Monday, April 05, 2004

It's time. I'm tired of posting here. From now on I'll be posting at Please update your bookmarks and - if applicable - your links.

The new site is a colaborative effort. I've tried to talk a few friends into posting at the site too, though I expect I'll be the most hyperactive of the crew by a long shot. I'm the only one who has ever blogged, so go easy on them. They're clever folks - they'll catch on if they can overcome their shyness about making asses of themselves in the most public forum there is.

Anyway, thanks for providing completely free software. Can't say it was worth it for you, but that's the chance you took, isn't it? And thanks everyone for reading. Hope to see you at my new place.

Over and out,

Check out how someone just got to my site: search.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Canadian in-joke . . .

. . . here.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

I confess this story irritates me, considering that - unless I'm badly mistaken - I can't even give twenty frickin dollars to Kerry. (I'm a damn foreigner, though I live in the U.S.)

UPDATE: Oh yeah, hat tip to Body and Soul.
I'm shocked. Absolutely shocked.

(Update: Actually, that's the stupidest headline they could have come up with. It completely distorts the actual story.)
I don't care how critical Bob Woodward's next book on Bush is. The man writes political pornography, as Joan Didion so masterfully documented in her book Political Fictions. I didn't believe his Bush boosting when it wasn't corroborated by credible sources, and I'm not going to believe his Bush bashing without the same.

If you're into Woodward hating, and you haven't already read the chapter on him in Didion's book, drop everything and read it at once.

Run! (Or "click!" as the case may be.)
I find evolutionary psychology (the academic subdiscipline which derives from E.O. Wilson - not evolutionary theory, of course) so silly that reading this post gave me shivers of pleasure. It's a good day for that on the web, too. Here's another reasonable comment I noticed this morning.

Oooooooo. That felt good.

This is just one of many subjects I plan to write about as soon as I get the time.
Linguistic intuitions . . . I have the same ones Max has regarding the term "mercenary."
A very quick note on the humanitarian rationale for the Iraq war. If you care about humanitarian intervention in general - that is, if you want to establish norms of humanitarian intervention that are useful and respected, so that we can fall back on them when terrible circumstances warrant intervention - then you might take note of what the Iraq war has done to the very notion of humanitarian intervention.

As a believer in humanitarian intervention in some circumstances myself, I have a serious interest in seeing credible and widely adopted international norms coalesce around the notion. Alas, the war has done a great deal to set back this struggle.

This matters. The next time there is a debate over whether or not to intervene to stop an ongoing and serious humanitarian crisis, defenders of humanitarian intervention will be stuck with fighting through yet another layer of cynicism about both the rationale and the people most likely to be citing it.

Those into moral accounting ought to chalk that up as yet another cost of this war, and one that goes directly to the heart of the humanitarian case for it. And while not all the discrediting here was forseeable, much of it was.
If you live in NYC and enjoy jazz, you might want to check out two shows coming up at the 55 Bar:
Tony Malaby Group, Monday, April 5 - 10:00 PM

Tony Malaby - Saxophone, Angelica Sanchez - Keyboards, John Habert - Bass, John Hollenbeck - Drums

"Tony Malaby, the tenor saxophonist, has been busy since he landed in New York nearly a decade ago: he's a schooled, poetic player who becomes involved with the density and shape of his notes, and he's worth hearing for a lesson on where the lines are best drawn between abstraction and form." -Ben Ratliff, NY Times

Jazz Sax

Dave Binney's Balance, Tuesday, April 6 - 10:00 PM
Dave Binney - Alto Sax and Sampler, Jacob Sacks - Keyboards, Thomas Morgan - Bass, Dan Weiss - Drums.

Dave Binney acts as the cohesive element bringing together a wide range of New York's finest progressive jazz musicians.
(Full disclosure: My wife plays with some of these people.)

In other news, expect light posting ahead. I'm still busy, and tonight my wife and I are throwing a surprise birthday party for our beagle, Coltrane. He doesn't suspect a thing!

Also, I'm getting ready to make the jump off the Good Ship Blogger. The new site isn't quite ready yet, but I'll probably start posting there soon.
Republicans vs. Democrats (or, me vs. the Nadarites)

. . . Sometimes, it's the little things that count.

Friday, April 02, 2004

I'll second this.
If you read the New York Review of Books, you've probably been following the back and forth between Michael Massing and his critics. Massing wrote a nice piece of media criticism about the media's behaviour during the buildup to the war. Stung, his critics have been fighting back (see here and here). I just finished reading Massing's exchange with Michael Gordon of the New York Times (the second link within the previous parentheses). It twigged something in my memory, so I went back to check and - yup - Gordon played a role in an incident I related a while ago in this post.

I make a small point in that post, but I'm sort of proud. It's the only thing during the buildup to the war that I noticed and that - as far as I can tell - absolutely nobody else did.
This is what is happening in Western Sudan now.

The situation is complex and I can't claim to understand what is going on there now. As I've said before, it would take quite a bit of argument to persuade me that intervention was the best option. But it seems to me that there are a whole range of appropriate things that could be done - condemnation, support for humanitarian operations, political pressure of various kinds, perhaps - perhaps - inducements for reform, and so on. Why isn't anyone doing anything of this sort now?

The U.S. has its hands full now. Two war-torn countries reconstructed at a time, thank you very much. But the U.S. isn't the only potential actor here. Where is the rest of the world? Where is Canada? Where is Europe?

When we get a situation like this, many people are inclined to think a) a military intervention is the only option on the table; and b) it'll be the U.S. organizing the whole thing. Both assumptions are unhealthy, since they play directly into the whole neo-colonialist mindset that gets the U.S. in trouble so often. There are probably plenty of constructive non-military measures available, and they're open to the rest of the world.

If the U.S. is so untrustworthy and rotten, then why won't the rest of the world get off its ass and act once in a while?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I wrote to Daniel Okrent last week to point him towards this post. He responded very graciously, so of course I abused his friendliness by writing him a longer email in response. See why you can't encourage the wierdos? They'll only go away if you ignore them. Anyhow, here's what I wrote him back:
Thanks for responding. If I can add one other point: In my post I complain that the "he said/he said" style of reporting prevents reporters from setting out facts which really shouldn't be in dispute. This flip side of this is that the "he said/he said" style of reporting often prevents reporters from examining claims which *should* be in dispute, but aren't. Many journalists seems to think that once they've rounded up the views of the Democrats and the Republicans, they've achieved the appropriate balance and can put the story to bed. But what about cases in which both Democrats and Republicans have a stake in holding a common front on some issue?

The debate over classified material that we're seeing with the 9/11 commission is a great example. Democrats know perfectly well that they're going to be back in power sooner or later, and so they can't really be keen to set *too* strong a precedent on the release of classified materials. But anyone who knows a bit about the history of classified material knows that a great deal of material is classified for the same reason my tape of my high school band is now classified - it's downright embarrassing. Because both parties want to minimize their own embarrassment, matters in which the public has a vital stake don't get the treatment they deserve.

I guarantee you that the media will talk about the "compromises" struck by the 9/11 commission over classified material in a way that reveals their assumption that anything which is bipartisan must be reasonable. But it ain't necessarily so.

Sorry for going on so long. I would say that I don't envy your job, but that would be a transparent lie. I will concede that it can't be an easy one. Keep up the good work,

Before you accuse me of kissing ass, let me be clear. I'm not completely happy with Okrent so far, but I do think he's doing some good work. Give him time. He's just warming up.

Oh, and as for that tape, it's priceless. It's a good thing that our band - unofficially, "Three Jews and a Goy" - never got out of my basement. The world just wasn't ready for us.

(An explanation for my strange behaviour here.)
Extraordinary rendition - capturing people and delivering them to be tortured, questioned and/or executed by compliant governments like the Egyptian or Jordanian government - is unfortunately common.

It's also illegal. It's against the law. Not just international law, but also U.S. domestic law.

If you don't like that, then change the damn law. Otherwise, you must advocate prosecuting and jailing people when it turns out that they knowingly participated in the practice. That includes Tenet and Ashcroft. They belong in jail. They broke the law.

What is it that's so hard to understand here?
Yesterday's incidents in Fallujah were even more depressing than the usual bad news coming from Iraq. I know that the story in Iraq is quite complex, but I'm getting a bit tired of seeing people posting enthusiastically about refurbished schools and the like. Refurbished schools are fantastic, but only until they're destroyed by artillery fire in a civil war. I think that's increasingly likely, so forgive me if I'm not popping corks off at each piece of good news.

I'm still waiting to be proven wrong on Iraq, but there is a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I won't be. Some days I feel a bit more optimistic - but today I just feel dread. For all my criticism of the U.S., I love the country and I think it has a valuable role to play in the world, if only it would have the courage and the wisdom to play it. What I'm seeing in Iraq is not just the further destruction of a wonderful country with so much potential. I'm also watching the daily shredding of the U.S.'s credibility. And frankly, I'm really getting frightened.

It is now more likely than not that there will be a civil war in Iraq - an ugly, destructive, brutal war which tears apart families and communities and leaves tens of thousands dead and homeless.

You who asked before the war how it could get worse than Saddam Hussein, you will probably live to see your rhetorical question answered several times over. What, I would like to know, will you say then?

I'm angry now. I'm angry at the Republican party for deliberately boosting a moron into the world's most important and powerful political role. World empire is big time, baby, and that was a very small time thing to do.

I'm angry at the Americans who couldn't be bothered to take a closer look at what they were getting.

And I'm angry at the people who supported this war for humanitarian reasons. Bless your souls, I was very tempted myself, and so I think I know where you were coming from. But, dammit, before you back a war you had better take a hard look at the likely consequences. It's not enough to announce that you're morally disgusted with some dictator, shout "never again", and then taunt people who are urging you to take a closer look. That's not serious either. And now we're all likely fucked as a result, including the very people you meant to help.
You might want to check out this look at the likely relationship between oil and politics in Iraq.

Via Crooked Timber.
From the National Security Archives:
National Security Archive Update, March 31, 2004


Audio tape: President Johnson urged taking "every step that we can"
to support overthrow of Joao Goulart

U.S. Ambassador Requested Pre-positioned Armaments to aid Golpistas;
Acknowledged covert operations backing street demonstrations, civic forces and resistance groups

For more information contact
Peter Kornbluh -

Washington D.C., - "I think we ought to take every step
that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to
do," President Johnson instructed his aides regarding
preparations for a coup in Brazil on March 31, 1964. On
the 40th anniversary of the military putsch, the National
Security Archive today has posted recently declassified
documents on U.S. policy deliberations and operations
leading up to the overthrow of the Goulart government on
April 1, 1964. The documents reveal new details on U.S.
readiness to back the coup forces.

Among the records:

* Recently declassified top secret cables from the U.S.
ambassador to Lyndon Johnson's top national security
officials in Washington, urging "a clandestine delivery of
arms" for military coup plotters as well as a shipment of
gas and oil to help the coup forces succeed. In a March 29,
1964, cable Ambassador Lincoln Gordon recommends secretly
"pre-positioning" the armaments to be used by "friendly
military." His cables also acknowledge CIA covert operations
to support anti-Goulart military and political forces.

* CIA intelligence reports from Brazil on the planning and
movements of coup plotters.

* Memoranda of conversations between President Johnson and
his top national security aides as the coup progressed in

In addition, the Archive's posting includes a declassified
audio tape of Lyndon Johnson being briefed by phone at his
Texas ranch, as the Brazilian military mobilized against
Goulart. "I'd put everybody that had any imagination or
ingenuity...[CIA Director John] McCone...[Secretary of
Defense Robert] McNamara" on making sure the coup went
forward, Johnson is heard to instruct undersecretary of State
George Ball. "We just can't take this one," the tape records
LBJ's opinion. "I'd get right on top of it and stick my neck
out a little."
A week or two ago, I mentioned that I was mulling over a switch from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox as my default browser.

I am happy to report that I have switched, and that I am very impressed with the results. Firefox is more secure, more stable, and gosh darn it, purdier than Internet Explorer (after you choose a nice theme - don't be put off by the default appearance). Because I have a lot of long bus rides in my life, I'm in the habit of opening up 40 or 50 windows in my browser and then flipping through them. That often used to crash IE. Not Firefox. It's steady even at 60 or 70 open windows. Amazing.

The only hitch I discovered was the need to manually edit the config file in order to get new windows to open every time I clicked a link. (The default setting was just to steer the browser away from he site it was on, instead of opening a new window.) Even a technophobe could do that. The question is whether a technophobe could overcome the anxiety which would attend doing that.

Anyway, I heartily recommend it. Read up here.

And thanks to Grego and Pogge for nudging me in the right direction.
I got nailed by Jim Henley's April 1st joke, even going so far as to write him a quick email asking if he was serious.

I feel so silly. Every year - every year I get taken for a ride by someone.

UPDATE: On the other hand, this never even had a chance. Henley is clearly the superior satirist.