Bruce Wexler, hereby designated by Unfogged a mastigophorer, says that "poetry is dead." (Don't bother reading the thing. Withering synopsis from Julia Turner in Slate: "Wexler...contends that poetry is an outmoded art. His primary evidence—he no longer reads it.")
So why do I mention him? Because it's my news peg! I'm reading some great (contemporary, American, imagine that!) poetry right now by one Albert Goldbarth. But for worries about copyright, I would post his poems here in bunches. As it is, there happens to be an excellent article about him online but (don't you trust me?), just go buy the book I'm reading, "Saving Lives."
A while back, I blew a gasket over a report that AIDS researchers had been discouraged from using, among other phrases, "homosexuality" and "needle exchange" in their research. It seemed a pretty clear case of bigoted politics squashing science. I sent the piece to Charles Murtaugh, who uncovered more of the story and, having seen it there, Yuri Guri (permalinks broken) has really run with it.
It turns out that a man named Roland Foster was behind the pressure the scientists felt. Yuri Guri contacted Foster and is reporting on their ongoing correspondence, which paints a much more nuanced (though still disturbing) picture of the situation. Great work.
This is unfortunate, but I get the sense that it won't slow this guy down. Geez.
When I saw this story about a segregated prom linked by Atrios, I did what I often do when I hear about a hot-button social issue: I checked out the reliably right-wing wacko folks over at the Free Republic and Lucianne. How wacko? When Mandela criticized President Bush a few months ago, some of the Lucianne posters responded thus.
Mandela is a living advertisement for why aparthied was the right thing.
Byte me, Mannie. Why don't you go Bar-B-Q a pygmy like your buddies to the north of you.
When is someone going to finally put a bullet in that idiot's head?
I'll hazard these folks didn't vote for Gore. And I expected more bile in the threads about the prom. Certainly, there was some.
None of that matters. It only matters if the "white devil" does it. Can you imagine what would happen if WET (white entertainment television) came up. MY GOD! I would love to see the uproar.
The private prom is being held about 50 miles away from the school -- not far enough because you can still catch the stench. The school stopped sponsoring proms, so you can't blame them.
Which really makes me wonder about
Reply removed by staff for matters of taste
But the vast majority of the comments deplored the segregation and took the posters of the comments I've quoted to task.
Reply's [sic] number 3+4 [re: the stench and the reply that was removed] don't bring much credit to this BBS. Middle Class Blacks vote against their economic and moral interests because they fear all conservatives think like this. I despair I really do.
Thanks, students; you've really helped Georgia look like a backwater full of ignorant nosepicking racists. Of course, the Georgia Legislature is doing everything it can to assist, by trying to bring back the Confederate battle flag. Yeah, this is students organizing a second and separate prom on their own, and yeah, it's probably legal. There are lots of things that are legal, but are still shortsighted and moronic.
What a shame. I hope they have a change of heart. This is 2003.
This isn't a survey, but take it as an indication that there is a real and deep split between principled and reactionary conservatives and it keeps coming to the fore on matters of race. And there is a very interesting parallel here between what is happening among Republicans (and how the left chooses to react to it) and what is happening within Islam (and how the US reacts to that).
Just as Muslim does not equal Terrorist, Republican does not equal Racist. And the Left, so clear-eyed in recognizing that moderate Muslims are the most potent force against Islamism, would do well to acknowledge that the most powerful allies against racism are principled conservatives.
The State Department has just released a report on Patterns of Global Terrorism. Because incidents of terrorism fell from 355 in 2001 to 199 in 2002, it's easy to take this as straightforward evidence of the success of the "War on Terror."
But take a look at the numbers. Of the 156 fewer incidents in 2002, 151 were in Latin America, where a 2001 surge in pipeline bombings in Columbia was fought back. That's a success the US had a hand in, but consider this preemptive counterspin against the use of this report as evidence of the success of the administration's Middle-East policies. Speaking of the Middle-East, note that, while the number of incidents there stayed the same, casualties were up significantly.
And will the report's effusive praise for France be ignored or spun as more State Department weakness?
There's good news in this report, but it needs to be read with care. (Kudos to NPR's Michele Kelemen for doing that, and for also noting a point I haven't been able to find elsewhere: that critics claim the 2001 numbers were inflated, so the decline is actually less significant that it appears.)
UPDATE: More good analysis from Kevin Drum.
Much of political journalism is an exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy. To wit: a bunch of reporters all hang their Dean-related stories on his support from the anti-war movement. Then the war ends, and they ask themselves - since they don't have the anti-war "hook" anymore - what in the world will Dean do to get traction? Since reporters are generally lazy (yours truly included), the question becomes the "hook," and suddenly Dean has an image problem.
Bush suffered from this for...about a week of the 2000 campaign. The rest of the time, the "hook" that reporters were working with was what I call "the parable of the class president and the class clown." If you tell everybody "Bush=stupid but decent and likable, Gore=smart but sleazy and stiff" long enough, it becomes part of the public perception of the two, and bang, your "hook" is legit.
This isn't something reporters do intentionally on an aggregate basis - it's something that develops because each individual reporter needs a "hook" and it's easy to take a commonplace "hook" and fit the facts of your coverage around that.(emphasis mine)
This need for a "news peg," or "hook," is real; check out this account posted by a freelancer.
I once worked at a newspaper where a profile about the local medical examiner sat around until there was a colorful murder, so the editor could insert a phrase about how the medical examiner had been called to the scene -- to give the news peg.
This, for those of you keeping track, is another way issues get framed.
Is this the unhappiest man in the world?
Oh, to have been there for the counting.
Sarah Kozer, runner-up on Joe Millionaire, is featured in the June issue of Playboy. Fine. But is this really what she meant?
Kozer said she only agreed to pose for Playboy if the photos entailed no full-frontal nudity. "I was a women's studies major," she said Monday night at a party celebrating her appearance.
You've likely heard that about 15 Iraqi civilians were killed when US soldiers fired on a demonstrating crowd. There is disagreement over whether the soldiers were fired on first.
Hesiod and Matthew Yglesias point out that no matter what really happened, this makes the US look bad. And the US will keep looking bad because of two facts. First, having soldiers among civilians almost unavoidably leads to incidents like this (think Kent State). Second, military occupations (even benign and temporary ones) are judged by standards that are impossible for the occupier. Accounts of events during an occupation do not gain currency by virtue of being true, but by being inflammatory. That's because 1) inflammatory stories are more exciting to tell and 2) more extreme accounts drive out moderate ones on pain of sympathizing with the occupier (e.g., "why are you defending the American soldiers who killed my brother....")
Lest we think that we are holding fast to plain truth while the "Arabs" fall away, consider the way the New York Times and Washington Post frame today's incident.
The Times' headline and subhead reads "U.S. Troops Fire on Iraqi Protesters, Leaving 15 Dead; Soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at a demonstration after being shot at by some in the crowd, a U.S. officer said today." (That's on the main page of their website, not in the story itself.) And the Post says "U.S. Soldiers Kill 13 at Iraq Protest Rally, Hospital Reports; Central Command Says Soldiers Were Fired On First."
The claim that the soldiers were fired on first is established as the presumptive account. Other accounts will have the lesser status of "dissent." This may seem picayune, but contrast the headlines and the subhead with the first few paragraphs of the Times' account, which is exemplary in its fairness.
FALLUJAH, Iraq, April 30 — United States soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at an antiwar demonstration here, and according to local hospital officials killed 15 people and wounded about 75. An American officer said today that the troops opened fire after being "intentionally" shot at by some of the protesters, a claim disputed by residents.
Local people said the firing by the Americans was unprovoked as about 200 to 300 demonstrators late Monday night roamed between the United States Army headquarters and in front of a local school, which the Americans took over a few days ago.
The demonstrators "intentionally engaged American soldiers," said Capt. Mike Riedmuller, commanding officer of an Army troop with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad.
The claim that the soldiers came under fire is immediately disputed in the opening paragraph and the competing claim that the soldiers fired without provocation actually opens the narrative.
Very small distinctions are the difference between a fair and a biased report. And the bias of what we read and hear has its long-term effect: two populations' views diverge so much that they begin to seem irrational to one another (yes, of course, think Israelis and Palestinians). When that happens, killing one another seems inevitable, even reasonable.
Unfogged has been up for about two months now and our logs show that we have some pretty consistent visitors, to whom I'd like to say thanks. I enjoy doing the blog, even when it feels like I'm writing to the ether, but it's much nicer when I know that people are visiting. I hope we can keep it interesting and, as always, feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment.
Driving to work today, I passed a car that had a framed sign mounted where the rear left head rest would have been that said "Liberalism is a MENTAL DISEASE!"
I looked over to see a very dour middle-aged man. Then I started to think, maybe he lost a bet...
If you don't like the Red State/Blue State distinction, how else to explain that 49% of the population thinks that pre-marital sex is "always or almost always" wrong, while in the large Northern cities in which I've lived most of my life, not having pre-marital sex makes people suspect--quite literally--that something must be physically or mentally wrong?
And, as to whether homosexuality is wrong, just what is in the minds of the 5% who hedge that it's "almost always" wrong?
I was listening to this interview with Hong Kong doctor Wan Song, who had contracted and recovered from SARS and he mentioned, in an aside, that he had been treated with Ribavirin, which he said was a controversial course of treatment. I'll say. A Google News search on Ribavirin gives these two headlines as the first and second results: "'Useless' Ribavirin used on SARS baby" and "Most SARS patients take well to Ribavirin."
Given that we suspect that the virus is mutating, it seems quite possible that Ribavirin does work in some cases, but not in others. That raises the possibility that initial tests in the US and Canada will show that Ribavirin is ineffective against the strains here now, and doctors may fail to use it when later strains that may respond to Ribavirin develop (or travel here). Speculation, of course, but the tone of the dismissals makes me worry.
I was out playing a little basketball today and while I'm usually at the park by my lonesome, today a young man arrived with his girlfriend and after tutoring her for a while, asked me if I wanted to play one-on-one.
At this point, the fact that he was a 6'6" tall lithe black man who had been throwing down monster dunks on his girlfriend becomes especially relevant. But I can't say no to a game of one-on-one so I and my winter belly agreed.
Now, granted that he was playing at half-speed, but I was satisfied to score 3 points to his 9, give up only one humiliating dunk (damn!) and earn one "did you get that move from Kobe?"
I asked him if he played (professionally) and he said that up until a couple of years ago he had been playing in Europe. I've played against some Division I and retired pro athletes before, and if you've never done it, consider yourself vicariously humbled. It's difficult to understand in the abstract how wide the gap is between even a very good recreational athlete and a professional. And then there's another gap (smaller, but perhaps even more impressive) between most professionals and the stars.
I love sports, because they feel good to play and because when I'm not playing I love to choose sides and yell, but mostly, because they're about simply taking joy in human excellence.
Charles Murtaugh, a scientist himself, follows up--more thoroughly and reasonably--on my earlier post about scientists who were encouraged not to use "controversial" words like "needle exchange" in their AIDS research.
Jack Balkin has a great post (link bloggered? go to April 25) on a point that's crucial to the debate about the status of homosexuality and homosexual families. Go read it (it's not even long!)
One thing that I often said to people who thought I was nuts to support the war in Iraq was, "imagine that you are in George Bush's place and responsible for the lives of ~300 million Americans. Are you really willing to stake any of those lives on your confidence in the antipathy between bin Laden and Hussein?"
Some said yes.
Marc Racicot, the Republican national chairman, said recently that Mr. Kerry "is going to have a hard time translating out of New England." Another Bush adviser said of Mr. Kerry, "He looks French."
Several said that another leading Democratic contender, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, could be the one Democrat who could compete with Mr. Bush in the South. But they argued that Mr. Edwards was open to attack both for his close ties with trial lawyers and for his lack of experience in government.
Mr. Racicot said Mr. Edwards could be portrayed as "slick and shallow," while another Bush associate described Mr. Edwards as the Breck Girl of politics, a reference to the shiny-hair model for a popular shampoo in the 1960's.
This isn't the promised Leon Kass post either, but if you want to get an idea of what even small changes to "natural" procreation can do, check out this thoroughly scary article.
Sen. Rick Santorum's remarks about homosexuality have received plenty of attention and analysis, but he said one thing I haven't seen people address and I've heard the argument made by others. Here's Santorum's semi-coherent version.
Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children.
The argument, which seems to spring from some people's vestigial categorical imperator, has two basic steps. 1) Homosexuality and the "tolerance" of homosexuality are moral commitments and 2) Moral commitments must be true for all people at all times. The short version is something like this: homosexuality issues no children (Santorum of course ignores lesbians and insemination, but nevermind) and therefore the condoning of homosexuality is tantamount to desiring an end to human reproduction.
It may sound as if I'm constructing a strawman here, but, like I say, I've heard people make this argument explicitly so I don't think it's so unlikely that Santorum believes it. And it's a great example of why searching for moral absolutes is a disastrous and totalitarian enterprise. Some people may not like to mix facts with their moral arguments but at the very high end, you'll hear that 10% of men are gay. How does letting them make even the most ostentatious displays of their homosexuality lead to a dearth of children? Oh, it doesn't.
Would you treat your friends like this?