Gregg Easterbrook -- Wait! It's a new subject, I swear! -- is back with another appalling display of ignorance. "Physicists rather casually speak of ten unobservable dimensions, in addition to the obvious three, existing in our own reality, all around us," he writes. So, why, he asks, is the idea of an unseen divinity so preposterous? "If at Yale, Princeton, Stanford, or top schools, you proposed that there exists just one unobservable dimension--the plane of the spirit--and that it is real despite our inability to sense it directly, you'd be laughed out of the room. Or conversation would grind to a halt to avoid offending your irrational religious superstitions. To modern thought, one extra spiritual dimension is a preposterous idea, while the notion that there are incredible numbers of extra physical dimensions gives no pause. Yet which idea sounds more implausible--one unseen dimension or billions of them?"
First of all, I hang out with a lot of folks who don't believe in a deity, and quite a few who fervently do. And I've never heard either group laugh at the other, or avert their gaze in embarrassment. Like many culture warriors on both sides Easterbrook has a bit of a martyrdom complex, asserting a hostility to religion that isn't remotely as commonplace as he'd like to believe.
But more importantly, his post is a dud regardless of whether you believe in God or not. You see, physicists simply do not speak of multiple dimensions "rather casually." They raise the possibility of such dimensions Ð an increasingly likely possibility -- because many long hard years of scientific experiments and calculations have led them to believe that these dimensions can explain certain observable phenomena. That's a revolutionary theory, and while it's becoming more accepted, it's certainly not thrown about "without batting an eye," as Easterfuck says. I'm the first to admit that I don't understand the math, but I get that there is math behind it, while claims about God are backed by non-math (faith, most commonly, or other kinds of evidence). If I'm reading Eastbrook correctly he's saying: string theory and God both sound weird; therefore they're both the same type of claim; but God has fewer dimensions; therefore, God is more plausible. I don't know what's worse, his grasp of physics or his grasp of theology.
It doesn't help that GE conflates Ð rather casually, I must say Ð the notion of 10 or so dimensions, which is fundamental to string theory and largely accepted as a realistic model that has met repeated tests, with that of "billions of unseen universes," which is, at this point, merely a theory, and one that even its proponents admit is a leap of imagination. Proponents of billions of unseen universes, unlike those of one unseen deity, are saying only that based on what we know so far, such a thing is at least possible, and worth studying Ð worth attempting to disprove, in fact (that's how science works) Ð because we could learn something in the process even if it turns out not to be true. See if you can spot GE's error in this passage:
Recently The New York Times science section offered a nice story about a researcher, Maria Spiropulu of the University of California at Santa Barbara, who is trying to confirm the existence of other dimensions experimentally...
But the article left out the really interesting part, which is what the question of other dimensions says about the spiritual debate. At Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and other top schools, researchers discuss ten unobservable dimensions, or an infinite number of imperceptible universes, without batting an eye. Scientists banter offhandedly about invisible realities that might incorporate trillions of billions of galaxies, and suppose such things are real in spite of there being no physical evidence whatsoever to support such speculation. No one considers discussion of other dimensions to be peculiar. Ten unobservable dimensions, an infinite number of invisible parallel universes--hey, why not?
Yup, the second graf completely contradicts the first. How does "trying to confirm the existence of other dimensions experimentally" in any way mean the same thing as "banter offhandedly" and "suppose such things are real in spite of there being no physical evidence whatsoever to support such speculation." Um, that's what the experiments are for: to look for the evidence! If anyone was doing similar experiments and calculations in an attempt to prove (or disprove!) the existence of God, then you'd have a parallel. Theists I know would hardly endorse such experiments, it's probably worth mentioning.
If I seem a little more unhinged than usual about this, I think it's because I'm beginning to detect in GE's work a pretty disgusting hostility toward secularism (and even rationalism). Imagine how he'd feel if someone wrote a post exactly like his mocking, with zero understanding, the tenets of his religion Ð- and even the way its adherents dress.
Anyway, I know some folks who say string theory is God.
I'm giving up on Gregg, but anyone who wants to get a grasp of this fascinating area of science absolutely must read The Elegant Universe. It's one of those books that will change the way you think about the world. It's not a hard read, either, but if you'd prefer, at least check out the Nova adaptation that starts tomorrow.
The forces of darkness are up in arms about the forthcoming Reagan TV biopic. Apparently you might want to sit down for this some of the dialogue is invented and "the script mentions nothing about the historic economic recovery of the 1980s." Man are viewers gonna be pissed when they tune in for some hot supply side action only to find it replaced with boring stuff about astrologers.
True, the mini-series credits Ronny with winning the Cold War ("Get off my planet!" he says, before punching a terrorist Russian bear, if I recall correctly), but the frothing conservatives ignore that because it contradicts their master storyline of a hoplelessly liberal media. As does the inconvenient fact that this story was broken by the "arch-liberal" New York Times. Christian Toto goes to some lengths to obscure that detail, writing, "The online Drudge Report lifted the curtain on CBS' 'The Reagans' Monday, citing an article in yesterday's New York Times." Another scoop for Matt Drudge!
I was going to write this up as a Talking Point for The Week but I couldn't because nobody on the left has bothered to weigh in with an opposing view. This may be because the story is too obviously iditotic, but I like to think it's because an overexcited Ed Morrow tripped Godwin's Law before anyone could reply: "The substitution of propaganda for fact is dangerous. It's not by accident that tyrants create "history" to justify their schemes. Hitler couldn't have taken control of Germany without the many anti-Semitic myths that had been allowed to fester and go unchallenged. Stalin and Mao couldn't have kept a heel on the neck of their countries without self-glorifying myths that demonized anyone who stood in their way. In this case, simple justice demands that the lies about Ronald and Nancy Reagan must not go unchallenged but, in a larger sense, truth itself must be defended. "
First they came for the Reagans, but I did not speak up, because I was not a Reagan...
"I am an economist. Can it really be that I know more about Afghan politics than the secretary of defence?" A worrisome tidbit about the Rumsfeld Memo that didn't make the news. (via Brad DeLong
Dick Cheney says a Zogby poll has "very positive news" about Iraqi's opinions of the American occupation. James Zogby doesn't think Cheney read the poll very carefully.
On McSweeney's, Tim Carvell watches re-runs in an alternate universe:
"While 'The Dukes of Hazzard' was entertaining enough, there seems to be another, even more fascinating show, lurking in the background, namely: What, precisely, is going on at the roads department of Hazzard County? Given that there's always at least one bridge out in Hazzard County, they must be off solving crimes or something. I like to imagine a show about them; every week, they set out to fix the bridge over the holler, and then they come across Bigfoot or the Lindbergh baby or something and get all distracted."
Gregg Easterbrook has a good blog -- for me to poop on!
Easterbrook e-mailed this denial (allegedly, perhaps I should say) to a few friends. However, his other friends, the ones who got the first e-mail, continue to insist that is was authentic. If it wasn't, it's a damn good imitation of GE's sloppy writing, and it raises the question of who would fake such a thing? Wait, wait -- the Jews?
It's confusing, and all the more so because of the method Easterbrook is using (allegedly) to get the word out. Hmmm, If only he had some kind of public forum where he could clear this all up.
Of course, if Easterbook did publish, under The New Republic's aegis, a denial that turned out to be a lie, that would be a Romenesko-worthy scandal. That couldn't be the reason he's sticking to e-mail, could it?
From Frank Answers: Which is worse, Britney Spears or a black howler monkey?
"I recently had the misfortune of sitting through most of the Britney Spears movie Crossroads, and about halfway through it i began to feel an intense and disturbing urge to vacate my bowels involuntarily. The last time i felt such an overwhelming urge was at the Black Howler Monkey exhibit of the San Francisco Zoo. Naturally i'm wondering if there's any connection, and if so, which is more dangerous to our freedom as God Loving Americans: the continued existence of Britney Spears or the continued existence of the Black Howler Monkey?"
"All I know about Britney Spears is that she seems to be the head of the trend for eleven-year-old girls to dress up like hos. For that, I think the parents are the ones in need of a smacking. I would be much more fearful of the sinister black howler monkey. His evil howl can be heard for miles, and will serve as an alarm to the other monkeys when we finally begin out strike against them.
"If you still have bowel problems, consult a doctor."
I watched the whole Senate debate yesterday. I lost count of how many times pro-life senators used language implying that the procedure they were banning was a birth interrupted by an abortion. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Rick Santorum, opened the debate by saying, "The term 'partial birth' comes from the fact that the baby is partially born, is in the process of being delivered. ... Here is this child who is literally inches away from being born, who would otherwise be born alive." Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Senate's only doctor, concluded the debate by describing the procedure as "destroying the body of a mature unborn child."
President Bush exploits the same illusion. In his State of the Union address this year, he said the bill would "protect infants at the very hour of their birth."
That's just false. This procedure doesn't take place anywhere near the appointed hour of birth. If you paid close attention to the Senate debate, you might have noticed the part where Santorum said the procedure was performed "at least 20 weeks, and in many cases, 21, 22, 23, 24 weeks [into pregnancy], and in rarer cases, beyond that." He didn't clarify how many of these abortions took place past the 20th week. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. In 1992, the Supreme Court mentioned that viability could "sometimes" occur at 23 or 24 weeks. Santorum described a 1-pound fetus as "a fully formed baby," noting that while it was only at 20 weeks gestation, it had a complete set of features and extremities. But according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the survival rate for babies born weighing 500 grams or lessthat's 1 pound, 1 ounce or lessis 14 percent.
To Stars, Writing Books Looks Like Child's Play. The surest sign that someone underestimates an art form is that they think they can do it themselves. People who would never try to tackle a novel, or "even" a chapter book, don't think twice about banging out a book for little kids, which is, in some ways, one of the most difficult types of books to write well (unless you're currently in taking an English Lit class, your grandchildren will probably not read any of the adult fiction you read this year -- the next generation will have equally good novels of their own. They will, however, read most of the books you read as a young child, because truly good children's books are a much more rare event).
Similarly, it's always shocking to me that people who would never sing outside of the shower, much less write their own tunes, think nothing of attempting to rap in public. At least no one's buying their CDs. If only the same were true of celeb kid-lit.
I wasn't sure on Monday but now it's pretty clear now that Aaron Magruder knew what he was doing when he did a series of strips on Conoleezza Rice's romantic inclinations. It's even possible, depending on how quickly he works, that the new series, which began yesterday with the strip above, is an intentional middle finger aimed at the skittish Washington Post for pulling the strip.
Blogger Felix at MemeFirst is critical of people who bring up the rumor gratuitously, a group in which he mistakenly includes me: "Daniel Radosh while ostensibly criticising the strip, still manages to get in this: 'If you missed it, it hinged on whether Condi preferred black men or white men. And I know what you're thinking: men?' ...People seem willing to use anything to give themselves an excuse to make the allegation: after all, the comic strip is quite explicitly about Condi Rice finding love with a man, and not a woman.
But wait, I wasn't criticizing the strip for trafficking in rumors -- I was criticizing it precisely for avoiding the most pertinent rumor out there. And what Felix thinks I slyly "managed to get in" was in fact central to my point: IF you're going to make jokes about Condi's personal life, you'll just look clueless if you don't tackle the question on everyone's mind (and I neither know nor care what the answer is). Hell, if I wanted to "make the allegation" I wouldn't need an excuse, would I?
(As an aside, the normally astute as hell Choire Sicha responds to Felix's post by slamming what he thinks was the thrust of the Boondocks strip: "The whole if she loved a man thing? God, that's fucking retarded. How utterly stupid." I think Sicha's making an oddly rookie mistake of confusing a character's point of view with the author's. The humor here is not in its "statement" about what Rice needs, but in the ignorance of the people who would make such a claim. ("And what I really like about the idea is that it isn't the least bit sexist or chauvinistic," Huey muses.) It's so obvious, I kind of have to think that Sicha simply didn't read the strip itself.)
It should also be noted that even though I have no idea if Condi is a lesbian (and don't think it matters one way or the other, despite the anti-gay politics of the administration in which she serves) the rumor is not simply, as some suggest, based on the fact that she's a strong woman. The not having a boyfriend in twenty years is part of it too.
What's really interesting about all this is that Magruder managed to force the rumor into the public without even raising it, and in this, he was helped immensely by The Washington Post. Sam Smith emails that the Post is simply "transparently scared of offending the administration," and would have pulled any joke about any official's private life, but I think that's wrong. Rather, I think the Post panicked that even if Magruder never even hinted at the rumor, any mention of Condi's love life would bring it to mind among people (e.g., everyone in the Beltway) who already knew it, who would then blame the Post for printing it. Update: Sam e-mails again: "I didn't say that the Post would've pulled any joke about a member of the administration... It's pretty clear to me that the Post (as well as much of the mainstream media) is afraid of making waves, and upsetting those in power. Which is what you seemed to be saying too. By the way, I'd never heard anything about rumors of Condi being a lesbian. Nobody tells me anything! I read that she has an oil tanker, that she named after herself. That's all I need to know!"
Magruder is a frequently great comic writer, a dopey speechmaker (too earnest), and an absolutely brilliant manipulator of the media. Despite his occassional misfires, we're all better off for him.
It's now wonder Gregg Easterbrook is now trying to contain his whiney, they're all out to get me letter is he channeling Michael Moore, or what? Let's take a closer look at it, shall we?
I am in trouble and need your help.
Who is "your"? We can't know for sure how many people got this e-mail, but one recipient was puffy Reaganite Steven Hayward who blogged it, a bit too hastily, on No Left Turns. For an editor at the putatively liberal New Republic, Easterbrook sure turns to some angry conservatives when he gets in a jam.
Most of you know that last week I wrote, in New Republic's unedited blog,
What does unedited have to do with anything? "Edit me before I libel the Jews again!"
three foolish and wrong sentences that sound anti-Semitic, especially out of context. I was wrong to have done this, and quickly apologized -- if you have not seen my apology, it is at tnr.com. And if you have seen the apology called in print half-hearted, please read it. I did not just apologize for careless wording, I said what I wrote was 'simply wrong.'
No, really, please read it. In GE's beloved "context," it's pretty plain that what he's admitting is "simply wrong" is precisely his "careless wording." As I've said before, I don't think GE was saying Jews are greedy (though the post had other major problems), but if he wasn't, what exactly, other than his wording, does he think was "simply wrong"?
Friday the New York Times ran a brief story, and I thought at the time that to apologize and then be slammed in the Times was a fitting punishment for my offense. But it's now getting much worse. Late yesterday the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling me 'totally bigoted.' This morning the Los Angeles Times contains an article extensively accusing me of anti-Semitism. The headline could be a parody of McCarthyism, if this were funny: 'If It Sounds Anti-Semitic, Maybe It Is.' The article asserts that the fact that I have for years belonged to one of the country's few joint Christian-Jewish congregations is -- proof of anti-Semitism.
Well, no, the article doesn't "assert" that this is "proof" of anything. What it says is, "Experienced readers will find it a bit like the old 'some of my best friends are' argument." There's a difference, and GE should by now learn to be careful about his sloppy writing, nu? And also, is the person who wrote this really the sameone who wrote in The Wall St. Journal, "Set aside the hypersensitivity of equating mere criticism with the darkness of McCarthyism. What's at work here is fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment. It guarantees a right to free speech, but hardly guarantees speech will be without cost." (Found on Roger Simon, of course).
Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely.
Now it has. I'm with those who think this was silly. If anyone should have fired GE it's TNR (they could at least take away his blog), but what does ESPN have to do with this?
Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in.
Is that true? I wouldn't put it past Eisner, I guess, a notorious sumnabitch, but isn't it also possible that ESPN worried that it set a precedent by firing Rush and now had to be "fair"?
Yesterday I got from Frank Rich a set of emailed questions that reads like the prosecutor's indictment in the Kobe Bryant case. Rich dislikes New Republic for reasons unrelated to me. He may plan to take out his dislike for New Republic on me.
Rich also dislike antisemites, it should be noted, for reasons that have nothing to do with The New Republic. But more importantly, Frank Rich e-mails his questions? What the hell kind of reporting is that? Pick a phone, Frank!
Yesterday Fox News was running a crawl that said, 'New Repblic writer Gregg Easterbrook accused of anti-Semitism.' Saying only that I was accused.
What more should it have said? There's only so much you can fit on a crawl. I do find it an example of silly media-centricity that Fox found this important enough to put on the ticker, but I don't think that's GE's complaint.
All this I can deal with,
Not without a lot of whining, apparently.
but here is the bad part. My next book, The Progress Paradox, is due out in six weeks. (This book says nothing about religion.) I've sold the serial to Time magazine, and the early publicity reaction has been very favorable. There's a fighting chance this will be the first thing I've ever written that actually sells copies.
"Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences.
A ratio, as The Muse notes that is rapidly closing.
Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world.
OK, I don't, of course, actually think GE is saying that The Jews are out to destroy him. And yet, it's hard to think that the person who wrote the above paragraph has really, as they say, internalized this part of his apology: "But accusing a Christian of adoring money above all else does not engage any history of ugly stereotypes. Accuse a Jewish person of this and you invoke a thousand years of stereotypes about that which Jews have specific historical reasons to fear."
Someone who is accused like this cannot proclaim his own innocence. How can I be the witness to my own character? But you can. I appeal to all of you as friends and colleagues to come to my aid. This is my sole hope.
Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi! Here's where the e-mail really gets pathetic. What's next, the U.S. military sending phony letters from grunts to justify the war in Iraq? What's really shabby is not just that GE wants to proclaim his own innocence while not seeming to do so, it's that this reveals that what GE posted in his public apology did not, in fact, represent his complete and entire thinking on the subject. He has something on his mind that he only wants to share with like-minded friends and allies, while he spews bullshit for the rest of us. This is not coming clean.
Contact anyone you know whom you think you can influence, and move fast because the attack against me is moving fast. All I have right now is friends, and all my hopes reside with you. Gregg
So now, a fair question: Did Jonathan Alter get this e-mail? Which of GE's defenders are coming to his aid because he begged, and which really wrote those letters from Kirkuk... or am I getting mixed up again?
Oh yeah, did GE ask PowerLine to take the letter down? Maybe Frank Rich can pose that question in a follow-up email. Stay tuned. Update: Easterbrook denies writing the e-mail.
Update: A friend, who will remain nameless for his own protection, writes, "Good points all around, but a world in which the entire brotherhood of humanity -- black and white, straight and gay, Jew and Gentile -- cannot call Michael Eisner rich and vindictive is not a world I want my children to grow up in."
Chris Hitchens writes the screed we've been waiting for all day: " More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of Mother Teresa: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions."
Uh oh... Gregg Easterbrook's new complaint: The Jews are trying to destroy me!. OK, in fairness, he doesn't say "all the Jews," just Michael Eisner -- the "richest, most vindictive" of them all. Here's the e-mail GE reportedly sent to his remaining friends, urging them to start an astroturf campaign on his behalf:
[Update: PowerLine has removed all traces of this e-mail from its site. Perhaps they only belatedly realized that Easterbrook has good reason for not wanting it made public. Perhaps Easterbrook now wishes it would just go away. Perhaps that's one more thing Easterbrook doesn't understand about the Blogosphere. The original PowerLine page doesn't seem to be in Google's cache yet, but this is the complete accurate text of Easterbrook's letter, as it appeared on PowerLine with this intro: "Over the weekend Steve Hayward wrote about Easterbrook and his current ordeal on No Left Turns. Steve has now forwarded a message from Easterbrook that we pass along below. "]
['Nother update: Easterbrook denies writing the e-mail, but a PowerLiner sticks to his story.]
"I am in trouble and need your help. Most of you know that last week I wrote, in New Republic's unedited blog, three foolish and wrong sentences that sound anti-Semitic, especially out of context. I was wrong to have done this, and quickly apologized -- if you have not seen my apology, it is at tnr.com. And if you have seen the apology called in print half-hearted, please read it. I did not just apologize for careless wording, I said what I wrote was 'simply wrong.'
"Friday the New York Times ran a brief story, and I thought at the time that to apologize and then be slammed in the Times was a fitting punishment for my offense. But it's now getting much worse. Late yesterday the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling me 'totally bigoted.' This morning the Los Angeles Times contains an article extensively accusing me of anti-Semitism. The headline could be a parody of McCarthyism, if this were funny: 'If It Sounds Anti-Semitic, Maybe It Is.' The article asserts that the fact that I have for years belonged to one of the country's few joint Christian-Jewish congregations is -- proof of anti-Semitism.
"Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in.
"Yesterday I got from Frank Rich a set of emailed questions that reads like the prosecutor's indictment in the Kobe Bryant case. Rich dislikes New Republic for reasons unrelated to me. He may plan to take out his dislike for New Republic on me. Yesterday Fox News was running a crawl that said, 'New Repblic writer Gregg Easterbrook accused of anti-Semitism.' Saying only that I was accused.
"All this I can deal with, but here is the bad part. My next book, The Progress Paradox, is due out in six weeks. (This book says nothing about religion.) I've sold the serial to Time magazine, and the early publicity reaction has been very favorable. There's a fighting chance this will be the first thing I've ever written that actually sells copies.
"Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world.
"Someone who is accused like this cannot proclaim his own innocence. How can I be the witness to my own character? But you can. I appeal to all of you as friends and colleagues to come to my aid. This is my sole hope.
"Contact anyone you know whom you think you can influence, and move fast because the attack against me is moving fast. All I have right now is friends, and all my hopes reside with you. Gregg"
This is too rich for me to parse completely right now, but I wanted to get it out there (no one's ever gotten in trouble for blogging too quickly). Update: It's now parsed above in a new post.
Meanwhile, Josh Ozersky e-mails: "It's amazing to me that so many people have latched on to this business about greed as being the most offensive or incendiary piece of jew-baiting in the Easterbrook piece. (Which I thought was worse for being so stupid and uninformed about movies). No, the real message wasn't that Jews are greedy, but rather than Jews have a separate moral culture from Christians, and that "greed" is just a code word for "corrosive secular amorality." This has been the rap on the Jews for centuries, really taking off with the advent of modernity thanks to mssrs. Freud, Marx, and Einstein. Easterbrook resurrects (so to speak) the idea of the Jew as a moral cancer in the culture, and that's much, much worse that calling us greedy."
Josh is on to something, though I think he's inverted GE a bit. What Easterbrook said is actually more like "Jews, by virtue of their history, should not be part of corrosive secular amorality, yet they often are." It's not irrelevent that GE has also said, in the context of Mel Gibson, that Christians, by virtue of their faith, should also not be part of CSA. So regardless of whether his comments are offensive to Jews, they're outrageously offensive to secularists, like myself, since it basically shrugs all of us off as amoral violence freaks by our very nature (unless we happen to be Jewish).
Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds has some thoughtful comments, especially regarding a quote I also noted from Leon Wieseltier: "Insofar as Gregg's comments impute Jewish motives for everything that Jews do, insofar as they suggest that everything any Jew does is intrinsically a Jewish thing, they are objectively anti-Semitic." That to me is more persuasive than the attempt to say that GE thinks Jews are greedy or amoral or anything else. And this time the fact that he holds devout Christians to the same standard is meaningless. Religious Christians are supposed to behave a certain way, Jews are, in this respect, no more obligated to behave any particular way than any other national/ethnic group.
Good to see Boondocks back in form after that unfunny and way off base Condoleezza Rice series. If you missed it, it hinged on whether Condi preferred black men or white men. And I know what you're thinking: men?. I read carefully for signs that McGruder was going to wink at the big rumor (which I cracked wise about for the first issue of Radar, though the piece was ulitmately spiked) but he never did. Still, Richard Blow is half right when he speculates about McG's motive -- regardless of where the strip went, the Washington Post obviously killed it because they were afraid it might be read that way. Come to think of it, if McG's intent was to force the Post to acknowledge the rumor by pulling the strip without him having to even say it, that's kind of genius. Still, today's strip is funnier in itself, isn't it?
"Sexy, daring and improving weekly Coupling is proving to be a swinging sitcom." The Oct. 28 Star on this week's AWOL episode.
Like many bloggers, I pointed out the other day the idiotic remarks Gregg Easterbrook made about Kill Bill. It didn't occur to me, however, that this debate was going somewhere else entirely: that Easterbrook was calling Jews greedy. That's the general consensus in the blogosphere, which has now seeped into the mainstream press.
This attack surprised me because I don't think it's what Easterbrook should be attacked for. True, it's always risky to use the words "greedy" and "Jews" in the same passage, but I'm not going to be offended just because he used language that could easily be taken the wrong way, and he's clearly (well, obviously not clearly, but on close examination) saying, as Alex Heard points out, something entirely different.
I am, however, offended by Easterbrook's obscene misunderstanding of the nature of the Holocaust. Easterbrook's implication is that there's a similarity in kind, if not in scope, between the type of violence depicted in Hollywood movies and the type inflicted during the Holocaust, which is why Jews should be extra sensitive to it. Leaving aside the thorny question of the relationship between movie violence and any real-life violence, Easterbrook's error is in thinking of the Holocaust as simply one big mass murder, as if the only difference between Hitler and Charlie Starkweather is their body counts. In fact, the Holocaust was not in its essence a mass murder at all. Rather, it was genocide: an intent to render a specific group of people sub-human and eliminate them and their culture from the face of the earth. Mass murder was a crucial part of this scheme, of course, but so was slavery, theft, humiliation, torture, debasement of religion, intentional fracturing of family and other social structures, rewriting and erasing of history, wholesale destruction of documents, artifacts, homes, and villages, and much else.
To use an analogy that is in one important way inapt but that nonetheless gets the point across, comparing the Holocaust with the type of killing that Easterbrook believes is glorified in the movies is like calling rape a type of sex. There is a sexual component to rape, but its essence is not sex but violence. There was a murderous component to the Holocaust, but its essence was very different than simple murder. Even the least redeeming movie violence (and Easterbrook would be on firmer ground if he'd chosen, say, Friday the 13th, since in Kill Bill not a single person dies who is either innocent or helpless) does not depict anything even remotely like what happened in the Holocaust. For Easterbrook's admonition to work, he'd have to say that women should not make romantic comedies because so many women have been raped. Um, well, like I said, the analogy falls apart there because it is possible to object to violent movies without dragging the Holocaust into it, while few people object to romantic comedies as a genre unless they star Meg Ryan.
Update: Amy Alkon takes me to task for saying the essence of rape is violence, not sex. "I know that's the popular view, but it's the scientifically incorrect one," she says. Here's her evolutionary psych take:
Thus, although rape can be violent, this doesn't mean a man's motivation to rape is violence. Thornhill and Palmer note that "rapists rarely engage in gratuitous violence, defined as expending energy beyond what is required to subdue or control the victim and inflicting injuries that reduce the victim's chance of surviving to become pregnant or that heighten the risk of eventual injury to the rapist from enraged relatives of the victim (all ultimate costs of rape).
Thornhill and Palmer explain that there's a difference between "instrumental" force, (the force actually needed to complete the rape, and possibly to influence the victim not to resist, not to call for help, and/or not to report the rape) and excessive force (which might be a motivating end in itself). Only excessive force is a possible indication of violent motivation. Use of forceful tactics to reach a desired experience does not imply that the tactics are goals in themselves (unless...one is willing to argue that a man's giving money to a prostitute in exchange for sex is evidence that the man's behavior is motivated by a desire to give away money). Here again the crucial distinction between goals and tactics is blurred when rape is referred to as an act of violence."
I'm sticking with my bad analogy, because this isn't the part that's bad. Unlike many people who do make the error Alkon points out, I wasn't addressing motive. There may be a difference between between "instrumental" and excessive force from the standpoint of the rapist (or of one whose primary interest is in understanding his motivation) but from the standpoint of the victim (or one whose primary interest is in describing the experience and nature of rape as a whole) that difference is irrelevent. Rape distinguishes itself from sex by its violence (even when the violence is only implied). I agree that the rapist is motivated by sexual desire -- that's the sexual component of rape that I mentioned -- but certainly there's something about rape that makes it different in kind from sex, at least enough to make my analogy work (as far as it does).
Update 2: Jonathan Alter thinks he has it figured out: "Gregg's one problem as a journalist is that he sometimes writes too fast." To which TMFTML is "not unsympathetic": "We've certainly made a few ill-advised posts of our own recently (we're thinking in particular of "Enough Already with Black People," "We'll Get to AIDS When We're Done With Cancer, Okay, Bruce?" and, perhaps most controversially, "Fuck You, Pope").
I've always liked Gregg Easterbrook as an essayist, even when I disagreed with him. He's thoughtful, analytical, and a good writer. But in his new blog, he's the opposite of all those. I can't even understand it. Perhaps it's actually written by a monkey manipulating the keyboard with its mind.
I understand why The New Republic thought giving Easterbrook a soapbox would be a good idea, but I'm sure they're regretting it now. Here's a sampling of his recent ramblings, poorly thought out and constructed even by blog standards.
Gregg on snowmobiles:
I can attest that the sound of snowmobiles shattering the snowy calm is quite maddening. But then again, if public lands are public lands, what do we do about the fact that many average people enjoy snowmobiling? Manhattan chardonnay-circuit tut-tutting about the rustic rubes on their snowmobiles--see this New York Times editorial--never takes into account the populist aspect. And what about the snowmobile sales and service industry, a significant sector in some mountain states? Snowmobiles in Yellowstone should be banned, the Times tut-tuts, and the snowmobile economy should "adjust to the new reality." Imagine if residents of Montana demanded that there be no noisy garbage trucks in Manhattan, that noisy printing presses be banned and The New York Times "adjust to the new reality."
Um, Gregg, we don't have all those garbage trucks around here for recreational purposes. Believe me, come up with a quieter way of collecting trash and we'll sign up. Meanwhile, I've lived in NYC my whole life and never once heard the Times presses. They're probably in Jersey somewhere, and I'm willing to bet, without even doing any research (something you should appreciate) that they're in a building in an industrial park where they're not disturbing anyone other than the people who work there. You should've gone with SUVs blasting their stereos, except, of course, that there ARE noise laws in NYC that address that, even if they are rarely enforced.
Now onto his thesis, which I will paraphrase as "Kill Bill = The Holocaust," and which really requires no response.
Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.
Next, Gregg wades into the murky waters of racism.
And while I also don't doubt for a minute that even well-dressed African Americans have trouble hailing a cab on the street in D.C. or other big cities, bear in mind, cabbies roar past well-dressed whites too. When I'm trying to hail a cab on the street in D.C., even wearing coat and tie, I find an average of three empty cabs roar past before one stops. Okay, this could be my looks. But it could also mean that what some African Americans interpret as an I-don't-want-your-business racial slight is actually a moment that happens to everyone.
Yeah, that's gotta be it. No doubt he just happens to get turned down for bank loans too.
And finally, there's the notorious, "'no' means 'get me drunk and take advantage of me'" post that was neatly and thoroughly eviscerated by the great Dahlia Lithwick. I'm hoping Gregg will get up the nerve to defend himself, but so far, he's dodging. Read the exchange yourself, but the crux of his argument is: "Maybe half the sex in world history has followed an initial 'no'."
Or maybe that's just you.
It sucks when your favorite indie band sells out, but I never thought these guys... oh, never mind.
Finally, years of forcing myself to listen to Rush Limbaugh pay off! That's what I imagine Bill McClellan thought when he finished this gem of a column, in which an alternate-universe Rush mocks Oxy-addict Bill Clinton. Usually when columnists write in someone else's voice, the result is a disaster, but McClellan nails Limbaugh so well that I actually found myself thinking, "I can't believe that bastard Clinton is getting away with this!"
A few months ago, Rose alerted Radosh.net readers to a comically inappropriate inline ad on The New York Times Web site. Now she tops herself with this creepy discovery.
Update:This image only works large but displaying it on the page was throwing off my margins. It's worth looking at, though, and you can see it here
Hmm. Maybe I should post this on Let's Twins! too.