“Fast-paced and Addictive Fun!”

I should be getting ready for DC, doing various work, and generally being a productive member of society. But I’m not. Because I’ve found the greatest video ever:

A few reasons why this is so awesome:

  • That smile just will not stop. It has an independent existence from the person on which it is located, and it is unnervingly persistent.
  • They make the players wear uniforms. Apron uniforms.
  • The weirdly voyeuristic way in which the presenter describes the game in front of the players, while they appear not to know they’re being filmed.
  • The creepy, sing-songy back-and forth between the presenter and players (“as soon as someone has used up all their tiles, they yell…” “peel!”).
  • “The person who wins.” Remember kids, there are no winners or losers. There are “people who win” and “people who lose”, which is totally different.
  • *cut* “Bananagrams is a GREAT game!” *cut*
  • Completely addictive!” Like heroin! Child heroin.
  • You can play “at the cottage”! What, you don’t own a cottage? Are you some kind of peasant?
  • One of these has more parts of speech than the other ones: “At home, while you’re traveling, at the cottage, or bring it to a friend’s house!”
  • Twin puns! Not satisfied with “Who knew that going bananas could be so much fun?”, the presenter felt compelled to inform us that with Bananagrams, we’ve got “fun in the bag!” Get it, because it’s a bag shaped like a banana! Ha ha!
  • Things That Are Not True

    Michael Gerson, 5/27/09:

    [Dick Cheney] has always been reticent on controversial social issues — except in his vocal support of gay marriage.

    Dick Cheney, 8/24/04:

    Most states have addressed this and there is on the books the federal statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, and to date, it has not been successfully challenged in the courts and may be sufficient to resolve the issue.

    Either Dick Cheney is the first person to support DOMA and same-sex marriage, or Michael Gerson is wrong. A editor with more concern for the facts than Fred Hiatt would probably correct this, but I’m not holding my breath.

    “This Is About The Rights of Individuals to Be Treated Equally and Not Be Stigmatized.”

    Ted Olson and I don’t agree on much. I can find plenty to attack from his tenure as OLC chief under Reagan and Solicitor General during Bush II’s first term, and his conduct as head of the Arkansas Project and the head GOP litigator in Bush v. Gore was borderline contemptible. I’ve always respected the guy – if I end up doing as much for the liberal movement as he did for the conservative one, I’ll die a happy man – but I never hoped he would succeed at whatever his cause of the moment was.

    Until now. He and David Boies – yeah, I know – have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Prop 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment. It is hard to convey just how astounding this is to me. I have always thought that there was a decent Fourteenth Amendment case to be made for marriage equality. But I assumed that I was just unusually bold, and that even liberal jurists would not be willing to make the leap between ruling for equality based on state Equal Rights Amendments to ruling for equality based on the Equal Protection Clause (the difference, of course, being the absence of a specific mention of gender in the latter). But to see Ted Olson, whose approaches to the politics and constitutional interpretation are 180 degrees reversed from mine, not only make that argument but stake his credibility as a litigator upon it is simply astounding. This makes Nixon going to China look like an attempt to curry favor with the base.

    The ultimate outcome of the lawsuit depends, as usual, on Anthony Kennedy. He has been consistently good on gay rights issues, but I suspect he would only sign onto a more limited ruling saying that states must have convert civil unions and domestic partnerships into marriages, or else not recognize same-sex relationships altogether, if even that. The best case scenario – a Loving v. Virginia-style invalidation of all bans on same-sex marriage, including DOMA and state constitution amendments – would probably only be possible if someone like a (preferably LGBT) visionary like Pam Karlan or Kathleen Sullivan is appointed to the Court in time to push a 5-4 majority toward a bolder opinion.

    But regardless of what comes out of this, to see someone like Olson – who to my eyes has devoted his career thus far to working in favor of various injustices, or at least against remedying them – join this effort is just immensely heartening. For him to put the rights of gay and lesbian people above the political movement to which he has devoted his entire adult life shows tremendous courage. What’s more, it betrays a fundamental human goodness so strong it’s actually kind of beautiful. So thanks, Ted Olson. You just made my week.

    Sotomayor’s Theory of Change

    This, from Gerard Magliocca – a conservative law professor at Indiana and a former intern of Sotomayor’s – is the most convincing case I’ve heard for her nomination yet:

    On another occasion, I drafted some research for her that was not well written. When she discussed the memo with me, she started by saying, “You are too smart for me,” and proceeded to ask me a series of questions that I had not addressed. I realized later that this was her polite way of saying: “This isn’t good. Do it over.” She could have said just that, but evidently decided that positive reinforcement was the way to go. This is exactly the kind of skill that a Supreme Court justice needs to persuade her colleagues, who tend to have powerful personalities and do not take criticism well.

    Up to this point, I had been thinking that there were only two ways for Souter’s replacement to be more than a holding pattern. One would be to pick someone along the lines of Brennan or Douglas, who would create bold and sweeping precedents as opposed to the more limited opinions of someone like Breyer or Ginsberg. Pam Karlan, Kathleen Sullivan, and Elena Kagan would be the obvious choices here. Alternately, one could pick an Earl Warren-style politico, who knows how to twist arms and count votes. Janet Napolitano, Jennifer Granholm, and Deval Patrick fall into this category.

    But Magliocca presents a third option: a justice who wins votes through respectful, almost passive persuasion. In a way, this is the judicial application of Obama’s entry into the “theory of change” primary. The idea in both cases is that merely by engaging one’s ideological opponents in good faith, one has a better shot of co-opting them. I have my doubts about how this would work on the Court. The tactic works for Obama because he can use public reaction as a bludgeon to punish conservatives who are clearly not reciprocating his good faith. Supreme Court justices, by contrast, are accountable only to their own consciences, leaving their colleagues nothing to play against them. That said, if at least once Sotomayor walks into Anthony Kennedy’s chambers, begins with, “You are too smart for me,” and walks out having flipped a 5-4 decision, then Obama’s selection of her stops being just a very good choice and starts being a masterstroke.

    Remember When the World Went Crazy?

    You know what’s always fun? Watching old clips of Christopher Hitchens being wrong. This is from the tail-end of a December 2002 debate with him, Harold Koh, Michael Walzer, and David Rieff. He’s the only one stridently for the war, though one gets the sense that Walzer and especially Koh might be happy with a UN-sanctioned intervention:

    Koh and Walzer both concede entirely too much, but Rieff is right on target. This, from Walzer, is critical:

    My argument with Christopher is a very old one, I think. There’s a slogan on the left, where we both grew up: “the liberation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.” And I think that applies not only to class politics, it applies to democratic politics generally. We can stop mass murder. We can stop – we should stop – ethnic cleansing. When people are in desperate trouble, when people are radically helpless, then intervention is justified. But tyrannies, authoritarian regimes, class hierarchies have to be overthrown from within.

    I would only add that there is a peculiar irony is supporting the deposing of tyrannies not only not from the ground up, but through tyranny. After all, occupation (the governing of a territory by unelected, illegitimate foreign nationals) is tyranny every bit as much as dictatorship (the governing of a territory by unelected, illegitimate domestic nationals) is, if not more so.

    Tiresome Techno-Utopian Big Think Post

    Warning: the following is rambling and far from original. Proceed with caution.

    Kevin Kelly’s Wired story about “new socialism” is sadly a bit of a gloss, and more often than not a kind of verbal trick. He basically slaps the word “socialism” on the gift economies created by crowd-sourcing and other Web 2.0 techniques, and expounds upon how great this is. He doesn’t even touch the big problem here: we have gift economies for things we want, but we still have (heavily distorted) market economies for the things we need. And this should be terrifying, not liberating, for creative workers who make the former goods.

    Think about it. Goods with no marginal production cost, goods that are close to free, are luxury goods: music, movies, ebooks, journalism, etc. None are necessary or sufficient for human existence. And those goods that are essential for life are, by their very nature, always going to cost something. You can’t crowd-source agriculture. Craiglist can help you find an apartment, but it won’t pay your rent. Kelly’s socialism, where content creators work for free in exchange for the free products of others, can only work as an amateur phenomenon. Otherwise, his New Socialist Men will starve.

    This isn’t to say that we should go all Matt Crawford on life and storm out of our cubicles to start motorcycle repair companies. Even though physical labor will – as Crawford argues – always be compensated, there will be less of it as the years go by. As technology improves, the need for human labor to grow crops and build apartment complexes will shrink. Eventually, there will be a small corps of R&D types training the machines that make our food and build our buildings. This is the most frightening problem. The jobs that necessarily pay are going away. The ones that don’t need to pay aren’t paying. When the only people who can afford food and shelter are the select few making it, what happens to the rest of us?

    That’s where the state, which Kelly so meticulously tries to extract from his brand of socialism, has to come in. It shouldn’t take over the industry necessary for us all to survive, for obvious reasons, but it should make sure that the income generated from it is sufficiently redistributed, so that those of us creating entirely digital, and thus uncompensated, goods can survive. I suppose large-scale redistribution of physical goods combined with a gift economy of digital ones qualifies as a sort of socialism, but it’s far less decentralized and romantic than the one Kelly envisions.

    And of course, this is entirely speculative and based on a reductio ad absurdum of trends that could (but I think won’t) stop. Digital content creators are a tiny chunk of the economy right now, and agriculture is nowhere near the level of industrialization and robotization that is required by this scenario. But if the trendlines keep going this way, we need to think about how to have a functioning gift economy in intellectual property in which workers will not wither away and die.

    JSTOR Break

    Man, this post of Stephen Walt’s really makes me nostalgic for my days of serious IR theory nerdery, when I’d read the articles he lists for fun. Finnemore & Sikkink are favorites, as is Wendt’s “Anarchy is What States Make of It”, which is one of the few articles that I find consistently valuable in thinking about real-world international relations.

    That said, I’m kind of surprised that Walt didn’t even give an honorary mention to what’s still my favorite theory article, Andrew Moravcsik’s “Taking Preferences Seriously”. The basic premise seems merely intuitive on first glance (international relations is the aggregation of foreign policies, and foreign policies are determined primarily by the nature of domestic politics and institutions) but it quickly becomes clear that Moravcsik is proposing a type of IR research that departs pretty radically from most of what’s been done before and since. I still don’t think the liberal research program he calls for has been explored sufficiently, and if it were would be a lot more policy-applicable than much of the field (which ought to make Joe Nye happy).

    My Rights Versus Yours

    In which poor, oppressed, straight people who go to Harvard and clearly have a raw deal in this life explain their woes:

    You know, whenever I read about an affirmative action lawsuit, be it Bakke or Grutter or Gratz, my mind tends to wander to the question: “what kind of white asshole files something like this?” After all, it takes a very special kind of myopia for immensely privileged people to position themselves as victims of some kind of civil rights violation.

    My reaction to this is similar. Let’s be clear on what supposed injustice these people are “suffering” through. They have take the subway for two whole stops to get to MIT and take their classes, which, given as they are not part of the Harvard curriculum, do not count. That’s the problem. This is what they’re booking time on CNN to cry about. They have to take the Red Line two bloody stops, and/or take the 1 bus. It’s egregious, I know, and a worthy cause for violating the university’s anti-discrimination clause.

    It’s one thing if they were having this argument after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed. That’d actually be an interesting debate, and there’s a non-trivial part of the student body that would, rightly or wrongly, feel uncomfortable about granting academic credit and recognition for the recruiting corps of American empire. But here, what we have is a bunch of über-privileged whiners who see no problem with demanding that the rights of LGBT students at Harvard be thrown under the bus so that they can save themselves the subway ride. The fact that they even get a hearing – let alone a horrendously biased informercial interrupted only once, by Marco of QSA, with the actual substance of the issue at hand – is outrageous.

    A Corsening of the Sri Lankan Soul

    I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the unanimously positive reaction to the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran and the subsequent government declaration of victory in the Sri Lankan civil war. Not because I didn’t wanted the Tigers to lose – everyone did – but because none of the commentary has noted that Sri Lanka finished the job in the most brutal way possible. The UN estimates that indiscriminate government shelling killed 6,500 civilians and injured 14,000 more. Meanwhile, any civilians who try to escape are being forced into concentration camps which no international body can inspect.

    For what it’s worth, the US government hasn’t been complacent about this, what with Clinton condemning the abuses and Susan Rice and Sam Power working to delay an IMF loan to Sri Lanka. But it’s weird that such concern has evaporated into universal euphoria once the government’s tactics succeeded. I can’t help but wonder if this is the natural ideological consequence of a US government fetish for counterinsurgency. Sure, it has the potential to be implemented somewhat humanely – though as Michael Cohen and Tara McKelvey argue, we should avoid it like the plague even then – but these things experience slippage. It’s hard for the US military to publicly endorse a policy with the vigor with which it’s embraced COIN without a degree of inadvertent evangelism. Just as Abu Ghraib and Guanatamo gave foreign government a way to cloak themselves in the American flag as a means of defending their own torture regimes, the US adoption of counterinsurgency provides a justification for mass atrocities like the ones the Sri Lankan government has been committing. After all, the easiest way to beat an insurgency is to make it unbearably painful to join one:


    This isn’t to blame David Petraeus for what happened in Sri Lanka. But if we’re going to keep acting as though COIN is the future of the military, and something advanced democracies should be interested in conducting on a regular basis, then there will be regimes – like Sri Lanka – that will take that as carte blanche to treat their enemies like the Mau Mau. And while the US government obviously does not intend that, it has to enter into the cost/benefit calculation as to whether we are going to keep occupying other peoples’ countries.