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This Is Shameful

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.26.09

US District Judge Colleen Kottar-Kelly just ordered the release (don't get excited, it's not going to happen unless the Justice Department decides not to appeal) of Fouad al-Rubiah, one of the prisoners at Guantanamo. Read the opinion -- there are a lot of redactions, so you can't get the details, but we took a middleaged aircraft engineer who flew to Afghanistan for charitable purposes a short while before 9/11, cobbled together some insane story out of interrogations from unreliable informants, and tortured him into confessing to it. If I follow the course of events correctly through all the redactions, we then continued to torture him because the story we told him to confess to didn't make any sense. And now we've asked a judge to keep him imprisoned on the basis of the confessions that the US interrogators found unbelievable.

Particularly grotesque was this quote from al-Rubiah, explaining one of the arguments interrogators used to convince him to confess:

In about August 2004, shortly before my CSRT hearing [an administrative review of Al Rabiah's detention], my interrogators told me the CSRT was just a show that would allow the United States to 'save face.' My interrogators told me no one leaves Guantanamo innocent, and told me I would be sent home to Kuwait if I 'admitted' some of the false things I had said in my interrogations. The interrogators also told me that I would never go home if I denied these things, because the United States government would never admit I had been wrongly held.

In case anyone was wondering, the hearing that Judge Kottar-Kelly is referring to in the opinion, in which the Justice Department took those irresponsible and indefensible positions, took place in August '09. On Obama's watch. This has to change somehow.

Afterthought: Remember, the fact that this case made it to a habeas hearing means that it's one of the US Government's strongest cases -- they've let some people go, and are dragging their feet even harder on other cases. This evidentiary pile of garbage was pretty close to the best we've got against any of the detainees. Who've been imprisoned and tortured for better than seven years now.


 

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If We Can't Jail Them, Fire Them or Disbar Them, We Can At Least Scorn Them.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.26.09

Brad DeLong has a piece in The Week magazine on John Yoo. Berkeley has apparently decided that it's not going to take any action against Yoo, and I never had any hope that a state bar association was going to. At that point, there's not much to do except what the esteemed Prof. DeLong is doing: make it clear what reasonable people think of his conduct, and not let it be forgotten.


 

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Guest Post: NickS Sets the Scene

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.26.09

On a whim, I just to looked for, and found on youtube, one of my favorite openining scenes to a movie. I haven't seen the movie in years, and the opening is even better than I remembered.

I recall the movie being good as well but, for the moment, I'm just impressed by that opening which manages to put two extremely memorable images in the first 5 minutes of the film (which is, actually, the first 3 minutes of the movie proper, since the video begins with 2 minutes of credits and titles).

Here is what takes place in those couple of minutes:

A reporter speaking into a microphone informing her radio audience that she is at an airfield awaiting the landing of a French pilot who has just made the fastest solo Atlantic crossing since Charles Lindbergh.

The crowd begins to get excited. There is a shot of the plane flying overhead, and then a cut back as the crowd begins to push their way towards the landing strip.

This brings us to the first great line, as the reporter says, "The crowd is trying to push past the police cordon . . . " After a short moment people begin to push past the police, and the reporter gives a little scream of excitement as she also gets swept past the police.

Then it cuts to the pilot climbing out of the plane, and being congratulated by a local dignatary. The pilot is gracious, but is looking around in a somewhat distracted manner. A friend of his comes up greeting him with, "I don't give a damn about the flight, I'm just pleased to see you."

They talk a little bit, in hushed tones, about a woman that the pilot was expecting to see. His friend says that she wasn't able to make it. At that point The reporter literally steps between the two of them talking and asks for some statement from the pilot. He takes the microphone, and starts talking with completely unguarded emotion.

"I'm very unhappy. I've never been so disillusioned. I did this for a woman. She isn't even here to welcome me; she didn't bother. . . ."

Cut to a radio with a pan upwards to show the woman in question, listening, as the reporter tries to salvage the situation, saying, "Our great airman has achieved an amazing feat but, of course, it required great effort. He is exhausted and in no state to give an interview. But here we have an engineer from Gaudron's."

At this point it is exactly 5:00 since the start of the video.

It's such a wonderful and compact opening scene, that uses the shift of perspective from the reporter to the pilot to great emotional effect.

The films starts out with the reporter, and she's excited, and it's contagious, and she's in the middle of an excited crowd of people, waiting for a celebrity to arrive. And then he arrives, and the movie immediately shifts it's emotional tone and we see that, as the scene goes on, that he's crushed and he would rather be anywhere but there. It's such an evocative image for the difference between public and private emotions, and the relationship between the media and celebrities. It's instantly obvious both that what he said wasn't the right thing to say at that moment, but also that there's a difference between the reporter's emotional performance of her excitement (which
is genuine, but also performance) and his raw emotional drama.

It's a short scene, but also one of the parts of the movie that is clearest in my memory.

* (I remembered her quote as, "The crowd is breaking through the barricade. . . . I'm going with them." But that appears to have been an embellishment of my memory.)


 

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25 Top Censored News Stories

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.25.09

I'm off to teach, since we reached a happy consensus about the misogyny of all girls at all times, so here, explore this.


 

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Goober Notorious

Posted by Stanley
on 09.25.09

Virginia's race for governor is a close one and by many accounts an important bellwether of the forthcoming 2010 congressional midterms.

And yet, my mind is plagued by a singularly superficial concern:

"Is it just me, or do both of these guys kind of look like turtles?"

turtsmcgurts.jpg


 

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"All Encompassingly", maybe

Posted by Stanley
on 09.24.09

Have you lot heard the kids on my lawn using "totes" to mean "totally"? It's totes not okay, says this prescriptivist.


 

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Misogyny of young girls

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.24.09

One of my students' facebook status is: she m_ves a little cl_ser... wh/sper/ng t_ me, "/ th_ught / t_ld ya..." . (He often updates with song lyrics)

There's just one comment, from a college-age girl with a sultry photo, that says "that's when you slap the bitch with a remote and say "well you didn't"."

Good God, how much self-hatred does this girl have?

Update: Within like an hour, this post was on the front page of a Google search for the lyrics. I have a fearful image of a student stumbling across this post. So, google-proofed.


 

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Guest Post: Sir Kraab

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.24.09

Next up: Flags stained with the blood of bureaucrats

How much responsibility does the right bear for anti-government violence? Census worker hanged with 'fed' on body. It hasn't been proven that the census worker was murdered by a teabagger or other anti-governmentist. But I can imagine it or something similar happening, which is pretty damn scary.

I want to be clear that most of the right, including the teabaggers, haven't committed violence, don't plan to commit violence, and wouldn't endorse politcal assasination or other violence. These things don't help, though: Widespread claims that Obama is a fascist and Nazi who will murder your grandmother; 3 incidents of guns, including assault rifles, brought to speeches by the president of the United States with, AFAIK, no Republican condemnation; and protest signs threatening gun violence.

Is the right any more responsible for this kind of violence than the left would be because some people called Bush a fascist and a mass murderer and called for waterboarding and other forms of torture to be used on Bush, Cheney, et al.? I say yes. (Rather than making this a super long post, I'll say more in comments.)

As for staining flags, Chuck Norris wants you to dip yours in tea.

(Here's an unrelated article about the census worker from last year.)


 

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The baby took off the ugly hipster glasses

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.24.09

I'm finding my relationship with Hawaiian Punch to be way less conflicted since I've gone back to work. It's kind of revolutionized my feelings towards motherhood.

Before, I just felt like we were sick of each other from Monday afternoon on, until the weekend. Not entirely, but it'd come and go: these stretches of staring at each other, where I had no impulse to find something for us to do. Where we'd just sit there in the still room, me propping her up so that she could explore the edge of the couch or the cat, while the other cat stayed just out of reach. I'd be so freaking bored that I had no initiative anymore. Being a stay at home parent requires a lot of initiative.

Now I'm never sick of her. I'm always looking forward to seeing her and relishing our time together. It's like that spot in the movies where the pursued becomes the pursuer. It's just wonderful. The triangle of me, Hawaiian Punch, and work/daycare is just so much more stable since we added that extra leg.


 

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Green Light

Posted by Stanley
on 09.23.09

I always soften up a bit at this:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I don't even know why.


 

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Kanye told me.

Posted by Stanley
on 09.23.09

This video is getting some of its stereotypes wrong.

Oh, sure, we've got classically-beautiful-girl-hiding-as-a-nerd-behind-glasses. The problem? The glasses! Those aren't contemporary nerd glasses. Those glasses are totally it right now among the hipster set.

So, she's either a time-warp nerd from, like, 1991, or someone they just flew in from Down Under the Bushwick Canal Underwing (that's the new cool neighb, right? okay, cool; just checking).

It's all very confused.


 

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Ha ha ha shut up.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.22.09

When I was little my brothers made fun of me a lot. I remember simultaneously laughing and crying because I found the joke really funny, even while I was the butt of the joke. Jammies finds that totally incomprehensible. It's not like the jokes were so good-humored that I felt the love coming through, either. I just couldn't help but get why it was hilarious at my own expense, and would laugh even though I really wanted to convey how mad I was. It was like being tickled.

I'm sure somewhere I've told the story of when I was called cute one too many times, but hey, here it goes again. I was the youngest, and the only girl, and so I got called cute a lot. I was probably four, and this particular time I threw a fit. (Cute seemed like an insult.). The whole family stood around idly watching me and my conniption.

Anyway someone asked me what I'd prefer to be called. I straightened up and sensed that I was on center stage, and whatever I answered would take on undue importance. I remember feeling like whatever I said had to last me for years and years, and so I'd better find the most adult compliment I could think of, and so I said "Fashionable!"

And then everybody crumbled into laughter and I instantly knew I'd made a terrible mistake. I think I just cried, though, no reflexive laughing.


 

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Comparisons are odious

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.22.09

I'm having a day where I will take a bow tonight if I get through without screwing anything up too major. I'm flying by the edge of the seat of my pants of the skin of my teeth, or something. Anyway, this is entertaining and Unfoggy.

Many different people are quoted with the post title, but for me personally it's from Madeleine L'Engle's The Moon By Night.


 

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That's Not My Name

Posted by Becks
on 09.21.09

But this BS is too close for comfort:

beck v. trans. beck-ing, beck-ed, to be baselessly attacked by an idiot with a megaphone, then have those accusations alter your life for the worse because it's politically expedient for your spineless superiors to demote or fire you

 

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Guest post: NickS starred in HotShots

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.20.09

Many of you may have heard of the idea that the brain can be "seeded" in how it responds to a question, but the result of a previous question that is completely unrelated.

For example, if you asked a control group, "do you think this vacuum cleaner [pictured] costs more or less than $150?" and you asked a second group, "We have two questions. First, what is your age? Second, do you think this vacuum cleaner [pictured] costs more or less than $150?" The second group will be more likely to answer "less" to the question, because they've been "seeded" with a value that is less than $150. I presume that if you started by asking them their street address, more people would answer "more" to the second question.

I've noticed an interesting example of this in practice, even when I'm aware of the phenomenon.

I have a somewhat stupid trivia calendar, such that each day has multiple clues to the same question, that get increasingly obvious (e.g., "I am a person. I am male. I am a movie actor. I starred in Hot Shots.") . I have found that if you have someone else read the clues, the question isn't any more difficult to answer, as long as you don't try to answer before you have enough information. But if you make a guess, even an intentionally silly one, after each clue, it becomes much more difficult.

"Q: I am a person"
"A: Hillary Clinton."
"Q: I am male."
"A: Okay, Bill Clinton."
"Q: I am a movie actor.
"A: Okay, Micheal Douglas"
"Q: I starred in Hot Shots.
"A: Wait, I should know that, but I can't think of the name. Arrggh.").

Because the brain tries to work by correcting the last answer, even though it wasn't intended seriously, rather than looking at the question from scratch, it gets trapped in dead ends.

Brains are silly.

--------


Nick


 

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Oh Man

Posted by Becks
on 09.20.09

Wow. What starts out as a truly terrible Modern Love quickly devolves into perhaps the worst example yet of the genre.


 

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The B-List Is Closed

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.20.09

Laura from 11-D had a post back in July on how blogging has changed and professionalized since she got into it back in the day, and Michael Bérubé, among a whole bunch of other big blogs, picked it up at Crooked Timber last week.

If you're interested in the dynamics of blogging, the original post is interesting, but what struck me about it was the fact that it got picked up at all. (This is all kind of touched on in Laura's original post, but not exactly as it hit me.) Back in the early days of blogging [the political/policy blogosphere]* -- 2002, 2003, 2004 -- you had giant, A-list blogs, who would often pick up and link to interesting posts from the smaller blogs, and it wasn't that hard to break into the pack of smaller blogs that the big blogs might link to.

Now, you've got big professional blogs, many of which are still written by the same people who got influential back in the day. And they'll still link to the occasional interesting post from a small blog. But the small blogs who get links seem mostly to be the small blogs who have been around since back when the blogosphere was forming -- big bloggers aren't looking around for interesting stuff, so much as they're checking in on a short list of little blogs they got attached to, and blogrolled, five years ago. While Laura's an interesting writer with a lot of neat policy stuff to say, if she'd started blogging last year, none of the big blogs would have noticed that post.

Unfogged is in about the same position -- while I certainly haven't posted much of anything interesting on politics or policy for a year or so, and the rest of the front-pagers are certainly much less political/policy-oriented than the blog used to be, the mere fact that Ogged was a serious part of the liberal-hawk blog consensus (I know. Weird, isn't it? Try not to think about it too hard.), and the interpersonal connections that resulted from that, means that stuff here gets read by at least some large circulation bloggers, and anything genuinely interesting would have a good shot of getting picked up. I don't know if there's any way for a goofy, random, fairly small-readership blog like Unfogged to get that sort of attention now without the history, and that does seem like a shame to me.

* Update: As redfoxtailshrub points out in the comments, I'm not talking about the early days of blogging. I'm talking about the days when political/policy blogs were sort of coalescing into an organized network. Or something like that. The stuff that got set off by 9-11 and the reaction thereto.


 

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