Careless people

by Ted on July 11, 2005

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Our finest hour

by Ted on July 11, 2005

Haedro: Socrates, it hurts when I do this.
Socrates: Can I suggest that you don’t do that?

Plato, Philosophy Phunnies

Chris has done a good job of capturing much of the commentary on the London bombings, but I’d like to point out one more ignoble classification. I’m going to pick on Michelle Malkin. It’s certainly not an exclusively right-wing thing, but she’s a professional writer who really ought to know better.

I’m going to assume that Ms. Malkin would have heard about the attacks around breakfast time. By lunch, she had worked through sorrow, anger, grief, and gotten to the healthy point of dumpster-diving. She had taken the time to troll the comments at Democratic Underground and Daily Kos to collect the most appalling, indefensible comments by such pillars of the left as “plcdude”, “talex”, “pyewacket1”, and “TheSnorp”. (Et tu, TheSnorp?) This post was helpfully titled “THE 7/7 ATTACKS: REACTIONS FROM THE AMERICAN LEFT”, and earned her 36 trackbacks.

What’s the point of this? I understand that there are plenty of chuckles to be had by visting Bedlam at Free Republic or Democratic Underground, and occasionally there’s a geniune point to be made. (For example, I thought that No More Mister Nice Blog wrote an interesting post that isn’t just a freakshow.) But I’d suggest that the exact same post (“DERANGED RANTERS RANT”) has been written enough times by now. On a slow day, it’s just hackish and unconvincing; the response, “what about FR/LGF/DU?” always remains the same. But on a day of tragedy, it’s really inappropriate, and it would do us good if we would just knock it off.

UPDATE: I almost forgot Roy Edroso’s response to Michelle Malkin: “DU-oh! I’ma run out and gather me some Free Republic quotes in retaliation. That’s the secret of the blogosphere: it’s self-incorrecting.”

The Death and Life of Modern Humorist

by Ted on July 11, 2005

With the decline of the tech boom, we saw the death of a number of remarkably good professional comedy sites, such as, Modern Humorist and Timmy Big Hands (no link, alas). (I still email around MH’s preview of Radiohead’s Kid A every once in a while.) Gelf Magazine has conducted a funny meta-interview with two of the founders of Modern Humorist, possibly better known from the VH1 show Best Week Ever. They’ve interviewed John Aboud, then let his co-founder, Mike Colton, mockingly comment over it, Mystery Science Theater-style. Check it out.

Statistical Smoking Guns

by Henry Farrell on July 11, 2005

Kelly Bedard and Olivier Deschênes have an “article”: forthcoming in the _American Economic Review_ providing strong statistical evidence that service in the US military is bad for your health – but not (only) for the obvious reasons. Even apart from combat mortality, old soldiers tend to die younger; 2 million veterans from the 1920-1939 cohort (generation) died prematurely. The effects of this, measured in terms of “years of potential life lost,” were roughly as bad as those of the total number of combat deaths in World War II and the Korean War combined. Why so many dead? The authors’ evidence points to one key factor: smoking. During World War II and the Korean war, soldiers were issued cigarette rations, and could buy more cigarettes at subsidized prices. Tobacco companies donated cigarettes to the troops, in part so that soldiers would get hooked on their product, building a long term customer base. Excess veteran mortality after the age of 40 is most pronounced for lung cancer and heart disease, both of which are strongly linked to smoking. Bedard and Deschênes calculate that 36-79% of the excess veteran deaths through lung cancer and heart disease can be attributed to military-induced smoking for veterans from World War II and Korea. The military no longer supplies cigarettes to soldiers as part of their rations. However, tobacco products continue to be sold at subsidized prices at army base PXes. As Bedard and Deschênes argue, this is very bad policy indeed.

(thanks to “Erik”: for the link).

The ironic-gnome rule

by Chris Bertram on July 11, 2005

Talking-up the good things about the English national character is all the fashion in the wake of last week’s bombs: stoicism, stiff upper lip, mustn’t grumble, etc. As it happens last week I also read Kate Fox’s pop-anthropology participant-observer account of the English. Funny and well-0bserved in parts is my verdict on the 400-odd pages of “Watching the English”: , though it was getting a bit crass and tedious towards the end. Still, the book has its moments, most of which have to do with class. The most memorable being the ironic-gnome rule:

bq. I once expressed mild surprise at the presence of a garden gnome in an upper-middle-class garden …. The owner of the garden explained that the gnome was “ironic”. I asked him, with apologies for my ignorance, how one could tell that his garden gnome was supposed to be an ironic statement, as opposed to, you know, just a gnome. He rather sniffily replied that I only had to look at the rest of the garden for it to be obvious that the gnome was a tounge-in-cheek joke.

bq. But surely, I persisted, garden gnomes are always something of a joke, in any garden — I mean, no-one actually takes them seriously or regards them as works of art. His response was rather rambling and confused (not to mention somewhat huffy), but the gist seemed to be that while the lower classes saw gnomes as _intrinsically_ amusing, his gnome was amusing only because of its incongruous appearance in a “smart” garden. In other words, council-house gnomes were a joke, but his gnome was a joke about council-house tastes, effectively a joke about class….

bq. The man’s reaction to my questions clearly defined him as upper-middle, rather than upper class. In fact, his pointing out that the gnome I had noticed was “ironic” had already demoted him by half a class from my original assessment. A genuine member of the upper classes would either have admitted to a passion for garden gnomes … or said something like “Ah yes, my gnome. I’m very fond of my gnome.” and left me to draw my own conclusions.