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Guest Post - The Rouge

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.19.13

Nick S. writes: I read this in the waiting room for my dentist this morning, and thought it was sweet.

A story about a specific moment in which the norms of segregation fractured in Las Vegas. As the article demonstrates, it was a long time before segregation was formally ended on the strip (1960), but it tells an interesting story of how one integrated hotel, in 1955, changed a lot of perceptions.

"The Rouge, as locals call it, was the brainchild of several white businessmen led by Los Angeles real-estate baron Alexander Bisno and New York restaurateur Louis Rubin. They spent $3.5 million to build what they billed as "America's First Interracial Hotel." The time seemed ripe. President Harry Truman had abolished segregation in the U.S. military in 1948. Six years later, the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education did the same for public schools.
Bisno, Rubin and their partners integrated their project by giving former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis a small ownership share to serve as the Rouge's greeter, shaking hands at a front door that was open to all. They hired and trained black waiters, waitresses and blackjack dealers. And while their resort rose on the Westside's eastern edge, barely dice-rolling distance from Glitter Gulch, they dispatched talent scouts to nightclubs in black neighborhoods all over the country, to find "the loveliest, leggiest ladies of their race" for the chorus line.
...
Within a month, the Moulin Rouge dancers were doing the "Tropi Can Can" on the cover of Life magazine. Life's feature story forecast a starry future for "this most modern hostelry." Cary Grant, Bob Hope, the Dorsey Brothers and Rosemary Clooney dropped in to see what the fuss was about. Variety reported, "This unusual spot continues to pull in the gambling sect, who are not alarmed in the least about rubbing elbows and dice in mixed racial company."
Rather than the riots some pundits had predicted, everyone got along. A black visitor from the South marveled at seeing interracial couples in the casino at a time when dozens of states, including Nevada, still had miscegenation laws on the books. "Where I come from," he said, "that'd get you lynched." Along with eye-popping entertainment, the frisson of racial mixing attracted sellout crowds and Hollywood royalty. Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Milton Berle, Dorothy Lamour, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, George Burns and Gracie Allen all came to the Rouge."

 

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Traitor Joes

Posted by Stanley
on 01.18.13

Today is Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia. After almost twenty years of living here, I still find this sort of thing grating. But surely there are worse people for whom one could designate a holiday, right?

I figure this question is up the Mineshaft's alley.


 

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Your kid ate my cherry chapstick

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.18.13

If you go to college and stay in the dorm, you probably don't expect your roommate's 4 year old to be there, too, about about a quarter of the time. You don't have to be a brat about it, either, though.

It really would suck to have a four year old frequenting your dorm room, however, and it's way outside what a flexible roommate would expect to encounter. So basically NYU dropped the ball, because this is a situation where everyone expects a high degree of segregation between Families and Single People. Family housing probably exists. Or at least give her a single. If they actually want to integrate families and single people and provide an entirely different sort of experience, this is a terrible way to go about it.

Via Oudemia


 

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Peter Ludlow must love this.

Posted by Ben
on 01.17.13

So, Crazy Blind Date is back. One does wonder about this, to which Jezebel drew one's attention under the heading of an objectionable gamification:

After the date ends, Crazy Blind Date prompts users to give feedback on the date. If the daters had a good time, they are offered the opportunity to vouch for their date's awesomeness by purchasing Crazy Blind Date credits, called "Kudos," on their date's behalf, thus incentivizing everyone to be on his or her best behavior. The more Kudos daters collect from the people they've gone on dates with in the past, the higher priority they have in being assigned to future dates.

If the daters had a good time, mightn't they prefer to go on further dates with one another, rather than making it easier for each other to go on further dates without one another? Or so one wondered until one realized one's mistake, viz., in the universe of CBD, dating is an autonomous practice, not simply in that it does not have its end outside itself (in, for instance, the surcease of dating in some form of stable long-term partnership), but that it is a practice which each practitioner pursues on his or her own account. With that change in view, one can imagine wanting to become better at dating as such, for which dating the same person for some time might in fact be detrimental (as, for instance, playing chess only against one or two others can be bad for one's game), and also recognizing another's skill at dating without actually caring to go on further dates with them. (E.g..) In which case it all makes a lot of sense, really.


 

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Infographics

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.13

The rich are just like you and me, except sadder.


 

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Guest Post From NickS, Posted Without Really Reading First Because He Generally Makes Sense

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.17.13

Reading the various Aaron Swartz memorial posts, I find myself thinking about this passage from one of his guest posts (http://crookedtimber.org/2012/06/18/guest-review-by-aaron-swartz-chris-hayes-the-twilight-of-the-elites/) at crooked timber:

"Now, as I said, I think Hayes is broadly correct in his analysis. And I think his proposed solution is spot on as well--when we were fellows together at the Harvard Center for Ethics, I think we annoyed everyone else with our repeated insistence that reducing economic inequality was somehow always the appropriate solution to each of the many social ills the group identified.
But when talking to other elites about this proposal, I notice a confusion that's worth clarifying, about the structural results of inequality, rather than the merely quantitative ones. Class hangs over the book like a haunting spectre (there's a brief comment on p. 148 that "Mills [had] a more nuanced theory of elite power than Marx's concept of a ruling class") but I think it's hard to see how the solution relates to the problem without it. After all, we started by claiming the problem is meritocracy, but somehow the solution is taxing the rich? . . ."

It makes me think that trying to imagine a more equal society does require something more than just higher taxes. So my question for the mineshaft is, "excluding any changes to the tax code do you have any pet policies which you think would reduce inequality?" Universal preschool, card-check unions, selecting legislators by lot? What would you do?
Note, also that this post by D2 is relevant (though more pessimistic than what I was hoping for): http://crookedtimber.org/2012/09/26/predistribution-a-bad-idea-whose-time-has-come/

LB: I'm running out the door to take DogBreath to the vet, who may have had a stroke or something. Cross your fingers for her? She's old, but we're still very fond of her.


 

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Munchausen by internet

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.16.13

That Manti Te'o story is nuts! I know it's been linked in the comments and you guys are merrily discussing it already. At any rate, I was reminded (explicitly, by Snarkout) of these two articles about Munchausen By Internet. The first made the rounds a few months ago, and I was dumbstruck by the left turn it takes, which is now going to be wholly unsurprising to anyone who read the post title above - spoiler alert, I guess. (Is that how that works?) I'd never read the second before, but it's got more details on the prevalence of the phenomenon. It's rather creepy and predatory and internet-based. Just like us!


 

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An Open Letter to the Girl Mike Pretended To Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.16.13

Longform essay from Mike on being closeted in middle school. First, I've only a vague sense of what it's like to experience closetedness. First, obviously: totally miserable. But I think I've missed a major component of it. I always pictured closetedness as something like being an undocumented worker, or maybe a Jew in Nazi Germany: your goal is to lay low, and the constant vigilance and anxiety would be awful. But none of that is specific to sexual orientation and homophobia and what it means to specifically pass as straight. Also Mike is a great writer who cheerfully airs his dirtiest laundry. Not like that, perv. I mean his asshole side. Not like that, perv.

Also it gave me an inkling of sympathy as to the suffering under the bravado of destructive homophobic closet-case adults.


 

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I don't think the death star thing counts

Posted by Ben
on 01.15.13

Quære: has anything of moment yet emerged from this White House petition process? I haven't followed the petitions closely, but my general impression as an ill-informed member of the public is that the answer is "no".


 

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Guest Post - Zero Dark Thirty

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.15.13

Ajay writes: Zero Dark Thirty is a bad film, in two senses: bad morally, and bad artistically. Some of the decisions made by Kathryn Bigelow (director) and Mark Boal (screenwriter) are bad morally; some are bad artistically; some are both.

Let's start with the morals. This is the torture thing.

Bigelow and Boal - and their defenders - have been emphatic that they're not endorsing torture. Alyssa Rosenberg buys that by saying "It's true that Zero Dark Thirty will be politically unsatisfying to observers who would have liked to see it thoroughly rebuke the idea that any instance or threat of torture ever produces information that can become actionable under any circumstances."
But she's wrong here. It's not just that ZD30 portrays torture as a crucial part of finding bin Laden (this is a lie). But it doesn't even nod at the idea that there might be other ways of interrogating (better, more effective ways, according to people in a position to know) or that torture might occasionally produce information that isn't actionable because it's either useless or false. Torture - or the threat or torture - is the only thing to do with terrorist suspects, and it always works eventually. It's true, she gives a tip of the hat to the damage torture does to the torturers, with CIA torturer Dan's remark to the main character Maya that he's getting burned out. No sympathy, though, to the detainees. Our Heroine pores through video after video of shaking, terrified, brutalised men, all giving up exactly the information she needs thanks to the self-sacrificing efforts of men like Dan.

From Heebie: Possibly spoilers after the jump? I haven't seen the movie. I hear that everything works out great in Afghanistan, though.

Also, am I the only (local, Austin) person who was initially confused by this movie and that NPR show Oh-Dark-Thirty?

Ajay writes some more: Does anyone ever suggest that there might be a better way? Yes. There's another analyst, Jessica. She's the anti-Maya. She drinks. She has messy hair. She makes (PG-rated) lewd remarks. For any fan of 80s slasher films, this is a giveaway: Jessica is for the chop. She dooms herself, really, the poor misguided bint. She thinks it's possible to succeed by treating people nicely; she gets involved in a Jordanian project to run a mole inside Al-Qaeda, and prepares to debrief him, not by beating him to death, but by baking him a cake. Of course, the mole turns out to be a double agent, and blows himself up when he arrives for a debriefing. Poor silly drunken Jessica, she should have known.

Even were it the case that torture actually worked this way - and it doesn't; even were it the case that it made it possible to find bin Laden - and it didn't; making the film would still be an immoral act because it helps to strengthen the case for torture, which is morally repulsive even if effective. But by lying, and by suppressing the truth, on such an important issue, Bigelow has made the equivalent of a film in which Africans are portrayed as better off as slaves, or women as secretly wanting to be abused.

That's not all. The film starts with (real?) phone calls from the World Trade Center towers played over a black screen. But, if this is the story of the hunt for bin Laden, why start here? The hunt began years before. Why not start in 1998, with the embassy bombings in Africa and the first attempt - possibly betrayed by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI - to kill bin Laden? Why give the impression that 9/11 came from a clear blue sky - that "no one could have foreseen it" - by starting from a black tabula rasa and the voices of people burning to death?

We see another terrorist attack - the July bombings in London. The main characters (or rather the main figures; there's little attempt at character building) immediately declare that this reinforces the need to "get bin Laden". But bin Laden didn't order the attacks. Al-Qaeda as a centralised organisation did not survive past 2001. It's ironic that, in a film whose heroine castigates pre-9/11 thinking over and over, this should have been the case. The bombers were motivated by stories of torture in Bagram and Abu Ghraib - and by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. (Iraq. There's another word that somehow never appears in the script.) But the idea that what our heroes are doing might have blowback effects that end up killing people in London is, somehow, never mentioned either. Oh, wait - there is a long conversation about how torturing people for a living might end up being bad not just for your mental health, but for your career prospects. Bad for national security? Absolutely not.

Enough on the morals: it's a bad film artistically as well. It has (barely) one real character. The others are cardboard: Bearded Commando is Bearded. CIA Bureaucrats are Bureaucratic - and interchangeable. Maya's boss Doesn't Understand Her. We never have any idea why. Dan the torturer has a character trait: he has a monkey. One day it dies for some reason. Dan is unhappy about this. Why did Maya join CIA? Does she have any discernible character traits apart from obsessive interest in bin Laden? Does she have a family? No idea. She swears at the DCI at one point - it's not quite clear why. Apparently this impresses him. In two and a half hours, do we really get to know any of these characters? How many of them can we even name, let alone imagine as real people?

Characters appear and disappear. A Pakistani man has something attached to his leg by (presumably) the police, gets released, and is then arrested by burqa-clad troops. Why? Who is he? What did this achieve? No idea. We never see him again. There is a breakthrough in hunting bin Laden's courier when his mobile phone is found and cloned. This just happens, by magic. Then we spend ages watching people trying to track it. Can Boal actually tell a story, or is he just stringing one scene after another?

After we've ground through an hour and a half of this, Maya goes pretty much offset and we get the moment we've all been waiting for: the Abbottabad raid. This is probably one of the worst action sequences I have ever seen. Action isn't Bigelow's strong point: her last film, The Hurt Locker, was notable for its complete inability to give any idea of who was where at any given time. This one's no better. The compound seems to have seventeen separate doors, through all of which SEALs make their way at high speed like characters in some sort of commando-themed Feydeau farce. "They've landed in the animal pen!" a dramatic voice hisses at one point. Is that good? Were they meant to land there? Has everything gone wrong? Where is the animal pen, anyway? No idea. There is a lot of green-lit milling around in open areas inside (or possibly outside) the bin Laden compound. SEALs, apparently, don't use cover. We jump from one floor to another. Eventually (spoiler!) bin Laden and various other extras are shot and the film is over. Just as nothing worth mentioning happened before 9/11, nothing worth mentioning happened afterwards.

There was a better film about the war on terror: it was called "Act of Valor". At least it had a coherent plot; at least its soldiers acted like soldiers; at least its action was competently shot and blocked - and at least it depicted a real interrogator (played by a real SEAL interrogator) conducting a successful interrogation without needing to torture.

That one sank without a trace. Like it or not, Zero Dark Thirty is the film that Serious People will look to for their image of the war on terror.


 

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Call to arms

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.15.13

So, Obama is going to make his speech about gun control proposals tomorrow. I actually have a visceral fear of the whackjob backlash. From where I stand, nothing in the past four years has come within a mile of legitimating any rightwing fears until this. And of course I support the actual legislation...I'm just simultaneously nervous about the gun paranoia-ists.


 

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Aaron Swartz

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.14.13

J, Robot requests an Aaron Swartz thread. Along with a general plea for copyright civility from all the usual suspects.


 

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A juicy situation which I don't have permission to post about

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.14.13

So I'll try to keep it non-identifying-ish.

A friend of mine has a son, about 23 years old, who recently moved back home. He'd been living in a party house with his girlfriend, and others. He moved home to get out of that scene and also to save up money so that he can get a place of his own, possibly with the girlfriend.

My friend hates the girlfriend. Friend places a lot of value on work ethic and ambition, and the girlfriend is described as a jobless drifter who sleeps in till 2 or 3 every day. Friend says "I know they lived together in that house, and I know they'll move in together when my they save up some money, but hell no she is not spending the night under my roof." The reason is that Friend finds it galling that Friend would be heading off to work every morning, knowing the girlfriend would be sleeping in bed at Friend's house until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

Is it fair to nix overnight visits for that reason?


 

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Guest Post - Jared Diamond's new book

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.14.13

Rob Helpy-Chalk writes: Jared Diamond has a new book out, and this Jackson Lears has decided that Diamond belongs with such intellectual lightweights and defenders of the status quo as Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Friedman, and Francis Fukuyama. I haven't read the new book, but the line of criticism of all his work in the review bugs me. Guns, Germs, and Steel is criticized for letting European imperialists off the hook for the decimation of non-European societies, transferring the blame to impersonal environmental factors. Indeed, the reviewer says that the word "imperialism" never even appears in Diamond's book. But this seems to miss the point. Diamond establishes early on that all the players on the world stage at this point were agricultural empires. The Spanish had an empire. The Mayans had an empire. Both empires, he assumes, will act as empires to--try to crush everyone else in the quest for power. The only question was why the Europeans won this fight. Critics seem to be upset that Europeans and non-Europeans are placed on the same level morally. The Spanish and the Mayans are both treated as empires, rather than as colonizers and colonized.

Similarly, Collapse is criticized for letting the European imperialists off the hook for the impoverishment and destruction of places like Haiti and Rapa Nui, instead transferring the blame to bad environmental policies. But this creates a false dichotomy. This is especially clear in the case of Haiti, where the destructive policy of deforestation was carried out by the French to begin with. You aren't transferring blame away from the French if you say their environmental
policies, and not just their economic policies, were responsible for the impoverishment of a country. In general, blaming imperialism and blaming environmental shortsightedness are not mutually exclusive. Critics of Collapse act as if it is simply impossible for bad environmental policy to lead to social problems or suffering. Bad consequences are only the fault of Western imperialism. This is the kind of thinking that let the old Soviets and the Mao-era Chinese to completely decimate the countryside. Only capitalism can poison a river.

Diamond's new book is apparently more anecdotal, so Lears can't accuse it of having a global thesis that is environmentalist rather than anti-imperialist. Mostly he accuses Diamond of making claims that are too anodyne, like "the modern western diet is unhealthy." The one part of Diamond's new book that I'm looking forward to reading is his comparison of war in state and nonstate societies. Diamonds claim is that war in tribal societies is far more total and therefore far more devastating than modern state warfare. I'm inclined to believe this claim, as I am inclined to believe Steven Pinker's claim that violence is globally on the decline. Lears is sympathetic to this argument, in the end winds up lumping it in with Diamond's tendency to minimize European savagery.

I don't have the expertise to defend any of the theses I am attracted to here. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that anyone who believes that the environment plays a big role in history is a "middlebrow" apologist for the status quo. Lears approvingly quotes an anthropologist saying that rather than talking about the destructive troika of "guns, germs and steel" we should talk about "lawyers, God and money." Basically, rather than talking about the physical and biological, we should only talk about the social and economic. I'm not comfortable with that.


 

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Like that between poetry and philosophy, perhaps

Posted by Ben
on 01.13.13

I am reading Right Ho, Jeeves. My copy of the book was printed in 1978, by, or at least for, its publisher, Penguin Books. At the back of the book (the object) after the end of the book (Right Ho, Jeeves) is, listed over several pages, "a selection of books published by Penguin". That is, the selection is not itself back there; rather, the selection is listed there. The whereabouts of the selection itself, if it even is still located anywhere, is not known to me. One of these pages has printed at the top, in the center, and in an italic face, "Three by Lionel Davidson". (Note that I do not reproduce the italics. That would be quite unnecessary, as unnecessary as, for instance, putting "Three by Lionel Davidson" at the top of this post, in the center. My having done so would have indicated many confusions on my part. Hence I have not done so.) Beneath this heading are the titles of three books and descriptions of the three books—the same books, in fact, as those whose titles are given. These books were presumably authored by Lionel Davidson. Although in the sentence before last I said first that beneath the heading are the titles and only subsequently did I say that beneath the heading are the descriptions, in fact, on the page, the titles are not all grouped together first, followed subsequently by the descriptions; instead, each title is followed immediately by the description of the book whose title it is. (I do not say "its description", because the descriptions are not descriptions of the titles, amusing as it might have been had things been thus arranged.) With the definitional exception of the last title-description pair, each title-description pair is succeeded by what is thereby the next title-description pair.

The last title-description pair plays no role in the remainder of this post. Likewise the first, except insofar as the second would not be the second if it did not follow the first.

The title element of the second title description pair is Making Good Again. On the page, it is rendered in all caps, centered, in a roman face. I have rendered it here in the customary fashion for writing titles, because it is a title. I am not, in doing so, making false my claim that the title element of the second title description pair is Making Good Again, just as I do not make that claim false for not centering the title. The title is, in fact, immaterial to this post, which is only concerned with the first sentence of the description element of the second title-description pair.

That sentence is immediately below this one, indented a bit.

In Germany to settle a claim for reparation, lawyer James Raison is plunged into the old conflict between Jew and Nazi.

????????????????

(Or like that between cobra and mongoose?)


 

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