Meanwhile, in the other country with thousands of nukes, it gets even worse.
Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and author who made her name as a searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment building, shot in the head with a pistol ... A Makarov 9-millimeter pistol had been dropped at her side, the signature of a contract killing.
As this US State Department release notes, this is the twelfth murder of a journalist in Russia in the past six years.
Does anyone know of a good examination of the possible foreign policy consequences of Russia's reversion to autocracy?
Meanwhile, far from the Middle East...
Gunfire rang out Saturday along the heavily armed no man's land separating the divided Koreas, as regional tensions mounted in anticipation of communist North Korea's plan to test its first atomic bomb. South Korean soldiers fired about 40 shots as a warning after five North Korean soldiers crossed a boundary in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two country's forces, South Korean military officials said.
It was unclear whether the North Korean advance was intended as a provocation, or was rather an attempt to go fishing at a nearby stream, an official at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on condition of anonymity, citing official policy. Four of the North Koreans were unarmed and the fifth carried a rifle, the official said. No one was hurt, and the North Koreans retreated.
Columbia will review information and images posted on students' Facebook profiles as part of its investigation into Wednesday night's Minutemen brawl, a University spokesman confirmed Thursday evening...The investigation comes after a violent protest broke out in Roone Arledge Auditorium during a speech by Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, an organization that patrols the U.S.-Mexican border for illegal immigrants. Shortly after the speaker took the stage, several audience members rushed onto the stage with banners, sparking a physical conflict and prompting the early cancellation of the speech...As of late Thursday night, 13 Columbia students and alumni had joined a Facebook group titled, "YES, I was there when Gilchrist was rushed faster than CUFT's Quarterback."
You know that administrators always check the site, right? And that they'll bring the photo of you smoking up to your misconduct committee hearing? Just saying.
I haven't read or seen the Ensler play. Brooks describes the relevant section in this way:
Foley is now universally reviled. But the Ensler play, which depicts the secretary’s affair with the 13-year-old as a glorious awakening, is revered. In the original version of the play, the under-age girl declares, “I say, if it was a rape, it was a good rape, then, a rape that turned my [vagina] into a kind of heaven.” When I saw Ensler perform the play several years ago in New York, everyone roared in approval. Ensler has since changed the girl’s age to 16 — the age of Foley’s pages — and audiences still embrace the play and that scene at colleges and in theaters around the world.
Is this a fair characterization of that part of The Vagina Monologues? That is, is it a fair reading to say that the play endorses the actions of this character? If the play endorses this behavior, it's not enough to suggest, as Roy does, that the distinction between fiction and nonfiction is sufficient to rebut Brooks' point. We make moral judgments about characters and narratives all the time, and our moral responses to them are accountable to the same consistency pressures that are brought to bear on our everyday moral judgments about actual circumstances. (It's interesting that our moral responses are less apt for suspension than our [dis]belief[s], since we're able to imagine with ease various counterfactual scenarios but we have a harder time imagining worlds in which basic moral principles are false.) Hence I think that enthusiastic moral endorsement of a fictional representation-and-endorsement of an act is, in some important ways, just like the moral endorsement of the actual act. (While it might be emotionally satisfying to engage with a fiction in which a bully gets punched in the face, but, if you're actually opposed to face-punching, I think you have to admit that your satisfaction isn't a moral endorsement, on pain of inconsistency.)
Again, haven't read the play, so everything's in a big conditional.
Let's play "do a better job answering a question written to a sex column than the lame-ass columnist".
From Time Out New York, an interesting question inadequately answered:
You meet an exciting new person and start “the dance”: flirtatious conversations and e-mails, or even outrageous acts of courtship. So after the postwork margarita, you’re ready for that first taste of intimacy and each other. The question I have is, how sexual should you be the first time? If a woman gives her new lover a ravenous blow job, is he going to be thinking, Jesus she must be giving a lot of head to be that good?...So how much of one’s sexual repertoire does one display the first, second or third time he or she goes to bed? When is it okay to reveal some fetishes and break out the whole arsenal of sex toys, strap-ons, whips and chains?...So do we hold back during those first few lovemaking sessions or let all our passions and desires come out?
I've always liked this opera in part because the plot hinges on that reliable engine of mythic drama, the ill-conceived vow based on a definite description. Shipwrecked in a terrible storm, Idomeneo, King of Crete, promises to sacrifice the first person he sees on shore if only he survives. And that person turns out to be...his son Idamante! Seriously, what are the odds?
This is in the news because of Deutsch Oper's decision to cancel a production of Idomeneo that involved the title character pulling the severed head of the Prophet Mohammed, may peace be upon him, from a sack. Now Ezra tells us that Peter Beinart is pissed about the silence of the liberal blogs on this, since by focusing on our love of steamroom we're undermining the West. Ezra:
First of all, free speech is fine. German's politicians -- including its prime minister -- roundly criticized the decision. You can call the Deutsche Oper cowardly, or overcautious -- but speech is no less free because an opera house decides not to run a performance. Happens all the time, in fact.
More importantly, the merry racists over at Little Green Footballs aren't pumping the Idomeneo controversy because they're deeply committed to artistic freedom. These are David Horowitz acolytes, after all. They're doing it because it furthers their other political ends. They're doing it for the same reasons Bush noticed the oppression of Afghani women after 9/11, or the right remembered Hussein had human rights abuses when they decided to attack Iraq. Painting Arabs as beastly and illiberal fits their expansionist political agenda, which calls for sustained, often violent confrontation with the Arab world.
Few liberals want any part in that foreign policy agenda. And so few liberals have any interest in buttressing the administration's supporting arguments. Too many recall how their genuine concern and outrage over abuses in Iraq was conscripted in service of a misguided, heavily politicized, war that included human rights abuses of its own. Given a government that thinks nothing of suspending Habeas Corpus, is criticizing the Deutsche Oper likelier to protect free speech or deploy bombers?
Agreed that Beinart certainly sounds like a tool here: "Free speech is under threat, and Idomeneo should be the last straw." No, the last straw should be when people get arrested for telling Cheney that he's wrong on Iraq. And it's not clear what Americans are supposed to do about this anyway. Nonetheless, there's something very disturbing about these chilling effects. A right is indeed no less a right when someone chooses not to exercises it, but de jure rights mean nothing in the face of de facto impediments to their use. It seems to me that just as defenders of abortion rights should be angry when clinic protesters intimidate women out of seeking abortions, defenders of free speech should be angry when a similar fringe group manages to (in fact) limit completely permissible expression. Boo for the heckler's veto!
That said, we can surely agree that the LGF crowd is toolish, since they're clearly not about the opera or about free speech; they're about the Decline of the West. And it's in Germany, so I'm a little bit unclear on what we're supposed to do about this, anyway. Our next step: fund a German production of something really, really gay in order to prompt a ringing defense of graphic depictions of sodomy from the Malkin wing of the blogosphere.
Even if the list is made more accurate, it won't help thousands of innocent travelers who share a common name on the list and who get detained, sometimes for hours, when they attempt to fly.
Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names. Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly. The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels.
I can't be the only blues fan who got a chill when I read the next line.
"Well, Robert Johnson will never get off the list," says Donna Bucella...
Because he sold his soul to the devil. Some things are forever.
I hate to toot my own horn, but did you know that the Google image search for "ogged" takes you to one of the greatest pages in human history?
The chatting went well and he has bluer eyes than I expected. He asked a couple times if I would be at Pub Quiz this weekend. (No, I'll be at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and are you sure you don't want to hang out for dinner one night?) But he didn't ask for my number or anything. I see him around town a fair amount. I'm sure I'll see him again. Should I be even more forward than walking up to his table and introducing myself? Or with that kind of opening, should I expect that he would ask me out if he were single and interested?
This is totally suck-it-up-and-make-the-move territory, right?
Kos points out a really useful short term project -- get more Democrats to the polls. Unregistered voters can still register, if they do it now.
So think of who you know who isn't going to get around to voting, and get them registered, and hassle them on Election Day until they go vote.
It's the sort of thing Republicans do so well, and there's no reason we can't learn from them.
In an earlier post, I asked if there were any way to close off the possibility of the administration's making a surprise attack on Iran, specifically asking:
I know we don't have the votes to pass it, but couldn't the Democrats in Congress at least introduce a resolution stating that Congress does not approve of any military action against Iran unless and until the Administration clears it through Congress first?
It was brought to my attention recently that Reps. De Fazio and and Hinchey offered an amendment to the 2007 Pentagon appropriations bill that would have specifically barred the administration from launching a military attack on Iran without congressional authorization. 158 members of the House voted for it, but 262 voted against and it failed. In other words, a majority of the House seems to have gone on record in favor of letting the president start wars illegally, a fairly discouraging development.
Matt Y. calls this discouraging. I, on the other hand, am delighted: at least someone in the House is trying. I just wish this sort of thing got more publicity. Goddam Liberal Media.
Ok, you bastards, suppose that we were to undertake an Unfogged Collective Action. What would it be? The Agitator took up the cause of Corey Maye, Katherine was the place to go for information about rendition, and lots of blogs try to get a candidate elected, etc. What goal could we pursue that is not insignificant, but also not unreasonable? Become the bloggy source for all things habeas? Become advocates for one or some of the Gitmo detainees? Try to get a Dem elected to a congressional seat? Try to raise money for some group or cause? Undertake a letter-writing, media-swaying campaign on an issue? Become roving journalists on a given topic? Whatever we do, we should know at the outset what we hope to accomplish, and what success or failure will look like. But I'm just brainstorming here, people. Help me out.
Also, I (all of us, in fact) will be damned if this blog becomes earnest, so if we do this, we have to take a solemn vow that for every bit of good that we do, we have to offer two cock jokes to the cock gods and make fun of handicapped people a little.
Andrew at ObWi and Jim Henley have both put up reactions to this essay, which that libertarians should think about becoming libertarian Democrats, partially because corporate power is a greater threat to individual liberty than state power. And their reactions are similar -- both point out (roughly, and leaving to one side whether Republicans are better or worse along this axis -- this is purely a libertarian v. Democrat argument) that the libertarian viewpoint is that corporations are only a threat to the liberty of the individual because they co-opt the power of the state, so the real problem is state power, and that they can't agree with Democrats because Democrats favor more state power.
This critique is true as far as it goes -- corporations can't jail you or take your property away without state assistance or at least toleration of their behavior -- but I don't think it gets you to the libertarian position: that 'reducing the power of the state' will make people freer, because if the state hasn't got the power, than corporations can't co-opt it. In practice, it's not clear to me that 'reducing the power of the state' is possible, short of a literal anarchy in which the government has no police powers at all. When people talk about reducing the power of government, they generally seem to be talking about simplifying government: fewer regulations, fewer agencies. But no matter how simple government gets, it's going to retain the power to punish crime, and to decide disputes about property ownership in the courts -- it has just as much power, the power is simply exercised in less complex ways. And once it has those powers, and no more, that's enough for corporations to co-opt in ways that make individuals less free.
If we go back before the New Deal and the modern regulatory state, in a time when government was as 'small' as possible, government power was still used by corporations to oppress individuals. When corporations brought the Pinkertons in to break strikes, the Pinks started the riots, but the strikers went to jail -- the force of the state was used to punish individuals for resisting corporate power. In the classic melodramatic Western plot, Snidely Whiplash isn't going to take Tess Trueheart's ranch away by force; he's going to foreclose on it, legally, and she hasn't got access to the courts to prove that the deed he has is false -- the power of the state is used to transfer property from the rightful owner to a more powerful thief. The power to compel the individual is inherent in any government that exists and that power is always vulnerable to being misused by powerful people or businesses. You simply can't keep that from happening by not giving power to government in the first place, because there's no such thing as a government with less power than the power to jail people or decide who is the owner of property.
So as a liberal who's very concerned with individual freedom, I don't think it's meaningful to analyze policy in terms of whether it gives more or less power to the government. Any government that is a government has the power to oppress, and that power is always vulnerable to being wrongfully used against individuals by powerful private forces, at which point it's not terribly important to the subject of the oppression whether they are being oppressed by a corporation, or by the government at a corporation's behest. The important questions are questions about transparency, accountability, and control. While there is simply no way to have a government too weak to oppress, or to be used by private forces to oppress, we can work toward having a government that is under the control of the people it serves and protects them from private oppression rather than serving the private oppressors.
Update: David Weman has a reaction at his new blog, which sums up the argument very succinctly:
As a good liberal (in the proper sense), I’m well aware that the state is dangerous, but you can’t make the governement less dangerous by making it smaller.
I'm a long way from figuring out what to do in our new illiberal democracy, but I do know some people in Canada, and they've been scoping out places to live for me, and keeping an ear open for jobs. I've also been looking at job postings at places like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but the good stuff at those places is reserved for lawyers. There must be lots of other places that are doing good work where I might be able to find a job (nevermind doing what). Do y'all know of them?
While you're thinking that over, read Susan's post. Preach it, sister.
A [West Virginia] state senator said he is evaluating whether to continue his bid for a second term after a Charleston television station aired revealing pictures of him last week. [...] An apologetic White also wrote that he was "shocked" and "horribly embarrassed" after WCHS-TV aired photos depicting him and at least two other men wearing only body paint. [...]
"The pictures were taken approximately two years ago in private and were stolen from my personal computer," said White, 51, a married father of three. "I am not sure why they were given to the media, but I must assume for obvious political reasons." [...]
White did not mention extortion during a brief Monday interview with The Associated Press or in Tuesday's letter. White wrote that he had been working with his family to overcome a "personal identification situation" and to overcome depression for which he has been treated through medication for over a year.
"I am a religious person and have been for some months praying to God to help my family and me through this tragic and troubling episode in my life," the letter said.
To help you form your mental image, this is Randy White.
So, should they have let this guy on the plane? Keep in mind that he probably looks at least as mexican as ogged:
A 32-year-old man speaking Tamil and some English about a sporting rivalry was questioned at Sea-Tac Airport and missed his flight Saturday because at least one person thought he was suspicious....
[Airport spokesman Bob] Parker said it is incumbent on airport officials to investigate reports of suspicious activity.
"It's hard to triage over the phone," he said.
But Parker had no explanation as to why a man speaking Tamil, which is spoken worldwide, would be considered suspicious. The person who contacted airport officials could give an answer to that question, he added.
Parker said the man was cooperative and boarded a later flight to Texas. He told officials that he would not speak in a foreign language on his cell phone at an airport in the future.
Whew, lesson learned! Awesome comment from the thread on the article (helpfully entitled "What kind of suspicious activity have you noticed at SeaTac Airport?"):
Ok, so now we have new threats. Same old thing, except if you want to get through the airport smoothly, follow a few more common sense rules. Don't jabber on your cell phone while walking down the ramp in a language that no one but you understands.
"Jabber" has a nice, macaca-esque ring to it, don't you find? I am reminded of Apu's complaint at being labelled "miscellaneous" by Rev. Lovejoy: "Hindu! There are 700 million of us, you know!" "Ah, that's super." (Wikipedia says there are 80 million Tamil speakers in the world. Not many more than speak the Irtysh dialect of Ostyak, really.)
It would be kind of awesome if airport staff had been thinking of how Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam pioneered various suicide bombing techniques in their struggle against the Sinhalese, but I just don't think that was it.
UPDATE: I tried to put part of this under the fold, but wasn't having much luck. I added paragraph tags by hand to avoid font size weirdness, and I must have screwed up somewhere, but I don't see where. So, long it is.
"As I started to mention somewhere in the comments, I have at least one student who is playing off me in a sexual way, so I thought, to get all the ladies in the class to want him. The class is (in some ways) the history of ethics and sexuality in literature, and calls up all kinds of super-intense feelings in my students, but usually they've figured out how to talk about them in abstractions. This kid seems to be thinking about how all this knowledge of human sexuality might get him in the pants of various people.
"As of today, this seems not to be the case. My approach of flirting back with this student (the SGEB) has backfired. Meanwhile, he seems to enlisted the most gorgeous, brilliant girl in the class to flirt with me too. I think it might be a competition to see who can get to me first. It is killing me. They have the bizarre combination of blushing, passive 21-year-oldness that sets off my predator instincts, plus the extreme aggressiveness that sets off all my hopeless victim instincts. When one isn't at it, the other is. When I call one of them on it in class in my dorkily direct way, the other laughs pointedly.
"It's subtle enough that I can't tell them to fuck off. It's direct enough that I know exactly what they're doing. It's not okay by college standards to have sex with either one of them. My boyfriend broke up with me a week ago and I am way fucking vulnerable. I think, if either of them propositioned me, I would be aware enough to say no. If either of them tried something, though, I would be totally screwed. I feel like a noose of seduction is tightening around my throat. It might be a game to them, but I'm only human and my career would be easily ruined. Yet, there's at least two parts out of three in me that can't help but feel like this is totally fucking awesome.
"How do I kill it?"
Always good for a few yucks when you send an email to the boss that you meant to send to someone else. Luckily, it was more along the lines of "let's have a plan for discussing this with the boss" than "let's kill the boss and smear his entrails on the walls." The boss, being basically a funny guy, played it straight and responded, "yeah, I think a plan would be good."
This story is just bizarre. Bob Woodward's new book mentioned that George Tenet gave Condolezza Rice a particularly fervent briefing on July 10, 2001, on Al Qaeda's intent to attack domestically and overseas. Administration officials questioned the story, and Rice is now saying that she doesn't remember the meeting.
What's even the point of denying something like this? There are records. The meeting took place. All it does is makes them all look shifty and dishonest.
M. Leblanc is coming to NYC tomorrow. Let's have a meetup!
UPDATE: Luca Lounge at 220 Avenue B at 7:30 PM. Closest subway is the L at 1st Avenue.
People of Earth, Veronica Mars, which is really a very good show, premieres its third season tonight. I say this not for your benefit, because I don't care about you, but because despite being a very good show, it's only been picked up for half a season, and could be cancelled if you don't all watch. That would suck for me, but more importantly, it would suck for Catherine, who would cry (after she beat you up).
Gary has a roundup of conservative bloggers who are finally disgusted with the Republicans in Congress. Goodness only knows what's taken them all so long, but it's fun to watch them go.
Does anyone know why back ribs are so much cheaper than short ribs? Are short ribs fashionable or something?
Trophy husband on the market -- act fast.
Funny, intelligent, warm and generous, well-read and well-traveled.
Harvard degree, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, in good shape. Dark hair and eyes. Still young and vigorous.
Interested in a big wedding and raising a family (2-4 kids) while you work and support the family. Will try to be a novelist in the quiet hours. No motivation whatsoever beyond raising kids, reading great magazines in bed, discussing politics, volunteering from time to time, and traveling around the world. Number one priority: making a great wife happy.
(Note: Willing to be a trophy boyfriend for those interested parties who are already married.)
As a house husband, this guy would be worthless: he advertises no useful skills. But even as a trophy husband, I have my doubts. Isn't Job One of being a trophy anything to look good? When a trophy husband won't even call himself "handsome," nevermind something like "a smoldering hunk," isn't that a red flag? And what really annoys me about this ad is that it seems to promise some things without actually doing so. "Young and vigorous" is clearly code for "will satisfy you sexually." But what "young and vigorous" means in the real world is "have trouble telling the difference between sex and pounding the heavy bag." Worst of all is this: "Number one priority: making a great wife happy. " A generous reading would take that "great" as a signal of the capacity for devotion, but given the rest of the ad, I think it's actually a condition. I'll make you happy, as long as you're great. So sad.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs and trunkless legs of stone
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned. From her beacon-hand
Which yet survives, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, cries she
With silent lips: “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The Editors outdoes himself with a re-imagined Foley IM session. So awesome.
Book recommendation threads are always a smashing success, so help me out, readers of Unfogged. The only rule is that the works have to be non-fiction; history, philosophy, theology, economics, current affairs, sociology, pop culture, whatever at all is fine, as long as it's non-fiction. It can be dense and difficult, or total fluff; it can be related to what's happening in the world now, or it can be the diary of an 18th century Nepalese teenager. If you're an academic, feel free to recommend the best stuff in your field, even if it's a journal article. Are you getting the idea? Recommend excellent stuff, and don't worry about whether you think I'd like it. (Though a note about what it is and why you think it's excellent would be helpful.)
I'm kind of fascinated by things like this, so maybe you are too. Video of Mohammad Atta and Ziad Jarrah yucking it up (and recording their wills) in 2000.
Anyone else having a hard time figuring out what people are saying on The Wire this season?
Part of what makes torture torture is the fact that you don't know whether you'll be killed by your interrogators. Nevertheless, this video of a Current TV correspondent being waterboarded gives us some idea of what the practice is like.
Thanks to Charlie Whitaker in comments for pointing us to the video, and kudos to Current TV.
Is anyone else feeling a little bit upset first that the Foley thing might end up having more traction than Abramoff or the detainee bill or what have you, and second, that if it does, it will be partly because of teh gay angle?
I got a reply to my Nerve ad which I found very mildly unpleasant in its sexual effrontery. It had the whole, "I apologize for being so bold, but you inspired me" maneuver, and then it went on to spin out a sexual scenario involving the two of us, trailing off before anyone was penetrated, I think. I don't have a problem with this in principle, obviously; certainly some of my Craigslist ads would merit such a response, but my Nerve ad really doesn't; it's good humored and goofy and only recently I stuck in some common code words, but even the way I did that had a sort of "my picture's on this thing and I'm bashful" tone to it. I'm an old-fashioned girl, thanks, and I don't appreciate people talking about the moisture level of my genital area until I have clearly invited them to. And more importantly, even, what ever happened to flirting? It betrays a certain poverty of imagination to skip straight to super explicit sex talk; if you can't manage a double entendre or two, do I want to date you? Maybe not. So his Nerve name kind of resembles "Yosemite Sam" in its number of syllables and its stresses, which inspired me to write to him:
I know it's not the intention, but your Nerve name reminds me of Yosemite Sam. I'm now imagining you in bed, asking, "Who's the meanest, toughest, rip-roarin'-est, Edward Everett Horton-est hombre that ever packed a six-shooter?" and making the woman in question (dressed in a bunny costume, bien sur) gasp, "You are!" in response.
The point of this post is just to report that I've amused myself, and the fashion in which I did it.
(I then went on to explain pretty gently why he'd invited some teasing and telling him my name, so if he wants to be good-humored I'm giving him a chance. I'm not just being mean.)
Part two of my journey through the Times, apparently. The magazine's article on Thomas Quasthoff is interesting and well worth reading if you haven't heard his story before.
As his fans well know but newcomers absorb with a jolt, the 46-year-old Quasthoff is a thalidomide victim, one of thousands of deformed children born to women who took the drug (marketed as Contergan in his native Germany) for insomnia or morning sickness during pregnancy. He spent much of his early childhood in an institution for the severely handicapped and grew up to receive music’s highest accolades, including three Grammy awards. With an appearance and life story so compellingly strange, it would be easy for the miracle of his perseverance and triumph, or the miracle of such a powerful and deep voice emerging from such a small body, to overwhelm the concert experience. Instead, if there is anything miraculous about Quasthoff, it is that a few minutes into a recital you stop thinking about his physique. Without the freedom to move about the stage or to make dramatic gestures, he channels all of his feeling into his expressive face and subtly shaded voice. Unavoidably, he has grabbed your attention with the novelty of his look, but he holds you with his ability to communicate the mood and meaning of a song.
As a young man, Thomas’s father had nurtured vocal ambitions of his own, until his promising start as a singer was cut short by a convergence of personal and historical events: the death of his own father, the onset of the Second World War and his marriage in the impoverished environment of postwar Germany. To earn a living, he entered the civil service. It was a stroke of real-life poetry that the child whose prospects seemed so hopeless would grow up to realize his father’s unfulfilled dream.
Is Walter Benn Michaels kidding about this?
Why is it a tragedy if Tlingit disappears? Although we can all agree it’s a bad thing to try to get people to stop using their language, it’s hard to see why it’s a bad thing if their language disappears. Why? Because the very thing that made it a mistake for the missionaries to try to stop people from speaking Native American languages (it’s not as if English was better) makes it a mistake to care whether people continue to speak Native American languages (it’s not as if English is worse).
No, it's bad because it makes linguists cry, or, more seriously, because the death of a language is the desctruction of an interesting artifact; when they disappear, we've paved over another archeological dig. It's odd when an English professor becomes that guy who asks, of half the departments on campus, "well what the hell is that good for?"