Yearly Archives: 2008

Weekly Review — December 31, 2008, 11:59 pm

Yearly Review

The United States marked the five-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. Over four million Iraqis had fled the country or been internally displaced, and the total cost of the war, currently about $650 billion, was expected to rise to $2 trillion over the next five years. Oil rose above $147 a barrel, and Abu Dhabi bought New York City’s Chrysler Building for $800 million. Somali pirates stole a Saudi supertanker. President George W. Bush announced that North Korea was no longer a state sponsor of terrorism. The CIA expanded its covert operations in Iran. Bozo the Clown died, as …

No Comment, Quotation — December 31, 2008, 5:22 pm

Rumi’s Parable of the Three Fish

This is the story of the lake and the three big fish that were in it, one of them intelligent, another half-intelligent, and the third, stupid. Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake with their nets. The three fish saw them. The intelligent fish decided at once to leave, to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean. He thought, “I won’t consult with these two on this. They will only weaken my resolve, because they love this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance will keep them here.” Read the rest… –Mawl?n? Jal?l-ad-D?n Muhammad R?m? (Rumi) …

No Comment — December 31, 2008, 1:51 pm

Fredo for the Defense

Times are tough for Alberto Gonzales. Once he figured near the top of the legal profession; he was widely mentioned as a Supreme Court nominee for Bush. David Broder, with characteristic vision, hailed him as a moderate who would restore the reputation of the Justice Department after the “radicalism” of John Ashcroft. Gonzales, the accepted wisdom held, would serve out his term as Bush’s second attorney general, and then would return to a law-firm partnership where he would take down a few million a year. After all, what law firm wouldn’t hire a former attorney general as a partner? Well, …

No Comment — December 31, 2008, 12:22 pm

The Argus-eyed University

We could hardly end 2008 without delivering a George Orwell Honorable Mention to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for its truly extraordinary “acceptable use” policy on employee Internet use. There’s nothing strange about the language of the policy–in fact it’s pedestrian (the Internet “may not be used for any activity which is destructive, disruptive, or illegal” it says). But how the university interprets and applies this prohibition might surprise an observer–unless, of course, the observer is attuned to the peculiarities of Alabama politics. Case in point: The university recently fired Roger Shuler, a long-time public relations employee who blogs …

Sentences, Six Questions — December 31, 2008, 8:37 am

A False Story: Six Questions for Ken Waltzer

In my previous post, I discussed Herman Rosenblat’s memoir An Angel at the Fence, which was revealed over the weekend as a deception. The discovery and exposure of that deceit comes thanks to the work of Ken Waltzer, a professor and director of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. Today, a conversation with Waltzer about Rosenblat’s memoir, memoir in general, and Waltzer’s book-in-progress about the children of Buchenwald. 1. How did Herman Rosenblat’s book reach your radar? In researching a book on children and youths at Buchenwald and its sub-camps, including the Schlieben camp, I interviewed many survivors who were …

Commentary — December 31, 2008, 8:36 am

Replies

From: Jim Grobe Subject: “What Motivates the Torture Enablers?,” by Scott Horton, December 20, 2008 What got me, as a 30 year veteran of the US Navy, was when Rivkin commented that the the use of tough techniques in SERE training justifies the use of tough techniques and Alexander replied that SERE training and being an actual prisoner were two different things. For me this was the crux of the debate. When I joined the Navy in 1961 we were given lectures showing that we treat POWs in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In fact we were given Geneva Convention …

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In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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Within Reach·

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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
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Before the Deluge·

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In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
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Monumental Error·

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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner

Amount American Airlines saved in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad served in first class:

$40,000

A daddy longlegs preserved in amber 99 million years ago was found to have an erection.

Trump tweeted that he had created “jobs, jobs, jobs” since becoming president, and it was reported that Trump plans to bolster job creation by loosening regulations on the global sale of US-made artillery, warships, fighter jets, and drones.

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How to Make Your Own AR-15

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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