From the monthly archives:

February 2006

Slap shots

by Ted on February 16, 2006

– Even though you can’t trust him to tell the truth about Democrats, I’ve always had a soft spot for George Will. He knows a few things, and he seems to have more on his mind than the care and feeding of Bush talking points. This column makes a strong argument that Congress should not allow the Bush Administration to win the legal argument that the ability to initiate warrentless wiretaps, in violation of FISA, is inherent in the President’s powers. If they do so, it will hobble the willingness of future Congresses to authorize military force, out of fear that future Presidents will make further power grabs. (Will believes that Congress should authorize the wiretaps without conceding the legal point, although I’m not sure if he thinks they should still be required to get a warrant.) (via Matthew Yglesias)

– Mickey Kaus might be the only blogger whose comment section is predominated by people who loathe him. This comment, on Mickey’s dishonesty about Brokeback Mountain‘s numbers, is a treat.

I never heard of this, either. I’ve got a funny vibe about the story, though, like it’s something that will get a lot more attention in history books than newspapers.

Oh Yeah, Except for Them, Obviously

by Kieran Healy on February 16, 2006

“Alan Schussman”: reads the letters to our school newspaper, the “Daily Wildcat”:, so I don’t have to. The context is an effort by Republican state legislators to “require that a U.S. flag be displayed”: in every public school and university classroom. Tucson Democrat Ted Downing responded that “This is not the proper way to bestow patriotism. If we want we should spend more on teaching American history.” Today in the “letters to the editor”: a number of University of Arizona students provide evidence that he might be right. Here’s Rob Monteleone (a senior), for example:

It doesn’t surprise me that someone who represents affirmative action wants to twist and distort the Constitution to suit the needs of poor, always-the-victim minorities. The Constitution was written so that all men would be treated equally. Whites, blacks and anyone else in this country … even the ones who don’t belong here.

As Alan remarks, “I’d suggest Amendments 13, 17, 19, and 24 as starting points for Ted Downing’s civics curriculum.”


by Ted on February 15, 2006

Image Hosted by

Cracked Magazine, the unbearably crappy MAD rip-off of our youth, has been reborn as a sharp humor site featuring such favorites as Neal Pollack and Jay Pinkerton. For starters, check out More Cartoons that Might Offend in the Middle East, or the Spring Movie Preview:

V for Vendetta


An ex-mental patient builds a terrorist cell in dystopian future Britain, commits murder and blows up government buildings with the help of a bald-headed Natalie Portman. Luckily the terrorism’s completely inapplicable to real life, since in this fictional scenario, they only do it because the government lies. That sound you just heard was 10,000 impressionable trenchcoat-wearing outcasts cocking their semi-automatic rifles, by the way.


Because League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell already proved there isn’t a subtle, textured Alan Moore graphic novel in existence that can’t be turned into a feature-length Hollywood film about a farting donkey CEO on roller skates switching places with a pantsless Rob Schneider… with outrageous results!

Freedom of speech

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2006

The past few weeks have, in the light of the cartoon dispute, brought forth much in the way of blogospherical indignation, analysis, clarification, etc. on the subject of free speech. This has sometimes been accompanied by philosophical and legal reflection of varying subtlety and insight on the idea, its relation to the theory of speech acts, and so on. The “British House of Commons votes today”: on HM Government’s proposal to outlaw the “glorification” of terrorism, a vague offence that may outlaw the praising of historical events in distant lands. If passed this law will, like all laws, be enforced with the resources of the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, and so on. Since this measure is, therefore, a far more immediate and effective threat to free speech than the complaints of genuinely and synthetically offended members of a religious minority, why does it not provoke a similar level of outrage?

Comments thread, Athenian-style

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2006

I’m off to hear my colleague Jimmy Doyle talk about the “Gorgias”: . In preparation I came across this passage (at about 457d) .

bq. Socrates: You, Gorgias, like myself, have had great experience of disputations, and you must have observed, I think, that they do not always terminate in mutual edification, or in the definition by either party of the subjects which they are discussing; but disagreements are apt to arise-somebody says that another has not spoken truly or clearly; and then they get into a passion and begin to quarrel, both parties conceiving that their opponents are arguing from personal feeling only and jealousy of themselves, not from any interest in the question at issue. And sometimes they will go on abusing one another until the bystanders at last are quite vexed at themselves for ever listening to such fellows.

Political economy of football

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2006

I was pleased that “Liverpool beat Arsenal”: last night, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. Despite having heard Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson tell us on may occasions (usually apropos Chelsea) that money doesn’t buy success, I’m struck by the “table of 2004 transfer spending”: for English PL clubs on the “Political Economy of Football”: site. Here are the top spenders:

1. Chelsea
2. ManYoo
3. Liverpool
4. Tottenham
5. Arsenal

and the rank ordering of the “Premiership today”: after 26 games?

1. Chelsea
2. ManYoo
3. Liverpool
4. Tottenham
5. Arsenal

The correlation breaks down somewhat further down the table, but still.

Accidents Happen

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2006

I don’t, generally, subscribe to the paranoid strain in US politics (my mom does and is irritatingly always right about everything. I well remember when de Menezes was shot in London and the initial story was all about how he had jumped the turnstiles in a heavy coat, etc., and mom instantly said, “this is all bullshit and he was some random innocent.” Chalk another one up for mom.)

Still, something is fishy in this whole Cheney story. My first instinct was just to say, there was an unfortunate hunting accident, and Cheney wasn’t adhering to well-known rules of gun safety, but basically his secretiveness created the impression of some wrong-doing where none existed. But. This whole push-back of blaming the victim? Like he was supposed to give a hearty “halloa!” to his friends who were flushing some other birds? Standing behind the shooter when you are hunting birds in a line is supposed to be a pretty iron-clad way of staying safe. Was Cheney in the middle, so that the barrel swung past one of his fellows on the right or left on its fateful 180 movement? Even if he were at one end or the other, right behind him is not supposed to be a good place to fire, especially since he knew his pal was recovering another brace of quail somewhere. And what’s up with the whole scrubbed beer thing? I don’t think Cheney is a brazen murderer or something, but I have to say that recent coverage has made me much more inclined to think that either he was drunk, or he was standing a lot closer to the victim then we have heard. It’s just weird. This seems like something they could have defused with an early statement and apology. Something is going on.

UPDATE: aah, there we go. “In response to Mr. Hume’s questions about the day, Mr. Cheney said that he had consumed one beer earlier in the day, but that no one in the party was drinking as they hunted.” One beer. I’ve done a lot of stupid things after having “one” beer before, too. Classic drunk denial; you can’t just say you didn’t have anything to drink, so…

I Hope Horowitz Has Good Dental Coverage

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2006

Seriously, if Michael Bérubé bitch-slaps Horowitz any harder, there’s going to be teeth on the ground. It’s hard to choose just one excerpt–(Bérubé whaling on D. Ho; the Pringles of the internets!) The ineluctable inference that Horowitz doesn’t know what these new-fangled “links” are is rich in charm.

To his credit, Mr. Horowitz addresses one of my objections about my appearance in his new book, The Professors. It appears that I have once again seized on a mere quirk in the format—or, rather, a “stylistic conceit”:

“Michael quibbles with a bullet-point heading, a stylistic conceit of the book, which claims that Berube believes in teaching literature so as to bring about “economic transformations.” Michael protests that the sentence from which this phrase comes is lifted out of context. This is what the sentence says: “The important question for cultural critics, is also an old question—how to correlate developments in culture and the arts with large-scale economic transformations.” This appears to me like a classical Marxist notion. Michael doesn’t actually argue otherwise. In other words, despite the context Michael supplies, the statement stands.”

You heard it here from the Respectful One himself, folks: the statement stands. It’s official: David Horowitz thinks “correlate” means “bring about.”

Damn! I’ve had my ass fact-checked on the interweb before, and it felt all tingly. I can only imagine Horowitz has got some serious Tiger Balm on the toilet paper happening up in there. Or how about this:

But you know, dear friends, I resent being called “the very professor who calls [Horowitz] a liar without checking the facts.” The truth—and I use the term advisedly—is that I called Horowitz a liar while hyperlinking to the facts. Horowitz lied about the student in Colorado, he lied about the biology professor who allegedly showed Fahrenheit 9/11 to his class, he has lied about me (actually, the line about how my “entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook” comes closer to actual slander), and—I can’t believe I forgot this one!—he lied—to O’Reilly, on one of his many Fox News appearances—about his speaking engagement at Hamilton College. Or, as Horowitz put it at the time, “I fibbed about my invitation to Hamilton and about my Academic Bill of Rights . . . because it was truer to say that I had to be invited by students . . . than to say the faculty there—the Kirkland project in particular, which is what we were talking about—would invite me.”

When “fibbing” prospers, none dare call it a bald-faced lie on national TV. Mmmm, feel the truthiness. Well, as I told John just now, when we move back to the States, he damn well better get on the list of the 102-203rd most dangerous professors in America, at the very least, or I’m leaving his sorry, insufficiently-devoted-to-the-cause-of-worldwide-Islamic-revolution ass. Oh, sure. Call me Xanthippe.

Peter Strawson

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2006

Peter Strawson has died. There are obituaries in the “Guardian”:,,1709718,00.html and the “Times”:,,60-2040505_1,00.html . I met him a few times, as I was briefly a member of the Magdalen SCR. Of his contribution to philosophy, I know little beyond “Freedom and Resentment”, but I shall always have an impression of an immaculately dressed figure smoking a cigarette in a peculiarly distinguished way and making witty conversation.


by Henry Farrell on February 14, 2006

“Scott McLemee”: (Scott doesn’t do the permalinks thing, so this is liable to disappear sooner or later…).

bq. This summer, Jonah Goldberg is publishing a book.

bq. It hardly seems fair. Shouldn’t he have to read one, first?

Block that kick

by Ted on February 14, 2006

Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report passes on a story about public financing of advertising and PR campaigns. In the past two and a half years, the federal government has spent $1.6 billion on it. While that’s a drop in the federal bucket, it’s enough money to get excited about.

It’s framed by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman as if it the Bush Administration was spending over a billion dollars of public funds to promote his agenda. Steve is right to highlight cases in which this has, in fact, happened. But if you read the report (.pdf), it’s pretty hard to defend that characterization for the large majority of the money. Most of the money is spent by non-partisan government agencies- the military, the Census, the DEA, lots of things. Quite a lot of it is unobjectionable. The military really does need to buy advertisements to recruit soldiers. The NIH really should be promoting heart disease awareness. Some of these agencies exist just to create and promote public awareness campaigns about things like breastfeeding or child safety seats. And so on.

That doesn’t make it bulletproof, of course. Quite a lot of it is surely a waste of taxpayer’s money, like the $55 million the Bureau of Engraving and Printing spent promoting the new currency. It has the potential to be an enormous patronage machine. And, we’ve seen that some of it has been used inapproriately for partisan campaigning. But we’re not looking at $1.6 billion for An Army of Armstrongs. (ahem)

My first response was “This is why good people turn libertarian.” Upon reflection, that’s my second response, too.

P.S. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on government websites recently. Did you ever notice how many have a “For Kids” section? I really hope that there’s some teacher, somewhere, getting some use out of Energy Ant.

P.P.S. I’ve just defended the Bush Administration from a Democratic attack, and pushed for spending discipline. Why won’t the right reach out and engage a moderate like me? What I’ve noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the left link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the right link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad, and in no way transparently self-serving.

WHAT’S MORE: The point of that last paragraph isn’t necessarily obvious if you don’t already live inside my head, which relatively few people do.

To be more straightforward, I’m not at all irritated with any lack of approving links from right-of-center bloggers. I think that’s just the way of the world. Rather, I’m poking fun at Professor Althouse and the alleluia chorus surrounding the post that I’ve linked to in the last sentence. It seems to me that Althouse is starting with the assumption that, since she is at the center of political discourse, any asymmetrical treatment that she recieves from the right and left blogosphere must be due to the personality and intellectual flaws of liberals. I think that the asymmetrical treatment is better explained by the perception that she’s a moderate conservative, and I’d point to her self-placement in the Conservative Blog Advertising Network and her pleasure at being named a Conservative Blog Diva, and her own asymmetrical concern about national security leaks, as evidence.

This is not to minimize the pleasure of the links from right-of-center blogs, which I do greatly appreciate.

US vs EU, Round XXVIII

by John Q on February 14, 2006

Fareed Zakaria has yet another piece on the inevitable decline of Europe. In it, he makes the claim

Talk to top-level scientists and educators about the future of scientific research and they will rarely even mention Europe. There are areas in which it is world class, but they are fewer than they once were. In the biomedical sciences, for example, Europe is not on the map.

High energy physics, anyone? Western European output of scientific papers surpassed that of the US about 10 years ago and the gap is still widening. The US is relatively stronger in biomedical research than in the physical sciences, but Europe has caught up there as well. The loss of the US lead in science is sufficiently widely-accepted that proposed responses made it into Bush’s State of the Union speech.

[click to continue…]

Turnabout is Fair Play II

by Kieran Healy on February 14, 2006

Accidents happen. But the various responses (official and unofficial) being put forth on Cheney’s behalf get ever more weird. They include: (1) Whittington didn’t get a shotgun blast in the face, he was merely “peppered”: with a “pellet gun”: (2) Cheney has “paid his seven bucks”: (This seems to be the only official response from the Vice President’s office so far.) (3) No need for a statement from Cheney saying he feels terrible about what happened, because Whittington has already accepted responsibility for the accident. It was totally his fault. (4) Besides, why should “anyone have been interested”: that the Vice President of the United States shot someone in the face? I mean, (5) “People get shot in the face all the time”: while out hunting, and you’d know it if you weren’t a liberal, east-coast, latte-drinking effete snob.

Prize for most bizarre exculpatory counterfactual goes to (6) “If Cheney had been trout fishing and a companion had walked behind him as he started to cast, so that “he inadvertently snagged his friend”:, resulting in a hospital visit, would we have seen this kind of frenzy? I don’t think so.” The counterfactual _I_ have in mind is a bit more relevant: what if it were Whittington who had shot– er, sprayed — _Cheney_ in the face, in an otherwise identical fashion? How would things be playing out amongst the VP’s defenders? Would they be blaming him for being stupid enough to walk into a hail of shotgun pellets? Do you think we’d have seen no more than a quick photo of Whittington “skulking back home”:, with no word of apology or expression of embarrassed regret? Do you think Cheney would be accepting responsibility for the accident from his ICU bed?

This scallops dish is a lovely special dinner for two. It’s fast, delicious and impressive. It requires two pans (you’ll likely be happier if one is a non-nonstick 12-inch pan) and a few unusual ingredients, but nothing special-ordered. If you can stir, and you can measure out three minutes, you can make this. As a bonus, it leaves you with an open bottle of champagne to drink with dinner.

Reproduced from memory from the highly-recommended Les Halles Cookbook.
[click to continue…]

Rubel on privacy and the Patriot Act

by Harry on February 14, 2006

I see via Larry Solum (an indirect route if ever there was one) that Alan Rubel has posted his paper “Privacy and the USA Patriot Act: Rights, the Value of Rights, and Autonomy” (forthcoming in Law and Philosophy) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

[click to continue…]