aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Gays the new Jews (reprise)
In response to an important NYTimes Magazine piece, What’s Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage? It’s the Gay Part by Russll Shorto (subscription, excerpted here), Andrew Sullivan wrote (gone now that he’s moved to The Atlantic but quoted here):
Ah, yes. The danger of the Jews/Gays spreading their disease throughout society, their enormous power despite tiny numbers, their ability to pass, their threat to children, their flaunting of their disagreement with the New Testament. It’s all so familiar. I think the arguments now made by some Christianists are replicas of the old anti-Semitism, peddled by so many Christians in the past: that Jews are to be loved, but loving them is dependent on their conversion to Christianity; that you can love individual Jews while disdaining Judaism; that Jews’ stubbornness in resisting conversion is evidence of their inherent evil; that such evil, at some point, has to be segregated from mainstream society as much as possible. Gays are not the new blacks. They’re the new Jews.
I was reminded of that quote after reading Wonkette’s post, Gay Hater Admonished On Proper Gay-Hating Techniques. In it we learn what concerns Concerned Women for America about Tim Hardaway’s offensive anti-gay remarks:
Concerned Women for America (CWA) is disappointed that a man who is respected by many sports fans would make such inflammatory remarks. “Hardaway’s comments are both unfortunate and inappropriate,” said Matt Barber, CWA’s Policy Director for Cultural Issues. “They provide political fodder for those who wish to paint all opposition to the homosexual lifestyle as being rooted in ‘hate’ Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ His words do not represent the feelings of the vast majority of people opposed to the homosexual agenda. It’s perfectly natural for people to be repelled by disordered sexual behaviors that are both unnatural, and immoral Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ However, the appropriate reaction is to respond with words and acts of love, not words of hate. Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and freedom for all sinners, and that is the heart of the Gospel message. Thousands of former homosexuals have been freed from the homosexual lifestyle through acts of love. Hardaway’s comments only serve to foment misperceptions of widespread homosexual ‘victimhood’ which the homosexual lobby has craftily manufactured.”
NOTE: I thought Concerned Women for America had finally gotten themselves a woman spokesperson. Apparently not.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Party on base
Deciding too many soldiers were dying behind the wheel after partying out of town, Fort Stewart commanders spent $300,000 turning a defunct sports bar on the Army post into Rocky’s, a bar and nightclub that aims to mimic the after-hours party scene of Savannah’s hippest spots.
Knowing booze and dance tunes wouldn’t be enough, commanders also eased security restrictions at the post’s front gate to encourage civilians - namely women, who get free admission between 10 p.m. and midnight Fridays and Saturdays - to party at Rocky’s, which opened in November.
‘’We never want to glamorize alcohol, but we’ve got to be realistic about this,’’ said Col. Todd Buchs, garrison commander. ‘’If we know they’re going to drink, let’s provide a safe place for them to drink so we know they’re going to be alive the next morning.’’
Traffic deaths among soldiers have alarmed the Army since soldiers began returning home from Iraq in the 2003-04 fiscal year, when the number of soldiers killed in car crashes jumped 28 percent over the previous year. A total of 434 Army soldiers have died in wrecks outside combat zones since October 2003.
If it works for soldiers (admittedly a big if) maybe it suggests an approach to try with college students.
MSNBC on Amero
Hardly objective; it’s classic sensationalist cable news. Susan Filan, “Senior Legal Analyst,” recites all the old tropes. Ironic how they illustrate the computer porn…
Right now YouTube is loading extremely slowly. Here’s the link to the video.
MY SAME OLD PLEA: WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find the exculpatory material.
This is hardly the first story of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do their selective search for data supporting that guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence. The media’s eager to cash in and, as we see here, happy to ride along with that presumption of guilt.
Via a Public Defender.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Rex Reed on Andy and Edie
Rex Reed reviews “the thin, superficial docudrama” Factory Girl this week in the NY Observer:
[T]he more I see of Edie Sedgwick, the less of a story I think there is to tell. The real saga is about Andy Warhol, and it’s a mystery why nobody has ever bothered to tell it properly and accurately. He was an early postmodern pioneer-and illustrious purveyor-of pretentious porn, but his brain was an empty bedroom. “Sex is so abstract” was his favorite personal talisman to live by. You wouldn’t call him effeminate; he was too zombified for that, looking like his veins throbbed with formaldehyde. He was a voyeur of life, not a participant in it. And Guy Pearce gets it totally, eerily right. You would not believe that this is the same actor who played the rugged cop in L.A. Confidential. With his white albino wig, blemished skin and protective sunglasses, speaking in a dead, moaning voice pitched so low it can only be heard by a garden slug, he is the real Andy Warhol-an anemic leg-puller of the art world, a cold, antiseptic user who exploited and discarded pitiful underdogs of both sexes, and a celebrated vampire celebrity of the eternal New York night, forever looking like he lived on nothing but raw oysters and embalming fluid.
Rex remembers the real Edie - “the Edie Sedgwick I remember hanging around the Warhol Factory was funny, pretty, vulnerable, smart, easily exploited and desperately lost” - and he’s not seeing her in this movie:
Clumsily directed by an amateur named George Hickenlooper, Microsoft Word-ed with five-and-dime psychology by three hack writers of no importance, and edited with a Cuisinart, I doubt if it would have been considered slick or glam-sham enough to hold even Warhol’s interest in the days when he stuck the label of high art on everything that popped out of a Polaroid.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Blame the victim
I don’t typically blog about such crap but I can’t help but imagine the ruckus if either of these guys was gay.
An 11 man, 1 woman jury in Orange County found Irvine police officer David Alex Park not guilty of three felony charges after he pulled over a female motorist (a dancer from Captain Cream Cabaret, identified as “Lucy” in court) and ejaculated on her sweater.
Four months earlier, Park had stopped Lucy under similar circumstances. That time, he’d ignored a plastic drug baggie he’d found in her car and her suspended license. But the stop wasn’t a waste of time. After friendly chit-chat, the officer had scored Lucy’s phone number. Telephone records show that Park called the stripper the next morning. She told him she was too busy to meet.
On the witness stand, Park explained that he’d called Lucy out of concern for a citizen’s safety.
Those male jurors probably blamed the woman. Just as in the case of the flight attendant accused of having sex in an aircraft toilet with actor Ralph Fiennes:
Other crew members claimed Lisa Robertson had a seven-mile-high fling in business class with The English Patient star.
But she insists he followed her into the small cubicle where, with the door locked, she repelled his advances. [...]
Mr Fiennes, who is dating Belfast-born interior designer Sirin Lewenden, was flying to India as a Unicef ambassador to promote awareness of HIV and safe sex at the time.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The astronaut’s photos
One comment on the astronaut story: I was, in an earlier life, a prosecutor. The circumstances of booking photos are controlled by the people who control the arrest (cops and prosecutors, prison officials in some places). And while the facts of this case as alleged are horrific - the photo on right gives rise to at least two sets of inferences:
- astronaut is/was strung out, tired, upset etc.
- astronaut, after being arrested, interrogated, deprived of sleep, clothes confiscated (and in this case, news reports indicate that the clothes and wig are, in fact, seized as evidence) - and then shoved in front of the camera.
Compare to, e.g., photos of well-connected people who arrange surrenders with their lawyers (Lewis Libby, Martha Stewart) - they don’t look so unappetizing, upset, so guilty.
It’s not unheard of for the authorities to manipulate the taking of these photos so that they’re particularly unflattering.
REMEMBER: pictures lie!
LATER: Jon Stewart doesn’t. His headline? “Very accomplished woman in tragic local story.”
Dobson’s distortions described
TRUTH WINS OUT RELEASES YOUTUBE VIDEO OF YALE PROFESSOR ASSERTING FOCUS ON THE FAMILY LEADER JAMES DOBSON DISTORTED HIS RESEARCH
It’s not the first time. Or the first Wayne Besen YouTube video on the academic cherry-picking Dobson does. See also NYU’s Carol Gilligan.
Amero fund set up
Attached to an OpEd by Alex Eckelberry in the Norwich Bulleting today - “When I first read of the case, my reaction was how illogical it all sounded: A middle-aged, substitute female teacher accessing porn on a classroom computer, in front of her students on one particular day? It made no sense.” - is a letter from Julie Amero’s husband:
For over two years now Julie has been the subject of many misconceptions as to what really happened in 2004. What many people do not understand is that the “Children’s Internet Protection Act” is a Federal Law enacted by Congress in December 2000. The FCC issued rules implementing CIPA in early 2001.
In part the law requires Schools and libraries to have policies and technology “IN PLACE” to block or filter internet access to pictures that are a) obscene, b) child pornography, c) are harmful to minors, for computers that are accessed by minors.
There is more, but you get the idea. It is not the substitute teacher’s responsibility to put these controls in place. It is the BoE’s responsibility. By their own admission, the Norwich BoE did not have these protections in place for a number of months / years?? No one except the IT director and his boss Pam Aubin really knows at this point how long the system was unprotected. It is with no surprise that the Norwich BoE has done everything in its power to make sure that the substitute teacher was arrested and brought to justice for this crime. Someone’s head had to go on the block, for if the parents of the Norwich children knew that is was their administrators that they so whole heartily placed their faith in to protect the children’s morals had so deceived them, what would be next.
Defending Julie against this gross abortion of justice has been very expensive. Up to this point, a valid defense fund was not required, but we have used up most of out life’s savings and we are coming up to sentencing in less than four weeks. We are hoping to bond Julie out of jail while she awaits her appeal. I have established a pay pal account in Julie’s name. Many of you have asked how you can help, now is the time. Please visit the site below and contribute what you can. All donations will be utilized exclusively for Julie’s defense. Any remaining contributions will be donated to organizations that are dedicated to vindicating unjustly accused victims of technology.
Julie Amero’s Husband
Emphasis mine. Here’s more from me on Amero.
LATER - A plea appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
Identity fraud declines
And one of the main reason is the increased use of online banking and financial sites; the reverse of what you might think:
Identity fraud is declining in the United States--down an estimated 12 percent from the prior year--translating into total fraud reduction of approximately $6.4 billion. Indeed, about 500,000 fewer adults in the United States were victims of identity fraud in 2006 than 2005. It is estimated that 3.7 percent of Americans were victims in 2006, as opposed to 4 percent in 2005. Losses from identity fraud are calculated at $49.3 billion in 2006, down from $55.7 billion in 2005.
Why the decline? Factors cited in the report are better consumer education and awareness, and the increased use of online banking and financial sites that enable people to monitor their accounts more frequently.
Fraudulent new account openings have dropped from the prior year, with average fraud amounts also decreasing significantly. Such fraud has dropped from 1.5 percent for respondents for the prior year to a current rate of 1 percent. Plus, when fraudulent accounts are opened, victims are detecting the fraud more often using online channels, such as the viewing of statements. As such, average fraud amounts are dropping from $10,000 the year before to $7,260 now.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Anil Dash - a lifelong fan - says Prince is hot. And has some geek appeal because:
- Prince has distributed much of his own music independently since 1994, and his major label deals since then have largely been promotion-and-distribution deals where he retained ownership of his master recordings.
- Prince is the first artist not signed to a major label to perform during the Superbowl halftime show, not counting accessory marching bands and child choirs.
- He’s had a continuous presence on the web since 1995, and last year won a Webby for his work online
- There are a number of really great prince fansites like prince.org, though Prince’s control freak tendencies have resulted in a lot of stupid legal threats towards them
- Prince distributed an online-only album back in 1997 with the liner notes available as a website
- Prince published an interactive CD-ROM in 1994, and it didn’t totally suck
- He has distributed several albums’ worth of material exclusively online through his own music label (though much of it was DRMed) as well as a number of videos and some really bad poetry
- Prince’s webmaster maintained a now-defunct blog, largely ghostwritten by Prince, starting back in 2000.
- Prince and some of his studio staff used to actually join in on AOL chat room discussions with fans as late as 1995, talking about recording work in progress
- His current official site, 3121, should have a song available for download today
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Philly.com on Cuban and Genarlow
You may recall that Mark Cuban said on his blog, “Personally, there is no chance I do business in the state of Georgia beyond the committment the Mavs have to play the Hawks until Genarlow is out of jail.”
Today the Philadelphia Inquirer chimed in with some suggestions of its own:
[Genarlow] Wilson was 17 when he engaged in consensual oral sex with a then 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party. Even though both Wilson and the girl were minors at the time, he was convicted of a felony (crazily, he would have only gotten a misdemeanor if they had had intercourse) and has to serve a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole under Georgia state law.
So we asked Cuban exactly what he’d be giving up with his boycott, since it didn’t seem his companies did a whole lot of work in Georgia. To the point, why not have the Mavs boycott the Hawks game to show how serious he was about standing up for Wilson?
To our surprise, Cuban e-mailed back that he’d “look into it.”
So we looked into what would happen to a team that forfeited a game for anything other than not having the minimum eight players available in uniform. Let’s just say that if you think the Commish has already been harsh with Cuban by fining him millions for numerous verbal indiscretions, you would have seen nothing yet.
But here’s another idea: Have the players on both teams donate their game check amounts to help Wilson’s family pay its numerous legal bills. Have them go to the Georgia State House together before the game to show public solidarity for Wilson. There are a lot of players involved with causes bigger than themselves, but they rarely put their collective fame and power together. In this case, they should… .
LATER: The AJC’s Political Insider takes notice.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Shiver me timbers
Liz Losh points us to an eighth grade civics test from 1954 (which just happens to be the year I was born). She highlights the correct answer to question number ninety-seven and wonders, “Wouldn’t it be better if we were teaching our kids about this stuff, instead of hectoring them about file-sharing?”
It sure would.
Friday, February 02, 2007
As reported, the flu pandemic guidelines are less draconian than I had imagined:
States should be prepared to keep children out of school for three months, businesses should be prepared to operate with skeleton workforces, children should be prepared to play mostly with their siblings, and parents should be prepared to lose income as they skip work and cobble together rickety child-care arrangements.
That was the picture sketched Thursday by federal officials in a guidance for communities on how to fight pandemic influenza in the months before a vaccine becomes available—if one ever does.
We had a meeting about our plan some weeks ago; IT people, more than most, will have to physically be there to keep the infrastructure working. Students, faculty and staff can be sent home to telecommute:
The 106-page document issued by the CDC outlines “non-pharmaceutical interventions” against a virus that can sometimes be caught simply by standing near an infected person. The chief strategy is to keep people physically apart as much as possible during the eight-to-10-week-long waves of illness.
States and metropolitan areas would decide when to invoke various measures, such as closing schools and banning concerts and sporting events. The guidance, notably, did not suggest restricting travel. Its authors believe that if a pandemic’s effects can be blunted or spread out over time, the essential functions of the economy may be able to continue largely unchanged. [...]
Pandemic America would be an old-fashioned place. People would spend most of their time with close relatives and a few neighbors. They wouldn’t go to the movies, run to the supermarket on a whim, or hug people they barely know. The sick would be cared for at home unless they were near death. Everyone would shun the houses of the ill.
At the same time, many of today’s habits and capabilities would remain.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
No special rights proposed in New Hampshire
Former [New Hampshire] Senate Republican Leader Bob Clegg told The Associated Press on Thursday he will introduce legislation giving gays - and other adults who don’t choose to marry - the same legal rights as married couples.
Clegg, a conservative senator from Hudson, said all adults would be able to enter into “contractual cohabitation” agreements and receive the legal benefits married couples have in the state. Clegg was majority leader when Republicans controlled the Senate last session.
“Marriage is a religious ceremony,” said Clegg. “The bill is not just for gays and lesbians; it’s for anybody.” [...]
Clegg released his bill to the AP while a hearing was in progress one floor up in the Statehouse on a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage.
“I don’t believe we need to amend the constitution,” he said.
You’ve got to wonder how that proposed anti-gay marriage amendment will fare in a state where the license plates read, “Live Free or Die.”
The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act
A friend’s letter in the Times yesterday:
To the Editor:
An addendum should be made to your editorial’s point that all horses deserve the “generosity of conscience” that was expended to save Barbaro.
Just days before Barbaro was humanely put down, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was reintroduced in Congress. In an incredible juxtaposition to the fanfare of Barbaro, more than 100,000 horses were slaughtered last year in the United States and shipped to Europe and Japan for human consumption.
Each one of these animals suffered extreme cruel and inhumane conditions in the transportation and slaughter process.
Surely a nation and a national press that can expend so much attention on the life and death of one racehorse should be able to muster the compassion to pass legislation that would end this cruelty.
Animal Welfare Advocacy
Mamaroneck, N.Y., Jan. 30, 2007
The Times’ editorial, One Horse Dies. Thomas entry for H.R. 857, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. To find out more.
Ad hoax bombs
Lost Remote’s Steve Safran was the first to figure out that the ten blinking devices that had Boston in a tizzy all day yesterday were, in fact, part of an outdoor marketing campaign for Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
After an ENTIRE day of live coverage and city-wide disruption, Turner Broadcasting has released a statement explaining that it is indeed a Aqua Teen Hunger Force marketing stunt. I just did a phoner on the news to explain a little more. There is a BIG question here: why didn’t the police know? Why didn’t they get information from the other cities where this happened? How come it took Turner all day to tell Boston what was going on? The story was on national channels - didn’t any officials in other cities think to tell Boston officials?
Later, Turner issued a statement. It’s worth noting that local TV stations (reacting, no doubt, to the new realities born of the FCC) photoshopped and/or pixelated images of the devices, little LED Moominites, to obscure the three lights that indicate an extended middle finger. Notes Steve:
By “protecting” us from the image of the character, TV missed the opportunity to show the audience exactly what it was. The police and the stations would have, doubtlessly, received tons of calls explaining the harmless nature of the character.
The clincher, arrests:
Boston authorities are still angry. They arrested two men who put up the electronic promotions and vowed to hold Turner accountable for what Menino said was “corporate greed,” that led to at least $500,000 in police costs.
Turner said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia. As soon as the company realized the Boston problem, it said, law enforcement officials were told of their locations in all 10 cities.
James Joyner, “It’s not clear what crime has been committed. Did the company call in a bomb threat?”
Steve Safran, “Police described the light-up signs as having construction “consistent with an explosive device” which, if you count a circuit board, some lights and a battery taped together, means I have several potential explosive devices in my kids’ playroom.”
I’d be watching Steve on Good Morning America right now (we turned off NPR to watch) but apparently the Atlanta equivalent of a Boston bomb scare is “about a quarter inch of wet snow.” The ABC affiliate there (the only one we get here) has pre-empted the entire program.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Bugged by “photolurking”
Since the popularity of photo-sharing sites exploded, the lives of snap-happy citizen journalists have been there for the lurking. And like the experience of Robin Williams’ tragic photo developer in One Hour Photo, happy family photos offer the perfect escapism from an unpleasant reality. [...]
Researchers at Lancaster University uncovered this strange breed of web addicts while analysing the habits of photo sharing site users.
Their report said: “People do this for emotional kicks. Curiosity, loneliness, even jealousy are just some of the reasons people look at these images.” Wedding photos are extremely popular, and at the time of writing, on sites like Flickr there were 3,868,832 images tagged ‘wedding’.
Clickthrough the strange breed accusation for (little) more:
“Not only are people interested in looking at the photographs of people they know, but also the photographs of complete strangers....” said Haliyana Khalid, a Phd student in Lancaster University’s Computing Department. “...They also like to talk about them with their friends. It can become quite obsession for some people. It isn’t uncommon to find people who go onto one of these sites every day.”
This is a diagnosis in search of a disorder; there is no there there. Just exactly what did they find that justifies these conclusions of loneliness, jealousy and emotional kicks? And how is it that visits to an online photo gallery earned the ominous “lurker” label?
Label me suspicious. I see a newspaper industry threatened by new media realities taking advantage of old media dynamics by associating an obscure PhD thesis topic with a bad scary movie through a sensationalist headline to, voilÃƒÂ , achieve a circulation boost. I’ve even been known to try such tactics from time to time myself.
Somebody show me the qualitative difference between 1950s browsing of Life Magazine, or 1990s flipping through People or Us or picking up any Fleet Street rag - or its American cousin, the supermarket tabloid - today, and our innocent Flickr browsing for wedding photos. Then maybe I’ll find something unpleasant about the new reality.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
What to eat?
This will (probably ) be my last excerpt from Michael Pollan’s important Times Magazine piece out today, Unhappy Meals. In it he discusses how we’ve moved from a “food culture” to a “food science.” Once we received our guidance on what to eat from national, ethnic or regional cultures ("culture is really just a fancy word for Mom"). Today:
The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy; you would simply eat the way your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat. The question is, Are we better off with these new authorities than we were with the traditional authorities they supplanted? The answer by now should be clear.
It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society - estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs - is unsustainable.
What to do? He opened his essay with a simple rule, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He closes with an elaboration:
...Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food… Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims… (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.)… Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number… Get out of the supermarket whenever possible… Pay more, eat less… Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation… Eat mostly plants, especially leaves… eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture… Cook. And if you can, plant a garden… Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.
I can’t say that there will be radical change in the way I eat. But there has been and will continue to be slow steady progress at moving in that direction. And to help keep me tuned in and aware, I’ve added a Food category to my blog!
BONUS VIDEO: Michael Pollan on Fishbowl with Bill Maher talking corn.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Micahel Pollan on the Conspiracy of Confusion
In the Times Magazine this weekend, not yet out from behind the TimesSelect wall, Michael Pollan tells us we’ve gone from simple to complex, from clear to cloudy, from food to a new ideology of food.
Michael says, “Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.” And the food ideology we’ve been snookered into is.... NUTRITION!
[F]ish, beef and chicken through the nutritionists’ lens become mere delivery systems for varying quantities of fats and proteins and whatever other nutrients are on their scope. Similarly, any qualitative distinctions between processed foods and whole foods disappear when your focus is on quantifying the nutrients they contain (or, more precisely, the known nutrients).
This is a great boon for manufacturers of processed food, and it helps explain why they have been so happy to get with the nutritionism program… [T]he food industry set about re-engineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and less of the bad, and by the late ‘80s a golden era of food science was upon us. The Year of Eating Oat Bran - also known as 1988 - served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran’s moment on the dietary stage didn’t last long, but the pattern had been established, and every few years since then a new oat bran has taken its turn under the marketing lights. (Here comes omega-3!)
By comparison, the typical real food has more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t easily change its nutritional stripes (though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem). So far, at least, you can’t put oat bran in a banana. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might be either a high-fat food to be avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were given a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the protein), while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold.
Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.
YOU MUST READ THIS ARTICLE.
I’ll link when it’s out.
Robert Moses reconsidered
A bunch of exhibits in New York are billed as reconsidering Robert Moses‘ accomplishments. Significantly, Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker, the definitive biography of Moses and New York in that era is not invited.
I read the Caro book in the 70s and a well-worn copy has been front and center on my bookshelves since. He still makes sense to me. From the Times:
“The enduring legacy of Robert Moses includes magnificent achievements, which I celebrated in ‘The Power Broker,’ “ he said. “But it is also necessary to look at his overall impact.”
He cited the ouster of more than half a million people from their homes in the Bronx, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, in Sunset Park in Brooklyn and on Long Island farms for the sake of new highways or “slum clearance”: evictions that largely could have been avoided by using alternate routes and that in some cases helped create new slums.
“His highways and bridges and tunnels are awesome all right, but no aspect of those highways and bridges and tunnels is as awesome as the congestion on them,” Mr. Caro said. “Congestion was always going to be inevitable in New York, but it could have been substantially less had he only combined his roads with the mass transit suggested by so many planners.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
I enjoy Jones Beach as much as the next guy, I marvel at his bridges and roads, too. I learned from him that one way to move a project forward is to go ahead and start it without authorization because, once started, it can hardly be stopped. I can marvel at his imperious anti-democratic ways without minimizing his negative impacts from which the city is still recovering. None of those reconsidering Moses are disputing those negative impacts. They’re not even quoted as saying the good outweighs the bad.
In the Times’ article Daniel L. Doctoroff, the New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding instead complains that “we haven’t been able to do as much is because people overinterpreted the lessons from that period of time.Ã¢â‚¬Â� But later he admits, “there hasn’t been a single project we have pushed through that hasn’t been approved.”
Those doing the reconsidering say the Caro book was a sign of its time; it looks to me like the reconsideration is a sign of our times. Just as Mussolini made the trains run on time, we look back on those autocratic, anti-democratic days through rose-colored glasses.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Peter Singer on Ashley’s Treatment
The Food, Ethics and the Environment conference I’ve been talking about lately was put together by Peter Singer. As it happens, today Singer has an OpEd in the Times about The “Ashley Treatment.” Ashely is a little girl born with static encephalopathy, a condition that means she may never walk, talk, eat or sit up on her own, and her mental abilities will never develop past that of a six-month-old baby. The controversial treatment will surgically limit her growth so she will never grow larger than a six-year-old child.
Singer addresses the three argument against such treatment - that it’s unnatural, that it sets us on a slippery slope and that it robs Ashley of her dignity. While I find myself in complete agreement with Singer, I can’t do justice to those arguments here. I urge you to read the piece. To better entice you, I quote his conclusion:
What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
ESPN on Genarlow Wilson
A major piece on the Genarlow Wilson case on ESPN.com today. You’ll remember that Genarlow is serving 10 years in a Georgia prison for engaging in consensual sex when he was 17 years old with a 15 year old girl:
He has followed his appeals from behind bars. He watched as the state legislature changed the law that put him there, then declined to make it retroactive, for reasons that still boggle the mind. That was a dark day.
He watched as B.J. Bernstein, his new attorney, filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the Georgia Supreme Court to review the case. The petition was denied, then set aside, then denied again, then appealed, then denied again. Those were darker days. [...]
No one involved believes Wilson should be in jail for 10 years.
The prosecutors don’t.
The Supreme Court doesn’t.
The legislature doesn’t.
The 15-year-old “victim” doesn’t.
The forewoman of the jury doesn’t.
Privately, even prison officials don’t. [...]
Hope is all he has left. He believes in a system that has failed him. He believes in those powerful men in Atlanta. He believes in the kindness of others, and in the skills of Bernstein. He lets her work, spending most of his days in the prison library, reading all the books he can. Sometimes, he pretends he’s a character, living in a fantasy world, not in a cellblock.
When the weather’s nice, he can run laps around the yard, as if he’s still on a football field, chasing down future first-round picks. The burn in his lungs feels like a time long past. It feels like freedom.
He looks through the windows just a moment more, sadness in his eyes, then turns around. Wilson stares down the hall of his prison, waiting on a day when he can go home.
Free Genarlow. Sign the online petition.
The story of the gay sheep became a textbook example of the distortion and vituperation that can result when science meets the global news cycle.
The news coverage, which has been heaviest in England and Australia, focused on smirk and titillation - and, of course, puns. Headlines included “Ewe Turn for Gay Rams on Hormones” and “He’s Just Not That Into Ewe.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
In recent weeks, the tide has begun to turn, with Dr. Roselli and Jim Newman, an Oregon Health and Science publicist, saying they have been working to correct the record in print and online. The university has sent responses to senders of each PETA-generated e-mail message.
Dr. Roselli, whose research is supported by the National Institutes of Health and is published in leading scientific journals, insists that he is as repulsed as his critics by the thought of sexual eugenics in humans. He said human sexuality was a complex phenomenon that could not be reduced to interactions of brain structure and hormones.
I first happened on the gay sheep story at Outside the Beltway and have been following it since. I was completely persuaded by Jim Newman’s emailed response to Andrew Sullivan and ignored the blogosphere hubub.
Their media strategy seems to be working out. On the merits, I’m all for legitimate research; and the prospects of picking your baby’s sexual orientation are far from an imminent threat. They don’t scare me. Instead, maybe one day gay people can parent gay children raised in gay families.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Barry Glassner, author of The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, is interviewed in Salon today:
I think that one way that the food industry is brilliant is in picking up on the bipolar approach to food that we have in this country where we think that certain foods are good or bad, or sacred or profane. The food industry will sell us foods that make us feel like we’ve been good and righteous and then they’ll say, often in so many words, “Now that you have been good you can be bad and buy this other product.” And they win both ways.
When you listen to a lot of people talk about their meals, they use words like, “I’ve been bad,” if they order a creamy dessert at a meal. Or, “I’ve been good,” if they stay on their diet. The key motivator there is guilt and the avoidance of guilt. And it applies not only to ourselves, but to other people. So many Americans take as a literal truth the old maxim that you are what you eat. We believe that we can tell a lot about a person by what he or she eats when really what we’re expressing are prejudices.
In the book I talk about one of my favorite studies, which was a study where students were shown photographs of people their age and researchers told one set of students that the people in the photographs ate foods like whole wheat breads and chicken, and they told another set of students that these same people ate hamburgers and French fries and hot fudge sundaes. And in fact, the students had been shown the same people, but they ranked them very differently based on what foods they’d been told they ate; ranked them as more or less likable, more or less attractive. I think that really goes to a deeply ingrained prejudice in society.
Monday, January 22, 2007
With six prisons in my town I always say we’re not a college town, we’re a prison town. A couple stories today highlight the state of justice in Georgia. We’ll begin with the a man in prison twenty two years for rape. He always claimed he was innocent; last week he was proven right:
An Atlanta man sentenced to 45 years in prison, who has always claimed his innocence, is being released after modern day technology cleared his name.
Willie ‘Pete’ Williams was convicted in 1985 for raping a woman near a Sandy Springs apartment complex. The case relied heavily on eye-witness accounts, and with the help of the Georgia Innocence Project, Williams was finally able to clear his name.
The Innocence Project also identified someone they believed to be the real attacker. That guy still lives in Atlanta, apparently free after a 4 year sentence for pleading guilty “to rape, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.”
Four years for the guilty guy vs 45 years for the innocent guy, the Innocence Project does the detective work that police are reluctant to accept and finds an admitted rapist that fits the profile who “reached by phone Saturday, said he has not heard from authorities.”
Michael wonders, what if that innocent guy had been sentenced to death? McClatchy Newspapers answers in a special series that finds few safeguards in capital cases in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia. Bad lawyers and Appeals Courts reluctant to intercede are the culprits.
That said, Georgia may be “an emerging bright spot” thanks to “a publicly funded, statewide capital defenders office began spending whatever is necessary to scour clients’ backgrounds for mitigating evidence.” McClathy profiles that office:
They spend what’s necessary. They do what’s necessary. They work every case as if it were their only one, no matter what.
The idea is to fulfill - at long last - the Supreme Court’s edict that everyone who’s accused of a capital crime receives an adequate defense, in accordance with the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. [...]
Their record: 23-0.