Gary's right. I know everyone who reads this blog is disgusted by America's policy of torture, and I know that you all know most of the details of the memos and abuses. But Andrew Sullivan's writings on the issue lately are very good, and worth reading. His piece in the Times is a great review and reflection, and check out his blog, where he's been taking on folks on the right who are in various stages of denial.
This is a lovely idea, to make an exhibition of photographs of Arabs, of their faces, and also of them just going about their lives. Any enemy can be demonized, but Arabs, portrayed for decades now only as terrorists and oily desert bandits, have it worse than most.
As a bonus, the article contains a word I'd never seen: marmoreal.
And, while we're on the topic, here's a list of famous Americans of Arab descent. Doug Flutie!
I really shouldn't take the bait, but if you can read this article, and tell me what the substantive critique of Michael Jordan is supposed to be, I'll be in your debt.
Michael Jordan was a great player. He also was a great salesman. And that was all he ever was, and that seems to be all that he ever will be. There's nothing wrong with that. He made some great plays and some pretty good commercials. Has anyone so completely dominated his sport and left so small a mark upon it?
Has anyone so completely failed to notice that NBA games pre-Jordan and NBA games post-Jordan are completely different. Pierce never says, because there's nothing to say, just what Jordan was supposed to have done; nor does he say, for that matter, what any other player has ever done, that would qualify as significant. But there's this: Michael Jordan was blessed with fantastic athletic ability, and he had an amazing work ethic--but what set him apart, and what made otherwise rational, jaded people treat him like a god, was how Michael Jordan dealt with pressure. Say what you like about the relative insignificance of sports, but the quality of mind that let's you compete against some of the biggest, fastest, cockiest men on earth for many years, with millions of people watching and discussing everything you do, without ever cracking or choking, is something that anyone can relate to, but no one can match. And it's hard to think of anyone doing any job as well as Michael Jordan did his. You want a legacy? Human excellence made flesh, night after night, right there on your TV. You're damn right it's gone from the league; it couldn't possibly have lasted.
If you have the massive good sense to call Unfogged the best blog in the universe, and to get mono the same week, you too can expect a shout out. Speaking as someone who got mono without kissing anyone, well, Kriston, that's all the sympathy you're going to get.
What good are you virtual friends? Was someone going to tell me that Monday is a holiday? I could have, you know, made plans or something. Gadzooks, people, I thought you cared.
Incidentally, since I know all the female readers of the blog want to date me, I really should point out that this happens all the time, and it used to drive my ex nuts, because I never knew when the long weekend/getaway opportunities were. If you can put up with that, though, you should continue wanting to date me. Thanks.
The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group....
Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers...
The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay. The military did not break down the discharges by year, but said some, but not all, of the additional 13 discharges of Arabic speakers occurred in 2004.There is, of course, no excuse for this (Clinton-era) policy (no moral excuse; plenty of political justification). But this defense won't do.
...Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the discharged linguists never should have been accepted at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey in the first place.
"Resources unfortunately were used to train young people who were not eligible to be in the military," she said.That's wrong. Gays are eligible to serve. As the story itself says.
The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.The tacit admission of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is that homophobia, and not homosexuality, is the reason for the ban on gays. Being gay is fine, making it known is forbidden.
Ok, I'll play. Shuffle your entire music collection and list the first ten songs (I'll do 15).
1. Delia - Bob Dylan - World Gone Wrong
2. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash - At San Quentin
3. River - Joni Mitchell - Blue
4. The Lone Star Trail - Ken Maynard - Anthology of American Folk Music
5. What is the Soul of a Man - Dock Reed, Henry Reed, Vera Ward Hall - Deep River of Song, Alabama
6. Shto Mi E Milo - Kitka - Nectar
7. Deep River Blues - Leo Kottke
8. Irish Medley - Dixie Chicks - Little 'ol Cowgirl
9. Kamera - Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
10. Tried to be True - Indigo Girls - Indigo Girls
11. Walking Blues - Son House
12. Here Comes the Sun - Nina Simone
13. Boilin' Pot - JJ Cale - 5
14. I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole - Blind Willie Johnson - The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
15. Blood-Strained Banders - Jimmie Strothers - Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings
What an odd list. It's not unrepresentative exactly, but I have an embarrassing amount of Dave Matthews, and none of that showed up; ditto Pearl Jam. The only thing that even approaches hip is the Wilco, and I didn't even buy that, someone sent it to me. Don't come to my place if you want to dance.
Ben asks why we're not talking about sparkly shit.
It's a good question.
A bit of self-congratulation to put the thing in context, and then a question about slang. Today was the day I "tipped," or "flipped," if you like, and got the flip-turn. Nailed one, and then didn't miss another after that. Feeling studly.
Naturally, I mentioned this to the ex when I was talking to her, and I also said that doing flip-turns kept me from dogging it. She's not very slangy, so as soon as I said it, I realized she probably wouldn't know what it meant, and she didn't. She pretended to take offense that I didn't expect her to know standard American slang, and asked her friend, who was over, if she knew what "dogging it" meant. Nope. WTF? Then she looked it up in the (I now realize) crappy Urban Dictionary, where "dogging it" gets you a list of near matches, and "dogging" gets you a bunch of stuff about sex and dogs. Only the magic "doggin'" or "doggin' it" will get you the definition I had in mind. Now, before you click that "doggin'" link, ask yourself what you think it means. Everyone already knew this, right?
Zoiks, and congratulations to The Editors, who are engaged. Enjoy it while it lasts...
Congratulations to new daddy (again) the apostropher!!
Maureen "how'd she get this job?" Dowd's latest is another "men prefer submissive women" column.
First thing: what men prefer is to have people around who can keep up, but not pass them. And here's the news flash: The sex of the other person is irrelevant. If anything, men are more tolerant of the company of intimidating women, because at least there's the dim hope of a conquest.
Second thing: this is horseshit:
I asked the actress and writer Carrie Fisher, on the East Coast to promote her novel "The Best Awful," who confirmed that women who challenge men are in trouble.
This from the woman who won Han Solo's heart by wise-assing him back? What men (and women) don't like are people who are unpleasant, and everybody outside a lecture hall can tell the difference between a bitch and a powerful woman and between an asshole and a powerful guy. Yes, men get cut more slack, but that's not the same as saying that powerful or "challenging" women are "in trouble."
Finally, I wish someone would try to have this discussion honestly, by mentioning that there are huge class differences in the way these gender relations work. Every single one of my girlfriends has been smarter and more accomplished than me. And I'll bet that most of the male readers of this blog, who are almost all either professionals, or academics, or students, have or have had girlfriends who are smart and challenging and quite well-loved, thanks. Not that there aren't other gender-relation issues, but at a certain level of education, those issues aren't of the "why aren't you more submissive?" type. I'd be a lot more receptive if the discussion was about how the great mass of people just act unreflectingly according to old customs and based on crude desires, and how that manifests itself in gender relations. But this "men prefer" yadda yadda drives me nuts, because I don't act like that, and neither do any of my friends.
MORE: Mark Kleiman has an interesting take.
First you have to guess, then you can click.
I was going to make a flip comment about celebrity pictures, but then I read the whole story and I'm scared about 1) how easily the guy got people's data 2) how unforthcoming the company was about it, and 3) how much monitoring the Secret Service can do. It's just a little geeky, but you might be interested.
I too, miss Jacob Levy in the blogosphere. Scroll down to his comment here; it's just so good.
This is a response to Ogged's post, but I thought it might run a bit long for the comment section.
Ogged asks two questions: is torture effective, and, if the evidence suggests not, why are we so inclined to think that it is?
On Applebaum's discussion of the first question. Here are her arguments. First, torture leads to unreliable claims by the victim. She relates the story of one Vietnam-era interrogator:
Yet -- as he remembers saying to the "desperate and honorable officers" who wanted him to move faster -- "if I take a Bunsen burner to the guy's genitals, he's going to tell you just about anything," which would be pointless. Rothrock, who is no squishy liberal, says that he doesn't know "any professional intelligence officers of my generation who would think this is a good idea."
Second, a related argument: torture is either unnecessary or ineffective:
In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no "stress methods" at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true of religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the "batting average" might be lower: "perhaps six out of ten." And if you beat up the remaining four? "They'll just tell you anything to get you to stop."
Most people will talk without torture (so it's unnecessary) and the ones that won't are going to be unreliable if tortured (if it's needed, it's ineffective).
Third, the method has other undesirable consequences: it makes people hate us, and so on. (As Sayyid Qutb's case shows, we can't know where these seeds are sown.) I think this is not an argument against the effectiveness of torture; it's an argument against the wisdom of torturing, which is slightly different. (Torture might be an effective information-gathering technique that's simply too risky, too unpopular, too dangerous...) So I'll set this aside.
Now, I don't have much to say about this, except that the arguments as offered are very thin. The case rests on the idea that torture is unreliable: people will talk, of course, but what they'll say won't be of value. This is an obvious problem, but there are some ways around it. We can, after all, verify some of what the torture victim says, rewarding truthful utterances and punishing misleading ones. (Derek James elaborates on this sort of theme here.) If you speak the false, we'll just come back with more pain, and this is known to the torture victim.
We don't know initially who's got valuable information and who doesn't, and the early responses from a clever well-informed torture victim will look exactly like the responses from an ignorant torture victim. (If I have information, my best strategy is to convince you that I don't, rather than convincing you that I have information that I never share.) As far as I can see, the only way around this is to keep torturing to a threshold such that we believe anyone with information would have given it up by that point, and that will require inflicting enormous pain on people who really have no information to offer. (I'm assuming that there's some number of excruciating experiences that will convince the well-informed torture victim that his captors really will keep on inflicting agony until he says something true and interesting. This sounds plausible to me, though, well, who knows.)
It also seems that this method isn't very effective, in that it involves us verifying a large number of claims for which we have exceedingly weak evidence, viz., their membership the category "things uttered by a guy who might or might not know anything useful." There's a lot of noise to the signal. This consideration might be blunted somewhat if torture victims tend to keep saying true and interesting things once they've started. It's also undermined if we have good ways of predicting who's got accurate information.
This seems to me to be at least a prima facie problem with the arguments of Applebaum's piece. She seems to consider only the least effective contexts for torture, and doesn't consider obvious solutions to the problem on which she rests her argument. If I'm wrong about any of this I'm sure you'll let me know.
On to the second question: why do we think torture might be effective? Ogged thinks that it's a response to a perception of powerlessness and vulnerability, and that might be partly right. I'll offer a simpler, less interesting explanation: it's simply because, whether or not it's true, it's really intuitive to think that people are simply unable to keep their mouths shut under severe physical and psychological duress. I'd love to say that I'll keep your secret to the grave, but start putting the needles under my fingernails and I'll give you up like it's lent. (The bunsen burner to the genitals, on the other hand...). So even if torture is ineffective, there's a serious temptation to believe that it does work. (I have a hard time believing that Linda is a bank teller, too, but so much the worse for me.) That, coupled with the frustration of combatting terrorist cells, leads to a predictable desire to expand our palette of options. I tend to think that people under duress will do all sorts of things they'd never have predicted of themselves, and that's part of why I suspect that a carefully designed torture program will be (sadly!) effective. (On the other hand, I can imagine making it through non-torture interrogation, though this is clearly a case where imaginability is a bad guide to probability.)
It should, but won't, go without saying that nothing in this post is intended as an endorsement of torture. These are merely some initial reflections on an argument against torture's epistemic effectiveness. Believe me, I think it would be great if torture were not effective in any way. But the facts aren't always so lucky. Furthemore, I'm willing to be convinced by the fact that actual interrogators speak against torture, but I did want to note that what they say, as excerpted here, is singularly unconvincing.
Also, I suggest we use this as a method of torture.
No one knows for sure who he was, that Middle Eastern man in an American flag shirt and a cowboy hat who was supposed to sing the national anthem at a rodeo Friday night in the Salem Civic Center....
Speaking in broken English, the mysterious man first told the decidedly pro-American crowd - it was a rodeo, of all things, in Salem, of all places - that he supported the war on terrorism.
"I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards," he said, according to Brett Sharp of Star Country WSLC, who was also on stage that night as a media sponsor of the rodeo.
An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd.Read the whole thing.
A good op-ed by Anne Applebaum on the ineffectiveness of torture. It sounds like veterans, and specifically, veteran interrogators, understand that torture doesn't work. (I admit that I've shied away from making this argument because, what if it were effective? That's not a debate I want to start and lose.) But what's really good about the column is this.
Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works.
Generally, when people get to feeling sadistic, it's because they feel powerless. And let's admit it, we're all just waiting for the next attack. There's certainly no great mobilization of the citizenry, and not even any evidence that the government is taking steps to protect us. Nothing, in other words, to let us say, "we're ready, let them try to attack." So our anxiety and anger gets transmuted into "just wait until I get my hands on you." The administration's failure to involve people in some kind of collective program (whether it would have been energy independence, or border-fence building, or whatever) was stupid for reasons that were clear at the time, but this lust for torture might be another, unforeseen, consequence.
To be clear: A couple of people have taken "we're all just waiting for the next attack," to mean that we're preoccupied, or paralyzed, waiting for the next attack. But that's not what I meant. I meant that we all think another attack is inevitable. Sorry for the confusion.
There are, as far as I can see, two huge problems with AOL's instant messenger program. First, there's no way to be logged in and invisible. Sure, you can be "away," but that's not as good. Second, if someone on your buddy list IMs you, a new window appears out of nowhere, and what you're typing at that moment will appear in the new window not in the one you intended. This can lead to hilarious or humiliating consequences, if, say, you're typing fast enough to be a little bit ahead of the computer and you hit enter just as the window appears and then realize you've just sent a message to the wrong person. Not that this just happened to me or anything. I'm just saying.
What's great about the Tsoros-inspired tiff between Instapundit ("CHUCK SIMMINS NOTES that George Soros appears to be missing in action on tsunami relief. So are some others you'd expect to be giving") and Ted Barlow ("There must be some set of values under which it's entirely appropriate to criticize the mainstream media for bias in the morning, for sloppiness in the afternoon, and then pump out this bilge in the evening") is actually not the oddity of thinking that a little googling will get you deep into George Soros' financial records; it's the oddity of thinking that the guy who started this, the one, the only Chuck Simmins, is a reliable source of information. The blog is priceless-- but wait, there's more! Digging around just a bit more we also find the story of how Chuck and his wife met on the internet and fauxrotic pictures Chuck took of the neighbors. I'm sure he's a reliable source of Sorosiana. You tell me it's free ice cream, Glenn, but I'm getting the feeling it's something else entirely.
Wow. I feel like I'm writing for Sadly, No!
More here (link to a blog post that
excerpts copies the whole article).
Congratulations to Matt on his third blog birthday, and it's good to see him do funny.
Through Virginia's site, I became aware of the wonderful world of more amateurish blogging and figured, "hey, I can do that!" So I did. Eventually, the girlfriend
dumped meand I broke up. But on the plus side when we were together she used to want to be a political pundit but was pessimistic about a young person's ability to break into the field. So in a sense, the whole enterprise has been driven by loneliness and then, later, the loftier sentiment of spite. But then, of course, there's the talent. The raw, awesome talent. And the connections and generally privileged background. But I like to think of it as mostly a mixture of talent and bitterness.
He also mentions that he doesn't sleep much. I've almost posted about sleep several times, because I've seen so many bloggers mention how poorly they sleep, but each time I decide that no one in America gets much sleep. True? Doofy as it sounds, before I started using the earplugs and eyeshades, I slept through the night about once every couple of months. Now, I do it regularly, sleeping from somewhere between 11-12 to 6 (damn job). That's not quite enough sleep, but it still, perversely, seems like a generous allotment in the American scheme. I really don't know. How do other people sleep?
MORE: Good stuff in the comments. Apostropher points to this study that says, in short, that the light from your computer monitor can suppress your body's going-to-sleep mechanism. Best to get away from the computer (and other bright lights) for a bit before trying to sleep.
D mentions another study that found that more than 8 hours of sleep each night might be bad for you.
And I came across this long, but interesting and link-filled post that begins with the premise that our natural sleep pattern is "bimodal"
Until not long ago, just about until electricity became ubiquitous, humans used to have a sleep pattern quite different from what we consider "normal" today. At dusk you go to sleep, at some point in the middle of the night you wake up for an hour or two, then fall asleep again until dawn. Thus there are two events of falling asleep and two events of waking up every night (plus, perhaps, a short nap in the afternoon).
Via Yglesias, check out this page of mash-ups.
But make this the first one-- it's 99 luftballoons and 99 problems, all in one. Hit me!
I forgot our new rules for 2005. No posting without, as we lawyers like to say, an appeal to the prurient interest (that means no posts without cock jokes, for all you philosophy types).
So I was driving along I-294 on Xmas day here in lovely Chicagoland, and I saw a billboard just before I drove past O'Hare. It was for this website. I'm all for being open about these things and all, but billboards? It seems like a little much. Not to get all focus on the family on you, but how exactly does one explain to a child what the naked lady billboard is advertising?
While I may have promised to post every two weeks, I would like to point out that I never specified when I would start fulfilling that pledge.
I know the readers of our blog only read things with words like pseudodeontologicaleschatology in the title, but since I got nothin else to post about, you'll have to be satisfied with my thoughts on Tom Wolfe's latest novel. It's a very middlebrow subject, I know. But since my soul has been sold to The Man for some time now, middlebrow is about all I can manage anymore. Then again, The Man financed my new home theater system, which totally rocks. The people at Bose know what's really important in life. And what's really important in life is being able to watch The Empire Strikes Back at decibels loud enough to create fractures in concrete.
As for Wolfe's latest, its not so good. The wierd verbal tics (someone may wish to inform Mr. Wolfe that no one in the English speaking world uses the phrase "loamy loins") are a lot more difficult to get over when you're reading a novel about an 18 year old female college student written by a 70 year old foppish reactionary. Which is to say, this novel suffers from a lack of realism that makes it pretty difficult to get through without chuckling off and on at how tin Wolfe's ear has become.
Anyone have any good ideas for another novel to start? I like the earlier Wolfe a lot better, if that's any insight into what I like to read.
Billmon returns to tell us what the "Salvadoran Option" really means. Do read it.
Note to self: never play doctor with the apostropher. Reflecting on a story of two six-year-olds who were "caught" trying to have sex, apostropher writes,
I vividly remember getting busted for a similar infraction at right about six years old myself, and in retrospect I'm sure it looked horribly incriminating when the girl's parents walked in. Believe you me, they freaked right on out. Nonetheless, being two knuckles deep in her rear end honestly was nothing more than my best re-creation of getting a shot, as I'd always been facing away when getting them myself and, really, it seemed the obvious place to put my hypodermic finger. I can recall quite clearly being completely flummoxed at the resulting uproar.
The best part of that scene must have been the looks on the parents' faces. And I'm curious how the girl remembers this story. My own childhood experimentation begins and ends with being an audience member for a striptease, put on by my friend's sister and her friend (who, to my amusement, went on to become a cheerleader for a major pro sports team). Now that I think of it, what the hell was my friend doing getting a striptease from his sister? I think this was in the days before cable.
Just when I think it's cock jokes from here on out, they pull me back in. Mark Kleiman notes that our government is not only considering training and using death squads in Iraq (props to M. Yglesias for warning us loud and long about what John Negroponte's appointment meant), but also considering operations that will...what, exactly? Newsweek:
...most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won't turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."
Presumably he's not considering striking fear into the population by repainting all those schools in garish colors. I know wars are meant to be won, but does anyone remember the claims that this war was partly for the good of the Iraqis? And seriously, something else is worth keeping in mind: if this policy is adopted, one justification will surely be that it's intended to avoid a more protracted conflict that will result in even more terror and lost lives. But the choice between death squads and longer conflict didn't just spring up; it's the result of choices already made about whether and how to conduct this war, and the people who made those choices are still responsible for the current situation, in which there are no good options.
Because this is not a frat party, I'm happy to see that girl27 has found Ian Thorpe's line of underwear, complete with pictures of Thorpe modeling the pieces. Good loooking guy, young Ian. Of course, all you ladies are pervs for ogling a guy who just turned 22 (think back, when did you start (illegally) ogling him?). We, the mature, shockingly well-hung men of Unfogged only ogle ladies in the full flower of womanhood: Diane Lane, Carey Lowell, Christy Turlington...these women are downright old--well past thirty--and ready for the cast-off heap of female celebrity, but for the tenacious fandom of such mature, sensitive, sexual athletes.
An update to the criminalizing miscarriage story. Cosgrove sent an email to Maura, who's been tracking the story on her site. He now says that the original intent was to help the police and medical examiner determine whether a child was stillborn or born alive and then murdered. The amendment is going back for a rewrite, because, obviously, it's horribly vague, and criminalizes more than it purportedly intends.
That's good, but see the Bitch for a "not so fast."