Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Bit on Knocked Up

This gets at why I don't like what I've seen of the movie:

Meghan O’Rourke tackles the stereotype of women in comedies, especially romantic comedies, as joy killers, after Katherine Heigl got pissed on in the media for telling the truth about how Knocked Up fed off the standard trope of men as fun-loving (if irresponsible) and women as responsible but tedious and boring. It was hard not to be defensive of Knocked Up, and not just because it was so funny, but also because Apatow at least tried to show the parallels between men’s fears and women’s fears about adulthood. He grasped that women do have inner lives, but he just failed to write the female characters with the same understanding he brought to the male characters. He showed a glimmer of understanding that the endless rotation of work in a woman’s life is not necessarily something that women want but have embraced because they feel they don’t have a choice, whereas most movies and shows and commercials that position the men as boisterous children and women as disapproving authority figures seem to think that women are mysterious non-human creatures who get off on being fundamentally unlikeable.

An Anecdote about Editors and Technology

From a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:

The last journalism conference I went to was at PSU and it was for editors only. One of the workshops was on journalism and technology, and there was a guy from a Redmond, Wash. paper who was leading it and told his audience that his newspaper's entertainment guide now had its own MySpace page and it was getting a lot of comments, critiques, blah, blah, and that it was really reaching the younger audiences.

A balding, middle aged guy shot his hand up: "What's myspace?"

Every balding, middle-aged male editor (yes it's a stereotype but it was a true one at this conference!) shared the same question. This was less than two years ago.

It's going to take a new generation to make switch to technology-based journalism. And that's... going to take awhile.

Sidebar: That conference WAS odd though because the stereotypical "editor" was there and when I walked in it felt like... I was a complete outsider, or the person that should've been getting them their coffee. One of those things you'll never forget.

This reminds me of the new comment system instituted at the Albany Democrat-Herald, Lebanon Express, and Corvallis Gazette-Times: It would have been neat in 2002. Too bad it's almost 2008.

This conversation started as a result of this post.

"Recent Comments" Section Added + RSS Reader Notes

At the request of a reader, I've copied LT and added a section that notes the most recent comments. It's on the top of the sidebar to the right.

Also, y'all should get an RSS reader like Bloglines or Google Reader (which requires a Gmail account), or for Mac users, Vienna - they will allow you to subscribe to comments as well as blog posts, thereby eliminating the need to constantly visit the blog's URL to check for new posts.

The Rise and Fall of TV Journalism

I wish I had the time (or the caffeine) to add some commentary....

As is, just check out this video... it' s a great bit of satire.

Found via Notes From a Teacher: Mark on Media, a great sight for keeping up with emerging trends in journalism.

Also found at Adrian Monck's place.

Forest Grove News-Times Column on Anonymous Online Speech

via bz, kind of a funny story....

“Truthful” was part of an on-line exchange concerning the U.S. role as global policeman, part of which has been reprinted on these pages.

In response to a comment by Alana Graham, “Truthful” said he/she couldn’t use his/her real name because of “liberals.”

Liberals (a category which apparently includes me) “have a venomous side that makes them seek you out to personally harass you.” The liberals will label you a bigot or “anti-this or anti-that,” go after your job, send “protesters in front of your residence or work,” according to “Truthful.”

Wow. If us liberals were that organ
ized, we’d all be debating how to elect Vice President Edwards to the Oval Office.

Sorry “Truthful,” but the real reason you don’t use your name is that you’re a chicken.

I think Truthful was playing the martyr in this case.

That said, it's good to see the columnist defending the ability of people to leave unsigned comments on the newspaper's web site. It's a practice that I support.

On the other hand, the suggestion that it's only cowardice that causes people to choose to leave unsigned comments is, um, not correct.

John Schrag should check out some of the comments made at LCSD Board meetings and online news stories about same.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Consumerism and Commercialism in Schools

I wholly agree with this post; just go read it (also, it explains why I despise Channel One.)

An excerpt:

My concerns with the commercialization of childhood have to do with the damage done to kids by socializing them to be not only consumers, but consumerist, to define themselves and others by what the clothes they wear, the cache of their cell phone, the bag they carry, the gaming system they have, the sneakers they own, and/or their MP3 player, instead of their talents, interests, behaviors, and insights.

Before reading Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy, I thought this made them shallow and spoiled. I thought it created disturbing parameters of social exclusion. I thought it made a lot of work for parents. I thought it was used to promote lousy brands that harm kids rather than help them. All true.

But reading Schor showed me three things that made me go crazy:

1. that involvement in consumer culture actually causes emotional and mental health problems for children - depression, anxiety, low-self-esteem, psychosomatic problems.

2. that advertisers explicitly use techniques that undermine parental and teacher authority, to ally themselves with children. The adults in your life are controlling morons, but fruit by the foot understands you. Think about the consequences of this — sure, brand loyalty, but more broadly, if your parents are clueless dorks why should a child look to them for guidance or insight? Why should they share their most deeply held concerns? If teachers are oppressive and stupid, then, by implication, so is school. Not good.

3. that marketing, the vehicle that pulls children into consumer culture most directly is everywhere. Parents make the mistake of thinking that our children experience the advertising that they experienced. Not even close. Take the advertising you knew, up it’s emotional pull by adding insights from neuromarketing and ethnographic market research, put it on steroids, and then insert it everywhere from schools, to church, to friendships, to media, to conversations with “friends” in chat rooms, to youth clubs, to public effing space. Yes, yes, I’ve said this before.

I have encountered #2 all of these in spades at LHS. It's incredibly depressing.

Like I said, read.

My God, Hasso - Just Stop Now, Please (aka Bad Editorial Writing 101, pt. 2)

A commenter at the DH gets to this before I did, so I'm just going to quote them rather than do the legwork.

Hering, in regards to the grandmother of Gabriel Allred's willingness to adopt him:

It is a tribute to her grandmotherliness that she’s eager to take him and bring him up.

Hering a mere five lines later:

People who care for a child are eager to take him in and willing to raise him and make sacrifices for him — that ought to count at least as much as biological relations by blood, or even more. (hh)

Commenter John Puma:

" The editor writes himself into a corner. He first concedes that Gabriel's grandmother is "eager to take him and bring him up" but a few words later suggests she does not fit his criterion of worthy parent who must be "eager to take him in and willing to raise him and make sacrifices for him." If that eagerness "ought to count at least as much as biological relations by blood, or even more" then ALSO being a blood relation should seal the decision, in favor of the grandmother.

Seriously - does Hering not run his editorials by anyone before printing them? WTF?

PIE Asks LCSD to Rush Negotiations Over Contract Renewal

Update: In response to the first commenter, as far as I know the LCSD has not agreed to direct negotiations. That said, I would not be surprised if they end up occurring based on the possibility of Debi supporting them. But thus far, nothing has been decided that I know of.

This was in the DH today.

As a rule, I really like the stories Jennifer Moody writes on the Lebanon School Board.

This one, however, I have one tiny - minor, really - quibble about.... and even then it's not really her doing.

What is it?

Well, the entire basis for the story is the fact that PIE wants to meet with the LCSD School Board as soon as possible - before the next scheduled School Board meeting, in fact. Multiple people are quoted in the story as being critical of Chair Sprenger's inclination to wait. This comment is particularly great (that would be sarcasm, people) since it adds absolutely nothing to the discussion:

Braunberger criticized the decision, writing, “Why is it so hard for the Lebanon board to sit down with the PIE board and start the discussions? There is already an existing charter in place that could be used as a starting point. Come on people this is not that complicated.”

It does, however, illustrate something that's not present in the story (and this is where my quibble with Moody comes in):

Simply put, there is no reason given in the story to explain why the PIE Board is being so insistent on immediate negotiations (and doing so in such a hostile manner, like it's their right or something). None whatsoever.

I understand that a large part of the reason for this is due to the fact that no one from PIE ever actually gives anything resembling a reason for the rush, but still. Moody could have either asked Jackson or Braunberger (or Alexander) about the need to rush things, or she could have noted the lack of reason in the story.

But why doesn't anyone from PIE ever give a reason? I don't know, not for sure - but I suspect there are a few possible reasons:

1) The longer the wait the less likely PIE is to get what it wants. Pushing through the immediate and unconditional renewal was a victory, and following it up by hurrying the district through negotiations is likely going to limit the changes that are made to the charter, something that is in line with PIE's desire to avoid accountability and oversight (never mind that the changes will be necessary to bring PIE in to compliance with the law).

2) PIE might want to hold the negotiations over Christmas break, during a time when people don't have as much energy or attention to devote to the subject as they might normally. This is definitely related to #1, as it's another way for PIE to slip under the radar and get what they want. It's also very un-Christian of them (but then again, so is just about everything else they've done thus far).

I should say as well that I cannot think of one good reason to rush the negotiations. The only thing that comes close is the 90-day requirement present in state, but I would very surprised if a) the negotiations take 60 days, or b) there is no provision in state law to extend the time period.

Like I said above, I generally like Jennifer Moody's coverage - but in this case, I just wish she would have noted the lack of given reason in the story, that's all. I think that piece of context is both important and very telling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hering, Journalism, and Ethics (Which One Of These Does Not Belong?)

I know the Society for Professional Journalists is not a mandatory organization for journalists to join, but I thought I'd post an excerpt from their Code of Ethics to further illustrate why I tend to get annoyed with DH Editor-in-Chief Hasso Hering. (See this post for a specific reason.)

This is too easy - from the first sentence of the frackin' preamble...

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.

Got that? Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.

Advocating the destruction of records runs directly counter to public enlightenment, I would think. Not to mention "providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues."

Next (heck, the section is even called "Seek Truth and Report It"):

— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Nope. Can't say advocating the destruction of public records and "that government records are open to inspection" are anything alike. In fact, they seem run directly counter to each other.

Moving on (from the section entitled "Act Independently"):

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

I don't really know what interests Hering was advocating for when he approved of the destruction of the records, but it certainly wasn't "the public's right to know." (Shades of Civic Journalism!)

Finally, we get to the one section that I think might have provided Hering with his best argument, had he chosen to make one.

From "Minimize Harm":

Journalists should:

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
— Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
— Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
— Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

This is where Hering could have made an argument for keeping the records under strict lock and key, since their public release will undoubtedly cause harm to the detainees in the videos (not to mention the CIA and military folks who carried out the alleged acts of torture).

But he didn't. He didn't really make an argument at all, actually; he just sort of asserted the claim, almost like he expected us to believe him because he's Teh Editor, didn't you know?

Certainly Hering wasn't about to make an argument defending the rights and humanity of the victims of torture at the hands of the U.S.

Worse, as it stands, the people who were tortured at the hands of U.S. officials just lost a compelling piece of evidence that would allow them better access to justice - and Hering supported that.

Anyway - the point here is that Hering's editorials show an amazing lack of concern and respect for a sensible code of ethics for journalists.

One can make the argument that an editorial is not the same as a news story, and strictly speaking, that's true. But it doesn't excuse his behavior, especially since the SPJ's Code of Ethics speaks of the actions of a journalist, not the medium they are working in.

I ask again: Can Hering be the editor of a daily newspaper? Of course - he is undoubtedly qualified and has years of experience.

Should he be?


I Give Up; Hasso, You Win [Especially For Folks Who Tune Out When They See the Words "Hasso Hering"]

I can't compete with Hering anymore - after all, I am just some dude with a blog... who apparently is more of a journalist than Hering.

Why do I say that? And how am I so full of myself as to be dead serious?


Michael Hayden, the new chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, is trying to explain to Congress why the agency under his predecessors destroyed videotapes it had made of the interrogation of terrorist suspects. Congress wants to know. But why?

According to testimony Tuesday, the questioning in 2002 produced immediate results in the capture of the 9/11 mastermind. Suppose those tapes showed waterboarding or any other normally indefensible way of interrogating suspects? It would not do the country any good to have them lying around, to be leaked and played on YouTube worldwide.

Whoever destroyed the tapes saved the country a lot of additional and needless grief. (hh)

To quote the person who sent this to me: "When does a journalist ever advocate the destruction of records?"

I agree completely.

Real journalists don't advocate the destruction of records - especially records almost guaranteed to show criminal acts up to and including violations of the Geneva Convention. That's the role of Republican Party operatives. REAL journalists value the truth.

Hering is actually very clear here: When it comes down to supporting the U.S. (my country, right or wrong!) or supporting the rule of law, Hering has no interest in supporting the rule of law.

Which is shameful, and kind of sad, and a whole long list of things that aren't fit to say in public.

The question is not can Hering be the editor of a daily newspaper, it's should he be?

The answer is clearly no.

UPDATE: Apparently there was a standing court order against destroying the tapes.

Kevin Drum Defines the Modern Republican Party

"What bugs me about this is not the fact that the modern Republican Party doesn't really care about actual governance. This is hardly news. At this point, it's an exhausted organization so bereft of ideas that it really doesn't have much choice except to follow a policy of obstruction to its logical, nihilistic conclusion."


The Mutability of IQ

Via Ezra Klein, this book review by Malcolm Gladwell on James Flynn's work on the statistical changes (and significance thereof, especially as it pertains to race) of IQ over time.


Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century’s great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories. In Flynn’s phrase, we have now had to put on “scientific spectacles,” which enable us to make sense of the WISC questions about similarities. To say that Dutch I.Q. scores rose substantially between 1952 and 1982 was another way of saying that the Netherlands in 1982 was, in at least certain respects, much more cognitively demanding than the Netherlands in 1952. An I.Q., in other words, measures not so much how smart we are as how modern we are. [emphasis added]

A test like the Wechsler test, or any IQ test, really, can't help but be testing (and made up of) localized, culturally bound knowledge. There is no way for it to be universal, since those that created it - us humans - do not have a universal knowledge or perspective (though of course many privileged folks claim to do so).

Klein on that paragraph:

If, rather than testing some innate capacity known as "intelligence," IQ actually tests how familiar individuals are with a particular mode of abstract analysis, that throws the whole universe of hereditary determinism into chaos. It suggests that what we call intelligence is, on some level, closer to a skill, and it can be refined and strengthened through practice.

I think Klein gets it exactly right: Intelligence is not immutable - or, at the least, whatever it is IQ measures is not immutable.

Certainly this should lead to a whole new set of policy prescriptions, especially in education.... but it won't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I should have done this a long time ago.

Y'all should check out bz's sense of humor and ability to make tiny things.

Those are store links, by the way, so get over there and support her habits. It's Christmas, people!

bz link also added to the sidebar.

Defining a Generation - Or, At Least, Making a Snarky Comment on Same

From a recent email conversation with my friend bz (reprinted with permission) regarding the website Jezebel and the people behind it:

They're between the working poor and lower middle class, a lot of them (Chase and I began describing ourselves as such like a year ago), but it varies. It's like new money, but instead of folks who came into monetary wealth without effort, it's college degrees. I mean, think about the glut of folks who went through their four years and learned shit, right? They didn't really try too hard, because seriously, what the hell is college practically mandatory for anyway. But like, everyone did the same thing, and so folks are just floating around with these brains and y'know—ideas?—but there's not much for them outside of tiny houses, jobs not quite fulfilling and a society that isn't sure any more what the general proper way of conducting oneself is. [emphasis added]

I think she is getting at something that definitely affects me (and a whole lot of other people): The collapse of the American Dream and the security that goes with it... and the fact that it's not being replaced with much more than a fractured vision of the good life filled with anomie.

To be clear, there is a damned big upside to that: Freedom.

But freedom - choice - can be a scary thing sometimes, as it implies a need to take responsibility for one's actions.

My generation, it seems, is doing a great job putting that off.

Thanks, Judd Apatow.

Also, have I mentioned that Jezebel is awesome?

What Makes a Good School Board Member?

LT broaches the subject of educational attainment and participation on the Lebanon School Board, asking about the levels of education of the board members and whether or not education matters in this context.

I've wondered about that, and my thinking has changed substantially over time. It is clear to me based on LT's post that they think educational attainment does matter, and that not having education past the high school level is problematic when it comes to serving on the school board.

Part of me wants to agree with this statement; after all, I have a four-year degree and getting it was the best experience of my life. And it's real easy to slip from "Rick Alexander" to "education matters."

That said, I think framing the question in the way LT does has two problems:

1. It shows a class bias. While on its face it shows an education bias, the two are very clearly (and often closely) related. The people LT mentions as good school board candidates tend to have advanced degrees (lawyer, doctor) that often lead to pleasant incomes or are personally invested people (parents) who have the time to volunteer - both of which indicate a certain level of socioeconomic status. I don't think such a bias is a good thing, and I've certainly had to fight it in my own thinking and writing on this issue.

I think it's important for most, if not all, groups in Lebanon to be involved in the process. Right now, I see a large gap where the professional class (the McHills, Wopats, Barishes, etc) used to be. I would like to see them (and/or their colleagues) re-enter the field, as distasteful and filled with infighting as it may be. Just because their kids are out of school doesn't mean they should walk away.

2. What are the criteria by which a good school board member is evaluated? That is, what makes a good school board member? (The point being, of course, to see if education itself matters as a criteria, or if education correlates to something that matters, or if it does not matter at all - or if it's somewhere in between).

I don't have a concrete answer to the latter question, actually, but I'll throw out some suggestions and see what sticks:

a) The ability to listen - this is just a good skill for people to have in general, but I think it becomes especially relevant when one is part of a deliberative body that conducts oversight. The LCSD board members can't personally oversee everything in the district, so being able to filter and understand the information presented to them is key to being able to process the big picture.

b) The ability (and inclination) to separate one's own interests from that of the district as a whole. This is easy - Rick doesn't even try. In fact, he goes the opposite direction: His interests become board interests because he pushes them until he gets his way. See for examples anything related to Sand Ridge and/or getting rid of Robinson for an example.

c) The ability to critically evaluate the information presented to you and make decisions based on that evaluation. This is, for me, the one that correlates the most closely with educational attainment by far. Certainly in my case - with half of my degree in Philosophy (aka critical thinking), this is something I personally value quite a bit. After all, it's managed to get me a long way.

As well, I think it's pretty important for a school board member - though I should be clear about where critical thinking skill can come from: Increased critical thinking skills and education have a relationship based on correlation, not causation, since one can be a critical thinker without getting an education. (Yes, I just denigrated the necessity of my own degree. I have no few illusions about that.)

All that said, being able to accurately evaluate the information in front of you and make a sound decision is incredibly important: Often those decisions have a significant impact, whether it be financial or otherwise.

d) Perspective - that is (and I know this is not the best way to put it), having spent a significant amount of time outside of Lebanon. Or something along those lines; I brings this up not because there are Lebanon Lifers involved (which can be a very good thing), but because the more expansive one's consciousness is when it comes to the larger world, the more accurate a context one can place the LCSD in. Or something. This one definitely warrants a bit more thinking about.

So that's it for my short list of things a school board member needs to be able to do. I don't think it's a complete list by any means, but I think it's a start.

Notice the absence of a few things: Education (no, I don't think it's absolutely necessary, but damn does it appear to help in light of the current situation), the presence of a child in a district school, public speaking skills, a background in education policy or finance. Those things might be useful, but are not, strictly speaking, necessary to be effective.

And yes, I realize I am on record as saying conflicting things about education and being a school board member. That's because my thinking on the matter is conflicted.

Another WGA Video

'Subtext $5' - awesome.

With Jaws Agape

I don't think anything I've ever seen on the Interwebs has prepared me for this:

Gold Pill Makes Your Poop Glitter for $425.

My mind is shutting down, possibly for good.

Thanks to BZ, I guess, and via Jezebel.

Jezebel is fucking brilliant.

Bad Editorial Writing 101

The single most boring editorial ever.

It can be summed up as "Be thankful for improvements in Christmas tree stand technology."

If Hasso is trying this hard to fill space, he should just run an extra political cartoon or two.


Bad Journalism 101

This is a relatively quick example.

Go read this story on Jeanne Assam, the guard at a New Life Church who shot Matthew Murray.

Question: What's missing?

Answer: The story - at least as printed in the DH - never says what happens to the person Assam shot. It says "Murray dropped to the ground," but that doesn't mean spit in the context of a news story. It should have established what happened to him - died at the scene, died at the hospital, lived, etc.

That's just sloppy journalism.

Monday, December 10, 2007


All the free software I have downloaded for my new MacBook Pro:

Update: Everything has been installed, and OpenOffice is shortly going to start gathering dust due to the necessity of using X11 to run it. NeoOffice is far easier to use.

(titles in bold have been used)

OpenOffice (open source equivalent to the MS Office Suite)
Skype (audio & video communications over the Internet)
Flickr Uploadr (to upload photos to Flickr)
Mozilla Firefox (open source web browser, makes IE look like the garbage it is)
Mozilla Thunderbird (open source email client)
Miro (Internet TV & vidcast player)
Adium (chat client)
Vienna (RSS feed reader)
Transmission (Torrent client)
VLC Player (media player)
Handbrake (DVD/MPEG-4 encoding and more)
Burn (burns CDs and DVDs)
Seashore (simplified Photoshop equivalent)
Gimp (not as simplified Photoshop equivalent)
Scribus (InDesign/Publisher equivalent)
Xee (fast image viewer and image browser)
Inkscape (vector graphics application)
NeoOffice (a leaner, more Mac-friendly OpenOffice)
Vidalia (TOR anonymity provider)
KisMac (wifi scanner)

Source for most of these: Open Source Mac.

Most of the downloads came from Mac Update or Sourceforge.

I had been considering trying to install Linux on the MacBook, but with the glut of good free software I found within three minutes, I think I'll pass.

Though I should also note that though I may not use some of this software (Adium, Thunderbird, Inkscape, Seashore or Gimp, Vienna, Vidalia, KisMac), I still want to have them handy.... just in case.

Oh, Hasso. Even When You're Right You Manage to be Wrong.

Hering editorializes on President candidate Mitt Romney's recent speech on religion:

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, restated an important American principle Thursday.

The principle is that public affairs be governed by notions of the public interest, not by the tenets of any particular religion.

Yay! (Yay?) Romney apparently believes in the separation of church and state. Who would have... wait a minute. Can we get an excerpt of what Romney actually said?

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.


That's a bit different.

In fact, that is, as Pam at Pandagon pointed out, "pious bullsh*t."

I agree with Pam. The implication of Romney's statement - that "freedom requires religion" - seems clear: The only source of morality, or ethics, in the world is religion.. and take in the context of a Republican primary, that's code for Christianity. Sorry, Eastern Hemisphere - you're all immoral.

As someone who a) is not religious and b) has a BA in Philosophy (which includes multiple classes on ethics), I am more than a little annoyed. The statement is simply historically and factually inaccurate, as well as insulting to anyone whose sense of right and wrong comes from anything other than religion. Like me.

How Hering got it wrong - that Romney supposedly believes in the separation of church and state in any meaningful way - is beyond me. (Well, that's not true: He misrepresents the truth all time.) Given Romney's well discussed and maligned statement, I don't see how one can conclude that Romney believes the State has a basis in anything other than religion. After all, what is the state if not the arbiter of official morality?

Tasers are Bad; This is a Taser; Therefore It Is Bad

From BB Gadgets:

The first electrode hooks on to the target, the second electrode falls and makes contact elsewhere on the body, completing the circuit and activating the shock. It can blast someone as far as 30 metres away, and, unlike the current stun guns, whose shock lasts five seconds, the XREP lasts 20 seconds, enough time to "take the offender into custody without risking injury to officers."

I missed the part where five seconds has proven to be insufficient.

What if someone has an adverse reaction to being tasered? Like an abnormally adverse reaction... like, say, their heart stopping? Does it really make sense to be required to tase someone for a full 20 seconds?

I guess if the point is to inflict pain, then yeah. The more the merrier.

This is repulsive.

The future is now. I'm just waiting for the handcuffs with built-in taser feature, or the shock collar. It's where we're going.

Robots Are Taking Over The Web

Not the best-made video I've ever seen, but I think it gets the point across quite well.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Piling on Althouse

Lots of the feminist blogs I read have an intense dislike for Ann Althouse, and it's been present since before I started reading them, so I have never been quite sure what the deal is.

I think I understand now, thanks to Stoller's post about the pink locker room. Check out her comments in this Inside Higher Ed piece:

Ann Althouse...“It just seems to me that you’ve got a long tradition at a big football school and you’re picking on something that’s going to make people think that feminists are very prickly and touchy and have no sense of humor or they don’t respect the male tradition of sports. I just don’t think that that’s helpful to the feminist cause to pick that battle,” said Althouse...

Translation: Feminists shouldn't object to things that bother men, because then men will think feminists aren't any fun.

What the hell kind of argument is that? And she's a law professor?

The last time I checked, feminism was about justice, not making friends with the boys on the playground.

The Outrage of the Day (Warning: Intense)

And I say 'day' because this sort of shit happens on a daily basis.

I've known for some time that Australia treats the Aboriginal people with disrespect, but this is so far beyond the pale that I don't think there are words (and make no mistake - the relationship between Aboriginal Australia and white Australia makes a huge difference here):

NINE men who pleaded guilty last month to gang-raping a 10-year-old girl at the Aurukun Aboriginal community on Cape York have escaped a prison term, with the sentencing judge saying the child victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them.

I have no coherent reaction to this.

There is more:

Cairns-based District Court judge Sarah Bradley ordered that the six teenage juveniles not even have a conviction recorded for the 2005 offence, and that they be placed on a 12-month probation order.

Judge Bradley sentenced three men over the age of consent of 16 - aged 17, 18 and 26 - to six months' imprisonment, with the sentence suspended for 12 months.

Because the 28-day appeal period has expired, the sentences cannot be altered.

....just go read the whole thing.

Via Feministe.

High-Ranking Democrats Approved of US-Sponsored Torture as Early as 2002

This WaPo story is certainly making the round, with most folks condemning the Dems involved and at least one person defending them. First, the story:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

This does not actually surprise me - but it does disappoint. I would have hoped that the Dems in the room would have at least raised objections in private.

Aravosis at Americablog
has a decent counterpoint:

It's also clear that had Pelosi raised any private objections during the meeting - remember, it took place in the first year after September 11 - Bush and the Republicans would have leaked that fact to the public (like they just did) and destroyed her career and marked her publicly as a traitor. No member of Congress, no American, could have spoken up about anything in the months after September 11 and survived. It's patently unfair to suggest that somehow because Pelosi didn't object then that she doesn't have the right to object now.

I'm not sure I agree with Aravosis about the potential for a career-destroying leak; this presupposes the Dems would continue to give in to the narrative regarding the necessity of the War on Terrah in the first place. I don't want to see recent history rewritten that way; it was not a foregone conclusion that anyone who differed from Bush was going to lose. Please.

Second, Aravosis conflates two things: He claims that we shouldn't deny Pelosi her chance to object now because she didn't object then, but I think the point most people are making is that she (and the other Dems in the room) should have objected then on moral, not political, grounds. Torture is immoral in any political environment.

Lambert at Correntwire makes the semi-obvious point:

Well, I guess now I know why impeachment was “off the table.”

Meaning, of course, that since the Dems were in on it too, they could not reasonably expect to pin the whole thing on Bush.

He then proceeds to call Jane Harman (who I despise) a c***, meaning I'm not listening to him - or her - anymore. That's way beyond the pale (yes, this is coming from someone who other four-letter words on a regular basis).

The point: This is another reason why I think the Dems are marginally - if at all - better than the Republicans. They have failed to raise any serious objections to the prospect of the U.S. torturing people since 2002, and to this day have failed to act on the moral imperative that their position creates.

Go Ron Paul!

(That's a joke, by the way. He's insane.)

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