30 June, 2008

Paul Ehrlich Says Interesting Things

Paul Ehrlich, author of the shockingly wrong "The Population Bomb", has some interesting things to say about cultural evolution, urban structure, and more:
Basically, he wants all the social scientists to get together and develop a comprehensive theory of cultural evolution, then use this theory to change the path of humanity. Ambitious, to say the least.

A Nimble Dance of Diction

Here's a snappily written dissection of the "progressive dilemma."

I feel Marshall has hit on something pretty important--something about which I would especially like to hear from Elliot--namely, what it means to change the status quo.

I won't lie, I'm a pretty big fan of where he's taking this thought train. The whole thing goes back to Spence's "Obama Under the Microscope," but I think it's valuable in that it goes beyond just looking at Obama's individual positions on issues and takes a turn at the larger Rubik's Cube of the electorate's role in reigning in problematic government.

And he does it all with witty metaphors and evocative imagery! Huzzah!

27 June, 2008

Climate change and distributional impact

In one of our earlier threads on climate change policy, Guadalupe brought up the distributional costs of putting a price on carbon. How do we deal with the fact that the poor spend a much higher percentage of their incomes on energy, in addition to the near certainty that higher fuel costs will, in the short term at least, raise the price of almost all basic necessities? This is an important question for those of us committed to progressive economic policies. However, it is too often put to the side by liberals as a bad-faith argument by conservatives who don't care about either progressivism or climate-change (which it often is) rather than a real problem whose nuts and bolts we have to dig into.

So, via Matt Yglesias, some discussion of the nuts and bolts on the redistributional impact of climate change policies. (For the details, click the link and download the pdf).

20 June, 2008

Will the Torturers be Charged?

The subject of this article in the New Republic:

Viewed in this light, the Bush Administration figures involved in the formation of torture policy face no immediate threat of prosecution for war crimes. But Colin Powell's chief of staff, Colonel Larry Wilkerson, nails it: "Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales and--at the apex--Addington, should never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In the future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court." Augusto Pinochet made a trip to London, and his life was never the same afterwards.

Putting Obama Under the Microscope

Now that the excitement of the primary season has died down, it's time to take another look at Obama. I'm not expecting this to lead to any action--the probability that I'd vote for McCain is vanishingly small--but Barack's had more than enough uncritical adoration in this election. And as aspiring academics (some of us), I think we have an obligation to subject his policies and actions to the same analysis that we would the policies of a candidate of whom we were less enamored. So in that spirit, here are some cracks in the veneer that are beginning to surface:

1. Public Financing. As everyone is reporting, Obama has declined the public money and spending caps that every other major party candidate since 1976 has accepted. Moreover, Obama won't be asking his supporters to cap their donations at any particular level. As I said I'd be a month ago, I'm somewhat disappointed with this decision. Especially since Obama he promised that there would be "negotiations" with the McCain campaign about public financing that never materialized.

We can discuss this more in a subsequent post (I'm hoping Elliot has something to say), but my stance is basically that acquiring the credibility to enact changes to the financing system requires making a sacrifice (as in many commitment devices) and Obama has basically decided that this is not that important. There are reasonable objections to this view, but I think the loss of credibility outweighs them.

2. Israel. Speaking before AIPAC, Obama said that he supports an "undivided Jerusalem". This can really only mean one thing--no Palestinian state--because any Palestinian state will include East Jerusalem as its capital. It's a code word used by supporters of Israel, but Obama didn't know this, and so he's backing away from that language. But what went wrong here? Either he didn't realize the connotations of his language and none of his staff caught it, or he attempted a major pander that he later was forced to recant. Neither option seems good.

19 June, 2008

Shake Youre Ass To The Bad Boogaloo!

Apparently Debaser is a music venue in Stockholm. Let's go!

17 June, 2008

About that promise to blog my new job...

Looks like the campaign is a bit stricter than I had imagined:

"By joining us as fellows, you are becoming a part of the Obama team. The campaign has a strict media policy for its employees, interns, and associates. Unless specifically directed by an organizer, under no circumstances can you speak with a member of the press, blog about your experiences, or take video and pictures intended for publication."

So, pretty much strict radio silence. Sorry.

16 June, 2008

The McCain Policy Trilemma

Via Yglesias, McCain's new strategy to attract Clinton voters seems fundamentally flawed:

"I admire and respect her," McCain said of Clinton.

Aides suggested that McCain's support for a gas tax holiday, a hawkish foreign policy and steps against climate change would appeal to many women.
Unfortunately, these three goals can't coexist. A gas tax holiday is a step toward climate change, plays into the hands of our "enemies" in the Middle East, and it's hard to see how a global effort to deal with climate change and hawkish posturing against China could possibly coexist.

12 June, 2008

Digging, much?

I think Fox News reached a whole new level of absurd with this one, and I love it.

11 June, 2008

Hanoi Traffic

(note there is no traffic light...thanks to Emily for sending this)

Hanoi crazy night traffic from v!Nc3sl4s on Vimeo.

Obama in the Raw

Something Substantive

As reported by Yglesias and Ambinder, McCain doesn't think that it's "too important" when the troops come home (video below).

Of course it depends on what your goal is. McCain sort of has a point. As he says, it's fine that troops are in South Korea, Japan, and Germany because they don't get killed when they go to our bases in those countries. His justification, I think, belies his actual objectives in Iraq. It's fine that we have troops abroad in countries where they aren't faced with daily danger because no one complains about it. There are no military families wringing their hands when sons and daughters are sent to our bases in Germany. So there is no domestic political pushback against the US staying in these countries.

However, it's not fine that troops are in these countries if you want to see the US military presence throughout the world rolled back. It's not fine if you want to reduce the size of the military so the government can spend money on other things. It's also not fine if you live in those countries and want self-determination in military affairs. In South Korea, for example, there are daily protests against the US. As Yglesias points out, even Iraqis who are friendly to the US are preparing to ask us to leave. But these are clearly not John McCain's goals. John McCain's goal is to be able to do what he wants in Iraq without any political pushback.

More troubling, but also more speculative comment: the last part of his answer--"and come home with honor and victory, not in defeat!"--perhaps stems from a dangerous and deep-seated need to redeem his own military experience, from which American soldiers did indeed come home in defeat and dishonor.

10 June, 2008

I should probably post something substantive but...

...this is just too hilarious:


Well don't that just beat all...

I was surprised when I saw this, literally shocked because of how unexpected it was. That in itself is surprising, because I always said I wouldn't be surprised if Bush were impeached.

A whole lot of surprise flying around in here.

I'm a lukewarm fan of Kucinich, but I've got to give him props on this one. I personally think G-Dubs is a war criminal of the first order, and should have been impeached at the latest when we failed to find any WMD's or any other proof to back his reasoning for going to war with a sovereign nation, thus embroiling his country in an intractable quagmire for going on 7 years.

Whatever the outcome of these proceedings, I'm just glad that it's been said, loudly and publicly, that George W. Bush messed up. He messed up bad. Accountability had seemed to me beyond reach. In America I feel like we talk a lot about war crimes and the horrible regimes of other nations. I would submit to my fellows that several American administrations are guilty of the same, or equatable crimes against various peoples. That's where I stand, at any rate.

08 June, 2008

This isn't really complete, but there's NOTHING happening

So, I'm not even sure if what follows is a complete thought, and far from a developed notion, but I wanted to run something across the cheese graters of your minds.

I think I'm a communist. At least, I have no better way to describe it, although saying that I all of a sudden subscribe to a socio-political system may be premature. More like a critique, and I'm sure I'm not alone with this one.

Earlier today, at the mere mention of the word "Green," in the context of marketing eco-friendly products as green and the continuing greenification of our country, the old wheels started turning in my head. This all culminated with me yelling, in my mind, at a Prius owner.

The upshot of all this is what I see as negative trends in our national economy, attitudes, and awareness. "Going green," "Green cars," "Green energy, "Green foods." I hate those phrases. Of course, I support cleaning up our lives with regards to waste, emissions, and overal ecological impact. However, that is not what I see happening with America today, even though I see more "green" commercials than ever these days.

Certifying organic farms through the ridiculous beauracracy, carving out "natural" plots of land from mega commercial farms, creating giant conglomerates of natural farms--all of this kind of activity (and this is just talking about farming) fails to address what is to my mind a more serious and fundamental problem: The System.

You all know me pretty well, and probably know where this is going now.

By "the System," I basically mean America, with all the prevalent attitudes and practices that go along with it. The system of life that we have created is flawed, and it has spawed satellite systems that process, package, and market products as varied as meat, cars, sex, love, and little plastic baubles that make funny noises when you hit them against something.

So, the problem I see is that people eventually realized the system was flawed. That happened about the time we realized we're killing our planet. The reaction was largely positive, and great steps have been taken towards improving our lot. We have, since the initial golden period, lost sight of our goal. We've decided to process, package, and market green-ness and saving the environment, and we've stuck them on the shelf between little organic potatoes and all-natural acai juice.

It's a luxury to be natural and to buy organic. It costs more to drive hybrid cars, eat organic vegetables, and live a cleaner life. It costs more because we haven't changed the underlying system that created the cheap and dirty life in the first place. Rather than changing that system, we're forcing all the square pegs that are noble-minded and positive into the proverbial round hole.

So, I think I'm a communist. The natural, clean, organic, efficient methods of living should be readily available to society at large as we work to change this country into something that doesn't quite so closely resemble an open sore on the planet.

I desperately want to be missing something here. Tell me that I'm being naive, and that the direction we've taken really is the best we have right now, and it's getting even better. I'll stop here to let you all respond, and since obviously you're not posting much anyway, you'll have plenty of time to think and react.

Peace out, much love, word to your mother.


02 June, 2008

Probably old hat, but...

Hey all, I'm sure some of my more in-tune friends will already know about this, but I thought I'd share all the same.

(Hopefully the in-tune joke will come full circle momentarily since I'm writing about music! ;-) )

Pandora is sweet. It's free music all the time, albeit without the option to directly choose each song. You start by choosing a song or artist you like, then the site examines the musical qualities of that choice and plays other songs and artists based on those qualities.

It can be hit or miss, but largely effective if I'm in the mood for, say, John Brown's Body or Earth Wind and Fire, and would like to hear more of that style. Also, you can tell Pandora that you like or don't like something, and it'll move on and adapt as it learns your preferences. Pretty sweet deal, you might say.

Pants off to thee, Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent

One of my personal inspirations and a favorite in the realm of fashion designers to many, Yves Henri Donat Matheiu-Saint-Laurent died yesterday in Paris at age 71. The NYTimes did a nice article to remember some of his greatness.

He was truly a a boy-wonder in the fashion world, finding himself as the protege of the late Christian Dior at 21 years of age.
He believed in an evolution of fashion, not revolution. He started the House of Yves Saint Laurent, after he had left the House of Dior for military service (where he became depressed and hooked on psychiatric drugs and alcohol).

He took his line of cologne to new heights as he posed nude in the advertisement in 1971, and fought many battles over a perfume he called "Opium" (for those who are addicted to YSL), which the government thought was a promotion of drug use and trivialization of the Opium Wars of 19th Cent. China. He lived the glamorous life wherever he went. He decorated his houses with artwork of Picasso, Cocteau, Braque and Christian BĂ©rard, and shared the houses with one French bulldog after another, always named Moujik.

If you are still wondering why I chose DEBASER to give tribute to him, it is because he is single-handedly the reason that Eremita and I can participate in "No Pants Days" since he evolutionized the everyday wardrobe of women to include pants, often stating that "all a woman needed to be fashionable was a pair of pants, a sweater and a raincoat."

Farewell Monsieur, the fashion realm awaits a new genius to arise.

You should all love this...

I've been enamored of late with a curious little grain from the Southern hemisphere.

It's not a true cereal grain, so I wonder if I'll be able to make beer out of it, but who knows...

At any rate, the little guy is just so darn scrumptious I had to let you all in on the secret. I stumbled across a recipe whilst staring at my gmail inbox, and said to myself, "self, what the heck could that be?"

The answer, as it happens, is delicious. Quinoa (Keen-wa) is a small goosefoot seed grown extensively in the Andes. Elliot, I'm sure you came across this before, and shame on you for not sharing in the bounty sooner! As a food, it's easy to prepare, delicious on it's own or with various accoutrement. Think of it like super-oatmeal. Firmer texture as well, the grain holds up through the boiling process much better.

It has a soft, nutty flavor that I can only describe as warm. It just makes me feel snuggly to eat it. The recipe that I've been following (and that I enjoy even as I type) is so simple, it begs you to try it right now, no matter what timezone you're in!

This is how I do it:

1/4 c. quinoa (red or white, I've only seen white in LaX)
approx. 1/4 c. mixed milk and water. (first time used soy milk, since then skim--either works)
--also used a little more than 1/4 c. just because, didn't hurt anything

combine both, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes covered, until almost all liquid is gone. Once that is ready, sprinkle with ground cinnamon to taste, sweeten with agave nectar to taste (or dark honey), and add a small handful of blackberries (raspberries ok, not quite as good in my opinion).

Delicious, you ask? Indubitably. Is it really that simple, you ponder? Absolutely. Where can I find some, you query? I was surprised to find the stuff at Quillin's and Festival, as well as the Co-op, so I'm sure my big city compadres won't have trouble tracking it down at the whole foods store. This little snack is good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an anytime snack that is also really damn good for you! High in magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and dietary fiber. Unusually well packed with essential amino acids, gluten free, and easy on the digestive tract. Me gusta mucho!

Go get yours today!