Open Thread: Ten Years of “Alas” Edition

  1. The must-read article of last week, at least for lefties: Fear of a Black President – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. GOP reportedly sides with incarceration and execution of gay Africans
  3. “…a randomly selected person with the belief that he is Jesus has a 1/100,000 chance of being Jesus and a 99,999/100,000 chance of being a psychotic.”
  4. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, 2012 winnners announced! Surely this is the best contest of all contests, no contest. My favorite entry this year was written by Rebecca Oas: “Ronald left this world as he entered it: on a frigid winter night, amid frantic screams and blood-soaked linens, while relatives stood nearby and muttered furious promises to find and punish the man responsible.”
  5. Sexy Body, Disfigured Body.
  6. Evidence vs. Ideology in the Medicare Debate
  7. The real Romney-Ryan budgets cuts aren’t to Medicare. They’re to programs for the poor.
  8. Florida Deputy Uses Spidey-Sense to Establish Probable Cause

Transcript here on Feministe.

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25 Responses to Open Thread: Ten Years of “Alas” Edition

  1. 1
    nobody.really says:

    Man, Squid314 is on a roll! Loved the “1/100,000 chance of being Jesus” story; it rocks. But the posting for 8/26/2012 is even more profound. Squid reviews a piece of rhetoric and takes inventory:

    Attack on Harvard pseudo-intellectuals, check. Accusation of thinking government can solve all our problems, check. Accusations of being “utopian”, check. Accusation of how people are only doing this because they’ve removed God from the government, check. Accusation that changing the preferred policy is equivalent to setting government law above God’s law, check. Accusation of being “totally materialist” if you disagree, check. Accusation of “playing at God”, check. Use of the word “freedom” in questionable circumstances that look a lot like taking away other people’s freedom, check. Giant liberal conspiracy, check. I should just skip the rest of this paragraph and say that everything gets a check mark next to it.

    Is he describing Robert George’s opposition to same-sex marriage? Nope. He’s describing George Wallace’s 1963 “Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” speech. And he provides 10 paragraphs so we can see for ourselves how very contemporary Wallace’s arguments are – or, conversely, how very dated are the arguments of the marriage segregationists.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    nobody.really, you make the (common) mistake that because someone enlists a credible point to try to justify an unjustifiable end, the credible point loses credibility. This seems similar to people saying that Christianity (or Islam or other religions) are invalid because people doing horrific things cite one of those as their justification.

  3. 3
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Ron – out of interest, which of the points in the list quoted by nobody.really do you find credible? All of them? Some of them?

  4. 4
    nobody.really says:

    nobody.really, you make the (common) mistake that because someone enlists a credible point to try to justify an unjustifiable end, the credible point loses credibility.

    A credible point by whose judgment? An unjustifiable end in whose esteem?

    You and I might agree about which points are credible and which ends justifiable. But our judgments would have been of little relevance in 1963 Alabama – and probably would be of little relevance in much of the US today.

    For me, the larger point is about form trumping substance. Certain PATTERNS of argument appeal to people threatened by change. Here is a real-life example of Prof. Harold Hill’s “Trouble In River City” speech: the speaker’s conclusion may be preposterous, but for purposes of rhetoric it doesn’t matter so long as he presses all the right buttons along the way.

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    On the theme of “Ten Years of Alas,” when exactly did the blog start?

    I observe that certain introductory blog posts date to December 31, 2000. I find that a not-entirely-likely date for making blog posts. And my skepticism is heightened by the fact that comments on these posts date from 2005. And that there do not appear to be any original blog posts dating from 2001. And that Amp suggests that the blog just turned 10.

    In contrast, I find a blog post dating from August 8, 2002. That’s certainly more in keeping with the “Happy 10th Anniversary” theme. But still no introductory remarks.

    I also vaguely recall that the site host crashed once upon a time and that Amp lost some archival stuff. I thought it was just the comments on the original posts, not the original posts themselves, but my memory is hazy here. So there’s a chance the origins of Alas have been lost to the ether.

    But I bet Amp recalls.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    “Alas” sort of began gradually. At first it was just a place for me to post my political cartoons (which were done weekly back then). Then I started adding some commentary or supporting links below the cartoons. I think this would have been in 2001. At this point I was hand-coding html, rather than using any blog software.

    At some point, probably early in 2002, I started doing commentary without the cartoons, and using now-long-defunct software called “Blog” to generate the html, and at that point it was clearly a blog. In early 2002 blogs were sort of trendy, so I was a little bit rueful about having begun a blog myself. So I named it “Alas, a Blog.” I nearly named it “Aardvark Blog” instead, under the theory that I’d be listed first.

    There have been several times where “Alas” has lost data — usually comments data, but also all the posts from before August 8, 2002. There were probably something like 50 or 60 posts prior to that which were lost, but that’s just a guesstimate. Nowadays blog software is better adapted to large databases, so hopefully there won’t be any more big data losses.

    At this point, it’s clear to me that “Alas” has adapted to being a smaller, less-frequently-updated blog, and as such can fit comfortably into my life. It won’t surprise me at all if “Alas” is still going a decade from now.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    nobody.really, I’m critiquing Squid314’s logic, not the validity of George Wallace’s political positions or the arguments he used.

    Question for you all; if a TV network is covering a political convention but a) switches from live coverage of a speech to their commentators every time a non-Caucasian is giving a speech or b) presents as post-session coverage of some of the notable speeches given during the day seven speeches by Caucasians and no speeches by non-Caucasians, is it valid to presume that said TV network is racist?

    The first point is alleged regarding MSNBC’s live coverage of the Republican convention here. I didn’t watch it myself and I haven’t seen any comment from MSNBC, so I say “alleged”. The latter you can see for yourself here. It certainly seems curious.

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Amp, I don’t know what’s going on, but that last comment is supposed to have two links each using the word “here” (in the 1st and 3rd sentences of the last paragraph, respectively). But when I save it the first link takes up “here” in the 1st sentence plus the entire 2nd sentence and all but the word “here” in the 3rd. I’ve gone back, edited it and saved it. When I did, the 1st link was only the word “here” in the first sentence. But now it’s back to stretching across the second sentence and all but the word “here” in the 3rd. Whassssssup?

    [I think I’ve fixed it — Amp]

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    Yahoo! Washington Bureau Chief David Chalian got caught on an ABC webcast saying that Mitt Romney would be “happy to have a party with black people drowning.”

    David Chalian reportedly used to be a political director with ABC News. Yahoo has announced already that he’s fired effective immediately. I wonder what these people are saying when they’re NOT around open mikes. A real impartial crew, aren’t they?

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    Holy cr@p, this is going to take even longer than we thought.

    A Florida appeals court has granted George Zimmerman’s request for a new judge to oversee his trial for second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting.

    A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal found that Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. cast doubt on his impartiality when he wrote in his July 5 order setting $1 million bail that Zimmerman showed “blatant disregard for the judicial system” and that he was “manipulating the system for his own benefit.”

    The court directs Lester to disqualify himself and ask the chief circuit judge to appoint a successor.

    Links at the link, including one to the actual text of the order.

  11. 11
    mythago says:

    RonF @9: who are “these people”? The shadowy cabal of Yahoo! News?

    Though it is sadly predictable that the same people who usually sneer about ‘grow a thicker skin’ and ‘he apologized so STFU’ are now having the vapors.

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    I’ll cop to having suggested that people should not be hypersensitive at times. I’ll deny “sneer” and taking a “he apologized so STFU”.

    The issue at hand to my mind, though, involves neither. I’m not worried about any damage to Romney’s campaign. And I’m entirely satisfied with Yahoo’s response. I think this is notable because it gives us insight into the attitudes and feelings of a group of people who purport to be presenting the news in an objective fashion. This guy has been around for a while in journalism. He’s worked for ABC. Do you think he just developed this attitude overnight? Or do you think it’s been affecting the way he and thus his employers have been presenting the news for some time? And based on how free he felt to express such a thought around his colleagues (and the lack of anyone saying “Hey, that’s uncalled for”) I’m guessing that he at least thinks there are a lot of people who agree with him. Why would he think that? It opens up a fair question about how objective those people are.

  13. 13
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Do you think people who work in media are not entitled to have private political opinions? Or that they are restricted to only a particular subset of political opinions?

    His job is to keep his private political opinions to himself, and not display them on air, at least while he’s been employed as a reported and not a editorial commentator. He obviously failed at that, and was fired for that. But I’m curious as to what you think it’s ok for news people to believe it.

  14. 14
    mythago says:

    I’ll cop to having suggested that people should not be hypersensitive at times.

    Oh. So, IOKIYAR. If a news anchor makes an ad lib remark about broads, y’all need to chill, but if it’s about the GOP then it’s a true reflection of the Sinister News Conspiracy and we’re right to freak out about it. Gotcha.

    So that aside, RonF, I ask you again: who are “these people”? And do you believe that it is impossible for people to report news objectively if they have private political views?

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    “He would be happy to have a party while black people drown” doesn’t sound like a political opinion to me.

  16. 16
    Eytan Zweig says:

    No? What does it sound like to you?

    Are you denying that it’s political? Or that it’s an opinion?

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    It’s a political position. It’s just an asshole political position – “my enemy is so vile that they yearn for the outright deaths of people unlike themselves”. It’s akin to saying feminists are pro-choice becsause they hate maternity and love to kill babies. Yes, it’s political. Yes, you’re an ass for saying it.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Are you denying that it’s political? Or that it’s an opinion?

    That it’s political.

  19. 19
    Michael Mittmann says:

    Ok, if it is a horrible thing to say about a person, does that mean that the person is a horrible person if the statement is true?

    GWB was at McCain’s birthday party while people were still dying due to Katrina in New Orleans.

    It hardly seems like a stretch to believe that the current republican canidate would do the same thing.

    Note: I am not saying that the current Democratic crop* is more humanitarian, but claiming that someone running for president would do something that the last two Republican presidential canidates did doesn’t seem to me like it should even be noteworthy.

    *Carter is the most recent American president who has my respect.
    Why? Well most recently:

  20. 20
    Elusis says:

    So, a CNN contributor sent out a snarky Tweet calling the DNC “The Vagina Monologues.”

    Not fired yet though.

  21. 21
    Jake Squid says:

    Hey RonF!

    You don’t happen to still have connections at MIT do you? Because if you do, I really want to get hooked up to this.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    There might be a couple of people I could ask. Let me see.

  23. 23
    RonF says:

    I found myself with a few minutes on my hands unexpectedly in an unexpected place. On a whim, I did something I’ve never done – I walked into a Comics store. The last time I was a regular reader of comics was about 1972.

    About once a year there’s a recurrent thread regarding the way that women are depicted in comics. I’ve never joined in as I had no reference and no reasonable way to contribute. But after walking through that store and just looking at the covers (the most egregious examples were in plastic sleeves so you couldn’t open them) all I can say is “I see what you mean!”

  24. 24
    Jake Squid says:

    Thanks, RonF, it’s greatly appreciated. SNM is one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had and, since I’m usually about 3,000 miles away from it…

  25. 25
    Grace Annam says:

    But after walking through that store and just looking at the covers (the most egregious examples were in plastic sleeves so you couldn’t open them) all I can say is “I see what you mean!”


    You might be interested in this.