Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The science of cuteness, cont.


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MUSIC REVIEW: Kimya Dawson's 'remember that i love you'






what i enjoy most about kimya dawson's lyricism - quite apart from the fact that it's at once hilarious and extremely touching - is the way she skates so easily from subject to subject within the boundaries of the same song.

the immediate effect of this seems to me a perfect capture of the flitting modern/young person's mind, with its attention span frayed at the edges by internet surfing, fast editing, multi tasking and video games. we were even in the habit for a while of describing ourselves and each other as 'random' when what we meant was that our thoughts do not hold still. 'monkey mind' the buddhists call it, and we are the generation of monkey mind in excelcis.

so that kimya writes songs to the rhythms of ADD mind, seems to me anomalously current. no-one else has had the temerity or ingenuity to try it. which makes her new record - which is sonically simple, naive and within folk traditions - as essential to now as can be.

but the 'randomness', as much as it works on this surface level, is deceptive. underneath it there is a sly and assured artistry at work. Midway through 'my mom', which is essentially a callow appeal to the ghosts and skeletons haunting her 'sick mom', she moves into a segment song from sesame street, addressing bert and ernie. The effect of this is unexpected and hilarious, but not untypical of the album entire. Such juxtapostions, though seeming haphazard and playful, subtley embolden the emotional thrusts of these songs, and lend them a depth that perfect earnestness and flawless scansion could not.

i shed a tear during 'my mom' - and furthermore - did not cringe at 'loose lips' where kimya takes on both the subjects of self harm and george bush, typically tricky subjects to approach lyrically. any suspicion of pretension or righteousness one might have of another lyricist addressing these subjects is pierced by her apparently artless touch. and so it goes that the songs on this record cut through cynicism with a blade; even mine.

the musical arrangements on the album do not lack wit or vigour either. they are simply recorded in the lo-fi manner we're accustomed to, with acoustic guitar as a base. other instruments (violin/ light percussion/tinkling piano/whistling) are employed sparingly but effectively when need be. and her pure, solid voice is capitalized upon throughout the record - whether up close at the microphone, or looped melodically through sample pedals.

released: may 9th 2006

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Military Porn and Torture

Over at The Notion, the adorable Richard Kim connects the recent military pornography scandals.


This confluence of events presents the unlikely but completely plausible scenario in which 1) military boys star in gay porn which is 2) subsequently used by military interrogators in Guantanamo to torture prisoners in violation of international law then 3) these same military boys are prosecuted for acts which are perfectly legal under civilian law but remain punishable offenses under a silly and discriminatory set of military policies while 4) the torturers and their supervisors get off totally scot-free. Ain't that America.

We've just got to include Jeff Gannon in the mix and we've got ourselves a bona fide military porn party.

I've been waiting for someone to discuss the strange politics and psychology of using gay porn as a torture technique. When I first saw the Abu Ghraib photos in news kiosks I thought it might have been some Eulenspiel Society zap or something. I'm not belittling their monstrosity -- I'm just saying that there's a surface resemblance. And if the torturers were more in touch with their perverse inner selves maybe it wouldn't have gone down like that.

Anyhow, I just can't believe that that "military porn" involved actual soldiers. Porn featuring "Straight Boys Doing It For Cash," "My Straight Roommate," and "Broke Frat Boys" are usually performed by such blatant queens that I'm sure not one single viewer believed these were real military personnel until this tribunal gave it its stamp of (dis)approval. Best marketing ploy ever.




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We're supposed to say smart things about New York politics

But really, what is there smart to say about this? It's dumb through and through. Suozzi has decided to run well to the right of Spitzer, opposing gay marriage and so-called "partial birth" abortions. He's getting all his money from Wall Streeters angry at Spitzer's years of kicking them in the nuts, though you usually can't be convicted of fraud if you don't commit fraud, and they can take a hike.

What I read tells me that Chuck Schumer was the whisper in Suozzi's ear that got him into the race. Schumer is clearly upset at his own growing irrelevance in New York, eclipsed by his junior senator and soon by a far more popular Governor. I will forever be grateful to him for getting rid of the odious Al D'Amato, but he needs to cut this shit out. Suozzi's campaign is a waste of a winning Long Island Democrat, no matter how shitty his politics--recruiting him to run against Peter King would have put the Dems one seat closer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Instead Suozzi will be fucked in New York Democratic politics forever, because Spitzer has the whole state's machinery lined up behind him, and it doesn't forgive. In three years Suozzi will be a winning Long Island Republican, and I don't see how we really needed another one of those.

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I know they hate the State Department, and I know they hate to read.

But damn, could this have been any more predictable?


• Simply installing a democratic or partially democratic regime is unlikely to produce political stability. When considering policy options, the full range of risk factors confronting such regimes should be in taken into account. Efforts to reduce the vulnerability of new or partial democracies to state failure are unlikely to succeed unless they also address other risk-mitigating factors, such as high levels of material well-being and openness to trade.

• Elections themselves do little to ensure the stability of democracy. In fact, the major democratic institution we found to be most strongly associated with instability in partial democracies is some form of executive or legislative elections. What seems to distinguish the more stable democracies from the unstable partial democracies is not the occurrence of elections but the presence of legislatures that are genuinely effective at making laws and constraining executive authority. (p. 36)

Our analysis shows that Muslim countries with democratic or partially democratic regimes confront odds of failure more than five times as high as Muslim autocracies. At first blush, that finding seems to support the view that Islam and democracy mix uneasily. In fact, democracies and partial democracies historically have failed at about the same rate around the globe as they do in the Muslim world. (p. 49)


That's from a State Department analysis in 2000 (PDF). It's got statistics and everything. I just got it so I haven't read its full 250 pages, but on first blush it makes a pretty convincing case that "spreading freedom and democracy" isn't, like, exactly the same thing as spreading stability and creating a more pro-U.S. world. Especially if you just go in and break shit and call it a plan.

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Bipartisan idiocy.

Is it a good idea to cut down all the big trees that manage to survive a forest fire? Common sense (pace Bush) and the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence say no. The Bush Forestry Department says yes.

So some forestry students add yet another study saying no, again, and get hauled before the House subcommittee on forests and forest health to explain themselves.


The study also questions the scientific rationale behind a bill pending in Congress that would ease procedures for post-fire logging in federal forests. This, in turn, has annoyed the bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who has received far more campaign money from the forest products industry than from any other source, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
...
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), another member of the subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the forest recovery bill, was even more disgruntled. He charged Donato [the study's lead author] with a long list of professional failings and character flaws, including "deliberate bias," lack of humility and ignorance of statistical theory.


Did I mention that Donato et al.'s study got published in Science? For those of you who don't follow the science world, that's the most prestigious scientific journal in this country. Getting your study into Science is the equivalent of getting your short story in the New Yorker, except that the people who review submissions for Science are rigorous. A paper submitted to any peer-refereed journal gets read, anonymously, by other members of the field, who ask searching, careful questions that must be addressed through revisions to the paper before the journal will agree to publish. This is doubly true of Science. Accusing Donato of "ignorance of statistical theory" in his work is like telling a doctor he doesn't understand the theory of infectious disease. It's fucking ridiculous.

I think the Washington Post does a pretty good job covering the environment, on the whole. But the twisting of language runs so deep when it comes to environmental issues that Blaine Harden, a reporter otherwise doing a good job, refers to Rep. Walden's proposal as a "forest recovery" bill without the quotes, in the paper's own voice. He allows Bush's pronouncement that logging after a fire is "common sense" to pass without challenge--indeed, even puts it in conflict with "sound science," reinforcing the pernicious idea that science is not commonsensical.

Again, this is an article I think better than average. It does a very economical job of dispatching those of the students' professors at Oregon State who tried to block the publication of the study, an action for which they have been found formally at fault by the university. That, to me, is a whole other kind of nasty--the corruption of science by industry grants.

Salvage logging and replanting can often succeed, Franklin said, if the intent is to turn a scorched landscape into a stand of trees for commercial harvest.

If, however, Congress wants to promote the ecologically sound recovery of burned federal forests, Franklin said, the overwhelming weight of scientific research suggests that "salvage logging is not going to be appropriate."


There would be some honor in wanting National Forests to be commercial monocultures, I suppose, if you were willing to stand up and champion it. It annoys me, though, that those who do want National Forests to be commercial enterprises above all can advance toward that vision while claiming to be for ecologically sound management, get angry when they are challenged by scientific evidence, and for the most part get away with it. I am thinking of starting a campaign for journalism schools in the U.S.: as a condition of graduation, each candidate must have a very small, laminated version of Politics and the English Language permanently bonded to the palm of his or her non-writing hand.


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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts


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Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'm not happy.

It's never fun when your party and most of its grassroots go into a week-long bout of race-baiting hysteria that shows no sign of abating. [UPDATE: At least it's never fun if you're a Democrat.]

It is painfully and transparently obvious that if the situation were reversed -- if the UAE deal had been approved by a Gore administration -- the arguments would simply switch sides. All the Republicans would raise the objections now being made by the Democrats, and the Democrats would easily refute the arguments they now cling to with such fervor.


The excellent Arthur Silber (who would resent being called a Democrat, as he is not one). If you want a good summary of why the hysteria over the DPW ports deal is simply misguided, a user named soj runs it down pretty clearly at the Booman Tribune.

# Dubai Ports World (DPW) will be controlling our ports! - Wrong. That was and always will be the job of the (American) Department of Homeland Security, not just at the ports DPW would operate but at ALL ports nationwide.
# DPW is buying our ports! - No, they are just the port/terminal managers. The ownership remains in the hands of the American government.
# Bush is handing over our critical infrastructure to DPW! - No, being the manager of a port doesn't make you in charge of "critical infrastructure". The people in charge of the ports have ALWAYS been and will always be American law enforcement
# DPW will bring in a bunch of foreigners to take American jobs! - No, the majority of work at ports is conducted by American unionized longshoremen. This will not change if DPW is given the contract.
# I saw a picture of Bush holding hands with the Dubai royal family! - No, actually most of the photos I've seen on the blogosphere in connection with this story were of the Saudi royal family and Bush.
# Two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE! - Yes and even assuming that's accurate, so what? Show me the ties between the Dubai royal family and the 2 UAE hijackers and then I'll get concerned.


The long discussion that follows clearly refutes, point by point, any other objection you might legitimately think of.

But of course my party, and the grassroots liberal bloggers within it, are not really raising legitimate points. Arthur Silber again:

Regardless of whether particular politicians or commentators are racist as individuals, the cumulative effect is the same: it is the unwarranted, indefensible, and altogether disgusting demonization of an entire people.
...
the port story is exceedingly simple: foreigners are going to take over our ports! And they're not foreigners like us, the way the British are. They're those people. Those people are crazy! They want to kill us! If this deal goes through, we're all going to die! It's pathetic.


For the last couple of months, Silber has been describing in great detail why a war with Iran would be an utter disaster and why this kind of hysteria in our politics seems to make it all but inevitable. I am not quite as pessimistic as he about its inevitability, but I can't see how we on the left are doing ourselves any favors by trying to out-xenophobe Bush.

P.S. If you really want to freak yourself out, stop worrying about DPW allowing terrorists to take over all our ports and consider the far more real possibility of Pervez Musharraf losing his fingernail-hold on power.


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Friday, February 24, 2006

Melodrama and drunks and queens, oh my

This season of Project Runway has been brilliant. I am the opposite of a fashionista, but the reunion special this past Wednesday was especially inspired. I had missed the early episodes, so I was extremely tickled when they rebroadcast one of the queeny contestants having a completely inappropriate, melodramatic breakdown during an elimation round. It was high camp.


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Prompted by Heidi Klum's innocent question "Andrae, what were you thinking about this challenge?", he starts ranting about what fashion means to him, which prompts unimaginably abrupt oscillations between tears and laughter and British and valley girl accents. "The question Tim posed to us was how far would you go for fashion?" he recounts through sobs, and you know he deeply and profoundly understands the philosophical grandeur of this seemingly inane question. And he goes that far for fashion, right before our eyes. And beyond.

Watch Andrae Gonzalo break down

Heidi interrupts with a few perplexed, bobbleheaded questions ("are these happy tears or sad tears?" she asks in that squeaky sex-robot voice), but it's Andrae's show, and his show must go on and on and on, for a full, excruciating ten minutes. During the reunion special they only broadcast an edited version, with a superimposed stopwatch helpfully charting its duration. Toward the end the funnier contestants, all standing near him on the runway having to endure this madness, were hiding their laughter, and the cheesier contestants were crying (at, I suppose, the beauty of his sentiment). I almost hyperventilated from laughter.

However, another strong contender for highlight of the reunion special might have been the following exchange between the bitchy fashion mentor Tim Gunn and a very drunk contestant:

Tim: "Here's a question from a viewer named Arian. Guadalupe, did you feel your elimination was fair even though Marla had plagiarized the dress Nicky Hilton had worn before?"

Guadalupe: "Honestly I can only give him a personal critique. No one would ever know, unless they personally respond to me, would know what my personal response is, and that is of me, and personally I believe you can't, like, push the values, and, like Johnny Cash, walk the line. Understand that Marla has an aesthetic that I cannot duplicate but Marla has an aesthetic that she cannot duplicate. [Guadalupe suddenly becomes passionate and addresses the camera] And Arian, on national television, you fucking rock because you believe in what is true. Period."

Tim [not amused]: "That is the biggest load of bullshit I've heard in weeks."

Oh, Guadalupe, we've all been there, but your drunxplosion is now the stuff of syndicated reruns. God bless you.

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Happiness Is

For The Nation's Katrina Vanden Heuvel, happiness is luxuriating on the beach in Rio (don't worry, in the comments I called her out for this limousine liberal moment). But "don't you think that the very idea of quantifying happiness threatens it?" asks Katrina, ingenuously.

Well, she kind of stumbled onto an interesting question. Economic theory is predicated on quantifying happiness (you can't maximize a personal utility function without a working quantitative definition of happiness). There's a whole literature in the philosophy of economics about the implications of how one quantifies happiness (my ex, for instance, wrote her dissertation about how to include non-traditional pleasures (such as aesthetic pleasure) into economic definitions of utility, which let's face it is just the most adorable dissertation topic ever). Suffice to say, it's a highly controversial and politically loaded question.

In the New Yorker this week, there's a very good review by John Lanchester of two books about the history and science of happiness.

The review is largely concerned with "positive psychology," which is the scientific study of the psychology and brain chemistry of happiness. There's a certain amount of question-begging in the review (since I haven't read the books, I can't judge if they make the same mistake). Lanchester, at least, argues that the science of happiness relies on people's reports of feeling happy, which to a certain extent presumes the conclusion in the premise. However, setting aside that critique, there are some intriguing results.

One observation not unfamiliar to economists is that
People living in poverty become happier if they become richer—but the effect of increased wealth cuts off at a surprisingly low figure. The British economist Richard Layard, in his stimulating book “Happiness: Lessons from a New Science,” puts that figure at fifteen thousand dollars, and leaves little doubt that being richer does not make people happier.

This contradicts common sense ideas about happiness, but it is not really groundbreaking (aside from the very low threshold number).

More surprisingly, Lanchester describes a study intended to get around memory's distortion of how we felt as we were feeling our feelings.
The study showed that people were most content when they were experiencing what Csikzentmihalyi called “flow”—in Haidt’s definition, “the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities.” We are at our happiest when we are absorbed in what we are doing; the most useful way of regarding happiness is, to borrow a phrase of Clive James’s, as “a by-product of absorption.”

That's a novel result. And I can see why it appealed to a writer at the New Yorker, since it sounds rather like the experience of writerly inspiration.

But it's such a depoliticized definition of happiness. To me, it feels perhaps closer to contentment or a certain kind of pleasure.

What is happiness? Kicking it in Rio with Katrina Vanden Heuval and the Democratic elite? Being immersed in a challenging task? Or could happiness be something unpleasurable? Political action is often difficult, nasty, and/or boring, but I can't imagine being truly happy if I felt like I was just selfishly pursuing my own short-term pleasure. Believe me, I've tried, and it's not so satisfying.


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Atrocious GM Summit

If you're a basketball geek, this is hilarious. If you're not, don't bother clicking.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

"UNITE HERE's Fight Of Their Life"

Late last week, I read this brief article about the major contract push the hotel worker's union UNITE HERE will be undertaking this summer. (Nathan Newman, the author, continues to blog on it here. And here's the campaign Web site, should you be moved to get involved.) I don't know nearly enough about labor strategy to be able to say anything intelligent about this, but it seemed to me like a pretty big deal, and fortunately I do know some people who know some things. So I wrote them and asked for their thoughts, and today got back a thoughtful, detailed response from Coco Seven Mile [name redacted upon request] who used to do research for HERE.

UNITE HERE will be fighting above all for something called "card-check neutrality." If you don't know what that is, check out this explanation.

In a nutshell, this is UNITE HERE's Fight Of Their Life. At least for the HERE side of the recently-merged union. This is the fight they've been building to for the past four years. In late 2002 (or thereabouts), the union decided that they couldn't keep dealing with their industry in the traditional manner. By way of contrasting example, let's take a parenthetical look at the supermarket fight of 2004: the UFCW had dozens of contracts all over the country with the same small handful of companies. These contracts were negotiated locally, even though the employers were national. What happened? The union had no national strategy, and the first round of the fight was in Southern California. The employers demanded big givebacks & concessions, and the union struck, yielding the longest supermarket strike in US history. After four months on strike, the unions went back to work, essentially accepting defeat. The stores created a two-tier system for wages and benefits (a two-tier system not only saves the employers money, but significantly erodes any long-term prospects for union survival, by pitting workers against each other. This was also at the heart of the recent subway strike in NYC.), and set the standard for the rest of the negotiations around the country. Why did the strike fail, despite better-than-expected worker participation and community support? Most experts lay the blame at the union's lack of a national strategy. That is, despite the fact that the companies are national, the union approached negotiations at the traditional, local level.

This is the story to keep in mind when thinking about why UNITE HERE is putting up a big fight over a seemingly small, structural point, rather than about concrete things like wages or benefits. The union recognized that if they are ever going to have a significant impact on the lives and working conditions of hotel workers at a scale bigger than the one they currently have (which is to say, in a few isolated, though important markets), they would need to approach the companies nationally. This is called coordinated bargaining, and is why, say, the UAW has amazing contracts--they don't bargain plant by plant. So they set about first trying to coordinate the end dates of a smattering of contracts. This took place between late 2002 and late 2004, and was mostly successful. Here in LA, for instance, there were big actions, civil disobedience (yours truly got arrested), and a brief srtike. The issue? A shorter than usual contract. Not a sexy issue, to be sure, but getting a contract to expire in 2006 was key to the union's plan. Up in San Francisco, the hotels refused to agree, so the union has simply worked without a contract for two years, so important was it to have an open contract in 2006.

So here we are in 2006, with most of the pieces in place: all of the union's key markets (DC, LA, SF, Chicago, Hawaii, etc., etc.) have contracts expiring this year. So what? So the union has the potential to call essentially a nationwide strike, something never before possible. The union is finally able to deal with their (national) employers on a national level. Everything up until now was all about setting the table.

So now the table is set, the public campaign is gearing up, and negotiations are getting going. What's the ask? Card-check neutrality. I won't get into the issue of why the "standard" method for unionizing workforces is bogus, but suffice it to say that it is: the so-called secret ballot method employed by the National Labor Relations Board is open to massive amounts of employer abuse & manipulation. Workers benefit when employers agree to stay out of the way. And, believe it or not, employers will agree, when they have to. Look at Las Vegas in 1987. The union was down to 18,000 members, having been crippled by a 1984 strike. It dealt with companies separately. Then the union took a high-risk strategy: it would strike the entire city with a simple demand: card check neutrality. The union won the fight, and as Vegas boomed over the next decade, the union was able to add members without the dozens of individual fights that would have otherwise been required. Now the union represents some 60,000 workers, and is widely recognized as providing the best conditions for service sector workers in the country.

So these are the stakes. If the union is able to pull this off, we could see massive unionization of hotel workers around the country. Union density in the hotel sector could double, wages would stop their downward slide, and you would see, over the next decade, significant & concrete improvements in the lives of workers. If the union loses this fight, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that any prospects for hotel workers would be gone forever. Yes, where the unions are currently strong (LA, Vegas, SF, DC, NY) they would probably stay strong (at least until what happened in grocery happens with hotels), but this is not a replicable approach. The main reason being money & resources. The union has been planning this for years, and there's probably only one bite at the apple.


A little while later, he sent this postscript.


One final note on the campaign. People have noticed big full page ads recently from the Center for Union Facts. [References here, here , and here, Web site here.] One might wonder: why start an attack on labor now, at the nadir of their strength and power? I haven't seen anyone make this connection yet, but I suspect that this anti-labor campaign is directly linked to the UNITE HERE national contract campaign. Richard Berman has long-connections to the restaurant & beverage industries, & they seem to have focused in particular on UNITE HERE president Bruce Raynor. If this is true -- and not just a random attack on labor -- it's probably an illegal violation of section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA-- and a sign of how seriously the industry is taking this campaign, and how hard (and dirty) they'll fight.




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Someone finally talks some sense about the ports

I finally agree with something Katrina Vanden Heuvel wrote in The Notion.
So what are the real security issues we need to be talking about? As the Center For American Progress reports, how about the fact that in 2002 the Coast Guard estimated that it would cost $5.4 billion over 10 years to make the necessary improvements to the nation's ports, and last year only $175 million was appropriated to the program?

How about the fact that only 6 percent of the 9 million containers arriving in U.S. ports are physically inspected by customs agents?

When the President suddenly attempts to wax eloquent about prejudice against "a Middle Eastern company," let's not be fooled about his true motives or lose sight of the real issues. And let's make certain that we continue to issue a clarion call against destructive anti-Arab and anti-Arab American sentiment that threatens to take our nation even further backwards in our continuing struggle for civil and human rights.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Babies Are Born As Blobs of Protoplasm"

After reading this glib "economic case for polygamy" (the basic argument is that polygamy would be good for women because single women would have a lot more men to choose from), I was led in the comments to this essay by a former Mormon about the legacy of polygamy in their community.

The practices she describes (and ascribes to contemporary Mormons) are nightmareish: women's "impurity" always being blamed for rare genetic deformities in their inbred children, white supremacist eugenics leading brother to marry sister, etc.
The discoveries and research within my own kindred so alarmed me that I studied other descendants of polygamy to see if their families also suffered from crippling illnesses. I am convinced they do. As bad as this past is, the mounting evidence is far worse. In 1991, I first became aware of the Latter Day Church of Christ (a.k.a. Kingston’s and The Davis County Cooperative Society), a Mormon polygamist offshoot and determined to interview within this virtually impenetrable closed polygamist group. One 1980s leader, John Ortell Kingston, married thirteen wives and sired over sixty-five children, many of them deformed. His wives included five nieces. One disillusioned former member claims “babies are born as blobs of protoplasm”, and “brothers marry sisters in an effort to build up a royal priesthood.” [11] I endeavored to publish this information. Editors suggested it was unbelievable. If only that were true.

There's something so naive about the writer that you almost doubt her. She seems to have a degree in science, so how could she be so shocked by the array of diseases in her inbred family? But no, she is completely sincere. I defy you to read about her and her cousins discovering that all their babies were born clubfooted without getting a little verklempt.

Note to self: never have a child with someone from Utah.

Never.


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Victory!


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Sen on Multiculturalism

Amartya Sen discusses multiculturalism in the latest New Republic (to read you have to register, but it's free).

I will argue that the real issue is not whether "multiculturalism has gone too far" (as Goldston summarizes one of the lines of criticism), but what particular form multiculturalism should take. Is multiculturalism nothing other than tolerance of the diversity of cultures? Does it make a difference who chooses the cultural practices--whether they are imposed on young children in the name of "the culture of the community" or whether they are freely chosen by persons with adequate opportunity to learn and to reason about alternatives? What facilities do members of different communities have, in schools as well as in the society at large, to learn about the faiths and non-faiths of different people in the world, and to understand how to reason about choices that human beings must, if only implicitly, make?

He discusses the British model in depth. I'll update with some of my own thoughts later.


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The appropriate level of seriousness.

Fucking brilliant.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I haven't seen this anywhere.

For those uncomfortable that the United Arab Emirates is taking over major port security: the UAE has had increasingly close ties to American defense companies and the U.S. government for a couple of years now.

The UAE successfully forced Lockheed Martin and the US government to stump up a $2 billion performance bond to guarantee F-16 deliveries and extracted a no-questions-asked $160 million advance cash offset to seal the deal, on top of the standard 60 percent offset arrangement. To save the 2.5 percent fee levied by the US Department of Defence on Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deals, the UAE was allowed to make a direct commercial purchase of the aircraft. Finally, the UAE received the object codes required to update their aircraft mission computers with new types of threat without US assistance, allowing the UAE Air Force and Air Defences (UAEAFAD) to keep track of Israeli aircraft. This represents a new kind of relationship between the US and any Arab nation.
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More recently, the UAE made a major and unprecedented investment in the US defence electronics industry, becoming the core partner in systems that will provide the backbone of the USA.F. of tomorrow. The F-16 deal included a $2.5 billion advance payment to assist in the development of a new internal avionics suite and $500 million towards the development of the Northrop Grumman APG-68 Agile Beam Radar. If USAF or export sales are made, the UAE will receive royalties. The U.A.E has also signalled its interest in becoming involved in the field of advanced next generation jet trainers and light combat aircraft.


Not that anyone should be getting hysterical. This is just information I haven't seen publicized much. I think it's interesting, at least, that the port decision follows a pattern of closer relations between the UAE government and ours and didn't just come out of the blue. And it's rare I have specific information to share rather than a whine.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

I have a very specific, very practical question.

How are we ever going to get churches off the public tit now?

Actually, that's the wrong question. We won't.

As detailed by Bruce Wilson, the author of the excellent article at the other end of that link, the "faith-based" initiative that was kicked off to such fanfare early in George Bush's first term has mushroomed without much fanfare at all.

The federal government awarded more than $2 billion in such grants in 2004 -- nearly double the amount awarded in 2003.


$2 billion. I'm sure it's gone up since then. As Wilson makes clear, the money is in large part going to bigoted groups on the political right. As he doesn't make as clear, the money is also being used to buy political loyalty, as seems to be the case with such figures as T.D. Jakes.

You want to know why they call Rove a political genius? It's not because of the smear campaigns. That just takes a tiny amount of creativity and a lack of morals. It's because of shit like this. He's created another third rail of politics.

Karl Rove came into office with the intention of cementing a Republican majority for a long time, remember. Just think about the outcry if any politician ever suggests cutting back on these funds. Think about the mobilization churches are capable of. Think about the loyalty you can buy with $2 billion in small grants (with little or no accounting oversight). Think about the outrage if religious groups that have been free to discriminate are suddenly forced to make nice to fags or be cut off. Think about the otherwise totally unnecessary fights Karl Rove has guaranteed we will be having for years and years.

I think the political landscape has been permanently changed. As much as I hate it, because of this initiative I think we are going to have to accommodate churches in politics for a long time--on the order of decades. As an atheist there's not much I can do about it, but I suggest to those of you who are part of religious communities that you think about trying to bring your politics to them and them into politics. The wall between church and state is effectively down, and the only way I can see to bring any parity back to politics in the long term is to get a lot more religions involved than the few narrow and narrow-minded sects currently running the show.


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Saturday, February 18, 2006

We are being lazy, but that's not all it is.

If you read other blogs, you may have seen one or more of them complaining about Blogger deleting posts. This has been going on for a couple of days. I, for one, am not about to put any effort into writing anything until I'm sure it isn't going to up and vanish on me. So no more today, except this song came up on Pandora while I was listening to my Neil Young channel, and I think it's pretty great.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

This afternoon's dose of depressing content.

58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

42% of college graduates never read another book.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57% of new books are not read to completion.

Yet

81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.

Discuss.

(Hint: together, these statistics mean that at least two-fifths of Americans believe they "have a book inside them" despite not having read one since high school.)

UPDATE:
I am growing suspicious of these numbers. According to the U.S. Census (PDF), in 2003 52.5% of the population 25 years and older had at least some college. I can't square that with 58% of people never finishing another book after high school, unless about 10% of the country attends college without reading a single book start to finish. That is possible, since it appears that about half of the people who start college either go for occupational Associate degrees or just drop out, but it doesn't seem likely. I cannot find the original source (link above is to a secondary source), so I can't see what kind of survey generated the statistics.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I officially do not care that Cheney shot an old man. Does that make me heartless?

At this moment, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have articles on Cheney's "hunting" accident at the top of their Web sites (here and here). The Times also had an article on the subject in the lead spot of its print edition this morning. The Post doesn't make its print front page available online for free, so I don't know what they had.

It's not that I totally don't care, but I think we can all agree that no matter how dishonestly and insularly the Veep handled this thing, it was probably an accident. (And he did only shoot his own fundraiser -- someone who had it coming, karmically speaking.) On the other hand, this same administration systematically lied us into a shooting war on purpose, and I've seen a distinct lack of front-page analyses on that score. Our national press is only capable of getting its hands around small lies of no consequence, apparently, but once reporters get on those, oh baby they blanket the fuckers like they just read All the President's Men.

From my quick, unsystematic survey of news Web sites, the Times is the worst offender. That's fair. They were probably the most egregious stenographers of the lies that got us into Iraq, too.

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Not only am I right, I’m not even going to explain why

I’ve had a number of exchanges recently that touch on the idea of empiricism, or at least the shabby form I try to believe in. Several people have explained to me that most Americans – most people in the world, for that matter – do not believe in the primacy of evidence derived from their five senses (which, by extension, means that they do not believe in science as a main way of understanding the world around us). Well, obviously.

About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey. The most popular is extrasensory perception (ESP), mentioned by 41%, followed closely by belief in haunted houses (37%). The full list of items includes:


Believe in


%

Extrasensory perception, or ESP

41

That houses can be haunted

37

Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations

32

Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses

31

Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future

26

Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives

25

That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died

21

Witches

21

Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death

20

Channeling/allowing a 'spirit-being' to temporarily assume control of body

9

The healing powers of the mind have been demonstrated empirically, reflected in the power of placebos, among other examples. More than half of Americans, 55%, believe in this connection.

Strictly speaking, visits from aliens are not part of paranormal beliefs. Although definitive scientific evidence of such visits is lacking, in principle the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and their ability to visit earth are subject to empirical verification.

All of the other 10 items listed above require the belief that humans have more than the "normal" five senses.

So 75% of Americans believe in lunacies. I’m not even going to get into the fact that more than half of Americans do not believe in evolution - not natural selection as the model for evolution as opposed to “intelligent design,” mind you, but that humans evolved at all.

I think we have come to accept that it was ever thus. But it wasn’t.

A 1997 [Yankelovich] poll compared current belief in paranormal phenomena with belief levels measured in 1976.

Which if any of the following do you 
believe at least to some degree?
 
Belief
 
1997
1976
Spiritualism
52%
12%
Faith Healing
45%
10%
Astrology
37%
17%
UFOs
30%
24%
Reincarnation
25%
9%
Fortune Telling 
14%
4%

There is a concerted assault on Enlightenment rationalism in this country. There has been for years. It’s working.

We on the left traditionally have had a core faith in “consciousness raising” (although we haven’t always used that term). The assumption is that if people can be made to face the true facts, they will make more rational choices. (Unstated here is the assumption that our choices are the more rational. Leave that aside for now.) That is why we have been champions of ever-more-universal education. But what if education doesn’t promote rationality?

Believe it or not, higher education is linked to a greater tendency to believe in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, according to a new study.

Contrary to researchers' expectations, a poll of 439 college students found seniors and grad students were more likely than freshmen to believe in haunted houses, psychics, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas.

While 23 percent of college freshmen expressed a general belief in paranormal concepts—from astrology to communicating with the dead—31 percent of seniors did so and the figure jumped to 34 percent among graduate students.

"As people attain higher college-education levels, the likelihood of believing in paranormal dimensions increases," Farha and Steward write.

This leaves us with a serious conundrum. People who don’t believe in rational ways of approaching the world cannot be reasoned with. And education does not make people more likely to be rational.

For the last fifty years, conservatives in this country have had another model available to them: Straussianism. The most objectionable part of which derives from Plato’s Myth of Metals – not the Myth itself, actually, but the way Plato proposes to use it.

Such is the tale; is there any possibility of making our citizens believe in it?

Not in the present generation, he replied; there is no way of accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale, and their sons' sons, and posterity after them.

I see the difficulty, I replied; yet the fostering of such a belief will make them care more for the city and for one another.

Why is such mythmaking necessary? Because most people cannot face the truth – in fact, most people will abuse and destroy anyone who tries to force them to face the truth.

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.

..

Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

The temptation to manipulate people is strong. In the last few days, our own Solomon has asserted that the “unwashed masses” “need candy dangled in front of them to motivate them to have the bare minimum of decency and morality” and advocated circumcision because dampening male libidos is good for society.

The problem, of course, is that unlike Solomon Grundy (seriously), the people currently in power are a bunch of idiots. They lie to us because they think they are right and we are to be manipulated into following them, but that only works if they are in fact right. They hardly ever are.

I don’t know what to do. Argumentation is useless. Education doesn’t help. The leaders in power are witless. Those I trust more, who are out of power, have not shown anything like a comparable ability to manipulate the public. And most people don't care if we ever become rational again.

I would say we should be more upset, but who would be the "we" in that sentence?

And as to truth, I said, is not a soul equally to be deemed halt and lame which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant at herself and others when they tell lies, but is patient of involuntary falsehood, and does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the mire of ignorance, and has no shame at being detected?





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UPDATE (July 11, 2006): I have been advised by someone who would know that the article on Strauss linked to above is full of errors. For one thing, most of the people listed as Straussians did not in fact study with either Leo Strauss or his students. In fact, I now think that most of what I once believed about Strauss was mistaken. Kindly ignore the last third of this post. Or just leave Strauss out of it and insert "lying rightwing fuckwads" in his place. That works too.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Redesign

Well, I have some work urgently due tomorrow morning, so I procrastinated by redesigning the site. Any thoughts? There are some bugs, I realize. For instance, I want to move the tracker button to the bottom, but that's harder than it may sound, at least for someone like me who is teaching himself HTML as he goes.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

To Snip Or Not To Snip

In response to this article about circumcision in Slate, I wrote the following letter to Slate. The writer just emailed me asking if she could use my letter in her followup, but I think its more natural home is here on Left Behinds.

I'm part of the tiny minority of half-cut guys. I guess the doctor at Yale New Haven Hospital was in a rush or looked away for a moment or something.

Anyhow, I can definitely, definitely attest to the fact that most of my sexual sensitivity is on the left (uncut) part of my penis. The right side feels OK, but it's pretty much incomparable. It's not just that my left side has more sensation -- it has a different kind of sensation.

I recently learned that an acquaintance of mine is also half cut, and he completely agreed with me. Both of us are happy as we are, with the best of both worlds, but I am very grateful to the incompetence of my doctor for leaving me at least some of my foreskin. When women describe the overwhelming power of their orgasms I suspect it's similar to what goes on with the uncut side of my penis, and much less similar to the less intense, more mechanical pleasure I can feel on my right side.

But then again, controlling men's sexual aggression is a losing battle anyhow, so maybe snipping is good social policy. Imagine your average lothario with a hundred times more motivation to pursue sex. Pretty scary.





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Conversations I, an Atheist Jew, Had With God About How Jesus Was Crazy and a Big Jerk, Part V

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV


Me: So do you have an opinion on those Danish cartoons? They are about your prophet, right?

God: You know, I haven’t actually seen them. Ask me why.

Me: Never mind. I remember the joke.

God: Spoilsport.

Me: You said you were going to do the Sermon on the Mount.

God: You sure you don’t want to hear my Marx Brothers? I can do a pretty decent Groucho. Send a dozen roses to Mrs. Upjohn and write, ‘Emily I love you’ on the back of the bill.

Me: I’m sure you do an even better Harpo.

God: Oh. That’s-a no good. Fine, I’ll do the stupid Sermon.
It starts well. Real pretty language, and I can get on board with meekness, righteousness, mercy, peace, and so on. Jesus gets off a little too hard on his followers suffering for his sake (Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.), but he’s an egomaniac, you have to expect some of that. I forgive him.

Here’s where I start to get annoyed.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.


So you can’t get angry.

You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


And you can’t think lustful thoughts.

This is totally unreasonable. I don’t care if you get angry with each other or want to fuck each other. Why do you think I made you capable of those emotions? What’s important is that you not act on them all the time if it’s inappropriate, but since when do we need to pretend that Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart is really the same as Bill Clinton spooging on a fat girl under the desk? You could really make yourself meshugeneh trying to police your thoughts.

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.


Oh yeah. Okay.

Plus no divorce, ever, and you have to pray for your persecutors. Look, in My world if you’re a Masalit mother who’s just seen her ten-year-old daughter gang-raped to death by the Janjaweed, you’re not going to hell for your anger. You don’t even have to pray for the rapists. I don’t expect you to be perfect.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


That’s an impossible standard by definition. Jesus knew it. I’m mostly with the guy after this -- be good, not rich; judge not; don’t be ostentatiously religious; don’t be a hypocrite; etc., etc. -- but the problem is that at the core, ultimately it doesn’t matter what you do. You can spend your whole life trying to be good and still not be a good person in My eyes because of some insignificant shit. Apparently I have to admit people to heaven or not based on whims. Jesus said so. It’s logically consistent of Me, since I’m ineffable, but it’s damned annoying. I can’t even reward the faithful and generous all the time, no, every so often I have to send one to hell just to keep all the others on their toes.

Here’s the truth. I offer an absolutely iron-clad guarantee of where you’re going when you die:

You end.

That’s it. You’re not going anywhere.

Me: Thanks.

God: You’d rather have hell? I think people find the idea of a persistent consciousness more comforting than nothing, even if they have to be in constant, unendurable pain forever. Well tough titty. No heaven, no hell, just nothing, which you don’t experience. I know people don’t like it. But the sooner you all face up to it and stop pretending that I’m watching over you with a bowling scorecard, turning your splits into strikes if you just ask Me nicely enough, the sooner maybe you all start taking the world you live in a little more seriously. By all means be nice to each other. Make peace (because death is final). Be humble. Don’t be ostentatious in your religion if you’ve got to have it. But don’t do it because some megalomaniac who heard voices 2000 years ago said you’d go to heaven if you did, and stop thinking that because you got a chubby watching Britney and Madonna kiss that you’re going to hell. Hey, I beat off all the time. How do you think I made the Milky Way?

Me: Christ that’s awful.





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(n+1)-1

Was the New Criterion included in N+1's article about shitty literary magazines or something? The NC editor Stefan Beck sure has no love for the fledgling rag.

Yeah, N+1 takes itself too seriously for what it is. Yeah, that NYT profile was embarrassing. But they do publish some great stuff. Take this story, for instance.

The editors may be cocky, and it's hard to get passionate about giving more attention to upper middle class Harvard white guys. And yes, pretentious Peter Pans in Williamsburg might use the mag as a prop to seduce silly undergrads. But you could say worse things about most literary magazines, or most intellectual endeavors, for that matter.

If it's nothing more than the new Believer, well, that's OK. And next year some other group of nerds fancying themselves today's George Plimpton and Peter Matthiessen will produce the new N+1, and N+1 will include a piece about the pointlessness of the new young turks. It's almost like a monotonically increasing infinite sequence or something.

UPDATE 3/3:
In response to Beck's snide response, I just published a more thorough set of thoughts about Beck and N+1 (as well as an Indecision takedown).


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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Guns Don't Kill People, Evil Robots Posing as Vice Presidents Kill People


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Independents and the Independence Party

This story reminded me of the folly of voting for third-party candidates that you don't know anything about.

This past November 2nd, after voting I immediately called AH to declare that I had proudly found a last-minute way to register my objection to the direction of the Democratic Party by protest-voting for the presidential candidate in the fabulously-named "Rent Is Too Damn High" party.

"Oh, I wish you hadn't done that," said AH, killing my buzz. "If you look at his web site, his entire platform is about how Zionists are out to get us and the Holocaust never happened."

Lesson learned, folks. Lesson learned. Not voting is better than voting for racist lunatics.


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Saturday, February 11, 2006

50 Book Challenge

So there's a 2006 50 Book Challenge going around, and I thought we could participate. Yes, it's almost Valentine's Day, but we're a group blog, and we're all readers, so I think we can catch up. Plus it could be a good way for some of our less active LB contributors to contribute (Emma B and Joancrawfordsface, don't be shy).

Mostly I think it'll add some good variation to the blog. No need to write full-length book reviews (unless you're so inclined), just a few thoughts about a book you've read recently.

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Danish Products, Whatever The Hell Those Are

Neda Cole commented yesterday that

"My brother had nothing major to report from Dubai (surprise). His main complaint is that he can't get Lurpak butter."

Which led me to ask the question, what the hell does Denmark produce that anyone could ever boycott?

For a half-second I, the eternal naif, actually wondered, does Denmark really produce danishes? Because that could impact millions of breakfasts the world over. But, of course, no, they don't, any more than France produces french fries.

According to this EU site, "over the past fifty years the Danish economy has undergone a modernisation with economic activity becoming more diverse. Manufactured products now accounts for 80% of Denmark's exports with agriculture now only accounting for 11%."

OK, so apparently the world is in love with Danish manufactured products. But what are they? Lurpak butter, apparently, whatever that is. What else?

According to this Wikipedia article, major Danish exports are "industrial machinery, chemical products, furniture, pharmaceuticals, and canned ham and pork."

Hm, so the Muslim world is boycotting canned ham and pork? That's a bit like how every year for Lent my mother makes a big production of giving up watermelon, to which she happens to be allergic.

Surely this can't be what has been hobbling the Danish economy. So is it the industrial machinery, chemical products, and furniture? (in terms of the chemical products, I am not even going to go there)

I know the Muslim world is enormous (have you seen Indonesia's population numbers?), but seriously, how many Arne Jacobsen chairs can any population, no matter how numerous, actually purchase each month?

I for one don't buy it. The mystery remains unsolved, which is prompting my more conspiratorial instincts:

What the hell do Danes really contribute to the world economy?




UPDATE: For anyone actually curious, here's a business professor's less lighthearted look at the boycott.

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Evolving Coverage of the Danish Cartoon Controversy

The Danish cartoon debate rages on. Last night on the News Hour, David Brooks (one of AH's very favorite pundits) argued that "these people are stuck in the 13th century," yet minutes later noted as an aside that many moderate Muslims have vigorously condemned the violent protests and cast doubt on the motivations of the people organizing them. Yet he didn't back away from his main point, which supports the whole clash of civilizations crap. It was interesting seeing someone so smart try to swallow his own mutually contradictory bullshit.

Below are some more sensible thoughts about the geopolitical context for this so-called fight between freedom of the press and Muslim taboos against blasphemy.

Here, for example, is a blogger who rounds up Syrian bloggers' reactions to the violent protests in Syria. Here's a representative sample:


I hope people don’t take the actions of a few thugs as representative of the Syrian or Lebanese people. Just like we expressed our voices of concern over the cartoons in the first place, we’re all expressing our views again over the shameful acts. We, the rational, should work together to show the world that there’s more to Arabs than what they see on television.

Below are pieces recommended in our comments two days ago: This Kuwaiti former resident of Denmark decries Danish racism's role in this manufactured controversy. And this columnist brilliantly argues that


Those who insist that this row is about upholding Islam need to ask themselves at whom the prohibition on depicting the prophet is aimed. The answer is Muslims, so that they do not fall into idolatry and revering the messenger instead of his message. No Muslim is at risk of worshipping the images in these cartoons. So what's the beef?

This controversy is about power. Muslim communities in the West feel under suspicion and under siege through the mere fact of their faith. Muslims in the Muslim world feel war has been declared on them by an adversary who controls the world. In such circumstances, the one power people feel they have left is to insist on their dignity. ...

...Such thuggish behaviour [as the violent protests], wherever it occurs, is testament to a lack of power; only when you feel disenfranchised in those avenues of life that really matter can you become exercised over such trivia.


As Sandra06 says at The Notion, in response to Kath Pollitt's wishy-washy post,


Anyone with any sense of clarity can tell you that if the cartoons in question had depicted the prophet, say, crying over the corpses of the Egyptian pilgrims who drowned earlier this week then there would've been no protests. It is the CONTENT of the cartoons that is the issue: Mohammed depicted as a terrorist -- therefore Muslims AS A PEOPLE are all bearded violent fanatics. Mohammed represents Muslims -- the cartoons target Muslims as an undifferentiated collective. Liberals like Ireland and Pollitt are totally clueless about how Muslims in Europe are marginalized, discriminated against, despised, hated, feared, routinely attacked physically and verbally. Violent protests (in some Muslim countries) are to be condemned but publishing racist cartoons targeted against a vulnerable minority helps to legitimize more hatred and fear (as Nazi cartoons of Jews did). European Muslims see these cartoons in a context of constant media caricatures of them, public discussions of them as an unassimilated foreign horde with politicians publicly saying they are a "cancer" and so should be killed off. Certainly there should be no prohibition against publishing these cartoons but let's be clear here: freedom of speech in Europe seems to be the cause celebre only when the hate speech is targeted against Muslims.

And take this bit of analysis on Democracy Now:


AS'AD ABUKHALIL: Many governments, like the oppressive governments of Syria and Jordan, [whose] security forces have a long record of brutality and of torturing people, have become extremely polite. And I’ve noticed the footage on the Arabic media, that they allow them basically to proceed peacefully and to speak out and, in the case of Damascus, to torch down the embassy of Denmark; and I find that to be very convenient for those governments, because they are very much under attack by their own people for being largely silent about foreign occupation by the United States and about oppression by these same governments. And this is an opportunity for them to let [the people] let out some steam, because Denmark is an easy country to pick on. And they’re organizing a boycott of Denmark, when those same governments would not dare to launch a boycott of Israel or the United States, which have been responsible for more offenses against Arabs by virtue of occupations than the Danish government.

He mentions the blasphemy, but contextualizes it as a pretext for venting steam against foreign occupation and homegrown oppression. Later in the same program, when discussing the cartoons themselves, another (controversial) critic says:

"IRSHAD MANJI: Yeah, bring on the cartoons, and let's remember that more Muslims are offended by the violence in the name of these cartoons than are offended by the cartoons themselves."

You don't have to look very hard to find sensible folks talking about what's going on, yet the so-called liberal media insist on alarmist sensationalizing and oversimplifying that plays into the hands of the lunatic fringe who started this whole thing to foment a clash of civilizations.

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Savagely in Love with Ex-Gays, Daniel Vosovic, and Andy Samberg

I'm not a Dan Savage reader, but I love two things he's written lately.

The first was an ode to my two current celebrity crushes, Daniel Vosovic (the Project Runway frontrunner who could be in The Strokes) and Andy Samberg (the disappointingly with-girlfriend star of "Lazy Sunday"). Apparently this particular crush combo has become a gay cliche, in which case I only wonder why more men-loving men don't emulate the style and demeanor of these two adorably goofy gamines.



The second, and more serious bit of Savage wisdom is this fresh take on Brokeback Mountain (I will magnanimously grant clemency for his misuse of the term gay cowboys):

What should really trouble evangelicals, however, is this: even if every gay man became ex-gay tomorrow, there still wouldn't be an ex-lesbian tomboy out there for every ex-gay cowboy. Instead, millions of straight women would wake up one morning to discover that they had married a Jack or an Ennis. Restaurant hostesses and receptionists at hair salons would be especially vulnerable.

...If anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?


Seriously, who in their right minds wants more ex-gays running around using their sensitivity, charm, and passion for womenswear to seduce our naive, vulnerable daughters into de-sexed, Will and Grace pseudo-marriages?

Having said that, the abovementioned Daniel Vosovic has called himself "80/20 bi", and it is my firm opinion that if the abovementioned Andy Samberg were ever in an empty room with me for ten minutes, he would emerge either gay or ex-gay. I passionately believe in bisexuality. Without the argument that everyone is to some extent bisexual, I would lose half my sexual partners (especially the adorably gullible ones). That's why I say, no to ex-gays, yes to pre-gays!


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