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Friday, March 31, 2006
Towering above a dancing crab.

I saw this item on the local tv news. The Wisconsin avenue tower in Tenleytown is going to come down. The city (Washington DC) is paying $350,000 to make this happen. The Washington Post calls it a "281-foot steel eyesore." Steel 'Monstrosity' In Tenleytown To Be Dismantled Further they have: " a trial lawyer who lives a half-mile from the site, described the tower as "overpowering and menacing" and said it seemed out of place in a neighborhood of low-rise buildings, restaurants and two public schools." One of these would be my nieces school.

I had mentioned this tower in a post last summer Imminent Domain . I was using it as an example (examples - they exist in greater and lesser degrees of tangentality). I had been talking about eminent domain takings. Eminent domain takings more or less by definition involve the government seeking to take over property where they feel some improvement can be made. Where the government, or someone can put the property to higher social purpose. There is no exact line here between blighted property and property you just want to do something else with, say for the greater tax revenue involved. It also can be understood, and accepted, that a under-stated bid on property owned by low income individuals will affect them in greater proportion than a low bid for high income individuals and their property. In that unlikely event that would ever happen. Not all 'takings' are equal. Further such projects are often circumscribed in their geographic extension, and in their completion serve to devalue the remainder of the neighborhood. With no local renaissance involved (someday I will put together a Google Earth tour of all the places I've lived in...).

In some areas these towers go up and in some, they stop going up and come back down. Look out below!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Anti - Pastry.

[They stuffed us full of incubus chock-a-block with succubus...]

a tribute to Cake, a Rant
by Todd Colby

With all due and sincere apologies to Mr. Colby, WFMU, and the Intelligent Design show: Cake Covers - 160 Versions of Todd Colby's "Cake", and without even hint of possible mercy Cake-a-thon To Continue Next Week.

"I'm so fed-up with cake.
If I hear any more cake I'll plotz.
Sometimes I'll hear a hundred or more cakes in a single day.
I hate cake!
I can't be any clearer than that.
I hate cake!
I'll delete every cake in Jersey City.
I can't even listen to the radio anymore because I'll hear more cake.
I'll say "What's with the cake! Can the cake! Stop the cake!"
And they say, "We know how very much you hate cake, and we know you very rarely have the money to avoid our cake, so get in your chair, because you can't escape our cake! But we know how much you hate cake, so get over here, you can't leave the cake!"
I'll punch somebody in the head if I hear any more cake.
Spare me all your cake!
I hate cake!
Get me away from the cake!
I hate it!
I hate cake!
Take away your cake!
[sinister laugh]"

 I've already put the original on my iPod.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

MyFast? my bad. Back just before and during the Olympics Volkswagen was running a somewhat funny, but also creepy set of commercials featuring the suggestion-offering MyFast and its ominous hum. The campaign seems to be over, I haven't seen one of those commercials in a couple of weeks. But I had lingering questions about the whole thing, which were helpfully partly answered by this Slate piece Fast Times VW's nasty new spokesdemon. The piece indicates that some Volkswagen dealerships will throw in an actual black plastic beastie if you buy a car. It would be an oversight on someone's part if not. Seth Stevenson's article also confirms that it is the same ad agency that did the Burger king ads Crispin Porter + Bogusky. I suspected this at the time. I felt that feeling; like invisible fingers were all over me trying to find buttons to push.

Socrates, scourge of Piraeus, had an helpful earnest Daemon that spoke to him to tell him not make mistakes. This little Kakodaemon seems to have its own presence. Yet refers to itself in a third person voice speaking its own point of view, but encompassing elements in the challenged protagonist's life. Like a malevolent id that has managed to slip beyond the bounds of the target it is painting on you. "Make Friends With Your Fast" was the name of the campaign. They always start by just asking to drive a little fast. After that, fastening your seat-belt won't help.

Now Volkswagen is trying to get you to unpimp your rides. Of course, any ad that has a trebuchet slamming a car into the ground can't be all bad, but caricatures of Germans abusing cultural notions drawn from American ethnic pop culture. What is it that feeds on that? These campaigns are not in the same league as the Pink Moon ad, or even the recent Kings of Leon Molly's Chambers spot. Kings of Leon also do a song called Taper Jean Girl, there is not a car for that.

After having written most of the above, while changing channels, as I flipped over Univision, I saw what appeared to be Speedy Gonzales also hawking Volkswagens. Speedy Gonzales to pitch Volkswagen to Hispanic customers - Autoblog. I note this set of ads is done by a different ad agency: CreativeOndemanD Adrants » Hispanic VW GTI Mk V Commercials Star Speedy Gonzales". There are three speedy Gonzales spots (1) "Cats" - moon over miami as I call it (2) "Speed Bump" (3) "stealing cheese" - the one I saw. These can be seen on The German Car Blog: VW: The new Speedy Gonzalez commercials are here! Or you could just watch Univision.
[ As an aside the new United Church of Christ (UCC, this is my church) spot is on the right-hand sidebar of the Adrants site page. Care of its Accessible Airwaves nom d'fatima.]

Volkswagen: going after customers the way Dick Cheney goes after quail. In fairness, I'm not in the demographic groups any of these campaigns are targeting. Even beyond that: I don't drive, I never even learned. I am not in any car demographic at all . I'm ambivalent on the concept of vehicles. ...That being said: Huyen-Tran - if you drive, dinner is on me.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

The President has once again pledged this country to win the war in iraq. Unconditional Victory is the order gone out, storm and fury signifying nothing. This last attempt to drum up support for the war occurs against backdrops of increased violence and instability in the region Bush Bluntly Defends Iraq Strategy, but Admits Missteps - New York Times, the third anniversary of the invasion Across US, rising doubts |, our decreasing ability to effect change as the transition continues In Iraq, US influence wanes as full-scale civil war looms |, and the President's falling poll numbers. However you choose to look at it what there is to this is levels of optimism, blindness, or unconcern. And very little else.

In a crack of a Washington wall a letter from the long forgotten district figure Chaldeus Chumsfeld has come to light dated July 4th 1863. It reads, in part: "how placid this country is. Yet how commerce concerned. Sunshine from Augusta to Brownsville, the wheat grows thickly. Children laughing, babies petting little kitties as the morning dew dries on the grass, and their fathers head off to work to do the nations business. A beautiful women pauses to admire a ship setting out down the Hudson destined for trade on far flung shores. Yes, there are reports of some shooting way out in a small town in Pennsylvania, Gettysburg, something about shoes. What petty cad engaged on what agenda would point to this and say, of this peaceful lawful land the best of all possible worlds for eighty-seven years: 'civil war'." I have a General disagreement with the tone and amount of this optimism, but is it is done to dress up up a disaster or draw down troops who are no longer needed to add positive value to the situation?

At the same time the administration's Doctrines of Preemption are still operational. As seen in the issue of the 2nd revised edition of the national security strategy Bush to Restate Terror Strategy. In principle looks fair and far sighted. There were those in conservative circles who were prepared to use it to justify the invasions of a half-dozen different countries and would have if Iraq had gone as well as their imaginations desire.

I had a referer hit on this web log a few weeks ago for the phrase: "we have done nothing extraordinary, nothing contrary to human nature in accepting an empire when it was offered us and then in refusing to give up" I don't think that quote has ever appeared in Atomized, but I knew it. It's from Thucydides (bk 1, 76) Peloponnesian War full text. An assembly in Sparta has invited those with grievances against the Athenians to come before it. A delegation from Athens in Sparta on other business has heard of this and asks to come before the assembly as well, to issue a few statements on the real world (as they see it).

An interesting book come into the library the other week. How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict - Ivan Arreguin-Toft .[1] Its all about relative power and realist international relations. The Logic of Small Wars: 'The strong do as they will." It seeks to empirically explain the outcomes of asymmetric conflict. First he deals with various competing explanations of why small opponents sometimes prevail over powerful rich nations when they do and don't. Nature of the Actors: Authoritarian actors fight 'better' wars than than democratic actors. More degrees of freedom (for ruling elites). Decision process more compact. Arms Diffusion: Everybody's got a gun nowadays. Not just a gun, an AK 47, AK 74, and RPGs. The idea that quality and quantity of effective small arms have made insurgencies an order of magnitude harder to defeat. Interest Asymmetry: determination to persevere is created around the weak actor whose regime's survival is at stake and the future freedom of the state. and last Democratic Social Squeamishness. The normative gap theory, Thesis of Gil Merom's book How democracies lose small wars [2], which I wrote about a year or so ago. His own theory he calls Strategic Interaction. Its aim is to identify the realm of political vulnerability, how and when it comes about and demonstrate its causal bearing on the outcome. First he proceeds to a reduction of key factors. For actors there is the Strong actor associated with the attacker. The Weak actor with the defender. Second there are the basic Strategies each side chooses to prosecute the struggle. These are Direct or Conventional which aim at opponents capacity to fight. And Indirect or Guerilla warfare strategies (GWS). These include terrorism and the strong actor flip-side, barbarity. They aim at the opponents will to fight. In his view the match-up are the key determinant.

 | d/d | d/i |
| i/d | i/i |
Intensity or material commitment of the struggle on the vertical axis, duration on horizontal. Political Vulnerability occurs when the conflict drags on to long, or is seen as being unjustifiably destructive.

There is an odd characterization to his initial Merom dismissal. He does not try to understand why the normative gap might exist. Why state and society would have differing norm values concerning right and wrong; vis war, torture, suspension of civil rights and due process in the application of coercive punishment. The arbitrary loss of property and life. What that might mean to a society [3]. He doesn't seem to want to contend with the moral dimensions of violence at all. Also coursing through all this there is a tendency to accept a notion of the enemy in small wars of being not simply a nations enemy but the enemy of order. An objectification of the enemy that opens the door to barbarism. ArreguÌn-Toft initially seems to assumes only totalitarian/ authoritarian regimes will leverage barbarism (savagery) or be capable of it [4]. He charactorizes Merom as assuming it will always obtain results. That it seems statistically not to - shows Merom to be wrong. As a tactic severity can be done with varying degrees of effectiveness partly due to perceptions of arbitrary or non-arbitrary application. For this you must not collapse your enemy into an indistinguishable evil. Also a distinction must be made between barbarism, savagery and brutality as a strategy, and understanding that War (as a strategy) is in its essence barbaric. Violence is a reducing strategy. It is psychologically destructive, it annihilates the ability to re-create normality, order, and right judgement. The only good indian is a dead indian. That is its true process.

ArreguÌn-Toft's way of making this point is noting that the cost of winning small wars is steadily rising will always cost more than is initially estimated. Particularly strong actors face perhaps insurmountable difficulties arranging as stable peace when they have achieved only a narrowly construed military victory. Difficulties avoiding cycles of revenge violence spawned by brutality or severe means in counterinsurgency operations (COIN) suppressing the unintegrated in the land they intend to rule (227). The materialism of his realist outlook tends to drive him to look at all influences on the outcome of war as multipliers of the initial material condition sets of the players. His way of dealing with intangibles such as the strength and cohesion of the weaker actors national identity is (he admits) awkward as it pushes the conflict policy out from directly militarily controllable actions. (223-4). As well it seems to me no non-montitized economy is ever as without means as a monitized economy will view its parity as being.

Let me bring this back to decisions we have still in front of us, near and distant. To the new conquistadors of the current administration. Considering the paucity of shifts and departures in the administration. I assume that forces and personalities that initiated the Iraq war are still in charge. group that. There was a discussion last fall on TPM Cafe TPMCafe || The Man Who Led a Revolution and TPMCafe || So Why Did Bush Go to War? surrounding a preview of a revised edition of Ivo Daalder's book America Unbound (still not out). These where outlined as Assertive commercio-nationalist, Wilsonian Hawks (incorporating those called neoconservatives), Jacksonian Nationalists. Bringing up the rear if truly present at all realists, pragmatists, and internationalists. In those threads the wars these people were willing to fight were wars of (entrepreneurial) opportunity, against opponents perceived to be weak, popular domestically or at least capable of being used as a wedge issue. While there is disagreement across the spectrum as to whether these wars are or can genuinely improve America's security, or ascendency. The Consequences of muddling thinking about terrorism state/non-state actors. War or criminality leave us with ancillary prison antilles. A population of prisoners we have removed from established categories (citizen of x or y; criminal, prisoner of war) and now have no due process to deal with them.

There is the notion I've seen recently that advocates the U S develop an unconventional warfare force. Separate and in addition to conventional forces. It is how ArreguÌn-Toft recommends avoiding political vulnerability against Gorilla war strategies, targeting only the actual guerilla combatants with extraordinary methods largely out of sight. Without involving large conventional forces. Kaplan in Imperial Grunts), and Leebaert with To Dare and to Conquer have similarly idealized and romanticized special forces in recent books. The war turning efficacy of small special operations may be illusionary arising out the need to see narrative in events which otherwise might seem almost arbitrary in their complexity. Big special operations programs may carry their own problems. General Clark in the review of Leebaert's book outlines these The Commando Option: Small groups of audacious soldiers have repeatedly shown the military value of the unexpected (Washington Post Bookworld 12Mar06)/ Briefly, is it possible to scale up special operations and see any effectiveness over conventional forces at all? Is there a training regime and tradition that can encompass this? Large scale special operations have been effective according to ArreguÌn-Toft, but only when growing into being during a long conflict against a particular foe. It is not clear whether this can be institutionalized. More somberly he questions if this is compatible in long term with democracy. Special forces operate outside the realm of law or civilized behavior I assume we are not talking about merging the See Bee's with the Seals or creating Peace Corps beret battalions, but rather widely deployed hunt and kill teams. The process of administratively enabling certain activities by backfilling cover onto a retyped sheet of paper with or without legislative acquiescence does not make it lawful, only at the most legal. Can normalized deployment of these means be harmonized with the open society or will it close that society. Fascination with torture, constitutes a psychological departure (occurring prior to the ethical departure) from the ideals of open society, due process legitimate use of the coercive power of the state, it is a marker of fascism. By the time rights or desert enter the argument, if one believes violence and cruelty have the power to obtain, the question is already resolved. You cannot re introduce ethics back into the equation at at later point.

1.Arreguín-Toft, Ivan. How the weak win wars : a theory of asymmetric conflict / Ivan Arreguín-Toft. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0521839769 (hbk.)
2.Merom, Gil, 1956- How democracies lose small wars : state, society, and the failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam / Gil Merom. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0521804035
3. It is corrosive for a democratic republic to find itself with the people whether you understand this to be a public, or mass of private citizens to hold an demonstrably different value structure from the ruling class It puts the rulers at odds with people and induces them to control their behavior, awareness and opinions. There is often a unwarranted presumption to see this as soft headedness of the people rather than despotry of the rulers.
4. He does deal with this in the concluding chapter noting that "authoritarian and democratic actors fight asymmetric wars the same way...and resorted to barbarism when the going got rough"(217); however adding that Britain's resort to Barbarism nearly forced it from the [Boer] war, but at no time did the USSR's resort to barbarism threaten to do so. They do not share equal political vulnerability.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Lost in the Dalkey archives

Back on the Old Site (atomized sr. as I call it) I had a bicycle icon. I made icons for different post topic types on that site. No wonder I never actually wrote anything back then. Bicycles. Bicycle are important. Robert, noticing this at the time, asked if I had ever read any Flann O'Brien. I hadn't. Hadn't even heard of him. So, he said, there's your tip. I went off and read At Swim Two Birds which I borrowed from my sister. Q: what was it about? A: a pint of plain is your only man. Mr. Furriskey agrees. Flann O'Brien, Brien O'Nolan, Myles na gCopaleen Flann O'Brien - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I should think quarter-miles of the little ponies, But I might be beating a dead horse. Flogging Molly, so to speak. Reading more Flann O'Brien is on my list of things to get back to, but temporarily I'm glad I haven't yet. I can enjoy my TV in blissful ignorance.

I recalled all this a week ago when I noticed the London Times had an article which stated that the show Lost may incorporate plot devices from O'Brien novels Look away now. There is connection between Lost and the books the Dalkey Archive [1] and especially the Third Policeman (where bicycles are explained). No, I have no links to the TV show's site or show related sites. I rarely go to big corporate sites. I've never visited the site for Lost even though I like the show. I don't care that much. And I can't stand macromedia flash (I still use dial-up). Overall I simply think too slowly to take in pop culture information from the internet. It leaves me feeling: over-involved.

I liked the brief feature of the John Pousette-Dart album Amnesia Gracenote: Artists - Pousette-Dart Band on the show a few weeks ago. When the Dominic Monaghan charactor Charlie Pace is rifling through the Dharma Dome's record collection (the first thing I'd do), and paused to say a few lines while holding the cover up (try that with an iPod)... " When you hit me on the head with your beer bottle, something in my chemistry must have changed I got this ringing in my ears and a hazy feeling and I hear this voice inside begin to laugh...I hope that it's only amnesia, believe me I'm sick but not insane." I had already decided that whatever meaning could be drawn from the show Lost could be gained by a short meditation on Dharma.

Addendum 22Mar06 Dharma breakfast cereal; where do I get some of that. Mmmm Dharma Crunch! I remember in my undergraduate philosophy classes the choice of what cereal you had in the morning exemplfied the concept of a morally neutral act. Morally neutral acts, the donuts of teleology.


1. From where the publishing house Dalkey Archive Press gets its name. Which publishes Flann O'Brien, of course, but also similarly intentioned authors as they find them. I see they published Nathalie Sarraute's novel Planitarium last year. I read that one too, a number of years ago.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006
FEC: CDT vs Hensarling

There is bill before the house of representatives concerning how to harmonize the internet world particularly web logging and 'amateur' web sites - political fanboy sites - with FEC and federal campaign finance laws Bloggers Join Fray on Political Ads and Should campaign-finance laws apply to blogs?. This is H R 1606 introduced by Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) which appears designed to grant a broad exemption to internet activity 109th Congress: Bill H R 1606 | Congress votes database | The link is the Washington posts new service  Congress votes database | for tracking votes and action on items before congress. clicking on more information pushes you into Thomas Search Results H R 1606 - THOMAS (Library of Congress) .

 I wrote about this in the spring and early summer Federales , Web Logs, Politics, and You, and FEC-less. IPDI : Institute For Politics Democracy & The Internet which had the view previously when the FEC was considering this that this would open a damaging gap in campaign finance regulation. Which throughout the evolution of this issue was more in line with my view of it. The IPDI now joins another group the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) | Main in an alternate plan Comparison of H.R. 1606 and H.R. 4900 [pdf] . From IPDI statement on this:

The CDT proposal is the basis of H.R. 4900 that has been introduced by Representatives Tom Allen (D-ME) and Charles Bass (R-NH) [Search Results H R 4900 - THOMAS (Library of Congress)]. The bill would ensure that citizen activists who spend less than $5,000 on Internet communications that discuss federal campaigns are not ensnared by the disclaimer and reporting obligations of the federal campaign finance laws, even if those communications expressly advocate for or against the candidates.

Further, the legislation ensures that groups of individuals engaging in political activity on the Internet do not trigger ìpolitical committeeî status under the campaign finance laws unless they spend in excess of $10,000 on such Internet-activities. These provisions provide substantial protections to individuals engaging in political discourse online IPDI : Institute For Politics Democracy & The Internet IPDI Supports CDT Proposal to Protect Online Political Speech by Citizen Activists .

Its always instructive to see where the ducks are lining up. All the conservative Will Scalia Blow the Whistle on This Constitutional Farce, wild west - fast and loose bloggers are behind the Hensarling bill with creates a flat out exemption for the internet in campaign finance regulation. This is similar to the the stance of the Online Coalition proposal from last spring which was championed by the same lot. the ' Blog ' associated with their site has their most recent entry a post by one 'Anonymous' champions H R 1606 against H R 4194 Search Results H R 4194 - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ( Rep Christopher Shays [CT -4]) from last November in strident emotionally charged terms that does not attempt shift its partisan nature far out of the subtext. In general the who and why here; The pajama media crowd, the bigger and more partisan bloggers on both sides are against regulation. It's the nexus there, the ability and desire to raise money, be of use to the political process that drives this. This is both a short term view grounded in the current situation, for a few. Far from the public interest of all.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Dubai or not Dubai

The Dubai Ports World story hasn't completely disappeared yet, Allowing me a chance to unload an assortment of warmed over thoughts on the matter. Ken  Cousins from Augmentation blog in comment on my previous post particularly noted that Dubai was a state-owned company. Many others did also. At the time I didn't think that was significant, but there is a  minor legal matter involved. The U S law in this matter requires a 45 day study period triggered by stated concern by any federal stakeholder into a transaction. This apparently never occurred and the only cover the administration has, is to pretend that no one within the executive branch had any concerns. This is why the Coast Guard memo  Coast Guard memo which seemed to raise concerns attracted attention. That part of it is moot now that  DPW moved to unilaterally end the Presidents political crisis  BBC NEWS | Business | Dubai firm to 'transfer' US ports. A lingering sense of 'What really happened' hangs in the air Why the Dubai deal collapsed | What does Dubai mean by a "A United States entity".  And why did it seem that this news came first from Sen. Warner (R. VA) on the Senate floor? Because half the Senate and everyone who will still take calls from the White House were all working behind the scenes to produce an outcome that would end this while leaving the President looking above it all  Globe and Mail: Dubai firm abandons ship in battle over U.S. ports. The question now is what does Dubai really intend to do  Dubai Firm to Sell U.S. Port Operations. Retain indirect control or undertake (complete) divestment * DP World Unveils Port Operation Sale Plans.

 Some on the right ( David Brooks on the Newshour last friday) have tried to frame this as purely a security matter and not a Free Trade issue at all. There is no logical reason; however, to privilege one protection type above another. The dismemberment of U S industrial capacity, and dissolving the incomes and livehoods that were part of it, this is real damage too. Done in the name of global free trade.  Where capital flies from unionized workforces and forever chases the lowest standard of living across the world, where it can pay the smallest possible wages. This is also a matter of destruction or protection, as much a political decision as antagonism to it. What we see here is that free trade does not exist in an abstract plain floating above the terrestrial.

 Two related matters are involved. There is the future of infrastructure security. If port security is a real problem, a blue border problem. The key is to know what is in incoming cargo and to know - before it is in a US port. Stated another way the problem and spatial point of confrontation is either in the ports of departure or the high seas (and/or air). If nothing else awarness of this is awakened and those seating on various committees of concern are seeking to move on it  Secure ports seize agenda in Congress.. As critical in its own way is the specter of an investment crisis: Becoming closed or paranoid of foreign investment is "the Wrong message", the president is concerned about  Bush Says Political Storm Over Port Deal Sends Wrong Message - New York Times. For the 40 year period roughly centered on the turn of the 19th to 20th century what was built in this country was built with British capital if we had shut that capital out our path to industrialization would be starkly different. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.CA) is considering a law that will force foreign owners to divest control of all infrastructure deemed critical to national security. This does not account for our need for this investment or the need for foreign banks and investors to do something - anything with the massive influx of cash our trade deficits have left them with.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Book signing from the Edge (chronicle)

My nephew Lucas, My sister Ann, and I went to a book signing for his current favorite writers back on Saturday. He noticed they were going to be at this bookstore Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse near their house later that day. A picture named theCreators-s.jpg A picture named Banderbear-s.jpgBack before Christmas my other sister, Susan, embarked upon a grand multi-errand quest for a rumoured box set of the first six books in this extended series called the Edge Chronicles.

The books are written by author Paul Stewart with Illustrator Chris Riddell a British writing team who started collaborating fifeteen years ago. They seem to have done many other projects together, most of which seem directed at younger readers. They claimed during the talk to have met while outside their sons' nursery school (this anecdote is repeated on one of their publisher bio pages. Looking over these I see Chris Riddell was born in South Africa. He's put on a bit of weight over the years judging from some of the pictures Chris Riddell - Walker Books. Stewart taught writing before turning to writing full-time and has lived in Germany and Sri Lanka. For the Edge Chronicles they conciously decided on no magical abilites for their protagonists. Just a dreamy magical realism to the settings and populace. To me at this point, not having read their stuff, it seems similar in a way to the approach and attitude of Mervyn Peake's work Mervyn Peake - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Maybe if I can get my niece or nephew to read Peake as well I could get a comparison out of them.

 A picture named Lou_Chris_Paul-s.jpgA picture named Riddell_drawing-s.jpgWhile Stewart talked, Riddell drew a 'Banderbear' (I'm told) and injected comments at intervals. The Series is conceived currently as a trilogy of trilogies with an ending coda. Read that as 10 books to the series. They have completed eight. The last is out in the UK only the seventh is the most recent released in the U S. At that point they view it will be time to quit, pointing out they are both married and have families (teenagers). The talk shifted to a brief Q & A. Someone asked which charactor (protagonist) did the creators like best? They settled on Rook, after considering Twig for a moment. During this part of the discussion I came to the conclusion that all the heroes of this series seemed more interesting than the one I read as a kid, who never seemed to have as much personality as his inventions ("Ned, my girlfriend left me to date the Repellatron Skyway, Tom said Ruthlessly.") Some one else asked: "Do I need to start at the beginning to read these?" Stewart and Riddell seemed delighted to get this question; explaining that they have deliberately crafted the stories to be independent, with the overlapping events, charactors and places adding depth but not subtracting meaning. I read the Alexandria quartet out of order without noticing, so what do I know. After the questions. Stewart read a short selection from book seven on picking a Plowgrim, which seems to be some sort of Tasmanian devil riding steed.

 After this they moved over to a little table in order to sign books and draw pictures. Someone asked Riddell how much time he takes on the illustrations he indicated that on ones for books he takes a long time, but in his other life as a political cartoonist for the Guardian Independant newspapers ap artists - chris riddell portfolio, he will complete drawings in only a matter of hours. Lucas came away with a drawing in his book, in addition to getting his book signed, which Riddell was able to complete in only a few minutes.
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Sunday, March 12, 2006
Hamas who?

Hamas, still on the lists (properly so) as a terror organization, enters and wins majority seating in the Palestinian parliament. The US has walked assorted sections of the middle east to the democracies door and begged prodded them to walk through. Without any assurance or knowledge whether this leads to a grounded future or cliff face over an abyss. Then when someone does so, the U S and Israel bath together in a shower of reaction U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster - New York Times. They seemed un-inclined to regard the outcome of a democratic election as legitimate Israel signals no ties with Palestinians under Hamas. Did this really take them by surprise - how much attention could they have been paying? Perhaps the Administration would like to re-coin our democracy. So that it reads e pluribus pecuaroris - out of many, a flock of sheep, on one side.  And In no democracy we trust on the other. To serve notice on anyone who may be inclined to equate God with social justice, and insulate themselves from inconvenient outcomes.

Shortly after Secretary of State Rice embarked on a junket to to the middle east US dilemma: dealing with Hamas | The Administration appears to have been rebuffed internationally here US meets resistance on isolating Hamas - The Boston Globeand in Russia's diplomatic overtures to Hamas Bush, Putin Confer by Phone on Hamas, Iran - Yahoo! News (which left Putin looking foolish). The low hypocrisy of their pique being the primary reason. At this juncture Henry Kissinger wrote a oped which appeared in the Washington Post in which he made a number of obvious but solid points:

"traditional diplomacy works most effectively when there is a general agreement on goals; a minimum condition is that both sides accept each other's legitimacy, that the right of the parties to exist is taken for granted. ...Hamas represents the mind-set that prevented the full recognition of Israel's legitimacy by the PLO for all these decades, kept Yasser Arafat from accepting partition of Palestine at Camp David in 2000, produced two intifadas and consistently supported terrorism. ...And, as with Sharon,[here he is talking of Sharon's acceptance of the two-state solution] this may not happen until Hamas is convinced there is no alternative strategy -- a much harder task since the Sharon view is, in its essence, secular, while the Hamas view is fueled by religious conviction." -- What's Needed From Hamas

Mr. Kissinger also makes the point that it will be critical for the ruling political parties on each side to form very solid governing coalitions before they attempt to move forward in their dealings with each other.

The United States cannot let the appearance of inconsistent regard for democracy linger long. It places a premium on what ought be done The Right Way to Pressure Hamas - New York Times. First is to be realistic on what Hamas may do. Make the decision to become a political party capable of running a state. Here they may not moderate their rhetoric, but moderate their action. They may moderate their rhetoric gradually taking advantage of opportune political events to make adjustments World should give Hamas a chance to moderate: Abbas. Alternately there may be no moderation of rhetoric, and only a temporary moderation of action to rebuild and consolidate their military position, and completely replace Fatah as the Palestinian dictatorship.

What U S, Britain, Canada The Globe and Mail: Canadian aid cutoff would cost Hamas millions and Israel may do lies with sanctions, embargoes, and funding cutoffs. There is no problem with putting a moderate squeeze on the Palestinian Territories. Neither the U S or Israel is obligated to support a state formally dedicated to Israels destruction. The Palestinian authority has no real funding, the U S has a enormous lever on them in resources we control. Neither are we free; though, to ignore a government we don't like. There seem to be some vague threats that Israel will sanction assassination/executions of elected officials they regard as being terrorists VOA News - Israel Says Hamas Not Exempt From Targeted Killings. Its unclear whether this would be triggered by attacks on Israel or mere intransigence by Hamas INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTER Israeli Government Threatens to Eliminate Haniya, Hamas Describes it as continuation of Israeli Mentality of Aggression. This is pushing the envelope. It is unsupportable, and more critically, unwise policy. First decide which is more important to you: action or rhetoric. Then set a price on what you have determined you really face (set a fair market price on it). Wait an election cycle and see how much Hamas the Palestinian people really want to buy, and at what price. Find the market clearing price point; repeat, then deal with it.

9:38:32 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
General Incompetence

 Noted in my RSS feeds:
In this photograph provided by 'Meet the Press,' Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace appears during the taping of 'Meet the Press'' Sunday, March 5, 2006, at the NBC studios in Washington. (AP Photo/Meet The Press, Alex Wong)AP - The Pentagon's top general acknowledged Sunday that "anything can happen" in Iraq, but he said things aren't as bad as some say. "I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at." General's Assessment of Iraq Questioned (AP).

 Saying the war is going well is a statement which already oversteps the available facts, and the slow but accumulating weight of public perception  Majority in U.S. Fear Iraq Civil War. It diverges from the opinions of other virtuous embassies  BBC NEWS | Americas | US envoy warns of Iraq civil war . It trips across the theory of insurgencies for which the militaries own doctrine says that insurgencies require a multi-year wars of attrition to grind down. During that process the campaign will be in the balance, What analysis that exists shows asymmetrical wars can be lost as well as won. There is no measure at midpoint that reliably predicts the outcome. If the Army were able to state that every particular bombing or assassination campaign has ended with the absolute destruction of the cell or group that ran it and after only a few weeks of activity, that might show something, but I have not heard that. When the General desires to state that things are going "well", I will grant him that. I believe the officer corps ought to hold an optimistic outlook. When he feels it necessary to say "very well" That is his mark. A verbal campaign ribbon that shows General Pace, to the world, to be the genuine brown-noser that he is. When it comes upon him to say "Very Very well" - that just makes him look like a fucking idiot.

 If he really believes what he said, I regard that as a priori evidence  of the need for him to be relieved of his command. If the Army is full of officers like him it should be seen as a widespread contagion of incompetence, of dereliction of duty. A cancer that will leave the US military helpless before competence and cunning, with only a thin technical capability, a veneer, against disaster. If the US Military ever has to fight an enemy with even a fraction of the resources it itself holds. It will need to forge a new relationship to the task before it and the politics behind it  Nieman Watchdog > Commentary > Iraq through the prism of Vietnam than it has now, or it will be decimated, and lose its wars.

11:09:51 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
They call him Hansi

I saw a PBS Fund Raising Concert, James Last: Gentleman of Music, back on Saturday. It's PBS midwinter fundraising season. Polka and Sixties rock rain from the publicly funded sky like gumdrops. James Hans Last, he's like a cross between a German Lawrence Welk, Arthur Fieldler's Boston Pops and something more, something unquantifiable James Last - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I first heard of him through a song. Mr Giant Man off an album Beach Party 6. That's number six. I heard this song on WFMU a year or so ago. WFMU is the kind of place to hear songs you would never hear elsewhere. I think someone uses it as their show's intro (co-incidentely WFMU is holding it's annual fundraiser right now). I probably heard the song a number of times over several months before deciding I had to know where it came from (to make sure I wasn't imaginging its existence). Still can't find the lyrics for it, but it goes a little like this: (the giant sings) "Ha Ha, Ho Ho, come along, come along! (chorus) Let's come together Mr. Giant man. I want to get down with your giant plan; come along come along come along." Apparently he has released hundreds of records in his time Gracenote: Artists - James Last. On the one recording he has on iTunes Country Roads he covers "Jolene". Don't the White Stripes also cover that? You see this in your TV listings set yourself down and watch it.
9:28:16 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Wednesday, March 1, 2006
If Intel corp. why not the Pope

I saw an article in the CS monitor on a resurgence of Roman Catholicism in Vietnam In Vietnam, Christianity gains quietly | The crux of the article, concerned a delegation by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe to Vietnam, where he led the ordination of 57 new priests and also met with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan. I figured (naively) that this was something I could talk to Tran about. Tran's response to this was that during this visit (which she seemed to have some awareness of) the North Vietnamese government had blocked the cardinal from meeting a certain priest. Looking over the article it strikes me that it may have been this particular priest the article mentions: "..., as recently as 2001 imprisoned a Catholic priest, since released, after he sent written testimony to the US Congress on religious freedom in Vietnam." In the preceding clause of that same sentence it indicates that while the Cardinal may have led the ordination neither he nor any church official selected the priests - the party does that. Following that up with a second retort she said "We have a saying by our former president we use: "Don't listen to what the Communists say, but look at what they do." There is no real religious freedom in Vietnam and there will not be as long as they are in charge." In fact the article while going with a led and angle that makes it seem like Catholicism is the hip new thing in Vietnam didn't completely contradict Tran's more dour view. The visit by the cardinal may have been a first step for a visit by the Pope in a year or so, but I think I recall he was coming to Baltimore, which is probably closer, next year. I went quietly back to my desk, this being at work, and lit the wikpedia glass. After a moments thought, looking up Nguyen Van Thieu  (part of a extensive set of Vietnam pages). His page has quotes section, and that quote tops it.

A week later I read another article on Vietnam. This one in the Washington Post on a plan by Intel corporation build $3-600 million chip manufacturing facility in the Ho Chi Minh city high tech park Intel to Build Vietnam Chip Assembly Plant. I thought this might be a good thing. Tran responded with remark that Intel would only be moving to Vietnam because the labor there would be cheap. Well yes, that is why U S Companies are busy moving all industries out of the U S. Why the U S increasingly just doesn't make any thing anymore. Because a living wage here in the states alarms shareholders. The purpose of Americans is to be consumers only. Our unfixed utility tied to a williness consume above all else. I waited a beat for the awareness that both she and I are low level clerks earning a wage perched awkwardly only so far above the poverty line to set in. She detoured into a story about her first job after high school in Saigon and what it paid her, somewhere in the vicinity of $27 per week. Of course she's still bitter that as a non cadre she wasn't allowed to go on to college, here she's taking an introductory Spanish class (sol y viento) this semester.

What Intel will pay is likely to be better than $27 a week, plus these jobs will require a reasonable solid secondary education, resulting in a serious and long term commitment to basic education. In general I believe that good work with strong wages brings stability and education breeds tolerance and democratic tendencies. Which taken together are a benefit to all.

11:55:37 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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