Creative Destruction

February 28, 2007

Is Gore’s Electricity 100% Green?

Filed under: Environment — Robert @ 10:34 pm

Al Gore has claimed (through a spokesman) that he offsets 100% of his Tennessee mansion’s electricity bill by purchasing renewables through a green power program. Upon reviewing the figures, this seems unlikely. Either Gore’s spokesperson is lying, or the AP has made a significant error in their reporting about Gore’s power usage.

According to the AP (not the conservative think tank that originally broke this story), Gore’s electricity bill averaged $1200 a month last year, while using 191,000 kilowatt-hours. (Compared to an average Nashville household usage of 15,600 kwh.) That comes to $14,400 in electricity expenses, which is around 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour.

So I tooled over to the Nashville Electric Service, Al’s power company. Al (says he) subscribes to “Green Power Switch“, the renewable option offered by NES. (Seems like a good program, btw.) Green Power Switch will sell you 150 kilowatt-hour blocks of power for an extra $4 charge – adding 2.67 cents per kwh to the ordinary 7.38 cents that NES charges residential customers. That’s 10.05 cents per kilowatt-hour.

But the figures from Gore’s power bill, reported by the AP, show Gore paying about 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour – pretty much exactly what he’d be paying if he bought his juice from the big coal-fired plant up the road. Something doesn’t add up, here.

Either Gore is not, in fact, buying green power, or the AP has badly misreported his power usage over the last year, or perhaps there are special sweetheart deals available for “residential” customers who order enough juice to light up Versailles. Or – and please forgive the cynicism – Gore is buying a teeny weeny bit of green power – perhaps enough to account for the 0.12 cents per kwh disparity in the posted rate and his actual bill – and the rest of his “green power” offset is coming in the form of “investments” in various renewable energy companies. Which is all well and good, of course, but which is a far cry from having all your power be renewable, which is apparently the claim being made.

(H/T to Charles, whose criticism of my criticism spurred me to investigate further and unearth this.)

(Update: According to this article in the Tennessean,  Gore did buy green power in the last three months, enough to cover his average monthly use. At a guess, I’d say he didn’t buy any green power last year, but started recently. So, tentatively, never mind. Thanks to Trailhead at Alas for finding this one.)

Why Al Gore’s House Matters

Filed under: Environment — Robert @ 3:17 am

(Updated: Welcome Instapundit readers!)

I was reading some comments on a post over at Bob Krumm’s site where one of the other commenters opined that conservative criticism of Gore is pointless because it doesn’t advance our understanding of anything. I responded at the Bob Krumm site, but want to cross-post my comments here in slightly edited form.

I think that the critique of Gore’s utilities-devouring monster house (one of three) and frequent air travel teaches us something very important. Considering the question teaches us something about Mr. Gore’s motives.

When people actually believe something, they generally live their life in a way that underscores or is compatible with the belief. Pacifists who oppose the death penalty don’t usually go out and get concealed carry permits. Writers who believe in a hyper-free exchange of ideas don’t usually go out and write restrictive comments policies for their blogs. Environmentalists who really believe in treating the planet well don’t usually live in power-sucking mansions and fly everywhere in private jets.And – oops! – there’s the problem with Mr. Gore. If he believed what he was saying on its own merits, then he would be behaving differently. Since his behavior and his rhetoric do not match, we learn something about him: that there is likely some other motivation for his policy preferences.

Those policy preferences – limit carbon, mandate the use of certain technologies, restrict land use, etc. – all seem to entail increasing governmental control over the economy. Mr. Gore’s actual motivation would appear to a fair-minded observer to be a desire to increase government power in the economic sphere – and environmental concern over global climate change is simply the convenient rhetorical tool to flog in the service of that agenda.

Mr. Gore is of course free to advocate for whatever policies he wishes. However, those of us who would bear the burden of his policies are also entitled – in our mindlessly swarming way – to think that his rhetorical flourishes are so much organically-composted, locally-grown, carbon-neutral BS.

February 24, 2007

Don’t Tell Your Kids They’re Smart

Filed under: Education,Personal Ramblings — Robert @ 11:23 pm

Instead, praise them for working hard or trying or being persistent.

Interesting stuff.

I can certainly testify that a child – at least, this child – does indeed respond to praise of intellect with a slackening of effort. “If I’m such a genius, things won’t be hard” – and then, of course, when they are hard, the result is frustration and avoidance. I’d be 1000% further advanced in my goals in life if I was 10% dumber and 100% more hard-working.

February 21, 2007

Who Can’t Be President?

Filed under: Politics and Elections — Robert @ 2:38 pm

An interesting rundown of groups Americans say they’d never support in a Presidential race.

If you’re a thrice-married elderly Hispanic lesbian atheist, you can pretty much just stay home.

Interestingly, blacks, Catholics  and Jews are all in the single-digit column for rejection. I and my negrohebraic compatriots thank the American people for their acceptance.

Surveilling Using Cell Phones

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Politics,Science — Brutus @ 1:21 pm

Here is a bit of shocking news (or not so shocking depending on your jadedness): the mic on your cell phone can be activated as a transmitter to allow eavesdropping on your conversations even when the phone is powered down and you are merely in the vicinity of the phone. From the link above:

The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

As I understand it, wiretaps and bugs are legal when issued through a court, but the mechanism to effect a tap requires a personal visit to the compromised device or location. The roving bug is presumably activated remotely and mobile, which represents a technological development that makes eavesdropping push-button simple, and with it, invites abuses and rationalizations along the lines of “it’s only for a moment,” or “it’s merely temporary,” or “it’s for the greater good” by eliminating the plodding steps necessary to activate one.

I believe that this tool is so seductive (meaning so simple to use) that those in government with the technology (or others? criminals?) couldn’t withstand temptation to deploy it whenever they see fit, meaning illegally. The means/ends distinction inevitably slides too far over to the “end” side of the continuum.

Along similar lines — using technology against people in a bid for government control of populations — I learned that the U.S. military has weaponized microwaves and created a heat ray gun that burns flesh. The device is described as harmless and nonlethal, since the ray penetrates less than 0.5 mm of skin, but the lon-term effects are nonetheless unknown.

I don’t know for sure, but I sense that at some point we’ve passed the point where we have enough weapons and technology to deploy an effective military or police force. What we really lack is an enlightened and judicious humanity (characterized by diplomacy, restraint, and unwillingness to act preemptively) to act as a brake on our apparent technophilia.

While it looked like a good or necessary step at the time (and perhaps even in hindsight), the creation of the atomic bomb ushered in a new era of nastiness and angst from which we have yet to recover. Although the two technologies mentioned above aren’t nearly so sweeping as the bomb, they are certainly part of the same complex of idea that drive weapons technology. Maybe someout out there is actually saying once in a while “let’s not pursue this one, it’s too awful,” but I don’t get the feeling that’s true.

February 19, 2007

Global Warming and the Environment

Filed under: Environment,Space — Robert @ 6:10 pm

One thing that bugs me about the whole global warming/climate change scuffle is that it tends to obscure discussion of the real questions concerning how we’re going to affect the planet’s environmental status in the future.

One of those questions is: what about the population-rich nations in Asia and Africa? Half the planet, maybe more, lives in one big oval, centered around the Indian Ocean, and encompassing the continent of Africa and parts of Asia and the Pacific nations. That oval has some success stories, but economically is struggling at best. Those people, we assume, wish to get rich and live comfortable lives, and the trendlines seem to indicate that over time, that is going to happen. That means cars and big houses and iPods and all the rest of it. Those things have an environmental impact. How do we deal with it?

Another question that needs discussion: How do we mitigate, predict, and where possible control climactic variation? Here’s the thing: we can certainly quibble about the details of climate change and whether people cause it or not. But regardless of human presence, even a brief survey of the climatological history of our planet reveals enormous variation over time, sometimes with cataclysmic effect. So whether anthropogenic global warming is real or not, we face a certain prospect of exciting climactic times now and again. What tools can we develop to help us continue adapting to an ever-changing world?

My guess at these questions: the ultimate answer to both questions, I suspect, is tied up in wealth, and in space travel. Over the long run, it is increasing wealth in the developing world that will cap and then reduce the environmental impact of civilization. One of the keys to that wealth, and to ameliorating disastrous climate effects, is operations in space, particularly near-Earth space. There are exciting engineering technologies on the horizon that make economical access to space an increasing possibility. Right now, it costs something like $5000 per kilogram to get something put into orbit, on top of the high costs to develop your payload. Knock that figure down to $500, or $50, or God bless us $5, and the world changes in fundamental ways.

Look At What We Say, Not What We Do

Filed under: Blogosphere — Off Colfax @ 3:19 am

I present for you three examples of why our nation is continuing to decline.

This, about Carol Shea-Porter’s phone calls to those who dissent from her views regarding Iraq, is most definitely not a story, particularly if everything included within the article are found true.

This, about the situation that some of our recuperating soldiers and Marines have to endure at the crown jewel of U.S. military medical facilities, is most definitely a story, particularly if everything included within the article are found true.

This, about the wonderful and sincere resolve that the Democratic majority is showing in order to bring a non-binding resolution to a vote, is most definitely not a story, particularly if everything included within the article are found true.

The first is brought to you by the wonderful resource known as Ankle Biting Pundits. Via the Insty-deity.

The second is brought to you by… Well, it’s just someone that recently quit her spare job. Via Shakes herself.

The third is brought to you by… Well, it’s just been this really annoying itch between my ears for the past week. (But the doctor gave me some cream, so it should go away soon.)

The first talks about the evils that can be found when the people dare to be foolish enough to elect liberals into positions of power.

The second talks about the evils that can be found when conservatives pay more attention to “supporting the troops” with words than actually, you know, supporting the troops with action.

The third talks about the evils that can be found when liberals pay more attention to “bringing the troops home” with words than actually, you know, bringing the troops home with action.

And myself? I condemn all three things as being a waste. The first and third are a complete waste of time, energy, political capital, and space. The second is a waste of common sense, and should be shouted about from the highest hilltops in the land until things change.

And why are they all wastes? It is simple: they all show that the American political system places a stronger emphasis on words rather than deeds.

And that is the complete opposite of the way things should be. Our elected representative, as well as those of us who watch their various (in)activities, need to stop shouting to the heavens about what we/they/he/she/it/whatever says they are going to do and putting more concentration on whether they actually try to accomplish those things.

In the first example, much hay is being made over what would otherwise be a wonderful thing to hear about: an elected representative personally calling one of her constituents to discuss their opposing political viewpoints. I have never heard of such a thing happening during my lifetime. And that was my first reaction. My second reaction was, “And you’re calling this an attempt to restrict your freedom to petition the government? A member of the government just called you about your petition!” In high school, my clasmates and I heard about a government by, for, of, and accountable to the people. This is the very first example I have heard of someone holding that to heart. And for doing something that should be the heart of the American democracy, we hear talk about what she said.

In the second example, we see a concrete example of what happens when people talk more than they do. Sixty-six months of heavy, non-stop usage is enough to cause any facility to lose its varnish, yet the conditions in Building 18 as described are beyond the point of regular maintenance issues. Where have the “Support The Troops” crowd been when this has been happening? And will they also stand and support the troops by increasing the funding for military hospitals?” Or will they “support the troops” by shouting down the article as being a left-wing smearjob by the evil liberal media? Will they do? Or will they talk?

The third example is what I consider the ultimate in political futility: working like bandits to try and pass through both houses a, get this, non-binding resolution about the major political platform of your party in the last election. Instead of using the effort of this past week to actually do something, or even try to do something, or even try to talk about doing something… The Congressional Democrats have tried to talk about talking about something. Can someone please explain how trying to talk about talking about something is supposed to accomplish their main goal: getting American troops out of Iraq?

Too much talk. Not enough action.

Discuss.

February 18, 2007

U.S. Agents on Trial in Italy

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics — Brutus @ 12:55 pm

This article in the NY Times reports that 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents, are to stand trial in Italy for kidnapping a terrorism suspect in Milan in 2003, transporting him to Egypt, and torturing him. That the torture apparently happened prior to enacting the Torture Act (sorry, that’s just what I’m gonna call it, because that’s what it is) would see to me to invalidate any defensive claim that agents were just following orders. Even today, I think agents should probably refuse to follow that sort of order, but that’s just me.

So we’re finally being told, by a foreign power no less, that no, it’s not OK to kidnap and torture. We could learn that lesson from most 8-year-olds. Why do I have the sense that the message will be lost of most of the people in the U.S. — both citizenry and government officials? We seem to have this apocalyptic vision of ourselves as the underdog victims in a global conspiracy to destroy us and that the only way to combat bad men intent on bad deeds is to become bad men ourselves, or badder men as the case may be. That’s just dumb.

Blogger Something

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 12:13 am

There was a bash. Or a blogger thing. Or a blogger bash thing. I can’t quite remember.

Could someone please turn off the lights, and bring me a big glass of water and five Tylenol (one for each pint of stout)? Thanks.

Actually, and very strangely, I awoke the morning after RMBB 6.0 with a clear head. Apparently the Wynkoop’s stoutmeisters have developed a method for creating hangover-proof beer. God bless ’em.

Anyway, a good time was had by all. Well, by me, anyway. DavidJ was there, sans the alleged fiancee. Off Colfax was there, albeit absurdly late with some irrelevant whine about having to work, and so while I was able to fund him for the beers he was owed, I didn’t get the opportunity to explain how the November elections were all a complex Rovian plot still in motion. Roger Fraley was there. The Lijit gals were there, flogging their blog search product and handing out t-shirts. Stephen Green, looking healthy and happy, made an appearance and told our delighted group that his health is much improved and he’s doing really well – hallelujah! A whole bunch of other people were there, but I don’t remember their names. Sorry, guys ‘n dolls. See previous paragraph about five stouts.

I had a good time telling the Lijit people horrible lies about all the other bloggers; if Tara was edging away from you and looking scared, Random Bash Attendee, that was probably my fault.

It was fun. I’m looking forward to 6.5.

February 17, 2007

Dianne and John Howard

Filed under: Content-lite,Science — Daran @ 7:03 pm

Dianne will love this.

John will hate this.

Mrs. WordPress

Filed under: Content-lite,Humor — Daran @ 6:04 pm

Start here.

The Essential Conservatism of Feminist Discourse: The Whitewashing of Male Victimisation

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Iraq,War — Daran @ 3:57 am

Over on Alas, Kate L. makes an Odious Comparison . (My italics):

I don’t really know about other feminists, but I for one will be the first one to tell you that sexism – both personal and institutional – hurts men as well as women. Now, that being said, I’m afraid that I do agree with amp that the degree of harm is different and that in general most women are probably harmed more than most men, but there is substantial harms to both due to rigid gender role expectations.

How can you draw any conclusion about who is harmed more if you don’t fairly evaluate the harms to both?

The extended discussion between me and Amp, which lead to his revised definition of feminism, began with this post, and this comment by him to Robert’s reply. Amp describes in considerable detail the cataract of disaster that has poured onto the heads of Iraqi women since the invasion. I queried Amp’s statement from his comment that “there’s strong evidence that for girls and women in particular (but not exclusively), things have gotten much worse since we invaded”, (my italics), asking him: “please provide some evidence that it’s not overwhelmingly men in particular who are being targetted for violence?”

Amp’s reply was quite intemperate. He later retracted some of the snarkiness, but stood by his his main point, which was that it wasn’t his burden to prove his claims, but mine to disprove them:

Daran, provide me with some evidence that non-combatant men have been killed more than non-combatant women…

In any case, I don’t doubt for a second that men’s lives in most of Iraq have been made much worse by the US invasion, and that there is an endless supply of violence – perhaps even a majority of violence, by some measures – directed at men, especially if one doesn’t see any moral distinction between shooting an armed combatant to death and shooting an unarmed civilian to death.

In any case, it wouldn’t alter my basic opinion at all. Even if men were the majority of victims in Iraq, I’d still think that there are clearly some forms of violence, abuse and loss of liberty that have been directed more at women then at men, and I’d still be writing about those problems.

Well I took on that burden. It took me several months to find some actual figures, but here they are: 5.4% of civilian fatalities of the on-going violence are women. I estimate about 2% are children, almost certainly mostly teenage boys. The figures for the wounded are similar: 6.4% are women and 2.3% are children.

I don’t think Amp would stand now by what he said then, except for the last quoted paragraph. The question is, how did he ever come to believe that women in Iraq suffered more violent victimisation than men? The answer, of course, is the complete whitewashing of the extent of male victimisation in both mainstream and feminist media, coupled with the feminist gender-norm – the Odious Comparison – that makes such declarations de rigueur in feminist circles without any analysis of the harms suffered by men. Before I found those UN reports containing actual figures, I had to ferret around in reports and news articles for any clues that might have survived the whitewashing. This story for example, discusses these killings at length without any direct reference to the sex of the victims. It’s like reading a description of the Nazi Holocaust which avoids mentioning the word ‘Jew’. But it does contain a clue about two thirds of the way through:

Even the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) humanitarian news agency reported on April 26 that “More than 90 women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organizations devoted to women’s issues.”

Another extremely telling point in the IRIN report is that “Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country.” The report said that at least 15 police officers’ wives are widowed every day, and that local NGOs in Iraq said the situation had become much worse since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has brought horrific violence on a level not seen before

Woah there! Eight million widows!? (The figure would include widows from the Hussein era, and so is not necessarily inconsistent with extimates of post invasion deaths in the tens or hundreds of thousands. I am nevertheless sceptical about this figure.) 90 widows per day? Notice that these indirect victims of the violence are gendered. It is only through the centring of the female victims, that the sex of the direct victims becomes visible, and then only by inference. When male victims are discussed directly, they’re desexed, and thus rendered invisible as men. See this post for another example of the desexing of male victims.

Compare with this femininst treatment: “Iraqi Women’s Bodies Are Battlefields for War Vendettas” it says in the headline. Contrast the emotive description of the woman’s murder with the perfuctory language of her brother’s. “They pierced her body with bullets.” vs. “He was also shot and killed.” In case you’d forgotten the headline, the same formulation is used about midway though the article: “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.”

This is a conservative treatment. It adheres to the mainstream gender-norms exemplfied in the first article, in that the overwhelming levels of male victimisation are rendered invisible, in effect, denied. It is only through being subordinated to a woman’s death, that a male victim is visible at all. A progressive treatment would challenge these gender-norms.

Media whitewashing of harms to men isn’t restricted to Iraq, and it isn’t restricted to war. It applies across the board of feminist discourse which “looks at female oppression through a microscope, and male oppression through a telescope. Backwards. Pointing at the ground. With the lens covers still on. And both eyes closed.

So again, how can you tell who’s harmed the most, if all your sources of information whitewash the harms to men?

(Crossposted with Feminist Critics.)

February 16, 2007

Landing On Her Feet…

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 1:37 am

Amanda has an article published at Salon. Hey, who knows, maybe it’ll turn into a gig. Good on her.

Number of times she uses the phrase “right-wing noise machine”: 7

Number of times she shows any insight that anyone could possibly have ever been genuinely offended by anything she’s ever said: 0

February 15, 2007

Food Shortages in Venezuela

Filed under: Economics — Robert @ 5:15 pm

Food shortages are beginning to become a problem, as Hugo Chavez continues to play the “let’s pretend economics doesn’t work” game with price controls on staples.

Idiot.

Domestic Violence is Funny!

Filed under: Popular Culture — Robert @ 4:13 pm

Man, as much as I hate to climb onto Daran’s bandwagon…check out this two-day comic sequence.

Via Questionable Content, a webcomic that I enjoyed greatly until about three minutes ago. Per the author, this mini-arc is “hysterically funny”.

I’m sure that it would have been equally funny if the beaten partner had been a woman. Right?

Best Healthcare in the World?

Filed under: Current Events,Disability Issues,Health Care — Daran @ 12:48 pm

Patient ‘dumping’ probe widens

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office is investigating whether a Hollywood hospital violated multiple laws when it attempted to leave a paraplegic man on a gurney at the Midnight Mission — hours before he was left in a skid row gutter, officials said Monday.

A video, filmed by security cameras at the Midnight Mission early Thursday, shows two workers from Hollywood Presbyterian arriving by ambulance and trying to wheel the man, who is strapped down to the gurney, into the mission courtyard. They are confronted by security guards, who, according to mission officials, asked about the man’s follow-up care.

[…]

The video widens the probe into what happened to the man, who witnesses said was later left in a gutter by the driver of a van hired by the hospital. As of late Monday, he was a patient at County-USC Medical Center.

This earlier article describes that later act in more detail:

A paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in a gutter in skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly being dumped in the street by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, police said.

The incident, witnessed by more than two dozen people, was described by police as a particularly outrageous case of “homeless dumping” that has plagued th downtown area.

[…]

Witnesses shouted at the female driver of the van, “Where’s his wheelchair, where’s his walker?”

Gary Lett, an employee at Gladys Park, near where the incident occurred, said the woman driving the van didn’t reply, but proceeded to apply makeup and perfume before driving off.

“She didn’t make any attempt to help him,” Lett said. “He was in bad shape. He was incoherent.”

This is not an isolated incident.

It’s easy to point the finger at the workers and the hospital, but that won’t provide the resources and services these people need. Christian charity won’t either.

(Hat Tip)

February 14, 2007

Color-Coded Holidays

Filed under: Content-lite — Brutus @ 11:12 pm

Today’s holiday (Valentine’s Day) got me thinking about how the various major holidays scattered over the calendar are associated with specific colors and behaviors. The granddaddy of ’em all, Christmas, is the Red Holiday, which is associated with spending yourself into debt to get gifts for everyone and drinking rum-spiced eggnog. (The birth of Christ is an afterthought for most of us by now.) Valentine’s Day is the Pink Holiday and is for spending money on one’s sweetheart to demonstrate the level of one’s appreciation/sacrifice. Sorry, no drinking. Easter is the Yellow Holiday, probably pastel, and is for chasing colored eggs and purchasing baskets of goodies. Oh, and the risen saviour. Again, sorry, no drinking (unless you count sacramental wine.) The Green Holiday is St. Patrick’s Day, and is for drinking. Some wear some bit of green clothing, but it’s mostly about the drinking.

The Blue Holiday is arguably Independence Day. It’s all about fireworks, barbeque, and drinking (specifically beer, maybe some whiskey). The Orange Holiday is Halloween. It’s not about drinking; it’s about sugar. It used to be about facing our fears, but we got too scared for that. The Brown Holiday is obviously Thanksgiving. Drinking isn’t the centerpiece, feasting is. Unless of course you take your feasting with lots of drinking. The Silver Holiday is New Year’s Day. We don’t actually celebrate it on the day of but on the eve of by — you guessed it — drinking … excessively.

Holidays not associated with specific colors include Labor Day (gray?), Memorial Day (burgundy?), Veteran’s Day, President’s Day (white for linen sales?), and Martin Luther King Day (black? except someone will be offended). Colors not yet taken are probably too numerous still, but gold and purple figure highly.

Of course, some will insist upon some holiday I’ve overlooked, such as Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Mardi Gras. Go for it. Assign your own colors. However, I refuse to acknowledge purely concocted holidays like Sweetest Day.

This is Cool

Filed under: Art,Content-lite — Daran @ 3:07 am

Human Clock

February 13, 2007

Amanda Quits

Filed under: Blogosphere,Election 2008 — Robert @ 2:33 pm

Amanda has called it quits, resigning from the Edwards campaign. Pandagon is semi-down at the moment; apparently she is getting a lot of traffic. (So there’s that silver lining for her.) Predictably, she’s getting a lot of hate mail; some of it is really vile stuff, and those people ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Interestingly, there’s no story about her decision at the Edwards site. (Her resignation is mentioned in the comments on a post about the kerfuffle.) My operating theory had been that Edwards fired her after she again went off on a theological tangent, but permitted her to spin it as a resignation to avoid more embarassment. But if that were the case, I would have expected a short formal post of the “we regret that…” variety; instead there’s nothing, which tells me that he’s pissed off and just wants it all to go away. So that would seem to indicate she did this on her own. But who knows; I’m sure we’ll see some interesting posts on the topic from Amanda in the near future.

It is amusing to me to see the endless blaming rhetoric that Pandagonians are deploying. From what I’ve gathered, there were four basic elements on the criticism of Marcotte’s work:

1) She dishonestly revised posts and tried to hide her views.

2) She said accusatory things about the Duke lacrosse players.

3) Her writing is foul-mouthed and vulgar.

4) Her writing is anti-Christian.

Point #1 appears to me to have been grossly overblown; I know that some of my co-bloggers here disagree, but I don’t see the big deal. Yeah, she should have handled it differently; there is a standard strikeout-and-retain practice that ethical bloggers have done for a long time now. Was anybody under the impression that Pandagon was presenting itself as a paragon of ethical blogging? Point #2 seems similarly transitory. Perhaps it has more resonance in North Carolina itself, but out here in flyover country there are a lot of opinions about criminal cases. It’s not Amanda’s job to maintain the presumption of innocence, any more than it’s my job to honor the results of a particular trial. OJ was guilty as hell, and I don’t care who knows I think it. Amanda thinks the Duke boys are guilty as hell; that’s her privilege.

From what I can see of the large-scale criticism of Amanda, points 1 and 2 don’t seem to be highly operative. William Donohue didn’t appear to care about Amanda’s views on Duke, or about whether or not she crossed her i’s and dotted her t’s when she waffled on a previous statement.

Point #3 seems obviously true; Amanda writes in a vulgar fashion. It’s not a crime, but it is a fact.

Point #4 seems obviously true, with a proviso that there’s a healthy debate to be had about what is, or isn’t, anti-Christian or anti-Catholic.

So what do Amanda’s defenders say about these points? Basically, “nuh unh!” and “Donohue sucks”. What is most interesting to me about her defenders on point #4 is that they all take an intentionalist viewpoint: your offense is invalid because that’s not what I really meant, and what I really meant is the issue, not your perception of my words. Which is fine – I’m an intentionalist myself, more or less, and I do think that it’s the intention that should control whether something is actually offensive, not the emotional reaction of the populace at large. I also think that Amanda’s intention was, in fact, anti-Christian/anti-Catholic, and that her that’s-not-what-I-meant defense is a crock. As she is fond of saying, “own your shit”. But it is very enjoyable to see lefties jumping on the intentionalist bandwagon when it suits the needs of the moment.

So where do I come down on all this? (Because I know you’re waiting with bated breath.)

As a blogger, there’s nothing at all wrong with Amanda. She’s entitled to her views, she’s entitled to her personal vision of Christianity as a uterus-devouring patriarchal rape machine, she’s entitled to write and speak like a sailor released from a ten-year vow of silence.

As a media staffer for a campaign, she’s utterly unsuited. Her rhetorical gifts lie in the area of polemic and rabble-rousing, not suave repackagings of progressive policy prescriptions. Her opinions are far out of the mainstream, and grossly offensive on their face to a vast swathe of the electorate, and – more critically – to a big chunk of voters that John Edwards really needs. It’s arguable that she should have known ahead of time that a presidential campaign would be a nightmare scenario for someone with her characteristics; I wouldn’t argue that, however, because she is young, inexperienced, and not particularly politically astute. The person who hired her, however, had better not have those characteristics – and they should have known better.

Although she is undoubtedly angry about what has happened, I suspect that things will work out OK for her. Her blog traffic is going to be through the roof, and a lot of those people are going to be Pandagon-style lefties who hadn’t heard about her before – some of the traffic will stick around. Unfortunately, I suspect that Amanda had craved some serious legitimacy – some official participation in the process. Nothing else would explain the way she rolled over for Edwards when her writing first became an issue. That legitimacy is never going to come, not without a revision to Amanda’s entire way of thinking that while possible, is hardly to be expected. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Pandagon will become a more bitter and angry place, and Amanda a more bitter and angry feminist blogger.

I’ll also predict that the next time a presidential campaign hires a high-profile blogger in a media role, it will be someone a lot more moderate and a lot more tempered in their language and viewpoint. That one is not so much out on a limb. 😉

(Updated to fix some line break issues – $!@%@#^ WordPress – and to make my first sentence more clear that Amanda has quit the Edwards campaign.)

February 11, 2007

Rape During the Balkan Conflict

David:

…I didn’t blame the people who made up all that crap about rape rooms in the Kosovo war. They were playing to their audience. The west doesn’t care about men dying so let’s give them women raped. Much more effective.

(I do blame the muslims (KLF) for starting that whole war of course and it’s possible the rape room propaganda idea was actually hatched in an American focus group)

The victim populations unquestionably played the “women and children” card, but the underlying allegation about mass rape wasn’t made up. The most authoritative source on the subject of rape in the Balkan wars, and quite possibly in any conflict, is Annex IX (Summary) of the Bassiouni Report, which documents these crimes meticulously. Claims by the victim populations (and by feminists) about the severity of the atrocities perpetrated against women are not exaggerated – indeed it would be hard to exaggerate them. For example:

There are reports of one more camp in the primary school in Kalinovik. *252 On 2 July 1992, drunk Serb militiamen reportedly broke into the school. One witness reports that they said, «Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Cetniks.» They reportedly selected 12 women, took them to the Hotel Kalinovik, forced them to clean the hotel, and then raped them. The women were then returned to the school. Reportedly, 95 women were raped in the next 26 days. Pregnant women were spared, and women who became pregnant were reportedly thereafter spared. One witness stated that the first night, the militiamen randomly selected teenagers and raped them in bathrooms next to the gymnasium. After that, they selected women by name. On 29 August, the detainees were exchanged, and at least 15 women terminated their pregnancies in Mostar and Jablanica. *253

That example wasn’t deliberately chosen. All I did was move the scroll bar to a random place within the report and cut&paste the first paragraph I came to. It’s a typical, not an extreme example.

However the simple picture of men raping women isn’t the whole story. There were a small number of female perpetrators, and not just in minor or incidental roles:

The victim selection was reportedly well organized at Luka camp. Several reports suggest that young Serbian woman was responsible for its administration. *115 Reportedly, she brought a nurse to Luka to «prepare the girls and make them calm». According to the nurse’s report, she watched as the Serbian administratrix stabbed a girl in the breast and vagina with a broken bottle for resisting instructions. The girl subsequently bled to death….

The report also includes many, many cases of men being sexually abused and tortured by male and, in a small number of cases, by female perpetrators (italics are my comment.):

…The most graphic of the reported castrations [at the Strolit Camp in Odzak] involved a named Croatian woman. She is reported to have ordered a Great Dane to attack naked detainees and bite off their genitals.

[…]

Several reports describe a camp in a shoe factory in Karakaj. There a female guard, a member of Arkan’s troops, ordered men to have sexual intercourse with her. (Good thing she didn’t try to rape them). When they refused, she shot them. *628 One report called the factory the «Glinica» factory, and stated that 48 girls and women were raped there. *629

Another camp was at a theatre in Celopek, where 163 men were housed. One day, three «Cetniks» came to the camp. One called out the names of seven pairs of men. The men were mostly fathers and sons or close relatives. The guard forced seven of the men to kneel down and bite off the penises of the other seven. Three of the men died. *630 The other prisoners were forced to watch. A week or 10 days later, another of the guards cut off a man’s penis with a knife. *631 According to another source, the guard made this man eat his severed penis. *632 The same source reported that this guard beat a prisoner with a wooden stick and shoved the stick into the man’s anus, causing the victim to bleed profusely. He stated that the guard, who was often drunk, forced prisoners to perform sex acts with each other. The prisoners were taken to Batkovic in late June and finally released in February 1993. *633

Finally the report also notes that sometimes men acted to protect women:

There also are many cases where female victims are protected by someone from the same ethnic group as their attackers. Men take women out of the camps to protect them from rape and sexual assault, tell other guards or soldiers that the women are «taken», or help them escape. Women hide other women or bring them contraceptives. There is insufficient information on the sexual assault of men to determine a similar pattern.

My emphasis. These details disappear when you look at mainstream and feminist derivative sources which whitewash anything which doesn’t fit into the ‘men are perps, women are victims’ mould. But for this whitewashing, we would perhaps been less surprised at the pictures of Lynndie England abusing male prisoners in Abu Ghraib, to which some of the above accounts bear a remarkable similarity. On the other hand, had those pictures not emerged, England’s involvement in the abuse would most likely have been similarly whitewashed.

The Kosovo war didn’t break out until after this report had been published, but the patterns of male detention, torture and slaughter were similar, and I’d be surprised if the treatment of women was any different. Antifeminists and Feminist Critics are rightly incensed by typical feminist propaganda, such the claim that “men make war and women are the victims” and “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.“, which, in the light of the overwhelming burden of torture and murder borne by non-combatant males, is not just victim-blaming, but holocaust-denial.

But that’s no excuse for replying in kind. The best response to falsehood is truth.

(Also posted at Feminist Critics)

Lashes to Ashes, Bust to Dust

Filed under: Current Events — Robert @ 2:46 pm

(That’s my wife’s riff on Dawn Eden’s rejected headline.)

The death of Anna Nicole Smith, nee Vickie Lynn Marshall, has caused me to reflect on some things.

The first thing is a bit of personal guilt. I have laughed at Anna Nicole’s antics since early days. I thought it was a hoot that this gold-digger got her hooks into a billionaire. I thought it was hysterical when the train wreck of J. Howard Marshall’s death and will became an enormous media circus. I watched her “reality” show with relish. And I can’t tell you how many good solid laughs derived from Jeff’s lovely series of Anna Nicole “greeting cards”.

I’ll confess, when she died I was a little bit sad (“every man’s death diminishes me”), but mostly I saw an opportunity for snark. In fact, I was going to write a snarky blog entry about it. While I was doing the “research” (hey, beef jerky and Coke doesn’t consume itself, you know), I came across this little nugget in Anna Nicole’s Wikipedia article:

She was the daughter of Donald Eugene Hogan (born July 12, 1947) and Virgie Mae Tabers (born July 12, 1951), who were married on February 22, 1967. Her father then left the family; he and Virgie were divorced November 4, 1969.

“Her father then left the family.” In other words, “mommy, why don’t I have a daddy?” “Because he left us, sweetie. Eat your oatmeal.”

Nothing desnarks a blogger like finding out that the target of his ridicule was abandoned by her father. Next up, we’ll be mocking the victims of the orphanage fire. Then, kitten-kicking until 5, when we switch over to the self-loathing session.

So, instead of sarcasm and ridicule, here’s my contribution to Anna Nicole’s eulogy:  She was a sweet and ambitious girl, and her life appears to have been a series of undeserved tragedies compounded by the kinds of mistakes people make when the people who are supposed to guide and nurture them instead disappear. The disaster of her de-spiritualized and materialistic life was partially of her own making, and our sympathy for her should not erase her own agency over the life choices she made – nor should we forget that in the beginning, she was somebody’s little baby girl, and that somebody betrayed her in her innocence. Rest in peace, Vickie Lynn.

February 10, 2007

Amandagate – Unasked Questions

Filed under: Blogosphere,Election 2008,Feminist Issues,Politics — Daran @ 3:28 pm

At least, I haven’t seen them asked.

Edwards is an enormously wealthy and sucessful white man, who lives in a a $6 Million, 28,000 square foot mansion, set in a 102-acre estate, reportedly “the most valuable home in Orange County”. “Privilege” barely begins to describe this man’s status.

So why is it, in a Presidential campaign that might include a woman and a black among the candidates, that Marcotte and McEwan have thrown their weight behind this pillar of the Patriarchy? And why are feminists rallying behind them, instead of denouncing them for betraying everything the movement stands for?

You’d almost think they wanted the nation to be lead by a white male.

Updated to respond to this comment by ballgame (talics in original):

There seem to be two possible angles to your post here, Daran. I emphatically disagree with both of them.

Angle 1: The idea that there is something ‘wrong’ or ‘negative’ with Melissa and Amanda hitching their wagon to a man’s campaign instead of a woman’s.

I’ve always disliked ‘team-ism’ (i.e. the notion that one of the primary things to look for in a leader is whether that potential leader is a member of the same race or gender group as yourself). Though both are afflicted with WPO feminist blind spots when it comes to understanding how gender negatively impacts men (Amanda far more so than Melissa), I think they both deserve credit for not making gender a litmus test for who they support.

Feminists cannot have it both ways. They cannot complain that the country is lead by white men, while supporting white men for the leadership.

They are both strong progressives, and they chose the candidate who seems to hold the most promise for progressive reform.

Ya think?

Because what I think is that no matter who wins the election, the US will have more or less the same social structure in four years time as it does now. At best they’ll be some tinkering at the margins of social policy, but no real reform.

They could have supported Hillary instead, even though she is seemingly more centrist and establishment, on the logic of ‘the historic weight of breaking the Presidential gender barrier outweighs the absence of progressivism in Hillary’s policies’ (an argument which I think is not entirely devoid of merit). But they didn’t, and I think that speaks highly of their fealty to progressive goals.

It shows that feminists really don’t believe what they purport to believe, which is that good things will flow from having women in high office.

Angle 2: The idea that there is something wrong with John Edwards being a member of the political-economic elite.

You mean “the idea that there is something wrong with John Edwards being a member of the Patriarchy”.

That is what we are talking about, isn’t it, according to feminists? So why avoid the word now?

I pretty much don’t give a damn about someone’s personal circumstances when I think about a politician.

What ballgame as an individual give a damn about is neither here nor there. I’m criticising feminists generally, and feminists generally do give a damn about politicians’ colour, gender, and personal circumstances.

The fact that he or she is a member of the elite is almost inevitable: it is extraordinarily rare for someone of an ordinary background or non-white, or female to be able to make the connections and generate the cash which is a virtual prerequisite to attaining high office in the United States. The Paul Wellstones and Bernie Sanders are few and far between.

Italics are my insertion. Despite his craven omission of those words, this is a description of Patriarchy, as feminists conceive of it. So what happens when a Patriarch comes along and throws them a couple of bones? Amanda “Mad Dog” Marcotte rolls over and says “tickle my tummy”. Cue thunderous applause from the feminist movment.

Frankly, a rich person is more likely to have the resources to counter the inevitable right wing counterattack against anyone who challenges the hegemony of the economic elite…

But he hasn’t countered the rightwing counterattack. He’s done what the rightwing counterattack could never do. He’s closed the Overton Window. He’s silenced them. We won’t be hearing any more interesting opinions from either of them, at least until the campaign is over. All we’ll hear are the same anodyne, don’t-offend-anyone platitudes we get from everyone else.

Imagine if, before any of this had happened, I had said: “The tone and the sentiment of some of [your] posts personally offended me.” I don’t know McEwen well enough, but I’m sure Marcotte wouldn’t have replied “My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics.” She’d have told me to go fuck myself. She’d have given the same response to any right-winger who said the same.

But for Patriarch Edwards, it’s “Yes, sir. Anything you say, sir. Please don’t take my bone away, sir.”

It’s just that generally it’s rare to find a rich person with the passion and integrity willing to challenge the system of privileges by which he or she has benefited.

And John “most valuable home in Orange County” Edwards is such a man?

2nd Update: This is funny, and sort of related.

(Comments are closed. If you wish to discuss this post, you may do so at Feminist Critics.)

February 9, 2007

ICT: IDF not Killing Women and Children. Killing Men and Boys Instead

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Israel,War — Daran @ 7:18 pm

The Institute for Counter-Terrorism Rebuts Palestinian Propaganda that the Israeli Defence Force indiscriminately kills women and children. On the contrary, it’s men and older boys who are being indiscriminately killed. (Bold added for emphasis. Italics are my comment.):

If we look at Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel, we see that the few female fatalities appear to be randomly distributed by age. The male fatalities, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly young (although, as noted above, relatively few are below the age of ten). To be more precise, at least 60 percent of all Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel were boys and men between the ages of 12 and 29.

[…]

Population segments like women or older people are not military targets; (meaning young noncombatant men and boys are?) thus their higher prevalence among Israeli fatalities is an indication of the degree to which Palestinian terrorists have killed Israelis simply for the “crime” of being Israeli.

In contrast, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities have been overwhelmingly young (but over the age of 11) and male. This pattern of Palestinian deaths completely contradicts accusations that Israel has “indiscriminately targeted women and children.”

So that’s all right then.

(Crossposted between Feminist Critics and Creative Destruction.)

Civilian Casualties – Media Depiction vs. the Real Numbers

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Iraq,War — Daran @ 6:11 pm

My good friend and co-blogger on Feminist Critics, HughRistik, has made an excellent post which deserves wider readership:

…according to an Op-Ed in the February 4th issue of the New York Times entitled 31 Days in Iraq, by Adriana Lins de Albuquerque with graphic design by Alicia Cheng. This article is mainly a large picture showing the death tolls in various areas of Iraq. The picture contains icons of people who represent American forces, other coalition forces, Iraqi forces, police officers, and civilians. All of the icons are male figures, except for … the civilian icon, [which] is a figure of a woman holding a child. Apparently, men don’t count as civilians.

Indeed a glance at the full graphic gives the impression that innocent women and children are being slaughtered in huge numbers in Iraq, while male casualties are confined to soldiers and a small number of policemen. But is this a fair picture?

Civilians

The UN produces a bimonthly report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq. The May/June report last year was expanded, and for the first time gave civilian casualty figures, including figures for women and children. Fatalities reported are the sum of the Ministry of Health figures (which cover deaths in/bodies brought to hospitals around the country, excluding Kurdistan) and bodies brought to the Medico-Legal Institute (MLI) in Baghdad, each of which contributes about half of the total. For reasons that aren’t clear, the figures for women and children killed were omitted from the November/December report, hence I will consider here only the figures for the six months between May and October.

The total civilian casualties for the period are reported as 19,471. (Each report also gives revised figures for the previous two months. I have not taken these revisions, which are in any case small, into account because the figures for women and children were not given a comparable revision.) This figure includes 852 (4.4%) women, and 204 (1.0%) children. However, The MLI did not report separate figures for women in May or June, and does not appear to have reported separate figures for children at all. If the MLI’s figures for May and June are excluded, the total falls to 16501, and the proportion of women increases to 5.2%. Unfortunately the MLI’s figures are not reported separately in all four reports, so it is impossible to repeat this adjustment for children. Suffice it to say that if we could, the corrected proportion would probably be roughly double, or about 2%.

A child is anyone under the age of 18. Although I have not found specific information on this subject, I would conjecture that the majority of children killed are not babes in arms, as depicted in the graphic, but teenage boys.

Police and Combatants

Police are legally non-combatants, even though the media sometimes refers to them as “troops”, and lumps them in with army casualties. In December, the Ministry of the Interior reported that 12,000 of them had been killed since 2003.

I have no information on the numbers, but Google searches on the phrases “female Iraqi soldier”, “female Iraqi terrorist”, and “female Iraqi police”, indicates that they do exist. According to this report (PDF) one in seven suicide bombers worldwide is female. In some places, Turkey and Chechnya, 40% or more are female. This tells us little about Iraq; I cite it solely for the proposition that there could be more female combatants than people might expect.

Conclusion

Just as the Haditha atrocity, and the attack on the Education Ministry the mainstream media whitewashes the overwhelming burden of violent victimisation of men in Iraq. A wholly false picture of ‘innocent’ female victimisation is presented. Men, if they are visible at all as men, are depicted in cannon-fodder roles.

(Crossposted between Feminist Critics and Creative Destruction.)

February 8, 2007

Edwards: Marcotte, McEwan To Stay

Filed under: Election 2008 — Robert @ 1:18 pm

John Edwards has announced that while he finds some of the writings of his new campaign bloggers offensive, he’s going to keep them on.

February 7, 2007

Problem, AND it’s A-GONe

Filed under: Blogosphere,Election 2008,Ethics — Off Colfax @ 7:24 pm

(The below is my more detailed response to Robert’s high-traffic posts on the subject. Crossposted from Left Off Colfax.)

Well, Amanda Marcotte definitely is fulfilling her main aspirations these days. First, getting hired onto the Edwards ’08 campaign is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever read. (And her campaign co-blogger, Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister, is one of the more interesting flaming liberals on my reading list.)

Second, she’s caused one heck of a ruckus over the last two days.

Now, before I go any further, let me state a few things right off the bat. I don’t like Amanda. I don’t like her writing style. I don’t like her political stance. I don’t like her language choices. I don’t like her rabid anti-Y-chromosomal rants. I really hate her constant rushes to judgment and her over-the-top-and-back-again in-your-face attitude.

But this post isn’t complaining about what she wrote about the accused members of the Duke lacrosse team. That’s the whole freedom of speech, civil-liberties absolutist in me. She has the right to say what she wants to say on her own forum. C’est la vie.

But no. She went and deleted what she had written after she caused all kinds of controversy. (Here. Here. Here. Here, plus her deleted comments. Here again. Here for a change. Oh, and here too.)

And that, to me, is a cardinal sin in the blogosphere. If you can’t stand by what you have written about a topic, that’s one thing. Hells, that’s what HTML’s strikethrough command is for: getting rid of stuff you can no longer support by the evidence and facts. But you bloody well leave it up! No cleaning. No purging. No memory-hole. No jack-all deletions. No clarification of “official stance” that is a complete and total rewrite. Nothing. You leave it, you strike it through, you update on the bottom or the top of the post, and you leave it so you can go back to it and say “My god, what a frickin’ idiot I was for writing that!”

But this happened on her blog. Not the Official Edwards Presidential Campaign 2008 Blog. So no, she shouldn’t be fired for it. What you do on your own time should never affect your job. (Again. Civil liberties absolutist.) Particularly when it happens before you officially start the job in question.

But if there’s a single whiff of any whitewash emanating from her job site… Then we rise in arms for termination. If Edwards doesn’t cave in to Bill Donahue’s clarion call for her head on a silver platter, that is. And if he doesn’t cave…

We will be watching.

Hell hath no fury like an… Astronaut?

Filed under: Current Events — Daran @ 3:16 pm

Trenchcoated astronaut on battery, kidnapping rap

Nowak is reported to have driven 1,000 miles from Houston, Texas, to Florida’s Orlando International Airport. According to the BBC, she wore a nappy to avoid having to make toilet stops.

Note for US readers: A ‘nappy’ is a diaper. This is not as strange as it sounds. This is a routine solution for astronauts to this particular problem, and so would have been obvious to her, even though it would probably never have occured to most of us.

Police said when she was arrested, a search of Nowak’s car turned up pepper spray, a steel mallet, and a BB gun, as well as black gloves, a folding knife with a 4-inch blade, rubber tubing and rubbish sacks.

Is that not “equipped to torture”?

This is a bizarre story, and it is tempting to take a lighthearted view of it. But the level of the threat, as well the assault actually committed, allegedly, are very serious. Also called into question must be NASA’s astronaut selection process, which presumably is supposed to weed out those likely to buckle under stress.

I mean, would you like to be alone in a space capsule with this women?

Amanda and the Christians

Filed under: Election 2008 — Robert @ 3:10 pm

In response to Amp’s preference that nobody editorialize about a straight-shooting respecter of the bounds of civil discourse like Amanda Marcotte, I won’t editorialize in this post. (Other than in the previous, snarky, sentence.) I’ll just quote.

“What’s changed is not the desire for this sort of power but the willingness of people to roll over and have this sort of propaganda shoved up their asses and nicknamed “God”. A combination of lost economic opportunities plus apocalyptic thought that’s escalated since 9/11 is what’s fueling this. While I agree with the campaign strategies in the article, I suggest that election returns are not enough. People need real things to hope for so they quit buying into this crap.” – From “Jesus is a capitalist tool”

“Suffice it to say, it’s time that people understand that the advocates for abstinence-only do not give a flying fuck if people get sick or even die because of their bullshit. Odds are most of them figure that’s what you get for fucking.” – From “Zip it up still not working”

“Christmas is a secular holiday, which is why this War on Christmas nonsense is really out of control. That some people celebrate the religious holiday on the day doesn’t make it any less of a secular holiday, and frankly, the religious part has shrunk to almost nothing for most religious people—usually just one Christmas mass.” – From “Next you’ll be telling me the “War on Christmas” is a myth designed to make the religious majority go on a pity trip”

“It’s important that the Democrats realize that they’re chasing a moving target by embracing the evangelicals and taking their religious blather at face value. Like Digby says in the post, the supposed surgence of religious fervor is mostly hype. Building on that, I would say that god is just the latest excuse for pushing social conservatism. It cannot be emphasized enough, apparently, but it’s important to understand that the consistent theme of social conservatism is maintaining a racist, patriarchal social hierarchy and that the flavor of the week in social conservatism is just distraction and window dressing.” – From “The characters and plot may change, but the underlying theme is eternal”

More to come.

Still The Champion

Filed under: Content-lite — Off Colfax @ 3:15 am

This is still the best Super Bowl ad I’ve ever seen. Nothing from this year’s selection even comes close.

Enjoy.

You may now go back to bashing each other upside the head with rubber salmon.

February 5, 2007

Steamrollers

Filed under: History,International Politics,Navel Gazing,Philosophy — Brutus @ 7:53 pm

I remember watching the street in front of my boyhood home being repaved. The bulk and power of the construction equipment made a lasting impression on me, as bulldozers, cranes, steam (or hydraulic) shovels, pavers, and dump trucks are pretty imposing pieces of machinery. But the one that really fascinated me was the steamroller. What the steamroller lacks in majesty, compared to the glacier anyway (a natural process, I note), it makes up for in fanciful temporal reconceptualization. Watching the steamroller work requires one to think in terms of slow process. It’s also a well-worn cliche in cartoons that villains and heroes alike are frequently flattened by steamrollers only to reappear in the next scene no worse for wear. Roadrunner, Tom and Jerry, The Naked Gun, A Fish Called Wanda, Austin Powers, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? all have steamroller bits in them, always slapstick in tone.

The implied threat of the steamroller, which is different from other heavy equipment, is not merely the specter of death but a slow, agonizing, bone-by-crunching-bone crushing accomplished not by stealth, strategy, or speed but by slow, steady, obvious, undeterred, mindless force. I don’t know of any sort of irrational fear that stems from steamrollers, though, unlike the silent scream or catatonia some experience faced with other looming threats. Because the steamroller works in slo-mo, one feels safe knowing that it’s possible to play in the streets and alight out of harm’s way at the last moment. So being caught under a steamroller represents either a grave miscalculation or the mark of rather extreme stupidity.

So what steamrollers are figuratively bearing down on us at the dawn of this new millennium? I can think of a few. (more…)

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