Apple, Tree

by Henry on July 29, 2006

Greg Djerejian, who’s definitely one of the more interesting and thoughtful people on the right, “attacks John Podhoretz”: for engaging in “amoral” and “outrageous” “speculative dribble” about how US troops didn’t kill enough young Sunni men in the early stages of the war to have put the fear of God into them (only thing they understand is force, you know). Right on. But when he says that:

bq. It’s quite sad that the son of an accomplished, prestigious American intellectual would muse so innocuously about the merits of mass butchery–basically the wholesale slaughter of a broad demographic of an ethnic group writ large–a policy prescription that is quasi-genocidal in nature.

I have to wonder whether he’s read anything that Norman Podhoretz has written in the last decade or so. Take, for example, his February 2005 _Commentary_ piece, where he “claims”: to have evidence that realist critics of Bush’s foreign policy are “rooting for an American defeat” (the evidence was, not to put too fine a point on it, lies). Duncan Black’s standard line in response to media criticism of bloggers’ shrillness etc is to ask whether the critics have listened to talk radio recently. But elite journalists don’t need to go that far. I’ve often thought that the folks in the _New Republic_ and others should take a long, hard look at the kind of stuff that people like Podhoretz père publish in _Commentary_, purportedly a serious intellectual magazine, on a regular basis. There may be well known bloggers who are as vicious and mendacious as Podhoretz is, but there aren’t many of them.

Inducing Disorientation in Larval Economists

by Cosma Shalizi on July 29, 2006

As a good neoclassical, neoliberal economist, Brad DeLong is acutely aware that the market system is not natural at all, but a delicate historical anomaly. He is worried that it is so familiar to his students that they will find alternate modes of social organization almost incredible; accordingly he wants to mess with their heads:

Would making Berkeley’s first-year economics Ph.D. graduate students this fall read short biographies of William Gates and William Marshall as a way of getting at the idea that there are non-market societies that work very differently from our own today–would that be a teaching idea of extraordinary brilliance or of total insane lunacy?

The rest of the post is an extended excerpt from the New York Review of Books review of a biography of William Marshal (which goes on to my to-read list). The question I have is, what should DeLong make his students read, to give them a vivid sense of just how differently production and distribution could be and have been organized? Argonauts of the Western Pacific, perhaps? Gilgamesh?

And: those of us who teach things other than economics, what books do or should we hand out as ice-axes for our students’ frozen seas? ( This one is mine.)

Troops U-Turn in Iraq

by Henry on July 29, 2006

The _Financial Times_ says that the Bush administration is “engaged in a quiet U-turn on troop numbers.”

bq. The US administration has quietly reversed its goal from whittling down troop numbers in Iraq before the mid-term congressional elections in November. A Pentagon spokesman on Friday confirmed that US troop levels in Iraq rose to 132,000 during the past week – the highest since late May – from 127,000 at the start of the week. The spokesman said troop numbers often fluctuated and “there might be temporary spikes during periods of troop rotation.” However, analysts said an increase in troop numbers was more likely than a reduction because the number of sectarian killings in Iraq had almost doubled since the start of the year. The rise will prompt fears that the US is becoming increasingly bogged down in an unwinnable conflict. … Richard Armitage, who was US deputy secretary of state until January 2005, said: “The US has almost totally reversed the troop situation from two months ago. The danger is that this is too little and too late and that the US will turn into a bystander in an Iraqi civil war it does not have sufficient resources to prevent.”

I haven’t posted on Iraq in a long time, because I’m not sure that I’ve anything useful to say. All the options facing the US are grim, and I don’t know which is the least grim. What I do know is that when we hear something like:

bq. Kenneth Pollack, a former US National Security Council official, said: “The numbers should probably be roughly double what they are. We are seeing the right plan but completely inadequate resources to make it work.”

we can be sure that the Pollack plan plus a pony will get you peace in Iraq. Regardless of whether a doubling of troop numbers would in fact bring peace (a claim that I seriously doubt), it’s clear that those troops aren’t there to send out in the first place. The US military is badly overstretched as it is.


by Chris Bertram on July 29, 2006

As some of you may remember, “I blegged”: a while back about getting a new laptop. As a result, I took your advice and got myself a spanking new Intel-based “MacBook”: . So here’s the audit part. Was it a good decision? Yes, I think so. The MacBook looks nice and it plays nice. The keyboard is comfortable, the display is good, and the whole think isn’t too heavy to carry about. On the other hand, I did have a nasty persistent problem when I first got the machine, one that Apple weren’t much use with, and which a large number of new MacBook owners seem to be suffering from. The problem was this: that I’d imagine I had shut down the machine, but I’d actually closed the clamshell before the shutdown process finished. It didn’t just go into benign “sleep” mode when this happened, it “woke up” in its closed state became incredibly hot, fans whirring, refused to shutdown or restart, “kernel panic”, and so on. One one occasion I came downstairs in the morning to find the battery completely depleted from one of these incidents, on another my rucksack was burning hot from the nearly combusting computer inside it. Apple told me to reset the power management, which I did, but that made no difference. What works is to wait until the screen goes black and then a further few seconds. Apple should tell people.

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