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One Hand Clapping

Posted by Ogged
on 02.10.07

Did it happen, and what would it mean if it did?



 

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He Seems To Have Rhythm

Posted by Ogged
on 02.10.07

Debra Dickerson on Colbert, claiming that Obama isn't "black." There's a distinction to be made between african-americans and "african african-americans," but black/not-black ain't it. Colbert has much fun...


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So much to answer for

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.10.07

It's not that we make a mess of the hard things that gets me; it's that we make a mess of the easy things as well. Most of you are familiar with the facts in this article on lethal injection, but it's still worth a read.

In California, the case of Michael Angelo Morales v. James E. Tilton also pits a murderer and rapist of a high-school girl against a warden. Hearings started in January 2006, and since that time Judge Fogel has heard from nine anonymous members of the state Department of Corrections execution team (which currently includes no doctors), he has listened to testimony from a veterinary expert in euthanizing gorillas and he has visited the execution chamber in San Quentin. Through this process, he and the public have learned that two members of the execution team previously had been arrested for drunken driving, that one had taken mental-health leave for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from working in the prison system and that another had taken two months' medical leave to recover from a fight with an inmate. One member described the execution team's training by saying: "Training? We don't have training, really." A nurse responsible for mixing the drugs, when asked how much she knew about the anesthetic, said: "I don't study. I just do the job. I don't want to know about it." Another team member dismissed mistakes by saying that "[expletive] does happen." The team leader knew neither how many syringes of each of the lethal drugs should be injected nor how to tell if a condemned inmate was deeply unconscious, and he had previously been fired for bringing narcotics into San Quentin. The execution team injected the drugs from an adjoining room, which was illuminated only by a dim light bulb. The IV bags hung from so high up that team members couldn't see if they were dripping properly.


 

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Sunday Styles: Three Excerpts

Posted by Becks
on 02.10.07

To strike fear and loathing into all of your hearts.

Number 1 (in response to the proliferation of Save The Date cards):

"I just got one for a wedding in London in June," said Jamee Gregory, an author, columnist and popular figure on the New York social scene. "I already feel traumatized because I don't like to leave my garden on Long Island in June. When someone invites you that early, you can't just say you've already made plans to be in Capri at a friend's villa. It's too early for that, so it actually stops you from lying."

Number 2 (on choosing whether to adopt a spouse's name upon marriage):

you could always try the technique of one enterprising couple: let your dog make the decision by building a contraption rigged with treats and levers that old Spot nudges with his nose during your actual wedding ceremony to select the name you, your spouse and your future children will have for the rest of your lives.

Number 3 (The horror! The horror!):

His latest book, "Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit and Devotion," a collection of essays from this column, is just out from Three Rivers Press.

 

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If The Sky Were Filled With Titties

Posted by Ogged
on 02.10.07

It would look hella awesome.



 

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What Gets Them Off

Posted by Ogged
on 02.10.07

In a long New Yorker piece about 24 in which we learn that executive producer Joel Surnow is almost a caricature of a thoughtless right-winger, and that the show's depictions of torture and its outcomes are so celebratory that instructors from West Point went to California to explain that they should be toned down, we also get this gem from a guy who manages to combine several of my loathings in his person.

Surnow's rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced "The Path to 9/11," a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda ... Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him ... Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard "24" as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. "Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business," he said. "It's a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business--even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy."

I can't call this "America hating," owing to the fact that a secret government that kills people is precisely what we have. But I can laugh a deep, dark ugly laugh that Iran got rid of these guys nearly 30 years ago, only to have them and their ideas take over the discourse in America. Some values are universal, I guess.


 

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I am your father

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.09.07

Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband claims to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby:

The claim by Prince Frederick von Anhalt comes amid a paternity suit over Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. The birth certificate lists Dannielynn's father as attorney Howard K. Stern, but former Smith boyfriend Larry Birkhead is waging a legal challenge, saying he is the father.

It's sad when the phrase "throwing his hat into the ring" comes to mind in a paternity dispute.


 

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Choke On This

Posted by Ogged
on 02.09.07

Rigorous first-rate thinker Steven Landsburg writes,

Among the highest paid corporate executives, only 2.5 percent are women. Among the most elite scientists (those who have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences), fully 9 percent are women ... Here I just want to talk about one bit of evidence regarding one of the many factors that might be in play: Women--especially high-achieving women--choke under pressure.

He points to two pieces of research, one about professional tennis players, and one about engineering students completing mazes. Let's throw out the tennis players, since almost all quantification of sports is bunk. And let's skip Landsburg's gloss on the maze research and go straight to the abstract (pdf).

Even though the provision of equal opportunities for men and women has been a priority in many countries, large gender differences prevail in competitive high-ranking positions. Suggested explanations include discrimination and differences in preferences and human capital. In this paper we present experimental evidence in support of an additional factor: women may be less effective than men in competitive environments, even if they are able to perform similarly in noncompetitive environments. In a laboratory experiment we observe, as we increase the competitiveness of the environment, a significant increase in performance for men, but not for women. This results in a significant gender gap in performance in tournaments, while there is no gap when participants are paid according to piece rate. This effect is stronger when women have to compete against men than in single-sex competitive environments: this suggests that women may be able to perform in competitive environments per se.

Someone please explain to me why women's reaction to competitive situations is "an additional factor" instead of an important and integral part of what we mean when we discuss discrimination and socialization. Does anyone want to dispute that boys are encouraged to be mercilessly competitive, while girls are taught to help and share and be nice? This is one of the clearest, least arguable ways that the rearing of boys and girls differ. I've known some very competitive women, but they all struggle with it, usually by keeping it secret, and turning the competitiveness on themselves to become neurotic perfectionists. And I know, from my own experience, how it feels to second-guess your own competitiveness. Particularly when I used to play in pool tournaments, when there are clear "pressure shots," I could feel the part of me that not only wanted to make the shot, but also wanted the other guy to literally die, but, especially when I played against friends, there was also a part of me that didn't want to hurt them, and thought that everyone would be happier all around if I let them win. There's a real sense of shame in feeling triumphant, and my guess is that it's much more acute for women than for men.

So it wouldn't surprise me at all if, when the pressure's on, women become more aware that the competition matters, which makes them ease off, with their girl-training overriding their competitiveness.


 

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But They Have No Verve Nowadays

Posted by Ogged
on 02.09.07

Tucker Carlson says it's "hard to call [Obama's religion] Christianity." But I stay my fatwa hand by reading Sue's blog.

When John Jay concluded a trade treaty with Britain in 1794, an editor wrote "John Jay, ah! the arch traitor--seize him, drown him, burn him, flay him alive." Graffiti on a Federalist's house read, "Damn John Jay! Damn everyone who won't damn John Jay!! Damn everyone that won't put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay!!!"

It has always been an insane country.

In return, the Federalists called the Democratic Republicans "a despicable mobocracy," "Gallic jackals," "frog-eating, man-eating, blood drinking cannibals" who wanted churches to burn and guillotines to appear in the public square.


 

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That's …

Posted by Ben
on 02.09.07

totally airwolf?
wizard cocksucker?
Or maybe it's cop show?

Discuss. Unrelatedly, how do you all feel about "Sandwich and Co." as a name for a bookstore that sold sandwiches (or a sandwichery that sold books)?


 

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Speaking Of Speaking Of Teh Gay

Posted by Becks
on 02.09.07

I was watching Top Design last night and one of the characters revealed that he was HIV positive. The reaction to the news from the other contestants on the show was very tame -- hell, the girl on Top Model who had revealed that she was going blind had gotten a bigger reaction. This probably has something to do with the fact that a number of the contestants on the show are gay and the rest surely have had a lot of exposure to the gay community but the fact that Bravo decided not to make a big deal out of it seems noteworthy.

The catchphrase "See You Later, Decorator", however, is an abomination.


 

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I'll Humanize Her

Posted by Alameida
on 02.09.07

So I'm pretty much a lock for the HRC campaign's top blogger spot, right? Nothing could go wrong there.


 

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Who owned 80s night?

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.09.07

It wasn't Colonel Mustard. It certainly wasn't Ogged, but you knew that already. Fontana Labs owned 80s night, honkies.

PS: thanks, sub shop, for staying open!


 

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Choose Your Own

Posted by Ogged
on 02.08.07

AllahPundit is one of the contributors to the Malkin-founded HotAir. It turns out that a while back he wrote,

Do Catholics really believe they are eating Christ when they take the host? Allah knows that your priests have a taste for flesh-the younger the better, it seems-but this is ridiculous. And you have the gall to mock Muslims for believing that Satan lives in their nostrils at night? Allah will admit that we have our eccentric beliefs like any other faith, but at least cannibalism is not part of the core curriculum. Stop chewing on Jesus, you ghoulish fucks.

Gotcha.

Except that, in context, it's clearly not meant to be taken straight. He's the AllahPundit, etc. So, tout the hypocrisy of the the Right, or take a pass on an unfair charge?

via atrios


 

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The 5-0

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.08.07

Many people are excited about the upcoming Police reunion. I am not. News of the performance brought these two wanktastic moments to mind:

First: not so long ago I was in a band that covered "Tea in the Sahara," which, I'll grant, is a fun song to play. But no one told me where it came from. Imagine my surprise on starting Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky-- oh, look, this little parable sounds familiar! And once you know that the song is lifted from the book, you think, hey, these lyrics are sort of artless. Then you think-- how many literary nods does it take? Sting just keeps going back to the bottomless well of pretensions. Yeah, ok, you read that famous book by Nah-buh-koff. I get it.

The sky turned to black
Would he ever come back?
They would climb a high dune
They would pray to the moon
But he'd never return
So the sisters would burn

Second: Let's all get together and sing the music of John Dowland!


 

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Sad news

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.08.07

We of Unfogged mourn the death of Anna Nicole Smith.


 

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Speaking of teh gay

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.08.07

After my morning workout and luxurious cleansing I noticed a guy in my row talking on his cell phone. I'm of the opinion that you really shouldn't be on the phone in the locker room unless it's a life-or-death sort of circumstance, and this clearly wasn't; from what I could tell he was talking to his girlfriend about his upcoming lunch date with the girlfriend's father, about being a little nervous, and so on. Before I had a chance to brain him with a dumbbell, though, he ended the conversation with "ok, talk to you later, Jack." Yikes. If you've got the nerve to phone your boyfriend from the men's locker room, I have to concede that you've earned the right to have cloying conversations wherever you please.


 

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The News

Posted by Ogged
on 02.08.07

Marcotte and McEwan NOT fired. The campaign's statement is here.

(We owe it all to slolernr.)



 

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Good On John Amaechi

Posted by Ogged
on 02.08.07

Former NBA player John Amaechi has come out as gay, and TrueHoop's Henry Abbott has a very nice post about it. In the comments there, someone relates this anecdote.

I think the best quote I've seen from an athlete on this subject came from Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina who...when asked whether he thought he could play on the same team as a gay man said: "I'm going to assume that I already have."

That's just perfect. Time to stop pretending.


 

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Counterpoint: If Edwards Has Fired Marcotte, It's A Major Screwup

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.08.07

Update: Good for John Edwards! They're not fired. An apology for the below post is hereby extended.

Ogged's post below on the Marcotte controversy gets it pretty squarely wrong on all counts. Most importantly, he's wrong that the decision to fire (it's hard to write this given the uncertainty about what's happened. I'll be writing as if she's been fired, and will retract and apologize to the Edwards campaign if that turns out to have been wrong) is less important than the decision to hire her in the first place. The Edwards campaign hired someone with an extensive public record that they knew was controversial; firing her for writings they knew about when they hired her at the behest of some rightwing nutbar like Donohue who thinks that the problem with Hollywood is that it's "controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," and that it "likes anal sex" demonstrates lack of loyalty to their people, and complete cowardice about standing up to anyone on the right, no matter how little credibility the attacker has. A candidate who invites controversy and then folds instantly when it develops doesn't look like the sort of person with the capacity to make it through a contested election, or to govern effectively. I'd been waffling between Edwards and Obama, but if this is what it looks like, Edwards just lost my vote.

It's also wrong to say that hiring Marcotte was a clear mistake. It was certainly a bold move, and one that might have backfired, but it made sense dog-whistle politics to send a message to people who read blogs that Edwards was going to stand up to the sort of bullying from the right that creates an atmosphere where Dick Cheney doesn't do himself any political damage at all by going on Rush Limbaugh's show, but if a liberal says 'Boo' it's a federal crime. We've got a double standard now, where right-wing freaks like Limbaugh and Coulter can say literally anything without it reflecting badly on politicians who associate with them, but liberals who go over the top are pariahs who have to be shunned. Marcotte's smart and funny, and no more politically incorrect than plenty of people who are respected on the right -- by hiring her, Edwards appeared to be sending a message that he wasn't buying into the double standard anymore. Now, that might have backfired -- she's certainly rowdy enough that all the rightwing bloggers clutching their pearls and fainting at the thought that anyone could possibly give her a job was clearly to be expected, and that could have turned into more political damage than benefit -- but it might have worked. (And the 'but she offended constituencies that are in play!' argument doesn't work. Rush doesn't do the Republicans any political harm, and women are generally understood to be a constituency that are in play. I figure the number of women offended by 'feminazi' is probably greater than the number of Catholics bothered by the kind of things Marcotte's said.)

And it's absolutely loopy to have fired Shakes along with her. Compared to Marcotte, Shakes' tone is measured and calm: the only reason to fire them both is guilt by association, freaking out at the thought of having scary feminist bloggers working for the campaign given that they make people mad. It looks weak, and panicky.

Edwards didn't have to hire Marcotte -- I can see good arguments for, and good arguments against. But firing her on the basis of the writings he already knew about when he hired her is a pathetically weak and silly thing to do. I'm not voting for a candiate who rolls over on his back and invites lunatics on the right to tear out his soft underbelly the first time he hears a little growling.


 

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It's Not His Military

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

The talk is about whether the president has the authority to expand the war to Iran, but it's a mistake to look at this as a legal/constitutional issue. What's outrageous is that Bush is treating American soldiers as if they're his personal military. It's not George Bush's military and Commander-in-Chief isn't a prize with privileges. Commander-in-Chief is a responsibility, and taking responsibility means more than saying "I'm responsible." It means that when you can't convince the country to send its kids to die somewhere, you have to take responsibility for your failure, and stand down. It doesn't mean that you can go ahead and do whatever you want, as long as you say sorry later.


 

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This Is Probably Not Nice

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

Salon says that Marcotte and McEwan have been fired. Then it says they might be re-hired. Whatever. I don't care. I just want to express some mild annoyance with all my lefty buddies. First point: explaining why Marcotte should never have been hired feels like explaining why Kucinich is never going to be president. If you need it explained to you, you need to set your course for reality and let us know when you get here. Second point: despite the efforts of the typically sagacious Greenwald and Benen to draw parallels, there's a crucial difference between the horrible things Republican operatives say and the "offensive" things Marcotte and McEwan have said: the latter are potentially offensive to a constituency that's in play. "Foul-mouthed" would have blown over, but "anti-Catholic" will not.

Someday, a rough-and-tumble but non-constituency-alienating blogger will be hired and if that's handled properly, it might inoculate future bloggers. But that's certainly not going to happen for this election. And debating whether Edwards should or shouldn't fire them isn't the issue: he shouldn't have hired them (Marcotte anyway; I'm not familiar with McEwan) in the first place, and there are no good options. The person he needs to fire is the person who decided to hire them--so, so stupid.


 

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Return To Sender

Posted by Becks
on 02.07.07

We haven't received any emails sent to unfogged.com email addresses for about a day. Some bounce; others look like they go through but are never received. So if you've sent us something and we haven't gotten back to you, that's why. (Or we're ignoring you.)

We were just alerted to this problem and are working on it.

From Ogged: Working now.


 

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Lesbian ... With A Conscience!

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

The fabulously coiffed Moira considers.

...we stood there, six lipstick lesbians (well, I am more of a Burt's Bees lesbian), uninterested in the hetero feeding frenzy around us, and yet we were still swarmed by men, wanting to buy us drinks. I find this fascinating. They know we're together, we're ignoring them, we're not wearing hootchie dresses (and the hootchie dresses were out in force), we're not drunk, and we are definitely not into them. And yet the drinks keep coming.

Query for the class: is it ethical to accept drinks from these guys? They seem nice enough. Maybe clueless or desperate or just hoping that enough booze will make us bisexual. Knowing that no quantity of booze would, however, is it right to accept the $17 cocktail? My GF was okay with it, and I certainly didn't care if she took drinks from strangers, but I kept seeing this from the guy's perspective: poorer and no less laid at the end of the night.

She seems like she's trying to be empathetic, but she imagines the men operating with the crassest and most ungentlemanly motives. I direct your attention to Ezra (the dead one).

It rests me to be among beautiful women
Why should one always lie about such matters?
I repeat:
It rests me to converse with beautiful women
Even though we talk nothing but nonsense,

The purring of the invisible antennae
Is both stimulating and delightful.

Amen. Take the drinks, enjoy the evening. If the guys are operating with crass and ungentlemanly motives, take further pleasure in their wasted money and thwarted desire.

But if you're not beautiful, well, you owe somebody a handjob.


 

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Plan Panned

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

Great post by Yglesias about the inapplicability of counterinsurgency in today's Iraq.


 

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Good Work

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

I think these three posts together actually manage to re-orient part of our discourse, and that's no mean feat.

Josh Marshall

Garance Franke-Ruta

Scott Lemieux


 

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Bunch Of Savages

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.07

There's a veritable call-and-response between the mainstream press, which regularly notes that blogdom is a messy, foul-mouthed, unpoliced cesspit of human noise, and blogdom, which gets indignant. Of course, the mainstream press has a point. As a wise man wrote nearly four years ago, when the quality of discourse was generally much better,

The blogosphere is full of faulty logic, dubious facts, poor argumentation, strident ideology, rampant falsehoods, characters of ill repute and many other things harmful to one's mental well being.

Right. But of course we know that it's also a collection of knowledgeable and insightful people who really understand and care about things, and that being familiar with their collected wisdom is an essential part of being an informed citizen here in 2007.

So, on the one hand, it's good to keep in mind that for someone who hasn't "grown up" with blogs, and who hasn't learned to navigate the backroads to the good stuff, the first impression, that it's a bunch of idiots screaming at each other, is pretty accurate.

But there's also something troubling about the unveiled disdain of the press. Their attitude toward blogs seems like a pretty good proxy for their attitude toward democracy more generally. I'm sure most some a couple of them value democracy in the abstract, but when they see it in action--and really, vehement, varyingly smart and informed people hashing things out just is democracy--they recoil in horror, or snigger. There's a lot more to say about this, but for now I'll just note that anti-democratic prejudice in your press corp is not a good thing.


 

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Articulate, Yet Again

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.07

This Times article by the remarkably clean Lynette Clemetson about blacks' weariness with being called "articulate" is edifying, though not entirely intentionally. Peep these 'graphs.

"When people say it, what they are really saying is that someone is articulate ... for a black person," Ms. Perez said.

Such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the "compliment" is notably different from other black people.
"Historically, it was meant to signal the exceptional Negro," Mr. Dyson said. "The implication is that most black people do not have the capacity to engage in articulate speech, when white people are automatically assumed to be articulate."

I think the contention in these paragraphs is, honkonormatively speaking, incorrect. When people call Obama articulate, it's not because they think blacks are inarticulate--in fact, if anything, there's another stereotype that blacks are notably good speakers which most people hold right alongside the belief that Obama is notably articulate. And the very next paragraph puts its figurative finger on precisely what "articulate" means.

And such distinctions discount as inarticulate historically black patterns of speech. "Al Sharpton is incredibly articulate," said Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. "But because he speaks with a cadence and style that is firmly rooted in black rhetorical tradition you will rarely hear white people refer to him as articulate."

Right! "Articulate" does not mean "strings together words pretty good, for a black guy," but "is a black guy who sounds like a white guy." I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence, but those are different. "Articulate" is functioning as a cultural, not linguistic, adjective. I think a large part of the mystification of people who say "Wha? What did I say?" when people object to "articulate" is that the typically proffered explanation for its offensiveness, namely, that they must think other black dudes drool, is off the mark. It's offensive because as a term of praise it communicates, "You sound like one of us, and that's a good thing," in which is implicit the belief that sounding "black" is bad. The black person who hears that will be bothered because, insofar as he identifies as black, he's being rejected (or accepted for rejecting himself, which hurts even more).

Glad as I am to clear that up for y'all, I think this issue quickly becomes complicated. I assume that it's a good thing to have a single mainstream manner of communicating in a country. We have one in this country, and although it's called "white," it belongs and owes as much to blacks as it does to whites. Nevertheless, there's also a distinct form of American language which belongs to blacks (give or take some deluded white boys). There's a real challenge in getting black (or Hispanic, for that matter) youths to buy into the mainstream discourse as their own (something we should desire, because it's a prerequisite for so many kinds of success), without implicitly devaluing what they identify with.


 

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Chick Stuff

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.07

I took mercy upon myself and skipped the Hirshman threads, but I did just read over Hirshman's back-and-forth with Mark Schmitt here, and it sure looks like Hirshman got her ass handed to her.

via the hairy-legged feminist law profs

P.S. Hey, feminists and their collaborators, please retire the belief that it's impossible for a woman's tone to be objectionable. Thank you.


 

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"I Think It Means He's A Trotskyite."

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.06.07

This article on class divisions as expressed on the beaches of Rio was fairly interesting in itself, but this bit stopped me:

A few years later, with a military dictatorship still in power, Fernando Gabeira, today a writer and a prominent member of Congress representing the Green Party, returned from exile in Europe and signaled his generation's split from the Stalinist left by wearing the briefest of crocheted trunks to the beach.

Brazilians are subtler than I knew.


 

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It's A Miracle!

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.07

Fontana Labs, now "completely heterosexual."



 

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What Makes The Private Sector More Efficient Than Government? When It's Working For The Government, Not A Blessed Thing.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.06.07

Yglesias had a post on government contractors, and why they don't automatically bring the magic efficiency of the private market to public service, and I thought it was so good I'd say the same thing over again, but less concisely. (Seriously, seriously less concisely.)

Markets are a wonderful thing for the purpose of causing sellers of goods and services to compete to efficiently find means of serving the perceived needs of buyers -- sellers do their best to please buyers because of the financial incentive the market gives them. This works really well in a lot of contexts, but you have to keep your eye on where the incentive actually resides.

First, the incentives don't apply to people who don't directly financially benefit from the market transactions. I work in the private sector, but market forces don't give me any incentive to please clients -- as long as I have a job and the firm still exists, I get paid the same whether or not the clients are happy. I have various incentives to please the people I work for (which is generally, but not always, going to include pleasing the clients, but isn't limited to it) but no direct incentive to please the clients, and my incentive to please my bosses is a function of how competently managed my workplace is. So for any organization of any size, the incentive supplied by the market applies primarily at the top -- making sure that the people actually doing the work are doing their best to please buyers is a management problem.

This means that there's not a terribly sharp distinction between the public and private sector in this regard: while markets provide the owners of private sector companies with a powerful incentive to efficiently serve their clients that government agencies don't have, the employees of private sector companies are in the same position as those of government agencies. Neither is subject to market forces (with respect to the market the company is participating in), both are subject to the forces imposed by the management of their respective organizations. In short, there's nothing about being in the private sector that allows markets to directly make the internal operations of a private company more efficient than an equivalent government agency -- the difference is that the self-interested motivation of the owner of the private company to serve its customers is presumably stronger than the public-spirited motivation of the managers of the agency to serve the public by carrying out democratically agreed upon policies, and so we expect the private owners to be better managers of their companies than public servants are of the agencies they run. While financial self-interest is reliable, the desire to serve the public gets all muddled up with careerism and seeking political power and so forth, and so the people who manage government agencies may not have unmixed motivations to work efficiently to serve the public rather than to, say, increase the size of their agencies or serve other personal or political goals.

So, if you have some public service you want to provide, you might think, as many do, that you could harness the awesome power of the market by having the government hire a private company to provide it, and market incentives would make owners of various private companies compete to figure out the most efficient way to serve their customers. And right here is where the argument breaks down, because the customer the private companies are competing to serve isn't the public, it's the same manager of a government agency whose motivations we were suspicious of before -- the manager doesn't have any stronger incentive to manage a private contractor well than they had to manage government employees doing the same work well. From the other side, market forces don't give the contractor a direct incentive to serve the public efficiently, just to please the bureaucrat who hires them -- if they can get contracts and get paid while doing a lousy job, they've got no financial incentive to do otherwise.

Really, by outsourcing public functions to private vendors, all you've done is trade the problem of managing government employees for the problem of managing outside vendors: the motivation and competence of the manager is the same either way. When you consider the added lack of transparency and resulting difficulty of oversight over an outside vendor, and the political power some large vendors wield (coughHalliburtoncough), it's not surprising how badly privatization of governmental functions often works out.


 

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It's A Match

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.07

Remember the 27% crazification factor? Guess what percentage of people in a recent Fox poll believes that God plays a role in determining the outcome of sporting events?


 

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Class

Posted by Ogged
on 02.05.07

Holy shit, Michelle Malkin is insane. Click, I beseech you.


 

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Media Studies

Posted by Becks
on 02.05.07

Two New York City publications tackle the same issue in their signature styles:

New York Magazine: Are phthalates dangerous? Are plastic toys causing neurological damage in the children in Park Slope?

The Village Voice: Are phthalates dangerous? Are PVC dildos causing burning sensations in the porn stars in Williamsburg?


 

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Man is a double reed

Posted by Ben
on 02.05.07

Although it's brought me nothing but libellous accusations of tokenism, I am marching on, friends, with my plan to devote a two-hour radio show to the noble double reed family of instruments. Unfortunately, of the wide expanse of such instruments, mine will feature relatively few (bassoon; oboe; crumhorn; english horn; bass sarrusophone; heckelphone) and none from outside Europe—but one plays the double reed music with which one is familiar, not the double reed music with which one wished one were familiar. So, yeah. Tomorrow, KZSU (playlist will be here), 9-11am PST; should be recorded. Music by such artists as Sofia Gubaidulina, Von Zamla, Paul Hindemith, El Guapo (presently known as Supersystem); Gryphon, and more, dear sir, many more.


 

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Scary People I Have Known

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.05.07

I was reminded by the conversation in comments about exactly how scary the Duke lacrosse player who wrote this email was, of a guy I met in the Peace Corps. Handsome guy, who'd been something in the financial sector before coming to Samoa. He was reminiscing once about college, and told a story about how his friends and he would smoke dope rather than getting drunk, because if they got drunk they'd just go out and beat people up, and you don't want that sort of thing to happen.

And man, did that story leave me puzzled. On one level, it is bad that people should be beaten, and so it's good that he had the self-knowledge to act in a way to minimize the number of people being beaten. On the other hand, I've gotten drunk a fair amount in my life, and while I've certainly done plenty of things I wouldn't have done sober, I've never done anything drunk that wasn't on some level an enticing idea sober (scaling fire-escapes, various other bits of misbehavior). Someone who knows he's going to go out and beat people if he gets drunk is someone who likes beating people, and I can't help thinking that even if you keep a lid on it mostly, that still makes you a bad person.


 

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The Perils Of

Posted by Ogged
on 02.05.07

Do y'all know that Amanda of Pandagon was hired by the Edwards campaign to head their blogging operation? Congrats to her. But now there's something of a right-blog campaign to use her to embarrass Edwards. Michelle Malkin, noted all-American fucktard prick and apologist for internment, notes Amanda's "foul-mouthed nutroots diatribes." Dan Riehl elevates the discourse by calling Amanda ugly.

The larger issue here is the rather pronounced difference between blogging independently and blogging for an organization. Though the medium is the same, they just aren't the same kind of activity. A good independent blog will be interesting enough to make mistakes and broach difficult topics. That'll get you hung on a campaign. And although it makes sense to recruit people who have a good grasp of the medium and contacts among bloggers, the record of what they've written will always be a problem. And I have to say, though I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, I'm not sure I think it's wrong to see the hiring of a blogger as a reflection of the values of the candidate. What would you think of someone who hired Charles Johnson?


 

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If You Build It, She Will Come

Posted by Becks
on 02.05.07

Focusing in on a throwaway line in this article:

What is it with the prevalence of architecture as a career for love interests in the movies? If there were that many architects on earth, the sun would long ago have been blocked out by skyscrapers.

Yes, the architect-as-love-interest is totally the sign of a lazy screenwriter. It seems to be the go-to solution for: "How can I show that this guy is smart, but not intimidatingly so, he's solidly middle-class and college-educated, but he's, you know, soulful and artistic...I guess he could be a writer or something but it's hard to make that look interesting on film...I know! We'll make him an architect!" Even more clich├ęd and annoying is the woman-who-owns-her-own-interior-design/catering company but the architecture one always amuses me because every architecture student I knew in college was strung out on speed or cocaine to pull constant all-nighters and never dated because they lived in the studio 24/7 (maybe my school just had a really intense program, I dunno). But, then again, maybe that's why they're all still single and ready to meet Our Spunky Protagonist in those godawful romantic comedies.


 

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I see your crazy and raise you.

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.05.07

Writing in WorldNetDaily, Chuck Norris uses his awesome channeling powers to bring word from America's founding fathers: they all want Newt Gingrich to be president because of his solid Christian values. I'm sure we're all looking forward to the future announcement.


 

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Our New Policy Toward Iranians In Iraq -- Drawing Some More Connections

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.05.07

As noted here earlier, the US has a new, more aggressive policy toward some category of agents of the Iranian government in Iraq. Our discussion here bogged down a bit in confusion over what, exactly, this is likely to mean: have we declared open season on anyone believed to be associated with the Iranian government, or have we simply stated an intention to treat Iranians on a level with everyone else in Iraq that we regard as 'combatants'?

Katherine at Obsidian Wings has some useful additional information on the subject. She links to US News and World Report, from a few weeks back, noting that our new Iran policy is being carried out by something called Task Force 16:

The special operations mission, known as Task Force 16, was created late last year to target Iranians trafficking arms and training Shiite militia forces. The operation is modeled on Task Force 15, a clandestine cadre of Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force soldiers, and CIA operatives with a mission to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives and Baathist insurgents in Iraq.

And while Task Force 15 is new to her under that number, she believes it likely to be identical with an organization that "used to be called Task Force 145, Task Force 6-26, Task Force 121, and Task Force 20. The number keeps changing, but if you follow the news about human rights abuses in Iraq, closely, it comes up again and again and again and again." Task Force 15/145/6-26/121/20 has an extensive record documented by human rights organizations of beating and otherwise abusing prisoners, and denying access to the Red Cross, and even to internal military investigators. One interrogator who worked for the task force estimated that about half of the prisoners he interrogated abusively were random innocents, rather than carefully selected targets.

So, if Task Force 16 is carrying out our new policy with regard to Iranian agents, and it is modeled on Task Force 15/145/6-26/121/20, this gives us some sense of what that new policy is going to entail. I'm not reassured.


 

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Maybe Stripping Is A Sport

Posted by Ogged
on 02.05.07

I know it's pole dancing, but there's no stripping (I think it's even safe for work), and this woman is ridiculously strong, especially given how lean she is. I want to be that lean and strong. Zoiks.


 

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Something about this seems not quite right

Posted by Ben
on 02.04.07
So too, the fact that everybody feels at home in philosophy and wishes to spend their lives in the pursuit of it, renouncing all other activities, is no small evidence that it is pleasant to sit down to it; for no-one is willing to work hard for a long time.

So clearly Cala should finish her dissertation; when else will she know such a pleasant activity?


 

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The Other OS

Posted by Ogged
on 02.04.07

Then there's Linux. About a week ago I installed Ubuntu and I have to say, I'm mightily impressed. From one CD, you can install the entire operating system along with the full suite of OpenOffice applications, Firefox, the quite usable Evolution mail/calendering program, and a bunch more stuff I haven't played with yet. Installation was basically painless. It looks good, and is running quickly on a computer with a 500Mhz processor. And the interface is very much like Windows, which is to say that if you want to get your computer illiterate parents or grandparents online, there isn't much more of a learning curve to Ubuntu than there is for any other operating system. And, of course, if you're coming at it from the opposite end, someone with computer skills who wants to play around to your heart's content, it's good for that too. So, the next time you're about to pony up a few hundred dollars for an operating system, you might want to give Ubuntu a look.


 

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Oh Lord, Help Us...

Posted by Ogged
on 02.04.07

...to vanquish the forces of evil.

Yea, though Satan's minions be fleet and devious, Lord
May their audibles go unheard
Their routes be tangled in confusion
Their cleats unsteady upon the turf

Verily, Lord, may you give the Grossman humility and patience
For just one fucking game, Lord

Help them, Lord, to bring the trophy back
To the stormy
Husky
Brawling
City of the big shoulders,
Sweet home, Chicago.


 

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For What

Posted by Ogged
on 02.04.07

This is an obvious point that's been made by (via) lots of people, but I'm going to make it again. It concedes far too much to call AIPAC "pro-Israel." What it is "pro-" is the maximum politically feasible use of American-Israeli military force. If you look at its "issues" and "about" pages, you'll see that it's devoted almost exclusively to touting military threats to Israel, and ensuring that Israel itself remains strong militarily. And it's simply part of the logic of lobbying groups that they will always ask for more: no matter how much opinion shifts toward militarism, AIPAC will argue that more militarism is required. And its greatest success has been in portraying its necessarily marginal views as those of an entire nation; a success which allows it to leverage the moral weight of the safety of Jewish people to advance an agenda which conflates safety with the ability to blow things up.


 

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