Saturday, June 30, 2007

Touch-screen MacBooks?

So sayeth this guy. Do I believe him?

I want to. Oh, I really, really want to. If this is true, I'm putting off buying a computer until the technology stabilizes, and then....oh, then, my sweet dear friends that all have MacBooks, then I will be The Shit.

The Big List of Bush F*ckups

I am so glad someone did this. I've been sort of looking for one for years.

...good lord, this thing is long. It's going to take me days to get through it all.

Anyway, I post for your pleasure. Or pain. You know, whatever.


I don't particularly like birthdays; ever since about the 8th grade they've always seemed artificial to me (caveat: I loved getting presents). Yeah, I was born on that day, but so what? It was random. Better to celebrate something that has meaning to me in the present. Note: This means that yes, birthdays can be meaningful and fun and all that jazz. It just feels that for lots of people (including my family), birthday celebrations are done because we've always done them and everyone else does them, not because they have intrinsic value on their own. I mean, it's not like the need to celebrate making it one more year on earth is as pressing as it used to be...on the other hand, it's not fully gone, either. Hm.

Incidentally, I tend to feel a similar way about all tradition: most of it happens because the previous generation did it, and they teach us to do it.

Frack that. That's rarely a good reason to do anything. With lots of things, if you look closer, you find the real reason, which is usually something like "we fish here because the fish have always been here." It's sometimes coated with the authority and status of the local elders (be they clan elders or your's a metaphor that carries), but it's rarely done wholly without an understanding of the underlying benefits and consequences.

A friend of mine used to leave the morning of his birthday and get back some time after sunset. No one saw him the entire day, and he usually spent it thinking. I think he started this practice in his early teens, and I think he eventually gave it up. I think it's a relatively good idea, to set aside a day to be alone and take stock of where you're at. The downside is that it can be difficult to force yourself to do that...and that your family and friends tend to get annoyed when you disrupt tradition. However, I give him credit for one thing: he managed to reclaim the day for himself, instead of letting other people dictate how it was supposed to go.

China in Africa

Via BoingBoing, a short Christian Science Monitor story about the increasing presence and influence of China in Africa. No, not through investment, but through humanitarian work, often through the U.N.

This passage caught my eye:

"The Chinese interest in Africa ... their coming into our markets is the best thing that could have happened to us," says small-business contractor Amare Kifle, during a recent meeting with a Chinese investor in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. "We are tired of the condescending American style. True, the American government and American companies have done and do a lot here, but I always feel like they think they are doing us a favor ... telling us how to do things and punishing us when we do it our own way.

"These Chinese are different," he says. "They are about the bottom line and allow us to sort out our side of the business as we see fit. I want to have a business partner and do business. I don't want to have a philosophical debate about Africa's future."

Paying attention, USAID? State Department? A little humility goes a long way. I'm guessing that China's humility has appeared for several reasons: 1) It's politically expedient, and an easy way to gain influence in Africa vis-a-vis the U.S. 2) For some, it's part and parcel of Chinese culture, and perhaps part of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. 3) China has long been considered several steps below the major 'superpowers' of the world, and there may be feelings that the oppressed are helping their own on the global stage. In fact, this last point is supported by another bit from the story:

"China is the most self-conscious rising power in history and is desperate to be seen as a benign force as well as to learn from the mistakes of the existing major powers and previous rising powers," says Andrew Small, a Brussels-based China expert at the German Marshall Fund, a public policy think tank. "It sees its modern national story as anticolonial – about surpassing the "century of humiliation" at the hands of the colonial powers – and still thinks of itself, in many ways, as a part of the developing world."

I have to admit, though, that as a philosopher I find the end of the first bit disturbing. I think what Amare Kifle was getting at when he said "I don't want to have a philosophical debate about Africa's future" was that the U.S. is trying very hard to get Africans to model their economic systems on global capitalism, and that Africans - or at least Kifle - don't like being told how they should develop. That said, I'm sure the government of China has some ideas about how they'd like to see Africa develop as well, but they aren't pushing them as hard or as explicitly.

This story makes me wonder a bit, though: What is the future of China? It's working hard to become a superpower, and lots of folks have predicted a rather large and messy collision in the future with the U.S. I think that's a possibility, though if China keeps working at its current rate (and the U.S. keeps fucking up so royally), it'll pass the U.S. as a global power before the U.S. even notices.

So, what kind of global power will China be? There's plenty of evidence it's still an authoritarian country, but how will it act on the world stage? I am hopeful that China - as evidenced by the CSM article - will be able to with humility and dignity, and for good. I am also hopeful that despite the Chinese Communist Party's efforts against religion, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and others will have a role to play in the actions of China and Chinese citizens. We could learn a lot from the so-called 'East' if we listened.

Ask a Lawyer

Via Crooks and Liars, a new AFL-CIO program that allows folks to - well, I'll let it speak for itself:

Can my boss really do that? How many of us find ourselves asking that very question on a weekly, if not daily basis? Well now we just may get the answers we seek. Because Working America, the 1.6 million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, which provides a voice for those of us denied the right to union membership on the job, has started its “Ask a Lawyer” program.

Sounds like a good idea.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Goodbye Brown v. Board

You might have seen it on the news: The Supreme Court has found a way to transport the country back to the 1950's...and not in a good way. From what I understand, they've ruled that schools are not allowed to use race as a factor in placing students.

I'm going to throw out a short link dump here because I suspect the few folks who read this aren't going to see a lot of this in other places.

Scott Lemieux at LGM with some notes.

Jill at Feministe.

Christy at Firedoglake.

The Washington Post on some likely fallout, including increased school segregation. Did I say increased? Yes, because, as the article notes, schools have become more and more segregated over the last couple of decades.


Actually, SCOTUSblog has a great excerpt from Chief Justice John Roberts' decision that really gives a big part of the game away:

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Leaving aside for a second that the above sentence is beyond stupid, this reveals, depending on who you ask, either a political trick or a genuine belief on the part of many conservatives. Basically, it's the out-of-sight-out-of-mind trope. The reasoning is as follows: If we don't see race, we can't possibly discriminate on the basis of race. The sheer stupidity of this argument is the reason that many people (sometimes including myself) think that this is nothing more than a political gambit. Then again, lots of people seem to genuinely believe that paying attention to race has negative consequences. In a way, it does - public attention to race was a big factor in ending lots of discrimination as part of the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, I guess according to the scary logic of folks like Roberts, ignoring race is a way to get back to the good ol' days when 'everyone' 'knew' that people of color were somehow inferior. Excuse me, I meant to say that 'ignoring race is a way to end discrimination.'

Give me a fucking break. This is such transparent bullshit. Conservatives have such a strange understanding of terms like "discrimination" and "racism" that I can only think they do this shit on purpose as part of some giant strawman game. Also, it makes me a little sad to admit that white supremacy (and sexism) is probably a big part of why the Democrats didn't really freak out when Alito and Roberts were nominated.


I broke the code while putting away my socks. When Roberts says this:

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

what he means is this:

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to go back to pretending black people don't exist."

UPDATE: Minor edits for clarity. Also, I should add that I think lots of conservative folks, especially political commentators and people in positions of power, don't really understand terms like "diversity" or "difference" or "discrimination" in the way many people on the 'left' do; furthermore, as I said above, I think some of that misunderstanding is an intentional attempt to poison the terms as a way to discredit the ideas behind the terms. Just wanted to make that a little clearer.

Social Networking and Class Divisions

Via lots of places, an essay that came out recently on the class nature of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

I should preface this by saying I've never really even seen Facebook, and I don't have a MySpace account, though many of my friends do. I do spend a lot of time online, but from what I've seen, both sites tend to encourage people to act stupid, for whatever reason. Not that they are useless, but that they have been mostly useless thus far (the exception seems to be keeping track of what folks are up to these days).

I'm also thinking that Boyd's essay provides a great window into the way in which cultural values are replicated and transmitted, from who is on each site and why to the differing visual aesthetics of the two sites. Oh, and why do you think folks using MySpace think cluttered backgrounds and crappy designs are appealing? Hegemony, folks. MySpace is set apart - and sets itself apart - from Facebook by adopting a different set of design ideas, one that are then labeled "immature" and the like by - surprise, surprise - Facebook users and their parents. It's a vicious circle, and the worst part is that some of the more bizarre and outlandish designs on MySpace are probably pretty good.

The author, Danah Boyd, tells me that there's some serious shit going down on the aforementioned sites:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

Damn. That's fucked up. What we're seeing is the golf course of the future. Instead of networking at the right clubs, or parties, or at the 19th hole, folks are going to network - and get their (online) friends jobs - through MySpace, Facebook, and the like. What seems to be happening is the perpetuation of a closed system: it's still who you know, not what you know. (Disclosure: This totally applies to me.) So yeah - for anyone who thinks this stuff is either a waste of time to participate in (and that includes me) or a waste of time to study, um, no. It's got consequences, people. That 17-year-old jackass with his shirt off and the spilled PBR in his right hand? He's going to be your boss because he friended someone's rich kid. Welcome to America, land of opportunity.

Egypt Bans Female Genital Cutting

Good for Egypt.

I wish there was more background and context, however. I'm left wondering who banned it, how long there's been a push to ban it, and who exactly was behind the push (I'm going to guess women).

If you want more background on FGC (though I suspect most folks who read this already know what it is), feministe also has a link to Wikipedia.

via Feministe.

The iPhone

Working Assets is calling for a boycott on the iPhone. I tend to agree with them - for a company with an out-of-the-box reputation, Apple's behavior around the iPhone is pure corporate greed: crappy corporate carrier (AT&T), locked phone, etc.

Does this make me feel guilty about the fact that I want a MacBook? Yes, a little. Then again, if I take as given that I'll have a computer, a Mac still beats a PC. Will I ever get an iPhone? Not a chance - it's overpriced, and by all accounts, the availability of a good Internet connection (Steve Jobs' claims notwithstanding) is not very good at all.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

He Who Makes My Brain Hurt


Nerdvana, Part II

Apparently someone has been remixing Magic cards into political statements, or at least political cards. Too funny.

Oh, and don't be alarmed that you don't see any on that first page. Just go to pages 2-4 for the nerdy goodness.

Knocked Down

Katha Politt (she writes for The Nation magazine) explains why I didn't go see Knocked Up.

In short, I'm really, really tired of the male fantasy bit, be it show or movie in which the hot chick falls for the loser guy who's sole claim to fame is really that's he's supposed to be everyman. It's like porn with clothes.

Beastie Boys

Apparently the Beastie Boys are posting photos to Flickr while they tour.

Via Boing Boing.

And did I ever mention this blog was totally going to be a link dump? No? It's because I didn't know that when I started.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Al Gore: Rich, Rich Man

Via Daily Kos of all places, a story on Gore's business enterprises. It seems his family is worth more than $100 million today, up from $2 million at the time of the 2000 election. Yes, that is correct. From $2 million to over $100 million in SEVEN YEARS.

What's interesting is his decisions as to how he invests his money. People seem to view him as some sort of wacko lefty for his insistence on factoring in various things that are considered unorthodox from a standard economic point of view - you know, things like the environmental and social impacts that a business has.

Personally, I think he's still not going far enough, though he certainly seems to be pulling in more or less the right direction.

This is just stupid, though:

Current [Gore's TV network} has also worked with advertisers to create viewer-generated commercials, or VCAMs. To date, some 32 VCAMs have hit the air. "Once we heard the concept, we got on board early on," says Brett Dennis, director of media marketing for T-Mobile, which also runs traditional spots on the network. "It provided us with a groundbreaking way to reach customers, and to encourage them to engage with our brand."

Uh, what? User-generated ads? He really should know better. Does he really think the craptastic nature of the media - not to mention how people treat politics - has nothing to do with advertising? Why in the world would he support this junk? On this one, I'm sort of at a loss.

A Window into Insanity

Via Digby (who is pretty damn funny if you ask me) and James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, a story from The New Republic about a cruise specifically for conservatives. Oh, what it reveals about the folks on the cruise. I can't link to the TNR story since it's behind a firewall, but I will instead link to the coverage by Digby and Wolcott.

I will excerpt a bit, however:

The conversation ebbs back to friendly chit-chat. So, you're a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she's visited. Her companion adds, "I went to Paris, and it was so lovely." Her face darkens: "But then you think--it's surrounded by Muslims." The first lady nods: "They're out there, and they're coming." Emboldened, the bearded Floridian wags a finger and says, "Down the line, we're not going to bail out the French again." He mimes picking up a phone and shouts into it, "I can't hear you, Jacques! What's that? The Muslims are doing what to you? I can't hear you!"

Go read and laugh cry.

More on the Radar-Eric Thing

This is just too long to post as a comment to the below post, so it gets a whole post to itself.

Eric, apologies for the mislabeling - somewhere along the line I started generalizing the argument a bit. I also tend to use the 'lefty' identity very, very broadly, often to the detriment of accuracy.

Also, when I put the words leftists, lefty or liberals in single quotes, it is usually a sign of mild mockery of the way the word is used. I don't really like those terms, but they are so commonly used it's hard to get away from them.

A question: How does Eric know that the LGBT lifestyle doesn't affect Radar's existence? I've heard this claim made in defense of equality often, but I've never heard any sort of backing for it. The only reason I even bring it up is that when it's phrased in the way Eric did above, it sounds like Radar is being told what their experience is or should be, another huge social justice no-no. So I'd appreciate some clarification on that one.

And just to make it worse, compare these two examples: Person A is freaked out by homosexuality, and shudders at the idea of two gay men having sex, even in the privacy of their own home. Person B shudders at the though of a man beating a woman in the privacy of their home. What is it that allows us to reach into the home in the case of Person B and tell them what they're doing is wrong, when we can't do the same for Person A? Note: I am not endorsing the legitimacy of either case here, just wondering about the moral or ethical or metaphysical mechanism we use in one case but not in the other and what the difference is.

On to Radar's comment about the connection between beliefs, ideology, and identity.

I think that one's ideology - in this case conservative - can be part of one's identity. I think that's right, as Radar states (for some underlying epistemological reasons which I may or may not explain later), but I also think it's OK to challenge specific parts of that ideology, and that this does not necessarily constitute delegitimizing one's identity. Radar's stance on LGBT folks is a belief or set of beliefs, after all, and challenging someone's beliefs is an essential part of discourse, especially in the academic/intellectual world. So upon further consideration, I don't think it's hypocritical or conflicted at all to challenge a person's beliefs, even when those beliefs are part of what makes up their identity. However, the method of challenging beliefs and the particular beliefs challenged does play a role here, as does the difference between challenging beliefs and challenging actions.

Re: What appears to be Radar's assumption that I might disapprove of their lifestyle, um, no. I might disapprove of things like publicly taunting LGBT folks, or treating them poorly, but those are specific actions, if I somehow knew Radar did them, which I don't (and have no reason to think they do). So no, I don't disapprove of Radar's lifestyle - I don't even know what it is! Please don't conflate an entire 'lifestyle' with a few 'opinions'. They are very different things. Also, please don't conflate my disliking of people who are publicly bigots with anything Radar has done. Last time I checked, I have no idea what s/he *does* beyond work in academia and inhabit the Internet.

Finally, Radar, you're welcome to comment here all you want. Very welcome, in fact.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Students, Filesharing, and the University

I'd write more, but what I can say? I support filesharing. If you want to know more (or why), just ask.

The University of Washington, on the other hand, does not support filesharing. In fact, they are going to actively help the RIAA. Idiots.

Making a Statement

Apparently 50 high school students, all part of the Presidential Scholars program (whatever that is), presented Bush with a signed letter the other day asking the President to place a ban on torture and human rights violations.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh, because the idea that Bush would listen to these folks is ridiculous on its face, or cry because they had the guts to do it - guts that are in very short supply these days.

My, um, favorite part:

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

I love/hate how Bush always just repeats his lines like he's the smartest one in the room, or that what he says goes because of his status. I associate that trait with, well, a massive lack of awareness about the world. Hm.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Human Nature and Political Bent

Apropos of the thing over at Eric's place (see the previous post), there's something I've been thinking about for a little while that I want to take the opportunity to explore a bit.

In some philosophy class or another - I really don't remember which one anymore, though I think it was taught by Sharyn - we addressed the idea that different assumptions are made by people at different levels. Shallow differences in assumption (or opinion, I think) are easily recognized and addressed as such. For example, minute differences in preferred social policy on the part of two think-tank wonks is one example of a shallow assumption. Differences between anarchists on the usefulness of the state as a short-term tool is perhaps another kind of difference, one that runs a little deeper.

On the other hand, some differences are assumptions so fundamental to our worldview that they tend never to be recognized as such, and can cause huge problems when they collide, and often result in people talking past each other and/or thinking the other person is crazy. I tend to think it's these sorts of assumptions that often separate people politically, especially between groups like the liberal blogosphere and the nascent conservative movement - two groups whose worldviews happen to be colliding rather spectacularly at the moment.

At risk of some horrible overgeneralization, I tend to think that a major difference between so-called liberals and conservatives is perhaps the most basic possible: what is human nature?

I know, I know - liberals (especially when expanded to 'the left') no more have a unified idea of human nature than Dick Cheney has a soul. Bear with me.

Speaking of Dick, you should read the Washington Post series on him (Part One, Part Two of four). All that nefarious, sketchy crap folks have been accusing him of for years? Basically true. The guy is really just a huge asshole.

Max Weber, author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, offers a big piece of what I'd call the conservative movement position: That one's fate is determined before one is born, and as a result, success on earth is a sign that one will get into heaven. Failure on earth is a sign one is damned. Therefore, working hard and being materially successful translates into evidence of god's favor. Or - and I think this bit is important - material success itself, gained from hard work or not, is a sign of god's favor. Massive CEO paychecks justify themselves - and so does social inequality. It's preordained by god, and (and this is the best part) poor people are responsible for their own position since they are obviously sinners!

Convenient, that.

The second piece is good old original sin. If human nature is 'sinful,' then something like, say, the redistribution of wealth by the state (yes, this is where I'm going) is not going to have a positive effect, but it is instead going to allow people to be sinful and lazy without consequence. Also, such immorality will be endorsed by the state, since the state is generally responsible for the redistribution of wealth. Hence an opposition to social welfare programs in general. And yes, I'm aware that some folks are opposed to social welfare programs because they're greedy jerks. This is more directed at trying to explain why lower-income folks are economically conservative to their own detriment - their fundamental assumptions and/or beliefs about the nature of people suggest that certain policies are good and others aren't.

This, by the way, has a lot of explanatory power as to why Reagan's "welfare queen" stuck (besides the massive racism, I mean - let's not forget that): Some young women was going to have lots of kids and be supported by the government while being incredibly lazy and 'immoral' because conservative ideas about human nature suggests that's what people do.

On the other hand, if one believes in a human nature that is either inherently good or inherently morally neutral/ambiguous, then wealth redistribution can do some good. In fact, it could do a lot of good: How much time and energy would people have to create and explore the world if they didn't have to worry about their job or income so much?

Think of it this way: Social welfare is a base that allows people the opportunity to improve themselves, be creative, or - hell, why not? - make even more money. The point is that it increases, often dramatically, the possibilities available to an individual.

I should add more to this last section, but I'm tired. My point is that folks that get into arguments or debates that often end with folks talking past each other, or simply being stunned/baffled at what the other 'side' is saying, are folks that have radically different beliefs at a level very fundamental to their worldview, and that if those differences aren't made clear and explicit, the consequences can be very detrimental to debate, discussion, and honest communication.

A Response to 'Considering Difference'

Eric over at Eric Stoller's Blog asked me to comment on a recent post/incident. Given the length of my response, I've decided to respond with a post rather than a comment. Go here for the post that inspired this.

First, a question: By 'outing' did Eric mean telling someone at Iowa State about Radar's writings? Maybe I missed it, but that wasn't clear to me. It's also possible - probable, even - that Radar has been effectively outed; given the information that Eric did post, I could probably follow the trail and out them myself at this point.

Second, wow. Just wow.

I agree with a lot of what's been said already in the comments to the post, but I want to point out one thing, something that Tanya said:
"What is unfortunate here is that Radar thinks he must be anonymous because of the liberal bias in academia not because his behavior as a student affairs professional is wrong."
I think this gets at something important here, namely an idea that all viewpoints are valid perhaps even regardless of context or factual accuracy. That is, Radar (obviously) believes that their personal views are equally valid when held up to anyone else's, especially yours, Eric. On the one hand, I want to agree with him; that's what my lefty social justice background tells me: Do not invalidate someone else's experiences. This leads to marginalization, oppression, etc.

However, I am concerned (and this is a point I think needs made in a larger context than just this case) that there is a serious miscommunication here, perhaps intentional, perhaps not. What I see is lefty folks challenging Radar's beliefs about LGBT folks, not Radar's identity.

(I know, I know - are those even separate? Can we separate them? How? If we can't, then you might as well discard the rest of this post.)

I hope it goes without saying that it's OK to challenge someone's beliefs. Yes, it depends on context, but if we've got any hope left for either an intellectual life and/or positive social change, then I think we've got to believe that it's OK to question the factual basis (and moral basis, for that matter) of the beliefs of other people. If you are not sure this is OK, I have one word for you: Iraq.

Therefore, I can say "Radar, your belief that LGBT folks' lifestyles is immoral is incorrect because its based on false assumptions and/or reasoning." However, I cannot say "Radar, your beliefs make you a bad person." I worry that somewhere those two sentiments get mixed up.

I also worry that sometimes conservative folks don't get the whole debate around difference and/or diversity (probably due to some very, very different underlying assumptions about human nature - see Radar's comment on personal responsibility and how leftists 'don't believe in it' or something - but that's another post), and as a result get mad when their beliefs are challenged, precisely because it's seen as an attack on identity, something us 'liberals' aren't supposed to do. So leftists get called hypocrites based on a misunderstanding, one that allows conservatives to declare victory in their own minds.

Getting back to the question at hand, I am inclined to 'out' Radar as well, on the grounds that his personal beliefs seem to contradict the requirements of his job. This reminds me of some recent news stories I've read in which pharmacists refuse to hand out birth control, emergency contraception, the morning after pill, etc. based on their personal beliefs. My take on that is that those folks are not doing their jobs, and should leave the pharmacy business if they refuse to fulfill the requirements of the job. I feel the same way about Radar; ergo, I think outing that person to their boss(es) is probably ethical, since Radar has (tacitly?) admitted to being unable to do the job at hand.



Sunday, June 24, 2007


I just read in the Corvallis G-T that a recent high school graduate was convicted of spray-painting graffiti on some local buildings. That's against the law, sure, fine whatever. But what caught my eye was the end of an editorial by Theresa Novak, a Gazette-Times editor, in which she said:

Personally, I have little appreciation for the day-glo colors and lurid imagery that typify graffiti works, but I do have appreciation for those who pursue their chosen method of creative expression — up to the point where it means unauthorized spray-painting of someone else’s home or business. That’s vandalism, not art.

I'm not realy in the mood to sugarcoat it, so I'll just say it: She's wrong. As wrong as can be, anyway. Why?

Art is subjective, that's why. In fact, I would go so far to say that it is the subjectivity of art that gives it meaning.

Given that, Ms. Novak would not be wrong if she said "I don't consider what this kid has done to be art. I consider it vandalism." That's fine - she is not speaking for anyone else. However, let me remind you of what she actually said:

That’s vandalism, not art.

What she is making is a claim to objective truth - that the graffiti in question is not art for anyone, anywhere, ever. The not-so-subtle implication is that graffiti can't be art if it's on someone else's property.

To which I respond: When the hell did art have to be legal to be art? An old friend of mine once told me that he considers art 'self-mutilation made public,' and I think that's as good a definition as any, frankly. And besides, perhaps Theresa Novak needs to be introduced to Banksy. He, more than anything or anyone else I've ever seen, is a strong argument for the idea that graffiti can be (and is) art on par with anything else.

I encourage y'all to explore the Banksy page - his work is amazing.

And a disclaimer: I have not seen the graffiti of Colin Wonnacott at all and therefore have no idea if I'd consider what *he* did art or not. Instead, my point is that there's no reasonable way to claim, as Novak does, that no illegal graffiti can be art. Trying to draw a relationship between art and legality is a dangerous and foolhardy thing to do.

Who's the Enemy, Again?

Via Slashdot, I came across this Boston Globe story: FBI warns colleges of terror threat.

The story goes on to explain how some FBI officials are worried that "terrorists" are going to try and use universities as a way to gather information or intelligence, or possibly conduct espionage.

Personally, I'm not seeing the threat here, for two reasons.

First, I don't really trust the FBI's warnings anymore, especially those directed at universities. There's too much of a history of mistakenly (to put it charitably) viewing universities and university students/staff/faculty as 'dangerous' (read: not conservative or authoritarian enough) for some reason, and this whole "the terrorists are coming" crap sounds like a cover to combat the 'real' threat - the (relatively) open spread of information.

Second, I'm not sure that this would even be much of a problem if it were true. In the first place, existing security procedures, if rational, should take care of 99% or more of the problem. Second, I have to admit I'm in favor of some publicity when it comes to the amount of research done on university campuses in the name of 'national security' or 'national defense.' At least at the college I attended, I know that the U.S. Department of Defense dumps millions of dollars into the school for research. A friend of mine once said the only project he could work on without using DoD dollars was one in which he figured out how to more effectively crush bones. The entire rest of the research in his department (which was an engineering department, by the way), he said, was funded by DoD.

So if there was some shadowy group of folks angling to pierce the veil of secrecy that's been laid over lots and lots of university work, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it, depending on the context. I'm pretty sure most college students don't know how much research is done at their schools on subjects they really want nothing to do with.

Mea Culpa

The quote I attributed to Anais Nin is, in fact, from Riki Anne Wilchins, and it goes something like this:

“Our bodies are the battleground where a war to regulate and control gender expression is increasingly being fought.” - Riki Ann Wilchins

Satire is Dead, part XVII

A small example of the at-first-it's-bizarre-but-no-it's-real stuff I run across on the Internet.

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