Richard Rorty died yesterday morning. Recently John Perry said he was trying to finish either a book or a set of responses for a volume about him or something like that; I wonder if he managed it.
Paris Hilton is headed back to jail.
We don't actually have a legal system in this country, do we?
I have a co-worker in her early forties who's attractive, funny, laid-back. Yesterday...
...wait for it, stras...
...she became a grandmother.
I've watched precisely one episode of the show all the way through, and that was this week's series penultimate. It seems the mainstream speculation is that Tony will either be killed or go into witness protection, but doesn't it seem obvious that...
...the mistaken killing of the woman in this week's episode and Tony's entirely gratuitous "family doesn't get touched" to his wife mean that some one or combination of his wife and children will be killed, probably leaving Tony alive to deal with the grief? (Yes, it's the-hero-must-live-to-suffer week on Unfogged.)
Check out Ezra Klein on Hardball, talking about immigration. He opens with an idea that I think highly of, enlisting the aid of undocumented workers in enforcing the immigration laws by rewarding them with green cards for turning in employers who break the laws. And generally just does a great job -- looks good, aside from the fact that he's what, fifteen or so? but that'll wear off over time -- and makes sense even within the godawful constraints of the forum, where he's getting interrupted constantly.
The question came up in the comments about whether it's best to keep cash (say, >$10,000) on hand, or to invest it, or use it to pay off student loans. And I know there are some books that are supposed to be good general personal finance guides, but damn if I can remember their names right now. What say you money-making machines?
It's a bit long, so you'll have to set aside time to read it, but Tony Karon's post about his journey from a Jewish kid in South Africa during the war of 1967 through today is one of the best blog posts I've ever read. Print it out and read it in spare moments if you have to.
Via ObiWi comments, this Fark thread of lolpresidents has some good moments.
They see me rollin. They hatin.
I came across this picture from the '88 Olympics, in which Janet Evans beat a couple of nominally female East Germans for the gold. Ah, the days when we could think we were the good
guys ones. Maybe we should let al Qaeda field an olympic team.
Smokers, believers in evolution, and oil companies: you've been pwned.
A recent article in The Blade outlining opposition to our current Ohio smoking ban reminded me of the decades many politicians refused to accept the overwhelmingly supported medical conclusion that smoking was the major cause of cancer and myriad other diseases that have devastated families across Ohio for generations.
Denial of the obvious fact that exhaled cigarette smoke poisons everyone who comes in contact with it has had very little effect on many smokers. We could easily label the residences, automobiles, workplaces, or anywhere else smokers congregate and ply their habit as toxic sites unfit for anyone not wearing specialized protective gear. This is the simple truth of it.
This is why I look at a smoker spewing his poisonous cloud at others as kin to the drunken driver who drives his car through kids waiting for a school bus. Drunken drivers who kill others get jail time and, under advice of council, learn to feign remorse. Victims of smokers who die of cancer, heart disease, or, as with the children of smokers with their constant "colds" and ear infections, never see their abuser answer to judge and jury. Instead we read of them whining about "fines" and "warning letters."
Simply put, smokers, a group that often includes our own families, are dangerous polluters spreading poisons more insidious than Saddam's WMDs. No enemy of the United States could ever invent a terrorist plot that could kill and still maintain a powerful and public lobby intended to legalize endless future attacks.
With millions dead and millions more to die and billions spent each year treating the victims, smoking is the single biggest danger to this country next to nuclear annihilation.
I'm curious about a couple of things regarding the letter published on May 31 about the "creation myth." Not only does the writer not believe in creationism, but anyone who disagrees with his belief is "ignorant" and "worth only scorn and ridicule." Well it seems to me that as late as a few hundred years ago scientists were certain that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. Now that is ignorant thinking.
The best scientists of the time once drilled holes in the skull to treat a headache. Is there a doctor alive today who wouldn't call that treatment "worth only scorn and ridicule"? Then in the 1970s the scientific community came together to warn us all about global cooling. Talk about an "indelible stain upon your integrity." By the way, is caffeine good for me or not? Every scientific study I read tells me something different.
I recently saw an interview with a medical doctor who was also a minister. When asked how he reconciled his belief in science with his belief in God his answer was simple: "I am a practical man." He went on to point out that the odds of everything falling into place to even make conditions for evolution possible are close to a mathematical impossibility.
To illustrate his point he said that it would be like shooting a bullet into outer space, having it travel for millions of years (without striking anything, mind you) and then at the end of its journey, hit an object the size of a dime.
He wondered, as do I, how, given those odds, the strict evolutionists can possibly call anyone else naive.
The oil companies always report that the large increase in gas prices is due to the case of supply and demand.
My question: Has anyone ever stopped at a gas station when they had no gas to supply for your demand?
KARL T. PET/ERSEN
Short version: Newspaper censor in China doesn't censor tribute to Tiananmen Square victims because the news she's read her life has been so well censored that she's never heard of it.
(via Hit and Run)
But clearly I'm not, given that I'm whining about it on IM -- Paris Hilton's already out of jail????
Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch and two British groups, Reprieve and Cageprisoners, have just released a list of 39 prisoners that may have been disappeared by the US. For some of them, the US has admitted that the prisoners were in US custody in the past, and there is no evidence demonstrating that they have been released. For others, the evidence that they are in US custody is less clear.
The Bush administration has defended secretly detaining some suspects as a necessity of the fight against terrorism because officials do not want to tip off terrorist groups that their operatives are in custody. They say the comparison with past Latin American regimes is unfair, because those seized by the Americans are not killed and their whereabouts will eventually be revealed.
The report on the people we have 'disappeared' is here. Read it; we should know their names, even if that's all we can do.
See, that's the way to go. Post more pictures of yourself smiling and baking and soon you'll have to beat back the horde of potential husbands with a stick.
You gotta figure Paisley's right on this one, no?
As a 110% heterosexual male, I don't lift weights, but even I know that this list of athlete/celebrity bench press numbers is fishy. Correct me if I'm wrong, gaylords, but don't you have to be very, very strong to bench anything over 300lbs.?
Here's something to do: call your senators re S 185, the habeas restoration act.
Update: The Judiciary Committee passed the bill. Not everything fails. LB
In other video happenings, Feministing's Jessica Valenti was on Colbert last night.
You want attractive + dominant scorer? You need some Jenna Elfman.
"You just got an episiotomy."
UPDATE: oops, I hadn't seen that heebie linked to this in comments.
As I'm sure everyone's heard by now, Scooter Libby is going to jail. I'm delighted (he'll be going to a nice federal prison, and should be personally perfectly safe), but there are those who disagree.
It would be a blot on the Bush Presidency if Mr. Libby serves a day in prison for a political dispute over Iraq that became a criminal investigation largely due to the incompetence of so many in the Bush Administration. From the CIA, to the Justice and State Departments to the National Security Council, public officials failed to inform colleagues, blamed others and ducked political responsibility. Mr. Libby was the one official Mr. Fitzgerald decided to make a case against to vindicate his years spent investigating.
I remember the idea that it's wrong to criminally prosecute crimes committed in service of a political policy dispute from discussions of Iran-Contra, and it gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies. The sense is that if a politician breaks the law out of personal corruption (say, Rep. Jefferson) or defense of his personal life, which you could call corruption if you wanted to (say, Bill Clinton), you nail them to the wall. But if a politician commits the same crimes in service of a policy goal, their motivation is public-spirited, and so it's wrong to punish them.
And that is seriously messed up. While individual wrongdoers should be punished, crimes with public policy consequences are more, not less, important than crimes with only private consequences. The only thing that made the Lewinsky matter publicly important at all was that it appeared to reflect on Clinton's character; it had no direct consequences that mattered a damn to anyone not personally involved in the Jones lawsuit.
I don't care if people are committing crimes because they really really think that the best policy for the country is one that can't be achieved unless they commit crimes; the function of the law in this context is to prevent certain methods of achieving policy goals. If Libby thought his bosses' policies were important enough to break the law to achieve, he can keep on thinking that in prison.
On another topic:Did everyone notice that Steve Gilliard got an obituary in the New York Times? Good for them; he deserved the honor. (And they're raising money on his blog to help his family out with the funeral. I get the impression his family didn't know quite how influential his blogging was; if you thought well of him, a few bucks might both help his family out, and let them know how well regarded he was, which I'd think might mean a lot to them.)
The NBA's LeBron problem is that he's ugly. I'm 100% serious about this. If he were even decent-looking, there wouldn't be any concern about how he's not a dominant scorer, that he plays a subtle game, etc. Fans would love him. But he's ugly and he chews his fingernails. It's not an accident that he's dressed in costumes in so many of his ads. The end.
"A hand in the bush is worth …" what, exactly? The most obvious way to fill it out is "two in the bird", but that simply won't do, since, after all, one might take "bird", that is, dame, to be metonymic for "bush" once more, and then the latter would differ from the former only in number of hands involved, and while the number of hands involved might be indifferent in this sort of case, the suggestion doesn't have the right sort of aphoristic plausibility. (The other possibility is that the hands are in differing parts of the bird, but we really ought to pass over that in silence.)
Other ways of filling it out considered and rejected: "a hand in the bush is worth a bird on the wing" (either just doesn't make sense or is obviously false); "a hand in the bush is two birds/a bird in the hand" (what?).
Is my cause hopeless?
Compare and contrast to whatever comes out of tonight's GOP debate:
Looking to quiet fears stirred up by the arrest this weekend of four suspects in an alleged plot to blow up JFK Airport, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first public comments Monday, urging New Yorkers to get some perspective and keep a cool head.
"You have a much greater chance of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist," said Bloomberg.
Still, the mayor did urge vigilance, saying city residents should notify authorities when they see anything suspicious. But in an unusual move for an elected official, he said if you really want to be safe, take a look at the risks over which you do have control - such as smoking.
"Make sure you have guards on your windows if you live above the ground floor and have young children; make sure you have fire detectors and change the batteries. Those are the kinds of things," he said. "But it doesn't take away from the fact there are lots of threats to you and the world. There's the threat of heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life!"
It's longish, but you really really want to watch the whole thing.
Dooce keeps getting skin cancer, and she writes.
Not sure why this diagnosis of skin cancer hit me harder than the last one, you'd think I'd be more prepared for the emotional punch to the gut.
That's because getting cancer once is totally exciting and has major upside. You get tons of sympathy, you can work much less hard not to seem frivolous, people think you have special insight into mortality, you meet lots of funny doctors, learn about medical machines and procedures, and get to expound huffily about the state of health care in this country. It's like getting a diploma from a very prestigious school: "Oh, you went to Cancer? You must be deep."
Of course, there are drawbacks like painful and debilitating treatments and the risk of death, but everything has drawbacks. The fact is that we cancer people are living in the golden age of the Cancer diploma: all the terror and street cred, much less of the dying.
But getting cancer twice is just gratuitous. The first time is adventure, the second time is ordeal. There's nothing new to learn and you even lose some of your social capital as you slide from "survivor" to "victim." All things in moderation, as a wise man once said.
I just went to a party last night to celebrate the passage of this law criminalizing sex trafficking in New York State. I did a very little pro bono work on the law -- wrote a research memo last summer showing that a possible Commerce Clause issue with the proposed law wasn't a problem.
Oddly, at the party (where I didn't know anyone beyond the woman I'd written the memo for, who I'd exchanged emails with once or twice but no more), I found myself being introduced as "Liz, who wrote that Commerce Clause memo", which got respectful murmurs of "Oh, that memo." Turns out that the Commerce Clause issue was a significant psychological stumbling block for a whole bunch of legislators, and my memo was very useful in getting the law passed, and was still getting hauled out to reassure people right up to the very end of the process.
It's a funny feeling: the work I did really wasn't much. I spent a day or two doing some very routine research and writing it up, back in the summer of 2006. And now it seems to have been the most important thing I've done, in the sense of affecting the public sphere for the good, in those two years. I'm not sure whether or not to be proud of myself, or vaguely embarrassed to be getting praise for so little effort, given that I do put in so little effort generally to the causes I believe in.
But take this as an incentive to do whatever minor work comes your way -- you never know what's going to have a serious effect. Does anyone else have stories like this?
Note: A coalition of real activists spent years working like dogs to make this law happen; any work I did was minor and peripheral. This post was just meant to express surprise that my minor peripheral work was perceptibly useful at all.
A chance listing of some stray covers on my hard drive revealed that I have a copy of Devo's cover of "Head Like a Hole", something which deserves wide dissemination, which I hope with this post to further and support, because it is of great philosophical interest.
1. The LaLa music service launched today, and I don't quite understand it yet, but it sounds promising.
Nothing new here: yet another study that says guys obsess about penis size unnecessarily. But hey, it's my beat, and the writing is funny enough to share.
Dr Kevan Wylie of the Royal Hallamshire hospital has recently overseen the completion of a 60-year study into penis size, during which 12,000 penises were "analysed" - an average of 200 penises a year. Assuming they took weekends off, that's 0.76 penises a day. At some point you'd drift off and start doodling on them. The survey ultimately concluded that "the average erect penis was 5.5ins to 6.2ins long and 4.7ins to 5.1ins in girth". And looked hilarious resting on a Petri dish.
If we generously take the average to be six inches, and multiply that by the total number of appendages, it means they examined a total of 72,000 inches of penis, which sounds impressive until you input that figure into a conversion calculator and realise it's a mere 1.136 miles. A frail old lady could cycle that distance in less than five minutes, assuming she could keep her eyes on the road.
Anyway, it wasn't all warm hands and tape measures. The researchers also asked the owners of the penises some probing questions - presumably in a misguided attempt to break the ice, or make the whole scenario feel faintly less awkward. They found that "those with a 'normal-sized' penis often mistakenly thought theirs was too small". Perhaps the researcher had huge hands.
No. It seems pornography is to blame, as "almost 40% blamed their insecurity on watching porn as teens". Presumably they also felt insecure that they weren't a smooth-chested, oily West German pulling a face like a man undergoing an ingrown toenail operation under insufficient local anaesthetic. On the plus side, they'll have learned to pronounce the phrase "Ich komme", witnessed countless body-fluid tributes to Jackson Pollock, and perfected the art of slamming a laptop shut at the sound of approaching footsteps.
Nice. Speaking of penises, I had no sisters and two sons before getting a baby girl. Now it's early yet, but I'm still startled every time I change her diaper. Completely different parts! One clear advantage: when you change their diaper, girls pee on themselves instead of you.
Marginal Revolution says that bookies are so sure that Harry Potter is going to die in the last book that they've stopped taking bets on whether it will happen, and are taking bets on who will do him in. That's too bad, because I could potentially have made a bundle: I'm pretty damn confident that Harry won't die. Not for any particularly convincing articulable reason, but from the sense that it's a coming-of-age series and all sorts of bad shit has happened to Harry, and he's not going to get off the hook so easily--grief, not death, is his lot. My bet would be on Hermione, not least because she's something of a stand-in for Rowling, and with the end of the series...
(If you don't get the fuss about Potter, or think it's only mediocre fantasy, etc. etc., great, go service your hamster.)
Suppose, unlike me, you're a decent person. What ordinary-citizen sorts of things might you do about Guantanamo Bay? In particular, what actions short of heroic levels of activism might be most likely to have any effect whatsoever?
Is it possible to feel bad for Paris Hilton? You can find out.
This only happens to involve Jessica Biel. I came across this random Swiss woman on Flickr who looks so utterly and totally like Biel that it's kind of blowing my mind.
From a student paper, a sentence so close and yet so far from both truth and propriety:
Socrates uses the example of leaking jars to illustrate how Callicles will always need to be refilled.
Despite previously railing against IM, I've gone over to the dark side and started using it. I had AIM 6.0 installed on my computer and, over the last few days, it's been bugging me almost every hour to upgrade. In a moment of stupidity that led me to forget my "never, ever upgrade software because only pain and heartbreak is down that path" mantra, I upgraded to AIM 6.1. And, of course, the motherfucker stopped working. Whenever I tried to connect, I got a terse "connect error occurred" error. AIM's help page helpfully suggested that I reboot my computer or contact my ISP. (AOL motherfuckers.)
I was able to reinstall AIM 5.9 and get that to work but that completely sucks in comparison to 6.0 and this state of affairs cannot last. I saw a couple of places that had AIM 6.0 for download but I don't know if I'd consider them trustworthy and I worry that it's just going to nag me to upgrade again, which won't work. (But if someone has a trustworthy link to 6.0, I might use that in the interim.)
Some of my friends with Macs have very awesome IM clients that are far better than AIM. Do any of you Windows people have ones you'd recommend? If so, I'll just ditch AIM altogether. "Must have" features are the ability to use more than one screen name and automatic logging of IM sessions (which I need for work). I've seen one that interfaces to both AIM and Google - if it can do that, even better, but not required.
Profgrrrrl is running a marathon today. Her hair is pink because she raised the $1500 she set out to raise for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Good luck, PG!!
Wooooo!! She finished!