Left Behinds

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Breaking the Code of the Betjeman Hoax

You probably read about the Betjeman hoax in the front page of today's NYT arts section.

To be duped into printing a made-up love letter in your latest biography is bad enough. But to discover that the ersatz document is actually a very rude insult aimed specifically at you: that is a rare kind of humiliation.

It happened recently to A. N. Wilson, one of London’s most visible and waspish literary figures, in “Betjeman” (Hutchinson), his book about the British poet laureate John Betjeman, who died in 1984. The document was a steamy letter purporting to be from Mr. Betjeman to a friend named Honor Tracy, and Mr. Wilson used it as evidence that the two had a passionate, if brief, affair.

But as it turns out, the first letters of each sentence, except the first, spell out an insulting sentence that starts with Mr. Wilson’s name and ends with a vulgarity.

(Let's take a moment to giggle at the use of "waspish" as a euphemism for "bitchiest queen in academia.")

We're here, we're waspish, get used to it

Or, from this Guardian article: "the capital letters at the start of each sentence spell out 'A N Wilson is a shit'."

Well, no they don't. Take a look.

What the letters spell out is






I italicized the H and the JB because I'm not totally sure they should be included in the code (they're not the first letters of sentences, but they're capitalized because of the format of the letter).

I also included punctuation. I think the 'I's make the most sense as Roman numeral headings, so that the DH and the AJB have some significance I'm not aware of. The main suspect for the hoax is AN Wilson's scholarly rival Bevis Hillier (could that name sound any more like a Harry Potter character, like some fey wizard who lives under a hill and is a little too touchy-touchy with the kids?), who denies involvement while in the same breath taking the opportunity to publicly call Wilson "despicable." Perhaps the DH and the AJB are initials for other people in academia or Wilson's life?

Or maybe they're not Roman numerals. Could they be another anagram? The letters are either DIIIA or DHIIIAJB. Could it be "HID A BJ II"? As in, "hid a blowjob, too"? I really can't speak to the scholarship of this interpretation, but from a strict codebreaking perspective, it seems valid.

Or let's see... "I HAD, I JIB" or "I BID A HI." None of these are as tempting or meaningful (to me, at least) as the promise of a hidden blowjob, but I leave it to you, the readers, to decide.

In any event, this was an incredibly elaborate hoax that required lots of planning and convoluted execution, so I doubt that these extra letters are mere extra letters. You don't go to all that effort without making the code neat and perfect. The "extra" letters are probably the real clues to the perpetrator's identity.

As an afterthought, I just wanted to include this bit of Wilson nastiness during the Wilson/Hillier scholarly feud (which resulted from Wilson nastily reviewing Hillier's Bettjeman bio, which he had spent 25 years assiduously researching and which was commissioned by the man himself, followed up by Wilson pooping a bio out in one year at exactly the time Hillier's life work was to be released, and then Wilson getting a bigger advance for it and piggybacking on Hillier's publicity):

In 2004 Mr. Wilson — an unusually prolific author, who in the last few years has a produced a book a year — wrote a column in The Daily Telegraph ridiculing a Betjeman biographer who, he said, had been plaguing Mr. Wilson over a poor review. He didn’t name the person, but it was clear he was referring to Mr. Hillier, since there were no other Betjeman biographers on hand at the time

In an apparent reference to Mr. Hillier’s living in a converted almshouse, Mr. Wilson wrote, “How utterly pitiable to be some old bachelor in a Hiram’s Hospital, smock-clad like a pauper in the reign of Henry VIII, dripping resentment like the dottle from a smelly churchwarden’s pipe, and with so little in his life that he has to worry his sad old head about a book review.”

I believe the kids would call that a LOL.

I don't know why (since if I ever write a bio it will surely be in the Wilsonian not Hillierian cast), but I am sympathetic to Hillier's plight (perhaps I realize that my future, too, is in an almshouse, converted or not converted). If it was he who did the hoax, it was a hoax of brilliant simplicity in that it made his argument so succinctly: Wilson is a hack scholar who doesn't check his sources and has, essentially, no scholarly credibility.

If someone includes in his putatively authoritative biography of a recently deceased poet a letter from a stranger without the meagerest attempts at verification, and then draws conclusions about the poet's life from the mystery letter, that biographer does not in fact have any authority. Whatever Wilson is, he is not a scholar. He is perhaps a Christopher Hitchens witticist/polemicist, but not a scholar.

My friend who first showed me the article thought Wilson came off very gracefully in the aftermath, while Hillier just seemed tragic and bitter. Perhaps, but Wilson will also never be taken quite so seriously as a scholar.

Anyhow, what I really want to know is: any further thoughts on the extra bits of code?

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To Be Young, Gifted, and ...

There's an essay in TNR by someone named Steve Pinker explaining the "Ashkenazi Advantage" (an essay that might be of special interest at Left Behinds, where just about everybody except for me is what Pinker would call a "Meinstein"). As Pinker humbly writes, "Jewish achievement is obvious; only the explanation is unclear." He analyzes a recent buzzed-about bit of scholarship that concluded that Ashkenazi intellectual advantage is the result of natural selection over the first millenium of the group's history, and that certain Ashkenazi diseases (such as Tay-Sachs) are byproducts of this selected trait. Pinker's conclusion is basically that the verdict is still out, but the hypotheses are testable and should be tested.

I liked this bit at the end, about whether or not this research should be conducted, politically and ethically speaking:

Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it, and progress in neuroscience and genomics has made these politically comforting shibboleths (such as the non-existence of intelligence and the non-existence of race) untenable.


Group differences, when they exist, pertain to averages, not to individual men and women. There are geniuses and dullards, saints and sinners, in every race, ethnicity, and gender. Political equality is a commitment to universal human rights, and to policies that treat people as individuals rather than as representatives of groups; it is not an empirical claim that people are indistinguishable. Many commentators seem unwilling to grasp these points.
Talk amongst yourselves.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Politicians' Children's Blogs

After reading this article, I dutifully researched the spawn of the various high-profile candidates in NYC. I was hoping for some really trashy "I H8 MY DAD HE MAKES ME FEEL DIRTY WHEN HE TELLZ RACIALIST JOKES"-type Myspace blogs, but the best I could find were the Facebook profiles of Elyssa Spitzer (daughter of Eliot) and Jonah Green (Mark's son). Since I am not an alum of their schools, I couldn't even see their full profiles, only their main pics (sorry if this feels slightly John Mark Karr).

Is it just me, or is Jonah totally gay (and cute in an angsty way)? I mean, I know he went to film school and everything, so maybe he's just Mr. Sensitive, but I don't think those saucy tank tops are even sold anywhere other than Chelsea.

And the beard and emo-face are certainly an improvement:

Most importantly, he seems to have evaded dad's tanning salon.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Deep Springs Continuum

"Two guys had been reading a lot of queer theory -- it was the nineties -- and there was some fairly persuasive talk of a homosexual continuum," a Deep Springer told me. "These two guys more or less argued themselves, on a strictly theoretical basis, into making out. It was not the practical success that it had been theoretically. You can read all the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick you want without getting an erection."

-from Dana Goodyear's article about Deep Springs College in the current issue of the New Yorker

I'm pretty sure I know who this anonymous Deep Springer source is, and I'm pretty sure his name rhymes with Qantid Qoto.

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Department of unintentional honesty, or, All There Is to Say About the Katrina Anniversary

DMIBlog caught this from a few weeks ago.

"Does he [the President] often talk about poverty? No," Snow said.

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Chris Owens, pop star.

Bouldin asks what we think of this new Chris Owens peace song. So here's what I think: I like Chris Owens. I love the spirit. I love the fact that he's not afraid to look dumb. But he shouldn't quit his day job. (Wait, I think he already quit his day job.) Rated on a handicapped scale for campaign music it's great; on a basic pop scale, though, it's subpar.

Judge for yourself. (MP3 link)

On the other hand, it's miiiiiiiiles better than his dad's "rap poetry".


Fight the pain
Defeat the strain
Rally all together
Destroy eminent domain.
Monster on the street
Grabs any home to eat,
Greedy rape the snakes repeat;
Meet them in the courts
Families matter more than sports;
Meet them with our maps
Expose their power traps.
Brave neighbors to the front,
Block the vicious Ratner stunt,
Clean air he robs
For invisible jobs;
Yield not to dirty dollar temptation,
Stand strong as a great generation,
Be priceless diamonds for our nation.
Fight eminent domain
Unjust strain
A civic stain
Eminent domain is
Democracy slain!

Yikes. I used to teach poetry writing and I never got doggerel that crappy from my jockiest freshmen.

Okay, maybe the lacrosse players.

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Monday, August 28, 2006


Two summers ago you couldn't walk down the street in New York without being hassled for money. Not the homeless, the college kids. Well, next time you see them, clue them in to how badly they're being exploited.

canvassers are not members of any particular organization—they are outsourced labor, often making less than minimum wage.
A canvass itself doesn’t raise money. A successful canvass campaign covers its own overhead. The organizations make their real long-term financial gains from the donor rolls that a canvass generates, which can be sold or used in-house.

Read the whole article. It's not that long, and it describes how the Fund for Public Interest Research (son of PIRGs and the leading national nonprofit canvassing outsource shop) squashed a union drive in its Los Angeles offices. If you want more, the author has expanded in a series of three blog posts here, here, and here.

Why does this matter?

Miller and Harris’ personal stories—of idealism beset by frustration and turned to disillusionment, and of “mysterious firings” and “staff purges”—are wholly typical of the many accounts recorded in Activism, Inc., a new book by Dana Fisher, a sociology professor at Columbia University. Fisher interviewed hundreds of canvassers over a period of several years, with the permission of an organization that in her work goes under the pseudonym, “the People’s Project.” This organization is acknowledged to be one of the largest canvassing organizations in the United States.

Fisher found that canvassing experience severely limits the entry points for young people looking for a career in social justice. According to Fisher, the canvass industry yields a remarkably “small percentage [of canvassers who find] other work in politics after canvassing.” Far more often these young people go to the private sector. (This summer, Miller took a job with a solar panel installation company.) Activism, Inc. suggests that rather than a breeding ground for new generations of grassroots activism, the industry is eating the left’s young.

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More on Clarke

You may have heard the brouhaha over whether or not Yvette Clarke lied about finishing college:

Her 2004 campaign Web site declared she graduated Oberlin, as did her entry in the 2005 city Campaign Finance Board voter guide.

The board stipulates that candidates must sign "sworn statements that the information in their profiles is true to the best of their knowledge."
Last night, Clarke said, "I spent much of the day today in contact with Oberlin College and Medgar Evers College to retrieve my academic records from two decades ago, convinced of my recollection that I had fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor's degree.

"Contrary to that recollection, I have now discovered that I remain two classes short of the requirements for my degree."

That was published August 24. Later that day, Ben Smith blogged:

A source with access to Yvette Clarke's transcript at Medgar Evers College passed on the information from that record, which strengthens the case that she fudged her resume, rather than simply forgetting that she hadn't finished up.

Clarke's transcript, according to this source, shows that she took three public administration classes in 1986. That would have been enough to finish her Oberlin degree. But while she got As in two classes, she failed a third.

Clarke was clearly aware that she hadn't finished her degree: In 1991, she re-enrolled at Medgar Evers, this time in a management class. According to the transcript, however, she withdrew from the class.

And that's where the matter has stayed for the last few days. Before this she was an acceptable second choice after Chris Owens to many in on New York blogs, but it seems that's no longer the case. (Occasionally I see support for Yassky. Never for Andrews.) Strangely, though, I haven't seen this additional tidbit from the Voice picked up, so I thought I'd put it here, since the occasional New York blogger does slum with us from time to time:

Claiming to have graduated from Oberlin College when she was still several credits shy of a degree isn't the only reason for Brooklyn congressional wannabe Yvette Clarke to be embarrassed.

Ten years after the councilwoman left the prestigious Ohio liberal arts school behind, state officials had to file a court lien against Clarke to get her to ante up more than $17,000 in student loans she had failed to pay, records show.
In July, 1996, the New York State Office of Higher Education, now known as the Higher Education Services Corp., went to court against Clarke to force her to start paying off the loans. "There was a judgment brought," confirmed Ronald Kermani, a spokesman for the state agency. "It was filed in the courts, and she has been paying directly through the courts since then." Clarke still owes $4,268, officials said.

As one of the commenters there points out:

If Clarke had to be taken to court over her college loans, she clearly "remembered" her college history.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Department of No Shit, Pt. II

From an email titled "finding an apartment is hard,"

This was from yesterday, but the Times has added another entry to what Left Behinds has previously called the Department of No Shit.

Though to be fair, I kind of like this article the same reporter wrote a few months ago about queer humorist Mike Albo (though even this one had its requisite NYT pitfalls: nepotistic NYT connec (Albo's coauthor is a NYT tv critic), gratuitous running joke about the quintessentially lame musical Rent, and, I'm sure, some sort of Yale rainbow connection).

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

In Shocking Move, Annie Leibovitz Photographs Little-Known Junior Senator from Illinois

The visionaries at Men's Vogue have chosen to grace their October cover with an obscure junior Senator who's earned the respect of his peers via his dogged advocacy of, um, and his resounding success at, um, something, or whatever. But look how cute he is:

I'm gonna go ahead and be the first to say it: he just looks so presidential.

In conjunction with a Biography Channel program about the parallels between Obama and JFK, photographer Annie Liebovitz has not so subtly positioned the Obama family as our 21st century Camelot. The photos are, of course, absolutely gorgeous. I will leave it to our readers to supply their own commentary about celebrity culture and electoral politics, about the inevitability of Katharine McPhee's presidential bid announced the day after she turns 35 (but will that be her birth certificate age or her showbiz age?).

It's also worth reminding ourselves of this anecdote, a meditation on Obama's profound vacuousness:

One of the finest scenes in the book, a scene that has haunted me since I read it, is set at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where BHL comes face-to-face with Barack Obama, who has just given the speech that made his a household name:
“Bernard-Henri Lévy,” he repeats, mocking me a little ... “With a name like that, you would have been a big hit at the convention.” ... I ask, “And what about ‘Barack Obama’? With a name like that, and with the success you had last night, you should be able to become president of the United States in five minutes.” He laughs. Thumps me on the chest, pulls away a little as if to gather momentum to land a better punch, gives me a hug, laughs again, and repeats, like a nursery rhyme, “Barack Obama, Bernard-Henri Lévy ...”

The embrace is paranoid, the familiarity grotesque. The two unheimlich homeboys, two mere names hugging like boldface refugees from Page Six, seem captured for a moment in a celebrity feedback loop. It portrays vividly the eerie absence in American public life that for Tocqueville was our specialty, the lack at the heart or the head that makes us so carefree yet so potentially scary.
Oh, America.

But what really mortified me in the same issue was this article:

(I think that's actually a stock photo of a certain Lebanese-American pseudo-cowboy from Deep Springs in 1994, but anyhow)

Talk about political cynicism. This is a guy who grew up in suburban Florida (when he wasn't in the DC corridors of power). What the hell is he doing striking a cowboy pose? Coul he more blatantly be positioning himself as his uncle's successor (right down to marrying some ditzy Texas sorority girl)?

Worst of all, I worry that the following might slightly endear Neda Cole to the familia Bush.

When the family assembles for sundowners on Gampy's porch in Kennebunkport, what do they argue about? Abortion? Gay rights? Iraq? Actually, backgammon. "It's really serious," P. intones. "One of the most read books in our family is Backgammon for Blood."

Are you sure you want to come here for graduate school, Neda?

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The personhood of embryos

To ground moral status in biological humanity is to shrug at the enslavement of hobbits, the slaughter of kittens, and the destruction of all life beyond earth.

That's a pretty good sentence right there, I don't care what you say.

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Search and Destroy Pt. II

Our most recent visitor:

Number of Entries:Entry Page Time:Visit Length:BrowserOSResolution
1August 24th 2006 05:14:300 secondsMSIE 6.0Windows XP800x600
Returning Visits:Location:Hostname:Entry Page:Exit Page:Referring URL:
0Ad Dawhah, Doha, Qatar(

search.yahoo.com/search?p=Behinds girls&fr=FP-tab-web-t500&toggle=1&cop=&ei=UTF-8

In case that's hard to read, our latest search was from Qatar for "Behinds girls." I find it funny that we get so much misdirected traffic from people in the Middle East looking for porn (especially when it's so innocently phrased, though it makes sense that most of it is from people looking for "behinds"). Is it because we write about middle eastern politics, so we are high in search results in those countries? Or is "behinds" the first translation for buttocks in some Arabic-to-English dictionaries? Either way, I'm tickled that this porn-hunter was sent to my rant about a gang of black lesbians beating up a street harasser.

If that guy had clicked "Yahoo Images" on his search, this would have been the result heh:

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Whatever Happened To ...

... the debate over illegal immigrants? I've been watching cable news the past couple days, and it's all Jonbenet all the time (with a bit of Iraq and Lebanon thrown in, but really just a bit).

No, seriously.

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Jon Stewart's Daily Dose of

They're not fake news. They take the real news and spin it into a fake newscast, but the facts are real, and the people they have on the show are very real, the issues are very real, and the impact they're having is very real.

-Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar in this video about the feud between Geraldo/O'Reilly and Colbert/Stewart.
I've been meaning to write about the Daily Show. What exactly is "the impact they're having?"

What is the Daily Show about, really? It's just sort of vague irony and cynicism. The Colbert Report, at least, is a satire of right wing zealots. The Daily Show isn't really about anything.

-Musician and cultural critic Reginald Lamar
The Village Voice recently discussed an academic study that found that in 2004, young people who were exposed to the Daily Show became more cynical about politics and the news media.

It may be more instructive to see The Daily Show not as an agent of disaffection so much as a symptom of a larger psychological trend. In Generation Me, Twenge cites 40 years of data from a popular psychological scale that measures "internal" versus "external" personalities. ... By the researchers' yardstick, the average college student in the early 2000s is more "external"—that is to say, more cynical—than 80 percent of her early-'60s forebears. The long-term effects of rising externality are clear and grim. "The impression is that there's nothing I can do and it's all going to hell, and you can see that in kids as young as nine," says Twenge. "Some of it is actually realism and practicality, but some of it is counterproductive cynicism.

"Everything that externality correlates with is horrible: bad academic performance, depression, anxiety, alienation," Twenge continues. "And yet the argument makes sense—of course we can't all change the world. Certainly for young people who are left of center, this last presidential election was a lesson in cynicism." Since Twenge's Generation Me is akin to a big-tent Generation X, perhaps that epoch-defining aphorism from Slacker still applies: "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy."
Hm, not the same, but certainly not preferable, either (or is the Voice doing that 90s trick where 'the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning'?). Anyhow, it all sounds an awful lot like the argument for depressive realism, which holds that depressives perceive the world around them more clearly than "healthy" people do (since part of clinical healthiness is preserving oneself from the harshness of reality).
One cognitive symptom of depression might be the loss of optimistic, self-enhancing biases that normally protect healthy people against assaults to their self-esteem. In many instances, depressives may simply be judging themselves and the world much more accurately than non-depressed people, and finding it not a pretty place.

OK, so there's a certain clarity to depressive realism. But a depressive realist argument against political idealism amounts to my 8th grade motto "why bother?" Well, that's not a very inspirational position from which to cover the news.

Somebody get Jon Stewart some St. John's Wort. Or at least a coherent point of view.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Least Eligible Bachelor in New York

This douchebag:

Ladies, his name is Michael Noer (though I think this is him in an early film role). His bizarrely misogynist August 22 Forbes Magazine article garnered so much backlash that his editors pulled it from the site around dinnertime in an attempt at damage control (as my friend at one of Forbes' main competitors wrote, "lol all the reporters in my office are yelling. UNPRECEDENTED! UN-FREAKING-PRECEDENTED").

The message boards on Forbes.com and elsewhere went crazy over the whole thing. As a commenter suggested, his piece should basically have been titled "Why Michael Noer Never Got Laid Again, Except By That One Girl Who Works at The Piggly-Wiggly and Cain't Read so Good." Or as another commenter wrote, "the 1950s called and it wants its valium back." Yet another is creating a site "where you could warn other women to keep away from men like Michael Noer."

I won't get into the substance of the article, except to note that the pop economics is very, very poorly done (by his absurd take on labor specialization, for example, the economically optimal scenario for men would be to forget about getting married and just buy a blowup doll, a housekeeper, and some grown children from an orphanage).

I mean, what a stupid article.

The only other interesting aspect of the phenomenon was that a lot of the commenters on the Forbes message board indulged in some pretty ugly and unprovoked race-baiting, talking a lot of shit about how career men should just find "Asian mail-order brides." I had not previously encountered this particular anxiety, but friends have confirmed it's pretty common, one of racism's final frontiers. As one conservative guy remarked when I brought this up, "Asian women are to college educated white feminists what undocumented Mexican day laborers are to blue collar white (and black) men: unwanted foreign competition." Er, or something.

Anyhow, here's a little more taste of where Michael Noer is coming from, ladies.

Wife or whore?
The choice is that simple....

...Edlund and Korn admit that spouses and streetwalkers aren't exactly alike. Wives, in truth, are superior to whores in the economist's sense of being a good whose consumption increases as income rises--like fine wine. ... [T]he implication remains that wives and whores are--if not exactly like Coke and Pepsi--something akin to champagne and beer. The same sort of thing.

..."[W]e assume that the only downside of marriage for a woman is the forgone opportunity for prostitution."

Classic. Wife or whore? For Michael Noer for the next few years, I think it's pretty much just gonna be "cheap whore or upscale whore, or maybe tranny whore for variety this week?'


A friend emailed me:

forbes was behind the curve. meghan o'rourke wrote this article in march. and in her version, correlation is so totally causation.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


For our British and anglophile readers: How the hell does the UK still have Gurkha soldiers? Especially when this is still the model?

The soldiers are still selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal - with about 28,000 youths tackling the selection procedure for just over 200 places each year.
After the Gurkhas have served their time in the Army - a maximum of 30 years, and a minimum of 15 years to secure a pension - they are discharged back in Nepal.

What? The U.S. does something sort of similar, recruiting hopeful immigrants for military service, but at least the reward is U.S. citizenship. That's still kind of sick, but better than not citizenship in exchange for service, right?

I have the feeling I'm not really getting this. Someone explain.

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Kiki and Herb Will Die For You

I am trying to get tickets for Kiki and Herb on Broadway. If you haven't seen them before, here's a little taste:

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Yes, we do requests.

Lumi of NoLandGrab writes:

I don't know if you noticed, but this weekend the Times endorsed Hakeem Jeffries for the 57th AD without even mentioning the one issue that clearly divides the three candidates, Jeffries, Bill Batson and Freddie Hamilton. What's even more disappointing is that the only reason given for Jeffries endorsement was the he "has the makings of a political star..."

I still personally think that the Times's endorsement of Betsy "do nothing" Gotbaum was the lowest point in recent Times-endorsement history, however to give away an endorsement to a candidate based upon charisma is pretty pathetic.

True. But neither the Gotbaum endorsement nor this one is surprising. Gotbaum was the incumbent; the Times always endorses incumbents not under indictment.

Jeffries takes another few steps.

Here's the full endorsement.

Hakeem Jeffries, a bright and eloquent young lawyer, did such a good job of challenging outgoing Assemblyman Roger Green a few years ago that Mr. Green’s colleagues in Albany rearranged this district to carve out the Jeffries’ home. Now Mr. Green has moved on and Mr. Jeffries has moved into the district so that he could try again.

He is not the only good candidate in the running. Freddie Hamilton, who started Parents United to Rally for Gun Elimination, has had a real impact in this area. And Bill Batson, a former aide to State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, has raised the level of debate about the Atlantic Yards development. But Mr. Jeffries has the makings of a political star in a place that needs his intelligence and his energy. We endorse Hakeem Jeffries.

1) Bruce Ratner is building the Times's new headquarters on Eighth Avenue.
2) The Times editorial board endorsed the Ratner project.
3) Hakeem Jeffries basically supports the Atlantic Yards project, with some waffling.
4) A good portion of the 57th AD is pretty solidly anti-Yards. If the Times announces it supports Jeffries because he supports the Yards project, it undoes all his careful waffling and sinks him with much of the Times's mid-Brooklyn readership. Another reason must be found, and in the absence of anything substantive to say there's always the option of saying nothing.

Even without all that, Jeffries is the closest thing to an incumbent in the race, with the most money and the fanciest website.

Sorry, Lumi. I know you wanted humor, but there's nothing all that funny here. Just some garden-variety backscratching and establishment politics.

Fun fact: Bill Batson is also an artist! (For real, actually.)

UPDATE: As long as we're on the Yards, and as long as you're no longer assembling for rights in police plaza (that has been canceled, right?), tomorrow is the Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Forest City Ratner’s proposed "Atlantic Yards" project. From DDDB:

This hearing is the only opportunity our community will have to speak out publicly about the DEIS. Please be there!

When: Wednesday, August 23rd, 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: New York City Technical College, Klitgord Auditorium, 285 Jay Street (@ MetroTech, between Tillary & Johnson)

Mass Transit Access: A/C/F to Jay Street, M/N/R to Lawrence Street, 2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall

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Awesome science,part IX (?): hypermasculinity is a sickness

Approximately one-quarter of Americans host a parasite that has been shown to affect personality in both rodents and humans. According to a recent study, this single-celled organism may be able to shape entire cultures.

In a paper published in the online edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society, United States Geological Survey researcher Kevin Lafferty argues that a significant factor in why some countries exhibit higher levels of neuroticism than others may be the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The study also indicates that it may influence a society's preference for strict laws, an expression of uncertainty avoidance, and its valuation of 'masculine' priorities such as competitiveness and financial success over 'feminine' values like relationship-building.

"Toxoplasma appears to explain 30% of the variation in neuroticism among countries, 15% of the uncertainty avoidance among Western nations and 30% of the sex role differences among Western nations," Lafferty said via e-mail.
Infected men tended to have lower levels of intelligence, superego strength and novelty-seeking, while infected women exhibited higher levels of intelligence, superego strength and warmth. Infected people of both sexes tend to be susceptible to feelings of guilt.

Make your own jokes about, you know, people who might start unnecessary wars to sort out their daddy issues.

Seed article. Original journal abstract.


In response to Solomon's and my girlfriend's sputtering questions (his in the comments below, hers over the phone), I did a little internet research and now bring you the following information. First, what is Toxoplasma?

Toxoplasmosis results from infection by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Most domestic cats are or will be infected during their lives. The parasite reproduces within cats but is passed through their feces to intermediate hosts, particularly rats and humans. The parasites spread through the body, lodging primarily within the muscle and brain tissue, where they will remain throughout the host's life. When a cat eats an infected rat or bird or uncooked meat, the cat acquires the parasite, and the cycle continues. The rate of infection in humans ranges from 20%-80%, varying by country with France at the high end. Billions of people thus have parasites in their brains.
Toxoplasma gondii has been shown to affect the behavior of infected rats, who exhibit slower reaction times, reduced fear response, and a fatal attraction to cat scent. This last was demonstrated in a convincing paper [link via Future Pundit] by Berdoy, Webster, and Macdonald. They used rat, rabbit, and neutral scents as control for the cat scent and watched rats' foraging behavior over hundreds of hours under laboratory conditions. (I might have done the statistical analysis a bit differently, but their model and analysis are commonly used for this kind of data and should work well.) Berdoy et al. found that infected rats showed a stable preference for cat smells whereas uninfected [r]ats strongly avoided them.

CDC factsheet here. The quote above is from a mostly negative appraisal of Jaroslav Flegr's work by Carnegie Mellon University Professor of Statistics Christopher Genovese. Jaroslav Flegr is a Czech scientist who has investigated the behavior-altering properties of Toxoplasma in humans, using a common, 16-dimension survey to assess personality in infected and uninfected people. See some of his papers here and here. I got those links from Genovese, who links to many more. From the second link, here's a representative finding.

Two hundred and twenty-four men and one hundred and seventy women were tested for toxoplasmosis and their personality profiles were measured by Cattell's questionnaire. Highly significant differences between Toxoplasma infected and uninfected subjects were observed (p < 0.01). For men the factors G (low superego strength [disregards rules, expedient], p<0.02), and possibly L (protension [suspecting, jealous, dogmatic]), O (guilt proneness), and A (sizothymia [reserved, detached, critical) prevailed in infected subjects. For women the prevailing factors were A (affectothymia [warmhearted, outgoing, easygoing], p<0.01), and possibly L (alaxia [trusting, accepting conditions, tolerant]) and N (shrewdness). To reveal whether toxoplasmosis induces personality factor-shifts or whether certain combinations of personality factors influence the probability of acquiring Toxoplasma infection, we examined the personality profiles of 164 male patients diagnosed with acute toxoplasmosis during the past 13 years. The existence of a positive correlation between the duration of latent toxoplasmosis and the intensity of superego strength decrease (p<0.02) suggested that the decrease of superego strength (the willingness to accept group moral standards) was induced by T. gondii infection.

Flegr has also found that Toxoplasma infection slows reaction times, which he suggests may lead to increased risk of traffic accidents (both links PDFs).

Most amusing is this characterization FuturePundit lifts from a London Times article no longer available online for free.

[W]omen infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. “We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked,” he said. “However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men.”

By contrast, the infected men appeared to suffer from the “alley cat” effect: becoming less well groomed undesirable loners who were more willing to fight. They were more likely to be suspicious and jealous. “They tended to dislike following rules,” Flegr said.

What Lafferty seems to have done is take preexisting country-level data on rates of Toxoplasma infection and personality scores in that same survey Flegr used, and analyzed them to see how they match up. "Neuroticism" appears to be a technical description related to some of the trait dimensions in the personality survey.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Hezbollah and Banksy

Sarah Silverman's boyfriend has a cute bit about Hezbollah (and, really, the never-to-be-underestimated ignorance of the average American):

and my favorite line from this British grafitti artist who's been tagging that big wall in Palestine is (in his adorably eastenders accent) "I love Palestine - all the giant walls, the dirt and all the falafel stalls remind you of Glastonbury."

hat tip: Neda Cole

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Pee-Wee's Playhouse

Is it in bad taste for me to point out that these two men were separated at birth?

The Man Who Loved JonBenet to Death


The Man Who Self-Harmed His Campaign to Death


Peter Murphy did what?

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Petite But Ornery Girls Gone Buck Wild

In case you missed the story on Saturday, the New York Daily News reported (in language that has already gained email-forwarded notoriety) that "A gang of petite but ornery lesbians pummeled and stabbed a DVD bootlegger in the West Village early yesterday after he tried to pick up one of the women - and then spat on her when she rebuffed his advances, police and witnesses said."

(someone at the NYDN named this image file LESBIAN2.jpg, by the way)
That coverage of the 2 a.m. beatdown (featuring the quasi-racist hed "Girls gone wilding" and the lesbo-sensationalist deck "Lesbians locked up in W. Village beating") was, believe it or not, more fair and balanced than the NYT coverage, which failed to even mention that the women (and independent witnesses) claimed the man was commiting a hate crime against them, or even that they were openly lesbian and had just argued with him about it.

The Times headline indicates its bias immediately; "Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger."
It all began harmlessly, the victim, a 28-year-old man from Queens said, with a comment he made to a woman who walked past him early yesterday on a Manhattan sidewalk.

But things quickly escalated into an ugly and ultimately violent confrontation that led to the man, Dwayne Buckle, being stabbed in his abdomen with a steak knife, and to the arrests of seven women, ranging in age from 18 to 31 who are accused in the attack, the police said.
While the Times stopped short of branding these women Aileen Wuornos lesbian killers on the loose (and black!), the subtext was not subtle. In fact, there were no subtleties to the Times coverage at all. A complicated situation was reduced to an innocent man attacked by hysterical women.

The NYT ended its piece with the line "“It’s not a crime to say hello to a human being,” Mr. Buckle said. “Now, I think I’ll know which girls not to talk to.”" You're damn right you will. As musician and queer activist Reginald Lamar remarked when I told him about it, "I applaud those women. As someone who faces daily street harassment, I hope that maybe a few of those motherfuckers will think twice now. I think it's just beautiful."

Lesbian blogger Alana Post was more circumspect. "I kind of feel like this is a good example of why that doesn't work. Because in general all it does is give fodder to stories that are written to make the disenfranchised party involved look awful, the bigot look like the victim, etc. Fueling increased hatred from bigots in general, who can look to the news for justification."

At least the NYDN, despite its sensationalistic reportage, gave the women a voice:
"He called us [homophobic slur] and he said he was going to f- us all," one of the women said hours later as cops led the seven suspects out of the 6th Precinct stationhouse.

"He spit on us and threw a cigarette," another woman said. "This is a hate crime."
As my friend Caroline (who has vowed to write love letters to the women when they inevitably get sent to lockdown) remarked,

I wonder what the homophobic slur was. Muffdiver? Clammhuffer? Lickalottapus? Bulldagger?

I definitely support girl gangs kicking the shit out of shitty dudes. And especially whipping them with belts.

I'm still processing how intensely fucked up the media coverage of these black lesbians defending themselves has been (especially in the context of a recent uptick of anti-gay violence in New York, with a couple high-profile violent bashings). And I've read some fucked up reactions online, too.

So much of the story is so cinematic ("Foxfire!" as Caroline said). Here is Patreece's (severely tricked out) Myspace page, and here's Terrain's.

When Buckle hit on Johnson, she explained that she wasn't interested in men. Apparently offended, he spat on her, witnesses said....

"He made the mistake of spitting at one of them. They beat him up bad with belts, kicked and punched him," said Diego Rodriguez, 60...

"She's my girl, and no one spits on my girl!" one of the women yelled during the bloody beatdown.

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Department of no shit.

Do you ever get the feeling that the Times's New York lifestyle reporters just moved here? There's a perpetual wide-eyed astonishment that I never fully understand, like, "Can you believe it? Some people have to compromise on their apartments because they can only afford a certain amount." Are these stories always written by the summer intern?

...Meanwhile, the pressing concerns of a slightly different demographic are better understood.

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Williamsburg Towers

From onNYturf:

developer Quadriad is pushing a plan to put 28 towers in the middle of Williamsburg. Quadriad is seeking a rezoning of the special low rise area that was created as part of last years waterfront rezoning. This is not insignificant. If the city were to reverse course on last year's zoning deal, it would render all such other deals around the city meaningless. Other community groups negotiating over the zoning in their areas should be watching this proposal closely. To bring this to light onNYTurf takes a look at that plan with new renderings and a map.

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Update: People Power Smacks Down the NYPD, Norm Siegel Compares It to Bush's Executive Overreach

"It was a usurpation of the executive over the legislative branch," said Norm Siegel about the NYPD's failed attempt to squelch free speech by requiring permits for just about any assembly of people who they disagree with.

The critical issue was that the NYPD did not have the authority to define the difference between a parade and a protest (which directly affects how the NYPD responds to such assemblies, i.e., violently or semi-violently squelching them). That's for the legislative branch to define, not the gestapo.

Mr. Siegel said Ms. Quinn, and other members of the Council, seemed to be missing in action in the debate in the recent weeks over whether rewriting the rules was a job for lawmakers or police officials.

"The City Council seems to have folded their tents when they should have been out there saying to the Police Department, You cannot do that; that is us," he said.

In breaking news, Betsy Gotbaum, the person who resoundingly defeated Norm Siegel for the position of Public Advocate of the City of New York (an office meant to be the institutional counterweight to centralized Gracie Mansion power, a kind of loud-mouthed ombudsman/thorn in the mayor's side) had the following to say about the whole affair:


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Lamont: "I just can't believe Joe's been fighting so hard to save his job."

"I was genuinely surprised he came out swinging so hard so soon after the election."

-Ned Lamont to Marcia Kramer half an hour ago, discussing Lieberman's conduct on the night of the CT primary

Is he for fucking real? He was surprised that a three-term senator who had already declared his intention to run as an independent "came out swinging"? Lamont desperately needs new blood to replace whatever jokers have been running his campaign. Kos would do a better job. Hell, that 14-year-old who was dispactched to fix Team Lieberman's computer problem would do a better job.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Back from vacation

Breathe easy. I am back with cat YouTube.

Anything happen this week?

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

More Evidence That I am the Shallowest Blogger on the Left

I'm watching a CSPAN discussion about the Afghan insurgency, and one of the better talking heads is this guy Amin Tarzi from Radio Free Europe. He's articulate and friendly, seems to have a lot of expertise, and generally makes really good points.

However, he looks exactly like my most recent roommate, and as a result I find myself irrationally loathing him.

To compound the shallowness, the reason he looks like my last roommate is that both of them have reconstructed cleft palates. So basically I am indulging in bigotry. Yes, people with reconstructed cleft palates have very distinct noses and lips, so they really do resemble each other, but I don't know if that makes it more or less despicable that I hate this man because all I see is my douchebag ex-roommate's face on CSPAN.

He's discussing the intricacies of Pashmin squabbles, and all I can think is "how fucking dare you throw 4 am drug parties without asking me, and do you really think I want to dispose of the bloodied tissues you leave around the living room after your pathetic coke binges? And would it kill you to do the dishes?"

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On Vacation

Solomon will take care of you. Back in a week.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

If You Vote For Lamont, The Terrorists Win

So says Holy Joe:

“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out [of Iraq] by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” Mr. Lieberman, the three-term incumbent, said at a campaign event at lunchtime in Waterbury, Conn. “It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”

Right, because the "people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England" are definitely the same Iraqis fighting the US invasion, since the whole Iraq/Al Qaeda connection has been proven over and over again. And that's not a tasteless coopting of 9/11 and barely averted UK terrorism, for Lieberman's personal political gain, at all.

And what emboldens and motivates this homogenous group of terrorists, of course, is Ned Lamont, rather than, say, the hellish chaos in Iraq, the historically unprecedented alliance between Iraqi and Iranian shias caused by backlash at the US invasion, or any of the other war fallout. None of that compares to the favors and treats the junior senator from the great state of Connecticut has planned for his friends in Al Qaeda. In fact, why don't we just go ahead and ship Ned to Gitmo. With the powers invested in me by Left Behinds, I designate him an enemy combatant.

Incidentally, this line in the EZ post was disturbing:

In a bit of bad, if unforeseeable, timing, Mr. Lamont is at his vacation home in Maine today, and didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
How is that unforeseeable? Is Lamont pulling a Weiner and de facto ceding the race to the establishment frontrunner after campaigning as a grassroots underdog? Or is his campaign staff just incompetent?

As Cindy Adams (in uncharacteristic wisdom) wrote today, Lamont is coming off as an amateur:

Pros say Ned Lamont proved amateurish Primary Night. This was the biggest night of his life. The kickoff of his general election. And who dominated the 11 o'clock news plus the morning talk things? Lieberman. Promising to go the distance via an alternate route. If Lieberman conceded 11:02, Lamont should have been right there at 11:05 claiming his moment to shine. And where was he? No place. Maybe home raiding the fridge, but for sure not raiding the airwaves. Theoretically, because Lieberman won all the sound bites, the loser was coming off a winner.

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Elvis is alive and well and just got married in Tel Aviv.

So did Billy Idol.


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The most subtext-laden anodyne political advertisement ever

Azi Paybarah asks what we think of this ad.

"John Spencer loves Mom, Apple Pie, and served in the Military, unlike KT MacFarland and Hillary Clinton, both of whom probably would have dodged the draft if they weren't women. John Spencer was elected Mayor of a city we won't name because people upstate don't actually know where Yonkers is and it sounds funny. John Spencer likes to hug his Photogenic Family and wants to be Senator. That means John Spencer will not flake off and run for President, unlike possibly KT MacFarland, who we hear has ideas. The Photogenic Family means John Spencer's affair with his secretary is no big whoop, because see, he loves his children. John Spencer has no worse than a 1-in-20 chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Okay, maybe 1-in-30. John Spencer is a Fighter for New York. John Spencer is not that John Spencer, that one is dead. And he's not that Jon Spencer either. John Spencer may or may not be less crazy than KT MacFarland. John Spencer isn't racist just because he once said 'Chinaman's chance' to describe Jeanine Pirro's odds of getting the Conservative Party line--see, there's a smiling Asian man right there!"

I hear someone watched the debate.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Man-one? Man-two?

No. Manatee!

Over the past week, boaters and bloggers have been energetically tracking a manatee in its lumbering expedition along the Atlantic Coast and up the Hudson River.
The manatee has been spotted at 23rd Street near Chelsea Piers, West 125th Street, and later in Westchester County. It appeared to be healthy.

Randy Shull, a boater from Ossining, spotted the manatee about 4:30 p.m. yesterday while his 21-foot boat was floating at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow.

I am off to sample supposedly the best pizza in the world, which is supposedly in Trenton. I am skeptical. Will report.

UPDATE: Pizza was very good. Best in the world? Up there with the best I've ever had, anyway, with Pepe's or Modern Apizza in New Haven and Joe's on Bleeker also making the list. Fond of Di Fara in Midwood too. Maybe someday I'll compile the definitive Best Pizza in the World rankings.

It was DeLorenzo's on Hudson street in Trenton, by the way. They did an excellent crust and used sweet peppers for the peppers and onions pie. Major drawback: it was absolute crap cold. Half the pizza experience is eating it cold.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Who loves us, baby!

A member of Lord knows how many minority groups, the Times critic turned NPR reporter ELVIS MITCHELL was recently nominated for "hottest gay journalist in New York" by a blog named Left Behinds. "You know what they say about the length of a man's dreads?" was their teaser for Mitchell (who lost to current Timesman PATRICK HEALY). "But is he even gay?" some voters wondered. I don't know; he never sucked my dick.

Michael Fuckin' Musto, that's who.

Thanks to Jessica for the amazing tip.

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Is this dishonest or does Kos just not know?

This went up at about 12:45 EDT today:

Update: Can you believe that Lieberman's site is still down? I wonder if they're still trying to blame "bloggers" for their inability to pay their bills.

What's more, check out the URL that joe2006.com resolves to:


"Suspended". Accounts are generally suspended for one of two reasons: 1) inappropriate or illegal content (which we can obviously rule out in this case), or 2) from lack of payment. And that would make sense given that the first screen when Lieberman's site went down was, indeed, a request that the website owner contact their billing department:

But at least an hour and a half earlier, TPMMuckraker posted this email from Lieberman's Web hosting company:

Hi Marion,

This note is to confirm that the suspension of displaying the website www.joe2006.com: was not due to to an overdue account. Friends of Joe Lieberman is completely paid in full. The screen that showed yesterday is a default image from the server. In order to isolate where the denial of service attack was coming into the site, we disabled it as rapidly as possible. Once we were able to isolate all the site files for study we were able to add an appropriate one-page maintenance message.

Your campaign has in fact paid every invoice submitted to it within a week and a half.

Several people in the Kos comments have already pointed this out, but the main page post has not yet been changed. Seriously, this is not the kind of thing left-bloggers can put up with: if someone did hack Lieberman's site, it looks terrible for Lamont and will give Lieberman an excuse to run as an independent. It could be a head-fake dirty trick (as when Karl Rove bugged his own office the eve of an election), but I'd say it's really unlikely. In any case, continually repeating it's because Lieberman failed to pay his bills is stupid.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, Kos updated his post to acknowledge the TPMMuckraker reporting, but declares the Lieberexplanation

doesn't pass the smell test -- DoS attacks wouldn't bring down a site for 18 hours (or however long their site has been down). So it could be their hosting provider is either covering for the Lieberman campaign, or perhaps more likely, it is simply incompetent.

Well that doesn't pass my smell test. It's pure CYA.

UPDATE AGAIN: I'm full of shit. People offering actual evidence weigh in. As does the Lieberman Web hosting guy. This is now boring and lame and I'm going to stop paying attention to it.

UPDATE THE THIRD: Okay, one last bit because it's funny as hell and I can't help it.

Caption: After the Lieberman campaign Web site crashed today, Mike Wence tried to fix the problem at Lieberman headquarters in Rocky Hill, Conn.

Mike Wence appears to be really pissed some grownup dragged him down to boring old Lieberheadquarters just to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete a million times. God! It's like nobody over 15 has ever seen a computer before!

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Carbon sequestration?

An article in today's Times considers the possibility of storing excess carbon dioxide under very cold water at the deep sea floor.

Several hundred yards beneath the seabed in waters about 10,000 feet deep, the temperature is typically about 35 degrees and the pressure from the water overhead would cause liquid carbon dioxide pumped into porous sediment to stay denser than water, the researchers said.

The idea of carbon sequestration as a solution to global warming has been pushed increasingly by coal enthusiasts and some Democrats (notably Brian Schweitzer, who has developed quite a following at Daily Kos). The idea is, if I understand it, that we convert coal to a liquid gasoline-like state, and then lock away the excess carbon deep underground. Either that or:

...a new process known as coal gasification. These power plants resemble chemical works more than conventional coal-fired power plants. In them, water and oxygen are mixed with the coal to create carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The hydrogen is used as a fuel source, while the carbon monoxide is converted to a concentrated stream of CO2.

That quote is from Tim Flannery, excerpted by Michael G. Richard at Treehugger.

The Treehugger post deals with some of the environmental dangers of carbon sequestration, which can be severe. Those effects arise from the danger of the carbon escaping, however, so it seems they might be mitigated by this deep-sea storage, if it works.

But Treehugger also excerpts some economic limitations that I don't think are answered:

[Coal gasification plants] are not cheap to run: around one-quarter of the energy they produce is consumed just in keeping them operating.
Once the CO2 arrives at its destination it must be compressed into a liquid so it can be injected into the ground--a step that typically consumes 20 per cent of the energy yielded by burning coal in the first place.

In other words, that's nearly half the energy output already used up. How much more would be used if instead of merely pumping the gas overland and injecting it half a mile underground we had to get it way out to sea and then convey it almost two miles to the bottom? I can't see how the economics possibly make sense.

David Roberts at Grist recently summed up a much more sensible approach to climate policy:

The energy future is hazy and complex, to say the least, and it's unlikely that any environmentalist or federal official will be able to "pick the right horse" -- predict the fastest, most efficient way to reduce energy use and produce it more safely.

The best way to move forward would be to institute a carbon charge: a cost on carbon emissions, made revenue neutral by reductions in other taxes (payroll, etc.). The crucial benefit is that this puts uniform pressure on the market. It doesn't pick and choose solutions; it doesn't discriminate. It leaves the fine-grained decisions to market actors.

Elegant and practical. Conservative, even. Unfortunately, both parties seem more interested in playing with energy incentives as a way to reward key constituents (ethanol subsidies = presidentially caucusing Iowa corn farmers, for example; tax breaks for oil exploration = do I really have to spell it out?) than in devising workable policy.

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Can we please retire the thumbs-up?

So Hottest Gay Journalist in New York Patrick Healy has been sent on assignment to Connecticut. While there, he managed to get a quote from Lieberman that perfectly encapsulates everything annoying about the man:

He lamented that he had not “clarified” his criticism of the war and the White House earlier, but he also argued that Republicans were “salivating” over the possibility that Democrats would pick an antiwar liberal instead of Mr. Lieberman.

“They are anxious to say the left wing is taking over, the antisecurity wing,” Mr. Lieberman said of Republicans.

Everything is in that one soundbite: the reification of Republican talking points, the reflexive Washington-insider bow to "electability," the false and stupid preoccupation with "the left wing," the even falser and positively insulting equation of "the left wing" with "the antisecurity wing."

Could he look any more bored giving that thumbs-up? That gesture is beyond cliche now, it's openly a joke.

(Incidentally, I was all set to say that this guy is what Steve Urkel will be when he's old

but as it happens Jaleel White didn't turn out half bad.



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Monday, August 07, 2006

The Curious Incident of the WFP in the Outer Borough

According to Gatemouth,

WFP’s efforts in primaries have also resulted in tremendous blunders; their hands were all over Mark Green’s “Sharpton-Ferrer cartoon” imbroglio, which was nearly as important to Bloomberg as his cash in ensuring his election as Mayor.

Is this actually true? I had just quit before this all went down, but according to my memory of bar chats with my friends on the campaign at the time, the people handing out the Sharpton flyers were not WFPers, but rather crazy outer borough operatives of far more nefarious origin.

Also, I'd put the imbroglio at 3rd in the list of factors leading to Green's defeat.

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New York Magazine Reads Left Behinds

Here is the cover of the current issue of New York Magazine

and here is what I wrote about the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, as reprinted in NoLandGrab and a few other blogs:
It's like some giant grey Transformer clomped its foot down on Park Slope. And imagine when in a few years all those pristine white beams get coated in soot from the neverending traffic jams that are projected as a direct result of this development (have you ever tried to drive through Flatbush or Atlantic during rush hour or on a weekend?). It'll be a Transformer's giant grey dirty foot.

Sigh. Now I understand why Metallica killed Napster.

Anyhow, check out this artist's depiction of the Giant Gehry Monster:

Nice shadow.

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Mad Mel: Beyond Hezbollah

Richard Kim just wrote a very interesting, funny piece about how the Mel Gibson kerfuffle dramatically changed the discussion about Lebanon (though I would have trimmed a bit of the beginning -- make sure you read the whole thing).

maybe Mel Gibson plays a far bigger role in geopolitics than any of us had previously thought? For example, during his drunken diatribe, Mel Gibson revealed that he "owns Malibu." Could the city of Malibu, like Syria and Iran, be funding Hezbollah? Could this be the nefarious purpose behind those mysterious "Team Aniston" baby-Ts worn by so many a Malibu mom? What about all that Aramaic spoken and subtitled in Passion of the Christ? Do any of us really understand reconstructed Aramaic? How do we know that the whole movie wasn't a set of coded instructions intended for Muqtada al-Sadr?


Alright, in all seriousness, what is the link between Hezbollah, Kofi Annan, Israel and Mel Gibson? Allow me to suggest another global conspiracy called "culture." As a fellow critic said to me, "Americans only understand the cult of celebrity, so they transpose everything into the key of Hollywood." So here we are, trapped in this meta-Mel moment. The press relentlessly dissects every minute detail of Mel Gibson's evening, from his choice of liquor to his glassy-eyed mugshot. Reporters feverishly pursue the genealogy of Gibson's anti-Semitism (his father, right-wing Catholicism, Holocaust denialism, Australian white supremacy). Through Mel Gibson's vehicle, we ponder such universal questions as: What responsibilities come with fame? What is the nature of forgiveness? What are the limits of rehabilitation?

All the while, the conflict in Lebanon rages on. And it is not just that this foray into Gibson's psyche provides a distraction from violence and suffering, but that the forced synergy between the two transforms the very field of meaning in which we might place Israel's offensive and Hezbollah's militancy. Gone are Israel's forty-year occupation of Palestinian lands, the dispute over Sheba farms, the popularity of Hamas and Hezbollah as political and social movements, the mutual capture and detention of military prisoners, the possibility of war crimes, the asymmetry of power, the suffering and ambivalence of civilians on both sides. What is left when the pundit class finishes forcing the Mideast conflict through the Hollywood machine is simply this: the eternal, omnipresent meta-narrative of Jewish suffering. As Rick Salutin of The Globe and Mail writes, the Mel Gibson incident "reinforced a sense that an ancient, ineradicable hatred of Jews lurks behind the current strife." I would add that the Gibson flap also reinforced the idea (see Maher and Cohen) that to criticize Israel is to engage in anti-Semitism, to join Gibson in his irrational, primordial hatred of Jews.

It seems to me that there was a brief moment --when the bombing of Lebanon began, when the images of Lebanese children in body bags flickered across TV news -- that the American public might finally grasp the extent to which Lebanese and Palestinian Arabs have suffered as result of Israel's policies. That moment is now gone -- in no small measure due to the fallout from the Mel Gibson crisis. But I don't blame Mel; I blame the delusional, infotainment-centered press corps. Wake me up when September comes.

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"A Lieberman defeat will send exactly the wrong message to thoughtful Democratic pols."

So says Gatemouth, in an echo of that brave iconoclast and original thinker, Cokie Roberts. On Sunday's This Week she said a Lamont victory would be "disastrous for the Democratic party" because it would "give the party to the liberals and the blogosphere" (c'mon, Cokes, wankers call it the "netroots" now -- "blogosphere" is so 2005), and sputtered something about how it was no accident that the only two-term Democratic president was Bill Clinton (or maybe George Will said that, I can't remember since it was such a monotonic chorus of conventional wisdom).

I don't exactly understand what she and others mean, since they only refer to the inevitable "chaos" (to use Cokie's word) that would ensue, without really explaining their logic. Is it that it would make the Dems unelectable? You mean unlike the past 6 years?

Personally, I'm concerned for anyone in Kos's immediate vicinity Tuesday night, because his ego-volcano is about to explode. Bigtime, as Cheney would say. But aside from that, what's the big deal?

This will strengthen a Gore presidential run. It's already made Hillz tack to the left on the war. In terms of pure process, it rewards the grassroots over the special interests. What's the downside? That for the first time in 15 years people are going to start talking about universal health care without snickering? Heaven help us.

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George Galloway on Media Coverage of Lebanon

You probably remember him best for his stint as the most ridiculous participant ever on Celebrity Big Brother, the man who would be a wee kitten nuzzling in the bosom of some washed up actress

but George Galloway is also, believe it or not, one of the UK's most vocal critics of Blair.

Here he is holding forth on media coverage of the war, Hizbollah, and why the UN Resolution means nothing.

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A Dispatch From New Haven

Grundy Mere, why do you support Lamont?

Ok, Its more that I hate Lieberman and have for a long time. I remember with the Clarence Thomas nomination Lieberman waited to vote til the last minute and then voted against Thomas only after he saw that he would be confirmed anyway. That explains how he voted 90% of the time with the democrats. He only voted that way if he could be sure his vote was not needed by the Republicans. Lamont is very inexperienced but will be a reliable moderately liberal vote. Also I doubt that he has any higher ambitions (although who knows the depths of anyone's self-delusions) which could free him up to be more ethical, maybe.

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Who's the cutest little blog?

You are! Yes you! Cootchie-coo!

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Atlantic Yards Footprint

“We’ve got a real community here,” Patti Hagan says. “You don’t get a community in a 62-story skyscraper. You don’t even get a neighborhood. You just get a doorman.”
-from a good Voice article about the Yards

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What It Means to Be a Liberal, by Ned Lamont

“I am a liberal. By mean liberal, I say progressive. I think if you’re an entrepeneur in business, you see a problem, you want to address it head on, you want to solve it, I think then you’re a progressive in government. And right now I think we have a government that’s not dealing with real issues. So yeah, I’m a liberal and I’m a progressive.
-Ned this morning

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How Aramaic Actually Sounded

I just thought this audio clip from a scholar of ancient Aramaic was very cool.

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Lebanon Roundup

A lot of people are coming to LB because we were linked as a Lebanese blog on a couple sites, so I thought I'd collect some of our recent Lebanon-related posts.

If you live in London, you should go to this benefit right now.

Here's a firsthand account from Beirut.

Here, here, and here we reposted a discussion about gays in Iran between a Lebanese writer and some American activists/writers.

I discuss Lebanese-American politician Jeanine Pirro's suprising support of the military action here.

And I discussed the Danish cartoon "riots" in Lebanon here.

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Ah, muck.

Raked all over Carl Andrews. Mostly raked by association--that is, Carl Andrews has some pretty sleazy friends. Extended quotes below the fold.

I have to say, when the Voice asks why no one is trying to tar the guy with this stuff, I have to wonder whether it's because it's so damn hard to follow. It appears that what's going on is an extended shakedown operation of would-be candidates, but you kind of have to read between the lines.

Placed on the state senate payroll at Norman's request in 1994 ("Fees and Thank You," July 19–25), Andrews wound up collecting $138,000 in campaign payments from candidates Norman endorsed, including Thompson and Spitzer, only climbing off the gravy train when Norman handed him a suddenly vacant senate seat in 2002. Andrews also collected $137,242 in receivership commissions from Brooklyn judges beholden to Norman and thousands more in auctioneer fees from a surrogate court judge whose campaign Andrews managed and who was ultimately forced from office in disgrace. Andrews's state salary since Norman became his employment agent—including four years as Spitzer's director of intergovernmental operations—totals another $969,855.59.
Andrews delivered $55,000 in precious senate grants in 2004 and 2005 to the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights, which has retained Clarence Norman as a consultant. Started by Norman's father in the 1980s, the LDC had also collected $371,500 since 2003 in assembly funding from Norman, who, as a leading member of the Democratic assembly majority at the time, had much more pork power than Andrews. The GOP senate majority greatly limits the so-called "member items" that Democrats control, so Andrews tried, in a Voice interview, to lowball what he'd given, insisting "it was just $5,000 or $10,000."

The LDC got $1.4 million in city and state grants in 2004, the last year it filed its annually required reports with Spitzer's office. It spent almost half of that on "consulting and school education services."
While Andrews and Boone were two of the Norman associates routinely placed on the payroll of Norman- endorsed candidates, the new star in that boutique business is Moses "Musa" Moore, who's collected over $370,000 from at least 18 candidates, most of it since 2005. At 34, Moore, who was also paid a total of $110,000 as a senate aide to Andrews until this January, is now coordinating the congressional campaign out of his Visibility Consulting storefront headquarters at 1622 Bedford Avenue.
... Cynthia Boyce, a black Harvard grad who, aided by her mother, loaned her own civil court campaign $110,000 last year, paid Moore $81,105 of the $155,755 she spent. She lost anyway, and told the Voice that it was Andrews who first recommended Moore. She met with Andrews early in the campaign and, right after he agreed to endorse her, he urged her to hire Moore. "Let me make it clear," Boyce remembers Andrews telling her, "you make your own decision," never connecting his own endorsement to Moore's hiring. Moore acknowledges that "Carl introduced me to Boyce," adding that he did the same with civil court candidate Bernard Graham in 2004, the first campaign Moore coordinated. Boyce says Moore "sincerely worked hard and was very visible," though she conceded that she did not know how Moore spent what she paid him, most of which was supposed to pay for a field operation. "It would be nice to have a better breakdown of the finances," she said.

In 2005, Moore was also paid $20,000 by Diana Johnson, a Supreme Court judge running for surrogate; $56,142 by another civil court candidate, Norma Jennings; $3,000 by district attorney candidate John Sampson; $30,000 by mayoral candidate Gifford Miller; and $74,450 by City Council candidate Letitia James. All but James lost, and most of them had hired Moore before he even incorporated his fledgling firm in June. Moore was also paid $11,150 by Norman's assembly committee, and even got $3,375 from Mark Green's 2001 mayoral campaign. Another $245,000 payment that Green simultaneously made to Norman's club is still the subject of a Hynes grand jury probe, though Green has personally been cleared of any charges.

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36% Believe 9/11 Was an Inside Job

According to a new poll,

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."
Are these in fact the same exact people as the 37% who believe in haunted houses and astrology?

For the record, this is a good debunking of the conspiracy theory, and Nova had a good documentary with engineers explaining how what looked like a demolition was actually the result of some complicated engineering flaws (also summarize here).

Me, I believe it was the ghosts from an Indian Burial Ground. That place is haunted.

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The Other Lamont

They both sell junk and speak truth to power.

This blog compares and contrasts history's two most famous Lamonts.

For example:
4) Both Lamont's are also on friendly terms with some loud, pretty vocal zealots who just can’t stand The Old Man. For one Lamont, it’s the Daily Kos and Atrios crowd; for the other, it’s Aunt Esther.

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Friday, August 04, 2006


From a discussion at Sadly, No! on Gravity's Rainbow:

when said friend worked at a certain large bookstore chain he recommended Gravity’s Rainbow to every single person who asked for a gift idea, ‘good read’ or pretty much anything.

Most of the discussion, by the way, is various people saying they couldn't get through it. To which I say: pussies.


Sorry to hijack your post, but I can't post pics in the comments.

Know what I never got?

The cover of this book depicts neither gravity, nor a rainbow.

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You've Gotta Fight For Your Right to Protest

Will from the excellent onNYTurf writes that
A group of sites have gotten together to try to raise awareness of the rules the NYPD plans to put into effect after August 23rd.

We have put together a website that contains the key information and a list of action items people can take to stop the Mayor and NYPD.

... We don't have a lot of time to raise awareness and stop this. And thus far Chris Quinn is showing no leadership on challenging this. If she does not get pressure from citizens she will likely just play ball with the city's power elite.
As described on the site,

Under the guise of protecting the public safety, the New York City Police Department plans to expand its control over protest activity by labeling many common street and side walk uses as a "parade". If put into effect, these new rules will greatly suppress the right to assembly and expose peaceful protestors as well as regular people to arrest for things as simple as crossing the street against the light.
Anyone who has ever protested in NYC knows that these rules would give cops the excuse they want to fully squelch dissent. The NYPD always goes right up to the line of violating the right to assemble, and this law would allow them to cross that line.

I would like to believe that as a former activist and ED of a nonprofit, who I and many others have marched with in protests, Chris Quinn would be able to recognize how fucked up this law is, but she has not proven herself reliable when it comes to challenging the status quo. She has, however, proven herself responsive to pressure from interest groups, so let's put the pressure on.

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Campaign in Connecticut?

Anybody want to go up to New Haven with me to campaign for Lamont? Maybe just the actual day of the primary.

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Catch Me If You Can, Indeed

Adbullah Date, a Brooklyn teen apparently angry about a drug bust, mailed cops an envelope stuffed with white powder with the following note:

Ha Ha, [you] thought it was anthrax. Fuck you!

Catch me if you can.

According to the NY Post, "then he wrote his name, birthday and Hull Street address on the envelope, says a complaint unsealed by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office."


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How Much Bullshit Can Rumsfeld Pack Into One Sentence?

"The struggle against violent extremists who are determined to prevent free people from exercising their rights as free people is going to go on a long time and it's going to be a tough one."

- Donald Rumsfeld, trying to defend his incompetence.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

If You Feel Like Protesting This Week

I am checking emails from the various list-servs I'm on, hence all the quoted entries this afternoon. For those of you in NYC who feel like getting off your kiesters and engaging in some bona fide praxis, check out the RISEUP list of NYC protests.

I mean seriously, it's got everything from today's Atlantic Yards/Ratnerville Meeting to a Hiroshima procession to the Black August Hip Hop Benefit Concert.

One-stop shopping.

Btw, as an aside, that reminds me that the new single by Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas is a blatant rip-off of MIA's "Bucky Done Gun," down to the distinctive chanting of "London" (which as far as I can ascertain, Fergie only visited once while on tour with Kids, Incorporated - is that when she picked up a Bangladeshi-British accent?).

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Beyond Gay Marriage

The NY Times had a good article about the queer critique of gay marriage this weekend.

WHEN Bill Dobbs sees the heartwarming photographs of gay couples cuddling, grinning and holding dogs and children, accompanied by pious remarks about how many years they have been a couple — “five years,” “eight years,” “24 years!” — in news releases and newspaper and television reports about the fight for gay marriage, it turns his stomach.

“For those of us who are single, there is this constant drumbeat,” said Mr. Dobbs, who went to college during the last years of the Vietnam War and became a crusader for gay and antiwar causes. “You must be coupled to be really fulfilled, for us to treat you as a full person.”

Dude, I think that shirt might have something to do with it.

Anyhow, this past month a group of queer activists, academics, artists, writers, and others just formed a group called Beyond Marriage. It's pretty timely, since there'll be yet more ballot initiatives this fall.

From their mission statement:

The LGBT movement has recently focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue. While this strategy may secure rights and benefits for some LGBT families, it has left us isolated and vulnerable to a virulent backlash. We must respond to the full scope of the conservative marriage agenda by building alliances across issues and constituencies. Our strategies must be visionary, creative, and practical to counter the right's powerful and effective use of marriage as a “wedge” issue that pits one group against another. The struggle for marriage rights should be part of a larger effort to strengthen the stability and security of diverse households and families.

Perhaps most importantly, one of the signatories is Richard Kim, the third-hottest gay journalist in New York.

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Help Mariah

Lopez, not Carey.

It's a pretty fucked up story.

Mariah Lopez, a young transgender woman of color and community activist was arrested in New York City's 6th precinct around June 17, 2006. We believe she was unlawfully profiled by police, like many transgender women of color. Mariah suffered terrible injuries during her arrest, including a fractured nose and swollen eye. While in custody she was arrested again on additional charges.

After being held in Riker's Island, the city jail, she appeared in court with more injuries. Her friends and legal supporters saw that her eye was filled with blood, her face was cut and swollen, a tooth was broken, and one arm was in a sling. Despite her injuries and strong community ties, the judge imposed a high bail, ensuring that she would continue to be held at Riker’s.

As a transgender woman, Mariah cannot be safely housed in Riker's Island. Mariah was locked in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day, where she still suffered constant strip-searches at the hands of male guards and was harassed by both guards and inmates. Most recently, on July 20, 2006, she was assaulted by guards because she would not take off her bra. Her medical needs were ignored or received inadequate attention. Mariah was driven to attempt suicide during her confinement because of these severe emotional and physical abuses.

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