January 12, 2007

Not a good day for Andrew Sullivan. He seems to unintentionally "out" Condaleeza Rice, here, then approvingly quotes an anti-chickenhawk argument made by a racist xenophobe, here. Senator Boxer, of course, is exactly right. Whatever the merits of requiring a person to have some sort of stake in the policy they're arguing for, it must be clear to anyone who doesn't have his head up his ass that the ongoing debacle in the Middle East stems in large part from this being a war in which our governing elite and our fighting men and women come from two different classes. So much of our thinking stems from two interrelated notions: that we extrapolate onto the universe our own unique experiences, and that we feel much greater empathy to those closest to us. The full gravity and horror of war cannot be wholly appreciated by those who've never seen combat, or who've never had a loved one do so.

UPDATE: Another moronic take on the subject, here (esp. in the comments). Those conservative cheerleaders for war have never had an effective counter to why they're sitting this one out, besides the Modified Liston Alibi.
David Beckham signing to play with the locals is probably the thing needed to free Major League Soccer from its malaise. The league gets good but not great attendance and TV ratings, but has not matured to the point where it can sell to the fan the notion that American sports fans take as their birthright: that it is a top calibre league where the best players in the world congregate. Americans can accept the fact that the U.S. national team is not even close to being at the top in ice hockey, and that other countries have now surpassed us in baseball and basketball, since our domestic leagues in those sports are still the best.

But it's next to impossible to develop any sort of passionate interest in teams like D.C. United or the Galaxy as long as they remain content to dominate a very mediocre league. Fanatics of the sport in this country can easily dial into the Premier League or Serie A on the Fox Soccer Channel every weekend, while the casual fan has other, more palatable options during the season than watching the Houston Dynamo take on Chivas U.S.A. Giving Americans a reason to watch is one way the MSL can make itself more credible, and the best way to do so at this point is by signing top-flight players. Beckham, who has had so much attention paid to his demotion, at both the club and national level, that he can now be classified as one of the game's most underrated players, will do that, in much the same way Michael Jordan's return to the hapless Washington Wizards several years ago gave hoops fans an excuse to watch Eastern Conference basketball.
Oh, to be in England...The Trial of Tony Blair debuts this Monday. For the swelling legions of Phoebe Nicholls fans, it will surely be nirvana, and the early word is that it will even be worth watching the scenes she doesn't appear in. She has a line about Bush being in a coma that may surpass "Game, set and match" as the greatest line she's ever uttered. Otherwise, it's got some telling points about the responsibility (or lack thereof) that Western political leaders have for the consequences of their actions, including the fairy tale notion that we would actually allow international tribunals to judge our own actions.

The ICC, which tries Blair in the satire, got a bad rep from the Milosevic trial, which lasted for four years; needless to say, a four-year trial that ends only because the defendant died is contrary to any elemental notion of due process, and ends up being self-defeating if the goal is to illuminate the atrocities of the accused. After about six months, even the most passionate adherents of human rights and accountability are going to be more interested in what Paris Hilton or Posh Spice are wearing than who ordered what in Bosnia. But it obviously beats the travesty of the victor's justice that we just saw take place in Iraq. How we can consider ourselves civilized for applying one standard of justice to Pinochet and Milosevic, and another to Bush and Blair, who have the blood of hundreds of thousands on their hands, is beyond me.

January 08, 2007

This is directed at women, but it's something for a fat bald wastrel on a cruise ship to think about:
Beauty is power -- except for those who'd rather not spend the time. They call it "pandering to the male gaze." Yeah, it's that, too. Like wastrel kids whose legacy relative gets their asses into Yale, sometimes a little cleavage, a nice smile, and a fabulous hat get you a better seat on the plane. When they offer to move you to first class, what do you do, offer your seat to the ringer for Andrea Dworkin?
Just my luck, I'm seated in first class, and I get seated next to Miss Dworkin...or Jack Abramoff. If you haven't checked out her site recently, Amy Alkon is on a run comparable to Urban Meyer tonight.

January 07, 2007

Congrats on ending a 207-game losing streak, but when did Cal Tech become one word ("Caltech")? Have I been pronouncing it wrong all along?
Our Long National Nightmare, Part II: A profile of Robert T. Hartmann, the man who crafted the most famous line Gerald Ford ever spoke, in this morning's LA Times by the Burt Blyleven of the blogosphere, Matt Welch:
Hartmann, a Times reporter from 1939 to 1964 (with time out for service in the Navy during World War II), was no fan of the Nixon staffers, who he derisively referred to as "the Establishment." He blamed them for Ford's 1976 defeat and warned about their influence early in the Reagan era. Rumsfeld, he thought, was a cunning opportunist, while his sycophantic assistant Cheney, according to Hartmann's 1980 memoir, was "somewhat to the right of Ford, Rumsfeld or, for that matter, Genghis Kahn."

The feeling was mutual. Rumsfeld eventually undermined Hartmann by arguing successfully that the counselor's office — which shared a door with Ford's — should be converted into a presidential study. Cheney, dissatisfied with the speeches Hartmann was writing for the president (especially a historic April 1975 Tulane University address in which Ford declared the Vietnam War was "finished as far as America is concerned"), simply created his own separate speechwriting shop. And Nixon Chief of Staff Alexander Haig landed the most lasting blow of all by working around the counselor to discuss with then-Vice President Ford the possibility of pardoning the outgoing chief executive.
Hartmann, a former Counselor to the President, was a pallbearer at President Ford's funeral last week. Ironically, he spent a quarter of a century as a reporter at the Times, where he had been a particular favorite of the politician who was most famously a creation of the paper, Richard M. Nixon. Hartmann opposed the pardon of Nixon, and as recently as seven years ago called the act "an extremely selfish decision" by Ford, geared more towards making his life easier as President than any desire to put the past behind him.