the one enduring evil that actually could conceivably be blamed on the jews

In the shadow of the nation's most recognizable phallic symbol, they gather and march. There are about 50 of them, all ages, both sexes, nearly all white, smiling, quiet, enjoying the sun as they make a slow loop in front of the White House with their signs of protest...

It's Genital Integrity Awareness Week, in case you didn't know, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Female genital mutilation has received worldwide attention and condemnation -- and was banned by Congress 12 years ago this week -- and now intactivists say it's time for equal rights for boys.

For the record, I don't actually support federal legislation banning circumcision. But I would very much like to live in a world where "mutilating the genitals of non-consenting infant boys is a bad, bad thing to do" is an uncontroversial statement.

(Story from the WaPo, via Ron Bailey)


atlanta fighting johnston suit

The City of Atlanta has decided not to settle a suit brought by the family of Kathryn Johnston, the nonagenarian bravely gunned down by the narcotics squad of the APD while serving a drug warrant obtained on evidence that was fabricated by the police anyway.

My heart goes out to Ms. Johnston's family, who I am sure are ready to put this behind them. But I can't help but think that anything that keeps this in the news and puts the systemic corruption of the APD in particular and of drug policing in general on trial in open court may turn out to be a good thing.

Here's hoping the Johnstons get some serious pro bono legal muscle in their corner and tear the bastards a new one.



doherty on the drug war

This a couple of weeks old, but worth quoting at length and reading in its entirety:

The international drug war ought to be of enormous meta-interest to students of policy, political science, and philosophy because it reveals better than almost any other issue the essentially unreasonable nature of our rulers—and our populace. There are few other huge policy matters in which the reason for pursuing a goal is more obviously ludicrous, archaic, and disconnected from any reasonable conception of a larger public good (and yet never questioned), and where the effort is more obviously utterly futile and wasted.

And yet the vast majority of documents studying, chronicling, and counting what’s countable about the drug war, even supposedly ameliorist ones that suggest a switch from, say, military means to medical ones in fighting the drug scourge, refuse to question the root of the absurdity. It is generally assumed (without even an attempt at proof) that stopping people from using the drugs they choose to use is as unquestioned a good as increasing human wealth or preserving human life.

In this era of stunning government debt, of the alleged need for domestic stimulus, and with frequent lip-service dedication paid to spending cuts, the U.S. is still planning to spend $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2009 on international drug war efforts...

One might think that the first place a reasonable politician would look to save a billion or so bucks a year is the category of efforts clearly marked “utterly ridiculous and proven completely futile”—such as the international drug war. But that will almost certainly not happen. If anything should make one hopeless about the future of sensible governance, it's the ongoing, apparently never-ending international war on drugs.

In a word, indeed.

I'm leafing through my library looking for supplemental material for a behavioral pharmacology class I'm teaching this summer. I have yet to find a single book that looks at drug use, addiction, etc. from a scientific point of view that doesn't advocate a serious reexamination of drugs policy in the US and the world.


missing the point on aig

To bitch about AIG using federal "bailout" money to meet its contractual obligations to its employees is to miss the point entirely. The problem isn't the bonuses...the problem is that the "bailout" (I use quotes because it's properly pronounced "nationalization") occurred at all.

But whatever. If it takes some stupid populist backlash against rich people getting paid by the taxpayers (just what the fuck did you think was going to happen when the government got in the business of owning banks, brokerages, and insurance companies anyway?) to pull Obama and the congress off the nationalization track, then I'm all for it.

Businesses need to be allowed to fail. It's part of the cycle.


your dose of irish culture

Death of a Naturalist
by Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.


pinhook tonight

Be there or be nowhere...



It's been reviewed to death, already, so I'll keep this brief: much like Sin City, the film adaptation of Watchmen exhibits a respect for the source material and the fans thereof that borders on reverence. Many scenes are storyboarded straight out of the book, and much of the dialog is verbatim, including, fortunately, many of the best moments from the book ("I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in with me!")

The book is incredibly dense, making a complete translation to screen an impossibility (even with the entire comic-within-a-comic subplot axed, the film clocks in at just under three hours.) Still, Snyder is to be applauded for getting as much in as he could. And for many well-crafted (if easy to miss) references--mostly visual--to the parts he had to leave out. The opening titles in particular tell a ton of the back stories that were woven into the original.

Casting was superb (though no amount of old lady makeup can make Carla Gugino not hot...I would have cast her as the younger Silk Spectre, and someone actually old as her mother.) Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach in particular was stellar.

As much as I enjoyed it, I have no idea how it will stand up to a naive viewing. Actually, if you never read the book and have seen the movie, I'd be interested to know what you thought.

Anyway, all of the above is really just an excuse to post this, about the horror that could have been:


why i won't be buying a hybrid any time soon

Some interesting discussion on whether holding out for a later model hybrid is worth it. The 2010 Prius is expected to get 50 MPG, which is widely considered a major benchmark. Upon reflection I'm not really sure why.

Setting aside the "feel-good factor" (which some people are certainly willing to pay for--witness the success of "fair trade coffee"), if you look at the raw money-saving potential of marginal increases in gas efficiency, it is worth considering that the relationship between miles per gallon and money out of pocket is non-linear. You can do the math yourself if you don't believe me, but here's a graph that assumes one drives 200 miles a week (this is about what I drive these days) and gas costs $2 per gallon (which is what I pay, to one significant figure.)

If the shape of the curve seems non-intuitive, what you need to keep in mind is that to get dollars/week, you have to multiply miles driven by gallons per mile (the reciprocal of miles per gallon) by the price of gas. (Remember dimensional analysis kids?)

So if I were to trade in my trusty old Jeep, which gets 16-17 MPG for pretty much any late model Japanese 4-cylinder car (which generally get about 30 MPG, at least on the highway), I would save $12.67 per week on gas. Not bad! But if I were to get the 2010 Prius, I would save...$17.00 per week. In other words, the difference between the Prius and the old-fashioned 4-banger is only $4 a week, or a little over $200 per year.

Of course, if the gas price jumps back to this year's high of ~$4 per gallon, you can multiply all of those figures by 2. In my opinion, still not worth it for the hybrid, but almost certainly worth looking into losing the Jeep for a 30 MPG used car of some sort.

Similarly, aggregate demand for fossil fuels could be reduced much, much more by getting all the vehicles that currently get less than 20 MPG (mostly trucks, SUVs, sports cars, and larger sedans) up to 25 or 30 than by getting the 2-door coupe already at 30 up to 50.



Just a quick note about the title...this is apparently my 500th post on (ith). (Incidentally, that was the first time I ever used that abbreviation to refer to the name of this blog). I don't know if that tally includes the dozens of drafts still on Blogger that never got published or not, and I am certainly not in the mood to figure that out*. Anyway, the dashboard said "499 posts" before I started this one, so I figured the milestone was worth mentioning. Or not.

If you're still reading, thanks for making it this far.


There is so much wrong with this piece by Bret Stephens that it is difficult to know where to start. It is also difficult not to descend into Tourette's-level profanity when trying to respond to it. But I will nonetheless attempt the former while trying to avoid the latter.

Mr. Stephens argues that "To make the case for [drug legalization in the U.S.] now while Mexico bleeds is an exercise in fecklessness." For the thesaurusly impaired, common synonyms for "feckless" include "ineffective," "incompetent," and "futile." To castigate opposition to the drug war as "an exercise in fecklessness" in the midst of defending arguably the most ineffective, incompetent, and futile policy in the history of the republic requires such a willful dissociation from reality that I am tempted to accuse Mr. Stephens of...well, of being on drugs when he wrote that.

All the more so since he closes the piece by acknowledging that all of the alleged praiseworthiness of Mexico's escalating drug war "...does not mean Mr. Calderón will win."

He also notes that "The government has managed to spark power struggles within and among cartels, and the vast majority of Mexico's murder victims are themselves involved in the drug trade," as though this were a good thing. The concept of selection pressure comes to mind. The criminals that survive this war (and to be sure, it will be criminals that survive it) will be the ones who not only outgunned the state, but each other.

Moreover, since the presumed source for his assertion that the "vast majority" of murdered Mexicans are involved in the drug trade is the very state he dismisses as corrupt and incompetent, this assertion frankly does not deserve to be taken at face value.


*UPDATE--I have been in "coming up with clever ways to analyze large amounts of data" mode today, and that might have to do with me figuring out a "clever" (read:"obvious once you realize it") way to determine this. So as it turns out, this was actually my 460tth post. But who's counting, really?


the saddest sentence i've read today

"If I owned Detroit, and Hell, I’d rent out Detroit and live in Hell."

--A commenter at The Agitator, in a discussion of the news that the median price of a home in Detroit is now $7,500.


12:26 PM barackalpse '91: hey
what ru doin?
ru looking at russia?
12:28 PM lipstickpitbull2012: ur such an a-hole sometimes
barackalpse '91: aw baby don't be that way
u know how really feel about you
i'm just having a little fun
12:29 PM

lipstickpitbull2012: whatever
hey how's the economy doing?
create any new jobs today?
12:30 PM where are you getting that bajillion dollars anyway? You can only raise so much cash raffling off abortions or whatever it is you liberals do when you need money
barackalpse '91
: ur so stupid
bajillion isn't even a real number
anyway that's a low blow
especially since I wanted to compliment you
12:31 PM

for what?

barackalpse '91: for picking such a great running mate for '12
bobby's speech was *awesome*

lipstickpitbull2012: really?
12:32 PM barackalpse '91: oh yeah, totally. way better than mine
you an he are going to be unstopable

12:33 PM

you really think so?

barackalpse '91: LOL
12:34 PM lipstickpitbull2012: that's not funny
barackalpse '91: i'm sorry
hey when are you coming back to the WH?
i miss you...

12:35 PMlipstickpitbull2012: i can't just fly over there any time you want me to, you know
i have a state to run
and people may start to notice...M would totally kick my ass if she found out

barackalpse '91: yeah she would
that's why we aren't going to let her find out
don't worry
besides she's all worried about the interns
won't let me hire any good-looking ones
damn clinton ruined it for the rest of us...

12:36 PMlipstickpitbull2012: you don't NEED interns
you're classier than that
i can be there on Tuesday

barackalpse '91: i love you
lipstickpitbull2012: don't say that unless you mean it...