Jan 31, 2008
Watch the play on YouTube if you haven't seen it. Ruutu goes in for a hit on Kovalchuk who's on the boards with the puck, on a delayed offside.
Here's the thing: it would have been a clean hit, if Kovalchuk didn't try to dodge it. Sure, there's a delayed offside coming up, but when Ruutu lines Kovalchuk up for the hit, he has the puck and play is in progress. It's not interference, nor is it a late hit. In my opinion, this can only be called kneeing if Ruutu intentionally puts his knee out to hit Kovalchuk with it. He does no such thing; it's Kovalchuk's move that turns this hit into a knee-on-knee contact.
For some reason, Finnish MTV3 insists on calling the hit boarding ("laitataklaus"). That it certainly isn't, as Kovalchuk has his back to the boards from the get-go.
Once again, the real reason Ruutu is getting a penalty on this is that he's Jarkko Ruutu and he's just hit a star player. In the TSN story, Steve McCarthy called the hit "taking a liberty". This is one aspect of the NHL that I can't understand or in any way sympathize with: if you're a big enough star, no-one's allowed to hit you any more. Look at the way Sidney Crosby is treated; he was hit a total of perhaps three times throughout the last regular season, and I'm being generous. That's not hockey in my books.
I asked Adam about this on the Hockey News website, by the way, and he gave me a very silly answer.
Why do I say once again? Well, there's Ruutu's hit on Jaromir Jagr at the Torino Olympics, unsurprisingly also to be found on YouTube. He got a major for that as well. It's a perfectly clean hit. It isn't boarding, charging, hitting to the head, elbowing, cross-checking, clipping, roughing, intentionally attempting to injure, butt-ending, spearing, too many men on the ice or anything else I can think of that you can call a penalty for in hockey. The only reason Jagr is injured is because he isn't expecting the hit. Jarkko Ruutu still got a penalty for it, though. In the Finnish commentary, Antero Mertaranta says it's a completely unambiguous hit; "ei kahta sanaa". I agree.
Jan 26, 2008
Wikipedia: List of songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks
I heard about it at the time but now that I ran into it again I have to share the weirdness. After 9/11, US broadcasting megacorporation Clear Channel distributed a list of songs to its affiliates that they feel shouldn't be played on the radio after 9/11.
In my mind, this list divides into three sections. The first one is stuff that I can understand. I see why people might not feel good about one of my favorite songs, Burning Down the House, right after 9/11. AC/DC's I Feel Safe in New York City also might be inappropriate. Incidentally, all Rage Against the Machine songs got the ban.
There's some that are just bizarre overreactions. Ozzy's Suicide Solution, the world's favorite evil rock track, is on this list. The Beastie Boys' Sabotage? Alice in Chains songs? R.E.M.'s It's the End of the World as We Know It?
But the reason I mention this whole thing at all is the third category, the downright bizarre. Here's a selection:
Alien Ant Farm – "Smooth Criminal"
The Bangles – "Walk Like an Egyptian"
Pat Benatar – "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Love Is a Battlefield"
David Bowie & Mick Jagger – "Dancing in the Street"
Dio – "Holy Diver"
Jimi Hendrix – "Hey Joe"
John Lennon – "Imagine"
Soundgarden – "Black Hole Sun"
Walk Like an Egyptian? Holy Diver? Dancing in the Street?
I can't for the life of me picture what went through the mind of whoever is responsible for this list. There's just been a terrorist attack; quick, get the Bangles off our playlist.
As was reported by snopes.com, this wasn't actually a list of banned songs but a list of recommendations. It's still amazing to me that someone used time and money to make a list like this. The whole mentality that we can't play a song that might, under some conceivable circumstance, possibly offend someone, is just so stupid.
And I'm just offended that they think John Lennon's Imagine shouldn't be played at a time like that.
Jan 25, 2008
I feel exactly the opposite way about today's NHL. What I find unacceptable and totally ridiculous is that a win in a shootout is the same thing as a win in 60 minutes. It isn't. The objective of a hockey game is to defeat your opponent in 60 minutes. If you don't do that, you've failed, no matter how much you win a shootout later on.
The most glaring example of what's wrong with this mentality is this season's Edmonton Oilers. They currently have 22 wins, fully half of which, 11, have come in the shootout. One is an overtime win. The Oilers have been capable of winning a game in the regular 60 minutes only ten times this season. The Kings have won 14 times in regulation; this puts them nine points behind Edmonton in the standings. Edmonton is also way behind Buffalo, which has 16 regulation wins, and Tampa with 18. The Oilers have more points than any of these teams.
It's absolutely ludicrous that a team that is totally incapable of winning a hockey game in regulation doesn't have the worst record in the league. Simply put, a regulation win is the only win that really counts. Not being able to finish the game in regulation is a failure. The loser point is, in my opinion, a reflection of that failure, and of the losing team's ability to hang in there for 60 minutes. Effectively, they're getting that point for not losing.
European hockey, as well as international hockey, uses the system of three-point wins, originally adopted for European soccer. Three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, and one point for an OT or shootout loss. Basically, the biggest thing preventing the NHL from adopting this system is North American chauvinism. They argue that it wouldn't change the game, and do the math by taking the current results and showing that if the teams ended up with exactly the same results as now, there wouldn't be such a big difference.
Here's some math with those four teams. First how things are now:
EDM 22-24-5 49 points
BUF 20-21-6 46 pts
TBL 20-24-5 45 pts
LA 19-29-2 40 pts
Then with three-point wins:
EDM 10-12-5-24 30+24+5=59 points
BUF 16-4-6-21 48+8+6=62 points
TBL 18-2-5-24 54+4+5=63 points
LA 14-5-2-29 42+10+2=54 points
Not all teams list their game results in an easily accessible way on their web pages (for instance, Toronto doesn't differentiate between regulation and OT/SO wins), and I can't be bothered to do the math for the whole league right now, but at least Edmonton would drop down in the standings. They're getting a massive advantage from the current two-point win system.
The far bigger argument is that it's just stupid to dismiss three-point wins by arguing that the difference above isn't so big. No it isn't, but three-point wins change the way the game is played. The three-point regulation win becomes huge between two teams fighting for a spot in the standings. A regulation win puts you three points ahead of the other team; a shootout team only puts you one point up. These days in any NHL game that is tied when going into the third period tends to stay that way because there's no incentive for either team to go for the win in regulation when they can take the guaranteed point by going into OT. With three-point wins there's a clear incentive to not go to OT if you can avoid it. In my opinion, this is good for hockey because it makes for more exciting regulation play, and it's no longer the sensible policy for teams to dumb down the game when there's a third period tie and simply agree to go to OT.
It's the only sensible thing to do: if you take risks by going on the offensive in the third, you stand to gain two points but stand to lose everything and end up with zero. If instead you tighten up the game and start playing passive defense, you still stand to win two points but at worst will get one point. If the game is tied in the third period, under the current system there's no reason for either team to actively try to change that.
In short, it's not the loser point that's the problem, it's the ridiculous idea that a shootout win is somehow the same as a regulation win. There are philosophical objections to the loser point; on the other hand, the shootout win counting as a full win creates a serious game problem by removing any incentive to end games in regulation. It's also just stupid. The game would be played differently with three-point wins.
Eventually the NHL will accept this and adopt the three-point system. Before that, we'll hear an endless parade of mostly Canadian hockey honchos bluster about how their system is the best because they're from Canada and Europeans are stupid. They're saying that because it's the only argument they have.
Jan 24, 2008
In making the point that a fairly democratic organization was probably rational for pirates, Leeson touches on a point I feel quite strongly about but can't really begin to muster evidence for yet. Maybe later? I simply don't believe that a hierarchical organization that stifles all initiative and creativity and works by a strict orders from above basis is anywhere near being the most rational kind of organization for an armed force.
The simple fact of the matter is that very few other kinds of organizations have ever been tried. There have also been compelling arguments in favor of a strict hierarchical organization in the past, what with pressed men in the navy and conscripts on land. In a contemporary Western society, however, you'd think there would be alternatives to the current form of organization. Especially since in the contemporary Western military, some special forces, most notably the SAS, already diverge from the traditional hierarchical method of up-down orders and unquestioning obedience. One of the few other notable examples was the Prusso-German general staff corps, since squashed by Hitler and then banned by the Allies. I'll have to talk more about this at some later date.
Speaking of speaking, so to speak, my blogging frequency is way down because the university semester is on again, and I have a pile of book exams to get through this spring. A book exam is truly one of the stupidest ways to gain university credits. Read a book, try to memorize as much of it as you can, regurgitate it on demand at an exam, and then go on to forget all about it. Basically my university diploma is going to be little more than a certificate that proves I've read a certain number of books once in my life and then forgotten about them.
I'm off to read some more stuff I'll forget after the next exam.
Jan 19, 2008
Obviously the big story of last year was the F1 espionage scandal. To recap, Nigel Stepney sold McLaren confidential information about Ferrari's car, from complete technical blueprints to pit stop strategies. Despite knowing Ferrari's fuel and pit stop strategy in advance of the Australian GP, the McLaren drivers placed second and third behind Räikkönen. However, armed with this information, McLaren filed a complaint on Ferrari's F2007 car and its flexible floor, resulting in the FIA making Ferrari change their car layout.
Ferrari discovered that Stepney was passing information to McLaren and took the case to the FIA. The federation found McLaren guilty of possessing confidential information belonging to Ferrari, and in one of the biggest, and arguably worst, jokes in motorsport history, ruled that despite being guilty of industrial espionage, McLaren would not be penalized.
Later new evidence came to light, including e-mails exhanged between Fernando Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, which clearly implicated McLaren and Stepney, and made it clear that McLaren was using information obtained from Ferrari with full knowledge of where it came from and how it was obtained. Faced with this, the FIA finally found McLaren guilty and barred them from the constructors' championship and hit them with a massive fine.
Disgustingly, the drivers were allowed to retain their world championship points. I can't understand what possible justification there can be for letting Alonso and Hamilton keep their points. They were winning races against Ferrari by having a totally unfair advantage over them, which had been obtained by illegal means. There is simply no way that they deserved to keep their points, but FIA decided to turn the season into a farce by letting the drivers keep their championship points. Apparently it's OK to win the F1 World Championship by basically racing in a stolen car.
McLaren's behavior during the espionage scandal was also thoroughly disgusting. Ron Dennis continued to maintain McLaren was innocent, and straight out lied about the incriminating e-mails. Dennis claimed he had sent copies of them to the FIA as soon as he learned of them; the FIA's Max Mosley has flatly denied this. McLaren continued to protest their innocence throughout, and it's perfectly obvious they would never have admitted they did anything wrong had Ferrari not persisted in pursuing their accusations. Dennis still plays his role of being hurt and falsely accused.
This is why I can't stand McLaren, but that's not the topic of this post. I can't stand Lewis Hamilton in particular, and I'll tell you why. Remember for starters that Hamilton was driving the same McLaren car as Alonso, and benefiting throughout the season from technology stolen from Ferrari, as well as access to confidential Ferrari information. If there was any such thing as sportsmanship and enforcement of the rules in Formula One, McLaren would have been barred from the championship and Hamilton wouldn't even have been driving in F1 at all.
From the beginning of the season, media coverage of F1, even in Finland, was Hamilton Hamilton Hamilton Hamilton Hamilton. Read some of the Runoff Area's race reports from that season, like this one from the Belgian GP, for a very accurate parody of what it was like. This was very similar to the massive overhyping of Sidney Crosby, whose team was easily eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by Ottawa. I suffer from some kind of personality fault where if anything is constantly shoved into my face as the greatest thing anywhere ever, like Hamilton was, I get sick of it very quickly. I always develop fairly strong antipathies toward anything that's sold to me too hard, and when you couldn't see the words Formula One without some mention of how brilliant, wonderful and superhuman Lewis Hamilton is, I wasn't exactly biased toward Hamilton from the start.
In June 2007, former driver Jacques Villeneuve criticized Hamilton for driving dangerously off the starting grid. Hamilton routinely cuts in front of other drivers regardless of the risk of collision, and according to Villeneuve, another driver would be penalized for driving like Hamilton. Lewis never was, though... Also, every time Lewis ended up so far behind the frontrunners that people were passing him by a lap, he never gave way properly. Once it went far enough that the GP stewards announced they were investigating Hamilton for obstructing another driver, but as can be expected, no penalty was assessed. Hamilton certainly didn't play those situations by the same rules as everyone else.
The real Lewis Hamilton era started on July 22nd 2007, the date of the European Grand Prix of 2007. The race started out dry, but when rain struck, several drivers ran off the track, including Lewis Hamilton. Six cars were on the gravel at the side of the track when the red flag ended the race for the moment. On the restart, all of the cars that had aquaplaned off the track were forced to retire, except for Lewis Hamilton, whose car was lifted back onto the track with a crane so that he could continue racing.
It's worth noting that no F1 driver had ever had their car lifted back onto the track by a crane and been allowed to continue racing before. The FIA subsequently banned this, so it won't be happening again, at least until the next Hamilton comes along. Out of six cars that had run off the track on the same spot, only Hamilton's was lifted back on. The justification given was that his was the only car with its engine running, but quite frankly, this convinced no-one. In my opinion, the only reasonable explanation for letting only Hamilton continue the race is, well, the fact that he's Lewis Hamilton. And was it really necessary to halt the entire race so Hamilton wouldn't be at a huge disadvantage? Without the red flag, Hamilton would have been miles behind everyone. With the red flag, all differences were equalized when everyone restarted on the grid.
This was one of the first strong indicators that Hamilton wasn't playing by the same rules as the other drivers.
On July 22nd, the FIA announced that despite being guilty of espionage, McLaren would not be receiving a penalty. After the European GP, the inevitable question was: had it not been Lewis Hamilton's team, might the decision have been different?
The circus moved on to the Hungaroring for the Hungarian GP. This was the scene of the memorable incident where Alonso was alleged to have held up Lewis Hamilton enough to force him to miss his last qualifying lap. For some unthinkable reason, the race stewards penalized Alonso by a penalty of five places on the starting grid for impeding Hamilton. It was by no means clear at the time, and still isn't, why Alonso didn't leave the pit lane faster. It looked like he was holding up Hamilton, but Alonso has argued he wasn't. Without the penalty, Alonso would have started in pole position; with the penalty, the pole went to Hamilton.
Again, would there have been a five-place penalty if Hamilton had finished first in qualifying, instead of behind the penalized driver? I don't think so.
Ferrari's turnaround started with the Turkish Grand Prix, which Felipe Massa won and Räikkönen finished second. Ferrari gained some ground on McLaren, but when the Japanese GP rolled around, Räikkönen was still 13 points behind Hamilton in the drivers' championship. At the Japanese GP, the race stewards and FIA pulled out all the stops to give Hamilton the championship.
The race started in the rain, behind the safety car. To get the race off to a proper start, the race stewards had informed all teams except Ferrari that they have decreed all teams must start the race on the "extreme wet" tyres. When Ferrari, not having been told, didn't start with those tires, they were forced to bring both drivers into the pit lane to change their tires, dropping both to last place. As the first 19 laps were driven behind the safety car, both Ferraris were forced to drive at the end of the queue throughout that time. Most of the race was spent behind the safety car, with Hamilton leading the way.
Why the race wasn't suspended because of the atrocious conditions is a good question. The European GP at the Nürburgring was suspended because of heavy rain. Then again, Hamilton wasn't in the lead at the Nürburgring. The way it looked from outside was that when Hamilton aquaplaned off the circuit at the European GP, the race was stopped because of rain; when Hamilton led the race at Fuji, the race was not stopped because of the rain. I wonder? Of course, it just so happened that Ferrari, Hamilton's only serious rivals apart from his teammate, were mysteriously not told of a tire requirement, dropping them to last place. After the Ferraris were safely in 21st and 22nd position, the safety car was in no hurry to get off the track.
Near the end of the race, with the safety car out (again...), Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel collided and were eliminated from the race. Originally Vettel was assessed a penalty for causing the collision, but after numerous complaints the matter was reopened. It was found that throughout this safety car stint, Lewis Hamilton was driving dangerously behind the safety car, totally ignoring the rules for driving behind the safety car. Drivers are required to maintain a distance of five car lengths from the safety car and not drive in an unpredictable way. Hamilton was weaving behind the safety car to maintain his tire temperature, and was blatantly disregarding the rules. When video evidence showed that the Vettel-Webber crash was clearly caused by Hamilton unexpectedly braking in front of Webber for no good reason, Vettel's penalty was lifted. However, the FIA decided that no penalty would be imposed on Hamilton.
This was probably the single most disgusting instance of the FIA bending every rule backward to make Hamilton world champion, apart from the espionage scandal itself. Hamilton was clearly found guilty of breaking the rules, and it was "decided" that he wouldn't get a penalty. Fernando Alonso later said of the incident that there was no point to the meetings drivers had with the FIA officials; according to Alonso, 21 drivers had insisted that Hamilton be penalized for his dangerous driving, but nothing was done.
Also at the Japanese GP, Polish driver Robert Kubica was given a drive-through penalty for passing Lewis Hamilton. He passed Hamilton and Hamilton's car clipped him. With impeccable Lewis Hamilton Era logic, Kubica was given a penalty. The only thing he did wrong in the situation was to pass Lewis Hamilton.
The 2007 Chinese Grand Prix is one of the happiest days of 2007 for me. Namely, 7th October. Hamilton, who could have clinched the World Championship courtesy of the FIA by finishing just one point ahead of Alonso, stayed on the track for far too long, wore out his tires and ran off the circuit on his way to the pit lane. His McLaren floundered in the gravel pit, and this time he wouldn't be lifted out because of the Nürburgring fiasco. The race was still on, and would be decided at the Brazilian Grand Prix. We all remember how that went, and now Kimi Räikkönen is world champion. Forza Ferrari!
I'm sure Lewis Hamilton is a great driver. I have no idea what he's like as a person, but I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy. After watching his rookie season in 2007, I can't stand the sight of him. To me, the fact that not only was he allowed to continue racing for the world championship after McLaren was found guilty of espionage, but the rules were so blatantly bent backward for his benefit, makes his rookie season a total travesty of sports. It's hard to imagine how the FIA could have done more to try to ensure his world championship without turning the sport into a total joke. They came near enough this time.
There's no way McLaren should have been allowed to get away with what they did, and after a season of watching Lewis Hamilton race although his team had no business being in the sport, watching him constantly break rules and get away with it, and seeing that disgusting smirk on his face, I can't stand Lewis Hamilton. I'll be celebrating every time he drives off the track next season, and especially when Ferrari thrash his team now that their unfair advantage is gone.
Jan 18, 2008
Why do I continue to treat organizations like Greenpeace so skeptically? According to YLE, a representative of Greenpeace Norway said the government's announcement is good, but they're not doing enough to fight global warming. I'm sorry, a pledge to stop greenhouse gas emissions completely is not good enough? This reinforces what I've long believed about many environmental activists and their organizations: their goal isn't to save the environment but to convert the world to their ideology and lifestyle. They're not really political pressure groups any more so much as they are religions.
Also, our pattern of global warming causing bad journalism continues. I had to reread one bit of the YLE news item several times. According to YLE, Norway will be investing 3 billion crowns in projects to slow down or stop the destruction of rain forests caused by global warming. What? People, the rain forests are being destroyed because people are cutting them down. It is not being caused by global warming.
This is how global warming causes bad journalism. Not only are reporters ready to pounce on anything that says global warming, we've also reached the point where all environmental threats are being subsumed into global warming. If we start pretending that we're fighting deforestation by reducing CO2 emissions, then we're just closing our eyes to that particular problem. What bullshit.
Also in the news: the Finnish council for ethics in advertising, or something similar (I don't know if they have an official English name) recently lashed out against two ads as being against good practice in advertising and degrading to women. They don't wield any official power, thank heavens, but this is still a little worrying. The crime perpetrated in these adverts was showing bikini chicks. One was for a computer game, and the other for an alcoholic drink. According to the council, the bikini chicks were just being used as an eyecatcher, and this is demeaning and degrading towards women.
When I blagged about porn earlier, I made the point that oftentimes feminists who claim to be fighting things that are degrading to women are basically just anti-hot chick. This idea that having a bikini chick in a vodka ad or whatever it was is somehow degrading to women is ridiculous. It isn't based on any kind of research or indeed any science at all.
This is the context in which a recent Swedish government-commissioned report should be viewed. It simply says that all ads that can be considered sexist should be banned. Here's a quote from thelocal.se:
Sexist advertising is defined in the report as any message distributed "with a commercial aim" that can be "construed as offensive to women or men."
"Sexist advertising affects the shaping of people's identities and is counter-productive to society's goal of achieving gender equality," said the report, which calls for a new law to go into effect on January 1st, 2009.
Anything that "can be construed" as offensive could be banned. What are the criteria for an offensive ad? There are none. What constitutes a "sexist" ad? No-one knows. How is an ad with a bikini chick in it counter-productive to achieving gender equality? There is no credible theory or any scientific data to suggest that it is.
If the modern environmental movement resembles a religious revival, modern feminism is becoming more and more like old-fashioned Christianity. Swedish feminists sound like Jesuits or Saudi censors. Any expressions of female beauty or sexuality must be censored and hid from public view. Again, bullshit. What's more, I find this whole idea sexist in itself.
Not to be outdone in drafting wacky official reports, the Finnish ministry for health and socialism or whatever it's called came up with a way to stop one of the most dangerous threats to Finnish society: online poker. The ministry proposes that Finland enact a law allowing any citizen who loses money at online poker to be able to claim it back (Pravda, erm, Helsingin Sanomat).
A basic objection to this might be that when you play on an online poker site, you enter into a contract with that site and are subsequently bound by that contract. But you have to realize that in Finnish society, citizens have never been free to enter into contracts. We're not allowed to negotiate contracts freely with our employers or with just about anyone else for that matter, so why should we be allowed to enter into contracts with websites? Finnish law does not recognize the freedom of contract in any meaningful sense, so this isn't really even surprising.
I'm somewhat amused by the Finnish government's continuing battle against the windmill that is online poker. It's unfortunate that poker's growing popularity has also made it a target for the most ridiculous kind of moralists.
To finish off, here's something funny from the Banterist, with my thanks to Toni Heinonen for the link.
Jan 17, 2008
When this style came into vogue in the 90's, I stopped.
Jan 16, 2008
My great problem with current global warming hysteria is that these facts in and of themselves aren't in dispute; the question is what we should be doing about them. The environmentalist movement seems content to run around shouting "The sky is falling!" and demanding that we stop climate change now. Greenpeace Finland, for instance, puts of ridiculous displays like this, implying that the reason there was no snowfall in Helsinki this December is because of climate change. Anyone who knows that on average, every second winter in the south of Finland is snowless should understand that this Greenpeace display is pure idiocy.
I recently wrote a blag entry about the other thing global warming hysteria causes: bad journalism. My example is very mild, but overall there is a huge confirmation bias in the way any news related to climate change is reported, which further skews perceptions of the state of the planet. The alarmism is going so far that a movie like The Day After Tomorrow really seems to depict some people's idea of climate change.
Obviously global warming is something we need to be worried about, in a long-term sense. The question that gets trampled over in the alarmism is what we can do, how we should do it, and how much it is going to cost.
When we start talking about actual policies to combat global warming, we need to start from a simple point. The Earth is going to continue to get warmer, even if we totally end anthropogenic global warming today. We don't know how much warmer it's going to get. For this simple reason, the bulk of our effort needs to be spent on adjusting to the effects of global warming.
One major result of the propagation of global warming hysteria is that anthropogenic global warming and global warming as a general phenomenon have become thoroughly confused in people's minds. I believe that there is an inherent bias in human thinking that causes us to think the world is stable and static, and global warming hysteria is making many people believe that without our CO2 emissions, the world's temperature would be stable. Obviously this is not true, but global warming hysteria is making us concentrate our efforts on reducing CO2 emissions when what we should really be doing is concentrating on preparing for global warming in general. Simply put, think how stupid we'll look in a hundred years when we've invested billions of billions of dollars worldwide to curb CO2 emissions and sea levels rise anyway.
Instead of concentrating on living with global warming, we're concentrating on reducing CO2 emissions. There is a very big problem with that. According to Wikipedia, approximately 90% of carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels, and we're moving away from a fossil fuel-using economy anyway. What we're doing now is spending huge amounts of money on accelerating a process that is taking place anyway, and we're not accelerating it in a sensible way.
The classic example of stupid climate change policy is the Kyoto protocol. In a rare instance of journalism, the Finnish government news agency YLE published a documentary in their MOT program called Kuumaa ilmaa - vihreää suunnitelmataloutta (roughly Hot air, green planned economy). The script (in Finnish) can be read here. I really have nothing to add to their basic point about the Kyoto protocol: it costs hundreds of millions of euros per year, and its effect on climate change is so small it's impossible to measure. It isn't really doing anything. If the money that is currently being spent on the Kyoto accords was spent on adjusting to the effects of global warming, it would be spent on something necessary and useful. Now it's being spent on curbing emissions to a degree that is so ridiculously small that we could achieve the equivalent effect on global warming by taking the same amount of money and burying it in a pit.
The Kyoto accords are nothing but a titanic waste of all the participating countries' taxpayers' money. They achieve absolutely nothing positive. In fact, the only thing emissions trading is achieving is rewarding countries that were big polluters in 1990. Because the European Union emissions trading scheme, based on the Kyoto protocols, is based on each participating country's cO2 emissions in 1990, a time when the Eastern Bloc countries literally didn't give a shit about pollution, it means that countries like Poland have a huge amount of emissions rights, while the Nordic countries don't have enough emission rights for their already environmentally friendly industrial production. They have to buy emissions rights from former big polluters, which amounts to a wealth transfer from countries with low emissions to countries with large emissions. Brilliant!
The fight against global warming is an economic process that is ultimately similar to imperialism. Studies have shown that European imperialism in general was, in fact, not profitable for the nations engaging in it. Great Britain could never manage to turn a profit from its overseas empire. All the propaganda about how the colonies were the mainstay of British wealth and power was just that, propaganda, because maintaining the colonies cost much more than the profit the empire derived from them. They still did it, though, because the politicians were spending other people's money and it didn't matter to them if they wasted it. Some people did make a profit out of imperialism, though; some investors and businessmen were able to take advantage of the government's senseless spending and make a personal profit.
Similarly, we're now spending billions and billions of dollars/euros on reducing CO2 emissions on a scale that isn't going to make any difference to global warming. Again, it's easy for the politicians to make these decisions. For them, it's an obvious equation: they're spending money that isn't theirs, and they're using it to fight global warming, which is a popular cause that will get them votes. Although the money is going totally to waste in the sense that it isn't doing anything to reduce global warming, it's not just being thrown away. Instead, it's all going to companies, businessmen and investors who have the wits to make money out of global warming hysteria. In an economic process exactly similar to imperialism, governments are wastefully spending huge amounts of money on something that isn't doing the countries or their taxpayers any good, but is lining several private pockets quite comfortably.
Global warming is happening. We need to take measures to prepare for the effects it will have, as well as trying to reduce our harmful impact on the Earth's climate. We need to do this in a way that makes financial sense, not by throwing billions of euros of taxpayers' money after fantasy projects like Kyoto that are having no measurable effect on the phenomenon they are supposedly combatting.
Jan 15, 2008
Good stuff. Also, the Wikipedia articles on the planets are always worth reading.
There's also an American conservative alternative to Wikipedia called Conservapedia. I won't tell you what it's like, I'll let them do it:
Conservapedia:How Conservapedia Differs from Wikipedia
- We are an educational resource, including lectures and study guides, and we welcome students and adults seeking to learn. Wikipedia has no lectures or study guides and many of its entries and discussions are anti-intellectual in nature.
- We do not attempt to be neutral to all points of view. We are neutral to the facts. If a group is a terrorist group, then we use the label "terrorist" but Wikipedia will use the "neutral" term "militant".
- We do not allow liberal censorship of conservative facts. Wikipedia editors who are far more liberal than the American public frequently censor factual information. Conservapedia does not censor any facts that comport with the basic rules.
- We do not encourage anti-intellectual editor names that are attracted to Wikipedia. For example, the Wikipedia administrator who initially deleted the entry about Conservapedia uses the name "Nearly Headless Nick." The Hartford Courant observed that another editor posted under the name "The Ostrich." These names send an inappropriate anti-intellectual message for an encyclopedia.
Good heavens, an "anti-intellectual editor name". Still not convinced that Conservapedia is much better that Wikipedia? Heck, they have a Bible Verse of the Day on their front page! They have an article called Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, which is a list of supposedly heinous examples of Wikipedia bias. It's a massive list of small criticisms of Wikipedia, ranging from tiny mistakes in Wikipedia articles to ridiculous accusations, like the fact that Wikipedia uses BCE instead of BC. Shock! Horror!
The list is pure foolishness, and it makes their entire argument that Wikipedia is biased look ridiculous. I'm personally convinced Wikipedia is biased in several different directions; how could it not be? As for Conservapedia, the only reason I mention it is because it came to mind when reading space-related articles because of some of the pure hilarity it contains.
Here's the original version of the Conservapedia article Moon. It lists four ways in which the Moon proves that the Christian God created the universe. No other information is given. Someone tried to change the article into a more encyclopedia-like text that would actually be about the Moon, and the original editor reverted his changes and protected the article.
After a good bit of wrangling, the current article starts by defining the Moon. The first proper section of the page is called The Moon as God's creation. It starts out with:
The Earth's moon has several striking characteristics. To many, these characteristics appear as "clues" or "hints" left by God for men to discover.
Later in the section:
Rate of recession
The Moon currently recedes from the Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) per year, and is believed by mainstream scientists to be 4.6 billion years old .
The Moon could never have been closer than about 11,000 miles or it would have been broken up by tidal forces.
If the rate of recession stayed constant at 3.8 cm per year, it would take 9.6 billion years for the lunar distance to migrate from 11,000 miles to the present distance of about 240,000 miles.
However, the rate of recession would not have been constant, but would have been greater in the past, so that extrapolating backwards in time results in the moon being in contact with the earth 1.37 billion years ago, seemingly (if the assumptions stated above are correct) contradicting the view of an Old Earth promoted by atheists.
Promoted by atheists?
I'm quite sure that all of the world's astronomers, geologists and many other physical scientists can't all be atheists. Oh, by the way, remember how they said Conservapedia doesn't censor facts? That's probably why the admin who wrote the original version of the page several times reverted edits trying to explain tidal locking. As he puts it on the talk page, tidal locking does not explain it and is not true.
Apparently he gave up later when someone explained the physics to him.
Why do I bother? Because I read Wikipedia's own page listing criticisms of Wikipedia, and wanted to see if they had a point. I think I found out. Also, because Mike Huckabee is running for President and these are the people he represents. I think we should all be afraid.
Jan 14, 2008
Jan 13, 2008
The reason this annoys me is that the All-Star game itself, in my opinion, is a waste of time. I wish they'd adopt some of the ideas Jason Kay put forward in his Hockey News blog. My favorite idea by far is the old-timers versus young guns game. I'd love to see that! But the thing is, I consider an All-Star game nomination first and foremost as a tribute to the player; something for the player to write on his CV. That's why I find it so ridiculous that Pascal Leclaire and Tim Thomas don't get recognized for their great play this season. Bleah.
From All-Stars to not-so-stars: the Toronto Maple Leafs. I'm suffering through the third period of the very disappointing Detroit-Ottawa game, waiting for the second Hockey Night in Canada game, Toronto-San Jose. It never ceases to amaze me how much NHL referees change the way they call penalties from game to game. In this one, they're calling nothing Ottawa does, and everything Detroit does. Ottawa just went 3-2 ahead on an absolutely bullshit penalty on Nicklas Lidström; the goal was scored by Daniel Alfredsson who drew a penalty earlier with one of the most blatant dives I've seen for a good while. During the delayed penalty before the 3-2 goal, Chris Phillips took a ten-foot dive when he felt a stick touch him. Why is it that NHL referees refuse to call diving penalties?
On to Toronto, one of the two great dysfynctional franchises in the East, is in chaos again. There's talk of trading Sundin, trading everybody and firing the coach and GM. My prediction?
Toronto's problem is that the whole organization is basically screwed up. I predict they're not going to trade Sundin, Tucker, Kaberle or for that matter anybody, chiefly because no-one is stupid enough to take Raycroft off their hands and no-one is going to make a momentous decision like trading Sundin. The team is going to sputter on the same way and fail their way to the end of the regular season, disappointingly ending up with neither the playoffs or the chance to draft next year's Next Next Next Next One, John Tavares. For Toronto to get their act together, the organization would have to be revamped, and I don't see that happening. The owners are making a profit, so they're happy, and the management is hardly likely to fire themselves.
In case you're wondering, the other dysfunctional organization is Tampa. They're not going to be winning a Cup any time soon. John Tortorella's continuing employment is a mystery to me.
Here's another hockey prediction: Pittsburgh isn't going to be winning the Stanley Cup any time soon either. They have a potentially great core of young players in Crosby, Malkin, Staal and so on, and with Angelo Esposito coming up. The thing is, you can't win the Stanley Cup with just young players. Basically for any team to win the Cup they need a combination of ability, experience and drive. The Pens have ability, but there's no experience on the roster.
I should have said ability, experience, drive and goaltending. A team needs a combination of four things: ability, experience, drive and goaltending. Goaltending Pittsburgh does not have. Marc-Andre Fleury isn't going to become a better goalie with the Pens organization; if he ever really makes it to the big time, it's going to be with another organization. Especially with an inexperienced team, the burden on the goalie in the playoffs is huge. Fleury can't handle it at this stage in his career.
Pittsburgh has constantly refused to get experienced players on the team. Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque are exactly the kind of players they need, but during the time they've signed those two, they've treated John Leclair and Mark Recchi like trash. Recchi ended up in the press box and then on waivers. My guess is that Ryan Malone will be the next to go, and then they'll likely not re-sign Jarkko Ruutu next summer either.
As I'm writing this, Mark Recchi put the Penguins away by scoring the decisive shootout goal. How sweet is that?
All the Stanley Cup teams of the last decade or so have tended to show that you need experience to win the Cup. Pittsburgh has none and refuses to get it. In a few years' time their young guys' contracts are going to be up, and they're going to have to start resigning them. Malkin and Staal won't come cheap, especially now that Malkin's countryman Ovechkin signed a huge 13-year deal. Then the rest of their young players are going to have to be resigned as well, and at that point they're either going to run out of money with which to get veteran players or they'll have to let some of their young guys go.
To succeed in the playoffs, the Pens are likely going to need several more veteran players, as well as a proven goaltender. The current roster is not going to be winning a Cup.
Jan 12, 2008
Like I promised yesterday, the topic of today's post is pornography. In it, I'm going to argue that Kira Kener is not going to hurt you, Katsuni does not violate your civil rights and looking at Tera Patrick is feminism. To kick things off, here's a porn star:
Jenna Jameson herself, no less. Throughout this post, I'll be using the excuse of talking about pornography to post pictures of hot chicks. Don't worry, I'll justify it.
Now, lest you think this isn't a current issue, here's an article that should chill any thinking person's heart: U.S. Attorney's Porn Fight Gets Bad Reviews, archived from law.com. The U.S. Department of Justice's top goal in 2005 was prosecuting pornography. You read that right. Not terrorism, not organized crime, not even the war on drugs. Pornography. And lest you think they mean child pornography, they very definitely specified that the Department of Justice wants to use federal obscenity laws to crack down on thus-far legal pornography featuring consenting adults.
Given what I've blagged recently about Mike Huckabee, the Christian conservatives aren't very far from the seat of power in today's America, and many of these issues have succesfully made the Atlantic crossing. In Finland also, several prominent feminists try to fight not only porn but such hideous threats to our society as Hennes & Mauritz underwear ads. A book featuring articles by several Finnish feminists on the topic is reviewed here.
Because I maintain this blag as a sot of repository of my political views, I thought I'd set down my opinion on porn. Besides, writing about porn is fun. Lest you think I'm totally unqualified for this, I have actually completed what the University of Helsinki calls a basic studies half-module on Women's Studies, the most stupidly named university subject ever. I consider myself a feminist, and in my opinion, my view on pornography is thoroughly feminist.
The first issue with pornography is definition. What constitutes pornography?
According to the Wikipedia article Pornography:
Pornography or porn is, in its broadest state, the explicit representation of the human body or sexual activity with the goal of sexual arousal and/or sexual relief. It is similar to erotica, which is the use of sexually-arousing imagery for mainly artistic purposes.
Well. It goes on:
In general, "erotica" refers to portrayals of sexually arousing material that hold or aspire to artistic or historical merit, whereas "pornography" (which is frequently considered a pejorative term) connotes the more direct, blunt or excessive depiction of sexual acts, with little or no artistic value, intended for mere entertainment. The line between the two is often highly subjective. In practice, pornography can be defined merely as erotica that certain people perceive as "obscene." The definition of what one considers obscene can differ between persons, cultures and eras. This leaves legal actions by those who oppose pornography open to wide interpretation.
The core starting problem of pornography is just this subjective definition. How on earth can you even begin to define "artistic purposes" as opposed to "sexual arousal"? When does art become pornography and when does entertainment become pornography?
Let's try some examples! Below is the cover of Swedish distributor Max's version of Michael Ninn's film Fem Bella (variously capitalized and titled), with the naughty bits censored.
Fem Bella is a hardcore lesbian porn movie, featuring the ultra-hot Justine Joli (top right). It's an excellent movie which I thoroughly recommend, as it's both hot and made in quite good taste. I think most people would agree that it's porn.
How about this picture of the smoking hot Lilly Goga:
Lilly Goga is a model and office manager from Calgary. She's barely clothed, and I think many of us will find that the above picture contains some elements of sexual arousal. Is it pornography, though? Is that picture obscene material that is blunt and excessive, has no artistic merit and is simply porn?
Above is British seriously hot chick Gemma Atkinson, in a bikini. That's an article of clothing that people actually wear at the beach. Is a picture of her in it pornography? What about hot newsperson Kristie Lu Stout?
That's a picture of a fully dressed woman. Nevertheless, she's hot, and I like looking at her. Does that make a picture of her pornographic?
Again, lest you think that these are academic questions, there are considerable numbers of people who want to make laws defining pornography. If we go by the loose definition given in Wikipedia, any of the above images can be considered pornography. Again, Finnish feminists have vented a great deal of steam about H&M underwear ads being pornography, and Leena-Maija Rossi and others talk about the pornographization of culture. They don't mean hardcore porn, they mean pictures of hot chicks.
If the definition of pornography is tightened to mean only explicit hardcore pornography, then an additional argument needs to be addressed. What does hardcore porn do that no other kind of sexually arousing material does? If you see a couple of stills from Fem Bella, will that have a radically different effect on you than one of the images above? This is a relevant question because there are two kinds of arguments against pornography: arguments that porn has a deleterious effect on the people who view it, and arguments that porn degrades women. To both kinds of argument, the question of where to draw the line is absolutely vital. Would a porn movie still corrupt your mind decisively more than a picture of a hot chick in a bikini? Is seeing a woman engage in sexual intercourse on video decisively more degrading than seeing her on the beach? Saying yes may feel easy, but arguing it isn't.
Practically all anti-porn arguments suffer heavily from the problem of definition. Under more extreme statements of the feminist anti-hot-chick creed, any picture of an attractive woman can be argued to be pornography. Under most obscenity laws around the world, practically anything can be considered pornography. The question of definition is not trivial. If we accept something as sneaky and weasely as "artistic merit" and something as undefined and slippery as the "intention" of the picture or film into legistlation, we create laws that are based on nothing except totally arbitrary value judgements.
Now to the anti-porn arguments. Kindly summarizing them for us is the Daily Business Review article I linked to earlier on the US Department of Justice's anti-porn crusade:
"While there are crimes like drugs and public corruption in Miami, this is also a form of corruption and should be a priority," said Anthony Verdugo, director of the Christian Family Coalition in Miami. "Pornography is a poison and it's addictive. It's not a victimless crime. Women are the victims."
Later, a Mr. Sharp of the Family Association, which I suppose only sounds like a mob outfit:
But should porn be a priority in a place like Miami, where serious crime is rampant? "It's all part of the same thing, of the organized crime syndicate," Sharp said. "It has an effect on children."
The two of them nicely bring together the two chief arguments against pornography. First, it's a form of corruption, an addictive poison, and it affects children. Secondly, porn is a crime and women are the victims. I should point out that the idea that adult pornography in the Western world is somehow part of an "organized crime syndicate", let alone the organized crime syndicate, immediately qualifies the guy as a lunatic. Pornography is produced by legitimate, above-the-board companies as part of the free market, not by Cobra or the Corleone family or whoever this guy thinks "the organized crime syndicate" is.
A new adjunct of the Crimson Guard: the Porn-Viper. I love it!
The Baroness, a villain from G.I. Joe. Man, she was hot. That's a drawing of a hot chick. Is that pornography? (let's not even go there...)
The first argument is the easier one to address. The most simple argument about the supposedly horrible effects porn has on society is that there is no correlation at all between availability of pornography and sex crimes, or indeed between porn availability and any crime at all. Generally speaking, the European countries with the most liberal obscenity laws are also the ones with the lowest crime rates. When the claim is made that porn causes crime and corrupts society, clearly the burden of proof is on the claimant. There is no proof whatsoever.
The idea of porn being addictive is being peddled by the Christian right in the United States. Porn addiction is not recognized by any serious mental health professionals, and is not listed in the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In short, it isn't an actual mental condition. Pornography addiction is an invention of the Christian right, designed to make their religious propaganda sound more like psychiatry. It has never been shown to exist.
As for the idea that pornography has an effect on children, it's hard to understand what the point is. There are a lot of things being sold to adults in the Western world that children probably shouldn't get their hands on, and porn is one of them. Are these same organizations campaigning to stop the sale of alcohol, cigarettes, sharp knives, dangerous toys and basically anything a child can hurt themselves or others with? I don't think so. So again, why is pornography different here?
In 1986, the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography concluded that pornography poses a public health risk. The only parts of the report dealing with any kind of research were crafted over a weekend workshop by a collection of "recognized authorities". Given that the report was prepared at the orders of President Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese, who will have had an agenda, it's not hard to imagine what kind of "recognized authorities" were invented. Afterwards, scientists have complained that their data was misused and misrepresented, and considerable research that would have led to different conclusions was simply ignored. Despite all this stacking of the deck, the report still fails to make a convincing case that pornography is harmful, even on its own terms.
The proof simply doesn't exist that porn is dangerous and has adverse social effects. Anyone arguing otherwise is arguing against the facts. I've now written so much text that I'm going to summarize this section by saying that Kira Kener is not going to hurt you.
Kira Kener was Penthouse's Pet of the Month in December 2002 and was a Vivid Entertainment contract girl from 1999 to 2005. She appeared in the reality show Porno Valley, where she was hot, and has starred in several hardcore movies, being hot. She is Norwegian-Vietnamese by ancestry.
I have a slightly greater interest in the feminist critique of pornography, given that I consider myself a feminist. Here's what I'll be arguing against, again helpfully summarized by Wikipedia in the Pornography article:
Feminist critics of pornography, such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, generally consider it demeaning to women. They believe that most pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment, and contributes to the male-centered objectification of women.
The chief feminist proponents of this theory are the above-mentioned Dworkin and MacKinnon. Andrea Dworkin has authored two influential feminist works, Intercourse and Pornography. To briefly summarize, Intercourse puts forward the view that heterosexual intercourse, specifically penetration of the female by the male, is unnatural and morally wrong. That's a topic for another time.
Dworkin was one of the "experts" who testified for the Meese commission on pornography, mentioned above. See what they mean when they say "recognized experts"? Her expertise on the subject of pornography at this point included an attempt to outlaw it through civil rights legistlation, and a bachelor's degree in literature. Her testimony was accepted as that of an expert, but scientific research that didn't fit the commission's aim was not.
Dworkin's testimony was on the same tack as her unsuccesful attempts to bring about anti-pornography laws in several US jurisdictions. Her argument is that pornography violates the civil rights of women. According to Dworkin, all pornography is produced by abusing women and forcing them to pose or act in pornography. She claims that in addition to the porn industry victimizing the women who work in it, pornography also victimises women by causing sexual violence.
The second claim I dealt with above, and the first one is ludicrous. In general, Dworkin's views on sexuality are, to put it mildly, weird. I refuse to write a psychohistory of Dworkin or try to explain away her views with it, but I do want to point out that her own sexual history is not exactly regular. Her Wikipedia page has a biography. I can't help but think that her extremely negative view of all sexuality is brought on by her traumatic past. Among the allegations she makes in her books is one that stuck with me: the most basic and universal male sexual fantasy is molesting the dead corpse of a child. What can I say to that? Yet this person is regarded by a U.S. Attorney General and many feminists as an authority on sexuality and pornography.
The level of the arguments put forward by her co-conspirator Catherine MacKinnon isn't much higher. She argues that the core test of whether the porn industry exploits women is this: would a woman work in the porn industry if it wasn't for the money?
I wanted to end the paragraph there to let you ponder on how idiotic that statement is. Would anyone work in the garbage disposal industry if it wasn't for the money? The cleaning industry? I can say I wouldn't work in journalism if it wasn't for the money. Quickly! Ban newspapers!
She has also endorsed belief in the existence of snuff films: in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review in 1985, she wrote that snuff films exist. That's funny, because we know she can't have proof. There is no proof. Snuff films are an urban legend; not a single one has ever existed. I'm sorry, but if that's the amount of research you do, I'm not going to take anything you say seriously.
Both Dworkin and MacKinnon have championed the idea that the very existence of pornography is a civil rights violation. This is, in my opinion, a disgusting perversion of the idea of human rights. As an argument, this is precisely identical to the fundamentalist Christian demands to outlaw everything that is offensive to their beliefs. Fundie Christians want to live in a world where they will never have to come into contact with material that contains any opinions that differ from their own, and they frame this demand by demanding a "right" to be insulated from anything they deem offensive. Under this kind of a concept of civil rights, you no longer have any rights at all, except the right to agree with the majority. It sickens me that a demand for censorship is framed in terms of civil rights.
In short, Katsuni does not violate your civil rights.
Katsuni, formerly known as Katsumi, is a porn star of French-Vietnamese descent who has won a pile of AVN awards for her work. A judge made her change her screenname after a woman whose last name is Katsumi objected. How boring.
Many contemporary feminist critiques of pornography are based on the theory of the gaze, put forward by Laura Mulvey. Mulvey put forward the theory of the "male gaze" in her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, published in 1975. She claims that in classic Hollywood cinema, the viewer is put in the position of a man, and that the camera has a "male gaze". She says there were two modes of the male gaze: the fetishistic and the voyeuristic, defined as "seeing women as whores".
As Wikipedia succintly puts it, "Mulvey's article engaged in no empirical research of film audiences", or indeed any empirical research of any kind. She simply tells us that in viewing a movie, we are viewing it through a male gaze that objectifies the women in it.
This philosophy of the gaze is at the core of feminist critiques of visual culture as objectifying and degrading to women. It is their allegation that basically any picture of a hot chick is a picture of a woman objectified by a male gaze, and is therefore degrading toward the woman.
In the article Feminist film theory:
In addressing the female spectator, she [Mulvey] revised her stance to argue that women can take two possible roles in relation to film: a masochistic identification with the female object of desire that is ultimately self-defeating or a transsexual identification with men as the active viewers of the text.
What she says is that if a woman watches a film or any other product of the patriarchal, male-dominated culture, she must become either a masochist or a transsexual.
More from Wikipedia's article on the gaze:
Some theorists also have noted the degrees to which persons are encouraged to gaze upon women in advertising, sexualizing the female body even in situations where female body has nothing to do with the product being advertised.
There was even a doctoral thesis accepted by the University of Helsinki recently on the subject of the objectifying gaze. It addressed the way women are portrayed in advertising, and rehashed the same arguments on pictures of hot chicks being a horrible objectification of women that degrades them and subjects them to male sexuality.
The argument is then made that this objectifying and sexualizing of women and women's bodies has dire effects on society; it upholds patriarchy and encourages a view of women as commodities and sexual objects instead of as people.
As near as I could tell, the claims made in the thesis on the gaze or on anything else weren't based on anything. No research was done into the way people viewed the ads dealt with. The core article of this school of thought isn't based on any kind of research either.
I'm a feminist, and I agree that women can be portrayed in ways that are degrading and that encourage a very poor cultural attitude to women. I don't agree that a picture of a hot chick is necessarily the subjecting of a woman to the dominating, objectifying male gaze. I see absolutely no evidence for anything the feminist theory of the gaze alleges. I don't believe the evidence exists at all. Nevertheless feminists across the Western world tout the paradigm of the male gaze as a scientific theory. I'm sorry, but I consider that total rubbish. There is no quality to the images that makes them products of patriarchy and the male gaze. If a feminist theoretician were to be given two pictures of a beautiful, naked woman, and one of them was taken by a male pornographer and the other was taken by a feminist photographer, there is no way they could tell the difference between the two.
This post has gone on long enough, so I'll finish with my closing statement on pornography. In my opinion, any kind of pornography, whether you mean hardcore porn or a picture of a beautiful woman, is not in itself degrading toward women. Some pornography is, some is not. For this reason I believe that any kind of categorical view on pornography or any kind of visual representation of male or female physical beauty is by default futile.
As a feminist I believe that we should try to create and recreate the kind of art, photography, porn and any kind of cultural product that encourages a view of women as human beings equal to men in all respects. I believe that a picture of a beautiful woman does not by default make her into an inhuman object of repression by the patriarchy. I believe that female beauty and sexuality is a thing that can, and indeed needs to, be displayed in a positive and empowering way.
In my view, the fact that a woman is hot isn't some object-like quality about her; it is something she does. I respect that as a human achievement in the same way that I respect athletes, artists and the things they produce. For me, a picture of Tera Patrick has many of the same qualities as an Alexander Ovechkin goal, a J. M. Coetzee novel and a Paradise Lost song. I thoroughly enjoy them, and I have a great deal of respect for the people who create them and star in them. This is my feminist perspective on pornography.
As an expression of my feminism, I'm going to finish this article with a picture of Tera Patrick. She's a beautiful woman, and for us to look at her picture and find her beautiful, attractive and desirable, can be as much an expression of feminism as of patriarchy. Let's make it an expression of feminism.
Jan 11, 2008
Finland's MTV3 (no relation to Music TV) is showing the Finnish league champs', Kärpät, games, and they started off yesterday with Kärpät-Sparta Praha. To my delight, Kärpät lost 3-5, making it virtually certain that they won't be attending the Victoria Cup.
I have a special hate-hate relationship with Kärpät as a team, for a couple of reasons. The first SM-liiga season I could be bothered to watch properly was the 2004-05 season, when the NHL lockout was on. I've always rooted for Jokerit in the SM-liiga, for a simple reason. My dad took me and my brother to watch a Kiekko-Espoo game when we lived in Espoo, and as they were rooting for the hometown team, I wanted to be contrary and rooted for the other side. They were Jokerit, and I stuck with it. The 04-05 final was Jokerit against Kärpät, and the two teams played that final according to two totally different rulebooks. Kärpät hooked, slashed, crosschecked and broke every rule in the book, and weren't called on anything. Jokerit spent a great deal of the finals with a guy in the penalty box, not least because Kärpät players dove every time they saw a stick near them and embellished everything they could. My enduring distaste for Jussi Jokinen, now with the Dallas Stars, was born in these finals when he succesfully mimed being slashed by Glen Metropolit and got his team a 5-on-3 power play. I also consider him a hugely overrated player.
The same Kärpät line has gone on since then. When Jokerit head coach Doug Shedden publicly complained that refs were using two sets of rules in the SM-liiga, a Finnish newspaper actually went and did the stats on how many penalty minutes were being called against which teams. They found that Kärpät were among the teams getting the least penalties in the league, but were awarded the most power plays. This is even more startling because as anyone who was watched SM-liiga games will know, as a general rule the refs try to give both teams the same number of penalties each game. Also, Kärpät routinely break just about every rule in hockey, so the difference can't be explained with playing style. Part of the reason, several times publicly referred to by Doug Shedden, is that Kärpät have made diving a habit. Yet the refs and the league don't do a thing about it.
An interesting corollary is that Kärpät seem to receive brilliant goaltending, but really don't. The goaltending succession of Niklas Bäckström and Tuomas Tarkki have both posted save percentages of way over 90 in Kärpät, but failed miserably on the international ice. The last time we saw Bäckström at the World Championships was in a catastrophic quarterfinal loss to Russia in 2005, where Bäckström allowed three easy goals in regulation and failed to stop a single penalty shot. This year Tarkki has been miserable in goal for the Finnish national team, including a 6-5 win on penalty shots against the Czech Republic at the Moscow tournament on the Euro Hockey Tour, which would have been a blowout for Finland had Tarkki not given up some ridiculous goals.
In my opinion this is simply because on an international level the defense in front of the goaltender aren't allowed to play as dirty as the Kärpät defense is, and his team no longer has such a level of material superiority over their opponent. The same comes true at the European Champions Cup, which Kärpät have now attended three times and consistently failed to win. Bäckström, on the other hand, won the Roger Crozier award and co-won the Jenning Trophy behind the most hideously over-defending trap team in hockey. Put him in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs and watch the red light go on.
The fun doesn't end with the refs, though. Because Finland is basically a socialist state, its top-level hockey league is also run like a socialist organization. Kärpät are based in Oulu, which is way up in the north of Finland. Because they're so far away from other teams, the league subsidizes their travel expenses. All the money the league has it takes from the teams, so basically the league makes the other teams subsidize Kärpät.
YLE's documentary exposé program MOT ran a feature on several of the Kärpät members of the board last year; it can be accessed here. The program revealed that several prominent investors in Oulu are flagrantly abusing the government's area subsidy schemes that are intended to subsidize small and medium-sized startup companies in the north of Finland. They are personally acquainted with the people in charge of the government subsidies, and co-operate to rob the state blind. Some of this money has made it to Kärpät, because some of the dummy corporations they have set up have sponsored Kärpät. Remember that almost all other teams in the Finnish league are more or less honest, above-the-board companies (HPK ry. isn't).
As if being funded by money stolen from the state and being subsidized by the rest of the league isn't enough, Kärpät also take some shortcuts with the payroll. Finland doesn't have anything like the transparency of a league like the NHL when it comes to accounting for salaries, so for years Kärpät have been hiring players by offering them a salary and a lot of perks: skiing holidays in Lapland and so forth. So a player's real salary from Kärpät, at least a Czech or Canadian player's, isn't what you read in the papers but more.
Even the officially declared total player salaries of the team are the highest in the league, and given where the money comes from, that's hardly surprising. It also has to be admitted that Kärpät has done a good job of building up a core of fairly good Finnish players from their own organization. The combination of this core of players, their dishonest funding and favorable
treatment by the referees is what has propelled Kärpät to the top of the league in the 2000's. Sports? Hardly.
This is why I'm so delighted every time Kärpät lose, and I'm simply thrilled that they screwed up the opening game of the ECC. As a Jatkoaika.com column tells us, this tournament was supposed to be the culmination of the Kärpät long-term project, and it ended up a failure. Hooray!
Now on to something else. Porn star Tera Patrick, my pick for the hottest person in the world, said in an interview that her favorite sport is ice hockey.
Brilliantly, this lets me segue from hockey to porn, and post another hot chick for dear Niki. The topic of tomorrow's blog post will be pornography and Andrea Dworkin; I have, in fact, read at least most of Andrea Dworkin's books Pornography and Intercourse, and I didn't relish the experience. I've also read her novel, Fire and Ice, which I found a fairly unpleasant and vulgar work; like Stewart Home but not fun.
But because Dworkin would be another sad note to end on, click here to find out about another surprising hockey celebrity.
By the way, I have no idea why the line spacing in these posts goes all funny after the first picture. I tried to fix it but couldn't figure out how.
Jan 10, 2008
Because the subject came up at the table, here's the Wikipedia article and the work itself. Of course, I refer to none other than the Eye of Argon, that inimitable short story. It's a work of true horror and greatness. Most of its passags raise more questions than they answer, including the woman with the "lithe opaque nose". As opposed to a transparent nose?
We've been trying to work out how to adapt it to stage or screen. For example, the following scene had us totally stumped:
"Up to the altar and be done with it wench;" ordered a fidgeting shaman as he gave the female a grim stare accompanied by the wrinkling of his lips to a mirthful grin of delight.
Until I realized how to do it. Charlie Murphy from the Chapelle's Show "Player Haters Ball" sketch.
Next I'll cover some political topics. To make it less boring, I've included more or less gratuitious pictures of hot chicks.
I followed the New Hampshire primaries on CNN. For some reason, it's the only US news network in our current package of channels. I learned only one thing: Kristie Lu Stout is hot.
She's beautiful, and when she smiles it lights up the whole room. I'm sure I'll be watching CNN again! However, Huckabee finished third in New Hampshire, so I also want to return to the subject of Mike Huckabee being a lunatic. I quote myself quoting Wikipedia:
In an interview with GQ Magazine, Huckabee said, "There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived."
Here's the complete quote, from GQ Magazine online:
"I don’t think the issue’s about being against gay marriage. It’s about being for traditional marriage and articulating the reason that’s important. You have to have a basic family structure. There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived."
When he says basic family structure, he means a monogamously married couple consisting of a man and a woman. Huckabee, you see, also views any kind of non-married union as also essentially wrong. Now, you might think this is just the good old garden-variety kind of Christian chauvinism that views any kind of non-their-particular-kind-of-Christian lifestyle as inherently wrong. You can't really argue with that except to point out that it's a moronic view. Huckabee, however, is telling us that all civilizations have always viewed marriage and family the same way, except for the ones that haven't, and they've been destroyed.
What on earth can he mean? The current American fundie lunatic Christian view on marriage is barely some hundreds of years old. You know, the one with the two sexually unexperienced people getting married in a church wedding, going off to have children and spend the rest of their life together in monogamous bliss and never have sex with anyone else again.
This ideal is just that, an ideal. It's never been fact in the history of Western civilization. Even during the very brief time in the modern era when civil unions of any kind were regarded as tantamount to prostitution and everyone was expected to be married, the composition of the basic family unit varied. It's simply totally historically untrue to imagine that even Western civilization has adhered to a 21st century Christian concept of marriage.
The nuclear family as we know it is believed to have come about around the late Middle Ages. Before that, there were several different models of extended families in European cultures. Historically it must be stated that even within Western civilization, there have been various different family models.
Given that Huckabee is making a seemingly global statement on all civilizations, we also need to be looking at them. He implies that all civilizations that do not have the same ideal of the marriage and the family unit have not survived. I'm stumped to think of a single example of a human civilization being destroyed because of their family composition.
From the Wikipedia article Marriage:
In 2004, the American Anthropological Association released this statement:
The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.
Basically, Huckabee is talking out of his ass. It's typical of fundie Christians, and religious nuts of all descriptions, to make huge, sweeping statements on how their ideology is supposedly universal and all-encompassing. Many religious people seem to genuinely believe that their ideology is not an ideology at all but a set of self-evident truths, and this is very scary.
Although GQ Magazine gave this lunatic airtime for his views, they also took this photoshoot of Jessica Biel:
So they're OK in my books.
More Huckabee, this time from Fox News:
— Rejected the idea of women in combat "because of my strong traditional view that women should be treated with respect and dignity and not subject to the kinds of abuses that could occur in combat."
I thought being in combat was a thing of respect and dignity. Certainly, in Western tradition, it has been viewed that way. This is just a really weird thing to say. Is he saying that it's okay for men to be treated disrespectfully and exposed to abuses, and men don't need to be treated with respect and dignity? As a man, I object to that!
More likely though, the good Christian wants to protect women from horrible things like combat. How chivalrous! I find it disgusting that in the 21st century we still maintain ridiculous gender-based prejudices like this. The United States has a professional army. Anyone who wants to serve in a combat specialty ought to be allowed to, no matter what their gender, as long as they're physically and mentally capable. This is so obvious that I feel like an idiot just writing it.
Huckabee, who, as I said in my earlier post, believes in creationism and biblical inerrancy, is also a disgusting religious bigot and a condescending misogynist. He won the Iowa caucus, and is doing fairly well in the race to become the Republican presidential candidate. On topics of religion, he's worse than George W. Bush.
On the topic of women in combat, here's U.S. Air Force staff sergeant Michelle Manhart. You're saying no to this?
Staff Sergeant Manhart posed nude for Playboy's February 2007 issue. As her Wikipedia page documents, the Air Force subsequently demoted her to Senior Airman for breaking the Air Force's "standards of integrity". Ms. Manhart promptly resigned.
This is a perfect example of bullshit. How on earth does posing for Playboy make a person a worse soldier? The arguments put forward by the Air Force are ridiculous and demoting a staff sergeant to an airman over a photo is absolutely ludicrous. Michelle Manhart ran into a very sad example of the cultural misogyny that still runs through our entire way of thinking. We, as a culture, are still too chauvinistic to allow a woman to be both a professional and a sexual person. A woman can't be a hot chick and an Air Force drill sergeant at the same time. In order to serve in a male role, a woman is still required to give up being a woman in order to be accepted into a male position. It's bullshit, and it makes me sad.
It is emblematic of our distorted views on sexuality, quite literally perverted by almost two millenia of Christianity, that we find female beauty degrading.
To end on a happier note, here's a gratuitious picture of porn star Justine Joli. Thanks for reading!
Jan 9, 2008
Aziz the Combat Fighter!
Jan 8, 2008
Ken Campbell says Hatcher tried to deck Steen with an illegal hit but ended up hitting Lupul instead. I'm sorry, but you can watch the hit on YouTube, and there's nothing illegal there. Contrary to what Campbell says, Hatcher's skates are on the ice and his elbows are down when he lands the hit. The reason he hits Lupul so awkwardly is because Steen seems to strangely collapse just before Hatcher hits him. There's absolutely nothing illegal about Hatcher's check, and Lupul being injured is an unfortunate accident.
As for Downie's sucker punch, yes, it was a sucker punch, but the fact that it hit Blake in the eye was an accident. Either that, or Downie's taken up ninjutsu. And Campbell unsurprisingly fails to mention that Blake started the altercation himself, after the whistle had been blown, and I can't believe Downie hadn't noticed when Blake purposefully ran into Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymäki earlier in the game. So even this doesn't quite boil down to Downie being a horrible barbarian and the Flyers being Satan.
I credit Campbell with mentioning Pavel Kubina's blatant check from behind on Braydon Coburn, which I couldn't quite believe they didn't call a penalty on. As long as I can remember, the Leafs have seemed to get away with a lot of dirty play and keep getting less penalties than the opposing team. That's seemed to be the case in every Leafs game I've ever seen, but I might be imagining it.
The Flyers' record this season is dismal. They've racked up a total of 52 games of suspensions this season and are still playing a hard and dangerous brand of hockey. The latter would be simply great, except that certain players seem to keep taking it too far. The problem now is that as with Saturday night's game, there's a certain amount of anti-Flyers hysteria getting around. Frankly, nothing that terrible happened in that game, and some of the people who posted comments on Ken Campbell's column demanding dozens of games of suspensions are just downright insane.