Last night at the dance studio, we practiced the rueda. This is a dance wherein several pairs of partners form a circle, and all pairs execute the same moves simultaneously, as called out by a leader. Every third move or so, a move is called in which the girl spins out of her partner's arms, into the arms of the next guy in the circle, and the dance continues uninterrupted.
Of course, this requires that both guys – the "giver" and the "receiver", as it were – be in perfect synch with one another, so that the girl switching partners doesn't have to skip any steps in the dance. And since the pairs are in a circle, and each guy is both giving a girl away and receiving one at the same time, absolutely everyone has to be synchronized.
So here were twelve people, strangers until last week, trying to dance in perfect synchrony. Whenever anyone of the twelve misstepped, or failed to grab their new partner at the right time, forgot the move that had been called, this screwed everyone up and the dance stopped. Frustration and hilarity ensued. The first time we executed a perfect transition all around, we let out a cheer, still trying to keep our steps together. An hour and a half into the practice, however, we were doing up to eight good transitions in a row.
Now, what's the use of all this considerable effort and concentration? How often am I actually going to be in a room with enough people who know the rueda and are inclined to do it? I'll be lucky if it happens once in my life.
But walking home afterwards, I felt like I had just come out of a trance. I realized that I had just spent two hours trying to solve a complex problem, and hadn't thought about anything else at all during that time. The problem I had been trying to solve (coordinating my feet and upper body with each other, with my partners, the rest of the circle and the music) wasn't of any real consequence. If I failed, I wouldn't lose my job or my friends. I'd still get spam. I'd still get to go on vacation next month. But I'd just gotten a complete mental vacation from everything of consequence. I caught myself feeling completely relaxed, replenished, and happy.
Whenever I've tried to meditate, I was told to concentrate on just one thing, be it my breathing, or a mantra. I never really could do it, because I could never really get that interested in the sound of my breath.
Yesterday, I finally reached, quite despite myself, what I've always tried to achieve through meditation.
In a mass protest organized by the Governor of Nablus, thousands of people are out in the streets, breaking a 'round the clock curfew that has lasted almost without interruption for 40 days. "People who can't find food and need medicine and treatment should break the doors of their jail," said Governor Mahmoud Aloul in calling for the protest.
Curfew-breakers have been shot and killed by the IDF this month, and prior, but for now the army is not opposing the protest in Nablus. According to the New Haven Register (where the link above will take you):
Israeli soldiers in armored vehicles ringing the city stood by without response, in contrast to tough reactions to earlier violations in which troops have even opened fire on people because of misunderstandings over the curfew's duration.
"There is a curfew and we are aware of the violations," military spokesman Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz said Monday of the situation in Nablus. "For the moment, we are not responding."
Aside from the deaths of those few who break curfew, the collective punishment imposed by Israel has other costs. The Register reports that "preliminary figures from a U.S. government report show that 30 percent of Palestinian children are suffering from malnutrition." The New York Times has reported on this study as well. It was prepared by Johns Hopkins University on contract for the United States Agency for International Development, and early results were released this week.
Preliminary results probably overstate the findings somewhat, but people familiar with the survey say that the final figures will still show a substantial rise in malnutrition among Palestinians over the past two years.
Statistics are wonderful in that they provide an authoritative measure of the harm that curfews and other Israeli actions cause, but they also serve to distract. They shift the discussion from morals to utility. The curfews are not wrong because malnutrition has doubled or tripled or quadrupled. They are wrong because innocent people should not be punished for crimes they did not commit. They are wrong becuase collective punishment is wrong.
Collective punishment ought to be anathema in any civilized society. This is what the people in Nablus are saying with their protest. If only someone would listen.
In Jerusalem, a Palestinian bomber wounds five Israelis and kills himself when he detonates an explosive at a food stand frequented by police. The neighborhood in Jerusalem where the bomb goes off is considered to be one of the most heavily-guarded in the city. The al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade claim responsibility.
In Hebron, Israeli settlers attending a funeral for one of the four people recently killed by Palestinians start a riot. They shoot and kill a 14 year-old Palestinian girl in an outbreak of mob violence described as a pogrom by Minister's Aide Moshe Gevati. Gavati is a reserve Colonel and former commander of the Hebron brigade during the first intifada. IDF soldiers, as well as police and border patrol troops who arrive on the scene to arrest the rioters, are attacked by them. "You're next," some settlers reportedly shout at the troops.
Ha'aretz points out that "Israel uses strong words when it comes to the Palestinians about the need for a central government to impose discipline on individuals and organizations, to impose law and order, to repress violence and for equal treatment for all. But that is all empty rhetoric when it comes to settlers."
Today's items from Chapter 211 of None Dare Call it Moral Equivalence.
Was accused of having no passions. Well, ok, not accused exactly... but while sitting with J at his computer perusing endless photos of expensive foreign autos, J says, "sorry for boring you." "Not bored," I say, smiling at him. Beautiful eyes, beautiful lips.. beautiful J. "I understand." "How? What do you have to be this passionate about?"
You, you debilitated, emotional fuckwit. You.
Actually said nothing. But that's how it is with J. Continued perusing foreign autos.
Might have been big mistake kissing J. And, then again, might not have. But will do my utmost to neurotically dismantle and re-live said moment over and over.
Am convinced this is genetic problem. Will seek help in my early thirties, I imagine.
J is back from holiday. Though, I don't know from any contact or anything. Have checked airline arrivals. Yes, am indeed sick. Had dream about J last night in which life was perfect. Knew just then it was indeed a dream. Even went on goodfaith date last night with C. Nice enough, but just too different of temperments. His = very nice. Mine = in love with other man.
Listen up, fellows: Rich, bored teenage girls in New York City are on the prowl for twentysomething (and in some cases, thirtysomething) men. And this time, they’re not just arming themselves with fake ID’s. Young women barely past puberty—and before, ahem, the age of consent—are sashaying onto the Internet, researching adult life, and constructing elaborate alter egos designed to dupe men all too willing to believe their lies. (more, via RAWbservations)
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, the tip of the tongue taking a trip down the palette to tap at three on the teeth, Lo-li-ta."
My biggest problem with Israel's targeted killing of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh with a 1-ton bomb is that it wasn't targeted enough to avoid killing 9 children and 4 other civilians, or to avoid putting 45 others in the hospital, or to avoid wounding at least 100 more people less seriously. I've said most of what I have to say about it over on Protein Wisdom. But here are some links on the less critical issue of timing:
Israel claims that an operation to take out Shehadeh had been planned for months, and that the timing was dictated solely by opportunity. But did they know about the cease-fire proposal? Yes they did.
The Guardian quotes Rannan Gissin, Sharon's spokesman, as saying, "Of course, we knew about it. So what? It would have been one more [cease-fire] declaration. Their declarations have never held, and it wouldn't have held this time. Not for one moment did the warnings of attacks diminish."
Thank goodness Congress has stepped in to set our troubled financial system right. The House Committee on Financial Services recently called a hearing on the WorldCom debacle. The Committee exists to do just this sort of thing, right? We can just sit back, relax, and let brilliant people like Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama handle things from here.
Bachus was questioning top WorldCom executives last month in order to get to the bottom of the fraud that had occurred at the company. With a straight face, he asked current WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore the following question:
"Mr. Sidgmore, when you operated an Internet backbone company, did you ever expense capital expenditures?"
Huh? As Fortune points out, no one in their right mind would ever "expense capital expenditures" -- first, it is improper accounting, and second, it's not even in a company's interest. To expense something means to record it on the income statement. Expenses on the income statement reduce earnings. Normally, capital expenditures go on the balance sheet, where they reduce cash on hand but have no effect on earnings.
The point is, no one would ever expense capital expenditures because the result is harmful to earnings and most companies don't set out to intentionally make their earnings look worse than they actually are. This is basic, basic accounting. It is apparently over Congressman Bachus' head.
Does the Congressman have any idea at all what he's talking about? It doesn't sound like it, and the sad thing is that he's not alone. Fortune skewers four other members of the Committee for questions that betray an unforgivable ignorance of basic financial practices. If this is the Committee on Financial Services I shudder to think what the rest of the Congress is like.
"Our analysis continues to indicate that the pace of economic activity is likely to decelerate sharply by the year's end--if not earlier." Frank Shostak of the Mises Institute with some plain old Austrian-school wisdom. Take heed oh ye people! Repent!
"I was more frightened at Mississippi than I was at Pearl Harbor."
- Anonymous U.S. Marshall present at the fighting
When informed in October of 1962 that the Cubans were in possession of nuclear-tipped Soviet ICBMs, Robert Kennedy is said to have asked, "Can they hit Oxford, Mississippi?" At the time, everyone in the room, from the other ExCom members to the analysts briefing them, would have known exactly what Kennedy was referring to. Today, most Americans wouldn't get the joke.
James Meredith tried to become the first black student to register at the University of Mississippi, only to be physically blocked by radical segregationist Governor Ross Barnett, hundreds of state police, and thousands of student and civilian "volunteers" from across the South. The revolt climaxed in a fourteen-hour battle and the lightning invasion of the state by 30,000 combat troops ordered in by President John F. Kennedy.
In the weeks prior to September 30th, Governor Barnett and Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, engaged in numerous telephone negotiations. Eventually, the President himself had to get involved.
Doyle paints a picture of Barnett as a racist and committed segregationist, but also a canny political operator. Knowing he would eventually have to give in on the issue of integrating Ole Miss, Barnett maneuvered as much as he could to force Kennedy to bring in troops to Mississippi. After promising his constituents that Ole Miss would never be integrated, the Governor needed a show of Federal force to relieve him of responsibility in the voters' eyes -- and he no doubt appreciated the photo op of guns pointed at his head as he helplessly capitulated and allowed Meredith to attend classes.
But according to Meredith himself, Barnett "loved black people." Meredith was a recent guest on an episode of Booknotes devoted to Doyle's book, and there he said that he trusted Barnett more than he trusted the Kennedys. Many of the phone calls between Barnett and the Kennedys were taped, and were available to Doyle as he researched his book. According to Meredith, Kennedy can be heard on these tapes referring to him as "the boy," -- and more surprisingly, Barnett can be heard correcting the President and calling Meredith, "Mr. Meredith."
Of course, JFK is the same man who dis-invited Sammy Davis Junior from his inauguration after Davis announced his engagement to the white actress May Britt. Meredith's claim is less surprising in this light. Kennedy appears to have had little courage when it came to race.
Doyle tells us that Kennedy was "embarrassed" by the civil rights issue, feeling it made him look bad in front of other world leaders. This perhaps explains the sad re-segregation of an army unit that was sent in to quell the rioting in Mississippi. By 1962 the army had been integrated for years, but it was considered too politically sensitive to have troops that included black men suppressing a rebellion of white people over the issue of segregation. Orders came from the Executive Branch to break up units, with only the white soldiers being sent in to Mississippi except in the few cases where orders were disobeyed.
But what is truly amazing about James Meredith's story is the extent to which white Americans were prepared to defy the federal government with force of arms even as late in our country's history as 1962.
Segregated education had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954. The Civil War had purportedly ended almost one hundred years prior to the events in Oxford that day. Yet in September of 1962, on hearing that Ole Miss would be forced to accept the enrollment of a black student, whites streamed into Missouri from across the country to physically prevent the integration of the school.
Doyle writes in his book that the local police department received calls from as far away as Florida, California, and Montana. People ready to fight asked "Where do I sign up?" and promised to bring guns and men. The town was informed that thousands of volunteers from across the country were ready to help defend it against the encroachment of the Government of the United States. The state government itself was divided:
A few scattered Mississippi Highway Patrolmen were blocking potential rioters from the campus, but one patrolman was observed telling a carload of outsiders, "We can't let you in here but if you break into small groups you can sneak in across the railroad tracks."
Members of the Klu Klux Klan armed themselves and mobilized. One man reportedly offered to put 5 Canadian Air Force jet fighters, with volunteer pilots, at the disposal of Mississippi's governor. In the week leading up to September 30, disc jockeys could be heard on local radio saying, “They're going to try to put him in there this Thursday. Come on up to Oxford and bring your guns.”
But there are also accounts of bravery and honor. Doyle tells of Mississippi National Guard men mobilized to defend Meredith, many of them against integration but risking their lives to uphold order -- even when it meant opposing their neighbors, and sometimes their friends. Young boys on their second day as guardsmen rode into the campus in a Jeep as rioters hit them with bricks and concrete slabs hurled at point-blank range. Older men who were veterans of Korea and World War II described the battle of Oxford as the worst of their lives.
At the peak of the insurrection, the defenders ran out of tear gas, and snipers began attempts to pick them off. Though hundreds of people were wounded, there were only two casualties: a French reporter and an innocent local bystander. Troops had to remain on campus to protect Meredith for another year.
By the next morning, the defenders had stood fast, and according to Doyle, the last battle of the Civil War had been decisively won.
Oxford was the result of one man's use of the apparatus of the state to bring about justice. In theory, this is how the best society should work. While committed to defending Meredith, the agents of the government took the utmost care to protect civilian life. They enforced law and order with humanity.
Today it seems inconceivable for large numbers of Americans to arm themselves and openly defy the state. The idea of rebellion has perished. But according to Doyle, de-facto segregation is alive and well in American schools today. At first this troubled me greatly, and I was going to write that we killed the wrong thing at Oxford by quelling the spirit of rebellion without defeating segregation -- but after a little thought I'm not convinced.
The Supreme Court's recent decision upholding vouchers means that students aren't necessarily trapped in racially segregated public schools. They were before the decision, and will continue to be until voucher programs or similar efforts spread throughout the country. But thanks to the work of the Institute for Justice, the Mackinac Center, and Milton and Rose Friedman's School Choice Foundation, the way is clear. And this victory was won with activism and the courts, without force.
So this SomeoneLikesYou thing is a scam to gather e-mails in order to send out spam. Naturally, when I got my e-mail from them, I logged in to see who my secret admirer was. Ooh la la.
Then it was like, "please enter fifty billion e-mail addresses of every single person you know in order to find out who sent you a message."
First I entered some obvious guesses and there was no match. Then some less obvious guesses. Then total longshots (sure... firstname.lastname@example.org, maybe she read the blog!). Still no match, and it demanded more e-mails. "Just enter five more e-mails and we'll give you another clue who your secret admirer is!" Soon the names just ran out. I entered all six of my own e-mail addresses and it still wanted more. I entered family members, old high-school buddies, the support e-mail address for my on-line brokerage account. Support@amazon.com? Why not? I always liked the service. President@whitehouse.gov. You name it.
By the end it was a game. I went through my e-mail inbox and found five or six undeleted spam letters and added them to the list. I tried adding someonelikesyou.com itself, but the address was disallowed. They were wise to me.
And still they required more addresses. More! Or I'd never know who had reached out to me, whose soul was desperately yearning for the completion that only I could bring...
Which is to say, if you get an e-mail from these people because of me (not that you'll know it was because of me of course, that's the whole fucking problem) ... well, sorry everyone.
She gets mad
And she starts to cry
She takes a swing
But she can't hit!
She don't mean no harm
She just don't know...
What else to do about it
There's a particular girl, for this song. When I was younger. I remember my parents, unsure what to make of things, finally settling on this piece of advice: Don't ever get involved with a girl who has more troubles than you do, Jim.
But they all have more troubles than I do, Dad. I'm living a charmed life.
More from Scott Ritter, former head of the U.N. inspection team, on why Iraq is not a threat (via the peculiar one, who is newly added to Unobjectionable Content). Ritter does not consider whether Saddam has motive to attack the U.S., nor does he explore why, if Saddam does have motive, he has not yet attacked given our declared intent to topple him. Ritter's focus is on the weapons of mass destruction, about which he writes:
I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them.
While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq. (more)
It has been three and a half years since the end of the U.N. inspection regime in December of 1998. I presume it is possible for some level of new destructive capacity to have been rebuilt in that time, but we have no evidence of this -- in part because Iraq has kicked out the U.N.'s inspectors. Of course, there are allegations that these inspectors were in fact exceeding their mandate in order to spy on Iraq for the U.S. and others. These Iraqi allegations have been confirmed by both U.S. and U.N. personnel, including Ritter himself, as articles in the Boston Globe and New York Times have indicated.
Iraq is a thorny situation sadly made thornier by our own policies. While certainly unfriendly towards the U.S., there is no indication that Saddam was belligerent towards us. The difference between nursing a grudge and committing to a war should be obvious. However, the escalation of threats by our own government can only serve to incite an already cornered Iraq. While peaceniks suggest that Iraq has no intention of attacking us, our government's actions may constitute a self-fulfilling prophecy that tragically proves the peaceniks wrong.
Why this self-fulfilling war then? Not, as the title of my post suggests, to distract the American public from Bush's domestic performance during the coming election. This is a side benefit. The real reason is simply to establish a puppet regime in Iraq, to gain some new military bases in the Gulf, and hence to cement our control over the region while conveniently eliminating a government that has demonstrated belligerence to our ally Israel.
Given our track record with puppet regimes in the Middle East (update:the Brits think the House of Saud is on the brink of falling), we should be skeptical of such a policy. Perhaps if the Constitutional requirements for a Congressional (as opposed to Executive) declaration of war are observed, the nation will have the opportunity to debate its merits.
By Tom Payne The joke "How do you know Christ was Jewish?" has a handful of punchlines, and my favourite one is, "He took over His father's business and turned it into a multinational." Jack Miles' book examines how Christ did it, and why.
Miles' first book is focused on God as revealed in the Hebrew Tanakh, which I presume is roughly analogous to the Christian Old Testament. Christ is, obviously, focused on the New Testament. Miles isn't the first person to remark on the different styles of Old Testament God vs. New Testament God.
A biography of the Hebrew God is hardly going to throw up the sort of fellow who would become a man and allow Himself to be crucified by Israel's conquerors. And Miles is at pains to show God in His incarnate form as the exact opposite of a divine warrior come to save the Jews from their oppressors. The author doesn't even flinch from the thought that God might be breaking His promises to His beloved people. He sees Christ's teaching that we should love our neighbour and turn the other cheek (a phrase he analyses sensitively) as part of His - God's - strategy. God's new plan to defeat His enemies is to decide not to have any. This is an especially canny ploy when the enemy is imperial Rome and there is no magic potion to be had in Jerusalem. (more -- free registration required)
Join me for a moment in a presumption: whether or not God exists, the God presented in our religious books is, of necessity, a social construct. In this case, one of the most interesting results of any analysis of God is the insight to be gleaned about the people to whom that particular God belonged.
What does Christianity reveal about the early Romans, Greeks, Hebrews, and Egyptians who were its first converts? Were they like today's Christians (if billions of people can be said to be alike in any meaningful way), or were they more like the people on today's religious fringes -- pagans and wiccans, new-agers, environmentalists? Probably neither comparison is fair; with luck, Miles' book will provide an intelligent alternative.
In a recent study, 150,000 people were asked where they preferred to get their cherished insights. From informed sources like you and me, or by simply pulling whatever outta their own damn assholes. The above pie-chart neatly summarizes their findings.
By Rachelle Marshall One of the many myths surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that Israel has yearned for peace with its neighbors only to face repeated rejection from the Arabs and Palestinians. "It is doubtful that another case can be found in recent history of a nation that has been willing to take greater risks for peace than Israel," wrote Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., in a Feb. 27 op-ed for The New York Times.
In fact the opposite is true. Since the mid-1970s the Arab states and Palestinian leaders repeatedly have proposed peace settlements based on the exchange of land for peace, only to have these proposals go nowhere. (more)
The land for peace formula was implemented once -- in 1979 at the initiative of Egypt's President, Anwar Sadat -- and it worked. Egypt and Israel have had over two decades of normal relations, to the benefit of both nations. What Sadat and Begin proved in the 70s is that peace is possible between Arabs and Israelis. The obstacle is not religion or culture or the weight of historical crimes on either side.
The obstacle is rooted in specific behavior -- it is an unwillingness to act peacefully.
If Israel and Egypt, who fought four full-scale wars before signing a final treaty, can make peace, why is there no rapprochement with the Palestinians?
Rachelle cites numerous efforts by the PLO and the Arab states to secure peace with Israel in exchange for an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. The first attempt she mentions dates back to January, 1976. Today, at the initiative of the Saudis, the entire mainstream Arab world is yet again suing for peace in the Middle East. The offer has not changed in its essentials since 1976 -- land for peace -- yet it continues to go nowhere.
It is useful to ask why Israel might persistently turn away from the outstretched olive branch. Normally, a negotiating party will turn down an offer only if it feels that it can get a better deal. But what better deal is possible than land for peace? Simple: peace without giving up the land. Israel, and PM Sharon in particular, does not want a negotiated peace, but a victory wherein Israel keeps the West Bank and Gaza, and the Arabs submit.
The difference between Israel's response to the Saudi offer of 2001 and to the Egyptian offer of 1977 is that while Israel was willing to give up the Sinai, it is not willing to give up Gaza or the West Bank. Land for peace worked when Israel was open to the trade.
Now the same formula fails, as it has failed since the 70s, because the land in question is too dear for Israel to relinquish -- even as its own citizens suffer acts of terror and its own soldiers become engines of Palestinian death and oppression.
Of course, there are Israelis who resist this vision, but they are not the ones in charge of what is happening.
The article of Rachelle's I quote above is one of a triad published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, called Three Views: The Saudi Peace Initiative. I found it via Shou? -- Igor Boog's interesting blog about the Middle East. In addition to Rachelle Marshall's article, Three Views includes a piece by Uri Avneri, the founder of the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom. His article, titled "How to Torpedo the Saudis," doesn't pull any punches:
If, in May 1967, an Arab prince had proposed that the whole Arab world would recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it, in return for Israel’s recognition of the Green Line border, we would have believed that the days of the Messiah had arrived. Masses of people would have run into the street, singing and dancing, as they did on Nov. 29, 1947, when the United Nations called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
But then disaster struck: we conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Labor and Likud governments filled them up with settlements, and today this offer sounds to many like a malicious anti-Semitic plot.
Have we fallen so far? Is peace itself now anti-Semitic?
Update: I've been thinking that it's unfair to talk about the Middle East in the 70s without mentioning the Palestinian terrorism at the Lod Airport in May of 1972 by the PFLP and the Japanese Red Army (Japanese Marxists); the killing of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in September, 1972 by Black September; or the Air France hijacking of July, 1976 by the PFLP and the Baader-Meinhof Group (German Marxists).
The Palestinians did not have a unified national movement in the 1970s, as the frequent forming of splinter groups shows. It seems as if every major policy disagreement led to the forming of a new group, with radicals breaking off from moderates. The "cause" was not the same for all Palestinians. Some saw their struggle as part of a violent revolution of the proletariat, and allied themselves with other Marxist terrorists. Some desired to eliminate Israel altogether, while others talked of declaring a Palestinian state on whatever part of Palestine that could be reclaimed.
Perhaps in all cases, minorities took it upon themselves to speak for the Palestinians as a people, and to act in their name -- but of course there was no system for collective decision-making or the legitimization of group action among an occupied people. The PLO had the best claim to a mandate, and they appear to have been most focused on diplomatic overtures to Israel.
But the dramatic terror attacks of the 70s were certainly a reason for legitimate Israeli distrust.
There was plenty of provocation on both sides. The first Palestinian Land Day demonstrations in March of 1976 were met with violent repression by Israel, and the death of six Israeli-Arabs. In 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in response to harassment from armed groups, and in 1982 a full invasion of Lebanon swept all the way to Beirut despite Israeli promises that it would only cross a short distance across the border.
Resorting to history to find the one key fact that supports an argument will always make things nice and clear. But the deeper one looks, the more countervailing stories one finds, and before long the past is as muddy as the present.
That said, here's the story I'm sticking to: Israel and the Egyptians made peace despite having four wars between them, as I note above. Four wars, people. Now, in 2002, a comprehensive peace plan is on offer from the Arab states and there is no talk of a serious Israeli response. In some sense, there will always be one reason or another not to negotiate, but that game can go on for thirty more years, and everyone will lose.
"Philosophically speaking, when you believe something, you believe it to be true. Postmodernism doesn't change that. It simply says that any proof you offer in defense of your beliefs must necessarily appeal to social/linguistic constructs, not to some greater Platonic order of Truth that, should it exist, would be articulated in ways we could never possibly recognize.
This doesn't mean that all beliefs are equal or equivalent. People who teach postmodernism this way are incorrectly applying its observations (and so aren't engaged in postmodern thought). What postmodernism observes instead is that, because the truth value of a specific belief can never be 'independently' (to use Fish's term) determined, those truth claims must necessarily appeal to some matrix of human constructs for validation." (more)
In fact, the blog is full of opportunities to while away your time reading about (and commenting on) a wide variety of topics. Jim Henley and I have been contributing to a WWF Smackdown perfectly civil debate there about Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (no, really, it has been perfectly civil. I was just stooping to sensationalism to get you to click over). I can honestly say that I am proud of what I've written there.
So is Protein Wisdom a good blog? I'll need to read more of it, but so far it seems that the proprietor, Jeff Goldstein, is smart and thoughtful (we definitely disagree on some things), with wide-ranging interests. To boot, he's capable of encouraging lively, polite discussions in his comments sections. All the right ingredients for a blog.
Plus, the one person masquerading as three over at We are Full of Shit is always going on about Protein Wisdom, and I did find this great post (and comments) on Bill Gates, Manhattan, a libertarian utopia, and nipples like Tollhouse-cookies. So, dear readers, you may want to check it out.
In other news, brown-eyed girl will be happy to see a fellow right-wing dame has joined her on Unobjectionable Content, that famous econoblogger Jane Galt of Live from the WTC. You all probably heard of her before you heard of me, but what the hey.
"Suddenly there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen."
"For a fraction of a second the light in that bell-shaped fire mass was greater than any ever produced on earth. Its intensity was such that it could have been seen from another planet. The temperature at its center was four times that at the center of the sun and more than 10,000 times that at the sun's surface. The pressure, caving in the ground beneath, was over 100 billion atmospheres...At eight tenths of a second the ball's white hot dome had topped the Empire State building."
"Up it went, a great ball of fire about a mile in diameter, changing colors as it kept shooting upward, from deep purple to orange, expanding, growing bigger, rising as it was expanding, an elemental force freed from its bonds after being chained for billions of years....
It was as though the earth had opened and the sky had split."
"The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. It was that beauty the great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately. Thirty seconds after the explosion came, first, the air blast pressing hard against people and things, to be followed almost immediately by a sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to the Almighty. Words are inadequate tools for the job of acquainting those not present with the physical, mental and psychological effects. It had to be witnessed to be realized.'"
Prior to Trinity, the world had never seen a nuclear chain-reaction. Until the test disproved the notion, the scientists entertained the possibility that the Trinity detonation would ignite the atmosphere and destroy all life on the surface of the Earth. Admittedly, the concerns weren't so great that the test was cancelled, but minutes before the blast, Enrico Fermi took bets on whether the igniting of the atmosphere would incinerate the entire world, or merely New Mexico. General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project for the U.S. Military, called the Governor of the state to alert him that an evacuation might be necessary.
This silent video clip shows the preliminary processes of raising the Trinity device to the top of the tower, and then the blast and after effects. You can find more nuclear test films at the Nevada Department of Energy web site.
The Seattle Times produced a special section on the Trinity test in 1995, Trinity's 50th anniversary. One section of the report had this quotation from Terry Hawkins, co-director of the federal government's nonproliferation international security team:
"It's not if anymore. It's when," Hawkins said of the possibility of terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb. "And if it ever happens in this country, we may not like the United States after it happens. There will be a strong move to abrogate freedoms."
That prediction was made before the bombing in Oklahoma City."
I read that last sentence of editorial commentary by the Times and can think only of how quaint it seems — and then I think of someone reading these quaint words years from now, after even worse horrors than 9/11, and I am chilled to the bone.
Lost in all the outrage over the corporate accounting scandals is one fact politicians do not like to acknowledge: The auditing problems at American companies cannot rival the bookkeeping shambles of the world's largest enterprise — the U.S. government.
Exaggerated earnings, disguised liabilities, off-budget shenanigans — they are all there in the government's ledgers on a scale even the biggest companies could not dream of matching. (more)
How do corporate accounting scandals differ from government accounting scandals?
In a corporate scandal, investors, employees, and even occasionally management pay the piper in the near term. Investors lose wealth, employees lose their jobs, and management lose reputations and jobs (and gain felony convictions — possibly, maybe, this time).
The government is insulated from the consequences of its actions. In a government scandal, no one pays the piper in the near term, and in the long run we're all dead.
If fraudulent or flagrantly incompetent accounting results in sizeable, unanticipated budget deficits, governments can generate cash through coercion (raising taxes). Corporations in need of funds have to convince creditors to lend them money. Governments in need of funds can tell their subjects that the date for a quarterly tax payment has been moved up, and by the way, late fees will accrue and the penalty for non-payment is incarceration.
Employees, investors, and other stakeholders in a free market enterprise stand to lose a great deal when accounting improprieties are revealed and their consequences come home to roost. But stakeholders in government (the citizens) don't see a correspondingly immediate and painful financial consequence when their government cooks the books.
Sure, taxes will probably go up — but taxes always go up. Without a distinct, near-term harm that can be clearly attributed to government malfeasance, a reaction from the public is unlikely. There is no proximate cause of distress to mobilize the citizenry.
Government crooks get off easy compared to corporate crooks — which is about as easy as it gets — but this certainly isn't for lack of guilt.
The 2001 report featured $17.3 billion in what was described as "unreconciled transactions" — money that simply could not be accounted for.
GAO Comptroller General David Walter said this discrepancy does not mean the money was stolen, just that the antiquated accounting systems in use at many government agencies lost track of it.
The GAO has published a long list of documents detailing the auditing sins of various agencies. They range from estimates of hundreds of billions of dollars unaccounted for at the Defense Department, one of the worst offenders, to $12.1 billion in improper Medicare payments last year.
While Senators and Members of Congress fight over who gets to be seen chastising Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers on the evening news, the DOD has misplaced "hundreds of billions of dollars."
How about some public outcry over this kind of bullshit?
This is untrue. Bush sold the stock to purchase an interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team. At the time he bought into the Rangers, his most valuable asset was the stock he held in Harken; he sold $800,000 worth of Harken Energy stock to pay off a $600,000 loan for the purchase of the team.
If he "knew" the stock was going to tank, would it make sense to hold on to the 100,000 shares he didn't sell? Yes, that's right—Bush only sold two thirds of the stock he owned in the company. Krugman, McAuliffe, and Daschle never mention that fact.
Meanwhile, the war with the Fremen Taliban in Arrakis Afghanistan promises to deliver a new supply of the spice oil pipeline, though Muad'Dib Bin Laden is still at large.
In honor of my Egyptian blood, the results of my Which Egyptian God Are You? quiz. Back the fuck off, people. ;-)
You're Horus, Egyptian god of the sky. You lived to revenge your father against Seth, who betrayed and slew him. You defeated him after an 80 year struggle, losing an eye in the process, and then castrated him when you won. You got your eye back, but you gave it to your father, Osiris. How sweet.
Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end, holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed.
Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says, "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim it again, please. Backstroke."
Musicians sign contracts with record companies voluntarily. They ought to know better. Steve makes the case that most of these contracts are egregiously unfair. If you are an artist trying to make a living in this industry, then it's your responsibility to find out what the consequences of signing a contract will be.
Record companies pay advances, and take risks on album sales, etc. There is nothing inherently evil in the idea of a record company. But the devil is in the details. If most contracts result in artists owing record companies money, as Steve claims, then something is wrong.
The sad fact that many musicians are too innocent or gullible or stupid to protect themselves from unfair contracts doesn't mean we should focus our attention on their mistakes. Signing an unfair contract hurts only the musician. Writing an unfair contract -- which record companies apparently do every day -- hurts others. The distinction between self-destructive and other-destructive behavior is significant.
Should these contracts be outlawed? Hell no. Even rock musicians need to be responsible for their choices.
But we're still free to call the A&R people up and ask them: "How do you sleep at night?"
Band of Roving Chief Executives Spotted Miles from Mexican Border
El Paso, Texas — Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.
"They came into my home, made me pay for my own TV, then double-booked the revenues," said Rachel Sanchez of Las Cruces, just north of El Paso. "Right in front of my daughters."
Calling themselves the CEOnistas, the chief executives were first spotted last night along the Rio Grande River near Quemado, where they bought each of the town's 320 residents by borrowing against pension fund gains. By late this morning, the CEOnistas had arbitrarily inflated Quemado's population to 960, and declared a 200 percent profit for the fiscal second quarter. (more)
Bubba died in a fire and his body was burnt pretty bad. The morgue needed someone to identify the body, so his two best friends, Daryl and Gomer, were sent for.
Daryl went in and the mortician pulled back the sheet. Daryl said, "Yup, he's burnt pretty bad. Roll him over." The mortician rolled him over, and Daryl said, "Nope,
The mortician thought that was rather strange. Then he brought Gomer in to identify the body. Gomer took a look at him and said, "Yup, he's burnt real bad, roll him over." The mortician rolled him over and Gomer said, "No, it ain't Bubba."
The mortician asked, "How can you tell?"
Gomer said, "Well, Bubba had two assholes."
"What? He had two assholes?" said the mortician.
"Yup, everyone in town knew he had two assholes. Every time we went to town, folks would say, 'Here comes Bubba with them two assholes.'
This one is a classic.
A rabbi, a vicar, and a priest walk into a bar. Barman says "Is this some kind of joke?"
Ok, please don't hate me for this next one.
A man comes home to find his wife with all of her bags packed and being loaded into a cab in front of their home. She's clearly divorcing him.
"Why are you leaving me?" he says.
"I'm leaving you because you're a pedophile!" she says.
"Well that's an awfully big word for nine-year-old," he says.
Hacktivismo, an offshot of the Cult of the Dead Cow are "about to unveil a new peer-to-peer protocol that may eventually let millions more surf, chat and e-mail free from prying eyes." It's called Six/Four, "after the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square," and it was authored by a 23 year-old German with the monicker The Mixter.
"United Nations weapons inspectors colluded with British secret service agents to spread disinformation about Saddam Hussein's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programmes as part of a campaign to justify military strikes, according to the [former] head of the UN inspection team in Iraq."
Earlier, I mentioned that Israel's Military Orders allowed it to detain Palestinians for up to three months without knowledge of the evidence against them and without access to a lawyer. As of June 3rd, there were 929 Palestinians held in administrative detention. Now there are 1,700 -- and the sentences have been extended to half a year.
Zem reports on one case involving Jussry al-Jamal, a Palestinian journalist working for Reuters. This man's position as a Reuters employee makes his situation subject to public scrutiny, which sets him apart from the other 1,699 detainees. And still, Jussry remains in jail "despite a court ruling that he be released on July 10."
Eric makes the common (and fatuous) assertion that the only things the Arabs understand is force. "Arab cultures," he writes, "... regard victory in war as a sign of Allah's favor and regard compromise and concession as a sign of weakness." Raymond wants us to believe that full-scale war is our only option in dealing with such a culture. Leonard responds:
All societies that I am aware of have regarded victory in war as sign of the favor of their favorite deity. And all regard compromise and concession, at least over matters of principle, as weakness, because they are.
Eric is contributing to a long tradition of justifying evil by dehumanizing one's intended victims. He deserves to be shamed for this. The reasonable points that he makes about self defense are completely overshadowed by his attempt to be war's midwife.
Leonard's response cuts to the heart of Raymond's bigoted claim and demolishes it. His entire post is spot-on and worth your time (particularly his concise, realistic predictions at the end).
In Jerusalem, a university president, Sari Nusseibeh, has his office shut down, not because Israel claims he is a terrorist -- they recognize him as politically moderate -- but because Cabinet Minister Matan Vilnai "was sure the Palestinians were conducting political activity out of Al Quds [and] ... the Palestinians are banned from political activity in Jerusalem."
Political activity is illegal for Palestinians in Jerusalem. Someone should tell that to President Bush.
The best defense is a good crime against humanity offense
Seventeen unarmed Palestinian civilians have been killed by the IDF since June 20th, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, as reported in the New York Times. The IDF claims that the only deaths it causes are accidental.
How many accidents make a pattern? How many separate incidents does it take? The seventeen deaths in the past three weeks did not all occur in one orgy of clumsiness. The hundreds of Palestinian children killed since September 2000 were not all snuffed out with one bullet. We are talking about numerous -- numerous -- separate occasions when soldiers of Israel's army have killed innocents.
The IDF has taken the art of demonstrating the gullibility of the uninformed to new heights.
In fact, it's almost impossible for Palestinians to know whether or not it is safe to be out in the streets. Curfews are lifted infrequently for brief periods of time in order to allow people to buy food or visit a hospital -- but the easings are random and arbitrary, and one never knows when to expect them or how long they will last. One IDF soldier announces that curfew is instated and minutes later another announces that curfew is lifted. Do you dare leave your house when the penalty for being wrong is death?
"The army said its soldiers mistakenly fired shells and artillery into a crowded market of shoppers who believed the curfew had been lifted." Shells and artillery, people. That incident led to the deaths of three more children.
i've been reading through Kathy's emails to me again. she was the best friend i ever had. i haven't let go, or whatever they fucking call it, because i still feel like i could get in touch with her if i just looked hard enough, or was clever enough. i'm still awed by Kathy's genius and perseverance. i...we could have been so happyangrysadecstaticinspiredloved if we had committed to one and other. there at the end she found that for me and i said no. too scared, too average. what do you do when the person you should have been with dies before you truly understood how deeply connected the two of you were? i guess you learn to be alone...maybe you play with the half-hearted xerox copies of Kathy that you meet over the years and pretend.
i think you become a clock watcher. waiting till the day you die, and the quest for her begins again. you hope you'll try harder or be clever enough this time.
Matt had been on a hiatus from blogging, but he seems to be back. Welcome back Mr. Midboe. I hope the path is a little easier, this year.
I'm coming to the belief that the very best introduction for a layman to any new field is an exposure to its controversies and unanswered questions.
Why? Because this allows the newcomer to conceive of a role for themselves in the advancement of the discipline. It communicates the message that there remains work to be done, and gives the newcomer the implicit invitation to do that work. Such an introduction encourages students to engage with the field, to think critically about what they are about to learn, and to approach the subject with an eye towards contributing to human knowledge.
It also conforms closely to one of the key ways we probably learned in the wild: when confronted with some problem, we were motivated to learn new things in order to solve it.
That's the thing: motivation. What is going to most reliably motivate learning? Duty and fear in the worst case? Love in the best?
I say curiosity and play. And the best way to encourage them is for the gatekeepers of knowledge to show their bellies. Let students understand -- right away -- that there's disagreement and uncertainty. The students will learn not to accept any authority but reality as final, and that's good. When things get boring and tedious (as they inevitably will), students who know there's a great puzzle waiting to be solved will have an easier time toughing out the obstacles on the way. They'll want to get into the fray ... and that's the whole point.
Let's test this out with a tough case, using an example not at all tailored for my argument. The link is to a post on More than Zero Sum, about the obscure and highly quantitative field of asset allocation/modern portfolio theory. You have absolutely no desire to learn anything about this. You hate math. The internet is full of pictures of Anna Kournikova kissing other girls (you know this will confound numerous Google searchers now). But if you make it to the end of the post ... I bet you it will have done more to make you want to learn asset allocation theory than anything else ever has.
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes The Right to a Home and a Homeland Global Campaign is a coordinated, international movement to rebuild Palestinian homes and Middle East peace through strategic Palestinian and Israeli cooperation.
Marshalling the resources of thousands of international supporters, a network of Palestinian and Israeli peace & justice organizations is rebuilding demolished homes throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, in constructive resistance to Israel's Occupation.
According to the Rebuild web site, the "General criteria for selecting communities and families are as follows:
That homes selected should represent a broad variety of home demolitions including Administrative (no building permit), and military actions;
That the rebuilding projects should be throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza;
Where the community supports the activity;
Where the family understands the political ramifications and is willing to participate in rebuilding work with Israeli and international volunteers, and agrees with the objectives of the rebuilding program;
That need, economic, and demographic criteria are considered."
Like an anthropologist or a method actor, Lee "identifies a particular group in society and infiltrates it over a period of weeks or months. She will drastically alter her hair, her weight, her clothes," the intro continues. "More subtly, she will take on the mannerisms, the gestures, the way of carrying oneself characteristic of the group she has chosen.
What if you could start over without throwing it all away? Keep the Ivy degree and the well-paying job, the approval of family, the respect of friends. This is Life A. Because you are spoiled, you want to escape Life A.
You want to be a drifter -- you marvel at the fact that in the 1950s, this word, "drifter," had such a strong negative connotation, equivalent to "drug addict" today. "He's a drifter," the older character representing society would say about the younger character representing rebellion, in the movies. The three words were always delivered with gravity and a hint of contempt.
You want to be a drifter more than anything. You want to travel, to lose yourself in foreign tongues and foreign lives. You will work for your room and board. You will have love affairs with strangers. You will get into fights. You and your friends will share extraordinary bonds, born of surviving desperate situations. Life will be a series of risks, because here, in Life B, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
On Monday, you will go to work in Life A. You will not have a black eye, or a drinking problem -- those are Life B's burdens.