February 28, 2006

Grunt Check

Zogby poll:
An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”
In addition, the actions of Ministry of the Interior death squads are becoming more evident.

(Both h/t Hit and Run)

Go to this:

From Hill-Wind Journals:
For those of you who are on campus, I encourage you to go to tonight's SPEAK OUT on sexual assaut (8pm Collis Commonground). We, as a campus, have a lot of progress to make in how we think and talk about sexual assault, not to mention in how we try to prevent it.

Dartmouth? Still conservative

My friend Travis Mushett has a really great article in the most recent issue of the DFP. Travis takes the received wisdom that Dartmouth has become just another bastion of liberalism and calmly and cleverly refutes it.

Travis makes a convincing case that while we may jump to profess our liberalism, we recoil when it comes to practicing it. This is due, at least in part, to our solipsism-inducing environment, which overwhelms all but a few causes. "The only thing that can shake us out of our complacency is a threat to the existence of this complacency." Shades of Marx there, no doubt.

Citing the campus's reactions to SLI and the swim team, Travis demonstrates that when we do emerge from our torpor, we enter battle only to protect the nebulousness of tradition, an undoubtedly conservative impulse. Travis points out very rightly the response to Frat Free Friday as a perfect example of the gut-level response on-campus to anything that smacks of a challenge to the Greek system as we know it. We're a "very liberal" school, but don't bring any of those crazy feminist ideas 'round here, now. (On a related note, be sure to read this D op-ed on Dartmouth's failure to target men with sexual assault prevention messages.)

I don't know how Travis feels, but I think apathy on-campus is more detrimental than loosely-held conservative prejudices. Feminist-bashing looks normal only when feminists look abnormal, when they are among the few who really speak their mind or have a passionate belief. Against a background of apathy, of course committed liberals are going to look silly. The Review can ridicule a meeting about curing hunger only when it, and the rest of the campus, does nothing more activist-y than piss on Jim Wright's lawn occasionally. It is easy to make Dartmouth look like a fulfillment of Yeats's poem "The Second Coming" -- "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." How can we combat this perception? I think that is the question we must ask.

February 27, 2006

Blind Item

I haven't been on campus for a while but I'm wondering if a couple of you might help me out.

I sometimes enjoy reading Somethingawful, which is a web community of people who have been charitably described as "dyspeptic." Anyway, every Sunday they do this thing where they troll internet forums and poke fun at various obsessives/fetishists. It's not really the most enlightened way to behave, but it is occasionally very funny (in a way that makes you feel guilty for laughing).

The upshot of all this is that I think I found a Review staffer on a forum for miniature fetishists (as in they want to have sex with teeny-tiny women, like Thumbelina), and I wanna know who it is. The picture is here, and it's delicious. My suspicions are founded on the following:

1) Subject is pasty and white.
2) Review motto "Nemo me impune lacessit" appears on subject's sig.
3) Subject is fantastic.

If you divulge the identity of subject I promise not to ridicule him in any forum except my own head. I will be perfectly civil and nice. However, I will probably tell Seal, and he has a bit of a mean streak as well as a nasty Meth habit, which means he will do anything and everything in his power to get more of that sweet, sweet crystal. Be warned.

If, on the other hand, the subject can be proven NOT to be affiliated with the Review in any way, I will write a letter to the D apologizing for suspecting that one of their number may have been a closet miniature fetishist. Whether they publish it is of course up to them.

Simple Question:

Why can no one explain the ins and outs of all this alumni politics shtick in a way that a) makes clear what effects it will have on students and b) is not absolutely impenetrable?

I'm an English major. I just read Henry James's "Daisy Miller" last night. I read poststructuralist theory for fun. I have a long attention span and well-honed analytical skills.

But I tried, I really tried to get through Joe Malchow's meter-long post on the current situation of alumni affairs at Dartmouth. I can't do it. I can't finish it. I can't read for more than four lines without my mind wandering lonely as a cloud. And it's not, I feel, just Joe's writing, which I promised not to make fun of any more. I can't read the recent blurb in the D about it or any of the alumni blogs (Association of Alumni or AGTF—did I forget any?). And I have to work way too hard reading the Review already, just making sure they're not making fun of gays or women to tell what is actually going on in any of their reporting.

The problem, I think, is overuse of bromides. This is a fundamental tenet of Joe's writing style, but the D editorial is a mausoleum of meaninglessness. Can someone just tell me, straightforwardly, what will happen to students if x changes are accepted, and what will happen if y changes are rejected? Will anything happen?

I think it does need to be remarked upon that Dartblog, The Review, and The D depend to a fairly large extent upon alumni readership, and some of their writing seems to be targeted directly to alumni without any attempt to make it relevant to the student body. Is this such a case? Kissinger said that campus politics is the most vicious because the stakes are so small. Well, how about alumni politics?

Congratulations, Jeff Sessions! You're a dick

The National Journal's Congressional rankings for 2005. Rating senators and reps based on their vote history, Alabama's Sessions and Arizona's Ted Franks are the most conservative members of Congress, and Ted Kennedy and California's Pete Stark are the most liberal.

From New Hampshire, Charlie Bass—45.5% liberal, 54.5% conservative, Jeb Bradley—39.2% lib, 60.8% con, Judd Gregg—41.5% v. 58.5%, Sununu—47.2% v. 52.8%.

This rating system has to be seriously screwed up, though—Joe Lieberman is, according to this, 65.7% liberal. There's no way that can be right. A Gore-Lieberman campaign button isn't 65.7% liberal.

Plutonium? No, just scotch, please.

Quadruple-distilled whisky! Only in Scotland.
Twelve barrels of the world’s most alcoholic whisky, or enough to wipe out a medium-size army, will be produced when the Bruichladdich distillery revives the ancient tradition of quadruple-distilling today. [It has] an alcohol content of 92 per cent...

The US Secret Service admitted in 2003 that it had been monitoring the distillery because the difference between distilling a fine whisky and making chemical weapons was “just a small tweak”.

February 26, 2006

Lazy Sunday


Reason's Julian Sanchez piles on to Fukuyama's critique of neoconservatism. His analysis, I think, is even better in that it's 1) shorter and 2) more focused on the actual implementation of neoconservative ideology.

You think conservatives have no power in the Ivy League? Meet Princeton's Robby George. [Also, be sure to meet Amherst's Hadley Arkes, who in 1994 pledged to "respect the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity--not a good, but a lesser evil." He's one of Robby George's buddies.] If extremists like these can get a job in academia, I fail to see how liberal bias can be a universal excuse for the paucity of conservatives in academia.

A shortish essay challenging many of the received notions about Barry Goldwater's standing in the conservative tradition.

"[M]any of the ways we feel good actually limit the possibilities for living the way we want to live our lives," says psychologist Steven Hayes, touting his new book, "Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life," which is a lot more serious and less self-helpy than its title suggests. Hayes presents a ridiculously simple thesis: we seek ways of feeling good instead of ways of "liv[ing] good." But that simplicity is, I guess, bracing to many people. Beneath a mountain of psychobabble, I think Hayes clearly has a point.

Q: What can you do with a stolen semi full of beer?

A: The question isn't "what can you do with a stolen semi full of beer," the question is What can you not do with a stolen semi full of beer?

(h/t Beer: the Blog)

February 25, 2006

Bode, you're my hero

Bode Miller is everything that is great about America, and I say that without a hint of sarcasm.

"My quality of life is the priority. I wanted to have fun here, to enjoy the Olympic experience, not be holed up in a closet and not ever leave your room," he said. "People said, 'Why can't you stay in for the two weeks, three weeks? You've got the rest of your life to experience the games the way everybody else does.' But I like the whole package. I always have."

He compared his Olympic experience to fellow American Daron Rahlves, who was a favorite in the downhill and a contender in the super-G but didn't come close to the podium.

"Look at what happened to Rahlves. He was holed up in his RV, he's probably the fittest guy out here and he made a point of talking about how important the Olympics were to him," Miller said. "And then look — a little bad luck and he's got nothing to show for the whole thing.

"Me, it's been an awesome two weeks," Miller said. "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."

(from Yahoo News)

It's Coming Down

This winter weather has been pretty bleak, but it finally snowing. I highly recommend taking a look at the Dartmouth Webcams. I couldn't get a great capture shot to show off on the blog here, the camera makes it look a bit dirty, but the campus really looks magnificent.
In other news, I was walking to the hop yesterday and noticed what I could've sworn was a keg and somebody's jacket, hanging from the top of the smokestack. S&S Officer Timmons later confirmed this to someone speaking with him at last night's hockey game. I don't know if the college has taken care of it yet, but kudos to whoever pulled that one off.

Update: Yep, its still up there.

The Conservative Imagination: Whither and Why?

George Will reviews Jeffrey Hart's new book The Making of the American Conservative Mind: The National Review and Its Times in today's NYT.

One of Will's opening lines is "[In the 1950s] Conservatives were marginal and embattled, but happy," recalling Thursday's disastrous attempt at accounting for conservatives' greater happiness. Seriously, who gives a damn if conservatives are happy/happier? So are manic-depressives. Half the time any way.

Also, I wonder how anyone can reconfigure Goldwater's politics as "sunny Southwestern libertarianism." Sorry, but "sunny" is not the first word to trip off the tongue when one thinks of Goldwater's most famous quote: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

Anyway, let me cut to the chase. Will's review is dull and little more than an opportunity to say, "look at how great conservatives are! We even sometimes disagree with one another!" Hart's book sounds like a collection of gossipy anecdotes and long quotations from early issues of The National Review and a bunch of complaining about the old Republican elite being replaced by religious loonies. (I complain about that too, but not on behalf of Southern gentility.)

"The Conservative Imagination"—what a great title for this review. The conservative imagination is necessarily a poor one, if all it can do is pine for the past.

February 24, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point, now has a blog. Nothing really of note yet, but we'll see what he comes up with.

I read Blink earlier this term. It seemed like a really good essay which someone convinced him to expand into a book. That probably wasn't the best idea, but it wasn't bad reading. The idea behind it, at any rate, was fascinating.

DeMaria's op-ed on Rape: A Response

This letter to the editor really ticked me off because it is so damn cunning. Its argument basically goes like this: 'Girls, you deserve the best in taking care of rape on campus. That's why we should force you into court and police investigations and make the College renounce all rights to punish its students for incidences of alleged rape. We only want what's best for you.' Bullshit, of course, but he makes it sound nice. I wanted to respond because it seems to make sense, but it would actually be disastrous. Thank God the College is at least committed to having SAAP around. Anyway, here's my response, which I'm thinking is not going to be printed.

Peter DeMaria's "Sexual Abuse Policy at College" raises a lot of questions.

If rape is a serious crime, why do we at Dartmouth adjudicate it in more or less the same manner we adjudicate things like unregistered kegs? Why do we allow such a serious crime to be investigated in a way that trivializes its actual legal ramifications? Why do we assume that our (Dartmouth's) legal structures are equipped to deal with all the issues surrounding rape, including the ways in which it can irredeemably despoil a young man's future and the ways in which a rape trial or tribunal can affect the behavior of many people outside the tribunal? Why do we not force every young woman who believes herself to have been raped to take her day in court and get things done properly?

If the final question seems out of character with those preceding, it is not because it differs substantively from those preceding, but because it differs rhetorically. It is not phrased as nicely. All of the above questions rely on the underlying question, "Why settle for less?" to answer the crucial question, "how do we prevent rape on campus?" However, "why settle for less than police and court involvement?" is not an answer--legally, morally, or administratively.

The issue at stake is not, as DeMaria believes, whether "[t]he College [...] has the ability to appropriately investigate and internally adjudicate sexual abuse better than the police and state law." [emphasis mine] The issue is whether it has a right to punish its own students regardless of the actions of police or state law. It emphatically does, provided that the punishment not restrict the state's ability to punish the alleged rapist. Expulsion or suspension or any other college-administered punishment does not meet that criterion. College discipline does not change the severity of the crime nor does it constitute a dereliction of duty in not handing things over to the police or the courts. Finally, whether the College is better at dealing with rape on campus than police or the courts is a matter for the alleged victim to decide, not for DeMaria or I to do so. I am not recommending that we always police things internally; I am recommending that it be a possible supplemental recourse. I am recommending that we do not shut off our options by delegating all responsibilities for rape prevention to the police and the courts.

I would like to say that I do not believe our system is absolutely perfect. I do believe that the precautions and policies we enact need communal consideration--we need to be informed, reflective, and interactive. I do not think that the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program opposes this, but I do know that DeMaria's suggestion makes it impossible.

February 23, 2006

George Will is Silly

Today's column: Why conservatives are happier than liberals.

I'll give you his answer: it's because they don't like the government and drive cooler cars, like Corvettes. Oooo!

STD Crisis


The Earth Times reported today that Canadian teens are blind to HPV and the risks of unprotected oral sex. Very few Canadian teens knew that they can contract HPV from giving and receiving oral sex. Neither did they know that HPV is the most common STD and can cause cervical cancer. Do Dartmouth students know any better? I believe using a condom or a dental dam during oral sex is rarely practiced on campus. Certainly, it's not as fun. Many people carry strains of herpes and have no symptoms (at least 60% of population). When they engage in sex, they transfer herpes unknowingly to their partner, who may develop symptoms. If oral herpes, as in painful bloody bumps in the back of tongue, isn't your idea of a good time, then you should use protection.

February 22, 2006

Henry James's Testicles: A Borgesian Tale

An essay on Henry James's testicles, arguing that at some point in his life, James severely damaged them, perhaps even on purpose. To cut to the chase a bit, here is James's own narration of what may have been the ummm.... point of this investigation:
Jammed into the acute angle between two high fences, where the rhythmic play of my arms, in tune with that of several other pairs, but at a dire disadvantage of positions, induced a rural, a rusty, a quasi-extemporised old engine to work and saving the stream to flow, I had done myself a horrid even if obscure hurt; and what was interesting from the first was my not doubting in the least its duration - though what seemed equally clear was that I needn't as a matter of course adopt and appropriate it, so to speak, or place it for increase of interest on exhibition.
That writing style is eerily reminiscent of someone... can't think who...

No, seriously, this is a hilarious essay and you must read it, particularly because it ends so differently than it began.

Quick Links

Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow asks a good question: Should liberals just refuse en masse to appear on Fox News? What good is it doing anyway? Is it doing any good?

Andrew Sullivan collects some links to the best of reformist/progressive Muslim writers.

WaPo takes a whack at the whole Dubai port business. I'd like to point out for all those who have shouted "partisan politics" that a lot of the backlash has been from Republican Congressmen, especially Frist and Hastert.

Hitchens Stands up for Denmark

The incomparable Christopher Hitchens, in his most recent Slate column, asks indignantly (and rhetorically) why we as a nation are choosing to feign understanding of the heinousness of the Muhammad cartoons and giving only the smallest quiverings of lip service to our erstwhile allies and fellow democracies. His militancy makes things a bit reductive, but some of his peripheral points are very fascinating.

For one thing, we used to treat diplomatic immunity, and the respect thereof, as a crucial part of international relations. Burning embassies seems to have made no greater impression on Americans than if it was Wal-Marts being burned in Beirut.

Hitchens also makes a rather stunning theological point: "The original proscription against any portrayal of the prophet—not that this appears to be absolute—was superficially praiseworthy because it was intended as a safeguard against idolatry and the worship of images. But now see how this principle is negated. A rumor of a cartoon in a faraway country is enough to turn the very name Mohammed into a fetish-object and an excuse for barbaric conduct." So much for iconoclasm; the cartoons of Muhammad are now first-rate negative icons, like Goldstein's image in 1984's Two Minutes Hate or George Bush.

Hitchens also predicts that Islamophobia will soon be one of those invincible accusations, a word which has no rejoinder—"you're an Islamophobe!" will be hurled in order to still any criticism of nearly any act by nearly any Muslim. If you want to criticize a religion's irresponsibility in keeping its followers in line—nominally what a religion is there for!—better stick with right wing Christians from now on.

Finally, there is the criticism that intransigent passion like Hitchens' plays into the hands of extremists. But think for a moment which is more enabling in a situation like this with extremists already inflamed? A person who refuses to countenance the burning of embassies and mob violence, or governments who remain silent and "moderate," hoping things will run their course? Demands for condemnation or genuflections before the sanctity of religion's right to have ridiculous people abuse its name? Moderation for its own sake when facing extremism is simply stupid.

February 21, 2006

More on Fukuyama and Neoconservatism

Following up on Francis Fukuyama's refutation of military means of spreading democracy, Brad Plumer has an excellent post looking at what it takes to encourage a "home-grown" democratic revolution.

And Majikthise totally explodes Fukuyama's effort to revise the intellectual history of neoconservatism and his place in it. A long read, but very interesting and enormously informing.

And on a totally different note, Sasha Cohen's short program was amazing.

Malchow: Nota Melior

I don't really speak latin, nor do I feign to, since I lack interest in dead languages, and prefer to express my intellectual superiority through actual grasp of concepts and knowledge, rather than arcane and archaic bombast. In Joe's recent post about Larry Summers resigning the Presidency of Harvard, he adds a smug followup:

"Nota Bene: While the House of Summers is under siege, few people in the Yard are taking arms against the University’s money managers—social injustice cannot be fought by the financially modest, you know—who recently increased Harvard’s investment in an oil company doing business in the Sudan. Shockingly, through investment and divestment, abandonment and embrace, the killers in Darfur seem to be quite inconsiderate of the will of east coast liberal arts colleges."

What I mean by the title of this post is that maybe Joe should follow the news a little more closely. At the time of Harvard's decision on Darfur, little information was available on oil operations in Sudan, and Harvard conservatively chose to consider only PetroChina, ignoring the significant financial ties between this company and Sinopec. Harvard's reluctance to address now well-established facts, baffling as it may be (and likely a consequence of Derek Bok's handling of divestment in the 1980s), is far from the whole story.

Khartoum may not be directly responding to economic pressure just yet, and in fact it is likely no significant amount of pressure yet exists. However, America has responded to divestment movements and Darfur activism in general. First, the US has had John Bolton continuously pressing the UN to take action in Darfur, first acquiring an expanded mandate for a larger force, and now trying to secure a final resolution by the end of the month. Second, President Bush called for a NATO role in the planning, organization, and implementation of this intervention.

Now, what does this have to do with divestment? The pressure comes from somewhere, and while the most influential force has been the humanitarian evangelical community, public awareness is spreading. The mainstream media have begun to emerge from shameful silence on the issue. In a recent post, I described how US Olympic Gold Medalist Joey Cheek is using his publicity and winnings for Darfur. When Cheek won the silver several days later, NBC sports commentator Bob Costa spent significant time on air explaining the conflict in Darfur.

So, does Harvard matter? Not really. The movement that has built since has spread extremely successfully. The following institutions and states have or will soon implement divestment measures, and each of the following are far wealthier than even Harvard: The States of Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine, and the California CalPERS fund, soon to be followed by Massachussetts, New York, Vermont, and Ohio, with far more states considering or actively screening Sudan-related investments. On college campuses, Harvard was followed by successively more comprehensive decisions at Stanford, Samford, Dartmouth, Amherst, and Yale, with decisions from Brown, Brandeis, and the University of California system expected in the upcoming weeks, and significant progress from the California State system and Columbia, among other schools.

I started this entry wanting to skewer Joe for writing something so stupid, but to be honest, his uninformed skepticism isn't part of the bigger picture. Darfur is still in complete chaos, and too many have already been killed and displaced, but the simple fact that the US, and the international community, are starting to take notice is incredibly important. In my opinion, activist movements from across the spectrum of strategies and political beliefs have played the largest role in bringing Darfur to the forefront. But I don't really care if people agree with me or not, because the world is taking action, and this genocide will end.

Emailing in the name of God

Yahoo bans the character string "allah" from all email names.

In other words, your email address can't be allahuakbar@yahoo.com, but it also can't be christinecallahan@yahoo.com. However, something tells me that this move is not due to too many people of Irish extraction registering for email accounts.

More is here, with a list of other character strings you can't use in your email address. Ann Coulter will be disappointed to see that "raghead" is one.

Larry Summers Post Mortem

Following up from yesterday, Harvard President Larry Summers does indeed appear to be resigning sometime this week, if not today.

Summers is in this position not entirely due to his remarks about women and science, but that sure provided a convenient cover for anyone who didn't like him. My feeling is that Larry Summers was perfectly right to challenge 'the sacred cows of academic tribalism;' he was just maladroit at doing it. This, I suppose, is no sin, but it is incompetence and shows a lack of judgment. Enough to be forced from his position? Undoubtedly not, in my mind. But he did also have a rather long track record (Cornel West, for example) of treating professors as mere accessories to the real work of the university—namely, his. I don't think he did so enough to get all the flak he got and certainly not enough to be forced out, but now that he is out, we might as well look at what he did do poorly.

Summers's comments about women and science were unquestionably poor job performance regardless of whether you see a college president as a business manager or a visionary. If a president is to be merely the CEO, s/he does not have any business kicking at hornets nests. If s/he is to be a leader of ideas, s/he shouldn't be so lackadaisacal with following them up. The reason Summers is out is not that he talked about "intrinsic aptitude," but that he botched the fallout management. He didn't release the actual text of the remarks for a month. That's not the way to defend one's views, regardless of the ridiculousness of the attack. If a college president is supposed to lead by his or her ideas, then duck and cover should not be an option. Summers tried to play at being an ideas man without committing himself to the consequences. That's simply a lack of intellectual fortitude in my mind.

Summers does not deserve to be a martyr in the cause against academic close-mindedness. He's a pompous man with good management skills but apparently few interpersonal ones. Larry Summers shouldn't be a hero; he's just a casualty.

Edit: BTW, it's official now and is up on the Harvard home page. Summers will step down at the end of this academic year. Derek Bok, a former Harvard President, will step in for the interim. Summers lands fairly softly; he is expected to stay on the faculty (after a year-long sabbatical) as a University Professor, which is a pretty big deal in itself and, ironically, what Cornel West was before Summers drove him out.

More: Professor Samwick has an excellent post on Summers over at Vox Baby.

LGB in an Interview

Howard Mortman, formerly editor and columnist for National Journal’s The Hotline and producer of Hardball with Chris Matthews, recently interviewed Little Green Blog, covering the role of blogs in the 2008 primaries. He has posted the interview here.

We're very grateful to Mr. Mortman, and hope we didn't sound too amateurish.

I just really like this picture

"We're going to get about this much energy."

February 20, 2006

We Love You, Larry Summers

Or at least Harvard students do--The Harvard Crimson reports that "By a three-to-one margin, undergraduates do not think that Lawrence H. Summers should resign his post as University president, according to a poll conducted by The Crimson this weekend."

As at Dartmouth, of course, the opinion of students in terms of administrative decisions means absolutely nothing.

Jim Wright, however, should take note: getting professors pissed off at you is a great way to rally student support.

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Edit: As I said, students have no input. Despite his massive popularity among students (I'm being entirely facetious here, just so you know), rumor has it that Summers will tender his resignation tomorrow. We'll know then I guess.

So that's what the Russian youth are doing these days

Urban gymnastics.

The first two minutes are a warm-up and a little dull. Then people start climbing buildings like Spiderman.

Speaking of Russian youth, has anyone seen Night Watch?

Justice and Rape

I'm writing a letter to the editor in response to this, Peter DeMaria's letter of today regarding the justice of Dartmouth's current policies regarding rape. I hope it will be printed in the next day or so. If it isn't, I will post it here.

It will also answer this.

February 19, 2006

Anything for Publicity

I'm beginning to think that Sam Tanenhaus, the new editor of the NYT Review of Books is trying consistently to find people with axes to grind to review books for him. (Actually, I know this is true—check this out.)

Although nearly everyone panned Mo Dowd's book Are Men Necessary, the NYTRoB's choice to do the hatchet work was Katherine Harrison, whom Dowd has mocked in her column. Then there was the ridiculous front page review of Bernard Henri-Levy's American Vertigo by Garrison Keillor, who showed off the ugly side of American pride for all interested parties (including Christopher Hitchens and the author himself).

Now, Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic takes on Daniel Dennett's new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon. Guess what, it's not laudatory. Wieseltier's major literary accomplishment is Kaddish, an autobiographical account of his coping with his father's death through religious ritual and study. In other words, exactly the kind of person who will be affronted by the idea of a philosopher telling us that religion may be nothing more than what Wieseltier used it for—a coping mechanism, an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to delegate certain weights and responsibilities to supernatural agents or essences. (And the Times not only acknowledges, but revels in this fact!)

I'm currently reading Breaking the Spell (in hopes of getting around to a review of it myself), and Wieseltier is simply unfair. He goes after Dennett for self-congratulation when all I can find is affability; he tries to break down Dennett's arguments without realizing that Dennett's project is more a road map to future answers than an authoritative pronouncement. Wieseltier is so horribly off-base that he even tries to portray David Hume as a theist (what next, Bertrand Russell as a closet Catholic?). Honestly, I really can't critique Wieseltier point by point because he must have read a different book than the one on my desk.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't give reviews to people with a bone to pick with the author or who have nothing but animus for the author's project. This is a good way to sell copy but a bad way to give an honest account of a book's merit. If Tanenhaus wants to court controversy, he should at least have the decency to also include at least a brief objective review of the book in question alongside the snarky pseudo-review.

More: Philosophy prof Brian Leiter has a thorough fisking of Wieseltier's review. I'm really kind of embarrassed for Wieseltier. He gets his ass handed to him.

After Neoconservatism

Francis Fukuyama's essay consists of a very cogent critique of neoconservatism and, following from that, an advocation of a new kind of American foreign policy, a "realistic Wilsonianism," which is probably not a good name PR-wise, but is not nearly as hopeless as it sounds.

Anyway, I just want to pull a few things out of the essay.

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside.
Fukuyama is asserting the existence of what Richard Hofstadter called "the illusion of American omnipotence"—that anything seriously bad happening in the world had to be the result of American mismanagement of global affairs. He used the example of the Chinese fall to Communism—many believed that democratic China's collapse was due to insufficient American involvement and support or even "betrayal." However, the illusion of American omnipotence has another side as well—we tend to believe that anything good happening in the world is a fruit of beneficial American policies--the embrace of democracy by many of the former Warsaw Pact countries was "due" to our shining example, for instance. (City on the Hill, etc.) Neocons are simply the most ardent believers in the illusion of American omnipotence.

The [Iraq] war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform.
In other words, we've all clearly been taking things like Locke's "state of nature" and Rawls's "original position" a little too literally. Democracy is not, in fact, at the heart of humanity.

Promoting democracy and modernization in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism; in all likelihood it will make the short-term problem worse, as we have seen in the case of the Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power. Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernization itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society.
I would add that neoconservatism is also a reaction to modernization, that the idea, pseudo-Nietzschean as it is, that we can shape history by our will to power (veiled as a will to democracy) is a reaction to a globalized world where awareness of things beyond our power has grown to frightening proportions. It is not that we have less power over our situation than ever before, but that we are more aware of how little power we have always had. I guess Nietzsche himself identified this phenomenon--or symptom, if you prefer--as ressentiment.

[T]he overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.
I'm not sure what other options we have—isolationism, I feel, is morally deficient, as anyone who knows anything about the Bosnian conflict would acknowledge. Neoconservatism is disastrous. What other viable options are there?

Wake Up, Neo.

Connor's probably going to make fun of me for that title, and for good reason, but this is definitely the article of the day.

Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man, renounces neoconservatism in the NYT Magazine. His article uses the case of the Iraq War to examine neoconservatism's claims and efforts.

Analysis to come.

February 18, 2006

The Opposite of Liberal Education is Bad Education

From the Arizona Star:
A [State] Senate committee voted Wednesday to let university and community-college students opt out of required reading assignments they consider personally offensive or pornographic... "A lot of students are being forced to choose between their personal or religious beliefs and the demands of education," [Christina Trefzger] told members of the Senate Committee on Higher Education on Wednesday... [The bill] would allow a student to demand alternative materials for anything considered "personally offensive." And that would include anything in the course, materials or activities that "conflicts with the student's beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion."
Madame Bovary, adieu. Anna Karenina, do svidanya.

The bill can be found here.

(h/t Bainbridge, Crooked Timber)

February 17, 2006

Your Government at Work

The Office of Management and Budget has created a nifty little site (ExpectMore.gov) that tells you which government programs work and which are not pulling their weight. The answers to a questionnaire called the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) was the main factor in establishing whether a program was "performing" or "not performing."

"Performing" breaks down into Effective, Moderately Effective and Adequate; "Not Performing" breaks MeFdown into Ineffective and Results Not Determined, which means they had trouble quantifying stuff or whatever. 15% of all programs are rated Effective, while only 4% are Ineffective. Among those rated Ineffective are the Perkins Loan program, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, Amtrak, and Americorps. Oddly enough, neither FEMA nor any Department of Homeland Security programs are on that list.

FEMA Disaster Recovery scores as adequate, which means "a program that needs to set more ambitious goals, achieve better results, improve accountability or strengthen its management practices." 28% of government programs get the same rating. In other words, someone like Michael Brown may be running over a quarter of our government's programs. Nice.

Plenty of Homeland Security programs are stuck under Results Not Determined, including the Coast Guard: Polar Icebreaking Program. We cannot, after all, let al Qaeda break our precious polar ice.

(hat tip: MeFi)

Gender Gap once again

A very good Salon article about the "gender gap" in college and the possibility of future (or present) affirmative action policies to "correct" it.

One interesting point that this article makes very well that I haven't quite seen so well articulated is that this whole gap issue could be a result of a rather simple economic fact—men don't benefit from a bachelor's degree as much as women do.
young women might be more motivated to pursue higher education because, consciously or unconsciously, they sense that there are real economic advantages at stake. Her examination of a Department of Education sample of more than 9,000 high school students, interviewed over a period of eight years, revealed that women with bachelor's degrees earn 24 percent more than women without, while young men with bachelor's degrees experience no significant economic gains. For practical proof of her hypothesis, one need only consider that most well-paid, skilled, blue-collar professions continue to be dominated by men -- while minimum-wage jobs in hospitality and service remain the province of women.
An interesting and revealing quote shows what at least some of the people worried about this gender gap are really fretting about:
"[A]s more and more women substitute careers for having babies, I've come to see that we're looking at a population crisis. The most educated women have the fewest children -- this is not rocket science, it's just the way things work. We need women to have 2.1 children [in order to maintain the U.S. population], but the recent Census Bureau reports show that American women with bachelor's degrees average only 1.7. You can do the math -- if we continue this way the white population is headed for extinction."
In other words, women, if you can't keep your heads out of those books, we're going to be overrun with brown people. Good fucking god. Please, someone tell me I didn't just read that.

February 16, 2006

New Abu Ghraib Photos/Those Fucking Cartoons Again

So two things are happening.

1) Salon put up a new gallery of Abu Ghraib photos. They're disturbing. Don't go look at them unless you have a few hours to feel down and out.

2) Predictably, Michelle Malkin is balkin' (sorry). Quoth the lady:

Readers have been e-mailing all day the question the MSM needs to answer:

Why the Abu Ghraib photos, but not the Mohammed Cartoons?

We're listening...

So let's all pretend that Michelle Malkin had a little bit of feeling locked within her charred, ashen heart. Wouldn't she have written at least a sentence as a disclaimer? About how maybe, just maybe, we all should feel at least a little bit bad that Our Heroic Troops, those valiant and pure-hearted demigods whom we must support at any cost, are handcuffing naked men to bedframes and penetrating them with bananas?

No, of course it doesn't. What does occur to her is to get angry at the "MSM" (let's be honest, this should't be an acronym) for publishing the photos, and then constructs a flimsy highly dubious analogy towards some bullshit that I guess she's kind of in the right about, but is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter that nobody's publishing the Danish cartoons for a bunch of reasons, which I will quickly enumerate here:

1) Anybody who wants to see them has already done so, and
2) They're really boring, really dumb, and essentially interchangeable with any piece of racist iconography put to paper in the last 100 years.

I should point out about now that "WELL WHY DIDN'T THEY PUBLISH THE ARAB CARTOONS THEN HUH?!????!?!?!" has become to con-blogging what dissing Editors is to music criticism. Malkin herself trackbacks like 50 posts. None of them really make sense, and none of the opinions put forward are in any way useful, except to neatly distinguish around 50 people as being horrible, heartless assholes.

Fuck Michelle Malkin, honestly. I am not even going to make a joke about how hot I think she is. I'm done with her.

Actually, never mind. I can't write a serious blog post all the way through, because Seal could sue me. So here is a wonderful quote I pulled from the perpetually gaping anus of her abysmal blog:

I'm heading home in a bit after an enjoyable event at Oberlin College kicking off the Ronald Reagan Lecture Series....

The best moment of the event came during Q&A, when an Asian-American student stood up and said she was afraid to join the College Republicans because of peer pressure. She confirmed that groupthink on campus was strong, among both students and professors. After the lecture, she took the plunge and signed up with the CRs. Made the whole trip worth it!

To summarize: Michelle Malkin wrote a book once, a poorly researched and ill-thought out advocacy of the wrongful imprisonment of Asian-Americans. It turns out later, allegedly, that the reason more Asian-Americans don't agree with her is "groupthink." That sounds pretty reasonable to me. Huh?

[edit]: it's only that one picture where she looks like my girlfriend, and it's worth noting that my girlfriend hates her more than anything

Check, Please

George Will lays the smackdown on the administration's arguments for massively increased executive wartime powers.

Well, except for this:
53 months later, Congress should make all necessary actions lawful by authorizing the president to take those actions, with suitable supervision. It should do so with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous.
I don't understand why we should not stigmatize the President's efforts to ignore the Constitution. I'm not asking for an impeachment hearing (from a Republican Congress? get real), but a stern rebuke is needed, I feel, to set an undeniable precedent. And why implicitly refute the doctrine that authorization is superfluous? Why not explicitly?

It can't be

Director considering Paris Hilton for the role of Mother Teresa in upcoming biopic.

As a Catholic, I applaud this decision. God may very well be able to touch this sinful socialite through this role. After all, He's the only male in the universe who hasn't.

February 15, 2006

The Review will be disappointed

to learn that David Horowitz doesn't think that any of Dartmouth's crazy leftist professors merit a spot on his list of the 101 most dangerous profs in America.

Columbia has 9 on the list. Jim Wright's going to have to work awfully hard to get us caught up.

A good review of the book can be found here.

Venial Sins

I really appreciated Michael Kreicher's sentiments in today's Dartmouth. He puts forward two "mortal sins" perpetrated by professors—explaining trivial matters at length and trivializing lengthy matters that need to be explained. To even matters, though, I want to add a few student sins.
  • Bringing in like 5 different little plastic containers of food to class, especially 2As, and taking all class to get through your cottage cheese or yogurt.
  • Bringing more shit to class than most people take on the Appalachian Trail. I shouldn't have to trip over like 8 fucking huge Kate Spade bags on my way out of the room. Sometimes I just want to get out of class and would appreciate not having to disentangle my feet from your haute couture.
  • Being totally ignorant of the approximate dates of even the most basic historical events—"The Russian Revolution? That was in the '30's, right?"
  • Taking a class just for the line on the transcript it leaves. Maybe profs wouldn't be saying, "but you're probably not interested in that" to their classes if it weren't, in fact, often true.
  • Perpetual, unrepentant tardiness. For fuck's sake, Dartmouth's not that big.

Clinton: Cheney is a Pussy

from the New York Daily News, ridiculously enough:

Speaking to us Monday night, the former President allowed that we should cut Cheney some slack if he was hunting "in a serious quail place, where wild birds land," where "you've got to rustle them up and they fly fast. A lot of times you can't see them on the ground, and you do turn and fire. As awful as it looks, [accidents] happen."

But then there's the kind of place where Cheney's known to hunt - where, Clinton noted, "They raise the quail on a farm." He added: "It's hardly a sport. The quail are slow. You have to stomp on the ground to get them to get up and fly. And you can't not get your limit. If it was that kind of farm, then, whatever the facts are, the Vice President shouldn't have done that. Because he was going to get his limit."

What a baby Cheney is. Ha, ha, ha.

Links of the Day

American Bar Association condemns Bush's wiretapping

Leaked UN report classifies actions at Gitmo as torture

And the humor link of the day: The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films Never Made

Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Better

Israeli cartoonists institute their own anti-Semitic cartoon contest in response to the one started by an Iranian newspaper.

Also, check out this brilliant column from Salon that cleverly dispatches the Clash of Civilizations theory in a paragraph and moves on from there to a marvelously written exposition of the frightening absurdity of the Cartoon controversy and its larger implications.

The author, Hani Shukrallah, does not say this in as many words, but this is evident in his essay: Forget clashes between civilizations. The all-important clashes are all internal, between those in a "civilization" who encourage or or make excuses or look the other way for cruelty, inhumanity, and hatred and those who will have absolutely none of it.

February 14, 2006

CheneyGate Update

I'm sure the Libby indictment will be the biggest scandal Cheney faces this year (or at least it should be), but CNN has an update regarding Cheney's shooting victim. The guy Cheney shot, Harry Wittington, has reportedly suffered a minor heart attack, after a fragment of birdshot became lodged in his heart.

Taking a Stand in Turin

Okay, so it's not quite like when Tommie Smith and John Carlos put up the black power fist on the podium during the 1968 Mexico City games, but I still think this is pretty goddamn sweet.
Joey Cheek, after winning the 500-meter speedskating sprint by an absurd margin, declared that he was giving away his $25,000 prize to a charity to help children in Darfur. Cheek's decision was motivated by his idol, Johann Olav Koss, who won three golds in Lilehammer and later founded the "Right to Play" charity for displaced refugees in Chad. Cheek then challenged his sponsors to match his donation, and pledged to visit Darfur after the Olympics.
You can check out Cheek's victory on google video.
Cheek, who is 26 years old, also announced that he will be retiring after this season, and plans on reapplying to Harvard, who rejected him about 10 years ago, to study economics.

Religion and Suicide-Bombing

I wish I had been at the Dickey Center's debate on the origins of suicide bombing (covered here in the D). The D's coverage is not in-depth and I wish I had been able to hear Professor Pape's argument in full.

According to the article, Pape makes a fateful jump—from stating that it is mistaken to believe that "Islamic fundamentalism is the obvious, central cause" to the idea that the attacks are "unabashedly secular in motivation" (the D's words, not his).

This simply cannot be. Not only is it illogical to jump from not "obvious, central" to "unabashedly secular" (meaning null), but there is no "unabashedly secular" in fundamentalist Islam. "Secular" means of the world and limited to the world. But the benefits of a Muslim state, of "establishing self-determination over territory they prize," are not limited to the world, nor are the benefits of martyrdom, which is precisely how the suicide bombers see their actions by all accounts. Reclaiming the homeland, living under shari'ah as opposed to Israeli occupation, is a goal that is not just secular, but spiritual, and if Pape cannot see this, he has a serious problem. Check out this Muslim website on shari'ah. Under the vital needs section, the first item is "the Diin or the natural system of beliefs and way of life of Islam" and the list is in order of priority.

I want to stress that I by no means believe Islam is a terrorist religion, an evil religion, or a violent religion by nature (I believe nearly all religions have a certain capacity for violence). I am absolutely not saying that Islam is latent suicide terrorism. But Palestinian suicide bombers are not secular; they are acting under beliefs they take from Islam, and those beliefs are central to their lives. Those beliefs may not be employed except in the case of persecution and occupation, but that is not the same as saying they are not there or do not count for much.

Ideas often get drafted for horrible ends, and saying so is not an explicit indictment of the idea, but an analysis of its use in a particular case. I'm not sure if Pape is unwilling or unable to recognize that or just genuinely thinks he has a better answer.

February 13, 2006

If Seal wrote this post it would be called Attack of the Drones lol

There's a good article in Slate today about Predator drones. I can't really add or subtract anything to it, because it makes a lot of sense; basically the thesis is that by further dehumanizing the process of killing it's going to change the way we wage war.

Pretty astute, although I would add that this seems like something which will make the coming war against the Machines that much more difficult. That and the eel-brained robots that feed on flesh.

Tehran Calling: The Clash (of Civilizations)

I feel like Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" idea gets thrown around all too often as a buzzword without any recognition of the dimensions of the actual argument.

Here is the original article, which Huntington later filled out to book form. It's a little long, but it's quite straightforward. I'll add just a few comments.

I think the Clash of Civilizations is one of those concepts whose success largely depends on the fact that lots and lots of people desperately want it to be true, and lots and lots of people desperately fear it is. I feel that when most people use the term, it signals more their intentions about how they want the world to turn out than their beliefs about how it is turning out. It is one of those ideational creations whose scope is so large and so totalizing that it is difficult to really come to terms with in any sort of rational and analytic way. One must accept it or reject it, because our minds can't really render partialized versions of it.

The notion itself is Romantic; in fact, one of Percy Bysshe Shelley's longer poetic works is called The Revolt of Islam. The fascination with the monolithic and the immutable is a constant Romantic preoccupation—taking things at their broadest point and shuddering at the vastness one confronts. In other words, I believe the Clash of Civilizations is as much an aesthetic idea as it is a political analysis. I don't mean to say it is definitively analytically wrong, but it is popular because it is inspiring, and unpopular because it is frightening.

This (rather hilarious) article in Slate about the lack of American interest in the Olympics captures this thirst for patriotic inspiration succinctly: "To rejoin the global sports community, we must come up with someone or something we hate as much as everyone else hates America. Until that happens, we will suffer the fate of all empires. Our victories will no longer thrill us, and we will not recognize our defeats as our own." One cannot do much more than shudder or cheer at the prospect of America finding that something to hate.

February 12, 2006

Mussolini or Jesus Christ? Make up your mind already, Silvio

As reported here earlier, Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has previously in his career made appreciative comments about Mussolini, made a celibacy pledge in the hopes that it would help him get reelected.

Now, Berlusconi has announced that he is the Son of God. In a mix of blasphemy and Nixonian self-justification, he said, "I am the Jesus Christ of politics... I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."

Pope Benedict XVI could not be reached for comment, but excommunication is, unfortunately, unlikely. Pat Robertson, however, could be reached for comment. He recommends that any God-fearing person avoid trips to Italy for the next three or four months as God's wrath will be pouring down frequently.

Dick Cheney Shoots Old Man

As if we didn't already have reason enough to be thoroughly terrified of Dick Cheney...

WASHINGTON Feb 12, 2006 (AP)— Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot a bird and accidentally hit Whittington. She said Whittington was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Cheney is a cold, shrewd, and calculating man, and because he is pure evil (in its Vice Presidential incarnation), I'm wondering if this was really an accident at all. I can see it now. Dick and Harry get in a fight over who's turn it is to shoot, and when Harry pulls his gun up, Dick whips around and fires one off into Harry. Dick accompanies his victim to the hospital, and when the cops ask how it happened, Cheney leans over with his characteristic glower...

The Conservative Pledge of Allegiance

Glenn Greenwald, drawing on some personal experiences and observations, claims that in order to be 'worthy' of the conservative tag today, you don't need to hold to any traditional conservative beliefs or values. All you need to do is pledge unswerving allegiance to George W. Bush and back up every single policy decision, action, and word and berate, smear, and vilify every single person who may be on his notorious shit list.

Greenwald says,
People who self-identify as "conservatives" and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. That’s because "conservatism" is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as "liberal" is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government.
Greenwald points out the irony here, given the many aspects of the Bush Administration that are not in the least conservative (e.g. spending policy). Not only that, he says, but political conservatism has long been predicated on a sincere distrust of federal power, which simply doesn't square with blind loyalty. Add in the unitary executive theory, and you have not just a deviation from the conservative tradition, but its antithesis. Greenwald also speculates about the motivations behind this "authoritarian cultis[m]" and finds its origin in nothing more complex than rage and fear.

Greenwald concludes:
The rage-based reverence for The President as Commander-in-Chief -- and the creepy, blind faith vested in his goodness -- is not a movement I recognize as being political, conservative or even American.
Edit: Sort of serendipitously, today I pulled off my reading pile Richard Hofstadter's book of essays, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It addresses this problem directly, and it's a little uncanny how well much of his reasoning translates into today's political climate, though he was analyzing McCarthyism and Goldwaterism, and not Bushism. I may post some random thoughts once I get done with the other essays in the book.

February 11, 2006

Something about shit and a fan...

From Huffington Post, cracks becoming fissures:

Literary Salon

Two good Salon book reviews: one on Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon and one on Leonard Steinhorn's The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy.

Dennett, who has a habit of taking on impossible tasks—"explaining" both consciousness and free will, for instance—is attempting with this new book to make a case that religion must be studied scientifically, that "we break the spell that creates an invisible moat around religion, the one that says, "Science stay away. Don't try to study religion." But if we don't understand religion, we're going to miss our chance to improve the world in the 21st century."

Something else he says is particularly apposite for the present moment:
We cannot let any group, however devout, blackmail us into silence by their expressions of hurt feelings whenever they feel that we are getting close to the truth. That is what con artists do when their marks begin to get suspicious, and that is what children do when they can't have their way, and it should be beneath the dignity of any religious group to play that card. The responsibility of science is to safeguard the well-being of those it studies and to tell the truth. If people insist on taking themselves out of the arena of reasonable political discourse and mutual examination, they forfeit their right to be heard. There is no excuse for deliberately insulting anybody, but people who insist on putting their sensibilities on a hair trigger demonstrate that they prefer pity to respect.
The other book, Steinhorn's, both exonerates and exalts the Baby Boom Generation for exceeding their fathers' generation in both moral courage and dedication. Their fathers—and mothers—fought the battle they had to against fascism, but shirked their duties at home in fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. The boomers, however, took up the challenge wholeheartedly.

Of course, the boomers' accomplishments cannot really be measured solely by what they did in the '60s, and Steinhorn realizes this. Faced with an enormously divided nation and some undeniable backsliding on many of the key fronts of the '60s Revolution(s), Steinhorn sees merely the death throes of the Greatest Generation's morality, to be replaced forever by Boomer morality. Wait, boomers voted for those Bush guys too, didn't they? And that Reagan fellow?

The reviewer questions Steinhorn's chronological reasoning—many of the greatest "heroes" of the post-WWII movements for equality were not, in fact, boomers at all. And many of the movements boomers credit themselves for were simmering for a long time before they got out of their cribs. I would add that the shifting attitudes toward Judaism right after WWII—represented in movies like Gentleman's Agreement—actually got the ball rolling.

Actually, it's a really good review. Just read that.

RIP Jay Dee

James Yancey/J Dilla/Jay Dee died sometimes yesterday of "liver complications." He'd been sick for a while. He founded Slum Village and he produced a good Tribe album, some okay stuff with Madlib, and some amazing stuff with Ghostface and Common. By all accounts he was a good man.

February 10, 2006

Have a Great Winter Carnival

Calvin & Hobbes join me in wishing you all a terrific Carnival.

Damn, I wish I could be there.

February 9, 2006

Mashup Heaven

Maybe I like mashups more than a normal person, but these are plain brilliant:

S.L.H. (Sri Lanka High) (M.I.A. vs. The Ramones)
An Honest M.I.A. (M.I.A. vs. The Bravery)
Somebody Rock Me (The Killers vs. The Clash)
Since U Been Gahan (Kelly Clarkson vs. Rex The Dog vs. Depeche Mode)
Walking With A Ghost In Paris (Tegan & Sara vs. Mylo)
Computer Talk (Coldplay vs. Kraftwerk)
Black Beatles (Beatles vs. Black-Eyed Peas vs. Ludacris vs. Kelis)
P-Funk Is Playing At My House (LCD Soundsystem vs. Gerald A. vs. Katie Enlow)
Do You Wanna Cuz It's Tricky (Franz Ferdinand vs. Run-DMC vs. The Knack)
Big Shot Pimpin' (Billy Joel vs. Jay-Z)
Sgt. Pepper's Paradise (Beatles vs. Guns N' Roses)
Smells Like Compton (N.W.A. vs. Nirvana)

and others

Today's Sign of the Apocalypse

Barry Manilow tops the charts.

Barry Manilow should be used as birth control.

Space Case

Tom DeLay. In space. That sounds awesome.

Unfortunately, though, all the Hammer's going to be doing is heading the appropriations committee for NASA. Maybe someone didn't get the memo, but this guy shouldn't be anywhere near money. Especially government money.

He's also gotten a spot on a Department of Justice subcommittee. Justice. Tom DeLay. Massive incongruence. What are these guys smoking??

(via Josh Marshall)

February 8, 2006

More Sense

I just want to add a little bit to my last post on sexual assault and rape and the increase in reported cases of the same by pointing out two things about the kind of attitude that leads to posts like Joe's, or articles like this from the Review.

First of all, it's interesting to me that conservatives who either read Allan Bloom with avidity or think like him or frown on freaky sex or loose sex or all of the above would oppose a policy (or set of policies) that is likely to make sexual relations at Dartmouth more stable, more often occurring within a relationship of some sort, and more likely to hold or bear some "meaning." No, I'm not saying that SAAP could or will act as a midwife to monogamy, but let's be honest and realize that forcing people to take rape and sexual assault seriously probably will put a damper (perhaps a small one) on the hook-up culture. And some people might think that's a decent idea.

Second of all, I find it a little absurd that anyone's first reaction to hearing about an increase in the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults is more or less, "Oh those fucking feminists." That's really your first reaction? Come on, what kind of cynicism is it that you just presume that the increase is due to lies, or haziness that is encouraged in the direction of lies. What does that say about your opinion of women? Empty-headed credulity is harmful, but skepticism of the sort practiced by Joe and the Review is no less concerned with forging a view on the matter with as few facts as possible and is as much predicated on what is comfortable, and not what is right or accurate.

Sense, not Sensibility

I want to respond to one of Joe Malchow's recent posts—Pride, Prejudice, and Sexual Assault—because I think it's a great example of someone just not getting the whole deal with rape and sexual assault.

Joe takes umbrage at the developments highlighted in the The Dartmouth's recent reporting: "Over the past years, the College has tried to increase victims' comfort in reporting incidences of assault, an endeavor that would result in increased rape and other sexual assault statistics at Dartmouth." We're trying to increase rape statistics?! Ye gods! I thought those were supposed to go down!

Joe's concern seems to be with the justice of a system wherein the accused is not convinced of his own guilt (that's different from normal?) and where a third-party can intervene on behalf of a disempowered party (ever heard of amicus curiae? [edit: i'm not saying it's the same thing, just similar]). But I think this really comes from a mentality that says, if you're a woman and you're anywhere close to the "line," you've already crossed it enough for it not to be a criminal act on the part of the male. If you're "begging for it" and you get more of it than you want, well, tough luck, sista. Foreplay invariably means "I'm for play."

This type of thinking is obscene. This is the same attitude that believes marital rape is impossible, that the criterion of rape is (secretly) not lack of consent but the presence of physical force.

Let's look at the alternative to taking the kind of stand against rape advocated by SAAP. I will acknowledge that the following is dependent on taking the prevalence of campus sexual assault seriously, something which is absent from Malchow's analysis and from what usually comes from the Review. I don't think they believe that sexual assault occurs frequently enough to merit worry. I do. This isn't a bunch of girls going hysterical days later because she decides she doesn't want to see you anymore. This isn't sensibility. This is sense.

Anyway, the alternative to taking a firm stand against rape and sexual assault via the measures currently in place, or something approximating them, will simply result in an amplification of the pressures placed on women not to report. If you can save yourself a Parkhursting (or worse) by convincing a girl that when she said "no," she really meant "sure, go ahead" and that kind of behavior is successful fairly often because of a lack of third-party support, then such behavior will only become more successful because it will become more common. Rape itself will not necessarily increase, but the temptation to do something that lots of other guys get away with will be strong.

And certainly, the reporting of rape will plummet, which is the real mark of progress for Joe, I guess. So who's playing with the number of reported cases now?

Cheers to GDX and the football team for taking the problem of sexual assault seriously, btw.

"Happy Warriors"

From Andrew Sullivan:
I'm not a Democrat and don't think I ever could be, but here's what I'd say if I were in opposition right now. These guys are corrupt and incompetent. They have screwed up the Iraq war, turned FEMA into a joke and landed the next generation with a mountain of debt. We're for making the homeland safer, winning back our allies, and taking on the Iranian dictatorship. We're for energy independence, universal healthcare and balancing the budget again. Now, let Rove do his worst. Hey, we need Democrats who relish the fight, not timid ones who cower at the prospect. Bring back the happy warriors. Please.

February 7, 2006

I Kind of Agree with This

Some Iranian newspaper is having a Holocaust cartoon contest. When you think about it it's at least symmetrical retaliation. Does free speech give you the right to be an enormous asshole? Sure.

Article from the Washington Post.

Unrelatedly, Raekwon and the RZA are gonna do an album again. This should be exciting for you in a physical sense.

More on Facebook

Agenda Gap has a great post up about an interesting (/disturbing) development—using facebook as a way of embarrassing political figures. Basically, it involves finding their sons/daughters' profiles, finding a picture involving alcohol, and publishing it.

This makes me wonder, do the Bush twins have a myspace?

Please check one. Or a few. Or none.

Interesting article in the D today—"Students debate importance of sexuality in admissions."

The principal issue under discussion was whether the College should add a row of boxes to the college application asking for your sexual orientation. I have two problems with the possibility that this might be enacted.

First, if this is a way of adjusting for discrimination in high school, it seems to me that a lot of the students who would seem to need some extra concern are those who might be uncomfortable answering this question. What kind of feeling would it be to come out for the first time on your college application? To come out first not to friends or family, but to people who are judging your whole worth, whom you've never met, and who will see you unavoidably as, primarily, a set of attributes, to which you've now added just one more.

Secondly, I just don't like boxes. I feel it is a childishly cheap way of ensuring diversity. Let me rephrase that. It is a childishly cheap way of ensuring that you can say your college is committed to diversity. I feel colleges today are committed to diversity in about the same way they were committed to a specific religious denomination a number of years ago—that is, ceremonially. If we're committed to diversity, put our money on it. Recruit more heavily, more attentively, and don't rely on check-boxes to make people feel welcome. Talk for real, in real terms in the admissions literature and in those travelling salesman speeches about the way diversity is pursued at Dartmouth. Talk about how active the organizations that add to our diversity are. And if you can't find a good talking point, well, then, we've got some other problems. But don't fake it with check-boxes and a little hat-tip in our public relations literature.

On the other hand, I can imagine it might be a good thing if students were able to express their sexual orientation without trying to coyly slip it into their essay or make their entire essay about it.

I'd Say This is Pretty Prophetic

from 2001

Holy Calamity! Hooray for Sanity!

Lebanese government apologizes for riots

Also, be sure to check out this (very long) post from Juan Cole. It's about as complete as I've seen, compiling different news reports and Cole's comments on them and on the situation.

February 6, 2006

Refreshing Moment of Candor

So I read this Washington Post story from a couple days back and it's pretty disturbing to me. Basically the gist of it is that your brain uses chemicals to actively reinforce your political preconceptions. Quoth P.:

Studies presented at the conference, for example, produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.

When you get right down to it I know I'm one of those people. There are certainly reasons why things in Iraq might end up being better for us having intervened, but my brain actively refuses to entertain or accept them. Apparently this isn't just because I'm bullheaded (although I certainly am) but also because my brain has some sort of vested interest in clinging to certain ideas, even if they become outmoded.

It would be easy at this point to make, as plenty of others have made, easy allusions to conservative beliefs w/r/t homosexuals, redistribution of wealth, nationalized health care, torture, etc. But the fact is that I probably hold some beliefs that are as irrational as theirs.

Essentially I think my liberalism derives from a core belief that conservatism is inherently selfish, and in my desire to fight that selfishness I've compromised logic on probably more than one occasion. Sorry, guys.

Super Bowl

People are steamed over the "questionable" calls made by referees last night—all of them going for the Steelers. I don't like the referees making a difference in the game any more than Matt Hasselbeck, but these "phantom calls" were certainly not the result of some conspiracy to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Steelers any more than that Polamalu interception against the Colts was an attempt to stick a knife in Bill Cowher's back. Refs suck sometimes. That doesn't mean they have a preferred outcome.

The Roethlisberger play was reviewed and upheld, and, in my mind, was called correctly. And Darrell Jackson may not have done anything that other WRs don't regularly do, but it was nevertheless technically correct. You play the ball, not your defender. Bottom line: if there is a conspiracy theory, you have to look at Mike Holmgren as its center. The man called such a bad game you have to wonder if he didn't have some money on Pittsburgh.

Anyway, this brings me to saying, this is ridiculous. The D reports (mixing it up from inaccurate to just plain nugatory) that a very large majority of Americans believe college sports should take a backseat to academics. Four letters should dispel this notion.

E. S. P. N.

Sports dominates our culture. And we like it. And I'm okay with that, even though I would certainly appreciate some more societal focus on intelligence, if only for personal reasons. ESPN gives coverage to the Spelling Bee, but that's because it's sort of a freak show. But seriously, why try to pretend? People want other schools to make their students learn, but try telling a Florida State fan that their football team is being kept out of a bowl game because of bad grades. All I can say is, watch out for the Tomahawk Chop.

Edit: Seriously, now I'm a Reviewer because I like sports? You know what, I'll antagonize y'all just a little bit more and echo Alan Stam's sentiments (quoted on Dartlog) and say that I too prefer the mediocre athletes to the mediocre poets. Jockish vanity is something I detest but have long ago adapted to; I think you can never adapt to someone whose pretension is predicated solely on what they have read or "felt" and not on what they have thought or experienced. I'll take a meathead over a hipster any day.

Wait, what's a hipster again?

Full-court press

The Dartmouth today runs a correction on their article about HPo using thefacebook.com to identify students under investigation for various activities, such as rushing the field for Homecoming.

This correction, however, replaces the old article entirely. There is no copy online that I can find of the original article. That is troubling because I can remember a quote in the original article that would entirely contradict this correction.

This quote was something to the effect that a police officer (Giaccone, I'm pretty sure) stated that HPo had purchased some email accounts from the college in order to browse the website. That can't possibly be true if HPo wasn't aware of the website's existence.

Now, either HPo demanded that the D change the story to protect their super-secret criminal investigation methods (which thousands of Dartmouth students use every day for less wholesome, but more benign purposes), or the writer, A.J. Fox, made his quotes up. Or my memory is faulty and I'm wrong.

If anyone has a paper copy of the D from Friday or can find one in Rauner or wherever, would you please check to see if this quote or anything else contradictory appears in the original article?

Edit: I got the scoop from someone on the paper. It appears the officer meant copies of the Green Book when he said "accounts." So, it certainly wasn't a made-up quote, just a botched interview. Still, I wish the D wasn't in the habit of replacing articles online with their "corrected" copy.

More: Make sure you check out the excellent posts on Agenda Gap and Dartblog. Michael Herman of AG in particular has some really good things to say.

February 5, 2006

Detainee 032 and the American Taliban

The National Journal has a great piece about Detainee 032, who has been at Guantanamo since he was 18 years old.

"Like many of the men who came handcuffed to Cuba, Detainee 032 has never been accused of fighting against America. He fell into U.S custody far away from any battlefield. But today, after four years of interrogations and investigations, he is still an "enemy combatant," even though he was never an enemy or a combatant."

The article does a great job picking apart the case, explaining the failures of justice in the "enemy combatant" system, the use of torture and resulting unreliable information, and the legal complications that the Bush administration have laid down to prevent these detainees access to court. I highly recommend reading it. The conclusion is, in the end, that Detainee 032 absolutely does not belong in prison. The article itself, however, concludes with this:

"The Defense Department, following orders and procedures, still considers Farouq Ali Ahmed, Detainee 032, a threat to America. Two months after his review board, on December 18, Farouq turned 22, passing his fourth straight birthday behind bars in Guantanamo. Who would do differently? Who would raise their hand to release the man who might fly into the next skyscraper?"

Also, check out The Real Story of John Walker Lindh. After his capture, the media and American public went into a feeding frenzy against this despicable traitor. It's difficult to recall the mindset we all had in the days following 9/11. Well, it turns out that Lindh wasn't a Taliban soldier. In his court case, every charge was dropped except for one of violating economic sanctions, which this 20-year-old will spend 20 years in prison serving a sentence for.
The story is an amazing one, of what brought him to Afghanistan, how he survived mass killings and war crimes committed by our ally, the Northern Alliance, being tortured by the US military, and being the focal point of seething hatred from the American public. On the basis of misinformation and emotional response, Lindh became one of many Taliban soldiers who had no interest in fighting the US, and no relation to Al-Qaeda that will unjustly fester in prison. It should be some consolation that Lindh, as an American, at least got access to a trial, but apparently the protections of the American judicial system only apply selectively.


(Yes, I know, that's not how it's pronounced)

On Meet the Press, newly elected Majority Leader John Boehner said, "[I]t [Iraq] may not benefit our generation, but for our kids and theirs, this may be the greatest gift that we give them."

The best part of our national inheritance will be Iraq? Oh, come on, I'm still holding out for Iran, at least.

(See the video: Russert doesn't totally suck for once.)

The GOP savior. Good grief.

Betty Friedan

The author of The Feminine Mystique died yesterday, on her birthday, at 85 years old.

I have not read her book, and, honestly, I think my most direct contact with it is the scene in Ten Things I Hate About You when Kat throws it at Patrick in the bookshop, but there is little doubt Friedan's thoughts and words have affected us all deeply, and I think immeasurably for the better. And perhaps today we do need to go back for some fresh ideas to Friedan's book.

NYT Obit

February 4, 2006

It's pretty much my favorite animal

What all that business in the SOTU about human-animal hybrids was about.

Kafka would be cool with it, though.

But seriously, none of us wants something like this to really happen:

UN Security Council and Darfur

From the New York Times:
American and United Nations officials said they expected the United Nations force to absorb the 7,000 African Union troops already there, rearm them and then increase the total troop presence to a level between 12,000 and 20,000. More than 200,000 residents of Darfur have been killed since the violence began three years ago, and as many as three million rely on international aid for basic sustenance.

The violence has ramped up recently, and its good to see that something is happening, even if it happens over the objections of Khartoum, and even if SC members Russia and China will oppose any direct action against Khartoum. The problem is really going to come in finding the troops. The US has no intention of providing combat troops, and the UN expects these troops to come from our army. As far as I can tell there is no deadline for resolving this issue, but in the meantime, at least the AU troops will be given adequate arms and an expanded mandate to protect the people and enforce the ceasefire.

On the campus activism side of things, the University of California system was expected to approve divestment two weeks ago. Stating that they did not have adequate information to act on, the Board of Regents ordered the President's office to compile a report. UC is expected to divest as much as $150 million of its $6.5 billion endowment at the next scheduled Board meeting in March. Amherst College recently approved divestment from 19 firms involved in Sudan, and the College's press release included a quote from Nobel laureate and trustee, Joseph Stiglitz '64, reaffirming the rationale for divestment. Brown University's responsible investment committee has also approved divestment, and Yale's equivalent committee is currently preparing a report on the subject.

I'll be the first one to admit that there is no direct relation between divestment and the UN's recent decision. However, I think it is significant that anything at all has happened, and were it not for college activists and human rights advocates within the evangelical community, I don't think the genocide in Darfur would have ever made it onto Bush's agenda.

Freedom of Press Index

The French Organization, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters without Borders), has released its latest edition of the annual Freedom of Press Index ratings. According to their website, the ratings are complied based on the following criteria:

The questionnaire was sent to partner organisations of Reporters Without Borders (14 freedom of expression groups in five continents) and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

It is based solely on events between 1 September 2004 and 1 September 2005. It does not look at human rights violations in general, just press freedom violations.

Reporters Without Borders compiled a questionnaire with 50 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment).

The 167 countries ranked are those for which we received completed questionnaires from a number of independent sources. Others were not included because of a lack of credible data.

The US ranks behind most Western democracies, coming in at 44. France, where the index was complied, ranked 30th. Also, interesting to note that our recent leaders of Islamic cartoon controversy--Denmark and Norway--are two of the countries tied at first place.