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Archive for June, 2013

Goodnight Reader

[ 8 ] June 30, 2013 |

Goodnight Reader

In the great google cloud
there was a full text feed
and folders and tags
and sharing with…
A random collection of internet “friends”
And there were stars and there were trends
And bundles
And recommended items
And details and statistics and RSS mush
And an angry old troll who was shouting “hush”

…Goodnight cloud
Goodnight feeds full text
Good night trends
And good night internet “friends”
Goodnight folders
Goodnight tags
Goodnight stars
And Goodnight recommended items
And Goodnight bundles
Goodnight details and statistics
Goodnight RSS mush
And goodnight to angry old troll who was shouting “hush”
Goodnight Reader

Going with Feedly and Pocket. Liked the concept behind OldReader, but it just doesn’t have the features I want.


The Decline of Driving

[ 58 ] June 30, 2013 |

Really fascinating analysis of the decline of car culture. I tend to believe it to be true, particularly among young people. And I don’t think it’s an ideological rejection of cars per se nor is it a response to climate change I don’t think. Rather, it’s just changing values, different kinds of consumer goods providing status, different ideas about what makes up the good life. All of which is probably worse for the car companies than an ideological shift since that seems easier for them to combat through advertising or another change in fashion.

Via Atrios

The non-inevitability of progress

[ 92 ] June 30, 2013 |

At The Nation, Alec Kuhn has a heartbreaking article on a horrible new anti-gay law in Russia, and the ongoing Russian embrace of a virulent, nasty homophobic politics under Putin. Among the many depressing aspects of the story is the possibility that Russia is witnessing not just a growth in anti-gay politics but a growth in anti-gay sentiment more broadly:

Indeed, an April poll by the independent  Center found that 45 percent of Russians believe that people “most often become homosexual as a result of seduction or their own loose conduct,” and a February Levada poll found that anti-gay sentiment has risen over the past decade.

It’s difficult, at least for me, to live in the United States in 2013 and not view progress toward equal rights, equal treatment, and greater acceptance for GLBT people in my own country as pretty much inevitable. This is especially true when you consider that the extraordinary progress of the last five years has taken place during a period of extended mass unemployment and grim economic circumstances on a scale not seen since the 1930’s. It is precisely during such periods we might reasonably expect social progress to stall or regress, and yet we’ve seen nothing of the sort.

But as inevitable as continued progress seems in the short or perhaps short-medium term, there are good reasons not to assume inevitability beyond that. An under-appreciated aspect of our own history is that we’ve seen significant regression on social acceptance for GLBT people in the past, as the final chapter of George Chauncey’s remarkable book Gay New York details. There’s a powerful American narrative of progress that sometimes blinds us to other possible outcomes.  If anything, this possibility highlights the importance of winning the cultural battles along with the legal ones. The law is not a particularly useful tool for an effort to marginalize of anti-gay variants of Christianity in favor of the gay-accepting variants, but it’s important nonetheless, as a victory in that battle will make this generations’ legal victories more secure, if and when we find ourselves with a Putin of our own.

A Journey

[ 17 ] June 30, 2013 |

If you haven’t read E.J. Graff’s personal history of moving from a radical queer activist to “mainstream and married,” you owe it to yourself to do so.

It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

[ 35 ] June 30, 2013 |

Linda Greenhouse’s typically excellent year-end summary of the year in John Roberts concludes with this chilling reminder:

If there is no mystery about the nature of the chief justice’s views, I remain baffled by their origin. Clearly, he doesn’t trust Congress; in describing conservative judges, that’s like observing that the sun rises in the east. But oddly for someone who earned his early stripes in the Justice Department and White House Counsel’s Office, he doesn’t like the executive branch any better.

He made this clear in an opinion dissenting from a 6-to-3 decision this term in an administrative law case, City of Arlington v. Federal Communications Commission. The question was whether, when the underlying statute is ambiguous, courts should defer to an administrative agency’s interpretation of its own jurisdiction. The answer was clearly yes, according to Justice Scalia’s majority opinion that built on decades of precedent on judicial deference to agencies. The chief justice’s dissenting opinion was a discordant screed that bemoaned the modern administrative state with its “hundreds of federal agencies poking into every nook and cranny of daily life.”

This is right — one difference between Scalia/Thomas and Roberts/Alito is that the former cut their teeth in an era in which judicial deference to the regulatory decisions of the executive branch was a key conservative value, and they retain at least some small measure of that during a Democratic administration. Roberts and Alito (the latter even more consistently), as they are an almost anything, feel free to pursue Republican policy goals unfettered by the constraints of any broader legal theories. Alas, when it comes to the D.C. Circuit essentially reading the recess appointment power out of the Constitution (which the Court will address next term), my guess is that Thomas and Scalia will lose any remaining scruples pretty quickly.

More Bangladesh

[ 4 ] June 30, 2013 |

The problem with this article on the power that garment factory owners wield in Bangladeshi politics, making the prosecution of owners of factories where workers die almost impossible, is that it completely ignores the relationship between those factory owners and the multinational apparel companies that make this all possible. Focusing the blame strictly on Bangladeshi problems lets Walmart, Gap, and other companies off the hook for a system where they hold a huge amount of responsibility.

It’s 2002 All Over Again

[ 73 ] June 30, 2013 |

I’ve been ruminating for a while about this John Judis column on lefty reluctance to engage in Syria.  Ali Gharib has a good response here, and Dan Trombly here; suffice to say that Judis mischaracterizes the anti-intervention coalition, and can’t provide any detail of what an appropriate intervention ought to look like.

But I suppose what bothers me is that Judis isn’t simply wrong and incoherent as much as he’s rehashing an argument that was done and gone a decade ago.    Attempting to go back to original “left” interventionist principles (note that Judis conflates antagonistic liberal and leftist thought in this effort) without trying to grapple with the utter failure in Iraq and the middling-at-best success in Afghanistan just seems… quaint. It also bears note that the project of dissociating liberal hawkery from the invasion of Iraq is something that more liberal hawks ought to have tried to pursue back in 2003.

Humor Me

[ 198 ] June 30, 2013 |

I toyed with the idea of writing about what I’ve been experiencing lately, but frankly I don’t want to think about it anymore than I have to. So, just think a move to different part of the country, a spouse who’s going to be gone for nearly a year, an ill, traumatized toddler, and geriatric pets who are peeing everywhere. Get the picture? Apparently I am an attractive, well-heeled black woman, because I’ve been waiting to exhale for about three weeks now.

And with that groan-inducing joke, I ask you to turn your thoughts to happier things. I know!–Let’s all geek out to MST3K for a bit. Yes, it’s another super-fun bspencer open thread. I desperately need a laugh. I invite you to share your favorite MST3K lines/movies/inventions/moments. I’ll start. My favorite line, which *still* makes me bust a gut (in the good non-Creosote way), is from “Girl in Gold Boots.”

Apparently the plot is none of our business.

Now you go.


“There Are Too Many Non-Homophobic Jokes Nowadays. Please Eliminate Them. I Am Not A Crackpot.”

[ 167 ] June 29, 2013 |

Showing that at least the homophobic reaction to Windsor and Perry won’t be hysterical, Darleen Click would like to inform you that the above cover has destroyed the very concept of friendship itself.

Next at Protein Wisdom: The Naked Gun and the inevitable turn to anarchy.

…via comments, it must be noted that a member of the the nominal left has had also figured out the Deep Implications of this cover:

this is subtly a perfect distillation of how your average liberal views gay people, as Muppets: sexless, harmless, inoffensive, childish, silly, and ultimately mere fodder for the condescending entertainment of straight people.

[Cites omitted]

“Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.”

[ 52 ] June 29, 2013 |

Given that I’m moving back to Louisiana, it only seems fair that I pass its literacy test before being granted the right to vote. Unfortunately, it seems I’m illiterate:

1. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence.

How does one draw a line around something? I thought lines were those infinitely extendable things with no curvature. How I am supposed to draw a line around the number of this sentence? I have an idea!

Wait — that’s three lines. Fuck. Maybe I should try to draw it around the letter of this sentence? Not that I know what that’d be. Do they mean “the” letter of the question or “the” letter of “this sentence.” Given that both the question and “this sentence” have more than one letter, I’m not exactly sure what they’re asking me to do. Maybe this?

Granted that’s nine lines now, but they’re now “around” both “the” “letter” and “the” number and “the” word “number” in the question as well as the words “this sentence.” I may not be right but I can hardly be wrong. Moving on:

22. Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sentence, and circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence.

I got a little confused over whether they meant the first space in this sentence or “this sentence,” but I made up for it:

They didn’t ask me to draw Bad Ass Jesus struggling to get off the cross, but they didn’t not ask me to either. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. What’s next?

29. Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line, (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write.

That’s it — I’m fucking illiterate. I don’t even know what the difference between “writing” and “printing” is. You win Louisiana! I won’t be casting any votes that matter anyway. Just once I’d love to live in a state where they do.



[ 2 ] June 29, 2013 |

Interesting story here:

On June 25, Chinese officials were confronted with what appears to be the first public legal challenge arising from the Snowden affair. Xie Yanyi, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer, announced that the NSA leaker had inspired him to ask the Ministry of Public Security, China’s main security agency, to disclose “information on methods used by Chinese authorities to conduct surveillance on Chinese citizens,” according to the NGO Human Rights in China. “From a civil rights angle, China’s monitoring of the Internet and cell phones is a very big problem,” Xie said by telephone in an interview with Foreign Policy.

Xie, citing China’s constitution and regulations on “open government information,” believes that he is legally entitled to learn “the detailed measures” Beijing uses to prevent privacy violations; whether the Ministry of Public Security “has obtained approval and supervision from the National People’s Congress,” China’s rubber-stamp legislature, “when conducting surveillance;” the parties “legally and politically responsible” for “approving Internet surveillance methods;” and the “remedies for surveillance activities resulting from abuse of official power,” according to his petition.

A few thoughts:

  • The issue is less the direct analogy of Xie to Snowden (they don’t really have much in common, given that the latter isn’t leaking anything), than the symbolic meaning of Snowden; if his example provides a rhetorically compelling opening for dissent against the Chinese national security state, then all the better.
  • As some have suggested, the Chinese decision to approach Snowden and his revelations with caution rather than celebration may have been based in concern that Snowden’s example would cause external action against or internal dissent within the national security bureaucracy. Snowden was, potentially, more of a problem than an opportunity.
  • A broader question involves how states balance concerns about legitimization of authority against the desire to use NGOs (or even poorly defined networks of individuals and NGOs) against other states. Will states interpret future Snowdens as opportunities to poke each other in the eye, or will they see such actors as a general threat to state authority and security? Even phrasing it in those terms egregiously simplifies reality, as states have always engaged in such a balancing act with respect to what they allow (or encourage) non-state actors to do.

Another Victim

[ 60 ] June 29, 2013 |

Jim Hudson, who played a key role in the 1969 Super Bowl, has died of Parkinson’s related-trauma, likely, as he believed, another victim of the NFL’s casual and dismissive response to head injuries.

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