November 30, 2005

Malchow defends bad sex

Joe posted on the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards today and ended up by defending the pruriently puritanical Tom Wolfe's infamous sex scene from the lavishly lusterless I Am Charlotte Simmons.

The scene in question is a date rape scene, clinically but lasciviously described. Here's part of the actual scene:
Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns.

Oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest no, the hand was cupping her entire right - Now! She must say 'No, Hoyt' and talk to him like a dog...
Since Joe believes "the judges [...] failed to understand the writing," I presume he means one of three things:

a) the scene was well-written, in which case his sexual aesthetics are whack.
b) the scene was hot, in which case, given the context of a date rape, his sexual ethics are whack.
c) the scene was meant to be both poorly-written and sexually disgusting, in which case he must just not be able to read, given that the title of the award is "Bad Sex in Fiction." 'Poorly-written' and 'sexually disgusting,' intentional or not, are two key characteristics of bad sex in fiction. Wolfe wins.

Connor has asked this question before, but Joe justifies it on a daily basis:

"Can Joe Malchow read words?"

From an Official Unofficial Leak

I just received a tip from someone inside the President's office who's apparently discontented with the way things have been going.

"The President has gone too far when he contemplates taking such liberties with a news agency, hostile though it may be to his projects," they explain. "I am aghast that the President even contemplated such a rash and likely counterproductive action. Just because the news agency in question has opposed many of his efforts does not give him any kind of clearance to go about committing atrocities like this. The freedom of the press must be protected, so I'm passing this on to you."

The source sent this to me as an html file (apparently it is accessible online only to administrators with the proper clearance), so I posted it off my allotted space on the Dartmouth servers.

The names have been removed to protect the guilty.

Link removed.

The New Conservative Morality



(via Pandagon and feministing)

The lengths that they will go to...

Conservative news site Newsmax has the following editorial up: "John McCain: Torture Worked on Me." Here are some of the highlights:
Sen. John McCain is leading the charge against so-called "torture" techniques allegedly used by U.S. interrogators, insisting that practices like sleep deprivation and withholding medical attention... simply don't work to persuade terrorist suspects to give accurate information.
Nearly forty years ago, however... some of the same techniques were used on him. And - as McCain has publicly admitted at least twice - the torture worked! [...]
That McCain broke under torture doesn't make him any less of an American hero. But it does prove he's wrong to claim that harsh interrogation techniques simply don't work.
I dare anyone to defend this editorial.

November 29, 2005

Hmm

I don't know why Andrew Sullivan just heard about "Bush Was Right" today, as that shit's been old hat 'round these parts for nigh on a week or so.

What I do know is that he linked to some Berkeley guy hosting the whole thing. Gold.



A completely non-lyrical analysis:

1) The guitar lick at the beginning is suggestive of "nanny nanny boo boo." This may be intentional, but then again it may not be.
2) The cadence at the end of the chorus is really irritating.
3) The melody has four notes in it, and after four bars they feel like they should change something, so they just get the other guy to sing the same thing up a minor third and go up the scale from there.
3) This part about Ted Kennedy really reminds me of late 90s pop-punk records, like Newfound Glory and what have you. Listen to his voice, it totally changes in timbre for this part, like he's really trying to emo it out.
4) On for the last eight or so they totally bit the drums from Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Going Down." I kind of like that song but it's still pretty lame to be biting from fucking Fall Out Boy.
5) It's only 2:37 long, counting like 15 seconds of I chord at the end.

Bottom line: pillaging top 40 radio for song ideas to make their stupid civics-paper song is a pretty Karl Rove idea, in that it is
1) smart enough to fool most people
2) still, holistically, pretty stupid ("class warfare," the Swift Boat Veterans for truth, etc)
3) really irrevocably dorky.

And obviously we can't be biting shit from those darkies with their hip-pop and their breakdancing and the whatnot, despite the fact that 50 probably would have laced them with a verse.

G-Unot
Fuck 50

More on the Vatican's Stance against Gays

William Saletan has a particularly informative article in Slate today, and Andrew Sullivan has some particularly insightful comments on it.

Saletan argues that it has been Ratzinger's mission to broaden and expand the Church's position from "hate the sin, love the sinner" to "damn 'em both." Sullivan sums it up beautifully:
In the past, the gay individual who remained chaste could attain Christian perfection, his orientation was not in itself sinful, gay men and women were worthy of respect and made in the image of God. Under Benedict, homosexuality itself is morally disordered; even chaste homosexuals are a threat to "priestly life"; homosexuals, whatever they do, are threats to society and the Church; the great gay priests of the past, including Mychal Judge or Henri Nouwen, have "no social value." This is not about hating sin and loving the sinner any more; it's about hating a segment of humankind, segregating them out for moral censure, and banishing them from moral discourse. It's about taking the fundamental message of the Gospels and inverting it.
I originally thought that this was a public relations thing, a tacit bait and switch, equating homosexual priests with child molesters, and therefore it might be rectified in a few years when the ridiculousness of the actual doctrine proved itself in even lower seminary classes and even more severe priest shortages. (A far better way of addressing the real problem would have been a thorough house-cleaning of all the Cardinals who shielded pedophile priests, but like that was going to happen--Boston's Cardinal Law has an important post in the Vatican itself now, I hear.) But Saletan's article shows definitively that this has been a personal crusade of Ratzinger's throughout his rise to power.



Creepy huh? It's sad, but I miss the kinder, gentler conservatism of JPII already.

Destabilizing Society

The Vatican posted its edict against homosexual seminarians today. I haven't been able to find an online copy of the actual document, but I'll keep looking.

In the Reuters news release, we get some interesting comments about homosexuality as the Catholic Church sees it:
"[H]omosexuality risk[s] "destabilizing people and society", ha[s] no social or moral value and c[an] never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman...
homosexuality is "against conjugal life, the life of the family, and priestly life"...
"In no case is this form of sexuality a sexual alternative, or even less, a reality that is equivalent to that which is shared by a man and a woman engaged in matrimonial life"...
It said homosexuality was "a sexual tendency and not an identity" and repeated the Church's stand against allowing gays to marry or to adopt children. It also called homosexuality "an incomplete and immature part of human sexuality"
I just have one question--if matrimony--heterosexual matrimony--is so all-important, if it is the 'complete and mature' form of sexuality, why do we have celibate priests?

If the "reality...shared by a man and a woman engaged in matrimonial life" is so fucking great--in fact the supreme sexual reality (as odd as that sounds)--why don't priests marry? O, I know, they're married to the Church... but the Church is an awfully frigid sexual partner, I'm afraid.

If heterosexual matrimony is the norm to which all faithful are intended to conform, why do we have dozens and dozens of Catholic saints whose greatest accomplishment was their virginity (e.g. Sts. Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Catherine, and Anastasia the Younger, Maria Goretti)? Why was Jesus single? How about our "ever-virgin Mary"--her matrimonial reality was not a sexual reality (must suck for Joseph). If marriage is so terrific, why did Jesus call many of his disciples away from it? Why does the Church suffer divorce to be an option? Why does Paul say, "[H]e who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better" (I Corinthians 7:38)?

You know what? Celibacy as a sexual norm is societally destabilizing. Celibacy is a sexual tendency, not an identity. It is firmly against the "conjugal life [and] the life of the family."

Whether you're fucking a guy or not, being not married has the same basic knock against it--you're not producing kids, and if that's the pinnacle of Catholic sexuality, then celibacy is effectively no different in its deviation from that norm than homosexuality. The emphasis on married life as equal or better than celibacy as a sexual norm or ideal is relatively new, most likely created, I think, to justify the hatred for homosexuality.

Talk about hypocrisy.

Where'd the Spin Go?

I think--I'm not sure--but this could be a first for PowerLine: a post that just says, "A Republican screwed up."

I'm not convinced, though, that cases like the Duke's help Dems out at all. These scandals can easily be portrayed--much like the Abu Ghraib catastrophe--as the work of morally compromised individuals. This is apparently what Republicans are pushing for in the media coverage--and perhaps getting--as Josh Marshall pointed out, the original AP story on Duke Cunningham did not link him to the Republican Party (though later it was updated).

What I think needs to be the strategy used is one that focuses on a lack of leadership from the top--don't even waste time talking about Duke Cunningham--focus on the fact that there is not enough party discipline to keep these politicians from debasing themselves with bribes, money laundering, sordid campaign shenanigans, etc. A well-led party keeps that stuff from occurring; a poorly led party lets it run free.

However, if you do want to momentarily browse through an itemized list of Republicans in varying depths of shit, click here.

French comic to stop American imperialism

Asterix's newest adventure: stop the invaders from "Tadsylwien" (anagram for "Walt Disney"), led by the sinister "Hubs" (anagram for you-know-who), whose justification for invading Gaul is a search for the Gauls' "stockpile of lethal weapons."

Amusing, yes, but precisely the type of childish hostility that conservatives mock.

However, the rest of the article is fascinating in its description of the process of tranlsating the rich and varied puns in the Asterix comics.

Go Georgie, It's Your Birthday

50 shows his love for Bush in a GQ interview.
"50 Cent and Kanye West are the only ones selected to be GQ's "Men of the Year" who have no false modesty about it — both of the hip-hop stars justify their big egos in the mag's pages. But they also have more on their minds than just themselves. Like George W. Bush, for one. 50 thinks the president is "incredible ... a gangsta." "I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him," 50 told GQ. If the rapper's felony conviction didn't prevent him from voting, 50 said he would have voted for Bush. [...] Kanye says after giving us entertainment, his next goal is to give us "inspiration." 50's next goal? He wants to market a condom."

November 28, 2005

Supreme Court Building responds viscerally to Alito nomination!

Link.

Reviewer's Folly

The author of the Review editorial "Steward's Folly" (is it Ellis or Glabe?--the website is annoying in that it doesn't give the byline for editorials) makes an interesting argument about the possibility of expert opinion without the benefit of experience.

I have some minor philosophical quibbles about this argument but I'll let them go. What really interests me is the application of this argument to the administration's justification for amassing and protecting their power--that they know what's best for the College because they are working in it. I'm especially interested in the language the author uses to describe who gives the administration power and whom they are representing.

Let me just say this. The word "student" (nor any of its synonyms) does not appear once in the editorial. Here are the relevant quotes:
We are stewards they [the administration and the liberal old guard of alumni] say, not representatives, and more democracy will force the board to cater to alumni special interests at the expense of the big picture—one to which faculty, administrators, and the ever-ambiguous "future of Dartmouth College" all contribute brushstrokes. And as stewards, they say, they are the only ones capable of seeing that future. This is the reason the ancien regime of alumni are working so hard to make it more difficult for petition candidates to succeed.
[...]
[T]he Lone Pine Revolution [...] is legitima[te and...] seeks to restore rather than reinvent. Moreover, as a course in the American founding would remind us (if such a course were offered at Dartmouth), legitimate power— though it may be invested in leaders in a representative government—is ultimately derived from the people.

Where this fact is ignored, whether it be at Dartmouth or in a two-bit banana republic, all power rests on an unsteady foundation; where it is well regarded, any power, even the extreme power of sending young to men into battle, may be exercised. At Dartmouth, the "people" are in large part the alumni, and, until their wishes are heeded, the College’s stewards serve no one but themselves.
Not one word regarding how much say students--who also might be considered (and in my mind more legitimately considered) "the people"--should have in this glorious democratic Revolution. Who is the Review writing for? The answer should be, by now, obvious.

According to the Review, the administration is only legitimate if it regards its original power as coming from the alumni. This is a Declaration of Ambivalence toward the students--the alumni's wishes are the single most important criterion in establishing the legitimacy of and evaluating the performance of the administration. Students are irrelevant. In fact, by their own admission "any power...may be exercised" when the alumni are properly consulted.

This kind of thinking might work for determining the future of the swim team, but I'm afraid it can seriously destructive if it is pursued blindly into more vital matters such as curriculum, student life, and student safety. There are some decisions in any society made by experts without wide democratic review, and some of them will be important ones. This is a fact of governance, not a fancy. It is, in fact, part of the consent Locke speaks of as the original of political power--it lies at the heart of the judicial system, and, ironically, at the doorstep of the Oval Office War Room.

Playing Devil's Advocate?

Wal-Mart is one of most hated corporations in America, a demonic representation of capitalism and globalization. A soon to be released documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, portends to expose the crimes against society committed by the evil empire. Before we indict and hang Wal-Mart, we should consider the weight of the arguments presented against the firm. (I was inspired to write this after reading a very interesting OPED in the Washington Post by columnist Sebastian Mallaby).

What do Americans have against Wal-Mart? First stylized fact, Wal-Mart drives small local retailers (mom-and-pop joints) out of business. What do Americans expect? There are economies of scale in the retailing industry and a larger firm has a competitive advantage that it can and will use to provide goods at a lower price to customers while making higher profits than small, independent firms. If Americans really want the charm of their mom-and-pop stores, they should be willing to pay the premium. There are some markets in the US that have chosen to do that, particularly in New England and California.

Second accusation of Wal-Mart is that it mistreats employees and blocks unionization. As far as the alleged abuses of the firm against its employees, one can deal with the situation in the appropriate manner, civil courts etc. As far as unionization goes, unions are not unambiguously good. True, they work to maintain certain standards in working conditions for employees etc. However, their affect on employment and productivity is still a much debated topic in the realm of Labor Economics. Most economists generally agree that unions decrease employment, but they often also find that unions are correlated with higher productivity. If unions lead to higher productivity, then Wal-Mart would be fool to block unionization and thus will sooner or later realize the error of its ways, assuming there is one. However, if unions lead to decreased employment, then it would be a loss to society. We could create an insider and outsider effect with union members enjoying higher standards of living, while many suffer from unemployment.

Third oft cited criticism of the firm is that Wal-Mart pays "subpar" wages to its employees and the employees of its subcontractors in China and elsewhere in the developing world. Assuming that Wal-Mart has control over this matter and is paying low wages to these workers, what's to say that this is a bad thing? These workers are clearly getting paid more than their next best alternative (which could be unemployment), otherwise they would not be working for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is probably improving the standards of living for the vast majority of its employees in the third world.

Finally, those who scream of these alleged crimes of Wal-Mart against the indigent rarely consider the good that the Wal-Mart brand of discount retailer system has done for America's poor. Sebastian Mallaby writes that Wal-Mart easily saves as much as $200 billion for Americans every year. By offering most basic necessities at extremely low prices, Wal-Mart, in fact, helps improve the standards of living of the poor. The Washington Post article offers further empirical evidence in favor of Wal-Mart.

Nothing to see here

It appears the Review came out awhile ago and I missed seeing the online edition. Not much of a loss from the looks of it--the diligence of the staff apparently couldn't get around a lack of content.

The most earth-shattering coverage comes in the announcement that a Jewish fraternity is being considered. Any victory for the Greeks is a victory for the Review, right? Good writing, though, by Kale Bongers.

Good writing again by Scott Glabe tackling the curious case of Venezuelan politics, but it seems a curious focus for a Review article, especially given their statement (in this issue) that "we steer clear of... foreign policy." I personally would have liked to know a lot more about the plans of this Human Rights Foundation for campus events. Could this turn out to be one of the hand-holding, "otherawareness-raising-groups" groups the Review abhors?

Dan Linsalata's article on the McKinsey "probe" is informative, but hardly insightful. I wish there had been some real speculation on why the administration is finally addressing the administration's metastasis and in such a hurry. The best we get is that there was pressure from the Trustee Board. Oh. Really? Bombshell.

I'm not implying anything, but the editorial on divestment has a sentence that strangely repeats a claim that I made over at Vox in Sox, that "[t]raditionally, academia was the preserve of those who wanted to change the world indirectly; they used the pen’s might rather than the sword’s to influence others." I'd like to think that maybe my thoughts made some sense for once to the Reviewers, but they probably came up with the notion of indirect influence as a primarily academic pursuit independently.

Regardless, the editorial ends up saying that divestment was a bad thing because it could commit us to making all of our investment decisions based on moral criteria. I hardly need to point out the alarmism there. The problem with reductiones ad absurdum is that most cases never reach an absurd point except in theory.

The Steward's Folly editorial takes some unpacking, mostly because the author relies on a multitude of referential pronouns whose antecedents are unclear, or in regular speech, I'm not sure what specifically he's referring to half the time. I'll comment on this piece later today.

Finally, there are a myriad of typographical errors in the online versions of the articles--I am unsure if these typos are absent in the paper copies, but it signals a bit of a rush job at any rate.

November 27, 2005

The ACLU is Gully

"A 14-year-old rapper who was arrested and then suspended for two years by The Riverside Beaver County School District in Pennsylvania for posting his battle raps on the internet has been awarded a $90,000 settlement over his expulsion from school."

"Latour, who said he considers Eminem, Necro and D-Block as his main influences, said he hails from a small town where people don’t understand Hip-Hop music."

I don't know whether or not I can support this. Homey is obviously not guilty of any wrongdoing under American law, but he is really bad at rapping and he uses synth-trumpets like a motherfucker.

I don't know if a school can reasonably be expected to educate someone who considers Eminem, Necro and D-Block his main influences. This kid is one step away from facepaint and a Faygo Cola. Expel him.

Indian Head Op-Ed

With all the bustle around Thanksgiving, I forgot to post my op-ed in response to Jon Wisniewski's op-ed defending the Indian Head mascot as I had promised.

His argument is so bad, even the Review distanced themselves from it, so I feel like it would probably be a bit of overkill to continue to attack it at this point, but the Dartmouth stopped publishing before I could get my response in.

I've posted the op-ed over at Vox in Sox so I don't clutter up this page (though my column is actually quite short).

That's some thinking, there

I love counterintuitive thinking, almost for its own sake--I think it provokes serious questioning and thought much better than even the most lucid and intelligent explications of conventional wisdom.

So here are three articles that proceed from rather counterintuitive premises:
  • The purpose of intellectual property law is not to prevent copyright infringement.
  • Not having a singular, focal/vocal leader is helping (or could help) Dems.
  • Bob Woodward was right in not snitching on his sources.

One caveat about that last article: The article doesn't even attempt to touch the troubling detail that Woodward didn't just keep his mouth shut about his knowledge but took proactive steps to mislead the public about matters relevant to the investigation.

Alito: a Reviewer in Spirit?

A NYT article from today's paper gives a very intriguing look into Sam Alito's ties to a radically conservative alumni activist group--the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. The article lays bare the ridiculous extremism of their radically conservative positions--e.g. they opposed the institution of more inclusive residential college-based eating halls because the plan put forward was "intended to create racial harmony"--and questions what this means for Alito's nomination and what it reveals about his politics (and, I would like to ask, what it means about his character).

I don't really think this "revelation" tells us anything that we didn't already know about Alito--he's a conservative, and not of a moderate vintage.

My mind was made up anyway when I learned that he went back on his promise (multiple times) to recuse himself on cases wherein he had a conflict of interest. All the arguments for the man depend on his ability to suspend his own political leanings enough to deliver a judgment that is unbiased and intellectually honest. The man's not even honest even when testifying before the Senate, how can he be counted on to be truly impartial and not blinded by his obviously extremist sympathies?

But what really interests me about this NYT article is that it really begs the question--does the Concerned Alumni of Princeton sound very different from Dartmouth's own conservative discontents/malcontents? Perhaps the Princeton cabal are a bit more vociferous, but the charges they made against Princeton are not very different from the charges I've heard levelled against the Dartmouth administration. In addition, Review alums Dinesh D'Souza and Laura Ingraham, the article says, actually became the editors of the group's magazine--Prospect.

Kinda makes you wonder (anachronistically?), if Alito had gone to Dartmouth, would he have been a Reviewer?

War--What is it good for?

WaPo had a fascinating article yesterday about the possible positive effects war may have on some soldiers--testing them, trying them, and making them stronger. The article quotes a Dartmouth Med School prof, Matthew J. Friedman, who is also the director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He says, "If you think about all of the heroes and heroines in cultures across the world . . . all of them, in one sense or another, faced some sort of a dragon...The transformation from that encounter has been celebrated from antiquity." He also said that
research on the issue has not been that extensive and that the "deleterious" effects of trauma have received the most attention.

But that is changing. "The whole field, in the last four years, has shifted to a certain extent [to focus on] resilience, on human potential," he said.
Food for thought, anyway.

November 26, 2005

About Abramoff

Great Wall Street Journal article on the upcoming Abramoff scandalacious explosion:
Prosecutors in the department's public integrity and fraud divisions -- separate units that report to the assistant attorney general for the criminal division -- are looking into Mr. Abramoff's interactions with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney (R., Ohio), Rep. John Doolittle (R., Calif.) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R., Mont.), according to several people close to the investigation. Messrs. DeLay and Ney have retained criminal defense lawyers. Spokespeople for Messrs. Doolittle and Burns said they haven't hired lawyers.
Messrs.? WTF?

Other links of note:

November 25, 2005

Turkey Time

I trust you all had marvelous Thanksgivings--mine, in fact, was "marvellous," being in the UK and all. It's snowing here for the first time this morning, which is rather quaint.

Some news from yesterday:

  • Trouble up north: Canadian PM faces a no-confidence vote soon. Tell me, why don't we have a parliamentary system?

  • Rap kills: French MP believes rap fueled the riots. Kanye West has been noticeably silent on the matter.

  • Brownie will do a heckuva job in his new emergency planning business, I'm sure.

  • The London Times Online reports Bush will pull 60000 troops out of Iraq next year. Wow.

November 24, 2005

O'Reilly: Timetable Time

"[T]here must be a time limit. Mr. Bush and his crew have to understand that American blood and treasure are not unlimited. It is not undermining the war to suggest giving the Iraqis a realistic private timetable to defend themselves."

O'Reilly's reasoning is, in part, that "get[ting] out of Iraq as quickly as possible without allowing the terrorists a victory" (which, notably, is not the same thing as us getting a victory) will prevent "politicians trying to get elected using the chaos of war." Just who do you think O'Reilly's calling out here? The column makes clear what O'Reilly cares about--keeping Democrats out of power. Who wants to manipulate the war for political purposes again, Bill?

Also, anyone want to comment on his claim that basic training for a US soldier takes six weeks, so why the hell should the Iraqi soldiers be this far behind? Does basic training take only six weeks, or isn't there more training after that? Maybe not two years, but we normally don't try to run basic training in a war zone either.

Despite all this, O'Reilly is calling for a timetable. Is that big news? I wouldn't call it Kronkite coming out against Vietnam, but it's something.

November 23, 2005

PowerLine revealed as partisan hacks

The Volokh Conspiracy has the shocking evidence.

It's kind of a fun thread--I find that the Volokh readers are among the most intelligent of any blog's, and they almost all think PowerLine's credibility has tanked since Bush's election.

Seriously, I read PowerLine (or Malkin) just because I want to read what the most virulent anti-liberals are spewing, not because I want to get any intelligent thought out of my reading.

PowerLine is run by Dartmouth grads. Perhaps that's something we shouldn't spread around--they give Dartmouth a bad image.

Of course, they might say the same about LGB. If they read it.

Two New Bloggers

Little Green Blog has added two new bloggers to its "staff"--Srikanth Batchu and Varun Jain, both '07s. They tell me they may not post much--or at least not too much for right now--but when they do, make sure to read their stuff. It'll assuredly be insightful.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Rent: Not Paying Dues

Fascinating article in Slate about a writer whose early 90s novel seems to have been the inspiration (along with La Boheme) for the musical Rent (now a major motion picture blah blah blah). The author--Sarah Schulman--really got used, it seems--her novel was partially autobiographical and her part was really downplayed when the author of Rent took a hold of it. The article contains a terrific interview with her about the state of the theater, gay/lesbian culture, and intellectual property rights.

I'm probably one of those "bourgeois bohemians" David Brooks talks about, so I'm actually really quite excited about seeing the film version of Rent, despite the bad reviews it's been getting.

rent rosario dawson and random dude

Today's Iraq post

I've run across a lot of good Iraq-related articles and posts, so I'll just string them altogether here.

  • Bush was informed ten days after that Iraq could not be proven to have any links to 9/11. (This article is quite long, but it is incredibly thorough in analyzing the administration's systematic manipulation and cherry-picking of intelligence to justify the Iraq war.)

  • Transcript of a panel discussion of the basis for and future of the Iraq War. This post is only notable for who was on the panel: Arlen Specter, Rick Santorum, Evan Bayh, Alan Dershowitz, Richard Clarke, Pat Buchanan, Chris Matthews. There is an incredible consensus among these men on a variety of points, despite the political diversity of the group.

  • Condoleezza Rice talks withdrawal. "I suspect that American forces are not going to be needed in the numbers that they're there for all that much longer..."

  • Juan Cole has more on the alleged Bush plan to bomb Al-Jazeera's office. Britain, on the other hand, is cracking down severely on any news source that reveals more details of the memo, threatening serious legal action. That says to me that there is certainly something in the memo that Britain and Bush don't want us to see.

    One thing I want to point out--it disgusts me that Al-Jazeera showed the films of beheadings on their channel. I don't have any reason to believe that they are actively aiding the Iraqi insurgents or Al Qaeda, and I doubt Bush does either. Bottom line is, there are other ways to eliminate threats than bombing news centers in a country that is friendly to us (Qatar).

John Kerry, Foreman

Kerry was not only chosen for jury duty, was not only selected for the jury, but was also elected by his fellow jurors to be foreman. All this despite the publicity that putting Kerry in the jury box must have caused, not to mention Kerry's own prosecutorial experience.

Why would a lawyer put Kerry in the jury? The defense playing for a mistrial? The case doesn't seem particularly extraordinary--it "involved two men who sued the city for injuries suffered in a 2000 car accident involving a school principal"--so a mistrial would be unlikely, right?

Anyway, he apparently performed admirably, convincing one woman who voted for Bush last year that she made the wrong choice.

The plaintiffs, whom Kerry decided against, probably wish John Edwards were in the jury box instead.

John Kerry, are you wearing lipstick in this picture?

What Am I Thankful For?

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.



And this:



Bush's approval ratings, broken down by state. (via DailyKos)

November 22, 2005

Vatican: No Actively Gay Men May Be Ordained

The Vatican will release documents next Tuesday that outline requirements concerning the orientation and habits of seminarians who seek to be ordained as priests.

The Vatican restricts men from entering the priesthood who a) "practice homosexuality," b) "present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" or c) "support so-called gay culture."

I'm perfectly fine with part a as long as it is meant to understand that you don't engage in homosexual sex acts. Priests are intended to be celibate and that means no sex of any kind. The rules are the same for gay or straight priests in this regard.

Part b? How is that going to be checked? Psychological evaluations? Interviews with everyone the seminarian has ever known? And how does one know that this will be effective in screening anyone? Priests are to be priests for life--people often change dynamically, and I'm sure being a priest will change a person deeply over the course of many years. And what is a tendency? Is it directly related to behavior? Is it just some latent impulse that may be strong, but fought against very effectively? If so, I say that's a pretty ridiculous standard--I would say I have deeply rooted heterosexual tendencies, but I wouldn't go around screwing all my female parishioners if I became a priest.

Part c is the one I really have a problem with because it does not just extend over who can be a priest and who can't be, but also extends over what a priest can do. By this rule, a straight priest who is involved in a gay-straight alliance in college may not be able to be ordained. I support gay culture and I would tell that to a bishop. Would that get me kicked out of the seminary? That's absurd.

A pdf of the Italian news release that has been authorized by a member of the Vatican is here. If you read Italian, have at it. I made some sense of it, but only after I had read the English news reports.

On a lighter note, Andrew Sullivan calls attention to the Pope's haute couture fashion sense. Then again, if you look this sinister, you probably need Prada shoes and Gucci sunglasses.

Mike Lord has a blog

East Wheelock Community Director Mike Lord has a blog, Zorknapp's Random Musings.
Born in New Jersey, living in New Hampshire, Mike Lord, aka Zorknapp, is married to a wonderful Sue, is working at a pretty decent college, in the field of Residential Life, and loves life, much like the Chicken Lady. Read about his exciting goings on here, and be enthralled by the excitement! Don't let a day pass without checking in, for you'll never know what you're missing!
Totally.

But, Dartmouth is only "a pretty decent college?" What gives, Mike?

New DFP issue online

Here.

Lots of content, including Niral's recap of the divestment proceedings and my piece on "Why Liberals Rule Academia and Why Conservatives Never Will."

Also good reads: Shinen Wong takes Harvey Mansfield's arguments for manliness apart and Nichola Tucker shows that there actually are things to do in White River Junction.

Final Word on White Phosphorus

The Pentagon has referred to White Phosphorus as a chemical weapon. The context? Saddam Hussein used it against the Kurds. Full reporting here on ThinkProgress.

Other news:
Bush planned to bomb Al-Jazeera's offices. Regardless of its politics, Al-Jazeera is not a military target. No news station is, at least without proof that it is undeniably harboring or facilitating enemy activities and even then, there are lots more options to eliminating that activity than destroying the entire news center. Also, the targeted center was in Qatar.

Jean Schmidt's Marine--the one she "quoted" when attacking Rep. Murtha--Colonel Danny Bubp denies that he specifically mentioned John Murtha and states that he would never call a fellow Marine a coward.

6,644 people are still missing in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina.

Today is the anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Indian Head Mascot Defended in the D

Jon Wisniewski's op-ed in yesterday's D is ridiculous. Just read it; there is no sense in it at all. I would attack it fully here, but I just sent in a response to the D, so I'll hold off until I can just link that.

I just want to say that this is the new form of racism--the argument that it is we liberals who are doing all the discriminating and that identity politics is the only form of discrimination current in our pluralistic democracy. If everyone would just focus on individuals and not worry so much about race or creed or color, everything would be fine. The core argument is that fighting discrimination actively by fighting prejudice is a fight that has been won--now we can move on to just being individuals together. This is vile, unsubstantiated, and cruelly deceptive.

It is undeniably true that identity politics has caused a lot of problems, probably a lot of harm. I am unconvinced that it has done more harm than good--I think it is safe to say that America today is genuinely more equal than it ever has been. But the fight against prejudice (note how Wisniewski uses the term "discrimination" rather than "prejudice") is long from over.

America's greatest historical moments have all occurred while fighting against prejudice; all its darkest moments have occurred while ignoring it. Let not this moment be a dark one for America.

November 21, 2005

See, It's Not Just Us Crazy Dems Part II

Iraqi leaders call for a withdrawal plan.
In a final statement, read by Arab League chief Amre Moussa, host of the three-day summit, they called for ``the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces."
Even Rumsfeld is dragging his feet about his support for the war, saying "I didn't advocate invasion...I wasn't asked." Well, it's a little troubling that nobody thought to ask the Secretary of Defense his opinion of invading another country, but that claim is also totally false, as you can see by reading the article I linked. Nevertheless, that Rumsfeld feels the need to distance himself from the decision to go to war is telling.

Also, Cenk Uygur of The Huffington Post rubbishes the idea that we can prevent the insurgents from "out-waiting" our departure. His reason: they live there.

Yes, there are foreign terrorists operating within Iraq, but there are many more hostile Iraqis in Iraq, and short of mass deportation (to where?) or total extermination (which would be both impossible and immoral), we're not going to be able to clear Iraq of possible insurgents no matter when we leave. That is, as long as we do plan on leaving eventually.

Straw Poll

DailyKos is hosting a Dem straw poll. As of this moment, Clark holds a fairly large lead. Interesting.

Click over, vote, or just check out the choices.

The Cornell American is the Most Gulliest College Paper that There is

"Why has Martin Luther King Day become a popular national holiday while Lee-Jackson Day is relegated to the fringes of societal celebrations? Why are Americans so willing to honor a civil rights leader like King, but recoil at the idea of celebrating the lives of two other great men, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson?" - Tristen Cramer in the Cornell American, 11/4/05.

Gully.

"I currently write for The Dartmouth Review, an independent conservative newspaper that comments on the College and criticizes the administration when it fouls up. Now that I’ve made myself the lackey of the Review, I’ve gotten all kinds of cool kick backs, like money, internships, invites to private social events, etc. So back in September, my editor blitzed me and asked if I would like to go to Delaware for an editor’s conference in October. I certainly felt honored and immediately answered in the affirmative." - Mike Russell in the Dartmouth Review, 11/4/05.

Not gully.

The Cornell American is mothafucking gangsta. They are not afraid to say all kinds of racist shit. They are not afraid to title an article "The Color of Cornell's Crime - Unmasking the Face of Ithacompton."

"What exactly are 'common sense' precautions?" they say in that article. "What 'people' should we be aware are around us? The unspoken answer to these questions (as well as the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room) is this: watch out for gangs of black thugs."

My challenge to the Cornell American is this: up the ante a little. Let's forgo the subtlety. Instead of thinking up little witticisms like "Ithacompton," go ahead and title your article "YOUR GOING TO GIT ROBBED BY NIGGERS!!!!!!!!!!!" Go ahead and step up. Let's cut the shit.

Some more quotes to rock your shit:
"Many mistakenly believe that Islam is primarily a peaceful religion adversely soiled by extreme fundamentalism but warm-hearted and affectionate at its core. Au contraire, Islam is in itself fundamentalist and has replaced the Communist movement as a threat against the West...A more logical first step would be to halt the issuance of student visas granted to any person applying for admission to an American institution of study from a primarily Islamic country." - John Manetta, human rock of ignorance, 11/03/04.

"As can be seen on the Student Activities Office website the Gay-Straight Alliance (are any straight people in this?), Greeks United (support group for gays whose last names end in –ous), Haven (for exploring diverse “sexual and gender identities”), LBQ (support group for gay, bisexual, and transgender “girls”), Outreach (support group for gay, bisexual, and transgender “guys”), and ZAP! (educates students about gender identity) all receive S.A. byline funding." - Eric Shive, likely the possessor of a huge penis, 3/16/05.

They also have a contributor named Preston Postlethwaite. For reals. His article is called "Upstate's Moscow?" I'm not going to link that shit. Find it yourself.

Can we be real for a minute? Matriculation at Cornell is a gamble. You're betting that four years will pass before you want to off yourself as opposed to the reverse. Nobody stays at Cornell for five years. If you can make it three and a half years without killing yourself, you're not going to push your fucking luck. These guys are just coping with the (near)suicidal depression the only way they know how. I'm not going to hate. Keep at it, Cornell American; if writing that article about how the Darkies and the Divvil start with the same letter keeps your from jumping off that clocktower, publish that baby.

Propers to momo for pointing me to the page.

That depends on what your definition of "unique" is

CIA chief Porter Goss says that "[t]he CIA's interrogation methods are "unique" but don't involve torture." (via CNN)

If that is so, they won't be needing that exemption from the McCain anti-torture bill, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," will they? So we can just go ahead and approve that bill, right Mr. Goss?

Also: Compare Powell's former aide Larry Wilkerson: "There's no question in my mind that we did. There's no question in my mind that we may be still doing it...There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office... His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department." (CNN)

The C-word

I doubt when Dartmouth professor Bernie Gert wrote his book Common Morality: Deciding What to Do, he thought it would lead to this, a mini-treatise on the morality of infant circumcision, on a blog titled "The Circumcision Controversy", no less.

I was not aware there was a controversy. My eyes are now opened.

Note: I ran across this site via a Dartmouth technorati search.

Bernie Sanders on the New Wal-Mart Film

Bernie Sanders, the badass representative from Vermont, writes about Robert Greenwald's new film on Wal-Mart. I won't get to see the movie until I'm home (in the states) at least, but I'm excited about seeing it eventually.

Bernie talks about how Greenwald's approach to distributing--through house parties and the Internet--is a positive step toward eliciting real political action rather than simply idle furor. Good call.

More on media: From the BBC, "Developing countries are considering proposals to set up a news agency to counter the perceived domination and bias of the Western media."

November 20, 2005

If only this is true

Blogs are on fire with the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, mastermind of the Iraqi resistance effort, has been killed. That link is from the Jerusalem Post, but AP has picked it up here.

If this is true, then we may have just punched out a large hole at the end of the tunnel and can finally see some light.

Edit: Reuters has more here on Yahoo news.

Edit: Juan Cole and George have convinced me that Zarqawi's death may not be as great a tactical advantage as I had thought. However, if our troops' morale is as important to the war as the administration seems to think it is (well, conflicting signals--get them some damn armor, Rumsfeld!), then this can only help. Nevertheless, the government has been denying the likelihood that Zarqawi was killed.

Dartmouth related story

From India Times.
This is a true life anecdote about Albert Einstein, and his theory of relativity.

After having propounded his famous theory, Albert Einstein would tour the various Universities in the United States, delivering lectures wherever he went. He was always accompanied by his faithful chauffer, Harry, who would attend each of these lectures while seated in the back row! One fine day, after Einstein had finished a lecture and was coming out of the auditorium into his vehicle, Harry addresses him and says, "Professor Einstein, I've heard your lecture on Relativity so many times, that if I were ever given the opportunity, I would be able to deliver it to perfection myself!"

"Very well," replied Einstein, "I'm going to Dartmouth next week. They don't know me there. You can deliver the lecture as Einstein, and I'll take your place as Harry!"

And so it went to be... Harry delivered the lecture to perfection, without a word out of place, while Einstein sat in the back row playing "chauffer", and enjoying a snooze for a change.

Just as Harry was descending from the podium, however, one of the research assistants intercepted him, and began to ask him a question on the theory of relativity.... one that involved a lot of complex calculations and equations. Harry replied to the assistant "The answer to this question is very simple! In fact, it's so simple, that I'm going to let my chauffer answer it!"
Makes me wonder if there are any pictures from that lecture...

Selling the War

Even if you are unreservedly supportive of the Iraq War, I think it is difficult to argue with an observation that is pretty easy to make: Bush is doing a really bad job selling it.

So in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, I’ll offer what it would take to get me to sign on wholeheartedly and without question.

First, I’d need to see an easily delineable position on what Iraq will look like when we can leave. Bush provides, “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” But does this mean that we’re simply going to hang around until things are calm enough that we can chalk up a victory? What kind of yardstick is Bush using to measure when Iraqis are standing up? A functional democracy? Is France a functional democracy? Is Germany? Is Israel? Is Afghanistan? What exactly is a functional democracy? Asking for specific goals in this vein is not defeatist talk, it’s not surrender talk, it’s not withdrawal talk. It’s practical talk.

Secondly, I’d like to hear a little bit more about why it’s so all-important that we set up this functional democracy in Iraq. More specifically, I’d like to hear why fighting this war in Iraq for as long as it takes is the best way to stabilize the Middle East. Bush likes to point to Libya giving up its nukes, the Lebanon Cedar Revolution, elections in Iraq, contested elections in Egypt, etc. as examples of democracy’s growth in the Middle East. Fine, but he has never shown that other actions by the US—ones that didn’t cost lives, resources, and our nation’s international image—couldn’t have produced these results. If he could show definitively that fighting it out in Iraq is the only option we have and the only option we ever had that could advance the cause of democracy in the Middle East, I’d have a lot of my doubts assuaged.

At the very least, I’d like to hear a forthright justification of the war that goes like this: “Our involvement in Iraq is now so deep and the country so unstable that we have no moral option but to stay.” I think as a country we can talk about our moral obligations rationally—we can decide if the moral duty to Iraqis outweighs the moral duties we have to our own citizens. But even that debate puts us right back where we started—what are our goals—when will our moral duties be discharged and how much will we lose in the meantime? This question has not been broached in a single address I have read or read about other than to say, “We’ll leave when we (i.e. Bush) decide it’s time to leave.”

Bush should be held accountable for his pre-war actions, but at this point, we need to figure out how to end this war--in victory or in the best defeat we can. And we can't do that without asking some hard questions.

Asking for a firm statement of what it is principally we intend to accomplish in Iraq is not a request for immediate withdrawal. Asking that we have a better strategy than “waiting for something to come along” is not unpatriotic. Asking that the administration make some actual plans instead of “staying the course” is not political partisanship. Because the course is not steady, the plans are ethereal and insubstantial, our goals undefined and perhaps indefinable, and the strategy is blind. This is not the way to sell the war, and it’s a horrible way to run one.

Edit: Here's a great post outlining what it should take for everyone to agree staying is a viable option. Definitely worth a read.

How incredibly typical...

PowerLine: "The Democrats aren't paying attention, but the war in Iraq is steadily being won."

Their proof: Jordanian newspapers, run by al-Zarqawi's relatives, have severed ties with him for his bombings in Jordan. "[A]nyone who carried out such violence in the kingdom does not enjoy its protection," it says.

Let me repeat what PowerLine claims this means: "the war in Iraq is steadily being won."

Here's a map of the Middle East:
If you failed first grade geography, Jordan and Iraq are separate countries on this map.

Does it say anything about our success in Iraq that Jordanian people are refusing to offer succor to Zarqawi, but only did so because he attacked Jordan itself? These people didn't cut ties with him because he was killing Americans. They cut ties with him because he killed Jordanians. I'm not going to pull out a world map here because I assume my readers can tell that Jordan and the USA are separate countries as well.

Yes, this is a global war on terror. But it is one that needs to be analyzed correctly, and PowerLine's post is one of the best examples I have ever seen of attributing causality when there is absolutely no basis for it. That kind of thinking is not only ridiculous, it is foolish and dangerous. I thought a Dartmouth education (PowerLine is run by Dartmouth grads) taught better logical reasoning than that.

Dartmouth Has a Rhodes Scholar

Congratulations to Alison Crocker '06, Rhodes Scholar elect for 2006.

November 19, 2005

And you thought SLI was bad...

Colgate and many other schools impose heavy restrictions on Greek life.

"In the old Greek system, there were too many wasted educational moments."--Adam Weinberg, Colgate's dean.

And possibly too many educational wasted moments.

Republicans: Big Supporters of Avian Flu

Congress Republicans block Avian Flu Pandemic Funding.

"Conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs."

It's not just us crazy Dems

Rumsfeld given Iraq withdrawal plan by General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq.

In the next few days, we're probably going to "find out" that Casey has long been a radical leftist, best friends with Al Franken, has a suspect military service record, and voted for Al Gore in the 2000 election. And if none of those statements are true, they likely will be once the Rove smear machine is through.

How many times must a reasonable person say, 'this war's going badly' before Republican leadership faces the facts?

Does this embolden terrorists? Actually, who is the White House really worried about emboldening--the terrorists or the doves?

Iraq and Sunk Costs

I am not an advocate of immediate withdrawal from Iraq, but the argument from inertia--that we belong there because we are there or because the costs we have incurred so far would be a high price to just give up--is irrational. It's called the sunk cost fallacy (great Slate article about this here).

I believe, as does Brad Plumer in an excellent post, that there are strong moral reasons to remain in Iraq, but I would say that at this point it's a high-risk tactical gamble--I think we are unlikely to achieve our aims satisfactorily. As a sometimes consequentialist, I think the partiality for American lives over Iraqi lives that is the basis of calls for immediate withdrawal is wrong-headed and morally unreasonable. If our withdrawal results in an overall larger loss of life and debasement of life--any lives--than does our continued presence, I cannot justify going.

However, backward-looking reasons should not be the ones justifying our presence; they are irrational, harmful, and dangerous. If we plan our foreign policy around things we cannot change, we will not be able to change anything, or at least will not be able to change anything for the better.

November 18, 2005

The Smear Is On

Here

and

here.

These bastards (and bitches too) will stop at nothing to prevent criticism of the war's execution. Rep. Murtha will probably be under a lot of heat; the good news is, I'm sure he can stand it.

Also, this DailyKos post pretty much sums up what I've been thinking.

Wait a minute here...

When Harry Reid pulled the Senate behind closed doors to attempt to break the stonewalling measures of the Republicans, conbloggers cried out against the move as a hackish politically driven piece of partisanry.

But are they saying anything about the Republicans' strategy to force the issue on Iraq withdrawal so that Democratic reps will have to make a tough decision rapidly? No, didn't think so.

Seriously, this hurts the debate a lot more than it helps--it forces reps to vote without all that much knowledge--we have really no idea what Bush and his generals have planned (and maybe they don't have anything planned) to increase Iraqi forces' independence, and voting without information is certainly to be avoided.

O, I forgot. Cons don't want to have a debate on our presence in Iraq and they certainly don't seem to care about finding out whether staying there is a good idea. They just care about staying in office.

Not a good sign

It's probably not a good sign if Donald Rumsfeld "ha[s] second thoughts" about going to an international security conference because he worries about being charged with war crimes.

It's probably not a good sign that the US "withdrew its signature from a treaty on the International Criminal Court (ICC) -- the world's first permanent forum for trying war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression -- for fear American citizens could be targeted."

It's probably not a good sign that the US is refusing to let UN inspectors have unfettered access to the facilities at Gitmo.

(from Reuters and The Guardian)

Thou broughtest us into the Net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.

Well, the Internet conference in Tunis (why Tunis?) is wrapping up, and it appears the challenge to America's domination of Net governance has been turned aside for now.

I ran across this interview with Lawrence Lessig the other day and forgot to post about it. It's a very good interview; Lessig is certainly the guy to talk to about control of the Internet. It punctures many of the misconceptions about dividing control of the net, but still makes a case that America is better suited to making the decisions for now.

Bonus points if you can identify the quote in the title without Googling.

All too common criticisms

These are some of the criticisms I've been seeing of Congressmen who are (or have been) questioning the administration's competency and the feasibility of pursuing this war further. For the most part, they are both baseless and base, misleading and harmful. But most just fail to recognize the simple fact that those responding to the war critics must take some responsibility for the failure of the war thus far.

1) Criticism of the administration is hurting the war effort.
Wait, who has hurt the war effort the most? The people who say we should get the hell out of there or the people who put our soldiers into a war without any real plans to get them out? What the remaining hawks should really say, "Please shut up; the administration is doing its best to overextend, undersupport, and underplan the military and its operations. We got this one all by ourselves.

2) Murtha, who cannot be properly called a coward as he's a war veteran, is opportunistic in his support or opposition of the war (as are the other Dems). (This is actually the argument that Joe Malchow makes. I'm willing to put up with tedious expositions, inflated language, and lame arguments from Joe, but this really takes the cake.)
I just love how critical thinking is now synonymous with partisanship and opportunism. This also means that the vast majority of Americans are opportunistic, as they now disapprove of Bush's handling of the war. O, I forgot. Changing one's mind in the presence of facts is flip-flopping and a sign of weakness and a horrible horrible thing. Good thing our President doesn't do that, because we could be in a real shithole if he did.

3) Murtha's speech isn't really news, as he's been an opponent of the war for a long time.
Wow, this is really a last-ditch effort to wave away Murtha's speech. So now, conbloggers know so much about the war, they also know what's news and what's not. I think this is the point where these wackos start reaching for the earplugs and start humming the Marine hymn to themselves and keep on trucking, saying "no problems here, folks." Face the fucking music, right-wingers.

4) The American public simply does not have the political will or resolve to continue a hard but necessary war.
So much for the power residing in the people and other democratic ideals. Besides, it's a hell of a lot easier to say something like this than actually present a convincing case that invading Iraq was anything but a gigantic mistake. Actually, let me rephrase that. Invading Iraq was not the big mistake; letting a bunch of morons blind to anything but their own ideological worldview execute this war was.

5) Dems' support of the war undermines their criticism of it now.
As Trey Ellis said, "We said it was okay to load the gun; we didn't ask to be shot in the foot.

Web Crawl

Good links:


November 17, 2005

O'Reilly's Blacklist

"Bill O'Reilly recently put the city of San Francisco on notice:

'If Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it.'

O'Reilly insisted that this statement was "not controversial" and blamed the uproar on "far left Internet smear sites."

Then O'Reilly promised to publish a blacklist to publicly intimidate his "enemies":

'I'm glad the smear sites made a big deal out of it. Now we can all know who was with the anti-military Internet crowd. We'll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on billoreilly.com.'"

(from HuffingtonPost)

Huffington suggests that we all voluntarily put our names on O'Reilly's little black list. I put my name down.

Also, I'm glad that anti-O'Reilly is now equivalent to "anti-military." Makes it so much easier to identify who's also anti-irrationality.

Pong and Its Discontents

This blogger, after reading the D's recent "The Story of Pong" feature, calls all of us Dartmouth students audacious asshats. See, we disdain Beirut, and he really likes it. "[W]ith their love of Beer Pong, Dartmouth kids have irrationally lost sight of the whole point of drinking games in the first place - trying to get as fucked up as possible as quickly as possible."

The author complains about the length of time it takes to complete a game of pong (45 mins, he says--clearly he's never played with anyone very good) compared to Beirut, which takes 10 or so. Seriously kills a buzz, waiting that long.

Does he have a point? Fuck no.

I do have a theory though about why pong is preferred to beirut--it separates the men from the boys (to use a loaded metaphor) more efficiently. You can walk up to your first game of Beirut and, with good hand-eye coordination, play well. Pong requires experience, practice, and skill. This means that frat boys sit at the top of a natural hierarchy, and that's where they like to be. No one wants to get embarassed on their own turf.

Kazakstan threatens to sue Ali G


Link

(via Volokh)

Slate Goes (Back) to College

Slate has a great feature this week that combines the thoughts of many scholars, students, public policy figures, college presidents, and so forth on the nature and future of colleges and university in America. The question asked by the segment "Reform School" is simple, but clearly provides a variety of opinions: What should students be studying in college?

Anthony Appiah's column is definitely my "favorite"--he suggests more statistics courses and more study abroad. It's a simple piece, but remarkably clear-headed. And he uses the word "desuetude."

Steven Pinker's is also good. It focuses on, unsurprisingly, science education. But his key suggestion is that courses be grouped based on content rather than on department.

Heck, all the columns are intelligent and insightful. Read them all.

Christopher Hitchens: A Brilliant Sophist

Clever as always. If you want to read an excellent piece arguing that liberal/Democrat claims that Bush lied, misled, or misrepresented the truth, read this.

If you would like an admittedly weak rebuttal, read on. I don't know as much about American involvement in Iraq as Hitchens, but I do know a snow job when I see one.

Hitch's column is approximately this: Democrat support for military action against Saddam has been inconsistent in the period 1998-2005. Dems supported a bill advising the removal of Saddam in 1998 but remained reticent about the use of military force. In 2002, they voted for the use of military force without specifying the removal of Saddam. To Hitchens, it is on this contradiction that "the remainder of the case depends." I have no idea what this means.

I assume Hitchens is trying to suggest that Democrats are and have been just plain confused about what the right and proper action with regards to Iraq is, and that this inconsistency undermines any attempt to take a strong position against the war now.

However, as Hitchens implicitly allows, this inconsistency is melted away if, as it is claimed, Bush & Co. duped Dems into supporting the war by feeding them faulty intelligence or, alternatively, Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress played all of us for fools, as others have claimed.

Hitchens brushes off the first option with the by now standard line "Congress saw the same intelligence sources before the war." He attacks the second option--that Chalabi pulled the wool over the entire Western intelligence community--by "proving" its improbability.

Hitchens attempts to split the options--that Bush lied/misled and that we were duped by Chalabi--with Occam's Razor, but the whole point is that these strands may be woven together. Hitchens approaches the liberal case as if it were an either/or when it is in fact a both/and. Bush or whoever directed intelligence to "find" certain evidence, and Chalabi and the INC assisted. Hitchens takes the benign motives of the intelligence community as fact, or attributes to them a success rate of finding out the "right" information that history simply does not support. For these reasons, his argument is brilliant, but totally incorrect.

Hitchens has one logical out, which he does not take--he could say that a combination of the two above options is even less probable than either one occurring individually, and since he has made the case against at least one of the options, it follows that the idea that Bush and Chalabi were in cahoots to hoodwink America is preposterous.

I would just like to point out a few other unlikely or really bizarre things:
a) Ahmed Chalabi has more shit on him than a scarab beetle and yet he is welcomed to the US with open arms.
b) The claim that Congress saw all the data available to the President. I seriously doubt the President saw all the data available to the President, and I would assume the President typically has access to more intelligence than your average Congressman. Question is, what intelligence was not seen? And why?
c) Oil companies establish new world records for profits in a time of incredibly immense unrest in the Middle East. Not saying anything, just saying it looks strange.
d) These direct contradictions of fact don't matter.
e) Neither do these.
f) This.

November 16, 2005

Patriotism--the last refuge for scoundrels... and bad musicians

Introducting The Right Brothers singing "Bush Was Right."
Freedom in Afghanistan, say goodbye Taliban
Free elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein locked up
Osama’s staying underground, Al Qaida now is finding out
America won’t turn and run once the fighting has begun

Don’t you know that all this means…
Bush was right! Bush was right!
They want to get their song on TRL and are trying to enlist conservatives to pressure MTv to air it. And "If they DON’T - then we’ll hit the media in a BIG way, showing how MTV plays left-wing videos while CENSORING conservative videos!"

Whatever.

This is not a parody--check out the link for a preview of the actual song and links to the groups behind the Right Brothers.

When Austen fans attack...

Members of the Jane Austen Society of America are displeased with the new version of Pride & Prejudice, starring my future wife, Keira Knightley, as well as a hell of a supporting cast and some random British dude as Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen).

They say that Keira's posture is improper for Elizabeth's character, MacFadyen ain't no thing next to Colin Firth, the dialogue is limpid or "lame," and there's too much feckin' sex in the ruddy film.

The director, Joe Wright, has been quoted as telling them to "jump in a lake."

I've seen the film actually in a sneak preview here in Glasgow. I liked it a great deal, though for reasons other than for those I liked the book. The characters are not exactly faithful to the book. They are both simpler and rounder, and often less satirized (or satirical). MacFadyen is fairly weak, I felt, but Keira can take any posture she desires. The dialogue is not crisp, but it is not artificial. And I didn't notice any sexual imagery, but then again I'm Catholic.

Go see the movie.

More on Minority Representation

A commenter made me realize that I didn't do a very good job explaining why Joe Malchow is wrong to complain about double minority representation on the Alumni Association.

Joe is wrong because he identifies the wrong problems (discrimination, which--in the non-pejorative sense--is a necessary process of any selection/election, and double votes, which is an unlikely eventuality and can be easily and non-controversially prevented). The real problem is double representation--some people maybe represented with two (or three) votes. Those people are going to be minorities.

But how much will double representation really affect the democratic operations of governing Dartmouth? Not much, I think.

Take the recent decision to divest. How would guaranteed minority representation really have affected that decision? It would if there were an African affiliated group perhaps. But that is one group. They'd have to convince everyone else of their case just as they would if they were not from Africa. And does anyone really think that just because a Peruvian-affiliated group is also composed of "minorities" they will vote with the African group automatically? That seems dubious. It is unlikely that minority representatives will vote as a bloc just for the sake of screwing white males over 50.

Alternatively, maybe it would be suggested that minorities simply can't be impartial about a situation like the Darfur divestment that touches on (one) minority's interest. Maybe they can't be trusted to handle money from people that aren't like them--they'll just give it away to the NAACP or something. I hardly think I need to point out the prejudice in that idea. It would be ridiculous if it weren't so noxious.

My point is not to say "this is perfectly proportionate representation." It's not.

But does a little disproportionate representation matter for Dartmouth? (It's an entirely different ballgame for states or nations.) This is not reverse apartheid or something.

Seriously, how will democratic principles be affected in practice at Dartmouth? Joe just gives theory; I should think that conservatives who are so used to pointing out the discrepancies between practice and theory in the pursuit of Marxism or other quasi-liberal idealisms would not fall into this trap.

19 Senators Who Should be on America's Shit List

Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Conrad (D-ND)
DeMint (R-SC)
Graham (R-SC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Leahy (D-VT)
McCain (R-AZ)
Sessions (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)


These are the Senators who voted against Senate amendment 2518 to the military appropriations bill. The amendment provided for some executive accountability for the prosecution of the war in Iraq in the form of semi-regular reports about the progress of the war.

The Democrats on this list are likely voting against to voice their objection to the exclusion of their proposed addition of "a flexible timetable for a possible American pullout from Iraq." (CNN)

Regardless, this is progress of some sort, albeit very insufficient progress, and should have been supported by all Senators. If one of your Senators is on this list, you know what to do. Call the bastards.

Religious States and State Religions

Brad Plumer has an excellent post arguing that Europe is not really that much less God-fearing than our own beloved States--they don't go to church, but a vast majority of them have strong religious beliefs. I guess some believers on this side of the pond would say that private spirituality means nothing without public action, but I would respectfully disagree and so would most sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers of religion.

Plumer argues through sociologist (and priest and novelist) Andrew Greeley that the competitive nature of American religion makes it more likely for people to publicly worship, whereas state monopolies on religion in Europe ossify those churches. Good argument, I think.

Also, Rick Santorum has retracted an earlier statement he made about intelligent design and is now against teaching it in classrooms. Pat Robertson informs Little Green Blog that it won't surprise him if Santorum gets a nasty case of botulism for his apostasy.
(via Josh Marshall)

Two notes: Santorum is, of course, a Senator from the state where the big evolution/ID showdown is taking place--Dover. He is also Catholic, and the Catholic Church recently threw its support behind evolution in a rare sign of awareness that it's not 1200 AD.

November 15, 2005

This can't be real

iBelieve, the hottest accessory for Christians who want to make an even bigger statement with their iPod.



Steve Jobs could not be reached for comment.

Bush Plagiarizes Dartmouth Student

Or rather, his speech-writers did.

Link.

This is old news, though somehow I managed to stumble onto it today. And regardless, it's both frightening and hilarious.

Maybe Bush's speech-writers actually left a long time ago.

More on Bush's lousy speeches: David Kusnet of The New Republic calls Bush's Veteran's Day speech the worst of his, or almost any other's, presidency.

Minority Representation on the Alumni Association

Joe Malchow cries "foul" when he discovers that the new alumni constitution drafted by the Alumni Governance Task Force makes a provision whereby certain alumni might be able to have two votes on the Alumni Association.

The basics of the situation are that under a certain provision that establishes a way for "[a]ny group of 100 or more Dartmouth alumni who share a common bond based on self-identified information that they are members of a group of historically marginalized alumni [...] and who desire to affiliate with each other as a sub-group of the Association of Alumni" to set up a formal group which will be represented by two members on the Alumni Association. It dawns upon Joe that it is technically possible for one of these two people to also have been elected as the class representative--and therefore they will have two votes, Baker-Berry will collapse, all the Keystone will run dry, and the Dartmouth football team will start winning again as it's the end of the fucking world!!! Aaargh!!! Honestly, is this really such a big deal?

Instead of stopping at what would be a reasonable suggestion--that a clause be added to prevent any member of the AA from representing two groups--Malchow goes for the whole hog, bellowing "discrimination." Joe clearly does not care about fixing this loophole--he only wants to keep minorities from forming groups which will be represented on the AA. A reasonable person would realize that any person who does represent two groups will have been selected/elected by those two groups and therefore likely is a good-faith choice on the part of both groups. I don't understand in this case why democracy should not be allowed to take its course. Is the job so demanding that no fairly-elected person could fairly represent the opinions of the Pacific Islander group and the Class of '92? Where's the beef?

The beef is: Joe Malchow doesn't care about minority people.

But should we? That is, are the specific allowances for the representation of minorities on the Association proper and legitimate or are they discriminatory? The only practical reason to ask this question is if it is likely that this measure would derail proper decision-making on the Association by the construction of a non-representative system. I don't think this is the case.

Well, first of all, I think Joe is subject to a little bit of paranoia. Who is to say that all these minority groups will vote together? If everyone on the AA were white, would it be readily assumed that they would all vote together? Also, this presumes that there is in fact a national correlation to college politics--that there are definitely "left" positions and definitely "right" positions to Dartmouth politics and that minorities will typically align on the left. I am still unconvinced that Dartmouth issues cleave this neatly or at all. Finally, this presumes that the representatives of minority groups would not be competent arbiters or taken holistically would not be as competent as an Association made up of mostly non-minority persons elected by a body of mostly non-minority persons. I'm not even going to bother rebutting that. I have enough faith in the Dartmouth education that I assume most people who graduate are reasonably competent.

Those are (some of) the practical reasons. But Joe's argument is anything but practical. Instead, he says, "In short, the requirements are, as my correspondent writes, “exclusive and discriminatory.” It is wrong on its face."

"Wrong on its face?" Is it really? Well, what do the terms "exclusive" and "discriminatory" actually mean? Simply that there are qualifications for the positions which others can't fill. Is that a bad thing "on its face?" Is it a bad thing "on its face" that Presidents must be 35 and non-naturalized US citizens? Those are "exclusive and discriminatory" restrictions. But they are positive. For Joe, race is entirely different--it is entirely negative.

The problem is clearly not actual discrimination--that is the most necessary part of any democratic process--I discriminatorily chose Kerry over Bush in the last election. The problem is whether to let minority groups have a guaranteed place in the governance of the College. I think my opinion on that matter is no secret, so I won't elaborate here.

But the point is, Joe's argument that this is wrong because it's discriminatory or because it might give someone two votes falls flat-- "on its face."

Wash, Rinse, Spin, Repeat

Proof that Bush's speech-writers have left him.

Joe just don't know

I post a lot on divestment, but I just can't help myself, so here's the truth to the latest bit of uninformed speculation to be vomited onto Dartblog.

1. As anyone who is familiar with divestment and the arguments that have been put forward understands that economic consequences are only generated by a massive nationwide divestment movement. While a boycott may be a more effective method of getting a corporation's attention, its just not a feasible strategy with oil companies, especially when their product is not sold in the US.

2. The ACIR recommendation was to divest from companies substantially and directly complicit in the genocide. Subsequent research revealed six companies fit this description. This list is subject to change pending new information. We are not currently invested in any of them, although the Investment Office can confirm we have been invested in at least one of these in the recent past.

3. Malchow says, "Regardless, they strike me as not-very-attractive investments for conservative institutional investors like Dartmouth."If you don't know what you're talking about, please try not to open your mouth, or type, as the case may be. Again, at least one of these companies has been viewed as lucrative in the recent past. Much of the investment in Sudan comes via emerging market index funds, which many institutional investors, from universities to state pension funds, are currently invested in. We hire investors out of the same applicant pool they do, so our investment practices are not significantly different.

4. Malchow then attempts to say that standard protocol was violated during divestment proceedings. See point 3 regarding ignorance. Here's how it works (and did work in this instance): The ACIR makes non-binding recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees Investment Committee reviews these recommendations, and then brings them to the general Board for a vote. In this case, ACIR made a reccomendation on June 2nd. At the June Trustees meeting, this was referred to the investment committee. By August, ACIR produced a lengthy report summarizing its findings and research, including six different recommendations for possible action to be taken by the Trustees, ranging from the "neither retain nor acquire" position the Trustees voted for, to complete inaction. In the week before the Trustees meeting, their own investment committee reviewed these findings, and Saturday, the Trustees voted to approve.

5. While much is being made about the fact that Dartmouth has not actually withdrawn any funds, this decision is far more advanced than Harvard's or Stanford's. By creating a category responsive to changing conditions, Dartmouth's policy still fits the main goal of not investing in complicit corporations. Instead of choosing 1 or 4 companies to target, Dartmouth can continually decide on predetermined criteria when to re-invest, when to divest, and when to avoid acquisition.

6. Malchow's last leg is that, even if we did divest, we will still acquire these companies through mutual funds or other indirect means. Nope. This is going to be part of the difficulty the Investment Office will have drafting a satisfactory strategy, but this certain mutual funds will be ruled out.

In conclusion, Malchow is wrong, whether by willful ignorance or disingenuous speculation.

The Tide Turns?

Or a political ploy to disarm Democratic criticism of Iraq for the 2006 elections? Either way, it's a sign Bush has nearly totally lost his Congressional support.

Senate Republicans Pushing for a Plan on Ending the War in Iraq.

November 14, 2005

Congress Tells FDA to Stop Being So Damn Politically Driven

Well, maybe Congress shouldn't be reprimanding the FDA for catering to interest groups, but someone sure should.

Congress's investigative arm today criticized the FDA for its rejection of the "morning-after pill" Plan B.
The Government Accountability Office also said in its 57-page report that there were questions about whether top officials of the F.D.A. made the decision to reject the application for over-the-counter sales of the drug, which is opposed by some religious conservatives, even before its own advisory committee had issued its recommendation on the matter.
This reminded me of a great comic I saw recently. I actually have linked to it previously, but this time it has greater relevance.

November 13, 2005

Dartmouth Divests!

The Trustees voted to comply with the ACIR's findings regarding divestment from corporations that directly and substantially facilitate the genocide in Sudan. As of now, this category includes six oil companies whose revenues sustain the Khartoum regime.

Divestment will be considered in the upcoming weeks by serveral other colleges and states as well, including Amherst, Brown, the UC system, and the Mass. State Legislature.

Can't Find a Betterman

Eddie Vedder says the next Pearl Jam album will be "easily the best stuff we've done."

Not all that hard to top Riot Act, but I'll be amazed to get a better album than Vs.

Vedder also says, "It's very aggressive, because again, it's kind of a product of what it's like to be an American these days. It's pretty aggressive, especially when you turn it loud."

Translation: Bush fucking sucks and we're pissed about it.


Also: I'm in London currently. The Queen says hi.