Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Study: Pollution Reduces Global Warming

Happy Birthday, Senator Inhofe! Someone strike up the coal-fired scare quotes!

I think it's safe to say that this study is somewhat politically-charged! (Actually scientists knew already that some gases scatter sunlight and reduce surface temps -- why is this being portrayed as news?)

'Dr.' Coakley on the 'new' findings: "This is a brave effort. But let's see what others come up with now."

I guess bravery is in the eye of the beholder.

Whither the Senate in 2006?

I would have said that Schumer was being (part of the job description) a bit optimistic, but I didn't realize this:

Schumer heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which had more than $22 million available according to their last fundraising report. That's more than double the cash available to their counterparts in the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Could it be a white elephant? The more money to spend, the more divisive turf battles -- what the Dems need like a hole in the head?

Think Nobody Is Doing Well Under the Bush Regime?

Entitlement spending is doing great.

Psychotherapy in the 21st Century

So, um, where did Benedict Carey come up with the idea of taking these ueber-therapists to Disneyland? ("Narcissists of the Caribbean?" I don't get it.) And isn't Martin Seligman kind of, er, a lightweight? And Albert Ellis is kind of, er, past his expiration date? (I suspect the "standing ovation" he received has more to do with his age, 92, than with anything else -- of course this is glossed over.) The whole exercise and subsequent article seem somewhat less than entirely serious.

Cool cartoon, in any event...

Sexy Waffa

(No no, that's different than O'Reilly's "loofa.")

I saw her in person London in 2003, puking outside a club in Shoreditch!

Death to Diebold!

Is this Diebold of relation to this Diebold?

Diaspora as Tourist 'Base Demographic'

Yes, er, just look at Israel! (There's some ugly truism here about how every nation ends up exploiting its own greatest collective tragedy, but we won't go there.)

Trying to Keep the Lid on Novak...

Viveca Novak, that is. What is going on here?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

"Munich" as Political Football

I saw Munich last night. Like any 3 hour movie, it was a mixed bag. But what I don't understand is the campaign to demonize -- spearheaded, alas, by what Norman Finkelstein has called the "usual suspects" -- Spielberg for his excessive "ambivalence." Is there such a thing as great art without ambivalence? Wasn't that the problem with socialist realism and all the proteges and mimics of the fundamentally inimitable Arthur Miller (including, alas, August Wilson)?

Leon Wieseltier, who should know better, as spokesman for this anti-intellectual and aesthetically nonsensical smear campaign:

It is soaked in the sweat of its idea of evenhandedness. Palestinians murder, Israelis murder. Palestinians show evidence of a conscience, Israelis show evidence of a conscience. Palestinians suppress their scruples, Israelis suppress their scruples. Palestinians make little speeches about home and blood and soil, Israelis make little speeches about home and blood and soil. Palestinians kill innocents, Israelis kill innocents. All these analogies begin to look ominously like the sin of equivalence, and so it is worth pointing out that the death of innocents was an Israeli mistake but a Palestinian objective.

The last clause says it all: "Munich" is too soft on so-and-so, and by the way (in case you didn't catch the hint), so-and-so is an asshole (is that really "worth pointing out" IN A FILM REVIEW?). "Munich" was destined to become just another political football, fodder for political comment; and so it has become. Cynical talk of "ambivalence" is just a coded jibe at any kind of political heterodoxy, for any attempt to tell a story and not a "story-within-a-story," for any uncoercive presentation of ideas... why can't we let the viewer decide?

Cf. For more of this kind of criticism, see Terry Teachout on Arthur Miller or "Good Night and Good Luck."

The Meteoric Rise of Festivus

The "holiday for the rest of us" is blossoming... no, it's already in flower!

Where indeed is talk of the "war on Festivus?"

Mining "Meta"

I don't quite understand Roger Kimball's criticism of the term "meta" in Safire's language piece today:

It's verbal shorthand that expresses not a depth but an absence of thought. You'll find it in the slums of contemporary literary and art criticism.

Is he talking about "meta" as a prefix, or as a stand-alone word? Any fool can see that "meta" as a stand-alone word is intrinsically ironic (a subversive shorthand for frothy postmodern self-reflexivity). I suspect that, as a prefix, it is at least half the time ironic as well. In other words, most of the time "meta" functions not as a chintzy postmodernist flourish, but as a backhanded slap to postmodernism. So what is Kimball complaining about, except maybe the 50% or less of the time when the term is used unironically as a prefix?

I think he's looking a gift-horse in the mouth.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Indispensable Man

Paul Greenberg muses about the role of the individual in history. Like Ariel Sharon, the role is hefty.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Different Perspective on the 'Assault on Christmas'

For Jews, call it the "December Dilemma."

"If someone like Sen. Boxer can see that this abortionist is a danger to the community, you know he must be a very dangerous man."

Of course, if it were Hillary, they'd be saying she's cynically trying to "move to the center" with an eye to '08.

Cycle of Secrecy

One of Bruce Ackerman's points in today's Slate piece on the NSA wiretapping scandal is that lawyers in the executive branch are encouraged to think like John Woo (and John Roberts and Samuel Alito) about "executive privilege" by being first in line for rewards: i.e. judicial appointments. There's a disturbing circularity: the executive effectively trains lawyers to rationalize secrecy, which in turn trains the executive to be secretive.

I find that strangely (or not so strangely) persuasive as an argument for an otherwise unpersuasive cause, namely filibustering Alito, or impeaching Bush.

UPDATE: Case in point: J. Michael Luttig won't be getting a promotion anytime soon.

I.D. Smacked Down By Bush-Appointed Judge

You can read the opinion for the Dover intelligent design trial here. A major victory for rationalism, common sense, judicial restraint, and good people everywhere who want to take Bill O'Reilly out to the woodshed. (Bumper sticker idea: "Keep Christmas, Dump O'Reilly!")

Let me just say that, having recently travelled in central Pennsylvania, the flat-earth faction of the Dover school district IN NO WAY represents the good people of that region. People should know that. Note to flat-earth faction: you are perpetuating a ridiculous 'culture war' by your actions, and destroying what little remains of American unity. Reasonable Americans everywhere will not soon forgive or forget.

Boxer Passes Buck to Law Profs

I've heard from my correspondent in California that there's some confusion about exactly what Barbara Boxer 'called for' yesterday with regards to Bush and impeachment. I think this e-mail/press release from her office explains it adequately.

Dear aaron,

Yesterday, I issued the following release about President Bush's recent admission that he has personally authorized domestic surveillance without a court order. I sent the referenced letter to four presidential scholars, asking for their input:

Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago Law School
Bruce Ackerman, Yale University
Susan Low Bloch, Georgetown University Law Center
Michael Gerhardt, College of William and Mary School of Law
I hope you'll take a moment to read my statement below, and then forward this email to everyone you know.

In Friendship,

Barbara Boxer


Boxer Asks Presidential Scholars About Former White House Counsel's Statement that Bush Admitted to an 'Impeachable Offense'

December 19, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on former White House Counsel John Dean's statement that President Bush admitted to an "impeachable offense" when he said he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.

Boxer said, "I take very seriously Mr. Dean's comments, as I view him to be an expert on Presidential abuse of power. I am expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future."

Boxer's letter is as follows:

On December 16, along with the rest of America, I learned that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge. President Bush underscored his support for this action in his press conference today.

On Sunday, December 18, former White House Counsel John Dean and I participated in a public discussion that covered many issues, including this surveillance. Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon's counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense." Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement.

This startling assertion by Mr. Dean is especially poignant because he experienced first hand the executive abuse of power and a presidential scandal arising from the surveillance of American citizens.

Given your constitutional expertise, particularly in the area of presidential impeachment, I am writing to ask for your comments and thoughts on Mr. Dean's statement.

Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Gives New Meaning to "Pusillanimous"*

Have you ever seen anything this petty? Even for Arnold, this is ridiculous.

*Refresher on old meaning of 'pusillanimous': small-minded; petty.

Stalin's "Planet of the Apes"

Amazing what they're finding in those Soviet archives.

Green Highways

A blog about trawling Southern highways in pursuit of e-commerce goodies.

The Crawford Ranch Diet

Bush gives cardiological advice to Sharon.

How about the "Approval Rating Diet" (10 easy steps to halve your approval ratings in six months or less!)? That seems to be something Bush knows a lot about.