I am so thoroughly taken by the new Republican talking point that The Terrorists™ represent a greater threat, a more persistent and pernicious evil than the Nazis. Insofar as Bad Vlad and his ward
Dick Grayson Dmitri Medvedev seem ill disposed to sacrificing the half dozen or so remaining living Russians to bring stability to Pakghania, or wherever, this may be true. Pat Buchanan is totally going to jizz all over his grannie panties if this keeps up. But while I would welcome a return to isolationism in at least one American political party, that regrettably seems not to be in the cards.
Friday, May 08, 2009
I am so thoroughly taken by the new Republican talking point that The Terrorists™ represent a greater threat, a more persistent and pernicious evil than the Nazis. Insofar as Bad Vlad and his ward
The so-called "stress tests" for banks were a lovely I'm-ok-you're-ok, group-therapy hug session, weren't they? "Hey, buddy, how ya doin'? Feelin ok? Yeah? Need anything? No?" This has got El Krugo in quite a blue funk:
But what worries me most about the way policy is going isn’t any of these things. It’s my sense that the prospects for fundamental financial reform are fading.Fundamental financial reform would involve a lot of public squares and panniers, if you know what I mean, so I'm going to go out on a revolutionary limb and suggest that our nation's Marie Antoinettes, including the one with the glorious fading jump shot currently mangant de brioche in the great white Versailles are not especially concerned about any sansculottery from the environs of Princeton. Did anyone really think that Obama and Timmy G. were going to give anyone who really mattered the boot? GM only makes things, but it is money money money money money money money that makes the world go round.
At the end of it all, shellfish are the most perfect food. Consider the oyster. The pure, visceral pleasure of fitting the odd, bulbous little knife; the catch of the tip when it finds the seam, the quick twist and palpable crack as the shell opens, the feel of cold brine on your hand, the scent of the ocean, the taste of mineral on your tongue when you bring the shell to your mouth, the shock of salt and slight grit in the liquor, the single cold, sweet, slightly metallic, briny bite of the oyster as you chew it once and swallow it down. But as I prefer my oysters exactly thus, undressed even with shallot and red vinegar, I haven't got a recipe to offer, so will instead offer this little variant on moules marinières and a simple roasted potato preparation for a home cooks fine approximation of traditional frites, which are, let's face it, a real pain in the ass to properly prepare.
for the mussels
2 lbs mussels (discard any that open and do not shut on being touched--they are dead)
3 chicken feet
3-4 shallots, thinly sliced
about 1" of ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Asian basil, chiffonade
6 cups filtered water
2 cups dry white wine
freshly cracked black peppercorns
for the potatoes
4-5 medium russet potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
Begin by generously salting the 6 cups of water in a small stock pot, adding the chicken feet, bringing to a rapid boil, and then reducing to a low boil. Allow to boil uncovered on the stove top until the liquid is reduced by half.
Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the potatoes, cut in half, and then slice into even, 1/4" strips. Although not a big fan of kitchen gadgets in general--I still use my 8" Chinese cleaver for everything from dicing to peeling to butchering whole birds--I cannot recommend highly enough the purchase of a mandolin. (I bought this high-quality but relatively inexpensive model about five years ago and it still shines.) Put the sliced potatoes into a colander and run under cold water, tossing often, for a minute or two. This is just as effective as soaking them in multiple changes of water, and obviously quicker. Lay them out on a good absorbent towel and pat thoroughly dry with another.
In a bowl, toss the potatoes with a couple tablespoons of olive oil until thinly but evenly coated. Lay parchment paper on the bottom of a baking sheet and spread the potatoes in a single layer on the sheet. Place in the middle of the oven and monitor carefully.
As soon as the potatoes hit the oven, pour the wine into a large, heavy sauce pan or skillet. Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger. Slowly heat over a medium flame until simmering. Allow to simmer and reduce for a few minutes.
Remove the reduced chicken broth from the heat and pour into the wine through a very fine mesh sieve. Turn the flame to high and allow a bit more of the liquid to boil off. Add the mussels. They will begin opening almost immediately. Continue cooking, shaking often, until all are open (discard any that persistently will not open--they are also bad). Remove from heat. Transfer to a large serving bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour the liquid over top. Garnish with the basil and a lot of cracked peppercorn.
Remove the potatoes from the oven when they are golden brown. Dump into a bowl layered with paper towels, which will absorb remaining liquid oil, then transfer to a clean, parchment-lined bowl, tossing generously with salt.
Serve with a warm baguette.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The problem, he said, is that child porn laws never contemplated "children sharing images of themselves," and youthful sexters have little concept of their actions as a crime. "You can literally see the shock on their faces," McCarthy said.America is certain of one thing and one thing only regarding adolescents: they do not own themselves; they do not possess independent moral agency; their sexuality is by definition victimhood, even when practiced volitionally; consensual sex and forced prostitution in the under-18 population are essentially inextricable.
-Reported in WaPo
The business model of pimping is remarkably similar whether in Atlanta or Calcutta: take vulnerable, disposable girls whom nobody cares about, use a mix of “friendship,” humiliation, beatings, narcotics and threats to break the girls and induce 100 percent compliance, and then rent out their body parts.
“Just because you’re wearing high-heeled sexy shoes doesn’t mean you should have a baby,” said Neil Cole.
I believe we can all rally around this sentiment.
Cole is the head of Iconix, a company that makes the Candie’s line of teen fashions. A couple of years ago, under fire from critics who accused him of dressing high schoolers like tarts, he established the Candie’s Foundation, which fights teen pregnancy. And there he was on Wednesday introducing the foundation’s new teen ambassador, Bristol Palin.
Palin is not in any way to be confused with the new Candie’s brand spokesperson, Britney Spears. Bristol is the one endorsing abstinence; Britney is the one promoting “hot bottoms.”
I ask because teenage sexuality is one of the leading causes of illegitimacy, which believe it or not is more pandemic than the swine flu and more damaging to the institutions of family and marriage than any same-gender commitment ceremony in California or Iowa.
The solution to so-called underage prostitution is to legalize prostitution, to allow people to exchange money for sex, and, if necessary, to subject that profession to the same child labor rules that we enforce in other professions at far lesser expense and to far greater effect, principally because as far as laws go, child labor laws are rational and enjoy such broad consensus that they effectively enforce themselves . . . unless I am unaware of some ongoing scourge in the newsies industry. The solution to "sexting," or more particularly to the problematic application of draconian pornography censorship to teenagers who send each other titty pics or parents who take cute pictures of babies' bums is to end entirely the prohibition on pornography, including so-called "child pornography," which criminalizes a product rather than the damaging acts that may go into its production. Kidnapping, rape, molestation, harassment, etc.--the statutory bases for prosecuting adults who actually abuse children to produce exploitative sexual video and photography exist, but by instead availing ourselves of our preposterous prohibition on a whole vast, subjective category of media images, thoughts, and expressions, we end up with the priggish absurdity of prosecutors threatening jail and lifelong repercussions to teens for sharing nudie shots.
It's also worth noting that although they're not usually aware of its illegality, the kids sharing these pictures do so precisely because our culture persists in making mere nudity thoroughly titillating. But the old aphorism is instructive: familiarity breeds contempt. Not that I wish to see us grow contemptuous of each others' naked bodies, but a society able to cure itself of the view that nakedness is inherently prurient is one in which exhibitionism escapes censure while declining in currency.
As for pregnancy, we live in a miraculous technological age in a fantastically wealthy society in which we are able to exert nearly full, conscious control of human reproduction, usually with the most minimally invasive measures, and despite the caviling of that commune of queasy fetishists tolerated with mild amusement by the real Romans (as are the feral cats in the Forum), the solution to "the crisis of illegitimacy" is simply to allow women not to get pregnant.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
As many of my readers are dirty biketivist hippitarians, I have constructed this little urban cycle tour of Pittsburgh, to entice younz all to our fair city. It hits a decent cross-section of city neighborhoods, although skips those where you can score good dope, the West End neighborhoods because who cares, and the North Side because Danger Will Robinson.
Beginning Downtown in the theater district at Seventh St. and Penn Ave., head East Northeast on Penn, cut left at 11th St. and right again on Smallman, which you will follow all the way through the warehouse-y back end of the Strip District, looking out for potholes, semis, and railroad tracks. At 32nd St. in Lower Lawrenceville you'll turn right, go a block, and then left onto Penn, following it up the hill to Main St., at the border of Lawrenceville and Bloomfield. Take a right on Main and then a left where Main hits Liberty Ave. Liberty runs all the way through the heart of Bloomfield. Watch out for drunks, motorcycles, and drunks on motorcycles. Liberty becomes S. Aiken Ave at Center Ave, and you'll stay on it, heading into Shadyside. At Walnut St. turn left and keep an eye out for suburbanites trying to parallel park Suburbans. Walnut runs through the Shadyside shopping district and a little cross-section of the Shadyside residential scene. At Shady Ave., turn right, and head uphill, crossing 5th Avenue, and keeping your eyes peeled for Pittsburgh's few Messicins, tending lawns of petite bourgeoisie estates.
At the top of the Shady Ave. hill, turn left onto Wilkins and head downhill. At the light at the bottom of the hill, bear left onto Dallas Ave. At the light, turn right onto Reynolds St., Pt. Breeze's and maybe Pittsburgh's prettiest residential street. Take Reynolds past the Frick Art and Historical Center and the entrance to Frick Park on your right, watching for unleashed dogs, then turn left on Lexington and head down to Penn Ave. At Penn turn right and proceed to the corner of Penn and Braddock Ave. This is a traffic-heavy stretch. Watchout! You'll follow Braddock until you come to the light at the intersection of Braddock and Forbes Ave, with the Frick Park Playground just in front of you. Turn right on Forbes, which is another busy and fast-moving road along its lower half.
Forbes cuts through Frick Park and then heads uphill to Squirrel Hill. You will go through one end of the Sq. Hill business district and then a bit of residential until the road dips downhill and curves right. Here you will instead bear left, watching oncoming traffic, and head into Schenley Park. An immediate left on Darlington Road followed by a quick right onto Circuit Road will send you down a fun, curving hill with a couple of nice switchbacks. It will dump you onto Schenley Drive. Hang a left and then follow it as it curves right, crosses Panther Hollow on a bridge, and brings you around behind the Carnegie Museums and Library. Follow the road around the Museum and hang a right where it dead-ends into Forbes, aiming for the left lanes, which are turning lanes. At the light turn left onto Bellefield, and then make a quick right onto Filmore. Filmore crosses the busy little commercial Craig St and sends you down a short steep hill to Boundary St, which runs through Panther Hollow. Watch for wild turkeys. For real. Follow the bike trail signs, as Boundary turns into a bike and walking trail that takes you under the Parkway and into the Cut. From there, follow the signs for the Eliza Furnace Trail (AKA the Jail Trail). Take the trail until you see the ramps, which take you up to the bike lane of the Hot Metal Bridge. Cross the bridge and you'll find yourself on the South Side. Hang a Right on Carson St. and follow Carson all the way through the busy South Side bar district, watching for drunks, homeless people, gutter/crust punks and their dogs, and suburbanites. At Station Square, turn right and cross the Smithfield Street Bridge, heading back into downtown.
Follow Smithfield St. all the way across town to Liberty. Make a left and then immediately right onto 9th Street. 9th takes you over the Allegheny River to the North Side. Hang a right and then bear right onto River Avenue, which runs all the way along the Allegheny River to 31st St. Turn right and cross the supremely goofy 31st St. Bridge. At the light, turn right onto Penn Avenue, and then follow Penn back through the main drag of the Strip District until you end up back Downtown.
23 miles and a fair portion of the city.
[O]bviously Israel’s nuclear program is not a direct security concern for the United States in the way Iran’s is.Man, they're gonna kill that poor woman!
Iran's nuclear program isn't even an indirect "security concern" for the United States. It's a non-concern. At best, it doesn't exist, and is a public relations fantasy perpetuated by Western governments (in contravention of their own intelligence services, notably) in order to maintain a pretext for isolating, or attempting to isolate, the Iranian state, a holdover Cold War policy about as useful, practical, and sane as the continued American policy of isolating Cuba. (Nevermind "Iran is a state sponsor of terror" and so on. The genesis of our Iranian policy was the Islamic Revolution--the bastards had the temerity to kick out our selected kleptocrat!) At worst, it's an attempt to create a deterrent--hell, even the appearance of a deterrent--to keep the truly insane regional players, i.e. Israel and the United States, from doing something crazy.
And let's digress for a moment. The increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming from the Israeli government toward Iran is not the result of some fear that Iran is going to "wipe Israel off the map," as the endlessly repeated and thoroughly mistranslated phrase goes. (Really, do Iranian presidents speak in late 20th century American war-nerd idiom? Uh, no, emphatically not.) Israeli hysterics are the result of their perception that the window of opportunity is closing. An Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon does not threaten Isreal's existence. It does however threaten the Israelis' ability to, for instance, launch unilateral air strikes, should it ever come to that. Such talk should be familiar to Americans, whose own government defines as intolerable any other nation taking steps that abrogate America's capacity to do whatever the fuck it wants inside any other country in the world.
Anyway, returning to the good Mr. Yglesias, I have been unfair in excerpting an especially tendentious line out of a more reasonable post, but I think it serves to highlight the fact that even most domestic skeptics on the universal goodness of Israel and universal badness of Iran accept nonetheless that Iran is somehow uniquely dangerous (how it is dangerous is never, ever specified), unlike, say, our ad hoc allies India and Pakistan, whom we must simply try "to bring . . . over time into the NPT framework."
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Do you know the story of Frank Ricci? Born with a club foot to a gypsy apothecary and an aquatic Manimal, he was struck deaf and dumb at the tender age of twenty-three by a case of virulent retardation, but by studying hard and joining some union or something, he became a firefighter, standing 20 hand at the shoulder. Then a black negro snuck into his lonely widow's walk and stole his precious, magical ring, transforming into a great dragon and destroying the village. Oh no, there were no firefighters! Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor had imprisoned all the white people, leaving only shiftless blacks, lazy Mexicans, and the Japanese, who consider it shameful to fight fires. So, so shameful. To their ancestors.
Huge, vital, national. Jesus Christ, just stick it in already. Why is it no matter what Peggy Noonan writes, it sounds like she's talking about cock?
I had never read a Nicholson Baker novel, but I enjoyed Human Smoke, his pacifist history of the Second World War immensely, although admittedly some of my enjoyment was derived less from the book soi-même than from the absolutely histrionic denunciations it produced in critics across the political spectrum, who climbed on top of each other to blazon their universal conviction that WWII was the single most edifying event in the history of the human species. Frankly, Baker's novels, what I knew of them, seemed like they would be cloyingly obsessed with minutiae, but I have been reading The Mezzanine, his first novel, and have found it to be absolutely compelling, a trove of finely turned sentences, one of those great, rare workplace novels in which the offices where we spend so much of our time are atomized and examined as societies in their own right. I read half of it on the bus in one morning, finished it in the evening. It is, additionally, one of the finest portrayals of filial and paternal affection that I've yet come across, and this is no small feat. Tolstoy's observation about happy and sad families overstates it, but it's true that affections of the unromantic kind are more selfsame and harder to render distinctly in writing than unhappiness, disunion, disarray, and hatred. There is a long footnote digression in The Mezzanine where the narrator begins by recalling the doorknobs of his childhood home and his father's habit of hanging his ties on the knobs all over the house. He remembers his father's excellent taste in ties. It leads him to remember a recent dinner with his father and a few relatives where dad compliments him on a newly purchased tie, one of the first that he's ever bought for himself, and from these few quotidian memories, Baker builds a family's world, a father finding a way to express love and pride in his son, and a son, now a young man, feeling genuine joy on hearing it.
As I said some very mean and intemperate things about a Chris Nolan flick staring the Baleful Christian and praised Huge Ackman for screaming NOOOOO! as the camera zooms out skyward, I want to take a moment to praise a different movie involving all three of them, and that movie is The Prestige, based on Christopher Priest's excellent novel of the same name. Starring Bale and Jackman as two feuding fin-de-siècle British stage magicians, featuring a wonderful turn by Michael Caine, a less wonderful turn by Scarlett Johansson, and most delightfully, bringing on David Bowie to do a perfectly pitched Nicola Tesla (really, really an inspired bit of casting), whose appearance in today's news reminded me of this movie, it had the misfortune to come out at almost the same time as that flaccid period piece, The Illusionist, which stared Edward Norton and Jessica Biel's various limpid gazes.
The novel's plot and narrative mechanisms are complex and convoluted, impossible to relate without spoiling, and the liberties Nolan took in bringing it to screen, if anything, improve on the neo-Gothic atmosphere and, better yet, render the reveal (the prestige) more compellingly than does the novel, which struggles to find a vocabulary for the wonders it ends up describing. The opening scene of the film returns hauntingly later on, and as in the book, a movie that begins as a investigation of the technology of magic neatly inverts itself before its close.
Monday, May 04, 2009
History is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake and bake.
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "we don't torture," when the -- the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And -- and -- and the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people.We can perhaps forgive President Obama for ignoring The London Cage. Probably just a few bad apples anyway. (Churchill was, on the other hand, infamously bloodthirsty when it came to "primitive tribes" and other subjects of the empire. Gas the Kurds, torture the Kikuyu, and so on.) Look, the Allies firebombed Dresden; America nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pace John Stewart. We would be wise to establish a rule that appealing to the leaders of chief belligerents in a vast global war will not result in clear moral direction. The question of who did or did not commit atrocities during the Second World War rather hops over the fact that The Second World War was an atrocity that superseded any of its component parts. There is a point at which this contest to name the greatest restraint in the face of the mostest evil skips directly to farce. During WWII, a bunch of terrible, brutal, vastly powerful men made terrible, brutal, and largely exigent decisions as they hurled millions of men and billions of tons of matériel at each other. Yes, the Nazis were very bad, but so was Stalin, and so was Chiang Kai-Shek. How do you even craft a moral equation? Were 6 million European Jews worth 20 million Soviets? It is a conflagration totally devoid of moral lessons or principles--just horror, pure horror, and destruction. Hauling out our bloody ancestors as paragons against which we measure our own perversions is a losing proposition, whether we grapple with it truthfully or, like Obama, deploy it dishonestly in the service of prevarication.
We don't torture.
-George W. Bush
Professor confuses Comtian Positivism with the scientific method. Hilarity ensues. One of the standard claims of religious apologists is that "science," whatever they may mean by that, cannot answer "the big questions": Why Are We Here? What Is Our Purpose? What Is the Meaning of Life? And one of the standard ripostes of the non-overlapping magisteria crowd is to say, Well, science, whatever they may mean by that, doesn't propose to answer those questions. This, I think, is cheap--just a cop-out. It accepts the premise that the answers to these self-indulgent questions must derive from some ontological metaphysics. Meanwhile, science does provide a foundation for answering this sort of question. We are here to transmit genes. We are machines for the propagation of genetic material. Life is devoid of intrinsic meaning; it is simply a category defined by the possession of genetic material, the ability to reproduce, and so on.
Lack of intrinsic, self-contained, self-referencing, universal, irreducible "meaning" tantamount to natural law does not mean that we can't approach the questions of life's worth and meaning within the social context, that we ought not approach questions of equity, justice, happiness, ethics, etc. in the realm of human society, however it may be constituted. But of course thinking about our rights as individuals and duties to our fellow man without appealing to the universal schoolmarm, schoolmarm without end, is a terrifying prospect, implying as it does that values may evolve, that meanings are contingent, that thinking may very well have to occur.
Islam is just as absurd as any other goatherd's religion, but I listened with some befuddlement to Steve Inskeep chuckling with Neil MacFarquhar over such odd muzzilimn accommodations to modernity as, for instance, call-in religious lines of which Middle-Easterners avail themselves in seeking instructions on matters pertaining to their faiths. Har har. Also, how can they know what's right or not, without a "central authority, like the Pope"? National Public Radio: forgetting Martin Luther for 40 years now. Dudes've never heard a Christian call-in show? Fer real?