Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cliche of the Day: "Shifting Political Landscape"

Why is it so hard to understand the kind of dynamic politics that we're now witnessing in response to an FBI search of Congressional offices? I mean, to talk of landscapes shifting is to say something pretty serious (and simultaneously fairly revealing): holy cow! the world isn't what I thought it was! Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert issued a joint statement. They "crossed the aisle" . . . or one of them did, at any rate.

I guess the problem is that the landscape is the cheap fiber-board background of an elementary school play about Washington, D.C, held in place by a squirmy kid who has to pee?

Or maybe it's those stark, stock political characterizations we depend upon to make our inside-the-beltway narratives palatable. When the actors suddenly step out of these roles, the world seems askew, somehow, the landscape shifted.

It's just kind of sad, isn't it? I mean, I think this is an important story, but I'm not even sure why. And I'm sure as hell not going to figure that out by sifting slowly through all of the gossip-column stuff about which representative has surprised us all by doing or saying something out of character.
WASHINGTON -- The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday examined whether the FBI's raid on a lawmaker's office violated the Constitution, even as Senate leaders backed off their criticism and the Bush administration negotiated guidelines for any such future searches.

For all of the shifting landscape, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a loyal White House ally, made his position clear with the title of Tuesday's hearing: "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?"


I could have sworn I saw pictures of people voting there.

Follow this link to a good and disturbing analysis of the Taliban's hold on rural Afghanistan. Then have a look at this piece about the riots in Kabul following the accident on Monday involving a U.S. Army truck:
Protesters on Monday vilified the US, marching through the streets of the city to the gates of the National Assembly and US embassy. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was also criticised.

Karzai, in a televised address to the nation, called the rioters "opportunists and agitators" who could not be allowed to destroy a country still trying to emerge from conflict that has gripped it since 1979.Karzai won an election in late 2004, winning more than 50% of the vote, but he has been unable to shake off the perception that he owes his position to US backing.

Fighting in the south and east, where the Taliban are gaining strength, has left 350 people dead in the last couple of weeks alone.Karzai's critics call him the "mayor of Kabul", because of the instability in the rural provinces, but the unrest on Monday showed the fragility of the situation in the capital as well.


Szeged is an odd city in the south of Hungary. It's quite beautiful - mid to late 19th-century architecture, on the Tisza River, not far from both Romania and Serbia. But it's mostly empty, it seems. The towns are like this in Hungary, I'm told by Hungarians. Many people, those who remain in the country, go to Budapest for jobs, excitement, a life of aspiration. And better food.

Quine discussion this morning....

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Flower Man, Infernal Bridegroom Productions

We just returned from an unplanned visit to the Flower Man, of Houston's Third Ward. See Troutsky's comment to Helmut's post of Budapest grafitti, then read this piece about Cleveland Turner, or Flower Man. Come to Houston & he'll welcome you in. He's even got a bedroom set aside for visiting artists.

Last night, we saw the Infernal Bridgroom Productions production of "Speeding Motorcycle," a new rock opera about Daniel Johnston. It was wonderful in the way only rock operas can be, an exuberant portrayal of psychosis that was as sad as it was funny. My favorite scene involved a grotesquely proportioned Captain America--based on his appearance in Johnston's own drawings--battling health-care workers. It made me cry, in both sad and funny ways. So that's probably a good sign . . .

Back to South Texas, and the heat, and likely more posting, tomorrow.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Budapest graffiti

Photo by Helmut

In Houston

Even lighter fill-in posting today, as I'm visiting Houston, along as a seventh-wheel of the Laredo Center for the Arts staff on its annual development getaway. We heard there's art in this town, and we're planning to find us some to look at.

Actually, we're headed tonight to see a new rock opera, Speeding Motorcyle. Follow the link if you're interested in the wave of recent interest in the interesting Daniel Johnston. If I'm able, I'll post a bit of a review, tomorry.

I was hopng there'd be a parade or something commemorating the verdicts of Lay and Skilling. But no.

Taylor Hicks Scores Mandate

US idol more popular than the president
I suppose we deserve headlines like these from Europeans. I mean: Lordi? Ring any bells? It doesn't help that Helmut was all cheeky about the whole Eurovision thing, what with his European readership mysteriously skyrocketing at the same time. This idol stuff is just what they've been waiting for. From The, linked above:
RONALD Reagan set a record when he received 54.5 million votes to claim the United States presidency in 1984. In 2004, George Bush broke it with nearly 62 million under his belt.

But in a new indicator of just how seriously America takes its elections - or, perhaps, how seriously it takes the post of president - a grey-haired soul singer from Alabama has eclipsed both by scooping an unprecedented 63.4 million votes to claim a far loftier title: the new American Idol.
I was going to point out that perhaps the rules for voting for the president and for American Idol surely explain some of the difference, here. But it's not like anybody can understand the American presidential election, anyway, which is pretty sophistimicated. But then again:
. . . Fox television has defended the process as "the most sophisticated voting system in existence".
In existence. Who's for letting Fox declare the winner of the next president? That'd be novel, eh?

Friday, May 26, 2006

A-Sittin' in a Tree

Here's the Guardian's excerpt of the Bush/Blair press conference at the White House. Most of this is predictably irritating; plenty of rationalization for Iraq--some of it stalwart, some of it prissily intellectualized. But it's kind of funny to see Bush represented as saying things like "programme" and "organisation."
On the end of the special relationship
: Hmmm. I'll miss those red ties, is what I'll miss. I'll say one thing - he can answer the question - don't count him out. Let me tell it to you that way. I know a man of resolve and vision and courage. And my attitude is, I want him to be here so long as I'm the president.

Friday Dinner Party Conversation Stopper

So, you know, I think in the case of masturbation, although it was called the solitary vice in the eighteenth century, it's much more difficult to imagine the moral arguments against it. In fact, all of the compelling arguments in previous historical epochs were ultimately theological in nature, not even moral arguments--so while a moral argument against sadism would be the evil of inflicting harm on someone, in the case of masturbation, it's difficult to discern what the moral argument is supposed to be, which is why you find theological arguments that if you masturbate you'll destroy your own soul and behaior and have to confront the physiological signs of that destruction.
-Arnold Davidson, from an interview in the May 06 The Believer.

Lay, Skilling, & the Fence Around the Back Nine

Lay and Skilling have been found guilty. Much as I'd like to see 'em here in the detention facility in southern LaSalle County, they'll likely wind up golfing someplace, with frequent guest spots on The Motley Fool.

The link is to a nice piece reiterating all the links (and there are plenty) between W and Enron.


In Budapest. Got in yesterday evening. I haven't seen much. A great dinner last night - that paprika sauce on foie gras with a bit of Tokay in the sauce, and some excellent wine. A secret: Hungarian wines. Once they come on the market in the US, look out. Especially one called Vylyan, Montenuovo cuvée.

A late start this morning. Walked around a bit - the chic Andrassy Avenue, around some of the neighborhoods on the Pest side, and now headed towards the river. I needed a good coffee. Found the coffee with a bonus open internet connection.

The town thus far - the Pest side - has a feeling of part Paris (the architecture, some of the leafy boulevards), part Soviet Union (long empty blocks with the occasional shop that looks like a dollar-store), and a mix of older Eastern Europeans and younger indie folks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pinches Conquistadores

Barrick Gold, a Canadian company, is developing a new operation in Chile. I bet the arguments went something like this:

Opposition: "But you're destroying two glaciers."
Barrick: "Jobs."

Opposition: "But, you'll endanger, perhaps permanently, our supplies of fresh water."
Barrick: "Jobs."

Opposition: "Contemporary gold mining is wasteful, toxic, and viable only because of a historically-founded, unreasonable valuation of gold!"
Barrick: "Jobs."

Anyone who has been part of a community group opposing an ugly new development project (mines, private prisons, hog farms) knows this: no matter how simple your objection is, it will be answered by the simplistic refrain few people are willing to challenge. It's stupid and infuriating.

And what the hell does Igor (that's "Eye-gore") Gonzales mean by problems that are "social in nature"?
SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Canadian miner Barrick Gold (ABX.TO: Quote) said on Wednesday the remaining details of its $1.5 billion Pascua Lama gold project were on track for final approval by the Chilean government despite environmental and community opposition.

At a world mining conference in Santiago, Igor Gonzales, president of Barrick Gold South America, said the problems the Pascua Lama project is confronting are no different from those of its other projects.

"The biggest challenges we are facing by far, in both South America and Africa, are social in nature," said Gonzales.

The project has faced strong criticism from environmental and community groups worried about water pollution and wary of the project's original proposal to remove glaciers in the Andes mountain range.
I hope that we next--and last--see Igor floating alone down some tropical river, surrounded only by his monkeys.

What the hell am I thinking? He doesn't deserve the company of monkeys.

¿También Colombia?

We might soon have more money to spend on Iraq. Or maybe on our remaining allies in the Americas, like, um . . . um, Belize?
May 25,2006 | BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia stands out as an oasis of conservatism amid Latin America's growing legion of leftist leaders and Sunday's elections are unlikely to change that with President Alvaro Uribe expected to win by a landslide.

But a last-minute surge by a leftist candidate nicknamed "Santa Claus" has provided the lone surprise in a campaign dominated by Uribe, Washington's staunchest ally in the region.

Colombia's democratic left, long blemished by its association with the four-decade-old guerrilla insurgency, has been invigorated by the surprise performance of Sen. Carlos Gaviria, the candidate for the Alternative Democratic Pole party, or PDA.

Unknown to half of Colombians just a few months ago, the academic and former head of Colombia's highest court has leapfrogged past Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa to move into second place. Since March, polls show that support for Gaviria has tripled to 24 percent.

Killing Amtrak

More on the conspiracy to make Amtrak obsolete . . . or to remind people that it is obsolete (why is it I keep following links to the Reuters "Stock Market News"? Do they just figure that everything affects the market in some way or another?). Everybody knows the U.S. is just too big for trains, anyway.
NEW YORK, May 25 (Reuters) - A power outage shut down train service between New York and Washington during rush hour on Thursday, affecting some of the most heavily traveled lines in the U.S. rail system, officials said.
It gets better:
CNN said one of its producers was stuck inside a tunnel.
UPDATE: Friday, 8:00 a.m.

Electricity has been restored. Everyone has disembarked, grumpy and stinky. The CNN producer is still stuck inside a tunnel.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Miedo en Mexico

Check out this piece in the LA Times about growing support for Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador; maybe fear can unite the United States and Mexico? We're awfully good at it, and it sounds like Mexicans (OK, wealthy Mexicans) are honing their fear-skills, too:
The 10-foot walls and the electrified fences that are de rigueur for most homes can't keep the force out, nor can the neighborhood's ubiquitous private security guards. It seeps in, like a noxious vapor: the possibility that a certain leftist politician with a tropical accent might be elected the next president of Mexico in July.
And fear of Venezuela:
As mayor of Mexico City from 2000 until last year, Lopez Obrador instituted a variety of public works programs and subsidies for the poor. Most residents saw him as a competent and compassionate administrator of an overpopulated megalopolis beset by social ills: He left office with an 84% approval rating in the city, according to one poll.

But Calderon, once significantly behind, has had considerable success playing on the fears of the wealthy — and the anxieties of many in the middle class. He has used a series of ads attacking Lopez Obrador to propel himself forward in several recent polls.

"Lopez Obrador is a danger to Mexico," intoned one of the ads, comparing him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-styled populist and the bete noire of Latin American conservatives. Another ad argues, with considerable exaggeration, that Lopez Obrador bankrupted Mexico City with expensive public works projects.
A poll (this appears in the Reuters "Stock Market News" category) released today shows AMLO regaining some of that lost ground, now just four points behind Calderon.

Mmmm. Corn.

Anyone else reading/read Michael Pollan's newest book, The Omnivore's Dilemma? I'm currently partway through the first section--which follows corn from its petroleum-fertilized origins in Iowa to a feedlot, where it is fed to cattle, a species biologically suited to digesting grass. Not much is new in this particular account (I remember hearing Pollan on Fresh Air a while back, just after he had done some initial research on feedlots), but it's good reading. Pollan's tone is nice, too: instead of righteous outrage, his is a kind of botanical fascination with the way corn has managed to insinuate itself so fully into our diets.

Most people already seem to understand (or maybe my perspective is skewed?) that much of the energy in the American diet, instead of coming from the sun, through grass and grains, comes from oil, in the form of fertilizers, etc., but this doesn't seem to bother folks. Maybe most people don't get this? Maybe this fact is understood, ironically, as just a metaphor for our other dependence on oil?

How mindfully do you eat? How difficult is it to eat mindfully in the contemporary U.S.?


Is it just in Texas, or are roadsides all over the country pockmarked with billboards promising--in a mysteriously monochromatic, all-cappy kind of no-nonsense way--a return to potence? I mean, they're nothing new here; I stopped noticing them years ago, but a friend from Bangladesh asked about them at a party the other night.

Also: let's see what traffic Google brings us, now.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Torture trial blogging

Andrew Sullivan directs us to Human Rights First, which is blogging the current torture trial of Sgt. Santos Cardona.


I am among those who have left West Virginia to come to America in order to steal your jobs.

Will congress build a wall around the Mountain State, too?

Half-whistling John Denver through my teeth as I type . . .

Red stars

You know that story about Iran requiring markings on clothing to distinguish Jews, Christians, and others? You know, the fake story (they're really starting up aren't they, this election year? See also Glenn Greenwald on the "angry left" theme - check out the push and pull game between the administration and their plants)...? Tristero finds one that's not fake, but it happens to be in the US, and it happens to be more Horowitz-inspired witch-hunting.

Digby notes the GOP-inspired Hillary-is-frigid-and-calculating piece in the NY Times. Plus, Mark Warner gets the creepy photo treatment, and the Gore smearing has already begun.

As always, this election year, and those to come, watch for the dirty deeds done by those who decry them with the most vehemence.

And Atrios:
The article not running in the Times tomorrow.

Washington, DC, May 23 - Republicans say it is inevitable that some voters would be concerned and even distracted by the numerous personal indiscretions of the various candidates likely to seek the office of president, and express concern about whether they would be likely to repeat such behavior while in the White House.

While former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani's popularity increased after the events of September 11, pushing his personal issues into the background, Republicans worry he would bring to the White House the kind of activities which marred his tenure at Gracie Mansion.

Giuiliani's behavior led to a judge barring the presence of Judith Nathan, with whom he began having an affair during his last term as mayor, from the mayoral home. The judge's order also criticized Giuliani for the emotional harm he inflicted on his children.

Twice-married Virginia Senator George Allen faces questions over claimed sadistic treatment of his siblings and his fondness for confederate memorabilia despite his having grown up in California. While divorce alone may not disqualify him from the ballot in Republican voters' eyes - they overlooked it in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became the first, and only, divorced man to be elected president - it is still expected to impact his standing with conservative religious voters. Senator McCain of Arizona is in a similar position.

Thrice-married former Speaker of the House New Gingrich also concerns Republicans as he gears up for a potential presidential run. Gingrich, currently 62, began dating his geometry teacher, and future wife, while he was still in high school. He later served her divorce papers at her hospital bed where she was receiving treatment for cancer. He divorced his second wife after it was revealed that he had been having a long-running affair with a staffer 23 years younger than him during the Clinton impeachment saga.

Bush's environment

"New technologies will change how we live and how we drive our cars, which all will have the beneficial effect of improving the environment," Bush said. "And in my judgment we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects and focus on the technologies that will enable us to live better lives and at the same time protect the environment."
A standard neoclassical line. But if you don't know which industrial and other causes contribute to climate change, how do you know which new technologies to pursue?

Gay friendly Norway

This should lead to an interesting situation.
The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) gave all Iranian asylum seekers residency if applicants claimed to be homosexual.

The UDI granted asylum even if the testimony often had little backing or appeared to be patently false, newspaper VG reports...

According to VG, UDI representatives have presented a range of cases in the Iran asylum affair where caseworkers clearly note their skepticism towards the applicant testimony given, but asylum was granted.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Ask a Philostopher

Are you also imagining that John experiences deep pleasure from this faux love? If he is, then he's not "in love with" being in love (or not just in love with that)— since he's not in love. And it's interesting that what you actually wrote is of his being "in love with the feeling of being in love" (emphasis added). This raises the further question of whether being in love feels any particular way. If we assume that it does (which seems like a big assumption), then your question is whether we can imagine a situation in which: John is not in love with Hilary; John is having those experiences that characteristically attend, but do not exhaust, his being in love; (perhaps as a consequence) John believes that he is in love with Hilary; and finally John is taking deep pleasure in having those experiences. Putting aside major reservations about the presupposition involved in the description of the second feature of this situation, I don't see why not.
My professional reply is that love is like oxygen. You get too much, you get too high. Not enough and you're gonna die.

Political participation and economic development

An interesting little piece, chez Peter Levine, charting the correlation between political participation and economic well-being. Peter notes, especially, that it's difficult to say which comes first. Take a look.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I'm going to Budapest on Wednesday. Barba will blog a bit and I'll try to from Hungary, where I'll be for about ten days.

But... anyone know anything about Hungary, Budapest in particular? I'll be there for a conference in Szeged and there's not a lot of time for being a tourist. But I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions on places to go in and around Budapest and Szeged, apart from the standard tourist sights. Anyone know also of a decent, cheap place to stay in Budapest? How about record stores? A good dive bar?

The Manchester music scene, circa the mid 1970s

Nice piece in The Observer/Guardian.
Over a hundred years after the Industrial Revolution, which seemed destined to crush the area into dust and isolation as the world it inspired moved Manchester out of the way, an Emotional Revolution happened that would push Manchester into the 21st Century. This happened because Johnny Rotten showed Howard Devoto a way to exploit positively his interest in music, theatre, poetry and philosophy. Devoto, let's just say, for the hell of it because the story has to start somewhere, with a bang, or a legendary punk gig, was the man who changed Manchester because he had an idea about what needed to happen at just the right time in just the right place. He arranged for the Sex Pistols to play in Manchester before the rest of the country had caught up with the idea that there was any such thing as a Sex Pistol. In the audience for the shows were Mark E Smith, Ian Curtis, Morrissey and Devoto himself, four of the greatest rock singers of all time, directly challenged to take things on. Johnny Rotten was like a psychotic lecturer explaining to these avant-garde music fans exactly what to do with their love for music, the things they wanted to say, and their unknown need to perform...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Chimp terrorist detection

Elsewhere, after scientists said that chimps and humans are more closely related than originally thought, the National Security Agency announced that it would begin eavesdropping on chimps.

Eurovision live

I can't believe I'm actually watching it. But I am. A little crush on the happy gal from Ukraine, and a fondness for Germans who sing country music. Norway wasn't bad. Russia had a ballerina pop out of a white piano spewing blood roses like Alien - they came in second. Lithuania did their "we win" shtick to boos. And some group, I forget from where, had a little robot it paraded around the stage.

Now the tallies are coming in live here via webcast. Lordi of Finland, the monster group, is way ahead and it looks like they'll win. Fancy that.

UPDATE (5:56pm):

Your winner, Lordi of Finland. And the Christian right in the US thinks Europeans are satanists. Bouf.

Language and disruption

Carlos Rojas has a lovely piece on "Hyper-orthodox Orthographies" at his blog, Naked Gaze.

There is a phenomenon wherein minorities (linguistic, ethnic, cultural, or otherwise) find it useful or necessary to prove themselves by exemplifying a hyper-correct mastery of the dominant language or culture. We see this, for instance, in the virtuosic use of language by such “minority” authors as Nabokov and the Malaysian-Chinese Li Yongping 李永平 (who take pride in their mastery of English and Chinese, respectively, which far exceeds that of most “native” speakers of the languages).

Part of this is clearly cultural—the need overcome prejudicial assumptions by demonstrating that you are not only as good as, but even more orthodox than the putative hegemonic norm. There is, however, empirical evidence indicating that, in certain circumstances, these sorts of marginal figures actually have an advantage in mastering a dominant language. For instance, a few years ago Nonie Lesaux published an interesting study demonstrating that, under appropriate pedagogical conditions, young children who are not native speakers of English can actually learn to read faster and better than their native-speaking counterparts. As Lesaux explains, these ESL students are

much more tuned into language than the other kids. In many ways, they were doing a lot more work around language than the monolinguals, for whom language is much more unconscious.

Carlos' essay is worth reading, as always, and his point goes on to something different than what I'd like to say here. For one thing, although not explicit, I'd like us to keep in mind the renewed demand to make English the "official language" of the US (and Sprite can be the official drink). I'd like to riff onto another tune here from the idea that confronting linguistic obstacles in one's experience builds intellectual habits that facilitate mastery of both one's native language and other languages. Can't we say that experience with broader cultural, linguistic, and social obstacles can point a person in a number of directions (greater engagement and facility or disengagement)? And that nurturing the engagement aspect is a good thing?

At least a little disruption of one's unconscious habits and norms, and probably great disruptions, are important for developing good intellectual habits at all. "Good" here means simply a facility with interpreting and understanding novel ideas, problems, and other situations. One understands the rules of engagement, but one also comes to understand where the limits of those rules and norms lie, and where they're often in need of reconstruction or creation. This understanding is never perfect, but when a person has such habits he/she is better able to engage richer forms of experience, and to take on experience as both one's own and another's, to paraphrase Ricoeur.

Disruption is disorienting. Human experience is fraught with tensions between predictable and readily explanable rules and norms of behavior that give comfort and stability to life, and those moments of disruption that often yield new configurations or the demand to rebuild and recreate newer habits that hang together better with lived experience. Emerson thought that "the one thing we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory and to do something new without knowing how or why; in short to draw a new circle." (Circles, 1841). Emerson is suggesting that the disruption is, in fact, a human good.

Immigration, travel, and other forms of mobility often force the drawing of new "circles," while disrupting others. We need to be cautious about extoling the merits of disruption for disruption's sake. Mass deportations of kulaks or of the poor in Colombia or political exile or the disorienting forced mobility required in order to fit into capitalist economies (sometimes called, disingenuously, "creative destruction") are all human tragedies precisely because they are forced. Fear-mongering is similar - a disruption of stability and concrete understandings in the name of unseen forces conspiring against us, all in the name of requiring a state or father figure to save us from these evil mysterious ("inscrutable"?) forces. Stability or "home" is as important as disorientation or disruption.

There is, however, pretty good evidence to suggest that intelligence is not simply locked into pre-given rules or habits of thought or "rationality," although this is obviously not to exclude them, but is rather both a product of evolution and an evolving function itself. If intelligence is evolutionary, this means that it is adaptive, creative, and critical. It means that quantified measurements of intelligence are a kind of snapshot in time at best. And it means that attempts to institutionalize disengagement or rules that have no correlation with the human capacity to adapt and critique elements of experience may simply run counter to the growth of an intelligent society.

Montenegro independence?

Montenegro votes tomorrow regarding independence from Serbia (recall that, at present, the state is "Serbia and Montenegro"). We could have a new country on our hands, but opinion is apparently split down the middle about independence.

We win

Lithuania is making a serious run on cyberspace. Their entry, LT United, is in the final of Eurovision 2006. Prompted by Cheryl, I thought I'd provide some of the lyrics to their song, which is called "We Are the Winners," a poignant piece on self-doubt. I particularly like the appeal to French speakers. As if there was a little concern that chanting "we are the winners" over and over might not do the trick - use some French too, for the victory you know.

I am confused, however, by their injunction to go out and vote, if they already are the winners.
We are the winners
We are, we are!
We are the winners
We are, we are!

We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!
We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!

So, you gotta vote,
Vote, vote for the winners
Vote, vote, vote for the winners

We are the winners of Eurovision
(de Vilnius city a Paris)
(LT United ici)
We are the winners of Eurovision
(chantons la meme chanson)
('cos we got it goin' on)

Everyday you hear us on the radio
(that's right)
And everyday you see us on the news
It doesn't matter in mono or in stereo
(it's better in stereo)
'cos we are here to represent the truth that...

Friday, May 19, 2006


Korea attacks!!

No, really, no. This has got to be a politically planted piece. Check out the headline, then read through the rest.
N.Korea may be preparing missile launch: reports

North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile that could reach parts of the United States, Japanese media reports said on Friday, but Japan's government said it did not believe a launch was imminent.

Quoting unidentified South Korean government officials, public broadcaster NHK said satellite pictures showed there have been signs since early this month around a site in northeastern North Korea that pointed to a possible firing in the near future.

Analysts have said, though, that development of a multiple-stage version of a ballistic missile that can take payloads deep into the continental United States is years away.

Japan's top government spokesman, Shinzo Abe, said he could not comment on specific security issues, but added, "At the moment, we do not believe that a launch is imminent."

Asked by reporters if the situation posed a threat to Japan's national security, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said: "Japan maintains its security through deterrence under the Japan-U.S. security alliance and I believe North Korea knows that."

He added that he did not believe the situation was serious.

The latest reports come amid a deadlock in six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs, and ahead of a visit to China next week by the chief U.S. negotiator to the talks that involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China....

Precarious intellectuals

An interesting piece in LeMonde - Diplo on the well-educated but underemployed in France. I especially like the term "precarious intellectuals."
Anne and Marine Rambach are precarious intellectuals and claim that this underclass has middle-class origins or has had access to the symbolic capital of the upper classes, but lives on the income and in the same conditions as the poor...

...Precarious intellectuals are modest about their intellectual status. “It gives me no sense of superiority,” says Séverine, “but it does sometimes give me a sense of inferiority to others.” When Alexandre gives lectures on his book he finds the comments from the audience “quite as relevant as anything I have to say. People read and find information, especially on the internet.” He regrets not having learned a trade, something he could use to make a living. “The only thing I can do is use Word. That’s not a selling point on the labour market.” He learned it at a printshop as part of a youth employment scheme. “That was good for me. I felt quite lost after my studies, I hadn’t learned anything useful.”

Alexandre worries that an employer might do an internet search and find that he’s done “totally irrelevant things” and holds certain political opinions. He does not use pseudonyms, unlike many others. Having several different identities is useful to hide the many jobs people resort to just to earn a living, or to cover artistic or political activities that might scare off a potential employer. “Grite Lammane”, who is 30, writes under that name for a monthly social criticism review, CQFD. She does freelance work under another pseudonym: “The people who hire me don’t necessarily want their outfits to be linked to some of my other activities. In any case if I did everything under my real name they’d think I was inconsistent. I only give my real name in situations where I can be understood by everybody, without having to argue my case for hours.”

US uncooperative in war on terror

Venezuela's Ambassador to the US, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, responds in the LA Times to the Bush administration's arms-sales ban and accusation that Venezuela is uncooperative in the "war on terror." Well done, sir.
Just as the Bush administration is ignoring our efforts in the war on terror, it is also thwarting attempts to bring notorious terrorists to justice, and it is doing so for political reasons. The State Department has ignored repeated requests from the Venezuelan government to either try or extradite three known Venezuelan terrorists currently taking refuge on U.S. soil. The most infamous of these, Luis Posada Carriles, is known as the "Osama bin Laden of Latin America" and is widely believed to have masterminded the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that left 73 innocent civilians dead. Despite repeated requests, the Bush administration has refused to honor the extradition treaty it signed with Venezuela in 1922.

If the U.S. will not extradite Posada to Venezuela, then it is obliged under international law to prosecute him here or send him to a third country for trial. Yet it has not done so. Why has the Bush administration dragged its feet on Posada? He was once a CIA operative and has long been shielded by extremist sectors of the powerful Cuban American community in Florida. Ironically, it is the Bush administration that is not cooperating with our fight against terror.

Venezuela and the United States are natural allies, sharing long-standing ties in oil, commerce and culture. It is unfortunate that those ties were broken when the Bush administration tacitly endorsed a military coup against Chavez in 2002. The decision to accuse us of not cooperating in the war on terror is another means by which the Bush administration is trying to isolate, antagonize and destabilize Venezuela. Such political decisions erode the legitimacy of the Bush administration's mission to fight terror and alienate allies.

The war on terror cannot be fought a la carte. Nor can it be fought by resorting to methods that contradict the very values and motivations the Bush administration professes to spread around the globe. If it is serious about fighting the war on terror, it must put politics aside. Allies in the war on terror do not have to agree on domestic issues or political ideology; they must be united only in their dedication to protecting the lives of their citizens, Venezuelans and Americans alike.

Kinsley on McCain

Is likability enough?
McCain is like another larger-than-life character in American politics: Colin Powell. Both men are so admirable and so likable that people convince themselves against all evidence that Powell or McCain must agree with them on the big issues. In Powell's case, the theory always was that he was speaking truth to power from within, while telling the necessary public fibs to hold on to the privileged position this service required. With McCain, something more magical is going on. He says plainly that he is for the war, or against abortion choice, and people hear the opposite. It's a gift, I guess.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eurovision 2006, I guess

I suppose I should say something about Eurovision 2006 since I've done two lead-up posts of press conference statements (here and here), and now there are all these Finns and Icelanders hanging out here. If traffic in English is any indicator, I'd be placing my money on Iceland's Sylvia Night or Finland's Lordi. They are, however, also the two boffo characters in the competition.

Today is the semifinal of Eurovision 2006. You can sing along here by webcast, and get other information. Did you know that ABBA's "Waterloo" was voted best Eurovision song ever? I didn't either. Now I do, and I'm filing that information away. I used to ice skate to that song when I was a kid; that and "Dancing Queen" (no comment). An ice rink in Bangkok - the only one there at the time - with a Thai dj who loved ABBA. I would hold hands with the lovely Michelle while she skated backwards. Young love... Anyway....

Go to Eurovision 2006! It's Super!


Eliminating the US and the UK from the competition (they're always about like that), Finland is still in the lead, although Sweden has moved up in the past hour and is breathing down Finland's cold backside. Norway has also moved up, while Iceland has dropped a spot. Lithuania is making a late run. Who will win Eurovision Phronesisaical 2006?

UPDATE 2 (7:35):

Wow, it's a free-for-all with Finland and Sweden battling it out. Or, shall I say, lording it over the competition? Iceland's Sylviaaaa Nightttt didn't make it to the finals. The finals will be less glorious and splendid as a result. And apparently uglier.

No alternatives

Fred Kaplan in Slate (recall also this earlier post).
It's ironic that President Bush is now endorsing a diplomatic stance toward Iran so similar to the stance that President Clinton took toward North Korea. When he first took office, Bush so feverishly opposed the Agreed Framework with North Korea in large part because Clinton had produced it.

Yet the convergence shouldn't be so surprising. Bush has been maneuvered into a diplomatic path toward Iran because he has no real alternative. And if the diplomatic task is to lure a hostile regime from the nuclear precipice, there are only so many inducements to put on the table—alternative sources of nuclear energy, economic assistance, political recognition, security guarantees. The Agreed Framework—which took more than 50 nightmarishly difficult negotiating sessions for Clinton's emissaries to conclude—contained all these inducements. If a deal is to be worked out with Iran, it will have to provide them in some fashion, too.

Chinese and Commonwealth friends

Apropos the post yesterday about the worldwide growth in harsh feelings towards Americans, take a look here at this British strategy piece. Via John Brown.

The tragic collapse of America’s ‘soft power’, reputation and influence almost across the entire globe is leaving a dangerous vacuum. Into this vacuum, cautiously, subtly, but steadily are moving the Chinese – with cash, with investment projects, with trade deals, secured access to oil and gas supplies in an energy hungry world, with military and policing support and with technology.

This is a gap which ought to be filled not by the Chinese dictatorship but by the free democracies of the Commonwealth, from both North and South, banded together by a commitment to freedom under the rule of law and ready to make real and common sacrifices in the interests of a peaceful and stable world and the spread of democratic governance in many different forms.

More on fascism

Lindsay has a terrific post today on fascism.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Friends 4 Ever

I recall many non-American friends giving the benefit of the doubt to Americans prior to the second Bush election. Some said that if Bush won a second term, if Americans hadn't figured out what an incompetent and dangerous boob he is, that all bets were off. There was still goodwill, but it was wearing thin. New polls suggest that it has dissolved like rice paper.

See here. I've excerpted a bit (my bold script), but there's more.
America's image problem is pervasive, deep and perhaps permanent, analysts say -- an inevitable outcome of being the world's only superpower...

Polls now show an ominous turn. Majorities around the world think Americans are greedy, violent and rude, and fewer than half in countries like Poland, Spain, Canada, China and Russia think Americans are honest.

"We found a rising antipathy toward Americans," said Bruce Stokes of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which interviewed 93,000 people in 50 countries over a four-year time span.

The dislike is accelerating among youth, Stokes said. For instance, 20 percent of Britons under age 30 have an unfavorable opinion of Americans, double the percentage of 2002.

The problem, Stokes said, "is Americans, not just (President) Bush."

Stokes and his colleagues at the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan public opinion group in Washington, found that fewer and fewer people see the United States as a land of high ideals and opportunity. More than half those asked in France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Britain said the "spread of American ideas and customs" was a "bad thing."...

Keeping the peace, winning the war on terrorism and other critical goals are achievable "only if people like you and trust you," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center...

Asked where to find the "good life," no more than one in 10 people recommended the United States in a poll conducted in 13 countries, Kohut said. More popular: Canada, Australia, Britain and Germany. Only in India did the United States still represent the land of opportunity, he found...
But calm! At least we care enough to go to the time and effort to find out in a poll that we're not liked (invasion schmasion!, torture schmorture! schpying! schnitzel!), unlike... THE FRENCH.
No question this is bad news -- but put it into perspective, urged Richard Solomon, the veteran diplomat and negotiator who is president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a federally funded think tank.

"It's an attractive aspect of our culture that we worry about what other people think," Solomon said. "The French couldn't care less if they make people unhappy."

Spanish limes


Here's to Thierry Henry and the other lads today.

UPDATE (2:35):

Here we go! Arsenal vs. Barcelona. Champions League final. If you can't make it to ESPN2 in the US, or likely any of the main channels anywhere else in the world, follow along here at The Guardian.

UPDATE (3:25):

Gooooooolllll! Sol Campbell header. Arsenal 1 - Barcelona 0. And Arsenal has been a man down since Lehmann was sent off around the 20th minute. The good thing is that Arsenal can fall back a bit on defense with only the ten men.

UPDATE (4:30):

Merde. Arsenal 1 - Barcelona 2. Arsenal had been the superior side even with only ten men, but now they look worn out.

UPDATE (whatever):


Clever Independent

If you don't know who this is, watch the video here.

Music that sings you your coffee

David Byrne writes,

Now, with cable TV and the Internet, the marketing of mainstream music takes place in a whirlwind of media bits. Gossip, paparazzi pix, photo opportunities and appearances and even some actual music is the content. In a way this bundle that constitutes mainstream music begins to establish a model that could be the future of recorded music — that the recordings are the “loss leaders” for everything else. Loss leaders are the taste of a product you give away free in order to lead someone into your world. PDF software could be viewed that way, flash players, etc. And now maybe free recorded music will be the thing that hooks you into the universe of Britney, Ashley or the Ying Yang Twins. The music will be your introduction into a universe of merch, relationships, video clips, links, on and on.

The role of graphic designers will change. Rather than being called upon to create one or two iconic images that are emblematic of an artist and a new product their job will be to imagine sets of links, connections and relationships…. and to make those visually enticing, fun and rewarding. I can’t imagine what exactly that might be, but it will be whole lot more than LP sleeves.

Yah. Madame Helmut has her iPod, her graphic design branding stuff; Helmut has his cd player for burning LPs, of which about 4000 take up a wall in the bedroom much to Madame Helmut's consternation.

The LPs aren't old-guy old habits. I simply prefer them. I prefer them not only for their packaging - which Byrne maintains was determined by the record companies rather than the musicians (this wasn't always true) - and their warmer sound (which I've found translates comparatively well when burned to cds). I prefer them mostly because of two things: the hunt, and the fact that so much music has been filtered out of the market due to the greater expenses of marketing (the "universe of merch, relationships, video clips, links, on and on").

The music industry today functions as a giant funnel that squeezes out of its rectal tip the most banal of music. Yes, a lot can be found online, and there's even real merit to being able to search out and download music you like without being assaulted with advertising campaigns. But I have so much music that's simply unavailable now in any format. I've googled without luck plenty of music that I know exists. As everything becomes increasingly digital, it's not as if nothing is left behind. Granted, there's lots of bad music that may as well be left out of the digisphere. There's quite a bit in the soundtracks to our lives, however, that will never appear digitally.

LPs carry this function - an individualized cultural memory. They also carry the function of sustaining culturally outmoded tastes, events, and historical aural polaroids. I have, for instance, an avant-garde jazz record made at a gallery opening in NYC in the mid-60s. There were maybe 50 copies made of the record. I've had no success finding more information about it through the internet. It's a lost item, left behind in the analogsphere. And who knows anything about the lovely little record I found a few years ago by a young Swedish artpop folk group from the early 1970s, Vestenvinden's "Gummimasker"?

As for the hunt, I realized yesterday the importance of this to me while talking with a neighbor. I'm going to Hungary next week for a conference, and I'm spending a few days in Budapest before the conference. I told the neighbor something I realized while I was saying it. I often visit cities at least in part by searching out record shops and local music. It's often a way of exploring those parts of cities off the trail of tourism, of meeting interesting people, of discovering what's going on in the less culturally ostentatious parts of the city. This isn't for everyone, of course. While we talk about the digital age closing distances, however, I find that the distance to be traveled by sitting in front of the computer is usually illusory.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Immigration politics

Marc Cooper at Truthdig:
Let’s get a couple of things straight about the immigration speech President George W. Bush unreeled Monday night from the Oval Office.

His address had nothing to do with actual border policy and everything to do with domestic electoral politics.

The real mission of the 6,000 National Guard troops he has called out is to quell the rebellion on the president’s right flank, the flaring mutiny of his own conservative base. Indeed, if the president were being honest, the mobilized troops would be taken off the federal payroll and moved onto the books of the 2006 national Republican campaign...

The truth be told, the totality of Bush’s speech was rather reasonable. Stripping away the political theatrics and the empty phrasing, and putting aside the undue emphasis on deployment of the Guard, the president did endorse the sort of bipartisan reforms proposed by a coalition stretching from John McCain and the Chamber of Commerce to Ted Kennedy and the Service Employees International Union. And he called directly on both houses of Congress to finally agree upon and pass a bill that reflects that consensus. Problem is that Bush should have been speaking out forcefully in favor of these moves ever since he raised comprehensive reform as a priority in his 2004 State of the Union speech. Unfortunately, he hid under his desk on this issue for the last two years. Only after the right wing of his base rebelled and only after the pro-immigrant movement blossomed in the streets—that is, only after the White House was completely overtaken by events—did the president act....

And how did this expensive appeal to the rightwing go over? Glenn Greenwald does the roundup:
Michelle Malkin: "platitudes, non sequiturs, and recycled rhetoric I've been deconstructing the last five years."

John "The Rocket" Hinderaker: "He had his chance and he blew it . . . President Bush is being destroyed by vicious people who hate him. So far, he hasn't seemed to notice. Apparently, he doesn't think he needs any allies. He certainly didn't win any with tonight's speech . . . . President Bush doesn't have many chances left to salvage his second term. After tonight, he might not have any."

(As a bonus, definitely don't miss the unbelievably patronizing summary by The Rocket of his conversation with his "African immigrant" driver last night after the speech, in which Rocket "patiently" tried to explain the real issues to the immigrant driver, only to be "sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway").

Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff: "President Bush did wimp out, and fatally so I think, on his fourth point, i.e., what to do about illegals who are already here. . . . This means that Bush's proposal taken as a whole is probably self-defeating."

Ankle Biting Pundits: "Whether he likes it or not, the president did not carve out a 'centrist' position at all. He articulated one of the two conflicting positions in this debate. And by pretending to be a 'middle grounder' I believe he cheapened his argument."

Misha at Anti-Idotarian Rottweiler: "long on blather and emotion and amazingly short on actual solutions. . . . Take your 'virtual' fence and your hi-tech vaporware coupled with your amnesty plan and shove them up your ass, Jorge."...

Mark Levin, National Review: "I didn't spend 35 years in the conservative movement for this. . . . This is pure idiocy, and it has the potential of being far more damaging to this nation than any big-government power-grab perpetrated by any previous president and Congress."

Dave Riehl: "Unfortunately, visitors to a Bush '43' Library may have to cross the border into Mexico to take it all in. In a speech which was as much a eulogy for the so-called Reagan Revolution, as it was an unfortunate beginning to a pending political battle on immigration, President Bush all but declared himself irrelevant to the conversation. In essence, the sitting President of the United States through (sic) up his hands and declared, 'No mas.'

John Hawkins, Right Wing News: "After the speech last night, I took a look around the right side of the blogosphere to get a sense of what people thought. The reaction was probably -- oh, let's say somewhere between 75-90% negative and to be truthful, as often as not, I got the impression that the bloggers who said they liked the speech were reading out of the old "root, root, root for the home team playbook" rather than genuinely being enthused about what Bush had to say."


Ten best places in Tokyo for pottery.

Purple links

Some new links. Little recent discoveries. Somewhat idiosyncratic, but worth your time.

Chris Clarke's Creek Running North

EEPHUS - Trafficking in Trafficking.

Cabinet Magazine

Sprol - Worst Places in the World

At some point, I'll reorganize the links. They're getting out of hand. No clever method yet.

Red Independent

The Independent is guest-edited today by Bono. Click an ad or two - proceeds go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Plus, we get this line from Casbah-rocker Condoleeza Rice: "I love to work out to this song ["Sunshine of Your Love" - Cream]," says Rice. "Believe it or not, I loved acid rock in college - and I still do."

Blue velvet

Via Mike, MyDD has the breakdown on Blue vs. Red.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Three notes on domestic spying

1) At a certain point, shouldn't we begin asking wholesale, publicly, openly what it is exactly we would like as a society? A more specific way of putting this in the present context is to ask what the limits are in the "war on terror." We know now that, unjustifiably (other than parroting the "war on terror" mantra) there are few limits internationally. The US will torture and then quibble legalistically over the language, pushing the burden of proof onto the Spanish Inquisition to defend its historical self against benign modern American interrogation practices. Is the Spanish Inquisition the limit?

And, domestically, are prostrate probes, chip implants? Isn't there a point at which Americans look at themselves and don't know or recognize what they see? Isn't there a point at which we're not "Nazis" or "fascists," but some new brand of execrableness that requires a new language to describe its offense to basic norms of decency? Shouldn't we begin to formulate the language that truly describes that new brand, rather than relying upon older tropes for pathological human-political behavior?

Complicity is not far-removed from direct participation. We look at populations that have ignored their nation's crimes and which have tolerated incremental domestic abuses as citizens who are complicit in the crimes themselves, even when the government of that nation is authoritarian. We use a language that summarizes an entire population under the rubric of its administration or of particular groups. No longer individualized, a people becomes simply the group that commits the evils. What of a democracy in which we have ostensive free speech, freedom of the press, and universal suffrage? This seems to me to raise the stakes on responsibility. At what point do the citizens of a democratic country take on responsibility for the abuses of their leadership? At the point at which they're no longer a democracy?

Again, what does the so-called war on terror justify? Every conceivable abuse? What does it justify and what does it not justify? Then, I hope we ask, why? Of course, to answer this question we should keep in mind that the "war on terror" is now at least as much a creation of this administration as it is of 9-11 if not more so.

2) The NSA compiles data on Americans via their phone records and emails giving the explicit lie to statements to the contrary by the president and his cronies. These are more clear lies. The language of "misleading" is no longer simply misleading but a lie itself. Then they say, "trust us." Is there a point at which Americans are no longer so gullible as to continue to trust this administration? Has this administration given any reason to trust them, whatever one's political persuasion? Recall even prior to the Iraq War - apart from the lies repeatedly made to US citizens and the global audience - the forgotten fact that the US demanded of Iraq that it reduce its conventional missile weaponry. Iraq did so. Then the US invaded. That's a cowardly bully's move. One might say that Saddam Hussein was gullible, and paid the price for it. One might also say that this administration has no integrity whatsoever in laying down limits to its bullying.

3) The telecommunication companies, for which I have little sympathy, give up phone records to the NSA in a climate of domestic terror by the administration, feared consequences for being uncooperative, and concomitant willful complicity. This administration's NSA uses the records to mine data on American citizens. Tonight I'm hearing the administration's new, yet old, argument that the telecoms may face charges for giving up customers' private information.

First, we should recoil in disgust at the administration's granting of greater rights to "customers" than to citizens. Second, recall this same technique, used elsewhere over and over by the administration. Cow potential critics or at least those disinclined to cooperate with questionable policies into cooperation through a series of threats and disincentives/incentives. Then, if one's machinations are discovered, blame those groups or individuals who were coerced into action by the very fact that they undertook the action under a state of coercion. Rove's and Bush's art is then to go one further and mock the bastard. This is cowardice at its worst - a cowardice that will sacrifice the next stupid sycophant that comes along to eternal damnation in the service of its own self-centered needs.

Rather pitifully as a sign of protest, I will be changing my telecom service and I hope that the telecoms involved in this case suffer. Their executives can rot in hell. At the same time, however, in this case the crime is again principally on the administration's side.

Steve G had a nice post today on the rhetoric of fascism. I agree with him that calling a government fascistic is an easy out for what should otherwise be real, concrete criticism. But, if so, let's find another term to apply to the present case because this administration continues to commit crimes and create a facilitating climate of terror within its own citizenry. "Fascism" may actually be too kind.

Immigration shrieks

Glenn Greenwald has good stuff on the so-called immigration debate (see this final solution insanity too at Digby's place). Here he discusses the right's growing call for Bush's impeachment over the immigration issue.

Frankly, I'm still perplexed (here's the earlier perplexity, worth looking at for the links). I know this is a political tool (with tools behind the politics), but the hysteria is baffling. Is it that this is a perceived battle that might be winnable?



The Washington Post describes Bush's immigration speech as an attempt to stake out a "middle ground" in the immigration debate:

Bush sought to reassure both sides with his speech last night, and in doing so he attempted to define the middle ground in a debate where consensus has been difficult. By ordering National Guard troops to the border, he was determined to show conservatives and House Republicans his belief that border security is a prerequisite to any legislative solution. But on the most contentious issue before Congress, Bush came closer to the approach now on the Senate floor, saying he favors a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants while rejecting either mass deportation or automatic amnesty for those now here illegally. [WaPo]

It's a sad commentary on the political discourse in this country, to say nothing of mainstream journalism, when you get moderate cred for rejecting the deportation of millions of people and sending 6000 troops to further militarize our border with a peaceful ally.

Politics of the "terrorism supporter" designation

Gordo at Appletree points out something interesting. On the day that the US embargoes Venezuela on new weapon purchases for being "uncooperative" in the war on terror (and having an "ideological affinity" with FARC), Qaddafi is taken off the terrorist list. Chávez and Qaddafi meet tomorrow.

What do we make of this?

Gore 2008

From Andrew Sullivan:
A reader predicts:

Thanks again for another fine column ... but it will be Gore in '08, not Hillary. Hillary is like the guy in the gym who only works the upper body and has the biggest arms, chest and shoulders, but his legs (his base, if you will) are weak. Just like the top heavy gym stud who can easily be beaten by a quick blow to his legs, Hillary (who has really bad legs!) can be toppled too.
Feingold (the Dean of '08) will hit Hillary hard and undercut her liberal support-supposedly her rock solid base. Now, I can hear you scream at your screen, "that's just what Hillary wants - a candidate that makes her look less liberal!"
Yeah ... but once Feingold exposes that Hillary has been wrong on so many issues Dems care about (Iraq, civil liberties, Iraq, attacking Bush), she'll be reduced to normal size for others to take on. Gore can sit back and watch Feingold do the dirty work and get in as Hillary weakens.
Gore's big advantages: he's been right on the issues, he retains stature among Democrats, and, surprisingly, he'll appear fresh from being away so long. Other than SNL last night, when was the last time you saw Gore on TV (and if you didn't see Gore on SNL...go to for a very good laugh!)?
Gore-Warner is the winning ticket in '08.

I'd dismiss this if a very canny Republican hadn't said exactly the same thing to me the other night. I still cannot see it. But in politics, anything can happen, I suppose.

My, you've got big ears

ABC News, via Raw Story:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation...

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Padres' May

The San Diego Padres have won 14 of their last 15 games. Just like last May, here they come with a head of steam to put on some whoop-ass just-above-.500 ball on the West's sorry asses.

You win. Noooo, you win.

Who wants a country? Country for sale!

Adam Nagourney:
Is it really in the best interest of the Democratic Party to win control of the House and Senate in November? Might the party's long-term fortunes actually be helped by falling short?
David Kirkpatrick:
"There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall," said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer.

More Eurovision!

Since we're receiving pretty good traffic from Iceland now, here's a bit more on Eurovision from this weekend's press conferences. In the name of international understanding and all that. Peace. And don't forget the earlier post with even more saucy remarks from these scintillating superstars.

Estonia's Swedish entry, Sandra, encountered some trouble with her shorts. This unfortunate situation nevertheless provides us with insight into how Estonian Swedes put their pants on (and take them off?):
Why was she wearing sexy shorts for her first rehearsal? “I hadn’t thought about wearing them to be sexy,” she said. “I was wearing very high heels and I’d usually wear jeans but I couldn’t get them on over the shoes...."
Portugal's participants, Nonstop, figure out the concept of time while in Greece (note the name):
“Our experience of the show ‘Popstars’ was great,” said Portuguese girl group Nonstop. “We’re still young but five years ago we were really young...."
Lithuania has computed the odds and they don't look good:
“We’re not really into competing with other countries,” said Lithuanian band LT United. “Everyone here’s a winner already, by winning in their own countries. We’re challenging ourselves. We’re not worried about getting votes. We like what we do and hope other people do too. Winning isn’t about where you’re placed. It’s a state of mind.”
Lordi of Finland does more of their Alice Cooper shtick:
In the previous press conference, Lordi had said that he eats babies for breakfast. In this one, he was asked what he eats for dinner. “Kittens,” he said. “And crickets and spiders, that kind of thing. The same as you.”
Ukraine's performer - if you'll remember, an incredibly happy one - tones it down and goes for the baffling portion of the press conference spectrum (literature or magic? You guess.):
“Our rehearsal was good but you haven’t seen everything yet,” she said. “We’re still hoping for one big surprise. It’s still being prepared but it’s along the lines of David Copperfield…”
Andorra is still having problems with their singing waitress:
“Jennifer has a cold and her voice doesn’t feel right,” explained Andorra’s Head of Delegation. “But our main problem is that the stage costumes and some of our other things are stuck in customs. So we’ve done two rehearsals without them. We’re told we’ll have them by Monday but if we don’t, it will be a big, big problem. Still, the rehearsal today went much better than the last one and it looked great in the viewing room.”
This summer, catch Belarussian Polina Smolova hitchhiking merrily along the Silk Road:
“Eurovision is just one part of my journey,” she added. “After this, I will keep moving forward and carry on singing and dancing, hopefully around the world.”
Macedonia's Elena maintains the aching suspense while waxing philosophical:
Will Elena be wearing the same short dress when it comes to the Semi-Final? “Hmm, okay. I’ll tell you,” she said. “It won’t be this dress. I’m going to be wearing hot pants and a top. But I won’t tell you what colour.... the biggest phrase I want to pass on is the Eurovision motto – ‘Feel the rhythm’. Nothing else matters.”
And, of course, Iceland's Silvia Night shares her transcendent, resplendent guiding light:
“My dearest fans, you who are shining in my light, I welcome you all,” said Silvia Night before discussing the controversy over the profanity of her lyrics. “As my loyal admirers, you know that envious and ugly people with no style and no talent have tried to hinder me at every step. When I was named Iceland’s sexiest woman and TV personality of the year, those same people tried to have me disqualified. They did not succeed. They tried to do so when I qualified for Eurovision but again they have failed. I will not name names but you people know who you are. Shame on you.”

“I want to thank the organisers of this glorious competition for the marvellous job they have done so that I can bring true beauty to Eurovision,” she said...

“I like the band from Finland,” she said. “But I met them without their make-up on the other day and they are [censored] ugly.”

Her message to her fans: “I want to say to you all, keep fighting and under my guiding light we will rid the world of ugliness in the name of Silvia Night. Thank you.”

Information abuse

A little reminder from Knight Ridder:
President Bush has assured Americans that their government isn't spying on them, but history explains why many remain uneasy about this week's news that their phone records have been turned over to federal agents.

The government has a long track record of abusing personal information that's gathered in the name of national security. From the Red Scare in the 1920s to illegal wiretaps during the Nixon era, Americans have struggled to find the right balance between individual rights and collective security...

In some cases, intelligence-gatherers try to use the information they collect against their enemies. In one of the most notorious examples, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched a campaign to discredit King that included an attempt to get him to commit suicide.

After gathering evidence of King's extramarital affairs, the agency sent a compilation of incriminating audiotapes to King's wife and sent him a note suggesting that he take his own life.

"King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. ... You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation," the note said.

Bush's defenders say the current controversy bears no resemblance to past abuses and is being blown out of proportion.

Stiglitz on Latin American populism

If you look at Venezuela’s example, it is that by bargaining tough and hard with the oil companies you can get a better deal. Across the world, many developing countries have gotten a rotten deal. The fraction of value of the resources they’ve been recovering for their people has been relatively low.

Malaysia brought people in to help Malaysians learn how to manage an oil company, but they owned it completely. Now, and the evidence supports it, they get much better value from their resources than if those resources were foreign-owned.

Bolivia has gotten a pretty bad deal on its natural gas. It can do better, as Evo Morales has said he intends to do.

If Argentina had caved into the IMF, it would have gotten a much worse deal in the debt negotiations. If it had hired the IMF as its negotiator, it would have been really screwed. So, what is wrong with bargaining?

Now, if by populism one means worrying about how the bottom two-thirds of the population fares, then populism is not a bad thing. Two-thirds of Venezuelans were living in poverty under the old system. They gained nothing from the old economics. The GNP might have been going up, but they didn’t see any of it.

Obviously, it is of concern if these new leaders of the left in Latin America pretend there are no laws of economics. If they say, “I can deliver the goods” without the resources, that is a problem. But the question is whether the IMF strictures are the only ones consistent with good economics. The answer to that is a resounding no.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Planet of slums

Two-part interview in TomDispatch with Mike Davis, whose new book is Planet of Slums.


Another interview with Davis here at New Perspectives Quarterly.

Fear mongering: South American edition

From TomDispatch:

How fast has Latin America fallen from favor? Just a decade ago the Clinton administration was holding up the region as the crown jewel of globalization's promise: All is quiet on "our southern flank," reported the head of the US Southern Command, General Barry McCaffrey, in 1995, "our neighbors are allies who, in general, share similar values." "The Western Hemisphere has a lot to teach the world," said McCaffrey's boss Secretary of Defense William Cohen two years later, "as the world reaches for the kind of progress we have made."

Today, with a new generation of leaders in open rebellion against Washington's leadership, Latin America is no longer seen as a beacon unto the world but as a shadowy place where "enemies" lurk. "They watch, they probe," Donald Rumsfeld warns of terrorists in Latin America; they look for "weaknesses." According to the new head of Southcom General Bantz Craddock, the region is held hostage by a league of extraordinary gentlemen made up of the "transnational terrorist, the narco-terrorist, the Islamic radical fundraiser and recruiter, the illicit trafficker, the money launderer, the kidnapper, [and] the gang member."

"Terrorists throughout the Southern command area of responsibility," Craddock's predecessor warned, "bomb, murder, kidnap, traffic drugs, transfer arms, launder money and smuggle humans." Problems that Clinton's Pentagon presented as discrete issues -- drugs, arms trafficking, intellectual property piracy, migration, and money laundering, what the editor of Foreign Policy Moisés Naín has described as the "five wars of globalization" -- are now understood as part of a larger unified campaign against terrorism.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Foggo Bottom

Josh Marshall gets going on what I was atitteringly awaiting:
Foggo's memory gets foggy on how the Wilkes-CIA contract deal went down...

Larry Johnson has the latest on the Foggo of War.

-- Josh Marshall

Don't look at me! Please loooook...

We're kind of following Eurovision 2006 here at Phronesisaical, what with one previous post and everything. Here's a second one citing today's press conference where we provide a window onto the psyche of Iceland's participant, Sylviaaaaa.
  • Before Silvia arrived to meet the press, her boyfriend instructed the journalists not to look Icelandic star Silvia Night in the eye or else they would be removed. “I welcome you all to enjoy my stay in Athens,” said Silvia when she did arrive. “I am an international superstar and you are all my children.”
  • “I have a lot of messages for my fans,” she said. “But the number one message is that I have arrived and you can all sleep tight tonight because Silvia Night will guard the light.”
  • “The government in Iceland has planned a one-year holiday after I win,” she added.
  • One journalist asked Silvia to explain lewd comments she had made about Netherlands group Treble, live on Lithuanian TV. “I can see you looking at me, so if you wouldn’t mind looking away,” Silvia responded. “You will be removed. You’re still looking at me. Remove her!” In chaotic scenes, Silvia’s bodyguard carried the journalist from the room.
There's more. Here's the incredibly happy Ukrainian entry:
  • “Show me your love, that’s why I came,” said Ukraine’s Tina Karol. “Those are the words of my song but they’re also my feelings. I just want to make the world so, so happy. I want to smile at everyone and see everyone smiling back at me.”
  • “I’m a singer for the Ukrainian military orchestra and I sing in military uniform,” she added.
Lithuania's humor-meisters:
“We always knew we’d perform in the contest one day,” said Lithuanian group LT United. “We’ve been watching the Eurovision Song Contest since about 1977. We’re old – we’re like 63 years old. We’re just very good looking.”
Sandra, the Estonian (but actually Swedish) entry:
  • “What have I experienced of Greece?” she asked. “We’ve been taking it easy in the sun. I really like your weather. And I love Greek salads of course. And I love this arena. But that’s really all I’ve had the chance to see so far.”
Waving the Andorran flag...
“I’m not a professional singer,” said Andorra’s Jennifer. “I was working as a waitress and this has come as a complete surprise to me. I was having lessons at a stage school in Andorra and Andorran TV came looking for backing singers. I auditioned and they decided to do the project with me. I’ve never even sung in front of an audience."
What Kate Ryan of Belgium will be doing:
“I will be doing the ‘knee swing’,” she confirmed. “For those of you who don’t know, the knee swing has become a big part of my choreography and everyone in Belgium knows it. I have a new choreographer for ‘Je t’adore’ and I begged him to put it in until he said ‘Okay, okay, you can do it.’ Everyone in Belgium will be very happy.”
Poland's bad boys Ich Troje:
“Eurovision is always one big party,” said Michał Wiśniewski, front man of Polish group Ich Troje. “For us, this year’s party began a week ago when we arrived in Greece for our promo tour. We’ve had a good time – and too much ouzo.”
UPDATE (Sunday, May 14th):
See also this more recent post for further crucial information.

The Magic Number

U.S. President George W. Bush's job approval rating has fallen to 29 percent in a new Harris Interactive poll.

Best work of fiction

Some of the illustrious blog crew - Lance Mannion, Pandagon, Rob Farley - are discussing the recent NY Times list of Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years. These kinds of lists are often rather silly since one may have very good reasons for considering a work such as (non-American) Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano great for rather individual reasons but less for public ones. Not to say that there's no objectivity to divining great literature, but I've done it with records and find that the top five or ten would have to include, for me, records that I know most other people wouldn't put in the list.

The NY Times top five, according to some 200 or so critics, if you can't stand waiting, are:

1. Beloved, Tony Morrison
2. Underworld, Don Delillo
3. Rabbit Angstrom, John Updike
4. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth

I haven't read one of them, though I've read at least something by all of these authors. I'm not particularly enamored by any of them.

But here's the problem: since writing my dissertation I've been able to read maybe one or two fiction works per year and that's it. I read all day off and on, but most of it is geared to my academic profession. When I have leisure time - whatever that is - I feel guilty if I'm not reading something that fills a gap in my understanding directly or indirectly related to my fields. The nightstand has a stack of novels to be read. The stack has grown over the past several years and not one of them has been read. When you read all day, the last thing you want to do is more reading when you're done for the day. Watching a baseball or basketball game is more like it. The last really good novel I read was John Banville's The Untouchable several years ago.

This, however, runs counter to an earlier mission gained in high school and undergrad days, which was to read the major works of every national or linguistic literary tradition. A tough project, and one involving arbitrary guidelines for the idea behind "a tradition," but I set out on it. Periods, which overlapped, included,

The Beats
The Great Russian Novels (beginning with Turgenev's Fathers and Sons)
The Great Modern Latin American Works (the obvious greats like Garcia-Marquez and Cortazar, but also somewhat lesser-known authors such as Juan Rulfo)
Italian Modern Literature (the obvious Eco and Calvino, but also Buzatti, Landolfi, Gadda, etc.)
The Great Czechs (Kafka, Skvorecky, Kundera, etc.)
Classics of Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami (favorites are Tanizaki and Oe)
German Philosophical Literature (Goethe, Musil, Broch, Walser, Handke, etc.)

Then it petered out. It was unsustainable. I did an MA thesis, taught, wrote, did a doctoral dissertation, taught, wrote, teach, write. Read constantly.

Don't you find this to be the case? How do academics who aren't literature professors find the time and the ability to read fiction (of course, keeping in mind that some nonfiction works border on fiction)? I would love to be able to sit still and pay attention to a novel again. Alas, even summers are for catching up, writing anew.

And you? Have you recently read a great work of fiction aside from the orthodoxy?

Friday dinner party conversation stopper

Do it in French for effect or affect:

"A proprement parler, il n'y a pas de certitude; il y a seulement des hommes certains."

["Properly speaking, there is no certainty; there are only people who are certain."]

- Charles Renouvier

Thursday, May 11, 2006

New twinkies

New links post! Always witty, frivolous, and filled with intelligent commentary of the highest calibre.

I've added some new links to the blogroll. A couple are pretty obvious, but I'm just now getting over the resentment/irritation/derision/unrequited love/anger phase of blog childhood wherein one desires to kill the big blogs and marry the others. Note that I still can't link to Kos and Atrios, the emperor blogs, the sires.


Steve Gilliard

Ones you may have missed:

David Byrne [the Talking Head blogs quirkily]
Mike the Mad Biologist [who should have already been on the blogroll]
SuperFrenchie [a cheese-eating view of living in the US, and vice versa; plus other goodies, such as penis-size comparisons]
Philosophy Conferences [in the Philosophy section - a useful site for the philostophers here]
And, it has been there, waiting in deadly silence for weeks, but I don't think anyone has clicked it (fear?):
Durian Palace: A Home of the King of Fruits on the World Wide Web

The Porpoise Song

Josh Marshall:

Dems say AG Gonzales lied to Congress about the NSA massive call database program. And it looks to us like he did. Read the testimony for yourself.

What's Chavez up to today?

[Thanks, Latin American News Review].
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez will discuss poverty when he meets for the first time with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, the state news agency said citing diplomatic sources.

"Poverty is a shared problem in Latin America and in the case of Venezuela, Chavez' current government is promoting programs geared to eliminating it," the state news agency ABN said quoting Caracas' ambassador to the Vatican, Ivan Rincon Urdaneta.

Since he began his presidency in 1999, this will be the third visit by Chavez to the Vatican, but his first visit with the German pontiff. Chavez says he is a fervent Christian and frequently quotes the Bible in his speeches.

On his upcoming European tour Chavez plans to meet with lawmakers in Britain and attend a European Union-Latin America-Caribbean summit in Austria.

Torture as policy

As if we still needed it.... More forthcoming proof of a wholesale and conscious change in policy at the highest levels of the US government towards allowing torture. See Andrew Sullivan's post on this.

I honestly care little about the debate over the number of prosecutions of low-ranking military people and contractors - the so-called bad apples - which is nearly a red herring. I care much more about prosecuting for crucially important moral and pragmatic reasons those who have formed the policy and turned the US into an overtly torturing nation that talks out of the side of its mouth.