Left Behinds

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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Dear God.

I have a lot of friends who teach high school. There are always those few arrogant little shits who want to challenge the teacher's authority. Thanks to the good offices of the aggressively ignorant, now they have a fun new game to play.

"Isn't it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?" sophomore Chris Willett demands. " 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Frisby tries to explain that evolution takes millions of years, but Willett isn't listening. "I feel a tail growing!" he calls to his friends, drawing laughter.

This is such a stupid country.

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Remember how crazy it makes me that people believe in ghosts?

Thanks to Phoebe.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Click fast, these won't last

Chevy is letting just anyone make mockup commercials on their Web site, and they're obviously too overwhelmed to delete the best ones fast enough. Favorites so far:


And of course, I did one too.

Update: The pathetic Chevy spin on this marketing debacle.

Update II: Major Media Coverage.

Tags: tahoe, culture

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Hi, sorry for the lack of posts the past couple days. I've been at a conference and AH is ill. Back to normal this weekend.

In the meantime, this is funny.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A French Economist's Take on the Protests

Since the MSM isn't providing this perspective, check out a French economist's take on the protests:
In the banlieues, it was not “unintegrated immigrants” who rioted, but young people born French, in France. The unrest erupted because their rate of employment was too low: 40 percent unemployment! They were right to protest.

Their condition is unacceptable. And now there are efforts to change that condition. These young people are very creative and want to work. In fact, I’d say, they are the chance of the nation, as newcomers always are. It would be a terrible mistake here, just as it would be in the U.S. now, to try to stop immigration, which, in America, in particular, is the main source of its stamina.

The mainstream students are right in protesting against a law which would not make the labor market more flexible but would allow any boss to fire someone without any explanation, and therefore give the employee no legal protection for two years! This is not flexibility; this is tyranny.
France is not going down the tubes. It is still a very strong nation. It is number one in the world for foreign direct investment and tourism as well as in specific hi-tech sectors; it is number two in agribusiness. Life expectancy has been growing three months per year for 20 years now. Demographically, France has one of the best fertility rates in the developed world — 1.9 per woman.

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Low comedy

Week for week, is there a more entertaining Republican Party in the nation than our own, hapless NYGOP?

Edward J. Rollins, a former political adviser to President Reagan and H. Ross Perot, said yesterday that he would not resign as senior adviser to Kathleen Troia McFarland, who is challenging Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In an interview, Mr. Rollins said that he was coming under pressure from the state party chairman, Stephen J. Minarik III, because he had "spoken the truth" about his performance as the party leader.

"How strong and orderly does the Republican Party look to you? Has Steve Minarik raised any money, won any races?" Mr. Rollins said. He made similar criticisms in a television interview broadcast on NY1.
Ms. McFarland expressed support yesterday for Mr. Rollins, who said, "To blame me for giving us Hillary Clinton, after I worked for just six weeks for Perot, is pretty absurd."

I bet they wish they'd stuck with Jeanine Pirro. At least she was only a little nuts.

Tags:New York, Senate 2006, Kathleen McFarland, politics

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Good, down-the-middle explanation of the current risk of bird flu.

Including a nice pop-up graphic on what the designation H5N1 means.

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Department of transparent fakery.

Bush Looks to Inner Circle After Chief of Staff Resigns

President Bush bowed today to calls from within his own party for a shakeup in the senior ranks of the White House, saying that he had reluctantly accepted the resignation of his longtime chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.

Yeah, right.

Update: Heh.

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If the Democrats do win this fall...

This is in part a contrarian thought experiment. I have read so many analyses of the fall’s congressional elections predicting gains for Democrats that I’ve begun to worry about what could go wrong.

Premise A: If Democrats win, they will not achieve a governing majority. It remains the case that gerrymandering has radically reduced the number of competitive seats, so even if Democrats win districts they are not supposed to, they will probably only get to a slight majority, not enough to pass any significant legislation.

Premise B: Democrats will have to promise a lot to get elected. In fact, the current CW dictates that Democrats must lay out a governing vision, and what I read tells me they plan to do so in August, with a book (sure to be gripping) by Rahm Emanuel.

Premise C: Things will suck as much or more in 2007 and 2008 as they do now.

Conclusion 1: If they achieve a narrow majority, Democrats will be in a position to be blamed for the country’s general suckiness and for failing to live up to their campaign promises, while being unable to make the kinds of drastic changes needed to address either.

Now, the one thing a bare majority in Congress does get you is control over committees, and especially the ability to hold hearings and subpoena witnesses. This does offer some opportunity to score political points.


Premise D: The administration will stonewall any investigation from Congress into just about anything. For example, see the dismissive attitude revealed in the answers the Department of Justice gave to Democratic Senators’ questions about the NSA spying program.

Premise E: If Democratic Senators and Congressmen are often reluctant to rock the boat now (as revealed, for example, by their absurdly timorous reaction to Russ Feingold’s censure resolution), they will only be more so when they have more to lose—namely, the perks that come with even a narrow majority.

Premise F: Forcing answers from a stonewalling administration will require boat-rocking beyond simply delivering subpoenas.

Conclusion 2: Even if they control one or both Houses of Congress, Democrats will have a very hard time holding together even a bare majority to punish the administration for stonewalling investigations. This could have the effect of providing bipartisan sanction to Constitutionally indefensible programs, basically making Democrats complicit in a Constitutional crisis.

Tags: politics, Democrats, Election 2006

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One of the world's oldest creatures, a giant tortoise believed to have been about 250 years old, has died in the Calcutta zoo where it spent more than half its long life.

That's right, 250. Morla territory (MPEG).

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More awesome scientific information

The convergent evolution of the penis. Not only has the penis evolved several independent times in vertebrates, it has also been lost more than once.

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Wednesday and Thursday

I'm going to this conference on sustainable development tomorrow.

Then on Thursday I'm thinking of going to this conference on sex work, or at least a couple of the talks (although, "Sex Work Matters"? Could that pun be any creakier?) .

In case any of my scores and scores of fans want to meet me in the flesh.

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Tom Suozzi Photo Caption Fun Time

The Politicker has a caption contest for the following photo of Tom Suozzi (who, the more photos I see of him, seems less and less attractive):

My submission:

"It was either this, or a bris."

I also liked (along the same lines):

"It looks so good, I can't wait to put it in my mouth... What? Why are you all looking at me like that?"


"Don't worry what the Health Department says. Mr. County Executive, use your teeth !"

Tags:New York politics, Tom Suozzi, governor, pandering

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Fox News Coverage of the French Protests Is Better than NYT Coverage

I just watched half an hour of Fox News coverage of the French protests (where it's all protests all the time), and it was surprisingly fair and balanced.

Even though the anchors clearly thought the protesters are stupid hippies, they saved their opining for the interviews with analysts (where they came out with nuggets such as "wouldn't these people just protest anything?"). The actual reporting was admirably neutral and factual, rather than surreptitiously weaving in their neoliberal bias, as the NYT does.

Their experts were surprisingly clear-headed, and one was even a progressive from Harper's. A Newsweek analyst said that "believing that job insecurity will lead to more jobs requires a major leap of faith," and the Harpers editor discussed the context of the strong French movement against the worst aspects of globalization. The overall impression was that it was a clash of ideas, whereas in the Times it seems like a clash between people who understand how the world works vs. stupid, selfish students who just don't get it.

The New York Times could take a lesson from those liberal wackos at Fox.

Tags:politics, paris, media bias, Fox

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RIP: the greatest science fiction author you (probably) never heard of.

Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris, the basis of the Tarkovsky and Soderbergh movies. My personal favorites are his metafictional experiments Imaginary Magnitude and A Perfect Vacuum.

Tags:politics, sci fi, Stanislaw Lem, books

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Knocking Back Schlitz With Dana Schutz

In the new issue of Bomb, writer Mei Chin interviews trendy (and talented) painter Dana Schutz. One of the highlights is from this insightful audience member (OK, me):

Audience Member: Your career has exploded in the past two years. Is that a double-edged-sword, since the art world is a marketplace? Is there a lot of pressure to maintain your "brand" as a successful young painter?

DS: No. the market is not my concern in making the paintings. Where it gets bad is when people stop seeing the work and start seeing the system outside it. If people stop seeing what's going on in the paintings and only see them for their market value, which they definitely can do, then I feel conflicted. I start feeling like I should complicate how my work functions in that system. There are artists working in that vein and I find their practice admirable and important. But, you know, primarily, I'm interested in making these things. I like my everyday life; I have this community around me. Everything still feels the same—kind of. I mean, I'm up here on this stage, which is weird, but I still have the same friends and we talk about art, not the art market.

Yikes, how embarrassing to read "double-edged sword" in print (also, the transcript writers subtly changed and dumbed down what I said -- though I have to take credit for the cliche). At the event, Dana bristled a little at my question, which was fine. I wanted to ask a less ass-kissey question than what everybody else was asking.

Tags:culture, Dana Schutz, Mei Chin, art

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Asexuals Anonymous

Here's an article that I relate to more and more each day.


As usual, the Brits got there first and did it better.

My favorite line from that article:

There are famous cases of lack of enthusiasm for sex - the Victorian art critic John Ruskin failed to consummate his marriage once he discovered his bride had pubic hair.

I also enjoyed the fact that Russia's Pravda magazine illustrated their story on asexuality with the following photo:

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Monday, March 27, 2006

The Dirty South is Crap

I'm sick today, so I decided to a watch a movie that wouldn't tax me too much. I settled on Hustle & Flow, mainly because I happened to have it. It's basically a retread of every music success-story movie you ever saw, from The Commitments to 8 Mile. Which is fine. The only problem is, the climax of all such movies is when the group gets together in the studio and lays down its first great track, where everything comes together to make music history. In Hustle & Flow, the result is "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," and I'm sorry, that song sucks. The whole Dirty South thing sucks, actually, and I'm tired of it. Boring, stupid lyrics, lame beats, and an unappetizing celebration of fat. I'm against it.

Tags:culture, hustle and flow, rap, dirty south

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Big, Big Love

I just posted something on TPM Cafe about Big Love and the economic case for polygamy.

Tags:culture, economics, polygamy, Big Love

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Recasting a Sacred Document

On Bill Maher's show, Resa Aslan (crypto-Narnian propagandist?) made the sensible point that religious prophets "take the social, cultural, economic and political milieu they live in and and reshape it, they recast it. They don't talk about the future, they talk about the present." It's the followers that come after that create the religion.

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to the Abrahamic religions, so I only recently learned via a great PBS documentary that it was actually the apostle Paul who invented most of the doctrine and practices that distinguished Christianity from the other Jewish sects of its era (using the teachings of Jesus very selectively, incorporating local traditions from the various regions he traveled through, abandoning circumcision, etc.).

Which all brings me to the famous L. Ron Hubbard dictum: “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.”

So who's up for it? Which prophet's underrecognized text could we popularize to our own ends?

My nomination after the jump.

I hereby nominate Indecision. It's a novel long overdue for a little creative misinterpretation. From our lord and savior Kunkel's roadtrip satire of the present we can derive a roadmap to the future.

I mean, Ben even already looks like blonde Jesus. It's foolproof.

Tags:culture, kunkel, jesus, religion

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Friday, March 24, 2006

68 percent of Americans believe torture is justifiable.

Just when I think I couldn't be any more disgusted with people, they outdo themselves. Hooray, my fellow Americans. Hooray. You never cease to surprise me.

Tags:politics, torture, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib

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I'm plotzing.

As a fellow Courtneyac just emailed me,

In November, Courtney publishes Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love, the lead fall title for prestigious Farrar Straus Giroux's Faber imprint. "It's not intended as any kind of reply to her mother's book," says her editor, Denise Oswald. "It is similar to [Kurt Cobain's] diary in that it will be comprised in part of direct reproductions of her diary pages . . . a bricolage, to borrow from the avant-gardists to whom Courtney is certainly an heir, of original diary entries that span from her childhood to the present day alongside a startling array of personal artifacts." Expect snapshots, couture photography, correspondence, juvenile justice records, medical forms, and original artwork.

And Hank Harrison, Linda's estranged first husband and Courtney's estranged bio dad, plans to publish his retort, tentatively titled Love Kills: The Assassination of Kurt Cobain (Arkives Press), in Dirty Blonde's publicity slipstream. "I will prevail in this debate," Hank insists, promising to deliver his not widely shared views on Cobain's death, a counterbalance to Linda's "maudlin diatribe," the identity of Linda's actual father, plus "dozens of pictures never before seen by anybody."

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

What the Myth of Meritocracy has in Common with Scientology

Here's a cool interview with Lani Guinier, in which she discusses the right-wing myth of meritocracy.

I had no idea that the term was invented by a sci-fi author who used it ironically:

Michael Young, a British sociologist, created the term in 1958 when he wrote a science fiction novel called The Rise of Meritocracy. The book was a satire in which he depicted a society where people in power could legitimate their status using "merit" as the justificatory terminology and in which others could be determined not simply to have been poor or left out but to be deservingly disenfranchised.

So his satirical neologism is now used as justification for the exact phenomenon he was satirizing. To use an overused word, how Orwellian.

Tags:politics, meritocracy, sci fi, culture

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Protest Music?

The Nation has a post today about the lack of great protest music since the 60s. At first I thought the author, Sam Graham-Felsen, had never heard of hip-hop or riot grrl or any of the other musical scenes so rife with protest music. Outraged and suffering from St. John's Wort withdrawal, I left some indignant comments schooling him on the history of hiphop and punk.

He read my, um, overheated comments and replied as follows:

Dear Left Behinds-- Yes, I'm young (24), but I'm no whipper-snapper. And no, I do no claim to be any sort of absolute authority on pop culture.

But have I heard Le Tigre? Of course! Do I know about "socially conscious" hip-hop? Sure! I've been listening to hip-hop my entire life. (By the way, I'd be careful about labelling Talib a political rapper. He despises being categorized as such.)

Anyway, I don't need to rattle off a list of every musical act that has made a protest song. The point of my post is not that there aren't any protest songs, but that there aren't any great protest songs. You can disagree with me all you want, but there are no protest songs today that come close to the quality of the protest songs of the 60s and 70s. Sure, there are more protest songs today than there have been at any other point in my lifetime, but they just ain't that good.

I know it's fun to take down the mighty Nation blogger, but please read my post a little bit more closely before assuming I'm an out-of-touch cultural moron.

Sam Graham-Felsen

p.s. By the way, I like your blog, esp the 10 worst Americans post!

After the jump, I discuss two great protest songs of our generation.

Example one: Joancrawfordsface's favorite folk-rocker Kimya Dawson. Her song "12/26" about the tsunami is outraged, heartbreaking, and inspirational, in the best tradition of protest music:

I'm appalled by our government's initial reaction
And the fact that they asked for a verbal retraction
From the folks who called them stingy, they're just covering their asses
While they thank their greedy god for wiping out the lower classes

Everything she's ever known is gone, gone, gone
Everyone she's ever loved is gone, gone, gone
The only reason she's alive is
She grabbed a palm frond, and held on
And held on

She even explicitly uses the word class! It's a breakthrough.

If anything, the problem is that there's too much so-called protest music, and it becomes a kind of stylized stance rather than genuinely inspirational or provocative (coughGreen DaycoughMadonnacough). Except for the good stuff, like Kimya.

Take Pink, with her earnest, funny, but unsophisticated "Stupid Girls" (click here for video). It's really cute, and I laugh whenever I see the interlude in the video in which she bulimically vomits into a sink while screaming "I WANNA BE SKINNY!," but let's face it, she's not igniting a social movement. That's what a lot of pop political music amounts to. So if you listen mostly to pop, I can see why the musical landscape might seem pretty bleak.

And when artists outside of the mainstream rise to true greatness, as often as not the invisible hand of the marketplace finds a way to crush them under its thumb.

An example of capitalist reappropriation of a great protest song is "Rich Girl" by that racist opportunist Gwen Stefani, who covers (without credit) a fabulous dancehall classic from ten years ago by Louchie Lou and Michie One (a version also covered by Patra and others) that I always loved for its politics. Check out the lyrics before Gwen got to them:

What kind of rich get a million rich?
Them a kind of rich where ya make mon sick

Worldwide thing, this is a worldwide thing
Rich is getting richer while the poor are getting stink [shit]
Worldwide thing, this is a worldwide thing
Rich is getting richer while the poor are getting stink

Reap and reap
But ya never did sow
Reap and reap
But ya never did sow

And if me rich, would a take a mon offa the streets
And if me rich, would I build up a school and teach in a-it
And if me rich, tings would I run neatly

And on and on they teach. So the whole "if I was a rich girl" bit is used ironically as a critique of the prevailing lack of social consciousness of the rich. If Michie One and Louchie Lou had the capital, they sing, they would reinvest it in the community, the people who sow but never reap. It's practically populist Marxism. Of course, they're coming from a grand tradition of explicitly political reggae and dancehall music, but I think this is a particularly great example of it.

Imagine how shocked fans of this song were when the odious bobblehead Gwen Stefani then stole their song, changed some of the lyrics (to include advertisements for her crappy new clothing line), and inverted the political message, turning it into an unironic ode to selfish consumerism.

Yet another reason the terrorists hate us.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Emma B has show

Angelenos be aware: I checked TicketMaster. Our own Emma B has show. Also show, show, and show. Main gallery page. If it's hard to get there, you can car pool.

I wouldn't fool you, man.

Full text can be read here. Be sure to check out the brilliant comments and add your own.

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Upstate NY is Like Appalachia?

Ten days ago, Eliot Spitzer said that "You drive from Schenectady over to Niagara Falls, you see an upstate economy that is devastated. It looks like Appalachia. This is not the New York we dream of."

As someone who's descended from West Virginians, I am deeply, deeply insulted by the comparison. Upstate New York? Ick.

I was, however, amused by Pataki's lame response:

"Appalachia doesn't have Empire Zones, it doesn't have Centers of Excellence."

Ha, I'm sure West Virginians are really jealous of the decidedly un-excellent Centers of Excellence. How Orwellian.

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Bill de Blasio is considering challenging Vito Fossella for the 13th District Congressional seat, which includes Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend. In other words, the whitest parts of white ethnic New York City.

If he does this, he's have some pretty formidable weight behind him (he managed Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign). He'd also face the relatively minor problem that he doesn't actually live in the district, but a few miles up-swank in Park Slope (my neighborhood). Plus white ethnic New Yorkers have a definite history of racism, and while de Blasio himself is white as they come, his wife isn't, and with Staten Island, you never know.

Vito Fossella is a very conservative Republican for someone representing a New York City district. He has a pretty rotten environmental record, an 86% on the National Right to Life Committee Scorecard, and a lifetime score of 5% from the ACLU. I'd love to get a serious shot at him, and this sounds like it could be just that.

More on Bill de Blasio from the Swing State Project. For the future, here's a smart local blogger covering the district.

Solomon, you said you were weighing where to spend your time and energy this election season. This looks to me like a better bet than Ned Lamont. If de Blasio does get in the race, I'll certainly make a donation.

Tags: New York politics, Bill de Blasio, NY-13, Vito Fossella

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Meanwhile, the Times does damn well in covering torture

Just to be fair myself. This week has seen revelations of serious, longstanding, and organized abuse of prisoners by one of the Army's most elite units, more abuse at Guantanamo (actually an AP story), and the conviction of an Army dog handler from Abu Ghraib, though we'll see what kind of punishment he actually gets. I don't have great confidence.

Sometimes I wish we still had our crazy right-wing commenter around, if only because she did a good job of representing the cognitive dissonance of those who Just Cannot Deal with the fact that our government now tortures people.

Most of the time I'm glad she's gone.

Tags:politics, torture, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib

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More fair and balanced reporting on the French protests

Craig Smith again. Maybe he wasn't listening to me yesterday.

If the law is significantly weakened, it will serve a serious blow to the prime minister, who hopes to run for president next year. It will also mark another defeat in France's long-running struggle to break the stranglehold of its rigid social-welfare system, which has kept economic growth sluggish and unemployment high for decades.
France has a strong tradition of often violent demonstrations and paralyzing strikes that is largely tolerated by the broader population, which has a cultural mistrust of government dating back to the French Revolution even as it retains a deep sense of dependency on the state.

The resulting tendency to rebel against any attempt to curtail entitlements has cowed many administrations into backing down from bold policies that might have helped remake the system in the past.

This is actually by far the worst--and most revealing--so far of these editorial judgments smuggled into news stories. It bespeaks an absolute belief in Friedrich von Hayek's economic theories, one not uncommon among today's reporters, and certainly not among Thatcher fetishists. If this judgment were the consensus opinion of serious economists studying France I'd love to hear it, but I don't really want to know what Craig Smith thinks.

If I may steal from a commenter at Steve Gilliard's News Blog:

"Is French unemployment higher than US unemployment? Again, yes."

Only very slightly. Because of America's extremely high levels of incarceration, much higher use of temp and contract labor in the US and the US's intentional use of a very narrow definition of unemployment, the headline US unemployment numbers are actually skewed down by about 2%. The actual consistent American rate is 7-8%, which is admittedly still less than France's consistent 10%, but it's not the US 5% versus France 10% that we always hear about.

Meanwhile, as another commenter points out, "the payoff is universal health care and secure pension plans." A third offers:

They did the same in Spain when I was living there. New laws allowing the companies to hire and fire almost at will with no cost, reducing coverage for unemployment etc... What happened was a total destruction of the work force. People being hired on monday and fired on friday, if you want holidays... fired for 15 days. The result is a majority of young people that still live with their parents well into the 20's or even the 30's because they can't commit to a 12 month lease on an apartment and even less to buy a house.

It's also notable that, if you look at the last line of today's Times article:

Ariane Bernard and Maia de la Baume contributed reporting for this article from Paris.

Which means Craig isn't actually over there himself. I would bet any amount that he has not himself talked to any of the new law's opponents.

I am not an economist. I am not even remotely qualified to judge what kind of employment law would work best for France. But I do know slanted coverage when I see it, and the Times is really outdoing itself here.

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Gross and awesome scientific information

The exact chemical composition of ear wax and smegma.

Incidentally, Blogger is being a real pain in the ass today, so I had to fight through incredible complications to bring you this vital news. Be grateful.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Now I ain't sayin she a gold digga

This New Haven Advocate interview with Lieberman challenger Ned Lamont tries to paint him as cool and salt of the earth, but to my ear he just sounded like a typical fake politico. When he claims he's a big Kanye West fan, I'm reminded of this Courtney Love moment at a Hollywood fundraiser:

Gore comes up and goes, 'I'm a really big fan',' said Love. 'And I was like, 'Yeah, right. Name a song, Al'.' The answer came limply back: 'I can't name a song, I'm just a really big fan.'
I'd like to hear Lamont's favorite Kanye track.

Or take this bit about the strikes at the Sikorski plant (one of the last big manufacturers in southern Connecticut):
Lamont says that if he were senator, he'd go to management and speak up for the workers' ultimate loyalty. "I'd say, "They've been working for you for many years.' I'd keep going back and say, "They want to stay.'"
Yeah, right. Name the last time a senator got involved in a labor dispute, Ned. "I can't name a time, I'm just a really big fan of The People."*

Overall, Mr. Lamont strikes me as oleaginous. Still better than Lieberman, though. A rotted pumpkin as Senator would be better than Lieberman.

Unfortunately, according to the Hartford Advocate,

Even if Lamont decides to run and does draw interest among registered Democrats, could he get the support of the local Democratic Party activists who will attend the primary convention? Fairfield University politics professor John Orman said that to get on the primary ballot so voters have a chance to pick him over Lieberman, Lamont would first need to receive the support of 15 percent of the town committee members who are convention delegates.

Orman, who briefly ran against Lieberman last year until it was clear he had little support, said he´s only heard of two or three Democratic Town Committee chairs who have spoken up against Lieberman, out of some 200 town committees. The strong institutional resistance to challengers helps explain why Lieberman is in his 18th year as senator and will probably serve another six years.

* He might say this in my counterfactual.

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Androphilia is the new gay

Some blogger is writing a book about "androphilia," which he defines as "A sexual love and friendly affection experienced by adult men for adult men, the physical condition of maleness, and the expression of masculinity." Protest too much there, Mary? (heh it's fun using queeny slang from the 1950s)

Supposedly the words "gay" and "homosexual" are celebrations "of perpetual victimhood, effeminacy, and feminist gender theory." As I just said to him, maybe he should stick to “swashbucking ass pirate” (another of his constructions). Something about “androphile” is a bit ... gay.

First of all, could that cover be any campier? Has a fedora ever been as queeny? It's funny how the ass pirates most preoccupied with their masculinity are never very masculine at all. They open their mouths and it's inevitably Big Gay Al, not Ennis Del Mar.

Sometimes I feel like I don't write about gayness enough, but I just don't see what's so interesting about gayness that I should think about it all the time. Isn't my decade-and-a-half of service to the community (ba-dum-bump) enough of a contribution?


So I left a couple comments on that guy's blog, one of which was "Why are you so concerned about stereotypes? Handle it like a real man — don’t even think about it." That last bit was meant to be a (somewhat dry I suppose) joke, but he took it at face value and replied

Gay men have such a sad and limited lowbrow understanding of masculinity. They jerk off to hypermasculine images religiously, and idolize straight men sexually, but regularly display open animosity toward the concept of manhood. There’s no middle ground between the blue collar thug and preening faggot. It never occurs to them that men invented things like philosophy, rational discourse, the symphony, the novel, or, well–virtually everything else.

First off, I'll forgive him for assuming I'm monosexual. But this is the second time today I've been accused by a stranger of being a man-hater (slightly better than when the official at NOW accused me of being a misogynist because of this). Isn't there at least a touch of misogyny to Herr Androphile's ode to the accomplishments of Man? I can think of a couple contributions from women to world history and culture.

But be that as it may, the surest proof that Miss Manly is the faggiest fagola in Fagville is the insecure, bitchy way he responded to my anodyne little comments. Only an anxious gay would take such disproportionate offense. Oh look, I'm doing it, too. The difference being, I don't deny acting like a bitchy queen from time to time. I think most people would consider me pretty "straight-acting" (skate-acting?), but I love my inner bitchy queen. She's fun.

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More on the French protests

Craig Smith starts out doing a fairly balanced job, certainly better than Elaine Sciolino. But midway through he shows his cards.

So far, Mr. de Villepin has rebuffed calls to revoke the law. Yet he hasn't demonstrated the iron hand of Margaret Thatcher, who broke the control of British unions and pushed for a more flexible labor market in order to create a competitive Britain.

Is there a single reporter from a working-class background at the Times? Anyone sympathetic to unions? Maybe one who doesn't openly fantasize about the "iron hand of Maggie Thatcher?"

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Department of duh, redux

Introspective, check.

The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.
Similar work by John T. Jost of Stanford and colleagues in 2003 drew a political backlash. The researchers reviewed 44 years worth of studies into the psychology of conservatism, and concluded that people who are dogmatic, fearful, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and who crave order and structure are more likely to gravitate to conservatism.

Earlier work in the department-of-duh series.

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I know it will make me sound clueless and out of touch to say so, but while I knew it was bad, I didn't know it was this bad. 21 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison in 2004. 50 percent of black men in their 20's who lacked a college education were jobless.

There are many reasons for us all to worry about this. Among them is the practical concern of creating a permanent, hopeless, in many cases literally disenfranchised underclass. But chief among them is that we should be morally ashamed to write off any Americans. John Edwards is the only national political candidate I know of to talk about poverty in any meaningful way in recent years, and that's just pathetic.

I surfed around to see what other blog commentary I could find on this article, and came up with very, very little. I'd have thought more people would be writing on it. Continued below.

One smart comment informs me that I am, indeed, clueless and out of touch:

I had this instant feeling upon reading the title and content of the news article that "we" (meaning, people who study race, class and other issues of inequality) are preaching the same sermon over and over again. I wonder how many people will be surprised to learn (again) that poverty has deepened for black men, particularly those without a high school educationf? As the economy continues to squeeze out opportunities for the middle-class and poor communities, this problem is universal. The real income of all workers (and certainly the economic status of nonworkers) has continued to slide since the middle-to-latter part of the 20th century. The New York Times article makes this point subtly. The researchers apparently linked "black male poverty" (perhaps this could become a term of art) to broader economic conditions. Others, such as William Julius Wilson, have long made these connections. The status of working class individuals gets even worse in periods of economic decline.
But the current and prior research raises the question of race and gender as well - why do these structural problems seem to present greater barriers to poor black men? I will certainly read this study to see how it measures the "gains" of other groups, such as black women and Latinos. The article suggests that the researchers attribute access to "welfare" as a vehicle for the economic advancement of poor black women in particular. Although subsidies for poor individuals have certainly provided some economic support, these programs have been curtailed and subject to greater restrictions (because, of course, the recipients become very comfortable being poor and draining society of resources). Also, if single mothers who receive welfare have primary responsibilty for raising their children, then any analysis of their economic status must take the costs of parenting into account. Nevertheless, I generally agree with the sentiment expressed at the end of the article - researchers have not sufficiently analyzed the ways in which gender (as it intersects with poverty and race) creates particularized experiences for men of color. But I would not suggest that we have done nearly enough to address the problems of poor women of color (assuming these are separable). In fact, as Dorothy Roberts has persuasively argued, welfare - the very resource that the researchers point to as providing larger gains for black women - has often reinforced their isolation and stigmatization.

Booman writes:

Ending the Drug War is the single most productive thing we could do to help black men get a step up in American society.

The Drug War has swept up such a large population of black men that almost every urban black family knows an uncle, or a cousin, that has been impacted. Sometimes they are the victims of drug-related crime, other times their loved ones have wound up in prison. Doing time loses its sense of shame, and therefore the threat of doing time loses a lot of its deterrent effect. There is a certain snowball effect that has occurred. When the neighborhoods are filled with men that cannot find legitimate work because of their criminal record, a failure to look for legitimate work loses its sense of shame. And finding illegal sources of income, being the simpler path, also loses its sense of shame.

In short, the Drug War erodes the culture. It reinforces itself. It legitimizes and excuses crime.

Any comprehensive program that aims to tackle the problem of black male unemployment, must put an end to the Drug War front and center as the single most important piece.

The starting point should be ending mandatory sentencing.

And there's an intelligent discussion going on in the comments there.

Of course, conservative commenters at a Pajamas Media site were as insightful as always:

Black men weren't left behind, they were tripped up and deliberately kept back by the poverty pimps and liberal Democrats who used them to gain power and money for themselves. Welfare destroyed the family so few positive black male figures are in their lives, the drug culture puts them in prison or the cemetery, the unions keep them out of good job opportunities and the public schools tell them they're too incompetent to compete in the "white" world and need to stay in custodial care in order to survive.


The hip-hop, rap culture does not promote much beyond jumping around, now does it?


Illegitimacy is the downfall to any society, 34% of all American children are born illegitimate. The black illegitimacy rate is 68%. The white illegitimacy rate is 23%. A vast majority of these children have very little contact with their biological fathers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this will leads to many more problems.

Which tells me that the right half of the country is not going to be a serious part of the solution. (Incidentally, I orginally thought that post was some major snark, since its one line of commentary is "Lucky we got our first black president in 2000." But I'm more and more convinced it's dead serious.)


Tapped has something to say too.

What's so troubling there is that black men are going in the wrong direction even as societal trends move in the right direction. When you have an increase in joblessness and incarceration amidst a decrease in unemployment and crime rates, you're looking at a seriously screwed up subset of society -- in America, folks aren't supposed to drown during a rising tide. To some degree, macro trends are to blame here, particularly the increasingly tough situation for unskilled workers (it's here that I'm glad John Edwards, even if he doesn't know James Q. Wilson, is a devoted follower of William Julius Wilson, who handles this stuff in-depth. For more on him, check out this interview).

But even granting the deteriorating condition for unskilled urban workers, black men are doing uniquely poorly, even compared to black women. That's to be expected: as a society, we've put a fair amount of thought and effort into improving the prospects of black women, offering them Medicaid as soon as they become pregnant and welfare -- complete with job training and matching services -- once they give birth. Childless black men are eligible for neither, and their deteriorating condition has attracted almost no societal notice, save spurring politicians to find new and ever more inventive ways to jail them and then denounce their parental irresponsibility.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The best part is when he has to stop mid-beat to repin his yarmulke.

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Ten years.

According to the country's best climate scientist we have ten years until global warming passes a point of no return, and Bush is going to make sure we don't address the problem for at least the next three. Democrats and environmentalists alike have to make sure we spend those three years talking about this problem a lot. It will take a hell of a lot of political will and muscle to cut greenhouse emissions as quickly as we need to, and right now neither Democrats nor environmentalists have either.

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This is now officially out of hand

The New York Press has n+1 on its ballot for most loathsome New Yorker of 2006. It has Ben Kunkel listed separately (albeit misspelled--a double insult). But not Anya Kamenetz or Stefan Beck.

n+1 has put out all of three issues. How the hell is it pulling in more votes than Vincent Gallo, Bobby Flay, or Dr. Fred Newman (who is truly, truly vile)?

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The Whitney Biennial

It’s ridiculous to review a show like the Whitney Biennial. You try to fabricate in reverse a curatorial vision that encompasses every detail and end up with a laundry list. Critics never say good things about the Biennial; whatever the Biennial is meant to be, they never like it.

In my opinion, here’s what it comes down to: a good 80% of the art on view anywhere, at any time, is crap. I’ve been to three Biennials now, and it's no exception. Just walk past the crap and spend time with the good stuff.

And as always, there is good stuff. This time many good, well-established artists were given whole rooms to work with. Here’s what I liked, in the order I saw the pieces, moving from the fourth floor down to the second. You could print this out and take it as your guide! Continued below.

Kori Newkirk’s “Glint,” a hanging rectangle of hair extensions and beads.


Robert Gober’s room of photos, as understated and moving as all of his work, offering beautiful pieces of garbage in place of a gay-bashed young man.


Kenneth Anger’s room of stills from his movies, weird tributes to him from various artist-fans, and a trippy Mickey Mouse video.


Francesco Vezzoli’s fake preview for a remake of Caligula, with an all-star Hollywood cast that includes Courtney Love as Caligula.


A video by Tony Oursler and others, “Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, all over again,” featuring marionettes in 1970s costumes having orgies and doing hallucinogens.


Dawolu Jabari Anderson’s “Frederick Douglass Self-Defense Manual” series, prints of black men in martial-arts poses such as “Hand Seeks Cotton.”


Otabenga Jones & Associates, “Exploring the Outer Reaches of the Garden of Pro-Black Sanctuary”—you peek through a brick wall to see a spaceship-type thing landing in an idyllic pastoral landscape. Image not available.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

V for Vendetta, attempt #2


I tried to do this earlier and Blogger ate the post, which made me so mad I literally threw a temper tantrum, screaming and stamping my feet. This time I am doing what I usually do—writing the thing in Word first—so if I lose it, it won’t be gone forever.

Ok. As background, a few months ago I fretted that V for Vendetta, one of my favorite comics of all time, would be ruined in its movie adaptation by Natalie Portman’s limited acting skills. Well, I saw it (on opening night, of course), and actually, it was ok. Natalie Portman does do one of the worst British accents ever committed to celluloid, but for the star of the film she has surprisingly few lines, and the accent mostly distracts from her usual lack of affect, so it works out.

The reviewers mainly seem annoyed that they have to write about the movie at all. Manohla Dargis does one of those typical Times too-snarky-to-make-any-damn-sense things, and J. Hoberman could use a topic sentence and an editor who’s not afraid of him.

Both include some version of the argument that, as Dargis puts it, “Notably, Mr. Moore is having nothing to do with the film.” If she would read her own paper’s reporting on the subject she’d know that in fact, following the bad to abysmal adaptations Hollywood has done of his comics in the past (From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen respectively), Moore had decided he wanted nothing to do with Hollywood in general, and never wanted this movie made. He has distanced himself from V for Vendetta for reasons having nothing to do with how faithful it is or isn’t to his original vision.

In fact, I have read the comic many times, and I think the movie is one of the more faithful adaptations I’ve ever seen of any piece of literature. Directors always seem to feel the need to monkey around with stories they’ve bought or been given (and their changes are nearly always for the worse), but while the Wachowskis did make some minor changes (all for the worse, of course), they didn’t actually screw with the main storyline in any significant way. In fact, much of what feels stale about the movie is in fact a faithful reproduction of the comic—the reliance on literal jackboots and black uniforms. Moore and Lloyd’s vision was a post-nuclear, Thatcherite fantasy; a director in 2006 could have done more to reimagine the rhetoric and social controls that might emerge in a post-Blair (or post-Bush) state following the kind of faked terrorist attacks they’ve used to replace nuclear war.

The politics may get some media play, but that’s the one place the Wachowskis really did pussy out. The original comic was a full-throated anarchist polemic: the fascist state was to be replaced with no state. I guess having a “terrorist” hero was as much as Hollywood could handle.

PS: The world of the movie V for Vendetta is also totally desexualized: in the comic, Evey (the Natalie Portman character) has a sexual relationship with a much older man and is on her way to turn tricks in the opening scene. In the movie, she is on her way to meet that much older man, not turn tricks, only he's gay and has no interest in sleeping with her. This is a major loss, because one of the interesting things about the comic is Moore's insight into the relationship between fascism and sex, power and eroticism, and especially surveillance and voyeurism. Given the obvious sexual tinge of our current slide toward lite fascism, I do wish the Wachowskis had been a lot less prudish.

PPS: I was waiting for a certain someone to say this in a comment, but it doesn't look like she's going to get around to it, and I want it up before this post gets bumped off the front page: The worst decision the Wachowskis made was the march at the end with all the people in V costumes. Apart from being a really dumb "I am Spartacus" moment, it also totally undermines the original anarchist vision to have everybody in a goddamned uniform. Is the way to overthrow a fascist state really supposed to be more unwavering conformity?

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More NYC Police Surveillance

My friend Jackie Vimo, a longtime New York activist who I quoted in December, just emailed about police surveillance of activists. Apparently Bloomberg started his administration with a bang. Take it away, Jackie:

Jackie, enemy combatant

In January 2002, I was one of the first five people arrested as part of the demonstrations against the World Economic Forum (WEF) in New York City. I had always contended that I had been under surveillance and that my arrest was preemptive - I was arrested early in the morning while standing on top of an abandoned private building holding a banner (the banner had not been dropped).

As we were put through the system, we were told we were going to be "guinea pigs" for the WEF arrests to come. We were even given special WEF bracelets (somewhere between emergency room and rock-concert bracelets) and taken to a special facility for holding WEF protesters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Subsequently, my attorneys Ron Kuby and Daniel Perez filed a lawsuit on our behalf against the city for false arrest and incarceration. Although we were told that the lawsuit was not going well, the city mysteriously settled our case last year.

Yesterday's front-page New York Times article about the proactive arrests during the WEF protests confirms my suspicions about my surveillance and preemptive arrest. As part of another WEF lawsuit filed by Perez, the city has released revealing internal documents detailing the fact of proactive arrests as an official policy during WEF.

In the words of the NY Times, "The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss publicly: that the department uses undercover officers to infiltrate political gatherings and monitor behavior." Moreover,"[The NYPD]...had successfully used 'proactive arrests,' covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and recommend that those approaches be employed at future gatherings."

After years of being followed, surveilled and falsely arrested, I feel somewhat vindicated at seeing the Times articles detailing the fact that the NYPD officially admits to bypassing legal procedures and severely curtailing our First Amendment rights. But the truth is that these police tactics work. After constant surveillance and arrests, which reached an all-time high for me at the Miami FTAA demos in 2003 and the 2004 Republican National Convention marches, I was left feeling demoralized and defeated. As a result, I have been much less active in recent years. I only hope that it isn't too late for all of us to be outraged enough to feel inspired to continue to fight back.--Jackie

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Begging the question of the ding an sich

Don't people realize that misusing pretentious terms makes them sound like not just bores, but ignorant bores?

Take, for example, the term "beg the question." Most of my friends have had to suffer through my ranting about how annoying and pretentious it is to misuse this phrase as a flowery way of saying "raise the question," when really it has a precise rhetorical meaning: to employ circular logic. Whenever I come across its misuse in an article I stop reading, because I know the writer is sloppy and unreliable.

Or take Joan Acocella's egregious and gratuitous misuse of Kant in this New Yorker book review:

But over time the augmented bosom became confessedly an artifice—a Ding an sich, and proud of it.
First of all, barf. What a pretentious sentence. Was she just overcompensating because she was writing about Playboy, so she thought a bit of Kant would justify her whimsical, oh-so-outré subject matter?

Second, I just don't understand what she was trying to say. Ding an sich means thing-in-itself and is a reference to Kant, for whom it means the noumenon, that which the human mind can never perceive directly but only through the phenomenon, the world as experienced. So it is almost the opposite of artifice (well, sort of, though really it concerns a totally unrelated epistemological question of the categories with which the mind orders raw sense data).

I think what Acocella meant was that what had started as an approximation of nature became a goal in itself. The simulacrum became that which is simulated. That is a somewhat interesting observation. But that has nothing to do with Kant, and it certainly doesn't excuse her archly pretentious (mis)use of the German phrase.

Simple language is almost always so much better.

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I have no idea what this means

But it's about local politics, even if that locality happens to be Los Angeles, which I don't live in. And a friend of mine did it. And it's pretty funny.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

And now, by request....

I've been asked to write something on the current round of French riots. (By someone who really, really can't stand the French, actually.) But why write anything myself when the email asking me to do it contained perfectly usable commentary?

It's so mind-blowing to Americans that people would take to the streets to protest the imposition of at-will employment, to which we can't even conceive an alternative, that it seems like the mainstream media can't even discuss why people are protesting. The NYT just talks about romantic social movements a la 1968 -- oh, the idealistic and foolish students want to change society again, except this time all they want is to overturn a little labor law. How boring. I guess times aren't what they used to be back in those revolutionary '60's. -- buried in the NYT article is someone saying that this law is the first step in doing away with the social contract. The what?

The other interesting part, of course, is the difference between the coverage of white middle to upper class young people rioting in the streets of Paris and black and Arab young people rioting in the burbs. Nothing new, really.

Yeah, in part. I mean, the patronizing, indulgent comparison to May '68 is pretty much restricted to white kids. I don't remember seeing similar comparisons made so readily about the suburban riots of the fall. And Elaine Sciolino should never, ever, ever have been allowed to make this kind of editorializing generalization (one of many):

France likes to think of itself as revolutionary. But it is run like a big corporation with a powerful president at the head. Any change in the distribution of power can set off a crisis. Parliament is seen as too weak to serve as a check to that power. Protests are one of the only ways to get the government's attention.

No facts to back that up, not one. At least not in the article. Certainly a statement like "Parliament is seen as" anything should be backed up with poll data, non?

But much of the rest of the article is of a piece with standard riot coverage, as Solomon dissected it a month ago.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Spending cuts" and other lies.

I'm tired of hearing about how Congress needs to rein in spending. Two days ago I said that there was no way to balance the budget through spending cuts alone. Certainly you can't do it if you keep cutting taxes. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The President’s budget proposes to make permanent the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, and to add a number of new tax cuts that carry large price tags. At the same time, the budget proposes sizeable reductions over the next five years in nearly every domestic discretionary program area, including education, veteran’s health benefits, medical research, environmental protection, and various programs for low-income families, such as housing assistance, energy assistance, nutrition assistance, and child care.

It's just tiresome and insulting to hear obvious falsehoods repeated over and over again, and pathetic how bad the political media are at pointing them out.

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Anya Kamenetz Is the Most Annoying Person in New York

She graduated from Yale in 2002, has an apartment in a trendy neighborhood in New York, writes for the Village Voice (a job that could be considered crappy only if one has a perversely inflated sense of entitlement), and got a(n undeserved) book deal while in her early 20s. Yet she had the gall to write "Generation Debt," a collection of insufferably self-pitying, clueless "oh my god my NYC apartment is so not as cute as my Davenport dorm, plus there are all these black people everywhere" columns from the Voice from the past couple years, in which she demonstrates absolutely zero perspective or insight, as this review argues. She is singularly devoid of self awareness, or else how could one explain the following:

Someone like Kamenetz doesn't have much to kvetch about. In the press materials accompanying the book, she notes that just after she finished the first draft, her boyfriend "proposed to me on a tiny, idyllic island off the coast of Sweden." She continues: "As I write this, boxes of china and flatware, engagement gifts, sit in our living room waiting to go into storage because they just won't fit in our insanely narrow galley kitchen. We spent a whole afternoon exchanging the inevitable silver candlesticks and crystal vases, heavy artifacts of an iconic married life that still seems to have nothing to do with ours." The inevitable silver candlesticks? Too much flatware to fit in the kitchen? We should all have such problems.

And does her fiance have one of those crap temporary jobs all the drones in her generation are destined to hold forever? Not really. He's a software engineer at Google.

Seriously, Anya, if you're reading this, you're the reason the terrorists hate us.

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More on irrational risk assessment.

As someone close to me pointed out the other day: many, many people drive recklessly, a risk over which they have absolute control. And very few of my friends put on seatbelts when they take cabs, as if New York cab drivers were known for their defensive driving. So how do you sell people on caution?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hmmm. I can see the logic.

The Bush administration last year quietly rewrote the rules for allowing gays and lesbians to receive national-security clearances, drawing complaints from civil rights activists.

The Bush administration said security clearances cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual." But it removed language saying sexual orientation "may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance."
Several million civilian and military personnel who work for the U.S. government and its contractors must go through extensive reviews to determine if they've exhibited behavior that could compromise national security or make them susceptible to blackmail.

So what they must really be worried about is closeted people, right? I mean if you're out, you can't be blackmailed. I suggest they start with really important holders of national security clearances like, let's see, him. Or him.

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The subject of this article is that Republicans value tax cuts over balanced budgets.

Of course, that's not what Carl Hulse thinks the subject is. Fucking process articles.

The Senate rejected on a 50-to-50 tie a proposal to restore what are known as "pay-go" rules, a requirement that tax cuts and some new spending be approved by 60 votes or offset by budget savings or revenue increases.
But Republicans said the push to add the rules to the budget was a back-door effort to make it harder to extend President Bush's tax cuts.

"The practical effect of this is to raise taxes," said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and chairman of the Budget Committee.

There is no way to balance the budget through cuts in domestic discretionary spending alone. Can't happen. The article, though, just says that cutting spending is politically difficult, which implies that Republicans could do it, only they can't get it together.

Aware that Republican voters favor lower spending, Republicans want to appear responsive, and yet the leadership does not want to push too far and cause problems for lawmakers in difficult re-election fights. The leaders also want to give the administration what it seeks for its military operations. And, as the vote on the budget rules showed, they do not want to impair their ability to deliver popular tax cuts.

Double fucking process articles. "Republicans want to appear responsive?" Who said so? Does the leadership say it does not want to "push too far?" Somebody said this pap on background, but without knowing who, it's all pretty much meaningless. Hey Carl, how big is the deficit, in dollars? How big are the cuts proposed to domestic discretionary spending? How big are the tax cuts?

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Ho hum. Another day, another frightening sign of global warming.

I'm a little scared these really will become routine.

I recently got around to reading "The Death of Environmentalism," (PDF) two years late.

The problem it lays out is in some ways simple, in others totally maddening. The fact is that although on the whole the media have been pretty good on the subject of global warming for a decade or so, the mainstream environmental movement has utterly failed to impress upon the public the seriousness of the issue.

Over the last 15 years environmental foundations and organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into combating global warming.

We have strikingly little to show for it.

From the battles over higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks to the attempts to reduce carbon emissions through international treaties, environmental groups repeatedly have tried and failed to win national legislation that would reduce the threat of global warming. As a result, people in the environmental movement today find themselves politically less powerful than we were one and a half decades ago.

As the authors point out, environmental ideas enjoy wide support, but that support is very, very shallow--most people rank "the environment" low on the list of factors motivating their votes. In large part that's because, as the authors also point out, environmentalism has been complicit in reifying "the environment" as a separate entity.

Environmentalism is today more about protecting a supposed “thing” – “the environment” – than advancing the worldview articulated by Sierra Club founder John Muir, who nearly a century ago observed, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

That means the average American can consider "the environment" someone else's problem, not something he or she is inherently part of and responsible for.

Kevin Phillips recently argued in Harper’s Magazine that the decline of liberalism began because “liberal intellectuals and policy makers had become too sure of themselves, so lazy and complacent that they failed to pay attention to people who didn’t share their opinions.”

Environmentalists find themselves in the same place today. We are so certain about what the problem is, and so committed to their legislative solutions, that we behave as though all we need is to tell the literal truth in order to pass our policies.

Environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be.

As an aside: the Endangered Species Act was originally promoted partly through reference to Noah's ark.

Above all else, we need to take a hard look at the institutions the movement has built over the last 30 years. Are existing environmental institutions up to the task of imagining the post-global warming world? Or do we now need a set of new institutions founded around a more expansive vision and set of values?

If for example, environmentalists don’t consider the high cost of health care, R&D tax credits, and the overall competitiveness of the American auto industry to be “environmental issues,” then who will think creatively about a proposal that works for industry, workers, communities and the environment? If framing proposals around narrow technical solutions is an ingrained habit of the environmental movement, then who will craft proposals framed around vision and values?

I recognize I've quoted a lot here. (I recommend you read the rest, it's very good.) But I wanted to quote that much in order to continue a question Solomon raised a few days ago: what are the core values around which we can build an environmental movement, an economic movement, any kind of multi-issue progressive politics?

Solomon argued then for a core value of justice, which I said would rub American racism the wrong way. That may be true, but ignoring a value because it bothers racists is dumb--I was wrong about that. One figures out how to make one's pitch on the basis of values, not the other way around.

In the case of environmentalism I would argue that the core value is "wisdom," the ability to defer short-term benefits for long-term gains, and especially to avoid long-term catastrophe. Also, to spend public money today in a way that returns the most for the most people in the future.

Unfortunately, I don't think that really appeals to many people. It especially doesn't work in a two-year election cycle. There are other arguments that could be made--having to do with Adam's responsibility as steward of the Earth, for example--but those don't appeal to me.

In Congress, one important step will be what Digby calls "learning to lose well," that is, losing in a way that at least makes it clear what your principles are, and hopefully makes it clear what the other guy's are (in your terms, in the best possible scenario). You put yourself on record on bills of perhaps only symbolic importance, and you do it over and over until it's clear you mean it. Losses of this kind have to be on things the Democrats can vote for and hardly any Republicans can. I would love to see a nonbinding Sense of Congress motion declaring global warming to be an issue of vital importance to national security, for example. Sadly, I don't think there are enough environmentalist Democrats (let alone wise ones) for that to work right now.

This is now officially rambling, so I'll cut it off and ask: any ideas? How do you sell Americans on wisdom when a big part of our national mythos is about bravado?

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Molly Ivins Is The Truth.

Can we run her?


Or maybe him? For anything?

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Monday, March 13, 2006

I wish they all could be Croydon girls

Check out this article about how British girls are the slaggiest in Europe. It's got a snide, Tory attitude throughout, but some facts were incontrovertible.

This passage rang especially true for me:
We are told ad infinitum by bourgeois commentators that over here we do not have a culture which properly understands or appreciates alcohol; instead of enjoying a nice glass of Sancerre with our meal at an agreeable pavement cafe, accompanied by, say, a plate of olives and some peasant-recipe crusty bread, we swallow vast gallons of acrid plonk with a bag of Walkers and then throw up in the bushes and stagger home with an ill-considered partner.
It's like he's telling my life with his words.

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The reason most reviews (of anything—movies, books, in this case comics) tend to be positive is that there’s very little reason to warn readers off consuming something they probably never would have heard of anyway. That, in large part, is why I haven’t done a comics review in a while. I’ve been buying and reading comics, but mostly I haven’t liked them.

I bought blue a while ago and decided to review it today for a few reasons: 1) I haven’t done a review in a long time. 2) I haven’t done any reviews of work by women yet. 3) It fits one of my pet theories about literature, namely, that you get a better ratio of quality to crap if you stick to works originally written in other languages. They have to be at least pretty good to warrant translating.

In doing some background Web reading I learned that the author, Kiriko Nananan, is part of a new, women’s movement in manga called “la nouvelle manga,” which apparently aims to combine Japanese experimentation in storytelling with French/Belgian experimentation in style and design.

Nananan’s storytelling is experimental only in that it comes from a solid, realist tradition, and that it’s very good. A young, introverted girl at an all-girls school falls in love with one of her classmates, who eventually leaves her and goes back to her married boyfriend in Tokyo. In fact, it’s the story’s very lack of experimentation that makes it work. Sometimes you can get away with just being talented.

The design is more unusual, though: spare, varied, making great use of white space. To crib a little from another review.

On the bottom two-thirds of page 39 we see Masami lying down in her bed. In the first panel (this manga is in its original right-to-left format, so it is the upper right one) she is raised up on her elbows. As our eye drops down to the next panel, so does Masami drop down to hide her head in her arms. The way her figure in this panel bleeds into the gutter and then the next (tall) panel, creates a sense of time passing, without even needing a second image (that rectangular panel creates the effect). Notice also the ash on the end of the cigarette has grown from beginning to end.


The one problem with all this elegance is that it actually becomes fairly difficult to distinguish the girls, who all wear the same school uniforms. Nananan draws their features with so few lines, using only black and white, that you have to pay very careful attention to small differences.

The book has been out for a while in Japan (long enough for them to have made a movie of it, kind of the Japanese Ghost World) but it’s just getting wider distribution in America. More previews below.





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