Assorted Links 8/30/09

Darwin, Magic and Evolution

  • Capitol Hill Workshop, September 23-25, 2009
  • Fresh OLC Memos – “The Founders made an inherently inefficient form of government as a check against arbitrary use of the power of the state. The President doesn’t declare war, Congress does. When we allow the government to write itself a waiver to constitutional limitations that are part and parcel of its contract with the people, it’s time for the people to let the government know who the boss is in this employer-employee relationship.”
  • The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion? – “Is this truly the role of the NEA? Is building a message distribution network, for matters other than increasing access to the arts and arts education, the role of the National Endowment for the Arts? Is providing the art community issues to address, especially those that are currently being vehemently debated nationally, a legitimate role for the NEA? I found it highly unlikely that this was in their original charter, so I checked.
    . . .
    In an attempt to recapture the excitement and enthusiasm of the campaign the organizers of this conference call have entered murky waters, a strait that the NEA cannot afford to swim. Previously shackled with the controversy over the Serrano and Mapplethorpe images of 1989 that escalated to a debate over its very existence, the NEA needs to stay far away from any questions of impropriety.”
  • If we don’t recover, it’s your fault – “The NYT is already referring [to] the ‘legacy’ of the recession, with this an example: ‘Even as evidence mounts that the Great Recession has finally released its chokehold on the American economy, experts worry that the recovery may be weak, stymied by consumers’ reluctance to spend.'”
  • Ezra Klein’s Confusion Over “Rationing” – “Klein evidently thinks that market outcomes that he dislikes mean that government should step in and impose outcomes that he does like. All right, let’s admit it; the health insurance market and the rest of health care are royally screwed up as a result of decades of government interventions and mandates. Consequently we don’t actually find the usual benefits of falling prices and improving products and services that we experience in normally operating markets where robust competition and choice reign.”
  • Can the FTC Regulate Lawyers As Creditors? – “It seems that the FTC did not learn its lesson. Once again it is trying to impose financial privacy protection rules on lawyers and law firms. This time, however, it claims it has such authority under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. ”
  • Homeland Security Still Plans To Search Laptops At Borders With No Probable Cause – “On top of this, the other thing that’s not at all clear is how far the ‘search’ can go. With a growing number of ‘cloud’ based services in use, many of which act as if they’re local, can the border patrol search those as well? For example, I use Jungledisk, which gives me a virtual drive that shows up in my file system as if it were a local hard drive, even though it’s hosted in some data center somewhere. It looks like a local drive… but it’s not actually on my laptop. Would border patrol have the right to search that, even though the contents of that drive are not actually traveling across the border? ”
  • The president can fire the attorney general – “The attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president, and the president can determine that a prosecution would undermine the national security–a subject on which he has a wider perspective and a greater responsibility than the attorney general–and order that it not go forward.”
  • Twice Branded: Western Women in Muslim Lands – “But it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be. This includes France, where only last year a court in Lille upheld the right of a Muslim man to hold fast to his faith and annul his marriage when he discovered his bride was not a virgin. And it includes Germany, where in Berlin in 2005 there were eight murders of young women of Turkish origin, executed by members of their own families. And Australia, where, after a group of unveiled Muslim women were raped, the succinct Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali explained away the crime as an attack on ‘uncovered meat.’ And it includes the United Kingdom, where Scotland Yard has probed 109 suspicious deaths of women, also likely slaughtered by relatives. Islam is an easy rider: it travels everywhere and often brings with it a lot of baggage.

    Bet let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.
    . . .
    In other words–and here is a telling paradox of life in much of the Islamic world–whatever devout Muslims are religiously prohibited from doing to women (and there are plenty of strictures listed in the Koran: a man must lower his gaze in the presence of a woman, for instance, and also guard her chastity) is in practice resolutely ignored, all the more so when it comes to foreigners.

    Why bother to observe prohibitions on a group so manifestly inferior? Eltahawy complains bitterly that the donning of the hijab, which she as an observant Muslim used to do, actually procures no real measure of safety for the wearer. ‘I was groped so many times that whenever I passed a group of men, I’d place my bag between me and them,’ she writes. But not wearing the hijab or a veil in Egypt is the sure sign of a foreigner–a word that has become synonymous with ‘slut.’ ‘I was at a conference just recently which was attended by both Egyptians and Americans,’ Eltahawy recalls. ‘One researcher showed us clips from an Egyptian documentary in which men were interviewed: and it was always the same reaction from the men. ‘The Western woman is always easy prey. . . . All they want is sex . . .’
    . . .
    It is, of course, the women who don’t get to fly home to New York–or indeed leave any airport without their husbands’ consent–who truly deserve international attention. And yet these are the very women our Western politicians, media outlets, and academicians barely acknowledge because, as I was constantly advised by European and American diplomats in both Egypt and also the Sudan when I visited, ‘We have no right to pass judgment on the customs and mores of other countries.’

    Here are just a few of those customs and mores: in Turkey, a nation often cited as ‘moderate,’ wife beating is so common that 69 percent of all female health workers polled (and almost 85 percent of all male health workers) said that violence against women was in certain instances excusable. In April, a new epidemiological study in the European Journal of Public Health revealed that one out of every five homicides in Pakistan is the result of a so-called honor killing. And in Mauritania, the age-old practice of force-feeding young girls–a life-threatening process that is intended to make them round and therefore ‘marriageable’–has seen a renaissance. Girls as young as five are herded into ‘fattening farms.’ Those who resist are tortured.”

  • Unbearable – “Shorter Zorn: Privileged scions of politically powerful families ought to be given a pass on negligent homicide in the here and now because some day they might make up for it.”

Misc: Cerberus, Flippers and Market

Les Mille et une Nuits au TNT Show

  • What do kids find worth fighting over? – From the comments: “It is not a wife who socializes a husband, it is a daughter.”
  • Great Moments in Faculty Meetings – “As chair, I have now been presiding over faculty meetings for fully 10 years. (Not one meeting. Just when we have meetings, I mean) Sometimes, a shining beacon of comedy gold breaks through the tedium, and there are moments of transcendent joy. Today was such a day.”
  • People Narcissistic And Boring On Facebook? – “I get much more out of reading my favorite blogs. The long turn trend in social networking seems to be more people talking and fewer listening.”
  • US Dems fill inboxes with 419 scams – “Scammers pumping out emails that try to trick recipients into parting with large sums of cash are getting a helping hand from the Democratic National Committee.”
  • Energizer Rips Off Customers With AA Batteries Disguised As D’s – “That’s right, if you tear open one of these batteries (I don’t usually recommend opening batteries, as it’s just a bad idea) you’ll find a something that resembles a AA battery inside a plastic case. Granted, the shape is a bit different, but the capacity is exactly the same. So for $25 you are essentially getting the same thing as a $6 pair of AA’s and a pair of cheap (we’re talking a couple bucks each) AA-to-D converters. For shame Energizer, for shame!”
  • Vendy Awards names best [NYC] sweet street vendor finalists – “The non-profit Street Vendor Project on Thursday announced the finalists in the dessert category for the Vendy Awards, which will determine the city’s best street eats.”
  • Drobo Experience Report: Going strong after 18 months – “Verdict: Recommended!”

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .