Short answer: No.

CNN reports the latest study showing anti-black racism in action. It's one of those scenarios where a white says something horribly racist after the lone black leaves the room and none of the whites react. The beauty part of this study, though, was later asking participants who they wanted to be paired with on another exercise—the black who'd been dissed 'without his knowledge,' or the white who'd done the racist dissing. Guess who most whites chose.

It's reasonable to expect lots of folks not to speak up when hearing racist doggerel, even if they object to it. But to then choose the racist as a partner over the black he insulted pretty much settles the question.

Analogies

ANALOGIES....Matt Yglesias warns us about the use of analogies, especially historical analogies:

I did a post the other day that used an anecdote from my real life to illustrate a point about the concept of self-defense. Since the point was relevant to the debate over the fighting in Gaza, I tried to explicitly say that I didn't want the story to be read as an analogy since I don't believe in trying to conduct arguments by analogy. Well along comes Michael Moynihan to point out that the facts in my story don't precisely parallel the situation in Gaza.

This, though, is why I don't believe in analogies. If you make an argument that hinges on an analogy then people fire back by pointing out some respect in which the situation you described isn't precisely analogous to the thing you're arguing about. It then becomes a contest to specify the analogy so as to exactly mirror the situation you're debating. In which case you may as well just debate the situation. Long story short — these analogy fights are stupid.

This is all true, and anyone who's ever used an analogy in a blog post knows exactly what Matt is talking about. The nitpicking is especially annoying since imprecision is inherent in the form itself: after all, if all the facts matched up precisely, it wouldn't be an analogy. It would be a xerox copy.

Speaking generally, though1, there's another side to this. The point of an analogy isn't precision (we have long, little-read white papers to fill that niche), it's to help people understand a situation better by relating it to something they already know and have some opinion about. So the question is: did Matt's analogy succeed at that purpose? If it did, then it probably made some converts to the cause regardless of whether it was perfectly apposite. The people who pick analogies apart know this perfectly well, of course, and that's why they try to pick them apart. They're hoping to irritate their opponents enough that they cave in and stop using an effective rhetorical tool.

But that's obviously no reason to stop using them. If an analogy is bad or ineffective, then sure: toss it out. But if it's good, keep using it regardless. When the other guys are reduced to cavilling over trifles, you're probably on the right track.

1Which is to say, I'm not defending the specific analogy in question. Just making a broad point about the usefulness of analogies regardless of whether or not they get attacked.

Cuspers

CUSPERS....Debra Dickerson points to an essay at CNN.com by Marian Salzman about the end of the baby boom era:

After strutting and tub-thumping and preening their way across the high ground of politics, media, culture and finance for 30 years, baby boomers have gone from top dogs to scapegoats in barely a year.

As baby boomers lose their authority and appeal, generational power is shifting one notch down: to cuspers (born roughly 1954-1965), who arrived in style in 2008 with their first truly major figure, Barack Obama (born 1961).

Cuspers! Hooray! I had always thought of myself as a baby boomer and had become resigned to wearing sackcloth and ashes for the rest of my life. But no. As a 1958 baby, I'm a cusper instead, entitled to hold my head high and sneer at baby boomers just like everyone else. I'm relieved.

Of course, you may be wondering why I should trust Marian Salzman on this subject. CNN provides the answer: "She was named among the 'top five trendspotters' by VNU in 2004 and has been credited with popularizing the term 'metrosexuality.'" Works for me! From now on, I'm a cusper. Bye bye, baby boom.

George Packer discovers some more innocent victims of Ponzi schemer and penthouse penitentiary dweller Bernie Madoff: two foundations that funded Human Rights First, which provides legal assistance to Iraqi refugees seeking asylum in the US. Now, Packer reports, HRF needs a million bucks to meet its budget. How pathetic that Iraqis who've already suffered the unintended consequences of the invasion of Iraq should now suffer the unintended consequences of our economic free-for-all. And those are the lucky ones. For more on Mother Jones' coverage of the Iraqi refugee crisis, see David Case's "Thrown to the Assassins" and our interview with Kirk Johnson, who's pushing the Obama administration to airlift thousands of Iraqis still waiting to come to the States.

This week's New Yorker runs a natural history of breastfeeding well worth reading in its entirety, even if you've never exchanged business cards with another nursing mom while both of you were hooked up to breast pump tubing during a work conference "break."

Some fascinating trivia from the Age of Reason:

...wet nurses were not nearly as common in Colonial America as they were in eighteenth-century Europe. "Suckle your Infant your Self if you can," Cotton Mather commanded from the pulpit. Puritans found milk divine: even the Good Book gave suck. "Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes, Drawn Out of the Breasts of Both Testaments" was the title of a popular catechism. By the end of the eighteenth century, breast-feeding had come to seem an act of citizenship. Mary Wollstonecraft, in her "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792), scoffed that a mother who "neither suckles nor educates her children, scarcely deserves the name of a wife, and has no right to that of a citizen." The following year, the French National Convention ruled that women who employed wet nurses could not apply for state aid; not long afterward, Prussia made breast-feeding a legal requirement.

Kate Harding over at Salon's Broadsheet found the article's takeaways a bit disturbing; you might too. I was too besotted by the bright, shiny historical details to pay close attention to the mommy war ammo.

I'm looking forward to reading Jill Lepore's book on the broader topic, whenever she publishes it. Write faster, Lepore!

According to a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (brought to my attention by Steven Aftergood), spending on US nuclear weapons infrastructure and related programs surpassed $52 billion in 2008. "That's a floor, not a ceiling," said study co-author Stephen Schwartz, who noted that the figure does not include costs associated with classified nuclear weapons or intelligence-related programs.

A view of the spending breakdown, provided by Carnegie:

20080111-NuclearAppropriationsCategory.gif

To put this in some context, nuclear weapons expenditures accounted for some 10 percent of all defense spending... and dwarfed the entire federal budget for "soft power" programs like international diplomacy and foreign assistance, which amounted to just $39.5 billion last year.

Of the $52 billion spent on nuclear programs, 55.5 percent went to upgrading and maintaining the existing stockpiles of weapons, whereas just 10 percent was invested in nonproliferation programs aimed at preventing the spread of such weapons around the globe.

For a funny, ground-level look at how the nuclear weapons budget is spent, you might check out A Nuclear Family Vacation by Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger. Find my review here.

Every time you feel so overwhelmed by the horrors of Third World underdevelopment and chaos, someone comes along with a great, oh-so-obvious solution. I came across this one via Slate:

In the United States, Britain and other wealthy nations, 60 to 70 percent of people wear corrective glasses...But in many developing countries, only about 5 percent have glasses because so many people, especially those in rural areas, have little or no access to eye-care professionals. Even if they could visit an eye doctor, the cost of glasses can be more than a month's wages. This means that many schoolchildren cannot see the blackboard, bus drivers can't see clearly and others can no longer fish, teach or do other jobs because of failing vision.

[Joshua] Silver's answer: Adjustable glasses.

OK, you have to be a science geek to have come up with this, but still. It's all about the mindset: Instead of giving up because glasses are so expensive, work on making glasses cheaper. Duh.

Check the piece for a link to the guy's site. The glasses are BCGs (think: Drew Carey) in the extreme but, when you make your living dumpster-diving in Bangladesh or wherever, ugly glasses are the least of your problems.

mojo-photo-britcoachella.jpg

The lineup for America's premier music festival has generally been announced towards the end of January, and so right about now, speculation, rumors, and blog insanity is reaching a fever pitch. I've been feeding the flames myself, posting the first fake flyer (complete with dream headliners Daft Punk, the White Stripes and David Bowie) back in December (along with some early whispers) but now somewhat-journalistically-reputable blog LAist has posted a list of "confirmed" and "rumored" artists, and they snuck in one head-slapper: right there between Blur and the Comedians of Comedy, it's Britney Spears. Da-wha? Turns out, as Idolator discovered, Brit-Brit (blargh!) has dates confirmed in the LA area Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights, and the Coachella venue in Indio is only a few hours' drive (or a quick helicopter ride) away. Madonna was one thing, but does anybody actually like Britney Spears' music? And, more importantly, will she bring tour openers (and possibly the worst musical act in America today) The Pussycat Dolls with her?

After the jump, the LAist confirmed and rumored lists.

mojo-photo-slumdog.jpgLast night's Golden Globes ceremony was, as Vulture put it, "astonishingly not-bad," with multiple surprise winners and cheeky speeches (see some of those after the jump). Hollywood bad boys Mickey Rourke and Colin Farrell got Best Actor nods, which you have to celebrate if only for the "holy crap what will they say on stage" anticipation, and every 30 Rock win brought us a hilarious acceptance speech. But the most inspiring moments of the night came with the non-stop cavalacade of wins for rags-to-riches drama Slumdog Millionaire, which grabbed four awards including best dramatic picture. Other heavily-favored and multiple-nominee pics including Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon came away empty-handed, but the unabashed joy of the Slumdog team at every win made it impossible not to root for them. Plus, there's the fact that the film's success has "virtually the entire Desi population on the planet energized," as MTV News put it. Slumdog's wins also seem like a long-overdue nod to Bollywood, despite the fact that the flim has about as much to do with Bollywood tradition as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did with martial arts movies. So is there anything to stop Slumdog from winning the best picture Oscar?

Golden Globe best picture winners have been Oscar predictors only about 2/3 of the time—last year's dramatic picture winner, No Country for Old Men, lost the Oscar to Atonement, and the comedy/musical winner, Sweeney Todd, wasn't even nominated. But this year, Slumdog Millionaire has been racking up awards with increasing momentum, and, as Associated Content put it, the competition is dropping like flies:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the original favorite, but has lost a lot of ground due to Slumdog Millionaire's rise and some very mixed reviews. Milk may be a sleeper, but most expect that homophobes in the Academy will stop it from winning, like they supposedly did for Brokeback Mountain. Films like Frost/Nixon and Doubt are not regarded as serious threats to win, while The Dark Knight is just trying to get in, and countless other contenders have fallen off the map this Oscar season.

Homophobes aside, even San Franciscans are starting to acknowledge that our hometown favorite may not be quite Oscar-caliber. Amazingly, Slumdog hasn't even opened yet in India, and success there could make denying the top prize to what the Wall Street Journal called "the film world's first globalized masterpiece" next to impossible.

Oscar nominations come out January 22. After the jump: appearances from Sacha Baron Cohen, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Slumdog's best dramatic picture win.

afcbetting.gifGuess who's playing on Sunday night at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the opening event for the inauguration festivities? Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock (!!), Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am, and Stevie Wonder. (Don't live in DC? You can watch on some free HBO thing.)

You know who else is playing on Sunday night? The greatest professional sports franchise in the history of the United States (the Pittsburgh Steelers), which will take on a miserable bunch of thugs and complainers (the Baltimore Ravens) in an hard-nosed bad-blood knock-em-out match-up that will determine who gets to go to Super Bowl XLIII.

I've emailed the transition office to ask for a rescheduling. I'm not joking.