March 2005

2005 03 31
Free Jazz in the East Village

Posted by in: Music

The style, I mean. Not free as in free beer.

I’m looking forward to this show. I imagine it will be less accessible than most of their other work, but it’s nice to give your ears a stretch once in a while. And Angelica Sanchez is great. Here are the details:

Friday, April 1st
Yoon Sun Choi and Jacob Sacks, with special guest, Angelica Sanchez (The Restless Spirit Series)
Venue: 5C Cafe
Location: New York, NY
Time: 7:00pm
Cover: $8.00

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2005 03 29
Reverse rendition!

Posted by in: Political issues, Torture

For the sake of variety, I suppose.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2005 03 29

There’s an odd mini-backlash going on now among liberal bloggers over Wonkette. I’d like to join the mini-backlash against the mini-backlash.

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2005 03 29
Setting a date

Sorry, I just linked to this post by Matthew Yglesias, but I can’t resist quoting a bit of it too. In my opinion, he’s nailed the most important step the U.S. could take in Iraq now:

I don’t have a really specific view about the appropriate short-term troop level. What I would say is this. It’s vital to establish a commitment to long-term withdrawal, which would have the following elements: No permanent bases, a target date for zeroing out the American deployment, and a set of feasible benchmarks for interim withdrawals. This commitment should be combined with a non-trivial short-term withdrawal as a token of good faith and bona fide commitment to the plan.

Now to be clear, I don’t want to see a precipitous, panicky, running away here. That means, to me, that you need to go about setting the long-term date the right way. I would suggest something like this. Condoleezza Rice and her staff make a guess about when a zero troop level situation will be viable. Call that Date X. Then add some months onto Date X and call that the Optimistic Target. Then add some more months to the Optimistic Target and call that the Final Target. There are Iraqis who are nervous about our intentions on both sides. Some worry that we’ll never leave and Iraq will become some kind of West Bank writ large. Others worry that we’ll abandon our Iraqi allies too soon, they’ll be overrun, and meet the fate of the South Lebanon Army or some such thing. You need a date designed to alleviate both of those fears. One far enough in the past as to give confidence that it isn’t merely an effort to weasel away, but one firm enough as to give confidence that the need to battle the insurgency isn’t merely an excuse for indefinite occupation. One can add that even after the Target is reached, the Iraqi government will continue to have (if it wants) serious financial and diplomatic support from the United States as well as support from the U.S. intelligence community and low-footprit assets that can be kept in the air, in the sea, or in outer space and that will give Iraq’s security forces a clear qualitative edge over whomever they may be fighting. A short-term withdrawal is important largely for somewhat symbolic purposes — to make it clear that as Iraqi troops are trained, American troops will be sent home, and that the whole process is on the up-and-up.

The problem with the Djerejian/Bush strategy is encompassed by the statement “if conditions allow (ie, Sunni participation in nascent political governance structures moving in right direction; insurgency continuing to weaken) only then would there perhaps be major draw-downs in ’06.” What’s wrong with this? Well, what’s wrong with it is that if you make Sunni participation in nascent governance structures (which is necessary for the insurgency to really weaken) a condition for moving toward withdrawal, you’re not going to get Sunni participation in nascent governance structures, and therefore you’re never going to withdraw. Right now we’re trapped in a vicious circle. Sunni participation is a condition for withdrawal, but withdrawal is a condition for Sunni participation.

I think what Yglesias says should be obvious. I think at some level, it must be obvious to a lot of people at the top of the Bush administration. I think that’s why I’m so inclined to see the Bush administration’s failure to take this step as a strong reason to think that the administration is still committed to policies that aren’t compatible with it.

Howls of outrage (13)

2005 03 29
Star Trek as a source of moral insight

Lot of people seem to be giggling about a high-profile intersection of biomedical ethics and Star Trek. Matthew Yglesias, who should know better, is representative here (omitting the hyperlinks in the original):

. . . highlighting in particular this post which reveals (really) that at least one member of the President’s Bioethics Council (really) came to the view that “that cloning and embryonic stem cell research are evil . . . in part, by watching Star Trek.” Really. Personally, I’m more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, but I’d really prefer not to launch a dispute on the topic. My hope would be that we can all agree this is perhaps not the soundest method of formulating bioethics policy. Although, considering the low knowledge level of the White House’s in-house Social Security expert I suppose we’ll take what we can get. Ironically, while the Trekkie bioethicist is not a scientist, the Social Security expert is not an economist but . . . a chemist. I suppose it’s very pointy-headed elite of me to think that people should be basing their views on actual knowledge, but that’s just what you get.

Well, I’ve never had much time for Star Trek, any generation, to be honest. But I don’t see what is wrong with coming to a view in part by watching Star Trek. We’re talking about a Bush appointee, I think, so you never know. The original story makes her sound like a real flake. But it isn’t as though she’s defending her view by an appeal to the authority of Star Trek or that the view is even wholly the result of reflecting on Star Trek. Instead, as far as I can tell, all we have is a slightly embarrassing revelation that someone prominent was moved by a bit of pop culture to think more deeply about a subject, or to see it in a way that she hadn’t previously. I can’t see anything wrong with that.

In the last decade or so, I’ve spent an awful lot of time reading high-falutin’ philosophical material on ethics. I’ve learned a lot from it, but I’ve also noticed that some embarrassingly non-philosophical sources can yield insights into philosophical topics. The first thing that comes to mind is the Lord of the Rings, and in particular the view that both Gandalf, and eventually Frodo, take of Gollum. For some reason that stuff made a deeper impression on me than a lot of straight-up philosophical wonkery. And – sorry! – my official view is that Lord of the Rings is fun stuff, but basically silly and cheesy.

. . . On the other hand, every word of this post by Yglesias is gold.

Howls of outrage (7)

2005 03 26
“Former exterminator”

Tom DeLay is, without a doubt, a thoroughly loathsome man. But why must liberal critics always refer to him as “former exterminator Tom Delay”? Is there supposed to be something wrong with being an exterminator? It’s not my top career choice, but what if it was? Would that call my political judgement into question? If DeLay was a righteous liberal, wouldn’t a working class occupation be considered a badge of honour, rather than something . . . icky?

Update: Oh yeah, as well as being offensive, this line of attack is also stupid. I would stay away from trying to insinuate that there’s some kind of continuity between DeLay’s past and his present. If DeLay is still engaging in exterminator-like activities, then what the fuck are Democrats in this picture?

No, no, no. As a resident of New York City, I say “Three cheers for exterminators!” OK, excuse me, I gotta go whack a cockroach and reset my mouse traps.

Howls of outrage (11)

2005 03 25
“Abhorrent acts”

Posted by in: Political issues, The UN

From The Guardian:

The reputation of United Nations peacekeeping missions suffered a humiliating blow yesterday as an internal report identified repeated patterns of sexual abuse and rape perpetrated by soldiers supposed to be restoring the international rule of law.

The highly critical study, published by Jordan’s ambassador to the UN assembly, was endorsed by the organisation’s embattled secretary general, Kofi Annan, who condemned such “abhorrent acts” as a “violation of the fundamental duty of care”.

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2005 03 25

I’ve seen this point made before, but rarely so succinctly:

Don’t hurt your brain trying to reconcile the following stereotypes:

(a) Women are afraid of argument.

(b) Feminists are too outspoken.

(c) The media has a liberal bias.

(d) Women of color are too outspoken.

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2005 03 24
What is “Fisking”?

Tim Lambert explains:

“Fisking” is a term bloggers use for especially lame posts.

Howls of outrage (10)

2005 03 24

Posted by in: Music, Software

A handy tool, for when Gracenote lets you down:

Free software MusicBrainz analyzes your digital music collection and fills in missing artist and song title information for your MP3Â’s and CDÂ’s.

Via Lifehacker

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2005 03 24
How wretched does your country have to be . . .

. . . before a poor Chinese province seems like a promised land of freedom and wealth? Ask a North Korean refugee.

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2005 03 24
Health update for friends and family

Below the fold, of course.
Continue Reading »

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2005 03 23
The Real Afghanistan

An interesting piece in the New York Review of Books, by Pankaj Mishra.

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2005 03 23
Thursday night

Posted by in: Music

My lovely wife has a show on Thursday evening:

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2005
Band: 4inObjects
Venue: Cornelia Street Cafe
Location: New York, NY
Time: 10:00pm
Cover: tba

Check ‘em out!

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2005 03 23
Unlikely Claims

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Last week, under the heading “Unlikely Claims”, Philosopher Brian Weatherson (Cornell) reported:

From the promo for this weekÂ’s 60 Minutes. (Heard on TV not online so no link.)
Their culture has no concept of time, so how did they know it was time to flee before the tsunami hit?

Of course, that claim is absurd. In the same department, I heard this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition that the book Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife dazzles with a proof that Winston Churchill is a carrot. Apparently, the number zero was barred from inclusion into respectable systems of mathematics with all the zeal of an Ashcroftish bouncer at a Bush rally. Good thing too. ‘Cause a carrot smoking a cigar just ain’t natural, is it?

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