Friday, November 28, 2003
I hate gonishes, too. My favorite town in Nova Scotia has what I suspect to be its comic strip debut in Get Fuzzy, which I think of as a thinking man's Garfield. (Somewhat dorky pet owner, evil cat, stupid dog, but in this strip, the joke's on the obnoxious cat, not on his victims.) (Background: Rob and the boys are on vacation to Nova Scotia; Rob wanted a vacation to forget about the Red Sox, and Satchel wants to see the land of his birth.)

UPDATE ON SATURDAY: They're still in my favorite town, and now they're wondering why Canadian hours have only 22 minutes. (Archives temporarily bloggered, though.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
"Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass" "Conclusion: Going into physics was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash." (Via phds.org)
Happy Thanksgiving.
Google. Two Google related items. First is a rather strange discovery that people keep coming to this site after Googling Marvin Lender, the chair of Yale-New Haven Hospital, where there is currently a bitter unionization fight. What's mostly strange to me is how many people are apparently looking for information on him.

Second, I have to do my civic duty. Dan Savage has issued a request to make it so that the first Google listing when one searches for Rick Santorum is a link to Dan Savage's definition of the term "Santorum" to mean "that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." By linking Rick Santorum's name to that the column that declares the new meaning of santorum, I'm only doing my bit. Have fun with Rick Santorum!

UPDATE: Ok. I'm afraid that perhaps the above discussion of santorum and Dan Savage just confused people. The blog MetaFilter describes it much better.
Things I've been thinking about III: Ground Zero Memorials. I don't like any of the proposals. They're all too much, too complicated, too over-built. I think that this is because there has been too much emphasis on building and design.

The reason war memorials are so important is that they commemorate battlefields that are really far away. Most Americans aren't going to visit Vietnam to see where the war was fought. People whose loved ones were killed and burried in the distant battlefields and cemetaries of World War I and World War II couldn't make visits to a gravesite on the deceased's birthday or anniversary of death. Same with distant battlefields in the Civil War. That's why there was such a boom in memorials after World War I, and it's one of the reasons that Maya Lin's Vietnam memorial has been so successful. Other events--like the Irish Famine, or the Holocaust--need memorials because they're not site-specific, or because the sites associated with them are also far away.

But that's not what we have with the World Trade Center site. Anyone can (and many do) go there to remember the September 11 attacks. No one needs an over-designed memorial to remind them of the importance of that space. Indeed, I think the memorials presented last week will detract from the space. It's like making a big, designed memorial at a concentration camp. Sure, put up a plaque to remind people of what happened. But it's the place that's hallowed, the place that's important to memory.

My choice for what should happen to Ground Zero would be to leave the two footprints as they are now. Do the absolute minimum of work required to prevent the further falling apart of the site. And then, in a simple, if rather large, brass plaque, list the names of the victims, in either alphabetical order or random order. To satisfy those who want police and firefighters to have special recognition, put a bronzed firefighter's helmet and a police cap near the list of names, with their own plaque recognizing the sacrifice of rescue workers. No more building, no interpretive areas, no extra design elements.

That's it. Keep it simple. That way, the place that contains so much memory and so much meaning will retain it, without an architect's vision of what that memory and meaning should be getting in the way.

(I've been thinking about this particularly after reading two articles in the Times. One, about the footprints as they are now, and another about how difficult it is to keep up a complicated memorial. See here for the full coverage of the memorial competition in the Times.
Things I've been thinking about II: Goodrich. I'm worried. I'm not worried that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling allowing gay marriage is bad for gay marriage. I'm worried that it's bad for everything else on the progressive agenda. Because the Mass. constitution is so difficult to amend, as is the federal constitution, I think that gay marriage had a tremendous boost from Goodrich, one that is unlikely to be undone by homophobic legislatures or congress. Gay couples will start to marry is Massachusetts in (now less than) 180 days, and since it will take several years to amend the Massachusetts constitution, that would mean there would be several years worth of gay marraiges. I don't think it likely that Massachusetts will choose to undo gay marriage after several years of it working. Similarly, I just don't see the federal constitution--notoriously hard to amend--being saddled with a "federal marriage amendment." And with increasing numbers of gay marriages in Massachusetts, I think we'll slowly see other states accepting them, and eventually performing them themselves. So, it seems to me that Goodrich is a good thing for the goal of increasing equal rights for gays.

That said, I worry about what it will do for everything else. I'm paraphrasing someone here, but I forget whom: Republicans have been so successful over the past twenty years--winning the so-called "Reagan Democrats"--by being so strong on social issues that people didn't mind voting against their own interests economically. Once people voted for Reagan for social reasons, he proceeded to dismantle the federal government. In order to win in the future we (and by "we" I mean Democrats, but more generally I think it holds to progressives) need to convince people to vote for their economic interests, and against what they perceive as their social interests. We won't do this if there's a wedge issue like gay marriage on the table. I fear that it congressional and state and local races next year, conservatives will run on anti-gay marriage platforms. Even if (as I argue above) there isn't really anything they can do about gay marriage, they'll be elected. And then they'll be in be in office to cut taxes on the rich, privatize government, and the like.

What worries me about this argument is that the same could have been said in the early 1960s, say, about the civil rights movement. People could have said, "don't give conservatives a wedge issue like race, because they'll just get whites to vote for them because they're afraid of blacks, and they'll forget that their interests are actually best protected by Democrats." Of course, that's exactly what Richard Nixon did with the Southern Strategy. Is the success of the Republicans in attracting working class whites to their candidates a reason that the civil rights movement was bad? Of course not.

UPDATE: See Jack Balkin on this topic, written before Goodrich.
Things I've been thinking about I: Sports As I've commented before, I surprised myself by getting rather into baseball during the playoffs this year. No other American sport holds any interest for me. I find football boring; hockey, despite my love for Canada, has never held my interest; and (this may sound silly) I don't like the sounds basketball makes. But I am playing around (no pun intended) with the idea of starting to follow an international sport--say, European football, international rugby, or cricket. Not only will a devotion to, say, a particular cricket team increase my level of pedantry, but it will finally allow me to understand what they're talking about on the sports section of The World Today.

Readers, this is where you come in: Send me your votes of (a) what sport I should follow, and (b) what team I should root for. An explanation of why--why is rugby better than football, for instance, or why Arsenal over Juventus--would be helpful.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Cultural Judaism. As a secular, anti-Zionist Jew, I have for several years wondered whether there was any space in Jewish comunal life for me. Yesterday's Ha'aretz profiled Felix Posen, who is working on creating an organized space for what he terms cultural Jews. It's an interesting article, and worth reading. (Via David Bernstein at Volokh.)
Mass. court legalizes same-sex marriages. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued its long-awaited decision today in Goodrich v. Department of Public Health, ordering that the Commonwealth allow same-sex couples to marry. The decision is here. The Boston Globe article is here.

NEARLY INSTANT UPDATE: Jack Balkin is pessimistic about the chances of survival of gay marriage in Massachusetts, pointing out that there's already a move afoot to amend the commonwealth constitution to ban them. That's apparently what Hawaii and Alaska did when their courts threatened to legalize same-sex marriage. On the other hand, Human Rights Campaign is predictably pleased. Other posts: En Banc's Chris Geidner summarizes the opinions; Nathan Newman is contrary; most others haven't yet posted.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
More "misbehaving" school children. The other day I posted about a boy in Connecticut sent home from school for wearing a dress. Here's a Washington Post article about two girls who kissed in the cafeteria to protest homophobia and were suspended.
More on Marxists. Josh has posted the results of his greatest Marxists poll. Some comments. First, Soe of the results I find quite extraordinary, which stems from a skewed sample size and I think somewhat flawed methodology. For instance, as much as I like JB McLachlan (indeed, I'm the guy who voted for him), I find it somewhat absurd that he should be ranked higher than EP Thompson or Imre Nagy. When I picked McLachlan, I was counting on other people's votes to overwhelm mine and so make McLachlan an also-ran, rather than tied for 17th of 21. I wonder if part of this is because Josh read people votes as ranked, while mine, at least, was not in any order. Togliati, Castro, and Ho don't appear at all, all of whom I find surprising omissions. All in all though, a fun game.
Friday, November 14, 2003
I may have it rough... Every so often, I've posted short comments worrying that, perhaps, I should take advice and not go to grad school after all. But at least I want to study the history of the British Empire, rather than, say, JRR Tolkein. They really seem to have it rough.
I really can't say enough good things about Nathan Newman's blog. Every time I read it, I want to link to an article. And most of the time, I don't really have much to add, so I would just put a link to the post, without comment. I've so far restrained myself, but here, all at once, is a sort of greatest hits--and this is just among recent posts. Check out these posts on: Wal-Mart sued for labor law violations; striking California grocery workers beaten, and how most strike violence is from the employers; two posts on Dean; why "the issue is not trade versus non-trade, but trade with human rights and trade without it."

Ok. I realize I just gave you a lot to read. If you have to pick one, go for the last. And then resolve to make his blog a daily read.
If you needed another reason to dislike the ADL... Here's one. (Via Protocols.) (For the record, other reasons include an inability to distinguish anti-Israel from anti-semitic; an for Abe Foxman to distinguish his views from those of all other Jews; the related inability to recognize that someone who makes holds explicitly antisemitic views but also supports Israel is, in fact, an antisemite.) (For a similar poor bedfellows story from Protocols, see here.)
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Update on Degussa row. The BBC reports that the Berlin Holocaust Memorial (or, rather, memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, thus explicity excluding other victims of the Holocaust) will go ahead as planned. It seems to be a largely practical decision--excluding every Degussa product would have required tearing down the entire memorial and rebuilding it, and that would have been too expensive. (See the Duetsche Welle article here.) See my previous reflections on the matter here, a post of which I'm rather proud.

On a related topic, I just now see an AP article (via the Toronto Star) about a new plan to build a Berlin memorial to gay victims of the Nazis. This goes some distance in repairing the false impression that Jews were the only victims of the Holocaust--although they were in a special class of victims. I won't satisfied until there's a Roma memorial, too though, especially since of all the groups murdered by the Nazis, the Roma are the ones who face the most continued persecution in modern Europe.
Oy. Read this. Do yourself a favor and skip the comments. I'm nog going to say anything...
Three cheers for this guy. Fifteen year old Kevin Dougherty went to school in a dress and was sent home. So he called the ACLU. Good for him.

The school has a policy that forbids clothing that advertises "sexual activity or preference," says the Times. So, would that prevent someone from wearing a shirt that says "I'm gay?" What about this shirt, with the HRC-logo equal sign?
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
"Setting the Record Straight: An Analysis of the Justice Department's PATRIOT Act Website." That's the name of a page up at the Center for Democracy and Technology website that, well, sets the record straight about Ashcroft's defenses of the Patriot Act. For those who are inclined to believe the rhetoric being thrown around by both sides, it's worth reading. The full CDT response to the Patriot Act is here. (Full disclosure: I used to work at CDT.)
One good poll deserves another. Spurred by Josh's Marxist poll, Jonathan Wilde at catallarchy.net has started a greatest fascist poll. (This idea, to be fair, was first floated in the comments section of a Crooked Timber post, where it was endorsed by Josh with the caveat that "it’s not nearly as rich and varied an intellectual tradition" and dismissed by Chris because fascism is a political doctrine, contra Marxism.) In any case, this seems an easy game: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Ezra Pound, Hu Jintao. I recognize that Hu will be a controversial choice, and perhaps I will defend it later, when I have more time.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
British royals and the European press. I don't much care one way or the other about Prince Charles, and I certainly don't care if he's slept with a man or not. I care somewhat about the rights of those who work for the Royal Family, although, frankly, it seems a bit silly to turn the Prince Charles Affair into a workers' rights issue. What it seems to be, though--increasingly--is a matter of press freedom. The British press, it seems, is used to operating under the restraints of British libel and privacy laws, although even them seem to be chafing at the idea of a prior restraint issued from a judge's cell phone while stuck in traffic.

When the British Royal Family starts to censor European newspapers, though, it starts to seem more serious. Le Monde reported that it destroyed its issues going to Britain and that fifteen other newspapers did the same: "The newspapers were mostly European, notably Le Figaro, Liberation, El Pais, and La Stampa, which are distributed through other channels than Le Monde's." (Story also in the Guardian.) Isn't this sort of thing supposed to be what the European Union is supposed to stop?
Monday, November 10, 2003
Top 5 Marxists. Josh Cherniss is running a poll to determine the blogosphere's favorite Marxists. Josh specifies that he means the Marxists of the Karl variety, but excluding Karl himself. But he doesn't specify much else, which has created some definition issues. What does "top" mean? I have to decide among
personal fondness, revolutionary success, and theoretical contributions. What does "Marxist" mean? Once a Marxist, always a Marxist? Once associated with the American Communist Party, always a Marxist? If one declares oneself to be a Marxist-Leninist, is necessarily a Marxist? What if one disclaims Marxism, but Marx's influence is detected? Words, roots of words, sometimes in Latin; these are the things I have to think about.

Surely if one is to list the top contributors to Marxist Revolutionary doctrine, and exclude Marx himself, they'd have to be Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Castro, and Togliatti. That is, of course, leaving out important people, and most blatantly leaving out any non-Communist Marxists. I'm also inclined to list my personal favorite Marxists, which would lead to a list of Americans: Paul Robeson, Jessica Mitford, Bernadette Healey, the Brothers Foner. (I admit I have a personal allegiance to Trotsky, too, since I think I look like him in his younger days.) That's skipping some of my favorite non-Communist Socialists from the turn of the century, though. It's also, if one includes all the Foners, more than five.

One solution would be to take the top from each category--the top practicing revolutionary, the top intellectual, the top cuddly American, the top liberalizer, and the top third world liberator. But that would
require coming up with five lists of five and then picking the top one from each list, and that's too much work.

So I guess my list would probably be, in no particular order: Luxemburg, Gramsci, Dubcek, J.B. McLachlan, A.P. Randolph. You'll note that my Europeans skew toward anti-Leninists, McLachlan is there for personal reasons, and Randolph really is a symbol for the importance of Marxism to American black liberation. I am a bit disturbed by my list excludes anyone not from Europe or North America. But this is the best compromise I can work out right now. Perhaps I'll change my mind later. My list almost included (that is, I typed their names and then deleted them): Lenin, Mao, Trotsky, Nagy, Togliatti.

Anyone who does not know me personally who knows the identity of JB McLachlan gets a beer or a cookie (his or her choice). Offer good only in Washington or in whatever city I happen to be in if traveling.

UPDATE: Josh has excluded one of my choices, Randolph. I don't agree with his exclusion, but he's running the poll, so ok. He then hints that he might exclude my replacement for him--Bayard Rustin. I've reluctantly directed him to include EP Thompson if he won't allow in Rustin.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
The Purple Army rides for Dean. SEIU did indeed endorse Howard Dean today, but delayed a formal announcement until next week, so AFSCME can do it at the same time. In the meantime, read this New Republic article on Dean and labor, which is one of the better things I've read on the topic. (Via CBS.com; I couldn't find it on the TNR site.) One quibble is that at the end, Ryan Lizza writes that SEIU and other unions are a special interest. It's true that unions have some special interest issues (things like labor law reform). But let's all say this together: working people aren't a special interest. The things the labor movement fights for are what affect all working Americans. (Also, Lizza's prediction that AFSCME wouldn't endorse Dean if SEIU did it first turns out to be wrong.) A lot of the rest of what Lizza says is dead-on, though, especially in his description of SEIU. "If your college-age daughter at Berkeley or Oberlin didn't work on the Dean campaign last summer, she probably organized for SEIU. And the key to both organizations' message is empowerment." Also of note is the way Lizza ties together Jesse Jackson Jr.'s endorsement with SEIU's.

UPDATE: The Times article on the SEIU endorsement is here. Two notes of interest. First is that the Jodi Wilgoren combines the article with more discussion of the Confederate flag comment, and thus her spin is that SEIU is the "most diverse" union, which is true, but really misses the point of it being the biggest and fastest growing, and among the most progressive. Second, and this is, I know, a bit nit-picky, but she quotes Gephardt's Steve Murphy as saying, "But it's still 20 unions to two." Not so, Steve. If we're counting international endorsements, it's three unions to 20. I'm sure the painters would be upset to be forgotten. Overall, the best graf in the piece: "But the deal [to delay SEIU's official endorsement until next week] made for an awkward nonannouncement announcement Thursday afternoon, as Mr. Stern and two dozen S.E.I.U. leaders swathed Dr. Dean in a purple-and-black S.E.I.U. jacket embroidered with his name and sang his praise, but erupted in giggles rather than be direct about what they had done." I like the idea of Andy Stern erupting into giggles.

A FURTHER UPDATE: The Washington Post puts the story above the fold on the front page. Edward Walsh and Dan Balz write: "If AFSCME joins the SEIU, as expected, labor will find itself badly divided between industrial unions and those in the service economy." I'm not really sure how much I buy that. Sure, right now in this specific context, labor is divided. But the House of Labor is big, and there's surely room to disagree a year before the election about the best nominee. I'm not convinced that this heralds a larger split in the labor movement between service workers and industrial workers. There's a pretty obvious split in the labor movement between those who want to throw everything into organizing and those who don't, and there's a fair chance that after the election, that's going to come out into the open even more than it is now. But I don't think that dispute falls on industrial-service lines.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Nathan Newman thinks that assuming AFSCME really does come through for Dean, the AFSCME/SEIU endorsements means that he's got the nomination in the bag. Then he really goes out on a limb and predicts a Dean victory in November. Here's to hoping, at least.

STILL MORE: Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei in yesterday's Post agree somewhat with Nathan. I think I agree with them. The only person still in the running, they say, is Gephardt, if he can pull of an Iowa first place; and that may be possible if he focuses entire on Iowa while Dean is running in the entire country. If Clark, Leiberman, or Edwards comes out particularly well on February 3, they might stay in the running. They seem to discount Kerry, and indeed, his attacks on Dean for the Confederate Flag comment look like despiration. They, like everyone else, discount Kucinich, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton. But here's a question: what happens if Sharpton actually does win in South Carolina? Surely that'll bump off Edwards. It presumably won't make him a more serious candidate. Or will it?
Monday, November 03, 2003
Apply to be your draft board. This article in Salon, which I can't read because I'm not a subscriber, says that the Bush administration is preparing for a possible draft by trying to fill vacancies in local draft boards. (Link via My Antiwar Blog, but really from Technorati.) Indeed, the Defense Department is recruiting. So, wait no further: apply to be on your local draft board today. Imagine if rather than just conscripts coming in and singing "Alice's Restaurant," draft board members broke into song. "And friends, they may thinks it's a movement."
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Will it include the Schwarzenegger group-sex story? Ananova reports that former California candidate for governor Mary Carey is going back into the porno business to make a movie about the recall election. "The two-hour picture will co-star porn star Ron Jeremy as Spooge Cruztamante and muscle-bound X-rated actor Lee Stone as Ernie Gropenegger."

On a side note, the last time I linked to an Ananova story and talked about the recall, it was the highest rated day of this blog ever. Will history repeat itself?
"We are not in the business of replicating 'Les Miserables.'" So explains Stanley Brezenoff, president and chief executive of New York's Continuum Health Partners, when asked why his hospitals don't seek bench warrants to arrest debtors. You may have thought that we got rid of debtor's prisons in this country, oh, a few hundred years ago. Apparently, though, there are still some hospitals that think it appropriate to send poor people to jail in order to make they pay for health care. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. (If you don't have a subscription to wsj.com, you can read the Journal article here, at Education In the Streets.) One hospital spokesperson rightly says that it's not fair to try to fix the health care crisis in this country on the backs of hospitals. We can argue about whether such hospitals can do more (Yale-New Haven Hospital--one of those featured in the Journal's article--for instance, could spend some more of the money in its free bed fund, for instance), but the sentiment is correct. This is just another one of those things that's not going to get fixed until we have real, federal-level health care reform.

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