12/31/06

12/29/06

2006, the year in records (consumerist edition)

As near as I can remember, these are the cds I bought this year:
  • Art Blakey - Moanin'
  • The Decembrists - The Crane Wife
  • The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia
  • The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls
  • Bob Dylan - Modern Times
  • Bob Dylan - Love and Theft
  • Duke Ellington - Money Jungle
  • k.d. lang - Reintarnation
  • Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots
  • Judas Priest - British Steel
  • Public Enemy (feat. Paris) - Rebirth of a Nation
  • DJ Q*Bert - Wave Twisters, Episode 7 Million: Sonic Wars Within the Protons
  • Horace Silver - Horace-Scope
  • DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
  • DJ Shadow - Funky Skunk
  • DJ Shadow - The Outsider
  • The Stanley Brothers - Amazing Grace
  • Johnny Valentino - Stingy Brim
  • Various - 18 Truck Driving Classics
  • Rhonda Vincent - All American Bluegrass Girl
  • Randy Weston - Zep Tepi
  • X-Ecutioners - Built from Scratch
How bout y'all?

Addendum: What the hell? Let's make it a meme. Wobblie, Eric, and Dru, consider yourselves tagged.

Double plus addendum: I totally forgot Roscoe Holcomb - the high lonesome sound, which is altogether awesome, and the day after posting this I got a whole passle of cds from may Amazon wishlist as gifts. So add some Ricky Skaggs, Woody Guthrie, and miscellaneous bluegrass to the list. More importantly, you should check out wobblie's response.

As long as I'm addending: There was a Charlie Parker box set back in January, but it was crap. Not because of the bird, but because of the production.

12/27/06

But Gerry, I said, that's an elective office...

Notable deaths in 2006:

12/26/06

MAKOTO NAGANO!!!!!!!!!!!

We now return to our regular scheduled, cliche ridden, end of the year, non-ninja warrior blogging.

2006 - The year in cultural literacy (an incomplete list)

Television: Deal or No Deal, Battlestar Galactica, Big Love

Political Books: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq - Thomas E. Ricks, State of Denial - Bob Woodward

Video Games: Wii Sports

Music Videos: Gnarls Barkley, Crazy

Albums: Bob Dylan, Modern Times; Justin Timberlake, Future Sex/Love Sounds; Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar

Movies: Little Miss Sunshine, Borat

Teh Internets: YouTube, Second Life

Sports: Zidane's head

Miscellaneous predictions

  • Deal or No Deal will turn out not to have legs.

  • Rather than continue to preside over a disastrous attempt to pacify Baghdad street by street, Robert Gates will resign as Secretary of Defence after less than six months.

  • The Wii will blow the PS3 completely out of the water. Sony, emerging from bankruptcy in 2008, will enter into talks with Sega, Atari, and Electronic Arts focused on updating and endorsing the 3DO platform.

  • Hillary Clinton will withdraw from the 2008 presidential race.

  • Mark McGwire will not receive enough votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

  • There will be a major terrorist strike somewhere in the world on the 11th day of some month. It will involve coordinated bombings of public transportation. If it's in the United States, nationwide standards will be adopted making it so inconvenient to use public transit that everyone will drive.

  • The klezmer scene will continue not to expand.

12/25/06

This X-mas in death

Item: James Brown, R.I.P. My suggestion for the tombstone: "Wife beating bastard, but funky"

Item: Six GIs dead in Iraq this weekend, making 81 so far this month.

Item: CNN was too depressing, so I turned to TNT to watch Angel. First commercial was for something called a final wishes planner, which is pretty clearly a gimmick to sell life insurance, or maybe funeral plans. Presumably to old, lonely people.

Happy Holidays!

12/24/06

Odd

Once upon a time there was a seven word string which, if you googled it, would return TheBellman as one of the top results. Then I used that string for the title of a post pointing out that TheBellman was one of the top results. Within a few hours, that string no longer returned TheBellman as a top result. Except now it does again. Huh.

12/22/06

Headline most likely to be turned into an emo song

Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds

Of course, if you actually read the article, it gets a lot more gruesome.
A species of moth drinks tears from the eyes of sleeping birds using a fearsome proboscis shaped like a harpoon, scientists have revealed. The new discovery – spied in Madagascar – is the first time moths have been seen feeding on the tears of birds.

But sleeping birds have two eyelids, both closed. So instead of the soft, straw-like mouthparts found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere, the Madagascan moth has a proboscis with hooks and barbs “shaped like an ancient harpoon”, Hilgartner says. This can be inserted under the bird’s eyelids, where the barbs anchor it, apparently without disturbing the bird.

12/21/06

Edward R. Murrow never had to deal with this

All week I have been trying to post something substantive, so that DR doesn't have to fill up all my empty space with baseball posts, but, I have to admit, I am having Serious-Policy-Posting block. I don't know if it's because I am pages deep into my latest work of fiction, or whether I am just behind on all issues of relevance.

Anyway, the blockage continues, so in lieu of substance, I give you... genitalia in flight!

CNET's Second Life bureau was assaulted the other day during an interview with virtual land magnate Anshe Chung. As the interview was set to begin, the CNET theater was set upon by a horde of animated flying penises.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.

I believe this is exactly what William Gibson was envisioning when he wrote Neuromancer. I can just picture his editor calling him up. "Yeah, the story is great...very innovative, cutting-edge stuff. Could use a few less airborne dicks."


Click on through for a youtube video of the incident.

Yes, this is one of those hall of fame posts

Some time ago I wrote a post proposing revised magic numbers for entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One thing I didn't do in the original post was list the excluded players who would merit inclusion given my proposals, so I've posted that list after the jump.

Looking back, I think a couple of the numbers I proposed might be a little bit on the low side, and that there are others -- 4750 total bases for example -- that few players reach without also passing one of the more established benchmarks. One number, 4000 strikeouts, jumps out as being on the high side. Only four players have hit that plateau: Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton. If the number were lowered to 3000, only three players not currently in the hall would be added to the list: Bert Blyleven, Greg Maddux, and Curt Shilling.

Of the purely statistical benchmarks proposed, the one I'm most perplexed by are triples. There are lots of pre-modern players with more than 150 triples, along with a handful of players whose careers went into the 1930s, but the only unambiguously modern players to hit that mark are Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, and Lou Gehrig. The change, I'm given to understand, has something to do with advances in glove and fence technology. Among players active in my lifetime, Willie Wilson is the career triples leader with 147. Among active players, the aging Steve Finley is way out in front with 124. I guess my thinking when writing the original post was that anybody who could hit 150 in the modern era must be a hall of famer.

The numbers that commenters gave me the hardest time about in response to the original post were gold gloves and all-star appearances. You can follow the link to the original post to read my dismissive response to those criticisms. Looking now at the list of excluded players that those benchmarks would include, though, inclines me to agree that they are too permissive.

(Key: * - active player, + - has exhausted HOF eligibility, @#!% - Pete Rose)

12/19/06

Being a cheerful post addressing certain aspects of our nation's priapismic foreign policy

As the national conversation about Iraq grows ever more reasonable, it becomes easier and easier to fall prey to a sort of perverse optimism. Yes, the thinking goes, things are awful, but at least the right questions are being asked. At least the ISG report's assessment of the situation is grounded in reality. At least the Democrats aren't engaging in a more hawkish than thou pissing match with the Republicans. At least the American people seem to understand that this war is an unmitigated disaster. At least, at least, at least.

But, you know, as a certain wise head reminded us today, the President of the United States still has a raging hard on for this war. Maybe, just maybe a new fact has slipped into his worldview. Maybe he now believes that Iraq is spinning out of control into an ever more violent civil war. The question is, what is he going to do with this information?

Well, if the rumors are true then we have a good idea of the first part of his plan. He wants more troops in Baghdad. The thinking seems to be that we won the first battle of Baghdad too quickly, so it's time to start another, bloodier, one.

Huzzah!

In second step of the new plan for victory news, Bush seems to be taking certain parts of Powell's we-don't-have-enough-troops-to-control-Baghdad critique seriously:
"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops — the Army, the Marines," Bush told the Post. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."
|The Washington Post|

The article includes the qualification that, "substantial military expansion will take years and would not be meaningful in the near term in Iraq." Which, you know, would be a comforting sentiment if there were some reason to hope that the next near term after this one was going to be one in which the United States wasn't bogged down in Iraq.

Just in time for X-mas

Got my check today for my vast online poker winnings. I cashed out, of course, because the GOP Congress was kind enough to prepare the way for electoral defeat by outlawing internet gaming. Way to go, Grand Olde Partypoopers!

12/18/06

This post is not about the Hall of Fame

Talk about an eye catching headline: Indian runner fails gender test, loses medal

Before following the link, I spent some time imagining the questions.
  1. True or False: Sex roles are innate, and do not vary between cultures or over time.
  2. True or False: Gender is a set of signs internalized, psychically imposed on the body and on one's psychic sense of identity.
  3. True or False: All binaries necessarily present false dichotomies.

Silly me! It was a medical test.

From the article:
The test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday said [Santhi] Soudarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman," The Times of India reported.
...
An Indian athletics official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media said Sounderajan almost certainly never had sex-change surgery.

Instead, the official said Sounderajan appeared to have "abnormal chromosomes." The official also said the test revealed more Y chromosomes than allowed.

The most likely conclusion seems to be that Soudarajan[1] is an intersex person who identifies as female. Now, I understand that intersex persons face significantly more serious obstacles than being denied eligibility to participate in athletic competitions, but still, this sucks. Even if we exclude all of the effort Soudarajan put into training, her genetic endowment goes a lot deeper than the fact that she hapens to have an extra Y chromosone. Why is that particular abnormality grounds for exclusion from competition while Lance Armstrong's freakishly efficient (and apparently innate) respiration is hunky dory? Or how about Shaq's freakish size?

The answer, of course, is that those other genetic abnormalities don't blur the distinction between women's and men's sports. Fair enough. But the thing is, intersexuality isn't all that rare -- conservative estimates put the frequency of intersexual condition at about 1 per 2000 births. (By contrast, whatever confluence of genetic and environmental factors account for growing to a height of 7 feet are much, much, much, much, much, much rarer.) And if intersexuality isn't particularly rare, then the genetic distinction between men and women is already fairly blurry. In the face of that, insisting on a non-blurry distinction in sport seems wrong-headed.

----------
1 Of the article's three spellings of the athlete's name, s-o-u-d-a-r-a-j-a-n seems most plausible to me, so that's what I'm going with.

12/17/06

(and so do girls)

Alternate title for this post: We'll all be gay when...

(via, indirectly via)

I didn't see this in the decumbiture

There must be some bizarre astrological convergence today, some relationship expressed beyond whatever pedestrian harmonic controls vehicular safety. How else could it come to pass that a public figure is both appearing on a Sunday morning talk show and making sense about Iraq?

I'm talking about Colin Powell who, on Face the Nation this morning, first tore to shreds the Bush Administration's troop surge gambit and then offered a realistic assessment of what we can usefully do going forward. It was surreal.

At a fundamental level, Powell's criticism of the troop surge gambit is that it comes without any discernable rationale. In response to speculation that the troops will go to Baghdad and be part of an effort to stabilize the city Powell says, refreshingly, that 40,000 troops can't do that and that "The American army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad."

Plus, in a nod to all the wonks out there, he linked this critique to a three point test for evaluating any further use of military force in Iraq. Here's how it goes:
  1. Is there a clearly articulated mission?
  2. Can that mission be accomplished?
  3. Do we have enough troops to accomplish the mission?

I don't know about you, but I've always been a sucker for a Powell doctrine.

As for his plan going forward, it's basically the ISG recommendation without the permanent bases and rapid reaction force. That is, Powell thinks that we should work with the elected Iraqi leadership to help them train police and put in place the political pieces that are going to make possible the establishment of stability.

Will this work? I'm not overly optimistic, but then, neither is Powell. Which is, I'll say it again, refreshing. It's not a give up and get out plan and it's not a stay the course plan. It's a figure out what we can productively do, do it, and live with the consequences plan.

All of which brings me to this. Whatever happened to the Colin Powell presidential speculation? I know that the conventional wisdom is that he lost his chance with his WMD testimony at the UN, but I have trouble seeing why that's supposed to matter so much. The bad spin, I guess, is that it shows that he's either dishonest or won't stick to his principles. But, you know, it's hard to see how that sets him apart from the field. And, anyway, there's positive spin too. Namely, that Powell is a team player.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm on the Powell 2008 bandwagon, but he looks pretty good to me on the key issue of getting the hell out of Iraq. Unlike establishment Democrats, Powell wouldn't feel the need to prove his hawkishness. And unlike establishment Republicans he's not a melange of batshit crazy and evil incarnate.

Update: Video of the appearance is up at Crooks and Liars.

12/15/06

Is that a Taurus in that Taurus?

According to a study by InsuranceHotline.com, a Web site that quotes drivers on insurance rates, astrological signs are a significant factor in predicting car accidents.

The study, which looked at 100,000 North American drivers' records from the past six years, puts Libras (born September 23-October 22) followed by Aquarians (January 20-February 18) as the worst offenders for tickets and accidents. Leos (July 23-August 22) and then Geminis (May 21-June 20) were found to be the best overall.


Gemini, for the win!

Romanov originally wanted to have some fun by examining astrological signs as a possible cause for the variance between insurance companies quoting high and low rates but didn't expect to find anything interesting.
...
Even age, another variable for determining insurance rates, is less of a consideration to Romanov. The cutoff line for being considered a higher risk driver is 24 years of age; 25-year-olds are considered not-high risk.

"I'd rather get into a car with a 24-year-old Leo than a 25-year-old Aries," Romanov said.
...
"I wasn't believing in it before," said Romanov, "but I would think twice before getting into a car with an Aries." (link)


Don't even get me started on Scorpios. So, what's your sign?

UPDATE: I thought I'd share the thoughts of zombie Hervé Villechaize:



I guess the Foley jokes will continue until someone eclipses him in the sex-with-minors category.

12/14/06

What you choose to call Hell, he calls home

So I flipped over to G4 hoping to catch an unscheduled episode of Ninja Warrior, but what they're showing is...well I don't really know what it is. They'll show about 30 seconds of scenes from various...well, I don't really know what they are. Let's call them left handed video games. Anyway, after a few scenes of digital cheesecake, they'll do about ten seconds of footage from some kind of chainsaw murder rampage video game. With spurting blood. And then back to the computer generated hotties.

Is the auteur elucidating the Dworkinite claim that hetero branded sexuality is inextricably linked to violence? Or does the auteur just enjoy the juxtoposition of heaving bosoms and showers of blood? Tough to say.

Are Shatner nominations still being accepted?

'cos if they are then I nominate Joe Rogan.

12/13/06

There they go again

Buoyed by a landmark victory in Michigan in November, backers of the anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative -- also known as Proposal 2 -- are set to announce plans today for similar ballot proposals in other states in 2008.
...
Gratz confirmed the states where petition drives and ballot proposals are most likely. Those states are: Oregon, South Dakota, Nevada, Nebraska, Missouri, Arizona and Colorado. |source|

If you happen to live in one of those states, I don't have any advice to help you beat the MCRI, but I will say this: what's worse than losing is losing after making a strategic decision not to use the campaign to have a serious public discussion about race, gender, and privilege.

By day a tiny wheel at the cracker factory, but by night... Rollerman!



via egg.

Reading

I've always thought of myself as a slow reader, so was pleasantly surprised by my results on this test. 500 words a minute, baby. Boo-Ya! Almost as fast as Ezra Klein, from whom I lifted the link. Interestingly, I got through the non-fiction test considerably quicker than the fiction test, which wasn't what I expected. Probably it's the imagery.

For the record, I think there's something a little screwy about not skimming when reading nonfiction. By my lights, what you're supposed to do is skim really fast and then go back and puzzle over the important parts.

In other reading news, I finally broke down and got a subscription to Harper's. The first issue arrived yesterday and was a bit of a disappointment -- it's the same issue that I got the subscription card out of three weeks ago. Anyway, riddle me this: Is Harper's the best English language magazine or what?

12/12/06

Don't blow a vein over this one. Seriously

If I understand her correctly, Pam Spaulding wants us to call up Wal Mart and complain about a game they are planning on selling "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," a video game based on the Left Behind franchise. Why she's upset about it, I'm not exactly sure. You can play as Christians in the end times, crusading to kill or convert the heretics. But you can also play on the side of the anti-christ, so I figure that's a push. Also, this game will be on sale everywhere, given that it does not have an "M for Mature" rating.

This is not the kind of thing for which I go to Pandagon or other lefty blogs. In fact, this is the sort of thing for which I regularly ridicule right-wing blogs.

I mean, what's next for Pandagon? Lauding the V-chip? Toughening up those parental warnings based on ideology instead of gore and sex? Fan-fucking-tastic.

Those who really want to have a sense of the game should check this out. WARNING: Boring material past link.

A great gift idea

Syphillis plush toy:


From ThinkGeek.

(via)

Let it be known that I still want a 'Syphillis is for Lovers' Tee.

12/11/06

At least somebody knows what's what

Is a new turn of phrase properly called a neologism, or is that term exclusively reserved for new words? I just don't know.

Anyway, I've been wondering about the provenance of the phrase, "Can I help who's next?"

For all I know this unholy mishmash of "Can I help you?" and "Who's next?" has been around for years, but I first noticed it in Chicago last summer. Now it seems like I hear it every time I stand in line. I've learned that those who deploy the phrase are often uninterested in discussions of usage.

Luckily, there's Language Log. Apparently this is an example of the fused relative construction, which is all but extinct in English. Who knew?

12/10/06

More Hall of Fame blogging

The two glaring Baseball Hall of Fame voting related factual errors in Mr. 3000 are, of course, that the Hall of Fame voting results are announced at mid-season and that Bernie Mac's Stan Ross is admitted to the Hall of Fame a single year after his second retirement. I wonder, though, whether the premise of the film -- that having merely 2997 hits could stand in the way of Hall admittance -- isn't also in error.

A quick look at the list of career leaders for hits reveals that among those who are eligible for the Hall but excluded, Andre Dawson has the most hits at 2774. Vada Pinson, at 2757, has the highest hit total among those who are excluded and no longer on the ballot. Harold Baines, for what it's worth, just hit the ballot this year with 2866 career hits.

Speaking of exclusion from the Hall of Fame, Steve Garvey is down to two years of ballot eligibility. He was named on only a quarter of ballots last year, and has never been named on more than 43%, so it's looking like he won't make it into the Hall of Fame. It's a shame.

Admittedly, his numbers are short of what one expects from a Hall of Famer: 2588 hits; 272 home runs, 1308 RBI, 1143 runs, and 440 doubles. On the other hand, the fact that he made ten All-Star rosters (including eight in a row from 1974-81) shows that he was one of the dominant players of his generation. That ought to count for a lot.

The officer is off patroling all the nation

My reaction to this story pretty much tracks Balko's:
Here we had a man who presented an immediate threat to the people inside that building. The SWAT team acted quickly, decisively, and killed the guy with minimal risk to bystanders. It's exactly the kind of thing SWAT teams were intended to, and it's what they excel at.

I'm not anti-SWAT. But confrontational, volatile, dangerous tactics ought to be reserved for confrontational, volatile, dangerous people. Nonviolent offenders don't meet that standard. Rampaging, hostage-taking, murdering gunmen do. |Balko|

Maybe thinking about this case will clarify something about the points I've been arguing here, here, and in comments here.

Part of my discomfort with what I have called the police-defense rationale is that it authorizes force whenever police find themselves facing what appears to be a 'confrontational, volatile, dangerous' person, with no regard for how the situation came to be. To think in terms of the police-defense rationale is to trap oneself into thinking that there is a stark choice to be made between allowing police officers free reign to protect themselves and significantly curtailing their right to act in their own defense. But that just isn't how things are. To the contrary, in many cases where the police-defense rationale is deployed the need for defense arose because the police made a choice to escalate a confrontation.

It is perfectly obvious that there are situations like the one in Chicago, situations where the police are called in to bring a violent situation under control, and where nothing short of deadly force will accomplish that. Moreover, it's clear that we have an interest in having a police force which can bring such situations under control.

It is also obviously true, however, that police frequently escalate confrontations with citizens. I think this habit of escalation is problematic for a lot of reasons, but for right now just focus on the fact that police escalation sometimes results in police using deadly force when it wouldn't otherwise have been necessary. Isn't it just as clear that we have an interest in avoiding situations like that?

12/6/06

Why, sir, I do so admire your fair and balanced tone!

Ok, so I was going to write a post about this quote:
There is no way to know for sure whether this report is true, but I don't think it would be surprising if Democrats, anticipating their new Congressional majorities next month, are already talking to our country's enemies with a view toward crafting their own foreign policy. |John Hindraker|

And what I was going to do was ask, what fallacy is at work here? I think it might be an Appeal to Hatred, but I'm not sure. Could be that the problem is using question begging language.

Anyway, while nosing around the internets I discovered that someone had invented a neolatinism for the fallacy of playing the Hitler card. It's argumentum ad nazium.

I think that's just hilarious.

While we wait for the big news from Mars...

12/5/06

Good news from Mars?

I bring you reporting from the great nation of Canada, which is like America but with some French thrown in. I'm traveling for work, and the last time I travelled for work I was stuck in a hotel room as we began the war in Iraq with a little shock and awe.

So sitting here in a hotel room is bringing back some of that vibe, and I'm kind of depressed and I have a sense of foreboding about the news. On the other hand, tomorrow Nasa is announcing a significant find on Mars. Unless the found a malevolent alien race bent on human conquest, this might be good news.

Tang!

Little was known about the causes and chemistry of farting until the space race of the 1960s and 70s when Nasa became so concerned about the possibility of spacemen being asphyxiated by their own methane in their sealed space suits that they carried out detailed research into the problem. |link|

(via)

12/4/06

What's going on in Lebanon?

I really don't know. This is one of those situations where being a blog consumer may lead to some serious misunderstanding of what's happening. But what I'm reading is Juan Cole and Abu Kais, Michael Totten's current guest blogger.

Music monday


Everybody knows about Pandora, right? If not, you should really check it out. It's a "radio station" that finds music that is similar to music you already like. As they continue to add features that enhance your ability to direct the flow of any given "station," and, critically, they add lots more music to Pandora's database, it's becoming my go-to music player at work.

On a similar principle, I suppose, is The Filter. I haven't tried this yet because it's not available for Mac, but it promises to dynamically build playlists of similar music out of your own iTunes library. There's some buzz about this little app, but, oddly, no wikipedia entry... for some people, that means it might as well not even exist!

It's unclear to me how The Filter works. One thing I like about Pandora, by contrast, is that they are very up front about and proud of the underlying idea of the software, which is the Music Genome Project. Rather than somehow mathematically analyzing music for similarities (which will someday be possible), they use our existing, semantic descriptions of music to relate various songs.

Lastly, operating on no principle I can discern, is Musicovery, which definitely has the most interesting-looking interface. It occurs to me--as I see the same few bands come up again and again on Musicovery--that even if these applications are built on some sort of sound principle, the actual results could easily and invisibly manipulated to promote certain record labels. Payola is illegal, but payola-with-a-lowercase-p could be pretty rampant on the net.

UPDATE: I fixed the links. Also, from the comments, Lisa B points us to another interesting internet music thingamajig, Last.fm.

12/3/06

Nip it in the bud

We desperately need a substantive post around here. Not sure that I'm up to it, but here's a remainder from our recent police violence thread.

A very widely held view seems to be that police shootings, or at any rate, the shoot first tactics employed by police, are justified by the fact that the individuals targeted by police violence appeared to pose a threat, or fit the profile of a threat poser, or something like that. Call this the police-defense rationale.

When encountering the police-defense rationale it is tempting, for me at least, to get into a discussion focused on whether the apparent threat was as serious as supposed by police. Arguing this point, however, already concedes a contentious claim. Namely, that these sorts of police tactics are properly justified on the same sorts of grounds that you or I might use to justify acting in self-defense against what philosophers charmingly call an Unjust Aggressor.

One reason to doubt the claim that the police-defense rationale parallels the principle of self-defense is that there is a significant disanalogy between paradigm cases of self-defense and the sorts of situations that advocates of the police-defense rationale would judge permissible.

In a paradigm case of self-defense, you are set upon by an Unjust Aggressor and face the choice of either defending yourself with deadly force or suffering grievous harm. Among the morally relevant facts here are that it is the Unjust Aggressor who chose to bring about a situation such that one of you will die or suffer grievous harm, and the severity of the consequences you will certainly face if you refrain from using deadly force.

Now, compare this to a situation in which police have invaded a home in the middle of the night and employ deadly force when faced with an apparently armed occupant. Unlike the paradigm self-defense case, this situation is one such that deadly force is used by the party responsible for circumstances being as they are. Also unlike the paradigm case, this situation is one in which deadly force is used by a party which cannot be sure that the alternative is death or grievous harm.[1] Lastly, it is worth noting that the police created this situation in order to avoid the possibility of a consequence much less serious than death, namely the possibility that evidence might be destroyed if less aggressive tactics were to be employed.

The point is that the police-defense rationale allows the use of deadly force in a much wider range of cases than would the traditional principle of self-defense. As such, one need not accept the police-defense rationale merely because one accepts the principle of self-defense. Further, insofar as one accepts the limitations commonly placed on the principle of self-defense, there would appear to be good reason to think that the police-defense rationale goes too far.

Leaving all this aside, there seems to me to be another reason to distrust the police-defense rationale. Consider that police already have, prior to any threat to themselves or bystanders, the right to employ force in the line of duty. Given that police have this right, it seems ad hoc to maintain that there is a subset of cases in which the right of the police to use force rests on a separate rationale. Which is not to say that I'm personally in possession of anything like a general justification for police employment of force. I suspect, however, that any plausible account of legitimate police violence is going to insist that show a lot more restraint than they currently do.

----------
1 The claim here is just that given (a) the obscurity of the possible threat; (b) the fact that untrained persons tend to be bad shots; and, (c) the fact that the police are wearing body armor, the police can't claim anything like the certainty found in paradigm cases of self-defense.

Ooooo! Check out those gnarly graphics!

On the off chance that you don't care about video game industry marketing strategy circa 1981, let me just tell you that Phil Hartman shows up around the one minute mark of this six minute YouTube odyssey.

(via)

12/2/06

Ninja Warrior!


Just between you and me, I'm starting to watch a lot of G4.

12/1/06

Famous birthdays

I thought these descriptions were funny.
1870: George Cormack
cereal inventor (Wheaties)

1867: John Robert Gregg
Ireland inventor (shorthand)
|June 17|

Since I can't have a lightsaber (yet), I'm thinking about building one of these


CrunchGear

Bombs

Speaking of movies, both of the new releases that I've seen in the theater this year have been box office bombs. A Scanner Darkly made just $5.5 million, and The Science of Sleep is sitting at something like $5 million..

What's up with that? The Science of Sleep was both awesome and got good reviews. A Scanner Darkly was less awesome, but it looked really pretty and had a lot of geek cred. You'd think the illegal drug user audience alone would put each of those films past the $10 million mark. I mean, Phish had a career.

Speaking of boffo box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the only movie to top $300 million this year, and earned as much as the #2 and #3 films combined. What is up with that?

(I did look all of this up on Boxofficemojo, but I can't get their site to load this morning, so you'll just have to trust me)

11/30/06

Hey video game consumers

Do any of you folks use GameFly or a similar service? Are they worth the dough? Why is there a Reservoir Dogs video game?

11/29/06

Polonium is 250 billion times as toxic as hydrogen cyanide


Yikes! My wife had been following this story, but I had not really paid much attention. But then I read this post about the significance of polonium 210 as opposed to some less remarkable poison. Some excerpts:
Polonium 210 is interesting stuff. As noted in a variety of places on the web, it is entirely artificial — it doesn't occur naturally, but has to be created by irradiating bismuth in a nuclear reactor or particle accelerator — and it has a half life of 138 days, decaying via alpha emission.
...
The point is, someone with access to fresh Polonium 210 (read: less than a year old, hot from the reactor) decided to use it to bump off an enemy.

And the terrorism alert status hasn't risen a notch? Pull the other one.
....
What this is, is a warning: "we have the capability to detonate a dirty bomb in central London any time we feel like it, so don't fuck with us". (Just take Polonium and add a little TNT.)

Who the warning is from, and who the intended recipient is, are another question entirely.

Kazakhstan Is Most Glorious Nation, Will Not Adopt Yak Shaving Policies of Jerkoff Uzbek!

In the midst of an otherwise reasonable post, Ric James at HoodaThunk writes:
Once again, I’m disappointed in a federal judge that makes use of the laws, regulations, and practices of foreign nations in producing his ruling as opposed to applying US law. I am completely disinterested in why Mexico or Germany or Latvia produces their money in the way they do....

Completely disinterested? Really?

Conservatives seem to me to be willfully ignorant of what judges (and legislatures, and governors, and smart people) are doing when they look to the practices of other nations. In the conservative world-view, if France does something, you can bet there's a judge who wants to do it here.

In reality, of course, we're just doing the same thing that companies do when they look at their competitors: That is, evaluating best practices and looking at the consequences of policy changes. Ignoring the empirical data from the rest of the world is provincial and, well, idiotic. It seems to me that conservatives know this and that they are disingenuously buying in to this dumb argument as part of their broad-based, ill-considered attack on the judiciary.

11/28/06

thimblerig

[English, origin 1815–25; 'thimble' + 'rig']

n.
1. A sleight-of-hand swindling game in which the operator palms a pellet or pea while appearing to cover it with one of three thimblelike cups, and then, moving the cups about, offers to bet that no one can tell under which cup the pellet or pea lies.
2. One who operates a thimblerig.

tr. v.
To swindle with or as if with a thimblerig.

Great moments in copywriting, or "I really want some cereal, but I only have one hand"

From the web ad copy for Breakfix, an automated cereal dispenser that could be yours for the low cost of $79.99:
Not only is Breakfix a fast and easy, one-handed operation, but this attractive countertop appliance also serves to remind us to eat the first and most important meal of the day. |link, via|

Translation (partial) - Sure, Breakfix takes up a lot of room on your kitchen counter, but that's a good thing because every time you reach around this ridiculous hunk of plastic you'll be reminded to eat your cereal.

Don't miss the video!

11/27/06

Woot! Hall of Fame ballot day!

That's right kids, it's that time of year again. And this year, ESPN.com has a reader poll up so you can cast a non-binding pretty much pointless vote for your favorite candidates.

My ballot this year:
  • Bert Blyleven
  • Andre Dawson
  • Steve Garvey
  • Goose Gossage
  • Tony Gwynn
  • Tommy John
  • Mark McGwire
  • Cal Ripkin, Jr.
  • Lee Smith
Honarable mention to Dave Concepcion, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, and Dale Murphy.

Lightning-round film reviews

I always see a couple films over the Thanksgiving vacation, and this year I actually caught four. Here are some quick impressions.

For Your Consideration

Jason and Megan give it two big thumbs up (Megan's thumbs are remarkably big). If you like Christopher Guest's movies, you will like this Christopher Guest movie. In the arc from Spinal Tap to later films such as A Mighty Wind, I find that the later films are sadder. Where watching Spinal Tap can be uncomfortable at times, I never feel very bad for the characters. In this latest film, I really do get more emotionally invested in their tragedies, especially when they bring their troubles upon themselves.

Casino Royale

Jason, Megan, Tom, Danna, Paul, and Emily give it six thumbs up. It did drag a bit towards the end, but as a James Bond origin story, I highly approve of the particulars of the plot twist.

Babel

Jason and Megan give it two thumbs down. At the halfway mark, I still thought it might be a serious movie with something to offer, but it was all smoke and mirrors. The lesson I took from the movie is that white Americans shouldn't go where the brown people live, because brown people are dangerous. Brad Pitt looked really old, too. I don't know if that was makeup, or if the Angelina Experience is taking a heavy toll.

The Fountain

Jason, Megan, Tony, Tyson, Carrie, Mike, and Clea give this film seven thumbs down. The critics give this film many thumbs down. KUT's John Aielli gives it a thumb up. Who you gonna trust?

I really wanted to like this film, but... yuk. Apparently, the secret of immortality is the ability to make a 90 minute film feel like it is four hours long.

I hate the Salvation Army

They've got a bell ringer stationed on the street corner outside my window. Do you think they buy those tiny bells specifically for the annoying timbre?

11/26/06

If only...

...I had come across this post a few days earlier, I would have had a lot more ammunition for my annual seems-to-me-that-cops-are-a-little-too-quick-to-use-force argument with my cousin Jimmy. As it was, we mostly talked about tasers.

Addendum: A couple of questions occurred to me. How many cops are fatally shot each year in the United States? And, how many citizens are gunned down by police? The first question was easy to answer. About 60 cops are killed by firearms each year (source). As to the other question, for some reason the powers that be don't do a good job of tracking the statistics.

This article from a few years ago provides one estimate:
Based on the data available, this most recent report suggests that the number of "justifiable" police killings has not increased since 1976, averaging 373 a year, despite a growth in both the population and the number of police officers. And while the rate at which blacks are killed by the police still far surpasses the rate at which whites are shot and killed, it has dropped to four times the white rate in 1998 compared to eight times in 1976.

While noodling around, I tried to figure out the numbers for Detroit and found some useful info.
Detroit, with nearly 1 million residents, averaged nearly 10 fatal police shootings each year between 1990 and 1998. By comparison, New York, with 7.3 million residents, averaged 28 fatal shootings a year during the same period—a rate of 0.39. |link|

Smells like a Fermi problem to me. Let's do some really simple math. Suppose that the national rate of police shootings is about half that seen in New York from 1990-1998 and that there are 300 million citizens in the United States. That would give you 585 police shootings per year. Which is a high enough number to indicate that the 373 statistic given above isn't outrageously high.

Now, I don't have any idea how many of those 373 killed were innocent of any crime, or how many had committed anything close to a capital crime. I do know that a couple of years ago the Houston Chronicle published an investigative report claiming that one in three victims of police shootings in Harris County were unarmed.

So. Police kill six citizens for every officer who is fatally shot in the line of duty, and there is good reason to believe that a significant number of those killed by police represented no threat whatsoever. Those are the facts. Call me a nut, but I think that the ideal in a democracy would be for the ratio to be skewed the other way.

11/25/06

Video games through the ages

My favorites:
  • TRS-80 Model I - Lunar Lander
  • TV Scoreboard - Breakout
  • Atari 2600 - Asteroids
  • Atari 800 - Imperium Galactum
  • Apple IIe - Lode Runner
  • IBM PC/XT - The Ancient Art of War
  • Atari ST - F-15 Strike Eagle II
  • IBM PC/AT - Tetris
  • NES - Contra Super Dodge Ball
  • Windows 3.1 era PC - Knights of the Sky
  • SNES - Super Bomberman
  • Sega Genesis - NBA Jams
  • 3D0 - (tie) Star Control 2, Samurai Showdown
  • PowerPC era Mac - Starcraft
  • Playstation - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
  • Nintendo 64 - 1080 Snowboarding (but GoldenEye 007 is probably the right answer)
  • G3/G4/G5 era Mac - Civilization II
  • GameCube - Super Smash Brothers Melee
  • Playstation 2 - Gran Turismo 3
  • Xbox - Madden 2005(?)

Is this the beginning of a meme? Probably not, since I'm not going to do any proactive tagging. But feel free to add you own list in comments.

Corrected outrageous oversight.

11/24/06

Superbowl Chiefs

I've been celebrating the Chiefs victory by reviewing the club's awesome draft history, focusing of course, on the running backs. For your enjoyment, here are the players the Chiefs have selected at running back in the first round:
  • 2003 - Larry Johnson - 27th pick, 3618 yards, 86 receptions, 48 TDs
  • 1994 - Greg Hill - 25th pick, 2444 yards, 38 receptions, 7 TDs in four Chiefs seasons
  • 1991 - Harvey Williams - 21st pick, 858 yards, 28 receptions, 4 TDs in three Chiefs seasons
  • 1987 - Paul Palmer - 19th pick, 607 yards, 57 receptions, 6 TDs in two Chiefs seasons
  • 1985 - Ethan Horton - 15th pick, eighth leading college rusher in 1984 converted to TE and caught 28 passes for 185 yards and 1 TD in one Chiefs season
  • 1974 - Woody Green - 16th pick, 1442 yards, 9 TDs in 3 seasons
  • 1972 - Jeff Kinney - 23rd pick, 1285 yards, 5 TDs in 5 seasons

11/22/06

Holiday contest/comment whoring

In comments either (a) identify the author of the following sentence; or, (b) complete the paragraph.
Simply gazing at her was like being hit in the groin with a velvet hammer.


typo? what typo? I didn't change anything.

11/21/06

No posts

Booooring.

Here's a quick link to a devastating review of th Wii over at Slate.

Did you know that The Bellman is the #2 hit on google for the string which game system should I buy? We used to be number one.

link added

11/17/06

A day that will live in infamy

HARTFORD, Conn. --Two armed thugs tried to rob a line of people waiting for the new PlayStation 3 game system to go on sale in Putnam early Friday and shot one man who refused to give up his money, authorities said.
...
It was about 3 a.m. when the two gunmen in Putnam, a town of about 9,000 residents in northeast Connecticut, confronted 15 to 20 people standing outside a Wal-Mart store and demanded money, said State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.

"One of the patrons resisted. That patron was shot," Vance said. |source|

Doesn't look good...

Portland union boss Tom Leedham's long-shot quest to unseat James P. Hoffa as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters appeared to be faltering late Tuesday, based on partial election returns.

Leedham is making his third run at winning control of the 1.4 million-member union, one of the nation's largest.

As of 9 p.m. PST, Hoffa led the two-man race with 69 percent of the votes. Just fewer than 33,000 ballots had been counted, though, of nearly 300,000 members who had mailed in ballots, said Rich Leebove, a Hoffa campaign spokesman. |link|


Up to date results here.

nictitate

[Origin: 1815–25, from Medieval Latin 'nictitātus', to wink]

v.
To wink.

11/15/06

Noted

By my count there are three internecine squabbles in the Democratic Party right now. First, Murtha is fighting it out with Hoyer for the role of House Majority Leader; second, Pelosi is trying to pass over Harmon for Hastings to head the Intelligence Committee; and third, Rahm Emmanuel's shadow fight with Dean over the chairmanship of the DNC.

Meanwhile, Trent Lott was named minority whip in the senate by a 25-24 margin using a secret ballot, and as far as I can tell there aren't any Republicans out there waving one another's dirty laundry.

Neologism needed

What do you call it when your Netflix queue stalls? I've had the same three disks out for nearly a month now.

Howard Dean is pretty smart

I know that's not the point of this Greenwald post, but I'd just like to point out that my choice for President in 2004, Howard Dean, was right on the war. And everybody who criticized him, including John effin' Kerry, were wrong.

Previous stuff on Dean here and here. Also, in mostly unrelated news, Miss Carnivorous is still crazy after all these days:
The left in America and Europe are worried about a few gays feeling sad because they can't get married and that someone with terminal cancer will die later rather than sooner. Boo fucking hoo. If Armaggeddon [sic] came today, it couldn't happen to a worse bunch of people.

Nutz.

Iraq go boom 2

Kevin Drum posts something similar to what I wrote on Monday:
But still we wait, even though everyone knows perfectly well that Baker's team won't come up with any magic solution. Unfortunately, even some liberals play along with this game because they have their own bit of truth they'd just as soon avoid: namely that conservatives are correct when they say that a U.S. pullout would be a disaster for Iraq. War supporters may have only themselves to blame for this state of affairs, but that doesn't make them any less right: A pullout now would almost certainly touch off a full-scale civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and the eventual establishment of a Shiite theocracy. It's hardly surprising that no one wants to face up to this, but the fact remains that our continued denial only makes the situation worse with every passing day, virtually guaranteeing a higher body count and an even more brutal end game. | link |

Also, check out the philosophers amongst us debating the exact nature of our moral obligation to the Iraqis at the Green Blog of the Revolution.

11/14/06

It caught on in a flash

Via Ezra, this post at Unfogged raises an interesting question. For my part I'd say that the next hip monster is likely to be a golem or a robot.

Also, zombies are soooo over.

Holiday cheer

To my mind the best thing about Veteran's Day is that all the war movies on cable finally motivated me to get down to business and solve Medal of Honor: Frontline.[1]

Actually, MOH:Frontline is kind of a disappointing game. I haven't played any other games in the franchise, so I don't know how it compares, but my basic complaint seems likely to be generalizable. The problem, namely, is that aiming the gun is extremely kludgy. Usually it's simpler to just get the gun somewhere near chest level and then run around until it's pointing at a nazi.

Maybe that's a problem with PS2 shooters period. I'm not much of a shooter aficionado myself, so maybe one of the more bloodthirsty gamers out there can chime in.
----------
1 I'm happy to report that after only two hours of cursing, I've figured out how to climb a ladder. The secret? Look up.

11/13/06

Iraq go boom

It appears that there are no good outcomes possible in Iraq. James Baker can't make it rain. All options are bad. However, I do want to say something to my anti-war friends:

I stood with you in opposing the war because it was perfectly obvious to some of us that it was an unjust use of pre-emptive force and that it was highly likely that it would lead to something like what we are now experiencing.

But it also seems perfectly obvious to me that pulling our troops out at this juncture will unleash a genocidal bloodbath in the region, and that will be largely our fault. So please stop pretending otherwise.

I'm not even opposing the proposal that we should bring our troops home now. But that policy should only be adopted with the acknowledgment of the likely result: The slow-motion catastrophe we are living through now will surge full speed ahead.

(Here's hoping Baker, Gates, or the Democrats prove me wrong and generate a workable idea.)

...the daughter needs to be able to trust daddy, and daddy does need to be able to trust daughter

She was receiving the affection that she needed from her father. That's why it is so neat to see these fathers showing godly affection to their daughters. Because their daughters yearn for that affection, that affection from a male, and they're either going to get it from their father or they're going to seek it in other relationships. These fathers who are showing godly affection to their daughters are sparing their daughters from such hurt.

The quote is taken from this video hyping so-called purity balls, the idea of which is to encourage teen girls to remain virgins by having them attend a prom-like event with their father as a date. It's been out there for awhile, so maybe by now everyone has seen it. I first saw it via Amanda at Pandagon, but I wanted to say something about Julian Sanchez' comments. He wrote:
  • Obviously the subtext of all this stuff is that women are property, but I'm always a little amazed when they're willing to go right ahead and make it text—as, for instance, when girls are encouraged to think of their vaginas as a "wedding gift" for their future husbands, to be kept in the original packaging until the honeymoon.
  • And, of course, the big one: Even if you're into the whole abstinence thing, how obtuse do you have to be as a parent not to find the daddy-as-substitute-boyfriend thing really really really gross?
|Notes from the Lounge|

A better question is, how can a parent possibly be blind to the grossness of the daddy-as-substitute-boyfriend thing? I think the answer has to do with the other theme Julian notes in the quoted passage, namely, the notion that women are to be regarded as property. The thing about being property is that it means not only that you are owned and can be exchanged, but also that it is right and proper that your actions be controlled and directed by another.

Consider, for example, the words of the pledge that the father makes to his daughter at the, uh, climax of the purity ball:
I choose before God to cover you as your authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man and a leader. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide, and pray over you.

What I'm suggesting is that for these people a lot of the badness of a woman engaging in premarital sex is that it places her in a relationship in which noone has legitimate authority to control and direct her actions. The ideal, then, is for a women to move seamlessly from the control of her father to the control of her husband. The dancing, dresses, and flowers -- all of that is just window dressing to keep the ladies in line. It doesn't really matter in the big picture, just as none of the desires of women really matter.

To someone like me, the creepiness of the daddy-as-substitute-boyfriend thing comes from the fact that I see fundamental differences between father/daughter and romantic relationships. For a certain kind of traditional values purist, however, there is an essential similarity between the two sorts of relationships, namely, that both satisfy the woman-as-object's need to have her actions controlled and directed by a male authority. The traditional values purist, then, misses the creepiness because for them the differences between the sorts of relationships are not as important as are the similarities.

11/10/06

Thank god it's friday.



That's a pretty funny shirt. Too bad it's no longer for sale.

Blogroll

My guess is that I'm the only person who uses the links on the blogroll, but I thought I'd mention that I've added quite a few blogs in the last couple of weeks. The most recent addition is theGarance, a new blog by Garance Franke-Ruta, formerly of TAPPED, who I think is really darn smart.

11/9/06

You learn something new every day

Apparently it's possible, when leaving a message on the voicemail at our office, to mark the message as "urgent". I know because a woman left two messages last week "urgently" telling us that her son, who was picking up his class ring, was carrying a check that had been made out to the wrong party and she wanted to know if that was okay.

I wonder who she was trying to call...

My head is spinning

Over at The Corner the assembled id of American conservatism has been discussing something I'd been meaning to post about. Namely, that if Democrats are looking for a ballot issue to drive turnout for the next election cycle, they should strongly consider the minimum wage. What's most remarkable about the discussion, though, is that the folks at TheCorner are on the cusp of advocating legislation raising the minimum wage as a way to forestall future Democratic initiatives. Crazy!

I can't link to all of their posts (too, too many), but check this out:
Every time the minimum wage is on the ballot or part of a campaign, we lose. Further, while they are bad economics, relatively low minimum wages are not THAT bad. So conservatives need to push for simply getting this issue settled so it doesn't keep coming up. We should agree to a $7.50 minimum wage that automatically goes up with the CPI just like Social Security payments, or perhaps instead indexed to average wage growth. |source|

In case you didn't follow the link, that's from a reader email approvingly posted by Jonah Goldberg.

Here's what strikes me as so remarkable about that. Last winter, a coalition of progressive groups made an effort to get exactly such a proposal on to the Michigan ballot -- the key component was linking the wage to the CPI. What eventually happened was that the Republican controlled state legislature short circuited the petition drive by passing legislation to raise the wage (without, of course, committing to future raises).

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords


Chilling visions of things to come!
Robot Identifies Human Flesh As Bacon

But when some smart aleck reporter placed his hand in the robot's omnivorous clanking jaw, he was identified as bacon. A cameraman then tried and was identified as prosciutto.
| wired |

and, via eripsa:
"Waiter! Waiter! What's this robot doing in my soup?"

"It looks like he's performing human tasks twice as well, because he knows no fear or pain."

McSweeny’s list of jokes made by robots, for robots.

11/8/06

a great day

Rumsfeld out. First woman as Speaker of the House.

And, don't forget, in South Dakota:

Yep, you really should have known

An Immigration Lesson [Ramesh Ponnuru]

I was more sympathetic to the House than the Senate or the president on immigration, and I still think, contra Bill Kristol and others, that the House had the better of the political argument. But I also think that this election confirmed something we should already have known: A monomaniacal opposition to lax immigration policies is a political loser. The only places it gets traction are places where immigrants and people sympathetic to immigrants are also a sizable constituency.


Heh.

11/7/06

What's wrong with this picture?

Second in a series...

Election day thread



Post anything about your voting experience in the comments. As for me, except for some Austin bond proposals (for which I voted yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes), my vote will probably not be in play. Gotta love that sweet, sweet redistricting. The lines were much longer than usual, but my polling place had also moved, so there's really no way to draw any conclusions from the long lines.

Democracy kicks ass!

Where's my sticker?

I count. I voted. I know that. But without social recognition, how am I to constitute myself as a subject?

11/6/06

Rick Perry is going to be the longest-serving governer in Texas history

What is wrong with this farkin' state!?
According to a new DMN poll (and is that a site redesign I see?), Perry is expected to fall short of 40 percent of the vote, Bell has 22 percent, Strayhorn’s at 18 percent and Kinky’s at 11 percent. Now remember, this is just a poll of LIKELY voters as opposed to Kinky’s imaginary miracle voters.
...
Roughly 42 percent of men support Perry, compared to 37 percent of women. In contrast, only eight percent of women support Friedman because everybody knows that women don’t get the funny. Around 51 percent of black voters support Bell, compared to give or take 0 percent for Kinky. And that includes Frank from Atlanta.
| in the pink texas |

I stand by my plan to vote for the candidate who has the best chance at unseating Perry, and thankfully that appears to be Chris Bell. I wouldn't mind a kinky governor, and I wouldn't even mind Kinky as governor. But I'll feel better casting my vote for the Democrat in the race.

Video game news

[Anything, anything, to push the picture of dog anus below the fold. I shudder to think about the google hits we are about to receive.]

The Culture Minister of France thinks that people don't take videogames seriously enough:
Call me the minister of video games if you want - I am proud of this," the minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, said during an interview. "People have looked down on video games for far too long, overlooking their great creativity and cultural value.

His next move is to get video games recognized as an art form which would make it eligible for government tax breaks, much like the French movie industry.

Meanwhile, in Korea, some kids are taking videogames way to seriously:
For nerds. Seems Korea's fascination with online gaming is taking a turn for the strange, with real-life brawls amongst gaming clans and guilds becoming increasingly common. The latest instance of what's become known as "Hyon-P" involves 28 high school kids, who after a chat room stoush decided to settle things with fisticuffs on the local schoolyard.

Many Koreans maintain much closer ties between the online and offline world than most other cultures, with gaming clans regularly meeting and socialising in person, as well as online. While this probably has all kinds of positive social benefits when things are going swimmingly, when they aren't, well...28 high school kids will arrange to meet up in the playground and beat the absolute crap out of each other.

And finally, to reinforce my point that you really should buy an Xbox 360, check out the grade each console has received from GameDaily:
• PS3: B+
• XBox 360: A
• Wii: A-
• DS Lite: A
• PSP: B
• XBox: D
• GameCube: C
• PS2: B+

Confession

A Michael Steele victory in Maryland Senate race wouldn't upset me very much. Unless, that is, it turns out that the Maryland race makes the difference between the Dems controlling the Senate and not (but I just can't see the Dems taking the Senate).

People believe some crazy shit, let me tell you

From Ted Haggard's statement to his former Congregation at the New Life Church:
I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach. |Source: (pdf)|

The picture is from this site, via an email from the proprietor of this site. It depicts a miracle, the appearance of Jesus' image on a dog's ass.

For what it's worth, as crazy as Haggard, his wife, and their congregation's ideas are about what counts as repulsive and dark and requiring forgiveness, when they get down to brass tacks and start forgiving people, well that's about as good as Christianity gets. Them folks ought to do more of that, or leverage it, or do whatever it is we do these days with things that are well and truly admirable.

11/5/06

...and statistics

I've been trying to come up with a clever label for the sort of person who, while leaning left on most issues, is nevertheless credulously sympathetic to Republican talking points. Lately I've favored the term "idiot", but I'd prefer something a little more fine grained.

Be that as it may, it's worth keeping in mind how easy it is to fall into this particular brand of idiocy. For example, I had been planning to link approvingly to this Krauthammer column, since, given the source, it seemed to me to be an uncommonly reasonable piece of political analysis. Krauthammer's main point, for those of you who can't be bothered to follow the link, is that a Democratic electoral victory shouldn't be interpreted as a repudiation of the GOP. The key fact he relies on and builds his argument around is that, "Since the end of World War II, the average loss for a second-term presidency in its sixth year has been 29 House seats and six Senate seats."

Seems pretty reasonable. But:
Nice try, guys, but here's the reality. Up through the 70s, big swings in House elections were common, but in the last 20 years there's only been a single year with a big swing (1994). Aside from that, the average change has been less than five seats. You can see the same thing if you look only at sixth-year midterms:

1958: 49 seats

1966: 47 seats

1974: 49 seats

1986: 5 seats

1998: 5 seats

See the trend? In the two sixth-year midterms since 1980, only five seats changed hands. There are plenty of reasons for this, including improved gerrymandering, huge money imbalances, and increased self-segregation...Bottom line: Thirty years ago a pickup of 25 seats wouldn't have been that big a deal. Today it is. If Dems win that many seats, it really will be a historic victory. |Kevin Drum|

That's about as close to a knock down refutation as you're ever going to get.

But let's bring this back to the idiocy. Note two things. First, Krauthammer's column is fundamentally dishonest. It just isn't possible to work the math and come up with the averages without noticing the trend in the data that Drum points out. Krauthammer's concern wasn't to support a conclusion through argument, but was rather to fool his readers. Second, for Krauthammer to get away with this kind of dodge requires that readers trust Krauthammer to argue honestly. Given his history, granting such trust is an idiotic thing to do.

Now, obviously, conservatives don't have a monopoly on misleading rhetoric. But, just as obviously to anyone who's not an idiot, the Repubican message machine reaches further, exhibits stricter message discipline, and is more systematically mendacious than anything their political opponents have on offer. Given this, anyone who finds themselves sympathetic to a political analysis promulgated by the GOP really ought to stop and ask themselves a question:

"Am I being played for an idiot?"

The answer is probably yes.

11/3/06

Corrective

I feel a little guilty about making fun of Haggard below, so here's a quote from Matthew Yglesias, who gets the issue exactly right:
Shadenfreude and hypocrisy aside, though, it's be nice -- unrealistic, perhaps, but nice -- if people took this as an opportunity to learn something. Obviously, the other men in that image with Haggard -- Tony Perkins, James Dobson, etc. -- know him, get along with him, and have worked with him as a colleague, like him, think he's a good man, and so forth. And Dobson and Perkins aren't alone. Lots of people have worked with or for Haggard over the years. He's a widely respected man in this country. Should all those people who know him, and have followed him really so sharply revise their views of Haggard, or should they revise their views of gay people? The latter, I think, though I'm not optimistic that's how it'll play.|Yglesias|

Reasons the internets are cool, numbers 294,283 and 294,284


Seems like most of the stuff I've been posing lately has come from my friend trp0. I didn't give him proper credit for sending me the hippy proteins yesterday. Here are a couple other interesting things:

First up, a tag cloud of of U.S. State of the Union speeches. You can quickly scroll through the various eras to see how terms pop into usage, persist for a decade, and ultimately vanish. Pretty cool, and you can find it here. ("Hey, Jason, what's a tag cloud?" I'm glad you asked.)

Second, just for fun, a pie chart that shows exactly how much of that same pie chart resembles pac man. Videogaming metafun!


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your Republican-controlled Congress!

If the office you set up to audit the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq finds out that the U.S. military, the occupational authority, and your no-bid contractors messed everything up really bad, you could use that information to fix those problems. Or, if you are the Repulican-controlled Congress, you could shut down the auditor.

(link via the agonist)

Caption contest


(Yes, yes, liberals, progressives and Democrats should refuse to take the bait and should talk about this instead of this. I understand that. But if we've learned anything in the years since Dr. Strangelove, it's that there are no funny pictures involving nuclear explosions.)

11/2/06

Memo to Mark Halperin

What is absurd and troubling about the anger on the right and the left is that these people seize on whatever wisp of a phrase they wish in a wider discussion and twist it to their own purposes.

That's Mark Halperin writing in today's installment of, well follow this link. It's one of those Slate things.

Now that I've quoted that, here's a wisp of a phrase from later in the article.
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are extraordinarily polarizing figures...

The difference between these two "extraordinarily polarizing figures", of course, is that George W. Bush is polarizing because he is the figurehead of an extraordinarily inept administration most notable for its extraordinarily shameless and hateful approach to politics, whereas Bill Clinton is polarizing because he was a target of a Republican machine employing an extraordinarily shameless and hateful approach to politics. This isn't rocket science or French philosophy. It isn't complex, and yet distinctions matter.

tRNA knows how to party

This is unusual.

Protein Synthesis: an Epic on the Cellular Level

They need no lamp nor light of the sun

Democrats (and their reluctant supporters) hoping to relive 2004's pre-election victory anticipation giddiness are advised to read Ruy Teixeira's latest dispatch. For myself, the most interesting part was his disparagement of GOTV in general and the GOP GOTV effort in particular. Of course, given my mindless adherance to the organizing model, I can't help but be somewhat skeptical of Teixeira's skepticism in both the general and particular cases. Consider, for example, this Mark Mellman passage that Teixeira approvingly quotes:
But didn’t the GOP prove its efforts were much more effective than the Democrats’ in 2004? No. Check the data. In Ohio’s base Democratic precincts turnout was 8.2 points higher than it had been in 2000. In base Republican precincts, turnout increased by a slightly lesser 6.1 points. Winning a state is not the same as doing a better job on turnout.

This data seems to me to be exactly what you'd expect to see given the supposed core strength of the Rovian GOTV system --namely, the ability to target isolated Republican voters in otherwise Democratic precincts. On the other hand, I know a few hard core Dems who've somehow wound up on a lot of Republican mailing lists, so maybe the hype really is out of control.

In other news, check out the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Congressional Support the Troops scorecard.

11/1/06

The future

Wells Tower's report on this summer's YAF sponsored National Conservative Student Conference is a laugh riot. You could read the whole thing if you had bought the November issue of Harper's. Failing that, here's an excerpt:
In her facebook bio, Samantha Soller listed among her hobbies "political science, philosophy, and hippie-hunting, enjoys foreclosing on poor people's cardboard boxes, eating red meat, using her Sigarms P232 Stainless to shoot cute little bunny rabbits." I ask her about the gun.

"It's a semiautomatic handgun. I don't have one, but I would love to own one soon. It's really cute. It's silver. It fits in your handbag."

We close in on the catering trays, which today are full of steak and chicken fajita meat. The sight douses the cheer that mention of the Sigarms P232 had stirred in Soller's hale, brown cheeks. "What is this?" she says, surveying the buffet. "I don't eat anything that's not American."

A boy standing nearby assures her. "It is American; it's Tex-Mex."

Soller frowns. "I'm having the salad," she says. "I don't want to get sick."

I can't stop. Here's another excerpt. Note the recurrence of the salad motif.
The guest lecturer at the Thursday "Men's Lunch" is Dr. Harvey Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University. According to the program, Mansfield will talk about "manliness," which is also the title of his most recent book. The ladies, meanwhile, are supposed to be lunching with Bay Buchanan, but several of them, declaring a preference for Mansfield's remarks on manliness, launch a respectful, small-scale insurgency against the breakdown of coeducational order. The ladies are eventually permitted to sit "at tables in the back of the room that do not have salad," Roger Custer, the conference's director, specifies beforehand.

Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair!

Clark Sorensen has created some of the most amazing and beautiful urinals one is likely to ever see. Each is meticulously hand built and one of a kind - formed from high fire porcelain and fired to cone 10 (2300° F). These pieces are magnificent works of art but they are also fully functioning vitreous porcelain fixtures that can be plumbed and used in a bathroom. They are made of the same material as a commercial toilet but the similarity stops there. Clark hopes that his sculptures can be exhibited as art and installed as urinals in galleries and bathrooms around the world.

Check out some of the others. All truly wise people judge a society based on its toilets, and these are freakin' cool.

(thanks to the Monkey for sending this along)

10/31/06

The most frightening music video you'll see today

Sexy mustard!

Happy Halloween!

(warning, foul language and sexy steel conglomerate tycoons contained in video)

Yes! Yes! Yes!



I saw this on MSNBC, where there were giving Nelson a tough time for running such a sexually explicit ad during the family hour. The next segment provided tips for baby boomers hoping to improve their sex lives.
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