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Friday Game

Posted by Tia
on 05.19.06

I've run out of Two Minute Mysteries, but I wouldn't mind playing some Botticelli. So you know, I am of the "try to pick someone you think most people have probably heard of" school, although I think that might be too easy. I'd like to try playing with My Alter Ego's rules to make it harder. This means, in your first order questions, you have to be thinking of someone who matches all the characteristics revealed thus far of my person. So if you already knew my person was a dead man, and I had given you the letter "F", you would not be allowed to ask, "are you the daughter of a famous psychologist", because you already knew I was a man. I think this will be pretty hard. No google or other outside references. And if anyone else wants to be the answerer after I'm done, they're welcome to.

My letter is F.

(For rules of Botticelli, read this post, then click back to the ealier one.)


 

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Wars Of Choice

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.19.06

Everyone must have seen this story already; if you haven't, you really should click through. A military investigation appears to show that American soldiers in Iraq killed more than 15, possibly up to 30 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, by shooting them at close range; it does not appear that the civilians killed were engaged in any attack on the soldiers who killed them.

First, I hope it isn't true. I assume everyone hopes it isn't true. But I don't find it incredible, or unlikely -- at this point we're looking at results from a military investigation.

Second, under the assumption that the story is pretty accurate, this is the kind of thing that happens in wars. Soldiers get desensitized to violence; are under insane amounts of stress, and they do terrible, terrible things. Back in March 2003, we could have been pretty sure that there would be at least some stories like this; this doesn't relieve the criminals involved of their moral responsibility for the crimes they've committed, but war causes crimes of this nature.

This is yet another reason weighing against "Wars of Choice" like Iraq. We've talked at great length about the price of war, and that no reason for a war is good enough unless it can justify the incredible human costs of combat. Another aspect of that price is that war makes monsters. The civilians killed in Haditha are no more dead than they might have been if killed in a dozen other ways caused by this war: by a US bomb, by an insurgent IED, by being accidentally caught in gunfire during combat. But they were murdered (again, if the story is as it appears) by American criminals created by the war -- soldiers who might never have done anything wrong in the absence of this war, but who have been transformed by war into the sort of moral monsters who murder civilians out of revenge, or rage, or some motivation I don't begin to understand. We know war creates monsters; it's part of the price of war. Can anyone still say that this war was worth that price?

(And go read the Apostropher on this. He said it first and more clearly.)


 

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Quis Custodiet Custodes Ipsos?

Posted by Becks
on 05.19.06

I'm not entirely trying to be a little bitch, but I just happened to come across an essay by Bruce Schneier today that does a great job of refuting Tim's "if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about" comment to me last night.

The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.
Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Watch someone long enough, and you'll find something to arrest -- or just blackmail -- with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies -- whoever they happen to be at the time.
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.
...
Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

 

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Something's Wrong With The Site

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.18.06

Like you haven't already guessed that comments aren't working. The fearless Becks is on the job, however, and putting the fear of God into the making friends with [Edited: Becks] the hosting company. We'll keep you posted when we know anything.

(I know nothing about what has caused this, but I blame spam.)

UPDATE [Becks 5/18/06 7 PM] Comments reopened!

UPDATE, postdating those below [LB 5/18/06 4:50 pm]: Comments are back down. To fend off offers of financial assistance, that really isn't the issue -- something just keeps on going wrong with the site.

Update, Wed May 17 23:51:55 PDT 2006, by ben w: as you can see, I rule. I have no idea what was causing the problem but this seems to have fixed it:

cp mtdb{,-`date | tr ' ' -`}
mkdir tmp
cp mtdb tmp
cd tmp
for TABLE in `sqlite3 -line mtdb ".tables"`; do sqlite3 -line mtdb ".dump $TABLE" > $TABLE; done
rm mtdb
for TABLE in mt_*; do sqlite3 -line mtdb ".read $TABLE" >/dev/null; done
cp mtdb ..

So if something had actually gone missing from the db, which was reporting corruption or some such, well, it's still missing. But this possibility should only spur us on to every greater, more rhapsodic heights!

UPDATE: [Becks, 11:30 PM] Our host is still looking into the issue. They appear to be as stumped as we are right now. We're getting some weird database errors and stuff.


 

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A Scanner Darkly

Posted by Becks
on 05.18.06

I was just at the grocery store and noticed that they replaced their punch-card-based time card system for their employees with a new shiny one that uses a hand scanner to clock in and out. Am I the only person who thinks that seems a little excessive? I'm sure businesses have a problem with people punching their friend's card in early for them and such but I would be so pissed to have to be fingerprinted multiple times a day to prove I'm not a liar or "stealing time" from my employer.


 

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Tom Tomorrow's Take On The NSA Program

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.18.06

Click through, it's perfect. There's a reason I worship the man like unto a god. You could also go go buy his new book, I just did. While I'd probably read all the strips in it as they came out, there's something (refreshing? satisfying? suicidally depressing?) about seeing proof that all of our current complaints about Iraq aren't 20-20 hindsight. Tomorrow was saying all the same stuff, in the same words, back in 2002 and 2003.


 

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Speaking of Kidneys

Posted by Tia
on 05.18.06

A few days ago the Times published an op-ed by Sally Satel, a kidney recipient, in favor of allowing cash payments for organ donation. I know there are slippery-slope concerns, but as the op-ed says, we already allow payment for egg donation. I have to say, if the compensation were mandated to be very, very generous, and not just market-determined, and paid by the recipient's insurance, I'm not sure it might not, in the final analysis, be good for the donors. Poverty also decreases life expectancy. I know that a one-time cash payment isn't necessarily going to alleviate all the things about poverty that are unhealthy, like poor nutrition, lack of access to health care, and dangerous working conditions, but it might help. On the other hand, when Satel says, "We could even make a donation option that favors the well-off by rewarding donors with a tax credit," I find her pretty disingenuous. No one well-off is going to be handing out their kidney for a tax break. On the other hand, if we reinstituted the estate tax, maybe people would agree to be post-mortem organ donors if it would mean their children would have a bigger inheritance. Obviously I don't have very well-formed ideas about this, so have at it.


 

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye (especially text)

Posted by Tia
on 05.18.06

For our first reading group project, we're reading three Montaigne essays: "Of Drunkenness", "Of Solitude", and "Of Experience". For our second, we're reading Paradise Lost. Our first official meeting will be Tuesday, May 30, at which we'll discuss "Of Drunkenness". I'm giving people time to order books if they'd like. Thereafter, we'll read an essay a week. "Of Drunkenness" is available online here in English and here in French. LizardBreath volunteered to write the first discussion questions.


 

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Explanation For The Phone Company Denials

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.18.06

According to the NY Times, Verizon and Bell South's denials apply to the provision of local call data to the NSA (that is, Bell South doesn't have a long-distance business, and Verizon excluded MCI, which does provide long distance service from its denial). There is reason to think that the NSA program was focused on long-distance call data only.

I don't know that this is the explanation, but it makes a certain amount of sense.


 

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Evolutionary Psychology Question

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.17.06

It's a commonplace of online discussions (and, I suppose, of some offline as well) that men are attracted to women with certain physical characteristics such as clear skin, big eyes, thick shiny hair, a waist to hip ratio of .7, etc., because of evolutionary forces. Those characteristics act as a proxy for health and fertility, and so men who have sex with women with those characteristics have more children, and a genetic tendency among men to seek out sex with women with those characteristics becomes common in the population.

Okay, fine. But how good a proxy of health and fertility are these characteristics? Anecdotally, I don't see any connection between being pretty and being fertile -- I know big-eyed, clear skinned, slim-waisted women who had lots of trouble getting pregnant, and funny-looking pot-bellied women who had none. Is there any research supporting the idea that the cross-cultural standards of beauty that evolutionary psychology types appeal to are, in fact, a useful proxy for fertility?

(Maybe there is, of course. I just keep seeing this assumed as a step in the argument, rather than spelled out.)

UPDATE: [Becks] This is too good not to talk about. I created a discussion thread here.


 

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She's doing it again

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.17.06

Katherine Harris, stealing an election. Go do your part for our sacred liberties.


 

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Animate Dead

Posted by Tia
on 05.17.06

NickS really, really wants us to start up the reading group again. So let's talk about it. Are we gonna read some Kierkegaard? I selfishly don't want to read Fear and Trembling, because I already have, but I'm not the boss of you, so maybe that's what we should read. Do we want to read something other than Super Radmeister K*? I kinda think the reading group should be on the main page. How do we want to do it? How would it be structured?

*a nickname a friend game me in high school. I just felt like calling Kierkegaard that.


 

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What an outrage!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.17.06

This is why we need better voting security: Wonkette's Congressional Catfight had Barney Frank defeating Katherine Harris...by one vote. Katherine Harris is nothing, a lightweight, a bad drag queen impersonator, and Barney Frank is a gay liberal ninja. This one shouldn't have made it past the first round.


 

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Right Back Atcha

Posted by Tia
on 05.17.06

This is how I feel about you, Taylor Hicks.

Hat tip: Gray Charles


 

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The CDC Can Kiss My Pre-Pregnant Ass

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.17.06

Go read the esteemed Bitch Ph.D. on new guidelines issued by the CDC, encouraging all fertile women to consider themselves 'pre-pregnant' at all times; making sure to keep themselves healthy in case they suddenly found themselves supporting something important, like a fetus.

Now, there's nothing wrong with the specific recommendations in the report; they're all very reasonable [Scratch that. They're talking about avoiding the prescription of effective epilepsy medications to fertile women, and they;'re repeating the 'any alcohol at all during pregnancy is unsafe' bullshit, and extending it to fertile women generally.], and largely good ideas. It's the social attitude toward pregnant women, which reports like this seems to be trying to spread over women generally, that is just mind-bogglingly annoying.

When you're pregnant, suddenly anyone with a cockamamie idea about what's 'best for the baby' is in your face, and cockamamie ideas are as likely to come from your health-care provider as anyone else. Dr. B. mentions attitudes toward drinking during pregnancy -- the 'OMG, even one drink will make your baby stupid' nonsense. If you read the primary research, there's no support at all for that. Heavy drinking can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but a drink here and there has never been shown to have any detrimental effect whatsoever. Similar things could be said about sushi, soft cheese, deli meats, hair dye, exercise (I had a trainer refuse to keep working with me when I was pregnant, just on general principles, as did all other trainers at that gym). It's an endless guilt trip -- unless you spend nine months, and the months before those nine months in a flawless regime of living on whole grain pasta and legumes, eating lots of fish for the omega-3 oils but no fish at all because of the mercury, staying in tiptop physical condition, but without doing heavy exercise, and avoiding stress at all costs, then if something is wrong with your baby it's ALL YOUR FAULT. Even if you did do all that, and something is wrong with your baby? It's still ALL YOUR FAULT; you were probably doing it wrong.

So I can't complain too much about the health recommendations in the report, but the attitude pisses me off.


 

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So Sleek, So Furry and Fair

Posted by Becks
on 05.17.06

Today, a person of mystery alerted me to the true story of furry lobsters in America. I share with you all this revelation so that you, too, may see the light:

Not long ago, the world fell in love with furry lobsters.
Furry, interloping impostor lobsters. You see, there was a time when real, furry AMERICAN lobsters frolicked about these shores.
But no thanks to our malign neglect, the impostors' kin all drove them away. It's true. And there's nought to do but weep -- and remember them in song.

 

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This Is Peculiar

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.16.06

Bell South and Verizon have both denied providing customer records to the NSA. (Actually, Verizon is explicitly "neither confirm[ing] or deny[ing]" a relationship to NSA relating to some classified program, but they are denying providing call data.)

At this point, I see three possibilities. First, Bell South and Verizon could be lying. This is possible, but I doubt it -- seven years of litigation experience has given me some sense of the sort of lies corporations tell, and this doesn't seem like one of them. Second, USA Today could have just gotten the story all wrong, and there's really nothing going on here. Also possible, and I don't have a sense of how reliable they are on investigative journalism. Still, the odds are that a paper isn't going to publish a story like this without a great deal of confidence in their sources. The last possibility, and the one that seems most likely to me, is that there is a NSA program along these lines, and Bell South and Verizon, along with ATT, are involved, but USA Today got the details of what information is being collected wrong enough to allow the carefully worded denials Bell South and Verizon issued. This seems perfectly possible to me -- lots of journalists aren't the most technical of people, and it's an easy area to misunderstand what's going on.

So if I'm right, what data is the NSA collecting?

Update: I should say that, given that Qwest has confirmed, through a statement from its CEO's attorney, having been approached to participate in a program as described by USA Today, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Bell South and Verizon are simply splitting hairs, and the distinction between what they are denying they provided to the NSA and what it will eventually become clear that they did provide to the NSA will prove to have been fine to the point of insanity.


 

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Cockstumes

Posted by Tia
on 05.16.06

If I had a penis, I'd totally want to be "The Cowboy." But why does The Cowboy have a sherriff's star?

via Feministing.


 

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Vote With Your Dollar

Posted by Tia
on 05.16.06

My cell phone plan is about to run out, and I asked my dad if he knew of a wireless provider I could sign up for on the East Coast that wasn't cooperating with the Bush Administration. I don't have a link, but he told me Working Assets sent a letter to their subscribers assuring them they were having no part of it. Word to the wise.


 

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This is a post for John Emerson

Posted by Ben
on 05.16.06

The rest of you would be well advised to look away.

Neither of those are, as they say, S for W. Really: I mean it.

One, two.


 

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Muslim hordes stole my witticisms

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.16.06

Mark Liberman of Language Log thinks one of Mark Steyn's essays draws a bit too heavily on some of Geoff Pullum's work. It's an interesting case.

If you don't know Pullum's work, have a look. He's very sharp.

Via A White Bear.


 

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It's the arockalypse

Posted by Ben
on 05.16.06

Behold Finland's entry in the Eurovision contest, zombie cheerleaders and all.


 

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Is The FBI Within The Law In Its Spying On Reporters?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.16.06

I've updated the post below to reflect the FBI's claim that it is spying on reporters' phone records without court orders pursuant to the terms of the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows it to demand such records by issuing National Security Letters, or NSLs, which can be issued by the FBI without the oversight of a court.

As far as I know (and I welcome corrections or additional information on this, this is only a preliminary take on the legal underpinnings of the story) NSLs issued by the FBI are governed by 18 USC 2709, which limits the use of NSLs to investigations of international terrorism or espionage as follows:

(b) Required certification.--The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director, may--

(1) request the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the name, address, length of service, and toll billing records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States;

This suggests to me that the administration's use of NSLs in this context is improper. If the FBI is justified at all in seeking these phone records, it is justified only in that they are relevant to a criminal investigation -- an investigation of the leaking of classified material to reporters. And the FBI could plausibly get an order from a court, under the Pen Register Act, allowing it access to those records as relevant to a criminal investigation.

Instead, the FBI avoided the oversight of the courts, and issued NSLs for the records. While there is certainly an argument that could be made that the phone records in question are relevant to a leak investigation, a leak to a reporter, while it may be illegal, is neither terrorism nor a clandestine intelligence activity, and the text of 18 USC 2709, as I read it, limits the use of NSLs to only those contexts. These are whistleblowers and reporters, not terrorists and spies, meaning that under my initial reading of the law, the FBI should have gotten a court order under the PRA.

But of course, the PATRIOT Act, while it puts formal limitations on the purposes for which NSLs may be used, provides for no oversight to enforce those restrictions. Instead, we merely trust the executive not to overstep its boundaries, but have no process for checking it when it does. And as we see here, the FBI appears to have ignored the boundaries set forth in the law. I wonder what other boundaries they're ignoring, that we haven't heard about yet?

Update: SCMT, in comments, pointed out this link to the text of the law, and in posting it, I realized that this is covered by the same civil remedy provision, 18 USC 2712, that the NSA program is covered by, allowing a party damaged by a violation of the law to recover their actual damages or $10,000, whichever is greater, as well as litigation costs. So we may see the analysis above tested in a court after all.


 

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My Blogly Duty

Posted by Tia
on 05.16.06

I saw what I thought was the worst movie I'd ever seen on Saturday, but then I remembered Trouble Every Day, and I realized that in fact it was only the second worst movie I've ever seen, but nevertheless, I feel obliged to warn you, don't, no matter how much you liked Crumb, or Ghost World, or Bad Santa, be seduced into seeing Art School Confidential. Watching this movie was, by the second half, psychically painful enough that I turned my head and my body away from the screen, clutched my forehead in distress, and only occasionally glanced up. How to describe it? Every character, including the protagonist, is both loathsome and cliched. The men, if straight, all hate women and the women are all shrill or weepy, save one, the prettiest. The prettiest is perhaps not loathsome, though the very fact that the prettiest girl manages to escape being painted as loathsome only adds to the cliche. It's unclear whether the protagonist is supposed to be loathsome, but he certainly is; he's petulantly obsessive, misanthropic in great disproportion to any actual wrongs he's suffered, and motivated only by recognition and sex, but he tries to call them by prettier words. The shots the movie takes at contemporary art are cheap, way overplayed, and seemingly utterly uninformed by any contact with actual contemporary art: there's a lot of stuff you have to call bullshit on, but that doesn't mean that there's not lots of other stuff that's good, or that no one in art school is motivated by actual passion to portray the world, at least in some small portion. Maybe we are meant to see the protagonist as genuinely talented, but his work is terrible; I am a better portraitist and I am certainly nothing special. In one short scene the main character goes home and the movie heaps equal quantities of scorn on the bourgie; everyone's obsessed with money or well-meaningly stupid, and they're tearing into turkey that the director apparently used some kind of glaze or filter on to make it look as foul as possible. There's a murder mystery with no actual mystery; the murder plot isn't sufficiently integrated into the story to care about it, until its obvious who the killer is, and it's not a surprising or interesting choice. At one point the camera lingers on the protagonist's vomit; that about sums up the attitude the movie has towards its characters and audience, except that might lead you to think the movie was somehow gritty or honest, when it wasn't.


 

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Shrewd logic

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.15.06

I keep marvelling at this:

I WAS LISTENING TO THE RADIO and heard Mary Cheney being interviewed about her new book. The interview turned on the contradiction of an "out" lesbian supporting the Bush campaign in light of its views on gay marriage -- but that seems a bit odd to me, given that John Kerry made very clear that his views on gay marriage were the same as Bush's: "'I'm against gay marriage,' he said. 'Everybody knows that.'" Or, as Kerry said on another occasion: "The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position."
I haven't read Mary Cheney's book, but it seems to me that given the apparent identity of the Bush and Kerry positions, a gay person might just as readily support one as the other. Unless, of course, you think that Kerry was lying about his position, in which case one might plausibly choose honesty over pandering, I suppose.
A lot of people on the left seem to regard her as a traitor, though, judging by the Amazon reviews. Apparently if you're gay, you're only allowed to support Democrats, whatever they say about gay marriage.

I see two significant fallacies and a generous helping of ressentiment. What's your count? It can be like a two minute mystery, only without a satisfying conclusion.


 

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They're Only Tracking Terrorists

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.15.06

And reporters. But that's the same thing, isn't it? ABC News' blog reports that a federal law enforcement official warned them that their telephone contacts were being monitored to track down their confidential sources. This is fucking insane. We live in America, and people have to worry that they can't make a phone call to a reporter without the federal government spying on them? I was certain this sort of thing was happening, but I am now livid with rage at this confirmation. These people disgust me. Via SusanG at Daily Kos.

So, who's up for organizing the Resistance? I'll bring beer.

Update: The FBI confirms that they are going through reporters' phone records. They aren't getting court orders under the Pen Register Act; instead, they are using "a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL)." NSLs are not court orders -- the FBI can issue them itself at whim without authorization from any impartial magistrate. Even though it appears this spying was done under color of law, this is confirmation, to me, that the Patriot Act is a bad, bad law. I do not trust this administration, or any administration, with this unchecked power.


 

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Viva La Resistance

Posted by Becks
on 05.15.06

In comments, Tia says:

See, you'll be valuable to the resistance when the fascist takeover is complete. I was just saying this weekend, prompted by Army of Shadows, that when the brownshirts are marching past the Washington Square Arch, I'm going to be utterly useless. There was this character, Mathilde, who was endlessly praised as "methodical," and "organized," and I realized I'd be all, "wait, was the signal three long and one short or three short and one long?" "Where the fuck did I put my cyanide caplets?" "Uh, you want me to jump out of a plane?" Plus, I giggle when I lie. I haven't thought of anything I could do besides stay at headquarters and pass stuff out.

I think this deserves a post. It's easy to sit around on the internets and complain about what the government is doing but I have to wonder, if the shit ever really hit the fan, would I have the guts to put my life on the line for the Resistance? (I'm not saying that's where things are really headed, but it's an interesting hypothetical.) I'd like to think that I would but I know how I've acted in the past and wonder if I'd have the guts. As we've seen with the right-wing chickenhawks, it's one thing to talk a big game and praise ideals in writing but a whole other thing to put your ass on the line and risk your life.

In "Army of Shadows", we're reminded that the resistance wasn't the glamorous, exciting adventure that it is often portrayed in movies and books. As Salon says in its review:

But Melville himself [the director, who had been in the resistance], in a 1971 interview, noted, "Don't forget that there are more people who didn't work for the Resistance than people who did" -- apparently, he was as aware as his young detractors were that many of the older generation had greatly exaggerated their involvement in the fight to free France. And without using anything so blatant as actual words, he says as much in "Army of Shadows": The isolation of these freedom fighters, the way they seem to be the only people -- or the only Frenchmen -- left in the country is so palpable...What does it mean to love your country so much that you'd swallow a cyanide pill for it, even as your own government is happily running it into the ground?...That's something Melville...instinctively understood about patriotism: The very thing that we need to hold us together is actually the loneliest game in town.


 

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Dealbreaker?

Posted by Tia
on 05.15.06

I'm pretty flexible about who I'll date. Are these exclusion criteria very restrictive? I think not. Heck, my last, best relationship was with a man who doesn't read for pleasure. (Rather, he doesn't read books for pleasure. He does read blogs and keep up with the news.) I'm still a little astonished that I ended up with a non-reader. Of course, he didn't advertise that to me when I first met him, and he had a fairly literate blog, so I had no reason to suspect it. By the time I found out, I already liked him and could see past it.

But a recent Nerve guy didn't use that strategy, and has announced his unsavory quality in his first email to me. I wouldn't be surprised if he did it on purpose, because he wants to get it out of the way, and screen out any woman who'd reject him for it. And even though this quality wasn't on my would-not-date list, and he seems handsome and otherwise desirable, every time I consider emailing him I feel a little catch in my chest and I think, "That? Could I possibly respect him?"

In his own words:

I should also mention that I am a professional astrologer (more unlicensed therapist than fortune teller).

I'm trying to put my finger on what seems different--and worse--to me about astrology than any other religious belief I don't share, and I'm having trouble doing it. I wouldn't put "Christian" down on a would-not-date list. It probably would go on a would-not-marry list, but on the other hand, it's hard to predict who you'll wind up with. I wouldn't have foreseen falling in love with a non-reader, but somehow I did. But I don't think I could tolerate a sincere belief in astrology even for a fling, at least if the guy in question mentions it up front, before other crushy feelings could make it bearable. Can anyone take a stab at articulating why I might be reacting this way? I'm a little confused about what's distinguishing it in my viscera from any number of other beliefs I find irrational.


 

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(.)(.)

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.15.06

The article is a bit behind the times, given that we covered this topic in detail last February, but it's the Times (UK, not NY) so I guess that's to be expected. Anyhow, Caitlin Moran's "Why I called my boobs Simon & Garfunkel" is entertaining, even if nothing quite rises to the level of Hook&Lefty, the Lumpenproletariat, or Wally Jumblatts. "Pudding trolley," though, deserves points for originality. Really, take a moment to experience how good it feels to throw one's hands in the air and shout, "Pudding trolley! Hooray!" Chances are, even out in public, nobody will take offense. They will just assume you're insane.


 

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Hey Adam, Why Not STFU?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.14.06

Adam Nagourney has an article in Sunday's NY Times:Hey Democrats, Why Win?. He lists reasons that taking control of either the House or the Senate would be bad for the Democrats: people would expect Democrats to be responsible for fixing things, and they might not be able to deliver; out-of-control leftists might want to investigate Republicans, which could look like revenge, and voters would hate that; and Nancy Pelosi is just so bad on TV.

With all due respect, who gives a damn about any of that? Of course voters will hold Democrats responsible for fixing things, in so far as they have the power. Voters should: there's absolutely no point in voting for anyone unless you believe that they will improve matters where they can. That's the whole point of being in power; you have the capacity to govern, and you get the credit when things go well, and the blame when things go poorly. Anyone who can seriously argue that it's better to let the country go to hell, so long as we won't be blamed for it, than to take power and responsibility for making things better at the risk of being blamed for failure, has completely lost sight of what the purpose of politics is. If Nagourney wants to report on a race where the ultimate point is to make people like you, let him go write about American Idol.


 

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Least likely to garner sympathy

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.14.06

Is there any lesbian less sympathetic than Mary Cheney?

In a memoir published Tuesday, the 37-year-old lesbian describes a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a "gross affront'' to gay Americans and reveals she almost quit the Republican campaign after President George W. Bush's endorsement of the legislation two years ago....When Bush later endorsed a constitutional amendment to expressly forbid gay marriage, Cheney "seriously considered packing up my office and heading home'' to the house she shared in Colorado with her longtime partner, Heather Poe.
It "gave me a knot in the pit of my stomach to think of my candidate for president endorsing the federal marriage amendment,'' she writes. The gay marriage ban "would write discrimination into the constitution, our nation's most important and influential document,'' Cheney says in the book. "It is fundamentally wrong and a gross affront to gays and lesbians everywhere.'' In her interview with Diane Sawyer, Cheney said of Bush: "I think he's a very good man. On these issues, he hasn't caught up.'' Cheney is less generous to Kerry and Edwards, who she accuses of "sleazy'' politics for mentioning she was gay during debates with Bush and her father.

Mention her homosexuality: "son of a bitch" and "slime ball." Do something "fundamentally wrong" by "writ[ing] discrimination into the constitution": "a good man" who "hasn't caught up." Well, at least she claims to have felt bad about the whole thing.

Via Martini Republic.


 

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