torture and terror

“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald Sleep deprivation, as Andrew notes, “can sound deceptively banal” compared to other torture techniques.  Of course, keeping someone awake for a night or two certainly can’t be considered torture (if they are able-bodied men or women that is). …

defense spending: still spending

One thing to bear in mind about the free riders on the United States and its defense capabilities is to me the salient aspect of America’s defense budget in general: we could reduce our defensive budget by what would be in any other context massive amounts of money, and still remain absolutely, utterly militarily dominant.…

US Religious Landscape

ABC News posts this piece introducing the latest Pew Forum Research Survey (the premier forum for this work) on US religious identity in America.  Robert Putnam (he of social capital fame) shared some of his research due to come out in his new book American Grace (2009). ABC focuses on the decline in religious observation…

Sunday Poem Series

The Wood Pile by Robert Frost Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day I paused and said, ‘I will turn back from here. No, I will go on farther- and we shall see’. The hard snow held me, save where now and then One foot went through. The view was all in lines…

Comedian-in-Chief

I may not always agree with his politics, but you have to give the guy credit for style.  This is not your grandfather’s president.  When they talk about him being the first postmodern president this is what they mean.  His slam on Steele’s faux ghetto slang & persona (minute 5) is unreal–and completely deserved.  I…

Joe, the GI

So before Star Trek last night– which is great, by the way– they showed the preview for the upcoming GI Joe movie. This is an old riff of mine, but it’s worth blogging. The GI Joe franchise (toys, cartoons, video games and movies) is all about a band of elite super-soldiers, each with his or…

Friday Night Jukebox

The first time I heard Elliot Smith was watching the Oscars – or rather, when I watched Good Will Hunting, but I didn’t pay much attention then.  When I saw this performance though I was extremely impressed.  It followed a number of big flashy numbers – Celine Dion I think, and others.  Lots of production.…

Quote of the Day

Br. Salam speaks the truth: Some of you are thinking, “Oh man, hipster twee. Spoon my brain out, please.” Well, you’re a bozo. You’re not necessarily a bozo. But seriously, don’t let your “contrarian” prejudices keep you from reading a rare and really brilliant book. If you’re embarrassed about reading the same book all of…

The Salad Bowl

Jonah Goldberg makes an odd claim in his latest column: The mainstream perception that conservatives are close-minded and dogmatic while liberals are open-minded and free-thinking has it almost exactly backward. Liberal dogma is settled: The government should do good, where it can, whenever it can. That is President Obama’s idea of pragmatism and bipartisanship: He’s…

New Belgium

Good read about “sustainable beer” at American Progress.  Fat Tire is one of my favorite beers, and 1554 and Skinny Dip are pretty bloody good also.  We drink a lot of New Belgium brews around here, though the company’s “Fat Tire Festival” – a musical mountain biking tour with lots of good beer – was…

an ending, but no closure

Wesleyan University is in my hometown. I have many connections to the university, which I won’t share now. I was in fact on campus when the terrible events of Wednesday occured. I wish I had something smart or insightful or wise to say about it all, about crime or violence against women or how to…

I dare you to make less sense

These days, “Orwellian” has become a convenient synonym for “things I don’t like,” so I hesitate to use the word in any context. But I don’t think anything else does justice to the sheer idiocy of this Townhall post, which accuses torture opponents of “moral relativism.” Because, you know, arguing for the essential dignity of…

Liar, Liar: Jim Carrey and the Misinformation About Vaccines and Autism

By Dan Summers Corynebacterium diphtheriae, the infectious agent responsible for diphtheria, is a nasty little germ. Known once upon a time as the “strangling angel of children,” affected patients would develop a membrane that covered the airway, as well as significant irritation in the throat and surrounding tissue. Respiratory and circulatory collapse commonly followed, with…

Teaching Moments

This depressing Los Angeles Times story inspired a pretty interesting debate on teacher unions over at the American Scene. In comments, Freddie mounts a persuasive defense of union-backed tenure for professional educators, arguing that job security is a major incentive behind recruitment and retention. This certainly makes sense to me, though it’s worth noting that…

heat

In my current place – where I sit and type this right this very moment – it is too damn hot.  I do not do well in the heat (thinking, writing, organizing etc.) unless I have cool alcoholic beverages at hand.  I have none.  I suffer through.

going to war with the army you have

“Rather than deep moral and spiritual renewal leading to civic health, what if it’s our national solipsism and susceptibility to suggestion that pull us together, and pull us through? What if, rather than being stuck with virtue, we discover that, after a few initially painful changes in lifestyle, we can buy spray-on virtue in a…

Libertarianism, Rightly Understood

Libertarianism does have public relations problems, and it’s not because most people are stupid or immoral. It’s because libertarians have done a terrible job countering the widespread suspicion that it’s a uselessly abstract ahistorical ideology for socially retarded adolescent white guys.

Let’s not call it exceptionalism.

I do appreciate what Mark is trying to do. The stereotypical American exceptionalist wants to argue that the transcendently unique ideals of the U.S.A.’s founding justify a broader range of actions in dealing with other nations, whereas Mark wants to say that the our historically unique ideals should actually limit what we allow ourselves to…

Best Analysis of Pakistan

If you are not reading China Matters on Pakistan you must.  Start here. Key quote: But nobody has a solution that reconciles two fundamentally contradictory positions: America’s desire to pressure the Taliban (at the cost of Pakistan’s internal stability) vs. Pakistan’s willingness to tolerate Afghan jihad in exchange for local peace (at the cost of…

An Exceptionally Moral United States

I have a confession to make.  Despite all my criticisms of waterboarding, American foreign policy interventionism, and a whole host of other aspects of the modern federal government, not to mention my refusal to consider most of Europe to be a socialist hellhole, I am a proud American exceptionalist.  Which is to say that I…