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Archive for January, 2007

Sunday Night Linkage

[ 0 ] January 28, 2007 |
  • Aspazia has a very good and very important post about some of the hidden costs of being a female faculty member.
  • A Kos Diarist gets on the selective but brilliant Sebelius-for-veep bandwagon. (Via–who else?–Ezra.)
  • Wanker of the Week: Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser.
  • Runners-up: The Ole Perfesser (see also. Oh, yeah, and this. Well, let’s be frank–everything he posted this week) and La Althouse.
  • Speaking of which, someone should tell Linda Hirshman that Ann Althouse and Maureen Dowd cannot be generalized to the entire female electorate. (And some ask her to explain Joe Klein and Howard Fineman.)
  • Lindsay: “It’s as if Fashion and Style is metastasizing throughout the paper.” Yes. Yes, it is.
  • The Talking Dog interviews journalist Stephen Grey. Grey: “Well, certainly for those who witness it– the victims and the perpetrators or witnesses in the room– torture is clearly in no way a banal business. What struck me is the comment of an American military officer: he said that if we need to torture, we should do it ourselves and not hand the dirty work over to others– that is the coward’s way out. It is certainly striking how we can shut our eyes to what is being done in our name, and hide behind legal language and techicalities, indeed, to try to pretend that we are not torturing, when everyone really knows that we are. If you shove someone’s head under water and make them believe they are going to die by drowning– as a one former CIA officer described it to me– there is no question that this is real torture.”
  • Mimi Smartypants sez that “I read the much-reviewed The Year of Magical Thinking and found it sort of blah.” This makes me feel less guilty–I have to admit that I couldn’t get through the first page of the Times magazine excerpt, had no interest in reading it after the 75 or so rave reviews published by that same paper, have no interest in seeing the play, etc. Maybe I’m just too frivolous to deal with death or something, but I dunno, sympathetic as Didion is I just didn’t see it turned into compelling art. There must be something I don’t get; I rarely make it to the end of her much-lauded NYRB political articles either.

[ 0 ] January 28, 2007 |

Sarah Robinson directs us to the story about a Christian academy in California that’s suing the UC system because it won’t count some of its dogma-crap courses as legitimate preparation for college. As the SF Chronicle explains,

Among the courses turned down were a history class, “Christianity’s Influence on America”; a social studies class, “Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic”; and, most contentiously, an English course, “Christianity and Morality in American Literature.” None is being taught because of the dispute.

As Robinson points out — and as the university has made clear, despite the wounded howls of Calvary Chapel and other schools that are party to the suit — the rejection of these courses among others had less to do with the courses themselves than with the utterly bogus materials used to teach them. A quick scan of the school’s curriculum reveals nothing especially offensive on the face of it, but a deeper look at the texts used in some of the courses offers reason enough to assume that UC is on the right track here.

Here, for example, is the text for 11th grade biology, published by none other than Bob Jones University Press. The third edition of Biology, while offering no guidance on the evils of miscegenation, does hold forth on own ignorance in the first few pages of the book.

Then there’s this gem of a curriculum from the senior-level “Bible 12” course. Understanding the Times produced by Summit Ministries,

is a one or two semester video-based curriculum for 12th grade that brings a host of Christian worldview and apologetic experts into your classroom. This class will help students clearly understand the tenets of the Christian worldview and how it compares with the tenets of other leading worldviews of our day: Islam, Secular Humanism, Marxism, New Age, and Postmodernism.

Some of the issues covered include: abortion, apologetics, the arts, biotechnology, critical thinking, cults, euthanasia, leadership, radical environmentalism, radical feminism, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, scriptural reliability, and more.

Note for a brief moment the demotion of Islam to a mere “worldview.” Then watch this wanker using the collected works of supermodel Kathy Ireland to demonstrate the logical folly of the pro-choice position. Then marvel at the possibility that the University of California would acknowledge the legitimacy of any courses taught here . . .

No, you don’t get to win this time

[ 0 ] January 28, 2007 |

Fred Barnes, author of quite possibly the worst “book” about The Decider, continues to grace his pig of a war with lipstick and pearl earrings.

Bush can be expected to hold firm in his pursuit of victory in Iraq. If Petraeus achieves a breakthrough in pacifying Baghdad and then in controlling insurgent-dominated Anbar province, the war opponents must stand down. If they refuse to acknowledge success and cause a repeat of the Vietnam calamity, they should be held accountable. This time, self-inflicted defeat should not be met with silence.

Reanimating the false history that insists Vietnam War was turning around before the dirty hippies got involved, Barnes insists that “victory” in Iraq is close at hand. Leaving that evidence-free assertion aside for a moment, I eagerly await to Barnes’ revisitation of the problem sometime in June 2007:

Bush can be expected to hold firm in his pursuit of victory in Iraq. However, now that Petraeus has failed to achieve a breakthrough in pacifying Baghdad and controlling insurgent-dominated Anbar province, the war supporters such as myself must stand down at long last. If we refuse to acknowledge failure and cause a repeat of the Vietnam calamity, we should be held accountable.


[ 0 ] January 28, 2007 |


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Via Bob Geiger.)

For a non-photographic discussion of sweaty media sexism, see J. Goodrich.

Tales of the Sea: HSK Kormoran

[ 0 ] January 28, 2007 |

Part I

In World War I the German Navy had enjoyed some success with merchant cruisers, civilian ships armed and converted to military purpose. The success of these cruisers never matched that of the German U-boats, but they provided a relatively cheap and effective way of disorienting and tying down Allied surface units. During the interwar period the Kriegsmarine built the three “Panzerschiff”, armored cruisers with long ranges designed for merchant raiding. At the beginning of World War II, the Kriegsmarine requisitioned a dozen merchant vessels for conversion to merchant raiding. The ships received heavier decks, storage space for ammunition, fuel, and prisoners, and an armament of 6 6″, 2 37mm, and 5 25mm guns, along with a pair of torpedo tubes and space for 2 seaplanes.

The eighth and, at 8700 tons, the largest of the German auxiliary cruisers, HSK Kormoran could make 19 knots, but lacked the armor or fire control mechanism of a genuine warship. With Captain Theodor Detmers in command, Kormoran left Kiel on December 3, 1940, successfully avoiding Royal Navy patrols and breaking into the Atlantic. Her first victim was the Greek freighter Antonis, captured without incident on January 6, 1941 and destroyed by explosive charges. As required by the laws of maritime war, the 29 strong crew of Antonis became involuntary passengers on the raiding crews. Kormoran caught and sunk three more merchantmen in January alone. In the process of finishing off the freighter Eurylochus, Kormoran accidentally destroyed a full lifeboat with a torpedo. After meeting with Admiral Scheer and U-105, Kormoran proceeded into the South Atlantic, catching a freighter and a tanker in March and two freighters in April. The tanker, the Canadian-owned Canadolite, was captured, assigned a prize crew, and dispatched to France with the prisoners captured in previous engagements. Two more ships were caught in June, as Kormoran moved into the Indian and eventually the Pacific, and a last freighter was caught and sunk in September near Australia. Detmers’ treatment of the captured crews was in almost all cases correct, and the men of Kormoran took pains to minimize the loss of life on their victims.

On November 19, 1941 HSK Kormoran was cruising off the northwest coast of Australia, near Shark Bay. At 4pm, Kormoran was sighted by a warship about twelve miles away. Detmers replied to the warship’s challenge as the Dutch Straat Malakka. The warship was not satisfied by this response, and closed with Kormoran. It became apparent that the approaching ship was a light cruiser of the Leander class, a ship slightly smaller than Kormoran but much faster, more heavily armed, and armored. The Australian cruiser could catch and kill Kormoran without difficulty if the German ship tried to run. By Detmers’ account, he decided to delay for as long as possible in the hope of surprising the Australian ship at close range; Kormoran’s armament was concealed, and she continued to attempt to signal as Straat Malakka. Although the approaching ship trained its guns on Kormoran, it did not open fire. The surviving Germans tell us that when the Australian cruiser entered within 1000 yards, the 6″ guns of Kormoran were uncovered and began firing seconds later.

To be continued…

Ad Generator

[ 0 ] January 27, 2007 |

The creator explains:

The ad generator is a generative artwork that explores how advertising uses and manipulates language. Words and semantic structures from real corporate slogans are remixed and randomized to generate invented slogans. These slogans are then paired with related images from Flickr, thereby generating fake advertisements on the fly.

Unlike some generators, this one requires no work whatsoever, although if you’d like to capture the images for posterity’s sake, you have to be somewhat quick with the Snap ‘n Drag (or whatever image capture software you use). There’s no way to “stop” the ads from being generated every 3 seconds or so — a feature that is just as annoying as the landscape of advertising itself.

(Via Barista)

The Clinton Rules: A Case Study

[ 0 ] January 27, 2007 |

Atrios details the case of Wayne Dumond–a convicted rapist who was released under heavy pressure from governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and subsequently raped and murdered at least one and probably two women. As Atrios says, this wouldn’t necessarily be a massive black stain on Huckabee’s record–as long as we don’t keep everyone in jail forever, such tragedies are inevitable–except that the pressure in this case came from paranoid fantasizing about The Clenis. I was particularly amazed to see this article in the Voice, which is very representative of writing about Clinton “scandals”:

DuMond had been accused of raping a Clinton cousin in 1984 and was hog-tied and castrated before he even went to trial.

He used to be enraged about it, especially when the cracker sheriff, who was a pal of the rape victim’s father, scooped up DuMond’s balls, put them in a jar, and showed them off.

“They were mine. Those were my testicles,” DuMond told a sickened courtroom in 1988. “He didn’t have no right to take them and he didn’t have no right to show them around and he didn’t have no right to flush them down the toilet.”

This is yet another Clinton saga of genitalia that fell into the wrong hands.

Ha-ha! See, Bill Clinton got a blow job, so clearly he was somehow responsible for reprehensible vigilante tactics (spruced up with an unsubstantiated story from a convicted violent felon taken at face value) used against a rapist. This kind of idiocy, though, is basically how most stories about phony Clinton pseudo-scandals from Whitewater on down proceeded: find some distant (or imagined) Clinton relationship to someone who knew someone who did something bad in Arkansas, find some lurid details, and suggest that one or both Clintons were behind everything without any actual evidence or causal logic. (See, for example, the stories about Mena discussed in the country’s most prominent conservative op-ed pages.) And while many of these stories had their origin with GOP operatives and wingnut hacks, they also spread throughout the media, including ostensibly lefty alt-weeklies and the mainstream press. The Whitewater non-scandal was pushed obsessively by the New York Times, and MSNBC would happily invite you on to discuss your unsubstantiated claims that Bill Clinton personally killed several people. About the Clintons, you can say anything based on nothing in the most prestigious media forums.

John Amato has some suggestions for Tim Russert.


[ 0 ] January 27, 2007 |

Since I started using Google Reader (maybe six months ago), I’ve definitely cut down on the time I spend reading blogs, which is a good thing. I don’t have to run through my list to see which blogs are updated, which is nice because some of my subscriptions post pretty infrequently. I’ve also noticed that I read my subscribed blogs more intensely, as none of the posts really slip by. On the downside, I probably read fewer blogs regularly than I have in the past, which can become problematic over time.

I do wish that there was a way to monitor traffic on the feeds, so that we knew how many people were actually reading this site…

[ 0 ] January 27, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] January 26, 2007 |


An escape and concealment artist, Henry has disappeared at least a dozen times in nearly thirteen years. On four occasions, he has actually slipped out of our house undetected and gone missing for anywhere from two hours to five weeks; countless other times, he’s hid himself so well that I’ve been convinced he couldn’t possibly still be inside the house. I’ve combed the neighborhood more than a few times only to find him sitting at the top of the stairs when I return. He’s wormed into the crawlspace under the house, discovered a (previously unknown) cubbyhole in a cabinet right above the hot water boiler, and somehow nudged his way inside unused cupboards that were blocked at the time with heavy boxes. Where Henry is concerned, I spend a half my time worried that he’s escaped the house again and the other half wondering if he’s finally gotten himself stuck somehwere he can’t escape, like Fortunato in that short story by Poe. Finding him asleep on the bed is never unsatisfying.

Anti-Roe "Contrarianism": Still Wrong

[ 0 ] January 26, 2007 |

As anyone with a passing familiarity with the nation’s op-ed pages or center-left political publications is aware, there is a cottage industry of affluent white men in liberal urban centers asserting that reproductive freedom would be much better off if states and Congress had the unlimited power to regulate abortion. Since such “contrarian” arguments have the unfortunate drawback of being baldly erroneous, a second cottage industry has emerged: trying to restate these arguments in terms that might be defensible to someone who actually cares about reproductive freedom and knows what they’re talking about. I recently pointed out that if one were to use the same empirical standards for evaluating Roe v. Wade that Ben Wittes does for his beloved Bush v. Gore, you will find that far from having a “legitimacy problem” Roe is broadly popular. In comments, Alon Levy argues that this is misleading:

Just asking about Roe in general yields big majorities for. Asking concrete questions about when and for which reasons abortion should be available regularly yields responses that are significantly more restrictive than what Roe permits.

Questions that ignore Roe but instead ask about whether abortion should be “subject to greater restrictions than it is now” regularly get large majorities for greater restrictions.

This is true enough as far as it goes–public opinion on abortion is more contradictory and ambivalent than general polls on Roe reflect. (However, how these ambivalences cut depend on what information is provided; questions like “The Supreme Court has held that states can regulate abortion in almost any way they see fit short of a ban–is this too restrictive?” or “Ben Wittes and William Saletan argue that rich women in urban centers should be able to get abortions for any reason, and poor women in many states should not be able to obtain abortions for any reason but the life of the mother. Do you agree?” would yield rather less favorable answers for pro-criminalization and “centrist” positions than the questions Alon cites.) The problem is that this is precisely the opposite of what Wittes argues. Wittes, you’ll remember, believes that public opinion is enormously supportive of abortion rights (which, combined with his bizarrely naive conception of how legislative power functions, produces his ludicrously Pollyanish predictions about a world without Roe) but is very hostile to Roe. This is simply false. Moreover, given that Wittes is committed to the (farcical) claim that public opposition to Roe stems from people’s careful consideration of its legal craftsmanship, he’s not really in a position to argue that many people don’t even understand its holding (although, myself, I have no doubt that this is true.) Wittes’ famous article is simply nonsense all the way down, and as the double standard he employs when discussing the conservative decisions he likes makes clear his commitment to taking the Republican side in legal and political disputes is considerably strongly than his nominal commitment to reproductive freedom.


[ 0 ] January 26, 2007 |

Another excellent article about the Wilson case, with a useful comparison with other cases of consensual sexual relations with minors that received much lighter sentences:

But wait. It gets worse. At the same time that Wilson was being sentenced to 10 years in prison, down the hall in the courthouse, a 27-year-old high school teacher got a slap on the wrist (probation, 90 days in jail, not prison) for having sexual intercourse with an 16-year-old male student.

Now you tell me: which act represented a greater breach of trust and societal expectations? Which act has the greater potential for harm?

The District Attorney — who makes the decision on how to handle cases: which ones to prosecute, which to drop — charged Wilson with rape and aggravated child molestation. The jury found Wilson not guilty of the rape charge.

According to the jury forewoman, the jury did not know that by convicting Wilson of the aggravated child molestation charge that they had just sentenced him to a mandatory 10 years in prison. “People were screaming, crying, beating against the walls,” she recalls. “I just went limp. They had to help me to a chair.”

Yet right down the hall, Alexander High School English teacher Kari McCarley was standing trial for “carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male student.” She was married, with children. This wasn’t a one-time sexual encounter. Her sentence? Three years probation and 90 days in jail.

Part of the problem was the poorly drafted statute; a prosecutor should have never even had the ability to pursue a mandatory 10-year sentence in this case. But there can be no serious question that the prosecutor grossly abused his discretion. I also agree with TChris that the classification (and the application of the statute) should have raised serious due process issues.

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