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Go Away

Posted by Becks
on 05.13.06

Frequently, the NYT Styles section articles leave me wanting to smack somebody over the head and ask them who they think their average reader is, but this may just be the most smack-worthy article they've published in a while. Oh, woe is me. Some friends bought vacation homes near my vacation home and now I have to see the same people at the shore that I do in the city.

WITH Memorial Day in sight, many Manhattanites are getting ready to uproot themselves and head east for summer weekends, to the Hamptons and Fire Island — where the faces they'll face may well be the same ones they encounter at home.
Some second-home owners, though, have absolutely no interest in playing Ricky and Lucy Ricardo to a vast collection of Fred and Ethel Mertzes. The places they go are chosen with the idea of achieving a total change from their usual existence.
...
"I do a lot of talking on the phone on the weekend," she said. "I'll talk for an hour to friends who may be in the Hamptons. But I'm not going to go into the local Foodtown and run into them."
Heavens, no.
Susan Newman, a social psychologist and adjunct professor at Rutgers, said that "for some, the location of a second home is a very expensive way of saying 'no' to the friends they don't want to see on weekends."
Oh what-the-fuck-ever.

Now, I can sympathize with the desire to compartmentalize parts of your life. After all, that's why I don't tell people that I blog. It's more the implicit "doesn't everybody have a summer home?" assumption and obnoxious attitude that drips through the whole article. Bah!


 

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My Bad

Posted by Alameida
on 05.13.06

Sometimes I question the wisdom of my choice to randomly say things like "osama osama osama jihad" and "operation destroy Cleveland is a go" when I make calls from Singapore to the US. Sure, it's funny, and sure, my dad almost choked to death the first time I did it. And the principle of gumming up the works is sound, as it's just my way of registering irritation with the government of my home country putatively listening in on all my phone calls to my mom. But, I'm beginning to think there might be a downside. Sorry about that, every single person I have ever talked to in America, and everyone who ever talked to those people. And those times I called you from Indonesia and Malaysia (cue spoooooky Islamic music)? Again, sorry.


 

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Live my glamorous NYC life vicariously through me, please

Posted by Tia
on 05.12.06

I promised you bad date blogging; bad date blogging I shall deliver. To be precise, in this case, it's mediocre date blogging. I work with what I have. So I went out last Sunday to a short films program at the Brooklyn Lyceum with a basically nice boy with whom I had no chemistry, but he did manage to annoy me at one point. One of the short films was this Jason Reitman bit about a fledgling college couple whose lawyers negotiate what they're willing to do in bed. Now for a while, especially towards the middle of the movie, I interpreted it as a cute little play about male-female negotiations, and the way stereotypical guy is always trying to get a little bit more from stereotypical girl than she wants to give, and stereotypical girl wants to give a little bit more than she says she does. But then an epigraph--"Romance deserves better than this"--confirmed my initial negative impression: that it was tired and derivative, and what it was derivative of was attempts to mock and marginalize date rape prevention. Yeah, uh, romance does deserve better than to have to worry about rape, Jason Reitman. Feh.

I wanted to say this to my date afterwards, but even before I opened my mouth, while Stern Bespectacled Feminist was sitting on my left shoulder squeaking, Tell him what you really think, Tia. Pull no punches!, Male-Approval-Seeking Sexpot was pulling up her skirt on my right one, purring, No, Tia, don't do it. He won't like you!

"But I'm largely indifferent to him," I protested to Male-Approval-Seeking-Sexpot, while Stern Bespectacled Feminist tried to get my attention by rapping my left ear with a minature ruler.

That doesn't matter, M.A.S.S. hissed, and stamped a stiletto heel into the squishy spot between my neck and my clavicle, right in the spot where the woman in the snowy field was punctured by the weesicle. Understandably distracted by the women on my shoulder, my attempt to express just what was wrong with the movie came out haltingly, and I got myself into something of a tizzy.

Why aren't you more self-confident? shrieked S.B.F.

"Are you okay?" asked my date.

"Yeah," I said, "I don't mean to be humorless, but it's just that, uh, I think that movie was kind of trying to make fun of date rape education. And really interesting satire would maybe take into account the context of the rampancy of rape on college campuses."

Go get 'em, tiger, S.B.F. gave me an affectionate punch to the earlobe.

"I think you might be reading too much into it," said my date. That's what annoyed me.

And this is who that slave to the patriarchy over on your other scapula wanted you to impress? SBF sat down. I need a drink.

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, M.A.S.S. chirped.

"Hmm, I dunno," I said to my date.

When we got to the street corner at which our paths parted, he said he'd like to see me again. That's my girl, cheered M.A.S.S.

"But I don't want to see him again," I told M.A.S.S.

How many times do I have to tell you it doesn't matter? she asked.

When I got home, S.B.F. and M.A.S.S. fell asleep, exhausted, and melted back into the sides of my neck, and I sat around grumpily missing Graham till it was time for bed.


 

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"Can't we do a happy musical next time?" "If there is a next time, I'm sure we can."

Posted by Becks
on 05.12.06

Mark and I went to an Off-Broadway play about Abu Ghraib last night that he really wanted to see (despite being the least political person ever) because he has a gay-boy crush on the lead actress. Even though the play has been getting good reviews, I was dreading it because, given the subject matter, I figured it would be completely depressing. I was pleased to discover that it had a lot of dark humor and it wasn't at all the make-me-want-to-crawl-under-the-covers-and-weep-for-humanity experience I had been expecting.

Selfishly, I was relieved that the play was lighter than I had anticipated because I just can't deal with depressing but I was also relieved for the actors. Whenever I go to a show, one of the first things I think about when I leave the theater is what it must be like to perform that play or musical eight times a week for months at a time. I mean, doing Hairspray or Noises Off or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels eight times a week? No problem. But A Long Day's Journey Into Night? The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? Medea? A play by Neil Labute? I wouldn't want to have to get in that head space and stay there. Or what about a show that's just god-awful, like the current Threepenny Opera? Who would want to do that eight times a week?

I suppose a professional actor knows how to separate themselves from the emotions of a play so that it doesn't spill over into their psyche and I'd bet that many are just so glad to have work that they'd gladly take any role, no matter how depressing (or bad). I couldn't do it, though. I couldn't be around all of that sadness night after night. I'd have to stick with happy shows.


 

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You know what we need?

Posted by Tia
on 05.12.06

We need a game. I'm glad LB's around to do the poliblogging, because I just want to crawl under the covers right about now. Crawl under the covers and play a game!

I made this one up too based on a scenario I read. I make no promises that it isn't stupid.

A woman is lying dead in a field of snow. She died of a puncture wound, but there is no weapon nearby, nor are there footprints leading away from the scene, though her time of death has been reliably pinpointed as occurring after the last snowfall.

What happened?

Update: Anthony guessed the answer ("killed by a weesicle from a plane") instantly, so let's do Cala's: A man lies dead in the desert next to a large rock. Tire tracks lead away from the scene, but not towards it. What happened?


 

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"Lock The Vault? What Kind Of Maniac Would Steal Money From A Bank?"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.12.06

The Times has an article on a newly discovered, and apparently ghastly, security flaw in Diebold's touch-screen voting machines. There aren't a lot of details*, but what hit me about the article was this response from David Bear, a Diebold spokesman:

"For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software," he said. "I don't believe these evil elections people exist."

That line officially makes him, and anyone at Diebold who doesn't instantly fire him for saying it, either deliberately crooked or too stupid to live. Of course people want to steal elections, just like people want to rob banks. People rob banks because that's where the money is; people fix elections because that's where the power is. This country has a long history of election fraud on the part of both parties -- it's not right, and it shouldn't be tolerated, and measures should be taken to make it difficult or impossible, but attempts to steal elections, even on the part of political insiders, aren't some kind of freak, unthinkable type of unimaginable wrongdoing. They're a perfectly normal kind of corruption, and they're if anything more common with the help of insiders than without.

The whole point of the elaborate design of the various balloting systems we use is to make election fraud as difficult as possible. How can we possibly, possibly, justify letting a company that claims not to be considering such fraud as a a problem at all anywhere near running an election?

*Although here is Black Box Voting's take on it. The technical points are over my head, but some of you can probably read it in an informed fashion.


 

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Twelver-Pack

Posted by Alameida
on 05.12.06

Jim Henley has a great suggestion: "if you never heard of the 12th Imam until like, last month, maybe you should shut up about the 12th Imam for a bit." So true. This reminds me of one of my fondest memories. I was back in town on college break, so naturally I went out with my shiny ID and bought beer for my underage brother and some pals. We made a couple of runs during the course of the evening, and at one point it emerged that although there should have been one more beer left from the 12-pack, it was missing and no one would fess up to having drunk it. My brother looked around really seriously and said, "the beer isn't just gone. It's gone into occultation...it is the Hidden Beer. We can only hope it will re-emerge in our lifetimes." And then my brother and I started laughing really, really hard, and everyone else looked at us like we were nuts. My brother is a funny person.


 

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Running From The Law

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.11.06

USA Today had a story yesterday* on what the NSA has been doing lately -- turns out it's been compiling a database of every domestic phone call made: who knew? (Not Congress, of course, given that AG Gonzalez lied to Congress about it in hearings a few weeks ago. Rep. Nadler asked him squarely if there was "warrantless surveillance of calls between two Americans within the United States", and Gonzales denied that such surveillance was being done intentionally.) The legal issues are still murky (to me at least) because they're still claiming not to listen to the content of the calls, just the numbers called, date and time, length, etc., and collecting this information, while regulated by statute, doesn't necessarily require a warrant. [I should say, a warrant isn't necessarily required by the Fourth Amendment. Federal statute does make one necessary.]

Funny story, though. The NSA gets this data with the active cooperation of every telephone company but one, Qwest. Qwest asked the NSA to get an order from the FISA court before it would turn over its customers' data, and the NSA backed off:

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.
The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

That is the wrong answer. If you're working for the government, and you don't want to tell a judge something you're doing because you're afraid they will make you stop, you are literally lawless.

It is, however, an answer the Bush administration keeps on going for. They did it with respect to Jose Padilla: it was absolutely vital to national security that he be kept in military custody with none of the rights of a criminal defendant, until it was time for the Supreme Court to hear his case. Then they decided they could try him in a civillian court, making the issue moot. They did the same thing with the Uighur detainees at Guantanamo: it was absolutely impossible to find a country they could safely be released to, despite the fact that the military had found them not to be combatants against the US, until their case was due to be heard before the DC Circuit. Right before the arguments, they were released to Albania.

Glenn Greenwald is very eloquent on this, making the point that the Bush administration is consolidating all power in the executive. Congress can pass all the laws they want, but they're not binding on the Commander in Chief if he says they aren't. The courts can have all the oversight they like, but if the administration can keep cases from coming before the courts, they have no power. If we have any respect at all for the people who wrote our Constitution and their stated fears and hopes, this consolidation of power in one branch of government is the fundamental evil the Constitution was drafted to avoid. And it is happening now; it has happened already.

Update:Oh, go read Digby; she writes better than I do.

*I assume you've all read it by now. What can I say -- I'm slow.

Well, Gary did. If you want background on all this, go through his old NSA posts collected at the link. He got this story right from the outset.

Making Judge Luttig, a staunch conservative on the Fourth Circuit who had decided in favor of the administration's ability to hold Padilla in military custody, roughly on the grounds that it must be absolutely vital to national security or they wouldn't conceivably have asked for something so extreme, rather cross. When it turned out to be okay to release him to civilian custody in order to dodge the Supreme Court, Luttig was quite understandably irate, and wrote a scathing opinion criticizing the honesty of the administration. He's just left the bench to work for Boeing. I should do a follow-up post on judges, and how good they generally are -- even the ones with personally lousy politics.


 

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See you next Tuesday, stupid.

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.11.06

Since we had so much fun with the Jonah Goldberg Mad Libs the other day, I thought I'd go ahead and link to Roy Edroso's Kathryn J. Lopez Mad Libs.


 

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So Not Everything Is About Politics

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.11.06

Some things are about food. I don't cook as much as I'd like to, but I had a craving for ribs the other day, and made these Chineseish (although probably inauthentic) ribs in an orange-ginger glaze. Remarkably little trouble, especially if you do the two steps of the process on different days -- parboiling the ribs one night and then stirfrying them the next -- and awfully tasty. They come out very much like classic low-brow Chinese restaurant ribs, except bright and tangy tasting rather than glutinous and oversweet. (Although, certainly, sweet. But that's not a bad thing with pork.)

The recipe makes two pounds of ribs. The kids nibbled on one each, and Buck and I ate the rest, snarling and snapping at each other over the last few.


 

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Silver Linings

Posted by Alameida
on 05.11.06

Pam at Pandagon chalks a recent upswing in the number of teenagers having oral and anal sex to the unintended side-effects of abstinence-only education. She could very well be right. And to the extent that this correlates with teens being denied information about contraception and STD prevention, it might be bad. But on the other hand--oral sex and anal sex are totally fun, and people who want to have fun sex should be giving them a try! So, one cheer for Focus on the Family.


 

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My Poor Mother

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.06

Cancer?! Are you fucking kidding me?

Alas, it seems the medical establishment rarely intentionally makes a joke. This morning, on her very fancy monitor, the sweet but matter-of-fact radiologist walked me through the MRI results until...tada!...there was no denying that the 1.9cm mass in my kidney did in fact glow when the contrast dye ran through it. Glowing bad. Before I crank up the drama too much, you oughta know that the treatment is just to take out the kidney and be done with it. No chemo or radiation, and an excellent long-term prognosis. And though such tumors are usually cancerous, they won't know for sure until it's out--that's irrelevant, but comforting.

(Practically speaking, what'll happen to me is no different from what happened to Virginia Postrel when she donated her kidney. Except that she's a better person.)

Strangely, the doctors were all "Are you in the midst of a long drought (IYKWIM)? Have people been making fun of you? Hmm. Mmhmm. Yes, that would do it." You fuckers gave me cancer!

Seriously, I'm not fishing for sympathy; it sounds like I'll be just fine. But since I know, or feel like I know, so many of you, it seemed the thing to do to pass it on. And you'll forgive me if you email me and I don't respond right away.

The smile-making thing about all this is that I wasn't having any trouble with my kidneys. My stomach was hurting, and I was going to have an endoscopy, but they scheduled it so far out and I felt so crappy and people were so busy that they couldn't come nurse me back to health that I wound up coming to stay with my mom in Chicago, and the doctor here, out of an abundance of caution, ordered a CT can which showed a fine stomach, but a suspicious growth in my kidney. I had to get lucky in about seven different ways for them to find this thing before it was a serious problem.

I'm almost exactly as old now as my father was when he died of his cancer. The doctor suggested that maybe he was looking out for me. I like that thought a lot.


 

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On Record

Posted by Tia
on 05.10.06

I hereby officially predict that Taylor Hicks is the next American Idol.


 

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Friends With Money

Posted by Becks
on 05.10.06

This article from the NYT on income disparities among friends does seem like perfect Unfogged discussion fodder so, by popular demand, I'm going to open a discussion thread. I'm going to take Matt up on his offer to help get the ball rolling:

Particularly in light of this discussion, I found this article interesting. A lot of great novels through history have been written about the various gradations of class and money, and there might be one in there about the rich woman who won't have her grad-school classmates over to her three-bedroom apartment because it might seem ostentatious. (I'm more sympathetic to the assistant professor who tells her child "Don't think that you're one of the rich kids, because you're not," for some reason.)

The Yabroff article attributes part of the income disparity between friends to meritocracy-based higher education. I think this doesn't refer to people from poor backgrounds who get educations and wind up making more than their old friends from the neighborhood–the old friends from the neighborhood usually aren't dreamt of in Sunday Styles' philosophy–but college friends, some from rich backgrounds some not; which is especially relevant to the Unfogged discussion. And much of this goes back to the idea that the U.S. doesn't have nearly as much social mobility as we'd like to think.


 

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It's Emergency Contraception, Not An Early Abortion

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.09.06

PZ Myers makes a point that has been annoying me for a while in discussions of Plan B emergency contraception -- people generally seem to assume that its primary mechanism is interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg. This is not true. Plan B works by preventing ovulation (which seems counterintuitive given that you've already had sex, but it's true. A woman is fertile for about five days before she ovulates, and only a day after. Sperm lasts longer in the body than unfertilized eggs do. So most of the time, there's time to take emergency contraception after sex, but before the relevant possible ovulation.)

The idea that a secondary effect of Plan B is to interfere with implantation in the cases in which fertilization takes place anyway is possible, but there is literally no evidence for it. And when I say that it's possible, there's not much that makes it look likely -- Plan B is a dose of progesterone, which is the hormone your body produces to support a pregnancy: the reason that it blocks ovulation is that your body thinks it's already pregnant. Progesterone is actually prescribed to pregnant women at risk of very early miscarriage when there is a concern that their bodies aren't producing enough. So, while the implantation-preventing secondary effect hasn't been disproven, because studies are difficult to design (obviously, you couldn't recruit subjects to go ahead and have unprotected sex and take Plan B, and see what happened), AFAIK, there isn't any good reason to think that this secondary effect exists.

That the public conversation assumes that emergency contraception is just a code word for really early abortion is irritating and stupid, and this misapprehension should be corrected wherever you see it. Maybe that'll help splitting off some of the emergency contraception opponents who don't have a problem with contraception in itself?

Update: Here's an earlier, more science-heavy post from PZ on emergency contraception.


 

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I Suppose No One Reads The New Yorker For Medical Advice

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.09.06

And it's fiction, anyway. But this short story, by Matthew Klam, was disturbing. He has a character, seven months pregnant, accidentally break her water by using a vibrator. That makes absolutely no sense -- at seven months, you've still got a closed cervix between the amniotic sac and any body parts you could reach with a vibrator, and last I checked, very few vibrators are sharp (although I expect someone in the comments will link to a counterexample).

I suppose it's possible that Klam is going for some kind of magical realism effect, and knows that the event described is somewhere between overwhelmingly unlikely and impossible, but wanted it in the story anyway. But the story looks pretty much like an attempt at straight realism. Would it be too much to ask, if you're going to write fiction turning on gynecological facts, that you look in a reference book or two first?


 

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Out Of Character Sportsblogging.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.09.06

Well, not really. It's more charity-blogging. The link is to a Sports Illustrated column, "Nothing But Nets." The writer is trying to raise money for anti-malarial mosquito nets for Africa. You couldn't find a better cause, and I'm sure a fair number of you have ten or twenty bucks burning a hole in your pocket. You could do worse things than click through here and donate.


 

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Commitment To Free Speech? Not So Much.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.09.06

Apparently, a recent EU/US agreement regulating the wine business severely limits the amount of information that can appear on a wine label. Specifically, it prohibits vintners from stating that their wines are produced using artisanal methods rather than cheaper industrial methods (for example, aging the wine in barrels rather than over oak chips). Small vintners are afraid that they won't be able to compete without the ability to make such truthful claims about their wine; in the absence of any explanation for the cost difference, people will turn to the cheaper option.

This type of issue has come up before in a number of contexts: there was the whole mess in which the US objected to EU regulations requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods as a violation of trade treaties; within the US Monsanto has been engaged in an ongoing campaign to keep dairies from advertising that they do not use rBGH on their cows. There's no justification for it that I can see -- truthful claims about products are the whole point of the useful kind of advertising, and are protected by the First Amendment as well. (And even if, practically, treaty obligations inconsistent with the First Amendment are not legally attackable on those grounds, shouldn't the government be treating free speech as a central value anyway?)

There are larger issues in the world, of course -- this one just makes me cross.


 

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Weird scenes inside the paste mine.

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.09.06

If Jonah Goldberg didn't exist, we would have to create him.

It seems like a disproportionate number of the people who undergo sexual reassignment are academics. I have no idea if this is objectively true or simply a result of media coverage. But it strikes me as interesting nonetheless. If it's objectively true — that professorial types are overrepresented in the ranks of the sexually reassigned — then that might tell us something about the underlying, overly intellectualized, impulses driving the decision. If, on the other hand, the media has simply chosen academics to be the poster-persons for this practice, that would be interesting too.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that every premise in the preceding paragraph originated in the Department of Jonah Goldberg's Butt. Still, points awarded for trying hard. We could all play this game, you know.

It seems like a disproportionate number of the people who check me out are teenaged girls. I have no idea if this is objectively true or simply a result of me hanging out by the junior high school each afternoon. But it strikes me as interesting nonetheless. If it's objectively true — that nicely bouncy types are overrepresented in the ranks of my admirers — then that might tell us something about the underlying, overly interested, impulses driving their behavior. If, on the other hand, God has simply chosen schoolgirls to be the poster-persons for this practice, that would be interesting too.

Update: The Poor Man also wanders into Goldberg's Logic 101 class, this time regarding Bush's obvious unrepentant liberalism, and decides it's best handled by inserting code.

if (Jonah_says != null) then
 print "shut the fuck up, wanker ";
 print "<img src="http://www.thepoorman.net/wp-content/draftpantload.jpg">"
 deallocate Jonah_says;
endif;


 

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Pants Off Dance Off

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.08.06

We're all about intellectual rigor and offering up both sides of an issue for examination here at Unfogged. So, for the sake of fairness and equal time, I'd like to follow up Brokeback on Ice with the single least gay thing ever, mailed to me by fiend.

In the unlikely event that future circumstances necessitate an Unfogged fundraising drive, I firmly believe this should be our vehicle.


 

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To Re-Record Your Message, Press 5

Posted by Becks
on 05.08.06

I just discovered that this has been my voicemail message since I returned from vacation:

Hello. You have reached the office of [Becks] at [My Company]. If this is regarding an urgent application problem, please call the tech support hotline at extension 4-2-...no, 4-9...ah, fuck. (sound of me punching keys) Hello. You have reached the office of [Becks] at [My Company]...


 

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Guarding the Henhouse

Posted by Tia
on 05.08.06

Via Twisty, in Liberia, aid workers and UN peacekeeping troops are having sex with children:

Investigators were told that wealthy and powerful men were the main abusers, among them UN peacekeepers and aid agency staff.

The study interviewed more than 300 people in resettlement camps and found that the presence of foreign troops and aid workers often exacerbated the problem because of their comparatively high wages.

"Sex with underage girls by humanitarian workers continues openly," the report stated. Employees of non-governmental organisations "are carrying out awareness on sexual exploitation, HIV and Aids," one camp resident said, "but during the night hours they are the same people running after these 12-year-old girls".

One teenager told the investigators that having sex with soldiers from the Unmil peacekeeping force was a good way of earning extra income.

Via our Joe D., Iraqi police are murdering children for being gay:

Human rights groups have condemned the "barbaric" murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay.

Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Ali Hili, the co-ordinator of a group of exiled Iraqi gay men who monitor homophobic attacks inside Iraq, said the fatwa had instigated a "witch-hunt of lesbian and gay Iraqis, including violent beatings, kidnappings and assassinations".

"Young Ahmed was a victim of poverty," he said. "He was summarily executed, apparently by fundamentalist elements in the Iraqi police."

Neighbours in al-Dura district say Ahmed's father was arrested and interrogated two days before his son's murder by police who demanded to know about Ahmed's sexual activities. It is believed Ahmed slept with men for money to support his poverty-stricken family, who have fled the area fearing further reprisals.

The killing of Ahmed is one of a series of alleged homophobic murders. There is mounting evidence that fundamentalists have infiltrated government security forces to commit homophobic murders while wearing police uniforms.

 

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Running Scared?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.08.06

Apparently Karl Rove is buckling down to focus on the midterm elections, hoping to motivate the Republican base with the fear that Democrats may take back the House and the Senate. While I'm no one's idea of a political strategist, this strikes me as remarkably cheerful news.

One of the narratives that has been very powerful for Republicans over the last decade or so is the idea that they're a majority party -- that the country as a whole is with them, and Democrats have an appeal only in coastal enclaves of elitist freaks. That was the whole point of trumpeting the county-by-county red/blue map -- to claim that the US was a Republican country, with teeny little spots where Democrats hadn't yet been wiped out. Now, however, Republicans themselves are putting out the message that, far from being an overwhelming majority, they're afraid that they may be a minority party; the sense of inevitable victory they're used to projecting is leaving them.

This isn't a reason to sit back and rest on our laurels, of course, but it is a pleasant thought for a Monday morning.


 

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National Health Service Fails To End World Hunger, Thus Proving Total Worthlessness: Film At 11

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.08.06

Sunday's Times had an article on problems with the dental care provided by the British National Health Service. Apparently waiting times are too long, dentists are too time-pressured and therefore give substandard care; and dentists feel that they're underpaid and so leave the NHS for private practice. And so as a result of all of these failings of the NHS, people living in Britain have terrible, terrible teeth.

Except, of course, that that's an idiotic conclusion. As the above sentence makes clear, private practice is still an option. Anyone in Britain who wants to go to a dentist, and has the money to pay for it, can see a private dentist whenever they want, just like in the US. The only thing the NHS is doing is providing free dental care to those who otherwise couldn't afford it, or don't choose to pay for it. So a story about the rotten teeth suffered by the poor British who have been failed by their NHS is terribly incomplete -- they've been failed by the market provision of private dental care, and the NHS hasn't managed to fully compensate for that market failure failure of the market. In the US, of course, people who can't afford to go to the dentist are less likely to get care than people in Britain; they haven't even got a flawed NHS to fall back on.

Man, you read stories like this, and you'd almost think people were trying to make universal health insurance look bad.


 

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Rove To Be Indicted?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.07.06

Via TalkLeft comes this story, from Jason Leopold at Truthout stating that Fitzgerald has decided to seek an indictment against Rove. The key quote is: "It was following their disclosure that Fitzgerald advised Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, several weeks ago that he intends to indict Rove for perjury and lying to investigators."

This is excellent if true, but a quick Google News search doesn't seem to show it confirmed from anyplace mainstream yet. Does anyone have a mainstream source, or a strong opinion about Truthout's reliability on original reporting?

Update: No one mainstream has picked this up, and commenters have a low opinion of Leopold's credibility. Probably a false alarm.


 

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Line Jumping

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.07.06

Something that comes up in the context of illegal immigration and what should be done about it is the concept of 'line jumping': that while one may be sympathetic to undocumented immigrants (they are, generally, here doing useful work that is in economic demand; their presence in the country is semi-officially tolerated becasue of their usefulness, and given that, it's unjust to treat them as wrongdoers), one should recognize that it is unjust to allow them to benefit from having jumped the line and entered the US illegally, at the expense of others who are waiting their turn by navigating the ridiculously clogged and delay-ridden legal immigration system. We've talked about this here, and the NY Times has an editorial on the same thing.

This argument has an initial appeal, but I find myself getting stuck on a factual point: is there a 'line' that people whose other option is to immigrate illegally can get on? I could be flat wrong about this -- I find immigration law entirely opaque -- but my understanding is that there are (roughly) three routes to immigrating legally. There's the green-card lottery, which is closed to people from some countries, including Mexico; there's family reunification/fiance visas, which are, you know, not an option for anyone who doesn't already have family in the country (not a matter of choice on the potential immigrant's part); and there's employer sponsorship, which only applies to people in professional jobs under limited circumstances. Is there any 'line' that a person from Mexico, who doesn't have family already in the US, and doesn't have a professional job lined up, can get on to legally immigrate into the US?

If my impression that there is no such 'line' is correct, then I don't think 'line jumping' concerns have any weight as a matter of justice. Undocumented immigrants aren't taking the easy way out, they are mostly coming here the only way they possibly can. Doing it the right way and waiting one's turn isn't an indication of being conscientious, it's an indication that one is in the limited group of people who the US has given that option. An argument against amnesty for undocumented immigrants on this basis has to rest on the merits of the US's policy decision to allow some people and not others into the country legally -- not on the personal deserts of those who play by the rules versus scofflaws.


 

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