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Salvage Operations

[ 20 ] March 4, 2008 |

The NYRB has a fascinating piece on Wikipedia; it’s technically a review of a book called Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, but mostly it’s a natural history of the site, with long excursions into vandalism, edit wars, and the review author’s efforts to spare entries from deletion.

Taekwang Industry—a South Korean textile company—was one. A user named Kusunose had “prodded” it—that is, put a red-edged banner at the top of the article proposing it for deletion within five days. I removed the banner, signaling that I disagreed, and I hastily spruced up the text, noting that the company made “Acelan” brand spandex, raincoats, umbrellas, sodium cyanide, and black abaya fabric. The article didn’t disappear: wow, did that feel good.

So I kept on going. I found press citations and argued for keeping the Jitterbug telephone, a large-keyed cell phone with a soft earpiece for elder callers; and Vladimir Narbut, a minor Russian Acmeist poet whose second book, Halleluia, was confiscated by the police; and Sara Mednick, a San Diego neuroscientist and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life; and Pyro Boy, a minor celebrity who turns himself into a human firecracker on stage. I took up the cause of the Arifs, a Cyprio-Turkish crime family based in London (on LexisNexis I found that the Irish Daily Mirror called them “Britain’s No. 1 Crime Family”); and Card Football, a pokerlike football simulation game; and Paul Karason, a suspender-wearing guy whose face turned blue from drinking colloidal silver; and Jim Cara, a guitar restorer and modem-using music collaborationist who badly injured his head in a ski-flying competition; and writer Owen King, son of Stephen King; and Whitley Neill Gin, flavored with South African botanicals; and Whirled News Tonight, a Chicago improv troupe; and Michelle Leonard, a European songwriter, co-writer of a recent glam hit called “Love Songs (They Kill Me).”

Among the articles currently being considered for deletion, we find The Recession of 2008, Observed Performance and Effects of Communism, and Wesley Warren, an Atlanta-area artist who appears to have simply uploaded his resume and is now engaged in a furious effort to salvage his own entry.

Liberal Fascism has not yet been flagged for deletion. In completely unrelated news, The Penis Game appears to have survived its second challenge in recent years.

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Is There a 9th Level Cleric in the House?

[ 0 ] March 4, 2008 |

I can’t find a news report about it yet, but the buzz is that Gary Gygax, founder of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away this morning. I played my first game of D&D at the age of eight with the basic rule set, and in the twenty-five years since have played on and off throughout the evolution of the game. Gygax’ participation in the system was limited after 1985, but he will nonetheless be missed.

Here’s to the 20-sided die. Rest in peace, Gary.

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Who Would Win in a Fight?

[ 19 ] March 4, 2008 |

“Diamond” Joe Quimby vs. Senator Clay Davis?

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Blogging While Female

[ 0 ] March 4, 2008 |

From Wing Nut News (er I mean Right Wing News), we get a feature of “hot female conservative bloggers” or something like that (ok, the title doesn’t include “hot” but given that they ask about why and whether the women post photos of themselves on their blogs, I think its implicit). The post includes short interviews with some of the most widely-read conservative female bloggers. And there are some doozies.

My favorite comes by way of Amanda Carpenter (she of TownHall and Hillary-hating). She says:

You have any opinion of the feminist, liberal blogs out there?

Well, they’re some of the ones that are the most hateful. If you look at the language that’s used on those…it’s just incredibly base. It’s this whole feminist thing where it’s empowering to use foul language, to do the lowcut shirts, and act sleazy — and I don’t just mean that just sexually, I mean intellectually as well…

Riiight. So we are hateful, slutty, and masculine (that’s obviously what the “foul language” thing is about). I have to admit that I’m a little confused by this list of intended insults. Others quoted poo-poo the ERA because “I am already equal,” and claim that “being a girl” helps one be taken more seriously in the conservative movement. When I read that one, the coffee almost shot out of my nose.

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Hunting HMAS Sydney

[ 0 ] March 4, 2008 |

After a false alarm last year, it appears that the Australians have begun an effort in earnest to find the wrecks of the Kormoran and the Sydney:

Deep-water sonar imaging equipment will be used in an area about 1,800 square nautical miles in size in water depths from 2,300 to 4,200 meters, according to the Australian Ministry of Defense official website. The team will try to start with the approximate location of the Kormoran, which is known, says Warren Snowdon, the Australian Minister for Defense Science and Personnel. Reports from survivors of the Kormoran’s crew on the movements of the Australian ship may then allow the team to find the wreck.

Kormoran drifted a bit before sinking, and Sydney may have drifted for quite some time, but finding the former should facilitate finding the latter. Whether the wrecks will help clear up the mystery surrounding Sydney’s loss is another question altogether.

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Super Tuesday Part Deux

[ 12 ] March 4, 2008 |

My worth-very-little guess is that the most likely outcome is that (with Clinton winning OH and RI, and Obama carrying VT) Obama wins the delegates in Texas and Clinton squeaks out a popular vote victory there. Should that come to pass, I think most of what Atrios says here is relevant:

I think candidates can stay in the race as long as they want, though I do think they all have an increasing obligation to keep criticisms responsible for the sake of the general, but I’m not sure I understand this particular line in the sand. If, say, Clinton wins Ohio, wins Texas by 1 point, but loses Texas in the delegates, is this really different from the same situation except with her losing Texas by one point? It doesn’t really seem to make any difference. I’m not trying to encourage her to drop out, I’m just not sure why that particular hurdle (if true) is meaningful.

An Obama win in Texas effectively ends the race. But I wouldn’t (so long as the campaign is minimally responsible) think to tell Clinton to drop out; it’s her decision when she wants to end the campaign, and I don’t think keeping some attention on the Democratic candidates is a bad thing. It’s also worth noting that if Clinton narrowly wins a narrow vote in Texas while losing the delegates it doesn’t mean anything. Not only because the nomination is decided by delegates not total votes, but because the strategic context affects the vote outcome. Acquiring delegates, after all, is the goal being pursued by the candidates, and Obama may have campaigned differently in a way that would have maximized his vote rather than delegate count. You can’t assume that a small vote advantage would have held up in a different set of rules, and under the rules we have whoever wins the delegates wins the state, period.

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Just Joshin’

[ 0 ] March 4, 2008 |

Remember yesterday when the Washington Post made room for Charlotte Allen’s screed?

Well, apparently the whole thing was just one tongue-in-cheek big ol’ joke. Just like Joel Stein.

Funny, I’m still not laughing. Oh wait, that must be because I am a humorless strident feminist.

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Who Would Win in a Fight?

[ 0 ] March 3, 2008 |

Omar Little vs. Anton Chigurh?

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I gather that you are a freshman here, eager for an upperclassman’s counsel. However, just at the moment, I have drinking to do.

[ 0 ] March 3, 2008 |

News flash: Great writers often partake of the sauce:

Prudent writers learn to take more out of drink than it takes out of them. Kingsley Amis, in a 1975 interview, prescribed a glass of Scotch as an “artistic icebreaker.” John Mortimer told the New York Times that an early morning flute of Champagne “sets my brain racing.” A roommate of Tennessee Williams reported that the playwright rose early and set his typewriter clacking, after fortifying himself with a martini, a bottle of red wine and a somewhat incongruous pot of coffee.

. . . The writer’s life is solitary, but not the drinking writer’s. In his 1975 memoir, “Here at the New Yorker,” Brendan Gill portrays the magazine (where he worked for 40 years) as a society of first-class bingers. One colleague believed that vomiting was, like shaving and showering, a natural part of any morning routine. Edmund Wilson drank at lunch until he couldn’t stand; A.J. Liebling once fled a burning restaurant but not without securing his bottle of brandy; Wolcott Gibbs lugged buckets of premixed martinis to the beach and stored them in the sand.

Not surprisingly, the article neglects to discuss the literary merits of drunk-blogging, of which the greatest example in human history can be found here (Link fixed. Apologies to Roy…)

Among my numerous failings in life, I’d probably count my inability to drink and work at the same time. Even when sober, I take far too long to actually finish a sentence — these two alone have taken me about ten minutes — and booze usually just extends the process. Once in grad school, a well-timed happy hour allowed me to plow through an episode of writer’s block, but that was an exception to the rule. Another time, a colleague tried to persuade me over Chinese food that crystal meth would actually do wonders for my dissertation; it seemed to be working for him, so I asked what his work schedule looked like. He explained that he could write for three or four days in a row before crashing for “five days, maybe a week.” To nearly everyone’s surprise, that guy eventually finished.

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Next Stop For the Straight Talk Express: The Discovery Institute

[ 33 ] March 3, 2008 |

Great. I wonder how many children will get seriously ill because John McCain encouraged their parents not to vaccinate them based on crank pseudo-science?

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Sympathy For the Contrarian

[ 9 ] March 3, 2008 |

Armando, like several commenters, isolates this passage in the Jeffrey Rosen op-ed I blogged about yesterday and uses it to reject the entire analysis:

Mr. Obama . . . is not a knee-jerk believer in the old-fashioned liberal view that courts should unilaterally impose civil liberties protections on unwilling majorities. His formative experiences have involved arguing for civil liberties in the legislatures rather than courts, and winning over skeptics on both sides of the political spectrum, as he won over the police and prosecutors in Chicago.

The first sentence is, indeed, normatively problematic, and I don’t think I can be criticized for being unwilling to criticize Rosen’s criticisms of liberal “judicial activism.” Fortunately, it’s just projection; neither Rosen nor Armando provides any evidence that Obama opposes courts strongly protecting civil liberties, or that he would appoint less liberal justices than Clinton. The second point is more important, and a strong point in Obama’s favor. Rather than hoping (usually in vain) that the courts will correct bad legislation, Obama actually tried to make bad legislation better in civil liberties terms. This is rather crucial, because Rosen most certainly has a point empirically: as history quite conclusively demonstrates without allies in other parts of the government the courts are, in fact, extremely unreliable protectors of civil liberties. The judiciary has done very little to rein in Bush’s assertions of arbitrary executive power, and this is predictable; without a better civil libertarian in the White House this trend will continue. It’s not a coincidence that the most prominent expansion of civil liberties in the Supreme Court’s history took place when Ramsey Clark could be appointed Attorney General of the United States, and that subsequent Courts appointed by more conservative presidents have gutted most Warren Court landmarks. Unlike Rosen, I don’t regard this as a largely salutary development, but Rosen is certainly right that this is what happens when the political branches aren’t committed to civil liberties.

Indeed, as Mark Graber recently argued where Rosen is more vulnerable in exaggerating the extent to which the Court’s greatest civil libertarian opinions have been “unilaterally imposed” against majorities. The most famous opinions of the last 50+ years, Brown and Roe, were always supported by national majorities, and even when the Warren Court’s school prayer and criminal procedure decisions were counter to majority opinion they had significant support in the executive branch. This is why getting a President with a decent commitment to civil liberties is critical.

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Sunday Deposed (then Restored) Monarch Blogging: House Kutai

[ 20 ] March 3, 2008 |

Very early records (400 AD) indicate the existence of an organized Hindu monarachy in eastern Borneo. In the 16th century the ruler of a kingdom that would become Kutai Karta Negara converted to Islam, and began to expand into the Borneo interior. In the seventeenth century the first Dutch explorers visited the kingdom, to be followed by more Dutch in the eighteenth, as well as British. As in other parts of what would become Indonesia, Islam did not so much replace previous institutions as become assimilated by them. Over the centuries following their arrival, Dutch influence and institutions spread over the archipelago, usually acting through local proxies. The Sultans of Kutai Karta Negara, consequently, were able to hold their positions and even increase the power of their kingdom.

Kutai Kartanegara was blessed (or cursed) by the discovery of oil in the late nineteenth century. The Dutch exploited these deposits, resulting in massive wealth for the Kutai dynasty. The dynasty could use the money; Sri Paduka Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman al-Adil Khalifat ul-Mumenin bin Muhammad Saleh ud-din (reigned 1845-1899) had four primary wives, 38 secondary wives, and eighty-four children. The next two Sultans both cut back, with only 17 children apiece. By this time the Dutch had substantial political control in Kutai Kartanegara, having brought about the abolition of slavery and the creation of a civil service.

The same things that made Kutai Kartanegara attractive to the Dutch made it attractive to the Japanese, and in early 1942 the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Borneo. Allied resistance quickly crumbled, although guerrilla fighting continued until 1945. Kutai Kartanegara fared better than other parts of Borneo, and seems to have been spared the worst of the war that ended Dutch control of Indonesia in 1949. H.H. Sri Paduka Sultan Aji Muhammad Parikesit al-Adil Khalifat ul-Muminin, who had come to power in 1910, was allowed to continue to reign as an independent monarch within the Indonesian confederation. In 1960 Sukarno engineered the transformation of Indonesia into a unitary republic, resulting in the deposition of many of the princes, including the Sultan of Kutai Kartanegara.

The royal family remained popular in spite of the deposition and later repression. Much of the family’s property, including the palace, was confiscated by the Indonesian government. Arrests and prosecutions on fabricated charges followed. Sultan Aji died in 1992, and was succeeded shortly thereafter by Aji Muhammad Saleh ud-din, who continued a restoration campaign. The fall of Suharto in 1998 weakened the position of the Indonesian state and reflected a change of heart on the part of the central government. In 1999 it was determined that the monarchy would be restored, and in 2001 Aji Muhammed Saleh ud-din was crowned Sultan, the first such in forty-one years.

Trivia: The British essentially exterminated what dynasty after it launched three wars against them in sixty years?

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