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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Beinhart´s ´´A Fighting Faith´´

I can hardly believe I´m sitting here in Puerto Varas reading TNR, but so it is. I finally started reading through Beinhart´s much-discussed (w.r.t. a certain liberal overread segment of the population) piece in TNR, which I previously blogged last week. Just wanted to reiterate that it does appear to be required reading if you care about liberalism in the United States (and thus, by extension, an alternative and an opposition to the apparently acsendant right wing in our country).

I haven´t read the whole thing, so I´m not claiming I agree with the thesis. But it´s an argument you need to be aware of.

A key paragraph early in the piece that essentially states the thesis (read the intro of the piece to understand what he means by ´´a Wallacite grassroots´´ and a ´´meeting at the Willard Hotel´´):

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.

My excuse for reading this while I should be sleeping: I´m cleaning out my yahoo inbox, and the connection is so slow--or rather, so narrow--that while waiting for the next message to load, I have time to do another task--multitasking, in the original OS sense of the word.

from Puerto Varas

A quick and short post. It´s 12:30am, Monday going into Tuesday. At the internet stations in the lobby of Hotel Cabañas del Lago, in Puerto Varas, in the Lake District of Chile. Arrived in the Lake District around 1pm this afternoon, after a short and enjoyable LANChile flight from Santiago--enjoyable primarily b/c of the Andes which ran along the left (east) side of plane for nearly the entire length of the flight. The geography of this country is amazing.

Lots to catch up regarding the approx 54 hours since I last posted: yesterday was primarily visits to two wineries near Santiago, plus a short visit to a hospital in Santiago. Some other details, but those will have to wait. Flight this morning, followed by a good tour of Puerto Montt and Algema (¿), then check-in here, a walk to the center of Puerto Varas (the highlight: the Colo-Colo jersey I found in the sporting goods store there), dinner here at Cabañas.

Tomorrow and the next day should be interesting. Tomorrow, a bus and then a boat to Peulla. We spend the night there, and the next day a bus, a boat, and another bus, across the border into Argentina, to Bariloche.

Apredieno mucho español aqui...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

From Santiago

Writing this from an internet/phone store in Santiago. Just a couple blocks from our hotel (Plaza San Francisco, ironically). It´s now 6:20pm. We arrived here this morning; our flight landed around 9am.

It´s been a busy couple of days since Anj and I left home Fri evening. Took a red-eye (via Las Vegas) to Miami. Spent Saturday around Miami--lunch in Little Havana, a drive to Key Biscayne, drinks and dinner in South Beach--before flying out around 11pm, on another red-eye. Needless to say, we´re pretty sleep-deprived. Hence Anj is napping in the room, but I´m still going on that sleep-deprivation buzz I get going sometimes.

We had a tour of the city today, straight from the aeropuerto practically--just a quick stop to check in to the hotel, and then we were off. First stop was Museo Precolumbino--a not large, but extensive enough, collection of pre-Columbian Central and South American art and culture. Our guide, Eugenio, was quite knowledgeable about the exhibits, and gave us an informative and exhaustive (and exhausting) tour of the exhibits.

That was followed by a visit to the central plaza and the cathedral, and then a drive to the top of Cerro San Cristo (?), a posh neighborhood in the hills, and lapiz lazui shop.

More later...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

4 hero remix of "sexual healing" on bbradio

Anj has been telling me to send her some links to mixes that she can listen to at work. Finally sent her a handful of links. The full list is below, but I wanted to single out one link in particular. This edition of Broken Beat Radio, which includes a characteristically sublime 4 Hero remix of Marvin's "Sexual Healing" (about 13 minutes into the mix).

There's been a lot of remixing and recontextualizing of Marvin lately. There was a remix of "Let's Get It On" discussed in this Slate piece, which I previously blogged here;(don't sleep on that 1984 W. Kim Heron piece either); and the "duet" with Marvin that Erick Sermon put out a few years ago. I never pass up a chance to blog a Mark Anthony Neal essay--so here's his Critical Noire piece on it:

The E-Double and the Trouble Man: Marvin Gaye and Erick Sermon "Turn on Some Music"
by Mark Anthony Neal
[30 August 2001]

(I previously blogged Neal's pieces here, as well as a couple other places on the old blog; do a search for "Neal.")

Here's the full list of sites I sent to Anj:

has lots of good real audio mixes with tracklistings.
mostly new jazz/broken beat, but sort of mellower.
you can listen to this through itunes (look under Radio -> Urban)...
the website has a list of currently and recently played tracks.
it's an eclectic mix of jazz, funk, hip hop, jazz, reggae...
this has hundreds of radio mix shows archived. funk and hip hop.
you can take a look at the playlists. they have mp3s up on their site,
but they also stream a show through itunes (same place, Radio -> Urban)
this site has tons of mixes as well: "A Nu Jazz and Broken Beat mix show
based in Philadelphia..." you can stream or download from their site.
(the newest one has a theo parrish track, a bugz in the attic track...
and a 4 hero remix of 'sexual healing'!)

Monday, December 13, 2004

TNR: "A Fighting Faith"

I haven't been keeping up with Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo as regularly over the past month, but last week while skimming TPM I did notice a few mentions of this piece in The New Republic, which apparently has been quite the topic of discussion:

A Fighting Faith
by Peter Beinart
Post date 12.02.04 | Issue date 12.13.04

Haven't read it yet, which is partly why I'm posting it--to archive the link and to remind myself to get back to it. See also Marshall's comments on that essay in this TPM post.

"Losing your mind in Berlin"

Meandering and often pretentious but still interesting profile of Richie Hawtin and the techno scene in Berlin:

Losing your mind in Berlin
Nowhereland: Hawtin, Magda and the Berlin scene
by Walter Wasacz

Here, where time and place exist in blurry, indistinct partnership, and where day and night pass largely unnoticed through the perpetually bleak environs, Richie Hawtin is glowing in the ambient light. A muted blanket of artificial sunshine brings color to his face and reveals tone in his arms, which he uses to emphasize and punctuate his words, now coming at you fast and from multiple directions.

Among other things, the article reminded me that I need to seek out some music of Ricardo Villalobos, whom the article describes as "a tall, buoyant Chilean-German who produces an elegant blending of minimal techno and Latin house that some argue might be the best dance music being made today."

Friday, December 10, 2004

download this: konfabulator

Just one post for today: this looks to be a nice piece of software. Actually, it's a wrapper for multiple pieces of useful software ("widgets"). I just installed it on my machine here at work, and for a taste the installer put a clock, the local weather, a to-do list, a search toolbar, and a picture frame on my desktop.

There's many more in the Widget Gallery.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Books: Hornby, D. Foster Wallace on the Borges bio, ....

Thought I'd post this Salon link since Joel said he was thinking of going to see Hornby read in NYC this week:

"The Polysyllabic Spree" by Nick Hornby
From the author of "High Fidelity," a delightful celebration of the joys of reading that reminds us why most literary criticism is so bad.
By Charles Taylor

That's a review of a collection of Hornby's essays from The Believer. I previously blogged The Believer here, in particular that tremendously fascinating interview with ?love. (I'm just realizing now the interviewer there was Toure! Saw him read from Soul City--and bought a copy of The Portable Promised Land--at Cody's in Berkeley back in Oct.)

Some more literature links: going through piled-up NYT e-mails, and noticed that David Foster Wallace, who I mentioned here, had written a review of the very same Borges biography that I discussed here. From the Nov 5 Books Update e-mail:

1. In Sunday's Book Review: David Foster Wallace on the Life of Jorge Luis Borges

"Edwin Williamson is an Oxford don and esteemed Hispanist
whose 'Penguin History of Latin America' is a small
masterpiece of lucidity and triage. It is therefore
unsurprising that his 'Borges' starts strong, with a
fascinating sketch of Argentine history and the Borges
family's place within it. ..."

"The big problem with 'Borges: A Life' is that Williamson is
an atrocious reader of Borges's work; his interpretations
amount to a simplistic, dishonest kind of psychological
criticism. You can see why this problem might be intrinsic to
the genre. A biographer wants his story to be not only
interesting but literarily valuable. ... Biography-wise,
then, we have a strange situation in which Borges's
individual personality and circumstances matter only insofar
as they lead him to create artworks in which such personal
facts are held to be unreal."

First Chapter

Same edition of that Sunday's Book Review had these two reviews worth archiving:

'Men and Cartoons': The Superhero Next Door
Jonathan Lethem's new story collection features talking
livestock, sci-fi detectives and a comic-book sensibility.


'Perilous Times': War of Words
Geoffrey R. Stone's book is a history of the government's
struggle with the right to free speech during military

What you need to know about Ukraine...

Though already dated, thought I'd post this Slate link I'd been saving for the past week:

foreigners Opinions about events beyond our borders.
What You Need To Know About Ukraine ...
So you can forget about it next month.
By Kim Iskyan
Posted Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004, at 11:55 AM PT

Also another OpenDemocracy link on the subject, this one specific to Europe's (and specifically Poland's) role in recent events:

Ukraine, Poland, and a free world
In reacting to Ukraine's revolution, Poland understands what France and Germany forget: democracy is the greatest force for stability, says Marek Matraszek

S.S. Chern obituary

Chern was one of those mathematicians whose name I recognize as being considered one of the giants of 20th century mathematics, but only from hearing and seeing his name, not from actually knowing his work. Here's the NYTimes obit:
Shiing-Shen Chern, 93, Innovator in New Geometry, Dies
December 7, 2004
Dr. Shiing-Shen Chern's abstract discoveries about the
twistings of geometric surfaces have found wide use in
physics and mathematics.

NYTimes on Ukraine

Some links to and excerpts from various articles and Op-eds about Ukraine that have appeared in the NYTimes over the past week:

Kristof's Dec 4 column has some pointed words directed at Bush and at Putin. The whole thing is worth reading:
Let My People Go
I came to Ukraine to participate with the people of my
father's homeland in a moment of bright orange democratic

Safire also wrote a column critical of Putin, which I have to give him credit for:

Putin's 'Chicken Kiev'
Vladimir Putin's response to the latest manifestation of
"people power" in Ukraine is that of a dictator gripped by

On the subject of Putin's role in all of this, see this article:

Putin Says He Will Accept the Will of the Ukrainian People
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he would work
with whichever candidate wins the second runoff election.

After leading with the news that Putin will accept whichever candidate wins the second runoff later this month, the article goes on to present some fascinating quotes from Putin:

But beyond that tacit acknowledgement, Mr. Putin gave little ground. He openly grumbled about the new direction of Ukrainian political affairs. He suggested that the pro-democracy demonstrations and other events in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, which led to the Supreme Court's nullification on Dec. 3 of Mr. Yanukovich's victory, set a dangerous precedent and demonstrated the ills of a rambunctious democracy.

"If we permit in the post-Soviet space existing laws to be altered under any circumstance to fit one or another situation, this won't lead to stability, but will on the contrary destabilize this large region which is very important to the world," Mr. Putin said in televised remarks from Turkey, where he is on an official visit.

"This is what I regard as absolutely inadmissible and not constructive, and on the contrary counterproductive," he continued.

And further down in the article:

And on Monday, as he began to make conciliatory statements, he promptly shifted and ruminated about potential outcomes, using language reminiscent of moments in the cold war.

"I do not want us to divide Europe," he said, "into people for the West and people for the East, into people of first and second category."

Next, he worried aloud that the "people of the second category," a group with "figuratively speaking, dark-colored political skin," could be subject to punishment "with a bomb truncheon, as happened in Belgrade." That was a reference to the American-led war against Serbia that seemed to suggest that those who did not follow the West's preferred candidate might somehow risk attack.

The statement raised eyebrows in Russia and abroad. "When Putin is unplugged you can hear about anything, and I think we're hearing Putin unplugged," Dr. Stephen R. Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a telephone interview.

There was the very prominent remarks by Kuchma earlier this week, in which he seemed to withdraw his support for Yanukovich, reported in this article:
Ukraine Leader, Attacking Rival, Won't Halt Vote
Ukraine's president said that if he were Prime Minister
Viktor F. Yanukovich, he would not participate in a new

Numerous quotes from Kuchma are interesting; I'll just excerpt this passage:

Mr. Kuchma described the fight spawned by months of nasty campaigning, two rounds of voting - and now a third - as one not between East and West, as it has been widely portrayed, but as one over the reins of power in Ukraine. He referred to the country's historic rulers, the hetmans, warriors whose political might came to be represented by possession of an ornate mace.

"And this is what we are having today," he said, speaking in Russian during a relaxed, wide-ranging, two-hour interview in a stucco government guesthouse here outside Kiev, where he has been forced to work ever since protesters blockaded his presidential office.

"This is not a struggle for Ukraine," he said, "but a struggle for the mace."

There was this less prominent but equally fascinating interview with Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk:

Power Behind the Scenes in Ukraine Crisis
December 2, 2004
Viktor M. Pinchuk is the president's son-in-law and one of
Ukraine's wealthiest men.

Looks like some more interesting stuff has appeared in the last couple days, but I'm only up to Tuesday's Times.

Friedman & Krugman

Two pieces that were on Times Op-ed pages in the past week. First, Friedman from a week ago (Thurs Dec 2):
The 9/11 Bubble
It is now clear to me that we have followed the dot-com
bubble with the 9/11 bubble.

The last few paragraphs of this:

The very reason Mr. Bush had the luxury of launching a war of necessity in Afghanistan and a war of choice in Iraq, without a second thought, was because of the surpluses built up by the previous administration and Congress. Since then, the Bush team has been slashing taxes in the middle of two wars, weakening the dollar and amassing a huge debt burden - on the implicit assumption that nothing will go wrong in the future.

But what if there is another 9/11 or war of necessity? We're cooked. The tax revenue won't be there, so the only option will be more borrowing and a weaker dollar. But what happens if the Chinese and other foreigners, who now hold over 40 percent of our Treasury securities, decide they don't want to hold these depreciating dollars anymore, let alone buy more?

It is now clear to me that we have followed the dot-com bubble with the 9/11 bubble. Both bubbles made us stupid. The first was financed by reckless investors, and the second by a reckless administration and Congress. In the first case, the public was misled by Wall Street stock analysts, who told them the old rules didn't apply - that elephants can fly. In the second case, the public was misled by White House economists, peddling similar nonsense. The first ended in tears, and so will the second. Because, as the dot-com bubble proved, elephants can fly - "provided it is not very long."

And from Krugman earlier this week:

Inventing a Crisis
Contrary to what the privatizers are saying, we don't have
to destroy Social Security in order to fix it.

As he wrote there, this column was a break from his break--presumably he's putting together another book. Which reminds me: my uncle, an economist himself, has highly recommended Krugman's books; a good one to start with, he said, was Peddling Prosperity.

triump dog in spin alley + many more vid clips

Among the numerous forwards from John was this link to the video of Conan's Triumph dog reporting from spin alley. Lots of other clips being hosted at that site, including the famous one of Jon Stewart on Crossfire.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

2 from ATC: avian flu in Thailand & brothel children in Calcutta

Two features from this week's editions of ATC that I wanted to archive:

  • This feature about efforts to contain avian flu in Thailand:

    Thailand Struggles To Head Off a Pandemic

    Chickens for sale at a poultry stall in a Bangkok market. Photo: Corbis Thailand has killed more than 40 million chickens this year in an effort to stop a deadly strain of bird flu that's killed at least 17 people in the country. But the virus keeps resurfacing.

    Wanted to archive this one since I'm hoping to sit down and write something about the flu. Timely not only b/c of the recent events concerning Chiron and the flu vaccine, but also b/c one of the most fascinating lectures of the immunology course I was sitting in on this semester discuseed influenza. I'll post it on my new science blog when I write it up. (Note to self: get a copy of Gina Kolata's book.)

  • Would have missed this one had Madhu not mentioned it to me the other day:

    Young Photographers from the Streets of Calcutta

    'Self-Portrait' by Mamuni; Credit: © Kids With Cameras Born Into Brothels, a new documentary film, tells the story of children growing up in poverty in Calcutta's red-light district who find hope in a newfound skill - photography.

    Interesting story, worth listening to. (Note: About half way through there's a nice clip of a boy speaking colloquial Bengali that I could actually understand, unlike the formal Bengali you'll hear here.)

Time-shifting internet radio

Time-shifting of radio programs via the web is great. Back in grad school, esp during the first couple years when I didn't have a TV and concomitantly discovered NPR, I sometimes rushed down the hill from campus to catch "All Things Considered."

We discovered the virtues of time-shifting after getting a Tivo as a wedding present. But in the past year, I've been doing it more with radio than with TV (that's partly due to the fact that we're holding out w/o cable, and so the Tivo's been sitting idle). Usually it's, as before, to catch ATC after work. But now it doesn't matter when I get home from work. I just go over to, navigate to ATC, and listen to the day's show. It's become esp convenient since we got an Airport Express a couple months ago, so that now I set up the laptop on the dining table or the kitchen counter, and listen as the Real Audio is streamed wirelessly through the laptop speakers.

Really the Airport Express should allow me to wirelessly stream that audio back to our stereo, but annoyingly Apple has it set up so that you can only do that wireless audio stream through iTunes. Seems like there are some tricks to get around that, such as RogueAmoeba's Nicecast--see this MacRumors forum for details. That would be nice not only for NPR but also for BBC Radio. I may try to set something like that up...or just wait and hope that future firmware upgrades of Airport Express will open it up.

The other option is to use something like RogueAmoeba AudioHijack to capture the Real Audio streams as mp3 files, and then import them into iTunes. I do have BitCartel's iRecordMusic application which is supposed to allow me to do this. It worked great in it's former incarnation as RAW on our Powerbook; I used it to record quite a few BBC Radio 1(xtra) programs. But I haven't gotten it to work smoothly on our new iBook. And anyways, this seems like a hassle and a waste. First, to set up the recordings (though these applications do have scheduling capabilities--if I figured out how to use them, I could have ATC (and Gilles, and Benji B) waiting for me on my hard drive when I got home). And second, I'd end up with all these extra files on my hard drive and in my iTunes library.

Before I went off on the time-shifting stuff, I'd intended to post a couple ATC features. I'll put them in a separate post.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Jerry Stahl, Mencken "moron" quote, & David Foster Wallace

Came across this quote in this Salon interview with Jerry Stahl. After speculating that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are drug buddies, he busts out with this:

Salon: What about Bush getting reelected? Any sage predictions as to the character and achievements of the second term?

Stahl: I'd have to go back to H.L. Mencken and quote something he said in the Baltimore Sun in 1920: "As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

It seems to good to be true, and others have apparently thought so as well, as it's apparently been cited quite a bit this fall. But apparently Mencken really did write that in 1920: see this page.

PS: The Stahl interview is strangely compelling. Read some reviews of "I, Fatty" this year, and I'm tempted to put the Permanent Midnight DVD on the Netflix queue (OK, I just did). But he won me over by mentioning David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: "It's just genius, man." I've had that fatty on the shelf for about 4 years now; maybe I'll make it my next big book.

PPS: I'll have to do another entry on DFW (after I actually read something by him, how about). But he must have a thing for infinity: have a couple reviews of Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity saved somewhere, which I could work in to a more general post about Cantor's transfinite numbers which I've been contemplating. Also picked up a long while back this little-mentioned book co-authored by DFW: Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present.

U.S. in the Middle East: "Kiss of Death"?

Starting with this comment by Prasad and the subsequent discussion we had over dinner, I've been reconsidering the neo-con project of remaking the Middle East. I'm beginning to admit that it may not be completely w/o merit.

This Slate opinion piece, which I've left sitting in my inbox for the past two weeks, touches on some of these themes:

The Kiss of Death
Why do Arab reformers claim U.S. support is hurting them?
By Lee Smith
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004, at 2:26 PM PT

Here's an excerpt, which includes a (2ndhand) quote from Naghib Mafouz:

Raymond Stock, a longtime Cairo resident and biographer and translator of Naguib Mahfouz, remembers a night he spent with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and others when the subject of U.S. support for democratic reforms came up, and many at the table said they wished America would shut up. "Mahfouz said, 'What's wrong if the Americans want us to have democracy? Sometimes our interests can coincide.' "

Stock explains that in the Arab world "the idea of democracy has never been divorced from the West. The problem is that many people who call for democracy don't really want it. They want their own voices heard, and it stops there. This is true of Arab nationalists and Islamists. If standard democratic institutions are built, there will be an opportunity for all voices to be heard and participate."

Those institutions can't be built without external pressures, and right now the United States is the only nation capable of exerting enough force to make it happen and willing to do so. "Asking the Arab world to reform," says the Syrian intellectual Ammar Abdulhamid, "is dabbling with its innermost political life." That is to say, any real reform in the Arab world will have to go well beyond cosmetic changes and address the political, economic, and social structures that sustain Arab regimes and preserve the status quo. Clearly, the region's governments won't do that work if they're not compelled to do so.

PS: Slate's columns are great b/c they're heavily hyperlinked. The column above cites a Fareed Zakaria column, and includes a link to Obviously, lots to read in the archives there. (Probably should add his The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad to the reading list.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Learned about today through this MIT TechReview piece:

Woot, Here It Is
With strong word of mouth, low prices, and a hopping RSS feed, continues to grow and is on track to record almost $10 million in sales in less than five months. By Eric Hellweg.

Today's edition of the TechReview newsletter also had this item in the TR Blog:

What Do You Call This Here Journal-Like Thing
Why, it's a blog, of course! Which happens to be the word most often looked up online during 2004, according to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster. By Herb Brody.

Orange Ukraine

You've probably heard about the role of orange in the recent events in Ukraine. In addition to being called the Orange Revolution, it's also being termed the Chestnut Revolution. Explanations are here.

That blog is one I linked to before, in this post; Dan, the author of the blog, took the time to place a comment (read it here).

I encourage a visit to his site. See, for example, the excellent piece from the WP that he posted today (go here). It gives some of that larger historical context to current events, which is precisely what I'm seeking to provide here.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Conservatives going after Annan

Been following Safire's relentless hatchet job on the U.N. and Kofi Annan unfold on the NYTimes Op-Ed page (see this scathing Salon review of Safire's MO).

It heated up in the past week, as the disrespectable Senator from MN, Norm Coleman, got himself some media attention by calling for Annan's resignation. (I'm trusting Garrison Keillor's judgment on Coleman...which this episode just confirms.) See this remarkably forthright Strib editorial on Coleman's: "A Sordid Move by Coleman" indeed.

Check this commentary from the LA Times, headlined "Lynch Mob's Real Target Is the U.N., Not Annan." The concluding paragraphs:
For those who want the U.N. simply to go away, physically as well as politically, the oil-for-food scandal proves that the entire enterprise is irremediable (though this seems tantamount to arguing that the recent spate of corporate accounting frauds demonstrates the failure of free-market capitalism). What conservatives cannot accept, at bottom, is the premise that an international body, even one over which the United States exercises enormous sway, should be allowed to pass on the legitimacy or legality of American actions. And if you can't accept that, you can't accept the U.N.

It's striking that the Bush administration, for all its notorious unilateralism, has not yet joined the chorus (though neither has it tried to stem it). Annan infuriated administration officials when he called the Iraq war illegal and again when he argued against the recent assault on Fallouja. But just now, the administration finds itself needing the U.N. and its vexed legitimacy in Iraq, where the organization is helping set up the impending elections. The administration wants more U.N. election advisors, not fewer. Perhaps, secretly, it also wants a bigger U.N. role so that it can blame the organization if and when the elections fail. But that too makes the organization indispensable. It makes you wonder what the mob would do with Annan's silver scalp if they ever got it.

Harper's on Neruda & Borges

I recently cited both Harper's Magazine (for that Naomi Klein on "Baghdad Year Zero") and Neruda in separate posts (here and here, respectively). I haven't been reading much of Harper's over the past year or so--seems like the writing has just gotten too esoteric and self-indulgent. But Anj keeps up with Lapham's columns at the very least, and after she read the Klein piece and read parts of it to me, she got me to carry around the Sept 2004 issue in order to read it myself. Not quite finished with Klein's essay; when I do, I'll post some thoughts and excerpts.

But I found a couple pieces in the Book Reviews section worth citing. Reviews of biographies of South American literary giants: a short review of a Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life, and a longer review of a Borges: A Life. Neither review was completely satisfying, but each was enlightening in spots.

I want to post some excerpts, but unfort the text of these are not on When I get a chance, I'll type them out, and add some thoughts.

(I need one of those little pen scanners with OCR, such as this.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Spanish online

This will be an evolving post, to collect various online resources for learning Spanish:

New law: get your credit report

You may heard about the new law going into effect, finally allowing us to get hold of our credit reports for free. I heard about it through this NYTimes piece, which was at the top of Tuesday's Business Section > Business
Free Credit Reports Coming, With Pitches
Published: November 30, 2004
Consumers will be entitled, beginning as soon as Wednesday, to a free credit report every year, but the industry is not necessarily going to make it easy.

The key link is The law went into effect for those of us in the West as of yesterday, but the rest of you won't be able to get your CR's until sometime next year. See the map on the site.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

T-wolves in Oaktown tonight!

Last entry for the day...

Lucky that I skimmed the Strib Sport page this morning, and happened to notice that the T-wolves are taking on the Glamorous Golden State Warriors tonight, across the Bay at the Arena.

Checked Craigslist for some people selling tickets this morning. There were a fair number, a few at a fair price. Even exchanged some e-mails with a guy in Marin who had two to sell, but there was no way I was going to go up there to pick them up.

So Anj and I went back and forth about giving in the to the man and buying 'em through Ticketmaster. But instead we're just going to get them at the door. And rather than drive, we're going to BART. Anj down from Berkeley, me under and across from the Mission. Turns out jid will be in attendance as well...

As I said before, Britt Robson's Hang Time is one of the most insightful sports beats I've read. His column in this week's City Pages just adds to that conclusion:

HANG TIME . VOL 25 #1252 . PUBLISHED 11/29/04
The Man in the Middle
With Michael Olowokandi seeming stunned, newcomer Eddie Griffin steps front and center.

Look for a post-game report tomorrow...

framing the issues: Lakoff & the Rockridge Institute

Adapted this from an e-mail I sent to some guys two weeks ago:

There's a growing conversation on the left about how successful the right has been in "framing" the debate. Bush's debate lines about Kerry being "on the far left bank" and "out of the mainstream" is just one instance of that.

Leading this conversation is Berkeley linguistics prof George Lakoff. His book is getting referenced a lot:
Don't Think of an Elephant!
Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
George Lakoff
See also this UCBerkeleyNews article:
Framing the issues
UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics
27 October 2003

It's an encouraging thing that Lakoff is taking his expertise in linguistics outside the ivory tower, and seeking to inform and shape the public discourse. As the article above notes, he and 7 other UC faculty members founded a think tank called the Rockridge Institute--back in 2000. And just today I found my way to this in The Hill (via DailyKos).

Actually this isn't the first context within which I've heard about Lakoff. I read bits of this as part of a math education seminar at Cornell a while back. Though I recall that the prof leading the seminar wasn't impressed with Lakoff and Nunez's work.

Naomi Klein & Pratap Chatterjee: Iraq Inc.

From this zentronix post:
In the meantime, read this. Iraq, Inc. is an account of the corporate war on Iraq. BKLY colleague Pratap Chatterjee is a genius journalist, a brilliant reporter, a nonpareil researcher, a fantastic writer, and a cool dude. If you remember Naomi Klein's account of the neocons' free-market Year Zero in Harper's a few months back, Pratap's book offers a more complete picture. If you can't wait to get the book, get a taste here and here.

Anj read the Naomi Klein piece ("Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia") a couple weeks, and was raving about it. I've got to take her advice and finally read it myself. Pleasantly surprised to find it online at both, and here at the Information Clearing House.

Also been noticing Chatterjee's name; must be from his pieces in the SFBG, such as this one.

Salon's "Right Hook"

From this edition of "Right Hook":

One well-known conservative thinks that President Bush's reelection will lead to a horrific al-Qaida attack. According to the Jerusalem Post, Yossef Bodansky, the Israeli-born former director of the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and author of "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," says that an al-Qaida attack on the U.S. with nonconventional weapons is virtually "inevitable," and that the organization is likely "tying up the knots" for such an attack. "All of the warnings we have today indicate that a major strike -- something more horrible than anything we've seen before -- is all but inevitable," he told the Post on Sunday.

After 9/11 and the launch of the U.S. global war on terrorism, a theological debate began within the operational arm of al-Qaida, Bodansky says, over whether the mass killing of innocents using weapons of mass destruction was permissible. Former CIA analyst and bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer asserted in his book "Imperial Hubris" that bin Laden has had the Islamic world's approval to use nuclear weapons against U.S. civilians since May 2003, when a Saudi cleric condoned it in a "lucidly written" treatise citing Islamic law and rebuking U.S. transgressions against Muslims.

Bodansky argues that Bush's reelection has poured fuel on that fire.

"While bin Laden and his associates argued that by virtue of their participation in US democracy, US citizens were enabling their rulers to fight, other Islamic luminaries contended that this does not permit such massive attacks, Bodansky said. The reelection of Bush in November, he said, was viewed by bin Laden and his cohorts as a decisive answer to this deliberation, with Americans now 'choosing' to be the enemies of Islam. In bin Laden's mind-set, he said, the stage was set for a non-conventional attack. While there may still be some vestiges of debate and doubt within Islamic circles, he believes that planning for such an attack is finished. 'They got the kosher stamp from the Islamic world to use nuclear weapons,' he said."

Curiously, this analysis did not get any play in the media before the election.

Bodansky also told the Post that America is losing the war on terrorism: "In the pre-9/11 world, Bodansky said, jihadists could count on 250,000 individuals trained and willing to die, and 2.5 million–5 million people willing to help them in one way or another. He cited intelligence estimates from this summer that suggest that as many as 500,000-750,000 people are willing and trained to die, 10 million are willing to actively support them, short of killing, while another 50 million are willing to support such a movement financially."

more OpenDemocracy

As I noted previously, I'm coming around to the idea that part of what I want to do here is provide (and archive) links to essays and articles that provide a larger historical and political context to current events.

I made that note in the context of posting an OpenDemocracy link. Here are three more OpenDemocracy links I saved a couple weeks ago, that also hopefully also give some of that larger historical context. Let me know if you agree.