Archive

  • How John Brown Helped the Terrorists Win

    The latest New York Review of Books offers up an excellent essay on John Brown's legacy. Excellent, at least, until page four, when it jukes you out and begins dashing off in the oddest direction an essay on a long-dead abolitionist can run in. After spending three and a half pages vividly recapping Brown's life, the Harper Ferry raid, and the war it led to, the author, James McPherson, deploys the only rhetorical weapon that could possibly make John Brown's story more dramatic: 9/11. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the few black civil rights leaders who refused to pay homage to Brown, whose methods contradicted King's commitment to nonviolence. This issue raises troubling questions. In 1859 many Northerners separated Brown's means from his ends and disapproved one while approving the other. But in the post-9/11 world, it's not so easy to separate means from ends. The essay, until you reach the end, hums along great. And then you trip and fall into a time-warp and end up stuck on 9/...
  • Why Is This Column Different From All Other Columns?

    David Brooks knows something you don't: Bill Frist should have taken the deal. Last week, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, made an offer to head off a nuclear exchange over judicial nominations. Reid offered to allow votes on a few of the judges stuck in limbo if the Republicans would withdraw a few of the others. But there was another part of the offer that hasn't been publicized. I've been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush's pick, he'd come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush's nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed. Brooks thinks Frist should've taken the deal. Hell, so do I. If Reid offered to unilaterally lay down arms no matter how crazy-insane Bush's nominees were, Frist should've jumped. If he could've...
  • News About News

    According to Singer , the leading lights of the right-leaning blogosphere are setting up some sort of professional news service. And believe you me, Matt's not the only one anxiously awaiting dispatches from the Iraq correspondent stationed in Toledo, Ohio. More exciting yet will be the Social Security expert who spends half the year on Chile's website and the political columnist reporting directly from Peggy Noonan's hypothalamus. That sound you hear? That's the AP's knees knocking...
  • We Don't Not Torture

    You should really read Henry Farrell's post on our unpleasant, barely-even-denied practice of shipping prisoners off to Uzbekistan, land of boiling body parts and forcibly removed toenails. Our actions are a travesty and our government's unwillingness, indeed, straight dishonesty, when confronted with hard evidence of its actions simply underscores the total contempt the Bush administration holds its subjects -- and I use the word advisedly -- in.
  • Stepping Back for Bernie

    David Sirota's wholly right . Now that Bernie Sanders has scared Vt. Gov. Jim Douglas from the race and proven himself able to raise funds, there's no comprehensible reason for Democrats not to unite behind him. I recognize that he's an independent, but he's our independent, and as a lone wolf is able to tackle progressive issues and Republican misdeeds that our party, for reasons of legitimacy and comity, can't. That makes him a huge asset for Democrats who occasionally need a uber-progressive attack dog but don't have anyone willing to do it themselves. If the party is concerned about the precedent of supporting an independent, they can simply pull out because he's "too strong to beat" and it's not worth wasting money trying to stop Bernie's juggernaut. That'll not only give them an exit strategy, but it'll also make Sanders look unstoppable, and help ensure no serious Republican dares waste his political capital on the seat.
  • Culture of Life Indeed

    In one of the sicker incarnations of the Christian Right's myopia, they're gearing up to oppose a new vaccine that could protect women from HPV, the virus that causes most instances of cervical cancer. HPV, of course, is often spread through sex, so the God Squad is worried that giving children a vaccination will, years later, be interpreted as a divine "alrighty-then" to lead a life packed with penises. This appears to be what Christ's legacy has come to: the prioritization of abstinence over life. That's what should be taken away from these comments. Bush likes to conceal his stance on abortion through the inegnious "culture of life" formulation. But these people don't really want a culture of life. Their overriding objective is not protecting women from AIDS and HPV and cervical cancer and potentially deadly childbirth (as in partial-birth abortions) and other potential killers, it's stopping them for having premarital sex. And if a few -- hell, if a lot! -- have to die to make...
  • Coupling Questions

    Speaking of Coupling, which I did in the post below, I'm a bit confused. Now that I've watched most of the second season, what the hell happened to the cliffhanger from the first? You know, the one where Susan breaks up with Steve and then appears in his room demanding he propose? The second season acts like it never happened. Or am I missing something?
  • The Folly of Alphabetizing...

    I'll never understand folks who alphabetize their books. It's not that I don't appreciate the idea of imposing some order on the ever-encroaching floor-monster that is my library, but the method seems so very off. I acquire books at an enormously alarming rate. You think I'm joking, I'm not -- the government has retained a team of highly trained specialists to monitor, study, and reach conclusions based solely on my rate of literary acquisition. One of them had a nervous breakdown, the other two got divorces. It's really quite scary. Because of my Amazon addiction and my dorm room's lack of bookshelves, my storage system is a bit off. My dorm overflows with tomes. I've taken over all the bookshelves in the main room, filled a closet, littered the floor, stacked my dresser, and generally replaced my roommates with paperbacks. The trunk of my car -- a hatchback, no less -- is layered three deep with books, a bit of unfinished business left over from when I moved out of Santa Cruz last...
  • Sorry Rummy

    Spencer Ackerman, in an article laying out Rumsfeld's renewed focus on military transformation, writes: But what the arrival of the new senior leadership at the Pentagon indicates is that the Pentagon's first-term focus on winning ideological and bureaucratic battles about control over foreign policy is largely over. This time around, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is turning his attention to the priority that brought him back to the Pentagon in 2001--military transformation--and the new team at DOD is designed to help him do it. Or was it turned for him? Rumsfeld's catastrophic first term didn't result in dismissal, but it seems to have ended in a sort of castration. Even though he easily overtook Powell's State Department, it looks like the Pentagon's time as the primary force behind Bush's vision has ended, and Rice's State Department is now where the action's at. That's reflected in the personnel changes in both departments. The 2004 staff shuffle has not only ripped some of...
  • Wow

    The new issue of Foreign Policy has a blurb on the increasing anti-Americanism of South Korea's textbooks. To demonstrate, they offered up this question from a teacher's packet on the 1991 Gulf War: "Which of the following descriptions of Iraq after the Gulf War is incorrect? 1) Infant mortality increased by 150%, and in some areas, 70% of newborns had leukemia due to sanctions. 2) The United States and Britain conducted a bombing campaign against Iraq for 11 years after the war, causing terror among the Iraqi people. 3) Cancer among Iraqi children increased by 700% because of depleted uranium left from the bombing. 4) The infant mortality rate of Iraqi children in 1999 was 300% higher than it was a decade earlier. 5) Not one Iraqi starved to death after the war because of the extensive food relief program." In case you were wondering, the correct choice -- meaning it's false and the others are true -- is 5. This is what's making it into the textbooks of our allies . I really can't...

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