Creative Destruction

April 30, 2006

“Are You a Registered Republican?”

Filed under: Politics — Robert @ 4:14 pm

That's what the nice candidate running for state senate called out to me as I exited the Safeway. He had a little table with a chair and a sign and some literature. I didn't get a good look at him; white guy in a suit. Didn't get the name.

"Yes, I am," I called back as I strode across the parking lot, heading straight for my car. Unspoken – because I didn't want to take the time – was "and thus, I have a job and I'm very busy and I don't have time to chat with a political candidate."

Valuable lesson for people buttonholing me in public:

You only get one shot. Ask the question you need to ask, not a prefatory question. I'll answer your prefatory question, because I'm polite, and then I'll move on. If you want my vote so you can stop the invading Mongol horde, you pretty much need to say "Mister, I want your vote so I can stop the invading Mongol horde!" If I am also worried about the Mongols, maybe I'll stop and listen to you bloviate. But try and save yourself time by wasting mine ("let's prescreen for registered voters, and let's prescreen for Republicans"), and you'll get nothing. I've got stuff to do.

Although, admittedly, not so much stuff that I can't take a moment to blog about it. But that's different – it happens at my convenience, not his.

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Link Farm and Open Thread #21

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 5:46 am

As usual, feel free to post your own links in the comments, and to discuss whatever comes to mind. Meanwhile, here’s some of what I’ve been reading lately….
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April 29, 2006

Attack of the Ants

Filed under: Personal Ramblings — Robert @ 4:03 pm

A few days ago my wife made some really outstanding chocolate cookies. Last night I had a few (*cough*) in my office. Apparently some crumbs went "rogue" and fell, unnoticed, behind some boxes scattered on the floor.

Today I grabbed a sandwich for lunch. A green pepper fell out of it and was on the floor; when I noticed it had fallen, I leaned down to pick it up and recoiled – ants! Dozens of 'em, Mr. Rico!

I prepared to engage when I realized – one or two random ants finding my green pepper, I could see. But it had only been there a few minutes. Where had they come from? I cast my gaze farther afield – and there, swarming in their hundreds, were little ant-mountains on top of the cookie fragments. Ewww!

This is why God invented little handy battery-powered vacuum cleaners, however. A few minutes of cleaning (which the floor needed, anyway) and the little ant raiding party was no more. I'll be engaging in tactical ant-squashing over the next few hours, undoubtedly, as ants-come-lately follow the scent trail to where the cookies used to be. Wish me luck as I commit to battle.

We fight the ant infestation we have, not the ant infestation we'd like to have.

UPDATE:

Q. What does my office have in common with the Pink Panther movies?
A. "Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant…deadantdeadantdeadantant"

UPDATE 2:

A small squad of six highly-trained, stealthy ants crept onto the battlefield. Ignoring the corpses of their fallen brothers-in-arms, they ant-handled one last remaining crumb onto their collective shoulders and started maneuvering it out of the conflict zone. They didn't see the shadow looming. They didn't see the pencil descending like the hand of an angry God. All they saw was the carpet suddenly looming large as they were crushed, as though beneath the awful weight of their own crime.

Don't steal my food.

Duke Case: Will Mary Doe’s Past Rape Report Be Admissible In Court?

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 1:44 pm

It has recently come out that ten years ago, Mary Doe (the student who reported being raped by three Duke lacrosse players) reported being raped by three acquaintances (one of who may have been a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend) to police. Although the report was made when Mary Doe was 18, she said the rape took place when she was 14 years old. From the New York Times:
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Copyright, Software, and the Recording Industry

Filed under: Economics,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 12:57 pm

Arguments that software and music sales and distribution models are outdated and need to be reconfigured are gaining currency these days. Two things are driving these opinions: the steady advancement of technology that makes copying and file sharing a low-cost or cost-free activity and the natural, if self-serving, desire among the consuming public to get it for free. Typical supporting arguments include contentions that no real harm is being done because these products exist in electronic forms, that artists and creators stand to gain from exposure and promotion of their work as a byproduct of file sharing, and that it's the wave of the future that can’t be stopped, so creators of intellectual property would be smart to recognize that fact and simply cooperate. These arguments are bogus for reasons I will try to show below.

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Phone Etiquette

Filed under: Content-lite,Navel Gazing — Brutus @ 11:15 am

Phone etiquette has transformed in the past few years. I remember when exchanges used to be given as two letters and one number. (My childhood exchange is ST1, for instance). Now it's 10-digit dialing almost everywhere. That's not about etiquette, really, but a curiosity.

One change in etiquette came results from caller ID. I find myself sometimes answering the phone by saying the name of the caller, as in "Hi, John," rather than using the conventional "Hello." Of course, the first time someone did that to me, I found it rather jarring.

What has really surprised me, though, is when I've called someone, not left a message, and had them immediately call back, asking "Who is this? You just called me." Since cell phones keep incoming/outgoing call logs, the person called can now call up an unidentified number and ask "Why did you call me?" That's a rather challenging approach.

Another oddity for me is passing someone on the sidewalk who is apparently talking to themselves. Then I realize he/she has a Bluetooth earpiece and is on the phone. Worse, it's disheartening to be in the bathroom and hear someone in the next stall carrying on a phone conversation while, um, taking care of business. The privacy of the phone call, to say nothing of bathroom behavior, where one would step into a booth to close themselves off from the world, is nearly gone. It's also surprising the number and types of things a person will yell into a cell phone (to get over ambient noise) within the earshot of anyone around them. Goes without saying that a lot of phone talk is littered with profanity, as cursing has lost its offensiveness and many people can't communicate without dropping F-bombs everywhere.

So things change; I get that and expect them to. I'm curiously ambivalent about the things I note above. Disapproval comes easily to an armchair cultural critic, but in this case, either I don't care enough or I've already adapted like others.

April 28, 2006

This is depressing

Filed under: Philosophy,Politics,Popular Culture — bazzer @ 1:41 pm

As if the rumor about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck redoing "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" weren't bad enough, now I have to contend with the prospect of Brangelina desecrating Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I don't think you have to be a devout Objectivist to feel some measure of apprehension about this project.

I'll confess that I have less patience for Rand's writings than I did in my college days. Her rigid, pedantic prose quickly wore thin on me. Moreover, despite Rand's personal hostility toward religion, she ironically managed to create a religion herself, one that's every bit as unyielding and dogmatic as any other kind of fundamentalism.

Still, if I'm being totally honest, she probably had as big an influence on my own political philosophy as any one, single person. When I first encountered her work some 20 years ago, it changed my way of thinking in profound ways, as only a small handful of books have ever done.

Despite her hidebound dogmatism, I still find her straightforward, across-the-board skepticism of the modern, collectivist state to be more appealing and intellectually honest than the convenient piecemeal antistatism of modern-day conservatism and liberalism, both of which can talk a mean game about individual liberties… except when it comes to all those unpleasant activities which they really, really want to regulate.

Rand still occupies a soft spot in my heart, and I have a feeling that her work deserves a better treatment than Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie are likely to give it. Bummer.

On Transgender, Transsexuals, and Entrenching the Binary Gender System

Filed under: Debate,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 1:42 am

It’s been years – almost two decades – since the last time I wore makeup or a dress. Why? I like dresses.

I recently noticed that – although I’ve never given the matter any conscious thought – that I always tie my hair back in a low ponytail. Even though a high ponytail would often be more comfortable (for instance, in airplanes, cars, and other situations with high-backed chairs). But a high ponytail is seen as “feminine” in our society, and I unconsciously chose to avoid that.

I spend a lot of time thinking about feminism and sexism and the need to fight our society’s coercive gender role structure. Yet when I shop for clothing, I do so in a way that implicitly condones those very roles. I dress like a man. I tie my hair in a culturally masculine style. I’m helping to entrench the system I oppose.
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April 27, 2006

Circumcision and Monogamy Most Effective Against HIV Transmission

Filed under: Science — Robert @ 11:37 pm

Very interesting study done in the field in Africa.

Got Rebate?

Filed under: Economics — Off Colfax @ 10:53 pm

For some reason, I find this highly unlikely.

“Our plan would give taxpayers a hundred dollar gas tax holiday rebate check to help ease the pain that they’re feeling at the pump,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced Thursday.

“It also includes strong federal anti-price gouging protection to protect consumers against anti-competitive behavior by oil companies or other suppliers of gasoline. Our free market system works, but it works best when there’s full accountability and full transparency.”

Frist said the rebates would go to single taxpayers making less than $125,000 per year, and couples making less than $150,000.

Sorry, folks. I know that extra hundred bucks would feel pretty good right now, particularly in the run-up to summer, but I highly doubt this will get out of committee in time to do any significant good for those of us at the pumps.

Oh, and who is to say that we even have to pay for gas directly, either? I haven’t had my own vehicle since I moved to Colorado in 2001, and my last job, one that required fairly significant driving, had the company picking up the gasoline bills. So the only real effects I, and quite a few others living in metropolitan areas with significant public transportation systems, feel from the gas hike here in the States is a little bit higher price for just about everything else.

But, according to the good Dr. Frist, everyone that makes under 125K per annum will qualify.

It’s like an income tax refund 9 months early! Teh sweet!

Of course, they will push other, less palatable, things in with the relief check. (coughANWRcough) That goes without saying. The only problem I see is whether or not those of us in the left-hand-turn-only lane of politics will be able to slip in some positives for our side as well.

Personally, I’d say removal of all tax incentives for purchasing and/or owning one of those abominations called Sport Utility Vehicles would be a good start. I swear, everyone and their mother seems to have owned one of these things, at least in suburbia, just to transport a family of four (plus canine) to the mall and back.

That is one of the issues that drives up demand for gasoline. And for all this talk about the supply curve for petrochemicals, I have yet to hear much about the demand side of the equation.

[Turn signal: Kevin Drum]

Britney Fat-Bashed at Celeb Site

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Popular Culture — Robert @ 7:39 pm

This video shows Britney Spears practicing dance moves for a new song of hers. The video is unremarkable. It shows a pretty woman who has had a baby doing some dance exercises. Every straight man I've ever known would think "that's a nice looking baby mama there, that is".

What's remarkable (but sadly, not unusual) is the incredible fat-bashing going on in the comment thread attached to the video.

"Britney should give up on trying to look sexy and just embrace her new image of 'beached whale'"

"Big booty = more balance for spins…staple the stomach, please"

"Oh my god how much do you guys think she weighs- seriously…. I'm gonna guess 140…. that's being nice."

"Brit's doing a great job of getting as fat and foul as Anna was prior to the latest drug addictions."

"It's like watchin a WHALE chase a TicTac! "THERE SHE BLOWS""

And so on.

I hold no brief for Britney Spears or for celebrity culture in general. But it is sickening to see the contempt that these people have no compunction about pouring out in a public forum. What kind of mentality thinks it appropriate to crap on other human beings like this? Knock it off, knuckleheads; you're forcing me into agreement with moonbats, and I hate being in agreement with moonbats.

UPDATE: She hasn't put on weight. She's FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT. Makes the bashers look even worse, if you ask me.

Peace-gaming

Filed under: Popular Culture — bazzer @ 2:32 pm

Yeah, this should make a mint. A couple of graduate students are developing a video game called "Peacemaker," in which the goal is to avoid blowing things up. The goal, in fact, is to establish peace in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Obviously I've never played this game before, so I should probably withhold judgment. But why do I get the sneaking suspicion that I know how to "win" this game? Take the 0.01% of the Middle East that the Jews control, divide it in half, and give half to the Arabs and Muslims who control the other 99.9% without receiving anything in return?

Yay, I win! What's the prize?

Something tells me it won't be outselling "Grand Theft Auto" anytime soon.

Nothing Has Changed Since The Rodney King Verdict

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:30 pm

I’m late with this, but the three Wisconsin police officers accused of attacking Frank Jude Jr. and Lovell Harris were found not guilty on April 14. The three were accused of being among a dozen off-duty cops, all white, who dragged Jude (who is biracial) and Harris out of a truck. Harris successfully fled after being cut with a knife, but Jude was pulled to the ground and beaten to a pulp.

I’ve never heard of the Jude case before today. Am I ridiculously out of it, or has the media severely underreported this story?

Frank Jude, Jr., after being beaten by off-duty police.

Here are some details. For a much fuller account, read the newspaper story reprinted at Thefreeslave.
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Geek Moment

Filed under: Personal Ramblings — Off Colfax @ 4:47 am

I just have a bit more time before diving back into Kingdom Hearts 2 in lieu of sleep, but I must say one thing…

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April 26, 2006

Let The Iraqi People Vote

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics — Robert @ 10:57 pm

When should the US get out of Iraq? When the Iraqis ask us to, of course.

This proposal by Jonah Goldberg for a referendum on withdrawal is a darn good idea. It undercuts the antiwar movement here and in Europe, it legitimizes the presence of the troops, and it injects a much-needed dose of honesty and realism into the Iraqi political process.

The only modification I would make is that the referendum should be annual, from now until such time as the Iraqis vote "yes" on withdrawal. That sets up a timeline and a process, and also creates political viability for the "the Americans should go, but not quite yet" position.

Stop Genocide

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,Race and Racism — Robert @ 4:33 am

Ampersand of Alas! and Creative Destruction lists some suggestions for stopping the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. They are all very nice suggestions and no doubt seem very effective in the parallel world inhabited by the earnest left. They are good people, the earnest left. God keep them.

Here's an idea for stopping genocide. Let's take a page from the history of the last racist imperialists to go around practicing genocide: smash their stuff and kill their thug overlords. I don't know what level of force it would take to persuade/demonstrate to the small tyrants of Africa that maybe peaceful co-existence is better for the actuarial tables. I have my suspicions that it would take a pretty high level, but a level we're capable of achieving.

"Never again" implies "whatever it takes". A strong word, "never".

One wonders if we're as strong as a word.

I Agree With Ginmar (It Burns!)

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Robert @ 4:20 am

…It burns!

Ginmar expresses shocked approval for something Glenn Beck said. I agree with both of them; the boys in the Duke case – regardless of what the truth of events proves to be – have proven themselve to be beyond the pale by their behavior.

You can’t go around hiring escort services and then trying on various “Me? But I’m a Boy Scout!” defenses for size. It doesn’t fly.

Holocaust Remembrance Day – A Suggested Remembrance

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,International Politics — Ampersand @ 1:53 am

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (thanks to Bob Hayes for reminding me).

Here’s my suggestion for what you can do today, or in the next couple of days, that I think is appropriate: Go check out the Genocide Intervention Network’s list of ten things you can do right now, and do at least one or two.

Here’s my letter to President Bush:

Dear President Bush,

During your first year in the White House, you wrote in the margins of a report on the Rwandan genocide, “Not on my watch.”

I urge you to live up to those words by using the power of your office to support a stronger multi-national force to protect the civilians of Darfur.

As I type this email, it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Like most Jews of my generation, I was taught that the single most important way to honor the victims of the Holocaust is with the simple vow “never again.” Never again, will we allow genocide to happen while the world stands by and watches.

But it has happened again, and again. It is happening again, right now, as I write. As many as 400,000 have died so far, and many more will die if the Western World doesn’t find a way to say – firmly, unmistakably, and with a real commitment of troops and resources –

Not now. Not in Darfur. Not anywhere.

Never again.

Sincerely,

Go to A Million Voices for Darfur to send a message of your own. It seems to me that if bloggers decided to push this in the next few days, for Holocaust Remembrance, that might generate a lot of signatures. I’d like to encourage Alas readers to go there right now and send a message – it really will take less than a minute.

I also donated a small amount (here’s the donation page – they take credit card and paypal), and filled in the “in memory of…” field to indicate that the donation was in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Big Fat Carnival Call For Submissions – Let’s Talk About Sex!

Filed under: The World's Oldest Profession — Ampersand @ 1:11 am

Vegankid has posted a call for submissions for the third Big Fat Carnival.

I know, i know. Fat people aren’t suppose to talk about sex unless its within the context of feederism. But fuck that. We are sexual creatures regardless of our size! So i’d like for folks to write about some super-sized sex.

Oh, and if you’d be interested in hosting a future edition of the BFC on your blog, please drop me a line.

April 25, 2006

Avoiding The Charge of Rape

Filed under: Current Events,The World's Oldest Profession — Robert @ 9:18 pm

With all the "to avoid being raped" guidelines floating around, it seems only fair to turn the tables around.

If you want to avoid false charges of rape, don't hire escorts for your parties. People whose job involves breaking the law are unlikely to have strong convictions against using the legal system against you if you tick them off.

If you want to avoid false charges of rape, avoid situations where you have 40 guys and 2 girls in the house. Juries who see that situation are inclined to give automatic credence to the view that something untoward was going on, or planned to go on.

If you want to avoid false charges of rape, but you insist on having massive all-guy parties where you hire prostitutes, hire women who you have hired before and know to be trustworthy – and then pay them what you promised to pay them.

If you want to avoid false charges of rape, don't prejudice the community and the neighborhood against you by shouting slurs at the people you've hired in the full sight and hearing of people who already are predisposed not to like you.

If you want to avoid false charges of rape, treat the women in your life as if they were actual human beings, instead of as sex dolls for your employment.

An Intellectual Property Primer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brutus @ 5:59 pm

This post is preliminary to a response I have yet to compose to Adam's post on The Open Source of Art. I believe it's necessary to provide this background first, which is ruthlessly condensed from what it probably should be.

There are three principle types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Each of them awards exclusive rights over an intangible creation or tangible invention, which is balanced by a recognized need for a free flow of ideas to foster further creativity.

In the area of patents, a creation might be a business method, a design for a manufactured item, or an invention or improvement on an invention. A patent owner is given a monopoly on use and/or license of the patented creation for a period of 20 years, after which the property falls into the public domain. In obtaining patent rights, the workings of an invention become public information, and others are encouraged to design around the patent to improve technology. If disclosure is undesirable, an inventor may decide not to seek patent rights and keep the invention secret. The recipe for Coke is an example of a trade secret.

In the area of trademarks, a monopoly is granted to use a word, phrase, slogan, design, logo, or combination of these to distinguish the source of certain goods and/or services. Most of us are familiar with trademark use in connection with brand development. Trademarks are renewable in perpetuity.

In the area of copyrights, the creator of a work, such as a novel, a poem, a painting, or a musical composition, is granted a monopoly to copy, modify, distribute, perform, and display the work publicly. Copyright duration for a work created after 1976 is the life of the author plus 70 years, after which point the work falls into the public domain.

Public domain means that anyone, for any reason, can use, adapt, and/or reproduce the work without having to pay a licensing royalty to the creator or his/her assigns. Shakespearian plays are public domain, as are the writings of Thomas Jefferson, or the musical compositions of Johannes Brahms. The mere fact that something is made public does not mean that it is public domain.

U.S. intellectual property law stems from English Common Law. Intellectual property rights are granted in the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8.), which states that Congress shall have the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The first United Kingdom patent was issued in London in the fifteenth century; in the U.S., the first patent was granted in 1790. The first United Kingdom trademark legislation was in the late nineteenth century; in the U.S., the first Federal trademark legislation was enacted in 1870. In the United Kingdom, the Statute of Anne from the eighteenth century established the first copyright protection; in the U.S., the first copyright law was passed in 1790.

Ongoing tension exists between the right of a creator to enjoy the fruits of his own creation and the public's desire to either make use of other's creations (often in a derivative sense) or simply copy a creative work — especially when technology allows for an efficient and low-cost or cost-free mechanism for doing so. It is considered an infringement of the rights of an intellectual property owner to defy the exclusive rights granted to him or her and enshrined in law. The government does not generally police acts of infringement. It is up to the owners of intellectual property to monitor use of a creation and to seek redress for unlawful use. Unlike other laws, a decision to not seek redress for infringement — sitting on rights — does not relinquish those rights. The monopoly includes the right to tolerate a certain level of infringement.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Filed under: History,Human Rights — Robert @ 2:35 pm

April 25 is Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated here with a series of photographs and links. (Warning: disturbing images and text.)

All too timely a memorial, as the spectre of another Holocaust looms over the Jewish people.

April 24, 2006

The Open Source of Art

Filed under: Art — Adam Gurri @ 3:52 pm

I've been browsing about Download.com, and the wheels have started turning in my brain again.

A third of Time's 2005 "Person of the Year", Bill Gates, once said:

I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.

This has come to be something of a mantra among critics of open-source: what, you want to starve out the artists?!  You selfish, soulless consumer!

Taking a step back, the focus on "incentives" is rather small-minded.  We have only recently become aware of just how much money people are willing to pay for boxed sets of their favorite shows, or more expensive television programs.  And yet, TV producers were not starving before this shift.

The form that internet consumption is taking can only alarm those who ignore the historic success of television, and the modern success of the Google business model.

Think about it.  When have you ever had to pay for every single show that you watch on TV?  The only difference now is that you can pay for things that TV doesn't otherwise have, but for the majority of its existence, the only thing that viewers had to pay for was the box.  Would we brand this extremely successful business model "communism"?

Likewise, Google gives just about all of its services away for free.  The search engine, the blogs, the e-mail accounts, all of it.  Then, it makes its money, as some have put it, by "selling the eyeballs"–utilizing several methods not too far removed from ones that have been used by TVs, radios, and newspapers for decades.

Now, I believe that the law is the law.  If you pirate something that doesn't belong to you, and are caught for it, then you don't have much of a case, in my view.

The answer, then, isn't in illegally downloading music without the consent of the musician, but in turning to Download.com and places like it where musicians voluntarily upload their music to be accessed for free.  More on the soundness of this business model for musicians can be found here

I think that people should be allowed their right to charge people in order to access their music or read their books.  But I also think that time will render those who choose to operate in that fashion unable to compete with the open-sourcers.

Because ultimately, clinging to monetary compensation for one's intellectual property rights is something you can only do if you're already an entrenched, well-recognized name in the industry.  For those up-and-comers, who comprise the vast majority of musicians of any sort, open-source websites are like free advertisement.  In fact, people are already moving up in this manner.

Download.com, Fictionpress, and deviantART are all outlets through which one's art, whatever form it may be, can be put out in public for free and to be accessed for free.  I believe that as the model is fine tuned, we will see more and more websites that work much like television stations, only without the constraints of timeslots and with a technology that makes storing and sharing your favorites much more convenient.

Then again, with Tivo and DVR taking off, we will probably begin to see television becoming more and more like the internet. 

Nothing "communist" about any of this, just good old fashioned entertainment business saavy working with groundbreaking new technology. 

April 23, 2006

Abu Ghraib and “What Are We becoming?!”

Filed under: Ethics,Free Speech,Human Rights,International Politics — Adam Gurri @ 3:20 pm

From Amp's recent link farm, I mosied over to this post.

This paragraph could have been downloaded from any given right wing blog over the last three years. Of course Abu Ghraib was bad (if we are allowing that it happened, and isn't just some kind of fiction), but Saddam Hussein/Iran/Hu Jintao/Soviet Russia was much, much worse, so quit yer bitching.

(…)China, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are all dictatorships whose governments employ or employed various degrees of tyrannical means, including torture, in order to remain in power. They are not, however, considered role models for compliance with international human rights. No one points to China as a model for emulation in respect for human dignity.

(…)The United States, however, IS a model for human rights emulation. When states and governments look at the international system for a set of appropriate behaviors, they look first at the United States, then at the advanced European democracies and Japan. The United States is deeply identified with the international human rights regime that it took pains to construct in the post-war years and has maintained, with more or less success, since then. Thus, when the United States engages in torture, extra-legal detention, and murder of prisoners, it matters. A lot. In fact, it matters a lot more than what happens in Tehran or Pyongyang. If the United States can ignore human rights practice in dealing with those it declares its enemies, then any country can.

This is why the US deserves the criticism it receives on this point. We have the right to expect better from the United States, and, indeed, if we value human rights then we NEED to expect better from the United States. If the US doesn't take human rights law seriously, then no one will.

I find much to agree with in this post, except for what passes as an example of government-sanctioned human rights violations.

I understand criticism of the higher ups who allowed Abu Ghraib to happen in the first place.  But talking about it as though it were either sanctioned by our government, or even interrogational in nature, is I think unsupported by the evidence.

This wasn't about disciplined, overbearing officers beating information out of their prisoners.  This was a pack of uncontrolled young officers throwing a depraved party at their prisoners' expense.

What is more, they were exposed for what they did, and held accountable.  Not only are they no longer a part of our military, they are serving jailtime.

If anything, Abu Ghraib is a good example of what differentiates us from those regimes which we are often compared with.  Like them, we are human, and humans are capable of cruelty for their own selfish reasons.  Unlike them, when this cruelty is brought to the light of day, it is expected that the perpetrators will pay for what they have done, and their actions will be condemned.

As for things like Guantanamo Bay, or "extra-legal detention", there's a lot of conflicting evidence circulating around, and unlike Abu Ghraib, we don't have something as solid as a photograph to demonstrate one way or the other.  All we have are a pack of interest groups, be they political critics, or the military trying to cover for itself, either way, I haven't seen too much to inspire confidence in any particular diagnosis of the situation.

But there are plenty of critics making their arguments in prominent public places none the less, and that in it of itself puts pressure on our politicians and seperates us by yet another degree from the tyrannical regimes of the world. 

April 22, 2006

Link Farm and Open Thread #20

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 11:30 pm

As usual, use the comments to discuss whatever you’d like.

Just so y’all know, I’m going to be returning to Oregon today (Sunday), and will probably not have steady internet access again until sometime on Monday.
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Food Etiquette Abroad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brutus @ 4:28 pm

Who knew there were so many etiquette rules when dining outside the U.S.? This quiz should challenge even the most wel-travelled folks.

Some more Duke rape case links

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 12:35 pm

My thoughts on this case haven’t changed much. I still believe that Mary Doe was raped, still admit I can’t know for sure. Contrary to what many critics have claimed, I don’t call for anyone to be convicted without a trial. (I haven’t seen a single feminist blogger disagree with the previous sentence, yet we are constantly accused of wanting a conviction without a trial. Strawfeminists, anyone?)

As always, check out Justice 4 Two Sisters, a blog dedicated solely to this case. Many of the following links are via J4TS.

Wahneema Lubiano: Perfect Victims and Perfect Villains

I’m suggesting that some of the discussion, the rhetoric, being circulated in the aftermath of the incident and coming either from those defending the alleged offenders or those defending the alleged victim, is rhetoric driven, haunted, by a fight over whether or not we have offenders who can be seen as “perfect” in their villainy and a victim whose victimage can be seen as necessarily complete and thus “perfect.”

Mark Anthony Neal: (White) Male Privilege, Black Respectability, and Black Women’s Bodies

Ruth Sheehan: If Lying, Take Her To Task

Justice 4 Two Sisters: Tawana Brawley Revisited

Sports Illustrated: The Six Most Important Factors For A Rape Conviction
The author seems less interested in actual guilt or innocence than he is in what elements lead to a “guilty” verdict. But it’s certainly an educational read.

Abyss2Hope: How Solid Are the Reported Alibis?

The Happy Feminist: The Security Guard’s Report May Collaborate Mary Doe’s Story
This is particularly notable because Happy Feminist is a former prosecutor. The discussion in comments has some interesting bits, as well.

Pandagon: The More Helpless the Victim, the More Defensible The Violence

If I Ran The Zoo: The Duke Car Theft Case
This is pretty similar to an earlier post of mine (“Rape is not the only crime that pits one person’s word against another’s”), but she uses a better example and also criticizes some of the feminist-bashing that’s going on.

Thoughts From Too Far North: Life Is Not Like CSI

Pinko Feminist Hellcat: Race, Entitlement, and Rape

Of course, there have also been a number of excellent posts by the kick-ass guest posters on “Alas”; please visit Alas’ archive of posts about the Duke rape case to read those posts.

April 21, 2006

That’s a lot of random facts

Filed under: Link Farms — Adam Gurri @ 12:43 pm

I know we've had our differences where vomiting out numbers as evidence is concered, but Nationmaster and Statemaster are so very addictive.

So next time you find yourself losing footing in a debate, just shout: "Oh yeah?  Well what about Iceland, who has the most films produced per capita?  Didn't think about that, now, did you?" 

Not Demon Spawn After All

Filed under: Content-lite — Tuomas @ 10:25 am

In your faces, felinophobics!

Hero cat, how cool is that?
Feel free to post your conspiracy theories on the real reasons for the heroism in the comments section.

Authentic Candidates

Filed under: Politics — Ampersand @ 12:02 am

I know a lot of lefties hate Joe Klein, but I’ve never paid him much attention. On first reading, I thought this op-ed by Klein in Time was all right:

In early 2003, I had dinner with several of the consultants who advised Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign. I asked them why Gore, a passionate environmentalist, had spent so little time and energy talking about the environment during the campaign. Because we told him not to, the consultants said. Why? I asked. Because it wasn’t going to help him win….

Gore… lost an election he should have won, and he lost it on intangibles. He lost it because he seemed stiff, phony and uncomfortable in public. The stiffness was, in effect, a campaign strategy: just about every last word he uttered—even the things he said in the debates with George W. Bush—had been market-tested in advance. I asked Devine if he’d ever considered the possibility that Gore might have been a warmer, more credible and inspiring candidate if he’d talked about the things he really wanted to talk about, like the environment. “That’s an interesting thought,” Devine said.

But apparently not as interesting as all that: Devine, Bob Shrum and Mike Donilon fitted Senator John Kerry for a similar straitjacket in the 2004 campaign.

I think Klein has a good point. The “stand for nothing” approach used by both Gore and Kerry has been given more than an adequate chance – and, for Democrats, has been a dismal failure. In particular, the decision of most Senate Democrats to become unprincipled “yes” men to President Bush in the decision to invade Iraq has crippled the ability of the Democratic party to credibly provide a principled opposition to the invasion and occupation.

Klein’s best point, I think, is his critique of Kerry’s decision to not once mention Abu Ghraib, not even in the debates with Bush. By bowing to the pollsters, Kerry abrogated the chance to provide moral leadership to Americans. If he hadn’t chickened out, who knows – maybe that could have changed the polls. Is it any wonder that so few Americans see Abu Ghraib as a morally important issue, when even the Democratic candidate for president isn’t willing to articulate a case against what happened at Abu Ghraib?

The problem with Klein’s op-ed is that Klein seems to halt critical thinking at his own front door. Although his criticism of the Gore and Kerry campaigns rings true, Klein doesn’t seem to appreciate how much fault lies with the media (and not only TV). It’s hard to blame politicians for constructing simplistic, poll-driven campaigns rather than talking substantively about issues, when the media is unwilling to report policy issues in any depth. The overwhelming focus of the media, in elections, is on simplistic storylines and horserace analysis. It is that environment which has created the market for the pollsters and consultants Klein decries.

Klien is a mugger complaining that purse snatchers and carjackers have ruined the neighborhood.

For further (and considerably harsher) criticism of Klein, check out this post on Lawyers Guns and Money.

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