May 26, 2007

Don't Call It "Speculative Fiction"

The expression "speculative fiction" seems to be escaping out of academic circles into general usage. It grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard. It has always struck me as the sort of expression that would be used by a junior academic who has not yet achieved tenure and who therefore feels she has a lot at risk if her colleagues look askance at "science fiction" or, worse, "sci-fi." Look, Doc, don't use your anxieties about your future career to mislabel me.

I've been feeling alone in this point of view, until I came across this gem, written by SF author and critic Chip Delany, currently professor of English and of Creative Writing at Temple University, in his essay collection Shorter Views:

"Speculative fiction" was a term that had a currency for about three years — from 1966 to 1969. ... Robert A. Heinlein first used it in a Guest of Honor speech he gave at a World Science Fiction Convention in 1951[1]:he said that "speculative fiction" was the term he felt best fit what he was doing as a writer: whereupon everyone immediately forgot it for the next 15 [sic] years — until 1965 or '66, when a group of writers centered around the British SF magazine New Worlds resurrected it and used it for a very specific kind of thing. Basically, as these writers — the New Wave — first used the term, it meant anything that was experimental, anything that was science-fictinal, or anything that was fantastic. It was a conjunctive, inclusive term, which encompassed everything in all three areas. ...

By the end of 1969, in the world of practicing SF writers, editors, and fans, speculative fiction (like most conjunctive terms) had degenerated into a disjunctive, exclusive term (rather like the honorific "Ms.," which began as a conjunctive term meaning any wooman, married or single, but which today, through use, has degenerated into a disjunctive term used [almost] exclusively to mean an unmarried woman who's also a feminist): By the end of '69, "speculative fiction" meant "any piece that is experimental and uses SF imagery in the course of it.' ... A year later, the term simply dropped out of the vocabulary of working SF writers — except to refer to pieces written within that '66-'69 period, to which (usually) it had already been applied.

At about the same time, various academics began to take it up. Most of them had no idea either of its history or of its successive uses; they employed it to mean something like "high-class SF" or "SF I approve of and wish to see legitimated." Now that's a vulgar and ignorant usage of the worst sort. The way to legitimate fine quality SF is by fine quality criticism of it — not by being historically obtuse and rhetorically slipshod. I deplore that particular use of the term — and though I support your right to sue any terms you want, including "fuck," "shit," and "scumbag," I simply won't use the term in that way. It's uninformed, anti-historical, and promotes only mystification — all three of which are fine reasons to let this misused term die the natural death it came to fifteen years ago[2].

(Samuel R. Delany, 1990: "An Interview with Samuel R. Delany." Science Fiction Studies, 17, 1990. Reprinted as "The Second Science Fiction Studies Interview: Trouble on Triton and Other Matters," in Shorter views: Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary, Wesleyan University Press, 1999, pp.346-347)

Now I no longer alone, and have a well-respected ally in my dislike. So don't call it "speculative fiction" — it's uniformed, anti-historical, and it promotes only mystification. So there.

[1]Actually it was 1941, the DenVention, in Denver, Colorado.

[2]The interview was recorded in a classroom in 1986, and was not transcribed for publication until 1990.

Posted by abostick at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2007

MacArthur Maze Reopened

MacArthur Maze reopened 8;40 PM 5/24/07
The connector from eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 that had collapsed in a tanker truck fire on April 29 was reopened yesterday at 8:40 PM PDT yesterday.

Our own true Patti Beadles reports that in the runup to the reopening of the span of freeway connector, traffic leaving San Francisco to cross the Bay Bridge came to a standstill while Caltrans workers uncovered the signs that had been covered while the section of the Maze was closed. All is well that ends well, however.

The re-opening of the MacArthur Maze means that contractor C.C. Myers will earn the full $5 million incentive bonus offereed by Caltrans. Myers' lowball bid was a bet that he could earn enough of the incentive to cover the construction costs. Myers' total payment will be more than $5.8 million; it is estimated that Myers' costs were in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.

Posted by abostick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2007

LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 - President Macro Contest at Fark

Warren G. Harding rendered as a President Macro
(Fark user Somacandra)
Fark's LOLPRESIDENT!!!1 contest demonstrates once again that if you ever have an idea, you have to run out and do it first. I had even checked the availability of lolprezidentz.com, but did i lock it up? Did I do any other legwork? Noooooo....! So I get to sit here on the sidelights and kick myself for thinking "There goes another good idea that someone else developed before I did."
Posted by abostick at 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

Lethargy and Name Dropping before Wiscon

So here I am in Madison, Wisconsin. I was up waaaay too early yesterday morning so I could catch a plane at SFO, and arrived, after a two-hour layover in St. Louis, at Dane County Airport in the early evening.

I had a pleasant dinner of take-home pizza with my partner Debbie Notkin, Jim Hudson, Diane Martin, and the far-traveling Joan Haran. Then Debbie and I hopped into a van to drive to Milwaukee to pick up Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman at the airport and bring them back to the Madison Concourse. The talk in the van on the way back to Madison was a delight, but Debbie and I didn't get back to chez Hudson-Martin until well after midnight. Which wouldn't have seemed late to my jetlagged self if I'd hadn't been awake since oh-dark-hundred that morning.

At any rate, I slept rather late this morning and have been groggy and headachy all day, despite infusions of strong tea. And I have nothing to post about. The perfidy of Monica Goodling? The cravenness of the Democratic congressional leadership? Nothing to say that other people aren't saying. Not even Mark Gritter's graph of Chinese Poker hand strength can inspire me to write.

I know what I need: Guest bloggers. Are there any D-Listers out there who want a shot at the big time to move from the micro-stakes to the dime-and-quarter tables?

Posted by abostick at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2007

Off to Wiscon

I'm leaving first thing this morning to Madison, Wisconsin, to attend Wiscon 31

Everyone else I know on the program is doing it: here are the program items I am on:

Cultural Appropriation Revisited Part Two: Facilitated Discussion (Politics, Race, Class, and Religion) Saturday, 4:00-5:15 p.m. Saturday, 4:00-5:15 p.m.. in Senate B The panel on cultural appropriation at WisCon last year raised issues that were hotly discussed online, and the panel that this forum follows is likely to do the same. This open forum is meant to give you the chance to explore these issues and how they matter to you. Through passionate discussion we can improve our awareness and find the common understanding that lies beneath our disagreements. The open forum will be facilitated by Alan Bostick, who has been practicing Worldwork since 2003. Worldwork is a process-oriented approach to group facilitation and conflict developed by psychologist Arnold Mindell (author of Sitting in the Fire and The Deep Democracy of Open Forums) and collaborators. Attendees are strongly urged to also attend the immediately preceding panel discussion on cultural appropriation. M: Alan Bostick

Let's You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I'd like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It's not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us grumbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

I am particularly excited about the first item: in which I am introducing process work and worldwork to Wiscon and solo facilitating what I hope is going to be a significant crowd. Come give me moral support!

Posted by abostick at 05:10 AM | Comments (4)

May 22, 2007

Bush's Secret Plans for Massive Escalation in Iraq

Hearst Newspapers' Stewart M. Powell is reporting that the Bush Administration is developing plans to double the number of combat troops in Iraq by December:

Bush could double force by Christmas

Stewart M. Powell, Hearst Newspapers Tuesday, May 22, 2007

05-22) 04:00 PDT Washington — The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

This additional escalation in boots on the ground in Iraq, despite the current overextension of American armed forces, will be obtained by further extensions of duty tours by currently deployed units and overlapping the tours of duty of the units rotated in to take their place. This approach to extending combat manpower is the moral equivalent of a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart juicing its cash flow by delaying payments to its creditors — who have no recourse if they wish to continue doing business with the giant customer on whom their own livelihood depends. It would be the moral equivalent, that is, if it weren't for the fact that more boots on the ground in Iraq means more American deaths for no good purpose except perhaps to gratify the President's ego.

Posted by abostick at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2007

Mark Helprin and Copyright: A Moronic Idea Should Be Quashed Immediately

Mark Helprin, wrote an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times proposing that copyrights be made eternal, never expiring.

This idea is so completely bereft of merit that one cannot imagine a person of intelligence advocating it sincerely. Helprin has been a kazoo in the Right Wing Noise Machine since the Reagan years. It seems likely that what Helprin is trying to do is shift the Overton window in the discourse about intellectual property, an attempt to make a currently outlandish proposal seem less extreme by advocating a truly extreme proposal.

One good tug on the Overton window deserves another. Helprin's ridiculous propsal does not support the extension of creators' IP rights; rather, it is a compelling argument in favor the proposition that writers like Helprin should pay the public to compensate us for having to read their drivel. For too long, the public has borne the hidden costs from advocacy from blowhards like Helprin. It is high time that we be compensated for those hidden costs.

Posted by abostick at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

Bitter Feud Divides Historians of Buchanan Administration

Jimmy Carter's declaration that George W. Bush is the worst president ever highlights a deep division among scholars of American political history. Historians who emphasize in their studies the administration of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States are immersed in a bitter feud.

On one side are historians who have pinned their professional careers upon the study of the worst president in the nation's history The misdeeds and failures of George W. Bush have undermined their standing in the historical community. "For decades, our guy has been Number One" says an Ivy League historian who prefers to remain anonymous. "Now he's no longer Number One. I know younger Buchanan guys who simply aren't going to get tenure. It's tragic."

Pitted against them are Buchanan's actual supporters, historians who have found Buchanan's reputation as the nation's worst president to be a stigma that marks their own careers. One Buchanan partisan has been quoted as enthusiastically saying "Bush 43 is the best thing for Buchanan scholarship since the Harding Administration!"

Academic squabbles have long lifetimes — as long as those of their participants. We may not find out who shall prevail in this conflict among Buchanan scholars for a generation.

Posted by abostick at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

Worst. President. Evar.

Quoth the Associated Press:

Carter: Bush 'Worst' in World Relations

Saturday, May 19, 2007
(05-19) 12:29 PDT Little Rock, Ark. (AP) --
Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Posted by abostick at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

Canon Formation in Harry/Draco Slashfic

Here's something that makes me wish I were (or at least had the academic chops to be) one of the group bloggers at Crooked Timber:

Ever so slightly longer but not quite as thick: Toward a quantitative literary sexology of Harry Potter fanfiction

Abstract: Discussion regarding fanfiction tropes produced the observation that in one subset of Harry Potter fanfiction, "Harry/Draco slash" [HDS], Harry has a short, thick dick, while Draco's penis is long and thin. We tested the hypothesis that there was a consistent difference in how these two characters' genitalia were described. Additionally, we tested the hypothesis that slash fiction authors in this subset of fandom did not place equal emphasis on the description of testicles as compared with penii. We surveyed 100 HDS stories in online fanfiction archives and collected data on sexual description and content. Here we present the first quantitative test of fanon stereotypes and show that these explicitly sexual stories contain low levels of visual/sensory genital descriptions. Qualitative comparisons demonstrate trends in support of both hypotheses, although sample sizes prevent statistical significance. We use these findings to discuss how fanon may develop despite the incorrect assumption of perceived ubiquity.

What strikes me about this paper is that it is at once utterly clear that it is a joke and that the authors had a tremendously good time putting it together, and it is a serious work of quantitative literary analysis with a rigorous methodology. It both parodies and celebrates academic analysis of the paraliterary. What's more, serious students of the paraliterary will find this a useful example in an area where scholarship is otherwise unknown or hidden. Read the whole thing.

Posted by abostick at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2007

WSOP Tournament Director Quits

WSOP Tournament Director Daily Resigns Two Weeks Before Events Begin

WSOP Director Leaves Harrahs Accepts Post with DG Holdings, Ltd.

Contact: DG Holdings, Ltd., 702-575-0808, info@dgholdings.co.uk, Additional release(s) forthcoming, Photos available upon request

UNITED KINGDOM / LAS VEGAS, May 17 /Standard Newswire/ -- DG Holdings, Ltd. (DGH) has announced that Robert Daily, former World Series of Poker Tournament and Events Director has agreed to become a member of the DG Holdings board, leading the company's online gaming platform division.

DGH is a privately-held, international investment group with offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and South East Asia. The DGH gaming division was formed more than four years ago to develop a state-of-the-art gaming platform that enables fully-integrated, on-line gaming operations.

Mr. Daily leaves Harrah's after 11 years in various capacities. During his tenure, he served as the 2005 WSOP Event Manager and 2006 WSOP Tournament Director. Bob received the prestigious 2007 Chairman's Award for his efforts.

"I have greatly enjoyed my years with Harrah's, and especially the World Series of Poker," said Daily, who was again appointed as the upcoming 2007 WSOP Event Director before announcing his departure. "I have every confidence this year's WSOP will run smoothly and efficiently and if I did not feel strongly that the tournament was ready, I would not have left at this time.

"After my resignation, DGH approached me to join their group as a board member to provide leadership to their online gaming platform – especially poker – and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I have made many great friends within the poker industry and I look forward to working with them in the future from a different perspective."

Robopoker, who watches the news a lot more closely than I do, points out the detail that Daily resigned before DG Holdings hired him. Something is rotten in the state of Harrahs.

(Whatever you think of bots in poker, his blog is a good one, and other poker bloggers should show Robopoker some link-love.)

Posted by abostick at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2007

Behavioral Study Suggests Japanese and Americans Look at Faces Differently

LiveScience.com reports that research by a Japanese behavioral scientist strongly suggests that how people look at faces is culturally determined.

Masaki Yuki of Hokkaido University was inspired by the different styles of emoticons in the United States ( :-) and :-( ) and in Japan ( (^_^) and (;_;) ).

Prof. Yuki's research indicates that Japanese people tend to take emotional cues from faces by concentrating attention on the eyes, while Americans tend to look at mouths.

(Those of you who have taken the "Spot the Fake Smile" test should now be aware that involvement of facial muscles around the eyes is the giveaway of a real smile.

Yuki's finding that people of different cultures read faces differently is a challenge to the underpinnings of Paul Ekman's Facial Action Coding System. Ekman asserts that the emotional meaning of facial expression is pan-cultural. If people of different cultures perceive facial meaning differently, though, how can it be said at all that the inner emotional meanings are the same?

I'll leave that one for the semioticists to duke out, and move on to the takeaway for poker players: Sunglasses matter.

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by abostick at 03:08 PM | Comments (1)

MacArthur Maze Repaired Before Memorial Day?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that C.C. Myers' construction company claims that it will complete repairs some time next week on the span of freeway connector in the MacArthur Maze that melted away in a tanker-truck fire on April 29.

C.C. Myers made a lowball bid on the contract, apparently intending to cover its expenses by finishing well before the target date of June 27 and collecting the $5 million maximum incentive payment. The company bid $867,075 on the contract. Finishing any time on or before June 2 will earn the maximum incentive.

Caltrans' own engineers had estimated that the freeway repair would cost $5.2 million, and they had allocated $20 million for the project.

Wow. I'm impressed.

Posted by abostick at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2007

James Comey's Testimony Limns Presidential Felonies

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in its investigation of the growing scandal at the Department of Justice. Comey's testimony shed new light on yet another scandal that has been sitting on the back burner for years now: illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping by the National Security Agency at the direction of the Bush Administration.

By now all political junkies know about the dramatic bedside scene at George Washington Hospital where then-Attorney General John Ashcroft lay ill and under sedation. Comey testified that he and FBI Director Robert Mueller raced to the hospital to fend off Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, who were on their way to secure Ashcroft's signature on a document that almost certainly was the finding that the NSA eavesdropping program was legal. Comey got there first and held the fort until Mueller arrived. When Gonzales and Card got there, Ashcroft roused himself from his stupor to tell the White House staffers where they could put that unsigned document.

But the drama appears to be distracting people from the real issue. Here's how Glenn Greenwald puts it:

Amazingly, the President's own political appointees — the two top Justice Department officials, including one (Ashcroft) who was known for his "aggressive" use of law enforcement powers in the name of fighting terrorism and at the expense of civil liberties — were so convinced of [the NSA eavesdropping program's] illegality that they refused to certify it and were preparing, along with numerous other top DOJ officials, to resign en masse once they learned that the program would continue notwithstanding the President's knowledge that it was illegal.

The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law. [emphasis in the original]

Greenwald and Josh Marshall are the go-to guys for this story. Go to them and read all about it.

Posted by abostick at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

Violet Blue's Guide to Porn for Women

Violet Blue has updated her porn recommendation page, changing it into a Porn for Women page [NSFW], which promotes her book The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn.

People of other genders shouldn't let the "for women" rubric put them off. This is one of the best guides to video and Internet pornography I have ever seen, and it is certainly the best single-page guide.

Along with some links to excerpts from her book, the page lists: "Hot porn I think women will especially enjoy," "A few porn sites girls will dig," "New porn I love," detailed reviews of particular favorite videos, links to a number of articles Blue has written about porn, and "women watch porn, fastfacts."

I am adding this page to my my permanent bookmarks. If you are at all like me, you will, too. I anticipate it providing a welcome starting point for lots of fun sexy Websurfing.

Posted by abostick at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007

The Transmigration of Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell is dead, alas.
Let's all queue up to shake God's hand.

(with apologies to Michael Bishop)

Posted by abostick at 07:44 PM | Comments (0)

Johanna Draper Carlson, Superhero Comics, and the Hegemony of Sexism

Comics blogger Johanna Draper Carlson is attracting attention by belaboring what may seem to be an obvious point: superhero comics are written for and marketed to boys, not girls. She has been saying it again and again, and seems to think that discussing sexism in superhero comics is a waste of time.

Quite naturally, Carlson's point of view is undergoing much rebuttal.

I read Carlson as saying, "Of course superhero comics are sexist, silly! That's a fact of life; you can't change it; and you're a fool for even trying." What she is arguing is that the hegemony of sexism is inflexible and irresistable.

I wonder how old she is — I think it is a near-certainty that she was born after 1970, and there's a reasonable shot she was born after 1980. I put the line at 1977; which would you take, the over or the under?

I say this because I was born in 1959, and the changes I've seen in my lifetime convince me that while sexism retains its hegemony, despite the feminist movement, it is most assuredly not inflexible, and that fighting it can change it. Which is why noticing and calling out the sexism — the increasing degree of sexism in superhero comics in recent years — is important.

And while crotch shots of Green Lantern are a fun and funny way of making the point, sooner or later what needs to happen is that feminist artists and writers need to produce superhero comics of their own, chock-full of the stuff that jazzes them about superheroes and at the same time consistent with their own values, to be put on their Web sites, self-published, and so on, so that the stuff is out there waiting for the lightning bolt of popularity to strike it. (This may well be happening off my personal radar.)

(via Glaurung)

Posted by abostick at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2007

On Pseudonymity in Blogging

"Freedom of the press," journalist A. J. Liebling quipped, "is guaranteed only to those who own one."

Tom Grubisich, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post, would have us believe that the same is true of freedom of speech.

Ezra Klein gets the ears and tail:

I'll start running background checks on my readers if Grubisich and his colleagues consents to some symmetrical constraints: If they write something stupid, inflammatory, or wrong, they will lose their jobs. If what you want is for new entrants to the public sphere to feel more vulnerable when participating, it's only fair that you do the same.

(via just about everyone)

Posted by abostick at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

More Poker Bot Accusations on Full Tilt from Two Plus Two Forum Members

The $200-maximum-buyin no-limit hold'em games on Full Tilt Poker aren't the only games where players suspect bots are playing.

Posters to a thread on the Mid-High Stakes Shorthanded Limit Hold'em forum on TwoPlusTwo.com name a number of players whom they suspect to be bots that play in the heads-up (one-on-one) tables at limits ranging from $15-$30 to $200-$400. Once again the players named have remarkably similar Poker Tracker statistics. And they never seem to play each other, although they appear to be willing to play some of the players with strong reputations and winning track records.

The bot accusations come from Destroy the Poker Bots, a site that lists player handles on Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker. (There's a page for PokerStars, but the list is empty.) The site is run by a 2+2 user with the handle MrGatorade. MrGatorade does not currently explain his criteria for including a player on his lists.

Why should you care about possible bots playing at heads-up tables? Here's what 2+2er Gildwulf has to say:

The amount of money going into the Full Tilt HU economy is extremely limited. It doesn't matter if you can beat a bot for 0.25bb/100 if his "exploitable" strategy is raping the fish 100 hours a week for 2bb/100. One bot is annoying; a dozen bots and that is a significant amount of money taken out of an economy that is not big enough to handle that kind of fish farming.

NB: Heads-up poker is the form of the game where bots are the most formidable, in which mathematical analysis and game theory can make a programmed player's game virtually unassailable.

Posted by abostick at 08:02 PM | Comments (1)

May 12, 2007

Bot Scandal at Full Tilt Poker

Robopoker reports on a poker bot scandal at Full Tilt Poker that has spawned a discussion on TwoPlusTwo.com that has more than 1700 replies over four days.

2+2 user SukitTrebek's Poker Tracker hand history database revealed to him that a number of regular players in the Full Tilt $200 no-limit hold'em games are very likely bots. SukitTrebek carefully gathered evidence — including playing against the supposed bots and repeatedly taking advantage of giant holes in their game, until, first, the bot programmer apparently manually took over when SukitTrebek and the bot were head-up, and second, the bots would leave the table whenever SukitTrebek joined a game they were in.

SukitTrebek presented his evidence to Full Tilt's management, and kept goosing them from time to time. They asked him, in order to help their internal investigation, to not go public with his accusaution while their investigation went on.

The alleged bots disappeared from Full Tilt. Some weeks later, SukitTrebek received email from FullTilt saying that the investigation was complete. Not long after that, the bots reappeared! SukitTrebek went public on 2+2's Internet poker forum early Wednesday morning, and the thread exploded.

Late on Thursday, 2+2 user FTPSean, identifying himself as a representative of Full Tilt Poker, started a new thread:

After doing our due diligence in this case, we came to the following determinations:
  • During the investigation we found the evidence to be inconclusive in supporting either determination (human or bot).
  • After careful consideration, the evidence did not warrant the seizure of funds and permanent account closure.
  • We stand by our decision. Having said that, re-opening an account after an investigation such as this one does not mean we have made an irreversible decision. We will continue to reevaluate this situation.

I particularly like the third bullet point in all its weaselly, waffly glory; We stand by our decision ... We will continue to reevaluate this situation. Robopoker says Full Tilt management is in "damage control mode."

Two things stand out to me from this story;

First, the bot operator is not terribly bright. If I were running a profitable bot on a poker site, and I had just had my account locked down and then reopened, I would not celebrate by firing up my bot at full capacity again. I think I would draw down my bankroll and lay low for a while.

Secondly, it is really surprising that this bot wins any money over time... except that the evidence is clear that it does. It was found out because the Poker Tracker data for a number of tight-aggressive players was uncannily identical, statistic for statistic. Robopoker claims that his own bots' statistics don't converge anywhere near that closely, because his pays attention to board texture and opponent playing style. SukitTrebek thinks this guy is not a very good poker player, but has stumbled into a formula for playing that is good enough to beat the games ... for now.

How can a bot that can't adjust to opponents still make money? That's easy: Mike Caro's Law of Least Tilt. A bot never tilts, It wins or loses according to the fall of the cards and the basic strength or weakness of its algorithm. Real human players almost invariably go on tilt — lose their psychological balance and play badly, perhaps without even realizing it. Tilt is responsible for a noticeable fraction of many players' losses. Bots don't tilt; and so a bot is going to have an edge against a human player who uses the same strategy as the bot.

Posted by abostick at 09:49 PM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2007

New Food Fad Emerges From the Delta

There's a story they tell down south in the Mississippi Delta, that if you wait by a crossroads after night falls, at midnight a dark man that some say is the Devil himself will come to you and teach you the secret of making Kool-Aid pickles ... in exchange for your soul!

(via skippy)

Posted by abostick at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Pasadena Newspaper Outsources Political Reporting to India

PasadenaNow, a Web-only newspaper that covers local news in the city of Pasadena, California, placed an ad on the Bangalore, India, version of Craigslist: "We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA."

PasadenaNow's editor and publisher, James Macpherson, claims that intercontinental reporting of local Pasadena politics is possible because webcasts of city council meetings are now available over the Internet. "Whether you're at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you're still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview," he tells AP's Justin Pritchard.

The move represents a new threat to professional journalists, already beset on on one side from the tide of independent bloggers that some people might think make traditional reporting and punditry irrelevant, and on the other from the collapse of newspaper advertising revenues lost to online markets such as Craigslist.

It's hard to imagine how a remote journalist can cover the nuances of community politics. It would be tough to recognize when a city councilmember was skating around a local hot-button topic unless one had a good grounding in those hot-button topics. How would you cope with a press conference?

On the other hand, it would be truly sweet to see the look on David Broder's face as he learned his position was being outsourced to Bangalore.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2007

College Women Regret Titillating Picture, Steal Newspapers

Two women who attend at Framingham State College, in Massachusetts, are accused of stealing copies of the Gatepost, the school's student newspaper, allegedly because a color photograph on the front page made them look fat.

Framingham women cheer their team at a lacrosse match
Chris Calzolaio/The Gatepost

The seven women wore brief tanktops and short pants, and had letters and signs painted on their bare bellies that spelled out "I (heart) N O O N A N." Noonan is the name of a player on the FSC women's lacrosse team whom the seven women were cheering on.

The picture appeared on the front page of Gatepost. Not long after that, copies of the paper began disappearing from racks.

The paper's faculty advisor, English professor Desmond McCarthy, says that students told him that women in the photograph thought it made them look fat. The Associated Press story has a quote from one of the two perpetrators, 18-year-old freshman Jennifer Carsillo, but does not directly quote her about her motivation. The other perpetrator is unidentified.

The paper's editor claims that a thousand copies were stolen; both McCarthy and Carsillo claim that fewer than two hundred copies were taken. Carsillo claims she returned the stolen papers to the campus police.

There's a lot to be said about fat-phobia here, whether this was the perpetrators' actual motivation or one that gossip has ascribed to them. At the same time, I just can't let go of Garance Franke-Ruta and the Kennedy doctrine of female regret. Evidently 18-year-old college women can regret the consequences of having their bare-bellied pictures taken at a sporting event, just as they can those of having pictures of their bare breasts taken at spring break. Raising the age of consent to participate in erotic photography is not enough. What do you think, Garance — should all photography of women under 21 who are not wearing modest dress be banned?

(via Joe Decker)

Posted by abostick at 03:19 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2007

Garance Franke-Ruta: The Final Smackdown

The incomparable Digby gives Garance Franke-Ruta the coup de grβce:

Anyway, what jumped out at me when I read Garance's piece a few days ago was that it was the second time in the last month or so that I've heard the same startling rationale used in an argument about women's rights: that some women come to regret their decisions after they make them so all women must be protected from that possibility. The earlier version of this argument, of course, was in Anthony Kennedy's opinion in the "partial-birth" abortion case.

There is some good that can come out of this whole experience: it ought to give Franke-Ruta an intimate understanding of what it means to come to deeply regret a foolish indiscretion.

Posted by abostick at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

Garance Franke-Ruta: Misguided, Dishonest, and Wrong

Garance Franke-Ruta forgets the first rule of getting out of a hole one has dug oneself into: Stop digging!

She continues to defend her pathologically stupid proposal to raise the age of consent for erotic performance to 21 in a post at Tapped with the deeply ironic title "The Self-Correcting Blogosphere":

Current law does not punish those who are under 18 who participate in porn or streak at their high school football games (except to the extent they get fined for public indecency), and there would be no legal justification for punishing older teens who do so, either, in the unlikely event the age limit for participating in porn were raised.

I guess Tapped, the official blog of The American Prospect, does not have a fact-checker on staff. It didn't take very long for the "self-correcting blogosphere" to correct Franke-Ruta: Current law does indeed punish minors who participate in porn. Atrios posted examples of such prosecutions in recent news, and so did commenter rea at Matthew Yglesias's blog.

The same corrections of this fundamental error of fact that is crucial to Franke-Ruta's argument also appeared over and over again in the comments to her post at Tapped. Franke-Ruta replied to some of her commenters; but she studiously avoided either printing a retraction or acknowledging the fundamental error of fact in her response in the comments.

Franke-Ruta is not the stereotypical blogger in a bathrobe; she is a professional journalist, an editor at The American Prospect. Professional journalists should be held to professional standards, like checking one's facts before publishing, and correcting one's facts afterwards.

(NB: Ordinarily, I don't explain my references and jokes, but I think I ought to now: The title of this post is intended to echo the title of Gayle Rubin's essay "Misguided, Dangerous and Wrong: an Analysis of Anti-pornography Politics," originally written in 1986 and included in the book Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures: The Challenge to Reclaim Feminism, Alison Assiter and Avedon Carol, eds., Pluto Press, 1993. I am not a newcomer to the feminist examination of pornography; the immediate evidence suggests that I'm rather more familiar with it than is Franke-Ruta.)

Posted by abostick at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2007

Diversity and the Progressive Blogosphere

Jenifer Fernandez Acona deserves a medal for her patient and thorough explanation on MyDD of what it means to foster diversity in an activist organization or movement.

She is responding to a series of posts at MyDD by Chris Bowers about the relationship fostering diversity holds to MyDD's mission of progressive electoral politics. Blogging is a niche, Bowers says, and the demographics of that niche are heavily male and overwhelmingly white and economically privileged. As long as progressive bloggers are not actively exclusive, he asserts, there is no particular onus on progressive bloggers to promote or emphasize diversity in their own blogs.

I say that's hogwash. As an American, Chris Bowers, like me, is a citizen of an essentially racist culture with an elaborate and far-reaching complex of institutions and beliefs that automatically favor people like Chris Bowers and me at the expense of women, people of color, and other groups at society's margins. Because this system is automatic, Chris and I don't need to notice it at work. Affluent white men like us are generally unaware of the system's workings, and so it is easy for us to not take it into account. This means we don't have to question why most of the people who turn out to be writing about politics are affluent white men like us.

When Chris says that he's working on Important Matters here and that this diversity stuff only gets in his way, he is actively strengthening our culture's infrastructure of racism and sexism, even if he believes with all his heart that he is not.

That's why what Jenifer Fernandez Acona is saying is so important. Teaching Diversity 101 to the white guys is difficult and frustrating. Activist people of color find themselves doing it over and over and over again, and they get tired of it. One of the dynamics of racism is that it is well-nigh impossible for us white guys to work those dynamics out for ourselves, while at the same time it is grossly unfair to ask our victims to take on the additional burden of showing us the way. People like Fernandez Acona who actually take that burden on, even for a little while, deserve our thanks.

As an aside, the apparent whiteness of the blogosphere is illusory, and there are rather more women and people of color writing blogs than people realize, because readers assume by default that everyone in the blogosphere is a white man until and unless it is proven otherwise.

Fernandez Acona passes on a list of things that social change groups should be doing to include diversity in their agendas. She quotes her friend and colleague Daraka Larimore-Hall:

Here are some steps that white students can take to begin the process of building an anti racist movement:

  • Include racial justice issues in your organizational discussions and analysis.

  • Commit to doing serious work against racism as part of your organizing and to forming meaningful, principled alliances with people of color organizations in your communities.
  • Make sure that your agenda isn't set before considering the goals and demands of activists of color. Too often, white activists think of the issues that they are working on as "universal" and approach activists of color asking them to join their "big tent". Why aren't white activists holding themselves accountable in the same way and viewing racism as a universal concern?
  • Take steps to create a more tolerant culture within your own organization. Sometimes, white culture is "invisible", meaning that methods of work, choice of music, food, ways of communicating, etc., are thought of as "progressive" ways of doing things, instead of "white progressive" ways of doing things. One way should not be held up as "authentically progressive", especially when that cultural form is typically or historically white.
  • Consider the needs of people of different backgrounds than your own. Can people with jobs attend your meetings? What about people with children? What email list or social scene do you have to be a part of, to hear about meetings?
  • Work to build long term, authentic and trusting relationships with organizations led by people of color in your community. As we stated above, white activists are prone to "shopping" for minorities. Too often, when it comes time to host a conference or chose speakers for a rally, white activist organizations are out looking for brown faces, when they haven't supported the daily work of anti-racist organizations all year long.
  • Speak up when people of color in your community are being attacked! Don't wait for the Black Student Union on your campus to write all the letters to the editor of your student newspaper. It is time for white people to police their own communities around these issues — after all, whose responsibility is it to fight racism in the white community?
  • Listen harder, and better. Too often, white activists try to be the savior — instead of the ally. One of the legacies of the early Civil Rights Movement's organizing style, which came from people like Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses of SNCC, was the deeply rooted belief that there is no one who knows more about the experience of oppression than those who are oppressed themselves. Simply put, go to meetings of people of color organizations, find out what they are up to, and help out. Period.

(Klonsky, Amanda, and Daraka Larimore-Hall: "Ain't Gonna Let Segregation Turn Us 'Round: Thoughts on Building an Inter-Racial and Anti Racist Student Movement." School of the Americas Watch, http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=490)

The only change I would make in that list would be to put the last item, "Listen harder, and better" at the top of the list rather than at the bottom. Listening to and learning from people at the margins comes before anything else.

Posted by abostick at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2007

You, Too, Can Own an Integer

Why should entertainment cartels have all the fun? Thanks to Ed Felten, now you can stake your claim on your very own 128-bit integer and, by virtue of the formidable legal power of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, be able to bring legal sanction against anyone else who quotes it.

Quoth Felten:

Here’s how we do it. First, we generate a fresh pseudorandom integer, just for you. Then we use your integer to encrypt a copyrighted haiku, thereby transforming your integer into a circumvention device capable of decrypting the haiku without your permission. We then give you all of our rights to decrypt the haiku using your integer. The DMCA does the rest.

My integer is 5F ED 45 95 25 13 F7 71 17 02 7D 02 BA 7B BC DE. Use it at your peril.

Posted by abostick at 08:19 PM | Comments (3)

One Macarthur Maze Connector Reopens

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the connector from the westbound Eastshore Freeway (I-80) to the southbound Nimitz Freeway (I-880) reopened at 4:30 AM PDT this morning. The connector was damaged in the tanker truck fire early on Sunday, April 29.

The connector that takes eastbound traffic off the Bay Bridge to the MacArthur Freeway (I-80 E to I-580 E) is still closed, and is expected to remain so unti roughly June 29.

Posted by abostick at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2007

Law Firm Withdraws Job Offer to AutoAdmit Officer

Amir Efrati at the WSJ.com Law Blog reports that law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge has withdrawn its offer of a post-graduation job to third-year law student Anthony Ciolli as a response to Ciolli's unapologetic involvement with AutoAdmit.com, an online forum for law students.

AutoAdmit gained notoriety when the Washington Post reported that a number of woman law students couldn't find legal work after being named and had photos posted in AutoAdmit, apparently without their consent.

It turned out that the unmoderated discussion boards at AutoAdmit were a cesspit of antisemitism, racism, and sexism and misogyny. When confronted with this fact, neither its founder Jarret Cohen nor Ciolli (the site's "education director") would act in response, citing free speech concerns.

Jill Filipovic of Feministe, a law student herself, was named and harassed on AutoAdmit; and when she protested publicly she became identified by the site's posters as their public enemy, and a regular target for their vitriol.

Filipovic looms so large as a nemesis in the minds of the members of the AutoAdmit community that Ciolli blames the loss of his job offer on her:

My impression from the phone conversation was that this was the chronology:

1) Jill Filipovic from Feministe tells WSJ that I worked at EAP&D

2) WSJ reporter calls EAP&D, and the firm says I had my offer rescinded.

3) WSJ reporter emails me saying they’re going to run a story on it tomorrow.

Believe me, the last thing I wanted was this to be public. I just want to be left alone.

Filipovic denies any involvement with either the Wall Street Journal or Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge. She says flatly that she took no steps to get him fired.

Even Chris Locke acted to take down the Mean Kids and Bob's Yer Uncle sites when the commenters got out of hand. Ciolli's and Cohen's desperate invocations of free speech don't hold any water. There are consequences to willfully giving hate a garden in which to grow. Losing a job at a prestigious law firm is naturally one of them.

True to form, the flying monkeys of AutoAdmit have been flinging their feces anonymously into the comments at the WSJ Law Blog entry with the story.

Anthony Ciolli showed extraordinarily poor judgment in his involvement with AutoAdmit.com, and the loss of his job offer is the well-deserved result of his poor judgment.

(via Lindsay Beyerstein)

Posted by abostick at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2007

Should We Raise the Age of Consent for Naked Pictures to 21?

Garance Franke-Ruta advocates that pictures of bare-breasted 20-year-old women be considered child pornography by the law.

To be fair, that is not what she says she wants. But it is the consequence of what she does advocate. (And I mean here the real immediate consequence, not some hypothetical taken to its "logical extreme.")

We let women sign up to join the Army and be killed in Iraq when they are 18 — the ultimate exploitation of their bodies. Why, then, should we stop them from accepting pay for displaying naked pictures at that age?

I have gendered my question, because the context is gendered: Garance Franke-Ruta thinks Girls Gone Wild is icky, and her remedy is to raise the age of consent for commercial erotic performance from 18 to 21.

I think Girls Gone Wild is icky, too, but the remedy is much simpler: Prosecute sleazeball Joe Francis for his failure to comply with 18 USC § 2257. Francis is already breaking the law, he is being prosecuted for breaking the law, and he is very likely to spend time in jail as a result. The law as it stands appears to be working here. Why change it?[1]

18-year-olds can sign obtain credit cards, mobile phones, and student loans under terms which, if they aren't extremely careful, can trap them in what amounts to indentured servitude. (If you are concerned about the sexual exploitation of women, keep in mind how often credit card debt is used to trap women into sexual slavery.)

In the face of the lawfully sanctioned occasion for youthful bad judgment on this scale, bartering an on-camera flash of tit for a baseball cap pales in comparison. And yet, it is the age of consent to flash the tit that Garance-Ruta wishes to raise, not the age of consent to burden oneself with crippling debt.

There's the other side of the transaction to worry about. Franke-Ruta, in her empty-headed ignorance of the consequences of what she proposes, is advocating that pictures of naked twenty-year-olds be deemed child pornography in the eyes of the law. Her ingenuous denial that personal photos would not be affected don't hold water. Child pornography laws do not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial use.

The penalties for breaking child pornography laws are draconian. To be convicted of possession of underaged nude images on one's hard drive is to be branded as a sex offender. The immediate prison sentences are severe, and, unlike lesser offenses such as murder or armed robbery, after a sex offender has served their prison time, they are required for the rest of their life to register with the local police, their names and addresses are published in Megan's Law databases, they get harassing anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night from their neighbors, and so on.

Garance Franke-Ruta's proposal would create with a stroke of a pen a whole new class of targets for the kiddie-porn witch-hunters: anyone possessing a nude picture of someone who is — or merely looks — under 21.

[1] To be fair, I believe 18 USC § 2257 and its implementation are badly broken and are in desperate need of fixing. Judging from her position on age of consent issues, though, I suspect that Franke-Ruta's notions of the fixes needed and mine are not the least bit consistent.

(via Atrios)

Posted by abostick at 03:43 PM | Comments (2)

May 04, 2007

Caltrans Says 50 Days to Reopen Collapsed Freeway

Traffic fire melts MacArthur Maze
Caltrans has announced a plan to repair within 50 days the span of eastbound Interstate 580 that collapsed in a gasoline tanker crash fire early Sunday morning.

The California state transportation agency is soliciting proposals from nine construction companies over the weekend, in an expedited bidding process, and will award the contract on Monday evening.

The firms must repair the collapsed freeway by June 29 or face $200,000 a day in penalties from the state, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, citing what Caltrans director Will Kempton announced at a press conference. But should they finish the work ahead of schedule, they'll earn a $200,000-a-day bonus for each day they were ahead of the deadline.

On Wednesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced that the connector from westbound I-80 to southbound I-880 would reopen in roughly a week. However, the repair work on the I-580 span will require that the I-880 connector be closed from time to time, presumably at night.

Meanwhile, Caltrans has recommended detours around the closed freeway connectors:

East I-80 drivers coming off the Bay Bridge and headed to the Oakland, Hayward or Walnut Creek areas have three alternate routes to bypass the collapsed section of east I-580 and connect farther down the highway to east I-580 and east SR-24:
  • Take south I-880, exit at Broadway-Alameda, stay in the off-ramp's left lane and turn right onto Seventh Street. Continue on Seventh Street and then turn left on Castro Street. Continue on Castro Street to the 12th Street on-ramp to east I-980 to the east I-580 junction.
  • Exit at West Grand Avenue, turn left on Northgate Avenue, enter the on-ramp to east I-580.
  • Take east I-80 and exit at Albany/Buchanan, turn left under freeway, left onto west I-80 and continue to east I-580.

West I-80 drivers coming from Richmond who need to bypass the closed I-80-to-I-880 connector and get on to south I-880 farther down the highway have at least one alternative route:

  • Take east I-580 to west I-980 to south I-880.

Motorists going from the Bay Bridge to eastbound Highway 24 are also taking I-80 to Ashby Avenue ( Highway 13), following Highway 13 past the Claremont Hotel up to Tunnel Road, where it crosses Highway 24. Yesterday I was walking in my neighborhood in mid-afternoon, and saw that at roughly 2:30 PM, eastbound Ashby Avenue was a long, narrow parking lot. The recommended detour must be pretty bad if people think this is a viable alternative.

Posted by abostick at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2007

Todd Goldman, Plagiarism, and the Creative Commons

Mark Frauendfelder at Boing Boing has written a series of posts about artist Todd Goldman, who is attracting a lot of attention for very strong resemblances between his cartoony work and the work of many other people.

A preponderance of evidence exists that demonstrates quite how much Todd Goldman has copied other people's work. Frauenfelder links to a page that provides a compellingly comprehensive set of side-by-side samples of Goldman's work and purported originals. Frauendfelder points out where the assembled multitudes of Boing Boing's readers have found one design of Goldman's that has features recognizably taken from three different sources.

Goldman is purportedly responding to the charges of plagiarism by threatening to sue the people making the charges and publishing the evidence. He gives every indication of being a major-league asshole whose shield of deniability cannot withstand the blows of fact raining down upon him.

The evidence I have seen is crystal-clear: by my basic standards of artistic integrity, Todd Goldman is a plagiarist.

Nonetheless, this is a strange bandwagon for Boing Boing, the champion for digital freedom and against copy protection, for file-sharing and against the RIAA, for the creative commons and against a draconian intellectual-property
police state.

These are interesting times. The meaning of intellectual property is changing in ways that are not easy to comprehend. For example, one of the difficulties that white American sensibility has in accepting hip-hop music and culture is the vital role that sampling plays in the making of hip-hop music. Hip-hop depends on the evocation of the familiar to create the new. To the pre-digital sensibility, though, hip-hop sampling is theft, unless the artist goes through an elaborate procedure of securing and paying for permissions for the samples used.

My basic standards of artistic integrity are not well-suited to cope with Jonathan Lethem's essay collage, "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism." The essay is by construction not just an act of theft, but a compilation of many acts of theft. Aside from the obvious fact that Lethem's work is an assembly of words and Goldman's is of drawings, what distinguishes Lethem's thefts from Goldman's?

I consider Lethem's essay a masterpiece in its own right. Goldman's work is shoddy. Nonetheless, the litmus-test of acceptability of artistic theft cannot be the skill with which the theft is executed.

Lethem acknowledges his sources, is completely forthright about what he has done -- which is the point. Lethem says that all art is to some degree plagiarism, that art cannot be made without plagiarism, that the draconian intellectual-property police state is by its nature anti-creative.

How can we reconcile our admiration and approval of Jonathan Lethem with our contempt and vituperation of Todd Goldman?

Is it that Lethem is a nice guy and Goldman is an asshole? But many artists are assholes, including some great ones.

Lethem is (as far as I know) honest, and Goldman is giving all the appearance of being a liar, trying to cover his tracks, trying to suppress the knowledge that his work is largely copies of the work of others.

All art comes from other art. Imitation is a part of art, and so is outright copying, sampling, parodying, paying homage, quoting, evoking, alluding, et cetera. The ethical plagiarist cops to it immediately: Yes, I did copy that. Look at the new ways I am using it! And even: Yes, this is stolen, but look what I stole this from — I think it is wonderful and deserves your attention.

Todd Goldman does none of this. Goldman's plagiarism falls outside its purview. of ethical plagiarism.

Posted by abostick at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2007

Los Angeles Police Fire Rubber Bullets Without Provocation at Peaceful Crowd

Officers of the Los Angeles Police Department attacked a peaceful immigration rights rally in MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. Without any apparent provocation, a bullhorn on a police heliciopter ordered the demonstrators to leave the park. Immediately thereafter, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd, and then swept the park and surrounding streets clear of demonstrators, continuing to fire upon the crowd.

ThinkProgress has the video of CNN coverage of the police attack.

Brad Friedman at Brad Blog found this dramatic video, ten minutes long, taken by citizen journalist Jonathan Mann, who was taping the rally before the police moved in, and kept the tape rolling during the melee:

Update: The Peter Pregnaman of the Associated Press reports on the police attack:

Many caught in the melee were journalists.

KTTV reporter Christina Gonzales suffered a separated shoulder, while camerawoman Patti Ballaz had a broken wrist and possibly a broken hand, said Fox Television Stations spokeswoman Erica Keane.

KPCC radio reporter Patricia Nazario said she was hit in the back and ribs with a baton, then hit her head and twisted her ankle while falling from a blow. She described an interaction with an officer who was hitting her.

KCAL-TV cameraman Carl Stein said that his camera was tossed and that he was thrown to the ground.

"I'm sore, and I'm sore about what happened," Stein told viewers. "It was like open season — take a whack, have at it."

(hat tips to Digby and Gramina)

Posted by abostick at 08:16 PM | Comments (1)


The answer: 0x09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0

The question: What is the MD5 hash of the ISO-8859-1 null-terminated string "I am Spartacus!"?

Posted by abostick at 05:23 PM | Comments (10)

DC Madam Scandal Highlights the Ethics of Sex Worker Confidentiality

Jesse Leavenworth at The Hartford Courant interviewed a number of sex worker advocates and former sex workers about the case of Deborah Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam.

The women Leavenworth quoted are in agreement: it is appropriate for Palfrey to release her records.

  • "It does impact the trust that is important between clients and sex workers." But revealing clients' identities is "an obvious strategy for sex workers who are criminalized." — Carol Leigh, Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network
  • "I think the woman is alone. This is a very lonely occupation. We deal in a very isolated business and we have very little support, and now her finances have been cut off and she is facing total ruin. ... All I have to say to Deborah Palfrey is, 'Go for it, girl,'" — Robyn Few, Sex Workers Outreach Project U.S.A.
  • Secrecy is important. But the federal government has pushed Palfrey to the edge. "If somebody is out to destroy you, you have to fight back." — Veronica Monet, author of Veronica Monet's Sex Secrets of Escorts

But some people with ties to sex work think Palfrey should have remained silent. Leavenworth finds this quote on the Web:

  • "I know she's probably being swallowed up alive, and a lot of people can't take that weight on their shoulders, but she's naming names and that goes against my principles — I realized I'd sunk my ship, but I wasn't taking anyone with me." — Heidi Fleiss, the "Hollywood Madam," quoted in Radar Online

Because much sex work is illegal in most US jurisdictions, there are no special legal protections for either sex workers or their clients. There are no sex worker shield laws like there are for journalists. No sex worker/client privilege, analogous to attorney/client privilege, exists. While we expect privacy in the bedroom, we don't expect the sanctity of the confessional.

Ought there be? I could argue that by the intimate nature of a sex worker's services, there is an implicit expectation of confidentiality between the sex worker and the client, on a par with the explicit expectation of confidentiality between psychotherapists and their clients. (Therapy and sex work have a lot in common, for example the issues of transference and countertransference.)

At the same time, we aren't talking about an ideal world here where sex work is professionalized and respected; we're talking about the real world, where sex work is marginalized and despised. The system is set up already with a bias in favor of the clients. Sex workers are stigmatized and punished. Their clients, if they have sufficient class status or power, are routinely ignored. (This is clearly classed: Police vice squads routinely operate sting operations against clients of streetwalkers; but have you ever heard of an expensive escort service that turned out to be a front for a vice squad sting?)

In the real world, the deck is stacked against sex workers. Is it ethical for them to resort to desperate measures in the real world that would be unethical in an ideal one?

The ethical questions around a sex worker's client list are by no means clear, neither for the sex worker or for the journalist into whose hands it might fall. I am extremely interested in what someone like Lindsay Beyerstein would have to say about the matter.

(via Melissa Gira at Sexerati [NSFW])

Posted by abostick at 01:28 PM | Comments (2)

May 01, 2007

Did Monica Lewinsky Save Social Security?

Andrew Levine at Democrats Now offers what has to be the best quote of the day:

I’ve long maintained that but for the lovely and zaftig Monica, Clinton would have tried, as Bush later did, to privatize social security. As a Democrat, he might even have been able to pull it off. Thus, unwittingly, she did more good for the country than a thousand Hillarys. Genuinely progressive Democrats should establish Monica Lewinsky Clubs all over the United States!

As you might guess, Levine doesn't like the Clintons very much, but in a very different way than the talk-radio dittoheads don't like them. What he calls "Clintonism" I would be inclined to call "the Democratic Leadership Council."

(via Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber)

Posted by abostick at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

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