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Hugh Thompson

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.06.06

Sad that I learn about people like this only when they die: Hugh Thompson has passed away at the age of 62. From the BBC, via Mike the mad biologist, via Majikthise:

Mr Thompson and his crew came upon US troops killing civilians at the village of My Lai on 16 March 1968.
He put his helicopter down between the soldiers and villagers, ordering his men to shoot their fellow Americans if they attacked the civilians.
"There was no way I could turn my back on them," he later said of the victims.
Mr Thompson, a warrant officer at the time, called in support from other US helicopters, and together they airlifted at least nine Vietnamese civilians - including a wounded boy - to safety.
He returned to headquarters, angrily telling his commanders what he had seen. They ordered soldiers in the area to stop shooting.
But Mr Thompson was shunned for years by fellow soldiers, received death threats, and was once told by a congressman that he was the only American who should be punished over My Lai.

Now that's backbone.


 

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What To Call It

Posted by Ogged
on 01.06.06

Sherry asks,

Why is it that women like exercise classes and men don't? I've not seen a man in my class yet, nor in any of the classes that were going on while I was at the gym doing other things. Men like to play games together, they seem to like to run and bike together. But they eschew exercise classes. What's that about?

There's a short answer to this question, but it lands us in a dilemma: the answer is that exercise classes are gay. We desperately need a word for what "gay," when used as an insult, meant, back when it was acceptable to use it. Obviously, it referred to characteristics associated with feminine men--and I'd like to hang on to that, because we have to be able to keep making fun of them. We just need to drop the further association of feminine men with homosexuality. I'm not satisfied with "twee" as a replacement. Not quite the same thing. I'm open to suggestions.

Anyway, to answer Sherry's question, guys love exercise classes, as long as you call them "boot camp." God knows what goes through women's heads when they're exercising, but guys--even dumpy, pathetic guys--imagine that they're molding themselves into supermen, so they need an atmosphere of toughness and competition and achievement so as not to break the spell. Doing jumping-jacks: gay. Crawling through the dirt before you do jumping-jacks: Marine.


 

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Food!

Posted by Ogged
on 01.06.06

Woot! Just received this. A holiday present to myself, if you will. Steak every night forever, baby. (Of course, first I spent a few hours meticulously cleaning my oven, then decided that I never wanted to use it again. Much better to watch my food a-cookin'.)


 

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My Brother Has a Theory That Intelligence Is Correlated With Having Visible Moons In Your Fingernails

Posted by Alameida
on 01.05.06

God, I come back and no one cares about how I'm dancing drunkenly on Sharon's grave. No, it's all "maybe Mark Steyn has a point about teh Muslim!". Losers. I have to admit, my theories about a coming population collapse run as follows: 1) World population is still predicted to double once more before declining; ain't nobody going to run out of humans. 2) Continuing medical advances will extend current lifespans. 3) All this EUrabia dhimmi bullshit is so obviously bullshit that I can't bestir myself to worry about it even a little. 4) Foam parties on Ibiza vs. a lot of fundamentalist assholes=total victory for fun. 5) There's a reason why we should all be feminists and why feminism should play a role in our thinking about foreign policy. Poor, socially ostracized, culturally threatened men treat women like shit. Now, if only culturally secure, traditionalist men didn't also treat women like shit we'd really be going somewhere.


 

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The death of the West (part 37)

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.05.06

I'm trying to figure out what to make of this Mark Steyn piece much loved by, among others, Hugh Hewitt. There are many, many seperable themes here (e.g., the unsustainability of the welfare state, Islamic barbarism and bellicosity and so on), tied together by the old barbarian-at-the-gates fear common to much of the "clash of civilizations" literature. But the key (and possibly interesting) issue is demographic:

To avoid collapse, European nations will need to take in immigrants at a rate no stable society has ever attempted. The CIA is predicting the EU will collapse by 2020. Given that the CIA's got pretty much everything wrong for half a century, that would suggest the EU is a shoo-in to be the colossus of the new millennium. But even a flop spook is right twice a generation. If anything, the date of EU collapse is rather a cautious estimate. It seems more likely that within the next couple of European election cycles, the internal contradictions of the EU will manifest themselves in the usual way, and that by 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations on American network news every night. Even if they avoid that, the idea of a childless Europe ever rivaling America militarily or economically is laughable. Sometime this century there will be 500 million Americans, and what's left in Europe will either be very old or very Muslim. Japan faces the same problem: Its population is already in absolute decline, the first gentle slope of a death spiral it will be unlikely ever to climb out of. Will Japan be an economic powerhouse if it's populated by Koreans and Filipinos? Very possibly. Will Germany if it's populated by Algerians? That's a trickier proposition.
Best-case scenario? The Continent winds up as Vienna with Swedish tax rates.
Worst-case scenario: Sharia, circa 2040; semi-Sharia, a lot sooner--and we're already seeing a drift in that direction.
In July 2003, speaking to the U.S. Congress, Tony Blair remarked: "As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: What do you leave behind?"

You get the idea. One obvious problem that surfaces here and throughout the piece is probably what explains the temptation to play the 'racist!' card, namely, the weird view that while Western culture is subject to corruption, decay, and collapse, the Islamic influence is in the unyielding realm of Being, fixed and unalterable. (Koreans can preserve Japan, sure, but Algerians?) We can reconstruct the argument, though, without the weirdness. Europe has a population problem, and, let's assume, that problem will in one way or another lead to the increased Islamicization of western Europe. This will, in turn, lead eventually to the corruption of our values and, what's more, our precious bodily fluids.

I'm making fun, which is bad, because I think this sort of worry is serious in one way (though stupid in another): absorbing lots of immigrants from significantly different cultures hasn't exactly played out in a seamless and completely enjoyable way for anyone so far, and the values allegedly in danger are ones I hold dear.

I'm not going anywhere in particular with this, but I'm wondering what our collective take is on the demographic worry, and whether there's something to be salvaged from this piece in spite of its craziness-ridden bad self.


 

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The Dish

Posted by Alameida
on 01.05.06

Ummm, let's see. I went to some blogfests and got everyone really stoned, that was funny. I had already met Julian Sanchez before, but he's a cutie. When I first met him I felt that he seemed too much like a regular hipster to be online persona "Julian Sanchez", but the truth is that bloggers are just people like you and me. More like me, I guess. Nick Gillespie is charming in a somewhat unctuous way. Ezra Klein came to my Xmas party and my sister thought he was cute (!). Nothing came of it so far because she was minorly getting involved with a guy who has long red dreadlocks. I got worried at a certain point when I thought my older daughter might repeat mommy's gospel wisdom that "white people look stupid with dreadlocks", but we avoided that. Said guy really doesn't know how to deal with chicks at all because he was asking all sorts of questions about where the relationship was going when they had only ever made out, like, twice. Kiss of death. Kriston Capps is really fabulous and funny. I can think of a lot of other things but they all seem to violate even bare pseudonymity. I just barely missed meeting most of my fellow...what are we called, "foggies" or something? "Unfoggeders"? "Unfoggers"? Anyway, those guys. Finally, I lament the fact that everyone thinks fine champagne should be brut. Well, I say everyone, when I mean English and American people. French people totally know better. Brut champagne often has a vinegary, I'm-giving-you-heartburn flavor. Where is my extra dry? Where? (Extra dry is sweeter than brut, paradoxically.) Hell, I'm up for some demi-sec, people! Donations accepted.


 

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Two Questions

Posted by Alameida
on 01.05.06

1. I have jet lag, so I woke up this morning at 2:30 am. I was good and went for a run at 7 and everything. Can I start drinking before noon, because it's, like, late at night inside my body?

2. Am I a bad person because I was a little happy when I found out about Sharon's strokes? (No happier than I was when Arafat died. On the other hand, I was pretty siced then too.)


 

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Lemme Try This

Posted by Ogged
on 01.05.06

Pat Robertson represents the heart and soul of the right, and, arguably, of the Republican Party.


 

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The cartoon lives!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.05.06

Pat Robertson strikes again:

The Rev. Pat Robertson said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel. Robertson, speaking on the "700 Club" on Thursday, suggested Sharon, who is currently in an induced coma, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995, were being treated with enmity by God for dividing Israel. "He was dividing God's land," Robertson said. "And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone."

Via tpm.

HAND OF GOD UPDATE: video (though the sound and video don't quite match up). Robertson looks a little rough; I wonder if there's some more smiting in the future.


 

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Slow Tuesday

Posted by Ogged
on 01.05.06

Chuck Norris's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Best cult ever. More about the cult of Chuck Norris.

via marginal revolution

More: Thanks to W-lfs-n, Mr. T facts, and extra hilarious Vin Diesel facts.

Vin Diesel once walked down the street with a massive erection. There were no survivors.


 

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Vince Young is destined for Valhalla

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.04.06

What a huge game. I enjoyed seeing Bush have an only-ok night, mostly because I'm sick of hearing about his unstoppable fantasticness.* Sweet lateral, dude. White's stock: up! Leinart: what a dick! "I still think we're the better team." Yeah, so does your mom, but you lost the game.

* But "he's playing quidditch! Where's his broom?" is one of the all-time great announcer moments.

PS: can I just complain about my local station shrinking the game and moving it into a corner of the screen so they could show tonight's pick-6? How about if the numbers were still too small to read? Thanks, local affiliate.


 

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And The Winner Is?

Posted by Ogged
on 01.04.06

Ok, this is so NOT SAFE FOR WORK, and I apologize in advance, but Japanese games shows...I just don't know what to say.


 

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USC-Texas

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.04.06

This contest deserves a thread of its own, does it not? Looks like oddsmakers are favoring USC by 7 or 7.5. Over/under is indeed, as Smasher of Arms points out, 69.5. I'm open to more fun bets-- Reggie Bush's yardage vs. W-lfs-n's dissertation's number of pages would be good, but I couldn't collect for a while. Suggest something clever, and I might take you up on it.


 

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To The Moon!

Posted by Ogged
on 01.04.06

Becks is looking for tips on where and how to go on vacation this year. Alaska is so very awesome that I'd have a hard time passing it up, but probably there are other places in the world to go.


 

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We are! Penn State!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.03.06

What a sweet Orange Bowl. Missed kicks everywhere, triple overtime, and a nice JoePa victory. It's always nice to see the Big Ten do well, and there are so many reasons to dislike Florida State. You're thinking I'll bitch about the Seminole thing, but, while it's true that the don't-call-him-a-mascot guy gets my goat, the real irritant is that stupid chopping gesture and its background music.

Props to them for a great game, though, and my heart goes out to Cismesia, whose missed extra point in the second quarter and missed field goals in OT (one off the goalpost) leave him feeling like crap for the next thirty years or so. Laces out.


 

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A Survey

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.06

What do women think about all day? What guys are thinking about, apparently. A friend recently said that she was debating with her friend whether guys really think about sex "every three minutes." I gave her the answer below, and then said I'd ask the Unfoggetariat. Of course, the ladies should feel free to tell what they're thinking about all day.

A lot of this depends on defining terms and being clear on what's being claimed. "Every x minutes" definitely doesn't capture the background hum nature of it. Certainly, when one is around women, one is aware of them as sexual. And "I wonder what it would be like to..." thoughts crop up pretty regularly in mixed company. But that's not news; the question is supposed to be what guys think about when women aren't around, but that's actually a pretty rare circumstance; most offices are mixed, and a guy's eyes will unconsciously scan every woman around...the background hum. But what people really want to know is what guys think about when they're working on a spreadsheet, or an article. In my experience, at least, those times are pretty free of sexual thoughts. When I'm absorbed, I'm absorbed. But even then, it's not as if I would say "how can I think about sex at a time like this" if someone interrupted me with a picture or story or question. So I guess the short answer is that guys really are far hornier and think about sex far more than you'd imagine, but it doesn't really get in the way when they need to do other things.


 

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Off To The Courthouse

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.06

We'll see if I get selected...

And: That was painless. They didn't seem to have their act quite together on this, the first court date of the year, so they kept us until it became clear that they wouldn't be able to select a jury, and, by the miracle of one day/one trial, we were dismissed as having fulfilled our obligation. Also, I love my phone.


 

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Oops

Posted by Ogged
on 01.03.06
Included in reports about James Risen's book (the book which was set to reveal the NSA's domestic spying), there's also this startling bit of information.
In another chapter on a "rogue operation," the book said a CIA officer mistakenly sent one of its Iranian agents information that could be used to identify virtually every spy the agency had in Iran. The book said the Iranian was a double agent who turned over the data to Iranian security officials.
The book said the information severely damaged the CIA's Iranian network, and quoted CIA sources as saying several of the U.S. agents were arrested and jailed.
Not even sure what to say about that. Kaus angle: I bet the CIA officer still has his job! Don't invade Iran angle: so it's a good bet that whatever "intelligence" they cite about Iran is crap. Personal reaction: what do you mean "mistakenly sent?" There must be a story there.

 

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More on windows

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.02.06

I just finished putting that funny shrink-wrap stuff on some of my windows. Predictably, it went less well than the product's package suggested (does any house in need of extra insulation have the sorts of pristine windows, sills, and paint jobs needed to make the stuff work just right?) but I have to admit that the end result was pleasing, and I'm looking forward to feeling my toes again.

Doing this always reminds me of my first graduate-school apartment, which had [bad] single-pane windows and no storms. Trying to be frugal, I picked up some of the plastic wrap and went to town, only to discover that the world's cheapest paint job was really ill-suited to adhesion. To make matters worse, there was so much air flowing through the windows that the damn stuff kept ripping off of the walls. (One sad evening it actually snowed inside my apartment.) A few patch attempts later I gave up and switched to duct tape and heavy plastic sheeting. This stuck, and did the job, but on the down side it also kept me from seeing anything out of my windows. (Oh look-- it's a metaphor for all of analytic philosophy!)

The next year I moved to a steam-heat building where I had to shut off the radiators to have a chance of cooling my bedroom below 70. Immediately after I left Siberia, my old landlord put on storm windows. I remain bitter.


 

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Hey, Mac users

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.02.06

Party on, dudes!


 

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Hey, Windows Users

Posted by Ogged
on 01.02.06

There is, apparently, a rather major security vulnerability in Windows for which Microsoft seems to be in no hurry to issue a patch. It's bad enough that security experts, for the first time anyone can remember, are asking Windows users to install an "unofficial" patch. From what I've read, that seems like a good idea. (To unregister the dll as well, follow the instructions in the update here.)

More: A good clear explanation.


 

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More flashbacks

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.02.06

Ogged's post about shop and this awesome Hughes post reminded me of the terror of junior high dress codes. At the time I was deep into my godawful adolescence, Ocean Pacific was the big thing, and all the cool kids dressed like they were on Magnum PI. I ran across a particularly awful OP shirt while I was out shopping with Mom, and I got this idea that everything in my life would be better if I owned it. After a lot of pleading (and in exchange for some guilt about the cost) she gave in. Of course, when I wore the shirt to school the next day, I was ridiculed mercilessly, because, though I couldn't tell, there was something about this particular garish hawaiian shirt that identified it as completely different from all the other garish hawaiian shirts being worn successfully around school. (I know, I know: maybe it wasn't the shirt.) And there was nothing left to do but to hide the thing in the back of my closet and endure the well-meaning but utterly oblivious queries from my mother as to why I wouldn't wear the thing, complete with helpful reminders about how I'd wanted it so much.

Wow, those years sucked.


 

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Reminiscences

Posted by Ogged
on 01.02.06

Michael Schneider writes,

Seventy five years ago one couldn't get out of most high schools without being at least exposed to, if not actually profficient at, wood and metal working.

I'm not ninety, and I was required to take "shop," as we called woodworking class, in junior high. That's the class where I looked over the teacher's shoulder at something he was writing and told him he should change it because it sounded like "shop teacher talk." Later, he overheard me call him an asshole. In anticipation of the annual faculty vs. student basketball game, he physically threatened me, which I found a bit overheated at the time, but, in retrospect, I don't know how he resisted crushing my head in a vice.

As for classwork, I made a jewelry box of which I was inordinately proud (and which my mom still uses), and for which he gave me a "D." Never mess with the Man.


 

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Trading spaces: Baghdad edition

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.02.06

Jeez, Iraqis, your place kind of looks bad. This, via atrios, is infinitely depressing:

The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
Just under 20 percent of the reconstruction package remains unallocated. When the last of the $18.4 billion is spent, U.S. officials in Baghdad have made clear, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people.

...

But the insurgency has set back efforts across the board. In two of the most crucial areas, electricity and oil production, relentless sabotage has kept output at or below prewar levels despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of American dollars and countless man-hours. Oil production stands at roughly 2 million barrels a day, compared with 2.6 million before U.S. troops entered Iraq in March 2003, according to U.S. government statistics.
The national electrical grid has an average daily output of 4,000 megawatts, about 400 megawatts less than its prewar level.
Iraqis nationwide receive on average less than 12 hours of power a day. For residents of Baghdad, it was six hours a day last month, according to a U.S. count, though many residents say that figure is high.
The Americans, said Zaid Saleem, 26, who works at a market in Baghdad, "are the best in destroying things but they are the worst in rebuilding."

Good luck with that renovation, New Iraqi Government.


 

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Hold fast to our traditions

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 01.01.06

In this case, making fun of David Gelernter. Via Yglesias, I see that he's on his "the more things change, the more they suck" routine again. This time it's educational standards:

Today most incoming college students don't seem to know any history at all. (Except what they've learned by themselves, or their parents have taught them.) The high school history textbooks favored by public schools here in southern Connecticut are pathetic. Their left--wing bias is blatant; the authors don't even try to hide it. Maybe they don't even see it. Recently, a graduate student at a major research university told me that she knew doctoral candidates in humanities departments who had never heard of (for example) Devil's Island and the Dreyfus Affair. They will soon be turned loose on the world as aspiring young scholars.

Shocking! Like Matt, I don't find this so problematic, though I do find Gelernter's data point surprising. As he more than most people should know, the humanities includes, at least some of the time, linguistics, languages, philosophy, and diverse other departments full of people who don't spend all their professional time thinking about 19th century France, Zionism, or whatever. And as he seems to have forgotten, being a doctoral student is so not about assembling a broad collection of general knowledge*-- if people are actually writing their dissertations, they're not actually spending a lot of time musing about Zola. (Does Gelernter's research require working knowledge of French history? Think of how weird that would be!)

Not that any of this matters. But it ties into one of my ongoing pet peeves, namely, the way in which discussions of academic issues (diversity and pedagogy in particular come to mind, as well as the 'haven of leftists!' complaint) often implicitly privilege some departments or areas over others, which leads to a view that manages to make sense of only a narrow slice of the university.

*a friend of mine, who works in philosophy of language and logic, actually met the historical component of our graduate core requirements by taking classes on Frege and on logical positivism. Aristotle spins in his grave. Broad we aren't.


 

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