Friday, June 30, 2006

Sadhu soccer

Photo of the day (via Andrew Sullivan), and a lot more interesting than either of the two matches today.

Oh yeah, Italy won 3-0 over Ukraine and Germany beat Argentina on penalty kicks. Snooze. Tomorrow is the day....

By the way, Pelé is betting on France.


I should say that the match between Italy and the Ukraine did have one nice feature: that beautiful move at the side of the box that the great Andriy Shevchenko pulled on two Italian defenders in about the 90th minute. Probably the nicest piece of offensive ball-handling we've seen yet in this World Cup.

The Hamdan decision

My colleague Peter Levine on the Hamdan decision:

I can imagine, first, that Hamdan will become a watershed case, standing for the principle that the executive is a dangerous branch, especially when the country appears to be threatened. The executive has guns, jails, and interrogation rooms; it has the capacity (unlike Congress) to make secret decisions. It is prone to overreach and violate individual liberties. Hamdan could represent the idea that the president must obey laws, including such international treaties as the Geneva Convention. George W. Bush could become an illustration of a dangerous president who was brought under control by the court.

If public opinion crystallized around that view, then Congress would not pass legislation to preserve the tribunals. Many Members would share Rep. Adam Schiff's view that the Hamdan decision should not only close Guantanamo, but also end warrantless wiretapping. (As Jack Balkin notes, the administration's use of wiretaps without court orders had the same justification as Guantanamo: the use-of-force resoluton). It is even conceivable that prominent people would start clamoring for prosecutions of men like Donald Rumsfeld for violating Article 3 of the Geneva Convention in contravention of US law.

I can also imagine, however, that Hamdan will be wrapped together with the New York Times' leaks of banking surveillance and the Democrats' criticisms of the Pentagon. People will believe that various "elites" are putting the country at risk by following foreign opinion and hamstringing the president. Under those circumstances, Congress will feel safe in reinstating the Guantanamo tribunals by statute. The status quo will resume and the Hamdan decision will become a footnote. It will be cited when people want presidents to consult with Congress, but the executive will feel confident in refusing to do so. (For this scenario, see my colleague Mark Graber on Balkinization.)

Friday dinner party conversation stopper

Spend the years of learning squandering
Courage for the years of wandering
Through the world politely turning
From the loutishness of learning.

- Samuel Beckett, Gnome

Tour de France - huge news

Adding to the wonderful June-July 2006 surfeit of sports, the Tour de France starts this weekend. What had looked to be a great Tour, however, is now at serious risk of completely falling apart.

Today there's huge news: Jan Ullrich, perhaps the favorite, has been suspended and will not ride in this year's Tour.
The T-Mobile cycling team said Friday that it had suspended 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich amid a doping scandal in Spain, forcing the star German rider out of cycling's premier race this year.

Luuc Eisenga, T-Mobile spokesman, said both Ullrich and fellow rider Oscar Sevilla were immediately suspended. "They will not ride in the Tour," which starts Saturday, he said. The team also suspended the sporting director Rudi Pevenage, he said.
Further, the other main favorite, Ivan Basso, has also been suspended as well as several others.
Other names included American Tyler Hamilton, Colombian Santiago Botero and Spaniards Francisco Mancebo, Joseba Beloki, Roberto Heras, Santi Perez and Jose Enrique Gutierrez, the station reported.
Wow. The more I look into this, the more this news is huge. This could spell real disaster for the Tour. Ullrich, Sevilla, Mancebo, Beloki, and Basso are all out. It looks like T-Mobile may be pulling out entirely, bringing with it another favorite, Andréas Klöden. Others to come....

Globalization and participation

One view of globalization says that globalization itself - whatever it is - has not really happened for much of the world, that its promises are largely unfulfilled. The French economist, Daniel Cohen, argues that globalization is not a relation of exploitation (the North's exploitation of the South), but one of constantly dashed aspirations. Cohen writes that "on the relatively short time scale of capitalism, what is striking is [globalization's] poor capacity to diffuse technical progress rather than its propensity to impose progress everywhere." The central claim is that the world's poor is excluded from globalization, not that globalization necessarily rests on relations of exploitation and manipulation.

A further claim is that much of the world views Northern / Western technological, economic, and political development as presenting desirable examples for a better world for poorer countries and peoples. No one wants a superimposed model exported from, say, the US, which would restructure the whole of a society towards an American-style emphasis on economic growth and rugged individualism über alles. That would not be participation, but tyranny. Rather, the question is one of both access to processes of globalization and participation in creating the rules by which the world operates. "For countries in the South, and to a certain degree for European countries with respect to the United States, to be dispossessed from creating new knowledge and new technology is equated with exclusion from History... Poor countries want sewers and medicines. These wants do not conflict with a desire to participate in writing a global history that does not amount to mechanically imitating the most advanced countries."

Although it's easy to view North-South relations as built upon an edifice of exploitation, I think something like Cohen's view is important. You see it traveling, talking to and working with the poor around the world. I once talked to a man selling off family trinkets in a market in Kathmandu (in Nepal, the fourth poorest country in the world). He took me back to his home for tea. His wife moaned softly under a mosquito net, suffering from malarial fever. The man told me that I had no need to be ashamed of my ability to have traleved to Nepal. He would do the same if he lived in a different economy. He would travel the world. Being born into one economy or the other was an accident of existence.

We often assume, however, that disparities in economic well-being are a product of some inherent superiority. This assumption runs through the grand development organizations as well and leads them to operate on the further assumption that their models of economic well-being are universally correct. Students of development issues know that this assumption is erroneous. Development itself could be otherwise, although the very language by which we describe development implies a progression from Point A to Point B where those points are pre-defined by those in the position of Point B. In other words, it suggests a law to history and progress that a genuinely historical perspective (and philosophical critique) cannot confirm. While this "law" is attractive to those who benefit from its implementation in the tools of trade, markets, and economic institutions, the tools and those who benefit continue to inscribe a certain vision of history on the world that excludes the world's majority from that history. Either you're in it, according to the "law," or you're outside of it. We then entertain otherwise spurious theses about "clashes of civilizations" and so on - the inside and the outside to the law of global rightness. But it's the "law" itself that needs rewriting if it is to be one of genuine participation.

If we take a peek at more concrete processes of globalization, in terms of global trade, we see mechanisms that are less exploitative (in the sense of exploitation discussed above) than they are a function of the relative inability to participate in writing the rules of global trade. The WTO is itself one of those exclusive organizations, which presents itself as the arbiter of global fairness, at least regarding trade disputes.

Today, an article in the Washington Post underscores one of these prime examples. But it requires maintaining a savvy distinction between appearance and reality.

Farm trade, though by no means the only issue, is the chief focus of the Doha round of trade talks, named for the Qatari capital, where they were launched in 2001. That is because agricultural goods, the mainstay of many poor countries' economies, face steep tariffs and other obstacles in the markets of many rich countries. Another major grievance of developing nations is the billions of dollars in subsidies that farmers in rich countries receive from their governments. The payments encourage excess production of crops, which leads to gluts on world markets, depressing prices.

Time and again, the WTO's 149 members have missed self-imposed deadlines to agree on how to cut farm tariffs and subsidies, and tariffs on manufactured goods. A gathering in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003 collapsed, and subsequent deadlines in December 2005 and April 2006 were not met. This weekend, negotiators are struggling with a draft accord with more than 760 passages marked in brackets indicating differences in negotiating positions, an exceptionally high number.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Summer sunset, Mani, Greece

Photo by Helmut

A spot of good news about torture and detention

From Balkinization:
The Supreme Court decided today that the Bush Administration lacked authority to set up military tribunals for the Guantanamo detainees, and that the tribunals also violated both applicable military law and the Geneva Conventions.

Justice Stevens wrote the main opinion, joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, and joined in part by Justice Kennedy, who wrote separately. Chief Justice Roberts, who joined in the opinion of the D.C. Circuit below, recused himself. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito each wrote dissenting opinions.

As Marty notes over on SCOTUSBlog, the big news is that the Court has now held that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions are judicially enforceable and binding on the President. That provision of the Geneva Conventions also bans cruel treatment and torture. The Supreme Court has decided that the Geneva Conventions aren't so quaint after all.

See also Balkin's longer assessment.

And Greenwald's take as well.

And here for the Scotusblog discussion.

The eyes of... are upon you

Via Decorabilia, check this out:

We all know the scene: the departmental coffee room, with the price list for tea and coffee on the wall and the “honesty box” where you pay for your drinks – or not, because no one is watching.

In a finding that will have office managers everywhere scurrying for the photocopier, researchers have discovered that merely a picture of watching eyes nearly trebled the amount of money put in the box.

Melissa Bateson and colleagues at Newcastle University, UK, put up new price lists each week in their psychology department coffee room. Prices were unchanged, but each week there was a photocopied picture at the top of the list, measuring 15 by 3 centimetres, of either flowers or the eyes of real faces. The faces varied but the eyes always looked directly at the observer.

In weeks with eyes on the list, staff paid 2.76 times as much for their drinks as in weeks with flowers. “Frankly we were staggered by the size of the effect,” Gilbert Roberts, one of the researchers, told New Scientist.

If we want to live like that.... You know I once heard from an anthropologist - and I have no idea if this is true - that a sea on the dark side, if the moon was turned 180 degrees, would have the appearance to earthlings of a giant eye in the sky. Consider, if true, what that might have meant for the evolution of human beings.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mudflaps, Nagoya, Japan

Photo by Helmut

Let's Go Montenegro

Newly independent Montenegro becomes the 192nd member of the United Nations.

A once college roommate and current journalist friend of mine, Drew Sullivan, takes us on a tour.

Diving competition

Austin Kelley at Slate provides a defense of diving in soccer. It's unclear what the defense is, but he admires a fine dive. Italy fan, no doubt.

In a 2003 article, the Observer presents a list of the "10 Best Football Dives." A few of my favorite excerpts:
Roberto Rojas
Brazil v Chile, World Cup qualifier, 3 September 1989

Overrun and intimidated, Chile needed a way out. The plan: force an abandonment and a replay in a neutral venue. The execution: on 69 minutes, goalkeeper Rojas threw himself into the smoke of a firecracker, which had landed nearby, pulled a razor blade from his glove and stabbed himself in the head. The result: lots of blood, a mass brawl, a walkout, an abandonment - but, after video evidence, no replay. Instead, Brazil were awarded the game, Chile were out of one World Cup and excluded from the next, Rojas was banned for life and the woman who threw the firecracker was signed up by Playboy Brazil.

El-Hadji Diouf
Senegal v Uruguay, World Cup, 11 June 2002

On his way round Uruguay keeper Fabian Carini, El-Hadji Diouf felt the keeper's breath on his shin. The gust blew him up, then down, then all over the penalty area. Replays confirmed no contact - as in, none at all - had been made.

Brazil v Turkey, World Cup, 3 June 2002

Hit in the leg by a football - always nasty - Rivaldo felt the pain searing in his face. Referee Yung Joo Kim, seeing him clutch his head, sent off the ball-kicker, Hakan Unsal.

Charles Grassley wants to pimp your pimp

I've always thought pimps weren't taxed enough compared to billionaires. How about a Flat Pimp Tax? From Raw Story:
Pimps and sex traffickers could soon find themselves being chased by tax collectors, not just the vice squad.

Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, wants the Internal Revenue Service to chase after pimps and sex traffickers with the same fervor it stalked gangster Al Capone for tax evasion.

Grassley, R-Iowa, would hit pimps with fines and lengthy prison sentences for failing to file employment forms and withhold taxes for the women and girls under their command.

Child dialogue

I'm a big fan of child dialogue. What mystery! What humor! Children can help us examine the boundaries of meaning, take us on little trips through the imagination, welcome us into their world and allow us to play, and test our propriety. Neal Pollack seems to have a knack for sliding easily into that world.
Later, I walked into the living room. Elijah was laying on top of Regina, watching The Iron Giant for the 500th time.

"Your son just told me I had a baby in my tummy," Regina said.

"Elijah," I said. "That's not appropriate. Tell your mommy that she's beautiful."

"No," Elijah said. "You're beautiful, daddy."

"Thank you, son, but you still have to be nice to mommy."

"I told him that he had a baby in his fat ass," said Regina.

"Nice," I said.

"Daddy, I have a fat ass," Elijah said.

"No one in this house has a fat ass!" I exclaimed. "OK?"

"OK!" said my son to me. "You're a talking banana."

That was an insult I could accept. Another great moment in fatherhood had concluded. So I went away and hid in back of the house until it was time for Elijah to go to bed.

Kissinger: help yourself

I completely missed this one. (Via Sisyphus Shrugged).
Henry A. Kissinger quietly acknowledged to China in 1972 that Washington could accept a communist takeover of South Vietnam if that evolved after a withdrawal of U.S. troops -- even as the war to drive back the communists dragged on with mounting deaths.

President Richard M. Nixon's envoy told Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai: "If we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina."

Security research

Via Robert Dreyfuss:
[Wolf] Blitzer: Why does the government say he [your brother Stanley Phanor (one of the supposed Sears Tower plot would-be terrorists - Helmut)] is also known as "Brother Sunni"?

Ms. [Marlene] Phanor: They all call themselves 'brothers'. Why, I don't know... but the whole little group calls themselves 'brother'.

Blitzer: Did you ever hear your brother being called "Sunni"?

Ms. Phanor: Yeah. That's his nickname. It's not "Sunni". It's "Sunny"... like it's a sunny day. Yeah, that's his name.

Blitzer: So the confusion is he was called Sunny and not Sunni... because as you know Sunni is one of the religious groups in Islam.

Ms. Phanor: No, I didn't know that but now that I know... no it's not for that. That's his nickname and it's spelled S-u-n-n-y... as in sunny day. That's his nickname ever since birth....

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

France vs. Spain: The Sweet Game

This is the game I like. Sweet soccer. 1-1 at the half.

France looks pretty damn good. Spain got its goal on a penalty kick where the penalty could have been called either way. Other than this, the underrated French defense is effectively closing down the Spanish attack, while the French have been stretching out the Spanish defense. The French goal came from Ribery on a nice (that is, sweet) feed by Vieira. If I had to put money on it, I'd place bets on Les Bleus at this point. They look better than Spain.

If you're not watching, you should be....

Ghana vs. Brazil this morning was fine. Ghana played a better match. Brazil won 3-0. Strange soccer. Ronaldo broke the record for most ever World Cup goals. Honestly, I still think he's overrated. If you stand there and have those other Brazilian players backing you up, you wait, take a few steps, and shoot. That has always been Ronaldo's game.

UPDATE (5pm), Gloating Edition:

Doo, doo, doo, la, la, la.... What was it that Helmut said yesterday?

"Spain looks great, and it's good to see this. France, however, is coming around. Few people - anecdotally speaking - have been talking about France at all except to say that they're old and look inept. This could be the match that shows how dangerous it is to underestimate an opponent. Remember, player by player, there's no other team in the World Cup apart from perhaps Brazil with the world class caliber of the French - Henry, Trezeguet, Zidane, Vieira, Thuram, Sagnol, Makalele, etc. If they can pull it together as a team... ouch."

They pulled it together today. 3-1, France over Spain. Yes, Henry took a dive and that set up the second goal off of a Vieira header. I'm not proud of that. But there's a big difference between the relatively dive-free teams of France and Spain playing this afternoon and watching a team that dives first and decides to play soccer second like Italy.

The other two goals were a neat feed to Ribery and a terrific touch-pass by Wiltord to Zidane in injury time, who brought it down against one defender, lost him, then slotted across his body to the opposite side of the Spanish goalie's lunge.

Spain held possession much of the game and created some chances. But those chances seldom came by breaking down the French defense. The Spanish defense held well too, but allowed Ribery to get behind them and gave up the third goal while pushing ahead late in the game trying to tie it and leaving their defense exposed. Despite the possession, the game was very close. Nice possessions on both sides, great defense overall, lots of good attacking, and fluid play in the middle. Even the fouls were relatively clean, including the three (I believe) yellow cards.

So, France will now face Brazil. I'm wary of pushing my luck on how far the French can go, but, again, Brazil should not underestimate them. Brazil, after all, was outplayed today by Ghana, despite their victory. Two of the Brazilian goals came on Ghana's poor execution of an offsides trap, which is what Ronaldo loves (because he can stand there digesting his lunch until the ball comes to him). France will not make that mistake because they don't play that kind of game.

STF/AFP/Getty Images


Crying wolf over leaks

Jack Balkin:
The Bush Administration is quite upset with newspaper reports that it is spying on people's financial records, arguing that revelation of the secret surveillance program undermines our struggle against global terror. In the abstract, at least, the Administration has a point. The difficulty is that the Administration so often leaks sensitive information for political purposes that we can no longer be sure when we should really be concerned. Because the Administration is so transparently political in its behavior, it's hard to take all of its claims of severe damage to our national interests at face value...


When the rain comes.... Another day of lychens appearing where they did not previously appear. Of people walking in the streets of DC with snorkeling equipment. Of yellow submarine research. Of the plants growing up the interior walls. Of that curiously expanding green spot on my elbow.

The EPA's Ariel Ross building is closed today due to flooding. This is where my course is this first summer session. We're currently discussing the international climate change regime.

Jour by journalism


The President and his administration are furious at the New York Times and other media outlets for revealing details of the Treasury Department's secret program to monitor financial transactions.

Here's what Press Secretary Tony Snow had to say:

[T]he New York Times and other news organizations ought to think long and hard about whether a public’s right to know in some cases might override somebody’s right to live, and whether in fact the publications of these could place in jeopardy the safety of fellow Americans.

Asked whether the White House attacks on the New York Times represented an effort “to create a chilling effect on media outlets,” Snow responded, “I don’t think so.” [ThinkProgress]

Watch the video of Snow's attack at ThinkProgress.

In other news, China may impose fines on journalists who report on disasters without permission.

Unruly model update

I've said it before; I'll say it again. I do have a penchant for the Unruly Model news. In this episode, Naomi Campbell hits her maids.

Monday, June 26, 2006

World Cup update - Now with Helmutian Probability Theory


1. I picked the Czechs to win the whole thing. Zap.

2. I thought Italy would be upset in the group round. I underestimated their genius at falling down at the right time. The Spitting Man himself, Totti, made the penalty kick today after Italian diving brilliance. The English announcers thought the Totti kick had some mystical significance. I think it means there is no God.

3. I thought Cote d'Ivoire would advance - another upset. I was wrong. But they played damn well, and I'll be pulling for them next Cup.

4. I thought the US was stronger than they were. It's tough to tell now. They played crappy football except for the Italy match and the Italians are the best at falling down. How does one assess this?


1. That Ghana would advance to the second round (and the US would come in last in their group). Go Ghana tomorrow!

2. That the French wouldn't go out in the group round. They are far too talented for a second World Cup of ignominy. But they're in an odd purgatory between having exceptional individual talent, very rough team talent, needing to play as a team, and needing their individuals to step up and take over a game.

3. That neither Spain nor Portugal are underachieving teams this year. I hope I'm proven wrong about Spain tomorrow in the match with France. And I now doubt that Portugal can move on after the red card-a-thon with Holland yesterday. So, this is a borderline "right." At least Portugal made the second round for the first time in 40 years. I would not overlook France pulling off an upset of sorts against Spain tomorrow.

Have we, now?

"The American people have determined that the good to be derived from capital punishment — in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes — outweighs the risk of error. It is no proper part of the business of this court, or of its justices, to second-guess that judgment, much less to impugn it before the world ...," Scalia wrote.

Cup o' World

In a just world the France-Spain match would be today rather than tomorrow, when I teach. Alas, doomed to the eternal darkness of this tragic, tragic, godless world.

Things are looking sketchier and sketchier, in my view. Portugal vs. Holland was a complete mess. One of the ugliest games I've seen in some time. Both teams were hacking each other, the ref taped a yellow card to his forehead and ran around the field, and the game itself was so butchered into bits and pieces that some lovely attempts on goal were due as much to chaos as anything else.

England vs. Ecuador was a bore. I really thought this could be an upset. But Ecuador seemed content simply to be there. Everybody talks about Beckham. That curling goal is his job. He hasn't lived up to it much recently.

Today there's Australia vs. Italy. Ugh - another slapfest. Every match is a potential upset for Italy. And then the Ukraine vs. Switzerland. Also ugh. Switzerland should put on a bit of a show. They look quite solid.

Spain vs. France tomorrow.... That's the match. Spain looks great, and it's good to see this. France, however, is coming around. Few people - anecdotally speaking - have been talking about France at all except to say that they're old and look inept. This could be the match that shows how dangerous it is to underestimate an opponent. Remember, player by player, there's no other team in the World Cup apart from perhaps Brazil with the world class caliber of the French - Henry, Trezeguet, Zidane, Vieira, Thuram, Sagnol, Makalele, etc. If they can pull it together as a team... ouch.

Brazil vs. Ghana will also be good. Brazil is like Roger Federer - if the opponent plays better, you raise your own game. They've won squeakers, but haven't really been challenged yet. Ghana should provide the challenge if they come out believing they can win. The weakness, as always with African teams, is defense. Brazil will try to exploit Ghana's defense quickly and often. Brazil's defense, however, has looked shaky at times. With Ghana's counterattacking speed up front, we could have the biggest upset of the Cup here.

UPDATE (8:40pm):

"Switzerland should put on a bit of a show." Hahahaha... stupid Helmut. Three missed shots in the shootout. I've never seen that. Shootouts are already lame, but that was a lame shootout (after a lame game).

Super superimposition

“every…Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison type Gasholders,”
Idris Kahn 2004.
From Gravestmor (via BLDGBLOG).

Dead civilians, bad news

The US military is now apparently keeping count of how many civilians it kills in Iraq. The reason is not that killing civilians is itself intrinsically a bad thing, but that dead civilians are a negative instrumentality regarding how safe troops are in Iraq. See, after several years of saying that they "don't do" records of civilian deaths, they've found that killing civilians makes for unhappy live civilians who then make for a more unruly Iraq. So, let's count.
The death of civilians at the hands of U.S. troops has fueled the insurgency in Iraq, according to a top-level U.S. military commander, who said U.S. officials began keeping records of these deaths last summer.

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who as head of the Multinational Corps Iraq is the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said the number of civilian dead and wounded is an important measurement of how effectively U.S. forces are interacting with the Iraqi people.

"We have people who were on the fence or supported us who in the last two years or three years have in fact decided to strike out against us. And you have to ask: Why is that? And I would argue in many instances we are our own worst enemy," Chiarelli told Knight Ridder.

Chiarelli said he reviews the figures daily. If fewer civilians are killed, "I think that will make our soldiers safer," Chiarelli said.

Dead fugitive bear

"A shot was fired; the bear is dead," said Manfred Woelfl, the Bavarian state government's bear specialist.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Start off your week curmudgeonistically

I missed the Friday Dinner Party Conversation Stopper. In its place we have the Sunday Curmudgeonism:

"Loss is constitutive of the very idea of community."

Thomas Hilde, The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism.

Angry marginalia

In all my bad blogging habits, I often neglect to pick up the blogging theme of the week. I see that this week's theme is once again "The Angry Lefty Blogger." Lefty bloggers are angry about accusations by the Right that they're angry. The Right says, "see they're angry." And then the Left goes, like, "dude, I am not angry" and makes one of those Elmer Fudd "ooooooooooo"s. And then the Right goes.... And the Left goes....

That's this week's blogging theme and analysis. If you would like links, click anywhere on the internets.

UPDATE (1:38pm, June 26th):

See also Marcus' (The Washington Syndrome) prophesy regarding anger as a political tool for one's opponents.

A step behind? Nay!

Speaking freely about shutting up

The big rightwing blogger, Michelle Malkin - who I don't believe I've ever linked to - photoshops some older propaganda posters to her liking here. The collective message is apparently that liberals (with the New York Times as commander-in-chief) ought not to speak about the war or they are otherwise traitors. It's a curious exercise in shut-up-ism since it attempts to reclaim messages that we generally view as anachronistic, and often shameful, and assume that this is the "moral high ground."

Terrorizing South America

The US is looking to push the War on Terror to South America through further demonization of Venezuela. This isn't new. But it has gained... traction through a concerted effort and by Venezuela's insistence on going its own way in relations with Iran.
The VenIran low-rise tractor factory in remote eastern Venezuela is one of the signs of Iran's growing presence in Venezuela, which is being monitored by a U.S. government on alert for any evidence that Iran may be exporting terrorism.

Such evidence would come in handy to the United States, which is engaged in a pull-out-the-stops campaign to prevent Venezuela from securing the rotating Latin American seat on the United Nations Security Council. The vote is scheduled for October.
See also (via Duck ofMinerva) this piece on Ahmadinejad (as well as my earlier post on Ahmadinejad's tactics re the US).

On another note, Oil Wars spots another bit of counterargument to the claim of state collapse in Venezuela. unemployment numbers came out today and showed the unemployment rate in May was 10.2%. But within the report there was an even more important set of numbers. And that is that the number of formal sector jobs in May 2006 was 5,836,163 versus 5,401,526 in May 2005. In other words, 434,637 new jobs were created last year in Venezuela last year. So the notion that Venezuela is experiencing "jobless growth" is simply false.

Species migration and global warming

Jim Hansen in the NY Review of Books:

Studies of more than one thousand species of plants, animals, and insects, including butterfly ranges charted by members of the public, found an average migration rate toward the North and South Poles of about four miles per decade in the second half of the twentieth century. That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails ("isotherms") have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. That is the size of a county in Iowa. Each decade the range of a given species is moving one row of counties northward.

As long as the total movement of isotherms toward the poles is much smaller than the size of the habitat, or the ranges in which the animals live, the effect on species is limited. But now the movement is inexorably toward the poles and totals more than a hundred miles over the past several decades. If emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase at the current rate—"business as usual"—then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade. If we continue on this path, a large fraction of the species on Earth, as many as 50 percent or more, may become extinct.

Tragic Tulsa Toddlers

It's a scenario that's tragically repeated dozens of times a year: A parent places a toddler in the back seat of a vehicle on a hot day and later becomes distracted, leaving the child inside to swelter and die.
Especially, it seems, when you're in Oklahoma.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

China's arms business

This is the real Chinese human rights disaster, but don't look for the US, UK, Russia, and France to make a big deal out of it any time soon. The US is the largest supplier. Good business. Bad business to criticize the human rights implications. This is China entering a market that few states want to see ended.
In a rebel camp along the barren, windswept border between Sudan and Chad, dozens of trucks packed with dreadlocked fighters manning heavy machine guns are lined up.

Piled up behind them are ammunition boxes, covered in Chinese symbols -- it's impossible to know exactly where the bullets in the boxes came from but they offer a glimpse of the complex and circuitous routes of the global arms trade.

United Nations investigators have found most of the small arms fueling the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur are Chinese despite an arms ban on a region where tens of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million squat in squalid camps.

"China has been, and continues to be, a major supplier of light weapons to the government of Sudan and many of the neighboring states," said Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, one of four U.N. experts on a panel which recommended 17 players in the Darfur conflict be sanctioned for obstructing peace.

The Goldwaters

A Republican gubernatorial candidate's call for creation of a forced labor camp for illegal immigrants drew rebukes Friday from two GOP lawmakers, who labeled it a low point in the immigration debate.

Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, caused an international stir this week when EFE, a Mexican news service, quoted him as saying he wanted to hold undocumented immigrants in camps to use them "as labor in the construction of a wall and to clean the areas of the Arizona desert that they're polluting."

Resurgent insurgent Afghanistan

Karzai speaks:
KANDAHAR - Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has attacked Britain, the United States and other nations with troops in Afghanistan, calling on them to "reassess the manner in which the war on terror is conducted", as the death toll in Afghanistan passed 600 in four weeks.

The Afghan President, who has seen support for his Government collapse in the violent and economically stagnant south of the country, distanced himself from the ongoing military operations there, which involve 11,000 troops.

"It is not acceptable for us that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying," he told reporters at his first press conference for at least six months. "In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed. [Even] if they are Taleban, they are sons of this land."...

The Taleban now have three different press spokesmen covering three separate regions of the country.

In Kandahar this northern summer, Taleban cassettes, DVDs and magazines are available in numbers never previously seen. Their focus is the "puppet" Government of Karzai and its complicity in what is portrayed as the Western military persecution of ordinary Afghans.

Take off that nefarious bandana

Now we can say that a mall is private property, can be used largely as the owner sees fit, and so there's no big issue here. "Private property" is, of course, sacrosanct and functions in America as an argument on its own.
A southwest Missouri mall defended its dress code after a security guard told a 10-year-old girl her bandanna decorated with peace signs, smiley faces and flowers violated the mall’s code of conduct...

Christine Moses, director of mall marketing, noted the mall is privately owned and behavior on its premises can be regulated.
We could also say that in the ideological drive to privatize nearly everything, the environment is shaped in subtle, controlling ways that our limited imaginations tend to think only authoritarian government does. This drive to privatize is combined with a general cultural drift towards the fetishization of security (in a politically manipulated climate of fear).
Lydia had violated No. 10 on the list of 17 offenses: "failing to be fully clothed or wearing apparel which is likely to provide a disturbance or embroil other groups or the general public in open conflict."
There's nothing like a bandana to create widespread social unrest.... In the end, they might be worried about hippies or other such threats to security. Who knows? But it really doesn't matter - "private property." Whatever. It's just a bandana. I'd also never recommend going to a mall for anything.

Total privatization plus security fetishization, however, shapes the environment in which we all live.
Similar policies are in place at 285 Simon properties in 39 states and Puerto Rico.
(Via Maxspeaks).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chicken Little

In his first novel - The Space Merchants - Frederick Pohl described a world in which everyone was fed from a giant featureless mass of throbbing flesh (tastes like chicken) from which chunks were sliced and packaged for shipping and consumption. The mass of living flesh was sardonically called "Chicken Little."

Now we have our own Chicken Little: the "meat sheet."

A single cell could theoretically produce enough meat to feed the world's population for a year. But the challenge lies in figuring out how to grow it on a large scale. Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest, a nonprofit organization that funds research on in vitro meat, believes the easiest way to create edible tissue is to grow "meat sheets," which are layers of animal muscle and fat cells stretched out over large flat sheets made of either edible or removable material. The meat can then be ground up or stacked or rolled to get a thicker cut.

"You'd need a bunch of industrial-size bioreactors," says Matheny. "One to produce the growth media, one to produce cells, and one that produces the meat sheets. The whole operation could be under one roof."

The advantage, he says, is you avoid the inefficiencies and bottlenecks of conventional meat production. No more feed grain production and processing, breeders, hatcheries, grow-out, slaughter or processing facilities.

"To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue," says Matheny. "With cultured meat, there's no body to support; you're only building the meat that eventually gets eaten."

Top nouns

Without further ado, here they are (via The Square of the Hypotenuse):

1 Time
2 Person
3 Year
4 Way
5 Day
6 Thing
7 Man
8 World
9 Life
10 Hand

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Photo: Juhanson


It's time to say that the referees for this World Cup are a scandal. I'll agree with a deserved card even when it goes against my team. I still think the red on Mastroeni - though it could have been a yellow - was within the realm of red cards.

Undeserved yellow cards and penalties, however, are changing entire games and teams' chances for the entire World Cup. A terrible call may have just decided the US-Ghana match. A yellow may have decided France's match tomorrow by eliminating Zidane from the game.

It has gone beyond enforcing strict rules to deciding matches based on poor refereeing, and that is a scandal.

World Cup Update (11:55):

The US is out. Deservedly. They did a nice job against Italy, and made a lovely goal today, but that's it.

The US needs real forwards. McBride is great and tireless. Donovan and Beasley are mediocre soccer players in the world arena. Beasley is too weak and gives up the ball too often and Donovan doesn't have the skill of a finisher. They may be better in MLS, but I've never seen it at the world level. The team is frustrating to watch. They look slow - not as advertised - they lack someone to feed the forwards, and they can't finish (except for McBride). The defense was okay. Onyewu was beaten during the Czech match but stepped up well for Italy and Ghana.

The US also needs a new coach. Arena lacks imagination and, as a result, the team lacks imagination. Something is wrong there. He's too conservative.

On the other hand... congratulations to Ghana! They could very well challenge Brazil.

European identity

Via the indispensable Political Theory Daily Review comes this article by Tzvetan Todorov in Cafe Babel.
...Contrary to what the fears expressed here or there let you imagine, reinforcing a European identity does not destroy a national identity: Europe is not one nation and never will be. These two identities are not incompatible. The proof? Each of us, whether we know it or not, already have several. First of all, we have a cultural identity, in the broad sense of the term, which we obtain during our childhood with no intervention on our part. Above all else, it consists of our mother tongue and hence the conception of the world contained therein; a religion (or lack of it); memories of countryside; culinary or bodily habits; but also of cultural elements in a narrow sense: books, images, melodies. Next, we have a national and civic identity, held together by solidarity (and not shared emotions anymore): it is based on our economic and social interdependence which has to go through the state budget and taxes, and which is translated into our pension or social security systems, our schools and our public transport. Furthermore, we all have an identity ensuing from our political choices and morals, since we adhere to certain universal principles: thus a democratic regime, the rule of law, and the respect of human rights.

It is to this ensemble of collective identities that the European identity has just been added. It comes from the incontestable consideration of the plurality of nations at the heart of a single entity: Europe. It therefore consists in creating – in the absence of unity – a unity of a higher kind, to convert the difference into identity. We achieve this by committing to coexistence, to comparison and confrontation with those who do not always think or feel like us; by showing tolerance and relinquishing the temptation to impose good by force; by encouraging emulation and at the same time a critical mind by learning, as Kant said, to "think by putting ourselves in the place of others."

Juan Cole and Yale

Many of you will know that Juan Cole did not receive the Yale appointment. Having been through the seemingly arbitrary processes of academic hiring, I can only conclude that it's difficult to conclude something in particular from this case. Others are more certain:

Neoconservatism is an elite calling. It thrives in think tanks, not union halls; its proponents want most of all to influence the powerful. No wonder Ivy League labels have always been important to neocons. This fixation on intellectual prestige explains the recent neocon uprising over the possibility that Juan Cole, scholar and blogger, would become a Yale professor. It was one thing for Cole to hold forth from the University of Michigan, where he has been a professor for twenty years. But Yale would provide "honor" and "imprimatur," says Scott Johnson, a right-wing blogger. "That's a huge thing, to have them bless all his rantings on that blog."

On June 2 Johnson broke the story (on that Yale's Senior Appointments Committee had the day before rejected Cole after three other Yale committees had signed off on him. By then a process that usually takes place behind closed doors had become thoroughly politicized by the right. "I'm saddened and distressed by the news," John Merriman, a Yale history professor, said of the rejection. "I love this place. But I haven't seen something like this happen at Yale before. In this case, academic integrity clearly has been trumped by politics."

The controversy erupted this spring after two campus periodicals reported that Cole was under consideration by Yale for a joint appointment in sociology and history. In an article in the Yale Herald, Campus Watch, a pro-Israel group that monitors scholars' statements about the Middle East, was quoted as saying that Cole lacked a "penetrating mind," and suggesting that Yale was "in danger of sacrificing academic credibility in exchange for the attention" Cole would generate. Alex Joffe, then the director of Campus Watch, told me Cole "has a conspiratorial bent...he tends to see the Mossad and the Likud under his bed." For its part, the Yale Daily News twice featured attacks on Cole by former Bush Administration aide Michael Rubin, a Yale PhD associated with Campus Watch and the American Enterprise Institute. In an op-ed Rubin wrote, "Early in his career, Cole did serious academic work on the 19th century Middle East.... He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary."

Academics dispute this. They say that Yale was drawn to Cole by top-rank scholarly achievement. He is president of the Middle East Studies Association, speaks Arabic and Persian, and has published several books on Egyptian and Shiite history. "We were impressed with Cole's scholarly work, and a wide set of letters showed that he is also highly regarded by other scholars in the field," says political science professor Frances Rosenbluth, a member of the Yale search committee that chose Cole. Zachary Lockman, an NYU Middle Eastern studies professor, says, "It's fair to say he is probably among the leading historians of the modern Middle East in this country." Joshua Landis, a professor at University of Oklahoma, describes Cole as "top notch."

American Conservatism

"Feel the heft of it," said Lee Edwards, a former aide to Senator Barry Goldwater, who appears in the volume with a byline and an entry. "It's more than a book. It is, if you will, an estimate — it shows the maturation of the conservative movement."...

Some entries wear their conservatism on their sleeve. Goldwater's "loyalties were to duty, honor and country." Ronald Reagan had a "vigorous and principled agenda." Bill Clinton was "corrupt."

Others plumb more obscure topics with no obvious tilt. "Public choice economics" describes a theory of how special interests wield power. Two of its proponents have won Nobel Prizes.

The discussion under "Jewish conservatism" acknowledges a history of anti-Semitism on the right. The entry on Abraham Lincoln explores a conservative split between admirers and those who think he laid the groundwork for "contemporary statist liberalism."

The longest entry belongs to "Straussianism," a school of political theory founded by a professor at the University of Chicago, Leo Strauss, that emphasizes classical texts. Embraced by some leading proponents of the Iraq war, Straussianism is often regarded by those beyond its fold as opaque mumbo jumbo, a reputation that five pages of explanation may not dispel.


Pennsylvania voters give Democratic State Treasurer Robert Casey Jr. a 52 - 34 percent lead over incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, with 12 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.


I find this curfuffle over language not terribly interesting in itself -- it's just naked racism -- but when it is put in the complete picture of our national struggles over language, it becomes more amusing. After all, the people demanding that English be recognized as an essential part of our culture are the same folks who call some of us elitist for snickering about the fact that our President cannot speak...say it with me...the English language. Somehow when Bush mangles this sacred part of our heritage it is not an insult to America, no, it makes him more authentically American. But when recent immigrants speak English with limited fluency, that is a threat that needs immediate remedy.

World Cup trek

In 1986, I took the train from Nuevo Laredo on the Texas border to Mexico City with two friends. The trip takes a long time - something like a day and a half. It's hot and the heat seems to rise out of the toilets before passing throughout the train and out the windows. In the mountains, the steep cliffs dropping from the tracks add up their toll in train wrecks crumpled at the bottom. The stops are seemingly interminable. You're nearly always likely to end up helping old women pick spines out of cactus (nopales) to pass the time. Meals come through the windows too, purchased from vendors at each stop. The train represents economy itself, the brief moment in which one earns a living. The rest of the day passes in empty dust. I believe this was also the first time I read Notes from the Underground, an odd choice chugging through the desert, although the endless heat may lead one to self-loathing.

Mexico City also arrives slowly. The train ascends through miles and miles of slums that encircle the sides of the city on the hill. The sight is impressive - corrugated tin and broken boards built one on top of the other, eating up each small bit of packed dirt space. Many inhabitants of Mexico City never see it. They see only the begging and crime in the city. I've been in slums around the world, but Mexico City remains my experiential baseline for the vastness of poverty.

The 1985 earthquake had devastated large portions of the city. Most city blocks had at least one patient pile of concrete and rebar where a building once stood. The city itself is exciting, dangerous, massive, polluted.

Now, the goal. This was World Cup 1986 hosted by Mexico. Our goal was actually to enjoy Mexico, go to Oaxaca and to the beach (Zihuatanejo at the time was still the quintessential sleepy fishing town), eat good food. Most of this was accompanied by a nearby television showing the matches. I don't think we ate one meal without a match to watch. The Game, however, was the highlight. 45,000 fans filling the stadium. Rain soaked us. We chose a team and cheered. Mexican fans cheered. The returning sunlight filled with warm afternoon mist.

The match ended in an anonymous tie in a group that also featured Argentina and Italy:
Bulgaria 1 - Korea 1.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just sitting here

Hot day again in DC. The summer international environmental agreements class at the EPA is going well. Good students, as always. World Cup gets in the way of class. Class gets in the way of World Cup. Writing, editing... lots of writing and editing. Three book projects. One due out in the fall, another in early 2007, and the third in late 2007 (I hope). Got to go to the office today - stuff to photocopy, mail, a meeting. Wrote a long note about the city to a friend who just arrived for a long stay in Paris. I miss Paris, walking there. Don't miss the summers. Too many Italians. Geckoes are cool. The Mexican team looks pretty weak. I should get my hair cut. I look like my Aunt Donna. That plant by the window needs watering. Lots of emails to write. I should organize all those papers on my desk. That's a really nice desk - a giant teak thing imported from Thailand in the early 1900s. I got it for free. I like my desk. I wish that dog would stop barking. Need to arrange vacation plans for later this summer - pressure from Mrs. Helmut. Wish I had more time to read fiction. I really need to write that grant proposal. Oh, how I do like the underappreciated orange. Such a common but beautiful fruit. What does Bruno Latour mean by "traces"? More coffee.


Photo: Dave

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Considering a summer vacation in Afghanistan?

Of course you are. But... think again.

Are we not men?

...Until a few years ago, making such inference and diagnosing elephants with PTSD would have been dismissed as anthropomorphism. But no longer. Elephant psychopathology, chimpanzee infanticide and other un-animal-like behaviors are part of a growing body of research that suggests science is building toward a radical paradigm shift. Streams of new data and theories, critically from neuroscience, are converging into a new, trans-species model of the psyche. Humans are being reinstated back into the species continuum that Darwin articulated, a continuum that includes laughing rats, octopuses with personalities, sheep who read emotions from the faces of their family members and tool-wielding crows.

We now understand that all vertebrates, and it is argued even some invertebrates, share many biological structures and processes that underlie attributes once considered uniquely human: empathy, personality, culture, emotion, language, intention, tool-use and violence. Furthermore, we are able to see beyond species differences in ways we have never been able to before. Neuroimaging advances such as PET and fMRI can help map more elusive subjective qualities—such as emotion, states of consciousness and sense of self—to specific regions of the brain. In conjunction with a rich legacy of observational data and theories on animal behavior and human psychology, neuroscience is bridging long-standing conceptual and perceptual gaps....


Christ on the cross with gas mask and dice-shaker; the horizontal beam of the cross is broken at both ends; Christ's freed left hand holds up a small cross; underneath, the caption: "Shut your mouth and keep serving". In 1928, this small drawing famously earned George Grosz a charge of blasphemy. "Blasphemy" literally means "slander". What is usually meant, however, is its most serious manifestation: the slander of the rituals and convictions considered by a community to be inviolable. "Mockery of religion" is the usual definition, therefore. But was Grosz really mocking Christianity?
Continue reading the original piece, chez Eurozine...

More on the arms trade

In Le Monde Diplo:
The trade in small arms and light weapons is only a fraction of that in conventional military equipment, but is just as lethal. Secrecy and lack of accountability mean that accurate, up-to-date statistics on the global arms trade are hard to obtain and must be treated with caution. However, one set of data, based on estimates of military articles and services traded by value, claims that 35 countries are responsible for 90% of the world’s arms exports, and that, during the period 1997-2005, developing countries’ share of such imports increased to 68.5%.
See also this earlier post on the Global Weapons Market.

US making new landmines

Ten years after US President Bill Clinton declared the country would "aggressively pursue an international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines," the US has moved no closer to eliminating the weapons, and is in fact developing new types of mines, RAW STORY has learned.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, budget documents submitted to Congress in 2005 show that the Pentagon is preparing for the development of new types of antipersonnel landmines called "Spider."

The flip of a switch

Spider landmines differ from conventional mines because they are designed to detonate in a variety of ways. Spider mines can explode either through command-detonation--where a human operator determines when the mine will explode the mine (also know as a “man in the loop” system)--or through conventional victim-activation, where a victim detonates the weapon by stepping on or picking up the mine. An operator would have the ability to turn the switch one way for command-detonation, and the other way for victim-detonation.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The militarization of damn near everything

Bryan Finoki at Subtopia has a massive linkdump on the militarization, surveillance, collapse, cinder-blockization, and self-spankingization of just about everything. Go read now.


Steve G has a nice discussion of conservatism and liberalism, turning on the more genuine opposition between authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism. Read.

For related issues, see also my earlier piece on Fascism's Faces.

More Gore '08

Tristero at Hullabaloo says what ought to be said in abundance.
...The mainstream press loathes Gore and that makes it exceedingly difficult to determine how much of a chance he has. That said, a Gore campaign conducted at the political and intellectual level of the film would be so inspiring it could just motivate considerable interest and commitment by young people which could help counter that kind of assault.

In contrast, the latest bundle of snoozers packaged into an "agenda" by the Democratic party's utterly inept national political consultants is a major league embarassment. It's almost as if the party consultants concluded that since the world is facing an energy crisis, the Democratic party should set an example and not have any.

The modern Al Gore, however, points the way towards a seriously exciting Democratic politics, one that can see a deeply important problem clearly, find ways to tackle it, and inspire the political will to do so. We need that kind, and how.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


UPDATE (5pm):


France gets a goal ripped off from them and ties South Korea 1-1 in a game France should have won. Disappointing. It's especially disappointing because France looked like a much more respectable team than they did against Switzerland or four years ago. I was even thinking in the first half that this could be a high-scoring match. Mais, bouf,....

The good news: France looked pretty solid on offense and defense, and controlled most of the match. A bit lackadaisical, but good.
The bad news: Zidane is out of the next match due to an unnecessary second yellow card. France should have won with that second goal. And Domenech still doesn't understand that he needs Trézéguet.

A rake and a kite

BLDGBLOG explains.

Pantsless football

Around 1,000 fans arrived for the Ivory Coast tie in their traditional bright orange trousers - but bearing the logo and name of a Dutch brewery.

To protect the rights of the official beer they were denied entry, so the male fans promptly removed the trousers and watched the game in underpants.

Fifa said an attempt at an "ambush" publicity campaign was not allowed.

God Save Bechtel

I'll grant that "elites" come in different shapes and sizes. At times, liberal university professors - the bogeyman elite for the right - do form an "elite" when they become detached from the world they profess to provide intellectual tools for changing. There's nothing wrong with devoting one's life to the study of Kant or ancient Greek thought or Proust. It's not my choice, having moved from straight philosophy to more public policy oriented matters while continuing to write some philosophy. When any of us, however, seek to change the world or work on "the problems of men" [sic] - as Marx and Dewey both insisted - and take a rarefied view of what that world looks like, then we risk being "elites." In this sense, elitism is not only detachment from those real problems, while we're jetting around the world in the meantime going to conferences and so on. The elitism is when we speak a language only an educated few understand and wonder why the "splaybrained masses" don't respond to our sterling ideas, continuing to speak out as if we held positions of authority regarding the daily matters of everybody.

Another sort of elitism which is not defined necessarily in terms of right-left politics is the kind I see in DC. Wealthy and elite-educated members of international society who purport to be doing the gruntwork for good in the world. I'm thinking of many - perhaps the majority - of those who work at places like the World Bank, IMF, the embassies, the thinktanks, and the talking-head pseudo-intellectual journalists. Sometimes education, skill, and talent are centered on wealth and one's own sense of being an elite. Much of the work done by such institutions is even more detached from the problems they ostensibly solve than that of the academic elite. What's worse is that these are institutions created in the name of problem-solving, not individual-enrichment. Universities, on the other hand, exist to develop thought and ideas.

Then there's the elite that forms the power nucleus in the US and its influence abroad, and includes many from across the political spectrum but has proliferated with the current administration. Here's a taste of this world:
The [British] government has been secretly awarding honours to senior figures in the US military and foreign businessmen with lucrative public sector contracts. The Observer has obtained a Foreign Office list detailing all non-British citizens who have been awarded honours since 2003 - the first time the complete three-year dossier has been released.

It has emerged that Riley Bechtel, billionaire boss of the US-based Bechtel Corporation, which has won big transport and nuclear contracts in Britain and made a fortune from the Iraq war, was secretly awarded a CBE in 2003.

In the end, if elitism is a problem, this is where it truly resides. The honors themselves are not the issue. The issue is the nucleus of power itself in which a small and closed circle of friends of friends write themselves into history as elite leaders without any constraints by the realities of their actions. It's the creation of a different world altogether. What use is an honor, for example, if it's not to be made public? Such honors are only honors when recognized as such. But this is precisely the jig. Society beyond the small and closed circle is a faceless struggling mass. The only society that matters is that within the circle. But these are people who make hugely consequential decisions and engage in actions that affect millions of people. Unconstrained by reality and unaccountable to any public, these are the true elitists.

Quotidian DC society is filled with those who can ride coattails to some small extent and have a little sip of power and wealth. Academics pale in comparison, for any power they have comes in terms of changing people's minds one by one, and we academics know that that is relatively rare.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


What a match! Ghana 2 - Czech Republic 0. Great for Ghana, a team that didn't show it's good stuff in the Italy match.

Now what? Well, a lot rides on the US-Italy game. My original prediction for this group was the Czechs taking it, Ghana pulling off the upset and moving on to the knockout round, Italy being sent home, and the US - though strong - coming in last. This could still happen. In fact, anything could still happen.

Even if they can't be eliminated today, the US has to beat Italy to make this all interesting and to keep a slim hope alive of moving on. Italy nearly wraps up a place in the next round if they beat the US by a couple of goals. The Czechs are still looking okay, but they'll have to win the Italy game. The earlier 3-0 result against the US gives them a leg up on goal differential.

So, let's say (hope) the US beats Italy. This brings the whole thing down to who beats whom in the last set of games and by how many points since we would then have all four teams tied at three points each. Basically, the winners of those final two games would go on.

There are many scenarios left, however, in this group. Fun game coming up. Go USA.

p.s. Oh yeah, look for both Italy and the US to try to light up the scoreboard.

UPDATE (3:48):

A wild first half: US 1 - Italy 1. The top scorer for the US at this point is an Italian. The US is looking solid. Great attacking, slightly shaky but stronger defense, and excellent possession in the center and up front. A missed goal towards the end of the half was one of the most beautifully constructed plays I've ever seen the US make.

But... what I really want to say is go to hell de Rossi.

UPDATE (5:30):

That was a moral victory for the US, despite the 1-1 final score. Playing one extra man down the entire second half and tying Italy is a tremendous feat. And, contrary to ABC's call, I thought the officiating was pretty good. The send-off of Pope was a bad call on a good tackle. Mastroeni's red card was deserved - you can't slide into an opponent cleats up. It could have been a yellow card, but the red is in the rulebook. So, forget complaining about the officiating.

As for Italy, well, I can't stand them. Spitters, divers, whiners, elbowers. That's their game and it's ugly, regardless of the individual talent they have every year. The problem is that it's now to the US' advantage - assuming they can beat Ghana next match - to have Italy beat the Czechs. I simply can't bring myself to root for Italy. A Helmutian Dilemma.

UPDATE (5:47):

A final update on soccer today.... Click here for the mp3, "Kasey Keller" by the band, Barcelona.


Mastroeni went in cleats up. I didn't know he was Argentinian (and all a-het-up for the good lovin'). What is the US thinking? (Thanks to SuperFrenchie).

Walls and fences and ladders

Ranchers add ladders to border fences
A few Texas ranchers tired of costly repairs to cattle fences damaged by illegal immigrants have installed an easier route over the U.S.-Mexican border — ladders...
Ranchers could build walls, of course. There could be a series of walls, each circumscribing a state-like entity (although tax-free zone) for which ladders function as visas. Immigrants could move into the US little by little, according to the system of scalable visas, working in one mini-state and then another once the ladder-visa rules change based on labor demand. They could open restaurants and an informal social services sector, restrained only by how efficiently ladder transport of goods functions.

If ladder-visas are amended or denied while the immigrant resides within the mini-state, we could have a de facto system of indentured servitude in which immigrants pay into a ladder-purchasing system if they choose to move into a different mini-state. Immigrants would not know the conditions in the next mini-state, however, and their risk-assessment of the process of ladder-purchasing, and installation would thus have a naturally conservative element. Risk assessment would be conditioned by high levels of uncertainty.

Said constructive ladder-visas would be based on fluctuating demands for cheap labor and resource-use within each mini-state. The economy of mini-states could thereby function as voluntary immigrant credit-trading. Why not draw up a picture ID system and trade them like baseball cards between mini-states? The mini-state economies might, however, also be based on a system of voluntary controls installed by immigrants in which their own ladder-purchasing regulates and distributes the flow of ladder transport of goods, services, and labor. If needed, they might even create well-regulated militias to enforce such regulation and distribution.

We shall call this system - or civitas - of mini-states the Cellular State, comprised as it is of individual cells which themselves constitute the Body Politick of the Unity of States.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday dinner party conversation stopper

OK, I've got one. Parmenides at his most curmudgeonly is always good for shutting down conversation. They'll think you're talking about them; not Parmenides talking about pre-Socratic Greece.
...I bar you from the road the witless wander,
the splaybrained masses without self-direction,
deaf blind and astounded, the paranoid millions
who compulsively confuse what is with what isn't,
all of them moving on a retrograde road.

Russian clown ban

Another band name? No. A clown ban.
Prosecutors have banned two clowns’ performance of the show called ’Fly’, saying it propagandizes “unwholesome interest in intoxicating substances”, Komsomolsklaya Pravda daily newspaper reported Friday.

The scandal was sparked during the Moscow circus troupe’s tour in the Russian city of Vladivostok (Far Eastern region). During the course of the performance, a mother with her small son in the audience left the hall and emphatically cried: “What kind of an example are you setting for our children?!” She headed directly to the administration of the circus and created a scandal, demanding the presence of prosecutors.

The plot of the performance is as follows: Drunya the clown is enjoying his sandwich and is attacked by his partner Sergunya, who is imitating an annoying fly. Drunya tries to get rid of the fly by using a flyswatter and bugspray. Unfortunately the spray doesn’t kill the fly, and Sergunya even enjoys this.

A reminder

From Wolcott:
Conservatives--cultural warriors or cultural whiners? Roy Edroso at Alicublog has the rude answer: "The White House, two houses of Congress, most Governorships and a healthy chunk of the zeitgeist in their control, and still they bitch and moan that they are misunderstood. What a bunch of--" I think the word he uses is "posies." I don't have my aviator goggles on, so I'm not sure.

Friday dinner party poem

Having not read anything at all since the World Cup started, I don't have a Friday Dinner Party Conversation Stopper today unless you want to clamber over the wine glasses and stand in the middle of the roast duck and yell "olé, olé, olé olé,...!"

Here's today's google poem instead:

Oaxaca raid...
Water moving upstream
like a checkout line scanner.
Pocatello John Dewey
the Nude boy, Wankboy, olé-allez...
I have always been regretting
Mullahs and a sound truck,
Police, teachers, Oaxaca.

Sunny day songs

The Guardian's Culture Vulture blog has asked for favorite songs about the sun. Discussion ensues.
Here's a related lineup from a mix cd Helmut made for last summer (this summer's in progress). Not all sun, but a summer sunshiney bubblegummy mix made from scratchy LPs.

1. The Love Generation – Groovy Summertime
2. The Cyrkle – Turn Down Day
3. The Parade – Sunshine Girl
4. The Beach Boys – This Whole World
5. Harper’s Bizarre – 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
6. The Archies – Catchin’ Up on Fun
7. Bossa Rio – Up, Up and Away
8. The Love Generation – She Touched Me
9. The Zombies – Walking in the Sun
10. The Beach Boys – Feel Flows
11. The Troggs – Love Is All Around
12. Sergio Mendes – For Me
13. Harper’s Bizarre – Come to the Sunshine
14. The Zombies – Summertime
15. The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby
16. Ohio Express – Vacation
17. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass – Walk Don’t Run
18. Harper’s Bizarre – Happy Talk
19. The Archies – Time for Love
20. Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream
21. Astrud Gilberto / Walter Wanderley – It’s a Lovely Day Today
22. Thorinshield – Light That Love Brings
23. The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
24. The Love Generation – When the Sun Goes Down

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Papaya tree

Abu Ayyub al-Masri

But, of course. You can't make Iraq part of the "War on Terror" without an al-Qaeda bogeyman.

Welcome to the war, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Today's World Cup

Oh hohoho.... Trinidad & Tobago (TNT) have tied England 0-0 at the half, nearly scoring a goal in the extra time. England's attacking, and Rooney will likely substitute in for the second half. But the TNT defense is holding so far (with a little luck). A tie with England would be huge.

I'd love to see the Soca Warriors score their first ever World Cup goal, and England can then score whatever it likes. A goal would be a victory.



Do not look at that final score. The Soca Warriors played one hell of a game. England stinks. And the best goal of the match was actually a non-goal (barely offside) by TNT.

What position would Jesus play?

Rodger Payne links to an article on the Colorado Rockies baseball team going Christian. "Looking for character" - what do you think that means?
In a remarkable article from Wednesday's USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with "character." And according to the Tribe of Coors, "character" means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs."

Flag desecration

H Saussy at Print Culture discusses flag desecration.
I’ve moved past the exaltation of principles and am now musing on the practicalities of the Flag Desecration Amendment. The thing about symbols is that they are not physically delimitable. Somebody can always turn out another example of a symbol. Therein lies the weakness of the effort to prevent Flag Desecration (henceforth FD). We need to take vigorous measures.

First: the flag must be copyrighted, and defense of the copyright be delegated to Disney’s and the RIAA’s most chin-leading lawyers. No one shall display a Flag™ without prior authorization, which will require signing an End-User License Agreement stipulating the purposes to which said Flag™ may and may not be put.

Second, all currently admitted “flags” shall be declared invalid. The set of Flags™ must be a finite and traceable inventory. Counterfeiters will be prosecuted. A Flag™ must bear a serial number and be presented for annual inspection at the Office of Flag Control, failing which the annual license to display same shall be revoked. Those citizens who, having secured Flag™ licenses in the past, are unable to produce their Flag™ for inspection, shall be deemed to have committed FD and upon such discovery, shall be handed over to the Office of FD Prevention (a division of the Office of Homeland Security, and appropriately, for the map is the territory!) for indictment or perhaps (since they have offended against America, and America is not mocked) Guantánamo.

While Neil Shakespeare points out that, apparently, farting through the flag is okay. See what he means.

War is a game, and the US is the main player

The always-interesting Subtopia has a piece on the "game-ification of war." See here, then here.
Dubbed the "new Manhattan Project", “Hundreds of research projects are under way at American universities and defence companies, backed by billions of dollars” Graham notes, to turn what has been called ‘military omniscience’ into reality, where cities digitized in unparalleled scales are constantly scanned by increasingly sentient drones (via) capable of striking the hair on your nose, networked surveillance sensors that can see through concrete walls or match your images with others taken around the world, smart dust insurgent tracking, bots and bugs hotrodded for war, and a whole set of military commands made flesh by the pressed button of a toy-like handheld game controller. It all spells a new medium for a globalized warfare, or a war against the "global south", and is coming sooner than we may care to believe.

Talking about sex

Being a lefty male prof, let's let others talk about sex.... Aspazia and Steve G have a terrific discussion about scholars discussing sex and sexuality. Read Aspazia's piece, then Steve's.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Coooooool cantilevery


Geniuses can be so stupid

Helmut should know, Helmut are one.

But Helmut is not Stephen Hawking, who - Chris Clarke notes - suggests we put more human beings into space in order to save the species.

That's got 'tard crayoned all over it. We have a decent planet. We just need to manage it more intelligently. The Technological Substitutability view implied by Hawking is neoclassical nonsense.

Read Clarke's piece.

When you're a lefty...

I saw fireant repellent for sale in the CVS in Washington, DC today. What does this mean (apart from its dubious usefulness - nay, trickery)?

...Oh yeah, if you need a rant fix, you can do no better than Bobby.

World Cup news

As is often the case in the World Cup, the matchup that looks least interesting turns out to be a thriller. Saudi Arabia vs. Tunisia was a terrific game. Great goals, great hard work, and lots of excitement. They tied on an extra time goal by Tunisia. 2-2. What a game.

Spain clobbered the Ukraine, 4-0. This was a bit of a surprise, although our Flaco is a happy lad. Spain is always strong, but have a knack for underachieving. The surprise is that Ukraine looked so bad. Shevchenko had an awful day and it turns out that he's the only power Ukraine has.

So... after the first round of matches, having seen all the teams play, it's difficult to say who looks best. Spain certainly looked great today. Brazil looked okay, but they've got to sit Ronaldo. He's dead weight. I've never thought he's as great a player as others say. Ronaldinho was fine. Kaka was the star. But Croatia looked very strong too.

Argentina, Italy, England, and Germany all won but looked mediocre in the process. Holland looked very solid and my favorites, the Czechs, looked strong.

As for France, the team to which Helmut's heart is attached, they tanked. The Swiss, however, sat back and played like Italians: almost all defense. A few changes in the lineup and I think we'll see France get back on track. Only Brazil has a better collection of individual talent. They need to gel as a team.

Other teams that I think are exciting and could pull off serious upsets are Trinidad-Tobago, Ecuador, and Cote d'Ivoire.

So, now, we get to see the next test for Germany. Poland was awful in their first match. They should come back with a stronger game and Germany will have a tougher test than Costa Rica.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The right's political correctness

This is how right-wingers get rid of their own kind: "not a real conservative." Fortunately, the target of the present case is Ann Coulter, now treated as the media-whoring excrescence that we've long known she is.

But this brings up another issue: the political correctness of the right. Remember that the right has a political strategy they've used quite successfully against the left, so much so that liberalism became the dreaded "L word" cowing liberals into taking centrist or right-wing positions and thus changing the American political landscape into a de facto one-party system. Karl Rove is the ultimate expert at this strategy. It consists in demonizing political, cultural, and individual opponents through tropes of war and violence. If opponents can be pushed into "enemy" territory, portrayed as worthy of violent punishment (recall the earlier "better dead than red"), then their ideas are certainly not worthy of a listen. Thus, the Democrats came to sound like Republicans - it's the only way to be heard. The right, in the meantime, is then able to borrow the better ideas of the left and shape them for their own purposes as long as they're no longer identified as "red" or "leftist" or, after Reagan, "liberal."

Political correctness was originally a tool of the right and always has been. The Red Scare, Joseph McCarthy, etc. That was the invention of political correctness: create a climate of fear over the proliferation of ideas so that citizens are threatened back into the small fold of safely conservative political propositions. The threat was real - first, a threat of violence, and second the actual ban on citizens' participation in their own livelihoods. People's lives were affected. They lost jobs, lost friends and colleagues, lost opportunities, and sometimes lost their lives. They were purged, made invisible. For the right, the consequences of political correctness had no bearing on the warped principle.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the right effectively dumped the "political correctness" moniker onto trends in academia they didn't like: feminist thought, anti-colonial thought, various forms of socialist political thought, and the idea that forms of oppression and domination were atavistically embedded in the very language we use, when not overt. The right pushed with the accusation, and many on the left overreacted and went further with their own brand of political correctness, creating untenable situations of contorting ordinary language and policing thought.

Political correctness is, nevertheless, an invention of the right. They simply became good at transferring its faults to the left. This is the method of politics that Karl Rove inherited. It is rhetorical judo politics. Pick out a few insignificant scholars and unsaavy academics - Ward Churchill, for example - and exalt them into the epitome of academic teaching in order to attack liberal academic thought in general. The point is not Ward Churchill, et al. The point is to create a climate of political fear in which some who ordinarily wouldn't teach ridiculous ideas such as intelligent design, for example, feel pressured to do so.

I feel it. I can hardly mention Marx in a context in which his thought applies without providing some caveat about the further history and appropriation of Marxist ideas. I also teach other thinkers from other intellectual traditions, but I don't feel pressure to provide a disclaimer along with their scholarly contributions. I'm aware of this and I don't like it, but I do feel it.

This is all to say that political correctness has never been a phenomenon of the left. It was born in the right, manipulated in the right, transferred by the right onto the shoulders of its political opponents and then that leverage used to further demonize political opponents.

Now we have an incipient excommunication of Ann Coulter. This is only because the political climate has shifted in the face of a Republican dominated government - all three branches - that is incompetent and whose power over the citizenry is waning. She no longer serves the purpose that was all too gleefully accepted when Republican power was waxing.

If you want relativism - another accusation by the right at the left - this is it.