Tag: oddness

More on cats

Just to follow up on Charli’s post: if for some reason, you’re not one of the millions who have already seen “An Engineer’s Guide to Cats,” please rectify that now.




And the sequel:

Caucasians behaving badly: Saturday news aggregation

I have to say that the latest news is not encouraging. Forced labor in South Ossetia? The Georgians claiming, among other accusations that Abkhazians have seized 13 villages and a hydroelectric plant in Georgia proper?

In other words, it ain’t over until the Red Army Choir sings.

On a lighter note, Pravda reports that Saakashvili “clearly” had a nervous breakdown on TV because he “ate his tie.”

Ahh, the influence of YouTube.

(Video below the fold; warning, you may need to manually advance the time slider.)

Despite such efforts, as Vadim Nikitin writes at the Russian Foreign Policy Blog, the Russians clearly “lost” the public-relations war (via Global Voices Online).

Whitmore Brian sums up the case for Russian having planned the conflict. I still think we don’t have enough to evidence to say one way or another, but it is worth a read.

The larger theme for this week is clearly “the Return of Great Power Politics.” But most of the people pushing this line are thinking about the Cold War, not the Concert of Europe or even the old “Great Game.”


The video (he appears to briefly munch on his tie at 1:00)

The stupidity, it burns

Via Matthew Yglesias and a quick google search I learn that the right-wing blogsphere is all in a tizzy over the fact that the Decemberists played at Obama’s Portland speech. This apparently matters because:

1. The left-wing mainstream media isn’t reporting that some percentage of people clearly attended to hear the Decemberists rather than Obama. Ergo, Obama’s not really all that popular. Or something.

2. The Decemberists often play the Soviet National Anthem before their concerts. Given that they named themselves after the participants in an 1825 anti-absolutism rebellion in Russia and that (I kid you not) The Crane Wife contains a duet involving a dead confederate soldier and his pregnant lover/wife, this proves they’re some sort of anti-Americans.

There’s no doubt that the Decemberists are very left-wing. But if this is the kind of stuff that Obama’s going to face rom the right-wing blogsphere during Presidential campaign, I suspect he can rest easy.

The evolution of punditry (updated again)

The recently leaked photographs of Liberal Fascisms table of contents have provided some of my favorite bloggers with an excuse for another round of snark at Jonah Goldberg’s expense. John Cole mostly hits the proverbial nail on the head when he writes:

The most depressing thing about Jonah Goldberg’s new book is that this whole “liberals are fascist” argument is going to morph from something idiot frat boys would argue after three credit hours in poly sci. and a dozen Mickey’s Big Mouth and would be laughed out of the room to something that idiots like Peggy Noonan and David brooks will peddle with straight faces on Hardball.

But that’s not quite right.

Goldeberg’s basically a second-rate right-wing blogger with family connections. And such bloggers would, about ten years ago, have been right-wing usenet trolls. So the fact that he’s written a book reproducing one of the most common arguments among faux-intellectual usenet ideologues shouldn’t shock anybody. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Goldberg main research involved using google to access old posts on alt.politics groups.

My recommendation? Skip Goldberg’s remake and read the original version.Hayek’s far too smart to rely on “similar element” comparisons among European political ideologies that, by their nature, all share some features by virtue of descent from common ancestors and mimetic transfer.

UPDATE: I was thinking about posting a long overdue response to a series of critiques Donald Douglas leveled at “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate” when I came across a real gem: a piece by Goldberg rejecting the “American Empire” label:

Critics of American foreign policy point to the fact that the U.S. does many things that empires once did – police the seas, deploy militaries abroad, provide a lingua franca and a global currency – and then rest their case. But noting that X does many of the same things as Y does not mean that X and Y are the same thing. The police provide protection, and so does the Mafia. Orphanages raise children, but they aren’t parents. If your wife cleans your home, tell her she’s the maid because maids also clean homes. See how well that logic works.

Now, I happen to think these are pretty good arguments against some of Ferguson’s warrants for declaring American an empire (‘it’s big, it’s powerful, it’s got troops all over the place….’) but its also a stunning display of the kind of reasoning that should have prevented him from writing the book in question.

UPDATE II: It turns out I already wrote a better version of this post two years ago.

The well of lost academic papers

Via scatterplot, an on-line mathematics journal for rejected papers. Joke? They say not. And the idea, even if Swiftian, makes a great deal of sense. Maybe the time is ripe in Political Science? Given the vagaries of peer review, and the black hole of bottom-tier journals, I think so.

Like watching cats play with a mouse…

If you’re the type that roots for the cats.

And just keep reading through the first dozen or so comments. Takes me back to usenet days of old.

The patron saint of nuclear weapons

I swear I’m not making this up.

According to the Jamestown Foundation’s excellent Eurasia Daily Monitor, the Russian Department of Defense’s 12th Directorate, which is responsible for Russia’s nuclear weapons, has been assigned a patron saint by the Russian Orthodox Church: St. Seraphim of Sarov.

St. Seraphim seems an appropriate choice for several reasons. First, he was a favorite saint of the last tsar, Nicholas II; his association with one of the primary continuing symbols of Russian claims to great power status is eminently sensible in climate in which the tsarist past and ideology of “Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, i Narodnost'” (Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Spirit*) are being rehabilitated. Second, St. Seraphim hails from the city of Sarov, in the Nizhny-Novgorod oblast. Known during the Cold War as Arzamas-16, Sarov is home to the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF)–the nuclear weapons research and design facility where the first Soviet nuclear weapons were developed. Sarov, appropriately, is a sister city to Los Alamos, New Mexico [warning: pdf]. Lastly, the saint’s name, “Seraphim”, which he adopted upon taking monastic vows at the age of 27, comes from Hebrew for “fiery” or “burning”. Seraphim are fiery angels with the power to purify the sinful. So, purifying fire from the heavens = nukes. Nice, eh?

* Narodnost’ is a notoriously difficult concept to translate. “Nationalism” doesn’t quite work, “populism” doesn’t quite work, “national feeling” doesn’t really get there either. I’m not really all that happy with “national spirit,” but it’ll do.

Just for the record…

How awesome is this?

Everyone else is doing it…

First up, expanding the blog collective.

A big welcome to our new contributor, Maia Gemmill. Maia is a recent SAIS graduate in Russia-Eurasia studies with a concentration in Economics. We also co-authored “Children’s Crusade: The Religious Politics of Harry Potter” in Harry Potter and International Relations.

She’s already, as you can tell, breathing new life into the Duck.

Second, our blog rating is in:

Online Dating


Apparently we use the phrase “bomb” a lot on our front page. Go figure.

Just remember that this particular MPAA-rating spoof is a clever (or not) advertisement for a dating service.

(via Rebecca Tushnet.)

Third, modifying the navigation pane. I’ve implemented, in effect, super-charged peekaboo functionality to the “Labels” section. I expect to make more mods in the future. A big thanks to Chuck at Cumulus Blogs for instructions.

The triumphant return of the resident expert

Everything you ever wanted to know about the World Bank.



If only they’d done this skit before classes ended.

Globalization, ca. World War II

Via John Holbo.

Image from http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v602/bensanaz/All-Star%2024/AllStarComics24-01.jpg.

“I think he is quite handsome”

Is it the James-Bond resume? The oh-so-sexy firm hand of quasi-autocratic leadership? The way his soul shines through his eyes? Vlad’s allure will forever remain a mystery to me.

President Vladimir Putin may be in the newspapers every day and on the television every evening, but for some that is just not enough. Portraits of the president are not uncommon in homes and offices alike.

“He is our president, and I like having him in our office,” said Svetlana Osuva, an accountant in Moscow. “I think he is quite handsome,” she added. The portrait at her work is a photo of a stern-faced Putin staring out from his desk with a Russian flag in the background.

There are many such photos for sale at Dom Knigi bookstore on Ulitsa Novy Arbat, and they all cost less than 5,000 rubles. A 70-by-50-centimeter photograph, with a frame of fake wood and gold leaf, costs 4,800 rubles. Putin in a winter navy uniform complete with hat and fur-trimmed collar costs 1,900 rubles, and a favorite of the staff is one of him talking on the phone at the office. “It looks like he is talking to you,” a bookstore employee said.

But I definitely “get” this:

Perle vs. Perle: Perle loses


I am currently watching an hour-long PBS documentary called “The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom”.

I assume this is the “balance” episode of the eleven-part series “America at a Crossroads”, since Richard Perle narrates, debates people, then explains in the voice over why he’s right.

Perle’s arguments range from the sensible to the cynically dishonest. But the amazing thing is that Perle’s losing to his interlocutors in his own documentary.

Perle gets served on jus ad bellum and jus in bello issues by a t-shirt clad anti-war protester. He lamely attempts to caricature his opponent’s arguments–usually with the phrase “so what you’re saying is….” He trots out Abu Nidal as proof of Hussein’s threat to the United States. Kind of pathetic, actually.

He might score some points later. But I have to stop watching. The wife wants to play Okami. Much more attractive… and educational.

image from http://www.trustedreviews.com/gaming/review/2007/02/07/Okami/p1

wiki virtues

I must admit that I find the conservapedia “world history” lectures interesting–but for the same reasons that my wife and I used to collect premillenial dispensationalist pamphlets.

I promise this will turn into a more serious set of questions about the appropriateness of vandalizing, or even what it would mean to vandalize, a collective encyclopedia project. But before I do, let me note some of the list of great “homeschooled Christians” that are supposed to inspire the present generation:

Leonardo da Vinci
Claude Monet
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Stonewall Jackson
John Paul Jones
Robert E. Lee
Douglas MacArthur
George Patton…

George Washington
John Quincy Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
Abraham Lincoln
Theodore Roosevelt

Joan of Arc
John the Baptist
William Cary
Jesus Christ…

Winston Churchill
Benjamin Franklin
Patrick Henry
William Penn
Henry Clay…

George Bernard Shaw
Mark Twain…

George Clymer
Benjamin Franklin
William Livingston…”

I’m not terribly surprised, but still vaguely disappointed, that Stonewall Jackson is on the list. Joan of Arc seems like a strange inclusion; and George Bernard Shaw as someone right-wing Christians would want to emulate? That’s just a declaration of idiocy.

Anyway, so here’s the ethical question. My wife and I were discussing left-wing vandalism of the conservapedia not long ago, and she said that this “reflects badly on our side.” Perhaps, but I’m not so sure about whether vandalism of the site crosses the line. For one thing, the whole point of a wiki encyclopedia is to draw on “collective knowledge” to produce intellectual and educational value. In fact, here are the “commandments” of the conservapedia:

1. Everything you post must be true and verifiable.
2. Always cite and give credit to your sources, even if in the public domain.
3. Edits/new pages must be family-friendly, clean, concise, and without gossip or foul language.
4. When referencing dates based on the approximate birth of Jesus, give appropriate credit for the basis of the date (B.C. or A.D.). “BCE” and “CE” are unacceptable substitutes because they deny the historical basis. See CE.
5. As much as is possible, American spelling of words must be used.[1]
6. Do not post personal opinion on an encyclopedia entry. Opinions can be posted on Talk:pages or on debate or discussion pages.

Outside of the bizarre antipathy to British-English spellings (which, apparently, counts as major evidence of anti-American bias on the wikipedia), and the insistence on Anno Domini, these “commandments” imply a responsibility among readers to correct factual errors such that the entries are “true” and “verifiable.” Not only is the site filled with some pretty egregious errors, but the administrators of the site have interfered with readers’ attempts to correct them.

For another, even if the site did not include un-editable content inconsistent with 1, 2, and 6 (including the aforementioned world-history lectures, which involve no–or, at least, very few–reference), many of the instances of vandalism do little to diminish the factual content of the site. In many cases, it is pretty hard to distinguish between “vandalism” and sincere entries; in others, the claims are so outrageous that they might as well discuss how the moon is made of cheese.

So, while I think many of the attacks–however funny–definitely qualify as “tacky,” I also wonder if the standards for what constitutes “vandalism” must be less clear in the face of a wiki with the aforementioned rules.

The 2007 Counterterrorism desk calendar

If you haven’t already picked up a 2007 calendar (and I certainly have not yet done so), you may want to check out the National Counter-terrorism Center’s 2007 Desk Calendar.

The US National Counterterrorism Center is pleased to present the 2007 edition of the Counterterrorism (CT) Calendar. This edition, the largest since the Calendar first appeared in a daily planner format in 2003, contains many features across the full range of terrorism-related issues: terrorist groups, wanted terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related issues. The Calendar marks dates according to the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, and contains significant dates in terrorism history as well as dates that terrorists may believe are important when planning “commemoration-style” attacks.

The CT Calendar is designed for anyone concerned with terrorism or threat: law enforcement,intelligence, military, security personnel, contingency planners, or simply citizens concerned by terrorist threats. The Calendar is oriented primarily to readers in the United States, but we hope that we have also made it useful for citizens of other countries. We welcome suggestions on ways to improve the Counterterrorism Calendar.

Download it here: http://www.nctc.gov/docs/ct_calendar_2007.pdf

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My week in a nutshoe


Despite the many important global developments of the last few weeks, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Nor have I accomplished a great deal of the last substantive rewrite I need to do for my book manuscript.

Today, I hope, marked the culmination of my increasing lack of focus.

Yes, I did wear these shoes all day. I discovered them when my daughter wanted to walk on my shoes and pointed out that “you’re wearing this shoe on this foot, and that shoe on that foot!”

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers!

Isn’t it Ironic?

Glenn Reynolds asks for science fiction suggestions from his readers. Top of the list?

Lots of readers have been writing in with suggestions as to authors. Iain M. Banks — whom I’ve never read — seems a favorite, particularly his Use of Weapons.

To paraphrase Wanda Gershwitz:

“Otto, you’re a conservative.”
“Aha! Conservatives don’t read Banks!”
“Yes, they do—they just don’t understand it.”

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Sometimes the Eiffel Tower is…

My wife and I started watching 月詠 -MOON PHASE the other day. It is far from the best anime we’ve seen, but it is definitely entertaining.

The main female character is an adolescent vampire. Given the general idioms of vampire fiction, it should come as no surprise that Moon Phase is full of psychosexual themes that run from the interesting (e.g., awakening of adolescent sexuality) to the disturbing (e.g., sexualization of young girls). The latter is quite common in Japanese anime and manga. Even the relatively innocuous – and extremely popular – Inuyasha stars a female character, Kagome, who begins the series as a fourteen-year old student and is pictured naked on a number of occasions.1 And, of course, it is hard to get very far into anything Japanese without encountering the ubiquitous schoolgirl fetish.

The “interesting” aspects of the psychosexual content in Moon Phase have, so far, largely overshadowed the “disturbing” ones. But every once in a while you get something like the commercial-break still from Episode 3:


Now that’s just icky.

1In the Inuyasha manga Kagome has nipples, but in the anime they are either not drawn or effaced. I guess it isn’t only Americans who can suffer from nipplephobia.

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Question of the Day

What, exactly, is the target market for this?

Saw one driving on the road the other day. My wife exclaimed “a Cadillac truck?!” I guess some people just want to show off when they pick up some plants and light bulbs at the local Home Depot.

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