Why has this been such a disease-ridden winter? I've been sick for almost the last solid month and everyone I know has been falling victim to various nasty hard-to-shake plagues all winter long. This is bullshit.
From the mind that brought us "he could blink a message in code," we have this close reading of Hillary's 3 A.M. ad. I can't even work up to being mean to her anymore. But I will note that "that's nuts" can be a substantive and appropriate response.
I'm making linguine carbonara for breakfast tomorrow, and I'm really getting a kick out of the commonality in differences that a flickr search for carbonara provides.
In related news, at the fancy grocery about thirty minutes ago, I discovered the breadth of the world of gourmet sea salt. I knew it existed, but to have salt from the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic, from Brittany, and on and on, was a bit much. I admit that the clear bags of salt that looks like it was recently scooped from the top of the waves, all damp and clumpy and thick, seems very cool, but even I--Iranian, yuppie, snob--refuse to pay 20 bucks for a pound of salt. Morton's Sea Salt, $2.50.
I've been following the story about the contaminated blood thinner heparin with some interest. My surgery in '06 went swimmingly, but afterwards they gave me heparin to minimize the chance of clotting in case my heart went arrhythmic, and I hemorrhaged and wound up with a much longer recovery. Now comes word that a lot of heparin is made in China (from the lining of pig intestines) and the supply chain is barely regulated. People have had allergic reactions and a few have died because of "impurities" in the drug. I don't think I had the same kind of reaction, but frankly, I could have done without hearing that I'd been injected with pig guts.
The larger point, of course, is that this is precisely the kind of situation that highlights the difference between responsibly participating in a global economy, and responding to market forces willy nilly. In addition to negotiating livable conditions for cheap foreign labor, we need things made overseas to meet the same standards that obtain here.
A little while ago, W-lfs-n posted this lovely Sam Amidon song, and as I poked around youtube, I started to wonder whether Amidon was the first person of the youtube age who is just a regular annoying young guy who also happens to make genuinely great music. I fear these categories won't stand up to much scrutiny, but maybe you know what I mean.
There's no logical reason I should be entertained by photoshopping celebrities' heads onto pictures of men wearing kilts, and yet I am.
So we all know that one of the perks of being a blogger is that you get to shamelessly hit on and date your commenters. Obviously. But what about them?
I think in the historical tradition of women being allowed to ask out men on Leap Day, commenters should be able to ask that special blogger they feel they have a connection with out on a date today without any embarrassment. (You can save all of that up for when you have to explain to people how you met.)
Cryptic Ned suggested a thread for people to share their favorite mp3 blogs. Seems like a fine idea. As always with recommendation threads, a short description of what you're recommending would be nice, so that we end up with something more than a clickable list.
A fetish I hadn't heard of: body inflation. Seems...odd. I think what these people really like are spheres.
Probably not safe for work.
Perhaps you'd like to spend a few moments of your evening watching William Buckley being relentlessly pwned by Noam Chomsky in a 1969 debate about imperialism.
As Kieran notes, one percent of all adults in America are incarcerated. I have no idea what even to say about this, except that it's shameful. Someone dig me up an Obama quote establishing that he's committed to ending the War On Drugs Other Than Alcohol Tobacco And Anything That Big Pharma's Making Money Off Of? Is there one? I haven't heard of any.
"Muahahaha" (and variants) is how we write villainous laughter, while "muah" (and variants) is how we write a theatrical kiss.
Coincidence? I fucking doubt it.
A kind reader sent in this editorial by Rick Santorum appearing in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. It appears to offer a preview of the line of attack should Obama win the nomination:
one of the Senate's fiercest partisans. This senator reflexively sides with the party's extreme wing. There's no record of working with the other side of the aisle. None. It's basically been my way or the highway, combined with a sanctimoniousness that breeds contempt among those on the other side of any issue.
[The] first-term Illinois senator's lofty rhetoric of bipartisanship, unity, hope and change makes everyone feel good. But it's becoming increasingly clear that his grand campaign rhetoric does not match his partisan, ideological record. The nonpartisan National Journal, for example, recently rated Obama the Senate's most liberal member.
And at least one of the crazy-ass Swiftboatingish accusations they plan to employ:
Let's be clear about what Obama did, once in 2003 and twice before that. He effectively voted for infanticide. He voted to allow doctors to deny medically appropriate treatment or, worse yet, actively kill a completely delivered living baby. Infanticide - I wonder if he'll add this to the list of changes in his next victory speech and if the crowd will roar: "Yes, we can."
I've been listening to Bloggingheads a fair amount lately -- the podcasts are pleasantly random to listen to while I work out, and I end up hearing from people I wouldn't intentionally read, or be aware of. So I was listening to this, from Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard and Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy on the bike last night, and was stunned. Did any of you know that there were people out there (that is, Goldfarb) who thought that shooting down that damaged satellite the other week was a meaningful test of our missile defense system. As in, a really big deal that would silence critics.
How dim do you have to be to think this? A satellite in orbit is the next most predictable object other than something motionless on the ground -- while the orbit of this satellite was decaying, we could have predicted its position and velocity to any desired degree of accuracy for quite a ways out. Our capacity to get a missile to a precisely predetermined location and time shouldn't ever have been in question, should it? But that's not the problem with missile defense -- the problem with missile defense is that missiles don't have to be predictable. They can be accompanied by, or release, decoys; some can steer. They don't arrive on schedules. You can't postpone shooting them down if there are rough seas or if it's raining. Being able to shoot down this satellite has absolutely nothing to do with the real problems with missile defense.
I had honestly not understood why the satellite thing was a big story, other than that it was a slow news week. Was it really supposed to be an advertisement for missile defense, under the assumption that no one reading would have any clue what they were talking about? If so, bizarre.
I want to note that Josh Marshall just won a George Polk Award for his journalism. Congrats to him. Marshall was one of the first bloggers I read, and TPM and associated sites are now indispensable and a remarkable achievement for a guy who started as a regular old blogger. Yes, he was a journalist, but hardly one with a high profile; he built the sites as a blogger (and did it while finishing his dissertation, which I'm not sure most people know). Really a pretty impressive guy all around.
You, like me, are probably frustrated that the 13th Other Minds festival coincides exactly with a series of concerts sponsored by SFJazz and taking place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in which will be performing such artists and ensembles as the intriguingly-named Björkestra, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, and 2 Foot Yard. And, like me, you probably wonder where your allegiances on each night should lie. Here is what I think. I think that on Thursday one should go to the Other Minds fest, on Friday to YBCA to hear the finest in Swiss robot jazz, and on Saturday one should go to neither (!) but rather save one's bucks by heading to Revolution to hear Aram Shelton's Ton Trio for free. I say this even though I can't really produce any reason to favor Thursday at Other Minds over Friday or Saturday, other than that Thursday seems to be the only day on which Wadada Leo Smith is actually performing.
A sign of the times: I recently bought tickets to something on Ticketmaster and it gave me the option of buying insurance in case I can't use the tickets because my boss makes me cancel.
Let us take a moment to remember his contributions to our culture. Triumphantly, nine!
The pool hall at my college was chick forsaken, tucked in the basement of the student union, with a cloud of cigarette smoke lingering against the low ceilings. But on some weekends women would find their way down there, and on one weekend in particular, as my friend and I were playing with a friend who was a wide-receiver on the football team--a shaved-headed black guy--a very attractive woman came in and started doing a ridiculously hot and suggestive dance like, around the wide-receiver; hips swaying and grinding, looking right at him with that look. Like all the rest of us boys, his reaction was a mixture of WTF? and Daaaaamn, except that he also knew that she had a boyfriend, which he pointed out to her, only to hear "I like guys with courage." Yikes. But that wasn't going to be him, and eventually he convinced her to leave.
Another time, the same friend and I were sitting in German class with another friend--a different shaved-headed black guy--and we pointed out a woman in the class who we both thought was very cute. In response to our bootless slavering, he told us that she'd come to his dorm room a few weeks prior and silently took off all her clothes. (I now realize that this would make a fantastic "most humbling moment" in a personal ad.) But, as has been noted, in the event, these things are more weird than hot, and he'd kicked her out.
Something for you art critics and philosophers on the nature of art and form:
I've trying to learn to draw and my main material has been photographs. Partly because they're useful for working on technique, figuring out proportions and tone, how changing a line affects the drawing, but partly because I often find images I'd really like to draw (and, frankly, it's easier than drawing from 3-dimensional objects).
Obviously the drawing don't look anything like the photographs -- I'm not a Dutch master working in oils. But if the product is a drawing in my style but that's pretty much a copy of a photo that someone else framed and shot, is it anything more than a copy? (The framing seems like a key issue.) It it worthwhile as anything other than an exercise?
What if it's more impressionistic, a watercolor or pastel? What if I use a close-up shot to draw someone's face and make that part of a larger drawing? Does it make a difference if it's a famous person of whom there are many photographs? (Here I must confess that I once drew a picture of Paul Wolfowitz because there was a great close-up of him in the New Yorker.) What about a photo of a famous event? A generic photo of, say, a flower? (I do a decent squash blossom.)
How far does my piece have to depart from the photo to make it "mine"? I'm not asking about trying to pass my work off to strangers as completely original. (Plagarism alert!) I'm barely willing to show it to people I know. Or maybe it is partly about plagarism, because I feel somewhat differently about drawing from photos I've taken or family photos. The latter are people I know, who would give me permission to use them. They're my Deval Patrick quotations, if you will.
So I'm not asking if it's art -- too grand a question for my purposes -- but is what I'm doing interesting? Is there any way in which it is original? Is this even an interesting question?
Surely, surely Camp Clinton has something up their sleeve to rattle Obama. It's her last chance. What will it be???
Yes, this is a debate thread.
Advice Seeker: My girlfriend blabbed about my big cock, and now all her friends are coming on to me.
Advice Giver: Turn them down.
So much wasted potential.
Saheli drew my attention to a Noam Schreiber piece in The New Republic on Obama's advisors. And it reads as if they were following me around trying to work out exactly what sort of governance would appeal to me, personally, most.
But what's really interesting is how Thaler and his fellow behaviorists responded to this fairly critical insight. Though rational self-interest was the central tenet of neoclassical (i.e., modern) economics, they didn't take a wrecking ball to the field and replace it with some equally sweeping theory of human behavior. Instead, they labored to bring economics closer in line with how the world actually works, one small adjustment at a time. "'Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly,'" Thaler wrote in the introduction to The Winner's Curse, quoting the philosopher Thomas Kuhn. "I hope to accomplish that first step--awareness of anomaly. Perhaps at that point we can start to see the development of the new, improved version of economic theory."
As it happens, Thaler is revered by the leading wonks on Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Though he has no formal role, Thaler presides as a kind of in-house intellectual guru, consulting regularly with Obama's top economic adviser, a fellow University of Chicago professor named Austan Goolsbee. "My main role has been to harass Austan, who has an office down the hall from mine, " Thaler recently told me. "I give him as much grief as possible." You can find subtle evidence of this influence across numerous Obama proposals. For example, one key behavioral finding is that people often fail to set aside money for retirement even when their employers offer generous 401(k) plans. If, on the other hand, you automatically enroll workers in 401(k)s but allow them to opt out, most stick with it. Obama's savings plan exploits this so-called "status quo" bias.
And, yet, it's not just the details of Obama's policies that suggest a behavioral approach. In some respects, the sensibility behind the behaviorist critique of economics is one shared by all the Obama wonks, whether they're domestic policy nerds or grizzled foreign policy hands. Despite Obama's reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren't radicals--far from it. They're pragmatists--people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As Thaler puts it, "Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground." It might as well be the motto for Obama's entire policy shop.
Doesn't that sound beautiful? An adminstration run by wonks with a pragmatic approach to getting stuff done using methods that work, rather than ideologically based lunacy? Oh, it probably won't turn out to be true, but it's a lovely, lovely thought.
This is the kind of thing that makes me think that there's some justification for the hope that Obama is a genuine liberal who will move left whenever he has the political capital to do it.
"I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud ap-proach to Israel, then you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel," leading Democratic presidential contender Illinois Senator Barack Obama said Sunday.
"If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress," he said.
He also criticized the notion that anyone who asks tough questions about advancing the peace process or tries to secure Israel by anyway other than "just crushing the opposition" is being "soft or anti-Israel."
Obama made the comments in a closed-door meeting with several members of Cleveland's Jewish community, who will be participating in the crucial Ohio primary to be held next Tuesday.
Via Yglesias, who says,
This is music to my ears and, frankly, very much the attitude that's Israel's long-term future requires. Still, in some quarters the man may as well have just festooned himself with swastikas.
That's exactly right on all counts. This is an amazing thing for Obama to say, and to say to a group of Jewish leaders, no less. But it seems like Obama's decided that pandering isn't his best strategy and he's going to be frank. And this bit is just brilliant.
He also again noted his disagreement with some of the critical statements on Israel made by the pastor of his church, which he ascribed to the latter's support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa at a time that Israel continued to trade with the regime there.
"He is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with," he said. "And I suspect there are some people in this room who have heard relatives say some things that they don't agree with, including, on occasion, directed at African Americans."
I don't like to make fun of the mentally ill, but really, I think you'll forgive me, because who else could come up with the greatest conspiracy theory of all time? A mere taste:
Plaintiff additionally contends that Gulf War against Iraq was undertaken so that American could restock its sexual slavery camps, which had been depleted. 40,000 Iraqi soldiers captured by the United States, selected for their physical attractiveness, have been brought to this country where they were "being beaten, forced to run gauntlets and homosexually gang-raped by American soldiers." Plaintiff claims to have confronted Secretary of Defense Cheney with evidence of this allegation. Cheney, through "proteus," purportedly told the plaintiff, "Well, we were so sick and tiered of killing black girls. We just had to put some variety back into our death-hunting industry. And they [Persians] are incredibly beautiful. The beauty of the face heightens the pleasure of the kill. I know of no higher pleasure than the gang-rape of exceedingly beautiful people."
Why should I ask any questions when I've already decided how I'm voting in every case before it's presented?
Buried in this book review was some advice that, while a bit cheesy, resonated with me:
[The] most illuminating comments in either book come from James Patterson, a former advertising mogul who now writes best-selling mystery fiction...Mr. Patterson urged her to think of life as a game in which we juggle five balls labeled Work, Family, Health, Friends and Integrity.
"One day you understand Work is a rubber ball. You drop it and it bounces back...The other four balls are made of glass. Drop one of those, and it will be irrevocably marked, scuffed, nicked and maybe even shattered."
Horrifying as stories of torture and indefinite detention of detainees in the Global War On Things That Make Us Tense are, they're all the sorts of things that happen to someone else. I'm sick and sorry and ashamed that people who on some level work for me have committed and are committing these crimes but not particularly worried that any circumstances could happen where I'd get waterboarded. This case feels different:
Attorney General Woods has this to say about the Bush Justice Department's prosecution of [Ex-governor of Alabama, again running for governor when prosecuted]Siegelman: "I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair and square. This was a Republican state and he was the one Democrat they could never get rid of."
In other words, not being able to beat Siegelman at the polls, Woods believes that his own party corruptly used the criminal justice process to take out an adversary. This is an extraordinary, heavy accusation. Not something that a senior Republican would raise easily about his own party. And the facts back the accusation up, beginning to end.
Siegelman's in federal prison. For seven years. He was convicted of corruption on allegations that a businessman made a large donation to a charitable fund controlled by the state, and in return was appointed to an unpaid position on the Alabama hospital oversight board. Based on testimony from a criminal who was pressured to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence, who testified that Siegelman walked out of a particular meeting with a check for the donation. Documentary evidence contradicts that testimony -- the check wasn't cut untill well after the meeting. But the prosecution didn't provide that evidence to the defense or put it before the jury.
This is crazy -- Siegelman is literally a political prisoner. He was convicted on trumped-up charges because he was a political threat to the Republican party. And unless it gets straightened out on appeal, he's going to spend seven years in prison, based on a case cobbled together out of no wrongdoing whatsoever, by corrupt federal prosecutors working at Karl Rove's direction. This is an old story -- I've known about it for ages, and I'm just posting about it now because of the 60 Minutes piece on it this week. I find it more personally frightening than waterboarding, though. No one's likely to have me waterboarded. But if you, or I, or anyone you know turned into a significant political threat to Republican politicians, we could get railroaded just like Siegelman -- the only thing that keeps us safe isn't that we're Americans, or that we're middle class people who could get lawyers to defend us, it's that we're not important enough to bother imprisoning.
Does anyone know what the rules are about cleaning house in the Justice Department when a new administration comes in? The top level appointees turn over and are reappointed by the new administration, but are we allowed to fire literally everyone who was appointed in the last eight years and start fresh?
On a less contentious note, this hilariously and depressingly heavy-handed propaganda video from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, designed to discredit internal enemies of the regime as agents of a foreign power. You can almost see the producers with their checklist of groups to discredit. Don't forget the scientists! And you have to love the typecasting; check out the young man with the party hair who'll do anything for a visa to America.
via the arabist
Via Henley, who says, "And you thought villains never really soliloquized on their master plans," comes this remarkable video of Bill Kristol offering Clinton advice on defeating Obama.
If the world's crop situation gets so dire that we have to tap the Doomsday Seed Vault, surely countries will start bombing the hell out of each other to get there first and we'll end up annihilating almost the entire world's population. Which then means it will have to be up to One Man to make the trek across oceans, continents, and the tundra to rescue them.
I'm not very familiar with Hugh Laurie's career, and didn't know anything about his Fry & Laurie work. But this video, posted by Atrios last night, is such a great parody of Americanness that I was wondering, "who is this brilliant parodist and why don't I know him?"
So, Unfogged readers, other bloggers, people who work in the media -- anyone receive the Obama-in-a-turban email that Drudge is claiming the HRC campaign was circulating? Who was it circulated to, what did it say, and who did it (nominally) come from?
Anyone up for defending this?
More: Drudge has photos of Hillary, Bill, and Bush in native dress.
From an article on legal courts deferring to religious courts:
In 2003, for instance, a Texas appeals court referred a divorce case to a local tribunal called the Texas Islamic Court. In 2005, the federal appeals court in New Orleans affirmed an award in an employment arbitration by the Institute for Christian Conciliation, which uses Biblical teachings to settle disputes. And state courts routinely enforce the decisions made by a Jewish court, known as a bet din, in commercial and family law cases.
The larger question, legal experts in the United States said, is whether government courts should ever defer to religious ones.
Yes, that is a question. Maybe you legal folks out there can shed some light on this but it seems a bit odd to me. How common is this and why is it allowed?
This has been the first year in recent memory that my attitude towards the Oscars has been merely indifference and not active dislike. I congratulate the writers' strike for helping keep Oscars hype in check and sparing us from two months of Hollywood self-indulgence being shoved in our faces.
A reader asks:
I thought this might be a good place to ask. First some background:
I'm an academic, looking for a first tenure-track job after two years of post-doc. Jobs are pretty slim in my area, and I'm not really interested in a teaching oriented position. So the job search is not easy. I still feel that some academic positions are close to my perfect job. But there are a lot of academic jobs that aren't. I've been spinning my wheels a lot this last year. And I'm increasingly coming to believe that my next 5-10 years research is going to have to be done very tactically. This is disheartening.
The complication is that I'm being headhunted by a smallish company, growing but small enough still that I could really affect its direction. I'd still do a fair bit of research, but toward company goals rather than geared towards selling it in a grant. I might get to set some of those goals.
There are a lot of trade-offs of course. It's a big move (but to a nicer city). The pay is well above academic expectations (for a full professor, let alone an assistant), so the hours will pile up at times. I'm not convinced this is any worse than a tenure run at a decent research institution. I've done related industry work before, so I'm not going into this blind. With industry I worry about slogging through tedious projects. On the other hand, it can't be worse than my last 10 months have been.
I look pretty good on paper. I suspect I can get a position somewhere or other without too much trouble. However, the academic jobs I'm really, really interested in are few and strongly contested. At this point after years of doing little else, I'm not sure I'm up for another 5, or 10 years of that. I'm half way convinced to say screw it, let's try something else for a bit. But everyone always says leaving for industry is the death of an academic career. If I didn't believe that held some truth, I'd go for bit just to see what it has to offer.
So this is what I'd like to ask the mineshaft. Particularly if you stood here, or near it: what made up your mind? If you left, or if you didn't, do you regret it? I'm interested in your thoughts while I bounce this around in my head.
Texas Republicans have worked overtime to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and be represented fairly. The redistricting games they've played are infamous. And for the Prairie View A&M University precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles from the school.
So what did the students in this video do? They shut down the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on the first day of early voting.