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Howdy, Comrades

Posted by Ogged
on 12.03.04

Another word on torture and civil liberties (and be sure to click the update two posts down).

I've tried to make this point several times, and I don't think I've been particularly clear. Just this: Now we know how it happens. I remember, as a kid, seeing news footage of people on the streets in Moscow, wondering what was wrong with them, why they were willing to live under a repressive regime, what about the Russian (or East German, or Romanian...) character allowed them to become repressors and repressed. But, of course, there was nothing special about them at all. In "response" to whatever threat, they and their government allowed some curtailing of freedom, and the logic of that move (threat necessitates greater control and less liberty) is inexorable. Most people, because they're not directly affected, don't think about their liberty at all; some people (like me), are upset, complain, but do nothing substantive; and a few people (always too few), try to make a difference.

Sometimes I get the sense that people are waiting for the skies to darken, as if the heavens will signal when we've become a repressive society; but that's not going to happen, and, in fact, it should already have happened. The difference between the U.S. now, and those repressive regimes is just one of degree: the policy, already implemented, of this government is for indefinite detention without charge; torture while in custody, and court proceedings which make use of information extracted by torture.

None of this needs to make a difference to us; the folks writing and reading these blogs. In all likelihood, none of us will be picked up, locked up, and tortured. But that's not the way to judge what's happening.


 

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And Surely I Haven't Scratched the Surface

Posted by Ogged
on 12.03.04

Belle's post has me thinking, and I think I might be a bit of a barbecue hound. You can't go wrong at:

Columbia, SC: Green's. Traditional, SC style yellow mustard sauce bbq. Zingy and delicious.

Cambridge, MA: It's yuppie, but it's good anyway: the East Coast Grill. Several styles, all very well done. The chef, Chris Schlesinger, is a NY Times fave.

Chicago, IL: I should really have a better recommendation here, but I never did make it to the South Side bbq places I've heard about. I can say that Hecky's, who claims, "It's the sauce," does indeed have delicious sauce, that I still get delivered to me, here in not-Chicago.

Lafayette, CA: Bo's. Tangy, traditional Texas-ish style red sauce bbq. And Bo (Bo McSwine) is as personable as the article says. Doesn't Brad DeLong live near this? What's the skinny, Brad?


 

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Rule of Law

Posted by Ogged
on 12.03.04
So, you know that torture is now official U.S. policy, right? MORE: A crystalline, absolutely correct post by Kieran Healy.

 

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Grown Up Toys Rock

Posted by Ogged
on 12.03.04

Because what Apple really needs is advertising help from the likes of me, let me pass along that I just spent 15 minutes setting up an Airport Express, and am now streaming music from iTunes on my XP-running laptop to my home stereo. Gadzooks that's cool.


 

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Internets, Indeed

Posted by Ogged
on 12.03.04

I've read the story three times now, and it's still not quite clear to me what George Tenet is proposing, but it sounds like far more government regulation of the Internet. Whether that just means monitoring, or actually restricting access to authorized people, I can't tell. Are we going to need outlaw ISPs, like we had outlaw radio broadcasters? And everyone better get mighty familiar with encryption. It's been fun.


 

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Malady

Posted by Ogged
on 12.02.04

The people of blogdom turn out to know lots of stuff, or maybe you've just had similar experiences, so I'll share. When I sit (sat) in the front of a classroom, I couldn't process information, remember what the instructor said, think of answers to questions, etc. Same thing with talking to people face to face--I can speak while looking someone in the eye, but when I need to listen, I either close my eyes, or look away (compensatory behavior: when people at work ask for things, I'll just say ok, walk away, and replay the conversation in my head). When I sit in the back of a classroom, so that I'm not so much involved as observing, I have no trouble following along, and I'm like a sponge. In short, when someone makes eye contact and speaks directly to me, I can't follow; when I'm observing what's being said, I'm fine. Is there a name for this?


 

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But He Doesn't Blog, Does He?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.02.04

Achievement, and other things.


 

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Not Here

Posted by Ogged
on 12.02.04

Hey, person searching for "good comebacks for being asked out," may you never find what you're looking for.


 

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No Names Please

Posted by Ogged
on 12.02.04

Eugene Volokh, writing in the New York Times, considers the reasonable limits of journalist/source privacy protection. Maybe someone can explain to me why this will continue to be an issue. Given the availability of anonymous electronic communication, journalists, bloggers, and anyone else with an email account, can receive confidential information from a source that is anonymous even to the recipient. Of course there will be problems of trust and authentication, but those problems exist even when the leaker's name is known to the recipient.

(And it can't be long before even regular folks know about and can use blogging tools that provide nearly perfect anonymity, and cut out the journalist entirely.)


 

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All Mine

Posted by Ogged
on 12.02.04

baa often notes, reasonably, that those of us who tend toward the apocalyptic view about where America is headed should look around and acknowledge that things aren't so bad, particularly where civil liberties are concerned. Fair enough, but I'm still unsettled by the folks in this administration (and maybe every administration, given the chance), who seem so comfortable with totalitarian tactics (bugmenot login).

Could a "little old lady in Switzerland" who sent a check to an orphanage in Afghanistan be taken into custody if, unbeknownst to her, some of her donation was passed to Al Qaeda terrorists? asked U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green.
"She could," replied Deputy Associate Atty. Gen. Brian Boyle. "Someone's intention is clearly not a factor that would disable detention." It would be up to a newly established military review panel to decide whether to believe her and release her.
Boyle said the military could pick any foreigner who provided support to terrorists or might know of their plans. And the foreigners held on the U.S. naval base in Cuba "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court," Boyle told the judge.

Short version: the US is asserting its right to detain anyone, anywhere in the world, without charge, and without access to judicial review.

via kevin drum


 

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Pass the mayo

Posted by Bob
on 12.02.04

What's going on in Philadelphia this weekend? Latkepalooza!


 

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Heroism

Posted by Bob
on 12.02.04

I was prepared to be all mock-indignant that this NYT article overlooked my corner Vietnamese-hoagie shop Cafe Nhu-Y. But then I actually read it, and I learned that bahn mi are not the world.

It was at Milanes, a modest Dominican storefront restaurant in Chelsea, that I had the chicken sandwich that sent me into orbit. Grecia Milanes, who opened her doors in 1995, strips the flesh and skin from a quarter roasted chicken and fills a Latino-style hero roll, which she toasts in the sandwich press with the meat and skin before layering lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on the sandwich.

The crispy skin, in combination with the other components, elevate this sandwich to near-mythic status. The sweetness of the mayonnaise, the gamy meatiness of the dark meat chicken and the crispy skin make for the Dominican equivalent of a Peking duck hero.

Three lectures, two exams, and one grant to write in the coming few weeks, but really what's on my mind is how I'm going to get up to NYC for a sandwich.

Also: I'm fascinated by how all these sandwiches have mayo. Mayo has become Coca-Cola: it's a universal accompaniment.


 

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Lyrics

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.01.04

Did you ever kind of like a song without really paying attention and then find out the lyrics and think..."ick"? That happens to me every now and then.


 

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Identity

Posted by Ogged
on 12.01.04

Lately, I've been dropping everything I try to pick up, then catching it before it hits the ground. Klutz? Or Ninja?


 

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One At A Time

Posted by Ogged
on 12.01.04

I never wink, but I'm with Sherry all the way on this one.

I was at a dinner party last night with an outspoken woman. I don't know how the subject came up but she claimed to hate winks. She said, "It's just so gross and slimy, and people who do it -- eeeew. I just can't stand it." So of course I defended winking. Which meant I winked at her often, and at everyone else around the dinner table, for the rest of the evening.

If I were a winker, that's exactly what I would have done. And Sherry's also right about why winks are nice.

I love winks. You can wink at somebody to convey a million different things. To me it's generally friendly and playful. Sometimes it's flirty. Sometimes its just an acknowledgment of a little specialness, and of the power of eye contact. I see you, I see you seeing me, and isn't it fun?

Now, I'll grant that winks are sometimes associated with sliminess, but that's because slimy people (usually guys; usually Larry on Three's Company) are trying to use the affability of winks for their own slimy ends. But the wink is just a tool; use it for good.


 

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Tough Guy

Posted by Ogged
on 12.01.04

Patrick Daley, son of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, has enlisted in the Army. The mayor says he's proud, and certainly the son is showing bravery and a sense of honor. But these decisions are judged in the particular, so, given that the Daleys have already lost their other son, isn't Patrick's enlistment a pretty shitty thing to do to his mother?

I understand that the guy has to live his own life, and lord knows I've made decisions that worried and upset my mother, but there ought to be some consideration for parents, no? And when the only son enlists at a dangerous time, while his mom is being treated for cancer, I can't help but read that as, "Screw you, mom."

Umm: Why do I only mention his mother? Mom's worry more, don't they?


 

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I'm Still Scared, But Let's Not Blow Anything Up

Posted by Ogged
on 11.30.04

Kevin Drum links to three stories that all have the same gist: that Al Qaeda is, and always has been, a rather small organization, and not a far-reaching network of members and "sleeper cells." And all the stories say, sometimes without quite saying, that our fear of Al Qaeda, and the threat it poses, is exaggerated.

Let's be clear: there's no question that the U.S. (and other governments) have fed the fear of terrorism in order to justify noxious policies. Ok, we're all agreed on that. But...

The stories also acknowledge that Al Qaeda has inspired, if not recruited and trained, many people. Someone on the radio the other day described this as the transition from Bin Laden to Binladenism. That seems to me to make the threat more diffuse, and harder to combat. Certainly, there were angry young Muslims five and ten years ago, but today, those angry young Muslims are more likely to decide that they, with a few friends, can do some damage somewhere. And because they don't have any organizational ties to known groups, they can operate undetected.

The stories also sometimes highlight the incompetence of Al Qaeda's operations. To which the proper response is that terrorism isn't free-throw shooting: the proper measure isn't the rate of success, but the effectiveness of those operations that are successful.

In an odd way, this "backlash" against fearmongering has accepted the terms of the fearmongerers, by concentrating on countable terrorists and organizational structures. It's fine to state the fact of Al Qaeda's size, but the conclusion to be drawn isn't that there isn't a threat, but that the threat needs to be confronted in the ways in which lots of folks have been recommending from the start: cultural, political, ideological in the long term, and with surveillance, intelligence and interdiction right now.

AND: Matt Yglesias, in a similar vein.


 

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Then What?

Posted by Ogged
on 11.30.04

Sorry, busy day today...

But, last night's twist-my-arm instruction from the Swede: "Look at my butt."

Everyone should swim.


 

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What Have You Done to Me?

Posted by Ogged
on 11.29.04

Humanity flickers.

Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.
The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.
Nor was it as nauseating as the pictures in an Israeli newspaper of ultra-orthodox soldiers mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man's head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.
But the matter of the violin touched on something deeper about the way Israelis see themselves, and their conflict with the Palestinians.
The violinist, Wissam Tayem, was on his way to a music lesson near Nablus when he said an Israeli officer ordered him to "play something sad" while soldiers made fun of him. After several minutes, he was told he could pass.

My unprovable suspicion is that Israel maintained its humanity longer than other nations might have done in similar circumstances, but it's no use pretending that it maintains it still. Condemnation of the forced playing comes in this form:

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust".

Even conscience hates the Arabs.


 

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Fun While It Lasted

Posted by Ogged
on 11.29.04

A short, informative article from the Post about the state of play in Iranian politics. The reformists are nowhere to be found.


 

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A Truly Pathetic Attempt to Find Consolation in the Particular and/or Universal

Posted by Ogged
on 11.28.04

The ex (who's moving away soon) and I decided to go swimming tonight. You know the Swede has been kicking my ass. You know I should be fast. When the ex and I race, I should leave her bobbing in the vortex of my powerful kick. I shouldn't, however, lose to her, and certainly not, to pick a number, four times in a row.

She's not a swimmer. I think she swam a bit when she was a kid. She's strong and buff, but swimming is supposed to be all about technique. I'm supposed to be the one with the good technique. But this is the fascinating thing I've found about swimming. No one really knows what makes the fast swimmers fast. I've read tens of thousands of words about swimming technique in the past few months, and swimming instruction basically comes down to this: See the people going fast? Do what they do.

But it's guesswork. My technique certainly looks a hell of a lot closer to proper than hers. She doesn't stretch her arms, her legs drift toward the bottom of the pool, but there's that strange secret thing that she must be doing because she's fast.

The other odd new fact is that bodies aren't just built for swimming, or not; they seem to be built for certain strokes. So, I'm hopeless in the crawl, but when we breaststroke, I beat her by half a pool length, and the Swede, who swam breast in the Olympics, said to me the other day, "You're a fast breaststroker, aren't you?" That's a proud moment, yes, but then, being a fast breaststroker is a lot like being a fast hopper.

I'm going to have to console myself by taking (cold, very cold) comfort in the fact that I've been proven right on a point that's been in contention my whole life: hard work really isn't worth shit.


 

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