called “post-Watergate” reforms. This is more accurate as a matter of chronology than causality. Democrats began advocating contribution, as well as spending, limits years before Watergate concluded in 1974. They were appalled that large contributions from a few wealthy liberals made possible Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 antiwar insurgency against President Lyndon Johnson and propelled George McGovern’s doomed nomination in 1972.

Anybody seen Dita Beard lately?
Suppose political contributing were deregulated, which would deregulate political speech, the dissemination of which is the principal use of campaign contributions. This would make it easier to design a more compressed nominating process, with a reduced role for the first four states, which also would allow marginal candidates a financial opportunity to fight their way into the top tier of candidates.

Oh, I get it. Without campaign finance restrictions, every billionaire nutcase can fund his own Michele Bachmann. Which the more well-funded campaigns would be powerless to respond to.

I know, I know. Tough to find common ground when the problem is the bulk of your party is flat-out certifiable, when the rest of the country has started to wise up to it, and you've nowhere to go because you've been fluffing the nut jobs since 1964. Maybe you should just start preparing now to do nothing. You know, like always. No worries.

Friday, March 22

Comedy Central

Peggy Noonan, "Noonan: Can the Republican Party Recover From Iraq?" March 21

AH, yet another delicate, pastel-shaded rendering of the inside of her own eyeballs:
The air has been full of 10th-anniversary Iraq war retrospectives. One that caught my eye was a smart piece by Tom Curry, national affairs writer for NBC News, who wrote of one element of the story, the war's impact on the Republican party: "The conflict not only transformed" the GOP, "but all of American politics." 
It has, but it's an unfinished transformation.
Yes, in that there's still a Republican party.
Here, offered in a spirit of open debate...

Leave us not neglect the canap├ęs on our way to the roast. "Criticism" of the Republican party (which lov'd not wisely but too well, natch) is offered in "the spirit of open debate", unlike her criticism of Democrats, Liberals, or the Left, assuming there's a distinction, which is offered in the spirit of a shit shower from an Angry God. This must be noted lest Peg's regulars think she's turned traitor. One of those "criticisms" will be that Iraq quashed debate within the Republican party.  To the extent, evidently, that now, a decade later, fully-formed adults have to be warned before they run into one.
is what the war did to the GOP: 
• It ruined the party's hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn't win it. It was longer and costlier by every measure than the Bush administration said it would be. Before Iraq, the GOP's primary calling card was that it was the party you could trust in foreign affairs. For half a century, throughout the Cold War, they were serious about the Soviet Union, its moves, feints and threats. Republicans were not ambivalent about the need for and uses of American power, as the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s, but neither were they wild. After Iraq it was the Republicans who seemed at best the party of historical romantics or, alternatively, the worst kind of cynic, which is an incompetent one. 
+10 for saying "they didn't win". And the usual "-10 to the power of Reagan" for the using the risible PR mantras the GOP's been using for the last sixty-five years and calling it "probity".

A thing is not true just because you are, or pretend to be, serious about it. Especially you. You may believe in the Cold War all you wish, but it was largely manufactured and cynically exploited, fed--on this side of the Big Ditch--by the American habits of xenophobia and talking to ourselves. The historical record is pretty clear on this. There wasn't any International Communist Conspiracy. The Testament of Peter the Great is a fraud. The Red Army was at least a match for the Allied forces at the end of WWII, but technologically it was always behind, and grew more so through the 50s and 60s. They weren't Nice Guys Defending the Honest Working Man, to be sure. But they had every reason to be just as suspicious of us. And that was exploited for domestic political gain, by both major parties, but it was the Right which agitated for Holy War. Lyndon Johnson knew that the Vietnam war was unwinnable--hell, we'd been at it a decade by the time it fell in his lap--but he also knew that being "the guy who lost Vietnam"--like Truman "lost" China--was political death.

Quemoy and Matsu, Peg. Quemoy and Matsu. If that's foreign-affairs probity you and I need to start speaking separate languages. Assuming we aren't already.
Iraq marked a departure in mood and tone from past conservatism.

Flummery. There's a direct line to the Spanish American War, if you can be bothered picking up a pencil. And every minor grievance since, real or imagined. There's certainly a broad highway from the post-Vietnam rewriting of history, which was largely a "conservative" enterprise, to the "we're invincible so long as we try" routine here.

And, by the way, how 'bout y'all just quit hiding once and for all? Particularly behind this notion of "conservatism" as the most principled money-making scheme in human history.
• It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation. No Burkean prudence or respect for reality was evident. Ronald Reagan hated the Soviet occupation of the Warsaw Pact countries—really, hated the oppression and violence. He said it, named it, and forced the Soviets to defend it. He did not, however, invade Eastern Europe to liberate it. He used military power sparingly. He didn't think the right or lucky thing would necessarily happen. His big dream was a nuclear-free world, which he pursued daringly but peacefully.

Burkean prudence. For Pete's sake. Reagan bombed the Soviet Union, may I remind you, in front of a microphone and facetiously, like all his best work.

Yes, Ronald Reagan prudently did not invade Eastern Europe, same as every Cold War President since Truman. But Reagan is to be particularly recognized for not having attempted the suicidally impossible, because his rhetoric was bat-shit crazier'n Nixon's.
• It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980. This has had untold consequences, and not only in foreign affairs. And that ascendance was hard-earned. By 2006 Republicans had lost the House, by 2008 the presidency. Curry quotes National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru at a recent debate at the American Enterprise Institute: "You could make the argument that the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Washington was the Iraq War, at least a stage of the Iraq War, 2005-06." In 2008 a solid majority of voters said they disapproved of the war. Three-quarters of them voted for Barack Obama.

I dunno; I don't think Ramesh Ponnuru is totally wrong enough. I'm waiting until Bill Kristol weighs in.

Here's another place you need to stop hiding Peg: behind the idea that elections equal objective truth, so long as you win them. Also, behind the idea that the clock doesn't start ticking until you recognize--or admit--something.

2005-2006? That's merely the point at which liars like Ponnuru, flacks like David Brooks, or religious ecstatics like yourself could no longer pretend everything was working out just fine.

A lot of the rest of us noticed "Six months, tops" had expired "Sixteen months, minimum" previously.

Let's just take a gander at that timeline, huh? The war began in Basra. Basra was considered to be a sweet, sweet walkover (they're Shi'a! proclaimed the most literate among you, which did not include your then-sainted President, who didn't know the difference). So much so that we let the Brits handle walking in on rose pedals while we prepared for the tough stuff; Basra was a sort of Pacific War of Iraq. It was supposed to be over in a day. I'm not making that up. Took two weeks. In retrospect, it's too bad we couldn't stick to the 14:1 ratio for the rest of the thing.

That first night we also announced that Shock 'n' Awe had, not certainly, but almost positively probably killed Saddam Hussein in his golden bed. A tell like that costs you your pants elsewhere.

Then, for no fucking military reason whatsoever, we managed to outrun our supply lines on Day Two, but, fortunately, PFC Jessica Lynch, the Pat Tillman of Iraq*, single-handedly wiped out a battalion, or something.

Then we took Baghdad, and realized we'd only brought enough MPs to guard the Oil Ministry. Fortunately, Don Rumsfeld was there to explain to us that that's how it goes.

That fall a few dead-enders turned up to flummox the United States military with improvised WWI weapons.

Sadly, after that, things went downhill. Enough so that a couple years later Ramesh Ponnuru noticed.

As to what grand plan Karl Rove had to turn this into the Permanent Republican Majority, well, you're soaking in it.
• It undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship. War is costly. No one quite knows or will probably ever know the exact financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is interesting in itself. Some estimates put it at $1 trillion, some $2 trillion. Mr. Curry cites a Congressional Budget Office report saying the Iraq operation had cost $767 billion as of January 2012. Whatever the number, it added to deficits and debt, and along with the Bush administration's domestic spending helped erode the Republican Party's reputation for sobriety in fiscal affairs.

Which belonged on a bumpersticker, assuming you could fit it next to "Probity in Foreign Affairs". Unless you mean to give credit to Ronald Reagan for bravely quadrupling the National Debt while being so stalwartly agin' it.
• It quashed debate within the Republican Party. Political parties are political; politics is about a fight. The fight takes place at the polls and in debate. But the high stakes and high drama of the wars—and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11—stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal.

Yeah, unlike nothing we'd ever seen before from you.
A conservative movement that had prided itself, in the 1970s and 1980s, on its intellectualism—"Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas," marveled New York's Democratic senator Pat Moynihan in 1979—seemed no longer capable of an honest argument.

Yeah. Right out of th' blue. Sad, sad day.
• It killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment. This was not entirely a loss, to say the least. But establishments exist for a reason: They're supposed to function as The Elders, and sometimes they're actually wise.

Well, then. No worries.
All this of course is apart from the central tragedy, which is the human one—the lost lives, the wounded, the families that will now not be formed, or that have been left smaller, and damaged.

Oh, and I suppose Colin Powell convinced you that wasn't gonna happen either, right?


_______________

* May God bless 'em both.

Thursday, March 21

A Sugared Turd Is Still Not A Tootsie-Roll

David Ignatius, "Ten years later, recalling Iraq's hard lessons". March 20

YESTERDAY, as you no doubt already know, Pierce introduced Young Ezra to the concept of withering fire in a way America's wars never will.

Anyway, hidden amongst the chaff from Charlie's winnowing I found this bit of floss:
Wasn’t one lesson of the Iraq War that we had simply been far too confident in the American military’s capacity to invade, occupy and rebuild a complex, volatile society that we could never hope to truly understand?

Well, no.

And, no, because none of you had the slightest interest or concern about "occupying and rebuilding" a complex and volatile society like Iraq, or a simple and volatile society like Afghanistan, for that matter. Not you, Yglesias (who at least jumped off the wagon early), Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, nor the Wise Young'uns at Slate. We were just gonna roll 'em over, and God and the natural inclination of Man to seek Suburban Burgherhood would do the rest. You were interested in being Serious, as Pierce says, and in not being on the wrong side of the Quagmire metaphor. You didn't want to be anti-war hippies, or otherwise unfashionable.  If there'd been the slightest concern for the "re-building" of either Iraq or Afghanistan we'd'a known what the Plan was before people like you signed on with the Cakewalkers and the Six Months Toppers and the Dead-Ender Spotting Society.

You demonstrated what my cabbie used to say to me: "Dog, you're gonna be doomed to repeat history if you don't learn from it, but there's a fuckload a' volunteers to learn a little and repeat it anyway."

"I was a callow youth," isn't much of an excuse for a callow youth.  No such excuse is available to Ignatius.
Ten years ago this week, I was covering the U.S. military as it began its assault on Iraq. As I read back now over my clips, I see a few useful warnings about the difficulties ahead. But I owe readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense.

The great thing about following politics, even haphazardly, as I do, is how it offers you a convenient way to test your sense of smell without a visit to the doctor.

And your cynicism. It's reassuring to me, for example, that I am not yet ready to Just Fucking Chuckle every time I hear this new development in the Non-Apology Apology: the Apology Non-Apology.
Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history.

1) Define "modern". 2) Claiming we invaded Iraq "to topple Saddam Hussein" is already cheating, Dave.
We’ll never know whether the story might have been different if better planning had been done for “the day after,” or the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, or several other “ifs.”

Yeah, like we'll never know how Vietnam would'a turned out if only They had let us win.

Let us say, first, that what did qualify as "planning" for "the day after", as brought to you by Bush & Cheney--in fairness, they were awful busy at the time figuring the best route to Damascus, Tehran, and making sure all our Boys in Morocco and Bulgaria and Who Knows Where had plenty of water, and boards--suggests that no fucking amount of planning in the world with those guys behind it would have made things any better.

Now, on to this blog's official PowerPoint™ About War Planning:

1) The best time to invade Iraq is early spring. Summer and winter are sandstorm season.

2) Early autumn would work almost as well, probably, but in 2002/2003 it was less feasible politically, and certainly less feasible militarily, after Afghanistan.

3) The Bush administration was determined to invade Iraq. The best guess as to when this was decided is "1999 or 2000, shortly after Bush was anointed nominee by the party Fathers." The best time politically to've penciled that in for is "March, 2003", because that A) gave the first two years for them to get their ducks in a row; B) finessed any charge of Wagging the Dog, which had been used on Bill Clinton during the previous election (that is, 1998); C) gave a considerable cushion to the Six Months Tops required to secure the place, just in case, while bringing The Boys home in time for that Million Dollar Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue at the start of landslide season.

Tell me that you know no one in the Bush administration could possibly have been that devious. Tell me they wouldn't have sent Americans into harm's way for temporal political gain.

Is there is some other explanation for why we rushed into Iraq we way we did (with, I remind you, one-third the force needed, unarmored Humvees, and no use of Turkish territory)? Because our option on Ahmed Chalabi was gonna run out in December? Because State and Defense had surveillance photos of that ICBM complex? Once again, despite everyone's best efforts, the cashiering of Eric Shinseki, and the reports of Hans Blix, were public knowledge even in this country.
As I think back to the crucible of 2003, two remarks made by Arab friends stand out particularly. One was from a Lebanese Shiite who supported the war, but on the condition that America was resolute enough to finish what it was starting. “If Rome is strong, the provinces are ready,” my friend said.

"There's $36.50 on the meter, Mac. You want I should wait?"
America’s military power, awesome as it was, turned out to be insufficient to impose a settlement in Iraq; and in a grinding war of occupation, all our might could not turn on the electricity in Baghdad or frighten Sunnis and Shiites into cooperating with each other.

Yeah, it's just totes unfair when an awesome military isn't enough. But how could we know? It's not like we remembered Korea, or Vietnam, or Lebanon, or Detroit….
The United States didn’t have the stomach for a protracted war that President George W. Bush couldn’t explain and the public didn’t understand.

Yeah, it's the fucking public's fault it fell for it. Unlike The Media, which did understand, but just understood wrong.

The United States did not have sufficient manpower required by its own operating manuals. It would have taken five years to raise that level through voluntary enlistment. The American public was gung-ho for the war, a situation which would have imploded immediately had we instituted a draft; why, when Charlie Rangel introduced a bill to do so all fucking hell broke loose.

Under the circumstances it was up to the President to proceed wisely. Wow, talk about Irony having nine lives, huh?
Another lesson is the importance of dignity in the Arab world. Most Iraqis despised Saddam because, in addition to torturing their sons and daughters, he had taken their dignity. But many came to loathe America, as well, because for all our talk of democracy, we damaged their sense of honor and independence. As the Arab world proves over and over, from Palestine to Benghazi, people who are penniless in terms of material possessions would rather die than lose their sense of honor to outsiders.

Jesus F. Buckley, maybe you should cut down on the reality teevee, Dave.

This feeling of knowing everything, even--maybe especially--when we've fucked everything beyond recognition, do you imagine that could have played a role? We had the Arab Psyche all sussed from inside the Beltway in 2003, too.
A final lesson is the benefit of persistence. Bush made a disastrous mistake invading Iraq in 2003. But having busted up the country, he tried his best to clean up the mess. By checking the spiraling sectarian killing, the surge of U.S. troops led by Bush and Gen. David Petraeus saved thousands of Iraqi lives. It’s one thing Americans did right in this painful story.

You'll forgive me, Dave, for questioning my betters; I know I don't have the expert's credentials on Iraq, since I wasn't wrong about everything. But I'm going to believe this when someone proves it, and not before. To my thinking, in 2007, with nothing left to lose, having taken a Cakewalk and turned it into a Nightmare Hellscape, having suffered an historic defeat in the midterm elections (though, luckily for him, to the Democrats), George W. Bush, probably facing considerable pressure from his party, yielded to reality and the best advice of his military advisors, put the guy who wrote the manual in charge of insurgent warfare, and pretty much let all Iraq know we were quit of the place as soon as we could get out, and we weren't gonna be raining death on any more cities in the interim. I know I'm a bastard for suggesting it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of American dollars--not as many as Jerry Bremer misplaced, but still--found their way to the right leaders. I suspect we started protecting Sunni towns and neighborhoods that we'd benignly neglected to that point. And we may've done a little fiddling, here or there, to keep the death toll out of the papers. I know, it's a shocking thing to think about Uncle Sam, but I've said it. The "surge" didn't bring our troop levels up to original invasion numbers, and most of our Willing partners had already turned French*. But, miraculously, "surging" had saved the day. After, you know, longer than it took us to win WWII.

"Surging" also brought our combat numbers up to where we could still defend ourselves, by basically keeping every able-bodied man and woman in country forever. I think one thing you can say the American public eventually figured out is that enlistment meant permanent deployment. So it caught up with the Ezras and the Joshes, and the Jonahs, in other words.


___________

* I'm not given to nostalgia, but Anniversaries and all: remember when we made it known that when the French pretended to see the light and join in on our glorious victory we weren't gonna let 'em?

Wednesday, March 20

Wednesday Olio: I Don't Care, 'Cause I'm All Right Edition


"Why are we supposed to have sympathy for rapists?"

We aren't.

Williams' point is that justice needs to be tempered with mercy, which, y'know, fills out the column inches, tells us nothing we did not know before the plague of the cellphone, and has nothing to do with the Steubenville Case, where two young men were tried as juveniles, which is mercy enough for most people.

The reason we were asked to feel for the loss of football glory is a helluva lot more important story than what's left of Christian charity. What counts as news is largely determined by how it affects the upper and upper-middle classes who report it. The sort of people who have, for the last thirty-five years, anyway, seen property rights as superior to personal rights. And whose sons and daughters occupy an analogous position to the Big Red football team in Steubenville, except with more expensive cars and cellphones: Above the Law.

Meanwhile, a drunken slut is just a drunken slut. Unless she's your daughter, probably.

No, Candy Crowley is certainly no rape apologist. She's just another shill for the dominant Rich Man's version of reality, in which the laws are for you and your'n, not him and his'n, and the energetic young Bootstrapper or Cleatlacer is worth twelve riffs and a dozen raffs.

(And by the way, whatever godawful program my Poor Wife was listening to last night replayed Crowley's comments with an ugly edit removing "essentially" in "found guilty of rape, essentially."  I guess that one couldn't be explained away.)

 "What Republicans Mean When They Accuse Tom Perez of 'Paying a $180 Million Bribe' ".

They mean they've found a ball of shit, with chunks of Th' Reverse Racism, and an Obama nominee to hurl it at. Savings: 763 words.

Lord, speaking of Weigel, won't some wingnut sinecure take him away while he's still sentient? Sheesh:
Plenty of journalists have used this anniversary, 10 years since the invasion of Iraq, to reflect on whether they got it right. I wasn't a professional journalist at the time -- I was a 21-year old college student -- but I found a way to absolutely get it wrong. My mistake was to believe the official stories of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and of the Bush administration's plans and cost estimates. The lesson I took away from this? Never trust these people. Never trust official estimates. Always question the agenda behind any government campaign.

You were an upperclassman at an academically-respected private university, editor of the Conservative-Libertarian scandal sheet, and it was sometime later you learned the government might lie to you. To promulgate a war. With dummied-up intel and assurances from Mitch Daniels which were widely discredited. But you "[could] read the same information…and come to different conclusions." The wrong ones. Have you gone back since to look for that trail of breadcrumbs reaching back to the Cold War? Or the Republican war on the New Deal? Maybe your takeaway should'a been to question yourself a little closer, Dave. Don't trust the government? Unless it's Michele Bachmann, dazzling the Republican primary debates? Or Rand Paul, filibustering scintillatingly? Trust the Anti-Government government?

• Speaking of The Bantam Menace, the Rapping has come to the Midwest:

video


I think it's his best work. Since Iraq, at least.


Tuesday, March 19

Welcome Liberators!


HEY, at least you all finally got the Anniversary Terrorist Attack you've been predicting for the last ten-and-a-half years.

I've seen that Saddam Statue Toppled video four times now, and it's just 8:30. No irony, no mention that the goddam thing was a fake, designed to help sell The Worst Product Of The Past Decade. I watched a panel on Morning Joe talk about "whether it was worth it". It was made up of people who were war cheerleaders a decade ago. There's a surprise. 

Got to watch them run a piece about how John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi were For the War Before They Were Against It, Neener Neener. No clips in there of MSNBC war flogging. No shots of Keith Olbermann in battle dress. 

Gee, I hope Slate's got the whole gang together to talk about how they got it wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have said that without looking first. Happy Anniversary, you Fucking Fucks. 





Monday, March 18

Tales Of Newsroom Diversity

video

ACTUAL quote from actual human being Lisa Green concerning two convictions for rape where charges, let alone convictions, might not have obtained but for the posting of cellphone images:
But y'know in the end, a cautionary tale for teenagers and their parents: memorializing your every move and then sharing it with people on the web can be a tragic mistake for everyone involved."
"A reminder tonight for parents and sexually-active teenagers: condoms do more than just protect against unwanted pregnancy." 

"But y'know in the end, a cautionary tale about choosing a study limb before tying someone to it."

"It can't be stressed enough: the modern garbage disposal is not powerful enough for human remains."

Hey, maybe we could get the two perps to make a PSA! "Don't rape. But if you do rape, don't spread pictures all around your school. I learned my lesson the hard way."

Jeez Louise, this follows CNN's Candy Crowley, Fredricka Whitfield, and Poppy Harlow all expressing sorrow at the damage to two promising football careers. Crowley:
You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim. 

The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they're 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What's the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?
Rape essentially. Not really rape. But rapey-ness. 

Oh, I'm sure none of them was condoning rape! Just explain to me how those words come out of someone's mouth. Green had hours to prepare for a one-minute segment supposedly discussing the "social media" angle, because that sorta thing is big with the coveted 18-25 demo. In fairness, much of that time must have gone into figuring how to avoid any suggestion that charges might not've been brought at all if it weren't for outside agitation; in the end they just had Lester announce it.

While we're at it: CNN repeatedly referred to the victim as "drunk" or "drunken", rather than the more accurate "out cold." The defense of Steubenville LE has conveniently omitted its complete disinterest in the illegal use, procurement, or provision of alcoholic beverages, as well as a goddam crowd's disinterest in the girl's parlous physical condition; threatened prosecution of either might have loosened some tongues. I was also amused by the recurring theme that Steubenville's "tough economic times" encouraged people to rally 'round the hopeful symbol of high school football. Y'know, they're riding out the downturn pretty well in Carmel, Indiana, which didn't seem to stop them from treating forceable sodomy by object on a basketball team bus as just a right of passage, and no one else's bidness. Essentially.

Sunday, March 17

The Best Measure Of The Misery Of CPAC Lies In The Contemplation Of Its Marvels

David Weigel, "What Does a Smart Person Do at CPAC? Follow Derek Khanna, the GOP wunderkind that the House Republicans were too stupid to keep around." March 15

YOUTHQUAKE!
Four months ago, while working for the House Republican Study Committee, Khanna put out a memo on the deeply un-sexy topic of copyright law. Intellectual property rights, wrote Khanna, were viewed as pure capitalism, when they should be treated as a government monopoly at its worst. The memo was retracted; Khanna was out of the RSC. David Brooks was merely the most famous pundit heralding Khanna as a brave new wonk, punished for an idea that “differed from the usual lobbyist-driven position.”

Intellectual property laws are theft. The sort of big idea that'll have the Republican party back on top in no time.

Look, there should be a bottomless well of schadenfreude available to anyone who's lived through the last thirty-five years of right-wing atrocities. And in fact there is. But I'll be damned if I can find the tiniest interest in the Hip Young Libertoonians Who Know How To Use The Internet congratulating themselves for being the New Teabagger Party. Call me when this wins something. Call me when they're no longer delusional.
We know what the people in funny hats and Palin masks do at CPAC. We know all about the holdouts—ready for study or museum display at this point—who still laugh at Ann Coulter’s jokes. We know that William Temple, the “Tea Party patriot” who dresses in revolutionary-era garb and carries a Gadsden flag signed by Michele Bachmann, will make his Zelig way into every photo. 
So what does the wise young wonk do at CPAC? Khanna is going to find out, because he’s been coming here for years, as a typical young Republican. 
Interesting fact: losing elections with Ann Coulter, William Temple, and Michele Bachmann--the Minnesota Congresswoman who's all bats and no belfry, and whose Presidential debate performances so impressed that Young Slate libertoonian whose name escapes me--does not mean you're going to win without them.
... a consumer rights group called Fan Freedom, devoted to unwinding the regulations that cover ticket sales. “We just had a good hearing in Minnesota,” he says, and he hands me a brochure with the Fan Freedom logo of a righteous fist grabbing a ticket and some equally righteous slogans: 
We believe we have the right to buy, give away or sell tickets however we choose, anytime we choose, in any way we choose, at any price we choose.
Interesting fact: scalping tickets is perfectly legal in Indiana. Except if you're within a mile of the venue for something really big, like the Super Bowl or the NCAA basketball tournament. Those are exceptions to Freedom! enacted by Republican state legislatures because the NFL and the NCAA were leaking enough juice to light up the city, and told them to do it. I love how you guys imagine that Capitalists are on your side.
Khanna takes the opportunity to wonder whether his unlocked phone will get him arrested at a congressional hearing on unlocking. It’s a rare note of pessimism, because this has been a pretty solid week for his issues. Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster on drone policy, for example, that revealed GOP enthusiasm for something the media didn’t know how to cover.

"Conservative hypocrisy?" I think they know how to cover it, in theory. They just don't wanna.
And, fuck, do you really imagine you'd be better off if they did?
“When I was at the RSC, we put out a report on drones and included a section in there about the assassination of American citizens,” he says. “I have an academic article coming out—I presented it at the Atlantic Council—about how drone warfare really empowers the executive branch. I’ve been very concerned about that, very concerned about the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki.”

You're a twenty-five year old hair-gel model with an eye towards a career in politics, who, when he "put out that report" was working for the very people who funded the program.

I don't remember who it was said of the '64 Civil Rights Act that "if they turned out the lights they wouldn't get twenty-five votes". But I do know that the principled Republican opposition to remote-control warfare can't survive turning off the teevee lights.
We cruise through the exhibit hall quickly, stopping only for Khanna to catch up with libertarian columnist David Harsanyi (“Let’s talk”) and with National Tax Foundation staffers who are excited for Khanna’s upcoming panel. 
“I’m talking about a balanced-budget amendment that originates in the states,” he says.
“Phyllis Schlafly’s talking tomorrow, right?” asks the tax staffer, next to a mini putting green decorated with suggestions for possible spending cuts. “For some reason, she’s opposed to that.” 
“Oh, it would be great if she took us on in her speech!” says Khanna.
Libertarian Young Turks: Overcoming Forty Years of Phyllis Schlafly! ™

And a Balanced Budget Amendment originating with the states! I smell dynasty! Sheesh, it's like you all decided that the problem with the Republican brand is that it needs to update the imaginary past it's trying to create.
Khanna wasn’t a particularly starry-eyed young conservative. “I was in the room at CPAC 2008, when Mitt Romney dropped out of the race,” he says. “I was devastated. Everyone I was with was devastated. John McCain was the next speaker on the schedule. So I went back in the room and my friends [who supported Romney] were like—Are you serious? Already?”

Keen Political Insights, 25¢.

Jeez Louise, the salient difference between John McCain as a national candidate and Mitt Romney as a national candidate is that McCain's utter inexplicability can at least be attributed to torture by the North Vietnamese.
The showiest moment in his old College Republican days was a “filibuster” to save the conservative newspaper on campus. He thought the paper was idiotic; he just didn’t want to see it shut down because it offended people.

Now you mention it, that's just the sort of political instinct the Republican party has been missing.

Saturday, March 16

Grow Up, Shut Up, Give Up, Or Dry Up

George Eff Will, "The shaky science behind same-sex marriage". March 15

IN the spirit of the thing let's begin with two "social science" questions. One: at the height of their swoony-ness, what effect did a personal appearance by Sinatra, or Elvis, have on the promiscuity of a town's teenaged girl population? And, two: is it possible to determine if this is the exact effect the proximity of CPAC has had on George Eff Will?

(Speaking of which, since the national networks didn't find that guy who suggested that Frederick Douglass should have enclosed a check covering his room and board in that Thank You note he wrote Massa even 1% as newsworthy as Ward Churchill or Jeremiah Wright, my favorite CPAC moment was Andrea Fucking Mitchell opining that "the people inside the room needed to find a way to connect with the people outside the room". As though this constituted a brave critique, and as though renouncing the very foundation of the organization wasn't the only possible way to do that.)
When on March 26 the Supreme Court hears oral arguments about whether California’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the constitutional right to “equal protection of the laws,” these arguments will invoke the intersection of law and social science. The court should tread cautiously, if at all, on this dark and bloody ground.

As opposed to invoking the intersection of law and religious tenet, which is an excuse to dance like a drunkard.
The Obama administration says California’s law expresses “prejudice” that is “impermissible.” But same-sex marriage is a matter about which intelligent people reasonably disagree, partly because so little is known about its consequences.

Talking about the "consequences" of same-sex marriage isn't proof of reasonable disagreement. If anything, it's proof of not having engaged the argument.
When a federal judge asked the lawyer defending California’s ban what harm same-sex marriage would do to the state’s interests in “the procreation purpose” of heterosexual marriage, the lawyer said, “I don’t know.” This was mistakenly portrayed as a damaging admission. Both sides should acknowledge that, so far, no one can know.

When did we all agree that the state has an interest in "the procreative purpose"? The question doesn't apply to both "reasonable" sides, just the one making the claim in the first place. A claim it can't back up. So, yeah, damaging admission. (Meanwhile, as has been pointed out again and again--engage the argument, George, or get yourself to an hermitage--the state permits senior citizen marriage, prisoner marriage, and marriage where one or both parties is barren.)
A brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the California case by conservative professors Leon Kass and Harvey Mansfield and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy warns that “the social and behavioral sciences have a long history of being shaped and driven by politics and ideology.”

Unlike, say, religion. Or The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
And research about, for example, the stability of same-sex marriages or child-rearing by same-sex couples is “radically inconclusive” because these are recent phenomena and they provide a small sample from which to conclude that these innovations will be benign.

Mathematics is the only science that isn't in a constant state of flux. Of the social sciences, only linguistics and physical anthropology can claim to approach "hard" science, in a court of law, anyway. That doesn't mean we, excluding Texas and Florida, of course, believe in frying the insane. Trials are all about weighing disparate testimony, expert or no.

Which is not to say "let's call it even." It's to say, "This is your fucking argument, not the fucking argument." The fact that the other side responds to those claims doesn't grant them some holy rhetorical credence. I really don't know anyone on the Right to Married Life side who argues like this. "Ha ha, some psychologist somewhere is on our side." It's a question of equal protection. Period. The rest is just shit your side has thrown against the wall in the hopes being plastered with feces will protect you from being homo-raped.
Unlike the physical sciences, the social sciences can rarely settle questions using “controlled and replicable experiments.” Today “there neither are nor could possibly be any scientifically valid studies from which to predict the effects of a family structure that is so new and so rare.” Hence there can be no “scientific basis for constitutionalizing same-sex marriage.”

No, hence social-science argument is a matter the Court will adjudicate, or ignore, which is the same situation that applied two-hundred and eighty-nine words ago, at the beginning of your column. Constitutionalizing same-sex marriage, which is, actually, not the question before the Court, (although the Court could make it so, and macaques could take wing from my rectum) is not, in fact, technically a question of scientific consensus.
The brief does not argue against same-sex marriage as social policy, other than by counseling caution about altering foundational social institutions when guidance from social science is as yet impossible. The brief is a preemptive refutation of inappropriate invocations of spurious social science by supporters of same-sex marriage.

"Social science cannot metaphysically refute our claims, therefore the only prudent course is to wait until it can. Reasonable people say so."
For example, a district court cited Michael Lamb, a specialist in child development, asserting that the “gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment” and that “having both a male and female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.” The conservatives’ brief notes that, testifying in the trial court, Lamb “had conceded that his own published research concluded that growing up without fathers had significant negative effects on boys” and that considerable research indicates “that traditional opposite-sex biological parents appear in general to produce better outcomes for their children than other family structures do.”

"The social sciences prove we should not listen to the social sciences."
The brief is replete with examples of misleading argumentation using data not drawn from studies satisfying “the scientific standard of comparing large random samples with appropriate control samples.”

Maybe both sides should have attorneys, then.

Name two, by the way. Just for fun.
The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a distinguished social scientist, said the “pronounced” liberal orientation of the social sciences is “well established” and explainable: “Social scientists are frequently caught up in the politics which their work necessarily involves” because social science “attracts persons whose interests are in shaping the future.”

Okay, even granting that "distinguished sociologist" is not an oxymoron, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wasn't one. He was a public policy maker with a sociology Ph.D, much beloved of people who think theatricality, vocabulary, and retrograde haberdashery indicate one is The Right Sort.
Since Moynihan wrote the above in 1979, the politicization of the social sciences has become even more pronounced, particularly in matters of “lifestyle liberalism.”

Yeah. The explosive growth of the highly-lucrative "addiction" counseling industry is just a minor blip that had nothing whatsoever to do with politics.
Hence the need for judicial wariness about social science that purports to prove propositions — e.g., that same-sex marriage is, or is not, harmful to children or society — for which there cannot yet be decisive evidence.

Of course, the rather clear picture of the dominant role of biology in gender and sexual orientation is irrelevant.
If California’s law is judged by legal reasoning, rather than by social science ostensibly proving that the state has no compelling interest served by banning same-sex marriage, the law may still be overturned on equal-protection grounds. But such a victory for gay rights, grounded on constitutional values, and hence cast in the vocabulary of natural rights philosophy, would at least be more stable than one resting uneasily on the shiftable sand of premature social science conclusions.

And, y'know, it's really easy to make an informed decision on just that question. Just a thought: why don't you guys see what it's like being on the right side of history for once?

Friday, March 15

Friday Olio: Wait, There's Still A Republican Party? Edition

• Jeez Louise, it's Politico! It's Maggie Haberman! It's "Does Sarah Palin have a second act?" Which, if nothing else, underlines the need for arts education and adult mathematics competency testing.

Sixteen hundred and sixteen words on the question of the Half-Term Half-Wit's political future. Some of which come from Bill Kristol, others from Newt Gingrich; some of which allude to the supposed power of her Golden Endorsement, none of which actually bother to note that her track record underperformed flipping a coin. None happened to note anything about her record as a political performer on her own, nor the now-evident downside to appearing even stupider than your audience in pursuit of national office.

Naturally, "mama" and "grizzly" snuck in.

Mags? Sarah Palin is an act. Or, if she's to be likened to the theatre, she's a series of one-hour After Home School Specials, all of which ran out of material after twenty minutes. There's no reason to go on for fifteen-hundred words just because you can't say "Shit."

• Yeah, so Rob Portman now tolerates the gays because he's just realized he's related to one. The response--that Rob Portman's soaked up a lot of tax dollars representing a lot of parents with gay sons--is obvious, but it ought to be noted that Portman didn't just oppose legalizing same-sex marriage; he went out of his way to block adoptions and partner benefits. Which suggests that before his own issue changed his mind he didn't really believe gays were human, let alone someone's child.

"Republicans are Divided on Proper Role for U.S. Abroad." Which is demonstrated by the fact that three of them "articulated this in different ways."

I never thought I'd say this, but, y'know, the 2016 race cannot start early enough to suit me. Get Rand Paul on the hustings now, please.

Thursday, March 14

Her Lips Are Moving


OKAY, so by now everybody's had his little fun with that Noonan column. So all I want to add is that, being dedicated to a sportive enjoyment of Bronze Age superstition on a daily basis, I watched every fifteen-to-twenty-minute segment the CBS morning program opened with while it had Charlie and Nora in Rome, and they kissed more rings in a week than Vince Lombardi did in a lifetime. I also watched the locals, of course, and stopped any time I saw a shot of that chimney, or a progression of men in lace, and I never caught a moment when the coverage didn't take this stuff at least as serious as it takes itself. And that is Damned Serious, indeed.

If Nooners doesn't like the fact that the teleprompter readers might've mentioned “gender” and “celibacy” and “pedophile” a couple times, in between bouts of mass Stendahl syndrome caused by the pageantry of it all, she ought to take it up with her fellow American Catholics, whose concerns those are. Because as far as I'm concerned "news" coverage of the RCC ought fairly to scream a reminder every thirty seconds that these same child rapists, professional erotophobes, and cosmogonical sexists are, when they aren't out playing dress up, tapping vast sources of untaxed cash in an attempt to keep women who don't share their faith from controlling their own reproductive systems. Care to comment, Peg? There was so much fluffing of Timothy Cardinal Dolan (he of the private masses for The Media), to name the most egregious example, that if the thing had gone on through the weekend I think his vow of chastity would'a been compromised. I saw two interviews with the man where the toughest question was whether the mic was at the right height for him.

Look, Peg: your Church already had a nineteen-hundred year history of avarice, torture, enslavement, genocide, class warfare, theft, usury, deception, gluttony, and aerodynamically unsafe wimple design. The Catholic Church had, let's be charitable for no reason other than it puts the mock to the euphemism and call it a questionable relationship with European fascism in the living memory of, among others, your Pope Emeritus. And which was, in the postwar world, given a pass Werner von Braun must've envied. The new guy, was a mere child, and should be asked only to justify his own relationship to the sometimes unpleasant realities of Argentinian politics and assassination. And who will, no doubt, be as forthcoming as his recent predecessors have been.

I'm sorry, but if "church observers" on "th' teevee" brought any of that up I missed it. The Church managed, without a bit of outside assistance, to add to that history an organized ring of boy buggery and fucking topped that with a systematic program of avoiding the problem, as well as the laws of men. That didn't happen once, or twice. It happened often enough to invoke RICO statutes. It is so shocking, and so extensive, that swoon apologists such as yourself are required to admit it existed.

But the rest of us are supposed to apologize to you for noticing.

Wednesday, March 13

That's Lovely. Can We Carve It On Your Memorial? Starting Now?

GEORGE Eff Will, the man whose affirmative action hire on This Week thirty years ago proved the harbinger of what public affairs programming was about to become (entertainment, and not much of that), riffing on the Paul filibuster, last weekend's Inside the Beltway Beatlemania:
This really was a revival from the new guys in the Senate….who are rediscovering the roots of modern conservatism, which were in the critique of executive power under Franklin Roosevelt and then Lyndon Johnson. Traditional conservatism goes right back to the Thirties when conservatism was born in reaction against the New Deal has been [sic] Congressionally oriented, and a deep suspicion [sic]--going back as far as the American Revolution--against executive prerogatives and George III, deep suspicion of executive power generally.

Okay, I'm willing to accept the idea of modern "Conservatism" being born in reaction to the New Deal (though not of modern "conservatives" having only this past week regained that thread). But isn't it time to acknowledge that in the intervening eighty years the more commonly seen First Principle of "conservatism" is the acrobatic flexibility of its principles, on display here?

And, briefly: while it is true that State governments proved rather suspicious of executive powers after the Revolution, the gang that hammered out our governing Federal document (the present subject of debate) was a bit more varied in opinion; much of the compromise was reached in an effort to prevent encroachment of executive power by the legislative branch, and in particular the Senate.

Sunday, March 10

One In The Head

George Eff Will, "The Pop-Tart terrorist". March 8

JUST so we all understand each other right from the start, the only bit of public stupidity I hate worse than bureaucratic stupidity is stupid public grousing about bureaucratic stupidity. Maybe it's just me, but there you are, and I've always been like that. To me it's like someone squawking about how stupid diplomatic language is while ignoring the fact that it just prevented open warfare.

[And this goes double for the sub-genre of Current Events commentary which explains why some particular Sequester-required cut is so much worse, or less intelligent, or inherently evil than some other cut the commentator proposes. Fuck you. As though the great service the Republican party can provide is demanding cuts, so that it's incumbent upon the proponents of good government to make it work to everyone's satisfaction. Either you believe in cutting government services drastically, or you oppose it. If you believe in it, take what you get; the Sequester is just the first wobbly baby step with those people.  Otherwise you're insisting on intelligent action designed to make a total piece of shit taste more like a Tootsie Roll. I hope the President personally ordered an end to White House tours. If he's not gonna (and not s'posed to) make a point about such things, why's he President?]

Complaints about stupid bureaucracy being stupid is something like 10% of our coverage of Education, innit? Down from 25, and only because of high-stakes testing and sideshow hucksters like Michelle Rhee? And 9 in 10 stories are absolute bullshit: the teacher fired for displaying a picture of George W. Bush, the one fired for passing out copies of the Constitution, students expelled for wearing flag teeshirts or Support the Troops bracelets. You'd think we might make a special effort after that to get things right, doncha?

And let us remind ourselves, before we go any further, that our current imbroglio over public education is now in its seventh decade, that it is almost entirely the result of right-wing agitation which followed Brown, and which reached maximum Dunning-Kruger Effect velocity half a decade after, when two Court decisions eliminated coerced prayer in public schools. And has remained at that level ever since. This is where crap like the Pop-tart Gun comes from. The right doesn't give a fuck about student rights. If that kid had nibbled himself an image of Khalid Sheik Mohammed he'd be getting death threats from the same people who are so concerned about his "rights" and "political correctness".

We've fought for fifty years with people who insist that what the First amendment actually does is enshrine the right to impose majority doctrine, so long as you don't openly burn heretics, just give 'em directions to the bus station. Maybe it's time we tried correcting that to see if it has a palliative effect on education.

Anyway, so here we are again at the confluence of Snopes and Principled Discussion of Educational Policy, as Told from the Perspective of Someone Who Hates Public Education, Teachers Unions, and a Wide Swath of Germ-y Proles, a place where George Eff Will provides the occasional guided canoe tour.
Rodney Francis is insufficiently ambitious. The pastor of the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church in St. Louis has entered the fray over guns, violence and humanity’s fallen nature with a plan for a “buyback” of children’s toy guns. And toy swords and other make-believe weapons. There is, however, a loophole in the pastor’s panacea. He neglects the problem of ominously nibbled and menacingly brandished breakfast pastries.

"…ignores the profound ramifications of holiday-theme cocktail napkins." "…glosses over serious portent of printed messages on articles of clothing." "disregards the acute disquiet…"
Joshua Welch — a boy, wouldn’t you know; no good can come of these turbulent creatures — who is 7, was suspended from second grade in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County last week because of his “Pop-Tart pistol.” While eating a rectangular fruit-filled sugary something — nutritionist Michelle Obama probably disapproves of it, and don’t let Michael Bloomberg get started — Joshua tried biting it into the shape of a mountain but decided it looked more like a gun. So with gender-specific perversity, he did the natural thing. He said, “Bang, bang.” 
But is this really natural? Or is nature taking a back seat to nurture, yet again? Is Joshua’s “bang, bang” a manifestation of some prompting in our defective social atmosphere, and therefore something society could and should stamp out?
Or should schools enforce rules an' stuff?

The school did not sentence little Joshua to Life at Gitmo, nor Wal*Mart. It responded because a seven-year-old boy pointed a "gun"--leave us, arguendo, ignore the "nibbled pastry" origins of the weapon, as well as the debatable classification of a Pop-Tart as a product of the baker's art, and join in thanking the Lord for once this gun wasn't real--and said--allegedly--"Bang Bang!" at another student.

We can, of course, debate whether the policy is intelligent, or efficacious; we can, while we're at it, debate whether Pop-Tarts constitute child abuse. But let's first see if we can take out of the situation what's actually there, shall we?

ITEM: The matter plays out against a backdrop of an epidemic of real school violence, and we expect schools to respond. This is not a matter of some anti-consumerist, Ur-feminist crusade against corn syrup and toy machine guns on Saturday morning teevee in the Sixties.

That is to say, Mr. Eff Will, that your outrage could stand a little upgrade after forty years. Me, I'm willing to let the people who actually work there decide what does and doesn't constitute a threat. When loopy assholes start shooting up box seats at Nationals Park you can help decide what to do about it.

ITEM: Presumably the impish lil' scamp was disciplined for the act of imitating a weapon pointed at another person, not for Thoughtcrime in Food Sculpture. Further, let's assume that his actions violated an establish rule which was at least written down somewhere, and probably--knowing, as you and I do, the Liberal Statist Hivemind--drilled into his head over and over and over again.

So you're taking the position that schools shouldn't enforce rules, so long as someone out there could ridicule them for doing so. If that's not a fair characterization, tell us where the line should be drawn. At least before we arm every teacher in America.
By now, Americans may be numb to such imbecilities committed by the government institutions to which they entrust their children for instruction. Nothing surprises after that 5-year-old Pennsylvania girl was labeled a “terroristic threat,” suspended from school and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation because she talked about shooting herself and others with her Hello Kitty gun that shoots bubbles.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get all my important news from Michelle Malkin, too. I've yet to see the "terrorist threat" tag come from anyone at the school, mostly because the school has said very little about the incident because it is legally precluded from talking in public. How convenient for y'all. It did release a statement saying that news reports were not necessarily accurate, but to hell with listening to bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo when there's a story to be told, fed by the completely objective report from her litigious parents.

And so fucking what? So we're keeping young children from threatening violence, even cartoon violence, these days. We've kept 'em from much sillier stuff. Saddle shoes and hair over the collar, to name two. So someone overreacts, even. Zero tolerance and school discipline are trademarked slogans of the American Right, so long as white middle-class children aren't being punished.
But looking on the bright side, perhaps we should welcome these multiplying episodes as tutorials about the nature of the regulatory state that swaddles us ever more snugly with its caring. If so, give thanks for the four Minnesota state legislators whose bill would ban “bullying” at school. 
Yeah, "bullying". What crap.
They define this as the use of words, images or actions that interfere with an individual’s ability “to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.” Bullying may include, among many other things, conduct that has a “detrimental effect” on a student’s “emotional health.” Or conduct that “creates or exacerbates a real or perceived imbalance of power between students.” Or violates a student’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Or conduct that “does not rise to the level of harassment” but “relates to” — yes, relates to — “the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined” in another Minnesota statute.

I'm sorry, but what exactly is it you object to in this?
If this becomes law, it will further empower the kind of relentless improvers and mindless protectors who panic over Pop-Tart pistols and discern terrorism in Hello Kitty bubble guns. Such people in Minnesota will be deciding what behavior — speech, usually — damages a “supportive learning environment.”

I daresay anyone who ever attended public school at any time is aware that school administrators have always had the power to decide what behavior damages a learning environment, and it's the rare one who's applied that judiciously. This codifies a certain type of prohibited behavior; codification is necessary precisely because every goddam suburban parent sues the district when little Jayden or Chloe is disciplined. It's the fucking faux-Fifties macho code some people feel should not be threatened, and you, George Eff Will, ought to be about the last person to object to that. "Relentless improver and mindless protector" is, in fact, the sort of thing the public clamors for in a public education establishment, so maybe these poor victims of PC Run Amok should be in charter schools, where they're allowed to act out when and as they please.
Government is failing spectacularly at its core functions, such as budgeting and educating. Yet it continues to multiply its peripheral and esoteric responsibilities, tasks that require it to do things for which it has no aptitude, such as thinking and making common-sense judgments. Government nowadays is not just embarrassing, it is — let us not mince words — inappropriate.

Y'know, George, it doesn't help the cause when a beneficiary of the most expensive education available in the US of A utters something so remarkably stupid.


Friday, March 8

He's Like A Taller, Younger Mitch Daniels, But Now He's Got A Steet-wise Latino Sidekick

Joe Scarborough and Jeffrey Sachs, "Deficits do matter". March 7

Anna Palmer, "New club's not your dad's Young Republicans".  March 8

SOME time ago, a month, maybe (I don't know, because I don't really care), Paul Krugman pantsed Joe Scarborough, probably on Morning Joe, if that's still on. And Scarborough, whose major rhetorical limitation in this was, and remains, the fact that he can't seem to understand the argument, did not take it well. Ranted on his show, if that's still on, ranted in Politico, then agreed to a "debate" with Krugman hosted by Charlie Journamalism Rose, or, as I like to call it, A Bridge Too Far. By all accounts, by which I mean the one or two I happened across, Krugman was knowledgeable, Scarborough was a fluffed-up entertainer, and the result was sorta anticlimactic, because, well, we already know the answer, and the whole point of the exercise is to get some moron to admit he's a moron when his solitary purpose is to avoid admitting he's a moron. Or, put another way, another public affairs program.

And now, three days later, The Ol' Ladykiller's rounded up an Economist co-author to help squeeze out another 900 anti-Krugman words. And the result, as you might expect, reads like a combination introduction to the chapter on Keynes in a freshman econ text written by an anti-Keynesian, and a megachurch hymnal.

Go read it, if you hafta. Meanwhile, the problem is not that Joe Scarborough can't distinguish between the theoretical and the hypothetical, or tell either from apodictic certainty, or stop throwing shit at Paul Krugman; the problem isn't that his party is in the same dire intellectual straits it's been in since 1964. The problem is that it's slowing beginning to dawn on them.

And the bigger problem, of course, is that they're the ones who get to solve it.

Scarborough's vote doesn't count any more, so he can actually look at The Defense Budget now instead of just rubber-stamping it. This, in practice, means squinting at the USA pie-chart and noticing that some portion of it is dedicated to Defense:
Military spending can be reduced, and our decade-long wars can be brought to an end.

So I guess in retrospect it's too bad we didn't choose to pay for those wars as we went along, huh?
The Pentagon should move beyond a defense strategy based on a Cold War threat that no longer exists. Americans also know that costs for Medicare...

Th' fuck did Medicare get in there? Just kiddin'. I know how it got in there.

So, okay, uh, for the record that's an offer of 1) "spending" to be "reduced", 2) wars to be ended and no-longer paid for, and some 3) Reshaping Our Forces to Face the 21st Century Threat talk, before we headed straight for the pocketbooks of the Poor. It's sorta like hearing your prom date say "I guess tonight means we should talk about my surrendering my virginity to you. And whether we should wait five or six years. Or whether it should be more, like the ten years it'll take you to fully accept Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, to my satisfaction." And saying to yourself, Welp, sounds like the best deal I'm likely to hear.

These will qualify as Big Ideas when you put numbers to them. And when you decide between "a military comprising boots-on-the-ground, solid employment and advancement opportunities", and "a bunch of programmers running US foreign policy and makin' shit blow up". Whadda we do with twelve aircraft carriers, Mr. Post-Cold War? Which military bases are we closing, which overseas presence reducing or eliminating? Will the last man leaving the Air Force kindly turn out the lights? Otherwise, you're Just Another Post-Wingnut Wingnut showin' the Rubes the Genuine Ruby first. Fuck you. You fucks know Defense cuts won't happen, and that the "Social Entitlements" side of the ledger--and which side introduced that bit of Luntzian disintel into the discussion, hmmmm?--has but a single brake, namely, the point where the peasants get the torches and pitchforks. What's the latest AEI over/under on that happening by 2050, Joe? I know y'all know.

The Republican party is not the only reason our Defense spending has continued along at WWII levels since, well, WWII. But the Right is historically the site where International Paranoia gets shoveled into Forge of Freedom. And if there's a major reason why we're "still in Cold War Mode" it's the cosy perpetuation of expensive weapons systems that had no other reason to exist. Everybody screamed about the pain of the Peace Dividend, but it was the Right that screamed loudest, and two Republican presidents who ignored it for a decade, or until George Herbert Walker Bush realized he was in a reelection fight. Here's what they accomplished. Maybe Professor Sachs will explain what those steep slopes there mean.



Been sayin' this since you were still kissing that Reagan poster over your bed every night: I'll believe it when you cut it. I'll believe it when you fucks put serious proposals on the table, and vote on them, up or down, with the lights on. You wouldn't face Social Security at the height of Reagan's Ku-fu grip on our polity; you've tried, ever since he backed down, to fuck everyone out of it without their noticing. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense. Put up actual proposals, and vote on 'em. You control the House. Start th' fucking process. Let the Senate take the heat for refusing to liberate everyone under 55 from Social Security. Let the President veto your health care solutions. You've been talking about this shit for thirty years. The solution to the problem is for your side to own it.

Y'know, I usta think the problem was you doubling down every time you lost a bet. Now I think it's that you see a Permanent "Conservative" Supermajority everywhere you look, and after Reagan there's only a few of you who understand enough science to know what "red shift" means, and none of them's willing to admit it.

And now that Rand Paul's the 2016 nominee, really, no shit, we're beyond asking whether you people can learn from anything, and on to the question of whether you'll ever learn to modulate the voices in your head. Did you happen to notice that two-year slogfest that ended in Mitt Romney? You wanna start earlier now? Rand Paul vs. Rick Santorum, the winner to face Marco Rubio?


Odds any of the above has actually seen Kentucky: 1 in 3. Odds that any who did were 1) sober and 2) not at Churchill Downs on Derby Day: 1 in 8,000.
I have no idea who assigned this. I'm 59, and I honestly had no idea there was that sort of Evil loose in the world. I suspect hazing might be involved, or they just enjoy making each other eat disgusting things at Politico for sport. But, really, no. Cellphones and a willingness to tolerate gays and blahs is not the Answer. Sorry, the only Answer left for Republicans is to actually begin looking for an Answer. As in, for real, not actually looking for some PR gimmick that works for a few weeks. Blame your parents.
In the 2012 cycle, Concord 51 raised about $116,000 but gave just $10,900 to federal candidates.

Ah, the entrepreneurial wing of the party.
They supported Mitt Romney’s presidential bid and six congressional candidates, including Illinois Rep. Robert Dold, Hayworth,former Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, and GOP candidates Robert Turner and Heather Wilson.

Did you do that on purpose, or was that the actual top of the list?
Most of the rest — $97,576 — went to administrative costs, legal fees, office space and an intern program. Allen said that this cycle the group expects more of the money to go toward candidates, since much of its costs were one-time fees and the administrative burdens will be more on the 501(c)4.

Ah, the Daniels Brigade.

Look, kids--boys--take whatever you didn't really spend of that 100 large, get yourself a nice hotel, and spend a day--one day--examining your own beliefs, the central tenets of Republicanism, the political realities outside New England, and the substantive arguments of a theoretical Rand Paul candidacy. Do it seriously and honestly. Because, trust me on this, someday you'll wish you had something to look back on and laugh about.