Archive for December, 2010

The ‘Intellectual’ Case For Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Shorter Alec Rawls: DADT should stand because those people are disgusting faggy faggity assfucking fags.

The elision Rawls makes between acting homosexually (which in Rawls’s mind appears to mean public gay orgies) and the acts that are actually forbidden by DADT (speaking that you are a homosexual and making that fact of your identity known) is truly embarrassing for anyone who claims to study philosophy, let alone the son of John Rawls. Alec Rawls’s neurologist must have a very interesting job.

BTW, this paragraph caught my eye (emphasis mine):

Heterosexual young men are willing to join the military and put their sex lives on hold because the manliness of fighting for their nation makes the lack of access to females bearable. That will change if a subculture of active homosexuality is allowed to burst out and grow amidst the suppressed heterosexuality of our military. Instead of a manly brotherhood, military service will become a chore and even a gauntlet of having to abide whatever in-your-face homosexuality the flamers want to throw up, and they will throw up plenty, as proven by every out-homosexual locale in the world…

Rawls fears a gauntlet of manly brothers growing and bursting in his face to the point where everyone throws up? Projection’s a bitch, Alec.

(Via LGM)


Let’s get pissed

This Crimson story manages to be so perfectly…well, perfectly Harvard. The nickel version is that the Crimson originally reported on a Harvard library employee discovering that a whole shelf of LGBT-themed books in the undergrad library had apparently been, to use the parlance of our times, micturated upon. Outrage ensued and the Harvard cops began investigating the incident as a hate crime. Now it comes out that the employee who was reported to have found the defiled books had actually caused the damage, by knocking over a nearby bottle, which then deposited its contents (thought to be urine) on them.

First, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. I never worked at the Crimson (please! I have standards), but I could have written this story without even looking at it. For some reason every single Crimson story on a raging campus controversy always, always, always contains this kind of angry and vaguely conspiratorial quote from a victimized student group leader, and especially when the facts turn out to be not quite so bad as originally thought:

Though Harvard College Queer Students and Allies Co-Chair Marco Chan ’11 expressed relief that the damage was the result of an accident and not a targeted act of homophobia, he said that he remained concerned by facts of the incident that remain unexplained.

“On the one hand, I feel relieved by the news—but on the other hand, I’m still holding breath on questions that are still unresolved,” Chan said. “Why was there a bottle of urine on the shelf? Why did it take two weeks for library or HUPD to figure out that this was just an accident? Did someone suddenly come forward?”

QSA Co-Chair Emma Q. Wang ’12 said she was disappointed that Hammonds is only now speaking out about LGBT issues, and that her statement does not address problems faced by the community beyond the incident at Lamont. Wang described Hammonds’ e-mail regarding the books as “poor timing,” considering the series of LGBT suicides across the nation and the two hate crimes—one an assault on an undergraduate by people shouting homophobic slurs, and the other anti-gay graffiti in a graduate dorm—that occurred at Harvard earlier this semester.

“I don’t think this issue was handled with the degree of sensitivity and care it could have been,” Wang said…

I’m not sure if it’s that the Crimson figures it needs to manufacture the greatest amount of outrage on every big story it breaks or that Harvard students (particularly student group leaders) are just singularly whiny about everything (probably both). But the much more pressing matter is the appearance of random bodily fluids around campus. One of the most bizarre things that happened to my roommates during my days as an undergrad was discovering that someone had deposited feces in the washing machine in our dorm  (which led to a fun surprise when my roommate went to toss his whites in). After the Lamont incident I think this is clearly a trend, and at this point my hunch is that a final club has adopted “put shit and piss in public places” as one of its initiation rites.

On answer search

I’m convinced that there is at least one Stanford computer science professor who thinks that natural language answer search (you type any question in English, you get an answer back in English) is a key step to unlocking a future of advanced artificial intelligence. Why else would a huge chunk of Silicon Valley startups, and most of the established players in tech, be obsessed with creating answer-based products? The idea, if I had to guess, is that first you crowdsource a crazy amount of facts and opinions on every conceivable topic, then eventually we’ll see the dawn of a glorious era in which machines can sift through this corpus of information to answer any question on their own. This may work; who knows?

What I do know is that we ain’t there yet, that’s for sure. I’ve started using Facebook Questions, and it seems great for asking matters of breezy opinion like “Where should I go for the best Mexican food in Hicksville?” But on questions of fact it’s maddening for anyone who already knows how to use Google and is presumably doing some quick checking with it before asking the whole Facebook hivemind. A typical question goes like this:

Why does my copy of The Fussy Baby Book, by Dr. William Sears, say it’s a bad idea to feed a 10-month-old solid green peas?*

Answer 1: Because peas are bad for 10-month-olds.

Gee, thanks.

Answer 2: Do not feed your child peas at any age. All peas sold in the US are genetically modified and will EAT YOUR BABY’S SPLEEN. I do not care to elucidate the mechanism that causes this spleen-eating to happen.

Thank you for that piece of expertise. Now isn’t it time for your local city council meeting? I believe you were planning on protesting the arrival of a national big-box retailer there.

Answer 3: I dunno doesn’t seem like a good idea to me I mean I never ate peas when I was little and I turned out OK


Answer 4. Because William Sears is an author and putting words in books is what authors do.

Answer 5 is just a gaping hole, because by the time the asker scrolls down to answer 5 he’s already thrown a rock through his monitor.

The cure, I think, is targeting the questions finely enough so only an informed audience will see them. It’s kind of surprising that Facebook of all companies hasn’t caught on to this, as finding out people’s expertise and qualifications should be one of their great strengths.

*I have never read Dr. William Sears’s The Fussy Baby Book. Any claims I attribute to this work originate solely in my own laziness when it comes to thinking up a suitable fake parenting book title.

Firing up the printing presses

Ben Bernanke has recently been at great pains to claim that QE2 is not the same as printing money. Andy Harless is initially confused, but comes up with a technical explanation here of why he thinks Bernanke is basically right. But I think Harless is probably overthinking things here. I doubt Bernanke’s annoyed denials are all that motivated in the merits of whether or not the Fed is printing money. Rather, I think the most likely explanation is that he’s conscious of an elite consensus around the idea that printing money to solve economic problems is one of those things that only crazy third-world Marxist dictators do. Also, the corollary, which is that because it sometimes leads to hyperinflation when crazy third-world Marxist dictators do it, we’re in danger of hyperinflation when Ben Bernanke does it. (We’re not, of course, because the money supply of the largest economy on Earth is not the same as the money supply of, say, Peru. But the Washington CW crowd has never been particularly good at following this kind of nuance.)

Bernanke has been under lots of fire from the Ron Pauls of the world lately, and I imagine he’s not eager to also incur the wrath of the Very Serious People too.


Bob Corker, Economic Charlatan

Corker is widely regarded as the GOP’s canny financial wizard in the Senate, someone who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the economy.

Sudeep Reddy at the WSJ:

In meetings with lawmakers, [Ben Bernanke] has avoided specifics so as not to step on political terrain, leaving his views open to interpretation.

“He’s never defined what short-term stimulus is to me,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who met with Mr. Bernanke last month. “I’m going to take that to mean keeping our tax rates where they are for at least a couple of years while we wrestle with the tremendous spending issues.”

What a tool.

(via Brad Delong)


Passive-aggressive Marketing Language of the Day

And the honor goes to….T-mobile!

You must sign a new two-year service agreement each time you upgrade. Of course, if you do not want to sign a new service agreement, you can always purchase a new phone at full price. The choice is yours!

Beer Does Not Have To Be Overpowering

The top 25 beers, according to Wine Enthusiast magazine (PDF).

India Pale Ale and variants: 2

Barleywines: 3

Imperial Stouts: 2

Beers with >7% abv: 14

Beers with >10% abv: 5

Not quite as many extreme beers as I expected, though the top 15 are heavily weighted toward the extreme. But…Trumer Pils the second-best pilsner on the planet? Huh? I smell a rat – there’s no way these rankings were done via blind taste test. I suspect the “reach under the table for wad of cash from craft brewery’s marketing manager” was likely the methodology of choice.