June 2007

2007 06 30
Drink Hemp, Love Life

Posted by in: Food

The hemp-is-a-miracle-substance movement of the last 15 years or so mostly passed me by, but yesterday I was feeling adventurous, and so bought some hemp milk. It was surprisingly good! It tastes more like sunflower seeds to me than anything else, and I’m guessing that it tastes best cold, which is how I drank it.

(The title of the post is a Canadian in-joke.)

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 06 28
E-String Videos

Posted by in: Music

I just realized these were up:

Bye Bye Blackbird

How Deep is the Ocean

You are my Sunshine


I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry

After You’ve Gone

Such Great Heights

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2007 06 20
Arrowhead Ripper

Remember this:

[In Fallujah] The U.S. military turned back fleeing males [who had tested negative for explosive residue on their hands (NYT 11/13/04)] into a war zone ; it used chemical weapons (phosphorus) in the fighting; it preceded the invasion with weeks of fairly indiscriminate heavy bombing in civilian areas; and so on.

Well, here we go again. Meet “Operation Arrowhead Ripper”. From today’s NYT:

By the time dawn broke on Tuesday, the insurgent sanctuary in western Baquba had been cordoned off. Then, the American forces established footholds on the periphery of the section and slowly pressed in. �Rather than let the problem export to some other place and then have to fight them again, my goal is to isolate this thing and cordon it off,� said Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division.

Unlike Falluja, where most of the population fled in advance of the battle, thousands of civilians remain in the western section of the city.

American helicopters dropped leaflets last night urging the residents to stay in their homes. The hope was to keep civilians off the streets while American forces began to close in on the insurgents. The appeal appeared to have little effect, though, as large groups of civilians mingled on the streets Tuesday and some students even sought to go to the local university.

The presence of so many civilians on an urban battlefield affords the operatives from Al Qaeda another possible means to elude their American pursuers. If the insurgents do not manage to sneak out, some may hide their weapons and try to blend with the city�s residents.

To frustrate such plans, the Americans intend to take fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential fighter after they and Iraqi forces have gained control of the western side of the city. The Americans will also test for the presence of explosive material on suspects� hands.

Officers are hoping that local residents and even former insurgents who have split with Al Qaeda may quietly help the American troops pick out insurgents. American troops have already begun to work with more than 100 Iraqis on the eastern side of the city � a group American soldiers have nicknamed the �Kit Carson scouts.� To try to prevent insurgents from escaping, American commanders are also stepping up their reconnaissance efforts.

With the little media scrutiny that the atrocious Fallujah offensive garnered, and with US generals and political elites eager to have something to hang their hat on come September, you can bet that Operation Arrowhead Ripper is not going to be a pretty sight. Still, September will be an extremely important time for anti-war arguments. Powerful arguments will be made on the basis of the indiscriminate excesses of what was “necessary” in Fallujah in 2004, and still “necessary” in Baquba in 2007. Let’s hope the reporting makes such arguments possible. We know the US Military will do their part.

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2007 06 13
Gig Friday

Posted by in: Music

Yoon is playing at Biscuit this Friday. Sadly, the drummer can’t make this one. But it still should be fun:

Yoon Sun Choi and The E-String Band

Yoon Sun Choi – voice and toy piano
Jacob Sacks – melodica and harmophone
Khabu Doug Young – ukuleles
Mike McGinnis – bass clarinet

Friday, June 15th

Biscuit BBQ
230 5th Avenue (corner of President St. and 5th Ave)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
R train to Union St or Q train to 7th Ave

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2007 06 10
If he has his way, you’re toast

Speaking of Rudy Giuliani, there’s a point I meant to make a while back when Keith Olbermann and others were making a stink about something Giuliani had said. Since the general issue is bound to come up again, it might be worth pointing this out, even though that little spat is long over. The issue was this: Giuliani said that if the United States chooses a Democratic president, we’re all likely to be less safe. Olbermann had a cow over this.

Now, the problem I had with Olbermann’s response is that it seemed to me to run together two very different kinds of criticism. We might say:
a) Giuliani’s claim is false; and/or
b) Giuliani’s claim is out of the bounds of acceptable political discourse; it’s not the sort of thing that is appropriate for a politician to say.

Now (a) seems to me indisputable, but (b) seems very disputable indeed. Look, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a policy debate about security. Unless you think that security policies broadly conceived make no difference whatsoever to security, then I think you’re bound to allow that there’s nothing objectionable at all about claiming that people who favour different security policies will make you less secure. Giuliani’s claim is silly in the extreme, but there’s nothing wrong with this kind of claim in general. And it’s a damn good thing too. I want to say – because it’s true! – that George Bush’s policies have made us much less safe than we might otherwise be. When I say this I’m not ipso facto fear mongering.

None of this is to deny, of course, that Republicans have contemptibly exploited people’s fears for several years now. Or that Giuliani ought to be laughed off the national stage for this remark, and many others. Or that he’s an awful man who needs to be vigorously challenged when he says things that are obviously false. But the critical response to this needs to be more precisely targeted, or risk falling into absurdity itself.

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2007 06 10

A while back I predicted in the comments section of another blog that Rudy Giuliani would only embarrass himself by running for president. I said it was a complete mystery to me why he was bothering, since a lackluster performance that only drew attention to his many faults wouldn’t even put him in a good position to get picked by someone else for the VP slot. In the meantime, of course, I have been proven utterly wrong. He may well not win – indeed, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much apparently, I still think he won’t win – but his showing has been perfectly respectable. Perfectly respectable, I mean, in the sense that some polls even put him out in first place. His actual views, of course, strike me as mostly either or both idiotic or alarming, depending on what he’s talking about.

All of this shows, yet again, that I can’t make political predictions for shit. Every time I think that people just couldn’t be stupid enough to fall for something they do.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 06 05
Protecting my dainty fucking eyes

By now you’ve probably seen the hilarious court ruling on the F.C.C.’s attempts to level hefty fines against television and radio stations for obscenities. In today’s dead tree edition, the NYT has this, among other things, to tell us about the case:

. . . the judges then cited examples in which Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had used the same language that would be penalized under the policy. Mr. Bush was caught on videotape last July using a common vulgarity that the commission finds objectionable in a conversation with Tony Blair of Britain. Three years ago, Mr. Cheney was widely reported to have muttered an angry obscene version of “get lost” to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the United States Senate.

I find it silly that the NYT is too delicate to tell its readers what the president and vice president actually said. For one thing, if the NYT reported the actual words it would be mentioning them rather than using them. This makes all the difference in the world, I think. Second, knowing what the actual words used on those occasions are is actually relevant to questions about their obscenity in all sorts of ways. For example, it gets harder to claim that “go fuck yourself” violates community standards when the vice president evidently feels unembarrassed about blurting the phrase out in the middle of the United States Senate. And there is, finally, something a bit funny about the NYT being seized by delicacy while covering an issue about the F.C.C.’s over-delicate approach to language.

Howls of outrage (2)

2007 06 02
Interview on the Iraqi Marshland

Very interesting. (Previous posts on this subject: 1, 2, 3.)

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2007 06 01
The Radical’s Third Way

Dani Rodrik writes (in partial response to all the talk of economic heterodoxy):

Every first-year graduate student learns the First Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics, which says essentially that provided a long list of conditions are satisfied, a market equilibrium is efficient in a particular way–that is, you cannot make someone better off without making someone else worse off. Now you can read the theorem in two, radically different ways. One is to say: “There you have it! We knew Adam Smith was right all along, but here it is stated in mathematically precise way and proved to everyone’s satisfaction. Now let the government get out of the way and have the markets work their magic.” The other is to say: “Wow, hold on! You mean we need so many conditions for markets to produce efficient outcomes? No externalities, no returns to scale, no market power, markets for everything and for every point in time… I better get my theorems of the second-best straight!”

Ah, isn’t there a third? Namely: Even if the real world *did* satisfy all those conditions, why in the world would we be happy with a situation simply because it was one where we could not make one better off (than they are now) without making another worse off (than they are now)? If this is what “producing efficent outcomes is,” as economists believe, then efficiency is compatible with grave injustice, as witness the situation in which we can’t make a slave better off without making his master worse off.

The fact that that this third response to the First Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics is not mentioned by Rodrik is evidence that the “radical” heterodox economists still have their work cut out for them. That fact that this third response is considered radical at all is really too perverse for words.

Howls of outrage (2)