Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thinking Man FAIL

Good lord. The Thinking Man's Top Ten Sex Symbols is, well, a travesty.

I applaud the concept. I really do. But they fail, clearly, at being thinking men. Or, at least, at being non-heteronormative (all women on this list, of course, no homo here), for starters. (If you want to make an all-girl list, cool, but say the thinking straight man's sex symbols and then you get to avoid implying that no gay men are thinking! Bonus!) For the sexism, just see this introductory language:
A man has two minds. The lower mind is a brainless whore excited by any woman with breasts, curves, and a thong. The upper mind, which works with actual grey matter, is more persnickety. The upper mind, when employed, is moved by intelligence, success, power, self-confidence, a smart sense of humor, and, of course, not having a castrating nature.

And that’s the challenge. Can a woman be independent, creative, sharp, witty, strong, and self-empowering without making me feel like she wants to be a man?

Men as brainless animals enslaved by their hormones? Check. Men, even when being totes sensible, needing to be protected (the poor dears) from those scary castrating women? Supercheck. I mean, damn. You're not sexy if you threaten my sense of power (which comes from where? Oh, right, the fact that I'm a dude) AT ALL, girls! I hope you're taking notes!

To wrap up, here's our friendly reminder that anyone who is independent, creative, sharp, strong, and self-empowering clearly is a man or a wannabe man. Because only men are like that, duh! Oh, you chicks are so silly sometimes.

And then you get the comments on each sex symbol. The one that jumped out at me the most was what they had to say about M.I.A.:

"M.I.A. is one of my favorite musicians right now. It would be so fun to travel the world with her, viewing life as one big art project."

For one thing, that's all they had to say. They waxed poetic about any number of other women, but that is the entirety of what they have to say about M.I.A., who to me is far more interesting (and sexy) than Katie Couric. Hell, they talk about Meredith Vieira's SHOES about as much.

For another, I think this gets it entirely wrong. M.I.A. makes art about very real-life issues. Her dad was sort of in the Tamil Tigers. "Paper Planes," as far as I can tell, is entirely about illegal migration and the forms of gangsterdom and black marketeering that pop up in poor and oppressed places and groups. She has sat on buses and watched people shoot each other. She's not just some quaint arty type who "travels the world" (because she's exotic, don't you know) and quirkily sees things as art. She makes interesting art about life. This is the difference between a trust-funded performance artist who sees the significance in EVERYTHING ("It's just so...spontaneous, you know? You never know when art will happen. When I was watching the Orange Revolution from my safe vantage point in the Ritz while smoking Gauloises, I was wishing I could be out there with them just experiencing--for my next piece, of course") and a serious person blessed with talent that allows them to translate complicated and difficult experience into consumable art. It's, you know, an important difference. It is arguably a big part of what makes M.I.A. sexy, but screw that, Thinking Men--she's so ARTY! She can tell you the crazy shit she sees while you stare at her tits!

Finally, for a hint of general all-around crappiness, note their explicit congratulation of Sarah Silverman for figuring out a way to say horribly racist and otherwise problematic shit while passing it off as a joke. They literally call it "having her cake and eating it too." Because clearly her motivation is to get to say horrible things without consequence, not to create biting and effective satire that forces people to examine their prejudices--and that's so awesome! Hipster racism and so on at its finest. ("It's not racist, it's ironic.")

Illustrated political economy

There's a manga version of Das Kapital. And it's currently flying off the shelves in Japan.

In homage, I link you to the graphic version of The Road to Serfdom, which is ideologically the opposite of Das Kapital.

Trust the Japanese to restore balance to the universe of illustrated political economy.

Blago appointed a senator anyway.

Damn. This goes beyond chutzpah to a level approaching gangsta. Ta-nehisi agrees:

I didn't catch all of it but I did hear him say something like, "Don't see myself resigning, even if these feds house me/Big up to Jesse Jr. Big up to Jan Schakowsky..." And then he dissed Common.

What I want to know now is how Kanye and Lupe Fiasco fit into all this. You know they gotta be taking sides.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What killed Bush

This is a very interesting point, which I had missed largely because when the Terri Schiavo thing went down I was young enough and sensible enough not to be paying any attention:

I've long believed that what really killed Bush was the contrast between his handling of Katrina and his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, which had come only a few months earlier. It was just too stark. What the American public saw was that when the religious right was up in arms, the president and the Republican Party acted. Bill Frist performed his famous long-distance diagnosis; Tom DeLay fulminated on the floor of the House; Republicans tried to subpoena both Terri and Michael Schiavo; and President Bush interrupted his vacation and made his famous midnight flight to Washington DC to sign a bill transferring the case to federal court. It was both a whirlwind and a political circus.

And it showed that Bush could be moved to action if the right constituency was at risk. It wasn't just that Bush was mostly MIA during the early stages of Katrina, but that he was plainly capable of being engaged in an emergency if it was the right kind of emergency. But apparently New Orleans wasn't it. And that was the final nail in the coffin of his presidency.

Too right.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I saw Milk and I really liked it. I wish they would have addressed intersectionality a little more. They showed a few gay men of all races and a few lesbians, which is great--they can't change the facts of Milk's inner circle, which was primarily male and white--but every so often you would hear references to "the blacks" and "the asians" as a comparison with or distinction from "the gays" and I wanted to say, "What about the black gays? The asian gays?" etc. etc.

I also understand that intersectionality is complicated and has only gained purchase in feminist thought fairly recently (though it's been around much longer than that--mostly feminists of color have been largely ignored until recently, and even now intersectionality is only current in some circles), let alone in gay activism (which I know far less about), and it's not that I expect Milk himself to have been a paragon in this regard. It's a hard thing to tackle from a political perspective. I don't even know, exactly, what the movie should have done about it--I just sort of thought of all the people who had one part or the other of their identities erased by that formulation, and wished it wasn't so.
In the NYT article on resumption of full-scale warfare between Israel and Hamas, I was struck by this paragraph:

Israeli officials said that anyone linked to the Hamas security structure or government was fair game because Hamas was a terrorist group that sought Israel’s destruction. But with work here increasingly scarce because of an international embargo on Hamas, young men are tempted by the steady work of the police force without necessarily fully accepting the Hamas ideology. One of the biggest tolls on Saturday was at a police cadet graduation ceremony in which 15 people were killed.

The cycle of radicalization continues. Goddammit.

It is certainly arguable whether Hamas has pursued "all the peaceful options" as they say they have, though I'd venture that within their particular framework of jihad they've made a decently good-faith effort despite some more extreme rhetoric that is, in truth, more in line with their stated principles. (Rhetoric, of course, is political action and should not be discounted.) Regardless, from a realist perspective, the Israelis have done a remarkably bad job of providing Hamas--or any Gazan--with reward for more restrained behavior or incentives to chill the fuck out.

The paragraph alludes to the economic isolation imposed on Gaza by Israel with the cooperation and support of West Bank authorities, the U.S., and the international community (whatever that is supposed to mean). When Palestine is economically integrated with--which is to say, dependent on--Israel, Palestinians are far more likely to decry aggression by their representatives. They have much more to lose. In this situation, the only cost is really the size of the body count.

That is not nothing by any means, but the fact is that people die in Gaza from lack of medical care and from deprivations resulting from the embargo as it is. People die as a result of the violence that almost inevitably emerges from the lack of wealth and economic opportunity resulting from the embargo. People die from the ongoing, if sporadic, violence between Israel and Gaza, which is of course more politically feasible and useful for leaders when there is no quality of life left to lose, and nothing to gain from waiting out a siege that can go on indefinitely as far as its architects are concerned. Finally, people die or are crippled because Hamas is by no means perfect as a governing entity, but when Hamas is at war with Israel they have less need to subjugate the populace by violence, and it's easier for them to gloss over those incidents.

The surest way to prevent conflict is to unite your enemy's interests with your own. From the paper I killed myself over two weeks ago:

For Israel’s part, nothing of much use can be done in the current mindset. To deal effectively with this problem, Israel will have to change the basis on which, for the most part, it has acted since the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is understandable that Israel has sought to weaken the Palestinians as much as possible and to concede to them as little as possible. However, it must be clear by now that the only internationally acceptable end to this conflict will be a two-state solution of some kind, and that the Palestinians will not disappear through repression and warfare. It is now in Israel’s interest to have as stable, viable, and friendly a neighbor and negotiating partner in Palestine as possible....

I understand that Israelis object to aiding or even tacitly allowing the prosperity of an enemy that has repeatedly attacked and killed their fellow citizens. I understand that there is real concern that no matter what Israel does, Hamas will always oppose it and always violently. Hell, it's in Hamas's charter. But given that, Israel will never defeat or accomodate Hamas. Its best hope is to turn away the public's support for them and their mission, and bombing the fuck out of that public is probably the worst way to do it.

The only chance for success in this situation is to break the cycle that produces more and more radicals on both sides (the longer this goes on, the stupider and weaker moderates look). In my view, Israel has greater latitude and so greater responsibility in this matter as the more powerful actor. I'm sure this perception is colored by the fact that I live in the pro-Israel U.S., but to argue on any realist basis that Israel is not the more powerful actor is laughable. Furthermore, Israel's position in the Middle East would be strengthened, not weakened, by showing some clemency toward the Palestinians. The struggle against Israel is legitimated by its framing as on the behalf of Palestinians; when Israel is seen to be reasonable and generous toward them, its opposition in Syria and elsewhere starts to look much less righteous.

I don't mean to erase the real cost to Israeli security that would unavoidably accompany a softening toward Palestine. But I do think that in the long term, such a cost will be necessary if this equilibrium, which is painful and costly as it is and poisons nearly every other political question in the region, is ever to be broken.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The best meditation I've yet heard on Rick Warren's role at the inauguration, from Ta-Nehisi.

Semiotics of torture

Some interesting discussion on the political, moral, and philosophical consequences of the Bush Administration's torture agenda:'s not that torture had been non-existent in liberal states until the torture shown in the Abu Ghraib photos. The US torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, Baghram, and elsewhere reflects the techniques developed through CIA documents dating to the 1950s. The liberal state, more generally, has always functioned on an opposition between its conception of civilization - grounded in a liberal conception of rationality - and what's beyond civilization.


That is, "barbarism." In the name of basic liberal principles and of rationality itself, the liberal state must be defended against its barbarian enemies. But since these principles - of, for instance, autonomy, liberty, dignity, etc. - in the liberal political-philosophical tradition are taken as universal (for Kant, for example, grounded in natural law), and since torture is a fundamental denial of those principles, the liberal state had to conceal torture. Foucault suggests something similar in Discipline and Punish. Torture, when practiced by liberal states, could never find a place in actual law. Otherwise, we’re no longer talking about liberal states, but something else.

Torture is fundamentally extra-legal in this sense and this is why there's so much talk of states of exception and states of necessity. But this is also why the Bush administration's institutionalization and attempted legalization of torture is so radical. It's an assault on the foundational principles of the liberal state.

Yup. That's why visible torture is so dangerous to America's international reputation, too. It's not about hypocrisy, it's about being revealed to be something other than what the country was supposed to be--including what it believes itself to be. It's revelatory and it's the kind of moral-philosophical shift that has real consequences.

I really need to read Discipline and Punish. There will never be enough time, goddammit.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Apparently Condi, Bush and the first Lady have been raking in the swag from foreign leaders. The biggest chunk by far is Condi's $300,000+ worth of jewelry from Arab leaders.

All of which, at least, has to be turned over to the General Services Administration and government archives.

Except now I'm wondering what they've got stashed away in some Cave of Wonders. Possibly the same undisclosed location Dick Cheney hides out in all the time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sounds good in theory, but...

I actually kind of think this is a brilliant idea in a perfect fairy world:

Opiate painkilling drugs are in critically short supply across the developing world. So why doesn't the USA just buy the Afghan poppy harvest, process it into painkilling meds, and distribute them to poor countries?

1. This would cut off the Taliban's chief source of funding.

2. It would put the average Afghan farmer on the side of the US-supported government instead of the Taliban.

3. It would play to our strength -- money. The Taliban has more local knowledge, more time, more patience, more willingess to shed innocent blood. But we have more money. They might be able to outfight us, out-corrupt us, or out-terrorize us, but they can't outbid us.

4. It would put the US on record as alleviating suffering all over the world.

5. By fighting the Taliban with dollars instead of (as many) soldiers, we'd suffer a lot fewer killed and maimed Americans.

6. It might even be cheaper. Soldiers, tanks, planes, humvees, night vision goggles, bullets, Predator drones, etc. are really, really, expensive.

The brilliant thing about this is that it doesn't require Afghani farmers, who really don't need any extra trouble, to change anything about their farming practices; it provides a market for their product that doesn't fund the Taliban or lead to horrific human rights abuses within the structure of the transaction; it's a badly needed source of revenue.

However, it's clearly not that simple. First of all, you can't just buy the opium crop and remove--or even significantly reduce--the army. You need both. If the Taliban can't rely on opium revenues, in the absence of obstruction they'll just find another way to force the population to support them. Not everyone in Afghanistan is a poppy farmer, by a long shot, and clearly the Taliban have managed them before. By the same token, Afghani poppy farmers don't sell to Taliban-connected drug lords because they pay the highest--it's because these guys have incredibly harsh protection rackets going. This is a frequent reason girls set themselves on fire at a young age--sometimes their fathers can't deliver what they need to or they find themselves "owing" a drug lord in some way, and they end up giving them their daughters in payment.

If a higher bidder just comes along, the farmers aren't going to merrily switch business partners hey presto. They would need significant protection from retribution. So, yes, you need both security forces and poppy-buying. Keeping in mind that our forces there are already deemed insufficient, I don't think we could really draw down much (although if we get out of Iraq and had poppy revenue, our presence there would be less of a strain--for the budget and for the soldiers themselves, who hopefully could go on fewer and shorter tours of duty).

The other massive problem is the likelihood that a number of soldiers would suddenly turn into drug dealers. Let's face it, our armed forces have been taking whoever they can get lately (except gay people), including convicted felons, abusers, rapists, etc. (This is not to say that all soldiers are in this mold--far from it.) It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that if you get a bunch of burned-out Marines and whatnot together in a war zone and give them a bunch of opium, they'll either start taking it or, in a region riddled with connections, start dealing it. Or, that time-honored combination, both. Really, the last thing we need is the U.S. Armed Forces basically acting as the best, most secure drug convoy in the world.

Imagine the possibilities. The opiates have to get all the way from Afghanistan to somewhere where they can be made into something useful, probably in the West, and they'll change hands several times. Then, once they're drugs--drugs which can still get you high--they have to get all the way to Sub-Saharan Africa or similar. The second stage is no more risky than humanitarian medical aid already is. But oh, god, I can see the reports coming in now and they're not pretty. The second a U.S. soldier kills someone over drugs we are screwed. Plus, once the VA has to start implementing detox programs for soldiers coming home whose families are freaked out by their withdrawal symptoms, the Armed Forces start to look pretty damn bad--especially to parts of the population who have historically had strong respect and support for the military. I mean, if anything says THE OPPOSITE OF MILITARY DISCIPLINE AND HONOR in big red letters, it's a smack problem.

So I guess my point is that the above proposal is an admirable solution to several real-world issues that have been bungled or not addressed up to now; it just ignores a whole host of other real-world issues that would accompany it. That's the thing with policy: it always does a million things other than the things you designed it to do.

What I'm listening to

Kids by MGMT is the song I'm currently playing on repeat:

I have no idea what the video or the song is about, but points for Charlie Chaplin footage. I've actually heard this playing in the coffee shops and so on a million times but never knew who it was by. I got the album the other day and was playing it and actually thought to myself, "I wonder if that song is going to be on here" and it totally was. Booyakasha.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've been meaning to post this from Ta-Nehisi for a while. I think it speaks for itself.
...The case for/against gay marriage is hung-up on this idea of choice--i.e. we should frown on gay marriage because it's a deviant lifestyle. Or we shouldn't frown on it because it isn't a lifestyle, it's a biological fact. This is where the comparisons with race come in. But I always hated this argument. Whenever people say, "You should not discriminate against people because they didn't chose to be black," I hear the mild tones of wild liberal condescension.

Implicit in that logic is a kind of judgment, the notion that if I could choose, I obviously would choose to be white. But what if I just like being black? What if I could choose and would still choose black? Ditto for homosexuality. So what if you do choose to be gay? I understand that a lot of the science says you don't, but why do we accept this implicit idea that heterosexuality is, necessarily, what everyone would chose?

I'm not trying to minimize the bias and trauma that must come from being out, but a basic extension of humanity, a belief that those who aren't like me actually are like me, says that to be gay has to be more than coping with living beneath the boot of the ignorant. It's always about more than getting your ass kicked, no? What if you actually love the "more than?" What if it is who you are and what you choose?

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's in a name?

Change the name of the Dept. of Agriculture to the Dept. of Food?

I say yes, cautiously. Dept. of Food and Agriculture is a little easier to swallow (dur hur), but either way the sentiment is, I think, correct. We are not an agricultural country anymore and it would be better for us and for the world food supply if we stopped pretending to be.

Scattered thoughts

1. Finals was a really, really bad time for me to discover Polyvore.

2. Larison is making sense again.

I think we basically fundamentally agree on foreign policy, and furthermore I really value the fact that his perspective on those issues is completely outside of the usual Washington mindset. It helps me think a lot. His stances on social conservative issues (abortion, gay marriage) are completely incommensurate with mine. However, those positions are rooted in a very, very intellectually serious Christianity that I can in turn take seriously (which I can't with, say, James Dobson), and it's interesting to read his arguments about these things because they're usually different from the ones I've heard before; or if they're basically the same, they contain the scriptural and philosophical reasoning that can prop up such nonsense with something resembling an argument, which again is always interesting. He's also insanely well-informed.

Anyway, my point of view on the question he's engaging there is that it's not that Americans are insanely naive about governments harming people; I think Americans know that they always have and they always will. I think Americans are uniquely horrified by the idea of governments harming "their own." This is partly because I don't think we understand, really, what a "fractured society" is; and partly because, well, we're exceptionalists and we like to think our government would never do anything bad to us, and since we seek to export our style of government everywhere else we expect other governments to act the same. Aiding this, the dominant strain of American historical memory has a whole lot of race, class, and gender privilege (duh) and so conveniently forgets all about the times when the American government really has harmed its own.

Okay, speaking of fractured societies, back to my paper. I have now written one paper on the slave trade (tangentially), one on dead Chinese babies (less tangentially), and now I'm writing one about civil war, occupation, and suicide bombing. Maybe if I studied something else finals week would be easier. Alas. What's that quotation about wishing an interesting life on one's enemies?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Revolutionary language

Oh man, this is actually kind of wonderful.

I'm not actually talking about the economic plan--I'm talking about this:

Aside from the commitment to what sounds like a great progressive stimulus plan, one sentence struck me: Will your job or your husband’s job or your daughter’s job be the next one cut? Read that closely. In a speech about universal fears and hardship, he is addressing his primary listeners as women. Never have I heard sentence construction like that from a president -- women addressed directly in a non-"women's issues" setting as legitimate, fully fledged and very concerned and invested breadwinners. The effect is stunning.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

At last

Someone said it! What I've been thinking!

Through a convergence of terrorists' savvy with the structural changes in the mediasphere, an enormously disproportionate impact can be brought to bear by applying what really amounts to minute pressure to geopolitical faultlines. To give an idea, based on these World Bank automobile statistics, more people died of car accidents in India on the day of the attacks than in the attacks themselves. But we are now seriously and soberly considering the possibility of a worst-case scenario that involves nuclear war.

To my mind, this underlines the need to formulate a new paradigm for how we, by which I mean the global community, experience and respond to these kinds of attacks in order to defuse their asymmetric power. An approach that combines restraint, resilience and resolve, and that balances the need to protect ourselves from these pathological psychopaths with the acceptance that we can never be fully immune.

I don't know quite what that would look like, or whether it's possible. But I, for one, am tired of how much power is being handed over to so few people with so little imagination.
Once again, Larison is dead-on:

Looking at both policy and personnel in the new administration, the cynical Russian (or American) would have to work overtime lately to see where exactly significant change is in the offing.... Perhaps the Kremlin actually admires the ability to engage in such a theatrical display to promote the illusion of dramatic political shifts while not changing anything fundamental. It is something of an art form, I grant you, and we have been practicing it much longer than they have, and it is not hard to see why a political establishment would want to learn how to imitate it....

Even so, consider how debased and broken-down our standards must be that we consider it some kind of vindication of popular government that the two clans that have held executive power for the last twenty years did not happen to have a blood relative on either presidential ticket. Then we would remember that this was to some extent an accident on the Democratic side (had Clinton made any serious effort in the caucus states in early February, the “story line” above would have been almost entirely vindicated), and it was true on the Republican side perhaps only because of the unusual degree of incompetence shown by the current office-holder. Had Bush not been judged an utter failure as early as late 2006, how many of us really think that his brother would have stayed out of the presidential race? Except for his brother’s ruined reputation, how many think he would not have been seriously considered for a VP slot? Remember that a majority of the GOP still approves of George W. Bush even now--imagine what his approval rating among Republicans would have been had he not been quite as disastrous as he was! Does anyone believe that, between his establishment ties and governing record, Jeb Bush could not have won the nomination, had it not been for the great incompetence of his brother? For that matter, does anyone think that a relative outsider such as Obama would have stood a chance of winning the nomination of his party had it not been for the calamitous Bush Era and the complicity of so many leading Democrats in its calamities? Consider how fully this administration had to fail and how deeply unpopular Bush himself had to become to render the Russian “story line” invalid where it might have otherwise been all too accurate, and then tell me that there is not something rotten in our politics.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

When it rains, it pours

There was a car bomb in Peshawar. (Peshawar being the capital of the FATA, or the tribal areas that are causing the U.S. so much trouble right now.)

So far 21 dead, 90+ injured. The electricity also went out and there were fires that destroyed a number of shops and warehouses due to an explosion in a nearby gas line.

Of course, everybody thinks this is India or Indians getting back at Pakistan for Mumbai, even though nobody actually knows whether Pakistan is responsible in the first place.

I would not be too surprised if this were the same group making sure they get what they want, which is conflict between India and Pakistan; or if it were unrelated (after all, this is the FATA, and there have been a lot of bombings and violence around there lately) and it's impossible for people not to construe it as a part of this narrative. After all, Peshawar is hardly analogous to Mumbai. While it is a center of arts and culture, something it shares with Mumbai, it's not the financial or economic center of Pakistan the way Mumbai is of India. It doesn't strike at the same pressure point.

A bomb in Peshawar makes much more sense in the context of the American war on terror than it does in the context of whatever chess game someone is playing with India, Pakistan, and Kashmir. (Unless, of course, we count this chess game as part of a larger one that has to do with Afghanistan, which seems eminently possible to me, although its similarity to a 24 plot makes me suspicious. Then again I continue to be no kind of expert or authority.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Slang and political journalism

Oh, wow. Ta-Nehisi Coates goes all out:

Slang goes out of style for a very good reason--at some point the words or terms of the day fail to properly describe a new day, a new situation, a new time. The reason why people who aren't a part of group sound stupid using slang, is because they often don't understand the words they're using on any deep level--they're just parroting what sounds cool. Ditto for all these cats running with this team of rivals notion. When you repeat that line--something which Obama is more than happy to see reporters do--what you're basically saying is "I quit. I refuse to respect my subject enough to think about what he specifically represents."

The best thing about the human brain is that it's original. None of us think the same. When thinkers amd writers refuse to employ that originality, when they opt against telling us what is particular, what is specific, what is unique about this moment in time, when they decide to go with the easiest received wisdom at hand, as opposed to deliberating, as opposed to banging their heads on the wall until they arrive at something new, than they are not writers or thinkers any more, but henchmen in the employ of propagandists. I say that as an Obama fan. Stop fucking pushing the cliches this dude is feeding you. Wake the fuck up and think for yourself. This is exactly how we got into Iraq. This isn't a damn game.

One thing leads to another

Daniel Larison says, Stupid Policies Have Consequences. How our ill-advised NATO goals have made our lives harder in Afghanistan.

Link dump

I have a bunch of links I've been meaning to write up and I haven't gotten around to it, so here they all are. I promise they're all interesting.

CNN declared that Susan Rice, Obama's Envoy to the U.N., had been the Assistant Secretary of State for African-American Affairs. Whoopsie--there is no such thing (no shit, Sherlock). Actually it was African affairs. Oof.

Seems Bush was warned about the prospect of a financial crisis and even received a few suggestions on how to avoid such a catastrophe--and ignored all that. Sounds eerily like the backstory on 9/11 to me.

A former leading interrogator in Iraq says he has a way better interrogation method than torture: treat 'em like human beings and they'll talk to you. This is how the U.S. got the information that allowed it to take out a leading Al-Qaeda commander-type. Whaddayaknow?

Some very interesting thoughts on who exactly perpetrated the Mumbai attacks.

More on Mumbai's attackers. Some interesting specifics on the Pakistani government's control or lack thereof here, as well as a discussion of methodology--comparing these attackers to a group that people seem to be heading towards crediting with the attacks.

I think this is pretty dumb: apparently we should be worrying about world obesity more than world hunger. Perhaps if we had the global food supply in better order both problems would be addressed, but really? My straw man alert is going off, LOUDLY. For some reasons to doubt whether we should even be that worried about teh fatties and their OMG HEALTH, see here, or read Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin.

There you have it. Now I have to figure out whether I have history class tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Straight Outta Jidda



Do you understand the significance of this? Of course they're all rich girls and they can't perform in public or rehearse freely or any of that shit, and they're from Jidda which is a more culturally liberal city (not saying much), but they are a SAUDI GIRL BAND and apparently their song is an underground hit.

This is seriously a huge deal. This is a place where boys and girls can't even talk to each other. I mean, Saudi is pretty intense in terms of gender repression (I wouldn't rank it as high as Afghanistan or Yemen, or parts of Pakistan, but people in Saudi are richer--thanks, oil wealth!--which contributes to why they don't literally treat their women like slaves as much as in Afghanistan), so probably most of what you've heard about "the way Islam treats women" applies here. AND THERE'S A GIRL BAND.

Significantly, it seems they're college students.

(FYI, the song isn't particularly good and the video is just text, but the song is competent and the music is actually SO NOT THE POINT HERE.)

Target: Women

Oh, Sarah Haskins, how I love thee.

(Rachel Maddow is still my TV girlfriend, though.)

What are they for again?

The 9 Most Misogynist Print Ads of All Time

Some of those are really incredible. "The Chef (TM) does everything but cook--that's what wives are for!" I mean, wow. Also, what exactly does The Chef (TM) do, then?

Civic Literacy

So there's this Civic Literacy test going around, right? The aim clearly being to show that GOVERNMENT IS LIEK TOTEZ BOGUS, GUYS.

How do I know this? Because after you get your results they show you a table that tells you exactly how much worse "elected officials" who took the test did than average citizens, and many of the economic questions have a huge neoliberal/right wing bias. (Never mind that perhaps the fact that citizens got it about 50% right and officials were a few points behind suggests that maybe the government [BOOGA BOOGA] should spend a little more money on education and training. Oh noez!)

I got four questions wrong out of 33, giving me a score of 87.88% correct. (Does this mean I automatically get to be in civil service? Oh, joy!) On three of the four I almost picked the right answer, and on the fourth I'm pretty sure their "right answer" is a total fallacy--UNLESS you assume a number of economic right-wing utopia conditions (gov't taxes each citizen the same amount and then spends all its money on public goods that transcend geography/somehow manages to apportion all spending equally), which, let's face it, they very well may have. YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Or even worse, they didn't even get far enough to make assumptions: they thought, well, if spending = tax revenue (a condition inherent to the question), then obviously tax revenue divided by population = spending divided by population! Simple! Except for the failure to consider any remotely practical consideration in any way related to taxes or, for that matter, spending.

...Civic Literacy, eh?

Anyway, it's kind of fun to take the quiz. Have at it.