More on Moore

by Chris Bertram on July 16, 2004

I just got back from seeing Farenheit 9/11. There’s a little voice saying I should pick away, argue about this point or that point, qualify, criticize. Others can do that. Moore makes one point quite brilliantly: that those who suffer and die come overwhelmingly from families and communities that are, shall we say, _somewhat poorer_ than the politicians who chose to go to war, or the executives of the corporations who hope (hoped?) to profit from Iraqi reconstruction. Something like that is true of all wars, and if Moore were just making a general pacifist case then it would have been a weaker film. Instead, he was saying, or I took him to be saying , that those who expect others to bear the risks and costs of their projects better have a convincing justification for them. Self-defence might be one such justification, but plainly not in this case.

Those who have made the “humanitarian” case for war have never addressed the dirty little issue of who runs the risks and who does the dying. Rather, they’ve sought refuge in pointing out the plain truth that Saddam’s Iraq was an evil tyranny and that the world is a better place without it. So it was and so it is. But would or could this war have been fought if the children of the wealthy were at as much risk of dying as the children of the poor? One rather suspects not. It may be unpalatable to think that there’s a moral link between being willing to wage wars for democracy and human rights, and being willing to introduce conscription, but maybe those who have taken a leftist/liberal-hawk line on Iraq should be calling for a citizen army too. I’ve never read them doing so.

Lawsuits and corporatism

by Henry Farrell on July 16, 2004

“Mark Schmitt”: makes an interesting argument about lawyers and trade unions as functional substitutes for each other in checking corporate power. He notes some evidence suggesting that states with low rates of unionization are “hellhole states” for business, where plaintiff’s lawyers deliver huge amounts for a small number of victims.

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Welcome to Slate. Here’s your sneer.

by Ted on July 16, 2004

In my previous life, I was a member of an active mailing list for fans of ska music. (In tribute, I’ve just created a ska name generator.) Every few months, members would talk about the music that they listened to, outside of ska. It quickly degenerated into a uniquely annoying form of indie one-upsmanship. Popular, marginal, and largely unknown bands were dismissed with contempt (“You’re still listening to Big Black?”). The discussion quickly disappeared down the indie rabbit hole, as members professed their love for vinyl-only releases from obscure foreign noise bands.

My friend Mark managed to shut them up. He wrote a long email about how everyone else was a sellout, and how he had gotten into the most obscure music ever. He would go to the local maternity ward with a stethoscope and listen to a particular fetus’s heartbeat.

Skagroup may be gone (or it might not), but the spirit lives on at the home of sloppy, reflexive contrarianism: Slate.

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FMA roundup

by Ted on July 16, 2004

The defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment has led to some awfully good writing.

Fred Clark from the Slacktivist, a left-wing Christian, approaches the question “Why do some Christians hate gays but love bacon?” It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not a fan of Thomas Frank. His adaptation of his thesis, The Conquest of Cool, is surprisingly good, but his pieces for the Baffler remind me of present-day Christopher Hitchens: sneering, blindingly angry, and unpersuasive to the unconverted. However, he’s managed to pop out a tight editorial for the NY Times. He argues that the failure of the FMA was intentional, part of a continuing effort to reclaim victim status for conservatives.

Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.

John Scalzi points out that the effort to “defend marriage” would actually have the effect of breaking up thousands of existing marriages.

So it’s pretty simple: If you actually want to defend marriage, you have defend all the legal marriages, and that includes the ones with two men in them, and the ones with two women. Otherwise you’re explicitly saying that the government has the right to void any marriage of any couple, so long as two-thirds of the House, Senate and states go along. Who wants to be the first to sign up for that?

Finally, MoveOn is running a fundraiser specifically for opponents of vulnerable supporters of the FMA. I love this idea.

Pizza, cholesterol check, the works

by Eszter Hargittai on July 16, 2004

This little Flash movie by the ACLU about the loss of privacy is hilarious and, of course, scary at the same time.

The new Iraq

by John Q on July 16, 2004

Although there’s plenty of news coverage of inquiries into the “intelligence” that justified the Iraq war, coverage of events in Iraq itself seems to have declined sharply since the formal handover of sovereignty and the shutdown of the Coalition Provisional Administration. There seems to be a general media consensus that things have gone quiet, with the result that, when the usual news of bombings, kidnappings and assassinations is reported, it’s always prefaced with something like Suicide Blast Shatters a Calm (NYT 15 July) or after a week of relative calm (Seattle Times 7 July).

Regardless of the calmness or otherwise of the situation, the installation of Allawi as PM has certainly produced a new dynamic. Allawi has moved quickly to establish himself as a strongman, resolving by default the questions left unanswered in the “handover”. His announcements of emergency powers and the establishment of a security service/secret police have been criticised, but they amount to little more than the assumption of powers previously exercised by the CPA with no legal basis of any kind. The big question before the handover was whether any new military operations would be under the control of the interim government or of the American military. Allawi has moved pretty quickly to ensure that he will give the orders here, putting the onus on the American military to come to his aid if his forces run into serious resistance.

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A different kind of road trip

by Eszter Hargittai on July 16, 2004

Here’s a way to go on a fun and useful road trip this summer: drive to swing states to register Democrats to vote. Driving Votes provides all the necessary forms and helps you coordinate with others.