30 November 2006

Leadership

Mark Danner's long essay in The New York Review of Books Iraq: The War of the Imagination has been the toast of the lefty blogosphere lately, and for good reason. If you need a single piece that ties together a rich understanding of how the Bush administration got us into the current situation in Iraq, this is the place to go.

Digby has an interesting post about Danner's essay which I also commend to your attention. If you don't want to dig into the whole long NYRB article, Digby helpfully provides some of the choicest quotes from it.

Along the way, Digby makes a number of interesting observations about what the Bush administration teaches us about the presidency, including the most basic one of all.

The president matters.
Indeed. Digby and I are agreed that Bush is obviously a poor choice for the job. But I have a different reading from him on one point.
[Before being elected President, Bush] had not ever been truly interested in the job of governance, nor did he take it particularly seriously.

Still, one would have thought that when it came to running the most powerful nation in the world he would have grown in the job. He didn't. He and Cheney created a small, insular circle of incompetent advisors that fed his ego and his tiny mind. What wasn't clear until now is how well they controlled him. It turns out --- not so much. An amazing amount of power resides in the person of the president, regardless of how dim or ill informed he is, and as that anecdote shows, when the president speaks, even if he has no idea of the consequences of his decision, people obey.

Or, as Digby said in a much earlier post,
Nobody ever really believed that Bush was in charge, particularly before 9/11. Even those who support the Bush administration always trusted in his advisors --- the vaunted grown-ups.
But I have always suspected otherwise. In an old post of mine about Ron Suskind's long essay on the subject “Without a Doubt, I said:
I think that Bush was originally chosen by the kingmakers of the conservative movement as an empty suit with name recognition that they could use to get their team into place in government, but once Bush was President, those same kingmakers, being conservatives, felt compelled to respect Bush's authority.
A healthy skepticism for authority figures—the will to question authority, in bumper sticker terms—is integral to much of the left's philosophy of governance, as any episode of The West Wing will tell you.

29 November 2006

Ninjas

This being a non-denominational blog, I support both pirates and ninjas. As result, I just received the following email:

The ninja from Ask a Ninja is coordinating this year's December 5 events with me. Already it's shaping up to be bigger and better than ever before.

We have a brand new domain name — www.dayoftheninja.com

And we have a brand new wiki to coordinate events. PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT to log into this website and add your event details. The more info we get up the better it will be.
....
I have already added some information about events that I knew about, but if you can add more it'll be great. If you can't figure out the wiki, please email me with the following info if you can:

  • Event type (meeting, pirate protest, costume party)
  • Event hours (Decembrber 5, but when? What time?)
  • Location (country, state/province/city, address if appropriate)
  • Contact info (website, email, some way to coordinate with other people)
  • Number of people involved
Do whatever you can to get attention from the press (as long as it's legal). Call your local radio or television station and let them know what's going on. This year we can cement this holiday in its rightful place beside Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Personally, I think the ninja and the pirate can live together and harmony. And the Ask A Ninja ninja is funny as hell. Especially his answer to Question Nine: Ninja Love.
If ninjas can be accused of anything, it's loving too much.
This upcoming Tuesday is this year's Day of the Ninja.

28 November 2006

Manifesto

The folks at Make magazine say, “if you can't open it, you don't own it.” For Christmas this year, they're selling little Leatherman multi-tools marked “warranty voider” in large letters. It comes with this little manifesto in the box.

Maker's bill of rights

27 November 2006

Bullet points

Fans of the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation will enjoy Qwantz' claim that he has “totally just invented the best format for music EVER.” He demonstrates with the Ghostbusters theme song, the Back to the Future theme song, and this one:
Regarding Istanbul:
  • Istanbul:
    • not Constantinople
    • a Turkish delight on a moonlit night
  • Every girl in Istanbul:
    • lives in Istanbul
    • does not live in Constantinople
  • Old New York:
    • once New Amsterdam
    • unsure why it was changed -> popular?
  • Constantinople:
    • long time gone
    • got the works
Other folks have pitched in with their own examples of the form. There's 35 pages of them, of varying cleverness. I started picking out ones that I liked, to link (including a charming “song” that's really my favourite poem) but ran short of patience well before I ran short of examples. Here's one:
Contents of desert (initial)
  • Plants
  • Birds
  • Rocks
  • Things
  • Sand
  • Hills
  • Rings
Observations - Day 1:
  • Fly (w/ buzz)
  • Sky (w/o clouds)
Name of Horse:
  • (unknown)
Advantages of desert:
  • Out of rain
  • Can remember name
  • No pain
Observations - Day 2:
  • Skin discolouration (red)
Observations - Day 3:
  • Riverbed (dry) (dead?)
Observations - Day 9:
  • Reached border desert/sea
  • Released horse
  • Presence of
    • Plants
    • Birds
    • Rocks
    • Things
    • Sand
    • Hills
    • Rings confirmed
  • Correlation of desert/sea noted (subterranean population of latter)
  • Cities contain:
    • Heart of ground
    • No love
I couldn't resist a few contributions of my own ...

I think the best is a familiar folk-rock song:

Me
  • Done this morning
    • Walked out
    • Wrote this song
  • Seen
    • Fire
    • Rain
    • Sunny days
    • Lonely times (no friend found)
  • Predicted (incorrectly)
    • No end to sunny days
    • See you (Suzanne) again
  • Walking
    • Destination: an easy time
    • Approach: back turned towards the sun
They
  • Informed me re: your departure
  • Made plans
  • Put an end to you
Message to Jesus
  • Requests
    • Look down upon me
    • Help me make a stand
    • See me through another day
  • About me
    • Body = aching
    • Time = at hand
    • Unable to make it any other way
  • Already known
    • When the cold wind blows, it'll turn your head around
Things (misc)
  • Time
    • Quantity: Hours
    • Where: Telephone line
    • Purpose: Discuss future
  • In pieces on the ground
    • Sweet dreams
    • Flying machines
  • Coming my way
    • Quantity: A few
    • When: This time around
Another's an old show tune.
Not my baby's style
  • Liz Taylor
  • Lana Turner's smile (he can't see it)
My baby doesn't care for
  • shows
  • clothes
  • cars
  • races
  • high-tone places
  • who knows it
My baby cares for (and says his prayers for)
  • me
The last is more obscure, a Fluke song you've likely heard, but may not have even known had lyrics.
Baby's got:
  • an atom bomb
    • Motherfuckin'
    • 22 megatonne
    • shit-kickin'
  • poison gas
  • a heart attack
  • pain on tap
  • a satellite
  • second sight
  • a master plan (foolproof)
  • purple hair
  • a secret lair (with army)
  • nobel prize (awarded for the perfect crime)
  • an alibi
  • eight more lives
  • a crystal ball
  • a fleet at sea
  • a submarine (called Emergency)
  • a motorcade
  • a monorail
    • going coast to coast
    • on the campaign trail
  • a kung fu star (as a bodyguard)
  • (working well)
    • a juju charm
    • a magic spell
    • a djinni
  • a TV show
  • a shopping mall
  • a miracle (unwanted)
  • a monument
  • (at great expense)
    • a head of state
    • a president
  • destiny
  • supremacy
  • everything from A to Z
  • it all, down tight
  • nothing wrong
  • the whole wide world singing Baby's song
Other things about Baby
  • doesn't care (at all)
  • having too much fun
    • playing deck of cards
    • in an armoured car
I ain't ever seen
  • so much fun
  • Baby scared
Requested of Baby:
  • give me some of that

Lazarus

I've spent a solid month fighting a cold. I managed to get through it having missed only two days of work ... by doing almost nothing else but work.

Well, and watch a few videos.

Today I am tired, but definitely not sick. For the first time since before Hallowe'en, I've been truly clearheaded all day. Very exciting.

I offer my apologies to my neglected friends ... plus to my readers who don't even know me, who have been getting spotty blogging dug out from my drafts folders. I'll be trying to catch up this week.

23 November 2006

Thanksgiving

Ritual food, family, thanks, awkward conversations around the dinner table ... and more food. What a great holiday.

Now that I think about it, it sounds suspiciously like a Jewish holiday. Allegedly celebrating friendly Christian pilgrims—further evidence that the Legend o' Thanksgiving is a load of hooey.

But it's still a great holiday. And I certainly have cause for thanks, for the many blessings of my life. Even a Democratic Congress!

May it be so for anyone reading.

22 November 2006

Faith-based

Last month, Gary Wills had a long article in The New York Review of Books which outlines the way that the Bush administration caters to its evangelical base.
It is common knowledge that the Republican White House an Congress let “K Street” lobbyists have a say in the drafting o economic legislation, and on the personnel assigned to carry it out, in matters like oil production, pharmaceutical regulation medical insurance, and corporate taxes. It is less known that fo social services, evangelical organizations were given the sam right to draft bills and install the officials who implement them Karl Rove had cultivated the extensive network of religious righ organizations, and they were consulted at every step of the wa as the administration set up its policies on gays, AIDS, condoms, abstinence programs, creationism, and other matter that concerned the evangelicals. All the evangelicals resentments under previous presidents, including Republican like Reagan and the first Bush, were now being addressed
Wills provides examples in several key areas of policy.
  1. Faith-Based Justice
  2. Faith-Based Social Services
  3. Faith-Based Science
  4. Faith-Based Health
  5. Faith-Based War
Of these, the last is most chilling. Wills points to the example of deputy undersecretary for defense intelligence, General William (Jerry) Boykin.
He showed slides of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and Taliban leaders, asking of each, “Is this man the enemy?” He gave a resounding no to each question, and then revealed the foe's true identity:
The battle this nation is in is a spiritual battle, it's a battle for our soul. And the enemy is a guy called Satan.... Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.
Wills talks about Boykin at some length, and then describes how this is a common point of view among many other evangelicals, including examples like these ...
Charles Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote: “We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible.... God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers.” Jerry Falwell put it succinctly in 2004: “God is pro-war.” For some evangelicals, this was a war against the enemies of Israel, who are by definition anti-God. The evangelical writer Tim LaHaye called it, therefore, “a focal point of end-time events.”
Wills describes how evangelical appointments to administer the occupation have created problems, and then goes on to explain the remaining support for the Iraq war.
There is a particular danger with a war that God commands. What if God should lose? That is unthinkable to the evangelicals. They cannot accept the idea of second-guessing God, and he was the one who led them into war. Thus, in 2006, when two thirds of the American people told pollsters that the war in Iraq was a mistake, the third of those still standing behind it were mainly evangelicals (who make up about on third of the population).
To those folks—and to Jerry “God is pro-war” Fallwell in particular—I'd like to observe that last I checked, Jesus said that blessed were the peacemakers, “for they shall be called children of God.” You guys might want to look that one up.

20 November 2006

Today's quote

Ken MacLeod:
The only people to learn anything from the collapse of the Soviet bloc have been the Communists. Everyone else was merely proved right.
Ha.

From a post about Anglophone Marxist thinking, which is of great interest if (but only if) you're interested in Anglophone Marxist thinking.

19 November 2006

404

Ha.

Update: Click link at your own risk. Sometimes it reveals a witty little joke on Microsoft Internet Explorer's standard 404 page. Other times it reveals a truly horrid illustration. There is no apparent pattern to this behavior.

18 November 2006

Memories

This pretty much sums up my experience of high school, and this sums up my major in college.

You may want to switch off your sound before following that first link; for some reason the page comes with an annoying song.

16 November 2006

Mortality

Yeah, I'm still feeling sick, but I've surfaced long enough to pluck a post from my drafts file, vaguely related to me feeling so crummy.

I've been kind of hoping that someone would come up with a magic pill to reverse aging some time in the next forty or fifty years. I figured that around the time I've gone completely gray, I'll cash in my 401(k) use the resulting billion dollar cheque (not adjusted for inflation) to buy one of these pills. Alas, via Other magazine I learn that biologist Robin Holliday's paper “Aging is No Longer an Unsolved Problem in Biology,” makes clear that it ain't gonna happen.

For much of the 20th century, the accumulation of a considerable amount of information about the processes of aging did not reveal the underlying mechanisms. Toward the end of that century, the biological basis for aging became very much clearer. .... There is now much evidence that long-lived mammals have much more efficient maintenance mechanisms than short-lived mammals. Thus, aging can be defined as the eventual failure of maintenance. It also became apparent that many different maintenance mechanisms exist, and that these depend on very many genes and a considerable investment in metabolic resources .... aging is multicausal. It is also evident that the evolved design of many components of complex animals is incompatible with indefinite survival. We can therefore conclude that this evolved design is intrinsically related to the fact of aging. This in turn means that aging cannot be reversed ....
This does suggest that we could genetically engineer future humans who don't age, though. They'd be as hungry as teenagers, I guess.

13 November 2006

Kvetch

Tired of being tired, now. Whatever bug I've been fighting, I've officially lost patience.

Uptalk

Language Log has a post about the linguistic phenomenon they call “uptalk.”
I used to speak in a regular voice. I was able to assert, demand, question. Then I started teaching. At a university? And my students had this rising intonation thing? It was particularly noticeable on telephone messages. “Hello? Professor Gorman? This is Albert? From feature writing?”

I had no idea that a change in the “intonation contour” of a sentence, as linguists put it, could be as contagious as the common cold.

Turns out there's some deep spooky linguistic weirdness at work. There are quotes and links for lots of thoughtful people digging into this thing. One thing is for sure—uptalkers are not, like, just asking questions.
As I understand it, uptalk is often (intended and understood) as an invitation for the interlocutor at least to signal attention and perhaps also to assent.

The key thing is that “uptalk” is not a signaling a question, in the literal sense of a request for information about the truth of the proposition being presented; nor does it (usually) mean that someone with low self-confidence is making a plea for reassurance. Rather, the studies suggest that it's usually someone who feels in control of the interaction and is inviting a response, as evidence that the interlocutor is going along.

Ah.

12 November 2006

Today's quote

Craig Newmark:
Everything about Craigslist is an unintended consequence.
For the record, I remember the day in 1995 when I decided that keeping up with the two dozen emails a day on Craigslist was too much, so I created a filter in Eudora that shunted them all into a separate folder.

10 November 2006

Elephants

Content Love Knowles brings us an incredibly fascinating article from the New York Times about elephants. There's something sort of giggle-inducing about it ...
In fact, these attacks have become so commonplace that a new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-1990’s to monitor the problem.
... but it's ultimately very sad ...
Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.

It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some kind of statement, one to which scientists from a variety of disciplines, including human psychology, are now beginning to pay close attention.

I have a bigoted preference for my own species, but it's hard not to root for the elephants in Human-Elephant Conflict.

09 November 2006

Allen

Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise did some cracking good photoblogging of George Allen's election night shindig in Virginia. It starts here and gets better and better.

(And if you don't know the story about her cryptic “macaca” comment, Salon has an explanation.)

Triceratops

Bill Benzon at The Valve gets to thinking about graffiti.
If I had been well-informed about the current state of graffiti I would not have regarded the images I recently blundered into as objects of wonder. I would have known what and perhaps even why they were and thought nothing more of them. Thus I would have been unable to see that I had found a shrine to the spirit of the triceratops. To me it would have just been a large and interesting painting (actually, a “piece”) in a strange location, strange because it is out-doors and thus unprotected, and hidden from public view as well. What sort of artist deliberately does good work in a place where no one will see it?
....
Am I serious in calling this The Shrine of the Triceratops? Yes and no. No, I have no reason to believe that religious rites are performed here, or that there is any explicit religious doctrine, oral or textual, associated with this site. Yes, in that the triceratops image embodies the spirit of this site, and this site is an important one for some unidentified community that I know only through evidence such as that in these few photographs.

I have selected these particular photos from some 400 or 500 that I’ve taken of 10s of pieces, and 100s of tags and throw-ups on some 30 or 40 columns. These few words and images only begin to convey a sense of the richness of this site.

When similar materials are found in remote places of the earth they treated as evidence of attitudes and beliefs of the highest significance to the people who made them. The fact that these markings and paintings exist in one of the most densely populated regions on the planet in the penumbra of one of its wealthiest and most sophisticated cities, that fact changes nothing ...

There are some lovely photographs.

Arrr

T-shirt sales pitch:
Remember when ninjas got all the chicks and pirates just got chopped into thousands of pieces to the tune of wailing guitars? Yeah, well times have changed.

Johnny Depp has given us a new real ultimate power, and that's the pirate. Don't believe it? Ask any pirate and he'll tell you exactly the same thing.

Honestly, ninjas are so 2005.

2005? For the record, Miniver Cheevy is always ahead of the curve.

08 November 2006




Fabric

When I was a young sprout, and cyberpunk didn't even really have a name yet—it was just a running gag about mirrored sunglasses—I read a story in which one of the characters wears a t-shirt which has on it not a picture but a movie: Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

I've wanted that shirt ever since.

Looks like I'll be able to buy it eventually. But by then, the whole world will be one big damned rave party.

Banksy

Banksy

Stencil artist Banksy is a genius.

07 November 2006

One more thing

Spider Jerusalem explains what voting is about.

Not safe for work ... home ... or the delicate of spirit. I'm serious. Warren Ellis is a sick bastard.

You know the drill

Usually I say ...
Vote early. Vote often. Vote no.
... both for whimsy and because here in California we have the initiative process which has screwed up the state. So as a rule, I vote no on all initiatives on principle.

I shoulda blogged this before, but I've been feeling crummy all week and draining the archives. In case you're checking in for your morning Miniver fix before heading to the polls, a few quick endorsements.

Vote Democratic for US Congress this year, whoever your candidates are; if you read my blog, I don't think I have to tell you why. If you don't like a candidate, fix it in the primaries next time. This time, we've got to win in both houses and get as big a margin as possible to stop the bleeding and get some accountability for the executive branch.

If you're in California, vote Yes on Propositions 87 and 88.

Prop 87 is the tax on oil. Yeah, it's gonna nose up gas prices. That's the point. If we want to save the economy from the effects of peak oil, and we want to save the human species from the effects of greenhouse gasses, then this is exactly the kind of stuff that we wanna do. Al Gore says vote for it, which frankly is enough for me.

Prop 88 is an effort to fix the damage done to California schools by Prop 13, which straightjacketed the collection of property tax. It basically creates a new property tax system at the state level to be allocated to schools. See if you can spot the point in this quote from an anti-88 website.

There are no guarantees that property tax money collected in your community will be dedicated to your local schools.
Get it?

It's a Robin Hood tax, that redistributes some property tax money from rich districts to poor districts. The schools in Beverly Hills are the ones that don't benefit from 88, the schools in Compton are the ones that do.

Call me crazy, but I'm in favour of that.

I'm also voting for Prop 89, the clean campaign funding thing. I'm about a million times more radical than the authors of this legislation when it comes to philosophy about how campaign finance reform should work. I have my doubts about the wisdom of how this legislation has been designed. I'm voting for it anyway. I don't want the story to be People Talk About Campaign Finance Reform But They Reject It At The Polls, you know?

Besides, this is exactly the kind of legislation you could never get through the state legislature, which is why the original Progressives gave us the damned initiative process in the first place.

That ain't exactly an endorsement, but I am saying I'm gonna vote for it. Do what thou wilt.

06 November 2006

Leading men

Steven Barnes tells a story about what to expect in a movie.

In the late 1970s, I saw a science-fiction movie called Damnation Alley. In it, George Peppard, Jan-Michael Vincent and Paul Winfield travel across an atomic wasteland in a nuclear-powered Winnebago.

They approach the ruins of a shattered city, and out walks the last woman in the world. And she's white. I leaned across to my buddy and said, “They're going to kill Paul Winfield.”

Startled, he asked, “Why would you say that?”

“She's the last woman in the world,” I replied. “They're not going to pretend he's not interested, and they're not going to let him compete for her. All they can do is kill him.”

My friend looked at me with pity. “You are too young to be so cynical,” he said.

Five minutes later, Winfield got eaten by giant cockroaches.

Then he makes an intersting observation about how things have changed in race, sex, and American movies. There's still racism in action ... but in a tricky way that hadn't occurred to me.

05 November 2006

Penalty

I have been an opponent of the Iraq war from well before it started. It is immoral, stupid, and counterproductive.

I have alluded before to how I oppose the death penalty, in all cases, no matter how heinous. It is not right for the state to have the power of life and death over its citizens.

I dread the unholy elevation to martyrdom that some folks will find in this news.

But that does not mean that I am immune to schadenfreude at the news that Saddam Hussein has been sentenced by an Iraqi court to be hanged. If it is right to call anyone in this world evil, then Saddam Hussein is rightly counted among their number. I would prefer that the war had not been fought, and the sentence been different, but I am neither proud nor ashamed to admit that I am human enough to feel some pleasure at the news that fortune will bring him death at the hands of people he once oppressed.

SF writer Thomas Disch has a thought on the subject.

Que la bete meure!

Or, The Beast Must Die! A Chabrol movie, much admired, from 1969, as well as my feelings of grim satisfaction at Saddam's death sentence. Only die-hard anti-capital punishment types are likely to feel otherwise, though I would like to hear a case made for showing mercy and offering life without parole. And would the same leniency be shown toward Hitler or Stalin or Mao? Should all prisoners be free?

I do have my own alternative to capital punishment, which would be that convicted felons be kept where they could not avoid being hectored and lectured by anyone who wanted to pay for the privilege or who had been the man's direct victim, and that these sessions be viewable at some public web-site. Saddam goes ballistic when he's scolded. I'm sure he would come to beg for the mercy of a hangman.

Will someone come to the poor man's defense

I suppose, then, that I will come to his defense, so far as to say that I feel that Disch's alternative would be more wise and just.

And this reminds me of a passage from Iain M. Banks' grim, brilliant SF novel about war and moral responsibility, Use of Weapons.

“We're nearly at the end of the story,” the young man interrupted. “These nice people—who you would call soft, like I say—they remove the bad people, and they take them away. They put them somewhere they can't do any harm. Not a paradise, but not somewhere that feels like a prison, either. And these bad people, they might have to listen sometimes to the nice people telling them how bad they've been, and they never again get the chance to change histories, but they live a comfortable, safe life, and they die peacefully ... thanks to the nice people.

“And though some would say the nice people are too soft, the soft, nice people would say that the crimes committed by the bad peple are usually so terrible there is no known way of making the bad people suffer even a millionth of the agony and despair they have produced, so what is the point in retribution? It would be just another obscenity to cap the tyrant's life with his own death.”
....
“Yes,” the young man said. “Must be rather awful, thinking you're about to die.”

“Not the most pleasant experience,” agreed the Ethnarch, putting one leg, then another, into his trousers.

“But such a relief, I imagine, when you get the repreive.”

“Hmm.” The Ethnarch gave a small laugh.

“A bit like being rounded up in a village and thinking you're going to be shot...” the young man mused, facing the Ethnarch from the foot of the bed. “...and then being told your fate is nothing worse than resettlement.” He smiled. The Ethnarch hesistated.

“Resettled; by train,” the man said, taking the little black gun out of his pocket. “By a train which contains your family; your street; your village...”

The young man adjusted something on the small black gun. “...And then ends up containing nothing but engine fumes, and lots of dead people.” He smiled, thinly. “What do you think, Ethnarch Kerian? Something like that?”

The Ethnarch stopped moving, staring wide-eyed at the gun.

“The nice people are called the Culture,” the young man explained. “And I always did think they were too soft.” He stretched his arm out, holding the gun. “I stopped working for them some time ago. I'm freelance now.”

I've read several of Banks' novels about the Culture, and they are pretty much my idea of a utopian civilization. And in Weapons, we learn some very dark things about the young man's moral perspective.

But still I find it impossible not to also cheer quietly inside for him, doing what I would not.

03 November 2006

Family values

One of the things that we American lefties find frustrating about all of this “family values” blather in the social/political sphere is the assumption by social conservatives that the solution to the problems facing the American nuclear family is ultimately for people to just try harder. Lefties argue that rather, we just don't support families as well as we did in the old days, economically, logistically, and socially.

The Washington Post reports on France supporting families by providing actual economic support.

This summer, the government—concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation—very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.

A century ago, France was one of the first European countries to face a declining population. Since then, almost every elected French government—regardless of party—has instituted laws that encourage bigger families and make it easier for women to keep their jobs while raising children.

It appears that this is effective. Imagine that.

02 November 2006

Truth in advertising

Pond's Cold Cream really does take years off of your face in just one treatment.

Icon

You may recall that I've posted before about the disturbing messages of conservative political t-shirts.

But I was talking to someone the other day about a particular piece of ubiquitous iconography. It's an image of something with some unwholesome implications which has become deracinated to represent only a vaguely political Spirit of Rebellion. Or, uh, something like that, dude.

It bugs me.

Well, a conservative t-shirt maker has composed the perfect commentary.

And while we're at it, this variation represents a sentiment I disagree with, but is really very clever.

01 November 2006

Wow

Good on so very many levels. Stephen Colbert offers us a “Salute to the American Lady” featuring Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda.

Don't miss it. Steinem is as subversive and witty as ever, Fonda is graceful and funny, Colbert is crafty, and the whole thing takes the Colbert Report / Daily Show trick of “the medium is the satire” to a whole new level.