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An open thread about personal ads

Posted by Ben
on 02.17.07

I thought this one was good, though of course Weiner's friend Allan's warning about the Fallacy of Shared Aesthetic Interests is probably worth recalling. In fact I was moved immediately both to read it and email the poster (though only to note that I, too, would like to punch Joanna Newsom in the face, because she sucks).

The only other thing I can think of right now: there's some woman on the nerve/onion/spring street personals network who's often featured in the sidebar, probably because of her answer to the prompt "celebrity I resemble most", which is something like "I don't resemble what I hope to become". Now, on the one hand, this shows both admirable confidence and philosophical acumen, in that someone who is a celebrity is not said to resemble a celebrity. (It would be like, to employ an example I've already used today in another context, announcing evidence of bread while staring straight at a loaf.) But I sort of wonder how she hopes to become a celebrity without at least passing through a stage of mere resemblance, unless she hopes to become one via transfiguration or some such.


 

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Sugar And Spice

Posted by Ogged
on 02.17.07

I'm sick of reading about people's sweet kids, because I know those stories are lies, all lies. At least, they're very selective tellings of the truth. This is what kids are like. (Tabitha is the mom, Quinn the 7-year-old daughter, Dixie the 4-year-old daughter.)

On the afternoon in question, the girls snack on tubes of yogurt, which they will now eat only if they come frozen just so--even though they aren't meant to be frozen. I walk in, note them squabbling madly about who gets the grape yogurt and who the strawberry, see the pools growing in Tabitha's eyes, take her in my arms and ask, "Do you two have any idea how lucky you are to have a mom who takes such good care of you?"

Dixie, preoccupied with the Battle for the Grape One, does not hear me, but Quinn looks up for a moment, stares at us, and says, "There's lots of good moms."

...

At the first opportunity Quinn snuck into the TV room, clicked around the Tivo, found a biography of Bill Gates, and called Dixie in to watch it with her ... Quinn fixed me with her I'm-here-to-speak-the-truth-to-power stare and said, "We're poor, Daddy. And you didn't tell us. You lied to us."

...

At any rate, as I stand there with her mother crying in my arms searching for the words that will encourage her to be sweet, I come up empty. "Your mother takes really good care of you and me and Dixie and Walker, and I'm really proud of her," I finally say.

"You're just saying that to make her feel better," says Quinn.

 

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We Will Crush Your Puny Rebellion

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.07

The other day McG was noting how weird the "overt sentimentalizing of military service" in America seems to him. Looks like America was just getting warmed up. Hop on over to John McCain's site, which Atrios describes perfectly as Imperial Stormtrooper Chic. Be sure to watch the video "Stand Up" and turn up the sound.


 

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Rubber, Glue

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.07

Goings on in Iran.

A bomb went off Friday night at a girls school in the southeastern Iranian border city of Zahedan, according to the semi-official FARS News Agency. No one was hurt or killed....

This is near the Afghan border, and according to reliable source MY MOM, cross-border attacks from Talibanish elements aren't uncommon (about a week ago in the same area, a bomb went off on a military bus). But I keep telling you that even evil Iranians like the mullahs have an awesome sense of humor.

According to FARS, Iranian officials said the explosives used in that attack were manufactured in the United States. CNN could not verify those claims.

Bwhahahaha!

More: As for the original claim that Iran is supplying "EFPs" to the insurgents, or Shia, or someone, there's less and less reason to believe it.


 

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Allegory, I'm Sure

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.07

Do I have this movie (don't skip the intro) right? Man chains the town slut to his radiator to cure her of her slutting ways, and, naturally, she comes to thank him for it. But wait! He's an older black dude, so he has wisdom, or soul, or something, so it's all good. Seriously? (I'm probably supposed to see the movie first, so consider this preparatory outrage.)

Meanwhile, the soundtrack is online and free, and trying to sing the blues reveals Samuel L. Jackson to be a white guy. Who knew?


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Your Brain On Drugs Edition

Posted by Becks
on 02.16.07

What say you, Unfogged hivemind?:

I feel like a lot of people I know probably suffer from some slight level of adult ADD. In fact, I have a whole theory worked out about how many smart and social people have ADD their whole lives, but as children their ADD is easily tamed by interesting stuff and attentive teachers. As college wears out into the working world, sociability and an addiction to interesting stuff are not useful for getting on through mundane and repetitive tasks. So this kind of ADD sufferer always seems to be missing the potential promised by earlier years.
Usually they skate through, though, with spurts of extreme concentration and general amiability and smart helpfulness. When depression or illness stirke, however, things get dicey.
I have one friend for whom these things seem to be getting super dicey. He's afraid that he's really going to screw things up---get fired from his new dream job, say--and increasingly, so am I and his other friends. The fear that he's really about to fuck up is only feeding his frenzy and his lack of focus. And while he needs to deal with the underlying issues of depression and such, he's not going to get anything done--therapy, bills, anything--until he gets the ADD under control.
So normally I totally shy away from suggesting anyone try drugs, but I'm wondering if I should point out to him that he might try Adderall.
Has anyone tried it? Does anyone have any opinions on it? Experience getting it? I don't want to suggest it if it's a super bad idea, because he has a tendency of glomming on to my ideas very enthusiastically, but I can't think of anything else to suggest to him. Therapy and his friends' cobbled together efforts at cognitive therapy/not enabling him---these are not working at all.

 

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Method

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.07

It's ruefulchuckletastic that Israel's most strident right-wing American supporters "argue" that there's no effort to silence critics of Israel by trying to silence critics of Israel. James Kirchik writes,

Matthew Yglesias, the insufferable enfant terrible of the liberal blogosphere, frequently refers to the "Lobby that Shall Not be Named," which supposedly suppresses any critique of the Jewish state ... When prodded to identify an instance in which legitimate criticism of Israel has been labeled "anti-Semitic," the promoters of this meme come up with nothing.

In addition to never having read Harry Potter, Kirchik also apparently doesn't read the New Republic, where just a few days ago, David Greenberg wrote,

I think that at least some those who employ the anti-Semitic epithet...are seeking to shake the scales from the eyes of naifs who imagine that likening Israel to Nazi Germany or to apartheid South Africa, or singling out Israel as deserving of terms like "murderous" and "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," might somehow be done in good faith and a spirit of honest intellectual exchange.

This, just two words after he says "Criticize away!" to "critics of Israeli policies." Sure, criticize away, but only in these dictated narrow terms, outside of which you're not just wrong, but anti-semitic. No silencing here!

And this just a couple of weeks after Jonah Goldberg compared Yglesias to Charles Lindbergh (which he said he didn't mean in a bad way).

A dig here, a mention there, and pretty soon they'll have "a pattern" of anti-semitic (or self-hating) writing from Yglesias and, oh, to be sure, maybe each single instance looks like an unfair innuendo but you can't deny the pattern now can you? We're seeing, in real time and right before our eyes, how critics of Israel are silenced in America.


 

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Panda Postmortem

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.16.07

Amanda Marcotte writing at Salon about why she had to quit the Edwards campaign. Something that I think is worth pointing out about this, is that whatever you think about the attack on her posts about Catholicism that actually stuck, there was a week-long freakout about her hiring before anyone brought those up.

The bullshit "OMG, she scrubbed her archives" routine, when in fact she'd edited one post and Pandagon's archives had gotten scrambled because of technical problems was the beginning, moving on to the Michelle Malkin comedy hour -- people were scrambling to find some way to take her down, and Bill Donohue finally managed. I'm not an expert in getting a message out, and I'm not much of a bomb-thrower myself, but I have to say that the panicky reaction from the right when our bomb-throwers start getting a little more publicity and a taller soapbox makes me think that it's probably a pretty effective tactic.

If I were hiring for a campaign, the lesson I'd take away from this is to go look for someone else who writes like Amanda, figure out ahead of time where the attacks on her are going to hit, brace for them, and ride them out. And then let her be as aggressive as she likes.

Update: And here's Melissa McEwen (Shakespeare's Sister) on how she got forced out. That one was a straight hit job -- nothing she said could reasonably be read as anti-Catholic bigotry. But threats of violence can be awfully effective. I wish she'd stuck it out, but of course no one has a right to expect that from her.


 

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We've Already Used Up All Of The TiVo Jokes I Could Hope To Make Into A Title

Posted by Becks
on 02.15.07

How completely and totally depressing is the Village Voice's new "Married, Not Dead" feature?


 

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Get Crackin', Moron

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.07

If you grew up as a "smart kid," it'll be painful to even read this article. Short version: praising kids for being smart really screws them up; you should praise them for working hard.

I must be the laziest, most overpraised person on the internets, except for all the others.

More: The author is also blogging about this, and says that there's credible research that praise itself, regardless of what it's for, can be damaging (not all praise, but too much, or too controlling. You can read it yourself....)


 

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Har-RY! Har-RY!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.15.07

The Senate is going to take another stab at voting on the House Resolution disapproving of the surge. It's not everything, and I assume it'll get filibustered, but it's a start.

Then can we start working on defunding the war as whole, though?


 

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Unfogged Placement Services

Posted by Ben
on 02.15.07

I have certainly not been bribed to link to this post by my estranged, abusive lover, Claire, who is seeking a job in Chicago and needs Your Help.


 

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Second Thoughts On The Sprawling Edwards Mega-Estate

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.07

The more I think about John Edwards' mansion, the more I think it can help him. The hardest impression to shake for a candidate who advocates for the poor is that he's hostile to the rich and secretly disapproves of outsized "real American" consumption and wants to take away all our money and make us live drab lives on the frozen Swedish tundra. Edwards' mansion, as long as he's the one bringing it up, can protect him from this charge: He's rich, and he enjoys the fruits of his wealth, and he loves that about America, but it's not ok that there are people who can't even afford to...etc. And because he has his own charitable foundation, he's also protected from the charge that he's all talk. This isn't to say that these charges won't be made, but as long as he doesn't act ashamed about his house, I think it ultimately helps him.


 

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The Interpretation Of Dreams

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.07

A friend reported a dream: "I was a hawk and there were a lot of songbirds around, but instead of eating them, I decided to protect them. But because I wasn't eating, I got weaker and weaker, and I couldn't protect them anymore and the other hawks came and ate all the songbirds."

Me: Sometimes, you have to kill a few songbirds.

Friend: [Bewildered look, hearty laughter.]

Me: What? What did you think it meant?

Friend: You have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of other people.

Me: Maybe that too.


 

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Valentine's Self-Pity Day Here Endeth

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.07

I've posted before about world-class swimmer Dave Denniston, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a sledding accident. (You can see his beautiful pre-accident swimming here.) Lately, one side of his body has been going numb, and he sweated out a test to see if the tumor that was causing the numbness was malignant. It's not, thank god, but,

[The doctor] is 99% sure that [the] syrinx that starts at the site of my injury is what is causing my problems. He explained the fluid dynamics of spinal fluid and how when it is obstructed by things like scar tissue, screws, bone fragments, it has a tendency to go into the spinal cord where the spinal cord is weakest: the site of my injury.

The fluid then pushes itself up through the spinal cord forms the syrinx and as it pushes up it forms an edema at the head. The edema is essentially what is in my neck and from everything he's seen it isn't cancerous and he has no reason to believe that it is.
However, edema and syrinx will continue to travel with pressure like lifting heavy weight, coughing, sneezing and pooping. And so, this must be stopped and the way to do that is to go back to the site of the injury and clean the scar tissue (possibly remove my rods) and fit my spinal cord with a mini-skirt type thing that will allow fluid to flow naturally once again. From what he has seen, this causes the syrinx to shrink and has better results that inserting a shunt or tube to drain it.
So, I have to get a myelogram to see where exactly the "leaky" parts of my spine are so they know where to fit the skirt thing. We are scheduling that for next week. Surgery will be in four to six weeks at the latest.
In the meantime, I can't sneeze, cough, lift heavy things, or strain while pooping. Oh and I have to exercise with my mouth open. Crazy, but I'll try.

And he still writes one of the funnier blogs around.


 

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Is It Unjust To Say Mormons Aren't Christian?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.14.07

There's been some discussion of the political implications of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's religion; the question is whether the evangelical Republican base will turn out for a Mormon. And an issue that comes up in this question is, given the doctrinal differences between the LDS church and most other Christian churches in the US, is it bigoted or wrong for Christians of other sects to refer to the LDS church as non-Christian?

This discussion has bothered me for a while, and I think I've just figured out what my issue is with it. (I am now going to address a bad argument that I haven't seen anyone explictly make, I just suspect that it is hanging in the air in an inchoate fashion on this issue. I may be totally off base in thinking that it's what's really going on.) There are social/political advantages to being a Christian in the US -- it's the normal, ordinary thing to be, and it means you're a traditional, decent person with family values. I think this kind of sucks. I'd like to live in a society without pressure to conform religiously, and so I'm all hardline about the separation of church and state because I don't want any additional pressure to conform religiously to come from the government.

The sense I get from the way the issue of whether Mormons are Christian gets raised is that there's a feeling that it's unjust to exclude Mormons from the privileged position of being normal decent Christian folk on narrow doctrinal grounds. And this kind of burns me: anyone who's annoyed that they aren't regarded as entitled to the privilege extended to Christians in our society should be arguing that no one should get that privilege, not trying to pass as a member of the privileged category so that they can then piss out of the tent on the atheists and Wiccans.

I don't approve of a society where arguments about points of religious doctrine are politically important. To the extent the doctrinal differences between Mormons and other Christians are going to be a political issue, shouldn't the response be to object to the fact that it's an issue at all, rather than object to any particular characterization of what the doctrinal differences are?


 

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Travel advisory

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.14.07

I'm on the road for a couple of days. This post is the only discernable effect of this fact on the blog.


 

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Stories I Don't Even Understand

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.14.07

Mmf directs us to this story about Lene Hau, a physics professor at Harvard who is doing all sorts of bizarre things with light:

She and her team made a light pulse disappear from one cold cloud then retrieved it from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light. For the first time in history, this gives science a way to control light with matter and vice versa.

I actually used to be a physics major (for a year or so) -- stories like this remind me that I've forgotten pretty much everything I ever used to understand.


 

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Is There A Personal Trainer In The House?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.14.07

Riffing off the comments below about the Army's physical fitness standard, I get puzzled in conversations with men I know about what exercising is like for them. I understand that testosterone means greater muscle mass and therefore greater strength, particularly in the upper body, and that narrower hips provide more efficient running mechanics, which makes it a little easier to run faster. The fact of substantial differences between the sexes in athletic capacity is something I understand.

Still, sedentary women I know (including me), seem to generally find it pretty hard both starting to work out, and making fitness gains -- working up to, say, running for a half-hour at a reasonable pace is a big deal that takes a while, and it doesn't stick terribly well. Six months or so not exercising, and we're back to a very low baseline level of fitness. Sedentary men I know, on the other hand, seem to be able to go from no organized athletic activity at all to fairly long runs, for example, pretty easily: deciding "I think I'll start running", getting some shoes, and starting up with running a couple of miles without having to work at getting to that point. And speed differences between reasonably sedentary men and reasonably sedentary women also seem surprisingly big. Generally, guys I know seem to be a lot closer to a reasonable level of fitness than women I know, where we're talking about people who don't do a lot of focussed exercise.

I'm not aware of any major innate differences in cardiovascular capacity between the sexes -- they could exist, but I'm not aware of them. So what gives? I've got a couple of theories: first, this could be anecdotal nonsense, considering that I'm probably talking about less than ten people of each sex. Second, maybe there is some significant untrained cardiovascular capacity difference I just didn't know about. I'm doubting this one, though. Third, it could be a social-expectations difference in how you're supposed to talk about your fitness level -- men are supposed to brag, while women are supposed to be modest, so they describe the same experience in different terms. Fourth, maybe there's a social difference in how sedentary people actually are -- that the guys I think of as sedentary are consistently exercising a lot more than the women I think of as sedentary. I'm guessing that the answer is some combination of the third and fourth theory, but does anyone else have any thoughts?


 

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Department of Interesting Statistics

Posted by Becks
on 02.14.07

Perhaps it shouldn't, but this seemed surprisingly low to me:

Fewer than 3 in 10 people ages 17 to 24 are fully qualified to join the Army. That means they have a high school diploma, have met aptitude test score requirements and fitness levels, and would not be barred for medical reasons, their sexual orientation or their criminal histories.


 

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It Is To Weep

Posted by Ogged
on 02.14.07

Dear Moreen Daud,

Snarky is fine. But snarkiness doesn't hide total f-bombing incoherence.

Using the dreaded third person that some candidates slip into, he told reporters that one of their favorite narratives boiled down to ''Obama has pretty good style, he can deliver a pretty good speech, but he seems to prioritize rhetoric over substance.'' After an ode to his own specificity, he tut-tutted, ''You've been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.''

He poses for the cover of Men's Vogue and then gets huffy when people don't treat him as Hannah Arendt.

So he wasn't actually referring to himself in the third person, as that's typically understood, but mocking what reporters had been writing about him. And so he wasn't getting huffy about reporters concentrating on his looks, but noting their hypocrisy. How utterly lazy do you have to be to make claims that are rebutted by the evidence you present?

The whole relentlessly horrible column is below the fold. Brad DeLong made me do it.

***
Barack Obama looked as if he needed a smoke and he needed it bad.

Everyone knows you're not supposed to make two big changes at once. But Michelle Obama's price for letting her husband run was that he quit.

So there he was, trying to meet the deep, inexhaustible needs of both Iowa activists and the global press behemoth on his first swing across the state, while giving up cigarettes.

He was a tad testy. Traipsing around desolate stretches of snowy -- and extremely white -- Iowa to go into living rooms and high school gyms and take questions like ''Are you willing to stand up for independent family farmers?'' makes me want to sneak out for a drag, too, and I don't even smoke.

''I've been chewing Nicorette all day long,'' he told reporters at a press conference in Ames on Sunday, where he was getting irritated at suggestions that he lacked substance and at the specter of his vanishing privacy. And, oh yes, at the accusation by the Australian prime minister (sounding two sheep short of a paddock) that Mr. Obama's deadline to get out of Iraq made him Al Qaeda's dream candidate.

The Illinois senator didn't have on an implacable mask of amiability, as Hillary did in Iowa. He didn't look happily in his element, like Bill Clinton. But he certainly didn't look as if he was straining to survive the Q .& A.'s, as W. did in the beginning.

Beyond his smooth-jazz facade, the reassuring baritone and that ensorcelling smile, the 45-year-old had moments of looking conflicted.

In the lobby of the AmericInn in Iowa Falls on Saturday night, he seemed a bit dazed by his baptism into the big-time. He was left munching trail mix all day while, he said, ''the press got fed before me.''

Everything was a revelation for him: The advance team acronym RON, for Rest Overnight. Women squealing. ''I saw a hat,'' he noted with a grin, ''that said, 'Obama, clean and articulate.' ''

Senator Obama's body language was loose -- and he's so slender his wedding band looked as if it was slipping off -- but there was a wariness in his dark eyes.

He is backed up by a strong, smart wife and a professional campaign team, but he doesn't have a do-whatever-it-takes family firm with contract killers and debt collectors, like Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.

He was eloquent, if not as inspiring as his advance billing had prepared audiences to expect. He made his first Swift-boat-able slip when he had to apologize for talking about soldiers' lives ''wasted'' in Iraq. He sounded self-consciously pristine at times, as if he was too refined for the muck of politics. That's not how you beat anybody but Alan Keyes.

After talking to high school journalists, he took a sniffy shot at the loutish reporters who were merely whispering where's the beef: ''Take some notes, guys, that's how it's done.''

No fewer than three times last week, Mr. Obama got indignant about the beach-babe attention given to a shot of him in the Hawaiian surf.

Using the dreaded third person that some candidates slip into, he told reporters that one of their favorite narratives boiled down to ''Obama has pretty good style, he can deliver a pretty good speech, but he seems to prioritize rhetoric over substance.'' After an ode to his own specificity, he tut-tutted, ''You've been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.''

He poses for the cover of Men's Vogue and then gets huffy when people don't treat him as Hannah Arendt.

For some of us, it's hard to fathom being upset at getting accused of looking great in a bathing suit. But his friends say it played into this Harvard grad's fear of being seen as ''a dumb blond.'' He has been known to privately mock ''pretty boys'' (read John Edwards, the Breck Girl of 2004).

He doesn't lack confidence, but he's so hung up on being seen as thoughtful that he sometimes comes across as too emotionally detached and cerebral with crowds yearning for an electric, visceral connection. J.F.K. mixed cool with fire.

For a man who couldn't wait to inject himself into the national arena, and who has spent so much time writing books about himself, the senator is oddly put off by press inquisitiveness.

When The Times's Jeff Zeleny asked him on his plane whether he'd had a heater in his podium during his announcement speech in subzero Springfield, Mr. Obama hesitated. He shot Jeff a look that said, ''Are you from People magazine?'' before conceding that, unlike Abe Lincoln, he'd had a heater.

Take some notes, senator, that's how it's done.


 

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Rot, All Rot

Posted by Ogged
on 02.13.07

Linkrot is perhaps the single most important issue facing humankind today. I was looking for something in the archives, and noticed that link after link is dead. For a while, I was caching the pages I linked to (as here, where the cached pages are still there, and the uncached one is gone). Unfortunately, the cache plugin isn't being maintained anymore (in fact, the site of the guy who wrote it is...yes, dead), and in any case, the cache was becoming huge. Not to mention that I never cached blog posts, because I didn't want to deprive the linked sites of traffic--but of course blogs disappear all the time. And, there are copyright issues with caching. What I'd like is something that creates a cached version of each link, but only serves the cached page if the original link rots.


 

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We need to pull out the stops

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.13.07

My PhD isn't in strategery, but this seems to be inadequate:

I don't understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy, or an invasion, is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc.

What we need to do, instead, is to call on the resources of the one great American who can help us: George Washington. Face it, the man is twenty stories high and made of radiation. He can kill with a stare. Play that card, and the Iranian nuclear program is over. I think you'll agree that my plan is more plausible than Reynolds' plan-- and it has a superior groove.

Via everywhere.


 

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Wasted In Vain

Posted by Ogged
on 02.13.07

There are a couple of short YouTube clips here. Summary:

Obama says that the war has "wasted" over 3000 young American lives. Apologizes.

Soldiers says that they don't like it when people say they "support the troops" but don't support the war. Soldiers think that means their comrades died in vain.

Guess what? Those lives were wasted, and their comrades died in vain. The fact that it's massively depressing and terrible to contemplate this fact can't be allowed to mean that we'll act as if it's not a fact. One of the oft-noted and truly perverted things about war talk is that we let more soldiers die in vain so that we don't have to admit that they're dying in vain.


 

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Modern Love: Much Confusion

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.13.07

The editor of the Modern Love column in the NYT is answering questions online. I can't come up with anything more focused than "What are those people thinking?" but you should all try.


 

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War Dance

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.13.07

I haven't been posting on Iran in the last week or two, mostly because I'm just so blankly horrified that we might be going ahead and doing something as stupid as getting ourselves into a war with Iran, again on the basis of administration claims that are probably bullshit. (Oh, it doesn't seem unlikely that there are some weapons coming into Iraq from Iran, but I can't imagine why anyone would take our administration's claims that we know they can be sourced to the government of Iran at face value. Maybe they are, but our word on the subject is worthless, given our track record of inventing intelligence.)

Anyway, the whole point of the administration's claims with respect to Iran's alleged bad acts seems to be that they are a legal justification for aggression toward Iran -- we wouldn't be attacking them out of the blue, just retailiating, so we're allowed. Andrew Olmsted has a nice post from the point of view of someone who isn't quite as convinced of the perfidy of our administration in this regard, pointing out that whether or not everything we've said about Iran's bad acts is true, and so whether or not there's some legal justification for an attack on Iran, it's still a blindingly bad idea -- even if the administration's intelligence is perfectly accurate, we are much better off not being at open war with Iran. Nothing good will come of this.

I don't have anything to add to the discourse -- I'm just worried and ineffective. How can they be going to do something this stupid again? Maybe it won't happen.


 

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Trading Places

Posted by Becks
on 02.13.07

Stealing a question from Jackmormon:

What works of imaginative writing communicate best--vividly, sympathetically, phenomenologically--the way women experience sexuality?
I'd also like to hear from the guys which books/movies/etc. they think best describe their experiences, too.


 

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Stuff and stuff

Posted by Ben
on 02.12.07

One book request: I am interested in learning the identities of novels or short stories dealing with art, forgers, and forgery. I know of two (The Recognitions and, if not What's Bred in the Bone, then another of Robertson Davies' stand-alones) and assume that The Counterfeiters is one as well. But I want more—always more. Recommendations?

Two rhetorical things: 1. Chiasmus! (via B.) 2. Tomorrow's radio show will feature a song with a surprising use of the objective genitive (also alarm clocks, noise).


 

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Fat: Or, That Body-Image Thread Bitch Was Asking About

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.12.07

Present-day America is screwed up with relation to fatness in a number of ways, three of which I'd like to talk about. A maddening thing is that it's very difficult to address any of them without being somewhere between counterproductive and a raging asshole about the other two.

First, America is an awfully and unnecessarily punitive place to be fat -- fat people get treated as if they have a character disorder or a mental disability, and there's an exaggerated and ridiculous focus on fatness as comic and disgusting. And there's nothing good about this attitude; whatever the negative health implications of being fat, which are in any case systematically exaggerated, there's no evidence at all that the horrible treatment we dish out to fat people makes anyone less likely to become fat, or more likely to stop being fat. While weight can be affected by diet and exercise, it's not easily changed. People aren't fat because of lack of motivation, and the evil treatment fat people get doesn't make them get skinny.

Second, lots of Americans are fat: more (or so I am led to believe) than in other countries, and certainly more than there were in the past. This isn't a great trend, partially because of the health implications, which, while exaggerated, do exist; partially because even in the absence of the lousy way our society treats fat people, most people would prefer for comfort and esthetics to be lean; and partially because the cause, a society that makes physical activity and a healthy diet difficult for most people, is independently a lousy thing. Here's one area where you get people being maddeningly obtuse: people who talk about this problem -- more people being fat -- as if it justified, or was really relevant to, the first problem of the horrible way fat people are treated. Again, the social penalty for being fat is about as intense as it could possibly be, and it hasn't done a thing to reverse the trend toward more people being fat -- getting rid of that penalty won't do anyone any harm. Anyone who wants to do something about this trend should be thinking about gas taxes, and pedestrian-friendly development, and shorter working hours that would make real food more attractive than packaged crap, rather than about encouraging individuals to lose weight by making their lives a living hell if they don't.

And finally, you've got a weird gendered issue, where women who aren't fat come in for a share of the horrible treatment that fat people get. Mimi Smartypants just ran into this one: at a checkup, her doctor found nothing wrong with her, approved of her exercise program, and then lectured her about losing weight because while she was inside a 'normal' weight range for her height, she was near the top of the range. Tyra Banks is taking crap from the tabloids about her weight, despite the fact that the linked picture clearly shows that she's perfectly reasonably lean. Charlie Whitaker just sent me an article written for the BBC by a woman who started out as a size 12 (American size 10), slightly but not much bigger than Tyra in the linked picture, and spent some time trying an insane diet to get down to a size 0. And of course we talked here about the fact that according to Details, the young Elizabeth Taylor might as well be a sow in heels.

This last one is really tricky to talk about without being an insensitive creep. While it's a genuine problem that really messes up women, their relation to their bodies, and their relation to food, complaining about it can come awfully close to "These women don't deserve the revulsion and disdain fat people deserve, because they aren't fat." Which ends up buying into and reinforcing the idea that fat people do deserve to be despised, and that the problem with women who aren't fat getting treated as if they were was only the misidentification, not the attitude toward fat globally. (I've tried to talk about this issue here, and I think I've previously fallen into being a jerk in exactly the way I'm describing, for which I apologize.) There is still a problem here worthy of discussion: the fact that nearly all women, at one time or another, get told that there's something wrong with them for failing to control their bodies tightly enough to make them ideally attractive to whatever man is evaluating them whether or not they're actually fat is really, really, messed up, but it's got to be possible to talk about without endorsing the idea that actual fatness is a justification for the shit that gets handed out.

In any case, here's a place to talk about body issues.


 

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Prison rape

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.12.07

Ezra has some posts. See also the Stop Prisoner Rape site. Instapundit posts as well, referring to some earlier comments he's made and also providing some links. Sadly, the ressentiment creeps in here as well, but at least the issue is being talked about. I'm so ashamed to have joked about this.


 

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Oh, The Memories

Posted by Ogged
on 02.12.07

Commenter Ile points me to this excellent animated short by Jonas Odell called "Never Like The First Time!" based on interviews with people about losing their virginity. (It's subtitled, so you can listen without sound, though it's better with.) Odell's full site is here (and the linked video is just part of the movie).


 

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Unpacking

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.12.07

My office just moved ten floors up over the weekend. While packing was bad enough, there's something particularly dispiriting at looking at boxes that I know are full of the stacks of unfiled paper I lifted off the floor of my office without sorting them last week, and realizing that I have to do something sensible with them when I take them out of the boxes.

On the other hand, I now have a view that I believe includes a couple of square centimeters of Central Park! So, yay.


 

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On the one hand...

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.12.07

Australian PM John Howard says, "If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats." The date, incidentally, is Obama's target for having US troops out of Iraq. God only knows what Howard thinks he's going to accomplish with this foolishness, but I take it as a good sign that Obama's immediate response was "Put up or shut up, bitch."

I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced. I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops on the ground now, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric.

Oof! Punks jump up to get beat down, Mr. Prime Minister. The current headlines say Howard is still out trying to defend his remarks, but even his supporters seem to understand that if politics were boxing, Howard's pupils wouldn't be responding to light (or at a minimum, this). A little more of that mojo, and John Kerry might be president right now.

On the other hand, The Editors addresses the white (ahem) elephant in the room, and the debate ensues in the comments there. It's true that the "I'd vote for him but America won't" argument is often a rhetorical maneuver that allows people to avoid confronting their own prejudices, and I'm sympathetic to the argument that if there were ever an election where the conventional wisdom might fail, 2008 is it. Race aside, I'm still not convinced that Obama isn't this year's Howard Dean—inspiring passionate, committed support, but not quite enough to take primaries—though a three-way race with no clear leader throws the traditional calculus out the window and we may well be in anything-is-possible mode.

Realistically, though, whether or not Barack Obama is black enough to satisfy Debra Dickerson's definitional criteria, he's certainly black enough to make winning a presidential election more challenging than it would be otherwise. It's entirely possible that my perceptions are skewed thanks to a lifetime in the South, but I'm skeptical about the actual waning of American racism, rather than it just being moved out of the realm of polite conversation. Still, you have to be impressed with the dexterity he displayed in smacking Howard around while maintaining the calm, smiling demeanor. If he's going to pull the upset, that ability will be a big part of the equation.


 

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Telling It Like It Is

Posted by Ogged
on 02.11.07

This stuff used to be on TV? After reading that "everyone wants a secret government" quote, I went poking around YouTube and found this great clip from Bill Moyers in 1987, which not only gives a brief and concise summary of the CIA's overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, but also decries the unfettered warmaking power of people in America who are unanswerable to the public.

Now they don't even bother to keep it secret, of course. But what are the chances of something like this being aired today? Longer version here.


 

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I am lousy but others are lousier

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.11.07

Yglesias posts about a Newsweek article about US relations with Iran:

Barely a week after the Tokyo meeting, Iran was included with Iraq and North Korea in the "Axis of Evil." Michael Gerson, now a NEWSWEEK contributor, headed the White House speechwriting shop at the time. He says Iran and North Korea were inserted into Bush's controversial State of the Union address in order to avoid focusing solely on Iraq. At the time, Bush was already making plans to topple Saddam Hussein, but he wasn't ready to say so. Gerson says it was Condoleezza Rice, then national-security adviser, who told him which two countries to include along with Iraq. But the phrase also appealed to a president who felt himself thrust into a grand struggle. Senior aides say it reminded him of Ronald Reagan's ringing denunciations of the "evil empire."

Once again, Iran's reformists were knocked back on their heels. "Those who were in favor of a rapprochement with the United States were marginalized," says Adeli. "The speech somehow exonerated those who had always doubted America's intentions." The Khameini aide concurs: "The Axis of Evil speech did not surprise the Supreme Leader. He never trusted the Americans."

The Bush administration has an unfortunate attraction toward coarse-grained rhetoric that fails to recognize strategically important differences; lumping Iran, Iraq, and North Korea together as some sort of geopolitical natural kind seems like one of the most egregious examples. I'm glad that this apparently stupid blunder had a sound rationale behind it after all.

Unrelated: skimming this wedding announcement I took in

Sharon Beth Drager...Wyit David Wright

Dr. Drager, 60, a vascular surgeon in San Pablo
Mr. Wright, 61, the owner of a wooden toy company

and then I was all, "wooden toy company? I thought he was a surgeon" so I went back to check; when I realized what had happened I started laughing at what a classic old-school sexist move I'd just pulled. Do you think that women have souls?


 

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