Blogs

Weird Weather Watch: Tabasco, Soused

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 5:02 PM EST

Many environmentalist and NGO analysts are predicting that Mexico will suffer disproportionately from climate change, amplifying immigration problems in the United States.

It looks like they might be right. The state of Tabasco in southern Mexico is suffering from the worst floods the flood-prone region has ever seen. Water rose in Villahermosa, the state capital, fast enough to drown out one-storey buildings in an hour. More than 300,000 people had to leave their homes.

The most ominous problem is that the contaminated water may stimulate outbreaks of cholera, malaria and dengue fever.

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New Species in Aleutian Islands

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 2:03 PM EST

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Jewett, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Deep in the frigid waters of the Aleutian islands, scientists have discovered three new species—two kinds of sea anemones that drift along with ocean currents (other anemones tend to stay put in one place) and a ten-foot-long brown kelp that grows near ocean vents. Scientists believe that the new kelp might be part of a new seaweed genus or family. Check out a photo gallery of the newbies (and other Aleutian critters) here.

Stretching out about 1,200 miles between Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Aleutian islands are among the most remote land masses in the world. Last year, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to ban the destructive practice of bottom trawling in more than 300,000 square miles off Alaska's coast, which is great news for the Aleutians. But the trawling ban doesn't solve the problem of pollution—researchers have found traces of industrial chemicals in the area, as well as unexploded ordinance leftover from WWII.

For an insider's perspective on conservation in this corner of the world, check out this interview with Erin McKittrick and Bretwood "Hig" Higman, a couple in the midst of a 4,000 mile hiking/rafting/skiing journey from Seattle up into the Aleutians.

Protests Continue Against "Demeaning" Hip-Hop Videos

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 12:21 PM EST

mojo-photo-gangster.jpgWe've covered protests over hip-hop lyrics from a couple perspectives here on the Riff (now that's fair and balanced!) and the controversy continues: today the New York Times is reporting protestors are targeting media companies like Viacom (owner of MTV and BET) for "degrading" music videos. The protesters have been targeting the homes of company executives, but their goals seem a little vague:

Among other things the protesters want media companies like Viacom to develop "universal creative standards" for video and music, including prohibitions on some language and images. Video vixens and foul-mouthed pimps and thugs are now so widespread, the protesters maintain, that they infect perceptions of ordinary nonwhite people. … "A lot of rap isn't rap anymore, it's just people selling their souls," Marc Newman, a 28-year-old car salesman from New Rochelle, N.Y., said on Saturday. He was among about 20 men, women and children from area Baptist churches marching outside the Upper East Side residence of Philippe Dauman, the president and chief executive of Viacom Inc.

While 20 people isn't that impressive, and Enough is Enough shares their name with another group focused on protecting our children from "hard-core sexually-explicit materials that is harmful to our youth" (uh, sic?), the Times reminds us that both the N.A.A.C.P. and the National Congress of Black Women are on the side of "more corporate responsibility" when it comes to music videos. The sentiments have perhaps been explained more clearly by the blog BrilliantBrown.com, in reaction to the BET show "Hot Ghetto Mess": "At this point, I'm beginning to wonder if BET has been secretly purchased by the KKK or something." Jeez, the KKK or the Taliban, do I have to pick a side?

Cavett's Cavils

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 10:05 AM EST

The only good thing to come of the recent scandals which illuminate white racism is the threadbare victory of blacks' having all their conspiracy theories validated. For all the good that does. Of course, the primary victory is one which is totally lost on those who apologize for it -- proof that skin privilege, with all its attendant social costs, is alive and well. Not far from first place in the pyrrhic victory category is the fall collection of the Emperor's New Clothes that is white intellectual superiority. Man, how hard privilege has to work to deny itself. I can't decide whether it's more painful than bitterly amusing to watch.

Check out Dick Cavett on Imus's return to the air. Isn't he supposed to be the intellectual's intellectual? That's why I clicked on it, figuring that someone of Cavett's supposed candlepower would give me something to think about. But, alas, the entire post is so embarrassingly silly, or should be, it's hard to pick out the dumbest nuggets, but let's try, shall we?

There's no getting around what he said, of course, but it's worth asking under what circumstances would a man ever be justified in calling a bunch of women — of any color — by the volatile term "hos"? The first requirement, really, would be that he would have to know them. How can an insult be personal if the person delivering it and the person(s) receiving it don't know each other? Imus would have had to meet the ladies and determine to his satisfaction that they were, um . . . how to say? . . . ladies of light virtue. And then he would have to decide to broadcast the authenticated fact. And what on earth would have to be in his mind were he to do that?

Wow. "There's no getting around what he said" but there should have been no backlash. And note the replacement of rac- and sexism with the much more user-friendly "personal insult;" power is nothing if not sneaky and manipulative in shrouding itself. A statement can't be rac- or sexist - my bad, insulting - unless it's utterer had actual knowledge of his target's moral status. Hmmm, sorta leaves out the part where the very essence of rac- or sexism is negative essentializations based on demeaning the Other. As for what would "have to be on his mind?" how 'bout white supremacy? It's unthinkable that his buddy is racist, therefore, he isn't, no matter what he says. And, then there's this:

At the risk of seeming class-conscious, whenever I've appeared with Imus, the folks who mentioned seeing me were certainly . . . well . . . is there a nice way of saying "well above average"?

Anyone? Anyone? Is there?

There are worthy arguments to be made in support of Imus then and his return to the air now. This includes none of them.

At least there's one thing Cavett and I can agree on re Imus: "A lot of people did not come off well." Neither did their IQs. Good thing I have no actual knowledge of whether Dick Cavett is a...never mind.

Bush White House Guided Military to Develop Nuclear Strike Plans Against Rogue States, FAS Finds

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 9:30 AM EST

The Federation of American Scientists' director of the nuclear information project Hans Kristensen reports that he has gotten ahold of a surprising document that shows the Bush White House guided the US military to change the US nuclear posture in 2002 to develop nuclear strike plans against rogue states, including North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

"Everybody got so afraid of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and the combination of the two that White House guidance ordered the military to prepare nuclear strike plans against them," Kristensen tells me in a phone interview Monday. "This particular document is the main surprise here. It is a briefing that that US strategic command held sometime in 2002 which is about national nuclear war plans that went into effect in March 2003. Since then, there has been only upgrade of the plan."

Kristensen says the document he got hold of is a compilation of slides, 126 pages. "They only released 23 of those, and most of that is heavily redacted," Kristensen says. "But one thing they surprisingly let through is the identification of new strike plans against rogue states. And this is a surprise. ... This shows nuclear strike planning rose all the way to the top, the national strategic war plan, a new development."

Crazy Like a Mother

| Mon Nov. 5, 2007 8:14 AM EST

Now, the Nebraska teacher who was having sex with her sixth-grader has cost herself prison and him the good life in America. Turns out he's an illegal immigrant from Mexico and, having fled with him there, he's now stuck. What's love got to do with it? Everything. Maybe women should do some re-thinking about their school girl notions of love and romance and how entitled to them they are. Maybe we should do that before we cross the line into child abuse and violence. Like Nowak, I don't have much sympathy for Peterson, however much in love she thinks she is, however well she treated him. She's turned this child from a munchkin who should be playing X Box too much into a smooth operator. She's his "Baby Gurl" and -- check this -- he defends their relationship as "[not just] about the sex but that it was pretty good."

"Pretty good"? That's how he should be rating the latest Simpson's episode, not sex. What little benefit of the doubt I had for her, sure she believed herself in love and wasn't a habitual abuser, evaporated. Perspective restored. The great sex guru Dan Savage frequently reminds the older partner in a sexual relationship to treat the younger one like a campsite -- left better than when found. There's simply no way for an adult to accomplish that with a sixth grader.

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Fred Thompson's Surprising Social Moderation

| Sun Nov. 4, 2007 5:27 PM EST

Fred Thompson had this to say on Meet the Press today, via Marc Ambinder:

MR. RUSSERT: This is the 2004 Republican Party platform, and here it is: "We say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution"... Could you run as a candidate on that platform, promising a human life amendment banning all abortions?
MR. THOMPSON: No... No. I have always—and that's been my position the entire time I've been in politics. I thought Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. I think this platform originally came out as a response to particularly Roe v. Wade because of that. Before Roe v. Wade, states made those decisions. I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. That's what freedom is all about. And I think the diversity we have among the states, the system of federalism we have where power is divided between the state and the federal government is, is, is—serves us very, very well. I think that's true of abortion. I think Roe v. Wade hopefully one day will be overturned, and we can go back to the pre-Roe v. Wade days. But...
MR. RUSSERT: Each state would make their own abortion laws.
MR. THOMPSON: Yeah.

Bravo for not pandering, Mr. Thompson, though you've made your life just a little bit harder. Also, this is tricky issue on which to apply the old federalism argument. If you believe life begins at conception, it's hard to argue that states ought to make their own laws. Life ought to be protected everywhere. If you believe women have a fundamental right to control their own bodies, then you believe that right ought to be protected everywhere. This isn't like school vouchers or gun laws. Inalienable rights are in question.

Anyway, I also liked this from MSNBC's First Read:

We noticed more than 30 "umms" from Thompson before losing count and at least nine throat clearings -- often right before answering a difficult question.

Yeah, he's not the slickest guy in the world.

Lisa Nowak: Separating the Women from the Girls

| Sat Nov. 3, 2007 11:05 AM EDT

Lisa Nowak, the diaper-wearing astronaut who went whacko over a man, is probably going to get away with stalking, assault, attempted kidnapping (to God's know what end) and, setting feminism back a thousand years.

A judge has thrown out everything but the supposed bats in Lisa Nowak's belfry. The evidence obtained from her car (including diapers, allegedly both used and unused): gone. Her statements to the police: gone. Her electronic ankle monitor: gone. Hell, it wasn't even me that Nowak stalked cross country and pepper-sprayed but I'd like to know where she is at all times; what if I'd accidentally scored some killer shoes on sale that she'd been eying? Fire alarms should accompany her every movement. This matters because Nowak's attorneys "in August filed a notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense, saying in court documents her diagnoses include a litany of more than a dozen psychiatric disorders."

How novel, women just can't control their emotions and shouldn't be held accountable. She was in love! I guess we should be grateful she isn't going with the PMS defense. "More than a dozen psychiatric disorders" and NASA never noticed? Females like Nowak hurt women everywhere with this kind of sorry-ass, female jealousy and emotional collapse. It's not bad enough that she was going to put a beat down on another human over a man, now she's going to make every woman in a high stress environment wonder if those around her are watching to see if she'll buckle and go haywire on the corporate retreat, let alone the flight deck.

The Conjugal Classroom

| Sat Nov. 3, 2007 10:11 AM EDT

The latest female teacher caught boffing her young male student got busted in Mexico. Even women-haters take the weekend off, but you can bet that come Monday, the right wing blogosphere will be afire 'proving' that feminism = female monsters and that female criminals benefit from a double standard in public reaction and come sentence time.

These are crimes, to be sure, whatever the perp's gender but there's no arguing that the grown woman-paperboy thing is qualitatively different from the football coach abusing youngsters in his care. According to William Saletan at Slate, both should be punished but female abusers are rightfully punished less severely and regarded with less animus:

Move over, Mrs. Robinson. The new public enemy is the bespectacled babe who teaches our kids math in the classroom and sex in the parking lot. Dozens of female teachers have been caught with male students in recent years, and the airwaves are full of outrage that we're letting them off the hook. On cable news, phrases like "double standard" and "slap on the wrist" are poured like pious gravy over photos of the pedagogue-pedophile-pet of the month. "Why is it when a man rapes a little girl, he goes to jail," CNN's Nancy Grace complains, "but when a woman rapes a boy, she had a breakdown?"
I hate to change the subject from sex back to math, but this frenzy—I'm trying hard not to call it hysteria—reeks of overexcitement. Sex offenses by women aren't increasing. Female offenders are going to jail. And while their sentences are, on average, shorter than sentences given to male offenders, the main reason is that their crimes are objectively less vile. By ignoring this difference, we're replacing the old double standard with a new one.

The data are startling; women who having sex with young boys are wrong and deserve punishment, just not as much as the average, and far more numerous, male abuser. Now if we could just figure out why a love of children can lead to sex and how to stop it.

The Chutzpah of Bernard Lewis

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:20 PM EDT

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A small group of Middle East studies academics, led by Bernard Lewis, have formed a new professional group, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, according to InsideHigherEd. Their stated reasons for establishing the group are "the increasing politicization of these fields, and the certainty that a corrupt understanding of them is a danger to the academy as well as the future of the young people it purports to educate." Funny, that, because Lewis, from his perch at Princeton, is probably the country's greatest practitioner of Mideast studies in the service of politics. A few of Lewis' greatest hits:

  • Participated in a pre-9/11 "study of ancient empires, sponsored by [Donald] Rumsfeld's office, to understand how they maintained their dominance," according to the Times.
  • Became one of the earliest and most public proponents of war with Iraq soon after 9/11, writing op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, including "A War of Resolve" and "Time for Toppling."
  • In a series of personal meetings after 9/11, helped disabuse Dick Cheney of "his former skepticism about the potential for democracy in the Middle East," according to Time.
  • Earlier this year, received standing ovation after defending the Christian crusades in his speech accepting the Irving Kristol Award at the American Enterprise Institute.

The new association rounds out its apolitical "Academic Council" with U.S. News columnist Fouad Ajami, National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson, and former Secretary of State George Schultz.

—Justin Elliott