Saturday, March 31, 2007
I often think it would have been nice to have been born to money, except that if I had been I might well feel like this fellow.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Bush spent much of the closed-door meeting with House Republicans pressing an issue that many conservatives have already latched on to as a unifying force -- the pork-barrel spending, unrelated to the war, in the bill. At one point, Bush asked House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) if he could rally his troops to sustain a veto on the spending issue alone, even if Democrats stripped out language on troop withdrawals. When Boehner turned to his colleagues to ask if they would stay with Bush, they gave him a standing ovation."More than a pep rally?"
But two Republican lawmakers, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be frank about a private meeting, said the session was more than a pep rally. Bush spent much of his talk stressing that he still believes in the ideals of freedom and democracy for Iraq, they said, and he exhorted lawmakers to disregard the polls and the editorial pages that have scoffed at those notions.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Life Imitates Art Dept. (Stasi/Orwell Div.)
Erich Mielke, the head of the East German secret police, was a great fan of Orwell's novel 1984, and desperately wanted his office to be in Room 101 (the location of the torture chamber in the novel). His office was on the second floor. So he renamed the first floor the mezzanine."I’d long been fascinated by George Orwell’s work, but I resisted reading 1984 until I finished the manuscript for Stasiland. After that, I devoured it, and I couldn’t believe Orwell’s prescience. When I went into Mielke’s office, I saw it had the number 101, which in 1984 is the number of the torture chamber. 1984 was banned in the G.D.R. but of course, Mielke and Honecker had access to banned material. The guide told me that Mielke wanted this number so much that even though his office was on the 2nd floor, he had the entire first floor renamed the Mezzanine so that he could call his room 101."Link
--Anna Funder, author of Stasiland
Guide horses for the blind?
Eyes mark the shape of the city.
Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature - or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city's moan, a monotonous sound the neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.
Sentence of the day.
Meantime, up on Capitol Hill, Kyle Sampson is doing his best impression today of a guy willing to take a bullet for his former boss, as long as it nicks his leg rather than tunnels into his gut.Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson or Dahlia Lithwick, in Slate.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Life imitates art.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Sentence of the day.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Until Zagat's Baghdad guide is revised.
My lunch companions, a Shiite ex-journalist and a Sunni ex-Army officer, discussed in various ways how, unfortunate as it is to admit, life was better under Saddam, and I couldn't help but think they were spurred to this opinion at least in part by the sub-par offerings of the al-Rashid's restaurant. The hummus is a pasty mess with stunningly little tahini and no garlic, and the pickled beets were straight out of the can. Sadly, the mixed grill was no better: underseasoned rubber chicken and chewy steak chunks augur the hotel's decline. And the tea was Lipton, not the delicious chai you get offered by every dignitary you interview out here.But things are even worse inside the Green Zone:
Green Zone food is the worst of all. The US Embassy might be the largest in the world, but its chow hall is subpar, even by FOB standards. Avoid any steamed vegetable -- the rumor is that they're causing a regrettable gastric illness. Your best bet is to head down to the PX's food court, which hosts a Subway and a Burger King in individualized trailers. (Nothing beats a receipt that reads "BURGER KING IRAQ GREEN ZONE") CPIC allows transient journalists a place to crash, but the price is to get slopped like a hog. Breakfast is at 6, and if you don't wake up in time, try to get them to open their closet filled with Otis Spunkmeyer apple-cinnamon muffins and individual-serving cereal. Lunch is a chow-hall buffet out in the courtyard with Salvadoran soldiers and contract guards pointing the occasional rifle in your direction. Dinner is, again, chow hall stuff -- burgers, pizza, salisbury steak that tastes like cardboard slathered in unidentifiable goo -- but it's served to you in the lounge in takeaway trays. Ubiquitous are the Fico Fresh-brand Iraqi potato chips, Gatorade by the ton in the fridge -- and of course, Fanta.
I cannot with any confidence say that this is not the worst book I've ever read.
Would an oath do any good?
ABC News, via Froomkin.
Diane Sawyer: "Why not let Karl Rove go up there and show he has nothing to hide? Testify, under oath, and with a transcript? Let everyone see it?"
Tony Snow: "This is what I love, this Karl Rove obsession. Let's back off. First, the question is: Do you want Karl Rove on TV, or do you want the truth?"
Diane Sawyer: "Why can't you have both?"
Rainer Maria Rilke.
Rilke's fame, however, was based on the assumption that he embodied art for art's sake. Since the evidence for the assumption was overwhelming, his fame was impregnable. He had no other allegiance, and certainly no political one, to distract him from his pursuit of the exquisite. Everything in his life had to match up to the refinement of his wife, and if his wife didn't fit the picture, she had to go. His notepaper was as beautiful as his handwriting. He was as careful in his dress as Beau Brummell. The various settings in which he wrote poems were chosen from a catalog of the great houses of Europe. Titled women who owned the houses found themselves in receipt of his finely judged letters, delicately suggesting that if hospitality should be extended to him when the wind was in the right direction, masterpieces would ensue. The famous Schloss Duino, where he wrote the elegies, was not the castle that its name implies, but an Italianate palazzo with suitably comfortable quarters in which elegies could be written in lieu of rent. Rilke's perfect taste accompanied him beyond death. Volumes of Rilke correspondence are still coming out from the publishing house Insel Verlag, all of them in the same prettily proportioned format. By now I have a 5-foot shelf of books just by Rilke himself, let alone of books about him; and still there is no end in sight. I could never throw the stuff away. It looks too good.And somewhere in the middle of it all is the relatively thin sheaf of poetry that justifies the bustle. . . .
Want to catch some kids?
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Corporate enforcer or environmentalist?
A cutting board.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Feed the cat canned pumpkin.
I have a co-worker, who is more or less the cat lady archetype. Back when she used to speak to me, she would tell me stories of how she couldn’t sleep because her cat was ‘nagging.’ Apparently, the only way to get a cat to stop nagging is to feed it canned pumpkin. Ninety five percent of the time, if I ask her a question she will respond in one of two ways: she will either shrug her shoulders and laugh nervously or visibly stiffen, look straight ahead and give a barely audible one word answer. Particularly probing questions like, “How was your weekend?” are “How’s it going?” are guaranteed to evoke her trademark guarded, paranoid response. Another time I asked her, “How’s the weather outside?” and she angrily snapped, “Aren’t you going to go out there anyway?” It seems that there are no safe topics. What really annoys me is that when cat lady is interacting with my other co-workers, she momentarily seems to achieve some level of social functioning, meaning she manages to croak out a “Hiyee!” ,or a “Going somewhere?” if someone happens to be walking out the door. I’m lucky if she even looks at me, much less makes to effort to form a syllable. Another thing: she has some sort of obsessive compulsive issue with public transportation. Everyday she stiffly walks past me in the station and makes a beeline for the place where the last car stops. She never, ever varies this routine. When I look in her eyes as she makes her way to this place on the platform, bundled excessively, plaid scarf tied tightly around her head, it’s like she’s on a secret mission.The Big Calabaza may still be taking advice on how to deal with folks like this.
Chez Panisse: The early days.
The restaurant opened in August 1971, in the OK-but-nothing-special stucco house in Berkeley where it remains—several times remodeled, of course, later fitted with one of the first wood-fired ovens in an American restaurant and with plain, beautiful motifs of rich wood. Waters's parents had leveraged their own home to help out; among many early partners were the writer Greil Marcus and some helpful local pot dealers—as Waters recalls, "the only sort of counterculture people who had money." The zeitgeist sense of teamwork extended to the abolishment of the French system of kitchen stations and to a practice Chez Panisse would become famous for: foraging on the roadsides, in the forest, and in a generous neighbor's vegetable plot for the freshest possible foods.
. . . Waters was not, much of the time, the chef. She was the arbiter of staff proposals for the menu, the ruthless judge of whether a dish hit the mark, the overseer of atmosphere, the lowliest kitchen help when needed, and the front-room public face. Most of Chez Panisse was her vision, in other words, but over the years a complaining minority of chefs and staffers would say she should have given more credit, in cookbooks and in public appearances, to their contributions. The internal power tussles, hapless confusion about finances, and weary ambivalence about the pressure that comes with success will be roughly familiar to anyone who has followed any rock band from this period. In this regard, Jeremiah Tower—a gambling wizard of a chef fanatically versed in culinary history—plays the role of the guitarist with superior chops. Tower's solo riffs through much the '70s could blow the room away. But some of his creations read on the page like the food equivalent of a concept album—like the menu based on Salvador Dalí. In any case, it was later in the decade that Waters decisively started to realize her calmer but more lasting dream of seduction by casual bistro, underpinned by her championing of simple, fresh ingredients, artisanal if human-made, organic if from nature, and grown whenever possible nearby.
Now in English.
"The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 percent.
Recent indicators have been much worse than what we were hoping for: Housing is a bigger mess than we anticipated; Business Capex is heading south, as are durable goods. Retail sales have been punk for 3 months running, (and what' with those excuses from the retailers? Too hot! Too cold! Lunar eclipse!) Don't even ask about the Automakers. We expect the economy is likely to continue to soften until it slips to about a 1.5% GDP.
Even worse, recent readings on inflation have been elevated. We were hoping that inflation pressures would moderate as the economy stabilized, but no such luck.
In these circumstances, the Committee's predominant policy concern is that we have painted ourselves into a corner, and we are running out of options. On the one hand, Inflation remains an ongoing concern, as medical costs, food, and energy remain problematic. On the other hand, it is apparent that growth is cooling rapidly. Housing has flipped from a net positive for consumers and job seekers to a net negative.
All told, we are running out of options until one or the other of these gets much much worse. Future policy adjustments, therefore, will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information. As noted above, if GDP slips below 1.5%, we will be shifting our bias towards easing. Appreciably worse that 1.5%, and we will have to act on rates to prevent a recession -- inflation be damned.
On a final note, the FOMC has taken up a collection, and as a retirement present, we are sending former Chairman Alan Greenspan to a lovely spa on Fiji Island for the foreseeable future. Since there are no satellite feeds, internet connections or any off island communications at all, the CHairman can thank us when he returns -- preferably, around December 2008.
Playing shallow right field.
The presence [in the GOP presidential field] of lightly regarded political has-beens (and never-weres) like Jim Gilmore, Tommy Thompson and the aforementioned Mr. Hunter calls to mind the humorous tale of Milton Shapp, the Pennsylvania governor who briefly sought the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976. When Mr. Shapp—who was memorably described by Jules Witcover as having “the look of a persecuted nebbish”—entered the race, reporters skipped right over the question of whether he was really seeking the Vice Presidency and asked him if he was actually running for Secretary of Transportation.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Also, he's not Hispanic enough.
Out of round one.
Many eighth-grade teachers are addicts.
JoAnn Rintel Abreu, 40, an English and social studies teacher at Seth Low, [a large intermediate school in Bensonhurst,] graduated with a masters’ degree in English literature, the “bare minimum” teaching requirements and glorious visions of turning high school students on to Shakespeare and Chaucer. She was offered a middle school job first.Elissa Gootman, "For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills," in today's NYT.
Now, after 16 years at Seth Low, Mrs. Abreu takes great satisfaction in trying to figure out how to reach adolescents. The rewards come with breakthrough moments, like when a sullen eighth grader who rarely does his homework handed in a bitterly descriptive, beautifully written memoir about his father’s new girlfriend, “the witch.”
“Middle school is like Scotch,” she reflected in the teachers’ lounge one afternoon. “At first you try to get it down. Then you get used to it. Then it’s all you order.”
Archaic Torso of Apollo.
Archaic Torso of Apollo
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke
Relatedly, consider: Rilke and the Archaic Torso, by Edward Picot.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The new dogs of war.
For George Washington and his contemporaries, the mercenary was a symbol of a corrupt and enslaving Europe that they sought to avoid. The citizen-soldier, by contrast, was the model for a democracy that places great value on stability and peace, that abjures military adventurism. But today, under the corrupting influence of those potent narcotics, money and power, all these lessons seem forgotten.As Horton suggests, part of the attraction for this administration of contracting is the opportunity for patronage. A foreign policy with costs measured in dollars instead of soldiers' lives also is more free from political constraints.
Ways of seeing.
Lawyers for torture.
David Luban reviews Yoo's book, War By Other Means: An Insider's Account Of The War On Terror, in the March 15 issue of the New York Review of Books. (The web version is subscription-only.) Luban, too, finds fundamental problems:
A single argument lies at the core of Yoo's book. The struggle against al-Qaeda, he insists, is a war rather than a matter of law enforcement. Therefore, in his view, the president's powers as commander in chief apply full force in the fight against al-Qaeda. . . .And as Luban explains, George Washington's powers as commander in chief were constrained in all sorts of ways Yoo does not acknowledge.
Furthermore, Yoo writes, the unconventional nature of al-Qaeda and is tactics "erases the traditional boundaries between the battlefield and the home front." Therefore the battlefield can be anywhere; and on the battlefield, the commander in chief calls the shots, both figuratively and literally. . . .
The central contradiction, which Yoo never overcomes, is that while he insists the US is fighting a new kind of war, he also insists that it should be fought with the full panoply of traditional war powers. But these war powers were designed for conflicts in which the enemy is in uniform and belongs to an identifiable foreign government, and whose duration and conclusions are defined by victories, surrenders, and peace treaties.
Luban calls Yoo out for what he omits:
Yoo argues forcefully and intelligently, but not always honestly. Half-truths, straw men, double standards, selective quotations, significant omissions, and caricatures of his opponents' positions -- all are characteristic of War By Other Means.And Luban follows through, cataloging misrepresentation after facile overstatement.
Can one read Yoo's work and think that he is searching for some fidelity to the framers' vision? It seems more like a pretense, or perhaps a form of intellectual gamesmenship. As Lederman notes, Yoo's philosophy appears at bottom to be utilitarian, that the end justifies the means. That also appears to be his intellectual style.
Follow the smart money.
Blackstone Group is closing in on an initial public offering that would enable the US private equity group to raise billions of dollars, massively enrich its top executives and thrust the booming buy-out industry further into the public spotlight.The Big Picture says:
People close to the situation said Blackstone, which like many of its peers has been studying a listing for months, was working aggressively with bankers at Goldman Sachs to prepare a prospectus. That filing could come in the next several weeks, opening to public view financial information that has been closely guarded since financiers Steve Schwarzman and Pete Peterson set up Blackstone as a Wall Street boutique investment group in 1985.
When the Smart Money sells, ask yourself who is buying. Answer: Dumb money.Which, frankly, makes a lot of sense. But then why is Blackstone only talking about selling 10%? Or is that a detail that's going to change as this progresses?
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Larry King interviews Immanuel Kant.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Can they be creepy that young?
Cheat with a clean conscience.
What is Cheat Offsetting?
When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere.
Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Diving Larsson, happy Swedes.
Larsson scored a goal for Manchester United today in the Champions League against Lille, but the real credit for that one belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo, who made a dash down the left side to set him up.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
In Germany the corn is very commonly personified under the name of the Corn-mother. Thus in spring, when the corn waves in the wind, the peasants say, 'There comes the Corn-mother,' or 'The Corn-mother is running over the field,' or 'The Corn-mother is going through the corn.' When children wish to go into the fields to pull the blue cornflowers or the red poppies, they are told not to do so, because the Corn-mother is sitting in the corn and will catch them. Or again she is called, according to the crop, the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother, and children are warned against straying in the rye or among the peas by threats of the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother. Again the Corn-mother is believed to make the crop grow. Thus in the neighborhood of Magdeburg it is sometimes said, 'It will be a good year for flax; the Flax-mother has been seen.' In a village of Styria it is said that the Corn-mother, in the shape of a female puppet made out of the last sheaf of corn and dressed in white, may be seen at midnight in the corn-fields, which she fertilises by passing through them; but if she is angry with a farmer, she withers up all his corn.James Frazer, The Golden Bough 480-82 (Penguin, 1996).
Further, the Corn-mother plays an important part in harvest customs. She is believed to be present in the handful of corn which is left standing last on the field; and with the cutting of this last handful she is caught, or driven away, or killed. In the first of these cases, the last sheaf is carried joyfully home and honoured as a divine being. It is placed in the barn, and at threshing the corn-spirit appears again. In the Hanoverian district of Hadeln the reapers stand round the last sheaf and beat it with sticks in order to drive the Corn-mother out of it. They call to each other, 'There she is! hit her! Take care she does't catch you!' The beating goes on till the grain is completely threshed out; then the Corn-mother is believed to be driven away. In the neighborhood of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman and is brought home on the last waggon. In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed in woman's clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on the last waggon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm. In the district of Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, is made up into the shape of a woman by the oldest married woman in the village, of an age from fifty to fifty-five years. The finest ears are plucked out of her head by the prettiest girl in the village to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid down in the barn to keep off the mice. In other villages of the same district the Corn-mother, at the close of the harvest, is carried by two lads at the top of a pole. They march behind the girl who wears the wreath to the squire's house, and while he receives the wreath and hangs it up in the hall, the Corn-mother is placed on the top of a pile of wood, where she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance. Afterwards she is hung up in the barn and remains there till the threshing is over. The man who gives the last stroke at threshing is called the son of the Corn-mother; he is tied up in the Corn-mother, beaten, and carried through the village. The wreath is dedicated in church on the following Sunday; and on Easter Eve the grain is rubbed out of it by a seven-year-old girl and scattered among the young corn. At Christmas the straw of the wreath is placed in the manger to make the cattle thrive. Here the fertilising powe of the Corn-mother is plainly brought out by scattering the seed taken from her body (for the wreath is made out of the Corn-mother) among the new corn; and her influence over animal life is indicated by placing the straw in the manger.
Where are the Sheffields of yesteryear?
At TAPPED, Robert Farley discusses the development of the F-35 fighter, a variant of which (the F-35B) will have V/STOL capability, giving navies which maintain small carriers much improved airpower over what they can now fly. Farley says:
The F-35B and its foreign contemporaries have the potential to give states that can't operate carriers big enough to carry fixed wing aircraft (Italy, India, Spain, Thailand, and potentially a few others) the options of flying a modern, advanced, capable fighter aircraft. It's a development that has the potential to level the playing field a bit in naval aviation, both by itself and as part of a general trend towards the narrowing of the gap between fixed wing and V/STOL aircraft.Is this really a significant change?
Is there any significant competition on this potentially level playing field (the navies flying fixed-wing aircraft and the navies flying V/STOL aircraft)? I should think not. No navy can compete with the U.S. Navy, and none of these other countries are likely to find themselves in combat operations against the French or Russians.
The important playing field here for these countries is that between land-based aircraft with air-to-surface anti-ship missiles and the carrier-based aircraft used to try to maintain air supremacy. The British experience in the Falklands was that even a few Argentine aircraft -- not obsolete, but hardly state of the art -- could inflict devastating losses. (My favorite detail about the sinking of the Sheffield is that, according to Wikipedia, after the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian.) With the Exocet's range, aircraft flying from the Hermes could not protect the Sheffield, although in some sense the Sheffield protected the Hermes. For most navies, the lesson was clear: A few Super-Etendards and Exocets are an awful lot cheaper than the Hermes or the Sheffield.
Does the F-35B change this calculus (or, to keep the metaphor, level this playing field)? I don't know, but I tend to doubt it. Fixed-wing aircraft and anti-ship missiles have been improving, too, and they're still going to be a lot cheaper than ships. And it's tough to fly enough V/STOL aircraft from a small carrier to maintain air surpremacy.
But I'd be curious to hear Robert Farley's thoughts on this.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I also am amazed.
Ten Principles of Economics, Translated.
From The Big Picture.
Five hours of my life I'll never get back.
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