Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Sunday Morning!

with 10 comments

* My friend (and longtime reader) Jacob recently invented a hip new parlor game: “What minor events of 1965 will feature offhandedly in the rest of this season’s Mad Men episodes?” Hercules at AICN is already playing.

* Maybe it’s the “(un)professional left” in me, but seeing progressive bloggers fall over themselves to praise Obama for his statement in defense of the Cordoba House project looks a lot like the soft bigotry of dramatically lowered expectations. (…an odd thing about Obama’s presidency has been the extent to which his speeches are taken to be the site of the real action. ‘There’s something weird,’ a close observer of politics said the other day, ‘about the way when you talk to people about Obama, they mention his speeches and compare them to his other speeches.’) Nate Silver makes the case that this wasn’t even especially politically risky, and I tend to agree. Even Fox & Friends said he did the right thing. If this were really “one of the most impressive and commendable things Obama has done since being inaugurated,” we’d be in even worse trouble than we are.

I did like this from Josh Marshall:

It’s a quite a moment. We’re still hung up on the Turks turning the Hagia Sophia into a Mosque in 1453? Soon after 9/11 we marveled at how the bin Ladenites could still be so aggrieved over the abolition of the Caliphate in 1923 and the loss of Muslim Spain in 1492. But I guess times change.

* Speaking of the professional left, Maureen Dowd is stealing all my best ideas:

After Bush, Democrats thought the way to paper over the distinction between liberals and radical lefties was to call everyone progressives. But calling yourself a progressive is just a stupid disguise where you pretend the contradiction isn’t there.

* Scientists discover new bearded monkey. After a month and a half without access to a proper beard trimmer, I have to admit I look more and more like this monkey. Two more days in Europe, then I get a haircut and a shave.

* In sadder monkey news: Officials Seek Court Order to Kill Lemurs.

The state wants to see the lemurs put to death. “We have the authority to kill the monkeys,” said a state health official, who asked not to be named. “We don’t know which one bit, so they all have to go.”

* Can you believe my mother threw out my one-of-a-kind Jon Stewart stormtrooper? I’d be a millionaire today.

* Is Seattle the new center of the literary universe? Via the Poetry Foundation.

* And a bogus climate “expert” has walked back his denialism on CNN. The linked article also has your climate apocalypse factoid of the day, which would have come in handy in the epic thread a few days ago:

Myers and Sanchez also promoted other denier canards, from petty jokes about Al Gore to a mention of winter in South America:

So it’s the coldest winter on record in Bolivia. Okay. So. Well does that counteract? Probably not. They’re having millions of fish killed because they’re freezing to death literally in Bolivia.

In fact, it is only the coldest winter in Bolivia in 47 years, not the “coldest winter on record.” In contrast, Russia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Niger, Sudan, Belarus, Ukraine, Cyprus, Finland, Qatar, St Helena, Solomon Islands, and Columbia have all seen all-time record-high temperatures this year. The global average temperature is at or near record highs, far above the long-term average. Fortunately, global warming has not yet gotten so extreme that record lows are never set — but they are now greatly outpaced by record highs.

10 Responses

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  1. ‘There’s something weird,’ a close observer of politics said the other day, ‘about the way when you talk to people about Obama, they mention his speeches and compare them to his other speeches.

    Isn’t that how people do political history in literature programs?


    August 15, 2010 at 10:26 am

  2. Given the extent to which criticism from the left about Obama frequently revolves around how loudly he yells about a particular issue and/or the depravity of Republicans rather than anything of actual policy/legislative substance, I suppose it’s only fair that he should get credit for this.

    Shankar D

    August 16, 2010 at 12:21 am

  3. I guess that’s fair enough a point as far as it goes, but I think the credit in the linked posts is pretty overblown. Don’t you think Bush would have said exactly the same thing about this (non-)issue?


    August 16, 2010 at 4:13 am

  4. How is that a fair point? All of the leftist critique of Obama that I’ve read is about policy. I honestly can’t think of a single left critique of Obama that is about his rhetoric, except those critiques that accuse him of being all style and no substance (which is actually an argument about policy).


    August 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

  5. Maybe the *good* Left critique is about policy, but I’ve definitely read plenty of the “he just needs to talk more aggressively” sort too.


    August 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

  6. Making threats that actually have teeth is not the same as “talking more aggressively.”


    August 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

  7. There’s definitely that, and there’s definitely a case to be made that we could have better policy if he would only just advocate it. But there’s definitely people on the left who want a culture-war-style invective more or less for its own sake; at least, I’ve read those people.


    August 16, 2010 at 1:05 pm

  8. Fair enough.


    August 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

  9. I’d say actual policy criticism is much less than half. Tactics elevated to the level of principle (which would presumably cover making threats with teeth, whatever that means precisely) and stylistic issues of the sort mentioned above constitute well over half. I share some of the tactical crticisms – my big gripe is on the stimulus negotiations – but much of it leaves little room for good faith disagreement, even while coming from those of us with little practical experience in legislative and political wrangling. It’s like accusing the home team’s coach of throwing the game because you think he should’ve played man defense instead of a zone.

    Shankar D

    August 16, 2010 at 11:43 pm

  10. Re: whether the credit is overblown, maybe, I dunno. Of course, it’s what you should expect any decent President to say. But the important point is that he didn’t have to say anything and it may have been a political mistake for him to open his mouth on this. Regarding the level of unpopularity, I don’t think I buy Nate’s distinction. If you read Obama’s full speech, he doesn’t seem to be lumping himself in the middle third who thinks that Muslims have a technical right to build a mosque, but that it’s somehow in poor taste to do so. That said, I think that if the issue were conveyed more accurately to the American people, it would be much less unpopular.

    As for Bush, he might’ve said the same thing, but (1) as a rhetorical matter, Bush was always fine on these issues (even if, as an operational matter, his policies tended to conflate all brown people), and (2) there’s less downside when you’re not already caught in a “secret Muslim, weak on terror” narrative or whatever. Really, though, I suspect Bush would’ve just stayed silent.

    Shankar D

    August 17, 2010 at 12:01 am

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