CT Radio

by Kieran Healy on September 18, 2006

I’ve been on the road for the last week or so, gradually making my way by tramp steamer to Australia. By coincidence, I was on “ABC”:http://www.abc.net.au radio’s “Background Briefing”:http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/stories/2006/1740584.htm programme on Sunday, talking about gift and market exchange in the world of human organ and tissue procurement. There’s a “podcast of the show”:http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/bbg_20060917.mp3 available if you want to listen. The topic is easy to treat in a glib or sensationalistic way, but I thought Ian Walker (who wrote and presented the show) did a really good job with it. There’s a lot of good first-hand material from organ and tissue donors, recipients and bankers, alongside stuff from me, “Virginia Postrel”:http://www.vpostrel.com/weblog/ and others.

Empirical Evidence about Torture

by Jon Mandle on September 18, 2006

I’m a little late with this, and others have written about it, but it’s worth repeating over and over again….

The new Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations prohibits the use of specific interrogation techniques including water boarding, electrical shock, burning, beating, mock executions – you know, the usual. The Army’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence Lt. General Jeff Kimmons clarified during a press conference that “interrogation” refers to “getting truthful answers to time-sensitive questions on the battlefield” and that the manual applies “all detainees, regardless of their status under all circumstances.”

A reporter pointed out that “some of the tactics that were used in particular in Guantanamo Bay … are now prohibited” and asked, “does that limit the ability of interrogators to get information that could be very useful?”

GEN. KIMMONS: Let me answer the first question. That’s a good question. I think — I am absolutely convinced the answer to your first question is no. No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.

And moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress, under — through the use of abusive techniques would be of questionable credibility. And additionally, it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used. And we can’t afford to go there.

So just to clarify: we now have empirical evidence from that last five years that “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices” including in the “time-sensitive” circumstances of the battlefield.

Brooks’s Gender Agenda

by Harry on September 18, 2006

Describing an argument with her mum, Laura puts into words the problem I had with David Brooks’s column on Sunday. The column does little more than articulate the conclusions of Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain; the conclusions basically being that there are significant sex-related differences between boys’ and girls’ brains. But, as Laura says:

After I read this article, I thought “and?” And what’s the point, Davie? So, boys and girls are different, But what does that mean. I mean this isn’t a science column; it’s a political and social column on an opinion page, but he never spits it out. Mom and I were fighting over the Brooks’ unstated point.

Mom: Brooks is just saying, “ha” to the feminists who kept telling me over and over in the 70s that you kids were different, because we were messing with them. If only we were more nurturing to Chris, he would like dolls. And I told them they were crazy.

Me: Brooks is also saying something else, Mom. If we’re all just slaves to genetics as Brooks says, then women have to be the moms and dad have to go to the office or war or the soccer field. I think that’s what he’s really saying there, but he’s too chickenshit to get it out.

I don’t know whether to side with Laura or her mum. But that’s the point. Unlike most of you, but I suspect like Laura, I have a real soft spot for Brooks. But in an op ed, shouldn’t you forward an op?

The science and politics of DDT

by John Quiggin on September 18, 2006

Arguments about DDT have been going on for a long time in the blogosphere and similar circles. These debates typically involve a confusion between two unrelated issues
* The bogus story, popular in rightwing circles, in which the US ban on agricultural use of DDT, inspired by Rachel Carson, is morphed into a global ban on DDT, bringing to an end a previously successful compaign to eradicate malaria
* The real disputes, among malaria experts, about the relative merits of insecticide-treated bednets and spraying of house walls, and of DDT and alternative insecticides.

[click to continue…]

Some weeks ago, watching our Dear Leader answer questions on television, I was overcome with a wave of pity. Not for the president, but for those poor souls, many as yet unborn, who will one day specialize in studying his administration.

Can you imagine having to read countless transcripts of George W. Bush’s speeches? Let alone being obliged to posit them as meaningful? And yet, in the fullness of time, it must come to pass.

Then again, maybe not.
[click to continue…]

What?!

by Belle Waring on September 18, 2006

Please tell me I didn’t just read a white male blogger dismiss a black woman complaining about the lack of any black or latino bloggers at the Bill Clinton blogger meetup by telling her not to attack “her betters” and insinuating that she is too ignorant to write properly. Pleasepleaseplease. Aw, damn:

So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion. Although judging from your other posts that I read, mediocrity may be a chronic condition for you….You just might have a future in this blogging thing, although I think you might be more at home on LiveJournal or MySpace where you can post lots of photos of yourself to distract from your decidedly tepid prose and numerous grammatical faux pas.

This is coming on the heels of lots of sarcastic “sic’s” and “ed’s” inserted in the quoted passages. That’s just uncalled for. I make spelling errors too; so does everyone. Telling a minority woman blogger she’s too stupid and uneducated to make it in the big leagues, and telling her not to “assail her betters” (?!) is just bullshit, and all the black-co-blogger-having in the world isn’t going to make it OK. There are plenty of ways to disagree with people, even humorously, even vehemently, that don’t play into harmful stereotypes. I know that sarcastic mockery of other people’s spelling and grammatical errors is an internet trope from the usenet days of yore, and I’m not saying women or minority bloggers are exempt from ordinary mockery, but think about the context a little. Context matters. If someone makes fun of, say, the lovely John Holbo for some typo, there’s really no subtext. It’s just: “ha-ha!” John will think, whoops, I was typing fast. Oh well. No one questions his right to be heard on the internet.

When a black woman is asking a legitimate question about why minority bloggers are absent from a blogger meet-up in Harlem, and you turn around with a lot of complaints about her writing and reasoning ability, there most definitely is a subtext: you’re too stupid to write properly, and that’s why no one who looks like you was at this meeting. You’re not good enough. Don’t assail your betters. I was actually kind of shocked to see this up at Firedoglake, which is an excellent blog. I’ve never read Liza’s blog before, so I have no real opinion about it or her previous dust-up with Jane Hamsher over the Lieberman-in-blackface thing, but I’ll be reading her posts a damn sight sooner than TRex’s, I’ll tell you that.