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How four social networks inform me about the current Israel/Gaza conflict, in order of where I first started seeing things:

  • Facebook: Shares of pro-Israel/anti-Gaza graphics, some of them direct Israeli Defense Force propaganda with the identifying logo at the bottom. All of the sharers are personally known to me, and all are Jewish. Most (maybe all?) of the shares are made without comment, as if the graphic itself says everything the person posting it feels necessary to say.
  • Twitter: Tweets from a number of users, all left-leaning, who link or retweet longer, thoughtful articles examining various aspects of the conflict. Many of the articles are meta-commentary about media coverage of the conflict.
  • LiveJournal: A single user ([livejournal.com profile] osewalrus), well-informed, who personally favors Israel, but offers up commentary and advice that takes the motives and goals of both sides seriously. And one other guy who made a passing reference while talking about something else.
  • Google+: Nothing yet. Right now, the only post I see on my G+ stream that mentions Israel does so in the context of criticizing American airport security.

This confirms reinforces for me a number of beliefs I already held about the services (no doubt shaped by my particular use of those networks, and thus possibly not truly representative):

  • Facebook is for shallow, unreflective contact. (Also: Most of my relatives and some of my friends are reflexive and thoughtless in their support of Israel.)
  • Twitter is mostly tech-savvy and intellectual.
  • LiveJournal is pretty much dying off, unless you speak Russian. Also, [livejournal.com profile] osewalrus is a pretty smart guy.
  • Google+ is great for talking about role-playing games, not for much of anything else.

I voted

Nov. 6th, 2012 05:23 pm
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If I were living in Ohio or Florida, I’d have held my nose and voted for the war criminal. But I’m not! I’m living in New York, a state which is going to deliver its electoral votes to the Democratic Party candidate this year, no matter what I did at the voting booth. So I was free to vote my conscience, and did:

President/Vice-President:
Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala, Green Party
US Senate:
Colia Clark, Green Party
US House of Representatives:
Yvette Clarke, who’s a Democrat, but I voted for her on the Working Families line, because NY supports fusion balloting.
Justices of the Supreme Court:
Cheryl Chambers, Barry Kamins, William Miller, all on the Democratic Party line. The only two alternatives, both on the Working Families line, were not approved by the NY Bar Association.
Judge of the Civil Court:
Craig Walker, Robin Garson, on the Democratic Party line.
State Senator:
Eric Adams, a Democrat, on the Working Families line. (I think. I might have messed this one up and voted him as a Democrat.)
Member of the Assembly:
Walter Mosley III, Democratic Party.

The polling place was pretty crowded. It took five or ten minutes for me to get my ballot, and then twenty minutes on line to submit my ballot once I’d filled it out.

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You Should Be Allowed to Vote
You got 15/15 questions correct.
Generally speaking, you're very well informed.

If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.
You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.

I feel a bit ambivalent about this quiz. On the one hand, I aced it, so hey, ego massage. And yeah, I do think it’s a citizen’s responsibility to actually know something about the issues. (Not that this quiz actually asks about any issues. But if you don’t know what the three branches of government are, that’s probably not the only hole in your knowledge.)

On the other hand, people who argue that others shouldn’t be “allowed” to vote are not friends of democracy. Back in the ’60s, Republicans in Arizona had an organized campaign (Operation Eagle Eye) going to suppress the black vote by having poll watchers hang out at stations in mostly-black districts asking endless complicated questions of voters, causing the lines to back up and many to give up and go home. Former Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist was one such poll watcher.

The year 2000 wasn’t that long ago. The company hired by the state of Florida to scrub illegitimate voters from the rolls was over-zealous and scrubbed several thousand legitimate voters as well, mostly black voters, in numbers easily large enough to have changed the outcome of the election.

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Arg, no thanks to John Gruber, I spent some time this afternoon perusing Eric Raymond’s blog. No, he hasn’t gotten any better.

I was amused to see a few election-related posts — all dating from that brief period around the end of August and early September when McCain’s numbers looked good — gloating about how Obama’s campaign is doomed, doomed. Not a single election-related post later than Sep 18th, though.

Not that Raymond is a Republican, he hastens to remind us. But, like most guys in the lowbrow right-wing branch of the libertarian movement, he’s motivated primarily by ressentiment towards liberals, rather than a love of actual liberty.

(No, not all libertarians are like that. Honest, I know some good ones. The bad ones just tend to stick out more in my mind. Maybe that’s my own ressentiment towards right-wingers speaking.)

But far worse was “The Post-Racial Hall of Mirrors”, where he starts off talking about how he had to drive through a Delaware slum, and was revolted by all the black people around him. Not because of their skin color, he assures us, but because they were so fat and sloppy. How he deals with hanging out at SF cons, I dunno. He goes on to explain that he can’t possibly be a racist, because his belief that blacks have lower IQs is based on real science, and besides, he used to bang this hot black chick.

I take Raymond as a warning — that being a smart guy doesn’t keep you from being an idiot. I can easily imagine myself having turned into the same kind of idiot that he is, given different life experiences.

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84% Mike Gravel
79% Dennis Kucinich
78% Bill Richardson
74% Barack Obama
74% Chris Dodd
71% John Edwards
70% Hillary Clinton
68% Joe Biden
43% Ron Paul
40% John McCain
39% Rudy Giuliani
35% Mike Huckabee
31% Mitt Romney
25% Tom Tancredo
24% Fred Thompson
















2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

(via [livejournal.com profile] supergee)

My biggest complaint is that Giuliani comes in above last place.
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Y’know how bad a president Dubya is? He’s so bad that Richard Mellon Scaife now thinks Clinton was pretty good:

Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, “Both of us have had a rethinking.”

“Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”

(via Kevin Drum)

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I moderate the alumni email list for my highschool graduating class (Bronx Science, 1984). This morning, a message came through from a former classmate stationed in Iraq. The top was date-stamped:

February 17, 2007 * 1914 local time

…and I thought to myself, July, or August?

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I’m willing to believe that Iranian munitions are finding their way into the hands of insurgents in Iraq. It’s entirely plausible. I’m even willing to believe that the Iranian government might be deliberately arming Iraqi insurgents. Despite that, I think expanding the war into Iran would be an even bigger disaster than it is in Iraq.

But look, Telegraph, if you’re going to run an article about allegedly Iranian munitions found in Iraq, well, first it would help if the anonymous American “senior defense department officials” making this claim were actually personally stand by their claims. Second, you might want to accompany the article with a photo of an actual Iranian mortar round, and not one from Pakistan. Here’s a hint: Iranian munitions are labeled in Farsi, complete with Farsi numerals.

Same for you, Washington Post, and you, LA Times.

Update: Don’t take this one to the bank. Turns out that maybe some Iranian munitions manufacturers do use western writing on their bombs. (That’s from a .IR domain, so it probably really is Iranian, though note that in the image the text is in a different font and different location on the mortar than in the US-released photo. Also, the Iranian image has obviously been Photoshopped.)

The anonymous American “explosives expert” said that the mortar’s tail fin was distinctively Iranian. Said tail fin is not visible in the released photos.

Also, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was not aware of the briefing, and is not standing by the claim that the Iranian government is supplying Iraqis with weapons.

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So I’m in the local coffee shop, waiting for my chai to steep, and four members of a local left-wing political action group are finishing up a meeting. They’ve apparently just had a new member join up, because the leader congratulates him on joining a group that’s “hated by right-wing Zionists”, which she immediately amends to “right-wingers and Zionists”.

I turn and ask her “What about left-wing Zionists?”. She’s says there’s no such thing, because anyone who oppresses people can’t be left-wing.

I should probably have done something other than shrug and turn back to my chai, but she was leaving anyway, and where the hell would I even begin? How can I argue with someone who claims to be a left-wing anti-Zionist, yet doesn’t know what leftism and Zionism are? Would she even believe me if I told her I went to a left-wing Zionist school for eight years?

I don’t want you to think this is a problem unique to the left. I run into the same thing on the right even more often — people who live in their own little fact-bubbles and don’t even know what the words they’re using mean.

Ah, well. That wasn’t the first time I’d seen that group in that coffee shop, and it probably won’t be the last, so maybe I need to stock up on facts and counter-arguments for next time.

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Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007 Technically I’ve missed Blog for Choice day, but it isn’t really tomorrow till after I’ve slept, and there’s something that’s been bugging me.

Why do people, even those who support abortion rights, talk about conception? It’s a pre-scientific concept. The Feast of the Conception dates back to the 7th century, long before anybody had any notion of how the mechanics of reproduction worked at a cellular level. It was clearly just a word that meant something like when life begins, so people who say “life begins at conception” aren’t actually saying anything meaningful.

People who try to nail conception to a particular stage of cellular reproductive development can’t even agree on which stage it is. Same say it’s fertilization, some say implantation, some say the whole period from fertilization to implantation.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to use actual scientific terminology when discussing matters of science? Personally, I think anyone who places the point of individual life beginning prior to gastrulation just hasn’t given the matter any serious thought.

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A couple of you have just posted about Dinesh D’Souza’s new book blaming “the cultural left” for 9/11. You (and everyone else reading this) might be interested in this 1997 article in Mother Jones magazine, by Adam Lieberman, about why he left movement conservatism. Here, his experiences with D’Souza, while writing for the Dartmouth Review:

The following year, when I applied to be editor-in-chief of the paper, I was rejected in favor of a staffer a grade younger; D’Souza told me that while I was clearly the most intelligent candidate, the point of the Review was not to be a vehicle for expressing ideas, or even to gain the greatest public support through persuasion, but rather to mobilize the small hard-core of students and alumni who naturally shared its views, through tactics of shock and ad hominem attacks.

Go read the rest. It’s pretty short, and chock-full of quotable bits.

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Libertarians like to remind people how every law passed by state authority, no matter how minor, is ultimately backed up by brutal force. I’m not a libertarian, but here’s some evidence backing them up:

An SVSU student who made headlines for being tasered during a struggle at a Saginaw City Council meeting after refusing to remove his hat is telling his side of an unusual series of events that has left him facing criminal charges that could result in several years in prison.

(via BoingBoing)

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You’ve all heard about Tim Ted Haggard, the powerful Christian evangelist who has frequent discussion with GW Bush, and how Mike Jones, a gay bodybuilder and masseuse, said a few days ago that Haggard had frequently had sex with him and that he’d seen Haggard use methamphetamine.

Haggard denied the accusations, claiming that Jones was lying, but stepped down temporarily from his position as senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs so the charges could be investigated.

Then Haggard admitted that some of the charges were true — he had purchased meth using Jones to get him in touch with the dealer, but he had done so just for curiosity’s sake, and thrown the drugs away unused.

Oh, and he’d also gotten massages from Jones.

So at this point, I’ve got one burning question on my mind: Is Haggard the “200 Percent Straight” guy from the funniest Dan Savage column ever?

Actually, a second question: Why do American media straight-facedly report on the results of polygraph tests as if these tests actually had some meaning? They might as well tell us about news figures’ tarot readings or horoscopes.

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Since I finished Moby-Dick I’ve been reading All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. This is the story of how the CIA and MI6 overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953 to install a tyrannical monarchist government that wouldn’t oppose British control of Iran’s oil. Ever wonder why Iranians hate the US? That coup was why. Before that, they hated the Brits and the Russians, but they liked the US. Just the thing to read if you’re under the impression that fucking over Middle Eastern countries, and fucking ourselves over in the process, is something we just started doing recently.

(Best name in the book: Nader Batmanqelich, masked crimefighter Iranian general. Second-best: Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA agent in charge of the operation. Third place goes to Shaban the Brainless, mob organizer in the CIA’s pay.)

This has me in the mood to read more non-fiction for a while. Also to smack the hell out of anyone who thinks Americans know anything about running things in other countries. But I’m more likely to do the reading. So even though I’ve got copies of Ross Thomas’s Missionary Stew and James Tiptree Jr’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever sitting here waiting for me, I stopped off at Borders on the way home and picked up Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby.

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Kevin Baker’s “Stabbed in the Back!” from last month’s Harper’s Magazine (thank to PNH for pointing it out) makes a good sequel to Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, published in Harper’s more than 40 years ago. And it’s convinced me to add the Harpers.org RSS feed to my regular trawl. I should have long ago, since I’m a fan of Paul Ford, who designed the Harpers.org site and writes their weekly roundup of the world’s news.
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So, if I went and saw An Inconvenient Truth, but I left my air conditioner running while I was out, is that a net gain or loss for the environment?

That was the day, pretty much. Walked about Manhattan a bit, sat in a Starbucks and did a bit of sketching (came up with a new design for a character that I might eventually wind up including in the webcomics that I’ve been not doing for three years now), met [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana for the movie, then we had dinner at Congee Village, and had a view of the fireworks as we walked down Allen Street.

The movie’s really good. Gore’s smooth, confident in his material, and funny, totally blowing away the media’s invented “wooden robot” stereotype from 2000. The scientific errors are so few and so minor that the oil industry’s shills have been reduced to nitpicking his word choices or lying about the content of Gore’s presentation.
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Outrage time again! Even though I’ve stopped reading the New York Times in general, I’d been keeping up my old habit of skimming the Week in Review section (and sometimes the magazine) at my local coffee shop on Sundays. No more, I’ve had enough.

The final straw was the latest column by Byron Calame, the Times’s current “public editor”, the guy hired to try to convince us all that the paper really does, honest, have some shred of journalistic respectability. Here he is trying to justify the May 23rd front-page article on Senator and Bill Clinton’s marriage. First, Calame reinforce the media dynamic recently described by Jamison Foser of Media Matters, the habit of journalists to portray liberals and Democrats as politically calculating, reserving authenticity for the GOP.

Then we learn what Times executive editor Bill Keller thought about the matter:

When it comes to deciding whether to report on political figures’ private lives, “few cases are as clear as the Clinton marriage,” Mr. Keller wrote to me in an e-mail last week. “It would be irresponsible NOT to take a hard look at how these two people relate and operate as a couple.”

Do we all remember former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan’s famous Wall St Journal editorial about how Elian Gonzalez had been rescued from drowning by magical angelic dolphins? Here she is justifying her suggestion that Castro used recordings of President Clinton’s phone sex with Monica Lewinsky to blackmail Clinton into sending Gonzalez back to Cuba:

Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

That’s the journalistic standard the NY Times is now following.

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I tend to assume that everybody reads as many current-events blogs as I do, so I don’t do a lot of current-events blogging, since Jim Henley and the Nielsen Haydens say just about anything I could say better than I would. But actually, a bunch of you read as much or more, and another bunch read pretty much none. Anyway, since I’m home sick (I felt pretty crappy when I got up this morning), a couple of recent items:

In comedy news, the BBC did a recent bit on the Apple (Music) vs Apple (Computers) trademark dispute (which Apple won). They invited over Guy Kewney, an IT expert, to talk about it. Due to some mix-up at reception, they wound up interviewing his cab driver instead, thinking it was him. YouTube has the hilarious footage. I love the sequence of expressions that flashes over the cabbie’s face when the introduce him, and he realizes what’s happened. You can actually read his mind in that second: Oh no, they think I’m that other guy! Should I tell them? Nah, I’ll brazen it out. (Update: Not actually a cab driver. But still the wrong Guy, and still pretty funny.)

And for the latest government outrage, ABC News is reporting that they were told by an anonymous “senior federal law enforcement official” that the government is examining news media’s phone records to try and find confidential sources through traffic analysis. Props to Jim Henley for pointing out that “there always turns out to be more to [these revelations] than we’re initially assured”, and Gary Farber for having been all over this FISA/NSA/data mining thing since December.
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I see that somebody's putting a bounty on the heads of the Danish cartoonists. But is he serious?

President of Goldsmiths' association, Israr Ahmed Khan, said his organization would fix the amount on Saturday. "We will definitely announce (the reward money) and it will be in dollars," Khan said.

Nah, I guess not.

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Since a lot of the blogs I read all swipe links from each other, I tend to forget that not everyone has seen stuff that I’ve seen four or five times. A couple of comics-related items:

The silence of the cat
MackJ at the Truth and Beauty Bombs forums made the amazing discovery that if you take Garfield strips and delete Garfield’s thought balloons, you vastly improve the quality of the strips. Many are just weirdly surreal, but some take on a poignant, philosophical quality reminiscent of Peanuts. See?

modded strip from 7 Feb 2000

Fighting führer with führer
You’ve all heard of the Danish Mohammed cartoon uproar. You may have heard that an Iranian newspaper is asking for submissions of anti-semitic cartoons about the Holocaust, trying to demonstrate that Westerners aren’t as supportive of free speech as we think we are. A group of Israeli cartoonists have picked up the gauntlet, and are setting up their own contest for anti-semitic cartoons, just to prove the Iranians wrong. Deadline is March 5, and I’m stuck for ideas.

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