Jake Davidson asking out Kate Upton might be creepy — but it isn’t dangerous.

KateUptonSIcover
Standard

Slate’s XX blog published a post by Amanda Marcotte on Friday – Jake Davidson Asking Out Kate Upton Isn’t Cute. It’s Creepy. – the crux of which goes something like this:

The lesson learned: You may be a rich and famous model, but any random man can, just by making a video, force you to do a little song and dance about how delightful his attentions are. Instead of applauding Davidson for this, adults should be appalled. All that’s been taught here to young men is that they are entitled to women’s attention simply because they ask for it.

This entitlement we teach men crops up all the time for women, and it’s rarely as cute as a silly comedy video: When a man demands that you stop on the street to entertain his proposal of going back to his place and then follows you for blocks because you pretended not to hear him. When a rape victim is told that if she didn’t want to have sex, she shouldn’t have gone to the rapist’s hotel room. When a woman files for a restraining order because she’s afraid her abusive husband means it when he says that if he can’t have her, no one can.

Taking XX’s allegations at face value for a moment, it doesn’t sound like Marcotte thinks Davidson’s video is creepy – it sounds like she thinks it, and everything it represents about male entitlement, is downright dangerous.

I can’t say I found Davidson’s video all that delightful or wonderful or charming, but I also think this reaction is a little bit of an over-reaction. And not just because the idea that Kate had to respond is a bit of a stretch, or that the fact she did has any broader societal significance. After all, there’s no shortage of marriage proposals (that’s five) to T-Swift on Youtube and elsewhere, and to my knowledge, she hasn’t felt compelled to respond to a single one of them (though I suppose there might be a song lyric out there just waiting to be decoded).

Obviously, street harassment, rape, and abusive husbands are not something we should be encouraging.* But I don’t see how this incident – or at least, Davidson making his video in the first place — is going to do anything to encourage those things. Creepy, maybe. Dangerous, probably not.

*The fact that I had to write that sentence might be a good indication this is probably not a topic I should be writing about.

And I don’t think Slate truly believes it is either. I searched the website’s archive and confirmed that XX had nothing to say about that time Justin Timberlake famously got asked out, also via Youtube. Sure, the Marine Corps Ball is hardly Jake Davidson’s high school prom – or as Slate put it, “one of the most awkward and embarrassing nights of your life, where you have to socialize with teenagers while being paraded around like a show pony” – but I don’t imagine Slate would take the position that street harassment and rape are OK as long as they’re perpetrated by Justin Timberlake or Jon Hamm and not pimply teenaged Jake Davidson.

Indeed, speaking of Jon Hamm, XX published another interesting piece on Thursday – the day before the Kate Upton piece – with a title that speaks somewhat less for itself, Jon Hamm Is Being Treated Like an Actress. He Hates It. As usual, I have extracted for you the crux:

Continue reading

I hope Kim Jong-un brushed up on his American geography

north korean us strike plan
Standard

North Korea has been threatening the United States with nuclear annihilation for as long as you and I can remember, but a recently-successful nuclear test, a newly-installed leader, and seemingly-specific attack plans have US strategists unsure of the degree to which they must take all this seriously.

The most recent round of threatening exchanges began about three weeks ago, after the UN Security Council agreed unanimously to tighten sanctions in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test. Kang Pyo-yong, the country’s vice defense minister, declared, “If we push the button, they will blast off and their barrage will turn Washington, the stronghold of American imperialists and the nest of evil, and its followers, into a sea of fire.”

I can’t say I lost too much sleep in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. After all, D.C. is probably out of North Korea’s range – the New York Times noted that “North Korea does not have the technical ability to use nuclear-tipped missiles” – and besides, the city is hot and humid and full of Congressmen, so good riddance.

But in the meantime, North Korea supposedly launched massive cyber attacks against its southern neighbor, placed its military on the highest level of alert (presumably, red), and severed its only line of communication with the South Korean military. And the threats haven’t been all one-sided: last week, the United States signed a formal defense agreement obligating it to protect South Korea from even small provocations, and flew B-2 stealth bombers over the country.

And so, we got another round of threats, these much more specific, and — I have to admit — much more worrisome. In any event, it’s probably worth paying attention if only because it’s better not to be taken by surprise in a situation involving the nuclear capabilities of a short man.

Much like in the previous threat, North Korea helpfully provided a list of targets. Kim Jung-un himself is quoted saying that in the event of a US attack, North Korea would “mercilessly strike the US mainland… military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.” I count four specific targets on his hit list: Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, and the US Mainland. Which brings us to a game of One of these things is not like the others.

The first three share one feature in common: the targets are entirely in or on the Pacific Ocean, just like North Korea. In other words, Kim’s list makes a lot of sense: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles must be able to travel 1000 miles before they can travel 2000 miles, so as North Korea continues to develop its rocket technology, some targets are sure to come in range before others. That the targets are so specific and relatively nearby — and not, say, Detroit, New York, and Miami — might lend some credence to Kim Jung-un’s threat.

But what of the Thing that is not like the others — that is, the threat to hit the US mainland? Just last week, North Korea got a lot of attention when it released a photo with a map in the background detailing a “US Mainland Strike Plan”, so you know at least someone is taking the possibility seriously:

Continue reading

Why I love the internet: Exhibit A

meteor
Standard

The summer of 2001 was a magical time – and not just because it was the last period of my life living in a pre-9/11 world. It kicked off with my eighth grade trip to Israel; the Mariners did not lose a single game the entire time I was out of the country (true story). Starbucks CEO, local hero, and Sonics owner Howard Schultz delivered the commencement speech at my eighth grade graduation. My dad sent regular box score dispatches to me at camp in New York as the Mariners completed the Greatest Regular season Of All Time (GROAT) – and for once, I had something to say to those incorrigible Yankee fans.

But the final month of the summer of 2001 – the August I spent traveling the American West with Camp Lech Lecha – was the most memorable experience of them all. Lecha Lecha was a roughly three-week bus tour that traveled from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula, swung through Idaho and Montana, down to Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, and ended with a train ride to Los Angeles, a visit to Disneyland, and a flight home — sorry, Oregon — just in time for the start of high school.

A lot has changed in the dozen years since. As you know, we now live in a post-9/11 world. Once baseball resumed, the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the playoffs (the one time I do not begrudge that team its success) and haven’t seen the postseason since. Howie sold the Sonics to Oklahoma Shitty, so yeah, I don’t think he’ll be invited back to SHA graduation. And the financial model for Lech Lecha turned out to be sadly unsustainable – after a couple more summers in operation, the camp ceased to exist.

But even with all that’s changed for the worse, those memories of that magical summer can never be taken away from me. Or from the internet. And that’s what this post is all about.

Camp Lech Lecha 2001 spent its second weekend (out of three) camped in some Colorado State Park near Ouray on the banks of – I’m gonna say – the Green River. I remember the events of that weekend fondly: we forded the river, hiked to the edge of an Air Force Base (or maybe just a regular barbed-wire fence), and watched the camp director extract cactus needles from the rear end of one unfortunate friend.

Friday night was warm, and nobody wanted to sleep inflaps. So we ditched the tents, lined up our sleeping bags, and lay on our backs watching for stars shooting across the backlit canopy with holes punched in it. Then suddenly, the sky exploded – or more precisely, about half of it.* From nowhere, a brilliant white orb streaked down, growing in size and brightness until it had (figuratively) eclipsed the moon. For a moment, it bright as half-day. And just as soon as it appeared, the light was gone – the sky was midnight black, as if nothing had happened.

*I can’t say whether it was the male or female half.

When I saw the Russian dashboard footage of last month’s meteor, I knew immediately what I was looking at. And when the East Coast got in on the night-time action late last week – and eyewitness accounts were widely reported in the news – I couldn’t help but be reminded of what I’d seen in Colorado:

As the Associated Press reports, experts believe the flash was bright enough to be classified as a fireball. “Judging from the brightness, we’re dealing with something as bright as the full moon,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said. “We basically have (had) a boulder enter the atmosphere over the northeast.” Robert Lunsford, a fireball coordinator at the American Meteor Society, told USA Today that the event “looked like a super bright shooting star,” and that his organization received reports describing “every color of the rainbow.”

And the next thought that popped into my head was: the internet was around back in 2001, too. Sure, a lot more people are in position to spot one burning up over the East Coast, but it’s not like Southwest Colorado is District 13 (no spoiler alert!) – and it’s not like the internet hadn’t been invented yet – so maybe someone posted something about it.

In the few moments between when I resolved to investigate and when I googled “meteor august 2001 colorado”, I figured my chances of success were low: for one thing, there wasn’t a lot of internet back then. And for another, it would have been posted twelve years ago.

So I was more than pleasantly surprised when the first search result went like this [no need to read it in detail, but I figured as long as I'm sharing it anyway, I might as well create a backup copy -- you never know what can happen to twelve year-old internet -- so I included a lot more than necessary to get my point across]:

Continue reading

My primary and secondary education was so very Seattle

SHA old
Standard

It all started with an article in the New York Times that caught my attention because it had to do with Seattle (as so many do): A Novel Asks Seattle to Laugh at Itself. And it didn’t take me long to realize that – even better – the protagonist of the book, the woman who’s name appears in its title, is Bernadette Fox. Coincidentally (I hope), the principal of my high school in Seattle is named Bernie Fox.

tl;dr, the New York Times reviewed a Seattle book starring my high school principal.

I finally had a chance to read the book — Where’d You Go Bernadette? — on my flight home at the beginning of Spring Break. And it was only once I actually read it that I realized the novel was linked to my past educational experiences on an even deeper level than coincidental nomenclature.

I was struck in particular by a memo – WYGB is an epistolary novel – penned by a consultant who has been hired to help a school fundraise enough money to buy a new campus. The memo goes on for over two pages, but the following brief excerpt should be more than enough to give you an idea of its general thrust (General Thrust!), as well as an understanding of why I’m bringing it to your attention [bold not my own]:

Continue reading

Obama finally goes on that apology tour

bibi-obama
Standard

When your party’s recent foreign policy track record consists of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the obvious move is to draw attention to your opponent’s shortcomings — and away from your own diplomatic inadequacy.

Which explains why Republicans have spent so much time blasting Obama for the “apology tour” on which he embarked soon after taking office. Here are a few choice quotes:

“I think he had made a practice of trying to apologize for America. I personally am proud of America.” – Donald Rumseld

“Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country.” – Tim Pawlenty

There is also a Heritage Foundation list entitled, “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower”, and Karl Rove published an article in the Wall Street Journal, “The President’s Apology Tour”.

And since Mitt Romney doesn’t know when to stop, here are a few he put together himself:

“I will begin my presidency with the jobs tour. President Obama began his with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President America has freed other nations from dictators.” – acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention

“The president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America.” – during the first debacleate

“The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.” – during the second debate

Mitt even named his damn book No Apology, and wrote in it, “I will not and I will never apologize for America. I don’t apologize for America, because I believe in America.”

Here’s the problem: that apology tour never happened. NO ONE DENIES THIS.

FactCheck.org disagrees using mild language. CNN simply called the allegation false. Fact Checker at the Washington Post gave the allegations “four Pinnochios”. Politifact rated the “apology tour” canard “Pants-on-fire”. I hope Mitt can afford a replacement pair of pants.

But thanks to Obama’s recent visit to Israel, fresh evidence that Goebbels’ old adage still rings true: if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth – in this case, Obama finally did go on an apology tour:

Continue reading

Barefoot Bandit strikes again — with an appropriately-named cookbook

barefoot bandit
Standard

The Seattle Times ran a feel-good story yesterday about Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit who — you may recall — captured the nation’s attention a few years back as he raced across the country, one jump ahead of the lawmen. In case you need a reminder, the article includes a synopsis — and if you don’t, skip this excerpt:

Harris-Moore grew up poor on Camano Island, north of Seattle, raised by an alcoholic mother and a series of her felon boyfriends — a feral childhood he wouldn’t wish on his “darkest enemies,” he once wrote to a judge. He earned his first conviction at age 12, in 2004, for stolen property, and things only got worse. After he walked away from a halfway house in 2008, he embarked on a two-year burglary spree, breaking into unoccupied vacation homes and stores, and stealing money and food.

Some of the crimes were committed barefoot, and by 2010, he had rocketed to international notoriety as he stole small airplanes in the Northwest, flew them with no formal training and landed them with various degrees of success. A few were only lightly damaged, but two crashes were so severe he could have been killed.

His final run was a cross-country dash to an airport in Indiana, where he stole a plane, crashed it in the Bahamas, and was arrested in a hail of bullets.

The feel-good story is primarily about a Boeing project manager who took Harris-Moore under his wing (pun intended), but I found myself most interested in the article’s brief aside describing how he is paying back some of the damage he caused:

He pleaded guilty to dozens of charges, apologized, and sold the rights to his story to FOX, which plans a movie. Any proceeds will repay his victims.

The ink’s been dry on that movie deal for a year and a half now, but while the result — a modern-day Catch Me If You Can, but less clever and more trashy — should certainly be interesting, why stop there? We know Harris-Moore somehow learned to read and write while doing everything but attend school, so how about a memoir? Maybe a line of high-end apparel — or better, footwear?

The possibilities are basically endless.

And now, thanks to the Seattle Times, we learn the long wait is over: for his next act, the Barefoot Bandit is going to publish a cookbook featuring — presumably — the culinary wisdom he accrued living in the wild from the age of seven. From reading the Hatchet, Brian’s Winter, The River, Julie and the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, the Boxcar Children (Book I), and I’m sure others that just aren’t coming to mind, I imagine survival involved a lot of scavenging for raw fruits, vegetables, grub, maybe the occasional moose… and I’m going to ignore that part of the article where it says he survived by stealing food from vacation homes.

Anyway, this project could really be a real hit among urban foragers. And he’s off to a good start with a perfect title:

Continue reading

On Israel trip, Obama picks up free lesson in carma

obama bumper car
Standard

Obama last week announced a $2b federal investment in clean energy technologies to replace gasoline. I suppose he hoped the money would mollify buy environmentalist critics and convince them not to make a fuss when he inevitably decides to approve Keystone XL.

“Sure, the Canadians can harvest all the tar sands, but at least no one will be buying it because we all drive electric cars now,” concluded no pessimist realist environmentalist ever.

Now, $2 billion is a lot of money. Shouldn’t that kind of investment make the environmental community happy? Can anything make an environmentalist happy? Isn’t all this sour grapes just a little bit overboard?

Well, no. For one thing, $2b is not a lot of money — especially when it’s spread out over ten years. Compare that to the $800b bailout. Or more pertinently, compare that to $50b in “green spending” from the stimulus. Or the original $150b Obama promised for this kind of research. Or even more pertinently, the $133.8 billion to $280.8 billion annually from all sources of taxpayer aid that goes to the oil and gas industry. [OK, that last number's probably a little too high -- but it's all going to what basically amounts to a poor investment.]

I could go on, but you get the idea: this is 2013. I don’t need to explain that $2b is chump change. With that money, Obama could have bought the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So because Obama failed to adequately provide adequate fuels, it was only appropriate when adequate fuels failed to provide for him. The first headline I spotted Wednesday morning when I woke up (hours after Obama had landed in Israel): Backup presidential limo on its way for Obama in Israel after fuel filling failure.

What exactly happened?

Continue reading

Obama’s trip to Israel *really* helps clarify his relationship with Bibi

obama bibi
Standard

A lot of ink has been spilled analyzing the relationship between the current leaders of Israel and its closest ally. Tension. Drama. Snubs. Dislike. Hot mic. These two should get a room — or better, a TV show. Even I’ve indulged in the soap opera from time to time [See: The real reason Obama and Bibi can’t just get along].

But Obama’s visit this week allowed pundits to recalibrate their assessment of his relationship with his Israeli counterpart. Here’s a quick sample:

Bibi and Obama in Love? – The Daily Beast

Obama and Bibi make nice – Open Zion (OK, technically also The Daily Beast)

Body language ‘shows improvement’ in Obama-Bibi – Yediot Aharonot

Bibi suddenly eager to wash Obama’s car – The Forward [this one is a month old, but it has a picture]

The question made its way into an Obama laugh line — “Any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet” [who knew Rap Genius had moved on to Presidential speeches?] — and the Israeli Embassy in DC even put together a Golden Girls-themed promotional video [ICYMI]:

Continue reading