April 28, 2008

Rob Liefeld Sucks

Rob Liefeld is to comic art as Chris Claremont is to comic writing. If you're looking for the connection, it's that they're both among the most over hyped A-list artists in their field. They both got incredibly popular on a couple skills that helped them sell books like gangbusters. They both totally suck. Here's a list of Rob Liefeld's crap. I have to say that I haven't had a good laugh like that at the internet in a long while. Link.

April 25, 2008

Taking a break

Every time I go to write a post, it's either (a) a completely inadequate response to the immolation of the feminist blogosphere, or (b) utterly trivial. I'm going to take this as a sign that it's time for a blog vacation. I'll be back sometime in May.

April 24, 2008

30 Rock

They just mentioned "The Uncanny Valley." Rad.

April 21, 2008

So Tender

I love bad photos of John McCain. Let's put some good captions in the comments!


April 19, 2008

Quick debunking: The rape rate

Myth: The rape rate in the US has fallen 25% over the last 25 years.

Example: I found this rather bizarre claim on a YouTube video arguing that, first, the rape rate had fallen, and second, this was because of the increased availability of pornography. Hence, third, YouTube should allow pornography. Not only is this a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but it didn't even sound true.

Response: Historical statistics on rape are surprisingly hard to find online. 1960-1998 data are here, and 2004 data here. In 1980, the rape rate was about 36 incidents per 100,000 people. In 2004, the rape rate was 32 per 100,000. That's a decrease of about 9%.

Now, in about 1992, the rape rate peaked somewhere around 42 or 43. This makes for a 25% reduction. But focussing on this period of time is completely disingenuous. In the early 1960s, before the lifting of indecency laws allowed the pornography industry to flourish, the rape rate was less than 10 per 100,000. So, since pornography became easily available, the rape rate has seen a net increase of 200%.

This is evidence supporting the claim that pornography encourages, rather than discourages, rape. But it's far from conclusive. There are simply too many other factors that aren't being taken into account to draw that conclusion.

Martha Nussbaum is omnipresent

How is this woman so prolific? Does she just not sleep?

Obama/Jay-Z '08?


April 16, 2008

Anti-intellectual and the classism of American education

In the context of the clucking about Obama saying that poor, rural Americans are bitter (which, hello, is entirely true, as anyone who's lived in a community populated in large part by poor, rural Americans can tell you), nojojojo shares the hypothesis of progress author, Joe Bageant:

The result of all this [the class divisions in the American education system], according to Bageant? People from rural, poor communities have been virtually programmed for generations to listen not to their own reasoning, but to whoever speaks loudest and most authoritatively on any subject. They respond to simple, emotionally charged messages — even when the the issues that the messages involve are complex and nuanced. They resent, and therefore distrust, those Americans who had greater access to education, or who were taught to question as they were not; Bageant believes this is less about anti-intellectualism/anti-elitism than it is simple schadenfreude [sic; I think the blogger means `resentment'] towards the more fortunate. And they’ve developed the perfectly reasonable survival mechanism of listening to whoever seems willing to help them, regardless of whether those people actually are helpful. Bageant notes cases of conservative politicians who visited rural areas and shared a beer with poor constituents — then turned right around and instituted policies that made health care, housing, food, and education unaffordable for those same people. Frequently these politicians got elected multiple times in spite of this. Loyalty, after all, is one of the values their constitutents were taught in school.

In certain respects, this is very much like the thesis of Richard Hofstadter's Anti-intellectualism in American life. Hofstadter would disagree, though, with the claim that anti-intellectualism isn't, well, anti-intellectualism. There is, he thinks, a close link between anti-intellectualism and egalitarianism.

April 15, 2008


Every time I hear someone argue why Superman sucks, I suspect they haven't read many Superman stories, have a lack of imagination, or both. Link.

April 12, 2008

Gamers Dissapoint Me Once Again

I know, it's the internet, and I really should have expectations in the basement as far as good debate goes. Still, the reactions to this interview with N'Gai Croal about the controversial Resident Evil 5 trailer are pretty abysmal. It's not that most gamers seem to disagree with Croal that bothers me, it's that they seem completely incapable of engaging his points directly. The number of people that respond with "it's just a game" when he explains in the interview itself why that's not a sufficient answer it just disheartening.

April 07, 2008

A weird argument from Clinton supporters

I've seen this line from Clinton supporters before, and it was just as bizarre:

Obama's advantage hinges on a system that, whatever the actual intentions behind it, seems custom-made to hobble Democratic chances in the fall. It depends on ignoring one of the central principles of American electoral politics, one that will be operative on a state-by-state basis this November, which is that the winner takes all. If the Democrats ran their nominating process the way we run our general elections, Sen. Hillary Clinton would have a commanding lead in the delegate count, one that will only grow more commanding after the next round of primaries, and all questions about which of the two Democratic contenders is more electable would be moot.

How do you infer from `Clinton would beat Obama in a winner-take-all electoral system' to `Clinton would beat McCain in a winner-take-all electoral system'? Or from `Obama would not beat Clinton in a winner-take-all electoral system' to `Obama would not beat McCain in a winner-take-all electoral system'? Obama is not McCain. Clinton is not McCain. And a majority of Democratic voters is not a majority of registered or likely or expected or actual voters.

April 06, 2008

Bad Meme, Bad!

Ok, I was not an early Obama supporter. I was an Edwards guy first and was concerned that Obama was a really good speaker with not a lot of substantial policies backing up the oratory. This was, of course, a year ago. Then the primaries began and bit by bit, whether through the necessity of having to answer a grilling by the press or just because he was releasing plans as they came together in his policy shop, Obama filled out his policy initiatives. After Edwards' ship sank I spent a while not supporting either Obama or Clinton because I believed, and still believe, that they're both similarly liberal and would both make fine executives. Then I got moved by a couple Obama speeches and Clinton's campaign started doing some really indefensible things, like advocating that she get delegates from Michigan where Obama wasn't even on the ballot and continuing to employ the odious Mark Penn, and I became an Obama supporter. I still think Clinton herself would be a fine executive, but I won't support the campaign that she's running. Anyway, it was endlessly annoying to me to hear a Clinton supporter at dinner last night use the old "Obama is all rhetoric" meme. Sadly, this is also something I hear other supporters online and even the Clinton campaign itself argue sometimes. Look, he was a relatively new politician at the start of this process and his policies were admittedly thin, that that's simply no longer true. I think there's plenty of room to disagree with Obama's specific policies, and indeed on some I do, and it's completely legitimate to argue that he won't be able to pass some of his initiatives, but let's have that debate rather than recycling arguments from 2007 which aren't relevant anymore.

April 05, 2008

The warm, fuzzy, unthreatening sort of radical

I love Martin Luther King. First, he is without a doubt in my mind the most brilliant American orator of the twentieth century, and quite possibly the greatest since Abraham Lincoln. Second, he words are not just moving; they are deep and insightful. `Letter from Birmingham city jail' is one of the great philosophical treatises on civil disobedience.

And third, King was truly radical in his opposition to racism, poverty, and war.

That last sentence might be kind of surprising. In the narrative I got in high school American history, King was the moderate, keeping the civil rights movement from spiraling off into the violence and destruction of Malcolm X and, later, The Black Panthers. King was the safe alternative, who wanted us all to get along. He wasn't going to shoot at you, or burn your house down, or make a pass at your wife. He was the Nice Black Man who, after centuries of being stomped on, was politely asking for those evil racists to please take their boot off his face.

This narrative is almost 100% bullshit. It's true that King and X disagreed deeply over the use of violence. But King didn't speak with a voice of submissive pleading. He didn't ask for improvement. He demanded justice, at whatever costs necessary. Jim Crow was his most famous enemy, but it was far from the only one. King fought the de facto apartheid of the Northern cities, the invasion of Viet Nam, and the way capitalism ground down communities into a fine, atomic powder of poverty. (Obviously, I'm not as good with the metaphors as he was.) King was systematically and radically opposed to virtually every aspect of the American and international power structure. And on the fortieth anniversary of his death (which was yesterday, but I was busy and the past two weeks have been exhausting -- sorry Dr. King) it's vital that we respect the radicality of his vision.

Some links:
  1. Kai Wright with more on this theme:

  2. His 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' is in fact a blunt rejection of letting the establishment set the terms of social change. 'The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation,' he wrote, later adding, 'We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.'

  3. The NewsHour segment from last night, with three academics who work on race issues and Cory Booker, the progressive mayor of Newark, NJ. (Booker is undoubtedly someone to keep an eye on. I predict that this man is going to be one of the great activists of the 21st century.)