Saturday, December 22, 2007

Occam's Dildo

Mary Ann Case defines "Occam's Dildo":
While Occam's razor requires that of two competing explanations the simplest be selected, Occam's dildo predicts that the most titillating of the two explanations will be preferred.

Discovered by Dan Markel

Don't Get Distracted Now

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on John Conyers' bill to study the issue of reparations (you can read my own several-years-old thoughts on reparations here). All the witnesses had interesting things to say, though if you're only going to read one, Eric Miller's testimony is, in my opinion, particularly interesting and insightful (particularly in how it seeks to broaden the discourse beyond stale cliches about "blaming Whitey").

At the other end of the intelligence spectrum, there's shorter Roger Clegg:
Studying reparations would be bad, because it would distract Black people from remembering that all their problems are their own fault. Also, why should the US government apologize for slavery, when it had nothing to do with it? Now, if Democrats want to apologize for racial injustice, that would be just swell.

Other common themes from the anti-reparations (or rather, anti-studying reparations, since that's all the bill would do) crowd include that there are many confusing questions to ask about reparations (which would seem to be an argument for studying the issue), some Blacks don't descend from slaves and some Whites don't descend from slave owners (which a) is meaningless, because some do and some are, and b) assumes that the fruits of the slave system only affect its direct descendants which probably isn't true), and (my personal favorite) that reparations are "radical" because Whites oppose them, even though Blacks support them. The latter, incidentally, are only supporting them because of their financial interest in the matter (the former, of course, are coming to a neutral and dispassionate conclusion the way only White citizens can).

Via Christopher Bracey.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Greetings from Aspen!

But my worldly possessions will have to send their regards from Basalt. Allow me to explain.

Seeking to run-around the inevitable delayed baggage that inevitably occurs when flying into Aspen Airport, the 'rents seized on the idea of shipping our stuff ahead of us via FedEx. Two-day delivery, guaranteed, which meant it would get to the place we're staying at a day ahead of us. How perfect! We'd back only carry-on stuff, and all our clothes and ski stuff would be at the lodge when we arrived.

Alas, it was not to be. It is now Friday, and said luggage has still yet to arrive. It got to Denver alright, then detoured to Grand Junction, where it sat for awhile -- awhile past Wednesday, when it was day to arrive, for example. After a significant amount of hectoring, we got them to move it to Basalt -- closer, but still not at its destination, namely, us. They promised us it would arrive today (two days late, in other words) -- no dice. But the lady in Basalt was friendly enough to ask us to give them until 5:00 PM before checking again. 5:00 PM, as it turns out, is closing time. Calls to UPS yielded a lot of waiting times, a lot of run around, and a lot of false promises. We did find out that someone had issued an order to "hold" our package in Basalt. We did not, tragically, figure out who did so or why they felt compelled to. Alas, this was about the time that the inevitable disconnect occurred.

Now, Aspen is a very lovely place. But it is rather difficult to enjoy its charms when you don't have any clothing beyond what is on your back. It is even more difficult to rebuild your wardrobe in this town without seriously risking bankruptcy. We're trying to get FedEx to pay for the clothes we've needed so we can actually go outside. In the meantime, my brother and I are borrowing some over-sized material from our cousins so we can at least get some skiing in.

One thing I will say: the conditions are great. It snowed all day today, and the entire mountain was filled with fresh powder. I can't really enjoy it as much as I'd like, since my knee has started acting up again, but in principle it's quite nice.

It was also dead empty, and, as one employee cheerfully remarked, with the blizzard that's been ripping through Colorado, it's likely to stay empty for at least another day. The airport here is closed, which means that dad can't get here -- he's trying to figure out an alternative path from Denver to Aspen at 10:00 PM at the start of a holiday weekend in a snow-storm. Best of luck to you, dad! We're rooting for you here.

In any event, it remains a vacation, and we're making the best of it. Hope I'm at least absorbing some of your bad holiday karma, and that all y'all are having a great holiday season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Colorado!

I'm off to the annual family ski trip to Aspen. The goal this year is: don't die. And ski the Cirque Headwall. Kind of in tension with each other, but there you go. I'm bringing the computer in case I hear anything application-wise, but blogging is likely to be sporadic, if at all.

I get back on the 27th, but leave for Minnesota on the 31st. So I likely won't be back at full speed until New Year's.

Happy holidays to everyone!

It's Unbearable

Newsweek:
In addition to waterboarding, Zubaydah was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.

Quoteth Yglesias: "I have to think you'd feel just terrible if you learned that your music was being used as part of a regime of torture."

Christmas Carol Duel

Who wins, the professional a cappela group out of Indiana University?



Or the untrained but spunky outfit representing the Detroit Pistons?



While the Indiana group can actually sing, the Pistons don't actively humiliate the Jews. Toss-up, really.

Musical Lure

I assume it would be hideously immoral to apply to a law school solely for the $20 iTunes gift card they're offering to applicants?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This is a Cool Hit

I was browsing through my hit counter, and I came across this recent visitor, reading my post on Gordon Smith's boneheaded defense of Trent Lott, from the US Senate, referring URL http://smithg-dc2:980/default.aspx. Bizarre, but neat.

***

Domain Name senate.gov ? (U.S. Government)

IP Address 156.33.73.# (U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms)

ISP U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms

Location

Continent : North America

Country : United States (Facts)

State : District of Columbia

City : Washington

Lat/Long : 38.9097, -77.0231 (Map)

Language English (U.S.) en-us

Operating System Microsoft WinXP

Browser Internet Explorer 7.0

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)

Javascript version 1.3

Monitor

Resolution : 1024 x 768

Color Depth : 32 bits

Time of Visit Dec 18 2007 4:34:49 pm

Last Page View Dec 18 2007 4:35:09 pm

Visit Length 20 seconds

Page Views 1

Referring URL http://smithg-dc2:980/default.aspx

Visit Entry Page http://dsadevil.blog...-smith-thinking.html

Visit Exit Page http://dsadevil.blog...-smith-thinking.html

Out Click Steve Benen
http://www.thecarpet.../archives/13966.html

Time Zone UTC-5:00

Visitor's Time Dec 18 2007 5:34:49 pm

Visit Number 221,272

What Is Smith Thinking?

Politicians are normally rational creatures. This isn't to say that they act in ways that I find preferable. Rather, though they upset me rather often, normally it's based on at least a perception of political gain. When they do dumb things, it's usually based on a miscalculation of the same.

That being established, what was Gordon Smith's angle, defending Trent Lott's comments on Strom Thurmond (specifically, that he should have been elected to the Presidency on his 1948 segregationist platform)?

Steve Benen has the complete story, but let's run through the basics.

-Gordon Smith is a vulnerable Senator in a blue state. Defending Trent Lott's bone-headed (to say the least) comments is hardly a winning strategy.

-Though Lott is retiring, the comments themselves are hardly back in the news -- indeed, I'd suspect Lott more than anyone would rather let sleeping dogs lie on that front.

-Indeed, Lott himself repented and called the comments disgraceful.

-And when Lott said the comments, Smith condemned them, and expressed satisfaction when Lott did resign his post as Majority Leader.

So, while it's easy to mock or condemn Smith, I'm too perplexed to even be scornful. What could he possibly have been thinking?

This Election Is About Torture

In 2004, after the Presidential debates had concluded, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan noted an interesting omission from the question list. Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry had ever been asked about torture. Abu Gharib was still of relatively recent vintage, and it seemed like the sort of topic that should have gotten some play. But no. We got a free pass. It's easy to keep on torturing when nobody is reminding us that we do it. It's harder when you have to stand up in front of the world and explain why simulated drownings are now part of the American example we try to set for the world.

A couple years later, as new allegations of torture started to trickle out, one of my co-bloggers argued that we should just "rip off the band-aid" and come clean with everything, all at once. Otherwise, he argued, the torture issue would never leave the public eye. I responded that perhaps torture should stay in the "public eye" until we, you know, stop torturing. It's an important issue, and as members of a quasi-media body, we have an obligation to keep it on the agenda until such time as the government and American people come to a consensus that we cannot abuse the bodies of those under our custody.

It's been nearly two years since I wrote that post, and torture continues to dart in and out of the media consciousness. But I humbly submit that there is no more important issue facing the nation today. One party seems specifically pro-torture, the other party just enables it. Some candidates take strong stands against torture, others are equally bold in saying that it is necessary for the defense of the nation.

It pains me to say we need a "debate" on torture. But we do, because it's a salient issue that divides the party. Is America going to be the type of place that tortures? Put people on the record. Don't let them duck and dodge and hem and haw about whether the particular "harsh interrogation procedures" qualify. Water boarding is torture. If it was torture to Jim Crow Mississippians when used on Black criminal suspects, it's certainly torture now. And yes, the media has an obligation to call a spade a spade, and tell us that when Bush threatens to veto a bill that would prohibit waterboarding, he is protecting his right to torture. Enough language games.

If there is a debate to be had, then a debate we deserve. But what can't happen is pretending that this isn't the issue on the table. If we are going to be a nation that tortures, then we need to take responsibility for it the way a democratic nation should: we need to openly deliberate over it, vigorously debate it, and have critical media coverage about it. To do anything else is a disservice to who we are as a people, and what we represent as a nation.

Causing a Ruckus

Two announcements:

1) My other home, The Moderate Voice, has been selected to be a contributor for Newsweek's new political blog, The Ruckus. Basically, all the campaign coverage that goes up on TMV gets put up on The Ruckus as well. Though we all benefit, this is an honor wholly due to Joe Gandelman, so thanks to him for that.

2) In a wholly unrelated matter, all of my campaign-specific posts will now be cross-posted at TMV. So no change to anybody who is reading me here -- but yes, my vanity is somewhat tickled at the opportunity to write for Newsweek.

Best Post of 2007?

A blog-friend of mine wants folks to collect their best post of the year, for a massive, end of year round-up. What's my best post? I have no idea! But perhaps you can aid me.

I include this list of nominees, which I culled after (literally) looking through every post I wrote over the past year. If the topic isn't clear from the title, I give a brief description underneath. But if you're particularly enamored of something missing from the list, feel free to name-drop it in the comments.

I look forward to your help! And happy browsing!

****

2007 Best Post Candidates

“Card Me”, 1/7/07 (Discussing the phenomenon of "cards" -- "the race card", the "anti-Semitism" card, etc.).

“Sensitivities”, 1/28/07 (Defending Justice Ginsburg's claim that women bring certain "sensitivities" to the judiciary that men don't have).

“Narrative in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict”, 2/5/07 (Examining how everyone's particular "narrative" of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict impacts how we perceive news and events emanating from it).

“Taking Thomas Seriously”, 4/22/07 (A reflection of Justice Thomas' views on racism, and the implications they hold for White liberals and conservatives).

“The False Hero”, 5/9/07 (Refuting the idea that Justice Harlan was any sort of hero for his Plessy dissent, in which he specifically affirmed White Supremacy).

“Whiteness Candidates and Post-Racial America”, 5/21/07 (Exploring how and why groups "become" White, whether new groups are likely to become White now, and which groups are likely candidates for the transition).

Series on Parents Involved v. Seattle Supreme Court Case, 6/28/07 (9 posts total, links to the series available here).

“The Diversity Rationale and the Problem of Subjectification”, 6/30/07 (Defending the "diversity rationale" for affirmative action on the grounds that it gives due credence to the objective value of students of color).

“Colorphobia”, 07/09/07 (Arguing that American society needs to get beyond it's phobia of race-as-a-concept).

“The Chronicle of Madison’s Tomb: Why ‘Roe Rage’ Has Nothing To Do With Legal Theory”, 08/01/07 (A narrative demonstrating that the popular opposition to Roe v. Wade has nothing to do with it's legal legitimacy, and everything to do with policy disagreement).

“Why Is The Only Good Civil Rights Leader a Dead One?”, 10/01/07 (Asking and answering why Martin Luther King, a dead man, is the only civil rights leader accorded mainstream respect).

“On the Armenia Resolution”, 10/10/07 (Arguing in favor of the resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide).

Monday, December 17, 2007

10-Year Old Girl Arrested For Bringing Steak Knife To School

Why'd she bring the steak knife? Because she brought steak for lunch, and needed to cut it.

Why were the cops called? Because, according to a school official: "Anytime there's a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don't want to take any chances, regardless."

Or possibly, the school officials are dumber than the students they purport to be teaching.

Hussein Power!

While endorsing Hillary Clinton, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey had this to say about Barack Obama: "I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."

Mark Kleiman agrees this is a boon for an Obama Presidency, while James Joyner dissents:
I disagree strongly with Kerrey and Kleiman about the value of having a president with a Muslim middle name. Indeed, the idea that religious nuts who are willing to murder thousands of Americans would think “Hey, they elected a guy with a Muslim middle name! They must be okay!” is absurd. Hell, they kill plenty of people named Hussein who actually are Muslims; the only thing they hate more than American infidels is Arab apostates.

But as Kevin Drum rejoins, the benefit of Barack Hussein Obama isn't that the hardcore jihadists will suddenly see the error of their ways. It's that he has a great potential to peel off support from the rest of the Arab World (also, is Obama even of Arab ancestry? His father was from Kenya -- not an Arab state, though he still could be ethnically Arab).

Kleiman also points out that Obama's race could be a disadvantage, given the intense amount of anti-Black prejudice in the Arab World. I think that likely won't be a factor -- and certainly will be outweighed by the boon the "Obama image" would bring in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere throughout the globe.

How To Legally Hire a Prostitute, Part II

Insuring my string of google hits for another year!

Orin Kerr has an important tip: The "are you a cop" question is a myth! It is not entrapment if they lie to you! Don't think you're in the clear if you ask it. That prostitute still could be bleeding blue!

But It Was Made With Such Care!

I swear, when I first saw this, I thought it was a parody.



But no, it appears to be the actual table of contents of Jonah Goldberg's new Liberal Fascism book.

My mind is screaming for mercy. It can't take stupidity in such concentrated doses.

Punk Islam

The Texas Observer on the rise of Islamic Punk Rock in America. It's a really neat article, and, I'd add, a very positive development. Though, even if "Vote Hezbollah" is a joke, I'm a bit leery....

The Democratic Primary in Less Than 50 Words

Courtesy of Atrios:

Obama: The system sucks, but I'm so awesome that it'll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we're gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

Any quarrel?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Finished!

It's been three and a half months of work. And the fun part is just beginning. But as of tonight, I have completed all my applications. Nine law schools and eleven Political Science Ph.D programs.

I've got to get into one, right?

Wow, Did I Call That

When Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee accused the Bush administration of having an "arrogant, bunker mentality" on foreign affairs, I predicted that
if past experience is any guide, Huckabee's somewhat surprising break from orthodox, institutional conservative talking points will rapidly be followed by a sprinting back-track, as he cowers from the furious reaction of the base.

And sure enough, after taking flack from Mitt Romney, here's the new Huckabee line:
“I didn’t say the President was arrogant…. I’ve said that the policies have been arrogant…. I’m the one who actually supported the President’s surge. I supported the Bush tax cuts, when Mr. Romney didn’t. I was with President Bush on gun control, when Mitt Romney wasn’t. I was with the President on the President’s pro-life position, when Mitt Romney wasn’t.”

So predictable.

McCain's Looking For Some Joe-Mentum

CNN's political ticker reports that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is going to endorse fellow pro-war Senator John McCain (R-AZ) tomorrow.

I'm not sure anyone should find this surprising. Lieberman is not exactly enamored with the Democratic Party after primary voters dumped him 2006, and the Party is likewise not thrilled at Lieberman's increasingly reactionary conservative stances on foreign policy. The odd thing, in a sense, is that Lieberman isn't that conservative on other issues. He's certainly not a liberal icon, but outside of foreign policy and business regulation, Lieberman is pretty well in line with the rest of his party. But over the past several years, it's become increasingly clear that a hawkish foreign policy agenda is his political raison d'être. The endorsement of McCain is the culmination of that shift.

So will it matter? Back to CNN:
This endorsement could help emphasize McCain's national security standing, show he is able to work across party lines, and perhaps help persuade independent voters in New Hampshire to support his presidential bid.

Possibly true -- I think in New Hampshire, particularly, Lieberman might have some sway on the independent voters (who can vote either in the GOP or Democratic primary). But by and large, I'm not convinced it will have much impact. A candidate needs more than New Hampshire to win a nomination, and I don't see Lieberman's influence extending beyond that neighboring state's quirky political climate. Lieberman isn't an influential Democrat anymore -- in fact, he isn't a Democrat at all anymore. He gets to be this year's Zell Miller, and I don't really think ol' Zell ultimately had a big impact in 2004.

Guerilla Stem Cells

Via Balloon Juice, a new development in cancer treatment:
GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s drug Tykerb, in an unexpected finding, cut the number of breast cancer stem cells by half in 30 patients, and two-thirds were cancer free after follow-up treatment with other therapies.

The finding, reported today at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas, supports the newest theory in cancer, that a tiny number of stem cells lurking within tumors are the driving force that fuels their growth. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said the finding may be a first step toward changing the way cancer is treated.

Stem cells! I always knew they were really a force for evil. And those liberal apostates wanted us to cultivate them.

Liberals: Objectively pro-breast cancer.

PS: Did anyone read that Boondocks series where President Bush declares a "war on stem cells"?

Boxing Blogging: Understatement of the Year

ESPN reporting on Jorge Linares' 8th round knockout over Gamaliel Diaz:
On the undercard, Jorge Linares retained his WBC featherweight title by stopping Gamaliel Diaz in the eighth round.

Linares (25-0, 16 KOs) had Diaz down and nearly out in the fourth round but Diaz fought back gamely. The Venezuelan put Diaz down again with a right hand late in Round 8 and this time, Diaz could not beat the count.

Here's the video of the knockout (it's at about 1:50):



"Could not beat the count"? Ummm, yeah, I'd say so!

Head Fake

Dan Drezner on Mike Huckabee's Foreign Affairs essay: "[T]here are feints in interesting directions, but in the end it's just a grab-bag of contradictory ideas."

Why Do I Get My Hopes Up?

A few days ago, I noted Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) raking an Army General over the coals for refusing to say, explicitly, that water boarding would be torture if done by Iranian intelligence on a U.S. soldier. I noted the rhetoric was pleasing -- but Graham has a history of talking without walking when it comes to torture.

And lo and behold; Steve Benen reports that Graham has put a hold on legislation that would have restricted the CIA to techniques permitted by the Army Field Guide Manual.

When push comes to shove, Graham stands in favor of torture. Don't let me forget it.